Fireworks Magazine Online 50 - Joe Lynn Turner

JOE LYNN TURNER

From Fandango to Rainbow, to Yngwie Malmsteen and Deep Purple, to a string of high quality solo albums, a pair of excellent studio records with Glenn Hughes and fronting Mother’s Army, Joe Lynn Turner has an impressive resumé - and that was the edited version! One of his most popular recent endeavours however has been the Sunstorm project, a venture created to find an outlet for some of the unreleased gems in Turner’s vault, paired up with songs written by some of the genre’s best composers. With two albums out already, fan reaction was very positive... so 2012 welcomes the third installment ‘Emotional Fire’. This time though, there’s a change to the formula - James Gaden talked to Joe to find out all about it...

The reason for this interview, which is the third Sunstorm record - different from the other two because instead of you doing some of your old songs mixed in with new stuff, you’re doing some of other peoples old tracks like Michael Bolton and Cher.

Yeah, that I sang on originally! (laughs) It’s all full circle. I was in Turkey and was there for about six weeks, chilling, that was pretty much the only time I had off last year. But at the same time I was writing and stuff if inspiration came to me. While I was there, I had no access to my main hard drive where I have my old songs and demos. I told Serafino I couldn’t go rooting through them because I was in Turkey, so Serafino went about gathering material himself. I’ll be honest, I’m a little sad the opportunity to do some of my old stuff passed for this record, things like ‘Tough At The Top’, ‘Number One’, those would be fun to do. But what Serafino sent me - most of it I thought were good songs, there were a couple I had reservations about, I thought they sounded a bit typical eighties. But I had thought that before, and when Dennis Ward comes in, he’s an amazing producer and he can make it work.

I must say, when we last spoke you told me you had just started receiving the track ideas from Serafino, there were none of your songs and you were not sold on some of them, so I was a little bit worried about how this album would sound. But I think it really has the Sunstorm punch to it! There some real class on here, and your vocals with Dennis’ production and that great band, it keeps that Sunstorm vision going. I do miss your songs, but the inclusion of some Michael Bolton cuts is very smart. I think you and Michael have a similar writing style, big on melody.

Yeah, absolutely, I tip my hat to all of the guys involved. There were a few exchanges where Dennis and I made a few subtle changes and swapped a few things around... I think yeah, I wish I could have contributed some of my stuff to this one, but having some of Michael’s songs was great. I remember very well doing the original sessions for some of those, when I was hired to sing backgrounds. I was doing a lot of the high parts when I was a young man with that voice. I could probably do it now, but I’d have to rest afterwards! I’m not sure Michael could even do them up there now, these were cut thirty years ago! The Cher thing, I was writing with Desmond Child and I was asked to sing on one of her songs, and it was ‘Emotional Fire’! So for this album, we’ve rocked them up a little bit.

Like I say, I was a bit worried about this album, but as soon as the first track ‘Never Give Up’ came on, I was a lot happier. That has all the Sunstorm hallmarks, it ticks every box!

Yeah, we’ve got some good writers on board, the Martin brothers and some Swedish guys - I’m quite familiar with a lot of the Swedish writers because I’ve got a really great album with Chris Antblad who was the songwriter of the year last year. We were gonna put it out and we were all set, them boom! Sunstorm is out in February. So we figured we should wait, fans can only buy so many records. I’m sad we have to wait because that record is so... it’s so different! It’s rock, pop, with a twist...it’s not standard, yet... kinda poppy with some rock. It’s what used to be known as hit material!

Sounds great! Regarding Sunstorm, with the songs, this is your third time around so when you were sent some demos you didn’t like, did you have the power to reject them and have Serafino pick something else, or was it “Here are the songs you are doing, off you go”?

