Fireworks Magazine

Fireworks Magazine Online 77 - Interview with Accept

ACCEPT - Still Restless And Wild: An interview with Wolf Hoffmann

Interview by Steven Reid

Few could have predicted the huge success that greeted the return of German Metal masters Accept, the veteran genre leaders riding the crest of a wave since their 2010 comeback album 'Blood Of Nations'. With their most recent release, 'Blind Rage', reaching the top of the charts in their homeland – the band's first to gain that honour – and a stunning live bluray/DVD/CD release set to start 2017 in impressive style, guitarist Wolf Hoffman settles down with Fireworks to give an honest and open account of his band's many years and counting.


Accept

"There are some things in Accept that have never changed, even since I joined the band when I was 16 years old, and that format is the foundation of everything regarding Accept," Wolf begins, candidly assessing why his band are having greater success than ever since their 2010 resurrection. "Without a song you don't have much, no matter who is performing it. It is pretty obvious that we as artists need to be bold and sometimes take risks. Sometimes you lose your way and other times you find your core. I believe there is a special chemistry between us that has, in its various forms, survived all winds and weathers coming our way!" However it's the awareness the guitarist shows towards his fans' desires that maybe explains that phenomenon best. "Diversity without change is probably the hardest thing," he continues. "We have certain cornerstones we want to hold on to. If you follow our songwriting it is easy to see what we are trying to do."

With the band parting for a second time with singer Udo Dirkschneider nearly twenty years ago (barring a brief get together in 2005) and the memory of a failed, if misunderstood and under appreciated attempt to replace him the first time around, it's little surprise that Wolf is honest enough to admit he and his band mates were surprised by just how enthusiastically their third singer, Mark Tornillo, has been welcomed into the fold. "Of course!" He says with a mixture of shock and pride, "we were floored. None of us expected that. We hoped for it, but the chances were really slim... and yet it happened." Although in the founder member's assessment, the reasons couldn't be more obvious. "His voice and our music is just a perfect match, it is that simple and the fans – old ones and new ones – get it. We just look at each other and say: 'MISSION ACCOMPLISHED'. It fits like a glove and we grew as a team with Andy Sneap, who has a very clear vision of us, and who pretty much operates on our wavelength all of the time. To have a producer working with us for so long now [since 'Blood Of Nations'], is a pretty sure sign that we are walking side by side with one goal in front of us; to be better each time than the last. According to the record sales and publicity, online presence and touring, I feel very confident that we are doing something right!" Something that was proved by that #1 spot in the German album charts for 'Blind Rage'. One can only presume it was a proud moment for Accept? "Yes, heavenly and very, very rewarding!" Wolf confirms. "We were the last ones to believe that it was true – but it is and we enjoyed every minute of it. We have always felt that the next album has got to be more challenging than the last one... sometimes that works and sometimes perhaps it doesn't. There is an urgency in me, which is always pushing and pushing. I am lucky because Peter [Baltes, the bassist who has been with Wolf in Accept since 1976] is right there with me. Our waves, as always, are similar, crashing at the same time and waning at the same time."

Although surely this turn of events was unthinkable after the band's 2005 reformation floundered after a string of well received festival shows failed to go any further? "'Slipping away' has never crossed our minds," Wolf says, before further justifying that comment with a slice of realism. "The long break we had showed us just how fast things can change and life shattering events occur. I guess it is more our addiction to the sea of happy faces, to hearing the fans singing along. We can't let that go and we can't be without it for long. It took us a while to admit it... we NEED our fix... every night, everywhere." Although with the departure in recent times of two men who have helped make the band's resurgence so complete, it's not an addiction Herman Frank or Stefan Schwarzmann will continue to share. "If you look at our situation in 2010, it is easy to understand," Wolf says, explaining the exit of the guitarist and drummer. "All of us had a career going prior to reforming and none of us had a clue if we would be doing more than one album and one tour...ever! So we were looking for musicians who have their own career, their own life and interests. From the beginning it was agreed that everybody would be staying with Accept ONLY as long as they wanted to, and that we would all be supportive if they wanted to return to their own path. It was good for them to be with us, we took them around the world, several times, but they are ambitious and talented musicians who have had their own dreams for decades. When Panzer came along the opportunity was there and we supported them from the get go. Anybody who knows Accept knows who the heart of Accept has been, and due to all of the reasons that I have mentioned and some more, it made it pretty natural that one day they would leave. The fact that we live in America and they live in Germany has not really helped... not in the 80s, 90s or 2000s," he adds also alluding to previous inter-band issues over the years.

So what of the new blood of nations in the band, drummer Christopher Williams and Grave Digger and Rebellion guitarist Uwe Lulis? "Nashville is full of talent," Wolf enthuses, detailing how the band teamed up with American drummer, Williams, "more than anywhere else on the planet, but Metal drummers are hard to find among them. We knew him for a while and he totally surprised us, and maybe himself as well, because there was not much 'testing' or 'growing together', no time wasted. Just like with Mark, it happened and it is hard to recall... have we not always been together? No? Really? Ok... let's go!" But surely it was more difficult than that for Wolf to click in so tightly with a new guitar partner? It would appear not! "How quickly it's come together could almost be seen as a sheer accident, nothing that we could have foreseen. He grabbed a guitar and followed my playing. 'Darn, Uwe', I said, 'you FIT! Let's try it.'" So does that instant chemistry mean Wolf's new six-string partner will become part of the legendary Hoffman/Baltes writing team? "Look," the guitarist says warily, "every musician is bringing something to the table and we've found a formula that works so very well for us, for over three decades. Never change a winning team, right? We have a great situation right now, everybody has found their place and their purpose in Accept and is fully embracing it. There are many levels of involvement and the most important is that it works for us! And it does!"

