|Posted on May 19, 2016 at 9:30 PM||comments (0)|
I must confess that up until recently my knowledge of guitarist Tracy G only extended as far as his work with DIO during the 1990s. But I have come to discover there is much more to the man than just his ability as a metal axe man. And while his abilities as a guitarist are very impressive, so are his abilities to write, produce and record top quality material; not only for himself but also for others. For several years now Tracy G, along with vocalist/songwriting partner, Mike Beatty, have been the driving force behind The Tracy G Group. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with both gentlemen to discuss the journey of the band thus far, their thoughts on the music industry and their brand new explosive album Tramp.
The Rock Man: Firstly, Congratulations on the release of the new album Tramp. I would imagine that the band is very happy with how this new collection of material has turned out?
Tracy G: Thanks Rock Man… As far as I’m concerned, this is the best CD I’ve put out. Each CD I do, I think comes out better because of the work in progress, learning the studio better and where things should be, producing it, and you get a little bit better each time you do it. And this one…. I love the sound of it and everybody’s performance is awesome. So personally I think it kicks ass.
Mike Beatty: We’re extremely happy with it. Every tune has something to say!
RM: Before we dive into talking about the new record in detail, for those that aren’t too familiar with the band can you give us a brief history of the band and how it all came together?
TG: The Tracy G Group has been around for many years and has had many members. Currently the line-up is Adrian Aguilar on drums, Randy Oviedo on bass, Michael Beatty on vocals and Tracy G on guitar. I’ve known Mike Beatty for 30 years, since ‘85 or something like that. We’ve done a lot of gigs together. Mike’s a singer/songwriter, guitarist, keyboard player and vocalist. We’ve done a lot of gigs just me and him. I met him in church. We’ve played at churches, played at coffee shops, played at bars, parties. A lot of just two-man band stuff. Mike and I have done a lot of classic rock and originals. His originals, my originals but I never did anything heavy metal with him before. It’s always been on the lighter side with him until a year ago when we tried War Pigs and he did that great. Then we tried a DIO song Strange Highways and once he sang that and he did it really well, I thought I should give him some of my heavy riffs and songs. Tramp is the finished version of what he does with my heavy stuff. It works really good and really smooth. He’s singing my songs and he writes all the lyrics. Randy Oviedo I met a few years ago through other musicians, he’s a killer bass player. Adrian Aguilar is a local drummer, a killer drummer who can play pretty much anything I throw at him. The CD Tramp has Ray Luzier from KORN, he played drums on 4 tracks. Patrick Johansson also played drums on 7 tracks. Patrick played with Yngwie Malmsteen for I think 14 years. Then Adrian, so it has some killer drumming on it. Adrian is our drummer and Patrick was a guest. So the band 2016 version is Me, Mike, Randy and Adrian
RM: In terms of musical heroes, who were the biggest influences on you growing up?
TG: When I was growing up, I think Black Sabbath was the first heavy group that I got into. Prior to that, a lot of R & B, my older sister listened to a lot of dance music so I loved Sly & The Family Stone. Just a lot of dancing stuff, I was a little kid, so I was drawn to Funk, and Soul, stuff that grooved with lots of rhythms in it. I heard Black Sabbath when I was 12 or 13 years old. Once I heard that and Tony Iommi, my influences were pretty much Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Ritchie Blackmore, Jimmy Page and Tony Iommi, then a lot of others. Michael Schenker, AC/DC and then along comes Van Halen. I also like fusion and fusion. Al DiMeola and Pat Metheny, also Carlos Santana. My influences are all over the place. All styles.
MB: I grew up listening to a lot of Beach Boys and Neil Young. Anything with harmonies. When I got to High School, two things hit me hardest musically. The LA Punk scene. X was an influence…hard hitting lyrics, slamming beats with Billy Zoom playing these amazing rockabilly licks to punk tunes. Then I heard Unleashed In The East from Judas Priest…. it BLEW ME AWAY….. Exciter changed my life.
RM: As I previously mentioned, the new album is titled Tramp. This is your first album of all new material since Collateral Chaos in 2011. Why was there such a long gap between records?
TG: There’s two other projects since 2011. One was called Deviating From The Set List. It has a lot of my favourite cover tunes. I don’t sell it, it’s on my website, but I do give it away for promotion. I also did one with the Tracy G Group This Device same line-up as now with a few Ray Luzier drum tracks as well. Sometimes I just get busy doing other things or it just takes a while. I record and produce a lot of bands in my studio. I try to put out something once a year, but sometimes it doesn’t work out, I get busy.
RM: Did this album provide you with any challenges in the studio or in the writing sessions or was it a pretty easy album to make?
TG: Not too many challenges. It was pretty easy to put together. I write all the songs musically and then I hand them to Mike unless I think they’re instrumentals then I finish them off. Patrick Johansson lives in Florida and we live in L.A., so it took a little bit of timing to get him over here. We wanted him to be here in the G Factory studio to record it rather than just do it all over the internet. It was important to have him here in the room with all of us. Once we got Patrick out here it went really fast because he’s such a great drummer. All the drum parts went quick. All Mike’s vocal parts, he does almost on the first take. Same with Randy, it all goes fast, went smooth and flowed easily.
MB: This was a lot of fun to make. Like Tracy said, we’d been friends for 30 years and I’ve seen almost every singer he’s had. Tracy is the most laid back guy you will ever meet, but when it comes to music he is dead serious. We play in bars all over Southern California just the two of us. We do classic rock with some crazy arrangements. People dig it and it’s a good living. But I’d never sang metal. A huge fan of metal most of my life. But never sang it. When Tracy asked me to sing War Pigs at a gig, it was extremely cool. I felt right at home. Then a few weeks later he asked me to sing Pain and Strange Highways, the classic DIO tunes he co-wrote with Ronnie. I was honoured but extremely intimidated. I mean… Ronnie is the greatest rock vocalist EVER. PERIOD…So I couldn’t do it half ass and if it sucked I wouldn’t do it. Those tunes are that special. We tried it out and I got really good feedback from DIO fans. So we just kept pushing on.
RM: Every band has their way of working and putting an album together. What is the process in The Tracy G Group?
TG: I write everything first by myself. I work best that way. With a drum machine I lay down the grooves, the bass, the riffs, the basic idea and make it sound as good as I can. If it needs vocals I give it to Mike. On his own, he takes the ideas, writes the lyrics and melodies then comes over and demos it. We look at each other and know right away if we have a song that’s happening or not. 99% of the time I gave him a song, he came back and we had a song. Some of the tracks we kept the vocals from the original demo. They kicked ass, no need to redo them. Then Randy comes over, lays the bass tracks, adds his style, over my basic bass playing and the drummers come in and play to a click. Unfortunately, we don’t play all together; we don’t play at the same time. I have to layer, because I have such a small studio and we can barely all fit in it. My goal as a producer is to make it sound like we all played the thing together. Like were all in the room together, but I’m pretty happy with the results, sounds pretty cool. So that’s pretty much the process of how we record here in LA at the G Factory Studio.
MB: Tracy gave me a CD of 16 instrumental songs and told me to write some lyrics and melodies and come record them one at a time. So we did and that’s how Tramp came about. I would pick a song that jumped out at me, listen to it a million times, and write. We did that every week for 10 weeks, almost a song a week.
RM: Let’s talk about some of the tracks on the album. Let’s start with The Revolution which is the lead single. What sort of feedback are you getting about that song?
TG: Real positive. I think it’s pretty heavy, some great reviews and comments. That song was first an instrumental. Once Mike started singing on other stuff, I gave it to him and said “See what you could do with this”, and that’s what he did with it. So pretty awesome I think.
MB: When I first heard that riff I thought old Sabbath instantly. When I first recorded the vocals, Tracy said the same thing so I knew it would be cool
RM: The track Arrogant Prick is one of those songs I think most of us can relate to at one point or another. Was that written with anyone specific in mind or just as a general lyric?
MB: Every song has a person or people in mind. This one specifically is about a local business owner here in Southern California. A guy we made a lot of money for playing at his place. But he talks behind your back, acts like he’s the bigshot, yet everyone is laughing at him behind his back. As musicians we are often treated like shit. It comes with the turf I guess, but as you get older and somewhat wiser, you can let bitterness overtake you or write a song about it and let it go (sort of). The anger comes through clearer in the music. Hopefully that translates… I am hearing it is!
RM: Leech has got one of the best metal guitar and rhythm section melodies I’ve heard for a long time. What can you tell me about that track?
TG: Thanks for that. The Leech lick came about like all my licks, by just jamming. I sit outside and I have like a 40-foot cord and my amp is about 90 feet away inside so I can barely hear it. It sounds better that way. When I come up with something cool, I record it so I don’t forget it. I hear the arrangement in my head. So I take the drum machine, bass and rhythm and lay out the song. I have no idea what Mike is going to sing or write about until he comes over to record the demo. Actually that part is pretty exciting when he comes over and I get to hear for the first time what he’s written. I like 4/4, but I like to mix it up so I put a 7/8 part in there to fuck it up so it’s not always the same.
MB: Tracy and I have about 9 future CD’s worth of anger from life experiences, so it’s easy to write lyrics. His riffs are scary and heavy, so the lyrics have to at least match the music or it sounds lame. Everyone knows a Leech, a parasite that will suck the blood out of you and move on to something or someone else…..I love that song.
RM: One of the strengths of the record is the handful of instrumental tracks on the record. These tracks seem to have a slightly different tone than the more aggressive tracks I previously mentioned. Was this by design or just the natural progression of the recording process?
TG: Almost everything I write is an instrumental to me, cause I write the music first. I like to make sure it has a cool natural flow to it. Once I get to finishing all the parts and I can hear vocals in it, I give it to Mike. I love instrumentals because I get to play a little different. I play a certain way with a singer, any singer and different singers make me play different too. Whenever there’s singing in a song, I’m going to play around the singer because the singer is the main thing; until he stops singing then my solo is the main thing. That’s kind of how I hear it. My solo takes the place of the singing, that’s how I see it. I sing through my solos. So on the instrumentals my guitar is the singer so it gives me a chance to speak different. That’s all I’m trying to do in the Tracy G Group is cover all my different influences that I hear in my head. I try to follow the sounds in my head to play the best I’m able to. So they sound a little different because I’m not following a singer’s pattern and I can get a little crazier with the music and I can go different places.
RM: The music industry has gone through many changes throughout the years; can you put your finger on one that has had the most impact, for better or worse?
MB: Technology has changed it for good and bad. We have zero overhead… Tracy records, mixes and engineers the whole project. We have our gifted friends do the artwork and a local manufacturer makes the discs. I shoot, edit and produce all our music videos. No overhead! We live near some of the most famous studios in the world that sit relatively empty.
RM: Given the decline in record sales and the popularity of services such as iTunes or Spotify and illegal downloading there seems to be growing concern that it is not worth making full length albums anymore. What are your thoughts; are full length albums still valid in this day and age?
MB: We do it for the love of music. We are by no means rich, but we have full control of what we release. No one tells us how to mix it or what we should do. That is the great part, we are not part of the machine. Therefore, we can release, write or record when we want. If people love it, cool… If not, we aren’t changing to fit anyone’s mold of what they think we should be. That is the cool part, full albums? Hell Yeah! Why not?
RM: What advice, if any, would you give to any aspiring musicians looking to make a career in music?
TG: Don’t be an Arrogant Prick and don’t be a Liar. Don’t be a Bunghole! Be a musician. Like all music. Get into all kinds of music if you can. Be open and not close minded. Don’t just listen to “Country“ only, or “Metal” only or just instrumentals. Listen to all types of music. Don’t label yourself or what you do. Just be the best musician you can be. Don’t be a flake. Don’t be afraid to do your own thing. Be yourself, that’s my advice.
RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of the album Tramp. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you the best of luck for the record and many years of continued success.
TG: I’d like to thank the Rock Man and Full Throttle Rock for the interview. It’s very cool that you took the time to listen to the CD. We really appreciate your support. Keep rocking and we hope to get to Australia and do some shows, Rock and Roll!
MB: We LOVE Australia, my Mom was born there and dammit I want to tour there. So we shall see. We really appreciate the great review from you and Full Throttle Rock. You get it and it means the world to us… Thank you and Mahalo.
For more information about The Tracy G Group visit the band’s official website at www.tracyg.com
The Tracy G Group – Tramp is available on Tracy Records and for digital download on www.tracyg.com
|Posted on December 13, 2015 at 10:55 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with Frankie Poullain
By Dave Smiles
It’s easy for me to think of The Darkness as a new band but then I have to remind myself that their debut album Permission To Land was released twelve years ago. At the time, it was a breath of fresh air or perhaps a blast from times past when rock n roll was about fun, as opposed to the self-indulgent, self-deprecating Nu Metal that dominated the charts. The big hair, the colour, the standard tuned guitars and the solos grabbed the attention of kids who had never seen or heard it before and rekindled that fire in fans of bands like Van Halen and Foreigner.
Flash forward to 2015 and it seems genres and sub genres can all co-exist. It’s not uncommon to have a Nu Metal and a Glam Metal band on the same line up for a festival. What matters is the quality of the music, and fans today have access to decades of music and information on bands to know what is good and what is not.
Twelve years in music is a lifetime, and The Darkness have faced it all. Addictions, rehabs, disbanding, reforming, lineup changes, etc. It reads like a rock n roll cliché, but these are the real lives of a band dedicated to music.
I recently got to chat with bassist Frankie Poullain about the band, the industry and their new album The Last Of Our Kind.
How have the shows been going for the new album so far?
From my point of view the best ever. For a number of reasons. We changed everything for this album campaign. Changed management, labels. Unfortunately we had to change our drummer as well. So with Rufus Taylor on drums I’m just having such a good time playing with him. He's such a hard drummer. Powerful. The bands,… Dan’s done a lot of riffing on this album as well. We’re playing a lot of the heavy stuff from the album like Barbarian, Open Fire all the songs that are based on hard rock riffs, you know. That’s really where we’re at our best as a band.
How do you think the older songs go with the new drummer? Has it brought a fresh dynamic to it?
I have to say they sound better to be quite frank. But I don't wanna say anything disrespectful about Graham because there’s a real likability about the way that he played as well. It’s all different you know. We certainly never sounded as powerful as we sound now.
Where did the barbarian theme come from for the new album?
It came from sitting around a swimming pool in Ibiza. We were there and it was the start of the album writing process and we’d been messing around with calypso and folky kind of stuff you know. It was the start of the writing session and I think Dan just got a bit sick of it and just got his head down and came up with these riffs really quickly. He came out with the first riff first of all, he was peddling on the E, and I was playing this headless Steinberger bass which I borrowed off our sound engineer. So funny enough it came from Ibiza and the hot sunshine. And it changed the elements for the next album completely because immediately there was something there that was very powerful it was like a call to arms and a chance for Justin to escape from his turmoil at that time. Several of the songs on the album are escapist songs because we were going through a hard time, extricating ourselves from our management label, our drummer too. That was upsetting.
You guys self-produced the album didn't you?
Yeah Dan Hawkins produced our last album.
What were some of the advantages of doing that yourself?
Well empowerment. We have the expertise but ultimately the decisions are ours. Even if you’re successful and you’re not empowered the worst things you can complain about is other people’s mistakes. You don't learn. But if you learn from your own mistakes you don't become frustrated.
Since the release of Permission To Land in 2003 how would you say the industry has changed for you in the past 10-15 years?
Technology changes and people have to adjust to those changes. Human nature hasn't changed. Still full of vultures and vampires. Cockroaches. Cocksuckers. Industry is Industry isn't it? It’s just people trying to get money from other people’s artistic endeavors. There are several gems in there. Good people with a love of music, but by and large there are people earning a living by sucking the blood out of other people. I hope that doesn’t come across as bitter. Once upon a time I would have said that in a bitter way but now I say it as a man of experience.
You’ve been around a long time and been burnt. What are some of the most important lessons you've learnt so far?
The most important lesson I’ve learned from music so far…. it’s got to come from the heart. It has to come from a good place and you've got to protect that. If something comes from a good place you have to protect it and fight for it. And don't cheapen yourself. There are several lessons in there actually. Don’t cheapen yourself. I think we made a few mistakes in the Hot Cakes campaign of cheapening ourselves. We probably did the tour with Lady Gaga for a bit too long. There were a couple of videos in that campaign where the woman,… which was kind of like casual sexism and kind of clichéd. Nothing wrong with being sexy but there has to be a certain edge and point to it you know. So we’re out to rectify all that on this album campaign.
So how are the dynamics of the band at the moment? Is everyone on the same page with everything operating smoothly?
I just can’t believe how Rufus has helped in terms of his personality. He gets on with all of us in different ways because were different characters. He’s got a great sense of humor. He doesn't take himself too seriously but at the same time he's got a real pride in what he does. He's got a great bullshit detector. He helps a lot with choosing songs for the set list and we all agree. That includes the brand new song, actually, from the next album. It’s called Rack of Glam. It’s about man’s relationship with a female boob. It’s from a Freudian perspective.
It is quite deep. There’s nothing deeper then man’s relationship with a boob.
So when you guys started you were kind of lumped as a retro band or however they wanted to label you guys, and now there seems there are other bands influenced by the ‘80s, or ‘70s for that matter. Do you think you paved the way for other things to come?
There’s a lot more Rock and Pub Rock in Australia then there is in the U.K. I don't think we set a trend no. I think it was happening before, like the White Stripes and The Hives, who were around the same time as us. Doing a different type of ‘retro’ sounding rock. So no I don't think so no.
So what’s next for The Darkness after you've completed the tour?
Well it’s going to be a long tour. After Australia we do the U.K. up until Christmas. We do Europe in January and then we’re doing South America, Eastern Europe and then we’re doing the states again in May. And then we do the festival season. Any gaps in that schedule we are trying to repair are respective domestic situations. And then also do a bit of writing in France this time. We have a house there that a friend of ours has. We’re going to have writing time there. That’s one thing we took from this last album, the idea of going to a new place, with a new energy and tapping into that.
For more information about The Darkness visit the official website at: www.thedarkness.co.uk/
The Darkness – Last Of Our Kind is available on Canary Dwarf Records.
|Posted on November 11, 2015 at 4:10 PM||comments (0)|
In the early dawn of the 1980s a new breed of British rockers were quickly rising up through the ranks of the music industry. Known as ‘The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’, this group of aspiring superstars were following in the footsteps laid out by legendary acts such as Led Zeppelin, Queen, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. Leading the charge, along with Iron Maiden and Saxon, were a group of fresh faced lads from Sheffield calling themselves Def Leppard. The boys dreamt of fortune and fame and eventually they would get it, but these things always come at a high price and Def Leppard would pay a heavy toll. However despite issues with alcohol abuse, car accidents and even the tragic passing of a much loved band member, Def Leppard would go on to record some of the biggest hit singles and albums of all time and become the superstar arena rock Gods they had dreamt of becoming. With a new self-titled album under their belts the band once again finds themselves at the top end of the charts and on a worldwide tour to promote it. This has led them back to Australian shores once more and I had the pleasure of catching up with vocalist Joe Elliott for a chat about the forthcoming tour and the new album.
Rock Man: You just kicked off the tour in Japan this week, and then next week you’re headed back to Australia. Is it fair to say that Australia has played a big part in the band’s success over the years?
Joe Elliott: It's been a part of the success of the band, for sure. It's been a very interesting and successful and exciting part of the band's success. We first played Australia in 1984; we played a couple of pub shows, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne. Then we did the last ever Narara Music Festival in the absolute pouring rain. It was fantastic but it was just a mud fest, and I believe it was the last one that was ever put on. That was our introduction to Australia which was amazing, but we didn't go back there until nearly ten years later. When we released albums I think every four to five years we didn't want to go anywhere because you're stuck in a studio making records, but once Hysteria came out in August of '87 it didn't take off in Australia until August of '89. And that tour it was incredible because we had a Number 1 album in the UK in August of '87, the album finally went Number 1 in August of '88 in America and then a year after that we get the call that's it's gone Number 1 in Australia [laughs]. This is nuts, you know. They were clamouring for us to come down and play live but we were already into the studio making the following album, which was the Adrenalize album. So as it turned out, Australia ended up being the first place we ever played on the 1992 Adrenalize Tour. Periodically we've been back more recently than before; we were here three years ago and three years before that. We're becoming more frequent visitors if you like which is great because we love to come. We'd come more often if we could.
RM: Congratulations to the band and yourself on all you have achieved in your career. From humble beginnings this band certainly has had its fair share of highest of highs and lowest of lows. Do you shake your head and wonder sometimes “How did we manage to survive and get so lucky”?
JE: The word "luck" comes up a lot but you have to earn the right to be lucky. Anyone can be lucky, but to put yourselves in a position to be lucky you've got to work really hard and that's something we've always done. But when you've been around for 35 years, it's not all going to be "thumbs-up", it's not all going to be "win, win, win". You take anybody's life over a 35 year period and it's going to go in a wave; it's going to go up and down. There's going to be a lot of downsides and a lot of recovery and a lot of negativity, followed by re-achieving success. Whether it be Albert Einstein or the Rolling Stones, it doesn't matter even what you are in life, 35 years is a hell of a long time to try and maintain anything. For us to have been around that long and the new album has gone Top 4 on the Australian Charts this week, that to us is an astonishing thing and something we're very proud of, very humbled by, and so excited that the thought that we after all this time are still kind of relevant to certain people around the world. The album's gone to Number 1 in every rock chart around the world and Top 10 in the majority of "rock" countries, Westernised countries, and even a lot of European and South American countries. So all of a sudden the band's got heat on it again, because I think it's a strong album. And that's the important thing, the new album is a really strong representation of who we are and who we've been and who we used to listen to as kids. It's got every ingredient that we want in an album. There is no explanation as to why we're still here; we just enjoy what we do and we've been afforded the opportunity to do it by having such a loyal fan base.
RM: The new self-titled album is out, and from a personal point of view I think this is the album of the year by a long stretch. This is a very enjoyable record; this clearly must have been an easy one for you to make because it sounds like everyone had a lot of fun on it.
JE: You know what; we've never made an easy album. Anybody that makes an easy album really makes a bad record because they're not trying hard enough. But with this one, it wasn't a case of not trying; it was a case of not blocking. We didn't block ourselves; we didn't go you can't do that because it sounds too much like Led Zeppelin or it sounds too much like Queen. We just let it flow; it doesn't matter if it sounds like someone else. These someone else's are the bands that made us want to be in a band. So it's going to leak into your sound no matter who you are. But we embraced it this time rather than trying to disguise it. It was easy in that respect; we had fun, we didn't have a record contract, we financed the record ourselves, we put it together with nobody hovering over our shoulder, nobody saying it needs to be delivered by Christmas, and all this kind of crap. We just made a record for us. Literally a piece of art. I know that sounds pooncey, but it was a piece of art; it wasn't a piece of commerce. We did 14 songs; we went into the studio to write two or three, and we ended up with 14 because we were just fertile [laughs]. When it came to ideas, they were just coming out of us, it was like chickens laying eggs, it was amazing. We had such a great time. So in that respect, it was very enjoyable. We did put the work in, it was work. I'm not saying it was hard work, but it was work. The reason it wasn't hard work is we were all getting on fine, which we always do anyway, but we were just having fun with this record. And I think you can get it in the grooves that it's got something about it [laughs], and it's a fun record and at the same time it's diverse; there's no two songs on the album that sound alike, but there's a lot of familiarity on the record to us or just rock and roll in general.
RM: After playing together for so long, why did you decide to release a self-titled album; is there any deep meaning behind it?
JE: It was a very simplistic thing. We don't like to over think things so much these days because we've been guilty of that so much in the past that we over think things. You spend 20 years trying to come up with an answer to something you should have spent 20 minutes on because it doesn't make any difference. At the end of the day, a name is a name. It's like horses; does it really matter as long as your horse wins, do you care what it's called? The thing was, when we were all playing these songs or talking to our friends, and they're "Oh you're making a new record, tell us what does it sound like?" We found ourselves all subconsciously saying, it kind of sounds like Def Leppard [laughs]. And so when we all started relaying that story to each other, Phil (Collen) our guitar played said, "Why don't we just call it Def Leppard, we've never done it". When you think about Peter Gabriel who's got four albums out called Peter Gabriel, we've got three more shots at this thing [laughs]. It was a case of we've never done it; it seemed to be the logical thing to do, 35 years into our career and the first album we've ever done without a record deal, it was like a whole new start. So it was like “Let’s just call the album Def Leppard” because that's what it is, it's us now.
