SIGN OF THE JACKAL: Heavy Metal Demons From Italy....

In 2007, five Italian metalheads joined forces to show the world, that old school heavy metal is still very much alive. SIGN OF THE JACKAL was founded and in 2009, the band released their “Haunted House Tapes” single, which brought back great memories about the early eighties. In 2011, the band will play live at the legendary Keep It True festival in Germany. But before they will take the audience by surprise, we were delighted to talk to frontlady Laura Coller about the band and their passion for old school heavy metal. Of course we also take a peak into the future and reveal some of their upcoming plans. It’s all there and a lot more. So read on what SIGN OF THE JACKAL has to say and join us on this quest, when we follow ‘The Sign’!

When did SIGN OF THE JACKAL get together as a band and how did you meet each other?
Laura Coller: “The band formed in fall 2007. We all knew each other before, because Roberto ‘Bob’ (lead guitar) and Sergio ‘Heavy Mate’ (drums) are twin brothers and I could be defined as ‘part of the family’ as well. In the beginning, it was just the three of us trying to see if we were able to put together a band, which sounded really heavy metal. In the first place, the idea was to record something and release it under a pseudonym to see how the audience would react to it, like WARLORD from the USA, who never performed live. But the songs sounded so good and soon we discovered, it would be a waste not to play them on stage. So we started to look for other essential parts to complete the band and the first one was our first bass guitarist Kill, who was a friend of ours and looking for a band. It took a little longer to find the suitable rhythm guitarist, who would fit our sound and after some try-outs, Max joined the band. He was also a friend and crazy enough to join SIGN OF THE JACKAL. After some discussions, we recently changed our bass guitarist and Roby ‘The Knife’ joined the band. He never missed a show of us, before joining SIGN OF THE JACKAL, so it seemed like an obvious choice to ask him to play with us.”

Who came up with the band name and why?
Laura Coller: “I do not exactly remember how did the name came about, but it was Bob’s idea for sure. He is very fond of US metal and also a great fan of the band DAMIEN THORNE. On the other hand, since the beginning there has been the idea of being related to horror movies and “The Omen” of 1976 is a real masterpiece, which inspired us a lot.”

Who are the most important influences of the band and maybe you can tell us a bit more about the main influences of each band member individually?
Laura Coller: “Obviously, our most important influences are all traditional heavy metal bands, like IRON MAIDEN or ACCEPT and of course WARLOCK, BLACK LACE, BLACK KNIGHT, MALTEZE and a couple of US metal bands like DAMIEN THORNE, LIZZY BORDEN and DOKKEN. Our personal influences, by the way, are different for every component of the band… Talking of influences more than personal tastes, I’m very fond of WARLOCK (I adore Doro Pesch, since the first time I saw her on stage performing with WARLOCK), LIZZY BORDEN, BLACK KNIGHT, QUEENSRYCHE, SENTINEL BEAST and BLACK LACE. Bob is also influenced by SAVATAGE, TAIST OF IRON, MOTLEY CRUE and all underground US metal bands in general, while Sergio likes most hard and heavy bands. Max is interested in all classic heavy metal and some seventies stuff, while Roby likes MOTORHEAD and ACCEPT the most.“

How would you describe the music of SIGN OF THE JACKAL yourself?
Laura Coller: “If I have to describe our music, I would say it’s classical heavy metal, including all the clichés from the eighties with female vocals, which makes it really underground and obscure. On one hand it’s very powerful and nasty, while on the other hand it’s ‘rocking’ the way NWOBHM would sound like.”

Can you tell us a bit more about the writing process of the new material? What comes first: the music or the lyrics and do you get new ideas while jamming? In general, how does a new song come about?
Laura Coller: “The writing process takes us very long, because our songs are studied and changed many many times, until the final version. Usually, we try to perform the songs on stage and change them step by step, until we are satisfied. The ideas usually come from Bob, who is our main composer. He starts with a riff, while jamming together with the rest of the band, then he writes the main riffs and refrains down. Next, we perform it again and add the vocals. Then we record the song in a demo version and see if we are satisfied with it. Then we change it another time and so on…. Lyrics are usually inspired by the instrumental part. We first decide on the title and then write lyrics down. Some are ‘thematic’ ones, inspired by horror movies, so we make the effort and watch the movie over again and see what impresses us most, while others are inspired by heavy metal itself and we try to describe our scene or what we think about it.”

