Vasely Sapunov of Saving Grace

By in Interviews | Comments closed

How long have you guys been playing together and how did you meet?

We started Saving Grace in 2005 I had known Nick for years as we grew up playing shows together in different bands.  He had moved up to Auckland to be with his (then) girlfriend and when that all turned to custard and he was moving back home he phoned me and told me that he wanted to start a new band, but this time sing about God, which was a new concept to us both at this stage.  I was down for it and when he moved back we started jamming with the drummer of my previous band TFD in his garage and wrote a couple of songs.  We played our first show as a 3 piece with 2 and a half songs ha-ha, then we recruited a guy called Bruce from Nick’s old band Mind Bloodshot as the bassist and then wrote 3 and a half more songs and recorded a filthy self titled demo, the rest is history.

What bands have influenced your sound?

Too many to mention but here is a handful: Promise of Bloodshed, One Must Fall, Earth Crisis, Slayer, Pantera, Cannibal Corpse, Sepultura, Arkangel, Reprisal, Point of Recognition, Shockwave.

Who are you guys listening to now?

Our combined playlist looks something like this at the moment: Creations, Ekklesia, Despised Icon, Cruel Hand, Bradley Hathaway, The Great Commission, For Today, Biggie Smalls, Nas, The Cure, The Smiths, The Dear & Departed, Texas in July

What is the best tour you guys have been on and what made it the best?

Every tour we have ever played on has been a blast and a privilege; it’s really hard to pick one because so many of them have been incredible.  I think the time we spent in Mexico with our friends in For Today and Man of Sorrows would definitely be the highlight for all of us however, because God did so much with us there, and we learnt so much and saw so many awesome miracles and works of the Holy Spirit, it was really a life changing experience.  We even have a song about it on our new record called ‘Oaxaca’ and our bud Mattie from For Today does guest vocals on it.  It’s a really special song for me, and God really helped in every aspect of writing that song, I believe it carries a special anointing and people should definitely check it out.

What has been your favorite show?

Any show where people connect with Jesus or their heart is opened up to God is our favorite show.  We don’t have one in particular, but more often than not, every new show is a favorite until the next.

Is there any difference between your shows/fans in NZ versus the US?

Yeah there are a lot of differences.  New Zealand and Australia is a lot less receptive to ‘Christian bands’ in general so it is really hard in that aspect.  There is no spirit-filled scene here, and we are the only outspoken Christian hardcore/metal band in New Zealand.

Our American fans are a lot more stoked on what we do for God and have been incredibly supportive.  NZ is also a lot smaller so it’s very hard to tour here, aside from a few weekend runs.  I think it’s great how our fan base internationally continues to grow and people become more and more stoked on us.  Shows in the U.S. and at home have been awesome for us, so hopefully it just continues to get bigger and better.

Why did you guys decide to go with Facedown/Strike First?

They are a label that we have looked up to for years; we grew up listening to their bands and have always admired their work ethic and dedication to spirit-filled hardcore and metal bands.  Facedown Records is more of a family than a label and for us to have the opportunity to sign with them was definitely a dream come true and our biggest goal as a band. They have been the most incredible group of people to work with and have shown us so much love, it’s crazy.  Jason is the most awesome A&R on the planet and all of the rest of the Facedown/Strike First staff are just so professional and great at what they do, they are definitely the most solid Christian label in the heavy music scene as far as we are concerned, they always have been and always will be. We are beyond honored to represent New Zealand on that label and are very grateful to the Lord for the opportunity!

How did making Unbreakable differ from making Behind Enemy Lines?

It was definitely a lot faster, we knew what we were doing this time and got the job done a lot easier.  Zorran (our producer and engineer) is always incredible to work with and did a splendid job on the album once again.  He knows how to get the best out of each one of us and how to push us when we could be doing better to achieve our best result.

The writing process for this album was also a little different, as we wrote between 3 or 4 songs in the studio during recording and the previous album Behind Enemy Lines, was just us recording every song we had as a band at the time ha-ha.  The songs on this new record are a lot more mature and definitely, a step up, both musically and lyrically from stuff, we have done before and the response so far really has been great and seems to reflect exactly that.

There are a few tracks on this CD that were written around 2 years ago now though, straight after we finished Behind Enemy Lines, so they are songs we have been playing live for a while, but it’s great to finally hear them recorded well and have them be a part of this new album.  The guest vocalist spots from our friends Mattie, Adam and Levi also add something really special to the record, and this is another point of difference from Behind Enemy Lines.

