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INTERVIEW: Todd Michael Hall (Solo artist, Riot V)

 

Sometimes and album just ‘hits the spot’ and ‘Sonic Healing’ by Todd Michael Hall is one of those albums this year – a huge album of Classic Rock influenced songs that comes as a collaboration with Kurdt Vanderhoof of Metal Church. We caught up with Todd to talk about the record, his career so far and also his experience on ‘The Voice’ where he belted out ‘Jukebox Hero’ and proved beyond doubt that the show has no room for real singers…     

 

Mark: Hi Todd how you doing?

Todd: I’m doing well thank you Mark. Is that Glenn Hughes as your icon or is that you?

Mark: I wish I has a voice like Glenn, but sadly not, that’s a good spot. I did take the photo but it is Mr. Hughes. A great singer, as indeed are you Sir. I must admit when I heard ‘Sonic Healing’ I knew I had to have a chat but I mistakenly didn’t think I knew you until I read the bio and realised I have a good few albums by you in my collection.

Todd: Oh really which ones?

Mark: ‘Burning Starr’

Todd: Nice.

Mark: Let’s get things out there right away. I must admit I’m blown away by the album.

Todd: Thank you very much Mark I appreciate that.

Mark: And as someone who doesn’t watch a whole lot of TV I missed The Voice, but I loved what you did with ‘Jukebox Hero’.

Todd: The funny thing for me was I hadn’t really watched it either, and this is probably sound kinds stupid but the reason I don’t watch that kinda stuff is, firstly there’s a lot of talking in there and I kinda just want to see the performances and also the other issue was it would fill me up with this desire to try out and then it would really frustrate me. Especially with something like American Idol because I was always too old (laughs) but with ‘The Voice’ I though what the hell. It would be nice to get the exposure and also see what happened. I thought just getting to sing ‘Jukebox Hero’ and hitting all those high notes in front of all those people on National TV would be fun because you don’t hear a lot of that on the show and the other aspect was just the experience really. Life’s all about experiences and things that stick with you and I’m not so materialistic really, so the people that you love and family and friends and your experiences are the most important things. But here in the U.S. is really Pop based and I think you see that after the first song they start forcing more and more Pop stuff on you, and the sad part is in the live rounds they let me start picking songs again but I didn’t make it! (laughs)

Mark: What did you have lined up!

Todd: I had Iron Maiden on the list, and the interesting thing is the music producer for the show – he was seriously considering it for my dedication song – I was going to send it out to my best friend since childhood – the song ‘Wasted Years’ so there was that. And actually Dio –‘Holy Dive’ was actually one of the options for my knockout round, but they just didn’t give me that song. But you know, whatever, I was glad that I got to do ’Jukebox Hero’ and everything else was just gravy, you know.

Mark: The album’s been out for a week now, what’s the initial reaction been like? Has it surprised you?

Todd: You know in a way, you never know how people are gonna think, I felt myself that it was a good album, I was really enjoying it, it had some decent hooks and a lot of positive energy and some great vocal melodies to Kur’s awesome writing. So I was hoping people would like it but I think you’re always pleasantly surprised when people respond positively. The hard part is that it’s just so hard to reach people that’s why people like you taking an interest and doing these interviews is so important. You guys are such an essential part of the machine because people’s lives in general have so many distractions, not even just music. And like you said you had a couple of my albums and didn’t even realise it so when people see my name they might just skip over, if they see Glenn Hughes they might click on it! So just trying to get noticed is really, really tough. But I’m definitely pleased by the positive reviews, it definitely makes you feel good. I think ultimately for me I’ve always loved music and its always kinda been the soundtrack of my life and especially in my younger days when certain albums and certain bands they just really touched me, and at this point in my life – I’ll be 52 this year, at this point my fantasy is just to be able to do that for other people – just write some music that they really enjoyed and felt like it really touched them to. That to me is my goal.

Mark: its great music and I certainly get a lot out of the record. It’s timeless Rock. I got a real ‘Rainbow’ vibe from the opener ‘Overdrive’ and there’s a wonderful groove to ’Let Loose Tonight’ and I love “All on The Line’ it’s so catchy!

Todd: We debated that one being the first single, but we went with the others that have that instant energy that pulls you in right away, ‘All on the Line’ just takes a second to get it going, you know.

Mark: And you do a great ballad too ‘Running After You’ is a great song, and the album is up there with my favourites of the year so far. I’d love to know where it all comes from – what were you listening to when you were growing up? I see a few things name-checked in the bio- but who were the bands that were most important to you?

Todd: Well what happened to me is my older brother John, he’s 4 years older than me, and I have another brother Rick who’s a year and a half older than me, so they were around and getting into music, but certainly my older brother John for sure because he had taken guitar lessons at nine, ten years old and by the time I was ten he was starting to play in bands and bring people over to jam in the basement.  So this was in teh70’s and starting to roll up into the 80’s. And before that my Mom always loved music too, and she was incredibly diverse – we would be driving around in the old Cadillac with the 8-track cassette player and we’d have like the best of Bread, Tom T Hall who you probably don’t know who that is (all I knew as the song ‘Harper Valley PTA’ and that he wrote novels) but we’d also have The Rolling Stones and Deep Purple and stuff like that. We also had like this giant wood cabinet with speakers built in and a flip-top lid and that was the turntable, and we’d just put on songs and jam there in the living room. And I remember so specifically how my brother would lean against it and throw on Ted Nugent – he loved Ted Nugent and Van Halen. My Other brother Rick really liked Styx and REO Speedwagon. We also had the Queen album ‘News of the World’ and stuff like that. So those were the kind of things I was putting on,

But I think what happened to me was in the 70’s when you looked at the Rock especially the stuff that was popular on the radio, a lot of it, not all of it had these really big range singers that could naturally just sing all over the place. Look at Boston and Triumph and Rush and all that kind of stuff – the singers had these great ranges. And even as we rolled into the 80’s and music started to shift and my tastes started to shift to heavy Metal by about ’83 – that style of singing and that notion of the big range that stuck with it – it was kind of a golden era. I mean there were also virtuoso drummers – you knew the drummers by name, you knew the guitar players by name and of course the singers by name. And Hit Parader magazine would have these articles like Bruce Dickinson vs Rob Halford –it was just that time! So that’s where I came from and so I think going into this album I did seven Heavy Metal albums in ten years –  three with Burning Starr, two with Reverence, and two with Riot. And in general Heavy Metal in the way I would distinguish it from Classic Rock is that Heavy Metal doesn’t always but it tends to have a lot more double bass so the music’s more (Todd does a double bass drum kick pattern vocally) whereas Classic Rock tends to have more space in the drums which creates more groove and almost like a sway.  More ‘left to right’ music than ‘up and down’ is what we joke about in Riot because the early stuff is more ‘left to right’ and the later stuff is more Power Metal so more ‘up and down’ and by up and down mean your head bobbing up and down! (laughs) So I think for me I wanted that Rock. The challenge for me though as a singer songwriter is that I pick up an acoustic and it comes out more ‘Pop’ so I really needed a good complement for that and that’s what happened to me. I’d talked to Joe from Rat Pack about doing a solo album a while ago back in 2018 and he was thinking more Heavy Metal but I thought I wanted to do something more Classic so nothing really happened till I got on The Voice and sent to ‘Jukebox Hero’ link to Joe and said “Hey check it out” I thought it really hit so I called him and told him I wanted to do some old school Rock – and I told him I had a bunch of song ideas and could he hook me up with somebody? So he came back and said “I got a guy, do you know Kurdt from Metal Church?” I had briefly met him when Riot opened up from the in 2017 in Switzerland but we’d not shared contact information. So he told me that Kurdt loved classic rock too – so we hooked up by zoom and I told him what I wanted to accomplish and he said that sounded great and that when he picked up a guitar that was the sort of stuff that naturally rolled out of him. I think what happens is that, it’s not that you don’t like Heavy Metal but when you’re in a band like Riot or even a band like Metal Church, people develop these expectations that you’ll play so blistering Metal, but I just wanted to do something different and I think Kurdt felt the same way. So he just said let me just write a bunch of stuff to get in the mood, and I remember him calling me one day, and I’m sorry for these really long answer!

Mark: That’s fine.

Todd: So I remember him calling and he was just finishing up some stuff and this was like the middle of March and he said “OK I’m ready to start now” so we set up a drop box folder and in a week he had five ideas in there. And every day he would pretty much load another idea so he wrote 18 songs over the course of 21 days. And it just so happened that mid-March that’s when I had to shut down my business so I could really focus on things. And it was almost like we had a contest I’d say “I just uploaded one for you” and he’d be like “I just uploaded one for you”. So what I was doing I was taking these demos and walking around listing to them and they were just singing to me and the lyrics and the vocal melodies were just popping, you know! They were just hitting right where I wanted to be – we were just firing on all cylinders and within four weeks – just a week after he’d sent the songs I had vocal melodies for 15 or 16 songs. And we really liked what we had so there was no reason to go back to my original ideas – so basically everything you are hearing is right on the spot, brand new written for this album. So it was a really interesting experience, I’ve had songs that went really fast before but not whole albums!

Mark: It sound like a huge sure of energy and a match made in heaven!

 

 

Todd: It really helps in that Kurdt is just such a good musician. He was able to lay down guitars, bass and drums and that’s why we don’t list any other players because he did all the music and I did all the vocals at my home studio, I’ve been doing that since the second Burning Starr album. We had the album ready by April and final recordings midway through May. And Kurdt took some time missing it as he’d keep going back and changing things, but we certainly had it in the can in June. And then it just took forever to put together the promo material –make videos and do the artwork because during the lockdown it was really hard and I finally flew to California at the end of December, so it took a while but we knew more than anything that we just wanted the package to be right. Originally the release was planned for the fall of 2020 but we didn’t quite hit the mark there.

Mark: One of the tracks I’m loving at the moment is ‘Somebody’s Fool’.

Todd: I love that one too.

Mark: But I think ‘All on the Line’ is probably my current favourite at the moment.

Todd: I have a funny story about that one. If you listen to the end of that songs in the outro there’s a spot where it goes (Todd sings) “I Know We’ve Got What it Takes” it’s like an alternate melody than the chorus – that was the original chorus for the song but when I showed it to Kurdt he wondered if we could come up with something a little bit better – and that was the chorus that is on the song now. But I just wanted to keep it around for a little bit of interest which was kinda cool that he kept it in for me!

Todd: ‘Somebody’s Fool’ that one has a nice vibe. It’s one of those songs like a lot of modern songs that in the Pop Rock world that are a little subdued in the verses and then kick in with some energy on the chorus. And I think ‘Sonic Healing’ is kinda like that and also ‘Somebody’s Fool.’ There’s a groove on that chorus, honesty to pick a favorite I’d really really struggle. I love ‘Overdrive’ and both Kurdt and I knew it had to be the opener but I don’t think it’s the best there. I love ‘To the Bone’ too but for me I love ‘Running After You’ because it’s classic me- and has big notes in the Chorus but I also love a lot of energy. I’m really happy with all of them. In reality the album has ten tracks on it because that’s what would fit on vinyl but we’ve added two tracks to the Cd because as it’s dedicated to my brother I really wanted to have ‘The Other Side’ on the album as it’s dedicated to my brother who died last March, as well as ‘Not With the Sword’ – the challenge I had with ’Sword’ is that it’s tuned down to ‘D’. And that’s what Joe (from Rat Pack) said he felt that the ten songs were the core ‘in the same pocket’ whereas the other two were just slightly different musically speaking so that’s why they’re bonus tracks. But there are 3 more bonus tracks that were on a CD in one of the bundles and we haven’t really officially released those because you can’t find them digitally or on YouTube or anything. And one of those was called ‘Rise Again’ and actually that one I really liked too. Kurdt taught me to play it on guitar and it’s got some great energy, but we had to cut somewhere.

Mark: It’s been great to talk to you today Todd, I could talk all day about the album and to be honest I would have loved to chat about Riot and Burning Starr, but you’ve also been in a number of other bands over the years and the only one I think I haven’t checked out is Harlet.

Todd: The funny thing is way back when the one official album that we put out independently in 1988 I sold my Triumph TR7 that I bought with my paper route money to be able to fund the recording. And the funny thing is I don’t think anyone would have heard of it unless a distributor who contacted me when we had changed the name of the band to ’Pulling Teeth’ and who put out an album in 1994 that was kind of really eclectic, so when I was trying to sell the ‘Pulling Teeth’ to the distributor because he sold stuff to Europe and Japan, I remember him asking if we had any of the Harlet albums left. So I sent him a few and he asked for more, I think I only sent him a batch of 100 – so he took that batch and sold them in Europe and Japan and so just a small amount got out, and coincidentally he never paid me for them! He totally stiffed me and never returned my calls. But by putting that out there were just enough that heard it that now there’s an entry in Encyclopaedia Metallicum and stuff like that! There’s still such a passion for 80’s music that they’re still finding independents like us. At the time we were playing night clubs in Detroit so in our own minds we were a semi-big deal here in Mid-Michigan and down to Detroit, but the rest of the world knew nothing. So what I would say about Harlet is that there were flashes of brilliance, but I mailed it to Kerrang and they were a little more harsh wondering if maybe shouldn’t have sold my car! But we were young, I was 18 and out song-writing wasn’t so mature! But I think back really finely on the alum because we were so full of passion and wanting to impress the world, so I was throwing in a high scream everywhere I could! I hold it back more nowadays!

Mark: Thank you so much for you time today Todd, it’s been great to talk to you, and thank you for such a great record.

Todd: thank you very much Mark, this is a passion project for me and I just really wanted to have an awesome album out so thank you man for telling people about it.

Mark: My pleasure Todd, stay safe.

 

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INTERVIEW: Jay R – Snake Bite Whisky

Snake Bite Whisky’s own website states that the band embodies “Full throttled, no compromise, in yer face sleaze soaked rock n’ roll. A much needed injection of nitro glycerine, “fuck you” heavy rock with attitude and flair in a dull music scene. Undoubtedly the most dangerous and intense live band in Australia. This is a band for people who like their rock turned to eleven, their sex dirty and their booze flowing!” In 2021 they have put all of attitude on record with the release of ‘Black Candy’ their second full-length recording, and first with two new members on board.  We caught up with Jay R to find out why you need ‘Black Candy’ in your life…

 

Mark: Hey Jay how are you?

Jay R: Good man.

Mark: Thanks for taking the time to have a chat after hearing the new album ‘Black Candy’ I just had to give you a call.

Jay R: Yeah, yeah we are man, it’s definitely a step up from ‘This Side of Hell’ which was a good album, this one’s more together I think and we’re super proud of it.

Mark: It’s got a different kind of sound too, there’s a lot more meat to this one – and a lot going on, not just Sleaze but a bit of Metal, a bit of Punk, all kinds of stuff.

Jay R: Yeah that’s kinds always what we were about, we have all kinds of influences but we didn’t have the guys in the band in the past who could translate it into the music effectively. We got pretty close with ‘This Side of Hell’ but before that it was pretty much hardcore Sleaze. Where we are at now with ‘Black Candy’ is definitely the kind of sound we’ve been looking for. Now we’ve got the players that can deliver that sound.

Mark: I just hope you get a chance to play it live – this is going to sound huge in front of an audience.

