January 7, 2010 by Publisher
by Alissa Ordabai
Championed by the industry as the next big thing some 20 years ago, Heathen was not only the band which at the time embodied the spirit of all things new in metal, but, in fact, one of those acts who have invented the entire genre of thrash alongside with Metallica, Testament, Megadeth, and other innovators hailing from Bay Area. All those who in the beginning of the Eighties transformed the music scene and gave the word “metal” an entirely new meaning it still bears to this day.
Fast-forward to 2010 and Heathen are back with an album which has been two decades in the making, giving all true metalheads a taste of authenticity which bands today are hardly capable of replicating. And here we are talking not only about the new guard, but also Heathen’s pioneering contemporaries who these days have stridden a long way from the original formula.
What really strikes you about “The Evolution of Chaos” is not just the unmistakable taste of the real thing – whiplash riffs that go straight for the kill, semi-operatic vocals, wall-of-fire rhythm section and riotous firework solos. It is also the urgent, driven atmosphere of thrash’s early days which the new album distills into 11 tracks, the spirit of the genre’s initial aspiration before the whole thing got swallowed by big business. The sense of urgency, the conviction, and even, surprisingly, at times the bona fide naïveté of those golden days, and hence sincerity of the message.
With some material on the record in fact dating as far back as mid-Eighties, the album also shows with amazing clarity the common ground from which Bay Area acts drew their inspiration and which marks them as the children of the same environment who started off on the same aspirations. But what Metallica have over the years lost in spirit and conviction, Heathen have managed to retain, and what Alex Skolnick these days has turned into an almost intellectual pursuit, Heathen’s founding member Lee Altus continues to go for with such primordial fire and fury it makes you wonder if he’s found a way to travel back in time to breathe the Bay Area air circa 1985 each time before going into the studio to throw down those show-stopping solos.
While brilliant execution turns the pleasure of listening of this record into a luxury, the material itself could be seen as a panorama of the development of thrash. From the propulsive, tightly wound rage of “Control by Chaos” to magnificent complexity of “No Stone Unturned”, the record is as diverse as the genre allows it to be. But given its wide spectrum of moods and atmospheres, at the same time it gives a unified, coherent rendition of the road walked by thrash since its early days to 2010.
Guitarist Lee Altus and vocalist Dave White being the only original members on board this time around, the band (in part due to the fact that Altus has always been its main songwriter) have still managed to give the album that classic, unmistakable Heathen sound. And while Altus blames grunge for the demise of the band in the early Nineties, the fact that he never gave up on the music he loved shows that a real musician can be as flexible as he is determined.
After two decades spent pursuing other goals – playing in die Krupps in the Nineties (and while doing that living in Germany) and later joining Exodus where Altus continues to play since 2005, he has decides to revive his old band properly by releasing brand-new material and thus showing that music can exist beyond vanity, ambition or remembrance. For the first time since 1986 Heathen are enjoying being involved in a pure creativity without allowing themselves to be pressured by any external considerations.
What makes a musician stick to his guns and to his vision despite the changing fashions, the inspiration behind Heathen’s resurrection and the new record, as well as his creative process and what makes people care about guitar solos were some of the themes Hardrock Haven has touched upon in this interview with Lee Altus just before Christmas.
AO: Lee, thank you for finding time to do this interview with us. We really appreciate your time.
LA: No problem.
AO: And congratulations on the new album!
LA: Thank you.
AO: Are you happy with the way this record has turned out?
LA: Yeah, overall happy, but are you ever really happy? I heard this, I think it was this a guy from that band Boston, or some other band, who said, “You never ever finish an album, you abandon it.”
AO: That’s what Bruce Kulick said to me a few days back, and he said that this originally came from Sting!
LA: Well, here you go then! When somebody said it to me, it sounded perfect, and I thought, “I will use that!” Because you either run out of time, run out of money, or something. You are never totally happy, you just have to be happy enough.
AO: Do you have favourite tracks on this record?
LA: Favourite tracks? Hmm… Yeah, I guess it would be “No Stone Unturned”, that was the most challenging to record. I would have to say that this one probably is my favourite. But it could change all the time when you write. Whatever is the first song you wrote, by the time you have finished the fifth one, that one is already old you are sick of it. Whatever is the newest one you think is the best one because it’s still fresh.
AO: But “No Stone Unturned” had so much clarity, and spirit, and mystery, and beauty to it that it really took me back to the very early days of thrash – mid-Eighties, early Eighties. Was it a conscious decision to look back and to give an overview of the history of the genre, or did it just come to you spontaneously?
LA: No, it really is spontaneous. I can’t even say it’s spontaneous, it developed over the years. Like you said, some of those riffs were probably written in the Eighties, I don’t even remember because that song developed over such a long time. Sure, it kept changing a little bit here and a little bit there. When you have a lot of time to sit around and wait… But overall, yeah, with Heathen we always had that sprit of the Eighties, and the spirit of the Eighties is kind of all we know. It’s not like with the new thrash bands that are trying to sound like the Eighties. We actually grew up and learned in the Eighties, so it’s natural.
AO: But you listen to “No Stone Unturned” and you listen to “Controlled by Chaos” and you realise how much you, and Megadeth, and Metallica actually have in common, in terms of your roots, where you came from, and that is really amazing. But what inspired you to revive this band and to start writing for it again?
LA: We always talked about it after grunge kind of killed us in the Nineties, saying, “We should put out at least one more album. We have all those riffs and songs, might as well release them.” It was me and Dave [White, vocalist] talking about it. But seriously it came together I think in 2002 or 2003 at Chuck Billy’s benefit. And we actually got together and played, and it was fun again. It was like, “Wow, maybe we should seriously start talking about it and start seriously doing it because we are having fun again.” What finalised it is when we got invited to play that year at Wacken, or if it was the following year I don’t remember, but it was within that year that we played. And at that time we definitely decided to do this, to give it another go, at least to release an album, see what happens.
AO: How long did it take you to make this album – to go from the initial snippet of an idea to the finished product?
LA: If you take it from the original snippet, it would be almost 20 years!
AO: Ha, all right!
LA: I was writing some of those riffs for the follow-up to “Victims of Deception” in 88. So it was supposed to be our next album, it was supposed to take a year or two, maybe three in between, but, unfortunately, it took almost twenty years.
AO: In terms of emotional and intellectual effort that it takes to make an album, which one, do you think, was the most difficult to make – “Breaking the Silence”, “Victims of Deception”, or this one?
LA: I think “Victims of Deception” was the hardest because when we released “Breaking the Silence” everyone was hailing us like, “Oh, you guys are going to be like the next Metallica,” so many promises, every label wanted us…
AO: And you were on MTV…
LA: Yes, and every big management wanted us, everybody was all of a sudden… When you’re hot, all of a sudden everybody wants in. So there was so much pressure that all of a sudden we sat back and realised that we had to put out a great album. Before that we were writing the songs and hoping that everybody would like them. Then you realise that everybody does like it, now everybody is looking to see what you can deliver NOW. So “Victims” was the most stressful album, I would say.
With this one, again, it was this feeling, like, “You know what, we are in our 40s now, it’s not like… We’ll try to make an album, but it’s not like we are going to make it big now.” It’s more like, “Ah, now we are making it again for our own pleasure, just like the first one. Now we don’t care: if it sells, it sells, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. As long as we are happy with it, it’s all that really counts.” So it was like going from that stressful “Victims” album to this one where we don’t care. As long as we like it, that’s all that we really care about.
AO: How does your songwriting process work? Do you have to isolate yourself to write or do those things come to you as you go about your daily business?
LA: It could be different. Mostly I have to sit down and isolate myself, lock myself in a room and play a thousand riffs and maybe one will work out, and I’ll go, “OK, that’s one that I can work with. It could work there or I could build a song around it.” Very rarely it would be where I would be sitting just mindlessly playing the guitar and even watching TV at the same time and come up with a riff and go, “Oh!” and run and record it. Mostly you have to kind of force yourself into kind of, “I have to write.” This time, when you have twenty years to write, it’s a lot easier. You can just sit around doing whatever, and riffs will come to you. You just kind of put it in the vault and move on. Every five years you take it out and put another riff in there. If you had to write an album every couple of years, it would be a little bit different.
AO: Would I be correct to assume that sometimes it’s really the instrument that takes you places? It’s not that you first hear an idea in your head, but sometimes your guitar can lead you – the way it’s constructed, the kind of code that there is in this instrument, would that be correct to say?
LA: Yes, sometimes. Anything can influence and take you places. Sometimes even the environment that you are in. And sometimes it doesn’t, it just depends. With some songs you can just sit down and write, and it just flows, and everything comes together so fast. And with other songs you just keep pounding and pounding it into the ground and nothing’s coming out. For this album I had another six or eight songs that were unfinished, and I could not finish them, I wasn’t happy enough. And I already had those riffs for how many years? So I thought that something would probably come up in another ten years that would make me happy with that song, or maybe it will never. You just never know.
AO: But how would you say being a musician in Germany compares to being a musician in the States?
LA: Ha-ha! I guess in Germany they are treated a lot better. My experience that I’ve learnt from die Krupps days, for example, is that you sign with these… I don’t even know how you call it, it’s not a publishing company, but every country has almost like a musicians’ union that protects you and collects your royalties from the record companies. And that is a very powerful thing. Where in the States they don’t have that. From the States, most of the times, unless you make it really big like Metallica when record companies pay attention, they never really pay you those royalties. A lot of musicians are not even aware that they are supposed to get that. And the royalty rate, if you do a research, it’s 725 cents per song in the States. Different countries have different rates, but all over Europe, whatever country you choose, it’s at least double from the States. So a lot more goes into protecting musicians.
And overall, the way they look at us at European festivals. Why doesn’t that work in the States? Even when you do a small club tour, you are treated a lot better in Europe than you are in the States. In the States they just don’t care. “Yeah, we’ve promised you a PA, but here’s your car stereo, deal with it.” Where in Europe people care a lot more about it at the clubs. But that’s what they’ve always said, “You’ve never made it until you’ve made it in the States.” But I always liked Europe. The band that I’ve really liked was Thin Lizzy. They’ve never really made it huge, but everybody knew about them and they were always popular. You’d mention Thin Lizzy and people would go, “Yeah, I know Thin Lizzy,” but they’ve never had that status of a multi-platinum band. I always thought that that would be the coolest thing.
AO: Going back to the album, the solos on it are quite extraordinary. What was the inspiration behind your fire this time around? What inspired you to play these amazing solos and how many were actually improvised?
LA: Ha! How many improvised? I really don’t remember. There are always some parts that are a little bit more worked out and there are some parts that you just work out in the studio. There is nothing there where you just sit there and go, “Wow, I just played it and the first take was it.” I’d be lying if I said that. No, there’s a lot of work that went into that. It’s like constructing another part of the song and it doesn’t come with the very first take. There could be one or two little parts that could be the first take, but mostly it’s sitting down, working it out, and it’s like working on a song within a song.
But overall, with solos, remember when in the Eighties everyone could shred like crazy and everybody wanted to be faster and better, like Yngwie, and then it went up to where people stopped caring and they stopped playing solos altogether. People always like taking it to such extreme… So I wanted to bring back some solo spirit. I don’t care if it’s in or out, but Heathen without solos – I can’t imagine that. That just wouldn’t work for us. I go out there and show people that solos can be cool, you know? Not an enemy of metal or whatever.
AO: What are you making of this new generation of young shredders like Trivium, and Black Tide, and Dragonforce? Do you find any similarities between what was driving you when you were growing up and between them?
LA: Absolutely, I’m just glad that there are youngsters out there all of a sudden who care about playing solos again. Image if I grew up and the generation before me didn’t care about the solos. Who would I learn from? I wouldn’t have my Uli Roth, and my Michael Schenker, and my Gary Moore. Maybe I wouldn’t even ever play a solo because it wouldn’t be out there. I kind of admire these new guys because they have nobody to look up to, unless they skip a whole generation of new metal and grunge, all those guys who really didn’t care about solos. They would have to skip the whole decade to go back, otherwise where do you learn to play solos? It’s pretty amazing and I’m just glad that they are out there and they are embracing it again. It could go over the top again to where everybody is going to overdo it, and people and going to turn around and go somewhere else because they get bored of it. That’s the nature of the music business where something gets popular and then it blows up, and everybody turns and goes somewhere else to look for something new.
AO: How do you maintain your technique these days? Does it still require everyday practice?
LA: I wish I had the time to practice every day. I would probably be better. It’s mostly like cramming in before the exams. You wait until the week before and then you try to do it all at once. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. One of the most dangerous things that I’ve learnt is when you try to cram in with the solos, your fingers get so sore that you are unable to do what you want to do. So you kind of have to ease into it. But overall you basically start practicing harder and harder and get your skill back right before you are going in to record the solos. It’s kind of like riding a bicycle – you really don’t forget. If it’s been years, then you have to kind of practice to the level where you were.
AO: Tell me something – do you ever play for yourself? Not for practice, not for anybody else, but purely for your own enjoyment?
LA: Honestly, not any more. When I was younger, then I was, of course.
AO: OK, I have just one more question. Are there any plans to take this album on the road?
LA: We were talking about going out in March next year for two or three weeks to test the waters, so to speak, and we’ll see what happens. We really don’t know to what extent we can go out and promote this album. It’s not like back in the days where most of us would live with our parents and have no rent to pay, and no kids, whereas now some of us have kids and family, so we can’t just stay out and leave your family out on the curb. People are asking to what extent we are going to support this album, and I say that we’ll see. It itself should demand how much support it needs. We are not able to just go out and grind it from the bottom up and work this album, and shove it in everybody’s face. If the album really takes off and we need to go out on the road, then fine, that’s OK, we’ll be able to do that.
Then with my other thing too, with Exodus, there is another album, so there are already two plans to go out next year, and I really don’t know how it’s gonna be. Sometimes maybe we’ll tour together and I’ll have to play two sets which we played in Japan, and it was pretty tough. I might have been able to do that a lot better in my twenties. But doing a whole tour like that – I don’t know… It would be hard, but it’s doable. So I really don’t know how much we are going to tour. We’ll see and play it by ear as we go.
AO: You know, for a lot London fans you are a bit of a mythical figure really. There legends still going around here how you’ve declined a spot in Megadeth, and there is another thing about how you were actually born in Russia. Is there any truth to that?
LA: Yeah, former Russia, which is now Ukraine.
AO: Do you have any memories of the country at all?
LA: Very little because it’s been so long ago, when I was a kid. I remember standing in bread lines with my mom [Laughs], playing hockey with my friends, just kid memories.
AO: Amazing. Thank you for your time, we really appreciate that.
LA: Thank YOU.
AO: Good luck with the album and we’ll hopefully see you in London sometime soon.
“The Evolution of Chaos” is out on January 25, 2010 in Europe and March 31, 2010 in the U.S. on Mascot Records.
by Deb Rao
There seemed to be a whole new generation of musicians taking over the music industry in 2009. Young bands are taking breathing new life into the early genre of punk and metal with their alternative punk pop sound. One band that is catching the attention of the New Moon generation is Orlando band Transmit Now. The band’s first gig was on the Van Warped Tour in 2008. Pretty impressive for newcomers in the business.
Transmit Now teamed up in early 2009 with Jeff Hanson (Paramore, Creed) and his record label, Silent Majority Group (Warner Music/ILG). With the guidance and along with producer Brett Hestla (Framing Hanley, Brand New Day), the band recorded their first full-length record Downtown Merry-Go-Round which is due out in early 2010.
