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 Interview and Photographs by: Birgit Haugen

Sonic Excess images and staff authored work are copy written and are not to be used without the written permission of the Editor(s). ©



 Holy Grail, a traditional heavy metal band out of southern California is well on their way to be the savior of a lost and forgotten music genre. Formed in 2009 the band can already put some very impressive events on their resume. Not only did they play on some of the most prestigious festivals in Europe but also supported such heavy hitters like Amon Amarth and Exodus here on our shores.

 While touring with Blind Guardian in North America we had the opportunity to sit down with vocalist James Paul Luna to talk about all things Holy Grail.

Sonic Excess: How has the tour been going so far and what are the major differences between this one and the tours with Amon Amarth, 3 Inches of Blood and Exodus?

Luna: It’s been going great, beyond awesome. I think with each of those tours the headliner had their own kind of fan base, Viking metal, thrashers and so forth. But so far we are getting a great response. I guess their fans like that we have fast guitar solos and are technical and they dig the vocals.


SE: Who is choosing the set list and are you playing more songs on this tour then prior ones?

Luna: We all choose together but we still only have about 30 minutes, so 7 songs to be exact.

SE: After your EP release in Sept. 2009 you made some big waves; got nominated for Metal Hammers Golden Gods award; played Wacken, Download and Loud Park festival. How did you pull that off?

Luna: It was an effort by our management (ed. Larry Mazer of Entertainment Services Unlimited), our label and our label in Japan. Them combined really made all of that happen for us.

SE: Speaking of label, what made you decide to go with Prosthetic Records who are mostly known for their hard core artist roster?

Luna: Well, they were interested in us before we even started Holy Grail. They originally wanted to sign our old band (ed. White Wizzard) and after we split they came to us very early on. And to be honest, they were the most enthusiastic of all of the labels and matched every offer on the table. So we went with them and they have been great to us.


SE: Is your drummer or guitarist endorsed by a major company?

Luna: Not fully, we do have endorsement but it’s like we just get discount pricing and stuff like that. We use Evans drumheads and I believe Tyler (drums) got an artist discount on his Tama kit and Trick drum pedals, I know he really likes those. And as far as guitars, we use ESP.

SE: Crisis in Utopia came out in October and got really great reviews. Were you surprised by that response?

Luna: It was definitely a pleasant surprise to us that the album was received so well. You are never sure if a lot of people like the old school sound that is mixed with new modern stuff, but it went over really well and we are happy.

SE: What is your favorite song on the album and why?

Luna: It changes every once in a while, but I am most proud of “Immortal Man” because it was the first song I wrote for this band. “Hollow Ground” and “Call of Valhalla” turned out really good as well.

SE: Who are the main writers, lyric and music wise?

Luna: The lyrics are written by me and the drummer (ed. Tyler Meahl) and for the music it’s kind of a combination. For this album Eli (Santana-guitar) wrote a lot of riffs. We went for 200 riffs, but at the end he ended up with 186 riffs (laughs). And from there we created skeletons of about 30 songs. I had about 6 skeletons for songs and James LaRue (guitars) had about 3. So we combined that all into a big pile and picked our favorites and flushed the rest out from there.

SE: There are no more originators of music, everything has been done already, how hard is it to come up with riffs so they don’t sound like ‘insert random band here’?


Luna: True, I think every progression in music has already been played by some band along the way. We just try to make the best combination possible. We all like the old school classics, the roots of metal per say. And we try to keep it as true to that as possible but with a new twist. Kind of like take the best of all metals and combine it to that one sound. I am pretty sure there are parts in some songs that sound like other bands, but we don’t mind to incorporate bits and pieces of our favorite bands and put it into our songs.

SE: So who where your musicals hero’s when you where growing up then?

Luna: I was always fond of classic rock and hard rock, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and progressively got into heavier stuff like Judas Priest, Merciful Fate, and Iron Maiden. And then I got introduced to more death metal stuff like Carcass, Morbid Angel and Death. I am actually all over the place. (laughs)

SE: After having so many skeletons for songs how did you decide which song makes the cut for the album? And are you planning on using the rest for a new one?

Luna: We decided unanimously and picked our favorites as a group, and the ones that where voted on the most, we kept. We may use a lot of the left over material but we probably have a whole new batch of fresh material for the next album.

SE: How did you talk Anna (hurdy gurdy) and Meri (violin) from Eluveitie into doing the instrumental session on “Nocturne in D Minor”?

Luna: They where part of the Amon Amarth tour in April 2010 and they became great friends of ours. James LaRue had the idea of an instrumental piece as an intro to “The Blackest Night” so he e-mailed them and they said OK. He sent them a concept and they wrote their parts to it and then he arranged it and put it all together.

SE: Your album was produced by Danny Lohner, how was that experience and will you go with him again?

Luna: It’s hard to say because he is really busy and I don’t know if he is used to doing bands, he is more of a remix guy. But we are really happy with the album.

SE: So did he just produce the album or mix it as well?

Luna: He didn’t mix it. He was the guys we bounced all our ideas off, kinda the outside ear. When we tried to figure out which songs are going to work, which choruses and verses need strengthening, he was there to guide us into the right direction. The process was not what we were used to, but we are really happy with the end results.

SE: Would you do anything different before going into the studio next time?

Luna: Definitely we are going to rehearse a lot more and maybe play the songs live before we go and track them. It gives you a different vibe on it. When we went into the studio the songs where not fully to their completion and I think we could have gone in with full demos already done and find a producer after that, verses going in with all of those songs and picking. The pre-production took a lot of time with Danny and I think we could have done it ourselves.

SE: So any idea’s when the next album will be worked on?

Luna: Probably not until 2013, because we want to concentrate on touring over next couple of years.

SE: Andrei, the artist who is known for his work with Skeletonwitch and Municipal Waste also did you album cover. IMO the cover might deter some folks to buy it, what’s your take?

Luna: I am really happy with it; I think it’s pretty cool. I believe it reflects the theme of the title track “Crisis in Utopia” and album name. It’s basically the concept of these parasites and abnormal creatures rising out of human remains.

SE: How important are the visuals of the album for you then?


Luna: In general to me they are pretty important, but for this one we had to do a quick get it together while on the road kind of project. I probably would have had more involvement in it, like actually do photo shop work, but in the process of making this album we where constantly on tour so it was hard to juggle all of this together. I think we are going to be a lot more nitpicky on our next booklet.

SE: Crisis in Utopia will be released on vinyl in February 2011. A lot of bands are doing this lately. In today’s world of mps’s and downloads do you believe the vinyl has a comeback or is more of a collectors item?

Luna: I believe the US treats it as a comeback but the rest of the world never stopped listening to vinyl’s (laughs). Since High School, I always collected vinyl so I am very excited to have our own album on it. I believe there will be a clear and a black one in limited editions. I also think it’s a great format, because you can’t really bootleg a vinyl as easily as you can a CD. And with the big packaging, you are right; it is kind of like a collector’s item and better fidelity as well.

SE: Touring, best and worse moments on the road?

Luna: Best I would definitely say playing at Loud Park Festival in Japan to about 10,000 people at 10am in the morning. And worst moment I would have to go with all of the days I was hung over at the Exodus tour in like 100 degree weather and getting shit from them, it was awesome (we all laugh)

SE: What’s next for Holy Grail and any last words?

Luna: We will be doing a US and Canada tour in February with Eluveitie and 3 Inches of Blood and we hope to see everybody and gain new fans as well.   






























































































































Sonic Excess images and staff authored work are copy written and are not to be used without the written permission of the Editor(s). ©