Scarlet Aura in the press
Full interview for Legacy magazine
1. For your reviewer in Legacy #105 „Falling Sky” literally fell from the sky. Also metalarchives doesn’t reveal any details about demos you’ve released or earlier bands of the members. So what happened in 2014 when you formed SCARLET AURA: Did Steelborn just change the name and switch to English lyrics? Please tell us a bit about this first band of Mihai and Aura.
Mihai: I was playing in Steelborn for some years when we were in search of a new vocalist and then Aura made her appearance. We started playing together around 2009. We instantly became best friends and after a while and some crazy experiences we decided to quit our jobs and dedicate our lives to rock music. With Steelborn we played alternative rock but we wanted something more close to what we`re doing now, to heavy metal, so we left the band because our colleagues were not interested, and made our project together, under the first name “Aura”. Our songs were as you said, in Romanian, because we never thought we`ll reach today`s level, we only dreamed of it. We released our first album in 2014th, named “The Rock Chick” and signed with Universal, an album that was as style between alternative, pop rock and melodic/heavy metal. We were just discovering our own identity, nevertheless it is an amazing album that got us to win an international contest, by accident, for a festival from which our doors started to open. I say accidentally because we didn’t know until it was too late that we are gonna participate in a contest. After winning “Kavarna Rock Fest” and playing alongside Sabaton, Helloween, Nazareth, Europe and a lot of other amazing bands, a management agency from the UK signed us and proposed to us to find another band name that will still have “Aura” in it and our symbolic wings. So we got together, came up with several names and the management picked “Scarlet Aura”. Actually, our first show as “Scarlet Aura” was the show we had with Accept in Sofia, in December 2015th.
Aura: Scarlet Aura was the name I put up on the list. We have such an amazing energy on the stage and every concert of ours becomes an explosive show so I thought of the Aura around us and of course, of its color – Scarlet that describes our energy, our Aura as being full of passion, ambition, wilderness. Then the character “Scarlet” was born through our trilogy “The Book Of Scarlet” from which we have already released the first volume – Ignition, alongside Hot`n`Heavy album.
Mihai: so to get back to your question, Falling Sky was indeed our first album in English, made to start playing more abroad. So… maybe we don`t exist on metal archives before this, but we definitely exist in the hearts of our Romanian fans that loved us since Steelborn, the pick of it being the show as support for Bon Jovi in 2011 in Bucharest, for over 55000 people.
2. Are all of you autodidacts that never had lessons for their instruments or your voice? What was the awakening experience, the enlightenment that got you into Hardrock and Metal? Do you have any national idols? Maybe Magica from Constanta? Their debut “The Scroll Of Stone” in 2002 must have been something new in Romania, right?
Aura: we all have musical studies and lessons until our 20ies, but we`re autodidacts for a while as for what we do, for what we play, you can`t be otherwise than autodidact. Heavy metal is something that you have to be passionate about and let that passion go wild through your voice, your playing. I played on stages since I was a kid but the metal moment happened later. I didn`t know that I will be a metalhead but I was in search of myself, in search of a higher purpose and as I was looking and experiencing, finding metal music led me to a path in which I found myself, so strong, so committed that I will never be lost again. I had wings before but metal music taught me to fly :-) Unfortunately, I don`t have national idols but I respect a lot of Romanian bands including Magica band, me and Ana have an amazing relationship.
Rene: I`m from Sibiu, a very cosmopolitan and beautiful town, a city where the art is a priority. For me, it was like part of my life to play an instrument and luckily this didn’t change as in Sibiu you find a lot of instrument players. I grew up with some Romanian rock band`s music but I don`t have national idols, my favorite band is Slayer.
Mihai: I was born awakened :))) I am a metalhead since the beginning of my life. Romania is an ex-communist country so after the revolution in `89, whenever I could find a cassette, I asked my parents to buy it for me or later I bought everything I could. I still have them and I`m happy to tour with most of the bands that were my idols and that I have on the cassettes, like Rhapsody for example. Later I started playing guitar and insisted until now. Idols? Well you know there is Iron Maiden :-)
Sorin: My mother said I must have been a drummer since I was in her belly cause I never stopped kicking! Lessons? Yeah! Autodidact? Definitely! Such an important thing to use what someone teaches you to become an identity. Idols? Scarlet Aura!
