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High Spirits' Chris Black: "…some people have said it sounds like a pop punk song. I don’t listen to pop punk, at least I don’t think I do, but maybe they are right…"

Interview with Chris Black from High Spirits
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 01 July 2020, 10:58 PM

Taking it lightly, fluently, smoothly, the idea to simply lay back and enjoy the fun in the sun. Even in these unusual days of Covid, which apparently is signaling of a second wave, it is still possible to appreciate a good vibe. Steinmetal found interest in the joint musical effort, crossing genres, of the American band, High Spirits. With their new album on the way, "Hard To Stop", he had a talk with the band's leader and founder, Chris Black, in order to find out about what made this album catchy, in the zone, and in the market, and more…

Hello Chris, it is a pleasure to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir? Are things slowly easing up on your end, lockdown wise?

Hi, we are hanging in fine, thank you. Regarding the pandemic, Chicago had more time to prepare, compared with NYC and the West Coast, so the impact was statistically less severe, but of course everyone is affected in some way.  Similarly, we are re-opening more slowly and more cautiously than other areas.  Our leadership here took a very “long view” of the situation, which I think is the correct one.

Along with the Covid-19 pandemic, which still hold uncertainties regarding the social order coming back to life, and I mean the normal ordinary life, there have been the rioting and protests over the death of George Floyd, do you feel that an upcoming change is pending for American society or is it just a short phase?

It’s hard to bring it all together in a band interview, but the “social order” is exactly what people are now protesting against.  2021 will be very different from 2019, and I am looking forward to it.  Right now is an exciting if somewhat anxious and also sad time.

With all the events going on, High Spirits return with a new full length release titled, “Hard To Stop”, once again via High Roller Records. So what is so hard to stop? Is that the motivation of yours to continue your musical journey between Hard Rock and Classic Heavy Metal or is it something even more benevolent?

Could be. When you enjoy doing something, it can be very hard to stop!  Same is true for objects in motion.  I like that the album title has different possible meanings.  They are all correct.

The artwork actually had me intrigued, way off the charts than the beautiful “Motivator”. It is somewhat enigmatic, while providing a few hints of a glimmer of hope within the darkness.  Generally, it has that 70s motifs of vintage Rock albums, showing few on the layout, yet full with content once you get to the listen. What is your take on the visual of the artwork for “Hard To Stop”? What was the initial vision? What goes through your mind when you look at it?

I think there is quite a variety of songs on the album this time, and it was hard to find an image that encapsulated all of them equally.  The solution itself was simple, but finding it was not!

What would you say is the message that is being shared within “Hard To Stop”, is it hope, positivity or rather telling the bitter sweet truth regarding where we stand as people?

Can it be both?  I am always cautious about saying too much in this area, because I think the audience finds different meanings in different ways, and I want to protect that experience and that connection.

“Hard To Stop” is one of those uncanny odd sods of the American Hard Rock / Heavy Metal scene. While largely most of the scene is of the modern type music, some of it sounds like plastic, and somewhat empty in feel, there is High Spirits, keeping the flame alive on its own accord. How does it feel to be that different from most of what the fans of the scene are looking for? What kept you motivated while writing “Hard To Stop”, which is an 80s driven album?

I’m not sure I agree.  High Spirits has always sounded very modern to me, but at the same time, I don’t listen to a lot of current music, so maybe this is an illusion.  But if we are a noteworthy alternative to certain other bands, I am honored to provide.

Walking the plank, between classic Heavy Metal and punchy Hard Rock, with a little circling AOR, “Hard To Stop” shares a fine variety within the 80s spirit. How do you find High Spirit’s musical progress within the album in relation to your previous release?

This time I wasn’t really thinking too hard.  I can see that the two previous albums were a bit “boxed-in”, so this time I just decided I wasn’t going to give a you-know-what whether a song had a certain style or mood.  I was just trying for quality, simply to make the best possible High Spirits album that I can make right now.

The songwriting on display drives the wheel of the album, turning it into a catchy drifting machine, with nearly every track with a potential to take the listener to fun drive across the neighborhood at night. What can you share regarding the songwriting process of the album? I guess that maintaining the same methods and formulas to writing songs made everything ticking right?

Yes, the process is basically the same from song to song and from album to album.  I start from one point and build around that.  Sometimes the starting point is a chorus, or maybe the opening riff, and then it’s just a matter of building the rest so that it has a complete motion to it.  And then at some point during its genesis, a High Spirits song must pass a secret test, which I will never reveal, but which is very reliable.

Probably the first track that captured my ear, which was a surprise for me as an old schooler, was “Voice In The Wind”, delivering the goods starting with a smooth buildup, turning into a vintage Hard Rock easy living with a somewhat of an Indie Rock echo. No doubt it is a stadium kind of hit. What can you tell regarding the track's creation? What was the source of the track’s theme?

Thank you very much.  I think “Voice in the Wind” might be one of those “love it or hate it” songs in the long run, and that’s ok. I wanted to do a track with that kind of ethereal rock atmosphere that a lot of 80s Top 40 songs have going.  Some people have said it sounds like a pop punk song.  I don’t listen to pop punk, at least I don’t think I do, but maybe they are right.

From the first minute I felt an early 80s Motorhead sensation within “Now I Know” other than your vocals. A sort of a Punk meets Hard Rock, with a fine attitude. In overall, it actually felt like an intro for the self-titled track, was it meant to be like that or just by chance?

Just by chance. “Now I Know” was written a while ago, in a slightly different version. I didn’t realize until more recently that it would make a fine High Spirits song.  That’s a heavy one, and it seemed like “We Are Everywhere” would make a good rebound.

Though I am sure it is going to be tough on you, I wonder what is your selected track out of these babies? Please elaborate on your pick

I would say that “All Night Long” was the most enjoyable one to pilot from concept to completion.  It called for a bit more flash on the drums too, so that was fun.  I think it will be a real smash to play live too – although I’ve been wrong before.

The album’s punchiest Heavy Metal, without a shadow of a doubt, is “We Are Everywhere”, letting the vibe of NWOBHM swarm in with finesse. I guess all the roads led to this track after all right? What is your appreciation of the track’s vibe? This is where you got loosened up?

Yeah, maybe it’s like the “home stretch” of the ride, or like the big revue at the end of the show.  And then it takes you back home safe at the end.

High Spirits has always been an active band in the live scene, yet with the pandemic still a risk, there are no live shows for the moment. Have you guys been thinking about perhaps doing a live stream show in order to promote your album properly?

As of now I’m not interested, no.  It seems to be working well for other bands though, that’s cool.

With hopes that this pandemic will be over in 2021, have you already started making plans forward?

Yes, we already have around 20 gigs booked for 2021, including some big festivals in Europe such as Brofest, Hell Over Hammaburg, and Party-San. We will be very happy to get back on stage when the time is right.  We haven’t been together since August of 2019, it’s very strange.

Chris, it has been great, plenty of thanks to you and your crew for an amazing album, and for you personally for this interview, I wish you all the best and be safe!.

My pleasure, thank you too!  Strong and healthy regards to you and to everyone reading!


 



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