1. First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me. Before we really get rolling, please introduce yourself and can you please give us some information on your band and its background?
(DH) I'm Duane Hollis, bassist for Emerald, and we are a classic metal band from the U.S.A., (Arizona).
(JM) I'm Jeff Melin, and I play guitar and sing.
(DH) We originally formed sometime in 1984. Our then drummer Larry Salisbury put an ad in a local music store advertising for a guitarist/singer and Jeff was one of the first guys to respond. We all liked the same bands, and things just seemed to click for us in rehearsal. We tried out 2 or 3 singers over time but none of them really worked out for us, so Jeff, with some hesitation, took on the role as singer/guitarist.
(JM) I had been looking for a band but most I heard at that time were into playing hit songs by other bands. I wanted to do something slightly different; a bit more original and more raw or unexpected than what I was hearing at the time.
2. Please describe your band’s style. Genre, similar bands, etc. What should a potential new fan expect upon hearing your music for the first time?
(DH): We consider ourselves a classic metal band. We grew up in the 70's/80's listening to Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Armored Saint and old school hard rock like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin etc ... I think that's where we got our inspiration.
3. What other bands have you played in previously?
(DH): Some of the other metal bands that I've been associated with in the past were Sage Meridien, Imperium, Shok Hilary and Giant Destroyer. But, I've also played in numerous rock and alt country bands over the years
(JM): My only other band of note was Second Sight, we did the Hollywood clubs in the late 80’s without much fanfare. I had many years where I was not able to work on music too much due to other obligations. And then I got heavily into songwriting and recording but mostly on my own.
4. What are some of your musical influences both in metal and maybe in other styles of music?
(DH): For me personally, I'm a huge metal fan, but I also dig so many other styles of music ... In Emerald we were really (and still are) into Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath, so I think that has influenced our writing. When we first started playing, we were somewhat new to our instruments, and learned a lot of cover songs while also learning from each other. Those early days really shaped who we are today.
Some of my favorites are of course Black Sabbath, Scorpions (Uli era), Fates Warning, Thin Lizzy, Witchcraft, Death Angel, Flotsam and Jetsam, and then on the other spectrum I dig bands like Marillion, Utopia, Grateful Dead, Black Flag, Dead Hot Workshop and Son Volt. I'm really all over the map ... Charles Mingus!
(JM): I'm inspired and influenced by the likes of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, UFO, pretty much all the classic metal and hard rock bands but then going a bit earlier it was the Beatles, Stones, and the Who that initially got me fired up and into listening much closer to music. Once I found the heavier stuff, I definitely ran towards it and was guitar shopping in no time. I still love listening to metal, but Pink Floyd is a favorite too and also am a big classical fan. Classical and Metal match up really well for me, even without getting into the real technical neo-classical shred style (which I love), but more in the way melody and dynamics are used and how one musical theme can move into the next. I will say that over the past several years though, I spend more time working on our music than listening to anyone else.
5. Can you please share with us your band's recording history and any interesting stories and experiences from the studio?
(DH): In the early days we were limited to a Tascam 4-Track cassette recorder. We would get together and record at my mother's house in one of the spare rooms that we turned into a band room. In 86' we recorded a 4 or 5 track demo called "The Libya Tapes", that we passed around to our friends, and one of the songs "The Harvest" was later re-recorded for our second cd of the same name.
Fast forward to 2013. That's when we reformed the band and started doing remote recordings. Currently, we all live in different states so we do everything through the internet. Jeff and I will write all of the music, lyrics and all of the arrangements. We send it off to Will, our drummer, who lives in England, who then adds his parts. Then Jeff and I will usually meet somewhere for a few days of mixing and editing.
6. How about your bands live experiences? Any amusing or memorable shows you would like to share with us?
(DH): Live shows ... We've only done a hand full of live shows. Most of our gigs were in 85/86. We used to do desert parties here in Arizona. They were a lot of fun. We would get 2 or 3 bands on the line up, buy some kegs of beer, charge a couple of bucks to get in and party and jam all night.
We also did a one-off reunion show in 97 or 98' in Tucson, AZ at a warehouse/recording studio called 7 & 7.
7. We have all heard of the big 4 of thrash. Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax. It has been talked about in the past and critiqued quite often. In your mind, what are the Big 4? You don't have to just list thrash bands, lets open it up to all metal genres, past or present, what is the big 4 in your mind?
(DH): My Big 4 thrash bands are - Flotsam & Jetsam, Sacred Reich, Testament and Voivod.
(JM) My top 4 including non-thrash: Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Accept, Metallica.
8. What would be your dream supergroup? Again, lets open it up to past or present musicians, what would be the dream band lineup?
(DH): Wow, Dream Supergroup. Ok ... Bill Ward on drums, Richie Blackmore on guitar, Geezer Butler on bass and Eric A.K. on vocals ... That's a hard question, it may change in a few days.
(JM): Rob Halford on vocals and that might be all I'd need for it to qualify as a super group of metal. Rob singing A Capella … hell yeah!
9. Now if you were to be a member of any band, who would you love to join up with?
(DH): - Black Sabbath
(JM) Yeah, same for me. I guess we would be rhythm guitar and rhythm bass!
10. Now it’s time to get philosophical. What IS heavy metal?
(DH) I think heavy metal is about aggression, release and expressing beliefs and emotion ... in a healthy way. If you are a metalhead, you are in a special tribe, and you see the world and its challenges through a hard musical lens.
