I had the pleasure of talking with Steve Kachinsky, guitarist and founding member of STEEL PROPHET. He was calling from the Century Media office in Los Angeles. Thanks to Jill for setting it up.
Who writes the music and lyrics for STEEL PROPHET?
Well, over the years, I've written probably 90% of the music and maybe 80% of the lyrics. But it varies with the album. Like each album will have probably 10 songs and I'll probably have written 7 or 8 of them and the other guys will have contributed 2 or 3, musically. Then some albums I've written all the lyrics, but on this new one Rick wrote the majority of the lyrics.
Musically, where do you draw your inspiration from? What other bands do you listen to?
God, I've got like 800 CDs. Probably my favorite bands over time have been BLACK SABBATH and LED ZEPPLIN, PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN, METALLICA. There's so many. I like a lot of stuff. I like IN FLAMES a lot. I like some Black Metal, too, like IMMORTAL, DIMMU BORGIR. If you go back, like OBITUARY, NAPALM DEATH, MORBID ANGEL are big favorites of mine.
"Unseen" is your ninth official release. I read a review saying this album was not moving forward enough, not innovative enough. How do you react to criticism like that?
Gosh, I don't know. Nobody else can really tell us what to do or how to do it. If it's not moving enough forward for someone, I guess that's true for him. For myself…. I don't know. I'm not really in the business of trying to move forward. I try to make songs I think are good. If they move backward or forward or sideways, it doesn't matter to me. Everyone's got an opinion and I just take it as that. Somebody could say that it's great and that it's moving forward at an incredible pace, too, and I don't know if that's true, either.
Were the guitars tuned lower for this album?
Basically what we did was we took guitars tuned to E-flat and we also tuned baritone guitars to A-flat, then we multi-tracked all the rhythms with two tracks of baritone an octave-and-a-half lower than the normal guitar, then we did the normal guitars. So it's kind of a combination.
The cover looks very interesting, with Earth floating between the hands of, someone. Tell us about the cover. Does it have any connection to the title and/or lyrics?
The title is "Unseen" and the woman looks kind of like a fortuneteller or seer. It looks like she's trying to look into a crystal ball but it's the earth. For some reason she can't see the future, it's "unseen." That seems to be the tie-in between the cover art and the title.
The lyrics are pretty interesting, too, looking at stuff like "Martyred" or "Killer's Confession", what are they about and how important is it for you to have lyrics with depth?
Well, it's real important to have lyrics that have depth. I just couldn't imagine writing really simplistic lyrics, something like "I wanna rock" or "I wanna dance all night" or something like that. It would feel wrong, you know? The songs that you're talking about… "Martyred" was about suicide bombers. "Killer's Confession" was about the glorification of serial killers that become like "pop heroes" in American culture. They're obviously murders and despicable people, but somehow they get turned into celebrities because our culture is so screwed up in a lot of ways. It's like, it doesn't matter what you've done, just so you're on TV. That's all that matters is that you're famous. We see that as perverted, you know?
You have developed quite your own style with the sound of the guitars and, of course, Rick's vocals, what do you think sets you apart from the other members of the big Power Metal-resurgence?
Well, I think a million things. I don't think we sound anything like your typical Power Metal band that's been influenced by HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY and stuff like that. That stuff usually just has a constant double-bass drum pattern - sixteenth notes on the double-bass kind of pummels you all the way through. The guitar changes over the top of it, but the bass drum and the snare drum just keep playing the same thing. It's like having a drum machine, you know? And I think that we don't do that. We play lots of different beats, different varieties of tempo and we make ten different songs on an album. We don't make ten of the same song, with the heroic choruses, you know, that whole thing. We're just concerned with making each song stand out from the rest of them, making each song like an individual expression of whatever it is that we're trying to get across.
This brings us to Rick's departure. Why, how and what now?
Why? Because it had to be. You can only go so far with certain people before you decide enough's enough and you can't go any further at all. It's like going out with a girlfriend or a boyfriend. Eventually, it can get to that point were you go "no way. It's time for this to be over with." That's why. How? Well, I talked to him while we were recording the album. I said, "After this album, some people are going to be staying and some people are going to be going." After the album was done, I talked to him and I said, "You know, I really think it's best if you quit because I don't think you're going to be happy in the band." Then the next day he called and said he quit. And what's next? We're looking at other vocalists right now. We're going to start the audition process. We're going to see what we've got and try to decide on something as soon as possible.
Have you ever thought about bringing on a female vocalist?
Well, yeah, it's a possibility. Why?
Why, are you one?
