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18 February 2013|
Every now and then a new band comes along that completely blows you away from the very first listen. That’s exactly what happened when I heard the debut album ‘Overdrive’ from young Swedish six-piece Diamond Dawn. As my review elsewhere in this issue will inform you in more detail, it’s ‘utterly chock-full of energetic Melodic Rock anthems dripping with stunning melodies, hooks and harmonies, dominated by stylish guitar runs and pomp-tinged swathes of keyboards.’ Ant Heeks got in touch with the band to find out more.
I’d like to start by telling you that I requested the review for your album before I had even heard a note of it, as I had a feeling it was going to be something special. And I’m not disappointed, it’s the best debut album by a band I’ve heard in a very long time, and will certainly feature highly in many ‘Album of the Year’ polls, even though it is released very early in 2013. You must be very proud of the album?
Yes, we are. Our aim was to record a great debut album and we are very pleased that the result turned out to be exactly, if not even better, than we wanted it to.
Please give me a history of how the band formed, including who all the members are, how you all came to work together, and if you have been involved in music before?
Well, it started out with just Alexander Strandell (lead vocals) and Olle Lindahl (guitar). In 2010 they met in high school, became friends, and formed a band, just for fun. About a year later they felt that the time had come to start something more serious so they looked around for new members. They found a bassist, Mikael Tillander Planefeldt, online on a site called “Bandfinder”, and Alex met Niklas Arkbro (keyboards) when they both attended a music camp. They discovered a special connection between them when they jammed and kept in touch after the camp was over as Alex then wanted Niklas in the band. A couple of weeks later we all met for the first time, at a café, to further discuss whether to start a band or not. During this meeting we found that we really liked each other and shared a common goal for what we wanted out of playing music. We decided to continue meeting and start playing as soon as possible.
On the first few rehearsals we had a different drummer than today, found on the internet. Things didn’t work out so well with him though, so after searching a while for a new one, Niklas contacted his friend Effy Larsson, who soon agreed to join after a kick ass trial where he played fills enough for a lifetime. At that time, in addition to singing the lead vocals, Alex played the guitar. He is a great guitarist and you will probably see him pop a solo sometime in the future, but we felt that we needed a front man who could really charm the crowd, and the guitar took too much of his attention. As we still wanted a second guitarist, an old friend of Mike’s, Jhonny Göransson, was recruited. At that point we felt complete as the six of us proved to work really good together.
All of us have studied music before, some still do, but none of us have been involved in any other serious band, except Mike who played in a Hard Rock band while he studied at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles. When he studied there he also got the opportunity to work together with Bob Kulick (Kiss, Alice Cooper, MeatLoaf) and Brett Chassen (Bret Michaels, Michael Monroe).
What’s the story behind the name ‘Diamond Dawn’?
The name does not originate from any special story or place unfortunately, as we get that question a lot. When the band was started up we just thought we’d have something with Diamond, after a while of thinking and deliberating we simply settled with Dawn as it sounded well and made a great logo design with the two D’s.
What are the musical influences of each member of the band, and how have you incorporated them into the Diamond Dawn sound?
We all listen to and play loads of different music but together as a band we’re probably most evidently inspired by big acts such as Toto, Europe, Whitesnake & Survivor. As individuals our guitarists are inspired by so many players that it is hard to determine a few. Of course Yngwie Malmsteen is a source of inspiration - mostly Jhonny is inspired by Yngwie, he´s the one who likes to play things really, really fast, though Olle isn´t slow either - but Yngwie is only an influence along with different guitarists such as Eric Johnson, Steve Lukather & Joe Bonamassa. Olle & Jhonny both play very melodic and energetic; they each create a sound of their own.
Mike comes from a tradition of Power Metal and sure knows how to get the most out of the bass strings. He isn’t afraid to do some fast plucking in the hard parts of our songs. Mike is in fact the prime headbanger of Diamond Dawn.
Effy, who has played drums for almost all of his life, has a broad repertoire including everything from smooth Jazz and brass band to Progressive Metal - Dream Theater.
Alex, who isn’t just a fantastic singer but who also knows how to rock out a guitar takes a lot of his singing inspiration from Joey Tempest, the singer of Europe.
Niklas who plays the keyboard has studied both Jazz and improvisation but also classical music. Mostly while playing Jazz he realised that he love dissonances. He tries to use some of it in his big background synth-strings so it will be as rich as possible and sound really huge.
