The Scintilla Project
'The Damned And Divine: The Making of Scintilla'
'Scintilla,' a science fiction thriller, is set deep underground in the wilds of a former Soviet state where strange genetic experiments are taking place. A war weary mercenary is hired to lead a company scientist to the secret underground laboratory and with his team of mercenaries to steal the research in the laboratory.
Along the way the good people face dangerous militia involved in a bloodthirsty civil war, strange monsters lurking in the abandoned tunnels of the old Soviet bunker and finally they meet the scientist running the genetic experiments and her terrifying secret.
The film has inspired a newly formed super-group THE SCINTILLA PROJECT, fronted by SAXON’s own BIFF BYFORD, and including Lionel Hicks (drums), Anthony Ritchie (bass), and Andy Sneap (guitar), who have released their album, The Hybrid in the U.S., featuring songs inspired by the film, this past September 2nd, 2014 via UDR Music.
Indeed, select tracks on the record are co-produced by world-famous heavy metal producer Andy Sneap, who also plays guitar on these tracks.
Chatting recently with the man himself, Biff Bifford, I first wondered if it was true that Lionel Hicks (drummer and film producer for 'Scintilla') initially only came to him (albeit via Toby Jepson) to write just the one track for his film? "Yes, Toby was doing the original soundtrack for the film he introduced to Lionel and it started from there. We wrote a song for the film which was on the Call To Arms album."
Then as the film developed through production he wanted another track - which got you thinking re: concept album! "Lionel plays drums in band called Balance of Power and they had songs written already. So we had the idea to change the lyrics and make the album based around the film."
Given that 'Scintilla' is a science fiction thriller set deep underground in the wilds of a former Soviet state, and now with you, Hicks, Anthony Ritchie (bass) and Andy Sneap (guitar) together, how did you have to change your usual style of Saxon music (lyrically and vocally) to adapt itself to this cinematic storytelling? "It is a bit of a different style, yes, but I am a singer so I am able to sing in lots of styles. We changed a few melodies and just took it one song at a time until the picture developed."
Indeed, this new concept album, THE HYBRID emerged from all these talks and from hearing it today I have to say, in parts, might well be one of the heaviest you've ever recorded/sung on! Did you encourage vocal extremes out from within you that even you hadn't heard before, perhaps? "Yes, I had to push my voice harder than Saxon, but it is all in the way you approach it. You have to forget the way you have been singing and start again with the project."
You did some different variations of one of the main songs used in the film, 'Scintilla (One Black Heart),' including changing the lyrics for one version. Why was this necessary? "We did different edits on the song for video and single which didn’t take too much."
Did the fact that the script changed at least four (4) times mess you up in any way when it came to these recordings for the film? "I went to the film set and talked to the director, but although the script changed the basic plot was still the same."
How many of HYBRID's songs are in 'Scintilla’? "Nine."
To be fair, that film title itself, 'Scintilla' is an odd one, so how did Hicks explain what the title/word actually meant?! "It is a minute spark of energy."
It took one and a half years to bring this concept album to fruition, but why so long? "Well, it takes a long time for a film to go from script to film and some scripts don’t make it."
OK, being that we're not called Exclusive Magazine for nothing, what can you give us as a behind-the-scenes tidbit of gossip (that you've not spoken about before!) about the making of this concept album? "The keyboard player is quite a well known composer of film music under a pseudonym."
A no-brainer with regard the bands name, The Scintilla Project, can you see the band working together again - regardless of whether or not there will be a sequel? "I had a lot of fun making it so if it goes somewhere that will be good."
You did this concept album whilst on a break from Saxon, but now that it's done, how has it left you with regard writing again for your one true musical love? "We have started writing for the next album and will start recording in January."
With that said, when can we expect the next Saxon album to be released? "August, 2015."
I have to admit, as an ex-Pat living here in the US for the past 25 years, that your voice still sounds just as incredible as it did back when I first got into Saxon with the 7" single (vinyl) release of, 'Never Surrender'! So how do you keep it as good as it is? Any rock star secrets, perhaps? "Wine, women and song!!!"
Did you know there is a Scintilla Project website that has 100% nothing to do with the band or music in general! It's actually a blogging website designed for amateur writing prompts! Did you know this before you named the band the same name?! "Yes, I’ve seen that its a science site, pretty cool."
Finally, we here at Exclusive Magazine LOVE penguins! So, we were wondering if you also did and if you had any stories about them, perhaps? "In Tenerife there is a arctic enclosure with emperor penguins that is constantly kept below freezing for 9 months!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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