Ummm… not really. :) But I was thinking of DREAMS OF DAMNATION with Loana…
Yeah, depending on the day, it might bother me. If I had a bad day, yeah, that could be a bummer. But on a good day, no, it doesn't bother me. It's one of those things; you can't control everything around you. You can't control people liking you or noticing you, unless you do something really stupid. Then you can get everyone to notice you. It's like some days, yeah, I wish we would break through a little bit better. But I think a lot of it is just that people aren't aware of us. It could be that we just get lumped into a category and people think that they know all about you without even hearing your music. It's like somebody says they don't like Death Metal. They might just go, "Ok, well, I don't need to listen to the new IN FLAMES because it's Death Metal." But IN FLAMES is a lot more than Death Metal, there's a lot going on there. It's not just by-the-book Death Metal. Just like we're not by-the-book Power Metal. There's stuff in here that people might say, "Oh, I hate Power Metal." If they listen to it they might actually find out that they like it. But you can't control what everybody says and thinks or listens to, so there we are.
Looking back over your career so far, are you satisfied with how things had been working out or would you change something, if you could start all over again?
I don't know. I might change our name just because I think it's one of those things that people think they know what we are just by hearing our name. But other than that, I can't really think of anything I could have done different that would have made a big impact. I'm pretty happy with the music we've created so far, other than a few songs here and there that I really don't like. I think we've done pretty good, so far.
Can you live off music or do you still have to work (and if so, as what?)
For a few years I haven't been doing anything other than music. But before that I was an electronic technician, and before that I was a cabinet maker, before that I used to work at a gas station and a grocery store. I used to work at Burger King making french fries. [laughs]
I have read about you sometimes taking wanderings through the USA, all alone, getting completely away from everything. Is this your way of finding inspiration, to get away from standing in the spotlight?
Yeah….. I have strong feelings about what life is all about and what it's meant to be and what it's become. To me, it's like a human being-you're born to the earth and if you can't make it by yourself out in the wilderness, you really don't know anything about life yet. If everything went away tomorrow-all the technology, all the buildings, all that stuff-you'd be stuck with yourself in the middle of nowhere, getting food and sheltering yourself. That's when I feel the most natural, like I'm a real human being. When I'm out in the woods, all alone, living. Looking at the beauty of the mountains, streams, lakes, trees and stuff like that. That's why I go out there, because I have got to get back to basics once in a while. So, yeah, I could live out in the woods for months at a time. I just love it. But, of course, I do appreciate going out to a club, seeing some Metal bands, doing that kind of stuff, but I need to balance it.
Would you say that you have a spiritual side to you?
I don't know if I said that, but I'm sure I do.
Do you believe in God?
Well, yeah, I guess. I don't know how to explain it, but yeah, I guess so. I'm not sure, if when we use that word, if we're both talking about the same thing or not. There's so many different religions, I never know if I'm on the same page with people, you know?
Could you share your best, your worst and funniest experience with STEEL PROPHET so far?
Oh…. Best or worst or funniest?! Hmmmm.. I think that one of the funniest moments that I can recall was we were playing a show with a band called SACRED REICH. We were just playing and all of a sudden this fat girl got up on the PA bins that's on the side of the stage. She started stripping. The attention of the whole audience-you could see everybody's head just shift from the stage where we were playing to the top of the PA bins. That was a weird moment. It was kind of embarrassing because you're up there trying to play and then boom! It takes something like that and then nobody's interested in you anymore.
And as traditional last question, what is a question about STEEL PROPHET that you haven't been asked before, but would finally like to answer?
Hmmm… Let me take a second here, see if I can come up with anything. OK. If I were a super hero, who would I be? I'd be the Silver Surfer.
Oh, do you surf?
No. But he didn't really either. He surfed through space, outer space. He went to all these different worlds and found worlds that Gallactus can feed off of. But he liked the earth so much that he tried to hide the earth from Gallactus so he wouldn't eat it. Then he was ostracized and he was exiled from thereon in. And why I want to be him I have no idea. [laughs]
Do you have any pets?
Not exactly. I live with someone who has a dog--name's Diva. It's not my pet but I do like her quite a bit.
About your website. When are you guys going to get one that says www.steelprophet.com so it would be easy to find?
I don't really know. I think, one of these days. Some day. It's like a dream. I think you have to pay for that. It's always been a money concern, you know. We'll think about that, we'll consider your advice.
Well, I've used up my questions and my time. I just want to say the next time you play in Los Angeles, I will definitely be there wearing The Metal Observer t-shirt. It's been nice talking with you, Steve.
1995: The Goddess Principle (CD, Brainstorm Division)
1996: Continuum (CD, Brainstorm Division)
1997: Into The Void (CD, Brainstorm Division)
1999: Dark Hallucinations (CD, Nuclear Blast)
2000: Messiah (CD, Nuclear Blast)
2000: Genesis (CD, Nuclear Blast)
2001: Book Of The Dead (CD, Nuclear Blast)
2002: Unseen (CD, Nuclear Blast)
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