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Street Lethal's Criss: " At the beginning we all wanted to record our songs as quickly as possible, we recorded our first EP at Guilty’s home, as a kind of training and… oh my god… it was terrible."

Interview with Criss from Street Lethal
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 11 January 2020, 9:54 PM

Wild, young and free, a phrase that has been caressed throughout the 80s by both Hard Rock and Heavy Metal bands, surging them into iconic success. However, it is more than a mere marketing pitch, yet a way of life, a spiritual matter that is bound by chains to every Metalhead's heart. Generation after generation, and the spirit lives on. Street Lethal, coming from Spain, are bound by Metal, and the golden era of the genre is their law. "Welcome To The Raw", the band's debut album, displays a momentum of a young group of musicians, willing to take the necessary steps to be heard, without compromise. Steinmetal had a chat with Criss of the band, walking the path of the album's composition, feel of being a Metalhead and more…

Hello Criss, it is good having you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, what is up on your end?

Thank you very much for your invitation, there are lots of things going on here, we feel really excited. For us it’s amazing to be able to say that we are going to release our first album. Me, I’m personally willing to go on stage as soon as possible.

Your band Street Lethal hasn’t been in the Metal scene for that long, yet throughout this short time period, it managed to build itself quite nicely, up into the point when it was a must to finally put out an album. When did you feel that it was the right time to record and full-length album? Were there early deliberations about a full length years ago, prior to the releasing of the EPs?

Well, I have to say that we have been together as a for about 4 years, and we have spent almost 2 of those years composing the album, so it is something that took time, and lots of effort and training. I would say that the band has been devoted to this album for quite a long time, taking into account our trajectory. The idea of recording a full length album appeared really naively. At the beginning we all wanted to record our songs as quickly as possible, we recorded our first EP at Guilty’s home, as a kind of training and… oh my god… it was terrible. Them we recorded our second EP, one year after the first one, trying to improve something somehow… and, okay, we decided to just relax, take our time to define the kind of songs we wanted to create, we focused on the composition and that’s it! We have learned a lot about ourselves by composing and recording this album, I believe that it somehow changed everyone in Street Lethal. Certainly, there have been also many problems during the process of composition and pre-production of the album due to changes of members in the band, but since Dann and Killer joined us, everything became easier, then the songs just came even faster than expected.

Your debut album, “Welcome To The Row”, already hit the streets, unleashing your devotion for the old school type of Metal, which for me is always a blessing, especially coming from a band of young musicians. What is the Row that you are talking about? Is it something related to street gangs or anything closer, like a circa?

I think that one of the things that I like the most about Street Lethal is that our songs are built around one, let’s say, item, which is the street. Every song offers new insights on this concept. We wanted our first album to have a powerful and aggressive name, something original and related with the street life, but not explicitly.

At the beginning, "Welcome to the Row" was just the name of one of the songs that were going to appear in the album. As you said, it refers to a kind of fight between street gangs, yes! It talks about heavy metal being excluded or even removed from the streets, which is something that we are actually experiencing in Spain and in our city, Barcelona. The song refers to that moment when you release your rage against those people who look down on heavy metal and on Metalheads, it’s a way to say “Beware! If you mess with heavy metal, you will get punched”. And we realized that it was like, the perfect name for the album, it had all the elements that we were looking for, it was 100% Street Lethal.

One of the happenings for Street Lethal was the signing with your local label, Fighter Records, which is no doubt a suitable foundation for you guys to head on forward with. How did the relationship with the label begin in the first place? Have you been offering yourselves or was there a mutual interest by Fighter Records right from the get go?

We are happy to have signed with Fighter Records, they are huge professionals and have helped us a lot with everything since we signed with them. Basically, we met them because they work with three Spanish bands that are good friends of us: Mean Machine, Death Keepers and Tales of Gaia, as well as with many other classic heavy metal bands around the country, and we were attracted by the idea of working with them. We just sent the album, crossed our fingers, and a few weeks later they gave us an answer. It was really amazing to receive positive feedback from them, and, although it was not the first record company that gave positive answers, it was the one offering better conditions, so we just said, fuck all the rest, this is our change. In fact, I believe they are working hard trying to give support to old school heavy metal in Spain, so I really think it is an amazing platform for us.

