Text: Lenka Přichystalová
Foto: band archive, Hanka Baran
After three years British metal band NEONFLY released their second studio album called Strangers In Paradise to which event a special concert was held in the London's music club O2 Academy 2 Islington on the 20th November. Before this extraordinary event the guitarist FREDERICK THUNDER and the singer WILLY NORTON got around to get to talk not only about freshly minted album but about successful tours or the Czech Republic and Czech fans as well.
So, for a start, how are you?
Frederick: Very good, very good.
Willy: It's nice to see you.
Thank you. Are you nervous of this evening?
Frederick: Nooo. (laugh) Just excited.
Many people are impatiently awaiting your new album. Are you afraid of their reaction?
Frederick: No, I don't think so. We are very confident about the album, we all know we recorded a really good album. We have already some reviews which are extremely positive, so we are looking forward to it, actually we can't wait for people to hear it.
So reviews of the new album are positive?
Frederick: So far yes. Some reviews come out from online stuff from different countries and they are really, really positive.
Willy: We are really proud of our album.
Frederick: We are definitely satisfied with it.
Willy: Yeah, anything you can do for a new record is that maybe you will try to spend more time to do it better, you have to really focus on it, you have to be determined and then just walk away from that otherwise you will spend twice as much time, which is totally pointless. You have to be sure about what you record, you have to be sure it's gonna be a strong record, that, and then just go, that's it, that's a song, sometimes you don't need to go back again. But it happens that sometimes you're not pretty happy, singer is not pretty happy...
You look happy.
Willy: I am happy! (laugh) Yes, we are all happy with the album.
Do you think it's better than the first album Outshine The Sun?
Frederick: I think it is. I love our first album and I'm very proud of it but I think that this album features much more mature songwriting and the production is better as well, you know, Dennis Ward, it's the first time I worked with him and he did an amazing job on the album. I think the playing is also better, we all improve as musicians and together as a group and the songwriting is just really really polished this time. We were really hard on the arrangement and we left really nothing to chance, so this album made definitely sense.
Where did you acquire the inspiration for writing lyrics and music?
Willy: Look in the mirror. (everyone laughs)
Frederick: This guy was in Australia by the seaside to write lyrics.
Willy: It appeared a small window of opportunity to record it, it was a lot of pressure to get it all down and we were very strict on ourselves about the music, if we don't think it's good enough, we leave it, we change it. So, I was in Australia for while, maybe about a month, I think, just before we went recording it, I write a lot lyrics, Frederick writes all the music, firstly he usually writes music and then he sends it to me. And for me it is super relaxing to listen and get inspired by the music Frederick sends me. Then I like to go to suggest some idea, I don't have concepts „I want to do it in that direction". I want to write about how I heard and sense that music and makes me feel that way. So that's how I react to the music. I've written six lyrics and Fredy the other four. Like four example Heart Of The Sun, which is the name of one song on new album, I wrote that on my own, on a beach, looking at the ocean... it's really nice to write song on the beach. (laugh)
Willy: Nooo, sometimes we write it in the studio in the last minute. This time it was Falling Star, the last on the album, which we wrote in the studio. So... actually, I don't know what was the question about. (laugh) Anyway, that's what I do, what do you do? (turns to Frederick)
Frederick: What do I do? I'm getting inspired by stuff I read. Here is the song on the album called Whispered Dreams, and this song is inspired by Italian composer called Giuseppe Tartini who had dreamed he saw the devil in his dreams. The devil was playing for him and what he heard what devil played was amazing music, then he woke up and tried to remember what he heard in his dream and he says he couldn't remember it but what he wrote at that moment was the best music that he had ever written and to this day it's called The Devil's Trill and is still quite known composition in classical music, and I read that story which inspired me to write about that. I used the devil and all this stuff because it goes well with metal. There are many cool things to write about, get inspired. There are different stories which I get inspired by.
So there is no story behind the album and its songs?
Frederick: No, it's not a concept album, they're all different songs. In lot of our songs there is a certain maybe idea of struggle, like physical or internal struggle, and I think that is maybe a theme that occurs in a few songs and that is linked to the title of the album Strangers In Paradise which includes two opposing things – paradise and the strangers rank, so there is an idea of struggle and confrontation. You can find it in some songs on the album, so it's the beautiful link which connects them but they're not connected in any other way, by story or something like that.
Willy: It's just a feeling.
Frederick: Yeah, it's just stuff that is related with each other, rather then the concept album or story.
Who came up with the idea for the cover of the album? I like it lot, by the way.
Frederick: Thank you. That was basically my idea. It's a Mesoamerican god Quetzalcoatl, who is represented there, and he's one of the most known Aztec gods and basically he is a feathered dragon, and we thought that also goes well with the name of the band NeonFly – fly.
Willy: It's nice, it's a different thing and it's not exaggerated, it's just something what you bring from yourself, from your culture. It's not just rock, it's actually quite personal.
Frederick: Yeah, yeah, it's personal because I am a hot Mexican. (everyone laughs)
Do you plan to shoot a videoclip for any song from the new album?
Frederick: Actually, we are flying on Saturday to Cyprus where we will be shooting video for three days. It's gonna be for the song Better Angels and there is a surprise which we can't talk about right now but it's gonna be a great surprise and all we can say that it's gonna be amazing, by the seaside, in awesome location.
Ok, can't wait for it! Anyway, what's your favourite song from the album?
Frederick: Uh, hard to tell. I love them all. You know, there are bands which can't find their own sound and sometimes their albums sound more or less same what is nothing we want it. When I write music I get to be bored if I write songs that sound a bit similar to me, so what I try is writing songs that sound a bit different. And for that reason they appear to me in different ways because they can represent different parts of music I like. They all occupy a different space.
