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Crystal Ball's Scott Leach: " If we knew then, what we know now and with a better strategy, the right management, etc. I’m sure we could have achieved way more. But we don’t spend time thinking too much about that."

Interview with Scott Leach from Crystal Ball
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 22 July 2019, 11:09 PM

Two decades of making it Hard N' Heavy, album after album and the spirit is still hungry for more to achieve, to become larger than life itself. The Swiss Crystal Ball are celebrating their 20th anniversary, and what better way to do it with a super best off double album and a following year of touring. Steinmetal talked with guitarist Scott Leach, which has been around since the band's inception, about the 20th year, "2020" album, production, Metal music and education.

Hello Scott, thank you for taking the time for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine. What have you been up to lately?

Thank you for your interest in Crystal Ball. It’s always a very busy time before an album release. Beside rehearsing for the live shows, a lot of things are going on. Updating the website and all the social media channels, taking care of the new merchandise, new backdrops, interviews, etc.

Wow, it has been two decades of Crystal Ball. For me it was like yesterday when I first got my hands on the “Virtual Empire” album, your no. 3 and of course “Hellvetia” right afterwards. Time flies for sure. What is you take on that? Was it so much time but enough was achieved or additional tops could have been conquered?

Yeah, you’re right, time flies. I still remember when we recorded those albums and what our thoughts and expectations were. We did the best we could at the time. Of course there were many goals we wanted to achieve. Some of them worked out, others not (at the time).

Could things have been different for Crystal Ball, looking back at the band’s history? Would you have made decisions opposed to what actually happened?

Well, you’re always smarter afterwards, right? If we knew then, what we know now and with a better strategy, the right management, etc. I’m sure we could have achieved way more. But we don’t spend time thinking too much about that. It’s only guessing anyway. We’re looking forward and focus on the future.

Recently you released “2020”, a double intent of what I can fathom, both 20 years and for the year 2020. This is a special kind of release that is not merely a best of from each album, yet there was quite of a studio work beforehand. What can you tell about the general process of creating this album? How did you decide which songs would be part of the release?

Yes, indeed, it’s 20 songs for 20 years of Crystal Ball. At first there was the idea to re-record some of the older songs. We asked our fans which songs they liked the most from that period. We also took a good look at Spotify and YouTube numbers to figure out what songs are the most popular among our listeners. Fun fact: The results showed that the fans top 10 choice, featured at least one song from every record. We thought we would maybe have to change something, but it was not necessary.

CD 1 features the best 10 older songs from the first seven albums, completely re-recorded and re-arranged.

CD 2 features the top 10 songs from the last four studio records with the new line-up. But it was not only a copy-paste thing at all. We went over all the newer songs. On “Anyone can be a hero” for example (first single from the "Dawnbreaker" album) we re-recorded all the rhythm guitars, the bass, and the lead vocals. On many songs we added or exchanged parts when we felt we can do it better. All songs are completely remixed. New drum and bass sound, partly different keyboard sound, etc. So you can imagine, it was quite a bit of work for 20 Songs. But we wanted to do it right.

There are songs on “2020” that were awarded with rearrangements. Was the idea of rearrangements in the back of your head for quite some time, only looking for an opportunity, or was it merely for the sake of this release?

We had it already in mind for a while. We still played songs like “Hellvetia” or “He came to change the world” live, but we didn’t want to sell the old CDs, because that’s just not what Crystal Ball is nowadays. And with the jubilee of 20 years we thought it would be nice thing to have a double album, representing the two chapters of the band.

Wasn’t there an idea to include live performances as part of this best of? I know that the final outcome didn’t produce those live tunes, why wasn’t there even one I wonder?

To be honest I never been a big fan of live albums. Of course there are many exceptions to the rule J. If we ever do a live-release, I guess it will be full album or, even better, a DVD. But especially a DVD is very expensive to produce. And we won’t go with a cheap and dirty version. If we ever do it, then we’ll do it right.

How has it been working with Stefan Kaufmann, as the guy behind the controls in the studio? I bet that you took it some suggestions due to his vast experience with Accept and UDO. How far has his influence on the material in general?

Because we already worked so many times with him we became friends. It’s a very natural and relaxed process. Even though we worked with him for years, we still can learn from him and his experience every time. He’s like a 6th band member and brings in his ideas. On some songs it’s only a few production details on some it may be a completely new part or melody. We trust in his expertise and appreciate his inputs a lot.

Which of the new adaptation do you find as the best ever made to one of your classics? Please elaborate on your pick

For me it’s “Soul Mate”. I like the new drive the song has now. Funny story is that’s closer to the original demo now, then the version we recorded on “Hard Impact”.

After all this time with Crystal Ball, you saw folks come and go, even if not too many as the lineup has been mostly steady, yet I still have to ask. What motivates you to go forward with the band?

It’s the passion for the music that keeps us going. We enjoy what we do and we get to experience a lot of cool things. See new places, get play with all kinds of bands (many of them were heroes of our own youth :-), meet new people. Also we still learn new things and we’re getting better with every album and tour.

I understand that an extensive touring is in order in order to support “2020”. Will there be interesting places that you have been before, performing for the first time?

First up we’ll play a festival show in Switzerland together with Scorpions and Europe and another one headlining a festival in Geneva (CH). Since the album is called "2020" we intend to tour throughout 2020. Therefore, we don’t know yet, where we’ll be playing. I’m sure we be able to discover some new territories J. Check for the latest tourdates.

Crystal Ball has been one of the finest musically mixed bands, playing Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, sharing emotive moments along with a few bone breaks. While the worldwide Metal scene has been twisting and turning with directions of modern technicalities, is there still place for hit based music in Metal music or Metalheads actually want more from their favored bands?

Thank you, we would describe ourselves the same way. I’m convinced that there is always room for “hit based” music in whatever style of metal or music in general. The sound or the production may change, but it’s always the song (melody, harmony, groove and lyrics) that gets the listener and will pass the test of time.

A few days, there was a press issue related to Black Sabbath, saying that there is an interest by the band’s first drummer, Bill Ward, to reunite with his original bandmates for a one last time show. What do you think? Will it actually happen? Maybe there is still a place for Black Sabbath to make a comeback with the original lineup in full?

Well, I have no idea what the other guys think of that. And I don’t quite get the sense of it after their last goodbye tour. I hope it’s not about money. For the hardcore fans it might be great of course.

Apparently, in Australia, there is a university that approved a course in Heavy Metal. Do you think that Heavy Metal music should be studied or is it a mere matter of promoting it, slowly elevating it from the underground?

I think that there is always more than just one way to do something. If you compare where AC/DC and Dream Theater come from, you already see an opposite background. I think both ways are good and possible. One has to choose what’s the right path for him-/herself. It’s good that there is the possibility to study Metal. It can only help for a better acceptance of the genre.

Scott, I would like to thank you for this interview. I have to say that this best of release is something else. Thank you for the effort. Cheers!

Thank you very much


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