Interview with Artiom Lichtstein - (Jan. 8, 2010)
Artiom Lichtstein is best known in the Kevin Moore community as an independent artist and a top-ten poster at the old Chromakey.com forum, which was taken down in 2006. Since then, Lichtstein (pictured, front and center) has served as lead guitarist for the Israeli progressive metal band Stormy Atmospshere, which recently released its debut album, Colorblind. The 10-song album is influenced by Moore's music.
Q: How would you describe Stormy Atmosphere in a few sentences? What is the symbolism of the band's name?
AL: Stormy Atmosphere is a progressive art rock/metal act from Israel. To be completely honest, I personally dislike the name, but I believe it describes the vortex of emotions every note and word have to go through, before they become a part of a song. We are all very different, and when our musical personalities "collide" in a mutual creation, it often feels like within the eye of the storm.
Q: How and when did you guys meet each other? Are you all childhood friends?
AL: The band was formed and named by Eduard Krakov (keyboards) and Teddy Shvets (vocals) when they met in high-school in 1999 and started making music together. Me and Dina Shulman (Vocals) are also from that same high.
Q: What are some of the band's musical influences? Do you all like the same bands and musicians or does it vary from person to person?
AL: We all come from different musical backgrounds and have different tastes, so our music is variously influenced by rock, metal, classical music, folk, electronica and more. Stormy Atmosphere is an exposure of our very feelings, philosophy, beliefs and ideas through music.
Q: One of the first things I noticed about your music that sets it apart from other progressive metal bands is that you have two vocalists – one of which is female. How did that lineup come about? Did you make a conscious effort to choose that unique style or did it just unfold that way?
AL: A mutual friend contacted me and I brought Dina to a rehearsal, which was sort of a dream come true for Teddy. He would recruit an entire choir into the band if it was possible. Moreover, we believe a female voice lends beauty and tenderness into a rough mixture of heavy metal riffs and dry jazz rhythms.
Q: Tell me about the band's debut album ColorBlind, which you completed in August 2009. How long has it been in the works? What should people expect to hear? Is it a concept album?
AL: We've been working on ColorBlind for about three years, and it's our official debut release. The album consists of 10 colorful tracks and a surprising mixture of musical elements, styles and instruments. Though every song can be listened to separately, as a whole the album presents one general concept of revealing the world in different tints and shades. How many sides to the truth are there really?
Q: Since this is a Kevin Moore fan site, most people will see the word "Colorblind" and think of Chroma Key's 1998 single from Dead Air For Radios. Is there a connection there?
AL: Well, the name was originally proposed with no connection in mind. And it does fit the general concept of the album very well. However, I would be lying if I'd say I didn't smile and think of Dead Air when it was suggested.
Q: Progressive metal is a very difficult style of music. What was the band's songwriting process? Would you just get together in a room and jam or would you strategically map out ideas?
AL: I'd say we do both. Some songs were almost entirely written by a single person, or a couple, with specific song structure and arrangement ideas in mind. Others were born from jamming around and built from bits and pieces written by all the members.
Q: Where was the album recorded? Was there an in-studio friction or did the band get along well?
AL: The album was recorded, mixed and mastered at "Take Two" studios in Israel, by Michael Gimmervert who is best known for his work with bands like End is Nothing, Gevolt and Arafel. Drums were separately tracked in "Papa" studios in Tel Aviv. The album was produced, programmed and arranged by Michael and myself. I'd say we had our fair share of in and out-of-studio frictions, but what band doesn't, right? The important thing is that the album is finally out and we're proud of it.
Q: I've listened to the album a few dozen times and there are moments/songs that even the most seasoned prog metal band couldn't top. Personally, I find "Fifth Season" and "Last Chance" to be flawless progressive metal epics. Can you talk about the band's approach on those songs?
AL: Thanks! With "Fifth Season," I think Eduard wrote most of the basic harmonies and chord progressions and the song ended up being very multi-dimensional. There are some cool vocal melodies, folk parts, guitar solos and even a mandolin on this one. Michael and I, we experimented a lot with some classical and symphonic orchestrations, detuned acoustic guitars, electronics, sound effects and other arrangement and production ideas.
With "Last Chance," all the band members contributed to the writing, and the song turned out to be more of a classic rock piece. Both Teddy and Dina did a remarkable job in creating their own "choirs" and there are some of my most favorite lyrics on this one. Again, Michael and I, we played around with arrangements, programming and production concepts.
Q: What other songs have gotten a positive reaction? What songs are you particularly proud of?
