Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Interview With Troy Norr of Coldsteel

Just over a week ago, I reviewed the awesome new EP from American thrashers, Coldsteel. Recently I had the chance to get some questions over to vocalist Troy Norr about everything Coldsteel and more! Enjoy!

SFM: Coldsteel has been around for quite a while with only a few releases. Can you tell us a bit about the history of the band in the late 80’s/early 90’s?
TN: Back in 1987, Coldsteel decided to record the demo “Dead by Dawn”. Upon it’s release, a nameless rep from Metal Blade was extremely interested in hearing additional material from Coldsteel so the band went back into the studio to record a 2 song demo that was never commercially released by the band. Upon completion of these two additional songs (Scarred for Life and Madness Overthrown), we learned the Metal Blade rep who instructed us to record more material was no longer employed at Metal Blade and in turn we lost that connection. Coldsteel continued to move forward first by releasing a commercially packaged Dead By Dawn Demo. Within days upon that release, founding member, Dom Mincieli, died in a car crash. The band was urged by family and friends to move on.
In 1990, Coldsteel released it’s second demo titled “Perfect Peace”. Like with the first demo, Perfect Peace received worldwide praise.

In 1991, Turbo Music in Germany signed Coldsteel to record what would become the “Freakboy” LP in 1992. These deal included the label JL America to release and promote “Freakboy” in the USA. As Coldsteel were preparing for a European tour, Turbo Music closed it’s doors and thus the tour was cancelled. Coldsteel disbanded within a few months following this event in 1993.

In 2011, I was urged by a true coldsteel fan and friend, Joachim Shlums from Germany, to reach out to several labels to re-release all of the Coldsteel recordings. Eventually, Stormspell records and Battle Cry Records agreed to re release all of the recordings. Battle Cry Records would be releasing “Freakboy” and Stormspell would be releasing “The Demo Anthology”. Both would be released in 2012. While I was looking for pictures and flyers to include in some of the artwork for these re-releases, I found a cassette tape labeled “Coldsteel Rehearsal 1990” from Phase One Studios in Farmingdale, NY. I listened to the tape and realized there were songs that were cut from the coldsteel set and were never recorded. These songs had a lot of potential and would become the foundation for what would ultimately known as the “America Idle” CD.

In Jan 2012, Coldsteel reformed with new members Doug Odell and Eddie Campbell. All members of the new Coldsteel were pros and played in various bands together for years. Doug had played with Hal in Ice Age for 6 Years. Eddie, Hal and Myself had performed in “THEM”  The King Diamond Tribute band for 3.5 years. Everyone was comfortable so the tunes just simply flowed. America Idle was recorded mixed and mastered in 10 months. Most of the time was lag time switching between the different engineer’s schedules.

SFM: Despite forming in 1986, do you think that Coldsteel’s success was affected by the fact that your debut album didn’t come out until 1992, when thrash’s popularity was on its way down?
TN: In addition to Turbo Shutting down (mentioned previously in this interview), the grunge scene exploded. There weren’t too many people in the states interested in Metal unless it was Pantera, Metallica or Slayer. Timing plays a lot with the success or failure of a group. The release of “Freakboy” should have come out a year before. Also, half of the material on “Freakboy” had evolved into a more alternative metal style. I do not condemn the debut because I personally like most of it but half of the material did not really conform to the roots of Coldsteel either. We have fans even today that praise that record. With the release of America Idle, I personally vowed to bring street credit back to the band name by sticking true to the roots of the band.

SFM: A few months ago, StormSpell Records re-released your demos in one CD. Was this something you had been planning for a while, or did StormSpell approach you?
TN: Like I mentioned before, I reached out to Stormspell as one of the record companies to re-release the demo material. Iordan who runs Stormspell is a great guy and was very helpful in making the demo re-releases a success!

SFM: How has the reaction to that demo collection been?
TN: From what I have seen, the reaction has been mainly positive. I have read some remarks from certain critics here and there that ask why was it necessary to re release the demos? They just never liked the band and that is fine. The re releases become more relevant since we are releasing “America Idle”. Personally, I am not looking to make a lot of money on this. I have my full time job and am very happy there. However, I love creating art and if there are some people out there that will enjoy the art Coldsteel has created, that is a plus. If the band recoups some of the money they injected into this project better. At this point in life, I have learned not to expect anything. If something happens that is a real plus. I had a few regrets with the release of Freakboy. With “America Idle”, I have zero regrets. I and the band are happy with the complete product!

SFM: Your newest release, “America Idle”, is fantastic! For those who haven’t heard it yet, how would you describe the EP?
TN: The EP is a collection of songs that have NY stamped all over them. Coldsteel is a NY based melodic thrash band with an edge. Many compare us to Anthrax but what is interesting is how critics try to pin down the vocals. Some say I sound like Belladonna or Hetfield. I have even read people state I sound like Erik AK from Flotsam & Jetsam. All I can say is that I have the ability to mimic different styles and I use those styles to relay a certain feeling I am trying to inject into the song. There are times I use my natural voice as well for good measure!

