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Fireworks Magazine Online 82: Interview with No Hot Ashes

NO HOT ASHES

Interview by Brian Boyle

Belfast's No Hot Ashes were formed in 1983 and were primed and ready for a stellar career in Rock n' Roll. However, difficulties in getting their debut album released forced them to disband in 1990. After a one off gig in 2013 interest in band was reignited, resulting in support slots with the likes of Scorpions, Aerosmith and Foreigner. Now 34 years since their original formation, No Hot Ashes finally get to release their inaugural album.


No Hot Ashes Interview

First of all my condolences on the passing of bassist Paul Boyd. The release of this album must be very bittersweet for you all.

Very bittersweet. We are still devastated by Paul's passing. He was one of the original members and a massive part of the NHA family. Our only consolation is that he got to finish the album before he lost his brave battle with cancer. I know he was very proud of it and we are very proud of his input. I still get a lump in my throat when I hear some of his harmonies, it just catches me sometimes. The album is dedicated to Paul and to those that loved him.

Last time I saw No Hot Ashes was in 2014 in Dublin supporting Foreigner at the famous Olympia Theatre. How was that experience?

It was kind of weird. I have been a massive Foreigner fan all my life so it was a little daunting and exciting all at the same time. We had only just reformed to play a charity gig and the next thing we are sharing the stage with one of the biggest bands of all time. The Olympia is wonderful venue, it reminds me of the theatre in the programme The Good Old Days that I used to watch as a kid. Both the Dublin and Belfast Foreigner shows were very special gigs.

The music industry has changed massively since you released your debut single 'She Drives Me Crazy' over three decades ago. Would you say they're predominantly positive changes?

I'm not sure. Everything is very instant now. There seems to be a massive amount of product available and in many formats, which is great for choice. Bands have access to amazing home studios and Pro Tools type packages which means they can knock out material very quickly. Years ago there were a limited number of bands who would release one album per year. You would wait with baited breath for months on the new Whitesnake or Dio album; it just seemed a bit more special in a way. Today you don't need to leave the house to purchase an album, which is very convenient. However in the 1980s you had the joy and comradeship of visiting a record shop with like-minded people and spending hours choosing your next precious purchase. When we brought out 'She Drives Me Crazy' the only way to get it to the public was to sell it through specialist Rock shops or at gigs. My mum and dad had a corner shop and we sold it there! You could get a bag of spuds, a pair of tights, a cylinder of gas and our single all at the same time. If you spent over a tenner you got the record free. There was many a 90 year old woman slightly baffled when she emptied her shopping bag and a Heavy Metal single fell out. A sale's a sale after all.

So to answer your question there are some changes for the good and some changes aren't so good. We will be using the good ones, like social media exposure, to our benefit when promoting the album.

Your first attempt at releasing an album didn't come to fruition. Are there any songs on the record that were meant to be on the original release?

When we decided to finally make an album it was quickly agreed that it would be a great idea to write completely new songs with a contemporary edge. Over the years we have all listened to a lot of different influences and I think those can be heard throughout the album. The new songs, to our ears, are fresh and alive and we have all contributed and collaborated in the song writing process. There are no egos here; the song quality is the most important thing. There is one song, however, that did make it from the old repertoire. Our drummer Steve Strange has always had a soft spot for the song 'I'm Back'. He was convinced that if it was recorded properly and given the production it deserves the song would be a cracker. Steve was right, he has a great ear and that is probably why he is such a success in the music industry. The song sounds immense and stands shoulder to shoulder with the new songs on the album.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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Tell me about the song writing process. Was it a collaborative effort?

Our songs are very much a collaborative effort. Dave (Irvine, guitar) will come up with wonderful pieces of music and send them to me to write lyrics and melodies. I then take them to the rest of the boys and they add the colour and dynamics. Tommy (Dickson, keyboards) had written the music for one of the songs, 'Boulders', a few years ago. When he brought it to me I had been toying with the idea of writing a song about my mum and dad's struggle following her stroke. The music just fitted the narrative perfectly and is one of the highlights on the album. The songs I have started on my own would only sound as good as they do because of what is added by the other guys. Steve can dramatically change a song with a simple rhythm pattern. Niall (Diver, guitar) has a wonderful knack of adding licks that give light and shade. Paul wrote the music for one of the songs, 'Running Red Lights', and it is brilliant to have on there as a testament to his wonderful talents.

