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Fireworks Magazine

Fireworks Magazine Online 84: Interview with Blue October

BLUE OCTOBER

Interview by James Gaden

Although only known to a select few in the UK, Blue October have enjoyed a long career which has seen the Alternative Rock group achieve million-selling success in their homeland of America. Vocalist Justin Furstenfeld form the band with his brother Jeremy in 1995 and while the singer has struggled with depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts throughout his life, he found salvation in his music. Fireworks talked to Justin about the band's ninth studio album 'I Hope You're Happy'.


Blue October Fireworks Interview

I've been listening to the new album and something struck me about it, which is something that rarely happens when I review albums. It doesn't sound like anything else I could think of, so where do your songwriting influences come from?


I'd have to say I like Peter Gabriel, The Smiths, The Cure, things like that, but I like a lot of old Jazz like Dave Brubek and Ella Fitzgerald, plus I enjoy the art of Urban music where you basically just have a beat and a hook. So I take elements like that and just pile it all together. I don't understand why people don't mesh genres together more these days. Everyone seems to define themselves as Rock or Rap or Alternative. I want to know why you can't just mesh the beautiful parts of each with each other?

You write the bulk of the material in the band, often drawing on your own experiences with depression and anxiety, so what is your process when writing music for Blue October?

It's different, sometimes I'll write music and then write lyrics to fit it. Sometimes I'll start with a melody in my head, if I'm walking down the street sometimes I can come up with a fully formed song in my head, I've always been able to do that. I also like to be inspired by other people's lives. A lot of my songs were written about me and things I was going through, but I'm listening more to other these days, to write about their experiences. Sometimes I'll sit and basically interview them as if I were doing a piece on them, just as you are with me now, then just write as much as I possibly can and as honestly as I can.

For this album it was fun because what I did was take little pieces of music and chop them up and use my MPC drum machine to create a track I could give to the rest of the band to play over. We wouldn't necessarily all be in a room together and rock out like we've done in the past, these songs were done more rhythmically. Instead of Jeremy setting up his full kit, I'd have him just play the kick drum until I had the microphones placed right and the sound I wanted, then he'd come back and play the snare pattern. We pieced the tracks together like building blocks.

When you mentioned putting a hook in a song, you certainly achieved that with 'Your Love Is Like A Car Crash'. Usually I don't make my mind up about something until I've heard it at least three times, but with that one, after one listen I kept singing it.

Oh, that's my favourite song on the new album, I'm so glad! I appreciate that.

That one and 'Colors Collide' were my two favourites – the latter because it was darker and heavier.

So you've gravitated to two opposite ends of the spectrum with those two, which is exactly what I like to hear. That's made my whole day better!

How long did you spend making this record?

It's hard to say, because I write all day, I'm obsessed with writing music, this album is only just coming out and I'm already writing the next one. I love writing music, getting re-inspired, I never want to go on a hiatus. When I put a single out, I already want to have the next one ready. These days people's attention spans are short so I'm always working on the next thing.

I wanted to talk a little about the band's back story, because Blue October were new to me, even though you've been around a long time. I was reading your bio and it said Kid Rock's manager spotted you playing live, and you ended up touring and playing over three hundred shows before a label signed you?

Yeah, that's right and that was an eye opening experience! (laughs) We were playing at a seafood restaurant in Houston, Texas and I was really upset about it because I didn't want to play for people while they were eating their shrimp, I thought my art was way too deep for that! (laughs) These days, I'll play for anyone, I'll play in a grocery store, I don't care. But this guy was out there and he said "Next week I'll fly you to New York" and I thought "Whatever..." but he was Kid Rock's manager Michael Rand. He helped us get signed to a label and the rest is history.



That's a really old school way of getting a record deal, that was how bands used to get signed, by being spotted live. Most bands send in demos, you did it almost like a 60s or 70s act.

Yeah, this was back in 1999, the band was formed in 1995. So it was back when you could sell a million records, put out vinyl and CDs and people could buy them from stores, labels gave you tour support... so we got signed by Universal, then dropped by Universal, then re-signed to Universal, now we run our own label and do it independently.

That was something else I wanted to ask you – so Universal signed you in 1999, then you were dropped a year later, and in 2002 you played a showcase for Atlantic, Columbia and Universal, and Universal signed you again in 2003. Is that right?

Yeah! You have to think of the music business like this, instead of being a jaded artist complaining about how you got dropped, think about being like a shoe company, if you make a shoe that doesn't fit people's feet, then you can't sell it, right? So you need to man up, realise that music is a business, people are investing a lot of money in you and if you aren't selling records, they will let you go. When they dropped me I didn't think 'Oh my God, I'm broken'. I thought, 'Okay, how do I get back? I'll have to make music that people will like better'. So I got myself back in the studio and tried my hardest to write music that fulfilled me but would also be the most universally themed music I could. As a result, the people that dropped me heard the new stuff and re-signed me, which is great. I only sold them 15,000 units last time. I want to sell 1,000,000 units. And I knew the team, I thought they were good people, I just made the wrong kind of record.

Well this approach clearly worked, because when you released 'Foiled' in 2006 it was huge, you had hit singles, you were on Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel's shows, the album did sell over a million because it went platinum in the US and you opened for The Rolling Stones!

We all wanted to win. It's like a marriage, if you have a period where it's not going so well you might take a break, but then you realise how much you love each other and both go the extra mile and work extra hard to make it work.

You're not on a major label now, you have your own. Were those past experiences the catalyst to make you think you would be better off doing things yourself in today's music scene?

Actually, the reason we started our own label was because in America, everybody does what's called a '360' deal now. Because people don't buy records like they used to, the label has to figure out ways to make more money, so they take 20% of your publishing, 20% of your merchandise, 20% of your touring, and then they take 85% of your album. I said no because we've been touring for so long, most of our money comes from the road and I wasn't prepared to give up that cut. So we parted ways but it was amicable and respectful, I still talk to the people at Universal all the time. It's taken a while to grow our label and now we're close to being able to compete, but it was tough. We are the underdog, but I love being the underdog.

And having your own label gives you more control over not only the music but how it's distributed?

It's complete artistic freedom, if I want to go and try something I can just go into my studio and do it, I don't have to ask for permission or ask for a bank loan to hire somewhere. I can do it myself and put it out, which generates an almost instant return, which I put straight back into Blue October. Then we can make another video, push another single on the radio, that kind of thing. I can also make sure we dot all the i's and cross all the t's, when you're on a label and somebody else is working on something, you can't always be sure of that. Songs are two minutes and thirty seconds long these days, it's aimed at a short span streaming audience to make as much money as they can out of it, which is smart if you're a major label. But when you're like us, a band that's been around over twenty years, you have to constantly recreate yourself, do what you can to get on the radio, put yourself out there.

You've had great success in America, but you do play over here in the UK. Will you be coming over to support this album?

Oh, of course! We played some shows there in March and we'll be back in February next year, we can't wait.

How many new songs are you planning for the set?

All of them.

All of them? Really?

That's why I only put twelve songs on the album. We look to play twenty-five songs in a set so we can do the whole new album and still play the stuff from the past. I want to play new stuff, we have done nine albums and have published over a hundred songs, so the set is a problem. I've given the band more input in that and tried to relinquish some of the control issues I have. (laughs)

As well as being the creative force in Blue October, you paint, you've published a book of all your lyrics and now you have a documentary coming out.

Yes, it's almost done, we've been working on it for six years but every time I want to wrap it up something beautiful happens like I have another child or we open another door in our lives, things just get better and better and better. We really want to wrap the documentary perfectly, we've got an hour and a half done, we're just working on putting a suitable ending to it. I'm super proud of it because it's not just about 'how cool Blue October is!' It's a serious documentary about how serious the disease of addiction is and how beautiful second chances, positivity and surrounding yourself with love is.

Fireworks Magazine Online 84: Interview with Myles Kennedy

MYLES KENNEDY

Interview by Dave Bott

Myles Kennedy really came to prominence as the lead-singer of Alter Bridge, following the initial demise of the multi-million selling Creed in 2003. His first band, The Mayfield Four released two critically acclaimed albums and were the perfect showcase for Kennedy's vocal and guitar skills and it was as part of this band that he came to the attention of guitarist Mark Tremonti, who was looking to put a new project together alongside his former Creed cohorts Scott Phillips (drums) and Brian Marshall (bass). Alter Bridge have now released five albums and for the best part of 10 years Kennedy has also been the lead singer for Slash's recording and touring band. After almost 2 decades Kennedy has finally released his first solo album, 'The Year Of The Tiger' and taken the touring plunge as a solo artist to promote its release. Kennedy never does press during tours (to save his voice), so Fireworks caught up with him as he prepared to return to the UK for a series of intimate performances and festival appearances. He was in a very relaxed mood and keen to discuss his newfound solo success and the need to make the album.


Myles Kennedy Fireworks Interview

It was something I really had to do and I didn't have any real expectations about how it might be received. It was such a different approach for me musically, different to the sound that I have established with Alter Bridge and the albums I've done with Slash. Speaking now, several months after its release, it's obvious that people have embraced it way more than I dreamed they would. It was a wholly cathartic experience and it was only after the record was completed that I looked back and fully understood just how much it had meant to me. I had jumped in head first to write and create something very personal and as I got deeper and deeper into the process it was then that I realised just how challenging and cathartic it was. I was re-opening a bottle and re-igniting a whole bunch of feelings. I was so glad that I got the opportunity to do it and I really do feel it was the best therapy I could have asked for. Not only did I get to make a record I really wanted to, but the icing on the cake is that it is really resonating with so many people.