Who writes the lyrics for SIGN OF THE JACKAL and what are they about?
Laura Coller: “Like I already mentioned, the lyrics are written by Bob and me. We first decide on the title depending on our feeling, while listening to the instrumental part and then work together in that direction. At first, we used to put together just some words and see if they would fit to the vocals ideas and then turn them into something, which would make sense…. Being Italian and having your lyrics in English is not as easy as it seems!”

Who were in the first line-up of SIGN OF THE JACKAL and please update us about any line-up changes, that may have occurred since?
Laura Coller: “The band did not change that much since the beginning. I’d rather say, that the family grew with the time. I mean, we were a three piece and started rehearsing to see, if we were able to give shape to our ideas, then we added the pieces together, until the classic five piece line-up was formed. The most important change in our band was, like I said before, our bassplayer. Roby joined us in March 2010, after some nasty discussions with our previous bassplayer and I hope our cooperation will be as hard as iron. I think that, if I should spend my free time with some person, it’s not only their musical taste that is important, but also their personal behaviour and ideas and the fact, that we share the same goals as a band.”

Are you still in touch with the previous members of SIGN OF THE JACKAL and are they still active in the music scene, as far as you know?
Laura Coller: “We are still in touch with Kill, our former bass player, also because our scene is a very small one and there are always the same old faces along the way. I do not personally know, if he’s still playing in a band, but for sure his idea was to continue with heavy metal. We’re not in touch anymore with the previous guitarists, that tried to fit SIGN OF THE JACKAL before Max.”

What’s the response of the press been like towards the “Haunted House Tapes”?
Laura Coller: “Our single “Haunted House Tapes” has been very welcomed in the heavy metal community. It’s just a two piece demo, so the press itself was not that much interested in it, but we gained a lot of contacts through webzines, fanzines, interviews and websites and also through My Space and people itself, which makes me so much more happy.”

Could we consider the “Haunted House Tapes” as your 2009 version of “The Soundhouse Tapes” by IRON MAIDEN (this metal obscurity changed my world in the early eighties..), because it contains the same magic?! (and I don’t mean just the artwork…)
Laura Coller: “It’s a pleasure to hear that you consider “Haunted House Tapes” as a version of “The Soundhouse Tapes” by IRON MAIDEN. Personally, I think that the beginning of IRON MAIDEN changed the heavy metal scene enormously, and I’m honoured if somebody relates our work to it. It was a little suggestion by us using the red coloured front and to blink to their idea. Most of all, we decided to join some patterns: Haunted House because it’s a cliché of horror movies and because it was recorded at the Green Tower Studios, which resemble it very likely! Then we would also suggest the idea of something underground, self-produced and ‘not compromised’, like IRON MAIDEN were back in those days. At the time, I was writing down my final exam thesis for the University, which was about NWOBHM, so all was linked to that period to me!”

Have you ever visited a haunted house? Or don’t you believe in the supernatural?
Laura Coller: “I personally visited a lot of houses, which seemed to be ‘haunted’ particularly during my teenage (who doesn’t, by the way?) and I am particularly impressed by supernatural. I do not know if I believe in it or not, but I am sometimes frightened and scared, as well as interested and attracted by these subjects. And what more, it’s damned heavy metal!!”

How do you deal with negative critics? Do you try to learn from it or do you rather want to forget about it as quickly as possible?
Laura Coller: “We do not particularly care about negative critics. To me, critics are never negative if they teach or suggest you something. And about all those people, who say that they do not appreciate our music, we usually have a great laugh. We used to say, that “a song will bury them up” or something like that. We mostly care about the opinion of people and bands, that have our respect and admiration and do not pay any attention to those, who speak and never put themselves onto a playground.”

With which bands did you share the stage already?
Laura Coller: “We have been lucky to share the stage with many friends. We played with many Italian underground bands, such as WITCHUNTER, SACRFICATOR, ANGUISH FORCE, VIOLENCE SPREAD and with some more well-known bands as BAPHOMET’S BLOOD, NATIONAL SUICIDE, FINGERNAILS, TANK, ROSS THE BOSS, AVENGER (UK) or recently SABOTAGE, VANEXA, RAFF…. It’s always a great time!”

Did you learn anything from playing with these bands and if yes, what was that?
Laura Coller: “It’s not easy to answer this question….. I think, that you always learn something from other people, you get in touch with. I personally pay great attention to the frontmen I like and always try to see, if they have any good ideas. For example what to do when there’s a long guitar solo or how to involve the audience and so on. But the best lesson I ever learned is, that it’s fundamental to remain easy going and stick to your guns. There is always someone bigger and better than you and if not, there’s always someone wanting more than you as a person, so bring on your ideas and do not care about anybody, who tells you how to behave or not. However, always remember to respect people, because when you are on stage, it’s because someone is there for you, working for you or caring for you. I learned this from sharing ideas with other musicians, but mostly I learned this philosophy by watching musicians, who DO NOT behave this way.”