RM: The first single from the record is Let’s Go. What feedback has the band received in regard to this track?
JE: Mostly positive. At the end of the day it's classic Leppard. It's got that Let's Get Rocked, Pour Some Sugar On Me, Rock Of Ages anthemic, stadium rock thing about it. Even the song Undefeated off the Mirrorball record; it's the same kind of thing. It's one of those songs when you hear it you, you go this would sound great in Madison Square Garden or Rod Laver Arena, in these big iconic buildings all round the world. It's one of those songs that leaps out. And it is classic Leppard. We weren't trying to reinvent the wheel. Sav, our bass player Rick Savage, came up with that song and we knew it sounded like an echo of our past and we were more than happy to do that. When you think about some of the greatest bands in the world, they're always hoping to rewrite some of their hits, instead of going off on tangents. AC/DC, everything they do sounds like everything they've ever done. And I mean that in a positive way; you're not going to get a piano ballad or an acoustic song off AC/DC, you're going to get things that sound familiar like Highway To Hell or Back In Black, that's what they do. What we did on that one song was go into a territory that we've been in before which is kind of slow, sexy, groovy thing with the big anthemic chorus, huge guitars, big drums; the usual thing that Leppard is renowned for and that our fans really enjoy. So we're not going to deny ourselves the opportunity to write a song like that, but it's just one of 14 and everything else on the record doesn't sound like that one song. So we were more than happy to put all our eggs in one basket on that particular song, in that direction.
RM: Next week you’re here in Australia doing shows in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. For fans that haven't seen you live, what can they expect to see and hear from the show?
JE: Well of course we're promoting a new record so we're going to be playing new stuff, but we're not going to play too much of it because nobody wants to hear too much new music. We're well aware in this day and age that for an audience that comes to see Def Leppard, by the time that we get to Australia with an album that just got released this week, everybody in the audience will not have bought the new album yet. The first ten rows might have bought it. So you've got to be very careful how you place the new music, so we're going to play one or two new songs in the set; but we've always been one of them kind of bands that embraces our history, embraces who we are, we're not afraid to play the hits. That's why people come. They don't come to hear our B-sides. They come to hear the Sugars, the Photographs, the Rock of Ages and the Let's Get Rockeds and that kind of thing. Let's be honest, you and I could go to a Rolling Stones gig and what do we want to hear? We want to hear Jumping Jack Flash, Brown Sugar and You Can't Always Get What You Want. If they play one or two new songs great, but we don't want to hear 12. I want to hear the new [Paul] McCartney album in my car on CD and I want to hear two or three songs that represent that record within his set but I still want Helter Skelter and Live And Let Die and Band On The Run and stuff like that. So you're going to get the history of the band on stage, and you're going to get a great performance. We've got a brilliant light show and screen show and all that kind of stuff. It's eye candy as well as ear candy when we play.
RM: The band has of providing value for money with its live shows. Can you pin point what it is that separates Def Leppard from others when it comes to performing, and why you are so successful as a live act?
JE: No I can't, I don't know what the answer is. All I know is I don't see enough other bands to compare them to us because we're working so much. I see very few live shows of other people. I saw McCartney about three weeks ago in Columbus Ohio in America; that's the first gig I've seen since I saw U2 in Boston in June, and they're the only two shows I've seen this year because we've been working so hard. The difference is, what I'm comparing us to now is McCartney and U2, Christ that's not a bad thing to compare yourself against, they’re the biggest artists on the planet. That's the coat tails that we might be riding. That's where we want to place ourselves in that kind of same arena. When we go out on stage we show that we’re not afraid to put on. If we have to go on after U2 or Paul McCartney, it wouldn't frighten us because we believe in what we do and, without being pig headed, that's just a case of self-believing confidence. You have to have that when you go on stage. It's like a boxer, no boxer gets into the ring thinking he's going to lose; he has to believe he's going to win or there's no point in getting in the ring. When we go on stage we have to believe we're the best band in the world. And that's how we do it. We get up there and we have fun with it.
RM: And finally, are there any words you would like to share with all your loyal Australian fans?
JE: Thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks. I mean really it doesn't get any better than that; you put us in the Top 5 in Australia this week. That's the most beautiful thing anybody could do for me right now. The fact that people are still there for us after all this time, they waited long enough to see us live in the first place and we try to stay as loyal as we can to our fans all over the world and were very very grateful. We're glad to be able to come down to Australia in the next week with a Top 5 record, it's amazing. Thank you.
RM: Once again Joe, congratulations on the release of the album Def Leppard. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you the best of luck for the record and the upcoming Australian tour
Def Leppard Australian Tour Dates:
Tuesday 17 November – Sydney, Qantas Credit Union Arena
Wednesday 18 November – Melbourne, Rod Laver Arena
Saturday 21 November – Perth, Red Hill Auditorium
For more information on Def Leppard visit the official website at: www.defleppard.com
Def Leppard – Def Leppard is available on Bludgeon Riffola/earMUSIC Records.
|Posted on November 10, 2015 at 8:15 PM||comments (0)|
Interview With David Glen Eisley
By Juliano Mallon
With one of the most reconizable – and respect – voices in the AOR universe, veteran David Glen Eisley has one too many great albums under his belt, but the most remembered is the very first work with Giuffria, released back in 1984. After decades of silence, most of the band got together for a memorable concert at Rock City, in Nottingham. With that in mind, I contacted Mr. Eisley, who kindly agreed to talk about his past, present and future plans.
Last week you performed live at Rock City with Craig Goldy and Alan Kriger as Giuffria. How was it for you to be back on stage, after all these years, and with other two original members of the band?
DGE: It actually was great to be playing again with my pals from the past, I love these guys. Lifetime friends!
How the invitation came through? Who had the idea and how did you feel when contacted about playing again as Giuffria?
DGE: It actually came through a mutual musician friend of mine that the promoters of Rock City had contacted looking to get in touch with me. He contacted me and asked if it were alright to pass along my info. I said yes and they contacted me to see if I had any interest.. Simple as that. About a year ago Craig Goldy had asked if I would participate in a small festival in San Diego and after alot of coaxing he got me to agree. That little gig consisting of Myself, Craig & Krigger somehow reached across the Atlantic and the next thing I know is they were approaching me for what just happened in Nottingham.
Any words on why Gregg Giuffria and Chuck Wright weren’t there?
DGE: Well actually Gregg & I speak quite often and though he is very successful as a business fellow now he has expressed interest in he and I writing a few tunes and seeing what happens. Who knows right?? As far as Chuck he is very busy with Quiet Riot and although we both love playing together there is some sort of contractual situation that prevents him from doing anything really regarding all of us playing together. Not quite sure as it is a bit strange. But it is what it is.
I’m sure expectations were running high for the concert. Were they met?
DGE: Our expectations were many variables.. For starters we kind of knew things would be chaotic and there really would be no sound checks, strange equipment, etc so going into it to begin with was with a bit of concern. Our attitude was to forget all the "what if's," just plug in and blast through and have a good time amongst ourselves. If the audience caught on great.. If not, too bad. But everybody seemed to enjoy it and we enjoyed ourselves.. So I guess it was a victory for all.
Since it was announced, this reunion spawned one too many rumours, the most recurring being Giuffria would reunite for a new album. Is there any level of truth in those rumours?
DGE: All I can say is that Craig & I are starting the writing process for a new record on Frontiers Records which I did my first solo record with. In what configuration it will appear in is to be determined at a later date. But we are writing now.
Giuffria’s first album is a bonafide AOR classic. After 31 years, how do see it? How relevant do you think it is and why is that so?
DGE: That first record is a very different type of record covering a wide range of influences as we all were so different from one another but we managed to come together and make some sense out of a very illogical combination of personalities.. It just seemed to produce something a little different than the norm.
Moving on in time, you released three awesome solo albums between 1999-2001. What have you been up to since then?
DGE: Since 2008 I have been kind of taking care of my daughter’s acting career. She has been working since she was fourteen and her mother, my wife Olivia Hussey (Romeo & Juliet) also an actor are very aware of the crazy business it is and have kept a keen eye out for the pitfalls that are always present. But India is now 22 years old and is more than capable of handling her own affairs allowing me to return to the studio, road, whatever. It's all good.
Any chance we’ll get more music from you anytime soon?
DGE: Yes. You will be hearing from me and/ or from a few of us. As I said Craig & I are writing, Gregg & I probably will be & I on my own am starting to put stuff together as we speak.
David, it was a pleasure talking to you. I wish you all success on your future endeavours and wish to hear more music from you soon...
DGE: Thank you, Juliano, for the opportunity. I would just like to say to anybody that was in Nottingham in October "thank you" for the welcome back and any players out there, young or old just be true to what YOU are and just keep playing, writing, singing or whatever you do.. Do it true.
For more information about David Glen Eisley visit the official website at: www.davidgleneisley.com
|Posted on October 13, 2015 at 11:15 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with Keith Nelson
By Dave Smiles
Buckcherry came into the rock world in the mid-nineties, a time when their brand of hard rock wasn’t cool. That didn’t matter. These guys have always done things their way, and in doing so have survived changing line ups, changes in the music industry and the disbanding of the band. But like true rock n roll rebels, you can’t suppress the passion for good music. With the release of their new album, the diverse and perfectly titled Rock N Roll, Buckcherry have proved yet again that doing things their way is the secret to longevity.
I recently spoke to guitarist Keith Nelson about the album, the band, and people’s claims that rock n roll is dead.
First up congratulations on the new album Rock n Roll. What was the reasoning behind calling it Rock n Roll?
The reason why we called it Rock n Roll was it kind of takes big balls to call it Rock N Roll. I don’t know what’s going on in Australia but over in the states we got these people saying Rock N Roll is dead and we just don’t fuckin’ believe that. We’re a rock roll band so where going to call our new album Rock N Roll and that’s that.
There’s a lot of people being saying rock is dead over here as well.
Well fuck ‘em, Dave. How do you say it in Australia? Fuck ‘em mate.
That’s it. Fuck ‘em mate. (Both laugh) It’s no secret the industry has been through some changes in the past couple of years with the way people listen and purchase music, do you think we will see big bands dominating the world again like we did in times past?
People have moved into other ways of getting our CD or record and I think that’s really good. More people are enjoying music than ever before. We have to figure out a way to make that the artists and the song writers are being taken care of obviously. But I think that more people listening to music is better. Period.
It seems we’re in a transitional period. After a 20 year career what inspires you to keep making music?
Fuck. Everything inspires us. Playing live shows inspires us. Been in a fucking Rock n Roll band. It’s inspiring in and of itself. I don’t need a reason to get up out of bed every day and make Rock n Roll. I love to do it. And the band loves to do it. I get excited about making records I get excited about new songs and ultimately we get excited about playing them for the fans. Making new fans and touring the world.
When you guys where writing the new album was there a need to write something great or was it more relaxed and see what came out?
We just kind of wrote songs and we didn’t really have a title for the record until we wrote the record. When we made the confessions record we were definitely going for a certain thing. We just wanted to write the best Rock n Roll songs that we could. Write the best record that we could.
The track Tight Pants has a very big band Stones feel to it, how did the song come about?
It was a funky little riff. Stevie came in with his riff and we started jamming on it. The song started evolving and yeah so it’s just kind of a guitar based song. I had this wild idea of playing some horns on it and then it really took it to a whole new level. All my favourite bands have put horns except ACDC. They had bag pipes so technically that counts as horns. We just had some fun with it. Why not.
It really stands out the way you guys did it. Overall there’s a lot of diversity to the songs throughout the album. Was this a conscious idea to show how broad the genre of Rock n Roll can be?
You know all my favourite bands have been able to lean to the left and to the right and their still Rock n Roll bands and I think that there’s a lot that you can do within a Rock n Roll band and still be Rock N roll so if you look at the record and you see a song like Tight Pants and then you see a song like “Rains Falling” it’s all tying in there. Yeah we are big fans of music. We’re always having some fun so you know there’s no rules. No set way to do things.
With the previous release, the “Fuck” EP, it overall very angry and in your face was that a need for the band to get something out of its system?
I think that was a reaction to focusing so hard on the Confessions album and it was so serious and the subject matter was so heavy. I think we just kind of wanted an excuse to put Fuck in every song and have some fun you know and that’s what we did. You know it’s funny not one song on the Fuck record is about actually fucking. Which we didn't realise until after.
How do you think the band has changed over time?
You know, I actually think we are a lot more comfortable being exactly who we are. And no apologising for it. We’re coming up to twenty years, me and Josh together, we’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry. We've had some line up changes and I just think we are a lot more comfortable in our skin and with what we’re doing. The longer this act plays together the tighter we get… and you don’t really get to that stage until you’ve been playing with guys for a fucking long time.
Do you ever look back on the olden days and think wow there’s no way I would have thought I’d be doing this in 20 years’ time?
Yeah I mean it really is amazing to me. I mean it’s amazing when I sit and I think about meeting Josh in 1996 and to be sitting here talking to you about it. It’s crazy. We’re very fortunate. We do not take it for granted. We love what we do.
What’s next for Buckcherry?
Tour, tour, tour. Just keep getting on the road. Getting the new music out there, playing some of the older stuff. And just entertaining mass audiences of people.
Nice. Any chance we will be seeing you down here in Australia any time soon?
I think so. Brad who connected our call is working on it. Hopefully sooner than later. We love Australia and our fans have been so good to us and I can’t wait to get back.
|Posted on October 1, 2015 at 12:30 AM||comments (0)|
Who is the greatest rock band of all time? Depending on who you speak to this is an argument that could rage until the end of time. For some it may be The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, some might want to argue it’s AC/DC or Led Zeppelin, and for a younger generation it may be Nirvana. Personally I think you can keep all of them because there is only one clear choice as far as I’m concerned and that is KISS. For 40 years this group of superhero rock and rollers have been conquering the world with their brand of good time rock and roll and influencing generations of would-be rock stars. Their work ethic, particularly when it comes to touring, is second to none and there is no corner of the world the band won’t play; the same can’t be said for others. Once again the band has ventured to the land down under, which has always welcomed them with enthusiasm, as part of the 40th Anniversary tour. I caught up with guitarist and all round nice guy Tommy Thayer for a chat about the band’s rich history, the current tour and playing golf.
Rock Man: Firstly, welcome back to Australia. You’re here as part of the 40th Anniversary tour and Australia has played a big part in the bands success over the journey, hasn’t it?
Tommy Thayer: Well there is no question about it, and particularly in my journey with KISS. My first official show with the band was in 2003 here in Melbourne for the KISS Symphony concert. But of course KISS has been near and dear to the hearts of Australian’s for a long time. The first time the band was in Australia was in 1980 and it was akin to ‘Beatlemania’; when they came it was over the top and it was a huge tour. I was not here at that time, but I have heard all about it and I have seen all the photos and I have seen the newspaper headlines from that tour and it looks like it was over the top.
RM: So going back to 2003 and that KISS Symphony show in Melbourne, that is an incredible way to announce your arrival in the band.
TT: It really was because it was this full blown concert with the Melbourne Symphony at the Telstra Dome, at the time, and there was 40/50,000 people there. The entire Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was in KISS make-up and we recorded it for a live album and DVD as well, so there was a little pressure involved in that first gig I did. But once I got past that it has been smooth sailing ever since.
RM: Congratulations on all you have achieved in your career. Do you shake your head and wonder sometimes “How did I get so lucky”?
TT: [Laughs] Yeah, well I don’t know if it is, they say the harder you work the luckier you get. So I am not sure it necessarily is luck; I have been very fortunate but again, I have been fortunate to find a vocation and find my calling in life to what I love doing which is music and playing guitar and doing this sort of thing. So if you combine that with a lot of drive and perseverance like I have and a never-giving-up type of attitude, it all kind of seems to work out and I have been fortunate like I said. But it does have to do with how hard you work and how much you put into something as well, for sure.
RM: So I guess an extension of that is do you ever have moments, maybe on stage for example, where you think to yourself “Holy smoke, I’m in KISS, arguably the biggest band in the world!”?
TT: Oh, there is no question about it. I have had a lot of those kind of moments. I have had those experiences of looking around on stage or in stadiums and coming down on lifts for the first song as we were playing Detroit Rock City and looking out at 60/70,000 people and thinking “Oh my God, how great is this?” and “How Did I get here?”. But again, somehow it all works and one thing always leads to another and sometimes I have to pinch myself and think “This is amazing”, and I am so fortunate to be in this situation. But I definitely never lose sight of that and never take it for granted either.
RM: Now, in the past the band has brought some pretty big tours here however this time around you’re bringing with you the ‘Spider’ stage. How exciting is it working with this massive stage set up?
TT: Well it is really exciting to have a stage like the ‘Spider’ stage and we are really proud to bring it over to Australia. We used it all last year in North America and it was to great response and great reaction. The stage is big; it is massive and it moves and it really makes a big impact and I believe it is the best stage that KISS has ever used. I am just glad we have it here on this tour and I think the Australian fans and the fans in New Zealand are going to be blown away when they see it.
RM: So is there a part of the setlist each night that you look forward to the most?
TT: Hmm… that is a great question. You know, I can’t really say that there is one part that I favour over another part of the set. We build the set so it is dynamic and from start to finish, it is like a roller coaster ride. So every part of it is great and I enjoy playing every part of the show and there is never a KISS song I don’t enjoy playing either; it is a thrill to play any of them. So it is hard to say one song or one part of the show is my favourite.
RM: So further to that, how much influence do you and Eric Singer have in contributing to what the setlist will be on any given tour?
TT: You know Eric and I, believe it or not, have a lot more say in that than people probably imagine. If anything we might make more suggestions than the other guys in the band as far as that goes [laughs]. Sometimes we like to push Paul [Stanley] and Gene [Simmons] to try different songs and stuff that hasn’t been played as much, and usually we are the ones who do that. You know, just because of our backgrounds and being KISS fans growing up in a sense gives us a slightly different perception on it and perspective on it. Paul and Gene, they know it is tried and true and know better than anybody what works, but sometimes it is good to push them a little bit and pull out something that hasn’t been done as much. Some of the fans get a kick out of hearing other things sometimes; especially when we do the KISS Kruise which is a deal we do every year now for the last five years on a big cruise ship with 3,000 of the most dedicated KISS fans. We try to pull things out for that that are more obscure and unusual because that particular group of fans appreciate that more.
RM: And does that extend to the setlist for the pre-show meet and greet package you provide?
TT: Absolutely. A lot of people don’t know we do a meet and greet package and what it is, it starts out in the afternoon we get together with these particular special fans there is usually about 50 of them and they come in and we go backstage and we pick up our acoustic guitars and we do a short acoustic set almost by request. It is really cool and the whole idea is just really a personal sit down experience with the fans and we kind of goof around and shoot the shit a bit, and it is a great experience and people love it. So that is in the afternoon, and then we sign autographs and all that kind of stuff after we play the acoustic set and then in the evening before the show those same people will come backstage again and we take photos with everybody individually before we go on stage. But that acoustic deal is a great experience and we do get the opportunity to goof around like I said and play songs we normally wouldn’t play, some more obscure stuff and less heard songs.
RM: There is this mythology that when the band stated out there was this ‘all for one, one for all’ mentality within the band. Then during the 1980s/90s the band was viewed as the ‘Gene and Paul Show’. Now today with yourself and Eric do you feel it has gone back to that original ‘all for one’ philosophy?
TT: Well, I think it is kind of a combination of both. Everybody knows that Paul and Gene have had this band for over 40 years now and they started it. Now that Eric and I have been in the band for 10/15 years I think it is now a combination; ultimately they are running the band and in charge but as far as day to day stuff and making decisions about the setlist or other things, we are quite involved in a lot of that stuff too. It definitely is more that way now than it was say during the reunion tour or something, to be honest with you, but a lot of people know my involvement as well goes way beyond playing lead guitar. I do a lot of the videos and a lot of other types of things for KISS, so I am involved on a lot of different levels, probably more than other band members have been and so it is unique and a different kind of role that I play a lot of times. So like I said, it is a combination and I think we take pride in the fact that we have four guys that makes this band really rock these days, you know, it is a good combination; we have good comradery and we enjoy being around each other and it is a real band for sure.
RM: Recently there has been a lot of commentary from other well established musicians, journalists and even some sections of the fan base on whether KISS should continue recording albums or which members should or shouldn’t be in the band. I would have thought the only people qualified to know what’s best for KISS would be the four guys in KISS. How frustrating does that get for the band and what do you think is driving this need for others to comment?
TT: [Laughs] Well, first of all you are right it is ultimately and only up to the people in KISS and at the end of the day it does not matter what anybody else thinks. I think that our attitude is we hold true to that and you have got to expect this stuff; KISS is an iconic band and it has been around for more than four decades, and it is a legendary band and there is always a million people taking different points of view on this or that with the band or having opinions about everything. You know, you listen to some of the stuff but at the end of the day we make the decisions and it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks.
RM: So can you give me your thoughts on the fan base, the KISS Army. Every band claims to have the best fans in the business but none of them come close to the passion and loyalty of the KISS Army, is that a fair assessment?
TT: It is, isn’t that true? The KISS Army, I have never seen a fan base or fans of a band like the KISS Army or the fans of KISS. It is truly amazing and they are the best fans in the world; they are the most dedicated, and many fans come to hundreds of shows and they follow the band around the world. They are so intensely dedicated it is insane [laughs]; you have got to love it and it is really what drives the band and keeps the band on the level and keeps the band alive today with great support. So they are so important and we love to embrace the many fans we know and sometimes when they travel we tty to take care of them and set them up with tickets when we can and do that sort of thing. But we have the best fans in the world and it is unlike any other band or artist out there, I mean who puts tattoos all over their body, or they wear the costumes and the make-up of the band at concerts and that sort of thing. It is uniquely KISS and you can’t ever take that away, it is so cool.
RM: It appears to be a prerequisite if you have been or are a member of KISS, you release a tell-all book. Do you have any plans to put pen to paper and write a memoir?
TT: [Laughs] A lot of people have asked me that. I really don’t have any plans to do that. I read a lot, I am actually an avid reader and I read a lot of books, I read a lot of biographies, you know, particularly musicians and artists and things like that. It is always very interesting to me but I figure doing a book would be an awful lot of work and probably not much return [laughs]. I think it would be an interesting process to go through but in a lot of ways it really does not appeal to me either because it is a little too, you know, putting your life out there in front of everybody. I am kind of more of a private person, so again, I wouldn’t say it will never happen but it is not something I am definitely planning on doing.
RM: I would imagine you would have a lot of great stories to tell though?
TT: [Laughs] You know, you are right. I am in a unique position in this band because I had the opportunity to be around every member of KISS through the years and work with them all in different capacities and different ways. Either working in the band with them or behind the scenes with them, and I do have a lot of interesting experiences and a lot of interesting stories and things like that that I am sure people would love to hear. Again, I am not one to talk too much and I usually keep that stuff to myself or just for the people that are closest to me, so we’ll see, you never know.
RM: So as it stands right now, do you think the band will record another album in the future, and if so would you like to contribute a bit more on vocals?
TT: Of course I would love to. But when you do a KISS record it has to be definitive KISS and I think that is why it makes more sense for Gene and Paul to sing more of the songs and that sort of thing because that is the way it has always kind of been. I don’t see that changing and I don’t what to see it change either. It has been great the last two records we have done, Monster and Sonic Boom; I have had the opportunity to do a lot of songwriting and co-writing with those guys and that has been a great honour and a great experience to do that kind of stuff. So if we do another record I would love to write some songs and be involved just like on the other two records we have done. But as far as singing goes, you know, I like it but I do not know if there really is a place for it; there are so many other things we need to try to do and those guys do such a good job with what they do anyway.