Listening to the album from start to finish is something of an emotional journey and the concept nature of the material would be the basis for a great show on its own. Myles has been varying the set list from night to night and the performances are generally completely acoustic, but the door is always open to plunder 'Year Of The Dragon' for all 12 songs at some point.

I did think of performing the album in its entirety and I'm hoping to do that at some point during the next few weeks. I've been playing 5 or 6 of the tracks, but when I do eventually go out with a band it's my intention to do all 12. We'll just have to see whether they are in sequence or not. I've got Zia Uddin on drums and Tim Tournier on bass. Both these guys play on the record and Zia was also the drummer back in the old Mayfield Four days.

As an integral part of both Alter Bridge and the Slash line-up there is very little room to dedicate great amounts of time to a solo career, but Myles is keen to build on the success of '....Tiger' and the current run of shows.

I definitely think I have the bug. It has proved to be such a musically rewarding experience and it has certainly helped me grow and develop as both a writer and a person. It has helped me discover such a lot about myself and that is something very important to me. It was great going back to the old Mayfield Four stuff and it made me realise just how different a place I was in when it came to writing lyrics. I was a younger frustrated man in his 20s (laughing) and I was drawing on a whole bunch of relationship dramas as the inspiration for the subject matter of the songs. Obviously I'm proud of the songs and it's a blast to include the likes of 'Eden', 'Mars Hotel' and 'White Flag' in the set now. The schedules with Alter Bridge and Slash do include lots of touring on the back of records, but I'm confident they will allow for more solo stuff. These are kind of good problems to have.

'Watch Over You' has been a solo spot for Myles for many years now, as part of an Alter Bridge show, but going out in front of a crowd knowing you are the sole focus for everyone's attention for 90 minutes must have initially proved to be intimidating? There is also the issue of knowing which songs would work and which wouldn't suit the acoustic format.

There were a certain amount of nerves, especially when I was rehearsing and putting the shows together. I had about 6 weeks at home before I first went out on tour and I spent that time just playing different songs to see which worked and which didn't, trying to figure how some of the arrangements would need to be tweaked. Until I actually got out there and played I had no idea just how some of them would go down. The first show I did was in South Africa and was in front of more than 2,000 people. It was a bigger venue than many I've been playing. Standing at the side of the stage getting ready to go out there I was feeling surprisingly good considering what was about to happen. I guess I got all the nerves out of the way before the shows began and then the adrenalin kicked in. From then on it all felt very natural.



Almost like one of the old 'VH1 Storytellers' shows?

I think that's a good comparison. There needs to be a personal connection during the shows. In an acoustic environment there has to be a strong relationship with the audience. The fans have been so wonderful during this whole process and the fun banter never gets out of hand. Obviously my association is with loud rock bands, so this is a brand new format for me, a new approach. I was under no illusion about how the crowds would react to just me on stage with an acoustic guitar. I went into the whole thing knowing I had to do it from an artistic standpoint, but having no idea whether anyone else would be on board for it. A few people have mentioned that the shows would make a good live record and I think we might look at doing that somewhere down the line.

Following the upcoming solo dates the focus for the immediate future will be with Slash. It's not Guns n Roses, it's not Velvet Revolver and it's not Alter Bridge, but Myles seems to have developed a healthy working relationship with the guitarist and both have adapted to each other's writing styles over the course of the last 10 years or so.

Working with Slash varies from the way I work with Mark (Tremonti) when writing for Alter Bridge. I guess the Alter Bridge stuff has something of a Progressive edge to it and Mark and I will both bring musical ideas to the table and fuse them together. Generally when I'm working with Slash he comes up with most of the riffs and chord progressions, then I'll put the melody and the lyric over the top of it. Occasionally if I see a way to arrange something differently he's cool with it. He's very aware that we are trying to do what is best for the song. We pass the ideas back and forth electronically, but we do sometimes sit down together as a band to work on arrangements. After a decade or so you could call it a science. The new record is done and will be released some time later this year. We are just trying to put the tour together and that will be my main focus, but I'll still be looking to put together some more solo shows as well.

Myles is busier than ever. Alter Bridge get together every 3 years to write, record and tour and the gig with Slash and the Conspirators seems to work to a similar timeframe. With a successful solo career now up and running it must be difficult to find time to relax.

I'm trying to learn how to relax (laughing). Over the course of the last 7 or 8 months I've discovered the art of meditation, which has been extremely helpful. I think what I love to do is create music and that's what makes me happiest. It's work to a point, but so much fun, so how can I have any complaints?

The interview degenerates slightly when Myles is asked about his long term plans and whether there is anything he like to do alongside AB, Slash and his solo ventures.

How about a Black Metal Polka record? (Lots of laughing). There's something about an accordion going through a 100 watt Marshall amp!

At the time of the interview (June 27th) Myles is just 10 days away from playing a show in Liverpool for the very first time (see Rocktopia website for review). We wind up by discussing how tour schedules are arranged and the opportunities to check out the cities before or after the performance.

I don't really get involved with the arranging of the schedules, I trust the judgement of my booking agent and management. I'm excited to be coming to Liverpool for the first time and I've been driving my wife mad lately playing the 'Sgt Pepper' and 'Abbey Road' records. Occasionally there is time to check out the city where we're playing, it generally depends on the location from the night before.

I didn't spot Myles around Liverpool before the show, so I wonder if he made it down to the Cavern Club...

Fireworks Magazine Online 83: Interview with American Tears

AMERICAN TEARS: An interview with MARK MANGOLD

Interview by Ian Johnson

Mark Mangold, that name conjures up a lot of memories for all of us who read this magazine. Touch, Drive, She Said, guest slots with the great and the good who perform AOR has made his name, in our circles at least, a household one. But before all that Mark Mangold performed with a power trio called American Tears. It's been almost forty five years since that band made a record, so Fireworks talks with Mark about the reasoning behind this new release, what still drives him as a musician and much more.


American Tears Mark Mangold Interview

The first album under the moniker of American Tears, 'Branded Bad', came out almost forty-four years ago. So what was the reasoning behind you making another American Tear album?

Wow, forty-four years, I hadn't thought of it like that really. I wanted to play the keyboards again is the answer. I wanted to be in a place where we were creative musically again, where we weren't limited in what we did, trying to do something unique and maybe not so song orientated. I think also that part of doing this was the situation of our times, especially politically. I won't dwell on it but we all know what's going on, here and around the world at the moment. It was the same back when we recorded the first American Tears albums. Political upheaval, Vietnam, anti-war, anti-draft and now we have all these similar things today, with political power being mis-used etc. Our music is kind of a protest to what was going on then and now. We always wrote songs about inclusion and accepting all peoples and with today's situation bringing up old memories I got into that American Tears state of mind, which got me to thinking about how all the progress we've made over the years is being thrown aside at the moment. So a lot of the songs lyrically speaking on the new CD are about the struggle we're in and the stupidity of some of our leaders today.

On the new album it's basically just yourself handling everything. Whilst on the earlier albums you were at first a power trio. Why are you the only musician on 'Hard Core'?

I definitely thought about doing this album the old way, you know with a band but sadly a lot of the guys are now gone. Greg Baze has passed away and I tried real hard to find Tommy Gunn but I just couldn't. So after that, I sat down and looked at the budget I had to make this album, and it isn't like the old days where you got a lot of money to make records. In the end I knew this was going to be for me a labour of love but a very complex musical one. I mean the drum stuff alone is so complicated that to just have someone come in here and there to put down the drum tracks wouldn't have worked, and I knew I could do it and get the drum sound I wanted, so I decided the best way of doing this album was if I played everything. Of course my preference is always to have a band but this is just how it worked out this time. When we do the next American Tears album, there will be a band.

With a gap of almost forty-five years a lot of people will only know you as the man who was in Touch and Drive, She Said. They, therefore, would be more in tune with the music of those bands. But on 'Hard...' it's just you playing drums bass and many, many keyboards. To keep the fans who came later happy, was it ever in your thinking to have a guitar player?

No it was always going to be just keyboards. The mission of American Tears when we started out was to be a keyboard band. We wanted to create the parts usually filled by a guitarist with the keyboards, so if you listen to the older albums and this new one, there are solos but solos, played with keyboards through Marshall amps getting the distortion and energy you expect from a guitar, but all done on my keyboards. That was what I wanted for this new album. If you listen you'll hear me playing riffs that normally would be the province of the guitar player but I'm doing them on my Hammond.



My favourite type of albums are the ones where you as a listener have to sit down and take the time to work out what's going on before you can really start to enjoy them. Instant fixes are all well and good but investing in an album has always made me love a band's music more. What do you feel about this?

