Fireworks Magazine

Fireworks Magazine Online 86: Interview with Francis Rossi


Interview by James Gaden

As an ever present member of Status Quo, Francis Rossi is a legendary figure in the Rock world. 2019 is shaping up to be one of his most involved in the music business, as it sees the release of an autobiography entitled 'I Talk Too Much', followed by a tour of unscripted chat shows, also called 'I Talk Too Much', where he will tell anecdotes from his career as well as demonstrate how some Quo songs were written. And if that wasn't enough, he has a new album of duets with Hannah Rickard called 'We Talk Too Much' to boot. Fireworks called up the charismatic frontman who answered the phone in his usual jovial manner...

Fireworks 86 Francis Rossi Interview

(Sighs) Sometimes, you know, you pick the phone up and you think oh, what's this now... it's that bloke from Fireworks and you go oh no... Hello there! You were just going to let me keep going and going there weren't you?

It's always worth listening to how you answer the phone Francis!

Why is it called Fireworks Magazine anyway? I've been wondering, I can't make sense of it.

It's because our Editor, who formed the magazine, is a big fan of Bonfire and 'Fireworks' was one of his favourite albums.

[Laughs] Oh really? Oh. I wish I hadn't asked now, I was hoping for something more showbiz! This happens to me a lot. I knew this bloke once called Tex and I asked him once where Tex came from and he said, "I'm Terrance". I wish I hadn't asked. I remember working with Cozy Powell, and I'm no good with people's nicknames. Like 'Rhino' in our band, he's John to me. Coming up to 70 years old and calling yourself Rhino? Bollocks. Sting? Behave yourself. But I asked what Cozy Powell's name was and it was Colin. Where does 'Cozy' come from? Fuck off, you're Colin! Anyway...

You have a spoken word tour, a book and an album out. Quite a busy year ahead!

It seems that way doesn't it, but I don't start doing shows until June and then I finish in September, and like I've told you before I'm looking forward to finishing it already! I've actually been off since October and in that time I've had shingles, been bitten by a spider, which has left a hole in my knee and I fucked my leg up... so when it got to December and Christmas, because I'd been home so much, it didn't seem as magical as when I'd spent a lot of time away. I'm like that with this tour, I'm in the mindset when you think about school finishing and it's home-time.
The chat shows are an unknown quantity. I've got no idea whether they will be good, bad, whatever. All I know is I can talk a lot, you've not really asked me anything yet and I'm still going! My manager said, "Try not to swear too much, try not to talk too fast, try not to drift off onto tangents, don't go into politics or religion and don't be too politically incorrect."

Not much point going on then.

I know, I'm fucked! So sometimes I'm quite looking forward to seeing what happens, other times I'm wondering what I'm going to say, what will I talk about? I have it in the band; you'll do a rehearsal or turn up at a cold venue and really not want to be there but then you get on and it's great. There are times when I've been on and forgotten what bit is coming up next and you think, "Oh shit..." but you forget about all that, that goes away when things are working out. It's like women having babies. If they remembered what it was like having the first one they wouldn't let us go near them ever again. So if my brain goes, my composure goes. And I'm worried that might happen with the chat show, because it's all new.

Is that why Mick Wall is going to be with you, to keep you from veering off?

A lot of people think that but I did something with Johnnie Walker in Scotland and the reason I agreed was I wanted someone to lead me in to a Q&A. I hated the idea of it being just me like, "I'm here to address my audience." Pompous git. If I'm asked a question, fine, that's somebody asking me and I can say something in reply, so Mick will do that. He encouraged me to do it, and I agreed but the idea of me just walking out, saying "Good evening ladies and gentlemen" and then I just start talking, I'm an insecure little shit. If someone asks me what I think, then I'm fine. As long as it's not about politics. Or religion. Or gender. I didn't realise there were 27 genders... don't start me!

So with the book and tour called 'I Talk Too Much' and the album 'We Talk Too Much', which came first or was there always a plan to package everything?

No, I started making an album with Hannah Rickard after a chance discussion at Hammersmith Odeon once. I went to talk to her about something on the stage and we were talking about Country music. I ended up inviting her to do some writing and we wrote the first song on the album. I'd written a song called 'I Talk Too Much' probably about two years prior, which came out of a sequence of songs that I'd written which wasn't for anything specific, so I was in no rush to finish it. Shortly after I saw Russell Brand, a bloke with a bigger mouth than me, and he was ranting about politics and I thought, 'Yeah, I like that, he's got a point.' But he got a bit big for his boots − we all need to watch out for that, especially me − and he got slammed down because people said "Become a politician and do something about it then" and he didn't want to be a politician, he was just a guy airing thoughts and ideas. It reminded me a bit of me and that led me to write 'I Talk Too Much'. My manager Simon, and Mick Wall, had both been pushing me to do a book for some time and as Rick had died I thought about it and business comes into it as well. I ended up presenting the song to Hannah and she said, "It's called 'I Talk Too Much'" but it didn't matter, we still sang it together. There are things on there which we aren't bothered about – if you take them literally there are parts I sing which lyrically would mean I'm a gay bloke or a woman. It's not an issue for me, I'm just singing a song. So we agreed to record it, and I was discussing with Simon about what to call the book. I said I had this song and we realised it would be a good title for the book, the tour and the album. It all came together. That's the joy of it, you'll know that from being a journalist, where you take a long conversation and it'll come together into a piece you're happy with. I really enjoy the process of doing it all, that's more important than if it's successful. I've learned that over the last couple of years. Products sell so differently to when I started – how you get radio play, how you make a record, how you promote's all so different now. But I get real joy from creating things, it's what I do and I feel like I'm alive when I'm doing it.

The album is more Country and Pop. It must have been quite refreshing to write without having to make a "Rock" album. You couldn't have released this as Quo.

No, not at all. We had an engineer change in the middle of making this album and I was talking to Hannah yesterday about already doing another one, whether it's successful or not. People have asked if we'll tour it – if it's successful, yes. But otherwise, I'm not going to go out and lose money for my own self-indulgence. I would make another record though. There is a crossover point, there's a song on here I wrote with Bob Young that we could probably have put on an earlier Quo record, it would fit next to a 'Claudie' or 'Marguerita Time', that sort of thing. As I've gotten older... I remember when we were in our twenties there was a school of thought that Pop music was just horrendous. It's all Pop isn't it? Pop means popular. But there was a mentality of "We're the real thing, the rest is shit." I actually like most music. So when Hannah and I were making this record she pushed to be as Country as possible and you can hear that in the opening song; there are a lot of references to that Americana thing. But if English and European people try too hard to be like that, the English don't like it because it's too American and the Nashville guys don't like it because we sound like pretenders. So we decided to just do what we do and the process accelerated somewhat from there. I enjoyed the process immensely and I want to do another one because I already think we can do better. I know it's only just coming out but we finished it around the end of 2017. The last year or so has been a real learning curve for me so I want to do another. And I love singing with Hannah.

