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Fireworks Magazine Online 85: Interview with Kane Roberts

KANE ROBERTS

Interview by Bruce Mee


Kane Roberts is best remembered as Alice Cooper's M80 guitar-wielding side-kick from back in the 80s, but for me it was his second solo album, 'Saints And Sinners', that really cemented my long-time admiration for this highly talented musician, a man who is so much more than his larger than life comic persona might have you believe. We worked passionately together on his follow up solo album, the Phoenix Down project, as well as his 'Unsung Radio' limited release CD that featured a host of wonderful unreleased Melodic Rock gems. Now having signed to Frontiers, Kane will be releasing his fourth solo album, 'The New Normal', this January, and it's something just that little bit different – and special. Time for Fireworks to catch up with a dear friend...


Kane Roberts - Interview Fireworks Magazine

So, what IS the new normal?

The New Normal is wherever you are right now. You watch traditions and things you love blow up in your face and you learn to deal. That includes loved ones, finances and yeah, music. Stare at the face of change and then decide if we've lost something or gained something. I say at the end of the day, when the smoke clears, we always have more.

You cancelled your appearance at the Heat Festival in Germany back in 2016, having just been signed by Frontiers Records. That album is now being released in early 2019. Why such a long wait, and was it really necessary to have pulled out of the festival back then?

Well as far as the festival was concerned I wanted to play live but I seriously needed to prepare properly this time as I was deeply disappointed by my appearance at Firefest. It was essential that I spend the necessary hours to make my return special. My first move was to get the mad boys from MAVERICK. Fucking hard rockers overloaded with talent and pissed off attitude...just what I need to step into the killing fields again.
When the record deal came down ─ thanks to Kip Winger's relationship with Frontiers and the record company's big enough balls to take a chance on me ─ I thought I had to deliver in a month or two, or possibly three, so I had no choice but to cancel because of the flames on my neck to deliver. Little did I know that it would take me three years to complete the project.

1. I had a full on studio because of my co-producer Alex Track (huge advantage because I don't like recording at home. Theres something inherently wrong about doing a guitar solo in my underpants...(and that makes the assumption I even wear underwear). And since I DO use a tremolo bar, if I'm half naked, the move looks suspiciously like rubbing one off. Gotta think on all levels here!

2. I knew had to push the envelope because it's been a long while and Frontiers has demonstrated a blood passion for music that I almost never witness. Every few months my co-producer and I would look back to previous recordings and say "Dude you're singing is so much better than 3 months ago you gotta re-sing this!" (actually I don't call myself dude...that would be fucking weird) or I would hear something on the guitar or drums or whatever and want to change a beat or a voicing or solo approach etc. So I just would hit the part again until I felt like a proper beast after listening to the final result.

3. Frontiers showed insane patience and before too long I realised I was with a company whose heart in soul is all about the music. Serafino, Mario and crew are passionate warriors about the music they believe in and I realised fuck, I'm a lucky guy and I dug in deeper trying to make each song something engaging and special. So I just kept climbing the razors ladder till I got the result I wanted.

And yeah, as referenced above, I'd run into that kind of label once before with a guy named Bruce Mee and Now and Then Records!

Fans of your amazing 'Saints & Sinners' album will probably be a little taken aback with 'The New Normal', which is a darker, more modern Rock album. What plan did you have in mind regarding the song-writing direction when it came to this new album?

Well one thing regarding that stylistic concern. I did not try and find a direction that suited some agenda. Music, and in fact life, is at its best when played out as a thoughtless act. In other words, you have to be in the moment and not wondering what you look like or what people will think. Yeah, you gotta turn off the iron and sit yourself down. You gotta hit the line hard every time you get down to the hard work of creating something meaningful. But no matter what, one thing you can't do is force creativity...you gotta find the flow.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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That being said, you can hear my previous works in the songs ─ my commitment to melody, my guitar style, my voice. Yeah there are new elements and that's because I listen. There's so much good music out there now. I listen to Volbeat, Alice Cooper, Doyle's new band, Baby Metal, Arch Enemy...bands with something big to talk about or a door to kick down. I don't copy them, but let's face it, everything fucking thing we hear, taste, fondle or fuck influences who we are.

My true belief is that if you stay open minded, keep your standard sky high and work harder than you think possible, the world will greet you with open legs. That's how I approached "The New Normal" project.

So tell us about the song-writing, and the people you wrote with....

I wrote with the amazing Lzzy Hale (The Lions Share), Brent Smith from Shinedown (what an awesome writer and insane singer - crazy good), new on the scene Evan Magness, Katt Franich, Dave Bassett, Alex Track...a cross section of wildly talented people. Once again - lucky me!
My goal was to search for concepts I was hard or passionate about. Sounds and lyrics that seemed fully legit and also added something to the story I was telling. I called a friend of mine, Matt Messer (Owner of El Camino Records) and he hooked me with Dave Basset and Lzzy Hale, Brent Smith and a new hyper talented writer on the scene Evan Magness.

Katt Franich is a killer tattoo artist. She loves 80s hard rock along with a shit ton of other music so we got along right away. She sings with me on the track we co-wrote ('Who We Are') and her part hits the right notes both musically and spiritually as well. As you can hear, Katt is loaded up with edgy talent, a core attitude and a fresh way of writing about how our relationships and emotions tear us up and ultimately play out for the better.
Alex Track has classical training along with serious rock chops and a sharp ear for sound. He also owns the studio where we forged these songs so his understanding of the room's potential was off the chain. I seriously couldn't have found a better mix of talent to collaborate with.

