Aussie Metalcore heavyweights I KILLED THE PROM QUEEN are back with them comes ‘Beloved’ their heaviest cut of metal to date! Like it’s predecessor ‘Music For The Recently Deceased’ the new album was recorded at Sweden’s Studio Friedman, the birthplace of many a Melodic Death Metal masterpiece over the years. Founding member Jona Weinhofen fills us in on his favourite tracks, the guest appearance by SOILWORK’s Bjorn “Speed” Strid, and just about everything else you’d want to know including when the band might be heading to New Zealand next…
Your new album ‘Beloved’ is sounding huge and that’s the same thing that drew me to your previous one. Was going back to Sweden and recording with Fredrik Nordström again a no-brainer for you guys?
Yeah basically, I mean we did toy with the idea of recording in a different studio and working with a different producer. We sat together and we compared a bunch of different records from different guys that we were fans of and at the end of the day it just came back to us being more happy with the sound that Fredrik helped us to coin and create on the ‘Music For The Recently Deceased’ record. Also, I had been living in Norway for the past couple of years and making frequent trips to Sweden to Gothenburg and Stockholm. So I’ve made a lot of friends and contacts over the past few years and we really wanted to utilise some of those contacts for the record whereas if we’d gone somewhere like the states I wouldn’t have known anyone. We ended up having a Swedish friend of ours who was a bit of a composer and a writer collaborate with us and some other friends in Europe. We had a friend with us from Italy working with us on some of the synth sounds. It just made it easier being on the same time as all of those guys and actually being able to physically meet with some of these guys and work with them whereas doing everything via email and computer in a different time zone can be a bit tricky.
Was it awesome being based in Gothenburg where the big Swedish melodic death metal bands started it all in the 90s?
Absolutely. I’ve visited Gothenburg so many times in the past few years that it almost feels like a second home to me. It was cool being somewhere that’s familiar and yet different as well. Because it’s such a beautiful city and it is the home of a lot of our favourite bands and influences like IN FLAMES, DARK TRANQUILLITY, SOILWORK and bands like that. It was cool, it was really inspiring to be in a place where we knew that good music is constantly being made and I guess that helped with the writing and recording process as well.
It’s funny because the first time I heard you guys was when ‘Music For The Recently Deceased’ came out and I remember thinking wow this sounds like IN FLAMES with but with an even fuller mix. Then I read the booklet and saw that it was recorded at Studio Fredman just like them and it all made sense.
Well that’s the thing. We’d heard Fredrick’s recordings with those bands and we were listening to our own past records thinking why don’t sound like this? Why don’t we sound this good and this big and this melodic? We kind of honed ourselves a little more and then we just reached out to Fredrik and it turned out that it was within possibility to record with him so we took it up a notch.
Did he have any good tricks for bringing out the best in your musicianship?
Oh yeah he’s a really funny guy and he’s got a partner now called Henrik and they’re a very unique team. They don’t work around the clock with us, they do it in shifts. So one minute we’ll be working with Henrik and a few hours later we’ll be working with Fredrik. It’s kind of difficult to explain but they’re both really silly guys personality wise but at the same time the Swedish seem to have a knack for perfection. One minute they’ll be cracking jokes and being dumb and the next minute they’re telling you that you’re not good enough at guitar and making you track everything over again. So it was cool. They’ve got just the right balance of fun and personality but they know what we have to do to get the job done and to get the best results out of our playing to create a good record.
So you still have the two core songwriters in the band with yourself and Kevin but even still, was it a challenge to have everyone on the same page musically or was everyone pretty much thinking the same thing when it comes to writing and recording?
No it all came together pretty well and you know, we had a few conversations prior to really knuckling down with the writing process and you can always talk about oh, we should sound like this or we should take our music in more of this direction and at the end of the day once we’re all five of us in a studio together it’s what comes out that seems to come out naturally. This time around we’ve got a newer vocalist Jamie (THE RED SHORE) who has been in the band since 2011 and he actually did quite a lot of writing of the music on this record too. He wrote almost the entire song ‘Brevity’ which is the closing track on the record. So it was nice to have other people have that much of an input to where it took a bit of pressure off Kevin and I with the writing. And even Shane and Ben who maybe didn’t write so much of the music themselves, they were really involved in the song writing and the song kind of shaping processes. So everybody had a really good helping hand in writing this record and I think that’s one of the reasons it turned out so good, because we worked as a team of five rather than maybe just having one or two guys write everything and hand it over and go yep, here it is, it’s finished.