I can never get my head around when I ask an artist how long it took to make an album and they have to work it out because it's been sat in the can for six months or a year.

That's the world today. When we were recording in the seventies, we finished 'On The Level' in the studio, started mixing that night, finished at about five in the morning and that was it. You didn't get a chance to say, "Oh, I've fucked that mix" or notice if your ears were shot. So we did the mixes, went out for breakfast about seven in the morning in Lambwath, went down to a place where they had the suspended room set up for the cover, did the shoot, sent it to be mastered and it was out! Today, the window of opportunity is so small about when you get airplay, if you get airplay, it all moves so fast. You have to have such prep time to make sure people hear it in that window, because then it's gone. Marketing is such a big deal, which is why we're doing the album, the book, the tour, roll it all out together to make people take notice. Like when we did 'Aquostic' – "It's Quo acoustic? That interesting. The two dickheads are on the cover naked? Really?" It made people take notice and it did well because we had equal amounts of people who loved it and who hated it. If you can get that, you've got a big buzz on your hands. "I fucking hate that new advert for so and so..." But you mentioned the product and you know what it is. I think it's a bit sad but it is what it is and that's why things take so bloody long now. I must say, a lot of my generation say the old days were better, but from a musical point of view I much prefer today where I can hear exactly what I heard three weeks ago, it's not like analogue where you had to put it up to the desk, find the mix to check, and you're not entirely sure it was set up exactly as it was last time. It is now on the computer and I like that.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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How was writing with Hannah? Was she a bit starstruck or reticent writing with you, considering how many famous songs you've written?

I love the girl, she's great. If she was over-awed she never showed it. She was in a band and I was looking for a fiddle player for a solo album I never actually finished. I met her, liked her, loved her fiddle playing and I asked if she sang at all. She worked on the second 'Aquostic' album as well so it wasn't like she was coming in cold, just meeting me to write. When she starts singing with me, oh blimey − it just clicked. We just sat, played acoustic, had a cup of tea, went for a wander round the garden, start again the next day. You basically just live together for a few days. My wife is very good facilitating that and the end result is that hopefully you have some material that you like. But it's hard to be objective, I don't really know if I like it until a couple of years later when I can look back and think, "Well that was a mistake wasn't it, that sounds shit." That happened to me a lot in the seventies. When we made an album a year, sometimes two, you had no time to analyse. When you listen back to them you'll think the bass is loud, the voice is too low, that's out of tune, that's sped up...whatever it is, you just judged it in the moment. The negative of using computers is there are so many pretty much perfect records around, with the playing and the tuning and the timing all spot on, when you hear something a bit different you love it to death. As for the lyrics, unless Bob Young comes in with something, Hannah and I would frequently look at each other and just wonder what we were going to write about. So we had working titles for all the songs. The first track, because it goes do doo, do doo do, we just called it 'Doo Doo'. Another was 'La La La'. We even struggled to come up with working titles! We just loved the sound so we'd just go with those names until we came up with real lyrics, because you can't get away with using the working ones...

Was Bob Young involved much in this album?

Hannah was ill at one point when we were working on it so I said to her I would bring Bob in to keep things going. He wrote on 'Good Times Bad Times' because it's a 3/4 and Hannah really liked the lyric of it. Bob helped just push things along while Hannah wasn't well.

If you enjoy the creative process so much, how was it doing the book? It's done in conjunction with Mick Wall, so I'm assuming it's via a series of interviews? You didn't have total control there?

No, it wasn't like I've been sat there with pen in hand, that's bullshit. I talk in tangents so I really didn't want to read it before it came out, but Simon convinced me I should in case things were wrong. If I talk live once I've said it, it's gone, the idea of reading back things I've said, I just think "You smug git, sat there thinking you're wonderful." But I read it and chronologically things were wrong because I drift off, and Mick the poor sod has to decipher that from the tapes. We went over the whole thing. For example there was a section where he had Alan Lancaster's mum down as being Spanish and what I actually said was it looked like she could have had Spanish blood in her. Lots of stuff like that, so it was good that I read it and Simon read it. There were misquotes about Rick and I, regarding what he did and didn't do, what I did and didn't do, so now everyone seems pleased with it. But then again, the publisher isn't going to say to me "Christ, what a sack of shit you've got there – when shall we put it out?" are they?

How is life in Quo now without Rick?

Marvellous – people don't want me to say that but it's true. Some fans of Rick felt we shouldn't have carried on and it won't be as good without Rick. It was basically exactly the same thing that was said to Rick and I when Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan weren't in the band anymore. That made me and Rick dig in and work really hard to prove them wrong. Some people don't think we did, others thought we did alright. That's how we feel in the band now, we don't feel the band is all about one person. Maybe we're wrong, but while that criticism hurt for me personally, it made me feel like, "I'm gonna show you!" Whether I do or not, time will tell. When we first brought Richie Malone in I thought "Smug git, you're not Rick." However, he's blossomed into something, Leon Cave on drums has blossomed and the band has turned into something – I'm not sure what it is, but there's something that's changed and I love it. I don't know whether it's the dynamic or having different personalities there or what it is – it might be a musical tweak because when Richie first came in he was playing everything as it was, now we're all excited by the music and have a good time. It feels like we did in the original band when we were in our early twenties, that we are fighting against something. So those people telling me we shouldn't carry on, I thank them for giving me something to fight against.

Did you and Rick ever discuss a plan about what would happen if one of you wasn't there?

Many times. In fact, we first saw Richie many years ago and Rick said, "Fucking hell, he's good isn't he? If anything ever happens to me, get him in. In fact, I've got a better idea, get a lookalike in for you, get him in and we can stay at home." That was Rick. When he stood down from the band, he was quite taken that we brought Richie in. That worked out really well; I had no idea Richie would fit in as well as he has. Rick had that X-Factor, he made us look good. And he liked being out front. When that photo was taken at Band Aid of all the artists, I was at the side next to Jody Watley. I really don't like being in the forefront of photographs. Rick was the opposite, he pushed forward and said "Oi, shift up" and got his arse in between Sting and Nick Rhodes. Rick was that kind of guy, he had a magical look, the archetypal Rock star with the blonde hair, everything about him. He made Quo look good.

Have you considered another Quo album? I'm torn because I don't want to think it's over as far as new Quo songs but I'm not sure I'd accept a Quo album without Rick on it.

I don't really know. I think my manager and agent would want me to but I can imagine a lot of fans don't. There were a few albums where Rick really didn't contribute much but I know what you mean. We have material around and I'm always writing, but I honestly don't know.

Unless it was originals in more of the 'Aquostic' style, because I always thought Rick wasn't as into that as you were?

