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Interviews Ian Highhill

Interview with Ian Highhill

Interview conducted by MetalMike

Date online: June 14, 2024

Finland's Ian Highhill, former singer for Olympos Mons and current Astralion vocalist, is also a multi-instrumentalist who released his second solo album in 2024. Ian took some time out of his busy schedule to let us know about the new record, what got him started on the heavy metal path, and what he's currently up to.

Hi Ian, thanks for taking some time to let readers of The Metal Crypt know what is happening with you and your music. How are things where you are?

Ian: Well, I've been busy as hell promoting my new album. I have also been busy getting a live band together so I can do some live gigs.

Your second solo album, Gallows, was released on May 31, 2024, congratulations! How has the response been so far?

Ian: I gotta say it's been fantastic, really. One is always a little hesitant when it comes to one's own work and this time all the pressure was on me alone, as I have done everything myself, writing performing, mixing and producing. I have received a great response from fans and media for which I'm very grateful and very moved.

What should metal fans new to Ian Highhill expect to hear on Gallows?

Ian: Old-school kick ass metal like it used to be in the early '80s.

You are currently the singer for the band Astralion and sang on both albums released by Olympos Mons in the early 2000s. What made you decide to begin releasing solo albums, first with Man in White in 2021 and now Gallows in 2024? Are you someone that simply has too many songs for just one band, or did you want to explore some different creative directions with your solo work?

Ian: When I started this project, I wanted for once write songs in the style I fell in love with growing up in the early '80s. Music for myself and maybe also for people my age. I love Black Sabbath and especially the line-up with Dio during the NWOBHM era. I also love Judas Priest, so I guess I wanted to do something in that direction. I felt I had something in common with those Birmingham bands growing up in the shadow of the metal industry myself. I even worked in a metal factory for 16 years (laughs).
Power metal as in Astralion/Olympos mons is also very demanding on singers and I'm not getting younger so with this music, it's a bit easier in that department.

You've worked with Limb Music with both Olympos Mons and Astralion but both of your solo albums have been independently released. Is this a conscious decision on your part to retain full control over the music, artwork, etc. or would you be open to working with a label if the right deal was offered to you?

Ian: Yes, it was a conscious decision. I wanted to see what I could do independently before I even thought of getting a record deal, and Spotify and other platforms are great for that. But, of course, it would be nice to have physical copies also, which I can't afford now. So, in that sense a future record deal could be nice. But it's early days, time will tell. And being an old-timer my dream is, of course, to make a vinyl version. Nuclear Blast, did you hear that..?

To my ears, the music on Gallows is more focused and heavier than on Man in White. How did the songwriting for Gallows differ from Man in White and did you make the decision to go a little heavier this time or is this just the result of "where the muse took you," so to speak?

Ian: Yes, it's quite where the muse took me. I was very much into Blue Oyster Cult's "The Symbol Remains" at the time I wrote those songs, so maybe it influenced me a bit? Great record by the way. But sound wise I've spent hours getting it as analogue as possible. I wanted that raw unpolished sound that was on those early '80s albums. Martin Birch is my all-time favorite when it comes to producers.

What is your songwriting process in general? Do you have a set of rituals or a certain time of day where the ideas flow best or do ideas simply come to you and you have to stop everything to capture them in some form so you can work on them later?

Ian: At first, I call down all the present demons and... No, I'm kind of writing all the time, it's very much an ongoing thing for me. When I don't mix, produce or promote, I'm writing. I'm getting much of my ideas from TV and movies but also from life in general, all bad and good things I'm facing daily. I'm always making notes. In the past I carried pen and paper with me everywhere, nowadays it's my cellphone. I also record ideas with it, if some riff or melody comes up.

I'm sure you've written songs that while they may be good, don't fit the style you want for your solo albums. What elements do songs need to have before you put the name Ian Highhill on them? How do you know when something you've written is ready for the world?

Ian: I usually start with a riff and then lyrics/melody. It completely depends on what kind of arrangement you make for a song. I know what kind of arrangements I'm out for so that's never a problem for me. Probably 95 percent of my songs go on a record. A song must have a good riff so if the riff doesn't feel right then I leave it at that.