This new direction was seen on several songs on your Phoenix Down album, including the track 'Wrong' which is re-recorded on 'The New Normal'. Why did you decide to revisit this song?

I met a producer, Scott Lang, who heard the recording of 'Wrong' (a standard Rock song I'd released) and he said it needs to be 'de-volved'. He saw the song as having a Massive Attack feel embedded in the rythmic and melodic structures of the melody. I sent him a Pro tools file and all the tracks and he sent back what you hear on the CD ─ an awesome re-telling of a song. Although I had previously believed the song to have been fully developed I fucking loved his vision. After re-singing a bunch of it, I included it on the track-list.

And you know, right there embodies much of the process that generated 'The New Normal'. I believe we just gotta fearlessly open our minds and hearts to new ideas and let them test and influence our thinking. I knew recording this project was gonna be a war, but fuck it all - to my way of thinking - the battles are where the true ecstasy exists.

You got the old Alice Cooper guys, Kip and Ken, to guest on the album. Did any of the guys actually come to the studio, and if so, what was it like hanging out and recording again?

Kip got Frontiers to agree to offering me the record deal so sending him tracks was a breeze and having him kill his parts like a boss is what I always expect from him. My friend Ken Mary nailed vocals on a few of the tracks. Very few people realise Ken's not only one of my favorite drummers in existence but an accomplished singer and vocal arranger. He also recorded remotely. Both guys possess full bore recording studios.

Also the other very special guests. How did you go about getting Alice, Alissa, Johnny 5 and Aoyama involved?

Alice Cooper:

I don't really sleep that well. I never have. Always been hyper...so one night I open my eyes l at 3am and a brief movie played un my head. I imagined that the song, 'The Beginning of the End' should be a duet with Alice Cooper and I. Not just a few lines by Alice. The song could stand up and do justice to his massive persona so I began to adjust some of the lyrics. One night when I felt the track was in shape I called him, fully expecting him to say he was on tour or in the middle of a recording of his own and I'd have to send the digital tracks to his engineer etc. But in typical Alice Cooper fashion he said, "I'm in town, I'll be right over!" He and Sheryl showed up and after about an hour of catching up AC went into the vocal booth and seriously nailed his parts! (Uhhh not surprised by that by the way).

When I stepped into the recording studio in Studio City, CA that first night ─ we always recorded at night by the way ─ I did not have a formula that had to be injected into the music. There were no pre-conceived assumptions made about the recording methodology and song performance. I did discuss with my co-producer that I wanted a cinematic feel to the project because it is my true believe that sound generates imagery along with emotion etc.

Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy):

YouTube offers the potential for mind bending imagery and sound. And let's face it, there's a lot of cool stuff that can knock the wind out of your average mellow day. On a rare occasion you run into an Alissa White-Gluz. Somebody that on the face of things embodies every notion you have about what you think you know and then obliterates it as soon as she grinds her way into an Arch Enemy (or The Agonist) song. Suddenly she's not just a stunning female who moves like a pissed off mountain lion. She becomes much more with her vocals that range from ferocious growl to her impassioned angelic singing voice. When someone smashes so many cultural norms so effortlessly and with such skill I just naturally need to see if I can make her a part of what I'm doing. My friend Michael Alago, (A&R superstar who signed Metallica, White Zombie, Flotsam and Jetsam and more) knew her and Doyle so he reached out for me. As soon as she heard the song she was on board and I have to say she made me look like a fucking genius. Her skills (self-taught) are a truly impressive array.

I was also able to get myself, Alissa and Alice Cooper on the set together to shoot a new feature video for 'Beginning of the End' to be released in January 2019. Most people when they shoot a video these days kinda take the easy road. Afraid or unwilling to step out and take the heat from trying to roll out something special. If you don't spit blood to try and do something special then you're going the race to the bottom. Frontiers helped me and I kicked down as many walls as I could and fought to get 30 hard-working film crew and film equipment to a location in Vancouver. These days that's called giving a fuck in the case of everyone person involved. My gratitude is unending.

Nita Strauss (Alice Cooper):

I wrote a song with co-producer Alex Track called 'King of the World' about a guy that's having trouble forgetting a girl that he never belonged with to begin with...you know - waaaay out of his league. The bridge talks about how he can't forget her no matter what she says or how much he prays and he finally loses it. I thought, 'How perfect for me to have that beautiful monster guitarist, Nita Strauss be the girl who refuses to be silent and trade solos with me.' Every time I run into her, see her onstage, hear her guitar skills, she rises above the fray and out does her previous efforts. Top notch! Uh, by the way, she fucking tears into her guitar solos ─ on the song she trades first. Once again, Alissa and Nita - The New Normal.

Aoyama Hideki (Baby Metal):

I've been a fan of this band for a while because the producers said, "Let's do something different and pin the work and skills to the wall." Insane arrangements, killer musicians and Nakamoto Suzuka sings like a never ending dream! The final element I needed for the "BOTE" was a drummer that played off the chain hard, fast and creative and Aoyama Hideki was my first choice. When he heard the song he immediately agreed to play and he threw down some of the best drumming I've heard in decades. A "soulful machine" is how I describe Aoyamasan! Arigatou!