It's interesting... I told you before that project came out of an acoustic version of 'Down Down' that was done for an advert in Australia. It got a great reaction and Simon said we should do a full album like that. Rick's immediate reaction was "Yeah, yeah!" and mine was "No thanks." Partly because I thought I'd be doing all the work. Rick would do that sometimes, turn up and then say "I'm going out" and leave it to me. So Simon actually talked me into it and the first couple of sessions with Andrew and John were so enjoyable, that was when I was hooked.

Regarding online comments, I read one that I thought might make you laugh – when the press release for 'We Talk Too Much' went out on Facebook the first comment on it said "If this was the direction Francis wanted Quo to go, there's no wonder Rick wasn't happy."

[Laughs] It has nothing to do with Quo! The album would have been made regardless. If Rick was still living, he'd have still put his solo album out as well, regardless. Quo doesn't factor into it, but that kind of comment would influence Rick. I've said before that Rick was a cabaret singer, which he was, that was where he came from, but that became an insult to him. Getting drunk, doing drugs, falling over and being an arsehole isn't "Rock". It's over-indulging and we shouldn't do it. Rock is the music, the other shit is what most people do at a weekend. The times we were all on stage a total mess, taking money off people, it was just wrong. And you should have been with Rick in a morning when he was hung over – good grief! Tell you what though, when we did the Frantic Four reunion shows, Rick worked his fucking arse off on that tour.

What did you think to his solo album?

I didn't listen to it, because as I mentioned to you once before, Rick loved playing ukelele and he was thinking of doing some songs by Frank Ifield and maybe doing a ukelele album. But that was the real Rick, not the Rock persona he developed. While he had that look, that's not who he really was and that was the cause of a lot of the problems between he and I. I felt in the end, when he was singing all gruff, he was becoming a caricature of himself − he didn't sing like that. Listen to 'All The Reasons' on 'Piledriver'. Beautiful stuff. That was the real Rick. Somewhere along the way someone told him that wasn't macho or Rock enough. So when I saw what songs were going to be on his album, a lot of it was the noisy Rock stuff and that wasn't Rick to me.I'd have liked the semi-Country style he spoke to me about.

Even though I've always thought a solo album should be about artistic expression, not an extension of your regular band, if he had done a ukelele album or something Country-infused, he'd have been pasted for it because of his image.

They'd have been really disappointed, you're right. I knew some of the songs he had been thinking of, there was one his mother used to sing, I think it would have been great...fabulous songs, but it didn't happen. Listen to the early Quo albums, Rick always had at least one of those softer songs on there. I don't know who convinced him he had to be "Rick The Rocker", getting shit-faced and falling over. And people would say, "Cor, isn't that great?" They do the same with Keith Richards, look at a picture of him passed out on the floor with a heroin needle sticking out of his arm – "Wow, that's so Rock N' Roll." No it's not, it's an idiot out of his tree. Some people thought that's how Rick needed to be and that wasn't the Rick I knew and loved.

Fireworks Magazine Online 86: Interview with Dream Theater


Words by Gary Marshall

February 2019 brings the release of Dream Theater's fourteenth studio album, 'Distance Over Time', which sees the band moving to a new way of working and signing to a new label in the shape of InsideOut. Fireworks sat down with James LaBrie to find out the details.

Fireworks 86 Dream Theater Interview

It may be cold and wet outside but I'm warmly welcomed by a friendly and enthusiastic James LaBrie at Sony Music's London HQ as we settle down for a quick chat about their upcoming album, which to my ears represents a return to form, being more about the songs and less about the virtuosity.

YouTube interviews with the band show them locked away in a remote studio, which turns out to be the five-acre Yonderbarn in Monticello, New York. With this being a process they'd not used in a very long while I asked LaBrie what precipitated this move. "It was John Petrucci who suggested it to us; we were like any other band in thinking about where we were going to record the new album and should we go back to where we did the last one, shall we get a warehouse and create our own studio etc. Then John sent out an email saying his wife Rena had suggested we get a place away from home where there'd be no distractions and we could just get on with being creative, bonding as a group and just hang out, so we set about finding a place and someone came up with this fabulous location. It once belonged to a Japanese composer, he did the music for the movie 'The Revenant' and he'd set it up as a studio but when we were there it was just a room as he'd taken away all the equipment aside from the cabling. We all loved the place, it felt so right...they'd taken all this old barn wood and refurbished it and it sounded phenomenal. The drum sound Mike (Mangini) got in that room was something else; he was very enthused by that, but everything in that room sounded phenomenal. The last time we did anything remotely close to working this way was on 'Images and Words' (1991/2), albeit that time the music was written before the recording. We lived in a house together and recorded at Bear Tracks every day. This time we lived in a farm house that was probably 100 yards away from this renovated barn where we'd go every day and start writing together, so it was a significant change for us. Indeed Jordan (Rudess) had never worked with us in this way as he joined after 'Images'. Unlike previous albums no-one brought in completed songs, it was purely a riff or a refrain that we'd then sit around as a group and work on until we were happy with it and then we'd move on. We'd start at noon or one in the afternoon and work through until ten or eleven at night, until we dropped really. It was amazing...=organic and collaborative with everyone contributing, which I think was what we needed as a band.

When you first put a band together you start with everyone in a room creating, jamming and playing live off the floor and the ideas are spontaneous and although people might be suggesting changes, the creativity is in that moment, that's invariably how bands come up with the songs for their debut album. Aside from a couple of seeds that came from sound-checks on the last tour everything else was of the moment, written on the floor in that barn. There was one particular riff of John Myung's that he'd start playing and almost every time it would take us off somewhere else and another song would come out of it. What was so great was that we were immersed in the music and rather than each of us going home or to a hotel after a day's work and commuting back the next day we were living on site and we were around each other all day so we would carry on discussing the music between sessions, over dinner or breakfast, so we'd hit the room energised and with ideas to work up. There was a really positive feeling and electricity around the group as a result and it was a prolific experience. Being around each other having conversations that always lead back to the music was great and I think the songs really reflect that energy and togetherness and I think the results speak for themselves. There were times when people left for a day or two because there's still the domestic stuff you have to deal with, but for the majority of the time we were all working together."

So, I wondered did this mean they worked more quickly on this album than any of its predecessors. "I'd say the writing process was probably about the same as usual, which tends to be around the three week mark and if I remember correctly we wrote this in seventeen days. We must have been in a pessimistic frame of mind though because we'd booked the place for two months just for writing [laughs]. However, the recording process was very much quicker as we'd track the demo live as soon as we were sure we'd got the writing done. Initially we'd gone out there with the intention just to write the album but the acoustics and the vibe in the room were so fantastic, which I think really helped the writing process too, and after considering any number of studios we might use for the recording I think it was either our engineer Jimmy T (James Meslin) or our right-hand man Matty Schieferstein who suggested 'Why don't you record it here?' So we did. Jimmy pretty much set the place up as a fully-fledged studio over a weekend after we'd hired in the equipment and we got on with recording there and then; that's everything apart from my vocals which I do in a studio closer to home in Toronto that I am very familiar and extremely comfortable with. I work there with my Engineer Rich Chychi who I've worked with for thirty years and he knows me and what I'm striving for."