This summer they released an EP Test Test and Transmit Now was on a summer/fall tour with Framing Hanley that went across the nation that helped garner new fans that the band won over at their live show.
Their song “Let’s Go Out Tonight” has been played on the VMAs, MTV’s Making The Band 4, Paris Hilton Is My New BFF and ESPN Sports Center. The band was also the winner of MTV’s “I Want My Music On MTV2 Contest” and you can check out the video at this link if you want to view it … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mT3wCeTkoXU.
Andy Brooks (vocals), Kevin Parrow (guitar), Greg Parrow (drums), Tony Aguirre (guitar) and Lee Gianou (bass) have a lot in store for their fans come 2010 with the release of their debut full length.
Hardrock Haven is always looking for fresh talent and Transmit Now caught our attention for up and coming band to be on the look out for in 2010, as singer Andy Brooks discusses their debut upcoming release Downtown Merry-Go-Round on Silent Majority Group. Let’s us be the first to introduce to you an Exclusive interview with Transmit Now singer Andy Brooks.
HRH: Andy, Tell us about Transmit Now.
ANDY: We are just getting out there and doing some bigger touring now on a bigger scale. Our new record is going to come out in February.
HRH: Transmit Now recently toured with Framing Hanley this summer. How did that go?
ANDY: That was great. Those guys are awesome dudes. It’s good to have a band take you out and understand being the opening act. There were really cool to us. We had a really cool experience in front of their crowd.
HRH: I know you have a new EP out. Test Test. I heard five of those songs are going to be on your upcoming full-length release Downtown Merry Go-Round. Is this correct?
ANDY: I think two of three are going to be on the album. A few of them are not going to be on the official album. “Posterboys” and “Issues” will be on the new album for sure.
Andy: Tell us about your vocal style. Who did you grow up listening to?
ANDY: I was a huge Michael Jackson as a kid. From the pop side of the game. I was a really big fan of the band Silver Chair. They haven’t really done much in The States in a long time. But they were a huge influence on me. I have always been a fan of Incubus. I don’t know if I sound like any of those dudes but that is kind of where I was coming from.
HRH: You know who you remind me of? The singer from Papa Roach.
ANDY: He is a great singer. Thank you very much.
HRH: How long did it take to write your upcoming release, Downtown Merry Go-Round? What was it like working with Brett Hestla?
ANDY: A few of the songs over the time that we had been together just kind of started crafting and kind of became a lot bigger when we started working with Brett. A lot of the tunes were written just before we went into the studio. We would write all week and would submit the songs and see where they ended up going to. A lot of the record just popped out literally before we went into record it. It was kind of a back pace / recording environment. It happened really quickly from start to finish. Aside from songs we had prior to getting a record deal. I think our first single is going to be “Issues” or “Let’s Go Out Tonight.”
HRH: What are your upcoming tour plans?
ANDY: We hope to go out on the road when our record comes out. We are lining some stuff up for January or February. We are hoping to be back out there. We definitely will be. It is just a matter of with whom at this point.
HRH: What is the music scene like in Orlando these days?
ANDY: It is great. Florida has produced a lot of great bands. Florida is such a long ridiculous state. There are so many different scenes here. South Florida is not known for its rock scene. It ‘s seems like Central and North Florida has produced bands such as Red Jumpsuit, Underoath, Dash Board Confessional, New Found Glory just tons of band that have come out of the state. It is a good place.
HRH: How did you get the name Transmit Now?
ANDY: This is a super secret story. But I suppose I’ll divulge it. Our guitar player was messing around with is rig one day. Guitar players have these cool thoughts that they can make cool sounds by manipulating household items. So Tony thought one day somehow he would re-wire a blender from the kitchen. It sounds crazy but it is true. He re-wired the blender from the kitchen and tried to hook it into his guitar rig and he starts picking up radio stations from not anywhere near where we were. It is just crazy how the amp just started to transmit those crazy signals. We were all sitting around laughing hysterically as his amped transmitted these radio stations from God knows where? We decided Transmit Now would be the now for the band. It is crazy but that is how we came up with it.
HRH: How would you describe the sound of the band?
ANDY: We are an alternate band with a pop lean toward it. Some of our tunes are pretty pop and some of our tunes on the full record are a lot more alternate than pop. It is somewhere between both of those genres is pretty much where Transmit Now lays.
HRH: Andy, thank you for checking in with Hardrock Haven.
ANDY: I appreciate it, thanks.
Visit Transmit Now on the web:
by Derric Miller
Jason “Gong” Jones (ex-Drowning Pool) of AM Conspiracy checked in with Hardrock Haven to talk about their upcoming self-titled debut; what the band’s music is all about; being the first release on indie label Burnhill Union Records; why he is finally making the kind of music he’s always wanted to make; upcoming tour plans; and a whole lot more.
AM Conspiracy is a gritty, multi-faceted heavy Rock band that can play technically adept mid-tempo rockers and scorching Metal anthems; there is no one out there who sounds like them. Tune in now to get to know your new favorite band, and pick up their release Jan. 12.
(If the embedded player doesn’t populate, click here to stream the interview in a stand alone player.)
by Derric Miller
Seventh Calling singer/guitarist Steve Handel checked in with Hardrock Haven to talk about their new EP Prelude to Madness; the recording of their upcoming full-length release Epidemic; how MySpace has helped the band spread the word; why you should glom onto Seventh Calling’s sound; and a whole lot more.
If you dig Metal Church, Testament, Iron Maiden, and all of the above, these Las Vegas boys Seventh Calling deserve a listen. Tune in now to get to know the voice behind the band, and pick up Prelude to Madness today.
(If the embedded player doesn’t populate, click here to stream the interview in a stand alone player.)
by Derric Miller
Cauldron bassist/singer Jason Decay checked in with Hardrock Haven in the midst of their Waste the World tour. Decay discussed the differences between touring the UK, Canada and the US; why they covered Black N Blue’s “Chains Around Heaven;” his notoriety for being evicted for kicking down a neighbor’s door who’d only listen to Metallica’s S&M; what their new album Chained to the Nite is all about; and a whole lot more.
If you haven’t heard Cauldron, they are leading the charge for a new wave of Metal that is part Classic, part NWOBHM, part Thrash, and all awesome. Tune in now to get to know the voice fo Cauldron, and pick up Chained to the Nite today!
(If the embedded player doesn’t populate, click here to stream the audio interview.)
November 10, 2009 by Publisher
by Alissa Ordabai
Talking to Hardrock Haven just a few weeks before the release of DevilDriver’s brand new album Pray for Villains, the band’s bassist Jon Miller does not hesitate to call this release their best record up to now. Apart from featuring singer Dez Fafara expanding his vocal technique, it also sees the band coming up with its best song writing to date – focused, sharp and more convincing than their preceding release The Last Kind Words could ever suggest. Metal press now calls it a true creative leap for a band that’s been working relentlessly on perfecting its chops and sharpening its vision ever since its birth in 2002 from the ashes of Coal Chamber.
Two years spent since the last album have certainly seen DevilDriver grow not only in terms of drawing massive crowds at some of the biggest festivals in the world and getting onto the covers of major rock mags, but also widening their creative outlook and going beyond the straight-ahead groove-meets-thrash formula. Welcoming a chance to chat with Jon just a few hours before the band’s set at Graspop Metal Meeting Festival in Belgium back in June, I start with asking him the first logical question that comes to mind in a backstage area of a summer festival.
Hardrock Haven: Do you prefer to play indoors or outdoors?
Jon Miller: They are both cool. It’s cool to do big open-air festivals. We just did Download, and it was the biggest crowd we’ve ever played for. It was like 70-75 thousand. So that was cool. But last night we played in Germany and it was a small 500-seater which we have sold out, and it was a sweat-box, and the kids were really close to us and that’s cool too. I can’t say I prefer one over the other.
HRH: OK, let me ask you this – do you have a favourite country to play in?
JM: I really like the Netherlands. [Smiles].
HRH: Do you?
JM: I like being in the Netherlands. I like Australia a lot. The UK is very receptive to DevilDriver. We just got the cover of Metal Hammer and that’s out first cover we’ve ever got. They’ve just done a review of our new record, gave us 9 out of 10 and the cover. We got the main stage at Download, so I have to say the UK are treating us the best.
HRH: Are you showcasing much from the new album during this tour?
JM: Today we are just playing one song. The album is not even out yet.
HRH: It leaked, didn’t it?
JM: Yeah, it leaked on YouTube and a couple of other sites, but then it got taken off YouTube. There is this woman in the United States who was sharing something like 24 downloaded files and she just got a 1.9 million dollar fine. So I think that’s why it went up and went down so quickly. I think people are scared right now to be sharing files. The album did leak, but all the responses couldn’t have been better.
HRH: What is your take on what’s happening in the music industry right now?
JM: It’s shitty. I think if this was 10 years ago, I’d have a lot more money in my pocket for what I’m doing.
HRH: And doing less touring probably?
JM: We like to tour, actually. But sometimes bands have to tour to make their money. That’s the only way of getting income. You are not going to see a penny from the records. But things are much different now than they were 10 years ago. That means you have to work harder. Bands just have to adapt to the technology, and the internet, and downloading. I can sit here and cry about it, but the fact of the matter is that the world is changing. But yeah, things are worse for bands.
HRH: What’s your take on the other side of the coin – things like MySpace where fans get to hear about a band through these new media?
JM: It’s great. It’s a great way to expose your band and get your music out there. So it’s kind of a Catch-22.
HRH: Tell me about the imagery on the cover of your new record. This owl with horns – is this native American imagery or something else?
JM: It’s used in a lot of different cultures. The owl is like a watcher. We’ve always used this cross…
HRH: … “of confusion”.
JM: Yeah, “the Cross of Confusion”, and this is our biggest record, so we kind of wanted to have this ominous, simple thing. You know, kind of like a Danzig album where there is a skull with horns? Something just very simple and recognizable. When you see that, you know it’s Danzig, it doesn’t have to say it’s Danzig. We wanted for people to be able to identify DevilDriver with something beyond the Cross of Confusion.
HRH: Musically are you doing anything differently?
JM: Yeah, Dez’s singing! There are clean vocal tracks mixed in with his… It’s still heavy as fuck, but Dez [Fafara, singer] is really branching out and I think his vocals are a little more interesting. It’s not just growling and screaming all the time.
HRH: How does your songwriting work – do you all work on stuff together or would you sometimes work on stuff separately and then bring it to the table?
JM: Everyone in the band plays guitar and writes songs on guitar. And after we write separately, we all meet in Los Angeles at Mike’s house. Mike [Spreitzer, guitarist] has a recording studio. And we jam over the whole album exactly the way we think it’s gonna be. We basically make the album twice. We make it at Mike’s house and then we make a carbon copy of it in the studio with the producer. So that way all the things are already worked out and we can get in and out of the studio as quickly as possible instead of wasting time and money going into the studio with songs that are half-written. So we work hard when we are not touring.
HRH: Does it take you long to go from the initial snippet of an idea to the finished harmony and melody?
JM: Sometimes. Sometimes it’s very quick and things just flow very naturally and beautifully. But sometimes you can be stuck with a song for months, and you are like: “Is this going to make the album? I don’t really like it.” So we’d give it to Dez and sometimes it turns out to be one of the better songs, once we give it to Dez and he puts vocals on it. There is a song on the new record called “Forgiveness is a Six Gun.” I think it’s one of the best songs on the record, but it almost didn’t make it on the record. Or the other song called “It’s in the Cards.” That song we were very unsure about but I think it’s one of the best songs on the record. So you never know. Because ultimately there has to be vocals. A song can be great musically, but if the vocals suck …
HRH: How long does it usually take you to take a step back and start listening to a new album objectively?
JM: I’d say once we get the final mix of your record, we step away from it for a couple of months. Then we’ll come back to it and reflect. I think enough time has elapsed for me to start looking objectively on this record and I think it’s our best record.
HRH: Do you ever listen back to a song you wrote or an instrumental part you contributed to and go: “Wow, I didn’t know there was this aspect to my character!” Does your own music ever surprise you?
JM: Maybe if I smoke a joint or something… I don’t really smoke weed that much, but once in a while I’d smoke with Dez (Dez smokes weed) and we’d listen to an album and go: “Wow, that’s pretty sick!” [Laughs].
HRH: Gives you whole new perspective, doesn’t it? [Laughs].
JM: Yeah, but everyone is so into all the riffs and what’s happening, it really doesn’t surprise us.
HRH: There is also a special edition of the new album which includes a DVD. Is this backstage footage?
JM: The special edition of Pray for Villains is going to have the two B-sides that didn’t make the album, one B-side from The Last Kind Words which was our 3rd album, and then the Iron Maiden cover “Wasted Years.” And it’s also going to have a 45-minute DVD about making of the album in Hollywood.
HRH: Who were your heroes when you were growing up?
JM: Steve Harris, Cliff Burton, Alex Webster.
HRH: I have one last question and it’s a bit goofy, I hope you don’t mind. If you could have an answer to any question in the universe, what would you ask?
JM: Are dolphins really angels sent to earth? [Laughs].
November 7, 2009 by Managing Editor
by Derric Miller
Hardrock Haven: Dennis, thanks for taking the time to chat with Hardrock Haven. To start with, for our readers who aren’t familiar with your music, can you give us a little insight into who you are as a musician, what other bands you’ve been in, and what the music you write and record is all about?
Develin: I’m born and raised in northwest part of Copenhagen, in Denmark (and still live there). I’ve been in a lot of hard rock bands (Pure Sex-Nation XXX-Mane Atraction and Sticky Sweet in the ‘90s. In 1996 Sticky Sweet made a demo and got the opportunity to record a full album in 1997(CAN´T STAY INNOCENT) and we went to the States in 1998 and toured that album on and off for a year.
In 1999 I went home again and recorded my first solo album PURE INNOCENSE on the small label Nordic Metal.
2002 solo album: VEANGEANCE IS MINE (Perris records)
2005 my band CLUB HELL formed and we played a lot of gigs in Europe.
2006 recorded a 7-song EP.
2008 solo album LOVE IS FOR THE OTHER GUYS.
My songwriting has always been about: Girls-fights-Riding bikes-life in the city and all the good things in life. In other words ,live your life the way you want! Politically incorrect? Absolutely! Primitive? You bet! It is what I call “hairy gorilla music” and rock and roll is supposed to be primitive-dirty and tongue in cheek. What do you think Little Richard meant when he sang “Good Golly Miss Molly”?! SEX!! If you wanna “save the world” get an REM album but if you wanna take your girlfriend home and enjoy, get a DENNIS DEVELIN record.
HRH: You have just released a “Best Of” compilation called Ten Years, an album consisting of your favorite tracks from your three prior solo albums. Tell us about how you went about choosing the songs for the release, and where can fans pick this up?
Develin: My new best of album TEN YEARS is simply me celebrating 10 years, 1999-2009 of my favorite solo songs. I’m talking to a couple of labels so I hope it will come out next year. But I sell it on my site WWW.DEVELIN.DK
HRH: The album begins with a brand new song, “Birds of Fire,” one of the heaviest songs I’ve heard you record. I know you will be going to work on a new studio effort soon; is this a newer, harder direction for you? Will the new stuff shred like “Birds of Fire?”
Develin: Right now I’m working hard in Sound Box studio with Jonas Roxx on my next album with the title A BACKSEAT FIGHTER and it will be what I do best: Rock Hard!! All 10 songs written by myself and it will be the most heavy sounding record I have done but still melodic as hell. More in the style of “Birds Of Fire” but with more tongue in cheek lyrics. Jonas Roxx is gonna produce it and Tommy Hansen will mix. So my hope is it will come out summer 2010.