Your hometown of Belfast has always embraced Rock music. What has the reaction been like in the city since the announcement of your reunion?

Belfast during the 80s and 90s was starved of Rock bands coming here. I suppose you can't blame them really. It can't have helped when they were told by promoters, 'You will be staying in the Europa Hotel, the most bombed hotel in Europe.' Not exactly enticing. There were the die-hards that would always add Belfast to their tours like Motorhead, Rory Gallagher and Mamas Boys. For that loyalty these bands were shown loyalty and the Belfast Rock fans loved them. Due to the dearth of bands visiting, the local acts were embraced probably more than they would have been elsewhere in the UK. No Hot Ashes had a great and loyal following. Now that we are back in business they are all coming out of the woodwork and reliving their youth again. The response has been overwhelming. Quite humbling really.

You've collaborated with former Mamas Boys legend Pat "The Professor" McManus on a song called 'I Will'...

Just as we were completing the recording of the album Frontiers announced that we needed an acoustic track for the Japanese version. Paul and Dave said they had a cracking Country Rock song called 'I Will'. They let me listen to it and I thought that with a few lyric changes, I've never rode a horse ha ha, it would make a brilliant Rock ballad. We quickly recorded it with the help of the expert ear of Frankie McClay at Einstein Studios. The end result was great but we all agreed something was missing. NHA and Mama's Boys go way back, we have supported them over the years. Steve and Mama's Boys drummer, the late great Tommy McManus (RIP), even shared a house boat in Camden for a time. Tommy saved Steve from drowning on one drunken occasion, but that's another story in itself, ha ha.

I have known Pat a long time. He is, in my opinion, probably the best guitar player in the world. What a lot of people don't know is that Pat is an all-Ireland champion on the fiddle. The Pat McManus Band are the hardest working band out there and they appear to be on tour year in year out. I put it to the boys that should we be lucky enough and catch Pat on a break I would ask him to play a lament on the fiddle over 'I Will'. I phoned Pat and he said he would love to do it but said he had a short window of opportunity to do so. A day or so later Pat travelled all the way from Fermanagh, where he lives, to Einstein Studios in Antrim with his trusty fiddle. He set up in the sound booth, and I swear this is true; he cut the track in one bloody take. It was perfect. I'm hoping that the song will be made available in some format and that it won't be solely for the Japanese release.

Do you still have regrets over the way the band split in 1990?

I was discussing this with Dave (Irvine, guitar) the other day and we agreed that there never really was an official spit as such. We all just moved onto different projects. Deep down I think we all knew that NHA was unfinished business. We just needed the right opportunity for it to happen. I don't think any of us have any regrets; in fact, our life experiences away from the band have given us grist to the mill of our song writing. We are just delighted that we all got back together again and were able to spend precious time with Paul. I think if that hadn't of happened then that would have been a major regret.

What would represent a success with this album? Is finally getting it released the main thing and sales a bonus?

Releasing your debut album 35 years after forming must be some sort of record and in many respects it is an achievement in itself. It is a definite reflection of our tenacity. So yes, just getting it out there is great but what's the point if no one hears it? I really believe in this album and I think the more people who buy a copy the better. Obviously in these days of downloads album sales aren't what they were but I still think a lot of Rock fans love the tactile experience of holding and enjoying the art work of a CD or slab of vinyl. And if we were to sell a million copies, well who would turn their nose up at that?

Fireworks Magazine Online 82: Interview with Royal Hunt

ROYAL HUNT

Interview by Duncan Jamieson

The Danish titans of bombastic Progressive Metal return with their fourteenth album 'Cast In Stone'. It's the classy mix of Symphonic Metal, Classic Rock, Power Metal and Melodic Rock that we've come to expect from this band and their lynchpin, keyboardist Andre Anderson is understandably excited about the new record as he chats to Fireworks.


