American metal act TOTAL ECLIPSE have made a name for themselves in the rough and tumble world of underground metal. They are now ready to take it worldwide, showing great determination in a very competitive “unsigned” scene.
The Metal Den’s Randy “Rocket” Cody recently conducted an interview with vocalist Andy Dracons Giardina Of TOTAL ECLIPSE for his loyal army of Den Headz worldwide.
Rocket: Where were you born and raised?
Andy: I was born in Rome, Italy and had an int’l education for most of my life since leaving italy at the age of 10 and following my parents overseas because they were diplomats. I actually went through catholic school in rome since kidergarten onwards-as most italian kids are forced to do- until we left italy and believe me roman catholic schools are the absolute extreme-it was a traumatic experience all right, like being a in a concentration camp to put it succinctly. Talk about brainwashing techniques. Nothing wrong w/ the Christian God the basic commandments preached by Jesus are perfectly logical (as opposed to the vengeful and wrathful god Yahweh from the Old Testament) and are expressed in many other religions from different cultures all over the globe but there is obviously a lot in the Bible that needs to be reevaluated and reinterpreted;mind u I don’t consider myself a Christian fundamentalist by any means- I’ve always been deeply spiritual; also studied the occult and various religions whom i knew had not been as repressive and allowed more freedom and more individual liberty in the interpretations of their religious texts (Gnosticism especially, tibetan buddhism, Shintoism and other various forms of nature worship like Wicca among others), spent several years studying alchemy and I wrote the thesis on it for my M.A. in World History; also practiced martial arts most of my life and various esoteric disciplines imperniated around white magic of course like Chaos Magic, the theosophical school of Madame Blavatsky and Rudolf Steiner’s school of Anthroposophy based on the spiritual science of man-since I ain’t no fucking satanist just to make it clear)-but it was those repressed nuns running the school and forcing an erroneous interpretation of the scriptures which really made life hell and left indelible scars that pushed me toward the search for occult wisdom, which I have always tried to incorporate in my music and lyrics since it is the message that is the most impt. thing right? not the messenger… eventually my dad who worked in the italian trade commission was offered the job in malaysia as the Italian trade Commissioner there and we left Italy to go to kuala lumpur where i attended international schools (mostly american) while my mom worked in the embassies there; we were there for 6 years and them moved to japan for 3 years, where I finished High School at an Int’l school before returning to Italy where I went to an American University for 4 years to get my B.A.s in Political Science and World History, I formed my first serious band there called “Skydive”. I came to the States in 1997 to finish my studies at SF State University where I got my M.A. degrees in the same fields, working different jobs and started looking for serious musicians to continue my passion which is, above all, heavy music. My first band in the U.S. was a power trio called “Rhule”, we formed in ’97 and played around SF and the Bay area; we also opened up for Incubus as they were about to hit it big, and Head P.E. to mention another big act. So basically I really had a very extensive multicultural education and had many friends of different nationalities which definitely contributed to my understanding that we are all one and the same in every culture no matter what color of skin or ancestral origin.
Rocket: Do you come from a big family?