You mentioned the track ‘Brevity’. That song and ‘Calvert Street’ are my two favourites at the moment. What about yourself? What are you the most proud of on the album?
You know what, my favourite song that I can listen to changes almost daily. I think ‘Calvert Street’ is one of my favourites just because of the way that song turned out. During the writing process it was such a… I don’t know explain it, it was one of the ones we had the most trouble with and it took us the longest to finish almost and when we finally did we were like oh ok, it’s kind of done, it’s pretty cool. That was one of the songs that when you get it into the studio is just transformed from being one of the songs that was kind of ok because we took so long to finish it to alright, this is a fucking awesome song and it has Speed from SOILWORK doing guest vocals. That again was a really big deal for us. We’ve been fans of SOILWORK and Bjorn’s vocals for a long time so that really helped that song come together.
Were there any tracks which you guys recorded that didn’t make it one the album?
No, we basically wrote and wrote and wrote and even when we thought we had enough material for the album we still had more ideas so we kept writing. There were maybe one or two songs that we were in the process of writing which we left off the record but that was only because the 14 tracks that made it on there were all more or less done or if they weren’t finished they were a bit more of a favourite. So there were a couple of tracks that weren’t quite completed and we just thought lets leave these and focus on the ones we have because we’ve got more than enough. Everything we recorded made it on to the record. I think two or three of the tracks got left off for a deluxe version that’s just available on iTunes but yeah, all 14 tracks that we recorded are available to buy through iTunes.
The music video for ‘Thirty One and Sevens’ is cool. Who came up with the post-apocalyptic concept?
The concept was originally thought up by the director Ryan Chamley who has been quite an old friend from the band. We basically read the storyline and had a bit of input there and decided that we thought it was a cool idea and something that not too many other bands in our genre were trying. The sci-fi post apocalyptic element, it really appeals to me personally because I’m a huge sci-fi fan but some of the other guys were a little bit weary of trying of trying something that far out for a band like us. But again we didn’t just want to do the run of the mill hardcore/metalcore music video in a dark dingy warehouse where a girl is running around with blood on her or something like that. I liked that the video turned out to be a little bit different in it’s theme and I think that the aesthetics of the video work really well.
That forest part reminds me a lot of New Zealand but I guess Australia has similar forest as well.
Haha it’s funny, we’ve got so much boring farmland and dry outback but every now and then you come across a beautiful lush piece of forest. That was filmed in and around the Geelong area in Victoria. I’m not sure how far they had to travel to film the forest parts, we actually weren’t present for those, we didn’t get to go.
Speaking of concepts, who was it that came up with the ‘Beloved’ album cover artwork?
We’ve always liked to have a bit of a hand in the direction of our artwork but the original idea and concept was thought up by the guy who did do the cover art. He’s a friend of ours who is based in Copenhagen, Denmark. He had worked with me previously with one of my other bands with some videos and some artwork so I wanted to work with him again with this record. Basically we just gave him the songs as soon as they were finished and said we trust you, see what you think of the record and what kind of ideas it conjures up and he came back to me straight away with a detailed explanation of how he wanted the cover to look and the theme inside and we all basically read it and thought that sounds perfect. In a kind of abstract way it sums up the record pretty well for us you know, making a visual connection between the cover art and the songs as well.
After the band went on hiatus you became a member of BLEEDING THROUGH and also BRING ME THE HORIZON. The experiences you had in those bands, would you take them back if it could’ve meant keeping I KILLED THE PROM QUEEN, or has it all been worthwhile in terms of musical and life journey sort of things?
I think everything happens for a reason. I’m a bit of a believer in fate and I’ve learnt so much from being in both BLEEDING THROUGH and BRING ME THE HORIZON and now I’ve come kind of full circle back to I KILLED THE PROM QUEEN and I have all this experience and lessons learned which I can put into PROM QUEEN. So that’s what is kind of exciting for me at this point. But yeah, I wouldn’t change things. You’re always going to play the “what if” game and say what would’ve happened if I never left PROM QUEEN or we found another singer back in 2007 when we split up but the fact of the matter is you can’t change the past and we’re back in a good space right now and we’re very happy with it.
