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SkyEye's Jan Leščanec: "…we can see nowadays, that the truth is dying, the world is falling apart and we the people are more divided than ever. Soldiers of light are calling for unity and mutual respect."

Interview with Jan Leščanec & Grega Stalowsky from SkyEye
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 31 July 2021, 10:10 PM

It takes the right timing, the opportunity, a little bit of lack but a whole lot of ability, in order to cross a threshold into the next level. The competition within the Metal market has always been extensive, so many bands, so many wishing to taste what a musical career feels like, even on a smaller scale. In a way, the Slovenian Heavy Metal band, SkyEye, had the same story with their last year's appearance as part of the European Festival Alliance, which also included their local Metaldays Festival. That performance led to their next stage in development, which continued with a new album, "Soldiers Of Light", and a record deal. Steinmetal had to find out more about the new starlet, its new release and more.  

Hello guys, it is great to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been?

Grega: All is well, thank you very much, thank you Lior for having us.

I think it is one of those very few times that I get to interview a Slovenian band, and I do know a couple. Anyways, it was also the first time for me to listen to SkyEye and it was as if you knew where to pinch me with your songs. Talking about pinching, how has the last year or so been for you, with this pandemic going on?

Grega: My son was born during this time and it has changed my life in so many ways. I really don’t want to sound cheesy, but until your child is born, you can’t fully realize what gift this really is. You get such a clearer picture of what really matters in your life and what does not. The same can be said for the pandemic. As in all bad things, there is also some good in it. So I hope that the pandemic got people to think and look at life differently. To start thinking, how are they really living their lives? Am I living my life or am I just barely alive? What does really matter in my life and what is just consuming my time and energy?

Throughout this time, when cultural options have been rather non-existent or slightly getting back to a new version of normal, which is still not but getting there, what has been keeping each of you motivated to continue forward, and I don’t mean only the record?

Jan: I would say music. Listening to it, making new songs, and practicing, a lot of practice. I spend a huge amount of time in our practice room. In our shelter, mini studio - Bunker we call it. But we did have practice sessions together once or twice per week during the whole time of pandemic. We are really close friends and we always have a great time together. That helps us get through the hard times.

You made quite the major step by signing a record deal, and with the German Reaper Entertainment Europe no less, which is a rising label that carries a lot of promising acts. Since you have been independent earlier on, how do you feel about this signing at this point in your career as a band?

Jan: To be honest, the music business has changed a lot since the arrival of the internet. Nowadays it is easier for a band to promote and manage itself and there is no reason to sign a shitty record deal just to be signed. There are a lot of small record companies that give absolutely nothing in return for a band and even try to take money from the band in exchange for false promises. So, as a young band, you should be very cautious about that. We got a very good reaction from our fans regarding our first album and we were simply waiting for the right offer. We knew that it would come.

A general question that I have been asking bands that are newly signed for the first time, how did you know that it was the right time to sign? Was it due to your inability to promote yourself properly or there was more to it?

Jan: It all started with our appearance at a live stream event named European festival alliance that happened in august of 2020. We were chosen by Metaldays festival (the biggest Slovenian metal festival) as their representatives among Rotting Christ. We were really shocked at first, because we never played at the festival and we personally did not know any of the organizers, nor did we apply to play there. It was a strange time back then because we did not practice for a few months prior to the concert due to the pandemic. But we said to ourselves fuck it. We are doing it. It was really exciting to be a part of something that big. The feedback was beyond the expectations and we were really happy that we took that chance. We had the best response among the bands from the viewers according to the organizers of the festival. After the festival, we got some offers from record companies and we chose the young German record company named Reaper Entertainment Europe because they had the most realistic yet very ambitious plan for us. So yeah, we are sure that together with our label and new management we can raise the band to a higher level.

Your sophomore record, “Soldiers Of Light”, felt partially Sci-Fi and partially a measure of reality. In your opinion, if of course my direction was somewhat accurate, what is the unifying narrative that crosses throughout the songs?