I agree. I always try to put depth and feeling into what I do. I never sat down when recording this album and said to myself, right Mark, who is this aimed at, how commercial should I make this, what's my target audience? I just wanted to make a record that, maybe the person listening to it, has to really work at to get the most out of what I've created before they get what I'm trying to say. I didn't want to have limits or boundaries which in some genres you have to adhere too. On 'Hard...' I just wanted to make music, music that needed space and time to get to know. Making this album really opened up my creative thinking processes. I'd start out with say, a drum beat, then I'd loop that in the studio, then just start playing along to it letting the keyboards and creativity take me and the music to wherever it wanted to go. Kind of free flow musicality if you get my meaning; and I wanted the audience to come on those musical journeys with me. Band's like Purple, Tull, Zeppelin had that free flow thing, where they would just play together to see where the music took them and 'Hard...' is my take on that.

As you played and did almost everything else on this album, I wonder how long it actually take to record?

Funnily enough not as long as you'd imagine. Everything took about two weeks, which sounds fast I know. But when I opened those creative flood gates (laughs) the music just seemed to pour out of me. It probably took longer to make sure that everything sounded right than it did to record the music. The lyrics were probably harder than the music because each of the tracks in the beginning were instrumentals and I added the words later. So the music, two weeks from start to finish and the whole thing, production lyrics etc, about two months.

I'd like to talk about a couple of the album's songs. Firstly 'Tear Gas', which has the same lyrics as the one from the album of the same name but musically it's so different. Did you always want to re-visit this song and give it an update?

When I sat down and decided to do this new CD it was that song that was in my head, the riff especially. So I suppose to make the connection between American Tears of the 70s and now I decided to use the 'Tear Gas' lyrics in a new song. It was never to fix it or to say there was anything wrong with the original, which is a song I've always loved, it was just a way of connecting then with now. Also a lot of time has passed since the first record came out and there will be people like you who know our music but also a new audience who doesn't, so maybe having that song on this CD will make them curious and they'll want to go and check out the earlier albums.

Tell us about the songs 'Ferryman'', which I found to be smoother and lighter in tone than a lot of the other tracks on this album and 'Lords Of Light' where lyrics such as 'No ghost of lies sent to deceive us, the demon eyes that come to get between us' are very poignant.

Well I'm a big fan of 10cc, The Moody Blues that kind of stuff. When I was writing the album I decided to use the Mellotron on a couple of songs and 'The Ferryman' was one of them. If you use the Mellotron you can get an almost string like quality to some of the keyboard sounds, which as you said gives the music a lighter feel. The song itself is a bit dark, dealing with death and the river Styx hence 'The Ferryman' title. With 'Lords...' it has more modern phrasing and I suppose lyrically it's an anti authority song, which is important to me. My lyrics then and now deal with what is going on in society and I think music can be good at getting people to wake up to what's going on in the world.

With a new album under your belt, what's next for Mark Mangold?

Well the second (new) American Tears album is already underway. To be honest it's almost finished. I'm also always writing and producing for other artists. I've got a couple of things coming up in movies and I write for Pop singers because in this day and age you can't just concentrate on one genre, you have to diversify to get ahead.

Finally, did you always want to be a musician?

Simple answer... Yes! (laughs) It's a disease and obsession. It's the language I speak. I do it because I love listening to music and I'm a fan of music. Being part of that creative process, having that musical soul in me, has been a wonderful thing. I love the way music hits you like a blow to the body, how it makes you feel and it's been that way since the start. So please listen to this new American Tears album on a good system and hear it how it was meant to be heard. Loud up-front and hitting you like a body blow.

Fireworks Magazine Online 83: Interview with Doro

DORO

Interview by Dave Scott

Given it has been about two years since we last spoke to you, aside from recording your new double release, can you give us a quick insight into what you have been doing in the meantime; for example, I saw you were at the preview for 'Anuk III' recently.


doro interview

Yes, we filmed three parts of the movie. The first one was 'Anuk: The Path Of The Warrior' and then we did part II and part III. We wrote many songs for that movie. I play this character – Meha – and she is a warrior. It was a lot of fun and I love doing little movies on the side, it is always very inspirational. I am always glad that I survive it because usually it is brutal, but it is great. It is run by a great guy, Luke Gasser – he is an independent film producer, a musician and a great person – we always work together. I think we worked together for the first time in 2007 and then, ever since, we always do something together. There is one song from the movie on the first CD, it's the bonus track, 'Bring My Hero Back Home Again'. When we showed it, we had a little party afterwards and so many people came up and asked, "this song in the movie, where can we get it; is it on a CD?" I told them, "no, no, not yet. It is the movie soundtrack but we do not know when it will be out". Then I said, "look, we have got to put it on our 'Forever Warriors' CD". It became the bonus track because it was last minute, but I think it was really nice; it's a little bit A Cappella with heavy acoustic guitar – it is very touching. Amongst all the other heavy songs, this one is really something for the soul.

I love doing that on the side, but mainly I was in the studio working on this record and then touring – non-stop touring. We were making a record at the same time, that is sometimes tough. It is different from the eighties. In the eighties and nineties, we always booked a studio like one year straight, sometimes one and a half years straight, and then I didn't do anything else, concentrating on the songs and the record, and now you do both. There's never a dull moment. We also celebrated one of my favourited Warlock records – the 'Triumph And Agony' album – it came out in 1987. I called my old guitar player friend Tommy Bolan and I said, "hey, you know what, its almost thirty years since – this was two years ago – that album, shall we do a little tour where we play the whole album or where we get together again"? He replied that, "man, Doro, I was waiting thirty years for that phone call", ha-ha. We always stayed friends and he always came up on stage when we played in America; he moved to LA but he's from New York. We played together and we played the whole entire album, which we'd never done before. It was a lot of fun. We realised there are some killer songs on it that we have never played before. Most tours, you pick four or five songs and that is it.

Obviously, when you are on tour promoting an album, fans still want to hear the classics, so you can maybe get half in the set on average, from my experience anyway.

Man, it was lovely. Of course, in the encores we played lots of other "best of" tracks from the other Warlock albums, like 'Hellbound', 'Burning The Witches' and some solo stuff from the likes of 'Raise Your Fist', and it was a lot of fun. We talked together and we were laughing and it felt like the good old times because when we were doing the 'Triumph And Agony' album, it was awesome. At the time, I could feel it was a magical moment, that it might be a successful album but you never know; but I had that feeling that it could really do something. Then Tommy said, "you know, its such a shame that we didn't continue playing together" and I said "yeah, but you know times were different". Back then, the record company, the management, the agency and everybody had so much power, sometimes the band or the band members, they didn't have anything to say when there were decisions being made, and that was the reason why we didn't play together anymore.

We said, "man, you know, we definitely got to continue" so he played lots of stuff on this new album. We also wrote one song together, it is the duet with Johan Hegg from Amon Amarth and it is one of my favourite songs, 'If I Can't Have You, No One Will'. I did a duet on the last Amon Amarth album and it was great. We went to Andy Sneap, he produced it and he recorded it. I flew to Birmingham and both of them picked me up at the airport – Johan and Andy – and then we went to eat. The next day we wanted to record that song 'A Dream That Cannot Be' but I said, "you know, I would like to do it right away. Right away!", and they said okay. We went into the studio late at night and I sang it. It was the first take and immediately you could tell, that was the one. The next day we just fixed a couple of things and we were hanging out, having a great time; I love all the guys from Amon Amarth a lot and I think Johan is one of the greatest front-people/singers. So I thought maybe he could be on my record as well. We had 'If I Can't Have You, No One Will' and I thought "man I will send it to him, maybe he'll like it" because it is a little heavier, a possessive love song and not a ballad love song. He loved it and then wrote half of the lyrics, and then we recorded it. Tommy is a special guitar player because he plays very much out of the box. It is very much like... he is totally unique, high-energy, he is unbelievable – sweating and bleeding in the first song. He brought more energy to the whole record. He played on a couple of other songs, like 'All For Metal', which also has a great video.

Let's return to the beginning for a minute. You have really pulled out all the stops with your new release. When did you first decide that your latest release would be a double album and what prompted you to undertake such a project?

Actually, I started writing for this record about two and a half years ago. We had one single released called 'Love's Gone To Hell', a ballad, but that was not the start of the whole song writing process. It really started when I went to Lemmy Kilmister's funeral; Lemmy was my best friend in the music world, bar possibly Ronnie James Dio. I went to his funeral and I had this melody and lyric coming to me whilst I was on the plane. I was so heart-broken. Then I recorded it on my cell phone, I know you probably shouldn't do that on the plane but nobody saw me, so I sang it on my cell phone, and I was hoping they wouldn't throw me off the plan up in the air ha-ha! I then called my friend Andreas Bruhn, who has been a working partner for the last twenty-two years or so, and I said "Andreas, I have another melody and an idea for a song dedicated to Lemmy". He said, "okay then, let's record it as soon as you get back". We started recording it in Hamburg and then started the whole song writing process. It was just pouring out; we had about thirty, thirty-five songs, so I talked to the record company. They said, "okay, we want one album because not many people are doing double albums" and so on and so on.