Johnny 5:

Great bass player, great studio musician and now great friend! He delivered hard on 'Leave Me in the Dark!'

Tell us about the album cover design. Were you involved with it?

I saw Michael Rosner's work on the internet and it spiked my interest, no pun intended. He captures innocence, evil and compromised virtue like no-one I've seen. We had numerous discussions as to what I needed and he dirtied things up with such artistry it tore my brain in half when I saw the end result. Bryarly's (the model) look in her eye really grabs the viewer and runs them through a myriad of possibilities as to what has taken place. Someone asked me if she represents women as victims because of the blood etc. My answer is - it's not her blood. Women are breaking so many glass ceilings these days someone is bound to get cut.

For fans of your earlier, more melodic songs, do you ever see yourself recording in that style again? There were so many great unreleased song demos you gave us on the 'Unsung Radio' album that would be amazing with a full production.

Hey, I may disappear for another 100 years but who knows. Let's see what shakes loose in the next year or so...

Do you think you may do live shows to promote 'The New Normal', and if so, have you already considered any potential band members?

Not so far. If I venture out into live performances it would require a tremendous amount of rehearsal which I'm prepared to do but my main focus right now is to create meaningful engaging videos that complete the story of 'The New Normal'.

Fireworks Magazine Online 85: Interview with Jetboy

JETBOY

Interview by Lucy Hall

One of the most interesting and distinctive bands of our generation, JETBOY was founded in 1983 by Billy Rowe and Fernie Rod. The inventive group was destined to be cult band with their brand of Blues, Punk, and Metal infused grooves along with such an edgy look. In the eighties there weren't many Hard Rock acts that had a front-man sporting a Mohawk among the sea of teased locks of their glam peers. However, JETBOY broke through with their Pop hit 'Feel The Shake' which flooded the airwaves and MTV, leading to the status they deserved. It is obvious that the band has always been aware of Rock, Metal, Blues and Punk history, yet managed to come up with their own distinct style. This has been evident throughout their career and continues today with their upcoming new album, 'Born to Fly'. The album was arranged by the band's core of guitarists Billy Rowe, Fernie Rod and vocalist Mickey Finn, alongside former faster Pussycat bassist Eric Stacy and drummer Al Serrato. This will be the first completely new material from the band since 1990.


Jetboy - Interview Fireworks Magazine

Throughout the career of Jetboy, the band stood out from other Hard Rock bands due in part to having an edgier sound and look. Is that the direction you intentionally went in? In your opinion what was it that made you stand out?

From the beginning Jetboy was always about being a straight-forward Rock n' Roll band; it wasn't intentional it was just what we were into. Looking back it is kind of what gave us that edge over some of the other bands from our era [the 80s]. From the start, Jetboy always stood out by a) having a singer with a mohawk and b) having a bit more of a Punk vibe and edgy sound for the scene we came up in. We definitely stood out. In 1987, with all that was going on in the music world, a lead singer with a mohawk was still shocking. We always did feel it gave us more originality and helped set us apart from other bands.

Looking back on your career do you think you have changed that much, your fashion sense or musical style?

Well, I think we all change as time marches on. But I feel once Jetboy found its style we stuck to it. We've all grown as musicians and songwriters, but have kept that organic Rock n' Roll feel and attitude. As for our fashion, I'd say we are definitely a bit more stripped down and not so glitzy.

With writing 'Born To Fly' were there specific thoughts and concepts you had, or was it a fluid process?

The writing and recording for 'Born To Fly' was very fluid. The whole process came very easy for all of us. It flowed so naturally and was a lot of fun from beginning to the final mix. It felt as if it were meant to happen exactly as it did. We had no concept, we just wanted to write what we felt would be a great new Jetboy album. We pretty much just started writing songs. Lyrically, Mickey took on each song as its own. His lyrics are really great on this album.

Can you give me a brief sketch of the album's storyline?

Well, our singer Mickey Finn could say more on this since he wrote all the lyrics, but the album touches on a variety of topics. For me it feels like a very strong Rock n' Roll album, like some of our heroes released from the 70s and 80s.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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The tracks 'Beating The Odds', 'She', and 'Party Time!' sound similar lyric and vocal wise to early Jetboy Hard Rock songs. While other tracks on the album sound more heavily influenced by seventies Blues Rock. The album definitely has a classic feel.

Mickey has a style with the way he writes lyrics. Though he has grown a lot since the early albums, and 'Born To Fly' is proof of that, we're all very influenced by 70s Rock, so it's a natural thing for that to come out in our writing and how the songs end up. We wanted to make a great Rock n' Roll record, something we feel is a bit of a lost art these days. We did not plan anything out, we just wrote the best songs we could and kept it very straight forward with good riffs and catchy melodies!

The title 'Born to Fly' along with the worn jacket cover art calls to mind images of the determination, longevity and triumph through strife. Are these elements symbolic of the bands journey?

I've never thought of it this way, but I think this is a cool way to look at it knowing the band's history. Jetboy had a very up and down journey, more downs than ups I'd say? So I feel we all had a lot to say with this album. The worn album cover art was us wanting to keep it simple and focus on the songs.

