|Posted on July 5, 2018 at 8:25 PM||comments (0)|
There is little doubt that every band has a career defining moment. That one moment where you put your coin in the slot, pull the lever and all the fruit line up; from this point on nothing will be the same. In my mind at least, that moment came for Canadian rockers Kobra And The Lotus with the release of part one of a double album set titled “Prevail I” last year. This is a project that would redefine the boundaries of the band’s music and working parameters and a year later the second chapter to this ambitious venture, “Prevail II” has hit record store shelves. This was cause enough for checking in with the band, so I caught up with frontwoman Kobra Paige for a quick chat about the music industry, upcoming touring plans, the band and, of course, the new album.
Rock Man: Hi Kobra. Firstly, thank you so much for letting me catch up with you today. The last time we caught up was last year shortly after the band had released Prevail I. Now, the band has finally revealed the follow up album Prevail II; as you look back on this project has it turned out the way you envisaged when you started the process or has it exceeded expectations?
Kobra Paige: I would say it turned out exactly as it was supposed to! We feel very happy and proud of the double album and that’s the most important thing. So far we’ve been lucky enough to also experience quite a positive reception. Prevail I and II seem to have finally put us on the grid for people for the first time as well which is really nice!
RM: Do you view Prevail II as simply an extension of Prevail I, or in your mind are there clear differences between the two albums?
KP: I would say both albums belong within the same body of work. No two songs sound the same on Prevail I and II but there is quite an even blend of heavy metal and hard rock in the two albums. There’s quite a range of musical diversity with a consistent introduction to a sonic transition and transformation taking place with the band. The vulnerability and purpose of the lyrical content also remains consistent for both albums.
RM: The last time we caught up you spoke of the internal and external pressure and expectation to deliver something special with Prevail I. Did having those experiences help you this time around with the process of writing and recording Prevail II?
KP: The pressure experienced for Prevail I & II were one in the same; it was all written at the same time. It’s one body of work. The interesting thing about Prevail I and II is that there was no order or track listing for these albums before all of the material was created! The pressure of a double album and writing enough solid material certainly went into some of the emotions within the songs. We really pushed ourselves out of our boxes.
RM: Let’s take a moment or two to examine a couple of the songs featured here on Prevail II. The album kicks off with Losing My Humanity; to me, this track speaks volumes about where mankind and the modern world is headed lately. Was it a personal experience or maybe something you observed that inspired you to write this song?
KP: It’s very easy within our own patterns, insecurities, beliefs and the beliefs we place on one another, to create hatred and destruction. At the core of our true nature, however, we were always born kind and capable of kindness to others and most importantly to ourselves. This song can be interpreted in so many different ways; from intra to inter-personal. One of my favourite perspectives is to reflect it onto myself and see how I am corrupting, hurting and slipping away from my own humanity.
RM: You’ve spoken previously of your love for the Fleetwood Mac album Rumours. In a surprising move you’ve chosen to record a version of the song The Chain from that record. You’ve certainly given it the KATL treatment and it sounds fantastic; of all the tracks on Rumours what is it about The Chain that appealed to you most?
KP: Thank you very much for the kind words. I specifically found great empowerment for humanity in the 3 lines “you must never break the chain”, “chain keep us together”, and “running through the shadows” and it seemed like the perfect chance to turn the song into a message of unity and strength. This Prevail closer track was supposed to remind people of how music is a universal language meant to bring people together and diffuse the separation.
RM: The latest single/video doing the rounds is Velvet Roses. This is an awesome track with a pretty melodic vibe and a fun video to go with it. Can you tell me about the lyrical messaging behind this one?
KP: Sure! This song is about breaking deep rooted patterns of dysfunction. They often dictate how we navigate our lives to a large degree. This song promotes diving into the hard stuff and working hard to break free of those chains so we can make room for more joy.
RM: There’s some pretty inspiring and powerful stuff going on in Modern Day Hero. Where did the motivation come from for that song?
KP: Thank you! The song is meant to redefine the definition of a hero. There are so many people on a daily basis making a positive impact in the world. Hero does not have to be deemed as only a physical act of saving or helping a person in a time of crisis. I would love to hear the different perspectives of what attributes people consider a hero to have. For example, to me, my parents are my heroes and I’d feel honoured to be even a quarter of the human being I see each of them as.
RM: I thought White Water was one of the standout moment of the record. Can you give me your thoughts on that track?
KP: This is about a very intimate loss within a relationship. It was written about a significant break between bonds that happened within my family. It broke my heart. Through the experience there was suffering from all sides. Everyone needed support and no one could provide it inside their own grief. This song touches on the importance of everyone’s need to feel loved and truly be “seen” no matter what side of life they are facing.
RM: Any personal favourites from the record or tracks you’re looking forward to performing live?
KP: I’m currently really enjoying My Immortal and Let Me Love You. My Immortal has such a different essence than the rest of the album. I’m also a sucker for it’s 6/8 time signature and I get to take my voice into a new place in my register that only appears in that song. Let Me Love You is just straight up fun to play together, I feel very passionate about the words, and we notice people singing it from the top of their lungs together at shows. It’s amazing!
RM: It has to be noted that the band (Jasio, Brad and Marcus) has put in a stellar effort on both records. You must be so proud of the musicianship on display throughout this massive project?
KP: Absolutely! I’m both proud as I am humbled to have done such a creative feat with so many different and great individuals. They’re a great group of people and no one shied away from the challenge!
RM: For some time now debate has raged over the validity of full length studio albums. Some bands continue to release them while others choose to put out a new song here and there, claiming there’s no point in recording a full album because of streaming services and downloading. Given that you’ve put out two studio albums in less than 12 months, where do you stand on the future of full length studio albums?
KP: You know, I really don’t think I have a right to say because it’s truly up to the artist to decide what they want to do with their team. The music industry is tough, the way it operates has changed drastically over the last 2 decades, and I’m of the mind that people will strategize what they think is best for their music and genre. We do what we want to do and what we think is best. That might not be what others choose.
RM: We are in an interesting time in music history; so many icons of the rock and metal world are passing away and these massive gaps in the industry are starting to appear. I don’t see any new (ish) bands, other than yourselves that can clearly fill this void that is being left. Do you have concerns as to where the next “major” band/artist is coming from?
KP: This is a very interesting question. I’m going to assume we’re specifically talking about rock and metal. I’ve found myself having some doubtful thoughts in the past specifically about the future of newer arena sized bands but this belief has really started to dissolve. Halestorm, Ghost, and Avenged Sevenfold are great examples of bands filling that “void” and it’s inspiring. Right before them there was Muse and Foo Fighters that stepped into and remain in untouchable places. Though my hope leans more towards hard rock rather than heavy metal, the hope is certainly being rekindled. I don’t think we will ever have the same scale of these arena filling giants existing at one time ever again but the era of rock ’n roll heroes will never be over.
