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Interview - John Lutzow (Leviathan)

Interview with John Lutzow from Leviathan
by YngwieViking at 23 April 2014, 6:54 PM

The US Progressive Metal band LEVIATHAN has been there for quite a long time, since the late 80’s, however, it has yet to break out with something that would shake the world in comparison to other bands in its field of Metal music. On the other hand, “Beholden to Nothing, Braver Since Then” might be that crucial break they need so much. YngwieViking talked with one of the band’s veterans, John Lutzow, about the band, the new release and more…

Hi, John Lutzow, I’m glad to discuss with you about the much expected renaissance of your lifetime band LEVIATHAN, can you tell us the whole inside details that lead to reforming the band in 2010?

Leviathan reformed mainly because it felt like we had unfinished business. My other band, ‘Braver Since Then’ was already 3/5 of the last Leviathan line up.  All that was required was to get Jeff Ward and Ron Skeen on board.  After taking so many years off, we all felt it was time to see where music could take us again.

Could you first tell us about you, your background as a musician, your past or recent involvements in other bands and projects! I want to know everything, Go !

My origins as a musician are actually quite strange.  I played trombone in elementary school but never thought about being a serious musician.  Guitar playing entered my life more or less as a dare.  My best friend and I during the metal hay day had long hair, dressed like we were Motley Crue and told people were in a band.  It was the best way to get attention from the ladies :)One day he told me he was getting a bass guitar and I should ask for a six string for Christmas. The plan was to start playing so we wouldn’t be lying when we pulled out the lines of coolness to attract girls.   Fast forward a few months, I received my first electric guitar at fifteen and the rest is history.

As far as music education goes, I studied privately with quite a few teachers and eventually finished my BFA in music.  I taught music for six years then moved into the IT field as my occupation.  I also have a Degree in Computer Science.

I was involved in a few bands back in high school.  The only major significance of that time was working with Chris Broderick (Megadeth) He and I were cross town rivals growing up in Aurora, CO.  It was through our occasional jamming I met Jason Boudreau.  Chris recommended that I work with Jason because of our musical compatibility.  I played with Jason in a band called Tyrant’s Reign from 1989-1991 when I left to join Leviathan.

My future musical endeavors mainly involve seeing where Leviathan goes and a new acoustic project.  I am tremendously excited about this new trio.  I am collaborating with Jason Boudreau and Chris Lasegue.  (both contributed solos for the new Leviathan record.)  This acoustic project will be a modern guitar shredders dream.  It will have elements from flamenco, jazz, blues, folk, world and trademark sounds of all of our prog roots. This album should be great for all of us.  There is a huge untapped market for this type of product locally and globally, I think.  If we gain some market share it will be the first time for any of us to be recognized in our own town or country.   This album will be finished around the end of 2014.  Stay tuned.

In my MT's review for “Beholden To Nothing , Braver Since Then”, I wrote that the album  holds many interesting elements such as a thick atmospheric flavors and a strong Prog spirit with some clever song structures and a challenging thematic aspect, the whole is enhanced by an intellectual method or at least a high profile songwriting process, in fact, those parameters are displayed in a generous tendency and are even overshadowed by the superb interpretation of a very capable vocalist: What is your feelings about this quote ?

Excellent descriptions indeed.  I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Thanks.

Do you think that the Laid back attitude in some songs and the intense progressive parts in your music can be a block for some listeners, do you keep this aspect in mind while composing, or did you just get the inspiration flows

Everyone who is successful always attempts to send a message that you should never think about your audience when creating artistic expressions.  I admit I do worry about that.  I am well aware that Leviathan’s sales have declined over the years and I take some responsibility for that.  I know that Leviathan’s songs used to be straighter forward power metal flavored.  Once I started taking over the bulk of the writing, we became a progressive metal band.  This shrank our audience.  My writing might alienate us further by my willingness to let anything creatively come out during my jam sessions.   One thing I think is clear about my writing; what I create is unique and pushes the boundaries of any genre.  Even if you don’t like my music you can’t deny that Leviathan has established an original identity.  This includes the use of dialog to tell a story, various guitar accents and intelligent writing.

Can you introduce to us the new line up?

The lineup isn’t really new. The core of the group is still Jeff Ward on Vocals, Derek Blake on Bass/ Vocals and myself on everything else. We don’t have a permanent drummer anymore.  We used a few different guys to finish the recording.

I think that LEVIATHAN’s new release is excellent and fascinating but also very demanding for the listener, do you have a method to write those great pieces?

My approach to music and writing attempts to satisfy the selfish pursuit of what I would want to listen to or buy.  For this album specifically, I wanted to redeem myself after what was a vastly imperfect last studio offering.  It was my goal that the Beholden to Nothing, album be my greatest work and crowning achievement.  After the completion of any all-encompassing, energy draining, passionate outpouring, I say I will never put myself through that much work again for very little reward or recognition.   I am proud of this album and in the event that I never release anything ever again, I can move on with integrity knowing I left nothing on the table.

About your voice & your vocal style, how do stay in good shape to perform those demanding tracks?

I am not the lead singer of the band. I did sing lead on a couple of sections in the songs, ‘Creatures of Habit’ and ‘Misanthrope Exhumed.’  Derek also sang lead in songs and is the lead singer in our other band, ‘Braver Since Then.’

As you are a band from Denver, CO , how is the Melodic/Prog Metal scene in Colorado?

