Interview With Thunderblast's bassist/vocalist Felipe Franco by EC

Well Felipe, tell us about this brand new beast you have created, this band that you have started called Thunderblast. How would you describe the band's sound to fans out there who aren't familiar with you?

First of all thanks for the chance to do this interview and for the wonderful support Maximum Metal has gave us so far. Well Thunderblast started two years ago from the same three friends that were together playing some five years ago in a band under the name of Sidereal. At some point we split up and for some time there was no band. Then two years ago German came up with new songs that he started recording as demos at his home and told me “hey men I have new songs”. Most of the music inside the "Warzone" CD is all German’s making. I had two ideas from past songs and he gave new structure and sound to my ideas. Then Ricardo came back from NY. He was there studying at the Drummers Collective and say “hey what’s up? Are we re-starting Sidereal?”, and I said no, now we will be called Thunderblast (name taken from the mix of two Transformers characters after a long search with German for new names). The next step was to record the CD.

So basically Thunderblast sound is from my point of view a mix between classic European Power Metal and some elements of the 80´s US Trash Metal. The lyrics so far, go from movies or comic books that inspired me, to basic elements as speed and technology.

Now your bio says that yourself and guitarist German "War" Guerra formed Thunderblast out of the ashes of previous band Sidereal. What kind of band was Sidereal and how does the sound expand into Thunderblast?

Yes, well Sidereal was the first approach we had as a band, not only rehearsing but actually recording demos and play live. I had some previous experience with high school bands just singing, all those bands lasted a period of one year. So I remember recording some songs at some point and then I met German. So we put together a demo CD of nine songs and decided to publish this material. After this we met Ricardo at my University and Sidereal was ready to do some rehearsals and live appearances. Then I decide to take care of the bass because I was playing guitars before, and in a few weeks we were already playing at local bars and some festivals. After this fist period Sidereal saw many line-ups changes and basically we had to understand that any first step comes with a lot of learning. Unfortunately Sidereal recording was anything but professional. In the end it was a nine songs demo. The sound was a mixture of many things from many different heads.

In the end, the big step from Sidereal to Thunderblast is the fact that we dedicated a lot of time in coming up with new songs for a future CD. Time has passed and along with it the concept and lyrics of Thunderblast are solid now. German takes care of composing the music and Ricardo and I go along with the idea of solid melody killer songs. The guys let me take care of the lyrics. I am the one reading Sci-Fi and comics.

The band currently resides in Colombia. What is happening there as far as metal goes? Any fests, shows, or metal attention going on there? Is there a scene there at all?

Yes, there is a Metal scene here. Small compared to the US and Europe but in the last six or seven years we had the chance of having live appearances of bands such as Megadeth, Helloween, Stratovarius, HammerFall and Children Of Bodom for the first time. A small group of local promoters started to invest in bringing these bands to Colombia and the result is happiness for all the Metal Heads here. Along with this a new generation of local bands started to appear with new demos and CDs. Local concerts take place almost every week in the metropolitan area of Bogotá and other cities. To have a closer look of our scene you can visit a web page called http://www.rockombia.org/, is in Spanish but gives you an idea of the metal life of the country. But it is really hard for a Heavy Power Metal band as Thunderblast to make it here. Somehow, Death and Black Metal is the top of the top for many people here since two or three years ago.

A lot is missing anyway. We don’t have serious independent record labels, so that has made difficult the promotion of our band in our home land. It is funny, we get more back-up and reviews from other countries than Colombia. And a descent distribution deal for local selling has been almost impossible to accomplish. The country has a big music industry but you can imagine what kind of music I am talking about, hu?

"Warzone" is the debut record and it is currently out now. Let me say Felipe, upon first look this album looks very professional. How in the world did you manage to make this thing look so damn good considering you are an independent band spending your own money? The graphics and layout is just killer. Do you do this for a living?

Thanks for the comment. First was the music. In the end we spend almost one year putting together the sound and songs at the best studio we could find. For us it was clear from the beginning that we have to come out with a real CD. We were tired of making demos, and being in control of this so far is nice because the gratification comes along with the fact that you know you made it with your savings. In the end is all for the music right?

So the logic move in terms of design and packaging was in my hands. I graduated from Visual Arts two years ago and started working for local bands and Metal Head friends designing for there bands. Logos, posters, demos, CD covers, you name it. Now is kind of a big deal because I do a lot of designs for local bands. There are not to many illustrators and designers working on this here, and is cool because I get a little bit more inside de scene. The other cool thing is that thanks to my portfolio of local Metal designs I ended up working for Lucas Films – Licensing a year ago illustrating guys as Darth Vader, Grievous and Yoda. This is another story but I am trying to make it into the European and US scene by promoting my work in my personal web. http://finalfrontier.thunderblast.net

What is the main influence behind this record? Obviously I can hear all sorts of modern power metal elements as well as the "classic" days of Maiden and Priest. Where do you feel Thunderblast fits musically?

Well the "Warzone" CD is a first approach in search of a sound that we like. I remember the recording days and we were just making a record for ourselves. We think that is important to make clear what influences you have but another important element is to be aware of the time you are living in. Heavy Metal sound has evolved musically and technically, I am not talking about keyboards and samplers, is a natural evolution in terms of Heaviness. In the last few months we have been listening a lot more US thrash metal. Going back to the basic sound of bands like Anthrax. Megadeth, Metallica and even Canada’s Annihilator is what is going on right now in our heads. So I am not saying our next CD will sound like that but you’ll be able to figure out our evolution in terms of a point of view for our sound. I don’t deal much on sound evolution. Thunderblast will always sound Power, Heavy and Trashy. Is metal what moves our hearts and brains.

How long have you been singing and did you have any voice training?

