THE ORDER – Welcome back to the 80’s
Swiss hard rock has a throwback nature. Acts like Krokus and Gotthard have made their presence felt on an international level, so it should be no surprise that other musicians follow in their footsteps to place their own imprint on the scene with their collective creative wares. Signing a new label deal with Massacre Records, The Order recently released their fourth studio album- the appropriately titled "1986".
Close your eyes and prepare for a sound rooted in hard charging, bluesy infused guitar riffs, similar heroic vocals and a rock solid rhythm section that drive home all the grooves. I had to reach out to the band to find out more about their history and presence in the scene- so bassist Andrej Abplanalp kindly answered my questions with thoughtfulness and deep reflection on their discography.
Can you summarize your musical background for us? When did you first become interested in playing hard rock / metal, and who were some of your early influences that inspired you to play music. Were they family members or specific bands / artists in your local or the international scene?
As a little boy, I played the drums for several years. When I was 17, I founded a band together with my cousin. Since we were both drummers, we tossed a coin to decide who would get to play the drums. I lost, so I had to learn to play the bass from scratch. The band only lasted for one year, but I have continued with the four strings ever since. I was a fan of hard rock music and still love Whitesnake, Krokus, Guns N‘ Roses, and Helix…
Tell us about the start of The Order. How did the band members get together, and did you know each other previously? What do you think you learned from your early work with acts like Pure Inc., Jerk, and Gurd that you were able to apply to this band and that has helped you advance so quickly and produce such professional sounds?
I have played with Mauro Casciero and Bruno Spring in different bands for more than 20 years. Since 2005, we have worked with singer Gianni Pontillo. We had met him some years earlier during a concert. The three of us were very impressed with his voice and we thought that it would be great to make music with him. When we founded The Order, Gianni was our top choice, and we were very happy when he decided to join the group. I am sure that each one of the bands we have played in helped to make us better and more professional. Experience is key.
The Order has a fourth album coming out called "1986". What can you tell us about the recording and songwriting process? For example, how did it go in the studio? Were there any tracks that took surprising twists and turns between their initial demo stage and the final outcome? And were some tracks just a little more difficult to get right than others?
It took a long time to finish this album. On the one hand, we all lead very busy lives (family and work, etc.). On the other hand, we had some problems getting the right songs together. After "Rockwolf", which was a recording without a clear concept, we wanted to do a straight album with a common thread from the first to the last song. That was not easy and meant that we had to drop several songs. They were good songs in their own right but didn’t fit in with our 1986 concept. Once we had found the right pieces, it wasn’t hard to put them all together.
One of the band’s best assets in my opinion is the fiery riffing and solo play of guitarist Bruno Spring, especially in songs such as "Heart Breaking Rebel Blood" and the Whitesnake-like "The Power Of Love". How would you characterize his playing and writing abilities? And who are a few of his favorite guitarists that he looks to for inspiration?
Without Bruno, The Order would not exist. He is the heart and soul of this band and writes 90 percent of the songs. We all know that he is an excellent guitar player and we are happy that he has never seriously considered joining a bigger band. Bruno’s music taste is wide and varied, ranging from classical to Swiss folk music. The important thing for him is that the melodies are interesting and captivating. Some of his favorite guitarists are Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Eddie Van Halen and George Lynch.
This is your first record for Massacre Records. How are things going so far in comparison to your previous work with Locomotive Music and AFM Records?
We had a deal with Dockyard 1, an independent German label. The label went bankrupt, and we are still waiting for our money for our last album "Rockwolf". So things can only get better. So far we are very happy with Massacre Records and we all hope that "1986" will be a great success.
Who designed the cover art for "1986"? It appears that the band was definitely going for a visual that captures all of the excitement and imagery of those special 1980s.
We had some ideas such as a girl’s bottom in tattered jeans or a pink leopard skin. However, Massacre was not happy with that and asked Jan Yrlund from Darkgroove Design, who had already done several art covers, to do the job. We are thrilled with his work and very pleased with the result. Now it all fits together and we really are back in the 1980s.
