Armoured passions: an interview with Tony Asta of Battlecross

Tony Asta

Having been beaten into blissful surrender by and enlisted to the aggressive cry of debut album Pursuit of Honor, US metallers Battlecross are taking our passions on a stronger and immensely hungrier fury with its exhilarating successor War of Will, an album which is an onslaught of unbridled passion and untethered ferocity. Seizing on the opportunity to explore the band, past and present, and their album further we had the pleasure of talking with guitarist Tony Asta.

Hi and thanks for sharing your time to talk with us.

My pleasure, thank you for the opportunity.

Before we look at your new ‘breath-taking onslaught of adrenaline crafted metal’ War of Will, can you for those still to feel the might of Battlecross, give some background to the band and its members?

Sure! Hiran Deraniyagala and I started the band in 2003 and went through numerous line-up changes while performing in our local area. In 2008 we joined forces with artist manager Velda Garcia and began taking things to the next level with the addition of Don Slater on bass and later Kyle “Gumby” Gunther on vocals (2010). Battlecross has always been about writing and performing kick ass metal, the music we want to hear, regardless of the current trends or popular styles of metal of the times. We signed with Metal Blade Records in 2011, who released our debut album “Pursuit of Honor” (which is actually a re-release of our self-released album “Push Pull Destroy 2010”, but with Gumby’s vocals instead of our original singer Marshall Wood). From Pursuit of Honor, our #1 single “Push Pull Destroy” has over 2 million YouTube views, and numerous tracks off the album have been featured on Sirius XMs Liquid Metal since its release. As of July 9th our 2nd album “War of Will” is now available and features the one and only Shannon Lucas on drums. Currently, Kevin Talley is filling in this summer and is working very well with us, while on Mayhem as I type this. We released a lyric video for “Flesh & Bone” featuring live footage from Orion Music + More and a music video for “Never Coming Back”. So far “War Of will” is kicking ass and going strong.

How would you say the band has developed over the years and certainly between Pursuit of Honor and its successor War of Will?

We have grown as a band very much since 2011. Our experiences from the road and learning from other bands has really helped mature our minds. Like a sponge we have absorbed some tricks of the trade and gained a lot of experience over the past couple years. But we also know we will never stop learning, while keeping an open mind and being open to criticism and suggestions is a healthy path to growth. Musically our song writing has matured and I think it’s evident when you listen to the new album. There is a greater focus on the overall feel of the songs individually, yet the songs don’t sound alike.

Did you have any deliberate intent with the new album or just let things evolve organically?

The new album was deliberately intended to kick ass. That was our main goal. All songs start with a solid riff or two, or maybe a killer skeleton of a song. Something has to inspire the song so we can all build off of it. It has to be intriguing enough to us to want to work with it; there is no settling for something so/so. We recorded “War of Will” at Audiohammer studios in Florida, USA with producers Mark Lewis and Eyal Levi. They pushed us to become the best we can and really help us create an album far beyond our expectations.

We in our review said War of Will took on all the great aspects, flavours, and inspirations of your previous album and took them into new torrents of ferocity and inventive power. We also suggested it was a release concentrating on being undemanding on boundaries but one delivering a fresh take and interpretation of existing armoury with unbridled passion and untethered aggression. Is that a fair summery of the release would you say?

Thanks! I like that. What you think of the album is your choice and I would never try to correct or taint you opinion or interpretation with my own. The beauty of this art form is it’s all in the eye of the beholder. All I can say is thank you for liking it!

Were you in any way intimidated by or nervous from the success of Pursuit of Honor when it came to not only writing and creating the new album but also in regard to its release?

There was some pressure to out-do “Pursuit of Honor” when it came time to write the newest album. I was under a lot of stress at times to write something amazing but it’s really all in my head. As long as we keep pushing ourselves to write the best we can as a band it’s obvious we must be doing something right. It helps to remove your own creative limitations when you’re trying to write something. Don’t box yourself in and just write what you feel, its honesty.

What did you learn with the first album which you employed more strongly or avoided with the recording of War of Will?1001014_10153004469630612_631685857_n

The production was definitely something we really wanted to take to the next step. The first album sounds pretty good, we were really limited with our budget, but we really wanted to record everything 100% real this time around if we could afford it. The original studio we went to (Random Awesome, Michigan, USA) has the capabilities to do so; however we wanted to try a new experience. With help from our label we were able to afford the production we wanted at Audiohammer (Florida, USA). On “War of Will” all the drums are real, nothing is programmed or quantized. However the kick drums were triggered and sampled, but they were barely edited at all. Shannon is a BEAST. All guitars were re-amped through a Peavey XXX head into a mic’d cab. Real bass and no vocal effects but we did do some overdubbing. The end result: it turned out fantastic and it’s all real sounds and performances.

Did you approach the recording of War of Will with a particular idea or purpose to its creation which again differed from your first release?

The main intent is always to keep up the energy and the listener on edge. That’s just the way we like our metal. There’s a time and place for aggression and melody on the flip side. There’s a way to balance it so you feel like you’re on a freight train or a roller coaster as your listening. When the music pumps you up enough to bang your head or hit the pit than I know we’ve done our job.

How does the writing and evolving of songs work within Battlecross?