LaBrie is the band's vocalist but he's not the sole lyricist so I was interested to learn how he gets his inspiration but also how easy does he find it getting the necessary emotion into someone else's lyrics? "I'm influenced by things that I hear in conversation, literature I read and stuff I see on TV, just being a human and what goes on around us is there for inspiration. Like with the track 'At Wit's End' which is about the abuse of women and the psychological effect that has on them. I've not approached this album any differently. If it's someone else's lyric I want to get into it and really understand it as soon as I can so I know what's their motivation and what it is they are trying to get across to the listener. Once I've got that I'm good to go and if there are parts that are unclear to me then I'll check back with the lyricist and I may suggest some minor changes until I'm comfortable I've got the right vibe. With John Petrucci's lyrics I've pretty much interpreted them completely accurately immediately.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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On a couple of occasions where there has been ambiguity I'll ask him to give me his literal meaning and after he's done that I'm like, 'That's what I thought but it's good to know.' I like to internalise what the lyrics mean to me and how they emotionally hit me so when I sing them it's sincere and it's coming from me; it's almost as if those lyrics become mine even if they weren't, but that's always been my way of working. Through that process I pretty much know where I need to be vocally to express those words. I don't listen to any other music while we're creating an album, and I think John Petrucci is the same, because I don't want to be in any way influenced either directly or subliminally by melodies I might have heard elsewhere, as I feel you just need to be thinking what is going to come naturally out of you and not because you've been reminded of something you've heard elsewhere...which makes it difficult because I love to listen to music when I work out [laughs]."

Presumably given the way they worked on the songs this time around few, if any, lyrics were written beforehand. So how does LaBrie deal with that during the song's development process? "I'm with the guys in the room feeling the vibe and I pretty quickly get the feel of where the melody is going or needs to go so I'll just lay down a guide vocal for future reference and so I don't forget it. At that stage it's probably just me la la'ing along, no proper words. I'll work with John Petrucci and Jordan on the melodies and then we'll go off and write the lyrics. If I remember correctly I wrote three of the lyrics including the bonus track 'Viper King', John Petrucci did three and he co-wrote several with John Myung."

So, who were/are his influences? "I'm Canadian so Rush were a major influence but there was Led Zeppelin of course, Judas Priest, early Journey, Foreigner, Deep Purple and Queen, because to me Freddie Mercury was the ultimate frontman. I saw the movie 'Bohemian Rhapsody' recently and although they changed some of the truth – I don't know why they had to do that – I still thought it was terrific. The guy who plays Freddie is amazing."

I mention that I've always thought of John Myung and Queen's bassist John Deacon as being in a similar vein − understated, quiet and just getting on with playing. LaBrie is quick to jump in. "But they are absolutely integral to their respective bands."

The average length of the tracks on the album is shorter than we've seen from the band in the recent past. Was that a deliberate decision? "There was a conscious effort but we never let it be the mould or a contrived thing. To my mind if that ever became the case we should stop. We were always thinking 'Is the idea finished, have we explored all the options?' We would go round and round working up ideas. A case in point is the track 'Paralyzed' where we had a whole other section and we were like 'No, it's unnecessary. If we need to go there, let's do it live' and that was it, three minutes of music gone just like that. It sounded amazing, it really did but it wasn't necessary. At the back of our minds we were working with the premise of let's get to the point and smash it out the park."

I wondered if the band felt a weight of expectation to produce epic tracks, LaBrie is quick to shoot that thought down. "I would certainly hope not. I think our fans are sophisticated enough not to just like us because we do epic songs. We'll do them when there's a need for it and when what we are trying to do requires that amount of time, but it has to serve a purpose. Dream Theater is about the songs not about the length of the songs.

There was no masterplan involved, we just went where the music took us and as we were working up the tracks we'd stop when we felt the idea had reached its natural conclusion. There was one track, I'm not telling you which one [laughs], which had a long solo as the outro but when we all considered it we felt that part wasn't integral so we left it off. It wouldn't surprise me if that section doesn't find its way out there as and when we play the song live. I think that might be cool."

Given that the band tour extensively with every album I wondered how far in advance do these excursions have to be planned. Does it start as soon as they begin the album process? "Oh, there's a whole lot of planning and logistics that goes into booking a tour and that starts many months in advance. As soon as we start on an album we'll have an idea when it will be released, so our people will be talking with promoters and bookers as soon as we let them know when the album's due so they can put together a cohesive itinerary. The production guys have to develop stage, lights, transport etc. People often complain that we don't come to their town or country but we're not responsible for those choices, we leave that up to the professionals whose job it is and who have the expertise to sort out the schedule and appropriate venues. From a personal point of view we need to know the time-frame we have to book out. They'll give us the start and end dates and roughly which territories we'll be in when and then they'll fill in the specific concert dates and venues later on. Almost inevitably the tours grow more shows but we know the window for the start and the end." It seems that the majority of the European dates will be on Festival stages including 'Download' in the UK.

With fourteen albums to select from how do you go about choosing which tracks to play during the tour, it must be very difficult? "If it was up to us we'd play everything off the new album but you can't do that as the fans want to reminisce with you and there are so many incredible songs that we've not played in a long time. As a band there comes a time when you ask yourself, can I really play a track like 'Pull Me Under' again, and the answer is that there are songs that can be retired for the moment. It's not that they'll never be played again. Of course on this tour the whole second half will be 'Metropolis Part 2 – Scenes From A Memory' as it's the album's 20th anniversary in 2019 so that takes care of a chunk of the show, so then it's about what we can fit in to the remaining time available, which will be about an hour. Potentially we're going to work up a number of songs and then play them in rotation so it's a different set each night. That's not settled yet, we're still in discussion about that."

Slightly mischievously I suggest they could do an hour long medley. "I've never been a fan of medleys. As a kid, if my favourite bands did a medley, I felt a little cheated because the songs had been edited."

When undertaking a lengthy tour when the set is the same every night, doesn't that get tiresome? "It's tiresome when you think about it," replies LaBrie, "but not when you're in the moment because of the energy you're getting from the fans, the look on their faces, their animation..."

Fireworks Magazine Online 86: Interview with Last In Line


Interview with Vivian Campbell by Mónica Castedo-López

What started as a fun project for three ex-Dio members to jam some songs by their old band has gradually transformed into a serious outfit that releases original songs and is now on its second album. Three years after conducting a phone interview with Vivian Campbell about the Last In Line debut album, 'Heavy Crown', Fireworks had the pleasure of meeting the guitarist in person right before the Def Leppard show at London's Wembley Arena to discuss the follow-up, 'II'. Like the debut, this record features drummer Vinny Appice and singer Andrew Freeman, but the sudden passing of bassist Jimmy Bain three years ago forced the band to recruit a new member in the form of the talented Phil Soussan. In great spirits, despite his fight with cancer, an extremely chatty Vivian was happy to talk both Def Leppard and Last In Line, two bands that he will play with at this year's Download Festival.

