Interviews : Holy Grail – “It wasn’t my goal to be in a thrash band forever.” (An interview with Alex Lee)
Holy Grail – Alex Lee
Almost a year after their successful appearance at Soundwave Festival, American traditional metal outfit Holy Grail released their second full-length album ‘Ride the Void’ last month. Following the release of the album, Metal Obsession had the pleasure to speak with guitarist Alex Lee about the new album, his old band (Bonded by Blood), the Metal Alliance/Soundwave tours and more.
Metal Obsession: To start this interview off, what album are you most looking forward to this year?
Alex Lee: You can think about it, and I’m gonna go out and say Soilwork, and their new double album out in March. I heard some stuff online and it sounds delicious.
Metal Obsession: I had a listen to one of the songs from that album as well, I think it was for their music video, and it sounded pretty good.
Alex Lee: Yeah, I’m not too sure about the music video. Is it the one with the old guy?
Metal Obsession: Yeah, it is. I wasn’t paying attention to it too much though, but the song was good.
Alex Lee: Yeah, it was one of those things I thought “that’s different to do, but y’know, the songs awesome”.
Metal Obsession: Holy Grail released their new album ‘Ride the Void’ almost a month ago, which is a really good album by the way, well done. How has the reception been so far?
Alex Lee: Thankyou for the kind words! The reception has been really good, nothing but good reviews. Even the ones that were bad were still good. I read a review by a guy who just really did not want to like it, but he was like “yeah, I guess I’ll listen to the next one when they put it out”. But yeah, I’ve even had friends giving us a lot of praise for it, people I haven’t talked to in a while sending me text messages about liking it.
Metal Obsession: That’s great to hear. Ride the Void is also the first studio album you’ve played on for Holy Grail. Did you take much part in the writing process, or had most of the stuff been written before you joined the band?
Alex Lee: Yeah, actually. I was there when we were going through all of the pre-production, and sorting out the songs that were going to make it on the album, and what would be bonus tracks. It was great to be involved with the entire process of the album with the guys, rather than having the entire album finished and me just playing songs.
Metal Obsession: How about the ‘Seasons Bleedings’ EP in 2011, did you join the band before the recording of that?
Alex Lee: They already released their album ‘Crisis in Utopia’ before I joined. They were going through their heavy tour cycle, and that’s when I joined.
Metal Obsession: But did you also join for the recording of the EP, or was that already done before you joined the band?
Alex Lee: Oh! The one for the Christmas special? Yeah I was in that one!
Metal Obsession: What was your favourite cover from that EP?
Alex Lee: I gotta say that ‘Kill the King’ by Rainbow was my favourite.
Metal Obsession: Nice! My favourite was the cover of ‘No Presents for Christmas’ by King Diamond.
Alex Lee: Awesome! We were a little afraid to tackle that one, so we kind of switched up some of the Christmas songs. It was kind of weird figuring out Christmas songs in September. There’s something not right about that! [laughs]
Metal Obsession: Well I guess it would be a really hard song to tackle, especially in the vocal section.
Alex Lee: Yeah, I think Luna did a really good job at it. I guess in a couple of sessions, he had to take on King Diamond and Dio. They’re definitely some big shoes to fill.
Metal Obsession: Absolutely, but I think he did good at it as well.
Alex Lee: Awesome!
Metal Obsession: Before Holy Grail, you were a founding member of Bonded By Blood for 6 years. Why did you leave the band, and do you and the rest of the Holy Grail members still get along with Bonded by Blood?
Alex Lee: Yeah, it was a very mutual parting. Bonded by Blood did a tour with Holy Grail, Exodus and Malevolent Creation, and listening to Holy Grail’s style of music, it really mesmorised me, it was more of their playing style that I wanted to get into. When I was in Bonded by Blood, we weren’t really sure what musical direction we wanted to become, and automatically got put into the ‘thrash revival’, just for the fact that a lot of the bands we were playing with in LA were a lot of newer thrash bands. It wasn’t my particular goal to be in a thrash band forever, but I kind of wanted to be in a band that was more heavily guitar related to the soloing, and traditional metal, rather than sticking straight to thrash metal.
It gave me a good opportunity to join Holy Grail, because during that tour, I found out that their other guitarist was leaving the band. I made my ultimate decision on one of the last tours with Bonded by Blood. As good friends, I discussed it with them, it was my way of leaving the band so I could pursue what I wanted to do in a career. We’re all still good friends, and they understood really well, and the rest of Holy Grail are still friends with Bonded by Blood as well.
Metal Obsession: What did you think of Bonded by Blood’s new album ‘The Aftermath’? That had a different vocalist, didn’t it?
Alex Lee: Yeah, our old vocalist, Jose Baralles left after the Exodus tour. They picked up another guy for the new album and the tour before I left, and this guy actually used to go to school with me.