RM: I have to be honest with you, I think there is a real place for it. I think your vocal contribution on both of those albums is outstanding, they are killer tracks.
TT: Well I appreciate that and it was fun doing them. Particularly on something like Monster, I got the opportunity to really start playing some guitar that is more my way of doing it probably. Or I should say playing guitar and having the opportunity to branch out a little bit more, although Sonic Boom was amazing and I love the record because the intent was to make a ‘classic’ KISS record and that is what we did from top to bottom. So again, on Monster I got the opportunity to play a little bit more and branch out a bit so that was kind of cool too. I would say doing another record is a possibility; we just have to see what happens because you never know, we don’t plan too far ahead with things but I could see it happen.
RM: So over the years the band has chalked up many milestones and awards. Recently you were awarded the honour of being named ‘America’s Number One Gold Record Award Winning Group of All Time’. How important is that recognition for the band, I guess particularly for Gene and Paul?
TT: Well I think being the ‘Number One Gold Record Award Winning Band’ by the RRIA is a huge honour. I think it is very significant, of all the American groups of all time KISS has got more gold records, so that just speaks for itself. This band is legendary and iconic and has this great legacy and this rich history that really underscores that when you get that type of recognition.
RM: Now I need to try and get to the bottom of a particular topic. In 2014 you joined fellow rockers Alice Cooper and Alex Lifeson from Rush to participate in the Medlock-Krieger golf tournament. So can you explain to me what is it about golf that attracts so many hard rockers and metallers?
TT: [Laughs] You know, that is a good question. I don’t really know why that is, but there are a lot of musicians that like to play golf and it is true that a lot of the PGA golfers like to play guitar and wish they were on stage being musicians. So there is this strange kind of back and forth there. But the thing that we do there with the Robbie Krieger and Scotty Medlock’s event is it is a golf tournament, but more than anything it is a fundraiser for St. Jude’s Hospital which is the most important part. Also the evening of the event there is a big music all-star jam thing. So you have got a lot of these guys that are legendary rock and roll guitar players and singers like Alice Cooper and Alex Lifeson, and Robbie Krieger and Danny Seraphine from Chicago, and Phil Chen who played with Rod Stewart, and Jeff Beck, have the opportunity to get up and play together. It really is a lot of fun and is quite cool. I was always a big Rush fan, particularly in the early days and when I hear that Alex Lifeson was going to be there I told Robbie and Scotty, I said “I’ve got to play with Alex Lifeson” and they go “Cool”. Then I said “We have to do something like Working Man” so they told Alex that I would like to do Working Man and he thought that was cool, so we played that and Sebastian Bach came up and kicked some ass on the vocals and it was a great experience playing with Alex Lifeson. And of course Alice Cooper is a dream come true kind of thing too, I mean getting up and playing I’m Eighteen and School’s Out and that sort of thing is unbelievable to do too.
RM: Once again, welcome back to Australia and congratulations on all that you have achieved. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you and the band all the best for the remainder of the current tour and for the future.
TT: Well, I sure appreciate it and we are excited to be here and we are looking forward to a rockin’ tour.
For more information about KISS visit the official website at www.kissonline.com
Australian 40th Anniversary Tour Dates:
Saturday, October 3 - Perth Arena
Tuesday, October 6 - Adelaide Entertainment Centre
Thursday, October 8 - Melbourne Rod Laver Arena
Friday, October 9 – Melbourne Rod Laver Arena
Saturday, October 10 - Sydney AllPhones Arena
Monday, October 12 - Newcastle Entertainment Centre
Tuesday, October 13 - Brisbane Entertainment Centre
|Posted on September 29, 2015 at 8:15 PM||comments (0)|
Ugly Kid Joe….. Remember them? Yeah that’s right, they were huge in the early 1990s with their singles Everything About You and their version of Cats In The Cradle. Back then their album America’s Least Wanted was the must have rock album and it appeared that they, along with several other up and coming bands, were the future of hard rock music. Then, as we all know, the grunge movement came in and ruined the party. After a couple more album releases the band called it a day and appeared lost to the pages of music history. But sometimes history has a funny way of repeating itself, because after reuniting in 2010 Ugly Kid Joe have returned with a striking collection of new material titled Uglier Than They Used Ta Be. The boys are currently on the road touring which is where I found lead singer Whitfield Crane who was up for a chat about the band’s history, the current climate of the music industry and the new album.
Rock Man: Firstly, congratulations on the release of your new album Uglier Than They Used Ta Be. I think it is fair to say this is a stunning album and I would imagine that the band is blown away by how well this record has scrubbed up?
Whitfield Crane: Yes we are excited. Anything you birth including a musical conclusion you are always excited about and you want it to be the best it can be. I think we have achieved that with this particular album.
RM: There was a period where the band was inactive for about 13 years, during that time did you ever think you would be in this position again talking about a new Ugly Kid Joe album?
WC: No, that was not a thought that I had. I thought the band was defunct or over; I would have thought that maybe 10 years in we could have done a reunion and then no one wanted to do it and so I think we all kind of let go of it. Fortunately Dave Fortman (guitarist) became a world class producer and thus we could do all of this in-house. So we threw everyone in the room, for this particular album we went to Louisiana, we worked 21 days consecutively and 13 hour days and I think the reason it has a good sheen or shine to this particular body of work is because everybody wanted it. Everybody let the musical flow come through us, it was a cool experience, very draining but very rewarding. But in the hiatus I never thought about it; I was trying to do other bands, I did a lot of different other bands, I was always making the effort to sing and then this (Ugly Kid Joe) was like a weird far away dreamy happening that I know I lived through that no longer existed. So I never thought this moment would manifest nor did I think it wouldn’t, I really did not think about it in that context.
RM: During the 1990s when the grunge movement took the world by storm a lot of the hard rock/metal bands that were starting out at the same time as you simply fell by the roadside. I always thought that Ugly Kid Joe would be the one band from that period that would survive the changing landscape and adapt. What do you recall about that time and were you shocked that the band didn’t continue on?
WC: I don’t know that the word is ‘shocked’. We had a lot of success very quickly and we lived a lot and we toured a lot and there was a lot to live through, survive really. Then grunge did come and it was a big movement, a big shift and you could sense that that shift was there. It was obvious and by the time we were done with the touring cycle of Motel California, sure the grunge movement might have been a component of why we stopped, but there were some other elements to it. We were strung out after being together and really living a lot in seven years, it was a lot, so you know, that was a component. But the other thing was we did not want it anymore, I think we were kind of spent; I think it was kind of courageous that we stopped. We did not hold on to something that was not there; we did not try to fane something that we did not want and miraculously we made another album and here we are [laughs].
RM: So fast forward to 2010 when the band got back together: who initiated that process; who was the first guy to pick up the phone and say “Hey let’s put the band back together” ?
WC: That is a great question. Shannon Larkin plays in a band called Godsmack, which is a real big American band. Dave Fortman went on to produce lots of other bands like Slipknot and Evanescence. In this case he was working with Shannon, his drummer from Ugly Kid Joe on a Godsmack record and I guarantee you they were sitting around shooting the shit, like you do, and they realised as I said before that they can just kind of do it now that computers are here; you can just record a disc with Dave and do it on the cheap and release it through the internet [laughs]. And they were like “Wouldn’t that be fun, to see what would happen?” So I think they had a couple of drinks and called Klaus Eichstadt (guitarist) in Santa Barbara and said “Hey would you do that?” and I think it is very important that it came from the both of them because I think it sounded more attractive than if it were just to come from me. He (Klaus) called me and I was like “Of course!”, so that is how that manifested.
RM: So here we are in 2015 and you have this new record out. Was it fun to record this collection of material?
WC: Yes. There was love, there was closure, there was familiarity, there was evolution, there was so many things because you realise that at the end of ’96, early ’97, when the band broke up everyone went on with their lives and that includes a lot of different living. That included marriages, or kids, or different bands, producing, all these different life experiences, so sure it was fun because it was just us together with all the common themes we went through, we had a lot to pull from. The band that stopped being a band in ‘96/’97, we still had all those elements but effortlessly we had a lot more because of the various lives we had all lived; we kind of like all met up again and there was an incredible familiarity to it. Some songs were ready to go, most weren’t, some songs did not exist and the thing about Dave and his producing, imagine his skill set that he has at this point. So imagine that and also included his own band and he was writing his own songs and that special element of that. So all of it was there and it was totally fun, again it was draining because of the consecutive days but, you know, it felt really good.
RM: So when you sat down to begin writing for this record did you have a clear idea of what you wanted it to sound like?
WC: No, not at all. We have never done that, maybe Menace To Sobriety we wanted to go heavier, as the catch phrase goes. But this record, we walked in and whatever ideas we had we threw them on the table from whatever band members; here it is, let’s see what happens, let’s see what makes it. And in 21 days you have got to cut the fat, straight up, there is no time to fuck around. So no there wasn’t any; we were like let’s just make a record and see what it sounds like, let go, relax, commit to the flow and commit to each other really.
RM: I would like to get your thoughts on a couple of the songs from the album. Let’s start with the single She’s Already Gone, which is a real highlight of the album.
WC: I think it is a great song. Dave Fortman wrote that song; it is a storyline of a relationship that has gone wrong or bad and proof that nothing ever ends well [laughs] and, you know, it is a great song to sing. For me, it has got the whole thing. I like to sing songs and I really like to perform, and for many years I did not get to do that and that is okay. So for me personally, to get to sing all these songs on this record, some of which I wrote, some of which I just sang, we all worked together but when I think of She’s Already Gone I agree with you, it is an incredible construct, it is a great song.
RM: You have covered Ace Of Spades, the Motörhead classic and you managed to get Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell involved. Can you tell me how that came about?
WC: Sure, I have a real deep connection with Motörhead, I mean I really love those dudes! They were the first big tour that Ugly Kid Joe went on; the Ozzy Osbourne ‘No More Tours’ tour in ’92 with Motörhead and Ugly Kid Joe and that was a whole summer and those guys have always kind of looked after us. I sang on Born To Raise Hell with Ice-T and Motörhead, and when I go to Motörhead shows they invite me to sing on stage and some people you have a really great connection with and it is uncanny and indescribable. So when we were tracking this record, I spend a lot of time with Phil Campbell and the Motörhead guys and I talked to him in passing “Hey man, if there is a need, if you guys make a new record I want to play on it” and it was like “Okay”. So when we were tracking the record it just sounded fucking dope and I’m like “What if we get Phil Campbell?” And everybody was like “If you can make it happen, sure do it”. Funny enough in the swamp of Louisiana, in the sticky heat of Louisiana, the phone rings and it is Phil Campbell calling from Europe on tour to see how the record is coming along and I said “Great, do you still want to play on it?” and he said “Absolutely”. Of course I said do you want to play on Ace Of Spades and he got excited about that, he was more excited, he has only been playing it for 30 years right, and he said “I’ll play on that song if I can play some other bits on some other songs” we said “Yes, of course”. We had a big pow-wow and he had consecutive days off in-between gigs in Wales where he lives, so we sent Under The Bottom, we sent the song My Old Man and Ace Of Spades to Phil Campbell in Wales where he got it done, sent it back and Dave mixed it
RM: Amongst all the heavy hard-hitting tracks you have got a couple of strongly acoustic driven songs like Mirror The Man and Nothing Ever Changes. How important was it to have a balance of light and heavy?
WC: Well, once again it was not thought out. We did not think of it. We threw up 15 songs and those were the songs we felt were strong enough to share with the people of the world and it just worked out that way. Do I think it is important? Not from a preordained way, there was no thought put into it. Do I think there is a great balance to the record after it is all done and being subjective? Absolutely. Sure, I think it sounds great but we certainly had no idea what we were doing, we never have.
RM: I would like to take you back to 1992. Your album America’s Least Wanted is setting the world on fire and the singles Everything About You and Cats In The Cradle are all over radio and MTV. It seemed to be a great time to be in a hard rock/metal band, what do you recall about those days?
WC: Well, I had never travelled outside of California. So I remember like all my dreams coming true at once; like we got to meet Rob Halford from Judas Priest, we got to meet Ozzy Osbourne and toured with Motörhead, and all that. It was a whirlwind; it was a lot, know what I mean? We went from zero to hero really quickly and I think the interesting thing about Ugly Kid Joe, and I may be wrong, I feel like we broke around the world all at once, overnight. So I remember travelling a lot; we toured two and a half years in a row, I remember that my girlfriend at the time said when I would come back off the tour my manners had gotten worse! I was swearing a lot because it was a pirate-esque existence, you know? Your t-shirt was a napkin. It was fun and the thing about that particular age, I think I was 24, that is when you should be living a particular kind of existence, and we did that. So I remember feeling really free, I remember not feeling a lot of consequences [laughs], a lot of fun and as far as partying and all those types of things, nothing dark yet it was all celebratory. It was good times.
RM: What are your thoughts on full length albums, because more and more artists are claiming it is not worth the money, time and effort making full length albums anymore. With the decline in music sales and the frustration of downloading are they still valid these days?
WC: Well, not in the same way that they were. All I can think about when you ask me a question like that is: what has my experience been as a kid? Now that is before the computer, way before the computer so when you bought AC/DC’s Highway To Hell you found Touch Too Much or you found Girl’s Got Rhythm, all these songs that were album cuts, you know, Night Prowler, you would end up loving those the most. So I think that model I lived, I think that model is gone. If anything I think it is disposable at this point and the world is moving pretty fast. So to answer your question, I think it depends on what band you are; if you are a band that has a brand or a heritage then you can pretty much do anything you want, you can put out a single or an EP [and] I am pretty sure it does not matter. But if you are a new band you probably need the material to play live, so you should make a whole record, so it is an interesting time. Obviously the [record] labels are over and that brings change and change is coming 100% either way. So the important thing for us, the way I look at it, this band now is self managed, we are self everything. We get it done and so what we try to do whether it be making an EP or a full length record, that is mix and match I do not think it matters for us. But what we want to do collectively and across the board, and this is focused, is to put ourselves in a situation where something great can happen. You know what I am saying? Surround yourself with great people, killer people and make an effort and this is the rub of the whole thing, make an effort to be grateful really. If you’re to be subjective like it sounds like you are being of this band, the story will write itself. We just played a sold out show in Brighton; 600 people packed to the guild in the club. It was fantastic, people were getting off on old songs, new songs and that makes me feel fantastic; I can’t let go of it, I am amazed that people dig this band. So that said, for all of us to come back together and make a new body of music and go out and do, we are in the U.K. right now the charts just came out and we are Number 9 and that is absurd [laughs]. The key is to realise, and I do objectively, is that we were afforded the opportunity to do this all again is a miracle in some senses. And also we have the option, which is really healthy for this band, to apply a wisdom that we were really never able to do at the end. Now that we are here, it might be 15 years later, but imagine the wealth of wisdom we have to apply to the now of this particular musical journey. But as far as making albums, I mean just make music, the thing is you need content funny enough, whatever you do I think it is important that if you are meant to make songs and sing songs then that is what you do, pretty simple really.
RM: So do you feel there are enough new bands coming out or are we relying too much on the vintage bands?
WC: Well, I would say it is a really strange time for rock and roll because all the headliners are the same headliners every year. It is like who was the last real rock band to come out? Was it Metallica or Guns ‘N Roes? So I am fascinated and I cannot really give you the reason why there is no new Iron Maiden, there is no Black Sabbath, you know, a band that can take the helm. So I think that component has been missing and I am amazed that something hasn’t surfaced yet, something massive, so yeah I think there is an element missing, you know, something has got to give.
RM: Finally, touring is such a big part of any band’s life. Do you still get the same buzz touring and performing today that you did when you first started and will you be touring the new album?
WC: Yeah, I mean I love it. I cannot get up to all the diabolical activities and survive it so I don’t, which I would say we are all a little clearer inside the band [laughs]. But yeah I really love performing and connecting. I can only speak for myself but I love live performance, I love that synergy of electricity of the guitars, the drums in a big pool room or a festival or whatever. So yeah I love it period. So hopefully we will do a summer run in Europe. Hopefully we will get to Australia, we are pretty big in Japan, and the world market is pretty massive over the last couple of years in Israel, Poland, Serbia, Romania, all these places, so you can expect us to tour and to see a great live rock and roll band.
RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of the album Uglier Than They Used Ta Be. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you the best of luck for the record and many years of continued success.
WC: You are a good man, thank you so much for taking the time to do this.
For more information about Ugly Kid Joe visit the official website at www.uglykidjoe.net/
Ugly Kid Joe – Uglier Than They Used Ta Be is available on Social Family Records.
|Posted on September 9, 2015 at 8:50 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with Gus G
By Dave Smiles
Gus G came to the attention of many metal fans as the guitar virtuoso within his band Firewind, who have eight albums to their name. He then went on to be known to a lot more fans when he gained the prestigious spot as lead guitarist in Ozzy Osbourne’s band. The more dedicated of Gus G’s fans will know him from his time in bands such as Mystic Prophecy, Dream Evil and Nightrage. He has also been a touring member of Arch Energy, and collaborated with numerous other metal bands.
During his long career he has performed and written music raging from hard rock, to power metal, to traditional metal, to death metal, with various other sub genres in between. Gus is truly a fan of music, and of the guitar, and is constantly seeking ways to continue his musical output.
With the frustrating line-up changes and singers quitting over the years with Firewind, Gus G is now focusing on his solo career and is all the more happier and refreshed in doing so. The results are evident when you hear his new album Brand New Revolution, which is the follow up to last year’s I Am The Fire.
With many of the guest vocalists, such as Jacob Bunton, Jeff Scott Soto and Mats Leven, returning Gus has a very diverse selection of musicians available to him to cover all his musical interests. I recently got to have a chat with Gus about writing songs, the music business, and of course working with Ozzy Osbourne.
First up, mate, congratulations on the upcoming release of your second solo album Brand New Revolution.
Thanks a lot.
So most of the singers on this album you worked with before on your previous solo album. Was it easier this time around having collaborated with them before?
Yeah, I guess it was. This is like a closer group of people that I work with. We work well together, very fast, very efficient. I send them stuff, they send me back stuff within a couple of days. We write songs pretty fast that way. It’s always good.
So you’ve been friends with these guys for a while. Is that how you came to know them?
I actually met Jacob during sessions for the first album, I am the Fire, which was two years ago. We write a song on the first album together and then we kind of clicked, and started writing more stuff after that. Mats I’ve known for around ten years I guess. I’ve known him from my time in Sweden and we always talked about doing something together. We wrote a lot of stuff for the first album, then we toured a lot together last year while we kept on writing stuff. As for Jeff, he’s somebody that I’ve not known that many years, I met him a couple years ago and we traded songs for each other’s albums and we just kept it up. We did a few shows again, became really good friend and we just kept on writing.
So do you write the songs with the music in mind for a particular singer?
Well, yes and no, if a song’s a bit more modern or American then I’ll send it to Jacob cause he does that kind of stuff you know, that’s his sound. But if I have something that’s a bit more traditional I’ll send it to Mats of Jeff.
How did working with Elize (Ryd) come about?
It was just somebody that I had in mind really that I wanted to work with and I write the song with another producer friend of mine in LA and we just sent her the song. I didn’t know her before we just sent her the song, invited her and she liked it and recorded the vocals and sent it back.
It’s a bit of a stand out track. It’s a bit moody and out there from the rest of the album.
I think so. It’s one of the best moments on the album. A very different track from the rest. It’s a very ‘produced’ track, there’s a lot of stuff happening. It’s even got some dub step beats going on, but there’s a lot of guitar work over it. But yeah, it definitely stands out, I think it’s going to be the next single.
Ok, cool. I was just about to ask if you had another song in mind for single release.
Yeah, I think What Lies Below is going to be the one.
Is there anything else on the album that might become a single in the future?
It depends, really, I mean we just put out Burn and month ago on American radio and it’s doing ok, it’s getting some air play in America and now we just put out a video for the title track. If What Lies Below does well then we’ll have to see what the third could be.
Is there anyone else you’d like to work with on future solo albums?
I’d like to keep working with the people that I worked with on this record. Write some more stuff with Mats or Jacob, or any of those guys. It’s always good. It’s a good team that I have with those guys.
Can you see yourself bringing all the singers together into one big show?
It could happen I guess, but it would depend on everybody’s schedule. Everybody has their own bands and they’re always doing shit. I mean for a winter tour and guy like Jeff Scott Scoto he’s doing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and that’s like from November until the end of January or Feburary. So if you’re going to do a tour you know that he’s not available over those four months. So it has to be some time Spring or early Fall. It depends. It’s kind of hard to bring everybody together. Sometimes it happens, like three or four months ago we did four shows in Sweden and Jeff joined us for those shows. And one night in Stockholm Mats was there in the audience and he came out as well. So for one show I had almost all the guys up there.
When it comes to doing your guitar solos are they planned out or are they more improvised, or a bit of both?
Both actually. It comes from improvisation and then I build it from there. For example, What Lies Below, that’s a very worked out solo part, that’s not like something you improvise. It was like a theme so I built that one up you know, so that it evolves into something else and kind of tells a story. The solo on the song Behind Those Eyes, and the outro solo is just like an improvisation thing. It depends on what the song calls for.
Do you have any songs you're particularly proud of, any favourites?
I like them all man, it’s hard to say. I was just talking to my band guys the other day about what new stuff we’re going to be playing on the upcoming tour and it’s only like a 45 minute set because I’m supporting Kamalot. I want to play a lot of new songs, I want to play most of them. It’s hard to choose, narrow them down to three or four new songs. I wish I could play them all.
Your music covers a lot of different types of metal and rock. You must have a wide selection of influences.
I guess, I mean ‘70s and ‘80s rock to heavy metal. I’ve been in Death Metal bands and Thrash Metal bands, I like a lot of stuff. I like guitar players from David Gilmour to Santana to Dimebag Darrel to Eric Peterson. Ywgwie Malmsteen. It’s a wide array of influences. I just like cool guitar players.
Any non-metal guitarists that you get a lot of influence from?
Yeah man, from Blues guitar players. I mean Gary Moore is one of my biggest influences. He’s a blues rock guy, he comes from a rock background. Eric Johnson, even Jeff Heally, or Stevie Ray Vaughan. Even going back like Albert King and stuff like that. I like all that shit.
It’s a pretty quick turnaround between your albums. Are you focusing more on your solo career at the moment?
Well it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? (Laughs) I mean, it’s something that is fresh again and it’s exciting. With Firewind I’ve been trying to make it work for so many years and there’s been all these line-up changes and singers quitting and stuff. The band got to a pretty decent level where we could tour the world and stuff. It got kind of tiering in the end so this is like a breath of fresh air for me so I’m really enjoying doing this at the moment.
Yeah, definitely. It’s supposed to be fun not stressful.
Exactly, yeah. Even my band guys, they’ve been telling me I was like a totally different person back then when I was in Firewind. I was so stressed. Now they see a totally different Gus, I’m more relaxed and having fun so I guess that says a lot.
How has working with Ozzy Osbourne challenged you as a musician?
It’s made me a much much better musician, man. I practised a lot more, I just wanted to step up my game, like a hundred times. I took it pretty seriously. I really wanted to do the songs justice. Because we’re playing big shows and it’s a big gig. It’s a big spot light on me as a guitar player considering who has been there before. And I wanted to do well. I know there’s a hierarchy when it comes to gigs like that. I know my name is probably right down the list of all those guys but still I want to be remembered for being a guy who did all that material justice.
How much pressure do you feel to carbon copy Randy’s solos or bring your own little spin to it? It there a level that you have to stick to?
I don’t have a problem with that. Obviously my approach is I see this as a fan, if I go to an Ozzy show I want to hear Mr. Crowley the way it was, you know? I don’t want to hear some guitar player doing his own thing. I mean, in those songs there’s always going to be moment when you put in your own licks. That’s inevitable. You’re going to have your own stuff and sound on it. That’s just inevitable, you’re going to do that. And that’s cool. But that doesn’t mean that you’re going to go out there and change the key and change the melodies and stuff from the way it was written. Especially on a lot of classics. I understand if you’re jamming over a Black Sabbath song and those solos are like blues jams, like the solo to Paranoid. That kind of song, or War Pigs, you can play your own solos over that, but when you do something that’s like an iconic solo, for example like No More Tears or Bark At the Moon or Crazy Train, you got to stick to those.