Now that you’ve had time to step back from your previous discography, how would you personally rate each of the three earlier The Order studio albums? What are your favorite tracks, and what, if anything, would you like to change about them?
"Son of Armageddon" is a raw piece of hard rock music. It is like standing in the rehearsal room and playing rock ‘n’ roll and that’s all that counts. "Metal Casino" is probably our best album so far. It has this common thread, every song fits into the overall concept. "Rockwolf" was a little experiment without a clear concept. But the best song we have ever recorded is on this album. It is called "Love Ain’t a Game to Play". I don’t think I would like to change anything. Every album is okay as it is, and every effort was worth it.
You have played as support act for many well-known bands over the years, including W.A.S.P., Sinner, Primal Fear and Y&T.
Tell us about The Order in a live setting. What as a band do you want to get across to the crowd? Have you picked up any special tricks of the trade from those bands? And what have been your most memorable shows to date?
We want to have fun on stage. That’s all. Most of the time we have great fun, no matter whether we are playing in front of 1000 persons or just 10. Only if a band member is sick or something sad has happened is it ever hard for us to perform live. My personal highlights date back to the 1990s when I was touring Brazil and Japan with a band called Swamp Terrorists.
What makes old-school hard rock so appealing to many Swiss bands? The Order has a long history of playing with the likes of Krokus, Gotthard, and Shakra to name just a few. Are you friends with most of these bands and are they very supportive of each other?
In my opinion, hard rock music fits in very well with Swiss national traits. Swiss musicians are ill-suited for Samba or Flamenco. We are precise and indestructible, just like the watches we produce. We know the guys from Shakra very well. After the death of Steve Lee, Gotthard was looking for a new singer. Gianni was one of the candidates. Of course, we are very happy that someone else made the race.
What was the best piece of advice you have ever received, both in your personal life and concerning your musical career?
The best advice in my personal life was to finish my studies at university. And the best advice concerning my music career was to keep my playing simple. When I was younger, I always tried to show off my technical brilliance, by slapping, tapping and playing chords…. I now limit myself to a straight bass line which is much better for the sound of the band.
How do you like to spend your free time away from The Order? Do any of the band members share any special hobbies or interests?
We all have a family except Gianni. This means we do not have much spare time. Before I had my kids, I used to write novels. But I never found a publisher for them. Maybe my real talent is music or being a father…
What do you think the biggest misconception people have about Switzerland in general as a country? Overall, do you believe it is a very healthy, safe and thriving country to live in?
Some people think that Switzerland is a small country with mountains and farmers. That’s true but we have a little bit more to offer: cities, good ice hockey, a vibrant music scene and, of course, fantastic hard rock music. It is a healthy, safe and thriving country and I love to live here, although it is sometimes a little bit boring.
What are The Order’s plans for the next 12 to 18 months in terms of touring and promotional activities? And when do you think the songwriting process will start for the next album?
We will play in Switzerland and Germany and perhaps some other countries, if we get requests to play there. The songwriting depends on Bruno. When he has an idea, he writes it down. That could be tomorrow or in a year’s time.
In terms of bands and albums, what musical favorites are on your radar screen this year? Also share with us your all-time favorite band or record that you just cannot live without.
In 2012, I am interested in Van Halen’s "A Different Kind of Truth", in "The 2nd Law" by Muse, and I look forward to "Elysium" by the Pet Shop Boys. My all-time favorite band is Whitesnake. I just love their music. Nor could I live without "Appetite for Destruction" by Guns N’ Roses. What an album!
How do you feel about the experiences and accomplishments in your life to date? Can you tell us some of the things you’d like to achieve at the personal and professional level over the next 3-5 years?
When I was younger, I often was sad and thought that the world was a black hole. Ever since my two little boys were born, I have enjoyed every day of my life, and I no longer agonize over questions of existence, justice and the meaning of life. I feel very happy. I hope that it will continue like this and of course I also hope that The Order will still exist in five years’ time. After all, a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll is good for every father.