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FireWölfe's Nick Layton: "…it can be very tiring and discouraging, but also can be exciting to ‘start over’ and find new players"

Interview with Nick Layton from FireWölfe
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 03 January 2022, 11:56 PM

Some might call it a journey, yet some might refer to it as a pure headache. Not just changing band members, but to actually go on a spiritual level, trying to understand what is good and what is evil. Both have a variety of definitions, and there are many forms of each walking among us, and think about the mixes. Coming back to the fold after years of absence, the Heavy Metal band, FireWölfe is back on track, laying down the law in the name of Traditional Metal. After ruling the night, the band released "Conquer All Fear", and it marks a beginning of something great. Steinmetal had a good talk with Nick Layton about the record and the journey ahead.  

Hello Nick, it is awesome to have you for this conversation for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have things been on your end sir, considering the complicated period we are in?

Thanks so much for having me! I try and stay positive as much as possible, so although the times are difficult, I make it a point to busy myself with things I care about, like music for example!

When I first caught the news on your upcoming album, and of course your return to being fully active, your sophomore album actually hit me, as I remembered it quite fondly. However, times changed, you guys went through a change. But let’s go backward, if you would allow me. What contributed to the band’s halt after the sophomore? Was it merely because David Fefolt left the fold?

Yes, after the We Rule The Night album in 2014 our lead singer David Fefolt left the band. And that wasn’t the first time he had left, as it happened previously after our debut in 2011. So, we tried very hard to find a new singer, but we never did find someone who not only sounded good, but also could write and generally be a decent human being. I was never OK with putting out a substandard album just to put something out there, so until we found the right singer I had to put FireWölfe on the backburner. There were some other issues as well, but that was the primary reason for the delay.

Gladly, something sparked you to gather around FireWölfe and take it forward once again. Let’s put aside the lineup issues, as it takes motivation by people to get back to their baby and have it walk again. Since these were, and still are let’s face it, Covid days, what exactly motivated you to continue the journey?

When COVID hit and we all figured out it was here to stay, most of the live opportunities dried up. So, the only thing left to do was either sit around and feel sorry for ourselves or start writing some new music. I have always been motivated; the trick was finding others who were also motivated. Eventually I did.

With your return, it wasn’t merely with a new singer, which we will talk about further on, but also with a new drummer and a guitarist, quite a change I’d say. Thinking about it, would you say that finding the right people is kind of a weary process or were you actually intrigued to get the best out there and felt energized?

I think both things are true: Yes, it can be very tiring and discouraging, but also can be exciting to ‘start over’ and find new players. Michael David is a killer guitarist and brought his own style to the band. And Marco Bicca, who also plays drums in Bobby’s other band (Pamela Moore) turned out to be a godsend.

Honestly, I could really relate to your new album’s title, "Conquer All Fear". It looked to me as if you were actually referring to yourself in a way, making it personal, facing the challenge of reigniting an old flame with the moniker, creating new music etc. Am I that far off the charts with that assessment? How do you look at this powerful phrase for this release?

Yes, that’s exactly right. Overcoming the fear to create a brand-new album with a new line up, overcoming the fear of COVID that gets continually crammed down our throats by the media, and just generally conquering any fear that holds you back in life. We wanted the album cover to make a powerful, positive statement to the world.

I guess that you can’t really take on a hungry wolf, with its set of teeth out, ready to lunge at its prey. That artwork is quite a sight to behold, tremendous, old school, pierces you right in the guts. What can you tell of how you look at this artwork? What can you tell of the vision behind this art?

Yeah, we love how it looks. We just gave the artist Dusan Markovic a basic idea of what we wanted, and he took it and ran with it. It turned out even better than we hoped.

Let’s talk a bit about the course of the record lyrically, or if you would rather, its narrative. Sure, there are inspirational songs, as I call them, to keep up Metal flowing, yet I sense that there are those that are deeper. In your view, what theme, or major themes, lead the album?

Well, I would agree, but Freddy wrote all of the lyrics. I asked Freddy what the theme for the Evil Eye Trilogy means and he said this “The theme of the three parts is one of a seeker on a spiritual quest, to find the true nature of good and evil, temptation and desire, obsession and self-control. He has a longing to discover his place in the universe, and obtain inner peace.” I think a lot of the albums lyrics tap into those kinds of ideas. Then again, you’ve got a song like “Pedal To Metal” about hot-rods and heavy metal! :-) At the end of the day, I think it’s best for the listener to decide what the meaning of a song’s lyrics are to them.

Longing for the heydays of the US Metal scene, its Traditional, NWOBHM inspired patterns, and of course it's heavier Power Metal shards of steel, "Conquer All Fear" gives it back and big time. Without thinking about modernity, you carved your path through a local scene that is far from what used to be. How do you find the steps that you made as a band, surrounding your musical development?

I have just always stayed true to the music I love, and not out of any sense of duty or anything like that. It’s just honestly what I love. Even before FireWölfe when I was just a listener and not part of a band I never got caught up in musical trends. Don’t get me wrong, I like and respect many types of music, but as a creator and listener traditional melodic metal is where my heart is. So, I don’t really care what everyone else is doing, we’re not trying to fit into any scene. We just write what we love and let the chips fall where they may.

I am curious, and I know that you are an old schooler at heart, how does it feel to be in a different Metal, which even with all the revival going on, still appreciates the modern wave of Metal?

