What do you get if you mix one Brazilian-American, one American, and three Swedish? Well, you could probably get a lot of things, but first and foremost you get the most promising band on the power metal scene in years.
This is a new thing for me, to be honest. It is the first time I’m doing something in my career that isn’t for hire. This is my baby, and it feels great to see it grown into a real thing.
The “baby” Bill Hudson is talking about is NorthTale. A band so fresh it hasn’t released anything yet, but who has already been contacted by promoters about possible festival slots and tours. With the debut album in the making, the buzz around the American/Swedish quintet is so noticeable that it’s hard to go unnoticed if you follow the scene. PowerMetal.no had a talk with two of the members; the guitarist and founder Bill Hudson, and vocalist Christian Eriksson.
You, Bill Hudson, have certainly been around, playing for some of the biggest acts on the metal scene. How has that been?
Bill: I sure have been around, especially in the past 6 or 7 years. I used to have a “check list” of things I wanted to accomplish in my career, and at this point I’ve checked it all, and then some! It’s a great feeling. I think I even think about it way too much, haha!
But this is the first time you start a band, am I correct? If so, is that something you’ve been thinking about for some time?
Bill: Yes, this is the first band I ever started. Remember the “check list” I mentioned earlier? For some reason, most of the things I had on it were related to “achieve something”. You know; “headlining Wacken”, “making a living out of music”, “getting sick of doing autographs”, “playing with a certain artist”, etc. But oddly enough “starting a band” was never a part of it!
I never wanted to do the leg work, and I had terrible experiences with singers the few times I tried, ranging from plain lazy who’d shut off his phone, not to sing demos on a signed band, to a psychopath who’d threaten you and slapped another band member in the face in a restaurant! So, I just decided not to deal with the bull shit anymore and just get hired by bigger bands. When all the boxes on my check list were checked, I figured I needed a new challenge, and NorthTale is it!
And you are no newcomer either, Christian. Maybe most known for your years in Twilight Force. How would you describe those years?
Christian: I have some fine memories from that period in life that I will carry on for the rest of my life. But in the end, we didn’t get along.
But now the focus is on NorthTale. A band that, in addition to Hudson and Eriksson, consist of Mikael Planefeldt on bass, Jimmy Pitts on keyboards, and Patrick Johansson on drums. How did that happen, how did you guys meet?
Bill: I was a little bit tired of playing in other people’s bands. I mean, with I Am Morbid its different because David [Vincent], Tim [Yeung] and Ira [Black] are some of my closest friends and we are a real band, not hired musicians, although we do play Morbid Angel music, and people com to see us because of David.
However, the past year working for Udo in U.D.O/Dirkschneider was just hell! I figured “I’d rather try and fail than do this to myself for another year!” So, before we went on the US tour with them, I told Udo’s manager that I was out of the band and starting to work in NorthTale.
He asked me to do one US tour as a favor, and Christian at the same time was in Spain doing Legends Of Rock for that same season, so neither of us were able to do any work on NorthTale for those few months anyway…
Christian: I was tired of music and felt “done” [after the break up with Twilight Force]. At that time, I was looking for other things to do, something completely different. Then I get a call from Patrick and Bill, and I don’t think they’ve been talking to each other beforehand, saying practically the same thing: “when you are ready, let’s go!” At first, I was not tempted at all, but after thinking about it, and the fact that I couldn’t get it out of my head, the thought about starting a band sounded more and more tempting.
I get to know Bill last year, and we soon discovered that we had the same taste in music and how it should be performed.
Bill: Christian is the singer I’ve been looking for my entire life! Remember I said I always had problems with them? Some didn’t look the part but had a good voice. Some had terrible voices and a huge ego … it was always so hard to find the perfect singer, and one day I heard about Twilight Force. I was amazed I had never heard of Christian, so I added him on Facebook and we started chatting casually. Just because he was so amazing.
Later we met in person in Falun, Sweden, when I was playing at the Sabaton Metal Fest 2017. By that time, I already was pretty familiar with his work and invited him to sing some songs on what, at the time, was my solo album. He accepted the offer and we didn’t talk for a little while.
A few months later, we met again at Progpower USA in Atlanta, when he was performing, and we talked about it again, but nothing serious. However, a week after I saw the news that he had left the band. We were in touch, but I had no idea. I immediately texted him and said, “You know we’re starting a band together, right?”. He didn’t respond for a few days, then one day he called me and mentioned he was talking to former Yngwie Malmsteen drummer Patrick Johansson, who I was also fairly close with. Patrick and I had thrown around the idea of starting a band as well, but it never went anywhere. With Christian, Patrick and I all on board, my solo songs then became the two first NorthTale songs and we started working from there!
Later, when we needed a keyboard player, I called up Jimmy. He and I had worked as the solo band for Vitalij Kuprij [Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Artension, Ring Of Fire].
