by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Senior Columnist —
It might have been eliminated by the flannel-shirt clad, continuously depressed grungers, ridiculed and laughed at by the ‘serious’ metalheads and dismissed as the cheesiest genre of all by the omnipotent music critics. But now, Steel Panter-esque mockery aside, purebred ‘80s Hair Metal strikes back and soon it may feel like 1989 again! It only takes a moment to give Julian Angel’s Beautiful Beast’s new album Kick Down The Barricades a spin once or twice to start digging for your Poison shirt at the back of your closet.
But before the revolution happens. And all of us are backcombing our hair like crazy again, Hardrock Haven catches up with the man behind the Beautiful Beast project. Angel talks about new album, his side projects, the ‘image over substance’ issue and the supposed ‘cheesiness’ of the genre that remains a guilty pleasure of almost every rocker. Ladies and gentlemen, Julian Angel!
Hardrock Haven: Beautiful Beast names themselves a “hair band” with pride. Hair Metal is a genre that’s been – at the utmost – treated with serious reservation by the majority of the music critics, if not simply laughed at or mocked. Why then have you decided to bring it back?
Julian Angel: Most hair metal adversaries think of the poor power-chord strummers and out-of-tune squawkers. Yes, like in any other genre, there have been quite some really bad hair bands, back then and today. But when I think of hair metal as a hypernym I think of the excellent guitar work in Dokken or Ratt, singers like Sebastian Bach or Cinderella’s Tom Keifer and such compositions as Whitesnake’s “Still Of The Night.” They will outperform many a “serious” band. If you associate yourself with that kind of musical quality you have something to be proud of.
Hardrock Haven: Some say Hair Metal disappeared from the charts in the early 1990s due to the Grunge wave, while the others claim the genre was simply overloaded with copycats and it kind of burnt out. What do you think about it?
Julian Angel: As in any genre the labels were trying to repeat the formula over and over. Maybe it’s them you can blame for the image hair metal has today had they not put that much emphasis on the boy band aspect. But that’s an effect you will always see everywhere. The grunge thing wore out too, so did techno and boy-groups. Heavy metal is still there but it has seen certain trends come and go as well.
Hardrock Haven: Nowadays, Hair Metal survived primarily in the form of pastiche/parody – Steel Panther come to mind as the most obvious example. What do you think about their tongue-in-cheek approach?
Julian Angel: I appreciate Steel Panther for being excellent musicians and I’ve had my fun watching them do interviews. When I had been to a Steel Panther show in Germany lately, though, I realized the effect they have. People in the audience were wearing carnival wigs, wrapped random pieces of cloth around their heads for bandanas and put on makeup like a five dollar hooker. Come on, not even Poison looked that way in their early days. Like it or not, it all had some type of class back then and this is exactly what’s missing in the whole mock-rock thing today. Really, I cannot take hair bands seriously if their members have names like Sexxxy Rexxxy or Cosy von Cock. Such bands are making fun of the music, but also of the people who really like hair metal. Then again Steel Panther sells quite some records, so it seems as if some people really love the music but are afraid to commit – and so they need the parody to hide behind.
Hardrock Haven: A suitable image was one of the key ingredients of every Hair Metal band. How important is it to you?
Julian Angel: Every person alive should have an image, represent something he or she stands for. Unfortunately only few people do. If the music is great, why shouldn’t you back it with a strong image? Rappers totally got it, but most rockers let it slide. Like Gene Simmons said ‘Rappers are the only rock stars left, because rock stars have stopped being “rock stars.” If I go to a concert I want to see a band that’s larger than life. I want to admire them for what they do and not go ‘Oh, was this someone from the band or just a random drunk head’.
Hardrock Haven: Is your band Beautiful Beast more of a project, or a regular band? Any chances of seeing you on the road?
Julian Angel: Honestly, it is a project, because it cannot be a full time band. Germany isn’t really a hotbed for bands. Few musicians even dare make a living and if they do they are being shared by a number of bands, all the way from wedding to cover bands, then one or two original bands and that generates scheduling difficulties.
Hardrock Haven: A so-called “power trio” formula has been rarely used within Hair Metal genre. Do you think it works in the case of Beautiful Beast?
Julian Angel: It worked for late Winger, didn’t it? It’s all about the musician problem. Give me a cool dude with long hair willing to play rhythm guitar, travel and who doesn’t charge me up my butt and I will take him. Guitarists have egos and I am one, so I have one too (laughs).
Hardrock Haven: Yet about the balance of power in the band – you’re both a singer and a guitarist. Your task in the band being double, are there any problems because of it? Which of these roles do you find more satisfying and expressive and why?
Julian Angel: Me being the jack of all trades is based on the fun I have writing and recording the songs. I could never settle for recording just one guitar track. I love doing it all. So I add the vocals too, as well as bass, keys – it’s like sitting in front of a bowl with candy, I just can’t stop. If I had to choose between having only a mic stand or a guitar I’d opt for the latter.
