The Writing On The Wall Is Set In Stone - Lord Tim talks to Metal As Fuck.

Talking on a range of topics including the new album, the impact of downloading, the fun of touring and drinking, and even Kylie Minogue, I sat down with LORD's frontman Lord Tim for an enjoyable chat.

Having been around the Australian metal scene for many years, Former Dungeon/current Lord frontman Lord Tim has pretty much seen and done it all. The latest Lord release, Set In Stone, carries on that tradition proudly.

When asked on how Set In Stone has been received so far, Tim's response was very positive.

'It’s been absolutely fantastic,' he said. 'The reviews have been consistently raving about the album  and the fan reaction has been great. It’s nice to know all of the work we’ve put into it hasn’t been overlooked by people, because we’re as proud of hell of what we’ve made.'

Set In Stone has the classic Lord/Dungeon sound mixed with some different elements that are interesting and fresh, which helps Set In Stone take on a bigger perspective than just a full-on metal album. The idea of incorporating such influences as hard rock, AOR and even pop at times, into the music, has been around for quite a long time according to Tim. 

'Those influences were actually there right from the start of Dungeon in 1989, but by the time we got up to 1999's Resurrection, we made the conscious decision to focus our sound and, specifically, to concentrate on power/trad/thrash. As Dungeon went on, we slowly brought more of those elements back in but we were really pigeon-holed at that point with what people expected us to sound like. When we finally did Lord's debut album - 2007's Ascendence - we wanted to make an album that Dungeon fans would feel at home with, but hinting at what was to come. Set In Stone was that goal. We went into it with the idea that we’d make an album that represented Lord now, without having to accommodate existing fans, and generally draw on all of the stuff we enjoy listening to, to create something that is a “true” Lord album.'

One of the most intriguing tracks from Set In Stone is the instrumental guitar piece Be My Guest that pits the members of Lord in a musical stand-off alongside some of their guitar and bass-playing friends. Such people include international luminaries such as Dio guitarist Craig Goldy, former Megadeth guitarist Glen Drover, and local legends such as Pain Division's Stu Marshall, former Enter Twilight guitarist Richie Hausberger and Vanishing Point's Chris Porcianko.

When asked on how this musical summit came together, if there were any problems in getting the artist's parts recorded, and whether there is any chance of a live rendition of Be My Guest, Tim replied that the idea was a concept going back years, but that a lot of it was to do with luck.

'We’ve been incredibly blessed in our career to have crossed paths and worked with some of our biggest heroes. It is truly amazing what people you meet in your travels. The catalyst for this collaboration started off with a conversation with Pete Lesperance (of legendary Canadian rockers Harem Scarem) asking him to play on a song, since all of us in the band are huge fans of his playing, expecting him to turn us down. To our surprise, he agreed immediately! Panic set in as I realised I did not have actually have a song ready for him to play on at the time, so the track Be My Guest was conceived. But I quickly realised that his playing would suit the track New Horizons much better, so we got him to play on that instead.

'Then the lightbulb went off in my head, thinking "If Pete said yes to a guest appearance, what would happen if we asked some of our other friends we’ve met around the world?" It was not too long after that we had a list of some amazing players agreeing to take part along side some friends of ours who we have always wanted to invite to play on one of our albums for a long time. The idea of an all-star jam was a vague concept stemming back to the Dungeon days but getting the guys who contributed, the idea really took shape and finally happened.'

The technical elements of scheduling took time, Tim told me; and he also said that a live version isn't going to happen.

'Getting everything together was a bit fiddly sure, things such as co-ordinating schedules, making sure the files were what we were after format-wise. and the artistic things such as the danger of the contributors' parts sucking were a bit of a worry, but thankfully everything that we received was excellent. It was time-consuming getting it all together, but all worth it in the end. As far as a live rendition goes, it's not gonna happen! Getting everyone together would be tricky enough but even us playing such a demanding song is a stretch since since we probably spend most of our live show screwing around and doing cool (ie: dumb) rock poses to concentrate on what we’re doing properly,' he laughed.