So I thought, okay so I have to throw out at least fifteen songs that I love so much. Then a couple of weeks ago, somebody actually said "hey, you know, it would be great to have a double album" and I thought "oh no way, I didn't finish working on all of these songs". Somebody else, someone in charge of all these things, said "no, it would be awesome to have a double album". So we kept working day and night, I don't want to say twenty-four hours, but at least twenty-two hours every day, and then we finished all the other songs that we loved. I thought at the time, "okay, I don't know how we will finish everything with mixing, mastering and all the touch ups" but it wasn't actually so long ago, maybe two or three months ago, that somebody said, "yeah go for it, go for the double album". I was so happy because the whole spirit was like a double album and I thought every song had a deep meaning or the right beat for this record. To be honest, I don't know how long people will buy records anymore, so maybe this will be the last thing with the big package – two CDs, double vinyl. It is massive and beautiful, you can buy it as a box-set or buy it separately, but it will be visually nice and sound wise, it is the real deal.

Did you have any thought to releasing the two albums at different times or was it always your plan to bring them out together?

Yes, it was always the plan to bring them out together. I never thought it would be a good idea to release one part one year later because I like it fresh, what you hear is what you get. Maybe in one year or so, the subjects would be different, I don't know if the world would still be standing. There are lots of ideas in the album, they are talking about today, certain songs are a bit political like 'Résistance'. The world has never been in a worse shape than now and that is a song that I thought is up-to-date and that definitely had to make this album. So it was always the thought that we would have a double album now and not two separate parts.

You never thought, whilst you were doing it or even when the label then decided about it being a double album, we should finish one, get that out and then release the other later; you set your heart on a double album and set your heart on that.

Yes, exactly. I never feel the work, when they said about a double album, I thought, "ah yes, a great idea, let's get right back to work, let's finish the other songs". Usually when we master an album it takes one or two days but this time it was five days and nights to make it really nice and perfect. That is the way it should be. Somehow, I don't know who tells you or who is the judge of it, I guess it's gut instinct or the inner voice, there is something that makes you feel what is right or wrong. Usually I think the first thought or the first feeling is very powerful and ninety-nine percent of the time it is right. So whether it's music, mixing or song-writing, when it really feels good I feel it in my body, my heart is pumping like crazy, I feel like I am getting all excited, I can't sleep at night because I am thinking about the song. There is a special power to it where you feel that you have to do it and to do it right. There are other songs where everybody says, "that is a great song" or "that is a hit", but if I don't feel it, usually I don't even go for it anymore. I've felt in the past, since I have been doing this for thirty-five years or more, sometimes I thought "okay, maybe other people are right, they are more experienced, older, they know" and then I did certain things that I didn't feel one hundred percent about, but I tried it out and it really never worked out. You live and learn ha-ha.

What can fans expect musically, from the two new albums?

I think the first working title was 'Soldier Of Metal' and the second was 'Empowered United'. I definitely would like to give people positive power and energy, it sets you up with so much good energy, joy and meaning. Something that really, really feels good for a long time and not maybe just listening to the record once; that maybe it stays with you for a couple of years. I definitely learnt from the best, like Ronnie James Dio for example, they were my favourite records and I listened to them over and over, I was finding new melodies or new words where I thought, "oh man, that is great, that makes me feel so good" or it feels like another person is just feeling like you. For example, there is one cover version on the new album called 'Lost In The Ozone' (from Motörhead and Lemmy) and when you feel really lonely and really isolated, then listen to that song and you can be sure that many people feel like that, even Lemmy felt so alone. I think that is positive too. There is a feeling of unity and bringing the people and the world together, fighting the good fight, that is the message of the record, fighting the good fight, that all the good people... that they are sticking together. I think there is so much negative energy out there, I think it is of upmost importance that the good ones, that they keep on fighting. There is nothing fake; what you hear is what you get. There is nothing that has been fiddled around with, it is all coming from the heart. There were good people involved in this and good people working on this.

You have already mentioned that you had involvement from Tommy and Johan, who else did you turn to for help with this new album? For example, I know Doug Aldrich is helping out on there...

Somebody in the studio who was utmost important to me was Andy Bruhn and he is the ex-guitar player of Sisters Of Mercy. We met, I think it was in 1986 or 1987, and ever since we've worked together on many songs and he was a big part of this record. He is not playing live but in the studio he is great and very understanding. He's super talented, super sensitive and open-minded when I have an idea, I don't feel embarrassed singing it to him. Sometimes when there is an idea you really care for, you have to be careful who you play it for or who you sing it to because if somebody looks at you strange or funny or thinks that it's a silly idea, then the song is gone. I love working with him and I always feel secure when I say, "Hey Andreas, I have a new idea, do you want to check it out?" he says, "Yes, just sing it into the microphone and let's see." I can do whatever I feel and he is immediately on the same page. He might sometimes say, "Let me think about it" and he is fantastic guitar player – usually he plays guitar to it or whatever. He plays all the instruments which is great – and then we always get a result really, really quick. It feels either like "Ah, lets forget about it" or it feels like "Yes, this could be something." Therefore, Andreas was one of the main song-writing partners for me, like 'All For Metal', 'Soldier For Metal', almost everything. 'Heartbroken'... we worked on that. Then I thought, "Man, I would love to have other people involved." For example, on 'Heartbroken', ... it was two American tours ago, we played in Las Vegas and Doug Aldrich was there and we hit it off right away. We had met at some festivals and stuff. I said, "Hey Doug, do you want to play on stage, let's do something" and he said okay. Then we decided we'd do 'Breaking The Law' because everybody knows that song and it sounded so beautiful; he gave it a different touch and it was awesome. We stayed in touch and when I wrote this song 'Heartbroken' with Andreas, I thought, "Man, you know, Doug would possibly be awesome on that if he would like it."

I sent him the song and he wrote back saying, "I love it, I love it, let's do it." He played all these great solos, like the long one in the middle and the long one on the end. At first, everybody was saying that we had to make a shorter fade and I thought, "No, no, it is so great, it has to be to the very last note, until it ends" so 'Heartbroken' was with Doug. As I already mentioned, 'If I Can't Have You, No One Will' is with Johan. I love his singing and I love his spirit, most of all I love that. I saw him many times live and then I had the great chance to hop on stage at a couple of festivals, like Summerbreeze, Wacken and Rock Am Ring. We have great chemistry, even on stage, it was so much fun. I felt like I was part of the band, which usually when you are a guest, you feel a bit weird or awkward; you hope that it is all okay and that people like it, but in that setting, I really felt like part of the band. It was good and with Johan it was awesome, so I am very happy and honoured that he is on this record with his great powerful voice. I love his voice, I love his attitude and it will possibly the second or third single. We definitely want to do a video of that song too. There is then one song that is very special, you probably don't know the guest, but the song 'Backstage To Heaven' was written by Jack Ponti and myself a while ago.

There is a saxophone player called Helge Schneider and he is a comedian but very dark humour – he is really funny but really weird and unique haha – and he plays lots of instruments (he is a Jazz player, he plays piano, saxophone and stuff). We meet for the first time at Wacken, we briefly said hello, and then we meet again last year at the place where I played Monsters Of Rock Festival in Germany (it was in Mannheim). In 1986, there was the biggest day in my life when we played Castle Donington and then there were two other Monsters Of Rock festivals in Germany and one was in Mannheim, so it was a very special place. We had a great gig and then there was somebody watching the show and I thought, "He looks like that comedian, he looks like Helge" and then I walked back before the first encore and he was still hanging out and rocking out. After the show, I knew it was him and I said, "Hi Helge, what are you doing here" and he said "I am playing here the next day" because the city was doing something for about two weeks with all kinds of musical styles. We were talking and he asked what I was doing and I told him I was working on a new album and he said, "How cool, just in case you need me... you know." I said to him that I actually had this song, 'Backstage To Heaven', and on the demo there was this great saxophone solo and I asked if he played saxophone and he said yeah.

He came to the studio a couple of weeks later and he played this great saxophone solo on that song. Jack Ponti, the song-writer, he was someone who produced the 'Angels Never Die" album in 1993 and the 'Machine II Machine' album in 1995, and he is a very well-known guitar player, song-writer – he wrote 'Love Is A Loaded Gun' for Alice Cooper and many other great songs and many big hits. I think he a couple of things for Bon Jovi. We wrote it a while ago and he is still a great friend. Jack is one of the best guitar players too and funny as hell. Speaking of Bon Jovi, there is another song on this album called 'It Cuts So Deep' that I wrote with the keyboard player from Bon Jovi – David Bryan. That was a while ago too, we wrote it years ago. It was actually when I was working with Jack – because I recorded 'Angels Never Die' and 'Machine II Machine' in New Jersey – and then for many, many years I went back to New Jersey, actually a couple of songs on this album were recorded in a studio by Mike Goldberg. I met him in 1995 and we always stayed friends and work together, so 'It Cuts So Deep' was actually with David Bryan. I like that song-writing style, like we used to do it, with great verse, great b-section, great bridge and great chorus. I like that. I know in this day and age that sometimes the melodies, they don't seem so important anymore, but I like good stuff, old-school stuff.

There are two songs I would like to ask about. I see you once again have another German language song on one of the albums, 'Freunde Fürs Leben' ('Friends For Life'), for those who don't speak German, what is that song about?

It is a little bit in the same theme as 'Für Immer', it talks about deep friendship that will never, ever end and friends for life. I really mean it, actually, my true love are the fans all over the world. To me, they are not an anonymous audience; I know many, many fans personally and have done so over the years. That is what I live for, that is why I wake up in the morning, it is for the fans. To me, they are my dearest friends, they are often closer friends than my "normal" friends and that one means 'Friends For Life'. There is not the word 'fans' in the song but they will know.

