Playing on the second stage at Hard Rock Hell Metal, Winter Storm played an impressive set of symphonic metal which included a new track, the released-in-demo-form ‘Astral world’ from an as-yet untitled new album. The band clearly have built an impressive following, helped in no small amount by a showing at the prestigious Bloodstock Open Air festival and appearances with the likes of Sarah Jezebel Deva, Die so fluid, To-Mera, Evil Scarecrow and more. We had the chance to catch up with the band backstage at HRH as they prepared for their performance, in order to find out more about their recording process, inspiration and future ambitions. Read on and meet Winter Storm.
The first question is that you’re working on a third album and you’ve been sharing some of the material through demos on SoundCloud and I wondered what the band felt about sharing material before it’s finally finished and how you went about putting the demo together?
Hannah: Well, we recorded ‘Astral world’ last April and we put that out because we wanted to give people a taste of the sound that we’re going for on the new album. We’ve only put that one out for now and we’re not going to put anything else out until the final album. We figured we’d give people a little sample of what’s to come because people are dying to hear something.
When it comes to demo recordings, it sounded really good, what process do you go through?
Hannah: We recorded at Priory Studios in Sutton Coldfield with a guy called Greg. We did it with a professional producer because we wanted to see what the studio was like and whether it suited us. We quite liked it there and I think it came out really well.
In terms of playing symphonic metal, you have lots of layers and elements to incorporate into the mix – is that something that takes quite a lot of time to prepare and get right?
Hannah: I think we were there for… how many hours?
Wayne: It was eleven and a half hours just going through until we were happy with what we had. But Greg had a lot of patience with us and when it comes to writing this new album, we thought to ourselves that twelve months would be fine, but as soon as you think you’ve got somewhere you end up scrapping it and starting again, especially with new influences coming in. Obviously, we’ve got Janson [keyboards & synths] coming on board now and he’s bringing across his own style with everything so it’s just seeing where we go next with each development.
So, the preference would be that you go into a studio and do the whole album in one block or to spread it out over a period?
Wayne: The preference would be to have everything finished and ready and just hit it in one. But, whether reality will come into that, time will tell.
Do you work together as a band to create the music?
Hannah: Originally Wayne and I used to write a lot of the stuff together. He’d have a riff, I’d have a riff, we’d put it together. I’d have a lot more melodic sort of riff based rhythm type things and then we’d collate that together. But we’ve been doing a bit less of that on this album and we’re all bringing songs each and then developing songs. Then with Janson coming in, he’s been adding a new layer to it with more symphonies and melodic stuff. So, we’ve all been quite involved in it really. Rich has been quite involved with drums and helping create different sounds with it so it’s more of a joint effort on this album so, rather than one or two people writing everything, everyone’s having an input in everything which is quite nice.
You had the opportunity to play Bloodstock in 2015 and you’ve shared a stage with several well-known bands. Is there any band that has stood out for you as an influence either musically or in terms of professionalism?
Hannah: I’m more into prog stuff, really, things like Rush and Tesseract and things like that but I don’t know that I’d say it’s influenced in my writing particularly.
Wayne: Well, I’m a big fan of melodic death metal, so I want to bring more influences from Soilwork, Scar Symmetry and that sort of thing, but we’re still trying to iron out the kinks because we’re not that sort of band, so trying to bring that into our kind of style is proving challenging, but we’ll get there I think, I try and keep the prog side and the heavy, quick side and bring it into one and see how it goes.
One of the things that can make a band more unique is having tastes beyond the style of the music that they play, so is that important for you?
Wayne: Definitely – Hannah is more prog while I’m more, like I said, melodic death and stuff like Fear factory and the industrial side – so that was something interesting for the band initially. I think we’re hearing more, now that Janson’s come on board, it’s a third influence so there’s pretty much everything from prog to symphonic to black metal. One of our favourite albums is one that came out in the 70s – a Yes album…
Hannah: A bit crazy!
Wayne: Yeah, so there’s all that to come into the mix I suppose.
Hannah: I think you get a good idea now why it’s taking so long to write the bloody album!
In terms of symphonic metal, it can be very challenging to present on stage accurately as you have to have synth or playback – are there areas where you do find you’re compromising what you do in the studio to get your vision on stage or have you found ways around it?
Hannah: I think there are certain bands in the symphonic category who tend to have a different sound between recording and live, but we’ve always had a bit of a rule where we try to only do in the studio what we can really do live. We don’t like to have things that can’t be reproduced on stage because it doesn’t seem realistic to our sound. So, we try to keep true to what we’re capable of doing, so there aren’t any shreddy solos while I try and sing or twenty layers of different keyboards.
The other element of symphonic metal, and it’s probably more important in this genre, so how involved are you as a band in presenting your music?
The artwork, we have Matt Vickerstaff, and we’ve done all the artwork for the albums to date because we like to try to keep a kind of theme with it. I don’t want to say that we’re going to go into Eddie territory, but I like the idea of there being a continuing theme with a character that comes across in the albums because the second album was a concept album that we’re trying to continue to the third album, so he will be involved again in some way. I really like the artwork that Matt does because I saw some of his album covers and I thought it was great. I can’t remember how I got in touch with him to be honest, but he’s put up with me for many years as a result and he quite enjoyed doing the cover for the second album. He initially came up with some David Bowie piss-take with the ball…
On stage – is there anything where you work together to get a coherent look on stage or is it whatever you want to wear goes?
Hannah: we are endorsed by Spiral clothing, so some members wear Spiral clothing, but not all members are into that so some of us where Spiral stuff and others just wear all black… so yeah Spiral trainers…
The last question is to do with balancing the requirements of working in a growing band and the necessities of a job – is it a challenge?
Hannah: I think it is a labour of love you have to have your 9-5 job – I’m a teacher as well as being in the band – so you have to find a balance between work and band stuff. It’s always a bit of a challenge really, but I think we manage it. Everyone has their own role in the band. Wayne has a lot of roles…
Wayne: I’m just in the background… Hannah’s the face of the band and I’m logistics!
Hannah: yeah, so Wayne’s logistics whilst I just have a strop and get over it!
Do you have to practice a lot to maintain your proficiency?
Hannah: well, last year we didn’t do as much, but this year we’re starting to up our game and we’re rehearsing every week, writing every week, so we’re doing a lot of stuff and I’m doing a lot of stuff in between practices as well like putting together new stuff, photos, dealing with the website, the press pack, I’ve been working with [PR man] Tom, so this year’s been really busy. So even though it may not look like we’re doing lots of stuff gig wise, we’re doing lots of stuff in the background.
Find out more about Winter Storm via their official website, here.