SIGN OF THE JACKAL (Ita) - Fight For Rock ! (Interview with Laura COLLER)
Well.. Straight to the point.. That band, SIGN OF THE JACKAL, simply released one of the best albums of 2018 with "Breaking The Spell" - simple as that ! Being already a huge fan of their music before they released "Breaking The Spell", that news opus litterally blew me away and made me feel good to see the band was still active after a long period of silence ! After their shows in France, i decided to go for an interview - Singer Laura kindly answered to the questions !
- Hey Laura ! Thanks alot for your time and accepting to answer this interview.. how do you feel today ?
Hey Fabien ! Nice to meet you again. I’m fine, we’re fine, hopefully I wouldn’t change anything as it is today. No news, good news !
- Well.. When did you discover Metal ? What gave you the idea to start playing Heavy Metal ? Name some of the bands that you consider as essential in your life ? Your biggest artist influences & some all-time favorite albums ?
I discovered Metal back in the high school. To be honest, my first encounter with it was back in the early ‘90s when my cousin was taking a shower while listening to ONE by Metallica. And, in some ways to me was different that everything I previously heard, and it somehow made my bell tingle. Then, time passed by and I was always looking for something cruel than pop, something harsher than rock. Then, it came that glorious day when I managed to save some Italian Lire and I could afford to buy two cds. I went to the local music shop and looked at the catalogue, all sort of metal was on sale. I picked up "Master of Puppets" and "Reign in Blood". And then, there was no time left for everything else. A couple of guys in my school managed to copy for me a kind of compilation of Black Sabbath. It was my epiphany, It was so seventies, and in the same time was so much harsher than Led Zeppelin, and so-something new to me. Some friends of mine were looking for a singer in their thrash metal cover band, and couldn’t find nobody and then I fit in. We were playing songs by Metallica and Overkill, and we really sucked. But one of the guitar players was (and still is) fond of Judas Priest , so it opened to me a wide page I am still reading. Then, my parents gave me permission to attend (I still was a minor aged) one of the biggest Metal Festival back in the days, Gods Of Metal… I couldn’t live the first raw: Slayer were on Stage, Manowar headlined the second night of the Festival, Rob Halford was touring without Priest, and there she was, Doro Pesch covered by leather and spikes. I fell in love and decided that if she can do it, I could do it too. So Heavy Metal came into my life. My biggest artist influences are therefore Judas Priest, Warlock, but then it became much more interesting with Leather Leone, Lorraine Gill, Ronnie J. Dio, and Geoff Tate. The essential bands of my life are Metallica, followed by Judas Priest. There are a lot more, with made me discover another way to do stuff, therefore I can list Sentinel Beast, Black Lace, Lizzy Borden. All-time favorite albums ? "Operation Mindcrime" by Queensryche, "Diary of a Madma"n by Ozzy Osbourne, "Taist of Iron" by Taist Of Iron, "Hellbound" by Warlock, "Defenders of the Faith" by Judas Priest, "Depths of Death" by Sentinel Beast, "Count your Blessings" by Mateze, Fifth Angel (same)… just to name a few !
- Ok, now let's focus on the band.. for our readers.. can you tell us how it all started and what you have done so far in terms of records ?
It all started back in 2008, with the idea to register and release under pseudonym a demotape of obscure and true heavy metal made like the old way. We wanted to prove that the “true” way, the 80ies sound could be accomplished nowadays if you have the balls to try, because we were sick and tired to listen to all people researching for “modernity”. We wanted to see if people could tell everything was registered in 2008 but the songs were damned good…. And we stepped on the stage. Nobody knew us. We haven’t told nobody that we were forming a band, we just stepped on the stage during a festival, we were on the posters like “Sign of the Jackal, Heavy Metal from Hell”. Response was pretty good. So we went on playing live and we decided to put together a show of obscure and rare heavy Metal, performing stuff from underground bands, together with a couple of iconic pieces such as Hot Rockin’ by JP, or Wasted by Def Leppard. Most of all we played song of Black Knight, Meghan, Lizzy Borden together to some original pieces. We recorded a demo tape and started to looking for a label, so we get in touch with Heavy Artillery Record from N.Y. who sounded glad to re-relase the demo tape in vinyl format. This was 2009 We signed for them for 3 releases, and the EP "The Beyond" was released in March 2011 – then Heavy Artillery called it a day. We already had the songs for our first LP, and managed to get a deal with High Roller Records (DE). M"ark of the Beast" came to light in 2013. We took our time to work on the new album, and Breaking The Spell war finally released in 2018 both for Wax Maniax (same owner of Heavy Artillery) and Dying Victims (Germany). We have been lucky until now and worked for people who truly believed in us.
