Howdy, Growlers. Last month I had the privilege of reviewing an album from Ivan Mihaljevic & Side Effects, a Croatian band that has since opened for Whitesnake and received numerous accolades for their progressive hard rock. I was able to catch up with dynamic vocalist/guitarist Ivan Mihaljevic and ask a few questions about their album Counterclockwise, his young but acclaimed career, and his experiences with rock’n’roll. Read on for Ivan’s touristy aspirations and a brutal critique of the Croatian music scene:
Mister Growl: Counterclockwise is your third full-length album with Side Effects. What separates this from your earlier releases?
Ivan: The most obvious difference is that this album is focused on songs with vocals while the previous two had a lot of instrumental pieces. We tried to make peace between those two things that we did earlier, so we made longer and more progressive vocal pieces with extended instrumental sections.
Mister Growl: You have mentioned before that Counterclockwise is a concept album. Could you describe the concept to people listening to your music for the first time?
Ivan: The concept is similar to The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. It describes the pitfalls of modern society. We talk about the unquenchable thirst for more, false friends, dealing with the death of someone close to you, anxiety and depression, but also try to give those situations a solution.
Mister Growl: What is the Croatian rock and metal music scene like? How has it impacted your own music?
Ivan: There are some really good bands here, but they almost never get their opportunity to make a living out of it. The style of music that is currently mainstream in Croatia is utter bullshit. I tried to find a milder and less offensive word for it, but that's just the least offensive term I can come up with for those repulsive sounds. That's what gets served on the radio stations and most people will just listen to whatever's "in" at the moment. Yes, I am pissed off about the current situation. Hopefully, it will change for the better in the future.
Mister Growl: What have been the main influences on your guitar playing style?
Ivan: I'll start chronologically. Some of these guys aren't really great guitar players, but they definitely did have an influence on me at some point in my musical development. So, let's start with the list - Noel Gallagher (Oasis) - probably the reason I started playing the guitar, James Hetfield and Kirk Hammet (Metallica), Joe Satriani, John Petrucci, Steve Lukather, Steve Morse...
Mister Growl: How did you meet the other members of Side Effects, Marko Karacic (bass) and Alen Frljak (drums)?
Ivan: I met Alen when we were still in high-school. Our bands rehearsed at the same place. I clearly remember when I first heard him play the drums. I think I've never heard anyone play that well before. Years later we formed a band together which didn't really last long, but when I decided to start up a new band, he was the first one I called and he said "yes".
I have no idea exactly when and how I met Karo. I've known him for years and I knew he was a great bass player, so when Alen and I split with our former bass player, Karo was our first choice.
Mister Growl: You were already playing major hard rock/metal festivals at the age of 18. How have you seen the metal scene or the music industry change since then?
Ivan: It's hard for me to say. I did play Wacken Open Air at age 18, but I can't really say I understood how the industry works at that point. Now I have a better insight into how things work, so you'll have to ask me in 10 or 20 years. *smiles*
Mister Growl: The sadly defunct Funeral Rain Zine once called you “The Croatian Sensation.” If you could nickname yourself what name would you choose?
Ivan: That's a flattering nickname. I don't know. I've never thought about nicknaming myself.
Mister Growl: You once played with Les Paul at a venue in Times Square. As a New Yorker I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts on the city.
Ivan: Oh, that was an amazing experience. I've had a chance to meet and play with the inventor of the solid-body electric guitar. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to see much of New York. I've seen Times Square which was very impressive and a little bit of Manhattan. I'd love to be able to come to New York again as a tourist at some point and to be able to just look around.
Mister Growl: You have also toured Europe multiple times with the band Hard Time. What’s your strangest or favorite touring story?
Ivan: The strangest ones are usually border stories... I remember once they held us for 4 hours for no real reason at the Liverpool airport and we were late for a gig. It's funny how border police tend to mistreat musicians. I think most musicians hate airports. It's also funny that our worst airport story happened in Liverpool where the name of the airport is John Lennon Airport. We joked that they should hang a huge sign in there saying "No guitars are allowed at the John Lennon Airport!"
Mister Growl: What do you consider your greatest achievement to this date?
Ivan: A couple of them - playing with Les Paul which we already mentioned, playing Wacken Open Air which was also already mentioned, playing the Italian Heineken Jamming Festival with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Noel Gallagher, The Cure, Evanescence..., opening the show for Whitesnake in Zagreb and having the album of the month in the biggest European guitar magazine Guitar Techniques.
Mister Growl: What are you working on now and what are your long-term goals as an artist?
Ivan: We're playing some live shows and working on some new material. Our long-term goals are to have fun and play music that we enjoy!
Many thanks to Ivan Mihaljevic for taking the time for this interview, and check out their music over at their official website: http://www.ivanmihaljevic.com/
And you can check out Counterclockwise over at CDBaby and purchase the album as a download or in CD format: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/ivanmihaljevicsideeffect