When you wrote songs for 'Born To Fly' did you take past successes or failures into consideration or does that even factor into the process at all?

That doesn't factor in really. But maybe in some way it did? When we began writing songs for the new album we just started writing songs. The process was a little different than how we wrote in past because we all live in different places now. So I would write the music for a song and send it to Mickey, and he then would write the lyrics and melodies. We did this for every song on the album. Then we demoed the songs and added every little detail down to the exact drum parts, vocal harmonies etc. Then we went in and recorded it all as a band in a live room all together.

When you went back and listened to the songs, did any of them surprise you? In either a good or bad way.

After listening to the finished album all we can say is how happy we are with how it turned out. I don't think any of us knew it would turn out so good. We would really love it if 'Born To Fly' was recognised as one of the best straight-forward Rock albums to come out in long time. That would be amazing!

Any upcoming tour plans? If so, do you know which city or venue will kick it off?

No tour yet but we plan on getting on some once the album is out. We have a few club dates starting in late December thru January. Then, for the first time, we're doing the 'Monsters Of Rock' Cruise in Feb-March of 2019.

The band was driven to get this album out, play what they felt in their hearts, and please both old and new fans alike. The material is personal and full of thought with a blend of stripped down edgy Rock and traditional Blues. Without even being aware of the band's history and struggles I'm sure that all who hear this adventurous new album will relate and be inspired as I have been. JETBOY has been and remains a phoenix that rises from the ashes.

Fireworks Magazine Online 85: Interview with Ace Frehley

ACE FREHLEY

Interview by Malcolm Smith

Ace Frehley is quite rightly seen as a legend within Rock circles, not just because of his time in KISS but also as a successful solo artist, with a sound that is immediately identifiable. Ace has had a busy last couple of years what with his appearances at former band colleague Gene Simmons' Vault Experiences and Paul Stanley guesting on his previous solo album 'Origins Vol 1'. Now with a brand new solo album in the bag, 'Spaceman', as well as a solo Japanese jaunt, a spot supporting The Gene Simmons Band on a trip down under, and most tantalisingly of all, a guest spot on the latest KISS Kruise, there was plenty to talk about when Fireworks put in a phone call to Frehley Towers to discuss his recent flurry of activity.


Ace Frehley - Interview Fireworks Magazine

Congratulations on the new album. I've had the opportunity to have a good listen to it, and it's probably your most cohesive release for some time. Could you expand a little on how you set about the recording?

Well, it's basically the same formula I used on my '78 solo album; it worked then and it seems to have worked again for this album. I just work with an engineer and a drummer and then I play pretty much everything else myself. My engineer Alex Salzman ,who's worked with me on my last four albums, has been invaluable and has helped mould my sound.

It also has a sense of you recapturing the sound from that classic '78 solo album, is that something that was a conscious decision?

My intention was to make it very much like my solo album from back in '78, but as a conscious decision... hmm, maybe yes, but it all came together very smoothly and easily.

The album has an aura of being autobiographical in places. I'm thinking of songs such as 'Rockin' With The Boys', 'Without You I'm Nothing', 'Bronx Boy' and also, although a cover, 'I Wanna Go Back'; that last one to me at least hints at feelings of some possible regrets. Even the album title itself alluded to your past ... a deliberate move?

Yes, I would say that certainly about 'The Pursuit Of Rock n' Roll' and 'Bronx Boy', but generally speaking no, these days I live very much in the now and look towards the future. The past is the past, and as the title of my book says − 'No Regrets', but I'm really proud of the whole record and especially pleased with the cover version I did of the Eddie Money song, 'I Wanna Go Back'. I discovered it on YouTube and told my fiancé Rachel, I just gotta do that song; I just loved the melody and lyrics, and most importantly its message. The original featured mostly saxophone and keyboards but I took it apart and reworked it in my own style.

When recording albums these days have you embraced the digital age or are you still old school?

Well Pro-Tools and digital certainly make it easier from a recording point of view, but I like to have a mixture of old and new when I record, ...old amps, old guitars. I'm trying to achieve that vintage sound while using modern techniques, and I think I've done that with this album.

Are all the songs on the new album recently written tunes, or are there any that come from some time back, as some of them seem to have a real feel of your time when you were in KISS?

They're a cross-section really. Quite a lot of them are new songs and some are from the distant past. 'Rockin' With The Boys', for example, is a song that I wrote back in the 70s. I liked the chorus to it, but was never happy with the verses or the bridge to the song so I left it, but I had another crack at rewriting it again and I think it's come out great this time.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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You've worked with Gene Simmons on this album. What was it like to sit down with him again and write a couple of songs?

Working with Gene again was great, it seemed like all the times from the past just disappeared. We really know each other so well. In fact back in the day we used to room together, and we had some pretty interesting times I can tell you!! [Laughs]. He actually came down to my house for the recording and the two songs we did together we did in about three hours! It was like time had almost stood still.

Expanding on the idea of working with Gene, you recently joined him at a few of his Vault Experiences in the US as well as the recent tour of Australia, what was that like?

We had a lot of fun. I opened the show for Gene, then Gene played his set and then I came on stage and hung out with the band and we ended up playing 'Rock n' Roll All Nite' and 'Deuce' and it all felt really good and natural.

You've also recently toured Japan on your own too. How did that go?

