|Posted on March 5, 2015 at 7:25 PM||comments (0)|
In 2010, Norwegian singer Issa Oversveen burst onto the melodic hard rock scene with her stunning debut album Sign Of Angels. Unfortunately, more times than not, when an artist releases a first-up effort of this quality the next lot of future releases tend to fall a bit flat. And the artist in question can spend the rest of their career trying to regain that one-off glory. This however is one of those rare occasions where that is not the case; in fact Issa has gone from strength to strength with each release and shows no signs of stopping. On her new album Crossfire she delivers a performance that once again raises the bar of excellence and sets a new standard for other albums to be judged. We caught up to talk about her new album, the development of her career and working with FM frontman Steve Overland.
Rock Man: Firstly, let me start by congratulating you on the release of your new album Crossfire. This is an outstanding effort; you must be very pleased with the final result.
Issa: Yeah, I am very pleased. It has been a long process getting the album done but we got there in the end. So I am happy about that.
RM: This record sounds like it came together easily. Is that the case or did it present some challenges for you?
I: Well, I worked very closely with James and Tom Martin (Vega), but over the years we have written a lot of songs, we have done a lot of things together. So I think when we decided to kind of like get this album done we basically sat down with a bottle of wine and went through some back catalogue and thought “Do we have any songs to start with?” in the beginning, before we started writing new songs. So we sat down and went through a lot of songs and talked about what we could do to change some of them that were five years old. It did come together quite quickly actually, so once we had the songs you can start on the production, so yeah it was fairly easy it was fun to go back and listen to a lot of things that you did in the past and things like that. So yeah, it was a good time actually.
RM: When it comes to writing a song, what type of topics or subject matter inspires you the most?
I: Well, that is a good question. Usually Tom or James start with the backing, probably my biggest strength is the melodies more than anything and they are better with the lyrics than I am. You know, we just share the tasks and usually it can be something that comes up from three different angles really and we create a story together. But then again, we do have songs like Only You. That was a song that was almost based on a love letter, so that one is probably a very real song. So it is usually a lot of songs about love or break ups, anything like that.
RM: You have had the pleasure of teaming up with FM frontman and guitarist Steve Overland on the track Raintown. This is a powerful track and you compliment each other’s vocal style brilliantly. What was it like to work with someone of Steve Overland’s calibre?
I: Oh my gosh, it was amazing. I am a big fan of Steve Overland and FM. I think his voice is just amazing. So I think when we had all the songs for the album, originally, we actually looked at Fight Fire With Rain as going to be a duet song so we thought “Oh that is a great duet song”, you cannot have, well you can, but we did not want two ballads really on an album. So we thought “We’ll do one as a duet” and my first thought was like “Oh, wouldn’t it be good to get Steve Overland” but you never know though, “Is he too busy?”, “Will he do this?”, “Will he like the song?”. So we thought we should try and get in touch with him and obviously we have been on tour with FM so we know him a little bit from that tour, but still we could not get a hold of him. I do not know how much he is on the internet so it ended up us getting in touch with Steve Price from ARfm, it is like a radio channel in England, and we just mentioned it to him and he was like “I’ll call him right now and see if he’s interested” and we were like “Okay, cheers” [laughs]. He came back and said he would love to hear the song and he loves the writing of Tom and James, so we sent Fight Fire With Rain over, he loved the song and I think Steve was a bit busy so we could not really record a song until a few months later on. And in that period I got Raintown back and instantly when I got the mix back, which I did the full song, I thought “Oh no, we need to change the song, it has got to be Raintown”. I just felt like that was the right song, it just hit me so I had to go back and change it all, you know, I spent some time on who is going to do what part and how can we make this work into the duet I hear in my head really. And so we did, we sent the new song to Steve and he loved it and it was amazing.
RM: So are there any other artists that you would like to do a duet with?
I: Well, there are always people. Oh my God if you talk about realistically, I do have, I am not sure if I am allowed to say this yet, but I do have a duet coming up actually which is very exciting as well. So you know what, Mark Free (King Kobra/Unruly Child), obviously it is Marcie Free now but that would have been really funny, maybe like a Diva’s jest [laughs]. Other than that, do a song with Ted Poley (Danger Danger) would be really great, I think he is such a great performer and yeah, there is a lot of people to chose from but you have to go realistically. You can go Def Leppard and all this stuff, that would be a great one.
RM: For me there are a couple of standout tracks on the album such as New Horizon and Ghost Inside My Heart. Can you give me your thoughts on those songs?
I: Yeah. New Horizon, funny that you mention that, it is coming out on video actually. New Horizon is a little bit of a different video actually to what I have done before so it is going to be interesting to see what you think about that. But New Horizon I think is a great, kind of like, it is a feel good track really, it is not all over the place and it is one of those songs that gets in your head. You know, it is kind of like, I do not know it just really gets to me, the song and the lyrics, it is kind of like written about how my life has really gone on, recently I have moved countries and it has been quite difficult. So the song really reflects a little bit about that I think, so it is a great track I think and I love the video that is coming for it, as I said it is a little bit different. And Ghost Inside My Heart, yeah people like that song. It came out great, it is mid-tempo it is a cool rock tune and it was written maybe three years ago. So they are both great songs.
RM: Do you have any personal favourites on the record?
I: Personal favourites? Oh my gosh, obviously Only You is very special to me. I think it is one of those songs that is written about a love affair of mine, written about my love life and, you know, that song just means the world to me and is just very special. And of course Raintown, I think because I had a chance to work with Steve Overland as well as being an amazing song. There are so many good songs, I mean Fight Fire With Rain is another good ballad I remember writing that in Oslo maybe about five years ago. But all the songs are great. Every single one of them has some meaning, some part of your life but if it were to stick out some of the songs I would say those songs as well as New Horizon actually.
RM: Vocally I think you have an exceptional and very versatile voice. You could have easily travelled down the “Pop Diva” road but instead you have chosen to focus your talents on melodic rock. What is it about that style of edgy melodic rock that appeals to you?
I: Well I think when I was younger, obviously, I listened to a lot of pop music, all sorts of music really to be honest. But I think as I got older I started to do a lot of cover band work so I think at that point I realised that that was the kind of music I loved to sing. I kind of loved the high pitch and the powerful, you know, it kind of just happened in a weird way so I kept on doing songs like that. I was in a band and it was everything from AC/DC, T.N.T -10,000 Lovers, all these kind of songs and I think as well as that I did a lot of performances in different metal bands and stuff like that. In Norway it is a big scene with the metal bands really so I think a mixture of that, a mixture of, I have always liked big singers like Heart and Robin Beck and my dad use to listen to rock music all the time as well. But it was not until I got older that I realised that is the music I like to sing and I like the attitude and I like that feel to it
RM: If you look back on the albums that you have recorded so far, can you identify a lesson that you learnt from the previous album that you took into the next recording?
I: That is the thing you learn from every album that you do. And I think what I really enjoyed on this album is that we had a lot more time doing the album and not only that but the song writing as well. I have been part of every single step of the way. While sometimes maybe when you do an album you have a producer in a different country and then you send your vocals and you lose that idea you might have when you are in the studio. You have a vision about how it is going to sound and somebody else might get it and have a different vision and then it ends up not exactly like you wanted it. So I really enjoyed that we had time and I think for the future that is something I will focus on more because I have had albums where I had so little time and been so stressful and I sit back later on and think “I wish we could have changed that” or “Should have done this” and I think the product just gets better as well when you spend more time on it. It is really nobody’s fault, it is just that these things normally take; it might take a year to do an album. You know, from the day you get an agreement with the label and you say “We are going to do this album”, then you have an engineer and producer that is going to get all the songs, you have to pick the songs and then they start recording it and then at the end you have the singing part and by that time you might have three weeks to have it all finished and they need the vocals in a week. So that is a big lesson, a big lesson to learn I think.
RM: So further to that, can you see a level of development or something musically unique about each of your albums that makes one different from the other?
I: Sign Of Angels was definitely a bit harder, a bit harder of an album. And what I think is still cool is every album really is not the same and I do not want to be a kind of artist that does the same album over and over again. So it is always nice to do a bit of a different thing and I think Sign Of Angels was definitely a bit of a harder album, and I remember back at that point as well I was so busy and had voice problems as well. I lost my voice for a year previous to this and I remember I went to rehearsal one day and it just cracked and it kept on cracking and cracking, and I went to the doctors, so at the point when I did Sign Of Angels I was just about getting better. So that is a little bit of a side track to the story but that album is definitely like, lower in key and a bit darker and it was my first album and everything was new. And I think my next one, The Storm is more similar to this one, it is a little bit lighter again but it still has some songs that keep in from the first album. And it is a great production and things like that but I got the chance at that point to write some songs for that album so progressively I have written more and more. So that was a great opportunity and that is a great album as well, then we did Can’t Stop, and Can’t Stop is basically a covers album.
RM: And finally, as a performer from a younger generation, how important has modern technology like the internet and social media been to the development of your career?
I: I think nowadays it is amazing really because you do not really need to be in the same room as each other even to do an album. When we have guest performances we cannot bring people over from all sorts of countries and get the album done, so in that way it is amazing. You can do all sorts; you can get an album done and you can be in one studio, you can send over the files to this one and so on. So production wise it is amazing, but there is also a down side when it comes to selling records. Obviously it is harder these days because you have got the internet, you can go on YouTube or you can go on Spotify and you do not really necessarily need to buy an album. And that is the down side of it because nowadays there is very little money in the industry and I think that also shows when people do not buy albums it is going to cost less money for an artist, let’s say, on the next album. Because the sales numbers will not be that big so you do not get that money to make the album with. So I always think there is a down side but I think nowadays it is great in the fact that you are getting it more instantly out there. Facebook is great as well, you can get a song out and people will see it straight away. So there are good sides and there are bad sides, as for my career, we are the same as everybody else. You have the advantage of getting out there more but with sales and downloads and stuff it is a bit frustrating. I have had albums that have leaked before, that have been out before the release date and it is so frustrating, because you kind of like sit there and go “Oh my God, if everybody is downloading this then how is my next album going to go because there will not be any money in it”. So yeah, it is good and bad I guess.
RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of the new album Crossfire. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you the best of luck for the album and your future.
I: Oh, thank you. That is lovely.
For more information about Issa, visit her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/issa.oversveen
Issa – Crossfire is available on Frontiers Records.
|Posted on February 22, 2015 at 6:35 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with David Ellefson
By Dave Smiles
‘when you’re a young musician… you pretty much have to sell your soul to be in this business, and if you’re fortunate enough to go and get your soul back… you really come to appreciate what it means to just be happy.’ -- David Ellefson
David Ellefson is one of metal’s survivors with a wealth of knowledge and experience with which he is heading down here to Australia to share with the fans on a speaking tour. With his brother in arms Dave Mustaine, the pair created and nurtured the beast that the world knows as Megadeth, but like all success stories there have been many obstacles to overcome along the way.
What inspired you to do a speaking tour?
The idea was brought to me, gosh, almost a year ago. My book, ‘My Life With Deth’ had just come out at the time, just a few months earlier. It’s interesting how, sometimes people write books cause they’re on the speaking circuit, in my case I ended up getting speaking gigs because I wrote a book. And I think it’s fun for the fans more than anything. The book offers an insight into my personal life, some behind the scenes stuff of a rock band that most people don’t know. So to take this down, especially down there to Australia where I haven’t been now in about four years I think is really cool. I was really excited about it when I was approached about doing it. To me, any chance I can get to Australia is always a good one.
Is it sometimes difficult to be open when you’re writing books and doing the speaking tour?
You know, as far as writing the book you get the luxury of getting to edit it. You write it, you do the interview, and you get to re-write it, and re-write it again. I think when you’re out speaking there’s a little more of the impromptu thing, it’s like recording verses playing live.
What can fans expect from the night, how will it be set out and divided up?
We’ll be starting off with a video presentation and then go right into it, there’s a few things out of the book, specific things that I like to talk about and then open it up to some stories, develop things a little more. There’s some things that I put in the book that I think will be fun to develop. It’s fun, it’s a fun night out. It’s not going to be some heavy serious thing, yet at the same time there’s certainly some serious moments in it, you know as anybody’s life would be. It’s really a chance to be up close and personal with the fans. Kind of like people do a clinic with music, a spoken word opportunity is like the same thing with a book.
If you hadn’t become a musician, what do you think you would have done with your life?
Not a clue. I mean I grew up on a farm. (laughs) I can’t say I would have enjoyed being a farmer, even though I can appreciate it a lot more now than I did then. I think I’m doing what I was called to do. For me, the calling came at age ten. I was on the school bus listening to the radio, and rock n roll just started to peak my interest. I couldn’t wait to get a guitar, a bass and start playing. So, to me, the key in life is following what the inner voice tells you because that has been my experience, cause that is the stuff you’re supposed to go after.
What was it about bass guitar that inspired you to play it?
First of all I thought it looked cool. (laughs) Cause it was really long, and it had really big fat strings on it. To be honest I really didn’t know what the thing sounded like I saw pictures of guys playing it, like Fred Turner from Bachman – Turner Overdrive, inside the Not Fragile album. I started seeing people on TV playing the bass, and I was drawn to the bass for some reason. It’s just one of those instruments, even though I love the sound of guitar, for whatever reason I was always drawn to the bass. And then I realised when I got a bass that there was hardly anybody in my little town or neighbouring town that played the bass so I realised, as I started to get pretty good at it pretty quickly, I realised I had quite a few job opportunities if I wanted to go out and be a gigging bassist. One of those was playing in the high school Jazz band. Then I got called up at age twelve, I got called up with a bunch of sixteen year old high school kids, playing in their band because they needed a bass player. I was really into it, I was just into playing the bass, playing rock n roll songs with anyone I could. I grew up in a little town with about two thousand people, so any time I could find a rock n roll musician to hang out with I would, and that helped me get pretty good pretty quick. I find that the more you play with people the better you get. Playing a variety of music is also good too cause it just helps to develop your ear and, especially the bass player, develop your feel, for how to feel music. You could academically learn music, you can read music but when you’re actually playing in front of people it’s about how it feels when you play together.
What’s the best thing about playing your own music in front of a live audience?
You know it’s just one of those things if you’re wired to do it it’s like an endorphin rush. It’s better than drugs, it’s probably on some days better than sex, (laughs) it’s just one of those things, if you have music, or have a performance that can really rock a crowd is such a cool, it’s such a great feeling. To move that many people, to be so connected to so many people it’s just really an incredible thing. And for those of us who get to do it… music isn’t like this job that you do till aged 62 and then you retire it’s something that you do for the rest of your life.
Throughout the eleven albums you recorded with Megadeth, what would you consider to be your best work, and do you have a favourite bass tone?
I think all of them have had some really cool moments, I listen back now to the Youthanasia record and I forget just how great that record really is. I’m actually surprised at how tight the performances are because we recorded that as four guys in a room playing together, well actually Nick was in the drum room. Me, Dave and Marty were in the control room with Max Norman, and we recorded all those songs together in one take. Actually we did three takes and picked one we liked the best and if there were any little, you know, notes to fix you fixed them. Countdown To Extinction was kind of the laboratory experiment where we got so anal and nit-picky about every little nuance, with Youthanasia we thought, ‘Let’s take a different approach. If we can’t sound good as a band we don’t deserve to be in the studio.’ So we intentionally applied pressure on ourselves which in fact Norman would say to us, he’s British, he’d say (in British accent) ‘You gotta apply pressure on yourself, mate. You gotta put pressure on yourself and play your parts.’ I’m glad he did that. You know a good producer is like a sports coach. They inspire you and they raise you up to be better and every album is kind of like going in to training and conditioning for the big race so that was one of those records that I think is great as a band, as opposed to everybody sitting there overdubbing till the cows come home. This is one where we really nailed it together as a band.
This year is the 25th anniversary of Rust In Peace. Are there any plans to do anything to mark the occasion?
You know… we did the twentieth anniversary just five years ago and that was a huge thing. I mean through a change of events it opened the door for me to return to Megadeth. It’s funny cause I returned for a one month commitment. Shawn Drover called me February second, and said ‘Man, we’re making a bass player change, if you have any interest in getting back with Megadeth now is the time.’ Three days later on February fifth I drove over to the studio in California and we’re rehearsing and we knew after I think probably after one whirl of Symphony of Destruction it would be great, and I certainly wanted to come back to the band. On February 8th we made the press announcement. I made a one month commitment. I said I’ll come back for one month and do the Rust In Peace tour and we’ll figure it out from there. It’s funny, you know, a one month commitment and here I am five years later still going strong.
How has your relationship with Dave Mustaine changed over the years?
You know I gotta tell you it’s certainly gone through a lot. In the early days it was not just about forming a band but it was also about survival together. I mean he was just really down on his luck, from the Metallica thing and financially really behind the eight ball. I had just moved to California from a pretty comfortable middle class life on a farm in Minnesota and straight into Hollywood. I never went back home, I never called home for money. My attitude was I’m out of home now pursuing what I want to do and now it’s time to do this on my own. So Dave and I we became like brothers in arms. We started a band together, we had to figure out a way to survive together, we drank together, we did girls together (Laughs), we did everything together you know? That was just the spirit of being in a rock n roll band together. Especially being a heavy metal band in 1983, I can’t think of a better time to start a heavy metal band. Especially in LA, cause it was full on, it was great. It was just one of those things when you go through those experiences together I mean that’s a bond that just doesn’t come along that often. It’s sort of like a heavy metal fraternity or something…. And a lot of the other guys they couldn’t handle it, they couldn’t take it, you know? Dave and I, we were the two. We were literally at the bottom and then we were even lower… and that’s,… when you go to those kind of lows together… you like to think you can handle the highs together and so that’s what mine and David’s relationships is and I think now that we’re older and we have families we’ve grown into grown men now. Now we can look back at those things and laugh about them, we’ve certainly got enough stories together. But I think, just as importantly, we know ‘well, we’ve been down this road before, we know what this looks like…’ And the funny thing is he and I have been in the business longer than damn near anybody in our organisation, managers, record company people, publishers. Maybe not booking agents cause there’s a couple of people who have been doing this longer than we have, but for the most part Dave and I, we are the statesmen of our organisation, without a doubt.
Is there anything else you’d like to achieve in your life personally and as a musician?
I think more than anything at this point it’s about doing stuff that you walk away feeling good about. I think that when you’re a young musician… you pretty much have to sell your soul to be in this business, and if you’re fortunate enough to go and get your soul back… you really come to appreciate what it means to just be happy. Because there’s so many things I think that as a musician you have to do that just really infringe on your spirit. You do it for the greater cause, the greater good and hopefully one day there’s a payoff. I think now it’s just about making great records that people will like, and listening back and in some ways just being a fan of your own work.
Is there any news from the Megadeth camp as to who the new members will be?
There are some developments with it and I think I’ve come to realise - we’ve certainly spent the last several months, kind of late November, sorting things out. I think, what I’ve come to is that we need to make a great record, cause that should always be… the songs have always determined who’s going to be in the band; from day one. And nothing should change with that. To go back and chase some glory day is like chasing fool’s gold. I think that the songs, and the album, are going to determine what the line-up is and I think that’s the proper order of putting the horse in front of the cart.
David Ellefson will be in Australia in March. For more information and to buy tickets check out the following link.
Effefson’s book can be ordered through Amazon
|Posted on February 22, 2015 at 6:15 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with Cormic Neeson
By Dave Smiles
For all intents and purposes The Answer already have a career that mirrors that of the classic rock bands from the seventies. Back in the days when a band’s career and reputation grew with each successive album release and through touring. Perhaps most surprisingly in our modern world is the support the band has received from their record company.
Since the success of their debut single Keep Believin’ in 2005, The Answer have released a string of albums that showcase the bands continuous improvement and development as song writers and performers. They’ve opened for Aerosmith, AC/DC and Deep Purple, and are one of many great young rock bands the world over ready to step up and carry the torch of rock n roll. The Answer are the future of rock n roll and prove without question that rock is indeed alive and well.
Front-man Cormic Neeson took some time out to answer some questions about the upcoming album Raise A Little Hell, song writing, and what’s in store for the band over the next twelve months.
Congratulations on the upcoming release of your new studio album Raise A Little Hell. What can fans expect from the new album?
Essentially it’s a rock n roll record, it’s an album where you can hear a band having a lot of fun and doing what they do best and that is making electric blues music. It was just one of those records that we were able to block out knowledge from labels and management and fans and just kind of trust in ourselves to write good songs and get a good vibe in the studio to get some good songs down.
With the growing success of your previous albums, did you feel any pressure to take things to the next level going into the new record?
I’d say no. We’ve definitely felt pressure in the past. As soon as you’re out in the public domain, the album belongs out there and the journey has begun. There’s all these pressures that you never had to deal with before. You have to obviously live up to the previous record. Fans come to expect a particular type of record. But, five albums in we really made the call to just block all that back ground noise completely out and kind of get back to basics in a way. It was a lot like making our first album when we were making music just for the sheer joy of it. Thankfully, this album has really benefitted from that attitude.