3. Are Aura and Mihai siblings or a couple? Is Aura an artist name and the figure Scarlet Aura the heroine of all band lyrics?
Mihai: we are married since 2012 but we were, and then got to be, so much more than that. We are best friends, we are partners, sometimes like brothers alongside Rene and Sorin, we are kids but most important, we are two people that share the same love for music, responsibility for our fans and future generation, for the stage experience. We are 2 people that are blessed to be together and have this amazing baby that is “Scarlet Aura”.
Aura: Aura is my name :-) but it also has meanings as “energy field”. Scarlet is a “he” and yes, he is a superhero of which you can read about in “The Book of Scarlet”, the fantasy trilogy. The book and also lyrics are written by me. So… he is us, he is me, I am him and he is everyone as long as we adopt the message, the mission, to bring balance back to the word through music.
4. What is the story behind “The Rock Chick” release from 2014: A solo album? Guess the title is tongue in cheek and ironic (“I’m a bad ass rock chick”). The sound is more Pop Rock, radio friendly – instrumentation, production and also the vocals are less rough. Is this a facet you will continue to expose, also singing in your own language? Are already all later SCARLET AURA band members involved? Did you play gigs for this material? The material is soon sol out on your homepage – how many copies do exist?
Aura: as we said before, it was not a solo album, “Aura” was the name of the band, not only my name. But we named it “The Rock Chick” because we wanted to make a point in Romania, and we did! The Scarlet Aura members were not back then involved, until Sorin and Rene joined, we had some adventures with wannabe rock stars. Luckily, everything turned out really well as we are now more than band members, we`re brothers and sister.
Mihai: We were experiencing as it was a new beginning but I was also working alongside Universal that required a more radio friendly sound, a technique that is so popular here in Romania! To get to have your song on the radio, the label is forcing you to have a pop sound, a commercial one. I had to do it because those were the times but I never did it again. What is this, radio friendly? Ok, I agree on making second version for a ballad for example but… cutting out the riffs? The heavy sound? thank you but I won`t do it again and as you can see on our work… I never did!
Aura: we had gigs as “Aura” since the beginning of 2014 until the end of 2015 when we changed the name to Scarlet Aura. We had great success in the neighboring countries as “Aura” with our Romanian lyrics, that was amazing. Then we said if we have this success with our Romanian songs, let’s see what happens with English ones. And then… it exploded, when Falling Sky happened.
Mihai: there are plenty of The Rock Chick copies, we just had a new stock coming, all you have to do is order! I don’t remember how many copies were printed, probably a couple of thousands.
5. Did you rework some of the songs into SCARLET ANGER versions, did you translate the lyrics and metalize the arrangements?
Mihai: I`ll answer to this question because I am the main songwriter and producer of the band. We re-recorded our first single “Tomboy” from 2014th, soon we`ll be re-recording the album “The Rock Chick” for which we`ll keep the lyrics as they are. We never translated lyrics from a song to another with the exception for “Riding like the wind”/ “Ingeri pe motoare”, a song dedicated to bikers, an anthem, from this first album.
6. Of course our reviewer compared your debut to experienced and successful genre bands with symphonic Metal and a female vocalist, but he underlined your sense for modern and hard riffing in the vein of Revamp. Is that band and Floor Jansen especially a huge influence?
Aura: thank you for the comparison, it`s a huge compliment! No, I never knew about Floor until Nightwish and then followed them from time to time, so no influence. My vocals came naturally like this, based always on the energy of the song written by Mihai. What happened to me vocally from the first album to the present one, was an amazing evolution mirrored by my own musical experiences and feelings. My voice is my feelings reader.