What was the biggest gig, that you’ve been playing so far?
Laura Coller: “We’ve been very lucky to play a couple of big gigs. We’ve been playing twice at the Revenge of True Metal festival in Rovereto, Italy [the first year, the headliners were AVENGER (UK) and ARTILLERY and the second year, it was TANK], the Bombers and Barbarians Birthday Festival in Germany [March 2010] with ROSS THE BOSS and we’ve been honoured to play at the Heavy Metal Night III in Villarosa En with a lot of heavy metal legends from Italy. Right now, we’re very much looking forward to KIT14 in April 2011…”

Do you also play cover songs live or do you just stick to your own penned material?
Laura Coller: “We used to play some covers, but in our last shows we performed all our songs and just a few covers, like one called “Head Over Heels” by MEGHAN. Basically, it depends on the time we have at our disposal. We have a lot of cover songs that we like to play, like “Warlord’s Wrath” by BLACK KNIGHT, “Blessed Are The Strong” by MALTEZE or “I Rule The Ruins”/“Burning the Witches” by WARLOCK, but also some strange covers like “Notorious” by LIZZY BORDEN or “Wasted” by DEF LEPPARD. In the early days, we came up with the idea of doing some kind of tribute to kicking ass heavy metal, so we learned a lot of great covers!”

Do you use any show effects or props in your shows?
Laura Coller: “When the time allows it, yes, we like to use special effects. Most of all, it’s dry ice. Dry ice is what hairspray is to glam rockers: it’s never sufficient. We build our stage set ourselves with a number of crosses and tombstones, like a cemetery. Then we have a huge backdrop with our band logo and two big red cloth shields with a gothic white cross on it, which is put in front of the amplifiers. In our first shows we used some kind of stage clothes all in red and black, but usually we just stick to our backdrop and our splendid figures on stage!”

What can people expect, when they come and see a SIGN OF THE JACKAL live show?
Laura Coller: “I think, that people will enjoy our live show very much. We try to give our best and we enjoy ourselves as much as we can on stage. Of course, there’s lots of energy involved, but most of all it’s all about heavy metal and hopefully, some good and enjoyable songs.”

What’s the most difficult song to play live in your set and why?
Laura Coller: “Oooh, that’s a good question. “Heavy Metal Demons” and “Hellhounds” are fast songs and very high to sing, so they are really difficult to perform! And I’m quite scared by our brand new one, “Possessed by Metal”…. We did not actually finish it yet, but I think it will be kicking ass, both the audience while listening to it, but even for us while playing it!”

Are there any memorable gigs, that you want to tell us about?
Laura Coller: “Every show is memorable for me. Every single one is something to be remembered. I would say, the most excited one was our first show at the Revenge of True Metal 2008, because I was literally trembling all over. And of course, the first time in Germany at Bombers and Barbarians…. Or the first time we walked the stage with Roby…. Sorry, I can not choose!”

We will hopefully meet each other at the Keep It True Festival 2011 in Germany. What are your expectations about this gig?
Laura Coller: “Our expectations about K.I.T. 14 are great and we feel really honoured to be on the bill of this festival, as we are great fans, too. Me, Bob and Roby are there every year and I’d say that this year’s bill is one of the best ever!!”

Are there any interesting gigs in the band’s agenda right now, besides Keep It True in April?
Laura Coller: “We are working very hard on the recordings for our album, so we did not schedule any other gigs for 2011 yet. We are looking forward to see what will happen after that. I will be pleased of doing some more shows in Germany… Hopefully, we can do some gigs with some friends of us.”

Are there any funny stories, that you want to share with our readers about life on the road or things that happened, when you were on stage with the band?
Laura Coller: “There are a lot of funny stories…. I recall, when playing in Fidenza (Italy) once and it was late at night and the sound manager suddenly shut the P.A. down…. After a whole refrain, I realized, that I’d been singing with the microphone shut down…. But all my band mates decided to keep on playing and we continued this way for a whole song!!! All our friends beneath the stage were headbangin’ and singing and nobody realized, that the show was already over. It was a great moment!! Another funny story was when Max was trying to pull his shoulder belt up at the beginning of one show, while playing the riffs of “Sign Of The Jackal”. He was too drunk to stop - in fact nobody of us stopped - and he made some kind of nice dance rolling up with the cable and playing the solo!!”