At one point you were in BRING ME THE HORIZON and I KILLED THE PROM QUEEN at the same time. Was that tricky with two bands based on almost opposite sides of the planet?
Yeah you know it was an idea we wanted to try and it proved quite difficult because my priorities did lie with BRING ME THE HORIZON at the time and we were touring full time. The PROM QUEEN thing kind of re-emerged as a bit more of a side project kind of idea. Because it was my original band and I had always been kind of steering the ship with PROM QUEEN, I really wanted to see what would happen if we did do another record. But yeah, it was almost unfeasible to be able to balance both bands especially the busier PROM QUEEN got and the more that came up for PROM QUEEN. So yeah, it was tough at the time but now that I’m back with PROM QUEEN full time it is a load off my mind and it’s kind of refreshing to focus all of my energy onto one project again.
You’ve had a few guest appearances outside of I KILLED THE PROM queen over the years too. One was with the Finnish melodic death metal band called MORS PRINCIPIUM EST – I really dig that band – and the other French band LYZANXIA. How did those two in particular happen?
The LYZANXIA thing, it was just a fluke that I was in Sweden re-recording vocals on ‘Music For The Recently Deceased’ with our newer vocalist at the time Ed Butcher who had just joined the band and they were also recording in a different part of the studio so it was just kind of like a fun thing to collaborate with them. And with MORS PRINCIPIUM EST, I’m a massive fan of their band as well. I came across their records probably about seven or eight years ago. I was a fan of these records and influenced by them musically and I ended up reaching out to them through I think Myspace at the time and said hey I’m Jona, I play for this band and I’m a big fan. The singer Ville wrote me back and said it’s really cool to hear we have a fan there and we kind of just created this friendship through Myspace. I ended up actually getting to meet some of the guys when I went to Finland on a tour and spent some time there with a girlfriend at the time and got to hang out there. Fast forward to two years ago and they were doing a new record and asked me if I wanted to do a guest solo.
Do you think there’s something to say for reaching out to bands and introducing yourself if you’re a fan and a musician that has talent? You know, putting yourself out there?
I don’t know, I’m pretty lucky because I’ve kind of grown up with these bands and I’m lucky that my band was successful and I joined other successful bands and then that kind of put me up on the level with these people. I’ve met them through touring or through mutual friends. It’s kind of strange going from being this young guy from Adelaide, South Australia growing up with all this music that I was a big fan of and then now I’ve met half of these people, I’m friends with half of the people I looked up to back then and that kind of part of my life is pretty surreal. I’m a very social person and I don’t have any problem reaching out to people that I kind of admire and yeah I’m just lucky that I’ve become friends with some of them and gotten to work with them on a professional capacity as well as being mates.
How did you get your endorsement with Caparison Guitars? I see Anders Björler from THE HAUNTED was with them at one stage as well.
I came across them being a fan of SOILWORK. I saw some pictures of SOILWORK playing these guitars and I thought what are these? They looked so cool and elusive and they’ve got the really cool devil’s tail pointy head stock shape. I finally, through scouring the Internet, tracked down the name of the brand and then on PROM QUEEN’s first ever trip to Japan, I think it was in 2007, I actually got our record label rep to reach out to the guys at Caparison because they’re based in Japan and they sent out a rep to one of the shows. We had a chat and he brought me a catalogue and about two weeks later I had an email saying we want to fully endorse you and I’ve been working with them ever since. They’re an awesome brand, they make absolute fine quality guitars and although they’re not one of the bigger brands available in stores worldwide, I play them because I have love for the brand and for the products themselves. Now I’ve forged a good friendship with Itaru who is kind of the mastermind behind Caparison and now their new parent company based in the UK. They’re just fantastic guys to work with.
Last question, we didn’t get to see you guys play over here in New Zealand last year. Any chance you’re going to incorporate us into your world tour.
Yes definitely! Yeah last year it was a bit of a shame that the New Zealand leg of the June tour got dropped off and that was mainly due to the promoter not being confident in the sales of the tour at the time and there were some other tours that it was going to clash with. So we do have plans to add New Zealand to our Australian headline tour for the release of ‘Beloved’. We’ve got quite a bit of touring lined up in the next couple of months including the Soundwave Festival tour here in Oz and stuff in the States and Europe and as soon as that’s all done we’ll be coming back and we’ll be touring Australia-wide, New Zealand and hopefully adding some South East Asia dates to the tour as well.