AL: I think in addition to the ones you’ve mentioned, "Awaken" and "Circle" are also quite popular. My personal favorite is "Conspiracy - Part II."
Q: The album artwork is breathtaking. Who did it? And what idea were you trying to illustrate?
AL: The lovely Madalina Iordache-Levay is the artist responsible for the artwork and the design. Check her amazing works out at BrightPinkStudio.com. Also, Andrés Fernández Cordón designed the band logo. His breathtaking illustrations live at Anhdres.com. I really enjoyed working with them both, and we kind of became friends in the process.
And the idea is that you think what the idea is.
Q: Since this is a Kevin Moore website, I paid particular attention to the keyboard work, which was very Kevin-esque. Is the keyboardist a fan of Kevin? What kind of equipment does he use?
AL: More than just being a fan of Moore's work in Dream Theater and OSI, Eduard actually credits Kevin for his entire "keyboard" career. Hearing "Space-Dye Vest" for the first time left an irreversible damage and created a will to create. He got himself his first synthesizer in no time, and started practicing and writing. For the recordings of ColorBlind, we used synths and workstations by Rolland and Korg along with various software-based technologies.
Q: Most Kevin Moore fans know you as a top-ten poster on the old Chroma Key forum that was taken down in 2006. What attracts you to Kevin's music? What are your favorite songs?
AL: It's really hard to say what exactly attracts me to Kevin's music. I think it is mostly that I feel it's very honest and personal, filled with endless emotion and sadness I relate to, subliminal musical "triggers" that stimulate everything alive in me, both physical and mental. Also, the lyrics seem to have almost a life-changing effect on me.
And you're not getting the list of songs, since it changes all the time, and is too long to begin with!
Q: How did you first get introduced to Kevin's music? Are you still an avid listener?
AL: I bought the Dead Air for Radios CD almost by mistake. And yes, I still am.
Q: One of the more highly-debated topics among Kevin's fans is the musical disparity of the early Dream Theater lineup with Kevin and the current lineup, which at times has been criticized for choosing flashy playing over crafting the best songs possible. As a progressive metal guitarist, what is your take on the Dream Theater debate?
AL: I am not really familiar with the debate and find it's best to stay out of other people's affairs, or waste my time online arguing with them. Seriously though, I really prefer well-written songs and good composing to listening to yet another instrumental masturbation.
Q: In general, what is your opinion of today's progressive metal scene? Is the genre still as strong as ever or has it lost some of its luster?
AL: I think the genre is very strong because there are a lot of new bands playing this kind of music today, but for me it has lost its luster. Same reasons as in the previous answer really.
Q: As a U.S. resident, I really don't have a sense of how common English is in Europe and other parts of the world. But I've noticed that many overseas prog metal bands use English vocalists. Is that a tough compromise or is it essential for success in the genre?
AL: The decision is more a result of a personal taste. We see English as one of the most musical languages, not to mention it is the most common language in the world. We have a vision of reaching as many hearts with our music as possible, so English works very well.
Q: How has the response been from record labels so far toward Colorblind? Is it difficult to get them to pay attention to a new band or have you gotten good feedback?
AL: We've just started sending the album to labels recently, so no feedbacks yet. However, we are perfectly aware of the economic situation in the music industry nowadays, and that's exactly the reason we are offering them a complete, finalized product. ColorBlind is a full-length album produced, mixed and mastered in professional studios in Israel. It also features a full cover and booklet graphics by an award-winning designer. All the work is already done.
We hope to find a suitable distribution deal in the near future.
Q: Tell me about the band's live shows. Where have you played recently and how have crowds been receiving the material so far? Any shows coming up?
AL: We're playing everywhere we can in Israel to promote the album. There seems to be a constantly growing amount of fans and followers who attend our live performances, which we try to keep fresh and interesting, also by incorporating various visual elements in addition to the "Stormy Atmosphere" raging on stage. The reactions are very warm and flattering and we're very grateful for that.
Q: Where do you see the band 10 years from now?
AL: With at least three more albums, hundreds of live shows and some international tours behind. Innovative writing and modern sound production are my personal goals.
Q: What's in your CD player right now?
AL: Gojira - From Mars to Sirius; Enter Shikari - Common Dreads; In Flames - A Sense of Purpose; Pain of Salvation - Ending Themes; End is Nothing - Server; OSI - Blood; Deftones - Saturday Night Wrist.
Q: What websites can people visit for more info on the band?
AL: www.cdbaby.com/cd/StormyAtmosphere and https://www.facebook.com/stormyatmosphere.