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Season Of Dreams' Jean Michel Volz: "I did not want to place myself as a leader of a movement to follow but rather as a spectator and storyteller"

Interview with Jean Michel Volz from Season Of Dreams
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 06 June 2021, 5:49 PM

Being part of the storm, being one with the times and if times gives you a slack, why not indulge on it? And so it was, similar to other cases in the industry worldwide, the story of Season Of Dreams. However, this time around, another album was dished, yet with a strong message, an actual thanks for those who sacrificed their lives on a different sort of battlefield, the medical staffs worldwide that fought the pandemic. Steinmetal had a talk with the project's main man, Jean Michel Volz, about this message, new beginnings, continuing the effort and more.. 

Hello Jean, it has been less than a year, and here we are, talking again shop about Season Of Dreams, how have you been doing sir?

Hello Lior, I’m fine thank you, the virus didn’t have me for yet and beautiful days are coming. So I can tell I’m fortunate. Hope you’re doing ok as well!!

So how have you been surviving up until now? I guess that there is a positive direction with this pandemic going on with the vaccinations. How do you see the end coming along from your perspective?

For now, everything is going well, I’ve had my first vaccine 2 weeks ago and the second will be at the end of June. I hope vaccinations will help mankind returning to a normal life or a more normal life. I know that many people don’t want to be vaccinated (I was one of those), but I think now that is the only way to fight against this Pandemic.

It hasn’t been a year since your debut, “My Shelter”, and here you are at it again. Now, I know that the pandemic allowed many artists to conjure in their homes and simply write new music.

It’s totally true for many bands and that’s great to have news more often from them but for me it didn’t change so much, it’s my way to work and create new music, I think I could ship out 2 albums a year… haha!

I have a regular job that takes me from 7am to 16pm from Monday to Friday but I’m often getting up at 4am and after making my coffee I directly start to work on my music while my wife and children sleep peacefully. It lets me 2h30 the morning and sometimes a little the evening. I work most of time with studio headphones for the creating and recording phases. After that I take time during the week end to make the mixes. And Johannes record his vocals and keys faster than the light haha.

The coming of your sophomore album, “Heroes”, also entangled with it the departure of one of your partners in crime, John Nyberg. The overall phrase ‘Personal Reasons’ is no doubt one of the most general terms used to describe someone leaving a group. What happened between you two? Was the reason tinged with musical differences?

John was and he is still a good friend but due to his work and renovation of his house he didn’t had so much time to spend with Season. So he took the decision to left the band. He still writes sometimes music for his own. He is a great guitarist and a great composer too.

The general idea of “Heroes”, from what I understood from the dossier, is your special tribute to the doctors, nurses and the entire medical staff, worldwide I might add, that put up a strong fight against Covid-19.  I must say that it is a beautiful, and even rather hearty, gesture for these people. How did it come over you to honor this album for them? What made you tick towards that direction?

My generation is living an unprecedented moment. How would we have been able to face this pandemic without this remarkable work accomplished by all these medical teams and nursing staff…? For me it was my best way to pay homage to them. One more time thank you to all of these “normal” persons becoming heroes for us !
 
 Were you affected in any way by the pandemic or do you know someone that did and shared a lifesaving story with you?

My wife, who is caregiver, got it in a light way. I know some “older” people who got it but by chance they are all still with us but by chance no one in my friend circle or family approached death.

How did you make the analogy between the Fantasy world, which has been part of your realization, and the tough reality that the medical staff lives through?

It’s a joint work with the amazing Stan W. Decker. I had an idea of the heroic side of a doctor in a fight, sword in a hand and syringe in the other and he proposed to me the fight against a virus in this Epic/Heroïc world with a Caduseus Sword. I have always been fascinated by illustration of Luis Royo, Boris Vallejo and different works in metal like Andreas Marschall, but when I discovered Stan, I knew that I found the right guy for ours Album cover

Deep within the concepts of “Heroes”, what were the leading themes that guided you in order to make the philosophical input of the record a reality, at least within the spectrum of the music?

The theme of heroes is a bit the guideline that we find in several songs but from different points of view. For example, in Heroes it is the nursing staff considered to be the heroes of modern times. In the song Season of dreams it's more the idea of a roughed up childhood which, well guided by people of good will, can lead them to have a glorious destiny and therefore these people can be considered as heroes in a way. In the song To The Glory it is through music and belonging to a band that you can become a hero and bring joy and support to the people who listen to it. In the song Reign of Wisdom, the epic side of the hero who fights for his King …So everyone can be a hero in a certain way.

Other than paying a tribute, are you also stating arguments or any personal opinions in regards to problems or such that need resolving?

I did not want to place myself as a leader of a movement to follow but rather as a spectator and storyteller. Currently on the internet a lot of people have become doctors, politicians and others … haha. I leave the field open to them. I only tell what I see and make up beautiful stories.

Musically, “Heroes” continues the journey of its predecessor, attributing to heaviness between Heavy and Power Metal, while not lifting the foot off the gas when applying melodic features. In your viewpoint, what shaped “Heroes” to become a different record than earlier?

