Interview with Raven Black Night by Neil Mach on Friday March 08 2013
Raven Black Night are a true/metal doom band from Adelaide South Australia. After forging a new partnership with Metal Blade, Raven Black Night has now released a stunning new album ‘Barbarian Winter‘ reviewed here >> http://metalasreligion.com
The Grand Inquisitor at METAL AS RELIGION has had the opportunity to have a quiet chat with Jim the White Knight [Jimmy Petkoff – vocals and guitar] from Raven Black Night – about the band’s commitment to the one true religion of metal:
METAL AS RELIGION: Tell us about the album artwork for ‘Barbarian Winter’ – Who is depicted on the sleeve? And why is he coming ashore?
Jim the White Knight [Jimmy Petkoff]: I think it is a mythical warrior – which could represent many a time – maybe ancient, or barbarian times or being a metaphor for ones self in today’s society. He is coming ashore to new lands like Robert Plant says [Laughs] or finding his home. These are my thoughts… the artist might have come from a different angle… he had our lyrics and music to work with, and time is endless, as they say.
METAL AS RELIGION: Who created this image?
We had a few submissions but were very happy with Costin’s work.
METAL AS RELIGION: What was the thinking behind the track ‘Morbid Gladiator’? Why was this song chosen as the first single from the album?
Well that track is one of three from our first CD re-mastered for ‘Barbarian Winter’.
That song started life over ten years ago – I wrote the lyrics when I was in Los Angeles with my other band The Loving Tongue – When we got there it was a real culture shock… in the hotel I just kept writing pages of lyrics.
When I started Raven Black Night with Rino (The Raven – Rino Amorino) I bought him the music and original bass player Matt did some fine tuning -and [after that] it went from 30mins to 3 and a half minutes [Laughs].
Obviously, the theme is of ones battles in the journey of life. It has become a real popular song with our fans… people know the words better then me! Fast forward to now, I guess it was the first single [because] besides being a shorter song – it is [also] solid and has all our trade marks guitar solos [plus] high singing, heavy riffing. [Grins] It is good to give it a new lease of life – to reach more people who might have missed it when previously released. With Metal Blade’s [www.metalblade.com] help it has already reached more people.
METAL AS RELIGION: We thought that this song was a boiling froth of dark brewings – How do you achieve such sludgy sounds?
Yeah! It’s funny… I come from a blues/rock back ground. I was playing Cream, Hendrix, Muddy Waters etc. I naturally found my self in D tuning and soon realised Tony Iommi (who I love) did also. When I met Rino – and original bass player Matt – they were both in D as well. I also found out it is a Celtic tuning… well it’s meant to be! [Laughs].
I guess we have a balance of foot pedals like big muffs and Rino is always trying older pedal boards, the sound of our amps- without sounding clichéd – the sound comes from the heart and the emotion in playing this style of music.
METAL AS RELIGION: Do you think that it has been easy to break free from the ‘City of churches’? (Adelaide has an ageing population, with the lowest number of teens in the country.)
Adelaide has always been against the eight ball compared to Sydney and Melbourne – Australia’s larger cities… There has been amazing hard rock/rock bands that come from [around] here – The Masters Apprentices, The Angels, Cold Chisel, AC/DC finding Bon Scott etc. And since then, many Adelaide bands have done well abroad.
I think you have to think outside of where you are in the world. With Raven Black Night we started going interstate before we had an official release and from toughing it out in our home town… we were hardened in performance and won over many new fans interstate and overseas.
The metal scene here in Adelaide has got stronger over the years. Before my time, in the early 80s, Adelaide had many hard rock, thrash and glam bands – a lot of them never recorded – then the big cover tribute explosion took hold in Australia … and some of these like the Zep Boys were great – but it to was hard to be an original band let alone a metal band!
When we started, it was mainly death and black metal bands with a few doom bands that kindly gave us some gigs till we got on our feet. Today there is a real healthy amount of metal of all genres playing every week. Mainstream press largely ignores it, but the community stations like Three D Radio and some street press cover it… So it is in a good place to be at present. In conclusion you can always break free – if you have the will and desire and belief in your vision and music.
METAL AS RELIGION: Have you ever rubbed shoulders with the likes of ‘I Killed the Prom Queen’? What about Double Dragon?
Interesting question. When I first started going to metal shows in my town with an ex-girl friend, we saw a band called Apocalpyse.com on a metal bill that had Jona [Weinhofen] playing in it- from I Killed the Prom Queen (and now Bring Me the Horizon). He was on guitar- I think it was him – but might be wrong … it was a long time ago! I also saw I Killed the Prom Queen once play with Parkway Drive at a big hardcore show a friend was running. I never met them [but] I was impressed with their delivery of their music and all their hard work hard touring etc.
Raven Black Night has shared a few bills with Double Dragon – supports for Paul Di’Anno,”Ripper” Owens [Beyond Fear] etc. They tended to play in different circles then – and they did real good for themselves! We play with anyone [Laughs]. Actually I have known Double Dragon’s guitar player roadie for many years – and we have had many conversations and beers [Laughs a lot.] He was at our last show – Adelaide is a very small place… you can run but you cant hide [Laughs.]
METAL AS RELIGION: We hear that you tend to festoon your stage with swords, shields, and candles… etc. Where does all this imagery come from?
