ZT INTERROGATION: TO THE GALACTIC FORTRESS WITH GLORYHAMMER’S ANGUS MCFIFE
Gloryhammer’s Tales From The Kingdom Of Fife was a triumph of proper power metal tunes and inspired comic mythology; but it was only part one of an epic story to span the ages. ZT caught up with frontman/Prince of Fife Thomas Winkler aka Angus McFife for an exclusive talk about chapter 2: Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards, due out this autumn from Napalm Records, as well as his non-Fife-related activities.
ZT: Angus McFife triumphed at the end of Tales From the Kingdom of Fife, where does the new album pick up the story?
Since Zargothrax was cast in a pool of liquid ice, one thousand years have passed. A cult of unholy chaos wizards are plotting to release their dark master from his ice-bound tomb and once again unleash the sorcerer Zargothrax upon the universe. Now, in the distant future of the year 1992, war has returned to the galaxy …
ZT: Musically speaking can fans expect a similar kind of album with Space 1992?
As the title implies, Gloryhammer has progressed to a more space-themed sound. But we also achieved to keep the catchiness and cheese of the first record. It was the goal to appeal to a new audience as well as fully satisfy every present Gloryhammer fan. And of course to write the best power metal album the universe has ever seen.
ZT: There’s a fine line between humour and cheese, but Gloryhammer is somehow less cheesy than many more apparently serious power metal bands, why do you think that is?
I hope that is not the case! – But then again: a band that takes itself serious and plays songs about slaying dragons and being heroes of war is inherently cheesy as an Emmentaler. It’s as ridiculous as corpsepainting yourself to look evil.
ZT: Although there is a satirical element to Gloryhammer’s style, it feels more like an affectionate parody than a vicious one, presumably you are fans of traditional power metal to some extent?
We all love good cheesy power metal. Because we feel as manly as Chuck Norris while listening to that kind of music. With Gloryhammer we try to intensify this feeling. I mean, who wouldn’t want to feel like Chuck Norris?!
ZT: The fact that Gloryhammer acknowledges and even revels in the clichés of power metal lets you use the full range of your voice in an unselfconscious way, is it more challenging than singing in a more traditional metal band?
With Tales From the Kingdom of Fife it was the first time I felt my vocals were caught the right way on a record. It seemed like those songs just fit me perfectly fine. The second album spans an even bigger vocal range. Some cosmic screams are so high that only extra-terrestrial organisms can hear those frequencies.
ZT: I think one of the reasons that Tales From the Kingdom of Fife was so well received is that musically speaking it’s a strong metal album that appeals to people who like classic bands like Iron Maiden or Helloween, was the reaction different in countries where the humorous/Scottish aspect might seem less obvious?
In the lyrics of Gloryhammer there are some allusions to Scottish clichés but the main focus lies on power metal in general. Besides the cultural aspect, the main issue some people have is understanding the language. With Gloryhammer we try to overcome linguistic barriers. That’s why we recorded a special edition for China with different lyrics, replacing the letter “R” with “L”.
ZT: The band is very international, so presumably you don’t get the chance to get together to jam very often? Would you want to?
No way! Meeting Zargothrax always feels like dying.
ZT: How does the songwriting process work with you living in different countries etc, is there much collaboration between all the band members?
We have a secret chatroom on the internet, called the International Gloryhammer Group of Epic Might. Beside Zargothrax forging dark plans to destroy all Dundee, this is where we post our new ideas regarding songs, merchandise and all organisational matters. We are there quite frequently, at least twice a week.
ZT: Had you visited any of the locations from Tales From the Kingdom of Fife before you recorded the album? Have you been to them all now?
Before I became the Prince of Fife I had never been to Scotland. Thinking of Scotland, scenes from Braveheart and Highlander crossed my mind. Anyway. After recording the first Gloryhammer album, when it was too late to make a retreat from my valiant position as Angus McFife, Chris dared to show me his home country – my new kingdom. It wasn’t as bad as he made me believe during the recording sessions. Actually Scotland looks quite similar to the landscapes in Braveheart. I liked it so Chris bought me a square foot of the Kingdom of Fife as a birthday gift.
ZT: With Barque of Dante you were in a similar situation in that the band didn’t all live in the same country (or even continent), but although that was/is also a power metal band, the feel is extremely different from Gloryhammer to say the least, was the working process different too?
Well, I never was an actual part of Barque of Dante – back in 2010 I agreed to record the vocals for their second album as a onetime job. All recording and mixing was done at home, that’s why the production quality (or the feel) can’t be compared to the high standard of the Gloryhammer albums.
ZT: Presumably singing live with Gloryhammer is different to performing with Emerald or any other band you’ve sung with, does it still feel like playing with a band, or do the characters and drama of it make it more like a theatrical experience?
I agree, Gloryhammer is more than a band playing gigs. It’s a parallel world, and with each album it will continue to grow more and more to a parallel universe. I am waiting for the day when I get off stage and there is a magic dragon saddled, ready for a ride.
ZT: You have toured very successfully since Tales From the Kingdom of Fife, did that have any influence on the way you approached the new album?
To create the best possible live experience for our fans we wanted to have songs on the new album that – like Angus McFife or Quest for the Hammer of Glory – are catchy and let you still feel like Chuck Norris after listening to them a thousand times. Furthermore our new intro music contains theme variations of old and new songs to herald the appearance of each character on stage.
ZT: Is it hard to get into character in the studio? I would imagine it’s quite hard to be Angus McFife if you’re not really in the mood to sing about unicorns and so forth.
We always record the albums in full battle armour. That was not enough for The Hootsman; he vandalized the studio of Lasse Lammert to get into his role as a barbarian. That’s why we only have 10 new songs instead of 11 this time.
ZT: Which band you’ve sung with has most expressed your own personality or feelings?
ZT: What vocalists would you say are the biggest influence on your singing style?
When I was six years old I started making songs on an old Yamaha keyboard based on Iron Maiden’s A Real Dead One. So I guess Bruce Dickinson was my first and most important influence vocal-wise. Another inspiration was Joacim Cans of Hammerfall in the early 2000’s. Nowadays I like the voices of Jorn Lande and Russell Allen (Symphony X).
ZT: I live in Fife and it’s pretty rare to see unicorns here in fact; the new album has moved beyond Fife geographically, but will it continue to be a focus for Gloryhammer in the future?
Most unicorns in Fife ceased. We all know why. This is the main reason why we expanded the tale to outer space. But Scotland – especially the Kingdom of Fife, and particularly the city of Dundee (which, as you surely know, used to be in Fife) – will remain a very important part of the story of the coming albums.
ZT: Is Gloryhammer your main focus or are you still active with your other bands?
No other band would hire me again after seeing me in my green armour. I wouldn’t.
ZT: Will you be touring with the new album?
In October and November we’ll be on a massive European tour with Stratovarius, celebrating the new album with all new costumes and more stupid stage acting. After that we’ll fly to the moon to play the first ever power metal show in space. All under the motto: Be there or be square!
ZT: In previous interviews it has been suggested that there will be many Gloryhammer albums, how far ahead have you actually planned?
At least 1992 light years ahead. But it’s hard to tell if anything I’m aware of at the moment will still be relevant when Gloryhammer meets the next time because our plans change permanently. After listening to the final track of the upcoming album, Apocalypse 1992, you will after all know where the next story won’t take place …
ZT: Do you have any message for your fans?
I am (most likely) not your father, but may the force of unicorns be with you!
Thanks for dropping in!
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