My shelter is our first album and despite the fact that we love it, we made mistakes on this album. With hindsight at different level it could have been better and we certainly wanted to do too much. From these mistakes we were able to learn and evolve and I hope that it will be heard on this new album. I worked more on my guitars, more worked on the harmonies to be catchier, the drums and the mixing in general and also let the mastering done by HK Strauss in his excellent studio Vamacara here in France.

The songwriting, from what I could gather, is divided between the catchy notations and epic forms of arrangements. Since this is a journey that we are talking about, what did you learn songwriting wise while working on “Heroes”?

Like O said, we tried to be catchier and direct but still with this mix of Heavy and Epic. Songwriting is always an interesting process that allows you to review your way of thinking the song, the approach to power and melody and specially to find ideas that have not already been heard hundreds of times… Even if it is difficult not to fall into the cliché, we try to make our contribution to the building of an interesting album.

Certainly one of the hardest tasks I believe in songwriting, is to find that relation between the lyrics and the music. How do you believe that you pulled that off on “Heroes”?

Writing lyrics is sometimes done very naturally, a Heroic melody often leads to a heroic text while a dark guitar riff can get you to write lyrics with more aggressiveness (in a real or fantasy world). But sometimes the lyric writing can be more complicated and often the text that comes out will be more tortured. The human brain is capable of so many things, but it also has its moments when it finds itself tied up. haha

Earlier I talked about heaviness, certainly “Heroes” feels tougher and punchier, displaying catchy, yet heavy, riffs that are true bangers. Will you escalate the heaviness of the music coming your next steps?

In fact, it was not a will on my part but it happened naturally. I have always been a fan of Heavy / Power metal but also of Thrash bands such as Kreator, Testament and old Metallica and this type of guitar riff has become part of my playing. Of course we are and will remain a Heavy / Power Metal band, but why not integrate a little more of this type of riffs … The future will tell …

Since John Nyberg has been involved with the lead guitar of the previous album, and from what you told me, he knew exactly what Season Of Dreams needs. With his departure, you invited various guests to come up with their interpretations of which ample solos fit the profiles of the songs. Prior to inviting guests to fill in the blank spot, have you tried perhaps on your own to venture into lead guitar, even though I remember that you told me that you aren’t that much of that kind of player?

From the departure of John, it was clear that I could not replace him, I was never a lead guitarist but rather rhythmic. I prefer to be satisfied with what I can do, namely knowing how to play the guitar and compose songs. The idea then grew in me, rather than recruiting a new lead guitarist I wanted to have guitarists by my side that I adore and who I was sure, capable of bringing superb melodies and technique. I discussed it with Johannes who loved the idea and we started recruiting. We are more than honoured to have such guests on our album.

Not that it did in full to be honest, but Season Of Dreams is a rather neat platform for collaborations and so you did with the seven guests invited. How did you know exactly who to pick and to which song?

Choosing the guests was pretty easy as I tried to match the songs with what I like about each of the guest musicians. They each did an incredible job in their own way and were unparalleled kindness! Friendship ties have been created and will probably lead to a new project … But for the moment it’s a secret.

Listening to “Reign Of Wisdom”, an emotional epic that really strived to become larger than life. I believe that Johannes took his efforts up a notch, even more, really giving himself to the song. What is your opinion about this number? Were you taken by surprise of the vocal performance?

Johannes is an incredible singer. I love him since the first notes I heard at the time on tunes of steel with his group ZONATA! Working with him is very easy, he very often knows how to type just for a particular melody the first time. Sometimes we rework it together to be catchier or more impactful. For this track it was obvious that the old Rhapsody era had to be part of it. It's a glorious song and Johannes's voice makes it even more epic! He sings with his guts and sometimes goes a little off the known paths to bring his personal touch. Every time I hear this song I feel like pulling out my sword and singing with it!

Which of the songs would you like to talk about and elaborate more about? I know that it is not easy, it never is, but your personal perspective towards one of your brainchilds on this record would give a pretty good picture of what is to be listened to

The track Heroes should have been told completely from the point of view of the caregivers and medical staff at the base, but it sounded presumptuous to call yourself a hero. So I preferred to give it life to a neat sick person who could see the work accomplished by all the staff around him. Musically I could have made an epic title of ten minutes but here too I preferred to make it shorter and more efficient in the end. I think it's a song that shows our know-how at our level.

With the rapid pace of you putting out albums, I guess that the works on the third release are already underway?

And you're right! But we're going to take the time to make the best 3rd album possible, probably with other prestigious guests … For the moment everything is possible.

What do you miss most about ordinary life, which may be behind the corner, and what do you intend to do once all will be open?

I think like everyone else, to be able to go out freely, without health constraints, to find family and friends around a drink outside. Resume normal activities if I may say so …

Jean, once again it was great to have you for this interview. I believe that you made a great step forward with “Heroes” and I am looking forward for more. Cheers

Thank you very much to you for coming back to us! And I hope to see you again soon! Cheers, Jean Michel


 



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