Interview by Tony Cannella
In past years guitarist Logan Mader (ex-Machine Head and ex-Soulfly) has taken on a more behind the scenes role in the metal industry. He has become one of the most respected and sought after producers. Now he returned to playing and recording with his new outfit Once Human. The band also features Australian vocalist Lauren Hart who provides a strong mix of hellish extreme vocals along with more melodic clean vocals. The band is completed by: Skyler Howren (guitars), Damien Rainaud (bass) and Dillon Trollope (drums). Once Human has just released the relentless – and I do mean relentless – debut album, which is titled “The Life I Remember”. Recently I enjoyed a pleasant chat with lead vocalist Lauren Hart. Here are the contents of our discussion.
To begin, can you please tell us how you got in touch with Logan Mader and what led to the formation of Once Human? Continue reading »
Label: ProgRock Records
Review by Tony Cannella
On their fourth album, “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction” the Portuguese/Swedish progressive rock duo Factory of Dreams returns with their biggest, most ambitious and grandiose release yet. With their previous albums, Factory of Dreams set a definite standard of being one of the best progressive rock/metal bands on the scene, now with their latest (70-minute) opus the band has raised the bar even higher.
For “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction”, Hugo and Jessica have crafted a well written concept revolving around a girl named Kyra, who holds the key to the fate of mankind. This complex tale is the focal point of “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction” and for the album; Factory of Dreams has utilized some very talented musicians. Among the guests joining Hugo Flores and Jessica Lehto are: vocalists Magali Luyten (Beautiful Sin, Ayreon, Epysode) and Raquel Schuler from Hydria. Continue reading »
Interview by Ed MacLarenPortugal’s Factory of Dreams is not a band to rest on its laurels. After releasing three consecutive prog-metal classics, producer/multi-instrumentalist Hugo Flores and vocalist Jessica Lehto may have surpassed them all with the sublime and sonic grandeur of “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction”. An epic concept album of the highest caliber, “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction” weaves effortlessly between soaring melodies and savage riffs, tearing at the fabric of its musical universe with searing solos and breathtaking vocals. Hugo and Jessica took some time to talk to Femme Metal Webzine about the remarkable concept and development of “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction”, how to out-epic an epic album and the strange and fascinating impact of lip piercings. With the success of “Melotronical”, expectations surrounding “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction” were understandably high but the new album has delivered another essential sonic experience and then some. Epic is becoming almost an understatement.
Jessica: I’m thrilled that you think so! Hugo has written such excellent music for this album. Of course that goes for all albums, but this is my favourite release so far. Every single track on “Some Kind of Poetic Destruction” has that special something, a nice atmosphere, lovely instrumentation and an interesting story to tell. Continue reading »
Interview by Ed Mac Laren
Portugal’s Factory of Dreams make it clear from the first molar-rattling power chord that they’re ready to make your head explode with their incredible new concept album “Melotronical”. Musically and vocally epic in every way, it’s a 60-minute sensory assault that leaves you exhausted wondering what the hell just happened – just as you’re reaching for the play button again. Easily one of the strongest albums of the year so far, vocalist Jessica Lehto and composer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Hugo Flores – seriously, what can’t this guy do – took some time to talk to Femme Metal about the concept of “Melotronical”, what makes their ongoing collaboration work so well and coming into their own as a top-tier band.
“Melotronical” is one of those albums that you can hardly believe when you hear it for the first time. You’ve beefed up the sound but lost none of your instrumental intricacies and trademark atmospherics. Were you as amazed at the result as the fans were?