How does the band go about writing its songs, and what inspires you when writing lyrics?
We write the songs pretty much the way we’ve always written the songs, kind of a combination of band members jamming in the rehearsal room and we’ll record everything and then shift through it and pick out the best riffs, but also we’re all keen songwriters in our own right. And we’ll come in with a couple of songs each that we’ve all been working on that we think with everyone else’s help we can turn into a viable album track and we’ll go to work on those songs and try and do them justice. So there’s two quite distinct methods there, but that’s always been the way we’ve done things. In lyrics ways, I write a lot of the lyrics and I just kind of draw on real life experiences. I think lyrics have to come from the heart, they have to come from something real. And then if the song gets twisted or the lyric gets twisted a little bit for the shape of the song, that’s fine, but I think the source has to come from real life experience cause I’m the guy who’s gonna be up there every night singing those songs and I really need to feel it. It’s important to me that I can get up there and deliver those lyrics with as much passion as the guys who are gonna be delivering musically.
One of the songs that really stands out on the album is Gone Too Long, it seems to have a lot of genuine emotion behind it. What’s the story behind that track?
Yeah, it’s one of our more introspective songs for sure. It just kind of harkens to the old fact that everybody makes mistakes, and sometimes when you’re in a band you can neglect other areas of your life. And while you’re trying hard to hold up the whole band thing on one front you can neglect your personal life, and your home life and leave some regret. Gone Too Long is just an apology for any times I might have fucked up in the past.
When did you first discover music and who are some of the bands that inspired you to pursue music as a career?
I’ve been into music for as long as I can remember. I joined my first band when I was fifteen. I started singing cause they didn’t need a forth guitar player basically. It just kind of developed and evolved from there. I’ve always had a soft spot for seventies blues based rock music, you can obviously hear that with The Answer. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Free, The Who. I don’t know exactly where that love began I’d imagine it was my dad’s vinyl collection that had a lot to do with it. It just stuck with me. Whatever it was. I listen to all different types of music, there are a number of different bands, old and new. I definitely have a soft spot for blues based seventies rock.
Is there a story behind the band’s name?
Yeah, it’s going back a long time now but when we first put the band together we just couldn’t decide on a name. It got to the stage where we had already booked our first show at Belfast. It was like we’ve got a gig, fantastic, but with no name and the promoter rang our drummer and said listen, ‘we need a name, what’s the answer gonna be?’ And James relayed that to us and we thought, let’s just call ourselves The Answer. We thought about it for a second and thought, yeah, fuck it. Let’s make ballsy rock n roll music and call ourselves The Answer. (laughs) That was basically the way it happened.
A lot bands in the modern world are taking the do-it-yourself road with recording and promoting albums and their band. The Answer are signed to Napalm Records. Do you think record companies are as important as they used to be?
I think they can be, it all depends on the record company and the amount of effort they give to their bands. I think we’re lucky in that we do have a label who’s willing to support the band, support the vision and most importantly, when it comes to the record support the band financially in order to take the band to the next level. I think we’ve benefitted from that sense of stability in this record because it means we don’t have to worry about the business side of things we can focus on making music, that’s what we’re best at obviously. We’ve actually signed for another two records with Napalm which will bring our tally up to four albums with those guys. It’s a pretty rare thing that level of stability and commitment inside the music business.
Is there anything that you do to stay sane while on tour, and is there anything that you do to prepare before going on stage?
Yeah I have a bit of a routine. I normally start with sound check. In the afternoon is when I start to warm up my vocal chords, and then I’ll go away for a few hours and rest up. Then maybe an hour or so before a show I’ll start to do a few warm up exercises. Nothing too much and nothing too technical. Just loosening up so I can get up on that stage and give it everything I’ve got.
Do you have any favourite songs on the new album and anything you’re looking forward to performing live?
I love them all, they’re all still new and fresh to me and it’s hard to pick favourites, but Long Live The Renegades is right up there. Last Days Of Summer is going to be good fun live cause it’s really stoner rock and there’s a lot of space to stretch the song out and have a good old ten minute jam in the middle of the song which will be fun. I Am What I Am is a good refection of where The Answer shine is at the moment. The title track itself, Raise A Little Hell, should be fun. I Am Cured has some tasty slide playing. I’m looking forward to playing them all and I’m sure I’ll have different favourites.
Are the tour plans in place yet and are you guys going to be heading down to Australia any time soon?
Yeah that’s the plan. We’ve got a lot of touring coming up. The record comes up on the second of March and we’re touring the UK the whole month of March, off to Europe in April, got to America in May, come back to Europe for festivals in the summer then back to America again so it’s going to be a busy six months. I like to think that at the end of all that we’ll be able to get down to Australia for a few weeks of touring. Let’s face it we don’t want you folks forgetting about us down there.
Speaking of Australia, what was it like opening for AC/DC and how did their audience react to you guys?
Yeah, it was a pretty intense year to have. We played a 118 shows with those guys. One of the best moments of my life, for sure. It was an electric atmosphere from start to finish playing in front of thousands of people. We played Madison Square Gardens, The Forum in LA, JAG Stadium, Wembley Stadium, back in the UK. It was just exhilarating, you know? We definitely learned a thing or two about stage craft and song writing on that tour, again I think it’s really come to the fore in this record.
What would you like to achieve as a musician and with your band The Answer?
I just want to be able to keep making music for a living, man. It’s a pretty simple target. I like to think this record could take us to another level. I think we’ve got the songs to do it on this album. We’ll get this album out and engage our fan base that is already out there and hopefully pick up some new ones along the way.
Thank you from everyone here at Full Throttle Rock and I hope to see you guys down here in Australia soon. Hope you have a great year.
Thanks very much, buddy.
For more information about the band visit the official website at www.theanswer.ie
The Answer – Raise A Little Hell is available on Napalm Records.
|Posted on January 28, 2015 at 7:45 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with Robert Sall
By Juliano Mallon
Swedish trio Work Of Art is now well established as one of the best AOR acts on this day and age. With three awesome albums under their belt, filled with catchy and powerful songs, guitarist/songwriter Robert Säll stands out as the brain of the band. And with the recent release of “Framework”, I decided to contact Säll for a talk about their latest album, their career, a quick look back to the past and a glimpse of what the future holds for Work Of Art.
Now that “Framework” is out and getting excellent reviews around the globe, what are your views on this album?
ROBERT SÄLL: I think it is a worthy follow up to our two previous albums. While we were working on it, I didn't really know if it would live up to the standards of our earlier albums but now, after a couple of months have passed since its release, I really enjoy it!
How would you compare it to its two predecessors, musically speaking?
ROBERT SÄLL: Basically I think it stays within the same style and direction as those two previous albums. But I think we play, sing and produced it a little better and hopefully the songs are a little better as well. I tried to write more catchier choruses for this album for example. Our goal was to take the best elements from "Artwork" and "In Progress"and just make the best WOA album we possibly could.
The japanese bonus track “On The Edge Of Time” is awesome. Who decides what songs will be included in the tracklist and what is left off? And who gets to pick the bonus tracks?
ROBERT SÄLL: We decided on the bonus track ourselves and it was a mutual decision between me, Herman and Lars. "On The Edge Of Time" was a track that we didn't record until the very last minute and I believe Lars recorded the vocals and mixed it two day before we mastered the album. So really, that track was quickly written and recorded but I think it turned out pretty okay.
You have a whole lot of great music written for Work Of Art. What would be your favorites, from all three albums?
ROBERT SÄLL: Ah, it's really difficult to choose but okay, two songs from every record: Why Do I?, Camilia, The Great Fall, One Step Away, Time To Let Go & Shout Till You Wake Up. Ask me tomorrow and I probably would choose different songs!
What is easier for you: writing by yourself or with some collaborator? Why?
ROBERT SÄLL: Sometimes it is easier when you write with a collaborator because you can bounce ideas back and forth and finish a song much quicker. But I usually find it much more rewarding to write on my own and let the song come to life in its own pace. Song writers work differently but for me, it is kind of a personal process.
Is there any songs written for another artist or band that you wish WOA had recorded? If so, which one(s) and why?
ROBERT SÄLL: Probably "Elaine" that I wrote for Fergie Frederiksen or "Worth Fighting For" that I wrote for the Kimball/Jamison album. I think those would really have fitted on a WOA album and Lars demo vocals on those tracks were so incredibly good…but then again, they always are. But having said that, I'm really happy that those track ended up on those albums and I love how Fergie, Bobby and Jimi sang on those tracks. I feel really blessed that I got the chance to write for those guys, especially for Jimi and Fergie who sadly passed last year.
Talking about songs, are there many unreleased material? And if so, do you plan to make it available someday?
ROBERT SÄLL: Not really, there are a couple of songs that didn't make it to any the albums but for a good reason, they just weren't good enough. And usually the songs that didn't make it to an album usually turns up on the next album in an improved version. For example, "Fall Down" was a song that didn't' make to "Artwork" but ended up on "In Progress" with new verses. "Natalie" was a left over from "In Progress" that ended up on "Framework" with a new chorus.
You’re gonna tour in support of the new album. Where is the band going, so far?
ROBERT SÄLL: Spain in May for three dates and then Väsby Rock Festival here in Stockholm in July.
Is there a chance of any of those concerts be recorded for a future DVD release and/or a live album?
ROBERT SÄLL: I don't think so. We've only played like six or seven shows all together so far so playing live is still pretty new to us. I think we would need a lot more shows under our belts before we sound and perform good enough to record anything.
Back in 2011, when we last talked prior to the release of “In Progress”, you told me that Work Of Art had an idea of releasing three albums. Since they’ve all been released, what are the plans for the band?
ROBERT SÄLL: What I meant was that when we started this band, way back in the early nineties when we still were teenagers, we use to day dream about some day becoming rock stars. We made all kinds of grand plans the way you do when you're at that age. And one thing we figured out was the names for the three first albums. And actually, we stuck to that plan, at least for our two first albums. "Framework" we wanted to name "Piece of Work" but we changed that to shorter and more memorable "Framework".
Robert, it has been a pleasure talking to you again. I wish you even more success and I can’t wait to hear more music from WOA.
ROBERT SÄLL: Thank you, Juliano. I want to say hello and THANK YOU to all our wonderful fans. You are the reason this band keeps going and I really hope to see you on the road one of these days.
For more information about Work Of Art visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/workofart
Work Of Art – Framework is available on Frontiers Records.
|Posted on January 10, 2015 at 8:35 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with Anton Kabanen
By Dave Smiles
Battle Beast are set to release their third studio album, the first after their breakthrough self-titled sophomore effort from 2013. After frantic touring and seemingly overnight success, guitarist and main songwriter, Anton Kabanen was faced with the task of composing the follow up to their runaway hit album. A task that would seem daunting under any circumstances, but add to it a need to ask yourself some hard questions and to challenge everything you know to be real and you’re in an environment where some of the most fascinating art can be created… if you’re brave enough to battle through to the other side.
First up, Congratulations on the upcoming release of the third Battle Beast album.
What can fans expect from the new album?
A lot of heavy metal, a lot of beautiful music. I think there’s a lot of stuff for everyone. It’s a versatile album, music wise. I think everyone will find their own favourites on that album. A lot of good music.
With all the acclaim your previous Self-Titled album received. How much pressure did you feel going into it this time around to bring the band up to the next level?
Well this new one was even harder, you know. It was kind of hell, once again, the whole process. To be honest. Especially from the time schedule perspective, it was hard to finish the album and it got delayed many months and all other problems occurred as well during the process, which I won’t go too much into, but yeah it was a horrible experience. I was personally working on it over a year, cause I’m also the song-writer and it started last year (2013) the actual song selection or song writing process for this album. It became also very personal. In a way it’s a concept album cause in a way a lot of my personal times… that I went through a year ago. And the actual recording and production was very hard work as well. I’m happy that it’s done and finally there’s some other things in mind as well.
How do you go about writing your songs and your lyrics?
It was kind of like questioning your own existence, like who are you? What’s real and what’s not real. What is my place in this world or in this universe? What are my deepest fears and demons and facing those demons and when you start learning the right questions, when you know what to ask yourself, then after some searching you find an answer, and have to find the courage to face the answer because it’s not always what you want to hear or know when you find what you’re looking for. It’s kind of a spiritual journey so to speak, but it’s kind of a natural thing I think for every human being to go through at some point of their life. For some people it goes for their whole lifetime. It’s natural to question yourself. It means that you want to go forward, you want to go further. You don’t want to be stuck in one place, not knowing what’s real, what’s truthful. At least that’s how I think people will be at some point of their lives. I can’t imagine that there’s a human being who hasn’t thought of these questions.
Do you feel you’re fortunate to have music to be able to explore these things with?
Absolutely, yes. It’s a privilege. I see it as a privilege and I’m very happy that I have this way to express these things. Apart from that, it’s not always about these topics – your own existence and all that stuff. It’s not always about that. At least not as straight forward about these topics. Sometimes, you do things you don’t even realise until afterwards that you were actually discovering something about yourself. And that has happened to me as well, when I look back some of the songs I’ve written I didn’t know what I wrote, what was the thing behind them? Lyrics or songs, but afterwards I look at it I understand okay.
What first got you interested in music when you were young?
I think what first started it was my grandfather brought an acoustic guitar and my dad then taught me the first chords on the guitar. But even before that even I would play guitar, not real guitar, a self-made piece of wood with some kind of strings on it. I already was interested in it back then before I was six years old so I don’t know why I was interested in it, it just felt so… interesting, so nice and so comfortable. I knew I wanted to play the guitar even though it wasn’t so serious as a kid. As soon as I started practicing when I was a teenager. Music has always been a part of my life. I’ve been listening to hard rock music since I was maybe eight years old. All kinds of music. You can’t feel it, if it’s your thing you’ll just know.
What’s the best thing about being able to perform your own music in front of a live audience?
Once again, it just feels good. Even though we have performed, many years ago, cover songs I remember I had kind of the same feeling when I was performing those cover songs as my own songs because when you’re playing live songs that you enjoy it doesn’t matter, well of course it matters to some extent, but to me it’s not that huge of a difference if it’s a cover song or my own. At least if it’s a small addition to your own concert if you just play a cover song as an encore or something it feels just as good as performing one of your own songs but the difference is when you’re playing your own concert and the set list is mostly your own songs I feel privileged, personally very much, because it shows that people care about what you do and when you see that people care about it you want to keep doing that and hope that people will continue to like it and listen to your music in the future. It’s a privilege and I appreciate that.
What would you like to achieve with Battle Beast in the coming years?
To have a long career, that we can all make our living purely out of this band so that we won’t have to do anything else. Unless we want to do something else, like side projects or whatever we want to do. As many albums, as many tours as possible, or course.
Getting back to the new album, are there any tracks on it you’re particularly proud of and are looking forward to playing live?
My personal favourite is Angel Cry. The final track of the album. It’s a very unusual choice maybe because there’s not even a band on that song in the background, there’s only orchestra stuff and acoustic guitars and a lot of keyboards. That song is really like… I can’t explain. It just feels like my favourite. It has felt as my favourite for a long time. It may change in the future, but so far I would say Angel Cry, definitely.
Yeah, it was a good track to end the album on, it kind of calmed everything down. Any thoughts of continuing on in that sort of style, or just keep mixing it up?
Yeah, definitely. To me it’s only natural to write that kind of stuff because I’ve been writing that kind of stuff for many years, but this was the first album that we finally released something like that. I’ve been writing all kinds of songs, eighties kind of synth pop, there’s some of that on this album as well. As a song writer I feel it would kind of be suppressing me to only write this kind of traditional heavy metal stuff. I like to use the wide range of musical abilities that I have as a songwriter, I like to reveal those on the albums as well not just keep them to myself.
In recent years the metal genre has divided into many sub genres. What does ‘metal’ mean to you?
Personally, I always have to think what metal actually is. Is it just a music genre or is it something else? I don’t know. During this album, this process about these questions about ‘your place in the world and what’s real and what’s not’ has made me think about many things like what we categorise and put in boxes and many people expect us to have opinions on and … I’m starting to get kind of lost on this question because I don’t know what metal does mean to me. I really don’t. To me it’s just … it can be music but to some it’s a way of life. I just think, myself as a human being who writes heavy metal music as a way to express himself, as a composer. Apart from that I also write different kinds of music that’s now present on that album like Angel Cry and The Black Swordsman. It’s not all heavy metal even though there’s elements of heavy metal in those songs. I mean vocals can also make it like ‘heavy’. The Angel Cry song, the last chorus is very raw sounding, with a very strong voice and there’s this very huge orchestral sound there, with a bombastic feel to it even though there are no distorted guitars. In my opinion it’s not only the distorted guitars and drums that make heavy metal. It’s kind of the powerful feel of the music. If it’s powerful its heavy metal, in my opinion. It really doesn’t matter how people categorise the music as long as the music’s good and as long as people live their lives the way they want to live it’s good, in a way that it doesn’t harm other people either. That’s the most important thing. I’m sorry if I got a bit carried away from the original question. Sometimes I get blabbery.
Not at all. It’s a great way of summing things up. I think it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
Are there any plans for Battle Beast to tour down here in Australia?
I’m really hoping that we can get to Australia as soon as possible. We’ve never been there. If we can get there as soon as the next year it would be amazing, cause we’ve already been to many different countries and even to Japan which was a big dream come true. The same thing goes for Australia if we finally get there it would be a dream come true once again. We’re really hoping to play some tours there, or a festival show. It would be amazing to be able to play there.
Thank you for your time. Good luck with everything with Battle Beast and for yourself.
Thank you. It was very nice talking with you.
For more information about Battle Beast visit the official website at www.battlebeast.fl/
Battle Beast – Unholy Saviour is available on Nuclear Blast Records.
|Posted on January 10, 2015 at 8:00 PM||comments (0)|
Just for a moment imagine what it would be like if you took four of the world’s most exceptionally talented musicians with a combined total of 138 years of experience, put them together in a band environment and asked them to record an album. What do you think it might sound like? The answer might very well be the latest creation from Frontiers Records called Rated X. This mind blowing collaboration brings together some of rock music’s most decorated veterans with drummer Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge/Rod Stewart/Blue Murder), bassist Tony Franklin (The Firm/Paul Rodgers/Quiet Riot) and guitar virtuoso Karl Cochran (Voodooland/Far Cry) joined by vocal legend Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow/Yngwie Malmsteen/Deep Purple). I simply cannot believe all of this talent together on the one record so I picked up the phone and called JLT for a quick chat about this new and exciting project, the new self titled album and the declining state of the music industry. It was an interesting discussion indeed.
Rock Man: Congratulations on the release of the debut self titled Rated X album. This record sees the coming together of some very big hitters in the hard rock/metal world: names like Karl Cochran, Carmine Appice, Tony Franklin and yourself, of course. How does this band compare to some of the other talented groups you have been involved with over the years?
Joe Lynn Turner: Look comparisons are difficult in the artistic realm in my opinion, but I will tell you one thing the egos are under control and that is something [laughs]. You know, when you play in major bands with major people you always have a difficult time with egos but with this one everyone is pretty much tempered at this point and we are seasoned professionals. And it really works wonderful together, so that is one of the big plus’ that the egos are out of the way. But as far as performances go, putting the rhythm section together with Carmine Appice and Tony Franklin is beyond a dream because you have got two guys that are incredibly stylistic who come together and play together and create this underbelly of explosion and drama. That to me is one of the highlights of Rated X because you have got to have that rock beneath you before you can lay vocals, guitars, keyboards, etc. on top and that makes a big difference I think, than any other band, that we have a killer rhythm section.
RM: Did you have any expectations going into this project, and if so has this album exceeded those expectations?
JLT: I think, actually yeah we tried to start out doing exactly what we have done, a bit retro with a modern sound. You know, a performance band and what I mean by that is that we have basically catchy tunes but at the same time these middle bits that we do inside the arrangement that everyone gets a chance to stretch out, whether it is drum, bass, guitars or vocals. And I think we have accomplished what we wanted to do originally, which was make this a high performance band with excellent song writing material. I really feel that we have done that and surprisingly so because in the recording stages when we were laying down tracks, we did not have many ideas that that it was going to come out the way it should. Until we actually had Pat Reagan mix it, who is absolutely brilliant and he created all the separations and the frequencies, we could actually hear through everything as you can hear now and see that we have accomplished that goal. So I am absolutely slain by it, I think it has come out terrific and I could not be prouder of everyone.
RM: I don’t know if this is just me, but I felt the album has a strong 1970s feel about it. Would you agree and if so, was the plan going into this to make it that way or was it just a natural progression?
JLT: Yeah, that was true we wanted it to be retro. We were looking back to bands like Led Zeppelin, you know, from that era and saying “Well, what did they do within the song context?” and if you go put on the first Led Zeppelin album or the second or whatever you will notice that they do exactly that. They have got a great song content and then they kind of go off in the middle and do something and then come back to the song and in that way a lot of the bands from the ‘70s were attempting that. Because live, you create that type of atmosphere, you know, you have got the song going and then Boom!, you just break it down and you just go into this really trippy kind of feel with all this music and you come right back out into the song. So yeah, we actually wanted it that way, so retro with a modern edge.
RM: I wanted to get your thoughts on a couple of songs from the album. Can I start with Lhasa, this 7 minute epic, to me at least, feels like a nice blend of Led Zeppelin meets Rainbow. What is your take on that song?
JLT: Yeah I would say Lhasa is our Kashmir. It is kind of like what Led Zeppelin did with Kashmir in our own way, you know, and I think there is a lot of theatre in that song. There is a spiritual message in that song, of course, and at the same time the music is just extremely heavy and profound and the middle section just kicks me away when you listen to it live and I think it is just going to blow people off their seats. But I would have to say this is what we were going for, you know, it is a centrepiece, a cornerstone song, holding up the building so to speak.
RM: I really enjoyed Fire & Ice, particularly the middle section of the song where there is this awesome trade-off between the keyboards and the drums. You rarely find stuff like that on most standard rock records, the format is usually verse/chorus/guitar solo. How did this brilliant piece of music come together?
JLT: This was the idea, not just to be usual, not to be like you said that abacab formula or what have you, you know, not to be the usual A-B-C-A-B-C, put in a bridge, back to the chorus and out. This is a performance band, these players are all amazing stylist individuals and we need to showcase them somehow so that I think is probably one of the most important aspects of the record that we let everybody stretch out and get a chance to actually play within the frame work of a song. And that is how that developed so we were really flying blind as we were doing it, it was not all scrolled out or anything and we just kind of played our way through the song until we got to the end and went “That’s It!”. And I might add that all of these tracks were done separately, no one was in the same room together at any one time which is a really amazing feat because it sounds like we are in the same room and we managed to keep that live feel to it. And I think, you know, Zeppelin did that but they were in the same room and the only way you can get this is from seasoned professionals coming together who know how to do that.
RM: You have tapped your friend Nikolo Kotzev from Brazen Abbot on the shoulder to contribute guitar on a couple of tracks, how did that come about and what was his response when you told him about the project?
JLT: Well first of all, the reason why Nikolo was called was because the guitarist Karl Cochran, who is a guitar star waiting to happen, this guy is amazing, suffered a stroke several tracks in. So after he came down with this stroke we were all absolutely mortified and we still are, he is a brother and when you have got one man down on a team the team usually stands up and plays harder. So that is what happened here there is a lot of blood, sweat and tears on this record. So when Karl went down of course we had to finish this record and there were a couple of other guys straggling around thinking that they could jump on this record, you know, to make a name for themselves but I said “No there is only one guy in my mind that is a virtuoso to do this” and that was Nikolo. And he was very kind in the sense that he listened to what we had done and he kind of fashioned the guitar sound after that and he understood what we wanted and he also put himself into it at the same time within the Rated X sound. And I think it came out brilliantly and his tracks just shine as well, so we really had the best of the best on this record.
RM: So can you give us an update on how Karl is doing at the moment?
JLT: Thank you for asking. He is really progressing really well we are doing benefits to help with his recovery and recuperation and his therapies, and that is offsetting his medical costs because they are absolutely huge as anyone knows today. So the stroke paralysed him on the right side so he is raising his arm to his shoulder, he is stretching out the right hand now, he is not walking with a cane anymore on the right leg so he is improving but it is a tough road. It is a long road but all of our prayers and thoughts and efforts are going in to this because it is such a tragic thing to happen to him. Now we do have if I can just mention this, we do have a website called “Rock N’ Recovery” and people can write to us, they can send money, they can do whatever they want, give all you can to help your brother out. This is not just going to be for Karl in the future this is going to be a foundation to help any and all musicians who suffer. So, you know, we are trying to do the best we can as a community of rockers.
RM: Well on behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock please wish him all the best for a speedy recovery.
JLT: Thank you so much for that. That really helps because he gets all these messages and it is very positive for him and it encourages him to keep going. Obviously it is a difficult thing and there is disappointment and discouraging times for him but this helps him, thank you.
RM: Moving on to a lighter note, your last solo outing was the 2007 album Second Hand Life. Are there any plans to record another solo effort?
JLT: You know, I actually used some material I had for a new solo record on this album. Once I saw how Rated X could develop and become a driving force in this much needed industry I really started to put all my efforts into Rated X. Will I want to do a solo album? Well, I think I should let this (Rated X) get off the ground first and then start to concentrate on it. Of course there is always writing, writing, writing and there is preparing for it but at the same time you can only juggle so many balls in the air at once. I think nowadays the problem with people is they have three or four projects going and they are hoping one of them sticks. I understand why they do that because this new paradigm has taken away the revenue from selling CDs, for sure so we have to go out live and play and if you play in three different projects you have got three chances to at least get some income. So it is pretty difficult like that but I think I am going to hold off for now and start thinking about it next year or the year after, I have got some other plans this year.
RM: In recent times you have been very vocal about Richie Blackmore and a Rainbow reunion. What was the catalyst that sparked this passionate call to arms?
JLT: Well, 2015 is the 40 year anniversary and I think that was the catalyst. It just hit me one day and I said “40 year anniversary” the band was huge, the band was iconic, Richie is iconic of course, and I felt that the fans, there are a lot of fans who grew up listening to Rainbow but never got the chance to see them. And I know many of them, you know, at a younger age of course, but still right on that cusp so to speak, and the older hardcore fans would come out but I am so passionate about it because Rainbow deserves something like this to honour all the ex-members of Rainbow. Honour Richie Blackmore first, all the ex-members of Rainbow and the fans deserve it, everywhere I go no matter where in the world people are asking for Rainbow. Rainbow, Rainbow, Rainbow and I am saying, “Well I don’t know, it doesn’t look like it, everybody is busy, nobodies thinking about it” but when this 40 year anniversary came up it hit me that this is the only time it can happen. This is the perfect time and the only time this is our chance, so hopefully I will be sitting down with Richie in a couple of weeks and we will try to figure something out. See how far we want to take it or not take it at all.
RM: We recently saw Gene Simmons come under fire for his “Rock Is Dead” statement. My take on it is that he was talking about the business side of making “Rock Stars” that is dead today, not so much the genre itself. With the lack of record sales, the increase of downloading and contracts being handed out to karaoke performers on American Idol or The X Factor I am not sure where the next “Rolling Stones” is going to come from. What are your thoughts as someone who has witnessed the industry change so much over the years?
JLT: Very good question Rock Man. I really happen to agree with your ‘karaoke’ statement. It is misleading for young people or anyone to think that they can get on a TV show and become an instant star without blood, sweat and tears, you know what I mean? I think it takes years of discipline, practise, effort and desire to really do this and they make it look like it is so damn easy and that is just not going to fly, not in this world not in the next. As far as rock being dead, let me address that really quickly, it may be sleepy but it is not dead. There are plenty of people who still want to see great music, that want to hear some of the old music come back because it was real. What you have today is a lot of one hit wonders and flash in the pan type artists that are not going to stand the test of time. And they are karaoke artists with their dance oriented numbers and that is all fine, that is an art form as well but so many people are coming out as ‘cookie cutter’ artists. It is beyond my imagination that this could happen, I am shocked, I am stunned about it, what Lady GaGa looks like Madonna looked like, Madonna looked like Miley Cyrus, Cyrus looks like Talyor Swift now, they are all following the same corporate manufactured sort of direction and it is almost getting stupid. Anyone who knows anything can see through all of this [laughs] and I am waiting for the man from behind the curtain to be exposed because it is all smoke and mirrors.
RM: So as someone who has spent many years working in clubs and bars perfecting your craft, when you see these people appear on these types of shows who look like they decided that morning that they wanted to be a singing star, is it insulting?
JLT: Oh, it is extremely insulting to us all. I used to get a bit angry about it but then I realised that it is a laugh, it is just stupid. How can anyone take it seriously? I mean, if you take your Justin Beiber’s of the world, I mean this kid use to be able to sing, now he is just a clown. I mean it is not like he did not have some talent or (Lady) GaGa does not have any talent, of course there is talent there, but the way they are bringing this across, perhaps I am using two artists that are not exactly like this, but there are so many other people who are out there. This Miley Cyrus is killing me. I mean, naked on a wrecking ball? I can remember when we got banned from MTV because we were standing in a graveyard during the “Death Alley Driver” video. This is true, Rainbow got banned because we were standing in a graveyard and now you have pretty much soft porn on your MTV. It is incredible how degrading everything has become and not only how they are presenting themselves in a degrading way but at the same time it is not even music anymore, it is just fashion, fad and a sound and if Max Martin writes another song for, he writes for everybody it is the same guy writing the same “cookie cutter” music for the same “cookie cutter” artist. And when one goes another one fills its place and it is exactly the same.
RM: I remember back in the mid 1980s the fury that was coming out of the Tipper Gore founded organization the PMRC over certain music videos, album covers and lyrics. I often wonder what they would make of today’s musical landscape.
JLT: Well the PMRC, my God. Look at the rap lyrics now, I mean they are using the “C” word, the “B” word they are using the “F” word they are using everything. And nobody has even poked their head through and said anything about anything anymore, so I think that was a complete display of crap what Tipper Gore was trying to do in those days. I mean, it was all political and promotional gathering for herself and for Al Gore and things like that. I mean, look at it now you can see through it all and it made not one bit of difference, if anything it made Twisted Sister bigger, you know, for example, these guys are from my neck of the woods I have known them all my life. And what it really did was make kids want to go out and hear the filthier words and dirtier music because their Mom and Dad did not want them to listen to it. So, of course there is always going to be that rebellion right? So they actually made it easier I think, they turned the wrong key because look at it now it has just gone completely downhill. I am actually embarrassed buy some of the things I am looking at today, I just go “How could you let that go by as music?”, “How could you promote that to your young children?”
RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of the self titled Rated X album. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you all the best for the album and yourself for the future.
JLT: Thank you so much Rock Man.
To help Karl Cochran please visit the official website at www.rocknrecovery.net
For more information about Rated X visit the band on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RatedXRocks
Rated X – Rated X is available on Frontiers Records
|Posted on January 10, 2015 at 7:30 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with Marcus Siepen
By Dave Smiles
Marcus Siepen has a lot to be proud of. His band Blind Guardian are about to take their sound to grand new heights with the upcoming release of their tenth studio album Beyond The Red Mirror. An album containing two orchestras, three choirs and a metal band still at the top of their game after a career spanning thirty years. Siepen took some time to answer some questions for Full Throttle Rock. It was fascinating to hear a musician talking about bringing metal, orchestra and choir together during the writing, recording and mixing processes for the album. It was also good to hear how he’s still discovering new music and striving to be a better performer.
First of all congratulation of the upcoming release of Blind Guardian’s tenth studio album.
Thank you very much. Have you had a listen to it yet?
Yeah, I had a listen to it today, it’s really good! It sounds like it was a really huge project to undertake this time around. Can you tell you tell us a bit about what the fans can expect from this album?
Yeah, it’s definitely the biggest thing we’ve done so far. It had all the typical Blind Guardian elements you know, it has the old school speed thrash metal thing going on, it has the tempo stuff, epic stuff, progressive stuff. It’s a bit of a mix of everything we’ve done so far but obviously we wanted to do some new things as well, we wanted to take it to the next level. With the last album we had the chance to work with a real orchestra for the first time. It was certainly something that we liked a lot and we wanted to dive into further so on this album we worked with two orchestras. (Laughs) We also reduced those… lets call them medieval folk elements and went with more for a kind of futuristic soundtrack approach because I can kind of imagine this orchestra playing for a movie for example, it has that soundtrack feeling. We worked with big choirs for the first time. Obviously choirs are nothing new to Blind Guardian but normally we have what we call the choir company which is a bunch of friends of ours that sing all the backing stuff and you know shit is supposed to be bigger when you double or triple it whatever. But we wanted to achieve a certain size from the choir that you can’t achieve like this because at some point when you just keep doubling things you get space cancelation and it just doesn’t sound big anymore. So we hired two big choirs and the intro of the first song, The Ninth Wave shows what direction we’re going in, it has this sort of soundtrack feeling with the choir getting bigger and bigger and then the orchestra pops in and then the metal band pops in… its definitely the size and the dimension that we’ve never had before and we’re very happy. Another thing that we tried for the first time is working with down tuned guitars on a couple of songs, but not for all the songs. We worked with these to get the kind of… death metal tuning, I don’t know B flat, whatever. It offers up quite a lot of opportunities, obviously it gives Hansi a different range to sing to and we also avoid some problems in mixing cause, you know, normally the guitars occupy the same kind of frequencies like a big part of the orchestra, strings and stuff like that, and you get into a struggle when it comes to mixing everything and by shifting the guitars to different frequency range you can open up different things with the mix and it makes things easier and it sounds different, a new approach, inspiration. So, there are a lot of new things going on, on that album.
Is it hard to bring orchestra, choir and metal together into one coherent piece?
It can be hard because you have to pay attention to certain things or it can sound like it’s not needed, otherwise, if you just compose a regular metal song and tell an orchestra, ‘ok play along to it’, it won’t sound right. Everything has to be taken care of while writing because you have to adjust guitar riffs… you have to keep in mind that whatever the guitars do there will also be an orchestra doing something else. Everything has to fit together so it’s pretty tricky from time to time and you have to pay attention to a lot of things to make it work but it’s worth the hassle because the results just sound great in our opinion.
Where did the idea come from to revisit the story from Imaginations From The Other Side?
Actually that’s something that happened along the way. It wasn’t something planned from the beginning. It wasn’t planned to become a concept album or anything in lyrical direction. When we start writing, the lyrics don’t matter in the beginning, you know. Hansi really sings just whatever comes to his mind. The only thing that matters at that point are the melody lines, are the rhythmic of the words that you use and once the song itself is finished then you start writing the actually lyrics and at some point he just came up with the idea and presented this kind of concept to us and we loved it, you know, the idea that it linked to Imaginations, we liked it, and the story set was very cool so it just made sense. But as I said it was not planned right from the beginning. It wasn’t something where we were sitting down and thought okay we have to do another concept album. It just happened along the way.
Are there any tracks on the album you’re particularly proud of and are looking forward to performing live?
Um, I don’t know yet which songs we can perform live. We talked about the set list, we picked like 38, 40 songs from the old albums that we are preparing at the moment. There is some stuff we have to re-learn because we just didn’t play it in such a long time, we forgot how to play it. That’s the typical thing that happens so we’re relearning the old stuff, and we’re talking about what songs we would like to do from the new album and you have to rearrange them to work in the live environment. It’s a typical thing because on the album, for example talking about guitars there are more than just two guitars on the album and on stage there’s just André and me so on stage there are only two guitars. So the typical thing we have to do after an album production is we have to rearrange the songs for the stage. We have to see, okay what guitar parts are the main ones that have to be there? How can we combine certain things? How can we arrange them? And all that will happen in January, February when we at least start rehearsal for the tour. So I don’t know yet which songs will be played. It’s too early to really say this is the core song that has to be done. There’s one song that is the most special for me at the moment cause I just like it so much is, that’s Sacred Mind, which I just love the way it builds up, it starts like a kind of semi-ballad and just after one minute it takes off, speed guitar, faster, thrashier, I just like how it builds up. So that’s one that I can perfectly imagine on stage. Let’s see, we have to start rehearsing, then figure out which songs work live and how we can present them.
What’s the best thing about being able to perform your music in front of a live audience?
The feedback that you get from people, you know, that’s actually the absolute highlight for me about being a musician because it’s great to be in the studio, it’s great to compose, record and see how the songs grow, but the absolute highlight is being on stage. You start to play and a couple of thousand people go nuts. They start singing, cheering, applauding, whatever, crowd surfing, stage diving, whatever they want to do, that’s the absolute highlight. When you get feedback, when you get reaction to our music, to whatever we might be doing on stage, that’s what I envision, that’s big.
That would be a great feeling. How do you feel your guitar playing has changed over the years?
I hope it got better. (Laughs) It’s actually, for me, the approach didn’t really change. I’m not a big fan of brutal guitars so this distribution is a kind of natural thing in Blind Guardian. I love playing rhythm guitar. If you give me a choice of playing either lead or rhythm I would pick rhythm. And I’m lazy, and it’s hard to be a lead guitar player so therefore it’s perfectly fine. So my approach is always, lay a foundation for the song, be as tight as possible, build huge chords, intonation. So that didn’t really change. Just yesterday I’ve been working on a very old song that we might play on the next tour and listening to that one, yeah, I think my playing improved. You know, over time it got better. (Laughs) It was funny to listen to some very old Blind Guardian songs, and as I said we are always trying to be better on our instruments. You know, timing wise, but obviously timing’s not everything, you know, the feel that you put into something, phrasing, we’re working on all this constantly. If you’re not sitting down at home, grabbing a guitar and practising certain techniques. Playing is a form of practising as well. Just grab your guitar and play something. Play along to something that you listen to on a CD, or just jamming. All of this is kind of improving yourself as a musician. And as I said, I hope I got better.
When you started in Blind Guardian almost thirty years ago, did you ever think you’d still be doing this in 2014?
That was our aim, let’s put it like that. Obviously we had no idea if it would work. We were pretty self-confident back then when we did the very first album back in 87; we were just not sure how many millions of albums we would sell with that one, you know? (Laughs) But we were convinced it would be the biggest thing in rock history. We were self-confident because we knew what we were willing to put into our music, we knew we were willing to give everything, to work as hard as we could possibly work on new stuff and we were convinced that this would take us somewhere. That attitude never changed, and I think that’s why we progressed as a band and got better. Obviously there were musical changes over the years and they were intended because you don’t want to still play the same stuff like thirty years ago. It would be pretty boring. That was the aim. Always try to do the best thing we can possibly do at that point in time. Try to improve, try to become better and better as musicians, as songwriters. Yeah, I think back then we were aiming at this, you know, a long career.
Who are some of the bands who have influenced you, and are there any new bands that stand out for you?
Queen, obviously has been always an influence on us. You know all their choir, the guitar harmony arrangements and all that stuff it has had a big impact on us. Metallica, all those big bands from the eighties, early Maiden for sure has been an influence. There’s good new stuff as well, a band that I discovered a couple of years ago, Mastodon when they did the album Crack The Sky that completely blew me away and also The Hunter and the new one (Once More ‘Round The Sun), brilliant stuff. There’s a band called Powerwolf, German band that I’m friends with now that I discovered actually on the last tour we played some festivals together and I saw them live and I was like ‘what the hell is this?’ I got their album, I loved it. Just being there, I saw their show. There’s so much good stuff out there. I just got the latest Queen album, which actually is double live CD from 73, with a gig from the Queen tour which is so amazing. You know back then, they play all the old stuff, this was before Bohemian Rhapsody and all those songs, which are great as well, but I’ve always been a fan of the first couple of Queen albums. Stuff like Ogre Battle and Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke and those sort of things and they’re playing them all on those CDs and they’re SO heavy. You know, back then they were pure hard rock. That album is on pure heavy rotation on my phone at the moment, so yeah, there’s great stuff out there.
Just in closing, any plans to tour Australia in the near future?
Yes! Actually our booker is working on this at the moment. There are no fixed dates, yet. But the plan is to be back in Australia sometime around September, October. So as soon as the dates are available we’ll publish them on the webpage, so to all the fans - keep an eye on our website. We’ll be back next year. (2015)
Thank you very much for doing this interview, good luck for the future and congratulations on the tenth studio album.
Thank you very much, and hope to see you at the end of next year.
For more information about Blind Guardian visit the band’s official website at www.blind-guardian.com
Blind Guardian – Beyond The Red Mirror is available on Nuclear Blast Records.
|Posted on October 26, 2014 at 11:40 PM||comments (0)|
Something really special is happening in Sweden. Lately the region has seen an emergence of high quality hard rock acts with a strong embrace for 1980s American style rock. In fact some of these bands sound more American than the Americans do right now. Artists such as Crazy Lixx, H.E.A.T., Adrenaline Rush and the like are taking the hard rock world back to a simpler time when rock and roll was fun. Joining them on this crazy ride back in time are compatriots Vanity BLVD with their latest album Wicked Temptation. These guys can seriously rock and are ferociously led by frontwoman Anna Savage. I caught up with Anna to discuss the history of the band, the effects of downloading in the music industry and the latest album Wicked Temptation.
Rock Man: It has been a long time since I have been impressed by a young band but I have to congratulate you on what you have achieved so far. You must be very pleased with where the band is at the moment.
Anna Savage: First of all thank you so much for that awesome compliment. We have worked so hard to get where we are today, and yes, we are very pleased but not satisfied. We always try to push ourselves more and we truly love what we do. So I’m enjoying every moment of success.
RM: For those not quite up to speed with Vanity BLVD, can you tell me about the formation and early years of the band?
AS: Oh my, it is a long story. Well I first started the band back in 2005 with a girl on bass called Roxy. Then I heard her brother play guitar and I thought like, we got to have him in this band. So we kind of stole him from another band he was playing in, and the drummer from that band joined us as well. With this setting we played for about 2-3 years. We released our first record Rock N’ Roll Overdose with this setting. After the recording of that album Roxy decided to leave the band. No hard feelings though, she had other plans in life. After that we kind of tried out a lot of different bass players, but none really fitted us. The drummer decided to move to Scotland and me and Traci (guitarist) kind of lost the fun in playing, since there was so much trouble with the members. We took a break for about 1 year almost, and then we talked to each other and we both agreed on how much we missed writing and playing. So we said to each other, let’s give it one more shot, there has got to be some people out there who are suitable for this band. After awhile we did find our rock souls in Pete Ash (bass player) and Gebb (drummer) and it just felt so right, it was love at first sight. So we couldn’t be happier with this “new” Vanity family. We have played together for about 4 years now.
RM: As for yourself, who are some of the artists that have influenced your career?
AS: I absolutely have to say David Coverdale from Whitesnake, I’m a huge fan of his voice and songwriting. I was once described as the female version of David Coverdale in a review. I still live on that one [laughs]. I also love Lita Ford and Ann Wilson. There are many great artists and songwriters, but if I had to name just some these are the biggest influences for me.
RM: Congratulations on the release of your new album Wicked Temptation. I seriously can’t put the album down, you must be very happy with how this album turned out.
AS: Thank you so much! Ya, we really put our heart and souls into this album. So there is a lot of sweat, laughter and even tears connected to this recording. We sat along with the producer and had a lot to say about the recording. At first we decided to have 10 songs on the album, and then in the studio the song Dirty Action just came from nowhere so we decided to have that one on as well. We wanted the album to sound a bit dark and mysterious and with an extra punch to it. If you listen to our first album you can hear that it has another vibe to it. I love our first album but it was more “light” than this one. In Wicked Temptation we´re truly ripping out our heart and soul and putting it on a record if you know what I mean [laughs].
RM: It has been a long time between albums for you, Rock N’ Roll Overdose was released in 2008. Why such a long gap between records?
AS: It was just because the problems with finding members that wanted the same thing as me and Traci. It was so hard to find dedicated, talented, nice-to-work-with musicians so sadly It took toooo long. But now we´re back!
RM: So far what has been the general feedback to Wicked Temptation?
AS: We have got a lot of great reviews on the album from a lot of different places in the world. Not one bad actually. Or I haven’t found it yet [laughs]. The funny thing is that everybody has their special song that they love on the album. Usually you have like one or two hits, but I can’t really say which one is our hit because every damn song on the album has got praise, so that makes me really happy.
RM: Was Wicked Temptation an easy album to write and record or did it present you with any challenges?
AS: It was easy in the way that we knew how we wanted it to sound and some songs just came to us. But it is always hard when you are your own worst critic. You always push yourself thinking you can do better, so at some point at least, I had to stop myself and look at the work I’ve done and say, ‘hey this is more then good enough’. Sometimes you just add too much and the soul of the song just gets lost in a big mess, but I think we captured this album just the way we wanted it. I am more than happy about how it turned out. You always have your vision before the recording, and man it just got better than my vision. We got some really cool ideas in the studio as well so some of the songs just got bigger and better than I first expected. For example Hot Teaser, at first I thought ‘Well this song is alright’, then I got some really cool ideas in the studio and the song became one of my favourites.
RM: English is your second language, is the process of translating you ideas from Swedish into English a difficult one?
AS: Yes, it is difficult sometimes, but I think it is even more difficult to write in Swedish because I just think the lyrics gets too cheesy, you know? English is much cooler and you get away with so much more. I think it is way easier to express myself in English even though sometimes I mess up the words and the meanings, but hey I’m only human right [laughs].
RM: When you are writing a song or an album what are the sorts of themes or topics that influence you the most?
AS: I am very much influenced by my surrounding. Whether it is from my own life or just someone I observe on the train. I love to watch people and analyse there behaviour. Some lyrics are very personal but I think most people can see themselves in my lyrics as well. Wicked Temptation is mostly about rising up again after the fall of being hurt. It is about betrayal, deceits, depression, grief, hope and even happiness. I just wanted to do a conclusion to all the people that have broken me down, and a big finger to the ones who try to control others. In the song Had Enough I tried to illustrate the feeling of a soul that dies and then just rises up and strikes back more powerful than ever.
RM: There are so many outstanding tracks on this record but I want to touch on a couple and I will start with Do Or Die which is a fire cracker of a song. What has been the response to that track?
AS: It was the first song we released from the album and people just love it. It has got a killer chorus and at the concerts this is the song that most people sing along to, so I mean there is no doubt that this is one of the hits from this album.
RM: Miss Dangerous is another highlight on this record and also has a great video to accompany it. What are your thoughts on that one?
AS: I just love the cockiness on this song. It is about exploring life and don’t let anyone stand in your way of what you want to do. People seem to be afraid of strong women, I get that a lot [laughs] so I thought it might be funny to call it Miss Dangerous, even though the song is just about enjoying and living your life to the maximum.
RM: Was the video for Miss Dangerous a fun video to make and do you enjoy the process of making music videos?
AS: I wish we had more budget to make the video but it turned out great anyway. We recorded it in our rehearsal place and just brought beers to our friends who were kind enough to rock and drink all afternoon [laughs]. But I like the dirty atmosphere on it, the video was perfect for that song.
RM: Scream Out is another standout track. Can you tell me about the lyrical sentiment of that song?
AS: Well, It is about a drug addict who has just had enough of that life. No, not about me [laughs]. I think the most important line in this song is “Too late to see I didn’t need it/Blindfolded I crawled miss leaded/I was aching/But I couldn’t feel a thing” that says it all to me. It is like you are too sedated to understand that you are going down the wrong path.
RM: Are there any songs on Wicked Temptation that you are particularly proud of?
AS: I love Had Enough, and I think it is an amazing song. It has just got all of the element that I think a song should have. My second favourite is Thrills In The Night. I just love the magic that this song has. I see this man before me turning into a werewolf and release his inner beast. That is the whole essence of the song. You have so much hunger for something that you simple cannot lock it in, you just have to let it out.
RM: You are blessed to have the talented Traci Trexx on guitar. Can you tell me about what qualities he brings to the band?
AS: Traci and I are the original members of the band, even though it feels like Pete and Gebb have been with us from the start. Traci has been given a gift. He plays guitar like no one else. Of course there are plenty of talented guitar players but he can really write guitar riffs that speaks for themselves and you just want to sing along to his guitar riffs, you know? We often fight on small stupid things he and I, but when It comes to music, we just get each other totally. We have the same vision of how we want to sound.
RM: I often ask the older generation of bands I speak to on their thoughts about downloading and the effects it has had on their career. I would imagine being a younger band your thoughts on that may be different to someone that has been around for 40 years?
AS: I think it is alright because I want to spread our music all over and make it easy for people to hear us, so that they will come to our shows. But of course I would love to get paid for my work and I totally understand why some artists think its crap with free downloading, but I’m used to it so I just see it as a promotion to get people to our shows.
RM: There appears to be a lot of bands coming out of Sweden over the past several years that have really embraced that 1980s American sound. Do you have any thoughts on why so much great music is coming out of Sweden?
AS: We get a lot of funding from the local authority here in Sweden. It helps us with the rent of the rehearsal place and such so it is kind of easy playing in a band. So that is why there are a lot of bands here I think. And maybe we inspire each other.
RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of Wicked Temptation. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you and the band many years of continued success.
AS: Thank you so much! Means the world to us!
For more information about the band visit the official website at www.vanityblvd.com
Vanity BLVD – Wicked Temptation is available on Noise Head Records
|Posted on September 30, 2014 at 9:45 PM||comments (0)|
Interview with Casey McPherson
By Dave Smiles
Casey McPherson was already carving out a name for himself with his band Alpha Rev when opportunity came knocking in 2011. The offer was to front a supergroup consisting of guitarist Steve Morse, bassist Dave LaRue, keyboardist Neal Morse and drummer Mike Portnoy. The band call themselves Flying Colors and draw influences from all the members various styles, such as Rock, Metal, Prog and Jazz-fusion. The idea was to have a group of virtuoso musicians fronted by a pop inspired singer. Their debut album hit the top ten on Billboard’s hard rock chart. With the follow up, 'Second Nature', the band take things to the next level in terms of song writing and performances. The album is eagerly anticipated by established fans and sure to gain them some new ones.
McPherson took some time away from his busy schedule to answer some questions about the benefits of working in a supergroup, song writing, and the state of rock and roll.
How did Flying Colors come into being?
Well. It was magic, if I go any further it would just taint the mystery!
With everyone having their own obligations to their other bands, what is the hardest part of maintaining a ‘Supergroup’?
The hardest part is actually all getting together in the same area. It’s the equivalent of the democrats and republicans in the US actually passing a bill.
When working in a ‘supergroup’ how liberating is it for the musicians to be able to explore other musical avenues that wouldn’t fit their main band?
It’s incredibly liberating. Most artists are fixed to one genre, and if you vary from it you have the potential of losing your audience. They begin to expect a certain sound out of you… so, this has been such an incredible experience.
The band’s new release, 'Second Nature' is the follow up to the self-titled debut. How would you say this is different to the first album?
This record was produced by us, so you get a little more freedom in the progressive rock department.
Was it a difficult album to make?
It was difficult getting together, but once we were all in the room, it just poured out of us.
How does the band compose its songs? Do they come from jamming ideas, or do you individually demo material?
Both. We bring ideas to the band, and we also just jam stuff out while we’re together. Like, “Peaceful Harbor” came from an idea we had while we were on tour for our first record.
You are known as a singer, guitarist and pianist. What got you into music and inspired you to explore different avenues of musical expression?
I’ve always been into music, ever since my mother taught me chopsticks on the piano.
How did you learn to play guitar and piano? Did you take lessons or are you self-taught?
I took 12 years of classical training on the piano, and choir when I was a child. Other than that… I learned by doing it wrong, then watching someone else do it right!
As a singer / songwriter what inspires your lyrics?
God, love, family, pain, suffering, guilt, happiness, sex, loneliness… wait… could I just say life?!?!
There has been a lot of change in the music industry in recent years with the introduction of downloading and streaming services. How do you think this has affected bands / artists both new and old?
It’s teaching us to change with the times. I don’t think we have seen the full effect of these changes yet.
It’s been a long time since there’s been a new band that has made such an impact on the world to have become a household name. Gene Simmons recently stated that ‘rock is dead.’ What’s your belief on this claim?
Well, in one sense it is. It’s not what’s being played on the radio, and not what most of the kids are buying… but some of the kids are buying it! And as long as that is the case… rock will still be alive… just look at the Stones… are they dead?!?!
Flying Colors now has two albums and a live release to their name. What’s next for the band?
We have no idea. We just take it one show at a time!
What would you like to achieve with Flying Colors and as a musician in your own right?
I get to play music with some of the greatest musicians in the world… I think I’ve already achieved it!
What advice would you give to young bands starting out?
It’s all about the song, and being able to play/write in a unique way specific to you! Hone that skill and be better at it than anyone. Never settle for ok, you don’t need to listen to people that say you can’t, but just make sure you’re good enough and willing to do what it takes to prove them wrong!
Is there any chance we’ll be able to see Flying Colors down here in Australia?
Well. I’m ready… when do we leave?
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview and on behalf of everyone at Full Throttle Rock I’d like to say congratulations to you and your bandmates for the upcoming release of 'Second Nature' and good luck for the future.
Thanks a bunch!
For more information about Flying Colors visit the bands official website at www.flyingcolorsmusic.com
Flying Colors – Second Nature is available on Mascot Label Group.
|Posted on September 30, 2014 at 8:05 PM||comments (0)|
Gamma Ray are back on tour following the release of their eleventh album, 'Empire Of The Undead' which may be described as one of the band’s best albums to date. Power metal does not get better than this. Nicky Zardis caught up with Gamma Ray bassist Dirk Schlächter to discuss the new album and find out how the tour is going so far.
How is the tour going so far? I understand the band is on a break at the moment.
It's a big break. We had some festivals during the summer and now there are just two more shows coming up. There are more plans for next year, we could be playing 70000TONS OF METAL, you know, the Cruise Ship.
Yes, I've heard of it. It looks like a good festival.
Yes, but we are not sure yet (whether we will play that festival), the agency was talking about it. If it happens, we are going to continue touring South America and maybe do some shows in the USA and Canada.
How does playing 70000TONS OF METAL compare to other festivals? It must have been different, since it was on a ship.
Yes, of course it is different. You are together with all the fans, all the time. There is no real backstage/artist area.
So you get to meet all the fans?
Yes. Before the first 70000TONS, there was this drama, how is this going to work, there is no escape! But actually, it turned out to be really cool. All the fans were really relaxed because they knew they had a couple of days to get you. So everything is really easy and relaxed. Nothing bad happened on that ship.
So no drunk person fell overboard?
No, that's what everyone was expecting actually. You know, a cruising ship full of metalheads, over 40 bands. That is the first thing you expect, someone will go overboard. And it didn't happen.
I understand the band also played Summer Breeze festival. How was that?
It was raining a little but it stopped in time so we could play. It was good. Summer Breeze festival is a real nice festival. The atmosphere (is good). It's a big festival, not as big as Wacken. It's like half of Wacken and people are really nice there.
How does it compare to festivals like Wacken?
There’s not as many people from around the world (as there is at Wacken). How can you compare it to other festivals? We had a festival in Spain some weeks before that and the weather was much better so fans were a little bit more alright but actually you can't say that. The festivals differ in the size but in the sense of the audience it's the same, it's the same thing.
The weather does make some difference to a festival doesn't it?
We have played during the day time in the rain and we have managed to get a good atmosphere. (People) have a party, when everything is muddy and wet. That always gives us a good feeling, (when) the people are having a party anyway.
I understand Gamma Ray had to cancel its show in Sweden in Malmo because Kai Hanson's voice was in a bad condition in April.
On the European Tour in March and April, it was a real disaster with his voice. On that tour he had problems with his voice and lungs. He had a little infection and he had to take antibiotics and steroids. He was continuing with the shows and of course normally you need to take a break. We continued with the tour, with other singers, the guy from Rhapsody and a singer that I know from South Germany that helped us out with some shows so that we could finish the tour but that show in Malmo was impossible to do, the replacement singer was doing a show with his own band the next day and he could not cancel that. We need to think about tour planning in the future, so it's a little bit easier. (We need) more off days, not too many shows in a row. It is difficult, he (Kai) is not getting younger.
How is Kai's voice doing now?
He is doing pretty good now but it took quite a while till it was really sounding (right). He said his voice changed in the last year, so his sound changed. Right now he is doing really fine, he is on the road with Unisonic. They start another part of their tour tomorrow in Bremen. Right now they are rehearsing and it's easier for Kai because he doesn't need to sing or only for some parts.
Congratulations on the success of your latest album 'Empire Of The Undead', voted album of the month by RockHard and MetalHammer for April 2014. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the album, which I think is packed with fantastic tracks. Which track on the album are you most proud of? Which track was the hardest to put together?
The production of 'Hellbent'. It was created from this basic, easy, guitar riff. We really tried (hard) with it in the production in the studio. There are some songs that Kai recorded alone because we lost our studio from the fire. After that I was recording in another studio and Kai was singing at home. He recorded most of it at home and he came round with the tracks and we said well maybe he should add here to this track or something. Some songs were recorded in the old studio. There we were working together, together on the vocal lines and you can really, I mean I can really hear the work we did on that. Especially 'Hellbent', (was a result of) good work together, Kai and me, doing all the work on the vocal lines and harmonies. The result is this fresh, early Helloween years (style). For me, I compare this song to 'Ride The Sky'. It's a new 'Ride The Sky', it's a modern 'Ride The Sky'. The vocal arrangement was really nice. The song is so round, so well done in the arrangement that I'm really proud of it.
'Empire Of The Undead' has a heavier sound to Gamma Ray’s previous album. I note from the band’s recent interviews that this was done on purpose, partly because the band did not want to soften its sound like some other older bands have.
It's not like that. As a heavy metal band, of course, you don't want to sound soft. We were thinking about not doing too much production in the recording so we did all the songs, the arrangements were done by all the band together, in the rehearsal room. We really checked that all the riffs and the arrangement of the songs were strong enough to really bring the energy, just with the four of us playing the songs without a big studio production, huge drum sound keyboards on top and choirs and all that shit, you know? In the rehearsal room we said this is how we are going to record it and that we might add bits and maybe more (for example) power or whatever.
What are Gamma Ray's biggest influences?
Kai's especially and my main influences are definitely Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and there are others. From the typical metal, from that time we grew up, we also were listening to Slade and Queen of course. That's what we were listening to when we were kids, you know and of course you get influences, you get things, they mark your brain. There were more bands I was listening to when I was young, of course, a lot (of bands). But the biggest influence is of course Priest and Maiden.
Is the band’s aim to continue appealing to younger fans?
We don't think too much about this. After we did the tour, we realised we still have a lot of young people at our shows and of course, we like that but actually, we don't think too much about it when we're doing the recordings and the production. When we are doing the production, we don't think, ah if we put this here now or that effect on that then these people, the younger ones might like this more or the older fans might like this. Of course, we make jokes about that, you know, if you have a typical, old blackish, old speed melodic style, we make a joke, ah this, the Japanese fans are going to like this! And we laugh about it because we know, but actually, we don't think too much, we need to do more like this or like that, we are so much into the song and trying to do the best for the song and then we'll see, who likes it and who doesn’t, you know, of course, we play around, with the different things you can do in the studio, we try some things but that's the point, you can do this but as long as the song has the basis and works, you can do anything with it, in the production and make a different version of it, you can do a remix of it. We can do things like this as well but if it's too far from the basis, then we don't do it.
Do you think the fact that the metal genre is still predominantly underground and largely underexposed motivates bands to work harder to get noticed?
Well there are so many people saying this and that. (That) it has gone down, (that) it is still alive, or whatever they say. Festivals are still growing where only metal bands are playing, so it can't be that underground somehow. To measure this by album sales is really impossible because album sales are shitty anyway since ten years (ago). Somehow it is well known, everybody knows what heavy metal is, this this heavy sounding music, they know. But of course, if I ask anyone on the street, do you know Gamma Ray? And they say a metal band. They know what metal is and they have heard of Metallica but maybe they don't know what Gamma Ray is. It is hard to describe the status of, or the level of metal. Somehow it's big, somehow it's not. Somehow it's still underground.
I notice that the Gamma Ray’s tour has been pretty comprehensive and the band has been to cities like Athens, which other bands often neglect to attend. I think it is commendable. Does the band make a conscious effort to satisfy as many of its fans as possible?
We would like to play everywhere. The problem is that the whole touring business is over stressed by too many bands, playing too often and so, on (our) European tour, there is always include some shows (in cities) which we would not go to separately because we might lose money even just playing there, so we include (them) to make the whole thing (tour) round and also to be there for the fans and to keep the base of everything and it's really difficult because we have on our guest book, always people from everywhere saying come to here, come to my country but it's not that easy. It's really difficult, it's more difficult than it was ten years before or even fifteen years ago. It's really different, it's different how we are touring, we are sharing the bus with another band, we are sharing this and that and we are trying to make everything possible and that's why we can't include (everywhere). We were pretty close to not going to Greece but finally it happened.
Why did the Greece show nearly not happen?
The economy is really bad there, it does not make sense. There might be a lot of fans but they can't even afford a cheap ticket. We try to keep it at a good level but of course everything needs to be paid. It's not about making money, it's about paying for things, the bus and the production and the people who work for you.
How did the show in Greece go? Did it go quite well?
It went quite well but it did as expected. It did quite well for everybody, it was okay but there weren't that many people there, the shows were nice and the people liked it.
Did you get to see any of Greece whilst you were there?
This time not really, the area around (where the show was) and the bar area.
Is going on tour as fun now as it was when you started?
We're not that young anymore. You need to be in a really good condition to not get sick when you are off on a bus for five weeks, living on a bus. Anyone gets anything, everybody gets it and I think when we were younger, we could take this more. Nowadays we have to be really careful with everything. Actually most touring buses they have a climate inside which is not really the best, they have some years on the road already, they have air condition that has not been cleaned (for a while). I really enjoy being on the road but it is really necessary to have kind of a break. Normally we do it like this, we have three or a maximum four weeks, then we have two weeks break at home, then we do another three to four weeks. With Helloween, last year, we did eight weeks in a row. This year we have done five weeks in a row, which Kai's voice was not able to do. Maybe he could have done it 20 years ago, but not now. Nowadays we might be a little bit more careful with everything, with ourselves. After the show you drink a cup of tea and go to bed. And even if you do this, you (can still get) sick on tour.
What do you guys eat while you are on tour? Do you eat healthy?
I do actually, extremely. I try to stay away from too much fast food.
Which country did you enjoy playing at the most?
In Europe it may be Spain. Maybe because I speak Spanish and can talk in Spanish.
How is it performing to your home audience compared to other audience?
A lot of people get more nervous when they are playing to their home audience. I don't care too much about this, the Hamburg show on this tour was really brilliant and we were good because everyone took a bit more care maybe and in Hamburg. The people in Germany are stuffed and satisfied, every day you can go watch a band somewhere, it's hard to impress (them). You can see this (has) affected even more countries, maybe 20 years ago in Spain, they were going crazy, they would be freaking out, completely going wild during your show and now they are not like that anymore. Now you do a tour and you play three shows in Spain, everybody is the same. In Hamburg, every day, there is a band somewhere. People are stuffed. They've seen a lot of stage sets. It’s hard to impress with that. The only way to do it is with the music. Good thing is with Gamma Ray’s music, it is so energetic, so powerful, (it) has some kind of positive energy. If people come to see you and want to listen to this music, then you get this energy flow going from the stage to the people and then coming back, it's worth more than a great light show or stage set or whatever. You need to deliver the minimum of that as well.
Finally, have you been on any holidays this year?
Yes, I have this year. I was in Mexico. I have some friends over there and my wife is Mexican. We visited some friends, so we didn't go to a typical hotel. My Mother-in-law is living in Mexico City and we have some friends in Cancun, so we spent time there.
Thanks a lot for doing the interview. Good luck with the tour and thanks for your time.
For more information about Gamma Ray visit the official website at www.gammaray.org/
Gamma Ray – Empire Of The Undead is available on earMUSIC.
|Posted on September 27, 2014 at 10:20 PM||comments (0)|
Unless you have been living in Rainbow Land, you would know that the next big thing in hard rock has arrived and it is called Adrenaline Rush. This five piece band hailing from Sweden have released their debut self titled album which is set to keep the fires of 1980s hair metal well and truly ablaze. These guys are one of the most exciting things to happen to hard rock music in decades and are destined for greatness. They are led by the talented and charismatic Tave Wanning who is not new to success; she previously sang in the pop duo Peaches but has now crossed over to the rock world with instant impact. So when the opportunity presented itself to speak with her I latched on with both hands. I asked her about the band’s new debut album, music in Sweden and Erik Martensson from Eclipse and W.E.T. fame.
Rock Man: Congratulations on the formation of Adrenaline Rush and the release of your debut self titled album. Firstly though can you tell me about how this band came together?
Tave Wanning: Well firstly, thank you so much. It actually started out as a solo thing and I have been playing in some bands for a long time but nothing ever took off in a serious way. And you know, it is hard to find a group of people to share a vision and want things to go in the same direction, I mean, you always have a good time and lots of laughs but after a while small club gigs gets old. I knew I was ready to take the music to a more professional level and just by chance I ran into Erik Martensson at a Quireboys concert actually, and I had worked with him briefly laying down vocals on a song of his a couple of years back. But we started talking after the concert and decided to do some more serious work and we discussed how we wanted the record to sound like and what I wanted to songs to be like. And after a while we had a bunch of tracks that were exactly the way I wanted them with good melodies, good riffs and very energetic songs.
RM: I find it really interesting that at one point you were one half of the Swedish pop duo Peaches. Can you tell me how you went from being in a pop duo to a hard rock band?
TW: Yeah it was a natural thing for me since I grew up with rock and roll. So that is where my heart is but I have always listened to modern dance music too, since I am a dancer. And then I started singing in Peaches when I was seven, you know I was a little child [laughs] and we did many things and one thing led to another and before I knew it we had put out two albums, a bunch of singles, videos, live DVD and so on. But that gave me a start and lots of experience in the business but like I said I have always listened to rock and roll, so that was the thing I wanted to do when I grew up.
RM: Who are some of the bands that have influenced you growing up?
TW: All the classics bands like Zeppelin, Kiss and so on. My all time favourite is Hanoi Rocks, my one true heroes (laughs). But at home I probably listen to more 60s and 70s rock because of the melodic stuff we play because my voice and initial vibe sits better with the classic 80s hard rock. But other than that I listen to bands like Judas Priest, AC/DC, Vixen and so on.
RM: The debut album is titled Adrenaline Rush - you must be very happy with the final result?
TW: Yeah I am very happy. You know, on a scale of one to ten, an eleven [laughs]. I am so happy and thrilled about working with Erik (Martensson).
RM: What has been the overall reaction to the album from fans and the media?
TW: Very good actually. I have heard very good things and they are comparing us to great bands and great singers, so I am very proud and very glad.
RM: This whole album and band vibe has a very 1980s Los Angeles Sunset Strip feel about it. Was it a conscious effort to go in that direction or is that just how the sound and the album evolved?
TW: No that was the thing I want the songs to be like I love the ‘80s vibe, you know hair bands and so on. So I want every record to be party rock and roll, you know?
RM: Every band has a different way of going about the song writing process, how does it work in Adrenaline Rush?
TW: For the first record it is all about Erik (Martensson), it is his work with my input. So hopefully on the next one, if we get there (laughs) I want the guys to write, come up with ideas with me and Erik of course if he wants to work with us again. But this one is all about Erik.
RM: How many songs were written for this album and how difficult was it cutting it back to the 11 songs that ended up on the record?
TW: Erik had so many songs that I loved so it was pretty hard. But he wrote the single Change and Black N’ Blue for us together with me and my idea, but the other ones were actually pre-written. He has a whole library for the next one, he is so talented as a songwriter, musician and a producer I do not think there is anything in music that he cannot do well, plus he is a genuinely nice person. He understood what I was looking for right away and I am so happy that he wanted to work with me on this record.
RM: The first single and video is Change. What has been the response to that track and can you tell me about the lyrical sentiment of the song?
TW: Yeah it is a hard rock song, cool guitar riffs and so on, very party for me. No one is going to live for ever, that’s the thing, so you know, just live your life and do what you love. The video I wanted to show the fans how we looked and how we sound and our stage thing.
RM: There appears to be a common theme throughout the record of ‘Living life to the full and having no regrets’. The track When We’re Gone comes to mind, is that a motto that the band really tries to embrace?
TW: Yeah I think so. I have got a Hanoi Rocks quote on my arm which is “No compromise no regrets” so I am all about that. No regrets, do what you love and do not listen to what other people think.
RM: In my opinion Girls Gone Wild has a strong Motley Crue attitude about it. Was that intentional or did that song just evolve that way?
TW: Yeah it was. We said it was our Motley Crue song. Like I said a real party tune all about me and my girls going out on the town and grabbing a beer or two (laughs).
RM: Do you have any thoughts on the state of the music industry at the moment?
TW: It is hard. It is a hard business and now especially doing the rock and roll thing. There is no money (laughs) but we are still here but like I said you have to do what you love and hopefully the fans will like our music.
RM: I often ask the older generation of bands I speak to on their thoughts about downloading and the effects it has on their career. I would imagine being a younger band your thoughts on that may be different to someone that has been around for 40 years?
TW: Yeah, that is a hard question there are both pros and cons for this. For a new band as us it is okay, do what you want as long as you love it and I am grateful for the internet industry. Because when I worked with Peaches that was the thing that helped us being such a big thing as we were so I am all for it, but you know, some negative things for it too.
RM: There appears to be a lot of bands coming out of Sweden over the past several years that have really embraced that 1980s American sound, more so than what the American’s are at the moment. Do you have any thoughts on why so much great music is coming out of Sweden?
TW: Because it is so cold here (laughs) we have got nothing else to do so we are dreaming about sunny L.A. and big hair and the party thing, I think that is why or something strange. But I am proud to be a part of it there are some very talented musicians here.
RM: Once again congratulations on the release of the album, from all of us here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you and the band all the best of luck for the album and for a very long and successful career.
TW: Thank you so much.
For more information about the band visit the official website at www.adrenalinerush.se/
Adrenaline Rush – Adrenaline Rush is available on Frontiers Records
|Posted on September 22, 2014 at 10:40 PM||comments (0)|
It is funny, I protest a lot about the internet and how various aspects of the internet are slowly killing the music industry, yet it is through the internet that Julian Angel’s Beautiful Beast came to my attention. Without the net I would never have heard about them and missed out on something very special. You see, Julian Angel is just as obsessed with 1980s style hard rock and metal as I am and his albums Adult Oriented Candy (2011) and California Suntan (2012) are a true testament to that. After a short break Beautiful Beast are back with a new album Kick Down The Barricades which takes their love of all thing hair metal a step further. To discuss the new album, the state of the music business and some of his other side projects I caught up with Julian Angel for an enjoyable chat.
Rock Man: Congratulations on the release of the new album Kick Down The Barricades. You must be very pleased with the final product?
Julian Angel: Thank you, Rock Man. Well, as every other band would say, it is our best so far (laughs). Our sound has become a bit tougher. We have left all the keyboards out this time, so we sound more like Skid Row than Bon Jovi. I just didn’t like keyboards at the time we recorded the album. Next time we might use some more again.
RM: How many tracks were written for this album and how difficult was it cutting it back to the 10 that ended up on the record?
JA: I definitley only record the songs that also make it onto the record. I feel quite early in the songwriting and recording process whether a song will meet my expectations and then I either continue or drop it. On the previous Beautiful Beast album California Suntan I had recorded two more songs that sounded cool by themselves but didn’t match the sound of the overall album, so we gave them away as bonus tracks for die-hards. But for Kick Down The Barricades I have only written these ten. I also like albums with just ten songs. It is pretty eighties.
RM: The first single and video from the album is Bad Boys Never Dance. What has been the initial response to that track?
JA: The response has been really great. We released Bad Boys Never Dance and the video in advance, so the Hair fans were happy about a little treat up front. Besides that, I think the song contains so much that the eighties have been known for and it was a great leader to set the pace for the following album.
RM: Tell me about the music video for that track. Was that a fun experience and how long did it take you to shoot it?
JA: The fun experience for us was that we could forget the low budget we had (laughs). We shot it all in a day. It was actually the last sunny day in Germany, early September 2013. I always keep that eye on the money, so we could not blow out more bucks just for fun. Fortunately fans in that gernre don’t expect you to shoot videos worth six figures anymore, because they are well aware of what is going on.
RM: Like your last album California Suntan this new album has very strong 1980s elements to it and that is very consistent throughout. You are obviously very comfortable with that style aren’t you?
JA: You can excel if you do what you love. I love this type of music and so it comes to me naturally and easily. I also do my best not to sound modern. I like it best when it sounds just the way it used to sound in the eighties.
RM: Can you tell me about the lyrical sentiment of the title track Kick Down The Barricades?
JA: Well, forget the rules. Most of the rules we are faced with today, be it the law or some unwritten social standards are totally unnecessary. We are humans, we have a brain, we should be able to take care of ourselves. I don’t need a government to tell me what is good for me – especially if it isn’t. Live your life and do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t hurt others.
RM: In my opinion there are two tracks on the album that could have been on a Poison record. Unsexy and Shake Me Back Home have a very strong Poison vibe and attitude about them, was that intentional or did that just happen that way?
JA: Poison definitely had an influence on me. I didn’t push into that direction, it came naturally once again. As for Shake Me Back Home I simply wanted to record one of those semi-acoustic songs with a slight western feel. It’s funny you compare it to Poison. Most critics thought I was copying Roxy Blue (laughs).
RM: Which songs on this new album are you most proud of?
JA: It is hard for me to point out favorites. I like them all on one side, on the other side I am always happy once an album is finished and I don’t have to listen to these songs for a while (laughs). Mixing all ten songs can really drive you insane. But I think I really love Shake Me Back Home for what I have described in my previous answer, Big Stuff because it is a tough piece of stripper rock with huge choirs and Can’t Stand The Fiction for its well-balanced combination of Hard Rock and catchy melodies.
RM: There have been a lot of artists recently suggesting that the hard rock/metal music scene is dead and that there is no value in bands making full length albums anymore. What is your opinion?
JA: I don’t feel it is dead. Not at all. It has grown smaller, okay. But most of the hard rock and metal fans in general are way over 30 or even 40 years old today. They have grown up with tangible full-length albums and still appreciate that today. 90 percent of all my music sales are physical album sales and most rock bands I know report similar figures. I even know Hip Hop acts that ship buckets full of pre-ordered CDs to their fans. Even Vinyl sales have increased by 40 percent, so I don’t know what everyone is talking about.
RM: Tell me about the inclusion of drummer Ramy Ali and bassist Frank McDouglas. What do they bring to the band and how do they change the way you go about writing your music now?
JA: Frank and I have been playing music together for about 15 years. We have a similar vision and excellent understanding. Ramy is the drummer for hire and doesn’t live too far. Besides, he is a great guy with a good heart and a truly professional approach.
RM: Will the band have the opportunity to play some shows to support the new album and if so what can audiences expect?
JA: Audiences could expect lots of action on stage. None of us is a stare-at-your-fingers guy. Unfortunately we don’t have a chance to play live. These days musicians have to be involved in three, four or even more projects to make ends meet, and this makes it difficult to impossible to get the band together for a string of shows. Probably unpaid ones.
RM: I know you have some other projects that you are passionate about like your music business conference MusicBiz Madness. How are things with that at the moment?
JA: MusicBiz Madness is a conference I have set up for independent musicians. I have invited a number of renowned speakers like major A&Rs, promoters, Bernhard Weiss from Axxis held a lecture last year, to bring light into subjects such as promotion, marketing, labels, legal issues etc. It is a big challenge because over here in Germany too many musicians still believe in doing a little facebook to make it.
RM: In the CD booklet there is the following statement – “Animals, have hearts, souls and feelings. Please treat them right. Fight abuse”. Is animal protection a big passion of yours?
JA: Not really a passion, but more of an obligation. You know, I even carry a pair of gloves in my car to carry hedgehogs off the street (laughs). Animals may not develop smartphone apps or contribute to our pension funds, but if you hurt them they will feel it and that’s enough of a reason not to cause them any pain, neither physically nor mentally.
RM: On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock congratulations on the release of Kick Down The Barricades. All the very best for the album and your continued success.
JA: On behalf of myself big thanks to you and those crazy readers who just ended up here at the very bottom of this interview. Thanks for your time and enthusiasm. Once the music business smoke will have cleared at the end of October I will have time to record new songs. So, please stay tuned and visit Beautiful Beast at www.beautifulbeastrock.com or even sign up for my Hair Metal Newsletter at www.beautifulbeastrock.com/new.html, free mp3 included. Oh, and kick down the barricades.
|Posted on August 31, 2014 at 10:50 PM||comments (0)|
By Juliano Mallon
A few weeks ago I reviewed X-Drive's awesome "Get Your Rock On", one of the highlights of 2014 and a much recommended album for all classic rock enthusiasts. With that in mind, I contacted mastermind Jeremy Brunner to talk about the band, the debut album, future plans and almost everything in between. Luckily enough, he was available and kindly agreed with this interview. I hope you enjoy it...
X-Drive is, without a doubt, one of the most impressive acts of 2014. How did you put the band together?
Thanks, I appreciate your support and kind words. Just one band member at a time. I saw Fred (the drummer) play in a band called Shout opening for Enuff Z'Nuff in Boise, Idaho in 1996. I was trying to put together a band at the time, and thought he was an amazing drummer. I talked to him about getting together and jamming and he showed no interest at all, but fast forward to around 2008-2009 and I was recording at a studio in Boise and Fred was in the same circle of friends as the engineer. By this time, I had seen Fred play in numerous bands in the area over the years and he was still my ideal choice for a drummer. So I thought I would reach out to Fred again and this time he was ready. Before I came across Keith St John, I had auditioned many other singers, everyone from local musicians to ‘name' musicians. I don't like to name drop, but I was working with a singer who had a gold record, videos on MTV in regular rotation etc. and I was super excited that he took interest in my music and agreed to work with me, but his voice just didn't fit my music at all. Then I was given Keith St John's number and I knew from the first song he sang on, he was exactly what I was looking for. So now I had a singer and a drummer.....In the middle of all of this, Keith joined Lynch Mob and I went to one of their shows and that's where I met James LoMenzo, as he was the bass player in Lynch Mob at the time. So, the process of getting the right people together who could bring a specific sound-took some time.
Was it hard to get the guys together?
Not really, it was just tricky coordinating everyone's different schedules. I was honored that they took an interest in my music and agreed to do it.
“Get Your Rock On” brings that 70’s classic rock, but with a bluesy, southern twist to it. What were your influences?
I think Keith really brings the 70's classic rock feel into the mix. But everybody hears something different. My two big influences would be Eddie Van Halen and George Lynch, but really anyone & everyone. The way I look at it is, if it's a good song it's a good song, no matter who does it or what genre.
I like the way the band balances the heavy aspect with the more melodic elements of each song. Was it hard to achieve without sounding dated?
I don't know, some people think it sounds dated, but it's the style I write in and whatever comes out, it is what it is.
How about the compositions? Who wrote what?
I wrote all of the guitar and piano parts, and Keith wrote the lyrics and melodies. Fred and James then added their touch, laid down their tracks and they built on the music from there.
The press release stated the album was over a year in the making. What took it so long?
In reality, it was way longer than that. I've been playing music my whole life and I've had most of the music for the songs on the X-Drive record written for some time. It was just finding the right people to bring it to fruition.
The album was produced by you and the late Andy Johns. It must’ve been great to have worked with such a legendary producer, huh?
It was great, he was hilarious and had a lot of great stories. He even offered to let me live in an extra room in his house while we were working together. How cool is that? He gave me one of the best quotes I've ever heard in my life - “I have to be honest with you Jeremy, I'm not a very good liar.” I thought it was amazing how he could carry on a conversation with anybody. I remember one time I had just arrived at his house, and he told me how he had accidently dialed the wrong number and started a conversation with a lady whom he had never met and ended up talking to her for over two hours. She turned out to be a judge and he ended up making a date with her. He was defintely my favorite person to work with out of everybody I dealt with. I wish he was still here.
Are there any plans to take the band on the road to promote the album?
Only time will tell, there have been some offers. I don't know what the future holds as far as a full blown tour as the other guys have their own bands and commitments and James is already on tour right now with John Fogerty. We shall see.
With 12 killer songs in the tracklist, are there any favorites of yours?
I love them all but I guess Change Of Heart is my favorite song on the album. It's very melodic and I don't think it sounds like anything eles on the record.
Finally, is X-Drive a proper band or just a project? Can we expect more music from you guys?
My original goal was to put together a band, but since the other guys all have other commitments/projects/bands etc. it's turned more into a project. We defintely want to play some shows though. More music to come in the future...
Jeremy, it’s been a pleasure talking to you, mate. I wish you all the success with X-Drive and hope to hear more from you soon. The doors of the AORWatchTower are always open for you...
First off, I want to thank Juliano Mallon for setting this interview up and for all of his support. Thanks for the opportunity to get my music out there. Buy it! You won't be disappointed. Get Your Rock On!
For more information about the band visit the official website at www.x-drivemusic.com
X-Drive – Get Your Rock On is available on Frontiers Records.
|Posted on August 19, 2014 at 12:10 AM||comments (0)|
Interview with Brad Marr
By Dave Smiles
Brad Marr is the front man of Melbourne hard rockers Massive who, having formed in 2012, are on an express ride to success. They’ve gained a five album deal with Earache Records and released their debut, Full Throttle, to consistently great reviews, played shows in Los Angeles, and are about to head over to Europe. They’ve also been nominated by Classic Rock Magazine for Best New Band.
Australia’s live music scene has been returning in full force in recent years, which is great considering we have a rich history of Rock ‘n’ Roll in this country. There has been countless young bands starting up in the past few years. With the attention Massive have been getting it’ll be great if these young bands can help put Australia back on the map.
Brad took some time out to answer some question for Full Throttle Rock about forming Massive, influences, the difficulties starting a band, and One Direction.
Firstly, congratulations on the success of Massive, the album Full Throttle and the nomination for best new band in Classic Rock Magazine. It must be an awesome feeling. When you four guys got together and formed the band, did you ever image you’d achieve so much so quickly?
Cheers mate, we knew what we wanted to achieve when we started this band. We had all been in other bands playing the local circuit and we were tired of just being another band. We wanted to create something massive, but saying that we had no idea in our wildest dreams that it could explode like this so quickly.
How did the four of you come together as Massive?
Jarrod Medwin on drums and I went to High school together. We were the 2 guys in the music room on our lunch breaks and we have been in bands together for the past decade. We were in different bands when we decided to start Massive. We met Ben Laguda at a pub, he was shredding on an acoustic guitar and thought fuck this guy has got to join our band. Aidan McGarrigle came about a little later on, but he drank us under the table one night and mentioned he could play bass. The very next day we got him in for an audition and he nailed it!
Which bands and singers have influenced you?
We’re influenced by the 70’s and 80’s rockers. Gunners, Zeppelin, ACDC, Motorhead, Thin Lizzy, Aerosmith etc. Saying that we try not to sound like an 80s band or any band for that matter. We are influenced by anything we think sounds good really which helps us keep our brand of rock n roll fresh.
Personally I’m definitely influenced by a few singers. Chris Cornell, Glenn Hughes, Ritchie Kotzen have not just the range to pull off rock n roll but the soulful feel that adds a whole new element to the music.
What are some of the difficulties you guys have faced getting the band off the ground? Financing, promoting, etc.
Well we don’t have a dollar to our name. We have struggled our way to here. We have sold everything we own and put it all towards music. All we really need is somewhere to play and enough petrol in the tank to get us there. When it comes to promoting we’re good at that. Music is the only thing we know so it’s all we ever talk about.
For someone who hasn’t heard Massive, how would you describe your band?
It’s a rock n roll party. A place where you leave all the shit things happening in your life at the door, you come in grab a beer and have a good fucking time. It’s high energy, beer drinking, hell raising rock n roll.
In terms of song-writing, how does the band like to work?
Myself and Jarrod usually bring half written songs to the band and we work it out as a band. We like to incorporate all our influences so we all bring the ideas to the table.
Are there any bands you’d like to tour with?
Where do we start? Gunners original line up, Led Zeppelin for one last tour, ACDC on their upcoming tour. You know, the good shit.
What is your opinion of downloading music, either legally or illegally? Are CDs and Vinyl doomed?
It is what it is. Music in whatever format is still music. We should enjoy it on whatever format we have available. I doubt Vinyl is doomed. It has had a major resurgence lately in rock and metal genres. It just feels more important when you put on a vinyl. CD’s will probably diminish like tapes did years ago mainly because MP3 is now the most convenient. Streaming will take over MP3 if it hasn’t already but in the end all that should matter is what we listen to, not how it is delivered to us.
The way bands work has changed a lot in the past decade with the decline of album sales and the studio system and the increased popularity of home recording, self-promotion via social media, etc. Is it a good time for young bands in this modern age?
We have a home studio that we demo in but when it comes to the final product I believe you should do whatever is best for your music. If you want that lo-fi garage feel then home studios might work. We wanted to record an album that hits you hard. We needed the production to be, well Massive, so we went to a big studio Light Hill with a great producer Ricki Rae. It’s never a bad time for young bands, you just need to make what you have work.
What advice would you have to young kids interested in wanting to follow music as a career?
You can’t blame the decline of CD sales or live music laws or pokies or any of that shit for your band not creating good music. Go out and practice until you’re good then work your ass off to be heard. Don’t take no for an answer.
What would you like to achieve with Massive? What does the future hold?
We’re road dogs, we belong on the road and that’s what we plan to do. We just want to play music and tour every last inch of this planet. We have a 5 album deal with Earache records to fulfil so we have some writing to do as well!
You’re trapped on an island with One Direction. What do you do?
What a horrible way to live out our years. I guess all we could do is put on some Motorhead, rip out a bottle of Jack and teach those snotty kids about rock n roll in the hope their multi-million dollar record label send out the biggest search crew in history and find us all.
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview and on behalf of everyone at Full Throttle Rock I’d like to once again congratulate you for all you’ve achieve, and I hope you win the Classic Rock Award.
Cheers and beers Dave: and here’s a link to the voting page for classic rock awards. Massive for Best New Band – every last vote counts so spread the word. http://awards.classicrock.teamrock.com/vote
For more information about Massive visit http://www.massiveoz.com/
|Posted on July 6, 2014 at 10:05 PM||comments (0)|
California hard rockers Tesla have been building a solid career for some two and a half decades now. While other acts from the 1980s hair metal scene have gone on to become household names or in some cases front page headlines, Tesla have been the quiet achievers. They have had Top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and had a number of platinum selling albums, yet the band is content to go about their business without causing too many waves. The band can best be described as an honest, hard working, blue collar rock and roll band that sings from the heart. Their new album Simplicity is arguably their finest achievement to date. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with vocalist/songwriter Jeff Keith and we discussed the band’s history, the new album Simplicity, technology and the grunge movement among other things.
Rock Man: Congratulations on all that you have achieved with this band. It must be very satisfying in 2014 to look back and say since your first album in 1986 that you have survived for 28 years and remained relevant?
Jeff Keith: Absolutely. As a matter of fact we could not be more grateful because we actually broke up for four years in the late 1990s and got back together in 2000. So we are even more grateful because of that and since then things are going better than ever.
RM: With so many bands from the 1980s calling it quits or going on ‘Farwell’ tours, how do the five of you maintain the energy and spirit in the group to continue on?
JK: Well first of all we definitely brothers, not by blood but we are brothers, all five of us and we are family and that even goes as far as our crew and stuff, we are just like a big family. Everybody is happy on a personal level and we are not worried if we can maintain what we do, which is travelling and writing music and all that sort of stuff and bouncing off each other. You know, it is like a marriage with five guys but we make sure that we are sensitive to each other and our specific needs and respect, so we have much respect for each other.
RM: Congratulations on the release of this new album Simplicity. Do you consider this album to be your best work or at least equal to previous albums?
JK: Well, you know, you always like to think your latest effort is your best effort. But it is not like we are trying to compete with something like the first record or the second or third, it is like the sophomore jinx, we never had that thought when we were making our second record. So yeah, at this minute in time we like to hope it is our best effort and we are really happy with the record and we worked with (Co-Producer) Tom Zutaut, he signed us to Geffen Records and worked with us on the first few records. So it was fun working together, going out to his farm in Virginia and doing the writing and pre-production and we had plenty of time for stuff like pre-production which is very important in making a record. We had a blast doing it and we are very excited about the way it came out.
RM: One of the aspects of this album I enjoy is that you haven’t recorded 60 minutes of the same track with “C’mon baby, give it to me” style lyrics. You have really taken the time to craft songs that have something of value to say. How important is that for you at this stage of your career?
JK: Well that has always been important to us and we leave that “C’mon baby give it to me” to other people. We write more stuff that is, you know, writing a song can almost be like therapy and when we are building a song and stuff and then we try to leave it open, you know, the doors open for other people to accept the song and perceive it however they look at it. So it is a nice reward when people come up and relate ‘This song got me through this’ and a lot of times when we are writing it helped us as well get through certain situations. So we like to base more on real life kind of stuff and what might inspire people throughout life and turn it on full circle.
RM: How many tracks were written for this album and how difficult was song selection?
JK: Well we had planned to write like 20 and then pick from that but we ended up narrowing the number of songs down as we were doing pre-production and then all the energy went into just the 14 songs. But it is a nice thought to have 20 songs to choose from, but we pretty much focus on what we are feeling strong about and just putting our energy into that. So 14 songs was our goal and we just reached it, so we are very happy with how it came out and we did not waste our time on any filler songs or anything like that.
RM: So we have got to talk about some of the tracks on this new record and I would like to start with the album opener MP3. This track really resonates with me because I have long believed we live in an over technologically obsessed world. Is that the essence of where the song is coming from?
JK: Absolutely, absolutely. When we were mixing the record Michael Wagner, who was in Nashville or where ever he was, would do a mix and then he would ask for some changes, we would do the changes and then send it through the air. He would say “I've got a new mix coming through the air, you should be getting it at any time on MP3”. But there is so much of this new technology and stuff and everybody is like with their face in a computer screen or new smart phone or something, so we had the idea of coming back to the simple things in life that really give you the most. We thought the opening track MP3, when we started out it was just records, phonograph records and now as our career gets to this point in life it is all about downloads and MP3s and stuff like that. So when we are recording we make sure we do not get too happy-go-lucky with all of today's technology, you know, because if we are not careful you can stack so many tracks upon so many tracks and you know that you are actually not able to create it live. So we always make sure we keep a live feel to the songs we record.
RM: Tell me about where the inspiration came for the track Rise And Fall because I don’t recall anything lyrically like that in your back catalogue. It sounds like it was written for the TV show Supernatural or something like that?
JK: Well, see if you want to take it like that, that is why we leave it open. But really what inspired that song is Tom Zutaut. When we were back on his ranch, his farm in Virginia it is from the late 1700s, and he told us a story about how him and how his daughter was in the living room and a ghost on a horse came riding through the middle of the house and they got out of the way. That is what they believe they saw and I am the first person to say ‘hey, I believe you saw it’. Like myself, I have never seen a ghost but that inspired the idea of a ghost on a horse with a sword held up to the sky. So it was going off that idea, that is one of my favourite songs but like I said it is not that I do not believe in ghosts, I have just never had one appear before me.
RM: One of the things this band does really well is positive uplifting inspirational lyrics. That approach shines through on the track Life Is A River, doesn't it?
JK: Right, right. When I first came up with the lyrical idea it was Let It Flow, but by the time the song evolved I thought let's call it Life Is A River. So for me I do not care what you call it as long as it comes out the way it did, but yeah that is one of the songs that I can relate too the most because it is a generalization of just navigating our way through life. I think a lot of people relate to it and that was one of my favourites. “So what you think is just a dog/Is one of my best friends” that kind of stuff is fun to do and Tesla is always known for that kind of stuff. We focus on the simple things that help us get through life, so you know, it is a river, you have to go with the flow.
RM: Last year the track Taste My Pain was all over the internet, yet it didn't make the album except as a bonus track on the Japanese version of the record. Why was it left off?
JK: Well we put that out as just a single, it was last Fall. Just to basically give our fans a song for the purpose of downloading and stuff and by the time we got to making the record there was talk about re-recording it and putting it on the record but we figured ‘hey, it has already been available’ and let’s just write all new songs for the record. And then of course certain markets want a bonus track and stuff like that, so we ended up putting it on as a bonus track. But we love the song but did not have the time or think it was necessary to re-record it.
RM: When the band came onto the music scene in 1986 with the first record Mechanical Resonance other bands like Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Def Leppard, Motley Crue and the like were really gathering some traction in the mainstream. Do you feel that paved the way for you to reach a wider audience or do you feel your success came from your own steam?
JK: Oh absolutely. We did a world tour in '87 with Def Leppard for 14 months “In The Round” and those guys really showed us, they really took us under their wing and showed us how to treat an opening band, how to make the show as a whole rather than putting limits on things, they just let us know whatever we wanted and do the best we could. They are one of my all-time favourite bands. Bon Jovi I very much respect, (Jon) Bon Jovi can write a song on a napkin in a café in five minutes, myself I cannot do that but definitely all those bands paved the way like other bands paved the way for them. So rock and roll is like any other music it is full circle and we just kind of borrow from one another and we definitely borrowed from both those bands.
RM: In 1989 you had enormous success with your second album The Great Radio Controversy. That album went Top 20 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart and the track Love Song went Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. For a young band at the time that must have given you a lot of satisfaction, they were great days weren't they?
JK: Oh absolutely, absolutely. You know, that song, Geffen Records when they heard the demos said it is three great ideas put it in a song format, you know, in a different arrangement and we said “Well, we like that arrangement and that is the way we are passionate about it” and they said “If you do not rearrange it and make it into a proper song then we are not going to use it”, so we said “Don’t use it”. Because that is how we feel the song should be and we stuck by our hearts and they said “Well, okay you are going to be sorry” and it ended up being our only Top 10 single we have written. Signs became a Top 10 single but that was not our song, it was a remake. So at any rate the song the song is in the form that it is and one of the band’s favourite songs, it is one of my favourite songs because it is about love and Tesla is very much about love.
RM: You touch on this earlier, like a lot of bands that started out in the 1980s, you had a period during the 1990s where you were inactive until the 2000s rolled around. The 1990s was just a terrible decade for hard rock and metal acts with the grunge movement dominating the world, how tough was it going through that period for you?
JK: Well when it first came about I remember we were doing all this press and the first thing people asked us was “What do you think of the new grunge movement?” and we were like “The what movement?” So we never focused on our image, we always focused on writing songs from the heart and I think when the grunge movement came along and we had a strong enough fan base still yet that we got to stick around because we never focused on our image. Then we end up breaking up in 1996. We went on as a four piece from 1995-96 because Tommy Skeoch had left the band, so we just went as a four piece hoping that he would see that his spot was still open and that he would come back in an ideal world, but that did not happen so we split up in '96. Then I had a relationship with the other guys and then Tommy Skeoch had approached me, he wanted to write music with me again, so we started the band Bar 7 and the next thing you know I had a relationship with him and the other guys and in 2000 we ended up getting back together. We committed to just a few shows and then we committed to full leg of tours and then the next commitment was making a record which we put out in 2004 called Into The Now, because we were from the hair band days and we were stepping into the now.
RM: While we are talking about that 1990 period, you released the album Five Man Acoustic Jam and a lot of bands were doing that whole acoustic/unplugged thing for MTV. To the best of my recollection you were the first or at lest one of the first to venture down that road, do you consider yourselves as the pioneers of that sort of thing?
JK: Definitely not. It was totally accidental, which is what happens to Tesla a lot. We were on tour with Motley Crue, we had like two nights off in a row in five or six different cities and we just decided to find a club that would allow us to play our music acoustically and the next thing you know there is a 24 track mobile truck with cameras. Because back in those days it was the MTV days and we recorded it and then Frank (Hannon) and Tommy (Skeoch) went to some radio station in Boston about three months later, played Signs acoustically and the phones started ringing off the hook . So Geffen records said “We have got a whole entire evening of this”, the next thing you know they say “Hey, re-record this, re-record that” and we said “No. It is live and that is just the way it is” and they said “If you do not re-record it we won’t put it out” and we said “Well, don’t put it out, we had a blast” and they said “Well you will be sorry” and they put it out and it is our biggest selling record to date [laughs]. We just had so much fun and it is completely raw and live and I think that is what people found so special, I know that is what we found so special about it, from start to finish it was just raw and live.
RM: You have amassed an enormous body of work over the years. Is there an album, or maybe two, that in your mind best reflects what Tesla represents?
JK: Well they all represent us but probably one of the most fun ones to make was Psychotic Supper. Because now we had made two records and we kind of felt that we knew exactly who we were and the identity of the band. We really just had a lot of fun making our records, but they are all special. Into The Now was very special because once we got back together we wrote, produced and recorded it ourselves, but we like the way it came out, so they are all my favourites in one way or the other I think they all represent the band well.
RM: Will the band be hitting the road in support of the new album and if so what can fans expect to see from your live shows?
JK: Well for sure, a lot of fun, the first and foremost main ingredient of a Tesla show and no frills just pure blue collar rock and roll. We are definitely going to be supporting the new record and also playing some of the songs that are just everybody’s favourites and our favourites too. So we are definitely looking forward to everybody coming on out and having a good time and we will rock the house!
RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of the new album Simplicity. On behalf of the team here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you and the band many more years of continued success.
JK: Thank you man, I appreciate it very much.
For more information about the band visit the official website at www.teslatheband.com
Tesla – Simplicity is available on Frontiers Records
|Posted on June 19, 2014 at 12:40 AM||comments (0)|
While the 1980s will be remembered as the dawning of melodic hard rock acts such as Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Europe and Whitesnake, who all enjoyed enormous success throughout this period, the achievements of Night Ranger should not be overlooked or forgotten. It did not take long for this young group to find success with arena rock tracks like (You Can) Still Rock In America, Don’t Tell Me You Love Me, Four In The Morning and their two biggest hits Sister Christian and Sentimental Street. As for the albums that these great songs would come from, Dawn Patrol, Midnight Madness and 7 Wishes, not only would they be multiple platinum sellers of the day, but go on to become regarded as classics of the genre in years to come. While some bands that the critics thought were brilliant at the time have faded away to nothing, Night Ranger have continued on and 30+ years later are still recording relevant and memorable hard rock. Their latest album is High Road and I recently spoke to bassist/songwriter and vocalist Jack Blades about the new album, the band’s history and his other side project Damn Yankees.
Rock Man: In 1985 you sang with pride and passion the lyric “This boy needs to rock, tonight, tonight, tonight, I need to rock!”. Decades later is that need as strong today as it was back then?
Jack Blades: You know [laughs] who would have ever thought when you are in a rock band and you start a band in 1980 and you get your first record deal in 1982 that you would be sitting around in 2014 talking about the release of a new record some 30 odd years later. Yeah, I guess this boy does need to rock [laughs]. It is sort of prophetic lines that I came up with there [laughs] because at this juncture that is all I ever wanted to do and all this band loves to do. Brad (Gillis), Kelly (Keagy), Joel (Hoekstra), Eric (Levy) and myself, I mean that is what we are all about, just rockin’ and rollin’. We are just going to keep on going until somebody says we can’t. And if somebody tells us we can’t we are going to keep going anyway.
RM: Congratulations on the release of the new album High Road. It is an exceptional album you must be very pleased with the final result?
JB: Yeah, we are really happy with it. You know, each time you make a record you always think you are doing your best work, you hope you are doing your best work. Night Ranger is not a band that turns one in, I mean we do not know how to do that, we do not know how to just come along and just like phone one in as they say. So we just put a lot of heart and soul into this thing and there is a lot of music on this record, there is a lot of musicianship, there is a lot of great solos, Brad playing some great solos, Joel playing some great solos, Eric playing a couple of great keyboard solos, you know, and Kelly and I singing. I mean, I think it is one of the hardest rockin’ quintessential Night Ranger must have records.
RM: How many tracks were written for this album and how difficult was song selection?
JB: Well the tracks that were written for this album I think were maybe about 14/15. You know, we started writing this record at the beginning of last year, 2013, and we actually started recording it in May and then stopped and started touring, we toured all through November. Then we came back at the beginning, some of us, in December and then January, February, March and we looked through the songs that we had done and 3 or 4 songs we just decided we could out do them and we came up with new music and kind of pushed them aside and did not really finish them. In fact, the song High Road was the last song written and the last song recorded for the record and it turned out to be the title track and the first single.
RM: So as far as the track High Road is concerned, in my mind this is classic Night Ranger. This is the type of thing that has been your stock in trade for 30+ years, isn’t it?
JB: Yeah, you know, I mean we always just focus on choruses and great solos and that is kind of what Night Ranger does. Melodic rock, up-tempo singles, you know, (You Can) Still Rock In America, Don’t Tell Me You Love Me, When You Close Your Eyes, Four In The Morning and songs like that. I mean we are also known for ballads and everything like that but a song like High Road really sort of unleashes what Night Ranger truly is, which is just a straight ahead kick-ass American rock band. It is a great verse, you know, for me it is a real cool verse, a real good sing along chorus and I love the “Yeahs!” in it and I think it is one of Brad’s best solos he has done in years.
RM: Don’t Live Here Anymore is an interesting track. On that song is the message you are selling for self change?
JB: Yeah definitely. I think that when you have been around for so long like Night Ranger has, and in fact I was just talking to Alice Cooper about this yesterday and he and I were saying you cannot get away with writing lyrics about, like “hey, c’mon baby, yeah, yeah, yeah, give it to me” like you might have done back in 1980 or something [laughs]. Because you are older now and people will go “creepy!”, you know what I mean? So I think the challenge for Night Ranger and any great classic rock band I think, is to like come up with lyrics that actually mean something, that aren’t just, you know, girl/guy type thing. And the song Don’t Live Here Anymore is really about, like change, I mean it could be interpreted about drug addiction it could be interpreted as change from just like who you are, you want to be a different person, whatever it is, anger issues, just whatever, that guy doesn’t live here anymore in the soul. You can always change and I think it is kind of a positive message because people should always know that there is a way out, there is always a new day, there is always like the sun comes up man and you can change, it does not have to be the same thing.
RM: You have a track on the record called Hang On which lyrically is another very positive and uplifting. Can you talk me through the inspiration for writing that song?
JB: Well we were working on this thing, Brad came up with the music for that and just really had this great kind of thematic piece of music that we all loved and Kelly and I were just sitting around and we are going “remember on our first demo we had a song called Hang On back in 1980 and we never did anything with it”. And so we said “what if we sang like - Hang on til tomorrow? Oh yeah til tomorrow” I mean the words were written but the “Hang On” part was, you know, like “Hang On” and it was called Hang On and the melody was different and everything but we are like, we just love that idea man of like just hanging on. So we thought lets just write that song, we try to be, you know, Night Ranger is a positive band. All the individuals in the band, Kelly, Joel, Eric, Brad and myself we are all very positive, we are all up people, you know, we are not downer people. So I think it is good to have a message like that like ‘Hang on baby til tomorrow! It is going to be a better day, it might be funky today, but it will be better tomorrow’.
RM: I found this to be a very consistent album from start to finish. But there are some stand out tracks for me such as Roll On, Coming Home, X Generation and St. Bartholomews. Which tracks are the most memorable for you?
JB: Umm … [laughs] that is a tough one. I love Coming Home because it is just about travelling all the time and then you get to come back to the person you really care about. And also St. Bartholomews is a, I am telling you man that song has so many, that was a fun song, musically that song went in so many directions, we had so many choices to like put so many melodies and things. I like that one because there is so much going on in it, one – there is so much musicianship and two – there is so much melody like, there is more hooks in that one song to me then there is on a lot of people’s entire albums which I think is kind of funny [laughs].
RM: There aren’t too many bands in the world that can boast about having two outstanding vocal talents. But you are very fortunate in that regard having Kelly and yourself, that must give you incredible flexibility in terms of writing/recording and song selection when working on a Night Ranger project?
JB: Yeah, you know what? It just makes it so where if it does not fit me, it fits Kelly, fine. And if it just does not fit Kelly, it fits me or we will figure out how to make it work. So that makes it, that opens up a lot of avenues for Night Ranger and really it is the same thing with the two guitarists with Brad and Joel, you know? I mean certain things fit Joel’s style better than Brad’s style and of course Brad can fit in anything, and I think he has played some of the best solos he has played in years on this record.
RM: So Brad Gillis has always appeared to me as a guy who just professionally goes about his business without much fanfare. Do you think he is an unfairly underrated guitar player and I guess by extension, when he was part of the band, Jeff Watson as well?
JB: I think that Brad is definitely. I do not know about underrated because I think a lot of people rate Brad as a really great guitar player. I mean he is not, I do not think he gets the press because he does not actively seek it, he does not go out and actively seek the adulation that I think maybe a lot of guitar players do. He just does what he does, he just does Brad Gillis and nobody does Brad Gillis better than Brad Gillis. And I think Jeff Watson is a really creative guitar player, very innovative and very creative and I think the same thing. Brad got a lot of kudos because he replaced, right in the beginning of our careers with Night Ranger, right before our first album, he replaced Randy Rhodes when Randy was tragically killed in that plane crash 31 years ago. I think that gave Brad, sort of like, that introduced him to the scene as it were, the national and international scene and I just think he has taken it since then, he has done great.
RM: I know you get asked about this 100 times a year and I apologise for being the 101st, but do you have any plans to get together with Tommy Shaw and Ted Nugent to record another Damn Yankees album?
JB: I think that would be a fun thing to do. I think that I am so busy with Night Ranger right now and I think that Tommy is always busy with his things and Ted is just releasing a new solo record that unfortunately I was going to produce it, but I was right in the middle of a bunch of things that I could not get the time to do it. Which is unfortunate because I love doing that, I produced the record before this one, I produced his Love Grenade album, co-produced it with Ted. You know, you never know. I never say never, I do not know, let’s put it this way, I would like to get back together.
RM: You have amassed an enormous body of work over the years. Is there an album, or maybe two, that in your mind best reflects what Night Ranger represents?
JB: Oh boy, that is an interesting one. Yeah, I think Midnight Madness, I think for the era it would probably, maybe that or 7 Wishes. Midnight Madness/7 Wishes, that era, but I think that really represented where we were and I think that right now the last two albums that we have done, Somewhere In California and High Road kind of represent where Night Ranger is in 2014 with this current line up.
RM: Every time I look at footage of the band playing, whether it is in a music video or concert situations everyone in the band seems to be genuinely enjoying themselves and appears to really want to be there. Not all bands look that way, what is it about this group that brings out this real sense of camaraderie and brotherhood?
JB: I think just being together for so many years, of course a lot of bands that have been together for so many years and cannot stand each other. But I do not know, I think it is the core of the band with Brad, Kelly and myself. I think it is infectious when we are having a good time and I think we have the other guys, Joel and Eric, they fit perfectly with us and they kind of pick up on that action too. Fortunately for us we have got like-minded people playing with us, you know, that have the same sort of feeling for life and everything like that. I personally cannot help having fun when I am up on stage, I mean you see a bunch of people singing the words to a song that you are singing how can you not have fun?
RM: And finally, when the day comes that the band decides to call it a day, what do you think or hope the band’s legacy will be?
JB: I hope that people will think that Night Ranger gave it everything they had. I mean, I think that Night Ranger gave it full throttle and every bit of our heart and soul in everything we did, whether that be making a record, whether it be playing live on stage or whatever it was. And I hope the legacy of the songs will remain and they have for 30 something years with everyone just coming along to show and singing so many of our songs and I just hope, you know, I think a lot of the songs have stood the test of time already.
RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of High Road. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you and the band many more years of continued success and a big thank you for the decades of enjoyment you have given us so far.
JB: Well thank you very much and let’s hope that one day Night Ranger gets “Down Under” with you guys in Australia.
For more information about the band visit the official website at www.nightranger.com
Night Ranger – High Road is available on Frontiers Records
|Posted on June 15, 2014 at 10:40 PM||comments (1)|
Interview with Keith Slack
By Juliano Mallon
If you’re into that bluesy hard rock Whitesnake used to make like no one else, you might add Mother Roads’s debut album “Drive” to your collection. With a lineup that includes keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio, bassist Frank Binke, drummer Zacky Tsoukas and guitarist Chris Lyne, the band has the great Keith Slack as frontman, and he kindly made time to talk to me about this new project. Enjoy...
Mother Road was founded by you and Chris Lyne. What circumstance led to the birth of the band?
KEITH SLACK: Chris was looking for a vocalist to put a new band together and I happened to be available at the time. Birgitt Schwanke contacted me and asked if I would be interested. I had Chris send me some music and then we agreed that our musical styles would be compatible and decided to begin work.
How were the other members invited to join Mother Road? Did you have them in mind right at the start?
KEITH SLACK: Chris knew the other members from previous works in and through out Europe. He introduced me to them and I agreed that they were each individually right for the band.
Mother Road brought back that Hammond-driven, guitar oriented rock that had been kind of neglected for a while. Was that musical direction taken by the band there from the start, or did you guys try anything else as well?
KEITH SLACK: We pretty much knew what we wanted to do from the beginning. We wanted to be able to not only write the music that we love and grew up listening to as kids, but to also add a little bit of a modern sound to it as well.
There’s no doubt the sound of Mother Road sets you apart from so many hard rock bands today. What were your influences to build the band’s sound?
KEITH SLACK: Thank you. The industry is so saturated with over-produced, homogonized bullshit, that we just gravitated towards making a REAL rock record with no tricks or a "Wizard of Oz" that hides behind the curtain [laughs]. Like I said, we all grew up in an era rich with great songs, tones and vibe such as the Zeps, Bad Company etc. and that comes through the music. However, we are all different people as well and have a lot of eclectic likes and interests. I personally like a lot of Americana and folk music, as well as Alice in Chains, Chris Cornell and all of the great 90s stuff too. It's all a just a big bowl of soup that we throw our ideas into and stir for a while on high heat.
Each member of the band lives in a different country and technology plays a huge part in making the recording process possible in a situation like that. But what are the main differences you see between the recording process in this time and age and back then, when the band had to gather in the studio?
KEITH SLACK: I will always prefer guys getting into a room and just experimenting, jamming and letting ideas flow. That’s when a lot of magic happens. Unfortunately we can’t always afford to do that. So when we can’t, modern technology allows us to be creative in different ways. I think as long as the communication is there, and you know what your doing with your gear, it can work out.
Do you think this situation of working apart affects the sound of the band in any way?
KEITH SLACK: No, not really. Like I stated before, as long as you know what you’re doing and you have communication, you're on the right road.
Another strong feature of the album is the production. Who’s responsible for that? And how much influence in the final result do you think it has?
KEITH SLACK: Chris, Ale and I are all engineer/producers. When you have more than one guy tracking and giving input, it makes things a lot easier in the long run. Chris tracked most of the instruments at his studio in Berlin, I tracked most of my vocals at mine in Texas, and Ale and Chris got together at Ale’s studio in Italy for Key’s and also some of the back-ups with the Black Mamba's.
The album “Drive” has a very strong musical identity and great songs to back it up. What are your favorites in the tracklist?
KEITH SLACK: Again, thank you so much for the kind words. I would have to say some of my favorites include: The Sun Will Shine, These Shoes, Feather in You Hat.
Now that the album’s out – and getting excellent reviews everywhere – is it safe to say Mother Road will hit the road anytime soon?
KEITH SLACK: I am very confident that the band will be in full swing and playing out soon.
And what are your plans and expectations for the band?
KEITH SLACK: To keep putting out as good of music as we can and keep the momentum going.
Keith, it’s been a pleasure talking to you and congrats on an outstanding album. I wish you all the success with Mother Road.
KEITH SLACK: Thank you Juliano! The pleasure has been all mine. Thank you again for all of your support and kind words towards the band. Hope to see you all very soon!
For more information visit the band’s official website at www.motherroad-band.com
Mother Road – Drive is available on AOR Heaven Records.
|Posted on June 5, 2014 at 9:40 PM||comments (0)|
There was a time during the 1980s when hard rock and metal was enjoying its most successful period of popularity. Bands such as Motley Crue, Ratt, Poison and Whitesnake were all household names and cast a very long shadow over the rest of the genre. In that shadow lived some just as talented, but not so well known acts, like Louisiana natives Lillian Axe. But instead of complaining about their situation they just kept on rockin’ and produced a number of outstanding efforts such as Lillian Axe, Love + War and Poetic Justice. Today the band is still going strong with the spirit it showed in the early days and they have just released a new live acoustic CD/DVD titled One Night In The Temple. I had the pleasure of catching up with original guitarist and genuine nice guy Steve Blaze for a chat about the new album, Robbin Crosby of Ratt fame and a serious car wreck incident eight months ago.
Rock Man: Congratulations on the success of the band. When you started Lillian Axe back in the 1980s could you have imagined that it would endure for this long?
Steve Blaze: Well to be honest with you whenever I put my mind to something I really do see it to fruition. I am not a guy that gets involved in things just for small periods of time and lose interest in it; this is I guess my gift from God to be able to play guitar and write songs. So it is in my DNA; so I knew that I would always be playing music and writing songs As far as knowing that Lillian Axe would be around for so long? I honestly really did not think about it. But, you know, if I was to be asked that 25 years ago I would probably say “yeah, I’ll be doing this until the day I die” and that is kind of how I feel right now, so yeah, you know, this is part of my DNA, it is what we do and it is what I do and what I was put here for and so I would say I am not surprised.
RM: Can you tell me about your musical upbringing and who were some of the musicians that influenced you to pick up the guitar?
SB: Sure, when I was six years old my parents gave me my first guitar for my birthday and it was a guitar, I remember they told me it was like $19.00 at the time, and it was in a cardboard box and it was an acoustic classical guitar. And I started taking guitar lessons immediately at school and they told me that I had outgrown the class in a matter of months and that I needed to go take private guitar lessons so that I could get more attention. So I did that and I started playing classical and flamingo as a kid and that has always stayed with me, but when I was around 10 or 11 years old my Dad and I saw Alice Cooper on TV and that was it. That is what twisted my little brain and made me realize I wanted to play that kind of music, so with my musical upbringing and my sense for melody, because I was so into classical music and then seeing the power and intensity of rock and roll that is where I think I kind of merged my two worlds together and started developing my own ideas and own way of doing things.
RM: Congratulations on the release of the live acoustic album/DVD One Night In The Temple you must be very proud of this album?
SB: I am, you know, and I am proud of it as a well done piece of art. I mean it sounds great, the band plays really well, the crowd was great, the DVD came out really well, it captures the magic of the night, there is a lot of really cool additional footage, bonus footage all intersperse and it is a nice kind of cross section of, kind of a macroscopic look at our history. We do songs from every record on this and it is really nice to sit back and listen to it and kind of get a feel for our career in a different type of format. And everything went really well, we put a lot of work into this man, not only into the event that night that we recorded and all the little things that had to be perfect for it to come across, but the months of editing and mixing that we put into it after it was over with. So at the end of the day that coupled with the artwork and the packaging it is just one of the most profound things I think we have ever done. And it seems that once you do that it is one thing to sit back and go “[I'm] very proud of this and it came out really good” but you never know how your fans and the public are going to take to it, are they going to feel the emotion from that night? And it has gotten rave reviews so far, everybody has become attached to it in a high degree and the cool thing about that is it is an acoustic record, so usually when people first of all hear acoustic they get turned off a little bit and then they hear live because it has kind of been over done and a lot of people want brand new material. But it has amazingly gone over like gangbusters, so we are very happy with that and very proud of the way a lot of people worked to make this thing come out the way it did.
RM: Given this was an acoustic album was it as simple as roll up with your acoustic guitars and play or does just as much preparation go into this as a full on electric set would?
SB: Well it is different. I think we may have put more time and emphasis on this, on doing the acoustic stuff, because first of all, the arrangements pretty much stay the same but there are certain things that we changed up a little bit just to make them have a different feel. You play them like the record but you have to adapt some times, as far as soloing is concerned, I kind of have to adapted because I am limited on the ability to play the kind of solos I do on an electric guitar on an acoustic guitar. I still get the opportunity to riff out and blaze a little bit on it, no pun intended, but it is not the same as playing on an electric guitar. Vocals, you have to pay extreme attention to harmonies, because of the fact that everything is stripped down you have to pay attention to detail, I mean you can hear the fret buzz on a guitar if you pay attention and those kind of things, you know, are great live but if you play it well those tiny little sloppy things they are not there. You know, it is live and we wanted it to be natural but it is going to sound live and natural just because of the essence of what we are doing, you do not have to make mistakes to prove that it is live. So we spent a lot of time on making sure we all worked together, the arrangements were good, the harmonies were there and we practiced a lot and so at the end of the day we were well prepared for this and it showed in the performance.
RM: How difficult is song selection when working on a project of this nature. Does it become difficult to find the right balance of classics verses more recent material?
SB: Well we know that there are some songs we have to play at every show, Ghost Of Winter, True Believer, Show A Little Love or the crowd will have our hide. But we also know that there are some songs we have not played live for many years for different reasons, but that we felt were still some of our favourite songs that would come across very well, like Dying To Live and See You Someday that are really built for this kind of performance. So we add those in and we asked the crowd and fans prior to putting this together to get ideas of what you would like to see done on an acoustic show and we take all that into consideration when we sit down and decide which 20 songs we are going to do that night. So it is a little bit of everything, you know, we could have taken another 60 songs and done the same thing with it and they would have been just as effective. Maybe that is an idea, maybe do Another Night In The Temple and do another 20 completely different songs, it is not out of the realm.
RM: So you have included a number of classic songs on this record such as The World Stopped Turning, Nobody Knows, Misery Loves Company and as you have already mentioned, True Believer and Ghost Of Winter. What is it about theses songs that have stood the test of time?
SB: Well, you know, I think there is a few of them like Show A Little Love and True Believer that were songs that got played on the radio, they were more popular because people knew about them. We had a video for Show A Little Love on MTV, Show A Little Love and True Believer got a lot of play on radio and they still do, they still get played on radio stations now. So those are the most in your face all the time and you know how that goes, when you have a song that they so call a “hit” or what not, you know, they are the ones that people are going to know the most, so they are the most recognizable and they go over the best. As far as Ghost Of Winter, that is just one of those songs that I think is the essence of what the band is about, you know, our light and dark dynamic, our melodies, our harmonies, the power, intensity and passion of the songs so it is a good representation, just like See You Someday and Death Comes Tomorrow we have a lot of that signature light and dark contrast type stuff and it lends itself well to playing acoustically. So it is really tough, you get people who come up and they are like “Oh man, you need to play The Needle And Your Pain” and we are like “Yeah we really need to do that” and then somebody else “You guys need to play Those Who Pray” and before long you have 100 songs that people want to hear and you have to take the 5 or 10 that you have to do and take the rest of them and pick them out of a hat.
RM: If I can take you back to 1988 and the recording of the debut self titled album, that record was produced by Robbin Crosby of Ratt fame, can you tell me about your recollection of working with him?
SB: Sure, Robbin was a great guy man. We met him when we opened up for Ratt prior to getting signed and then we got the word that Robbin wanted to produce us and that Ratt’s manager wanted to manage us and get us a record deal and that is how that all came about. So when I met Robbin he was very kind he always was a great guy, he was very friendly, very generous and just a good human being and we became good friends and the sad part about it is after the record, you know, he was going and doing his thing with Ratt and we were back touring and stuff like that and we kind of lost touch a little bit because he was in California and we are down in Louisiana. It was sad to see what happened to him, but Robbin was what I consider a tortured soul I do not think he was really ever comfortable with being a rock star, I think he did not know how to handle it and I think he did not understand it that much and I think it kind of bothered him. Because he was not like your typical egotistical musician, he was sensitive and a nice guy and things bothered him, yet he was surrounded with a lot of people that were the opposite of what he was and so I think that may have led him to succumbing to some of his demons and it is a shame. But he was a great guy and I am sure he is up in heaven right now and looking down on everybody. He was definitely one of the good guys.
RM: You recorded two albums with MCA Records in the beginning, then you were dropped. Then two more with I.R.S. Records before the same thing happened. Do you feel there was a serious lack of support from your labels back in the beginning and if so, do you have a theory on why?
SB: MCA definitely screwed us and they screwed everybody else too. We got dropped from that label with about ten other bands including Alice Cooper and then when we went to I.R.S. everything started of fantastically. Now we did not get dropped from that label, they went out of business so it was a sign of the times, we had our two biggest records while we were on that label and especially with Poetic Justice, they did a fantastic job of promoting that record. But we jumped right into the next record when Poetic Justice still had a lot of life left in it and that is when they were still doing videos for MTV and we should have had a video for True Believer, but they didn’t, they wanted it for No Matter What instead and No Matter What was a single but it did not have the legs that True Believer did, it was a remake in the first place. So when I.R.S. went out of business we went into a hiatus for a few years, but like anything without strong label support, it is virtually impossible to get good commercial success. That goes with anybody, anywhere, anytime.
RM: When you look back at the body of work that the band has been able to produce do you feel the band has gotten it fair share of recognition or has it been over shadowed by other more famous bands of a similar nature?
SB: No we definitely have not gotten our commercial success. But, you know, I talk about this a lot with people close to me, success is relative, it is what you think and what you feel. I know a lot of bands that have had great commercial success and they have put out two or three records and they do not exist anymore, just to be able to do 13 albums and still be around for 25 years is a great feat. There are a lot of bands that should have had huge commercial success that are fantastic, bands like King’s X and Saigon Kick, those bands are bands that should have had huge success but for whatever reason, luck of the cards, poor label support, whatever, did not get what I think they deserve. If I had a nickel for every time we were called the most underrated or under appreciated rock band in history I would be very wealthy. It is just the way it is, it is part of the plan who knows what is going to happen in the future, we do not know. But when I look at what we have been able to accomplish and what we have done with our fans and the stories I hear from fans for the last 25 years it has been hugely successful, you know, I like in certain ways being this underground cult kind of band, I like that because it shows me that our fans are unique. And we are a strange kind of animal here, we do not write about surface level stuff, we are not trendy, never have been, we formed our own unique style, our own unique aura about us and it includes all of our fans and I find that are fans are smart, funny and cool and they are intelligent and I like that. I like listening to the stories over the years about how our music has helped and changed their lives and that is really important to me. So we definitely have been a victim of the lack of the “Big Machine”, you know, to be honest with you, is there really a hugely successful band that did not have a huge “machine” behind them that had the resources to push the band and continue to work with them? No. It is like being a product unfortunately, it is like being a can of dog food, the bigger companies have the most success.
RM: What does the future hold for Lillian Axe? How much longer do you think the band can continue for?
SB: For the future what we are doing is we are getting ready to in September we are probably hitting the road again, working on the next studio record, for sure, I am also in the process of getting ready to film a TV show that I am hosting, it is a ghost hunting show. We do ghost hunting and paranormal investigations throughout Louisiana and we have got a couple of other side projects, you know, just smaller things we are doing for fun. But right now we are gearing up to start hitting the road and doing a lot of shows, as many as we can probably starting in September. So we are going to keep churning out music and keep playing, I would love to come to Australia, so if you guys can get a petition up, see what you can pull, get us over there we would absolutely love it [laughs], as long as I can fit a koala bear in my luggage but they tell me I would get in trouble for that [laughs]. But no man, everything is really good the band is in great spirits and we are playing better that ever, we did some shows this past month, I do not know if you knew this or not but we had a bad car wreck eight months ago..…
RM: No, I wasn't aware of that. What happened?
SB: Yeah, in August on tour, we had a wreck were our driver fell asleep, it was me, our bass player and our stage manager and we were coming up the day of the show, everybody else was already in Dallas and the driver fell asleep and we hit one of those big electric road signs filled with all the batteries, like 16 batteries inside it and we hit that at 70 miles per hour and destroyed the vehicle and flipped the trailer and all the gear was destroyed. Three of us went to hospital, we are still dealing with injuries and fortunately nobody was hurt too badly, no fatalities but a step away from honestly somebody being killed. The EMTs thought we were dead when they pulled up that is how bad it looked. So we were blessed but it freaked us out pretty much, so for like eight months we decided just work on the One Night In The Temple and get that together and kind of regroup and get our gear taken care of and heal our wounds and get our heads together. So that is what we did and we just started back playing again a month ago and the band sounds better than we ever have.
RM: The good Lord was looking after you that day for sure.
SB: It was all God on that, I am telling you man, if you see the pictures, go on the internet and Google ‘Lillian Axe car wreck’ and you will see some pictures on there and it was not pretty at all we were blessed, we are fortunate to be alive.
RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of the live album/DVD One Night In The Temple on behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you all the best for the future and continued success for the band.
SB: Listen man, thank you so much and I would love to come to Australia, so if the good folks of Australia will have us we will be more than happy to hop a plane and come rock you.
For more information about the band go to the official website at www.lillianaxe.com
Lillian Axe – One Night In The Temple CD/DVD is available on CME Records.
|Posted on May 28, 2014 at 12:30 AM||comments (0)|
Interview With Tommy La Verdi
By Juliano Mallon
One of the biggest – and best – surprises of 2014 is L.R.S., the outfit that put together the soaring vocals of Tommy LaVerdi, alongside the guitar excellence of Josh Ramos and the exquisite drumming of Michael Shotton. The result of this gathering is “Down To The Core”, an awesome album filled with catchy songs that overflow class and a flawless contemporary AOR vibe. To talk about the album, I got in touch with the always sympathetic Mr. LaVerdi and the transcript of our conversation is what I bring to you now. Enjoy...
Finally, after a long period with all kinds of speculation, the L.R.S. album is out, and it’s been receiving great reviews. Does it give you a feeling of “a job well done”?
TOMMY La VERDI: Well nowadays, just getting up from bed without pulling a muscle is a job well done but yes, absolutely. I think the record is a direct result of the positive attitude we had from the beginning. Neither of us "HAD" to make it, we wanted to.
You guys were living in different places while the songs were being written. How hard, or odd, was it for you?
TOMMY La VERDI: This is the future of recording and most definitely a sign of the times we live in . It is very rare that everyone is in the same studio for the entire process anymore. Way back in the 1990s, we would all live in the studio, day in, day out, two to three months at a time. I remember doing vocals in my pajamas standing in a pile of pizza boxes and empty beer bottles, while the engineer was brushing his teeth in the control room. Now I sing ideas into my iPhone while driving my daughter to school in California, then send an email to the producer in Italy who lays it down with keyboards to a rhythm track recorded in Canada.
The press release stated the songwriting process happened very fast. How fast?
TOMMY La VERDI: Usually with songwriting, there is no such thing as fast. That is like the term "over night success". You worked and struggled 20 years to get that "instant" success. The same applies to songwriting. You toss around ideas in your head for years, store them away to brain's hard drive and use them in a writing session 15 years later. One song on the album actually is 20 something years old. “Almost Over You” was written by myself and by my best friend from California when we were 19. The vocal used on the LRS recording is the original vocal from that session in California.
Given the bands you were all a part of in the past, many people expected an album with a more predictable sound, a straight forward AOR oriented kind of album. But in the review I wrote some time ago, I stated the album needed a hearing or two to ‘sink in’. Do you think “Down To The Core” is not the obvious kind of album?
TOMMY La VERDI: I would say, predictability is very hard, if not impossible to avoid in this genre ,so thank you very much for the compliment. Although, if we were unpredictable and replaced the guitar with a Didgeridoo, the fans would probably be disappointed.
One thing that caught my attention was how awesome your voice still is! How do you take care of it?
TOMMY La VERDI: My Rock and Roll lifestyle ended early in my career, so I attribute the growing strength of my voice to a very boring no alcohol, no smoking, constant exercise, eating properly and taking naps before every show or session routine.
Frontiers Records had a pivotal role in the genesis of L.R.S.. How were you contacted to join this project?
TOMMY La VERDI: By the relentless mother-in-law nagging of Serafino (the head of Frontiers) through constant emails and attempted phone calls. It is obvious that NO is an answer he does not accept when it comes to materializing one of his musical visions.
And since I mentioned L.R.S. as a project, could you clarify for us if it’s a project or a proper band?
TOMMY La VERDI: The minute we did our first rehearsal for the Milan Show, to me, it was a proper band. We will pursue the live performance avenue to the best of our ability, to get as many shows as possible and we are already discussing material for the second record.
With so many cool songs in the album, what are your favorites, Tommy?
TOMMY La VERDI: Well " Almost Over You" mostly for obvious sentimental reasons. I love the vibe of "Universal Cry". The title track, "Down To The Core" is my personal favorite because I think it is a good peek into the crystal ball of where this band might be headed musically.
Finally, can we expect more music from L.R.S. in the future?
TOMMY La VERDI: I wouldn't have it any other way my friend.
Tommy, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. I wish you all the success you deserve with L.R.S. and I hope to hear more music from you.
TOMMY La VERDI: Any one who truly knows me, knows how much I value the public's appreciation for my work. I am a creative being, and the fans validate my existence with their response, whether it be positive or negative it is always constructive to me. Thank you for your loyalty and support and I promise I will continue to give you something to boo or to cheer about.
L.R.S. – Down To The Core is available on Frontiers Records
|Posted on May 14, 2014 at 10:50 PM||comments (2)|
There are those superstars in the hard rock/metal community that polarize public opinion. Individuals you either admire for their brutal, take no prisoners honesty or think are complete narcissistic ego maniacs. Depending on your point of view, former Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach could find himself labelled as either. Personally I have always admired his frankness. He is one of the few in the business that is not afraid to call a spade a spade, of course whether or not you agree with his thoughts is up to you. The rock world is littered with cases of big personalities splitting from their very famous bands and as a result the fans find their loyalties between the two parties put to the test. For example Van Halen/David Lee Roth or Metallica/Dave Mustaine and so it is with Skid Row and Sebastian Bach. But from my vantage point, Bach has done nothing but score home runs since his departure in the mid 1990s while Skid Row have simply done nothing of value. In his time as a solo performer Bach has released a significant body of quality work and his latest album Give ‘Em Hell is no exception. I was fortunate to speak with him recently and during our conversation we spoke about Steve Stevens, Nikki Sixx, Amanda Bynes and the new record Give ‘Em Hell. We also shared a few laughs as well.
Rock Man: Congratulations on the release of this new album Give ‘Em Hell. This is an outstanding piece of work. When you started work on this record was you mindset, we raised the bar on the last album Kicking & Screaming so this time we have to raise it again?
Sebastian Bach: I always try my hardest in the studio ever since the first Skid Row album. I have always made my music for me, if I really enjoy it that is pretty much all I can be in control of really. I cannot lie to myself, you know, I cannot pretend to like something so when you say “raise the bar” I would say the bar was raised from the first note of Youth Gone Wild on the first album way back when. I have just always been concerned with giving you more music that you like, like that. One of my favourite bands of all time is Australia’s own AC/DC. The reason I love them is because I can depend on them, I can depend on AC/DC to be AC/DC and I hope that my fans can depend on me to make kick ass albums and kick ass shows. That is what I do in the great tradition of Australian rock and roll [laughs].
RM: The last time I spoke to was back in 2008 and you spoke about being the master of quality control when working on a project. Given that, how difficult was it selecting tracks for this record?
SB: Well I had a bunch of different writers working on this record, Duff McKagan, John 5, Devin Bronson and Steve Stevens from Billy Idol’s band. So I had the best in the business collaborating with me so I am very lucky. I am a fan of all of these guys individually, so I am very lucky to work with musicians that I am a fan of.
RM: So as you say you have assembled a great collection of musicians to play on this record. The one guy I’m most interested in, having been a Billy Idol fan for 30+ years, is Steve Stevens. Tell me about working with him and what he brought to the table?
SB: Well, you know, like you I have always been a fan of Steve Stevens. When he does the lead guitar solo on Rebel Yell and he has that stun gun guitar trick where he goes (makes sound effect) I love that, I think that is so bad ass and I have always wanted to work with him. Actually we played in Sydney, Australia in Kings Of Chaos and that was when I was on the bus when we opened up for Aerosmith and Van Halen. I was with Steve and Duff on the bus and I just told them I was doing a new record and would they like to collaborate and they both said “sure” and I am very lucky. A lot of people love the song Push Away which is a Steve Stevens song and it is a very haunting melody and music that he gave me. Before we recorded that I said to Bob Marlette, the producer, I said “I want to make this the Sebastian Bach Child In Time”, you know, Deep Purple Child In Time and you know how Ian Gillan screams in that song as part of the song? I do not have a song like that where I am using my screaming range and melody [laughs] and Bob goes “Oh I get it, we can do that”. So that is like me screaming as high as I can. I do not think there is a point to singing any higher than that [laughs]. It is right up there dude!
RM: Push Away is such a great song and the second I heard that song I said that is Steve Stevens. Especially that intro piece because his sound is so identifiable.
SB: Right. Well it is funny, when he sent me that music for Push Away I texted him, I go “Steve, I love this music. I really love the piano part of it” and he goes “Dude, there is no piano that’s my guitar” [laughs]. If you listen it sounds like a piano to me and he explained to me it is his guitar, I am like “Wow! Okay, you are a pretty good guitar player if you can make a guitar sound like a piano” [laughs].
RM: In terms of that track lyrically, it sounds like a very twisted kind of love story. Can you expand on that?
SB: I am in love with a girl called Minnie Gupta, she is in a bunch of my videos and we are pretty much inseparable. I love her with all of my heart and I have a lot of heart and sometimes she tells me that I love her so much that I push her away because I am very [laughs] intense and I want her all to myself all the time. And she says “When you smother me like that you push me away” and I wrote those words not even as a song, I wrote it just as an exercise to what she was saying to me. And I go “What a fucked up concept” that you love somebody so much that you push them away, it’s like I cannot help it that I love her that much. But you hit it right on the head, I always try to make the words fit what the music sounds like and I learned that from Rob Halford (Judas Priest) really. He had an uncanny ability to write words that sounded like the music I was hearing. A very specific example of that is Desert Plains off Point Of Entry. I do not know why but that song sounds like desert plains [laughs] or Solar Angels or Heading Out To The Highway or Hot Rockin’. And I know I just named five songs off one album, but to me as a fan he had this uncanny way of making the lyrics sound like the music sounded like and I always try to do that. Hell Inside My Head to me sounds like fucking hell inside my head, Gun To A Knife Fight, that Steve Steven song, he brought me the music and that riff sounds like a fucking gun to me like a gunslinger, a cowboy, like going to shoot you, you know [laughs]. Talking about music is subjective, the way music effects one person is not necessarily how it effects somebody else.
RM: You have a song on the album called Rock And Roll Is A Vicious Game. How much of the Sebastian Bach story is being told on that track?
SB: Well obviously I try to look into singing songs that I can emotionally relate to. So there is a little bit of that, but the reason I wanted to specifically do that song is some of the younger musicians I have worked with, doing interviews is like walking in a minefield. I say things honestly and then they get taken out of context by other websites, like not even you, like say I say something to you somebody will read your interview with me and then take one sentence and make that a headline for their website. Because I read “Sebastian Bach has a message for all young musicians”. No I don’t. I am not talking about every young musician, I am specifically talking about “some” younger musicians that “I” have personally worked with that seem to have a sense of entitlement that they feel that just because they play rock and roll that they are owed something. And my point is that “some”, not “all”, not the whole generation, nobody owes you jack shit, nobody owes you anything. You have to give everything of your heart and soul to your whole life to maybe relate to a complete stranger in another part of the world. It is not going to come easy, nobody owes you anything. I am not saying this to every single young musician, I do not know every single young musician. I have just worked with some that act like people owe them things and I have been doing this all my life and “Isn’t it a pity/isn’t it a shame/nobody warned the boy/rock and roll is a vicious game” I learned that lesson a long time ago. That is just commentary on an old geezer like me working with some younger dudes sometimes, not all, but some [laughs].
RM: Over the course of your career you have been involved with tracks like I Remember You, In A Darkened Room and 18 & Life. On Give ‘Em Hell you have a track called Had Enough which I think is the equal to all of those songs, you must be very proud of that track?
SB: Sure. Well some heavy metal singers will say they do not like singing ballads, I really like singing ballads. I like putting my heart into a good melody and I think that one of the characteristics of my voice that people like is when I sing cleanly and properly and not over yell or over scream when I really concentrate on a song like I Remember You or Had Enough, and really think about the words, put myself into it emotionally. I think that is one of the things people expect from Sebastian Bach music, so yeah that is another great song, another Steve Stevens effort he wrote the whole song and I really love the chorus and the bridge but we re-wrote the verses for that and it came out great and Steve does an incredible guitar solo, so yeah I am very proud of that one for sure.
RM: On the track Taking Back Tomorrow I love the line “I’m like Amanda Bynes/insane I cross the line”. You could have mentioned any number of Hollywood celebrities, why did you single her out?
SB: Well number one, her hair-do [laughs]. When I see her on the tabloid news and her hair is all fluffed up and crazy I am like, well that’s like me [laughs]. I mean I have been crazy for decades and people know that about me. I do not know, it was a rhyme I had “Insane I cross the line”. I needed a rhyme for that, I did not have the line before that and I said “I’m like Amanda Bynes” because she was on TV going crazy, so I was like that rhymes [laughs].
RM: Okay, moving on. You and I share a passion for Kiss. Given their influence on so many musicians over the decades can you tell me about your thoughts on them being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?
SB: Well my thoughts would be, you know, number one rock and roll is meant to be fun, it is supposed to be a good time, a place where you can escape the blues and I mean, the blues which came before rock and roll was all about, you know, people having the blues in their life and then listening to music to escape those bad feelings, to have fun, to have a release. So number one always, rock and roll should be fun and the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame does not seem like very much fun [laughs], it just seems like a big fight every time. So, you know what I mean? There is nothing fun about fighting, bickering and arguing so unfortunately I think all the bickering and fighting over shadows the essence of Kiss, which is fun. Like what could be more fun than going to a fucking Kiss concert? Like that is the most fun you could ever have, so unfortunately I do not think there is very much fun about that whole thing [laughs]. It did not seem to me like any of them were having fun, but I just read Paul Stanley’s book and it is incredible, one of the best books I have ever read in my life. I have read every single rock and roll biography that there is, there is none that I have not read. I have read every one by everybody and that book is a great book. What amazed me, there is such a lack of mystery with the internet and everything these days, everyone knows everything about everybody. Reading Paul Stanley’s book, I have been a Kiss fanatic since I was a child and every page of his book was something that I did not know about Paul or about Kiss and I was amazed that he had so much mystery in all of these decades that I did not know about him specifically. This book was a revelation, every single page. I did not know about his childhood, I did not know about what it was like being in Kiss with the make-up and all this, and to me it is a very revelatory book, every single page is something I did not know which is amazing in this day and age. Paul Stanley knows how to retain a mystery which is a precious thing I think, so that is a five star book for sure.
RM: Now speaking of books, you have been working on a book for some time now, how is that coming?
SB: It is coming along great. I am over 100 pages that are done, it is coming out on the same imprint as Paul’s, Harper Collins, so that is awesome. It is the same publishers that are putting out my book, I want it to be positive, fun, uplifting book. When I read a biography that is nothing but how fucked up somebody got or how much drugs they did or how drunk they got I understand that, there is obviously going to be some of that in my book but after, like page 80 of the same thing over and over I find that to be sad. Anybody can be a drunk, anybody can be a junkie, anybody can do coke, anybody can. It does not take any talent [laughs], so a guy like Neil Peart from Rush, nobody can play the drums like that so when I read one of Neil Peart’s books I find it more interesting than talking about how fucked up he got all the time. He talks about other subjects that I find to be more interesting so I want my book to be an uplifting, fun, positive thing, obviously there is going to be a lot of craziness in it but I do not want to talk about just booze and drugs for 400 pages. Anybody can do that, nobody can live a life like I have lived touring the world and playing music and making people happy, I wanted to reflect the happiness of music and the fun times not just all the rotten shit that people seem to focus on.
RM: Over the past several months you have been swapping verbal blows with Nikki Sixx. Seriously dude, what on God’s green Earth is going on between you two?
SB: Well, I cannot keep up with all of the hatred, you know, I mean one day it is me, the next day it is Sully from Godsmack, the next day it is Michael Sweet from Stryper. I cannot keep up with all of it. There is a lot of hatred to keep track of [laughs]. There is a lot of hate going on, it is amazing, everyday there is a new batch of hatred it is hard for me to keep track of it all [laughs].
RM: To the best of my recollection, this all started over a comment you made, and correct me if I am wrong, where you were commenting that Motley Crue approached you to be their singer at one point. It kind of escalated from there.
SB: I never said that. I answered a tweet on my website, on my Twitter with three words like “Yes” to some fan and I did not realise that the whole world is on my Twitter feed. I did not know that anybody gave a shit what I tweet. Like, I do not even put a lot of thought into it, it is like a conversation but Vince Neil is the singer of Motley Crue and Vince Neil will always be the voice of Motley Crue no matter who else is the singer, that does not matter. That is what Motley Crue is, is Vince and Vince’s voice. The same way that I will always be the lead singer of Skid Row. It does not matter what other guy is standing on the stage that day. When we are all dead and we are all gone I will be the singer of Skid Row believe me [laughs]. That is the way it is, you cannot change that, this is the way it is and Vince will always be the singer of Motley Crue. You can read my book for the rest of this story, you know, they tried out millions of singers in the 90s, it is not a big story it is very old news, for anymore of this you can check out my book coming soon [laughs].
RM: The subject of a reunion with Skid Row at some point has been talked about to death, but from my perspective, listening to your last three albums, it appears quite clear to me that you don’t need it. You seem very happy in Bachland.
SB: Yeah, well I mean making records and going on tour to me are so different, they are such a different thing. Making albums in my world is a creative personal experience where you look inside yourself and your feelings and your thoughts and you express your inner most secrets and emotions in a song. But you are just by yourself with a producer, and so it is a very insular process which is amazing because then when it comes out the whole world gets to investigate, you know, how you are feeling. So it is a very cool thing really, you can put it in your phone and listen on your headphones and you are really inside my head, like the song Inside My Head, I am inside your fucking head when you are listening to this [laughs]. But touring to me is more of a physical test of just physically surviving it with all the travelling and the physical part of being in shape and on stage for an hour and a half/two hours and travelling all night. So when you talk about a reunion with Skid Row, you know, doing an album or doing a tour are two different things and I do not know, it is very easy for me to step on stage and sing a Skid Row song so there is no reason why we cannot do that together, there is none, you would have to ask them why they would not want to. When I sing “We are the youth gone wild” it does not make a difference to me who is playing the bass that day, whoever wants to play the bass go ahead [laughs]. I do not do anything different, if they want me to sing it I will sing it, if they do not, what can I do? You would have to ask them. It is just insanity to me to not give the people what they want. I mean if the people want something, you and me are both Kiss fans, Kiss lets the audience be the boss, Skid Row does not understand that concept whatsoever. They do not, in anyway, acknowledge what the audience wants [laughs] they will give the audience the exact opposite of what the audience actually wants, I do not understand. But what can I do?
RM: I am interested in your thoughts on this. I remember a time when there used to be enormous loyalty between a band and the fans. These days every time I go on the internet there is someone, be it Dave Mustaine or Gene Simmons or Axl Rose or Geoff Tate or whoever, copping a barrage of abuse for so called “fans”. Seriously, what is going on?
SB: Well, you know, I cannot answer that. But it sure takes a lot of nerve to do this [laughs]. Just from my perspective I spend a year, literally a year, working as hard as I can on something and then you want people to like it and I put it out and every review is fantastic. I am number 3 on the Billboard Magazine Top Selling Hard Rock Albums in the United States of America and that is great. But God forbid I can read Blabbermouth or comments or anything because if I did that I would not want to do this anymore, so I do not know what the point is to call yourself a “rock fan” but then hate rock [laughs]. I do not get that, I am a different kind of fan, I actually love this stuff and I will to the day I die. I do not look for a reason to not like rock music I actually love it and enjoy it, so I do not understand all that but I cannot change things all I can do is keep calm and give ‘em hell [laughs].
RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of Give ‘Em Hell. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you all the very best for the future.
SB: Awesome! Thank you, great talking to you.
For more information on Sebastian Bach visit the official site at www.sebastianbach.com
Sebastian Bach – Give ‘Em Hell is available on Frontiers Records.