Rudy Leal is a man who has lived quite a life! Not only did he play in Shattered Sun from 2006-2009, he then went on to join the U.S Army where he has been serving ever since; he is actually out on deployment as you read this!
During his service, Leal has been able to find time to continue his passion for music; this has led to the creation of a debut album, released under the moniker Nemesis Alpha. Nemesis Alpha is 14 tracks of Leal selecting the best of his catalogue from over the years, whilst working alongside the one and only Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid (Soilwork/The Night Flight Orchestra); Nemesis Alpha is available for purchase now so make sure to grab a copy!
OVERDRIVE got the opportunity to email Leal quite a few questions whilst he is deployed and Leal was able to find time to send back extensive answers to every one!
First topic of discussion was how Leal got the opportunity to work alongside Strid on this album; Leal explained how “I’ve had a few key life-changing moments in my life from a musical standpoint; hearing both In Flames and Soilwork for the first time in about 2000 or 2001 was definitely one of them! One of my good friends introduced me to the early Swedish “Gothenburg” melodic death metal sound and I was instantly hooked; I found Dark Tranquility, At the Gates, and a few other MDM bands shortly after, which immediately impacted my songwriting and my guitar playing forever. From the beginning, Bjorn had one of the most unique and killer voices in metal and at that time I only dreamed of working with him. I actually found a third party entity online that links studio and professional musicians and it just so happened Bjorn was offering session vocals services so I knew at that moment I had to take advantage. He agreed to do the full album and we started working on it from there.”
When it came to the production of the lyrics on Nemesis Alpha, Leal gave a good insight into who receives more credit:
“For this album I write the majority of the lyrics; one song was collaborated with Sean Henderson, a good friend of mine. Bjorn writes a few full songs also! For the most part it was a collaboration between Bjorn and I, where I gave him a lot of lyrics for a song and he would either add, take away or just re-arrange a little. It was actually kind of weird because on the song ‘Obscurity’, I originally wrote the lyrics and recorded vocals myself as a demo but never sent or showed Bjorn; however after he got the lyrics and recorded, it was almost the exact same patterns and overall feel! It kind of showed that we were on the same page from the beginning and he was the perfect fit for the dynamic range of the record.”
Thanks to the collaboration with Strid, there is a high likelihood that Nemesis Alpha will be likened to Soilwork; Leal gladly explained how “I consider it an honor to be mentioned with Soilwork”, before touching greater on the direction he was wanting this album to take:
“Honestly I think the album and the music speaks for itself, that this is something very different! The direction I tried to go with this album was more of a diverse approach; there are slow songs, brutal ones, fast and technical and even a little groovy/djent sometimes. I don’t really care about genres much; if it sounds great, it sounds great, no matter the style. Overall I think people will hear that this is not Soilwork and will make their own decision on if they like it or not. Bjorn does an amazing job and his voice fits the style so perfect. I can say confidently that any fan of Bjorn, Soilwork, Disarmonia Mundi and MDM in general will definitely dig this album.”
Leal was kind enough to touch back on his days in Shattered Sun, before going on to explain what lead to his departure from the band:
“When I first joined Shattered Sun, there was no real identity or specific ‘Shattered Sun’ style yet! It was great because Daniel (guitars) was really into Unearth and Metallica at the time, so he would do these as I liked to call them “ugly” harmonies; meanwhile I was really into In flames and Soilwork with the “happier” harmonies. It didn’t take long to mix our styles into what later would be a kind of signature Shattered Sun sound; once we found that, we focused on writing, recording and just playing as many shows as we could! Honestly, it was probably some of the best times of my life; just playing shows all the time, but like everything in life it couldn’t last, at least for me. I went in search of a more stable career, which led me to the Army. I joined and have been serving ever since.”
Leal was kind enough to explain how he is able to combine writing/creating music with military service and deployment; when asked about whether it influences his music or whether it was an emotional release, Leal explained how “I wouldn’t say it’s so much influenced by my career; it’s just my love for making music. The military has taught me so much that I would of otherwise never learned and taken me places I would never have seen. It’s been an interesting experience to say the least; I am actually currently deployed right now on my fourth deployment in four years! With each one, it’s always rough being away from family, friends, and being able to write and record music. Luckily these days there is WiFi, Skype and ways to keep in touch so that helps; however the busier I am, the faster deployment goes by.”
Given that Nemesis Alpha consisted of just Leal and Strid working together, just how would Nemesis Alpha go about playing a live show; considering Leal played the instruments and Strid has a very busy schedule! Leal elaborated on how this problem was avoided last year, as well as further explaining how Nemesis Alpha would get to perform live in future:
”So up until about last year, I was playing some of these songs live with a band we called War Asylum out of Fayetteville, NC; this included Sean who I mentioned earlier. I primarily wrote all the music and recorded it, then the band would learn the songs before we’d play them live; however the other guitar player Chris moved for employment reasons, so we kind of just stopped playing. This led me to fully pursue Nemesis Alpha! As far as a live performance now, I have so many friends that are such talented musicians, I don’t think it would be difficult to reach out and get together to deliver a live show. Bjorn is a busy man though, so more than likely it would have to be someone else on the mic unless he just so happens to be in town, haha!”
Given Leal’s busy schedule with the army, how has he been able to write and record a mind boggling 14 songs for Nemesis Alpha? Leal explained how his love for music conquers even being deployed:
“So it’s kind of weird; I never really stop writing ideas, even when I’m deployed. One thing all my musician friends are amazed by, is the pure volume of which I can produce songs; I’ll sit down and write, record and finish a song within a few hours for a few days straight, making an album’s worth in a few days. Honestly, I have made probably over 500 or more songs; for years my brother, friends and everyone I know have tried to get me to release an album, but I’ve always said “soon…”, but never fully committed until now! Really the worst part about having so many songs is picking the keepers and/or cutting some out. The funny thing is I have enough quality material for two to three more full albums already but I tend to keep writing more songs!”
So what does the immediate future hold for Leal; it must be hard trying to juggle making plans to get out on the road and balance army commitments! Leal was kind enough to elaborate on what the rest of the year holds:
“I won’t be home for a while again, but thankfully time flies out here so it’ll be done soon. At this point I consider myself more a studio musician, who unfortunately can’t tour or play live shows for extended periods of time. Some may look at that as a bad thing, but I think of it more of an advantage; since I am a solo artist/one-man band, I’m able to streamline the writing and recording process. These breaks from my guitar also give me this weird new creative spark when I actually get home and start playing again. It gets rough being away from my guitar for half a year or more, but when I pick it up it again, songs literally flow out!”