|Posted on April 21, 2017 at 2:45 AM||comments (0)|
Rock is dead. This has been the debate amongst some of the music industry’s heavyweights over the past couple of years. While everyone has an opinion, myself included, just one listen to “Don’t Let Up” - the new offering from Californian hard rockers Night Ranger - would strongly suggest that the pulse of Rock and Roll is beating just fine. This is the band’s 12th studio record and it also marks the band’s 35th Anniversary; 2017 is shaping up to be a massive year for one of America’s most popular rock outfits. As fate would have it, singer/songwriter and bassist Jack Blades was on hand for a chat to discuss the new album, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the band’s 35 years in the business.
Rock Man: Firstly thank you for your time today Jack, I appreciate it. This band has been riding a wave of success for 35 years now. Have you had an opportunity at any point to reflect on what you have achieved or are you still having too much fun on this rock and roll journey to do that?
Jack Blades: I think I’m too busy being too busy to sit back and rest on my laurels or our laurels or all the things we have done. With Night Ranger we just keep rockin’ - we tour every year, we’ve got this new album Don’t Let Up, I’m doing the new Revolution Saints record [and] we’re touring a lot this year and it’s the 35th Anniversary. To tell you the truth, I have not actually had the time or the inclination to sit back and go “Wow, look what we’ve done!”. All I know is that it is kind of a shocking event when you sit back and go “Wow, we’ve done this for 35 years now” when Dawn Patrol was released 35 years ago in 1982 and I’m telling you, sometimes it feels like 35 days [laughs].
RM: I have long believed that bands don’t survive in the music industry for long periods of time by accident, you need to be doing something right on a consistent basis in order to sustain a career. With three and a half decades under your belt, what has been the secret to Night Ranger’s longevity?
JB: I think that we as a band just love to play. And right now we are having so much fun playing - we’re having so much fun creating the music - I think the fact that we don’t, at this stage of the game, have to prove ourselves to anyone, any more. Now when we hit the stage we just go up there to have fun and the audience can have fun, everybody can have a goodtime. I mean, we’ll throw different songs in and we switch things around, Night Ranger does not use loops or tapes or anything like that on our live shows so everything we do, everything we play, everything you hear coming off the stage is live from our mouths, our guitars, our drums and our keyboards. So that being the case, a lot of times we just change the set-up and throw in songs we don’t normally play - we’re playing songs we haven’t played in 10-15 years, it’s fun, not only for the audience but for ourselves.
RM: So with that in mind, last year the band released a live CD/DVD package: 35 Years And A Night In Chicago. I thought this was a wonderful testimony to the band’s music and staying power. As you go through song after song it’s just one solid track after another. You appear to have maintained a real sense of “quality control” over the years when making music, what is the criteria for selecting material for albums?
JB: Well we’ve always been pretty hard on ourselves, I think. But a good song is a good song and if I can grab an acoustic guitar and I can sing you the song and sing you the chorus and you get it, you can get the song with just one voice and one guitar or piano or something. If it makes sense as a good melody and a good lyric and a good song, then it is a good song. And Night Ranger has always subscribed to that theory, so we’re pretty hard on ourselves when we look at songs. Sometimes we’ll be jamming on it and we’ll go “Nah, just don’t fell it. Let’s start something else”, and somebody will come up with an idea and boom, that will spur someone else to come up with a chorus line or a vocal or a guitar part or something and the next thing you know we have another Night Ranger song.
RM: Congratulations of the release of the band’s new album Don’t Let Up. From the get-go I thought this album sounded much more “edgier” and “heavier” than previous albums. Is this an accurate assessment or just my imagination?
JB: I think that what you’re reading into it is what we tried to accomplish in that since this is our year to celebrate 35 years of touring and playing, we wanted a record that sounds like what we sound like live, who we are live. Because basically we’re a straight ahead, kick ass, American Rock and Roll band - case closed, boom, go for it! And that is what we wanted to achieve on this record, so in that respect we wanted to be more like our live show because this is kind of like a celebration year for us. So we wanted to celebrate the 35 years, celebrate with the fans and so we wanted to make a record that is more like our live show, so I think that is what you’re picking up. You know, less ballads, maybe less acoustical things, less quieter things, I think the drums are louder in the mix and we intentionally did that because we wanted it to be more like who we are on stage and I think that is what we accomplished and that is what you’re hearing.
RM: Yes, indeed. So I’d like to get your thoughts on a couple of the songs from the new album and I’ll start with the title track – Don’t Let Up. You’ve always written very positive kind of lyrics and this one fits the Night Ranger mould perfectly, doesn’t it?
JB: I think it does. It’s kind of an autobiographical song; when I landed in San Francisco I was all alone and I didn’t know anybody. I just came to town and wanted to start music and wanted to start playing and you know, I met my wife in Sausalito and the whole idea of like, you go into something and even though you’re a kid and you don’t know what’s going on and you’re just kind of going for it, you know, you never let up. I never let up and the band never let up. Don’t let up on the big picture and that is what the song is about and that is what the lyrics are about - there is a whole world waiting for you. And so as long as you’re focused on the end game and you’re focused on the ball and you keep going, that is really what the Don’t Let Up song is and we thought that was really a perfect title for the album; and the perfect title for the fact that we’ve been doing this for 35 years, so it’s like we’re not letting up.
RM: Truth is a song which I can see as a potential single from the record and also a song which I can see becoming a permanent part of the live setlist. Can I get your thoughts about that track?
JB: Oh I think it is a wonderful track, it’s one of my favourites. In fact, it’s Brad Gillis’ (guitarist) favourite song, he just loves Truth. It came about very organically, we were sitting around and I’m like, “I want to write a new song and I want it to go something like this” and we had different ideas and Keri Kelli (guitarist) was with us at the time and Keri said “Let’s try this?” and I said “No, how about this?” and I started (hums guitar melody) and, you know, we started jamming and the chorus and the verses came out and it just naturally came out and the whole thing was written in about 30 minutes. All the good songs are written like that, they just come to you and it’s almost like you’re channelling another energy or something, which we probably were [laughs]. But Truth is one of my favourite songs and I think it is a heavy lyric; it’s a little heavier than maybe what Night Ranger likes to touch on but I think it’s important for this world to just “Give me Truth”.
RM: I love the bluesy/honky tonk piano bar feel of (Won’t Be Your) Fool Again. This sounds like it was a whole lot of fun to record.
JB: Oh yeah, we had a blast doing that one. Brad and I sat down and he had that [hums guitar melody] and I just came up with the idea of (Won’t Be Your) Fool Again and the lyrics are kind of funny, you know, “I feel like I’m living in a T.V. show/With a dude that’s some dumb-ass Joe” I mean, we had fun [laughs]. And again, that is a bit of a departure, it’s more bluesy than what Night Ranger usually puts on a record. But we really enjoyed it, Keri played a great slide guitar and of course Eric Levy (keyboards) with the honky tonk piano was just spectacular.
RM: As seasoned veterans I would imagine recording albums is a pretty pain free experience - get in, press record, knock it out, done - or is there still the odd challenge from time to time?
JB: Well, there’s always challenges along the way. A lot of these songs on the verses are actually from when we demoed out the songs and I was singing. We looked at it when we took the masters and put everything on it and looked at the vocal and tried singing it a few more times and I’d go “We’re just trying to get it to the level that we’ve already got on there”. Because when we make our demos we make them with a full Pro-Tools rig in a studio and everything like that. So everything is recorded really well and perfect with great mics and stuff [and] a lot of the verses and some of the choruses on are just straight from when we first put the songs down, our first take. When you do that it’s more exciting because, like a song like Somehow, Someway, all those vocals are the demo vocals and I said “To Hell with it man, just run with them because I can’t beat them” [laughs], you know, I couldn’t do them any better. That I think is a testament to having done 12 studio albums and having been in the business 35 years and we walk into a recording studio and it’s like our second home. It’s like walking on stage or walking to my living room, it’s a natural environment for all of us after all these years and because of that I think it makes for a really fun recording process.
RM: In recent times you have introduced guitarist Keri Kelli to the band. What has he brought with him to the Night Ranger table and when you’re in a position of looking for a new band member, what are some of the qualities you’re looking for?
JB: Well, hopefully we don’t have to look for new band members. But when we did, it was interesting because Keri filled in a couple of times for Joel Hoekstra (former guitarist) when he was playing in the Trans-Siberian Orchestra during the winter time. I knew Keri years ago when he was playing with Alice Cooper and I’m very good friends with Alice Cooper and so when Joel left to join Whitesnake we didn’t even try to check out other people we were like “What about Keri?”, “Hey Keri do you want to jump on this train with us?”. Because we had played with him a bunch of times there was no getting used to the guy, no getting used to the way he played, we loved the way he played, we all loved the way he soloed and he works really well with Brad. Brad loves him, he and Brad get along great, they hang out all the time on the road and we already knew that Keri fit Night Ranger like a glove so there was no point going any further. And the proof is in the pudding - this is the first record we’ve done with Keri and there are more double harmony leads and great solos with he and Brad working together than there has been on the last four or five Night Ranger records.
RM: As a fellow drummer myself, Kelly Keagy is one of my all-time favourites. His work on this album is off the page, especially on Comfort Me. Is it possible he’s gone to another level as a drummer on this record?
JB: I think that everyone wanted, like I said, to make a live statement. If you listen to Kelly live, and unfortunately we’ve never been to Australia, but when you see him live that is the way he plays. So we captured the essence of Kelly Keagy on this record and I think he went for it on the record. I think we all wanted to make a statement, Kelly included, and I think that he did and because of the way he played, because he played so well and like I said because we wanted the drums to be more out the front like our live shows I really think he rose to the occasion.
RM: 30 years ago the band released what I consider to be one of the jewels in the crown of the Night Ranger catalogue: Big Life. Does the band at any point throughout 2017 plan on celebrating the release of this record?
JB: There are so many things in the works right now, but nothing I know about in relation to Big Life. But you’re right about that, Big Life was produced in 1987 and that was 30 years ago, unbelievable! What we are going to do this year is play songs, some deep Night Ranger tracks for the fans and we are going to draw from the Big Life record for a couple of those songs. I think there is some good stuff on that record, the song Big Life, The Colour Of Your Smile, Rain Comes Crashing Down, I mean there is some great stuff on that record.
RM: Looking back on those times and that record, what do you recall about that album?
JB: Well, it was kind of a transitional record for us because we used the producer Pat Glasser for the first three albums and on the fourth album Big Life we decided to use Kevin Elson from Journey fame. And we did it in the [San Francisco] Bay area really because we had spent so much time touring and so much time away from our homes that we never had a chance to be in the Bay area and we really wanted to do a record there at a studio that we liked. So we did it at Fantasy Studios and we used Kevin Elson up there. It was a bit of a transitional record for us and also the track The Secret Of My Success, I had written with David Foster, and that was the first single and that was a different sound for Night Ranger in a lot of respects. In fact, I think there were more keyboards on that record than I think there were in the past, I remember that and I remember all of us being up completely the entire night before we took that photo shoot (for the album cover). So if you look at that album cover just know that all of us are sitting around there with just 20 minutes of sleep [laughs], if you look close at the way we look you’ll realise “Boy, these guys take partying to new levels, you guys have got to lay off a little bit” [laughs].
RM: So you just mentioned The Secret Of My Success which was also in the movie of the same name and on its soundtrack. You’ve had a lot of your music end up in movies and on soundtracks, do you have any thoughts on why that is?
JB: Well, it seemed to be a bit of a trend back in the ‘80s. A lot of people did that but with Night Ranger that trend continued all the way up to Boogie Nights and Rock Of Ages, we’ve had a lot of songs in a lot of movies and you’re right. Frankly I like it, I think it’s fun, you go to see the movie and the guys go “Hey, we’d like you to write a song” and the next thing you know you write a song and it’s up on the big screen. It’s a fun thing to do, really enjoyable. I remember Tommy Shaw and I writing with Vince Neil on his first solo song which came out after he left Motley Crue called “You’re Invited But Your Friend Can’t Come” for the Encino Man movie and it was fun. They screened the movie for us and Vince said “Come On, we’ve got to write a song” and so really that is the entire Damn Yankees band, except for Ted Nugent, recording on that song and we used our producer because we were in the studio doing the second Damn Yankees album while we were doing it. I mean, I like doing that sort of stuff, it’s kind of fun.
RM: Once again it’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame season, and with that comes the inevitable debate about who is there/who should be there. From your view point, what are your thoughts on the Rock Hall and is it something that Night Ranger strives to be included in?
JB: Well it is such an honour and we would love to be involved in that. But there are so many bands that are not in there that have been around before us that certainly deserve that recognition. I’m so glad that Journey is getting into it; there’s so many groups that are out there, I mean, can you believe Ted Nugent isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? He started playing music in ’68 with the Amboy Dukes. It’s political, but it’s coming around and getting a little more realistic now. It would be a great opportunity to be involved and be nominated to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of fame but I’m not holding my breath.
RM: In general, how do you see the state of the music industry and Rock and Roll’s place in the world?
JB: I think that Rock and Roll is always going to be around, music is always around it is really the soundtrack to everyone’s lives. There are so many different things I think that can draw people away from music and so many different genres, so many different things. But it all comes down to music man, music touches people’s souls, you know, and I think that’s really the secret of the fact that Night Ranger has been around for 35 years and the fact that our music was the soundtrack for a lot of people’s lives. It’s a thrill when they come to hear the songs and you have a fun time with the guys that created the songs and you’re out there watching the music and all that kind of stuff and for that moment or that hour or that evening it just puts a smile on people’s faces. I mean, the music industry, you know, there is a lot of great music that comes out. I’m a big fan of Taylor Swift and things like that. And then again I love a lot of the harder edge things, I’m still an Iron Maiden fan and Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest and all that kind of stuff. But I grew up listening to Cream and Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin and all the English metal bands and things like that. And basically Night Ranger, when you think about it, when we formed in 1980, we were all huge Thin Lizzy fans - we kind of fashioned the band off of Thin Lizzy.
RM: So just finally, you mentioned before that the band has never been to Australia, is there a chance of doing some shows here and what are your touring plans throughout 2017, where can folks go to see you play?
JB: Well, unfortunately there’s nothing I know of that is booked to head down your neck of the woods. We are going to be touring all across the United States, I do know that we are in Japan in October. I don’t think we are going to Europe this year, I personally am going to Europe to do a Revolution Saints show at Frontiers Festival. So I’m going to Europe but Night Ranger doesn’t have any plans to do any shows. I’ll tell you what the problem is man, to get everyone over to Europe or Australia, to get everyone over there and all our things, unless we have like a ‘go fund me thing’ from all the fans, we’ll spend hundreds of thousands of dollars just to make it all happen. Because you’ve got to get down there, you’ve got to get transportation, pay everybody, play the gigs and all that kind of stuff, so unfortunately we haven’t made it down. It is something I’ve always wanted to do, I want to play Australia and New Zealand and I hope someday we will.
RM: I for one would love to see you make it here one day and I think there are many others that would too. Once again, congratulations on the new album Don’t Let Up. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you and the band all the best for the future.
JB: Well, thank you very much. I’m glad you guys love the record and trust me, I’m going to work on everybody and were going to get down there, somehow, someway, just like the song on Don’t Let Up.
For more information about Night Ranger visit the official website at: www.nightranger.com
Night Ranger – Don’t Let Up is available on Frontiers Music Slr
|Posted on April 11, 2017 at 12:30 AM||comments (0)|
Australia has an abundance of talented Rock and Roll bands and musicians. Yet, sadly many of them don’t get the recognition and support they deserve. For reasons I cannot explain many of these gifted artists have to leave our shores and travel half a world way to find the success they crave. Sydney Rockers Strange Karma are just another example in a long line of bands that have ventured down this path, and after many years of mastering their craft the band’s hard work pays off in the form of their new album “Cold Blooded”. I recently caught up with lead singer/song writer/guitarist and piano player Martin Strange to explore the band’s history, the music industry, and the new album “Cold Blooded”.
Rock Man: Firstly, thank you Martin for your time today; I really appreciate it. For the benefit of those who may not have heard of Strange Karma can you give us a brief rundown of how the band came together?
Martin Strange: The band came together around 2004 in Sydney, Australia. Paul (my brother) and I had spent 3 years in the UK touring with our first ever band. Living, playing and working, making as many mistakes in our journey that most young people do. No management, no money, giving us thicker skin each day. We returned to Australia tired and emotionally bruised, feeling like we had lost everything. We asked ourselves if we should be trying again, never really knowing what the future holds. After placing an ad in the local music magazine and several auditions later we found Jason McDonald, a hard-hitting old school drummer who had incredible passion for music and his kit. He restored new enthusiasm to our music in every respect, giving 100% just like we do. From then on Strange Karma was born.
RM: You often hear bands talk about themselves as being like brothers. But you actually share this band with your brother Paul. That must be a wonderful experience to share that between the two of you and to know that he has got your back 100%.
MS: Yes we do have each other's back 100% in music and in business. The way the industry is today, if you have less than 100% and have no idea where you see yourself you will never make it. We have never been spoiled like most bands back in the day with record deals, money and bullshit. We had to fight for everything in the most difficult times when rock 'n' roll is not even on people's lips anymore and being physically far away from the rest of the world. It is very rewarding to have an album like Cold Blooded and we are all very proud of this record and our story.
RM: As a youngster, who were the bands/artists that inspired you to become a musician?
MS: First ever rock ‘Star’ I ever knew at age 3 or 4 was Jimmy Hendrix. Our Dad had a red guitar with his face on it. My good night songs that Dad would play for me would be Hey Joe or he would play John Mayall or something. Music was always around especially older rock 'n' roll. Good music always inspired me and has driven me. I'm sure Paul feels the same way.
RM: There are those within the media who have described you as a blend of Led Zeppelin meets Queen. Do you think this is a fair assessment of the band’s sound?
MS: Look, there will never be another Led Zeppelin or another Queen and no front man should ever front those bands ever, it's almost comical really. I think what people might be saying is that Strange Karma might have that diversity, confidence, colour and shade, as Jimmy Page puts it referring to Led Zeppelin. Great bands are never one dimensional so I'll take that as a complement.
RM: In 2014 the band released its first album America. Can you tell me about your experience recording that album and the general reception you got from it?
MS: We recorded our first record in Melbourne, Australia. It took about a week to record; it was very quick, in and out type situation. Very raw really, we had released it ourselves and gained very warm and positive feedback in America. The record never had any backing but it created relationships and bridges in the industry. We needed something to start our career with. I really think it's a great album and a time capsule for the bands starting point.
RM: The new album is Cold Blooded and it’s your second record. What lessons from recording the first album did you apply to the recording of this one?
MS: Cold Blooded was our first record that had pre-production. Songs that have been arranged in a way that will be more radio ready. But don't get me wrong it had to have our true colours all over it. We had spent more time in pre-production than the actual recording process. It took about 3 weeks including a mix down. So once again considering what's on it, we worked very quickly and efficiently. We are very proud of this record and it's a great snapshot of what we do and like to play.
RM: I would imagine that you are very proud of this record and the final result. But upon hearing the completed product has it exceeded your expectations or did you have a clear vision of how you wanted this album to sound?
MS: I really think we nailed it. Like I said before we are very happy with this record, it truly kicks ass. We always do our best in any situation that we face. There are many challenges that you face recording a record especially when you have to coordinate everything, time and distance etc. So yeah we killed it.
RM: The lead single from the record is Devil From The Moon. What sort of feedback have you received from fans and media?
MS: People are loving it, the media is loving it and radio are playing it. We are getting a lot of very positive feedback on the song, and the whole record.
RM: Of the 10 songs featured on the album do you have any standout favourites or ones you look forward to the most to playing live?
MS: I really enjoy all the songs on this record they are all challenging in their own way. I particularly like playing Dreams it's lots of fun. Some music critic in a review somewhere called it Strange Karma's Opera.
RM: I find it fascinating that in an age of digital downloads and declining CD sales you’ve chosen to release this album on vinyl only. Can you tell me about the thought process there?
MS: I think we all need to chill out a little and go back to basics. Freddie Mercury once said that technology will kill music and it did. The only way forward is back. People seem to have absolutely no attention span what so ever any more, playing music in passing never really hearing it. People are disconnected from everything. Vinyl record sales are doing well. People are starting to get it. The younger generation are buying vinyl so maybe we are looking at a new music revival. Vinyl is our way to get back to the raw human emotions that made music amazing in the first place. Let's go there.
RM: I hear a lot of debate amongst bands these days about whether it is worth recording full length albums or just releasing bits and pieces via iTunes. What are your thoughts on the full length album?
MS: To be honest I don't really know what other bands do. If they release a song on iTunes maybe they don't have the songs to record a full album. I really don't know. We have always done our thing, and we always follow our gut.
RM: While you have a loyal fan base in Australia, the band has spent a large amount of time developing and building a name for yourselves overseas. Particularly in the UK and also in the United States - is it disappointing that you can’t obtain that same level of success in your native country as you do elsewhere?
MS: I don't think we are anywhere there yet with this question. Everything that we have done was our own development. Testing the waters and gaining very valuable experience. We are hoping that this record will present an opportunity and will be able to give us more exposure.
RM: There are a lot of similar stories about Australian bands that have had to leave the country and go find success overseas, Airbourne for example comes to mind. I find it really sad that they can be a drawcard of the Wacken Open Air Festival in Germany, but can only fill a 500 people capacity bar when they come home. Do you have any thoughts on why it is this way for Aussie bands?
MS: Tall poppy syndrome is alive and well in Australia, as it always has been. It is very sad that great artists get no backing form the industry and its people. I have no idea what to say on this matter, some people pretend that it's all good and the industry is healthy here, it's been like this for as long as I can remember. It seems like it will never change, I don't know exactly what it is. You can only turn it into a positive, conquer the world and stick it up their asses[laughs]! Actually it’s funny when I hear some industry people say, 'oh I haven't heard of these guys before' well where the hell are you looking? Are they even paying attention to what’s going on? Seems like no one really cares sometimes. Another story, a few years back now we went to one of those music industry seminars, you know the ones with a panel of industry folk sitting up on stage telling people what it is they need to be doing? Well one of these guys who was from like EMI started talking about what they are looking for in a band. How they are looking for bands that show signs of longevity, dedication and hard work, how you have to be bold and believe in yourself, not be afraid to stand up and take the risks. Well as soon as this guy finished talking, my brother got up from his seat at the back of the room and walked straight over to the stage and in front of everyone said 'We've got everything you're looking for man, we're on at the marquee tomorrow night!’. I remember the guy smiled and said to the crowd 'see that's what I'm talking about’ – ha! you think that guy even showed up? So just keep on pushing, and don't worry about anything, they will come when all the hard work is done.
RM: In general, how do you see the state of the music industry and Rock and Roll’s place in the world?
MS: I like to think positive, that one day the laptops will be put away and real music will cut through. The problem is good music costs money to develop and the industry is not happy to spend the money for development. I don't see many guys like us that have done the development, recording, touring and taking incredible risks to prove a point to ourselves and the industry. It's all too hard, people would rather play a nostalgic rock 'n' roll hero out there in a pub for a bullshit pay check and never dare to even start their own journey. It's a bloody cover band epidemic out here. I hope there are many more guys that stick to what they've started.
RM: In your opinion, what are the 5 most important albums ever recorded?
MS: Wow this is a hard one.
1 -The Beatles - Abbey Road.
2 - Led Zeppelin 4
3 - Deep Purple - In Rock
4 - Queen - A Night At The Opera.
5 - Jimi Hendrix - Electric Ladyland.
RM: What advice can you give for anyone looking to make a career out of music?
MS: Be prepared for War. It's going to be the hardest thing you will ever do. And only you know if you are cut out for it. Listen to your gut.
RM: What are your touring plans going forward to promote Cold Blooded and do they include Australia?
MS: We are optimistic that the record will be received well and that we will tour it worldwide.
RM: Once again, congratulations on the new album Cold Blooded. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you and the band all the best for the future.
MS: Thank you for the interview, really appreciate it. Many Thanks to the Full Throttle Rock team!! Rock will never Die!!
For more information about Strange Karma visit the band’s official website at: www.strangekarma.net
Strange Karma – Cold Blooded is available through the band’s website.
|Posted on January 30, 2017 at 10:05 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with Ricky Warwick
By Dave Smiles
Ricky Warwick is a seasoned veteran of rock n roll. He’s lived the life and shows no signs of slowing down, especially with the upcoming release of Black Star Rider’s third album Heavy Fire. The man continues to write great songs that are from the heart and are filled with the rock n roll spirit. I was lucky enough to talk with the man about the writing and recording of the album, life on tour, and what’s coming up for Black Star Riders.