(JM) Metal has a quality that I actually find very difficult to put into words. Certainly, the heaviness has a magic to it, and when you “get it”, it can take you all kinds of places in your life. On the lyric side, it can and has covered anything in the imagination. There are no limits. It's also been very enduring and resilient over the decades when people said it would die, it got even stronger. I think that also describes many of those of us that listen to it. We don't give up, we stand up for what we believe in.
11. What has heavy metal done for you thus far both in music and in your personal life?
(DH): Heavy metal has given me a consistent outlet for any and all of my personal trials. It has influenced my views, and offered me a sense of belonging.
(JM): Definitely, it has always been there for me and never once let me down. It's been an outlet and comfort and taken me through the highs and lows we experience in life and I feel like part of making music for me currently is in part about taking our experiences and putting them back into the collective pool of thoughts and ideas. Maybe someone else needs a lift and hears something in a song of ours that they can connect with in a positive way.
12. If you were not playing in a metal band, what do you think you would be doing currently?
(DH): I'm always playing music ... If I'm not playing metal I'm out gigging in other Rock -n- Roll projects
(JM): If I wasn't working with Duane in Emerald, I would still be writing and recording as much as possible. I think the songs would be less focused though. I tend to get into mad scientist mode when putting ideas down. But I also like writing and recording acoustic numbers, and particularly I am into non-standard tunings these days. It makes guitar brand new again and there are many surprises to be found.
13. What is your heavy metal dream? I am not talking about goals here, I am talking about going to bed and dreaming...what is the dream you are having? Or is it a nightmare?
(DH): Man, I wish I did dream in real time, but I don't.
(JM): For me the dream would be being able to make a decent living off it, not having to work at all outside of music, but not getting to a point where your world goes crazy. I don't know that I'm suited for the public life...something to be said about the bands that wear makeup I guess! I don't need or want to be rich and famous, but music is my passion.
14. What is your view on the current state of heavy metal?
(DH): I think heavy metal is in the best state it's ever been in. There are tons of great bands out there ... Access to music is so easy now, you can get on the internet and discover new great talent everyday.
15. What are your thoughts concerning the digital era of metal. I am curious what you think of digital downloading, recording in the modern era and anything else that has changed since the early days of the industry.
(DH): So the digital era has brought lots of changes with it, since I discovered music. In the old days if you wanted to know the who, what, and when of any band you had to subscribe to a magazine or do a lot of research. Now it's at your fingertips. As far as digital downloading goes, I'm ok with it as long as it is done legally. Stealing music sucks. I don't buy digital music myself, I'm still into CD's and LP's. It is also a great way for new bands to get their music out there. The digital era and recording: As I said earlier, it has worked out really well for us. This is the first band I've been in where I've never been in the same room or on the same continent as the drummer.
(JM): On one hand, it's very hard to sell music and make any money. On the other hand, there are very few limits on reaching people all over the world. We don't sell a lot, but I've had emails from folks in something like 20 countries that found us online and reached out to say hello, thanks I like your music. That's pretty amazing. I am past the point of expecting to make a living on this, but reaching new listeners like that is worth a lot to me and definitely keeps me motivated to keep at it and keep putting it out there.
16. Heavy metal has gone through some changes since the early days. New movements have come and gone as has its overall popularity. With that in mind, what direction do you see heavy metal going in the future?
(DH): The future of heavy metal: It's all good! I just saw Exodus the other night and there were more long- haired 12 year old kids with their dads than I have ever seen before. The tradition carries on.
(JM) The level of musicianship I see from younger players is off the charts. I think that everything goes in cycles, but heavy music keeps coming back stronger and stronger.
17. Several musicians have gone on record to say that the full length album is dead. That with the digital age there is no need to produce a full length release. What are your thoughts, is the full length dead or still viable?
(DH): I don't know who listens to singles? I guess people do. We sell singles on the internet on a daily basis, so I guess someone is ... and we thank you.
I'm still old school. I have to listen to albums front to back.
(JM) And this is an advantage we have in recording and producing ourselves. It costs us almost nothing other than printing. So should we put out 8 singles instead of all of them on a CD? That doesn't seem to make sense either.
Someone can still have the option to download or listen to a track at a time if they want, but for those who still enjoy the album format, and those who have to drive 45 minutes to work, this is for you!
18. Okay time to talk and promote your band some more. What is the current news coming from your camp. Any new music, tours, festivals or anything going on?
(DH): Emerald has a new cd out called 'Angels of Oblivion' (our third release) which came out in July of this year.
(JM): No gigs or tours at all. It's just about write, record, release for us. Starting to dabble a bit more into promotion though so hopefully more folks will find out about what we are doing.
19. What are the immediate short range goals for your group?
(DH): We are in the process of writing material for a new cd which we hope to release some time in 2018. As far as live gigging goes, if we get a good offer to play some festivals or workable tours, we may consider those options. But now it's all about getting Emerald out to the heavy metal community
20. What about ultimately any long range goals?
(JM); Just keep doing what we love, making music. As we go forward, maybe explore ways to reach a bit larger audience, and maybe try targeting some areas that we've not heard from.
21. Finally if you have any last words you wish to express to your fans and the metal community in general please do so here.
(DH): We would like to encourage anyone out there who hasn't heard us to get on the internet, check us out and take a listen ... And we, Emerald, thank you!
(JM): Yes, we are thrilled by the people who have joined us already and appreciate their support, and we are just glad to be part of their metal families.