Heavy metal legend Russ Tippins from Satan sat down with me to discuss their new album, their history and their future.
1. What inspired the name of the band, and what are your influences?
We were 15 years old. It was 1979 and three of us were at high school together. We were so into heavy metal and wanted to form a band. Steve came up with the name Satan and drew out the symmetrical logo on a desk. That was it, we were Satan! We even had a stage show all worked out. Now all we needed was to learn how to play some instruments hah. At that point we were very much into one-guitar bands like Sabbath, Led Zep & Deep Purple and our set up was myself on lead guitar and Steve on rhythm guitarbut then we attended a Judas Priest concert supported by Iron Maiden which really changed our thinking and opened up a world of possibilities on how to move forward as a band with two soloists.
2. How have things changed in the music industry compared to when you started off?
Where do I begin?! I mean, our career has spanned two major revolutions within the music industry. Obviously downloading didn’t exist in 1980 so music sales were entirely physical. Band used to make huge sums of money from record sales and tours were only a way to promote your album. Now thats been completely reversed. The other big shift was the transition from vinyl to CD which for a few years was like money falling from the sky for bands and record companies. People were systematically replacing their vinyl collections with CDs,. Imagine! But the industry got too greedy by charging way over the top for CDs when they were so cheap to manufacture. In the end they really got what they deserved with the advent of downloading. It went from feeding frenzy to utter famine in a few short years.
3. What was the process behind writing and recording Cruel Magic?
Okay, we spent two and a half years on these songs, from the first germ of an idea to the final mix & mastering. That’s way longer than it’s taken previously but it couldn’t be avoided. We usually begin by going over each other’s demos & memos to decide what to go forward with and what to leave behind. On this occasion it quickly became clear that two of the ideas we’d chosen were going nowhere, and Brian pointed out that much of the music was so fast he didn’t think he’d be able to do anything with it. He asked if I had anything at mid-pace tempo – something he could really get his teeth into. Well I didn’t, none of us did but it made me pause to take stock and consider his point. To cut a long story short, that is how the song ‘Ophidian’ came into being. I’m grateful that Brian spoke up because the vocal on this track is one of his finest moments ever. I think from that point onwards we became much more focused on getting the best vocal arrangements and four of the songs got major overhauls to facilitate this. In contrast to all of that, once we knew we had the arrangements nailed, the recording itself was done pretty quickly.
4. What plans do you have for the future?
In the long view, we have another two albums to make for Metal Blade Records but I don’t want to think about that right now. In the immediate future things look pretty good. We just found out that after one week ‘Cruel Magic’ is in the top 30 of the official German album charts! We have a full US tour coming up in October followed by a smaller European tour in November. And every day new offers are coming in to our management for tours and festivals in 2019. It’s all very exciting to be honest. We were never interested in reforming only to trade on past glories. Nostalgia is cute yes, but we want to break new ground and be relevant in today’s music market. Satan in 2018 has something to say.