|Posted on November 23, 2016 at 11:00 PM|
In every band’s career there is a moment in time where the stars and planets align and they produce magic over a two or three album period. Pick any band and the proof is undeniable. Between 1986 and 1989 U.K. melodic rockers FM were a young band on the rise due to the release of two spellbinding albums, “Indiscreet” and “Tough It Out”. These records would go on to revel in icon status amongst their loyal fan base and critics alike, and would become the benchmark over the band’s career. So is it possible to improve on perfection? For some inside the FM camp the answer clearly was yes as the band embarked on re-recording the entire “Indiscreet” album to celebrate 30 years of the band’s, and record’s, success. At this point I thought it was an ideal opportunity to catch up with FM frontman, guitarist and songwriter, Steve Overland to have a chat about the band’s good fortunes, his thoughts on a rapidly changing world and the new re-recordings on “Indiscreet 30”.
Rock Man: Firstly, congratulations on an amazing 30 year recording career with FM. I would imagine that you’re very proud of the success that you’ve had in that time and also feel blessed that you’ve manage to survive for that long as well?
Steve Overland: Yeah totally. As you know we had a ten-year break, we kind of split for a while but we have been very lucky. The main thing is that the fans have been very loyal in that period when we weren’t touring or anything, you know, they stuck with us. But it’s a great life, now that I’m a bit older I’ve been fortunate enough to have a second round of my career doing this again at a very high level and I’m enjoying every minute of it. The pressures are not like they were when I was younger with record companies telling us what to do and we can call our own destiny now, which is great. So we are just loving it, everyday something new happens with FM and we are on a tour at the moment which is exceptionally successful and we are just loving doing it all over again. It’s just fantastic.
RM: If we can briefly go back to the beginning: can you tell me a little bit about your musical idols growing up?
SO: Yeah sure. For me it is quite a weird one really, I started off listening to The Beatles and things like that, like a lot of people did. Then I stumbled onto becoming a singer by accident; I was originally a guitar player, and I started listening to people like Stevie Wonder and people like that. Then I went down the rock route, I got led that way and I got my first record deal at 17 with Chrysalis and I started listening to people like Paul Rogers and all of those kind of singers. Paul was probably the biggest influence on me as a singer and I love him, he is just fantastic. I went to see Bad Company about two or three weeks ago in Manchester in the U.K. and he is still fantastic and it is great to see that he still has his voice, so I would say Paul Rogers is my biggest influence as a singer.
RM: So is Paul Rogers someone you’ve tried to model yourself on as a performer?
SO: No, not really. Obviously when you have that kind of adulation for somebody and you love what they do you do take bits of what they do to what you do. But it’s the way he sings a song, the way he paces a song and just the soul in his voice. Hopefully I have the same in what I do, other people compare us but they have probably heard certain things that he does in what I do. But it’s not modelling myself on him, just trying to be as good as him as possible [laughs].
RM: So here we are in 2016 and you’ve just released a 30th Anniversary Edition of the iconic 1986 debut album Indiscreet. I have long believed that every band has an album or period that sets the standard for which everything they do will be judged. In the case of FM, I think that period is the first two records, Indiscreet and Tough It Out. So going into this project was there a sense of hesitation with re-recording this album again knowing what the original means to so many fans?
SO: Definitely. To be honest I was dead against it to begin with. We were actually in the studio recording the next FM album, we’re actually doing that right now, and we just messed around one night at the end of a session. Because everybody has always said “It would be great to hear the band playing on a record ‘That Girl’ and all those iconic songs as we they sound now” and we kept saying “No, no, those albums are what they are, they have their sound and that’s what that album is about”. So we just started messing about in the studio and Pete Jupp (drummer) started playing That Girl, we just jammed it to put the sound down for something and the engineer recorded it. So we went into the control room and he played it back and our manager said “This sounds amazing, you’ve got to do this” and I’m like “Why?, we’ve already done this 30 years ago and I think it would be suicide to do this” [laughs]. But you were dead right in what you said, I just thought the fans have listened to that album over and over and that’s the sound that they are used to; that’s what that album should sound like. But we did it and we put another track down and we kept doing it and people hearing it and saying “This is amazing, you’ve got to re-record the album” and eventually it all got done. You know, even to the day it came out I still had a bit of trepidation, I was like “I’m not sure about this” but the album has been received absolutely amazingly; everybody is like “This is a different version of the record, it’s much heavier” and it’s great to have both versions of the record. I’ve changed the way I sing the songs a little and done a few different things and some guitar parts are different, you know, slight changes and now I’m quite happy with the new version, I’m proud of it and I think we did a good job on making it sound different to the original.
