-- Memories Of Old gets shredded --

Stijn Daneels
Interview conducted and written by Marjolein “Mrs. Metal Shredder” Deduytschaever.

Ever since I’d joined the Metal Shredder camp I always wanted to shred my way through the English epic power metal act Memories Of Old. Since I’m a huge fan of acts like Sabaton, Majestica and Hammerfall a band like this one was an obvious choice, especially when Memories Of Old had just released their debut album (which I shredded here: http://belgianmetalshredder.be/reviews/233)!

Eventually our Dutch friends at Hard Life Promotion arranged for us to have a chat with founding members Billy Jeffs and Anthony Thompson to talk about the conception of Memories Of Old’s debut album “The Zeramin Game,” their first live gig, the difficulties in making a concept album and their drummer James’ uncredited drum cameo.

BMS: Hey there fellas! It’s great to finally shred the both of you! What have you been up to recently?
Anthony: We recently had a cool online virtual festival called Power Metal Quest Fest which featured a video from our debut gig that took place exactly one year before the virtual fest. We read the viewers’ comments and we were surprised and pleased to read the many positive reactions. After all, we didn’t have a lot of Memories Of Old gigs before the coronavirus pandemic began and it was great to see that the viewers still enjoyed us.
BMS: That’s great! So, how do you recall that first live Memories Of Old show? I assume it was quite a nervous experience.
Anthony: Yes, it was. There was a lot of anticipation for that first gig. Although I’ve been a keyboard player for a long time, for Memories Of Old I had brand new equipment so I was praying that I would be able to play that thing live just as well as I did during the rehearsals.

Billy: And for me it was my first live performance as a guitarist since I used to be a drummer during my time with the progressive power metal act Nightmare World. But we had a great time during that gig, the adrenaline was flowing through the band and crowd and we hope to get that same feeling again when we return to the stage.

BMS: I’m sure you will! Now we’ve got a question for you, Billy! Tell us something about the conception and production of Memories Of Old’s debut album, “The Zeramin Game.”
Billy: It all came to me in a dream I had when I was sleeping on a boat, sailing over the Grand Union Canal in London. It was a very detailed dream filled with adventure, fantasy and pirates and I recall that as soon as I had woken up, I got up, grabbed the nearest pencil and notepad and began writing like crazy! I ended up with several pages full of ideas which eventually evolved into the setting of Memories Of Old’s first album.
BMS: I remember that you initially started “The Zeramin Game” as a book rather than a music album.
Billy: That’s correct, I had this fantastic story I wanted to tell and my first choice obviously was to write a book. However, after writing the first chapter I felt so exhausted and it was also around that time that I wanted to record a power metal album so I simply put them both together. Now, I do see some ways to continue writing the story in book form and maybe, when we record our second Memories Of Old album, I might also accommodate it with a fantasy novel.
BMS: I see. It must have been a challenging experience.
Billy: Indeed, especially since “The Zeramin Game” is my very first concept album. And since you’re limited to one central theme you’ve got to adapt the music and lyrics to that and make sure everything fits.
BMS: Yeah, I’ve been listening to the album on a daily basis ever since it was released and I had a blast shredding it into a review! One of my personal favorites on the release is “Fowlens Revenge!” It’s still stuck in my head! It’s a really energetic and catchy album with a mix of progressive, power and symphonic metal in a pirate fantasy setting that kind of combines Pirates Of The Caribbean with Lord Of The Rings.
Billy: That’s great to hear! I admit that I still love listening to those songs despite me having heard them so many times already! Anthony: Me too! There’s great material on this album that will sound great live!
BMS: We think so too! Tell us, Billy, did you write the entire album yourself?
Billy: I handled all songwriting but our vocalist Tommy Johansson did add some backing vocals and choirs to the mix which nicely improved the overall album. I also did most of the instruments on “The Zeramin Game” except for bass. Although I can play bass I wanted a more experienced player to put in some extra licks to the release and our bassist Erick Tekilla did a tremendous job in that regard.
BMS: Indeed, he did! Now, I admit that I consider your band to be one of my greatest idols. But I would like to know what your main idols and inspirations are, both musical and non-musical.
Billy: Anthony and I have been huge fans of Tommy’s work for a longtime and now that we’re actively working with him on our own material is a true dream coming true. In addition, I’m a big admirer of Dream Theater’s drummer and founding member Mike Portnoy. Dream Theater was one of the first bands that inspired me to become a musician and I loved how Mike just carried himself and the band throughout all those years that he was active with Dream Theater.

Anthony: I consider Sabaton to be a huge inspiration, not just musically but also in terms of attitude towards their fanbase. Despite them becoming one of the world’s biggest power metal acts, they still remain very down-to-earth and open towards their fans. So I decided to always remain close to the fans ,no matter how big my band would become one day!
BMS: That’s a great attitude. Now, let’s talk a bit about the actual production behind “The Zeramin Game.”
Billy: Most of the production was done by our producer Alessio Garavello (an Italian guitarist and vocalist who had experiences in bands like Power Quest, Arthemis and even Dragonforce) and myself. As I said earlier, I did most of the instrumentation but some of the other guys also spent some time in the studio as well (Anthony in particular). We were very perfectionist during the process. I had moments wherein I one day said “OK, it’s finished” only to say the day after “No, I wish to change this font size/instrumental part, etc.” But eventually I did call it a day and I’m still very glad of the end result.

BMS: Yeah, it must’ve been quite a thrill, to see your self-written and produced album done and available to the world as well as getting such good reviews.
Billy: It was an unreal experience! To think that this all started with that dream on that boat at the London waters and now the album was ready and I could listen to it and physically hold it. Not only that, we had over 200 pre-orders which made it all even more incredible! We had a busy release day since we had to send all those pre-orders by physical mail and we did it all in my own humble tiny house. But after it all was said and done we did have ourselves a good drink and party!
BMS: Sure thing, you’ve earned it! Now Anthony, you’ve done the artwork for the album’s single, “Some Day Soon.” Tell us something more about it.
Anthony: The artwork for our first two singles ( the 2019 versions of “Land Of Xia” and “Zera’s Shadow”) as well as the album’s eventual cover art were done by the Columbian art designer and vocalist Felipe Machado Franco. However, for “Some Day Soon” we were on a strict time schedule and budget so I decided to do that single’s artwork myself. In addition, we took elements from “The Zeramin Game’s” front cover as well as from our earlier singles and reused or combined some of them for the album’s booklet.

Anthony: In fact, the album’s physical artwork was one of the things for which we were most anxious about since we could only see the end result when we had the album fully printed. But we’re extremely pleased with final result, both in audio and visual form.

BMS: We certainly admire that sense of perfectionism. Keeping all the tiny little details in mind.
Anthony: Indeed, we kept on changing things until we were past the mastering part and we kept every single thing into consideration, even such trivial stuff like font size and placement of the texts on the artwork, the look of the inside jewel case, etc.

Billy: It’s a sign of things to come, since we’ll be maintaining that work ethic until the very end.
BMS: Excellent! Billy, this was the first time you’ve worked on an album as producer, it must’ve been quite a change for you.
Billy: Indeed, Memories Of Old has been my brainchild from day one and therefore I was more than willing to put all my creative time and efforts into this new project. And I wanted to handle all aspects of the album and that of course included production. And during songwriting for the album I discovered that epic power metal is my true creative call and that motivated me even more to make this Memories Of Old project a long-standing act. Not just a mere solo album but a fully-fledged band powered by people that form a true family!
BMS: That’s beautiful! Now time for a mainstay question here at Belgian Metal Shredder, what are your future plans for Memories Of Old?
Anthony: We’re working on a new album, for the next release we’ll probably be moving away from a concept album and just focus on making epic power tunes. One preview of how Memories Of Old will sound in the future is the bonus track on “The Zeramin’s Game,” which is called “The Architect’s Eyes.” It’s a unique tune since it’s a catchy, hard-hitting track which features our current drummer James Chapman on drums after he does the final drum slam on the “Finale” track of the album.

Billy: Yeah, that drum cameo from James was my idea and he did an uncredited cameo on the base version of “The Zeramin Game.” It was a well-kept secret until we shared it with you fine Belgian folks.
BMS: And we’re very honored to be part of this! Now Billy, time to talk more about Memories Of Old’s history. In the beginning it was just you and shortly thereafter Anthony joined in, but how did the other members join the gang?
Billy: Tommy joined us when I had sent him the opening melody of “The Land Of Xia” via Facebook Messenger and wherein I also told him how much I admired his work and how I wished that he would give that little tune of mine a listen. A week later he replied very lengthily and positively wherein he said that he loved the music and was honored to be an inspiration for me and then we began chatting, bounded and before I knew it he became an official part of Memories Of Old.

Anthony: I met Billy when I was attending Hammerfest 2017 and where I was hanging out with my bandmates from my former band Alastria. One of them told me to check out Nightmare World which were performing there. At first I thought Nightmare World was some grim black metal act but I still decided to check them out, front row and I was instantly hooked. I did notice they were using keyboard backings rather than an actual keyboard player.

Anthony: A couple of days later Billy sent me a friend request on Facebook and told me they had lost they keyboard player mere days before that Hammerfest gig and he wanted to contact me because my profile picture showed me playing a keyboard. After doing keyboards for Nightware World for some time, Billy invited me to join his newly formed Memories Of Old project, which I immediately did since his music really clicked with me.
BMS: So that’s for Tommy and Anthony joining, how about Erick, James and Erwin?
Billy: After Anthony joined we went looking for a dedicated bassist, eventually we saw a video of Erick playing on stage and we were very impressed by his bass skills and overall stage presence. As for our drummer James Chapman, I personally was a big fan of his when he was endorsed by Stagg Cymbals and he also has a great YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/SessionDrummerJames) wherein I really enjoyed his versatility as a drummer so I contacted him immediately. Initially he only was going to perform during our first gig but after that initial show he told us that he wanted to become a fulltime Memories Of Old member since he loved the gig.

Billy: And finally we’ve come to Erwin Febrianto, our recently recruited second guitarist. Like the other guys I’ve mentioned earlier I went looking for extra members for the band and as always, when I see someone perform to my tastes, I do everything I can to get in touch with that guy/gal and so Erwin eventually joined our Memories Of Old family as well.

Anthony: However, we did delay the announcement of Erwin joining the band until a week or so after the release of “The Zeramin Game” since we didn’t want the news of Erwin’s inclusion to be overshadowed by the news of our album’s release.
BMS: That was a great idea! Plus that gave us two reasons to celebrate, one after the other! All right, that’s pretty much everything we wanted to ask you, is there anything else you wish to add?
Billy: What are you doing nowadays?
BMS: I’m currently studying hard to pass my final year for a bachelor degree in green management. It involves such topics as conservation, environmentalism and durability.
Anthony: That sounds like a very interesting career path! We wish you good luck!

Billy: Indeed! And thank you for shredding us! It’s been a pleasure for us all!