First up, congratulations on the upcoming new album Heavy Fire. What can fans expect from this new album?
I think they can expect ten amazing, in your face sounding Rock N Roll songs. Lots of guitars. Lots of big choruses.
All Hell Breaks Loose was recorded in twelve days, and The Killer Instinct was recorded in twenty-one days, if I’m not mistaking. How long did you guys take with this one?
Ah we cheated on this one, we recorded this one in twenty-six days.
So it’s getting a bit longer with each one.
Yeah either we’re getting worse at recording or we’re just taking more time… No, we wanted to take a bit more time. It’s really down to budget and we had a bit more money to play with making this record. Thanks to the success of the last two which is great. So we were able to take a bit more time.
With the success of the previous two albums, was there a need to top what you’ve already done or did things just come naturally?
I think it’s just a need of it’s what we do. It’s our job, you know. We chose to be musicians. We chose to be artists. I get up every day and to me it’s a job like anything else. I want to write, I want to perform, I keep pushing myself forward. I think that’s the same for the other guys in the band. We enjoy touring, we enjoy playing, we enjoy recording so we want to keep doing it for as long as we can.
It’s the second time you worked with producer Nick Raskulinecz. What does he bring out of the band?
He’s got a wealth of experience with the successful records he worked on before with RUSH, Alice In Chains, Foo Fighters and Korn. He’s got a great musical ear. He’s a genius when it comes to arranging stuff like that. He’s a great guy. He becomes like the sixth member when we’re together with him and he’s pushing us hard, trying to get the best out of us. As musicians he works us really hard. He’s got a great studio. He’s got great equipment in his studio. He’s got a great ear for a great song. It’s a real joy working with him.
Is there ever a time when he says you should do something a certain way and you don’t agree with him?
Yeah, I argue with him a lot. And I think that’s good because I don’t want someone coming in to say ‘Everything’s amazing and it’s all brilliant. Go ahead and record it’. He’s always taking things apart. He’s just great. A lot of times he’s right but sometimes I’ll disagree with him. We’ll have it out and we’ll discuss it. There’s a great example on the new album. The last song’s called Letting Go of Me. We’d written twenty songs. We were in pre-production putting the songs together and Nick was like, ‘I think you should write one more song.’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about, we’ve given you twenty solid ideas.’ He was like, ‘I think you’ve got another song.’ I’m like, ‘Dude I’m not writing another song. No way, you know.’ But he’s like, ‘Nah, man come on. You can write one more song.’ So he got me really wound up and then everybody left the studio and I stayed behind. I was really really pissed you know, like How dare you, man. I’ve given you twenty songs. Still you want another song out of me. Alright, I’ll fucking write you another song (laughs. I stayed behind and I wrote Letting Go Of Me about Nick Raskulinecz and how angry I was at him for forcing us to write another song and there you go. It ends up on the album. So he played me. He totally pushed the buttons on me, got the Irish temper. I fell for it. Wrote a song. It’s a great song. Ends up on the record. I guess that’s the genius of the man right there.
So with twenty songs, how do you decide which ten are going to end up on the album?
(Laughs) That’s where Nick comes in. That’s where we argue. I think you get a flow. You get twenty amazing songs, but you need to get them down to ten. So you’ve got to pick the ten that go together to make an album sound cohesive, if that makes sense. There’s a couple of songs that didn’t make that album that I think are really really really good songs that I felt maybe should have been on there, but they didn’t quite fit in with the makeup of the album this time round. Hopefully, we’ll look at them the next time around. Whatever flows, what makes the album sound good. What ten songs you think fit together to best represent where the band is at at that time.
I’m glad you brought that up actually, because I was going to mention that Black Star Rider albums have an old school ideals of an album with beginning, middle and end. It has a flow. In the modern world, where people just download a song here and there, not many people worry about that anymore.
Yeah, I’m glad you picked up on that. It’s something we’re proud of. We feel people should take the time to sit down and listen to a whole record and make it an experience instead of just flicking track to track. But with the way everybody’s attention span is at the minute with the internet, people just seem to forget it’s an album, it’s supposed to be listened to all the way through. That’s something that we try and focus on.
Has the way the band approached song writing changed over the years?
No. It’s pretty much myself and Damon Johnson who do the bulk of the song writing, and Scott Gorham, and this time around Robert Crane chipped in with some great riffs. Scott always brings in some killer, killer guitar riffs which we’ll work into songs. But, it’s always myself and Damon Johnson who do the bulk of the work and the writing. And that’s cool. It’s great that the rest of the guys believe in us and respect us enough to let us get on with that, knowing that we’ll bring in some great stuff to the table.
When you’re writing lyrics are they personal or are they more observations of things around you?
They’re both. Personal observations I guess is the best answer. I write about anything and everything. I write about family, friends, things that I’ve seen on TV. My opinions on stuff, I think it’s really like keeping a diary. I write a lot of lyrics before the music. I’ve got a notebook full of lyrics, I guess you’d call poetry. I’m always writing stuff down. It’s not really, with us, the music comes first. A lot of the time the lyrics come first and we’ll build a song around an idea like that. But, you know, it does work both ways as well.
Are there any songs that are hard to perform live, due to the subject matter?
Um… no. I think that’s what makes them easy to perform because I believe in them so much and there’s so much of myself invested in them lyrically so when I’m singing them they’re 100 per cent from the heart, so I think that makes it easier if anything.
Is there any pre-show rituals that you go through before stepping up on stage?
Ah yeah a really simple one. We all do a shot of whiskey.
That’s it. Just stand around, do a shot of whiskey and then go play.
So you guys have been around, in various bands, for many years now. Do you sit back stage and share stories or is it just drink cups of tea and read the paper these days?
Oh yeah, there’s lots of war stories on the road. Half the time that’s what you’re talking about. The time you did this, or you did that. That’s part of the on the road camaraderie. It’s obviously great to hear Scott Gorham stories from back in the day with Thin Lizzy, which I never get tired of hearing of hearing those stories with him and Phil (Lynott). Pillaging and plundering around the world.
It would be pretty cool to sit back and hear Scott talking about back in the day.
And he’s great at telling them as well. I think I’ve heard some of them twenty times but I never get tired of hearing them.
Besides that, how do you pass the time when traveling between cities?
In Europe you’ve usually traveling overnight and usually wake up at the venue. During that day if there’s promo stuff to do you take care of that, and play a bit of guitar. Me, I like running so I’ll usually go for a run somewhere or find a gym and do something like that. Check in back home, make sure everybody’s okay back home. So it’s pretty easy to fill up your time. A bit of sightseeing.
With your experience in bands over the years, what have you learnt that you bring to this band that keeps things running smoothly?
I think stick to your guns, have a strong belief in what you do and have a great work ethic. Be together and work hard. Don’t leave anything to chance. Make sure that you’re keeping an eye on all aspects of it, music and business wise. I think that’s what I’ve learned over the years.
What advice would you give to a young band starting out these days?
(Laughs), I think what I just said. Make sure you keep an eye of the business side of things just as much as the music side. No, I think you’ve got to have great songs. As much as you can try and look freaky and be the greatest looking band in the world if you don’t have any tunes or any songs than you don’t have anything. You rehearse, and write as much as you can and keep perfecting and working on your song writing skills and believe in what you do. At the end of the day, your bit’s entertainment. You have to entertain people so you got to give them something they can catch on to and believe in and feel a part of.
Who were some of the early bands, as a kid, that really inspired you to do it yourself?
I think obviously Thin Lizzy, that’s a no brainier. I’m a massive Thin Lizzy fan. Stiff Little Fingers, a punk band. The MC 5, Motorhead, Ramones, AC/DC, those kind of bands I was really into as a kid. I liked The Clash as well. But I like all kinds of stuff as well. I always liked Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard. So I’ve always had a wide range of musical tastes.
When you’re writing a song do you try to latch on to your influences or does it just flow out naturally?
I think it just flows, I think. Obviously your influences are in there. Sometimes you can draw upon them, sometimes they just come out naturally. It just depends on what kind of song you’re writing. I tend not to listen to other artists too much when I’m writing, for obvious reasons.
Any songs on the new album that you’re particularly looking forward to performing live?
Yeah, I think most of them actually. I’m looking forward to playing Who Riders a Tiger. I think Heavy Fire is going to be great. When the Night Comes In will be pretty stellar. I’m just glad with how the record came out. It’s a real anthemic album and I think most of the songs will be pretty stellar live.
Now that you’ve got three albums under you belt, how do you decide what goes into the set list and what gets cut out?
I think the lead tracks and singles; you always play them cause they’re the ones that people know with radio play. So they’re a given, and then you just get an idea for what will work best in the live situation. And we get a feel for what the crowd want to hear, what are their favourites. I think with the new record we have an idea with what we want cause we just know after how many years of playing that this one’s going to work really well live more so than this other one, and stuff like that. Sometimes you get it wrong, but you can always chop and change when you get out there.
So what’s the plans for Black Star Riders for 2017?
Just touring, trying to promote this record as much as we can, and get to as many places as we can and see where it takes us.
Any plans to come down to Australia soon?
We’d love to get back to Australia. We haven’t been there with Black Star Riders, so it would be great to come down for the first time with the band. I know we’re working on it, to definitely get down there on this album.
For More information about Black Star Riders visit the official website at: www.blackstarridrs.com
Black Star Riders - Heavy Fire is available on Nuclear Blast Records.
|Posted on January 26, 2017 at 8:00 PM||comments (0)|
I have long held the belief that multi-national hard rockers Eden’s Curse are a band out of time. If they had been around during the glory days of rock and metal in the 1980s they would have thrived without a shadow of a doubt. However, their time is here and now and given the musical landscape in which we find ourselves today they are doing extremely well for a band operating on a shoestring budget and with so much competition. The band recently released their fourth studio album titled “Cardinal” which gave me the perfect excuse to catch up with chief architect, song writer and bass player Paul Logue for a chat about the band, today’s musical environment and the new album.
Rock Man: Since I last spoke to you back in late 2013 you’ve been pretty busy. You’ve released a live album Live With The Curse, made some line-up changes and just released a new studio album titled Cardinal, which we’ll discuss shortly. So overall, you must be very happy with where the band is at the moment.
Paul Logue: Yeah, it certainly hasn’t been an easy time to take on board the new line-up changes, but you know, life sometimes gets in the way of what you are trying to achieve. As the guy who has run the band I’ve always had to make tough decisions and people come to me and say “What happened with the last two keyboard players?”, in particular Alessandro Del Vecchio. He has had a real career boost going on to work for Frontiers Records, pretty much 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So he knew that his life would be just dominated by that. Thankfully these are the kind of people we get along with really well and he said “You guys deserve more than that and I want to follow this path in my life” and they kind of move on for different reasons. Steve Williams was kind of the same as well, he had a great couple of years in the group and he always wanted to go back and do a Power Quest reunion, and that was something that again, he came forward and said “Will you release me?, I don’t think I can run both bands” and that was fair, I can appreciate that. But you’ve got to make tough decisions to move forward for the benefit of the ban. There were some tougher ones in the past when we replaced Michael (Eden) and I think we were vindicated by the choice we made with Nikola (Mijic). So all these tough decisions are just ones that you have to take and really it keeps the ultimate goal in the forefront of your mind and trying to be focused on what that is and trying to retain some of your identity. So yeah it has been a tough time but there has been some wonderful moments, some great shows, obviously the Symphony Of Sin album, we have the Live album out and now this new record Cardinal. So we’ve really had the last couple of years putting our heads down and working ever so hard to getting the band back on track and I think some of the work we have done recently is probably some of our best work. So it is a great feeling to be involved with the group.
RM: So as we’ve touched on the new album Cardinal is out. You’re obviously thrilled at how well this record came out.
PL: Yeah I’ll be brutally honest with you, it kicked my ass making it. After making an album and having it come out I’m usually anywhere from between three to six months looking and thinking of song ideas to come into my head (for the next album) and I have no intension of doing that for a while [laughs]. I’m looking after my body and my mind because it very much exhausted me; it was such a mammoth production because we threw everything into it. I think Thorsten Koehne (guitarist) would pretty much agree with me; him and I co-produced that record and we sat down together and said ‘Symphony Of Sin is quite a big album to top, how the hell are we going to do that?’ [laughs]. We always start with song ideas but it was a great challenge for us to have a chat and talk about what we liked and didn’t like on the last one. We always like our records but we just wanted it to be a little heavier and I think things like the title track of Symphony Of Sin gave us a flavour of some progressive dabblings, none of us thought we’d experiment with working with an orchestra and doing a slightly longer track. We thought we’d do a few more of those and you can push those slightly longer in time, while trying to keep the audience and listeners interested. So we talked about those sorts of things and then we disappeared to our own corners of the world and put our heads down and started firing ideas and it was a huge production. I think it really shows the effort, some of the songs themselves were basically some of the hardest, most technical songs we’ve ever played. Some of the errors in the studio were not fun, but it was done on the basis of trying to get everything in synch because there are some parts in there where all four members of the band are playing syncopated runs and if one guy is not on the money the whole thing sounds terrible. But that just pushed everybody’s boundaries and really made for a better album and when we heard it back we thought this is something special, something really great.
RM: It’s well known that Eden’s Curse is not meant to be a religious band. However, in the past you have played around with religious imagery and innuendo. Upon first listen of the new album it appears as though the band has pushed the boundaries of that a little more with some of the lyrical metaphors and song titles. Is that an accurate assessment?
PL: I don’t know if there is more. I’ve never done anything deliberate in that department, other than from the outset we just always agreed that we were going to try to go down that root of trying to tie back into the band’s meaning to use some of the imagery to really create, not just a musical landscape, but also a visual landscape as well. When I’m writing songs myself, I write firstly and foremost for myself and I feel very humbled and blessed that people pick up on the music and it inspirers people and they find enjoyment from it. So I always stick to that template that if I can please myself in that regard I’m going to be okay with the people who listen to it. That’s what I try and do and I never take that for granted by any means because I know my boundaries and the context that I write Eden’s Curse music and I pay homage to that every time I write. It’s one of those things, we never wanted to write ‘boy/girl’ lyrics, we just wanted to write something a bit more thoughtful with a bit of a message there. I’m openly Christian and I think some of the guys are too but we’re certainly not a bonea fide Christian band, that’s not what we are here for, it’s just thinking man’s metal. A lot of the context of the lyrics are always real life scenarios that I’m going through or that might be a social commentary I’m making and they might just tie in with that spiritual context, metaphor and titles.
RM: So with that said, let’s talk about some of the material on Cardinal and we’ll start at the beginning. The opening track is Prophet Of Doom; can you tell me about the lyrical themes here? From a musical viewpoint I felt it had a very distinct Yngwie Malmsteen feel to it.
PL: Right, okay. Answering the second part first of all, I think when I’d written that the kind of vibe that I had thought of was Pretty Maids; that kind of chunky, heavy, very repetitive, wrap around, metal drums and beats. So that was the kind of vibe I was after but I hear what you mean with the Yngwie neo-classical melody lines but I think the whole thing came out quite power metal. It was one of those tracks where I was never sure if it was strong enough to be the opener but the more we got into the demo and the more we recorded it and having Thorsten being involved and making a few suggestions and tweaks in the guitar department it was excellent, and it really worked well. Thorsten has got a great ear for working with the melody but improving the guitar parts without ruining the melody, he’s very good at that. The lyrics of that are kind of a UK phrase, people use a lot “Oh my God, the prophets of doom have spoken!”. I thought that was a great idea for a song because so many people do tell you “You’ll never do this” or “You’ll never do that” and the whole song is about that. It’s about people raining on your parade and all those dreams and ideas that you have and when you go on to do these things that you talk about and even if you have a little bit of success some people are still there in the background watching and hoping you fail. It was interesting to write and one I enjoyed writing.
RM: The lead single from the record is Sell Your Soul. Again you play around with religious innuendo with the line “Sell your soul to the devil”. Obviously this is another metaphor and not meant to be taken literally. So can you expand on the themes of this song?
PL: Originally I was going to call it Better The Devil You Know. Again it was social commentary from my part of people chasing 15 minutes of fame or martial affairs and other things going on; there’s just a lot of crap in today’s society. Nowadays people are looking for a quick answer to this and a quick answer for fame and a quick answer for being super rich, and it was my thinking that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of life. Sometimes you’re better with the devil you know in most cases, and so many people just sell their soul to be this fantasy of what they want and then find out that it isn’t as good as what was there before it. Nothing overly religious on it just more in the context of using these phrases which are well known, another great song to write.
RM: You’ve partnered with Liv Kristine (Leaves Eyes) on the track Unconditional. Getting her to sing on this track is a stroke of genius; can you tell me how she became involved with the project and your thoughts on the final result?
PL: I had a meeting with AFM Records on a Friday afternoon at some point during the making of the album, we were just discussing how things were going. I happened to mention to them we had this song that was going really well and I sent the demo over and said “Hoping to take this to another level” and we talked about Liv being involved with it because Leaves Eyes were one of the biggest bands on the label. I just said to them “What kind of lady is she? Is she approachable?” and all the guys at AFM said she was a lovely lady, very sweet, very talented and one of the most approachable people you’ll find in metal. So they agreed to go and make that approach for me and two days later on a Sunday one of my good friends is immigrating to Australia and we’re having a little send off for him in a bar in Glasgow and the door to the bar opens and Liv Kristine walks in. Now this is in Glasgow and she’s Norwegian but she lives in Germany and I’m looking going “That can’t be her?… no way” and she walks over and sits at a table and I’m thinking it must be somebody that looks very much like her. A few minutes later a guy with a Leaves Eyes t-shirt walks in and he spots me and says “Hi Paul, how you doing?” and I’m looking at him thinking “I know you from somewhere”, anyway long story short, he was the tour manager for Firewind when we toured with them back in 2009. So we started talking and I said “What are you doing here?” and he says “Leaves Eyes are playing in Glasgow tonight” and I actually had no idea and then the penny dropped that it was Liv Kristine sitting over at that table. So I told this guy the story about the meeting I had on the Friday and that the label was going to talk to her, so he made the introduction and I met Liv and we talked for about half an hour. So we talked about the song, at that point she hadn’t heard it but we swapped email addresses and she said “Send it over, if I like it I’ll kick its ass” and then I got an email from her saying “Heard the song, absolutely love it and I’d love to be involved”. I think the end product is sublime, it is a song that is quite personal to me because I look at the loved ones in my life – my wife and my daughter – and that unconditional feeling that you have got for them. But in terms of the actual people in the song, it could be a couple, it could be a parent or a child, it could translate to anything… it could be a pet, you know, whatever. I just think the end product is wonderful.
RM: Did you have anyone specific in mind when you were writing The Great Pretender or were you just coming from a more general viewpoint?
PL: Yeah, I had someone in mind but I’ll keep that to myself. We’ve all met those kind of people in life and my goodness, one of them just landed in the most powerful seat in the world. It’s just one of those thing that you find in life, there is always somebody like that who you think “This is all a big act” and when push comes to shove there is nothing there to back it up. So occasionally I like to write a few things and get them off my chest [laughs].
RM: And the last track I wanted to explore with you is Jericho. This is just an epic way to finish off the record.
PL: Jericho is obviously biblical in terms of the concept and the story. I like that kind of vibe and it was something that we did on Jerusalem Sleeps and we wanted to kind of revisit it again. I think when you’re talking about making an epic track the whole story just lends itself to the context of the song. On my part it involved a lot of research on the actual story itself, I went on holiday to Portugal and started writing that song lyrically, maybe two years before I even heard a piece of music. So that is not something I do normally; I usually do it the other way around but it allowed me to check out some of the mythology I was going to use, some of the main key points of the story and before I left I just printed off 20 pages of different context and what I could get my hands on. I wanted to get a different flavour of the synopsis of it, pick out the highlights really and build a story around that. You know, at some point I think I’d like to try a concept album but I have no idea in my head what that subject would be and maybe if it was something spiritual it might go down the wrong route. I would have to get the idea first of all but it definitely something I am toying with the idea of and see if we can come up with a subject, it has to be something strong.
RM: Nikola Mijic has been with the band for some time now and this is his second studio album with you; listening to the album I got a sense that he has really settled in now to his role as lead singer. Do you hear or feel a real sense of confidence or growth in his performance on this album?
PL: Yeah I do. Looking at both records, I produced the vocals both times and I think the main difference is intangible, some of those songs (Symphony Of Sin) were written before Nik joined. So this time around, with maybe the exception of one or two songs like Evil And Devine etc., but this time around every song was written for Nik. I had vocal range, style and delivery in mind and that, for me, certainly translate well, the guy can sing anything I give him. And as I say having produced the vocals myself I know the guy’s ability very well, there was no part of any song that he struggled on and he has a great ear for melody and he knows his own voice better that any singer I’ve worked with.
RM: Thorsten Koehne and yourself are the only two surviving original members of the band. As the band keeps changing and evolving does your relationship with Thorsten grow stronger and is there a greater desire from the two of you to make Eden’s Curse a success?
PL: Yeah, we have remained very focused and very close as band members too; there is no doubt in my mind that Thorsten has been my right hand man when it comes to some of the decisions. He has a very mature head on his shoulders and he has a great ability to look through all the bullshit that is around some scenarios and give a very honest and straight and always respectful answer, you know, we don’t always agree with every idea for the group but we always run things past each other, we always have. The focus point of breaking through and making Eden’s Curse a success was Thorsten’s thought. So we remain very good friends and I think that is one thing if you take the music out of it, we have a great musical connection in terms of writing and playing together, but on a personal side we can actually spent quality time together and just laugh ourselves silly and have fun and that to me is the highest compliment I can pay Thorsten. He’s the kind of guy I want to go hang out with, have a meal and a beer and just chill out with and he’s good company as well, which makes it easier for me. He’s always got pretty good ideas, not only from writing but from a business aspect as well.
RM: In recent times the music industry has been rocked by the sudden loss of iconic figures like Lemmy, David Bowie and others. Are you concerned as to where the next batch of “rock stars” are going to come from to fill the void because I doubt they will come from The X Factor UK?
PL: Yeah I think that is a valid point. I think the music industry is heading for a massive wake-up call. A massive shock, first and foremost because your Black Stone Cherrys, your Alter Bridges etc. are doing quite well but beyond that young bands and up and coming bands and the smaller bands, and we consider ourselves very much in that vein, are struggling. And struggling massively because there is very little money around here and we don’t openly admit this, but every single member of Eden’s Curse has a full time day job and we can’t survive without it. There is no money; we get a great budget from AFM records but we are not making money on these records and we’re barely breaking even on our live shows. So to have a career as a musician, and people speak to me all the time “Why can’t you come to America?”, “Why can’t you come to Australia?” all these places that we have fans all around the world, it costs thousands of dollars to travel to either of those places. Yet people will happily pay $100 to go see a cover band or a band doing tribute stuff, but for original music it is almost impossible. We have worked very hard in the UK for ten years to build our own fan base here and a platform that allows us to play live here but it is one of the most expensive things that we can do. I bring guys from Germany and Serbia and some of them move here for ten days and none of them are going home with any money in their pocket. As a pay day we are covering what we paid for passports, food, hotels etc. No one is coming out with any profit, we’re just breaking even so how can the younger bands and the up and coming bands survive? The fees that we get are well under a thousand pounds, yet you’ve got all these older acts pulling in huge amounts of money so at some point it’s going to break and there will be very few big bands left and there is such a gap between the top and the bottom, it needs a complete re-think. I agree with you on the whole X Factor thing, that goes back to our song Sell Your Soul, you know, the 15 minutes of fame; I have a nine-year-old daughter who thinks that you just have to go to some centre and stand in a line, sing in front of Simon Cowell and you’ve made it.
RM: Yeah I hear what you’re saying and share your concerns. Look we’ll have to leave it there but on behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock congratulations once again the release of the album Cardinal. I’d like to wish you and the band all the best for the album and the year ahead and we all look forward to many more great albums to come.
PL: Thank you very much Rock Man, we appreciate your support and all the guys down under who have bought all the records and listened to the band for years.
For more information visit the official website at: www.edenscurse.com
Eden’s Curse – Cardinal is available on AFM records
|Posted on January 26, 2017 at 7:05 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with Paul Laine
by Juliano Mallon
A household name within the AOR universe, Paul Laine’s classic debut album "Stick It In Your Ear" was released in 1990. After that, he got involved in many projects such as Shugaazer, Darkhorse and one where he worked alongside Andre Andersen and David Readman. But it was in the mid-90’s that Laine rose to glory as Danger Danger’s replacement vocalist for Ted Poley. Last year Laine returned to the scene leading The Defiants, where he was reunited with Bruno Ravel and Rob Marcello, both former colleagues in Danger Danger, on one of the most celebrated albums of 2016. With a lot to talk about, Paul Laine kindly agreed to talk to me about his journey so far, but also reflecting on the past and looking steadfastly into the future.