You also have another cover on the album I wanted to touch upon. You have covered 'Don't Break My Heart Again' by Whitesnake; what made you record that song?

It was 1980 and I was in my first band that was called Snakebite, then it was Beast Attack and then Warlock. I was in my first band Snakebite and actually we heard that Whitesnake was playing live and that was my first Rock concert ever; it was in 1980 and it was in Cologne. I tell you, David Coverdale was so fucking amazing and it was great. It was this great line-up and he was such a God: his performance, his moves, the voice, the songs, the energy ... it was unbelievable. I became a big Whitesnake fan, I guess people in my band were Whitesnake fans too because our band was called Snakebite, so I guess there was something, this connection. Back then, you didn't have so much access, there was no internet, no sale boards. It was so hard to even see a band or to find out that a band is playing. I always drove, I drove sometimes like twenty or thirty hours to see a band, but Whitesnake, it was one of the wildest experiences. For many, many more years, I was searching for another band who would blow my mind like that, and the second band was Judas Priest and then it was Ronnie James Dio, but I waited a long time to see a show which totally blew my mind. I met David briefly one time backstage and I said hello. I haven't sent him the song yet so I hope he likes it because it was just getting mastered a week or so ago. Like I said, we have only just finished and the graphics are still in the making, and the mastering just a week and a half ago. I will send it, I don't know where to send it but I will find out and I hope he likes it.



There are obviously two songs we have to talk about, both of which you have briefly touched upon already. We can't talk about this album without speaking in more detail about 'Living Life To The Fullest'. That is the song that started all this. Was it just one of those inspirational moment?

I had the great chance to meet Lemmy; I think the first time was in 1984 or 1985 and it was actually in England. I was invited to a party and had to do a little showcase. I did the sound-check but it was not with my band because the record company had said, "No, no, we don't want to spend that money, just the girl goes to England and she gets some musicians and they do a little showcase" which was cover songs. I did the sound-check. I couldn't speak much English haha, but I weaseled my way through. So we did sound-check and it sounded alright. I then had a couple of hours to kill so I walked around and that was the first time I went into a pub, and who did I see? Lemmy. He was hanging out, having a cigarette and whisky and cola, and we started to talk. He said, "Are you Doro, that chick from Warlock" and I said, "Yeah, and you are Lemmy" and he had that big smile — wow it was cool. We started hanging out, really laughing and talking, like becoming great friends right off the bat. He was always pouring me whisky and colas, and after a while he said, "Doro, don't you have to do a show" and I was like, "Err yes". I totally forgot the time because I had enjoyed the time with Lemmy so much.

I came out too late and I walked out of this pub totally drunk and I realised that after, when I was talking to Lemmy, we had great fun and it was really cool, but then I thought "Oh my God, oh my God." At first, I couldn't even find the club anymore because everything looked alike, in London sometimes all the streets look alike – it was unbelievable. I eventually found it and I came back late, everybody was already so upset. It was a big deal because they all wanted to see me on stage and then decide if we would get a record deal; it was like heavy. I walked out on stage and the band started to play, and I forgot all the lyrics. I couldn't remember a word and I was so drunk, so I sat myself on the drum raiser and I waited until the band was done. Everybody looked at me and said, "You ruined your life, you ruined your career, you know that?" and I said, "Yes, but I am friends with Lemmy" and then everybody started laughing and we got our record deal. The record came out and somehow it all worked out. Ever since I loved Lemmy and we met again at the Monsters Of Rock Festival in 1986 at Castle Donington and it was awesome again. We have played many, many festivals and many tours together, and then my very first duet was with done with Lemmy back in 2000. I was on the same record label, it used to be SPV, and I wrote Lemmy a little letter and said, "Hi Lemmy, I don't know if you remember me, I am that little German girl. I am now on the same label and we are doing a record, so maybe, if you have time or are interested, maybe we could write a song together or do something together." I wrote it to the management and I never expect I would get an answer; I know how it is, people are busy. It was a couple of months later and I got a phone call.

It was a very sad day because my dad had died one day before the phone call and I was totally devastated and totally desperate. The phone rang and I didn't even want to pick up it up, I was almost suicidal, it was really bad. I was in a shop because my mum needed some clothes, she didn't have anything black. I only really wear black but she didn't have any black clothes, so we had to buy some black stuff for my dad's funeral. My mum said I should pick up the phone, the whole shop, all the people were looking at us and I said, "No, no, I don't want to pick up the phone." She told me to at least check out who it is because maybe it was important, but I said, "No, no, there is nothing important anymore." But I did check the phone and it was an LA number, which I thought was weird because I usually know people in New York but not many in LA. I picked it up and it was Lemmy on the phone. He was in good spirits and he said, "Hey Doro, I got your letter and yeah, let's do something together." I said to him, "Oh Lemmy, I don't want to do anything anymore, my dad just died." He already knew that my dad was my best friend and he said "Oh man, I am so sorry. You sound really bad, I think it is utmost important that we do something together, that you get into a different mind frame." I said, "I don't know" but he said, "Ah Doro, just come over to LA and we do something." In the end I said, "I don't know. Oh okay, I am coming." I went to LA and it was the first time I did a duet with somebody and it is on the 'Calling The Wild' album. We actually did two songs, 'Love Me Forever', which is the Motörhead classic, and 'Alone Again', another song which Lemmy wrote on his acoustic guitar. He sang it to me and I was like... man, the tears were rolling down my cheeks.

It was so touching and wow, and the lyrics were so heavy, similar to 'Lost In The Ozone' which talked about loneliness and being left again. We had a great friendship after that time, we spent many, many weeks in the studio and then we always met on tour. We toured together with Motörhead and on the last record, 'Raise Your Fist', there was another duet on it called 'It Still Hurts' and we recorded it; in fact, it was the last time we did something together studio-wise. The last time I saw him, he didn't look so healthy and he looked so thin. I thought to myself, "Oh man, I hope everything goes well." He was still touring and we had great contact. When I was England or America, or he was in Germany or America, we always called each other and met up before a show, sometimes I hopped up on stage and it was awesome. When he died, it hit me like... oh man. After the first time, like I have said before, the first time it was like that was with Ronnie James Dio, who I loved so much. We had a great, great friendship and we toured together. Then with Lemmy, it was the second time something hit me so hard; it was heavy. I went to his funeral and that was heavy too because my mum was in hospital and my mum didn't feel so good – I was just thinking, "Oh my God." I went there and, on the plane, I actually met Mikkey Dee who was flying to the funeral as well. I was sitting in my chair and thinking about Lemmy and then this melody just popped into my head; it was the melody and lyrics right away, not the verses but the whole chorus which was written in a moment. I recorded it on my cell phone and then a couple of weeks later, I recorded it. It is a song for Lemmy but it gave me so much hope and energy as well. Thinking about him, I always feel like he was a great, great person.

The word legend is used far too much these days but that does sum him up perfectly.

Totally, he was a total hero and legend, and one of a kind. These days, so many people, they go with the flow and I always felt Lemmy was always doing what he thought and what he felt. He was unique and he had a heart of gold too. He was so amazing, especially when we did those two songs, he helped me. He was so sensitive and he had just the right words to say, with my dad and stuff because I was so sad and I thought the world would end for me. He was very, very sensitive, soulful and intelligent about it and he really gave me new hope. I saw the light at the end of the tunnel by just having Lemmy at my side and talking to me. He was lifting me up again and I never, ever forgot that. I guess nobody else could have done it.

Another song that deserves a question all to itself is 'All For Metal'. I know you will be unveiling the new single and video next month. In a recent press release, you mentioned the video will include several Metal heroes. Who does that include?

Yes, it does. It includes Mille Petrozza (Kreator), Johan (Amon Amarth), Chuck Billy (Testament) and Warrel Dane (Sanctuary/Nevermore). That was the last time that I saw him, it was recorded at Wacken, and we were great friends. It was my first American tour with Sanctuary (with Warrel) and Megadeth in 1988, and we always stayed friends as well. There is also Jeff Waters (Annihilator), the guys from Sabaton, Ross The Boss (Manowar), "Rockin'" Rolf Kaparek from Running Wild, Detractor from, I think, Chile who are a young, up-and-coming, Tommy my old Warlock guitar player, Andy Brings who used to be a band member of Sodom....

Wow, you really do have some names in there.

Yes, yes. Then you see all our diehard fans and you see many fans in Wacken when they are dancing in the mud and flying into the mud. There are these great scenes of people, I don't know who they are, but they look great and they are covered in mud. There is this couple who are covered in mud and then they are flying into the mud. It was filmed in Wacken when it was raining like mad. Besides the guests, the fans... the fans, they are a big part of that video. It is done in slow motion, the people in the Wacken mud scene, it is so beautiful. You wait until you see it. It will make you feel good. It is so funny, in the end Mille and I, we are singing when the song is ending and it is so funny. It looks like two kids playing, it looks like we are six years old. You will see it, and it is funny.

In another press release you have mentioned the two albums are made up of nineteen tracks and six bonus tracks making twenty-five. Can you tell me about the bonus tracks on the album?