Andy: My mom has 2 brothers who’ve got kids and who in turn had plenty of kids themselves whadduya know right? One of my cousins just recently got married and they’re expecting a baby (his life is over, basically:)hah hah hah), and I have a half-brother who’s a Colonel in the Army and has a daughter who’s in her teens, not to mention my other cousins and uncles and aunts and their parents- not even counting my Dad’s side of the family- you could say yeah, it’s a pretty big family but as u know is usually the case with relatives as everyone gets older and the families get bigger you start losing touch w/ most of them -it is inevitable but also unfortunate. I was always the rebel, though, to tell u the truth, always had to take a lot of abuse at school and psychologically from other relatives and society in general as I have always been the ultimate unconformist and was never able to fit in anywhere. I always was and still am very misunderstood, apparently, though I always meant well, really…which brings me to the subject of satanic lyrics- there is no such thing really since esoteric disciplines teach that in order to defeat your demons, you must learn their name so you can have power over them, which basically means you have to steal their powers and attributes – this is evident in Gnosticism, which also incorporates Jewish, Christian as well as Arabic Mysticism and Tibetan Buddhism in particular which teach you that demons can be dominated and used to do good. The union of opposites which is the end result of taoism and tibetan buddhism for example, exemplify this idea even more and suggest the reason why it is impt. to embrace your dark side- because the dark side can not only be mitigated, but its polarity can also be reversed and made subservient to the light. Slayer is NOT a Satanic band, because they are opening people up to the realities of this fucked up world, confronting them w/ the evils of society and the lessons of history, forcing people individually to change their ways for the better and love each other really, what they do is simply put themselves in the shoes of man’s demons and adopt a sort of “reverse psychology” which, in their music, through metaphor and intense imagery and symbolism, imprints your psychological make-up with a sense of justice and anger at the world-which is, after all, unfair and unjust generally speaking, as history has proven. They are quite the opposite of satanism. People like Marylin Manson, Alice Cooper, Ozzy or Jim Morrison knew exactly what they were doing when they were onstage. The Shaman who is onstage at a rock concert (let’s say, Jim Morrison or Marylin Manson)effects the same sort of polarity reversion on the audience, taking unto himself, exactly like a healer, the negative vibrations and repressed anger of the audience and shooting it back out to them in the form of positive energy. He is bringing their demons out. In a more superficial, and physical sense, they allow the audience to release their anger and aggressions in a positive manner through the alchemical composition and sound of their music(as is evident particularly through the slam-dancing and the moshpit phenomenon).
Since magic is really masked psychology, schools of psychological analysis teach similar models based on this theory of emotive polarity reversion, though they use different terms, obviously, and do not fully understand that the basis of this mechanism stems from pure magick.
Rocket: What bands first drew you to heavy metal music?
Andy: The first bands I got into that really made an impression on me as a kid in the 80’s were Iron maiden, W.A.S.P., Dio, AC/DC, Metallica, Kiss, Saxon, King Diamond, Def Leppard and Queensryche. There were many more after that but the first albums I heard were from these bands; My brother was heavily into metal-he listened to Kiss, Slayer, Iron Maiden, W.A.S.P. and the like but he was also into the lighter stuff of basic rock like Billy Idol for example. The first tapes he gave me that I ever listened to were “the number of the beast” by Iron Maiden, W.A.S.P.’s “Inside the electric circus”, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Randy Rhoads tribute” album, AC/DC’s “fly on the wall’, Slayer’s South of Heaven and the rest is history…
Rocket: When did you first get into singing?
Andy: I actually started out as a guitar player and learned most of the songs by Iron Maiden until the 7th son of a 7th son LP the last greatest album they made in my opinion, I learned a shitload of solos from them -the solos style of Adrian Smith in particular whom I always consider one of the most melodic and atmospheric guitar players ever- and also the solos from Randy Rhoads, Zakk Wylde, Jake E. Lee when they played with Ozzy, I learned almost all the Guns n’ roses songs from “Appetite for destruction”, “Lies”, and the “Use your Illusion I and II” albums, not to mention a lot of the songs from AC/DC, some metallica, etc. but I really started writing my own songs after 3 mths that I had picked up the guitar. I was the shittiest singer though at first, but I always played guitar and sang in some of the bands that I formed while i was overseas and then back in Rome because I always enjoyed singing more than the guitar -unfortunately I had a really weak voice and just couldn’t really “belt it out” you know?When I finally started taking vocal lessons that’s when things finally changed and started taking off. But of all the bands it was Iron Maiden, without a doubt, that made me want to be a singer.
Rocket: Can you tell me who are some of your biggest vocal influences?
