Last month my good friend Dustin at Frontiers Records mentioned that Veronica Freeman, aka V from BENEDICTUM and producer/collaborator Jeff Pilson would be doing some joint interviews that weekend. He wanted to know if I wanted to sit down with them. Now, bear in mind I had JUST heard the band’s latest album Obey maybe a few days prior. But I was so impressed with not only V’s voice, but the overall sound, production, and dynamic of the band that you better believe I was gonna pick the brains of two of the people largely responsible for why BENEDICTUM is so good. The two of them were at Mr. Pilson’s house and we had a nice chat about everything they’ve been up to both together and separately. I swear these two are so busy it’ll make your head spin. See for yourself:
Amps: How is the vibe in the band now with the two new additions (Aric Avina on bass, Rikard Stjernquist on drums)?
V: It’s great. To be honest, we’ve always had good vibes in the band. Most of the stuff with BENEDICTUM’S line-up changes had to do more with geography than anything else, and it was very difficult to keep that passion alive when you’re not touring a lot and it’s not going on like you’d love it to, and you have to make arrangements to make a whole weekend out of it when you rehearse. And by the time that happens it’s hard to keep passion and feel like you’re getting involved. So when it happened that Pete (Wells, guitar) and I were living in the same area it was time to go ahead and see if we could make something happen to make things easier to sustain. And Rikard happened to be in the area and was interested. Mind you we were about to get into the studio with no bass player, so we had some auditions, and Aric really stepped up, and within a few days he learned everything very, very well and was able to throw it down in the recording sessions.
Amps: It’s a very crisp recording. One thing I always look at in any band I listen to is the rhythm section, and those guys are rock solid, locked in the pocket, really good.
V: I’m really glad that you said that. I agree and there was a little different approach which I had never witnessed. When we were at the studio, John (Hererra, producer) had them do the rhythm tracks live, so Pete was doing the rhythm track and Aric was doing the bass tracks going in direct and he wanted to keep that energy, and if there were any mistakes we’d deal with it later, but he just really wanted to capture that vibe of them playing off of each other, and that’s what wound up happening.
Amps: Who does the writing in the group?
V: Pete Wells and myself, and of course, the other member of BENEDICTUM would be Mr. Jeff Pilson. He has such an influence on whatever the BENEDICTUM sound is and we always go back to him to help us if we’re feeling like, “ahhh! We need a little help here!” and it’s wonderful to be in his creative energy, which is a cool thing.
Jeff: You know, from the minute I heard V sing and Pete play guitar I was a fan. They’re both really, really exceptional talents and then when we started working together the chemistry was so undeniable and strong and positive and productive. I mean, we’d all walk away from sessions just feeling UP, you know? Which is how should feel after you do music. It shouldn’t feel stressful or horrible. Obviously there’s gonna be moments of that but you should walk away feeling energized, and from the minute we started working together I just felt that connection with these guys, and I think I always will. It’s just really, really strong.
Amps: You worked on “Evil That We Do”, “Retrograde”, “Fractured”, and “Obey”. Evil is my favorite on the album, so great job!
Jeff: Well, I don’t wanna take full credit for producing those. What I actually did was pre-production and help with some writing and arranging, but we’ve gotta give John the credit for the production of it all because he did such a great job.
Amps: What do you both like to do away from music in spare time? Any hobbies or interests we should know about?
Jeff: Well I definitely try to get my sleep (laughs)! I have a family that I love very much and I try and spend as much time as I can with them, but in particular this last year there’s been very, very little down time for hobbies. I wish I had more, to be honest with you, because I do get a little oversaturated sometimes. But I love music and I love to make music, so I guess that’s part of the price you pay.
V: I would say copy and paste Jeff’s answer! I would love to have time for hobbies, but when I’m not doing this I have a business that sells motorcycle accessories (Street Fighters Inc.) that pays the bills. If I had one it would definitely be motorsports. I went to the Formula One races in Austin, TX and that was awesome!
