Interviewed by Damian J. Cousins (Writer/Journalist/Contributor)
I was given the opportunity to interview DC Cooper, vocalist past and present, as well as Andre Andersen, keyboardist and principal songwriter for the progressive metal band ROYAL HUNT in the same afternoon. Obviously I jumped at the chance because opportunities like this don’t come often. Both gentlemen couldn’t have been nicer and I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with them about new album A Life to Die For, tour plans, and more. Take a look:
MGM: DC, it’s nice to have you back for the second go around here on the new record A Life To Die For. Does it feel like the old chemistry from the Paradox years is back again with Andre and this version of ROYAL HUNT?
DC: Yeah, I would say it’s kind of hard to gauge that until we go live. We have one hell of a tour, like 17 countries. I actually had to say, “OK, that’s enough for now!” But there was something more to this album, it felt really good. Andre knows how to write for my voice and that’s why I enjoy working with the material that he sends out, because he does really well. There were a couple of songs in here that were more of a push on my mid-range than normal when you look at it from a technical aspect. But still, the color was there, it was more bombastic. Andre is fantastic at what he does and I applaud him for that. As far as the old chemistry is concerned, I mean, you move on. We’ve moved past a lot of stuff. But we always have a great time live and I think we put on a pretty great show.
MGM: André what prompted you and DC to join the band again after a long hiatus?
Andre: It was a combination of different things. We stopped working with Mark Boals who was an excellent singer but we just couldn’t make our schedules work together. I was writing songs for the next album without even knowing who would be singing. Then our management had an idea to do some kind of reunion tour, something short that the fans and promoters had been asking for. So we said “Why not?” we did, and it went well, and then we started taking about doing an album together and it just took off from there. We didn’t have a master plan, it just happened. The timing was right.
DC: That’s kind of how it went. Andre contacted me in 2010 about rejoining and I said “No” because we couldn’t come to terms, and I was probably still brittle around the edges about everything that took place years ago. And I said, “No I just don’t think this is gonna work right now” so we just left it alone. So somewhere around 2011 we decided to put personal differences aside and figure something out. It took a couple of weeks of talking back and forth and it was kind of wild and it was neat in a way because we started talking like friends, and that hadn’t happened in a long time. And that was nice. I think that at this point in time right now ROYAL HUNT is basically in a situation where we could come roaring back. I feel that this is one hell of an album and I’m looking forward to the tour and performing these songs. My dream on this album is to do four or five shows with an orchestra. The logistics would be hellacious but it’s been done. If we picked a few major cities like London, Rome, Tokyo that would be awesome, and it would make a phenomenal DVD concert and I would probably get teary-eyed each show. Plus it would open us up to a completely different audience.
MGM: The new record picks up where Show Me How to Live left off and it feels like there is more focus on songwriting and carefully driven tunes. Tell me about the writing and recording of the album.
Andre: It’s not much different than before except we used some classical instruments here and there on the album which was a new departure for me. Because you have to rehearse separately with classical musicians. They have different timing, they see music differently; even the lingo is different. You have to get used to it a little bit.
MGM: Andre you’re very busy producing a lot outside of Royal Hunt. What musical ventures are you into when not involved with ROYAL HUNT?
Andre: The last six years I’ve been very much into music for movies. I haven’t done any huge movies but I’ve done some television and some productions that are completely different from rock music. It’s fun as long as it’s not my main job (laughs)! But it’s cool to work with something different for the hell of it. I get bored easily and I like to have something to do.
MGM: It’s hard to deny the impact of the 90’s albums Paradox and Moving Target as some of the best of the genre, so did you feel it was time to get that magic back again when DC returned to the band?
Andre: I didn’t know if it was possible. You can have another kind of magic, but not the same magic because Paradox came out in ’97. The world was different, we as people were different. I talk to the fans quite often about it. In ’97 everybody bought records. If you wanted to listen to something you had to go to the store and buy it unless your friend had one. It’s a different kind of feeling when you buy it. Today it’s not an album anymore, it’s a file. You can’t have the same attachment to the file as you had to the album. So I don’t think it’s possible to recreate Paradox as it’s not possible for DEEP PURPLE to recreate Machine Head. And I feel very privileged to actually have one of those kinds of albums in my back catalog that so many people feel so strongly about.
MGM: DC you sound as great as ever, which is amazing considering the toll that the years of performing can take on a singer’s voice, especially with your range and genre you work in. What’s your secret? Any vocal do’s/don’t’s?
