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"A paradise I seek shall be found. The only one I'll know. I challenge failure to cut me down, 'cause it's Onward I shall go. My power strength shall never die, as long as I stay alive. One word shall always be by my side. Ever moving Onward!" - Onward "Evermoving"

Perseverance is not only the theme of Onward's debut 'Evermoving', but a key ingredient in the band's formula for success. Vocalist Michael Grant and guitarist Toby Knapp had been slogging away in the underground when they got together and Onward was born. The four album deal with Century Media that followed was proof positive that perseverance pays off. With a new album on the way and a handful of live appearances under their bullet belts, the band hope to take the metal world by storm. The Metal Update had a chat with Michael Grant about Onward's progression thus far and their optimistic plans for the future.

METAL UPDATE: Seeing that Onward is fairly new to the metal world, could you give me some history on the band?

MICHAEL GRANT: There's actually a lot of history. More so with me and the guitarist Toby Knapp. Before I was in Onward, I was in a band called Legend Maker, which is a band that was released through Sentinel Steel Records. They were out of Columbia, South America. They just basically used me to sing English vocals in place of Spanish vocals. That was sort of a Helloween power metal type thing which was a lot of fun, but it wasn't a real band. It was just a project. Before that I was temporarily a singer in New Eden and in a variety of local bands here in L.A. Toby was a solo artist for a long time. He basically put out three different solo albums. One was called 'Guitar Distortion'. That was on Shrapnel Records. Then he had two other albums. One for Defiled Records called 'Darken', which was a black metal record and he also had one for Wild Rags called Toby Knapp 'Infinite Opposition' and that was just another instrumental. But Onward was our real first band. We discovered each other through these other projects and we finally hooked up. We're just happier than ever now. Now we are a real full band and are really doing something meaningful.


MU: So then you recruited the other two members, right?

MG: Yeah, the other two guys are from Billings. We got the drummer, John Pereau, and we got a bass player named Randy LaFrance. He recorded 'Evermoving' and he did a couple of dates with us. He is no longer in the band. We got another guy from Billings who is now living in Vegas with the band. His name is Chris Payette.

MU: How did the deal with Century Media Records come about?

MG: It just sort of showed up on our doorstep to be honest with you. We were originally going to release 'Evermoving' on Sentinel Steel Records because I have a connection with Dennis. He shopped it out to some labels. There was a couple of labels that actually got interested. Metal Blade was fooling around with it for a while and finally they backed out and then Century Media just came in. It was the European office. They just called and said, "Look, we're really interested in this album and we'd like to sign you for a four album deal." There you go. It was really great.

MU: How has the response been to 'Evermoving'?

MG: A lot better than we anticipated actually. Part of the credit goes to Century Media because they really did push us. We came together at such a late stage that we really had no following. Some people knew who we were from our past bands, but as the band Onward, we really didn't have a following. So they really did step up to the plate and really push us as a good debut power metal band with an American old fashioned sound. It seemed to click with a lot of people because we've been doing better than we expected. The press response has been great. We get calls for interviews. We really cannot complain and we're really happy with everything.


MU: It seems like it would be a European following more so than the US, though, right?

MG: Well, yes. Europeans love this kind of metal, but we've kind of clicked in the US a bit. Again, better than we expected. I guess people heard the album and they're like, "This is something familiar that I can listen to these days." It's kind of with an older crowd. People that listened to the old 80's metal just picked it up and said, "You know what? I really like this. I think I can really listen to this because it's not this new stuff that I keep hearing on the radio. This is something I can relate to a little bit better."

MU: What are some of the lyrical concepts of your songs?

MG: Well, on 'Evermoving' - I titled that record because the basic theme of the album is constant motion, constant activity. If you keep moving onward, if you never stop going after your goals, if you just do something. . . you're not idle. You're always going to be doing something and it's always going to make things better. It's not a concept album, but it does have thematic elements that sort of touch one another from song to song. So, that was fun to write.

MU: Where do you get your lyrical inspiration?

MG: From a variety of sources. I love the movies which is another reason why I live out here in L.A. It's a movie town. It really gives you inspiration to dream outside the box. You don't have to stick to the newspaper. You can basically write about whatever you want. I love fantasy aspects. You can find that in the "The Waterfall Enchantress". Again, I love the perseverance and the persistence of constantly doing something. I was drawing aspects from books and putting my own twist on things. "Witches Winter Eternal" is like that. Just basically finding things that I can really relate to that other might find interesting.

MU: What vocalists influenced your style of singing?

MG: I'd say there's a couple of them. There's the classics like Bruce Dickinson, Geoff Tate, but I also like other types of things. I love Bobby Blitz from Overkill. He is just awesome. He just has so much aggression, attitude and stage presence. I love that aspect.

MU: Unique style as well.

MG: I also love Ray Alder from Fates Warning. No one has better tone than he does. He's just got such an amazing control and tone over his voice. It's awe-inspiring. I also like Warrel Dane from Nevermore / Sanctuary. A lot of character again. Things that have to do with a lot of theatrics and character and also a very good instrument. You need both worlds. You just can't have one or the other.

MU: For those that may be interested, you've already mentioned a couple of bands that you've sung for. Are there many others?

