ASSASSIN`S BLADE   HEAVY SPEED METAL FROM CANADA & SWEDEN Band Questions answer by                                     
Please introduce yourself and the band members briefly? Currently, Assassin’s Balde has four members: three from Sweden, Peter Svensson (bass), David Stranderud (guitar), Marcus Rosenquist (drums) and one from Canada, myself, Jacques Bélanger (vocal).   What does the band name mean and how do you get it? Peter and Dave picked that name. They wanted a name that would correspond well with our music. “Assassin’s Blade” is as classic as the metal we play. Besides, the “Assassin’s Blade” is the tool to achieve your goal: in the case of a murderer, it is the blade, while for us it is the band and our instruments.   Where and how was the band founded? The band was formed in Sweden, following a week of vocal recording I did at Peter’s studio, back in 2014.   Was it hard to find suitable band members who fit musically and humanely with the band? Not really. Sweden has a lot of very good metal musicians. As for AB, the band members knew each other from other projects. Besides, they were good friends. As for me, Peter and Dave knew me from Exciter. The demo they sent convinced me of getting involved in the activities that lead to the creation of AB.   What are the lyrics about and who of you is writing them ? Peter writes all AB lyrics. He mostly gets his inspiration from his readings and his thoughts on existence/human history. So the lyrics talk about a great diversity of subjects. Generally speaking, AB lyrics talk about values like greatness, honor, conquest, fantasy, even philosophy, topics that I consider as typically metal.   Which bands inspired you and how would you describe your music to someone who has never heard a sound from you? Inspiration is the sum of all we have been exposed to in life. In AB’s case, some inspirations are obvious, some are more obscure. For music ideas, I guess we are quite NWOBHM. Our style has been shaped by the bands we were fans of since we started to listen to music. Musically, those obvious influences are numerous and sometimes pretty clear: Priest, Maiden, Merciful Fate, etc. But eventually, when you combine Dave’s interpretation of those influences, with Peter’s interpretation and mine, we end up with a product that sounds neither like Priest nor like Maiden. In the end, we have typical Assassin’s Blade material.   Why should people listen to your music? For no specific reason other than the fact that they enjoy listening to it, regardless of the reason.   Agents of Mystification is your debut album from 2016. How long did it take to work on the album and who was helpful to the side? From the writing/recording of the first music tracks to the final mixing/mastering processes, it took roughly two years.   Jean Manuel Tumburús is responsible for the very good album artwork. How did you get in contact with him and how do you like his work today? And will he also draw the new album cover or is there a new artist? We found the artwork online and purchased the rights to use it. The cover is connected to the title track and the text on the back cover. The character in the middle could be seen as the mastermind behind the agents of mystification. The basic concept of the “Agents…” is that there are agents throughout the world who are working against humanity in the sense that they are obscuring the truth by altering everything that has been written and documented since the beginning of the written word. This is done by changing the meaning of translations or editing it into something that is different from its original purpose   What is two years after the release of your favorite song on the album? And why this song? Oh! I have a few favorites. Let’s say that the two epic ones, “League of the Divine Wind“ and “Dreadnought“ are my preferred ones. They both tell fascinating stories, their lyrics are very well written, they express a diversity of human emotions and they allowed me to use my full vocal range.   It has come to my ears that you are working on a new album and that it will be even better as the debut album (Hello!  Peter Svensson). What is your opinion about the new songs and in which direction do you go and when can we hear it? The new songs reached a higher level of maturity, mainly because we are now used to working with each other. Quite a few elements were improvised in the first album, whereas the second opus is more carefully planned. This new album will be more intense, with faster songs. It will be more complex, musically and vocally. Let’s say that it will be a logical step following “Agents of Mystification“.   