Interview with Jim Tobin of SIROCCO
Your new album „Lambay“ is out now. It is a concept story of the historical viking invasion. Can you tell us some details behind that story ?
Sure, the concept actually came to us a bit by accident. We had always planned to write something on the viking invasion at some point in the future but so many bands had done it before us that we held off on it a little bit. The first song from the album that we titled was Mael Suthain, which Ciaran wrote about an ancestor of his father’s side, of the O‘ Cearuill clan (Mael Suthain O‘ Cearbhaill). Mael Suthain was a renowned scholar, and also a spiritual advisor to Brian Boru during this this time period.
Once the lyrics were written, we began to build a story around it, which tells of the Vikings crossing the sea and landing at Lambay Island, to their settlement at Waterford, The Battle of Clontarf and a retrospective told from the Kingdom of Airgialla (Oriel)
In the songwriting process who signs responsible for lyrics and who for the music?
The songwriting process usually starts with myself and John composing the riffs and song structure, before Rob and Ciaran come and add some suggestions and timings. Ciaran wrote pretty much all of the lyrics this time round, but the whole process for Lambay was much more of a group effort than the previous 2 albums
You combine traditional rock/metal sounds with celtic elements. But as I heard out you use no celtic instruments for that. Only guitars, bass, drums....Don't you want to use special instruments?
We started as very much a traditional heavy metal band with influences from Celtic sounds , but we are not a folk band. One of our goals from the start was to write original music using just our own basic instruments and some distortion. If the riff isn’t interesting enough without effects, then it’s not an interesting riff.
Belgian Kris Verwimp is responsible for the artwork the second time. I think the cover artwork is a real eye catcher that underlines the celtic origin and mystical mood. How did it come to the contact to Kris ?
Yes, Kris is a genius. We gave him just a brief outline of our concept and a few unfinished demos of the songs and he managed to capture the feeling of the album perfectly. I originally contacted him for our second album, The March, and after such amazing work with that one, there was never a question of going somewhere else.
What about touring to present your new album ? Any plans ?
We’re going to be a little bit quiet over the next few months as real life has grabbed hold of us lately, all in different ways. The plan though is to do an Irish tour before the end of the year, and to play some shows in mainland Europe before Summer of next year. We will also be playing Spain for the first time next week.
I think for now not a lot of people (especially in germany) know about Sirocco. Please tell us some details about the band's history and what the band stands for.
Sure, we all grew up in a small town in Co. Waterford, with quite different backgrounds – John’s family moved from Liverpool, Ciaran’s from London and I think Rob’s family also returned from London in the space of a few years. With nothing better to do, we seperately began learning to play our instruments. After a few years back and forth in different bands, we met to jam some old metallica covers, and we seemed to work well together, so began writing our own material. At the time we had very little access to underground music – we were essentially cut off from it because of our location. So a lot of the stuff we were playing, we thought it was original at the time. The band doesn’t really stand for anything though, it’s just a group of friends getting together to play the music that we love to listen to.
I think your new album is released by yourself. How is the chance to get a deal with a label for wider publishing ?
Yes, all of our music has been released by ourselves. It would be nice of course if we could secure a recording deal, but we’re also happy to continue the way we are now, without the pressure of a label. We do have distribution deals already though in the UK, Germany and USA.
The song „Kingdom of Oriel“ remembers me a little to Bathory's „Hammerheart“-album. Is there an influence by that album for you ?
Myself and Ciaran are big fans of the Hammerheart album, but I think it was more of an influence on our second release, with Forsaken Shores. Lambay isn’t really influenced by anything in particular.. though saying that, I can hear some familiar patterns in it myself, to stuff like Bathory’s Nordland album, Rotting Christ, Primordial and even Pink Floyd.
Are there any works beside Sirocco of the bandmembers, for example in other music projects ?
No, I have never believed in side projects – to me it would take away some time that could be used for Sirocco. For me, it’s all or nothing.
Do you also listen to other bands to get inspired ? And what do you think about the metal scene in today ?
Yes, we all have quite different influences apart from Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, Metallica, etc.. Ciaran is a big fan of Megadeth, Rob borders on the lighter side of things with an interest in Tool... John is more of a thrash head and I’m a big fan of Rotting Christ, Bathory, and Irish bands like Mourning Beloveth and Belinus
Some parts of your music sometimes remembers to Primordial. Do you know this band personally – any contact ?
Alan painted our first backdrop for us back in 2003, and I’m ashamed to say that we lost it at a show in Dublin, ironically. We played 2 or 3 Irish fests with them and I enjoy their music (especially the newer albums). But apart from that, not much contact. They’ve got their own thing going on and we’re just kids in the scene so far
What are your next plans ? Any visions how the next album(s) have to sound or what lyrical concepts it should have ?
It’s quite difficult to say how the next one will sound. John left us in November to move to France – So we’ll have the input of Padge next time, who’s doing a great job in filling John’s shoes. But I definitely want to go back towards the first album, back towards Celtic Thrash. For me that’s what Sirocco should be.
Some songtitles are in gaelic language. Is there anyone in the band who can speak those gaelic language ? I guess there are some parts in Ireland where this language is still spoken too...
We all learned some Gaelic in school – it’s still taught as a main subject in all primary and secondary schools here. We’re not fluent in it, but we can pull enough of it together between us to make some sense. There are some areas in Ireland where it is the only language spoken, like Rinn Gaeltacht, which is about 20km from our own area.
I think it is not easy to earn money with music today. Maybe if a band is on a big major label. Any civilar jobs beside the band ?
Yes, there is no money in it for us. We just do it because we like to play this music and we would like to bring it to people in other countries. Most times it comes at a cost to ourselves, so as long as we’re not losing money, we’re happy to continue. In real life, I’m a web developer, Rob is a metal fabricator, Ciaran is a philosophy student and John is in France.
The vocals are a mix of clean and warm, and more thrashy like the old James Hetfield. Were there any vocal lessons or is it just like it is ?
I’m not too sure if Ciaran ever had vocal lessons in the past – I know that he was part of a school choir, though he probably doesn’t want anyone to know that. As for the studio, we leave it to him to find the melodies and maybe just help with the structure in a few places. I thought the last album did have a James Hetfield touch to the vocals, but on Lambay it’s more of a breathy earthy voice
Hopefully we can hear a lot more from Sirocco in the future. Any message you want to tell us finally ?
Yes, thanks for taking the time to interview us and to people for taking the time to read this. We love playing in Germany and would really love to come back there soon, so please tell your local promoters and festival organisers that we exist and that we are ready to conquer.
Review by Kerbinator for Metal Fields