Royal-Hunt

You had a three year gap this time since your last studio album 'Devil's Dozen'. Did that extra time help with how the new record turned out?

We toured and did live albums in between, and did a number of festivals. The record company suggested putting out a live album in 2016, as we had done a live disc in 1996 and we could celebrate its twenty year anniversary. So, we recorded a DVD of our Moscow show. Basically, I was writing material for this album in between. This worked well because I could work on something then go away and tour and come back and listen to the new music afresh. Normally, when making a record we have a block of time to work but this way round I was able to live with the material for longer. Now though, I've heard this album so much, I can tell you where any bit of hi-hat is on the record... I don't need to hear it again!

Do you think the fact that you're the main songwriter and keyboard player makes what you do sound different to the Metal bands that are driven by their guitarists?

Part of me is a guitar player. So when I'm writing I know how the guitarist would play a certain part. I also play the drums, horribly! As a fan, as a kid, I was listening to Neil Peart and Ian Paice and I'd try to emulate them. I must have been really annoying when I started making music as a teenager because I was always watching and commenting on what the other guys in the band were doing. Why don't you play it like this or that? I have been so blessed to have worked with phenomenal players over the last twenty-five years. I have the main ideas; this riff here and this solo here, then the others in the band arrange it in their own way. I'm open to anything they bring to the records. I'll make rough demos and bring it to the rest of the band. They'll criticise the crap out it. They'll say that's eight minutes long, you can cut it to four minutes. We don't have heated discussions, it's very amicable. The band are my first line of defence to stop me getting carried away and recording music that the audience wouldn't like. The band surprise me every time and their suggestions make it sound better ninety-nine times out of a hundred.

What's the idea behind the 'Cast In Stone' title?


The title 'Cast In Stone' came from our bass player. He was a fan of the band before he joined us and knew a lot of our material. He'd hear me being critical of a lot of our old songs and I'd say why I didn't like this one or that one. He said why don't you take the best elements of all those songs you do like; the main ideas, the signature beats and try to put all these ideas on one album. We had the monumental dragon logo from day one and we thought 'Cast In Stone' was distinctive and suggested something solid and forever.

Tell me about the opening track 'Fistful Of Misery'.

Everyone has experience of that; break ups and so on, that sense of being mistreated. I had a couple of lyrics and the song just happened. It's an anthem but at the same time it has this subdued feeling in the playing. It was democratic choosing this as the opening track and as a song that represents the album because the guys in the band liked it so much they felt it should come near the beginning. Originally, it was going to be the 'Cast In Stone' instrumental track that opened the record.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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'The Last Soul Alive' reminds me a lot of Rainbow's 'Spotlight Kid'. Was that deliberate?

That was intentional! Well spotted, I'll take the blame, I wanted to create a late 70s feel. I could easily have moved a couple of chords to mask it but I didn't want to. I wanted it to be in 1978 or thereabouts. I wanted that Jon Lord Hammond organ, or it would have been Don Airy at that time. I wanted it to sound like a homage on purpose.

The closing song 'Save Me II' can only be described as a Symphonic Blues song, which is original. How did that come about?

I've done this kind of thing from time to time. In 2003 we did a Jazz song. It's good to surprise people. I told the guys we were doing extra tracks. I thought 'Save Me' was going to be a bonus, we jammed back and forth, it seemed a shame not everyone would hear the song so I took it away and did it in a way that did justice to the song, It starts off as this swampy Blues Rock song before it becomes Royal Hunt.

You've made a cool lyric video for 'A Million Ways To Die' with Berny Kellerer the webmaster of our very own Rocktopia website. How did that contribution transpire?

We were going to make a real video for'Fistful Of Misery' first, which I actually hate making, but Berny did it so quickly it meant 'A Million Ways To Die' was released first. It started in 2016 when we worked with Berny on the DVD package where he helped with the production for the Blu-ray version. When we needed to get into video production I didn't know how much was involved so I asked our own cover artist Kai Brockshmidt if he could help and he suggested Berny. He offered to help us and he's done a great job. It looks very elaborate and he did it so quickly.

Have you decided what songs you'll cover on your forthcoming tour?

