LONEWOLF – THE KEEPERS OF THE FRENCH UNDERGROUND

A quarter of a century into a career they never thought would actually last, French metal maniacs Lonewolf have recently released their newest album, The Heathen Dawn on Massacre Records. It’s their ninth effort over a twenty year period and Dave Tedder had the chance to sit down with the band’s frontman – and sole surviving member from their March into the Arena debut – Jens Borner and discuss everything from native bands to the band’s ever changing lineup over the years.  He also opens up on the continuous comparisons the band has had throughout the years to a certain batch of pillage and plunder influenced metal stalwarts.  What are his thoughts on that particular band?  Well, read on and find out …

Borner is somewhat surprised, albeit thrilled that he has been able to keep a band that was formed in high school “playing for fun and to party during our rehearsals. Today the band has been going over half my life and it’s just incredible.  It’s an everyday part of my life and, as with everyday life you have ups and downs, problems and joy and fantastic moments and tough times – just like everything else in life.”

“I’m thankful that it’s given me the chance to visit countries I would never have been able to otherwise and meet foreigners that I would have never met if not for Lonewolf.  I feel very, very lucky with what has become of this “school band.”

France isn’t exactly the metal metropolis of say, Germany, the UK or the US, having only churned out a handful of recognizable names over the course of the past thirty or so years, including Trust and Warning, both of whom Borner has never really been a fan of, as well as two bands he has quite the affinity towards – Sortilege and H-Bomb.  “Both H-Bomb and Sortilege had a heaviness to them that I love.  We haven’t had very many successful bands but another one that I really like is Nightmare.  They really opened the doors for French heavy metal bands and when they reformed in 2000 they helped put a bit more focus on France when it came to bands like ours.”

Having had twelve band members over their career, one would think that Jens might be a bit difficult to deal with but as he explains, it’s just a part of life’s tapestry, “As you know, you can’t really survive very well playing music so daily life has contributed to band members leaving at times.  We’ve had band members leave because of problematic girlfriends, others had children and wanted to focus on family life. We even had two former members who met foreign girls and chose to move away [to Germany and Canada].”

“Being in a band takes a lot of time and you have to make a lot of sacrifices,” he continues, “and sometimes your job has to take priority and it gets complicated so others left for that reason.  And last but not least, Lonewolf is a true metal band and we’ve had members who wanted to stretch a bit, maybe play other styles of music and with Lonewolf they just couldn’t do that so maybe they felt ‘imprisoned’ musically.”

The band self-produced The Heathen Dawn.  How many of your past albums have you produced yourselves? “Our former manager, Bart Gabriel, produced three of our earlier albums and we learned a lot from watching him work in the studio.  When we parted ways with him we decided to produce ourselves, like we did in the early days of the band.  Even though it’s always good to have extra ears when recording we felt that we were experienced enough to handle it so we just said, ‘let’s do it’ and with both Cult of Steel and The Heathen Dawn we got great results.”

“I’m thinking we’ll continue this way because even when we do things ourselves we have our engineer, Charles Greywolf, who mixes and masters our albums, gives us valuable advice and helps bring the best out of us.”

In 1996 Lonewolf split for four years due to a questionable contract the band had signed.  Borner looks back on that uneventful time period, “We had done a deal with people who turned out to be rip off artists and it literally killed our creativity.  You could hear it when you listen to the songs – there was no power or passion anywhere on the album and we couldn’t see ourselves releasing it, even to shop around as a demo because it would have been a huge step back after “Holy Evil” (the band’s independently released single from 1995).  We were just pissed off as a band and decided to take a four year break.”

The band has had constant comparisons to German “pirate metallers” Running Wild and to a lesser extent Helloween since their formation back in the early 90’s.  One would think that Jens would be a bit fed up after awhile but, as it turns out, this is hardly the case, “They’re my favorite band ever! No, really, they are. I think we’re a bit less influenced by them now than we were when we started out but I can see where people would make the comparison. When we started out – and even in 2000 when the band reformed – the comparison to Running Wild actually helped us a little because there weren’t a whole lot of bands playing this style of music so by people coming us to Running Wild more of their fans found us and it spread from there. German steel is in my blood and comparisons are part of the game.  I couldn’t deny it anyway!  Haha”

Lyrically the band is drawn to “everyday life experiences.  Things that make me sick and tired actually find a way into my lyrics these days. Things like fighting for your freedoms and trusting in yourself also find a way to be included.  In the beginning it was sorcery, legends, stuff like that.  And, of course, we always find a way to include some less serious subjects such as heavy metal being in my veins.  Our love of true heavy metal.  That sort of thing.  Afterall, you can’t be serious all the time.”

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