Amps: And you still have Wild Hair Accessories and you’re also doing Heavy Metal Television?
V: Absolutely! I’m on heavymetaltelevision.com, and I’m in heavy rotation there.
Amps: Do you know there are only 24 hours in a day? How do you find time for all this?
V: I do NOT know that and that realization has not quite sunken in all the way. That’s DEFINITELY part of the problem (both of us laughing)!!
Jeff: Oh yeah, we start at the end of January with FOREIGNER. I just did a song for a DIO tribute record that’s coming out. It’s got METALLICA on it, and I play on “Man On the Silver Mountain”. It’s Vinny Appice, Doug Aldrich, myself, and Rob Halford singing. Then I produced one track which is Oni Logan singing and Rowan Robertson on guitar, Brian Tichy on drums and Jimmy Bain on bass. We did the song “I” and that came out great. It was a lot of fun, this DIO tribute record is gonna be amazing! ANTHRAX is on it, ADRENALINE MOB, some really cool bands, and it’s a fabulous record.
Amps: Now there are two duets on the album, one with Tony Martin (ex-BLACK SABBATH, “Cry”) and one with Nina Osegueda (A SOUND OF THUNDER, “Thornz”). Have you and V ever thought about doing one? We all know you can sing!
Jeff: Well, we did do a two-part harmony for the last record (Dominion) on a song called “Sanctuary”. It’s not in duet-land but it’s definitely in harmonizing-land, and we love to sing together. A voice like V’s comes along maybe once every 20-30 years. And a guitar player like Pete, well…you’d have to go to a different planet to figure out where he comes from (V laughing hysterically in background)!
Amps: V, tell me about “Cry” and “Thornz”, and are there plans for more of these?
V: I wouldn’t mind. The history has been since the first album that we’ve had guest guitar players like Craig Goldy, George Lynch, and others who guest on songs throughout our little history. So this time I thought, “Well it might be kind of cool to have a guest vocalist.” And when it came down to it Pete had presented a song to me which was “Cry”, and he usually doesn’t send me stuff that already has vocals or anything. It’s usually just the riffs, but this song was different. And I didn’t even know who was singing, and it was HIM! So I said, “Pete, let’s do this one together” but he’s too shy for that. And I had already reached out to Tony as a fan thinking the worst he can say is no. So he asked me for some options and of the songs I sent him that’s the one he really liked, and he threw himself into it, and I’m really happy with it. It was a “Work with a hero” type of thing, you know? And it was a blast to work with Nina. She actually came out here to Arizona for that. And I had done a guest appearance on one of her EPs on a song called “Queen of Hell” and I thought we sounded really great together, so why not do something like that with the nature of “Thornz” being two women bashing the men that done ‘em wrong (laughs)!
V: Over the years I’ve pretty much taken it for granted, but I do have a regimen now. So now for me hydration is a big thing, and I have to warm up more. I used to do shows and just bounce back, but now I have to take care of it and dial it back, which is hard when the adrenaline gets going in the heat of the moment, and that’s the realization that I had to come to.
Amps: Speaking of performing live, what are the tour plans? Anything finalized yet?
V: I am working on it feverishly as we speak, talking with people, trying to get things set up. I believe we’re gonna be doing something in Mexico and Europe and if we have to do a Kickstarter campaign here for the U.S., so be it. There are so many places we haven’t been in our own country here, and we wanna get out there and make that happen, so you better show up!
Amps: Oh believe me, I will. I actually feel bad only getting into the band now!
V: (Laughing) you should!
So there you have it: My Saturday afternoon with V and Jeff Pilson. As you can probably tell, laughter was in abundance during this interview. But I can totally get why Jeff loves working with V because they complement each other so well. Here’s hoping this partnership goes on for many, many years and albums. And if you’ve been in the dark like I was, you simply HAVE to check out BENEDICTUM’S new record Obey. And when you’re done with that, there are three more waiting for you, so get crackin’!