It doesn’t really affect me one way or the other. Modern metal is not my cup of tea, although there are many great musicians and bands. The revival of traditional metal, especially younger folks, who are now just discovering the old school bands, does indeed warm my heart. Just goes to show that this kind of metal will never die.

When you think about musical inspirations, and there is not a single songwriter that would claim otherwise, there are always those influences going on while writing a record. Which kind of spirits engulfed you, touching your mind with their magical hands, stimulating your senses to come across the musical direction of the record?

This is very true. Savatage is always an influence, as well as Queensrÿche and Dokken. But there were some others as well: King Diamond, Rainbow and Dio, Helloween, Primal Fear, Loudness and Ozzy. All of these artists (and more) cast a spell on our new album.

In your opinion, which elements in your music on "Conquer All Fear" set the tone for the record, making it a stronger number than your previous albums?

I think we set out to write a heavier album this time. Not only a faster album but also heavier on the slower numbers like the title track. So, there is more variety on this album in terms of tempos and rhythmic ideas. We have a straight up barnburner like “Pedal To Metal” and then the up-tempo gallop of “Swallow My Pride.” We have the crushing slow burn of songs like “Conquer All Fear” and the ultra-melodic “Candle In The Dark.’ Then there is the power metal style of “Vicious As The Viper” and the triplet rhythm of “Keep The Hounds At Bay.” I also personally love the Ozzy style groove of “Magic.”

I think there is more variety overall compared to the other two FireWölfe albums, but there is still the main ingredients that make classic metal what it is: Killer riffs, melodic hooks and excellent vocals/lyrics topped off  by great individual performances.

As a songwriter that saw a lot, took part in great bands, and of course had a lot of sessions writing songs, what can you say that the process of "Conquer All Fear" taught you? What lessons of the past were implemented on the record?

Writing this album taught me that it’s fun and possible to have writing chemistry with more than one person. I always felt that David Fefolt and I had really good writing chemistry, and I was honestly concerned that I might not have that with Freddy. But he quickly proved me wrong, and we got along very well. I also learned that writing an album can happen very quickly if all the key pieces are in place.

In terms of what I brought with me–it was mainly the process itself. I write most of the music and then send that to the singer to write his vocal melodies and lyrics.. I tend to have full arrangements done before I send anything so that the singer can get the full vision I have for the song on a musical level. I think that works really well for most vocalists. Tweaking song arrangements are easy to do if you have the nuts and bolts in place first.

You brought in Freddy Krumins, which even if not being a strong name in the local scene, I believe that he made it to be the rightful person to front the band. How do you find his contribution, and abilities, as the next step of FireWölfe? What makes him FireWölfe material?

Freddy has been a great addition to the band. He loves music and plays several instruments. He’s always creating and has a big notebook of lyrics and ideas for songs. He also writes very quickly and has a great, somewhat twisted sense of humour :-) Vocally, I love his unique style and I’m also happy that his style is not too different from our previous singer.

You had some great people working on the engineering side of the record, Bart Gabriel and the mighty Swedish multi-instrumentalist, Cederick Forsberg. I have to say that the end result is true to form, the richness, and crunch, of the album is surreal. This is 80s stuff right there. How do you evaluate such an effort to give that ample nudge to sound vintage, yet also relevant?

Bart and Cederick were the perfect guys for the job! They both understand and love our style of metal. It was a really easy and fun (and educational!) experience working with them on this album. They knew we weren’t trying to sound like modern metal and so made the right decisions for us regarding mixing and mastering strategy.

Since the record is stellar, and it was rather hard for me to pick songs to talk about, I will take one. "Conquer All Fear", the self-titled, felt dark, almost Black Sabbath in nature, yet with an added value to it. I believe that Krumins is shining on this one, he has a lot of room to preach the lyrics and to show what he can truly do. What is your view of this song? What can you tell of its creative process?

Cool! Yeah, that song was created with idea of conjuring up Black Sabbath and Dio vibes, so I’m happy that’s what it reminds you of. We didn’t want to rush the tempo, so we kept it nice and doomy sounding. I agree, Freddy did some great work on this one, both lyrically and vocally. I knew when I wrote that music that it had the potential to be really good, but then when I heard Freddy’s vocals, I knew we had a killer track!

Once you had the chance to listen to the entire record, what came through your mind? What form of a personal journey did you have while listening to it?

Relief!! Ha ha. I think whenever you finish something as monumental as writing and recording/mixing/mastering an album there is definitely a sense of relief that you’ve finally finished the work. But then feelings of joy and pride come in when you hear the final product. Keep in mind that by the time we have the finished album in our hands we’ve already heard these songs hundreds of times while working on them. So, it’s a much different listening experience than buying a new album from your favorite band and listening for the first time. But we are very excited and proud to have created Conquer All Fear, and we hope the fans love it, and that people new to the band will give the album a chance.

How does your schedule look these days? I bet that it is tough to actually book shows with all the uncertainty going right?

Yeah, it’s really difficult to book shows right now. Hopefully things will be better in 2022 and we can get over to Europe and play for the fans! In the meantime I stay busy working on new material and projects, as well as my guitar teaching business.

Nick, I wish to thank you kindly for your time and effort for this interview. Thank you also for making such a great record and letting me enjoy 80s US Metal. Cheers

Thank you for the fun interview and the great questions! So happy you like the album! Here’s to a great 2022 for all of us. Cheers, Nick.



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Edited 22 May 2022

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