Jay R: Yeah its cool – the show we played a couple of weeks ago in Brisbane was a full house and we played the whole album from beginning to end and it went down a storm, and pretty much no one had even heard the songs before. That’s a good sign! (laughs)

Mark: It’s is a good sign and I think that’s because the songs are so immediate – right from the off ‘Thunderbird’ just gets you with that ‘Earthshaking sound’ I think the press release called it Southern Metal but that really is only part of it.

Jay R: Yeah it’s kind of hard to describe because it does have a kind of Southern feel to it but it just powers along. When we wrote ‘Thunderbird’ it was always going to be the song that kicked the album off – it’s like a punch in the balls, a statement of intent and then we take it from there.

Mark: It’s great to hear a band as well with some ‘no holds barred’ lyrics too – I love stuff like ‘Hammered’ and the whole attitude.

Jay R: Thanks.

Mark: What came first? Was the opener one of the first?

Jay R: No it was about third or fourth I think. When we wrote the album, because initially out plan last year was to carry on touring with ‘This Side of Hell’ – it had always been a plan to do two years touring, but just before our UK tour in 2019 two guys quit and we got Dan in on drums and Brad from New Zealand who played on the UK Tour and then Dan ended up staying with the band and then we got Laggy in the first part of last year. And then of course everything went to shit and we went into lockdown. So we thought “We’re not going to sit here and cry about it – we’re going to do something” So we knew we couldn’t tour so we sat down and wrote the next album. As we had a new line up we thought it would be good to get music out that had everybody on it. The guys were cool playing the older stuff but I get that you don’t want to be playing somebody else’s music all the time – so that’s what we did. So after three months when we couldn’t get together we had three months of getting together and rehearsing and the songs came out in different sequences. ‘End of the Line’ was actually the first song that we wrote.   

Mark: Oh the final song – that’s a classic to end the album. It’s interesting to hear that the pandemic gave you that extra time to sit down and put together the album because no matter where you are in the world it’s a different story – some places it’s really hindered putting together new music. This album seems to have benefitted you having that extra time that you maybe wouldn’t necessarily have if you’d been on the road?  

Jay R: Yeah at the end of the day we turned it to our advantage because you’re right if we’d just been touring last year we would have still written new songs but we wouldn’t have had much time to spend on them. So we took our time we got it written and recorded. We signed a new record deal too in June last year because we wanted to change labels and we got a better deal on the table. The label of course wanted an album and we said we’d give them one for March release and they told us then that they’d need everything by such and such a date and so I went to the guys and said “OK we’ve got to write and album and deliver it by this date” and they thought I was fucking crazy! (laughs) At this stage we hadn’t written a single song together as a new line up!

Mark: (laughs)

Jay R: But we did it as I knew we would.

Mark: The pressure obviously worked in that case! One of the things I wanted to get across was how there’s so many sounds going on but yet it all sounds so complete – for example with ‘Raised in Hell’ I get a real Motorhead meets Rose Tattoo vibe, and ten you get to a song like ‘Creepshow’ and there’s almost a bit of New York dolls in there! It’s a crazy mix but it works so well.

Mark: You must have some favorites though, at the moment I’m loving ‘Thunderbird’ of course, but also I’m digging ‘Dead by Dawn’ too.

Jay R: (laughs) Funny that! ‘Dead by Dawn’ is a funny one – when we wrote it – actually there were two songs that when we wrote them I worried that they wouldn’t translate on record – it’s different when you’re in the rehearsal room where you hear it in a different kind of way. And ‘Dead by Dawn’ and ‘End of the Line’ were the two I was kind of worried about, but when we heard the mix for ‘Dead by Dawn’ we thought it was fucking cool! My personal favouites? I love ‘Choke’ and ‘Bones in the Fire’ that one because it’s probably the deepest song on the album lyrically. ‘Sweet Cocaine’ I really love too because it’s got an old school G’n’R feel to it to me, although a lot of reviews have said it’s very Punk.  

Mark: I’m with you I think – I get that G’n’R and Buckcherry vibe.

Jay R: But honestly I love all the songs on the album. And ‘Hammered’ of course – when Stacii came with that bassline it created the song and when we were writing it, it was weird because I said we’re not going to have guitar in the verse and they thought “What the fuck are you talking about!?” but it worked for me it has a 70’s punk feel and almost Iggy Pop feel to it. Then when it kicks into the chorus it’s like pure Sleaze Rock!  

 

Snake Bite Whisky - Black Candy

 

Mark: If you could have been a fly on the wall for the creation of any great album just to see how the magic happened in the studio what would you like to have been there for?

Jay R: Probably ‘Appetite for Destruction’ I think. If there was an album that was real lightning in a bottle I think that’s the album in Rock and Roll that truly was that. When you listen to that album and you forget about everything that came after it, that album was truly a soundtrack to their lives at that moment. And you can feel it, you can feel the realness of it, you know. At that stage in their career when they recorded Appetite to have been in the studio and to have seen that happen would have been something else. It would have been amazing. To me it’s one of the definitive Rock albums of all time because it’s such an honest, raw, record and the fact that it did so well is amazing obviously.    

Mark: I know a lot of people would agree with you there, I know there’s a lot of stories around it – I’d just like to have been there to see how any of them were actually true. 

Jay R: Exactly! (laughs)

Mark: Maybe seeing what Axl was up to in that song?

Jay R: (laughing)

Mark: You know the one.

Jay R: I know the one (laughing)

Mark: Take it all the way back for us Jay – when did you know that music was going to become such an important part of your life – did you always know or did it come to you later in a flash of light?

Jay R: Um, for me it was kind of like an instant hit. I listened to Rock and Metal as a teenager just as a fan and then we go back to ‘Appetite for Destruction’ really – that was the album that for me when I first listened to it made me think “Fuck yeah –this is what I want to do.” It just instantly inspired me to be a musician. And I was already like 19, 20 years old at the time, I was in the army and I thought, man this is really what I want to do. And there was no stigma around it and that’s why I’ve only ever played Sleazy Rock and Roll all my life because that’s the kind of music I love. So that kick started it for me, I’m not one of these guys who was a child prodigy, I can sing OK, but I’m not the greatest singer, I’m Ok, I get by (laughs)  

Mark: But it all fits together so well, the voice, the guitars the aggressive bass – it’s the sum of the parts.

Jay R: At the end of the day any art is viewed by the person who’s actually listening to it. I’m under no illusion that my voice is polarizing. I know it’ not for everybody, you know what I mean? It sounds like I’ve been gargling concrete all day! (laughs) 

Mark: (laughs)

Jay R: But that’s cool, it’s OK if you don’t like my voice it’s fine. I don’t care I just do it because I do what I do and I’m just grateful that there are plenty of people out there who love what we do.

Mark: Oh mate there’s plenty of singers out there that I don’t like – its each to their own I reckon and for me the voice fits the music. Now on to the next question – if you could invite three rock stars to a restaurant to celebrate the end of Covid, and just to make it interesting they can be living, dead or undead, who are you going to choose to share a meal with and chew the fat?

Jay R: OK first up and I suppose he is a Rock star in a way would be Johnny Cash – he’s just a legend – he was Country but he was a rock star by any definition at heart. He embodied it all.

Mark: Great voice too.

Jay R: Yeah I love it we kinda do a bit of outlaw Country in some of our songs I like to mix into that deeper kinda vocal and that’s directly because of Johnny Cash. But yeah man, what a legend in everything he’s done. If there’s anyone you’d want to have a drink with he’s one of the guys!   

Mark: He’d be on my table too.

Jay R: Number two it’s got to be Lemmy! To me he’s the Rock and Roll version of Johnny Cash – he did what he wanted to do and never wavered from that. His life was amazing and he just stuck to it and I loved his attitude – “We’re just a fucking Rock and Roll band man!” It was as simple as that. And of course his infamous drinking capabilities wouldn’t go amiss! (laughs)

Mark: A great guy I was lucky enough to meet him a couple of times and he was always the same, he’d sign anything for you give you common sense advice and offer you a smoke like a gentleman. Wonderful guy! And the table has room for one more who else are you inviting along? I reckon those two so far would get on well, I’m not sure if they ever met.

Jay R: Yeah definitely. Who would be number three? That’s a hard one. Fuck! I’m gonna say Axl.

Mark: I had money on that! (laughs)

Jay R: (laughs) mainly because he was a big inspiration to me when I got into music, I always admired the way that he didn’t listen to anyone else and did it his way. He didn’t do an interview for ten years because he didn’t want to do it and lately he’s become a little political which kinda irritates me because I don’t think politics and music mix well but yeah, he’s one I admire and I’d love to hear his side of the G’n’R story because we’ve now heard pretty much everyone else’s side of things. But Axl hasn’t said anything so that would be col. He is a musical genius there’s no doubt about it, he’s ultra-talented and I think Chinese Democracy is a very underrated album – there’s some really good moments on there it just wasn’t the G’n’R that people were expecting.   

Mark: Even some of the demos over the years that have been discarded along the way have been great.

Jay R: Yeah, yeah. I think he’s an interesting guy he’s had an interesting life and as a private guy I think it would be cool to have him at a dinner party just to find out wat actually went on.

Mark: Absolutely. And the final question to close – a real easy one to end the day… What is the meaning of life?

Jay R: (laughs) Fucking hell! Sex Booze and Rock and Roll, that’s all it is.

Mark: Nice answer. Before we go what is ‘Black Candy’ apart from of course the great new album by Snakebite Whisky?

Jay R: Now that’s a good question isn’t it? I don’t know man, we call it sweet but deadly but we called it Black Candy because we wanted people to think about what it means. It alludes to a lot of different things – I mean it alludes to drugs, it alludes to sex. It’s something that’s familiar but dark which I think kind of sums up the way we are now as a band musically because it’s still got the touchpoints people can recognize, but there’s a harder, darker edge to this album. So that’s where we went with ‘Black Candy’.

Mark: Great description of a great album, love the artwork too. I just hope I get to travel over East soon to see you play it. That would be great.

Jay R: We’ve love to head out your way too, the problem is the flights and trying to recoup on playing a show. We’d love to play a Festival to get more bang for our buck, it’s not that we don’t want to do it because we want to play everywhere. So it’s in our plans.

Mark: That sounds great. Thanks so much for your time mate it’s been great to chat and thank you for a great album.

Jay R: Thank you man, thanks for the support, we really appreciate it.

 

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INTERVIEW: Paul Martin – Devilskin (Australian Tour 2021 Interview)

Devilskin

Devilskin is my kind of Metal, brutal, honest, thought-provoking and with that balance of Rock and Metal that sets them apart from the pack. Without any shadow of a doubt ‘Red’ was one of the real gems of this year musically and best of all we get to see them here in Australia in February making them one of our very first international visitors since Covid. We caught up with Paul for a special Festive interview to find out what they’ve got in store for us when they lad. We also check out what he’s got planned for Christmas in our new and never to be repeated Festive Feature!

Paul: Good evening Mark!

Mark: Paul, how are you mate?

Paul: I’m well thanks yourself?

Mark: Thanks for doing this a bit later for me.

Paul: Hey no problem mate, we’ve actually got band practice next in the room.

Mark: I’m interrupting practice? So if you hit a few bum notes when you’re over here that will be my fault!?

Paul: (laughs) Actually someone asked me that the other day, did I hit many bum notes and I had to think about it, you know every now and then when you take your mind off the game you might let one or two slip, but that’s over half a dozen gigs, you might be doing something silly at the time, but I thought to myself we do alright!

Mark: That’s because you’re a true professional Paul!

Paul: (laughs) Oh I know, you just get into the zone of what you’re doing and it becomes second nature you know. The songs are really part of us so when we play them we live the anyway.

Mark: That’s a great way of looking at it. There are f course some wonderful songs on ‘Red’ and we last talked I think back in April when that album was about to come out how’s the second decade of Devilskin so far?

Paul: Well you know Mark, aside from it being the craziest year for Rock and Roll ever (laughs) we’re doing remarkably well. We’re very lucky here in New Zealand in that we’ve been able to tour since October, and so we’ve been poised and ready to go and so as soon as the Government said “Hey you can hit large crowds again” we were in there. So it’s been a crazy year but we’ve come up fighting and I think we’re doing alright. We just can’t wait for when the world’s started to calm down so we can get out again and more people can get out and Rock and Roll again.

Mark: I hear you. I guess we’re lucky in that in New Zealand and Australia we have some prett great band so even if we’re in a bubble for a year as long as you guys keep coming back we’ll be OK!

Mark: What was that first big show back like? What was the anticipation like in the audience?

Paul: Oh Mark it was unreal, there was a really good vibe and it was a great night, we were just revved up and ready, and the crowd – everyone was smiling all night because they were just buzzed to be in a crowd again and watching a band and being in a big room that was going off!

Mark: That sounds great, I think my smile will be a mile wide when you guys get here. We’re of course enjoying some great local music. Especially here in the West where bands are getting some great crowds which is pretty cool but you’ll pretty much be our first international Rock act for nearly a year! It’s gonna be crazy!

Paul: Oh man, oh wow mate, I think everyone will be ready to party!

Mark: (laughs) I’ll get my dancing trousers on!

Paul: (laughs) We’re going to bring it mate, just you wait! We know how hard it has been for you guys over there and for once our geographical proximity to frigging Antarctica has paid off for us you know! As isolated as we are!

Mark: (laughs)

Paul: We might not have ever got Whitesnake but hey we have to be one of the luckiest countries when it comes to still being able to gig and get crowds together at the moment.

Mark: Yeah, Whitesnake only got to Melbourne didn’t they, tantalisingly close…

Paul: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Mark: And sad news on the Radio front with the show?

Paul: Oh they took a hit man the second week of Covid the company I work for that look after ‘i-Heart Radio’ they sacked I think between two and three hundred people and as I’d been a casual for years the shows been in limbo. I still have the Facebook page and I’ve been talking to a few people about different platforms, but it’s up in the air.

Mark: That’s crazy after so long and with such a following. It’s been happening here though too with a lot of local shows.

Paul: Oh it was needless, I was hardly a covid risk, I didn’t interact with anyone, I was never in the studio, I could do it all remotely. But you know what they say with the Company “Never waste a good crisis” – they dumped all those people and now they’ve just had the gall to post their highest quarterly profit in a decade! (laughs)

Mark: Unbelievable.

Paul: They say the industry took a hit but every industry took a hit and I’m sure it’s similar to where you are Mark.

Mark: Ironically we actually gained a Rock Radio station here in Perth, so we should all hit up MMM on your behalf to get them to play some Devilskin. We’ve not had a Rock radio station here for a  few years so the big test will be will they play new local music and that includes every active band from Australia and New Zealand.

Paul: Fantastic.

Mark: Let’s find out.

Paul: Yeah, you’ve got to support local, the local bands that are out there and kicking arse in your area, that’s such a big part of it. And Kiwi music is going strong at the minute.

Mark: Yeah, I think you are punching above your weight for a country of five million, and taking on the world too!

Paul:  Yeah when all this hit we were ten days away from flying out to Europe before the plague struck, it was tantalisingly close, but hey we had to just roll with it!

