Departure - Empire (2003)

Empire: Back for album number two - more great European hard rock.

Rolf Munkes talks about the new album, new singer in Tony Martin and a couple of other projects he has on the go.

Hi Rolf, the first Empire album was well received, were you happy with the way it turned out?
Yeah, people liked it and it still doesn't hurt me when I hear it again (That's a good sign). I don't hear it often but after the release of Trading Souls I took a look back and heard it again and it was fine to hear it. We did a good job! As well we had releases in Japan and Russia.

Lance King and Mark Boals were both used as vocalists - what was the reason they were both not used this time around?
The main reason was that I wanted to be able to bring Empire on Tour after the release while watching my budget. It's a big distance and some things are a bit complicate to proceed. So I made that hard decision and looked for a European based singer.

I must say that I enjoyed the new album and the factor of using only one vocalist for the whole album. How did Tony Martin come into the picture?
Yeah, that was one of the most important things to me to have only one singer on Trading Souls. I wanted to bring a kind of Band feeling to it.
It was one of these days when I heard Headless Cross again and with the "searching" for a singer in my mind a decision was done very quick!
And it was the right decision!!!! I also enjoyed working with Tony in the studio. We had a great time and it's still unbelievable that we finally recorded something while we were all day joking and laughing!

Nice to see the rest of the line-up unchanged. How did you guys develop your sound with album number two? Did you find it a different experience then on the debut?
I think that I learned a lot with album No. 1, so I changed some ways in working, some recording techniques, some adjustments, some arrangements etc.
I think all in all everything fits very good on that album. And I'm also very happy that the main part of the line-up is still the same. It was again an amazing work with these guys!

Can you tell us a little about each track on the album:
One In A Million
A love song with a great Riff. It has a cool groove too (Thank Neil) he is playing a hell of Bass here!

Pay Back Time
Didn't know that this fits so good in time but if you write a kind of "anti-war song" I guess unfortunately it'll always fit. Some great Choir arrangements by Tony.
They provide a superb sound/atmosphere to the song. One of my favorite tracks!

Teenage Deadhead
A Ballad about a broken relationship with lots of reproaches to the other side. The solo is one of my Favs!

Big World, Little Man
Tony had the idea for that. Seeing it with the eyes of an Indian. Everyone should take more care of his and his neighbour life. "We should treat our lifes better, that's the sense of it. Trivial but important.

Something about my thoughts on God. Hey and I pretty often talk to "him" these days. I mean I'm not sure if he exists but I speak to someone. But mostly without getting an answer!!! That's the problem. I'm a guy who always asks for reasons. Kind of "Why is it not allowed to belch after meals"? It's so damned good! Serious now. Why do women in most of the religions have no chance to be a priest. Answer: "It has always been that way". That's the answer I "love" most!!!!!!

Perfect Singularity
Sometimes it feels good to be alone? That's the question. I love playing the WAH! (I know, most guitarists do). The idea for the intro came as the last thing to the song.

Wherever You Go
That's the evil one! OOOOOOHHHH and love the evil ones (Ronnie). One of the first Riffs I had for this CD.

Did You Ever Love Me
That's my fav. I love that tune very much. And it is also the fav of Don. I really love Ballads. There will be a day when I make a CD only with Ballads. Should I?
For Trading Souls I wrote three Ballads and one didn't make it on the CD.

Comin' Home
Like on the first album I wanted to do a Rock'n Roll kind of tune too. BTW I enjoy listening to the rhytm guitar playing of ACDC. Wow, cool Riffs, played tight
and clever combined with the other guitar from..... What's his name?

Back In The Light
Something about the Rock scene in general. I describes my wish that all the waves like "Hip-Hop" and "Nu-Metal" shall have their place but please!! a smaller one.

You have written the material featured on the album together as a band. How was this done? In the studio? Separately? Before heading into the studio?
All was written before we went into the studio. I already wrote the songs before the release of "Hypnotica" in 2001! And then in the studio Tony and Gerald added their stuff to it.

What other bands / artists influence Empire's sound - both classic acts you grew up with and any artists from today that inspire you?
I grew up with Deep Purple, Gary Moore, Thin Lizzy, Rainbow, Steve Morse, Malmsteen, Kiss, ACDC, etc. I think all of them inspired me in a way.
What inspired me most in guitar playing was the way Gary Moore played a solo in his "Heavy" days. (Yes Mr. Moore I transcribed tons of your solos and studied them - Will he read that?). They're like a little story, like a book, so well arranged, a song in a song. A composition for itself.
Ah ... forgot... from today? Not so many. I heard the last Halford and liked it, Masterplan was o.k., Yngwie a bit, and heard some Nightwish and
Within Temptation which wasn't too bad.

What would you like the band to achieve - what are your short term and long term goals? It would be cool to go on tour with that album. I think the material deserves to be presented live!
For the future I'm working on songs for a third Empire album right now (in slow steps because things are quite busy at the moment).
It would be nice to be able to establish the Band somehow.