Hardrock Haven: Finally to the topic of the new Beautiful Beast album – do you think there was any different between Kick Down The Barricades and its two predecessors, or was it a kind of a smooth continuation?
Julian Angel: Both. While “Adult Oriented Candy” had lots of AOR its successor “California Suntan” came along a bit rockier with less keyboards. On “Kick Down The Barricades” I totally eliminated the keys. I just couldn’t stand it at that time. So “Barricades” is a lot sleazier.
Hardrock Haven: The music video to ‘Bad Boys Never Dance’ is relatively simple rock-performance-kind of thing. Was it your intention, or a matter of budget/possibilities?
Julian Angel: To me music is not just a hobby. I really do my best to make money doing what I do so I can keep doing what I do. Production, manufacturing, promotion, it all costs money. So while I could have afforded an expensive video I had a budget to work with. You should not spend more than you expect to earn, right? I dig the video anyway. It’s unpolished like the sound. And it’s fine with the fans because they know we do not sell out arenas anymore.
Hardrock Haven: Do you plan to illustrate any of the other songs on Kick Down The Barricades with music videos? Any ideas for them?
Julian Angel: There will be another video with a new album. For “Kick Down The Barricades” I initially had planned a video for “Big Stuff”, the groove song. In that case the cop from the “Bad Boys Never Dance” video would have been a secretary. Yes, I love cliches.
Hardrock Haven: Whose idea was the cartoonist cover artwork of the newest Beautiful Beast album?
Julian Angel: It was mine. I always wanted to do that. So I found Mauro Daniel, an artist from Argentina do it. He nearly would have done Johnny Lima’s latest artwork too.
Hardrock Haven: Kick Down The Barricades was mastered by Rolf Munkes (Tony Martin Band, Empire, Razorback). Are you happy with the results? Is it the first time you collaborate with him?
Julian Angel : Rolf is a good guy. Great guitarist, musician, producer and person. He had already mastered my solo album “Choreography Sucks” from 2007 and did all the mixing on Beautiful Beast’s “Adult Oriented Candy.” I had the budget for some extra bottom end.
Hardrock Haven: What’s inspired the lyrics on the new album and was the inspiration any different than before?
Julian Angel: I honestly think that lyrics are overrated. Besides, hair metal has some strict guidelines. You cannot sing about shopping at Jack Wolfskin (laughs). So it is the typical boy meets girl thing, sometimes from a romantic angle, next time from a rather dirty one. “Shock ‘Em Dead” is based on real life experience and so is “Shake Me Back Home.” The rest is pure fantasy. Dreams about a world as I wish it were. Like 1989 again, you know.
Hardrock Haven: Hair Metal songwriting is said to be a relatively easy process in comparison with other rock and metal sub-genres – think long and complex compositions of progressive or symphonic rock. What do you think about it?
Julian Angel: Hmm, I wouldn’t say that most current heavy metal is that complex, maybe except for explicitly progressive stuff. Again, it depends on whether you look at some punkish sleaze wannabes or at, again, “Still Of The Night” from Whitesnake with its many changes, the 5/8 subdivisions in Mr. Big’s “Green Tinted Sixties Mind” and the way a White Lion song builds up from ballad-esque to hard rock. There is some really well thought up music out there.
Hardrock Haven: Another topic is ‘MusicBiz Madness’ and your side activities as a composer/songwriter. Please, tell us more about it.
Julian Angel: MusicBiz Madness is a music business conference for musicians. I have created it, organize and fund it. Music industry people like label A&Rs, promoters and successful musicians teach seminars and share their tricks and knowledge. Believe it or not, it’s one of a kind in Germany. A few years ago I have started recording instrumental music for film and television. You’ve guessed it, I focus on lots of heavy stuff all the way from biker rock to trash metal. You can see Dolph Lundgren wrestle some guy with my music in the background in two of his latest movies.
Hardrock Haven: What are your current music-related plans?
Julian Angel: MusicBiz Madness is around the corner on October 12, 2014. Today I finished recording an album of instrumentals for a publisher in South Africa, coming up next is more work for one of the Hollywood film music publishers I work with. In late October, early November I should have some time left to record some new hair metal.
Hardrock Haven: Thank you for the interview! Is there anything you’d like to add?
Julian Angel: Thank you too. I really enjoyed the interview because it wasn’t as generic as most others are. You know, “tell us where you met each other” (laughs). Thanks to you, yes, you reader, who has just completely read through this interview. Cool. And thanks to everyone who loves hair metal and helps keep it alive. New fans who want to get to know me and my band can get a free mp3 of “Big Stuff,” which has sort of become the radio single. Head over to www.beautifulbeastrock.com/new.html or just visit our website at www.beautifulbeastrock.com.