Frontiers Music has an excellent reputation for releasing albums from some of the big names of rock from the 80’s and 90’s. However, they also have an ever growing collection of great young bands on their roster. One of those bands is Animal Drive from Croatia. The band released their debut album “Bite!” through Frontiers on 23rd February and I posted a recommendation for it recently – http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/back-stage/music-reviews/3315-ni-rocks-recommends-qbiteq-by-animal-drive.html . The lead singer of the band is Dino Jelusic, a former Junior Eurovision Song Contest winner who recently joined the ranks of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I was really impressed with the band’s debut album, and as I didn’t know too much about them, I arranged an interview with Dino via e-mail to answer a few questions and find out more about him and the band. These questions and answers can be read below.
Animal Drive are Dino Jelusic on vocals, Ivan Keller on guitar, Roko Rokindja on bass and Adrian Boric on drums.
Check out the band’s website at http://animal-drive.com/
NI ROCKS – Hi Dino. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for Rock Radio NI. Animal Drive released their debut album “Bite!” on 23rd February. Can you tell us where the album was recorded and who you worked with for production, mixing etc.?
DINO - Hey. The album was recorded in Zagreb, my hometown. Andreas Shala is responsible for the sound of the album. He also co-wrote ‘’Devil Took My Beer’’ with me.
NI ROCKS – When and how did the four current members of Animal Drive first get together as a band?
DINO - We got together in April 2017… Back then Shorty was still playing with us, our 2nd guitar player. He was in the band since 2012.
NI ROCKS - When did work on writing the tracks on “Bite!” start and was there a standard process for writing or did each song come together in different ways?
DINO - Huh, every song was written in a different period. ‘’Had Enough’’ was literally written in 2012, while ‘’Carry On’’ was written in 2017. Everything came in different ways, for sure.
NI ROCKS – There are 11 tracks on the album - which track took the longest to get completed the way that you wanted it?
DINO - We worked a lot on every song and most of the songs didn’t sound like they sound on the album now. We cut about 2 minutes from ‘’Lights of the Damned’’, changed background for solo in ‘’Carry On’’, cut about 30 seconds in ‘’Deliver Me’’. Only “Goddamn Marathon” remained the same since the beginning.
NI ROCKS – The first single and video released from the album was “Tower of Lies (I Walk Alone)”. Tell us why that track was chosen and a little about the track?
DINO - Well, at first I didn’t think that song would make it to the album, ‘cause it’s not a usual Frontiers release. And then they decided that the song will be our first single. And I’m glad it did, people went crazy for it. The song is about the music scene in Croatia. I started appearing on TV since I was a kid and I saw a lot of things and experienced too. You can feel the rage in my voice and sound in total.
NI ROCKS – You got involved in the music business at a very young age and released your second solo album before you were 20. Between 2011 and 2015 you were involved in a number of projects including an Iron Maiden tribute called ‘Made In Iron’ I believe. What other projects did you work on during that time.
DINO - Yeah, The solo album I recorded in 2014, an album inspired by a book “260 Days”, a tragic story about a 10 year old boy imprisoned in a war camp for 260 days with his whole family. That kid is now 37 years old and is my friend. The music is composed for drama in Croatian National Theatre but never became part of it because of some behind the scenes games. Hopefully, it will become soundtrack for future movie. It is still one of the favourite things I recorded. I was in Maiden tribute for 4 years, recorded an album with a Pop/Prog Metal band called The Ralph, recorded a colab album in South Africa with their biggest stars and did a lot of other guest appearances and rock operas.
NI ROCKS – I mentioned the Iron Maiden tribute. If you were able to step in as the front man for any band (past or present), as Axel Rose did with AC/DC for example; which band would it be and why?
DINO - Probably for Whitesnake. That’s my band since I was a kid. But there’s a lot I would wanna do, since I sang from pop to all kinds of metal so far.
NI ROCKS – You joined Trans-Siberian Orchestra in 2016. How was that connection made?
DINO - They saw me on Youtube and called for audition. I did online audition and they loved it, so they flew me in Tampa and I had an 5 day audition there. It was great. Paul O’Neill was an amazing guy.
