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Tanith's Russ Tippins: "Satan is about as intense as I’d care to go, and Tanith by the same token, is about as lite as I’m going to get..."

Interview with Russ Tippins from Tanith
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 31 July 2019, 10:05 PM

Heavier, louder and faster might not cut it all the time, and there is a need for a little diversion, a sort of out of scope and into a different realm. Satan's guitarist, Russ Tippins, had a vision for a while, which failed, yet one day everything changed and that vision came to life. Its name is Tanith. Recently the band released its debut album, "In Another Time", via Metal Blade Records. Steinmetal had a talk with the legendary guitarist about the starting of Tanith, new album, classic Metal and more.

Cheers Russ, it is an honor to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine. What have you been up to lately sir?

Hey thanks Lior. I’ve been playing festivals with both Satan (Der Detze) and Tanith (Muskelrock) and also we had the Tanith album launch in New York which was bloody fantastic! I guess I’ve been writing a lot too. Made a home demo of a new Satan song idea and, actually just this past week Cindy has been here in Newcastle. We’ve been jamming and brainstorming new ideas for Tanith which is why I couldn’t do this interview until now.

Two years ago, you co-founded Tanith with Cindy Maynard, which was at first a sort of a cover band and you both had the will to write original material. Furthermore, you also relocated to the US in order to pave the grounds for the new foundation. What made you just pack up and leave the UK? Especially with you still being a member of Satan, which is still based in the UK

I didn’t pack up and leave. Although much of my time is spent in New York, technically I still live in England. I work a lot here, and still have a rented apartment in Newcastle. I also have family here and as you say, my band Satan is based here I really have one foot on each side of the Atlantic right now. It’s a crazy adventurous life I’m leading.

With Tanith, you have the opportunity to trace back to the basics of vintage Metal and Hard Rock, being able to create something that is quite different from the heavier acts you have been a part of. Do you find Tanith as a sort of an escape from it all, with you as the headmaster of the vision behind it?

Yes, Tanith is kind of a steam valve. A yang to Satan’s Yin. Satan’s music can be very intense, dark, difficult to play and its absolutely market driven. With the success of "Cruel Magic", there is a definite expectation upon us now to live up to that. To better it even. But here’s the thing, I’ve always had song ideas which I personally like but would not be suitable at all for a Satan record. What should I do with them? I was daydreaming of putting another band together to play these songs but a harsh experience of trying that in the past stopped me. It ended in frustration without anything being recorded or released. Or even a gig! It’s not easy to find like-minded people. It just so happened that by playing and singing together with Cindy on stage two years ago in a cover band made me realize that the answer was right in front of me. I didn’t want to let a trifling matter such as the Atlantic Ocean get in the way of that!

Who have you been a fan of in the 70s? Which bands influenced you most?

Led Zeppelin. Jimmy Page in particular. He was everything to me. I mean, there were a bunch of bands that I really liked, Rainbow, Wishbone Ash, Blue Oyster Cult, Judas Priest, even Rush! But Page was 100% responsible for making me want to get up and actually learn to play the damn guitar. When we put Satan together the Priest influence became stronger I guess, because of the two guitar format.

Recently Tanith released is debut album, “In Another Time”, signed to Metal Blade Records. I believe that signing with Metal Blade Records was a kind of natural selection for you right? Was there an approach by the American label or was it a mutual interest?

As soon as we realized we wanted to go on and write a full album, I contacted Metal Blade to see if it was something they might be interested in. They said no it wouldn’t be a good idea to have two bands on the label both with the same guitar player as it could lead to a conflict of interests. We then started looking elsewhere for a deal, and after a few months we had interest from three labels. It wasn’t until the boss of Metal Blade Germany by chance came across our self-released 7” that they came back to us and offered Tanith a contract. So me being with Satan was not enough. They had to ‘find’ us for themselves.

How has been the reactions to “In Another Time” so far? Do you feel that there is a fanbase created?

It’s been a definite pleasant surprise to me how well our music has been received within the Metal scene. As much as I love this music myself, I wasn’t convinced that so many other people would feel the same way. I mean, there are already enough Metalheads who tell me that even Satan is too ‘lite-beer’ for their tastes. I’m not going to worry too much about that. Satan is about as intense as I’d care to go, and Tanith by the same token, is about as lite as I’m going to get. I do believe we have created a fan base quite quickly and I can hardly believe the amazing reviews "In Another Time" has gotten in the metal press. It’s important because it feels like a vindication and a green light to carry on with what we started.

