INTERVIEW WITH ELI SANTANA FROM HOLY GRAIL

Een paar weken geleden schreef ik een review voor het laatste album “Into The Void” van Holy Grail. Ik was aangenaam verrast door wat ik hoorde en het platenlabel Nuclear Blast was dat ook niet ontgaan. Ik kreeg de vraag of ik geen mailinterview met de band wilde doen. Ik kon wel wat vraagjes verzinnen dacht ik en die voorleggen aan de band. Hieronder kun je lezen waarmee ik de groep heb lastig gevallen! Gitarist Eli Santana stond in voor de antwoorden.

Hi Guys,

Rik: The band got an awesome start when Metal Hammer nominated Holy Grail as the best news band in 2009. That most have been a pleasant surprise, wasn’t it?

ES:Pleasant surprise was an understatement. I remember waking up and seeing the email that said we got nominated and I started laughing and said “but we haven’t done anything yet” literally out loud. At the time we had only released an EP and were far from finishing our full-length debut. It was such an honor to be nominated and be able to go to the award show inLondon. It was really humbling being at that show with a bunch of bands we admired. And Christopher Lee won a lifetime achievement award there so we were also in the presence of Saruman. It was also humbling to lose within the first 5 minutes of the show. It was such an amazing experience that early in our career.

Rik: The album is packed with excellent guitar work. I like it when the guitars make some squeaking noises. That can be heard on the heavy opener “Bestial Thriumphans”. Where lie the roots of the axe men and the other members of the band?

ES: I also like when guitars make squeaking noises, almost as much as I like making them.  “Bestial Triumphans” is one of those songs I’m most proud of because it’s something that we wouldn’t have even dared to try a couple years ago. It was fun and challenging to let some of our Progressive and Death Metal influences bleed through. I think the deepest roots of our band as a whole lies in NWOBHM bands like Diamondhead, Witchfinder General, Tokyo Blade, Priest and Maiden. The voice and founder of Holy Grail (James Paul Luna) pulls his influence mainly from these bands so it’s great that the melodies he creates are reminiscent of that era. It also goes without question that we all have the big four basically ingrained in our DNA. Not mention the influence that bands like Exodus, Accept and Overkill have on us as well. Axe-wise we have quite a few influences so I reserve the right to forget a few in advance. The big turning point for me was Yngwie, which was when I knew I wanted to be a shredder. After that it was Marty Friedman, Randy Rhoads, Dimebag, Jason Becker, Zakk Wylde, John Petrucci, Paul Gilbert, Ritchie Kotzen, Thin Lizzy and Stevie Ray Vaughn. We’re also really influenced riff-wise from Death, Carcass, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Tourniquet and Sepultura. I guess we are just fans of all metal and are trying to be a “best of” of Metal.

Rik: I also like the sense of humor the band seems to have. I watched the track by track videos on youtube and smiled when the band introduced the term horse metal! And the link with Monthy Python through the band’s name is also a good example. Is humor a thing the band is into?

ES: There’s the saying “Every comedian wants to be a rockstar and every musician thinks he’s funny”, we are no exception. We are rarely serious when we are all together. I think it’s important for a band like us to put our most serious foot forward though because we take our music very seriously and would like others to also. We are very serious about what we do but don’t take ourselves too serious. I think if we get a little more established as “not a joke band” we might dabble in some more comedic and lighthearted avenues. We did do a Christmas song (King Diamond Cover) and that was approached with much insouciance even though we take Christmas very serious. Very Serious.

Rik: There are a lot of influences from 80’s bands but also links to bands like Thin Lizzy, Dream Theater and Black Sabbath. Can this be seen as a tribute to your idols?

ES: We have no shame about wearing our influences on our sleeves. We are heavily influenced by the 80’s ranging from thrash and NWOBHM to some of the glam stuff. I think it’s impossible to be a true metal guitar player and not be heavily influenced by Black Sabbath. Tony Iommi basically wrote the foundation to every great metal riff that will ever be. It’s funny you brought up Thin Lizzy because our bassist Blake Mount loves Thin Lizzy and sings their songs non stop on tour. We also pull a lot of influence guitar-wise from Thin Lizzy. My loose goal for the twin leads on this album was to be a perfect mix between Thin Lizzy and Cacophony. Alex and myself are also huge Dream Theater and John Petrucci fans. I used to listen to “Images and Words” literally every night before I went to sleep when I was in 8th grade.

Rik: “Silence The Scream” tells the story of a serial killer (who is a roadie by the way), but can you tell something about the lyrics on the other tracks? Because there is a real difference to the ones on the debut album, right?

ES: Yes there is quite a difference lyrically from our debut. We strayed away from the fantasy-style lyrics we had on our debut not because we feel like we’re better than that but because we felt they didn’t fit the vibe of the music we were writing. The songs had this dark and heavyhearted feeling to them so it would’ve seemed odd to pair them with World of Warcraft references. After writing a few songs, a lose theme arouse which was the triumph of the human spirit. Even though the songs seemed grim there is always a glimmer of hope through perseverance. For instance, “Rains of Sorrow” is based on a series of text messages I received from my uncle while he battled cancer. Not only did he provide us with the song’s title but also he gave us inspiration from the courage he exhibited.

Rik: Eli has followed a course (or education) classical guitar, if I’m not mistaken? Does this help him to compose tracks or write melody lines?

ES: Yes, I studied classical guitar and composition at Cal State Northridge. I usually try to follow my ear when writing riffs but I will always reference Music Theory when something isn’t working sonically. There are a few guitar sections on the album that are based on tendencies of some of my favorite composers. The lead section of “Bleeding Stone” is roughly based on a chord progression from a Tchaikovsky piece. The song I really approached as a classical piece was “Wake Me When It’s Over” as far as counter-melody and form. I’m sure there are plenty of things in that song that true classical composers would say aren’t technically classical but I don’t care it makes me feel better about having so many unpaid student loans.

Rik: And finally, can we catch the band live in 2013 in Europe and most of all in Belgium or The Netherlands? Are there already plans made?

ES: We don’t have anything locked down for sure yet but there are definitely plans to make it out there. If the metal gods hold us in favor we will be in Europe,Belgiumand theNetherlandsthis summer for sure.

Rik: Hopefully we can meet on the road this year!

ES: Hope to meet you out on the road in the near future. Thrash On!!!

Rik: Cheers guys.

 

interview by: Rik Bauters

 

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