Now that The Defiants’ album’s been released, did you expect it to have such an overwhelmin’ reception?
Paul Laine: I went into The Defiant's album, with zero expectations as far as public reception was concerned. I just wanted to write the best that I could and straight from the heart. I try to write every record like it's the last piece of work I'm ever going to do. What's been truly inspiring and totally not expected is the outpouring of love for this record that both Bruno, Rob and I have received. Really just blown away by it. Makes me feel proud for my bandmates as well.
There’s no doubt that the album sounds a lot like Danger Danger (in my review, I said it was the best album DD never released). Was it the natural result of having you working with Bruno Ravel again or was it planned in some way?
Paul Laine: I think it’s a logical conclusion. Bruno has a certain sense as a songwriter and so do I. The approach we used writing this album was to not try to be anything. Literally just wake up everyday and start writing. I think we both have a certain writing style with a focus on melody and a certain kind of energy. A desire to create something that sounds epic and real. I always use the approach of asking myself one question…’What album and band would i like to hear and see live?’ Then I write that. I let my inner teenager answer that question and I let the man make the record. Make sense? It does to me.
How did the songwriting happen? Did you guys get together or was everyhting done via internet?
Paul Laine: Never in the same room, all over the internet. You have to remember Bruno and I worked together for almost 12 years. There's no need to be in the same room to gauge a reaction and neither one of us is really worried how the other person feels, except to answer the question ‘Is it good or not?’ Although Bruno and I, during our time together in D2, didn't have a real writing partnership. Bruno mainly wrote with Steve West and I wrote alone, it wasn't intimidating and that’s great. We both adopt the same attitude when it comes to writing songs. Ego has no place only good ideas. In fact, there’s a lack of fucks given when it comes to being worried about hurt feelings, it's an essential attitude. Because it means the song is king and nobody has to hold anybody's hand.
The band played the Frontiers Festival last April. How was it for you? What are your memories of that show?
Paul Laine: Nervous and overjoyed at the response. I love the audience's love for the music and bands presented that weekend. Very beautiful experience and a great memory. As a performer I can give that love back all day long. Also the show is held in Milan Italy!! If you can't have a marvellous experience in Italy you should burn your luggage, throw away your passport and never travel again (laughs).
Are there any other shows scheduled/planned for the band?
Paul Laine: We just played at Rockingham in the UK and that too was a fantastic show. It helps with every show that we do because it always seems like more offers come pouring in after people see the band live. 2017 is starting to look good because there’s a buzz about the band. Looks like it could be another year of globetrotting for The Defiants if all of the shows offered come to fruition.
Can we expect more music from The Defiants?
Paul Laine: Bruno is committed and so am I. I believe that Frontiers is as well.
During the concert in April you played some songs from Danger Danger. Let’s go back in time a little, how did you end up in the band?
Paul Laine: Short version is this… Steve and Bruno liked my first solo album and hired the engineer that worked on my album to do their "Screw it" album. Irwin Musper, the aforementioned engineer, gave Bruno my phone number during the recording of the Danger Danger record. I would just get random calls from them every now and then. I had no idea about any troubles in the band or anything. One day I just got a call after they had split ways with Ted. I think they were at a crossroads and wondering if they could carry on, it's tough being in a band. So many personalities, so many different things going on in everybody's life at the same time. Being a solo artist with a record deal before joining D2, I understood what it was like being in the driver's seat. I think I offered a no hassle alternative and I had some pretty marvellous times with D2 during my tenure with them.
I remember being in shock when I listened to “Dawn”. Was that an alternative version of DD?
Paul Laine: Those were different times. What most people fail to remember about those days was that D2 was locked in a lawsuit with Ted. Music had changed greatly. I had re-recorded “Cockroach” but then realized that it was going to be tied up for years in litigation. Nobody had heard me with D2 and we had all decided that we would just form something completely new. New sound, new band name, new direction. I was excited about this, more than I was excited about joining D2 and singing somebody else's music that I wasn't a part of writing. So during the entire recording of the "Dawn" album, this was the idea. At the final hour, before release, I think the fellas had a freak out thinking nobody would buy it if it didn't have the D2 stamp on it. I personally think that it was a mistake, but it doesn't matter to me after all of these years. I happen to like that record a lot. I think it was crippled by the band name and perception of what that name represented. Bruno has been doing some remixes of it and it sounds killer. “Dawn” was the only time I ever really wrote with D2. After that I just handed my songs in for each album.
But you nailed on “Four The Hard Way”, “The Return Of The Great Gildersleeves”, “Cockroach” and “Line And Nude”. It comes across that you were absolutely comfortable being the frontman with DD.
Paul Laine: Sure. When it comes to music and performance I always own whatever I do. This is what I was born to do after all. The stage feels comfortable for me, like home. It’s only when I have to go out in public that I feel extremely nervous and quite shy, although most wouldn't know that. I will forever be a situational extrovert. If I'm not on tour I am a complete and utter loner. The years I spent in D2 were fantastic years in my life. I loved almost all of it. At the end of the day in our line of work you are lucky if you can remain friends after working together for so many years, most don't sadly. I consider myself very lucky to have had the amazing adventures I did with D2.
Next year, the fantastic “Four The Hard Way” turns 20 and I have it as one of the finest DD albums. What are your memories of that album?
Paul Laine: The thing I remember the most about that record is mixing that during the summer in New York. Bruno still lived in an apartment in Rego Park, Queens. This is when we still mixed analogue and we all had to rehearse our moves on the console to complete a mix. No automation, just me and Bruno and Steve moving faders. Bruno had brought an air conditioner in the room, but I seem to remember still sweating our faces off in that apartment. We also used a polaroid instant camera to take pictures of our eq settings, so if we had to remix we could start from where we left off.…Old School!
I believe it might be very rewarding to know that DD fans acknowledge you as a proper former vocalist of DD and not just a replacement for Ted Poley. Was it in any way hard to deal with Ted’s shadow (so to speak) at the beginning in DD?
Paul Laine: Not so much Ted's shadow. I think the weirdest thing for me was that I already had a career as a solo artist and a major record deal before joint this band. The mindfuck at the time, because I was in my twenties, was more about the challenge of having to work in an already established group when I was so used to calling the shots. To hold my tongue all of those years for the respect of Steve and Bruno's relationship and buy into the idea of being a 3rd vote and the 3rd wheel in an established relationship was hard on me. I also wanted to keep touring and working as much as I could and Danger Danger didn't operate that way. I was used to playing shows all of the time and working hard on the road to keep the name alive and in people’s minds. I often felt that the band probably priced themselves out of a lot of shows. Although I was a 3rd of the band, I really wasn't. Decisions were made and then told to me more than I was asked. I understood this, of course and really just took the back seat. If I was in Steve and Bruno's position I would have thought the same way! They built Danger Danger. It was their thing. Ask any new band member who comes in part way through an established band's career and they will all have a similar story. On the "Ted" side of things, I'll be completely honest. Ted is a great singer. He and I sing completely differently, so it’s apples and oranges. I've never felt that weird negative "competition" thing. I've always felt that I had my own thing to say, my own thing to offer and if you like what I do, great. If you don't like what I do, fine also. You can't be all things to all people and you should never try to be, otherwise you never get to discover who you are.
Would you consider going back to DD if Bruno decided to bring the band back?
Paul Laine: No. But I would do a reunion thing if Ted was involved, like a show where we both sang on songs from both of our era's. I think that would be a blast for the fans and would soley do it for that reason. If Ted's in, I’m in.
And looking back a bit further, your second solo album turned 20 this year, while the first one, the classic “Stick It In Your Ear” turned 26. How do you see those albums today?
Paul Laine: Second record I think nothing of. First album was not released in the 80's, it was released in 1990. So many folks get this wrong, but I understand. I am proud of it for the same reason I am proud of every legitimate record I've made. It's a moment of time in my life. It was what I was feeling as a young man all of those years ago. The innocence, the positivity, the hope, all of those things in a musical time capsule. The thing is, when you're a songwriter you tend to have lived what you wrote. My album's are my diary.
I have a question here sent by Marcelo Teixeira. He wants to know if you have any unlereased material, especially from the “Stick It In Your Ear” sessions and, if so, are you willing to release that someday.
Paul Laine: Lots from that era. I will not, sorry Marcelo!! It's like this... do you want your Mom to release all of your scribbled drawings you did in school and try to sell them as art? Me either.
Finally Paul, how do you see your career so far, having more albums recorded with bands and projects, including Shugaazer and Dark Horse, to name a few, but also having such a respected name in the AOR/Melodic Rock scene?
Paul Laine: I haven't stopped working long enough to sit on my ass and think about it! Truthfully, I am always looking forward to the next song, the next album, the next shows. I don't think about how great any work I did was because I am always wanting to do better. I've said it before ‘We don't finish records. We abandon them’. By the time you're done you've already moved on. A record is like a really intense love affair that you know has a beginning and an ending. When its over you want to take a shower and get as far away from it as you possibly can.
Paul, thank you so very much for the time and attention to doing this interview. It means a lot to me, not only as a fan of AOR/Melodic Rock, but mostly as a fan of your work, both solo and with DD, not to mention other great projects. I hope there’s more music coming from The Defiants and, who knows, maybe we’ll see you guys here in Brazil. All the best to you and the doors of the AORWatchTower are always open for you, my friend. Rock on...
Paul Laine: Thank you! This has been a great interview. I want to send my gratitude to all of the people in Brazil who have shown me such kindness and warmth over the years. Your letters to me on social media and when I meet you after the shows you've travelled so far to see, well.. it's humbling and moving to me. People from Brazil express their emotions about music so passionately that I always feel a great connection. Thank you for that, very beautiful.
For more information about Paul Laine visit the official website at: www.facebook.com/paullaineofficial/
The Defiants - The Defiants is available on Frontiers Music Slr.
|Posted on January 24, 2017 at 3:30 PM||comments (0)|
They say that music is universal and speaks all languages. But when the quality of that music is as soul stirring and emotionally charged as that found on guitar ace Chris Green’s Unveil EP then the musical experience is propelled to a whole new level of excellence. In addition to his own solo activities, Green’s signature sound is front and centre on the 2014 self-titled Rubicon Cross album and is the driving force behind the new Tyketto record Reach. I caught up with the former Furyon guitarist for a chat about the music industry, his time with Tyketto and his all instrumental EP Unveil.
Rock Man: Congratulation on a successful career thus far. You have created some extraordinary work with bands like Tyketto and Rubicon Cross. You must feel very blessed to be in this position?
Chris Green: Yes, I never take it for granted the awesome job that I have. I'm traveling across Germany on tour with Tyketto and I certainly feel blessed I have the opportunity to see all these awesome places and also get to play in front of thousands of fans.
RM: Can you briefly tell me about your musical upbringing and who your guitar heroes were?
CG: My Father was a musician and was regularly on television or on tour, so I grew up around music and musicians all my life. I guess it was just ingrained in me from childhood, the whole way of life, the sound of live music, the laughs and jokes. It was mesmerizing. So my Dad really was the person that inspired me to pick up the guitar. My early guitar heroes were Hank Marvin and Mark Knofler. Then when I discovered rock music I very quickly moved onto Paul Gilbert, John Petrucci and more of the 'guitar god' type players.
RM: Can you briefly tell me about what sort of guitar gear you’re using these days and why?
CG: Okay that's an easy answer, cheap gear through lack of money [laughs]. I played a Fenix Korean super strat through a cheap Laney amp going into a 2x12 cab my Dad made for me.
RM: Congratulations on the release of the new Tyketto album Reach. This is a remarkable effort; I would imagine the band are very proud of this body of work.
CG: We have been overwhelmed with the response to Reach, we completely wrote from the heart with no preconceived ideas stylistically. We wrote what felt right and that's what is on that album, we are all very proud of it and luckily it's been received very well.
RM: When people think about the Tyketto sound you can’t help think about original guitarist Brooke St. James. Having been in the band for a few years now and going in to record the Reach album was there a sense of pressure to try to maintain that “classic” Tyketto guitar style or were you given a green light to bring your style and influence to the material?
CG: That's a good question. In replacing Brooke I knew I had big shoes to fill, he had a very unique sound and I pride myself on the fact that I keep all the classic Tyketto songs as close as possible to the original records. As far as writing Reach and the expectations of their previous style, we had a conversation very early on whether we wanted to recreate Don't Come Easy or just write what we want. We chose the latter. But I think it still sounds like Tyketto, with Danny singing I don't think it could ever sound anything but.
RM: Speaking of the material, let’s talk about some of these songs. I’d love to get your thoughts on the title track Reach.
CG: Reach was originally an acoustic ballad that Danny sent us, it was a song he'd written for his wife Melissa and at first myself and Mike weren't sure how to turn it into a 'band' song without making it a ballad. Myself and Michael Clayton (drummer) are very much on the same wavelength and when I said "trust me I have an idea" I threw at him this bombastic intro that was not even in the original recording and Mike just 'got it', within days we had this HUGE track and sent it to Danny. We'd used his original acoustic and vocals in the demo so he had no idea what to expect. Needless to say he was extremely happy with the results.
RM: I love the vibe and attitude of Big Money. It just has a big drum sound and swagger. Can you tell me about how this track came together?
CG: This couldn't have been written under stranger circumstances. Mike had the flu and Instead of taking it easy he went into his basement and recorded himself playing drums like a maniac for hours. He then sent me an email with 'Drumidiocy' as the title. I basically cranked it up in my car and listened over and over again until I picked out what I thought was the best beat. It was an unusual beat for him and was a gallop triplet feel, I instantly heard this Deep Purple kind of vibe and within a day or two we had the whole track.
RM: Tearing Down The Sky has one of the best guitar riff/drum grooves on the record. I felt this really was a nod to ‘Old School’ Tyketto.
CG: I wrote this track with that classic Tyketto sound in mind. It had been a riff I'd had for years and just never could make it Coke to life. Actually Danny had a hard time finding lyrics for this and the chorus was actually written almost minutes before it was recorded. He said "what about this?" We hit record, that's what's on the album.
RM: Another highlight of the album is The Run. I love the acoustic intro that launches into a mega heavy riff. Can you tell me about the lyrical inspiration for this track?
CG: Danny wrote this track entirely, it's actually about his Uncle fighting in Vietnam and coming home to a world that didn't understand him; all he ever wanted to do was ride his motorbike to Sturgess and that's what the track is about. Almost a pilgrimage. This was actually the first song we demoed and set the standard for the following songs. He wrote it in an open B tuning, that's why the guitars are so heavy, it's in drop B.
RM: Danny Vaughn is in my opinion an exceptional vocalist and talent. If I was starting a band today, he is the type of guy I would want fronting the band. Tell me about your experience working with him in Tyketto.
CG: He takes his voice very seriously, strict diet, no drinking, warm up exercises, resting when he can. I think that's a major factor as to why he's one of the best vocalists in the world. He's consistent every single night and it's a pleasure to play next to him on stage.
RM: You have recorded a 5 track instrumental EP titled Unveil. You must be very excited about sharing that with the world?
CG: I am very, very excited about its release. It's been a long time in the making and shows a much more depth side to my playing. I love progressive rock and you can hear a lot of that in here. But mainly it's a very melody c body of work, I try very hard to put across that emotive side of music where you move people by just notes alone. It's how it was in the beginning when music itself was in its infancy, I think we've lost that a bit these days, we get hung up on lyrics to dictate how we feel or interpret a song. When people tell me that my instrumental music has moved them emotionally it's the highest compliment I can receive.
RM: Does recording an “all-instrumental” body of work provide less challenges than recording an album with lyrics or is it still challenging but in a different way?
CG: Well because there are no vocals I guess there's an element of pressure to create good melody in order to keep the listener interested. It would be very easy for me to just shred over a bunch of chairs progressions but I think that would leave people a bit cold. I like to find a happy medium, play for the song, shred when it's needed, be emotive when it's called for, but always have melody in mind. Musically the recording process is very similar to a normal band. Drums first, then bass, rhythm guitars, then leads instead of a vocal.
RM: The EP is quite an emotional journey; I know that your Father passed before you recorded it. My condolences to you. Do you feel that his passing influenced the tone of the material overall?
CG: 100%, the opening track Undefeated was not only named with him in my mind, but the opening section was a piece I just improvised on the spot at a show in Raleigh NC about a week after his funeral. When I saw the video of me playing it and the look on my face, I knew it was raw emotion and that I had to embellish on that. It's the song I'm proudest of writing.
RM: Of the 5 tracks featured on Unveil is there a track or two which are standout moments for you?
CG: I love the string sections in Undefeated, I think with the key changes it provides almost a classical music vibe, I get goosebumps when I hear that bit. And Welcome For A Soldier is an instrumental cover of a track from my Dad's 70's band. They were called Depp Feeling and in 1971 released an EP, it was the first track on that album. I knew all the guys in the band, all but one is still alive so I thought it would be a great tribute to what I think is the most underrated prof band of the 70's.
RM: Moving on to some other issues, let talk about Rubicon Cross. Let me start by saying how much I love that 2014 self-titled record. Your guitar playing on that album is brutal (in a very awesome way); What is the status of Rubicon Cross and will we see a follow up album in the future?
CG: Firstly, thank you. It's always nice to hear good things about your playing (laughs). I just spent a few days with CJ in Florida over Christmas. We talked a lot about a follow up record and it looks like in February we will start writing. It's all about scheduling, Firehouse is very busy and so is Tyketto. So we have to find the right time. But I'm sure it will happen.
RM: I have been a fan of Firehouse and their singer C.J. Snare from day one. Tell me about working with him in Rubicon Cross and what he brings to the project.
CG: I call him 'Captain Hook', no matter what I throw at him he always has a great melody. He's extremely anal about making sure the meaning of the song is there and that the message is clear. On a personal level, were best friends, we were best men at each other's weddings and he's the Godfather to my son. Even if we didn't play music together we'd still be friends and meet often.
RM: In recent times the music industry has seen the loss of so many iconic figure from David Bowie to Lemmy (Motorhead) to Glen Frey (Eagles). For a long time, I have been concerned as to where the next batch of superstars are going to come from and fill this void. I can’t imagine anyone from shows like The Voice or The X Factor stepping up to the plate, so can you see any hope for the future of the industry?
CG: We have lost some great artists in the last year for sure; as far as new and rising artists in the rock world, it's going to be down to a few factors. First of all the labels are going to have to take a chance on new music, rather than getting established bands to churn out the same old product. If they won't support new music then we need promoters to start giving new bands a chance to support these established bands without charging 'buy on', a concept that infuriates me and stops great new bands from being exposed to new audiences. And lastly, the fans have to get out there and support new music, these bands we love are not going to be around for another Two decades, turn up early and see the support bands, buy their merch, their music, help them get out there and keep this genre alive.
RM: I speak to a lot of recording artist about the validity of full length albums in this day and age. Some say it’s still a viable medium while others say it is becoming a disposable commodity, given the impact of downloading and iTunes. Where do you stand on this?
CG: What destroyed album sales was the term 'unbundling', it meant that instead of going out and buying a full length album, the fans had the option to cherry pick the songs they liked best by being able to listens to samples of the songs. When I bought albums in the 90's you bought the record, had your favourites, maybe you skipped past tracks or maybe you listened to the whole thing just waiting for your favourites. But you bought the album. Now bands are almost forced to write 'all killer no filler' albums in order to get full album sales. Luckily vinyl is making a comeback, hopefully that's a turn for the better as far as full album sales are concerned.
RM: And finally, I assume that Tyketto will be hitting the road in 2017 to support the new record, where can folks come to see the band play?
CG: As we speak I'm in the band van heading to Frankfurt, we are three shows into a three-week European tour. If you go to my website chrisgreenmusic.com you can see all the dates and also see some other interesting stuff like my biography, discography and purchase my instrumental EP unveil there which has an awesome eight page booklet that comes with it explaining the stories behind the tracks.
RM: On that note I’d like to thank you for sharing your thoughts. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I’d like to wish Tyketto and yourself all the very best for the album Reach and the future. I’d also like to wish you all the best for your EP Unveil.
CG: Thanks very much for helping spread the word, and thanks to all my fans and music lovers out there keeping this genre alive. Please look me up on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube and Facebook for more music and information.
Tyketto – Reach is available on Frontiers Music Slr
Chris Green - Unveil EP is available through his official website
|Posted on November 23, 2016 at 11:00 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted on October 25, 2016 at 8:40 PM||comments (0)|
It has been a great time to be a Michael Sweet fan in recent years. The Stryper frontman and solo performer has over the last several years flooded the market with various products under multiple banners. Fans have been spoilt for choice since 2013 with two Stryper studio albums of original material and an album of re-recorded classics; in addition to a Live CD/DVD album. But when that wasn’t enough Sweet released his autobiographical book, “Honestly: My Life and Stryper Revealed”. And then came the side and solo projects, like the pairing of Sweet and guitar legend George Lynch and their stunning release “Only To Rise”, followed by two solo records. As you can see, spoilt for choice. So with so much going on in his life I was grateful that he had a spare moment in his hectic schedule to catch up for a chat about Stryper, the forthcoming U.S. Presidential Election, his love of Van Halen and his new solo effort “One Sided War”
Rock Man: Congratulations on all the success and good fortune that has come your way over a 30 odd year career as the frontman for Stryper and as a solo artist. If you could go back in time to humble beginnings would a young Michael Sweet believe all this success was possible?
Michael Sweet: Well, you know what man, I’m just a hard worker and I’m very driven and a go-getter, and I love to stay active and busy. That is what motivates me, that is what keeps me going. I’m very passionate about what I do, I think even more than I was in 1986. So that is really a big part of the reason why I’m so active these days. I love my job and I love new opportunities and I take them and I appreciate them.
RM: Congratulations on the release of the new solo record One Sided War. This is a very edgy, raw and entertaining collection of material. In your opinion how does this body of work compare to previous albums you’ve worked on, both as a solo artist and as a member of Stryper?
MS: Well, I mean, compared to the solo albums I think this is definitely the heaviest one I have done, the edgiest one I have done. It has a real high energy to it, some great collaborations, some great musicians, I brought in Joe Hoekstra, Ethan Brosh, Will Hunt, John O’Boyle, Moriah Formica, you know, it is comprised of some great talent. And compared to Stryper, it gives Stryper a run for its money in terms of energy and heaviness. I’ve heard over the years, many times, people say “Yeah we love Stryper but his solo stuff isn’t as heavy” and this was an album to kind of put to rest comments like that from people like that. So I enjoyed every minute of going in and making a guitar driven, edgy album.
RM: You mentioned some of the high quality musicians you surrounded yourself with on the recording of this record; I am a big fan of bands like Night Ranger and Whitesnake so I am very familiar with the recent works of Joe Hoekstra. Can you tell me about your experience working with him and what he brings to the table?
MS: Well, he brought a lot. He really took the songs and played on a new level, he played on Radio, One Way Up and Who Am I and he just took those songs to new levels, no doubt about it. He brought in some real hooky guitar parts, some incredible solos on those songs and he is a force to be reckoned with. He is a great talented guy, and he’s a great guy. I have known him for a while and we have always talked about working together and we had the opportunity on this album to do so. We are also talking about doing a full length album together, which someday soon will happen.
RM: I’d like to get your thoughts on some of the songs on this new record and I’ll start off with the title track, One Sided War. When you wrote that song did you have someone specific in mind?
MS: Well, I mean, there is a lot of one sided wars that take place. We see on a daily basis online, within our families, with our neighbours, you know, where someone is hell bent on starting a war, a war of words or a physical war or whatever. They make their comments and they don’t let it go and the other person is standing there thinking or saying “What is going on? I’m laying my weapons down I don’t want to fight anymore, this is pointless, this is silly” and the other person keeps it going. So we see this on a daily basis and that is what the song is about, just putting to rest the petty war of words that we have or whatever the disagreement is we have is really silly at the end of the day. And just, you know, getting along more and loving one another more, that is the point of the lyric.
RM: So further to that, and I am not looking to reignite any bad blood, but someone like Nikki Sixx, who you have had disagreements with in the past isn’t being referenced?
MS: Well, you know, Nikki certainly comes to mind. I come to mind as well, you know, it gets heated at times on Twitter and agitated and I realised that it’s just kind of silly to get worked up about. I know that Nikki has done that too before, he did it with me and I have no beef with Nikki though, I have never even met the guy. But I see it on a daily basis on the news, online, there’s so many people and it is just crazy. It is the world we live in and I think a lot of times it is publicity driven; people love to jump on those band wagons at getting their publicity, at getting into something that they don’t even belong in.