Live, we'll play the first two songs off the album for sure. We've got a couple of dates in Russia and Budapest. We'll do a third off the new album too. It's very hard for a band who have been going for twenty-five years to pick a setlist. It's easier when you've only got one or two albums. We like to mix it up, we don't want to get stale, I see lots of bands I grew up with who rarely change their set list these days. We always change ours. We try to pick out six or seven all time favourites. If we don't play them all this time we'll play the others next time round. An up-tempo one here, a ballad there for flow. We never play the same setlist. You have to please the fans but you have to stay fresh for yourself too. That's the main part of it; enjoying playing live. I don't want to get bored so coming up with setlists is a complex thing. You want that positive energy to translate with the crowd. One of my favourite live gigs was in 2005, seeing Whitesnake doing their Live in the Still of The Night set. I had no preconceived ideas of what it was going to be like but the band were on fire and I think about that night and how to create that kind of electricity.

How would you say your relationship with DC Cooper is these days since his return to the band?

It's safe to say it's better! We're very different animals. With all the rumours in the press of us not getting on; we never actually had any issues with the music. We are different characters and when we were younger we were more aggressive and louder! He came in and had to replace the original singer so it was sometimes DC on one side and the band on the other. When we broke up in 1998 it was for the best for both sides. Some divorces are needed. In 2010 or '11 when we got back together the stars were aligned. We didn't meet until we were in the rehearsal room. I had some reservations but even the way he walked up to the mic was the same as before and I knew we could work together. It was a relief. When the rehearsal was done, we were talking about stuff and we had changed, we had grown up and understood each other better. We didn't compare ourselves and we accepted each other for who we are. In the past every single little detail seemed important but now we have more fun working together.

Royal Hunt's sound has more Classical music references than most Metal music has. Do you listen to a lot of classical music?

I do listen to Classical music at home. I have a vast collection. I'm not a snob about it though. I just like the sound of it. I'd say a third of what I listen to at home is Classical. I don't listen to that much music these days though which sounds strange because music is around us all the time. I still want music to be an experience. Too much of how people listen to music these days is as background noise.

You've released this album through your own label. How's that working for you?

We're still on a record label in Japan. We kept it because we need their support culturally and in the market place. In the rest of the world, we could have continued with Frontiers, another label or do it ourselves. We have more manpower, more hours to do this ourselves. In my opinion some labels have too many bands these days and there's only so much time they can devote to promoting an album. When you're doing it yourself, you can take as much time as you want. We can continue pushing it for months.

Fireworks Magazine Online 82: Interview with Kamelot

KAMELOT

Interrview by Dave Cockett

In the increasingly congested market place that is the Symphonic Power Metal scene, it becomes ever more difficult to distinguish one band from another. Yes there are some great musicians, great singers and even great songwriters, but that special ingredient that makes one act stand out from the rest remains as elusive as ever. Thankfully, a beacon of light is about to be lit once again with the impending release of 'The Shadow Theory'. Fireworks celebrate the return of Kamelot with THOMAS YOUNGBLOOD and TOMMY KAREVIK ...


Kamleot

For more than twenty years now Kamelot have been captivating global audiences with their ever more spectacular stage shows; their steadily growing back catalogue of classic songs allied to increasingly ambitious visuals making them the 'must see' ticket when their tour hits town. Their last tour in support of 2015's 'Haven' being perhaps the most ambitious yet.
"There were so many highlights," Tommy enthuses. "It was a two year long tour in the end with additional shows in Israel, Russia and Greece. The Loud Park festival in Japan was just one of many memorable shows for me personally."

"We visited more cities than ever in the USA and around the world," adds Thomas, "but we approached each and every show, large or small with the same attitude."
Playing anything from small clubs to massive festivals can be a complex logistical challenge in itself, but the band pride themselves on delivering to the best of their abilities whatever the size or make up of the audience.

"We never want to cut corners with our show," states Tommy emphatically. "We feel that every paying person, no matter how small or big the room is, deserves the full Kamelot experience. The quality of music, the energy and the crowd interaction will always be there. Of course on a bigger stage we can bring a bigger production and that is something we always strive for."