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If any proof was needed that Wolf's assertions are correct, then the band's forthcoming live blu-ray/DVD-CD release,'Restless & Live' undoubtedly provides it, although even he was surprised at just how well this superb release has come together. "We are amazed at how the band comes across. It is proof that the chemistry of five people, who come together to Rock, is something that one can feel, touch and hear!" However, even with that chemistry it's worth highlighting just how impressive Mark Tornillo is on stage, absolutely owning the early Accept tracks with the same conviction he delivers the songs he had a hand in creating. "I could not agree more," Wolf confirms, clearly impressed by his bandmate. "He has his own way of reaching out to the audience and making them very comfortable, and his voice is just right. No secrets...it just works." And that the new and old songs come together to make such a killer set isn't something the expert songwriter feels is surprise. "How I see it is that there are two situations; in a studio and on the stage, and they are not the same. Accept has mostly been able to spark a fire on stage, something made easier if you have songs which sound familiar and are easy to sing along with. We have some typically Accept style elements that we groom and cherish and want to keep, because it feels right... and when it feels right, then it is!"

'Restless & Live' beautifully captures the intense majesty of Accept's 2015 headline show at Bang Your Head festival. However with the visual and aural document not due to hit the shelves until early in 2017, it begs the question why it's taken so long for the band to let their worldwide fans experience this awesome show? "Oh, that was a chain of unintended circumstances," Wolf says honestly. "First was that we were very busy when diving in to it and second, we needed a bit of convincing to finally release it." Something that when you witness 'Restless & Live' is hard to understand. "Actually, we have to thank the director and editor Bernard Baran for that, he made us look at the first edited song. 'Not bad' was our first reaction, and then we realised it had been only the fourth or fifth show with Christopher and Uwe! Bernard was right, that was pretty cool. He would not give up trying to convince us... this baby had to be pushed out!" Especially when Wolf explains just how much of a thrill it was closing the show at their homeland festival. "We loved it and talk about a high, when fans are singing your songs, that is a major high!" When asked for his final thoughts on 'Restless & Live' Wolf again defers to the real people behind Accept, the fans. "We are pretty happy with it despite the fact that I am a terribly critical person. I always find something about my performance... mostly. But, I like to leave the verdict to our fans. They know better than we do where we stand with 'Restless & Live'."

As is so often the case for band members who have parted ways, as one releases an album, so the other seems to do likewise. In this case the coincidence goes a little further, the band's original frontman, Udo Dirkschneider having just released 'Live - Back To The Roots', a live release showcasing twenty five Accept tracks sung by the long departed original voice of the band. For the first time Wolf isn't quite so keen to take up the subject... "We do not talk about other artists," he says firmly. "The only thing we care is about our performance, our releases and our fans. There is always someone who is releasing whatever, whenever.... you can't avoid this. As I've mentioned so many times, we are where we want to be musically and performance wise and that is all we could hope for and all we can achieve. We are enjoying the best phase ever in the band and seem to be doing better with every album that we release, which has been our goal from 2010 onwards."

As if the opportunity to experience the live prowess of Accept in the comfort of your own home wasn't enough, the band will also be hitting the road in Europe with Sabaton and Twilight Force from January 6th, with dates in the UK around the middle of that month. It must be something the band are looking forward to? "Very much," the guitarists states, much more enthusiastic about this topic for discussion. "First of all we wanted to do our part to support a band which is a poster child of how to conduct business. Sabaton have an amazing organisation and of course, they have, like we all have, fans who love them and others who don't, which is very normal. But what is not normal is the way they conduct their business, their involvement in their career is exemplary. We just want to shine a little light on that fact. Secondly, we have not been on tour for a while, which is very un-cool for us. We cannot wait to get back on the road. The Sabaton tour gives us a great platform where everything is already there. We just want to rock, 60 minutes rocking our socks off... then, getting ready for an album release in 2017, followed by touring ... extended touring! We do the Sabaton tour for fun... and we expect a lot of fun! After that, our machine is still oiled and ready for the next level of the Accept craze!" So does that mean the next studio album is imminent? As Fireworks ends its time with Wolf Hoffmann, for the first time the Accept legend is ever so slightly coy in his answer... "This is the best kept secret! In due time we will make an announcement, but we need all our fans to cross their fingers, because 'Blind Rage' is a tough act to follow."


Accept's brand new DVD/live album 'Restless And Live' will be released on 13th January via Nuclear Blast.
They will be touring the UK and Ireland in January 2017.
They are currently working on new material.