HRH: The songs were remastered by Jonas Roxx, who also plays guitar and co-writes many of the songs on Ten Years. Is he a permanent member of your band now, and are you writing and recording with him on the new album?
Develin: Ten Years has been remarstered by Jonas Roxx and all the old songs has really benefitted for it! More power, more depth and more clear sound. Jonas Roxx and I have played together since the early ‘90s in Sticky Sweet and later in Macho rockers Club Hell and he is a great guitar player and friend.
HRH: “You Can’t Deny” is radio-friendly and melodic as hell, and sounds like a hit song. Of course, the lyrics are something most men are not brave enough to say, with lines like: “So I told her, I wouldn’t hold her, won’t be the one she grows old with.” When you write this kind of songs, like “Love is For the Other Guy,” is this a personal belief, something you live, or just, a story in within the song?
Develin: About your question on my lyrics in songs like YOU CAN´T DENY and LOVE IS FOR THE OTHER GUYS, is it my belief or just a storyline, my answer is: both. I love girls but the idea of “To death do us part” is just not for me. Don´t get me wrong, be honest to women from the start and don’t be an asshole. Still my song lyrics are my “belief” but just 40 times more and tongue in cheek.
HRH: Probably your biggest hit song is one of your happiest songs, “Ladies of the Eighties.” Just an ode to everything carnal and crazy about the 1980s, a great hit song. Your lyrics are hilarious, with lines like “Today we got the internet, but we’re only touching ourselves.” Is this the song that you are best known for, the one that started making a name for you?
Develin: “Ladies Of The Eighties” is probably my signature song; people just love that song and I do to. It is what I’m all about and sometimes I think I never gonna top it! (But just sometimes :-) )
HRH: We get back to this recurring theme on “Love is For the Other Guys,” when you sing, “So if you wanna spend more than one night, then this ain’t your ride.” I gotta ask you … are you eventually going to run out of women?
Develin: No, I´ll never run out of women because they like the “Bad Boys” you know ;-)
HRH: The 1999 song “Cynthia” sounds a lot like a ballad, but if anyone pays attention to the lyrics, it’s not a love song by any means. “So you will pay the highest price, if that’s the only way to make you mine.” It’s basically a stalker, ex-boyfriend song. Did you get any grief or backlash from fans or media when this song first came out?
Develin: “Cynthia” is about an ex-girlfriend, a long time ago and she wasn´t happy about the lyrics but it was how I felt at the time. I always try to give my ballads a lyrical twist so it´s not what it seems like at first.
HRH: You started Ten Years to highlight the new song “Birds of Fire.” Why’d you choose to end the CD with “Your Stuff’s Too Good?”
Develin: Why “Your Stuff’s Too Good” is last? Because I wanted to start with a new song from 2009 and finish with a song from 1999.TEN YEARS!!
HRH: Is there anything I left out that you’d like to leave with our Hardrock Haven faithful?
Develin: I’m gonna hit the road with my pals in CLUB HELL next week in Scandinavia and it’s gonna be a blast. At last I would like to say to all the readers on Hardrock Haven: Get your ass off the computer and go out in the real world and raise some hell!
October 12, 2009 by Managing Editor
by Alissa Ordabai
Currently touring England with his brand new album Peace Sign, Richie Kotzen played his first UK show at London’s Underworld club last Thursday. This is where Hardrock Haven caught up with him for comments on the new record as well as some illuminating observations on the nature of his craft and musicianship in general.
Backstage where Kotzen and I sit down for a chat, the atmosphere is austere. The Underworld’s dressing room looks stark and workman-like, for once devoid of its usual clutter of snacks, drinks, make-up and spare wardrobe. This rigour of purpose is perfectly mirrored by the sharply astute stance Kotzen assumes as an interviewee, his conversation style at times resembling the way he approaches guitar playing. Being able to sum up any idea in just a few succinct phrases, he can also expand on any offered theme further, spurred on by both intuition and logic, in the end presenting a unique insight into what being a real musician is all about.
“To me, the difference between being a solo artist and being in a band is like between being at home and staying in a hotel,” Kotzen states before developing the idea some more. “Sometimes the hotel is nice, they have a swimming pool there, but you know what, I have the swimming pool at home too and there is nothing like home. The normal situation for me is what I am doing here. Writing my songs, singing and playing. That’s what I’m happy with. The notion of the band thing has been fun, in my experience, for a period of time. But then it became where I went, ‘OK, I gotta go home now.’ And then I’d go back to making my own records. That’s what I like doing, that’s what I am.”
The new album, of course, supports this view perfectly. A finely wrought, nuanced record, it is all about Kotzen’s well-honed tunecraft, at the same time managing to make space for serious guitar extrapolations as well as to delve deeper for some true emotional depth. It continues in the vein of Kotzen’s trademark melting pot of the late 60s – early 70s styles ranging from blues-rock to funk: on the one hand – deeply routed in the tradition, and on the other – shaping those genres through the prism of his own vision.
This vision, in fact, is responsible for the album’s well-defined distinct atmosphere that only Kotzen is able to create. Peering through the perfectly conceived musical forms and the well-oiled, sleek manipulations of traditional compositional elements, on Peace Sign there is still that distinct sense of longing, at once poetic and disquieting, that deeply emotional undercurrent which has always been responsible for Kotzen’s finest moments – both in his guitar work and his singing.
Kotzen’s trademark combination of virtuosic guitar leads and a voice which can go from trebly quaver to earthy rasp makes tracks like “My Messiah” hit the jackpot, apart, of course, from the fact that they are all hooked to great melodies. After all, how can you have great guitar solos without great songs?
In regards to style and genre, Peace Sign does not trail too off far from the albums Kotzen began making ever since the Mother Heads Family Reunion which he to this day calls his first real record on which he finally found his voice. But in contrast to his previous 2007 studio album, Go Faster, the new album digs deeper. On standouts “Paying Dues” and “Your Entertainer” the effortless floatation of his guitar parts almost touches the ground he covered on Stanley Clarke’s 1999 album Vertu and shows that there has always been way more to Kotzen than perfect chops and polished tunecraft.
Wondering how he himself sees his most recent opus, I start by asking him about the record and the way in which he sees it now when it has finally gone on sale.
Hardrock Haven: Do you think enough time has passed since you have finished working on your new record for you to step back and take an objective view on it, or are you still very much attached to it?
Richie Kotzen: I think that it’s still fresh in my head and unfamiliar in some ways. It’s unfamiliar in that it’s so new. And I’m not the one to listen to stuff over and over. In having to learn the songs – going back and remembering what I did and stuff – it’s still very fresh that way.
HRH: Are you happy with the way the record has turned out?
RK: Yeah, I am. It’s interesting because I’m one of these people who always thinks that the latest thing I did is the most exciting and the best. Which I think is a good sign because it means that I’m current. I don’t really sit back and reminisce on old records. I’m always excited about the latest thing. When I did “Into the Black” I thought, “That’s the best record I’ve ever made,” and now with “Peace Sign” I’m thinking, “It’s the best record I ever did”, so I think as long as I feel excited like that, then I know I’m doing the right thing.
HRH: It seems to me there was also a Woodstock vibe to that record…
RK: Which one?
HRH: The first one, the 1969 one. Seems to me tracks like “Long Way from Home” have that vibe that is seeped in that atmosphere. Is that your way of commemorating the 40th anniversary of the event or is that vibe with you more or less permanently?
RK: I understand the connection you are making and I like that, I agree, it makes sense. But even in 1994 I did a record called “Mother Heads Family Reunion”…
HRH: Your fourth album, yes.
RK: And that was really in a lot of ways, even though, like you say, it was my fourth release, it was my first record in a lot of ways because I finally got comfortable with myself. My first record was an instrumental record, I was 18, on the next one I started singing… By the time I did that, I was 24, I’ve been living on my own for several years, had a lot of different experiences happening, and I think that record was the beginning for me. And there is a common thread between that record and every other record I’ve done which has that sound you are talking about. It comes from the fact that I grew up listening to those kinds of artists, the kind of Woodstock-era artists like Hendrix and Janis Joplin, and the Rolling Stones. My mother had all those records, saw those bands when then all came to America when they were young, when they were fresh and exciting. So growing up, there were all those records playing in the house. And on the flipside, my dad was into soul music, so he had the Ottis Redding and those kinds of records would be played. So in my influences there was a balance between that era of rock’n’roll and also that soul music that I still love to this day.
HRH: And of course you went on the road with the Rolling Stones, didn’t you? Was there any particular musical experience while being on the road with them that stood out, something you perhaps did not expect?
RK: It was very interesting. I didn’t tell anybody I was doing it until after I played the first show. I was so nervous something would happen that I wouldn’t do it. Even when I was flying to Japan I thought that anything could go wrong, so I’d better keep my mouth shut. After I played the first show, then I wrote in my internet blog – I just opened for the Rolling Stones in Japan. I did the whole Japanese tour. We did three weeks, five shows. It was the easiest set of gigs I ever did in the sense that sound-check and everything else was perfect. It was like a machine. I walk in – everything is there, they treated me wonderful, their crew… There were a lot of guys in the crew that I was introduced to years earlier, so I had some familiar faces that immediately made me feel comfortable and at ease. And, of course, when the Stones played, there was nothing like it. And the last show I sat behind the guitar amp of Keith Richards and it was like the sound of the universe for me – hearing his guitar played and literally the amp was right there – I could touch it. Open-back Fender cabinet, sounded incredible. And it was a great experience. I got to meet the guys afterwards and they are all really warm guys, it was a great time.
HRH: Did you challenge yourself technically on this record? Were there any guitar parts that you had to practice several times or perhaps go over again and again before you actually went into the studio to record them?
RK: Well, I’ll tell you what happens to me in my style of playing. Usually the practising comes afterwards. In other words, when I’m in the studio, I go for stuff, right? So I might go for a lick – I know what I’m hearing in my head and play it. If I don’t execute it perfectly, in the studio you have an option to go back and try it again. So I do that, just like everybody else does it. But where I’m a little different is that I don’t work out stuff ahead of time – I create it on the spot. Because I like the idea of spontaneity and reacting on the spot, and being inspired, that’s the part of being inspired. Once I do that, then I gotta go back and listen, and go, “What the hell did I play there?” And oftentimes I find myself sitting back and go, “Wow, how did I do that? Oh, I remember how that is!” Then I have to practise it to get it under my fingers. So it almost comes in a backwards way. Going back and re-learning stuff and practising after I’ve done it.
HRH: How do you maintain your technique? Does it require everyday practice?
RK: No. No, because I don’t think in terms of technique. I’m not one of those players who thinks in terms of that. I think in terms of notes and melodies and musical terms. So what happens is, when I hear something in my head that I can’t make my fingers do, that’s when I sit down and figure it: “I can hear it, so how do I play it?” That’s when that comes into play. What I’ve noticed, because I’ve been playing the guitar since I was 7, and I’m 39 now – I’ve been playing for a long time – it’s not so much about practising as it is about time spent with the instrument in my hands. And what that means is that I can go for 3 days without playing and when I pick up the guitar, if I play it for 2 hours straight, I get into a mode where I can play pretty much what the hell I want. You know, it’s like riding a bike. It’s not like I’m going to sit down and relearn it, I just have to get re-acclimated. I was never much of a practice guy, I was more of a player. I just sit and play stuff and go over things, and if I was in trouble and there was something I couldn’t do, I’d play it repetitively till I could do it. But I never sat down and went, “OK, it’s practice time.” Because I never wanted to do that. It’s boring to me. I don’t wanna practice, I wanna play.
HRH: Do you think the nature of musicianship, as applicable to your instrument, has changed in any fundamental way since the time when you were growing up? Not in terms of technology or distribution, but in terms of pure craft, in terms of being a rock guitarist?
RK: I do. There was the time where musicians, like my generation of guys, we would sit down with a record and listen to it and try to figure out what people where playing. And develop our ears. And the other thing – if you got lucky, you’d buy a new guitar magazine that would have a guitar transcription in there that would be close, so you could see it as well. Maybe later on they started with instruction videos. But the point is – you had to sit and learn the instrument. You had to learn how to play. Nowadays it seems like you don’t have to do that as much and you can still make music. So what you have now is a situation where people who aren’t by nature music-makers are in a position where they can make music. Through technology. Through an the ability to sample something that was played many years ago perfectly and now incorporate that into something else, and they can talk over it, and they can yell over it, or whatever they do, but suddenly it becomes a creative thing. And it’s kind of interesting because you get this other perspective of people who aren’t necessarily musicians by nature, but they are using that as a creative outlet. I think that’s OK. The only downside is that I find there aren’t as many musicians like the kind of people that I play with in my band. There not so many young people around like that around. When I was a kid and I went to school, the guys that were into music where players. Now you get guys that are into music that are DJs and computer guys that are pulling stuff together. Some guys who are making records and making a lot of money – they can’t even play the drums. They are programming them and they are making beats, but they can’t play a beat. It’s kind of interesting, it’s kind of strange. But in a way, like I said, it’s good, it gives a different perspective. Where it will become bad is if we’ll run out of real guys to play the beats. And hopefully that doesn’t happen. I hope that doesn’t happen. I don’t think that’s gonna happen because guys still come up and there are young musicians who still play. But there is not as many.
HRH: Would you say that requirements are more lax these days as applicable to guitar players?
RK: The requirements are more lax?
HRH: Or, on the contrary, the requirements are tougher these days?
RK: What do you mean “lax”?
HRH: When you were growing up, for your generation – what a lot people are calling the post-Van Halen generation, people like Malmsteen and Vai – there was a necessary requirement to…
RK: To be able to play?
HRH: …to be able to play like a virtuoso. Do you think it still stands to this day? Do you think that requirement is still there?
RK: I don’t think that requirement was EVER there. I think there was a TREND. And I don’t think all those guys are virtuosos. The guys you’ve named are. But not all the guys who are thrown together in that basket are really what you call virtuosos. In other words, there was a movement in ROCK guitar to play really wild impossible licks, OK? Just because you can play those licks doesn’t mean you are a virtuoso in music or on your instrument, it means you can do that one thing. To me it’s a much broader scope. Stanley Clarke is a virtuoso. I played with him. And I see why from working with him, I understand the difference. Some of the other guys who excel at a certain thing which is valuable and comes from having put a lot of work in, which is important… But the thing about music, it’s not really relevant. You don’t need to be a virtuoso to touch people. The virtuoso musician could play something that could totally go over someone’s head – at least the guy you are calling a virtuoso – and the guy who only knows 5 or 6 chords can write a song that will move you way more. So I don’t know if any of that really means anything. The only thing that matters is what your objective is and what you are trying to create. So if you want to play a Paganini, you gonna have to have that kind of chops. You’re gonna spend that time to develop some chops. If you wanna play Bruce Springsteen’s songs, it’s a whole different avenue, but it’s a equally valuable development – you gonna have to learn how to take your life’s experiences and translate that into a simple way with lyrics that are heartfelt and still interesting. It’s an equally important talent, just a different focus. And to me music has always been something where there is a connection. It’s not like sports. It’s not like, “I’m gonna beat you at sports.” Music isn’t like that. I’m not gonna beat you at the guitar, I’m not gonna play faster than you. It’s about creating something and people either connect with it or not. And I think in that period of those names of people that vision kind of got lost. And for a minute guitar playing was like sports with all those guys trying to outplay each other and play faster and crazier. It was a fad, and like all fads, it goes away. And there is a couple of guys who are left who are actually making music and they are still around playing. Long-winded answer.