Hugo: Yeah, the idea was to impress the audience from the very first track “Enter Nucleon” with an explosive and original sound. The initial synth from “Enter Nucleon” is very aggressive and then with the soaring guitars and blown up drums it’s all settled in for the ride! You know, the story and concept demanded a much more aggressive approach this time, so in the end the sound would really have to be much more powerful. I wasn’t that much surprised simply because I followed the album’s evolution every day, from composing to mixing. But I must admit I was indeed surprised after seeing the whole package and listening to the mastered version. I wanted to convey into music the idea of Tronic – or mechanical motion. “Melotronical” combines the atmospherics and simplicity of “Poles” with the progressiveness of “A Strange Utopia” and adds edge and vivacity to the sound. I’m very proud of “Melotronical”. I think we’ve really made our best album this far.
Jessica: Hugo definitely is a very skilled songwriter and on this third Factory of Dreams album the tracks do feel a bit different compared to earlier releases. The tracks are a bit heavier, the sound might be a bit richer. I was definitely impressed when hearing these tracks for the first time.
You’ve raised the bar for yourselves on this album – and everyone else for that matter. Musically and vocally this album is killer from beginning to end. When did you realize that you had something special on your hands?
Jessica: To be honest I don’t really reflect about my vocals as something special. I just do a job that is as good as possible at that moment, and if others find it special I’m very happy to hear that. (Smiles) As for Hugo’s song writing I have always found it special and it has kept growing with each release, which is very lovely indeed.
Hugo: Jessica is just too humble, I must say that her voice is indeed very special and the album is somehow a unique combination of her vocals with my music. I actually started realizing that it was special once I had my compositions laid down and the concept and lyrics written. And that was even more evident once “Whispering Eyes”, the main single, was taking shape with the recorded vocals. Very powerful music, appealing, yet quite progressive in its own way. But it’s also like Jessica mentions, I do what comes to mind and shape the sound according to that. Maybe for a fourth album I might pursue this line of songwriting, because “Melotronical” is definitely asking for a follow-up album.
What was the conceptual genesis of “Melotronical”? Was there a sudden epiphany or had the ideas been floating around for a while in the backs of your heads?
Hugo: It started because I wanted to play with a ‘robotic’ sound and that kind of material. So, I began writing and thinking about an album title that could represent a whole nature vs. mechanic feel. In the end, what came to mind, was a symbiosis between machine, organic and music. “Melotronical” is actually melody combined with mechanical motion as I mentioned. It was quite sudden, yes; I don’t recall having this concept going around for many times in my mind. However, the robot vs. human issue was present. I enjoy many films of that kind, such as A.I and books like Isaac Asimov’s. Also, my Project Creation trilogy is based around a mechanical dragonfly. So, it was always very present. The album was also a chance to revive two older songs that I had composed a long time ago. One was “Something Calling Me”. The first version was done in 2000 and I was the lead singer on that track. The second was part of “Protonic Stream”, much much older; I figure I was like 15 when I composed it on my dear old commodore Amiga, can you believe it?
Given the complexity and density of this music – and the fact you play all the instruments yourself – where do you start, Hugo? What was your process for building up the tracks?
Hugo: The process hasn’t changed much from my approach since early this decade. But I’ve learned new ways to mix and produce music. As far as the process and how everything begins? Well, it depends. It may be from a title or from an idea for a story, or even simply by just playing around with the synths and trying out melodies and sounds. Once I find a melody that pleases me, I start developing that melody, changing it and making it evolve. Usually I just let my thoughts and ideas go and when I run out of ideas I stop since that means that the track is complete. I don’t like to ‘force’ ideas or to make a track longer once ideas are unnatural. After that, I begin recording the guitars, the bass and later vocals. I also lay down my drums along with the synths and orchestrations, before the actual guitar recordings. Then it’s mixing time. Very time consuming but still pretty cool and creative. As far as mastering is concerned, I prefer to leave that to a mastering engineer, and “Melotronical” had a brilliant mastering process done by Mr. Chris Brown, who worked on so many of my albums and several others from Progrock Records as well.
Hugo, your musical influences are far ranging but there seems to be a little extra nod to 1970s electronic music on “Melotronical”. Were you listening to any Vangelis or Jean-Michel Jarre while composing the album?