Fireworks Magazine Online 77 - Interview with FM

FM: An interview with Merv Goldsworthy

Interview by Caesar Barton


2016 marks the thirtieth anniversary of FM's debut 'Indiscreet', an album best known for its enduring singles 'That Girl', 'Frozen Heart' and 'American Girls', but also home to equally superb deeper cuts such as 'Other Side Of Midnight' and 'Face To Face'.
Never really completely happy with the original 1986 production, the current FM line-up took time out during pre-production of their forthcoming new album to re-record their debut in its entirety and have just released it, complete with an additional seven bonus tracks, as the appropriately titled 'Indiscreet 30'. A founding member of FM, bassist Merv Goldsworthy chats with Fireworks about recording in Ibiza, borrowing Phil Lynott's bass, and his love of playing five-a-side football, come rain, shine... or snow!


FM

I've had 'Indiscreet 30' for several weeks now, and the best analogy I can come up with is that it's akin to meeting your attractive girlfriend's near-identical twin sister: familiar, yet intriguingly different...

[chuckles] It was for purely selfish reasons that we've re-recorded 'Indiscreet', as when it came to [second album] 'Tough It Out' we had the production budget firmly in place and felt that we'd got it right on that record; we'd only been together for four months prior to recording 'Indiscreet' and we felt that we didn't make it the way that we really should have. It was started in Ibiza, some of it was done in Surrey, some in Chipping Norton. I remember us going to lots of different studios and scrapping it, then starting it anew, then remixing it, and by the time we were finished it was just a case of "get the bloody thing out!" We've looked back on that experience ever since and I'm not sure we've ever been totally happy with it.

As a fan, I've personally never found 'Indiscreet's production too bad – particularly when listening to the 2012 Rock Candy remaster by Andy Pearce. Granted, it was never going to give Mutt Lange sleepless nights, but it's almost become de rigueur amongst commentators to say that the original is poor sounding.

That's why 'Indiscreet 30' doesn't sound massively different, we were happy with the songwriting for example – it's just the way that it was originally executed and recorded. That said, we understand why people love 'Indiscreet' in its original form; I feel the same way about say Thin Lizzy's 'Jail Break', it's not their best produced album but that doesn't mean I like the songs on it any less.

So does 'Indiscreet 30' feel to you like taking care of unfinished business?

Yes, I think that's it. We've played the album in its entirety enough times, so we knew the songs thoroughly and we didn't want to do another DVD so we just thought, "let's just give it a go and see what happens." We knew as soon as we started recording it that this is how it's supposed to sound.
We're not trying to spoil the original for anybody – it was just such an easy process to re-record it.

The way I view 'Indiscreet 30' is as a companion piece to the original, designed to compliment rather than replace.

Yeah, that's a good way of looking at it.

Your bass certainly sounds more prominent on the new recordings.

Yes, it's more even across all of the tracks as it was all recorded during the same session this time. The original sessions were recorded in four different locations over the course of two years and on lots of different basses, whereas this time it was done on the one bass. We didn't want to change 'Indiscreet' too much, we just wanted a nice, crisp production. Anyway, it's done now – we won't be re-recording 'Tough It Out' though, I can guarantee you!

You don't need too, it's peerless in the FM catalogue! You play a five string bass these days, perhaps that's partly responsible for the difference?

Yes, five string basses weren't around in the 'Indiscreet' days, in fact I used Phil Lynott's Ibanez bass for much of those recording sessions. Gear was thin on the ground back then and he was kind enough to lend it to me – you can hear me playing Phil's bass on the original versions of 'Other Side Of Midnight' and 'That Girl'.

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On all of the re-recordings, Steve [Overland, FM vocalist] sounds as wonderful as ever.

Yes, he's always had that great voice; it's such a joy to share a stage with Steve. It's weird you know, I've heard him sing 'That Girl' a million times but every single time I just think, "wow, that's better than he's ever sung it before!"

Lets move onto the additional bonus material on 'Indiscreet 30'. The previously unreleased track 'Running On Empty' has a delicious bass-driven mid-tempo vibe about it.

Yes, it's like 'Hollywood Nights'. That song was left over from the 'Heroes And Villains' sessions. Regarding the bonus tracks on 'Indiscreet 30', we wanted to give our fans as much rare and requested out-of-print material as we could fit onto one disc – I think there's just forty-five seconds spare!

'Love And Hate' made only the double vinyl release of 'Heroes And Villains', and not the CD or MP3 formats.

Yes, it's a bit dark for us! We weren't entirely sure about it for the standard release but it's one of those songs that fans were requesting, and so we've responded by making it more widely available.

'Bad That's Good In You' originally appeared on the 'Futurama' EP; the version on 'Indiscreet 30' sounds like an alternate mix featuring the keyboard embellishments of Jem Davis more prominently. I liked the original – this take sounds even better.

You called it exactly right, that's the story with that particular song. Steve wasn't completely happy with the version of 'Bad That's Good In You' on the 'Futurama' EP, so parts were added and it was remixed.

I would personally define FM as a cult band, as unlike your 80s peers Def Leppard and Bon Jovi, where everybody knows some of their songs, those who know FM really know FM – how does that feel to you as a founding member of the band?

Some of our fans we've known most of their lives! You know, we hadn't performed in Italy, Spain or Greece back in the original days of the band and so it seems strange that we have these fans in places we'd never been to. We're never really bothered about the size of the venue as long as it's full and you've got that special energy.

You recorded 'Indiscreet 30' during the sessions for the new FM album, what can you tell Fireworks readers about that one?

