The Median Man had the pleasure to talk with Mikael Dahl the lead vocalist and founder of Crystal Eyes, about the band’s new album, their history and much more. Read on to find out more:
- What inspired the formation of the band?
I met Niclas Karlsson at work in 1990 when we both played in different bands where we both were band leaders and songwriters. We realized that we had the same musical goal and shared the exact same favourite bands and we decided that we had to work together in the future and that’s what happened in 1992 when both our previous bands broke up. My band was called PAINTED SKIES and his MAYDAY and both names came from CRIMSON GLORY songs so it was just meant to be. We both loved the music from the 80’s by bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Accept, Manowar, Helloween etc and that was the kind of music we wanted to play.
It also felt very important for us to keep that legacy of melodies in Heavy Metal because it was almost gone in 1992. We had a lot of ideas for a band name but in the end it was ARTIFICIAL DREAM or CRYSTAL EYES. Both ideas came from Niclas but we decided to go with CRYSTAL EYES since it sounded better. It really didn’t have any meaning until I wrote a song called CRYSTAL EYES in 1993 about a man who could see the future with his crystal eyes. More important is probably the logo which our good friend Andreas Götesson painted for our first official demo in 1994. This is the logo we have to this day and the only change was made in 2000 when Kristian Wåhlin repainted it to the cover of IN SILENCE THEY MARCH.
- What are your influences?
Some of my favourite bands are: Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Helloween, Queensrÿche, Accept, Black Sabbath, Manowar, Dio, Crimson Glory, Running Wild, Rainbow, U.D.O., Ozzy Osbourne, Savatage, Scorpions, Gamma Ray, White Lion, Heavens Gate, Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Blind Guardian, Vicious Rumors, Riot, Scanner and Rage.
My favourite singers are: Rob Halford, Tony Martin, Ralf Sheepers, Ronnie James Dio, Thomas Rettke, Geoff Tate, Eric Adams, Michael Kiske, Bruce Dickinson, Midnight, Ray Gillen, David Coverdale, Mark Boals, Jörn Lande, Todd La Torre, Carl Albert and Jeff Scott Soto.
My favourite guitarists are: Wolf Hoffmann, Michael Schenker, Vinnie Moore, Randy Rhoads, Gary Moore, Vito Bratta, Mattias Dieth, Akira Takasaki, Joe Satriani and George Lynch.
- How do you approach songwriting?
I’m still stuck in the eighties and I always aim to write music as it was in the eighties. That was the goal when we started the band in 1992 and that hasn’t changed a single bit. The most important thing is that I write music that I want to hear myself and I’m not satisfied until I can listen to it over and over again. If a song makes me happy then I’ve achieved my goal and then hopefully someone else will like it. I’ve never had a goal for a complete album but just to write song after song until there was enough to start recording and hopefully that it would sound like a best of album. For many years I presented complete demo versions of the songs with guitars, bass, vocals and programmed drums and what ended up on the records was pretty much copies of those demo recordings.
With the new line-up I felt it was time to involve the others because they really wanted to take part in the process so I presented unfinished song ideas which we tried during rehearsals and arranged everything together. The main song ideas was always mine but everyone was involved with trying different beats, moving parts around, taking away anything unnecessary or adding some stuff here and there etc. Since we listen to the same music and had pretty much the same ideas it was just fun and a great experience of getting input from 4 different people. There was not a single argue over anything and we tried everyone’s ideas and I think the result is that the songs feel more complete than before. This is absolutely how we will work in the future and the next step will be to start jamming and just see what comes up.
- What themes are explored on your new album and why?
Most of my lyrics has some kind of references to reality but not always so obvious. GODS OF DISORDER is straight back to 1984 when I was 11 years old and discovered Mötley Crue, Twisted Sister and W.A.S.P. Those 3 bands popped right out of the TV and looked like superheroes and I loved the music. They changed my life forever and this song is my wish to get back to that time. MIDNIGHT RADIO is my tribute to the Swedish radio show Rockbox which I listened to every Saturday during the eighties and where I found 99% of the music that I still listen to this day.
PARADISE POWERLORD is a big kick in the ass of the rulers around the world. Then there are the usual fighting songs like SIDE BY SIDE which are more or less about meeting your enemies united as one. RAGE ON THE SEA was written back in 1995 and is simply about pirates and EXTREME PARANOIA is about when your worst enemy is the man in the mirror. The lyrics to that last song was written by my old friend Andreas Götesson who helped out with lyrics on the first 5 albums and he was always more into fantasy lyrics. The title track STARBOURNE TRAVELER is about leaving Earth to fly among the stars and I guess you can say that Crystal Eyes is heading for the stars with this album. =)
- How do you transpose the songs from the record to a live setting?
After 8 albums we now have 80 songs to choose from and that’s not an easy task but we listen to the fans and we always play what they want to hear. Even if we want we can’t cover every album but we will never forget our past and there will always be a mix of new and old songs. We always try to play the songs exactly how the was recorded but there are obviously a couple of early ballads like WORLD OF BLACK AND SILVER, WINTERNIGHT, OBLIVION IN THE VISIONARY WORLD and SILENT ANGEL that won’t work because of all keyboards, effects etc but those songs were not written to be played live.
Many people have demanded that we play the big epic song THE HALLS OF VALHALLA and since it’s my personal favourite we had to try it and it actually works so it’s now in the live set. A lot of people also want to hear GUARDIAN and that will happen but we need to get 2 acoustic guitars first because we’ve always borrowed that for the recordings.
- What are your plans for the future?
Right now the plan is to get out and play live to promote the new album. We’re working hard at getting gigs on both clubs and next years festivals. It’s not easy but hopefully more people will notice us with the new album. The response to the video of SIDE BY SIDE has been incredible and the album reviews has been positive so far. This is our strongest line up ever and all 4 members want the same so it’s probably a matter of time before anything happens.