The 'Haven' tour ran for the best part of two years, the last tranche of shows wrapping up the whole cycle happened as recently as November last year. Work on the songs that would ultimately make up 'The Shadow Theory' however began in earnest more than a year ago.

"We started as far back as December 2016," remembers Thomas, "when I travelled to Germany to work with Oliver (Palotai, Kamelot keyboard player) on new song ideas. We didn't have much downtime in between the various legs of the 'Haven' tour, but to be honest we work well in a crunch situation anyway. Plus, I get bored really being on vacation ... I'm still thinking of ideas for Kamelot even on a cruise to the Bahamas, ha!"

Back in the early days of the band songwriting was largely down to Thomas, but these days it tends to be much more of a collaborative effort.
"Right now it's split between me, Tommy, Oliver and Sascha (Paeth, long-time producer)," Thomas clarifies, "it takes the pressure off us all as individuals, and is really a great working situation because everyone stays true to the Kamelot sound."

Ah yes, that Kamelot sound! Described by many as 'Symphonic Metal', its combination of lush orchestration, grandiloquent arrangements and poignant melodies is arguably the closest thing you'll find anywhere to the classical symphonies of Beethoven, Wagner et all.

"Kamelot to me is more than Symphonic Metal," agrees Tommy. "It's more an entity on its own with a distinctive sound, and that's something we want to stay true to. What it all comes down to in the end though is just making the best music we can. The creative process, inspiration and where it comes from is very personal ... I know for example that Oliver must sit down to work to get inspiration. whereas others can only be fully creative while detaching their brains by doing something completely different."

"We try to pull in new ideas and sounds to create something fresh with each new album," Thomas continues, "but we're also conscious that we need to maintain our identity as a band. It can be difficult to work around sometimes; there always needs to be someone that says 'This is cool but it's not Kamelot'."

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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Although not a full blown concept album in the same sense as 2012's 'Silverthorn' opus, there is an embedded lyrical concept that binds the songs together.

"Thomas came up with the idea of basing the lyrics on Carl Jung's psychological theory around 'The Shadow Aspect'," says Tommy. "According to Jung, everyone is carrying a shadow being (your subconscious self) and the less it is embodied, the blacker it is. That of course paved the way for the self-reflecting and existential lyrics that have also become a Kamelot signature. Personally speaking, these are some of the most honest lyrics I've ever written."

"It's based around the three pillars," he continues. "'The Shadow Empire' represents the handful of people at the very top with all the money and power. They are shaping the world to fit their own agenda. 'The Shadow Key' is the resistance to that, the growing numbers of people with increasing awareness about what is happening around them. Knowledge is power, power to take control of you own life. On a personal note 'The Shadow Key' is also an encouragement for people to unlock their own inhibitions, to face their own fears in order to be able to fully achieve their potential. Finally 'The Shadow Wall' is the smoke screen they throw in front of our eyes to keep us thinking that we are making our own decisions and to stop people from asking why."

From the first writing sessions back in December 2016, the album was gradually pieced together over the course of the next year under the aegis of long-term producer Sascha Paeth.
"As Thomas said earlier," Tommy recalls, "it all started with Thomas and Oliver getting together and working on song ideas. Once they had some solid ideas I started working on the melodies. Then I met with Sascha to tweak those ideas and to do some rearranging and restructuring to fit the vocals. Some lyrics we worked on together but most of them I wrote on my own. I recorded the vocals as we were progressing and at the same time Oliver was working on the keyboards. It is always a race to the finish line and most of it comes together in the end, but the whole process took about a year."

"The actual recording started in February last year," Thomas adds, "and we worked here and there over the year. The final recording sessions were done in Wolfsburg in November. We've been working consistently with Sascha since 'The Fourth Legacy' album back in 2000, so it's almost twenty years. He brings an outside point of view and high level of experience. We love working with him!"

"He's the producer and always has great ideas in terms of arrangements," interjects Tommy, "but he is also one of the songwriters. He is just a super talented guy with tons of experience so of course he has lots of input. The great thing is that he is able to capture and amplify the Kamelot spirit through his mixes and accentuate the essence of the band time and again!"