Mihai: We are young and live modern times, although I have in my DNA the classic rock, hard rock and heavy metal music. So some styles might seem similar because we can`t reinvent music, all we can do is be honest with ourselves and write a music that describes us the best and this is what I do! Every album we had, describes, in the end, who we were back then or now… and I love it, we`re writing our own diary with our music, we are writing history!
7. Producing with a legend like Roy Z must have been like a dream coming true. What is your favorite among his different works? Especially the Dickinson and Halford stuff, or also his band Tribe Of Gypsies? Did he have a guest guitar or vocal appearance on your debut?
Mihai: Roy Z is such an amazing artist and producer and I needed the best guide in producing as I`m a producer myself, so it was interesting to follow his work on our music. I wanted to work with him and the result was great. Beyond the “dream come true” part, it is also business and the wanting of giving to our fans the best product for them to enjoy. No, he was not a guest on the album but who knows, maybe in the future.
8. You’ve had ‘Silent Tears’ as a radio edit – did that help you a lot to get airplay in Romania? Or even somewhere abroad? There has been no physical single for this tune, right? The radio edit for the ballad was on Falling Sky album and not as single.
Mihai: The thing is not to help us, we changed our view after the first album, and we made this radio edit ballad to bring people that listen to national radio more close to rock music. Did it happen? We think so!
9. In 2016 you toured with Tarja which must have been an amazing experience – though your voices differ so much – there is nothing operatic to Auras tone. In early 2018 you had the chance to tour with Rhapsody and Beast in Black. Please tell some anecdotes from the road. What could you learn from such high profile musicians? Has it been pure fun or also quite exhausting and maybe in some ways disenchanting?
Aura: we were excited, first of all because we were having our first international tour so, you never forget the first and we`re happy it was with Tarja because we had really nice time. We were so concentrated on what we had to do that fun was not always a priority, we really wanted to be taken serious and we made it! With Rhapsody was different, we had more fun but also because it was a 24 shows tour and because we traveled together in the nightliner, but also because of us being already experienced in touring.
Mihai: Aura can play so many vocal techniques that gives me the chance to play so much when writing and producing songs. She is not similar to Tarja, but maybe this was one of the reasons for which Tarja`s manager picked us to join them as support. What we learned from the already huge rock stars we toured with? To be natural! No one is greater than another, we are all equals as we step on the same stage, doesn’t matter who is first or last. We all serve the same purpose.
Sorin: the most known anecdote from the tour with Rhapsody I think you already know is Go Wild! This is what our tour manager used to say and we turned it into a song from our “Hot`n`Heavy” album. Guess, which one is it?
10. What are your 9 to 5 jobs – anything creative and artistic as well?
Aura: me and Mihai quit our jobs in 2013 and dedicated our lives entirely to our band. Before this, I worked at the Senate of Romania and Mihai was a bank director. Rene has some properties to take care of and Sorin has a merchandising company – www.serigrafie-bucuresti.ro, he is also taking care of our merchandise and of its best quality, so everything we do is an inside job.
11. I really love and collect Maxi CDs, though they are dying out. What was the idea behind the release of ‘The Beast Within Me’ in this format? Has it been a new song or a leftover from the debut sessions? Did you want to have a fresh product for the tour? Is Florin from Sin Ze Sase Tri who joined you on vocals a close friend of the band? How many copies have been pressed?
Sorin: We always want to do new things, new releases so we released The Beast Within Me as a single. Signed with Outlanders Productions, we had pressed 1000 copies.
Mihai: As a composition, The Beast Within Me makes is somehow a bridge between Falling Sky and Hot`n`Heavy. Aura is still playing clean, melodic but Florin`s voice brings a voice to which we lain more now, in the present work. This was my intention. We picked Florin not because we are friends, which we are, but because of his voice that he fitted exactly in my way of seeing the song.
12. The “B sides” are quite interesting. It is hard for anybody to compete with Ronnie James DIo, a master of emotions and technique in his singing. I know Doro's interpretation of ‘Egypt (The Chains Are On)`. What was the reason for choosing ‘Don’t Talk To Strangers’ – is it an important song of your youth? Did your parents listen to it when you were a kid?