What was it about the guitar that inspired you as a kid to pick it up and learn how to play?
I think it was listening to Peter Frampton. Frampton comes alive and the talk box effect. That really had a big Impact on me. I thought it was a robot in the beginning. When my dad told me it was a guitar it freaked me out. So I was all up for that and I immediately knew I just had to be a guitar player.
Did you ever have moments of frustration when you were trying to improve?
Of course, yeah. There comes a point where you say ‘how do I get to that next level?’ There’s always moments like that when you’re practising in the early days. Sometimes it can be frustrating but you have to keep working at it. Sometimes you need to be a bit static in order to move onto the next level. Stay where you are and just keep pushing slowly. Play the stuff that you already know, get better and then move on. Especially when it comes to building your technique, getting faster, those are the most common frustrations among guitar players.
What else would you like to achieve as a musician?
Um… I’d like to see some growth as a solo artist. It’s off to a good start and I’d like to see it grow even more. Just keep making good music, man. Making good music, and hopefully expand my fan base.
How important is the use of social media to you? Because it seems to have overtaken everything these days.
It is very important. It’s a good thing that you can keep in touch directly with your fans you know. I’m one of those guys who use it a lot as a tool. I try to reply to all the stuff that they ask me. I think it’s very important. Especially being active on Facebook, or Twitter or Instagram. I mean that’s where it’s gone these days. It’s very cool because you can see your fan base, meet your own demographic. What works and what doesn’t. On the other hand it’s kind of sad that nobody really gives a shit about music anymore, right? A photo of a cat is worth so much more than a new song. And that’s the sad state of the business today; or not the business, of the ‘art’ of the music. That’s the only thing that saddens me. Everything else I’m cool with. I’m a technology guy. I like it a lot and I use all that. …but at some point we have to bring back the value to the music. Because music has become so devaluated these days. You know, it’s fucked up.
Yeah, with the click of a button you can get rid of a file instead of having the CD in your hand.
And it seems like people don’t even care about that. They just listen to fucking seconds of music and then move on. Like I said if I post a photo of my cat it’s going to get a lot more engagement than if I post a new song that I actually spent thousands of fucking Euros to record, produce and master and mix. You know what I mean.
And I’m saying this while my cat is looking at me. (Laughs)
(Laughs) I think anyone who has been a fan of music for a long period of time, who came from a time when we used to line up to buy new albums, they can see the difference.
I think people listen to a lot of music these days, maybe even more so because there’s a lot more music out there, but cause there’s so much stuff, so much influence, it’s such a fast food world we live in that it just doesn’t matter anymore. It’s a bit sad, because it still costs thousands and thousands of dollars to make a record, but it costs nothing to have it. I don’t know, I think it’s still in a very transitional period. Obviously streams is the new sales. I don’t know where it’s going to go with that. I don’t know. I’m not some fucking marketing genius or anything like that. I don’t know about math and all that shit. All I’m saying is I get the feeling that people take music for granted too much and it’s devaluated. What are you going to do when the music’s not there anymore?
That’s the scary thing. I remember when I was a kid we wrote the names of our favourite bands on our school bags, we had the T shirts. You could be the only kid in school who liked a particular band but it didn’t matter because it was ‘your’ band. Now kids have so many other things, they’ve got video games, they’ve got the internet, they’re not… alone anymore, so to speak.
Yeah, that’s the thing, it’s not exciting to kids any more. It’s just another song, it’s just another thing. I’ll listen to that for this week, or today and then move on. It’s just background music to whatever the fuck they’re doing, whether it’s a video game or whatever. With that said, there’s still the dedicated fans.
Those are the fans who still spend money.
Yeah, you’re always going to have them.
It’s important. Without them, there’s nothing. The good thing will be if more people realise that.
You’re definitely always going to have the passionate fans, and they’re with you for life.
Yeah. That’s the beautiful thing about that. I wish more people were like that. Like those hard core few.
Are there any plans to tour down here in Australia any time soon?
You know, we’re trying. I think it has to be the right moment when a promoter is going to feel that it’s safe for us to get down there and play. For Firewind it took us ten years to get down there, and still it wasn’t like any big shows or anything. Just club shows, but it was still good. I’m looking forward to it. I would love to come back. I had a great time. That was two years ago so I hope I can bring the solo show down there. I know that my agent is trying hard to make it happen but we have to pick the right time and the right places to play, or the right package.
Thanks for this interview man. Good luck with the upcoming tour. I hope it goes well.
Thanks man. Take care.
For more information about Gus G visit the official website at www.gusgofficial.com
Gus G – Brand New Revolution is available on Century Media Records.
|Posted on August 10, 2015 at 1:15 AM||comments (0)|
Interview with Russell Allen
By Dave Smiles
Russell Allen is the singer from Progressive Metal band Symphony X who have just completed their new album Underworld which contains some of their best work to date. It is their ninth album in a twenty year career. He is also a member of super groups Star One and Adrenaline Mob, and has also toured with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. A great performer with a powerful voice, Allen’s range has covered melodic singing to aggressive screaming depending on what the song calls for. During my recent interview with him we spoke about composing a theme based album, the effects of technology on music, as well as how he maintains his ability to perform to a high standard.
First up congratulations on the upcoming release of the ninth studio album from Symphony X Underworld.
Thank you sir.
You’re welcome. When you first joined the band back in 1995 did you think you guys would still be making music together twenty years later?
No. Well I was kind of hoping we’d have a long career. But when you think about the time it’s been quite a long time. Twenty years.
There have been a lot changes in the technology involved in recording music and distributing music in the past twenty years how have these changes affected you guys as a band?
Well it’s tough to say. We are going to see how this one goes because obviously the past three records have been put out with five years between them so for fifteen years of our career we've only put out three records, maybe four. The times change pretty fast. From Iconoclast to this one, a lot has changed. I hope it’s for the best but the biggest thing is that record sales are not what they used to be. The media can be quite extreme. The people now use Spotify and were more concerned that that will effect sales and make the label not want to put any more into promotion. What people don't understand is that the record company is still a pretty important part of creating a band’s success. I guess we’ll find out on the 24th how it turns out. I’m optimistic, I think the fans are going to come out and support the album. I really encourage them to buy it and support us because in doing so we can create a better tour and better show and will keep the band going.
When the album was completed was it everything you thought it would be or did it exceed your expectations?.
It exceeded my expectations. I have a tendency to be very, how can I say it… I can predict, in a way, what the album’s going to be like because I know these guys so well. But I got to say when I heard the record I was really blown away by how good it was. I knew it was going to be good I just wasn't expecting it to have this synergy and cohesion with the performances. Everybody just stepped up a level. There’s this thing that I think a band only of tenure can have. There’s an energy there and everyone’s just really comfortable in their skin on this record and gelling together as a band which is something I was surprised by. In the past everyone was doing their best and not out do the other members of the band or anything like that, it’s not a competitive nature within the band. But everyone is focused on performing individually very well. That’s why this record sounds really good.
When you guys where writing the songs was there a need to take things to the next level. Do you think it was conscious or it just turned out that way?
A little bit of both. Romeo defiantly plans everything out. It takes a long time to write these records, as everybody knows. At least get the riffs going. By the time the rest of us are called in to look at ideas and what’s going to happen. A lot of experimenting and a lot of passing around ideas with the other band guys, myself included in terms of story and things like this. You know, he definitely crafted these songs to be a certain way so that they would be heard as a whole, that the album would be heard as a whole. I was surprised that a few elements of the album came out really good. One thing I asked at the beginning when they were doing the concepts was I just wanted to sing something, not scream so much like I did in the last album. I wanted to get back to the old style of singing I did when I was a kid which was cleaner singing and more melodic. So we just went super melodic. I love writing hooks, I’m really good at it, and I love writing melodies and anthems. I love anthems. This album has a lot of that in it. It just came out great. So I’m very happy with it. It was intended to be a melodic record. Focusing on the details of the songs making sure that nothing was over played and over produced. But I think the result was, ‘wow, this band can sound like this. It’s amazing.’ I think we were all a little shocked by.
I believe there a running theme throughout the album based on Dante’s Inferno is that correct?
How do you go about fleshing out a theme for the album’s worth of songs?
Well, we talk about it in the beginning before any music’s written. Sometimes I’ll ask Mike, ‘What are you doing, what are you into musically?’ And he’ll answer ‘I’m really into this industrial sound’ and that kind of went through the Iconoclast stuff, and the theme for that. And for this one he said ‘I’ve got all this orchestral stuff I’m into. I wanted to do something with numbers and I’m into ancient aliens and all that sort of stuff'. So I said 'why don’t we do something about that?' We’d already done something technical, like a technology based thing so we couldn’t really go anywhere with that idea. So someone said 'well we could do a new version of Dante’s Inferno'. I said 'that’s cool as long as it’s a new thing and we get some of that numerology stuff going on there and things like that'. That’s how the conversation started. We were talking about Romeo and Juliet vibe at the beginning and that sort of turned into this Dante’s Inferno of the modern world. Like a modern day Dante’s inferno. That’s where it came from, from those conversations a few years back.
The two singles, Nevermore and Without You, they’re quite diverse from each other. Would that be a good representation where Symphony x is at right at this moment in time?
Kind of. One is very fresh and a bit of a departure from what we normally do. It’s just another step and evolution of the band. The riffs are kind of familiar but the singing against heavy riffs I haven’t done since the Five album. So the older fans they will recognize it but the other fans are thrown out a little bit but it’s all done on purpose. We want people to understand that the delivery of the vocals and things like that are all based on what the lyric is saying. It’s really hard to scream your head off when you have a really melancholy lyric. ‘My strings ring hollow, bleeding nevermore.’ It doesn't have that visceral attack that Iconoclast would. That’s just one thing, then of course we’ll have a little more of the stuff that people maybe didn’t get to hear in the last two albums. The record has a little bit of everything. Those two songs definitely have the fresh space, if you will. So I guess to answer your question it is kind of where we’re going. But the album has something for everybody on it.
When you’re writing your songs with all the progressive elements and the odd time signatures and the various parts with all the musicians and all the instruments and the singing, can it be hard to bring everything together into a structured song?
Well it can be but I rely on Mr. Michael Romeo for all that. He is the Maestro of the band. He orchestrates everybody’s music and stuff and musical ideas into a cohesive tune and I come in and play in my two cents here and there. I can write and produce too and we all work together to make as good a record as we can.
What’s been the most challenging thing for you as a singer?
Just staying in shape. I’m out there working a lot and constantly trying to just keep going and stay in shape. I’ve done also a lot of project work in the past five years and stuff and I’ve done another band. And my biggest challenge is just to keep my voice in top shape. And that’s what I’ve been focusing on and that’s what I’ve been doing.
How does performing in something like Adrenaline Mob differ to playing with Symphony X?
Well in the past with Symphony X there’s been a lot of brakes. You know, there’s a lot of down time in the riffs and songs. Sometimes I can walk off the stage and I’m not even back on for five minutes – the length of an Adrenaline Mob song. With an Adrenaline Mob song I can’t leave the stage ever. It was good for me. Adrenaline Mob really kicked my butt and got me into shape, so it’s good for that. So the Mob is a high energy show and it’s all about just keeping going. Keep hitting them, keep hitting them, keep hitting them. We very rarely slow down for anything. Maybe a ballad or two, that’s about it. Symphony X is more robust, there’s more colour, there’s more dynamics, just a lot more going on. And the band is featured a lot more in the show so that’s the difference. Having those brakes, which is great. You know? With the Mob I didn't realize just how out of shape I was. So it’s cool. I always learn from everything that I do. I learned from the Mob, I learned from TSO, I learned from the projects that I do. I always bring it back into Symphony X in one way, shape or form. Which is who I am as professional entertainer and singer song-writer. It helped realize I have to stay healthy to keep going here. So I’m in the gym a lot these days. Just to keep my body in shape, cause I am the instrument. So the philosophy is trying to eat healthy, and that kind of stuff.
Are there any songs on the new album your particularly proud of and looking forward to playing live?
I really like Without You I think it’s a great song. Live I don’t know but I’m really proud of it I think it’s a really good solid song from front to back and I’m looking forward to doing Hell And Back, and I really like Legend a lot. Those are probably three stand outs for me in terms of performing. I really want to get to the point where we can play the whole thing. Put on a really great show, cause the album was meant to be done that way. So I hope the fans support it. So please support us fans. The whole idea is to get us down to you guys, and the places we never been before.
So we’ll be seeing you soon here in Australia?
We’ve been talking about it and our agent said there’s plenty of opportunity down there. So that’s the plan. Right now we’ve got a couple of offers. We’re just trying to get something else going in Asia so we can tie it together. That’s the idea.
For more information about Symphony X visit the official website at www.symphonyx.com
Symphony X – Underworld is available on Nuclear Blast Records.
|Posted on August 7, 2015 at 2:10 AM||comments (0)|
Here is the honest to God truth: up until a couple months ago I had never heard of Blacklist Union. Then their brand new studio album Back To Momo came to my attention. With hesitation I put it on and instantly fell in love with what I was hearing. My initial reaction was “Good old-fashioned ‘80s influenced hard rock with a modern twist”, but as I researched the band’s catalogue I discovered there is more to this band than I first thought. So to get the low down on what this band is really about I went to the main source and founder of Blacklist Union, singer/songwriter Tony West. As it turns out my interpretation of Blacklist Union is completely different to his, which made for a fascinating discussion. We spoke about the history of the band, his thoughts on the music scene in Los Angeles and the new album Back To Momo.
Rock Man: Congratulations, Tony, on what you have managed to achieve thus far with this band. For the benefit of those folks who may not have heard of Blacklist Union, can you briefly tell me about how this band came together and your journey up until now?
Tony West: Well, how long have you got? The Blacklist Union story is a long one and it will not be complete until we go from the street to the elite and really start getting some real success. The story itself would put Spinal Tap to shame. But I can tell you that after years in Hollywood and auditioning for bands and searching for the "right" situation when I finally realised the "right" situation does not exist under any circumstances, I put together Blacklist Union and wrote After The Mourning with a guitar player whose name is not even worth mentioning. But that is a whole other chapter. We quickly made a name for ourselves in the wastelands of Los Angeles, did a record and voilà. I can tell you though that carrying the band has been no easy task. I have put all my money in the last 11 years and paid for all our CDs myself with ZERO help from anyone. I wrote all the melodies and lyrics on every Blacklist Union song, except the covers of course, and one tune off our first CD called I Tried. I believe in rock n’ roll, art and music and I believe in humanity. The personal circumstances I have had to overcome during the time of trying to keep a band together without proper management or business in place is outstanding. I probably have the absolute worst reputation. My name has been in the mix since I was a teenager in the rock circles in L.A. and it is all due to gossip, heresy and rumor and the fact that my name rolls off the tongue so easily. My teens and twenties were pretty legendary apparently because people still talk about it, so hey. I know what people say behind my back, especially the loser wannabes in L.A. and all I’ve got to say is read the lyrics. If you really want to know my story it is all in the lyrics. It is a play-by-play of the insanity I have had to endure all in the name of rock n’ roll. And it is going to do one of two things which I am cool with either way. It is going to kill me or it is going to make a HUGE impact and start an entire movement like so many classic records have done before. Back To Momo has that. Period!
RM: Can you tell me about where the name Blacklist Union came from?
TW: The name comes from not being politically correct and not standing for it and still being able to call people out when they try to rip you off or bullshit you. As a result, I’ve been banned from clubs, banned from clicks and so forth so it’s about taking a stand, being who you are and bringing back the true rock n’ roll outlaw.
RM: A lot of the older bands going around talk about the day they first saw The Beatles or The Rolling Stones and that this is what made them want to become musicians. What was it for you? What was the first band or artist that made you think “I want to do that!”?
TW: The first band I ever saw that made me want to make music was the Ramones, they [were] a huge influence on me; I’ve seen them since I was eight years old. AC/DC was huge like that for me too; but at five years old when I first heard Bowie that was the thing that told me what I was going to be doing for my whole life.
RM: If you had to list the Top 3 albums that have had the most influence on you what would they be?
TW: The 3 top albums, that’s a hard one…of course Guns N Roses Appetite For Destruction, Mother Love Bone Shine and I’d have to say Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols.
RM: Congratulations on the release of the new album Back To Momo. I would imagine the entire band is pretty pleased at how well this record came out?
TW: Thank you; yes we are very pleased with how the record came out. Our whole entourage is very important to us, it’s not just about the band, it’s about the team and everybody at the Westlake Village Recording Studio in West L.A. and our Producer Chris Johnson has always treated us great.
RM: The first single from the album is Alive N’ Well Smack In The Middle Of Hell. This is a pretty cool song which I think would have been real popular back in the 1980s, particularly with the L.A. Sunset Strip crowd. What has the response been like from those who have heard the track?
TW: I do appreciate the comment, however, we want nothing to do with the L.A. Sunset Strip crowd. We think that crowd ruined rock n’ roll and made it lose its credibility; so being compared to a strip club band in the ‘80s to me is more of an insult than a positive thing but Alive N’ Well Smack In The Middle Of Hell has been received very well all around the world and I would have to say for the record our biggest influence is punk rock.
RM: It has to be said that the video for the track is pretty awesome too. The band looks good and you are surrounded by lots of girls dancing pretty provocatively. Clearly this was a hard day for you at the office [laughs].
TW: The concept of Alive N’ Well Smack In The Middle Of Hell is about having to deal with Los Angeles. Everyone has an ulterior motive in L.A., everyone has an agenda. Most people do not have integrity and most people do not keep their word. Therefore it is hard to rise above the constant influx of negative energy in people; however it is possible but at the same time it is deadly.
RM: Tell me about the track Superjaded. This song is so radio friendly, punchy and melodic I would mount a strong case this should be the next single. What are your thoughts?
TW: Superjaded is a biographical type of song; it’s actually going to be our third single. The second single Evil Eye is about to come out but there was a debate about whether it was going to be Evil Eye or Superjaded. Thank you for the compliments; it’s one of my favorites on the new CD.
RM: Being an Australian, I love that you have covered one of our great rock and roll bands, Rose Tattoo. What drew you to cover Rock N’ Roll Outlaw?
TW: Well we love Australia and we love Rose Tattoo and Angry Anderson; they were a huge influence on me… I was turned on to them by a friend of mine who used to own a studio in L.A. and they quickly became one of my favourites. I’ve been called the “Rock N’ Roll Outlaw” for a good while now; it just seemed appropriate to do it and pay respects to some Godfathers of Rock that being Rose Tattoo. Also, on our last CD, Till Death Do Us Part, we did a cover of another Australian band, a song called Don’t Change by of course INXS.
RM: So what is it about Australian music that appeals to you?
TW: I don’t know if it has anything to do with Australian music particularly, but it has to do with being authentic and what’s real. Rose Tattoo is as real as you get and Michael Hutchence and INXS were huge influences on many people and for me, I would like to be an artist that is remembered as someone who had integrity, artistic integrity and was not politically correct for the sake of kissing ass or an agenda.
RM: Tell me a little bit about working with guitarist Todd Youth. What qualities does he bring to a Blacklist Union project?
TW: Todd Youth is someone I have known since I was 15 years old and I respect him a lot. He didn’t know me but I grew up watching his bands. With Todd, we were such good friends from the same school of music I didn’t need to explain to him, “Hey man, check out a band called Turbo Negro” or “Check out The Ramones” or “The Exploited” or “GBH”… he already knew all these bands and therefore it was very effortless writing with Todd and I look forward to doing it again.
RM: During the whole grunge period hard rock and metal really lost its way for a long time, but I think around 2007/2008 it really started to find its feet again. A lot of those bands that were starting out in the early nineties that had their careers cut short started getting back together again and kind of got a second chance. But I feel you were slightly ahead of the curve there with your first release After The Mourning. This album, to me at least, feels like a late ‘80s/early ‘90s record, what do you think?
TW: Well again, there’s nothing I really like about the ‘80s besides Guns N’ Roses, Jane’s Addiction and Motley Crue. The ‘90s was more for me Alice N’ Chains, Soundgarden and stuff like that. I think a lot of bands that had no career in their hay-day that are suddenly coming back actually ruins it for the new blood; I believe in re-inventing yourself, look at David Bowie for instance or Marilyn Manson.
RM: In my mind your previous effort Till Death Do Us Part is a real melting pot of various rock styles. Is that a fair assessment and if so, did you set out to record an album with so many varying styles or did it just naturally evolve that way?
TW: When I write a record I set out to write about my past experiences from those years. It’s more about feel, I set out to make a record to feel a certain way rather than sound a certain way and again I have my influences, punk rock… I’m into Warrior Soul, Mother Love Bone and live obscure bands so I’m kind of all over the map, it’s not your typical influences that’s for sure.
RM: Recently we saw Apple announce their new music streaming service, Apple Music. Now, music streaming services aren’t new; there is Spotify, Pandora and others, so how do you think this new service from Apple will change the music industry and what affect will this have on a band in your position?
TW: I don’t think it will affect anything in any way where it will be noticeably different.
RM: It seems that in recent years there has been a lot of social media infighting between artists and also fans against artists. Do you think the hard rock/metal community is as strong and united as it once was?
TW: No, I don’t think so at all and the reason why I think that there is no scene, especially in Los Angeles, is because so many people talk shit about each other and hate on each other that they have shot themselves in the foot; no one trusts anyone, there’s nothing anymore, there’s no camaraderie, there’s no community like there used to be, that’s all gone and yes it’s made music suffer immensely, it’s one of the biggest things that made music suffer. Fighting on social media is just ridiculously stupid; I wouldn’t even be on social media if I weren’t in a band. I think it’s not even real life.
RM: Once again Tony, congratulations on the release of the album Back To Momo. 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.
TW: Thank you so much for your support and reaching out. Blacklist Union cannot wait to get to Australia; we [are] really look forward to it!
For more information on Blacklist Union visit the official website at www.blacklistunion.com
Blacklist Union – Back To Momo is available on Blu Records.
|Posted on June 25, 2015 at 9:55 PM||comments (0)|
Rock Man: Congratulations on all that you have accomplished with this band over the years. When you formed Trixter with Pete Loran back in 1983 did the two of you dare to dream that you would have the success you have had?
Steve Brown: Hey thank you so much for the kind words. Yeah when Pete and I started this band I think we were crazy enough because we were so young, I was 12 years old at the time and I think Pete was 15. We had no idea what we were up against, so sure we wanted to be Van Halen, we wanted to be Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue and we did not think it could, you know, how could it be that hard? You write some songs, you put a cool looking band together, first and foremost you get a cool name, you know, Trixter, we put the X in there to make it more heavy metal. But 30 years later to be talking to you about it is incredible, what an experience, what a life we have had.
RM: A lot of the older bands going around talk about the day they first saw The Beatles or The Rolling Stones and that this is what made them want to become musicians. What was it for you, what was the first band or artist that made you think “I want to do that!”?
SB: Well for me it kind of started out almost like that because of my parents, my Mom was really into Elvis. I remember the first music I saw in the house, I remember Elvis, I think I was 3 years old when he did that Aloha From Hawaii special. So that was the first initial thing that I thought was cool and I used to watch all the Elvis stuff when I was a kid, but it was not until ‘77/78 when I saw Kiss for the first time and I heard Van Halen for the first time. 1978 that was the time when I went “This is what I want to do”. My brother’s girlfriend, I was over at her house, this was when I was a kid, and her brother had Kiss Rock And Roll Over on vinyl and I asked them “Can I borrow this?” and not knowing, not hearing it yet but I remember putting it on my turntable and listening to the vinyl record of it and it completely changed my life. And then a couple of weeks later I was at a buddy of mine’s house and he put on this 8 track tape of Van Halen and I remember hearing Eruption for the first time and just going “Oh my God! What is this? What is that?” I did not even think it was a guitar and he is like “No man, you have got to hear this, this is the most amazing thing” and it was. And a week later my Mom took me to guitar lessons and the rest is history.