Continuing the well-established tradition of guesting female singers to enhance the final audio experience, this time around the band chose Lauren Hart (Once Human) and Jennifer Haben (Beyond The Black), neither of whom have been involved with Kamelot before.

"Lauren was recommended to us by my girlfriend Kobra Paige (from Kobra And The Lotus)," nods Tommy. "We needed a growler for when we opened up for Iron Maiden last year and she did a great job. Jennifer is a friend of Sascha's. They'd been working together on the Beyond The Black stuff and he thought she'd be perfect for us."

As is also now customary, the artwork that adorns 'The Shadow Theory' enshrines the Kamelot ethos perfectly.

"We got Stefan Heilemann to do the cover again," Thomas explains, "he also did the covers for 'Haven' and 'Silverthorn'. We wanted it to symbolize both the past and the future. If you look you can see that there are elements from 'Silverthorn' in the artwork, but also new and modern elements to represent the future."

Although it's very much business as usual with the Kamelot machine, one major change for the band came with the departure of long time drummer Casey Grillo earlier this year.
"Casey has many touring opportunities that conflict with the Kamelot schedule," admits Thomas, "and he has his own company now which takes up a lot of time. After twenty years, I think we can understand why he would want to do something different and we wish him every success with that. We've known it was coming for some time, but we couldn't say anything until all the contractual stuff was cleared. We knew Johan (Nunez) already; he was the drum tech on our last European tour so he just seemed to be the natural replacement."
"Johan plays all the drums on the new album," adds Tommy. "We wanted to give him the chance to get right in there and integrate as a full time member of the band right away. I think he's done a great job on the album."

With the press machine now in full swing and dates already booked well into 2019, the upcoming world tour is set to be bigger than ever.

"The response so far has been amazing," Thomas enthuses. "It's crazy how many offers we've had so far. Japan is confirmed, 90% of Europe too ... and we start here in North America in April. We're planning to have even more lighting and theatrics than last time, we've revamped our live sound gear and full stage mixing gear, and full rehearsals begin imminently. We've rented a huge room with full PA and lights, which is another first for us! We're planning on doing three or four new songs and then trying to figure out what works best from the past. With 2019 already 60% booked, we're going to play it by ear but it looks like we'll be touring this album well into 2020."

Finally, if you thought their 2006 DVD 'One Cold Winter's Night' was an impressive piece of musical theatre; plans are already well advanced to capture this tour in its full glory. And with a theatre three times bigger than last time, the possibilities are endless!

Fireworks Magazine Online 82: Interview with Stryper

STRYPER

Interview by Fabiana Spinelli

Stryper will celebrate their 35th anniversary with the upcoming release of their tenth studio album, that of the much debated title, 'God Damn Evil'. Michael Sweet promises this will be their most powerful album to date, Death Metal growls included (courtesy of guest Matt Blanchard). Fireworks caught up with Michael to find out the latest...


Stryper

Your new album is a constant surprise: modernity, freshness and overwhelming power. Where do you find a similar energy after a career of 35 years?

We are recharged and so excited about our new chapter. Perry [Richardson, Firehouse bassist who has replaced Tim Gaines] has brought so much to the band and he's such a joy to have as a teammate. We have a new energy and that has translated over to the album. We feel like it's 1984 all over again. We have no plans of slowing down, we have so much left in us and will continue to strive to make our best music and recordings over the next fifteen years!

I think that an opener as heavy as 'Take It To The Cross' is a strong message about the band's state of health. Do you think 'God Damn Evil' will find a perfect balance between fans in the old guard and the newcomers in the audience?

I believe once they hear the entire album, absolutely! There is something for everyone on this album and it's our best to date, in my opinion. We always do our best to mix it up with each song and album, yet retain our flow and continuity, that's important to us. It's hard to do and something that many bands don't even try to do. I'm personally not a fan of albums that have every song sounding the same. We enjoy trying new things and I'm looking forward to 20th April, when the album is released.

Can you please tell us something more about Perry Richardson? How he joined the band and how did you know he was the right one?

