Interview with Stephen of THUNDER HORSE

Interview with Stephen of THUNDER HORSE

- in Written interviews

Hi Stephen! How do you reflect on the completion of your third full-length album, “After The Fall,” and what can your fans anticipate from this eagerly awaited release?
Hello Melissa and thank you so much for the time! After the Fall was written and recorded almost immediately after Chosen One! We were on a roll at the time and the songs were just coming out. Of course, this was all on the tail end of the lockdowns, so we all had a lot to say! I love this album and how it shows a bit more diversity in our songwriting. It really showcases many of our true influences and I think the listeners will appreciate that it takes them on a few different journeys along the way!

Thunder Horse has been described as having a genre that is hard to pin down, with influences ranging from doom to psych, occult, and classic rock. How would you define your sound and the unique blend of styles that Thunder Horse brings to the table?
The members all have such a diverse background and musical influences, that we can’t just say we are this type or music or that. We really just write what feels good, and what we think are good songs. We do not set out to neatly put our music in a category. It makes it difficult sometimes though. When people ask what we do, it is hard to formulate an answer, so we just say Texas Heavy Rock. We definitely have influences, and I think you can hear some of them in our songs, but labeling our sound has always been a challenge for myself and the listeners! We all grew up listening to music from the beginning of Rock-N-Roll to modern day, so we take a little bit of everything we like and wrap it all up into a mish mash called Thunder Horse!

“After The Fall” is said to be a turning point for Thunder Horse. Can you tell us more about the creative process behind the album and how it represents a progression for the band?
I appreciate that the listeners have grabbed on that assumption! The album really is a new step in a slightly new direction for us. This being the third album, we wanted to keep true to our roots, but experiment a bit more and get outside of all of our comfort zones. We took time to get together and vet these songs in rehearsals. The last 2 albums were written and recorded via file share, so this one took a more organic route of us jamming them out first and then recording them. We also tried out a couple of different studios to track the songs until we found the one that we really liked and felt most comfortable in. This is also Johnny’s (drummer) first album with us, so we felt it was important to get together live prior to recording. I mixed this album rather than going to a third party, so I feel like I am a bit more invested in the album than previously. If it sounds terrible, It’s all my fault! Recording and mixing the album within gave us the time and luxury to do what we wanted to do. It’s raw and somewhat simple, but that is what we wanted. Not too flashy. No fancy studio tricks. Just record, Mix, and Share. I hope everyone likes it!

The album features a refined formula that is doomier, sharper, and stronger. How did you approach crafting the songs for “After The Fall” to achieve this balance between heaviness and emotional depth?
As I mentioned before, this album was written on the tail end of the lockdowns. Ripple Music actually had to sit on this record for ever a year before releasing it because of the shipping issues and backlog issues around the world! It should have come out Last summer instead of 2023!! I think the heaviness is really just a natural progression for us. The more we play together, and the more we play live together, we get a in a groove and it just comes out. I have always been a very opinionated performer, so me bitching about one thing or another in my songs is a comfortable place. Just looking around, it felt like the world was burning to the ground, so I have plenty of fuel for the fire in the studio!

As the lead vocalist and guitarist, Stephen, you have been a mainstay in the Texas industrial metal scene. How does Thunder Horse differ from your previous musical endeavors, and what drew you to explore the realms of doom and heavy psych?
Even back in the 90’s to early 2000’s when I was doing the heavy electronic / industrial stuff, my influences were always the same. I grew up on Sabbath, Kiss, and other 70’s rock, so whether it’s samples and loops, or organic instruments, my approach has always been the same. I think Thunder Horse could easily go on tour with a band like Killing Joke or fit just as nicely with Molly Hatchet. To me, Heavy Rock is all the same, it’s just that some of it takes a different music approach. My playlist goes from Pink Floyd, to Sabbath, to Jane’s Addiction and then to Skinny Puppy! I like it all if it is good!

T.C., as the lead guitarist, who are some of your main influences and how do you incorporate your musical background into Thunder Horse’s sound?
Some of my lead gtr influences are Robin Trower, Uli Roth, David Gilmour and Michael Schenker. I like to connect with the audience emotionally thru vibrato, bends and a clear but heavy gtr tone. My live performance influence is Danny Lohner of NIN. My main goal in Thunder Horse is to use my guitar to connect emotionally with the audience, not just play at them or for them.

“After The Fall” is your second release with Ripple Music. How has the collaboration with the label impacted your musical journey and the reception of your music?
I can not say enough how important Ripple Music has been to Thunder Horse. In my 30 year musical career, I have been on a few labels. I have been on big labels and small, but Ripple Music is HANDS DOWN the best experience I have had, EVER! Ripple is a family. The bands network together and help each other every step of the way. We all share each others music and releases and we support each other in person. The EU/UK/US Ripple Family were a huge part of us being able to go to the UK and play Desertfest London, Ruination Festival and other shows around the UK. Without them, it never would have happened! They gave us contacts, supported our shows, even offered up the use of their gear! There was no backstabbing or being shady. It was like one big happy family and I think that starts at the top with the label owner Todd Severin. He encourages collaboration and support and helps facilitate a lot of that. We may never get rich, be on the cover of Rolling Stone, or win a Grammy on Ripple, but I can’t think of a better place to be than right here on Ripple Music.