RM: Can you identify an album that has had the most impact or influence on you over the years?
SB: I would definitely have to say that first Van Halen record because that one just, still to this day it is always in my CD player or on my iPod. I do not know what it is, to me it is a timeless record that never gets old, it still sonically sounds great, it to me has the best guitar sound ever recorded and it is just the basest I think of what I have built my whole career on. Because I think Van Halen 1, you know, as much as people go crazy for the guitar playing, I look at it as a collection of incredible songs, incredible production, the vocals, the melodies, it is just the perfect, especially since we are coming up to Summer time right now, I think it is one of the most perfect Summer time records ever created. To me it just speaks volumes and to me it is just my ‘go to’ always.
RM: The new album is Human Era. I imagine that the band is very pleased and proud at how well this record has turned out?
SB: We are beyond pleased, to say that we are excited about it would be an understatement. I think I have said this before, in the past when we made our last record New Audio Machine which came out on Frontiers Records in 2012, I never thought that we would make a record as good as we made that. So I hoped when I started writing New Audio Machine and I told the guys, I said, because everybody in the band, and I’ll be honest with you, was not 100% completely sold on the idea of even doing a new record. They were like “What’s the point?” and I’m like “Nah guys, we are really going to make a good record and it will be worth it, trust me on this”. And they trusted my vision, being the primary song writer and producer of the band, you know, they did that and as time went on the record just kept getting better and better as we got closer to finishing it. And it gave us this excitement and enthusiasm and we were like “Wow!”, we are actually making a record that I think we all feel the fans and even the critics was as good if not better than our past records. And that is very hard to do for a band, fast forward to where we are now, the fact that Human Era is on the shelves and people are just loving it, our fans love it, we are so proud of it and it is incredible to me, you know, and I am just so proud. I will say it again, and I have said it before, that you are talking to a guy in a band that is, we are firing on all cylinders right now, we are better than we have ever been, the band sings better, plays better, I think looks better, for lack of a better term and we are performing better than ever. So it is really a special time to be in Trixter right now and be in the ‘Trixter’ world.
RM: So further to that, do you feel that Human Era is the best representation so far of what the band is about or is that record still to come?
SB: You know, I hope the best is yet to come. Because getting back to what I was talking about with New Audio Machine, as soon as we got done with that and went on tour with it and played a couple of the songs it gave the band a new found confidence and energy and vitality. And an enthusiasm that knowing again ‘we are doing this and we are making great music and we need it’ and it is not about money because we all know there is no money there, but we care enough for our fans and for ourselves. And also showing for a band being 25 years old that there is forward motion, a lot of the older bands, I am not going to mention any names, you know who they are, but a lot of these guys in much bigger bands than us they say “There’s no point in making a new record”, “It’s this, it’s that”, “It’s a waste of time, there’s no money”, you know, I do not believe that man. I believe that the fans, they use that old line ‘all the fans want to hear are the hits’, I do not agree with that. I like hearing new stuff from a band, especially bands that tour every year. Yes we want to hear all the famed songs, but they wind up playing the same cuts every year anyway. So for us, what we did was last year when we were out we were playing Machine and Tattoos And Misery off New Audio Machine and it went over great. It fitted in perfectly with our old material because all Trixter is trying to do is be the best Trixter it can be, we are not trying to be anything else but who we are and giving 200%.
RM: For the most part your lyrics revolve around relationship issues, enjoying the good times and so on. But on the odd occasion you venture into territory where you have something more to say. On this record you have Every Second Counts; can you tell me about that song?
SB: Yeah, I mean, that has always been a pattern with Trixter. As a song writer I write every different kind of music, stuff that you would not even expect, whether it be smooth jazz, you know, really old pop-dance stuff that other people use. So I am always a fan of different kind of themes and I think all great hard rock records have those great party songs that we all love, but yet they have deeper meaning songs and then you have some of the heavier stuff and I think that is what makes a great melodic hard rock record and that is what we always try to do. Every Second Counts is one of those deeper meaning songs, kind of like Road Of A Thousand Dreams or Only Young Once from our first record. It is a song about if you are in that situation where you are going to live or die, if you have that choice, every second counts and you have to do it and you have to fight and do whatever it takes to survive. It is an incredibly powerful song and Pete Loran delivers an incredible vocal on it and it is a little bit different for us, it kind of has a more modern feel yet it is like a perfect Trixter song.
RM: The first single is Rockin’ To The Edge Of The Night, what has been the response from fans and music media about that track?
SB: Hey, like I said before here we are coming into Summer time. A perfect Summer time, light hearted party song, I think it is an instant Trixter classic, I would put it right up there with Give It To Me Good, Rockin’ Horse, One In A Million. If someone said to me “Steve, give me one song that defines Trixter, what would it be?” it would probably be a hard toss-up between Give It To Me Good and Rockin’ To The Edge Of The Night. Right now I would tell you Rockin’ To The Edge Of The Night, to me, it is the perfect Trixter song, you know, it has all the elements that represent what we are in 3 minutes and 52 seconds. And the response to it has been tremendous and the cool thing is it is one of our oldest songs, we went back to the archives, so to speak, and pulled this out. It was one that never made the first album, for reasons I really do not know, it just did not measure up I guess at the time or the producer did not want to put the time in to work on it. But I took it, I always knew it was a great song, I dropped a key down to make it more in a comfortable vocal register of Pete and as soon as I heard him sing it I went ‘Boom! This is magic right here”. Because I think Pete’s vocal is in the perfect spot, you know, to me he sounds like a cross between Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railway), Steve Marriott (The Small Faces/Humble Pie), those great ‘70s singers, Paul Rogers (Free/Bad Company), it just has that awesome classic rock sound and I am just stoked about it.
RM: If I can take you back to 1990, you released your debut self titled album which was a runaway success reaching Number 28 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart. What do you recall about that time and making that record?
SB: Well that was the golden age when bands like us, when new bands were afforded the opportunity to make, let’s say, the big budget major label record. It was an incredible experience for us, we signed our deal with Mechanic/MCA Records and the first thing we did was find a producer. We met this guy from California, Bill Wray, and the next thing we knew September of 1989 we found ourselves moving out to Hollywood and it was like something from a movie, you know, here we are a rock band from New Jersey moving out to Hollywood, California at the height of the Sunset Strip. It was an incredible time and we were part of it, we lived it and we were able to work in these great studios like the world famous Sound City, which is no more, Dave Grohl made that awesome documentary about it and we worked in every studio in that place making the record. And we worked in another famous studio, The Village Recorder in Santa Monica, which was famous I think Ratt did all their stuff there and Fleetwood Mac and it was just really mind-blowing and it is even more heartfelt and meaningful now because I look back on those times and it was kind of like going to Summer camp, like Rock and Roll Summer camp. We got a crash course in making records because we did not know how to make records and we came out of that process making our debut album which went on to turn us into rock stars, so what an incredible experience it was.
RM: The follow up album was Hear! in 1992; but by that stage the musical landscape had shifted dramatically with the grunge movement taking hold and, like a lot of young bands at the time, you found yourself on the sidelines. How difficult was that time and how did you navigate through that period?
SB: Well again, that was before we knew, when we were making it here we were on top of the world as a band. We had just come off 13 months of touring and when you are in a successful band you have management and road crew and friends, fans, you live in your own little bubble and we were certainly living in the Trixter bubble of being local rock stars/celebrities and enjoying every moment of it. We came home and all bought brand new cars, we made a little bit of money and we renegotiated our deal with MCA Records, so we were able to make an even bigger record than the first record. We hired James Barton from Rush and Queensryche fame to produce the record and again we went to all the best studios on the East Coast, New York, Pennsylvania and then back to Hollywood and we lived a complete rock star life. We had our own suites in hotels, we had our own Mustang rent-a-cars cruising around Sunset Strip, it was awesome, but we did not know what was going on around us to tell you the truth, and we did not care because we had just gotten off the Kiss tour and we just thought everything was going to repeat itself [laughs]. Little did we know that when that record was released that it was going to fall on deaf ears and I will say that at that moment we put so much effort into that record, making it, working so hard to really make a polished awesome sounding hard rock record, which we did. So no matter what happened with it we are still so proud of that record and it is kind of like a cult classic from that time.
RM: During the whole grunge period hard rock and metal really lost its way for a long time, but I think around 2007/2008 it really started to find its feet again. A lot of those bands that were starting out in the early nineties that had their careers cut short started getting back together again and kind of got a second chance. Is that how you guys looked at it with your situation?
SB: Yeah I think you are pretty right on that. Some of those bands stayed around pretty much through the whole 1990s and kept going. For us, we took a bit of a vacation and worked on other projects: P.J. Farley and I had a couple of great bands, 40 Foot Ringo and Stereo Fallout, all these great projects, we came close on many deals, we did end up signing a deal with a Scandinavian company in the early 2000s. But I think 2007 was the first year of Rocklahoma, which I think was the first time in a long time that was a huge multi day festival that featured all the great ‘80s hard rock bands and it kind of rejuvenated the scene and it was definitely one of the reasons we got back together. Because I saw that and kind of said “Hey, look at all these guys, why don’t we do this?” and I always said, back in the day, we all did, that we are not really breaking up we are kind of taking a vacation and when the time is right we will be back. And I think we hit the perfect time in 2008. Our first gig was Rocklahoma and it was an overwhelming success.
RM: In September to November 2014 you had the opportunity to play a number of dates with Def Leppard as the fill in guitarist while Vivian Campbell was recovering from cancer. During those shows did you think to yourself “I know this is temporary, but oh my God, I’m on stage with Def Leppard rocking out these iconic songs!”?
SB: I would be lying to you if I didn’t say that, of course, yes [laughs]. Those guys are like my brothers, you know, my older brothers, they are great friends of mine that I have known for 27 years. Phil Collen is definitely one of my best friends in the music business and has been a big supporter. So it was a natural thing when Vivian was diagnosed, I was the only person they called so I was honoured for that and the reason I got the gig was, which most people do not know, was not because of my spectacular guitar playing [laughs], it was because of the vocals. Because Def Leppard do not sample any of their vocals, everything is live, they sing everything and take it very seriously and so that was the reason. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life, there were definitely moments were I would look over my left shoulder and, you know, you are playing Photograph, all the years I have played in cover bands around New York, New Jersey playing Def Leppard songs, did I ever really think I would be playing with them, you know, playing Wembley Stadium? It was definitely one of those “Oh My God!” moments. But I have known those guys for so long it was natural, I did not get nervous before the shows, I was more excited kind of like “Let’s do this!” and it went over great and I cannot thank them enough for the opportunity.
RM: Recently we saw Apple announce their new music streaming service, Apple Music. Now, music streaming services aren’t new; there is Spoitfy, Pandora and others, so how do you think this new service from Apple will change the music industry?
SB: Well, the only thing I hope they do is that they are generous enough to pay the artists a little more money than all the other streaming services. I am sure you have seen the reports on Spotify, what they pay, it is horrible. I am just hoping that all of these billion dollar earning companies like Apple, they just kind of give back where they should and kind of level the playing field with all these other companies pay the artists and songwriters what they deserve. I do not really know, I cannot keep up with it anymore to be honest with you, personally I still like CDs and vinyl and that whole experience and that is why I always say, when we talk about making a record we make a record, I do not think about at all “Oh, let’s just put out one song”. I want a whole record experience, that is what I grew up on and I still think to this day that is important. And I think you being a fan as well and all of our fans and the fans of the genre they still enjoy getting a physical CD, opening it up, listening to the record, you know, start to finish while reading the lyrics and the credits, who engineered it, who mixed it, who played on it, I still love that and I think our fans do as well.
RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of the album Human Era. 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.
SB: Hey Rock Man thank you so much. Thank you for all your support, we love all our fans and we are going to keep on making the best records we possibly can.
For more information about Trixter visit the official website at www.trixterrocks.com
Trixter – Human Era is available on Frontiers Records.
|Posted on June 1, 2015 at 10:10 PM||comments (0)|
Since the 1930s the name Nelson has been synonymous with American Entertainment. In those days Ozzie Nelson was enjoying success as the band leader of the Ozzie Nelson Band. During the 1940s he and his family would be heard on radio and then seen across American TV screens weekly on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”. In the 1950s and ‘60s his son Ricky Nelson would become a Pop Idol, with popularity second only to Elvis Presley. So with the success of the entertainment business running through their veins, it is hardly a surprise that Ricky’s twin boys Matthew and Gunnar Nelson would follow in the family trade. In 1990 their band known simply as Nelson released their debut album After The Rain which was a runaway hit. The next 25 years however would be a difficult and bumpy journey; nevertheless they would survive and at the end comes their final melodic hard rock album titled Peace Out. I was fortunate enough to catch up with vocalist/songwriter and guitarist Gunnar Nelson for a lengthy chat about the band’s turbulent history, family history and the new record Peace Out.
Rock Man: Congratulations on what has been an amazing 25 year journey. When you released your debut album back in 1990 did you harbour any thoughts your career would survive for so long?
Gunnar Nelson: I think when you are 18/19 years old you don’t really think that far into the future, you just kind of focus on what you are doing at the time but you can only hope. I was really lucky I came from a family that has been entertaining for 100 years and I had a father that had a long career, so I had some good social proof that it was definitely possible to do. You know, I suppose when you are that young you really don’t realise that a whole career is probably more than a series of comebacks and that 25 years later to be still doing what you always wanted to do which is make great records, I feel very lucky.
RM: 2015 sees the band release a new studio record titled Peace Out. I would imagine that you and Matthew are very pleased with the final result?
GN: Yeah, thank you. I think it is totally normal for an artist to be most in love with their last project. But this one is actually pretty special, because this is a record we wanted to make; we did not necessarily have to make. We had made a very particular statement with the album which came out before, Lightning Strikes Twice, which was really actually made as a record which should have been made or allowed to be made after the debut record, had the world not discovered grunge and the Seattle sound. Basically everything changed and shifted quickly. But this record was really made as a ‘Thank You’ note to our fans who have been really incredibly supportive for the last 25 years, through times where it was not all that cool to be into melodic hard rock and stuff, and certainly not the Nelson boys. That is why we made this record; it was kind of our way of signalling that we were going to be moving on to a different kind of music, a different kind of push in our lives but before we left we wanted to give those people that have been so great to us for 25 years a little parting gift.
RM: So, more often than not when an artist releases new material you will hear them say things like “This is the album we have always wanted to make”, like you have just stated. Is that really the case here for the both of you with this record or are we just towing the company line?
GN: Oh no, not at all. As a matter of fact this was a record that took us; it took the record company a lot of work to talk us into doing this. Because on the one hand when you are approached by a label who is negotiating one side of a contract and they are saying ‘Well the industry is not what it used to be’ and ‘Woe is me’ and ‘Blah,blah,blah’; in a sense what they are asking us to do is make the same quality record that we made back in 1990, with a budget of half a million dollars for pennies. And when you sit there and go ‘Well we are out there touring, we are doing 100 dates a year and that is how most bands are making their income at this time and you want us to put on the brakes and spend a year or two making an orchestrated, well thought out record and you want us to basically do it for free?’. It is just really hard. If you are thinking about a business decision there is just not enough juice to be worth the squeeze. In this particular case, the reason we made this record was about the opposite to towing the company line; we really honestly wanted to do whatever it took to make the best last record we possibly could.
RM: From start to finish I got the feeling listening to this new record that you had a fun time making it. Was that the case or did it present its share of challenges?
GN: I think it is hard making any project where you are trying to push yourself, but man, this really was a blast to make. But I really wanted to make the statement, what I wanted simply was this: Nelson has always been a positive band, have always written really uplifting lyrics and at times I suppose, it is funny, some of the reviews I have read throughout the years, they have very little to do with the actual music itself. But if any of them had been negative most of them had been commenting on ‘Those guys smile too much in their video’ and ‘Their songs are just too upbeat to be rock’ and I do not think like that. I grew up with Boston and Queen and these bands that made me feel ten feet tall and bulletproof and when I started making music that is what I wanted to do. That is all I wanted to do. I wanted to listen to something that I had made that sounds like I plugged in a ten foot tall Marshall and let it roast, and I got my fist in the air and I am ready to take on the world. I always felt that life was dark enough without me helping it along. Whether that is rock or not, I wanted to make an honest Nelson record with Peace Out and I wanted to make a record that is confident after all these years. To let everybody know this is what we do ‘Hey man, this is what we do!’ and this is what we do better than anybody else on planet Earth. If we are going to be the guys that smile in videos or write songs like this then we are actually proud to have that mantle and that little space in music.
RM: So let’s talk about a couple of the standout tracks on Peace Out. Let’s start with Back In The Day. This song really struck a chord with me reflecting on a time when music and the entertainment industry was just better. Can you talk me through that track?
GN: You are talking about a time when people gave a shit. Is that what you are saying?
RM: Yeah, that’s right.
GM: Yeah, me too. And that is where that song came from. When I was a little boy, my first memory was sitting off to the side of the stage watching my father perform. I was not any more than two/two and a half years of age and I made that connection at that early age that whatever is going on here makes me feel great, I want to do that. And from that point on during a pretty rough childhood man, you know, through all the uncertain times, through all the times a teenager feels like a dork and they are lost and they are insecure and all that stuff, my music, they were always my friends. You know, when I wanted to feel a certain way, at the time, I would plug in a cassette or something. I would put on a band that I would want to hear and it would get me through those tough times and then what happened was I watched the accountants and the bean counters get involved with the industry that I loved. Very quickly after we released our first record the industry itself started to change and it was less about supporting bands over the long run and therefore supporting the fans who were investing in those bands and careers. I started to bemoan the fact that I don’t think that an Aerosmith would be allowed to happen were it to start now, Led Zeppelin would not be cultivated, The Eagles would never break, all that stuff, and I realised I was listening to my old friends more and more during those lost years when the world started wearing flannel and turning northwards to Seattle. Here we are 25 years later and I realised everything from the songs that were written to the image and everything they stood for seems to be put together with so much more care back in the day, so to speak. And I think that is why we all, my kids turn to the classic rock stuff, it is because people gave a shit about music and their bands and their songs and they were protective of the place in their lives that the music really took. And so when I started writing Back In The Day I just wanted to make a comment when I was doing interviews over the years and people would in a derogatory way go “Oh well, I wonder what it was like back in the day with you guys” and they said it as a slag. But what I really want to make as a statement in this song is, ‘I tell you what, back in the day, we are talking about a time when music was allow to be creative and it was allowed to thrive and it was allowed to prosper because it was great art is A-Okay in my book’. All of these changes between then and now, I do not know, it might be newer but it might not necessarily be better.
RM: Autograph deals with celebrity infatuation and really, who hasn’t done that in their life. Did you have someone in mind when writing that song?
GN: Well, you know, some songs are written from experience and some songs are written when you ask yourself the question “What if?”, and we have definitely had our share of psycho fans. 99% of the fans out there are really cool, but there are some out there that really live in a parallel universe that has nothing to do with the world we all live in. I have got some that still write letters to this day that feel that they got a very personal relationship with me based on nothing more than lyrics I have written in songs they have listened to. So I kind of imagined “What would it be like?” to be that person who is 35 years old and been following the band since she was a teenager and still had the posters on the wall and all that stuff. There are still a couple of people who are like that, and so I wanted to write a kind of tongue-in-cheek lyric from a fan point of view.
RM: Earlier on, we kind of touched on your whole ‘live life to the full’ mantra. On Peace Out that quota is covered adequately with songs like On The Bright Side, What’s Not To Love and others. How important is spreading that positive message?
GN: That is a great question. I personally think it is my life’s mission to do that. There was a time after my father died when I was 18 years old where I really had to make a concrete decision what kind of human I wanted to grow up to be. Funny enough, it was at that time that my manager determined that the best thing to do for young artist was to get them to travel, he happened to be Australian. He managed the Little River Band at the time and worked with John Farnham for years and sent us over, we were there for World Expo when it was in Brisbane and then Sydney and 4/5 other cities there and it was wonderful to get a world view. But what really impressed me about the country was how different, in a good way, Australians are as a whole than Americans. Americans tend to be incredibly competitive but in a really negative way. I made more friends in a very short trip to Australia than I had in a life time, at that point, living in the United States. It was inspiring to me and I realised through that whole journey that I have every right or reason, according to the press, to have wound up a statistic, another son that wound up dead or drug addicted or hateful or spiteful or, you know, our industry is littered with people like that. But I realised my place starting from the very first record with a title like After The Rain, that was really what I was born to do and it is not, to me I would like it to be a universal message but as long as 5% of the fans connect with it that is what we are all about. You know, the music was going to be a means to my end, and so writing this particular record it really puts an exclamation point on the sentence that was begun 25 years ago exactly with songs like On The Bright Side and What’s Not To Love. That is what Nelson has always been at its best and at its core is a band that does not say what a lot of the grunge guys say or the other metal bands which was that ‘life sucks’ and ‘you owe me’ that is not what we were about, our thing is like ‘yeah, life might suck, hard sometimes, from time to time but really the quality of your life and what you do with it is going to be up to you’. I do not want to sound like Tony Robbins (motivational speaker), but I really genuinely believe in this and as a result here we are 25 years later, you know, life is different I am still living the dream, I still get to do 100 dates a year, make the music that I want to make, I have got the love of a great woman and beautiful kids and all that stuff. So I was really set up to fail after my father died and I was not going to give anybody the satisfaction and I am happy to say this as I am talking to you right now, that Peace Out is definitely the statement I wanted to make but it was not a statement of ‘hey you will be sorry when we are gone’ it is really like ‘hey, I hope you get what I was trying to say this entire time, it works for me and I hope it works for you too’.
RM: Yeah, for sure. Can I take you back to 1990 and the release of the debut album After The Rain. What do you recall about that time and making that record?
GN: Well, it is a fascinating thing. They say that you have your entire life to make your first record and 20 minutes to make your second, so Nelson really was the world’s longest overnight success. Here is what I remember. I started playing music when I was 6 years old, I got my first drum set when I was 6 and I was a drummer all the way until I was 18. I had my first recording session when I was 12, the same year we started playing the L.A. club scene professionally, five nights a week. And we were holding our own with bands like The Knack and The Go-Gos, all those skinny tie bands that were hot at the time, The Romantics, all the bands that started with the word ‘The’. And, you know, we were a bunch of kids but it forced us to grow up and get our chops together, and we got our first record deal at 19 and made the record and had our first Number One hit on my 22nd Birthday. But that entire time here is what I remember: taking the music incredibly seriously I knew that was the only thing I wanted to do, I never knew the ‘When’, I always knew the ‘What’ and I always knew the ‘Why’, I just did not know the ‘When’. So when all my friends were going away and graduating and going to college and doing that whole thing all my well meaning friends were saying “Oh God man, give it up Gunn. You gotta get a day job, get yourself a career”, but I was so committed to what I was doing that to me there was not any choice. I think the thing that really got us through those dark times of doubt and fear was really tapping into feeling like we had the ‘mission’ that we spoke about before, without being preachy, we kind of felt we wanted to be the antidote to the “I hate the world!” bands that were out at the time. So what I remember at the time, I really felt like when we were making that first record and writing those songs, you know, what is great about being signed at that time and developing and doing all that is you have not had any hits yet so you really have no expectations. The record company does not care because they have got a lot of bands that, they need their cash deductions too, their tax write offs, if your band does not really work it does not really matter to them. They will write you off on the taxes and move on to the next one, they only really care after you have sold five million records and they need a follow up and that is what I remember. I remember working with John Kalodner who was brilliant and difficult at the same time, but you have to respect the guy who actually signed AC/DC, the guy clearly knew his shit. But making a record with John, especially building a trip from the ground up was anything but easy. But what it did was, he was so set in the industry he was able to inspire us to keep on pushing ourselves and do something that was different from everything else that was out there. With us he did not want us to chase anything that was out at the time, he wanted us to be the heavy metal Hollies and I suppose back in that day I was more resistant than I probably should have been but I was a kid. I remember wanting that first record to break so badly and have it be great and be different and I suppose everybody when they come out with their first record they want the same thing. But this was never a hobby for me, you know, Matthew and I, despite what some people may think were never ‘Trust Fund Kids’. When our Dad died he was $4.5 million in debt and it took ten years to pay everything back he had done, and the only way for me to do that is really be successful in music because I was not qualified to do anything else. I put all my eggs in that one basket and I am really grateful that at least before the world turned to grunge we were able to have one giant record. It was a great time, I have to be honest with you, those last couple of years of the ‘80s were really decadent in a pretty cool way.