RM: I love the fun, tongue-in-cheek nature of Radio and the video that you shot for it. But putting the humour aside for one moment, I am pretty concerned about so many rock and rollers going off to experiment with country music. Do you have any theories on why so many artists are going down this path?
MS: Well I think most of the time it is based on trying to make a buck. They can’t make a buck in rock and roll anymore so they are trying to make a buck in country. If someone is clearly doing that and denies it then they are not being honest and I think it is based on that most of the time. I’m sure sometimes it is legit and it is because they have a love for country music and they have always wanted to do it or they enjoy doing that. But I just think it is disrespectful when an artist jump on band wagons just to clearly make a buck or because it is the easy way out. I’m not a fan of that and I think the fans are smarter than that and can see right through it, they can see what is real and what is fake, they don’t need Michael Sweet to tell them that. So the artists that do that when the album flops it is just proof of my words, the fans aren’t dummies, they are smart.
RM: On the tracks Who Am I and You Make Me Wanna did you take inspiration from you own relationship with your wife Lisa or were you coming from a more general perspective?
MS: No, many times I have my wife in mind, and I did for the song Who Am I. This is a tough lifestyle, it is very difficult to be married to a musician, it is not easy and many times we do take our wives for granted. But that song I had Lisa in mind clearly, but there are other songs I’ve written for her as well: How To Live from my last album I wrote for Lisa and sang it at our wedding, so no doubt about it, absolutely.
RM: The lead single Bizarre is a great fast-paced, edgy way to kick off this record with a great lyrical observation. It really sets the tone for the rest of the album, doesn’t it?
MS: It does and that was the whole point of that song. It just kind of kicks you in the gut and makes you say “Hello! what is going on here” and it is a high energy rollercoaster ride song and that was the point of it. Golden Age was the same thing, I wanted people to really stop and take notice when they heard these songs and heard this album, that was a clear vision of mine, to make people listening say “Wow, what is this!”.
RM: So moving on to some matters relating to Stryper, this year you’re celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the iconic record To Hell With The Devil. You’re doing some touring across the United States playing the entire album live, are there any plans to take this show outside of America?
MS: At the moment no, but that could change tomorrow. We welcome opportunity and if those come and those make sense then we will absolutely do so. But right now there is no plan to go outside the U.S. and doing this tour.
RM: So, as you perform this record in full on this current tour have you had moments where you have thought “You know what, 30 years on all of this stuff still stacks up great!” or have you always known how strong this material is?
MS: Well there are songs like All Of Me, Holding On and Rockin’ The World that we haven’t played since ’86. There’s no particular reason, we just haven’t. But playing them now live throughout the set makes us realise what great songs they are and there really is no filler on the To Hell With The Devil album. We try to make that a point on every album, we try our best to write ‘A Side’ songs and have no ‘B Side’ songs what-so-ever, but To Hell With The Devil is a perfect example of that, I think every song speaks for itself and is very strong.
RM: Another throwback to that era for these shows is that you’ve also gone back to the traditional yellow and black outfits. You mentioned in your book that you have always had a love/hate relationship with the yellow and black costumes. Do you still feel that way on this tour?
MS: I Understand that it’s a big part of who we are and that people expect to see that. We’re known as the yellow and black attack and it’s an intricate part of who we are, were and will be. But at the same time it is a little limiting when you are stuck with the yellow and black. It’s very hot, it can be very uncomfortable in these outfits, they are layered, heavy outfits and it’s much warmer on stage and a little more uncomfortable on stage than going out in some of our more recent clothing.
RM: You have announced that the band will be taking a “hiatus” at the conclusion of the tour. Is this a break the band needs to ensure the survival of the band going forward, or is there the real possibility that this could be the end?
MS: At this very moment I don’t know; I don’t think this is the end. But there are some things that we said in the statement that our bass player (Tim Gains) has made some personal choices and some things that have really affected the band and made us step back and question and wonder ‘where do we go from here?’. So it is unclear right now, we’re going to get through this tour and we’re going to take a little time off, that being the “hiatus” obviously and then just work out what we’re supposed to do after that and when. You know, I’m doing a Sweet and Lynch album, we were meant to do a Stryper album but the band agreed to putting things on hold, not just myself, but Oz and Robert, the three of us agreed to putting things on hold for a little while so we can re-evaluate what is going on and how to move forward.
RM: Okay, we’ll watch this space with interest. I’m so glad you mentioned Sweet and Lynch, I was wondering if you planned on recording a follow up record to Only To Rise. I appreciate that the two of you have been very busy since recording that album in 2015, but have you spoken to him at any point about a possible follow up album?
MS: Absolutely! We start recording that in February and it will come out next year, it’s all contracted, confirmed and we’re doing it. We are really excited about it.
RM: Now, you won’t be aware of this but you and I share a common interest and that is the love for Van Halen. Can you tell me about your earliest memories of being influenced but them and your favourite albums or era of the band?
MS: Yeah, I love Van Halen, I always have. They have been a big influence on my life and on my musical career and history, just a huge influence, I just love them. Eddie as a guitar player is one of my biggest influences, I don’t play anything like him, maybe on occasion you may hear something similar with tapping or what not, but I have always loved him he is one of my all-time favourites. I grew up singing those songs way back in the day and still today we sometimes break into a song like Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love or I’m On Fire or what not, we love Van Halen. So they are always going to be one of my favourite bands and there’s a lot of childhood memories with that.
RM: In recent years I’ve noticed a disturbing trend amongst the hard rock and metal community. There seems to be an awful lot of bickering and complaining going on between fans towards bands and band members to other band members. I remember a time when we all seemed to be united, what has happened to our tight knit community?
MS: I think some of it is built on frustrations of lack of work. You know, it’s a different music world and it is very difficult for bands and artist these days. But I think a lot of it is based on publicity stunts; you hear someone say something online about someone and some other person who isn’t even involved gets involved and then they’re on Blabbermouth getting all kinds of press. You’ve got to question ‘Did they do that as a publicity stunt?’, well I would say probably just to get their face and their name out there for a day. It is kind of sad because a lot of the time it’s in a negative light instead of a positive light.
RM: And finally, the U.S. Presidential Election is being held in early November and although I am geographical pretty far removed from the frontline of it all here in Australia, it appears to me as an outsider this could be one of the most important decisions in American history. I can’t ever remember seeing so many celebrities voicing strong opinions and urging people to make “the right call”. How have you seen events unfold?
MS: I think it is unbelievable watching two idiots trash each other on the news daily. I mean it is pretty sad. If you want my opinion, it is sad that we don’t have a real choice. Our choice is basically going to either this used car sales lot and dealing with this used car salesman, or going to the one next door. I think it’s a joke on both sides and a disgrace on both sides, just in a different way.
RM: So regardless of the result what sort of a world do you see us living in past November 8?
MS: Well, I’m a firm believer in putting God first; pray and you make the difference because that is what it is going to take. Hilary Clinton is not going to make a difference in this world and Donald Trump is not going to make a difference in this world. They say they are but I think their lives and what we know about each one of them proves that it’s not going to be anything different [laughs]. I think that the majority of the people thought that Donald Trump would be because he’s not a politician, but I think it’s a scary situation with either one of them. That’s my opinion, but my opinion doesn’t really matter, the difference really starts with us as individuals to be better people and to be better examples and to do things to make this world a better place. You’re not going to get any of the answers from either one of the candidates, that’s for sure.
RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of the album One Sided War. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I’d like to wish you and Stryper all the best for the future.
MS: Thank you buddy; I appreciate the time. God bless you, take care.
For More information about Michael Sweet visit the official website at: www.michaelsweet.com
Michael Sweet – One Sided War is available on Rat Pak Records.
|Posted on July 21, 2016 at 10:25 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with Johnny Gioeli
By Juliano Mallon
One of the most active and recognizable voices in the rock universe, Johnny Gioeli’s been fronting Hardline from almost 25 years. With all the ups and downs and many band faces, Hardline has been releasing great albums and has a brand new one almost ready to come out. And with its classic opus “Double Eclipse” about to celebrate its 25th birthday, Johnny kindly agreed to talk to me about the glorious past, busy present and exciting future of Hardline.
Next year Hardline’s classic “Double Eclipse” will turn 25. It seems to me that many people didn’t realize back then how relevant that album was (and still is, I believe). Do you get that feeling too, Johnny? And how do you see that album today?
Johnny Gioeli: Thank you so much for saying that... I worked what felt like a lifetime to make that album and to me it is timeless music and classic. I still listen to it from time to time and shake my own head in confusion. I think that álbum should have sold 5 million copies. But, I have a platinum CD in my heart (laughs)
And as a 25th anniversary is quite an important occasion, I’m sure you might have something planned to celebrate it, don’t you?
Johnny Gioeli: Well, I’m going to celebrate that I’m still alive! (laughs) That’s important man! But seriously, yes, I’m planning some special shows with some special guests....That’s all I’ll say.
Hardline has had some lineup changes, but apart from you, Josh Ramos is the band’s longest running member. How did he end up in the band?
Johnny Gioeli: He was homeless and considering turning into a woman. I thought it was the right thing to do because I didnt think He would look good with boobs. And his legs.... way to hairy. It’s amazing how musicians come together! (laughs) Seriously now, I met Josh a long time ago with Neal Schon at an award ceremony. Neal told me he sounds just like him! (laughs) I always remembered that and when the time came, Josh was in. He’s a great guy and a brother.
How different were his contributions when compared to those of Neal Schon and your brother, Joey?
Johnny Gioeli: Not very different... he shares the same passion for the music... maybe even more. He works his ass off to make sure things are sounding as perfect as possible.
The time lapse between albums is, in general, quite big when it comes to Hardline; a whole decade between albums one and two... six years between albums three and four. What are the pros and cons of having such big time spaces between albums?
Johnny Gioeli: The lapse was never on purpose. It was life getting in the way. If all I had to do was music, it would be a simple life.
The new album’s named “Human Nature”. What can we expect, music wise? And I’ve heard that the album’s mostly done, and there are vídeos being cut and that you guys must deliver the album to the label in about a month and a half. Is there anything else you can tell us at this point?
Johnny Gioeli: The álbum is done and I think it’s awesome. You can expect some heavy tunes... I think I brought out my inner Axel Rudi Pell a little on this one (laughs) We all wanted it heavier. I think we accomplished that. Alessandro did an amazing job engineering and mixing as well. Sounds really great. My two favorite songs..... “Where Will We Go” and “Take You Home” both have vídeos I think everyone will enjoy.
How about the musicians involved on your solo album? Any names? Any guests?
Johnny Gioel: I got a little behind the curve with the solo álbum. I’m still deciding who exactly but I do know that I will work with Alessandro on production. I have a list a mile long of musicians... I need some more time to answer this one properly.
Looking back at the early days, when Brunette was playing bars before Hardline took the world by its ears, when Neal Schon was supposed to only produce the band’s first album and, suddenly, he became part of it, and from “Double Eclipse” all the way through to “Danger Zone” and what’s next in line, how do you see the road travelled so far?
Johnny Gioeli: It’s been a great road. It’s been filled with fans that have stood by me for 25 years. I can’t think of a better situation than that. I’m now even more gratful that with social media I can reach the fans and thank them from my heart. To have someone make you part of their life is beyond special. Beyond.
Let me close the interview with a very pertinent question, if I may say so. Many fans – especially here in Brazil – wonder why you guys don’t come here more often, while you often travel to other countries. So, I’d like to take this oportunity to let you explain why that is so. I am aware that we have very few festivals here, and they don’t seem to cover “our” kind of music so much anymore. Would it be hard to do shows in clubs down here?
Johnny Gioeli: That’s a tough question. Would I love to play there? Yes! Is it financially possible? I don’t know. This business can suck. It’s not always dictated by the fans and music like it should be; it’s dictated by promoters that believe in you to take a chance on investing the money it takes to bring us to a location. It’s not that we are greedy whores. It is simply very expensive to put on a production. So the equation is....how many people can we draw?... how much per ticket?.... and can we walk away with our pants on or do we leave naked and broke? (laughs) I would tell you that I would offer certain parts of my anatomy to play in Brazil. Toes only (laughs) I hope an oportunity comes to be.
Johnny, thanks once again for the time and attention, mate. I’m looking forward to listen to Hardline’s upcoming album and everything it’ll bring to the band. I wish you all the very best, lots and lots of that well-deserved success and all that good stuff friends wish to each other. The doors of the AORWatchTower are always open to you.
Thank you bro for everything, always. I appreciate all you do for us musicians. Brazil, I love you. I know how many of you guys stand behind the music I make and there isn’t a better feeling in the world. I’m praying that everyone that reads this message finds the warmth and love in my heart that I feel for everyone. Let’s keep the rockin’ rolling.... Peace all...
For all things Johnny Gioeli and Hardline, visit: www.hardlinerocks.com
Also check out: www.pledgemusic.com/johnnygioeli and www.facebook.com/johnnygioeliofficial
|Posted on July 21, 2016 at 12:05 AM||comments (0)|
When thinking about the great vocalists of rock and metal over the generations so many come to mind. Everyone is going to have their favourite and the debate over who is the best could rage on forever. Throw up names like Dio, Plant, Mercury, Dickenson, Halford, Coverdale and Hetfield and that is a pretty impressive list just to start off with. I’m sure there are many more that could be added to the mix and all of them would be a valid argument. For mine, one guy who I’ve felt for some time now that should also be considered in that illustrious company, but is under appreciated, is Norwegian powerhouse Jorn Lande. For more than two decades Jorn has built a solid career on spirited, energetic, melodic hard rock and roll. With all his talent and ability it would be easy for him to let his ego go unchecked and to indulge in the shenanigans of his contemporise; but Jorn is a softly spoken, humble gentleman and couldn’t be any more removed from the stereotype “Rock Star” if he tried. He has recently released a new album of covers celebrating the music he grew up with titled Heavy Rock Radio and I thought this was the perfect opportunity for a catch up to talk about the new record, the music industry and Ronnie James Dio.
Rock Man: Congratulations on everything you have achieved over your 23 year career. I don’t think any artist thinks they are going to last 23 years when they start out, so I imagine you feel blessed and very proud of what you have accomplished over that time.
Jorn Lande: Yeah, I mean there has been a lot of creative drive for all those years. I don’t really feel that old; I feel like there are some other things to be done still. I don’t feel tired doing this even after so many years or albums and I am also quite productive, and sometimes you think you’re doing too much. But then again, I think if you love what you’re doing and you wake up every day and you feel that [then] it’s not just about feeling blessed because you have a talent or something, it’s about finding a balance of being present and that you have other healthy interests in life. I do normal stuff: I do garden work, I fix my house, it’s not just about trying to be a rock icon or rock star because I’m really not that guy at all; I’m still a working class guy, I’m still the same guy as when I was young.
RM: A lot of the veteran bands and performers talk about the day they first saw The Beatles or The Rolling Stones and that this is what made them want to become a musician. What was it for you? What was the first band or artist that made you think “I want to do that!”?
JL: I had this dream to do this when I was a child. I grew up with Australian bands like John Farnham and Little River Band, not just rock and metal. Living in the ‘70s as a child there were so many great performers coming out: I liked everything from Kate Bush to 10CC to Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and then you had Black Sabbath, Rainbow, The Sweet, Slade and these other bands. The thing I think is the quality level was much higher back then. The level of craftsmanship was much higher and also there were more originals, even though they listened to their influences like Elvis or whoever, but I think people were more original in the sense that they used certain expressions from within with performing the song more. The expression was important; you had to have something special, you had to have the full package to be confident, you had to have some vision and have some kind of dream there and you also had to channel something from inside. Your own thoughts in writing music, your thoughts about the past, present and future and you had to be present in life and I think that’s why so many people identified with some of these artists because of the feelings of the performance on a different level to most artists today. But the Sweet was probably the first influence I had and my Father bought the single Ballroom Blitz back in 1973 and I was only five years old at the time but that’s when it started.
RM: Congratulations on the release of the new album Heavy Rock Radio. I will talk to you about some of the tracks on here shortly, but in general I would imagine you’re very pleased with how well this body of work sounds.
JL: Yeah I’m very happy with it. We didn’t know from the beginning how it would turn out but then I think when you have a certain idea and you have produced a lot of records in the past you never know exactly how it’s going to turn out but you have an idea usually. I ended up pretty close to the vision I had before. Some songs came out less strong than I thought, others that I thought would be the boldest track ended up in the middle of the album.
RM: So let’s talk about some of the songs on Heavy Rock Radio and what they mean to you. I want to start with a song called You’re The Voice. Now this is a song which was recorded by Australian singer John Farnham and here in Australia this is an iconic song; so much so that it’s almost like our unofficial national anthem. So I’m fascinated how you came across this song and what it means to you.
JL: Well I was a big fan of John. I still am a big fan, to me he is probably one of the few best performers that ever lived and is still singing great. I think he was such a big influence and he performed with such technical skills; this emotional, soulful feeling he had. A lot of artists are not particularly affected in this way; everybody tries to find a certain direction how to be successful, the business now is very speculative it [and] has been that way for a long time. But I think it is worse than ever, and with so many artists I can tell if this is coming from within and that you’re being honest. Some artists choose to be the real deal from the beginning and I think that is what fascinates me with John. I know he is a good person as well, and to me it is important the person behind the artist [is a good person]. There seems to be more to the music if you can tell that he is a very nice man and someone you would love to be around or get to know as a person, regardless of the music. That’s what is important to me and how I chose my Influences.
RM: I’m not a fan of Kate Bush but over the years I have heard a number of versions of Running Up That Hill and I have got to tell you that your take on this song is hands down the best version of it ever. You quickly forget it was a Kate Bush song originally and you start thinking that it sounds like an original of yours.
JL: Yeah, a lot of her stuff lends itself to heavy rock somehow. But the way she writes has a lot of powerful stuff in there; it’s melancholy but there’s a lot of mystical stuff, a lot of drama. The whole thing is a bit innovative and it kind of lends itself naturally to heavy rock and heavy guitars in a way. We had to create a new structure around the vocal melody and it seems totally different and that’s what we did with that song. It took some time to arrange it but it wasn’t that difficult. Also many years ago I wrote a song called Black Song which is on a record called The Duke from 2006 and that song was influenced by Running Up That Hill. So I had the idea back then to do Running Up That Hill in a heavy version.
RM: Talk to me about the Frida song There’s Something Going On. You don’t expect to find a song from a member of ABBA on a hard rock record but it just works so well. Why do you think that is?
JL: When that song came out I always heard the heavy guitars somehow ,and Phil Collins played drums and produced the record for her and it was a big sound. Back then it was the same recipe that he had used before on songs like In The Air Tonight and Mama with Genesis, he used that same recipe of that great drum sound and it was perfect for that song. I put my stamp on it and “Jorn-ified” it. The idea was not to change the songs, just to change the songs and make them heavy. Many bands do that in the metal scene you hear all this fast double bass drumming, you know, somebody playing ABBA songs in this power metal style. But when you take on the challenge to be true to the original expression and still changing it without killing the structure and feel of the song, that is not easy and takes some time.
RM: I have been a fan of Foreigner for a long time now and one of my favourite tunes of theirs is Rev On The Red Line. You have included your own version of this on Heavy Rock Radio and really breathed some new life into this ‘70s classic.
JL: Yeah, the original version is such a great performance, you know, the guitar stuff from Mick Jones and Lou Gramm singing, everything. It is so good, but if you look at the overall expression or the performance it is very outdated [and] if you look at what has happened in rock and metal in recent times. If I play a song like Foreigner from 1977 to my kids they will acknowledge the quality, they will say “What a great singer” but they know it sounds old, it sounds outdated and the energy level is not what they would prefer. But when we were growing up this was quality to my generation.
RM: You have amassed an enormous body of work over the years. Is there an album, or maybe two, that in your mind best reflects what Jorn represents?
JL: That’s difficult. I’m not sure because there is so many now. Well, there are so many individual songs that I really like but still you change with the years. I’m like a chameleon; I use my voice in so many ways and I have changed with the years. Now I am singing in a different way than what I used to in the past. I used to sing in a naïve singing style, a sweet sound, a more commercial melodic AOR style I used to do when I was younger. I sang higher and brighter, not too much grit in the voice, but some of these records we have great songs and some albums are well produced and well performed. But you move on to the next stage in life and when you look back it is hard to say that is my favourite record because you kind of outgrew the whole stage you were operating in at the time. But some songs like Lonely Are The Brave is a classic rock song, that song is a very simple song, it has no guitar solo or nothing and it is a short song that works well live and if there are any classics in the Jorn catalogue that is one of them. The Duke has a lot of great songs on it but it is also a great production you can say it is almost like some of these bands in the ‘80s when you had Hysteria by Def Leppard or Whitesnake did the 1987 album, you know, it was a big sound and the production was really great. I think that is a similar comparison, but then again it is still not my favourite Jorn album but it has some great songs on it and the production helps the whole thing to become grander than it really is. We spent a lot of money and time on the whole thing and it came out sounding really huge. Also the Traveller album from a few years ago is close to the heart today.
RM: You have worked with Symphony X vocalist Russell Allen on four Allen/Lande records; can you see the two of you collaborating on another album in the future?
JL: Yeah you never know. We were meant to do one and that was it and then we ended up doing three. And then again I thought that was it with Trilogy and not much more to do and we kind of went through the songs over and over and again, with three records do we keep this up or do we want to do something new? So you thought that was it, then suddenly we did another one and then there was four; so you never know. I think we both kind of thought this is it but then again we have said that after every record. But he is busy with Symphony X and I am touring with the Jorn band, so if there is time in a couple of years we will prepare something but it will be three to four years if there is going to be another Allen/Lande record.
RM: I know that you are a big fan of Ronnie James Dio. You have recorded various covers of stuff he has done whether that is with Black Sabbath or his own band DIO. You even recorded a full length tribute album to him back in 2010; can you share with me what Ronnie James Dio means to you?
JL: I am a big fan. I toured with the DIO band when I was playing with this Swedish pub band for a while and we were touring with DIO in the United States. And I got to meet Ronnie and we had coffee at the hotel and we were on the road for a month or so, and I remember meeting the person that made me a much bigger fan than before. It was then that I realised he was so down to earth, he was so considerate, very kind and a gentleman. He really gave me a lot of inspiration and he showed me that you have to be a genuine person and find some balance and avoid bitterness in life, you know, less frustrations. Life is full of frustrations anyway as you go along, so the less negative energy you can have the better. I was insecure in this business trying to pull in different directions just trying to be something. People would say with your voice you could sing anything, you could sing Pop or you should do this or that. But I was a little bit insecure about what to do, but with meeting Ronnie, I had so many confirmations after that, not just listening to him or following his advice but because he had told me what he had done and what had made a difference to him and that inspired me a lot.
RM: Do you remember hearing about his passing and what you took from that?
JL: Yeah, it was a sad thing that happened. But I am glad to have experienced what I experienced, you learn from it. I think I became a more humble person, more grateful for everything I have. Life is not about career or success, it’s about enjoying and being present now with your family or your friends.
RM: Pre-Internet there was a time when there was a mystique about rock stars and the world of rock and roll. It seems these days with such heavy internet saturation we’ve lost that sense of mystery. How do you view the industry today?
JL: The myth around everything from sex, drugs and rock and roll, you know, it’s a different world now [and] I think society in general has changed so much. Social media and internet technology has given people a lot of new possibilities, people that wouldn’t even get a record deal back in 1980, you had to be a craftsman and you had to go up there and play the song on the guitar or piano and sing it and if you weren’t good you could tell instantly. But now everybody who wouldn’t get a record deal 40 years ago they can still go and use technology like a substance to compensate for the lack of talent. You can use technology and make decent sounding records and many of these artists wouldn’t be allowed to release records really; so you can say that it’s positive, this new scene comes along and allows everybody to be included in the playground, we can all be in the arena and that’s great. But then again it’s also negative in the sense that a lot of those musicians that really have great talent, they’re kind of disappearing because there are too many artists out there. But if you look at the changes today everything is out in the open now through the internet, there’s no myth like you mentioned about rock stars.
RM: And finally, what does the future hold in store for Jorn over the next 12 months or so?
JL: Actually I’m finishing up the next Jorn record now, writing some new songs. We’re recording this new record in August/September/October and then it is coming out in early 2017. So that will be a new original album. And I’m keeping busy working with this online gaming company in Los Angeles with a producer there. It’s called League Of Legends and it is a great thing as I’m getting older it helps to work with younger people, and I think this is a new medium to help cross over the generations. When we grew up it was MTV and Sky Channel and those TV channels and the target was immense and everybody was watching those music channels; so of course the artists that were on would get immense publicity and now I think you have a new arena for that in the gaming industry. For me it is really wonderful to be a part of that scene and it gives me a chance to continue in the business.