Christian: Patrick I have known for many years; we grew up in the same city [Falun, Sweden], but he moved to USA quite early to play with Yngwie [Malmsteen]. When I moved to USA in 2009 I used to stay at his house. Since then we have been talking about doing something together. I met Mikael when we both studied at the Music Institute in Los Angeles. Funny enough I haven’t met Jimmy yet, but we have talked a lot online, and he is a great keyboard player. I’m very pleased with the line up!
Bill: It makes me chuckle a little bit that the Swedes met in Los Angeles, haha!
Yes, about that. As a Norwegian I must ask: what is it about you and Swedish people?
Bill: You know … I don’t understand how they can be so perfect at everything. From the extreme death metal to American pop to the best guitarist of all time, to ABBA, to rap, to Schlager; they are just music making machines! It’s like half of my idols are from there! The other thing is Sweden is just a beautiful place to live and I love everything about it!
If you disregard the “music making machines” and consider the fact that Norway is way more expensive, the two countries is not that different. Have you ever been to Norway?
Bill: Yes, I spend time in Norway too. I have a good friend living in Oslo and whenever there’s some available time on tour I’ll stay at his place for a few days. I have also had shows in Norway. I played with Dirkschneider last year and on a Kamelot/Gus G tour back in 2015 or so. I know it pretty well; so clean and perfect. But yes, it’s a little too expensive for my taste, though, haha!
As far as Sweden and Scandinavia in general, I always tell people that you guys have figured out how to live and the rest of the world needs to catch up! Maybe someday I’ll live there!
But back to NorthTale: I know you’ve been posting small teasers on Facebook, but let’s say there is someone out there who doesn’t have a Facebook account(!); how would you describe the music?
Christian: We are basically playing old school power metal. But we mix it with other elements, so maybe some will say we are crossing genres. But we just make the music we feel like.
Bill: Most artist would say their music is hard to describe, but mine isn’t. It is Melodic Power Metal, heavily influenced by Stratovarius (1996-2002 era), Helloween (Keepers era), Gamma Ray (Land Of The Free era), Yngwie Malmsteen, Angra, etc. Very happy and catchy melodies, harmonies between keyboards and guitar, very clean and high-pitched vocals … you get the picture. But not to orchestral, more “band” like, if you know what I mean.
I feel my influences are “from a certain time”, that late 90s era, but I’m not trying to be a throwback. I just write music I love, because my entire career I’ve been playing music I don’t necessarily like, haha!
So, with NorthTale you finally get to write and play the music you truly love and what’s closest to your heart? “Your” music, so to say?
Bill: The NorthTale brand of Power Metal is what I’ve always wanted to do. I have played in other Power Metal bands, but nothing was ever something that touched me. Some were too fast, some had the wrong kind of singing. With NorthTale I formed what I believe to be the perfect band, and that is what is closest to my heart.
I mentioned the teasers on Facebook: how is the songwriting going? Is the distance an issue?
Bill: We have 6 songs fully recorded currently being mixed and mastered which will become our first EP, with an expected September release. I wrote all of those songs and collaborated with Christian on about half of the vocal melodies and lyrics. But, like I said initially, those used to be my solo songs, so they were ready before I even met Christian.
We have a new batch of songs that were written by me, Christian and Mikael when I was in Sweden, which we’ll be starting to work on as soon as the EP is out.
Christian: We are trying to meet more frequently and to write new materiel together before the forthcoming album. We have had an “writing room” at my house this summer, where we wrote three new songs from the scratch.
What we have been writing so far, we have recorded separately, but in the future, we are aiming on recording together in a studio.
Bill: The distance isn’t really an issue. We’re pretty tech savvy iPhone users and have home studios. Besides, Patrick lives here in Florida, only about 2 hours away from me, so we jam fairly often. Eventually, though, I would really like to sit with the entire band in a room and collaborate on all the songs.
As a vocalist, does NorthTale also influence your vocal style compared to, let’s say Twilight Force?
Christian: Yes, I must say that. In Twilight Force I was not involved and didn’t influence the music. In NorthTale we both write and compose together, which is making it all a lot more fun and evolving.
For everyone wondering: is this a band or “just” a project?
Bill: This is 100% a band and the main focus for all of us. This is not some online project which will have 3 badly produced songs and 1200 likes on Facebook, haha! Neither is it a “session work” for me, this is my baby!
Christian: I truly feel that I’ve find home in NorthTale, and this band is what I’m focusing on. I get unbelievable amount of request from all over the world, but I want to use all my energy on NorthTale.
And finally: when can we see NorthTale live on stage? I hope that’s part of the plan?
Bill: Absolutely! As a matter of fact, we have already been contacted about a couple of festivals as well as a support tour. All this without any music out, so we need to start releasing music, so we can actually start negotiating these things!
Christian: We are talking with promoters about 2019, so hopefully we are seeing you on a festival next year!