In April, melodic death metallers Jotnar released their debut album called Connected/Condemned. DutchMetalManiac's Julia Obenauer already reviewed it here. She also interviewed Jotnar's guitarist Ben Melero, which you can read below.
Hey Ben! Thank you for doing this interview with DutchMetalManiac. Could you briefly introduce yourself and your band?
Hey! It's a real pleasure! Well, I'm Ben Melero, guitar from Jotnar. We are from Canary Islands, Spain. We make some kind of melodic death metal, very influenced by the Scandinavian Metal but with our little personal sauce in there.
How did you guys meet up, and can you tell us a bit about the band history up until now?
My guitar buddy Elhadji and I have been together since we were 6 years old. We've been thru a lot together and we even learned to play guitar at the same time. We always knew that we should do something together someday and by 2005, we decided to start a band. At that moment, just a project. It was really hard at the begining because it was complicated to find musicians in the island who were not playing in some other bands. All of the metal musicians were already spoken, and it took us a few years until we could finally set the first steady line up. In the meantime we started writing songs, rehearsing them by ourselves and basically, setting the foundation of our sound.
We started playing live in 2009 but we had to make some lineup changes by then. We had many songs ready but we decided to make a short EP album to show the world our music in order to release a full album in like 6-8 months. That was the initial idea but it didn't work out that way. We released the EP "Giant" in March '12 and it worked so great that we started touring a lot in Spain and some parts of Europe. So the full album had to wait.
After that, we stopped touring to focus in the new album, work on all the material and polish it before entering on studio. We recorded the whole album but our former singer had some personal issues that made him impossible to record the vocals. We waited for him, with everything recorded, for about a year and a half, but at the end he told us he couldn't make it so we had to part ways. He is still family for us and one of our best friends, but we simply couldn't make it. That is when Mario entered in the band and we decided to make a fresh start with him. We didn't want him to simply track the original versions but instead, we wanted him to add his personal touch, so he never listened the original vocal demos. We started working from scratch and created a new demo. All of this forced a big delay for the album but we are extremely happy with the final result. It really worthed all the wait.
How did you come up with the band name?
Jotnar is a term that comes from the old nordic mythology. They were the giants, a superhuman race in between the gods and the humans who lived at Jotunheim. I personally love the Norse mythology and since our style is very influenced by nordic music, it was a great match for our band's name.
Your music falls into the melodic death metal category, even though you also incorporate some other styles as well. What do you like about the melodeath genre in particular?
The Melodic Death Metal genre is sooo wide, with many differences that it's very complicated compare and even label a band in. We personally love the mix between aggressiveness and melodies, and we express this duality in the guitars as well as in the vocals. This is the key for us and what we really love the most, no doubt.
You just released your first album, called “Connected/Condemned”, on 21st of April. I really loved it when listening to it, were other reactions as positive?
Thank you so much! We are really proud of the final result. As I mentioned before, it was a very hard and tedious work, with many problems and delays, but we are extremely happy with it. About the reactions, well… so far we are thrilled by the possitive feedbacks, from press and fans. We even had some of our videos shared in their social medias by some of our musical mentors like Tom Englund from Evergrey or Jesper Strömblad from In Flames, with amazing comments about us which totally blowed our minds! So we cannot be happier with the feedback so far.
How did you experience the album production process? How did you approach the songwriting and the recording?
That's a tough and I guess long question to answer but for us, the songwriting always start from the guitar riff. Everything in our music is guitar based. For sure, everything must work in consonance at the end, but everything starts from the guitar. We really work by heart and by feeling, and when we write we don't follow anything, just do what we feel and what we enjoy and then, work it all out all together to make all the arrangements.
About the recording, I have a recording studio and our both albums have been produced and engineered by me, and then I send it to mix and master by a clean and not so corrupted ears. This album was mixed by Sacha Laskow at the Perfect Filth studios in Canada and mastered by Jens Bogren at the Fascination Street Studios in Sweden. They totally nailed it!
How long did it take it to get the whole album done?
It's hard to know for sure cause we had that stop I mentioned before for the singer issues and then we had to start from scratch with the new singer. It has took us so much time that I really don't want to even think about it, heheheh. The important thing is that it's finally released and we are really proud of it.
A cool bit is the Nelly Furtado cover. How did you come up with the idea for it?
I've always loved that song and everytime I listened it, in my mind sounded with this kind of rhythm guitar over it, so I made my own version a few years ago. It was just a personal project but when Mario entered in the band and we were working on the album, I showed it to him and ask him to record a vocal demo. We loved the result that much that we decided to add it to the album, not because we needed more tracks (that we didn't) but just because we found it really cool.
You guys come from the Canary Islands. Is there an active metal music scene, and if so: could you recommend us other bands from the islands?
Yeah, it's a very small scene, we all know each other but it's a nice scene. There are some really cool bands like "Mondo Diavolo", "Tears of Martyr", "G-noma", "Disomnia", "The Zeronaut", "The Hole" and a really long etc. There is a good vibe and some kind of brotherhood between the bands. In fact, most of the musicians there play in several bands and it's kinda fun.
Which bands inspire you as individual musicians or as a band, and why?
There are hundred bands which inspire me personally. I started playing guitar because of Slash, back in the '90s, and then all the bands from that decade, Metallica, Nirvana, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Aerosmith, Pantera and an infinite etc. Then I started moving into more metal, and listen bands like Dream Theater, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, At the gates, Arch Enemy, Soilwork and again, the list could go and go with no ending. These latest bands are the ones who forged the base of what we do know... That mix between power riffs and melodies was what opened a new way of playing for me and that's what we love.
I read that you confirmed two festival dates in Spain, and that you are planning on playing more shows. Can we anticipate on a European tour then? Do you have more details for us already?
That's correct. In fact, we've already played one of them about 2 weeks ago and we also made a tour with Sonic Syndicate in Spain, which was really great. We will also play in a festival in Italy on June 17th, the “Straevil Fest” in Brescia, and then we will play at the Barcelona Rock Fest in July 2nd, a huge festival with bands like Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Airbourne, and a long etc.
We are also working on more dates, for sure, and our idea would be to do an European tour, maybe next year. It's still everything in the first steps, but that's what we'd love to do. And of course, all the European festivals we can make.
Do you have any cool or bizarre stories from life on the road or on stage you feel like sharing?
Man, lots of road stories, lots of fun and craziness but you know the saying, what happens on the road stays on the road, hehehe.
Is there anything you would like to say to our readers?
Just invite you all to listen our music and watch our videos on youtube. We hope you can enjoy with our music as much as we enjoyed it creating it. You can always support us and follow us in our official site and facebook, etc, and if we play near your hometown, jump in and say hi. We'll take some beers after the show for sure!
Jotnar Official Website