RM: Again congratulations on the album Heavy Rock Radio and everything you have achieved over your career. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you many years of continued success.
JL: Thanks a lot mate, I hope to be down under sometime in the future; I’ve never been there so I hope to visit one day.
For more information about Jorn Lande visit the official website at www.jornlande.com
Jorn – Heavy Rock Radio is available on Frontiers Music.
|Posted on July 14, 2016 at 12:10 AM||comments (0)|
Joe Lynn Turner is a true champion of rock and roll music. From humble beginnings four decades ago, JLT as he has become affectionately known by, has fronted some of the biggest and most influential bands in rock history. Names like Deep Purple and Rainbow, for example, would look pretty good on anyone’s resume, but it is some of his other work fronting some lesser known bands where JLT has made a real impact on the rock world. One such band which came to light in 2006, and has released a steady flow of material since then, is Sunstorm. Their fourth and most raw and edgy album to date is Edge Of Tomorrow and while in Spain JLT took time out of his busy schedule to catch up for a chat about the new record, the corruption known as The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the upcoming U.S. Presidential election.
Rock Man: 40 years ago you started out on your rock and roll journey; can you believe in 2016 you’re still as relevant and in demand as ever?
Joe Lynn Turner: I’m not sure; I think you’d have to ask the fans that. I think it is because the music that I make, so many people like it and support it so well and I really believe that I owe it all to the fans. It is because of them that I’m still going actually, and I have a passion for the music and that passion is coming from deep within. But at the same time this is really is a two-way street between me and the fans.
RM: Congratulations on the release of the new Sunstorm record Edge Of Tomorrow. This is a very solid and consistent record from start to finish; I would imagine you are very proud of this body of work?
JLT: Yes, that is absolutely true. I feel we all did a great job on this particular release and I think it has a bit more of a classic rock feel with a modern flavour. That modern flavour is giving it that fine touch which I think the sound needed, plus some of the topics we’re talking about also add to the importance of this.
RM: The previous three Sunstorm albums were produced by Dennis Ward. You’ve gone for a change of producer on this new one partnering with Alessandro Del Vecchio. Can you tell me a little bit about working with him and why Dennis Ward was not involved this time around?
JLT: Well I really don’t know, but I do know that Alessandro Del Vecchio has become an in-house producer for Frontiers Music. So I think that is probably the case for Alessandro, who is now designed to take on most of Frontiers projects or at least a great deal of them. I worked with Alessandro before on the Rated X project and we did some great work on that so he knew me very well and I knew him and it just worked out great. But I can’t tell you what the relationship is at the moment with Dennis Ward, I’m not sure of what the status is really, you know, I think maybe we have just parted ways.
RM: I’d be interested to get your thoughts on a few of the tracks on this new album; personally I think The Sound Of Goodbye is the perfect blend of old school Joe LynnTurner mixed with a more modern style of melodic rock. Do you think that is a fair assessment?
JLT: Yeah that really is a fair assessment. Jim Peterik wrote the song. He is a great writer from Survivor fame and when Jim gets a song like this he gives it to me, we have a great relationship. But I believe you’re right it is a kind of classic Joe Lynn Turner sound yet at the same time it has that strong hook, that strong message that only Jim can put out. It is one of the great ones, absolutely.
RM: Can you tell me a little bit about the lyrical importance of the title track?
JLT: Well, Edge Of Tomorrow is obviously about the Geo-political, ecological collapse of the planet. We are not in good shape if you look around and I think this is the message, that we are actually standing on the edge of the world. We are on the brink of possible war, economical collapse, pollution in the skies and the seas, so the message in the song is really trying to give someone a wakeup call. And to incite people to actually take a look around themselves and to see what’s really happening. I think too many people are sleeping and are not concerned or awake at all. So I think we are trying to push that message inside a really beautiful melodic rock framework.
RM: Naturally on these types of albums there are the standard power ballads. I’ve always thought these types of songs like Angel Eyes for example, give you the opportunity to deliver a real soulful performance. Is that kind of performance something you thrive on?
JLT: Yeah, I actually love that cut because it is a heart wrenching kind of feeling and I’ve always been known for the ballads, but at the same time I love to rock out. But the ballads are just something I feel deeply within my soul and I think that is has become sort of a force for me and this one is no different. Angel Eyes is just a heart wrenching ballad of loss and want and love.
RM: There are some heavier moments on this record though; was it important for you to make a slightly heavier sounding record to what you may have done before?
JLT: Yeah, you know, I think that trends have proven that this is where the style is right now. In order to get people to actually listen to your message I think you have to meet them half way and that was our exact intent to do bit of a heavier sound within a classic rock framework. I think it came out very classy, so I think you do need to turn up the guitars and kind of drive these things home a bit more, you know, times have changed and this is what people are really listening to. So at the same time I think we have achieved the best of both worlds.
RM: When I spoke with you last, you were involved with the band Rated X. The album was getting rave reviews but also Karl Cochran was facing some serious health issues. Firstly, how is Karl travelling and secondly, what is the status of that band?
JLT: Yeah, thank you for asking. Karl is still doing all of his therapies and it is an uphill battle every day for him. This whole thing is tragic but he is doing better day by day but he is by no means there yet. So he is trying to keep a positive spirit and keep doing what the doctors recommend. Rated X was just an incredible project, I was just listening to it the other night and reminding myself how absolutely excellent this album was. The difficult thing with that is when you have a couple of stars like Tony Franklin and Carmine Appice and then you have this health tragedy with Karl, these guys had a different schedule and we tried to pick three weeks out to tour it because I think touring it would have given it an edge. But at the end of the day we were never able to get out there and actually play live, so this I think added to the fact that Rated X came and got buried underneath all the music that comes out these days.
RM: With so many project options at your disposal these days is there any time available to explore a new solo record, or do you feel at this stage of your career a new solo record isn’t warranted?
JLT: Well as a matter of fact, I kind of call it Project X, but there is a mystery project that I have been doing. I can’t really reveal who’s doing it and what it is. But in three weeks I will be spending some time with this producer and we will be working on a complete transformation of my perception. When I say that it would be sort of a melodic metal sound, we’re going a bit darker and a bit sideways on this one. That could be a solo record, so fingers crossed and we hope that we get the best results possible but that won’t be out until mid-2017 and it is very interesting I must say and I’m very excited about this project.
RM: I recall the last time we spoke that you were keen to get together with Ritchie Blackmore and put something together to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Rainbow. Obviously that never happened, but Ritchie has made a return to the rock world. Are you bitterly disappointed to not be involved with this new Rainbow line-up or simply thrilled to see him back playing all those great songs again?
JLT: No, I’m fine with everything because as I have said many times in the past I wanted to develop an authentic Rainbow reunion with ex-members and really make it a Rainbow extravaganza, and that was not in Ritchie’s plans. What he did and what he came out with is his business and I would in no way want to be connected to that. I feel that it is letting the fans down and it is degrading the legendary name of Rainbow and he is mostly doing Deep Purple songs. So no I am not connected to this in any way, and would not want to be. And I am not disappointed in the least; I have plenty of work here doing what I’m doing, but it is a bit tragic that he didn’t understand the value of an authentic Rainbow line up. Not only for himself, but for the fans and the world in general. So that’s all I’ve got to say about it really. I’m absolutely happy for whatever he is doing and wish him good luck.
RM: Back in April Deep Purple were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As a former member of the band what were your thoughts on their induction?
JLT: Well I thought it was long overdue, first of all, maybe twenty years overdue, maybe more, so I wasn’t surprised at the time it came. I think the organisation has been well exposed by Steve Miller. If you’ve read anything by Steve about that night and about what is happening in that organization, then I think you would be well aware that this is some sort of Hollywood cabal that just does not have a clue and it is not just about rock and roll. It’s definitely not just rock and roll that’s for sure. I have no dramas about it either way; I was on tour at the time so I was busy. But it was very nice that Ritchie (Blackmore) had posted that I should have received an award for the singing and writing of the Slaves And Masters record, because I think it is one of the finest; as he does think it is one of the finest Deep Purple records ever.
RM: Over the last few years I have heard a number of artists discuss induction into the Rock Hall of Fame. Some have been thrilled with the inclusion while others have been scathing of the process and criteria. What thoughts, if any, do you have on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is induction something that you hope to achieve one day?
JLT: No, not at all. In fact, I don’t believe in the organisation and again, if you do some research on Steve Miller, I think he is investigating the organisation right now to find out what they actually do with the money. Because it is a very expensive ticket for the fans and people involved; he really kind of exposed it that night onstage and in the press and it is an ongoing investigation now to find out what is happening with that money. So I don’t like to be associated with any organisation that is going to be questioned in any way like that, there is definitely some hanky-panky going on. It’s just not for me. I think they lost the point a long time ago and I never really cared to be involved with that. I was always more of a people’s choice person anyway, you know, it’s about the people, it’s about the fans, they should be calling the shots, no worries on that one.
RM: Sadly the rock world has seen the passing of many iconic performers this year; David Bowie and Lemmy come to mind for example. As the world starts to lose these larger than life personalities is there a new batch of artists ready to step up to the plate and carry the torch, or will there just be a massive void left now?
JLT: Well, you know, that is a very good question. Actually I was just talking about that last night with a few friends here, and it just doesn’t seem that the world is producing anymore Prince, Bowie, Lemmy type characters. It seems that there is a big fabricating type of music scene out there, once in a while someone will pop up who has a great song and then disappear again. But I certainly wouldn’t put Justin Beiber and people like that in this category at all, even though they are really big stars. I think, again, the art is lacking in the music and I think none of the big corporations have produced that; but they are making this fabrication type of music where you are not getting the authenticity that used to be in the actual artist like Prince and Bowie and Lemmy and a host of others who have past. When you look back and you see Jim Morrison and people like this they don’t make them like that anymore.
RM: And on a final note, turning our attention away from music; America is nearing the end of its current U.S. Presidential election campaign. I have heard a host of musicians and entertainment people comment on the topic from “It’s a circus” to “The most important election in the country’s history”. From where you are what has been your take on what is happening with this campaign and what does this result, whichever way it goes, mean not only for Americans but for the world as a whole?
JLT: Yeah I think it is both; I think it is a circus and I think it is probably the most important election in America’s history, if not the world’s history. Because whichever way it goes it is going to shape the world into a situation that is either going to be positive or negative. Personally I am tired of “Business as usual”. I think that millions of Americans are sick and tired of politicians saying the same old, same old and that we really need to wake up and create something new here. We need our independence back, we need the power of the people, we need people to get more active and awake about things happening instead of sitting at home and watching their TV. So I do think this is an incredibly important election and at the same time I don’t see the truth within the election. When I left the United States there was a lot of conjecture about falsification in voting, rigged systems and I happen to know that Politians are like that. So I don’t doubt that that is the truth. I guess The Who said it best: “Won’t get fooled again”, but most time people do get fooled again, don’t they?
RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of the new Sunstorm album Edge Of Tomorrow. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you all the best for the album and yourself for the future.
JLT: Thank you so much, I hope I can get down there to Australia at some point. I know that you have got a lot of great people down there that love to rock and I wish you all the best.
For more information about Joe Lynn Turner visit the official website at www.joelynnturner.com
Sunstorm – Edge Of Tomorrow is available on Frontiers Music.
|Posted on June 2, 2016 at 8:35 PM||comments (0)|
For a decade between 1982 – 1992 Canadian rocker Lee Aaron was a superstar among the hard rock/metal faithful. Affectionately known as “The Metal Queen”, Aaron, like so many of her contemporise, was cut down in the prime of her career with the rise of the grunge scene in the mid ‘90s. It is a tale that is all too familiar to followers of the hard rock community; grunge was like a raging bull in a China shop and the hard rockers of the day were all left on the floor with their careers in tatters, many of them bankrupt. Aaron was no different. But after a short hiatus she would find her voice again, albeit as a Jazz performer, and the rock world would wonder if she would ever return to the rock arena again. Thankfully she has, releasing her first rock album in over two decades titled Fire and Gasoline. As a long-time fan of those early days I thought this was the perfect opportunity to catch up with her to discuss her career, the music industry and the new album Fire and Gasoline.
Rock Man: Firstly, congratulations on the release of the new album Fire and Gasoline which we will talk about shortly. But let me also congratulate you on an outstanding recording career which had lasted 36 years. When you started out back in the early 1980s would you have ever dared to dream it would endure this long?
Lee Aaron: No, to be honest with you [laughs]. I don’t really know what I thought at that point. Obviously as you mature as a person and also bearing in mind the fact that I started so young, I was basically fresh out of high school, 17 years old and on the road. By 18 I was recording my first album and everything kind of happened in a world wind fashion when I was young. You know, at that point in time obviously my world view was completely different than it is now; I mean I know when I was a kid growing up in the Toronto suburbs I thought the epitome of stardom was playing the Gasworks Tavern in Toronto because that’s where all the big bands played. So I didn’t really have much scope beyond that, of course I ended up becoming one of those bands a few years later, I almost had a house installed there because we became so popular, but then realising later that there is a whole world stage out there. So I don’t know if I ever envisioned that it would continue this long because at that time I had graduated with a couple of scholarships to go to University and I kind of threw caution to the wind. My parents were a little disgruntled that I wasn’t going to continue on at that juncture in time with my post-secondary education. I was like “Oh Mom and Dad, if it doesn’t work out I can just go back in a couple of years and pick up and go to college”, but my career kept on an upward slope trajectory. So I guess none of it was pre-planned; but these days I’ve got to tell you, I took a bit of a hiatus obviously for motherhood, I had my daughter in 2004 and my son in 2006 so now for me to go back and make another rock record it is purely because I have to, I’m a creative person and creating is part of my nature. It is fun and it is what I do; it is like getting back on a bicycle and riding again, it’s like “Okay, yeah this is what I was born to do, to make music right?... I forgot” [laughs].
RM: I’d like to take you back to the start of it all. You came into the world as Karen Lynn Greening but you would become known to the music world as Lee Aaron. Can you tell me about your early musical influences and the transition into becoming Lee Aaron?
LA: Well, first I’ll talk to you about the transition. When we met my first manager, again, I was 17 years old and he put us on the road. The band, I had joined this band at 15, called Lee Aaron. It was like Alice Cooper or Jethro Tull, I mean, Vincent Furnier has become synonymous with Alice Cooper, it has become like a stage name. But at that point in time it was just a name, the Lee Aaron Band, but all the club owners thought “Oh that lovely Lee Aaron girl, can you bring her back here?” So it was just a gradual progression; people started calling me Lee and what I realised after a while was it was far easier to have a kind of pseudonym for a couple of reasons: personal privacy, it was kind of nice to have, you know, no one can look up Lee Aaron in the phone book and stalk you, although I did have issues with stalker over the years [laughs], and also to be able to separate it mentally in my own head. To go “Okay, this is the person that I dig on stage but it is not the person that I’m living with day to day in your real life”, you know, when I had a bit of popularity in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, I would run into people in a grocery store and they would go “Lee Aaron! What are you doing?” and I’d be like “Ah, buying toilet paper like a normal person” [laughs). And they thought you mounted a private jet and flew to L.A. to get your toilet paper or something, you know? So in terms of early influences, I was a young teenager in the late ‘70s and I was really a child of that era, so when I was about 16 years old my father showed up and he had a trunk full of albums that he had gotten from a college radio station. He worked at a local college and they were changing formats and they got rid of their entire vinyl library and he showed up and in that pile of records was Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Fleetwood Mac – Rumours, and a few Led Zeppelin albums. I was very impacted by Zeppelin because I had never heard anybody doing Roots and Blues music with electric guitars before; it was mind blowing. I wasn’t really exposed to a whole lot of cool music growing up because my parents just weren’t [into it]. It wasn’t a big music home so this was just mind blowing for me. But probably one of the most quintessential and important record for me was finding the Heart – Dreamboat Annie album, putting that on and going “Oh my gosh, these girls play their instruments, they write songs, they’re super cool, they’re not trading on their sexuality” and I aspired to be like them, they made me want to become a girl rocker. I also found a couple of Runaways albums too in that pile of records and that really impacted me too. Because I was like “Man, girls playing very heavy, crunching guitars, this is cool” so this just really resonated with me and it was quite an anomaly for a women to go out and do that style of music at that point in time and that was just very inspiring for me.
RM: So it can be argued that during the 1980s the hard rock/metal scene was a predominately male driven industry and somewhat sexist. As you point out at the time there were only a small handful of female artists trying to forge a career in that genre; did you then, or even now, see yourself as a pioneer for women’s music?
LA: No. When I was in it and living it, no. I didn’t necessarily feel that I was pioneering any kind of new movement. Now that I have lived through a few different eras of music in terms of hard rock, which then turned into corporate rock, which then turned into crappy music which facilitated the advent of grunge music coming out of Seattle and then that scene died, you know, when you have lived through a few of those and I look back now and people say “You really pioneered something for women” I can see it a little more clearly now. But at the time when I was in it I didn’t think that I was some trailblazer or anything.
RM: As I mentioned at the beginning of the interview, you have a new album out titled Fire and Gasoline. I would imagine you are very excited at how well this project had turned out?
LA: I am. It is funny today I am hanging out with an old keyboard player friend of mine that I worked with for quite some time and she said to me “I have to say this new album is probably my desert island Lee Aaron album, it is like my favourite Lee Aaron record” and I’m like “That’s awesome” because even though I have produced a couple of my own albums in the past in 2000 and 2004 which were a Jazz and a Pop-Jazz Fusion record, this is my first rock album that I produced solely on my own. So in terms of I guess genuineness and clarity of vision I would think that Fire and Gasoline expresses that the best for me. Also I think that my period of time going away and exploring Jazz and Blues music made me a far better song writer and a far better vocalist, and I feel I was able to bring a lot of those influences forward and have them incorporated into the writing on Fire and Gasoline. In terms of it being a more complete, authentic Lee Aaron representation, I feel it more so than any of the other albums that I have done, so I do. It is one of the only albums of my own I can actually listen to over and over again without picking it apart completely [laughs].
RM: Let’s talk about some of the songs from the record. I wanted to start with the lead single Tom Boy. Before the song was released was there a sense of hesitation as to how the track would be received, given that you had been away from the rock world an extended period of time.
LA: You know, I guess in many ways I just felt I didn’t have a lot to lose by making this record. My motivation wasn’t that I’m going to make a record that panders to ever old rock fan I had, not that I don’t value those fans, I do very much; but I kind of wanted to make something that was a little more of a pure creative effort without putting too many filters around myself. So Tom Boy was a song that was inspired by my 10 year old daughter and in the end when the song was completed I realised that sort of was an anthem for anybody out there that has felt misunderstood; or felt that they had to conform to a stereotype, or a cultural stereotype, or a sexual stereotype, or any kind of stereotype that they are not comfortable with. Generally it had been received very well because it is a catchy tune, but I guess a few of my really die-hard hard rock fans were disappointed because I think they felt it was too catchy, that it had a little bit of a pop-rock edge to it.
RM: Can you tell me about the inspiration behind the song Find The Love, was that track based on real people or actual events?
LA: Indeed it was. That song was written on my acoustic guitar when I was on vacation a couple of summers ago. I got a text, I had a very good friend named Kerry, mother of four children, one of the most beautiful people I knew personally, inside and out, she had discovered that she had breast cancer a few years before and she had been in a battle with that. Unfortunately it ended up culminating into full blown bone cancer and it took her life in June 2015. So yeah, it was inspired by my friend Kerry. But it is also, again like, sometimes when I am writing songs the initial inspiration and spark comes from a place, but the song as it evolves through the writing process and through the recording process and then obviously through the mixing process, when the final product is there you realise quite often that songs take on a life of their own. And in the end I realised (I dedicated the song to my Mother who is also fighting a battle right now with cancer) that it is really a song for anybody who has had a terminal illness or lost someone they loved or had to live through that. Because at this point in our lives, most of us have had doubt or loss touch our lives in some way, so it is kind of a song of hope about loss.
RM: So in lyrical terms can you tell me about the track Popular and what the thinking was behind that.
LA: I have a love hate relationship with social media [laughs]. I recognise that it is a necessary platform we all need to use these days to communicate with our fans and our followers and friends and it is great that it enables people to stay in touch long distance, you know, three quarters of the way around the world but it is also such a shallow form. I mean I’ve had so many people go “Lee, please follow me” and it is like, I can’t navigate through multi-thousand twitter followers, how can you ever know what is exactly is going on with anybody. And it is almost a popularity contest, you know, how many followers do I have? And let’s be honest, nobody puts their crappiest photo out there. Everyone has become the master of taking the beautiful selfie and people put their best face out there. And I even notice, I’ll give you this as an example: part of the work that I do here in Vancouver is I work with the local school system and I have been working in a program where we are working directly with Syrian refugees who are coming into our country and trying to integrate them into the local school system. So I tweet something like “Hey it’s such a gift that I am able to work with these refugees and see the smiles on their faces” and I’ll get 15 likes but then if I do a throwback Thursday and for instance I tweeted this old picture of myself, not revealing, but it is this ridiculous spandex leopard body suit I had in the ‘80s and I was laughing so hard when I found it I thought “My fans are going to get a chuckle out of this”, well on Facebook it gets like 378 likes! And I’m kind of going “Okay?” It just kind of shows you where people are at and I don’t mean to be critical, but what is happening to our value system? Like I said, I have a love/hate relationship with social media and that is what the song Popular is about.
RM: It’s been 22 years since the last rock record. When it was announced that you would be returning to the rock arena I think it’s fair to say nobody expected you to re-create Metal Queen or any of those early hard rock sounding albums. So does this record represent an opportunity to re-brand or reinvent what the name Lee Aaron stands for?
LA: That’s a cool question; no one has asked me that before. On a conscience level I guess… no I wasn’t really thinking about that but I’m really hoping that with this album I am able to reach some new fans. Because people who are really married to that idea of Lee Aaron as the “Metal Queen” probably will be disappointed with this record. So I went forward with my vision for this album with the hope and understanding that most of my fans aren’t 20 anymore right? [laughs]; we’ve all matured, a lot of us have families now and our world views have changed, hopefully somewhat dramatically and there’s different things we’re interested in hearing about and talking about and listening to. So I am hoping in that process the album is able to reach a whole different level of people who might be not interested in listen to the Lee Aaron of the past. So I guess that is a roundabout way of saying yes.
RM: So as we have established, the last record was some time ago. After this you released several Jazz records. Can you tell me about that period of your life; did you simply fall out of love with rock music, was Jazz something you always wanted to pursue or was this change another by-product of the grunge movement changing the musical landscape of the day?
LA: Your last comment is probably the most accurate. You have to remember I had the majority of my success at the tail end of ‘89/’90. Actually between ’89 and ’92 I had my biggest record, especially here in Canada, I was almost like triple platinum. So when the advent of grunge happened, which like I said I fully embraced that, it needed to happen because rock music, half of it was good but half of it had been co-opted by the big labels and it was getting crappy, so grunge had to happen. But when it did, it displaced every single artist whose name had association with corporate rock and so you couldn’t get arrested, you couldn’t get played on the radio, you couldn’t get the media to touch you or talk to you and so many people’s careers just ended abruptly including my own to some degree. It was a very tough time, and at that time I was one of the first artists in Canada that saw the indie movement coming and I got off my label in ’92 and went independent. So here I was in ’95, my manager, lawyer and myself had started a new label and we had borrowed like in excess of $500,000 from the Business Development Bank here, we took an equity loan from A&M Records, we had taken all this money but then when grunge happened it just killed the sales. So I ended up selling about 1/5 of my regular sales and unfortunately I was the one left holding the purse at the end, so in 1996 I had to go bankrupt. This was not an uncommon story with a lot of artists that had found themselves in that position and I took a year off actually. I took all of 1996 off [and] I didn’t sing, I didn’t set foot on a stage because it was a pretty dark time for me. I was quite depressed and trying to figure out what the heck I was going to do with myself and during that time I went back and listened to a lot of my old Jazz records because I kind of grew up in theatre singing Jazz and Blues and Broadway standards. And a friend said “You love this style of music, why don’t you go out and sing it? “ So I started working with a pianist and we put together a little repetiteur and we did a couple of local shows here in Vancouver and the next thing you know I had the media coming out and reviewing it and I was getting good reviews. Then it snowballed into me having a quintet and people started asking if I was going to record an album, then I made Slick Chick in 2000 and then I started getting invited to play Jazz Festivals across the country and I had no idea that would happen. But it did and so it was a completely beautiful thing in many ways. It was a history lesson for me to go back hear all these wonderful artists like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, you know, these guys stole from Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixson and all these old Jazz and Blues artists, to see where the roots of Rock and Roll really came from.