There is one I told you about already which was with Luke called 'Bring My Hero Back Home Again' from the movie. There is another song which might end up in the movie called 'Black Ballad'. It's a very mystical, very dark song, like a little spooky; I love it. Then there is another one on the first album called 'Be Strong', the message is just that I want to give the fans good energy and all be strong, no matter what. Whatever crosses your path, be strong, just close your eyes and go through it – that kind of theme. There is then one special bonus track and I always wanted to record it. It is a song called 'Caruso' and it was written by Lucio Dalla, an Italian song-writer and musician who died a couple of years ago. That song has been done a couple of times by Luciano Pavarotti, that is how I got to know the song, and it is my first song in Italian. On each album, I always like had a song in French, most of the time it was in French, Spanish or Portuguese. My guitar player, Luca Princiotta – who has now been with us for over ten years, he is a very talented guitar player but he is sometimes a little bit in the shadows, but he is absolutely great – he came to the studio and he was coaching me through all the Italian words so it sounds perfect and the Italian fans know what's going on haha. I think it came out really good and that is my first song in Italian, but the melody is so nice. I played it to Nuclear Blast and I said, "Wow, it should definitely make the album" but it is very unique so it not on the real album but a bonus track. I want to put bonus tracks pretty much on all records or CDs, I don't want to have a CD without bonus tracks. It will be on every format, including vinyl as well.

I read that you wanted to record that in the last recording week?

Yeah, actually it was recorded in the last week because there were three songs I wanted to record towards the end of the album – 'Lift Me Up', 'Don't Break My Heart Again' and Caruso' – and I wasn't sure if we would get it done in time but we did.

How did you go about working out which songs would appear on which album?

Actually, I thought maybe the first one has maybe more anthems, is maybe a little heavier, with songs like 'Bastardos', 'If I Can't Have You, No One Will' or 'All For Metal', while the other one is a little bit more, I don't want to say softer but maybe a little more soulful... just maybe a tiny little bit with 'It Cuts So Deep', 'Heartbroken' and '1000 Years', which is a very soulful, heartfelt song. I just went by gut feeling. I think the first one is a bit heavier and the second a bit more soulful.

You went with gut feeling rather than say I will record these for one album and these for the other. You recorded them all, sat down and went with your gut feeling?

Yes, actually it is sometimes really interesting that in the beginning you or someone might say/think "Oh, this song, this is the single", "That is a hit" or "This is great", and then through the process of recording, mixing and then even mastering, certain songs, they come alive where you don't expect it, whereas other songs they don't really quite make it; it's sometimes interesting. Therefore I always wait to the very last moment, usually in mixing you decide. Even when you do the sequence, that is always hard, it is a pain in the ass because there are so many choices but then you somehow you feel... yes, this song feels like it wants to be number one or this one wants to be a closer.

You know it is so funny, I used to do mix tapes and also some DJing, and it's not dissimilar. You have to decide that this song will start and then this one will follow that nicely and so on.

Sometimes I think about it and I write it down, even just in my mind... oh it sounds perfect. I then go into mastering and then you do it, and then the songs don't really mix even though you visualised it and heard it in your mind. Then you hear it for real and the song wants to do what it wants to do, and I am always respectful to the song and where it wants to be. I always go by feeling but it is sometimes interesting. Even when we do a set-list live, I write a set-list, then we go into our rehearsal room and we do it, and then you feel it, no... that doesn't work and then we do other things. Therefore I always usually do the set-list with the guys in the rehearsal room and it's usually different to the first thing I wrote down... then live on stage, I change the set-list again haha. The guys, they don't always like that haha, but I always feel whatever makes the show the best it can be, whatever makes it unique and whatever makes the fans happy, that is what it should be. Everybody's always ready and prepared to work on, I don't know, fifty or sixty songs, and then sometimes in a concert I feel "Yes, people would like to hear this" or when people are totally going into a head-banging move, then of course I want to play more songs in that sort of vein rather than go into a ballad.

It keeps the guys on their feet, haha...

Haha, if you ask them they would probably say, "Oh, it is hard, it is hard", haha. I feel like, since I am the front person, I am always right there where the fans are and sometimes it maybe different from where Johnny Dee is sitting on the drums, which is ten metres away, so he might feel different. When I feel the energy of the people, I can look into their eyes and know what is going on, and then, of course, I want to do every concert like they would never forget it; like I felt like when I saw Dio or Whitesnake. I want it to be "WOW!" so that they will remember it for a lifetime. That is like how I go about it because it could mean that every concert could be the last because I give it my best, give it my fullest – always living life to the fullest as the song says – there is no plan B and no safety net... just go for it fully. Sometimes people think or say, "You'll get a heart attack." In the beginning, like in the eighties especially when we toured England, I always felt it was so important because that is where Metal came from. I gave it my all and the manager always had to actually carry me off stage because my head was blood red, everybody thought the head would explode and the little girl too. It was so insane, but I like to keep it that way. Then with somebody that is old-school, like Tommy, we are on the same page so it's like... haha... he is a maniac and I always think "Man, he will have a stroke any moment" but so far, so good. We are all alive and well.

You have some of the most amazing stories; is there one particular tale from the recording of this album – be it funny, heart-warming or just a particular memory – that is special to you from the process of making this album?

Yes, haha. We recorded the album all over the world: in New Jersey, in Hamburg with Andreas – his studio is in Hamburg and most of the stuff was recorded there, and I have another studio that is actually in Germany as well; it is really old-school, it looks like the good old days with old coaches, and it is called Rock City Studio. In their logo they have a dog and it was a golden retriever. I love dogs, that is something I miss so much. I don't have a family, I don't have animals and I really would love to have them but it is impossible. This dog, I loved it and since the record was recorded for two and a half years, he was a very old dog and during that production he sadly died. The engineer, his name is Ralph Quick, he is a great mixer and he is old-school – I like that. He was so heartbroken and he was lonely – he is not married and he doesn't have kids – and I thought, "Oh man". Then he got a new dog and that is the dog people might have seen, he is a French Bulldog and he looks really cute in the pictures and I love him. However, I tell you, he is a young boy and he sometimes goes a little crazy. He loves eating my zippers and everything that is shiny and he always love to eat my shoes.

The engineer is like, "Oh, he's not doing much" but he is sometimes biting really hard because he is young and so full of energy. I was singing 'Don't Break My Heart Again' and we had to do a couple of ad-libs. I actually sang it in Hamburg but towards the end we wanted to do a couple more ad-libs so I was singing in that studio and the dog was going crazy and then he was eating my leg and I thought, "Oh no". I felt it, it was hurting and it was painful, but I thought the take I was doing was so dead on that I probably wouldn't have been to do it over again that easy and as good. I thought, "You fucking dog, you can eat my leg but I will finish the track" haha. Then the take was done and the track was done, and Ralph actually, while he was recording he didn't get it and he was so into his work etc and I said to him, "Oh Ralph, the dog, the dog, my leg, it is bleeding and stuff" and he replied, "Oh, he is just a little baby." His dog is more important than any human, haha. After that take was done, I had these leggings on – I didn't even have jeans on, I had leggings on – so the whole leg was full of blood and I still have all the things, it looks cool but that was the session where the dog ate the leg and I couldn't let up, haha.

Looking to the future, I understand you potentially have plans for a live 'Triumph And Agony' release and I also see you have started your own record label – Rare Diamonds Records.

That is true. The reason for the record label is because so many record companies have closed doors which is so heavy and so sometimes sad due to what is going on in the industry, and there are not many records anymore to sell. Anyhow, I got so many records back, like all the rights to these records, I got them back from SPV and AFM. Then I thought it is such a shame that you could not get the records anymore from anywhere. You couldn't even order them and you can't buy them in the stores – there are not that many stores left – you can't buy them anymore. We then had this idea of forming our own label to put them out again, if possible in nice limited editions to make them extra special. Last year I did this TV show and I sang a couple of songs, some other artists sang some songs and then the audience could vote which song was the best. It was not only Metal, it was all kinds of genres. To cut a long story short, the song which was the favourite of this TV show was 'Für Immer', it was that German song and it was sung by somebody else which was really cool.

I thought "Wow" and that was where I came up with the idea to do a record with only the German songs on it because some of those records you can't buy anymore. I then had, like, seventeen songs and recorded 'Helden', which is the German version of the David Bowie song 'Heroes', and two other songs that we recorded in German that used to be in English. We put it out, it was called 'Für Immer', and it came out in September last year. I thought maybe it is a nice thing for people to enjoy before the new record came out because I knew it would take a little bit longer. I always say it is coming out in a couple of months; when 'Love's Gone To Hell' was being released, I was saying, "Yeah, next year the new record is out" but sometimes it takes so much longer than you want it to. That is the reason why we formed our own label. Then I thought that 'Triumph And Agony', when we played it live, it sounded so good. We did it the first time last year at the Sweden Rock Festival and man I think it turned out really good. This year we are doing it again in Spain, at another really nice festival so we are doing it a couple of times. We also did an American tour a couple of months ago and I think it sounds great. I think the record deserves it.

Is that something you are going to do or is more hoping?

No, I want to do it. We will probably record it this year and put it out next year. I don't feel it is urgent but I definitely want to do it. In the live environment, I think some of these songs sound even nicer because of the energy and with the audiences who go crazy. It is so much nicer than the studio version which is always a little bit tame; the songs are usually a bit slower and live they are double speed. I definitely want to do it. Now, having played with Tommy so many times, it is working out great; he is a great guy. We all get along great, now we have three guitar players for that setting. It is good, no egos involved so it is all cool. You know how guitar players can get but everyone gets along great.

Well, Iron Maiden can manage it, so I am sure you can haha.

Yeah, haha, but they are the only band I know that have and can. We did it now many times and it worked out great, it felt good.

Doro, it has been an absolute pleasure to talk to you again. Is there anything you would like to add or that I might have missed?

Oh, if you can tell all the fans that I love them forever and I deeply appreciate all their support for over thirty-five years; it is so awesome. It was my dream to do music and that I can still continue doing it is because of the fans. The fans I love most in this world, in my world, they mean everything to me – always will and always have, and that will always stay that way and I hope they will enjoy the new record.

Fireworks Magazine Online 83: Interview with Stormzone

STORMZONE

Interview by Bruce Mee

Northern Ireland's premier Heavy Metal band Stormzone have just released their seventh studio album, the wonderful 'Lucifer's Factory', featuring a collection of songs based on Irish myths and legends. Fireworks caught up with mainman John 'Harv' Harbinson to get the details...


Stormzone-Interview-image

My only previous exposure to Stormzone was your debut album, and when you played at our Firefest Festival back in 2007. I remember enjoying the Melodic Hard Rock you played back then, so it was a bit eye-opening hearing the more Melodic Metal of 'Lucifer's Factory'. I guess you've been recording in this style for quite a few albums, so how do you see the band's musical evolution from the debut to today?


Firefest was a wonderful experience for Stormzone, Bruce. I remember meeting you during the course of that excellent weekend! We were quite nervous before our appearance as the band with that Firefest line-up had only been together for a matter of months. The first Stormzone album, 'Caught in the Act', had been released earlier that year through Escape Music and it was an album featuring mainly Hard Rock songs which is why our Firefest show had that Melodic Rock feel to it. That was because initially 'CITA' was really only meant to be a John 'Harv' Harbinson solo album! Stormzone wasn't actually in existence when I was recording it, the musicians on the album are all great session musicians — although guitarist Keith Harris eventually became the Stormzone guitarist — and I financed the album myself, due in part to having been in a Whitesnake tribute band at that time and Davy Warren had asked us if we would support Danger Danger.

I didn't want to play covers while supporting such a prolific act and I asked the Whitesnake tribute guys to learn a set of original material that I had written while in an earlier band called Emerald. The Danger Danger show was a massive hit and Kieran Dargan actually encouraged us to go back on for an encore ̶ unheard of for a support band. That's when I decided to record the songs we had played that night; it really wasn't intended for release as I didn't have a record company involved. But then when the album was finished it found its way into the hands of Khalil Turk and he right away said he wanted to release it! It was actually Khalil who came up with the band's name as it was better being released that way rather than as a solo album. So Stormzone was created and 'Caught In The Act' was released in January 2007. Kieran then asked me if I'd be interested in re-creating the Danger Danger support at Firefest later that year and that's when the panic set in haha, as I had to turn Stormzone into an actual band! I had been keeping myself in shape by rehearsing with an Iron Maiden tribute band at that time, and I had become extremely fond of the musicians in that band.

So I asked them if they could put the Iron Maiden tribute on the back-burner for a while so that we could concentrate of some shows, including Firefest. That's when Stormzone as a band was actually born. We played some local shows as warm up for Firefest and then performed at the festival itself. Circumstances during the Firefest weekend dictated that there was a guarantee of some exceptionally interesting shows in the near future, so the Iron Maiden tribute was laid to rest permanently and Stormzone became everyone's main focus. The Firefest line-up also then dictated the way future recordings would take shape as the line-up, featuring now guys who were a little heavier in their personal tastes for music, was actually going to be jointly contributing to song-writing and I no longer had to rely on a back-catalogue of older and already written material for future albums. But we had been spotted by Spanish promoter Robert Mills at Firefest. He was bringing George Lynch to Europe for a series of solo shows and realised at that moment, having watched us perform, that George didn't have to solely perform guitar instrumentals to backing tracks ̶ here was a band who could provide him with the backing to be able to play a full show of Dokken and Lynch Mob songs!

Yes indeed, I never realized you were George Lynch's backing band for that Spanish tour. How was that experience, and how was George to work with?

We actually started the tour off in London. George arrived at the Camden Underworld while we were sound checking. He hadn't been in contact with the band or had even heard of us, but when he walked in through the door, there we were performing 'Breaking The Chains' and that must have been an eye-opener for him! It was a really unique tour as we had to go on as Stormzone to play the support show and then come off stage, get quickly changed and venture out a whole new entity as (as George referred to us as) his 'European Lynch Mob'. What an honour! It did lift Stormzone to a whole new level of confidence and that boded well for big shows we had ahead, meaning we wouldn't feel just as nervous as we did walking onto the Firefest stage. Here we were with an absolute legend standing amidst our ranks playing Dokken and Lynch Mob classics; it was both unreal and surreal. The funny thing was George had no idea that we had been rehearsing the show for a month or so before embarking on the tour, so he was still under the impression that he still had to perform an instrumental set with backing tracks and under the impression that we would just be backing him for a song or two. I think he was asleep during our London support so he still didn't see we meant business, and he played for 45 minutes or so to a CD before we joined him for what he thought were the last couple of songs ̶ an hour later we were still playing all the hits!

George really enjoyed himself, we were flying to Barcelona next day and the great man said he wanted to talk to us when we got there. At the hotel when we arrived George organised a meeting and basically said that he was going to ditch the whole guitar clinic to backing tracks angle of his tour and he wanted to then work out a touring set that would be consistent during the shows ahead. That was absolutely awesome because it took away any uncertainty and it made the tour far more appealing and exciting. We continued to support ourselves each night and then returned to the stage each evening much more confident of being able to deliver the goods. I kind of felt sorry for the guys though because there were a couple of instrumentals in the set and while I could stand side-stage and take a breather the rest of the band had to knuckle down to George's insistence on playing the instrumentals four times longer than the originals, so it was one hell of a work out for the boys. And yes, it was truly awesome each night when George continued to introduce us onstage as his European Lynch Mob!

I hear so much Classic Metal references in the new album, from the Maiden flavoured opener 'Dark Hedges', through the Judas Priest infused 'Last Night In Hell' and the bombastic Manowar feel of 'In For The Kill'. You played in an Iron Maiden tribute band in the early days, so is this just your influences shining through?

Well I hope that when people listen to us they'll know that they're listening to Stormzone. We do definitely sound at times like the bands you mention through influence, but we're honestly not deliberately trying to be another Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. Our aim is to keep the music alive that great bands such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden made so popular all over the world. They will hopefully be around for a long time more, but when they decide to call it quits then it shouldn't mean that a great style of Metal should be confined to the history books. I don't think we actually originally set out to sound like our influences, but I guess if we do then it would be a natural thing. I'm personally a big fan of Helloween, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Hammerfall, Edguy and UDO etc, and it just so happens that the other guys in Stormzone love the same bands and obviously there will be hints of those influential bands running through our sound.

Our last album 'Seven Sins', as well as those released before it, with the exception of 'Caught In The Act', was compared at times to those famous bands you mention, so with 'Lucifer's Factory' we were aware of those reviews and agreed that we had to be careful not to be classed as, for example, Iron Maiden clones. When the album was finished we all agreed that this is probably our strongest release to date, and reviewers have thankfully been agreeing with us, but the real difference this time is that reviewers are now focusing on a Stormzone sound and mentioning less and less the bands who influenced our earlier releases!! We honestly write freely now without even thinking about those great bands. We still seem to end up with hints of them in our sound. I don't really mind though, they are great bands to be compared to and it would be awesome to get to the levels they've reached!

How does the song-writing process work in Stormzone?

Well to tell you the truth, the main thing is we really never stop writing, it's never a case of having time away from writing songs and then saying right, it's time to create what's necessary for a new album. So the songs on 'Lucifer's Factory' would have been the continuation of writing after we recorded 'Seven Sins' and really there is never any real plan to change direction or become more progressive. So technically from the moment 'Lucifer's Factory' was recorded we began working on what will be the next Stormzone album! The songs on 'Lucifer's Factory' just managed to capture a song-writing period that happened to produce a consistency that maybe sounded like we had deliberately tried to have an album with a slightly different direction than those before it, but that honestly wasn't the case. The song writing process is always the same; it starts with an individual member of the band having an initial musical idea and that idea is brought to the rest of us in bassist Graham's studio. The guys then sit down and work on the music, developing a riff further into a structure that becomes intro, verse, chorus.

