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Fireworks Magazine

Fireworks Magazine Online 84: Interview with Gio Spanó

GIO SPANÓ

Interview by Rob McKenzie

Giovanni Spanó, or Gio to his friends, has two notable strings to his bow. First, he is the lead singer of deVience, a London based hard rocking band with a self-titled debut album under its belt. Secondly, and prominently with a #1 UK Soundtrack album in the bag, he is one of the stars of Jim Steinman's 'Bat Out Of Hell The Musical'. Fireworks Magazine got to meet up with Gio between shows in London to find out more about the singing workaholic.


Gio Spano Fireworks Rocktopia Interview

The sound of deVience is very much heavy Aerosmith with a dirty Guns n' Roses' edge – is that a fair assessment?

That's the vibe we are going for. When a riff goes through your body, you can feel it and then start to go with it. That's what makes you feel good and when you get a melody to fit with it, that's the whole package. I love being able to move to a track and being moved by one as well. I think our album does that and does it well – I am very proud of it.

The album starts off with an 'Eruption' themed bang?

The introduction to the album, 'Ignition', just gets me fired up and it does ignite you and prepares you to take on the album. That's what every album should do whether it is Metal or Hardcore; it serves its purpose.

Even though the majority of your album is full-on Rock, you have some big power ballads on display.

The ballads are really my thing; you have to empathise with people around you and be in touch with your own emotions. I was with a girl who I found incredibly easy to love but the rest of the stuff that came with it was difficult and that's the background to the track 'Easy'. For me it is the standout track, it's my baby, the one I cherish the most and invested myself in; it is basically about a love life past. There is a prelude to it that we wrote after the original song because I wanted people to ease themselves into 'Easy' with an acoustic piece.

I notice deVience have got a lot of shows lined up this year.

It's going to be a lot of fun – Isle Of Wight festival, HRH, Hair Metal Heaven for example. We are finally getting the recognition I believe we deserve and it's lovely to do what we do best – provide a great face melting Rock n' Roll show for the crowd!

We have a new single out called 'Beyond The Bounds'. We are doing it ourselves now; we used to have a label but it didn't work out and I am really happy with the gigs we have got at the moment. Next year, I hope we will be doing the Download festival.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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How did you start your professional career?

When I was fourteen I was in 'Whistle Down The Wind' written by Jim Steinman and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Jim was around all the time. We were mesmerised as kids knowing he was there – it was great to be inspired by someone and get to hang out with them. He was such a nice character, in fact I am one of the few members of the cast who has had contact with him recently. It was truly an honour to get an email from him.

Unfortunately, Jim Steinman has had some ill-health recently. What involvement has he had with 'Bat Out Of Hell The Musical'?

He was a massive part of the process in the rehearsal period. He had a live video relay the whole time we were doing auditions and he was up to all hours analysing everything. He wanted perfection for this show and with the people I am on stage with, I don't think we are too far off! We get a standing ovation every night. I enjoy the whole thing, you can see it in my face. It is an honour to be on stage and sing those songs every night.

Your rendition of 'Objects In The Rear View Mirror...' brings depth to your character.

It's the time when the audience can relate to my character rather than being the bruiser running around beating up people. For the rest of the show, I do quite a lot and people know who I am and how much the other characters mean to me. I've got a New York accent for the show as the story is set in a dystopic Manhattan. My part is a brawny, bruiser character and the accent makes me stand out a bit. Andrew [Polec, the lead] is from Philly, so his accent is a bit different.

How do you keep your voice in shape for eight shows a week?

Steam, sleep and good vibes! When you do the show, you can't eat too much – you have seen how physical it is. I look after my body; this morning I went to the gym, then did West End Live and then onto the show. However, my brother and sister were the performers growing up − I used to like football instead! One day I heard 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and I knew music had to be part of my life. I would start singing and my mum said, "If you want to sing, do it properly" and so I started singing Opera first. I then found other styles of music and I seemed to lean towards Rock. I wanted to be a Swiss army knife so having this career in the West End and having a band as well means I have several strings to my bow. Life is hard for a singer; but if you do something you love every night – why not?

