by Deb Rao
– Senior Columnist –
Hellion is back with a new line-up and album. Singer Ann Boleyn has a great rock and roll resume. She was one of the first women to appear on MTV and VH-1 back in the day. Also, Hellion was one of the first metal bands to perform in Russia at Monsters of Rock. New album To Hellion And Back –The Anthology 2 CD 1983- 2014 is now available.
Singer Ann Boleyn spoke with Hardrock haven regarding the new CD, new line-up, and recalls working with the late Ronnie James Dio.
HRH: Ann, thank you for checking in with Hardrock Haven. The new album To Hellion And Back is out. It chronicles the years of 1983 –2014. What inspired you to release the CD?
Ann: I recently started working with a great line-up. Wonderful musicians and the best I have ever worked with. In doing this, we went through many discussions how are we going to do this. Why just put out a single? I thought why not add just a bunch of back catalogs and let the new comers listen to the music. They will know where we came from. And also give the people who have been supporting us for a number of years a nice piece of music. It chronicled the history.
HRH: Your new band is Simon Wright, Bjorn Englen, Scott Warren and Maxxwell Carlisle. What was it like working with these great musicians?
Ann: I have always had the privilege of working with excellent musicians. It just ends up coming together with this line-up.
HRH: How many new songs are on the album?
Ann: There is one new song on the Hellion And Back Anthology. But there is some unreleased too.
HRH: You also recorded two songs with Ronnie James Dio. What was it like working with Ronnie back in the day?
Ann: When I first started working with Ronnie, I had not been singing for very long. During that time period, there was really a stigma against female singers in heavy bands. It was tremendous when Ronnie wanted to produce us because I had an ally on my side. I was just learning my craft. It was quite an experience. Ronnie was a wonderful man. It was a big loss to the music community and the world.
HRH: What songs did he record with you?
Ann: One song “Run For Your Life” and “Get Ready.”
HRH: Back in the day. You were pretty fortunate. You were one of the first female singers to appear on MTV and VH-1. What was that experience like?
Ann: It was a great feeling because at that point in time a video to record for MTV would cost 200,000 dollars. We had really good friends of ours who worked in Hollywood and the film industry. They said, Ann if you can rent a camera and pay for the processing we will do this video. It was on a strict budget of 10,000 dollars. A whole produced video on MTV itself not just being a female was a tremendous accomplishment.
HRH: You also were one of the first bands to go to the Soviet Union and play the Monsters of Rock festival.
Ann: We were the first American band to perform at Monsters of Rock Russia. It was a tremendous experience. During the time period, it was literally the cold war. It was a great experience.
HRH: How do you compare the U.S. audience vs. Europe?
Ann: It is very different. In Europe, especially in Germany it is like a religion. The fans know every little detail … everything. In America a lot of the fans are much more casual. If it is convenient for them to go to something they will go. That is why I think it is for Hellion to play out. That is where a band makes a connection with people. When you are up on a stage and looking people in the eye. People are listening to the music and experimenting a group of a few hundred or a few thousand enjoying the same kind of music. It is really a spiritual experience.
HRH: This time period is so exciting for you. It is like the re-birth of your career. How do you feel the music industry embraces female singers today?
Ann: I have issues on what some of the artists are being called heavy metal. There are a lot of things to me that are more pop music. No disrespect to Lita Ford or Lzzy Hale anything like that. To me is more commercial rock. A lot of people try to put a label on commercial hard rock as metal. To me heavy metal is defined by the vocals. I take an issue that somehow you got a lyric soprano singing the same style as you were in a musical. But somehow that is metal because you got some grinding guitars behind it. There is a lot of things called metal and if it works for everybody that is fine. I wish there were more females doing traditional metal. When I think of traditional metal I think of Doro.
HRH: Were you influenced by Joan Jett?
Ann: I brought to Los Angeles in 1976 to play with the Runaways originally. Which didn’t pan out because of their producer for a number of reasons. I would consider Joan Jett to be a hard rock artist. I wouldn’t consider her to be metal.
HRH: What did producer Ken Scott bring to the plate?
Ann: I had worked with Ken in 1985. It was a wonderful experience then. When I decided to rerecord I made a conscious decision that I wanted to the kind of music that inspired me to become a professional musician. Which is quality traditional heavy metal. So I contacted him and there you go. Ken Scott I have to say is brilliant and he doesn’t mettle a lot in the music. What he does is that he gets a real definition performance out of the musicians. I think his magic is that he is able to bring out the best quality performance out of the musicians. And at the same time, he is able to set the sound up in the studio so the sound is magical.
HRH: Any touring plans in the works?
Ann: Yes. Myself, Maxx and Scott with a couple other bass and drummers are doing some charity benefits. It is a warm-up for us to play together. We are having a warm up gig at Rocklahoma this year.
Visit the band online: https://www.facebook.com/Hellion.Official