That was a lot of fun. I took Rachel, my fiancé, who'd never been to Japan before, but it was a very hectic schedule. I was doing two shows a day, eight shows in four days, but it so, so worth it. The Japanese audiences are always great to me. I really don't know how I did it all in such a short space of time [laughs].

With regards to Gene's Vault, over the years, you yourself must have accumulated a fair number of demos and unreleased songs. Have you ever contemplated doing something similar?

Yes, I would like to do some similar, a box set maybe, but it's so complicated. I have probably a hundred reels of 2" tape down in my studio in Connecticut. I've also got demos on old reel to reel tape. It would be a real undertaking at this point in time, and right now I'm so busy doing other things I really don't have the time. But yes, it's something definitely worth thinking about for the future.

Later this year you're taking part in the now Annual KISS Kruise. There will of course be speculation from the KISS community about that much dredged up word, 'Reunion'. Any thoughts on that?

All I will say on the matter is if it was presented to me correctly, who knows? I'm the type of guy who says, 'Never say never.' I like living my life one day at a time right now, but we'll see what happens. Let's leave it at that shall we?

After all this activity what's next? A UK tour would be nice, or is back to the studio for 'Origins Vol 2'?

As regards a UK tour, I'd love to, it's just that the right offers haven't presented themselves and I have a lot going on right now, so it would be a case of trying to fit everything in. But yes I'd love to get back over there to see you guys. I've just moved into my new house and I'm busy rebuilding my studio there and once that's done I'll be starting on 'Origins Vol 2' ... once I get the promotion for the new record done that is, I'm travelling to all points to get the message out there! With 'Origins Vol 2', I really hope to get started on that. I haven't had any real thoughts on the songs I want to cover yet, there's so much to choose from. I'm also working on a second book right now too, but I've no idea when that will appear, it'll happen when it happens!!

You've been quite open about your age in recent interviews. Do you have a particular regime nowadays that allows you to keep up with what is a fairly demanding schedule?

[Laughs] No, not really. I think I'm in pretty good shape these days to be able to do two 70 minute shows a day!!

You've been playing music now for nearly 50 years. Is there anything left that you want to do that you haven't already done?

You know, I'd love to score a movie and produce other bands maybe, but ultimately just share the knowledge that I've accrued throughout the years working with some of the great producers and engineers. With regards to films, maybe get Scorsese to direct a KISS film [laughs], after all he was a Bronx boy just like me. Growing up in New York back then was an education. There's that old saying, 'If you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere.' That certainly rings true for me you know.

(photo credit: Jay Gilbert)

Fireworks Magazine Online 85: Interview with TEN

TEN

Interview by Dave Crompton

With a studio output of fourteen albums in just twenty-two years, few can criticise Ten's work ethic and dedication to the Melodic Hard Rock cause. The band's guiding light, singer-songwriter, poet and wordsmith Gary Hughes spoke to Fireworks about their new album Illuminati, and "of battles lost and won".


Ten - Interview Fireworks Magazine

I think the vast majority of us were expecting the appearance of the much lauded Ten boxset – therefore the sudden news of Illuminati's release came like a bolt from the blue. Did you intend to surprise everyone, or is this all part of some great master plan?

How astute of you to uncover my tactical masterplan for world domination.......In actual fact the problem with any discography style release is that it can sometimes be misconstrued as a 'swan song' or a 'finale'. I was very keen for the fans simply to see this as a celebration of our work thus far and not as the guillotine falling on TEN's career of output. It was therefore more important than ever, after the box set idea was 'tabled' by the label, that we were seen to continue our output of fresh material. Of course, the double edged sword is that the more material a band releases, the further away it moves from compiling a 'complete works'. To this end the box set is now scheduled for April 26th 2019. It will include everything, even the latest Illuminati album. All 14 studio albums, all B-sides and Bonus material. It is entitled 'Opera Omnia' which is Latin for 'complete works'.

I'm assuming you, as a composer, are in a rich vein of form at this present time. Would that be fair to say?

It's very kind of you to say so. I write pretty perpetually. I never really stop. What this creates is the enviable situation of always having more material around than you need. This in turn allows us choices. I think it is always easier to create albums with a richer blend of material when you are able to choose from a greater selection of songs. In recent times I think the least number of songs we've actually started with is 19. Given that most of our albums are 10 tracks and a bonus mix that's at least 2 options in almost every department. I can truly say that it's a labour of love. It's not unlike seeing your babies into the world and watching them evolve into something unique. Each as different as a fingerprint or a snowflake. Each with it's own DNA.

Could you tell us a little about the album, its themes and of course the amazing artwork?

Many of the songs on Illuminati do have a link. There is a very definite theme and vibe running through the album which led me to believe very early on that these songs belonged on the same album together. The llluminati topic has been debated many times in rock and metal music. I am very much a historian in many ways. When choosing subject matters for songs I try where possible to avoid the obvious. I tend to choose the subjects that leave a lot to interpretation. This allows greater creative input. The Illuminati as far as the modern world is concerned, is believed to stem from Bavaria in 1748, but it is not difficult to trace the same beliefs and theorizations back to the Garden of Eden, depending on your personal beliefs about the bible. Cue the history lesson.... In a nutshell, since the creation of earth and Adam and Eve, Lucifer has worked behind the scenes directly and indirectly conspiring and working to destroy God's plans. Satan would make his move and seduce Eve and through the child of their union, Cain, and the Serpent Seed line of the devil would begin. God's wrath was in full flow at the defilement of all he had created.