Is it a problem that you live in Canada and the rest of the band in Sweden or have you found a very good solution? Distance certainly influences the collaboration. Peter and Dave already knew my vocal style, so when they send me music, lyrics and vocal melodies, they expect that I will keep that style. However, AB music is more complex than Exciter’s, so I have to adapt to a certain degree, and that is perfectly fine. This way, I can exploit my entire vocal range, which is an approach that suits AB’s style, in my opinion. The most difficult aspect of this long distance relationship is that I miss the other guys. They are serious, smart, funny and crazy at the same time. I do get along with them very well, and I only wished I could spend more time with them. But we all believe so much in what we do, that we manage to get the job done.   You are under contract with the German label Pure  Steel. How did you work together and how satisfied are you with the work and what are your expectations? That is a question that I would rather not answer.   You were with Exciter from 1996 to 2006 with a short interruption. How did you get the job with the band? I have known John for over 30  years. We first started working together in a new project named “Blackstar”, back in 1988, a couple of years after he had left Exciter, following the release of “Long Live the Loud”. That Blackstar project did not go anywhere, fell apart: life went on. Then John returned with Exciter to record “Kill after Kill” in 1992. Following the short European tour Exciter did after that album, everybody left the band except John. Dan Beehler was deeply disappointed with the music business and had had enough with working hard and not getting the success he was hoping for. Since John wanted to keep going, he called me in 1995/96 and offered me the position. I accepted. We did auditions for a bass player and a drummer; the rest is history.   In 1997 the best Exciter album, “Dark Command”, appeared for me. The songs on the album are for me the best thing the band has ever done. How do you like this album for over twenty years (man I am old) and what memories do you associate with the first album for you for Exciter? I have great memories from the creation of that album. First, let’s say that this is the album that put me on the metal map, which is quite significant for me. I really enjoyed working with John Ricci. He is as dedicated as a metal musician can be. At times, it was difficult for me, since I had no say in either the lyrics or the vocal melodies. John asked me to do a lot of extreme vocals. But instead of uselessly opposing, I took the situation as a challenge and agreed to everything he wanted me to do. The results were simply astonishing. “Dark Command” is not your typical Exciter album. It is purely and simply a “John Ricci” album, and that’s why it is so good and so different from any other metal album.   What were the reasons that you are no longer active in Exciter? And do you still have contact with the guys? I left Exciter for personal reasons. This band had an extraordinary potential, and unfortunately, its members were a little too complacent. I was accused of being too serious and was asked to chill and take things easy. To me, Exciter was not a project to be taken lightly or easily. I thought it was better to leave than to be permanently disappointed and constantly fight with the rest of the band.   What were the high points and the low points in your time at Exciter? For me, the peak points were Bang-Your-Head show in 2000 (YES I WAS IN FRONT OF STAGE “HASCHI”) and the Wacken show in 2001. Exciter was on a roll, and we were generating a lot of interest and great reviews, especially for our live gigs. The down side of being in Exciter was the lack of vision from the other members. Just look at what happened to Exciter after I left, and you will understand why. The “Thrash, Speed, Burn” was recorded by Kenny Winter, but I had prepared all the vocal content with John. The songs were ready to record when I left in 2006. So basically, the only “post-Belanger” Exciter album is “Death Machine”, Exciter’s weakest album.   After you left Exciter, in 2006, it was pretty quiet around you until 2014. What did you do during this time? I simply started pursuing other ambitions. I went back to university to get another degree, this time in translation. I even taught in university for a couple of years. I have been working as a translator and technical writer for 12  years. I published some literary translations. I traveled quite a bit for business. My wife and I met in Switzerland, while I was training her team on new translation aid software. We had a long distance relationship for a while until we decided to live together here, in Canada. Then my priorities had changed. I still liked music very much, but I was convinced that my hometown, Ottawa, was not the right place to start a new metal project.   You also contributed to two Annihilator Albums backing vocals. How did you get in contact with the band and how was the collaboration with Jeff? Jeff Waters called me to record some backup vocals. Working with him was ok.   