Is there any song which you really enjoy playing it live?
Frederick: Well, I think tonight I will really enjoy the song from new album, Falling Star, because it's a song that is quite different and it features an acoustic guitar that I'm gonna play live. For this song is acoustic guitar really important and I'm very excited about it because it will be for the first time playing acoustic guitar with NeonFly. So maybe this is the reason why I enjoy it playing live.
Willy: I don't know if I have any favorite. I like Falling Star but I don't know why, just like it.
Frederick: Maybe because it's a great song. (laugh)
Willy: Yeah, of course. But they're all very challenging songs...
(The doors to changing room is being opened.)
Frederick: Oh, what do you know! Our bass player Paul Miller has just walked into the room and is waiting to ask him for a question!
Willy: Ask him for a question.
Frederick: Yeah, ask him for a question. (everyone laughs)
Ummm, how are you?
Paul: I'm very well, thank you.
Willy: This is Lenka, she's from Czech Republic.
Frederick: You're being recorded.
Frederick: So no swearing in Czech language. You can swear in any other language but not in Czech.
Paul: And what about Polish?
I can understand Polish actually. Do you speak Polish?
Paul: Not really, I can just little bit... swear in Polish. Kurwa, ja pierdole.
Yeah, that's almost same like in Czech.
Paul: I don't know... chuj? (everyone laughs) Anyway I have to go, thank you, bye.
Thank you, bye.
Willy: Thank you, Paul. So, back to the favourite songs. For me is important to make stuff which is strong in the way how it is represented alive as well. That's what is on my head.
Would you like to say anything else about your new album to our readers?
Frederick: We could say: come to see us in Czech Republic because we're playing at Masters Of Rock festival.
Are you excited about that?
Frederick: Yeah, we're very excited, we know that festival, we already played there in 2013 for the first time. And next year we're playing on Saturday on 11th July on the main stage.
Willy: We love Czech Republic, I love Czech people...
Frederick: He loves Czech beer.
Willy: Yeah, I love 'pivo'. And this time the show will be absolutely smashing, because I'll get in the audience, I'll make them get up and enjoy our show, I'll pull people from the back to forward. That's gonna be really good, I think. I'm not being arrogant, am I? (laugh)
Not at all! This year you supported Magnum and DragonForce, what was your experience of these tours?
Frederick: We already toured with Magnum in 2012, we were in the Czech Republic and Germany and few other countries. And this year we toured with them again. We did for example the UK and Scandinavia and it was really fun, I mean Magnum are always great guys. For the first time we got along really well with them, they're really nice people, really supportive of what we're doing. They like our attitude and stuff as well, so when they announced this tour they called us again, they were happy to us to join them again because also we had really good response last time, so they knew we're good package together and we were really happy to do it. And DragonForce tour was great as well. It was two very different tours because these two bands have different type of the audience, I think, and it was great to support them both in the same year because you can play to two different audience.
Willy: I love working with these two bands, they are amazing!
Do you think you gain new fans thanks to these two tours?
Frederick: Oh, yeah, absolutely!
Frederick: I think the best way how to gain lot of fans is playing live a lot, support other bands and playing festivals. And we really focus on presentation and performance as well as songs which we believe in and think they're really good songs, and we don't want just play songs, we want to do something more, more excitement for the fans and I think that really helps when you're playing in front of an audience that's never heard of you before. So not just to play, what we think great songs, but also to perform really well to get them excited from the start.
Is there any other band you would like to support?
Frederick: Oh, there are a lot of bands. But I would be really interested in supporting for example Iron Maiden.
Do you plan any tour for next year?
Frederick: Hopefully we'll do a tour. I don't know when or where but we'll see if we can go supporting someone else on a whole European tour, that would be great to do but this is difference between what we wish and what you get. It takes a lot of work to get there, so we are now at the moment trying to negotiate and we'll see what we can get.
What was the strangest place you played at? And don't say the Czech Republic, please.
Frederick: (laugh) No, the Czech Republic was fine, always will be great.
Willy: The strangest place... maybe some places in UK, like old theatres.
Frederick: That's not strange.
Willy: I don't know, I think we were lucky with that. There wasn't any place like „Oh my god!", but sometimes you get to backstage where rats are running around...
Frederick: (laugh) I have never seen rats.
Willy: (in a whisper) I have seen them! Many empty bottles and broken glasses... Bands are the worst people in the world to leave them in any space because they just ruin and destroy. In this case I sometimes say „Oh my god, this is absolutely horrible!", but never in the Czech Republic, by the way. Just imagine you change clothes in that condition and then you appear before the audience and when they see you they think „Wow!". It's quite funny. But seriously, be very careful if you ever get invited to the backstage, make sure you know how to escape. (everyone laughs)
Taken into account. What are your plans for the future, except the tour?
Willy: Well, working on the third album.
Frederick: Yeah, we already started, it will take a while.
Willy: Then we're planning tour, also few festivals come up. We'd like to get more people to our concerts, because we really believe our songs, we're really proud of them, and I hope people will say „Yeah, they're great!". (laugh) We'd like to do more entertaining stuff in metal style. (laugh)
The last question, anything else what would you like to say?
Willy: We would like to spend more time in the Czech Republic, it's a key place we want to focus on, and it's really true, I think Czech people understand what we're trying to do. I can't wait to see all our fans next year on Masters Of Rock and few other places in Czech Republic!
Frederick: (laugh) Hopefully!
Willy: Hopefully. (laugh)
Thank you so much for your time.
Willy: Also thank you very much!