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dinsdag 04 maart 2008
Benedictum: The Journey of the Soul to Enlightenment

Interview with vocalist Veronica Freeman of Benedictum by Vera

Early 2006 the debut album of Benedictum, ‘Uncreation’, came out and at that time I had a very debonair conversation with San Diego-based front lady Veronica Freeman. I was looking forward to speak with her again now that the sophomore album ‘Seasons Of Tragedy’ is about to be released. She remembered me – in her overwhelming American style she giggles “I was so excited when I saw you on the list” - and the first minutes we spent with talking about things changed in our lives. But then of course we had to come down to business.

The release of ‘Uncreation’ must have changed your life. What happened after your entrance in the metal scene with that album?
(laughs) A difficult question, but a good one! Of course we were hoping for good things. We got a lot of good reviews on the first album. We could come over to Europe more than once and we had the opportunity of touring with Doro which was absolutely fabulous. That was so much fun. That was something I’ll never forget. The first time we played in Europe was at the Gods Of Metal festival in Italy. It was right after the album came out and that was actually only our second show with the band, so you can imagine how exciting that was. We played several other festivals like Metalway in Spain, we did Wacken, we played with Doro, we had the Chicago Powerfest, it was an incredible time. We can only hope to get a chance to come back in 2008.

Wasn’t it more difficult to make a second album now that the expectations were so high?
Once the good reviews came in for the first album, we felt a sigh of relief. For a while you feel really good, but then I realized, oh Jesus we’ll have to make another one. And then I started thinking: Are they gonna like it? Which direction shall we go? Do we want to go on with the same style or stretch ourselves a little bit as musicians and all those little worries came up. I had to get over that and go down to the business and writing stuff again. And that is what we did.

And what was the reaction of Pete on it, because he is your buddy when it comes down on writing lots of material?
There was one tune that did not work for the first album and we reworked it for the second one. The process was pretty much the same as it always is with us. There is a lot more pressure and thank God that we got the opportunity to work with Jeff Pilson again and he is such a great guy. He pushed us really hard and worked with us so intensively. He really made it happen.

So you returned to the same studio as for the debut?
You bet. He is moved and the studio is moved and he definitely has a nicer studio now.

So it was a positive experience?
It is always a positive experience to work with Jeff because he is such a positive guy. It is not all fun and games and he can really go down to business, but he makes you work in a good way. He really understands me when I get emotional (laughs). So he had to deal with my moods and all that kind of stuff. I am not always easy. (grins) But we had a blast!

The record was received very well in Europe. And what about your home country?
You know, there’s still people that just start to find out about us over here. It is so different, it is like night and day. A fine thing was playing at the Chicago Fest. That is always a real challenge. We played a few times in San Diego with positive result, but there is definitely not so much going on over here as it is over in Europe. And the interviews I have in the States are still for the first album and a lot of the people do not even know that we have a second album coming out. But I was so happy to have some press over here too and let’s hope that people who get to know us with the second album will check out the first one too.

Why didn’t you come to the Metal Female Voices Fest?
I had a problem with my mom. She was not well. She is doing much better now. I looked forward to it to see Doro again. We were all prepared to go but I got a call from my mom’s doctor and he wanted to talk with me. I was really worried about that. Everything’s fine now but she is just like her daughter, (smiles) she is kind of stubborn and they were concerned of the treatments they were giving her, she wasn’t doing what she was supposed to do. But she’s doing better now.

The first time we talked, you told me that the lyrics mostly deal with personal experiences. What about this time?
Pretty much the same thing: personal issues. Something that I am going through or want to express; now and then just a cool idea that I wouldn’t mind writing about. Like ‘Shellshock’, it is about a soldier. Any kind of soldier. You know what is going on with the war in Iraq and all that controversy here, but in the end of the day the person at the frontline is not cared about. While his life is in danger and that is tenable for any war. You cannot be worried about what the people back home are saying when someone is shooting at you. And that goes for both sides, if you know what I mean. It is about survival.

You have been to Europe several times now, which country did you like the most?
(hesitates) I would love to live in Europe. We had a chance to go to the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, all of it is so beautiful because it is so different from where I live. Any of those would work out fine. Italy is beautiful too, though I did not get a chance to see a lot of Italy. We wanted to go to Rome but we just did not have the time and money to do so. I would love to live in Europe. We talk about it all the time but my husband’s got his business here (Veronica is married to a German man who lives in the States since a few months).

’Seasons Of Tragedy’, the long and epic title track is one of my favourites…
Mine too.

Can you tell a bit more about the inspiration for this song?
Absolutely. The first thing I came up with was the title. I wanted to use something that had a lot of imaginary. It is the story of the journey of the soul to enlightenment. It is like a person along the path of life. As he goes further in life, each season is represented by a different bird. There is a raven, the owl of winter and so on. Each bird departs a different message of knowledge to the person going through the journey, musically and lyrically, until he gets to the point of enlightenment when he realizes that life always continues to go on and we are always developing our soul. I think like that all the time, I think I am from another planet or something like that (laughs). Best way to express it is in music.

The intro is quite special with some mantra-like chants…
Those are all the different levels of enlightenment, different chakra’s. Jeff came up with the idea of the mandolin when I told him what the song was about. He said, what when we incorporate this in the song too and it is just perfect. I love that part. That’s him singing by the way in the beginning.

Who did the artwork?
It is a name I can hardly pronounce. He did a great job; you can see different things in it. (Veronica sent me the name and the link)
Hjules Havancsàk


Isn’t it difficult to make a choice for singing covers?
The whole thing about doing ‘Balls To The Wall’ was that it is funny to have a woman singing it. What the hell… we took a chance on that and Jeff said, let’s go for it when I brought the idea. Then I thought about it and got really scared because I was not sure I could pull it off. That was kind of a hard one for me but I ended up having a good time with it.

’Catch The Rainbow’ is the other cover and that is the bonus track, added in extremis when the album was finished and they did not want to change the flow of the ten songs. There was only Pete, Veronica and Jeff in the studio left and that’s why it became an acoustic version. In the end she could contact Craig Goldy and he is on the bonus track as well. A very nice version!

Veronica tells me they had three guest musicians on the album this time…
We had Manni Schmidt from Grave Digger. He is on ‘Burn It Out’, the third track and that’s a duelling solo between him and Pete. And on ‘Bare Bones’ and ‘Balls To The Wall’ we have the mighty George Lynch. Both Jeff (Pilson, ex-Dokken, Dio) and George are on ‘Balls To The Wall’, that was kind of cool to have those both on the same track.

Do you have tour plans for Europe again?
Yeah, I think so. I am waiting to hear the final word on that. Right now, what I was told it should be February or March. (at the moment two festivals are planned in Germany in July – Vera). Soon it will be time for rehearsals.

You had a few line up changes…
Yes, Chris Morgan the keyboard player is gone but we have a new one now and we have a new drummer, Paul Courtois, he is on the new album. He is really solid. Paul has brought a new element to this band as well. The old keyboard player is still on the album, but he could not tour with us.

Check out the magnificent album ‘Seasons Of Tragedy’ and keep an eye on the website for tour dates in Europe!

Geplaatst door Vera op dinsdag 04 maart 2008 - 23:21:51
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