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Intense's Sean Hetherington: "I have to say I don’t think the term Metal Gods is relevant these days for any of the newer bands... and definitely won’t be used in the future…"

Interview with Sean Hetherington from Intense
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 02 April 2020, 11:24 PM

There has been a thought that the new Intense album has a connection, in a certain way to the Covid-19 pandemic running around. However, call it a coincidence, a weird one as it feels right in place. However, the English band had a different plan set in motion. Releasing “Songs Of A Broken Future”, their album after years of expectance, it was time for Steinmetal to have a talk with the band's long runner, Sean Hetherington about the album's true meaning, musical progress of the band, the intensity of the music, and more…

Hello Sean, it is a pleasure to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine. How have you been doing sir? I understand that things are getting severe in the UK with all the Covid-19 happening?

Hi Lior, many thanks for talking to me… I’m doing okay all things considered. We’re going through some very different times as a Human Race and experiencing many things we haven’t before. Not long ago I would never have believed the situation we are now in had you told me it was going to happen, it’s almost like a plot from some sci-fi film. Yes, we’re on lock down as a country now. My day job outside the band is running a food wholesaler so I still have to deal with customers every day along with my team… this was never a dangerous situation for us before but now it has potential danger… very strange.

In regards to Covid-19, and since you have vast experience in the local Metal scene in the UK, a lot of events have been cancelled, or bound to be cancelled in the near future, how do you think that it would affect the scene? Do you see a possibility that festivals in the UK will be out of commission for several years?

There is no doubt that the Metal Scene will be affected, whether it will be long term I'm not sure as many bands have already re-booked for later in the year… how long the current threat from Covid -19 is with us will determine that I guess. I guess it depends how much outlay promoters have already spent… hopefully many of them will still have funds available for next either later in the year or next year and I'm guessing many will have insurance in place so we’ll have to see.

Our main purpose of gathering is the return of your longtime band, Intense, back into releasing new material, and this time around, after nine years. I must say that a little while ago, I listened to “As Our Army Grows”, and I thought to myself where are you guys. Didn’t bother to check online, but I was glad to receive word of your return with a new album, “Songs Of A Broken Future”. I think first things first, why this such a wide gap, was it an intentional hiatus? Perhaps a writer’s block or simply life struck you?

No it definitely wasn’t on purpose. Life certainly got in the way for a few of the guys with some happy events and some very sad events happening also. We started writing and recording this album probably about 3 years ago and as luck would have it, Karl’s band Threshold were getting lots of work with their latest release and we had to work around their commitments which fragmented the recording progress for us… then of course we have to submit to the label to see if they wanted to release this as the follow up to our "Shape of Rage" album which thankfully they did… so at last here we are .

After all this time, with “Songs Of A Broken Future”, it was pretty natural for you guys to return to Pure Steel Records, after being signed to one of their sub-labels? How do you find the promotional process of the new album? What do you make of the reactions of your return with new material due to that promotional outcome?

Well we realized that 9 years is a long time between releases so we didn’t know if Pure Steel would be interested or had written us off… however they loved the album which is great. They’ve also changed a lot in 9 years and just seeing the distribution available for SOABF is great… very exciting… it should be very easy to get hold of for everyone. Promotion wise it’s difficult to tell as the campaign will continue after the album is out. The only issue I guess for us is I don’t know when we’ll be able to get out do some shows right now for obvious reasons.

Inside looking in, when referring to the lyrical concept of “Songs Of A Broken Future”, the atmosphere of the album pretty much symbolizes the uncertainty surrounding us nowadays, as if you foresaw what is about to happen. Other than the present, what was the nature of the pessimism that shaped “Songs Of A Broken Future”?

That’s a great observation and I've been thinking the same thing. We’ve always been a band that is interested in the darker side of humanity and I guess we‘re very realistic about what we see around us. The songs and lyric writing fit together very well and you’d be forgiven in thinking it’s a concept album however it isn’t. I think you can go through song by song and get the theme of each one but I also think that you’re able to relate each song to your own perspective which is something we love to do. I don’t call it pessimism but a realistic view on humanity.

How do you find yourself connected personally to some of the album’s lyrics? How did these lyrics get entangled with the state of affairs prior to the Covid-19 crisis?

Well I'm connected to all the lyrics I wrote as my interactions or experiences influence and inspire my writing but also what I see others go through too inspire me… I don’t want to go into too much detail song by song (maybe one day) as I said before, as I want people to interpret the songs in their own way and don’t want to change that however, there’s a song about GOT in there a song about social influencing on social media, therapy, the different stages of life from where we go from excitement of the opportunity to fearing the end, the struggle that is life… hopefully that gives you some guidance :) These were all situations ongoing before Covid-19 and they will still be relevant after (here’s hoping after comes sooner) .

Is there an escape, or perhaps a light at the end of the tunnel, from the broken future that you are referring too in this album?

Maybe we’ll reflect that in our next album ha ha … generally we try and see that the good guys win in the end despite all the struggles and trials and tribulations we go through… it may be naive but I believe in Karma ….

The band’s name has always lived up to its music style, it has been rather intensive. With the display of British Metal, taking notes from your local scene’s early golden days, to the present, I noticed that “Songs Of A Broken Future” is somewhat darker in its approach, even though sparking with melodic enchantments. Like Iron Maiden or Saxon banging heads with Iced Earth. How do you perceive the musical steps forward that Intense had experienced while creating “Songs Of A Broken Future”?