He cast out his angels and refused to allow them back into heaven. The angels or 'the fallen ones' mated with human women and create the Nephilim. Giants amongst men. Their race was called The Anakim and some were 30 feet tall. Hybrid children. They are the titans, pans, gods, goddesses, and fawns of Greek and Roman mythology. The Illuminati are the Nephilim and their New World Order is a vast network of organizations and secret societies encompassing government and religion to bring about a New World Religion of pantheism. One of the first secret societies to merge out of the nations of mankind was the "Brotherhood of the Snake", a secret society that refers to Satan (the Great Serpent) back in the Garden of Eden. The Illuminati consider 'Satan' as the good God since Satan gave man knowledge to mankind and they consider 'God' to be evil for trying to suppress the same. It is from this viewpoint that Satanism was developed and is practiced within the secret societies of all ages. The original Brotherhood of the Snake split up into different groups over time as a result of inner fighting and disagreements. As a result groups such as Freemasonry, Knights Templars, the Knights of Malta and others were formed but always led by the Illuminati itself. Secret Societies and the Illuminati believe that power is attached to symbols and thus the symbols of the Illuminati revealing their massive infiltration into every aspect of our society from corporation logos and religious symbols. Simply put, they are everywhere. The insignia of the Illuminati and the New World Order is the "Pyramid with the All-Seeing- Eye", which you can study on the back of the U.S. One Dollar Bill. The All-seeing-Eye of Horus which goes back to the Egyptian era.

It is a large subject matter to encompass, especially for an artist asked to create a cover for such a collection of work. For our sleeve art I imagined a very detailed and intricate illustration and gave Stan Decker a very detailed idea as an indication of the intricacy forming the basis of this suggested piece. Based on the Aztec Sun Stone the concept was that the artwork should be divided like a pie from the centre. The centre of the artwork should be an all seeing eye with the winged TEN logo above it. Around the centre piece, each piece of the 'pie segments' radiating outward, should depict an individual element in the history of the illuminati. Starting with the Garden of Eden. Adam, Eve and the apple. Moving clockwise, other segments to include Lucifer 'the light bearer', The fallen ones, The Serpent and the brotherhood of the snake, The Nephilim, The Gods Goddesses and Titans of Roman and Greek Mythology, The Knights Templar, The Knights of Malta, and The Freemasons of present day. Here and there you could use the logos and insignia of the New World Order, the Illuminati and any logos influenced by the Illuminati in modern times i.e. - the American dollar bill etc. .Segment by segment until the circle was complete. Most importantly, each 'segment' should 'bleed' seamlessly into the next so that the whole schematic seems without divide. Radiating out and away from the centre rather like an intricate tapestry or an Egyptian hieroglyph. I appreciated that this is no easy task to create but it could be spectacular, and draw the eye deep into the piece, discovering new things all the time. In the end Stan created such a great piece that even I could not have imagined it any better. He is an astonishing artist and takes every idea to the next level and beyond.

This is now the fourth album with the current line-up. Does this mean that the recording process runs much smoother than ever before?

I think that Illuminati says much about the band now, and in particular about this line up, than any album before it. This is the 4th studio album we have recorded together as a unit and I think the cohesion in the band at this moment in time is very strong. This shows through the performances here. Dann, Steve G and John playing out of their skins once again, and Max and Steve Mack as solid as ever. Illuminati has a slightly more progressive feel to it too allowing Darrel to push the boundaries more. This only comes through confidence within the band. I feel that Illuminati is our most forward thinking album so far, and in some ways it's a more 'modern' sounding album than its predecessors and to me it takes up where Gothica left off. During Ten's evolution the solidarity of the line-up has never been a strong point. This lineup has a great solidarity currently and I can foresee this lineup continuing for many albums to come.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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I must congratulate you on yet another stunning set of songs. Personally I feel you have rolled back the years somewhat and recaptured a vibe not dissimilar to the Stormwarning era. Would you agree, and if so, is this due to personal creativity or because you were aware that some fans were beginning to disengage.

The selection of songs is simply down to the strongest 10 songs at any given time. I never consciously try to write to suit a certain era, the new songs themselves totally dictate the stylisation of any new album. There would be little point in repetition. That was then and this is now. It is nice however, when people recognise essences and flavours that are reminiscent of our early material as it confirms to me that we are not losing our way and that we are still the same trademark band at our core. I also feel that most of our fans are very loyal. Sure we have our haters. I'm constantly being told that we are a marmite band. But Love us or hate us we have been around for a considerable number of years now and show no signs of disappearing into the ether. We are, more than ever, still proud to be a stalwart British Rock Band, and in a sea of American and European counterparts we feel like the Rock of Gibraltar. We are bold and unceasing, for the most past because of our fan base and their unshakable belief in us and our music. Sure, some disengage, some engage, but the core of our long-time fan base remain unflinching and drive us on. It is also not healthy for the evolution of a band to regress themselves. I believe it is better to say "Don't look back....that isn't the way you're going"

Regarding the lyrical content of Illuminati, and indeed all Ten albums; does it not frustrate you, as a songwriter, that many outside of your staunch fan base feel the lyrics and stories you tell rather ostentatious, and don't take time to delve deeper into their meanings?

