Aboard The LifeRider Express with Crystal Ball
Although Crystal Ball has in existence since the mid-90’s, no one could have predicted that 20 years later. the Swiss collective would have unleashed their most dynamic album to date. LifeRider shows a band at the very height of their creative energies, filled to the brim with exhilarating hard rocking metal anthems you’ll want to revisit time and again. And if you snag a copy of their limited edition, you’ll find glorious renditions of two Ronnie James Dio classics, which are Sacred Heart and Sign of The Southern Cross. So all aboard the LifeRider Express as we chat with founding member Scott Leach about all pertaining to Crystal Ball. Read on…
Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Crystal Ball, and how long the band has been together.
I’m Scott Leach, founder, composer, writer and guitar player for Crystal Ball. The Band started out in 1995 as a cover band. In 1999 we released the first album with original songs under the Crystal Ball banner. We’ve released 8 albums so far.
Where is the band based out of and what is your local music scene like there?
We’re from Switzerland (not Sweden as it sometimes gets confused with). But our new singer Steven Mageney (since 2012) is from Germany. The scene is growing, but not very big. For us Germany, which is really close, is the biggest market.
Is there any story or concept behind the album title LifeRider?
The concept is the journey of life analog to a train ride. So like on a train ride some people join you for a little while, travel with you and then get off the train again. You might stop at some stations, get off and get back on the train later on. All songs are about things that happen in life but in no particular order.
Select two songs off LifeRider and what inspired the lyrics.
Memory Run is about losing and remembering close people that we have lost. And honoring them with a memory run. Our singer Steven lost former bandmates and friends and this inspired the song.
Rock of life, about someone who gives you strength when you need it. No matter how strong you are, sometimes you need help. And it’s good to have a friend/partner, parent, etc. I was actually inspired by the TV-Show Rock of love. I thought it sounded cool and changed to Rock of life and everything else came easy.
How does LifeRider compare to your previous album Dawnbreaker?
When I started to write for LifeRider I knew how the “new” band sounded and felt like when we play live. We wanted to capture this energy for the record. Dawnbreaker was more a start out of the dark. LifeRider is even better, because I had a better vision how we wanted to sound. We grew as a unit on our tours. I think we also topped the performance from each individual musician. This is certainly also a result of Stefan Kaufmann being our Producer.
What was it like working with Stefan Kaufmann on the new album?
Never change a winning team ;-). We known each other for quite a long time and so we have a very close and relaxed situation.
He has really a lot of experience as a musician, songwriter and producer. He’s able to astonish me again and again with his ideas. He get’s the best out of each individual and also the best out of the songs.
Who did the cover art on LifeRider and how much input did you have on it?
The artwork is done by Thomas Ewerhard who also did the Dawnbreaker cover. We had a lot of input on it. I came up with the basic idea of a symbol and the initials and then we kept exchanging thoughts and drafts. It’s a stylized “Tree of Life”, a celtic symbol.
How did Battle Beast’s Noora Louhimo become involved on the duet “Eye to Eye” and has the band and Noora performed the song live or plan to in the future?
We wanted to do a duet, but not a ballad. It should be a heavy fast track. I’ve done the instrumental part and Steven added great vocal lines. He sang it alone at first the see how it sounds. Then we asked a good friend to sing the female part, so we could send it to singers to listen to it. We made a wishlist of female singers we wanted to work with and Noora was on the top.
It took awhile to get in touch, due to some communication problems, but when we finally talked, she immediately said yes after hearing the song. Actually we’ll have a CD release show in Switzerland this week, where Noora will join us live on stage for this song. We invited to come down from Finland for this occasion.
What made you decide to cover Sacred Heart and Sign Of The Southern Cross for the Dio Tribute album?
We were asked to join on this by our record company Massacre Records. Since we all love Dio and had some time, we decided to do it. We could choose the songs ourselves, as long as they were not already taken by other bands. We were looking for songs that would fit our style and we could put on our own sound. We tried to make it sound differently. Because Dio can’t be played/sung better, just different. We didn’t change the notes of the songs. We tried to arrange it like we’d arrange a Crystal Ball song. So I played a lot of the keyboard parts on guitar and opposite. Like the beginning of «Sign of the southern Cross» which originally is on acoustic guitar. I changed it to piano. And added some modern sounding sequencers in the verse. Harmony vocals have been added like we do it on our own songs. The songs are really well sung by Steven which certainly gave to most impact to being accepted and appreciated by a lot of Dio fans.
What is one of your favorite Ronnie James Dio memories?
Well, seeing him live many times of course is the best memory. I also remember seeing his videos when I still was a kid, and I was very impressed by The Last In Line clip 😉
How was it like going on tour with the legendary Krokus and were they cool to hang out with?
It was very cool, but nothing new for us though, since we toured with them already in 1999 and in 2004.
They are nice guys and treated us very well. But we didn’t exactly party with them.
Has Crystal Ball ever played here in the States or plan to do so in the future?
Not yet unfortunately. We would need a promoter to book us. Of course we would love to play in the U.S. We’ll see what this new album brings up.
What’s up next for Crystal Ball?
Some live shows in Switzerland and then a couple of festivals. We’ll also play together with the Scorpions. I’m really looking forward to that. We’re planing a bigger tour for this fall. But I don’t have any details yet. We hope to support a bigger act in Europe.
Any final words of wisdom?
Please have look at our videoclips, especially the newer one Paradise. There’s a lot of work in it and the director did a great job.
And follow us on our social media channels and let us know what you think. I always like feedback form listeners.
Crystal Ball is: Steven Mageney, Scott Leach, Marcel Sardella, Tony “T.C.” Castell, Cris Stone
(Interview by Ken Morton)