Fireworks Magazine

Fireworks Magazine Online 80: Hotel & Hittman - Bands That Time Forgot

BANDS THAT TIME FORGOT

Dave Reynolds looks back at some of the great acts who slipped under the radar.

Hotel, the six piece AOR band from Birmingham, Alabama only released two albums in the decade they were together – a self-titled affair in 1979 and a pretty spectacular sophomore release entitled 'Half Moon Silver' a year later – but while they appeared not to have made much of an impression beyond a couple of singles that graced the Billboard Hot 100 – they are still much revered in the Southeast of the US and certainly by collectors of quality US Melodic Rock the world over.


Hotel - Band

Originally formed in 1973 as Tumbrell Hotel by vocalist/pianist Marc Phillips and guitarist Tommy Calton (who had previously played together in the Alabama club bands Rainwater and Wooden Music), the initial line-up of the group became the house band at The Knights Of The Round Table club in Homewood for around a year. The foremost objective as far as Marc Phillips was concerned was "to get a record deal."

"We had all been in cover bands playing Beatles songs or whoever else was popular at the time," Marc explains. "I particularly wanted to write my own material and become an artist in my own right. The band (at that point comprised of Phillips, Calton, erstwhile Wooden Music vocalist Beverly 'Raspberry' Owen, bassist Joe Breckenridge and drummer Van Neff) was certainly still a cover band when we started to play the bars and night clubs here in the Southeast of the United States, but we were intent on adding our own songs. We all had an incredible work ethic. We put in long hours. We were full-time musicians who would be playing shows until 2 or 3am and then spend three of four hours a day rehearsing before we'd play again that evening."

Various musicians moved in and out of the band, now simply known as Hotel, as Phillips and Calton began to slowly develop the band's status. By 1975 the group had became a pretty big draw at The Cobblestone, a new club on Morris Avenue (downtown Birmingham's oldest street). By the following year the band had settled on what would become the definitive line-up of Hotel with the recruitment over time of bassist George Creasman, guitarist Michael Reid, drummer Michael Cadenhead and the multi-skilled Lee Bargeron. The latter was already working as the band's soundman by this point, but his talents on keyboards, guitar and backing vocals had not gone unnoticed. Marc Phillips though, feels there wasn't any one person who made a gigantic difference in taking the band forward. "Hotel developed slowly," he recalls. "It was more about finding the right people and keeping those who shared the same goals and work ethic as you. In the same way that labels invested more time in bands in order for them to develop back then, we as a band invested the time in getting it right and finally found a line-up that had the right chemistry and mindset. As a result of getting it right we landed a deal with Mercury Records in 1977."

Unfortunately, the band's tenure with Mercury was short lived, mainly thanks to the record label's lack of commitment to giving the group an album deal.

"We released a single, 'You'll Love Again', with Mercury in 1978, which charted on the Billboard Hot 100 (reaching #71), but the record company never got behind it. So our producer (former Capitol A&R man Dain Eric, who had been introduced to Hotel by their good friend and fellow Alabama artist Buddy Causey) got us out of the contract and we wound up signing with Scotti Brothers. We managed to secure the rights to 'You'll Love Again', so we were able to include it on our first album."
That first album was recorded with Dain Eric at the production desk. "We spent a good two or three months on it," Marc recalls. "We cut it at the Creative Workshop in Nashville. Back in those days Nashville was still very much all about country music, so when we were looking to record the drum tracks we needed a better room than the ones they had in order to get the bigger sounds we wanted. We wound up setting the drum kit up in the studio lobby to get the natural reverb we were looking for. The people there looked at us as if we were crazy, so we certainly broke new ground for recording in Nashville!"

There's a tendency for the debut to be overlooked due to the band's second effort being an utterly astounding affair, but it shouldn't be ignored as it contains a well delivered, quality selection of songs that compare extremely favourably to the likes of Player, Louisiana's Le Roux and the Atlanta Rhythm Section. It also showcases Phillips' fantastic vocal talents in switching between the smooth AOR of 'Right On Time', the balladry of the piano led 'Old Silver' (inspired by a painting that Marc still has on a wall in his house) or 'Hold On To The Night', the Hard Rock of 'City Lights' and hugely melodic 'You'll Love Again'. The latter songs now clearly seen as precursors of the sublime Melodic Rock Hotel would pursue on 'Half Moon Silver'.
The album's artwork was certainly inspired too, setting up a rather neat brand theme that would be continued on Hotel's second album. "That was all pretty clever," acknowledges Marc. "I remember we took advantage of that and had towels and key fobs made with the logo on them to tie in with it."

Curiously, although Scotti Brothers releases were distributed at the time by Atlantic, Hotel's debut album was released in 1979 through a deal secured with MCA.

"That was one of the things that puzzled me," responds Marc, who also queries the label's subsequent decision to pull the promotion of the band's first single, 'You've Got Another Thing Coming', just as it was generating airplay across the States.

The single peaked at #54 on the Billboard Hot 100, but would more than likely have gone on to greater heights.

"We were on tour with Wet Willie at the time we learned about the promotion being dropped. I've never understood that. We were also the first band to release an album on MCA that had the new price increase where an LP now cost $7.99. So someone would go in to buy an album and see ours at $7.99 and the new Tom Petty record at $6.99. Who were you gonna buy? I just think we were bought and sold as a tax write-off. Between Scotti Brothers and MCA no one took responsibility for anything. They always had someone else to blame."

To support the album on the road, Hotel managed to secure the Southeastern leg of the Little River Band's '79 US tour. They also played dates with the Atlanta Rhythm Section, Toto and Louisiana's Le Roux. "The guys in the Little River Band wanted us to go with them to play dates further up the East coast instead of taking Sea Level, but the tour support from the label got pulled. It just seemed like MCA didn't want us to succeed."

Despite the frustration already being felt that they were signed to a label that had little belief in them, Hotel nevertheless were already writing material for the second album by October 1979, with recording commencing in early 1980. Dain Eric was once again in the producer's seat, with recording resuming at the Creative Workshop in Nashville.

"We'd always go find somewhere to rehearse and write. We took a bit more time with the second album, but it was interesting to me how MCA decided that they would release the title track as the first single. The record label had been on at us to go Rock and go heavier on the second record yet they fell in love with the Crosby Stills and Nash-like harmonies of the title song, which is an acoustic number. As good as the song was, releasing it as a single killed the band. Maybe that was the label's idea. The album was so diverse that radio didn't know what to do with us. I think we actually lost a little focus on that second album. The first album was very stylistic."

Yet perhaps the diversity of 'Half Moon Silver' is what makes it such a special record. It's a master class in Melodic Hard Rock on a par with anything the likes of Le Roux, Night Ranger, Player or Toto ever recorded. The absolute highlight on 'Half Moon Silver' is the towering magnificence of 'Wanting You Too My Love'. The guitar solo work on this track by Tommy Calton is worth the price of the album on its own.