The music scene in Denver has never really been that great.  Back in the nineties it was much better than now.  Denver never had a trademark sound.  A few bands have come here to break through to commercial success but few have started here and found stardom.  The one thing that is cool is the reputation Colorado has gained in the guitar shredding and prog metal genre.  Every interview I do in Europe I am asked about how great the prog scene must be in CO and what it is like to be part of it.  It is very cool that bands like Titan Force, Quiet Room, Satan’s Host, Jag Panzer, Psychodrama and Leviathan have found a region of the world that appreciates intelligent music.  To me this will always be the Colorado sound.  J

Do you plan on touring in Europe? If yes, did you think to bring with you some young band from your hometown in support?

Leviathan’s future now rides on finding support to get to Europe again.  We are ready and willing to come play any chance we get.  So please spread the word.  Anyone reading this now, Take the time to listen to our album.  If you like it, get the message to any promoters, managers or touring acts; Leviathan is available to play and would jump at the opportunity to open for any European bands that have a small tour scheduled.

What do you think of the state of the market in 2014! What is your opinion concerning digital downloading legal and illegal?

That is a topic of much aguish for me recently. Within a few hours of our album being released on I-tunes and Amazon it was readily available on Torrent sites for illegal download. I have been emailing these criminals daily telling them to take down the copy protected content.

I used to buy most of my music through I-tunes but now days I like to support a local shop and enjoy the time spent listening to CD’s in the store.  I buy the disks I like so that I can have the full content.  I hope this trend of reading lyrics and album liner notes comes back in style.

Tell us what we have to expect from your side in the future to come?

The only musical future I can confirm is that Chris, Jason and I will be releasing this Acoustic Trio album soon.  We get together once a week to rehearse.  All the songs are written and sound amazing.  Once we have all the guitar virtuosity memorized and tight we will record.  I am trying to approach this project with the fullest scope and preparation.  I plan to have a full concert video/ educational video, and interactive media music instructional book to accompany the musical CD.  I envision this project being a tasty album but also a pioneer in revealing everything about the album.  A fan will be able to watch video close ups of any guitar part being played as well as the musical notation, tablature and live concert of every song.

Please let us know your Underground US Metal TOP 5?

I don’t know if I have an underground US metal top 5.  So I guess I will stick with what I know, Titan Force, Quiet Room, Opus Dai, Fair to Midland and Pineapple Thief.

What is the last CD you have purchased ?

The last CD I purchased was last week at a local show.  It is a Jazz band from Denver called Soul School.  I have been buying a lot of Jazz lately to prepare for this Acoustic project.  Before that was the newest Ellis Paul, Rodrigo Y Gabriella and of course the most recent Fates Warning and Dream Theater releases.

Please let us know your All-time TOP 10?

My top 10 are chosen by using the theory of what I would want if stranded on a desert island and could only have ten albums. These are chosen based upon their ability to stand the test of time and continue to provide me with undiscovered elements after countless spins.  That is what I look for in an album.  I don’t want something that reveals itself fully in the first listen.   Here goes.

Both Jellyfish albums (for the song writing and production)
Both Liquid Tension Experiments albums (for the musician in me)
Fates Warning- Awaken the Guardian (all time classic)
Queensryche- Rage for Order
Tori Amos- Songs from the Choirgirl Hotel
Black Crowes- Amorica or Three Snakes and a One Charm
Shawn Colvin-Fat City
Martin Sexton- The American

Now it's time for the Chinese portrait aka Le questionnaire de Bernard Pivot , which is inspired by Marcel Proust but This questionnaire is probably more familiar to English audiences as the one that journalist James Lipton asks at the end of  the TV show "Inside the Actors Studio."

What is your favorite word?


What is your least favorite word?


What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

Knowledge, Experience and uninhibited expression

What turns you off?

Organized Religion, Ignorance, Bigotry and Corporate Greed.

What is your favorite curse word?

Failure, Other than that I don’t really have one.  Words and meaning are all subjective and uniquely defined by the context and the user’s intentions.  To me Failure is a dirty word.

What sound or noise do you love?

Stringed instruments. I also like the affirming sounds of pleasure when you touch a person deeply and in the right spot.

What sound or noise do you hate?

Chaos, political speeches and hearing anyone talk about their god.

If not yourself, who would like to be?

William Shatner.  Just kidding.  Nicola Tesla or Rudolf Diesel.  Even though they never received the credit and recognition they deserved it would be great to know you truly changed humanity and had visions for the future that nobody else saw.

What profession would you not like to do?

Anything dealing with raw sewage.

Who would like to see on a new bank note?

Bob Marley

If you reincarnated as some other plant or animal, what would it be?

If it were a plant, I would be the earth’s greatest resource, Cannabis.  If I were an animal it would be some type of bird so that I could fly above the ugliness and getaway from time to time.

If God exists, what would you like to hear him say at the gates of Heaven?

If I were ever face to face with such a fairytale character, I think it would be rewarding to hear,”Hummm….” to see a confused look on his or her face.  That would confirm that I lived a great life.  To know that I stumped the creator and left him with a feeling of, “what do I do with this guy?” would be all the satisfaction I need to prepare me for an eternity in hell.  J

I wish to thank you for this interview and wish you guys the best of luck with the new album and on the path ahead. Anything else you want to share with the fans and our readers out there?

Thanks for the interview. To all the potential fans out there, if you like music that is in the truest expression, art.  Then please take the time to listen.  If it is something you enjoy, then buy it. Thanks for your time.  


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Edited 08 February 2023

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