No it doesn't....lol. What can I say, I like to be a storyteller and I prefer to think of the lyrics as informative and thought provoking. Our 'naysayers' make me smile. There are always finding something new to moan about. When I sing about Historical or Biblical subjects then "it's all too Dungeons and Dragons". Equally when I sing about rock chicks in stockings and suspenders I'm branded "sexist". Well "It is what it is." In a time when the new Xbox or PlayStation games are £50-£60 pounds each bands have to find a way to tap into that revenue as it is not a bottomless pit. With hours of storyline and multi character play on gaming discs, Audio CDs have to be more than just 'oh yeah baby' on a disc. There has to be more to engage the listener if bands are going to compete and for a slice of that revenue. In any case, the vast majority of our fan base love the depth of vision in our work.

How many songs did you bring to the table prior to the recording of Illuminati? Is it solely down to you to make the final choice, or do the rest of the band have an input.

We began with 24 songs for Illuminati, that's 5 more than on Gothica. I and I alone decide which songs we use because I rule this band with a rod of iron. You can see the whip marks if you remove the shirts from any member of this band. Of course I'm only joking. If they do indeed have whip marks that's their own private business and nothing to do with me. Seriously, it usually becomes obvious which songs will progress. When things move forward and time becomes more precious we drop the songs we don't intend to develop in favour of the ones we need for the album. It is usually agreed at the 'roughs' stage.

I think every song on this album is wonderful (but I would, wouldn't I?), in particular Shield Wall, Mephistopheles and my absolute favourite The Esoteric Ocean, but do you have personal favourites? Do any scream out to you " Play me live!"?

The band as a collective usually decide which tracks will be played live. But to me, 'Be As You Are Forever', 'Shield Wall', 'The Esoteric Ocean' and 'Mephistopheles' are all contenders for inclusion in the live show. With maybe an acoustic interlude for 'Rosetta Stone' or 'Jericho'. We are hoping to roll out material from Gothica, Albion and Isla De Muerta too in 2019.

One thing that is irrefutable is the standard of Ten's ballads. Rosetta Stone is another powerful piece of lyricism and musicianship. Are ballads harder or easier to compose?

In many way the ballads are harder. It's the constant search for a different lyrical angle on a love song. I try to avoid any and all repetition and a love song is a love song however you paint it. Therefore I like to try to come up with a different slant on things each time. A different concept or perspective. Something 'out of the box'. I thought the idea of Love having its own Rosetta stone was interesting. The idea that we've had the instruction manual all along and yet we are no closer to deciphering it.

You decided to go with Jericho for your first 'single'. Can you explain the process and reasoning behind choosing a song that first introduces a brand new album?

Frontiers Records have a big influence over what we release as singles and in which order. We as a band were happy for them to release anything from the Illuminati album. I think their reasoning behind choosing Jericho to lead with was the fact that the song itself had been earmarked for heavy rotation airplay in Italy and Germany by the radio stations there. Frontiers and Ten also felt that Jericho was unlike anything we'd recorded before. Very hypnotic almost psychedelic. They followed it up with 'Rosetta Stone' and now 'The Esoteric Ocean'. I think 'Shield Wall' will also get the 'single' treatment before we've finished this time.

Now that Illuminati is done and dusted, so to speak, do you immediately move on to your next project(s)? If so, could you explain what it/those may be?

On the TEN front, although the details have yet to be finalized, we plan to film 2 x DVD/Blu-ray products over the next year. The first is at Frontiers request and is likely to be a 60 minute 'stand-alone' set from their festival in Milan which we are appearing at in April 2019. The second release will be a 'long form' DVD product encapsulating our full 2 hours 30 plus live headline set, recorded in several cities around the globe. To include 'on the road' and 'backstage footage'. This longer form DVD is the band's idea as we feel it will give more idea of what TEN are all about. These products will be the first ever DVD/Blu-ray releases by TEN and as such are highly anticipated so we want to make them as good as we can. Some would say that they are long overdue. In some cases they will give fans from around the world an opportunity to watch the band live when a live show in their home country is not feasible.

It's recently been announced that the band will be playing a gig in Spain, with further European dates to follow. Are you looking forward getting out into the live arena again? I'm assuming there will be several songs in the set that have never been played live before.

We have added Milan to the list since Madrid and are shortly to add Athens. There will also be one or two UK sightings next year too. It is so hard for bands nowadays to tour without losing money. The success of any show depends on turn out and we truly hope that people will understand the commitment that we are trying to show when we announce live dates, embrace this, and come see us. The plan is to rehearse in 3 hours material and change the set around so that fans don't see the same show twice. This way, not only do we end up with footage of 3 hours or so music recorded in different cities but we make it more interesting for the fans. The set list will no doubt contain tacks taken from across the entire discography. We are looking forward to getting out there and meeting people once again.

Fireworks Magazine Online 85: Interview with Evergrey

EVERGREY

Interview by Ian Johnson


It was a cold Friday in London when Fireworks got to speak with Evergrey drummer Jonas Ekdahl about the band's new album, 'The Atlantic'. With this release being the third part in a concept trilogy, Ekdhal explained the hard work needed to keep the story alive over three records, why playing the whole three album cycle live in one go is a definite no-no, what this new album's story is all about and pissing off Jacob Hansen.