Jan: I wrote all the lyrics for the Soldiers of Light album. Every song on the album tells its own story. There are only two songs that are somewhat based on Sci-fi. King of the skies (dream of flying a plane) and Detonate. Song Detonate is heavily influenced by the movie Armageddon. A giant asteroid is approaching the Earth and we humans must detonate it before it enters the atmosphere and causes mass extinction. Other songs are about personal experiences, historic events, longings…

The song Constellation was the first single from our upcoming album. The lyrics of the song talks about the human desire to discover new worlds and to reach distant stars: "exploration is in our hearts and in our soul" because we all are made of intergalactic stardust and Earth is just our temporary shelter, our current station in our intergalactic travel: "far beyond our Sun we will find a new Babylon". The song Son of God describes the issue of paedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church. Eternal Starlight is a song about the sudden loss of a friend in a tragic accident and about the guilt and burden that we feel because we did not have the chance to say goodbye and it is based on real events. There is also an epic song about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and a song that reminds us that we humans and animals are “Brothers Under The Same Sun” and that we should live in harmony with Mother Nature. So yeah, we covered many different topics and there is definitely something that we all can learn from and remember, that we must never forget some horrible events from the past - and try our best not to repeat them.

In light of the title, which sounds quite catchy and positively spirited, in your view, what makes this title what it is? Whom do you refer to? Is that a typical situation of few against the many?

Jan: Soldiers of Light is it us, the people, who bring joy and positive energy to others and who treat all the people and other living creatures with respect. Yes, we the band members are Soldiers of Light or at least we aspire to become one. SkyEye's torch is glowing in the dark to cast out the shadows from people's lives with music. Because music is the healer and "we are the soldiers of light with no weapons to fight, just shining, just shining. Knowledge is God, God in us all. Wisdom is heaven on Earth."

Every record out there has problems that it states towards current state of affairs, even Sci-Fi, usually a lot more in Metal music in comparison to other music genres, are there references to issues at hand through “Soldiers Of Light”, other than the historical view of the finishing tune?

Jan: I wrote the song in 2018. I noticed that there is so much bullshit around us and actually negative and "breaking" news are more profitable than truth and common sense. Sadly, we can see nowadays, that the truth is dying, the world is falling apart and we the people are more divided than ever. Soldiers of light are calling for unity and mutual respect.

In regards to the pandemic, does “Soldiers Of Light” insinuate anything when it comes to how you guys personally feel about what has been going on?

Jan: I wrote the song before the pandemic hit the big stage, so it has nothing to do with the pandemic.

Earlier I mentioned how you knew how to pinch me, and yes we are back at that. I have been a die-hard Iron Maiden fan ever since Metal music began buzzing through my soul. Sure, there are fragments of resemblance, can’t deny that, but I wonder how you observe SkyEye’s version of British Metal in general?  Like the featured artwork of the record, is this you guys continuing to carry the torch for the contemporary version of Metal?

Jan: We are all huge fans of British old school heavy metal bands like Maiden, Priest, Saxon, Black Sabbath… and they influenced us in many ways. But no one lives forever and there will soon be time for them to retire. As Sabbath already did.  We would like to carry the torch of heavy metal in the future. It would be a dream for SkyEye to stand among the giants. We work hard to put out the best music we can and we hope that people will enjoy it as much as we are.

What I liked about your musical direction is that you took all the important aspects of NWOBHM, with the Maiden signature, and had those coexist with modern Metal elements quite amazingly. What is your take on this matter? Would you say that you found an angle on how NWOBHM is featured in the present?

Jan: It is hard for me to judge that. Myself and Grega write the music that we love and that also fits my voice and my style of singing. There is no science behind that. We try to sound as fresh as we can and try our best not to copy anyone, but frankly, there is no hot water to be discovered anymore in the heavy metal genre. But it really means a lot to me when music lovers and experts like you say that we might have found an angle on how NWOBHM is featured in the present.

 “Soldiers Of Lights” shows versatile, yet also constructive, songwriting, some of it crossing impressively beyond the usual song formula. Would you say that this record changed your perception on how to approach a song or it is simply a continuation?

Jan: Soldiers of light is a continuation of what we established with our first record. Myself and Grega are the main songwriters, but we are more experienced now and maybe we dare a little more. And the band is tighter than it was a few years ago.

Following the previous question, how would you say that you have developed both as songwriters but also as musicians, each to his own?

Jan: it is hard for me to answer that question, because I have an inner drive that makes me write. It is not something that I can switch on and off. I am not a very organized writer. When I get the idea, I try to play it on a guitar. When it was good enough, I recorded it with my mobile phone. A have a lot of small ideas, riffs but a very few got to be developed into the song. Then I work on vocal melodies. For me the rhythmic aspect of the vocal line is as important as the melodic. When I finish the vocal line, I start to write lyrics.