With which band of your choice would you like to go on tour [Mind you: the sky is the limit and please pick any band of your choice….]?
Laura Coller: “If I could choose any band that I like, it would probably be WARLOCK. I saw them in Zaragoza last year and the show was great! But I think I will enjoy a lot of others as well, like MOTORHEAD or TWISTED SISTER… They seem to be nice people and I’m sure it will be party all night long!”

What’s the metal scene like in the part of Italy, where you live? Are there many clubs, where you can play?
Laura Coller: “Here in Trentino-Alto Adige, the scene is a bit confused. There are a lot of bands and metalheads, a great crew of people and many associations and ideas, but it’s not that easy to organize something. There are only a few places to play and most of them do not particularly support the heavy metal scene. In other words: they don’t want to invest any money in us to make a show possible and the ones that do, have very little space to play… We are stuck to the same old places, that allow things to happen and where we are welcomed. In the Northern part of Italy we know – more or less – every person connected to our world, so we are not linked to our territory only… Italy is such a small country and it’s quite easy to move here. There’s also a great heavy metal scene in the centre of our country, Lazio and Marche, and many times we meet up with other bands to do things together. There are a lot of nice initiatives, concerts, shows, deejay session nights, meetings and parties…. And it’s easy to meet people.”

Which other (well-known) bands come from your town/city?
Laura Coller: “There are a couple of well-known bands from our parts…. There’s SKANNERS from Bolzano (they are great!!) - they are the biggest ones, I guess - then we have NATIONAL SUICIDE (Bob also plays with them) and FELINE MELINDA, who released a new album in 2009, which sold very well in Japan and were well-known during the eighties. There are a lot of bands in Italy, that deserve to be mentioned here and who organize and tour all over Europe: BAPHOMET’S BLOOD, WHICHUNTER, SACRIFICATOR, FINGERMAILS, VIOLENCE SPREAD, to name a few….”

Do you have any plans to play outside of Europe as well (in the near future)?
Laura Coller: “We hope to do a tour in Germany… You’ve got a massive heavy metal scene there and some nice places to play. Of course, if time allows, we’ll be pleased to go everywhere… We don’t have any plans scheduled for now. Like I mentioned earlier, we are quite concentrated in releasing our album, so we did not schedule any dates until now.”

Where do you rehearse and how did you find this space?
Laura Coller: “At the moment we rehearse in Rovereto, where Bob and Sergio are from. Sergio is part of an association, that manages rehearsal spaces, and we found this place thanks to him. It’s fully equipped and easy to book, so it’s right for us. We do not rehearse that much, and many times we record or try out at the Green Tower Studios.”

How many times do you rehearse?
Laura Coller: “We rehearse once a week. It’s not that much, but we have a lot of other things to do….. We always try to do as much as we can at home and then put all the pieces together!”

Laura, we are a webzine, that is completely dedicated to female musicians in the (hard) rock and (heavy) metal scene. Do you feel that women still need the attention, that we give them or do you think that you already get the recognition, that you earn so much?
Laura Coller: “Our condition as women in the hard rock and heavy metal scene improved a lot over the last three decades. By the way, I think, that it’s always useful to have a ‘zine like yours around, because we are still a few and many times we are left in the cold. The heavy metal scene is a very male dominated world and the space for us is very difficult to earn.”

Our webzine is based in The Netherlands (or Holland, if you like). What else do you know about our country besides the fact, that we have colorful tulips and beautiful windmills?
Laura Coller: “Mmm… Heineken! And I also know that many pork from Holland is used and butchered to produce spek, which is a kind of row ham typical from Trentino Alto Adige (isn’t it a strange world??)… And to talk about heavy metal, I do know PICTURE from Holland. They are really great and perform a kick ass heavy metal show!”

Photo copyright by: Gerrie Lemmens

What are the future plans of SIGN OF THE JACKAL, long and short term please?
Laura Coller: “Our first priority is to release our album… It will be a killer!! We are working really hard on it and I’m looking forward to the release date! Then there will be K.I.T. in Germany and I hope that a couple of shows can be connected to this… We have no other plans yet! I think, that the most important thing is to enjoy this kind of experience and we really take it as it comes!”

What will the album sound like comparing to the songs on the “Haunted House Tapes”?
Laura Coller: “First of all, the album will be released on Heavy Artillery [] somewhere in 2011. There will be fast songs, like “HM Demons” and ACCEPT-like ones… Comparing to “Haunted House Tapes”, we have matured a lot in recording together, but we want to keep that underground and obscure sound, that made our demo so well-known. We really do like that sound! By the way, another nice and limited surprise will be available very soon, in order to keep the attention high for K.I.T., but I won’t tell you what it is, as it’s still a secret!!”

