Bill Hudson: “Ik heb inderdaad met grote artiesten samengewerkt en veel beleefd, maar er is één ding dat ik nooit gedaan heb tot NorthTale opgericht werd en dat is mijn eigen muziek spelen.”
Het zal je maar gebeuren! Breng je eindelijk eigen werk uit op het debuut ‘Welcome To Paradise’, gooit een virus roet in het eten en blijkt de zanger er heel andere ideeën op na te houden dan jij. Het overkwam Bill Hudson van NorthTale. De man heeft de wereld rondgereisd als gitarist bij uiteenlopende bands als Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Doro, U.D.O. en I Am Morbid, maar een eigen carrière is zijn volgende droom om waar te maken. Hij is niet bij de pakken blijven zitten en dus kwam half november het tweede NorthTale album ‘Eternal Flame’ uit. Wanneer we hem vanuit Florida aan de lijn krijgen zit hij op hete kolen, om na bijna twee jaar pauze de hort op te gaan met Doro in de VS en bijgevolg zit hij dan ook meteen op zijn praatstoel.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 15 december 2021
As session guitarist you play several subgenres of metal, but for NorthTale you have chosen power metal, one of your big favourites in music. The first CD came out in 2019, ‘Welcome To Paradise’, but what started as something very seminal… then came the pandemic and the singer left… so it was not a paradise anymore. What happened?
It was a lot of drama and a lot of problems for a band that hasn’t done anything. We played one show in Sweden and we played few in Japan and we released the album obviously, but we did not get to do a tour, we did not do the bigger festivals, we didn’t get to do anything after that. The singer problems started before the pandemic. Honestly the problems with our old singer started when we played the shows in Japan. Even back then I could already see that things weren’t going to work. He went out of the band around February/March 2020, but I never really thought about slowing down anything. I was just like: ‘okay we need a new singer and then we are going to make a new album.’ It didn’t affect me too much. It sucked, it was a lot of drama, but we kept working.
That is a good attitude…
Yeah right, there is nothing you can do about those things Vera.
Did you already have new songs written when the switch of singer was happening?
Yeah, that was part of the problem actually, because the songs that I had he wasn’t too interested in playing and I absolutely loved these songs. Our heads were in very different places. I thought: if this is what you want to do, we cannot go on. I wrote the music of this album without thinking of a singer at all. I wrote one or two songs when Christian was still in the band, but then I realized he was not in the same band and in the end I just wrote what I wanted and eventually when we had a singer, we would see what happens.
It seems difficult to me, writing songs while you don’t know who’s going to sing them…
But at the same time I wrote the melodies that I wanted to hear. I wasn’t too worried about who’s gonna sing, but it also helped because when I started auditions I already had some songs and I let them sing a new song with new music.
Finally a Brazilian guy made it to the top and that was a special story…
It was very unexpected to be honest. Although I am from Brazil, I have been living in America for 15 years now, actually more, about 17 years. I know how difficult it can be to come and move from Brazil, so… but on the other hand, we have two Swedish guys in the band, we have another American guy, we were spread worldwide anyway. I wasn’t too concerned about it, I was just trying to find the right singer. Before Guilherme I actually auditioned 36 or 37 people from all over the world, from 11 countries and I auditioned very famous singers and I also auditioned complete nobody’s from the internet. It was funny, I was about to hire a singer from Europe who is probably better known than the band is. I was actually pretty surprised that he wanted to play with us, but when Guilherme came along and he sent a message on Facebook, I told him: ‘thank you man, but we already have someone. Good luck with your things, we’ll meet in the future.’ But he kept writing me back: let me try, let me try… I will send you an audition and that kind of perseverance speaks volumes in my book, so I gave some songs from the first album and his audition was mind blowing, it was really good. At that time I was talking to a friend of mine, he is actually Doro’s manager and I let Jack listen to some auditions. He said: this guy from Brazil is amazing. I know, right, he is killer, but he is from Brazil, what the fuck am I going to do because it is so hard to get Brazilians up here. I wanted someone who had a certain quality in his voice, this screen quality. I wasn’t too interested in finding a kind of Dio or the more aggressive type of vocals. I was looking for a clean singer, I am really some who likes André Matos, the original Angra singer. He has the range, but unfortunately he died in 2019 and that really affected me, because he was a really big influence to my music. When he died I started to think that I want a singer like him and that’s what was Guilherme brought. He definitely sounds like André Matos.
He has a wonderful voice and he doesn’t look like Brazilian…
Exactly, his name sounds Japanese. A lot of people asked me he is from Japan, his father is from Japan. So I think Guilherme was the perfect fit. He is a little bit younger than me, but not really that much. He’s got experience in the touring world, as a tour manager in South America, he managed Doro, he managed Gamma Ray and all sorts of bands, so he knows how the business works. His voice is just incredible, I am really glad I found him, honestly I wish I had him on the first album.
That is fate. But not only the singer and the guitarist are important also the songs. I have to say there are exceptional songs on the album and one of them is the one you invited Kai Hansen and his son for, called ‘Future Calls’, how did that come into being?