Fireworks 86 Last In Line Interview

Tonight is the last show of the Def Leppard tour. How has it been?

It's been a wonderful year for Def Leppard and we've had a hugely successful tour. We did sixty shows in North America doing a co-headline tour with Journey and we sold over a million tickets. Our audience consists of about 30-40% people young enough to be our children, so we crossed that generational thing. This has been happening for years, but 2018 just exploded for us exponentially. Our entire catalogue is now available online, which I think really helped us reach the younger audience. The majority of our catalogue wasn't online for many years because of a long-running dispute with the label but that's all been resolved and it's just been fantastic, and we've just been inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It's been an epic year!
Even though the band has been successful for decades, we still want to get better and keep going and going and make it a better experience, playing better and singing better, and we do.

And you don't find it harder as the years go past?

The travel is the difficult part. We don't do as many shows now as we used to, to give ourselves a little bit more time. We spend a little bit more money on pampering ourselves; we'll decide we need to stay in a really nice hotel, get some rest for a couple of days ─ which is very different from Last In Line, because we can afford doing that. When I do touring with Last In Line we stay at a Holiday Inn Express, if we're lucky. We fly coach and we play clubs where your feet stick to the floor and we get a cheese sandwich for dinner. But I enjoy both.

Have you ever thought about having Last In Line as the support act for Def Leppard?

That would make no sense for a couple of reasons: in this day and age you really have to add value for the ticket price because tickets are not cheap anymore, so we have to have a name band, like here we had Cheap Trick, in Australia we had Scorpions and in America we toured with Journey. If Last In Line were to be on the bill with Def Leppard it would be mostly a lot of Def Leppard fans who already come to see Def Leppard, plus there would be a lot of Last In Line fans who don't care for Def Leppard because we are a much heavier band.

When we last spoke in 2015 it was to discuss the Last In Line debut album and you were very excited about it. Then over a month later...

Jimmy's death... that really took all of the momentum out of things. We had a tour booked for immediately after the album release and when Jimmy passed away we cancelled the tour. Then the response to the record was so strong that we talked amongst ourselves and decided that we owed it to ourselves and to Jimmy's memory to proceed. Jimmy died with one tattoo on his body that said 'Last In Line'; he was so invested in the band. A couple of years before he passed away it was very difficult for me. He was in trouble with the police for driving offences and he had to go to a halfway house. When we were making the album and he was allowed out between 4-10pm, I had to drive him to make sure he didn't miss his curfew. The only thing that was positive in his life at that time was the band, Last In Line, so he went out and got a tattoo. When the album was reviewed so favourably we felt we owed it to Jimmy and ourselves. We put a lot of work in to get to this stage, so we auditioned some very well-known musicians ─ I can't say names ─ but they didn't fit the band right.

Then Phil Soussan came in and we knew right away he was right because Phil was with Ozzy in the 80s and he had that sensibility that Jimmy had, that sense of what the band is about and what that music is about. Also he's English and that keeps the balance of the band. Jimmy was Scottish, I'm Irish ─ so we had two Americans and two Europeans, so it's nice to have that balance and that sense of humour. Obviously we cancelled the tour but we picked up some of the bigger shows that we were scheduled to play with Phil Soussan in the band over the last couple of years prior to making this new album. So Phil has had time to really get to know us, and vice versa, and I'm happy to say that when it came to song-writing, the dynamic really worked well. Phil really understands how the band works. We don't come in with songs. To me the flavour of the band comes from everyone participating; you bounce ideas off of people and that's how the early Dio albums were done. Jimmy, Vinny and I would play and get something together. Ronnie would come down in the evening, we would play it for him and he would make suggestions. He'd go through his lyric bits, he'd step up and sing and we'd have a song and it would happen very quickly and very organically. It'd grow amongst us all.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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To me that's how you really capture the sound and the spirit of a band. We did that with Jimmy on the 'Heavy Crown' album and we did it with Phil on the 'II' album. And I think that possibly as a result of having done so many shows with Phil prior to this record, and also because Phil is maybe a more ambitious bass player than Jimmy was, these songs are more developed, they have more parts to them and are a little bit more complicated than a lot of the songs on the 'Heavy Crown' album, and that's part of the reason why we wanted to call the album 'II'. I know it's not the first time anyone has ever done this but I have several reasons for it: number one, it really sounds like a band's second album to me, so I just wanted to make no mistake and call it 'II'. Secondly, and perhaps equally as important, I realised there's a certain amount of confusion about the band's name because we are named after an album, 'Last In Line'. Maybe people didn't know which one was the name of the album and which the name of the band. This was back in 2011 when we first started doing this project, and we had no ambition, it grew out of a jam; I just wanted to play guitar with Jimmy and Vinny. When Andrew came and started singing, that's when I thought this sounds great, the sound of the Dio band playing the Dio music and a singer who is powerful but doesn't sound anything like Ronnie. And I thought this is interesting. Right then I said, "Let's go and do some shows, let's call it Last In Line." I didn't give it any thought but also didn't think it was going to be as serious a project as it's become.

This is the side band for all of us, but it's a very serious side project. When I'm not working with Def Leppard I devote all of my time to Last In Line because I'm invested in it and want it to be taken seriously. If I had known back then I would never have very casually suggested the band to be called Last In Line. It made sense when we were just going out and playing Dio songs because Ronnie had passed away and Jimmy, Vinny and I were the last in line, but I didn't think that here we'd be seven years later with a second album of original music. Also people were confused by the name of the band. I think the initials LIL is how I think the band should try and reference ourselves and I thought LIL and the Roman numerals II was a very clean look, so not only does it serve to reinforce that this is very much a second album of the band but it also takes it away from the Last In Line.

That also shows your dedication to music because you could just easily rest at home, go on holidays, whatever, because with Def Leppard you make a comfortable living, right? So you don't have to go out and play small venues.

I absolutely do not, no. I believe that you are what you do and I always wanted to be a musician, so I consider it to be a great privilege to not only be in one of the biggest and greatest Rock bands in the world, Def Leppard, but I get to go out and play this music with LIL and with these incredible musicians. Vinny Appice is the most inspiring drummer on the planet in my opinion. Phil Soussan is an exceptional musician. Andrew Freeman, in particular on this album, it is the great showcase album for Andrew; people should take note of Andrew's name after hearing this album. As a song writer and as a singer, he's really stepped up his game from 'Heavy Crown'. For me to go out and be able to play with these musicians is an honour and a privilege. I've never been motivated to do it by money but I still find it kind of funny that a lot of people think I make money doing this and that's my motivation. It's not. People think that I should also frame it in the fact that I've been doing all this whilst I had cancer. I'm doing a lot better now but back when the 'Heavy Crown' album came out I was still doing chemo, and that was also the case when we were recording the album. That's how much it means to me. I've never been so busy in my life as I've been in the last five or six years since I got my cancer diagnosis because that also reminds you that life doesn't last forever and you really have to pursue your dreams and passions.

