Priestess tell us about their long-awaited new album, give us a listen, and reveal how they first discovered Sabbath in a video game
Priestess have long been pretty important to me. They're the first metal band I saw in concert, the first I got into after moving past classics like Metallica and Sabbath, and as it turned out, the first I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing. Shortly after returning to Montreal in September I went out for beer with Mikey Heppner (lead vocals, lead guitar) and Vince Nudo (drums) to discuss their forthcoming album, their musical development, and a few other interesting bits of miscellanea (like where Mikey first discovered Black Sabbath; the answer... will shock you!).
They also let us listen to "Racoon Eyes," a song from the forthcoming album, which you can hear below the jump.
Priestess blasted onto the metal scene in 2005 with their first (and until Tuesday, their only) full length album, Hello Master - a no-bullshit, meat and potatoes riff-rock album that shows a deep love for all things Sabbath.
Wait, did I mean to say metal or rock? That's always the question with Priestess. "We're kind of in between," Vince explained. "The metal people will call us pussies, but people who listen to folk music will be like, 'What the hell is that? Turn that down!'"
The new album, Prior to the Fire, sees a move toward greater "complexity" with more of a metal aesthetic than before. But don't think of it as a deliberate, purposeful move with a particular plan in mind. "It's just the natural evolution of four guys playing together over time," Mikey said. "We've all had life experiences over the past three years that have affected our music, from touring to heartbreak, and this is what came out of it. It's not like we said, 'Okay, this album will be more complex,' it's just what happened."
Indeed, so much has happened for Priestess over the past four years that they must have lot to sing and play about. From gaining a major label recording contract with RCA to touring with ridiculously good bands like Megadeath, Mastodon, Dinosaur Jr., and GWAR, Priestess have solidified their position as one of the best and most relevant metal/rock bands out there.
Since this is the 21st century, part of the evidence for this is their inclusion in Guitar Hero III, and of course I had to ask whether it's weird playing your own music in a video game. Mikey filled me in. "Yeah, we've played it. I was fine at it. But a ridiculous question I get sometimes is whether it's easier for me to play my songs in Guitar Hero or in real life. Of course it's easier in real life. It's a riff I wrote and I play it every night on my guitar." Absurdities like these aside, Mikey and Vince both emphasized that Guitar Hero is a totally legitimate and vital way of hearing music these days, and Vince gave it extra praise for educating a younger generation in the ways of classic rock.
That's when Mikey hit us with the biggest scoop of the night. Turns out he first discovered Black Sabbath in a video game - Rock n' Roll Racing for the SNES, which, with songs like "Bad to the Bone," "Born to the Wild," and "Highway Star," was like Guitar Hero for the MIDI generation. "I heard 'Paranoid' in the game and thought it was the coolest song. Then someone told me it was Black Sabbath, so I went out and bought the album."
So, Midnight Poutine readers, here's a rare opportunity to relive a key moment in a musician's early musical development. Watch below and imagine a young Mikey Heppner discovering the greatest metal band of all time.
When you're done, listen to the yet-to-be-released track "Racoon Eyes." Anyone see any similarities?
Prior to the Fire comes out in Canada on Tuesday, October 20.
Thanks to Nathan Howard, metalhead extraordinaire and brief Midnight Poutine guest writer, for co-conducting this interview with me.
Image via the band's myspace page