But as said before, we listen to and get inspired by loads of different things but we don’t want to sound like anybody else. We are Diamond Dawn and we want to be recognized by our own sound.
And how would YOU describe your sound to anybody who has not heard your music?
Playful, easy listening, energetic, hard, powerful and very, very melodic. Some people almost want to call it Metalpop! Think eighties Rock but newer, harder and even more fresh and lively! It’s really up to the listener to decide for themselves what we sound like though, the most convenient way is to just call it music and then don’t give a fuck! We advise you to buy the record and find out for yourself, also watch our new video at our website!
‘Overdrive’ is a very mature-sounding debut album for such a young band. Who is involved in writing the songs, and what inspires the lyrics? And are there any interesting stories behind any particular songs that you would like to reveal?
Olle has written most of the material on ‘Overdrive’ but there are also other people in the band that have made fantastic contributions to the song writing. ‘Crying’ is a song that Alex came up with and ‘California Rush’ was Jhonny’s and Mike’s original idea for instance. There are no particular stories behind any of the songs, ‘Crying’ may be the only exception though, Alex was partly inspired to write the song when we were about to do one of our first gigs at a charity event for Third World countries. The songs are inspired by life and they’re also meant to inspire life, the lyrics are about love, good and bad times mostly.
Is your full repertoire of songs on ‘Overdrive’, or have you any more songs left over for a follow-up album?
We had slightly over 20 songs to choose from, the ones on ‘Overdrive’ were the ones we thought would work best then. Now in the band we are already getting pumped and psyched to start working with the next album because every song we had was good. The ones we didn’t choose weren’t bad, they just didn’t feel like they fit on this album as well as the ones that ended up on it did. So yeah we have more, we can promise you that, and we’re always writing new songs so for the follow up we’ll probably have even more songs to choose from!
How did you obtain the Record deal with Frontiers, and how have you found the experience of working with them? Were there any other labels interested in the band?
We enjoy working with Frontiers. We get to mind our own business, which we like, but still get input, feedback and lots of useful help from them in different matters. Most of the communication is done through email and it really works out well. There were a couple of other labels that wanted to work with us in 2011 and we thought about it, but then all of a sudden we had an email from Frontiers Records in our inbox. “Wow! Is this for real?” we wondered. After signing the deal we felt very proud, if a label that big believes in us, then we must have something that people wants to hear and see.
You were originally supposed to be working with producer Tobias Lindell on the album, why did things change?
The plan was intentionally to work with Tobias Lindell but for various reasons, none of them on a personal level, we decided to work with Philip Crusner instead. When Philip is not doing awesome mixing jobs he’s playing the drums in the band Fatal Smile. Originally Philip is an old friend of Mike and working with him was a really fun and smooth experience. As he mixed ‘Overdrive’ he did of course have input on the sound. He quite instantly understood what we were after sound-wise and contributed to keeping the sound a bit raw.
There are so many great Melodic Rock bands out there at the moment, and as an example Frontiers is releasing the second W.E.T. CD on the same day as your album, so how do you intend to stand out from the crowd?
Well first of all we don’t really look at it that way. The genre that is referred to as Melodic Rock is more or less dominated by different projects, not bands. You see lots of people within the genre just jumping back and forth into these different constellations that release records now and then and rarely play live. To us that is not really the definition of a band and that is what primarily makes us stand out in the genre. We are devoted to Diamond Dawn and we are a band that intends to play live and meet our fans. We work hard on our live shows and we want the audience to feel that we’re giving it all we’ve got. Second we don’t think we sound like other Melodic Rock bands nowadays, we’re on our own and do stuff our own way. We also put more energy into the image aspect than most of the current Melodic Rock bands. If you listen to our record, watch our video, and come to our live shows you will hopefully and probably feel the same way we do.
Is Diamond Dawn a full-time job for you all?
We all hope it could be, but for now four of us have jobs at the side and the other two study music. It is interesting though, because if we would get paid for the time we’re all putting into the band we would be extremely rich by now! Every member of every hard working band could probably recognize him/her-self in this statement ha ha. But hey, as the ol’ Swedish author Karin Boye once said: ‘The day of satisfaction is never the greatest, the best day is a day of thirst!’
Will you be touring to promote the album, and will we be likely to see you in the U.K. anytime soon?
We are currently planning some touring, but at the moment we haven’t got any juicy details to reveal. All we can say is that we’re a band that loves to play live, that is what our music is all about.