Sandy Robertson from Sounds was the first journalist in the UK to discover Meat Loaf and the music of Jim Steinman. He wrote of Steinman's plan for this Peter Pan of the future story way back in the 70s. It's fantastic how it has come together now.

It was originally a concept album for a show – 'Dream Engine'. If they turned it into a movie, it would be so cool, who knows? Mick Wall [colleague of Sandy Robertson] came to the show and loved it. He gave me a copy of his Meat Loaf biography ['Like A Bat Out Of Hell, The Larger Than Life Story Of Meat Loaf'].

Being part of the soundtrack which has done so well must have been the icing on the cake?

The recording was up in Manchester; we were doing the show there and we got the green light for the cast recording. We were number one in the soundtrack charts; eventually when it is released digitally we can get into the regular chart.

Back to deVience, when is the next album going to be released?

Album two is in progress; ideally I would like it out by the end of the year but the reality is more like the beginning of next year. In the meantime, we will be releasing singles as I want the second album to be even better than the first.

Finally, how did the band name come about?

Two of my favourite words are Vie and Defiance. It's an analogy for anybody who doesn't think they can achieve anything – so you Vie to reach a goal, like get a band together, and you Defy expectations and smash people's preconceptions of you. Vie to defy!

Full details about deVience and upcoming tour dates can be found at the band's official website www.devience.com .

Click HERE to read the review of DeVience - 'DeVience'

Fireworks Magazine Online 84: Interview with Creye

CREYE

Interview by Richard Epps

Initially formed in 2015 by Swedish guitarist and songwriter Andreas Gullstrand as a classic Pop/Rock act with a retro AOR sound, their debut single 'Never Too Late', released in 2016, certainly grabbed the attention of the Melodic Rock community. The following EP, 'Straight To The Top', attracted the attention of Frontiers who promptly signed the band to a mulri-album deal, and after a nationwide search, a permanent vocalist was found in the form of Robin Jidhed. With their self-titled album due for release on October 12th, Fireworks caught up with Andreas for some further background details...


Creye Interview

So how was the band conceived?

The band was created officially back in 2015 by me as a project to kind of highlight up and coming Swedish musicians. After the success of the first single 'Never Too Late' in 2016 I knew that I wanted this to become so much more than a studio band and officially started looking for full-time members.

How did you come up with the name Creye?

I was looking for a unique name that wasn't already over-used by bands and I had narrowed it down to three names that I felt were strong. When I presented them to the logo designer he simply presented me with an additional name for the list, Creye. The name was a play on the words "Cry" and "Eye" and I simply liked it straight away and decided to go with it.

The album is a superb slice of Swedish Melodic Rock. Who were your musical influences, as it has a distinct eighties feel to it?

First of all thank you for the compliment! There are of course quite a few: H.e.a.t, Giant, Work Of Art, Survivor and FM would definitely be at the top of a very long list.

One of the highlights of the album, for me, are the vocals of Robin Jidhed. A new name to me, so where did you find him and is he related to Alien frontman Jim Jidhed?

Robin was found by our manager after a long period of searching for a permanent frontman for the band. And yes, haha, he's the son of Jim Jidhed.

The album has been on non-stop rotation with me; you must be pleased with it? Did you write all of the tracks or were outside writers used?

Very happy to hear that! We are extremely pleased with it of course and couldn't be more eager to get it out there for the world to enjoy. There were two tracks that were written entirely by external writers. One is a co-write with me and Erik Wiss (Producer) and one with Ulrick Lönnqvist (Code Red). The rest of the songs are written by me or Fredrik in the band.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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One of my favourite tracks on the album is 'Christina'. Is this song about a real life lady called Christina?

This was one of the songs that was entirely written by external writers (Mike Palace & Sören Kronqvist). I've asked Sören about it and he doesn't know either, haha. When the lyric video was made by Wayne Joyner he portrayed Christina as a car, which was a twist that we absolutely loved. It's up to the listener to interpret it I guess. Change the name and I think it's a story that most people could relate to.

