Fireworks Magazine Online 73 - Interview with Radio Exile


Radio Exile is another ensemble of seasoned musicians worth our attention. Alexandra Mrozowska talks with Charlie Calv about the band's foundation and their first album.

Radio-Exile Interview

Is Radio Exile a super-group in your view?

It's nice to be called "super" but I think the reason why we have this line-up is more because we wanted to put something together with guys from different musical backgrounds and generations and try and create something unique; we were just lucky they were all able to commit. This is not some manufactured group of guys who never met or played in the same room together and I would like to stress that we all rehearsed together and worked out arrangements and all tracked together the old fashioned way, nobody did any recording in their home studios. I was there for every session over the course of a year and it took that long because of everyone's schedules and us wanting to do it this way with the actual interaction of working together. In my opinion that is how you create music and great records; it is the interaction between the musicians. That art is all too often lost in today's musical climate. Maybe that is why so many are short lived because they don't even get the opportunity to actually know each other.

In what circumstances was this project formed?

It's actually quite funny how we formed this whole thing. I had run in to Dave whom I have known since we were kids and we have always talked about doing something together but we could never seem to make it work, so I was pretty determined to make something happen this time. I sent him some songs I was working on and asked if he would be up for doing a record and if he knew of any singers, and he was totally up for it and recommended Chandler. We then got together with Chandler and we hit it off right away, so the three of us talked about how we wanted to move forward and who we had in mind for guitarists and bass players. I wanted to make sure it was an interesting group of players and not just your typical hard rock guys where we would just churn out this generic sounding record which seems to happen all too often these days. Jimmy was at the top of our list as he's such a versatile player and I knew he could add a lot to this record and fortunately for us he was able to commit. Then Kenny kind of came in accidentally. Chandler ran into him at a show and they started talking, and next thing I know I get an email from Chandler saying how would you like Kenny Aaronson on the record? Who is going to say no to that right? So I sent Kenny the stuff and he liked it and was able to commit as well. So that is how we wound up with the line-up.

Is it a band, or a project and do you plan it to continue?

For me personally this is my main band now. We all have other things that we are involved with but as long as Chandler and I continue to write what we think are pretty good songs than this will continue. We already have some rough ideas for the next record and plan on starting to demo them shortly. We did not know what to expect when we first put this together but it seems to have worked out really well so we are all geared up to do another one.

A common denominator for all musicians involved in Radio Exile is their vast amount of studio and stage experience. Do you think it is reflected in the way everything functions and sounds, or is Radio Exile a whole new chapter independent of all your previous work and achievements?

Well you can't deny that you are going to hear the individual influences especially from myself and Chandler from the song writing side, but I think collectively it is what everyone brings to the table that give us our overall sound and creates Radio Exile. It was intentional to get guys that had very diverse backgrounds and get us all in a room together and see what happens. Dave is a tremendous percussionist so you hear that influence all over the record. Jimmy is such a well-rounded player that he can go from tearing it up on a track like 'No Pity On The Highway' to a nice country flair on 'Feels Like Home'. Then Kenny comes from a whole different school deeply rooted in Motown and Rockabilly, I mean he has played with Hall And Oates, Bob Dylan and Brian Setzer, so you have that thrown into the mix. So in answer to your question, yes it does reflect in the overall sound but collectively it becomes what it is.

What are your personal highlights of the recently released self-titled album?

Wow, very hard question. I like the entire record for various reasons and I actually listen to it quite a lot, which is unusual because I don't really listen to my own stuff that often. But I hope that is because it is not boring and diverse enough that there is probably something on here for everyone. That makes it hard to pick a highlight, but I guess 'No Pity On The Highway' is one, because I really like that for the raw aggression; and then on the flipside I just love the way 'A Cross On Stone' came out; to have Joe Cerisano and Jessie Wagner just doing their thing on the end was just a sight to see in the studio; that was all just one take.

There's plenty of different vibes to 'Radio Exile' – from the bluesy 'No Pity On The Highway' to the gospel-esque 'A Cross On Stone' as you say. What were you inspired by while making the album and are your personal music tastes similarly diverse?

'I listen to all sorts of music; to me if it is a good song it is a good song and that is kind of the approach we took. We did not put any limitations on what could make the final cut other than if we thought it was a good song it made the record. We also wanted to make a record where hopefully everyone can take away something that they really like. I am huge Led Zeppelin fan and I love how they would intertwine all these different styles yet it was all Zeppelin, same with a band like Queen.

What was the song writing process on this album? Do you always work this particular way?