RM: So here is where things get interesting. After the runaway success of After The Rain you go back into the studio to record the follow up album Imaginator, which was reported as being an edgy, heavier album. However, the powers that be at Geffen Records don’t like it and tell you to record something else. The result is the very acoustic driven Because They Can. You put in all this time and work on Imaginator, were you offended or hurt when Geffen told you they thought it was rubbish?
GN: Well, it was crushing but see here is the problem: it was not our fault. I am the first guy to raise my hand and say we delivered a shitty record but that is not what happened. What was going on is this: the label, because of the success of Nirvana, all of this stuff was financially driven, all these years looking back on it this was not a natural cultural thing where the people stood up and said “I am tired of all that hair band stuff”, “I am tired of Living On A Prayer, I want to develop a heroine problem and wear flannel”, that is not what happened. What happened was the six biggest guys in the music industry secretly got together and they had a meeting and they said “Boys we have a problem. Records have become way too expensive to make, the process is bloated. Whitesnake wants one million dollars to make a video, Aerosmith are spending three million every time they go into the studio and don’t get me started on Def Leppard. So what are we going to do here?”. One of those guys said “What we can do is we can go up and we can get some of those independent labels and buy them out, we can buy completed records and those people will make music for a song”. The same exact thing happened when disco died; Donna Summer was talking in those dollars, back then one million to make a record, all those guys got together back then and said “We are going to shift things up, we are going to England and sign these punkers who will work for a fifth of Jack Daniels and a Happy Meal”. And everything shifted and records were cheap to make. Same thing happened with the rap thing, rap is very inexpensive to make, people actually make it on their computer at home and these cool “Producers” go out and find people to make their “beat”. They spend pennies on the dollar for the people, they basically steal all their work and they put some price to it and they are done. So bang for the buck is far more cost effective to make, let’s say, a punk record or a grunge record that was already done. So this industry has survived a lot of financial paradigm shifts that had been devastating. I mean, think about this, back in the day what was your video outlet say 1990? What was the big video channel you used to watch in Australia?
RM: I remember MTV was pretty big here still and we had a few of our own locally produced show like Video Hits, for example.
GN: Okay cool, so I am sure the same thing happened; it seemed like overnight if you were not from Seattle they were not playing you. It just changed overnight, this was not like a gentle, gradual thing we are like talking within the same week, a mandate literally went out saying “Spread the word, we had our meeting and we are not playing any of these bands anymore”. So at the time MTV Worldwide was the world’s largest radio station and when you actually lose the ability to reach you audience there is really nothing the band can do, bands just implode. Now for us, we were in a situation where our label literally tied us to a post and whipped us for not running, there was nothing we could do. The problem for them was that Nelson had sold so many records; we had already made them 25 million dollars so they could not just drop us off the label when their agenda changed. So they had to keep us, it would have been embarrassing if they let us go and we got signed by Polygram and had another big hit, they would not allow that to happen. But they were not going to come out and say “Hey you guys, guess what? You guys are uncool and our agenda has changed”, so there was nothing we could do. So what they did was they just kept sending us back into the studio, they just kept sending us in and sending us in. Because here is the thing, if we had quit they would not owe us any severance but we refused to quit. So they had a three album deal and kept sending us back into the studio and what we thought was when John Kalodner’s record deal timed out he was going to take Aerosmith and us and move over to Sony, which is where he went to go. But I guess I had said too many things out of frustration to John Kalodner and I guess I was not worth the squeeze so he kind of left Matthew and I at Geffen to rot. And he took Aerosmith and those guys still had a couple more records, but it still was not the same as it was with Pump and Get A Grip, the times had changed, everything had really changed. So for us those lost years, you are right, it got interesting.
RM: Eventually Imaginator was released on your own label Stone Canyon. For the record let me say I thought it was a damn good album. I wish it had been released when it was first recorded.
GN: Well thank you man, I do agree. See the funny thing was when we had the meeting with all the people at the label and I do not know what they were hoping for, you know, maybe After The Rain Pt. II maybe what they really wanted to hear was like Lightning Strikes Twice, that is probably what they wanted, if they were going to give it any push at all because their agenda changed. But I will tell you what, when we played that record and the look on their faces was so different from what they expected, they said “This is never going to work” and “This kind of music is never going to work and the kids are going to hate it” and “Blah, blah, blah” and then seven months later the Metallica ‘Black’ album came out. So I mean hindsight being 20/20, they should have released the damn record when we tried to.
RM: More and more artists are coming out saying that it is getting to the point where it is not worth making full length albums anymore, given the decline in record sales, the popularity of iTunes and downloading. What are your thoughts? Are full length albums still valid in this day and age?
GN: Well, I mean it really depends. I think what we are seeing is a return to the way the industry was when my father started making music in the ‘50s, it was really more of a singles market. He and Elvis were the only two people in the ‘50s to have Number One albums because it was so singles driven, but I think back in that day you had to be a huge established artist to make whole length albums really worth it because other acts at the time were selling a single and a B-side. I understand where people are coming from with that kind of a statement, I mean look, straight up there are labels out there and I am not going to name any of them because I know some of them way too intimately unfortunately, that would be completely happy with a band like ours giving them a collection of demos, they put a pre-package on it and they sell it to the fans like it is a new so and so record. There have been lots of arguments between our side and their side and, you know, we do not shit in public man, that is not what we do because our music will live a lot longer than we will. There is going to be a point in time when people are going to go back, this is what I imagine anyway, people are going to listen the albums and they are going to be great pieces of work or they are not. I only did one cash grab in my life and only one album that I would not have done, if I could take it back there was one great song on it that I absolutely love, so that was kind of the saving grace of that record. But I would never ever do The Silence Is Broken record again. That was a time when we had been starved out by Geffen and we were really in bad straights and so much time had gone by and we hadn’t started touring again. But that was one of those things where honestly, that record was not ready to be released it was not strong enough, not to my quality standards. I really do love the song Ghost Dance, I think that is the saving grace.....
RM: Wow that is interesting to hear because I really love that record too [laughs].
GN: Cool man, I am so glad you do. I could have made that record better but the label at the time was like “We need this quick” and half the tracks on there I would have taken back into the studio and I would have got a better mixer and I would have got the sound better, I could do better work. After I did that I just realised from that point on it does not matter what I am working on I am going to give it my best and it does not matter if anybody buys these thing I want to be proud of the music I make. And I think that would be the industry turning to more of a singles oriented industry and downloads, here is what I think, I think the future is not really going to be in singles anymore, it is going to be in videos. Just like people use to do demos and all that stuff, man I think nowadays you can spend a reasonable amount of money and make a great video, I am really proud of our Rockstar video which just came out. It is a great video and we did not break the bank to make it but I think it looks great, you get a great director of photography and stuff, to me I think the legacy that is going to last in going into the future is a large collection of really well made videos. And I know that is what Matthew and I are really talking about right now because all those album titles from The Silence Is Broken to Lightning Strikes Twice and Peace Out, we are going to revisit our catalogue and just because we are not going to be making new Nelson records does not mean we are not going to go back and making videos for some of those songs we really feel should have seen the light of day. There are going to be at least five cuts off Lightning Strikes Twice and another five cuts of Peace Out that we are going to do videos for and I am excited about that.
RM: Look once again, congratulations on the release of the album Peace Out. 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.
GN: Hey thank you so much and thank you for all the support.
For more information about Nelson visit the official website at www.matthewandgunnarnelson.com/
Nelson – Peace Out is available on Frontiers Records.
|Posted on May 7, 2015 at 10:50 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal
By Dave Smiles
I knew of Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal as a member of the new Guns N Roses. Until recently I knew very little else about him. With the release of his new solo album Little Brother Is Watching I decided I would do some research into what this guy is all about. I discovered he has released ten solo albums since the early 90s, a bunch of on-line only singles and collaborated with numerous artists of varying genres. In addition to that, he has appeared on tribute CDs and compilations, and engineered and produced countless albums as well. He has certainly found many ways to make a living off music as well as working on the board of directors on the MS Research Foundation, raising money for Multiple Sclerosis.
In addition to playing Rock and Metal, he is also skilled in Blues, Classical and Jazz. He has dedicated to his craft and a life time music fan. Thal now aims to share not only his music, but all that he has learned about it to help younger musicians pursue their own ambitions.
The new album, Little Brother Is Watching, was composed, produced, recorded and mixed by yourself. What difficulties do you face taking all this on board and is it possible to get too close to your work that you can’t make the harsh suggestions that a producer might?
I've worn each of these hats individually, as well as stacking them on my head. After decades, I've developed a good feel (or multiple personality disorder?) for swapping hats like flicking a switch. It's very natural, and I enjoy all the hats. Ah, but where the closeness really becomes an issue is in ‘mastering’ the final mixes, that final process of giving all the mixes consistency in their tone, energy... that's where you've stared into the microscope for so long and are really at the point of making fractional changes that can spiral you into obsession. But I want to give everything I can give - that means doing everything I do, giving every piece of myself into what you hear, and leaving nothing out. Stack o' hats.
Do you have any favourite songs on the album, and are there any parts on there where you think you have exceeded your own capabilities?
The sweeping backing vocal harmonies, especially in Argentina. I like how everything turned out, but overall I feel like there's something that resonates deeper with Don't Know Who To Pray To Anymore.
Lyrically, the themes of the title track focuses on modern society and how everything is on display. What are some of the other songs about and what was the motivation behind them?
Everything was motivated by life experiences, I can give a run-through.
Clots was written about doctor visits after they found a tumour.
Little Brother Is Watching talks about how we're all under each other's watchful eye and the pressures it can cause.
Argentina is a love/tragedy story about jumping into something without thinking it through, realizing that the parties involved both expected something different from the other, and how in the end the emotions turn dark, bitter, into hurting each other – it can be about any kind of relationship.
Don't Know Who To Pray To Anymore is about losing faith, and needing to make peace before you're able to move forward.
Cuterebra has some of my favorite lyrics – it compares the life-cycle of a parasitic fly to ‘gossip’, how seeds are planted, they grow beneath the skin and eventually surface, grow their wings and land on the next person.
Livin' The Dream is about touring, the transitions of bouncing between two sides of your life.
Higher is about enjoying your life ‘now’, giving yourself good memories, and how certain songs can be the soundtrack to these moments.
Women Rule The World, well, self-explanatory, (laughs).
Sleepwalking is about being disassociated from your own actions, not facing what you need to.
Eternity is a ballad, about looking forward to waking up each morning with your 'better half'.
There's musical building blocks of David Bowie, George Harrison and Stevie Wonder throughout the album... oh, and Iron Maiden & Manowar! Can maybe hear a bit of that in the final song “Never Again”, a song about admitting to yourself it's time to let go of what you need to. The album is a collection of individual stories, each has its own character.
How do you feel your playing has progressed over the years?
I think I've been improving the way I play within a song and when to leave space, and a better 'pocket' with the song's rhythm. Or at least I hope? (laughs).
Are you ever satisfied with your progression as a guitar player, or are you always pushing yourself?
The way I see it, there's an endless road in front of you. No matter how far you've gone, you're always at your beginning, with no limit to how far you can go.
How do you keep your playing fresh and inspired?
That comes from within. You need to keep the poison out of your soul, the things that drain you of your passion. Never forget why you picked up a guitar – we receive so much from music as listeners, and want to give it back. That's all that matters, share with good energy and give back to the world the things you've enjoyed most from what you've received.
How have you managed to make a living off of guitar playing and what advice would you give to aspiring musicians wanting to make a living as a musician?
Be diverse. One thing can't be your 'everything'. Everything you do, do for others as well. If you learned, ‘teach’ what you learned. It's not just about receiving music and making music – it's about taking the gift others gave to you when they taught you how to make music, and pay it forward. When you see a student achieve and have a positive impact on others, or when your efforts help with children's needs, that's when you can say 'it was all worth it'.
You compose TV jingles, theme songs and background music. How has doing these challenged you as a musician?
The easy part is that you have a definite set of parameters and boundaries to create within. The challenge is that you have a definite set of parameters and boundaries to create within. The easy part is that you have a visual guide that the music must accompany and compliment. The challenge is that you have a visual guide that the music must accompany and compliment. Having lines already drawn on the canvas is not unlike other types of collaborations, instead of with a lyricist or band, it's with something visual. It helps you get better at describing and matching what you see with what you hear.
You have released a number of download only singles. Was this due to the changes in the music industry, or due to your commitments with Guns N Roses taking up too much time?
It was definitely embracing the technology, options we only dreamed of in the past. But yes, with all the touring and time-juggling, there was little possibility of dedicating and focusing on an album, with the needed momentum. I was able to release a song every month, keep a constant simmer of music going throughout the year, and include format choices, instrumental versions, backing tracks, transcriptions, and mix stems with every song. It was the right way to go.
A lot of bands are choosing to not release full length albums due to the cost associated with recording cost, piracy, etc. Do you think full length albums are doomed?
We have lots of choices in how we can put out music, it's a good thing. It doesn't mean albums are doomed, we're now able to fill in the grey area between album & single with more distribution options. Anyone can do anything any which way, good for all.
What first got you interested in music and what was it about the guitar that inspired you to learn to play it?
I heard the KISS Alive! album when I was 5 years old, I knew as soon as I heard it.
Who are some of the musicians who have influenced you as a musician and are there any new guitarists who stand out for you?
It was songs, and bands in the beginning – lots of classic rock and punk, which at the time was the current music... every few months you had new albums from bands like Kiss, the Stones, Yes, Sabbath, Deep Purple, AC/DC, the Who, Pink Floyd, Ramones, Led Zep, Queen... from there I started getting into old-school metal, prog, but guitar-wise Eddie Van Halen had the biggest impact, totally flipped my world upside-down the first time I heard the Mean Street intro... I was into Angus Young, Jimi Hendrix, but when I heard Eddie Van Halen everything changed... newest guitarist & band that I totally dig is Tom Monda of the band “Thank You Scientist”. It's a ‘must hear’.
What else would you like to achieve as a musician?
I want to do more to help young musicians... biggest goal is to make a festival that brings attention to all the fantastic independent bands I've heard around the world – they deserve recognition.
What five albums would you bring to a deserted island?
I always end up listing 30 albums when asked, (laughs) just five? GAAAAHHH! Okay, this list will change in 5 minutes but let's try this...
1. Manowar - Battle Hymns
2. Yes - Going For The One
3. The Shaggs - Philosophy Of The World
4. Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour
5. Os Mutantes - Os Mutantes
For more information about Bumblefoot visit the official website at www.bumblefoot.com
Bumblefoot - Little Brother Is Watching is available now on iTunes
|Posted on April 27, 2015 at 10:35 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with Markus Grosskopf
By Dave Smiles
With a career spanning three decades, consisting of fifteen studio albums, three live releases, and countless singles, Helloween have ventured into various styles of metal such as thrash, speed, traditional, but the genre that is almost synonymous with the band is Power Metal. While they may not have technically invented the genre, they certainly perfected it. With the release of genre defining duel classics The Keeper Of The Seven Keys Parts 1 and 2 (1987/88), the band set the precedent for what Power Metal bands are graded against to this day.
Not content to stay pigeonholed, the band kept moving forward, exploring as many of the dynamics avaiable to them within the Helloween sound as they could. While the band may have had hits and misses -- 1993’s Chameleon may have even less fans than Metallica and Lou Reed’s collaboration Lulu -- the band have never been afraid of taking chances, writing music for them and striving ahead in the face of setbacks and adversity.
Throughout their three decade career the band have experienced as many line-up changes as they have different styles of songs released to their name. Early thrash metal tracks like Murderer and Ride The Sky are as far removed as can be from the acoustic ballad In The Middle Of A Heartbeat and the haunting If I Could Fly, but while these songs are diverse they are unmistakably Helloween.
With the upcoming release of the band’s new album My God Given Right, bassist and founding member Markus Grosskopf hit the press circuit to promote the album. It was an honour to talk to one of the musicians that I’ve been listening to since I was ten. One thing I have always liked about Helloween is that in addition to writing great songs they have always kept it fun, and after talking to Markus it is evident that it comes naturally.
First of all, mate, congratulations on the upcoming fifteenth Helloween studio album - My God Given Right.
Thank you, it’s like the fifteenth, right? I almost forgot. (Laughs)
(Laughs) Leave it up to the obsessive fan to remember.
When you’re doing the records you don’t think about how many it is but after it’s done you think My God, it’s a lot of music in your life.
It is a lot of music over the years. When the album was all finished, was it everything that you had hoped it would be?
Yeah it’s nice we got that couple of tracks that we wrote, individual, writing songs. That’s how we start, you know and then you never know what’s coming up from the other people, cause we’re like four song writers and it’s always interesting to hear what comes out of it. I mean, we know, we write songs for Helloween and it gets easier with the years to trim tracks so it sounds like a Helloween track, but we were kind of surprised when we heard that track My God Given Right, thinking it’s a killer album name. It came out very very early that it’s going to be the title track.
Was there a story behind the title?
It’s my God given right that you can actually do and say whatever you like as long as you’re not hurting anybody else, or your neighbour or whatever, what so ever, we can go out doing music, that’s out God given right to do that if you like to live with the consequences cause if you start it’s not going to be easy but still, if you like, you can go out there and try to make it. It’s what we thought was cool. It’s a cool theme, but it doesn’t go for only music. It’s for whatever you’d like to do, you have to start, you have to carry on, it’s your right to go as far as you’d like.
It is a very cool concept. Are there any songs on the album that you are particularly proud of?
I’m proud of the whole fucking shebang, you know? It’s like when you start an album, it’s like wow when you sit with a piece of paper just trying to get a song together, you think ‘I’ve got a lot to do, there’s nothing yet.’ In a couple of months people expect you to do a record. And then when you hold it in your hand, of course you’re proud of the whole concept with the artwork, with the whole shebang, you know? It’s not only particular songs, you know. That comes a couple of months later when you’re listening to it and one or the other songs will stick out. But now that it’s been finished it’s like the whole package. After a couple of weeks listening to it, one or the other songs sticking out a little more, actually. That’s the way it goes with me.
Is that how you would go about picking what songs you would play live?
Maybe, but also we think what songs could be easy to play for people to follow so we can involve the audience sometimes, ‘this is a great part to go for them’ whatever. We play them, and if you listen to them you think this is going to be cool, it’s never going to get out of my head so it might be nice for the audience as well and good in the live set.
When you guys first started making music together back in the early eighties, did you ever think you would be doing it thirty years later?
We were actually trying to do some music that would be lasting for a very long time. We weren’t thinking of doing it for two or three years and then doing something different. We were trying to create Helloween as a band that would last longer than two or three or five years. We were kind of on the right track. That’s how we wrote the songs, we needed some extreme sound and songs. We could have easily done art rock n roll type music that had been done by everyone just to have a couple of years fun but we wanted to take it to the extreme to make it a little more interesting, to stick out a little, just with the idea of surviving longer than a couple of years.
The thirtieth anniversary of your first EP is coming up. Will you be doing anything to celebrate its release with a re-issue or something?
Er, there is one thing in particular that I can’t tell you, it’s kind of a surprise, what we are working on. I’m not really allowed to tell you.
That is fine. I will keep an eye out for it. -- What inspires you to keep making music?
It’s like… you challenge yourself kind of, cause after so many songs, so many records, you think what can I do. I’ve got parts in my songs that I’ve heard before and you’ve got to through them away and think about something new, it’s always a challenge not too much repeating yourself because you’ve done a lot of stuff over the years, but still have it sound like Helloween and it’s still got to be sounding fresh and new. I’m not talking about new music, I’m talking about not repeating yourself too much so you want to doing something different but still in the range of Helloween. That’s kind of a challenge you’re always working on. With four songwriters it’s working very good. Everybody has a different style of writing so everything is not on your own shoulders. It’s easy to work with people after all those years we have a stable line up now for more than ten years and it gets more and more a unit.
A lot of metal bands are getting into Symphonic metal. Blind Guardian have just released their new album and it has symphonies on it. Helloween hasn’t thought about doing something like that?
Well, if the others are all doing it why should we? (Laughs) I mean we have a little keyboards here and there, which is like symphonic metal. We have like our own style, you know. We have also very different songs, which are also very different sounding from each other here and there because we are four song writers which makes it interesting enough without saying ‘now we’re going to do a symphonic album.’ We just write songs. If you do a concept theme, we do symphonic metal or we do something like ‘Keepers’ with very long conceptual tracks then you work very different, but this time we thought it’s just cool to write some killer songs. Write some rock songs, write some metal tracks, without a big concept behind it. It sounds fresh and free for us. If you put yourself in that cage and saying you’re doing a concept then you have to follow that concept, which is very hard to follow a concept and working on stuff like this. It’s not easy, it’s a very different way of working. We just feel like doing some killer tracks and putting them down to the CD. It’s just the way we feel very comfortable with at the moment.
How do you feel when people class Helloween as the godfathers of Power Metal?
It’s a nice complement, and people started off sounding kind of that style, but what I realised after the years they began finding out what they can do for themselves, finding their own style. That’s what I found very interesting. They started off sounding a little like Helloween but after all those years you cannot tell that it started off with Helloween cause some of them sound their very own style, which is important. We had out influence when we started off listening to Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and all those bands but we found our own style of making music. That’s what everybody should do. But I’m still proud, you know, talking to the people when they are telling me I was giving them the first kick for them to do their music. It’s nice, you know. Inspiring some people is actually what you want.
Yeah, yeah definitely. Are there any young bands that have come along in the past few years that you really like?
In the past few years there was Mustasch (heavy metal band from Sweden), I don’t know if they are young, but they’re very ugly. (Laughs) But their music is kind of ugly, but that’s not really new is it? Mustasch have been there for a couple of years already.
Helloween have been around for about thirty years now. How has people’s attitudes changed to metal in general in regards to popularity and fan reaction?
Hmmm, that’s one thing, everything actually changed, the whole media side of it. The internet and the whole promotional kind of thing, the CD and all that changed a lot. There’s nothing like it was before which is okay for me. We work with it, you have to work with it cause we’re working in that business. If it’s good or bad it doesn’t matter, you can deal with it. But there’s one thing that never really changed – you go out, you play and at that very second when it happens on stage and you look the people in the eye, and you shake hands and you talk. That kind of emotion, that feeling has never changed, actually, and the fans are still wearing their jackets with the stickers, they’re all there hanging out and you can have a nice chat with them. Actually it never changed. Nowadays they come with their children, you know. We inspired them like thirty years ago, and now father and mother are coming with their children. I think it’s a nice cool thing, we’re still standing there talking, having a nice chat, having a nice cold beer. It’s nice that they bring their children. I have that idea when we have the third generation together and the grandfather comes, the father is there, and if they bring the son, I will get the son into the Helloween show for free. (Laughs)
That must be pretty awesome to see.
That will be in a couple of years, right? It can happen. (Laughs)
It can happen. Absolutely. – What is the best thing about being up on stage and performing your music to a live audience?
The best thing is like the emotion that you create and there’s no turning back it’s just happening in that very second. I kind of like that spontaneous reaction from the people inspiring me to do something on stage or whatever, that’s very very nice. I like that. It’s like you can almost go there and play the big man, you know? It’s just like you can be that macho guy on stage beating your bass and all that. It’s just like a little show. Without me being totally different, I’m not really acting, but on stage you are a little bit of an actor. We’re not too much pretending to be somebody else. But this very moment is very very special, those two hours, it’s almost like you’re switching a button and then you’re like … it’s just like that moment, you know?
Yeah. When did you first discover music and what was it about bass guitar that made you want to learn how to play it?
