The Band: Savage Wizdom
Country: United States
The Men: Pablo Roybal (guitar); Steven Montoya (guitar, vocals); Steve Montoya (vocals)https://myspace.com/savagewizdomofficial
Interview by Vpower
Savage Wizdom is a powerful band formed ten years ago, more or less, with two albums in their handbag. The band line-up changed considerably between those albums, resulting in almost a completely new band, with Steve Montoya in the epicentre, and a different and, in my opinion, stronger musical approach. To talk about all this and more we have mobilized clan Montoya and Pablo Roybal, so, as you will check right now, we got a very cool and dynamic conversation, almost a brainstorming, if you want to name it as that hahaha. Let’s enjoy it!
Pablo Roybal: Oh absolutely. The responses to the latest CD have been everything we hoped for and more. It is still so exciting when I see a review online giving our little self produced project such high marks. We were quite proud of these songs when we were tracking them in the studio but you never really know how other people are going to view them. So far, we really haven’t heard anything all that negative about it. We are so glad that there are people other there that love it as much as we do.
It means something, everybody likes high quality things. How did you get Savage Wizdom as the name for the band?
Pablo Roybal: Well Steve (our singer) came up with the name and he said that it was inspired by the Savage Sword Of Conan comics. He’s a big fan of that series and wanted to incorporate the Savage theme. He also said that he wanted a name that conveyed strength and power but also knowledge and intellect. Therefore, Savage Wizdom. The Z was added just to put a spin on it.
Very cool. Going back a little in time, the band line-up has experienced several changes since the formation of the band, tell us a little about it and the current line-up
Pablo Roybal: Steve has been through numerous variations in the line-up of this band through the course of it’s 11 year history. When you are working on this level, which is to say doing everything yourself without management or a label backing you, it becomes hard to keep some people motivated sometimes and people become easily discouraged. I think that was the case with the No Time For Mercy line-up. The debut CD came out and I think the band just felt like they wanted to move on. Steve was not done with it and reformed it months after the implosion of the original band. The current line-up now features Steve on vocals, his son Steven on guitar and vocals, James Stuart III on bass guitar, Steve Cordova on drums and myself on guitar. James is our latest member and actually was one of our first real fans following the reformation of the band. Steve Cordova and Steve Montoya go back decades and were actually in another band together back in the 80’s called Prowler so there is some history between the two of them.
Yes, Prowler got two Eps released last century, they played Heavy Metal, some time ago already. The family Montoya has a huge presence in the band. How easy is to change from the father’s role to the colleague’s role? Do you talk about Metal at home, between father and son, or that is totally forbidden? And how does the rest of the family live with it?
Steven Montoya: Metal is our life. We talk about metal at home and when we hang out. My dad and I have an interesting relationship. We are more like friends. He has already raised me and now we just kick ass together on stage. We try not to bring personal issues into the band context, but we always bring the band into our personal lives. It doesn’t affect anyone else in the family, because they are all supportive and have their own things going on in life.
So, as Holocaust put it in that awesome hymn called “Heavy Metal Mania”, you have it in your blood. After a gig, you go to the bar together to enjoy with the fans and celebrate or it’s time to go home for Montoya Jr.?
Steven Montoya: Even though it is passed my bed time, I do enjoy hanging out with the fans, friends, and the bands after each gig. It is always good to network and find new contacts and make new friends.
Sure, I do not like very much those bands that just play and go home or wherever without even signing a booklet. What would you say, Mr Montoya Sr., if some day your son would choose to fly away and start up with his own band?
Steve Montoya: Steven has had several projects already while in Savage Wizdom. I think he has always wanted to go do his own thing but I keep telling him that THIS is your home. This band is where you belong.
Well, I guess the fans support the father in this case haha, so please Steven, stay at home. Focusing on the new album, “A new beginning” is in my opinion much more than a Power Metal album, I would say it also touches the classic Heavy Metal range and sometimes even we got a hard rock rhythm or a little progressive approach, what do you think?
Pablo Roybal: I would say that’s very accurate. A lot of the power metal and progressive influences come from Steven Jr. who is a big fan of bands like Helloween and Avantasia. I think Steve Sr. and I bring in more of the classic heavy metal influence. All of us are big fans of the classic metal bands like Maiden, Priest and Dio and it certainly influences how we write. But we also wanted to modernize it just a hair so that sonically it stands up to some of the more modern metal. So a lot of the melodies and guitar harmonies are very classic metal sounding but with the dropped tuned guitars it adds a bit of modern punch to it.
Yeah, you are the perfect machine, mixing the new stuff or trends with the classic ones! Every guy is great in his position, but what absolutely blows my mind is the massive amount of riffs, powerful and addictive riffs, that you are able to deliver in every song. How did you get it?