Whereas many of the songs on the first album were influenced by real-life events – 'You'll Love Again' was inspired by Marc's parents' divorce – the second album tended to focus more on fictitious events, but beautifully told.... the opening track 'A Place In Time (Refugee)' being a solid case in point. You can almost smell New York City thanks to the band's wonderful lyrical imagery. A smoky, riverside bar room somewhere in the Deep South is also vividly conjured up on 'Ned And Mary'. "We really did try to paint pictures in the minds of listeners with a song like 'A Place In Time'," confirms Marc.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music


The band, and Phillips in particular, put in a consummate performance on 'Half Moon Silver' and they deserved so much more with such a brilliant record. They were let down badly by a record label that couldn't even be bothered to give them the time of day.

The band continued to tour, notably with Hall & Oates, but it quickly became obvious that their days with MCA were numbered. With the eventual loss of their record deal the group began to splinter; bassist George Creasman being the first to leave in early 1982. He was briefly replaced by Eddie Usher before Lee Bargeron gave his notice. By the summer Hotel had disbanded.

Eddie Usher had already joined Marc, Tommy and drummer Steve Sample Jr. in the Calton-Phillips Group, which the singer describes as "a cover band trying to make a living" playing material by the likes of The Police, Squeeze and Genesis. Due to venues regularly billing the band incorrectly as Cotton-Phillips, Clayton-Phillips or Carlton-Phillips, the band's agent persuaded them to change the problematic moniker. The group, having now added former The Mortals member Lolly Lee on vocals and guitar, opted for Split The Dark. "It's true that we found ourselves billed as Split The Dog for one of our first gigs in Memphis," Phillips laughs.

Initially still a cover band, Split The Dark's desire to push their self-penned songs led to the recording of what would turn into an independently released six song EP, 'Keep It To Yourself', in 1983 that placed a more contemporary hi-tech topping on the Hotel sound. The EP was only released on a local level. At the time they had no access or knowledge of any overseas interest in Hotel that might have made a difference had they looked to export the record. Line-up changes ensued, and by the time Split The Dark won MTV's Basement Tapes competition with the video for 'Always A Chance', Sample Jr. and Lee had departed and the remaining trio were joined by drummer David James and keyboard player Scott Macdavid. However, as Seattle Hard Rock troupe Rail found out a few years earlier, winning a national contest on MTV was one thing, gaining major record label support as a result was a different matter. While Rail at least got an EP deal, Split The Dark found life significantly more difficult. "We did 14 or 15 showcases for major labels but despite the fact we won the competition we just couldn't get signed," Marc sighs.

The decision to add another guitarist, a certain Damon Johnson, to the group at the expense of Scott Macdavid and record further material did little to ignite label interest. By 1988 Johnson and Usher had joined Witness and Split The Dark quietly faded into the Alabama music scene's history books.

While Tommy and Marc Phillips finally went their separate ways they have always remained friends. In fact, the definitive line-up of Hotel will be reunited in October for a long overdue catch-up. Phillips, having released a brace of solo albums still plays the bars and clubs adding his own material to a selection of Hotel songs and covers from the likes of U2 and Sting. He is a fascinating character who has also published an autobiography, 'Pouring It Out On Me', detailing a musical career that began in the 60s, his thankfully successful battle with stage 4 throat cancer and finding God.

Although Hotel's music is available on iTunes, the two albums have yet to see an official release on CD. This, as I tell Marc, has to be resolved. He certainly agrees. Stay tuned...

For further info on Hotel and Marc's solo releases please visit www.marcphillipsmusic.com

 

Hittman - Band

Having once described Hittman as the best unsigned band in the entire universe, it was quite rightly only a matter of time before the five-piece from New York did gain a deal. Unfortunately, the music business being the often vicious beast it is, trends - even within the Heavy Metal genre - had moved on once the group had put pen to paper with the German SPV label in early 1988. Although they had released their debut album later the same year, Hittman had become a band out of time.

With the kind of unified look that betrayed the fact that the five guys concerned had been hugely influenced growing up in the late 70s by the likes of KISS, Angel and Judas Priest, Hittman's problem appeared to be that they were not heavy enough to compete with the likes of Metallica, Anthrax and Slayer and not glam enough to be on the cover of 'Metal Edge' alongside Poison, Bon Jovi and Ratt. They were, much like the L.A. based Malice, caught between a rock and a hard place. Yet, believe me, having been fortunate to have seen them on two occasions prior to being signed, they were an awesome live band.

Still, nearly 30 years on and Hittman are back! No Remorse Records will be releasing expanded versions of both the eponymous debut album and its controversial follow up 'Vivas Machina'. There are plans too for a brand new album. So what actually happened to this highly-touted outfit and where did it all go pear shaped when they displayed so much promise?

The band was formed by guitarist Jim Bachi and bassist Mike Buccell in 1984 having recently departed the Long Island group Attila. They were joined by erstwhile Takashi drummer Chuck Kory and, initially, vocalist Scott Knight (Armed Forces). However, things didn't work out with the latter and Dirk Kennedy (who had previously been in a formative line-up of Anthrax) entered the picture.

"I answered an ad in The Music Paper," recalls Dirk. "It had been a few years since I left Anthrax and I had decided to pursue a more formal vocal training and studied with Marty Lawrence who taught a lot of big opera stars, Joe Lynn turner, Tony Harnell, Melissa Manchester and so many more. I wanted to add a bit of range and finesse to my voice, which at the time was mostly just impressions of other singers - Dio, Dickinson, Meine etc. I formed my own band (Excalibur), did a few shows and then looked for something more professional. I answered the ad and that turned out to be a band called Hittman."

Having only been together for a mere four months, the new line-up quickly recorded a hugely impressive demo in the summer of 1985 that soon found its way, as these things did back then, to a number of European Metal publications, including 'Metal Forces' for whom yours truly was writing for.

"We were floored when we saw the review," recalls Dirk. "We thought, "Holy shit, this guy gets it." We all framed the review and were so proud. From that moment we felt we were doing something right."

The band had not actually played any gigs at that point, but that was quickly rectified when they made their live debut opening for Stryper at the Nassau Community College on November 11th 1985. Recruiting former Alien guitarist Brian 'Don' Fair to the line-up bolstered Hittman's dynamic sound, but he didn't last that long (departing in the summer of '86) and he was quickly replaced; firstly by one-time Anthrax guitarist Greg Walls and then John Kristen. The latter was clearly the missing piece of the puzzle, giving added depth to the Hittman metallic onslaught that enabled them to perfectly blend together the very best elements of Queensryche, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Accept and even a little KISS.

"It was all about finding the right fit," notes Dirk about the line-up changes. "Don and Greg just didn't work for different reasons. Musically, Don was with us, but he just didn't fit on a professional level. Greg just didn't fit musically. He was a much more aggressive player and not as melodic as our music needed. I got his number from Scott Ian who told me "he's not the right guy, believe me" and he wasn't. We stole John from a local band and he was exactly the right guy. He was perfect for us and he's my best buddy to this day. I can't imagine Hittman without him. The gods were good to us the day he came."

Having seen the band play with both Fair (at L'Amour East in Queens in May 1986) and Kristen (an all day Metal fest event in Connecticut headlining over Manilla Road, Liege Lord and Britny Fox a year later), I can certainly vouch for the difference the addition of John Kristen made to the group, contributing to a really other-worldly guitar sound alongside Jim Bachi that became Hittman's trademark. With the unbelievably tight rhythm team of Buccell and Kory behind the two guitarists, Dirk Kennedy's vocals soar magnificently onwards and upwards. Here is a guy who can certainly go toe to toe with Bruce Dickinson and Geoff Tate. I can't stress enough that Hittman really were a phenomenal live band back then, and at that time the plan originally was to record a mini album and release it independently.