RM: Are there any bands/albums you’ve heard of late that you’re really into at the moment?
KP: I’ve been really digging Alter Bridge and resurges of synth-pop / new wave like: IAMX, Gary Numan, and Bob Moses. Depeche Mode will never get old for me.
RM: No doubt you’ll be hitting the road in support of the new album. Where can folks come and see you play over the next 6-12 months?
KP: We’ve just wrapped up an American tour followed by a short European run and our final tour of the year will run itself again through select places in Europe this fall. We’re then planning on closing the year by returning to the studio!
RM: Any shows coming up that you’re particularly looking forward to?
KP: I’m very much looking forward to this final European tour because it’s a very special Festival package of diverse female fronted projects!! We will also be co-headlining the tour with Butcher Babies. This has every flavour possible and I look forward to rocking out with these bands.
RM: Any chance of a visit to Australia for a few shows?
KP: I love Australia and have had some really wonderful experiences there but I don’t foresee any shows coming our way in the near future. Never say never though, I really hope this for us!
RM: And on a final note, where do you see the band over the next, let’s say, 5-10 years? You’ve shown growth and development with each record, do you think you’ve locked down the band’s sound now or is there still room to grow and evolve?
KP: You know what…. I have absolutely no idea. This industry holds no promises and it is impossible to know what the world will like. All I know is I plan on continuing to make music that we as a band have a ton of fun making, feel passionate and proud of, and has the right lyrical intentions. There’s always room to grow and evolve and that excites me.
RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of Prevail II. It’s an amazing body of work and together with Prevail I I think they’re two of the most impressive metal albums I’ve heard for several years. On behalf of everyone at Full Throttle Rock I’d like to wish you and the band all the best for the future.
KP: Thank you for all of your kind words, sincere encouragement, and for having me. I really hope we make it over someday to rock in your homeland!!
For more information, visit the band’s official website at: kobraandthelotus.com/
Kobra and the Lotus – Prevail II is available now on Napalm Records
|Posted on May 5, 2018 at 8:15 PM||comments (0)|
Swedish hard rockers Europe began their recording career in modest fashion. Their self-titled debut album of 1983 was a solid offering but outside of their native Sweden it failed to set the world on fire. The follow up album, a year later, Wings Of Tomorrow, showed promise and marked improvement; but it was in 1986 with the release of one song about leaving Earth to explore the vast expanses of space that took Europe from a little know rock band to global megastars. From that moment on the foundations were laid for the band to be a major player in shaping the sound of ‘80s hard rock and its visual appeal. But like all things, there is an expiry date and that came in the early ‘90s. But fate didn’t seem done with the band completely, and in 2004 the band made a return to the music scene with a body of fresh new songs on the album "Start From The Dark". This new rejuvenated band would go on to release several more studio albums and solidify their position as one of the best live rock acts going around. Surprisingly, after touring the world multiple times over, the band have never played to Australian crowds. But that is about to change. In May the band heads “Down Under” for a national tour to promote their new album “Walk The Earth” and celebrate their 30 plus year career. I caught up with lead singer and ‘80s pin up boy Joey Tempest to discuss the new disc, the forthcoming tour and of course THAT song.
Rock Man: Congratulations on an outstanding recording career that has spanned three and a half decades and brought you enormous worldwide success. When you first put this band together back in 1979 under the name Force did you dare to dream that this kind of success was possible?
Joey Tempest: No I don’t think you do that when you’re that young. I met John Norum [guitarist] when I was 15 and he was 14 and we became friends. We started Force a few years after that and I suppose we were just driven, you know? We had something in common and we started rehearsing a lot and going to see shows together, we went to see Deep Purple when they came back in ’84, we went to see Rainbow, early Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy, a lot of Lizzy shows in Stockholm. We were just dreaming about being a touring band but you could never see that far into the future. After 11 albums to still be on the rock map and doing good stuff and getting good reviews and still being here, no you don’t think about that really, you just think about one year ahead back in those days.
RM: For the first time in the band’s history you’re coming to Australia this month for a national tour. It’s fair to say this has been a while in the making but we’re very excited to having you come down here. What have heard about Australian audiences and what can fans expect from the shows?
JT: Well, we’re meeting up to talk about this setlist. We want to design it especially for Australia, we’re trying to make it over two hours and we’re trying to make it interesting as far as spanning our whole career. We’re doing the big songs of the ‘80s of course, and a few new ones and a few very old ones as well so it will be a career spanning show. But what do we know about Australian fans? We know that they have been there all throughout these years because we had a guy working for us that grew up in Australia and he always told us “You gotta get over there! You’ve got fans over there and your records have been played on the radio, you have to get over there”. Also over the years we have seen on social media that we have a lot of fans in Australia. But on every album we had asked our manager “Can you try and get us to Australia? Check with promoter’s agents” and it has never really come together until now with our new management. The crew and the band are very excited; this will be the highlight of the year for us.
RM: Is there a particular moment of the show each night that you look forward to?
JT: Oh, that is hard. I do like all of it, I get into it after a few songs, I’m just into it completely. But this is an interesting setlist; we’re going to play a few songs we haven’t played in a while, so those are always exciting when you change the setlist a bit. I think there are going to be a few moments in those early shows that are even exciting for us.
RM: Congratulations on the success of the current album Walk The Earth. It’s been several months since its release, what kind of feedback have you received?
JT: Well, it’s kind of a miracle isn’t it? Classic Rock Magazine, the biggest rock magazine over here, reviewed it and said it was maybe the best Europe album ever and it had some great stuff on it. Also, we won a Grammy in Sweden just a few months ago. It’s amazing that on our 11th album that we are getting a lot of respect and a lot of good reviews and the song Walk The Earth has got the biggest reception since 20/30 years ago. So we have a song there that is really getting popular with the fans as well, so it is a really big time for Europe. The last two albums we worked with Dave Cobb, Grammy award winning producer out at Abbey Road Studios, and we are on a really interesting adventure in the studio. But obviously live, we play a lot live and we’re doing a lot of shows this year.
RM: I know you’ve spent the better part of the past 30 odd years talking about The Final Countdown and that there is more to this band than just this one song. That said, how does a simple song about space exploration become one of the biggest rock songs of all-time?