RM: I would imagine that there were some songs from the album that you haven’t played in a long time. So did you need to go back and re-learn what you did on certain tracks?
SO: Well, I mean, when we decided we were going to do this I had no idea how some of them went…. and I wrote them! (laughs). So I had to get the original album out and sit down and go through all the parts, work out all the clean picking guitar parts, try and pick out all the subtleties in the songs and the way the riffs went and re-learn it from scratch. So in doing that certain things got changed a little, Jim Kirkpatrick (guitarist) said “Let’s keep that riff but what if we pushed that back and have that part there” and so certain things got changed and we re-worked them in a very subtle way. It’s a bit like walking on hot coals we had to be so careful that we don’t change it too much that the fans go “Why have you done that?” We had to keep the essence of the songs the same but with subtle changes, probably some you can’t even hear but we know we have done them and we think they have improved the new version of the songs on the album.
RM: One thing which was clear to me was that the drums have a cleaner sound and there is added guitars giving the music more weight like on I Belong To The Night, for example. Is this a fair assessment of the record as a whole?
SO: Yeah, I think you’ve just hit the nail on the head. That was the whole idea of it, the band now has a much bigger sound I think than we did then and obviously with studio technology the way we record guitars and everything now has totally changed. So we decided we were going to approach it the way we do new records and with FM we try and bring a bit of like, rather than try and make a record sound like the 1980s, I don’t want to do that anymore because it’s not the 1980s. So we brought more Hammond organ, more organic sounds, new guitar parts and changed it around and that was the whole thing to make it interesting for us so that we weren’t just a tribute band to ourselves. We wanted to put new things into it and make it sound differently and the guitars, as you say, are much heavier; the guitar sounds are much weightier and recorded in a different way.
RM: There are some additional tracks that you’ve included on this package, of all of them the one I find the most interesting is Shot In The Dark. Can you tell me how this track came together and how it ties in to the Ozzy Osbourne song of the same name?
SO: Well it is the same song basically. To be honest I can’t go into too much detail for you really. But I was in a band before FM called Wildlife with Simon Kirke from Free/Bad Company and Phil Soussan who was the bass player that went on to play with Ozzy Osbourne, after Wildlife. So we made an album on Swan Songs Records managed by Led Zeppelin’s management and then wrote a batch of songs for a new Wildlife album and Shot In The Dark was one of those songs. My brother Chris and I wrote it with Phil Soussan, now without going into too much detail, Phil then went on to join Ozzy’s band a year later and took the song to Ozzy and said he had written it. So there has been numerous battles and law suits going on for many years over that song. But that song is ‘the’ Shot In The Dark, if you listen to the melody line it is exactly the same as Ozzy’s. So basically I wrote that song with my brother Chris and Phil when he was around and he had the title which he took to Ozzy and told him he wrote it entirely. Now Ozzy, in fairness has been great, he changed the lyric but kept the melody line and they have been very supportive. They heard the original version and basically came and said “We’ve been misled by Phillip who said he had written the song entirely which is not the truth”. So this has been going on for a while, but this is just a statement that we recorded, that this is the original version of the song how it was written by Wildlife. People heard it as we toured the band and they said “Why don’t you record your version of the song?” and we did. We got total permission from Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne and they were quite happy for us to do it.