RM: When you look back through your career, which of the rock albums are you most proud of?
LA: Probably the one that was the most commercially successful and the one I’m still proud of is Bodyrock. At that time I had worked with some of the biggest producers in the world, I had worked with Bob Ezrin on Call Of The Wild in 1895 and I worked with Peter Coleman in 1987, he produced a few Pat Benetar records. So I had worked with some big producers and a lot of money was invested and the record company at that time they were willing to move forward, they were like “Okay, who is the next big producer we are going to bring in for album number five?” And I remember we were in a room together and I don’t really want to say his name, I’m not badmouthing anybody, but he was a big name American producer who had come up to me with my label. We were all in this boardroom and he basically pretty much said, and these were the demos for Bodyrock that we had done, he said he didn’t hear any of our material but he had some great songs for us if we wanted to work with him. I assume he owned half of the publishing on those because that’s how the industry worked; the producers would come in and take points, if they could give you songs that they could earn points on as well it was win-win for them. So this whole conversation happened and when it was done the record executives they were sold, they were over the moon, like so and so from L.A. wants to come in and do this record, you know like jumping, hopping excited. My guitarist and I were like “He doesn’t like any of our songs, did it occur to anybody he’s not the right guy to produce this record?” and they were so mad at us because this was their vision and we were like “No, we’re not going to work with somebody doesn’t hear our material”. So they clawed back a $250,000 budget to $60,000 and said “Here’s $60,000” and back in that day that was a cheap record and they said “Go make your own record then if you think you can do it”. So we collaborated with our A&R guy who saw the vision we had and myself, John Albani (guitarist) and the producer we did that entire record with a programmer, pretty much orchestrated the entire album ourselves and that was the beginning of the programming era. So the three of us did that album together and it was my biggest success in Canada. We proved to them that they were good songs in the end anyway.
RM: I’m really glad you mentioned Bodyrock and Call Of The Wild because for me they are the two standouts, just superb bodies of work. Everything you could possibly want from a hard rock album is on those two records.
LA: Well thank you. Working on Call Of The Wild was an amazing experience. I got to work with Bob Ezrin and I was a 22 year old girl, and when he came in I was just so intimidated by him because here was this guy who had done Alice Cooper and Meatloaf and Pink Floyd, these were bands that I idolised. So I learned a lot working with Bob Ezrin about doing a great vocal performance and pulling the most out of your songs, he is an amazing person to work with.
RM: Over the years you would have witnessed many changes in the music industry, what do you think has had the biggest effect?
LA: Well, the one that has had the biggest impact on the music industry is the advent of digital technology and the downloading/streaming era of music. That’s obviously what caused the entire record industry to fall apart [laughs]. The fact that there aren’t as many ways to monetise music anymore. It has made music more accessible but it’s also a tough choice to remain in the music industry, for instance: I got my very first streaming royalty statement and contrary to my radio play statements which are usually a few pages deep, this was as thick as a bible, I was like “Wow! Okay” and I’m looking and I counted how many streams per page and then I counted the pages and I see there’s a few thousand streams here of my material some of which I was paid absolutely zero for. Some of which made three cents, some of which I accumulated five cents for a stream, so the biggest statement I’ve ever gotten was a cheque for $56.00. I am so glad that my fans still actually like to have a physical product that they can have and hold and look at and love, because my fans still like to buy real albums and CDs. Because even the biggest artists in the world are not going to get rich off streaming, that has caused the biggest change and it has not been a musical change; it is a change in the whole infrastructure of the industry.
RM: So further to that then, in 2016 do we have a healthy music industry or are artists today in real trouble?
LA: That’s a tough question. There is two things going on in the music industry: it is very tough to be a new artist only because with digital technology and the YouTube era it is about saturation, there is a million things to choose from, so how do you get noticed out of the crowd? Unless you have got some kind of publicity blitz or something to talk about, it is very hard. The other thing is there is also ageism that goes on with artists. I know in Canada if you have a career that is longer than 20 years you can’t all get played on the radio because they are called a heritage artist. Even if you are in your 40s, it is crazy, you know, like Bryan Adams has a new album out here and he can’t get played on the radio and he’s Bryan Adams! Radio won’t touch it because it is all controlled by this very narrow pop industry that is controlled by the very few remaining big labels.
RM: Again congratulations on the album Fire and Gasoline and everything you have achieved over your career. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you many more years of continued success.
LA: Well, thank you so much, it was an absolute pleasure to talk to you Rock Man.
For more information about Lee Aaron visit her official website at: www.leeaaron.com
Lee Aaron – Fire and Gasoline is available on Big Sister Records.
|Posted on May 23, 2016 at 11:55 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with Robert Säll
By Juliano Mallon
Two years ago, Sweden’s own Work Of Art relaseed "Framework", their latest album, widely acclaimed by critics and fans. But since then, the trio went under the radar and nothing more was heard from them. Now, I bring you this interview (originally posted @ the AORWatchTower), where Robert Säll, mastermind behind Work Of Art, talks about the past, present and a possible future for the band ...
Work Of Art released 3 excellent AOR albums between 2008 and 2014. How do you see those albums today?
ROBERT SALL: I still think they hold up pretty well. Obviously the first album was a huge learning experience for us whereas the latest album was pretty quickly done because by now we know how to work in the studio to get our sound.
What was the biggest upgrade in the band within those 6 years?
ROBERT SALL: Again, I think we are much more comfortable in doing what we do which means we can work much quicker and with more confidence, especially in the studio. Which is a good thing because outside the band, during those six years, we all have started families so the reality is that we don't have so much time to spend on Work Of Art like we had six years ago.
And that brings me to the question that originated this interview: what's the current state of Work Of Art? Is it over or just in a self-imposed hiatus?
ROBERT SALL: Well there will most likely be a new Work Of Art album somewhere down the line but, it's gonna take a while before we start working on that one. Right now we are on what you call a "self-imposed hiatus", being family men and working on some other projects but sooner or later, there certainly will be a new record from us:-)
That's great news... it'd be just sad if Work Of Art had run its course. But you mentioned you guys are working on other projects. Could you tell something about that?
ROBERT SALL: Well, among other things Lars is finishing up singing on the Lionwille album. I've been helping out writing some stuff for that album as well. Then both Lars and Herman are doing different things outside the band right now. I myself, are currently writing songs for a new Frontiers project which will be official later this year. So, we stay busy.
It all sounds promising... Since you mentioned Lars, there's been rumours going around for a while about a solo album of his. Is there any truth to that?
ROBERT SALL: Nope!
Okay. Going back to Work Of Art, there've been many reissues in the past few years, anniversary editions and the sort; "Artwork" is going to turn 10 in just 2 years, have you ever thought of a special edition for that? (or for any of the albums, for that matter)
ROBERT SALL: No I don't see what we could do to make those album more "special" for a anniversary edition. There aren't really and songs that were left off that we could add or stuff like that but, if Frontiers records would approach us about doing something like that, we would certainly try to come up with something. But don't think it's likely that they will though.
Oh, you already answered my next question... so, there are no unreleased tracks from Work Of Art?
ROBERT SALL: No, there are some tracks that we worked on but never finished because, well, they sucked (laughs). I'm allowed to say that because I wrote them!
I'm sure fans would love to be the judge on that topic...
ROBERT SALL: I’m pretty sure they would be rather disappointed. But what do I know? (laughs)
It is a fact that Work Of Art had a winning songwriting formula, tested and trued in their albums. So, let's consider a next one... how different would it be, musically speaking? And I ask you this because I believe there are songs you recorded back in the day that you'd do differently now.
ROBERT SALL: Personally, I think we have kind of taken Work Of Art as far as we can in the direction we have been going for a new album; we will surely take some chances and try to make things differently. Mainly because we need to make it feel fresh and exciting for ourselves. I think doing a fourth album sounding like the three earlier once would maybe be safe but very boring. But, I can promise you we will deliver and album with songs that we feel very strongly about. The way I feel about it, I really would like for the new album to show where we are as musicians today.
Exactly. I've been talking to some friends about the 'playing safe' some cool bands are doing. Sad to hear good songwriters insisting on a process that's already wearing off. Finally, what have you listened to lately that you'd recommend to my readers?
ROBERT SALL: Well to be honest, I haven't heard anything that has made me go "WOW!" in a very long time. I mean I listen to a lot of stuff, trying to keep myself updated but nothing stands out. The things that really have grabbed my attention lately is movie scores. Jerry Goldsmith or Alan Silvestri are two composers that I'm currently really into. Or for the AOR fans, check out all the wonderful movie scores Vince DiCola has done, amazing stuff!
Yeah, there's this "sameness" around making everybody sounding like everybody. Maybe it's due to a few producers work on a lot of different albums that get released one after the other, perhaps?
ROBERT SALL: Absolutely and also, I'm a person who gets bored pretty quickly. That's why I always played and write in a lot of different styles. The funny thing is though, when I'm working on music that is not in the AOR genre, after a while of doing that, that's usually when I write my best AOR stuff. I guess I work up an appetite for it when I do other stuff.
It works like a 'detox' when writing in a different style, doesn't it? Leaving your comfort zone brings new pespectives to your work, I believe.
ROBERT SALL: Spot on.
Okay, Robert... I want to thank you for taking time out on a Sunday to talk with me again. It's always a pleasure and I wish you all the best on your future endeavours. Oh, and I'm going to start a countdown to the new Work Of Art album (please keep me posted on that) Thanks again, mate.
ROBER SALL: Anytime my friend! A pleasure as always.
For more information about Work Of Art visit the band’s official website at https://www.facebook.com/musicofworkofart/
|Posted on May 19, 2016 at 9:30 PM||comments (0)|
I must confess that up until recently my knowledge of guitarist Tracy G only extended as far as his work with DIO during the 1990s. But I have come to discover there is much more to the man than just his ability as a metal axe man. And while his abilities as a guitarist are very impressive, so are his abilities to write, produce and record top quality material; not only for himself but also for others. For several years now Tracy G, along with vocalist/songwriting partner, Mike Beatty, have been the driving force behind The Tracy G Group. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with both gentlemen to discuss the journey of the band thus far, their thoughts on the music industry and their brand new explosive album Tramp.
The Rock Man: Firstly, Congratulations on the release of the new album Tramp. I would imagine that the band is very happy with how this new collection of material has turned out?
Tracy G: Thanks Rock Man… As far as I’m concerned, this is the best CD I’ve put out. Each CD I do, I think comes out better because of the work in progress, learning the studio better and where things should be, producing it, and you get a little bit better each time you do it. And this one…. I love the sound of it and everybody’s performance is awesome. So personally I think it kicks ass.
Mike Beatty: We’re extremely happy with it. Every tune has something to say!
RM: Before we dive into talking about the new record in detail, for those that aren’t too familiar with the band can you give us a brief history of the band and how it all came together?
TG: The Tracy G Group has been around for many years and has had many members. Currently the line-up is Adrian Aguilar on drums, Randy Oviedo on bass, Michael Beatty on vocals and Tracy G on guitar. I’ve known Mike Beatty for 30 years, since ‘85 or something like that. We’ve done a lot of gigs together. Mike’s a singer/songwriter, guitarist, keyboard player and vocalist. We’ve done a lot of gigs just me and him. I met him in church. We’ve played at churches, played at coffee shops, played at bars, parties. A lot of just two-man band stuff. Mike and I have done a lot of classic rock and originals. His originals, my originals but I never did anything heavy metal with him before. It’s always been on the lighter side with him until a year ago when we tried War Pigs and he did that great. Then we tried a DIO song Strange Highways and once he sang that and he did it really well, I thought I should give him some of my heavy riffs and songs. Tramp is the finished version of what he does with my heavy stuff. It works really good and really smooth. He’s singing my songs and he writes all the lyrics. Randy Oviedo I met a few years ago through other musicians, he’s a killer bass player. Adrian Aguilar is a local drummer, a killer drummer who can play pretty much anything I throw at him. The CD Tramp has Ray Luzier from KORN, he played drums on 4 tracks. Patrick Johansson also played drums on 7 tracks. Patrick played with Yngwie Malmsteen for I think 14 years. Then Adrian, so it has some killer drumming on it. Adrian is our drummer and Patrick was a guest. So the band 2016 version is Me, Mike, Randy and Adrian
RM: In terms of musical heroes, who were the biggest influences on you growing up?
TG: When I was growing up, I think Black Sabbath was the first heavy group that I got into. Prior to that, a lot of R & B, my older sister listened to a lot of dance music so I loved Sly & The Family Stone. Just a lot of dancing stuff, I was a little kid, so I was drawn to Funk, and Soul, stuff that grooved with lots of rhythms in it. I heard Black Sabbath when I was 12 or 13 years old. Once I heard that and Tony Iommi, my influences were pretty much Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Ritchie Blackmore, Jimmy Page and Tony Iommi, then a lot of others. Michael Schenker, AC/DC and then along comes Van Halen. I also like fusion and fusion. Al DiMeola and Pat Metheny, also Carlos Santana. My influences are all over the place. All styles.
MB: I grew up listening to a lot of Beach Boys and Neil Young. Anything with harmonies. When I got to High School, two things hit me hardest musically. The LA Punk scene. X was an influence…hard hitting lyrics, slamming beats with Billy Zoom playing these amazing rockabilly licks to punk tunes. Then I heard Unleashed In The East from Judas Priest…. it BLEW ME AWAY….. Exciter changed my life.
RM: As I previously mentioned, the new album is titled Tramp. This is your first album of all new material since Collateral Chaos in 2011. Why was there such a long gap between records?
TG: There’s two other projects since 2011. One was called Deviating From The Set List. It has a lot of my favourite cover tunes. I don’t sell it, it’s on my website, but I do give it away for promotion. I also did one with the Tracy G Group This Device same line-up as now with a few Ray Luzier drum tracks as well. Sometimes I just get busy doing other things or it just takes a while. I record and produce a lot of bands in my studio. I try to put out something once a year, but sometimes it doesn’t work out, I get busy.
RM: Did this album provide you with any challenges in the studio or in the writing sessions or was it a pretty easy album to make?
TG: Not too many challenges. It was pretty easy to put together. I write all the songs musically and then I hand them to Mike unless I think they’re instrumentals then I finish them off. Patrick Johansson lives in Florida and we live in L.A., so it took a little bit of timing to get him over here. We wanted him to be here in the G Factory studio to record it rather than just do it all over the internet. It was important to have him here in the room with all of us. Once we got Patrick out here it went really fast because he’s such a great drummer. All the drum parts went quick. All Mike’s vocal parts, he does almost on the first take. Same with Randy, it all goes fast, went smooth and flowed easily.
MB: This was a lot of fun to make. Like Tracy said, we’d been friends for 30 years and I’ve seen almost every singer he’s had. Tracy is the most laid back guy you will ever meet, but when it comes to music he is dead serious. We play in bars all over Southern California just the two of us. We do classic rock with some crazy arrangements. People dig it and it’s a good living. But I’d never sang metal. A huge fan of metal most of my life. But never sang it. When Tracy asked me to sing War Pigs at a gig, it was extremely cool. I felt right at home. Then a few weeks later he asked me to sing Pain and Strange Highways, the classic DIO tunes he co-wrote with Ronnie. I was honoured but extremely intimidated. I mean… Ronnie is the greatest rock vocalist EVER. PERIOD…So I couldn’t do it half ass and if it sucked I wouldn’t do it. Those tunes are that special. We tried it out and I got really good feedback from DIO fans. So we just kept pushing on.
RM: Every band has their way of working and putting an album together. What is the process in The Tracy G Group?
TG: I write everything first by myself. I work best that way. With a drum machine I lay down the grooves, the bass, the riffs, the basic idea and make it sound as good as I can. If it needs vocals I give it to Mike. On his own, he takes the ideas, writes the lyrics and melodies then comes over and demos it. We look at each other and know right away if we have a song that’s happening or not. 99% of the time I gave him a song, he came back and we had a song. Some of the tracks we kept the vocals from the original demo. They kicked ass, no need to redo them. Then Randy comes over, lays the bass tracks, adds his style, over my basic bass playing and the drummers come in and play to a click. Unfortunately, we don’t play all together; we don’t play at the same time. I have to layer, because I have such a small studio and we can barely all fit in it. My goal as a producer is to make it sound like we all played the thing together. Like were all in the room together, but I’m pretty happy with the results, sounds pretty cool. So that’s pretty much the process of how we record here in LA at the G Factory Studio.
MB: Tracy gave me a CD of 16 instrumental songs and told me to write some lyrics and melodies and come record them one at a time. So we did and that’s how Tramp came about. I would pick a song that jumped out at me, listen to it a million times, and write. We did that every week for 10 weeks, almost a song a week.
RM: Let’s talk about some of the tracks on the album. Let’s start with The Revolution which is the lead single. What sort of feedback are you getting about that song?
TG: Real positive. I think it’s pretty heavy, some great reviews and comments. That song was first an instrumental. Once Mike started singing on other stuff, I gave it to him and said “See what you could do with this”, and that’s what he did with it. So pretty awesome I think.
MB: When I first heard that riff I thought old Sabbath instantly. When I first recorded the vocals, Tracy said the same thing so I knew it would be cool
RM: The track Arrogant Prick is one of those songs I think most of us can relate to at one point or another. Was that written with anyone specific in mind or just as a general lyric?
MB: Every song has a person or people in mind. This one specifically is about a local business owner here in Southern California. A guy we made a lot of money for playing at his place. But he talks behind your back, acts like he’s the bigshot, yet everyone is laughing at him behind his back. As musicians we are often treated like shit. It comes with the turf I guess, but as you get older and somewhat wiser, you can let bitterness overtake you or write a song about it and let it go (sort of). The anger comes through clearer in the music. Hopefully that translates… I am hearing it is!
RM: Leech has got one of the best metal guitar and rhythm section melodies I’ve heard for a long time. What can you tell me about that track?
TG: Thanks for that. The Leech lick came about like all my licks, by just jamming. I sit outside and I have like a 40-foot cord and my amp is about 90 feet away inside so I can barely hear it. It sounds better that way. When I come up with something cool, I record it so I don’t forget it. I hear the arrangement in my head. So I take the drum machine, bass and rhythm and lay out the song. I have no idea what Mike is going to sing or write about until he comes over to record the demo. Actually that part is pretty exciting when he comes over and I get to hear for the first time what he’s written. I like 4/4, but I like to mix it up so I put a 7/8 part in there to fuck it up so it’s not always the same.
MB: Tracy and I have about 9 future CD’s worth of anger from life experiences, so it’s easy to write lyrics. His riffs are scary and heavy, so the lyrics have to at least match the music or it sounds lame. Everyone knows a Leech, a parasite that will suck the blood out of you and move on to something or someone else…..I love that song.
RM: One of the strengths of the record is the handful of instrumental tracks on the record. These tracks seem to have a slightly different tone than the more aggressive tracks I previously mentioned. Was this by design or just the natural progression of the recording process?
TG: Almost everything I write is an instrumental to me, cause I write the music first. I like to make sure it has a cool natural flow to it. Once I get to finishing all the parts and I can hear vocals in it, I give it to Mike. I love instrumentals because I get to play a little different. I play a certain way with a singer, any singer and different singers make me play different too. Whenever there’s singing in a song, I’m going to play around the singer because the singer is the main thing; until he stops singing then my solo is the main thing. That’s kind of how I hear it. My solo takes the place of the singing, that’s how I see it. I sing through my solos. So on the instrumentals my guitar is the singer so it gives me a chance to speak different. That’s all I’m trying to do in the Tracy G Group is cover all my different influences that I hear in my head. I try to follow the sounds in my head to play the best I’m able to. So they sound a little different because I’m not following a singer’s pattern and I can get a little crazier with the music and I can go different places.
RM: The music industry has gone through many changes throughout the years; can you put your finger on one that has had the most impact, for better or worse?
MB: Technology has changed it for good and bad. We have zero overhead… Tracy records, mixes and engineers the whole project. We have our gifted friends do the artwork and a local manufacturer makes the discs. I shoot, edit and produce all our music videos. No overhead! We live near some of the most famous studios in the world that sit relatively empty.
RM: Given the decline in record sales and the popularity of services such as iTunes or Spotify and illegal downloading there seems to be growing concern that it is not worth making full length albums anymore. What are your thoughts; are full length albums still valid in this day and age?
MB: We do it for the love of music. We are by no means rich, but we have full control of what we release. No one tells us how to mix it or what we should do. That is the great part, we are not part of the machine. Therefore, we can release, write or record when we want. If people love it, cool… If not, we aren’t changing to fit anyone’s mold of what they think we should be. That is the cool part, full albums? Hell Yeah! Why not?
RM: What advice, if any, would you give to any aspiring musicians looking to make a career in music?
TG: Don’t be an Arrogant Prick and don’t be a Liar. Don’t be a Bunghole! Be a musician. Like all music. Get into all kinds of music if you can. Be open and not close minded. Don’t just listen to “Country“ only, or “Metal” only or just instrumentals. Listen to all types of music. Don’t label yourself or what you do. Just be the best musician you can be. Don’t be a flake. Don’t be afraid to do your own thing. Be yourself, that’s my advice.
RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of the album Tramp. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you the best of luck for the record and many years of continued success.
TG: I’d like to thank the Rock Man and Full Throttle Rock for the interview. It’s very cool that you took the time to listen to the CD. We really appreciate your support. Keep rocking and we hope to get to Australia and do some shows, Rock and Roll!
MB: We LOVE Australia, my Mom was born there and dammit I want to tour there. So we shall see. We really appreciate the great review from you and Full Throttle Rock. You get it and it means the world to us… Thank you and Mahalo.
For more information about The Tracy G Group visit the band’s official website at www.tracyg.com
The Tracy G Group – Tramp is available on Tracy Records and for digital download on www.tracyg.com
|Posted on December 13, 2015 at 10:55 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with Frankie Poullain
By Dave Smiles
It’s easy for me to think of The Darkness as a new band but then I have to remind myself that their debut album Permission To Land was released twelve years ago. At the time, it was a breath of fresh air or perhaps a blast from times past when rock n roll was about fun, as opposed to the self-indulgent, self-deprecating Nu Metal that dominated the charts. The big hair, the colour, the standard tuned guitars and the solos grabbed the attention of kids who had never seen or heard it before and rekindled that fire in fans of bands like Van Halen and Foreigner.
Flash forward to 2015 and it seems genres and sub genres can all co-exist. It’s not uncommon to have a Nu Metal and a Glam Metal band on the same line up for a festival. What matters is the quality of the music, and fans today have access to decades of music and information on bands to know what is good and what is not.
Twelve years in music is a lifetime, and The Darkness have faced it all. Addictions, rehabs, disbanding, reforming, lineup changes, etc. It reads like a rock n roll cliché, but these are the real lives of a band dedicated to music.
I recently got to chat with bassist Frankie Poullain about the band, the industry and their new album The Last Of Our Kind.
How have the shows been going for the new album so far?
From my point of view the best ever. For a number of reasons. We changed everything for this album campaign. Changed management, labels. Unfortunately we had to change our drummer as well. So with Rufus Taylor on drums I’m just having such a good time playing with him. He's such a hard drummer. Powerful. The bands,… Dan’s done a lot of riffing on this album as well. We’re playing a lot of the heavy stuff from the album like Barbarian, Open Fire all the songs that are based on hard rock riffs, you know. That’s really where we’re at our best as a band.
How do you think the older songs go with the new drummer? Has it brought a fresh dynamic to it?
I have to say they sound better to be quite frank. But I don't wanna say anything disrespectful about Graham because there’s a real likability about the way that he played as well. It’s all different you know. We certainly never sounded as powerful as we sound now.
Where did the barbarian theme come from for the new album?
It came from sitting around a swimming pool in Ibiza. We were there and it was the start of the album writing process and we’d been messing around with calypso and folky kind of stuff you know. It was the start of the writing session and I think Dan just got a bit sick of it and just got his head down and came up with these riffs really quickly. He came out with the first riff first of all, he was peddling on the E, and I was playing this headless Steinberger bass which I borrowed off our sound engineer. So funny enough it came from Ibiza and the hot sunshine. And it changed the elements for the next album completely because immediately there was something there that was very powerful it was like a call to arms and a chance for Justin to escape from his turmoil at that time. Several of the songs on the album are escapist songs because we were going through a hard time, extricating ourselves from our management label, our drummer too. That was upsetting.
You guys self-produced the album didn't you?
Yeah Dan Hawkins produced our last album.
What were some of the advantages of doing that yourself?
Well empowerment. We have the expertise but ultimately the decisions are ours. Even if you’re successful and you’re not empowered the worst things you can complain about is other people’s mistakes. You don't learn. But if you learn from your own mistakes you don't become frustrated.
