Let the Cold Winds Blow
CoC interviews Andy Winter of Winds
by: Aaron McKay
On April 9th, the music community is in for a rare treat. A melodious effort from the inspired band from Norway, Winds, will find its way into your local metal retail outlet for your listening enjoyment. I am beside myself with exuberance that an act of immeasurable experience and talent has found themselves on a label that I hold near and dear to my heart -- the fastidious The End Records. Not a surprise that this label would pick up on an outfit so far ahead of its time; Winds nearly blows past us on with their immeasurable skill and uncontested level of interest a listener invests in a band this compelling. Many try, but rarely is a band capable of blowing away others in the field with such a style as this band has pulled off. Winds is an obvious force (of nature) to be reckoned with. If you doubt my assessment, listen to some of the virtual "who's who" of metal as told by the quartet's keyboardist, Andy Winter, as he regales us about those caught in the blustery tempest known as Winds.

CoC: First, congratulations on _Reflections of the I_! With little doubt, it is one of the more enriching releases since _A Treatise on Love_ by Scholomance. What would you say was the catalyst that prompted Winds to record such a stirring musical composition?

Andy Winter: Basically we wanted to record an even stronger album than the previous one. We knew we had to give it a new approach, and we also tried our best to outdo ourselves in the compositions and arrangements of the music. That's probably why it turned out as great as it did, because we didn't repeat ourselves, and we didn't put any limitations on our creativity. It's a very honest record, and we just wrote the music as it came to us in our moments of inspiration.

CoC: Bring the CoC readership up to speed after your release on Avantgarde, the _Of Eternity and Mind_ MCD. Some tracks from this new release were formerly from _Of Eternity and Mind_, right?

AW: Actually, _Of Entity and Mind_ is just included on the American version of the new release, and the only reason for this is because it was never released domestically in the US. It's in no way a part of the album, as it clearly states inside the booklet, and since _Reflections of the I_ is a concept album and a continuation of the story, we were a bit apprehensive about including the extra tracks at first. But in the end we realized that making our music available to our fans was more important, so we decided to set our initial apprehensiveness aside.

CoC: What would you say are the differences between the two?

AW: Musically the new album is more evolved, the compositions are stronger, and there is a more organic vibe on _Reflections of the I_, as we had more time in the studio to improvise and work on the arrangements. This album definitely reflects our growth as musicians and band over the past year, and we all feel this is some of the best work we've ever done. More in detail, the production is far stronger and the sound is crystal clear, the music is a little heavier and more symphonic as we've incorporated a string ensemble in addition to our other instruments. All in all we're incredibly happy with this new album and how it turned out.

CoC: It seems like vocal mood is very important to Winds. Would you agree? If so, why? Is it co-equal with the musical atmosphere on _Reflections of the I_?

AW: Yes, the vocals are very important, because they are a big part of the mood in the music. The different vocal styles contrast each other and this is very intentional. I think the music and the vocals compliment each other perfectly. The thing about this CD is that for some people it might take a little time to get into because it's very layered and there's a lot going on in the music. But once people have heard it a few times... well, let me put it this way, everyone who has heard it so far thinks the mood on this record is something incredibly unique. And it is. Personal preference will always factor into the picture, but this is definitely something that hasn't been done before, whether you like it, love it, or not.

CoC: Please tell me a little bit about the wildly diverse and extremely talented members comprising Winds.

AW: Well, we all come from various musical backgrounds and regardless of where we started we now play many different styles of music. We all have a passion for classical music, and that is also greatly integrated into Winds. We all have other projects or bands on the side, which might be known to some, but even so, Winds is a priority for all the members and everyone is completely dedicated to the band.

CoC: If you would, elaborate on how the critically acclaimed Jan Axel von Blomberg (a.k.a. Hellhammer) tailored his wildly extreme capability for voracity so well to the subdued sounds Winds strives for in your music.

AW: I think this was something that came naturally to him. He's played different styles of music for a long time now, and although he is mostly known for his metal endeavors, he really has a wide range as a drummer. He has a very creative playing style as well, which makes him stand out from a lot of drummers out there, and in Winds we have everything from blasting double bass drums to laid back jazz beats, so it's really the perfect combination for him.