SFM: What inspired the songwriting on “America Idle”? Was it a continuation of the band’s legacy, or were you looking to break completely new ground?
TN: As I mentioned previously, that cassette tape I found was the building block for the 5 new songs. If Coldsteel records a full length in the future, more than likely it will be heavier and more technical than the songs on “Idle”.  We were trying to have a slightly more modern sound but stay true to the roots of the band. Some people say we have accomplished that exactly.

SFM: With the song “America Idle”, were you trying to make any sort of statement regarding the state of the US?
TN: The song and theme of “America Idle” is actually a snapshot of how many Americans feel about their government in current times. This song is not specifically aimed at President Obama but while I was writing the lyrics in Feb 2012, he was definitely on my mind. The Theme of the record delves deeper into the concept. In the American People were told by several presidents including Jefferson and Lincoln that the people have the responsibility to make sure the government works for them and not the other way around. If there is an issue, the people need to replace their government. In Current days, the US government has successfully destroyed the value of the US dollar by abolishing the gold standard and incrementally stripping away the citizen’s liberties. In the song “America Idle”, I included an excerpt from one of Abe Lincoln’s famous speeches, The Lyceum Address, in the entire middle part of the song. To emphasize the emotion, I changed the second and third “I” in the speech to the word “We” and had 11 people recite the entire speech. Eddie and I sat down and recreated that speech digitally using all 11 vices. At the end of the song “We The People…RISE!” indicates the resolution with REVOLUTION. The people need to stand up and set forth change. Passively at first but then actively if the desired results are not achieved. The Presidential seal is used throughout the theme depicting a country at distress with the eagles’ head turned in the path of war.

SFM: What is next for Coldsteel? Touring? An album? European festivals?
TN: Coldsteel will be performing select shows in 2013/2104. Our first show in 20 years is on April 9th, 2013 as direct support for UDO. This show will be held in NY. Coldsteel plans on performing any festival that is offered but most likely will not be appearing on any until 2014 due to how they are booked. If the public likes “America Idle”, Coldsteel will return in the studio to record. Unfortuntely, I cannot say when that will be because 3/5 of Coldsteel are also writing a full length concept record in a similar vein as King Diamond with the band “THEM”. The band’s debut Full length CD/LP will be released Halloween 2014 and will be titled “Sweet Hollow”. This band will sound nothing like Coldsteel and will truly expose the talents of the individual musicians recording this record. Yes, Coldsteel/THEM will be extremely busy for the next few years!

SFM: How do you feel about the recent new wave of thrash metal? Were these new bands an inspiration for reforming Coldsteel?
TN: The new wave of thrash metal has not inspired Coldsteel to reform. This reformation was simply a timing thing. If there were no re-releases, then “America Idle” would never have been created. I personally love many forms of metal so the new wave of thrash falls right in line with what I enjoy. As time goes on, Metal continues to evolve and thrive. I have spoken to many people that do not like some of the different forms of metal that has emerged within the past 10 years. I say, they are all essential to the evolution and survival of metal as a whole. There will be a fan base for each sub genre even though most of the labels only want the “Nu” sound. I just love it all!

SFM: One of the big topics in music these days is regarding piracy. I’ve found that metal fans are often split on the issue. As a band that has not gained a ton of mainstream support yet, do you guys think that piracy is more harmful or beneficial to bands?
TN: Piracy is definitely helpful for a band’s overall exposure. Band’s need to survive and need to reinvent how they can generate cash flow. Releasing vinyl nowadays is one avenue. You cannot steal a vinyl record and collectors love getting their hands on it. This is just one example. In addition to piracy there really isn’t a need to release full length records anymore unless the record is conceptual in design. Most people download digital copies and when a full record is presented to them for purchase. You will find many people cherry picking the songs and only purchasing those select individual tracks they like while previewing them.

SFM: Thanks for taking the time to do an interview. Do you have any last words to the fans out there?
TN: Thanks for having me do it! I just want to let everyone know that Coldsteel will be releasing a video for “America Idle” sometime in April 2013. If there are issues, it will be in May. The video will be posted on as well as You tube. This video will be directed by Patrick Kendall who is known for many band videos with Megadeth’s Headcrusher video being on top of the heap! Also keep an eye out for the debut from “THEM” in 2014! The record is titled “Sweet Hollow” and will be completely different from Coldsteel but will still rock! “THEM” was a king diamond tribute band for 3.5 years until they decided to write and record a full length conceptual record in a similar vain as King Diamond late in 2011. Live, THEM will peform their own material as well as some King Diamond material always in tribute to the one and only King of metal, King Diamond!