All this talk about ‘Rock is Dead’ and who is going to carry the torch once the all the major Metal act finally hang up their axes is a prevalent discussion point of late. Some people are actually ringing the death knell! Others are a little more pragmatic and insist that all is right with Metal going forward. I’m of the opinion that Metal is back where it truly belongs – in the underground – aided and supported as always, by a rabid, dedicated and enthusiastic band of followers. It’s doing just fine! Portland, Oregon act Silver Talon are also ample proof that you don’t need to worry so much….check my review of their 8 track EP “Becoming a Demon” here, better still, read on for an intimate chat with guitarist Byrce VanHoosen…this band is the real deal, and it’s only getting started!
– Hi there Bryce, great to have the opportunity to chat with you today.
– Cheers K, great to have the opportunity! Let’s go!
– Of course, we are here to chat to you about your debut Mini album – Becoming a Demon obviously my review indicated that I was suitably impressed – it’s only been available for a short time, but how has the response been so far?
– The response has been great so far! All the reviews are coming back positive, and we’re getting a bit of a buzz going. I’m also seeing listener number steadily tick upward – especially on Spotify, where we’re getting a few hundred new listeners every day. All in all, I’m very pleased with the response!
– More about the release shortly, but for our readers who may not be aware, Silver Talon has risen out of the ashes of your former band ‘Spellcaster’ – can you give us an outline of how this all played out? Introduce your band members? Yes, all of the members of Silver Talon save for vocalist Wyatt Howell played together in Spellcaster. Fellow guitarist Sebastian Silva took over for ex-Spellcaster guitarist Cory Boyd in winter of 2016; bassist Gabriel Franco (who as of this interview is no longer officially in Silver Talon) has been with Spellcaster almost from the beginning, and is the only one of us to have played on every Spellcaster release. Drummer Colin Vranizan and I joined in 2012 or 2013 (I can’t remember) shortly before writing started for Spellcaster’s second album. So we all have quite a bit of history together!
– Spellcaster released 3 albums and an EP together – I think you joined on the 2014 Self-titled album and the last album was released on Prosthetic records. Did you see this break up coming? Was Tyler’s leaving the main issue? What was his issue?
– Tyler leaving was the catalyst, but I can’t put everything squarely on his shoulders. The break up was honestly a long time coming. Cory leaving in 2016 was a huge blow, and even though the atmosphere was better once Sebastian joined, it still devolved into a bit of a toxic mess shortly thereafter. Being in Spellcaster was a bit like being in The Eagles – the resentment born from the creative process was unreal! Of course, we never reached that level of success and fame, which probably made it even worse! So everyone was creatively unhappy, everyone was broke, and there was a good amount of drugs and alcohol going on on the side – so this obviously made for a volatile situation. I think as people, Cory, Tyler, Gabe and myself don’t work well as a group – there’s too many cooks in the kitchen so to speak. So once Tyler left, it didn’t make sense to keep going as Spellcaster with one original member. So we decided to start over.
– Was there a sense of a ‘well, this is over’ attitude from the rest of the band or did you all decide that this had to continue?
– There was a sense that Spellcaster as we knew it had to end, but also that we wanted to keep going with something at least – so that’s essentially what we did. It wasn’t easy though – everyone was pretty shot after the last Spellcaster tour we did in 2017, so it required a bit of soul searching on everyone’s part. Luckily we all landed on enough of the same page to make Becoming A Demon happen.
– So you change your name to Silver Talon! Killer moniker by the way. Who had the idea for that one?
– I think we actually stole it from Dan Cleary from Striker. He said something to Gabe to the tune of “if I started a new band, I’d call it Silver Talon.” I’m not sure we asked him if we could steal it though. If not, sorry Dan!
– So you add Wyatt Howell from local Oregon act Sanctifyre as your new vocalist. Were you aware of Wyatt at the time?
– Yeah, we’d played a couple shows with Sanctifyre before. They were sort of like the trusty metal band in Eugene that we’d play with. Killer band, and it just sort of happened that Wyatt was free at the same time we needed a singer.
– Your bio suggests that you cast a world-wide net looking for a new vocalist – anyone of note that you considered?