He was mentioned by Dave Rose and we thought, 'Of course!' We ended up talking to Perry and then flying him out to audition, and the minute he walked in the room we knew he was the right choice. Then we heard him sing and play and that sealed the deal. Once everyone hears him play and sing with the band everyone will be sold, if they're not already. Perry is a very talented guy and we're blessed to have him.

On this new album we can find all the band's lyrical trademarks and strengths, but there seems to be something darker and deeper in tracks like 'Sorry', 'Lost', 'You Don't Even Know Me'. Can we read this as a mirror of our times, with the eternal struggle between good and evil even stronger than ever?

Without question. We live in a very volatile time and it seems to be getting worse. This is why we named the album 'God Damn Evil'; it's a prayer, a request for God to damn evil. I always want to write from experience and from the heart and this album really comes from the heart. We should all be asking God to damn evil. Maybe this world would be a better place. There is power in prayer.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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Stryper fans are always at the heart of your message and lyrics, and you have always had a special relationship with your public. How do you think they are going to receive 'God Damn Evil'?

So far the reception is great! Once we explain what we're saying and how we're saying it, they get it. It's a bold message for bold times. We've always been about making people think and this album will make everyone think even more. No holding back. The music is just as powerful as the message and sonically it sounds great too. We couldn't be more pleased with the outcome.

You are really active with social networks − you often offer some interesting food for thought, as you did about the recent diatribe on phones or no phones at concerts and shows.

I'm torn. I understand that people are very attached to their phones, myself included, but it's sad to see phones rob us of our social skills. We should go to a concert and enjoy it. When you're holding a phone up the entire show it's not fair to yourself or others around you. It's a very touchy subject because some people just don't want to be told what to do. I understand that yet if it becomes a distraction or hindrance for others then it's not right or fair, is it?

There are lots of differences between live activity in the 80s and touring the world today. Do you think that there are also some similarities and that some aspects are maybe better now than in the past?

As long as you keep evolving and moving forward that's all that matters. It's hard to do that and stay true to who you are and who you were. We gained our fans based on our original sound so we should never abandon that but we need to continue to grow and experiment and try new things. We also do our best not to over saturate the market. You can do "too much" and burn fans out. We basically tour every other year, not every year. When we do tour and release new music, we work hard to make it special.

You are going to be on tour supporting 'God Damn Evil'. Are there still places in the world that you've never played but would really love to?

I would love to perform in China, Russia, Mexico and Cuba. Hopefully this will become reality. Music brings us all together, it transcends anything that separates us and it heals us. It is our common denominator and such a powerful tool. When we step on stage and see the crowd it's a reminder of that. It's an amazing sight to see when people come together like that and we try to do our part to encourage and inspire people.

What aspect would you like to see reaching out from 'God Damn Evil' to the fans?

I hope that it's our biggest album to date and that it reaches a new fan base as well as our old fan base, which I think is a very strong possibility. We are excited about 2018 and what's to come in the future. Our best is yet to come and we can't wait!! Our goal is to keep getting better and we'll keep trying to outdo the last. I think this new release is better than the last two albums.

Fireworks Magazine Online 82: Interview with James Christian

JAMES CHRISTIAN

Interview by Fabiana Spinelli

James Christian is a man who really shouldn't need an introduction to readers of Fireworks Magazine. Singer of House Of Lords for 30 years, Christian released his first solo album, the classic 'Rude Awakening', on fledgling AOR label Now & Then back in 1994. Now on the cusp of releasing his fourth solo offering, 'Craving', Fireworks caught up with the man himself to get all the latest...


James-Christian

Let's talk about your new solo album, 'Craving'. Four solo albums in 24 years? Does that means that you really dig deep into yourself before publishing something just in your name?


I don't go out of my way to make solo albums because I love the feeling of being in a band rather than being a solo artist. But if I do a solo CD, I like to step outside of what people expect. It's a time for me to record songs that have a very personal connection to me, a time to try things that I might not do with House of Lords. I have a very broad range of taste in music, it's not all Rock. When my daughter Olivia decided to choose a path on Broadway I went head first into it with her. I now consider myself pretty adept in Show Tunes. They are actually very complicated pieces of work. I love how the singer sings and acts the song on stage. I'm into many different styles of music as long as there is a melodic element to it.