I'm very passionate about this music and I'm very passionate about playing guitar. I sort of had a rebirth back around 2011, when I went to play with Thin Lizzy for a few months as a stand-up player and it was after that when I came back that I called Jimmy and Vinny, and that's what lead to having that jam, which lead to this band, which led us to sitting here seven years later to talk about our second album. It's a muscle that I want to keep exercising. I realised that for many years I hadn't worked it as much as I should have; it was always there and it was dormant. I just feel incredibly fortunate that I get to play with Def Leppard and with LIL. It takes up all of my time and I have to forego a lot of my personal life; I don't take vacations and stuff like that but it fulfils me, it makes me feel alive and I exercise different muscles than I exercise with Def Leppard. Def Leppard is very vocal, the guitar parts are intricate but they're not as challenging as being in LIL because I'm the only guitar player in LIL and it's a very guitar-centric band, there are a lot of solos and people expect that of me. It's really fun to go back and do that. I love it. My playing on the album is much better even than the 'Heavy Crown'. I feel a lot more confident about my guitar playing as a result of doing all the shows when we were promoting the 'Heavy Crown' album, so I really feel like I'm at the top of my game as a musician and guitar player. I'm very happy.

Is the lymphoma clear or under control now?

I've been very fortunate for the last three and a half years, as I was part of a clinical trial for the first two years of that for a new drug, the same drug that Jimmy Carter took for his melanoma years ago. They call it immunotherapy. I was on the trial for two years and I responded very well to it. The drug is now available and it's called Keytruda. It's the first cancer drug that is given to anyone with any kind of cancer. It's determined by a genetic marker that you carry and about one in three of the population have this genetic marker called PD-L1. I happen to be one of those, so I'm very fortunate. I have PD-L1, therefore I can take this drug for lymphoma. They also give it for melanoma, for lung cancer, etc. So I still have tumours but they haven't grown in three and a half years. I've got hair, there are no side effects, I get a little fatigue when I do the infusions for a couple of days but that's it for me. Other people get more side effects but I'm very robust.

You're playing some shows with LIL.

Other than Download in June and a London show a couple of nights before that, Europe will not be until October-November.

Fireworks Magazine Online 86: Interview with Danny Vaughn about PledgeMusic


Interview by Ant Heeks

Tyketto's vocalist Danny Vaughn started his first PledgeMusic campaign in 2018 to enable him to record his 'Myths, Legends & Lies' solo album, a project that has been in the planning for many years. However, on the eve of the recording it emerged that Pledge had not paid Danny the funds he was owed, prompting the singer to post a heartfelt video message explaining the situation, pleading with fans not to give any more money and urging them to attempt to get full refunds. The video went viral, highlighting the problems and resulting in an overwhelming amount of support. Fireworks spoke to Danny to learn exactly what happened.

Fireworks 86 Danny Vaughn Interview

When did you first become aware that there was a problem with Pledge?

Well it's kind of a funny thing, if Pledge had done to me what they had done to most other bands we wouldn't be having this conversation, I'd be happily trolling along. Just to explain for people who don't know how they work, once you achieve 100% of your goal they send you 60% of that within two weeks, but your campaign goes on and you can continue to accumulate funds, and out of what's left, whatever you do over that, they take their percentage and you get the rest after you've fulfilled all your pledges and promises you made to the fans. We went to 100% in ten days which even impressed them, they hadn't seen that in a long time, if they had sent me that 60% percent that was due like they were supposed to I would still be blissfully unaware anything was wrong. But I let it go for about a month and then started contacting them, and from what I've heard I had better luck with personal contact than most other bands. I did have several people speaking to me pretty regularly and they were very open about the problems they were having distributing the funds.

Funds were coming out of America, and the UK area of Pledge was not getting allocated enough money to pay its artists. I knew that The Quireboys had received nothing because I'm friends with Paul Guerin and we'd chatted a few times. I checked in with a few other artists and they were fighting to get money that was due them at the end of it all. They fulfilled everything and did what I had been planning to do, which was going into my own pocket to finish the whole thing and then make the money back at the end. So there are tons of bands that were just waiting and suddenly not getting money. I was pushier than most and by December, when I was due over ten thousand pounds, I was sent three. So that answers your question; that was alarm bell number one! And then it was "we know this is not what you're supposed to be getting, we're allocating funds to different artists, we're doing our best, we're going to put you on a payment plan, you're going to get a thousand every week..." They knew when I was going to start recording my album, I had planned this whole campaign so I would have that money ready and go into the studio pretty much the next day, the timing was crucial. So I got two more payments of a thousand each spread over the next couple of weeks, and I basically sent them a letter from a lawyer demanding they pay what's due me according to their own bylaws, they were in violation of their own agreements.

Then I got a letter back saying "actually it doesn't look like were going to have any more money for a while", they'd been telling me all this stuff about these great potential buyers that were going to come in and give them loads of money and they could pay off all these debts and start afresh, blah, blah, blah. Suddenly that wasn't happening, and that was it, that was the day I made that video I put up, I ended up sitting down with my wife and saying "we've been given five thousand pounds, which is a long way short of what I need to make this album", and we discussed emptying out the savings account and trying to make the album whether I was going to try and get loans from friends... a lot of frightening possibilities, or whether to shut down the project and be forever disgraced really, because I felt I bore the brunt of responsibility for this, at least as far as the fans were concerned. I had no idea that Pledge's entire system was in trouble, that came soon afterwards when I started reaching out. Once that video went out all of a sudden it was like a dam broke, I don't know why I was the first one to make a video because there were bands in much deeper than I am, apparently there's a band in America called Ogre that's owed a hundred thousand dollars! You've seen what's going on with poor Bernie Torme, he's not only owed seventeen grand by Pledge, he's in intensive care, and now doesn't even have the money to help with his medical expenses. Queensrÿche has just pulled the plug on whatever it is they were doing, which is tens of thousands of dollars that Pledge owed them. The list is very long. So the video just opened up this flood – right place right time I suppose.

So what prompted you to post the video highlighting the issue?

Well the most important thing was I had to let the fans know. When I started this campaign I was hoping I would make it to 100% in three months, I made it to 100% in ten days. We made it to 180% before we shut it down, it was fantastic, the point being I suddenly realised I had a lot better reach with people than I thought. I'm probably the person who underestimates myself the most (laughs), and I'm looking at the list and I've got six-hundred CDs already bought, I had so many more different pledges, and I thought "I can't just shut down the shop, I've got to talk to people and let them know what's going on." It's a crazy thing to ask people to pay for something they can't see or feel or potentially get for months, so I felt terribly responsible. Really that was the purpose of the video, I wanted to make sure people knew and I wanted to make sure that other people might be getting involved with this system to beware, again not having any idea how deep it all went until after the video went out and it was viewed something like twenty-six thousand times in a couple of days. I was getting e-mails from bands all over and just didn't expect that and I didn't expect their duplicity to go as far as it did, I thought I was getting treated badly because I was a little fish, you know?