"EPs were all the rage back then and we wanted to have total control for our first release and take it from there, much like Queensryche had done with 206 Records."
Hittman had recorded six songs ('Metal Sport', 'Dead On Arrival', 'Back Street Rebels', 'Behind The Lines', 'Test Of Time' and 'Secret Agent Man', the latter a metallic cover of the theme song from the popular 60s US TV show of the same title) for the planned EP, but then they began to get offers....

"We got a lot of offers that went nowhere," Dirk wryly adds, "and then SPV arrived."

Signing a deal with the newly launched US office of the German label, the tracks cut for the EP were added with 'Will You Be There', 'Breakout' and 'Caught In The Crossfire'. The package was released as a nine track album through SPV's Steamhammer imprint in late 1988. However, the debut album's release was massively affected by the sudden closure of the New York office of SPV, and by that time the whole Metal world had moved on. Hittman had missed a golden opportunity.

"In a nutshell, we signed with an American label owned by a German company. We had originally signed to SPV USA because we wanted a smaller label with an American distribution system, but on the very day of our release they shut down their US operation and our contract reverted back to German law and we were in limbo while they decided what to do with us, which was nothing. They then licensed the album to Roadrunner in the USA without consulting us. We tried to stop it and couldn't. It caused a lot of bad blood resulting in non promotion and support from SPV.

The offer of a deal with Mercury/PolyGram came and went due to legal hassles with SPV. Was the quintet not tempted at that point to just dissolve the band and start again under a different name?
"SPV famously wanted a million dollars to let us out of our deal. A band they didn't care about because they (the German office) didn't sign us. But they wanted the money which was the entire amount of our deal. We did think about changing the name, but were told we'd still be under contract."

There was a second album, tentatively titled 'Precision Killing', planned, but due to the ongoing problems with SPV there was a massive gap before the actual next album appeared. The Bob St. John produced 'Vivas Machina' (translation: 'Living Machine', which effectively described how Hittman felt about themselves as a unit) was eventually released in 1993. It was a very adventurous album that found Hittman (with a new drummer in Mark Jenkins) in a different place entirely. I know Dirk was aware it confused the heck out of a lot of people. He is, understandably, still a huge fan of the album, but does admit it was, at the time, a big step to have made. What are his thoughts all these years later?

"'Precision Killing' was the planned second album. We wrote it, made demo's and played all of it live. But by the time we were actually in the studio making a new record it was four years later. A concept album (like 'Precision Killing') seemed like a mistake. It was kind of 'Operation: Mindcrime'-esque. Not really original anymore, so we wrote new songs. 'Vivas..' is more a fourth album, if you know what I mean; the one with the potential hit AOR singles on it. It's catchy, it's competent but lacking the fire of the debut. This we all understand now. I do however like the album. I think it's mostly my fault for trying out a new raspy style vocally.

"People compared me to Jon Bon Jovi, which isn't so Metal," Dirk laughs, but one listen to the likes of 'Renegade Man' will make the point about the comparison. "I was always such a clean singer. It was fun to bring something new to the table, but I went overboard. But man, 'Mercy' is on that record. So is 'Answer My Prayer' and 'Words'. These are some of my proudest moments."

Despite a German tour in May 1993 alongside Skew Siskin and Sargant Fury, the whole business side of music eventually got to the band members, so when did the decision to 'disband' come? "We NEVER disbanded officially," states Dirk. "We just started working on other projects, which led to a 25 year hiatus."

Kennedy was planning a solo album ('Life Is Now') for a long time, which eventually surfaced, but what did the others get up to?

"Jimmy is a major songwriter in L.A. and does soundtrack and commercial work. John is a family man; Chuck is one of the biggest pyro-technicians on the planet and works with the likes of KISS and Iron Maiden. So yeah, we kept busy!"
Although there was intended to be a reunion in 2009 nothing came of that, but when the amiable Mike Buccell sadly passed away following a fatal road accident involving the Newsday delivery truck he was driving in November 2013 it seemed the band really was history. What prompted the remaining quartet to get back together?

"Mike had personal problems that caused the 2009 reunion to fall apart and we stood by him. We always planned to pursue the reunion again, but when he died we thought maybe that's it, but we're doing this for Mike and for his daughter Kylie. She loved the music her dad was such a big part of."

Hittman are currently working on a reissue of the first album (the original CD version of which now carries a huge premium over the vinyl LP on the second hand market) with 'Vivas..' scheduled after that. What extras do they have up their sleeves for the expanded editions?

"Jimmy and I have been working like demons. The first release in late summer/fall this year is the debut Hittman album. With a huge booklet, the original Hittman demo remixed and mastered and many Hittman demos no one has heard. It'll be on CD and perhaps limited edition vinyl and digital.

"Next year we're putting out a new album. It's being built from the ground up. No demos, no old tracks. Just the band and its influences from the day the band started. So don't expect Modern Metal. It will be Metal in its most classic form. The new album is being written and demoed as we speak. It's too early to say who will release it, but it'll be in time for the shows next year. We'd like to play as many festivals as possible and travel to the places we didn't get to go before. Like Japan! We have so many fans from there and they write all the time. We now look at this as a new beginning and look forward to taking it to the people in 2018 and beyond."

Fireworks Magazine Online 80 - Interview with Accept

ACCEPT

Interview by Carl Buxton

Despite their periods of inactivity in the past, it doesn't feel like Accept have ever been away from the forefront of the Metal scene. 'The Rise Of Chaos' is their fourth release in the last eight years since their reformation with American vocalist Mark Tornillo, formerly of New Jersey's T.T.Quick, a productivity that puts a lot of bands to shame. And it certainly isn't quantity over quality as each subsequent release of the new era has outsold its predecessor, with the last album 'Blind Rage' reaching the #1 position in the German and Finnish national charts and #2 in Hungary, to propel them back into the limelight. Also new for this album is ex-Grave Digger guitarist Uwe Lulis and American drummer Christopher Williams, after the departure of stalwarts Herman Frank and Stefan Schwarzmann. British fans could be forgiven for thinking that Accept had quietly slipped away, as there hasn't been a full UK tour for many years, with just the odd date in London, and their albums have also barely dented the charts over here, but Europe is entirely another matter. Fireworks went to London on the hottest day of the year to meet Guitarist Wolf Hoffmann and discuss the latest album.


Accept - Interview Fireworks

In this day and age there are so many bands and so many different sub genres of Metal. In a way it's hard to stay relevant and it's hard to stay at the top of the tree. Whereas you have the history, back catalogue and longevity that certainly helps. People remember the name and younger people coming up are being told about Accept, and being told about other German bands like Scorpions and Helloween. This is the fourth album since your comeback and yet you've still managed to stay at the top, to stay relevant, to stay in people's minds and keep their attention.