When I was little and listening to music in the very early years I always could tell the bass from the guitar and the drums and all that. Some people are able to listen to music and they don’t hear the bass, they more feel it. And I could say that’s very very nice what the bass is doing there and I was always interested in it. It was like the time when this punk band I met on holiday. They needed a bass player and I said ‘I’ll do the job.’ They said ‘did you play the bass before’ and I said ‘no, but I can learn.’ I learned it very quick. (Laughs) Suddenly I found myself in a punk band learning a couple of Ramones and Sex Pistols and XTC songs, kind of like that and it was just working, you know. It was just always touching me what the bass was doing in some songs. When I started off listening to AC/DC there was Squealer and Love Hungry Man and they were like the first bass lines that I learned, and some Kiss songs like Love Gun, learning this and that it was very very much fun and inspired me a lot.
Is there anything else you would like to achieve as a musician?
Well, I don’t know, we’ve done a lot so far… There’s some festivals I would like to headline in the next ten years (Laughs)
Speaking of which, is there any chance we will see you guys down in Australia sometime soon?
We were talking about it. I would like to play a festival in Australia. I guess you’d have a lot of festivals there, right?
Yes. Especially over summer we have a lot of bands come from overseas. We have a festival called Soundwave.
Is that a metal festival?
Metal, hard rock, a bit of everything.
Right, yeah. We have plans to come to Australia after we hit Japan cause it’s the nearest route we can have to Australia is being in Japan and then going over to your place and it’s planned to do that maybe for a couple of shows in August of something like that, or June July August. August or September, I guess. We were talking about this and thinking it would be a good idea, we haven’t been there for a long time, and coming over for a couple of shows after Japan and then going back to Germany.
That would be pretty awesome. – This new album is a return to Nuclear Blast. What lead to the return to the label?
There was no harm, there was no bad words with the last record company we just thought that contract was running out and Nuclear Blast was always around us asking here and there, making offers and all that. We thought it was a cool idea to go back home where we belong. (Laughs) Although there was no bad words with the record company we were with before. We just agreed, that’s it, we’re going back to Nuclear Blast. Which is cool.
Cool. Well, I will wind it up. Personally, thank you for so many cool albums over the years, mate. I have been listening to you for about twenty five years now. You have definitely got some cool songs.
Thank you. We have a lot of different stuff which I like looking back in the history and the back catalogue. It’s nice to have a couple of albums that are very very different from what we did before, even though they weren’t that successful. But having all these records it’s nice to have very very different stuff in your back catalogue. I think it’s cool.
All the best with this new album and the upcoming tour.
Thank you. We will start with the festivals soon.
For more information about Helloween visit the official website at www.helloween.org/
Helloween – My God Give Right is available on Nuclear Blast Records.
|Posted on April 26, 2015 at 12:00 AM||comments (1)|
Interview with Yngwie Malmsteen
By Dave Smiles
Few guitarists reach the level of expertise that Yngwie Malmsteen has during his career. Over the course of almost twenty studio albums, four live albums (including a performance with the New Japan Philharmonic), Malmsteem has constantly challenged what seems to be his biggest critic – himself. With a constant need to take risks and striving to keep it interesting he has written and performed some simply phenomenal neo-classical, heavy metal music.
What makes Malmsteen’s career even more impressive, in our technology dominated modern age, is that he made his breakthrough into the music world when it seemed to mean more, in the days of the larger than life rock gods and when dexterous guitar playing wasn’t taken for granted.
I was lucky enough to recently have a chat with Yngwie about his career, influences and his upcoming tour of Australia.
First of all, man, I’m really looking forward to your upcoming tour of Australia.
Unless I’m mistaking it’s been about eight years since you last toured here?
Probably, yes. 2006.
Are you looking forward to coming back?
Of course. I was there, the year before last I think. It was for a guitar clinic. That was great. I was really enjoying it.
What can we expect from the set list?
(Laughs) There’s no way to tell. It’s going to be very exciting, for sure. No worries there. I always mix up old and new stuff. I never do all old, or all new. The funny part… about half an hour before I go on stage I get the tour manager and the band in my room and say, ‘ok, here’s the set list. And everybody gets a set list and it’s printed out and put all over the stage, and we get on stage… and I play a different set list. So no one knows. That’s why I did my live album now, where I did the live album from Tampa, and the live video from Orlando and there’s like one day apart and nothing is the same. They’re totally different shows. I mean, they are the same in a sense that I play Far Beyond The Sun and stuff like that, but the way it’s played not one note’s the same. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t still be doing this. I’d be doing something else. I mean, to me the whole idea of making music is to challenge yourself and make it exciting and not safe. If it’s safe, if it’s rehearsed, if it’s the same every night I would never do it. I can’t do it, you know? Every solo I make, is improvised, every introduction to a song is improvised. The order of the songs is never the same. I usually start and end with the same songs, but that’s the way it is really.
Keeps it fresh, keeps it interesting.
What’s the best thing about being able to perform your music in front of a live audience?
Oh my God, there’s just so many great aspects of it. The thing is for me, ok, it goes back to the set list thing. If I go on stage and I’m just like a juke box, and I’m sure the audience would say ‘I’d love to hear that song,’ we’ll do that song. And that’s great, I want them to be happy. But the thing is, I need to challenge myself and take risks, and if I do that AND I get the response then that’s the ultimate. You know what I mean? And also, it’s a combination of the excitement and … it’s automatically there. If I’m in a rehearsal room and I play say Heaven Tonight. I’ll probably fall the fuck asleep. But if I kick in that song, and I see the whole crowd get into it, then I can get into it too. Musically, that song’s not extremely exciting to me, but it would be something they would love as well. But the whole thing of being able to go on stage and do your thing, it’s priceless.
You’ve recently been inducted into the Swedish Music Hall of fame. That must have been a pretty awesome achievement. How did it feel when you found out this was going to happen?
It was pretty amazing. You know, I haven’t lived there for almost thirty five years. So I’m not there to know this was going on. A couple of years ago my dad called me up and said they’re going to print new money, currency. Money bills. And they decided that instead of having pictures of old kings, they were going to have pictures of more modern contributors, you know so to speak. And there was Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite. And then there was Astrid Lindgren, who wrote all the children’s books and there was me. So I was up on an election to be on the fucking money. So it’s pretty extreme, you know, cause I’m just a kid from Sweden. I was very rebellious. You must read my book. It’s called Relentless. It explains… I was very out of place there. I wasn’t fitting in very well. It was a very, how should I say, structured society, and I wanted to go my own way, so… So, yeah it was a great honour, a really great honour, but it’s funny at the same time. It’s almost ironic.
Yeah, it would be cool to be on currency.
There seems to be a lot of hard rock and heavy metal bands coming out of Sweden at the moment. Do you think you kind of pioneered something back in the eighties?
I think maybe, yeah. But obviously not recently cause as I said I haven’t been there for a long time. What happened was when I grew up in the late seventies, when I was a little kid, I was really trying my best, I was recording, I was doing little gigs here and there. There was literally no bands that played hard rock, heavy metal, whatever. They didn’t exist. There was another little group, outside of Stockholm, in a little suburb area. I became friends with them and they eventually became Europe, but they weren’t called that then. So we used to hang out and everything like that. And at just the same time, 1982, when I left for America. We were in all those battle of the bands things. There were all sorts of different bands, reggae and pop and whatever, and they actually went to the finals. I think either they won, or they got second place. It was a big deal, they were on TV and all that. At the same time I’d already left for America and I was a big ass deal cause I’d just made a record with an American band so all of a sudden people were going, ‘shit, maybe this is something,’ then all of a sudden in the mid-eighties there was a million bands that came out of Sweden. But there was, very much, like the whole ‘hair metal’ or whatever. I didn’t keep an eye on it, per say, but I know what it was. I think it kind of carried on, I’m not sure. To me, it seems there always been a great talent there but they were always subdued by the fact that being a musician wasn’t a real job, you couldn’t make any money – you could live on it, you know. You couldn’t fucking live on music. It was impossible. And that was one of the main reasons I left for the States. I knew that if I came here I would be able to just do music only.
What was it about music that made you want to dedicate your life to it?
Oh man… I would have to suggest that people read my book on that one cause that’s a very very long story. My book’s called Relentless. Yngwie Malmsteen The memoir. There’s other books – don’t buy them! It’s called Relentless, it’s the only one that’s real. The other ones are just tabloid shit. Anyway, to make a very long story an even longer one, I started, I was the youngest kid in the family. Everyone was a musician and singers and pianist and whatever. Everybody, it was like a musician environment. So I got hooked on that, and brought my first record – Deep Purple’s Fireball when I was seven years old, eight years old I think it was. There really was no other options for me. It really was kind of a complicated story cause I came out of a classical background, got into the hard rock thing, then I went back to the classical thing, heavily, but maintained a bit of both sounds. As I said, very very complicated answer to that. It’s my whole life, you know what I mean? I’m in the studio right now, writing and recording a new album so I’m completely immersed in music all day long. That’s all I do, it almost becomes like you have to escape from it, so I go out and drive the Ferrari’s around or something. It’s dangerous sometimes, if you get too into it. You forget what you’re doing. You got to keep a distance from it, sometimes.
How’s the new album coming along?
It’s going real well. It’s going to be like, it’s hard to describe, it’s almost like the first album. There’s a lot of instrumental stuff, very neo-classical, some really hard stuff too, some vocals. It’s hard to describe music, but it’s very Malmsteen-esque, so to speak.
Cool, I look forward to it. In the modern internet age we’re bombarded with information about rock stars and celebrities, etc. Do you think this helps some bands gain exposure or do you think it was better when there was a bit of mystic about rock stars back in the day?
I always, personally, thought mystic was much more exciting, you know. The untouchable, bigger, larger than life type thing. That’s what I, when I was a little kid I’d listen to something and look at the vinyl cover, that’s as close as I could get to them. To me that was great, that was cool. I think what has happened is the whole music quote, unquote, industry is dead, so that all the money people are gone. The music people are still there but the money people are gone. What I mean by that, the distributors and retailers, printers and your manufactures, and you’re A&R people, all those people who took a piece of the pie – they’re not there anymore, cause there is no pie. So what’s happening now is a free for all, there’s no format, there’s no radio play, there’s no MTV play, there’s nothing. There’s just a bunch of shit on YouTube. ‘Look, I got a video on YouTube,’ but yeah so does four billion other people. So the whole thing has lost its lustre. There’s nothing special about it. I remember when I was a kid and I knew I was going to be on a piece of vinyl, it was like stepping into the fucking hall of Valhalla. All of a sudden you’re in the presence of God! You’re not like everybody else. You’re not like everybody else who’s trying to fucking do it. You’re in… The Club! That can’t happen again, there’s no threshold there anymore, just that whole, flat… shit, you know? As far as I’m concerned. I’m NOT saying the music. I’m not saying that at all. I’m sure there’s probably more good music now than ever. But, what I’m trying to say is the whole … mystic is the word you used… but think about it – you’re sitting on a subway train and you’re cold and you think ‘oh man, I wish I was in Led Zeppelin. It’s a big step from being in a suburb of Sweden to being in Led Zeppelin. Now its like, ‘oh, I wish I could have a video on YouTube.’
Yeah, yeah. It’s hardly the same.
It’s hard to describe it. Anyway there’s a song on my new album called lost in the machine which is about this stuff.
Ok, cool. After such a long career in music is there anything else you’d like to achieve as a musician?
To me I don’t see it like that. Every time I pick the guitar up, if you don’t get the excitement - which is always possible to do, especially if you play for forty fucking years, but that’s the thing. You’re got to challenge yourself. By that I don’t mean I’m going to make a jazz album. What I mean is by taking risks. To me it’s not like one particular thing. It’s more like… everything. It’s like when I go out and I’m going to do Monsters of Rock next week with Kiss. I’m going to make sure I’m not swallowed up by the rest of the bands. It’s going to be a high point. I’m going to fucking burn down the place. You know what I’m saying? I’m up for the challenge all the time.
Awesome. Anyway man, good luck with the upcoming tour. I hope everything goes well. Thanks for doing the interview mate.
Thank you. Thank you.
Yngwie Malmsteen’s book Relentless is available from Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Relentless-Memoir-Yngwie-J-Malmsteen/dp/1118517717
For more information about Yngwie Malmsteen visit the official website at www.yngwiemalmsteen.com/yngwie/
|Posted on April 14, 2015 at 8:25 PM||comments (0)|
It has been a long held belief of mine that vocal performances can be divided into two categories: A. Singers, and B. Storytellers. Basically this is my thinking: singers, while there are many talented and entertaining ones, for the most part tend to just rattle off the lyrics and move on to the next song. Storytellers however, have a unique ability to transport you to different worlds, different eras; to feel the emotion of the words and bring to life someone’s amazing tale. A prime example of this is the latest collaboration from Norwegian rock god Jorn and ex- Wig Wam guitarist Trond Holter, titled Dracula – Swing Of Death. This is an exhilarating musical masterpiece with Jorn providing an amazing storytelling performance, but what separates this concept album from others is the contribution from Holter. On a purely musical level, Holter tells his own Dracula tale and it is one worth exploring. I took the opportunity to catch up with the guitar mastermind behind this project to discuss the album, this former band Wig Wam and the value of full length albums.
Rock Man: Firstly, congratulations on the release of the album Jorn Lande and Tront Holter presents Dracula – Swing Of Death. This is simply a superb effort, I would imagine both of you are extremely proud at how well this album came out?
Trond Holter: Yes we are. We have worked on this album for quite some time. I started this idea back in 2008 and wrote lots of songs until I got a hold of Jorn’s number and we started working on it a couple of years ago. So, yeah we are very pleased.
RM: Over the generations there have been many variations and re-telling of this fascinating story. What is it about your version that is different or unique from other versions?
TH: Well, we only took the love story part of the story. Instead of making a rock opera we like to call it more like a concept album. Because a rock opera would be a lot like a theatre thing, a concept album is more like, Alice Cooper than Dream Theatre, you know? That is why we only kept with a simple story and that is how it came out, mainly the love story behind it.
RM: So where did the idea to write an album about this character come from?
TH: I was on a trip back to Romania back in 2008 and I had a day off and I was sitting in the town square, in a town in the middle of Transylvania. And there were a lot of things, you know, like you can buy books and cups and t-shirts with Dracula and suddenly it hit me ‘I have to write about this’. So that is when I started writing about it, back in 2008.
RM: More often than not when an artist releases new material you will hear them say things like “This is the album we have always wanted to make”. Is that the case here for the both Jorn and yourself with this record?
TH: Yes, personally it is the case for me. I do not know about Jorn, he has made so many massive albums, but yeah it is the case for me. I have been in so many bands like Dream Police, we released albums back in the early ‘90s and you can hear some of that stuff in there and of course you can hear stuff that I did with Wig Wam. Of course there are a lot of things I have put in this record and yeah I could say with my hand on heart this is the best thing I have ever done.
RM: How would you describe Jorn’s performance on this record?
TH: It is magical. He is a hard working singer, releasing 15 albums or something without being a star yet, you know, but he is the biggest underground star there is. With his voice I think he is one of the best voices there is and I am very proud to have him on this record.
RM: Do you think that he is an underrated singer amongst the hard rock/metal community?
TH: No he is not underrated; I think everybody knows he is one of the best. But maybe you have to have that commercial success that Ronnie James Dio had at this time, you know, times are changing. So it is not the same now as it was for the guys in the ‘80s.
RM: The album features guest vocals from Lena Floitmoen and she delivers a stunning performance throughout. Can you tell me about working with her and your impressions of what she brought to the record?
TH: Yeah, she was a backup singer on a Wig Wam tour in 2010. I asked her to try a couple of tracks because I liked her singing and she did a great job. It is very technical, like the song Save Me, for instance, very technical and very hard to sing for a female singer. So I was very impressed by her ease when she did vocals because I had some girls before that tried her parts and they were really struggling. She is a very talented singer.
RM: In terms of your guitar parts on this album, did they come fairly easy to you or were they challenging in any way?
TH: Yeah they were challenging because it is not like we just wrote a rock thing that is three minutes long or something with a guitar solo and this AC/DC riff, they are more complex songs. For instance, three of the solos are more like classical music almost so you have to build and that is why I had so much fun doing it, building up this classical stuff around the guitar solos instead of just cranking in and out. So it took some time but the results are so much better.
RM: The first video from the album is Walking On Water. This is an exceptional song and a cool video, I particularly like the idea of Jorn standing on the water. Can you tell me about where this video was shot and was it an enjoyable experience?
TH: Okay, it was certainly not warm [laughs]. It was not a warm experience and I believe it was like, it was very cold and we took some stuff where Jorn would stand so it actually looked like Jorn was standing on the water, so we had to builds something under there. And with the water, the tide, you know, it comes and we had to be at the exact right moment so we had to wait for a while and we did the shots and nearly froze to death [laughs]. But when it is cold the air gets very clear too and there were some great shots and his house is very near, not exactly right outside but a couple of hundred metres down the lake. And the other parts are from my home town and there is a big fortress and that is where we shot the rest of the video, where I am standing is part of this big fortress. And it was absolutely freezing when we shot there, it was not snowing but it was very cold [laughs].
RM: Are there any plans to play this album live in its entirety or do a world tour around it?
TH: Yes we are working on the live show at this moment. And I think we will be ready in like September or something. Because this is a lot of work and it takes a lot of money to get all the effects and everything that we need to do this as a special show when we play the whole album. So we have some time left to work on it, it will take some time but there will be a band on stage we will also have videos that are running in the back and special effects that will look great.
RM: Shifting gears slightly, you have made your name as the guitarist for Wig Wam. Looking back at your time in the band how would you describe your experience?
TH: Well, we had a great time doing that. Wig Wam was born in a time, in the early 2000s, when nobody cared about, nobody played AC/DC on the radio, nobody played Van Halen on the radio and nobody cared about the music at all. So we started for fun in 2000, I think, and we dressed up like crazy to get attention and we did [laughs]. But the music was always, I would say we were always serious about the music, there was joking about everything else but the music was always very serious. So at first we were more like Steel Panther in Norway like they are now but as it went by people wanted to take us more seriously and I guess we did too after a while. It kind of changed but we had great success and we had great support in Japan and Europe and of course Scandinavia, so we had a great time.
RM: Looking through the band’s catalogue of albums, can you identify one that most represents what Wig Wam was about?
TH: I guess the first two albums are probably what I enjoyed the most about the band. The two last albums are more like hard work and a band that did not have that much fun anymore, you could hear it on the songs. But the two first albums, I still enjoy listening to them; you can hear that is a band having fun.
RM: You hear more and more artists coming out saying that it is getting to the point where it is not worth making full length albums anymore, given the decline in record sales, the popularity of iTunes and downloading. What are your thoughts? Are full length albums still valid in this day and age?
TH: Yeah, here in Europe, you know, the public that like heavy metal, they want full length albums. They come to the shows with CDs that they want to have signed. I know in the pop industry it is like in the ‘50s and ‘60s when they only release singles, but in the heavy metal community it is still popular to release full length albums.
RM: It seems that in recent years there has been a lot of social media infighting between artists and also fans against artists. Do you think the hard rock/metal community is as strong and united as it once was?
TH: Yeah I think so. There are more strange people on the internet now, you know, critiquing artists and everything, but I think it is a community that sticks together and supports each other. I think so.
RM: Once again, congratulations on the album Swing Of Death. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you all the best for the album and all the best to you and Jorn for many years of success.
TH: Thank you very much. We hope to get to Australia some time.
For more information about Trond Holter visit him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TrondHolterOfficial
Jorn Lande & Trond Holter presents Dracula - Swing Of Death is available on Frontiers Records.
|Posted on April 8, 2015 at 9:25 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with Scott Ian
By Dave Smiles
Scott Ian is one of the most well know guitarists in metal. The founding member of Anthrax, who along with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer make up what is known as The Big Four of thrash metal. These bands pioneered the style back in the early eighties. With a career spanning over three decades, Anthrax have ten albums to their name, with a new one currently in the works, four live albums, and six EPs released.
Ian has recently released an album with a side project known as Motor Sister. It was interesting to hear how this all came about and what the inspiration behind this album was.
So how did the formation of Motor Sister come about?
It came about out of me being a big fan of a band Mother Superior, and being friends with their singer/guitar player Jim Wilson and me wanting to play and hear those songs again because the band had been broken up for a long time so my wife and I basically put that together for a fiftieth birthday party for me back in January of last year. That’s really all it was, it was supposed to be that just basically a bunch of people getting together and having a whole bunch of fun. That’s still what it is, but that’s initially how it came together.
Was it difficult to get all the musicians together to write and record the songs that make up this album?
No. The songs had already been written. They were all existing songs that Jim had written with Mother Superior over the years. So it’s me just, in a sense, curating a show with my twelve favourite songs of his and then putting the band together with me and Pearl and getting Joey on bass and Johnny on drums. We’re all friends already. We all hang out, we all play music together in some way, shape or form, so it’s actually kind of really easy to put together.
Cool. So these are all covers of Mother Superior songs?
Okay, cool. I’ll have to track down the originals. Can you imagine you guys writing fresh material as a band?
Oh absolutely. That will defiantly happen at some point. Because, again, we already all hang out pretty regularly so yeah, that’s something that I’m sure will happen. I mean, Jim and Pearl are writing songs together all the time, and have been for years for Pearl’s stuff. So I’m sure that will happen.
Are there plans to tour to support this album?
Yeah, as soon as our individual schedules come together a little bit more we should be able to pick a couple of windows of opportunities over the next year or so that we’ll be able to get out and play shows around the world.
The song, This Song Reminds Me Of You, sounds like there could be a lot of room for jamming and improvisation can you see there being some of this when you guys play live?
I can’t say that we do that much improvising. The whole end bit we tend to probably play longer live than we do on the record, but I can’t really say we’re like improvising.
Has anything changed in your guitar rig to perform these Motor Sister songs compared to when you’re playing with Anthrax?
Just pull the gain back a little bit. (laughs)
As simple as that?
Cleans up the tone a little bit.
Are side projects a way of keeping music fresh for you?
No, I can’t say that because I’m always busy with Anthrax anyway, always doing stuff so I’m never sitting around long enough in any way shape or form for things to get stale.
You’ve done a lot of collaboration projects. You’ve done S.O.D and worked with Public Enemy. Was there any other artist you’d like to work with?
Off the top of my head, no. It’s not like I’m looking for things, things just happen. I’m not sitting around right now thinking I want to work with this person, or that person, you know. Sometimes things just will happen. So off the top of my head, no.
Metal and hard rock has been around for four or five decades now, with many of the musicians now parents and grandparents. Fans as well for that matter, now have jobs and mortgages. How do you think the music stays relevant to fans all over the word?
You would have to ask the fans. (Laughs) That’s a really good question. I don’t know. Bands continuing to make great records and continuing to be a great live act. I guess, I really don’t know. We just do what we do. Or, I do what I do, whether it’s Anthrax or Motor Sister. I just love making music, I love playing guitar, I love being in bands and I just do the best I can with whatever it is I’m doing at the moment so that’s all I’ve ever done I’ve never really thought of it past that.
What is it like when you’re up on stage and you see your audience reacting to your music?
It’s great. Playing live is the best. That for me is like Christmas time every day. Getting to play shows is truly a privilege, that people want to come and see you play and go crazy that’s something you don’t, other than live theatre maybe,… theatre actors get that immediate response from audiences and music. That’s it. It’s an experience you can’t really have too often in life so being able to do that is something that’s just incredible.
What would be some of the significant changes you’ve witnessed in the music industry during your career?
The main thing was it changed from an industry that was run by people who cared about music to an industry run by corporations, and accountants so that for me would be the major change and certainly since the mid-eighties.
A lot of bands now aren’t releasing new music due to illegal downloading, and if bands do release something new it’s either a single track or an EP. Do you think the album format is doomed and is it still worth releasing albums from a financial point of view?
Um, I don’t care. We just do what we do. I’m not worried about the industry as a whole or what other bands are doing. It’s not doomed as far as Anthrax is concerned so I really don’t worry about it.