Since the release of Permission To Land in 2003 how would you say the industry has changed for you in the past 10-15 years?
Technology changes and people have to adjust to those changes. Human nature hasn't changed. Still full of vultures and vampires. Cockroaches. Cocksuckers. Industry is Industry isn't it? It’s just people trying to get money from other people’s artistic endeavors. There are several gems in there. Good people with a love of music, but by and large there are people earning a living by sucking the blood out of other people. I hope that doesn’t come across as bitter. Once upon a time I would have said that in a bitter way but now I say it as a man of experience.
You’ve been around a long time and been burnt. What are some of the most important lessons you've learnt so far?
The most important lesson I’ve learned from music so far…. it’s got to come from the heart. It has to come from a good place and you've got to protect that. If something comes from a good place you have to protect it and fight for it. And don't cheapen yourself. There are several lessons in there actually. Don’t cheapen yourself. I think we made a few mistakes in the Hot Cakes campaign of cheapening ourselves. We probably did the tour with Lady Gaga for a bit too long. There were a couple of videos in that campaign where the woman,… which was kind of like casual sexism and kind of clichéd. Nothing wrong with being sexy but there has to be a certain edge and point to it you know. So we’re out to rectify all that on this album campaign.
So how are the dynamics of the band at the moment? Is everyone on the same page with everything operating smoothly?
I just can’t believe how Rufus has helped in terms of his personality. He gets on with all of us in different ways because were different characters. He’s got a great sense of humor. He doesn't take himself too seriously but at the same time he's got a real pride in what he does. He's got a great bullshit detector. He helps a lot with choosing songs for the set list and we all agree. That includes the brand new song, actually, from the next album. It’s called Rack of Glam. It’s about man’s relationship with a female boob. It’s from a Freudian perspective.
It is quite deep. There’s nothing deeper then man’s relationship with a boob.
So when you guys started you were kind of lumped as a retro band or however they wanted to label you guys, and now there seems there are other bands influenced by the ‘80s, or ‘70s for that matter. Do you think you paved the way for other things to come?
There’s a lot more Rock and Pub Rock in Australia then there is in the U.K. I don't think we set a trend no. I think it was happening before, like the White Stripes and The Hives, who were around the same time as us. Doing a different type of ‘retro’ sounding rock. So no I don't think so no.
So what’s next for The Darkness after you've completed the tour?
Well it’s going to be a long tour. After Australia we do the U.K. up until Christmas. We do Europe in January and then we’re doing South America, Eastern Europe and then we’re doing the states again in May. And then we do the festival season. Any gaps in that schedule we are trying to repair are respective domestic situations. And then also do a bit of writing in France this time. We have a house there that a friend of ours has. We’re going to have writing time there. That’s one thing we took from this last album, the idea of going to a new place, with a new energy and tapping into that.
For more information about The Darkness visit the official website at: www.thedarkness.co.uk/
The Darkness – Last Of Our Kind is available on Canary Dwarf Records.
|Posted on November 11, 2015 at 4:10 PM||comments (0)|
In the early dawn of the 1980s a new breed of British rockers were quickly rising up through the ranks of the music industry. Known as ‘The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’, this group of aspiring superstars were following in the footsteps laid out by legendary acts such as Led Zeppelin, Queen, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. Leading the charge, along with Iron Maiden and Saxon, were a group of fresh faced lads from Sheffield calling themselves Def Leppard. The boys dreamt of fortune and fame and eventually they would get it, but these things always come at a high price and Def Leppard would pay a heavy toll. However despite issues with alcohol abuse, car accidents and even the tragic passing of a much loved band member, Def Leppard would go on to record some of the biggest hit singles and albums of all time and become the superstar arena rock Gods they had dreamt of becoming. With a new self-titled album under their belts the band once again finds themselves at the top end of the charts and on a worldwide tour to promote it. This has led them back to Australian shores once more and I had the pleasure of catching up with vocalist Joe Elliott for a chat about the forthcoming tour and the new album.
Rock Man: You just kicked off the tour in Japan this week, and then next week you’re headed back to Australia. Is it fair to say that Australia has played a big part in the band’s success over the years?
Joe Elliott: It's been a part of the success of the band, for sure. It's been a very interesting and successful and exciting part of the band's success. We first played Australia in 1984; we played a couple of pub shows, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne. Then we did the last ever Narara Music Festival in the absolute pouring rain. It was fantastic but it was just a mud fest, and I believe it was the last one that was ever put on. That was our introduction to Australia which was amazing, but we didn't go back there until nearly ten years later. When we released albums I think every four to five years we didn't want to go anywhere because you're stuck in a studio making records, but once Hysteria came out in August of '87 it didn't take off in Australia until August of '89. And that tour it was incredible because we had a Number 1 album in the UK in August of '87, the album finally went Number 1 in August of '88 in America and then a year after that we get the call that's it's gone Number 1 in Australia [laughs]. This is nuts, you know. They were clamouring for us to come down and play live but we were already into the studio making the following album, which was the Adrenalize album. So as it turned out, Australia ended up being the first place we ever played on the 1992 Adrenalize Tour. Periodically we've been back more recently than before; we were here three years ago and three years before that. We're becoming more frequent visitors if you like which is great because we love to come. We'd come more often if we could.
RM: Congratulations to the band and yourself on all you have achieved in your career. From humble beginnings this band certainly has had its fair share of highest of highs and lowest of lows. Do you shake your head and wonder sometimes “How did we manage to survive and get so lucky”?
JE: The word "luck" comes up a lot but you have to earn the right to be lucky. Anyone can be lucky, but to put yourselves in a position to be lucky you've got to work really hard and that's something we've always done. But when you've been around for 35 years, it's not all going to be "thumbs-up", it's not all going to be "win, win, win". You take anybody's life over a 35 year period and it's going to go in a wave; it's going to go up and down. There's going to be a lot of downsides and a lot of recovery and a lot of negativity, followed by re-achieving success. Whether it be Albert Einstein or the Rolling Stones, it doesn't matter even what you are in life, 35 years is a hell of a long time to try and maintain anything. For us to have been around that long and the new album has gone Top 4 on the Australian Charts this week, that to us is an astonishing thing and something we're very proud of, very humbled by, and so excited that the thought that we after all this time are still kind of relevant to certain people around the world. The album's gone to Number 1 in every rock chart around the world and Top 10 in the majority of "rock" countries, Westernised countries, and even a lot of European and South American countries. So all of a sudden the band's got heat on it again, because I think it's a strong album. And that's the important thing, the new album is a really strong representation of who we are and who we've been and who we used to listen to as kids. It's got every ingredient that we want in an album. There is no explanation as to why we're still here; we just enjoy what we do and we've been afforded the opportunity to do it by having such a loyal fan base.
RM: The new self-titled album is out, and from a personal point of view I think this is the album of the year by a long stretch. This is a very enjoyable record; this clearly must have been an easy one for you to make because it sounds like everyone had a lot of fun on it.
JE: You know what; we've never made an easy album. Anybody that makes an easy album really makes a bad record because they're not trying hard enough. But with this one, it wasn't a case of not trying; it was a case of not blocking. We didn't block ourselves; we didn't go you can't do that because it sounds too much like Led Zeppelin or it sounds too much like Queen. We just let it flow; it doesn't matter if it sounds like someone else. These someone else's are the bands that made us want to be in a band. So it's going to leak into your sound no matter who you are. But we embraced it this time rather than trying to disguise it. It was easy in that respect; we had fun, we didn't have a record contract, we financed the record ourselves, we put it together with nobody hovering over our shoulder, nobody saying it needs to be delivered by Christmas, and all this kind of crap. We just made a record for us. Literally a piece of art. I know that sounds pooncey, but it was a piece of art; it wasn't a piece of commerce. We did 14 songs; we went into the studio to write two or three, and we ended up with 14 because we were just fertile [laughs]. When it came to ideas, they were just coming out of us, it was like chickens laying eggs, it was amazing. We had such a great time. So in that respect, it was very enjoyable. We did put the work in, it was work. I'm not saying it was hard work, but it was work. The reason it wasn't hard work is we were all getting on fine, which we always do anyway, but we were just having fun with this record. And I think you can get it in the grooves that it's got something about it [laughs], and it's a fun record and at the same time it's diverse; there's no two songs on the album that sound alike, but there's a lot of familiarity on the record to us or just rock and roll in general.
RM: After playing together for so long, why did you decide to release a self-titled album; is there any deep meaning behind it?
JE: It was a very simplistic thing. We don't like to over think things so much these days because we've been guilty of that so much in the past that we over think things. You spend 20 years trying to come up with an answer to something you should have spent 20 minutes on because it doesn't make any difference. At the end of the day, a name is a name. It's like horses; does it really matter as long as your horse wins, do you care what it's called? The thing was, when we were all playing these songs or talking to our friends, and they're "Oh you're making a new record, tell us what does it sound like?" We found ourselves all subconsciously saying, it kind of sounds like Def Leppard [laughs]. And so when we all started relaying that story to each other, Phil (Collen) our guitar played said, "Why don't we just call it Def Leppard, we've never done it". When you think about Peter Gabriel who's got four albums out called Peter Gabriel, we've got three more shots at this thing [laughs]. It was a case of we've never done it; it seemed to be the logical thing to do, 35 years into our career and the first album we've ever done without a record deal, it was like a whole new start. So it was like “Let’s just call the album Def Leppard” because that's what it is, it's us now.
RM: The first single from the record is Let’s Go. What feedback has the band received in regard to this track?
JE: Mostly positive. At the end of the day it's classic Leppard. It's got that Let's Get Rocked, Pour Some Sugar On Me, Rock Of Ages anthemic, stadium rock thing about it. Even the song Undefeated off the Mirrorball record; it's the same kind of thing. It's one of those songs when you hear it you, you go this would sound great in Madison Square Garden or Rod Laver Arena, in these big iconic buildings all round the world. It's one of those songs that leaps out. And it is classic Leppard. We weren't trying to reinvent the wheel. Sav, our bass player Rick Savage, came up with that song and we knew it sounded like an echo of our past and we were more than happy to do that. When you think about some of the greatest bands in the world, they're always hoping to rewrite some of their hits, instead of going off on tangents. AC/DC, everything they do sounds like everything they've ever done. And I mean that in a positive way; you're not going to get a piano ballad or an acoustic song off AC/DC, you're going to get things that sound familiar like Highway To Hell or Back In Black, that's what they do. What we did on that one song was go into a territory that we've been in before which is kind of slow, sexy, groovy thing with the big anthemic chorus, huge guitars, big drums; the usual thing that Leppard is renowned for and that our fans really enjoy. So we're not going to deny ourselves the opportunity to write a song like that, but it's just one of 14 and everything else on the record doesn't sound like that one song. So we were more than happy to put all our eggs in one basket on that particular song, in that direction.
RM: Next week you’re here in Australia doing shows in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. For fans that haven't seen you live, what can they expect to see and hear from the show?
JE: Well of course we're promoting a new record so we're going to be playing new stuff, but we're not going to play too much of it because nobody wants to hear too much new music. We're well aware in this day and age that for an audience that comes to see Def Leppard, by the time that we get to Australia with an album that just got released this week, everybody in the audience will not have bought the new album yet. The first ten rows might have bought it. So you've got to be very careful how you place the new music, so we're going to play one or two new songs in the set; but we've always been one of them kind of bands that embraces our history, embraces who we are, we're not afraid to play the hits. That's why people come. They don't come to hear our B-sides. They come to hear the Sugars, the Photographs, the Rock of Ages and the Let's Get Rockeds and that kind of thing. Let's be honest, you and I could go to a Rolling Stones gig and what do we want to hear? We want to hear Jumping Jack Flash, Brown Sugar and You Can't Always Get What You Want. If they play one or two new songs great, but we don't want to hear 12. I want to hear the new [Paul] McCartney album in my car on CD and I want to hear two or three songs that represent that record within his set but I still want Helter Skelter and Live And Let Die and Band On The Run and stuff like that. So you're going to get the history of the band on stage, and you're going to get a great performance. We've got a brilliant light show and screen show and all that kind of stuff. It's eye candy as well as ear candy when we play.
RM: The band has of providing value for money with its live shows. Can you pin point what it is that separates Def Leppard from others when it comes to performing, and why you are so successful as a live act?
JE: No I can't, I don't know what the answer is. All I know is I don't see enough other bands to compare them to us because we're working so much. I see very few live shows of other people. I saw McCartney about three weeks ago in Columbus Ohio in America; that's the first gig I've seen since I saw U2 in Boston in June, and they're the only two shows I've seen this year because we've been working so hard. The difference is, what I'm comparing us to now is McCartney and U2, Christ that's not a bad thing to compare yourself against, they’re the biggest artists on the planet. That's the coat tails that we might be riding. That's where we want to place ourselves in that kind of same arena. When we go out on stage we show that we’re not afraid to put on. If we have to go on after U2 or Paul McCartney, it wouldn't frighten us because we believe in what we do and, without being pig headed, that's just a case of self-believing confidence. You have to have that when you go on stage. It's like a boxer, no boxer gets into the ring thinking he's going to lose; he has to believe he's going to win or there's no point in getting in the ring. When we go on stage we have to believe we're the best band in the world. And that's how we do it. We get up there and we have fun with it.
RM: And finally, are there any words you would like to share with all your loyal Australian fans?
JE: Thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks. I mean really it doesn't get any better than that; you put us in the Top 5 in Australia this week. That's the most beautiful thing anybody could do for me right now. The fact that people are still there for us after all this time, they waited long enough to see us live in the first place and we try to stay as loyal as we can to our fans all over the world and were very very grateful. We're glad to be able to come down to Australia in the next week with a Top 5 record, it's amazing. Thank you.
RM: Once again Joe, congratulations on the release of the album Def Leppard. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you the best of luck for the record and the upcoming Australian tour
Def Leppard Australian Tour Dates:
Tuesday 17 November – Sydney, Qantas Credit Union Arena
Wednesday 18 November – Melbourne, Rod Laver Arena
Saturday 21 November – Perth, Red Hill Auditorium
For more information on Def Leppard visit the official website at: www.defleppard.com
Def Leppard – Def Leppard is available on Bludgeon Riffola/earMUSIC Records.
|Posted on November 10, 2015 at 8:15 PM||comments (0)|
Interview With David Glen Eisley
By Juliano Mallon
With one of the most reconizable – and respect – voices in the AOR universe, veteran David Glen Eisley has one too many great albums under his belt, but the most remembered is the very first work with Giuffria, released back in 1984. After decades of silence, most of the band got together for a memorable concert at Rock City, in Nottingham. With that in mind, I contacted Mr. Eisley, who kindly agreed to talk about his past, present and future plans.
Last week you performed live at Rock City with Craig Goldy and Alan Kriger as Giuffria. How was it for you to be back on stage, after all these years, and with other two original members of the band?
DGE: It actually was great to be playing again with my pals from the past, I love these guys. Lifetime friends!
How the invitation came through? Who had the idea and how did you feel when contacted about playing again as Giuffria?
DGE: It actually came through a mutual musician friend of mine that the promoters of Rock City had contacted looking to get in touch with me. He contacted me and asked if it were alright to pass along my info. I said yes and they contacted me to see if I had any interest.. Simple as that. About a year ago Craig Goldy had asked if I would participate in a small festival in San Diego and after alot of coaxing he got me to agree. That little gig consisting of Myself, Craig & Krigger somehow reached across the Atlantic and the next thing I know is they were approaching me for what just happened in Nottingham.
Any words on why Gregg Giuffria and Chuck Wright weren’t there?
DGE: Well actually Gregg & I speak quite often and though he is very successful as a business fellow now he has expressed interest in he and I writing a few tunes and seeing what happens. Who knows right?? As far as Chuck he is very busy with Quiet Riot and although we both love playing together there is some sort of contractual situation that prevents him from doing anything really regarding all of us playing together. Not quite sure as it is a bit strange. But it is what it is.
I’m sure expectations were running high for the concert. Were they met?
DGE: Our expectations were many variables.. For starters we kind of knew things would be chaotic and there really would be no sound checks, strange equipment, etc so going into it to begin with was with a bit of concern. Our attitude was to forget all the "what if's," just plug in and blast through and have a good time amongst ourselves. If the audience caught on great.. If not, too bad. But everybody seemed to enjoy it and we enjoyed ourselves.. So I guess it was a victory for all.
Since it was announced, this reunion spawned one too many rumours, the most recurring being Giuffria would reunite for a new album. Is there any level of truth in those rumours?
DGE: All I can say is that Craig & I are starting the writing process for a new record on Frontiers Records which I did my first solo record with. In what configuration it will appear in is to be determined at a later date. But we are writing now.
Giuffria’s first album is a bonafide AOR classic. After 31 years, how do see it? How relevant do you think it is and why is that so?
DGE: That first record is a very different type of record covering a wide range of influences as we all were so different from one another but we managed to come together and make some sense out of a very illogical combination of personalities.. It just seemed to produce something a little different than the norm.
Moving on in time, you released three awesome solo albums between 1999-2001. What have you been up to since then?
DGE: Since 2008 I have been kind of taking care of my daughter’s acting career. She has been working since she was fourteen and her mother, my wife Olivia Hussey (Romeo & Juliet) also an actor are very aware of the crazy business it is and have kept a keen eye out for the pitfalls that are always present. But India is now 22 years old and is more than capable of handling her own affairs allowing me to return to the studio, road, whatever. It's all good.
Any chance we’ll get more music from you anytime soon?
DGE: Yes. You will be hearing from me and/ or from a few of us. As I said Craig & I are writing, Gregg & I probably will be & I on my own am starting to put stuff together as we speak.
David, it was a pleasure talking to you. I wish you all success on your future endeavours and wish to hear more music from you soon...
DGE: Thank you, Juliano, for the opportunity. I would just like to say to anybody that was in Nottingham in October "thank you" for the welcome back and any players out there, young or old just be true to what YOU are and just keep playing, writing, singing or whatever you do.. Do it true.
For more information about David Glen Eisley visit the official website at: www.davidgleneisley.com
|Posted on October 13, 2015 at 11:15 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with Keith Nelson
By Dave Smiles
Buckcherry came into the rock world in the mid-nineties, a time when their brand of hard rock wasn’t cool. That didn’t matter. These guys have always done things their way, and in doing so have survived changing line ups, changes in the music industry and the disbanding of the band. But like true rock n roll rebels, you can’t suppress the passion for good music. With the release of their new album, the diverse and perfectly titled Rock N Roll, Buckcherry have proved yet again that doing things their way is the secret to longevity.
I recently spoke to guitarist Keith Nelson about the album, the band, and people’s claims that rock n roll is dead.
First up congratulations on the new album Rock n Roll. What was the reasoning behind calling it Rock n Roll?
The reason why we called it Rock n Roll was it kind of takes big balls to call it Rock N Roll. I don’t know what’s going on in Australia but over in the states we got these people saying Rock N Roll is dead and we just don’t fuckin’ believe that. We’re a rock roll band so where going to call our new album Rock N Roll and that’s that.
There’s a lot of people being saying rock is dead over here as well.
Well fuck ‘em, Dave. How do you say it in Australia? Fuck ‘em mate.
That’s it. Fuck ‘em mate. (Both laugh) It’s no secret the industry has been through some changes in the past couple of years with the way people listen and purchase music, do you think we will see big bands dominating the world again like we did in times past?
People have moved into other ways of getting our CD or record and I think that’s really good. More people are enjoying music than ever before. We have to figure out a way to make that the artists and the song writers are being taken care of obviously. But I think that more people listening to music is better. Period.
It seems we’re in a transitional period. After a 20 year career what inspires you to keep making music?
Fuck. Everything inspires us. Playing live shows inspires us. Been in a fucking Rock n Roll band. It’s inspiring in and of itself. I don’t need a reason to get up out of bed every day and make Rock n Roll. I love to do it. And the band loves to do it. I get excited about making records I get excited about new songs and ultimately we get excited about playing them for the fans. Making new fans and touring the world.
When you guys where writing the new album was there a need to write something great or was it more relaxed and see what came out?
We just kind of wrote songs and we didn’t really have a title for the record until we wrote the record. When we made the confessions record we were definitely going for a certain thing. We just wanted to write the best Rock n Roll songs that we could. Write the best record that we could.
The track Tight Pants has a very big band Stones feel to it, how did the song come about?
It was a funky little riff. Stevie came in with his riff and we started jamming on it. The song started evolving and yeah so it’s just kind of a guitar based song. I had this wild idea of playing some horns on it and then it really took it to a whole new level. All my favourite bands have put horns except ACDC. They had bag pipes so technically that counts as horns. We just had some fun with it. Why not.
It really stands out the way you guys did it. Overall there’s a lot of diversity to the songs throughout the album. Was this a conscious idea to show how broad the genre of Rock n Roll can be?
You know all my favourite bands have been able to lean to the left and to the right and their still Rock n Roll bands and I think that there’s a lot that you can do within a Rock n Roll band and still be Rock N roll so if you look at the record and you see a song like Tight Pants and then you see a song like “Rains Falling” it’s all tying in there. Yeah we are big fans of music. We’re always having some fun so you know there’s no rules. No set way to do things.
With the previous release, the “Fuck” EP, it overall very angry and in your face was that a need for the band to get something out of its system?
I think that was a reaction to focusing so hard on the Confessions album and it was so serious and the subject matter was so heavy. I think we just kind of wanted an excuse to put Fuck in every song and have some fun you know and that’s what we did. You know it’s funny not one song on the Fuck record is about actually fucking. Which we didn't realise until after.
How do you think the band has changed over time?
You know, I actually think we are a lot more comfortable being exactly who we are. And no apologising for it. We’re coming up to twenty years, me and Josh together, we’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry. We've had some line up changes and I just think we are a lot more comfortable in our skin and with what we’re doing. The longer this act plays together the tighter we get… and you don’t really get to that stage until you’ve been playing with guys for a fucking long time.
Do you ever look back on the olden days and think wow there’s no way I would have thought I’d be doing this in 20 years’ time?
Yeah I mean it really is amazing to me. I mean it’s amazing when I sit and I think about meeting Josh in 1996 and to be sitting here talking to you about it. It’s crazy. We’re very fortunate. We do not take it for granted. We love what we do.
What’s next for Buckcherry?
Tour, tour, tour. Just keep getting on the road. Getting the new music out there, playing some of the older stuff. And just entertaining mass audiences of people.
Nice. Any chance we will be seeing you down here in Australia any time soon?
I think so. Brad who connected our call is working on it. Hopefully sooner than later. We love Australia and our fans have been so good to us and I can’t wait to get back.
|Posted on October 1, 2015 at 12:30 AM||comments (0)|
Who is the greatest rock band of all time? Depending on who you speak to this is an argument that could rage until the end of time. For some it may be The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, some might want to argue it’s AC/DC or Led Zeppelin, and for a younger generation it may be Nirvana. Personally I think you can keep all of them because there is only one clear choice as far as I’m concerned and that is KISS. For 40 years this group of superhero rock and rollers have been conquering the world with their brand of good time rock and roll and influencing generations of would-be rock stars. Their work ethic, particularly when it comes to touring, is second to none and there is no corner of the world the band won’t play; the same can’t be said for others. Once again the band has ventured to the land down under, which has always welcomed them with enthusiasm, as part of the 40th Anniversary tour. I caught up with guitarist and all round nice guy Tommy Thayer for a chat about the band’s rich history, the current tour and playing golf.
Rock Man: Firstly, welcome back to Australia. You’re here as part of the 40th Anniversary tour and Australia has played a big part in the bands success over the journey, hasn’t it?
Tommy Thayer: Well there is no question about it, and particularly in my journey with KISS. My first official show with the band was in 2003 here in Melbourne for the KISS Symphony concert. But of course KISS has been near and dear to the hearts of Australian’s for a long time. The first time the band was in Australia was in 1980 and it was akin to ‘Beatlemania’; when they came it was over the top and it was a huge tour. I was not here at that time, but I have heard all about it and I have seen all the photos and I have seen the newspaper headlines from that tour and it looks like it was over the top.
RM: So going back to 2003 and that KISS Symphony show in Melbourne, that is an incredible way to announce your arrival in the band.
TT: It really was because it was this full blown concert with the Melbourne Symphony at the Telstra Dome, at the time, and there was 40/50,000 people there. The entire Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was in KISS make-up and we recorded it for a live album and DVD as well, so there was a little pressure involved in that first gig I did. But once I got past that it has been smooth sailing ever since.
RM: Congratulations on all you have achieved in your career. Do you shake your head and wonder sometimes “How did I get so lucky”?
