Interview with vocalist Lee Anvel
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: December 22, 2018
In Finland, there's been an old-school Heavy Metal phenomenon going on for some years which has produced many new, talented bands (Coronary, Evil-Lÿn, Chevalier, Mausoleum Gate, Satan's Fall, Angel Sword, Chalice etc.) that have one thing in common: playing traditional, often NWOBHM-driven Heavy Metal.
Outlaw, a fivesome from Lappeenranta (which is a city and municipality situated on the shore of the Lake Saimaa in southeastern Finland, about 30 kilometres from the Russian border), plays early Priest/early Maiden-tinged Heavy Metal, which hasn't gone unnoticed by record companies. Germany's High Roller Records signed the band after hearing their 2017 three-song demo and the band's debut album, titled Marauders, was kicked out of the doors at the end of October 2018.
The Metal Crypt decided to find out a little bit more about this promising Finnish Heavy Meal newcomer and contacted the band's vocalist Lee Anvel, on one cold, murky and rainy day, via email...
Luxi: Firstly, thanks for accepting my interview invitation. How's life in Lappeenranta?
Lee: Thank you for the invitation! It's dark, rainy and cold in Lappeenranta; a perfect setting for rehearsing and writing new stuff and to get creative, so that's what I'm mostly doing these days.
Luxi: Secondly, can you tell the readers of The Metal Crypt how the band got started? Was it an easy mission to find like-minded guys from your area to play purely old-school 70s/80s Heavy Metal?
Lee: It started a couple of years ago with me and our bass player humoring ourselves on a late-night car trip with an idea of a Heavy Metal project. I had wanted to do that kind of thing since I was a kid but always thought I had no ideas or talent. So, we started the project and I made a couple of songs that turned out to be surprisingly good. Then after a while the project evolved into a full band and here we are. Finding musicians was relatively easy and we were already quite good friends with our drummer and guitarist before they joined the band. For the second guitar player we had to do some searching and we tried out two axemen before we found Simon.
Luxi: Speaking of your music, it's heavily rooted in the early days of Maiden and Priest, so was it intentional or not to adopt a similar sound?
Lee: Well, they are the two bands that have left the biggest footprints on classic Metal and I think the music we make would not be possible to do without sounding like them to some extent. But what we set out for is not Maiden or Priest sound but simply classic Heavy Metal sound. I dislike the Metal production style nowadays in general; it's too fat and doesn't have enough edge.
Luxi: What can you tell us about your alter egos; Johnny Gutter, Simon Shatter, Jimmy Slashburner, etc.?
Lee: We don't see Finland as the ideal growth platform for the seeds we're planting, so we have them partly because it's annoying to operate outside Finland with Finnish names that people have problems pronouncing. Also, although the names are mainly some kind of translations of our real names, they sound 100 times more metal, so we didn't really think twice when we decided to use them.
Luxi: When I heard your 3-song demo, Speed Calls, which you released in April 2017, I was impressed. What stuck out most in this recording was, of course, how you had succeeded in incorporating a 70s/80s feeling and vibe into the songs. I was especially amazed by your vocals because I couldn't help comparing them to the vocal patterns of the one and only Metal God, Rob Halford. I suppose I am not alone here with my comment...
Lee: Yes, many people have said the same thing.
THE VOICE OF THE METAL GOD
Luxi: Do you find these comparisons flattering or just irritating? I mean, to me it sounds like you have, either intentionally or unintentionally, tried to get rid of some of those vocal mannerisms on your debut album, Marauders...
Lee: Well, it depends on the critique. Some have seen it as plagiarism, others have really liked it. I did not try to undo the Halford sound on the album, I just gave the songs what I felt they needed and what I could deliver. Naturally, I have other influences besides Rob like Blackie Lawless, Tony Martin, Geoff Tate, John Cyriis, Jon Oliva and Ted Pilot for example, and in the future those influences may be heard more and more. The transition that has happened from Speed Calls to Marauders is just me developing my own personal vocal style and at the moment it seems to be heading in a more AOR-ish direction.
Luxi: How did you end up signing a deal with Germany's High Roller Records? Did you find the label to be the best option as they have a very good reputation for quality releases, plus have a lot of understanding for the kind of stuff that you guys are also doing?
Lee: High Roller contacted us after hearing Speed Calls and we did not hesitate for a second. You're right, they have a huge catalog of quality releases and they really know their playground. If there were more suitable labels for releasing Marauders, we never thought of one!
Luxi: As great as the songs "Future Wars" and "Iron Outlaws" were from your demo, what's the reason they weren't on the new the album?
Lee: They didn't fit the album's atmosphere and will most probably find a better fit on the second Outlaw album.
Luxi: Any chance to get the Speed Calls demo pressed on a vinyl format someday, knowing both cassette runs were so limited and apparently, they are completely sold out by now?
Lee: That has not been planned. Maybe Speed Calls could be a part of a compilation of some sort in the future, but I don't think it's time yet.
Luxi: You held the album's release party in your hometown of Lappeenranta on October 27, 2018, with Guns of Glory and Lord Fist supporting you. How did it go? Was the place fully packed?
Lee: It went great and yes, the place was packed!
Luxi: Besides the venue called Old Cock, what other venues do you have in your hometown that are pretty favourable for booking Metal bands?
Lee: Well, Old Cock is not that kind of place, they usually book bigger mainstream rock bands and this event was quite exceptional. But according to feedback we got from them they would be willing to do something similar in the future now that they have seen it brings in the people. Besides Old Cock we have Totem and Lucky Monkeys. Lucky Monkeys has mainly smaller bands and they have something going on nearly every weekend. Gigs at Totem are bit more rare.
Luxi: Talking about playing live, I saw that you have this tribute to Mark Shelton (R.I.P.) event in Helsinki, Finland, coming up on December 7, 2018. What did both Mark Shelton and Manilla Road mean to you personally? Did you feel honoured to get the invitation to be a part of this special event?
Lee: Manilla Road is one of my favourite bands for sure. Mark had an amazing voice and awesomely epic way of composing music. Also, Manilla Road has some of the most iconic metal lyrics out there. Honored may not be a right word here but we sure are excited to be there!
Luxi: What else have you planned for 2019 gigging-wise? Are you aiming at getting some slots at a few summer (Metal) festivals in Finland next year?
Lee: We have one show booked for March but nothing else yet. It will take place in Helsinki and it will feature about ten bands, all from Finland and all of them play some form of traditional heavy metal, so it's guaranteed to be a killer event!
OTHER BANDS AND/OR PROJECTS
Luxi: You are also known as the guy behind many other bands, from Battlegoat to Rautavaris to The Wandering Midget, and the list goes on. What's the driving force that keeps you involved with so many bands at the same time?
Lee: I just have an urge to experiment musically and see what my limits are. I only have three active projects at the moment; Anvil Strykez, The Wandering Midget and Outlaw. The first one is a solo studio project, so I can do it whenever I get the feeling. These three are quite different projects and they offer a big playground for whatever kind of ideas I may come up with, from techno and psychedelia to heavy and doom.
Luxi: Lappeenranta has always been known for its vivid underground Metal culture, which has produced such names as Charged, Evemaster, Battlelore, Dark Elite, Satanic Warmaster, etc., over the decades. How do you see the city's state these days regarding what's been bubbling under the surface in the sense of young and promising underground Metal bands?
Lee: There are no other traditional Heavy Metal bands like Outlaw here as far as I know; most are more extreme. Axeslaughter and White Death are the ones I like the most.
Luxi: Is Outlaw your number one priority at the moment or would you like to treat all your other active bands equally?
Lee: Outlaw is the priority at the moment, but these things are simply managed by the ever-unpredictable flow of my creative currents; I will usually put most weight to the project that has most promising material coming up.
Luxi: Outlaw is a young band, formed in 2015. What do you expect from this act? Have you set any goals that you'd like to achieve by playing straight-up, old-fashioned Heavy Metal with your fellow mates in the band?
Lee: As you said this is a young band, and it may not be wise to set huge goals here. But I think we need to play some shows in Germany in the future. Also, as satisfied as we are with Marauders, we will aim to make the second album superior to the first one.
Luxi: I would like to thank you for taking your time with my questions and in the same breath, I also would like to wish you all the best with all of your future endeavours with or without Outlaw. Now you are entitled to those last words to wrap up this conversation properly...
Lee: Thanks for reading and keep your faith in steel!
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