Overall, I think we are just constantly learning so much about ourselves and our music that every record will be a step up from the previous.  We are stoked that we haven’t released a crappy sophomore record (which we were reaaaaalllly worried about), as many bands seem to release an album that can’t top the first.  We are really stoked with how it came out though, and are very confident with it.  It has always been a goal of ours to continue to write bigger and better (and definitely heavier) music than we ever have, so don’t expect us to ever go soppy on you and start writing ballads etc. you will never hear clean signing on a Saving Grace record.

What tours do you have planned to promote the new album and is there a U.S. tour in there?

We are going to tour as much as possible this year, we start our New Zealand tour this weekend for the release of the album which will kick off at Parachute Festival in Mistery Creek with the likes of Underoath etc this will be our fourth appearance at the festival and it’s always a killer time, because literally thousands of kids go crazy for us there. Our good friends Bloodsport from Australia will also be playing direct support for us on this tour.

After that, we are due to film the second video for the album around March and then return to Australia to play Easterfest in April with As I Lay Dying. Beyond that, our management is working on Europe and Asia as well as of course our return to the U.S., which is set for midyear around Cornerstone time.

While on the road, how are you fed spiritually?

We try to make an effort to party less and pray more, which can be a struggle for any Christian band I think. Fellowship and discussions about God and His word between ourselves and other bands is something that we value a lot.  We also try to get to church wherever possible, last time we were on tour in Australia with For Today, we got a chance to go to the famous Hillsong church in Sydney and it was incredible.

Who is the prankster of the band and what are some good pranks that have been played?

We all love to have a laugh at the expense of others (terrible, I know) and each one of us is probably just as bad if not worse than the other.  Buffalo is the game that we play the most on tour thanks to David Morrison (Facedown Booking Agent/For Today drummer).

It involves calling ‘Buffalo’ on those who are playing, if they are caught with a drink in their right hand, in which case they have to chug whatever they are holding.  We have seen people down whole bottles of soy sauce, chili sauce, pasta sauce, 3Litre bottles of Milk, Soda…. so much crazy stuff.  There are a few rules that you have to look out for however… those will remain a secret until you ‘swear in’ to the game.  I know the tour we got coming up this weekend with Bloodsport will no doubt get really loose in no time, those boys love to party and pranks happen by the hour.

What has been the craziest pit you have caused?

It’s really hard to say, a lot of our shows get very violent and we have seen a lot of kids get pretty messed up.  It’s weird because we all come from a different background to a lot of kids these days, so we get pretty stoked on violent mosh as we have all come out from some shows badly beaten up in the past, and have always seen that as a good thing ha-ha.

However, these days a lot of kids don’t know what to expect and end up getting badly hurt and don’t come back to shows, also a lot of girls stand too close to the pit and end up getting knocked around which isn’t good.  I think some of our craziest pits have been at the biggest shows we have played like at Parachute Festival numerous years kids have ended up knocked out cold and missing teeth as well as a dude who got kicked in the face at one of our shows in Mexico, but our friends prayed for him and he got instantly healed and stood back up which was awesome, as he was showing no signs of life and had been carried out on to the curb of the street.

What would you guys be doing if you weren’t playing music?

I find it so hard to sit still and not keep myself busy constantly with projects outside of the band, so if I wasn’t playing music it’s safe to say I would pretty much be doing what I am doing now, and still working in the music industry, managing artists, booking shows and tours and running a label, I would probably also have more time to focus on my web and graphic design work which I have been doing for the last few years.

Nick would most likely become an art teacher and continue more with his painting etc running exhibitions at galleries etc. (which he needs to do more often, because he is awesome).  George would either become a tattooist or a total farmer dude drinking beer and playing rugby ha-ha and Ben would just do what he always does… nothing.

What do you do when you are not touring?

Hang out together, work and spend time with our families/wives. We like to watch movies and eat together a fair bit.  That and drinking coffee at pretentious ‘scenester’ cafes ha-ha.

Where do you guys see yourself as a band in five years?

Hopefully still doing what we are doing now, making records and touring as much as we can and spreading the word of God worldwide. We have a lot of goals as a band, but God is the boss and He has the plan, so we will just continue to trust Him and walk through the doors that He opens for us.

If you could plan your ultimate show, what bands would you want to play with?

It would be a festival with the following 10 bands and us: Slayer, Sepultura (with Max), Biohazard, Fury of Five, Cro Mags, Earth Crisis, Point of Recognition, Merauder, Arkangel and Madball.

An IVM reader wanted to know what it is like playing with For Today?

Those boys are some of our best friends. They are an amazing group of people, an incredible live band and an uncompromising ministry.  There is no band in my opinion that comes close to being as driven and yet as passionate and genuine as those guys in the Christian metal/hardcore scene, every time we have shared the stage with them it has been so much fun. They are also an absolute machine and make any other band look like a bunch of amateurs.

%d bloggers like this: