Interview | Swan Hellion – singer/guitarist of BlackRain

Back To The Future

By the end of 2022, French 80s inspired rockers BlackRain released their latest studio effort `Untamed’.  An excellent, sky rocking album, with which the band redefines sleazy hair metal dynamite on their own terms. Showing great musicianship and a keen eye for appealing melodies that stick to the brain and all wrapped up in untamed energy. BlackRain is already around for 22 years, released 7 studio albums so far and played countless shows, but still worldwide success seems to be a long road. Hopefully their upcoming album release `Hot Rock Time Machine’ [out April 12, 2024] will change that.

Because what started as an in between project that needed to be done as quickly as possible without any fuss, became a big thing after all. The first single ,,Revolution’’ was released mid-February and already started a promising buzz on Social Media. Also, HeadBangers LifeStyle feels pretty excited about this new release and sat down with singer/guitarist/songwriter Swan Hellion to take a closer look upon the album. Because `Hot Rock Time Machine’ is not about new songs, but about 5 old tracks from `Lethal Dose’ [2011] and 5 old tracks from `It Begins’ [2013] newly recorded. Songs that are definitely BlackRain old school classics and deserve a second chance.


The seed was planted a long time ago, due to constant demand of fans over the years. But the conditions were never right, until it finally got to a point that they were. Swan explains.

,,I had this idea for quite a long time, but we didn’t have the time, the money and the equipment. When Franky Costanza became our new drummer last year, it was a gamechanger. He has his own studio and recording the drums suddenly became so much easier and without needing a budget. It actually all started with the idea to upload the original tracks, but we weren’t sure we could do this without getting any legal trouble or copyrights issues, because we don’t own those recordings. Then we questioned ourselves if we wanted to upload these old recordings anyway, because there were so many things we were not happy about. Suddenly we had the opportunity to change a few things and to re-do what we could.’’

What was it about the old recordings you were not happy about?

,,The most important thing for me was re-doing my vocals because I knew I could do it so much better now than back then. You will notice when you compare the old and the new versions. Back then my voice sounded very thin. I had a weird way of singing and it was really bothering me actually. It took me a lot of time to change that, but I made a lot of progress and learned a lot as a vocalist. I actually really needed to get better to be able to deliver an entire show as a vocalist without getting too tired too fast. I still sing as high as before, but I have much more power in my voice, although I try to sing lower in general, because it is just not possible for me to sing high notes all the time for one hour and a half.  Also, ten years ago there were so many people around the band, with so many different points of view. Some songs became something else and different from what we originally had in mind. Sometimes it is very helpful, having input from others, but back then, especially with `It Begins’, we sometimes didn’t even have the final say in what we wanted during the recording process. This time I wanted to stick more to my original ideas. 

With `Lethal Dose’ it was a completely different story. At the time we were very young, we didn’t have the money to do a proper recording, a proper mix and we recorded the songs without thinking if we could actually play them live. Which was a problem sometimes, especially for me because I was singing so high all the time. In the studio it was fine but being on stage, moving around, playing guitar as well and having a 20-song setlist, it was much harder and not really possible all the time. We have taken this in account and made the new versions to function on stage as well. There are a few songs that we would have liked to re-record but we didn’t because there was this wild and reckless touch of our younger years and this magic cannot be re-produced. We felt it was better to not destroy that energy.’’


`Hot Rock Time Machine’ features all the cool BlackRain classics that actually prove the band had a talent for catchy and appealing songs already in their early years. Swan agrees.

,,Yeah, I think we already had a good thing going back then with these songs. It was just not well played, sang and developed yet. One of the reasons that was motivating us to re-record these songs, was we really thought some of the tracks have big potential. Such as ,,Nobody But You’’, the only ballad on the album, and which will be our next single and will be out on March 22, 2024. We are expecting a lot from this song because everybody really loved that track. It was actually very important for us to give especially this song a new chance, a new life. It would have been a waist to just leave it completely behind us, not having them on streaming platforms.

You could find some of these tracks on YouTube if you dig a little, but they are low quality uploads from fans. The songs are now getting a second chance and we really looking forward to the response of the fans and we hope people will appreciate it as much as we do. At least it will be now available via streaming and this is what matters to us as well.’’

