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Interview conducted June 8 2022
Interview published Juny 17 2022

"And I always wanted to write another album like Culture Killed The Native or Temples Of Gold."

Metal Covenant got some time at Sweden Rock Festival with Victory's guitarist/ bandleader
Herman Frank and lead vocalist Gianni Pontillo.

Tobbe: Victory's new record Gods Of Tomorrow was out in November last year, and are you already in the works for another Victory record at this point?

Herman: Actually no. As you said, the record came out in November, and then a tour was planned and scheduled for 3 weeks through Europe. But in the Covid situation it was canceled. Then I got my own tour, Herman Frank tour, 2 weeks, and that was canceled too.

So there was no time in between and I didn't find any silence to calm down a little bit. I was always preparing myself, the songs, the songs, the songs, so I didn't have any time for any new songs. Yeah, maybe in 5 years. [Smiles] Is it too short? [Laughs] But I guess we're coming out with a new album next year.

Tobbe: The melody of the title track sounds like Van Halen with Sammy Hagar on vocals. Anybody else told you that?

Gianni: Yes. I've heard that. (Herman:) Is it pretty close? [Whispers] Shit! (Gianni:) If people say so, then yeah. I mean, he's one of my favorite singers. So you're absolutely right. But it's something fantastic. I mean, he's a fantastic singer and performer.

(Herman:) Actually I've been a fan of Van Halen for many years, but I didn't recognize that. But somebody told me that maybe his voice is sounding like Sammy Hagar and I said, "Yeah! Wow! Fantastic!".

Tobbe: As you enter a new album cycle, what do you focus on in the beginning? Melodies, riffs, you know.

Herman: I guess I'm kind of an old-fashioned guitar player. I'm looking for riffs. Not this new kind of writing, just put A, G, F, and put a keyboard melody on top. That's not my style. For me, a song got to have some riff. I guess when I start writing I do have kind of a melody or a "hookline" in there.

And then I finish kind of like my idea of the song with the solo part and the bridge and stuff, and then I'm gonna talk to Gianni, or start talking to the singer. Then we change a little bit, and do this and this and this. He's coming up, once in a while [Laughs], with a better idea of singing, you know. But at least I give him the idea, but it's his job, let's put it this way, to put the sparkle on it.

Tobbe: Is it hard to go in and change stuff that Herman does?

Herman: No. [Laughs] (Gianni:) Actually it's not hard. It's something different, because we have different, you know, ideas of how a song has to sound for a singer, of course. I mean, I will look different at it. It's the way it is. I mean, the songs were fantastic, so.

(Herman:) I was thinking, from the beginning on, that it was actually quite easy to work with Gianni, 'cause more or less we got the same thing in mind. You know, there wasn't that much changing. I mean, I sing a melody and, "Oh yeah, that works. Let's follow this one. Just a little bit if you need any different. What do you think about this?". But all in all we are on the same page.

(Gianni:) He did more or less the producer job at the end. So, imagine it like you paint something, and you paint it like a structure you have, and then he comes up and says, "Let's go this way with color blue." and at the end you have a picture, and it sounds fantastic.

(Herman:) When I started this album… I mean, it's the first one since, I even can't remember. And I always wanted to write another album like Culture Killed The Native or Temples Of Gold. These were successful albums. …I said, "I would love to have that spirit back.". And then I found him as a singer, and all the other guys in the band, and then I said, "Now it's time.".

For me it felt like coming back home, to this kind of music, you know. I was split between doing a lot of metal. Accept, and stuff like that. I mean, I did Victory for maybe 20 years, and then it felt like coming home. When I got the first 2 or 3 songs, it felt kind of like easy to follow.

Tobbe: Is it any different to you when you sing the new songs or the old songs? Or are they just good songs you sing on?

Gianni: I like the era of Victory, you know. It's fantastic, really. And Charlie Huhn and Fernando [Garcia] did a fantastic job. And of course Herman Frank did a fantastic job. So for me it's very easy to sing both of them. Because my voice can do that, you know. So it's fantastic to do both. And I love the old school songs of course. I love them, really.

(Herman:) I mean, that was the reason that I chose Gianni as the new singer, you know. I saw him on a little festival. I played with my band, Herman Frank, and he was with his own band, The Order, and the promoter said, "You should listen to this guy. You're looking for a singer for Victory, huh? He's the one.". And I listened to it, and I listened to the whole set, and right after he finished I started talking to him. I, "Blah, blah, blah." and he couldn't refuse.

And then I sent him a couple of playbacks of the older songs, you know, and he sent them back and I said, "That's it!". You might hear it tonight, you know. For example, if we do On The Loose, a quite famous song from Victory, and then you close your eyes, then you will think that it sounds like Fernando.

So, he's able to sing the old stuff in very good quality, like it was. But I wanted to give him the chance to show his own character and his own voice on the new record.

That's why we did actually a new album, 'cause everybody wanted us, like, "Why don't you do a 30-year anniversary tour with the old songs?". I said to myself, "That's boring. I would love to have some new stuff. There are new guys. They should show their talents.". And it worked out quite well.

Tobbe: What's the best thing about producing or co-producing the albums and not letting anyone else do that?

Herman: I didn't find any proper producer. The proper ones are very expensive and you have to book them 2 years ahead, you know. And actually right now I couldn't think about any producer I would have trusted, you know. 'Cause I mean, who's got this '80s spirit feeling left in his body? I mean, they've died already.

So maybe I'm the one who is left. And from the start I got this vision in my head, like, "I want to have it in this direction.". And as I've produced a couple of other bands in my life, I kind of like felt it was very easy.

Tobbe: Since 2009 you have put out 5 records under your own name, Herman Frank, and then after a decade there's a Victory record all of a sudden. Why do you need different outlets and not just go on with Victory or go on with Herman Frank?

Herman: Maybe there are beating more than one heart in my chest, you know. There's one for metal, that I do love. I'm able to write songs in this different style. But on the other side there's a big heart for this kind of like classic rock, I call it classic rock, and for the melody stuff. The reason why it took 10 years is 'cause it took me 10 years to find Gianni, so.

I wish I would have found him 5 years ago, or 10 years ago, you know. It would have been much easier. Then we might have been on the big stage today. [Laughs]

Tobbe: It's really hard to know, as a fan, if we will see a Herman Frank record or a Victory record next.

Herman: The next one is actually an Iron Allies album. I'm working with David Reece. So I do have 3 bands then, so far. But I guess there are fans for a little bit more metal, and there are fans for a little bit more of the Victory stuff, you know. So they have to choose. If they like both, I'm happy.

But for me personally, there are not that many people that can take my pace. I always have music on my mind, and songs and songs and songs, so even if it would be really successful, I still would do 2 bands. 'Cause I like both sides of music. And if I'm able to do it, then why not? The police didn't ring the bell at my door, just for me to do different music. It's fine.

Tobbe: One of your old bandmates from Moon'Doc, Chris Bay from Freedom Call, played here earlier today. Isn't this a great opportunity for a guest appearance?

Herman: No, not today, 'cause it's Gianni's show. But maybe next year at Frankenfest. Kind of like Michael Schenker Fest. I would love to do songs from Moon'Doc, from Sinner, from Accept, from Herman Frank, from Victory, in one show.

Tobbe: That's a lot of bands.

Herman: I think I missed a couple. [Laughs] What are you gonna do? That happens if you're around for 40 years.

Tobbe: Why didn't that band work out in the end? Moon'Doc.

Herman: You wanna hear the truth? Who's that fucking Chris today? He quit! [Laughs] No, no. Well, actually he did. He wanted to do his own project. And we started Moon'Doc in the time of grunge. [Sighs] And grunge killed everything in those years. So I couldn't blame him. He said, "Ey! I got an offer from a record company to do my own stuff." and I said, "Go for it!". I was in producing, you know.

So I changed side a little bit. I was producing Saxon and Rose Tattoo, and stuff like that, in 2000-2004. I said, "I do have plenty of work. If you have an offer, go!". And it's okay. But actually, he quit. He ruined Moon'Doc. [Laughs] But that happens, you know. We started off quite well. We got some good critique and sold a couple of albums. You know, pretty good.

But then grunge came and we didn't get any offers to play live. So, he was younger. I was playing live decades ago. So he wanted that and said, "I do have to change. What should I do? Are you gonna get mad?" and I said, "No way. That's kind of like life. I wish you well.".

Tobbe: What's with the apostrophe between the words in Moon'Doc?

Herman: I just came up with this idea. I thought it looked funny.

Tobbe: Okay, for no reason.

Herman: Yes, actually. For no reason. You aren't the first guy who's asked me. It's just for, you know, it looks good.

Tobbe: My final question. I just got to ask this. The excellent Prayer For The Dying album by Messiah's Kiss. How much did you play on that album, really? The truth now.

Herman: [Coughs] Let's put it this way: I produced it, and I said to the band, "Ey! It's good if you show up at noon or at 1 p.m., and I was in the studio at 8 o'clock every day. [Laughs]

See also: a review of the gig the same day

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