Interview With The Dark Horde

What was the beginning point for your music career? How did it all start?

It’s Brewin here to answer your questions (as per usual). Thanks for having me again on your glorious site! Each of the members of The Dark Horde – the musicians, singers, actors and artists behind The Calling album – have their own stories to tell of their musical or artistic journey. I’ll outline a few of them for you, but it’s really only my own that I can describe in any detail:

Myself I’m a writer rather than musician, and first released writing in the form of my novel Evermore: An Introduction in 2001 (which I’ve re-published twice since). I wrote Evermore for myself first and foremost as a “what happens if I just write whatever comes into my head without filters” experiment and so it kinda just wrote itself. It was in many ways a cathartic experience and served as the foundation of who I was and sought to be – and something I draw from to this day. I was already working on three other projects at the time – The Dark Horde novel, The Calling album, and a third project I’ll talk about later. But Evermore was ready first since it was the “least designed”.

So I self-published Evermore and I went personally to a handful of local outlets and negotiated putting my book for sale in them. One of these was a tattoo-parlor where one of the sales was to someone that would go on to create a magazine for young writers focused on mental-health issues and stage an event called “Strike up a conversation day” – both of which they told me my book was the inspiration for. So when something like that happens – that you change the life of someone else you’ve never met for the better through your art alone – it gives you the motivation and self-belief to keep putting things out into the world.

Hanny Mohamed is the main composer and produced the album with me, and he has been writing albums, recording and touring around the world since the mid-nineties. He started as lead guitarist for local Melbourne band Catwitch, before being part of the formation of one of Australia’s most successful power metal exports Black Majesty over twenty years ago. 

Logan Jacobs is the other composer for the album, aside from two guest musician tracks. Logan I met as my neighbour in early 2018, and while this represents his first release, he has played guitar since early childhood – probably around the time Hanny first set foot on stage haha.

Danny Cecati is the main vocalist on the album and his vocals first resounded around the globe as frontman for Melbourne heavy metal band Pegazus in the mid-to-late nineties, followed by around a decade-and-a-half at the helm of progressive metal band Eyefear, and now with the hard rock band Wicked Smile since 2019.

Kevin Powe is the narrator for the album, a Melbourne-based voice actor who has performed on dozens of video games, audio books and audio dramas worldwide for over a decade, and created and voiced the animated sci-fi series Altered

Shaun Farrugia is the voice of the demonic entities on the album and is the founding guitarist and vocalist of Melbourne’s veteran thrash/death band In Malice’s Wake, established about twenty years ago and a dominant thrash/death metal force for well over a decade in Australia.

Chris Kane is guest musician/composer for the track “Rebirth” and is the guitarist and founding member of Melbourne’s melodeath band Eye of the Enemy, established circa fifteen years ago and gaining a renown global presence since.

James Lowe is guest musician/composer for the track “Slaughter”, formed a technical death metal band circa fifteen years ago, and has been a good friend longer than that. Other actors that appear on the album are good friend Andrew Carolane who has some fifteen years’ experience in theatre, my nephew Dexter Seamus who played the role of the protagonist as a child over fifteen years ago and has been a rapper with a huge following of his own for many years now, and his mother/my sister Jane Brewin who actually plays the role of the protagonist’s mother.

Was there any bumps on the road? What kind of challenges did you have to deal with?

Creating and releasing The Calling has been a journey of twenty-one years, start to finish. So it’s certainly been a long, windy and bumpy road. I was simply a writer with an idea to set a story to music, but lacked the musical or vocal ability to really compose or perform any element of it myself, and so I needed to work with others, to inspire their belief in the idea, and to manifest the idea into reality. And to that end I can count at least eight different versions of the album, most with different line-ups, that was partially or fully created, but never released over the years. Sometimes the motivation of others waned, sometimes events in my life or those of others scuttled progress, and sometimes I had to make a hard choice to stop working with someone and seek someone else instead. Working with others to make a project like this happen, including communication and keeping everyone working well with each other, is a different challenge from writing a book in isolation. But as with any road, it eventually leads somewhere if you just keep following it, figuring out how to overcome obstacles as you go. 