JT: Yeah, good question! It’s a song from the third album, the opening track from the third album; but the main riff I had in my head though was in school, back in college and it’s just one of those songs, it’s like a soundtrack really. It was very long and we never thought it would be a popular song as such. We liked it and we wanted to have it in the show but it’s amazing, it’s really living its own life out there. But for us, it’s part of our live set, it’s one of our songs and it’s a good song live, we enjoy playing it live, we don’t have to rehearse it or anything [laughs] and we love the connection with the audience doing that song as well. Yeah, it’s amazing that this song has taken on this life that it has.
RM: When it came time to writing The Final Countdown album, was there a moment at any stage where you looked at each other and sensed “We’re creating something really special and unique here”?
JT: Yeah, well with the third album we had just done a deal with CBS/Epic records in New York and we got introduced to Kevin Elson, the producer who had produced Journey and other bands and it was happening for us. We had gotten a new record deal in America and a new producer and we started writing a lot more and yeah, there was a sense that it was going the right way, but we worked hard on the writing and on the producing and in the Europe camp we had a good confidence about the third album. But we never dreamed that it would take off, you know, number one everywhere and touring everywhere and that was the amazing bit.
RM: 30 years ago you released the Out Of This World album. Does the band have any plans this year to release any special anniversary editions or packages for that record?
JT: There’s no concrete plans. I know the album is going to be reissued and that’s a good thing with some new liner notes. You know, we are touring so I’m sure we’ll play an extra song from Out Of This World or something this summer and next year. So, yeah there are a few small things but there are no major plans.
RM: I’m not sure if anyone else shares this view, but I hear the band’s sound in three very different and distinct phases. Phase one: the first two albums (Europe and Wings Of Tomorrow) Phase two: The Final Countdown, Out Of This World and Prisoners In Paradise. Phase three: everything that has followed Start From The Dark. So which phase is the real Europe?
JT: Yeah, it’s a good question and a good way of separating them. The first two were kind of progressive, we were finding our way, they were a bit heavier, more alternative hard rock perhaps. But on The Final Countdown, Out Of This World and Prisoners we were part of the ‘80s, working with big producers and writing certain songs that fitted into that era, without thing about it really. When we started out again in 2004 this was completely our journey, we own the music, we licence it out, we have our own company running the whole thing and we wrote and decided everything from 2004 onwards. So for us this feels like the true journey that we enjoy in the band, but we respect that people like different eras of the band. But I think the last three albums of the band are really organic; they’re straight from out soul. We recorded them live, we started recording live again and I think the last three albums are what we are about. That’s how we sound when we play live and in the studio, we don’t do too many fixes or overdubs, this is how we write together, the early period, the second period you mentioned, I wrote most of that, at least 80-90% of that. These days we write all of us together, and the last period you mentioned is true Europe in that sense. Taking that into account, in the ‘80s that was the producer’s sound, that was the studio’s sound and that was the world we were living in and that is how the band sounded.
RM: Debate has raged for some time now about the validity of full length studio albums in this current economic and downloadable climate. Has the full length album had its day or does it still have a place in today’s world?
JT: No, it’s still there and it’s still important, especially for people who love rock music and album oriented music and guitar players, drummers, keyboard players, you know, that love musicianship and everything. But the times are definitely changing, the music business is definitely changing, but vinyl is coming back in a big way, every record now is released on vinyl, we release vinyl too. That means long play, that’s 10 songs at least, so the future is still there for vinyl and 10 song long play albums. There are a lot of music fans out there but the younger generation however are now on a journey picking songs here and there, but I think they will also start collecting records and collecting albums. So I think there is a future for albums, we definitely think so, we prefer doing albums, it’s a journey, it’s exciting to get a whole album done and to buy a whole album, I still think that myself.
RM: Where do you see the music industry heading over the next decade or so?
JT: Well, there’s going to be a lot of streaming, there’s no doubt about it, it’s happening. Streaming straight into your home and you’ll just put the artist you want into your home system and in every room. So playlist is the future but that doesn’t mean that if you like an artist you want to hear the whole album, so albums will still be there. The problem is, what we need to do is we need to support new and young bands and we need to change maybe the deals that are made for streaming for those companies. They need to be geared more towards new bands and to make sure that they get enough royalties to build a business, that is very important.
RM: Yeah, for sure. So just finally, in the distant future when people are talking about Europe and their place in rock history, what do you hope the legacy of the band will be?
JT: Well it is really interesting, they had a regular line up after 30 years, 11 albums, maybe a band that had two periods, they made it back, they had longevity and they made it back. You know, just one of those bands. I love bands like Rush and Deep Purple that have a long career and back catalogue and they have ups and downs, twists and turns, but they become legendary and they become an arena band. We always had that in the back of our minds, keep going, keep producing, keep digging deeper, do great stuff and it’ll all come together.
RM: Once again, congratulations on the new album Walk The Earth and the upcoming Australian tour and a heartfelt thank you for all the great music you’ve given the world over your career. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you and the band all the best for the future.
JT: Thank you so much for supporting us and we look forward to seeing you and the fans in Australia. We are all looking very much forward to it.
For more information about the band visit the official website at: www.europetheband.com
Europe – Walk The Earth is available now on Hell & Back Recordings (Silver Lining Music)
|Posted on April 26, 2018 at 1:20 AM||comments (0)|
Interview with Leigh Matty
By Juliano Mallon
Romeo's Daughter is one of the most iconic bands of traditional U.K. AOR. Formed around vocalist Leigh Matty, guitarist Craig Joiner, keyboardist Tony Mittman, bassist Ed Poole and drummer Andy Wells, soon on their first - and absolutely fantastic - album the band was granted the chance to work with Robert John "Mutt" Lange and John Parr. The album spawned three singles which all made it onto the charts. A second album, "Delectable" followed and the band then disappeared. At the end of 2009 Romeo's Daughter officially announced their return after performing at the FireFest Festival and to tell us the story of how the ball got rolling for this legendary band I give the one and only Leigh Matty.
This year Romeo’s Daughter’s classic self-titled debut album turns 30 (where did time go?) and very few bands are lucky enough to have their first album being produced by a big star and you got two of them involved in the project. The first one was John Parr, a huge name back in the 80’s. How did he come into the picture?
Leigh Matty: We met John socially through our manager at the time, Olga Lange, and just all got on straight away. I think he was between albums so he had a bit of spare time to work with us which we were very happy to do!
As I understand, you recorded four tracks with Parr and of those, only “I Cry Myself To Sleep At Night” made the album. How about the other three? What can you tell us about them?
