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Lee Payne (Cloven Hoof)

Interview with Lee Payne from Cloven Hoof
by Grigoris Chronis at 10 October 2006, 4:57 PM

British heroes Cloven Hoof's latest release, Eye Of The Sun was a really pleasent surprise to my ears. The link between the 'old' and the 'new' is here and founding member Lee Payne was eager enough to explain to us how the hell creativity and dignity can get along well in some bands. Hello Lee!

Lee, let’s start - of course - with the details regarding your latest album (the first in 17 years!), Eye Of The Sun. Ever since it was (officially or not) announced that there would be a Cloven Hoof ’comeback’ album, it was really a long time that passed ’till the album actually hit the stores. What happened and it took you so long to release Eye Of The Sun?

Last 17 years, my god has it really been that long? So much water has passed under the bridge in that time, but it is true to say line up changes have been the biggest factor in delaying the come back album. Russ North and myself have always been the creative forces in the band, as well as prime movers. We are always striving to push forward and break new ground, Cloven Hoof and its fans are all we care about.

The same cannot be said of two previous members, however, who were content to rest on there laurels. In the end their playing got sloppy and they were not good enough to do the band justice. At the Keep It True festival Russ and I realized that Andy Wood and Jon Brown could not cut it anymore, so they had to go sadly. Russ had contractual ties in Spain, temporarily preventing him from rejoining the band. So I had to look for other options to drive the band onwards. Andy Shortland, Matt Moreton and Lynch Radinsky were brought in as session guys to record E.O.T.S. and they did an amazing job.

However I am glad to inform you exclusively here and now that he is once again Russ North is back in Britain, and has rejoined the band… That’s official!

That’s great! Still, why did you alter the album’s title from the initially announced Absolute Power?

After putting the working title of the album on our web site for a year, we were told at the last minute that a Metal band had already used it. To prevent confusion we just changed it to Eye Of The Sun because it was one of the tracks contained on the opus. I initially wanted to call it Angels In Hell or Inquisitor, because I thought they would make dramatic artwork covers. In the end everyone thought E.O.T.S. was a cool title, so I yielded to group decision.

 It is necessary to applause the band’s performance in Eye Of The Sun. In addition, the album’s production is appropriate, being one foot in present while the other one is ’solid’ in the past. Tom Galley; we’d like to know how did you get in touch with him and what’s your conclusion on the work he did for Eye Of The Sun.

I got together with producer Tom Galley because he had admired the band since hearing the debut album back in 1984. He loved the new tracks I had written so Andy Shortland was recruited in on guitar, Matt Morton on vocals and Lynch Radinskey on drums. They had all worked with Tom before so I knew these guys would cut it in the studio. Everyone did a great job and we all gelled perfectly together as people and musicians.

The prime criteria that needed to be met was that the album had to have flawless production, and feature songs that bore all the classic Cloven Hoof Metal hard rocking trade marks, and take up where A Sultans Ransom (released in 1989) left off. We wanted to give the album a lot of depth, both musically and lyrically. It covers a wide spectrum of material and concepts.

I personally feel Eye Of The Sun is the best Cloven Hoof album ever, without question. Every song is immediate and epic sounding. Tom Galley has done wonders with the production; it is crisp, layered and powerful as hell! Mika Jussila (Him) did an absolutely amazing job at mastering it in Norway. He is a total genius!!!

Prior to the album’s official ’release’ you had uploaded 3-4 mp3 samples from relative tracks off the new album. What’s the ’feedback’ you did get from the fans in that period? How is this feedback now ’updated’ since the album is now released? What’s the Press’ and fans’ opinion?

Right from the word go when we made the mp3 samples available, the feedback got a unanimous thumbs up. Since then the reviews have been amazing from the critics and the fans have gone wild. It looks like we have struck the perfect balance between old and new style. To please yourself as a musician first and keeping the die hard fan base on board is no mean feat. To have the critics like it too is an added bonus, the icing on the cake as it where.

You think the ’classic’ British Metal fans will find the new album interesting?

We would never rest on our laurels and go through the motions, just turning out identical albums of past glories. Cloven Hoof are fresh and vital, you will never predict what we are going to release next. I think the classic Metal fans will stick with us because we still have our musical roots implanted in the N.W.O.B.H.M sound.

I personally think we are an important group because just as 70’s era Rush are the link between prog Rock like Yes and Genesis and traditional Metal, Cloven Hoof are a 2006 link between Rush, Thrash and Metal. We act as a role model for Power Metal bands to have epic and imaginative song structures with Thrash power and melody. This is pretty unique in this day and age.

Do you feel an artist should listen too much to what other people - even die-hard fans - have to say about his creations? Should the fan base - and Press, at times - opinions/’wants’ affect the making of an artist?

Ultimately the band should create and play from the heart. If you constantly worry about what other people think all the time, then you would never create anything any good.

