HUNTED – The Metal Odyssey Interview

HUNTED – When I first caught up with guitarist Steve Barberini of Hunted, it was at the onset of 2011. Steve and his bandmates, Chris G (vocals), Jon Letson (bass) and Matt “Animal” Thomas (drums), had already wrapped up their debut album Welcome The Dead. With their CD available for Metal consumption, this exemplary Metal band from Cardiff, Wales, were hungry for a record deal. Fast forward to July 29th, 2011 and Hunted have earned that yearned for record deal, courtesy of one kick-ass Metal label known worlwide as Massacre Records.

July 29th, 2011 marks the release date of Welcome The Dead, an album which seamlessly crisscrosses Classic Metal and Power Metal while bestowing Progressive Metal elements within it’s sound. Stone’s suggestion to astute Metal fans across the planet: buy this album!

I can recall the first time that Welcome The Dead entered my eardrums. The Metal polish was all there on Welcome The Dead, from the totality of musicianship to overall production, with just enough raw edginess to make me convinced: this is a Metal band to take serious and tell the world about. The powerful vocals of Chris G, the technical skill and memorable guitar licks of Steve Barberini and the Metal glue that holds it all together with Jon Letson’s bass and Matt “Animal” Thomas on drums, is a listen into what a stupendous Metal album can sound like, when it’s done straight from the heart and not for an overrated record executive who lives and dies by unit sales and chart status.

It didn’t surprise me at all that Hunted decided to conduct an interview with Metal Odyssey as a band, for Hunted plays with such a tight style of Metal on their debut album, coupled with an overall vibe that pulsates: the band is the star. Here is what the members of Hunted had to say:

Stone: How did Hunted come together as a “Progressive” Metal band?

Steve: In all honesty, we never really saw ourselves as a Progressive Metal band and we certainly didn’t set it as our goal either. I guess our music just evolved in such a manner that it became “progressive”. We knew we wanted to create something original yet stay true to our influences and our gut feeling as to what sounds good. It’s possible that in our attempt to achieve originality progressive elements crept into our compositions.

As we started off as a band covering classic bands such as Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth and Deep Purple, the progressiveness just was not really there. However, with time as we started writing our own material, plus the recruitment of new band members with different influences, other bands came to the forefront and I believe strongly influenced the current sound of Hunted. These bands are the likes of Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Symphony X, Nevermore, plus a huge amount more. Furthermore, everyone in the band, albeit to different degrees, listens to distinct genres, for example, Black, Death, Doom, Power and Speed Metal, and as we are a very honest band we try to incorporate each member’s influences into the music. That way, everyone is happy and actually enjoys playing the music, otherwise, what’s the point right?!

I’d also like to add that the progressive side of our music, if at all, is very subtle. If you consider the likes of Dream Theater, they usually use an impressive amount of odd time signatures crammed into a short amount of time (not all songs of course!), whereas if you study our debut album Welcome the Dead you’ll find we may have used a maximum of 3 or 4 different time sigs throughout the entire album. We do, however, enjoy putting together loads of different riffs but always aiming for melodic continuity!

Stone: Where do you draw the line or won’t approach when it comes to topics and/or themes in your lyrics?

Steve: I don’t think there really is a line I wouldn’t cross! Having said that, I certainly would not write about pop-associated cheesy lovey-dovey stuff. Then again, I don’t think I could write about dragons, warriors, and whatnot either. There’s definitely a real life element to our writing. I think most of our lyrics have a bit of a dark cynical approach, singing about real feelings and events that hopefully will touch people and stir-up some sort of emotional anger.

Jon: That’s a really interesting question, man. I’m pretty sure we’d never set out a you shall not pass! kinda thing on any topic but, as Steve said, we just seem to gravitate naturally towards the bigger subject areas, such as religion, human nature and destiny etc. and away from epic romantic power-ballad territory. For now anyways.

Stone: Your covering Nevermore’s The Heart Collector is brilliant! Are you guys friends/in contact with Nevermore?

Steve: Really glad you like it mate! We definitely enjoyed recording it and coming up with slightly different ideas for the song. We actually wrote to Warrel Dane to ask for his “blessing” and permission to cover the song, to our surprise he replied and in a very positive manner too! We were significantly hyped after that! So, we then approached Century Media for permission, etc and the rest well, you’re holding it!

Stone: Steve, you’ve probably been asked this a trillion times already, yet who is the guitar player you most look up to?

Steve: Damn it, I notice your emphasis on “the”, so I guess I can’t give you a full list of players right?! It’s so hard to answer that question man, mainly because I go through or have been through so many different stages of admiring different guitarists. Also, it doesn’t help that so many new amazing players are being discovered all the time. If I had to mention just one player that I seriously admire, in song composition, riffing and leadwork it would probably be Kristian Niemann, of Therion (ex) and Demonoid. This may be a bit surprising to some, but  in my humble opinion, Kristian captures perfectly every time the right tone, speed, technique and feel, that a solo or a full composition should be played with, without overdoing it (like a lot of players!) or underselling it. His sense of melody is outstanding!

Stone: Chris, a two part question, have you ever had vocal lessons or are you that natural born talent? Who is your favorite vocal influence?

Chris G: Nope, never had lessons or vocal coaching as they call it. I’ve had many great sessions with a good mate and great singer when we were still youngsters but that was just a cute competition between our vocal skills at that point in time. Very helpful though!

Influence-wise, many names come to mind but my first vote will go to my favourite one, Ronnie James Dio, for his tremendously passionate and inspiring voice, for his subconscious teachings and meanings that specially have been crafted and been hid between the voice and the lyric for the honoured few to find. For being the reference point for most of the true Metal singers out there, and also for his uncountable contribution to music in general. Then I’ll go for Eric Adams, his amazing range and his unique ability to break down every single word of every sentence, of every lyric and transpose it to something that you instantly believe in and can be part of it. Last but not least, Freddie Mercury, the most impossible man ever, who actually sang Metal during his entire career, without even knowing it!