Andy: Oh that’s very easy: Bruce Dickinson since the early days because he utilized a very particular power metal style that fused Opera with pop/rock and,later-blues that’s why he was able to use chest and head blend in his techniques allowing him to hit the highest notes without reaching falsetto (or having to for that matter) and was able to have such cool hooks in the chorus parts because he could do really high backing vox too. Of all the vocal styles I studied, Bruce and Dio (in the early days of rainbow as well) come very close as far as style and technique are concerned. Noone was ever able to top their ability and vocal diversity and strength in the early days, simply because they had a breathing style that endowed them w/ an incredible amount of power, they had originality and a unique style of their own. I studied also the styles of Rob Halford, Geoff Tate, King Diamond (these were easier styles to learn because in the end they would switch from chest to scream falsetto which was cool too don’t misunderstand me; it’s just that Bruce Dickinson could hold a note and make it go to the highest octave without switching to falsetto or breaking his voice into a grinding scream and, to this day, he’s still the hardest singer to emulate as far as I’m concerned). Other big influences from the early days are Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske from Helloween, Ralph Schepers from Gamma Ray, Freddie Mercury, David Coverdale, Sebastian Bach from the first two Skid row albums, Steve Tyler of early Aerosmith, John Bush from Anthrax, AC/DC’s Brian Johnson (not Bon Scott as much, sorry folks), Blackie Lawless, Robert Plant, John Fogerty from Creedence and Tom Keifer from Cinderella, while more modern ones include Fabio Lione from early Rhapsody, Dani Filth of Cradle of filth, Nergal from Behemoth, Olaf Hayer, Timo Kotipelto from early Stratovarius, Tom Araya’ style (for sure!!!), Jim Morrison (why the hell not, man), the singer of In Flames who also has a very original style, Phil Anselmo in Pantera, Down and Superjoint Ritual without a doubt because he really started the hard-core thrash style we know him for without breaking into death/black metal vox, there are too many to list here though.
Rocket: Have you ever taken any vocal lessons along the way?
Andy: Yeah at first I took folk/rock lessons with John Ford, the guy who taught Linda Perry of the 4 non blondes (weird, right?) for a couple of years, then studied Opera for 3 years under Maeve Udell Fry who is a fantastic opera singer, and then was self-taught ever since; I have all the tapes of the lessons and I have been using the recordings of the exercises and kinda worked around them and improved on them over the years so as to keep progressing and evolving my vocal strength, style and techniques. This has allowed me a lot of versatility and diversification so that I was able to learn different vocal styles ranging from progressive operatic to thrash, hard rock, grindcore, melodic black/death, you name it I got it.
Rocket: How did TOTAL ECLIPSE form as a band initially?
Andy: The band was started by Erik and Chris Cameron the main guitarists from the original line-up, they found Ramon Ochoa the drummer who had been playing in bands in the bay Area for many years, then Owen Hart the bass player, and then I joined them in 1999- the line-up was really completed in 1999 when I joined them, they had a demo they had been working on since 1998 but needed a singer and i responded to their ad in BAM magazine. I was their first choice. The funny thing is that everyone they auditioned was the first choice and became part of the line-up. They never auditioned anybody else; we all figured it was just destiny, all part of a grander design.
Rocket: You’re looking for a new bass player, correct? What’s the best way for someone
to apply for the gig?
Andy: Contact me directly on myspace at our page www.myspace.com/teclipse114 , or e-mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org , Preferably a shredder, but not necessarily. Gotta know about groove and punch and what that really means. Oh and most importantly it’s gotta be someone who is somewhat spiritual and has a sense of morality. Those are hard prerequisites to fulfill, I know. But seriously, those are the prerequisites.
Rocket: Who are some of the metal labels out there that you respect the most?
