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Starborn’s Christopher Foley: “Gimmicks seem to be the surefire way to sell nowadays, but that’s something we’re not interested in..."

Interview with Christopher Foley from Starborn
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 09 January 2020, 9:01 PM

Putting one’s best in an album isn’t a simply made task, it can be daunting, and sometimes makes one closer to the edge of simply giving away to the fear of not being able to do it right. However, strong motivation and the will to come up with the utmost best, are part of the keys’ chain to a brighter future. With the new Starborn album up and about, entitled “Savage Peace”, Steinmetal had a talk with guitarist Christopher Foley, an early acquaintance, about what is expected from a Heavy / Power Metal album in his view, new signing and more… 

Hello Christopher, it is a pleasure having you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine. How have you been doing mate?

Hails, Lior! Hope you’re well, it’s been a while since we used to work together at the Metal Crypt and I hope Switchblade are doing well. I’m currently working through one of the most difficult periods of my life, although it’s given me a lot of good inspiration musically, so it’s not all bad, haha!

Wow, you have no idea, it just hit me, it has been a while. Well, Metal Temple has been my major for nearly 10 years and as for Switchblade, sadly, it is no more. But no worries.

Let’s get to it then. Challenging yourselves in order to come up with a strong debutant, Starborn is unleashed its swords and axes, taking the fight to the worldwide Metal market, with the release of “Savage Peace”. Can you share the excitement of this occasion, to release a debut full length album, in particular when it comes to “Savage Peace”?

Sure, “Savage Peace” was a tough record for us to make and it’s hard to put into words the elation and emotion to finally have finished and released a full-length. Part of me always thought we’d never get it done, but here we are. People seem to like it and we’re all positively reinvigorated for the future of Starborn.

In parallel with “Savage Peace” came the signing with the German old school Metal label, Iron Shield Records. Honestly, it was a great decision to make, clearly a home for a band such as yourselves. How did this connection come to be? How has the work with the label up until now? How do you observe the promotional process of “Savage Peace”?

When we finished recording the record we all felt we needed label representation to get it into the ears of as many listeners as possible. We essentially shipped our album out to a bunch of record labels, many of which we had considerable talks with. Everyone in Starborn agreed that Thomas and Iron Shield Records were the strongest and most beneficial candidate for where we are at present. From a personal standpoint, his attitude and love for heavy metal really sealed the deal. Promotion has been ideal and it’s good to see our name making it further afield, we really can’t complain.

With the album now out there for grabs, how have been the reactions of it up until now? 

So far, so good! For the most part press has been great and in some cases absolutely humbling. It’s amazing when people get what you’re doing, and all the more so when playing the kind of obscure power metal we conjured on “Savage Peace”. Of course there are people who don’t get it or like it, but at the end of the day we’ve made music strong enough to create those sort of feelings, which I can only interpret as success.

I like the conflict between words that the title of the record suggests. What is the background behind this title? What drove you select this title in the first place?

I can’t remember if the inspiration for the title had come from the documentary film or exploring literature. What I do remember is our singer, Bruce Turnbull, messaging me suggesting the title. I thought it sounded like something Virgin Steele would do and I love that it’s an oxymoron. It suits our style massively, what with all the melodic guitar harmonies and opposing, bruising riff-fests.

Before heading to the music, let’s talk about the lyrical content. “Savage Peace” feels like a concept album. I had a few guess judging by the artwork on what it is all about, yet I believe that you would be more accurate to shed some light on the leading theme. Are there hidden messages within the lyrics of the songs that might note of actual events of our present?

Okay. So our singer Bruce is an avid reader and movie buff, who draws from a pool of many genres, both fiction and non-fiction. ‘Savage Peace’ isn’t a concept album, but what it does is reference aspects of film and literature; with an undercurrent gushing the darkest depths of humanity, whether directly or indirectly. I’d actually love to know how you interpreted our lyrics and themes! I can tell you we reference everything from Alan Moores’s “Swamp Thing” to the “Salem Witch Trials”, but I feel deeper meaning is largely in the ears of the beholder.

Onwards to the music. From the get go, and it is widely evident throughout “Savage Peace”, you guys have been set towards the epics within Metal. Musically, crossing swords with Iron Maiden, somewhat natural being a British Heavy Metal band I’d say, yet with a strong intensity of a sort of a theatrical showcase. Do you agree with that assessment? How do you see “Savage Peace”, when it comes to your initial vision?

I’m going to single out two songs particularly in this instance. ‘I Am The Clay’ and the title track are our big epics on the album. With these songs in particular I wanted to create cinematic soundscapes without any reliance on keyboards or orchestras, just pure heavy metal epics done the old way. Iron Maiden are of course a major influence and coupling that with old Fates Warning and the 90s period of Virgin Steele - then that’s a good basis for our major influence when orchestrating the longer songs. King Diamond is another considerable influence, particularly in regards to musical storytelling.