LM: “Cry Myself” actually came from another song we recorded with John called “Dreams” and “Wild Child” also came from another demo (I can’t remember what it was called!) We reworked both songs later with Mutt and they turned into the songs that went on the album
Apparently, Parr was a very disciplined, hardworking guy and demanded the very best from the band while demoing those songs, right? And that paid off…
LM: I actually remember John being very easy to work with but to be honest, we had never worked with a famous artist before so we didn’t really know what to expect! He was hugely successful at the time as “St Elmo’s Fire” had been released a couple of years previous to us meeting him, so we were quite surprised that he wanted to be involved with our album (very pleasantly though!) He was very patient with us and we learned an awful lot from him and would have loved to have worked with him some more, but it wasn’t to be!
And that Parr-produced demos brought Mutt Lange into the picture. The story’s quite familiar but, since there’s always someone out there who hasn’t heard it, please tell us how the universe conspired and made your paths cross…
LM: Our first manager was a lady called Olga Lange who had been married to Mutt in the early 80’s. He was the busiest (and probably one of the most successful) producer of that decade and never in our wildest dreams did we think that he would have the time, or inclination, to work with us, but when he heard a song we had demoed called “Stay With Me Tonight”, he really liked it and our sound and agreed to work on a couple of songs. That turned into 7 songs over about a year with John Parr recording the other 3. At the time, we didn’t realize what a huge impact that would have on our sound and how pretty momentous that would be for us – we were pretty young and inexperienced in the music world so we just took it all in our stride – only when I look back at it all now, do I think how lucky we were to have worked with such incredibly talented guys
Mutt Lange is a guy known for pushing artists to their limit, always with fantastic results. What are your memories of working with him, as a band?
LM: I always found Mutt to be tough but very patient and helpful. In hindsight, it must have been a bit odd for him to be working with such unknown and inexperienced musician’s such as the three of us but he was incredibly kind and taught us so much - we even moved into his house for a while to record in his own studio! He had a wonderful work ethic which meant that we started work most mornings at 10am and went well into the night so there was no ‘rock and roll’ lifestyle involved. His time was very precious as he had loads of artists who were waiting to work with him after us so we got it all done pretty quickly
And rumor has it Mutt demands 110% from the vocalists he works with. How was it with you? Does the reputation do him justice?
LM: He had a reputation for not really liking working with female singers but I never felt that he didn’t appreciate how hard I worked to get the vocal he wanted from me – sometimes I was a bit exhausted after standing in the booth for hours on end, but it was so worth it! He is a really good singer himself so he always knew exactly what was required from my performance – I remember it being a positive experience for me (and he never made me cry!)
How different was it to work with John Parr and Mutt Lange?
LM: I think that John was a bit more fun and relaxed than Mutt – we used to laugh a lot and John was quite mischievous if I remember correctly. I think that we were probably a bit more relaxed with him than with Mutt but they were both fantastic in their own ways!
They worked together on two tracks: “I Like What I See” and “Don’t Break My Heart”. It might’ve been very educational to see them collaborating side by side?
LM: John and Mutt worked together on “Don’t Break My Heart” even though the demo was originally recorded with Mutt. We recorded “Inside Out”, “Colour You A Smile” and “I Like What I See” with John, although Mutt did help out with the backing vocals on those songs
It must be somewhat intimidating to work with a guy like Mutt Lange. He not only produced the album, but also got involved in the songwriting. Was it easy – or comfortable - to combine your songwriting style with his? (If it were any different at all)
LM: It was pretty intimidating but also incredibly inspiring as we were all pretty ‘green’ at the time. He never made us feel uncomfortable though and everything he taught us remains with us still today!
And as far as I know, the band didn’t have a name until the album was done and it was Mutt Lange who christened you Romeo’s Daughter, the name taken from a line on “I Cry Myself To Sleep At Night”. How did you like the name back then?
LM: Choosing our name was really hard!! No one could decide what we should be called and then all of a sudden, the album was being mastered and the artwork needed doing and we had two days to decide! I think that Mutt suggesting Romeo’s Daughter was a godsend and even though it seemed an odd name for us at the time, we totally grew into it. It is a very unusual name and I am very proud of it!
So, there was that great AOR album, filled with fantastic songs and a flawless production, making it a perfect recipe for a remarkable success. But as we know, it wasn’t exactly like that. Where did it go wrong?
LM: Well, as they say, timing is everything!! We basically missed the boat by one year I think. By the time the record was ready to be released in ‘88, the music that was being played on the radio had changed drastically and the whole world went Grunge mad! We really struggled to get any mainstream radio play here in the UK and were much better received in the US and Europe, but even there, things were changing fast. We also were not given good advice from our management and label about not touring in all these territories so we never built up a big enough live following to be able to grow in that way. If we had the chance to do it again, we would do things very differently!
In 2007, talking about the album, Craig Joiner said that some people didn’t quite understand what kind of band Romeo’s Daughter was, “being perceived too lightweight for rock, yet too heavy for pop”. Do you agree the band wasn’t properly marketed?
LM: We always felt that we were never fully accepted as a rock band and were thought as being too rock to be a pop band, so we fell in-between the two genres which seriously went against us. It was also quite unusual at that time to have a female lead singer, especially in the UK, so I think we were maybe perceived as a bit of a novelty band. Also, our label at the time thought that as Mutt and John were involved, that it would definitely be a huge success so I don’t think that they promoted us as much as the other bands on the label
Well, as the years went by the album proved itself as an awesome collection of AOR songs, so much so that three got recorded in the early 90’s: Heart picked “Wild Child”, Eddie Money chose “Heaven In The Backseat” and Bonnie Tyler and Chrissy Steel cut “I Cry Myself To Sleep At Night”. Was it bittersweet to see those artists climbing the charts with the material you’d recorded not that long ago?
LM: Yes, and no. It was a huge honor to have our songs covered by these great artists, and the Wild Child cover was the best one for me! We even got to see them perform it at Wembley in the early 90’s and it was surreal to hear them do their version of it. We still finish off our set with it now and I always mention that it is our song; and not Heart’s. Of course it would have been great if we had had the same success with them but it came a close second!
And talking about songs, are there any unreleased/unfinished tracks from those recording sessions? And will there be a 30th anniversary edition of the debut album?
LM: There were loads of finished/unfinished songs from that time and a couple of them ended up being used on the next album. We have always tried to look forward though and have been keen to use new material which we have done on the last two albums, “Rapture” and “Spin”.
Finally, looking back, how do you see the debut album today, 30 years later? And how about Romeo’s Daughter, how do you see the band in the present AOR scene?
LM: I look back at that time with great pride and love. I know that we never achieved the heights that maybe the album deserved, but that has never bothered me. I am just so grateful to have been in the right place at the right time to have met Craig and Tony and to have been given the opportunity to be able to make an album that has gone on to be so loved by so many people – it has defined my life and I am so proud to have been part of it!
Leigh, it’s been an honor talking to you again. I wish you and the guys a whole lot of success and may we have loads of new Romeo’s Daughter material for years to come.