Do you enjoy working in the hard rock scene in Europe? There seems to be a greater acceptance of the style than in other parts of the world where fans cannot read about it unless they have the Internet....
With all the trendy music in the market it's not that easy anywhere. Germany has still a good market but there are also a lot of Bands out there.
But all together it's o.k. A big problem is the Live thing. I see so many Bands playing for a small number of visitors that this makes me having a bad vision for the future.
I saw Thin Lizzy, Glenn Hughes and another act (which I can't remember) two years ago with maybe 400 people. That's a shame I think!

What's next for you personally and then Empire the band? Any other projects you are working on?
For Empire we have to see what the sales numbers say and then we will choose what is next. But I already started to write new songs for that.
So the sales numbers should be good!!!
I have two projects which I'm working on right now.
First, I joined the German Heavy Metal Band "Majesty" last month. I played my first show with them last weekend at the "Bang Your Head Revisited" Festival in Balingen. We are right now in the studio and prepare the third CD which will be out at the end of this year, while also playing some Festivals with them.
My second project is with my former Band mates from Vanize. We found a new singer from Stockholm and will look for a label in two/three weeks right after the rough mixes of the first four songs have been finished!

Anything you would like to add Rolf?
I hope that people love the album, because we really enjoyed recording it and hope to see you live! Thanks.

Thanks very much for your time - maybe we could close this interview with some comments from you on what people should expect if they buy the Empire album!
Great Hard Rock Tunes, very melodic, played by some of the worlds finest musicians. People say the more they hear it the more they like it. I think that speaks for the substance of the material!!!!
Take Care!


Departure (2003)

Departure: Mike Walsh feeling confortable in his musical role.

Departure guitarist Mike Walsh talks about the band's new album and enlisting the talents of new singer Timothy Lewis.

First up, congratulation son the new album, I like it best of all the Departure albums and the general reaction seems to be very favorable.
First of all I am pleased that you are enjoying the new record.

What were the circumstances that lead to Dave Baldwin not being available for this album?
The situation w/ Dave Baldwin was a mutual separation that seemed to fit both of us. Musically, we each had differences that we could not ignore.
Plus I was really looking for a sound more like the first record. The record labels at the time were really keen on getting the next record out and Dave was at the right place at the right time for us to do the record, so we did.

And how did Timothy Lewis come into the picture?
I received a tape of Tim from my label in England, he seemed to be what I was looking for in a singer so I phoned him up in Orlando, Florida and he flew to New Jersey to do some demos and we really hit it off, so I contracted him to do the record.

The album's sound seems perfectly fitted to Timothy's vocals - coincidence, or was it shaped around his input and abilities?
Some songs I had written already but a lot of the material was put together while Tim was here so I could produce around his vocal style and range.

The album seems less pomp, more commercial melodic rock. Was the direction change planned, or was that the way the songs naturally evolved?
The direction of the material was something that just seemed to evolve around what was going on in our lives at the time of the recording, Sept. 11, 2001 and the changes in all of our lives kind of took all the pomp out of our style. Straight forward, good melodic music.

I was also impressed with the production quality. Do you find it easier to record an album each time, learning as you go, or was there another influence on the tight sound of the new album?
The main influence on the sound and production on this record is that after the last record, I came back from England and spent the next 10 months constructing a full production recording studio in my home. With the backing of my label and my band mates, we now have the luxury of making records right in my house. This is what I have been wanting to do as far back as I can remember, and now I am doing just that.

How do you find working in the relatively close confines of the melodic rock scene?
I enjoy making melodic rock records. I believe that it is an art form like no other in
the music industry. Even though we really can't sell these records in the states, I am pleased that there are people around the world who appreciate this style of music.
I am also hoping to start my own production co. and make records in many other categories of music.

Your albums are released in Europe, but like most other artists, never in the USA. Is that frustrating for you and do you see that ever being able to be changed?
I don't really get to worked up about other outlets for this music, the outlets seem to find you when you're doing these kind of records.

You've got some pretty radio friendly tracks on the album - are there any outlets you can try to get some airplay independent of the major label sharks?
We are starting to put together the live show right now, since we have finished the record, we want to warm up over here, NYC, Jersey, (Stone Pony)and then head over to Europe to do some live gigs. There is a lot of things I am looking forward to doing this year, things are looking really good right now, it is going to be a busy year.

On a more positive note - how about some live performances. Again, it's a small scene, but are there any opportunities?
I am sure that Me and Tim will be working again shortly. He is a wonderful guy and a very talented vocalist.

Is there anything you haven't done musically that you would still like to accomplish?
Musically there are no boundaries for me. With my new studio in my new home with my kids sitting next to me with there Casio keyboards and plastic guitars, wall to wall keyboards and amps and guitars, I may never see the light of day again! !

What are some of the current release albums that impress you?
I am enjoying a lot of the female acts that are out now, Norah Jones, Amanda Marshall, Cheryl Crow etc...

And how about classics - what are some of your all time best albums?
My favorite though is the Beatle records. That is what started it all for me.

Anything you would like to add?
I would like to thank all of you for your interest in my music. It has been a pleasure for me to answer your questions tonight.

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