Pablo Roybal: It depends on the song, but usually it comes from being inspired by something else or, in some cases, near outright ripping something off. For example, the main riff in “Chase The Dragon” is derived from the main riff in Queensryche’s “Open.” Then there is “Let It Go” where Steven and I sat down in my apartment, discussed what kind of song we wanted to write and then started building what we wanted to hear. That main verse riff in that song pretty much just one note which makes it tricky because how much can you do with one note? We wanted to have that chug-on-an-open-string riff but it was tough finding something that we hadn’t heard before. Steven would play something and I would go “No, that’s She-Wolf from Megadeth.” Then I would play something and he would go “No, that’s Mr. Torture from Helloween.” Then he would play something else and I’d go “No, that’s Kill The King from Megadeth.” So there was a lot of back and forth before we finally got it.
Many hours of work, try this, try that, great effort. Another strong point in my opinion is the wonderful melodies you build and the awesome work on drums, with constant rythm changes
Pablo Roybal: Absolutely. Thanks for noticing that. Steve Sr., Steven and myself are all very melody oriented people so that above anything else, had to stand out. We wanted lots of memorable vocal molodies, guitar melodies and there are even some cool bass melodies in there too. When you think about it, that’s usually what people are singing too when they like a song. Rarely do they know what they lyrics are but if you have a good melody, that’s what they will sing to.
Yes, absolutely, we whistle melodies, no words. How long you worked to get this “A new beginning”?
Pablo Roybal: We spent a couple of years working on songs at our own pace. Some of them came together quickly and others took some time. We felt no need to rush it because we really didn’t have any deadlines to meet and we were funding it entirely ourselves. We entered the studio in September 2012 and we released the album in August 2014. We had originally shot for a mid 2013 release date but we hit a few snags that were completely out of our control. The first song we wrote was “Do Or Die” back in 2008 and the CD came out in 2014 so it was a six year project for us.
After listening to it many times I think it is worth that amount of time, no doubt. Regarding your first album, dated 2007, I think there is an important evolution in the band’s sound, isn’t it?
Pablo Roybal: I don’t know if I would call it an evolution so much as two different products by two different bands. The only remaining original member is Steve Sr. No Time For Mercy obviously features Steve’s lyrics and melodies but a lot of those riffs were written by their original guitarist, Wes Rivera. Wes is a good guy and a really good player but much more into bands like Slipknot and music that neither me or Steven really listen to. As a matter of fact, when the band was put back together in ’08, I knew right away that this was not going to sound like the old band. I suggested changing the name to Steve, but everyone liked the name and we had an album full of original material to play so we figured why waste it?
What part the new members share in that change?
Pablo Roybal: Well Steven and myself are a lot closer to Steve Sr.’s style of music than Wes was. So immediately we knew that this new band was going to be more melodically oriented than the previous band. Steve Cordova is a big part of that as well. Both Steve and Chris Salazar (original drummer) are monster players and have a really big sound as drummers, but I think Chris is more thrash oriented whereas Steve Cordova derives a lot of his influence from bands like Rush. You can hear a lot of Neil Peart influence in his playing.
Are you touring around? Is it in your plans to cross the ocean and come to Europe? I think your style fits very well in the Metal many fans are demanding in Europe…
Pablo Roybal: We would love to go to Europe and try to win over some European fans over there. So many great bands come out of that area. I know we would be in good company. The problem is really funding. We all work day jobs and not everyone of us is financially set to take a trip like that. It’s something we would love to do but I just don’t see it happening unless some really good offer from a promoter fell into our laps.
Well, may be some big Festival as Wacken or Bang Your Head could cover the costs, anyway. Are you composing new songs for your next album or you are taking a break on that task for now?
Pablo Roybal: We already have a couple of new songs ready to go. We recently debuted a new one called “The Need To Soar” which is another Steven song that definitely falls into the power metal genre. Very upbeat and melodic and it’s going over well at shows. We are hoping that it doesn’t take us another six years before we release another album but it’s too early to make that call. We really don’t see any need to rush another CD. We’d rather take our time, get it right and hopefully do something even better than A New Beginning.
That are big words, it might be something really unbelievable! Well, Savage Wizdom, I look forward to listen to another amazing album of yours soon and hope to see you around Spain some day. Thanks for the very interesting chat with all you guys!
Pablo Roybal: Huge thanks for the great review and the support, Alberto. It’s the positive feedback from people like yourself that keep bands like us going. We are glad that you like our CD and we hope that you and your readers will follow us on Facebook and keep up to date with everything going on in our world. Please feel free to drop us a line as well. We love hearing from other metal fans.