C.G.: In the period between “Show Me How To Live” and the previous album – “Episode X” - the band went through a number of line-up changes. What happened exactly?
A.A.: Well, yes, there were a bunch of line-up changes. First of all Marcus Jidell, our guitar player, left the band and started…well, continued…his career with Evergrey. He was replaced by Jonas Larsen, who was presented to me by our first vocalist, Henrik Brockmann. Jonas fit into the band very well – his way of playing, his sound, his personality…..they all fit well into the band.
Secondly we reunited with DC Cooper, who had last sung with us around 1998. So, yeah, so far so good. I’m usually nervous when someone joins the band but now it’s all good.
C.G.: Royal Hunt seems to work best when put under pressure. Would you agree?
A.A.: [laughs] Probably. Yes, unfortunately I have to agree.
C.G.: Let’s speak about yourself….if I’m not mistaken you had spent your childhood in what was then the Soviet Union. Then, after the collapse of communism, you went to live in Denmark with your father. Was that period a huge culture shock for you, especially as regards music?
A.A.: Absolutely, yes. I moved to Denmark in 1983 and it was a huge change for me. I was amazed at how it was possible to work in music and play live so easily, including with Rock music. In the Soviet Union that was not allowed. I suddenly had access to so many records.
So I had spent a couple of years getting used to that new way of life. Before long I was playing with other musicians and I also had a place where to record.
C.G.: And was the idea to form Royal Hunt something you always had in mind or was it an idea you developed once you had settled in Denmark?
A.A.: I formed Royal Hunt because I couldn’t buy the music I wanted to have, so I decided to make that music instead. I’m a huge fan of Progressive music and Classic Rock and obviously of Classical music and I couldn’t find the perfect combination of what I was looking for. I wanted to combine the musical elements that I liked into one project and that’s how Royal Hunt was born.
C.G.: Once you’re mentioning Classical music….if you had to work on an album with an orchestra, what musical ideas would you like to develop?
A.A.: I have been seriously thinking about that for a while, to do an album with an orchestra and choir but I think in recent years that idea has been done many times by Rock and Metal bands. Unfortunately not in every case was it done in the correct way. Sometimes the way a band used an orchestra worked but other times it didn’t.
I have to say that I already do have some ideas that might work with a band and an orchestra and at some point in time I do intend to develop those ideas. What I don’t know is if they will be in the next album, the album after that, or whenever, but I do want to explore those ideas. I think I shouldn’t work with an orchestra just for the sake of it and the time should be right.
C.G.: Would such an album be released as Royal Hunt or will it be a solo album or an album under another band moniker?
A.A.: I would like to do it as Royal Hunt.
C.G.: Somewhere I read you worked on movie soundtracks in the past – could you tell me more about that?
A.A.: It’s something I started doing 4 or 5 years ago. By co-incidence I have some friends who work in TV and they asked me if I had some music that would be suitable as part of a soundtrack. However, to this day, I’ve never really composed music specifically for a movie – at most I’ve done music for some TV serial or some advert.
It’s all very interesting in the sense that it has absolutely nothing to do with Progressive, Power or Melodic Metal or whatever music I’m involved with. It also gives me the opportunity to work with different people and, most importantly, I think it’s fun. It kind of became a hobby for me because I’m getting more and more calls from people who are interested in engaging me in such work. So I’ll continue being involved in this kind of work.
Also, my involvements in soundtracks changed my career in a way because previously, when I had time off from Royal Hunt, I’d work on solo albums whereas now, I’d work on soundtracks.
C.G.: Do you think this work affects the music you do with Royal Hunt?
A.A.: No, not so far. I mean they involve 2 completely different attitudes. I’m enjoying very much playing and working with Royal Hunt and that remains my number 1 priority and the ‘soundtracks’ work is a sort of side-project, so to speak. At least for now…..
C.G.: As you suggested earlier, Royal Hunt is pretty much your own musical vision, so why did you feel the need to release solo albums?
A.A.: Primarily because it was fun doing them. My solo albums are not exactly like Royal Hunt but not very different either…..it’s not like I’m doing a Rap record as a solo album. But my solo albums have given me the possibility to work with different musicians with no strings attached. You know it’s a project – a solo album – so you can afford to think differently.
