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Into The Metal Realm of Elm Street

Into The Metal Realm of Elm Street

Photo Credit: Peter Coulson

Into The Metal Realm of Elm Street

Following an ambitious multi-year tour that saw the band bring their heavy metal power to Europe, Canada and the USA, the Australian heavy metal band Elm Street finally returns with their third studio album: The Great Tribulation – now available worldwide via Massacre Records!  A soundtrack for troubled times, or a charred mirror reflecting the state of the world today, The Great Tribulation provides commentary on the darker side of life, and pairs it with the band’s most ambitious and hard-hitting music to date. While ELM STREET‘s first two albums, Barbed Wire Metal and Knock ‘Em Out… With A Metal Fist, have both been revered as modern classics by fans of traditional-flavored heavy metal, The Great Tribulation raises the roof in the nothing short of an epic way, resulting in the band’s most powerful, complex, and heavy performances recorded to date.

Highwire Daze recently interviewed bassist Nick Ivkovic to find out more about The Great Tribulation manifesto, touring the US with the legendary Udo Dirkschneider, why it took so long to release a brand-new recording, and other stories from the metal realm of Elm Street.  Read on…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do at Elm Street and how long you’ve been with the band. I think you’re like a newer member.
That’s right. I’m kind of new, like Rob Trujillo is new in Metallica. So my name’s Nick Ivkovic and I play bass in Elm Street. I’ve been with the band I think since 2016, so it’s been a while now. Yeah, this is my first album with the guys, so the third album for them, first for me, and yeah, contributed to the songwriting as well. We’ve known each other for a very long time. We all grew up in the same area, went to the same school and everything. So even though I’m relatively new, I’m not new to the guys. We’ve known each other for a very long time.

I think they were all in a band together called Raid back in the day. Did you know them back then?
Yeah. So they started as a high school band. They all knew each other since primary school, like very young. And then they got inspired to just put a band together because of the shared love of heavy metal. And so, when they first put the idea of the band together, they called themselves Raid, but then they just felt that Elm Street was a bit more suited to where they were at that time.

And what made you decide to move to Elm Street?
I’ve been in many bands before joining Elm Street, particularly the more recent band of note was a band called The Scarlets, and we were more sort of, I guess, a rock/punk kind of a band. But regardless of the bands that I was in, I was always either too heavy for the punks or too punk for the metal heads, but my passion has always been heavy metal. So yeah, after that band split up, I was trying my hand playing in different types of bands, but it wasn’t really fulfilling me to be honest. And when I found out that Elm Street had parted ways with their bass player at the time, I thought, oh, perfect! Like I was a fan of the band. So, when that opportunity arose, I jumped on it and grabbed it with both hands. And yeah, I think musically, it clicked immediately. We just knew in the rehearsal room that, yeah, this is a good fit. But I think personality wise, it’s a big thing too. The band tours quite a lot and they do a lot together, so it’s important to have that personality mix too. So having grown up with the boys, grown up in the same area. Tomislav, the drummer: His parents are from Croatia and so are mine. So, we’ve got that cultural common ground as well. So yeah, it was meant to be, I think.

The Great Tribulation by Elm Street

Is there any overall story or concept behind the title, The Great Tribulation, or what does that title mean to you?
I actually came up with that.  We’d written all the music for the album. We wrote it quite a while ago, but then COVID got in the way, so that put a stop to actually recording. But that gave us the opportunity to really hone in on the lyric writing and the melody writing. So, one of the main lyrical contributions I’ve given to this album were the lyrics to the opening track Seven Sirens. And that is based around the book of Revelations from the Bible and essentially covers the doomsday type prophecy. But what I tried to do with that was correlate that with what’s been happening in recent times for us, and maybe that is what the prophecy was about. So, part of that prophecy is the actual doomsday, which is the great tribulation.  I thought Seven Sirens is a good concept for the first song. The other songs on the album follow a similar theme, and I thought that the title for the album would be good to be called The Great Tribulation, sort of encapsulating the whole vibe and the message of the album.

The last Elm Street album came out in 2016 before you joined the band, right before you joined the band. Why the long wait? I’m sure you out of all people would be like, hurry up, let’s do something.
Yeah, definitely. And as soon as I joined the band, the writing began. So yeah, we didn’t waste time in thinking of album number 3, but there were all sorts of things that got in the way.  First of all, we spent, I would say a year and a half of solid touring around Australia because there was a little bit of a gap in shows prior to that album being released.  We really wanted to reestablish ourselves and play every corner dive bar that we could. And then we turned a hand to international touring.  We did a tour of the UK with Ross the Boss from Manowar and The Dictators, and that was really good and rewarding. And then later on we toured with Grand Magus and Evil Invaders.  We did Europe with them. And then after that we did a pretty extensive tour of the United States and Canada with Udo Dirkschneider doing his Accept set. So yeah, there was a lot of time spent touring, and then obviously this thing called COVID hit, and that put a block on things as well. The plan was to record, I think in 2019, we had the dates booked and everything for the studio, then everything shut down. So we thought we have two options; we could record bedroom style and try and make it sound good, or we’ll wait and do it properly in a studio. So we chose option B. Then another roadblock was Ben’s brother had an accident in the UK, so Ben flew over to be with him, and that took a year plus of him being there. So we thought we’ll give him the time to look after family, and then whenever he’s ready to come back, he can come back and we’ll pick up. So that was the cause of the delay. We were busy, but just people didn’t see it.