Another point of significant importance is the album’s lyrical themes. You and Cloven Hoof always featured something ’special’ in the songs’ lyrics writing. Could we ’dig’ a little bit into Eye Of The Sun lyrical ’approach’?

Eye Of The Sun is about Aztec human sacrifice; I tried to give the listener the sense of walking up the pyramid to meet certain doom from the victims view point. I always write from the heart and imagination, I never listen to what other bands are doing, I just let my mind compose mini film type scenarios and put them to music. All the Cloven Hoof material starts of this way as stories that are refined into lyrics and they imply a melody and structure to me. The subject storyline matter dictates the atmosphere and I chip away at it like putting a jigsaw together. I suppose that is why the band has its own unique identity, the material is created in a certain way.

I think Eye Of The Sun has inflections of all our past albums, but it has a more hard hitting modern attitude. It naturally takes up where A Sultans Ransom left off in the way it breaks new ground, and has an eclectic mix of epic Metal song structures. The lyrical content covers a diverse range of subjects from tales of the supernatural, to urban angst issues.

I am a little bit confused. Eye Of The Sun was released via the Xzec Records label or through Escape Music? In addition, how did you plan to promote/distribute the new album?

As a matter of fact we are confused about the set up too, my friend. We are not too pleased at the way Xzec Records/Escape Music have been handling things. Hmm, I probably have said too much already?

You did! Are you ready to hit the road for the new album’s ’support’? Are there any ’fixed’ dates yet? What are your plans - in general - for Cloven Hoof ’on the road’?

As reported, I recently injured my right hand and we had to pull out of the British Metal Festival in Milton Keynes. I should be back in action at the end of the year… no problem! As soon as a promoter gives us the opportunity, we will then be looking to play anywhere and everywhere.  Two dates are being pencilled in for Greece early next year, Sweden and America may be in the summer. Rest assured Metal Temple will be the first to know about our live dates!

Lee, are you - in general - interested in what’s up in the Heavy Metal music of today?

I listen to so called Nu-Metal occasionally, some of it is OK but all the singers shout the same. Cronos did that for Venom years ago; they are all poor copyists of him. Most of it does nothing for me really, detuned guitars for example was done by Sabbath in the 1970’s. What’s Nu about it? I think too many business suits are running record companies, and they haven’t got a clue. In the old days musicians who loved good music used to be at the head of them. Today everything is stupid fashion trends.

In one week… out the next, was never what Heavy Metal stood for. The music was all that mattered; it was underground and ignored trends. The grass roots fans made there own minds not told what to think and wear, like sheep. We believe in die hard, free thinking and imaginative real Metal supporters everywhere, we want to be a true people’s band. Dropped D-tuned grungy guitars are all very well, but many groups are too same and predictable. Cloven Hoof offer multiple time changes and imaginative storylines etc.

You’d describe yourself as an ’old-school’ Metal fan/artist?

I am 100% classic Rock fan through and through, and Cloven Hoof are true traditional Metal to the bone!!!

Really, what’s going on in Britain right now? Do you think the Metal ’flame’ will shine again in the years to come? Is it - also - your belief that the British Press’ behaviour towards British bands/artists was the crucial factor for British Metal to decline after the late 80s?

It is in a truly dire state, I’m afraid. This is because of our useless Media will not support home grown talent anymore. Many bands are forced to become third rate tribute bands because most clubs don’t want to put on acts no one has heard of. They think only bands that have a press profile are good enough to pull in crowds. This is bollocks because everyone has to start somewhere, bands need experience in refining there material and stage act.

How can new bands break through without the chance to grow in front of a live audience? Nothing can live in a vacuum and the press has created this appalling situation with there pathetic stance. It is very hard for new bands to get anywhere these days in Britain. We would like to pioneer a new, new wave of British Metal if we can. If enough people buy our new album then maybe we will make a difference. Cloven Hoof will always try to get new bands thay need a break on our support slot.

Kerrang! has to be the biggest disappointment in the history of music! The writers lost the plot completely and abandoned the music that had made the paper famous. Kerrang! started off as a magazine exclusively for Heavy Metal and in the end tried to destroy the whole mood and movement. That magazine now totally sucks and people should wipe there ass on it!

Such a good use! Lee, thanks for this ’brief’ interview. Please, share with us your proposal/wish for Eye Of The Sun.

Our music is for true Metal fans, and they will decide what is good and what is not. We relate to them and they relate to us and it suites us fine. We love ’em and they are the prime reason for the bands existence. Some people have said Eye Of The Sun is one of the best releases of the year and that is proof that we have done our job. I just hope many more Metal maniacs will get turned on to Cloven Hoof through its release.

 Thanks for your time and the opportunity to spread the Cloven Hoof message, it is an honor to be given the privilege my friend. Keep it true!


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