Mark: It’s crazy isn’t it I think last time we spoke you would have been in Leeds or Birmingham or somewhere like that and whilst the UK is still very much in lockdown, we’re doing so well to have live music back.

Paul: I mean we haven’t got a lot to support since we last spoke (laughs) but we’ve had a fantastic tour here where we’ve sold out a few shows and had some great crowds and great energy. And we’ve been touring with this great band that we’re going to bring over to your place too they’re called Shepherd’s Reign.

Mark: Yes I’ve heard good things.

Paul: They’re Samoan boys and hold crap, I haven’t been this excited about another band for a long time. They just bring it!

Mark: I must admit I checked them out when I saw them on the poster – it’s really gonna be worth getting there early!

Paul: They put on such a great show, it’s really powerful and they have this big tribal beat going on and it’s so compelling and I’m absolutely loving it.

 

Devilskin Australia tour 2021

 

Mark: What I’d like to do now Paul is put you on the spot as I’m going to put this interview upon Christmas Eve so I wanted to pack a bit of ‘Festive Flavour’ in there! Let’s imagine a Christmas with Devilskin or more particularly a Christmas with Paul from Devilskin – so let’s set the scene – it’s Christmas Eve and you’ve got a  beverage to drink, you’ve got a film to watch, you’ve got a recipe to make and a book to read just to close out the night.

Paul: OK.

Mark: I guess we’ll have to have the drink first because I’m still on the tequila and cinnamon and orange from last time! (laughs)

Paul: Well that’s exactly what I was going to say Mark, it’s hard to leave isn’t it! (laughs)

Mark: It is!

Paul: So it would be that or since it’s Christmas maybe a nice port

Mark: Yeah, go on?

Paul: You know maybe even through a very sophisticated little port sipper?

Mark: Yeah, OK.

Paul: Oh a dainty little glass maybe? So it would be one or the other.

Mark: And there I was thinking more of a flagon!

Paul: (laughs) they don’t sell them to me anymore!

Mark: (laughs) OK so the beverage is sorted, what’s the film that’s playing?

Paul: Planet of the Apes, the original, that’s the one for me.

Mark: Nice, Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowell.

Paul: Yeah, that’s my favourite Christmas movie. Christmassy to me because it’s end of the world so kind of end of the year. Then another year is starting when Charlton Heston rides out you know?

Mark: I like it, like your thinking. Nice.

Paul: And then if you’ve got more time there’s all the sequels, I could watch them all day long.

Mark: I like it, growing up for me it did always seem to be one of the Apes movies or a Bond film on at night.

Paul: I remember the first movie that almost made me crap myself was The Fly, the original version. I was really young and watched it at my Grandparent’s place, it was the scariest thing ever!

Mark: I must admit I can’t watch a lot of horror movies but the old ones are the best, more to the imagination. Now onto the recipe what are you going to make for us?

Paul: Ah the recipe, well a friend of mine (laughs) this was a long time ago, he found himself in jail and when he got out he shared this cool recipe – it was called Satan’s Saki! It was basically Rice Whiskey – it was rice, raisins, yeast, lemon, water, sugar and that’s about it – seven ingredients and you basically leave it for ten days and you get this kick arse alcohol. So when he got out he had to share it with the world – Satan’s Saki, otherwise known as rice whisky, you can call it what you want bit it’s a homebrew that turns into this fruity kind of punch type of drink that you can drink really easy, but it’s illegal!

Mark” Sounds good for Christmas day, we’ll settle down with some of that (laughs)

Paul: It’s only Christmas once a year! (laughs)

Mark: And I suppose if you get peckish you can tuck into the rice as well

Paul: That’s right, and the raisins!

Mark: And what about the book if we can still see by then and we’ve not fallen asleep!

Paul: Well you know at the risk of sounding like a bit of a dick, there’s a book that I’ve been picking up and putting down and reading bits of, it’s old school a book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – ‘The Gulag Archipelago’ it’s all about the Gulags in Soviet Russia in the 20’s, 30’s 40’s and how they worked, it’s a really interesting book.

Mark: I think it’s one of those classics that I tried to start as a young man and I’ve still not managed it yet! It’s on the bookshelf somewhere with the Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky!

Paul: (laughs) It is a bit like that! I’ve got a big stack of books and lots of Rock and Roll autobiographies that I should be reading but every time I pick up a book Mark, the first thing I think is “I should probably be practicing!” So I pick up a guitar instead!

 

Devilskin - Download Festival Melbourne 2019 | Photo Credit: Scott Smith

 

Mark: I was talking to Ricky Warwick the other day and he said the same, he has a big stack of books he’s making his way through, but then he thought he better write a new album!

Paul: (laughs)

Mark: And talking of new albums I think you almost had enough songs for another record last time we spoke? What’s the thinking with Devilskin? Some bands are pretending like the year never happened and starting again and others are just picking up where the big pause came. You’re over to see us soon so we can celebrate ‘Red’ Downunder but if things don’t change soon will there be another album hot on the heels of ‘Red’?

Paul: Well yeah, we’ve been discussing that because obviously with no international travel we are limited in our options a little bit! One of the things we have been doing as a VIP component for our last tour is an acoustic set, and it’s been a lot of fun interpreting songs in different ways and scaling them right back, and Nic plays acoustic guitar as well. So it’s really stripped back and honest you know and people love it so Jen was saying “we should do an album of this” So why not?

Mark: That’s sounds great, I shall have to attend one of those VIP experiences which I believe you are doing when you come over and see us in Australia?

Paul: I do hope so yeah, they’re a lot of fun.

Mark: So we’ve got you on the way over, we’ve got our Christmases sorted and even though we’re still mourning that UK and European Tour that a lot of my mates were looking forward to I hope we’ll have the chance to catch up and maybe film an interview when you hit Perth?

Paul: Oh most definitely Mark, let’s make that happen. We’d love a bit of sight-seeing or just catching up for a beer would be great, and we’ll get you into sound check.

Mark: Sounds cool. You’ll love Amps too in Perth it’s a great venue and I’ve seen all kinds of bands in there from New York Dolls playing with Earl Slick to…

Paul: Wow!

Mark: That was a funny day when I met Earl who was a lovely guy. Everyone of course knows that he’s played with Bowie and McCartney and so many others but I went up to him and you can see him thinking “Here come the Bowie questions” and so I just said “Hi Earl, I love you stuff, you played with my mate’s band Little Caesar” ad we chatted about that, which as Ron the singer of Little Caesar says must be the least memorable moment of his career! (laughs)

Paul: (laughs) I love Little Caesar! That’s Ron Young?

Mark: Yes, Earl played on their second record.

Paul: Their first album, wow! It’s one of my favs!

Mark: And 30 years old this year too. They’re playing it in its entirety online soon.

Mark: Well thank you so much for your time Paul, it’s always a pleasure to talk mate and Devilskin in February should be a date in everyone’s diary!

Paul: We’re so excited Mark, we’ve been trying to do it since March last year

Mark: Take care and stay safe!

Paul: Yes, you too man, and Merry Christmas and I hope you have a safe and prosperous 2021! It’s gotta get better right?

Mark: It has mate.  And the same to you and the guys, I think out of everyone bands have had it toughest of all.

Paul: We’ll have a laugh about it over a beer Mark. See you soon!

 

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INTERVIEW: Rob Lane (Straight to Video, Ryan Hamilton & the Harlequin Ghosts)


photo by Stephen Curry

If you love Pop Culture, especially that rich Pop Culture of the 80’s like I do then Rob Lane’s ‘Straight to Video’ Podcast is one not to miss. I met Rob online in the early days of the Rockpit and saw him play with his and Rob Wylde’s ‘Teenage Casket Company’ on a few occasions when I got back to the UK.  Mr. Wylde is of course now fronting ‘Midnite City’ who were in Australia in March. Last time I saw Rob Lane (or Laney as he is known) was at a show in London, but we’ll get to that later. What follows is more of a chat than an interview, and we cover everything from his early inspirations to his current projects, including of course his ‘Straight To Video’ Podcast but also his current band ‘Ryan Hamilton and the Harlequin Ghosts’. So set the clock back 40 years for a trip back to the 80’s.

 

Rob: “Two check… one two”

Mark: You’re not on stage now mate!

Rob: (laughs) Have you got me?

Mark: I can hear you great.

Rob: Nice!

Mark: First things first can you remember the last time we met face to face?

Rob: It was probably the Rick Springfield gig right?

Mark: It was, at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, many moons ago on one of Rick’s rare trips to the UK.

Rob: Go on scare me with how many years ago that was?

Mark: I can’t remember, 2013?

Rob: (laughs) You know better than me mate!

Mark: I think I’m right.

Rob: “Two check… one two”

Mark: You still there mate, or is this a golden comedy moment?

Rob: Are you there Sir?

Mark: I am, it must be the Coronavirus, I’m blaming that for everything. I must say though you are looking rather professional whilst I look rather…um, unprofessional!

Rob: (laughs) It’s all a big blag I have no idea what I’m doing!

Mark: (laughs) That’s two of us then I’ve been making it up as I go along for the last eleven years!

We did actually have a few technical difficulties but soldiered on!

Mark: OK I think we’re there, if this doesn’t work we shall revert to sending messages back and forth by pigeon!

Rob: Alright!

Mark: (laughs) Shall we start at the beginning or with your latest venture? I know we’ll just jump right in. The first time I heard from you was when you sent me a package from ‘Trashpit Records’ which not only included the Teenage Casket Company album but also a band from the East Coast of the US in Albany ‘The Erotics’ – two bands I’ve loved ever since.

Rob: That’s classic era Trashpit!

Mark: It was. Apologies first of all for cancelling the other day, I managed to get an hour with Gunnar from ’Nelson’ for my series on the albums of 1990,so thanks for rescheduling.

Rob: No problem mate I was looking at the albums from 1990 the other day after you emailed – Holy Shit! There were some good albums.

Mark: Yeah it was a good year wasn’t it! You always think of the 80’s – around ’85 – ’88 as being the hotbed of Hard Rock but for me ’90, ’91, ’92 were all good years.

Rob: I mentioned it so many times on the Podcast and I can’t remember who first said it but they said the first two years of the following decade are the best years of the previous decade, and I thought, you know what, I’m gonna agree with that!

Mark: You know what I think they’re onto something! Definitely the 70’s and I can go with the 80’s and the 90’s – all great years.

Rob: I looked at your 1990 article – you imagine if someone said all those albums were gonna come out in one year! What!!

Mark: And the sad thing is they’re all in my collection! It’s interesting doing the research because every year I get surprised by hen certain records came out.

Rob: (laughs)

Mark: You’ve been doing your ‘Straight to Video’ Podcast for a while now and I’ve checked out a good few. It’s very professional and very enjoyable, and you’ve had some great guests.

Rob: Thanks mate, I’m just blagging it as I said. I’d been thinking of doing a Podcast for about 5, 7 years and the technology side of things has always terrified me.

Mark:  know what you mean but like everything it gets easier as technology gets more accessible and user-friendly. I once recorded a show ion a voice recorder in a walk in wardrobe in a storm in Esperance with the rain and thunder lashing down. That was quite an experience, these days we use a more conventional desk and studio set-up!

Rob: (laughs)

Mark: Let’s start with a few big questions – who is on your bucket-list as a Podcaster?

Rob: I have got a list actually, I’m kinda aiming at the people that got me into this. I’d love to get Kevin Smith on one.

Mark: Oh yes, The Comic Book Men.

Rob: Yes, he was on the first Podcast I started listening to, I love all his films. They’re really entertaining from a Pop Culture pint of view.

Mark: And Teenage Casket Company, a very, very fine band who should have been much bigger? I just thought I’d throw that one in there.

Rob: We did alright the people who got it loved it. It was convincing everybody else! (laughs)

Mark: I keep telling myself that in 20 years’ time people are going to discover that band and you’ll become like the Vincent Van Gogh of Popular music, reforming on stage as you hit retirement age!

Rob: (laughs) I’m happy to be a cult band. I think with Rob Wylde doing Midnite City now for a while it brought a renewed interest into the TCC stuff. Maybe in 5 – 10 years the albums will be going for silly money on e-bay and I’ll find some in the attic and finally make some money!

Mark: I’ll hang onto my signed copies then! (laughs) I was talking to Eric the other day from Eclipse and they released a 12” picture disc just last year and it’s already going for $100 on Discogs!

Rob: That’s insane!

Mark: There’s almost like a crazy ‘new’ collectables market that never used to exist, with all these things being released in so limited numbers they almost become instant collectables.

Mark: Now musically though TCC is no more and you’re doing something a little different playing with Ryan Hamilton, a bit of a change of pace, something a little different.

Rob: It is yes, but it’s weird when people say “Oh it’s totally different to what you’re into” but to me it doesn’t ever seem to be that way – I just like good catchy songs and good melodies and big choruses and that’s what Ryan writes really. It’s certainly not in the Hard Rock/Melodic Rock vein but it’s still Rockin’ stuff and it kinda taps into the stuff I was listening to in the 90’s – alternative bands like Soul Asylum and Gin Blossoms, all that kind of stuff which is what Ryan grew upon as well so that’s kind of the meeting point.

Mark: That’s right, it’s all about the song and how good it is, the treatment is just stylistic. I always remember meeting one of my heroes and one of the greatest songwriters Steve Marriott once in a pub in Nottingham, he’d been playing with a Packet of Three and I can never remember the pub, but it was near the fire station and at the end of the night the owner this old guy would come out on the mic at throwing out time which in those days of course was11pmand say “There’s a lot of things going on in Nottingham tonight…” and he’d proceed to reel off all the things you could still do that evening! It was brilliant.

Rob: (laughs) that’s what you needed back then no mobile phones or social media to tap into then!

 

 

Mark: That’s right it was so much better that way. It was Steve who said if you can make a song work with just a voice and an electric guitar you know you have a good song and I completely agree. And that’s a show I’ll always remember all my mates went down to Rock City to see this big band, I can’t remember who it was, and I was there alone at Steve’s show. In-between sets he came to the bar and stood next to me, it was one of the only two times I’ve been stuck for words. That guys wrote so many amazing songs. A hero. Any exciting celebrity moments for you in your travels?

Rob: Well I’ve always been a self-confessed fan boy I really have, we used to go to gigs and just hang around at the end. It was proper stereotypical stuff – we’d hang around at the stage door. The first time we did that was for Extreme at the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall. That was just by chance really, we were just walking to the Car Park and we saw a bit of a crowd around the stage door. And we thought “OK let’s go and wait for a while”. And in my head it was going to be exactly like you see on TV like the Beatles, where the stage door would open and they’d run through the crowd straight onto the bus without you getting to see the or anything. But it wasn’t like that. We waiting for a  while and when the door opened I just happened to be right at the front, Gary Cherone walked out and all I could do was shake his hand, I didn’t say anything. And that was it I was done. But back when Extreme were breaking they were so good with the whole fan thing. And after that one every time we went to see them we’d wait afterwards and they’d always stick around and sign autographs for people. I remember one time at the NEC there were lots of people and the band had this very intimidating tour manager Bob Dallas who looked just like Bob Carolgees?

Mark: Without the dog?