Yeah, you said it. You're fighting for attention nowadays much more than back then, there's so much more diversity and there's thousands of bands and artists out there, and everybody wants a piece of the pie. So yes, it helps us that we've been around for such a long time but at the same time, if we were just making crap albums that nobody likes I think it would fade away rather quickly. So we decided to stay relevant by making albums that mean something to people, that actually have good songs that people like – that was the goal, that's why we make an album at all. Because we could have, really, just gotten together with Mark and played old songs and gone on the road like some sort of a nostalgia act.

Which is pretty much what people's perception would have been...

Right, absolutely! We could have done that. It's not what we wanted to do though because we wanted to have the challenge of writing new songs because we felt, 'Well, Hell, that's part of the deal.' We've done it back then so why shouldn't we do it now? That's the ultimate goal. If you have a new album and a new tour cycle, then you stay relevant that way, with new songs for people to listen to.

And Mark needs to have his own stamp on the band.

That's the other thing of course. We felt we've got a great new singer and it would be a waste not to write songs with him. If all he would be there to do is to sing old songs, well actually he may as well be a clone. We'd be like a tribute act and we didn't want that. We wanted really to contribute to our own legacy and keep going.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music


That's exactly it, you used the word legacy. Mark can stamp his own legacy with the band with these albums.

Yeah, and weirdly enough it feels now, with these four albums under our belt, like a good section of solid continuity compared to our prior career. You know, people coming and going sometimes. Every album was slightly different and it feels to me like it wasn't as continuous as it is now.

Let's talk about the album then, 'The Rise Of Chaos'. Can you explain the album title and why you chose it?

I'm not sure I can explain it, but I can tell you why we chose it, because it seems to be something that just grabbed us. It seems to be the spirit of the times we live in, or something that is very current. When we arrive we always have a list of catch-phrases and possible titles and hook lines that we write down in our little booklet. That one just popped up out of nowhere and it immediately felt like this one's special, this really feels like there's a rise of chaos going on in the world right now. So we felt it was very relevant and...album title worthy [laughs].

So we're talking about like what's happening in Syria, what's happening in Iraq...?

Oh definitely, in the US politically, in the environment, anything. Anything that you watch seems to get more and more extreme. The rise of chaos seems to be definitely driving the world situation...to me, anyway.

The album cover is based on your stage design, with a destroyed look. You enlisted the services of Hungarian artist Gyula Havancsak again.

Yeah, the same guy who designed the stage set we built and it matched well with the title. We wanted something different, we've never really done a graphics album cover like that. Most of our covers have been very simple and therefore symbolic almost...

And red...

And red [laughs]. Everybody says, "Wolf, every album's red, so surely you didn't want another red one now?" ...to break the spell, the cycle. To me it always feels slightly weird to talk about lyrics that much, because first and foremost our music is supposed to be listened to, not really supposed to have it explained. You know, sometimes I get this question, like, for every song title: "What does it really mean?" And quite honestly I doubt they ask somebody like AC/DC, or somebody even like Judas Priest. Who cares? It's just Metal man! But if you're really interested in the lyrics, then that should come way down the line at some point, you know?
We always wanted a lyric that meant something and made you think...if you're so inclined, but we're not preaching a message. We don't really have any deep meaning behind why we released this album. It's just a collection of songs and it has to have a title, so there. But it's not really a concept album or anything of that nature.

Was Gabby (Wolf's wife and manager) throwing out ideas like she normally does?

Yeah, she always does. She also has her little booklet that she writes ideas and thoughts into and sometimes we go through that and pick out stuff that seems to work with whatever riff we're writing or working on.

And is Mark involved in the majority of the lyrics?

He sends us a list of things and we pick sometimes from that. Whoever has an idea. Whatever seems to work with the chorus idea I have. Sometimes we have a melody in mind, or a certain rhythmic idea and you look for the right phrase to use and then you start thinking, "Okay, what could that possibly mean?" I didn't have a clear idea of what 'The Rise Of Chaos' actually means or what it should be about, we just wrote that song, 'The Rise Of Chaos', and then we gave it to Mark.

Again, maybe subconsciously with what's going on in the world?

Yeah, I mean I like that but that's really where I left it. I didn't write down any lyrics or proper lines or whatever, I just said the rise of chaos seems to be something that's going on – here, you write it, you figure it out, you worry about it [laughs], I've got enough to worry about with the music. Peter (Baltes) and I often come up with the actual idea or catchphrase, or the structure of the basic name.

I like the idea that there are ten songs, they're all short – it feels like the old days with a forty minute album length. Was that part of your thinking or was that how it organically happened?

It's how it organically happened, it wasn't planned out like that. We could have probably found another two or three songs that we could have stuck on the album but we figured why bother? Let's use ten strong songs – ten or twelve or fourteen, you know, nobody's counting. We'd rather have quality than quantity, to be honest. We didn't want to have any filler or bonus tracks that we could do without. We wanted to concentrate on ten songs that to me feel all equally strong.

Fireworks Magazine Online 80 - Interview with Michael Monroe

MICHAEL MONROE

Interview by Dawn Osborne

The man that is the human dynamo on stage, Michael Monroe, releases the first 'Best Of' featuring songs from his illustrious solo career. One thing is immediately clear ̶ there is much more to this charming vocalist than the songs of his former band, the legendary Hanoi Rocks.


Michael Monroe - Interview

Your newest albums have been some of your strongest releases ever, so you certainly haven't run out of ideas. Why did you choose to bring out this retrospective compilation in 2017?

Because it's been thirty years since my first solo album came out. 'Nights Are So Long' was released in '87/'88 and there's never been a Michael Monroe compilation album. The Demolition 23 album has been out of print since it came out in 1994, so that hasn't been available and there are four songs from that on this new release. I think it was a good time to put together this collection of songs summing up my career, the old part on the first CD and the newer period on the second, while also including bonus and previously unreleased tracks. There are at least four previously completely unreleased songs and very rare tracks like the Stiv Bators duet 'It's A Lie' which was only out previously as a bonus track on album 'Peace Of Mind' in 1999 in Germany and America. There are completely unreleased outtakes from the last album 'Blackout States', 'Fist Fulla Dynamite' and 'Simpletown'.
'Get On' was a Japan only bonus track on 'Horns And Halos'. It's by a Finnish band the Hurriganes, who were originally the baddest ass Rock band in the 70s. In '74 they put out this album 'Roadrunner' which had some killer stuff and this song 'Get On'. Their guitar player Albert Jarvinen is dead now but he was one of the best Rock n' Roll guitar players of all time and there's incredible playing from him on the original. 'Get On' is like a national anthem in Finland and so we covered it and are releasing it now. Then there's our new single 'One Foot Outta The Grave' on this record. We're gonna make a video for that song next week. Cheryl Cooper was in our last video for 'Going Down With The Ship' in her nurse outfit. We were at Alice's show in Swindon and we were doing the splits together so Rich Jones got it on video ̶ it's just for a few seconds. So that was a great honour... I asked her permission, of course.

'Dead, Jail Or Rock n' Roll' is probably the finest Rock n Roll anthem you've ever written; I think it's got a great timeless quality. Are you happy that songs you wrote thirty years ago still sound fresh and exciting to a new generation?

Yeah, I'm very happy about that. The test of time is the ultimate test. If something sounds as good and fresh as it did when it came out thirty years previously, that's the best you can hope for, it's great!