- Your last effort "Breaking The Spell" has been released last year, in May 2018 .. 5 years after "Mark Of The Beast", your previous album.. Why did it take so long ? What have you been doing during all this time ? To be honest, I thought the band was not active anymore.. (I'm glad I was wrong !)...
Yes, it was a long time. Doing Mark of the Beast was a strong effort, it costed us muuuuch time into the studios, it was an hard process. It took some time for us to have an empty head so that we can dedicate ourselves to new products. Then, most of the time we lost is because we went through two big line-up changes : first Roby exit the band and Nick stepped in on the bass guitar, then after a few months our previous drummer Mate decided to call it a day and Corra entered the band. Of course, every line up change takes some time to fit in well. Then, it takes your time to find again the alchemy of the band, then again you need to work on new material and prepare them for the recordings. It is a big deal for us, we don’t like to release “fillers” so until we aren’t happy with one song, it always goes through a lot of corrections until the final shape. To be honest, the record was complete by the end of the year 2017, but of course there are some technical matters that push the deadline late in the year. As for me, I am pretty sure our actual line up is a big deal and we work together well and fast, I am confident to say you all shouldn’t be waiting too long for the next issue. That said, I don’t think you can propose 1 record per year and make sure everything is the same way you imagined it. We don’t like compromises, so if it need to be worked on a bit time more, let it be until we aren’t content with it.
- Ok.. The album has been released on THREE physical formats, CD/LP and CASSETTE.. was it something you were absolutely looking for or was that ideas from the labels ? And how did you team up with WAX MANIAX Records and DYING VICTIMS Productions ?
It was a mix of it: we always wanted all our releases to be printed on vinyl, and this is the point we start looking at. So at the very beginning there was Wax Maniax and we decided to release the album on vinyl version, in different colors and variations. Then, Dying Victims was interested too and we managed produce together the cd version. As long as Florian from Dying Victims is a collector and estimator too, he pushed us hard so he could release something cult, and proposed the MC version of the record… I am surprised to see how much is researched and requested! Our first demotape was released on MC too, there were just 36 in total (we cannot managed to find more of them!), and it was something really underground and old fashioned. But I really couldn’t imagine that nowadays such a memorabilia is so well requested from the audience. I am pretty happy, it looks damned cool !!
- Was it important for you to have TWO labels, especially an AMERICAN one and an EUROPEAN one ? Why ?
As mentioned before, we wanted to release the record both on vinyl and in CD. Previously in our career we managed to find a label wanting to release both. We worked with Heavy Artillery back at the very beginning so weren’t new to the US market – and we really appreciated the way they push the band as a band and not the product for itself. I mean, they made us realize how important is to build your image around your idea, and to be known as a brand. Another important point of view is that you can reach all the US and South-American market easily. But we worked with an European label to, and it was High Roller Records, so a big sized well known label. So when the idea of Dying Victims came up, it wasn’t an experiment for us, and we gladly agreed to work together, so that we could cover another important part of the market, and because we wanted our product to be carefully pushed… Florian is a very determined guy and easy-going person, and not across the ocean, so it’s easily to be in touch. On the other hand Dave at Wax Maniax’s believes in us since the very beginning and we know how to work with him. I’m quite happy with this arrangement.
- Back to the physical formats.. Don't you think it's a bit strange to see the CASSETTE format knowing a nice come-back in a time when digital format is supposed to be the "future" of music ? Is that a format you personally cherish and why ?
Yes, I do personally cherish all this “step back in time items”. I do remember when I was a kid and destroyed the MCS in my Walkman, how much it needed to wait for your friend to lend you a record to copy and so on (you needed to fight for your music, wasn’t enough to lite the computer on). To be honest, until 2012 I was driving a car with cassette recorder in it, and I always liked the afternoons spent in doing compilations of your favorite records. My favorite format above all is vinyl. I don’t buy cds (at least if I can choose not to buy them), and I think that all the analogical stuff fits well with the digital future of music. To be precise : an mp3 recorder is much more useful in terms of comfort and provides much more enjoyment because you can choose among a ton of songs you like, it would be stupid thinking that mp3players, cellphones, Spotify and Youtube are not the future, but when it comes to LISTENING to music things change. The warmth, deepness of the sound of the analogic format, most of all on vinyl, but also the small imperfections of the cassette…. It changes what you feel. Listen to a good record while having a glass of wine on a late afternoon, and it’s already entertainment. When it comes to owning things, digital format has not the same approach. You cannot open it, watching inside, collecting it, feeling it. Cassettes are not the best way to listen to music, ahah, but it’s a very cool thing to have, a very collection-friendly format. It’s cool, it’s very well done, it’s a must have if you’re into a band, and even a cost-friendly choice !
- Now about the content of the album.. I think - without denigrating the previous releases (you know how much i love them, i told you when we met) - that "Breaking The Spell" has even MUCH more US METAL influences/touches in it.. more influences from bands like ICON, DOKKEN, BLACKLACE, BITCH.. the whole packed with alot of energy and a bigger predominance for the guitar-works.. is that something you wanted to achieve or did it come naturally ?
First of all I do admit I am pretty satisfied of the LP. We wanted to achieve the same energy you could feel on "The Beyond" EP. We have always been into US Metal and it’s our reference when it comes to songwriting. We want to think ourselves as a band, everybody has to have its space. Our record is not “vocal oriented” or “guitar oriented”, I think everything fits properly functionally on the song. Recording Mark of the Beast took us several months due to technical and personal matters, and in the end it lacks of energy. The songs were well composed, but instinct get lost if you overthink your job. We avoided to do the same on "Breaking the Spell" and try to maintain the energy of the first day in the studios. We had the good chance to work with professionals who took care about our requests about sounds and atmosphere, and so it came, direct and straight in the face.
- US Metal is in my opinion your biggest influence and your style is definitely in that vein, but can't we name some other bands that influenced your sound.. WARLOCK ? ACID maybe ? What are the bands that you think to have had an undeniable influence on your songwritings ?
Yes, US Metal one of our references, but when it comes to the influences we have a lot of it. Warlock, obviously, but especially the first two records which are much more European Metal, so as Accept for the mid-tempo riffing, and Judas Priest for the vocals and guitar works, Motley Crue of the very beginning, a bit of Mercyful Fate for the atmosphere, Damien Thorne for the sounds, so as Megattack. me personally the harshness of Debbie Gunn or Lorraine Gill, and the sharpness of Leather Leone, so as the evilness and theatricality of Rob Halford.
- Also, some more influences to notice, come from your tastes for horror movies, especially italian horror movies.. I remember i had a nice chat with Bob about this when we met... Bob seems to know ALOT on this topic, he's really passionate.. i guess it is easy to feel this through songs like the instrumental "Terror At The Metropol" and the album-intro "Regan"... they have those 80's horror movie atmospheres.. is composing music for horror movies something you would love to do in the future, if you were asked for ?
It isn’t the first time we get asked this question, I think we will love to do a soundtrack for an horror movie, but I am not sure this will be our goal. Much more an experiment! Yes, Bob above all is a very passionate of Horror Movies, but we all are. What’s more metal than a demon summoned, than a creepy atmosphere in a foggy night, than a living dead or a possession? And as Italian we can provide our best examples to all 70/80 horror cinematography, such masters as Bava, Argento, Cozzi, Fulci… if you like a true 80ies atmosphere you surely can’t miss their work!
- About the album-intro "Regan"... i can feel some similitudes with DOKKEN's "Without Warning" intro from the "Tooth And Nails" album (not only me, i saw some comments about this on youtube, i must say..) and the theme from "The Exorcist"... I guess this is deliberate ... How did you get the idea to compose such an intro ?
You get it 100%. We wanted to do a Dokken-like intro, to be honest, but wanted more in our style so we decided we didn’t addressed to The Exorcist until then, and the match was already done !
- Well.. Now about the feeback to the album.. How is that ? Is it what you were expected and how do you feel about the reviews ?
Oh, that is great ! Many quoted us among the best issues in 2018, many are happy about our comeback, and until now almost every comment has been enthusiastic. It is not easy-days to release a record because many band have access to professional studios and sound managers and they can easily reach great results, so competitors are a lot! We are happy because appreciation was world-wide and until now we had the chance to play in great festivals around Europe.
- I'm not sure but I don't think SIGN OF THE JACKAL is one of the most touring bands ever... except if i am wrong, can you tell me why you don't play live more often ? I don't remember i have seen a lot of shows out of Italy for example or appearances at festivals...
No, we don’t play often live. We choose where to be, and make sure people will enjoy our appearance. We don’t play often in Italy too, much more abroad. We like to do festivals. As long as we do 5 different jobs, it’s always an hard time to match the free time of everybody, so we carefully choose where it worth to play. Of course we would love to play a bit more, maybe some short tours more, but we don’t have any agency (and are happy with that) and don’t do pay to play, so in our case the less is more !
- Speaking of festivals... You played last year at the now well-know PYRENEAN WARRIORS OPEN AIR Festival in France... Was it your first time in France ? How was it ? What kind of memory do you keep from this experience ?
It was our first time, and it was a blast !! The festival is great, the audience perfect, the bands were killer. We had a great time and enjoyed a lot. Really good memories. Stage was huge and everything was professional. It was good to see reaction of the people. There were also many Spanish dudes who followed us during these years, and it’s always a pleasure playing in front of somebody who likes you. As for French metalheads… you guys are crazy ones ! I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the festival and hope to come back soon !
- Also.. you also recently did two shows in France in February 2019 with BLACK WYVERN and STONEWITCH.. how did this happen ? How was this second french experience ?
Yes, second time back this February. The guys at Anthems of Steel did a great job. Everything was brilliant this time too, we played in two freaking cool places, at Le Zinc in Poitiers and at Mondo Bizarro in Rennes… not mentioning the bands, because both Stonewitch and Black Wyvern are super cool bands with a brilliant sound! We enjoyed a lot being there! I don’t make names because it’s impolite, but trust me the guys made us feel home.
- And... France seems to love you now, you're also planned to play SOUTH TROOPERS Festival this september in Marseilles, right ? Feeling excited about this ?
There’s no second without a third. Let’s see what the future prepared for us. We really looking forward to the festival, because it’s a big one, and because we are now excited to come back to France, it’s super cool place to be !
- Any other countries on the map you plan to visit in the future ? What would be your dream-countries to visit and play in ?
As for now Germany (and this will be in early June at Black Forest V and Metaleros Vol.1 by the end of October) and not more for now… let’s see what happens. We would love to be back to Spain, and maybe eastern Europe. Not to mentioning that there could be maybe some good chance in Italy, who knows ?
- Some words on the italian Heavy-Metal scene.. I think it has never been so strong that nowadays.. you have a lot of STRONG bands, such as MEGAHERA, PENTHAGON, HELLRAIDERS, STONEWALL, ULTRA-VIOLENCE, BULLET-PROOF, BUNKER 66, SCHIZO (no newcomers at all !), VIOLENTOR,SLEAZER.. to name a few...but nevertheless the scene remains confidential.. How can you explain this ? Some countries like Sweden, Germany have more exposures.. what makes this difference in your opinion ?