We've done six backing tracks which we've put the guitars on so far and we're hoping to have it done by Spring. Jim's brought in a song that has a 'Digging Up the Dirt' vibe, and we have a couple of more AOR-style songs in the works too.

Merv, it's been a pleasure. Finally, tell Fireworks readers something about yourself that they're unlikely to know about you?

Well, at fifty-seven I still get as much pleasure playing five-a-side football as I do playing gigs. Outside of the band that's my one constant: pouring rain, snow, whatever – I'll happily play a game!

Fireworks Magazine Online 76 - Interview with Marillion

MARILLION: F*** Everyone And Run...

Interview by Steven Reid

It's not often that the announcement of a new album by a long established act causes internet meltdown. However that's exactly what happens when you 'Fuck Everyone And Run' as Marillion have for their eighteenth studio release*. Hit their PledgeMusic page and you'll discover the factions of those aghast and those in full support of a band known for subtle beauty, suddenly plastering an expletive on a sparse, yet striking album cover. Doubtless it will go on to be known by its boldly emblazoned acronym, 'F.E.A.R.', however as you'd expect from Marillion, the naming of what is undoubtedly a landmark release in their amazingly consistent catalogue is no gimmick or headline grabbing gag. Instead it is a heartfelt comment on the human condition and the condition of the human race. Fireworks literally caught up with these men on the run – a relay race if you will. Under starter's orders, keyboard player Mark Kelly...


Marillion

"h," by which Mark means singer Steve Hogarth, "came up with many of the lyrics long before the current crisis that is happening. Much of what he says was inspired by the events of 2007-8 and the financial crash. He rightly predicted that something else was coming that could be worse than we've seen so far. With the rise of ISIS and the various terrorist threats around the world, Brexit and the scary possibility of Trump becoming the next president of the USA it's obvious to everyone that we are living in unusual and scary times. While the main theme of the album could be called gloomy there is plenty of uplifting music and in the end raising awareness may spur people to action so that something positive could come from what we are doing." Weighty themes as these undoubtedly are, deserve weighty music and Mark agrees. "I think the length of the songs are a result of the length of the lyrics. It's hard to tackle the subject matter on this album in three minute songs..."

In the case of 'F.E.A.R.', as Mark explains, it's no surprise to find that the same attention to detail has gone into the whole experience for band and fans. "I always believed that the best albums are an artistic statement. In our case we have, for the first time, created music and visuals side by side. The movies to accompany the music were created by Simon Ward and Mark Kennedy and Simon drew from the resulting videos to create most of the artwork for the book, CD cover and packaging. As we are using projected movies more and more live it seemed like a logical step to combine the making of the album with the live visuals." So what of that stark, bold album cover? "The gold represents the banks, big money and it's corrupting influence on democracy. Gold has always been the "currency" of choice for criminals and where people put their money when things are going bad. The hallmarks fit really well with the idea of the album being abbreviated to 'F.E.A.R.' The 18 and U in the "A" hallmark are a reference to AU being the atomic symbol for gold and 18 being a common purity stamp, as in 18 carat but it's also our 18th album. The 'UN' I'm not sure about except it obviously completes the word 'run'". And run we must, as Mark passes the baton on to Ian Mosley who immediately picks up from where his band-mate left off...

"The 'UN' can also be interpreted as the United Nations," the drummer begins confirming a suspicion many have held as they ponder Marillion steadily becoming more overtly political. Although what has maybe been more surprising for a band known for leading the 'DIY' fan funded ethos was their involvement with the ever more influential PledgeMusic for 'F.E.A.R.'. "We had simply decided that we were a victim of our own success and that the pre-order campaigns had got too big for us to handle on our own," Ian says honestly. "So we decided to work with PledgeMusic to help make the whole thing smoother. We are still totally in control, PledgeMusic did nothing without running it past us and our organisation, but on a day-to-day basis it has freed up some time for our staff to work on other things." As the band's elder statesman prepares to complete his leg of the 'run', Fireworks asks him how integral to 'F.E.A.R.' producer Mike Hunter is. After all it's he who spends days sifting through the band's hours and hours of 'jams' to unearth the golden moments that make the album with the golden cover. "Mike takes all of the jams and sifts through the lot. He usually presents us with maybe 20 jams and asks the band to pick out their favourites. We will then go back into the studio and learn those jams and elaborate upon them. This process can take months and months but we do have 100 percent trust in Mike. As we try and put these ideas into song arrangement, h is trying to match the lyrical content to the feel of the music."

Clearly listening in as he begins his stint in the spotlight, guitarist Steve Rothery picks up the theme and expands on the trust between band and producer. "The next stage after the initial jams take place is for the ideas to be uploaded to our private soundcloud account where we all vote on our favourite ideas of the hundreds that are uploaded. Once we have enough ideas that we all love we start the arrangement process with Mike. Sometimes I'll get an idea for a guitar part or section which is then slotted in to the arrangement. The final stage is very much up to Mike although we do change sections if we're not happy with how the structure feels."