RM: You’ve also included a new track, Running On Empty. Is this a leftover from your last record Heroes and Villains or something you wrote for this project?
SO: When we write an album we normally write about 20 songs; we produce them the same, we record them in the same studio, they’re not demos, they’re mixed by Jeff Knowler at Universal who mixes our albums and they are all done to the same standard, but we’ll have 20 songs. We like to do too many tunes so we can pick the best all round album you know, in tempos, styles, things like that. So that song was a song that was supposed to go on the last record but because we had too many songs that were that mid-tempo vibe it didn’t get on there. It’s a great song but it just didn’t have a place on that record.
RM: Okay, sure. So I’m wondering are you able to pinpoint what it is that makes Indiscreet such a timeless record?
SO: It’s a tough one. I mean, I remember when the band got back together and we reformed to do that one big show (Firefest Festival 2007) in England and we were going to play just that one show, have a good time and then go off and do our separate projects again. I was a bit worried about whether the songs after so many years would sound dated when we played them live, but when we got into rehearsals I realised they have, they are quite unique songs. Songs like Face To Face or That Girl, are not like any other band, they didn’t sound dated they sounded fairly fresh and still original sounding to me. Obviously it’s melodic rock and there is a lot of melodic rock around but if you listen to Face To Face with all the clean guitar picking it’s almost like a pop record with heavy guitars on. I don’t know, maybe it’s because the songs are quite unique on that album, we did a show recently in London and people are fanatical about that album, I don’t have to sing it they know every word, they actually sing the vocal licks before I get to the mic, they know everything, every guitar lick, everything. It’s hard for me to put my finger on it but I think the songs are unique and they have stood the test of time. But that album and Tough It Out, like you said earlier, have been the backdrop to people’s lives and they love it and it is really touching that we made an album that long ago that meant so much to so many people is quite a touching thing, it’s fantastic.
RM: Over the years you’ve been fortunate enough to have shared the stage with a number of heavyweight acts from Meat Loaf to Bon Jovi to Foreigner and so on. Is there any one band or tour that you can recall where the band really gained valuable knowledge?
SO: All of them really, you learn from everybody you tour with. We’ve toured with everybody to be honest, we did a tour with Europe last year, we toured with Journey, we’ve done everybody, Gary Moore, you name it, it’s an endless list. But everybody we tour with you watch and you can learn and I guess the biggest one for me, if I had to pinpoint one, because it was very early stages of FM’s career was the Slippery When Wet Tour with Bon Jovi. They just became the biggest rock band in the world when we were on tour with them and there was people queuing down the street for a show. Jon is a great frontman and at that point the band was on fire, we used to watch them every night and it was like being on tour with The Beatles and people were ecstatic just to be in the same venue as them. So I learnt a lot from them and it was a fantastic time to be on the road.
RM: Like so many of your peers from that generation the mid-1990s weren’t so great for you. In fact, in ’95 the band broke up and it would be another decade plus until you played together. Can you tell me about how you saw the ‘90s unfold and trying to navigate that period?
SO: Yeah, sure. The thing with it was we had done eight or nine albums and it got to the point where when grunge came along we really had nowhere to go. Although FM had a massive following we couldn’t just carry on to make a living and sort of rode the storm like a lot of other bands did. We got together one day, we were doing the final tour, we knew it was going to be our final tour because the radio play dried up and nobody seemed interested in what we were doing, to be honest with you mate. It was like “Yeah, we can carry on doing the same venues that we play” but we weren’t going to go anywhere, there was no place for us at that time, so we decided to say “Let’s have a break, see how things unfold with the business and the industry” and we went off and I became a session singer for a while and a songwriter and we all had musical careers. But FM had to stop because we would’ve made another album that would’ve sold to exactly the same people and done exactly the same size gigs and all the other bands that we toured with also weren’t particularly relevant at that time. So you couldn’t get on the radio, you couldn’t get on the TV, you couldn’t get any coverage really because nobody was particularly interested in what we were doing, so we decided to have a break. So the break went on and on and on right through the ‘90s and we all did other things, but we kept in touch, it was nothing to do with a falling out, we never did we were always friends and it went on for 10 years.