Thanks we always have been Intense both on CD and also with our live show… we like to throw a lot of energy into our live show. I like that connection and I think it’s spot on. We definitely have our sound and musical style but of course we try to progress and push boundaries with each album but I also think that Intense fans will recognize us instantly… we don’t consciously plan to change things up… we follow our hearts and when we listen back we can hear the evolution… I’m excited about the new album which won’t take 9 years to land that’s for sure.

With the grimness of the conceptual direction of “Songs Of A Broken Future”, which elements in your music received much attention in order to gain the supporting darkness to the lyrics in order to capture their essence musically?

We always have keyboards in the back ground to add atmosphere to our songs which we’ve used ever since our first album "Second Sight"… plus we always have some guitar harmonies and semitones to add to the sounds… I like lower added backing vocals to add some bite to the songs too… they all go hand in hand I guess.

For “Songs Of A Broken Future” what were your references while writing the music? Any particular influence that wasn’t part of your previous works and perhaps was a game changer for you on this album?

I always use life experiences and use events or people that catch my eye in the media, now and again I may be inspired by characters from any films/series like also. No, there was nothing that changed for me in the way I wrote on this album although I did have longer to review and change anything I felt I had to improve because of the gap between writing to recording.

With the vast market of albums coming out nowadays at a rather rapid rate, the selection is enormous. In your viewpoint, what makes “Songs Of A Broken Future” uncanny in comparison to other albums in the same style margin being released?

Hmm, the obvious one is that it’s not every day that Intense put out an album .. ha ha … I still maintain that we have a very realistic and dark approach to our music and a distinctive sound. People who know Intense will hopefully be full of anticipation whilst I'm hoping that to anyone new we will be a “why have I not heard these guys before” moment.

What can you tell about the songwriting process of the album? Would you say that you took a different approach to your songs in comparison to your previous works? Perhaps learned a few lessons from the past into the present?

It was a little different due to the fragmented recording process as we worked around Karl’s Threshold Commitments so we had many opportunities to review what we recorded and tweak where we needed. We have a system that works very well for us currently and the only way we can improve I think is to record more often (lol ) .

Probably the first track that captured my attention was “Final Cry”, an exceptional Iced Earth driven track, heavy as it can be, yet also melodic to perfection. What can you tell about the track’s state of mind? Is this the musical approach that inspires you to pursue for Intense on the next releases?

I’m glad you like that track, me too. I understand the Iced Earth reference but would way it’s an Intense driven track (ha ha)… yeah we tried to maintain a nice balance on it and the nice intro into the kicking riffs works really well. I think we’ve had songs in a similar vein on previous albums as in being very driven. "Final Cry" is about someone who’s continually tested, going through tough times and having life continually trying to beat them down… however as they stay resistant they gain strength and get through it finally.

 “Until The Memories Fade”, is what I saw as a demanded, and needed, type of balladry, taking that emotional route into the heart of the listener. What can you tell about this song and its creation?

We like to pen the odd power ballad on an album to give the listener a bit of a breather and change of mood. This is about someone who got too close to the edge of Insanity and sought Therapy… this is written through the eye of the Therapist who has gotten maybe too close to the person they are trying to help so is he helping the patient or adding to the patient’s problem ? “I hold your hand to lead you to the Truth“

A tough question, talking about songs out of the tracklist, is what is your preferred song out of this album? I know it is a hard one to ask, however, an elaborated selection is requested

Yeah, that is a tough question… "Head Above Water"… probably one of our catchier tunes I think, "Jester’s Smile"… I love the flow of the verses and really like the chorus again … I'm going to stick with those two but have to say I love all the songs on the album as they all have something different to offer. When we get to tour SOABF ask me again as songs always take on a different feel when we play them live so I'm sure I'll change my mind multiple times.

Aside from the virus thing, what do you see as a challenge, or challenges, for Intense in order to support “Songs Of A Broken Future”? Furthermore, concerning the ever growing market, where do you see Intense going forward in the next couple of years?

Yeah, it’s never a good thing to release a new album while there’s a worldwide Pandemic going on … obviously this will delay a tour until the Autumn realistically… We’ve always had demanding day jobs so will tour when we can take holiday which is pretty standard… unfortunately we’ll never be able to do 3 months in the states otherwise we’ll all be homeless (and a couple of us divorced)… distribution for this album looks really good and probably the best we’ve ever had so that will help get INTENSE out there. Who knows what the future brings and how much the world will have changed after Covid-19… we’ll both watch the future with interest.

The departing of Neil Peart, the upcoming retirement of Ozzy Osbourne, reminded us that the ones we are calling the Metal Gods, are soon to be a memory of the heydays. Is that term Metal Gods still relevant in the present? Will it be in the future?

No I have to say I don’t think the term Metal Gods is relevant these days for any of the newer bands… and definitely won’t be used in the future… I think sometimes we forgot to appreciate the Maiden’s, Priests’ and Kiss etc of our world… go see them if you get the chance.

Sean, plenty of thanks for taking this interview, it was a true honor. Many thanks as well for a profound release and please don’t take another 9 years. Cheers sir.

Lior, many thanks for taking the time to put this interview together and for the interest in Intense. We appreciate your support and hope that all the followers of Metal Temple check us out and like what they hear… Stay safe ..


 



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