Mihai: I chose the songs for Memories album, also released with Outlanders Productions, a record label that became our friend, always supporting us and letting us free in our artistic work. I love Ronnie James Dio, guys too, and I thought that Aura would make an amazing voice cover and I was right! She just makes the audience have goose bumps and a lot of fans said we would have made Dio proud with this remake. Not in the last place… the feeling these songs give you overall, is unique and memorable.
13. The other cover tune is the hit single Lita Ford had with Ozzy. Sometimes you even hear it on the Rock/Metal unfriendly German radio, so it became en evergreen. When it came out Romania was still behind the iron curtain – different political times. What does this song mean to you?
Aura: well… I always liked the song and knew the story behind it but it became more than a song to me after the autumn of 2015th… We had a huge tragedy here in Bucharest as during a metal show, a fire burst and 64 people died. Our friends, colleagues, photographers, musicians, fans… we knew almost all of them and they were part of our lives. So… after this, “If I close my eyes forever” gained a different sense for us and I cry every time I play it… Sorin was there, he is one of the survivors… He doesn`t speak about this so… it`s how it is…
14. I’ve just detected the “Memories” cover album and of course songs like ‘The Final Countdown’, ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ and ‘Breaking The Law’ don’t need any introduction. Interesting are the picks of ballads from Blind Guardian and Iron Maiden (‘Wasting Love’) – and ‘Zombie’ from The Cranberries. But what the hell is ‘My Ugly Boy’- I don’t know that song at all…
Aura: hahaha you should! Skunk Anansie is an amazing band!
Sorin: We wanted to honor the artists that had an impact over our lives, over our musical carrier and style and this is how Memories got shape.
Mihai: I loved producing an album that contains part of my favorite songs of all times and I’m proud of it, one of my intentions being the keeping of this heritage that rock music is and giving it to the new generations.
15. Was it important for you not to pick up typical “female fronted metal” stuff – with the exception of the Doro hit in the end (I have a flag with the “Triumph And Agony” cover hanging in my back, the album has been my first CD ever)?
Aura: We play whatever we like, doesn`t matter whether it is female or male vocals. As you can hear, I play both parts on “If I close my eyes forever” making from this song a one-person story, and I love it!
Mihai: we picked Doro`s song “All we are” because our fans say about Doro that she Is the queen of metal and about Aura that she is the princess. So we wanted to make them happy and also because Aura played on stage this song at the invite of Doro and we wanted to keep the vibe on an album.
16. I guess the “Scarlet Aura In Concert” CD/DVD presents a special gig, a home match for the band. It starts with one of quite a few cover songs and also includes lots of songs in your own language. What is the background of this gig?
Aura: This CD/DVD was recorded and filmed in Bucharest, at the end of our headlining European “Falling Sky” tour and it was really special for us as we officially released the “Falling Sky” album with it, in our country. We had great friends as special guests and we were received so well of our fans, we enjoyed every second.
17. Have the recording conditions of “Hot`n`Heavy” been similar to that of the debut album? Did you record in a real studio with an external producer and/or engineer? Guess too many young bands make the mistake to record with their own equipment without the expertise of a technical educated and experienced specialist
Aura: It`s impossible to record in the same conditions as the first album, it is 5 years between them. Nevertheless, I agree, a lot of bands do this because of the lack of budget maybe or because they just want to work on their product. In our case, we worked for the first album in a production studio with a Romanian producer – Manu Savu in collaboration with Mihai, then for the Falling Sky as you know already, we had Roy Z as a producer also in collaboration with Mihai, then we built our own professional music studio “Silver City Studio” and rehearsal studio where we recorded and Mihai entirely produced the single “The Beast Within Me”, the mixing and mastering of the CD/DVD “Scarlet Aura in Concert”, “Memories” album and “Hot`n`Heavy” album.
18. I am a bit confused: Did you have a late 2018 tour in North America with Angra (read it in your biography) - or in China (seen on the Outlanders homepage)? Did you have sort of bodyguards from the Chinese authorities that watched your steps on and off stage, especially the communication with the fans? Isn’t a song with the provoking message ‘Let’s Go Fuckin Wild’ censored over there? By the way this song reminds me of Elton Johns ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’ and other cool rockers from the 1970s.