Lyrically 'F.E.A.R.' may well be the band's darkest album to date. However what makes it such a cohesive, impactful piece is the manner in which those words are blended with a mix of beautiful, fragile, forceful, bullish, and yes, dark music. "The way the music and lyrics have evolved in this album makes it quite unique." the man with the unmistakable guitar sound reveals. "We usually write music ideas spontaneously, I'll often improvise melodies over Mark's chord sequences, which Mike has occasionally incorporated into the structure of the track. The way h has then further developed his vocal melodies and lyrical concepts has given us something truly magical. It will be a very hard album to follow. The music really has an independent life, we don't usually have the lyrics in mind as we're writing but as the tracks develop you can't imagine hearing them any other way. One exception was the acoustic guitar intro for 'El Dorado' which I wrote specifically to fit the mood of the words." But what of the actual lyric that the album takes it name from? Surprisingly for such a harsh comment on the modern world, it is one of the most tender, fragile moments on 'F.E.A.R.'; almost like a sad realisation of what the world has come to; possibly even a resigned, every man for himself. "Absolutely, I think the quite fragile vocal delivery adds a lot of poignancy to the message in the lyrics," Steve adds as a parting shot, allowing the fourth team member in this five-leg relay to expand...

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"That is exactly the point we were trying to make," the man of four strings, Pete Trewavas, confirms. "The integrity and fair play we expect from our institutions is being eroded and what you could call underhand practices become the norm. It's a much easier decision to make, closing half a dozen factories or selling off a household brand name for peanuts, while looking at a computer screen. But that sadly is the world we live in," he adds with heavy heart. "The album title itself comes from the choruses of the first section of 'The New Kings', which is sung in sadness while," confirming the thought process Kelly alluded to earlier, "reflecting on the state of our institutions, governments and banking systems and the way they become compromised by big money and big multi-national industries. There were reservations about using this as the title but it fitted in perfectly with the feel of two of the main tracks 'The New Kings' and 'El Dorado'. It also is very relevant to the state of the world we live in at the moment." In truth, those reservations were well placed, a section of the band's fiercely loyal fan-base having real trouble accepting such a brazen, forceful name. "Well it's true to say that it is a bold statement and they do tend to polarise people's views," Pete states, alluding to the short video message they recorded to allay their fans' fears. "We were aware that a title like this could have a strong effect, which is why an explanation leading to a greater understanding of our thinking behind it was thought to be a good idea."

Having dealt with the averted negatives, let's dwell on the hugely outweighing positives, the largest of which being the whole band's insistence that they may just have come up with something that tops all of their already lauded catalogue of work. "It's been quite a journey we've been on," the bassist elaborates, barely concealing his enthusiasm as he builds up to a bold, but well placed statement. "Towards the end of the arranging process we decided to return to Real World Studios and one by one it dawned on us that we had probably done our best work to date. We all felt that way and there was a tentative moment when we started mentioning this to each other and talking about it. We all agreed on this, which was fantastic. Then we started wondering if anyone else would get it and feel the same way," he adds, voicing the thoughts every artist must have on 'birthing their baby'. But where has this collective feeling come from? "A lot has to do with us knowing that we are getting older and if we're going to make an album, let's make it count. In fact it was our producer Mike Hunter who drew our attention to the fact. The phrase he used was 'believable'. He wanted everything musically and lyrically to be our best work. Not that we don't always strive for that with every record but he made us think about the fact. It made us more picky and strangely gave us a feeling we could discard anything in search of something better."

And with such earnest and honest thoughts bringing the bass leg to an end, it falls to the band's enigmatic singer, h, to begin the final stretch of this 'Fuck Everyone And Run'. "The only danger is to come across as either naive or insincere," he begins when asked if tackling such important, universal topics in this album's lyrics had been daunting. "I hope neither is the case, although I am certain of my sincerity." And with such detailed, thought provoking lyrics throughout the album, it feels only right to let their source go into detail. "'El Dorado' is an attempt to verbalise a feeling of foreboding," he begins, describing the first of the album's three multi-part epics. "A feeling that a perfect storm is approaching England. A financial, cultural and ecological sea-change. I have felt this for some time and this lyric has been around in various forms for several years. 'El Dorado' also deals with my own sense of shame over British foreign policy and our response – or lack of – to the refugee crisis. I used to be quietly proud of being English. After Iraq I completely lost faith and since then, I'm increasingly cynical of every British institution. Even my beloved BBC worries me now. They've all got agendas."

It's a theme, as h explains, 'The New Kings', the second of the album's epics expands upon. "It's the sister song to 'El Dorado', focusing more on how big money is compromising our democracies, the increasing gap between rich and poor globally, the behaviour of the banks, the Oligarchs, and again, a loss of faith in England and what I once thought it and we stood for."

Whereas the third epic piece, 'The Leavers', "Is about the process of touring. I wrote it as much for our crew as for the band. The constant movement, the endless waving goodbye, the dislocation of life and the corrosive effect on 'normal' relationships. An enviable lifestyle but, like everything, there's a down side. What travel has taught me is that 1: There is no correlation between happiness and money - some of the happiest people I have seen have been dirt-poor, while the most miserable are usually driving very nice cars. 2: We – human beings – are more or less the same. We have the same wants and needs and yet we feel the instinctive need to view ourselves as different, or to form into "like-minded" enclaves. Ultimately, this is a gang instinct and we all know where gang-culture gets us: divisive immature and ignorant points of view which tend to lead to an early grave. Unfortunately whether in its nationalistic, racist or religious forms, gang culture seems to be prevalent in the world. The more I have travelled, the more I have seen the folly of this."

