Infernal greetings from the Pit. Recently I was fortunate to have a chat via e-mail with Nikita Merzlyakov, keyboardist, sound producer, & manager of prog/power metal band Hammerforce. THE METAL PIT: Who would you describe as your biggest musical influences? How would you describe yourselves to those of us who haven't heard of you yet? NIKITA: I know many people are already bored of all those “new” power metal bands that play exactly the same music as some famous bands played 15 years ago. Well, Hammerforce is nearly the same thing, but... we mix power/prog with Electro/Trance synths (very few bands do that), we are from Russia & I believe we have music of high enough quality to spend some time on listening. So if you like Power Metal but want something different a bit, Hammerforce is here for you. Our main influences are probably Helloween, Gamma Ray, Masterplan, In Flames, Dimmu Borgir & numerous other bands. Every member has also his own personal influences of course. As keyboardist I would like to mention Kovenant (Animatronic album), 2 Times Terror, Raintime, Labyrinth (No Limits album), Athena (A New Religion album), as well as some 90s Eurodance acts like Masterboy, DJ BoBo, Maxx, E-Rotic etc. THE METAL PIT: What's the creative process like for you when you write or start to put together an album? What's a day in the life of Hammerforce like? NIKITA: For now we are more studio project than live band. So our creative process is mostly sitting behind a computer, recording some stuff & sending it back and forth over Internet. There is no established route & we always try slightly different approaches. For the Access Denied album working on a song was started by Ilya Kapralov (guitars, bass) who composed guitar riffs to form song structure. Together with Alexander Zhuchihin (drums) they tried different drum patterns for each riff & chose better sounding ones. After that Dmitriy Yanovskiy & I composed vocal melodies. Work on synthesizers was the last touch as I wanted them to fit organically. Finally I mixed and mastered all tracks at my private studio. I am very excited about that. And there are people who just don’t believe that we’ve done it literally at home. But that’s true, one can make good sounding recording at home nowadays. Well, you still need some equipment, software and lots of practise. THE METAL PIT: We know you've recently released Access Denied. What other projects do you have lined up for the future? NIKITA: The nearest project is Access Denied with Russian lyrics. We are recording it now. Then we plan to release few new singles, probably one or two in the end of this year. And I hope there will be new album in 2014. THE METAL PIT: Any plans to tour in the near future? Or to tour outside of Europe in the future? NIKITA: For now we decided to focus on composing & recording new songs. We believe that it would be better for us & for our fans also, as we can’t afford good tour now. We are from Russia &it is not so simple to go to Europe, all members need passports, visas, insurance, &other things. It is not just go wherever you want as for more lucky bands from European Union. So no touring until we have enough fans to get good tour manager interested. THE METAL PIT: Assuming all this was not an obstacle, what bands do you want to tour with? NIKITA: Well, I don’t know. Sometimes your idols are not so great in real life, so it is probably better to leave them being idols. Okay, it would be great to tour with any famous power or progressive metal band. It would be memorable experience for sure. Actually there were already some offers to support wellknown metal acts in our local city. But it is Russia and you have to pay good money to play with stars here – it’s Russian music business. So we decided to spend our money on equipment and other needed things for the band. THE METAL PIT: So how would you describe the Russian metal scene these days? A lot of us still harbour images of a conservative environment. Would you say things have come a long way from the Soviet-era days where a lot of Western metal albums weren't really sold much in the USSR, to the infamous Monsters of Rock event in '91, to now? Or do you feel there's still a long way to go? NIKITA: Actually things in Russia are not so bad now. We have any music available for free from numerous sites (not legal of course), so you can listen whatever you like & get it free, as nobody cares about copyright including government. We have huge amount of Russian bands of all genres. Most of them are very low quality though. There are many venues for live gigs as well, but bands very rarely get paid for their performance. There is still long way to go, but it is definitely better than in Soviet Union. I was young & can’t remember much to be honest. Music business elite stays the same as in Soviet times & they control everything that pays. For most musicians it is a hard thing because there is almost no way to earn any money from their own music. That was one of the reasons why we decided to give up live playing at local stages & started spreading a word over Internet all over the world. We get some results this way and that’s great! THE METAL PIT: If you could attend any gig in metal history, what would it be? NIKITA: Well, I don’t like live Metal shows to be honest, because they are too loud & soundis always much worse than studio recordings. I fully agree that live show has unique atmosphere of unity of band and fans, but I am sound engineer with sensitive ears used to crystal sound of studio monitors, you know. But if I have to choose let it be my first live gig. It would be very interesting to see all that crap from the outside. You expected something different, right? THE METAL PIT: Any final words? NIKITA: Thanks for your questions! All the best to you and all readers! And don’t miss our upcoming new songs!