Interview: Robert Lowe

For me, every interview on our blog is quite special. I like it to speak with artists from all over the world about my favourite styles of music, their stuff, their views and many other topics. Nevertheless, there are some interviews which are extremely special. You surely know what I’m talking about. Today, we may present to you an interview which fits perfectly in the aforementioned category because I had the opportunity to talk to »the epic voice of doom«, Robert Lowe (ex-Solitude Aeturnus, ex-Candlemass, Tyrant, Grief Collector…). Enjoy reading!

Robert, what was the last record you listened to before this interview? I’m rather predictable: It was Downfall… to get in the right mood.

Robert Lowe: Oh, I think I was listening to Cheap Trick…, yeah, it was the original of their debut album.

Do you regularly listen to your own albums?

Not on a regular basis, but every once in a while. Obviously, I like the material, because we wrote it. A lot of times, my mood calls for exactly what we wrote.

Currently, you’re involved in some very interesting bands and projects. At first, I would like to talk about Tyrant. I really love your latest output Hereafter. For many fans, it was quite surprising that you joined this band. Simple question: How did that happen? 

Well, in 2017, Greg and Rocky already had some material. Apparently, there were difficulties to get Glen (vocalist on all Tyrant albums so far, BB) involved in the project or whatever the situation was, I didn’t ask questions. Glen was familiar with some Solitude material and one of his friends is a good friend of ours. So, he said: »Why won’t you just give Rob a call? He might be interested.« Well, Greg gave me a call: »Hi Rob, what’s up?« We talked for a while, you know, he’s a Texas boy, I’m a Texas boy. So we had conversation for a while. He finally asked: »Would you be interested?« I was like: »Why the hell I‘m not? Let’s go!« And it’s basically that simple. Next thing, you know, I‘m in California recording demos.

Would you like to sing their early stuff – let’s say Warriors of Metal from their debut album Legions of the Dead – live on stage, too?

Yeah, I wouldn’t have a problem with any of their original stuff. Hopefully, we’re able to get out and play again! 

I keep my fingers crossed!

We’ll throw in some of the original stuff, definitely, because, you know, the fans want to hear it. When we go to a (Deep Purple, BB) show, for example, we want to hear »Smoke on the Water«. If not, you would say: »Hey, why didn’t they play that?« I’m not opposed to do anything.  

What do you generally think of Hereafter?

We’re really stoked about the new album. It’s got a kind of an edgier feel to it than the original stuff. This was, I would say, straighter power metal.

For me, Rocky’s guitar playing is, well, utterly amazing on Hereafter. What do you think of his style?

Yeah, it‘s perfect, I mean, especially for what we are doing and what they have wrote. It was easy to put my vocals over the top of his style of playing. You know, it’s still… metal. I love a lot of the stuff he does. We spent two weeks in California at Bill Metoyer‘s house and we got along fine in the studio! As a matter of fact, 90% of the time, it was just me and Rocky. It was like: »We do this thing, we do that thing.« There were no issues.

Can you point out a favourite song on Hereafter

»Bucolic« is my personal favourite. It sounds like a cliché answer but, honestly, I like everything on it, the songs are all good: »Hereafter«, »Beacon on the Light« and I go: »Well, I like that one, too!« But »Bucolic« was the first one that hit me, it was a kind of your first love, if that makes any sense.

For sure! For me it’s nearly impossible to make a decision… perhaps »Fire Burns«…, »Dancing on Graves« or the titletrack… well, I don’t know…

Yeah, I’ve seen that a lot that many people go for »Fire Burns«… and »Dancing on Graves«, that’s cool. If I put Hereafter on, I just let it run. It’s a solid album. There’s no filler material on it, for sure. 

Definitely not, that’s right. And it deserves much more attention, if you ask me…

I mean, it’s getting attention, we make it in a lot of the »Top 10 albums of the year« lists (for sure!, BB), we’ve gotten quite a few interviews, in Sweden Rock MagazineMetal Hammer, and many more, honestly, I don’t remember all of them. Well, it’s getting some attention in some of the metal mags, so, that’s nice.

How would you classify Hereafter stylistically?

Personally, I see it as solid heavy metal with a sprinkling of doom. I mean, it’s got both elements. It’s not completely one or the other.