Though the themes that you are displaying through the tracklist, well at least some of them, are 80s Heavy Metal cliche’s, and don’t get me wrong, it is all good, I sensed, while listening, a kind of Blue Collar Heavy Metal, as if you are living the streets through your lyrics, in contrast to your music. Maybe you can help me out, is “Welcome To The Row” about the everyday life of manic street folks or something even deeper?

I would say that the lyrics have much to do with who we are and where we come from, so in the album we tried to do something that was able to define us as a band, rather than defining something beyond.

When Street Lethal was created in 2014, Hell, Guilty and I were just three teenagers from a working class neighborhood, we all liked heavy metal because it was fast, catchy and rebel, and we all dreamed of becoming heavy metal stars. We all were proto-musicians, in fact I was the one with more experience, and we ended up forming a band, playing more or less for fun, and composing songs that talked about what we did together, that was basically to be in the street, hanging out together every day.

Hell was in charge of the lyrics from the beginning, and she more or less started this idea of talking about being a Metalhead in the streets and all this stuff. The fact is that the concept worked really well, as it’s something fresh, youthful, sometimes even dark, you can talk about many different things but still have this nexus. In this sense, "Welcome to the Row" talks about, let’s say, different shades of how heavy metal is lived through the streets. Some of the songs talk about Metalheads in the streets, hanging together, such as "Into Your Mind", "Welcome To The Row" or "Tyrants", but others songs as "Roll Racing" or "Searching The Wild", have the streets just as a background. And then we have "Rulers of the Underworld", with a kind of more epic lyrics, that talk about how heavy metal can rescue you from the bad things of life, which is a concept that we already touched in our song “Hiding Underground” from our EP “Look out” & "Stay In The Streets”.

In your opinion, what is the most important message the comes out from “Welcome To The Row”? And I don’t mean just the importance of the purity of the music, but something that is outstanding.

I think that there’s a clear message of heavy metal empowerment behind this album. This is quite personal, but for me, “Welcome to the Row” talks somehow about how heavy metal is still alive, beating strongly in the heart of many people, and nobody will never be able to make it disappear. The streets are the perfect scenario for this claim, as they have historically take in all the Metalheads and all those rebel people looking for freedom though music. With this album we tried to put those feelings together with this scenario, describing the streets as the silent keepers of all this crazy energy.

Street Lethal, and “Welcome To The Row” in particular, is to live the qualities of 80s Heavy Metal through a youthful vision. What has been fascinating you personally about Metal music in the 80s? Which band influenced you the most?

What fascinates me the most about this kind of music is its strong message of freedom. Since I was a child, I have felt that heavy metal music has the ability to empower everyone who listen to it. It’s something savage, so rhythmic, it’s like, you can really feel how this power comes into you through your ears. Those people in the 80’s they were amazing, they manage to put their feelings, their claims, together, they turned them into songs, and they created this huge amazing music style, that for me goes beyond music.

The groups that have influenced me the most are Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Accept, Running Wild, Warlock, W.A.S.P., Megadeth, Dokken, Zed Yago, Hellion … and many more. All of them made me become who I am now. I love all of them. But if I had to choose only one, I would say that I have always been a huge fan of Judas Priest, they are so elegant, their sound is absolutely personal, and their style is incredible.

With “Welcome To The Row” being a product of what is to be referred as part of the revival of Traditional Metal in our present time, it has quite a competition with a wave of albums. Therefore, I ask, what is Street Lethal bringing to the table that makes the album to become a standout among the many?

Well, I think that, currently, many young heavy metal bands follow some kind of specific schemes:  to make traditional heavy metal, you have to sing high-pitched tones, and play very fast. With Street Lethal, we wanted to create something heavy, but also something that would sound unique. Of course, we have fast songs, some of them with high pitch, but I believe that with songs like "Searching the Wild" or "Rulers of the Underworld", we have explored those bright, rhythmic and grave sounds that are somehow being forgotten nowadays. I think that mixing the sound and attitude of Hell’s voice, and our old-school riffs, makes Street Lethal one-of-a-kind.