LM: Thanks so much Juliano for the invitation to talk about the album and for all your continued support over the years – it is always a pleasure to talk to you XX
For more information about Romeo’s Daughter visit the official website at www.romeosdaughter.co.uk
Romeo’s Daughter – Romeo’s Daughter is available on Rock Candy Records.
|Posted on August 10, 2017 at 8:30 PM||comments (2)|
I can’t think of anyone more respected in the music industry than Billy Sheehan. He is also, in my opinion, without an equal when it comes to his craft. For close to four decades Sheehan has elevated the art of bass playing and been a fundamental cog in some of the hard rock/metal industries biggest acts. With a career so expansive it’s hard not to own a record or two with him on it: whether it’s the David Lee Roth band, The Winery Dogs, Talas, Richie Kotzen, Niacin or Mr. Big, his influence and impact is far reaching. In recent times we’ve seen him return with his rock and roll brothers in Mr. Big. Their new album “Defying Gravity” is one of the standout moments of 2017 and Sheehan is a big part of that. So with this new release came the opportunity to catch up for a chat about the music business, dodgy record companies and the new album “Defying Gravity”.
Rock Man: Firstly, thank you Billy for your time today, I appreciate it. You’ve been professionally recording music since the late 1970s. Over the course of your 38-year career have you at any stage had the opportunity to reflect on all that you have achieved, and if so, what have you made of it all?
Billy Sheehan: Well, I don’t look backwards so much as I try to look forward. But I am very grateful and I think I’ve had some incredible breaks and I’ve work for some amazing people. I’ve learned so much along the way, had hit records and number one videos and we’ve had platinum albums and all that and more importantly we’ve made friends all over the world. There’s a lot everywhere that write to me, email me and chat with me online and it really is a wonderful situation to be in.
RM: Over the course of your career you would have witnessed a number of changes to the music industry. For example, the introduction of MTV, then came the Compact Disc and few decades later the Internet, downloading, iTunes and so on. So out of these kind of technological advancements which do you think has had the biggest impact?
BS: Yeah, I’ve been around a long time. I was there for the invention of the wheel and the discovery of fire and all those things [laughs]. But when I began in the late ‘60s you played in clubs and at dances and you didn’t think about making a record yet. Finally, when we did soon after that the Compact Disc was around and digital music and the digital recording revolution happened where everyone could do a whole record in their house. But I think it would be difficult to pick one as the most impact, but I do believe that when the digital world began to play with music and audio at that point things began to change quickly. Because we now had a way to record, to deliver, to archive, to manipulate music and sound in a way we never had before. I think the digital recording revolution really was a huge innovation, and it includes the Compact Disc and nonlinear editing; in other words, the type of editing you can do anywhere, anytime, anyhow, perfectly! But there are two sides and the sword cuts both ways; it is also easier to fake just about everything, so you can make somebody who has no voice at all sound pretty good. So I think the digital recording revolution changed everything.
RM: When you look at the music industry we have today are you concerned for the future or do you think the music business is in good shape?
BS: I think the future looks bright. Anybody who has a laptop has in their hands the equivalent, more than the equivalent of the finest studios there was in 1979/80, and it will also do some things that the studio could never have done with any amount of money. So it is easy for someone to make a great record, and great records are made all the time now basically on laptops. All the records I do now are all done digitally and can all be done on a decent laptop. So this opens up the world and levels the playing field for all musicians, but interestingly enough there aren’t any more amount of greater records being made than there were when this wasn’t the case. I think, in fact, there is still the same amount of talent out there, but now your means to record it and document it and your means to get it to other people is open to everyone. You go on the internet and you’re a couple of clicks away from a billion people. So unlimited publicity and promotional possibilities exist. Also, as a result of all of that, the one thing that is really the strongest thing in music right now which can’t be downloaded, which can’t be faked, is a live performance. There is some fakery with some of the larger acts, of course, but if you’re in a regular band playing in a club you’ve got to be real, you’ve got to be able to sing and play. You can fake it digitally but people want to see the real thing live; so bands that are live and can play and sing for real are going to have the greatest advantage.
RM: There is a lot of debate amongst bands as to whether full length albums are still valid, given the lack of music industry support. What are your thoughts on that?
BS: Well, you don’t need industry support because you don’t really need any money to do it. You can do a record supercheap these days. Again, the cost of a laptop and the software is relatively cheap and you can do your own marketing campaign. The good thing about that is its going to combat a record deal, everybody is like “Record deal! record deal!”, there aren’t really any record deals any more to speak of. Maybe huge giant acts like Christina Aguilera or Beyoncé have some sort of record deal going on but for regular bands, forget about the record companies and do it yourself because then you own it all. In the past so many great bands got signed to contracts that were terrible and they never made any money and they got ripped off and ignored and abused and lied to and these were common practises in the music industry. If they were done in any other industry people would’ve done time, they would’ve been in jail, but in the music industry, due to the legalities of it somehow they made all that stuff okay. It’s an amazing amount of income those musicians never got.
RM: You sound like a man speaking from first-hand experience.
BS: Well, we (Mr. Big) had the President of Atlantic Records bragging to us that he sold seven million units overseas and he brought back $12 million. We’re looking at each other going “We didn’t get any of that money… what the heck!”. You know, we weren’t even close to that. You know, who’s getting that money?... because it ain’t us, but I think that bands are getting smart with business.
RM: Congratulations on the release of the new Mr. Big album Defying Gravity. I would imagine the entire band is very proud of this record?
BS: Very much, mainly because we see the response it gets. A lot of times when you put out a record you can think it’s great and then nothing happens, or you think it’s okay and then it blows up and does really well. It’s hard to judge how the public is going to respond and this one in particular, we all loved it and we were happy with it and thought it was cool, but again, we never knew how everyone was going to respond to it and we’re all pleasantly surprised to see all the comments posted and all the emails we’ve gotten regarding it. It’s just over the top and we are very pleased to see that. We’re always happy to see what we do pleasing people, we don’t do it in order to please people but we do keep them in mind. You know, we don’t want to pander to pleasing people and create products just for people like that, we want to create stuff that we love and hope that other people do too. That seems to have happened with Defying Gravity from the responses we’ve gotten and the reviews I’ve seen, so we’re very pleased about that.
RM: This is the band’s ninth studio record. Does it get easier over time getting together to do one of these Mr. Big albums or are there still challenges along the way?