Andy: Well all the ones from the old days you know like Metal Blade, Capitol, Nuclear Blast, Atlantic, Polygram, Roadrunner, etc. but you know I lost respect for many of them since they started exploiting their artists after the metal scene experienced the big downfall in the early/mid 90s- and I won’t mention any names but it is apparent that many of the managers and/or labels that ripped off their artists since the early days, despite the fact these bands still were paid a lot of money back then in the glory days of metal, created a trend of corruptive behavior which has grown uncontrollably over the decades- And i don’t think that the decline in album sales is solely attributable to people downloading songs from the internet, or that people don’t go to concerts anymore because the ticket prices have become totally outrageous as a result. I really think that these labels are getting paid more than the bands themselves, and that becomes pretty evident when u consider that above average or well-known bands from the underground who have a decent record label contract get paid 2 cents or so per member for each album sold. Someone should explain to me why the artist should get paid less than anybody else in the industry, especially since the labels and the distributors the labels submit to can mark-up the album prices anyway they want, and sell the songs online for 25-50 cents X song if they want to, and to top it off they have a far more global market reach than in any other period in music history. Hell people from a small polynesian island can buy an album or pay to download a song online if they want to now. Noone is gonna make me believe that the label has to make up for the promotion of the artist and the album they are selling and that is the main reason why the band gets paid shit, since ways of promoting bands nowadays are soooo much cheaper compared to the system of mail order catalogues used in the 70s and 80s. How the hell is a band supposed to tour and promote the album if they aren’t even getting a mediocre salary to live with and have the lawyer, the manager, and the label that rips them off? I think going independent might really be the best solution to make it as an artist these days, while still having some sort of representation through a publicist and a really trustworthy agent that gets shit done and presents u with the results.
Rocket: What’s your favorite TOTAL ECLIPSE song to perform live and why?
Andy: I really don’t know!!!! I reallly love them all especially the ones from the album “Spellcaster” and the “Guardians of Metal” demo. Right off the bat I really like the song “Nevermore” from the demo and “Hell on Earth” from Spellcaster, and “In Remembrance” from the Ashes of Eden album
As far as concerns the upcoming new album I don’t want to cite too many titles just yet- but one of them is ‘Avenger” and another is called “Deluge of Fire”. I prefer performing pretty much any song that is atmospheric and metaphoric an with vivid imagery, so especially any song which has an epic feel to it.
Rocket: You guys are working on a new full length album, correct? Do you plan on that
coming out in 2010?
Andy: Absolutely. It is the first recorded w/ a new line-up which includes Brian davy, the new drummer, and me on vox and guitar. You can expect a heavier, darker yet melodic sound in the upcoming album that fuses different vocal and guitar styles, and which is a natural evolution-in my opinion- of the entity known as Total Eclipse. I reformed the band myself after Erik Cameron, the original guitarist, agreed to give me the name as the Cameron Bros at the time were pursuing different musical avenues and were no longer interested in Total Eclipse. There is a possibility that Erik might come back into the fold, as we have been in touch again lately talking about it. The tentative date for the release of the new album is the end of February, and I’m already working on the artwork. In the meantime the last album, “Spellcaster,” the second full-length LP recorded w/ the original line-up, is out on the market worldwide and you can check out the list of distributors who carry it on our myspace page and on the blogs.
Rocket: Who is the producer and where’s it going to be recorded?
Andy: I am actually producing it myself. Hah hah hah that’s pretty scary huh? Really i’m learning the trade of the producer and it is haaaard work but definitely rewarding. Supervising the rec engineer, telling him to cut this, rerecord that part, you know the usual stuff. We entered Faultline Studios in San Francisco and started recording the album in March of 2009 after I taught the drummer all the songs. We expect it to be done by the end of February 2010, all that’s left to do is add the bass, as far as the rest goes we got the drums laid down, i recorded all the vox, backing vox, guitars, solos and will also record the bass parts. We have 9 songs which are pretty much done and have already started to mix it roughly. I wrote all the songs and practiced them with the drummer before entering the recording studio, so we were actually ready to gig before going in to record but had trouble finding a reliable bass player, so instead of wasting time we decided to go in and start recording, then worry about finding a bass player later. Did I mention there is a real lack of professional musicians in San Francisco and the Bay Area in general?? People who are treating the music thing as a hobby and don’t really have the balls to make it to the top?? Cause that’s what’s going on here unfortunately. I was actually told by some musicians who played the same clubs for 20 yrs that they were not interested in making it!!! Why the hell go through all the hassle then? I don’t get it, it ain’t supposed to be a hobby like bird-watching…
So then I figured out that the majority of the bands that are out there are not “serious” about their music, they don’t have that drive to begin with, and so all this talk about how hard it is for a band to make it in the music biz is really bullshit cause it really comes down to having the dream, and having the balls to make it. If you’re one of those bands, and you got some sort of song-writing talent, then you’ve got it made.