Mihai: We were invited to join Angra for 31 shows in North America but we didn`t get the artist visa. We were really disappointed as the US institution for visas had everything about us and about this tour, we are artists, there was no reason for denial. Shortly after, we recovered and got the invitation to tour in China for 26 shows.
Aura: The “Let`s go fucking wild” song is not a provocative song, it`s more like a state of mind song, a love song in the end and the Chinese fans loved it! They played the chorus with us! We were free to play whatever we wanted in China and we weren’t bothered by any authority. Our shows went on normal schedule and we had amazing fans that loved us and can`t wait for us to go back.
19. The Hot`n`Heavy album title reminds me of compilations from the 1980s with similar names. Has your debut been a bit to introverted or intellectual? Also the new artwork looks quite different, without the modern ruins in the back like an archaic True Metal Fantasy vision.
Rene: Mihai baptized the album and alongside Aura, they draw the fantasy world around Scarlet and the messages we have in our songs. The cover is exactly like you said, this is what we wanted, 1980-ish air, because in the history of the events, around the story flows that kind of vibe.
Sorin: We just do things as we feel so if it`s introverted or intellectual you should tell us. What we know is that our music is honest and we do our best to make our fans happy and to keep the flag up as the successful female fronted heavy metal band from Eastern Europe.
20. The CD is accompanied by a book, called “The Book Of Scarlet - Ignition”, the start of a trilogy. The booklet of the digipack is without lyrics? Does that also mean that you have already quite detailed plans about the lyrical content of the next two albums? Do you also have sort of musical direction for yourself – like opening the band for new influences piece by piece? For example ‘Hate Is Evanescent…’ sounds way more evil and dramatic than other songs.
Aura: so… we have a trilogy: 3 albums release, each with one volume from the fantasy “The Book Of Scarlet”. First album “Hot`n`Heavy” and first volume “Ignition” from the Trilogy are already released and we`re happy to already work on the next ones. The album`s booklet has the lyric, of course but you can also find the lyrics in the story of the books. This was my way of connecting the album with my writings and building an entire fantasy world, with sparkling characters along it.
Mihai: when I write a song, I write it accordingly to what I feel in that moment. For example, it might be possible to have written “Hate is evanescent, violence is forever” after our US artist visa was denied. In the end, on our lyric video for this song you`ll see “Make love, not war!” the song is not full of anger, but it describes that instead of doing what we are so blessed to do and that is leaving peacefully on this beautiful planet, we keep digging ourselves in hate and violence.
21. What’s the idea of the prologue ‘This Future Becomes Our Past’? Is it an uplifting message that anything we might fear will be overcome and sooner or later just something we see in the rear-view mirror? ‘Light Be My Guide’ is a positive message - is there too much bleakness, aggression and violence in today’s Metal?
Mihai: the idea of the prologue is to live the moment! We are here now, let`s make the best of it!
Aura: if there is too much bleakness, aggression and violence in today`s metal maybe it is like this because of the world we live in, the conditions of living, our governments, the worldwide decisions. As artists, we express our own reality, no matter how it looks. But then we transform this reality into music and we are somehow writers of our time`s history. I`m sure that when times will get better, you`ll have more joyful metal songs :)))
22. Are songs like ‘Falling To Pieces’ and ‘Light be My Guide’ (cool Hammond part) written on the keyboard/piano and then arranged for the band? Or are the piano pieces pure studio additions? Is it also Mihai who plays this instrument? Live you’re using samples for all keyboard parts?
Mihai: we have one of the best keyboard player collaborator, he`s actually a part of the band in the studio recordings and his name is Razvan Puscasu. The nice part is that he is also keyboard player for our ex band – Steelborn so life has it`s mysterious ways. I do the songs as demos and then he comes and work on my ideas or comes with others and we decide together, but always on a written song. Yes, live we are always just the four of us, although in the future maybe we`ll have Razvan also as a guest in main event, we`ll see, until then, we use samples, like every modern band.
