I spoke with Royal Hunt vocalist D. C. Cooper recently about the publicity blitz in the U.S. for their latest album, Paradox. Here are some excerpts.
So how did you (being an American from Philadelphia) hook up with a band from Denmark?
The Reader's Digest version: I had achieved some recognition in Europe because I was one of the final vocalists for the Judas Priest lead singer job. This was about the same time Royal Hunt had lost their previous singer. They contacted me and we went from there. This is my second album with them.
How is it working with the Danes?
It's pretty good. It has taken us quite a while to become close. But when you live on a tour bus together you invariably develop a relationship.
How many other albums do you have, and are your other albums like this?
Royal Hunt has had four studio albums and one "maxi-single". The previous album which I worked on was a bit like this but the rest have a different style to them.
What motivated you to venture off into Europe?
When I saw the music cycle change here in the U.S.---Grunge, Death Metal--- I didn't want to go into that direction. I've been singing for 16 years and didn't want to put my vocal efforts into that. The hard progressive rock music never really died in Europe, as there are too many people that want to keep it alive. In the US, the press appears to be ruled by the moment, what the latest "in thing" is. In Europe, the press sticks to their guns. We had a guy from Metal Hammer who was on tour for us for 6 days; that would never happen here. The audience is geared more towards our style and we haven't had to change our format much. It's been hard for us break into the U.S. market. I've been with the band for three years and this our first concentrated effort.
Where would you say the band's strength lies?
In a way it's keyboard heavy, because Andre [Andressen, the keyboardist] is the producer and the writer. His influence is very strong. But I think the album was produced and mixed evenly, and a lot of work was done in keeping things equal and strong.
What do you think about the prospects about breaking into in the American market?
My main goal is to earn respect amongst the musicians, and especially fans who want to hear this music. We are the underground music these days and it's going to take daring people who want to listen to this music. People have been afraid to say this is the kind of the music they want to hear. I hope we will do okay. Everything so far has been looking really good. Magna Carta is trying very hard to get our name out there. I've done a lot of interviews in the last few weeks. You've got to start somewhere and I think the press is one good spot. We'll soon see how Magna Carta is going to do in terms of radio promotion. The album had a late push in the U.S., but I think they wanted to get some initial feedback.
How would you describe your song writing/recording process?
Andre wrote most of the songs. We don't have time to jam, and we all individually write our own stuff. Andre is not just a song writer, he's also a composer. I have a lot more flexibility during recording because I'm the vocalist. I get to work with the lyrics and set the melody lines. Everyone has a strong voice in the writing process, but the basic stuff comes from Andre. Sometimes the song-writing goes my way sometimes it goes the other way. I have a lot of freedom. Guitars and bass do things in unison and they don't have as much of a choice.
Can you elaborate a bit on the lyrics to A Message to God?
Those are Andre's lyrics. From my view, the album itself is not sacrilegious or anything. The meaning of the paradox in the album is take a Jesus-like figure and put him through the everyday happenings of life. Jesus died on the cross for humanity's sins, but the same sins are still taking place. That is, there is a paradox, and nothing has changed. If people read the lyrics and they think about the issue of religion and how they feel, the point has been made. Religion is a controversial issue.
What are your touring plans?
The next step is for us to go to Russia, then to Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. Then we can look at the U.S. depending on the response we get from the album. We have to be positive but also have to be reserved. Right now touring plans for the U.S. are in the works, and we have different deals trying to be negotiated.
What do you think of the current music scene, and where do you fit in all in this?
I think it's coming around to our style of music. The cycle always happens over so many years. This one [without progressive music] has been the longest, but it is coming back around.
What's your favourite music? That is, what music does the band listen to and currently like? Who would you cite as influences?
There's not many I've idolised, because once you start studying a particular singer, you start sounding like them. But in terms of vocals, Rob Halford, Robert Plant, Aaron Neville, George Michael, and Bruce Dickinson have influenced us a lot over the years. In terms of bands, each of us is into different bands but we all like Deep Purple, Yes, Rush, and Dream Theatre.
What are your future plans?
For me personally, I plan to stay alive in the business, to survive. For Royal Hunt it's going to be more relaxed. We just did a major push and now it's time step back and take our time on the next album. We plan to record sometime in June, and then more touring. I'll be looking to do a solo effort, for the Japanese market. It'll probably be along progressive music lines, but will also be laid back---a cross between precision and relaxation.