BS: Absolutely it gets easier because all the things you didn’t do the last time, all the many things you have to do which each record, we know about them and we know that they are coming and we know how to deal with them all. The only thing that you are dealing with differently is the esteemed personalities of wisdom through time… hopefully [laughs]. And a new set of sensibilities because as you live your life as the years go by you’re into more things and you’re not into that stuff anymore, you’re more about this and not about that. So it is an interesting thing to see the evolution and the growth of the band and what we are into and what we like, we had a very enjoyable time making this record, just hanging out and that’s a good sign.
RM: If I can, I’d love to get your thoughts on some of the material on the new album. I’ll start with the track 1992. Here you reflect on the band’s most commercially successful period. How much fun was it to relive those days and try and convey that into a five-minute song?
BS: Well, we just gave the bullet points, the important things and gave some reference points to some of the things we went through. I think it resonates with people because we started playing that live and it’s one of the first new ones we performed live; that and Everybody Needs A Little Trouble and people responded to that very well. It’s funny because when we’re playing it live people are singing along: “The good people listened and they pulled us through/I was number one in 1992”, and I always point to the audience and people cheer because they know that they were the ones that made this band. The record company fought us, they fought To Be With You, they didn’t like us, they didn’t like our band, they didn’t like our album Lean Into It … they hated it. They didn’t want to release it and the only reason they did was because our manager forced the issue, so then they said they wouldn’t promote it or support it, you know, I was talking before about labels and bands, here we had poured our hearts and souls into something and they hated it. They wanted us to go back into the studio and start all over again, but we said “No, we believe in this record”, finally our manager got radio DJs to play To Be With You because he was a real powerful manager and it started to get played and it started to get a response and the record company didn’t believe it! They actually flew people out to Lincoln, Nebraska where the song was blowing up on radio and people were calling up and request it, they felt we were paying our friends to do it and then we thought “Is it even possible to pay our friends to do it?” because if we had of know that we would have done it (laughs). So they flew people out to Nebraska to make sure it wasn’t a lie and they still didn’t believe it and then our record would get added to the list of radio stations and the record company would call us up angry because they had the new Phil Collins record or the new this record that they wanted to get out but radio only had one song by Atlantic Records every week and they chose Mr. Big instead of their other acts. They got real upset with us and there was heated phone calls, then it was in the Top 40, then the Top 20 and then bang!... it was number 1. Then they changed their tune completely, “The first time we heard it we knew it was a hit”, swear to God, true story.
RM: You mentioned Everybody Needs A Little Trouble, I think if I was ever asked to select an example of what Mr. Big is about I would pick that song. To me this is classic Mr. Big and everything you could possible want in a Mr. Big song; is that a fair assessment?
BS: Absolutely, I think it is a good representation. It’s got some bluesy vocals, it’s got some singing alone parts and the one thing about Mr. Big I believe a lot of people miss is how much singing there is. We sing a lot; there is a lot of vocals and harmonies and I really think people love that, there’s no American Idol for bass players, drummers or guitar players but there is for singers, you know, singing is a big thing. The singing in “Trouble” is really an important factor, the beat is cool and the riff is fun and engaging and the lyrics are a little tongue-in-cheek and they’re a lot of things that Mr. Big specialises in I believe throughout the years.
RM: The band has always had a knack for writing these great acoustic driven songs. Damn I’m In Love Again is the newest addition to that style of simplistic story telling. But are these type of songs just as difficult to put together as the full blown rockers you record?
BS: Yeah, I think that applies to any song; it’s a very simple song but to fine tune it and get it right is an art. It’s quite a difficult thing, it’s just more labour for that, you know, there’s more figuring things out and playing more notes and there’s more audio going on. But sometimes a simple song can be deceivingly complex and is what is needed to make it work well.
RM: So if you look at your back catalogue of Mr. Big albums, where does Defying Gravity rank?
BS: Well I believe our three strongest albums are Lean Into It, What If… and now Defying Gravity. A lot of people have written to me and said it reminds them of the Lean Into It album, which was our breakout record. It may be similar to that for several reasons, we went back and used our original producer Kevin Elson, which we haven’t used for a long time, due to scheduling difficulties. We did it quickly like we did on Lean Into It and we did it with a great, enthused, excited and happy attitude also like we did on Lean Into It.
RM: Let’s shift our attention to a couple of the band members for a minute or two. Back in 2014 Pat Torpey was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. How is he traveling these days?
SB: He is doing great. Best therapy in the world is to be in the band and out there playing as sitting at home is not a good thing. This is engaging and it forces him to get up and push himself a little harder and he’s doing it with a smile on his face. He’s received dozens of emails from around the world from people who have Parkinson’s disease and he is taking this as a point of encouragement and help to get a better attitude about the situation. Parkinson’s is a really tough disease to deal with and it affects different people in different ways, so he is really doing quite well and we have adopted the Navy Seal’s motto: “No man left behind”. Without Pat, Paul, Eric and myself there is no Mr. Big, so we’re all there and pulling for Pat and we’re there to keep to it that he lives a good, healthy life. I think a lot of it is you need a reason to get up in the morning, you’ve got to have a mountain to climb every day and getting out on stage with us and getting through a couple of songs on drums, you know, we’re very proud of him. He seems to be responding to that therapy very well, he’s got a smile on his face and we are having a great time and he even makes jokes about his affliction, he has a great attitude about it.
RM: You’ve worked with a lot of talented guitarists over your career; where does Paul Gilbert rank?
BS: Well it is hard to rank one above the other because they are all different. Steve Vai, Richie Kotzen, Paul Gilbert, Tony McAlpine, I feel very lucky to have played with great players and it is hard to pick one over the other. But Paul has a unique and amazing style and an incredible unique personality and approach to music and enthusiasm that you rarely see in anyone. He is a constant student and constantly improving and working, he’s an inspiration to everyone around him and Paul is one of my favourite human beings on planet Earth.
RM: In addition to Mr. Big you’ve also been blessed to be a part of some other exciting projects. A brand new one which has been announced recently is Sons Of Apollo. This new band features some heavy hitters in the hard rock/metal community, can you tell me how this came together and about the album that’s coming out?
BS: Sure, it was kept under wraps very effectively, right up until it was ready. We’ve made a pretty loud record, it’s top stuff, it took a lot of work to get this exactly right, it’s complicated but enjoyable music. It took a lot out of all of us to perform it really well but we are very pleased with the record and very happy. I knew Jeff Scott Soto from when Talas opened for Yngwie J. Malmsteen in the summer of ’85 and he has been a dear friend of mine ever since and I’ve always wanted to work with him. I’ve known Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal for many years, turns out he’s a big Talas fan, he knows all the old Talas songs, and Mike Portnoy, Derek Sherinian and I have, of course, worked together on several projects. So coming together was an opportunity for all of us to play the type of music we love and for Mike and Derek to play together for the first time in a real band since Dream Theater and they’re enjoying it very much. For me, any opportunity I get to play and perform live with guys of this stature is a good thing, so we’re very excited about doing live shows next year and the album Psychotic Symphony is due in October.