Stone: Is another album currently in the works?

Steve: Well, as we have just signed to the German Metal giant Massacre Records, they will officially release our debut album on July 29th this year, and subsequently we hope to be recording a follow-up in 2012! I honestly cannot wait to get in the studio again; to hear your own music come to life is such a great feeling! And we actually already have three new cracking songs ready as potential candidates for the album, and we are currently working on a load more. Very exciting as these new tunes are sounding huge!

Jon: Come and see us live if you can, we’re throwing a few new ones in with the Welcome The Dead stuff and I think it’ll definitely give you a feel for the direction we’re heading in with the next album!

Stone: Welcome The Dead has solid production, still there is an air of “old school” I hear and feel that I really dig. Am I alone in this old school thought?

Steve: Definitely not mate! I’d love to bring back that old school feel to Metal and I think everyone in the band feels more or less the same. Some of our influences are very old school, especially those of our singer Chris G and I believe that comes across in his vocal work. There are so many fantastic elements in some of the older Metal masterpieces, such as Fates Warning’s Awaken the Guardian, Crimson Glory’s Transcendence, etc. that I’d love to recreate. Of course, the goal here is to try and capture some of those elements and stitch it up in an original modern production.

Jon: Not at all man, I think a lot of people have picked up the same vibe! I don’t think we ever set out to create an old school sound though. I listen to some of the newer stuff that’s come out in the last few years almost as much as I listen to the legends. I think it’s more the attitude and the ethos of bands like Iron Maiden that inform what we do as a band and I guess (I hope!) that’s what shines through in everything we do.

Stone: If you could choose that one legendary band to open for on a major tour, what band would it be?

Steve: It would have to be Iron Maiden. Simple!

Dan: Iron Maiden if not Britney.

Stone: (laughs) Britney?

Matt: Iron Maiden!

Jon: It’s gotta be Maiden, hasn’t it?!

Chris G: Would love to open for Ronnie James Dio but that’s out of the window now, isn’t it? Shame.

Stone: I guess Iron Maiden it is! I hope the members of Iron Maiden find this out too!

Stone: Collectively as a band, did all of you realize just how astounding Welcome The Dead was going to sound when it was completed? Were there any second thoughts regarding any particular song?

Steve: Can I just say that your kind words are extremely valuable to us, and we are so happy that fans, such as yourself, have connected with the album. The music on the album is very special to us, and we worked very hard at making it the best it could be, despite still being on a tight budget! So, it’s a great feeling knowing that our efforts are being valued and our music is being constantly listened to by real Metal fans!

Did we know we had a decent product once we had finished the album? I think at one point when listening to the final mixes and masters we looked at each other, and without saying much, we knew we had achieved what we had set out to achieve. This was great for us, because unfortunately, after recording 2 to 3 demo tracks we were never really that happy with the outcome. We knew that the album may not appeal to everyone, but it was and is still a definite representation of what we stand for………. and we love it!

We didn’t have second thoughts regarding any particular song, though different arrangements were thoroughly discussed all the time, but we did have to scrap 2 songs that were meant for the album simply due to studio-time. These songs were fully ready-to-go and pre-production seemed to suggest that they’d be cracking songs, so hopefully we can include these in an upcoming album! We know certain people are crying out for them!

Matt: Personally, no second thoughts for me. I think in my mind what an epic final product!

Jon: I think we all started to realise we were heading down a pretty interesting path somewhere near the start of the studio process but, yeah, as Steve said it’s only once you get into the final bits and pieces of post-production that you start to go, ‘wow, this really is gonna work!’

Stone: Is Metal a religion, drug, mistress or all three?

Steve: I would go for religion and a drug! I definitely get a huge kick when I listen to great Metal, in fact, great music in general. The emotional highs you can sometimes reach when you really sit down (or stand up) and absorb all the content and energy of a Metal masterpiece is overwhelming! Also, the manner in which Metal music unites Metal fans, especially at festivals, etc. is somewhat unique I believe and it’s a great thing to be part of!

Dan: All three!

Matt: Definitely keeps me wanting more, so, I’d say all three in a way.

Jon: Hmmm. Metal’s definitely not a bit on the side for me, so I’d have to say it’s more of a missus than a mistress to be honest!

Stone: Describe how getting signed to Massacre Records came about and how thrilled are you guys?

Steve: Yeah! I guess they must have dug our debut album! The band and I are extremely happy with our recent signing to Massacre Records, they are a great label who have had a huge amount of amazing bands on their roster, including the likes of King Diamond, Theatre of Tragedy, Fates Warning, Crematory, etc., so they evidently do a great job! So hell yeah, if our name is on the same list then that’s a significantly immense achievement! I used to listen to these bands all the time and still do every now and then, so it really is an honor!

Jon: It’s great! Massacre’s a fantastic and well-respected label so we all feel pretty damn good at the minute. Another cool thing about it is that it kinda gives you a sense of confirmation that everything you’ve been doing up to this point has actually made sense. Having been doing this for quite a while now, there’ve been a few times when I’ve started to wonder! It’s definitely not time to kick back and think “job well done” though, we’re gonna make sure this is just the beginning…

* To read the Metal Odyssey album review for Welcome The Dead, (posted on March 23rd, 2011), just click on the big header link below:

HUNTED “Welcome The Dead” – Colossal Progressive Metal To Prize

* For more info on HUNTED, click on the links below:

HUNTED – myspace music

HUNTED – twitter




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