Chandler and I wrote all of the songs for this except 'Hang On', which was a rewrite of an existing idea that Chandler had. On some, I had a musical idea and he wrote the melodies and lyrics to it, like 'A Cross On Stone'; and then on some he just had a vocal melody or he had a whole melody lyric idea, like on 'Down In A Hole', and I just wrote the music around that. After that we would go back and forth and tweak stuff and work on the arrangement and do demos of them to send to the others. We then got together as a group and rehearsed the final arrangements.

It seems Radio Exile earned not only enthusiastic reviews but also some solid airplay – we talk mostly Rock-oriented online radio stations here. What's your relationship with this medium? Do you think it's still important to have your songs on the air in the era of the supposed decline of the radio?

'I am old school so I think it is still important, although there are so many more outlets to hear music these days. It's unfortunate to kind of be in that classic rock category because the only songs that get played in that format are the classics. Even if an older band releases new material you will very rarely hear it on the radio. That is kind of where we got the idea for the name Radio Exile. We're exiled from radio. The artwork just ties in with that concept as it captures an image of the old army forts, off the coast of England from World War II, which then used to house the pirate radio stations. Radio Exile, just kind of fits perfectly.

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You had plenty of big names from the music industry working on the album. What kind of influence do you think they exerted on the recorded material? Especially Steve DeAcutis and Steve Lunt who worked alongside many Pop artists...

They all brought something different to the table. Steve DeAcutis is a more hands on type of guy, so he not only co-produced but engineered and mixed it as well. You can hear that he worked on it as he has very distinct mixing approach; if you listen to the new Vanilla Fudge record or Pat Traverse, and then Radio Exile for example, they all sonically have that same kind of warm sound and this just what we wanted.Steve Lunt is a more hands off, ideas man and just loves to try all sorts of ideas to try and find just the right direction or parts for the song that work best. Alan is just great though; he actually produced the first Shotgun Symphony record and this is the first time we have worked together since. He just added the polish that was needed during the mastering to just make the whole thing shine. Also, both Steve DeAcutis and Steve Lunt are song guys, so that is important. We are all in there together trying to give the best representation of the song. Stevie has a very organic approach and loves natural sounding guitars and drums, and then Steve Lunt comes from a more polished background obviously from developing Britney Spears and his early years working alongside Mutt Lange on the City Boy records, so the balance between the two was great. Let me tell you, Lunt knows how to pick a song or songs.... For example, he sent me the iTunes charts the other night, with what are the most popular songs from the CD, and the top 3 were all the ones he picked. Then, he did work with Max Martin quite a lot so, when you work with the guy that probably has the most chart topping songs ever, it has to rub off a bit, right (laughs).

How important do you think is the role of the producer in general and what characteristics do you think an ideal producer should possess?

They are like the ring-leader and help you to reach your artistic vision; then sometimes they can create a train wreck, lol. No, I like to think we put together a good team to work on this, and I liked that myself. Stevie and Steve all worked together to achieve this. I like to think that I, having a hand in the production myself, kept the artistic vision that I originally had and that these guys just helped take it to a whole new level and capture the best performances. I'm really thrilled with the results and there was no train wreck at all.

Just recently you've made a music video to 'No Pity On The Highway'. What's the storyline and how do you think it corresponds with the song lyrics?

'It is about someone struggling to get through life and its addictions. There is no pity for the choices that you make as you go down life's highway. In the video you can see how this young guy is struggling with his substance addictions and how you can lose what you love as it consumes you. This is a huge issue in today's society; way too many people struggle with it. You are left at the end to wonder what happens, as this guy stands on the edge of the cliff.... Stay tuned for the next video.'

Do you plan any more videos for the album then? Which songs would you like to have illustrated?

Yes. We are planning on doing at least one more, and possibly a third as well. We are working on the storyline now and plan on starting to shoot it in December. I have a pretty good idea on which one is next, but it is not 100%, so don't want to say which at the moment.

What are the current plans for you? Any chance of bringing it to the live stage?

We do have some offers for some festivals in 2016, which we are looking at right now. As far as any extensive touring goes, I don't think that would be possible because of everyone's individual schedules, but we'll see. Chandler and I are starting to work on some ideas individually and plan on taking December to sort through what we have and at least get some stuff demoed for hopefully the next album.

Is there anything you'd like to add in the end?

Many thanks to the fans and everyone at Fireworks. I go back a long way with Bruce and some of the guys and it is an absolute pleasure to be back on the scene making some new music, with what I think is a fantastic group of musicians. If we can take this to the stage there is so much material we could touch upon that would thrill the fans, I'm sure.

Read the album review right here on Rocktopia!

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