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Crystal Ball's Scott Leach: "There’s way too much bullshit going on in the music business. We’re all in the same boat. The bands have known each other for a long time…"

Interview with Scott Leach from Crystal Ball
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 11 March 2022, 11:56 AM

To remain energized and determined after the last couple of years, well that is not something that one might hear from a musician every day. With the lack of live activity, sitting at home, or studio, or anywhere else that is not on the road, or on a stage, it is understandable why there will be nothing more to think about other than the grim situation. However, it was already proven, time and time again, that there are those that would take advantage, waiting patiently, and simply march on, work on new things. Crystal Ball, one of the busiest bands, did that same thing and simply wrote a new album, "Crysteria". Steinmetal sat to talk with guitarist Scott Leach about how did the album, and the spirit of continuance, were maintained.

Hi Scott, once again it is great to have you for a talk with Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing kind sir?

The pleasure is mine. I’m doing great, thank you.

Last time that I had the pleasure to talk to you, it was when you promoted your compilation album, “2020”. A lot changed since then, in particular due to the fact that the pandemic struck right where it hurts. Do you feel that you had the proper chance to promote “2020” as you would have wanted?

To be honest, not at all. We planned a tour and festivals in 2020 which had to be postponed and postponed again. And in the end it didn’t make sense to do it at all, more than two year later. So we moved on the new album.

Wave after wave, the pandemic appears to be like a never-ending story with shapes and colors. How has it been affecting the happenings within Crystal Ball? Does it feel like the band was damaged mentally by the existence of this pandemic?

No, I don’t think so. But maybe I will answer this question differently 5 years from now. Time will tell if this nightmare will be completely over then and how it affected all of us. We try to focus on the positive side of it. It gave us the chance to write more songs. And it was also some kind of break and we were able to spend more time with our friends and families.

There have been various stories of bands that ceased to be since their being as a live unit just couldn’t cut it with the situation. Since Crystal Ball is also a live band, which has been quite active, and other than working on the new album, how have you been keeping in touch with your fans? How did you make up for the minimum live activity?

We organized an online meet & greet to keep in touch with our fanbase during the pandemic. We did that already twice. It was fun and very cool to see your fans. We also thought about doing a streaming show, but decided against it. Playing live is one thing. Watching a streaming show is just not the same. So we wait until it’s possible again.

After showing what this current lineup can do with re-recording old songs, along with celebrating two decades of Crystal Ball, you started working on your next in line album, soon to be called, “Crysteria”. Following that name, for your twelfth album I might add, is this something personal, or it just simply sounded cool to have your name integrated into the title?

It was our bass player Cris, who came up with this title in the rehearsal room. We all laughed really hard. But after a while we thought, there’s something to it.  It’s an artificial word, which is always good, and it relates to Crystal Ball. Hysteria for Crystal Ball in one word.

“Crysteria” has been out for a few days now, how have been the reactions from your fanbase up until now? What folks that have been following you for years have been saying about it?

Awesome … we got so many great reactions. Fans sent us so many pictures of the CD and the limited box set edition und social media. They are really happy as far as we can tell from their comments. And we hit the official Swiss album charts on #9.

There is a generated sense out of the tracklist that you are somewhat on the offensive, yet with a conviction and utter motivation. In your view, what is the main narrative the drives this album forward lyrically?

We are full of energy, that accumulated over the last couple of years. I think the lyrics reflect what is in the music already. The urge to go out there and rock. That’s the overall narrative, even though that was never a plan and we never agreed on such. It just happened. Of course each song has a story of its own. And since there’s more than one lyric-writer, we have different influences.

Since the album was written in a time period that hasn’t been easy on anyone, how did it affect the band’s state of mind while making the album come to be? Would you say that this album rather served as your escape from reality, and out of this terrible present?

It was nice to have a goal; we could work towards to. The good thing was that we had plenty of time. That resulted in more than 30 songs to choose from in the end. After the first shock of cancelled show and tours, we were quite relaxed and took it day by day. We couldn’t take any influence on the situation, so why bother about it. That doesn’t mean we were happy with it. We just focused on what we COULD do.

For years you have been introducing the melodic fusion between Hard Rock / AOR and the heavier notes of Metal. “Crysteria” shows the band’s crunch, at times letting the tempo loose with addition of energies. The melodies are richer, and the songs share a variety of hooks that cannot be denied. With all your experience, what in your opinion is the game changer that makes “Crysteria” your next special thing?

One reason is certainly that we took so much time for the writing process and had some many songs to choose from. Another one is, that our new guy Peter also had plenty of songs and ideas lying around. In combination the Crystal Ball sound, it crystallized into the fresh approach you can now hear.