Do you believe that such a classic Metal / Hard Rock direction within a modernizing market of both genres still has a strong stance? 

I think so. With the emergence of extreme Metal, the classic approach has kind of gone underground but these days the underground scene is huge compared to the 1980s. I do believe with Tanith, there is potential for a much broader appeal than your average Metal band, and that we are well capable of crossing over into mainstream circles. Even into the realms of Radio Rock!

While the songwriting process of the album, what were your prime points of focus? How did you envision the material on “In Another Time” and did it the end result came as you wished it to be?

The top of the agenda for Cindy and I was to carry on with the dual vocals we’d been doing in the cover band. Only we’d incorporate it into own music from the get-go. That was easy to accomplish since we didn’t really have anything already written. We also wanted melody and harmony to trump speed and heaviness in the way that say, BOC used to. I think the result is about as close to what we envisioned as it possibly could be. It’s a really good feeling.

Can you shed some light on the lyrical themes throughout the album? Since you are the lyricist behind it all. It is about mere pessimism or rather a glimmer of hope that we might see a brighter future.

Actually I had a ton of help from Cindy with the lyrics. And I also helped her on the song lyrics she wrote for the album. Overall we wanted to lighten up the mood and the message for this record. The imagery is most definitely in the fantasy realm and most of the lyrics are too. We thought that having a female figurehead in our cover art would certainly lend itself to the concept of mysticism and good triumphing over evil. So rather than writing about the Earth being destroyed we wrote a three-part story about mankind being rescued by a bunch of owls!

To listen to both Cindy and yourself singing in a duet, actually did make me see the light without even following the lyrics. Your voice is soothing, sometimes it feels like a folk singer’s sort of tone. Have you always been singing or is it something recent?

Me? I’ve always been a simple guitar slinger until at the age of 35 while playing in a wedding band I was required to provide back-up vocals as well as guitar.  It seemed easy right from the start and I would always sing the line a third above the (girl) vocalist in the band. After a while she asked me to sing lead on the occasional song while she walked off stage to change her costume hah. That’s how it began for me but Tanith is the first Rock band in which I’ve sung lead vocals. It’s not difficult and I enjoy it except there are times when I feel tied to the mic. Whereas with Satan, I can wander around the stage freely just playing guitar.

The album’s sound feels so natural, as if it was actually made in the late 70s or early 80s. Who was in charge of the studio proceedings in terms of sound? While listening to the end result did you have the brush of nostalgia going all over?

Maybe you already know? We recorded the whole thing on analogue tape, mixed it down to analogue tape and cut the master on a vintage lathe machine. All very expensive and time consuming, but yes, I’m glad you picked up on the sound. It’s entirely different to just about everything out there right now. I guess I’m the only one in this band who’s previously had experience of making music this way. I wanted to try it again for this LP. Recording digitally is cheap but it makes every band sound the same. And it’s too easy to cheat and correct mistakes on the computer. I do miss the days of having to actually get it right first time or else live with mistakes on your record. I had been missing the beautiful sound of magnetic tape.

As veteran, I presume that you have seen a lot of bands over the years, coming and going, which of the newcomers do you see as the new hope for Heavy Metal and Hard Rock?

I really like to hear bands doing something I haven’t heard before. You know what I mean? The whole extreme metal thing… is for me ugly to my ears. None of it even sounds real, it’s kind of CGI Metal but at least they succeeded in doing something that hadn’t been done before. My problem is not really with the pro-genitors of the movement but, as with all genres, the hordes of impersonators that follow in their wake. Here is a small list of current bands that I would heartily recommend. Danava (Portland), Natur (New York), Blackletter (Providence), Antichrist (Sweden), Black Magic (Sweden). I’d also like to make a little prediction that the next big thing in Metal will be the awesome Night Demon. I know the guys, they’ve worked harder than any other band out there and are now set to make the big leap. Let me tell you, nobody deserves it more.

Night Demon are surely a wonder I agree to that sir, and yes, it seems they do have a chance. Back to you, I assume that you have been planning a touring run with Tanith to support the album? Can you share your plans for the readers?

Sure! We plan to tour Europe from 28th October until 16th November. At this stage not all of the dates are confirmed but it will begin in my home town of Newcastle and end at Hammer of Doom festival in Germany. Please keep an eye on our band page and social media for the full announcement very soon

Russ, I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer this interview, I see you as a legendary figure in classic Metal and I know that Tanith would produce only the best. Cheers mate.

Thank you so much! That’s good to know and it’s my pleasure to talk with you.
 



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