Thunder Horse has received praise for their intense live shows, incorporating video projections and quadraphonic sound. How do you strive to create a memorable and immersive experience for your audience during your live performances?
I have to say, seeing Thunder Horse live takes the listening experience to the next level. We don’t want to simply be another heavy band taking up and hour of your time. We want the listeners to leave the show knowing we did something different and gave it 110%! Our background in the “industrial” scene kind of supports our live show experience. We aren’t afraid to use samples, crazy lights and projections, and bring in Extra PA to immerse the listener! We want you to not only hear us, but FEEL us too! One day, I’d love to do a headlining tour where we can bring the same show overseas that we can do here in the US! I think the fans would appreciate what love we put into the show and the amount of work it takes to put them on! We want the listeners to be entertained and involved, rather than passive spectators.

Thunder Horse’s self-titled debut album received positive reviews and made the Top 20 Doom Charts. How do you feel your music has evolved since then, and what lessons have you learned along the way?
We have been extremely fortunate so far in our short career! We formed in 2017 with our first album coming out in 2018. The reception far exceeded all expectations! The follow-up on Ripple Music, Chosen One, did even better! While I love the support, it set the bar pretty high for this album and I am very nervous about the release! I personally put a lot of blood and sweat into this album and I hope people get it. As far as evolving, I think the songs are more mature and have better content musically and lyrically. It’s a natural progression as I mentioned before. The more we play together, the tighter we get and the more interesting our sound becomes. We still play songs from the first album because people want to hear them! That is amazing to me, that all these years later, people are still getting off to those songs! I hope the next one has the same impact!

Being Orange Amplifiers ambassadors, you deliver a powerful and distinctive sound. How did you develop your sonic identity, and what gear do you rely on to achieve your signature tone?
Orange Amplifiers truly define our sound. Todd and I are very different players technically and sonically, but we were both able to find “our sound” in Orange Amps! I still play the Dual Dark series amps, even though they have been discontinued! It kills me that that line of amps is no longer available, but it really was kind of a 1 trick pony amp. It does what it does, and that is about it. Todd plays a Custom Shop 50 which is perfect for him! He has a more classic rock sound and technique than I do, so the mid punch and clarity with just the right amount of gain is exactly what he needs! Honestly, Todd is so damn good, he could play through an AM radio and still destroy a lot of guitarists out there today! He is a beast and the feedback we get most, is just how good he is. He is so humble and I am glad. I have seen half the player get all high and mighty, and Todd just isn’t that kind of guy. He makes me look good for sure!

What are some of the lyrical inspirations behind the songs on “After The Fall?
I really went all in on this album lyrically. I talked about modern issues, personal issues, and experiences that have impacted me greatly. Hell, I even wrote a song about Aberdeen Scotland because of the impact that city had on me both personally and professionally! Nothing is sacred to me, so I am able to put it all on the table. Addiction, Politics, Fantasy… I have experienced it all so I wanted to share it.

“After The Fall” features a track called “New Normal.” Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind this song and its significance in the context of the album?
New Normal is one of my favorite songs on the album. I have made no secret about it that I am a politically conscious person. I do not mind calling out people and institutions that I think are taking advantage of us… ALL OF US! I don’t care what your political ideology is, it is US against THEM. Power corrupts and absolute power absolutely corrupts. We can not let them take what little we have left. We will not accept their new normal. We will not succumb. We will not go quietly into the night. That is almost an underlying theme on the album, But not solely.

Thunder Horse has been recognized as one of the leading purveyors of contemporary doom metal. How do you see the genre evolving, and where do you see Thunder Horse fitting into the broader doom-metal landscape?
I LOVE the new stuff coming out month after month! New bands and old are steadily putting out great content! There are so many types of metal and it seems like there are a dozen types of Doom Metal as well, so I think the evolution is organic and good! We can’t all do drone, or do Candlemass, or do Sleep, so we have to strive to do things a bit different and bring new content to the table. This makes the scene stronger and more interesting! I love playing in the key of Z on one riff for 30 minutes as much as the next guy, but I can’t do album after album of that music. I’ d get bored and I think many of our listeners would too. We want to keep getting better and by us wanting to be better, the scene gets better. We open ourselves up to new content and we try to reach new heights musically. I will say though, the “doom” scene is probably one of the most open minded and diverse scenes in metal today! They can be just as happy listening to Trouble as they can listening to Bauhaus! LOL… I LOVE that about our family!

As you gaze into the future, what are your aspirations and ambitions for Thunder Horse, not only in terms of pushing the boundaries of your musical exploration but also in terms of expanding your fan base and reaching a wider audience?
We recently did a small UK tour and it opened our eyes to a lot of things. We get a bit jaded and complacent here at home in the US at times. There are so many bands so often, that we take it for granted. Going overseas gave us a new appreciation to play in front of new faces and I hope we can do it again and again! We want to continue putting our good material and growing our fan base. I would put out an album every year for the next 10 years if I could! With that in mind, We recorded some shows prior to our trip, so we have a LIVE album dropping early in 2024 and we are already writing the next album for Ripple Music with a planned 2025 release! We are staying busy and hopefully giving our friends and fans exactly what they want! We are VERY excited to have “After the Fall” come out on 21 July, 2023 and hope that everyone gets a copy ASAP!! Thank you VERY much for the time and all of us truly appreciate you helping us get the word out.

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About the author

As a passionate devotee of heavy, psychedelic, avant-garde and progressive sounds, my enthusiasm for music journalism has been steadily building since 2020. My writing has encompassed a broad spectrum, ranging from in-depth analyses of album releases to illuminating interviews with exciting new artists on the scene. During my leisure hours, I relish attending live concerts and delving into the thriving local music scene in my Zurich community.

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