Rob: Yes, without the dog but with a very intimidating American accent who took no shit. So he said “Right everybody line up here.” There must have been 50 people, so we all lined up and the band went onto the bus and they let everybody come onto the back of the bus in an orderly queue to see the band in the back seating area and they signed everything there, it was just the coolest thing.

Mark: They played Perth a couple of years ago with Mr Big and they’re just as nice and still doing that for the fans.

Rob: Oh man, they’re Top of the game.

Mark: They are and Nuno is such a cool guy I saw him play with his solo band at a tiny club years ago.

Rob: Oh man, that guy sold his soul years ago he still looks exactly the same!

Mark: (laughs) or maybe just good skincare…

Mark: Now let’s talk a bit more about your ventures, one of the things I’ve been following from afar, and they tell me it’s not really stalking if you know someone…

Rob: (laughs)

Mark: Oh wait there, maybe that was the definition of stalking. Anyway ’Straight to Video’ I have the first two compilations. I remember getting the first off you at The Diamond in Sutton in Ashfield when you and Rob Lane supported Mike Tramp acoustically. And of course that has led to the framing business ‘Arcade Frames’ where you take a bit of Pop Culture add a bit of magic and create some cool collectibles. Now to me that seems like a cool extension of the idea – it’s an interesting time to be setting out and starting your business, but some say that now online is a great opportunity?

Rob: Yes that’s what I’m hoping. My timing to leave my job of 21 years could have been better, but if I don’t do it now I never will. The ‘Straight to Video’ thing started maybe seven or eight years ago now, and I always say that I’ve been really lucky to have been in bands with very good songwriters. Even when I was in my first band we had a really good song-writer and it was something I never really got into r tried that much. But I always had that inkling to do a ‘solo’ record of some kind. And strangely when I think about it one of the people who perhaps influenced me was Ricki Rockett, can you remember the covers album he did one time.

Mark: Wow that’s a blast from the past. I’d forgotten all about it.

Rob: It was just basically a Ricki Rockett solo album but all covers with all guest players. So the idea for ‘Straight to Video’ was to get a band and cover movie soundtrack songs because the thing that got me into Hard Rock was the Rocky IV soundtrack, and the Top Gun soundtrack. All those great 80’s movie soundtrack albums. So that was the initial idea just to do a covers band specialising in them. But I really struggled to get a solid line up and I was talking to my friend KC Duggan who plays in a band The Idol Dead over here and he said why don’t you just do it as a record? So I gave it a shot, putting together a multi-supergroup, with me and my friend Micky Richards, he played drums I played bass and we got all different players in who I’d met over the years – different singers and guitarists. And that ended up as the EP you have then went on to be an album through the now defunct Pledge Music. Such a shame that whole thing went!

 

 

Mark: Well you say that but they went down owing me about $500!

Rob: And you never saw anything back?

Mark: Nothing. But it was quite interesting in that some of the bands came out and pretty much said “Hey we’ll look after you” and some of the bands, and I remember who they all are, didn’t even apologise they pretty much said “Tough luck, it’s Pledge Music’s fault” I thought that was quite an interesting way to treat fans, as they could have said “Hey we all got ripped off we can’t afford to wear this cost but we’ll get the stuff to you but can you help out with postage or the full cost?” If they’d said that I’d have had no problem but most of the bands that didn’t were signed to labels anyway and in my opinion that was part of the problem. So all respect to people like Donnie Vie who lost money honouring those pledges and Danny Vaughn who opened the can of words, but some big names should hang their heads in shame for passing the buck as soon as they possibly could.

Rob: My experience was nothing but positive.

Mark: I think you got in before they started ‘investing’ other people’s money.

Rob: I still keep my hand in with the Straight to Video though, I dive in form time to time and I’ll do something like a Halloween song or something, any time I’m inspired. It’s an ongoing project.

Mark: So have you got a Christmas song for us this year and if so why not!?

Rob:  I haven’t no, this year’s been crazy man.

Mark: What’s happened?

Rob: (laughs) Oh you know that thing the entire world’s been going through.

Mark: No, still no idea what you can mean? (laughs)

Rob: (laughs)

Mark: So the new venture, tell us about that!

Rob: As in the quitting work and moving forwards? Well it’s pretty much a leap of faith really. The job I was in was a printing Job and I’d been there since 1999 and it was a great place to work I could have easily stayed till retirement, but then I got thinking about everything that I do in my spare time as a hobby people make a living out of doing that so why not make it a job and focus on it 100% and see if I can get by. So I’m focussing on the podcast which as you know takes a lot of time as do websites and all that stuff.

Mark: Yeah it’s a huge job.

Rob: So there’s that and then I do the frame thing (Arcade Frames0 which I don’t get embarrassed about even though effectively I’m a 46 year old man who quit his job to play with Lego!

Mark: (laughs) I’ve been looking around all day wondering what film or album to try and have you make for me. Do you sometimes get stumped?

Rob: I do yes, I’ve got a catalogue now of what I think are cool frames. But every now and then someone will say “Can you do this one?” and you’ll have to figure it out. But I just buy the little Lego mini figures and workout the backgrounds. But I do want to get into some more customised ones. I’m working on a Van Helen one at the minute.

Mark: That will be cool.

Rob: And an Eddie Van Halen tribute as well.

Mark: Nice. And of course these days ‘retro’ is rather fashionable and you’re ahead of the curve –vinyl is back in a big way but also VHS and Cassette tapes! I had a few good years of relatively cheap vinyl shopping but those days are gone now!

Rob: Where did you used to buy your records from back in the day?

Mark: Why ‘Way Ahead Records’ of course Rob in Nottingham.

Rob: Obviously

Mark: I remember when it was a tiny little shop in Hurts Yard before it moved to the big place in James Street. Rob: Really

Mark: Yeah. It was a great place, I’d save up for weeks and take a five pound note in there and spend the day and end up with four or five albums or maybe some singles and picture discs.

Rob: Did you ever go to any in-stores? We saw Danger Danger and Thunder there.

Mark: Yes, I used to love when the bands came and signed stuff. I saw the Thunder one you were at, but there were so many – I remember loving meeting Love/Hate were great and Vain was great interestingly they didn’t play Nottingham only Sheffield on Tour with Skid Row. I took everything for them to sign! Years later we got back stage at The Whiskey me and my mate Glenn to catch up with Vain a mere 25 years later! When we got back they’d gone out for a meal, and we did briefly discuss nicking all their equipment but we decided it would have been a much less enjoyable night if we had as they hadn’t played yet! We did catch them later – lovely guys

Rob: Davy Vain was the first person to sign the Teenage Casket Company mailing list!

Mark: Was he really?

Rob: (laughs) It’s true! When we first started properly gigging in 2005 one of our first gigs was supporting Vain – they did a full reunion thing and it was the first time I pulled out the mailing list.

Mark: Nice one! The world’s changed so much for musicians since those days everyone is streaming now and the only way to make money is touring and now no one can tour!

Rob: It’s finding creative ways to make money if you’re a band that’s the challenge, streaming gigs like what Rob from Midnite City is doing are great. But you’ve got to be creative.

Mark: You have it was great early on with so many bands doing that but after a while I must admit I only stuck with a few who were doing something a bit different. It’s still great though as you can’t go out and do anything but because we got live music back now it’s proved one thing to me – you can’t beat a live band in a live venue and local acts are doing great over here.

Rob: Is there no restriction on gigs then?

Mark: 70% capacity at the moment, but we’ve been lucky – eight months without Community transmission in the West of Australia. Before we closed up the boarders though the last international gig we saw was Kip Winger and it was close – the borders closed two days after he left, if he’d just stayed a bit longer we could have kept him!

Rob: (laughs)

Mark: And Chip from Enuff Z’Nuff only just made it back too – they were flying to Europe after Australia but those show got cancelled and he just got back to the US.

Rob: All legends.

Mark: They certainly are. So I set you up earlier in the week – I’m tracking down some of the artist who made my favourite albums of 1990 and I thought I’d get you on with your musical knowledge to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.

Rob: Ok, I actually red your run-down, and I must admit I was quite surprised by your reaction to Poison’s ‘Flesh and Blood’ and Warrant’s ‘Cherry Pie.’

Mark: Yes, not a big of either of those records, I thought the band’s had done so many better things.

Rob: They are actually two of my all-time favourite records – especially ‘Flesh and Blood’

Mark: Rob I think the only thing musically we’ll ever disagree on is Poison! (laughs)

Rob: (laughs)

Mark: I’m a holder of that unpopular opinion that Poison had as much to do with the demise of 80’s hard Rock as Nirvana did. Not because of them, but more that everyone tried to be like them but weren’t necessarily as talented, which brought this whole stack of inferior bands at the tail end of the decade.

Rob: OK. Who falls into that category?

Mark: Funnily enough I’m a blank at the minute! (laughs) lt’s all personal opinion anyway. So there was that and the fact that labels could licence Grunge from Seattle for next to nothing compared to the bloated budgets of Hard Rock bands. But I know you’re a big Poison fan.

Rob: (laughs) I know I always said that Poison were the band that made me wat to play in a band. I just thought they were the coolest looking thing I’d ever seen even before I’d heteenage casket companyard the music!

Mark: That is kind of in a way my argument! (laughs) I must admit that first record is great though. I did like the Bluesy one they did with Kotzen too.

Rob: Well to me ‘Flesh and Blood’ is like the bridging gap. I liked that one.

Mark: OK I guess I owe it to you to have a re-listen to that one. Who else is in there for the best of 1990?

 

 

Rob: Well for me Warrant’s ‘Cherry Pie’ is sort of the quintessential Melodic Pop Rock Hair Metal album, it’s just chock full of classic song-writing in my opinion.

Mark: I do hate that phrase Hair Meal though don’t you? It’s one of those phrases that really badly describes the music and it’s quite a horrible label really.

Rob: Well I guess with labels if I know what you’re talking about when you say it, its fine (laughs)

Mark: I guess it’s persisted, and you’re right everyone knows what it means, but most of the artists who were involved in music at the time hate the phrase. I mean it’s not really Metal, or most of it wasn’t but I’ll give you the Hair even if that suggests style over substance!

Rob: (laughs)

Mark: I remember talking to Gunnar Nelson ten years ago and he told me then he was writing a book called ‘What happened to my Hair?’ and it was about the rise and fall of Hair Metal.

Rob: Now that would be cool.

Mark: I’d certainly buy it. Any others from 1990 that grabbed you?

Rob: Well I’ve always been a big fan of ‘Stick It to Ya’ by Slaughter, again the videos were so cool and there are some really great songs on there too. When I first heard ‘Up All Night’ I thought “What’s this>!” and Mark Slaughters voice is insanely good too and the imagery is great but it wasn’t till a lot later I realised who else was in the band.

Mark: Yes I have all that sort of useless knowledge in the back of the head still, rendered all the less impressive by Mr Google. It was a lot harder to find those things out before the internet.

Rob: (laughs) There were all the big hitters though in 1990, Firehouse, Winger, Cinderella, I think ’Heartbreak Station’ came out that year. On my list there were a lot of albums that I discovered after the fact too, maybe 5 or 6 years later – like The Posies – ‘Dear 23’ and Mother Lovebone also released ‘Apple.’

Mark: Yeah I remember loving ‘This is Shangrila’ from that album and often wondered what would have happened had Andrew Wood lived. All great records. I think one of my favourite releases was ‘Little Caesar’ whose debut came out that year and their singer Ron Young has to be one of my favourite people to talk to.

Rob: I actually first really started buying records that year and ‘No Prayer For the Dying’ was the first Iron Maiden record I bought. I was already into Def Leppard but like a lot of people I got hooked on the Iron Maiden imagery. The cool artwork and stuff, and that was my first big Rock Gig in 1990 at Derby assembly Rooms.

Mark: I remember seeing The Dog’s D’Amour at the Assembly Rooms. And I think I practically lived at Rock City in those days. It was a great time to be in the UK for Hair Metal – everyone was coming over!

Rob: I think I have a Rock City Gig Guide from 1991 – there was a monthly gig guide and it’s insane the amount of bands every week- you could be going to two or three gigs a week! Mr Big’s on there, Extreme, Enuff Z’Nuff.

Mark: I think I was pretty much out to all of those! Heady days there were international acts every week! And you’d get great double bills too – White Lion and Tyketto and The Black Crowes supporting The Dogs D’Amour would have been that year. Not a bit like 2020 of course!

Rob: (laughs)

Mark: So let’s talk Ryan Hamilton & the Harlequin Ghosts – an album I’ve been listening to for months – it’s a great album, great songs, great melodies.

Rob: Yes it’s done quite well.

Mark: And one that everyone should go out and buy! And something we should all be checking out as well is that Podcast. Let’s get back to that Bucket-list!

Rob: Let me just pull that up! I’m just looking now, there’s not actually too many musicians on there. I’ve got Kevin Smith on there, Marc Maron who influenced me with his Podcasts. I’d like to interview Corey Feldman, a bit of a wild card, I don’t know how that one would go down. Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray is on that list too.

Mark: The Newport Beach band, nice. I hope you get them mate. As things stand at the moment of course you’re looking at a locked-down Christmas  as are many people across the globe but here in WA we have 8months with no community transmission. People are living their normal lives for the most part which means I reckon we’d be stuffed if we had an outbreak. I don’t even have a mask, heck I’m not even sure where I could buy one?!

Rob: You’d be all right mate, you’d still have plenty of bandannas from 1990 in a drawer somewhere?

Mark: Oh I have actually. They would be in my bandana drawer!

Rob: (laughs) you’re all set! You could be selling those things! If no one else has got them you could be outside the front of your house with them lined upon a table! (laughs)

Mark: I can do it!

Rob: You’ve been training for this for the last 30 years mate! Forget the guys with a bunker full of food, you’ve got a drawer full of bandanas!

Mark: (laughs) You say that as if having a ‘bandana drawer’ was an odd thing!

Rob: (laughs)

Mark: And on that note I’ll wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year, Good luck with the Podcast and we’ll catch up again soon! Lovely to catch up!

Rob: Thanks mate, lovely to see you , take care.

 

We did of course talk for much longer than that, but we’ll post Part two in the New Year! 

 

photo by Neil McCarty


You can check out Rob’s Podcast at the following links:

https://straighttovideo.buzzsprout.com/
Twitter @straight2vid | Facebook straighttovid | Instagram @straight2vid

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INTERVIEW: Gunnar Nelson – Nelson

Nelson

 

This year, as I do every year, I’ve been looking at the records that I loved thirty years ago and talking to some of the people that made them. One of my favourite records from 1990 was the debut album by Nelson.

Way back in 2010 when The Rockpit was a mere 1 year old I talked to Gunnar Nelson about the 20th Anniversary of ‘After the Rain’ that multi-platinum pre-Grunge debut that briefly shone bright but seemed to be snuffed out by the band’s own label – Geffen who took a staggering 5 years to release the follow up. It’s such a good story and such a great album I knew we’d have to catch up again.

So here it is in all its glory: The story of the 30th anniversary of the multi-platinum album and all the ingredients that made it so special. We discuss Australia, Russ Ballard, Mark Tanner, John Kalodner, MTV, and Geffen… We also talk favourite tracks, look at the ‘ahead of its time’ follow up album ‘Imaginator’, the end of Confidence Rock, Seattle, Covid and Fake News… and much more.