However, for all the three longer pieces on 'F.E.A.R.' build the foundation for 'Fuck Everyone And Run' to be considered one of Marillion's crowning achievements, it is a shorter, dare we say 'simpler' track that caused h most heartache and incites the listener's deepest thoughts. "I rewrote 'White Paper' many times and it caused me many sleepless nights. There was more I wanted to say but when I tried, it unbalanced the song so I had to leave it. I hope it remains specific enough to move the listener but I also wanted it to retain a mythical feeling. Ultimately, it's simply about facets of family life and getting old. Then I discovered a 1000 year old sanskrit love poem called 'Black Marigolds' which influenced the choice of words also. And then David Bowie died and I was singing the vocal in the studio, still feeling raw about that and conscious of Bowie's incredible contribution to art and music." And with that h and Marillion dip for the line, the strange mix of disillusionment with the world that meets them at every turn tempered by the adulation that only the fiercest, most loyal fans can provide. The only 'F.E.A.R.' being that with 'Fuck Everyone And Run', these veterans may have set themselves a personal best they may never better.


* Marillion - 'F.E.A.R.' - click HERE to read the album review

Fireworks Magazine Online 77 - Interview with Pride Of Lions

PRIDE OF LIONS - an interview with Jim Peterik

Interview by Alan Holloway

Jim Peterik is a legend. It's a word thrown about a lot but this guy has a career spanning five decades that has given us a plethora of amazing songs from Vehicle and Survivor to his Pride Of Lions albums. The latter, a collaboration with vocalist Toby Hitchcock, is about to return with new album 'Fearless' (reviewed this issue). Amazing Peterik has managed to improve on their previous albums and bring back what could be termed the 'classic Survivor' sound. Here at Fireworks it's been on constant rotation, so we had to ask Jim a few questions.


Pride-Of-Lions


I've been listening to the new Pride Of Lions album and have to say I think it's the best one so far.

This is so great to hear! We were feeling that way but you really never know until the people have spoken.

For me I'd say it brings to mind the best of both 'Vital Signs' and 'When Seconds Count'. Would you say this is a fair assessment?

I didn't consciously set out to tap into any particular era of my songs but I did want to make the songs as accessible as possible, which to me meant to forego some of the more complex chord progressions and modulations of some of the Pride Of Lions albums and make the lyrics as simple but meaningful as possible.

Obviously you are most known from your Survivor days. Have you deliberately tried to hearken back to those days or is it simply the way you write anyway?

I can tap into practically any musical style because I am a fan of so many types of music, from Hard Rock to Southern Rock to Smooth Jazz, but my heart is really in Melodic Rock. I find the most expression there because I'm able to express big emotions and big melodies which to me are the two biggest elements of Melodic Rock.

The album is stuffed full of joyous, upbeat tracks, a real celebration of life. What were your intentions when you started to craft the songs in your mind?

Escape! Haha. Sometimes I write my most joyful songs when I'm going through the most trying of times. Without going into specifics, it's been a difficult year for me. I've had to lean on my family and my music more than ever to help me through it. I think positive songs can be a salve for the human spirit. On the first Pride Of Lions album I was also going through some heavy stuff and a very uplifting album came out of it. My songs have always been my best counsellor. Of course, the upcoming birth of my first grandchild did so much to inspire me.

It certainly starts with a real uptempo track in 'All I See Is You'. In these days of downloading and being able to just randomise music do you still take care in the running order of an album?

I had some sage council with a couple of friends - Paul Braun, my Facebook guru, and Jeremy Holiday. They still value the type of ebb and flow of the old two sided vinyl disc. They helped me fashion a song cycle that really works. Ironically after we sequenced it, Frontiers announced they would also be issuing a vinyl version of 'Fearless'. I just reconditioned my old turntable so I'm ready!

For me, it really comes alive with the third track, 'In Caricature'. As with several other tracks I can really hear Jimi Jamison singing it, and that's no criticism of Toby Hitchcock. Do you still hear his voice in your head when you write the songs?

Yes, Jimi is still the gold standard to me. I feel so blessed to have found a singer and human being as great as Toby Hitchcock but I still reference Jimi's voice when I'm writing a new song. If I can imagine Jimi singing it, then it passes. Then Toby comes in and makes it his own.

Speaking of Toby, his vocals on this album are, to me, the best they have been.

He's a beast. He never gets hoarse and his work ethic is unparalleled. He came to Chicago in September and knocked out all twelve tracks in two days. He was that well prepared and in that good a shape. He doesn't drink or smoke and has been working out; maybe that's why his vocal cords sound that good.

I have to say the production really works well on this album as well, it sounds superb and so well balanced. I suppose the best word is simply "BIG".

Big is good, haha! Back in 1979 I was riding in producer Ron Nevison's Rolls Royce the very day he signed on to produce Survivor's debut album. I asked him, "So what kind of sound do you envision for Survivor?" He thought for a moment then said, "BIG". So I've always strived for that. I feel that my engineer and fellow Ide of March has reached a new pinnacle in sounds and balance – especially drum sounds and my purchase of a new ADK 251 Telefunken clone mic really captured Toby and my voice to a tee.