I guess in the early days, when we were playing with black, death, and doom bands, it added to the element of what we were doing – we were much more bleaker then. It came from Rino The Raven – he goes to all these antique stores and the garage sales and finds amazing stuff that he would decorate the stage [with] and use a smoke machine and an ice machine… and it used to kill me singing [Grins.]
Once we played a Gothic club – he filled it with smoke, so no one could see anyone, any more. There were people with swords, they had a lot of fun jousting, banging their heads and … with the candles… Gothic girls would light them up [like]. It was a hard rock doom ceremony.
I also think that it could be from mine and Rino’s European heritage – or just our interest in European and Medieval history. We are no scholars though [Laughs out loud.] Really, Rino is obsessed with Kiss- God help us if we get a budget for a big stage show… Mind you, he already has an air-plane hanger [available] to rehearse it in! [Laughs]
These days it’s a straight hard rock show- we might introduce props later on- I have a favourite saying we are Emerson, Lake & Palmer… but for 50 people!
With art, I love a lot of fantasy art that is combined with reality. There is a famous artist (Can’t recall his name- it might be Boris Vallejo [a Peruvian-born American painter. The Ween song “Vallejo” is a tribute to this artist.] His work is inspiring.
I ran across this hippy girl at world music festival called Summer – she drew amazing pictures of the sea meets mermaids etc. I bought a few, I always try to help artists I know as well. For example, on our vinyl release there is bonus artwork from Emerson Ward who works in that fantasy field. I also love mythical type art and when I was lucky enough to visit the famous art galleries in London and Paris I was amazed at the religious art-work by the greats. I see so much vision- but I cannot draw – even if my life depended on it – but I am in awe of great artists. I am thankful [to be able] to play music … and that wasn’t easy either. [Laughs]
METAL AS RELIGION: It has been a while since ‘Choose The Dark’ (2005) – what was the hold up ?
Well that CD took 5 years to get out – playing live hard going across Australia plus limited money – but we finally did it.
After that we got more busy live across Australia (playing metal festivals,) and after that me and Rino were lucky enough to be invited to perform the Headbangers Open Air plus Hell’s Pleasure and Hard and Heavy summer nights in Germany 2007. When we returned, we kept playing live and after further line up changes, me and Rino recorded the new material with Chris Dorian (Kokiousis) on bass and Matt Enright sessioned on drums – and we kept over dubbing & mixing [till] what we had left we were satisfied with.
It being so long between drinks we had to make a statement . We started to shop it around – we had a few offers as we were recording it – but then we were lucky enough to be put in contact with Alan from Primordial who then helped by introducing us to Metal Blade. Time flies- no time for doom and gloom [Laughs]
METAL AS RELIGION: Will your new partnership with Metal Blade Records herald a New Dawn for Raven Black Night?
I must say, as I have many times, we are a very honored and humbled to be part of an iconic metal label like Metal Blade Records. To be on their roster is a dream come true! We want to give 120 percent to make it work … we have been on our own from the beginning, so it is amazing to have dedicated people who love their music behind you. We feel very welcome and we hope it’s the beginning of a long journey – bringing our music to the people – together with their help- and the band grows with them.
METAL AS RELIGION: You have certainly become proficient – some would say masterful – live performers over the years… Do you think this skill and energy has been translated well, into your recorded sound?
I guess every time we went in to record there was a drama [Grins.] Maybe “The Raven’s Curse” – who knows? Maybe the [the curse] is the 5th member [Laughs out loud.]
With the first CD we had initially failed to attempt to record – between changing drummers. We found Joe Toscano [The Loving Tongue] who played on the Choose the Dark CD (2004). With limited funds we went in and put it down as quickly and as best we could. I only had one day for vocals, we mixed it in three – so I guess you could hear some [of that] urgency on that release.
With the new stuff we also abandoned sessions – we did it from a different studio,the feel wasn’t right, by the time we found – against the grain – [that] we were in a race against time ( because Chris who played bass was relocating back to Europe) so we got him and Matt Enright for the beds. It was 40 plus degrees in that room – funny enough an old furnace historically protected – me and Rino then went to town on it [Laughs] ,so it has the urgency and energy again.
But in saying this, I think without being clichéd again, we have stronger performances and songs – in us – to record. I feel we can bring it to anther level in performance and production. I am sure [that] once we have a stabler rhythm section – in time we will achieve this.
Me and Rino have also discussed doing a live album – down the track – given we have sections in our music we can never predict and the bands that inspired us, and were amazing live. Given the circumstances we had with our recorded input we rose above the obstacles- in a way maybe that comes across in the music.
METAL AS RELIGION: How are you going to reward all your brothers and sisters in metal – here in Europe- who have remained faithful to Raven Black Night?
Well, we have to come over and kick some serous ass live and give all our hearts and souls when we play – and hope to spread the hard rock metal gospel, and to get material out a lot quicker. We have much gratitude for all the patience [that] our fans have shown to the band and our music. We have met many kindred spirits who stay in touch with us over the years.
METAL AS RELIGION: And finally, are all ravens black?
[Laughs] You know, I am not sure! Someone told me there is a white raven and it has a lot of meaning to American Indians. I have to search this out. I have always felt a connection with American Indian culture and with their connection to nature, spirituality etc. And (Because I have long hair and a dark tan) I quite get asked if I am part Indian. Maybe in a past life – who knows?
I do have a feather on the end of my guitar that a girl once gave me!
METAL AS RELIGION: Thank you, Raven Black Night
The pleasure is ours. Thanks for your time and stay metal and free.
© Neil Mach March 2013