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Distant Past's Jvo "Jay Jay" Julmy: "You are right by saying, that it could be understood as Distant Past’s last and final record, but there is no intention to stop after the release of the record"

Interview with Jvo "Jay Jay" Julmy from Distant Past
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 02 April 2021, 11:21 PM

It was the right time to get back in the saddle. Even in a rather complex reality where finding the motivation to get back into it, find the right people for the vision at hand, it is possible simply by saying yes to it. From there on, it is simply putting the plan into action and making it happen. When it came down to the Swiss Distant Past, it was more of the same. Pursuing the right people to take their project vision forward and make it a full time band. The first export of that effort is the new album, “The Final Stage”, where energies were combined to make something vigorous and straightforward. Steinmetal had a chance to talk with vocalist Jvo Julmy, aka Jay Jay, about the new release, the forged lineup, experiences of the making and more…

Hello Jvo, it is great to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing kind sir?

Hello Lior, what a pleasure to be given the opportunity to present our new record, many thanks! I’m currently struggling a hearing loss which unfortunately I have 2-3 times a year for some days. But that will be fine soon I hope!

My best to you sir, it sounds like a challenge on its own

Even though it appears that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, there is still a way to go when it comes to the longevity of the pandemic and of course its parallel vaccination process. How have you been coping with the situation?

Well, there’s not much one can do, but to cope with what we are told. In Switzerland, the situation is not as bad as in other areas of the world. Grocery stores are open; the rest is more or less closed. But in my opinion, the restrictions are ok to live with. The numbers are going up, but live goes on. We adhere to the measures and try to keep our lives as normal as possible (going to work, etc.). I hope that you guys have not a too complicated live over in Greece either.

Oh well, since Metal Temple is an international magazine, every place varies in its restrictions. From my end, I am from Israel, so most of our restrictions were actually lifted. But yes, it is tough I agree

Would you say that the local scene, as you knew it, would return to its full force once this menace is over? What is the general assumption going on?

A lot of bands that I know have been held up in the rehearsal room to write new material. Since concerts/tours are not possible, many took the chance to create new music and/or did some recordings. What is for sure is, that everyone is waiting to play and visit concerts again with friends, having a good time!

It has been quite some time since the last Distant Past album, I thought you closed up shop for some reason, yet I was glad to hear about an upcoming album, and continuing your relationship with the Pure Steel group. I guess it was life along with the newly presented lineup of the band that had you guys take your time up until the new record?

It didn’t really work out with the other guys, one guitarist wanted to take a break from music in general, the other one became a father for the first time and wants to watch his daughter grow up without being away several nights for practice/concerts. The last drummer was not on the same level with the rest of us and quit. So, this all contributed into the involuntary break the band went through. The search for new members took a while. Whereas it was pretty soon clear that Ben (Sollberger, guitars) would join the band (he played together with Adriano in another band called “Skrylls” and has a project called “Age of Disclosure” with myself and Adriano). The search for a drummer and 2nd guitarist took a bit longer, but Adriano was digging deep in the world wide web and found Remo and Lorenz, both very affable guys and very professional at their instruments.

Once again Distant Past changed its lineup, and from what I know, it is not a mere studio project anymore but something more, I would dare to say a live unit as well. With the new members that were recruited and helped you shape the new album, would you say that from now on it would be more or less a steady lineup?

First planned as a studio project, Adriano soon noticed that it might function as a band, and so we gave it a try. The last studio-drummer Al Spicher played in other bands, there was no way he had time for Distant Past as a regular member. As mentioned before, with the other guys, it did not add up due to personal decisions of each member.

But we are extremely happy and lucky to have the other guys on board. In my opinion, I think the current line-up is an extraordinarily strong one and I hope that we will continue in this formation to play some gigs and do more records together. The chemistry within the band is great, there is lots of respect for each other, it’s a friendship rather than a “job”, and it should be like that in every band though.

The songs were mostly composed by Adriano, but every member contributes his ideas during the rehearsals. Everyone can give his input if he feels something should be changed, added, cancelled and so on. We give each idea a try and decide as band, whether the song needs a change or not. It is not always possible that every member is fully satisfied with the result, but when 4 out of 5 think it is ok, then we move on. The guitarists complement each other perfectly and harmonize wonderfully. Remo on drums has a huge impact as well, songs sometimes change direction depending on his drumming.