The reaction was amazing, you got so much support from so many different people.

And to me here's the most important part of the story, because in my case everything happened at just the right time. I had nothing left to lose so I told everybody "they'll take my money, they'll take your money, but they will not mess with Mastercard and Visa!" (laughs) That's not something you want, international credit card fraud! So I advised people to call their credit card companies and tell them you're not getting the service you paid for and demand your money back, and all of a sudden these refunds came pouring in. It was actually my dear friend Julie Bootland who came up with the idea of setting up a GoFundMe page and asking people, if you don't mind and you don't feel too burned by this, if you get your refund to put it here and this will absolutely go to me so I can get the job done. And we've recovered an enormous amount of the final total that we had, and I'm not afraid to let people know that on Pledge I raised twenty-six thousand pounds so they would have gotten 15% of that, so I would have probably have gotten about twenty thousand to do what I needed to do: album, promotion, video, potential tour – we'll see. All of that, so we got most of that back because people acted quickly. I'm really pleased about that because as you know Pledge has shut down its business globally, and I feel terrible for all the bands who were in the middle of their campaigns because it just stopped. All money contributed is now lost, the stuff that they wanted to do won't be done and nobody's talking. Billboard just wrote a huge article about it and said in it "despite multiple contacts with Pledge, aside from their on-line statement they refuse to talk to any newspaper or journalist", so it really looks bad.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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What do they actually do with the money? As far as I can see it's you that has done all the work, you've sent out all the hand-written lyrics, recorded the song dedications and sent out all the special items people have bought.

Well, Pledge is a great idea, it's a platform. Basically you're paying for somebody's idea and what they do, which I thought was great. They avail you of a pretty wide database of music fans all around the world, and there's a good chance that there are people who have only just heard of me, or not at all, that might have looked in on the campaign or saw the videos and thought they might be interested in it and purchased it. So the way their platform was set up was really good, their account representative planned with me the whole campaign, everything I needed to do, everything I needed to know, very interactive and very involved. So that would be very difficult for an individual to do, to reach out to a global fan-base and put all this stuff together, their system for tracking everything that everyone's purchased and how you let the fans know "Okay, your lyrics were shipped today" and they respond so the platform knows you've done your job and it's ticked off. All that is what you're paying for, this very easy to work system, but what they did, and this I know from talking to some of the higher-ups at Pledge – I was surprised at some of the things they admitted to me – in a nutshell their original payment provider was PayPal, and they've been going for ten years or more and apparently for the first eight years everything was blissful and it worked very simply. PayPal would take in all the money for Pledge and each day deposit whatever that large lump sum was into Pledge's account, but also it was completely itemised so if they got £150 for Danny Vaughn, Pledge knew that, and therefore they knew exactly what percentage they were owed by me.

Now, go and explain how a new CEO comes in and everything goes hi-tech corporate nonsense. They get huge new offices in Covent Garden in London, they hire big-time people with six-figure salaries that they didn't have before, as they were a fairly small operation and doing very well. All of a sudden they're spending money like crazy, and then they get a new payment provider who only pays them once a week, backdated a week, with a lump-sum totally unidentified, meaning not itemised at all. I spoke to some high-level accountants and asked, "Why would a company do that when they had a system that told them exactly how much money they were taking in and how much money they were due on each account?" The only reason to do that is to make it a grey area as to how much money they've got and who it was for, therefore they can spend it the way that they want. Instead of taking 15% percent from each artist they were taking lump sums of unidentified amounts and going, "We're going to buy this, we're going to buy that, we're going to pay all our board members this etc" and they got, as we say, too big for their britches real quick.

What is the situation now, are you still owed anything?

Technically yeah, they have not refunded everything that they were supposed to. Refunds are still trickling out there, I don't know where they're getting the money from, but most of my contributors have gotten refunds and one of the things I let everybody know, it didn't matter if you were going to get your money back or not, you're going to get what you paid for. I will see to that, one way or another. I wasn't going to retract anything, I was going to make sure I held up my end because I won't see the fans burned. This little pond we swim in is very small, and if you burn people, even if it's not you that's doing it, then you won't see them again, and who can blame them? I wanted to make sure people didn't walk away from this any more scarred than was necessary.

How did it affect you when you first entered the studio, not knowing what was going to happen with your funding.

Sometimes you just put your head down and put one foot in front of the other, and the biggest difference was that normally when I go into the studio I shut my phone off. When we made 'Reach' I never had my phone on at all and you finish your day's work and turn your phone on and it lights up with a thousand WhatsApp messages. I couldn't afford to do that with this, so perhaps if I have a regret it's the constant interruptions, but they were necessary interruptions... suddenly it became our responsibility to keep track of people's pledges and where they were going because we had a master-list of what everybody had paid for. There was obviously a large press interest in what was happening; I was suddenly in touch with bands all over the place. Jesus Jones has been burned by this and they've been pretty vocally outspoken for a while now about Pledge... nobody was listening. Now all of a sudden everybody's listening.

How do you think this is going to affect future funding to the music business?

That's my biggest worry. With the collapse of this, and I do think it's going to collapse, I don't think they're going to come out of this and restructure and restart, I think they're going to go into bankruptcy. I could be wrong but that's my opinion. The worst crime they've committed is they have destroyed trust, and it won't just be, "Oh, I won't use Pledge again." I've no doubt there's loads of people saying, "This whole paying in advance? No, I'm not doing that anymore." Can't blame them, it would certainly make me gun-shy and that's really sad because this was a really viable new avenue in a business that's steadily shrinking on a daily basis. HMV's going out of business, record companies just don't have the pull or the power, they're not selling products like they used to because people are getting them for free − the music industry's in freefall. This platform, this method of connecting the artist directly to the fans where the fan can see how things are going, they can see the process of what they're involved in, it would be a real shame if Pledge's mismanagement leads people to stray away from the whole idea of this because it's the lifeblood for an awful lot of bands now, it's the best way for bands at my level to be able to connect with an audience that they know is out there.

So is there a happy ending to this situation, and for you in particular?