23. Bucharest keeps growing, in few years you might have more than 2 million inhabitants. I read several articles about the cultural importance of the city and the positive development of the past 30 years. Is it a ‘Silver City’? Do you enjoy living there or do you often miss the quietness of the countryside?
Rene: I am from Sibiu, the guys always laugh at me because i`m slower than them :))) I always say: what`s the rush? My life in Sibiu has been amazing so far but when I go to Aura and Mihai, in Bucharest, we get full power excitement.
Sorin: I was born here, I am always active so, unfortunately Bucharest is too much in my blood and when I go to countryside I can`t stay more than I day, I need my action back!
Mihai: Me and Aura live in a house at the exit or entrance of Bucharest, depending on your destination, and we love it, we have a still neighborhood, a beautiful park in which we jog every morning, we have our cats, our silence. We are happy with it, though every vacation is welcomed and we`d love to live near the sea one day.
24. ‘You Bite Me, I Bite You Back’ has some dark riffing and aggressive vocals. But is it in the end a love song – maybe in vampire setting, maybe just about exchanging love bites? Just had to think about Accepts ‘Screaming For A Love Bite’ and Judas Priests ‘Love Bites’.
Aura: actually that song is about revenge, more like “eye for an eye”. It can be understood as a love story but also as a broken relationship between someday best friends, brothers and sister. When I wrote the lyrics I had someone in mind of course, I think that he listened to the album and his chin dropped at this song, he will recognize himself in it, as not many people did us wrong.
25. You are selling Skype calls for each band member in your merch section. This is something in between the typical “meet and greet” events at gigs and taking online vocal or instrumental lessons from your favorite musician (Ralf Scheepers/Primal Fear offers this for example). Is it mainly accepted by national fans or especially by those who don’t have the chance to see you live so far? Guess the statics say that most of the fans want to talk to Aura? Did you also meet negative experiences with this offer, like stalkers?
Rene: for us is really important to be close to our fans and our management said this could be a great opportunity for them but also for us. Mostly, the fans that want to have a call or video call with us are the ones that come mostly at our shows and want to know either the topics of the calls either personal stuff. We are open to talk to everyone, whatever and also try to help those who need advices.
Aura: my surprise was to see that 90% of the fans that want to have this call with me are girls! I love my metalgirl fans! We talk on the topic but also about music industry, I have my experience that can answer to most of their questions. I love being in touch with them and … I will always!
26. You also sell a Boss pedal – it immediately reminded me of the BOSS HM2, the most important feature for the early Sunlight studio Death metal sound from Stockholm. Are your band members gear fanatics?
Mihai: I think there is no instrument player in this world to not be a gear fanatic. Here, we call it G.A.S – Gear Acquire Syndrome :))))) We love our toys and as any kid, we want the best of them and all of them :)))
27. You establish your own label to become independent. It is located in Estonia – do parts of the band live there nowadays? It is closer to your finish booking company, right?
Aura: we live in European Union and the digital system that Estonia offers gives us the freedom to have an international record label. We all live on tours and in the rest of time, home, in Romania. Silver City Records is a record label and production company that we have with our management partner Tatyana Shubina from the Finish company Outlanders Productions with whom we released “The Beast Within Me” and “Memories”. It was a fit!
28. Finally please reveal the idea behind this Balkan Stars Project and who’s involved. Is it a multinational crossover project for a peaceful life of different ethnics in this region? Is ‘To new Horizons’ just the appetizer for more to come or is this single song everything you’ve recorded in this constellation? Who’s the composer – Mihai?
Aura: ethnics? No… The project is the dream of our friend and booking manager from Bulgaria – Emil Lazarov – that wanted all his bands in a project, having songs together, releasing and promoting one another. Being in the Balkan area, the name of the project came easily. So “To New Horizons” is the first song from the project and it was made by Krossfire, Bulgarian band in collaboration with Scarlet Aura from Romania and Alogia from Serbia. Along the way we`ll have other songs and maybe and album will be released with all of them. Would be definitely fun!