Axl Rose was on the video for 'Dead, Jail Or Rock n' Roll' and there's another Guns N' Roses connection with the new album. Tell us about that...

Oh yeah, Slash was doing 'Magic Carpet Ride' for the Coneheads movie soundtrack and he asked me to sing on it. I had a new arrangement idea for it, so we tried that too and we decided to do two versions. The new arrangement ended up on the movie soundtrack, but the other version, closer to the original, never came out anywhere and I had kept the tape for all these years to myself and I never played it to anybody except some close friends. So when this compilation album time came I was thinking about what I could use for bonus tracks for it and I remembered that song and that version. I emailed Slash and said it would be a shame if that never came out in any shape or form and I thought, "It's probably gonna be impossible to get this. It's too much trouble and it's probably gonna involve all these lawyers and lots of money", but Slash is the coolest, the biggest heart in Rock, the sweetest guy. He said, "Hey man, all you have to worry about is paying the songwriters for the publishing. You can use it.' I said, "God Bless you, thank you, I love you." What a guy! Like I remember similarly when we did 'Ain't It Fun', the Stiv Bators song, as a duet when Axel wanted to do that. It was so cool to have Stiv's name on that Guns N' Roses album. I didn't want anything for that song. I said if you can just have 'In memory of Stiv Bators' on the album, I'm happy.

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Stiv's so important to you, because you were looking at a cover of a Stiv Bator's album when you had a spiritual experience that inspired you to be a vocalist in the first place. What's the background to the duet you do with him on the album, 'It's A Lie'?

'It's A Lie' is a song by Jimmy Zero, the other guitar player in the Dead Boys. Stiv had the demo that he played to me and Andy (McCoy) and he offered it to Hanoi Rocks, but Andy said no, so Hanoi never did that, but when I moved in with Stiv in '85 and Hanoi was breaking up, CBS asked me to make some demos for them to decide if they wanted to keep me as a solo artist [Hanoi was signed to CBS worldwide] and 'It's A Lie' was one of the demos we made back then at Redwood Studios in London. As we were doing it Stiv realised the lyrics were really about him leaving the Dead Boys. So that tape was magical and when we sang it together in the studio you can't really separate which is which voice. I'm singing the lead at first, but when Stiv comes in he continues with the lead, so I'm going up in harmony then and it's hard for even me sometimes to tell who is who. The version on 'Nights Are So Long' is not nearly as good as this one on the new compilation.

Demolition 23 had some great songs, in fact you almost play as many of those in your live set now as you do Hanoi songs. Why have you included four Demolition 23 songs on the album, but no Hanoi Rocks?

Obviously no Hanoi Rocks because this is my solo career, nothing to do with Hanoi in that sense. Demolition 23 is one of the greatest records of my solo career and it's also for Stiv Bators. When Stiv died I sat down and wrote the lyrics to 'Deadtime Stories' which have about fifteen Stiv song titles in them as a tribute thing, like Stiv did for the Dolls on the first Lords of the New Church album, 'Little Boys Play With Dolls'. Also I had those chords when I was living with Stiv and he started humming the melody back then, so when I heard he was dead I sat down and started playing that song. So it's important to me to have that track on the record. 'Crucified Me', 'Hammersmith' and 'Nothing's Alright' just had to be there too.
The record is a double album and the fact that most of the material is from after 2010 shows the strength of your new material. Songs like '78' and the 'Ballad Of The Lower East Side' are just as good, if not better, than your stuff from Hanoi Rocks.
Yay, thank you, great! That's nice to hear.

I love the Pink Gibson guitar work on 'Stranded'. What's your favourite guitar work on the album?

I think my current guitar players. Steve Conte is an incredible, exceptional guitar player. So is Rich Jones, so was Dregen, so was Ginger ... that's some of the greatest stuff, and Phil Grande, who played on the 'Not Fakin' It' album and plays on 'Dead Jail Or Rock n' Roll' ̶ there's a guy who really was amazing. I remember when that album came out, Slash pointed and asked, 'Who's playing the guitar on that record? That's killer guitar!' Phil was really something else. He came out with the line 'Rock like Fuck', he said it in the studio. I said, "Wow, that's my slogan from now on." And of course Jay Henning, God rest his soul, from Demolition 23. He was really special. It's a big shame he's not with us anymore.

You've had some real characters in the band. You mentioned Ginger and Dregen. Is it ever exhausting being a leader of a box of frogs?

No, it's a challenge. Most people would tell me Ginger would be hard to work with. Even Lemmy asked, 'How are you holding up with that guy?' and I said 'Fucking great! He calms me down. He has a calming effect on me.' And actually he does, I love the guy! He's a sweetheart and we get on great. There was no problem, no craziness ... so I have an effect on people. I influence people in a different way. It's what you put out comes back.

What do you hope somebody new to your work will get out of 'Best Of'?

I hope they will get what I do in terms of music and lyrics, what I have to offer and I hope they can relate and feel the joy of Rock n' Roll when they hear these songs. It's a good sample of everything I've done in my solo career, a good presentation of what I do. I hope they'll get the vibe and feel.

Looking at the Compilation what do you think are the musical influences that have stayed with you and which are most obvious in your work?

Little Richard, Rolling Stones, Alice Cooper ... so many. Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Mott the Hoople, The Faces, punk stuff, the Ruts, the Damned, the Pistols, Iggy Pop, Nazareth, Black Sabbath, Stiv Bators, Dead Boys, Motorhead, UK Subs, Dave Edmunds, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, ZZ Top, blues, reggae...

When you get compliments about your music, whose comments mean the most to you and why?

People who understand my music: musicians, fans, those who are aware of most of my work and know other people's work and points of comparison, friends I trust and people I know. That's usually where I get the best ideas of what I'm doing. If I ask for opinions when I'm in the process of working, I always ask certain people and it's not necessarily what they say that will make me do what they think is best, but I know how they think and that helps me make up my mind what I'm actually gonna do.

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who never sold their soul, who maintained their integrity, who went all out, did authentic Rock n' Roll, no compromise and somebody who had a good heart and was a good person. I never hurt anybody, at least on purpose, and I'd like to be remembered as somebody that did something good with their life.

Fireworks Magazine Online 80 - Interview with Suzi Quatro

SUZI QUATRO

Interview by Malcolm Smith


With a career spanning some fifty years, Suzi Quatro is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, quite the opposite and 2017 is turning out to be a busy year for the legendary rocker. Not content with having a UK tour scheduled for October and the impending release of 'Legend - The Best of Suzi Quatro', this year has seen the publication of her first novel, 'The Hurricane'. If that wasn't enough, September sees the European release of the collaboration between Suzi, Andy Scott (Sweet) and Don Powell (Slade) for the supergroup QSP, all this and still finding time to host her own Radio show! Fireworks caught up with Suzi recently to find out how she still manages to cram so much into an already long and glittering career.


Suzi Quatro - Interview

Your latest Greatest Hits collection is called 'Legend', often a misused word in the music business but concerning yourself, I believe well justified. How does it feel to have this tagged to your name?

I think that after fifty-two years in the business I'd like to believe I've achieved that status at least. I think you earn your stripes as they say, but I've been around a long time and done every gig God sent, played under the most horrendous conditions, got changed in many a toilet, as well as thrown up on stage and sang with laryngitis, so yes maybe I think I've earned it!

