Sarasin - Roger Banks

Sarasin - Roger Banks

It doesn’t happen very often that a record from one for me completely unknown band strikes as hard as SARASIN’s self-titled first official full-length album did. It crawled under my skin and nothing could really measure up to it. And to get to know a little more about the band, METAL KAOZ hooked up with drummer Roger Banks for a few questions.

Sarasin - Roger Banks

Hi Roger, how are you? Congratulations for releasing a fantastic album!
Hi Erika, thanks for taking the time and thanks for the enthusiasm for SARASIN. We are quite proud of this CD!

Have you gotten any response on the record now already? Any comments or reviews? Or just general feedback from friends?
Yeah, we have started to get some reviews in from around the world and lots of great feedback. It is so satisfying to put your heart and soul into something, see it come to fruition then have people from different countries all dig into it... Just goes to show that Metal fans transcend, politics, geography, religion and all the daily noise... We hear a good song played authentically, delivered with true passion... It bypasses everything else... We all just want to rock out!

What are your expectations for this album release?
Well, we hope everyone supports the band and buys a CD. In all honesty, we believe that we offer something unique to the Metal world and we believe that we have a product that the Metal / Hard Rock fans around the world need to hear and become aware of!

The album is released on Pure Steel Records, so why did you choose this record label?
They approached us and the enthusiasm they had for our music really resonated to us. Also, we felt a good fit and being a European based label, this is the territory we really want to grow in and penetrate.

Before we move forward, can you introduce SARASIN briefly for people not familiar with the band? How would you describe SARASIN’s music?
We are not afraid to show our influences, we grew up on MAIDEN, PRIEST, ZEP, SABBATH, SAXON, RUSH to name but a few. That is in our blood but the one thing all those band have in common is... melody! So, to us, having song that has a hook both musically and melodically from the vocal is really key. So, I would describe SARASIN as a classic Hard Rock band that plays from the heart. Nothing pretentious here, and has great songs. Classic Heavy Rock with a modern twist also with strong memorable hooks, melody especially regarding vocals is extremely important to us. Melody that one can remember and sing or hum because it stuck in their head is crucial. Whether it be a vocal a guitar or even a drum hook, melody and hooks are a priority! At the end of the day, speed and energy only gets you so far before one song sounds like the next and the entire presentation becomes redundant. Songs with arrangements, real instruments, solid performances and great vocal hooks! You won’t have a hard time hearing our influences but the sound and presentation is SARASIN.

There’s not very much information available on internet about SARASIN. What I can see is that you released one EP back in 1987 and from that only guitar player Greg Boileau remain in the line-up. Can you tell me what’s been going on over the years?
(laughs) That may take a few pints! The name has been around the Canadian scene here yes since the '80s but the band has been through many different line ups and directions. The band has always played locally and across North America, but as the industry has changed so has the opportunities that once existed as far as touring and live venues. So to fast forward, I joined the band in 2007 and we did a CD with Phil Naro singing the CD was called “Daggers-Lust-Disgust” it was more of a true hard rock North American type sound.  We didn’t play much and shortly after the CD was released we found Mike Wilson our singer and reformed as a 4 piece and proceeded to play live fairly consistently for the next 3 years. In 2012, our bass player, Rob Grant, who was the other original founding member along with Greg, became ill. Soon after we learned that it was cancer and our brother Rob passed away in September of 2012. That was tough... So, some soul searching some calls some discussion and we found ourselves writing new material, but these new tunes had a much heavier, darker edge than the previous, we loved the direction and with Mike’s vocals these new songs were born. Time flies, it really does, I mean Rob gets sick, passes, we grieve, we reform, we write, we record, we shop a deal etc, etc 3 years pass in a blink and here we are! Wild ride!

I read about Rob’s passing, I’m really sorry for your loss. How come that you have this long time between the releases?
Well, the last release was in '07, then as I mentioned we had to deal with some of the worst reality one can face, combined with the music biz and what those struggles entail. Here we are though we think the wait is well worth this finished product!

Are there a difference in how SARASIN sound today compared to back in the days? (When the EP was released) If yes, what is the difference?
Huge difference; the previous versions of the band were different all together, this version is SARASIN we have focused vision we are unified and this is the best the band has ever been. We really think of this as new band, there may be history for the bands name but this version is fresh, new and hungry.

Can you tell me a little about the song-writing process for SARASIN?
Greg and I map out a great deal of the music then give it to Mike where he works his magic. Mike also helps with the music too. Some songs actually began with my drum grooves that inspired Greg, sometimes it’s a riff Greg or Mike has, sometimes Greg and I just bash out some ideas. So no real formula but what we do seem to work! Now that we have Les and Jimmy in the band (Les Wheeler Bass and Jim Leach Guitar) we are excited at what this “team” effort can do together.

What struck me with the “Sarasin” album and what I found very appealing was the rather odd phrasing of the vocal lines in “Sinkhole” or “Forevermore” and also the beat in the riff in “In Our Image” and “Sinkhole” (again). Layers and harmonies almost make it feel out of sync even if it’s not. (I love it, I think this make SARASIN’s music very interesting and original) Is this intentional or does it happen by accident?
Wow, thanks for listening so diligently you really have an ear for detail! Well, again sometimes it happens by accident sometimes planned. That’s the beauty of music and musicians, when you strip it down music in its simplest definition are emotion... And everyone interprets it differently. So when Mike hears something he may phrase his ideas differently than you are I because that is how he feels the pulse... if that makes sense? A song like “In Our Image” that chorus / head riff was one of the songs that were drum inspired. I had this cool rhythm in 7/4 time followed by this cool double kick groove. I really thought of the 7/4 part as a musical hook perhaps no vocals at all there, then when I hear the demo back for the first time with Mike’s vocals I am blown away because he sings this beautiful melody that dances around and intertwines with the 7/4 feel. Something personal, Mike’s interpretation and that’s how he felt it, it’s how he heard the music... it inspired him... Sorry for my long answer, I hope that helps explain somewhat.

Thanks for sharing! It’s always interesting to learn the details about favorite songs and records. The cover artwork to me looks like a little Viking style, a little Celtic and a little Fantasy. Where did the idea come from? Who has done the artwork?
Thanks! Yeah, Mike found it online, we contacted the artist and she was real cool about us using it, I believe she is based in New Zealand, my apologies but her name escapes me... Her work is awesome, we gave a nice credit to her in the CD so when you buy a copy (nudge nudge wink wink) be sure to check out her website to see her other work.

Do you have any gigs planned? Any chance you will come to Europe and play?
Getting in Europe has been our goal from day one, we really want to bring this band to the metal fans of Europe. It would be an absolute honour! We are hoping the sales support helps get us there. The industry has changed so much and there are so many expenses with getting a band from Canada to Europe... But we are hell bent on making that happen.

Apart from the release of the album (and if any gigs planned), what are your future plans?

We have booked some shows here in Canada, we plan to film a show in March for release in segments then eventually in its entirety as a live DVD. Then working on European shows hopefully this fall.

Well Roger, thank you for your time. Do you have any last words to share with METAL KAOZ or all metalheads out there?
Thanks so much for the support, we so appreciate this! And to all the Metal fans, you are the fuel to our fire, we thank you for the support and we hope to see you all on our travels very soon! Cheers!