NI ROCKS – Are you still involved with TSO and if so what are your next dates with them?
DINO - I am, I became a member after the first tour. Waiting from them to announce the 2018 tour and I go back to Omaha in November!
NI ROCKS – Was it when you were with TSO that you met Jeff Scott Soto and how did that lead to the contract with Frontiers Music?
DINO - Yes, I met him in hotel, I still remember that day ha, ha. Great guy, we really clicked in first few seconds. I will be seeing him in Budapest, he has a gig with Sons Of Apollo, also a great band.
NI ROCKS – Around the same time you were involved with a band called ‘The Ralph’. Tell us something about that band and the album that was released.
DINO - I came in ‘cause they were looking for a singer and I was looking for a producer of my album. And suddenly, I’m in! “Enter Escape” is a special album in my discography. A lot of different styles on one album, great stuff, great song writing and great production. Andreas and Mario are THE guys.
NI ROCKS – The second single and video from Animal Drive to be released ahead of the album was “Time Machine”. Tell us something about that track.
DINO - That track is really deep. Starts heavy and ends very soft and sad, ‘cause a guy that once was a kid lost all of his time and wished he would change something and feels like a kid but he ran out of time. Very slow-groove-riff kinda song. But then you have double tempo chorus which changes dynamics too. One of my favourite vocal tracks on the album.
NI ROCKS – As I mentioned earlier, you got involved in music at a very early age, winning the first ever Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2003, when you were 11. What artists influenced you originally and when did the rock / metal influences start to develop?
DINO - Yeah, that time of my life was pretty busy ha, ha (I toured Scandinavia, Australia, went to USA…). I always loved AC/DC, Queen, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, Elvis, Prince, Michael Jackson, Led Zeppelin, Kingdom Come, Van Halen, Phil Collins…. I loved different stuff. When you listen to different stuff you do different type of songs and I am so full of ideas that I’m sure every next AD album will sound fresh!
NI ROCKS – Can you remember the first rock gig that you went to as a member of the audience and the first album that you bought?
DINO - First rock gig was Plant/Page back in ’98, I was 6 years old. After that I saw Jethro Tull and ZZ Top in ’99 and ’00. First album, hmm…. Might be Eagles, Europe, Heart or Bon Jovi, I can’t really think right now.
NI ROCKS – What bands are you listening to most at the moment? What was the last gig you went to and last album you bought?
DINO - I’m listening to a lot of recent records, since I listened to all of the albums released in the past way too much. So I would put Sons of Apollo, Adagio (one of the bands I was supposed to sing in and their latest album kicks ass!!), Gojira, Symphony X, Toto, Steven Wilson. The last gig I went to was Toto, few weeks ago. The last album I bought was ‘’To The Bone’’ from Steven Wilson and ‘’Animosity’’ from Sevendust.
NI ROCKS - What plans do Animal Drive have to tour in support of the new album?
DINO - We have a plan to tour UK and Germany after the summer. Until then, Milano is waiting on April 29th and some more festivals are coming!
We are attending Hair Metal Festival in Hull this September, so if you are close, give us a chance to rock your pants off!
NI ROCKS – I know the first album has just been released, but have you given any thought to a second album or are there other projects that you’re working on?
DINO - I’m working on few projects now that I’m excited about, but yes, we have almost the whole 2nd album written and we will start working on it soon!
NI ROCKS – Looking further ahead, if you were able to record an album with any other vocalist (something Frontiers are very good at arranging) who would it be and why?
DINO - Hmmm. Jorn would be cool. Nathan James would be cool, since we’re both still young, Inglorious came out in 2016, we came out in 2017, we’re both recent, we could do something like Hughes/Turner, that would be interesting.
NI ROCKS – And which guitarist / guitarists would you like to play on that album?
DINO - I love Brandon Ellis from Black Dahlia Murder. It’s a death metal band, really cool, but his guitar playing is just what I have in mind when I write some songs. Maybe in future.
NI ROCKS – The latest single and video to be released is “Had Enough”. Tell us something about that track.
DINO - Well, again very rebel-ish and straight-forward. Nothing more to say about it, rocks hard.
NI ROCKS – Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. Best of luck with the new album and everything else that you have planned.