When did you first discover hard rock and heavy metal music as a young person in Finland and how hard was it to get your hands on new music? Were you able to tape trade or were there radio programs you tuned in to to learn about new bands? What were your favorite bands when you were first getting into heavy music and which ones inspired you to become a musician yourself?

Ian: I lived in a very small village then and still do today. Back in the '80s without Internet you were very cut off indeed. But I was lucky to have two friends from (the big city) Helsinki who brought with them the whole NWOBHM movement when they came on vacation to our village. That included VHS tapes with music videos and the latest records by Ozzy, Maiden, and Saxon, etc. They also queued to get us tickets for concerts, so I really have them to thank for much of my enlightenment. But before that I had heard Rainbow's "I Surrender" in the local gas station and fell in love with it. That was the first hard rock song I ever heard. Two of my friends from the village also wanted to start a band so they asked me to join and the same year I got my uncle's old electric guitar as a birthday present. You simply couldn't listen to those NWOBHM bands without dreaming of being a guitarist, singer, or drummer yourself, it wasn't an option.

Do you remember the first album you owned, and do you still have it? :)

Ian: My first album was Elvis Presley's Gold Records Vol. 4 and I still have it. My first metal record was Saxon Denim and Leather quickly followed up by Rainbow's Difficult to Cure and Iron Maiden's The Number of the Beast and so on. I still have them all.

Looking at some of the posts on your Facebook page, it would appear you've been able to take your music into the live setting. You play all the instruments on the album, so do you have a group of musicians that back you up when you play live? Are you hoping to tour in support of Gallows? If so, where would you like to play and where is realistic given the enormous cost of touring?

Ian: Yes, as I mentioned earlier, I'm just about to get a very promising band together. We have our first audition/rehearsal today actually, so I'm very excited to see where it goes. Two of the members, the drummer and the guitarist are new to me, but the bass player Krister Lundell has been playing in both Astralion and Olympos Mons. I'm hoping that we can take this as far as possible, of course, but we'll start off by doing gigs here in Finland. Sweden and Germany are high on the list being relatively close but it's for the future to tell.

Are there any places you've played in the past, whether with Olympos Mons, Astralion, or your solo show that you'd love to get back to for one reason or another? Where haven't you toured in the past that you'd like to visit in the future?

Ian: I would love to go back to Ireland and Dublin where we played some gigs with Olympos Mons. Such a wonderful place, packed with music, art and history. As I mentioned Germany would be great and England. But the dream, of course, is to be able to come to the US and the rest of the world as well.

For the fellow musicians out there, what gear do you use? Do you have things like a favorite guitar or an old amp that just has a great sound?

Ian: I bought an Epiphone SG a few years ago and it soon became my favorite. I also love my Squier P-Bass so that's also a favorite. I'm using an AKG microphone for recording and a Sure SM58-beta live.
Nothing fancy, just basic gear really.

In today's music business, you have to put your music on multiple streaming platforms to make sure fans everywhere have the chance to hear it, but we also know that streaming isn't a huge moneymaker for artists. Will fans who want to support you by buying a physical copy of Gallows be able to do so and where is the best place for them to do that?

Ian: As soon as I get enough money to invest in pressing CDs, I will probably try to sell them on Amazon or Shopify, I haven't really figured that one out yet. I'm in no hurry because most people are streaming music these days anyway.

Before I wrap up, what else about Ian Highhill and Gallows would like readers of The Metal Crypt to know that I haven't already asked about?

Ian: Well, I'm currently working on my next album so as soon as the mastering is done, I will start releasing singles again, so stay tuned.

Thanks again Ian, for taking some time to talk to us about your new album, Gallows! If there is anything else you'd like to add, please feel free and make sure to let us know where to keep up with your music on social media. All the best with Gallows and I hope someday to catch a live show here in North America!

Thank you so much, Mike and the readers of The Metal Crypt and I certainly hope I get a chance to visit North America, it would be a dream come true (one of many).

Get updates on upcoming releases and gigs:

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Other information about Ian Highhill on this site
Review: Man in White
Review: Man in White
Review: Gallows

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