One of the most eyebrow-raising additions on Set In Stone is the addition of the band's infamous, yet well received, cover of Kylie Minogue's hit song On A Night Like This. The story surrounding how this came about is interesting, but more so is how the track has acted as a 'gateway' to the band's other material.

'This is one of the most asked questions we get and it’s a bit of a funny story. I was travelling back home to Wollongong with some friends after our Nightwish support in 2008 in Sydney, and we stopped off to get some food. While we were sitting there eating, On A Night Like This came over the PA and my mind started ticking over... Dungeon once did a cover of a Blondie song (Call Me) back in the day and I thought “Man, this would be even more ridiculous than that!" I told the guys about it, expecting them to go “You’re an idiot” but they went  “Okay, let’s see what you have in mind”, much to my surprise!' he laughed.

'The next thing we know, me and former drummer Tim "TY" Yatras  were demo-ing up the song. We played to the other guys, they loved it, and we just went  “Right... this could be either  the smartest thing or the dumbest thing we’ve ever done!”,' he laughed again.

'It turns out it was a bit of both. It’s obviously very tongue-in-cheek, but as we all know heavy metal is very Serious Business, and a small amount of people didn’t see the funny side of it. It’s been great from the perspective of non-metal fans, though.

'In the first six weeks we had something like 25,000 plays on our MySpace page and we’ve gotten national mainstream airplay, which has been great. People could say we’ve sold out or whatever, but when you look into it, that’s a big wad of people who never would have heard our heavier material suddenly going “hey, this stuff isn’t too bad” and acting as a gateway to check out the rest of the amazing talent we have here in the Australian metal scene.  We can handle a few haters if overall it’s a positive thing for both us and Australian metal indirectly.'

As with many artists in today's music industry on all levels, the impact of downloads can hurt bands in many ways, Lord is one the bands who is definitely affected. Tim explains why:-

'Bands at our level get affected the most when it comes to illegal downloading, unfortunately. Like all of our recent releases, it was a matter of hours before Set In Stone found its way onto Torrents & Rapidshare sites, as we expected it would. When you’re a new band, leaking your album around is actually kind of beneficial because it gets your name around. You lose money but you gain promotion. When you’re a bigger band with a big established fanbase, you can weather the hit to your sales a little bit and make money though your name in other ways. But when you’re at that in-between level like we are, and those album sales are funding your next tour or your next run of merch or whatever, it kills you to know that instead of X amount of dollars going towards sustaining your career (and this business is NOT cheap, believe me), it’s someone enjoying your hard work for free.

'That all said, we have absolutely no moral problem with people who want to illegally download our album, so long as they buy all of our merch or come to our shows or whatever – if you like a band, support them in some way or they’ll disappear, folks! That’s the harsh reality of it all these days.'

Before Set In Stone's release, Lord signed a deal with Riot! Entertainment for the distribution of Set In Stone in Australia. While it's been great for Lord, in some ways it doesn't really matter who they work with. Tim explains why:

'Working with Riot! has been great. I don’t mean to diminish what they do for us by saying this, but it’s almost irrelevant who we work with as far as distributor goes to a degree,' he said. 'We’re doing stuff through our own label (Dominus Entertainment)  and have a pretty good network of contacts that we promote to. We do our own label stuff, art, digital releases, we have our web store, basically all we need them for is to put the album into retail stores, when you break it down. But that said, as far as distributors go, Riot have been fantastic and have gone far beyond the call of duty with the promotion they’ve been giving us, and pushing us hard through their network as well. They are great guys too, which is always a good thing when you’re in a business relationship with someone – there’s a genuine mutual respect between both parties. There are quite a few things in the works for an international release of Set In Stone. The industry is in a very transitional state right now so we’re trying to be smart with our decisions when it comes to the next step.'

An unfortunate blow was dealt to the band not long after Set In Stone was recorded and was due to be released, in the departure of founding member and original drummer Tim "TY" Yatras. However not all was not bleak on the horizon; the band found a replacement in a young drum wizard named Damien Costas who has slotted in quite nicely and has injected some fresh blood into the band.