After the debut record, what kind of hard lessons did you learn from and implemented on “Soldiers Of Light”?

Jan: It is simple. Make music with your heart. Make music that you love and cherish and not for any other reason. The people will respect honest work, they will feel the passion. And they will reach you. Digital God and reactions from people to it gave me the courage to carry on and to do what I love the most. Heavy metal.

I am sure that due to the pandemic, to put the material to action, meaning recording everything in a regular process, wasn’t that of an easy task to handle. How were you able to upscale the issues in order to complete the record?

Jan: That period between releases was actually a little bit longer because Grega and myself were starting to write new material even before Digital God was released. At the beginning of 2019, we already had a bunch of new songs and ideas, so it took us the whole year of 2019 to rehearse and to complete the songs because we had a plan to record the album in the first few months of 2020. But we all know what happened at that moment so we were forced to postpone the recordings and mixing to late 2020. But we did not sleepover 2020 because we have started to write new material for the third album. The Covid situation postponed the release of the new record for almost a year but in the end it was all worth it. We had the time to go an extra mile regarding the quality of our performance, arrangements and probably the most important - we got a great record deal and manager.

“Soldiers Of Lights” shows well-made studio work, when it comes to its engineering. It displays a modern form that isn’t overly polished, leaving a sense of natural in a way. In your view, what has changed in the SkyEye sound in the record? How does it represent the material?

Jan: The old saying goes "never change a winning horse". That's why we once again collaborated with our producer and mix engineer Grega Smola Crnkovič, who also produced our debut album the Digital God. Smola was more experienced now than it was a few years ago. Digital God was actually his first album that he produced, recorded and mixed. He is definitely the most talented young producer in Slovenia and I am sure that you will hear a lot about this guy's work in the future. He is the most important piece of SkyEye's puzzle as far as the sound is concerned. So, we wanted our album to sound huge and modern without losing the soul, the rock 'n roll side of metal by not being over compressed and overproduced. Album sounds fantastic thanks to Grega and our mastering engineer Boban Milunović, who did phenomenal work.

Jan, it appears to me that you outdid yourself with some of the power moments on the album, as if you took yourself to horizons that in the past were less available for you. What is your view on the dramatic flavors provided out of these majestic moments, usually in the choruses?

Jan: Believe it or not, I had never sang before I auditioned for SkyEye in 2014. Actually it was not a band at the time, but just a bunch of guys wanting to play metal. After a year or so of practice I discovered that my voice has some of the same characteristics as Bruce's. When I sing in a "full throttle" mode I have this very powerful, high pitched and clear voice. So yeah, this is a blessing and a curse at the same time.

Lately, I have started to develop a bit more distorted and "groovy” kind of vocals that I incorporate in my usual style of singing. This can be heard on a new record, songs like Constellation and Son of God. I really like powerful and majestic choruses and my voice is a perfect match for achieving that. So why not go for it:) As long as I can sing, you can expect that from me.

 “Chernobyl” is no less than a project on its own, it is an epic proportion tune that is bound to have the listener go back in time to that dark time in human history. Furthermore, musically, I believe that SkyEye went a bit forward from the Maidenish manifold of making such epics and implemented its own DNA to it. How do you find this musical piece? How did it challenge you up to the point that it tires you?

Jan: I was one-year-old when the Chernobyl disaster happened. I do not remember the event but my parents told me that we had to stay indoors for a few days and we were not allowed to eat vegetables from that period. I read a lot about the disaster and I was quite hooked by it. And then came the Netflix series about Chernobyl. I was watching it with my girlfriend and I was completely mesmerized by the scale of the disaster. She said that I should write a song about it. And I did. It took me almost a year to finish the song but it was all worth it.

Since we are in the second half of the year, is there anything for SkyEye in the live scene planned or is it straight to 2022?

Jan: We had headlining performance planned for this year's smaller version of Metaldays that happened between 29.7. and 1.8.2021 in Tolmin. We were quite thrilled to hit the stage last Friday. We felt that it would be our biggest concert to date. Also some big news for 2022, but I cannot talk about that for now.

Guys, many thanks for this interview and your time, you established quite the foundation to really go for the carry the torch thing for Metal. Salute to your efforts. Cheers. Lior Stein

Jan: Thank you for the outstanding score of our new album. You really made my day.


 



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