Then the following night they'll go to guitarist Steve's Firemachine Studio ̶ where all our albums are finally recorded and produced ̶ and they'll record what has been worked on at the previous night's writing session with the end product being a finished track without vocals. Steve will email me the song that night and next day in my own studio I'll write and record the vocals, add backing vocals and email the song to the guys afterwards, usually same day. That part of our writing and recording process usually takes around 3 days to complete. The next thing is obviously to live with the song for a while and suggest changes, maybe to verse lengths, maybe a bridge needs added or something. That all gets noted, generally these days via Facebook messenger, and the following night the whole process starts all over again. It might be that we have shows that we have to rehearse for and writing will stop for a week or two as we concentrate on a set for concerts, but no matter how long the gap is between writing sessions the next song starts off being created in exactly the same way as the previous one and a consistency is hopefully maintained.

There may have been a slightly longer gap than usual between the writing of 'Seven Sins' and 'Lucifer's Factory' as we had the personnel change with David Bates leaving the drum stool and Jonathan Millar's arrival, and that may have contributed to a slightly different overall feel to many of the songs on 'Lucifer's Factory', but our objective is always to try to maintain a unique Stormzone sound even if there are a few twists and turns in direction. It would probably be too predictable for us to just create a 'Lucifer's Factory Part II' right away, it will happen at some point but whether or not the next album is going to be a continuation of us studying our Northern Ireland mythology and folklore, which all the songs on the new album are based on, we'll just have to wait and see!



As you say, the new album is based on Irish Myths and legends. Whose idea was that and how difficult was it to come up with 13 such stories – and which are your favourites?

The guys are generally happy to leave me to it when it comes to what is going to be the main inspiration for a new collection of songs for an album. I was also going to be responsible for designing and painting the album cover so it actually came about that I had to concentrate on a combination of thinking about themes for the songs that would make their way onto the 'Lucifer's Factory' CD and then also contemplating how the cover artwork would develop. It actually transpired that one would help the other and I was able to dip into work that I had done a few years ago as inspiration for both. I have always been interested in the myths and legends of Northern Ireland, not really the established ones but the hidden folklore which is really only talked about in regions and not tremendously famous. A Spanish author was writing a book on the subject as part of a 'guide for Spanish tourists' who she wanted to ensure would go off the beaten tracks in an effort to find hidden gems.

So her research and the things that she discovered really intrigued me and it astonished me that we here in Northern Ireland have so many superb tales to tell of things that, to many, would seem very surprising and enlightening. You will find these tales on the new Stormzone album, amongst them being the legend of 'Albhartach', a vampire who lived in the North West of Northern Ireland and terrorised villages during his lifetime. This was well before Dracula became the famous face of vampirism and Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, has gone on record as having been originally influenced by the story of Albhartach. 'Hallows Eve' is the origin of Halloween, right here in Northern Ireland where in medieval times people would scatter ashes on the slate floor of their living room in front of the fire place. While the families were sleeping Jack O'Lantern would visit, and in the morning if the footprints he left in the ashes pointed towards the door then all was going to be well for this family, but if they pointed towards the fire, they were going to experience death in a short time! That's the origin of Halloween right there, not some 'trick or treat' party that was hijacked by the USA! Other tales on the album include 'Cushy Glen', the tale of the highwayman who ambushed men on their way home from the pub and attacking the drunk men he would cut their throats, rob them and bury them in an opened grave in the local graveyard.

Next day when the funeral of the grave owner was taking place he would be amongst the mourners watching as the coffin was laid down on top of the soil covered body of his previous night's victim! So I was able to gain lots of inspiration for the songs on the new album and that was helped by the fact that I had, by then, great experience of the tales because I had read them and done the artwork which accompanied each story in the Spanish book! It was natural then that the album cover would develop from the same source, and although the album is called 'Lucifer's Factory' the painting is inspired by a 'gateway to Hell' described in the song 'The Heaven You Despise' in which Lucifer is exiled from Heaven and seeks sanctuary on earth by creating an entrance to his new domain, and it really exists as a place called Dundermot Mound just outside the city of Ballymena in Northern Ireland. Considering Northern Ireland is a small country with just a total population of 1.6 million and we are surrounded by such an intense wealth of myth, mystery and legend it really is a place to be fully inspired and influenced. Plus we have Guinness and Bushmills Whisky, and we know they're legendary and really exist!!

Is there a book or website you could recommend to fans who wanted to read up more on the backgrounds of these wonderful tales?

A good friend of mine, Rock journalist Jonathan Traynor, recommended Jonathan Bardon's 'History of Ulster' and this proved to be an invaluable source when it came to writing the lyrics for the songs on 'Lucifer's Factory'. I didn't want to veer away from absolute facts or have an expert chastising me for inaccuracy, and when I'm talking about experts I really mean the people close to the myths and legendary characters that I chose to write about. This was also important when it came to that other contribution I made to the album, which was the painting of the cover!

The Jonathan Bardon book would be highly influential with my choice of themes for the songs that would make their way onto the 'Lucifer's Factory' album and also in contemplating how the cover artwork would develop, and it actually transpired that one would help out the other and I was able to dip into work that I had done a few years ago as inspiration for the songs as well as the artwork.

This is your third album for Metal Nation, so things must be working well as a partnership?

Absolutely, and our relationship with Jess goes way before we ever thought we'd be signing to him and Metal Nation Records. The highly respected and regarded ex-Tygers Of Pan Tang singer came to see us play in Newcastle, England, when we supported Tesla there in the O2 Academy way back in 2008. He had been head of Neat Records, the label that encouraged Sweet Savage to reunite and our previous drummer Davy Bates, who was in Sweet Savage back then, remained friends with Jess when that partnership split after two albums. Jess stayed after the Tesla show, we had a drink together and he expressed an interest in helping the band out. Shortly afterwards we had recorded our second album, 'Death Dealer', and quickly realised that the more straight Metal approach to this album would not have suited it's release on Escape Music, the company who released our first more melodic debut album.

SPV had expressed an interest in signing us after one of their representatives had seen us at Sweden Rock, but we had contractual obligations to Escape Music and couldn't sign to SPV right away. We were out of our depth and desperate to sign to the German label and Jess took the bull by the horns and negotiated a settlement between the labels which allowed us to be free to leave Escape Music and release Death Dealer through SPV. We just could not have done that on our own, and we were grateful to Jess for sorting everything out for us. At that moment we quickly decided that we needed a manager who could deal with these kinds of situations, and Jess seemed the obvious choice. We signed a management contract with him and we went on to do some great shows as a result, including Wacken, and Jess also negotiated the release of our third album, 'Zero To Rage' through SPV. Our management contracts ran in tandem with our SPV contracts and both 3 year terms came to an end at the beginning of 2013. We knew we were going to have 'Three Kings' recorded and ready for release that year but with SPV going through another insolvency situation it wasn't clear as to whether they would be ideal to keep waiting for in order to release 'Three Kings'.

We met up with Jess at the Metal Assault festival in Germany that February. He spent the weekend with us and we realised that we didn't need to wait on anyone at all. Jess was head of Metal Nation Records, he had contacts all over the world and he knew everything there was to know about Heavy Metal, so we decided that there was only one label going to release Three Kings and that was Metal Nation. Here we are another five years later and he's lived up to all his promises and our new album 'Lucifer's Factory' is now also available on Metal Nation!
We have definitely benefitted from being signed to Metal Nation Records because Jess Cox never puts the band under pressure to meet deadlines. The great thing is we have always had albums written and recorded well ahead of schedule and that is definitely as a result of our great fortune in having the ability to record in our guitarist Steve's FireMachine studio during the time-frames which suit each member of the band and of course with Steve also being our producer and guitarist we therefore have that as a massive advantage. The only pressure we really feel is the pressure we put on ourselves to continually create great music, but that is a very satisfying self-inflicted pressure and it is never affected by time.

The band has done many live shows and festivals promoting previous releases, so are there any plans settled yet to get out and play 'Lucifer's Factory' to the fans?

We definitely have aspirations to do an extensive UK tour in support of 'Lucifer's Factory' as well as venturing over to Europe to play shows there organised by our manager, Eddy 'Rocks' Freiberger. It's really as difficult as the amount of finance that can be put into doing a tour in more ways than one. It's an unfortunate fact these days that a lot of the bigger bands ask support bands for money if they want to tour with them. Recently a well known act contacted us to ask if we would be interested in doing a series of 18 shows around Europe, but pointed out that if we were to come on board there would be a 500 Euro fee, each night!! So we would have had to have covered our own travelling expenses and accommodation for almost three weeks as well as paying a staggering 9000 Euros!

That, of course, is not just a difficulty faced by us, there are thousands of bands out there and very few opportunities. Also most festivals and tours are in the hands of promoters and agencies. A single agency can provide many bands for one festival and if you're not part of that agency you stand very little chance of getting an invite to play. We have been fortunate enough, without having to resort to paying, to have played some fantastic festivals and toured with a lot of great bands who haven't demanded anything from us. This year has been no exception and to tell you the truth, with writing and recording 'Lucifer's Factory' we were expecting to be doing very little live work in 2018. But already this year we have played quite a few shows here in Ireland including the support shows with Inglorious, Warrior Soul, Anvil, Diamond Head and Y&T. The rest of the year is becoming even more productive as we are going to be touring Spain in September, organised by Kivents there, and although it's some way off we have been confirmed for the Icerock Festival in Switzerland in January. The increase in live action coincides with our involvement with Eddy 'Rocks' Freiberger, he is responsible for everything we are now doing with regards to tours and festivals and I know we will be doing much more on the road in 2018 for sure.

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