– We got people from all over – from Columbia to Israel and everywhere in between. I don’t want to name any specific names though since we ultimately decided on Wyatt.
– I have to say, Wyatt’s work is simply stellar on the new EP – you must be suitably impressed with what he’s laid down on these tracks?
– Yeah, I’m extremely happy! He’s doing something different from what he’s done before, and even from what he came to us with, but I think what he’s doing is awesome! I’ve personally always been into more of the lower register singing, like Dio, David Coverdale, Roy Kahn, Layne Staley, later Warrel Dane, so I’m really happy to work with a singer that does something similar.
– And your directional change – while not a million miles off what Spellcaster was doing – Silver Talon just ups the ante in all areas – was this a conscious decision?
– It definitely was. I wanted to focus more on being heavy and having riffs and atypical song structures from what Spellcaster did. Someone said Spellcaster maybe lacked riffs and relied on single note guitar melodies with a chord progression behind it, and that sort of clicked with me. So I decided that on the new stuff I was working on, which would become Becoming A Demon, I’d up the riff factor. After that we just started adding layers, and the rest is history.
– Your sound evokes memories of and channels the authentic classic US Power Metal style of the 80’s – Savatage/Jag Panzer/Queensryche etc – all very nostalgic, but you capture the attitude of it magnificently – are you massive fans of this genre?
– Definitely massive fans of this genre and totally influenced by all of the above. Queensryche especially has been a common theme, even as far back as the Spellcaster days.
– What are you guys listening to at the moment? Who is into what?
– We’re into all kinds of stuff really. Wyatt is probably the most knowledgeable of all the new bands coming out, and he shows me tons of stuff I’ve never listened to. We’re all obviously huge fans of metal, but we’re also into synthwave stuff and some experimental stuff. I’m big into soundtracks, and I think we all love the Skyrim soundtrack. As far as stuff that’s come out this year, I was super into the Michael Romeo album that came out earlier this year. Love that stuff.
– I stated at the top of my review that people can rest easy with all this ‘Metal/Rock is Dead’ talk – bands like yourselves and others will always exist to carry the torch or fly the flag that went before them. Bryce, some metal fans are questioning the longevity of Metal – what’s your opinion?
– I mean people are always going to say that. They said that in the 70s when disco was the big thing. Everything always ebbs and flows, and honestly there seems to be a lot more energy in the metal world as of late. It may not ever get to where it was in the 80s, but I question if that’s even an overall sign of health for this niche of music. Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of killer bands in the 80s, but there was also some straight up shit produced with the sole intention of making a few bucks. So in my opinion, it’s a delicate ecosystem, but not necessarily dying.
– Great response! Back to the new EP itself – you released a couple of demos early in the year – both tracks appear (Devil Machine and Warriors End) on the current release – how long has ‘Becoming a Demon’ taken to put together and why not a full length?
– It’s taken a while to put it together, honestly – but mostly from a logistical standpoint and not a creative one. It takes to time to find the right people to work with, and you need to spend a bit of time fostering the relationship before you can dive into the nitty gritty of writing and recording. You almost have to set a new process first. And the reason we did an EP (a long EP at that, hahaha) is because we essentially wanted to get out there ASAP so we could start testing the waters and promoting our name. It’s a lot easier to book a tour or get opportunities if you have a legitimate release rather than a few demos. But the full length is coming soon!
– Really looking forward to that Bryce. Lyrically, what are your themes? What do you write about? – who is the lyricist in the band?
– Wyatt writes the lion’s share of lyrics. I wrote the chorus to Devil Machine, and he’s done everything else. Lyrically we’ve touched on some sci-fi themes, some mythological fantasy stuff, demonic possession, fast cars, etc.
– Care to comment on the instrumental intro and outro that bookend your main tracks on the EP. I think they work well and can see them being used in your live setting.
– Yeah! Well knew I wanted there to be an intro track specifically for that reason. But then once we had the intro, suddenly we had an odd number of songs. That doesn’t look super hot when you’re laying out the track listing on the back of a CD or tape, so I fleshed out this classical guitar piece I learned ages ago and decided to make that the outro. It was all very pragmatic, hahaha!
– Obviously, I need to ask you about the cover version of Sanctuary’s classic ‘Battle Angels’ – if there is a band and a track that hints to what Silver Talon is all about stylistically then this is the perfect vehicle. Was this something you always wanted to do?