Where can people buy your demo/single, in case they’re interested? Please advertise for free here....
Laura Coller: “I think, that a few copies of the “Haunted House Tapes” are available at Heavy Artillery in the 7” inch format. We do not own any copies ourselves, because it was only released in a small quantity. There were CDs, tapes and also some vinyl, but we wanted to keep it demo and underground. Feel free to contact Heavy Artillery at:”

Where can people find you on the internet and how important is this media for a band like SIGN OF THE JACKAL?
Laura Coller: “The internet is necessary for a band in 2011 to become well-knowm!! We have a My Space page and it’s been the easiest way to find contacts and get proposals. It’s good, because you can reach the whole world and let the people listen to your songs. Our address is ... Feel free to contact us! Twenty years ago, things moved in a much different way. Nowadays, people are not used anymore to reading or buying fanzines or magazines. If they want to know about you, they search on the internet. And – from the band’s point of view - it’s useful, because you take all the space you need and you are not filtered by any journalist or magazine director. It’s very democratic in a way.”

Do you update your internet pages yourself (My Space, official website, etc.) or do you have a webmaster?
Laura Coller: “We update everything ourselves, although we don’t do it that much!!. All of us own a password and the links to get into our e-mail or on the My Space site, so we have some kind of teamwork! We answer the interviews, we put the songs online, we publish pictures, etc.etc.”

Do you have any hobbies or special interest besides playing heavy metal music in a band?
Laura Coller: “Personally, I don’t have much time left, while working and doing house work…. But I like cooking very much (I like to call myself the metal messiah – which is in Italian like a housewife!) and work out in the gym… I also like reading and watching movies. Sergio has a green thumb and is interested in developing pictures. Bob likes videogames and collecting rare vinyl, while Roby rides his bike across the whole country and Max has a number of interests, which I can not list here: it’s really too much. He knows a little of everything and he’s like our wise Gandalf!! (lol)”

What’s the funniest question you were ever asked in an interview?
Laura Coller: “This is the funniest interview ever! It’s good to have questions not only about the band, but also about your personal life. Actually, it’s a bit strange, that someone wants to know more about you, besides the regular band questions! I guess, the question about Holland is the best one. It really made me think…. (laughs)”

Laura, did you ever witness, that fans wanted more from you than just a smile, an autograph or a short chat after the show? After all, you are a very good looking woman!
Laura Coller: “I don’t think, that our fans want more from me than just a smile…. Or better, I don’t think, that matter is strictly related to the fact, that I walk the stage and me being a front woman in a band! Of course, I have had proposals, but not as the SIGN OF THE JACKAL singer… Many guys of course have only one thing in mind, but I don’t think that I have fans like in the movie “I want to marry Simon Le Bon…..”

The music scene is dominated by sex, drugs and rock and roll. In which way does this ‘unwritten law’ apply to SIGN OF THE JACKAL as well?
Laura Coller: “Sex, drugs and rock and Roll fits us perfectly! No really, I’m just kidding: no sex! Ahh, I’m joking again….. There’s a lot of rock’n’roll. I’d say more alcohol than drugs (unless you see alcohol as a drug), but definately no sex…. Besides, you know what they say: always “Too Drunk To Fuck”, but as a lifestyle I’d say this statement fits SIGN OF THE JACKAL perfectly!”

Do you want to add any words to this interview? Maybe we have forgotten something, that is essential for the story of SIGN OF THE JACKAL so far?
Laura Coller: “I don’t think, there’s anything to add…. You gave our band the opportunity of a nice, long and interesting interview and I could touch all of the themes related to our band! I just want to make a call to all the heavy metal fans around the world: Keep the movement alive and support and live the underground!!!”

Do you have any special messages for our readers?
Laura Coller: “You are all invited to see SIGN OF THE JACKAL on stage… and I’m looking forward to meeting all of the readers of this beautiful webzine for a couple of beers!”

The last words in this interview are for SIGN OF THE JACKAL...
Laura Coller: “Thank you again for this great opportunity and for your interest in the band, for the nice questions and for your patience in getting the answers back!! This our fate... and we will never give up! Fight for rock!!”

copyright: METAL MAIDENS
interview by: Toine van Poorten, Metal Maidens 'zine / December 2010.

Visit SIGN OF THE JACKAL at My Space: