When Måneskin stormed to victory in last year's Eurovision Song Contest, in Rotterdam, the feeling that a swathe of rock bands that would enter the 2022 edition was soon to be expected. Alas it came to be.
Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Slovenia, Moldova, Georgia, Czech Republic and Bulgaria all sent bands, and not just rock bands either. However, Bulgaria's Intelligent Music Project arguably were a unique entry, why you ask? They are a supergroup.
I might be wrong in saying they are the first supergroup to enter Eurovision but I am positive this is factual, either way they gave a great performance (find the video down below) and evidently showed the world that Bulgaria can turn it up past 11 (if you know the reference, you know), Intelligent Music Project spoke to us about Eurovision, rock music in the contest and their future plans.
It's not often supergroups enter Eurovision, let alone rock supergroups, how did you find out BNT had selected Intelligent Music Project (IMP) as their entry?
"Probably you should ask BNT about this decision. We applied for the contest with all our expertise and music experience - like everyone else. This year is the 10th anniversary of our first album "Power Of Mind" where the main vocalist is the late John Lawton - our dear friend. We have 6 albums until now, and have had a lot of world famous musicians play on our albums - like Joseph Williams and Simon Phillips from TOTO, Bobby Rondinelli from Black Sabbath and Rainbow, Todd Sucherman from Styx, Carl Sentance from Nazareth and many more. In the last few years we made a lot of concerts in Bulgaria and probably all of this made BNT confident to trust us to represent Bulgaria on the ESC."
Bulgaria in the past has typically sent ethnic or pop music, how did it feel to be the first rock group representing Bulgaria at Eurovision?
"We're honoured to be the first rock band representing Bulgaria at Eurovision, because there are a lot of great rock bands in Bulgaria. We know and we're friends with many of them. I believe we did not disappoint the world of rock not only in Bulgaria, but all around Europe and the rest of the world."
You've all been in various successful Bulgarian and overseas bands (esp. Romero) outside of the IMP, how do you maintain a balance in your sound given the various influences?
"There is a certain structure in our organization. The founder of the band, and author of the music and the lyrics of al IMP's songs is Dr. Milen Vrabevski. He is the one who decides how the songs should sound like. Then we, the musicians, take care to reach his expectations and of course to upgrade the sound with our long year expertise in the field of music. It is not hard to keep the balance because all of the band members are professionals and very nice people.
Talk to us about your song 'Intention', what is the back story behind the song? Musically it's prog rock mixed with heavy metal elements; arguably the sort of song you would hear on an action film soundtrack, how did you devise the song's sound?
"“Intention” meets the criteria for quality dynamic festival rock. And gets the best of it with the great Ronnie Romero, the catchy guitar riffs of Bisser Ivanov and the amazing Simon Phillips on drums! He is also the music co-producer of the song. What a team! The song speaks of the personal struggles in our thoughts and minds to break free from old patterns of belief and behaviour that hold us back. As of the very title the author wants to emphasize a very simple fact – It’s never too late to set foot on the right path – the path of growth, dignified existence, and life with a mission.
The shadow you are chased by is actually your former self. Turn your back on the ego and selfishness and start living for the people around you… but change often means a strong internal battle, within your soul... even a war with yourself. If the better part of you wins, you feel free & happy! And the freer you feel, the farther you walk away from real life. A paradox at first glance, but the environment you’re in is not meant to make you happy by default.
The sense of freedom and happiness is a state of mind that you teach yourself to prevail in your thoughts. It is the result of a meaningful everyday usefulness. So, find deep within yourself the inner signals of the incomparable feeling of happiness, the sense of freedom, and spiritual satisfaction with existence. For all this to happen you need a firm intention."
As Stoyan Yankulov-Stundzhi is a band member, he brought a lot of Eurovision experience to the group - did he offered any words of wisdom, or did you treat it as a full-on rock show?
"Eurovision is different every year, so there is no universal advice. But probably the most important thing he told us is "Whatever happens, just have fun!".
Arguably Måneskin caused a shock last year as the last time a rock / metal song won ESC was by Lordi in 2006, do you feel since Finland and Italy's wins, rock and metal has gained greater exposure in the Eurovision realm?
"It is not a secret that rock music nowadays is not in the same mainstream place as in the 80's and 90's. This is why it is always good when rock music goes on the top of the charts, the contests, etc. So, yes, Maneskin's and Lordi's win definitely gave a push and inspiration towards rock musicians."
What plans does the IMP have after Eurovision? Could we see a follow up album to 2021's "The Creation"?
"Yes, in July we're releasing our new album "Unconditioned". Intention will be part of it. Also, a couple of days ago we released second single from the album, named "New Hero". Check it out on our YouTube channel."
Some people may remember the country as Swaziland, but for the past 2 years Swaziland has been known as Eswatini following the decision taken by King Mswati III to rename the kingdom; to reflect it's original name, the natives and in-part to avoid confusion with Switzerland.
So what about it's rock and metal scene... there is none except for one band looking to start one up. Out Cry are a Christian Alternative Rock / Metal band who present themselves with credentials, having played all over the world and released an EP, it was time for GMA to question the band on their origins, the power of music and how rock music is interpreted in arguably a heavily Christian country.
Their new music video 'Butterfly' drops on the 29th February and has a very emotional backstory as you will see later on as you read.
You read it here, Eswatini is embracing rock / metal and thus has become the latest to join the wave of emerging African scenes.
"Music is a universal language and there is nothing I love more than seeing people (everywhere) coming together to celebrate music and life.""
For those who do not know of Out Cry, could you give us a brief history of the band, what it stands for and what the name means?
"Almost 8 years ago now, Out Cry was formed in a tiny tin shack on the side of a mountain in Piggs Peak, Swaziland. I have no doubt you are aware of the of the HIV pandemic that has ravaged the country of the last few years, well this shack named Christian Life Centre Church provided a place for young people in the community to escape from the bad hand that life had dealt them to receive mentorship, food, aid and to connect with God. We as the young people from that little shack took it upon ourselves to spread a message of hope and acceptance, striving to connect people through music, a medium which transcends languages and culture barriers.
Now 8 years down the line and no longer the young boy I was back then, I am truly amazed to see how far we have come. In 2014 we won our first ever African Gospel Music Award held in London and in 2015 went on to be double nominated for the Crown Music Awards in South Africa and ended up performing in front of the President of South Africa. In 2016 we embarked on our first international tour to Nashville and Hyderabad, India of all places. If you have yet to go to India, I would highly recommend it for its rich culture and ability to give on an overwhelming sense of perspective, INSTANTLY! This message is not meant to brag about our achievements but rather aimed at giving context to myself and our story with Out Cry.
Story Behind our latest music video “Butterfly” due to be released on Feb 29th 2020:-
"In 2017, after receiving an opportunity to record with one of South Africa’s top music producers, Theo Crous, we faced a massive financial obstacle. Having started a crowd funding campaign to raise the needed amount, one of the rewards for donating the highest amount was that we would write the donor a personal song. Towards the end of the campaign we were stunned to find that one lady had done just that; and contacted her as soon as we could to thank her and to ask what we could write about with regards to her song. She went on to tell us that her daughter was far away from home and that their relationship had undergone a massive amount of strain in recent years to the point of disassociation. Definitely something we could write about…. 2 days and a big KFC bucket later, we had composed a song called, 'Butterfly'. A song is written from the perspective of a mother to a daughter, capturing all the unsaid words and placing them in an unspoken dialogue between these 2 individuals.
Song completed, and recorded I sent through the song to the mother confident and expectant for what her feedback would be. No immediate reply…. 3 days later I followed up with her asking, “Did you get the song? What did you think?’’ Her reply was that the song was great but there was only one problem. She couldn’t listen to it without crying…. The next day her daughter called me up out of the blue just to say, “Thank you. It was as if all the words were coming straight from my mum and I have never felt closer to her than I do now.” The two of them later reconciled their differences and it was an absolute privilege to have aided in their process."
You play Christian / Alt Rock, do you feel that rock and metal music specifically offers itself as a platform to sing about powerful topics such as religion?
"We are Christians in a band that love to create and play music that has substance, depth and meaning. What is the point of creating something if it doesn’t evoke a feeling within the listener. We therefore write about themes of love, struggle, acceptance, and perseverance. Themes which are at their foundation Christian but are universal in their dialogue."
Coming from Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), can you tell us more about the rock / metal scene out there and what challenges as a band you have to face?
"Swaziland has a predominantly African Gospel or Hip Hop music scene, Rock or even Indie is not widely accepted except at main stream big music festival like Bushfire."
Do you feel both music genres bring the world together (free of cultural / political differences)?
"Music is a universal language and there is nothing I love more than seeing people from different ethnicities, cultures, genders, income brackets and colour all coming together to celebrate music and life."
Have you performed outside of Eswatini?
"Yes, we have journeyed to Nashville (USA), London (England), India, Mozambique and all over South Africa as a result of our pursuit in music."
Outside of the band, what other hobbies and interests do you have?
"All of the band members are academically accomplished, all having minimum undergraduate university degrees and some having Postgraduate Masters degrees. I myself work part time as an architect and love 3D special design, a process very similar to that of the creation of music."
For the rock and metal music fans visiting Mbabane, what sights and attractions could you recommend?
"Malolotja Canopy Tour, Ngwenya Glass, House On Fire"
What plans does Out Cry have for the year ahead? Do you have any greetings you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"We have some massive shows in the pipeline and the release of our latest music video links to follow."