That’s funny, that is one of my favourite songs too. I met Kai when I was on tour with UDO. I first met his wife and then she introduced me to him and we became friends. I tried to let him produce the first album, but he was too busy because Helloween was doing their thing. So he had no time, you know, but if you want my input… I sent him the first album and he said it was a little bit too generic which it is. So we decided next time he would try to produce the album, but I got Dennis Ward instead. When that happened I said: you know what, man, would you like to do a guest spot on the album and I asked him to sing a song on the album. He said yeah and not only that: ‘why don’t you get my son to play a solo?’, he suggested. At that time I even did not know that his son played guitar, but then I checked his band and that was cool. So we got Kai and Tim together on the song and I am very excited about to hear people’s opinion, because the character of his voice to me makes that song. It is almost like I am listening to Gamma Ray or something. He did on that song exactly what I wanted him to do. I did not give him any orders, I said here is a song, do whatever you want. It was amazing!
There is also a very long track on the album ‘Nature’s Revenge’. Does that mean that you are a little bit aware of the danger for this planet or shall we see that title in a different way?
That is my song about the pandemic. You know everybody wrote a song about the pandemic when it started, I even have some friends that released a complete album about the pandemic. It is an inspiring thing, because we are globally going through it, but when everybody is doing it, I did not want to write a song about the pandemic. But! One day I was looking around on internet YouTube and I saw this report from Italy where they showed in Venice there were dolphins coming out of the water, because there were no people there anymore and that was like super inspiring to me. I was like: holy shit, we as species really fucked it up. So I wanted to write a song that somehow brought it back. I did not want to make a song about the pandemic, I wanted to make a song out of mother earth’s respect, for nature’s respect. It turned into a long song, because for me it is almost like a small opera. In the first part, it is basically us, as humans, speaking about what we have done, we know our guilt into this. Then when the song gets heavier, there is an amazing growl section by my friend Mary Zimmer, an amazing vocal coach from America, she has taught me vocal lessons in the past. I have known her for 12 years. When I knew I wanted a woman to represent mother earth, that’s what the lyrics are about. It is basically mother earth saying farewell, you have fucked it up, here is what I am going to do. That is why after that we go into the third part, which is basically where we were, where every day is the same. So everything about that song is thought out, it is mother earth being angry with us and saying well, fuck you now, now you are going to see a monster. That is basically the idea behind it.
In the beginning of the pandemic I also thought maybe this is revenge, because there are too much people on this planet…
When things on your skin are bothering you, you slap them away, that is basically what mother earth did. It is hard to say if this is a punishment, but we are fucking up the planet, and we continue doing it every day while we are aware that we are doing it. Everybody talks about it all the time, but we continue doing it, so eventually mother earth might get enough of it.
Why did you cover ‘Judas Be My Guide’ from Iron Maiden?
I just wanted to, man, that is one of those songs. That’s my favourite. It is hard to say that it is my favourite Iron Maiden song, because I like ‘Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son’ more. But that is one of my favourite songs which is not on my favourite album, you know. I started to listen to IM with ‘Fear Of The Dark’, that’s how I discovered it. That song reminds me of being a kid, that song is from the same time when I discovered power metal and there is also the fact that IM itself has never played this song. I was thinking why not and our drummer Patrick is really good friends with Nicko McBrain too, so it is kind of an honour or tribute.
In one song we hear Brazilian influences, the one with beautiful title ‘The Land Of Mystic Rites’…
Musically it is a kind of experiment to see how people react. I don’t know if we can change our music that much from one album to another. But again, that goes back to that André Matos thing. When he died I listened a lot to old Angra songs and the fact that he was mixing Brazilian music with heavy metal back in those days before anyone thought about it, that was really cool. Not only I come from Brazil, but my family comes from this specific region where this music is made, so I wanted to try something like that. I never tried it before. That is one song that brings this musically, but lyrically there are more songs with Brazilian influences. ‘Midnight Bells’ for instance is about an entity which our singer Guilherme believes in and it is basically a song about his religion. Not religion itself, it is not a preaching song, we don’t tell people what to do, it is about the religious rites he does, what happens then, it is a description of these rites. Also the song ‘Wings Of Salvation’. That is also a favourite. That is also about Brazil, but it is about the Brazilian inventor who made the airplane. You guys in Europe are probably more familiar with Santos-Dumont than we in America. In Brazil we learn that Alberto Santos-Dumont invented the airplane. We learned that, that is what school teaches you. We don’t even know who the Wright brothers are. But in America they claim that the Wright brothers invented the aeroplane. So I did my research and then it turned out that the Wright brothers did fly first, they were the ones who did it first, but Santos-Dumont did it in style. He was the one that the world saw. He lived in France and he flew around the Eiffel tower in 1903 with a plane that he built. Nobody had ever done that, it was the first time anybody did that. He was a true celebrity, everybody in Brazil knows who he is, but nobody outside of Brazil does. I wrote a song about him, so there is a lot of Brazil on this album.
