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Attika's Robert Van Wart: "… the local scene was already embracing the Seattle grunge thing and we were so far away from that. So, I began to withdraw and became dormant"

Interview with Robert Van Wart from Attika
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 06 February 2021, 11:05 PM

At times it has to feel as being out of place, out of sync, yet there is that burning urge to return, hard and mighty, without any concern or regards to what is going on around. It doesn't matter really; it is devotion that talks the talk. We live only once and timing can't be everything, it is either kill or be killed kind of analogy, so don't take this literally. 80's US Metal band Attika ceased to be due to the changing times and being out of what it takes to continue, however, they made it happen for themselves and returned to the 21st century to remind everyone that the past is alive. With a new album in the pipeline, "Metal Lands", Steinmetal talked to Robert Van Wart, the band's longtime vocalist, about the return, why it ended earlier, the new album and more…

Hello Robert, I am pleased to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir? 

I’m doing very well Thank you Lior

With everything that is going on in the US concerning the Covid-19 pandemic, and also post elections, which were also a tough period of time for the American society, how have you been holding up? What has been keeping you going throughout these difficult times?

Last year was very tough on so many. For me personally, I was busy putting the final files together for Metal Lands. The excitement of seeing Metal Lands come to fruition and be released kept the band full of hope.

After slowly preparing grounds for your return to the Metal scene, thanks to the welcoming reissue of your sophomore album, “When Heroes Fall”, which was reissued nearly 2 years ago, Attika is officially back with new material. But first things first, the obvious question, what happened to Attika after 1996? Is it a simple case of life that struck your face or perhaps bad label or management?

That’s a long story, but to condense it, it was a lot of different variables. We were young and we didn’t have the tools to continue. It may have been a little easier if we were in Tampa area. We needed management, booking, label support, and we had none. Attika had already reassembled with Glenn and Bill, but it wasn't meant to be. The local scene was already embracing the Seattle grunge thing and we were so far away from that. So, I began to withdraw and became dormant.

You guys made your return back into a totally different Metal scene in comparison to when you were active. Sure that it also changed after the early 90s, yet you were still part of the heydays of US Metal. How do you feel about what is considered to be the major trends nowadays in the US?

Honestly, I haven’t listened to any American hard rock metal since the 80’s. In my opinion, there is a lot of overuse with the double kick and speeding things up where it masks the actual melody.

Over the past decade I noticed plenty of old lions from the past, heroes of the US Power Metal, which has a special place in my heart, making attempts to return to recognition. When you look at Attika, which even though its heritage was rather short, it still matters, how do you see it fit in, whether locally or international?

I think there is more interest locally now then there was years ago. The Europeans received us very well. We are blessed to have such great fans.

Even though it was nearly three years ago, it is more than worth to mention your two first shows in Europe, performing at the two of the famous homes for old school Metal, Up The Hammers and Headbangers Open Air. How was it, as I trust that these are two major experiences that just can’t be locked up in one’s memory?

Very true, they helped keep us motivated to stay the course and finish Metal lands.

Nowadays, you are releasing your third album, after decades, titled “Metal Lands”, displaying, as I can understand, that our very own survival against something cataclysmic, somewhere in the future, is only a matter of time. What is your opinion about that? Is this where “Metal Lands” leads us, into the belly of the beast?

I have always been fascinated by a post-apocalyptic world. The actual Metal Lands song is a continuation of Black Rose that can be found on When Heroes Fall. I'll let the listener decide the destination. I do know that some of the material on the burner now will be as dark or darker. We will continue to shine a light into the darkness.

Other than the title, in your view, what is the connecting junction between the songs on a philosophical level? Or you simply just focus on what came to your mind in relation to your surroundings?

Its’s a culmination of ideas and thoughts. I try not to overthink what we do or represent.

What kind of message did you wish to pass to your listeners through the tunes of “Metal Lands”? How up and personal are some of these songs to you?

The message is that we are back! We are looking forward and not backwards. Its time to reconnect with fans.

Even after all these years, Attika certainly didn’t forget its old days, and pretty much remained solid in iron, within the spectrum of the joint meeting of US Power and Heavy Metal. How was the feeling to return to it in full swing?  

We are excited. We write within our influences.

Was this direction of music on “Metal Lands” a sort of a natural selection to continue your past or were there thoughts to perhaps turn your attention to additional influences?

It's both. We want it to be an example that we have grown as writers. At the same time, we let the music do the talking, that is that we write in the moment.

How do you feel that the work on “Metal Lands” developed you as musicians and songwriters? As Judas Priest stated decades ago, you don’t have to be old to be wise.

I think it has, I think we know our limits as musicians, and we try to play to our strengths.

What forms of challenges were in your way while working on “Metal Lands”? If there were, how did you tackle them head on?

I lived two hours away, so I travelled a lot to rehearse, write and record. At the same time, we had Covid arrive. I moved my family north to NC to be closer to family. Each of us in the band went through a lot physically, mentally, and emotionally. We are elated for that time when the CDs and LPs hit the streets.

Along came two new members, which is half of the lineup, into the Attika foundation. With yourself, and drummer Jeff Patelski, as the veterans of the lineup. How do you feel about the 90s guys in the band contributed to the end result of “Metal Lands”? What each of them presented to the album?

Glenn and Bill have been with us since 94. Bill is a big contributor to the music and lyrics as well. Glenn is like the heart. He adds a lot as well, but he keeps us moving.

For the first time, mainly because we are not in the old days anymore, I could listen to an Attika album that is rather polished in its sound in comparison to the dirt of the past, which has its magic don’t get me wrong. How do you feel about the album’s new sound?  

We think it's off the charts. We really love it. What Paul and Robert did to harness the energy is incomparable.

You were able, single handedly, to crush with the opener self-titled, “Metal Lands”, the 80s returned with a blast, yet with ounces of heaviness as a strong backing. This kind of mid-tempo heaviness I never quite expected, but it sounded rich. What is your appreciation of this opening scorcher?  

I love it. Like I mentioned earlier its about growth. Bill and Glenn add a whole different element to Attika

“Like A Bullet” is certainly one of the album’s gripping tracks, it maintains quite the haunting atmosphere, but in the same breath creates a powerful groovy punch. What can you tell about this track’s creation and impact on the record?

It’s a band favorite. We originally demoed this back in 95. It has been on quite a journey as a song.

Taking it a level up in its toughness, in comparison to some of the other tracks on the album, this is a sort of social related call, strong criticism and a lot of dismay. What is the nature of this tune? What drove you to write it?

Like a bullet is a fun song. Its about young men sometimes finding themselves looking for a woman, only to find they have to pay for that attention.

Once all this madness is over, is there a plan to head over to Europe, perhaps as part of a touring export? What are your plans ahead?

I truly hope so. Only God knows for sure what we will be able to do after the virus…

Robert, many thanks for your time on this interview, yes, I asked a lot. Thank you for making a strong record and happy returns to action. Cheers

Thank you so much Lior



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