DC: The number one rule especially when I’m on tour is SLEEP. Sleep as much as possible. After a show I might have a beer or two, sign autographs, hang out, and then I get on that bus and I go to bed. As soon as he fires up that engine I fall asleep instantly. We do a lot of traveling so I try to sleep as much as possible in transit and whenever we get to where we need to be I get to a hotel and sleep. The two hours we’re onstage I give 110% so I’m drained by the end of the show and I need to rest. God gave me a gift to sing and my gift back to Him is what I do with it. I make sure to sing at least one hour a day. Even if I just come down into my studio and fire everything up. I have a lot of little vocal tricks, I’ve been told I should write a book (laughs).
MGM: ROYAL HUNT has always had a very unique sound, with the layer of keys, the unique vocals, and the explosive up tempo rhythm changes in the song structures, what’s behind the signature sound of the band?
Andre: I started out as a kid playing classical and then I discovered classic rock bands like DEEP PURPLE, YES, KANSAS, and SAGA (I scream with delight at SAGA!). So I have this classical music and classic rock progressive and it’s all mixed together in my little head. So out of all of this mess something like ROYAL HUNT came out and if you put a bunch of very unique players on top of that, which most of the guys in the band have been, with their own signature sounds, it’s very unexpected, yet a very recognizable sound. It’s hard to find that in 2014. Unfortunately a lot of it sounds the same. It’s very generic, it’s hard to tell, even by the singers. So at least we have always been recognizable, you can pretty much always tell it’s ROYAL HUNT. At least I hope so!
MGM: Getting back to the new album, do you have a particular favorite that stands out from the others?
DC: “A Life to Die For” is the standout song for me mainly because there’s the breakdown part in the middle where I go into that opera voice. I took opera training for five years but I’ve never recorded using that voice and I wasn’t sure what to do with that part, so after a couple of takes I didn’t like, I just closed my eyes and went on this operatic type of thing that just felt fantastic. And we nailed it in one take.
MGM: When the band hits the road what can the fans expect in terms of setlist? Don’t give anything away; I was just curious as to the mix of old and new.
Andre: Oh yes, we’re always introducing a few songs from the latest album and we try to be very democratic about it and pick at least one from each album. But we have 12 albums now so it’s hard, and everyone has their own favorites.
DC: It’s a good balance. I think probably we’ll be focusing a little bit more on the new album but I’d have to take a look at the setlist. There will be a good combination of everything, I’m sure.
MGM: ROYAL HUNT has always had great vocalists in the past. Because the compositions are very symphonic and epic in nature, how important was it to maintain a high standard of vocalist despite who was at the helm?
Andre: Very important because I’m a song guy. For me the song and the singer is the most important part of it, so it’s been very important to me all the time to have a very, very good singer. So it just so happens that the last three singers I had they’re all Americans (laughs)! They probably put something in the water over there. I’ve been very, very privileged to work with all of them, and they are all very, very great, so it’s been a pleasure. I really mean that.
MGM: Where does ROYAL HUNT go from here? Can we expect more music from you guys?
Andre: We have a pretty sizeable tour lined up starting at the end of February and we’re going through all of Europe, Japan, Korea, China, Thailand, Australia, then we’ll see where it goes. I really hope so, but the entire industry changed so much that we can’t predict anything. We’ll take a look at things when the tour ends in April.
DC: What does the future hold? Jeez, I don’t know. I’ve been through some serious personal changes in my life over the past two years and I’m just trying to live in the now. That’s the most important thing. As a paramedic and firefighter I saw some horrendous things and people’s lives changed every day, and it was changing me to the point that I was NOT focusing on the now and thinking too much about the past and the future. And you really have to find a fine balance between the past, looking forward to the future, but really appreciating the now. I’m just taking things day by day now.
MGM: What would you like to say to all the fans out there?
DC: Thank you. Absolutely, thank you for sticking by us for so many years, both ROYAL HUNT and myself. If it wasn’t for the fans I’d be nobody. I always try to put quality stuff out there and it’s great when they enjoy it. And if you like it, PLEASE turn other people onto it, because we need the help here in the States. We need your support now more than ever. Share on Facebook and just tell people.
Andre: I really hope that they like A Life to Die For because we had fun recording it and I think it’s a very good album. We still find inspiration over 20 years later. I hope to see a lot of you on tour.
MGM: Guys, thanks for taking time out, and it’s great to have you back.
DC: Thanks, Damian!
Andre: Thank you very much, Damian. It was a pleasure talking with you.
DC Cooper and Andre Andersen. Two sides of the same coin, but both a vital part of ROYAL HUNT in 2014. What the future holds for this great band, who knows? But in the meantime they’ve sure given us one hell of an album to rock to. And to my friends in other countries who will get to take in the tour, I envy you, that’s all I can say!