TT: [Laughs] Yeah, well I don’t know if it is, they say the harder you work the luckier you get. So I am not sure it necessarily is luck; I have been very fortunate but again, I have been fortunate to find a vocation and find my calling in life to what I love doing which is music and playing guitar and doing this sort of thing. So if you combine that with a lot of drive and perseverance like I have and a never-giving-up type of attitude, it all kind of seems to work out and I have been fortunate like I said. But it does have to do with how hard you work and how much you put into something as well, for sure.
RM: So I guess an extension of that is do you ever have moments, maybe on stage for example, where you think to yourself “Holy smoke, I’m in KISS, arguably the biggest band in the world!”?
TT: Oh, there is no question about it. I have had a lot of those kind of moments. I have had those experiences of looking around on stage or in stadiums and coming down on lifts for the first song as we were playing Detroit Rock City and looking out at 60/70,000 people and thinking “Oh my God, how great is this?” and “How Did I get here?”. But again, somehow it all works and one thing always leads to another and sometimes I have to pinch myself and think “This is amazing”, and I am so fortunate to be in this situation. But I definitely never lose sight of that and never take it for granted either.
RM: Now, in the past the band has brought some pretty big tours here however this time around you’re bringing with you the ‘Spider’ stage. How exciting is it working with this massive stage set up?
TT: Well it is really exciting to have a stage like the ‘Spider’ stage and we are really proud to bring it over to Australia. We used it all last year in North America and it was to great response and great reaction. The stage is big; it is massive and it moves and it really makes a big impact and I believe it is the best stage that KISS has ever used. I am just glad we have it here on this tour and I think the Australian fans and the fans in New Zealand are going to be blown away when they see it.
RM: So is there a part of the setlist each night that you look forward to the most?
TT: Hmm… that is a great question. You know, I can’t really say that there is one part that I favour over another part of the set. We build the set so it is dynamic and from start to finish, it is like a roller coaster ride. So every part of it is great and I enjoy playing every part of the show and there is never a KISS song I don’t enjoy playing either; it is a thrill to play any of them. So it is hard to say one song or one part of the show is my favourite.
RM: So further to that, how much influence do you and Eric Singer have in contributing to what the setlist will be on any given tour?
TT: You know Eric and I, believe it or not, have a lot more say in that than people probably imagine. If anything we might make more suggestions than the other guys in the band as far as that goes [laughs]. Sometimes we like to push Paul [Stanley] and Gene [Simmons] to try different songs and stuff that hasn’t been played as much, and usually we are the ones who do that. You know, just because of our backgrounds and being KISS fans growing up in a sense gives us a slightly different perception on it and perspective on it. Paul and Gene, they know it is tried and true and know better than anybody what works, but sometimes it is good to push them a little bit and pull out something that hasn’t been done as much. Some of the fans get a kick out of hearing other things sometimes; especially when we do the KISS Kruise which is a deal we do every year now for the last five years on a big cruise ship with 3,000 of the most dedicated KISS fans. We try to pull things out for that that are more obscure and unusual because that particular group of fans appreciate that more.
RM: And does that extend to the setlist for the pre-show meet and greet package you provide?
TT: Absolutely. A lot of people don’t know we do a meet and greet package and what it is, it starts out in the afternoon we get together with these particular special fans there is usually about 50 of them and they come in and we go backstage and we pick up our acoustic guitars and we do a short acoustic set almost by request. It is really cool and the whole idea is just really a personal sit down experience with the fans and we kind of goof around and shoot the shit a bit, and it is a great experience and people love it. So that is in the afternoon, and then we sign autographs and all that kind of stuff after we play the acoustic set and then in the evening before the show those same people will come backstage again and we take photos with everybody individually before we go on stage. But that acoustic deal is a great experience and we do get the opportunity to goof around like I said and play songs we normally wouldn’t play, some more obscure stuff and less heard songs.
RM: There is this mythology that when the band stated out there was this ‘all for one, one for all’ mentality within the band. Then during the 1980s/90s the band was viewed as the ‘Gene and Paul Show’. Now today with yourself and Eric do you feel it has gone back to that original ‘all for one’ philosophy?
TT: Well, I think it is kind of a combination of both. Everybody knows that Paul and Gene have had this band for over 40 years now and they started it. Now that Eric and I have been in the band for 10/15 years I think it is now a combination; ultimately they are running the band and in charge but as far as day to day stuff and making decisions about the setlist or other things, we are quite involved in a lot of that stuff too. It definitely is more that way now than it was say during the reunion tour or something, to be honest with you, but a lot of people know my involvement as well goes way beyond playing lead guitar. I do a lot of the videos and a lot of other types of things for KISS, so I am involved on a lot of different levels, probably more than other band members have been and so it is unique and a different kind of role that I play a lot of times. So like I said, it is a combination and I think we take pride in the fact that we have four guys that makes this band really rock these days, you know, it is a good combination; we have good comradery and we enjoy being around each other and it is a real band for sure.
RM: Recently there has been a lot of commentary from other well established musicians, journalists and even some sections of the fan base on whether KISS should continue recording albums or which members should or shouldn’t be in the band. I would have thought the only people qualified to know what’s best for KISS would be the four guys in KISS. How frustrating does that get for the band and what do you think is driving this need for others to comment?
TT: [Laughs] Well, first of all you are right it is ultimately and only up to the people in KISS and at the end of the day it does not matter what anybody else thinks. I think that our attitude is we hold true to that and you have got to expect this stuff; KISS is an iconic band and it has been around for more than four decades, and it is a legendary band and there is always a million people taking different points of view on this or that with the band or having opinions about everything. You know, you listen to some of the stuff but at the end of the day we make the decisions and it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks.
RM: So can you give me your thoughts on the fan base, the KISS Army. Every band claims to have the best fans in the business but none of them come close to the passion and loyalty of the KISS Army, is that a fair assessment?
TT: It is, isn’t that true? The KISS Army, I have never seen a fan base or fans of a band like the KISS Army or the fans of KISS. It is truly amazing and they are the best fans in the world; they are the most dedicated, and many fans come to hundreds of shows and they follow the band around the world. They are so intensely dedicated it is insane [laughs]; you have got to love it and it is really what drives the band and keeps the band on the level and keeps the band alive today with great support. So they are so important and we love to embrace the many fans we know and sometimes when they travel we tty to take care of them and set them up with tickets when we can and do that sort of thing. But we have the best fans in the world and it is unlike any other band or artist out there, I mean who puts tattoos all over their body, or they wear the costumes and the make-up of the band at concerts and that sort of thing. It is uniquely KISS and you can’t ever take that away, it is so cool.
RM: It appears to be a prerequisite if you have been or are a member of KISS, you release a tell-all book. Do you have any plans to put pen to paper and write a memoir?
TT: [Laughs] A lot of people have asked me that. I really don’t have any plans to do that. I read a lot, I am actually an avid reader and I read a lot of books, I read a lot of biographies, you know, particularly musicians and artists and things like that. It is always very interesting to me but I figure doing a book would be an awful lot of work and probably not much return [laughs]. I think it would be an interesting process to go through but in a lot of ways it really does not appeal to me either because it is a little too, you know, putting your life out there in front of everybody. I am kind of more of a private person, so again, I wouldn’t say it will never happen but it is not something I am definitely planning on doing.
RM: I would imagine you would have a lot of great stories to tell though?
TT: [Laughs] You know, you are right. I am in a unique position in this band because I had the opportunity to be around every member of KISS through the years and work with them all in different capacities and different ways. Either working in the band with them or behind the scenes with them, and I do have a lot of interesting experiences and a lot of interesting stories and things like that that I am sure people would love to hear. Again, I am not one to talk too much and I usually keep that stuff to myself or just for the people that are closest to me, so we’ll see, you never know.
RM: So as it stands right now, do you think the band will record another album in the future, and if so would you like to contribute a bit more on vocals?
TT: Of course I would love to. But when you do a KISS record it has to be definitive KISS and I think that is why it makes more sense for Gene and Paul to sing more of the songs and that sort of thing because that is the way it has always kind of been. I don’t see that changing and I don’t what to see it change either. It has been great the last two records we have done, Monster and Sonic Boom; I have had the opportunity to do a lot of songwriting and co-writing with those guys and that has been a great honour and a great experience to do that kind of stuff. So if we do another record I would love to write some songs and be involved just like on the other two records we have done. But as far as singing goes, you know, I like it but I do not know if there really is a place for it; there are so many other things we need to try to do and those guys do such a good job with what they do anyway.
RM: I have to be honest with you, I think there is a real place for it. I think your vocal contribution on both of those albums is outstanding, they are killer tracks.
TT: Well I appreciate that and it was fun doing them. Particularly on something like Monster, I got the opportunity to really start playing some guitar that is more my way of doing it probably. Or I should say playing guitar and having the opportunity to branch out a little bit more, although Sonic Boom was amazing and I love the record because the intent was to make a ‘classic’ KISS record and that is what we did from top to bottom. So again, on Monster I got the opportunity to play a little bit more and branch out a bit so that was kind of cool too. I would say doing another record is a possibility; we just have to see what happens because you never know, we don’t plan too far ahead with things but I could see it happen.
RM: So over the years the band has chalked up many milestones and awards. Recently you were awarded the honour of being named ‘America’s Number One Gold Record Award Winning Group of All Time’. How important is that recognition for the band, I guess particularly for Gene and Paul?
TT: Well I think being the ‘Number One Gold Record Award Winning Band’ by the RRIA is a huge honour. I think it is very significant, of all the American groups of all time KISS has got more gold records, so that just speaks for itself. This band is legendary and iconic and has this great legacy and this rich history that really underscores that when you get that type of recognition.
RM: Now I need to try and get to the bottom of a particular topic. In 2014 you joined fellow rockers Alice Cooper and Alex Lifeson from Rush to participate in the Medlock-Krieger golf tournament. So can you explain to me what is it about golf that attracts so many hard rockers and metallers?
TT: [Laughs] You know, that is a good question. I don’t really know why that is, but there are a lot of musicians that like to play golf and it is true that a lot of the PGA golfers like to play guitar and wish they were on stage being musicians. So there is this strange kind of back and forth there. But the thing that we do there with the Robbie Krieger and Scotty Medlock’s event is it is a golf tournament, but more than anything it is a fundraiser for St. Jude’s Hospital which is the most important part. Also the evening of the event there is a big music all-star jam thing. So you have got a lot of these guys that are legendary rock and roll guitar players and singers like Alice Cooper and Alex Lifeson, and Robbie Krieger and Danny Seraphine from Chicago, and Phil Chen who played with Rod Stewart, and Jeff Beck, have the opportunity to get up and play together. It really is a lot of fun and is quite cool. I was always a big Rush fan, particularly in the early days and when I hear that Alex Lifeson was going to be there I told Robbie and Scotty, I said “I’ve got to play with Alex Lifeson” and they go “Cool”. Then I said “We have to do something like Working Man” so they told Alex that I would like to do Working Man and he thought that was cool, so we played that and Sebastian Bach came up and kicked some ass on the vocals and it was a great experience playing with Alex Lifeson. And of course Alice Cooper is a dream come true kind of thing too, I mean getting up and playing I’m Eighteen and School’s Out and that sort of thing is unbelievable to do too.
RM: Once again, welcome back to Australia and congratulations on all that you have achieved. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you and the band all the best for the remainder of the current tour and for the future.
TT: Well, I sure appreciate it and we are excited to be here and we are looking forward to a rockin’ tour.
For more information about KISS visit the official website at www.kissonline.com
Australian 40th Anniversary Tour Dates:
Saturday, October 3 - Perth Arena
Tuesday, October 6 - Adelaide Entertainment Centre
Thursday, October 8 - Melbourne Rod Laver Arena
Friday, October 9 – Melbourne Rod Laver Arena
Saturday, October 10 - Sydney AllPhones Arena
Monday, October 12 - Newcastle Entertainment Centre
Tuesday, October 13 - Brisbane Entertainment Centre
|Posted on September 29, 2015 at 8:15 PM||comments (0)|
Ugly Kid Joe….. Remember them? Yeah that’s right, they were huge in the early 1990s with their singles Everything About You and their version of Cats In The Cradle. Back then their album America’s Least Wanted was the must have rock album and it appeared that they, along with several other up and coming bands, were the future of hard rock music. Then, as we all know, the grunge movement came in and ruined the party. After a couple more album releases the band called it a day and appeared lost to the pages of music history. But sometimes history has a funny way of repeating itself, because after reuniting in 2010 Ugly Kid Joe have returned with a striking collection of new material titled Uglier Than They Used Ta Be. The boys are currently on the road touring which is where I found lead singer Whitfield Crane who was up for a chat about the band’s history, the current climate of the music industry and the new album.
Rock Man: Firstly, congratulations on the release of your new album Uglier Than They Used Ta Be. I think it is fair to say this is a stunning album and I would imagine that the band is blown away by how well this record has scrubbed up?
Whitfield Crane: Yes we are excited. Anything you birth including a musical conclusion you are always excited about and you want it to be the best it can be. I think we have achieved that with this particular album.
RM: There was a period where the band was inactive for about 13 years, during that time did you ever think you would be in this position again talking about a new Ugly Kid Joe album?
WC: No, that was not a thought that I had. I thought the band was defunct or over; I would have thought that maybe 10 years in we could have done a reunion and then no one wanted to do it and so I think we all kind of let go of it. Fortunately Dave Fortman (guitarist) became a world class producer and thus we could do all of this in-house. So we threw everyone in the room, for this particular album we went to Louisiana, we worked 21 days consecutively and 13 hour days and I think the reason it has a good sheen or shine to this particular body of work is because everybody wanted it. Everybody let the musical flow come through us, it was a cool experience, very draining but very rewarding. But in the hiatus I never thought about it; I was trying to do other bands, I did a lot of different other bands, I was always making the effort to sing and then this (Ugly Kid Joe) was like a weird far away dreamy happening that I know I lived through that no longer existed. So I never thought this moment would manifest nor did I think it wouldn’t, I really did not think about it in that context.
RM: During the 1990s when the grunge movement took the world by storm a lot of the hard rock/metal bands that were starting out at the same time as you simply fell by the roadside. I always thought that Ugly Kid Joe would be the one band from that period that would survive the changing landscape and adapt. What do you recall about that time and were you shocked that the band didn’t continue on?
WC: I don’t know that the word is ‘shocked’. We had a lot of success very quickly and we lived a lot and we toured a lot and there was a lot to live through, survive really. Then grunge did come and it was a big movement, a big shift and you could sense that that shift was there. It was obvious and by the time we were done with the touring cycle of Motel California, sure the grunge movement might have been a component of why we stopped, but there were some other elements to it. We were strung out after being together and really living a lot in seven years, it was a lot, so you know, that was a component. But the other thing was we did not want it anymore, I think we were kind of spent; I think it was kind of courageous that we stopped. We did not hold on to something that was not there; we did not try to fane something that we did not want and miraculously we made another album and here we are [laughs].
RM: So fast forward to 2010 when the band got back together: who initiated that process; who was the first guy to pick up the phone and say “Hey let’s put the band back together” ?
WC: That is a great question. Shannon Larkin plays in a band called Godsmack, which is a real big American band. Dave Fortman went on to produce lots of other bands like Slipknot and Evanescence. In this case he was working with Shannon, his drummer from Ugly Kid Joe on a Godsmack record and I guarantee you they were sitting around shooting the shit, like you do, and they realised as I said before that they can just kind of do it now that computers are here; you can just record a disc with Dave and do it on the cheap and release it through the internet [laughs]. And they were like “Wouldn’t that be fun, to see what would happen?” So I think they had a couple of drinks and called Klaus Eichstadt (guitarist) in Santa Barbara and said “Hey would you do that?” and I think it is very important that it came from the both of them because I think it sounded more attractive than if it were just to come from me. He (Klaus) called me and I was like “Of course!”, so that is how that manifested.
RM: So here we are in 2015 and you have this new record out. Was it fun to record this collection of material?
WC: Yes. There was love, there was closure, there was familiarity, there was evolution, there was so many things because you realise that at the end of ’96, early ’97, when the band broke up everyone went on with their lives and that includes a lot of different living. That included marriages, or kids, or different bands, producing, all these different life experiences, so sure it was fun because it was just us together with all the common themes we went through, we had a lot to pull from. The band that stopped being a band in ‘96/’97, we still had all those elements but effortlessly we had a lot more because of the various lives we had all lived; we kind of like all met up again and there was an incredible familiarity to it. Some songs were ready to go, most weren’t, some songs did not exist and the thing about Dave and his producing, imagine his skill set that he has at this point. So imagine that and also included his own band and he was writing his own songs and that special element of that. So all of it was there and it was totally fun, again it was draining because of the consecutive days but, you know, it felt really good.
RM: So when you sat down to begin writing for this record did you have a clear idea of what you wanted it to sound like?
WC: No, not at all. We have never done that, maybe Menace To Sobriety we wanted to go heavier, as the catch phrase goes. But this record, we walked in and whatever ideas we had we threw them on the table from whatever band members; here it is, let’s see what happens, let’s see what makes it. And in 21 days you have got to cut the fat, straight up, there is no time to fuck around. So no there wasn’t any; we were like let’s just make a record and see what it sounds like, let go, relax, commit to the flow and commit to each other really.
RM: I would like to get your thoughts on a couple of the songs from the album. Let’s start with the single She’s Already Gone, which is a real highlight of the album.
WC: I think it is a great song. Dave Fortman wrote that song; it is a storyline of a relationship that has gone wrong or bad and proof that nothing ever ends well [laughs] and, you know, it is a great song to sing. For me, it has got the whole thing. I like to sing songs and I really like to perform, and for many years I did not get to do that and that is okay. So for me personally, to get to sing all these songs on this record, some of which I wrote, some of which I just sang, we all worked together but when I think of She’s Already Gone I agree with you, it is an incredible construct, it is a great song.
RM: You have covered Ace Of Spades, the Motörhead classic and you managed to get Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell involved. Can you tell me how that came about?
WC: Sure, I have a real deep connection with Motörhead, I mean I really love those dudes! They were the first big tour that Ugly Kid Joe went on; the Ozzy Osbourne ‘No More Tours’ tour in ’92 with Motörhead and Ugly Kid Joe and that was a whole summer and those guys have always kind of looked after us. I sang on Born To Raise Hell with Ice-T and Motörhead, and when I go to Motörhead shows they invite me to sing on stage and some people you have a really great connection with and it is uncanny and indescribable. So when we were tracking this record, I spend a lot of time with Phil Campbell and the Motörhead guys and I talked to him in passing “Hey man, if there is a need, if you guys make a new record I want to play on it” and it was like “Okay”. So when we were tracking the record it just sounded fucking dope and I’m like “What if we get Phil Campbell?” And everybody was like “If you can make it happen, sure do it”. Funny enough in the swamp of Louisiana, in the sticky heat of Louisiana, the phone rings and it is Phil Campbell calling from Europe on tour to see how the record is coming along and I said “Great, do you still want to play on it?” and he said “Absolutely”. Of course I said do you want to play on Ace Of Spades and he got excited about that, he was more excited, he has only been playing it for 30 years right, and he said “I’ll play on that song if I can play some other bits on some other songs” we said “Yes, of course”. We had a big pow-wow and he had consecutive days off in-between gigs in Wales where he lives, so we sent Under The Bottom, we sent the song My Old Man and Ace Of Spades to Phil Campbell in Wales where he got it done, sent it back and Dave mixed it
RM: Amongst all the heavy hard-hitting tracks you have got a couple of strongly acoustic driven songs like Mirror The Man and Nothing Ever Changes. How important was it to have a balance of light and heavy?
WC: Well, once again it was not thought out. We did not think of it. We threw up 15 songs and those were the songs we felt were strong enough to share with the people of the world and it just worked out that way. Do I think it is important? Not from a preordained way, there was no thought put into it. Do I think there is a great balance to the record after it is all done and being subjective? Absolutely. Sure, I think it sounds great but we certainly had no idea what we were doing, we never have.
RM: I would like to take you back to 1992. Your album America’s Least Wanted is setting the world on fire and the singles Everything About You and Cats In The Cradle are all over radio and MTV. It seemed to be a great time to be in a hard rock/metal band, what do you recall about those days?
WC: Well, I had never travelled outside of California. So I remember like all my dreams coming true at once; like we got to meet Rob Halford from Judas Priest, we got to meet Ozzy Osbourne and toured with Motörhead, and all that. It was a whirlwind; it was a lot, know what I mean? We went from zero to hero really quickly and I think the interesting thing about Ugly Kid Joe, and I may be wrong, I feel like we broke around the world all at once, overnight. So I remember travelling a lot; we toured two and a half years in a row, I remember that my girlfriend at the time said when I would come back off the tour my manners had gotten worse! I was swearing a lot because it was a pirate-esque existence, you know? Your t-shirt was a napkin. It was fun and the thing about that particular age, I think I was 24, that is when you should be living a particular kind of existence, and we did that. So I remember feeling really free, I remember not feeling a lot of consequences [laughs], a lot of fun and as far as partying and all those types of things, nothing dark yet it was all celebratory. It was good times.
RM: What are your thoughts on full length albums, because more and more artists are claiming it is not worth the money, time and effort making full length albums anymore. With the decline in music sales and the frustration of downloading are they still valid these days?
WC: Well, not in the same way that they were. All I can think about when you ask me a question like that is: what has my experience been as a kid? Now that is before the computer, way before the computer so when you bought AC/DC’s Highway To Hell you found Touch Too Much or you found Girl’s Got Rhythm, all these songs that were album cuts, you know, Night Prowler, you would end up loving those the most. So I think that model I lived, I think that model is gone. If anything I think it is disposable at this point and the world is moving pretty fast. So to answer your question, I think it depends on what band you are; if you are a band that has a brand or a heritage then you can pretty much do anything you want, you can put out a single or an EP [and] I am pretty sure it does not matter. But if you are a new band you probably need the material to play live, so you should make a whole record, so it is an interesting time. Obviously the [record] labels are over and that brings change and change is coming 100% either way. So the important thing for us, the way I look at it, this band now is self managed, we are self everything. We get it done and so what we try to do whether it be making an EP or a full length record, that is mix and match I do not think it matters for us. But what we want to do collectively and across the board, and this is focused, is to put ourselves in a situation where something great can happen. You know what I am saying? Surround yourself with great people, killer people and make an effort and this is the rub of the whole thing, make an effort to be grateful really. If you’re to be subjective like it sounds like you are being of this band, the story will write itself. We just played a sold out show in Brighton; 600 people packed to the guild in the club. It was fantastic, people were getting off on old songs, new songs and that makes me feel fantastic; I can’t let go of it, I am amazed that people dig this band. So that said, for all of us to come back together and make a new body of music and go out and do, we are in the U.K. right now the charts just came out and we are Number 9 and that is absurd [laughs]. The key is to realise, and I do objectively, is that we were afforded the opportunity to do this all again is a miracle in some senses. And also we have the option, which is really healthy for this band, to apply a wisdom that we were really never able to do at the end. Now that we are here, it might be 15 years later, but imagine the wealth of wisdom we have to apply to the now of this particular musical journey. But as far as making albums, I mean just make music, the thing is you need content funny enough, whatever you do I think it is important that if you are meant to make songs and sing songs then that is what you do, pretty simple really.
RM: So do you feel there are enough new bands coming out or are we relying too much on the vintage bands?
WC: Well, I would say it is a really strange time for rock and roll because all the headliners are the same headliners every year. It is like who was the last real rock band to come out? Was it Metallica or Guns ‘N Roes? So I am fascinated and I cannot really give you the reason why there is no new Iron Maiden, there is no Black Sabbath, you know, a band that can take the helm. So I think that component has been missing and I am amazed that something hasn’t surfaced yet, something massive, so yeah I think there is an element missing, you know, something has got to give.
RM: Finally, touring is such a big part of any band’s life. Do you still get the same buzz touring and performing today that you did when you first started and will you be touring the new album?
WC: Yeah, I mean I love it. I cannot get up to all the diabolical activities and survive it so I don’t, which I would say we are all a little clearer inside the band [laughs]. But yeah I really love performing and connecting. I can only speak for myself but I love live performance, I love that synergy of electricity of the guitars, the drums in a big pool room or a festival or whatever. So yeah I love it period. So hopefully we will do a summer run in Europe. Hopefully we will get to Australia, we are pretty big in Japan, and the world market is pretty massive over the last couple of years in Israel, Poland, Serbia, Romania, all these places, so you can expect us to tour and to see a great live rock and roll band.
RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of the album Uglier Than They Used Ta Be. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you the best of luck for the record and many years of continued success.
WC: You are a good man, thank you so much for taking the time to do this.
For more information about Ugly Kid Joe visit the official website at www.uglykidjoe.net/
Ugly Kid Joe – Uglier Than They Used Ta Be is available on Social Family Records.