You recently made your live debut at Melodic Rock Fest Sweden. How was that experience?

It was a great experience for sure! It went as great as a live debut could possibly go. I mean there we were with a whole show of songs that nobody had ever heard before —except for the EP songs and Holding on — and still we had a whole room filled with people screaming and shouting Creye, singing along whenever they could. What an amazing welcome from the audience!

Are there plans for any more live shows? I know you are playing in the UK at Rockingham in October? Are you looking forward to playing in the UK for the first time?

We are of course always working hard on getting more gigs to continue expanding Creye but nothing that is ready to be released officially yet. We are, as mentioned, playing Rockingham in October, which we are really looking forward to —the first time ever playing in England for us. That show will be extremely exclusive as well since we are having our producer Erik Wiss joining us on stage playing keyboards. As well as producing our album, Erik played keyboards on the first single 'Never Too Late' as well.

I'm not ready to bet my life on it but this will for sure be a very rare and unique experience. The week before we're playing the Frontiers Rock Sweden event in Stockholm together with all our amazing Scandinavian label buddies. This might in some ways be considered our unofficial release party as we are releasing the album the day before, haha.

It's a real coup to have your debut album released by Frontiers, one of the leading Melodic Rock labels. How did they get to sign you and wwhat's in been like working with a top label?

Frontiers was one of many labels to offer us a contract after the success of the EP in 2017. But we immediately felt that Frontiers was the only label with big enough ambitions for Creye to match our own future plans. So, Creye signing a multiple records deal with them was a no-brainer.
Working with Frontiers have simply been amazing, they've been super supportive of us since day one so we couldn't really ask for more.

Why do you think that Sweden is such a hotbed for Melodic Rock these days?

Very interesting question for sure. One that we get a lot actually and It's really hard to answer it. To be honest I couldn't even begin to speculate, haha.

So what is next for Creye?

Next for Creye is the release of the album on October 12th and then we're focusing on the shows following. After that we're hoping that we get the opportunity to do some touring and meet all our amazing fans.

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.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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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 Dee Snider

DEE SNIDER

Interview by Sonia Waterfield

Dee Snider: Icon, Metal Legend, and a man who has lived a surprisingly healthy and honest life-style considering his long career at the forefront of the American Heavy Metal scene.

Fireworks hooks up with Dee as he shares everything from the his time in Twisted Sister and the 'intimate parts' of his life — in more ways than one — to discussing his brand new solo album 'For The Love Of Metal' and working with producer Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed).


Dee Snider Fireworks Interview

So how did you first get into Metal?

The Metal journey? Not the Rock and Roll journey, the Metal journey. The birth, the ugly breach birth of Heavy Metal. I'm old, I'm an original head-banger — day one Blue Cheer, day one Grand Funk, day one Black Sabbath, day one Led Zeppelin first album ... wasn't even called Metal, it was called Hard Rock and it was the first music form that actually alienated certain music fans. Up to that time in Rock and Roll — and Woodstock is a perfect example — everybody listened to everything. Everybody listened to everything and they shared, watched Richie Havens and they watched The Who and Ten Years After, Crosby, Stills & Nash and they'd cheer as loud for everybody. And then came this music that some people didn't like and then others of us, these angry young men and women, mainly men from suburban and rural areas, were like no, we like this, fuck Richie Havens — and I proudly swung a sledgehammer to destroy the Woodstock nation. And I just turned from Hard Rock and became more and more focused as Heavy Metal. I was right there at the forefront of the movement.

Before Twisted Sister, you were in bands that were not really, well, Metal...

Yeah, I have been in bands since I was 9, sort of Beatle bands, you know. I always leaned towards the things that had a harder edge. I remember when Sabbath arrived, I was in a band that only played Black Sabbath, that's all we played. It was because they took it to another level, defining the genre, which by the way should be pointed out, they didn't know they were defining. They were a Jazz Blues fusion band that went horribly wrong. They were like, "Oh shit, we have created a new genre of music", but you would see them live and in the middle, Tony would go into like a little jazz break and the audience would sit there and go "What's going on?" He was still in the Jazz Fusion band.