Joan Jett and other notable musicians have quite rightly cited you as a major influence, with Joan Jett saying that you should be in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. Does not being recognised by these establishments bother you at all?

The fact that it happened that way round and with Joan Jett being a self-confessed Suzi addict, and for them to put her in before me makes it a bit of a joke. There's no way I shouldn't have been in there before Joan. I was the one that started it and it makes it laughable and it's something that can't be taken seriously. I was the first woman − end of, and people like Joan wouldn't have done what they did if they hadn't seen me first. I don't know how they can take themselves so seriously and I know an awful lot of people feel the same.

You are touring here in the UK this autumn. It's been quite some time since you last toured here, why so long and are you looking forward to playing for UK?

Yes, I'm really looking forward to it. It's basically going to be a hits tour, hence the title 'Legends'; it's going to be a real trip down memory lane and it's going for people's memories of those times. I will of course be throwing in two or three of my favourite album tracks and the other artists on the tour will probably be doing the same, but yes I'll be playing all my hits.

As well as the 'Legend' album and tour, the QSP album is finally getting a European release. How did that collaboration come about?

It's an album we are all very proud of and is split fairly evenly between original material and covers, but I reckon it all probably started some ten years or so ago when Andy (Scott) was producing my 'Back To The Drive' album, which incidentally is one of my personal favourites. My husband said at the time that there seemed to be a lot of chemistry going on and that we would make for a great band, and we thought wow, why not? So finally around two years ago, along with Don (Powell), we felt it was just the right time to make it happen. So we talked about it, went into the studio and everything just 'clicked', and we recorded the whole album down at Peter Gabriel's Real World studios in Wiltshire.

Could you give me a little insight of how the album was recorded?

Well, there's a back story to it of course. We initially laid down a few covers to find out who we were and when we did Bob Dylan's 'Just Like A Woman' and I put down the vocal track, it was just magic and I said to the boys that this track really defines us as a three piece. So I went home with that 'buzz' and started writing 'Long Way From Home'. When I gave it to Andy to see what he thought, he was like, 'Yes! We have to write some more because what we have here is special'. So we were off and running.

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A few songs on the album drew my attention, in particular 'Pain' and 'Broken Pieces Suite'. Both seem very personal songs − what's the story behind them?

With regards to 'Pain', I came up with the intro and I called Andy at eight in the morning whilst he was on tour − and he was not happy [laughs]. But he called me back some two weeks later saying he couldn't get it out of his head. It's a real personal song and everyone we've played it for has been in tears; it's got a real emotional lyric that says it gives you permission to have pain, and this song says that nobody escapes it. We recorded an orchestral and band version, but Andy couldn't decide which was best so we put both of them on the album.
When it comes to 'Broken Pieces' I initially sent Andy and Don the demo wondering if they would do it, but they loved it too. I have to say that it's my masterpiece and I don't think I will ever write a song like that ever again. It's one of those 'once in a lifetime' things that is probably a culmination of everything I've ever felt and done, but it's also the story of love from beginning to end, and it's something I'm so very proud of. It's my life in a song.
What surprised me, and will a lot of other people too, is that the album sounds nothing like what would be expected from three of the most iconic figures from the 70s.
I think that's great! That means we didn't stick within our comfort zones and we created something new. When we have played together on stage people have commented that it sounds like we've been playing together forever, and the truth is we haven't!

I also noticed that the song you wrote with the late great Dick Wagner (Alice Cooper, KISS, Lou Reed etc) some time back, 'If Only', makes an appearance. Did you feel the time was right to record it now?

You know, we were looking for different things to record and Andy mentioned to me that he'd read in an interview that I'd written with Dick in the past. So I went home and dug out the demo tape and put it on in the kitchen and just at that time my husband was coming down the stairs and said, 'Whatever you're playing needs to be a single for QSP'. It was almost like Dick Wagner came by and put his voice through my husband. Dick had, of course, passed away by then, but isn't that weird?!

The cover versions on the album are also something that people probably wouldn't have expected from you. I'm thinking in particular of the Dr John song 'I Walk On Gilded Splinters'.

Andy does such a fine job on that one and when we played it live on stage it was one of the best songs we've done and it was so well received by everyone.

You can now add author and poet to your already lengthy CV. How do you manage to cram it all in? Does Suzi Quatro have any particular regime to keep her going?

I'm proud of everything I've ever done. I'm 67 and proud of it and as I said earlier I've earned my stripes. I'm an artiste, for want of a better word, and that can include my poetry, my first novel that's just come out called 'The Hurricane' and my radio show, which is ongoing. I just love communicating and I guess that's what keeps me going.

Your Autobiography 'Unzipped' and various recent interviews I've read see you being very candid and open about your life. Is that something that you've found easier to do with the passing of time?

I just don't know how to be any other way. I am a direct person and don't feel the need to hide anything. I believe honesty is the best policy, and of course, you can get hurt that way and you need to be prepared to take the pain that comes along with it. It's much more hurtful to be lied too.

With 2018 fast approaching, what are your immediate plans, and can you ever envisage your retirement?

After this UK tour I'm off to headline again in Australia in January/February next year. I've had a love affair with that country for many years and I always joke that it's just that, a love affair, and we should never get married [laughs]. But after that there's nothing specifically planned although I am thinking very seriously about making another album with Mike Chapman (Legendary 70s producer, Sweet, Blondie and Suzi herself) and that could be my swan-song, and I'd love to tour with the QSP album as we had so much fun making it.

Fireworks Magazine Online 80 - Interview with Janet Gardner

JANET GARDNER

Interview by Dave Scott

Janet Garner is the vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the legendary all-female Hard Rock band Vixen. She has recently stepped out from the band and recorded her first solo album with the help of guitarist and husband Justin James. Fireworks picked up the phone and gave her a call to find out more about it.


Janet Gardner - Interview Fireworks

Your new self-titled represents the first new music from you for a while, what relit the fire in you to record not only new material but to do it (in effect) as a solo artist?

Justin James and I moved into a new house and we set up the studio so we went in there just to tinker around. We had no expectations and we had no idea if we could write a song together let alone a whole albums worth of material. The first song we wrote was 'If You Want Me' which ended up on the release and we kind of looked at each other and said, "wow this is really working so let's keep going". I had a little break from Vixen so we just sort of locked ourselves in the studio for a couple of months and it just kind of flowed out of us. Then we thought "okay, now what do we do with this?" ha-ha. We thought we could come up with another band name or we could get a band together... there was a lot of possibilities. In the end, we thought this was just us locked in a room together so why don't we call it my solo album because I have never done one before. Even though it is a collaboration, it does have fifty percent of me in there so we decided to go with that.

Have you always wanted to record your own solo album or was this just a decision that flowed after that first song?

You know, I am not really a solo type of person. I love to collaborate. I think sharing in the creativity and the music is really special. I'm not a sit by myself and play music by myself sort of person. So no, I didn't really ever think much about it. I was always very happy playing with Vixen – which I still am – and Justin and I found that we had a great partnership, a great collaboration. Therefore no, it was just as much a surprise to me as it was to anyone else. However, once we got this going and we were both really excited about it and very happy with all of it – the lyrical content and the music – we decided to just put it out there. That is what we did.

