by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Columnist —
Gregory Lynn Hall is a name that all hard rock and melodic rock fans should be familiar with – from his Sunset Strip days and his tenure in Rat Sally back in the ‘80s to the contemporary AOR act 101 South he fronts. This year, however, marks a very important shift in Gregory’s career as he embarks on a solo path with his new album Heaven To Earth. The record’s content was what the busy musician covered in his interview for Hardrock Haven, but not only – we also talked about his inspirations, his approach to songwriting, 101 South’s current situation and Blackie Lawless’ wild antics.
Hardrock Haven: In the light of the fact your solo album is out this month – what’s the current situation of 101 South? Is the band on hiatus, or do you plan to focus on your solo career now?
Gregory Lynn Hall: Yes, 101 South is on a break. I have talked with Roger about releasing a “best of” album with a few new tracks, so we’ll see. But at the current moment I am pursuing my solo career, and plan on making more solo records, working other musicians and so on.
Hardrock Haven: Talking about the album – why the title Heaven To Earth? I suppose it doesn’t have much in common with your tenure in Stuart Smith’s brilliant Heaven & Earth …
Gregory Lynn Hall: No, it doesn’t indeed – it has to do with my faith. Here’s the message: I like the idea of bringing Heaven to Earth, and if I can do that in some small way, I feel like I can help people and bring them hope.
Hardrock Haven: Heaven To Earth explores slightly heavier territories music-wise than 101 South did. Was it the initial idea to gravitate more towards hard rock on your solo record?
Gregory Lynn Hall: It wasn’t a conscious attempt, it’s just that I am primarily a guitarist and my personal influences are heavier.
Hardrock Haven: One of the album’s assets is its diversity in terms of genres. What’s inspired you throughout the process of writing the material and recording it?
Gregory Lynn Hall: Well, actually that’s how the good records used to be made – there would be a heavy guitar riff song and then a mandolin bluegrass-type song. All the bands of any repute had that quality, the thing that tied it all together was the singer’s voice. So I didn’t set out to prove anything – I just let it flow, and this is what I got.
Hardrock Haven: Especially interesting are the Americana/Southern Rock/blues vibes to the album, “Mama’s Said” being perhaps the most blatant example. Where did this inspiration come from?
Gregory Lynn Hall: As I was saying, all styles are welcome to me, as long as I feel it. I love that swing bluesy thing – Aerosmith does that stuff the best – but I just came up with a guitar riff one day, and it went from there. I almost kept it off the album, but thought that maybe someone would say “that’s my favorite song” (laughs)
Hardrock Haven: Another unique thing about the album is that it’s almost one-man band. Why have you opted for playing the majority of instrumental parts on your own rather than having the backing musicians?
Gregory Lynn Hall: I wanted the challenge, and also wanted to hear the songs finished – the way I heard them in my head. Basically that’s it.
Hardrock Haven: What was the difference between this approach – being a one-man band and using your multi-instrumental talents in the studio – and the usual work within a band?
Gregory Lynn Hall: Well, it was less confusion for sure (laughs). No, actually it was really a great time. I had to stay focused – very therapeutic, and rewarding feeling.
Hardrock Haven: It’s often said that solo albums give the artist more freedom outside of the band. Do you see Heaven To Earth as a chance to re-define yourself as an artist?
Gregory Lynn Hall: Yes, I think it shows more of where my influences are and what I’m about personally for sure. It’s all me, man, no hiding! (laughs)
Hardrock Haven: Talking about the instrumental parts on the album, we can’t forget about the guest artists. There’s many of them – Bandit Bellamia on drums and guest solos played by Craig Goldy, Billy Liesegang, Jeff Duncan, Mike Turner and Johnny Navarro. What’s the reason for such personal choices? What influence did the guest musicians exerted over the sound on the album?
Gregory Lynn Hall: I’m so glad to have these great friends help and play on this album. After I did all the tracking, these guys added the spices, seasoning to finish the product, just like a gourmet meal … I am honored to have these guys on board!
Hardrock Haven: A tough nut to crack – what is your favorite solo part on the album and why?
Gregory Lynn Hall: Well, obviously I love what Craig Goldy did on “Heaven To Earth.” He’s such a great player and person. But all the solos are exceptional – Jeff Duncan smokes on some of those songs, Johnny’s slide work rocks, Billy is always great, and Mike is class all the way.
Hardrock Haven: If you could have one more guest on the album and be able to collaborate with whoever you like to – who would it be?
Gregory Lynn Hall: Well, I almost had Doug Aldrich on the album. Doug and I go back thirty years – we used to rehearse at the same studios in the early ‘80s when we were kids. Scheduling didn’t work out, but maybe next time …
Hardrock Haven: Talking about favorites – what are your personal highlights of the album? Which songs you’d pick as favorites?
Gregory Lynn Hall: Now that’s a hard question to answer… because, as I’m sure you’ve heard before, every song is like one of my kids (laughs) So can’t go there.
Hardrock Haven: Where do you find your songwriting inspirations? Is it your own life, or maybe life in general?
Gregory Lynn Hall: Yes, inspiration does come from my personal life sometimes… sometimes a guitar riff, a string sound, a concept, a thought, a feeling … Just depends. A good tip for me is to sit quietly sometimes … And listen …
Hardrock Haven: How personal do you think an artist should be to communicate well with their audience?
Gregory Lynn Hall: I think it’s important to get real honest and communicate your vulnerability, so you can relate, identify with people, meet them where they are – they know if you’re being honest. It translates.
Hardrock Haven: Do you see how you evolved as an artist from the days of Rat Sally until now? Are you satisfied with the direction your musical path went in?
Gregory Lynn Hall: Oh yeah, for sure… back then I was writing really shallow stuff and my voice wasn’t mature. Yeah, I’ve come a long way… and I’m glad to be where I am right now. Life is good.
Hardrock Haven: Having just mentioned Rat Sally, could you share a story related to the ‘80s Hollywood scene, all these legendary Sunset Strip venues etc?
Gregory Lynn Hall: Oh man, I’ve got so many stories! I’ll give you one. I guess it was around 1983-84. Me and some friends went to an after party after having been to the famous Rainbow Bar & Grill. I went to this apartment with Nikki Sixx, and some other bros… we walked in and there were about ten chicks that all looked like Elvira, they all had pale skin and long black hair. Then I walked into the living room and there was a throne type chair sitting in the middle of the room with sticks with skulls on the end of them on both sides of it… so now I’m freakin’ out. Then all of a sudden I look up and there’s a hole in the middle of the ceiling and out pops a ladder and Blackie Lawless from W.A.S.P. comes down (laughs) It was like a vampire coming out! (laughs)
Hardrock Haven: With current ‘80s nostalgia and so many bands back, are there any plans for Rat Sally to reunite? What do you think about a potential reunion?
Gregory Lynn Hall: We did a reunion in 1995, but there were some personal things going on at the time with a couple members that made it difficult and uncomfortable at times… so I would say probably not. I’ve moved on and upward.
Hardrock Haven: What are your current plans?
Gregory Lynn Hall: I would love to put a band together and support this album. Also, to collaborate with other pros that are open …
Hardrock Haven: Thank you for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Gregory Lynn Hall: I think we covered everything. It was nice chatting with you … rock on and God bless! If anyone would like to get a hold of me, they can go to my website gregorylynnhall.com. Cheers!