'Craving' is beautifully crafted, a delicate and intense album. I'm impressed by the lyrics, so can you please tell us something more about its contents?

'Craving' has a lot of very deep and thoughtful lyrics. I worked with various songwriters who contributed so much to this CD. I'm a very spiritual person and this time around I let myself express that belief. I am aware that the older I get the closer I get to the other side. I find that faith gives me as much joy as music does so why not sing about it? The lyrics are always important to me. They can be sexy, political, spiritual, funny ... as long as it says something that I can relate to. On the this new album there are a lot of spiritual moments. There are a couple of songs I wrote with my partner Jeff Kent. I had a few songs that we did that we never got a chance to finish, so I finished them in his honour.

You wrote a long and interesting biography on your website, closing with a sentence that I found inspiring: "My dream was fulfilled on the day I signed my first legitimate record deal." Does it means that dreams are a starting point, but it's our daily commitment that realises them?

No, for me the signing of a record deal was the dream and everything else that happened was a fringe benefit. My dream was always getting a deal. I don't know why, but that was what I thought about. It made me so happy to accomplish that. It was no easy task and took many years in the business. When I was out looking for a record deal, it was a very difficult process. I made a lot of trips into NYC. I played all the dive clubs in the city. CBGBs was one of them. I remember the place was a dump, but everyone was playing there. It has its own history, but my dream ended up being fulfilled in Los Angeles, California. I have Gene Simmons to thank for that. It was a great time to be in the business. It's not like that anymore.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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You are songwriter, producer and performer. Which aspect of your career do you think is most difficult?

Writer is the hardest for me because I sometime like to do things that fall outside of what is expected of me. I hesitate to release those songs because I feel that it might not be accepted in our community. I sang a song on this album which I sing in a falsetto voice in the vein of The Beach Boys. This was a band that I loved, growing up. 'Pet Sounds' was one of my favourite records. I decided to record the song because it made me feel good. The song is called 'If There's A God'. I'm not sure how my fans will react to it. It is kinda like The Beach Boys meets George Harrison! I'm always happy to work with other songwriters and it does not matter if I write it or someone else writes it. I have songs on here from Cliff Magnus, Richard Hymas, Alessandro Del Vecchio, Daniel Volpe. If it's a strong song I wanna sing it. I also have a song I wrote with my guitar player Jimi Bell. In closing, I find that willpower is an important element in creative writing. Good songs don't just appear, they take time and you need the willpower to wait for it.

I find 'Craving' so elegant, starting from the artwork. It reminds me a piece of an old manuscript. Is there a special meaning in it?

I have a great CD designer, his name is Richard Jones. That is his work. He understands that I am an old soul. I have always loved album covers that had a grandiose look to them ... bigger than life. That's what I loved about the 80s. There was so much mystique in the bands and their look. We used to prance around Sunset Strip and the Rainbow. It really was a magical time.

'Amen' and 'Jesus Wept' are two intense songs. I would like to ask you something more about your vision of religion and spirituality. I firmly believe that, as the songs says, 'Love Is The Answer'. Would you like to give us an opinion about connections between faith, love and music in these hard times?

Those three songs are all meant to be a message of hope to those who have lost faith. I wrote 'Love Is The Answer' with Jeff Kent. He was a close friend and co-writer. This song was written over three years ago but after his passing. I wanted to record it and have it out there.

Are you going to start a tour to support your new solo album? Have you ever thought about something special on stage with your wife Robin and your daughter Olivia?

I will tour with House of Lords but as far as doing a solo tour, it's just not my thing; I gotta have my band. Robin will do a tour this year and I will join her as a player and Olivia is very busy in New York. She is kicking ass there. HoL is gonna do more shows in the States this year.

Of course, I have to ask something about your future plans. Is there another House Of Lords album on your way?

Yes, of course, another album is in the pipeline. But we are just now starting to look at new tracks so it could be a while. We have really kept a rapid-fire pace for the past few years, so a little room now to write and enjoy life is needed!

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