Metal Obsession: What other bands have you been in over the years?
Alex Lee: No, I haven’t actually. Bonded by Blood was actually the first band that I started, so Holy Grail are the second band of my guitar playing career. It’s pretty crazy!
Metal Obsession: Sounds crazy. You seemed to go pretty far with Bonded by Blood compared to the usual first band formed by anyone.
Alex Lee: We really tried to drive Bonded by Blood to where it is now. We all worked hard at it, we never slacked off, and it did pay off. Even up to now, with what they did with ‘The Aftermath’, I was actually really proud of them for putting out a really good album. It has a different kind of feel to your normal thrash album. I talked to my other guitarist and they actually got 7 string guitars into the mix. So it gave a different sound to it.
Metal Obsession: So what did Exodus think of you calling the band ‘Bonded by Blood’?
Alex Lee: [laughs] He was actually pretty happy about it. First he never listened to us, he heard the name and thought it was cool of us to pay homage to the album. But when he actually heard the music and toured with us, he thought we were really rad dudes. He couldn’t be any happier to hear that we named ourselves after his first album.
He actually invited me up on stage to play the song ‘Bonded by Blood’ on the last show, but some crazy stuff happened, and unfortunately they got their set cut off!
Metal Obsession: That’s no good! Did you ever get any crazy Exodus fans who would crap on about Bonded by Blood being a ripoff/unoriginal thrash band, just because of the name?
Alex Lee: That never happened to us in person, but mostly all of the people online on the forums and what not, just talking tonnes of trash.
Metal Obsession: Speaking of Exodus, you’re doing a ‘Metal Alliance’ tour with them soon as well, also with Municipal Waste, Anthrax and High On Fire. I bet you’re excited for it?
Alex Lee: I’m excited for it, it’s going to be really fun. Since we toured with the guys from Exodus already, it’s gonna be really awesome to play shows with them again. It’ll be an easier way to meet the Anthrax guys as well, hopefully.
Metal Obsession: Yeah, that would be an awesome tour. Anthrax are coming to Australia in two weeks for Soundwave Festival, so I’m going to see them. Apparently Municipal Waste are coming to Australia later this year too.
Alex Lee: Cool! I think Municipal Waste are really going to bring it for this next tour.
Metal Obsession: In 2012, you had the opportunity to tour Australia for Soundwave Festival, as well as play a couple of sideshows with Black Label Society and HELLYEAH. Can you tell me a bit about how the tour went? What were your favourite parts?
Alex Lee: Just meeting all of the Australian fans was my favourite part. We went to Australia, it was our first time for any of us to go over there. We were just amazed at how friendly everybody was and how awesome the shows were. Even a lot of the bands that we played with were cool, there were a lot of really nice musicians there. Not a lot of big heads walking around.
Metal Obsession: Since you enjoyed the country, does this mean we can expect Holy Grail to tour Australia soon, maybe in the next 12 months?
Alex Lee: We would really love to. We haven’t seen anything yet that’s in the works, but the only thing that’s officially confirmed right now is the Metal Alliance tour in USA. We could only hope to have something planned for this year or coming next year.
Metal Obsession: If you know many of them, who are some of your favourite Australian metal bands?
Alex Lee: Parkway Drive, they’re from Australia right? I really like them. Actually, our singer Luna helped out with some backups on their new album. I checked them out after that, and yeah, they’re a lot of fun. There was also some other band I was listening to that I can’t remember. AC/DC are also one of the obvious bands, and I don’t really listen to a lot of Silverchair, but I know they tried to get a bit heavy at some point.
What bands do you recommend out of Australia?
Metal Obsession: It’s hard to list a few on the spot like that, because there are a lot of bands from here that are fantastic. But off the top of my head, if you want to go old school, there’s Mortal Sin and Hobbs’ Angel of Death. For the new school stuff, Elm Street, Psychonaut, In Malice’s Wake and MetalStorm are all worth checking out. But there are plenty more good bands.
Alex Lee: I think we actually met some of the Elm Street guys on the Soundwave tour. It was at one of the sideshows with Black Label Society, I think we met some of them.
Metal Obsession: You probably did. I’m pretty sure a couple of them went to the Melbourne show.
Alex Lee: Yeah, that was actually the band I was thinking of before who I couldn’t remember the name of, because I was talking to them, and then I saw a couple of music videos of theirs. They have some pretty cool stuff!
Metal Obsession: Yeah, they’re a really good band! Anyway, we’re out of time in this interview. Great speaking to you, is there anything else you would like to say?
Alex Lee: Thanks for listening to the new album, I’m really glad that you enjoyed it! Hopefully we’ll have a beer together in the near future.
Holy Grail‘s new album ‘Ride the Void’ is available now through Nuclear Blast Records (Europe) and Prosthetic Records (USA).
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