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Skelator's Jason Conde-Houston: " I think Skelator is more relevant now than ever… As long as we stick to our guns and keep cranking out fun and memorable albums, I think we will have an audience"

Interview with Jason Conde-Houston from Skelator
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 04 June 2019, 10:31 PM

It took a little while due to inter-band reasons, but the wait is finally over. The US Heavy Metal beasts of Skelator return with a brand new album, "Cyber Metal", retaining the early glory of their Metal scene of the 80s with a fist of steel. Steinmetal had a chance to talk to longtime vocalist, Jason Conde-Houston, about the new album, Skelator in a modernized Metal scene, plans and more.


Hello Jason, it is an honor for me having you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine. How have you been doing mate?

Doing great, about to release “Cyber Metal” with Skelator and about to go on tour with Split Heaven in Germany in about a week. I also traveled to Germany recently to see Manowar with my bassist Darin. We had a MAJOR blast! Can't wait to go back.

It took five years, and here we are with your main band Skelator hailing from the studio with a new album “Cyber Metal”. After focusing on your other band, Split Heaven, I am sure that a sense of freshness came over you when you worked on this new release. How do you feel about the album?

“Cyber Metal” is the most collaborative album we have created since the birth of Skelator. It did take a long time because we had some lineup changes but in the end it came together with the right people involved. Split Heaven has always been my side band and I am very glad to be a part of the process, but Skelator is my life blood.

Ever since I listened to your early albums, “Death To All Nations”, “Agents Of Power”, and “King Of Fear”, musically, nothing really changed and forged into “Cyber Metal”. Skelator remained true to its foundations and kept going with the same pattern, more or less. Do you think otherwise and if not, what keeps you being consistent without looking sideways?

I would say those albums are very different form each other. “Death to All Nations” is the fastest and has the longest songs and is full of 20 something year olds playing as balls to the wall as possible. “Agents of Power” was our most ambitious creative effort with the 40+ min “Elric the Dragon Prince” suite. Then “King of Fear” being our first real album to be recorded “professionally” in an actual studio and began the collaborative future of Skelator. All the prior releases like “Give Me Metal” or “Time of the Sword Rulers” were all ideas by myself and my cousin Robbie and the occasional song written by Patrick. Either way one of us three dictated how the song would go and the other members had to follow accordingly.

As far as style is concerned you are correct. Sure in the beginning we were heavily influenced by Thrash Metal but since the “Swords” EP it was pretty obvious that we wanted to play Heavy Metal whichever way we saw fit. We have evolved as musicians over the decades and it shows on the new album.

With that asked, what makes “Cyber Metal” special in comparison to your previous albums?

This album's music is based on late 80's Heavy Metal like Priest – "Ram it Down" and Riot – "Thundersteel", combined with early 2000's German Power Metal like Primal Fear – "Nuclear Fire" and Grave Digger – "Knights of the Cross". So the sound that was “modern” in the late 80's and the sound that was current in the 2000's. In the end the idea was the production would be the most polished product Skelator had ever conceived. I figured some old school fans might think we “sold out” while a new audience would just “eat it up.” In the end I think new fans and old fans will gather and sing along when we play these songs live because they are so catchy and memorable.

“Cyber Metal” has quite the fascinating lyrical themes. What can you tell regarding the themes on the new album? Have you been a longtime sci-fi, history fanatic?

I'm the biggest nerd you'll ever meet, no joke. My collection of video games, movies, albums and concert videos is kind of insane. Not like rich kid status but someone who won't stop until I know everything about a certain band, game franchise or TV show…etc. So with this album we wanted to be different than prior albums. No songs about swords… unless they were “laser swords”. I'm not the only nerd in the band, we are all into this stuff. I always thought we were the nerdiest band in Metal especially when we started. Back then playing this style of music was looked down upon. But looking back I think Death and Black Metal was the nerdiest thing there was in the 90's other than Power Metal (which I enjoy MUCH more).

Recently you signed with Gates Of Hell Records. Do you believe that you found a home that could provide you the support going forward? How was the connection made to make it happen?