Now I know the reason for this, but there might be a few readers who missed out on your news some fifteen months ago, how did you come to be working with Justin as your musical "partner"?

We meet at a Vixen show in Chicago where Justin lived, we talked a little bit and started to become friends over the next year. We saw each other again a year later and developed a really great friendship, and then we figured out it was more than just a friendship so then we got married. We had never written any music together; I was a big fan of his guitar playing and he liked my singing with Vixen. We set up a studio with the intent of just making some music, not necessarily even together. When we started doing it, it just flowed and it felt great.

Regarding Justin, during my research for this chat, I noticed there isn't a lot of information around about him. What bands and acts has he been involved with previously?

He has been the fill-in bass player for Tyketto and he loves working with those guys. He did a project with Brandon Gibbs who was who was the devil to the angels with the Poison guys. Brandon did some solo stuff and Justin worked with him on that which also involved the Collective Soul and Staind connection comes, there was members of those bands involved in that. He has produced a few things and been kicking around Chicago for a while. A man of many trades.

When it came to writing, did you work on separate parts, for example maybe Justin on the music and you on the lyrics, or was it a joint collaboration across the board?

We did everything together but we were somewhat departmentalised. I am technically challenged so most of the technical engineering was Justin. He would come home after I had been doing some vocals and he was like "what is this mess... there's just tracks everywhere". It was a big fat mess. Once I get into that creative mode, I have a hard time doing the technical aspect. I have got a lot better and he has been very patient with me. He is like "there are papers rattling, dogs barking, you are clearing your throat. It's just a mess going on" ha-ha. So, he handled most of that, the mixing and such like – the production side. I do more of the musical part, the arrangements etc. I will be like "this part doesn't fit here... lets move this here... let's try this". I am more of that person. Sometimes when we are apart, he is doing something else and I am doing something, that is usually what I am tinkering with – chord changes, melodies and lyrics. I do most of the lyrics but we sit down a lot together and do them as well. I usually come up with the concept and I am usually good for a verse and chorus by myself and then I am kind of look "errrm... I am stuck... help" ha-ha. So, we sit down together and work that out. A lot of it is together but we do work separately and we are sort of departmentalised.

When it came to the recording, you have already mentioned you had the studio at home. Did you use any external facilities or did you do it all quite literally "in-house"?

We did, absolutely, and literally in pyjamas and slippers sometimes ha-ha. We would crawl out of bed and be like "I have got an idea for a part" so you would click everything on and start working. We would usually start with just bass, drums and guitar. I do the drum and bass programming and at various points we thought "should we get somebody in to do some of these things?", but then we would perfect it and perfect it and then we would say "actually, it's pretty good as it is". We would usually start maybe recording the guitars with a click track, something like that, and then we would add bass and drums to enhance what was going on. Then we would experiment from there; we would add loops or keyboards and then we would fiddle and fiddle with logic, if it didn't fit, if it didn't make the song better then we would can it and say, "nah it doesn't need anything else – for this song that is all that is there... bass drums, guitar and vocals". Alternatively, a lot of the songs have much more elaborate production because it fit and it seemed to make it move better and a lot more interesting.

Due to what you have said, I am assuming that the album was recorded by just you and Justin with no other involvement from other musicians?

No, it was just the two of us... just scrapping it together. Whoever felt like laying down a part did it. Justin is playing most of the guitars but I fiddled with a few things and I would say "you can replace that or we can skip it if you want" and he would say "no, it's great and it adds to it" so a few of my little guitar touches are on there too.

So, it really is a very personal project then?

Yeah, absolutely, Justin and I were the only hands that touched it.

Can you give me a little insight into the lyrical content of the album? For instance, I know that 'Candle' is quite a poignant track lyrically.

Yeah, I had been wanting to write that song and that had been forming in my head for years since both my parents passed away, Jan Kunamund (the original founding member of Vixen) passed away... a lot of people who meant a lot to me in my life passed away within a short period of time and it was just some feelings that I needed to get out. It was very therapeutic for me to put that into a song. That one was very personal to me.

Things like 'Rat Hole', where did you get your lyrical inspiration from for that?

As you may know, in the United States we are having a huge healthcare crisis. The debate has been going on forever and I guess you could say it was based on my frustration. To me there is an obvious culprit here and it is the profiteering healthcare insurance companies. Doctors, nurses and hospital administrators proved value, they provide the care that we need. I think the culprit is the health insurance companies just sucking the profits out of it. You know what, if you create something – a great product or I know people complain about technology companies or sports stars – we have a choice to not support them. We can just say "I am not going to buy your product because I don't like you". We have no choice with other things, we all need health insurance and we are all at risk of becoming sick. So, this one in particular really irks me, it's just not right. So other people are like "you wanna complain about those things then don't buy it" but this we must have it so it is totally twisted to me. That is it... rant over ha-ha.

Are there any other songs on that album that are particularly important and personal to you from a lyrical perspective?

Some of them are fun, tongue-in-cheek, Rock 'n' Roll... woohoo... let's have a good time. Then there are obviously ones that have a bit of a deeper meaning. 'Let It Be Over' that is a lot of things. I have a son and I am concerned about the future for him. So that is just letting some of that out. I don't like to get overly political with music, I don't think that we have the power to change anyone's beliefs or anything and I am not looking to do that. However, if it can make people think a little bit more then I am all for it.

I take it a lot of the inspiration for your lyrics has come from personal experiences rather than a wider, more general viewpoint?

Yeah, there's not really much that is fictitious on this. It is all pretty much based on either my or Justin's experiences or common experiences that we have both had.

How did you find it working on an album of new material with your husband given that you recorded it at home and therefore I assume had the total freedom when it came to all decisions?

It was great, you know when you only have a committee of two it's easy to make a decision and move on. That is part of the reason we were able to do this so quickly because there wasn't a lot of people that had to approve of it. We had nothing in mind, no record company and no other band members; it was just us. If we liked it we were good to go. It was great.

Did you find it very refreshing?

I did. I love being in a band because in a band you get everyone's input. When everyone is firing on all cylinders and everyone is putting their best foot forward you get the best possible outcome. That is very magical and very special. I love that but it does take more time because somebody might not this, someone might not like the direction of a song or another might not like the lyrics or the topic. There is endless input which is great because the final product is usually the best that four or five people in a room together can come up with. It can be extremely magical but it was nice to be able to let it flow without a lot of input.

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How did it feel returning to writing and recording after the break and not having done that for a while?

Ohh, it was incredibly satisfying. It felt so good. It was like turning on the tap and letting it rip. We were on fire after the first song. We started making goals like "this week we are going to complete a song by Saturday" and we would do it. We would get up in the middle of the night if that was when we were inspired and just kept it going. We very rarely got stuck. When one of us would drop the ball for a minute, the other one would pick it right up and start running. It was not forced, nothing at all was forced.

I often ask how does a completed album sound compared to the original ideas but as you have said, you never really set out to start and album so I take it there was no original idea to compare it to?

No, we had no plans what so ever. It just came out like it came out. Even part way through we thought "is any of this making sense together" ... "are people going to go what the hell is this"? At the end when we listened to the whole thing there was a common thread because of us and our sound together.