Hugo: “Back to Sleep” or “Protonic Stream” are good examples of how I enjoy a powerful synth sound. It’s all about an epic feel to the music, a wide and full of body approach to sound. Even though I don’t listen too often now to Vangelis, he has been quite an influence. I’ve grown up listening to synth based music. I’m grateful to that because synths enable me to do whatever pleases me. Nowadays it’s simply mind-blowing to see the possibilities, and you can have several orchestras right at your hand, ready to play at your command 24 hours a day. How’s that for a musician, huh? (Laughs)
Jessica, you dug deep and provided the album with a tour de force vocal performance, soaring, swirling and morphing from one song to the next. How did you prepare for recording the vocals for “Melotronical”?
Jessica: Thanks! (Smiles) I did not really prepare much before recording. Most of the time, when recording stuff for a new track, I listen to the track once or twice before I start working on it. Other times I just feel very spontaneous and start working right away, without listening to the track at first. It really depends on how inspired I feel. Sometimes I have tons of ideas at once when hearing the intro and other times I need to feel the atmosphere of the track a bit more. However, it was really hard work for me this time around. My father unexpectedly passed away in December 2009 and by the time I started recording for “Melotronical” things were still really difficult to deal with. I lacked inspiration and motivation and I had to dig real deep to come up with most of the vocal lines I wrote. I’m not yet sure about my work in some of the tracks, but on the other hand I never am, I’m always hard on myself and I’m never fully pleased with what I do. I just think I did the best I could do at that time and then it’s okay.
Hugo: Let me add that I fully agree. Jessica‘s work on “Melotronical” couldn’t be better, period. All the other albums are great, but this time, I don’t know, it was perfect. Maybe the fact that she was in a very emotional state may have helped. Or maybe the fact that she thought she would perform worse, Jess consciously lifted her spirit and she told herself to do that extra effort, thus surpassing what would have been a great performance from the start. Kudos to her!
You’ve really come into your own vocally on this album, Jessica. In our last interview for “A Strange Utopia” we talked a bit about vocal comparisons but on “Melotronical” it’s all Jessica Lehto! Your voice has become as individually identifiable as your influences Anneke, Sharon and Tarja.
Jessica: Thanks a lot! That’s just about the nicest thing a vocalist can hear! Of course influences will always be there, but as long as you’re not just a pale copy of them that’s nice.
Hugo got some great vocals down on the album as well and the two of you complemented each other very well. Thanks for letting Hugo record some vocal parts this time, Jessica!
Jessica: Well he’s free to do that at any time for sure! (Laughs) And I’m glad he did this time around, his voice fits great with the tracks and he’s really a skilled singer too, among so many other skills he has.
Hugo:Yes, I’m a good juggler too, and hamster tamer, as long as they’re friendly, and tamable. I already lost a finger due to one of those little things…damn hamster.He was delicious though… Jessica told me several times, “Oh no, you’ll ruin the whole thing!” but I said, “Come on please lemme do it, lemme do them vocals, I can’t just do the music, you’re the one you gets noticed and I’m an egocentric narcissist freak, please please!” and she was kind enough to grant me this little thing here.
Interview by Ed MacLaren
“A Strange Utopia” is the latest progressive metal release from Lisbon-based Factory of Dreams. Combining dramatic vocals with intricate guitar lines and atmospheric keyboards, Factory of Dreams creates an epic journey into chaotic worlds of broken perfection. Not without a sense of humour, multi-instrumentalist Hugo Flores and vocalist Jessica Lehto join Femme Metal for a candid conversation about alligators, lip piercings… and, of course, music.
The CD focuses on the divisions between and within us while “A Strange Utopia” projects a more unifying intent. How did the concept for the CD develop?