Next video single ,,Nobody But You” will be released March 22, 2024

`Hot Rock Time Machine’ introduces new drummer Franky Costanza, who replaces original drummer Frank Frusetta. Since their formation the line-up has never changed. Swan, Frank F., Max 2 [guitar] and Matt [bass] are friends since high school, experienced ups and downs together and their bond always seemed unbreakable. From Frank to Franky is just one letter, jokes Swan, before getting serious about the line-up change.

,,Frank had a lot going on in his family, his private life and some serious issues that he had to take care of. He is also a father of 3 children now and it became really tough for him to combine all that and having free time as well to play with the band or work on songs. It got to a point that it was bothering Frank a lot, not be able to get free time for the band. When we were asked to go on tour with Kissin’ Dynamite again and it was not possible for Frank, we had to sit down and make a decision for the future of BlackRain. At first the idea was to replace Frank temporarily and that’s why we contacted Franky, who we already knew for a long time.

He is a big name in France, very popular and actually one of the best professional drummers we have in France. Franky is also a big fan of 80s hard rock, he was very excited about our last album and even though he has a busy schedule, he was very motivated to join us. He might not be able to play all our future concerts, but then we might actually replace him with Frank. So that’s a fun fact. Franky is our official drummer now, but we will play with Frank from time to time. Frank actually played one song with us recently and it was great because we are still friends.’’


A name that pops up in the credits is Hannes Braun, singer of Kissin’ Dynamite and an excellent performer, producer and songwriter as well. Hannes took care of mixing `Hot Rock Time Machine’, which was an important step in the entire process, according to Swan. 

,,One of the main goals was to get a good production and the sound design of `Hot Rock Time Machine’ is more adapted to what people are used to listen to nowadays. It’s not that the old, original recordings sounded bad, but more from another era, like really 70s. Hannes did a really good job again, but wasn’t more involved than only doing the mix. Like I said, it was planned to do this album really quick, but I think I have been quite picky with this album and I probably pissed Hannes off a little bit at times. But we are on good terms [laughing] and still working together [laughing]. 

The album cover is designed by Yellow Mushi again. It looks colourful and 80s with a touch of synth wave colours. Us looking like skeletons is like a typical Guns ‘N Roses design from back in the day, which I am a big fan of [smiling]. There is also the DMC DeLorean car from the movie Back To The Future and it symbolizes bringing back those tracks from years ago to the present. Actually, this project was not meant to become a physical product on vinyl and CD, plus shooting videos for some songs. You need to make videos nowadays, it goes along with the whole streaming business. People want it, people need it, if you don’t do it, you can be sure that people in general will pay less attention to the songs that you don’t make a video for. You notice it right away during your concerts. We are really lucky our bass player Matt takes care of editing our videos, it saves a lot of money. The album release will be via the small label of our publisher. At the moment we are discussing with our label SPV if they will distribute `Hot Rock Time Machine’ outside of France.’’


Swan earlier mentioned the band is working on a new album and it seems they are pretty far in the writing process. 

,,We are quite far ahead in terms of compositions and most of the album is ready. We just keep making more songs because we need to be able to make a choice for our musical direction. You see, my problem is, since I am writing most of the songs, that I go in different directions. Sometimes it is too far from BlackRain. Therefor we keep writing until we have enough songs to make something consistent out of and that will please everybody. Our record label has to agree as well. But it will be a BlackRain, somehow 80s influenced album.’’

When we are doing this interview, Swan is sitting in his tattoo shop [Swan H Tattoo] in Sweden. Being a tattoo artist is his other passion, but also a necessity. 

,,I am drawing on people and this is how you pay the bills and buy food [laughing]. Sleaze metal doesn’t bring enough money nowadays and also, we keep the income in the band to be able to invest in recordings, videos and everything that involves BlackRain. Most of our listeners are in France and that’s where we can pack venues with our name. Outside France it is not possible yet, but that is still our goal. We are actually working harder on the German market right now with `Hot Rock Time Machine’. Kissin’ Dynamite made a lot of progress in Germany, so there might be some chances for BlackRain as well.

We also have fans in Sweden and Finland as well, but it is kind of far and I guess it cost too much money to bring a band like BlackRain abroad. Therefor we play mostly in France, UK, Belgium, Switzerland and sometimes Germany but that’s about it for now. I am looking forward to our release party in Paris, which will be on 6th of April and our special gig in Paris as well the day after.’’

Credit bandphotos: Julien Zannoni


Rock 'n Roll To Death.

BlackRain is an 80s inspired rock/metal band from the south of France.


80s inspired, rock, hard rock, metal




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