I started to sing when I was 15 or 16 years old. I had at school a band with a friend and we had songs in Spanish and English. I sing now at 26 mostly only in English. I studied some years in Canada and US. And because of my work I talk all the time in English so from my point of view Rock and Heavy sounds better in English and many more people get to hear and understand you music. I remember having some singing classes at some point a few years ago but my singing has evolved along with the band.

Your guitarist German Guerra is just a madman on guitar, really showing off some real talent on this album. Where did he learn to play like that and what influences his playing style?

"We were tired of making demos, and being in control of this so far is nice because the gratification comes along with the fact that you know you made it with your savings."
I’ll let German answer this one:

First of all I have been listening to Heavy Metal since I was 12 years old, and I learned to play guitar when I was 15 by myself. I started to take guitar lessons when I was 22 years old for 2 years. I practice everyday improving my techniques and composing new riffs, melodies and solos for new songs. In the beginning I liked to play songs from other bands but I came to a point that I wanted to create my own songs. It’s funny because I like European Power Metal, US Trash Metal, Classic Heavy Metal (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest), but also I like Hard Rock from the 80’s because they had very talented guitar players, I like everything that has nice solos, melodies and great guitar riffs. For example I like the guitar play techniques of Jeff Watters of Annihilator, the metal composing of Dave Mustaine on guitar, the guitar play and composing of Kai Hansen from Gamma Ray, but I also like guitar players such as Paul Gilbert, John Petrucci, Patrick Rondat, to name a few (you can check my bio on our website). In summary, I want to have my own style, my own sound, but to describe my guitar play is a mix of a lot of guitar players (more than you can imagine) that I like.

Just recently the band picked up a small distro deal through America's Sentinel Steel Records. How did that happen and how is it working out so far? Are you selling any copies here in the US yet?

Well, we know Denis from Sentinel Steel back from the Sidereal days. He was kind enough to sell some of the Sidereal demo copies. So when the time came to distribute the Thundebrlast CD in North America our first approach was with Denis. He really liked Thunderblast and with him there is no mystery. Lets sell this CD. We are grateful with Denis because he’s the closest to a Record Deal we hade had so far. We are always promoting our CD in search of a Record Deal for future releases.

So for those of you interested in our CD just go to: http://www.sentinelsteel.com/

What is the biggest show you have played thus far in your Thunderblast career?

Bogota (Colombia’s capital) has every year a big free Rock festival called Rock al Parque ( Rock in the Park) So this is a one weekend open air with four or five different locations in the city with all kinds of different styles of Rock music. All the new bands attended a pre selection for the festival they do. And out of 20 bands Thunderblast was selected along with other tree bands. This happened less than a month after we came out with the "Warzone" CD. So this was five thousand metalians, and the cool thing is that there was a big group of fans supporting the band and asking for autographs. (never in my life I expected to do a signing of autographs) anyway this was pretty cool. Another cool event was opening Paul Dianno’s first concert here in Bogota. The guy was crazy and really liked our work.

Now, one of your favorite hobbies on your bio lists collecting music. I have to ask you, how many CDs do you own and what is the number one "treasure" in your collection.

Ok I’ll answer this one but the real maniac for music and CD collecting is German he has more than one thousand original CDs of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock music. I don’t have as many music as him, now I am trying to get old stuff. Old Judas Priest CD´s and stuff like that but my number one treasure is probably Gamma Ray’s Land of the Free. I love the sound and the cover art, brings a lot of nice memories when I hear it.

You have another hobbie as well, collecting comic books. What is your favorite comics and what are your thoughts on the various Marvel films that have come out over the last few years?

Hey comics are a big part of my life. I mean it depends on what I am reading but I have been tremendously touched by Mike Gignola´s Hellboy. The combination of art, story and fun is just to cool to see and read. I am also a big fan of Travis Charest work and Adam Hughes covers.

As far as the new Marvel movies I like what they have done with X Men and Spider Man, I just hope they don‘t fuck up with the Ghost Rider movie they are doing.

Do you plan on seeing the new Batman: Beginning film?

Yes sure. I love the first two movies done by Tim Burton, is been to long since Batman movies look like crap. The trailers for Begin look dark and complex. One of my top list summer premiers for sure.

What did you think of Episode 3: Revenge Of The Sith? Did they do justice to Annakin's shift into Vader?

That’s a tricky one. You know all of us Star Wars fans knew what was going to happen right? I have some questions for you but I think they are all over our heads. What’s the deal with this sudden 70´s vibe in the last five minutes of the movie? Suddenly the two visual universes collided? And Count Dooku exists because? What is the deal with the Darth title for the Siths?

The other day we were talking about all this with German and he said that for him the image of Vader was now torn apart from this image of an unstable teenager obsessed with his dreams.

From my point of view Anakin character was not fully developed.

I have to say that visually the movie is a master piece and for me the scene where we see Anakin panic while the black mask comes down was full power. Music was as always excellent. But in the end I will keep "Empire Strikes Back" as my favorite one.

What is the one underground band out there besides Thunderblast that you would like to see make it big?

There are a few bands starting out like us. They do other kind of Metal but a couple of friends are playing with bands like Freezing Darkness that has a dark Death Metal sound and a superb use of music elements. They come from a city called Pasto down south of the country. And from Bogota I personally like the sound of Opensight (http://www.opensightband.com/) a nice mix between Iced Earth and In Flames. These two bands will eventually come out with there first CD´s this year.

Alright Felipe, we really appreciate your time and we wish Thunderblast the absolute best of luck. For those of you out there looking for speedy, in your face power metal look no further that this band's debut "Warzone". 

Thanks for all Eric. And thanks to you for reading this. For more info go to: www.thunderblast.net

Take care.

Felipe FrancoEric Compton1/13/2012
Felipe FrancoEric Compton6/5/2005

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