None of these bands that have made the big changes in Metal think of themselves as Metal bands. AC/DC, they wouldn't call themselves a Metal band, they think of themselves as a Rock band. Metal absorbed elements of their style but they themselves don't consider themselves to be a Heavy Metal band and neither do Black Sabbath nor Led Zeppelin.

So what lessons do you think you learned from your time in Twisted Sister?

That's a very interesting question that I've never been asked. Twisted Sister was the greatest chapter of my life and certainly the vehicle that allowed me to realise my dreams, and then subsequent other dreams. I've done so many things since then but it all would never have happened. I wouldn't have been on Broadway or Rock of Ages if not for Twisted Sister, I wouldn't be doing a National Radio show if not for my time in Twisted Sister. So it started everything.
The greatest lesson learnt from it all I learnt very, very, late. Don't wear pastel Spandex on stage. I learnt this only recently, years after I stopped wearing pastels. I met some girls who used to come see us and the boys, because my wife would make me pink and yellow and baby blue Spandex which I would wear proudly. And these girls said, "You know that we can see your penis?" [laughs]. I was like, "Yeah, the outline, sure".

And they said, "No, no. You would sweat and the lights would hit the pastel yellow and blue and you can see entirely through your pants." I said to my wife, "Did you know you can see through my fucking spandex?" She said, "Yeah, you didn't?" [laughs].

Moving on from that valuable lesson, how did you manage to stay out of the stereotypical sex n' drugs part of the business?

The drugs part, and alcohol ... my very first drinking experience was so bad. I was 14 and the first time I drank, I couldn't just have one drink at 14, I drank until I was practically paralysed on the floor vomiting and I just thought, "You can't do this because you will die. You may be that guy." So if I'd had a different experience I may not have stopped but fortunately I had that really bad one.

As far as the sex part, that is weird. Certainly I'm a dude and I had fantasies that any dude had, but I always knew that I was going to be successful. I was convinced, and I always had this concern that when I'm famous, how am I going to know if a girl likes me for me, or for my money or my success. I met this girl in the very, very, early days, literally; we had no following, no popularity ... just a weird band. Not only did she have no interest in me, but she didn't own a stereo, didn't own a record, didn't care about music. And for some reason I said, "This is my girl." She's extremely hot. You'll find her on any top ten Rock stars' wives list. I just thought, "If I can win this girl's heart, I'll know it's for all the right reasons, because she loves me and I'll know that I have someone who is there for the right reasons". Forty-two years later ... she was there when I had nothing, there when I had everything, there when I lost everything and I never thought for a minute she would leave. She just went back to work and is still here with me today. She did the costumes, she did the makeup, she did the hair, she did the bone logo for the band; she became the woman behind the man and look, if I was screwing around on her by this point it will be on YouTube, Facebook, or something [laughs].

Moving back into history, when the notorious PMRC targeted Twisted Sister, what were your thoughts at that time?

Long term it's made me into some kind of folk hero, honestly. It's added to a legendary career and it's historic and now encourages any course of censorship chapter of that moment in time. It turned out to be great long term. Short term it was not the best career choice. You know I was always open about my clean and sober lifestyle, in my belief system, in being married, having kids. You know I was on a world stage, and for the first time on a grand scale a lot of fans found out these things about me. I always thought that's the beauty of Rock and Roll, you can be what you want to be. I found out, guess what? You're not allowed. They want you to be a certain person. They want the life-stylers, the people who are just as fucked-up off stage as they are on-stage. That was disheartening for me, hurtful to our career. My phones were tapped, my mail was checked, my packages were checked. I became public enemy number one for a short time within the government. They hated the fact that I went there and made it look foolish. I'm not saying that's the only thing that damaged the band, but MTV banned one of our videos as a token gesture.

I remember after a show, meeting a fan who was wearing a Dokken shirt, saying, "Twisted Sister is my favourite band, I love you guys, almost everything blah blah blah." I ask, "Well, what are you doing wearing a Dokken shirt?" and they go, "Oh, my parents can't know that I was here." My parents can't know that I'm here?! As far as the parents were concerned we were public enemy number one, as far as the kids were concerned we were kinda the least bad of the bunch. Short term it was not a good thing, long term, I've never been one to do the smart thing, I do what I believe to be is the right thing, the thing that I want to do. So long term, I'm proud of that moment in time.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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I remember Ronnie Dio and others, particularly Ronnie Dio. That crushed me. In a Rock magazine he went off: "Who the fuck is Dee Snider to speak on our behalf?" and the first words that I said in my speech were, "I cannot speak for the others." He didn't even hear. Ronnie Dio, one of the smart ones, didn't even listen to my speech and just passed judgement on me. That's the kind of stuff I was suffering through; no support from the community, the fans were apathetic. It didn't seem like a big deal to most of them, and they just didn't get it. Ronnie probably apologised when he found out the truth, but it was just hurtful when I thought I was doing a service and my own community, for the most part, just turned their backs on me.

No interview would be complete without talking about your infamous and iconic track 'We're Not Gonna Take It'. Did you ever think it would ever be as big as it was?

No! I thought it would be a hit. I mean I didn't know what kind of hit, but a Rock hit. I remember, we were working, we're recording a song called 'The Bad Boys of Rock & Roll' for the 'Under The Blade' album and I was telling the guys, "I've got another one, it's a killer. It's not ready yet but I already have the chorus". I didn't know it would become so big ... it's practically a Folk song now. Everywhere in the world they know the song. A lot of people don't know who recorded it, they just know the song. So it's amazing as a songwriter to see a song take a life of its own, but was it expected? No.

Moving on to your new album, 'For The Love Of Metal', how did the relationship between you and Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed vocalist) start?

I was on his podcast and he said, "I have a challenge for you." I asked what, because as far as I was concerned, I was done. Done recording new music. He said, "I challenge you to do a contemporary Metal record. Think Rob Halford 'Resurrection'. Your iconic voice with new sounding Metal" and I asked, "Who's producing?" Jamey said "I am". I asked, "Who's writing?" You see, I wrote every Twisted song. I stopped writing in the 90s, so we sound like a 80s Rock show. As much as I love new bands, I couldn't write new sounding music unless I was imitating them and that's not genuine. Twisted Sister worked because I wasn't imitating, I was in it, in the thick of it and at the forefront and it helped me to create what became a time in the music scene, the Hair Metal era. I was a part of it; it was very real, very genuine. Here, I can't do that anymore. Jamey said, "Dee, everybody's gonna wanna write for you."

So we went into the studio, recorded song one, no recording budget, no record deal and it just started to gel. It was better on both sides; better than I thought it was going to be as far as me fitting with these newer sounding songs, and better than they thought it was going to be with me fitting with these songs. Then suddenly, as Jamey started playing it for people, friends of his, people from Lamb of God, Disturbed, Killswitch Engage ... they started to think, "We want to get involved in this. How about we have some song ideas for Dee?" Everybody started contributing and working. Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy) duets with me, Howard Jones (Killswitch Engage) duets with me and it became this passion project, again with no record deal, no budget, just for the love of Metal. That's where the title came from, because it couldn't have been more genuine. There was nothing in it but the passion of making a great record and hopefully we did.

You did. I have listened to it several times and it's fantastic.

You know what? People, many people are pleasantly surprised! [laughs]. The biggest compliment, and I take it as a compliment — "I wasn't expecting that."

Jamey really thought this record out. He said, "Dee, this is important to me on many levels. You're a hero of mine but I challenge many people to do this, you're the first person to say yes." [laughs]. I was like, "Oh shit, alright, you got to deliver on this."

I see it, I got the idea for it. I want it to be amazing. He wanted to bring in fans, wanted to bring newer fans, he wanted to cross-over whilst still being Metal, a real Metal record. He didn't want to just have one sound, which a lot of records do. So he worked so hard on this record, and I'm really happy that he's already been getting offers to produce other artists, major Metal artists, because people are hearing it. Somebody asked me, "What's your advice to a heritage artist who wants to make a new sounding record?" I said, "Hire Jamey Jasta" because he did not steer me wrong.

He's done an amazing job. The lyrics and the music itself are quite positive.

Again, this is the thing that I gotta be clear on. With Twisted Sister, I wrote every single song: every word, every melody, every guitar part, everything. This record I did not write one thing. Now I stopped writing in the 90s because I said I found myself trying to imitate instead of lead and I got called on it. On my last record with Widowmaker, one reviewer said "some guy's trying to sound like the younger bands," and I was doing exactly that! I thought, "Oh man." I was trying to sound like somebody else so I decided that I was just going to back away.

So I said, "Jamie, I can't write the songs". Jamey climbed in my skin. We talked a lot, we talked about what I wanted to say. He told me he listened to everything I ever did — everything. So he understood my voice, understood my range and understood where I came from. He asked, "What do you want to say now? Who do you wanna be? What are we talking about here?" I talked about bullying, I talked about being the voice of the oppressed, even though I'm a happy grown man now with family and success, I know I am the voice for others, I can be the voice for others. For the frustrated people, the angry people. I've got that tone. I've got that attitude. I can represent. There were political things I wanted to talk about. So Jamey brought songs to me. And just to show you how much he climbed into my skin, and this should blow your mind... [big intake of breath] During the making of this record, the recording which went from about September/October to January, my 85 year old mother, who was the epitome of health, as an active an old woman as you can imagine, was hit by a car, brain damaged, hospitalised, a vegetable for two months and then died. And Jamey said, "Do you want to pause all recording?" and I said, "No Jamie. Metal has always been this emotional outlet." That's the beauty of Metal, whether it's performing it or recording it or just rocking out to it. It releases these darker emotions.

The last song recording ... I'd just buried my mother and was recording a song called 'I'm Ready'. I'm recording, and suddenly I stopped recording. Jamey's not there. Nikki Bellmore (co-producer and engineer) is there. The line I was singing was, "Death leaves a sorry that no-one can heal, Love leaves a memory no-one can steal." I stopped and I go, "Nikki, did Jamey write this about my mum?" He said, "Yeah, he wrote that for you." He saw what I was suffering through and wrote a song, or a statement, for me about facing mortality and loss of a loved one. And that was the last song recorded. That's how much he was feeling Dee Snider. When he delivered this song to me, it was like his words were coming out, they were my own words, and I could sing them with such passion, which is important, and sing with such belief because there wasn't a lie on the record. There was no like, "What am I singing here?" Oh, I know what I'm singing, I believe every single word, this is Dee Snider. So Jamey Jasta, thank you.

So what is in the future for Mr Snider?

I'm gonna do some live shows starting in the first week of July, but this wasn't planned to be for the 'Love Of Metal' because there was no plan. Most record deals, albums are recorded with an entire game plan. This is what we are writing, this is what we are recording, this is the release, this is the promotion, this is the tour — a long range plan. We had no record deal. So that's why the record has been released on July 27th, what a terrible release date. We didn't plan Spring or Summer touring. So I have a handful of dates right now but with the positive reception of the record, the intention is to continue moving forward. I'm already booked for every Metalfest; Hellfest, Bloodstock, and everybody is like booking me already for 2019, because they know about this Metal record and Metal band and entering the contemporary world of Metal. There is so much interest in that album. There will definitely be a lot of live shows coming.

It has been so unexpected. I was done, I did not expect to see this happening at 63. I welcome it. It is exciting. I'm up for the challenge as I was in the studio. No-one will be disappointed. Anybody who sees me live is never disappointed. It's just unexpected. The record label has a two record deal. They've already said they are taking their option. So in our minds even though it's down the road, 'For The Love Of Metal 2' is somewhere on the horizon, so I think I found my place in the contemporary world of Heavy Metal and I couldn't be happier. I hope people enjoy the record.

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.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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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...

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