To be honest, I didn’t get into that. At first, I thought about saying ‘Look, can we have some last minute entries?’ but I thought why should I stir the pot? I was only back in the States for a couple of weeks before I was back out on the road playing in Russia, so I figured as I’d left it all in Serafino’s hands I’d just accept it and not make waves. Besides, it was what he had gathered, so he must hear something in those songs I didn’t like. He’s not stupid, he has good taste. So I looked at it as a challenge, see what I could do with them and when we got into it, the logistics of actually singing them, that was when I could tweak things slightly to suit me.
Some of the demo vocals were nasally, high toned stuff so we switched the key to something I was happier with. Dennis sent me the Bolton stuff in the original keys! He was in his thirties when he recorded that, and I’m on backgrounds singing above him - Dennis, I turn sixty this year! What are you fucking doing? (laughs) If I did it in the original keys, I didn’t want it to sound laboured. In the eighties, every song was like ‘solo... and modulate!’ Yawn - boring! Why follow it so strictly? Dennis agreed and we could make those subtle changes to get a much better performance. All my life, I’ve much more enjoyed the deeper Paul Rodgers kinda sound instead of the high whiny voices that were “in” at one point.

When you told me originally that there were two or three Bolton tracks on it, you said one was ‘Gina’ from ‘The Hunger’ but you couldn’t remember the other one at the time... and it turned out to be ‘You Wouldn’t Know Love’ which Cher did cut, but so did Michael, it’s on his ‘Soul Provider’ album. I always liked that, I thought it was a great rock song, but I think because it was on ‘Soul Provider’ which is what made him a mainstream guy, a lot of his rock fans shirked that record and maybe missed it. I was pleased you got to do that, you did a great job!

Oh yeah, great song! We’ve been friends since Blackjack, I thought it was great for him to invite me on the records, to sing on ‘The Hunger’. I saw him last year actually - he has a reputation of being a little snooty, but he’s never been like that to me. Besides, you do have to be off sometimes in this business, or people will just overwhelm you. The reason I mention that is whatever my doubts originally when this project started with a couple of tracks, when I saw there were some Bolton songs on there, great! Of course, ‘Emotional Fire’ was written by Michael, Desmond and Diane Warren. Diane’s fabulous.

So, with this being the third Sunstorm album, are you happy to leave it as a trilogy, or do you think there’s more to come?

I’m all in favour of not wearing something out. I was on the treadmill last night and I decided to listen to ‘House Of Dreams’ again. Personally, I don’t think we can beat the first Sunstorm, now I’ve had time to look back on them. That was amazing. ‘House Of Dreams’ is pretty good though. I enjoyed it, the song writing was really good. This third one though - there’s a good feeling about it, if it’s really well received I’d certainly consider another, but if not, I do think a trilogy is a good place to stop. I'd like to explore other areas, maybe country - not "yee-ha!" or anything, more "New Country". I have a good country name!

That brand of country is big. I quite like some of it.

Yeah, real big. Some of the new stuff is inspiring, it shows there are still song writers out there. I know some people in Nashville, I have some material in that vein, I’d like to send it to some of these guys to see what they think. I’m not just one self... the great poet Walt Whitman said “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” I’m many musical selves - I’d like to do some new country stuff, I’d like to get together with Karl Cochran and write some heavy funk-metal tracks. I want to dig into that too.

Yeah! You’ve only dabbled with the odd funky song here and there, you’ve never really gone for it.

Yeah, I want to open up the soul part of me. Glenn Hughes does that and mixes it with some alternative sounds. I like him to straight on hit it and funk out, because he’s the white Stevie Wonder. He should have made his mark that way in a fair world. If I was producing him, that’s the kind of record I’d want him to make, funky bass, killer instrumentation, black girls backing him, the full bit. That’s his forte. But I’ve never had chance to explore that, and that’s really my background. However, as you know, the only way an artist makes money is live. So I have to focus on that first, look at playing Asia for a bit. But I’d like to do something like that, before everything blows up! (laughs)


Read the full double page spread where Joe talks more about the new Sunstorm record, hooking up with his friends Glenn Hughes and Joe Bonamassa at a recent Black Country Communion show and the music business in general in more detail in Fireworks #50.

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