MG: Nothing worth noting. Just little L.A. local acts. No one knew who they were. That's the stuff to grow up as a singer. You find your voice and you find what you like singing and there's trial and error. That's what I used those bands for. Finally, I found Onward, and I'm home.

MU: One of the things that drew me into your sound was that I found that it had a 'Thundersteel' era Riot influence in the sound. Are you familiar with that album?

MG: I know some Riot. I know 'Born in America'. There are some cool songs off of that album. Actually, it's funny you bring that up. I'm doing a little bit of a side project with the guitarist from Destiny's End and that's going to be put out on Sentinel Steel. That's called Crescent Shield. We're going to be doing a Riot cover for that album. We're doing "Wings of Fire" so it's cool that you bring that up.

MU: What are some Onward's musical influences?

MG: Well Toby, the guitarist, loves Loudness. He loves some guitar greats like Yngwie Malmsteen, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman. But he also loves classic metal. He loves Accept. Just real fist pumping metal. Old Def Leppard. Stuff that just makes you rock out and also has a little bit of musical inspiration so you sort of get the best of both worlds. And I love those bands as well. I'm just a metalhead through and through.


MU: How would you describe your music to someone that has never heard Onward before?

MG: I would basically say that we are traditional heavy metal. . . instead of veering into all these weird categories. I'd say it's traditional heavy metal that puts your fist in the air, that makes you sing along and gives you a little bit of a musical challenge. Not just pure three chords. There is a little bit of innovation in it, but at the same time it's not going to alienate the listener. It's fun metal that everyone can get into - concert going metal.

MU: One might think it might be kind of flashy because of Toby's past but it's really not. It's tastefully done guitar-wise. So that's a good thing.

MG: Exactly.

MU: Is 'Evermoving' the debut Onward album then?

MG: Yes.

MU: How soon will we see a new album?

MG: Well, as we speak, I think Toby is laying down the rhythm tracks for our new album in Vegas. We're right in the middle of recording our new album and I'm flying out there tomorrow to lay down the vocals. And then we do solos and mixing so you sort of caught us in the middle. I think Century Media is planning for either a November or January release. It depends how the marketing thing falls, but they're really trying to get us out there with a second album hot on the heels of 'Evermoving'.

MU: Is there a title for the album yet?

MG: The name of the album is called 'Reawaken'.

MU: What's that stuff sounding like? Is it much different or is it pretty much heading along the same path?

MG: It's gonna be the familiar Onward sound that you're used to, but this album is more dynamic. It's heavier. It's a little bit longer (more songs). It's more challenging. It's more a meatier steak. Instead of going and getting a diner steak, you're getting a big, thick, juicy steak. We really want to present something here. We want to show the best that we can. We're really happy with ourselves so far and I think if we do this right. This might be a special album for us. . . and hopefully for the fans.

MU: Aside from music, what are some of the other interests of Onward?

MG: Well, like I said before, I love the movies. My day job is in the movie industry. The other guys, they live out in Vegas. They basically stick with music. Toby teaches guitar. When I go out to Vegas - I admit it - I hit the Craps tables every now and then. But we also love travel. We don't want to stay in one place. We want to be moving around. We hope that Onward will give us that chance to really see the world and play metal for them. Feed the need to see what's out there.

MU: Speaking of touring. Has Onward seen much experience in the live setting?

MG: Once again, in our past bands yes. As Onward we've probably only played about six to eight gigs now.

MU: Festivals here and there?

MG: Yeah, we never got a tour for 'Evermoving'. We tried to with Lizzy Borden and Yngwie and all those other bands, but they all flaked out. So, we've done some festivals. We've been to Chicago and Billings, Montana, L.A. and Vegas. We've been all over the place - not really in a tour sense. We've just been doing spot gigs, which is fine. It really helps us to put together a great live show. Every show gets better and it gets more refined. Every show becomes more of a concert than a gig. That's what we really want to achieve. We've already heard rumors that for the next album they really want to send us over to Europe.

MU: That would be a smart choice.

MG: So, we really have to make sure that we are ready for that and I think that our live sets have helped us with that.

MU: Where has the best response been so far?

MG: I'd probably say. . . Billings, of course, because that is the hometown where those guys are from. That was a really good gig. Also Chicago at the Power Prog fest. We did a cover of Loudness' "Clockwork Toy" which will be featured on the new album. Chicago was the reason why. They really gave us a big arms in the air and a good screaming. No one knew who we were. We're still in diapers here. They really gave us our props and that really thrilled us. That was very exciting.

MU: So you don't currently have any tour plans set in stone right now?

MG: Not really. We're concentrating on the recording right now to get this new album out. We will be playing the Ultrasound 2001 festival here in Burbank. That's one gig we're doing. We're also going to do another gig in Vegas with some local power metal bands like Steel Prophet and maybe Prototype, but that's about it. I think we're really setting our sites on Europe for 2002 and that's what we're really gearing up for.

MU: So that's where you'd most like to tour? In Europe?

MG: We'd love to tour in the United States, too, but you know how it goes. Tough game.

MU: It's a real tough game around here.

MG: If Iced Earth or Jag Panzer could get a US leg, we'll hop on it any way we can. We want to bring our metal to the people, 'cause Onward is not just about listening to the CD. It's getting the CD, learning the music and going to the show and really becoming a part of the band.


review of Onward 'Evermoving'





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