Another differentiating factor that I believe we have, goes beyond the sound of the album, and has to do with the energetic shows we give. On the stage, we like to do specific choreographies, synchronize our movements, get crazy… And we take care of how we wear: leather clothes, spikes, and white sneakers, just as the classical heavy metal bands from the 80s!

While writing the riffs for the songs for “Welcome To The Row”, which aspects inspired you? What is your approach towards writing a song? How did you begin?

Well, I have to say that creating songs is one of the things we enjoy the most. In general, we try to bring random ideas to the rehearsals, like short riffs or some solo, and then we work together to create the songs. Anyway, sometimes Dann or I compose a full song on our own, but we always present the ideas to the whole band, to give it the pure “Street Lethal” sound, and include the preferences of everyone. So, I would say that it is a matter of how we develop the songs, rather than how everything begins. When we dwell into a song, we do everything at the same time, we give it a meaning while we create the riffs, and this inspires the melody of the voice and the lyrics.

Regarding "Welcome to the Row", it began with a riff composed by Dann, the other guitarist, while he was playing around some licks trying to imitate Glenn Tipton's style in the "Painkiller" era. We all thought it sounded really cool and I started to work on making a song out of it. I remember that some parts were hard to compose, because we didn’t want them to sound too clumsy. And I have to say that what really made the difference with this song was the melody of the chorus. The first time we played the whole song including the chorus, we just couldn’t stop humming it. The song is amazing, there are riffs inspired by Megadeth, Dokken, Metallica, but we composed the song willing to express violence, and to talk about street life and heavy metal, and this gave it a special flavor.

In the last decades or so, probably even before that, there has been a change in how bands write songs, to the point where the musicianship takes a stronger position in favor of the actual songwriting. Do you believe that nowadays the essence of the song is virtually lost? Is being technical that important in comparison to something that could be memorable, and not necessarily cheesy?

So, the answer is tricky. I think that genuine artistic creations “per se” has lost is value nowadays, people want things that are easy to consume, sound familiar, no matter where they come from, and we also have to deal with the fashions, even in the world of old school heavy metal. Anyway, I won’t lie, we are somehow in a movement that is basically replicating well established and known music style, so you need to be genuine, but you need to stick to some standards. Being technical or not, it doesn’t really matter, but it also didn’t matter in the 80’s, you need to be yourself, and need to be able to reach the people who will listen to your songs defending your own personal style. And I would even say that the easiest riffs are usually the ones that reach people’s hearts easily, but this doesn’t necessarily devaluate the essence of the songs. At the end, bands need to be consistent, and need to defend their own sound, and the only way to achieve these things is through a genuine procedure of songwriting. In our case, we are working every day to define our sound, to create something unique, regardless the technicity of the music, but paying special attention to the message we want to transmit.

Your singer, Hell, is quite good, at first I thought about Doro the first time I heard her singing, yet slowly, after suffocating your album, it occurred to me that she has that Gwen Stefani vocal pattern. Though I am no fan of Stefani, yet Elena really kills it. How do you see her development as vocalist on “Welcome To The Row”?

I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of Gwen Stefani either, but after listening to a couple of her songs I think I get what you were trying to say! For me, her voice sounds like something in between Doro Pesch and Jutta Weinhold. In fact, it is something quite controversial too, either you love her voice, or you hate it. I think that Hell has grown a lot since we founded the band, and especially during the composition and recording of this album. Most of her references are young male singers with high voices, like Zach Slaughter or Jason Decay, so at the beginning she was always trying to imitate their voice…

I believe that the most important thing for a musician is to know your limitations, your strong points, and to do what you like to do. In the album, she has matured as a singer, exploring her low-pitched tones, and regulating the intensity of the verses. Anyway, I have always thought that she is a great singer, she has lots of energy on the stage, and her ability to compose melodies and lyrics is just outstanding. There’s still room for improvement, and she’s still working to find her sound, be we all are very proud of her performance, she’s 100% Street Lethal. I’m sure we will be able to see further improvements of her voice in the following works of the band. On the other hand, we also want to change a bit our composing standards for our next album, to fit better with the requirements of Hell’s voice.

