“What the hell kind of name is Angel Blake?” pondered a fellow Metal Team writer, an hour or so before I randomly picked out 70’s horror film The Blood On Satan’s Claw for some evening entertainment, where the penny suddenly dropped…and made a loud bang before rolling under the table. Angel Blake is the lead character from said movie; the mischievous ringleader of a devil worshipping cult. Angel Blake is also the name of a song by Danzig, which I later learned is where the band actually take their name from. Enough confusion, the Angel Blake in question is the solo project of ex Crown guitarist, Marko Tervonen, who’s aim was to create music in a more melodic direction to his previous output. Having just released a second album, The Descended, which got a rather favourable review from yours truly on these very pages, I was keen to ask Marko a few questions about his project.
LH: Hello and congratulations on releasing a great album with The Descended! Have you been happy with the response the album has received so far?
AB: Thank you. Yes, good feedback so far. I’m really happy how the album turned out, both musically and production-wise.
LH: Your new album is out on Dynamic Arts Records, whereas you were signed to Metal Blade for your debut. I was reading somewhere that part of the reason for you parting from MB was that the album wasn’t quite as successful as they had been hoping. It sounds like the partnership was less than ideal, and their goals as a label conflicted with what you were about as a musician. Could you shed a bit of light on why the deal ended so quickly, and was it a mutual agreement for you to leave MB?
AB: The thing was that the U.S side of Metal Blade didn’t want to release another album, but they still wanted the digital rights to the new album if I would only to release it through their European office. This sounded really crazy in my opinion. So I talked to the European MB chief and in the end they agreed to give me a release note. So I was free to release the new album world-wide without any exceptions.
LH: Following your departure from MB, you recorded a demo which you distributed to various record labels. Did you receive many offers for record deals, and in the end, what made you choose to sign with Dynamic Arts?
AB: Yeah, quite a few were interested. In the end I decided to try out DAR. I like the fact that they work with bands outside the Death Metal realm. They have a few bands that sound a bit like Angel Blake, like Morian.
LH: The vocals on The Descended are provided by Tobias Jansson who has a great voice, and it sounds as though he has exactly the kind of voice you were hoping to find. Would you say you did have a definite sort of vocalist in mind, and how did you come to ask Tobias to join Angel Blake?
AB: Yeah, Tobias vocal style is excellent. He has a really wide range and a really cool feel in his voice, a lot of presence.
I was familiar with Tobias vocals, I’ve heard him sing on some songs through a music community online. And when I was looking for a new singer, I asked him the question. And a few weeks later we were recording the album.
LH: You have had a few line up changes already, with the new vocalist. Also Christian Alvestam left to focus on Scar Symmetry who has been replaced by Anders Edlund. Are you aiming to keep this line up you have at the moment, or can you see more changes occurring in the near future?
AB: It seems really stable at this point. I hope it to stay like this.
LH: On that subject, are there other musicians you would like to collaborate with in the future?
AB: Sure. I’ve always wanted to hook up with Dan Swanö and do something, he seems to be such a mega creative person. Also it would be nice to do something with Peter Tägtgren, he’s one talented musician. But if I look at musicians outside Sweden, I wouldn’t mind getting creative with James Hetfield, Danzig, Greg Mackintosh or Trey Azagthoth ;-)
LH: While you do have a touring line-up in place, when it comes to the recordings I understand you play all of the instruments and have written all of the songs yourself. Am I right in assuming that you have a set vision for what you want Angel Blake to sound like and that you like to keep a lot of control over the musical direction and output?
AB: For the debut it felt necessary to kind of set the tone for the band. And then simply due to “laziness” I decided to record the second album by my self as well during some day offs. In some ways it’s easier since you’re not depended on other peoples schedules. When I feel inspired at any time of the day, I go to the studio and record.
LH: I was reading that you have a home studio which you recorded the album in. Is this right? Tell us about the recording process…
AB: Well it started as a home studio 4-5 years ago, but for 3 years I have a pro studio located very central in my home town. I don’t use it exclusively for Angel Blake, I have recorded a lot of CD’s, demos and done mixes for other bands there as well. I’m interested in working with all kinds of bands. I’ve done mostly metal, but I’ve also done different stuff like rockabilly and folk music. I just recently did a serious upgrade, and the latest productions I’ve done there sounds really good.
I will very soon put a music player up at www.studio-mt.com where you can listen to various recordings. I haven’t updated the website in a year I think…
The recording process. It was pretty much the same as with the debut. I recorded all the instruments by my self, and then Tobias came in later on and we spent a few days tracking the vocals. Then I pulled my hair for about a week mixing it. And then I took the master to Studio Bohus and did the mastering process.
LH: Do you think working solo makes the recording process easier – obviously less conflicts are likely to arise and you can crack on with things without relying on other band members. Is there anything you miss about having other musicians with you in the studio?
AB: It’s always healthy to have a sort of “second opinion” person around when you’re stuck. But I had close friends around during the tracking and mixing. Janne was quite a lot in the studio, and I value his opinion. But mostly it’s cool to sit alone and do your thing, less pressure.
LH: Do you think if The Crown hadn’t disbanded you would have started Angel Blake as a side project regardless? I know you’ve always been a fan of bands like Sentenced, Danzig and Paradise Lost so I imagine this is something you’ve been thinking about doing for some time?
AB: Actually during my time in The Crown I never seriously tried to start a “side project”, that was simply a big “no-no” in Crown, that was the way we preferred to do. Instead I tried to migrate that sort of music into The Crown instead, with Johan’s Death Metal vocals. So a lot of songs like ‘Dead Man’s Song’, ‘Death by my Side’, ‘Bow to None’, ‘In Memoriam’ etc. was my attempt to include those elements into The Crown. But when I had the chance to create Angel Blake and explore this side of me 100%, the music took a deeper turn into that realm.
LH: I know The Crown encountered it’s fair share of problems with promoters and industry types that made it difficult for the band to continue. Since then Johan has gone on to have success with One Man Army, Magnus is in Stolen Policecar and of course you have Angel Blake. All of these bands are very diverse in styles, so it seems like you were all itching to move away from what you were doing with the Crown and experiment with different things anyway. Do you think the Crown had simply run it’s course?
AB: Both yes and no. I remember we started working on the new material (that never got released) and the sound was wayyyy different than Possessed 13. Actually about 80% of the Stolen Policecar debut album is what the new Crown would have sounded like. In a way I’m glad that we ended, ´cause the style change was too dramatic, many of us felt it, we were trying out clean vocals with Johan etc… So I guess we all could do our new bands with a more freedom, instead of having the pressure from Crown that we need to sound in a certain way.
LH: With all the bands that are currently reforming to play “reunion tours” I was wondering if you think there is any chance of The Crown some day getting back together?
AB: Check this out:
LH: And on the subject of touring, there are no dates on your website at the moment. Are you planning to do any touring with Angel Blake in the near future?
AB: Nothing confirmed, let’s see how things evolve.
LH: That’s all of the questions I’ve got for you. Thanks for the interview and feel free to add a final message to our readers.
AB: Thank you very much, and sorry for my late reply. I’ve been too busy lately with everything, need to chill down a bit now…
Ok, all the best!
For more on the band check out http://www.myspace.com/angelblakeonline
Interviewed by Luci Herbert