Next year there’ll be a new Grief Collector record as well. The teaser sounds really promising. What may we expect? Classic powerful epic doom metal all over? Like »Eyes of Fog«? I wouldn’t complain about it…

Yeah, En Delirium, we had the ability to do a complete album. We were able to expand on the first five songs of our EP or album, I never know how to call it. It’s got a bit of everything. We were able to explore more because we had more material for a full-length album. As for me, I’m completely happy with the entire thing. This one is straight up doom. Matt does guitar and basses, he’s just an amazing player. Brad comes up with some really good riffs, basically just out of his head and he tells Matt: »Hey, do this, do that!“ And Matt turns them into something monstrous. This is definitely going to be a solid project. It’s one of those albums you can put on and – honestly, even in my own taste and opinion – let the whole thing play. You don’t have to skip anything because track 5 or so sucks. If you’re driving the car, put it in and you’re done.

Did you write all the lyrics?

No, I had Brad take over the lyrics. Initially, when I first joined Grief Collector, I was still writing lyrics for the Tyrant album. So I told Brad at that time: »If you‘ve got stuff, let’s go ahead. I’m totally fine with that.« He writes some amazing lyrics. We didn’t even really change anything. We went into the studio and I straight away vocalized what we has wrote because his lyrics are good. There’s nothing to change, it‘s solid. Well, we’re a solid team! I really enjoy working with Grief Collector. We get along like we’ve been playing together for a hundred years, when in actuality I’ve only been to Minnesota twice. For the first time to do the EP, you know I don’t know how to call it, and for the second time I went up there was for En Delirium. But, like I said, we get along in the studio like we’ve been good buddies for a hundred years! It’s a great pairing, it works well – in the studio, there are no issues. It’s just like: »Let’s go, you do this thing, I do that thing. Let‘s put it together like a sandwich.«

Well, we’re a solid team! I really enjoy working with Grief Collector. We get along like we’ve been playing together for a hundred years.

Sounds promising!

By the way, where do you generally find the inspiration for your lyrics? You’ve already written so many of them…

I pull from inside. I don’t like to write fantasy lyrics or these »girlfriend-rock’n’roll« lyrics. Everything I write comes from literally personal experience and life experience. Basically, every lyric you read of mine is completely personal. And if you can decipher my code, then you know a lot about me. 

And the same question regarding the vocal lines? How do you create them?

Well, how do I create them? It may sound silly as hell, but what happens is normally: I usually have my own book of lyrics. We write the music or somebody else writes the music or I write the music. I listen to whatever sampling of music it is and, I just hear in my head, I know which set of lyrics I’m gonna pull for this. I don’t know how to explain that. Instantly, again, it sounds silly, but I hear in my head what I’m gonna do. It’s not like I sit there and ponder over the chorus or the verse or the pre-chorus. It just literally comes out.

Back to Grief Collector in particular: Are there any plans for live gigs with Grief Collector – provided that this damned pandemic allows it… 

We had a couple of shows and a couple of festivals lined up earlier this year – which obviously were cancelled, which is a pain in my ass! Yeah, I’m really hoping that we can play again. I would love to give Grief Collector material out there live on stage. 

May we, in the best case scenario, hope for any gigs in Europe?

It’s hardly been talked about. But there’s definitely a want to do stuff overseas. Scandinavia, Germany… we’d like to make a quick tour out of it, that would be amazing.

Awesome! There’s another interesting collaboration with Andy DiGelsomina. »Entombed by Choice« sounds great because of your vocals and Andy’s wonderful guitar work. A very personal and emotional track with a sad background. What can you tell our readers about this project?

Andy is an amazing guitarist, a solid player. I’m blown away every time he sends me material. I always think: »Damn, this motherf***er can play!« (laughs) The first song was done a few years back, it took a while to be released. But, as a matter of fact, I’ve got another track I’m working on right now for Andy. Again, the music is, in my opinion, heavy as hell, I was listening to it again yesterday. I really thought: »This shit is heavy!« It’s looking promising. 

After all these years, your voice is still amazing. How do you do it?

Lots of beer and cigarettes! (laughs) I’m just grateful. Honestly, beer and cigarettes is really all I’m doing anyway.

On our blog we focus on epic metal and epic doom metal. How would you, as »the epic voice of doom«, define the term »epic metal«? What makes a song epic?