The track that really blew my mind was the Speed Metal infested creature, “Tyrants”, no doubt a killer live. What is your opinion of this track? What goes through your mind when you play it? I bet at first tons of electricity.

It's a great song, very fast and catchy, I really enjoy every time I play it. It was one of the last songs that we composed for the album, and we were just dealing to have a song to move our heads and release some adrenaline. We finished the song very quickly, the structure and the main riffs came out quite fluently, but we paid special attention to the details and the solos to make it sound special. Actually, in that song, our drummer Killer has a very important role, his stunning drums are like a machine gun, it makes you feel as if you were hit by heavy metal. Also, one of the most iconic parts of the song is the second solo, played by Dann, that part has full of harmonies, its sound is mind blowing. In fact, we would like to further use this kind of harmonization in future songs.

Did you have a chance to play live some of the new tracks? If so, what were the reactions of the attendees?

Yes, in fact we have already played live all the songs from the album, although we have never played all of them together in the same show. And of course, we are very happy with the reactions, people are quite used to our old songs, which already do quite well for the shows we give in our city, but with the new songs the experience is even better.

I think that the songs from the album are very well-balanced for a live show: you have songs that make you move like crazy, as "Tyrants" or "Welcome to the Row", but there are other songs like "Rulers of the Underworld" or "Roll Racing" that are made to enjoy and relax a bit. I would say that the song that the audience usually enjoys the most is "Tyrants", you can see how people start moving a lot and enjoying the rhythm. Anyway, we enjoy playing all the songs, and we try to transmit this feeling to the audience. Many people come to talk with us after the shows, and we have received very good. In fact, watching our movements and our complicity on the stage while playing the songs is one of the things that people enjoy the most, I think this is because we deeply believe in what we play and what we want to tell. We are really willing to play our full album soon in many places as possible.

Metal music, at least once, was considered a sort of a way of life, yet it appears that nowadays it is treated somewhat differently. There are still stereotypes going on, mainly towards extreme Metal, yet a Metalhead is a Metalhead. Do you still believe that Metal is a way of life, even in the digital age?

Absolutely yes. In fact, this is what we are somehow defending through our songs. I consider Metal as a way of life, without any doubt, although of course, you can just enjoy listening to Metal music without letting it interfere with other aspect of your daily life, but is not my case. For me, Metal music has something very strong and very primitive, it sounds amazing, it makes you feel free, like if you have the power to reach everything you want in your life, but it also makes you feel violent, comforted, passionate… I think it makes you feel like you belong to something, makes you feel understood, and is a way of rebellion against the injustice, against pain.

Metalheads are rebels without a cause, artists, nonconformists. For me the Metal way of life is something that will never die, there will always be Metalheads, living their life in freedom, drinking beers, listening to good stunning songs and finding their place in the world, although it will become an underground movement. Anyway, I think that young heavy metal bands are crucial to maintain the metal scene, we need novel idols, but I’m very happy because there are many cool novel bands, with incredible live shows nowadays, we are on the right way.

Where do you see Street Lethal going, let’s say in the next five years?

Wow! Good question, I think I can’t even say how I see myself in the next five years. I wish we will have one or two new albums, maybe, we would have make a couple of tours abroad, at least in Europe, I don’t really know, the only thing I know for sure is that Street Lethal will be alive and kicking for many years.

Any plans to support the debut in the coming year?

We are very focused on the presentation of the album, we would like to play in different cities in Spain, apart from Barcelona, but fortunately there’s an amazing network of support to heavy metal in our country, thanks to different heavy metal associations (Metalcova, Pounding, Espectros, Mediterranean Metal, etc), so we already have some dates for our shows. Anyway we still have lots of work to do, we want to do the right steps, we would like to play abroad, but also to reinforce our place in the Spanish heavy metal scene. We are facing the new year with lots of illusion, we are willing to present our album and our show to everyone!

Criss, many thanks for the time and effort on this interview, your time is appreciated. Thank you for releasing a promise, and I wish you guys nothing but the best. Cheers.


 

תוצאת תמונה עבור ‪street lethal banda‬‏



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