What is your personal favourite, or favourites from the album?

It's like trying to choose your favourite child! Very tough – I'm loyal to them all, haha! But ya know, it's often the easiest songs to write that become the most popular. In this case, 'All I See Is You'. I took this song for granted until Toby came to town and said that it was his favourite track. I say "Really?" Ha! Now that it's finished and the video nearly done, I can say it's one of my faves too. The idea came to me watching Beyonce at the Superbowl at half-time. Some people just have that X factor. Michael Jackson had it, Elvis had it – your eye can't go anywhere else! I also love 'Silent Music', which really sets a romantic mood. I love 'Fearless' because it taps into my motivational goals: take the highest ground, stand and fight, you gotta be harder, you gotta be tougher, you gotta be...Fearless! This speaks directly to anyone who has a challenge in his or her life, be it a human rival or a disease such as cancer – you gotta stand up to it and say, "'Bring it on!"

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music


You've been at this Rock and Roll thing for nigh on fifty years now, what keeps you going?

The love of great songs keep me going. When I was growing up it was Elvis Presley, the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, The Beatles, the Beach Boys. Just to be a junior member of that club makes me very proud. The stories people tell me of how a song that I was a part of, such as 'Eye Of The Tiger', helped them through a rough patch or that they were married to 'The Search is Over', or lost their virginity to 'Vehicle'....hahaha! That is my true reward.

You've written songs for many other people, including Sammy Hagar and REO Speedwagon. Are there any memorable collaborations?

I think the songs I wrote with 38 Special will stand the test of time. There is a little bit of wisdom in 'Hold On Loosely' that resonates with people. I had a blast writing with Don and Jeff. I also loved writing with Sammy Hagar. In one crazed afternoon in 1981 we wrote 'Heavy Metal' and 'All Roads Leading Me Back To You'! Kevin Cronin is a great friend and collaborator, also the great Brian Wilson. 'That's Why God Made The Radio' by the Beach Boys is one of my biggest hits in recent years, reaching #3 on Billboard.

I also interview Joe Vana in this issue and he values your friendship very highly. Do you enjoy mentoring young talent?

I value his friendship as well. I've known him since he was a neighbourhood kid on his bicycle knocking on my front door in my suburban home. I'd play him the latest mixes I had just received including an early acetate of 'The Search Is Over'! I was very involved in the first Mecca album and am very proud of that one which includes not only Joe's distinctive vocals and co-writes but also some great performances by the late great Fergie Frederiksen as well.

How was it co-writing the 'Songwriting For Dummies' book? Do you feel it was a success in that it works as a guide?

I think it has served its purpose well judging by the reports I've gotten through the years. I am hoping to do Volume 3 in the near future to share my latest insights into the wonderful world of song-writing!

Of course, there's also your autobiography, 'Through The Eye Of The Tiger', which I confess I haven't read. How long did that take you to do and could you have done it without co-author Lisa Torem's help?

It took about a year to write and a lifetime to live. I couldn't have written it any sooner as I had to gain the right perspective on my life. Lisa Torem was there from the beginning, guiding me. Though I didn't end up using the text of the interviews she did with me, just talking it through helped me put my own thoughts into order and it became much easier to put it into written word. Her suggestions were always right on the mark and greatly appreciated.

How did it feel, dredging through your memories to get it all down on paper?

Some of it was very painful...reliving my father's fatal heart attack and my sister's early death. Also some of the struggles for dominance and direction within Survivor were difficult to re-live.

Looking back on your musical life are there a few instances where you think 'That was as good as it could ever get'?

There have been many of those moments, I am fortunate to say. Playing to a packed Chicago Theater when the Beach Boys premiered 'That's Why God Made The Radio', getting a standing ovation after every song when the Ides Of March opened for Led Zeppelin in Winnipeg for 30,000 people, the roar of the crowd every time Survivor would launch into 'Eye Of The Tiger', when I heard the final playback of 'I Can't Hold Back'. Really, too many epic moments to count.

Finally, the album is out in January through Frontiers. Is there a chance that we might see you and Toby bringing the songs to a stage in the UK?

We are premiering songs from 'Fearless' in January in Chicago as part of my World Stage show. I will also be performing an unplugged set in Milan in April as a part of the next Frontiers Rock festival. My agent is now working on support dates for me and Toby. We loved playing England last year and feel there is a real market for Pride Of Lions, and we believe 'Fearless' is the album to break us wide open finally, after five albums and counting!

Fireworks Magazine Online 76 - Interview with Tyketto

TYKETTO

Interview by Ant Heeks

In 1991 New York's Tyketto released their debut album 'Don't Come Easy', an album that is rightly regarded as a classic within the Melodic Rock genre. 25 years later the band are stronger than ever, playing to ever larger audiences on each subsequent tour since their reformation in 2004, while also becoming a regular addition to the Festival circuit, including the Monsters Of Rock cruises. The amazing new album 'Reach'* is their first with the revamped line-up that sees original members Danny Vaughn (vocals) and Michael Clayton Arbeeny (drums) joined by the English trio of guitarist Chris Green, keyboardist Ged Rylands and bassist Chris Childs. With our very own Ant Heeks one of the first people outside of the band and Record Label to hear the album, Fireworks got in touch with Danny Vaughn to get the vocalist's initial views on the best thing to bear the Tyketto name since that mighty debut...


