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    Andersen, André (January 2003)

    The Anderson Chronicles:
    An Interview With Royal Hunt's André Anderson

    Originally published at Progfreaks.com in October 2001

    Royal Hunt is one curious band. Melodically progressive, and yet enormously accessible, the Danish act has slowly built up a loyal fanbase throughout the world by first conquering Japan and then moving slowly westward. And not only is the band Danish, but its mastermind and leader, keyboardist André Andersen, hails from Russia, while new vocalist John West comes from the good old United States. Add to that sales that go over the million mark, a messy parting of ways with former vocalist D.C. Cooper (now with Silent Force), and a penchant for producing concept albums with staged concerts, and the Royal Hunt history becomes a turbulent and interesting passage of progressive metal lore. Of course, it can only be more interesting when it comes from Andersen himself, so read on!

    Marcelo Silveyra: Royal Hunt has come a long way since the days of Land Of Broken Hearts. By now your album sales have surpassed the million mark, you've become an international act, you have six full-length studio records behind you, and you don't seem to be stopping anytime soon. Looking back on your plans and your objectives, how would you say Royal Hunt has lived up to your expectations?

    Andr? Andersen: We had a lot of ups and downs down the road, but the most important thing we did achieve, we evolved with every single album, we did. So, for as long as we continue doing it every time, it's all good.

    MS: Like you mention, one thing that is immediately obvious to someone who sees the entire band's discography is the way that both your music and your lyrics have evolved. Royal Hunt's style at the very beginning was a bit more straightforward, and your approach, particularly your lyrics, has gotten more and more ambitious with time. Is this a result of natural evolution or has there been a conscious change going on through the years?

    AA: We are getting more mature as a band and as people. For as long as you're improving, you're in good shape. We're trying to push the envelope every single time ... it is improvement or evolution if you wish.

    MS: During the last few albums, you have embraced a conceptual lyrical nature, which is part of the aforementioned evolution of Royal Hunt. Furthermore, there seems to be a tendency to explore the negative aspects of humankind in your lyrics. What is the main motivation behind this? How do you feel the world is doing nowadays?

    AA: The world is in a state of evolution and disintegration at the same time. Every single victory followed by a tragedy, every major achievement creates a bit of decay. I'm aware of that, and I'm reflecting some of my thoughts through my songs.

    MS: Something that would probably be interesting to many Royal Hunt fans out there is what goes on in the mind of André Andersen. With your latest album, The Mission, it's quite obvious that you enjoy reading Ray Bradbury. What other authors interest you? Also, it's obvious that you don't mind stirring up a bit up thought-provoking controversy, as you did with Paradox. What goes through your mind that you'd like to share with the world out there?

    AA: I'm reading a lot - mostly the serious stuff. As far as authors go, there are too many to mention. Those books are my oasis in our over-sufficient, over-hyped way of living. As I mentioned above, I just reflect some of my thoughts in my songs. It's up to the listener to react emotionally.

    MS: Returning a bit more to Royal Hunt-specific territory ? what's the story with Allan Sörensen [the band's former drummer -MS]?

    AA: We wanted different things - nothing really dramatic actually. We parted company in good spirits.

    MS: On other Royal Hunt member-related issues, I don't know if you've ever thought about this, but there are a couple of curious parallelisms in the band's history with John West. Your former vocalist, DC Cooper, auditioned for Judas Priest, and John auditioned for Iron Maiden, which means both were Americans who auditioned for legendary British metal bands at one point! Also, John worked with Artension, whose [keyboardist] Vitalij Kuprij is from the Ukraine (a region formerly of the Soviet Union), while you are from Russia (also a region formerly of the Soviet Union)! I'm pretty sure these are coincidences, but don't you think it's pretty awkward?

    AA: Now when you mentioned that, I do see it's a bit curious. It's a small world after all.

    MS: Just having mentioned your Russian origins ... how did that heritage affect your upbringing as a musician? Do you think it has affected the way Royal Hunt has developed its sound?

    AA: I think my classical background is to blame. I can't see music being territory-related. But being brought up with a lesser impact of the pop music might have had an effect on me ... who knows?

    MS: Now that I think about it, here's something that's pretty interesting -- when there's a football [soccer] match between Denmark and Russia, who do you root for? And in case it's for Russia, what do your bandmates think about that?

    AA: First of all, I don't care much for sports. I know what you mean, but I must say, I'm not "patriotic" in that sense - I'm taking the best cultural things from both sides of my heritage.

    MS: And now that we're on subjects that are somewhat outside Royal Hunt ... you were raised on Seventies progressive bands like Yes, Genesis, Kansas, etc. It's no secret that the progressive rock wave back then died a quick death with the incoming punk movement. What do you think was mostly responsible for the demise of the Seventies prog rock movement?