'Damien has been working out great!' Tim enthused. 'We first met him when he was playing in a band called Rattlesnake, which supported us a few times. I remember sitting up the back with TY and saying, “that kid is gonna be really good if he keeps at it” and sure enough, that’s exactly what Damien has become. Damo’s been a fan of Dungeon and Lord for years, so when TY put his back out after a show in Canberra this year and had to miss a show, he was one of the first people we thought of to step in as a replacement for it.' 

When Lord asked Damien what songs he knew, and Damien said 'all of them', Tim said that they experienced a bit of déjà vu, given that that is what TY said to them when he was first asked to join the band.

'It’s been going well – Damo is a very visual drummer and a good showman, as well as a great player of course. He’s still getting over the fact he’s in one of his favourite bands and suddenly is on tour internationally and getting endorsements and all of that stuff, so we’re making it our business to mercilessly haze him to balance up the experience!' laughed Tim.

On the live front, Lord are quite notoriously known for their high octane performances and humerous laid-back demeanor on stage, I asked Tim how touring has been going so far, how much Set In Stone material has been incorporated into the set and where the band could possibly be going in the near future.

'So far The tour has been going great! We’ve finally made it to Perth and New Zealand for the first time – something we’ve been absolutely hanging to do for quite a while, and we’re off to Japan late November, which is great. There has been lots of laughs, some drama, heaps of crazy stories and antics and probably way too much drinking!' he laughed.

So far from Set In Stone we have been playing Redemption, the title track Set In Stone, 100 Reasons and Eternal Storm. There are plans for more Set In Stone material to be placed in the set, but they rely on backing tracks to perform them right as there is so much more stuff going on in the songs.

Lord are in talks at the moment about potential tours through Europe and South America, but nothing has been confirmed yet.

As Set In Stone brings a bit of everything to the table musically, to catch fans new and old alike, I had to ask Tim what he thought was the single song that defined what Lord is, and also was his personal favourite track .

'I would have to say the track Forever which is also my personal favourite. It has harmony guitars, tricky intricate solos, vocals ranging from clean to harsh, a prominent bass line, drums that goes from slow ballady stuff to switching gears towards black metal like intensity and lots of feel changes throughout.  But even then, as much as that song really does represent a big part of what we do, you’d put on something like, say,100 Reasons, which is a no-bullshit commercial rock song, and it doesn’t sound a real lot like Forever. That’s can be blessing and a curse for us because while it’s lots of fun and interesting for us to be so diverse, unless you’re into a wide style of music, there’s bound to be something that makes you go “Hmm, I really like this band but if only they didn’t do THAT stuff”, regarding the element they don’t like.

'That is probably the number one thing that’s stopped us from getting near perfect review scores actually,' Tim mused. 'There’s always something that people don’t quite gel with because the range of styles is so broad.'

Towards the end of the interview, I asked Tim whether he feels that Lord are gaining a broader fanbase as a result of releasing an album like Set In Stone and if the band have ideas where they would like to go for their next release.  -

'Upon completion of Set In Stone, we realised that there’s really nowhere we can go without it being a compromise in some way,' Tim explained. 'If we go more diverse, it’ll get silly – you’ll have a piano ballad next to a black metal song or something. If we go more stripped back, we’ll lose a lot of grandeur and epicness to what we do, which is a fairly important part of our sound.  We could focus on one element of our sound but we’d be ignoring all of our other influences and let down a lot of fans of those style or we could do the same album again style-wise and people will say we haven’t progressed. So in a way, we’ve really painted ourselves into a corner with such a strong and diverse album in Set In Stone!

'That said, we have a few strong ideas of things we want to do on the next album already which, if we do it right, will manage to answer all of those questions of how to proceed without letting anyone down – especially us. Then all we need to do is worry about what the hell we’re gonna do for the album after that one! It's a crazy old career, isn't it?'

Lord's Set in Stone is out now on Riot! Entertainment.