So how are things progressing with the new Anthrax album?
Good, lots of work but it’s getting there. There’s still a lot to be done, there’s a lot finished. We’re kind of right in the thick of it. We’re just gonna keep going till it’s finished.
If you hadn’t become a musician what do you think you would have done with your life?
I don’t know. (Laughs) I don’t know, it’s hard to speculate. I was in college around the time that Anthrax started and I dropped out, but it’s not like I had some major that I was like super in to. It’s not like there was something in my life that I cared about as much as music. I was way into skateboarding and comics at that time but who knows. It’s hard for me to say.
What else would you like to achieve with your life?
I’m very happy just doing what I’m doing, so just to be able to continue to do this, to make music. I guess would be the answer to that. I love being able to make music.
For more information about Motor Sister visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/motorsister
For more information about Anthrax visit the official website at www.anthrax.com
Motor Sister – Ride is available on Metal Blade Records.
|Posted on March 31, 2015 at 11:10 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with Ricky Warwick
By Dave Smiles
Leading up to the release of Black Star Rider’s sophomore album, The Killer Instinct, singer and lyricist Ricky Warwick embarked on the promotional duties required from musicians before their album is released to the world. I was lucky enough to talk to this seasoned veteran of hard rock who has played in The Almighty, Stiff Little Fingers, Circus Diablo, released numerous solo albums and of course joined Thin Lizzy in 2009.
We spoke about the recording process of the new album, the writing of the songs and their intention to make a great rock n roll album. It was evident that Warwick was exceptionally proud of the album he and his band mates had created and was eager to hit the road in support of the album and show the live audiences the strength of these tracks. It was great being able to talk to Warwick, and to learn about how the album came together.
First of all mate, congratulations on the upcoming release of The Killer Instinct.
So what can fans expect from the new album?
I think they can expect a lot of guitars, big choruses, huge guitar riffs, some great duel guitar work from Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson and Black Star Rider songs.
Are there any songs on the album that you’re particularly proud of?
No, I am kind of proud of them all because they wouldn’t be on there if I wasn’t and the ones that didn’t make it didn’t make it for a reason. So I am pretty proud of all ten songs that are on the record it is really hard to pick one, it could change every day. You wake up and a song is your favourite and it could be another song another day, you know. I am seriously proud of them all ten of them.
How does the band like to work when you’re writing songs?
Basically it is myself and Damon Johnson who do most of the writing. We have got Scott Gorham who comes in with some great killer guitar riffs. He has enough belief and faith in myself and Damon to just kind of leave it with us, and he was very happy with it. Damon does most of the guitar. I write all of the lyrics.
There seems to be a lot of really good lyrics on this album, a lot of substance. What inspires you when you’re writing songs?
Just life, to be honest. Growing up in Northern Ireland, growing up, childhood. -- Stuff I have seen on my travels. I just try and dig deep and write about what is going on.
When the album was finished was it everything you thought it would be, or did it exceed expectations?
It exceeded, definitely, you know working with Nick Raskulinecz was a huge buzz to all of us. The guy is just so talented.
Did you run into any problems during the recording process or did it go pretty smoothly?
You know what, we didn’t. Honestly it went pretty smoothly.
I’ll assume you grew up listening to Thin Lizzy. What is it like being in a band with Scott Gorham?
I have known Scott for a long time. Scott is a legend, Scott is a great guy, great guitar player.
Do you guys sit around swapping stories about your previous bands, like Thin Lizzy and The Almighty?
My stories are pretty boring compared to Scott’s with what they did back in the day. Scott has got some great stories. After the show we sit back with a glass of wine, I have heard some of the stories twenty times, but I always enjoy hearing them. They’re way better than any of my stories.
Do you have any unusual requests when you’re on tour from promoters etc?
No, we just want to turn up and put on the best show we can.
As a musician, is there anything else you’d like to achieve?
Yeah, you know, you’re always pushing yourself forward, trying to write that ultimate song. I just want to keep making music and doing what I am doing.
So what is in store for Black Star Riders in 2015?
Just hit the road, we want to promote the hell out of this album, try and play as much as possible.
Any plans to tour down here in Australia?
Oh man, I’d love to get back to Australia. Hopefully, that would be fantastic.
Are there any plans to still tour under the name Thin Lizzy?
Probably not, you know. It is not something we’re considering. We might do a one off show somewhere down the line, but that is up to Scott Gorham and Brian Downey.
Is there anything that you do to stay sane and healthy while on tour?
At our age you kind of have to. It is just part of the course. I get up I go to the gym, I work out every day, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to get up on stage and play for two hours if I felt like shit.
For more information about Black Star Riders visit the official website at www.blackstarriders.com
Black Star Riders – The Killer Instinct is available on Nuclear Blast Records.
|Posted on March 22, 2015 at 11:00 PM||comments (0)|
While most people associate loud shredding guitars and thunderous drums as the defining sound of hard rock/heavy metal music, for me the voice is also a major factor. The genre has been blessed with its share of larger than life singing superstars; Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Freddy Mercury, David Coverdale and Robert Plant can all lay claim to having “The Voice of Rock”. And amongst the fans of various bands the argument could rage for decades over whom is better. Another gentleman worth considering in such a debate is Jeff Scott Soto. JSS, as he is known to his legion of fans, is a veteran of the rock/metal scene, and after 30+ years in the business still has the chops to match it with anyone in the industry today; young or old. The proof is plain to see with his new project called SOTO, and the debut album Inside The Vertigo. This new project hits you like a bullet from a gun and I was fascinated to know how JSS had gotten down this path, so I caught up with him to get his thoughts on the new album, the smorgasbord of talent at his disposal on the record and the ever changing music industry.
Rock Man: Firstly, congratulations on this new project, SOTO, and the release of the album Inside The Vertigo. You must be very excited about this next phase of your career?
Jeff Scott Soto: You have no idea… I have been itching to do this for years but my last record label hated the idea of me doing a heavy album, forgetting these are my earlier roots career-wise! I started my musical path on the heavier side of the tracks and especially recently, I have missed the energy and aggression of this music. My new label, earMUSIC, heard the potential and simply went for it with me, I couldn’t be happier to work with others who share my vision!
RM: When I heard this new record my first thoughts were ‘this is just a full steam ahead, relentless metal experience, unlike anything I have heard from you previously’. Is that a fair assessment?
JSS: Yes and no, certainly the full steam ahead idea hits it on the nail but I certainly have done very heavy stuff in the past… anything from Yngwie Malmsteen to select Talisman songs even to the Rock Star soundtrack, maybe it’s not as ‘dated’ as the latter, but I certainly wanted to keep things melodic and not stray too far from what folks might expect of me. But for me the key is growth and with growth means wrangling in new fans who would have never given me a spin or even some who have no clue about me.
RM: Did this collection of material come together fairly easy or did it present some challenges along the way?
JSS: Fairly easily and in the end, I had too many songs to choose from! The songs kept pouring in so much I had to cut some for the main released but hope to get them out on a deluxe edition someday if the album does well enough. Joel Hoekstra of Whitesnake supplied two slammers that need to be heard some day!
RM: The guitar work on this record I would describe as frantic and unforgiving, yet still maintaining a melodic element. And for this you have called upon the services of players such as Gus G, Mike Orlando and Gary Schutt among others. Did you have to twist anyone’s arm to be a part of the record or was everyone keen to be involved?
JSS: Absolutely not [laughs], all parties involved were happy to contribute and they get the highest regards for their enthusiasm! As I previously said, I wanted to have a happy balance of heavy yet familiar, modern yet classic… my band, especially drummer Edu Cominato had a lot to do with the course and flow of the album with me. If my ideas came back too dated or obvious, he would help keep me on the map of what we were trying to do here. It was a dream to work with everyone on the album overall but the band will be a lot more involved as a whole on the next album, probably less outside contributors.
RM: Lyrically I think this record goes beyond anything you have previously done in a hard rock or AOR setting. And I feel there was some stuff you needed to get of your chest and this album provided the perfect setting. Am I over analysing this or am I on the money?
JSS: No, you’re spot on! I went through some pretty shitty things the past years, between a sour and expensive divorce to losing the ‘gig of a lifetime’ to my best friend killing himself… there wasn’t a lot in my heart to celebrate! What is it they say, an artist scorned creates the most heartfelt material… I must say, I had a lot to get off my chest! As well, I love AOR stuff, I love soul and funk stuff, but I felt like I was hitting a wall, repeating myself and even competing against myself with other projects. It was time to spring clean and be true to myself and the followers listening to my music.
RM: Are there any tracks on Inside The Vertigo that strike a chord with you or standout more than others?
JSS: They all mean something special to me, each one as strong as the last but End Of Days has to be one of my prouder moments as an artist. I went to my co-writer with a slate of ‘I would like to do a modern day Live & Let Die, something that sounds epic like a soundtrack from Avatar or Braveheart, mixed with a little Pink Floyd, Queen then thrust into a Maiden-like section but finally coming back home the way Bohemian Rhapsody did, make it as long and prog as you like now….GO!’. The term be careful what you ask for certainly hit me hard when Connor Engstrom turned in this 9 minute epic AS YOU HEAR IT, then I had to come up with what I would sing! It was truly one of the hardest things I have ever done but in the end, one of the most rewarding!
RM: The track When I’m Older was co-written with your wife Elena, do you find it easier or harder working with family?
JSS: [laughs] That was a first really. I was sitting around writing lyrics for that song but had a mental block. She saw my frustration and reminded me she randomly jots down poems and prose all the time. I asked to see something and most of what ended up on the verse to When I’m Older are taken from her scribblings, it happened to work great and also helped inspire me to finish out the song.
RM: The album opener is Final Say. This song really sets the tone for the whole album I feel, can you give me your thoughts on that track?
JSS: I love Mike’s band Adrenaline Mob, they were one of the catalysts of which I wanted to base the strength of the album on so why not go straight to the source, Mike himself, and see if he would want to knock one out together? We’ve been good friends for some years now and as soon as he sent the demo to this one, I was over the moon on where we were heading.
RM: Is there a part of the writing/recording process which you enjoy the most?
JSS: The end [laughs]. I get crazy wondering if something is working or even good sometimes, I tweak and pick at it until it sounds good to me but I’m not just writing for me, people have to like it! So to me, the best part of the creation is the result and validation from others that I am onto something good!
RM: You hear more and more artists coming out saying that it is getting to the point where it is not worth making full length albums anymore, given the decline in record sales, the popularity of iTunes and downloading. What are your thoughts? Are full length albums still valid in this day and age?
JSS: I agree to disagree. I never got to experience the whole ‘million seller’ albums, I never got to know what it was like to win Grammys and sell so much that the current climate changed it all for me. All I know is the struggle and moderate sales in life so to me, I see the change as something rather necessary. It makes artists work harder for adulation, makes labels work harder to sell better albums and not gouge the public. As far as having complete albums, how would I get anyone to my shows or be able to tour if they didn’t know a lot of the songs already or if I gave them out one at a time through the course of a year? To be honest, and I shouldn’t say this, I would rather 100,000 people share or illegally download the album and want to come to a show than 4000 people buy it and have 30 people at a show. Albums are promotional tools, sure, they cost money, sure someone has to recoup costs but in the end if no one hears it, no one knows or cares about you, and one thing they haven’t been able to illegally download is the live ‘experience’, being there and feeling the show in person!
RM: You have amassed an enormous body of work over the years. Whether it is solo work or with various bands, is there an album, or maybe two, that in your mind best reflects what Jeff Scott Soto represents?
JSS: One of my favourite releases to this day is the Talisman – Humanimal album and if I can be so bold, the new SOTO album!
RM: You would have seen the music industry go through many changes throughout the years, can you put your finger on one that has had the most impact, for better or worse?
JSS: The music business in general has been known to be quite corrupt from artists getting ripped off back in the ‘50-‘60s to the payola scandals of the ‘70-‘80s, to the Napster and lost revenue items of the ‘90-‘00s. It’s one big lesson that continues to be learned through time, sometimes the labels and bigwigs find their way and sometimes the artists find theirs. At the moment, the changes are directed at both finding a new balance but also the fans, the ones who spend their hard earned money, feel they’re getting what they want and expect.
RM: Touring has been such a big part of your life, do you still get the same buzz today that you did when you first started?
JSS: ABSOLUTELY!!! Nothing is more rewarding than taking your kids on vacation, that to me is what touring is, your kids are your songs and the vacation is the stage that you get to show them off to everyone! The only drag about touring these days is it can be quite boring for me now because I care too much about consistency and singing well live every night. There is a responsibility that comes with that, meaning the partying is down to almost nothing on the road, it truly is sleep and sing, the talking is down to a minimum, the horsing around and late nights are gone, as the body needs to recharge more now as I am getting older. The old days meant bouncing back quicker but nowadays that can take longer than the little time between shows. But I love the road, I love the adrenaline rush of being onstage!
RM: Are there any tours/shows that are memorable for all the wrong reasons?
JSS: Sure, mainly tours where shows are cancelled for promoter or low sales reasons, these lead to loss of revenue and no one likes to lose money especially when every dime is accountable to make the tour happen. I love reading comments from people around the world saying ‘why don’t you ever come here, please tour there’ but they don’t realise, without interest, without people filling seats, their one or two buddies tagging along don’t make for a reason to play anywhere and everywhere. It’s supply and demand; you demand it with enough numbers, I supply the appearance, it’s that simple!
RM: What touring plans do you have scheduled in support of this new record?
JSS: At the moment, all of the eyes are watching the interest and sales which incidentally are doing very well, from that the right situation needs to be placed as you only get one first good impression! I have stated very sternly, I will not take SOTO on the road to be a JSS montage show, this is a band, this is a new direction, I can’t see playing a song like Wrath then doing the big Talisman AOR hit, they don’t fit and I don’t see SOTO having a core audience by trying to mix in my AOR past. I want to be on the road with bands like Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, Adrenaline Mob, In Flames. Bands that we would fit right in with doing material from Inside The Vertigo!
RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of the album Inside The Vertigo. 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.
JSS: Thank you and it’s my pleasure to share my thoughts with you… rock!
For more information about Jeff Scott Soto visit the official website at www.jeffscottsoto.com
SOTO – Inside The Vertigo is available on Frontiers Records.
|Posted on March 5, 2015 at 10:00 PM||comments (0)|
The music world is littered with bands that have their own unique sound. The second you hear them you go “Oh that is ….”. Then there are those bands that not only have “their” sound, but the lead guitarist also has a defining sonic presence separating them from their peers. This was big in the 1980s with guys like Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie J. Malmsteen leading the pack. Another guy in the bunch was Dokken axeman George Lynch. Over the coming decades Lynch would establish himself as a force to be reckoned with, as a six string superstar influencing many generations of young musical aspirants. Since leaving Dokken, Lynch has been at the forefront of many other projects including Lynch Mob, KMX and solo material. But arguably his crowning glory may have come in the form of the new album from supergroup Sweet & Lynch, titled Only To Rise. I gave Lynch a call to discuss this outstanding collaboration, his contribution to the ‘80s scene and AC/DC rehearsals which were taking place next door.
Rock Man: Firstly, congratulations on the release of the Sweet & Lynch album Only To Rise. This is simply an outstanding collection of material; I would imagine Michael Sweet and yourself are very proud of what you have created here.
George Lynch: Well we are but, and I am not saying this to qualify it, every time you do a record or compose an artist you are always proud of it, you are always excited you really are. I mean, when you create something it is your baby, you know, and you watch it grow from nothing, from conception to this end product it really is an exciting time when it first comes out.
RM: Listening to this record the first thing that came to my mind was ‘why haven’t these two paired up before?’ it seems like a perfect match. Can you tell me about how this project came together?
GL: Yeah, it was the brainchild of Frontiers Records and they approached Michael initially, who approached me. And Michael and I had been doing some touring together with our respective bands, Lynch Mob and Stryper, we shared an agent, so doing some shows together and travelling together we got a chance to hang out quite a bit and that led to us talking about doing something musically together at some point down the road, but we were not sure what that vehicle would be. Initially Michael and I thought that we would work together with Jeff Pilson (Dokken/Foreigner) and Mick Brown (Dokken) doing a record together, but that still may happen at some point. But when Frontiers Records called him and myself about putting this current project together it was Michael who suggested using me. I think initially they were talking about using the guitar player from Dokken, John Leven, but then I think Michael said “Well, why don’t we just get the real guy?” [laughs] or something to that effect. So I am glad he did and Serafino from Frontiers Records called back, you know, it is kind of an unorthodox way of putting a band together but I was happy to do it. Because I wanted to play with Michael and also I was interested in writing a record that maybe had elements harking back to the ‘80s in some ways and components that I think are ‘80s derivative and I had not worked on a record like that in a long time, so I just wondered if I could still do that [laughs].
RM: Over the course of your career you have had some exceptional singers at your disposal. How does Michael Sweet rate against other vocalists you have worked with?
GL: You are right, I have been very fortunate I have worked with some great singers, I really have. Probably more than people would think because looking at it, at my records everyone’s like “Well, there was Dokken, there was Lynch Mob” and I worked with Glenn Hughes on my solo record and this and that but really I have just worked with scores of guys, and a lot of stuff I have done with them has just flown under the radar. But Michael is a pro and a half, he is so astute and he really takes care of himself and he manages himself very well, a very serious guy, there is none of that kind of silly lead singer disease, Hollywood rock star shit [laughs], you know, he handles his business. When he says he is going to do something he does it that means a lot to me, I really do have tremendous respect for his work ethic. He took on a lot and he really delivered I think, the hooks are there, obviously his vocal chops are amazing and his production skills are phenomenal and his song writing is great. He really walks that fine line between that legacy stuff and making it a little more modern, and that really is a challenge to do.
RM: The supporting cast on this record is pretty impressive as well. On drums is Brian Tichy and on bass is James Lomenzo, both of whom you have worked with before. Can you tell me a little bit about those gentlemen and your thoughts on their performance on the record?
GL: Well, Brian never misses, Brian is a monster, he really is. I have worked with him numerous times and Brian, James and myself all live very close to each other, we live in the Santa Clarita Valley which is North of Los Angeles, we are friends. My wife and them and their wives, we all go out, you know, go hang out so we are very close and they are phenomenal they are pros, I mean, you are going to get class A, top grade musicianship with these guys. So I have got to say, and I do not mean to interrupt this, but I am listening to AC/DC rehearsing next door to me [laughs].
RM: Oh my God, really?
GL: Yeah, it was just Angus (Young), just a second ago. They sound phenomenal, they sound great. How old are these guys? 70 or something? They sound fantastic. I want to play in that band! That is my next project to play in AC/DC, I would be a roadie in that band if they would let me [laughs].
RM: Getting back to this record, Only To Rise, did you find this an easy album to make or did it present its fair share of challenges?
GL: It was the easiest record I have ever done. It was very easy, I mean, I work remotely on my own; I wrote the music at my studio with my engineer Chris Collier, who is a great drummer, great all around musician, he is very fast at drum programming on the fly. So I would come up with riffs, come up with a beat, you know, we just went for it, we just wrote all the instrumental songs in about four days. Sent those of to Michael and the guys and they fleshed everything out in a studio back east and sent everything back to me and I mixed in the guitars. It was very easy, painless [laughs], I wish they could all be like that.
RM: The first single from the album was The Wish. What sort of reception did you get from music fans and the press about that track, given that was the first taste from this project?
GL: Umm... it was not my pick, I would not have gone with that song. But, you know, I do not know everything [laughs], I am just part of the mix. But I am a huge fan of the second track which is Dying Rose, and I have got to be honest with you it has been a while since I have worked on the record and I do not have the record here in front of me so I do not quite know what the songs are called [laughs]. I mean, I did all the music and know what the music is but then Michael did his thing with the vocals, so apart from Dying Rose and September I am not sure which song is which when you just rattle off titles.
RM: So can you see future Sweet & Lynch releases down the road?
GL: Well I could, absolutely. I definitely see Michael and I and Jeff Pilson and Mick Brown doing a record together as well. But we might not get to do that for quite some time because of Jeff’s schedule. But in some capacity I would think so it makes a lot of sense, you know, we will see. If the powers that be decide there needs to be another Sweet & Lynch record I would be here ready and willing.
RM: The 1980s was a golden age for hard rock/metal. Do you feel privileged to have been a major contributor to the scene at that time?
GL: Yeah and sometimes I even wonder how that happened [laughs]. Of course, I am very proud of the music that we created, I have gotten over being embarrassed about the look of the era we created, you know, some of the silly attributes and other things that were going on at that time; big hair, stretchy pants and make up. But it was what it was and I am not ashamed of it, if it was not for that I would not be talking to you today; I would not be making the music I am making today.
RM: For me one of the great bands of that era is Dokken. Are you able to look back at that time with the band and reflect positively, or have the decades of conflict with Don Dokken tarnished any fond memories you may have?
GL: Right, it is a mixed bag. I mean, the overriding thing is that we were fortunately successful and that is the most important thing that we wrote, played and had this experience of being in a successful rock band for like a full decade. We are very lucky and very fortunate to have experienced that but like you said there was a lot of dysfunction. The damage kind of tampered down some of my enthusiasm for my recollection of fond memories [laughs]. But it is a mixed bag.
RM: I think that 1985’s Under Lock And Key is a highlight of the Dokken catalogue. 2015 is the 30th anniversary of its release, would you like to see some sort of celebrative re-issue and what do you recall about making that album?
GL: Yeah, that was definitely the pinnacle of the band, we were at our peak at that point, I guess. Each successive record was, we had stepped up to another level because we were so driven to prove ourselves that we had this vision and we thought we could obtain it if we kept building on the previous record. So Breaking The Chains, we were very frustrated with the sales of Breaking The Chains and the way it came out, Tooth And Nail we had to prove ourselves and I think we did in a very basic way and then we stepped it up again with Under Lock And Key. And I think it was our best work, I agree with you. We worked really hard on that record [laughs], I guess we had a chemistry that I do not sometimes appreciate, there were a lot of great songs, wall to wall records, there was not a bad song in the bunch and that is hard to do.
RM: And finally, you hear more and more artists coming out saying that it is getting to the point where it is not worth making full length albums anymore, given the decline in record sales, the popularity of iTunes and downloading. What are your thoughts? Are full length albums still valid in this day and age?
GL: Well obviously it is because we do them, but I have to say I really love making records, it is not a problem for me to do three records in a year. I am happy to do more records because I do not have the luxury of being in a band that does one every year and a half and that sustains me. But this is the thing on two levels, financially and creatively, but it is very sad that it is the way it is I do not know, obviously it cannot be changed, for whatever reason, I just think it is very bizarre that in a worldwide economic system where you have to pay for everything, nothing is free, somehow music gets to be free. I just do not get why there is even an argument or discussion about this, that there is supposedly two points of view, why would there be another point of view [laughs]? You cannot steal anything else in this world, very strange. But we sell a fraction of the records we used to sell and that is frustrating. Say you sell 30-50,000 records, nowadays that is considered respectable now. It is a conservable amount of people, there is an audience out there, it is not just that that many people are hearing the music because obviously people are getting it of torrent sites and whatever, pirating it, streaming it. Streaming it is almost stealing it, you really do not get paid for streams. With KXM I think we had over two and a half million streams and we got like $2,000 [laughs]. The record company gets half that and then three guys divide that up after commissions and you make a couple of hundred dollars if you are lucky for two and a half million streams, it is insane. So I would really like to see artists not allow their music to be streamed, I think it is inevitable that the industry is going this way they want it to go this way because they are getting slave labour but not enough to pay for content. But it is very sad, it hurts the artist, I think the artists should stick together there needs to be a consolidation of writers, of artists, composers and so forth like a union that stands against these guys, that sticks up for a living wage.
RM: Once again, congratulations on the album Sweet & Lynch – Only To Rise. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you and Michael all the best for the album and all the best for many years of success.
GL: Thank you and thank you for the interview, I am sure we will talk again.
For more information about George Lynch visit the official website at www.georgelynch.com
For more information on Sweet & Lynch visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SweetLynch
Sweet & Lynch – Only To Rise is available on Frontiers Records.