Hugo : “Poles” had a well defined concept of exploring dark and light and the good and bad struggle within us, absolutely. The new album, even though it does have a defined concept throughout its 70 minutes, was basically done with the intention of exploring rather strange and impossible worlds which turned out to be strange Utopias. So, in the end, a universe called Utopia was thought of and the lyrics were written according to that perspective. What’s curious is that these some of these places are pleasant Utopias and some are definitely bad visions such as “Dark Utopia”. You can definitely think that “The Sight of a Better Universe” from “Poles” can be planet Utopia in a way, but the good side only. So, indeed this album is more unifying and I think the overall feel of the album transmits that idea and also provides a sense of connection to the previous album. As for the development of the CD, like most of my music, it started with the basic musical compositions and later the lyrics and concept started to revolve around the music. At a certain point, the music and probably the vocals were also influenced by the lyrical themes and moods.
Two albums in two years is considered prolific in music today. What inspired this creative outburst? Did you have some incomplete ideas from “Poles” that you built on or was it a fresh burst of creativity?
Hugo : “Poles” was concluded, totally. However, as soon as “Poles” was done, new ideas started to build and slowly the composition process began. We even managed to make a connection with “Poles” at the end of the track “Slow Motion World”! It was indeed an outburst of ideas and also the hunger to compose, and I also felt like making an in-between album featuring both Project Creation’s complexity and “Poles”’ simplicity. So, I basically took the previous album’s genre and decided to provide an epic and heavier feel to it – more progressiveness too – and make it a bit more complex in terms of performances and structures. So our fans will definitely find the “Poles” sound there, but with a much more open and epic feel to the music. If they hear it several times, they’ll be embraced by the music I’m sure – more than with “Poles” perhaps. As for the inspiration, I really can’t recall but inspiration comes just from playing with my keyboards and that was it. I had two tracks that were not used in “Poles”, however these were not used in “Utopia” either. In the trash with those!
“Poles” contained many elements of 70s-style prog rock along with strong electronica influences while “A Strange Utopia” feels much heavier with less ornamentation. Was this a conscious decision to reflect the CD concept and lyrical content or was it how the music organically developed? Did the lyrics shape the music or vise versa?
Hugo: I agree, even though it is more proggy than “Poles”. There’s less ornamentation, yes, but there’s a definite focus on the main melody while some tracks tend to have several arrangements around the main melody or several melodies. I love that feel – having a peaceful part and then a sudden burst or a more chaotic approach. Some people out there don’t get this type of sound approach. Well, try to get the overall picture of the concept – that’s the whole idea behind “A Strange Utopia”. “Poles” is a very unique album, It was made in a time when I really wanted to simplify my music, I suppose it really reflects that, and with that in mind, I love “Poles” and the more I listen, the more I really enjoy it. The simple things tend to be immediately likeable, but may not last long. “Poles” contradicts this to me because it also grows within the listener while being simpler in terms of structures, but more dense in ornamentations. “A Strange Utopia” was deliberately more progressive, more band-like sounding and more chaotic. Plus, I really wanted to use much more real drums instead of a deliberate electronic feel just like “Poles” had. I was also determined to add much more diversity to the songs too and I think that is audible. The lyrics began to take shape soon after the early compositions were made and I just started writing and writing and when I looked at the overall picture, I realized that I was really exercising my imagination with several fantasy worlds. Diversity is a word that comes to mind when listening to “A Strange Utopia”.
Since this is your second collaboration, did your personal and professional relationship change after the success of “Poles” and how is that reflected in “A Strange Utopia”?
Hugo : Yes! Now I enjoy playing pranks on Jessica more than before and teasing her pets too, especially her alligator that she keeps in her room hidden from the public. (This part may not be true… heh heh… really?). People are always evolving, and yes, when we did “Poles” we already had a good chemistry I suppose, however as time passed we became friends. Professionally, we collaborate basically in the same manner as with “Poles” but things are faster now because I know what she can do more easily, and she knows better what I usually like in a song as well.
Jessica : He’s always trying to take a swim with my alligator – yes! I don’t know what’s up with that. Despite that fact, yes, the friendship bond is stronger now than it was during the “Poles” recordings and by now we have even met face-to-face which was very lovely. When it comes to the music, this album has been easier for me to record than the previous one since I’m now more familiar with Hugo’s way of writing and arranging.
Hugo : Note the last time I checked the alligator was gone… (I was hungry…)
The vocals on “A Strange Utopia” are a big standout on this CD. The vocal overdubs and effects are well-placed and shaped a very strong compliment to the music. What was the vocal approach when recording “A Strange Utopia”?
Hugo: Better for Jessica to speak about this one. My idea was really to let the vocals stand-out, however, and as you listened, this time the instrumental parts are much more predominant than with “Poles”. So it’s not totally vocally focused like “Poles” was most of the time. One must recall that “Poles” has about 50 minutes, a bit less music, and this one takes up a full CD, so, it’s natural!
Jessica: Just like I did on “Poles”, I wanted to contribute to the atmosphere of each track, and at the same time I wanted to challenge myself a bit more by arranging vocals in a way I’m not used to. This approach resulted in, for example, the vocals in the ending parts of “Garden of all Seasons”. In general, I think I’ve played around a bit more on this CD than on the previous one. I did some arrangements in “A Strange Utopia” that to me somehow felt quite unexpected and I don’t really know where those ideas came from.
Hugo: Yeah, “Garden of All Seasons” – that’s some crazy tune.
Jessica, your vocals can range from the operatic to a soothing caress. I could hear what seemed to be a more than passing nod to Kate Bush in “Broken”. Who are your vocal influences and how much of an impact do they have on your own style?
Jessica: I have heard the Kate Bush thing before, although I must admit I’m not familiar with her work. Perhaps I should change that! My main vocal influences are Anneke van Giersbergen, Sharon den Adel, Enya and Tarja Turunen. It’s hard to say what impact they have on my own style. I suppose that’s up to the listener to decide since it’s too tricky for me, but I started singing before I started listening to these singers (apart from Enya, she was there many years before I started singing) and I found “my” voice pretty quickly. What I’ve done since then is to mainly polish it up and learn to be more versatile. So I suppose you pick up a thing here and there when listening to other singers.
Hugo, has Jessica‘s vocal perspective changed the way you approach the compositional process?
Hugo: That’s always a difficult question. I can say – without a shadow of a doubt – that for “Poles” the music was done independently and vocals were thought of after. I knew, however, that I wanted an operatic feel to them, or, if you will, a rock/operatic voice. So even though the music was pre-composed, I had that in mind. Now, for the new album “A Strange Utopia” that might have changed. I mean “Sonic Sensations”, “Slow Motion World” – I believe I thought of Jessica‘s voice for those and maybe for a few other tracks. This time we even had some guests too, so I also had to think of how to mix those parts with the lead vocals from Jessica. It was fun, and hard work too.
The dream-like imagery of the videos for “Weight of the World” and “Sonic Sensations” are beautiful to watch. How much input do you have in their creation? Do you find videos add a new dimension to the musical experience or are videos merely a necessary evil? Maybe they’re a way for Jessica to show off close ups of her lip piercing?
Jessica : Yes! I actually, and very, very, honestly, wanted to do those clips and focus only on my awesome lip piercing, you know. It should be the only thing visible for the viewers throughout both videos; the piercing and then darkness. So of course now I’m very bummed out that I actually was appearing in the video too, I thought the director was shooting my lip piercing only!