Evergrey - Interview Fireworks Magazine

'The Atlantic' is the third part in a concept trilogy of albums dealing with different aspects of relationships. But is this really the last part because it doesn't sound like it?

(Laughs) We'll see, who knows? It was planned as a trilogy but there could be more, that's what's great about song writing, you never know where it will take you. That's in the future though (laughs), for now we're concentrating on the new album.

Talking of the new album, this is your eleventh, did you ever think you'd reach that milestone?

I think what surprises us most about getting to number eleven is the musical climate we're in and the type of music we play, which isn't that popular – if that's the right word – outside a certain circle. With all the music available today and the way people consume it, we're just so happy that fans and music lovers still like what we're doing and buy our music. We're happy to still be playing at the levels we do and we all still, every one of us, enjoy making music together. We're so fortunate to be able to still do what we do after so many albums together. These days to get to double figures making any album or playing any kind of music is a rare thing.

What was the motivation to write a trilogy of albums about a single concept?

Actually, it felt pretty natural to us and something that we felt we had to do. We just said lets go for it; and we did go for it in a big way. In the end the music and lyrics came naturally to us, so in truth everything just fell into place for us as the concept grew.

What came first? The story or the music?

With us what happens is we concentrate on one album at a time. So even though the music is following a storyline, each album is written and played as a separate part of the story. So when we did 'The Atlantic', even though it's part of a trilogy of albums/stories, we concentrated on where this album's music and story took us, rather on trying to make it fit exactly in with the other two parts.

The guitar riffs are very heavy but the verses and choruses are very melodic. A strange mixture but it works. Why such different musical styles on the songs?

I don't know to be honest with you. When we wrote the album it just felt very natural for us to have those different song parts and different elements. We think that this a pretty aggressive album but also very diverse, so we needed to go first heavy, then light, then everything else in between. This gives the music a dynamic feel and we love doing music like that, mixing melodic choruses and heavy guitars together really seems to be for us.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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What is 'The Atlantic' all about? The cover artwork with the roaring sea, the old sailing ship and the castle with the raven's head all speak of a journey.

Yes you've got it. It's about the way relationships can break people up and then you set sail on this ocean of emotion, and the stormy seas you have to cross are part of the journey. When you get to the other side you're not the same person you were when you started out your journey. Who will you be when you've crossed that ocean? Have you changed, are you the same person? All these things are in 'The Atlantic's' songs and lyrics, you just have to discover them.

I read that Tom S. Englund (vocalist/guitarist) thinks this is your most heavy and intense album so far. But to me, I feel that it is one of your most accessible albums.

I can see what you mean but when we write an album we just go with it until everything makes sense to us. You don't really sit down to write a song and say I wonder if this thing will work here or that thing will work there, it's more important for us to get the vibe of the song and music right, that's when things will work. It doesn't matter if it's heavy or melodic, get that vibe right and everything falls into place. So when Tom and I wrote the album we never thought the guitars and songs would be so heavy but I like that, just letting the music take you to the place it wants to go. That's what's exciting about writing songs, seeing where you and they end up. And with all the other guys adding in their own musical bits here and there the songs move and change all the time, which I love.

The production, done by the band with the help of Jacob Hansen, is wonderful!

Tom and I produced it. It was a shit-load of work for us to get it right but we stuck at it. Actually the bass and drums were recorded basically live in the studio, with maybe one or two overdubs but basically what you're hearing is live bass and drums on the album. Then the other guys added their parts during the pre-production but what held us back was we had a fucking break-in at our studio and it fucked up the time schedule for the album. But maybe that's a good thing in the end because we took a little longer at that stage to get the production just right. We pissed Jacob off a lot because we had this vision for the album and we didn't want to stray one inch from that. So we were a real pain in the ass for Jacob when he was mixing it for us... sorry Jacob.

When you tour this album how are you going to fit songs from the three parts of the concept together?

Good question (laughs). It will depend I suppose on what kind of show it is. We've got a tour in March coming up and festival dates. So if it's a festival show, you're on stage for a set amount of time, so you can only play so many songs. Same if you're supporting someone, again you're limited to how long you've got on stage. Headlining will be a different thing of course, much longer on stage so more songs but that will cause it's own problems of what to leave in or what to leave out of the set-list.

What about playing the whole of the trilogy back to back and filming it?

(Laughs a lot) Wow! Holy shit man, that would be something wouldn't it? I don't think so though, no one would stick around for three hours would they? Even I wouldn't and I'm in the band! (laughs) It would be like a Bruce Springsteen concert. God it would take a lot of time to learn and remember all those songs too. It's a nice idea but I don't think so!

As we talked about earlier you now have eleven albums. Was this always the plan for the band; to get this far and then continue?

I don't know, is the honest answer. I don't think any musician who gets to make albums ever thinks they'll get past the first one. You can never say that you're going to make ten albums, or whatever, because you just don't know what's going to happen. You hope you're going to have a long life in a band or as a solo artist but you never know. We're just so happy to have made eleven albums. And we love working together, that's probably our big secret, that we love making music together and if the fans love what we do then we will hopefully get to album twelve, thirteen, fourteen and more.

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