Italian scene sucks. Full stop. There are a few bands that are exceptions, like the ones you mentioned before, and a few more ones, who play good music, are active in live performances, and share with us the same view on Heavy Metal, but for the rest everybody takes care just of its small field and doesn’t care about the scene. There is no effort to cultivate anything in Italy. There is no interest apart its own band, there is no effort to create something, it’s just cool to be on stage and fill the pockets with applauses. And for many bands playing heavy metal just means to wear black and have a distortion, but it’s also okay to follow the trends. There is a big bunch of bands that should be called with its proper name: posers. And yes, by the way, there’s no money in Heavy Metal, people don’t properly support their beloved bands, they don’t pay gladly the tickets for live shows, they don’t buy merchandise. Most of all they don’t come to shows, and this means you don’t have venues to play in, or you will not be paid for the night (or worst of all somebody could also dare to ask you money to play !!). There are really a few places holding on the flag and pursuing in live heavy metal music. There is no exposure of bands, because it’s considered a non-major movement, it’s a second class scene, and if neither the fans can invest in their beloved bands, how could a label do ? Stating this I am obviously generalizing, but in almost 20 years I am in this scene, I’ve seen many heads rolling, and a few people resisting. We literally know each other face to face! You know, the scene changes all the time: right now it really sucks. Back in my twenties it was a great one, and cool one. Maybe things will change again, who knows ?
- Are there some bands from italy you'd like to mention, bands you like & want to promote a bit here ?
If you didn’t before, go check Witchunter, Baphomet’s Blood, Last Rebel, Extirpation, Indecent Excision, Game Over, Violentor. They are all super cool and super active bands, I’d say you shouldn’t’ t be missing to see them on stage if you’ve got the chance to.
- Can you say Italy is a "Metal" country as we can say it about European countries like Sweden, Germany or Greece... ? Don't ask me about France, it's a "metal" desert .. it's so poor overhere..
No, I don’t. trust me, you’ve better movement in France nowadays from what I saw. I have many friends here, and we really have a good time. We made our metal scene, an that’s it. But I won’t say it’s a metal country and I won’t say it’s easy to approach Heavy Metal here because it’s so less “practiced”… we kinda know each other well, the ones who survived ! It happened a few years ago, something was moving on and there was a good scene, but right now there is poorness of people and places. There are, still, some acts who survive, but they aren’t much. But we are few and cool ones, and we kinda know each other well !
- Well.. What are your current plans ?
We are putting new stuff together and we might release something in year 2019 if we can schedule our time correctly. I don’t speak about current plans, because we’ll rather see what form will the songs take, and then decide how to put them together. And then, yes, we want to conquer the world.
- Also do you already have an idea of the "color" of the next album ? Will you take 5 years again to release it (i'm kidding, I hope you won't !) ? What would you improve on this next record, when thinking about the previous ones.. I mean it's important for a band to go ahead and not repeat itself.. and also bring something new or different.. which doesn't necessarily mean to betray the musical style..
I hope it won’t take another 5 years too!! On Mark of the Beast we had plenty of time to rearrange every piece, while Breaking The Spell has been much more spontaneous. Not that it didn’t took us time, but if you take into account two line-up changes and technical times for the issue (recording sessions, mastering, printing and so on) it isn’t such a long time. I like very much the way it sounds, but we used to have more variety in our songs, and on the next issue we’ll be taking more care and maybe trying to sound not so much rough. But will be very direct, much more The Beyond- like in terms of sounds and evilness. This is what we’ve learned in our previous experiences, but we are not planning any musical change, we’ll always sound like Sign of the Jackal, because we do enjoy this and because it’s our expression of Heavy Metal.
- Ok.. i think that's all for now. I really want to thank you for your time and answering to this interview ! Keep on the good work, play HEAVY METAL loud & proud ! Last words are yours !
It’s been a pleasure being here in these lines. And It’s been a pleasure being in France, we hope we can back soon : ST Festival in September and as long as you guys want us back ! See you there to hang out a while and have a few beers ! Take care of yourselves and always Fight for Rock !!
Fabien, born 1969, grew up with the NWOBHM sounds, musically educated with cult french magazines that were ENFER and METAL ATTACK, definitely nailed to the style when "The Number Of The Beast" was released... From 1982, it was clear life would never be the same ! Young & getting wild to the sounds of SAXON, TRUST, ROCK GODDESS, VENOM, BLACK SABBATH, DIO, MOTORHEAD, AC/DC... the passion grew up as years went by ... Discovering later the new styles that are Speed/Thrash Metal, Death-Metal, Black-Metal, the fate was SEALED.. Born to Raise Hell, Rock Hard & Live his life according to the METAL rules!!!