A while ago Ani Lozanova took her Ani Lo. Projekt to the next level with the impressive album `A Time Called Forever’. An intense impressive album built around the charismatic powerful voice of Ani Lozanova, a Bulgarian native who took hold of her career. The Ani Lo. Projekt could have easily been labelled with a band name as the album radiates team effort over solo tendencies. Though Lozanova is the front-runner and key player, it is clearly a band effort radiating with stride.
`A Time Called Forever’ is an album that is packed with hooks and melodies over a progressive drive. The music is more metal than one could expect and touches with classic US power metal as well as European metal. German elements are subdued though, even though the creativity spawned by Dawn Of Destiny’s Jens Faber and producer Markus Teske is elemental. The balance never tilts and the exceptional performance of Ani stands fiercely tall. She belts an impressive job with powerful execution of the songs, switching registers frequently and steering clear from the typical epic female fronted scene. Lozanova can front any sympho gothic metal band easily, but it is her powerful underscore crossing to a more diverse spectrum of the genre. Not entirely straying from that genre she manages to make the new album an intrinsic and fierce endeavour. Powerful and bold. Exquisite musical craftsmanship fused with sheer talent. Yes: I became a fan....
With a little delay due to my packed agenda I catch up with the vocalist to dive deeper into her career and her many unpredictable choices leading to her current status. `A Time Called Forever’ is here...
Hello Ani, thank you for taking the time to talk with us about your career and the new album. Can you please briefly introduce yourself to the readers of HeadBangers LifeStyle?
,,Hello dear headbangers and thank you for the invitation! My name is Ani Lozanova. I was born in Berlin but I am Bulgarian and grew up in the capital Sofia. Since 2013 I live with my small family in the beautiful German city of Münster. I don`t eat meat, love chocolate, candles, cats, fitness and Bulgarian Rakija. Bruce Dickinson, Devin Townsend and Tarja Turunen are a great inspiration for me.’’
You quickly rose to fame in your homeland when you appeared on national television, correct?
,,Yes, that was when I was 16 years old. I participated in a TV competition for new musical talents on Bulgarian national television. Everyone else sang covers and I was the only one who performed a new original Bulgarian song! The piece later became a hit. I gave my first autograph at the age of 16!’’
Did your career take off instantly after that appearance?
,,At the time I actually was still a student in the German high school in Sofia and I obviously had to concentrate primarily on learning. After graduation I started studying at the Music Academy in Sofia and in 1997 I recorded my biggest hit ,,Ne moga da zaspja’’ (Can not fall asleep). From that moment my career really started to take shape.’’
You were also welcomed by many TV shows such as `Fear Factor’ and `Fort Boyard’, as well as the Eurovision Song Contest. How did this shape your career?
,,I was always well-known in Bulgaria as the ‘muscular singer’. People often made fun of me because of my affinity for fitness and bodybuilding ... I was often invited to sports and reality shows because fitness was just as important in my life as music. Through these 2 TV shows I won several fans of course ... and for me personally it was a great experience!’’
With your band you benefited in Bulgaria, playing many of the bigger clubs extensively... Both your albums `Miracle’ and `Ani Lozanova 2009’ added to your fame. How different was it to step outside of the spotlights and focus on your musical career (less mainstream)?
,,As in many other small countries, metal is not the most popular music in Bulgaria. There are a lot of fans and some big festivals with world famous metal bands participating, but the fact is that you can't financially live off of metal music in my home country. When I recorded the first symphonic metal album `Miracle’ with Kossy D. and my great Bulgarian colleagues, we had wonderful gigs at biker meetings and in most metal clubs. Unfortunately, these clubs were decreasing rapidly... because they simply didn't bring any money. If you want to make metal in Bulgaria, you got to have a safe job. That is the bitter reality.’’
Where you able to cross over your metal background to a wider audience?
,,Yes, as I said, in Bulgaria the metal fans are numerous, beautiful and loyal, I love them! I was fortunate to share my music with them on stage!’’
How is the Bulgarian music scene in general and the metal scene specifically?
,,I haven't lived in my home country for 7 years, but before I emigrated, chalga (belly dance) music was the most preferred musical direction. This "music" is based on cover versions of Greek, Turkish and Serbian hits and in most cases it has dirty and provocative lyrics stuck to it ... I couldn't deal with this chalga reality anymore and that was one of the reasons for me to emigrate.’’
`Miracle’ was the last album recorded before your move to Germany, correct?
Yes, `Miracle’ was recorded in 2010 and published on March 25th, 2011. I moved to Germany in 2013.’’
Ani Lozanova, an established name in Bulgaria. Why did you move to the uncertain future in Germany, where you have to build your career from the ground up?
,,I just got other priorities after the birth of my son Michael. On the one hand, most of the metal clubs were closed, on the other hand I wanted to offer my child a better future. I love Bulgaria, but corruption and poverty drives me crazy.’’
Ever regretted the move?
,,No, even though I am homesick often. But I fly to Sofia 3 times a year. I miss my parents, the Danube river (we have a house in a village called Novo selo) and my friends...’’
With your move to Germany, your musical partner also split from you when he moved to San Diego. How did this affect you and your music?
,,When I had my child in 2012 it was clear that our band would not be performing for a longer time. In addition, the metal stages were dying and the best thing Kossy D. could do was to establish his new future in the USA. I miss him very much, we know each other since 1994 and have been playing together since 1998 ... But after a long break, we decided to record a new album despite the great distance in between. It was initiated and financed by Kossy D. himself and we simply needed to kill the nostalgia and create something powerful together.’’
It also made you construct an entirely new band, was that difficult, being rather unknown in Germany?