Hugo : (Laughs) No, it’s not at all a necessary evil – on the contrary – I love cinema and video, and making this type of art along with the music is just a way of complimenting everything so it definitely adds a whole new dimension. It only makes big seem bigger and epic much epicquier…erara. Heh? A lot, I really mean a lot, of work and production was placed in these clips. Actually two clips. I consider that a luxury, because only one would already have been a lot to produce really. So, I really, really, hope people will be aware of the work put into those and, most of all, like the videos. Yes, the piercing! Emil [Jonsvik] is a director that looks to every detail so I suppose he just likes her piercing – or maybe he’s afraid and wants to exorcise his fears? Hmmm… now I’m a bit afraid of that piercing! Really, Emil is very talented, and the way he works is just so much fun. Working with the crew, with Jessica, and all was just a fantastic experience. People not familiar with our clips should perhaps begin by watching the first one, “The Weight of the World”, and then the second one to get an overall picture. “Sonic Sensations” is a very mysterious video… As for inputs, just check http://www.youtube.com/projectcreation. People are really nice and do comment regularly, and love the videos.
Jessica : I agree with Hugo, making these videos was nothing less than two of my loveliest experiences within music so far and I’m very happy to say my video camera fear is now cured. I was very nervous before the first video shoot because I totally hate video cameras and I didn’t know if it would really work out for me. But during the first take I felt very comfortable and the camera did not feel like a problem at all. Many kudos to Emil, he’s a great director and I very much liked working with him.
This is your second consecutive Factory of Dreams CD. Has Factory of Dreams become less of a side project and more of a full-time focus?
Hugo : That’s a good question; it’s a main band for me, a main focus now, even though Project Creation is also on my thoughts, of course, for the near future.
With that said, Hugo, with your musical ability and production skills is there a full-blown metal opera in your future?
Hugo : I don’t have anything else in mind apart from Factory of Dreams and Project Creation really. I have a few projects that are waiting, but standing still on the shelves. I’m not that enthusiastic with those right now. I may, however, take those concepts and use them in my main bands though.
Together you’ve created two excellent CDs of progressive rock. Has your successful collaboration reached a logical conclusion or will Factory of Dreams go for the trilogy?
Hugo : There are no limitations, so I hope to keep going as long as we both want to do music and people keep following us, and ultimately, buying the albums. That’s the only way to get things going. So, leave those torrents, P2Ps, and alikes alone and buy the stuff. There is no trilogy, just a band or project, if you will, that makes music. As long as it’s fun, like it’s been up to now, it’s just great to be able to do what we do for as long as possible.
Style switcher only on this demo version. Theme styles can be changed from Options page.
- Maria O’Donnell – Galley Beggar
- Ellie Goulding – “Delirium” (2015)
- BAND-MAID – “New Beginning” (2015)
- Enya – “Dark Sky Island” (2015)
- Artaius – “Torn Banner” (2015)
- Milena Eva – GOLD
- Kari Rueslåtten
- Clare Cunningham – Thundermother
- YOUSEI TEIKOKU – “Shadow Corps[e]” (2015)
- Cinnamun Beloved – “The Weirdest Moment” (2015)
- Kobra and the Lotus – “Words of the Prophets” EP (2015)
- Veronica Freeman – The V
- Chastain – “The 7th of Never” & “The Voice of the Cult” REISSUE (2015)
- Diemonds – “Never Wanna Die” (2015)
- Embassy of Silence – “Verisimilitude” (2015)
- Burning Point – “Burning Point” (2015)
- District 97 – “In Vaults” (2015)
- Jaded Star – “Memories from the Future” (2015)
- Lauren Hart – Once Human
- Priya Panda – Diemonds
- Cœur de Pirate – “Roses” (2015)
- Caterina Nix – Chaos Magic
- Phaedra – “Blackwinged Night” (2015)
- Yui – YOUSEI TEIKOKU
- Kiarely & Janel – Conquer Divide
- Conquer Divide – “Conquer Divide” (2015)
- Lindsay Schoolcraft – Cradle of Filth
- Severnica – “Long Lost Longing” EP (2014)
- Tarja Turunen – “Ave Maria – En Plein Air” (2015)
- Francheska Pastor – Bad Seed Rising