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Deze band is uiteraard al lang geen inbekende meer voor de meeste van onze lezers. Onlangs verscheen Absolva's vijfde langspeler "Side By Side", we hadden een gesprek met bandleider Chris Appleton over Blaze Bayley, productiewerk, uiteraard het nieuwe album en nog veel meer...

Written by Nico


First off, this has been the longest wait for a new Absolva album ever! Off course partly due to the Blaze Bayley commitment. How do you see that, that you sometimes have to put your baby aside for the Blaze stuff?

I've been very busy with all the projects. The main reason I wanted a slightly longer gap between Absolva albums, is I really wanted to tour and play more shows live in countries and territories that Absolva had not yet played or not played enough.Absolva had never previously played a headline show in Finland and Sweden. We had never performed in South America. So I felt that there were alot of people out there who hadn't heard any of our 4 studio album back catalogue. The gap between 'Defiance' and this album 'Side By Side' gave us the time and that opportunity. Of course being guitarist & producer for Blaze Bayley, touring & studio work was also time out of the schedule. But we manage the schedule very well where we can always do both. Absolva is my baby and I try never to put it on the 'back-shelf' in priority.


Now "Side by Side" is finally a fact, what I noticed, is that it's a bit more melodic and perhaps some more diverse then its predecessors

'Side By Side', we are immensely proud off. 'Defiance' was a very hard hitting, shorter songs, and direct kind of album. Some of our earlier albums had somelonger &more progressive songs. 'Side By Side' has a combination of both. We decided to write some longer epic progressive songs, but use the skills from myself & my brother Luke have learned through our years of songwriting and of course the valuable experience we have learned from our other projects - myself with 'Blaze Bayley' who has some of the incredible elements of 'Steve Harris' songwriting skills & Luke working with 'Jon Schaffer' of 'Iced Earth' who has the massive back catalogue and 'Demons & Wizards' project. But as usual the songs, come out as they go, but we spent alot of timeperfecting the song structures, the melodies, the guitar solos and vocals. We wanted to make this the best Absolva album. And we did it.!


I have to say, the artwork is phenomenal! Who's idea was it? 

 The core idea came from myself. I wanted something completely unique for the new Absolva album cover. With the title of the album being 'Side By Side' I wanted something very British & visually reflecting team work. As you know, Absolva was forged in the North West of England in the city of Manchester. Part of Manchester/North West is a city called 'Salford'. As on my Passport I am the only one in the band that was born in 'Salford'. So, I researched and found the 'Salford' coat of arms, which had this fantastic look with the English Lion & the Scottish Unicorn left and right but it was in blue. We sent the artwork off to the artist, 'Akirant' in Spain, who has recently been working with Iron Maiden & Star Wars. We knew him through him doing the recent Blaze Bayley album covers. We said we want this kind of coat of arms look but modified into 100% British Heavy Metal looking. The Gibson SG as the centre point and he incorporated the other elements. It worked fantastic and it looks incredible. Very happy with this.


We all know that you and your brother Luke are the main-composers in Absolva, but what about Karl and Martin, do they have any input or aren't they big composers???

The early albums I wrote completely myself. Luke came back into the band for 'Never a Good Day to Die' & 'Defiance'. Then of course we both worked heavily on 'Side By Side'. Karl put some riffs and contribution to 'Living a Lie' on this album 'Side By Side', but overall they leave myself & Luke to work it out. They know we are very focussed and like things in a particular way.


How smooth did writing go for 'Side By Side' go? 

We spent a long time working on the songs. We came up with a lot of songs and picked the best of the bunch. Never leaving the song alone, working out if a song was too long or too short. Is it getting boring? Is it interesting enough?It was great experience for us. The songs on 'Side By Side' reflect some of the best work of our career.  


You produced the album yourselves for the first time, for nobody than you knows better how your baby needs to sound? You'd love to do more production work toward the future if possible?

 I've really enjoyed having 100% control over the sound and production of the album. I have always liked being more involved with the structures, arrangements and heavily involved in the studio side of things. I will be doing this again, with Absolva & Blaze Bayley. And yes I have already been approached by other bands interested in working with me as producer.


The drums were all recorded in Belgium, can you tell us any more on that and why?

There is a studio in Belgium that we used for recording my solo album 'Restless'. We also used it years ago to mix our live album 'Beyond Live', also spending alot of time there working on pre-production for the Blaze Bayley 'Infinite Entanglement' albums. The studio is mainly analogue & our friend 'Bart Wyns' (studio owner / engineer) assisted us with recording drums on the album. This enabled us to record the drums in analogue& to have this rich old school sound. Bart had developed his own gear & method to convert the analogue recordings into digital and so I could then edit also in digital. This was a first for me & I'm really happy with the results. 


Next to Absolva, you also write music for Blaze, when you do, is there a different approach?

Yes, when I am writing with Blaze, I am usually in the West Midlands in England, at Blaze's studio. I stay over for say, 3-4 days in a week, and we battle through writing songs together. Usually I write alot of the music around Blaze's vocal ideas or melodies, whereas with Absolva it's usually music then the vocal and we move on from there. In the end with both bands, it's an open playing field, choosing whichever route to achieve the best result.


After the first album "Flames of Justice" a live recording followed, pretty quickly, any plans for some Absolva live recordings towards the future?

My idea, if we did another live album, would be to do it like many bands did in the 70s - record every concert on a tour and pick the best performances from each gig.  Then on the album, each track for example say......... 1. Flames of Justice (Live in Belgium), 2. Defiance (Live in UK), 3. Side By Side (Live in Germany), 4, Never a Good Day to Die (Live in Brazil). But I would also like to have the video footage for each show and each track to make a Live DVD/USB. This is a big project, but I believe the world of the live album is changing in the current times.


Can you tell us some of your dreams, plans or wishes you still would like to achieve with Absolva?

My biggest wish and dream is to continue being a full time musician/producer, to continue being a professional guitarist/singer. I know many people who have day-jobs and the band works around their normal home life. The great thing about my world is that this IS normal life and everything else has to fit around this.


What is your favourite topic to write about?

I like to write songs with a distinct positive message. It is quite different to most other metal bands, as a lot of their topics focus on the darker side of life.I'm more into the positive, helping people up from the darkness. 'The Sky's Your Limit' is a particular favourite from 'Side By Side', the message of the song is basically, you only get one chance in life - 'To feel alive'. Take on life with all your heart and soul, because you will not have the chance again. I have had some early comments from the press recently that they are using this song to motivate marathon runners!


The music scene is tough and changes everyday, how's your view on it, (positive and/ or negative wise?)

I try not to look at what other people are doing. Other bands etc. I try to focus on my fans. They are the most important. My loyal fans keep us going and make us able to continue doing what we are doing. I listen to them. If they want certain things and enough of them want it, that's what I deliver to them. We have a direct connection with our fans. We are the record label, I am the booking agent, we are the artists. They are the people that buy our CDs, our t-shirts and our concert tickets. The fans are the core of it all, so it's positive. 'Side By Side' has had more pre-orders than any other Absolva album release, we're riding high.


Two covertunes on the new album, that's new, how come, why did you choose for 2 songs you often put in your set and not more non obviouscoversongs?

These 2 cover songs have been in the setlist for many years, going back to the Fury UK days, so maybe 10 years or more. Sometimes it can be nerve-racking to record a cover, because someone may always compare it to the original. ''Oh they played they wrong'' or ''oh that's different''.... but in the end as I said before, the fans wanted it, they love us doing our versions of ''2 Minutes to Midnight'' by 'Iron Maiden' and 'Heaven & Hell'' by 'Black Sabbath'.Dio era Sabbath for me in particular is a massive influence.


I kinda noticed that Absolva get more and more recognition in the UK aswell, which is off course cool, what's the main reason for that you think?

It is nice to see that we are increasing in popularity (again or not) in the UK. For some years of touring we were mainly performing in mainland Europe, as this we felt was our audience. And that's where we were getting more repeat bookings, and more recognition. In the past 2 years I feel that the UK profile of the band has increased which I am very happy about, although I don't feel we are the only band that this has happened to.

-A long time ago, you toured again as a trio with Luke on bass, and there was discussion of maybe adapting old Fury UK tunes into the Absolva set, are those planes stocked away or... 

It's difficult to say, as Fury UK is no more, and Absolva has long over-taken the Fury UK throne. However, there are certain territories that would like a reunion show/tour of Fury UK. We have to wait and see.I'm not against including the Fury UK songs in the Absolva set. 


And finally, something left to add?

With Brexit now done, we will we have to wait and see how easy/hard it is touring Europe. Either way I 100% guarantee you and everyone of our fans, that we will continue touring Europe no matter what. And massive thank you to all the people that support ABSOLVA from all over Belgium, Europe, UK and the world!!! You guys really are fantastic, and I love you all. 




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