For me, it would have to be grandiose, like a symphonic piece that takes you on a journey: from highs to lows, to heavy, to soft – even like a play, each act. It’s not just droning on the same goddamn riff over and over for ten minutes, because anybody can do that. To me, it’s a journey. Obviously, it’s got to be heavy as shit. Along with the journey musically, the sprinkling of the vocals should also evoke emotions within the listener. Let’s say, you could take the vocals out but the music can still carry itself. Then you add, you know, the vocals, that also could maybe carry themselves. But, like I said it, if the vocals can’t cause you to have emotions, well, it’s not really epic. I don’t like to sing about dungeons and dragons all day long… 

Basically, every lyric you read of mine is completely personal. And if you can decipher my code, then you know a lot about me. 

Robert Lowe

Obviously not…

Yeah, for me, it has to be personal! Those kind of lyrics, adding the journey with the music – that is what epic doom metal is.

Could you point out a favourite epic metal band? Which records are your favourites?

That’s hard to say, you know, I’m listening to so much shit. The earlier Candlemass stuff is epic. Who else does it? (thinks a while) I mean, it’s really hard to say, I’m a super fan of Trouble, but I wouldn’t call them epic. Oh God, I can never answer questions like this. Never! When I hang up, I say: »Oh, fuck!« (laughs) But, no, now I know who I like a lot: Amorphis, with their kind of folkish type of music with heavy fucking guitars, with these clean and cookie monster vocals. Stuff like that. You know, I mean, maybe My Dying Bride, too, but that is more a drony doom metal type of thing. But this is really a hard one for me to answer…

Are there any talented epic doom metal bands that you would like to recommend for our readers?

Honestly, I haven’t listened to a lot lately. I haven’t done a lot of exploring in a while. I’m 100 percent not sure what’s really out there.

What do you generally think of the North American metal scene these days?

Is there one? (laughs)

Well, that’s the question…

Okay, I haven’t noticed. If you‘re talking about the shit that’s on the radio, it’s crap, definitely.  

Are there any striking differences between metal fans in North America and Europe?

I think, the metal community as a whole, no matter where you are, is just a completely solid group of individuals.

That’s definitely right.

It really doesn‘t matter, you got 10 or 15 people in some shithole in San Francisco or, you know, you play at Sweden Rock Festival and you have 800 million – it’s all the same, and I don’t mean it the bad way! It’s a solid group of people. They are dedicated and loyal, I mean, just good people.

What’s your favourite festival in Europe?

I like doing Wacken, that festival is nice. Bang Your Head! in Balingen, too. Well, you know, of course, it can’t go wrong at Sweden Rock – I mean, that one really tops the charts, it gives you everything, it doesn’t matter! And there‘s another one, I’m not sure, I can’t remember, was it in Trondheim?… (laughs) That was a few beers, I mean years ago… 

I’m sure the fans who saw you on stage, remember it! Well, let’s come to a completely different topic. Which record would you recommend for somebody who isn’t very familiar with the Solitude Aeturnus stuff?

Oh, just off the top of my head, I would definitely go with Alone. Yeah, that one, Alone… For me, if I was recommending for you, I would say: Start with Alone, and go backwards and get Adagio, listen to Beyond the Crimson Horizon, and you’ve got to have, you know, Into the Depth of Sorrow into your collection. With that being said, I love Downfall. I’m still not happy with the way the mastering came out, it really changed the sound, a lot of people griped about the mastering, but we didn’t have anything to do with that. Downfall is our most eclectic album. We’ve done a lot of experimentation on there, went a lot of different ways. Lyle was writing songs, I was writing songs, you know, Edgar was writing songs, everybody was writing songs. Everybody was putting different pieces together, just like bringing something to the table. Somebody brought the hamburger, I brought the chicken, another one brought the tacos – then we put it all together. 

Could you point out a favourite Solitude Aeturnus song?

I would have to go with »Scent of Death«. The lyrics, to me, on that one are very important. That’s an epic ten-minute cruncher. But then, again, I would go back in the discography and listen to »The Final Sin« or »Plague of Procreation«. That’s good, too. 

Last question: What’s the most important lesson you learnt this year?

Well, quarantine was sad, staying home all the time. Honestly, with the exception of not being able to play live, not that much has really changed. I’m still travelling, I’m still making music, we just keep going. But, I would say, generally the music industry is hit the worst. Nobody is playing… this Covid shit has to stop, it’s fucking up everything.

That’s true, unfortunately… Robert, many thanks for your time. It was a great pleasure. Stay healthy! Best wishes for the next year!

Thank you! Stay safe, and let‘s stay in touch, brother!

A divine performance of one of the best bands of all time (Blaze Breeg).

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