HRH: Yes… But talking about the nature of that fad – lots of young guys trying to be virtuosos – do you think it’s ultimately about domination? Where nothing is left that cannot be absorbed into your technique and that for them that became the nature of artistic fulfilment?
RK: No, because I don’t think a lot of these players were doing that. I think a lot of these players where doing the same thing over and over again. It’s just different guys doing it in a different way. There is not one of those guys that does what you are saying. In other words, each guy has their own style and their won thing which is really great, but there isn’t one guy who can play any type of guitar playing – any type of flamenco guitar playing, and then the blues shit really well, and then play the classical shit really well, and then the classical shit really well, and then the country stuff. It doesn’t exist. And if it does, then that guy can play all that stuff pretty good, but he’s not gonna play the flamenco stuff like the guy who grew up in South America who only ever played flamenco. It’s not gonna happen, it’s a cultural thing. It’s my opinion, but I haven’t seen it. The guy who does the great rock’n’roll guitar playing lives the rock’n’roll lifestyle. He wasn’t studying doing the jazz thing. He was on the streets playing dirty grungy rock’n’roll, living the lifestyle. The same way the guy that plays the jazz is coming up in the jazz circuit playing with horn players. You get guys that kind of play at different stuff, but ultimately people find comfort in a style and a sound and become to identify with it and that’s why you get these kind of artists who say, “This sounds like Jimi Hendrix.” Jimi Hendrix couldn’t play every style of music, he played Jimi Hendrix music, and that’s what he got to identify with. I’m not comparing myself with anybody, but I play my music. I play the guitar the way I play it which is a collection of my influences and then my perspective on it, so I’m at my best when I’m doing what Richie Kotzen does, which is what I’m doing tonight. That’s me at my best. Whatever that is, whatever you call it – rock, whatever it is, blues, metal, I don’t care what you call it. That’s kind of my take on that.
HRH: How do you manage on the one hand your amazing chops and at the same time being a composer and a songwriter?
RK: Well, it’s time, that’s what it is – it’s time. In other words, when I was 15, I wasn’t a very good composer, I wasn’t a very prolific composer, it was new to me, so like with anything, like with riding a bike, you have to do it enough to learn the craft. So during my teenage years I was focusing on playing the guitar and learning to play stuff that I heard other people do, and it was difficult back then. It wasn’t perceived by me as difficult because everyone else was doing it. I mean Greg Howe, Paul Gilbert, Jason Becker, all those guys were putting their records out post-Van Halen, so I was listening to that, thinking, “OK, those guys are doing it, that’s what guys like me are playing like,” so I started getting into it. So in that early time, I would say at 15, 16, 17, 18 in that period I was focusing on the guitar. I wasn’t singing, I wasn’t really writing songs, just playing the guitar. Constantly. So in those years I think is where I developed all the physicality of moving my hands. And then, I after I made my first record, I suddenly realised, “Well, OK, it’s kind of boring now. I did this, but I don’t want to keep doing the same thing.” And I thought, “What made me want to do this in the first place? It is music. What kind of music that I like? I like the Stones, I like the Beatles, I like Jimi Hendrix, I like Janis Joplin.” I started listening to their records and I started writing songs. I started writing songs that were similar to the artists that inspired me. On my second record I was singing. And then from there it’s a natural evolution, so you are looking at something that started at 18 when I made my first record, now I’m 38. It’s 20 years of consistently making records under my own name. Now I am who I am. I now have my own style, but it took 20 years to get there. Some people get there like that. (Snaps his fingers). I’m a lot slower. (Smiles).
HRH: Are you happier being a solo artist as opposed to being in a band scenario? Do you feel freer, you feel less restricted?
RK: Absolutely. To me, the difference between being a solo artist and being in a band is like between being at home and staying in a hotel. Sometimes the hotel is nice, they have a swimming pool there, and they have all that other stuff, but you know what, I have the swimming pool at home too and there is nothing like home. So I look at it like that. The normal situation for me is what I am doing here. Writing my songs, singing and playing. I don’t like dividing that. I don’t like just playing the guitar and don’t like just singing. I like it together as a circle. That’s what I’m happy with. And I like playing with guys who can bring life to my music and bring it to life on stage, and that’s what I’m doing with these guys here. But the notion of the band thing… It’s been fun, in my experience, for a period of time. In the 3 situations, as I’ve only really been in 3 bands publicly, it became where I went, “OK, I gotta go home now.” Do you know what I mean? And then I’d go back to making my own records. That’s what I like doing, that’s what I am.
HRH: Of all rock trios, the Jimi Hendrix Experience excluding, which one do you think has inspired you the most?
RK: I don’t know, it’s hard to say. I like Eric Clapton, I like Cream. I never really sat around and listened to too many Cream records, but I’m hearing stuff on the radio and it sounds great. I just like the trio format. It’s comfortable for me, there’s a lot of freedom in it. And I did tour with an organ player, but we didn’t tour, we did gigs in LA, but he was part of the group. And now it’s really fun too because we connected. But as a trio format is something that just makes a lot of sense. If I couldn’t sing, we’d be a four-piece, we’d have a lead singer. That’s the thing about trios and not a trio. If you get a band like the Who – he’s singing, or Led Zeppelin – he’s the singer, but if the other guys sang like that, he’d be gone, and they’d be a trio. So a trio format is a kind of like a standard rock thing: guitar, bass, and drums. And somebody singing – whether it’s one of the three or an extra dude. So it’s the same format to me.
HRH: I have one last question and it’s a bit goofy, I hope you don’t mind.
RK: OK, we’ll see.
HRH: If you were granted an answer to any question in the universe, what would you ask?
RK: I don’t have any questions, I think I have all the answers. I have every answer you can possibly imagine. (Smiles).
HRH: Steve Vai said exactly the same thing to me.
RK: Did he?
HRH: The only two musicians who have given me this same answer to this question are you and Steve Vai.
RK: Well, I’m number two. The thing that is funny about it is that I am not a person… I don’t want to go on a philosophical rant, but I get a feeling that I am here in this situation and that’s what my focus is always on. So I guess, in a weird way, there aren’t really any answers. I really think that if people spend a lot of time hung up on, “Why didn’t I make it? Why am I short? Why am I too tall? Why am I this, and why am I that?” and they don’t live their lives, you are what you are, make the best of it and do something functional with it, enjoy your time here. You really don’t know where you’re going. Everybody is going to the same place. When you’re dead, you’re dead. But I don’t really sit around asking questions, “Why this, why that?” I’m happy to live my life and be in the moment and enjoy myself. That’s really the way I look at it.
September 22, 2009 by Managing Editor
by Derric Miller
Charlie Wayne (Bulletboys, Hawk, Keel & Wayne, IronHorse, etc.), lead singer/guitarist for the new band Platinum Rose, checked in with Hardrock Haven to talk about his new band; their upcoming release House of Pain; TV appearances; how his past musical experience influence Platinum Rose; his new book, Enchanted Life; and a whole lot more.
Charlie Wayne, besides being a great singer and guitarist, is first and foremost a stellar songwriter. Whether penning classic Heavy Metal burners or contemporary acoustic ballads, he doesn’t miss. Tune in now to get to know Wayne and Platinum Rose, and get ready to pick up their new CD in October.
(If the embedded player doesn’t populate, click here to stream the interview in a stand alone player.)
September 19, 2009 by Managing Editor
by Alissa Ordabai
In our age of mass obsession with celebrity, status and fame, it is always rare and uplifting to speak to musicians who place their craft and their art above any current superficial fixations. Trivium’s drummer Travis Smith turns out to be exactly one of those people, as he and I sit down to talk backstage at Graspop Metal Meeting – an annual heavy music festival taking place every year in the Belgian town of Dessel. Smith, more or less ignoring the mayhem and the hoopla that go with being on a world tour and playing one of Europe’s biggest summer festivals, tells me about things that really take priority in his life – his instrument, his craft, his love for making music and for performing live.
If anything goes to backup Smith’s earnest stance, it is Trivium’s space-rocking scorcher of a set on the main stage of GMM which took place just a couple of hours before our chat. The band has proven to be the most energetic of all acts who played that day, poignantly precise and clear in their message – that metal today is more alive than ever, thriving on integrating new influences, now methods, and new genres into its formula.
The amount of sheer physical energy that Trivium put into their shows is staggering, but it all serves a bigger purpose than just brilliant showmanship and visual panache. Live, Trivium are able not only to perfectly reproduce the brilliant chops that shines on their records, but also to add that special magic quality to their material which makes it all stand out so prominently, so, if you like, three-dimensionally – the crystal-clear harmonies, the gripping melodies, and the sheer drama of their songs which are able to go from gigantic riffs set over the wall-of-fire rhythm section to sprawling, instantly memorable melodies. And with so many influences gathered from different eras, sources and styles, all this makes Trivium an incredibly exciting, multi-layered band to explore and to get into.
As it is with any growing and developing band, Trivium are perhaps fun to talk to about rockstar lifestyle and delights that go with it, but it turns out that while being a perfect gentleman and an open, approachable person, Smith is still happiest when talking about his craft and his instrument as opposed to the exterior aspects of fame.
And toward the end of our interview, Travis Smith of Trivium proves once again the fact that he belongs to the rare breed of musicians who make you wish you too could do what they do – not because of the supposed lifestyle that goes with being a rock star, but because of the sheer joy they get out of their instrument. The sheer thrill of a creative act, the joy of making music, of being in love with what you do – all this Smith makes sound so fresh and so genuine that for a split second I envy him, fascinated by this ability to deeply enjoy what he does and being able to do it for a living.
Alissa Ordabai: How are you enjoying Graspop so far?
Travis Smith: I’m having a great time. We had a great set. I got to watch a little bit of Chickenfoot. That’s why, actually, I’m a little late because I wanted to see a little bit of Chickenfoot.
AO: I managed to catch the first two songs. One and a half.
TS: That’s what I saw too, one and a half, yeah!
AO: What did you think?
TS: Chad is a great, great drummer. He’s a heavy hitter and I love heavy hitters. His style is that really cool unique rock style that hard to… There’s something to be said about “less is more” and sometimes it’s hard to do less. I think that’s a talent, a very good talent because sometimes in my world I have a tendency of doing a little too much. But you gotta pull yourself back. He is one of those great, really good rock groove drummers, and I love that kind of style.
AO: I watched your set, which was amazing, and thought that you and Lamb of God were the best acts of the day…
TS: Oh, thank you!
AO: Forgive my ignorance, but I’ve noticed that one cymbal on your drum kit had those round holes in it. Could you tell me a bit more about it?
TS: It’s called an “Ozone”. Sabian makes it. It’s a really unique cymbal. It’s in between the sound of a China, like a really thin China and a really thin Crash. If they had a baby, that’s what they would have. It looks cool, it’s got a unique sound and I like using it on my downbeats, coming down on accents, stuff like that. It’s a cool accent cymbal.
AO: You haven’t invented it, have you?
AO: I’ve seen you having spikes in your drum shells one time too, is this something that you came up with yourself?
TS: Yeah, that was an idea I had when I was first going with DDrum. They brought me into their factory because they are in Tampa, FL, and we are just an hour and a half in Orlando, FL, so they invited me down to come check out the factory, that kind of stuff. So I was walking through the factory looking at all the drums and all that stuff, and I told them about the idea that I had about a drum kit, that I wanted all those spikes and everything to be crazy and warrior-looking. About a month later I got a phone call saying, “Hey, we have the kit that you were dreaming of”, and I said, “Really?!” and they said, “Yeah, come on down and check it out!” So I went down and I was like, “Holy shit, it came to life, here it is!” It was a really cool kit, that kit is definitely the most talked-about kit I ever played and I still rehearse on it to this day, I still play on it.
AO: What elements, do you think, need to coincide for a good live show to happen?
TS: You know, it’s just being in the right headspace. Getting into the right headspace and just relaxing and having a good time. Because music is about having fun. Before you have a career you just go out and play music to have a good time. And you gotta remember that and keep that, even though you have to get up there and perform, you still personally have to have a good time. It’s keeping that, having fun playing. You play a song five million times but it’s still having fun with that song and not going, “I’ve played it five million times, I really don’t want to play it again.” You just get up there and you see the crowd reaction, and you know that you’re making an impact and you know that your song has affected people, and that makes it all worthwhile, and that alone makes it a good time right there.
AO: When you were growing up, were you ever dreaming of or contemplating ever becoming famous?
TS: It was, basically, my second dream in life as a little kid. I, basically, wanted to play drums since I was five years old. That’s all I wanted to do – play drums. The dream before that was to be a truck driver! And I’m kind of glad I didn’t go down the truck driver route because now we are touring on busses all the time, it’s a hard job! (Laughs). It’s long hours. So I’m glad I went the drummer route. It’s easier. (Laughs).
AO: When you did become a rock star was there anything you never thought went with it all? Any big surprises, any moments when you thought, “Wow, I never thought it would be like this!”
TS: Probably just meeting my heroes is by far the coolest thing about it all. Meeting the guys that I grew up listening to and that I’m a superfan of even today. Like Nicko McBrain, Lars Ulrich, Chad Smith, the list just goes on. People that we have done our share of touring with and befriending… It’s really cool. That part of it, I think, is the most rewarding, to get to hang out with those people.
AO: Are they nice to you when you tour with them?
TS: Oh yeah, yeah! Everyone is being really supportive of our band and everyone’s really cool. It’s the most rewarding part – to get to go out with your heroes. There’s no amount of money that you could pay for that. That’s special to me and you can’t put a price on that kind of stuff.
AO: Especially being on an equal footing with them as opposed of being just a fan.
TS: Well, I don’t know, I’m a really humble guy. I don’t really consider myself a rock star now, so I’m a guy who gets out there and plays drums.
AO: Do you get anything in terms of musical knowledge from touring with big acts like Iron Maiden or Metallica?
TS: Oh yeah, yeah, you pick up things from watching their live shows, the different techniques that they use for playing, you pick up little things like that. You go out and watch them every day, so… Sometimes you get production ideas or whatever. You look at it in its entirety, the whole show. You always learn something from every band you tour with.
AO: Do you write on the road?
TS: Yeah, we all kind of… I have my pads set up in my dressing room and I play on them every day. We come up with different ideas that we can apply to different records and stuff like that.
AO: Are you currently working on material for the next album?
TS: Yeah, we are already thinking about that. We got a tour coming up in the States, we are flying over tomorrow, and then a couple of days later we are starting a tour up in the States, and then after that we have a little bit of time when we are going to get into rehearsals and actually start working on it. But we are really on the road for “Shogun” for another year, so we just gonna work in the little bit of downtime that we have between touring. We are going to work on some new songs and by the time it comes to actually going and really working on the new record, we will probably have a headstart.
AO: Do you guys work on things separately and then bring your stuff to the table?
TS: Yeah, basically, everyone has their own ideas individually and when we show up in the rehearsal room, we all throw ideas around, see what happens. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. (Laughs).
AO: From the time when you were growing up, do you think being a musician has changed in any significant way? Not in terms of technology or distribution, but more in the sense of craft that goes with musicianship, with being a rock drummer? Do you think things have changed? Do you think there are more expectations now?