 

Check out the full interview here

 

 

Nelson - After The Rain

 

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INTERVIEW: Ricky Warwick (Black Star Riders, Thin Lizzy, The Almighty, Solo Artist)

Ricky Warwick

 

Musically Ricky and I go back a long way. I first saw him on stage playing with New Model Army on dates on the ‘Ghost of Cain’ tour way back in the day though it was years before I realised it had been him up there. I did though see The Almighty every time they hit my hometown and even made a few trips further afield in those early days, and I’m there in the crowd for the ‘Blood Fire Live’ release.

Over the years we’ve chatted about his time in Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders as well as his solo work. Between now and the last time we spoke he’s even become a TV presenter, and a bloody good one at that. We caught up with Ricky from locked-down Los Angeles to talk about his next release ‘When Life Was Hard And Fast (out February 19 on Nuclear Blast) and to get a quick update on the latest from Black Star Riders.

Ricky: Hey Mark, how you doing?

Mark: Not too bad mate, how’s things with you over there?

Ricky: Well, you know, it’s definitely a strange old year.

Mark: (laughs) Yes let’s forget this one and comeback fighting next year!

Ricky: (lughs0 Yeah. We’re still horribly in lockdown over here I’m in Los Angeles and things were starting to get back, schools and things were starting to get back and then it just went nuts again and we’re totally locked down again for the next three weeks. You can’t socialise with anybody outside your own household, all that kind of stuff, it’s horrendous but what can you do. But I believe you guys are OK, you were sensible and got a handle on it right?

Mark: Yeah, we’re in the West here.

Ricky: You’re in Perth right?

Mark: Yeah, here in Perth no one comes to see us in the best of times!

Ricky: (laughs) Business as usual eh!?

Mark: That’s right there’s no one to bring it in, the only thing we’re missing is live music so the next thing I’m looking forward to is your Christmas show, that’s safe?

Ricky: Yeah. Absolutely. Are you watching it?

Mark: Definitely.

Ricky: That’s awesome and it’s been great to be able to do some of that stuff.

Mark: I’ve seen some of the other things that you’ve done online and it’s quite interesting because there’s a lot of people out there doing the online stuff but there are very few that have engaged me all the way through, and I have to say that you’ve managed to do that.

Ricky: Thanks Mark, I appreciate that it really means a lot.

Mark: Has it been an even more than usual creative time for you then?

Ricky: I don’t think I have a choice. I think it was a case of when it happened thinking “Oh shit this is terrible, what are we gonna do?” and then there’s the panic that sets in. And then when you realise OK it’s happening and nobody knows how long its gonna last for but we will get through it at some point, you have to work out how you are gonna adapt and what are we gonna do? You know as a family my wife was able to work from home, the kids are doing online schooling and I just retreat into my studio more than I usually do. I know I’m OK and that I’m going to write as much as I can, I’m going to read those books I’ve been putting off reading for years and I’m gonna get online and try and be as interactive as I can on social media – and that’s really all you can do.

 

 

Mark: I was going to ask you about those books because reading about the new album that we are going to get next year, ‘When Life was hard and Fast’ it is a record about all the art and literature and movies that can inspire people. What were those books that you hadn’t read?

Ricky: (laughs) you know I caught up on a lot of Steinbeck which I always go to. I re-read The Grapes of Wrath for like the 20th time. I just love that book, I love it so much, I’m just fascinated by the American culture and the will of the people to survive and to come here and adapt. You know going right back to my own people the Ulster Scots, I don’t know if you’re aware I did a TV documentary for the BBC?

Mark: Yeah I saw that on my BBC I-player.

Ricky: That stuff really interests me and that pioneering spirit and the will to survive. So I read quite a few books on my Ulster Scots heritage in the last year. I love a lot of poetry, I read a lot of poetry books – I have a book on American Poetry with all different poets in there and I’m just reading a book called Guitar Army by John Sinclair. John Sinclair was the sort of mentor to the MC5. It’s quite hard to get hold of but I managed to track down a copy. It’s his manifesto about the ideals behind the MC5. It’s spectacularly far-fetched and brilliant and inspiring at the same time, you know.

Mark: I saw Wayne and co last year when they were over.

Ricky: Funnily enough I just read his autobiography as well which was fantastic.

Mark: It is, I just read that a short while ago. I just finished re-reading a book that you might like getting back to the Americana. It’s by a Native American guy called William Least-Heat Moon called ‘Blue Highways’ about travelling those lesser known back routes, or Blue Highways in the US.

Ricky: I’m typing this into my I-pad as we speak, I love that kind of stuff. I’ll check it out and let you know. Thank you.

Mark: Now let’s get to the album. I’ve been a fan of your song-writing since The Almighty days and always when I speak to someone I try and find an anniversary, and the only one I could come up with is the 30th Anniversary this year of ‘Blood Fire Live!’

Ricky: Right.

Mark: Part of it I think was recorded at a show I was at in my home town of Nottingham?

Ricky: Yeah that’s right. I think we recorded three shows on that tour and t was made up with the best of each show, but absolutely I think the bulk of it was recorded at Rock City in Nottingham. I think it’s this year or next year that Rock City turns 40 years old, I just did a birthday greeting for that venue. But I love that venue, I started playing there in ’86 and I’ve played there so many times, as you know it’s just a great, great venue.

Mark: It is. I actually have a piece of the floor framed upon the wall that they sent me! The famous sticky floor!

Ricky: (laughs) Yes the sticky floor! I love it!

Mark: And hopefully we will be getting back to those venues as soon as we can. And with the vaccines coming on let’s hope it’s sooner than later.

Ricky: It’s looking good and as soon as it’s available I’ll be first in line to take it. Absolutely, I’d have no problem whatsoever.

Mark: So as well as the new album, there’s also a bonus disc in there of cover songs.

Ricky: Yes.

Mark: So I looked at the track-listing of cover songs…

Ricky: (laughing)

Mark: …and I thought – what an interesting beginning! The first two songs I guess I didn’t quite expect those.

Ricky: You’re talking about Britney and Dead or Alive are you? (laughs)

Mark: I am (laughs).

Ricky: (laughs) You know, I just love music and I’m a big fan of a well-written and well-constructed Pop song.

Mark: I’m nodding.

Ricky: (laughs) Say what you like about Britny Spears, and it’s the same I think even with Taylor Swift, you know, those are just really well-written Pop songs. And I’m a fans of that – you know “verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus-done” that appeals to me and that always has. And I think that’s why I thought – you know what? Why not! Let’s give it a go. It was fun doing those. And there’s Johnny Cash on there, there’s Iron Maiden – both have been a big influence on me growing up. But I thought there’s a bit of irony o there and people won’t expect it. They might hate it which is great, so let’s have some fun with it. I’ve played the Britney in a club before and you get two or three hundred Rockers singing along! You know. (laughs) And it’s quite endearing and quite funny.

Mark: I’ll bet. And there are some good songs on there too!

Ricky: (laughs)

Mark: I’d not listened to them for years but I loved the Bottle Rockets.

Ricky: Yeah, great band, great songs, great song-writers.

 

Ricky Warwick - When Life Was Hard And Fast

 

Mark: So let’s get to the main event – what can we expect from ‘When Life was Hard and Fast’?

Ricky: The album was co-written with Keith Nelson and co-produced with Keith Nelson. Keith will be familiar to a lot of people from his time in the band Buckcherry.

Mark: I must admit I was wondering what Keith would be doing next.

Ricky: Keith and I got together initially to write in 2018 and we wrote the song ‘Fighting Heart’ together and I took the demo home and I was listening back to it and thinking “This is great” – I think we were thinking of writing it for somebody else at the time and I just thought that was a really good day, there was definitely a really good chemistry between Keith and I. So I called him up when I was home and said “Look I have a bunch of ideas for my next solo record I’m ready to get down and make it, would you be up for it?” And he said “Yeah, let’s go” and that was the seed for it all, that was the first song and then we worked on demos throughout 2018 into 2019. Then in April 2019 here in Hollywood California we put the band together and we went into the studio and recorded the record.

Mark: Cool. And you’ve got some great guests on there too including two of many favourite guitarists both very underrated in Luke and Andy.

Ricky: Absolutely and you said it they’re both extremely underrated. It was a real honour to have those guys and everybody else on the record. Those guys have been friends of mine for years. Luke filled in for Damon Johnson in Black Star Riders when we went to South America a couple of years ago, he killed it, it was just great. Andy I’ve worked with on and off over the years and we’ve actually written about five or six songs which are on Andy’s new solo album.

Mark: Oh wow.

Ricky: And that’s coming out next year too. So it’s all kind of incestuous in a way but it’s just great and it’s great to have so many talented coo friends that you can just call up!

Mark: (laughs)

Ricky: The great thing again Mark is that when you do a solo record you’re not putting anyone else in the band’s nose out of joint when you say “Hey I want blah, blah, to come and play the solo on this one” You don’t have that, so I can have whoever the hell I want on the record and I enjoy the narcissism that goes along with making the solo records I really do.

 

Ricky Warwick

 

Mark: And now for our lockdown question. Over the last few months we’ve been asking artists to name some music that people can listen to in lockdown it can be anything from any point in time, what are you recommending Ricky?

Ricky: Well I can give you five no problem, just based on what I’ve been listening to recently. I’ve been listening to the Arc Angels remember them with Charlie Sexton – that’s a great record.

Mark: Yes Doyle and Charlie and the guys from Double Trouble.

Ricky: A band called the ‘Viagra Boys’ have you heard of them? They’re a cross between The Jesus Lizard and, I don’t know a demented Roxy Music! That’s all I can probably say, crazy lyrics, they’re really cool, you’ll dig them. I’ve been listening to a band called The Black Pumas as well, they’re like a Soul band, I love them.

Mark: Yes great band with Eric Burton.

Ricky: They’re great aren’t they! What else have I been listening to? Of course the new Springsteen which I think is phenomenal.

Mark: Yes one of his best for a long time I think.

Ricky: Yeah, I’m really digging it and I watched he documentary that came along with it too, I found that really inspiring, so that’s been great. And you know what, I’ve been listening to a lot of Big Country as well recently, I’ve always loved Big Country and Stuart Adamson is one of my favourite song-writers. So ‘The Crossing’ their first album I’ve been playing quite a bit. They were a great band and Stuart was a really, really talented song-writer and a great musician and just an all-round great guy. I had the pleasure of getting to know him, and I was a fan of The Skids his previous band with Richard Jobson. It was just so sad that he took his own life, it was just tragic. But he left us some great music.

Mark: Some wonderful music. I think I’ll dive into some Skids now! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk today Ricky.

Ricky: Thank you Mark, it’s always good to talk to you mate.

Mark: I’ll get onto Nuclear Blast now and tell them that I have to listen to the record now! (laughs)

Ricky: (laughs) please do and let me know what you think. I’d love to get back down to Oz at some point too with Black Star Riders or solo, it would be great to get back there.

Mark: Now that would be great to look forward to in 2021! You stay safe and have a wonderful holiday season as they say. Before we go though, getting back to your Documentary which I really loved, as heritage and where we all come from is always something I find fascinating. Are there any plan for any more?

Ricky: I have, I was supposed to record another one for the BBC that we were going to do this year based on Robert Burns, believe it or not.

Mark: Now that’s a really Rock Star topic.

Ricky: We were due to film it in September there and it was supposed to be broadcast in the UK on Burns night in January but obviously it’s now been moved back to next year. So we plan on filming it in late spring for I guess 2022 now when it will get broadcast. But yeah, that’s really interesting just the whole idea of Robert Burns who was the Rock Star of his day – he toured all over Scotland, he was out of control, he was a drunk, had various children, and he died by the time he was 37, he was always up to no good and a total Rock and Roller of his time! But he also wrote these amazing poems, and obviously ‘Auld Lang Syne’ which we sing every New Year’s Eve. There’s just so much interesting stuff there and that was the next ne we were gonna do, and I’m actually working on two others that are in the pipeline as well. And it’s good because I quite enjoy the presenting thing especially when it’s a subject that I’m really interested in.

Mark: You can certainly tell that the interest is there but you do have that engaging on screen charisma too.

Ricky: Thank you, it’s been good. We did that one and the BBC seemed to like it so they offered me some more work. So it I’m into it, I’ll do it and they’ve come to me with some great ideas so hopefully we’ll get the made next year. Well that’s the plan any way.

Mark: I’d love to see you trekking round the States when things are safe doing a bit of a Blue Highway thing and marrying up those two interests.

Ricky: Yeah.

Mark: Well take care mate stay safe and talk soon. Thanks Ricky.

Ricky: You too mate, thanks Mark.

 

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INTERVIEW: Wayne Lozinak – Hatebreed

Hatebreed

 

Hardcore heavy weights Hatebreed return with a brand new album in the form of “Weight of The False Self”, out November 27th via Nuclear Blast. Renowned for their ability to provide an intense and cathartic release for their fans, Hatebreed challenged themselves and their writing style in order to produce material that is exceptionally relatable in a contemporary world flooded with overstimulation, emotional dampening, and lack of social patience.

We talk to guitarist Wayne Lozinak about the new songs, the challenges of covid, favorite tour stories and much more.

 

Andrew: So hows things? How have you been dealing with the whole pandemic this year?

Wayne: Just taking it easy, not really much you can do except try and be positive and hope for the best. The only thing we’ve really been able to do is we came out with a beer, I don’t know if you’ve seen that or not?

Andrew: Oh Ok cool!

Wayne: It’s called Breed Brew so we’ve been able to get that out and we’ve done a couple of socially distanced events where people can do kind of like a taste testing / meet and greet which was basically the closest thing I felt to being at kind of like a show atmosphere since last year. So other than that, relaxing, trying to stay positive and riding my motorcycle while I have the chance.

Andrew: Yeah I guess it’s a good time to take up a lot of your hobbies and stuff like that, what do you like to do outside of music?

Wayne: That’s about it. I always tell people it’s like I tour so much, if I’m not playing shows usually when I’m home I’m going to see other bands. I’ll go see big shows, I’ll even go see cover bands at the local bar. There’s not much else, music is my life other than riding my motorcycle. Not too many other hobbies I would say, kinda boring.

Andrew: [laughs] That’s alright! The exciting news at least on our end with all the Hatebreed fans around the world is the new album is dropping next week [November 27th] “Weight Of The False Self” and I had a chance to listen to it yesterday and you guys always seem to deliver the goods. How are you feeling about this new album?

Wayne: I think it’s great, it still has that same basic Hatebreed formula as your used to but I think we kinda took it up a notch on some of the songs on this album with the guitar production I think is a little heavier. We really worked on that with Zeuss our producer and there’s a few songs that I think are maybe slightly more technical, we got some more guitar solos which I always love the chance if I get to play some guitar solos because obviously we’re not known for that, there’s not many in Hatebreed’s setlist so I think this one came out really good.

Andrew: Yeah it’s a fun album to listen to and look, I’ve been a fan of Hatebreed for a number of years and you know what to expect when you get Hatebreed but you’re right, there’s a couple of moments here and there where you kinda see yourselves moving forward as far as the evolution of the band. Was there anything in particular that you were really trying to achieve on this new album?