Guitars always come first and they always will. We haven’t changed our writing style very much at all, but it has become more convenient with the implementation of technology. Being able to record our own demos to send to each other for ideas has really helped out a lot. It‘s very important to take a step back and LISTEN and get others’ perspectives on the material. Also finishing a complete thought is very important. Take the idea as far as you like and then let everyone critique it and add their flavor.

Was making the album a long process from writing though to release?

“Get Over It” was written in 2010 and the rest of the album was written in the past year. Even some of it was written this January, right before we left to do a tour with In Flames (and then immediately into the studio).

Are you a band which generally likes to have songs almost completed before going into the studio or prefer them to find their characters there?

We prefer to have the songs 90% in the bag when we hit the studio. All main guitar riffs and song compositions and arranging should be done before hand. We have found the vocals come out much better in the studio, having the minds with the experience help guide us really pushed Gumby’s phrasing and technique to the next level. I also got a lot of tips from Eyal Levi with my leads to really make them stand out and a few arrangement critiques from Mark Lewis as well that really trimmed some last minute filler off the songs. The studio definitely adds character to the record, but the meat of the album was already written before we went in. And that’s the way it should be. You don’t want everyone else writing your record, its best to be as prepared as possible.

As you have already talked about, the production on War of Will is impressive in its ability to allow your raw energy and passion to call out with as clarity as the other tempestuous aspects of the album. Give us some more details about how things and those involved created that side.

Producers Mark Lewis and Eyal Levi recorded the album at Audiohammer studios Florida, USA. We worked one on one with them to guarantee the best album possible. Jason Suecof additionally helped Gumby with some lyric phrasing ideas and also provides a guest-solo on the song “Beast”, which is totally killer.

Battlecross 2Flesh & Bone and Beast are our favourite tracks here, well today as it seems to change with every listen ha-ha. Can you give us some background to those and to the overall ‘theme’ of the album?

It took me a long time to write “Flesh & Bone” because I had a sound in my head I felt and wanted to perfect. As the ideas started rolling out it became evident that it could become a really awesome jam and trying to harness that energy was a lot of fun for me. The feeling it gives me is similar to “Push Pull Destroy” but on steroids and performing that song live gives me goosebumps. “Beast” was primarily written by Hiran and the first time we heard those riffs were blown away. It’s just so dark and pissed and heavy, we absolutely love it. For me “Beast” is a song that really came alive in the studio, with the addition of Jason Suecof’s guest guitar solo and Gumby’s pounding vocals.

You mentioned him at the start but we have to mention the impressive drum and rhythmic seduction on the album provided by the impressive Shannon Lucas. How did you link up with him and can you again clarify the drummer arrangements for future live or recorded opportunities for the band?

Shannon is a good friend of ours and he offered to provide his drumming skills for the album once he found out we parted ways with our former drummer. It was truly a godsend that Shannon was available and willing to help us in such a pinch. He is truly a remarkable drummer and a really great person, and we are so grateful to have him be a part of this. He is not interested in a full time gig, as he somewhat recently parted ways with The Black Dahlia Murder, to pursue his own personal ambitions.

You have shared stages with some of the heavyweights of metal over the past year or so, Five Finger Death Punch, Killswitch Engage, Trivium, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Deftones, Suicidal Tendencies , Municipal Waste, Corrosion of Conformity we can go on and on…and will continue to as 2013 evolves I am sure as well as your own headline shows. It is easy to imagine this is the area where the band are really in their element, so is playing live where you get the greatest satisfaction and pleasure?

Absolutely, and that goes for all of us. The live shows is where it’s at for us. It’s the reason for living; it’s when I am at my most complete happiness. Nothing compares to being on that stage and feeling the music and the crowd and the lights and the ENERGY. We are definitely a live band and we are very appreciative of our fans. We stop at nothing to hang out at our merch booth and give everyone an opportunity to meet us, sign autographs and take pictures.

So what will the rest of the year see from you live then, what festivals and events have you got lined up and with whom?

We are currently on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival until August 4th (with a few off-dates to get us back home). We will take part in the GWAR BQ in Richmond, VA with GWAR August 17th. Then we hit the road with Hatebreed in the states for about 3 weeks in late September/early October. After that is yet to be announced. We would love to come to Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, you name it, we want to be there.

It is hard to believe how you managed to fit in making the album with your hunger to play live, was there never a thought to take a Battlecrossbreak for it and will you continue to merge both gigging and recording in the future do you think?

We will always be writing, gigging, staying relevant because we are here to stay. At our level there really isn’t such thing as a break when you want to be successful. We always have to be pushing because we are hungry. We have to strike when it’s hot and keep the ball rolling, because it’s a “no pain no gain” type of thing.

Once again many thanks for talking with us. Anything you would like to leave our readers?

Thank you very much for the opportunity! Thank you everyone for checking out BATTLECROSS. Our new album “War of Will” on Metal Blade Records is now available in stores and online at www.metalblade.com/battlecross, iTunes, Amazon, etc.

Please visit www.battlecrossmetal.com for all up to date news and tour dates! \m/

Read the War of Will review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/battlecross-war-of-will/

Pete Ringmaster

The RingMaster Review 21/07/2013

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