TS: There are a lot more expectations now. And the reason is that things have advanced so much from the Sixties, the Seventies, the Eighties and the Nineties, and now the Two Thousands… People are getting faster, people are learning new tricks on how to do things… You know, I think from the drummer’s perspective you have to be on the top of your game at all times because everyone’s always looking out to seeing if you can actually do it. Everyone wants to know if you can actually play what’s on that record. Because there are so many tricks you can pull in the studio. But if you can do it live, that’s where it’s at. I think as a drummer… I mean, you have your guitar players to do solos and stuff, and it’s a complete art. I can’t play the guitar worth of shit, so I completely respect it, but there’s always two normally, and they can cover up each other’s mistakes because there are two guitars going on at the same time. With drums you are pretty much there on your own. If you fuck up, the fans are going to know that you’ve fucked up! So you gotta be on top of your game and you gotta stay focussed and stay with it.
AO: How do you maintain your technique? Do you still have to practice every day?
TS: Yeah, I practice every day before a show. Every day I start about an hour before actually going up on the stage. I practice my feet, get my feet warmed up, and my hands, and just get my mind ready for what I’m about to do, and just get focussed. Before a show I ignore everything else around me, tunnel vision, I just want to go and play. That’s my thing, that’s just what I do, I get my little tunnel vision, get ready for the show, get up there and do it.
AO: Did you train yourself to do that? Steve Vai, for example, talks about a specific practice to achieve that, a kind of meditation. Have you used any of that or does it come naturally to you?
TS: I just kind of always have done that from being young up until now. When it’s time to play, I’m in my play mode. I’m just very focussed. When you ask me something I’d probably won’t even hear because I’m in my own little world. And it’s just always kind of been that way, I’ve never really trained myself to do anything, it’s just what I do, it’s part of my click or whatever, the thing that makes me turn. It’s just my routine, I guess. I do it every day before we go on, every time. I do my stretches, and then I get on my pads and that’s it, I tune everything else out.
AO: Let me ask you a silly question. Do you ever play for yourself? Not for practice, not for anybody else, but purely for yourself, for your own enjoyment?
TS: You know, I haven’t got to do it in a really long time, and sometimes I feel bad about it because some of the most rewarding times is the time when I… Say, the intro to “Pull Harder” was just me in the jam room by myself just playing and then I was like, “Wow, that sounds really cool!” and I was, “Hey, guys, what do you think about this?” and then the next thing you know, there’s a song. I kind of miss those times. I miss the times when I could do that. I’m gonna have an opportunity to do that coming up here when we have some downtime. I’m really looking forward to it because those were the innocent times when I could just go into a room and, like you said, play for myself and not really have to feel like I have to prove anything. Those were good old days, I can’t wait to do it again.
AO: Does your own music ever surprise you? Do you ever listen back to a track you’ve done and go, “I didn’t know I’ve had this in me!”
TS: Oh, yeah! I did that a lot on the most recent record “Shogun”.
TS: Yeah, I’m really, really happy with my drumming on that record. Actually, personally, I think it’s the best stuff I’ve written on drums. For me. I’m really happy with the tones, I’m really happy with my performances. I think some of the coolest fills I’ve come up with yet are on that record. On that record I’d go in and I would do a couple of takes, and then I’d go into the control room and hear them played back, and I would get chills just listening to myself. I was just like, “Wow, man! I can’t believe that came out!” It’s kind of like your mind just lets go and your body takes over. You just start playing to the music. You don’t even realise what you did until you listen to it. You just go, “Oh, wow! I’m keeping that!” You know? It happened quite a few times on that record. I think that’s why it stands out so much to me as some of my best performances because of that.
AO: What do you make of the changes that are happening in the music industry right now – the way the fans are recruited, the way in which the bands communicate with their fans, things like MySpace, and the other side of the coin which is free downloading?
TS: The music industry is changing shit-loads as we speak and the only problem is that a lot of industry people aren’t set up for this change. They are just not. I’m talking about record labels. Record labels are still in the old-school way of doing things and you have to use technology to your advantage. I don’t feel that… I feel that record labels are catching on to it, but I don’t feel that they’ve got it completely down. Not even close yet. You gotta get the grasp of the electronic downloads and all that, and the way to make it benefit the bands. I think that maybe in the next ten years it’s gonna be there, but as for now, the way the technology changes so quickly it’s unfortunate that labels could be a lot more efficient. I think the records labels really need to knock the dust off themselves and get on with the new times and the way things are going.
AO: Do you sometimes wish that labels recruited staff from other areas, for example, from information technology field, as opposed to perpetually attracting the same kind of person who is usually a frustrated musician?
TS: Sometimes. This happened to me recently. I’m not going to name any names or anything like that, I’m not even going to say where it happened, but we walk into a room and I meet a new staff member who tells me straight up, “Hey, man, it’s not what you know in this business, it’s who you know.” He just got out of school and has no idea about what his actual job is supposed to be, and that’s a little disturbing in a way, considering he’s working for a band and he doesn’t know what the hell he is doing. I didn’t say anything, because I didn’t want to be rude about it or anything, but, you know, it rings to my head. It really makes you second-guess things sometimes, it makes you second-guess people who are working for you. We have some really great people who work for us and we stick by them, and they’ve done really, really great things for us. On all the negatives that have happened with our band and within the industry, there’s been so much positive that has happened that you can forgive the negatives because there’s always been way more positive that has come out of the people that we deal with on a daily basis and people in this field who work for us. You know, it’s a bummer that you have to go through negative things in life, but that’s part of life no matter where you’re at. You just have to concentrate on the positive.
AO: I have one last question. It’s a bit goofy and you’ll probably find it pretentious, but I’ll give it a go. What do you think is the future of metal? You, of course, are one band that has transformed the genre pretty much completely by bringing into it so many new elements, including pop. Where do you think the whole thing goes?
TS: I don’t know. At the moment it seems like there’s been a lot of lost melody in newer bands. And that’s fine. We love melody, I love groove, we all do, and you can hear it in our music. We love to be brutal, but we also love to bring groove and melody into the music as well. And I feel that that’s kind of disappearing at the moment. And I feel that everyone is just concentration on being the most heavy thing out there. And it’s losing the feel of emotion behind it. And, you know, in ten years, twenty-year time I can’t predict where it’s gonna go, but as everything with fashion, music and everything like that, it’s a big circle and everything always comes back around. Everyone’s into really brutal shit and the moment and that’s what they are getting – brutal shit.
AO: But you also get pop-metal, like Black Stone Cherry, don’t you? Bands that use musical forms of metal but in essence are mainstream radio-friendly acts?
TS: To me they are a really great Southern rock band and I’m really into Southern rock. I like Black Stone Cherry a lot. To me they are not in a category of what I would consider the more metal stuff that’s coming out. To me they are a really great Southern rock band. A band like Job For A Cowboy, that’s what I consider the new stuff that’s coming out, the new metal which is really extreme, really fast, really heavy, and it is what it is – it’s really fast, extreme and heavy. But I like some melody. So to each his own. Everyone likes their own thing and there are great musicians coming out, great bands who do well at what they do, and who knows where it’s gonna go from there. It’s at a really extreme point right now and who knows where it’s gonna be in five, ten, fifteen years. We’ll just have to wait and see.
by Leyla Hamedi
HRH: With Beg For It, you’re adding to a pretty sizeable catalogue of releases, though this one seems to be getting more worldwide recognition. Is Beg For It the record you’d choose to introduce Hardcore Superstar to the rest of the world? Why or why not? What’s YOUR favorite HCSS record?
AddE: I like the self-titled album very much because that´s the first album we produced and released on our own. Since that album we kind of found our own sound and way of writing. I like to think that Beg For It is the bastard son of ST album and Dreamin’. Mine is tied between Dreamin’ in a Casket and Thank You (For Letting Us Be Ourselves) because they have an equal number of songs I like. Though, “Not Dancing Wanna Know Why?” is my favorite song. So is, “Sensitive to the Light.” And, “Shame.” And, “We Don’t Celebrate Sundays.” Oh and, “Silence for the Peacefully.” Yeah I have more too.
HRH: You had plans to come to the USA earlier in the year but they got cancelled, right? Do you have any future plans to tour outside of Scandinavia as that seems to be where you usually stick to? Do you want to eventually have the means to a world tour? Specifically one that includes Boston and/or Istanbul the two places I live?
AddE: Haha… We would love to kick ass in both Boston and Istanbul, you know our motto is -If there´s a stage we´ll play it. We´re preparing for our European tour which starts of in October and we´re heading for Brazil in November to do some dates. We think it´s about time for us to come over to US. You´ve been waiting long enough for that to happen. You know we did a couple of dates in America like 5 years ago. And while we were there we got invited to the Swedish Embassy to have dinner and got in a fight with some reporter…Hahaha. After the party was over they told us that it was the first fist-fight there in a long time. 57 years to be precise.
HRH: Outside of Sweden, is there any place you have a huge following? Maybe Japan? As that’s where I found most of your older releases by chance when I was there in March (your fellow Scandinavians Hanoi Rocks were performing there right before they broke up and I flew to see them because they too have the annoying habit of not coming near where I am.)
AddE: We love Japan and i guess they love us. In Italy we´re as big there as in Sweden. Finland likes our debauchery to. France is starting to happen and also Germany.
HRH: Another Sweden/Scandinavia question. Why is it that you people have the best sleaze metal? Is there something in the water? Can I drink some?
AddE: Haha!!! Our water is fine..Yes but i think it all started with Hanoi Rocks really. They proved that a Finnish band can make it so I guess people got inspired to do the same thing.
HRH: Tell me a good story. It can be about whatever you want. I assume most people want to hear tour stories or about recording the album but I give you the freedom for whatever you want.
AddE: I can tell you one with Michael Monroe in it. We were in Japan some years ago when somebody suggested we meet with Michael since he was there to. We had lunch and he turned out to be the coolest/nicest guy on earth. We both agreed that Alice Cooper is God and that we should record one of his songs together. He came to Sweden a couple of weeks later just to record “Long Way To Go” and when he arrived at the train station his came out of the train blowing soap bubbles from this toy he purchased. He´d also been to the public library in Åbo (Finland) and copied a 100 page book about Alice that he wanted to give to me as a present. Haha… he told me that he had to drop a quarter in the zerox-machine for every new page. He was such a pro. He played sax, he sang and told a lot of jokes. He´s the best.
HRH: Speaking of touring, what bands would you most like to tour with? They can be anyone, even dead. Personally, if you toured with Bloodlights and Backyard Babies and Hellacopters, that would be my dream tour. Oh and David Bowie. Okay, the Scorpions can come too.
AddE: I already fulfilled my dream when we opened up for AC/DC in our hometown. They played at our Arena and it was packed. 56,000 screaming maniacs!! We´ve done a couple of shows with bloodlights and Glucifer. Good bands, nice guys.
HRH: How do you feel about the Internet and music sharing via sites like Myspace? Do you think it helps with getting your music heard or is it just an outlet for every shitty band and their mother to make noise, making it harder for dedicated and talented artists to get recognition?
AddE: It´s all good. I discover so much good music on Myspace.
HRH: How is the band’s general record-making process? Who writes mostly? Is it one person or group effort? Does it get done quickly and with no clashes of personality or have their been heated moments?
AddE: Me (AddE) and Martin always start with the writing and do some demos. Then we get the rest of the guys in and work it out together. Recording the album is good times for me but I´m the only one really doing that. Sometimes we argue and fight but somehow we end up with a good result.
HRH: How come so many of your songs are about ladies? Are we that terrible/slutty/awesome?
AddE: Because you´re are the only thing god created that is a mystery to me. I adore women and I feel good writing lyrics about you all. Sometimes you´re slutty, sometimes you´re angels. A lot of stuff to write about.
HRH: What or where is the worst food you’ve ever eaten? I assume you’re on the road a fair amount of time so any places or meals you’d definitely advise against?
AddE: We went to this restaurant in France once and saw that they had something called “Shitling” in the menu. We just had to order it and believe me, it smelled and tasted like SHIT!
HRH: Why is the merchandise section of your site only in Swedish? It took me, Google translate, and an entire afternoon to decipher it enough to order something and then I got a shirt in size large instead of small which I cut but over-estimated and now I can’t wear it without something underneath.
AddE: I´ll look into it. Did not know. Time to fire someone!
HRH: Also, is there going to be any variation to your band shirts besides album covers? Maybe go the Iron Maiden way and have a mascot with different settings? As much as I enjoy people staring at my chest trying to read the band logo, I do appreciate artwork too. More stuff to look at.
AddE: Funny you should ask that. We´ve been working with this awesome guy lately. It´s coming!
HRH: You had a competition recently on your Web site to find extras for a music video. How did that turn out? Do you enjoy shooting music videos and coming up with concepts (like zombies, or the lounge-type scene you had for, “Shame.”) or would you rather just play the music and not fuss with all that?
AddE: I like to play music and do not like making videos so much but Jocke is a natural actor. He´s great.
HRH: Did you know that the automatic signature on the Nuclear Blast representative’s emails names you as Hardcore Superstars? Yes with an, “s” at the end of superstar.
AddE: That´s no good. You´re giving me a lot of work here … hehe.
HRH: If I included my number, would you call it when/if you’re in any of my towns so I could buy you guys a drink?
AddE: AbsoFXXKIN´lutely! We want you to show us you´re city. It will be like a guided tour thru Boston or Istanbul. Bring it on!!
HRH: That’s pretty much all I have unless you have something you’d like to add. Personally, I love the new record. “Nervous Breakdown,” was originally my favorite song on it but it’s changed to, “Spit It Out.” I love a good, hard drum beat.
AddE: I really hope to come to a club near you a play those songs for you. I really do!
September 10, 2009 by Managing Editor
by Derric Miller
HRH: Rob, thanks for taking the time to talk with Hardrock Haven. To start with, you’ve been the touring bassist for the BulletBoys for a while now, and the band has a brand new album called ’10 Cent Billionaire’. Are you going to be hitting the road with them again?
Lane: I hope so….. anyone who’s kept track of the BulletBoys these past few years will know that for a long time the band was very much a revolving door of musicians other then Marq (Torien). Recently though it’s become a solid unit with the unique exception that there’s two bass players, myself and Stephen Allan who’ve both been in the band since 2007. To be honest, it’s not the strangest thing in the world and it works out pretty good especially as I’m based in the UK. I’ve done the last couple of European Tours and a US run earlier this year and Stephen has just come off the road on the last summer tour. It’s kinda funny, Stephen and I have never actually met but it feels like we’ve known each other for ages! There’s talk of some more European shows soon which’ll be great if I can jump on board those. I love all the guys in the band and playing live is great, they’re definately a big step up from a lot of the other bands in that particular genre and Marq is an awesome frontman.
HRH: How did you hook up with The BulletBoys, considering they are an American band and you are living in England right now?
Lane: Kind of weird from the outside looking in I guess but it was pretty simple. I’d seen a lot of Package Tours come to the UK with the same musicians playing several sets each night which makes sense financially but personally I think it’s a rip off for the crowd. So, I just took a stab and got in touch with the Booking Agency in the US and offered my ‘services’ should they ever need anyone. Never heard anything back for maybe two months then a couple of weeks before a European tour an email drops in my Inbox asking if I wanna play bass for The BulletBoys on a tour alongside Enuff Z’Nuff and Faster Pussycat?! Hell Yeah I do!! The rest is history I guess!
HRH: A while ago, you told me that you didn’t hit the studio with the band on this effort, but they use you in all the promo shots. Do you feel they are taking advantage of your Rock Star looks?