– When we released the Devil Machine demo earlier this year we got a lot of comparisons to Sanctuary. I think that’s what spurred it, because I’m not sure anyone else has done a cover of one of their songs. And of course we’ve all been massive fans of that stuff since the beginning.
– In my review I stated that Wyatt paid ultimate respect to the late Warrel Dane by NOT trying to emulate his stratospheric high end screams during the ‘Fall on your Knees’ chorus. Of course, I’m assuming this was conscious decision or was it because Wyatt juct couldn’t pull it off anyway? I mean, who could match that vocal?
– It was more a stylistic decision. I remember Wyatt saying “I’m going to do something a bit different with the vocal lines, hopefully everyone likes it…” And I actually think that choice made it fit in with our original material better. There is a bit of the falsetto stuff sprinkled in though – but it’s not over the top. He did try a bit more of it in the studio than what made the album, but it just didn’t fit the vibe of the rest of songs. So the decision was made to keep it lower overall. I hope in some odd way we could maybe encapsulate and offer a fitting tribute to all eras of Warrel’s career and the influence he’s had on all of us, and I do think emphasizing the lower register, as Warrel did later in life, had to be part of that.
– A little about your guitar work on this new EP Bryce! Along with your partner in crime Sebastian Silva, you both rip out some stellar riffs and lead work – the leads are almost neo-classical in style – who are your inspirations?
– Thank you! For me, my top 5 all time inspirations are probably Yngwie, Randy Rhoads, Andy LaRocque, Jason Becker, and Michael Romeo. I know Sebastian is a huge fan of Steve Vai as well. I think all of that stuff has found its way into our playing in one way or another.
– The production of ‘Becoming a Demon’ is top notch – who’s responsible? Happy with it?
– Haha thanks again! We’re definitely all happy with it. It was recorded and mixed by Zack Ohren (who we also worked with on Night Hides The World) at Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, CA. Mastering was done by Justin Shturtz at Sterling Sound. And I actually recorded the guitar DIs on my own. Gabe recorded his own bass DIs as well.
– Is there anything you wanted to try on the EP that didn’t quite work out – anything you’re not satisfied with?
– Nothing that we ‘tried’ so to speak that didn’t work out, except for what we decided not to do from an artistic standpoint (as in it didn’t work out for the song). In other words, there wasn’t anything that we wanted to do that we couldn’t for whatever reason. Overall, definitely happy with the sound, but me being me, I always tend to think in terms of ‘what can we do better next time?’ For me, I think that would be the rhythm guitar tone. This is definitely the happiest I’ve ever been with my guitar sound on a record, but there were some issues with my DIs when I sent them to Zack, and he had to do A LOT of additional EQing to get them to sound good. All mostly my fault and completely saved by Zack in the end. So, live and learn, and it’ll sound even cooler next time.
– It’s pretty clear that you’ve also embraced Social Media in terms of promoting the album. Have you got anyone/labels looking at you for a wider release? Did Prosthetic even consider it?
– Yeah, Prosthetic were definitely into what they heard! They offered to license it out, but we already had a vinyl licensing deal with Alone Records in Greece. Definitely getting interest from labels, and I think we’re fairly close to signing something actually.
– What are the plans in the live setting Bryce – where are you playing, where do you want to play and who would you like to go on the road with?
– We’re hitting the road all next month! Full dates are on our site at https://www.silver-talon.com/in-concert My goal is to get over to Europe as soon as we can. We’re in talks for some potential opportunities, but nothing I can safely talk about yet.
– Future recordings – what are the plans because I’m already keen for more – what can we expect down the track?
– Hopefully in exactly 1 year you’ll be listening to a Silver Talon full length!
– I think we might need to do an exclusive for that one!! Finally Bryce, On behalf of the crew at BAZ, I would like thank you for taking time out to chat with us today – we wish you all the best going forward with Silver Talon – is there anything you would like to add?
– Thank you for the interview! Check out our debut EP, Becoming A Demon, streaming everywhere now! And if you’re in the US, come see us on the Speed of the Night Tour all through November. And if you read this far, thank you – you rule!
Interview by KMaN
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