What was your first concert as a fan? And what memory do you have of it? As a kid, I was a huge Kiss fan. The first concert I ever saw was in Montréal, during their “Dynasty” tour. It was simply magical.   Which band would you like to play live with and why? I would love to play UFO or MSG stuff with Michael Schenker. He is my all- time favorite guitarist.   With what do you earn your money except with the music? I work as a technical translator with Canada’s Department of National Defense.   How important are social media for you as a band? Facebook is pretty much the only medium we use to stay in touch with the world. Social media are not really my thing, so I am not really aware of the use it could or could not have for AB.   What do you think about the Canada Metal scene in general? There are quite a lot of good new bands emerging here and there. The only problem is that they are now trying to enter a global market that is already oversaturated. The only Canadian bands that are still generating considerable interest are the old units like Exciter, Anvil or Voivod.   Maybe you can recommend some bands from your area? The only one I know fairly well is Lycanthro. They are pretty cool, authentic, talented and dedicated.   PERSONAL QUESTIONS   Where did you grow up and how was your childhood? I grew up in the French part of Canada, in the province of Québec. I had a crappy childhood. My parents were alcoholics who would barely notice that their kids existed. My father left us in debt when he died of liver cirrhosis. My mom was struggling financially and got to the point where she, too, was drinking heavily. We were poor and had no parental support whatsoever.   How was your school time you were rather the good student or the break clown ? Actually I was both. I was head of my class most of the time, especially in sciences and languages. I was fairly good in sports too. But I was the laziest student you could imagine. I easily got bored in class and was always inclined to bug the classmates that were around me.   How did your parents react when you started making metal music? did they support you and how do you feel about your music today? My father was already dead when I got involved in music. And my mom? She totally disapproved. She thought I was going to become a bum if I pursued any career in metal music.   Are you someone who loves the hustle and bustle of the big city? or rather looking for peace and relaxation in nature? I like nature, but only on a part time basis. I like the big city, Montréal particularly. I like any kind of mental/cultural stimulation.   Do you actively practice sports or are you more of a passive spectator? I do not watch sports all that much. As for practicing, I simply walk of go hiking in nature.   When it comes to your physical well you can cook or let you cook for you? I do most of the cooking. My wife is very good, but she is lazier than I am  .   What does your environment tell you about your passion for metal (friends / family / colleagues) ? I am particularly calm and composed in nature. When I was teaching, no one could imagine me being into metal, let alone sing in a metal band. It is pretty much the same at work. Most people have a hard time imagining someone being a metal vocalist and, at the same time, teaching in front of a university class. Some of my friend are into metal and often enquire about what I am up to in music. The rest does not care at all. As for my family, unlike my mother, they are quite proud of what I have accomplished.   How do you see the problem with the haters on the Internet who have to announce their mental garbage in anonymity always and everywhere? Haters are not a new phenomenon. The only difference now is that they can cowardly spew their shit on a large scale.   What do you think about the internet in general? A blessing or a curse? Internet is a great tool that has unfortunately been used for a lot of shitty purposes. So in a way, it is a blessing that assholes have all too often turned into a curse.   What would you personally like to do in your life? I am planning on going back to university on a part time basis and finish a master’s degree in philosophy. When I retire from work, I hope to be able to do a PhD, also in philosophy.   Your top 10 all time album faves. Unleashed in the East (Priest) Strangers in the Night (UFO) Reise Reise (Rammstein) Tokyo Tapes (Scorpions) Salutations from the Ghetto Nations (Warrior Soul) Sheik Yerbouti (Frank Zappa) Close to the Edge (Yes) Octopus (Gentle Giant) TYR (Black Sabbath) Restless and Wild (Accept)   The closing word is yours? Thanks to you and to your readers for your interest in Assassin’s Blade. Do not miss our next album that should come out in the summer or in the fall. Do not hesitate to drop a line on our Facebook page.  Best regards, Jacques
© 2019 by Haschi`s Metal Corner
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JACQUES BÉLANGER