Lane: Ha Ha, that’s funny! I’m flattered if that’s the case but don’t think that’s the reason! I think all it is was, was that I happened to be the guy playing bass on the tour they had those shots done and they turned out to be the best ones. Jeff Zoccoli came out to a show in New Jersey and after our set took some cool pictures. It could have easily have been Stephen on that tour. Originally bassist Lonnie (Vencent) from back in the day started that run but was unable to complete the tour so I jumped on board. But yeah, I’m stoked! Shit dude, I’m on the promo for the new BulletBoys album…. for me, some kid from a small village in the UK who brought ‘Freakshow’ and ‘Za Za’ back in the day, that’s pretty frickin’ awesome!!
HRH: I actually first “met” you from your band Teenage Casket Company, a Hardrock Haven favorite and one-time HRH Band of the Month. You guys just played a live show in August after over two years apart. Tell us a little bit about getting on stage with the TCC gang again, and overall, what was TrashStock like?
Lane: It was really great to not only play together again but also just to hang out. Everyone in this band has very unique personalities which I think is one of the reasons we appealed to a lot of people in the first place. It’s gonna sound cheesy but when we hit the first note at rehearsal it was immediatly obvious the band was still gonna be able to step up to the plate in a live setting. Prior to TrashStock we did a couple of club shows and then the festival itself was great, it always is. This was the third time TCC have played and the fourth for me with my other band DIP, opening it last year. I had loads of technical problems but the crowd were just fantastic to us and I think it showed on all the YouTubes that turned up soon afterwards.
HRH: It’s obviously difficult touring with TCC lead singer Rob Wylde living over in the States at this time. That being said, do you guys have any plans to record a new studio release any time soon?
Lane: Well, even though the shows this past August were a lot of fun and a definate success it did teach us that in the past couple of years we’ve kinda moved on so whilst it was fun, Jamie (Delerict) has decided to leave the band. It’s not a massive shock and everything is cool but we’re in different places right now, not only geographically but metally too and whilst TCC is still very important to us I guess we all have to make some choices and move on. But, even with Jamie leaving which is gonna be weird ’cause he’s a huge presence in this band, we’re still forging on to what will be a very different chapter and we’re gonna be heading into the studio before the end of the year. Wylde has some great new songs which I’m excited about and can’t wait for everyone to hear. Time is very precious in this band right now so we have to use it whilst we can!
HRH: Next time TCC hits the studio, if you could choose any song to cover and record, what song would that be? And why?
Lane: Who knows? We’ve done some very different cover versions in the past….. we recorded D-Generation’s ‘Hatred’ and we always used to end our set with ‘Look What The Cat Dragged In’. There’s a funny story behind that which shows what VERY different musical backgrounds we all come from. When we suggested doing a Poison song we gave a tape (yes, a cassette) to Spike our drummer who comes from the Rush / Police style of drumming. At the next rehearsal he came back with the comment… ‘That’s not serious right?!’ I guess Rikki Rockett wasn’t quite in the same league as Stuart Copeland! Also, anyone who saw TCC when we first started will also remember us doing a song called ‘I’m On Your Radio’ which was written by Mitch Malloy on his Fluidsol project if anyone picked that up – killer song and great album! Perhaps now Jamie is no longer in the band we may have lost a little of the ‘TCC Quality Control’ so who knows, Wylde and myself might be looking at laying down some Trixter or Warrant – that would be awesome!
HRH: You are also in DIP, along with TCC and The BulletBoys. Wylde is in Sins of America, and I know Jamie and Spike also have side projects. With all of you guys working in 2-3 other projects, what is it going to take to have you all focus on TCC? Or is that just not in the cards at this time?
Lane: It is hard at times, probably more mentally than anything. I for one juggle far too many things at once and I’m sure it’s gonna come and bite me in the ass at some point. I thinks it’s probably the geographical element that’s making it hardest though. If the band was on a major album deal with money for travel and more time available then it would be a lot easier to sort schedules but you do what you do. At the risk of sounding bitter, TCC have never been given the breaks in the ‘industry’ which we felt we deserved. The fans have always been awesome and the critics too which is priceless to us, but the people with ‘power’ to really take things to the next level have never delivered so we just soldier on doing our own thing to the best of our capabilities and perhaps becasue of that it’s made us a stronger band?
HRH: Does this propensity for people to steal music instead of buy it directly and negatively influence your opportunity to focus on one band full-time?
Lane: Not really, the whole ‘stealing’ of music can be looked upon from so many different angles. It happens and it’s going to continue to happen even more so I think the only positive way of looking at it is to say, well if kids are gonna illegally download the music then at least I hope they’ll like it enough to come out to a show, rock out and buy some merch!
HRH: Speaking of other projects, I’ve never heard DIP (sorry!), so tell us a little bit about that band, how they differ from your other bands, and where can we find out more about them?
Lane: Wow dude…. DIP is a whole other interview in itself! I’ve been in that band for almost ten years. We’re all the very best of friends and I guess you can say we’re kind of a unique band! Imagine Bowling For Soup jamming to some old Van Halen with a big Faith No More influence, it’s that screwed up! There’s probably more influences flying about in that band than there is in TCC! There’s definately a big slant on humor in DIP and every gig is totally unique. I’d love to get more American’s opinions on the band for sure as I think, or at least I hope, they’d really like it, at least for the very British-ness which we exude! Check us out at either www.oyah.co.uk or www.myspace.com/oyah
HRH: Sorry, I left out one other band you are in – The Black Mollys. I just reviewed their new compilation and dug the hell out of it. Are you their European touring bassist, like with The BulletBoys? Or do you record in-studio with them as well?
Lane: The Black Mollys are another part of the whole interbred music scene we roll in! I met drummer Randi Scott when he was playing in Enuff Z’Nuff on my first BulletBoys run. We became friends, stayed in touch and then he invited me to play bass on a UK tour he was doing for The Black Mollys. The band is a project set up by Tory Stoffregen who is an incredible songwriter as you know from hearing the CD. The songs are in the mould of EXACTLY what I was into back in the mid/late nineties when I was trying desparately to avoid Grunge and Nu Metal and find something with at least a spot of melody. For me, bands like Everclear, Lit, American Hi Fi and The Gin Blossoms where what it was all about so when I heard The Black Mollys I freaked! Power Pop Heaven!! So in this strange screwed up world, it ended up with me playing bass for them when they hit the UK, when I can’t do it they call on Stephen Allan, my US bass brother from The BulletBoys and when the Mollys are not on the road, Tory is playing guitar in either Enuff Z’Nuff or The BulletBoys! You following all that?!!!
HRH: Besides being in a bunch of bands, you run TrashPit Records and TrashPit Magazine. You’ve released some killer music on that label, besides TCC, like The Black Mollys and The Erotics. I first heard Idiot3 on a TrashPit Compilation and I’m still addicted to that band. So, tell us a little bit about the label and the mag …
Lane: The fact you say the Label has released some killer music makes my day! That all I wanna acheive and get people to ‘trust’ what I put out and take a chance on it even if they’re not familiar with the band. The Magazine started back in 2003 just before TCC got together. There wasn’t much music around at the time which you could call Hard Rock – at least not in my opinion, but all of a sudden bands started to appear…. Butch Walker became a God, Robin Black from Canada reinvented Glam Rock and made it vital again and the awesome Bowling For Soup hit big in the UK! This was what I wanted to see in a magazine alongside my favorite bands from back in the day but that magazine didn’t exist so what the hell, I’ll start my own! From the magazine the label was born, initially as a vehicle for the TCC albums but since then it’s grown steadily and I’m very proud of what it’s released. There’s no massive budget and I don’t earn a dime but it’s on it’s way up. Drop by the website and buy some stuff! www.trashpit.co.uk
HRH: So what’s next for you? What’s the next big project you are working on?
Lane: Who knows?! There’s always talk of something possibly happening. For me I just wanna stay busy. The label has a couple more CDs on the horizon which I’m excited about, TCC whilst in a changing stage are on the verge of something new, DIP are gonna be returning to the studio to mix our new album and there’s always something brewing in The BulletBoys and Black Mollys camps so we’ll see what happens over the next few months!
HRH: Is there anything I left out that you’d like to leave with our Hardrock Haven faithful?
Lane: Dude, the fact that you and the webzine have championed TCC since the very beginning means a hell of a lot.You’ve done it with a great sense of humor and I hope we can continue to put out music you enjoy – I hope to hang out and share a beer with you one day too! For everyone that has heard about TCC through the website – thanks so much for checking us out go hunt down the new BulletBoys CD – you’re gonna freak when you hear what Torien has come up with!
by Derric Miller
Todd Smith — singer for Dog Fashion Disco, Polkadot Cadaver, and Knives Out! — checked in with Hardrock Haven to talk about his brand new solo project El Creepo!; why he decided to release a solo album; what it was like recording as a solo artist instead of as a band; how the music differs from DFD; the status of DFD, Polkadot Cadaver and his new band Knives Out!; and a whole lot more.
There are few out there as creative both vocally and from a songwriting aspect as Todd Smith. Tune in now to hear all about El Creepo!, and then pick up the mellow yet eerie and fun as hell release today!
by Jay Villain
HRH: Hello, Tyler it’s very nice to speak with you. Being that you also did the soundtrack for the first Halloween remake in 2007; can you tell us how the Halloween II soundtrack differs from the first?
Tyler Bates: In doing the first Halloween, we weren’t exactly sure how much Rob’s film should deviate from the storyline, characters, and musical themes of the John Carpenter film. With H2, Rob decided that we would not concern ourselves so much with the original film, and just do our thing in the Rob Zombie context. I think this approach freed us up a bit to experiment with alternative musical approaches for situations that are conventional in the realm of Halloween movies. Of course, we couldn’t go start to finish without quoting JC a time or two.
HRH: What are your thoughts regarding John Carpenter’s Halloween both musically and visually?
TB: I can’t imagine there being another film that has a similar impact on the horror genre as the original Halloween film. The silences in that film are great. The iconic themes have never been paralleled in my opinion. That original film really scared the hell out of me. I remember being 12 years old or so at the time, and living in a log cabin house in heavily forested area where we had dogs and horses and such. Anyway, my father used to make me take the trash out at night to this old storage shed at the edge of the property, which we kept pad-locked in order to keep the raccoons out. I’m sure my father enjoyed this. So, I would go out there in the blackness just waiting for Michael Myers to hack me to pieces while I fumbled for the key to that stupid lock. The funny thing is that our house was haunted (which is another story), and I would run fast as hell to the haunted house to seek refuge from the darkness and Michael Myers. I have never slept well since.
HRH: Where do you draw inspiration from?
TB: That’s a tricky question. I think first of all, you have to remain vital as a person. You have to maintain an influx of inspiring people, experiences, literature, music, etc., in your life, while being open and receptive to creative impulses. That said, it’s much easier said than done. There is no faucet of inspiration waiting to be turned on per se. Well, maybe inspiration comes from the stress of challenges and deadlines? Expectations … Probably all of these things when you’re talking about film music.
Rob’s material, in particular, dredges up the essence of unsavory characters I have encountered in my past, so I don’t necessarily need to imagine what these folks are like in real life. I already know them.
HRH: You’ve done so much in your career, what do you look for when choosing a film to score?
TB: I would like to think that I’m a chooser. I am probably as much a beggar still! LOL. We work in the service industry. Seriously, my first criteria are the people I work with. While I would love to live forever, you just never know how long you’re on this planet, and also, you never know how long the phone will ring, so I think that it’s really important to work with good people who are impassioned in the process of their work; driven by the desire to create something excellent. I don’t want to get stuck in a genre, but working with Zack Snyder, alone, is like writing for multiple genres on each film we do. A little less slashing would be good for a while.
HRH: What is your favorite genre of film to work on and why?
TB: I’m not sure. I am fortunate enough to work with filmmakers (directors and producers) that not only challenge me, but they expect me to explore new musical and textural concepts on each film, so I am far from being burned out. Ideally, I welcome strong characters and an exploration of their psychological state. That is always challenging and interesting.
HRH: Is there a specific director who you would like to work with?
TB: In terms of people I have not worked with yet? David Hayter and Guillermo Del Toro are very interesting artists. It’s difficult to say. There are so many fantastic directors whose work I love. I would be flattered to get the call.
HRH: From what’s being reported, Rob Zombie has no interest in directing Halloween III. If approached, is Halloween III something you’d like to pursue?
TB: Is Guillermo Del Toro doing H3? LOL The Halloween thing came by way of Rob Zombie. It wasn’t a gig as much as it was about us both seeing what we could do in the context of that world. I would be happy to do one with Rob, but otherwise, I am not sure.
HRH: What upcoming films are you working on?
TB: I have a few projects I am either currently involved with, or that will begin in the near future. I am not really at liberty to openly discuss them at this time.
HRH: How did you break into the industry scoring music for film?
TB: My brother was working on a very low-budget film in the early ‘90s, and they needed music but had no music budget, so they called me! LOL. I worked up a few pieces for them, and then the executive producer called me and asked me to score his next low-budget film. This led to work on friends’ films of similar ilk while I pursued business with my band, Pet. The band had some record label success but ultimately imploded in the late ‘90s. At that point, I reasserted my focus on doing films while painting houses to make my rent. Eventually, I didn’t have to paint houses.
HRH: Is there anything else you’d like everyone to know?
TB: The Halloween II score is out now on my new label imprint, Abattoir Recordings. The score is available digitally at this time. We will release a different album coinciding with the DVD release of the film. It will contain some of what is currently available, as well as previously unreleased material from both films. I wanted my own label so that I could develop cool packages for some of my scores, which will be very cool!
HRH: Tyler, thanks for taking time to answer my questions. I hope to talk with you again in the future.
September 3, 2009 by Managing Editor
by Derric Miller
Danger Danger lead singer Ted Poley checked in with Hardrock Haven to talk about their brand new studio release Revolve; what it was like recording with his original bandmates again; how the band is celebrating their 20th anniversary; upcoming tour dates; that his vocals often get compared to Carcass (gotta hear it!); his solo Greatestits release (pick it up here!); and a whole lot more.
Revolve (read the review) proves that Danger Danger still is one of the best bands in the genre. Poley is hilarious as always, tongue in cheek, much like their music. Check out the interview, and then go pick up Revolve today!
by Derric Miller
Outloud singer Chandler Mogel checked in with Hardrock Haven to talk about their killer new debut release; how an American ended up being the voice of a European super group; what the recording process was like; working with the renowned Tommy Hansen; upcoming tour plans; his inspirations as a singer; and a whole lot more.
Outloud’s debut will definitely land on a lot of Top 10 lists for 2009. If you like your Arena/Melodic Rock with superior musicianship, top-shelf vocals and outlandish songwriting, then Outloud is your band. Pick up their new CD today! (Read the Hardrock Haven review first!)
(If the audio player doesn’t populate, click here to stream the interview in a stand alone player.)
by Jay Villain
HRH: Hello, Marco. It’s great to speak with you. Axxis is celebrating its 25th anniversary with the release of Utopia. Congratulations. To start off, can you explain the CD cover artwork and how it relates to the title Utopia?
Marco Wriedt: Hi There! Well, regarding the cover; there is obviously a lot of fantasy, but you can also see the actual state of “Utopia” that tries to hide itself from outside influences … sounds pretty “Spinal Tap-ish,” but it’s just a very fun cover with a lot of positive energy! I mean, look at the colors.
HRH: Is the songwriting process a collaborative effort or is there one primary writer?
