Time For Metal / René W.: Hello Jonathan,
I’m glad you found time to talk about your band Celtic Hills and your latest album Mystai Keltoy. You were founded more than ten years ago, but you only released your first two albums in the last few months. How did the long break come about after the demo Horns Helmet Fighters, and how did you find each other again?
Celtic Hills / Jonathan Vanderbilt: Hi René, thanks for wanting to know Celtic Hills. Ten years ago, the desire to play was reborn! It’s not that easy to form a band when you’re over 40. Buying the equipment, moving your fingers as if you were a kid, was a huge commitment. For this reason, it was hard to record the first demo and appear in some compilations.
Time For Metal / René W.: Even if it sounds rough, the current pandemic seems to have been a positive factor for you in terms of productivity. How were you able to record new songs together during the hard lockdown days, or is the songwriting completely in your hands?
Celtic Hills / Jonathan Vanderbilt: I write all the music and lyrics, which facilitated the work of Jacopo Novello on bass and Simone Cescutti on drums because they were able to listen to the pre-production and interpret the groove of the record in the best possible way.
Time For Metal / René W.: With Mystai Keltoy you have signed with Elevate Records. What do you expect from this? Don’t you want to act on your own anymore? And what are your goals for the future in general?
Celtic Hills / Jonathan Vanderbilt: When Elevate Records found out I was going to play again, they suggested releasing the new works, and a year ago, we released the debut album Blood Over Intents. I have to thank Pino Magliani and Andrea Lanzillo for convincing me to return to play after years of inactivity.
Time For Metal / René W.: Let’s get straight to the songs of Mystai Keltoy. What journey do you take the listener on, or what are the themes behind the eleven new songs?
Celtic Hills / Jonathan Vanderbilt: I arrived in a part of Italy that fascinated me! Rich in folklore, history and traditions, these are elements that have a strong influence on the writing of lyrics that tell the past and present of Friulian life. Just think that I live a few kilometers from the place where the most famous battle between Paganism and Christianity was fought in Roman times, Battle Of Frigidium tells of this event.
Time For Metal / René W.: I also find the artwork exciting and recognise many details. What exactly is the message you want to convey, and how is it compatible with the songs?
Celtic Hills / Jonathan Vanderbilt: A few years ago, I met a young artist, Sheila Franco, and we established an artistic collaboration. I tell her the topics my record includes, and she paints the emotions that my lyrics arouse in her.
Time For Metal / René W.: If you compare Mystai Keltoy with the first record Blood Over Intents one-on-one, where are the differences or is the style the same? You didn’t have any live experience between the two albums. How did the production time of the debut shape the following album?
Celtic Hills / Jonathan Vanderbilt: In all Celtic Hills songs, the harmony and melody techniques are fluid, and you can hear influences from different styles of metal and rock. The difference between the two albums is in the production. The first was recorded in my home studio and produced with Luca Franzolini. Mystai Keltoy was recorded in a professional studio by Michele Guaitoli. The first guitarist and the second singer were two different ways of working on the songs.
Time For Metal / René W.: The latest work really appealed to me, and parallels to Grave Digger or Running Wild came to my mind without following their ways too much. Do you see these parallels, and what other bands have influenced you?
Celtic Hills / Jonathan Vanderbilt: These are two bands I’ve always loved, even though Rage and early Helloween with Kai Hansen are among the German bands I’ve loved the most. I am trying to play 80’s speed metal, but it didn’t live long because it moved towards power metal. To help you understand what I mean, I’ll quote some typical songs: Helloween – Guardians; Metallica – Creeping Death; Rage – Invisible Horizon; Anthrax – Medusa; Vendetta – War.
Time For Metal / René W.: Things are slowly getting back to normal, at least here in Germany. How are things looking for you – will you be able to get back on stage again soon? If you were allowed to accompany a band on a European tour, which one would be your absolute favourite and which festivals do you want to play?
Celtic Hills / Jonathan Vanderbilt: The management is working on getting us to play at the festival and as a supporter of some famous bands. I want to dream that I would like to be with Noise’s Doomsday News-VHS-Bands. But if I really have to name a band … then I’d like to tour with Refuge.
Time For Metal / René W.: Thanks for your time, Jonathan! I hope you and Celtic Hills have lots of success. Maybe we’ll meet soon in Germany at one of your concerts. The last word belongs to you, and you can address it directly to your followers and our readers.
Celtic Hills / Jonathan Vanderbilt: I hope to meet all my German fans at concerts but also have a few beers together. Wo ein Wille ist, ist auch ein Weg (German proverb).