You titled your new album with a rather mixed feelings kind of title, “The Final Stage”. From one angle, I thought to myself that it might be the band’s final word, yet from a different angle, I have the feeling that the new lineup and everything, along with that felt need to prove one’s self, it is a dawning of a new era for Distant Past. So what is the right angle here?

The title can be interpreted in different ways. You are right by saying, that it could be understood as Distant Past’s last and final record, but there is no intention to stop after the release of the record. Since we have new band members, and it is definitely no longer only a project only, we are eager to play live!

The title could also be understood as little red guide through the album. Next to songs such as “Kill the Dragon” or “Queen of Sin”, some songs scratch on themes like a life after an apocalypse (I Am Omega), a better new world (Dawn City), or about the fact that the world today is completely wired (World of Wires). The band will have to proof itself live on stage, no one wants to miss that.

Talking about proving yourselves, after being there for quite some time, do you feel that Distant Past needs that assurance from their fans and potential listeners and followers that this is the right path, to breath in motivation for the band to march on forward?

Well, my friends and bandmates know me for saying, that I make music to please myself in the first place. If others like what I / we do, then that’s even better!  There was a slight intention, that the new songs get straight to the point, no big frippery. As a result, most songs run under 4 mins. But that’s about it. I think it was not done on purpose, but a natural development.

I think most of the young bands are interested in what their listeners and fans think about the music they create. Whether it is the right path we can’t tell. We play what we like and what we listen to in private. But yes, we also care what the fans think, this keeps us motivated!

Would you say that “The Final Stage” is Distant Past finding itself again, a sort of a shared revelation that you expose to everyone?

Well, not sure I’d call it a “finding ourselves again”. We wanted straighter songs, maybe less progressive, catchy, to the point. Besides, I don’t think the songs are completely different from what we / Adriano did in the past. Due to the new members, the overall picture is perhaps a little more rounded than it was before.

Distant Past has always been a band that clung to the old school measures of the music, sounding more British than a lot of British bands to be honest. Crossing swords mainly with Iron Maiden with a few distinct elements of Judas Priest, Saxon, early Def Leppard, Tokyo Blade among others, its direction remains more or less steady. It is true that this album is catchy, and easy going, however, was it a natural need to undergo changes through the songwriting in order to make the record more reachable?

It really seems we sound more British than ever on the new record, since many of your writing colleagues emphasize the guitars as “Downing/Tipton” like, which is a little surprise to me.

Since the old days with Emerald, twin lead and melodic solo guitars have been a trademark, and with Distant Past, nothing much has changed. These are the bands that everyone likes and deep inside, it leaves some traces. Again, we wanted catchier songs, and if the result is, that we may sound like NWOBHM, then I have nothing to complain about, ha-ha! Whether the fans like it more or less will be shown when the album is released.

Talking about changes, how would you say that this course of action, in relation to the songwriting style of “The Final Stage”, developed you as a musician and a songwriter?

I honestly did not contribute much during the songwriting process – except lending my voice of course (Let’s call me a lazy bitch haha). But of course, I struggled with some songs on how to perform, how to find some catchy melodies that fit the entire picture. I usually record 2-4 different versions, then we let is set and Adriano and myself listen through it and decide, what parts might fit / sound best. After that, the whole band must agree of course. So, when I enter the studio to start recording my vocals, I didn't always have a clear picture on how the song will sound in the end. It is a huge process, sometimes I cancelled everything I did during the last recordings and started from scratch. But since we did not really have a deadline given by Pure Steel Records, we had all the time in the world.

I reached new levels in heights though. Yes, I sang already extremely high with Emerald before, but wanted to sing a bit lower this time. As you can hear, mission failed, ha-ha! Maybe next time.

Even though it stands as a melodic Metal kind of album, there are twists and turns between the songs, up until the point of sort of mood changes. What would you say about the diversity of the album, a natural process?