Did you get any input or thoughts from any of the other Vixen members?

Not really, we were on a break so everybody was off doing their own thing. They have been very supportive and great through this.

I have read that a few months ago you were looking for locations for a video shoot. Firstly, what track was the video for?

Yeah, we decided to do a video for '...Hole' which we had thought about even before we got signed. After we were signed by Pavement, we asked them what they thought before we went in and filmed it. We were pretty much ready to go and they came back with '...Hole' without us even saying anything so we knew then that it was the right song to do a video for.

Is there still work to do on it or is it now finished and if so when will it be released?

It is done and ready to go. I think it will be out on the street date which is 18th Aug.

Do you plan to record any more videos for songs of the album?

Yeah, we would like to. It is really not my favourite thing to do. It is not my avenue of expression but during this last one it was a lot more hands on and now, all of a sudden, we have some ideas for other songs that we might want to do. We will see what happens. It is hard work, and when it's not your avenue, Justin and I have become very do it yourself about things and this was one that was like "wow". When we did Vixen videos back in the day I didn't really do much... I performed and did what you do. It's a different avenue and I am now kind of interested in exploring it a little further.

You signed Pavement to release the album. Was this always the plan, to sign with somebody, or was it an offer that came along that was too good to pass up?

That's exactly what it was. We didn't know what to do. I thought we could just release it ourselves and see what happens. Maybe we could throw it on iTunes and get some printed up and put it on Amazon. We were kind of heading in that direction and looking into things. Then Pavement came along and we really loved (first of all) their enthusiasm, we loved the other bands on their label – they're still signing and their roster is becoming incredible, very great quality from different genres, we are the really the only eighties type band on their label – and we loved the way they had a really good custom plan for us. They loved the music as it was and they didn't say "okay you can do these five songs but you have to record five other different songs because we don't like these". They didn't do any of that. They have been incredible so we are really happy we did what we did.

I see you have announced some live dates in the states so you are obviously taking these songs and yourself as a solo artist out on the road. Are we ever likely to see Janet Gardner as a solo show in the UK?

We are hoping so and our agent is working on it. We told them to look for anything and everything. If there is a good package we could fit on, an opening slot or even headline dates if you can get them, whatever you can come up with we really want to do it.

Have you already put together a band for when you hit the road?

Yeah, we already played a show in Chicago a few months ago and it as so much fun. We have Richie Rivera on drums and set, he is amazing and a Nashville guy, so we are definitely using him. For a bass player, we have gone through a few people, it depends on people's availability so we are still working that out. Gerald Goosman who played guitar for us during the initial show that we did said he would be willing to play bass so that is a possibility. So that is it, we are going to do a four-piece.

As mentioned at the start, you took a lengthy break from the music business, now you are back and recording new material, how different have you found the business compared to the earlier days?

It is completely different, there's nothing the same about it ha-ha. The good things are that you can make a great sounding record in your home without having to leave and with no expense. You can make good sounding music without spending a tonne of money on studio time and stuff so that was great. It allowed us time to experiment because there was no time clock ticking. We weren't wasting hundreds of dollars while we sat tinkering around; that was great. As far as the business end of it, it has completely changed because obviously people get their music in different ways than back when Vixen was making records.

Did you ever consider the crowd-funding route?

We did but we realised we didn't need really any money at the moment we were recording. We had the means to do it without that. Therefore, we thought we would rather just put it out there and if people like it they can support it and buy it. It also means we still have that route available in case we do want to do something different that would require hiring musicians and studio time to get drums tracks and do things a little differently which is a possibility.

Having completed your first solo album, I know it is early but I would love to know if the experience has fired you up to even remotely consider another solo record in the future?

Definitely, we already have ideas kicking around for the next one. Now the flood gates have opened and there is more music in the works.

What was the highlight of recording this album and conversely is there anything you would change if you could go back and start again?

No, no regrets because we are already working on new stuff so things can always be done differently in the future. It is what it is, we were really happy with it and we definitely got to do a lot of things that both of us have always wanted to do. Of course, there's maybe a couple of little things but I am not going to mention it because then people will listen for it so I am not going to give away any of that ha-ha.

So, you have a couple of little tweaks in mind and take a slightly different approach for the next one but nothing that you would say "we should have done this"?

Absolutely. Nothing is every perfect and I have never been one hundred percent satisfied with anything I have ever done. This is a good thing in a way because you are always growing, always learning and always getting better at what you do. If you think you are the greatest thing ever you are not going to get any better. However, there is a point where you have to let it go and you have to put it out there and share it with people otherwise what is the point. We could have picked more at it, done remixes, changed the sound, done this, done that and kept tweaking forever but you do reach a point where you have to say, "this makes our point so let us let go of it".

Turning our attention to Vixen to close, I see you have announced a new recording recently. Can you tell me about the new live album and when it might be released?

We are going to capture a live show, it is going to at the Arcada Theatre in Chicago on 12th August. That may change logistically but that is the plan for the moment. We will get one of these upcoming shows. Then we are going to also add a couple of other little surprises on to it to kind of sweeten the pot a little bit. I am not going to tell you what they are because that might also change a little bit but there are definitely going to be two additional recordings added to the live show.

Following on from that, have you got any plans to head into the studio to record an album of new material?

That will definitely happen, it's kind of like what we were talking about earlier in that collaborations take a lot longer timewise than a solo project for the reasons we talked about. We are also geographically challenged so it is hard for us to get together. However, there are some email threads floating around with some ideas that are going to blossom at some point. I don't know when that is going to happen but it is definitely in the works.

Do you have any long-term plans to return to the UK to play live as Vixen?

We are always looking at that. We have been hounding our agent for years about getting back over there. We did Hard Rock Hell a couple of years or so back but that was it. We went there for one show and turned around and came home. We would love to have a show like that and then build upon that... get some other shows in the UK and Europe. It is in the works.

I also see you have a couple of new faces in Vixen with the addition of Britt Lightning and Tyson Leslie.

Tyson is the bomb, we love him. He is so much fun to work with and is so talented. Even with our background vocals – with him singing – have jumped from great to phenomenal. He is a blessing and we love having him in the group. He is a busy guy, as long as he can show up and play with us we will be happy to have him. As for Britt Lightning, she is an angel, a great guitarist, a sweet person and ultra-talented. We are really lucky to have her too.

I assume you have all played together for a little bit now?

Yeah, we have played four or five shows and there is of course the usual "we are not used to her and she is not used to us", but every show gets better and tighter and it is coming along great. By the time we do the live recording, it should be super tight and sound fantastic.

With your new solo album now ready for release and stuff for Vixen in the pipeline, what does the next few years hold for you? Is there anything you have in mind that you really want to and have planned to do?

You know, you always have goals. I would love to have both Vixen and my solo band out there playing as much as possible. You just never know what is going to happen so you have to seize every opportunity as it comes so that is what I would like to see happen – lots more opportunities to get out and make great music. If I was to pass away tomorrow, I would rest easy knowing that I had a great life full of wonderful experiences and so much great music. I'm a happy camper and any more of that I can grab from here on out I am totally up for it. I couldn't be happier, at this point in my life I couldn't ask for more than what is happening right now.

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