RM: Over the years you would have witnessed a number of changes within the music industry. I can only assume it is a far different one today than what you experienced in the 1980s. Is there one thing in your mind that has made the most impact?
SO: Yeah, I mean, now you just think about the early days when you wanted to get anything out to the public or the fans it was a major job. If you wanted to put anything out or tell them what you’re doing or what you’re planning on doing it took forever. It was a major chore, but now with a press of a button visit a website or social media and things like that you can let the world know what you’re doing tomorrow. But some of the things the way they are now that I don’t like much is the fact that music is more disposable, because lots of people now just download a song they don’t buy an album or follow an artist; I think that’s not really a constructive thing. I think that possession of owning a record and collecting all your albums and having a physical copy is no longer that relevant anymore which I think is sad. But I just think there is good and bad in the way it has gone, but as far as the biggest and best change from the way it was like back in the day, is the fact that it is so easy to spread the word and get out into the public.
RM: The world has been bombarded by manufactured talent from shows like American Idol, Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor. In this day and age are you concerned as to where the next Rolling Stones or David Bowie or Motorhead is going to come from?
SO: I’m petrified, yeah [laughs]. Because I don’t think they are going to come, to be honest. When I started I had to go around the London circuit learning my trade as a 17-year-old boy, and as an 11-year-old I was going to gigs and watching people. We had A&R departments and record companies and they don’t exist anymore; there are no A&R departments, people used to go to clubs watch bands and go back and say “I found this fantastic new band” and bring the record company out to see the show and it was very organic and you had the record company enthused. Now it’s all, it looks okay and it’s manufactured, you’ve got somebody up there that looks too young to be in front of 100 million people. They haven’t learned their trade; they don’t know what they are doing and I think it is bad for them because I think it’s far too much pressure too soon and it’s a hard business. I’ve been in it all my life and you need to know how to approach it and not let it get to you, how to chill out and not let the pressures effect you because it can. I’m fairly scared of where those iconic bands that formed the shape of music over the years are going to come from because I don’t think they are there, I really don’t. Because I don’t see them and I’m constantly in the thick of playing music on the road, it’s quite scary.
RM: And finally, we’re all living in rapidly changing and uncertain times. This year we’ve seen “Brexit” and Donald Trump become President-elect. Going into 2017 and beyond what hopes or fears do you have for the world going forward?
SO: You know what, this has been a major conversation on this tour on the tour bus amongst the band. I mean, we had “Brexit” then straight after that Donald Trump and it is a very uncertain time. If you’re asking me what my views on that is, I’ve been trying to form a view on it for a long time. I think it is a very unknown quantity, I think the whole world does. Donald Trump becoming the most powerful man in the world, to me, is a very scary thing. You know, a man with no track record in politics and, you know, let’s face it the more things come out about Donald Trump the scarier it gets thinking about what could happen. Fortunately, I don’t think he’ll have much governance I think it will be the people around him guiding him because I don’t think he would have a clue. So it is probably the most uncertain time in my lifetime, as far as which direction the world is going to go in. As for “Brexit”, I didn’t want to come out against the unions, to be honest with you. Once again, I don’t know how it will affect us, I don’t know to what degree we’ll come out of it because nobody is in any hurry to put it into practise. I don’t think anybody expected it to happen here so everybody is like “Oh right…what do we do now then?”, nobody really knows what is going to happen. So over the next couple of years we’re going to see fairly bad times but hopefully there will be a plan to turn all of that around because it is too late to go back now, we’ve just got to roll with the changes.
RM: Once again congratulations on the release of the album Indiscreet 30. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I’d like to wish you and the band all the best for the future and we look forward to many more brilliant albums to come.
SO: Thanks a lot Rock Man, it’s been great to talk to you mate.
For more information about FM visit the official website at: www.fmofficial.com/
FM – Indiscreet 30 is available on Frontiers Music s.r.l.