The musical vision of “Crysteria” shares decades of Rock and Metal music, which makes the album diverse in its form, portraying 80s, 90s and 00s musical signatures. What is your take in regards to the influence of these decades of music on your recent effort? How did it enrich your songwriting?

We are obviously all children of the 80s. But of course we are open to other influences too. I like classical music and movie soundtracks too, for example. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where some things / sounds / melodies come from, because it feels like they come from the inside. But I know that’s because I put it there by listing to other music for a great part.

I really enjoyed the vocal production, which at least some of its well-made examples had me thinking of the vocal harmonies of Uriah Heep. What can you tell in regards to how this production came to be? How did your vocalist survive this experience, it appears that he gave his heart out?

Steven did an awesome job on this album. He always does, but this album was special. Because we didn’t know exactly how his voice would work after the Covid infection. But it worked out brilliant, even better than before (also according to our producer Mr. Kaufmann). We all love great and big vocal harmonies like Queen or Def Leppard used to do. If it reminds you of Uriah Heep, that’s cool. It’s a great band but was never a big influence to us.

In light of your vast experience as a songwriter, and a musician, what can you tell that you learned from the making of “Crysteria”? What did it demand from you as guitarist, in order to come up with a piece of music that is genuine and not repetitive?

During each production I learn a lot of things. You might think after so many albums and recording everything is routine, but that isn’t the case. Of course, certain things are save and easy, others aren’t. We challenge ourselves to always go further, try some new or different. So I didn’t just repeat what I had played before. Especially the solos were really composed and thought about.

Peter Berger, your brand new guitarist, recently joined the band, introducing a new lead guitar player, alongside yourself. How do you find Berger’s contribution to the songwriting on “Crysteria”? How do you find the cooperation between you two as twin axes?

Peter brought in a lot of great songs and ideas for the new album. Some were already finished, others we finalized together. It’s great to work with him. He’s open for new ideas and always put’s the song itself in the center of attention, like I do. We can exchange ideas and inspire each other.

Stefan Kaufman, once again, sat behind the controls of “Crysteria”’s engineering phase. How was Kaufman able to surprise you with the sound of the album? Do you find the sound pattern as a continuation of the crunchy sound of the band of the past?

Yeah, I feel like it’s a logical continuation of the path that we followed with the last couple of albums. Especially the 2020 album. The sounds of the drums, the bass and guitars are based on that album, but the overall sound is even better than on that last one. We were really happy when we heard the first mixes. Still each album captures a certain moment in time. And it has to fit the songs and the mood.

"Undying" sounded to me like a constant battle between the 80s and your late 90s, an example of a hooking song that is not just for the purpose of memorability, it is a pure form of vocal execution, with riffs that will leave no one remain dormant. How do you find this song personally? What is the song’s magnitude on the album’s impact?

Very interesting to hear your thoughts. The song is also one of my favorites. When I came up the guitar riff to “Undying” I immediately knew that I had something really cool. Actually I laid in bed one night and was “composing” in my head. All of a sudden I had to get up a record it. Because it was in the middle of the night I didn’t play it on the guitar, but programmed it on the keyboard with headphones. Later on, I realized that it was played different on guitar than I thought it would be, haha. Also it was one of the songs that were written very early in the process of the new album.

It was news to me of your brotherly love with your label mates Jades Heart. That brotherhood resulted in “Crystal Heart”, a joint effort, a duet of bands, that is quite inspirational. With all the ego that is in the market, what can you tell of this warm relations between the bands? How does this song reflect on that brotherly love?

There’s way too much bullshit going on in the music business. We’re all in the same boat. The bands have known each other for a long time. When the tour plan was made, and it was clear the Jaded Heart would be our special guest, our singer Steven had to idea for a band duet. We really wrote that song together. I got in touch with the guitar player Peter Östros and we sent riffs and parts back and forth until the song was finished. Everyone contributed their parts.
“Crystal Heart” was a working title at first. But after a while it became clear, that this is the perfect title for the song. The lyrics reflect that too.

There is a distinct possibility that Omicron is on its way down, making it possible for cultural events to happen. You have a tour scheduled, with Jaded Heart, for this year. Do you believe in the chances for it to happen? Any interesting changes to your setlist? What is expected?

We would have been on tour already, but unfortunately we had to cancel the it, due to the circumstances of Covid. We hope that we’ll be able to do it when it’s safe again. Safe to plan it and safe for the fans and the bands. Of course we will play many of the new songs and of course the classics. We’ll also have some specials in the set.

Scott, thank you again for this interview, and for your time, much appreciated sir. Also, thank you for a well-made album. I wish you the best of health and all the best

Thank you very much for the interesting questions. I can tell you really took your time to listen to the album and prepared very well.


 



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