There is for me but I'm not sure what the long range game is going to be as far as Pledge and its respective platforms. It's my hope that musicians won't abandon the idea, that they will keep trying to find legitimate ways to do this. Hell, I hope Pledge does restructure; it's a good idea, but each day reveals new cracks and you find out that what seems like a sad and slightly innocent mismanagement of funds is turning into something a bit more dark and sinister. I think before all is said and done we're gonna learn a lot more about things we wish this company hadn't done. So it's a little bit on the dark side for me, but I think it's put a little bit more fire into what I'm doing − this album is going to really surprise some people. I wasn't going to do 'Myths, Legends & Lies' unless I could do the album I wanted to do, that was the whole point, that's why it took so long, and despite everything it all slotted into place. I also need to say that Pledge has damaged the very community it was there to serve, and that community basically said, "No, we're not gonna let you take us down." From all the fans that reached out, I got letters from people who pre-ordered my album on GoFundMe who didn't even know me, saw the video and said, "We don't know who you are, we've never heard your music before but we wanna make sure you make your album." I got reached out to from so many friends, the very first phone call I got the next morning was from the guys in the Ultimate Eagles asking, "How can we help? Is there a way we can structure this and run it through the company? You've been trying to make this album for years."

Various musicians offering their services, guys like Vinny Burns offering his home studio to me for free, various players coming forward and saying, "Well done, it's about time somebody stood up to these guys", and in the end the quick saviour before people got their money back was actually a gentleman I had met once or twice before, his name is Paul McManus and he's the drummer from Gun. He contacted me through my agent and said, "Tell Danny I'm going to make sure whatever the shortfall is, I've got him covered. If he can get the money back to me then great, but I want him to go ahead and make this album." It just absolutely blew me away how everybody rose up to help me out in so many different ways. And that's the community, that's who you are, that's who I many people that we see at the concerts, that's who all these people are, and we all got together and not only made sure that my album got made, but we shut down the operations of an international corporation. We are more powerful than we believe ourselves to be. Strength in numbers, as someone once said...

Fireworks Magazine Online 86: Interview with Queensrÿche


Interview by Lucy Hall

Musically innovative. Conceptual. Lyrically thought-provoking. Melodic. Powerful. Not your typical Rock band by any stretch of the imagination; this is Queensrÿche.

One of the band's many strengths has been the ability to off-set their heaviness with delicate melodic sounds. The band's 15th studio album is no exception, covering familiar territory stylistically and lyrically, which will not disappoint the faithful looking for Queensrÿche's brand of epic Progressive Rock. Fireworks sat down with vocalist Todd La Torre to talk about the long-awaited new album, 'The Verdict'.

Fireworks 86 Queensryche Interview

Can you compare your career now to when you first started out? Is there a difference in the way you approach your music?

Since I have been in Queensrÿche, we kind of write the same way together as a band. But certainly back in the day we didn't have technology to send files across the internet and share ideas, so everyone was always writing together in one room as a band. You know, a lot of bands don't really do that anymore. There are some but it seems because people live in different places you might come up with a guitar or vocal idea and then send it to Dropbox or something like that. On this album we had a mixture of both because we are touring all the time; we are together sharing and recording little ideas to start shaping songs but when we did the pre-production on the new album is when we all really kind of dissected the songs. We worked together on those ideas as a band in the studio, so that was a really great thing to have that chemistry with everybody in the same room writing. We did that on the last two albums but we did it a lot more on this record.

What would you consider the strongest outside influence on your music?

That's hard to say because everyone in the band has different listening tastes. Bass player Eddie Jackson likes all kinds of music but he brings more of the Pop side, so, he is really great with vocal melodies and things that are very memorable for melodies. Michael is more of the Hard Rock guy but really likes Pink Floyd, Zeppelin and stuff like that. Parker, our other guitar player, is more into Punk music so he brings a little element from that. My influences range from Billy Joel to Heart to Iron Maiden ... you know, a lot of the more Heavy Metal stuff. So it's just a conglomerate of all of our outside influences, I can't say that there's one main influence. We all bring our own little flavour to the songs and that's what makes them sound like Queensrÿche.

The band is known for creating thought-provoking conceptual albums that deal with such subjects as the decline of civilisation. What are you trying to open people's minds up to with your music?

It's common for us to talk about political things that are happening in this country and throughout the world; we talk about social injustices, corruption and those types of things. So instead of trying to get people to think a certain way, we really take the approach of exposing these things and letting people just think about the topic – such as what do they think about it and why do they think that way, verses leaning on a particular subject or certain way on something. We want people to think for themselves and that's kind of what has been a common thread throughout Queensrÿche's lyrical content. Those kind of topics, getting people to scratch their heads and think about some things even if they are unfavourable or uncomfortable. There are some people who do not want to talk about these issues so we are able to kind of do that through our music.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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The band has always been experimental, with some of your early material sampling keyboards and dabbling in electronic sounds. One of my favourite singles was from the 'Rage for Order' album, the cover song, 'Gonna Get Close To You', which sounds like it could have easily fit into a horror movie soundtrack, having a John Carpenter vibe. What are your thoughts on the band's early musical direction compared to now?

That's a good question! I think that definitely, as with any band, you do hear some experimentation. You know, bands are trying to find their sound so you do hear that process happening in the first few records. I think that most of the guys in the band have always said that they felt that they started to really get their sound on the 'Rage for Order' album. I think the first four albums were probably the fans' favourite albums, then 'Promised Land' was the fifth album and that was also well received. After that I think the music took a different direction, so the last six or seven years, I think, have gone back to more of the band's roots. You can hear some of those experimental elements happening in our music today, it's gone a little more back to the heavy Hard Rock and heavy melodic element that the band is known for. I'm a big fan of the earlier albums and things are really good with the direction that the band is going now.

Is this album a continuation or reaction to your last?

Conceptually, no, but musically it feels like the logical progression from the last album as far as evolving; the songwriting has evolved in certain ways conceptually. We had that common thread of dealing with social issues I talked about but it is its own separate album. It is not a continuation of the last one but it is the logical progression for what we're doing creatively.

In terms of sound, what did you hope to accomplish this time around?

We wanted to have a few faster-paced songs on this record. We wanted to have some more progressive elements, maybe a little heavier than the last record. Which, I think it definitely is but we still have that diversity. There are still some slow, pretty things happening on this album. So it's not just a straight forward Heavy Metal or Hard Rock record. It definitely has the diversity Queensrÿche has been known for.

What track on the album are you most excited about, or is there a song on the album that best expresses how you feel at this point in your life?

I got a few favourites, one of them is a song called 'Light Years' that I think people are really going to like, it's a very interesting song. The last track on the record called 'Portrait' is a slow, melancholy kind of song and shows a very different side musically to the rest of the album. I think that this album is a good contender to be rated amongst the first five records. I think it belongs somewhere alongside those albums.

Any upcoming tour plans to support the album?

Yes, we will be starting a tour and we have the band Fates Warning as support for a month. That will start the beginning of March and will be a month tour and then we will be heading to Europe. July 25th is our first show in Europe and we will be there through August 18th.

One can appreciate 'The Verdict' on musical quality alone, but for its full impact listen to the evocative lyrics and open your mind for interpretation. Although the album has some classic elements consistent with the band's musical heritage, it is also very much an album for 2019, and is a must for Queensrÿche fanatics and novices alike.

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