Interview with Oliver Palotai
September 30, 2008
by Waënelin and Steph
Sons of Seasons is Oliver Palotai (keys and guitar), Henning Basse (vocals), Luca Princiotta (guitar), Juergen Steinmetz (bass) and Daniel Schild (drums). Palotai founded the band in 2007 while continuing his work as an instrumentalist for Kamelot and Doro.
First of all, congratulations on Sons Of Seasons signing with Napalm Records. When is the debut album scheduled for release?
Right now we hope we can release ‘Gods Of Vermin’ in February because we’re working on a first short warm up- tour that month.
The two song clips on the Sons Of Seasons myspace page have very different vibes. I hear melodic tones and heavier rock elements. What can we expect from the songs on your debut album?
We played the album at this early point to quite some people to get some feedback. The general opinion was that the style mix Sons Of Seasons represents is new to them. Of course we can’t re- invent the wheel but the fact that the musicians have a really wide musical background leads to interesting and unexpected paths. If I have that ‘Hm, I heard that before’- feeling during the song writing- process, then I delete parts usually and start again.
Before recording the songs, did you ever get together as a full band to rehearse live?
Yes, we met for a rehearsal period in Cologne. Also, Jürgen Steinmetz and Daniel Schild, bassist and drummer, met to work on their parts together.
In Kamelot you are working all together with the other guys, collecting ideas, thinking about the arrangements and so on… Did you work the same way with this debut album? How involved are the other guys in writing and composing?
One of my main intentions behind founding Sons Of Seasons was to have a ‘playground’ for composing music without being constrained by anybody’s influence. On the other hand I want to use the immense musical resources that lie within this line up. So I usually lay the foundations for the compositions, create the framework so- to- say, and after that everybody is working on his parts and has the freedom to change things also.
Is there a lyrical theme throughout the project?
If you mean the album is a concept album: No.
Did you write all the lyrics after the instrumental parts are finished, or is there any lyrics you wrote even before thinking about the music, because you felt involved or concerned with the issue?
Both. Sometimes the music inspires me. For example there’s a song called ‘Fall Of Byzanz’. I woke up one morning with a strong theme in my head and wrote that music with a distinctive oriental touch. It was something like a bridge between Arabic and European music. That brought me to link that song to the defeat of Konstantinopel in the year 1453. On the other hand I collect lyrics like poems, often writing them on hotel rooms or during long drives with the tour bus.
Literature, history and philosophy, personal reflections… Your sources of inspiration seems to be quite serious. Is there a song whose subject and lyrics are particularly important to you, and if so why?
This albums represents a personal milestone in my life so far, no matter how it is received by the critics later. Really every song is important to me. Even if the song is not about a personal matter I have a strong link to it.
Besides your work with Kamelot and Sons of Seasons, you’re also guitarist from Doro Pesch, you do orchestrations for Epica shows and you have some parallel jazz projects, too, if I’m right. Do you think you’ll have time to keep doing all of these within the next years, and if unfortunately you had to give up something: what would it be?
Sons Of Seasons is already consuming more time that anything else. One reason why I am working full- time on this band is that I want it to grow as fast as possible to a point where I don’t have to do 50 other projects. I love variety but in the past years it sometimes brought me to a point of physical and mental exhaustion. Even being a member of bands like Kamelot and Doro it is very difficult to make a living out of music, and believe me, my standards are not high. For the first time in my life I lately bought a car, a 12 year old one, haha.
But the money issue is anyway not the focus since Sons Of Seasons probably won’t create any serious earnings for years to come. It is mainly about the fact that being forced to split your attention to so many different jobs sometimes gave me the feeling I couldn’t give 100%, simply due to lack of time and energy. The production of ‘Gods Of Vermin’ is also difficult enough, struggling with budget and organization, but in the end I can say it is really a blood & sweat record.
And secondly, how do you manage to keep these different styles clearly defined, not letting one style influencing the others when composing?
Music is not a house for me with doors labelled ‘Jazz’, ‘Classical Music’ or ‘Metal’. The gist of music is anyway the same in every style. Sure I can switch between rules for genres but of course I let the styles influence each other, if you can define it like that. Like they say, Johann Sebastian Bach was the first jazz musician! And Mozart was clearly a pop star.
All members from SoS are first-class musicians, with classical education for Luca and yourself; would you say that in Gods of Vermin the instrumental parts are on a high technical level? Did you make the most of these abilities when composing the music?
I indeed needed musicians of that level simply to perform the music of Sons Of Seasons live in the years to come. I started composing when only Daniel and Luca where members of the line up beginning of 2007. Now, having a versatile and educated singer like Henning Basse added, and Jürgen Steinmetz on bass, I even have more freedom composing. I’d say the musicians in the audience will have lots of fun, too. While I don’t consider Sons Of Seasons being a ‘Prog band’ following the usual definition of this style there is a whole world for instrumentalists and singers to explore, though. We’re not a 90min shredding band. Everything that is possible when it comes to virtuosity has been done a long time ago, and if I want to listen to fast playing I put in a recording of Chopin’s or Rachmaninov’s work or jazz guys like Al Di Meola or Paco di Lucía, where they understand that speed is not automatically good taste. But I can promise that as soon as Sons Of Seasons has enough stage time we will add an instrumental that will leave no questions.
Will Sons Of Seasons plan any live shows before or after the album is released?
Right now we’re not sure if the album will be out before that little tour in February – probably through Germany, Holland, maybe Belgium and France. We’re working on the next dates for May, and there the album will be out for sure.
Do you intend to do any video for Sons of Seasons, maybe with ICode you’ve known with Kamelot?
I’d love to and I have many strong visual images of the songs. But videos are very expensive and the album sales have to be very good to make that happen.
Are you looking forward to the Kamelot US Tour? I hear many of the shows are nearly sold out!
Yes, I do! I love playing with Kamelot and the US crowd is usually great. And if the pre- sales are good, the better.
What have you gained as a musician through your work as a teacher? Has it inspired you to reach new heights in your craft?
While many musicians don’t like to teach I would even still do it when I wouldn’t have to financially. Teaching is a different challenge than playing or composing but nonetheless a challenge! Watching your students grow and get better is a great experience. And by explaining subjects that I understood partially without having consciously to work on it during my own student’s period gives me a different perspective on those.
A bit more personal question… which piano & guitar pieces do you enjoy playing for your own pleasure?
I have periods where I work on certain composers. These periods can last years. As a piano player I have my ‘steady three’, Mozart, Bach & Chopin, because they represent three different periods and a different technical approach. I work on them since 15 years now. For Jazz piano I love Bebop. As a guitarist I love and studied Joe Pass in Jazz, Richie Kotzen in Rock & Blues, and – yes, I admit – Yngwie Malmsteen, with whom people often don’t see that behind all the sometimes exaggerated shredding there is a player with an awesome sound.
And what is your favorite instrument?
Haha, this question again… From my point of view I never understood why people keep on asking that. Sorry, I love guitar and keyboard the same. Besides the instruments I play myself I admire the cello, trumpet and fretless bass.
Is there any other info you would like to share?
Let’s say I hope that people approach Sons Of Seasons with an open, unprejudiced ear and listen before they compare. That’s all.