|Interview by Burt Wolf, with Rob Kanto, guitarist, composer, singer for AZURE.
Interview done October 22nd, 2006.
CAN YOU GIVE SOME OF THE BANDS HISTORY FROM IT'S CREATION UNTIL NOW? ANY
PREVIOUS BANDS MEMBERS WERE IN BEFORE? HOW YOU FORMED?
AZURE was started by me around April 1995. I had just put my other band, TEARS OF GRIEF to rest as I had
grew tired of playing Death/Doom & wanted to play faster. Back then we were three members & we recorded 4
demos before signing a deal for a MCD in 1997. Just after that recording I decided to go on by myself & when I
got signed with SOLISTITIUM for a full length album I called up Mattias Holmgren (ex-NAGLFAR,
EMBRACING, TIRED TREE, etc.) & asked him to help me out with drums & keys for the recording. Later on
I made Mattias a full time member as he got involved more & more with the band. However, around 2000 I put
the band on hold as we hadn't any contract & I was too busy with other stuff. For example I played both the
bass & guitar for RELENTLESS (American style Death Metal). In April 2004 Mattias called me up & told me to
start writing a new album though as he wanted to try out his new studio equipment. Four months later we
recorded the entire album. We never do rehearsals either as Mattias lives about 900 kilometers from me. Usually I
just play the song for him a couple of times & then we record the basics for it.
WHY WAS THE NAME AZURE CHOSEN AS THE BANDS NAME?
We did the oldest trick in the book...took a dictionary, put my finger in it & landed on AZURE. I kind of felt it
was suitable name for the band. There is at least two other AZURE's out there as well, one is from Finland &
plays Party Metal, they state they have been around since 1995 like us, but I don't know. As far as I know they
haven't released anything of interest. Also I think there's a band in Australia with this name.
WHO OR WHAT HAS HELPED INFLUENCE YOU IN YOUR MUSIC & IN LIFE?
I would say that music has helped me a lot in life. I've had some dark times & always climbed back up with
music, either by listening or by playing. When it comes to composing I get inspired by almost everything, from
other bands, paintings or just nature.
HOW WOULD YOU BEST DESCRIBE THE STYLE & SOUND OF
When people ask I say that we play extreme Metal with a fantasy theme, which
is pretty correct. In the beginning there was a bit more Black Metal influences
whilst now I pretty much mix in everything.
THE NEWEST RELEASE I HAVE OF YOURS IS "KING OF STARS -
BEARER OF DARK" WHICH WAS PUT OUT BY DEATH GASM
RECORDS. HOW DID YOU GET HOOKED UP WITH THEM & HOW
HAS IT BEEN WORKING WITH THEM?
DEATHGASM only released the album in the U.S. while the rest of the world is
handled by PULVERISED. We only have contracts for this album with both
labels & I hope to get signed to a bigger one for the next album, but we'll see
what happens. DEATHGASM has been really cool to work with though & Evan
seems like one of the few good guys in the business.
THIS ALBUM CAME OUT LAST YEAR. HOW HAS THE ALBUM BEEN
RECEIVED IN THE UNDERGROUND? WHAT HAS THE RESPONSE
The album was recorded already back in 2004 & was to be released in early
2005 by KARMAGEDDON MEDIA (ex-HAMMERHEART), but when we
had waited for six months I terminated the contract & got in touch with
PULVERISED & DEATHGASM. This delayed the album quite a bit, but when
it finally got out in the end of 2005 the reactions was overall positive, except for
CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE COVER ART A BIT & WHO DID IT?
The cover is made by Par Johansson (singer of SATARIEL) that has done work for DARK FUNERAL,
STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, TORCHBEARER, etc. We go way back & when I sent him the lyrics for the
ending track "King Of Stars..." he came up with that idea. I've heard a couple of times it looks like a Power Metal
cover, but then again, my lyrics are fantasy inspired so...
WHAT IS SOME OF THE LYRICAL CONTENT WITHIN YOUR SONGS?
From the beginning, in the old demo days, there were pretty much antichristian thoughts, but it felt a bit cliché,
so on the third demo I started to write fantasy inspired lyrics. I only read fantasy books back then & I made up
my own story & world behind the lyrics & wrote everything from there. Back then it was very unusual for Metal
bands to write fantasy lyrics, but just short after the whole Power Metal boom took form & they all had a
fantasy concept. I do however write my lyrics quite dark & you can't be sure which side, good or evil, that will
win. And also, we are not a Power Metal band!
WHICH AZURE SONG WOULD BE YOUR FAVORITE & WHY?
From the new album it's "Shadows In Midark" as it's so varied & is really fun to play, but the same goes for
"Selene - The Spirit" & "Lake Of Death - Magnion". From "MOONLIGHT LEGEND" I really like "The Eroican"
as it was the first song I wrote that really felt professional.
DOES AZURE STILL ONLY HAVE 2 PERMANENT BAND MEMBERS WITH GUEST MUSICIANS?
Yes, even though that our session bass player, Peter Uven, probably will play for us several times more. It's
easier to keep the band as a combo as me & Mattias do most of the work anyways.
IS THERE ANY NEWER MATERIAL IN THE WORKS AT THE MOMENT? WILL THIS NEW
MATERIAL BE RELEASED BY DEATHGASM AS WELL?
I'm currently working on a few new songs & I had hoped to record another album this autumn, but Mattias
doesn't have the time & I really should need to write more before we do. As it looks now we will record a new
album sometime in 2007, as well as do some re-recordings from "MOONLIGHT LEGEND".