Ever since the early 00s, there has been a vast wave of revival within the streams of Traditional Metal, mainly re-creating the past with various modern adjustments to become relevant and capture potential fans. What do you think makes “Savage Peace” stand out in comparison to the large number of albums of the same genre out there in the market? Which chief elements make it special for folks to listen and be wowed by it?

I feel this is a difficult question to answer and hope it’s viewed as coming from a place of respect and understanding. I love heavy metal, and the recent resurgence of traditional metal is fantastic, I just can’t help but see a lot of it as rehashing and repackaging what has come before which, don’t get me wrong, is fine - I’ll be down the front pounding my fist and banging my head at a show - I just won’t be revisiting those albums five years from now. My vision with Starborn is to make a bunch of unique heavy metal records people can come back years later and find something they didn’t hear the first time. What I think makes ‘Savage Peace’ stand out is its unapologetic nature. We care little for conventions or pop structures - we want to make forward thinking, creative heavy metal - something I sincerely hope is evident.

It is no doubt that the epicness of the songs allowed constructive arrangements, indulging complexities in order to tell the stories right and justly. I wonder if the complexity of the songs is similar to the twists and turns of the songwriting process of such an album as “Savage Peace”. How do you manage it? Are these ideas coming from a single person or a rather band effort? Is Starborn a democracy?

So, a lot of the music is written by myself at home - painstakingly slaved over for various periods of time. Once I have a clear vision and structure of the song I pass it on to the rest of the band. At this point, Bruce will then begin to form lyrical ideas and melodies; we then bring the music to the rehearsal environment and fine tune as a unit. We operate as a democracy in the way we make our decisions, everything is open to discussion. I’ll often co-write material with our guitarist, Sean Atkinson, evident in “Lunar Labyrinth” and “Darkness Divine”.

Though I know that you are quite determined, and I admire you for it, and your music is a solid proof to that, were there any considerations to implement various modern aspects to “Savage Peace” music direction? Perhaps adding contemporary elements to enhance the drama created in the songs?

Not during the recording, we wanted the record to sound like mid 80s Fates Warning mixed with early-mid 90s Blind Guardian. From a personal standpoint I’ve always had a determination to make exceptionally heavy power metal, and sincerely tried to push the envelope. This led to our decision to work with Damian Herring who is well regarded for his work in extreme metal circles. We were all in agreement that we wanted a relatively old, aggressive sounding record. I want to build Starborn on our own merit, ideally sounding individual and feel like staying away from modern-isms was wise for our debut.

Which of the album’s songs do you find as the most impactful? That kind of epos that would make you cling to it and better still, find your personality in it

I believe the record as a whole is impactful. I feel it comes across as towering, armed to the hilt with riffs, however songs such as “Existence Under Oath”, “Inked In Blood” and the title track really show our personality and what we were all about making this record. Twists and turns, lush melodies, screaming vocals, thundering rhythms; pure heavy metal magic!

Recently you guys recruited Daniel Rochester and James Charlton, which I have known their works from their time with Spartan Warrior, and the latter with the excellent Risen Prophecy. How do you find their skillset in the band’s lineup? Was their contribution to “Savage Peace”s songwriting substantial?

Not necessarily from a songwriting standpoint, the album was written before Dan and Charlie joined Starborn. However, their professionalism and musical integrity was an instrumental factor in making the album a success, they added so much personal identity to their performances on these songs and essentially took the album to the next level. I’m honoured to be working with such talent, but really we’ve been lucky since day one; we’ve worked with a lot of excellent musicians in our region.

Since the worldwide Metal scene has been flooded with bands due to the technological advancements, an advantage for the fans and listeners that would like to explore more, yet might be tough for the newcomer bands. In your opinion, how can a band truly make something out of their effort to become noticed? And I am not even saying known

I think it’s hard. Gimmicks seem to be the surefire way to sell nowadays, but that’s something we’re not interested in. I’m probably out of touch with what’s going on at present, but I still feel  that good, strong recordings, backed with intense live performances and a unified vision is the best path on the road to success. A little bit of luck goes a long way, obviously, and there’s definitely stock in the old “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” adage.

Where do you see Starborn in the coming years? What is your five years plan?

I see Starborn working hard into the coming future. There’s a lot we want to say and do, the ultimate goal has always been to make a string of kick-ass heavy metal albums. It’s as simple as that, any success and accolade will naturally be welcomed with open arms, but our mission statement is to deliver musically - that’s why we do this - and will continue to do so until the riffs run dry.

Have you already started booking shows for the rest of the year to support “Savage Peace? Anything scheduled for 2020?

Our schedule is wide open at present, our main plans now are to get into album two. Songs are written, and we’re starting to work on new material at rehearsal. The excitement is palpable, we can’t wait to strike again. We do hope to get out on the road in 2020, I guess it’s a case of watching this space for the time being.

Christopher, I thank you for your time for this interview, much appreciated. “Savage Peace” is a wonderful work of epic proportions, keep it old school and strong. Cheers mate.

Thank you for the well thought out, in depth questions. It’s been a pleasure and I hope the readers at Metal Temple have enjoyed as much as I did answering. Support the bands you love, and spread the word of heavy metal!


 



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