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Helsott's Eric Dow: "The record taught me to go for it. If you have something in mind, just do it"

Interview with Eric Dow from Helsott
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 18 June 2022, 9:39 PM

The Wild West has its magic, no doubt about that. To write songs about an era that contributed no less legends than earlier ages, is no less of an inspiration. Taking on the Young Guns franchise, providing it with a fictional prequal story, the American Metallers, Helsott, wrote a concept that is sure to entice, titled "Will And The Witch". The action of the old west comes to life with flavored tracks of great Metal. Steinmetal had a good talk with the band's vocalist, Eric Dow, about the band's prospect, digging into the storyline and music.

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

I have been well, thank you for asking.  Also, thank you for your interest in Helsott and your support.  I really appreciate it.

Coming about one of the toughest periods for mankind, which as it seems, for the moment at least, to raise its head once again on a lower scale, Helsott continued its journey. In light of the last period of time of the pandemic, how were you able to keep the wagon going? What was the source of the motivation that enticed the band to push forward?

Before the pandemic, our momentum was stronger than ever. It was a no-brainer to just push forward through these difficult times.  We were able to write and record Will And The Witch and we think it’s one of our strongest albums to date.

The band’s third album, “Will And The Witch”, was recently released, once again through M-Theory Audio. How has the record been received by your fanbase?

So far, it’s basically been received as our best album to date.  Some of our most loyal supporters are telling us it’s the best we have ever done so we tend to believe them.

In contrast to your previous albums, this time around, with your new album, “Will And The Witch”, you created a story and also chose a pinnacle era in American history as its background. What inspired you exactly to head back to the root of the land, so to speak?

We were driving to a gig in Las Vegas and while driving through the beautiful desert landscape, Cooper and I discussed writing an album about the wild west.  Billy, The Kid, is one of my favorite figures in that time period so I decided to write a fan fiction prequel to the movie Young Guns.

As mentioned, “Will And The Witch” is based on a fictional story, which involves the rising of the gunfighter/gunslinger, Henry McCarty, or William H. Bonney, also known as Billy The Kid. I guess you have been a fan of his image? What drew you to focus on the outlaw character?

I have been a fan of the western movie genre for most of my life.  Young Guns is one of my all-time favorite movies.  This is the basic inspiration for the Will And The Witch album.

What can you tell in regards to the twisted relationship between the two main protagonists, how does that relationship define the story in a way?

It is basically the entire story.  The joining of the souls of Billy The Kid and the Dark Banshee is what gave Billy his speed and arrogance in my version of the tale.  It’s also basically the ultimate wild west love story.

Eventually, the story of “Will And The Witch” stops, but leaves a kind of trace, when Billy The Kid joins the Regulators. Stories say that this sort of gang of deputies was involved in a little local war later on. After the Regulators, the album ends, but without a story to be concluded. Was it on purpose to leave the listener with a positive note, and not a hero / main character’s farewell?

Yes, the story was always meant to be a prequel to the movie Young Guns so it seemed fitting to end the album with a basic summary of the movie.

Mostly, behind every fictional story, there is an essence of deeper meaning, implying reality. What can you tell about the possible connection between the story of “Will And The Witch” and our ordinary lives as you perceive them?

Love and the absolute dangerous feeling of uprooting your entire life and everything you know because of love.

When it comes to morality, or what the listener could conjure as morals, out of the concept, what is it in your opinion?

In this story, I would say that morals go out the window.  It is an outlaw story and morality doesn’t have any play in it.  There are a few lessons to learn in the story, but I leave that up to the listener.

Right from the get-go of the band, you guys proved that you like to explore, crossing albums that go through various Metal music natures. “Will And The Witch”, on the other hand, takes even stronger turns on your journey, an enhancement of your musical exploration, also outside of Metal for just a bit. What can you tell in regards to the overall musical progress of the band in light of the record?

First off, we wanted to return to our thrash roots.  So, this album is very guitar and drum-driven.  Then we wanted to tell a story.  Not only do we want the listener to understand the story from the lyrics but we want to put the listener into the story with the music and the instruments we use.

The songwriting process of “Will And The Witch” is a point of interest, especially since the result indicates a lot of thought and attention even for the minor details. What can you tell me about that process while working on the album?

Because of Covid, we were able to get in a room as a whole band and work out all these details.  Not knowing when the pandemic would be over with, we didn’t really have a deadline to meet.  This allowed us to fully explore all options in creating this album, which was amazing for us.

It is mentioned that there are fewer orchestrations on this record, along with a rise of a tougher-edged Metal. Was it the latter in favor of the former?

Steph used to do all our orchestrations.  She retired from music.  Instead of hiring someone else Cooper and I decided to do them ourselves.   We didn’t want to try and be Steph because she is amazing.  We didn’t want to overdo the orchestrations on our first attempt.  So, we basically just had fun with it and let the guitars speak for themselves and add what we could to the backing tracks.  I think we did a great job.

The implementation of Native American or early American, instrumentation provided that rightful layer to the relevant songs to entice the background of the era. What can you tell about the fusion of these elements into your songwriting?

It was basically necessary for the telling of the story.  We wanted the listener to be engaged in the entire process of the album so when it came a time in the story for the Native Americans to be upfront, we knew we needed that element in the music.

What I liked about the songs is the variations of growls going on, from the low register chugs to the mid-high crispers. I noticed that the band served as backing vocals, yet, since you are the lead vocalist, were all those performed by you? Overall, the two types of growls, were there also servants of the story itself, character-oriented?

All of the extreme vocals are me.  The highs, mids, and lows.  I’m acting more as a narrator, so I just did what I felt the particular part of the song needed.  The backing vocals were the whole band doing gang vocals.

The first track that took my attention was “Independence Night”, which also features guest vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens. Ripper, as expected, provides great performance, and is well integrated with your vocals. The track itself is a heavier piece, almost Iced Earth in origin, but also quite melodic. What can you tell about the song in general as you see it? How do you find Ripper’s involvement as a role player on this tune?

When we met Ripper we asked him to do this part in the album.  He wanted to do the heavier stuff with us, so he was excited about it.  We wrote the song with him in mind.  I thought of him as more of a character in the song and my narration.  His character is the fire that the witch conjures to burn the plantation to the ground.  I love using guest musicians and was very excited that he did this for us.

The epic “Skin Out” might be long, but it flew by for me quite fast, and that is a good thing, it has a smooth structure and a lot of hooks. Creating a lot of hooks in such a long track, now is a challenge. What can you tell me about the creative process of this song? How do you find its impact on the entire album?

For the story the song basically moves Will and the Witch from Louisiana to Arizona. It’s a monologue type of song.  It’s very important to the story lyrically.  Musically it was awesome to work on and very satisfying when it all came together. I had the lyrics and the basic melody worked out and the band put in their parts and I think it turned out awesome.

Helsott is now with three albums, and you were also involved in other projects in the past. I believe that no matter how experienced one has, there is always more to learn. How do you define “Will And The Witch” as a learning curve? What did it teach you about yourself?

The record taught me to go for it.  If you have something in mind, just do it.  It was a big project, and a lot went into making it happen.  I am very proud of this album.  Every song means something to me.

Looking forward to 2022, without concern of another wave of the pandemic, what does the schedule of the band look like?

We have a west coast US tour coming up with Malphas and we have several southern California dates lined up.  We are also playing the HRH Viking Fest in England this December.  We will try to keep as busy as possible.

Eric, I wish to thank you for your time during this interview, it was good to have you. All the best to the band and kudos for the well-made album. Cheers

Cheers, and thank you again for your support.


 



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