    AA: Fashion and economy. Heady times were gone, sufficiency took over. Do it faster and cheaper - and make a lot of it, that became a slogan for the 80's. Bands who were trying to make people listen and think can't survive in that situation ... not as a mainstream anyway.

    MS: You've also talked about musical cycles in how music is complex and elaborate for a while and then is replaced by a more elemental approach that is just a response to the complexity, and which will in turn eventually be replaced again by more complex and streamlined music. Isn't there a chance that this cycle will be interrupted by the huge influence that mass media and marketing are having currently on the world's youth?

    AA: Absolutely. We're living in a media dictatorship - if they can sell you a war, don't you think they are capable of selling you music? (Did you see Wag The Dog?)

    MS: You are undoubtedly the mastermind behind Royal Hunt, and thus are in charge of most of the songwriting and direction decisions regarding the band. Why did you feel the need to record your solo album Changing Skin then? Did you feel that the material on that record just wasn't appropriate for the Royal Hunt approach or did you just want to take some time off and work with different people for a second?

    AA: Both. Why not? I had songs, I'm always surrounded by some good musicians, I had some spare time ? I wanted to do a more quiet and more personal album - I never compared it to Royal Hunt in any way.

    MS: Now let's move on to your latest effort, The Mission. Although this is the latest in a series of conceptual albums, this one is particularly interesting because, as already mentioned, it's based on an already existing story [Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles]. Just how close is the relationship between the book and the album's actual lyrics? What led you to choose Bradbury's novel as the theme for your new album, or, better put, set of albums?

    AA: It's a timeless story, you don't have to update it to make it sound current. There are some eternal values on those pages - greed, love, hate, loneliness - the essence of human soul. It's appropriate to the current race to conquer the new frontier, space, and the planet Mars is the first in line.

    MS: On your previous full-length album, Fear, John West didn't contribute to the songwriting because he had joined the band after all the material for the record had already been written. How did he participate on the record's writing process this time around? I guess by now he is probably a solid part of the Royal Hunt family, isn't he?

    AA: John brought a balance to the band, which we couldn't achieve with his predecessors. He understood the vibe in the band, the way we work, the way we are - as people. He's an easy-going person, nice and professional. All this made it easier to work with him and helped a lot in his integration as a member of the band.

    MS: Something that The Mission proves once again is that Royal Hunt is a band with the possibility of appealing to a wide audience. On one hand, some of your material is reminiscent of glam metal; on another, there's a progressive nature throughout your music; and on the other, there's a power metal tinge to your style. Do you believe that this is good for the band's acceptance in the market? Or could it be that some fans of, say, progressive metal, will think you're not progressive enough for their tastes?

    AA: I do not know and, honestly, I do not care. I'm doing this from my heart; the way it's supposed to be done. I can only do my best and let the public decide if they love it or hate it. We are unique and that is all that counts.

    Now that The Mission is out and Royal Hunt fans have had the chance of sinking their teeth into some new material, what are your upcoming tour plans? It's almost a given that Japanese and European fans will get the chance to see you live, but what about the American ones? And is there going to be an entire conceptual stage the way one was set up for Paradox?

    AA: We do not know yet. With the current situation it's hard to tell anything for sure ? we'll wait and see.

    [The Mission was followed up by two additional releases, the EP Intervention, which actually came out before The Mission, and The Watchers, which included the tracks on the EP as well as new recordings of earlier material. Though the website hasn't been updated since September 2002, the news then was that the band were taking a short break before beginning work on their next album, due sometime in 2003. {Update 8/8/07: Of course,Eyewitness was released in 2003 and Paper Blood was released in 2005; the site has now been updated, as of April 2007, with info on a sequel to Paradox. West is no longer with the band...} -ed.]

    Royal Hunt - Land Of The Broken Hearts (1992)
    Royal Hunt - Clown In The Mirror (1993)
    Royal Hunt - The Maxi EP (1993)
    Royal Hunt - Moving Target (1995)
    Royal Hunt - Far Away (ep) (1995)
    Royal Hunt - Live 1996 (1996)
    Royal Hunt - Double Live In Japan (1996) Royal Hunt - Paradox (1997)
    Royal Hunt - Closing The Chapter (1998)
    Andr? Andersen - Thousand Miles Away (ep) (1998)
    Andr? Andersen - Changing Skin (1998)
    Royal Hunt - Fear (1999)
    Andr? Andersen - In The Late Hour (ep) (1999)
    Royal Hunt - Intervention (ep) (2000)
    Royal Hunt - The Mission (2001)
    Andr? Andersen - Black On Black (2001)
    Royal Hunt - The Watchers (2002)
    Royal Hunt - Eyewitness (2003)
    Royal Hunt - Paper Blood (2005)
    Royal Hunt - Live 2006 (2006)

    Royal Hunt - Live 2006 (DVD) (2006)

    Added: January 12th 2003
    Interviewer: Marcelo Silveyra

    Artist website: www.royalhunt.com
    Hits: 988
    Language: english

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