I met Enrico at Metal Assault in 2013. We were still signed by Metal on Metal at the time. I went to his booth to buy the latest Sacred Steel LP and we started to talking. He told me that Mike Scalzi of Slough Feg had suggested to him that he sign us back in 2010 or so. We laughed about it because it was not possible at the time. Then a year later we decided to split with Metal on Metal and go with a local American Label Swords and Chains. It was a good idea at the time because we were not going to be able to return to Europe for quite some time due to financial reasons and we really wanted to focus on the American Metal scene which was finally sprouting at that time.

Years later when we announced we were done mixing and Enrico messaged me personally and we began to discuss this next release.

Which of the album’s songs captivated you more than others? Which is personally special for you? That one track that you enjoyed recording in comparison to others? Please elaborate on your pick

As a band I think we all like playing “Psychic Silver Wheels” the most. Whether it be live, in practice or during the recording process… it was the most fun to write and also the most fun to perform. It's definitely becoming our “You've Got Another Thing Coming” style song.

“Cyber Samurai” is my favorite to sing because it's a vocal work out, it's VERY catchy and the guitars are full of fury during the solos and harmonies. “Akira” is the crowd favorite because it is fast, the chorus is easy for them to yell along to and the overall heaviness is overwhelming. But “Cast Iron” is the catchiest of them all. A fan at a show was overheard saying “Man Cast Iron was so cool they could have played it twice!” Either way the album is fun all around and WE are very proud!

You were probably asked about it earlier, yet with “Cyber Metal” out, it would be glad to receive a reminder. With you being also being the lead vocalist of Split Heaven, which is a Mexican band, how do you manage to attend both responsibilities?

Split Heaven is kind of side band for everyone involved at this point. 3/5 of us live in Queretaro, Mexico. I live in Seattle and one of the guitarists lives in Berlin. So it is not easy for us AT ALL. We are returning to Germany next week but we only have 3 days to practice before we play the first festival. Personally all I can do is sing the songs on my own in my room and hope that we sound good when we meet up. But those guys are professionals and I am sure it will all work when we meet shortly.

As far as writing a new album, they write the music and send me the demo tracks. Then I listen for like a month or two and think of my parts. I then book a flight down south and start recording. That's how “Death Rider” was recorded and I'm sure the next will be the same.

With Skelator being active for 20 years, how do you see the band’s future, let's say, five years from now? Do you think it will continue to fit in as the Metal market becomes even more diverse?

I think Skelator is more relevant now than ever. Back in the Mid 2000's all the rage was the Thrash Metal revival and then By mid-2010's it was the NWOTHM. The Thrash Metal thing came and went but I feel the Traditional Heavy Metal scene just keeps growing and growing to the point where bands like Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol are headlining Extreme Metal Fests like MDF. As long as we stick to our guns and keep cranking out fun and memorable albums I think we will have an audience.

Is there still a substantial room in the worldwide Metal scene for old school oriented Metal?  Do you trust that there is a revival going on?

I mean it never went away in Europe, but it's growing more and more on this side of the pond. Look at Legions of Metal or Frost and Fire. People are flying over here just to see these festivals. Now Americans don't have to spend and arm and a leg just to see the bands they want to see. In the early 2000's we all dreamt of going to see Wacken or Hellfest but now those things are sprouting up on our own soil. I think it just makes the community flourish worldwide if we have more options on not just where to see shows, but also as a band to play shows.

How will Skelator be supporting “Cyber Metal”? Will you be heading to Europe for the festival season or perhaps tour next year?

Currently just focusing on the album release but we should be returning to Europe next year. I'm crossing my fingers for some good offers and I am trying to find the right person to book a small tour around all that. Until then just enjoy the new album and get ready to sing along.

Jason, thank you for the interview, many thanks for your time. I wish you and the Skelator gang all the best and keep playing that amazing music. Cheers.

It's always a pleasure speaking to you and our fans. Death to the Opposition, Death to False Metal, Give Me Metal or Give Me Death!!!
 



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