RM: I can’t possibly do this interview and not ask you about your time with David Lee Roth. You were an integral part of the albums Eat’ Em And Smile and Skyscraper and a fundamental part of his sound at that time. What do you recall about making those records and being part of the band in those days?
BS: Well, it was quite an adventure. I got the call and Dave flew me out to Los Angeles under another story, he said there was a movie and do I want to be in it. So I flew out to L.A and had a meeting with Dave and he says there is a movie but that’s not why, he wants me to help him out he wants to start a band. I said “Sure, great I’m in”, so now we’ve got to find a guitar player and Steve Stevens was the original guy that Dave had in mind but it didn’t work out, Steve wanted to play with Billy Idol and I don’t blame him. He’s a great guitar player and a great friend but I told Dave “I know another Steve” and I told him about Steve Vai and we brought Steve Vai in and then Steve and I went and looked for a drummer and found Greg Bissonette and we had a blast hanging out in Dave’s basement writing songs for Eat ‘Em And Smile. We were just telling stories and hanging out and it was the greatest time ever and the tour was an amazing, great adventure and Dave was very kind and generous to us and we just had an incredible time, the best thing that ever happened to me. So I moved to L.A., this was towards the end of the Eat ‘Em And Smile tour and things changed a bit, it wasn’t so much a band as it was business. When we did the Eat ‘Em And Smile record it was all of us in one room playing live for real and having fun, not a lot of studio trickery, it was all us just playing. But when Skyscraper came along we did all our parts separately and it was all put together later, it didn’t have the vibe that Eat ‘Em And Smile had and it was not nearly as fun and so I left soon after the recording of that. But I still look back on those days as the greatest thing that happened to me and Dave is still my hero and I still love and respect him dearly and I’m forever grateful he included me in that amazing adventure.
RM: And on a final note, I assume you’ll be hitting the road in support of the new Mr. Big album; so what touring plans does the band have and will they include Australia?
BS: Well, we are pushing hard for Australia and New Zealand. We never choose where we play, we only play where we are hired and it has been hard to get someone from Australia to hire the band to come down. So we get a lot of angry letters from Australia thinking we’re leaving them out but we’re not, we need someone to hire us we can’t just fly in and play, we need work permits and Visas and hotels and venues and ground transportation and logistics, so we can’t just show up. We Just need someone to bring us there but we are hopefully optimistic at this point it might happen, so we are staying positive on it and doing everything we can on our end to make it happen. We go to South America next, then we do South east Asia, then Japan, then we do Europe and the U.K. and then we are hoping to get Australia and New Zealand in after that, maybe the beginning of 2018, who knows. But I would love to bring the band there, if there is half a chance we will jump on it.
RM: Again, congratulations on all your achievements. On behalf of everyone at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you all the best for the future and all the best for the new record Defying Gravity.
BS: Thank you. That is very kind of you, thank you so very much. I stay in touch with a lot of my Australian brothers and sisters on Facebook and through the internet, so I can’t wait to get down there and see them and do our absolute best for you guys. I think Australians are held in very high regard and playing there would be an honour.
|Posted on August 6, 2017 at 10:30 PM||comments (0)|
It was by pure accident that I came across Kobra AndThe Lotus back in 2012. Because of my love for KISS, I took notice when Gene Simmons was singing the praises of this band from Canada which had been signed to his record label Simmons/Universal. My thinking is always, “If it’s good enough for Gene Simmons, who am I to argue?”. So with that attitude in mind I checked them out…. And I’m so glad I did. Fast forward to 2017 and the band have put together a nice little catalogue of work which includes the self-titled album (2012), “High Priestess” (2014), “Words Of The Prophets” EP (2016) and the new album “Prevail”. And it has to be said that this new offering is one of the most impressive releases of the year without question. So on that note I took the opportunity to catch up with frontwoman Kobra Paige to have a chat about the growth of the band, the state of the music industry and the new album “Prevail’.
Rock Man: Firstly, thank you Kobra for your time today. I had the pleasure of speaking with you back in 2013 and since then the band has been blessed with good fortune. Do you pinch yourself from time to time to make sure it’s all real or have you had a strong belief from day one that this is where the band should be?
Kobra Paige: Thank you very much for this interview and for having me! Your support is greatly appreciated by us all. You know… this is quite interesting for me to hear because from my perspective we are in a much different place than is viewed. The band is in its ninth year and have only just this year started to have more direct support opportunities rather than 30-minute opening positions. I’m very grateful for every single band that has invited us out on the road and helped us along in our journey. To this day though, the band has still never broken even of its costs on a tour and is still very far away from sustainability. It’s a constant battle of faith and perseverance. I consider us still of a rather small size with a lot of growing to do. In terms of where we are now, for the amount of time we have really been around doing this, I think it’s a very natural place for such an organically grown genre. It takes a ton of work to move baby steps forward in this industry.
RM: The band has seen its share of line-up changes over the years; are you happy with the guys in the band now and are you confident this is a steady line-up going forward?
KP: Absolutely! These guys are great people and musicians. I want the very best for them. Being in a band on a professional level is a very serious commitment that isn’t something everyone is willing to do. It’s tough to keep a band together. All of us, though we came from different projects, ended up with each other for a reason. I truly believe that. Together, I feel stronger and more daring and each accomplishment with them means even more to me.
RM: I feel that the band has taken giant leaps forward and shown enormous growth with each studio release. Is that a fair assessment?
KP: I would agree that we have moved forward but I would not say we have had giant leaps but rather baby steps. We have certainly continued to move forward but on our third release we lost a lot of momentum due to two factors: I fell too ill to tour the new album and we had to prove our right to be here after being associated with Gene Simmons. It was an honour to have him on our team during the second album but it did however affect some of our relationships with promoters, magazines, etc. It was as though people thought we didn’t deserve the exposure. We have spent the last three years proving ourselves back to some of the industry, and the sad part is that we have been working just as hard as any band out there trying to get anywhere. We never had any shortcuts and there really is no such thing. People choose the music they like and don’t like and there is no getting around that! This release has been our most successful one yet and we finally feel momentum again but we really have our work cut out for us!
RM: Congratulations on the release of the new album Prevail I. This is truly a remarkable achievement; you must be very proud of this record?
KP: Thank you so very much! I truly am, and I’m also extremely proud of everyone that was a part of it. We really squeezed the best out of ourselves all together in that studio. It made for some magic that can’t be made while sending files over the internet.
RM: This is an ambitious project that will be released as a double album, with Part II released later in the year. But if we go back to the beginning can you tell me how this idea initially came about?