But for me, the biggest challenges are those that come after release, and in particular promotion and publicity. The constant need to promote, or at least the feeling that I needed to be constantly promoting, is often taxing for me, and takes me away from the thing I love doing most, and that is creating the art itself. But promotion is a “necessary evil” I think in the journey of an artist, and something I’ll probably forever be trying to do better at haha. 

What was the most fulfilling and satisfying moment so far?

The moments I most enjoy in creating is those moments where you have the spark of creation engulfing you, when from the moment the idea comes to mind, it thrills you with the possibilities and demands you to follow and develop it. I’d say it’s this “creative thrill” that ultimately directs where I focus my creative energies. 

But beyond the creative process, there are many moments where you are conscious of the impression your art has made on others – it could be winning an international award, the glowing praise from a major and respected critic or artist, but just as easily letters or messages from someone you don’t know, or even the words of friends and family. And these are the moments that reinforce what you’re doing and motivate you to keep doing it.

How would you describe the music that you typically create?

The music of The Calling I would describe as “eighties heavy metal” in the vein of bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper, infused with music inspired by the horror-movie soundscapes of composers like John Carpenter and Giorgio Moroder. A supernatural horror story set to a heavy metal soundtrack, I think this project is of interest to anyone into heavy metal or horror, but particularly if you love your eighties (when the story is also set). 

What is your creative process like?

When I sat down with Hanny and Logan in 2019 to make this album, I already had all the lyrics written. I would describe to Hanny and Logan the concept/story of each track, what sort of journey the music needed to reflect, and approaches that had been taken to the track in the past. And then from this Hanny and Logan, armed with guitars and keyboards would try out some ideas with me doing dummy vocals and recording the ideas we were to use on my phone. We did this for the entire album, except the two guest tracks, thus planning out the entire album before recording any of it.

Then when we’d planned out all the ideas for each track, (and this also included Logan and Hanny working on ideas separately and sending them through for feedback) we started the longer process of recording them at Hanny’s home studio. Each track was recorded with multiple iterations as things were added and tweaked. I co-ordinated the vocal recordings with Kevin, Danny and Shaun, and recorded Jane and Andrew at my house with Hanny. Dexter’s recording was done in 2004 and fortunately we were able to still use that, since I doubt we’d have got another kid to do a performance like that!

Finally the tracks, together with the guest musician tracks that Hanny and I tweaked to fit the album, were submitted to the sound engineering studio (Fascination Street Studios), where I gave instruction and feedback to Ricardo doing the mix through a few more iterations until we achieved the final product. Start to finish this process took about two years.

If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?

It’d be nice to have more of the eighties back in the industry wouldn’t it? That golden period is looked back on fondly for good reason ey?

If you were asked to give a piece of advice to upcoming bands, what would that be?

There’s a motivational speech on Youtube by writer Neil Gaiman that he gives to arts students at a graduation ceremony, which probably is as good a speech on art as I’ll ever see, and pretty much sums what I’d imagine I’d try to say. And that is to basically to just go and “make good art” – good being whatever you think is good. Be creative, find your unique spark, embrace failure and challenges as learning experiences and opportunities, and have fun and enjoy the journey. And make something awesome!

What has been the best performance of your career so far?

The Calling is really a studio project, with many of its members in active bands of their own. That said, there are plans afoot to stage a live performance this year, with dates expected to be announced soon.

If you didn’t become a musician, what would you be doing now?

Replacing “musician” with “writer” as applies to me, I cannot actually imagine that I could have not been a writer. Creating stories and games is just something I’ve done since the time I could actually write, regardless of whether others saw it or not, and I have many many drawers full of stuff I’ve created over the years. I’ve spent most of my adult life working in development and analysis roles, and have done other things too, but I’ve always been creating things – it’s just what I do.

What is new with the band at the moment? What are you currently working on and would like to share with the world?

An album launch with supporting acts, CDs, books and merchandise is being planned for the not-too-distant future, and there are some other exciting things on the band front happening too, but my current artistic focus is on my next projects… In particular one that is my biggest project of all and in many ways “my lifework” that I’ve been working on since 1985. Those drawers full of stuff I’ve created I mentioned above? Well three or four of them relate to this project. But it’s not an album or a book, it’s a game. A game with elements of fantasy, horror and science-fiction – you know, all the good stuff – and some that know me will be glad to hear I’m working on this again, but wait and see on that one… Let’s just say that I’m very proud of it haha. 

Thanks again for having me!

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