DOES AZURE PLAY OUT A LOT? WHERE ARE SOME OF THE
PLACES YOU'VE PLAYED? WHO ARE SOME OF THE BANDS
YOU'VE PLAYED WITH?
AZURE has only played live three times back in 1996 & then with the old
line up. It's too much work & money to do live shows for us now as we
don't have a full line up & as we live too far away from each other.
ARE THERE ANY INTERESTING BAND STORIES YOU COULD
SHARE WITH US?
Not really, as we never rehearse & only see each other about once a year
there isn't much to tell. But when we do meet, we spend most of the time
drinking beers & booze, making complete asses of ourselves.
WHAT DO THE MEMBERS OF THE BAND DO WHEN NOT
DOING ANY WORK FOR THE BAND?
Mattias is pretty much occupied all the time with his own bands
EMBRACING & TIRED TREE as well as writing music for other artists,
creating ring tunes & graphics for mobile phones. He's about to start up
another company of his own as well, so he's a very busy guy. I am
currently unemployed & spend most of my time on my sofa drinking
ARE YOU INTO ANY OTHER STYLES OF MUSIC BESIDES WHAT YOU PLAY? WHO ARE SOME
OF THE BANDS YOU HAVE CURRENTLY BEEN LISTENING TO?
I listen to a lot of music, mainly Metal, but also some Folk music as well. I'm pretty varied when it comes to
Metal & is in to everything like MAYHEM, ANATHEMA, DEATH, KING DIAMOND, IMMORTAL,
ELVER, NILE, IRON MAIDEN, SAMAEL, ABIGOR, JUDAS PRIEST, LACUNA COIL, METALLICA,
MEGADETH, GRAVE, EMPEROR, MERCYFUL FATE, WINDS, EINHERJER, DISSECTION,
DEICIDE, DIMMU BORGIR, ISOLE, CANDLEMASS, SATYRICON, DARKTHRONE, IN FLAMES,
TYR & so on & so on. ARCTURUS & ENSLAVED is however my all time favorite bands. Recently I have
listened a lot to the new albums from TYR, MY DYING BRIDE, VADER & I.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST ALBUM YOU BOUGHT? WHAT WAS THE FIRST CONCERT YOU WENT
As the true Metal person I am, the first album I bought myself was actually "THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST" by
IRON MAIDEN on vinyl, this copy was however stolen later at some party. Latest concert was ENSLAVED
which blew my mind completely.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MISCONCEPTIONS OF LIFE IN SWEDEN?
Well, where to start? The American film industry has really got a lot of things wrong... First off, Inga isn't that
common a name here, neither is Olaf (that's Norwegian). We don't have polar bears here & the summer time is
actually pretty warm, we had a fantastic summer this year with temperatures over 98 degrees fahrenheit. Not all
woman are good looking & not all of them are blond. We do however have very high taxes, can only by alcohol
in special stores, we drink a lot & is pretty shy when we are sober.
SWEDEN IS KNOW FOR HAVING SOME GREAT BANDS? WHO DO YOU FEEL ARE SOME OF
THE BETTER BANDS FROM SWEDEN?
Sweden has a great deal of bands in all genres that have made it big around the world. ABBA being the most
famous I guess. But then we have ROXETTE, ACE OF BASE & THE CARDIGANS that made huge
international careers. When it comes to Metal, our biggest export of all times (actually the fourth biggest in all
genres) is EUROPE, that made it number one in 26 countries with "The Final Countdown". Nowadays we have
tons of bands & it seems like every Metal dude around has his own band & I guess that's because there isn't
much else to do around here. If you ask me, I think there are too many bands around & way too many get the
chance to release an album. I don't have that much insight in all the new bands anymore, but I used to have my
own magazine & got them all to review, which wasn't fun as 80% tried to be AT THE GATES & failed
miserably I guess IN FLAMES is our biggest export right now & I think they deserve their success as they have
worked really hard for it. CANDLEMASS is one of my favorite bands & I'm looking forward to hear their new
album, but Doom newcomers ISOLE is really great too. DISSECTION was of course one of the best as well &
I had the luck to meet Jon a couple of times. Otherwise I think the Norwegian scene is much stronger when it
comes to variety.
WHAT CAN WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING NEXT FROM
I'm not sure yet what will come first, the new album or the
re-recorded "MOONLIGHT LEGEND" album. Also it would be fun to
do a tour, but then we need to do a full tour with at least 30 dates to
make it worth all the job & finding suitable tour members.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE ANSWERING THIS
INTERVIEW? WHAT WILL YOU DO NOW THAT IT'S DONE?
Not much, drinking some beers & playing guitar as usual. I don't really
have any hobbies, but to play guitar, drink beer, watch movies & to sit
endlessly in front on my computer or playing some PS2 games. Also I
really like to cook, but I'm too lazy to do that every day so I eat a lot
of junk food. When this intie is done, I guess I will answer some
stupid Ebay questions that i have got for my auctions & then I will
look for some vacation trips to escape the winter months.
THANX A LOT FOR ANSWERING THESE QUESTIONS. FEEL FREE TO CLOSE OUT WITH
ANYTHING YOU'D LIKE TO ADD.
Firstly I really want to thank you for this interview. You came up with some "fun to answer" questions for me,
which is always appreciated. And for those who like to hear some of our stuff, surf in to our myspace page for
some full songs from our albums. Our official website has not been updated for ages, but you can order our shirt
& albums from there. Cheers!!!