KP: This was actually an idea from my father! He had heard a podcast where Bruce Dickinson was talking about how our younger generation wasn’t doing double albums very often. My father found this intriguing and suggested that we do one. At first I thought he was crazy but it soon turned into an ambitious goal we couldn’t let go of. We are young and still just getting started with our creative juices, why not create a double record?!
RM: There are some bands that struggle to release one good quality record on a regular basis, let alone two in a short space of time. So was there any internal or external pressure to deliver something extraordinary on this project?
KP: Ah, yes absolutely. In fact, during this writing process it was probably some of the most intense depression and anxiety I have ever faced. The pressure and expectations for what this album had to be were mind melting. I also really put some crazy expectations on the band by deciding “Alright guys, we are relocating, this is the allotted time, we’re organically creating a double record, I believe in you and we should be able to do this”. This totally sounds crazy… but the fact is, I believe in my band and their capabilities and I believed in Jacob Hansen [album producer]. I didn’t necessarily believe in myself but I couldn’t let the goal go because I never learned to hide from things that scare me.
RM: I’d like to get your thoughts on a handful of the songs on this album. Right off the top I want to congratulate you on You Don’t Know. This is the best hard rock/metal song I’ve heard this year and the lyrical theme is very relatable. You must be very pleased with the final result?
KP: Oh thank you! I’m really happy to hear you enjoyed it and also picked up on it’s message! Yes, I’m very pleased. It’s cold, hard honesty and that suits me well.
RM: Gotham kicks off the record and sets the tone for the album. I believe that you have genuinely conveyed the despair and anguish of life in this fictional city brilliantly. Where did the idea for this song come from and was this a challenging song to write/sing?
KP: This music came together based off a futuristic electronic melody that Jasio Kulakowski [guitarist] had and then it began transforming into this dark, insatiable creature of despair with cracks of hope seeping through. I think ‘Gotham’ or ‘Arkham’ city is actually very parallel to our own world. I thought this was a fun way to write about the cities we live in and the fence we walk on between good and evil.
RM: Speaking of challenging songs, can you tell me about Hell On Earth? The way I’ve interpreted the song is that it’s about addiction; is this an accurate overview and further to that is it based on any real life events you’ve witnessed?
KP: It’s based on a very true event in my life but is not something I can share. It’s written specifically about being addicted to being sick and dysfunctional. Choosing to self-medicate or treat people terribly because of a struggle in one’s personal life. I don’t believe there is ever an excuse for that. It’s certainly easy to do though and admittedly I have done this too… such a thing like transferring our shit to other people while we are in a bad mood for instance. That is also why this song is narrated like a monologue sometimes. “Oh how I love the taste of my own blood… Did you think it was going to be that easy? I’m addicted to my disease. You can’t help me.” Which falls true for anyone wanting to change. A person can only be helped if they want to first help themselves. No one can do the change for them but many people die trying.
RM: On the lighter side you have included Light Me Up. This a beautiful song that takes the album in a different direction slightly. Again, is this based on any life experiences?
KP: It is and the beautiful thing about this song is that it ended up being a collaboration between Johnny Karkazis [High Priestess producer], Jasio and myself over a topic we all felt very important to bring awareness to. The majority of our global population will experience some depression during their lifetime. The extent they will take it to will vary however but the point of no return is what we want to avoid. Mental illness is overlooked far too much in our world and we want to connect people, offer some support to each other through this connection, and hopefully bring another small piece of awareness into play.
RM: Overall I thought the song writing on this record was pretty positive at times, I’ll use Prevail and Manifest Destiny as a reference point. Some metal records can be kind of gloomy in lyrical nature, was it important for you to write something a bit more up-beat?
KP: Yes!! Life is hard enough. Life can be beautiful but it’s also full of continuous obstacles no matter who the person is. This album was intended to encourage the best in people and bring them hope and strength. The messages are also intended to touch on extremely relatable emotional experiences so as to force people to see how relatable they are to each other through commenting and bonding over a shared musical interest. This album should cause exposure within the fan base.
RM: I guess the question everyone wants to know is when will Prevail II see the light of day and will it live up to the high benchmark set by Prevail I?
KP: Prevail II is again certainly different from Prevail I but we believe it is every bit as quality. There is the same balance of new sound with our past sound and hard rock with heavy metal. There are no two songs that sound the same on these albums and it will again have new surprises. Expect this album in early 2018!
RM: I am a massive fan of the Words Of The Prophets EP you released back in 2015. Especially your versions of Triumph’s Lay It On The Line and Alannah Myles’ Black Velvet. Have you given any thought into doing another EP of this nature?
KP: We have! We have dabbled with the thought of doing another one after these albums but covering a new territory/country. We will see!!
RM: I appreciate that this can sometimes be a difficult question to answer, but are you able to identify what your Top 5 most influential albums are?
KP: Fleetwood Mac - Rumours
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin
Queen – Ultimate Queen (because you need all the bests!)
Megadeth – Rust In Peace
Vivaldi in general!
RM: The world has been bombarded by manufactured talent from shows like American Idol, The X Factor and these types of reality TV concepts. In this day and age are you concerned as to where the next “Rolling Stones” or “David Bowie” or “Motorhead” is going to come from?
KP: Here is exactly what I believe. I don’t think that we will ever see a resurgence of massive arena filling metal bands from the newer generations but I do believe rock can still do it. I’ve seen this with Muse, Kings of Leon, and Foo Fighters to name a few. Newer generation metal will be able to fill arena’s as a double headliner. Some can do it in some countries by themselves but not globally. For example, Ghost, Avenged Sevenfold, and Volbeat. The world will always have people that need and love metal though.
RM: Does the direction of the music industry in general concern you?
KP: I am concerned by the ways people are able to steal music or have it for free. It means that a band really can’t take a rest from the road ever because it is in the concerts that their longevity matters. It is also almost as though the very newest generations feel entitled to the music for free and that worries me.
RM: And on a final note, I know you have a busy tour schedule. So where can folks come and see you perform and what should they expect from a Kobra And The Lotus show?
KP: They can find all of our tour dates on www.kobraandthelotus.com as well as our facebook page!! Reach out to any of us via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter We are very approachable and more than happy to give people info.
RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of Prevail I. It is an amazing body of work and I am so looking forward to hearing Prevail II early next year. On behalf of everyone at Full Throttle Rock I’d like to wish you and the band all the best for the future.
KP: Thanks again for your wonderful support! Rock and love!
For more information about the band visit the official website at www.kobraandthelotus.com
Kobra Ant The Lotus - Prevail is available through Nuclear Blast Records.
|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.