And we can learn something from it, I didn’t know that. You see, every country has its own history, coloured…
Exactly. Santos-Dumont, this guy I am talking about, from what I understand is that he spent most of his life in Europe. That is some history that is never taught in America. Nobody even knows who that is and I suppose in Europe neither and that is very interesting. That is why I decided to include that on the songs and I think that lyrics are a big opportunity to express a lot of different things. I feel that the first album did not have as much depth lyrically as we have this time.
That’s interesting, because one of the questions I had was: are you into fantasy only, because many power metal bands do or does it go deeper. Now I have the answer…
I like fantasy lyrics, don’t get me wrong. I love Blind Guardian, like ‘Imaginations On The Other Side’ and ‘Somewhere Far Beyond’. Those are my favourite records of all time. I also like Rhapsody’s ‘Legendary Tales’, their first album, but that was never something I wanted to do. I never thought that I would write fantasy well enough for people to care. I read The Lord of the Rings, I listened to Blind Guardian, I don’t think that I can do better. A lot of bands tried it, just to be cool if you know what I mean, because everybody does it and that kind of ruined the art. ‘Cry For Tanelorn’ from Blind Guardian, that song always makes me travel in time literally, but the same thing does not happen with the other 35 bands who are trying to do songs about that. From the modern bands, the one who does it best is Twilight Force. That’s how I discovered Christian, our first singer. To me they are amazing at that, but there is a bunch of other bands that are not.
The keyboardist is also important. It struck me that he is playing a big role in the music…
Yes, Jimmy has been working with me since the very beginning, since the first demo. He does not take a songwriter role in the band, but it is his choice. He doesn’t really bring music to the band, because he did not want to, but what he does really well is: I write something like the chorus and he sends something back that you’ll hear on the album. He is like a genius like that, his piano and keyboard playing is very in tune with music. That is why we wanted to showcase his piano playing this time around. He has more moog and Hammond solos, I think if you have a keyboard player like Jimmy in your band, you should explore that a little beyond what everybody does.
How was the experience for video clips?
There is one lyric video for ‘Only Human’ at the moment and there will be a couple more I think. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to get together in one place yet with this line-up. Guilherme even did not meet the other guys in person until now. We plan on doing something on tour, we are going on tour with Unleash The Archers this winter in Europe and we plan on doing a tour video or live videos or something, but we haven’t been able to do anything super fancy video wise for this album yet, unfortunately. The tour: they haven’t said that it is not happening yet, so I believe it will happen, but it is hard man, because it is a lot of countries. NorthTale, Striker and Unleash The Archers.
Thumbs up then… A question to round off: you have worked with so many diverse artists. What are your best memories?
Oh man, there are a lot of them. I am very, very fortunate that I have a career like this. Sometimes I look back and I think: really? Did I really do all this stuff? It is crazy. There’s lots of good memories. I would say that the craziest, the most amazing memory I’ll ever have is the Wacken 2015 headlining show I had with Savatage and Trans Siberian Orchestra. It was the biggest show I ever played and I am pretty sure that everybody else in the band feels that way. We had Jeff Scott Soto, Russell Allen from Symphony X, all the Savatage musicians, all of us playing the same songs at the same time for 80,000 people, that was really insane. That is a highlight for me and my career. But also in the last couple of years, working with Udo Dirkschneider, working with Doro Pesch, I played pretty much every festival that I ever dreamed of. There were so many moments, I am very fortunate in that sense.
You better write a diary, then you can read it when you are old…
Yeah right now I am working on making more moments like that, because the thing for me is: indeed, I worked with a lot of artists and I have done everything I wanted, but there is one thing I have never done until NorthTale. I have never done my music. I am always playing someone else’s music, you know, I am playing covers. With UDO I am playing Accept songs, with Jon Oliva I am playing Savatage songs, with Doro I am playing Warlock songs, you know. I am always playing music that someone else wrote. That was kind of what I was missing and that is what I am working on right now. I want people to hear how my music sounds. And that is what this new album is, because it is completely honest. I don’t give a shit if anybody likes it, I just say: this is what I want to hear, this is what I sound like. If people like it, great! That’s what I want right now.
Indeed, that must be a special feeling, your own compositions, style and influences…
Exactly. People often ask me: why do you play all these different styles, what do you actually like? Well, listen to NorthTale, that is what I actually like.
But how do you come in a band like I Am Morbid then?
Well, first of all, with I Am Morbid, there is the challenge aspect of the music. It is very complex music, you know. It is very hard to perform. With I Am Morbid I have much more soul than with any other band I work with, you need to be in tough shape, you need to rehearse a lot, it is very difficult to play. If you play that stuff live and someone messes it up, the whole band messes up. It is not very forgiving. So there is that aspect. Secondly, David Vincent and Tim Yeung are two of my best friends in the world. I really, really like working with those guys, even if we were playing polka, I don’t care what we are playing. And more than that, I do love death metal. Death metal was not something I grew up with. I did not know the style until 2008, but I live in Florida and some of my closest friends are in bands like Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Deicide… I see these people all the time you know. I am in the scene, I listen to the music, I really enjoy it. It is not my favourite, power metal is my absolute favourite kind of metal. That is what I choose to listen to, but I also like death and thrash metal. I like hard rock. I like a lot of things.