C.G.: John West had spent about 8 years as Royal Hunt’s lead vocalist, during which time he sung in 4 studio-albums. Before joining Royal Hunt, John had sung with another Metal band based around keyboards, the band Artension. What do you think of Artension’s keyboard player, the Ukranian Vitalij Kuprij?
A.A.: He’s very good. I don’t know him personally but I’m familiar with his music. Besides, John West used to play some Artension albums for me when he was still with Royal Hunt. So, yes, I think he [Vitalij] is very good.
C.G.: I cannot fail to notice that 3 Royal Hunt vocalists had sung with Yngwie Malmsteen’s band [Marc Boals, John West and Mats Levén] - are you really a fan of Yngwie’s music?
A.A.: No, not particularly. Well, probably back in the days with the first 3 or 4 albums he did, yes I might have been a fan of his. He’s one of the greatest guitar players, there’s no doubt about that. How come some of his ex-singers ended up in Royal Hunt? Well, it’s hard to explain why. It’s strange. [laughs]
C.G.: This May (2012) you’re going to be extremely busy with Royal Hunt. Can you tell me more about what you have planned?
A.A.: Absolutely. Of course, as most people know, we have just released an album called “Show Me How To Live”. We’ve also released a DVD, called “Future’s coming From The Past” and which features footage recorded with DC’s first period with Royal Hunt. We’ve also released our “Moving Target” album on vinyl and plan to do the same with “Show Me How To Live”.
Towards the end of April, we’re starting the tour and since the band has been together for 25 years it will be a sort of anniversary tour. So we’ll be playing songs from every single album we’ve done, from the first until the most recent one. The tour ends in the beginning of June, after which we’ll have a set of concerts with some surprises.
Probably in September or October we’ll continue with some live activities and maybe – we haven’t decided yet on this – maybe one of the shows will be recorded for an eventual DVD release.
C.G.: The harmony vocals are an important aspect of Royal Hunt’s sound. Which backing vocalists will be touring with the band in May?
A.A.: When we’ll be touring we’ll have Alexandra Popova and Maria McTurk and maybe a third singer on backing vocals. We might do a couple of concerts here and there where maybe some previous Royal Hunt members will join us on stage for a couple of songs. But I think that, if that happens, it will be after the summer.
C.G.: Japan has a particularly loyal Royal Hunt fanbase. Have you played there since the nuclear tragedy?
A.A.: Yes. We played there last year. It was very unfortunate – the first time we played in Japan was in 1995 when the country had just been hit by a massive earthquake. Of course everybody knows we had written the song “Far Away” about that incident and released the single for charity.
Then last year we went to Japan again and unfortunately, two weeks before that, there was the huge tsunami, earthquake and this nuclear reactor went bananas. And the [Japanese] people were happy to see us because a lot of bands had cancelled their shows because they were afraid of the consequences of the nuclear incident. But we went there all the same because we’re a crazy lot. We played a bunch of cool shows and we felt that the crowd really appreciated what we were doing. They really appreciated the fact that we actually went there and played.
That was part of our previous tour, of last year, which was mainly focused on the early Royal Hunt material as DC had just rejoined the band. So we played the “Paradox” album in its entirety as well as….let’s call them the ‘Royal Hunt hits’. This time around, of course, we’re doing it differently because we’re playing songs from every single album we ever did.
C.G.: After 25 years of existence and 11 studio albums, one might assume that Royal Hunt would be much more well-known than the band actually is today. Are you satisfied with what the band has achieved and do you still have any ambitions you hope to realise?
A.A.: Of course. The band has been around for 20 years and of course I would love to see it bigger and more famous and more successful. But at the same time I think we’re doing a good job. Fortunately we’re all very professional people and we’re doing what we love doing. We’re doing this music from the depths of our hearts.
At the end of the day, we’re not going to be as big as Metallica but that’s all right….it’s fine. Of course each time we do an album, each time we go on tour, we try to make things bigger and more exciting. And that is often the goal in itself – to do something different that is a little bit more exciting for us and for out fans.
C.G.: Royal Hunt has dabbled in concept albums before - one such album being “The Mission” (2001). What are your own favourite concept albums from the Rock or Metal genre?
A.A.: I’d say “Operation Mindcrime” by Queensryche is one of my favourite.
C.G.: Andre Andersen, it’s been a pleasure speaking to you.
A.A.: Thank you very much. Take care.
© 2012 Chris Galea
Interviewed by Chris Galea