Looking back on 2011’s Barbed Wire Metal, the debut, even though you weren’t on it, what do you think of that album now in retrospect? And do you still even play songs from it?
Yeah, absolutely. Our setlist to date has been heavily influenced by that album. I think the boys captured lightning in a bottle with that. It took them many years to write the songs because the first song that they wrote was Metal is The Way. And they say that your first album, you always have the luxury of time. You just spend all of your time creating those first batch of songs and refining them and making them something, and then you record that album without time pressure, which is what they did. And I think it’s, in my opinion, even prior to joining the band, I considered it a modern classic. It’s captured everything I love about heavy metal. It celebrates it, and I think it’s a good representation of how metal should sound in the modern era.

Elm Street at The Whisky – Photo by Jack Lue

What was it like opening for Dirkschneider, and were you able to hang out a lot with Udo or any of the other members? 
Oh yeah, Udo’s great. The little German tank!  They definitely looked after us. When we did that tour of the US and Canada, it was many dates in a row, I think out of 36 days we did 34 shows or something like that. So, it was quite intensive. And when you’re into show number 26, you start to get a bit tired and a bit worn out, even though it’s the best time ever, but sometimes you get fucked with the venues or there’s just some obstacles that have to be overcome. But I have to say that Dirkschneider and the crew really made sure that we were looked after, so if anything didn’t look quite right, they made sure that it was for us. So we were eternally grateful for that. The band themselves were great. We developed really close bonds with everyone really. And at that time they also had Bill Hudson on guitar, a phenomenally talented guitarist. And yeah, he was very complimentary of us and encouraging us too. So that was really good. Udo kept a lot to himself, but when we did get to see him, he was very good to us too. And his son who’s on drums, he was like a brother to us. We were always hanging out and just spending time together. So yeah, I think it was a really rewarding experience. Playing to Udo’s crowd I think was the right crowd for us because we try to, I guess, fly the flag for traditional heavy metal and obviously Accept is one of the standout acts of that type of genre. So yeah, I think it was a really good match.

What was it like playing at the world-famous Whisky a Go Go with Dirkschneider, and what did you think of Hollywood?
It was awesome!  It’s mythical. It’s a rite of passage. It’s an honor. So, for us to be able to step through those doors and step on that stage and just immerse yourself in that history and play to a Hollywood crowd, that was a big buzz. Even more important for me was my parents flew out to see that show, so that had extra significance. And they’ve never been to the United States before, and they didn’t plan on going to the United States until we did this show. So, it was extra meaningful for me as well. Of course, my mom had critical feedback to provide, as always. It’s hard to please her. But no, it was really good. It was fun. We all had dinner at The Rainbow, us and Udo’s band, before the show, so the vibe was really good. And yeah, I’ve been to Hollywood many a time and I’ve seen a few bands at The Whisky as well. So, to be able to actually put our flag on that stage and do our thing was an honor. And yeah, unforgettable! We can’t wait until the next time.

Is there any chance of Elm Street coming back here to the states to do any shows? I know it’s tougher these days to get over here.
It is, and especially for an Australian act, because we’re so far away, everything’s so much more expensive as far as traveling to another country. But we definitely are planning on doing so. We did have an offer to actually tour the states in November/December this year, but it just, unfortunately, the logistics don’t quite work for us as we’re planning a European tour early next year. But it definitely is on the list, and it is something that we are actively looking into. So I don’t think it’s a matter of if, it’s just a matter of when, and I don’t think it will be too far off the horizon.

Elm Street at The Whisky – Photo by Jack Lue

Are you currently involved with any other bands or projects outside of Elm Street?
Yeah, I’m always keeping busy. I mean, Elm Street does take up the time, really, and especially now that we’re going into album number 3 mode. But during the off time, yeah, a couple of bands, some sort of novelty bands. So, one is a secret band that I won’t reveal too much on because we conceal our ourselves behind hidden identities, but it’s a punk flavored type of a band. And another one, I don’t know if this is your kind of flavor, but it’s a band called The Millionaire$ Club, and we cover the old WCW wrestling theme songs. So that’s always good fun.

What’s up next for Elm Street?
Obviously, this will be the focus. The album comes out on October the 27 worldwide.  We’re focusing on trying to promote this, we really believe in this album, so we want as many people to hear it as possible because I feel that it does have something to offer a heavy metal fan. Then we will be hitting the road first. The focus is Australia, but then we will try to get overseas as soon as we can. Provisionally, it looks like Europe will be early next year, and then hopefully the States are not too long after that.  I think 2024 will be a busy time for us. We’re looking at filming another promo video from one of the songs on the album. I won’t say which one just yet. I think we might leave that as a bit of a surprise. And we’re always writing. We have a riff bank that is bursting at the seems, so we’re not short of ideas. And I think if you follow the progression of the last two albums into this one, I think album number 4 will be another step forward for the band musically. So yeah, I’m really looking forward to it. I’m actually quite excited for the writing for the next album.

Will we have to wait another what, six, seven years for the next album?
Well, are there any pandemics on the horizon? I’m not sure.

I hope not
If everyone stays healthy, maybe it’ll be out a lot sooner.

Well let’s hope for that. And then last question, do you have any messages for Elm Street fans out here in the states who are reading this now?
Yeah, absolutely. I just want to say thank you so much for the incredible support so far. Every time that the band has been to the United States, we have really felt the love. People have turned up wearing T-shirts from tours from many years ago.  The fact that people are enjoying what we’re doing and coming back for more coming is a big thing. But also new fans that are discovering us and coming to the shows is a big plus too. And we check everything online.  We do get a lot of messages from people from the US. And that keeps us going too, because especially being in a country that’s an island so far away from everything, you tend to only know what you know in the immediate vicinity of where you’re living. But to know that somewhere across the ocean, people are really passionate about what we do means a lot to us. So yeah, I just have to say thank you and yeah, hopefully we see you soon.

(Interview by Ken Morton)

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