Soundchecks Music Reviews
Anticipation Of The New World
interviewed by Octavio Ramos Jr
Shakra - MARK FOX
Connoisseurs of power metal often complain about the aural sameness encountered in the genre, particularly in the European scene. Well, Shakra may come as a surprise for many because this Swiss outfit, while grounded firmly in power metal, does not sound at all like mush of the genre music out there. Indeed, Shakra borrows freely from the new wave of British heavy metal, as well a classic rock, to create a distinct sound that retains facets of technical brilliance and melody.
Around since 1998, Shakra has established a solid reputation throughout Europe, but the United States has remained a distant dream. Having secured a deal with Candlelight Records, the band's latest effort, Fall, at last will receive distribution in the 'New World'. I recently caught up with vocalist Mark Fox and discussed all things Shakra.
Tell me about the band's musical approach. Describe your sound and how you work to create it.
MF: Our music is a mix of hard rock and heavy metal with catchy guitar riffs and a scratchy melodic voice. It's influenced by many different bands like Saxon, AC/DC, Mötley Crüe, and many others, but [these bands] are just influences in the way we use our instruments and their attitude. The song-writing happens between the two guitar players and me, the vocalist. The songs are almost every time based on a guitar riff that we work out-and if the sound is good enough-we try to find the perfect melody. In the end, I [write] the lyrics [based] on the atmosphere of the song.
Shakra was formed in the late 1990s. Tell me about the music scene in your country at the time. What bands influenced you?
MF: Well, Switzerland is a very small country. I think there are only about seven million people and these are divided in three language regions! So there are many different mentalities. We have a lot of bands in every style of music and we have a lot of good ones! But it's quite hard to get famous here and earn enough money to live. In the Swiss hard rock and heavy scene there is place for two or three known bands. So two or three years ago there was just Gotthard and Krokus - now they made a third place for us. For me as a singer, influences include Axel Rose, David Coverdale, Bon Scott, Bryan Johnson, Steve Lee, and Marc Storace.
How have fans reacted to your voice since you joined the band for 2003's Rising?
MF: In the beginning of my career with Shakra, the fans were very sceptical that the band would not sound [the same] anymore. But after the release they really accepted me and liked my voice. Nowadays I think they don't remember that there was a change in the vocalist. Of course, there are one or two guys that like the voice of [former vocalist] Pete [Wiedmer] more than mine, but this is totally normal and they are not bad to me.
Fall marks Shakra's official debut in the United States. Tell me a little about the album and its compositions. What can fans expect to hear?
MF: Fall is the newest album and in my opinion it is the best one! It's a little bit different than the older ones. We tried to break some frontiers and we worked more open minded on it. That's the reason why it sounds more varied. Of course there are some very typical Shakra songs on it, but there are also some other songs where we tried to be more experimental. But it still sounds like Shakra. The songwriting for Fall happened [during] a very [difficult] time for the band. Some of the band members had problems with [other members]. But then everyone realised that they should have more respect for each other and we could finally solve these problems. For that reason we decided to dedicate the album to this time-fall! So what you hear is [based quite a bit on] personal experience and the quintessence of what is more important than everything else in our lives!
How does the band go about composing a song? Has a song ever gone from a hard-rocking tune to a ballad or vice versa?
MF: No, we never turned a heavy song into a ballad! Every song we write has its own soul and requires what it earns. You can't change it into something really different because it wouldn't sound good anymore. It's like you can't change a dog into a rabbit...
What inspires you to write songs? How do you go about writing lyrics to a song?
MF: I [derive] my inspiration from my personal life. There are so many things happening, so many people you meet, and so many different situations that there is enough good stuff to write [about].
How was it touring with Iron Maiden?
MF: I don't know - we never made a tour with them! We just made one concert as the opener for them! But this was an amazing experience, playing in front of about 16,000 people in your own country - and as a big 'Maiden fan, I am very honoured that we had this chance!
What can fans expect at a Shakra performance?
MF: Shakra is a band that really wants to sound good on stage, so we don't have many specials like fire or stuff like that - we want to convince as musicians and not as circus clowns.
Anything you'd like to say to the fans?
MF: Yes! Of course I want to thank you guys in the New World. We hope you enjoy our latest album - we hope to come soon to the USA to rock you!
for PIGASUS Press