Wayne: Just like I said, just slightly more advanced maybe and maybe surprise some of the people who weren’t maybe expecting certain things. Kind of like “Cling To Life” has kind of a long melodic solo in it and then “A Stroke Of Red” has a bunch of different elements I think you wouldn’t expect, like different combinations of things that I think worked really well together. So I think a lot of people will be surprised and happy with this new album.

Andrew: Is it difficult at this point in the bands career to really come up with fresh and new ideas?

Wayne: Usually we all get together in the studio for pre-production and just put the riffs together and it seems like it’s going to be hard but once we get in there everything just starts flowing and connecting it it was pretty quick actually. Songs just kept coming non-stop, there was no real break or anything or like a kind of lull. Surprisingly it’s still working.

Andrew: Do you guys have a bit of a formula process? I mean how does the band dynamic work as far as the creative process?

Wayne: Well Jamey [Jasta, vocals} writes all the lyrics and then it’s actually mostly Jamey and Chris [Beattie] the bass player who write the riffs, like riff ideas. It’s not like the old days where we get in the basement and jam and work on some songs, we’re in the studio so we’re just kind of putting different riffs and ideas and talking about them and then we can try different drum beats like fast, slow, different tempos to see what really works the best and then we can listen back to them since we’re recording all of it and then it actually come together in the studio while we’re recording and it’s amazing how they start out to just random riffs here and there that are everybody’s ideas and input and then they come out to a song in the end.

Andrew: Does that still excite you after all these years, to come up with ideas and all of a sudden it’s on a new record like that?

Wayne: Oh yeah definitely, especially when it’s they’re in their kind of basic infancy I guess you could say and once you hear a full production…because we don’t really hear the vocals until after, like Jamey is usually in there by himself doing the vocals so he’ll play us the vocals when it’s fully recorded and then ‘Woah!’ Changes the whole dynamic of the song so yeah, it’s definitely exciting listening back.

Andrew: Was this album in any way at all affected by the covid stuff? Did you have to delay it or was it all written and recorded before that stuff happened?

Wayne: We started recording it actually last November so it was pretty much done in January. So the recording wasn’t slowed down, the release was slowed down. We were supposed to start touring in March and then we were planning on releasing it in May so a couple of weeks before the tour was supposed to start, everything just halted. The tours got cancelled, the album got postponed so I’m actually glad that it’s coming out finally this year because I wasn’t sure if it was even going to come out this year or not so it definitely halted the release of the album.

Andrew: I know we were supposed to see you guys down our way earlier this year with Parkway Drive so we were a bit disappointed obviously but there’s not much we can do I guess.

Wayne: Right, we had a world tour with then. We were starting out in Europe and we were going to do Australia, then we were going to d all the festivals in Europe and then we were going to do the US and all with Parkway Drive. So we postponed it to next year, we’re supposed to start in March but I don’t know if that’s happening, it doesn’t look too promising with the covid.

Andrew: Yeah it’s difficult isn’t it, it’s one of those things. Touring is obviously a big part any bands career, especially with Hatebreed, you must be itching to get back on the road again.

Wayne: Oh yeah it’s actually the biggest part of Hatebreed’s thing because album sales and all that, it’s not really what it was because if you really want to kind of make a living of it you gotta tour and we’re used to being on the road so much. This is the longest we haven’t toured I think since the band started so it’s really weird not to just be out there and playing and living our normal lives, you kinda get used to it as kind of your normal life kind of thing and just the enjoyment and happiness of it all.

Andrew: Yeah it’s a big adjustment but I guess when things do finally open up and we get to see touring again, I think there’s going to be a big surge in audience members coming in and losing their collective shit in a way.

Wayne: Yeah I hope so! I feel like every band is going to tour at the exact same time so there might be too many shows for people to choose from.

Andrew: I don’t think there’s such a thing as too many bands to choose from, I love it to be honest!

Wayne: Oh me too! There are some people that think that too [laughs].

Andrew: [laughs] I guess it all comes down to money I suppose if you have it.

Wayne: Yeah exactly right.

 

Hatebreed - Weight of The False Self

Review coming soon!

 

Andrew: Yeah it’s been so long since we last saw you guys in Australia, I was just thinking the last time I personally seen you was probably 10 years ago so I don’t know if that was the last time you were down here?

Wayne: Oh no I’m just trying to think the last time, because we did Soundwave, I think that was 2012 and I think after that we actually did Australia Warped Tour, I can’t remember what year that was. That may have been the last thing we had done. But Soundwave is one of my favorites, especialy when you’re playing with all these bands and you have to fly to each show because they’re too far away so it’s like a plane full of the whole tour so that’s always cool.

Andrew: There’s a couple of questions that I do want to ask you and it’s something I like to ask bands who have had a bit of a career for themselves and one of those questions I like to ask is favorite tour stories and stuff like that. Is there any particular story while being on the road that really sticks in your mind?

Wayne: Oh man there’s so many, trying to even think of one. I think to me, growing up I was a big Ozzy and Zakk Wylde fan so we got to tour with them. It was in the US, Black Label Society, us and the Butcher Babies and we would just hang out all night drinking and watching the show and I think just getting to see Zakk Wylde hang out and walk by our dressing room and talk with us and everything and then at the ed of the tour he actually gave me one of the vests. That was a proud moment in my heavy metal history as a young kind, so that’s definitely one of my favorite moments I have to say.

Andrew: Very cool! That must have been one of those pinch yourself moments when you meet your heroes and influences like that as well.

Wayne: Oh yeah definitely. Even just for them knowing who I am, I mean all the bands – Slayer, Exodus – all the bands that I grew up with and then we’re getting to tour with them and hanging out with them all the time, it’s great.

Andrew: How did you actually get into guitar in the first place?

Wayne: Well the first band I ever got into was when I was a little kid and it was Kiss. So my father had Kiss records so I think I just started listening to his records because obviously the look with the makeup and everything and the fire and blood was always very cool as a little kid and then I just went from there. I started listening to Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Ozzy, all that stuff and my father also had a guitar, he didn’t really play that good, he kinda played the basic but I would just kinda mess around with it every once in a while. I didn’t really know what I was doing until maybe around 12 or 13 I started taking lessons and then that was it, once I started playing stuff it just became everything to me.

Andrew: Yeah that amazing, everyone has a different story and a journey into how they got into music. Do you remember the very first band that kind of made you decide you want to play guitar?

Wayne: I think it was just a combination of everything all at once. Kiss got me into it but I guess I can’t even remember, it was so long. I remember I was a little kid, probably 3 or 4 years old when I started listening to Kiss records and then by the time I was probably 8 I was fully listening to metal records like Ozzy. I would say my 2 influences probably when I started knowing how to play would be randy Rhoads and Kirk Hammett, once I heard Metallica for the first time when I was 12 then that was it, just changed everything.

Andrew: And on the flipside obviously Hatebreed has had a huge influence on so many bands over the years as well, not just musically and lyrically but in life in general because you guys have a really positive meaning that I think people latch on to. That must be a great feeling to have, that people really use you guys as a source of inspiration as well.

Wayne: Oh yeah definitely. Especially like, we have meet and greets and we’ll see people and they’ll say how we saved their life and it got them through the day and this and that and to be able to play real heavy music and cool sounding music I guess you could say, so that people can go to a show and go crazy and let out their aggressions but then also take in a positive message besides all that, that’s just a great feeling. It’s always good to hear when people let us know that.

Andrew: Yeah definitely. Well hopefully we get to see you guys down here in Australia next year, fingers are crossed for that one as we’re so keen to see you guys. Do you have any words for the Australian fans before the possibility of that happening?

Wayne: We just appreciate every time you guys come down to a show. Hopefully we get there soon and you can pre-order our new album “Weight Of The False Self” at www.martyrstore.net and it will be available everywhere on November 27th.

 

 

Buy Weight Of The False Self HERE and on Apple Music HERE

 

 

Parkway Drive, Hatebreed, Everytime I Die Australia tour 2021

 

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INTERVIEW: Eclipse – Eric Mårtensson

Eclipse

Eclipse has to be one of the finest Hard Rock bands around at the moment but like everyone out there they are sidelined from playing live shows and everything booked for 2020 has now been pushed back to 2021. So what do you do when you can’t tour? How about releasing one of the most sonically pleasing live records in many a long year! Welcome to the live record that wasn’t meant to be – ‘Viva La VicTOURia’ – who says nothing good has come out of the pandemic? We caught up with Eric Mårtensson to talk about the record, how he’s dealing with the pandemic, his new stereo and details of the new studio album.

 

Eric: Hello!

Mark: Hi Eric how are you?

Eric: I’m good how are you Mark?

Mark: Keeping safe and well.

Eric: Have you had the virus yet?

Mark: No we didn’t get it in Western Australia, they forgot to include us.

Eric: Well you are in the middle of the ocean by yourselves, so not many people coming there.

Mark: You know us so well. It’s an interesting time to be releasing and album, especially a live one that reminds us of what we’re all missing out on?

Eric: Yeah it is, but I thought it was good timing for a live album for that very reason.

Mark: I agree. And earlier in the year we almost got to see you play this very set. You were booked for the Melodic Rock Fest in Melbourne in March which promised great things then sort of shrunk as pieces fell off.

Eric: Yeah, that was a bit strange the Melodic Rock Fest situation.

Mark: Hopefully that’s not put you off coming back, that first time a few years back now was a magic experience for a lot of fans and we’d love to have you back one day.

Eric: Of course. I had a great time. I loved being there in Melbourne, I say to everyone, it’s the best pace I’ve ever been to, I really enjoyed it, it was fantastic.

Mark: I think you still owe me a beer from the Elephant and Wheelbarrow!

Eric: Yeah, I’ll remember that next time. (laughs)

Mark: (laughs) Well, what an album! So many live albums get released these days and production values these days are pretty good so we know we’re in for something pretty decent, but this really is special. I’d put this up with some of the classics of yesteryear. Were you happy with the sound?

Eric: That’s really wonderful. Yeah, I’m really happy with it and you know we haven’t re-done a lot of stuff. And all the vocals are just 100% live, I haven’t changed a note, or done anything in the studio. I think it’s very authentic and that also makes me proud because it sounds good and it sounds real. So the folds are left there because it’s live and I think that also makes it sound more real. With so many live albums they just re-do so much stuff in the studio that there’s not much ‘live’ anymore. It sounds good (when you do that) but it doesn’t sound as good as a studio record but it doesn’t sound like a live album either.

Mark: It’s a great recording, and I guess a horrible thing for those of us who missed out on the tour, but hopefully a sign of what we’ve got to come.

Mark: What can you remember from the might was it always intended to record the show for a potential release?

Eric: No it wasn’t intended. The show was in Gothenburg the second biggest town in Sweden and the home town of the drummer and the bass player so the bass player lives there and he asked friends to bring their cameras and film the start of the concert so that maybe we could use it for social media or something. So they put up some extra cameras and they filmed it and we also did a multi-track recording but it was never intended for a live album. But after the gig we didn’t think we’d use the recording, but it was a great night, it was great fun especially for the bass player and the drummer who were in their hometown. There were a lot of people there so they were very proud. But then after Christmas, because this was recorded on the 21st December, he started editing some of the videos to see how it looked, and I started listening to the multi-track and it sounded really, really good. And the video looked really professional. So we thought “we can’t use this for social media, this looks like a proper live release.” And then the pandemic hit, and then there was no doubt “Let’s do this!” So it was kind of a live album by accident!

Mark: (laughs) Not only is there the live show from Gothenburg there’s plenty of other bonuses too. I didn’t get the DVD portion for review so we’ll talk about that in a minute, but we also got a snatch of the online show you played ‘Live from the Quarantine” – I’ve already had fans asking not the whole thing – why only a selection of tracks from that show?

Eric: Well some of the tracks were already on the live set so I think it was more about that, and also there is a limitation on how much time we can have on a CD but especially when it comes to the vinyl. It’s a triple vinyl so there is only enough room for so many songs. And with the video version we could not use cover versions because of fees and stuff, so there are practical reasons for it.

 

Eclipse - Viva La Victouria

 

Mark: The big surprise for fans though might be the new studio track – a cover version of ‘Driving One of Your Cars’ what’s your relationship with that song?

Eric: Well I really enjoyed that song when it came out in the early 2000’s I think. The guitar player, he heard the song on the radio and said we should do a cover of it and I said “Yeah, let’s try it” and in my studio all by myself I programmed drums and put down the guitars and other instruments and did a rough vocal and I thought “This sounds really good.” The vocals on the studio version are my rough vocals from the demo, hat’s exactly how it was the first day that I tried it, and it just sounded good and it sounded like Eclipse. So we thought why not releases it, it’s a fun thing to do. Nothing too serious, it’s just a song that we like.

Mark: A nice extra for fans. There’s a really god mix on the live recording too, I think about 7 tracks from the last album and five each from ‘Monumentum’ and ‘Armageddonize’ and they all sound great, it’s a wonderful setlist. But the real treat for me is the acoustic versions because I knew that they would sound great given that treatment. ’The Downfall of Eden’ I think is wonderful and ‘When the Winter Ends’ isn’t too far away for me either

Eric: Nice.

Mark: Did you record any more acoustically?

Eric:  No, those were released as Japanese bonus tracks originally, so instead of just keeping them limited to the CD’s in Japan I thought it was about time that we released them so everyone could listen to them. Because otherwise you really have to search them out, maybe someone put them up on YouTube or something like that. But it was more about it being something that maybe people hadn’t heard before outside of Japan.

Mark: Well all added up it’s a great package. I have my vinyl ordered, you can’t beat a bit of vinyl.

Eric: I think there is one extra track on the vinyl compared to the CD. I can’t remember which one but there is something at least! It’s been a long time since I did the mastering! (laughs)

Mark: The other day I also managed to track down the Japanese version of ‘Armageddonize’ which has the bonus live disc from the Vasby Rock Festival.

Eric: That was another show that was not intended to be recorded or released. A few weeks after we did the Festival I was contacted by one of the guys who did the sound and he said “By the way we recorded the gig, if you want it you can have it.” And it sounds cool so why not release it?

Mark: So what’s next for Eclipse? It’s hard to make plans I guess as we stand at the moment, is there a new studio album warming up in the background?

Eric: Studio album yes, we are working on a new studio album. It’s a priority at the moment. We have started writing and we have quite a lot of songs. We have never had as much time to work on new songs as this time so we’ll see. It’s always been a super tight deadline every time we’ve done an Eclipse album but for the first time we actually have a few months extra which is kinda relaxing!

Mark: (laughs) something good at least from the current situation!

Eric: (laughs)

Mark: If there weren’t already enough reasons to go out and buy the new record there was talk of bonus features on the DVD and Blu-ray as well?

Eric: Yeah, as this was the tour for the ‘Paradigm’ album and that’s why there are so many new songs you know, if it was meant to be our legacy as a live record e would probably choose a few more older songs as well. But this was not intended to be a ‘best of’ live album, it was just recorded in the middle of the tour. It was just one gig out of many gigs that just happened to be recorded and it has ended up as a real album.

Mark: So you must be pleased at the reaction, there’s some glowing reviews out there.

Eric: I haven’t actually started looking for any of them, maybe it’s time to go and have a look.