Rocket: I like to have fun with this next one. What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s
ever happened to you while performing on the stage?
Andy: Well I think the electrocution thing w/ the vox mics and the sound system was always a laugh for the crowd- that happened a few times. Oh a funny one was when I was doing the talent show in high school w/ some friends and we were playing a song by Cinderella, “somebody save me” and I guess somebody pulled the mic volume and i was playing the guitar and singing on the stand without realizing they had unplugged the vox mic- we didn’t have monitors on stage that night so I really figured we couldn’t hear ourselves but the crowd would. Wrongo. I didn’t realize it until the song was over. Another one that’s not so funny though is when Erik and Chris Cameron got their guitr amps and all stolen from their truck outside the Boomerang club in san francisco right before we were gonna play a show. thankfully i lived around the corner and lent Erik my guitar amp, and thank God the club had another spare amp!
Rocket: With all the metal albums released in 2009, do you have any personal favorites?
Andy: Well I liked The High End of Low by Marylin Manson, I got the new G’n’R but I can’t see the genius in it -and I tried reeaally hard to figure it out, I thought the new Megadeth album was just alright but Mustaine made way better albums in the past- i heard some songs from the new Slayer release and i still have to hear more to form an opinion, but it didn’t blow me away like Diabolus in Musica or Divine Intervention and God hates us all -as far as the rest is concerned I haven’t bought that many new metal albums cause i was a little disappointed by the lack of originality these days. I’m not one of those fans who remains attached to a band until they die even if the band has stopped making good albums or writing good songs years ago, you know? i keep giving chances to my favorite bands and i keep getting disappointed, cause they lose their edge and it seems like they’re doing it as a hobby. What we need out there is fresh blood with originality, not a million other clone bands of pantera, as has been the case for the past decade. The secret to originality in my opinion lies in the ability to fuse all the diverse influences that one grows up with to create an alchemical synthesis- then you will see that the end product is an original style that cannot be pin-pointed.
I’ve been getting more into movie soundtracks lately though; composers like Hans Zimmer, Vangelis whom I always liked, John Williams, Ennio Morricone, Trevor Jones,etc.
Rocket: Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Andy: Well let’s see what happens come 2012 first, right? But come the black hole, whether it’s here or in another dimension I wanna be on that stage playing bigger and bigger audiences until I frickin’ die, basically. Oh and I intend to break out big wayyyyyy before 2012, just to make that clear. And hopefully publish some books I’ve been working on…At the moment the most impt. thing is finding a manager/agent asap to sponsor me for a new visa for the band in order to renew my permanence in the States and ensure the survival of Total Eclipse.
Rocket: Thanks for rocking this out with me. Go ahead and give thanks to your biggest supporters.
Andy: What else is there to say but a gigantic thank you to you Rocket and all Total Eclipse fans who have supported us over the years and who bought our albums and are buying the last album “Spellcaster”, recently released in 2009. Couldn’t have done it without you, and thanks for giving me the strength to carry on this beast of revelation that is Total Eclipse. A special thanks to the distributors for the faith, the radio stations, mags and webzines who’ve reviewed with critical praise our recording efforts. The fun is just beginning, prepare to meet us on tour because that’s coming very soon…
ROCKET Interviews Andy Dracons Giardina Of TOTAL ECLIPSE,