MW: Harry and Bernhard write most of the songs, but I also contribute a lot to the band music-wise (riffs and licks for example). But since the both of them are the founders of Axxis, they wrote more or less most of the material. But when it comes to the guitar solos, I have 100 percent creative freedom that I really enjoy.
HRH: What led to “Fass mich an” being recorded in German?
MW: Well, during the songwriting process, we thought that this could become the most crazy Axxis album. You know, the hardcore of Axxis is still there, but this time we added some tasty progressive elements to the album. You have to know that Alex Landenburg (our new drummer) and myself are huge prog fans. Actually, I’ve never called myself a die-hard Metal fan, but I’ve always been a “proggy” at heart, so I’m proud that we could put some of these elements into Utopia. And then Berny wrote “Fass mich an.” It has these really abstract lyrics, and if the complete album wouldn’t have sounded a bit different anyway, we would have never put it on there. That’s why we thought, “Come on, let’s take some chances and risks and go for it.” I’m happy that it is on there because it’s polarizing a lot already, and we like to polarize. Actually, Axxis has always polarized.
HRH: After using many guitars and many amps to record Utopia, did you come out of the experience with a favorite guitar and amp?
MW: Yes I guess so. My fave amp would be the “ENGL-FIREBALL” and guitar-wise, the PRS with 24 frets. I just love ENGL Amps. They sound so diverse and crispy, like THE perfect Kentucky Fried Chicken. And 24 frets give you so much more freedom to experiment. I loved to experiment on that album. I used millions of old vintage stomp boxes (Fuzz’s, Wah’s, Pitch shifters, compressors and so forth) and also old Stratocasters, which I truly love. They just have this great feeling.
HRH: Has Axxis ever played the in United States and are there plans to tour the States for Utopia?
MW: Axxis produced two albums in the States actually (The Big Thrill in New York and Matters Of Survival in Los Angeles), but we’ve never played in your great country. I would love to do it because I love the States and the people there (my uncle lived in El Paso, Texas), so let’s hope for the future.
HRH: What songs from Utopia will Axxis be playing live on this tour?
MW: We’re going to mix it up this time. We want to play more songs of the new album because we are so proud of it. But since it’s the 20-year anniversary, we have to play some vintage songs as well; songs we didn’t play for a long time. It’s hard to chose from such a long history. But I think the set list is very cool and is going to please the fans.
HRH: So far, are you pleased with the response to Utopia?
MW: So far, they have been amazing. As I told you before, “Fass mich an” is polarizing a lot, but that’s fine. It’s always a matter of taste, and I know that the people have to listen to the album a couple of times because there are some very interesting details here and there. But yeah, so far, so good.
HRH: What are some future plans for Axxis?
MW: To get more well known throughout Germany. We are still very huge over here, and it’s going better every year outside Germany, but there is still a lot to do. The U.K. and the States, for example. It’s very difficult, but I’m sure we are going to gain some fans from there with Utopia. Besides that, [we will be] recording albums every two years that are always a little bit different than the prior ones, which is a challenge, but we are on a good run.
HRH: Is there anything else you’d like the Axxis fans to know?
MW: Please BUY the album Utopia and don’t download it illegally because it damages the artist a lot! And keep coming to our shows and enjoy it! And thanks for 20 amazing years!
HRH: Marco, thanks for taking time to answer my questions. Keep in touch.
MW: It’s been a pleasure! I hope to be in the States soon again! I miss your country! Take it easy and all the best from Europe!
August 29, 2009 by Managing Editor
by Alissa Ordabai
Arjen Lucassen is known the world over for being one of the few musicians who faithfully and confidently bore the torch of prog-rock into the 21st century. But apart from leading his main band Ayreon, Lucassen has also always managed to remain an incessant generator of side projects. Over the years they have spanned styles from metal to electronica, but the most recent one called Guilt Machine is still a significant departure from anything Lucassen has ever been involved in before.
For a start, Guilt Machine’s debut album On this Perfect Day, released by Mascot this month, marks Lucassen’s emergence from a bleak period in his life, and hence, being a statement of personal renewal, attempts several new creative strategies. First off, apart from being full of finely wrought, yearning melodies, songs on this album also engage in complex, cryptic lyrical themes – something that Lucassen tries here for the first time, adding extra depth to the overall message.
The other first-time strategy was to try to make a record without any preconceived plan or even any expectations for that matter. During our interview Arjen tells me he plunged into work head-on, for the first time ever bringing his songwriting process into the studio as opposed to writing tunes at home. And the end result shows that this free-flowing approach bore some exquisite fruit.
Melodically and emotionally On This Perfect Day is a fantastically diverse album which nevertheless manages to remain cohesive, despite stretching over a wide span of moods and purposes that range from subtle charm of retro psychedelia to bombastic pathos of rock opera. What unites them is the trademark overcast mood which Lucassen is so good at creating and which resonates so poignantly throughout the record. Another unifying factor is bold yet detail-rich arrangements that add a dreamy, graceful gravity to the proceedings, and, finally, it is Lucassen’s distinct vision (eclectic yet focussed) which remains instantly recognisable no matter which project, genre, or style he chooses to work in.
The final nifty touch is given by voice samples mixed into each of those tracks – snippets of messages requested and received by Lucassen for this album from fans the world over. There is spooky elegance to how 19 different languages reverberate in synch with the overall vibe of the album, speaking of things that range from deeply personal sentiments to universal themes. Some would call it a gimmick, but those less cynical would recognise that it accentuates one of the cardinal messages of Lucassen’s new project: on the one hand – diversity and variety, and on the other – wholeness and unity. This, after all, has always been the key to his creative approach which strives to unite dissimilar things while at the same time keeping them coherent and in harmony with each other.
(If the embedded player does not populate, click here to hear stream the interview in a stand-alone player.)
by Alissa Ordabai
Summer festivals are a great way to catch up with musicians for a face-to-face chat. A festival run for many bands means getting into a relaxed holiday mood, so usually those conversations turn out better than any other interviews. But while some cats kick back to an extent where they end up asking you more questions that you ask them, some remain unaffected by the festival atmosphere and keep their composed demeanour.
One such musician is Lamb of God guitarist Mark Morton, who this writer caught up with back in June at Graspop Metal Meeting, one of the biggest European heavy music festivals which take place every June in the Belgian town of Dessel.
Morton seems cool, calm and somehow reserved, as we sit down backstage for our chat just a few hours after the band’s set on the main stage on the festival’s second day. But he is still willing to talk candidly about his love for his instrument, his attitude to fame, and, most importantly, the band’s latest album Wrath, which has been seen by many as a radical departure from Lamb of God’s earlier sound.
Hardrock Haven: I watched your set.
Mark Morton: Yeah?
HRH: It was amazing!
MM: Thank you very much.
HRH: I think it was the best set of the day, but I’m still waiting for Satch.
MM: Yeah, right. I’m looking forward to that myself.
HRH: Do you prefer to play outdoors or indoors?
MM: I typically prefer to play indoors, to be honest. I tend to like the smaller shows. They have a little more direct interaction with the crowds, and typically, it sounds better, but there is a cool energy in a festival like this as well.
HRH: What elements do you think need to coincide for a great live show to happen?
MM: I think it relies a lot on the audience, really. I mean, the band is only one part of the show. Without the audience, it’s just the band playing by itself. But when the audience is high energy and really interacts well with the band, sometimes you get the kind of dynamic, that synergy, I guess, among the band, I guess. And I think we had a little bit of that going on today, so it sort of starts expanding on itself from there.
HRH: Do you have a favorite part of the world to play in?
MM: Anywhere close to home because I like being home with my family. But outside of that, I really like Australia. I think Australia is a really beautiful part of the word, and I enjoy being there.
HRH: I’d like to talk a bit about the latest album.
HRH: Do you think enough time has passed for you to take an objective look at it or are you still very much attached to it? How long in general does it take for you to detach yourself from your work?
MM: Yeah, that’s a pretty good question. I don’t know. Yeah, I haven’t spent a lot of time listening to it since we made the record. Once we get all the mixes through and everything, I don’t spend a lot of time listening to my own music. But I think I’ve got a pretty good feel as to where it sits in the scheme of things. I think it was the right record for us to make at this time. It was definitely a response to Sacrament, the record before it. We took a very different approach sound-wise.
HRH: And songwriting-wise as well.
MM: Yeah. The big thing that stands out for me songwriting-wise is that we have incorporated some more melodic guitars and acoustic guitars, clean sounds and that kind of thing. There is a little bit more dynamic on that level. But the way we wrote the songs, the objectives we had while writing the songs never really change. We just try different things within that context.
HRH: But the album still sounds very different from your previous work. And you once have said in an interview that you never stay at one place musically for very long. What’s behind that? Do you get bored with your musical achievements or have you set out to cover as much musical ground as possible from the very start?
MM: I think, as musicians, we are constantly striving to keep ourselves interested, keep ourselves challenged.
HRH: Keep yourselves entertained?
MM: Yeah, exactly. We never write songs or albums trying to achieve anything with the fan base or to tap into some new audience. We just write the stuff we want to hear and we want to play. And, as musicians, we try to keep ourselves challenged, keep ourselves entertained.
HRH: Do you ever listen back to a song you wrote or a guitar part and feel that you have learned something new about yourself, some new aspect to your character?
MM: Yeah. There are some times when you can take your head out of it for long enough just to listen to yourself objectively. And I don’t mind saying it, sometimes I hear some stuff that we did and I’m like, wow, it’s really cool. That’s what you hope for.
HRH: How do song melodies come to you? Do you have to isolate yourself or do they come to you as you go about your daily business?
MM: Either or, sometimes I just sit, pick up the guitar and the song will write itself; it’s just comes out. And then sometimes you’ve got a nagging melody or an idea in your head for months, and it takes a long time for you to put it together. There is no rhyme or reason. I wrote the song “Redneck” in two hours one morning before going to band practice. “Walk with Me in Hell:” I worked on that for two years before we actually put it together. They are all different, they all come together differently.
HRH: You play blues and country on the side as well.
MM: Little bit, yeah.
HRH: Do you ever see that incorporated into the main band?
MM: I think I infuse little elements of that here and there, yeah. I think it’s probably part of my style. But at the end of the day, we are a metal band. There is only so much of that they will let me get away with.
HRH: Your childhood heroes included Jimmy Page and Billy Gibbons. Is there anyone else you admired when you were growing up?
MM: Sure, yeah. All those classic-rock guitar heroes: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton. I’m a big fan of Peter Green, an older British blues player.
HRH: From Fleetwood Mac.
MM: Yeah, exactly.
HRH: What about Jeremy Spencer?
MM: I’m not familiar with him.
HRH: He played in the same band with Peter Green, but he played slide guitar.
MM: Oh, OK, OK!
HRH: One of the first British slide guitar players on par with Brian Jones.
MM: Ah, you see, you know more than me about it! (Laughs). I’ll have to check him out. And then there are more modern guitar players that I’m really into like Luther Dickinson.
HRH: What do you make of the changes that are happening in the music industry right now? The way fans are recruited, the way the bands relate to their fans? A part of the recording process of your latest album was made available to view online. Did you feel pressured to do that?
MM: No, I think from my perspective my goals don’t change. They are just to write cool songs that interact with ourselves first and then hopefully with our audience. I’m glad I’m not in the business of trying to sell records. I’m glad I’m not a record company because they are the ones who are really confused as to what to do about file sharing, downloading and all that kind of stuff. You know, if we were sitting here 15 years ago, I’d probably be selling a lot more records.
HRH: You’d be rich.
MM: But as it stands, it’s not the nature of the industry anymore, and you have to find other ways to keep yourself going. And we do. I’m not complaining. I make a very comfortable living playing my guitar and selling tickets and t-shirts, and I’m lucky to be able to do that. The music industry is changing; technology has made it very simple for people to get music for free. That’s not going to go away. You can’t legislate it away, you can’t do anything about it, so you just have to keep moving forward doing your thing.
HRH: I have a strange question for you. You don’t have to answer it if you don’t like it. Do you ever play for yourself? Not for practice, not for anybody else, but for yourself?
MM: Yeah! Absolutely! All the time! I’m a guitar player. I didn’t pick up the guitar because I wanted play at a festival in Belgium or to hang out with groupies in Japan. That wasn’t why I started playing the guitar. I started playing the guitar because I love the instrument, I love the sound that it makes, and I love the feeling I get when I’m playing it. That’s all I ever wanted to do. All this shit just came, and it’s cool, but it wasn’t my objective, it wasn’t my motivation, so yeah, I play guitar a lot.
HRH: Is it difficult for a professional musician to retain this kind of personal relationship with the instrument?
MM: Not for me, not for me. To me, all this stuff is sometimes difficult. Playing guitar is the easy part. I get paid to be away from my family and to do interviews all day long. The guitar playing I do for free, do you know what I mean? That’s easy for me.
HRH: I have one last question and it’s a bit goofy. I hope you don’t mind. If you were given an answer to any question in the universe, what would you ask?
MM: I don’t know! That’s a bit too existential for me! (Laughs).
HRH: OK! Can I replace that with something else?
HRH: If you were to write a letter to yourself that would travel back in time, what would you write?
MM: I think I’d remind myself to take things a little less seriously than I used to. I think I used to get a little bit uptight about every little detail and every little thing. The older you get and the more of the world you see, the more you just let it be.
by John Kindred
LYNCH MOB is back with a new studio album entitled Smoke And Mirrors released on September 18th in Europe and October 13th in the USA.
After seventeen long years singer Oni Logan and guitar wizard George Lynch found their way back together and again show their amazing abilities in some killer new Hard Rock songs.” I would say this new record Smoke and Mirrors, is the record we should have put out as a follow up to “Wicked Sensation”…better late then never I guess…”, says Lynch presenting the new record.
Joining the new line-up are bassist Marco Mendoza (Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy) and drummer Scott Coogan (Brides of Destruction, Ace Frehley).
Lynch Mob are ready to embark on a World Tour in the fall 2009 to follow up on the successful performance at the ROCKLAHOMA 2008 and to promote Smoke and Mirrors.
Hardrock Haven took a bit of George Lynch’s time to talk about the new studio record, new bandmates, guitars and possible tour plans. Maybe a co-headline run with a Lynch Mob / Dokken tour? Check out this exclusive audio interview.
(If the embedded player doesn’t populate, click here to stream in a stand alone player.)
August 3, 2009 by Publisher
by Deb Rao
Tantric is back with their fourth studio album Mind Control, set to be unleashed on Aug. 4th on the Silent Majority Group label. Tantric features Hugo Ferreira (lead vocals, keyboards), Joe Pessia (guitars), Erik Leonhardt (bass and vocals), Marcus Ratzenboeck (violin) and Richie Monica (drums). The album was produced by Brett Hestla (Creed, Framing Hanley, Dark New Day) and is the follow-up to 2008’s The End Begins.
Mind Control is full of hook-laden riffs, and passionate vocals of Hugo Ferreira shine on this eclectic album, which has catchy melodies, outstanding musicianship, and no filler tracks. Founding Tantric member Hugo Ferreira has checked in with Hardrock Haven to discuss the making of what is possibly Tantric’s strongest release to date and give the HRH readers an exclusive track-by-track of Mind Control.
HRH: Hugo, Thank you for checking in with Hardrock Haven. The Tantric tour kicks off tonight in Syracuse. Are you looking forward to performing the new songs live off of Mind Control?
HUGO: Yes, of course I am. We pretty much perform a little bit off of every album. Like all of our singles and four or five new songs off of the new upcoming record along with some few other surprises.