 

Eclipse - Paradigm

 

Mark: One of the things we’ve been asking people with the way things are at the moment, is, as we have all this extra time on our hands people are looking for music to listen to whether its new music to discover or classics to revisit. Is there anything that you’d recommend to people?

Eric: Well I listen to a lot of music all the time. One funny things is I just bought a new, well new for me, old Pioneer stereo from 1976, and I put on some Swedish built speakers from 1972 and it sounds wonderful! It doesn’t sound old or dated, it sounds really, really good. It’s a great stereo and I have a lot of vinyls. So what I’ve been doing lately is I’ve been sitting down in my living room, just listening to vinyl records. Old vinyl records. I have maybe a thousand vinyls. But recently I was in Stockholm and I went to a used vinyl shop and I bought for like two dollars a Tony Carey album called ‘Blue Highway.’ I just put it on the other day and thought “this is really good.” I love just sitting down and doing nothing else but listening to the music. And I turned it over to Side B and kept on listening, it was really good. So that’s what I’ve been doing and I’ve been listening to Cheap Trick and of course AC/DC

Mark: Have you heard the new one yet?

Eric: No I’m still waiting on the new AC/DC record, I don’t want to listen to it on Spotify! I’m waiting for my vinyl and my box set I don’t want to read a review, I don’t want to know anything I just want to wait for the vinyl to arrive so that I can have a listen to it by myself. I don’t want to be biased! I just want to like it! (laughs)

Mark: Well I hope yours lands soon!

Eric: I just got told it’s been delayed a week! I got the box set with the glowing lights that plays ‘Shot in the Dark’! (laughs)

Mark: I won’t say anything other than I think it’s the best thing they’ve done for quite some time.

Eric: Oh wonderful. Brain is singing better than ever, I guess he’s had a rest as well.

Mark: You included the stand alone single ‘Runaways’ on the album as well, are you planning on releasing singles in the lead up to the new album, which presumably has been put back a little?

Eric: Yeah we are thinking of that. The original plan was to release the new record very shortly after ‘Paradigm’ so it was supposed to be released in the spring next year, but because of the virus there isn’t going to be any touring at also we postponed the whole thing to the autumn 2021. So in the meantime I guess we need to do something. We did this live record of course but maybe we will pop out a few singles as well, just to give the fans something to listen to while they are waiting for the new record.

Mark: The market for new vinyl is crazy at the moment, I saw the recent ‘Viva La Victoria’ picture disc you released last year is changing hands for a hundred dollars –I hope you have some copies for yourself?

Eric: I think I’ve got one or two here! But that’s silly.

Mark: The most frustrating thing at the moment of course must be not being able to play live. What else are you guys getting up to in your spare time?

Eric: Well today we actually released a new single and video for a new W.E.T. album with Jeff Scott Soto – that was pretty fun. It’s already been recorded and mixed and everything and is going to be out in January. I’m really happy with that one and I run a studio so I’ve been mixing a lot of records, as there’s no live gigs anymore I can just step up the whole studio operation.

Mark: I saw that it sounds great. It’s been a terrible year so far, even pre-covid I was looking forward to catching up in March.

Eric: It’s too bad we didn’t get to play the Melodic Rock Fest. I was really looking forward to that.

Mark: I know a lot of people were, as soon as it was announced you weren’t on the bill a lot of people voted with their feet, and those that saw you at the previous event were really looking forward to seeing you. We wil have to get you back.

Eric: Thanks I would love to come back. It was a pleasure being there.

Mark: So unlike some musicians around the globe it sounds like the current pandemic has been keeping you busy?

Eric: Yeah more busy than ever to be honest, so many bands want to make records because they have no gigs so I’m mixing like crazy and getting some production jobs from all different genres, it’s really cool. But I really want to go out and play live so I’d be happy to trade some of the studio work for that! (laughs) I think even though we have no gigs we are the lucky ones because we already had a full schedule for 2020, and everything for 2020 is now postponed to next year. And I think they’ll keep postponing till it’s safe to open up again. But it’s so much worse for bands who were in the middle of a release cycle or for new bands starting because there are absolutely no chances to play live anymore and when it starts to open up it will be all the bands who were booked for 2020 – you know the first year is already taken! So for new bands it might be several years before they can even book a gig. It must be very frustrating for some people.

Mark: I just hope that when things come back people are going to be so desperate to see live music again that we get even more shows, but there’s other issues.

Eric: I know, hopefully the venues are still around to have live music because they are really struggling.

Mark: That is the other part of the equation Eric, and even some of the promoters that aren’t sitting on huge mountains of pre-sales, are struggling too. Not to mention those who stage the events, the crews and the venue workers all have it so tough.

Mark: On a positive note one of the highlights of the year so far is ‘Viva La VicTOURia’ can I pin you on a date for the new studio album?

Eric: I think it will definitely be in the fall of 2021. That’s how we’ve planned it and if nothing big changes I think we will stick with that plan. Because we want to release an album and we want to tour. That’s how we want to do it.

Mark: It’s always a pleasure to talk to you Eric, let’s hope it’s in person next time.

Eric: It’s a pleasure Mark, have a great weekend.

Mark: And you too mate, and stay safe.

Eric: Thank you so much, bye.

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INTERVIEW: Jared Mullins – Holy Roller Baby

Holy Roller Baby

 

Once in a while an album lands in our inbox that grips us from the moment we first hear it.  It embodies everything we love about music and makes us want to just click repeat and listen to it again and again.  ‘Frenzy’, released on October 9th, is one such album and it is the full-length debut from US band, Holy Roller Baby.  Founded in 2017 in Austin, Texas and led by songwriter, vocalist & guitarist Jared Mullins, Holy Roller Baby describe their sound as “rock that rolls with primitive swagger”.  The four-piece blend that wonderful blues-rock vibe, making use of twin lead guitars to create that 70’s string-bending rock but with a modern twist, that has helped create a collection of songs that will be sure to sit very highly in our Albums of the Year listing for 2020.

Add to this the fact that the band jetted into the UK to record at Radiohead’s Courtyard Studios in Oxfordshire, England, under the watchful & experienced eyes of producer Ian Davenport (Band of Skulls, Supergrass, Philip Selway of Radiohead),even borrowing amps and percussion from Radiohead as well as guitars from Gaz Coombes (ex-Supergrass) to do so with the result being a blistering fifty-minute, twelve-track album that combs through a diverse array of blues-tinged rock.

With all this in mind The Rockpit had a yearning to track down Mullins to discuss the creation of this wonderful body of work, how they came to record in the UK as well as his influences growing up in Cleveland Ohio.

 

Sean:     Good morning Jared.

Jared:    Hey Sean.

Sean:     Congratulations on this album.  Fantastic stuff.  I haven’t been able to turn ‘Frenzy’ off.  I just love that blues rock sound any way, but this is something else.

Jared:    Well thank you.  I’m glad you’re enjoying it.

Sean:     How’s the response been so far?

Jared:    It seems pretty good so far online.  You know I can’t really judge otherwise but it seems pretty good.  Lots of good comments and great feedback.

Sean:     That sound & vibe you capture is just fantastic.  Where do your influences come from to bring that sound together?

Jared:    Over the last couple of years I’ve been listening to a lot of Peter Green and old school Fleetwood Mac but it’s really just a natural genre for me, I guess.  I kind of grew up on it.

Sean:     How long did it take you to put the album together?

Jared:    I wrote all of the music for it and I suppose that took around three of four months and ten recording it took literally thirteen days.  We had fourteen days to record, so we got done a day early [laughs]

Sean:     You got a day off in England [laughs]

Jared:    Yeah, we got a day off.  It was pretty nice.

Sean:     And the bonus was you managed to get this all done before the world ground to a halt, especially in the music world any way.

Jared:    Yeah, it’s certainly interesting to release an album when you can’t tour on it.  I think our hopes were that people would be on their computers a bit more than normal.

Sean:     ‘Frenzy’ was recorded at the fabled Courtyard Studios, the home of Radiohead.  How did that come about?

Jared:    Well, I was having issues with finding a producer and a girl I was dating at the time suggested I look at somebody who already makes music that I was listen to, which was pretty good advice.  I’d been listening to Band of Skulls, out of England, for a while so I just sent an email to the producer (Ian Davenport) they had worked with and he really liked the demos that I had.  In fact, he liked them so much he said he was willing to take a cut of what he   would normally get paid.  So, he was really excited… in fact I was talking to him just the other day and we are already talking about doing another one…

Sean:     Oh fantastic.  That’s great news.

Jared:    Yeah, when the world calms down a bit [laughs]

Sean:     The album comprises of twelve tracks but how many did you have in total to select from?

Jared:    There were about fourteen or fifteen in total and out of the extra three or four only one of those will make it on to the next album.  We just kind of whittled it down, you know.  The band recorded live in the same room that Band of Skulls did their first two albums in and it wasn’t really much of a room, it was kind of grungy.  The way that the recording was set up was that Radiohead’s management has the top floor of a house and then on the first floor is the recording studio, console and everything so it wasn’t very spacious, it was grungy… and I loved it! [laughs] I don’t want to feel I’m walking in to church or something I have to record with everything being so nice.  I wanted something that I would feel comfortable in.  So, yeah, we whittled it down… ‘Mantra’ we’ve only ever played that one time when we recorded it.  I think we did two takes and that was about it.  We didn’t even rehearse that one before recording it.  I wasn’t sure how to translate it because it starts off almost a solo acoustic ‘me by myself’ kind of thing and then the band comes in later so we didn’t even have that one prepared before we went in [laughs].

Sean:     I’m finding it interesting that more & more bands are recording in that ‘live’ style.  When I chatted to Jay (Buchanan) from Rival Sons last year he said they do the same thing.  His reasoning is that they want the fans to experience hearing the track for the first time knowing they are actually hearing first time the band has played it.

Jared:    That’s interesting.

Sean:     He also said that doing it that way, if you really listen closely, you’ll hear there are some mistakes in there that they kept in.

Jared:    Yeah, that’s what great about rock n roll.  It’s human, you know.  It’s not music made for robots or by robots.

Sean:     There’s plenty of that [laughs]

Jared:    Yeah, its out there and that’s fine but it doesn’t pinpoint that primitive part of your soul that makes you want to stomp your foot.

Sean:     I suppose it makes it easier for the fans to relate to when you do finally get to go out to tour the record.  They’ve maybe bought a ticket to the show because they loved the album and they want a show that defines what they loved about the music in the first place.  It’s not loaded with backing tracks & effects which are maybe hard to emulate in a live show.

Jared:    All those classic rock bands that recorded in the 60s & 70s, that’s largely how they did it and people are still buying & listening to their music.

 

Holy Roller Baby - Frenzy

 

Sean:     So, taking you back to your childhood, where did music start for you?  Were you in a musical household or was it in school?

Jared:    I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio which is where the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is now.  Having Detroit so close with Motown and with the classic rock sounds of Cleveland it was just something I was exposed to on the radio a lot.  I didn’t have a musical family or anybody who came by and taught me guitar or an older brother that had a vinyl record or anything like that.  I kind of discovered it on my own and for a kid of around ten or eleven years old I thought I was discovering something that nobody else had found [laughs].  It was really exciting to me.  I can remember being in fourth or fifth grade and i would just spend the whole day thinking about going to the store to go get the next Beatles CD [laughs].  I didn’t know anyone else who got excited about it.  I didn’t really have any friends.  It was just my little nerdy obsession really so that’s how I got into it I suppose.  I’m self-taught and didn’t take lessons or anything.  I don’t know if that’s good or bad but I just kind of took to it, I guess.

Sean:     You mentioned The Beatles but what other artists were you listening to at that time?

Jared:    Yeah, The Beatles were huge for me – How they could put songs together so melodically and say so much in such a short amount of time.  The album ‘Abbey Road’, I remember at twelve years old I was like, “Wow, what’s this?”  You know, around that time Grunge bands were still around too so I was discovering Soundgarden and things like that.  It was years later that I found out how much Chris Cornell & Soundgarden loved The Beatles, so it was really interesting that you pick up on one band and they open you up to another band.  I think I discovered Black Sabbath through Soundgarden and it kind of tumbled like that.  I wish I could go back and listen to songs like I did as a kid, when you heard them for the first time.

Sean:     Music takes me on so many tangents which helps me discover so much more.  I’d like to ask a few more of my more regular questions to close with if that’s ok.

Jared:    Yeah, sure.

Sean:     If you could invite three guests from the music world, dead or alive, to join you for dinner for a couple of hours, who would you invite?

Jared:    Now that’s a fun one [laughs].  What kind of restaurant is it? [laughs]

Sean:     I’ll pick up the bill and you can choose the restaurant [laughs]

Jared:    I think if it’s a Sunday Funday I’ll probably go Keith Moon, John Bonham and maybe Jimi Hendrix.  I wouldn’t be able to last long with that trio…

Sean:     You would be thrown out before entrees I reckon [laughs]

Jared:    I don’t even think I would be getting to even order to be honest [laughs].  That would be a pretty good Sunday I would think.

Sean:     So, what music have you been listening to lately?

Jared:    This is going to be a guilty pleasures thing and your going to totally look down on me for it, but I can’t get ‘Careless Whisper’ by George Michael out of my head lately [laughs]

Sean:     It’s all good.  I’m from the UK where he is regarded by many as a saint, so don’t worry about that [laughs].

Jared:    That damn saxophone part has been stuck in my head for three days.  But joking aside I find things pretty late.  I only just discovered The Mills Brothers who were these 1930’s almost Barbershop Quartet, who wrote this amazing music so I’m always really behind on things.  I’ll send you the link if that’s cool.

Sean:     That would be great – Music is out there to be found and heard.

Jared:    Its totally nerdy and something you would think would be played on The Shawshank Redemption or something like that.

Sean:     I’ll check it out.  And finally, the easiest question of the lot, if you could be credited with writing any song ever written, which song would you choose?

Jared:    Ah man, that’s the hardest one! [laughs] I’ll say ‘Happy Together’ by The Turtles.  To me I think that is just the perfect song.  They slowly introduce new layers to the song and it slowly comes up into this crescendo at the end and the harmonies & background vocals.  So, I think if there was a way to get me on that one it would be amazing.

Sean:     Well, I have a playlist and that’s a new one to add to it.  Jared, I just want to thank you so much for your time and its been wonderful to get to talk to you about this fantastic album.

Jared:    And Sean, thank you for getting up in the middle of your night to talk to me.  Its so very nice of you.

Sean:     My pleasure.  All of us at The Rockpit wish you and the guys all the best with the album and hope to see you get to bring the band here to Australia maybe sometime next year.

Jared:    That would be awesome.  It was good talking to you.  Thank you, Sean.

 

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INTERVIEW: Steve Riley – L.A. Guns

L.A. Guns

There are of course two versions of L.A. Guns going around at the moment, something that we got used to a few years ago when Steve Riley and Phil Lewis led one version of the band and Tracii Guns had his own version out on the road before Tracii gave up the name leaving just the one with Phil and Steve. Quite unexpectedly then in 2016 Phil and Tracii shook and made up, and decided to use the L.A. Guns name again, leaving Steve Riley in the lurch. I guess the expectation was that Steve might go away but he hasn’t, and after some great singles Steve Riley and Kelly Nickels (both members of the classic line-up) have produced a killer record ‘Renegades’ very much capturing the sound of ‘vintage’ L.A. Guns. We caught up with Steve to find out all about it.