,,At the beginning I only performed with the Bulgarian pianist Georgi Markov! He recognized me in a shopping center and we became friends! Later on we met the famous guitarist Doc Heine. At that time, he had his own trio and we just got together. That's how my Ani Lo. Projekt Germany took shape. I am popular only in Bulgaria, but everyone can see my songs and background on the Internet ... and that helped me a lot here in Germany [smiling].’’
Is it a big difference in cultures living in Germany?
,,The city I live in is very colourful, there are numerous nationalities and freaks! If you speak the language you never have any problem!’’
`Miracle’ strays entirely from the new `A Time Called Forever’. Was this the impact from your move?
,,The difference comes more from the different composers. For `Miracle’ our musical guru was the great singer and composer Ian Parry (Consortium Project, Elegy, Vengeance, Hammerhead) from The Netherlands / England. `A Time Called Forever’ is my Ani Lo. Projekt cooperating with the brilliant and multi- talented guitarist Jens Faber from Bochum (Germany).’’
The new album also sees you reunited with Kossy.... Explain...
,,June 2018 drummer Kossy D visited us here in Münster. I had told him about Jens Faber earlier and we spontaneously decided to drive to visit and meet Jens in Bochum. When we found out how many great songs Jens had already written, we decided to record a new album with him! Kossy D. was ready to produce the new project. We knew that it would not be easy to create a new metal album over distance. We selected 12 songs from Jens that would suit my voice and the Ani Lo. Projekt best. We edited them and changed the structure of most of the songs to match our style. The strength of Jens lies in the progressive metal and power metal and you can hear that immediately on `A Time Called Forever’, even though we had to adapt the songs to the sound of Ani Lo. Projekt. Kossy D. recorded the drum tracks in San Diego, Jens recorded the guitars, bass and piano in his home studio, and Markus Teske mixed the album in the Bazement Studio. Then it was my turn and I recorded the 12 songs with Markus in the studio. It took us only 5 days. It was great fun! We started every day at 10 am and recorded the vocals ‘till 9 pm. Markus also edited some arrangements and mastered the whole product. It was challenging for him, because he only received our requests and suggestions through email. It is always easier when the band representative sits next to the sound engineer and assists him during the final mixing. But that was not the case.’’
Was it challenging singing the new music? You never had to work this hard before (much to my conclusion)? You seem more powerful and confident in the vocal delivery....
,,Thank you very much! That's right, the new songs are a big challenge due to the wide vocal range they cover. Each song has its own character and mood and the vocals are very dependent to colour them as such. I tried to show my harsh and tender side, to cover the lows and the highs adding to the posture of the tracks. For some songs we recorded massive classical choirs with Markus. It became very helpful that I took some opera lessons in the past [smiling]. I work as a vocal coach at the Music Academy in Münster. Teaching the students helped me to discover my own voice and approach it from a new perspective to develop it further!’’
The album also benefits from the powerful production from Markus Teske. How did you get in touch?
,,We met Markus Teske through Ian Parry. Ian recommended him as a super crazy metal sound engineer and he even mastered our first album `Miracle’ in the Bazement Studio 2010.’’
Then there’s vocal performances by Eric Dow (Hellsot), Michael Thionville (Voodoma) as well as from Kossy Dinev and your husband Lachezar Stefanov. How did this all take shape and who decided which song should feature specific vocalists?
,,Eric is a friend of Kossy D in the United States. When I heard his voice for the first time, I immediately thought I want him for our new album! The song ,,Fly With Me” is a duet with the Voodoma singer Michael Thionville. I know Micha from a Festival we performed on together. I invited him for the song because his voice is the perfect one for it! My husband Lachezar sings with me on ,,Bleed”. He has metal in his veins and I wanted him to finally show his black metal voice! And Kossy D. supports the choirs in the album with his unique bass voice.’’
And in between there is you..... belting an impressive performance.
,,Kisses & Hugs [huge smile]’’
The artwork and video for the album are all created by Bulgarian artists. Are you that strongly rooted to your country?
,,Deliana Stoyanova is a very talented Bulgarian artist and a good friend of ours. The idea of the antique watch with the integrated deadhead on the Cover (my face) actually hails from Lachezar, and Deliana developed it very well. The video is a production from the Bulgarian cameraman Mitko Petrov, who lives in Bremen. He is also a good friend of ours and a wild biker as well. Bulgaria is a poor country with a lot of talented people. I will always support them if I have the opportunity for it.’’
Ever considered labelling the band with a name instead of your name? (It would enable you to start with an entirely clean slate... )
,,At the very beginning I suggested to name the band GUARANA ... but my colleagues found the idea stupid and wanted my name for the band!’’
I came across the quote “No singer is greater than the song” I guess the Ani Lo. Projekt songs are definitely less appealing with another vocalist....
,,Thank you dear!! But... every singer fades out at some point… and The Song remains forever in the hearts and souls of fans and many generations! `A Time Called Forever’ features great songs not because I perform them. It’s its melody and pure energy that makes the soul fly!’’
When can we expect the Ani Lo. Projekt on stage?
,,On the 22.08.2020 we will shoot the video for the duet with Michael Thionville , ,,Fly With me”. Only God knows when we will be able to perform it live.’’
How did the current world situation and pandemic affect you and your plans?
,,The plan was for us to fly to the USA on April 7th, 2020 and visit Kossy D. ... the flight was cancelled due to Covid-19.... But I still believe, that everything that happens in my life is actually the best for me.’’
Anything you want to add?
,,STAY STRONG! BE FREE!’’
Ani Lo. Project Facebook here
HBLS review on `A Time Called Forever’ here
#aniloprojekt #prideandjoy #headbangerslifestyle #hbls #awayoflife