CoC: Would you describe the band's musical representation as conceptual?

AW: Yeah, the albums are concepts.

CoC: Personally, I doubt that I could imagine _Reflections of the I_ without the incorporation of a full string section on the album. Please elaborate on the thoughts behind using the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra on _Reflections of the I_.

AW: When we worked with _Of Entity And Mind_ we realized that a string ensemble would really complement our music, so when we wrote the music for _Reflections of the I_, this was the intention from the beginning. A lot of the basic ideas were also originally written for strings, and then the guitars were shaped on top of that. Quite different from most other bands who have ever used strings, I would assume. The string ensemble will be a regular thing for us in the future, as it is now a part of our sound along with all the other instruments we use.

CoC: I have a special place in my heart for the song "In All Reflections" due in no small part to intriguing arrangement and tight guitar riffs. Would you tell the CoC readers a little about the song?

AW: With the exception of some basic ideas for the intro track on _Of Entity and Mind_, this was the first Winds song ever written, and thus it was entirely written by me. It's also the most easily accessible song on that CD, and some people called it our "radio hit" or something to that effect. Not that this is a bad thing; I think the song turned out very well, and many have this as their favorite track from _Of Entity and Mind_. This is also one of the songs I would like to play if we ever do something live, because it's a lot of fun to play and it would be very suitable in a live set, even with main focus on the newer material.

CoC: Were there ever discussions on if Winds should integrate a harsh vocal style or was the "clean" approach the only one ever considered?

AW: Screaming vocals were not considered at all, as it doesn't fit the music. We will not use this vocal style in the future either. The contrasting vocal styles we use now create the effect suitable to the mood of the music, and this will remain one of our trademarks.

CoC: Would you consider Winds a "dark" sounding band or more progressive metal with a vintage edge?

AW: It's difficult to say, but probably both. There are definitely dark elements to the sound, but we're also somewhat progressive, and we integrate strong classical elements into the music as well. All these things are quite in contrast to each other, and maybe that is what makes our sound unique. There is a little bit of everything in Winds, but it's tastefully put together and we always make sure the integrity in the music isn't lost.

CoC: Is there another group you might envision Winds on tour with?

AW: We're not planning to go on tour any time soon, as we will most likely only do studio work this year, but the question is a rather difficult one nonetheless. Avantgarde Music wanted to set up a tour for us last year, but this was a big problem considering they didn't have a clue what band to put us up with. You'd have to ask the fans, really, because this is too difficult for me to answer.

CoC: Why the choice to record at Top-Room Studios?

AW: Our guest vocalist from Esperanza [Drajevolitch -- Aaron], who is also a good friend of mine, has used this studio ever since it started in 1993. He was the one who recommended it to me. This studio had, before us, worked very little with metal, and that was one of the reasons why we wanted to use them in the first place. But after us, and especially after Mayhem recorded there a few months after we started, this studio suddenly became very popular among metal bands. Luckily we feel rather confident and in control of the production aspect of our music, so we're not afraid of ending up with similar sound as anyone else or anything like that, but even so this trend is not something I prefer to see, as this studio was originally a studio mostly used for the recording of acoustic instruments. But in the studio industry it's all about making money and that's a fact whether one likes it or not.

CoC: Would you say _Reflections of the I_ is a visually inspired album reflected in the cover art on the release? If so, why?

AW: The cover art is inspired by the music, and it illustrates the concept featured on the album. Being the visual presentation of the album, the artwork is very important, because we're very conscious about the image we communicate, and being a concept such as this is, the artwork needs to be something the listener can relate to when hearing the music. And we really couldn't be more satisfied with this. The artwork is perfect for this album.

CoC: Thank you very much for your valuable time you took in answering these questions. Please feel free to close this interview in any fashion you see fit. Thank you!

AW: Thank you for taking the time to prepare these questions, and also for the support. We appreciate it very much.

(article submitted 12/4/2002)

1/20/2005 B Meloon 5 Winds - The Imaginary Direction of Time
8/12/2001 C Flaaten 7.5 Winds - Of Entity and Mind
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