Mark: Steve it’s Mark from The Rockpit down in Australia, how are you?

Steve: I’m doing good Mark, how are you mate?

Mark: I’m doing great thanks mate, especially after listening to the new album ’Renegades’ – it’s great to hear the full record after some great singles in the lead up.

Steve: Oh right on!

Mark: It sounds great too, you must be really pleased with how it came out?’

Steve: Oh man we really are, we’re really happy with the way it’s been accepted by the fans. The first three singles we released with this virus thing, we would have been out on the road, and the album would have been out earlier, but Mark and everyone over at Golden Robot Records down there have done a wonderful job spreading out the three singles and now on November 13th the full album will come out and we’re just stoked with the acceptance of it. We’ve been getting half a million Spotify streams and the fans really like it. We’re just thrilled by that, and we’re really happy with what we did on the album too, you know.

Mark: I must admit Steve when I heard ‘Crawl’ I though, wow this is great, you’ll be doing hard to top that, but the ‘Well Oiled Machine’ came out you did. It’s classic sounding L.A. Guns with a twist that reminds me of the L.A. Guns that I love.

Steve: Mark that makes me feel really good because Kelly Nickels and myself really wanted to stay true to the L.A. Guns sound. We didn’t want to take a quick left turn and try to do something totally different. We know that the songs have their own identity on this ‘Renegades’ album, but we really wanted to stay true to the feel of what we were in the 80’s and the 90’s. And I think we achieved that, the fans are telling us that we really pulled it off. And that means a lot to us.

Mark: It has that attitude as well, that almost ‘sneer’ about it that I used to love about the band back in the day. We’ll get to those great songs in a moment, but I’ve been looking forward to a chat with you as I think over the years I’ve spoken to everyone except you and Mick from the ‘Classic’ line-up. Bands split up all the time of course and I know that you must get sick of this question, but I think us Rock fans seem to get stuck on the notion that ‘classic line-ups’ of bands have to stay faithful to each other, but life isn’t like that is it? By my reckoning you must be the only member of the band who never ‘jumped ship’?

Steve: That’s true brother, that’s absolutely true. When I joined I knew the band was good –you know I came right out of W.A.S.P. to L.A. Guns and I love that ‘classic line-up’ and I still dig all the guys from the classic line-up. I really never have said a cross word about anybody on the internet or in interviews ‘cos I really dig what we have done together. And I was the guy that not only kept the band going but I really, really tried to keep any and all classic members in the band. I tried to talk them into knowing that we had something really good going here and to not stray off and do somethig different ‘Let’s keep doing this, we can do this forever – we have such a great sound, a great look and a great catalogue.’ And I tried my best to talk all the classic members into staying, and you know, one or the other, or maybe a couple they split – and I just kept going whether it was with Tracii alone, or whether it was with Phil alone, or both of them. Or right now with me and Kelly just keeping the ship going. But you’ll never hear us say anything bad about the other guys man, even if they say shit about us we don’t care, but we’ll never really put anybody down. I’ll never put anybody down from any band that I’ve ever played in because it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t add up. I just never got into that mud-slinging, I don’t ever go there.

Mark: Exactly, and that’s a really refreshing attitude I remember over the years talking to Phil and there was always a little moment where he’d throw a few barbs at Tracii, and then of course last time you were on the receiving end. And I get that if it comes from passion, but I love it that you have the attitude that you do.

Steve: It’s funny because in the 15 or 16 years I played alone with Phil, and Tracii was out of the band he just tore him up in the press And I never went there, but he did that for years and then I don’t know why but now they’re back together again. But I just don’t like that, I never liked it, talking shit about the other guys in the press just isn’t a good way to go.

L.A. Guns

 

Mark: Do you feel additional pressure in this two L.A. Guns situation? The other two guys are out there making music, and I’m not sure if you’ve heard what they’re doing but you must hear back from the fans and their take on things? I must admit I enjoyed their last two albums and I have to say I loved ‘Renegades’.

Steve: Not really, I don’t see it like that. You know what the thing is I don’t think a lot of people realise that Kelly wrote ‘Ballad of Jayne’, he wrote our biggest hit, and we were all co-writers on everything that we did in the 80’s, it was a real band effort, and if you look at the credits for all of those songs it has all five band members on there. And that’s for a reason – it’s because everybody really did bring something to the table and to the production. We wanted it to be a democratic way of getting ahead together, if something went well, everybody did well together. So the thing was me and Kelly we were always song writing, we were always a big part of L.A. Guns especially as we were the ‘engine’ that pushed it, the bass player and drums, the engine that pushed the whole thing. I think people thought that we might have been minor players in the early days but we were right there, we had our noses right to the ground with everybody. So having Kelly back with me is really special. We always stayed best friends, but having him back, not only as my battery mate in the rhythm section but as a writer is special. He brought in the three songs we released as singles – those are his ideas, so he’s a really prolific song-writer and so is everyone else that we’re playing with. Kurt and Scott and myself – we brought in a bunch of material too, but those first three singles were Kelly Nickels’ ideas. Having him back in the band and writing and playing with him, and anything that you see too – any artwork – in the albums, the CD’s, the patches, the T-shirts – that’s all Kelly. He does it all. So having my best friend back with me – it’s a special thing.

Mark: That sounds great. Taking it all the way back I think the first time I saw you guys play was with that Classic line up at a place called Rock City in Nottingham.

Steve: Right.

Mark: But one of my all-time favourite shows I can still remember to this day was a couple of years after that – it was the triple bill with L.A. Guns, Skid Row and Love/Hate.

Steve: That was a great, great bill. A killer bill man, I remember that was a great show – all three bands were just on fire at that time. I have special memories of that – we actually went all through Europe and Scandinavia then came over to the UK. Everybody on that bill, they’re all friends of mine, I was great friends with Jizzy and the guys in Love/Hate and all of the guys in Skid Row.

Mark: Getting back to the new album, it doesn’t stop with the singles – the ballads are fantastic too. Who brought ‘Don’t Walk Away’ to the party?

Steve: That’s my song! I wrote that one and I’d been sitting on that song for a long time. I think it’s one that I might have introduced to the guys a couple of times over the last couple of decades – that’s been how long I’ve been sitting on it! This time when I brought it in to pre-production Kurt worked on the chorus just a little bit, the chorus is similar to what I had but he put a twist into it too, that turned it into such a great song. I brought in ‘Can’t Walk Away’ and Kurt brought in the other ballad ‘Would’ which is a tremendous song.

Mark: All great lighter numbers, but the great thing is there’s no filler on there, some great rockers too and ‘Don’t Want to Know’ the closer – you must be itching to play that one live – it’s like a real Rock and Roll party?

Steve: That’s another one of my songs! I brought in the ballad ‘Can’t Walk Away’ and ‘Don’t Want to Know’ – those are two songs that I had written and was sitting on for years and they worked out great on the album. ‘Don’t Want to Know’ is just a kick-ass song that if we were playing live would hit you like a steamroller!

Mark: That’s a complete coincidence Steve! I didn’t know that at all as I don’t have the writing credits here, but they were my two picks of the album.

Steve: Thank you.

Mark: It doesn’t stop there though – then you have the moodier ‘Lost Boys’ which is great, and ‘Witchcraft’ another great song. It’s just ten great tracks of vintage L.A. Guns!

Steve: I agree. When I listen back to it I totally agree, I don’t think that we have a throwaway song on there – I think they all have their own special little thing that’s happening with them and I think that the album moves really nicely too, I think from song to song it has a really nice feel to it and it doesn’t get boring. I got to produce the album too so I had a lot of fun doing it and I really do think everyone involved stepped up to the plate on this.

Mark: You did a great job Steve it sounds great. You mentioned before that Covid had delayed things, how long have you had it all in the bag? When was it all mixed and complete? I was ready to come over and see you play at a Festival that I couldn’t get to when our borders closed, but then got pushed back anyway. Was it ready for those summer dates?

Steve: Yeah, you know what we did, we were very lucky we did the big Festival here in Maryland in May 2019 – that was the first show that the four of us had done together and it went over so well. Somebody had filmed it and they put it on the internet, everybody was blown away because everyone was thinking that what me and Kelly were gonna do was gonna be some sort of weak situation of L.A. Guns. But when they saw it – everything kinda snowballed. New Breed Management a big Management company here in L.A. they signed us right away and they brought us to Golden Robot Records and Mark signed us over there. And what we did was we did a pre-production over the internet, the four of us, because I’m in L.A. and Kelly’s in New York, Kurt lives in Florida and Scotty lives in Las Vegas, so we’re like scattered all over the States. So we thought we’d not do the old type of pre-production where we all got together on tight budget, instead in the summer of 2019 we started sending each other songs. We ended up with about 35-40 songs that the four of us were sitting on and we chose these ten over a couple of months period and started working on them tougher. We did that for a couple of months and I’d never worked like that before so it was very interesting swapping ideas over the internet! (laughs) And then I had the guys fly out here and we did a two-day marathon pre-production, and it came together so well, there was such a great chemistry and we knew right away that these ten songs were gonna work. And after the two day pre-production, the next day we went in and we did seven straight days of recording, this is in November of 2019.Then I had the guys fly home and I mixed it with the engineer, and we did about a week of mixing and mastering. So it was a very old school thing and we’d finished by the second week of December we were done with it. We had fooled around with the idea of maybe waiting till 2020 to do all that so thankfully we didn’t do that as we may not have been able to do the album! (laughs). And by the end of 2019 it was all done, the artwork, everything, so we were able to get into this crazy year with the finished product already done. We were so fortunate that we made the right call and went at it otherwise we would have been screwed if we’d tried to do it this year.

L.A. Guns - Renegades

 

Mark: So how are you going with the crazy situation over there at the moment? I have friends in L.A. who have been suffering big time.

Steve: Oh Mark, it’s crazy. It is crazy bro right now because everybody is feeling it and it’s just not like one section of people, it’s everyone. So every one of our gigs got postponed. We haven’t done one show. But nothing got cancelled for any of the bands that I know of here in L.A. –all of our schedules got pushed into 2021 and so everyone’s just been sitting around. We were so lucky that we had our product ready to go and Mark at Golden Robot decided ‘Let’s give the fans something new because this is going to go on all year right now.’ So every two months ‘Let’s give them a new single’ – so we started in March or April with the ‘Crawl’ single, then we waited 2, 2 and a half months for ‘Well Oiled Machine’ and another 2 months for ‘Renegades.’ And now we’re into that fourth period right now where the album will come out on November 13th. So we were one of the lucky bands, we had something to work all through the year, and I think Golden Robot played that perfectly. And so now we’ve got our fingers crossed that we can start our shows, and I’ve got the schedule here, it’s the full schedule of Festivals, Theatres and Casinos starting in March 2021. But who the hell knows?! We still don’t know what’s gonna go on. We’re just hoping that we can pull this off and get out there. It’s crazy bro! This year’s been nuts!

Mark: It has and all over the world it’s so different, in the UK they’ve had car park concerts, outside of the venue in car parks, in Europe they’ve tried drive-in shows, and then here in the West of Australia we have our live music back but not yet at full capacity and only of course for local acts as our borders are still closed.

Steve: But that’s good, that’s great for those guys and you all. At least you got something going on. Over here even Scotty Griffin the lead guitar player, he lives in Vegas and we did a ‘Zoom’ the other day with everyone in the band and the label to talk about the release and I asked Scotty “Is Vegas opening up at all? Are there any shows, what’s going on there?” And he said no, he’s doing this cover band just to stay sharp, it’s a punk rock thing in a small little dive bar and he said only a certain amount of people can get in. So it’s all fucked up mate, nobody’s really been able to do anything and we’re waiting for this vaccine, but when’s that gonna happen? I don’t know? 2021? I heard some shit yesterday that even Guns ‘n’ Roses – the tour that they had pushed from this year to next year, 2021 that they’re thinking of pushing it to 2022 and not even trying to do 2021! That scared me you know, I hope that doesn’t happen.

Mark: Take it all the way back for us know Steve. How young were you and was there a defining moment when you knew that music was going to be your life?

Steve: Well I’m going to be 65 in January and I started playing drums when I was like 5 or 6 years old! (laughs) So it’s kinda scary I’ve been playing drums for almost 60 years! (laughs) You know what, when I started playing drums honestly I was too young to realise this was what I was gonna do my whole life. But I loved it so much and I really, really wanted to be able to master playing the drums and learn how to play them in any style and learn how to play in any way I wanted, whether it was double-kick or it was jazz or straight Rock and Roll, it didn’t matter. But when I knew it was gonna be a career for me was pretty much when I left Boston, right after High School. I was 17 and I left home to go and play with club bands down in Washington D.C. that was like ’73, ’74. Then I knew no matter what, even if a band was going to falter I was gonna go on – I was gonna find something else. I didn’t know what it might be but I knew I was never gonna throw my hands up and say “Well, that’s that!” and go off and do something different. I knew that I was going to keep moving, so I think that’s when it really happened. But then in ’75 I got to do an album that Todd Rundgren produced with a band in the Midwest, here in L.A. and when we did that album, that really was the spark! It was like “Oh man, this is absolutely what I wanna do!” And you know I made my way to L.A. from that point on – I got to L.A. in ’77 and, you know, I just kept pushing. It didn’t matter if it was a one-off album with somebody and then I had to move onto something else. But I think that ’75 album with Roadmaster that Todd Rundgren produced I think that was the spark when I realised that this was really, really my thing and what I wanted to do, and I just had to be strong. I knew that not all the bands I was gonna be in were gonna work and then I lucked out when I got into Keel and then W.A.S.P. and into L.A. Guns. That’s a fortunate thing for someone to be able to make that triple-hold like that. It doesn’t always work out, there’s a lot of luck involved. You can have a lot of talent, but there’s a lot of luck in timing too. But once I got into Keel then W.A.S.P. wanted me and then L.A. Guns wanted me I was very fortunate, but I just never stopped. I just go out and get on with the business of playing music.

Mark: And long may that continue.

Steve: Thank you.

Mark: We do have a traditional closing question that I ask everyone the first time we speak. It’s one of those questions we’ve been asking for eleven years now, but one that somehow seems more relevant under the circumstances we are living in at the moment. A nice simple question to close then Steve: what is the meaning of life?

Steve: I’ll tell you what bro, the meaning of life is happiness. You’ve got to be happy in this world. You’ve got to really dig what you’re doing and who you are. I really think that’s the meaning of life. If you really like who you are and what you’re doing I think that is the secret to everything. And I really believe that was my secret to making it through, and my meaning of life was really falling in love with the drums, playing the drums, and living for it. So that and (the fact) that I tried to stay true to being a cool person and not being a mud-slinger or treating anybody bad. If you can get into that mode of loving what you’re doing and dig on it I really think that you can get through any situation.

Mark: Now that Steve, is a really cool answer. Thank you so much for your time. People I know who have met you told me you were the coolest member of L.A. Guns and just the nicest guy and I think you’ve just proved that to me. Stay safe and catch you soon.

Steve: Oh thanks mate. Thank you for the call I really appreciate it. Be safe brother, I’ll talk to you soon.

 

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