Some of the songs spread a positive feeling, others may be thought-provoking. The listener should not get bored. Twists and turns make an album interesting, you might detect something new the more you listen to the album. In real life, your mood can change from one minute to the other. Therefore, I think it is only natural, that this is also to be found in music. Also, sometimes the lyrical concept can’t be interpreted in a cheerful, casual way.

Returning back to the new members in the band. Now I know that yourself and Adriano have always been on top of things when it comes to the material. Was it the same here or rather the new guys contributed beyond expected? What is your observation on their roles in the songwriting process?

The majority of the songs were finished by the time some of the members joined the band. With 2 exceptions, Adriano had no co-writers on this album. But each member contributed his part to it. The songs are usually based on bass guitar, sometimes an acoustic guitar helps with the main riffs. The guitarists insert their material in a song-appropriate way, same goes for Remo who rehearsed each and every song several times, until his drumming fits.

Also, the vocals can lead a song in a slightly different direction, not as planned by Adriano. But this is all discussed internally, when something fits, although it might have deviated somewhat from the actual idea, we might stick to the newly given inputs.

A song that is both immensely melodic, interesting in its arrangement and structure, along with being ultra-catchy and certainly a crowd pleaser at shows is “I Am Omega”. What is your appreciation of this track?

“I am Omega” is based on the Charlton Heston movie called “The Omega Man” from 1971. After biological weapons have been used against mankind, Heston’s Character is the only survivor on earth. Or is he? Apart from the subject matter, the song should be fun for the listener.

The music we created might not sound particularly utopian, like the lyrics. I mean this is Metal, right?! But it is in fact a very catchy tune, with the oh-oh-oh-part at the end of the song. it might get its good place in the live set.

Which of the tracks on the album would you like to elaborate about in terms of impact on the overall magnitude of the record, personal appreciation or anything else in your mind?

Well, I guess I talk about my personal favorites from the new album then. The song “Queen of Sin”, which we also shot a videoclip for, is my favorite. Short, catchy sing-along chorus. It stays in no connection – concept wise – with the rest of the album but is in my opinion a feel-good-track!

With the songs in the middle of the album – “Fall From Glory”, “I Am Omega” and “The Power Of Evil”, you have everything DISTANT PAST stands for. Melodies, pumping drums, crazy licks. These songs scream for a live performance! I think that fragments like the ones in these 3 songs are to be found on the other songs as well, given by the style of metal we play.

What does the future hold for Distant Past? Are there talks on perhaps possible shows when the smoke clears? What are your thoughts about the matter?

We hope to be able to play some shows, maybe at the end of this year, maybe next year. Already planned shows in Switzerland and Germany for 2021 had to be postponed to 2022, we really hope to be able to play some festivals next season.

The current situation says something else though. Here in Switzerland, some of the bigger summer festivals have definitely been cancelled in the last couple of days. Along with no job -loss, missing revenue money etc. The music industry needs time to recover and probably not everyone is going to make it. But the fans not only here in Switzerland can’t wait to go to a concert, a festival, hang out with friends, listening to live bands and having a good time. And we are going to, because metal never dies!

What is your opinion about live streaming? I have been hearing voices from both ends, either objecting or welcoming the new method of channeling yourself to your fans. Where does it meet you?

To be honest, I am not a big fan of watching life streams. Yes, it is currently probably the only possibility for bands to raise some money and to show the fans they’re still around. But it can never replace the feeling you have in the concert hall or on the festival site. Everyone knows that, but some luckily support “their” band and help them going through this crisis that all of us are suffering. With Distant Past, there was a short discussion whether to perform in front of the camera and perform a concert online, but we felt it was not the same without fans, no party feeling. Therefore, we decided rather to wait for as long as it may take, but then enter the stage and bang that shit out! Who knows, we might create new music in meantime.

Jvo, many thanks for this interview. It is a sheer pleasure to listen to a new Distant Past record, you came out fighting and I am glad that the end result is great. All the best sir.

We thank YOU, Lior, for giving us the possibility to present our new album. I hope, your questions could be answered to everyone’s satisfaction.  We would also like to thank everyone for giving us a listen, and check out our website News from the Distant Past – Distant Past, and follow us on Facebook, thanks!


 



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