HRH: How did you come up with the title Mind Control? And how did you come up with the concept of the album cover?
HUGO: The song itself is kind of about my trip. I went and played in Korea for the U.S. troops a few years back. It is kind of a commentary on how media seems to be controlling people’s opinions and their minds. It also adds reference to the bureaucracy of the music industry. So the cover had this guy that has this mask and suit on, which is kind of representing politics and it is adaptable to many different types of fields.
HRH: Tell us a little bit about the writing process for the album. Over how long of a period of time did it take you to write the album?
HUGO: Basically, everybody in the band is spread out through separate states. I have a studio, and everyone has their own home studio. So, basically, when Joe would come up with a guitar riff and e-mail it to me, I would dump it into my recording studio. And the label goes over it, and I would play a drum machine for it. Then the violin would get recorded. My violin player actually lives in the same city as me, so he would come over. Obviously, there are some songs that people wrote on their own. Then we went into the studio two weeks prior to the recording and just basically played the songs live, and we would hammer them out, polishing them and seeing which ones made the cut. But ultimately we ended up having 25 songs and 11 made the cut.
HRH: Would you say that Mind Control is the rebirth for the band? After listening to it, I definitely feel it is one of your strongest albums to date. What do you think?
HUGO: I definitely think it is the strongest album to date. It is an album that, as far as the flavor or vibe, is different from any other record that we did. It is kind of darker and heavier. We kind of stepped out into the box in the writing aspect of it. But we still kept what our core audience likes about us. We just kind of took a step sideways. It is definitely a departure from the last record, which was a little bit more mellow and subdued.
HRH: When you got the new band together after the demise of Maverick Records, was what your inspiration to keep on going?
HUGO: My attitude towards it; I had really come this far, and I worked really hard to get here. So I wasn’t going to go down without a fight. I just pretty much took out all my frustrations into music. I was fortunate enough and definitely blessed by God to get another opportunity. I think that things are better than ever for us; being on track on where our careers are going. But also my love for music outweighs anything. I would just barely make a living and play music than be rich and sit in an office.
HRH: That is awesome. Do you hail from the Louisville, Ky., area? What is the music scene like out in the Midwest these days?
HUGO: Yes, I do live in Louisville, Ky. It is a great city for music and people. Kind of like you have all the benefits of a city and all the benefits of a small town kind of packed up in one.
HRH: Tantric returns to the Boston area at the Middle East in Cambridge on Aug. 4, the night of the release of Mind Control. Are you looking forward to performing in Boston again?
HUGO: I really love to play Boston, even though the stations there don’t show us that much love. Ultimately, my whole family is from there. I went to high school in the Boston area, so it is really good to kind of play for all of my old friends and to see my mom and dad and aunts and uncles. Basically, when I go out to Boston, it is like a giant family reunion with friends and family. My guitar player is also from Boston. So he gets to bring out his family. He is Italian, and I am Portugese, so between both of us, we can pack the place with just his family. I would just encourage everybody to join our Myspace page www.myspace.com/tantric and also join our facebook. Thanks for the support. Take care and God Bless ya.
Hugo Ferreira of Tantric Track-By-Track Exclusive of Mind Control:
1. Mind Control -”Mind Control is setting the tone for the record. But also a song that is an anti-corporate and also is anti-organized media.”
2. Fall To The Ground – “Is more of a relationship struggle song. Feelings that people have when it seems that a relationship, whether it be with a friend or significant other, fallen apart.”
3.Coming Undone – “Coming Undone” is a little bit more about bullies. It is kind of like an anti-bully song. It is saying that most people that bully other people, whether it be with schools or other formats, end up being the being pussies of all.”
4. Desert Me -”People that seem to be your friends during the good times and seem to be no where to be found when you actually need them. My father always told me that friends are like writers: When they need them most they never work.”
5. The Past Is The Past “Is another heart-wrenching relationship song that I wrote about my past relationship. I seem to never be able to hold on to any, but it makes for good songwriting.”
6. Kick Back -”Is basically overcoming life’s struggles, and when life kicks you, you have to kick back and really not get overwhelmed; just have faith in the higher power and in yourself and that persistence overcomes statistics. You just can’t dwell on the negativity. You always have to fight back with a positive attitude. Things will end up turning out your way. It is basically been my life story. As hard as it is to think positive about things, I just kind of try to meditate and stay focus on my goal. Try not to let negative thoughts enter my mind. Just look at the future and visualize it as a positive thing. ”
7. Intermerzzo -”Is something that Joe, my guitar player, had written for years. He showed it to me. He is such an unbelievable player. Immediately, I thought back to Van Halen’s first record, when they did “Eruption.” We, as a band, thought it would be cool to reintegrate just an instrumental piece. “Intermerzzo” kind of divides the first half of the record and second half of the record. It also really shows really great technique and playing ability. It seems that there is a lot of lack of musicianship out there. I just thought it would be a great opportunity to show a piece of music that is just instrumental.”
8. Run Out -”Is about drug addiction and basically about people being dependent on any sort of substance. And it poses the question: What are you going to do when you run out? Places to hide is referring to people hiding and trying to run away through substance abuse or whatever their addiction might be.”
9. Walk Away – “Is about knowing when to cut your losses.”
10. What Are You Waiting For -”Is a story about a friend of mine who has a drinking problem. It is basically me kind of me talking to that person and trying to empower them; telling them their life is totally controllable by them and trying to make them realize that you care about them. You want them to overcome the haze.”
11. Let’s Start -”Is about less talking and more doing. A lot of people say, “We are going to do this; we are going to do that.” It is about kicking yourself in the ass and thinking about your plan and actually follow through.”
12. Guiding Me – “My awareness of a higher power. It is kind of like an angel over my shoulder. I know there is a higher power that is pretty much guiding me through my everyday life and that is always looking out for me, and I take comfort in that.”
July 30, 2009 by Managing Editor
by Derric Miller
Tango Down guitarist Scott “Rif” Miller checked in with Hardrock Haven to talk about their recent festival slot at Dakota Rock Fest; their brand new studio release called Damage Control; how the band welcomed in new lead singer Alex Barbieri; how the songwriting process works in the band; upcoming tour plans; and a whole lot more.
Damage Control is the sophomore effort from Tango Down, and they are a little less polished, a little meaner, yet still held on to the mammoth melodies that everyone loved from the debut, Take 1. Tune in now to get to know Rif, and then pick up Damage Control immediately thereafter.
(If the embedded player doesn’t populate, click here to stream in a stand alone player.)
July 30, 2009 by Publisher
by Alissa Ordabai
Andreas Kisser’s upcoming double album Hubris I & II is Sepultura guitarist’s first solo effort, and it shows. The variety of styles, genres and approaches on this mulligan-stew of an album couldn’t have been wider, even if diversity was the actual purpose behind this release. But it wasn’t. All ideas, experiences, and moods that Kisser has been privately musing on while presenting a perfect image of the ultimate metal god in Sepultura, have finally, in one way or another, found an expression on this impressively varied yet cohesive solo debut.
The first disk of this release was meant to be all about the electric guitar, while the second one – an acoustic opus. However, both bleed into each other, showing that for Kisser’s guitars – be it electric, acoustic, steel-stringed or nylon-stringed – are simply a means of expression, not a categorized set of gear that he keeps apart in separate tool boxes.
To prove this point and to defy the initial concept of separating of the two, there is plenty of acoustic guitar on the first disk, and some indelible electric guitar on the second. In fact, the opener of the first disk, “Protest,” is an exquisitely wrought acoustic number that channels Jimmy Page’s late ‘60s instrumental wizardry and mixes it with ethnic chanting. “Euphoria / Desperation” that follows takes the vibe further into the direction of heavier but no less colorful ethnic romps underpinned by metal riffs.
The result is a haunting, multi-layered, irresistible atmosphere that sets the mood from the word go, as this rich exotic vein continues throughout the record, at times joining hips with contemporary Brazilian popular music and, at times, gives way to straight-up metal.
In an interview with Hardrock Haven, Kisser admits that the second disk, which was meant to be acoustic, was far more challenging to make than the first part of this album. And the first track proves this point perfectly. “Sad Soul” is a melancholy number in which classically-bred acoustic guitar lets its younger electric sister run atop of its rigorous arpeggios to create an exquisite layered dissonance of traditions and purposes and then magically transforms into a prism through which you can see the essence of Kisser’s message on this album – the interaction between the old and the new, between rigour and abandon, between the earth and the stratosphere.
(If the audio player doesn’t populate, click here to stream the interview in a stand alone player.)
July 19, 2009 by Publisher
by Deb Rao
HRH: Frankie, Thank you for checking in with Hardrock Haven. Freakshow recently unleashed their debut album on Retrospect Records. How has the response been so far for the band and the release?
FRANKIE: The critic reviews have really been wonderful and positive. Listener response has been tremendous, which is really gratifying to hear for a new band these days.
HRH: How did Freakshow come to fruition? I know you toured with Cinderella and Jeff in the past, but how did you meet the rest of the band?
FRANKIE: Oddly enough, it didn’t have anything to do with me knowing Jeff or having toured together, though I love Jeff’s playing and had hoped to work with him for many years.
Markus Allen Christopher called me, explained who he was and that he wanted to know if I would be interested in recording with him. I told Markus that I would have to hear the material first to decide if I was the right drummer for the songs. We talked over a period of time, and he sent me a four-song demo, which was very well done. It was obvious that he could write great rock songs and record them well, could play great rock-crushing guitar, and could sing as good as any of the majors within the genre. We talked on the phone a number of times, and I decided that I might be a good fit for the songs with my particular style and drum sound.
HRH: Freakshow is made up of some of the best talent in the business. Every musician in the band has made an impact in music today. How did each musician’s style reflect in the making of the new Freakshow release?
FRANKIE: Everyone, I think, just played and recorded the parts that best fit the type and styles of songs that made up the entire Freakshow CD. It’s easy to record great songs; it’s difficult to make songs that are just OK into a great song. Everyone did their best to leave their individual style on each of the tracks.
HRH: You are greatly influenced by the late John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. How did this play a major factor in the recording of the Freakshow debut?
FRANKIE: It neither did nor didn’t. There are some tracks like “It’s Really Over” and “Mistreat Me” that lend themselves to that style, a somewhat common thread to the style of Led Zeppelin and the great John Henry Bonham, and that is a great comfort zone for my style of drumming. That also applies to the track “Welcome To The Freakshow” to a lesser degree. Then there are tracks like “Ripper,” which is by and large very removed from a Zeppelin-esque style of songwriting and drumming.
HRH: The music industry has changed so much since the the ‘80s. Tell us the story behind the signing of Freakshow to Retrospect Records.
FRANKIE: We signed on to Retrospect Records after shopping the major labels, none of which are really signing rock bands of this genre to any great degree. I feel sorry for bands now trying to get a real record deal with an advance because they rarely, if ever, exist anymore. It was easier to have Retrospect release the Freakshow CD than it was to self-release it, but the end results, as far as exposure, are about the same.
HRH: What was the vibe in the studio like working with Jeff, Tony, and Markus?
FRANKIE: The entire “band” was never in the studio at anytime. We sort of worked on shifts. First, I went in with Markus, then Jeff and finally Tony. Markus had thought that he and I would do pre-production for two or three days, then take four days to record the drum tracks. He played me the additional six songs that I had not heard when I arrived at his house with just a guitar in San Jose, and I gave him my suggestions and ideas. We went to the studio that same night, and we ran down all the songs with me behind the drums, and we fine-tuned it. That was the extent of the pre-production. It was just a handful of hours in one day.
We then went into the studio the next evening, set up the drums, got drum sounds, and I recorded the drums to six of the songs in one six-and-a-half-hour session, came in the next day and tracked the following four in two and a half hours. So, all in all, it was less than three days to rehearse and track the drums. The eleventh track, the acoustic “Mistaken” was something that Markus sent me as an MP3 demo after I returned to LA. I liked it so much that I booked a small studio in LA, recorded percussion to it, timpani, shakers, conga and cymbals and sent Markus a data file of the tracks and gave him the option to use the percussion or not. He decided to use them.
HRH: Tell us about the songwriting process for the band? Did each member contribute to the writing of the Freakshow release?
FRANKIE: Actually, you would have to ask Markus about the music and lyrics since he is the primary writer of these songs. The music and lyrics, for the most part, were already well on their way to completion when I got involved. The six he and I worked on when I first arrived for the sessions were sorted out rather easily, and Markus felt that the contributions that I made on “It’s Really Over” and “Four Leave Clover” were above and beyond what I had done on the recordings overall and merited songwriting credits on my part, and therefore I am a co-writer on those two songs. It was great that Markus appreciated and understood the value of my input on those two tracks in particular. The bottom line is that I treated the drum parts to each song so that they would complement the feel of each song to the best of my abilities.
HRH: How did the band come up with the name Freakshow?
FRANKIE: One day, Markus had an addiction to sending me text messages with a variety of different names. I reciprocated by sending him back some text name ideas. At one point, he texted me something, I don’t remember what it was, but it triggered something in my mind. That something was “Freakshow,” and he loved it. No hidden meaning, no brew-ha-ha!
HRH: Every member of Freakshow has their own accomplishments. What was your goal when putting the band together? Did every member want to create a sound that was different from their previous bands?
FRANKIE: The Freakshow songs just happen to be a great vehicle for each of our individual styles. Since we all came from different backgrounds, the sound is different from what each of us has done in the past, yet there is still a thread of each of our musical histories without the loss of the essence of what each of us brought to the songs stylistically or individually.
HRH: The marketing and launching of a new band have changed so dramatically since the ‘80s. Now, newer bands today have MySpace and iTunes versus MTV. What are your thoughts on this?
FRANKIE: MySpace is great to have, but I think of it as more social than business insofar as exposure on a professional or industry level, though they are immediate and far reaching nonetheless. ITunes and Amazon, in a way, fill the void of all the record stores and outlets that have simply ceased to exist.
HRH: Speaking of iTunes, the new Freakshow release is on iTunes, correct?
FRANKIE: Yes, they are indeed. Start your Freakshow shopping engines now!
HRH: Back in the ‘80s, there was vinyl. What are your thoughts on all the new technology that has been developed since the heyday? What are some of the pros and cons of vinyl versus digital?
FRANKIE: The only “pro” is that the audio quality of the CD product is excellent. The disastrous “con” is that, unlike the sound issues with vinyl and the generational audio loss on cassettes, a CD is representative in audio quality of a “master” recording. This and the advent of home recording, copying of released CDs has killed the music industry by providing a “product” that can be copied, shared and illegally downloaded over the Internet. The labels make less money, and the artists make even less than ever. This has a stifling effect on every aspect of the music industry. There is no secret that there is barely a music industry that is active any longer, or active as we once knew it. It is becoming increasingly impossible for bands to tour these days and make any sort of living doing it.
HRH: Frankie, you are one of the most influential drummers in the business. What drew you to working with bassist Tony Franklin?
FRANKIE: Thank you, but I don’t know about being an influential drummer; I certainly try hard! As for Tony, it’s a well-known matter of record that he is entirely my favorite bass player to work with. We’ve recorded together on more records than I can recall, starting with the Gary Hoey “Animal Instinct” in the mid ‘90s and as recent as a few weeks ago on another session. I can’t say enough great things about Tony, both as a person and as a musician. Top shelf in every respect.
HRH: What has the highlight been for you in launching your new band project Freakshow?
FRANKIE: That we made a great rock record when many are not bothering with the genre anymore. The Freakshow record stands on it’s own.