Tyketto

After you had just completed the recording, some of you took to social media to express your excitement about the album, even proclaiming that it could be the best thing you've ever recorded. Now that initial euphoria has died down, do you still feel the same way?

Yeah, there's no doubt! There's this crazy love affair going on where everything in the last two years of this band has been guided by really benign fates that's been helping us. And that goes from Brooke (St. James, original guitarist) not wanting to do this anymore. Do we want to keep doing this? Well, yeah, we really do! Right, guitar players... then Danny says "I know a guy!" So we get talking, and Chris Green slips into place so beautifully, and it's not just that he's a remarkable guitarist but it's also who he is and how he relates to us. Then Jimi Kennedy's life gets a little more complicated and he's not able to come over to Europe anymore and do tours, and wow, that's an easy call for me because I'm working with the best bass player in the UK all the time, but you don't know how that's going to work out as far as internally speaking, but as I said, it's a love affair! Chris Childs walks away from playing with Mike going "I can't believe this, I always knew he was good but I had no idea what we were capable of together!" And that's what came out of this, everybody's game just went up so high on this album, it doesn't matter which song it is, it doesn't matter when, if I focus on the bass I'm going "listen to what that bass is doing, listen to how amazing that is!" If I focus on the guitar, I feel the same thing, it's all exciting to listen to. That's a long-winded yes in answer to your question!

Do you think that going in to record it directly after a successful tour helped to keep the energy levels high?

Yes, that was absolutely the plan, everything that we conceived of doing has been gifted to us by lucky fates, and that was part of it. The idea for the shows came up, and on the previous tour when we played Steelhouse Festival we had been talking about it. The budgets for these albums are not very high and there's always the consideration of what do you want to do and what can you afford to do. Of course, what you want to do is do an album the way you used to do them. Rather than everybody in their own home studios doing their thing you want to be in a proper live-in facility where you're in there all day sweating it out, knocking the songs around; that's not very financially likely, or so we thought. But Chris Childs had just come out from doing some stuff at Rockfield Studios and he said we really ought to consider it. We were like "Chris, how are we going to afford that?" but he said, "You might be surprised, let's go and have a look and talk to the people there." We had a day off before we did Steelhouse and it's so close, so we took a drive there and met Nick Bryan, and of course that studio has massive history for me, that's where Waysted started, that's where we did the demos for 'Don't Come Easy', so it was quite surreal to be there 28 years later! This is the oldest recording facility in the world, there's microphones in there that haven't worked since 1970-something, there's gear all over the place, like all this vintage stuff that nobody has anymore, in this old Welsh farmhouse and it's just brilliant! And it all fell into place, and thank goodness the studio was really accommodating to our budget and I'm hoping that will encourage more bands to spend their budget wisely on their recordings, because the sound on this album? It doesn't sound like what it cost, I can tell you that! Every band's different, I know quite a few bands who when they get their budget they pocket a little bit and do most of the work at their home studio; it's an understandable technique, you've got to make things work somehow. But consequently you don't get many albums that sound as good as 'Don't Come Easy' did, but that cost a hundred and fifty grand to make! This album doesn't have anywhere near that budget but sonically it's just as impressive.

I think there is such a good balance of songs on there with some of the heaviest songs you've ever recorded along with the more familiar Tyketto sound.

Oh good, I'm glad to hear that. My opinion is the least of what matters. I'm the person who did it, it's the people who live with it, their opinions matter much more. But I don't hear any filler, that's what I've been telling everybody. The writing process was very different. One thing that was really challenging, and purposely so, it's the first album that Michael and I have done after all these years together where I said to him, "We've always done it where Brooke creates a riff or I come at you with some acoustic guitar and a melody and we build from there, so why have we never built anything from the drums? Get in your studio, start playing stuff, give me rhythms and patterns that excite you, that make you want to sit down and play drums." So he would just send drum patterns to Chris Green and if Chris was struck by them he would run into his studio and within an hour he would have music with it! We've never done anything like that, it's a brand new process – that was the gauntlet I threw down to Michael and obviously he more than excelled at it! There were some songs that were done the other way, that came from me or Chris, and I think there's a really good blend of that. Like 'Big Money', I didn't really know where we were going with that. I often found myself asking, "Is this a Tyketto song?" But I knew it was a good song so I thought I would pursue it.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music


And I think you've surpassed yourself with the ballads 'Scream' and 'Letting Go'.

They're both good stories to those songs. 'Scream' is the only song on the album that's a co-write with an outside writer, which is not something we do very often. When we were first putting stuff together, a friend of Michael's named J3 contacted him and said, "I've got a song that I always felt would work for you." He sent us the original version which was a song called 'Louder' that was originally recorded by Methods Of Mayhem, believe it or not. I remember listening to it and thinking it was a good song, but not for us. Then days later I found myself humming the chorus, and that's always a sign to me so I revisited it, not knowing that Michael was going through the same process. He almost immediately said "not really" then a week later was going, "Let me listen to that again!" So we went back to him and said, "We're really into this if you'll let us change it" and he was fine with that. Musically it's pretty intact to what he had written but the melody to the verses and particularly the lyrics were a big change; the chorus is the same because that's what brought us in in the first place. So that was one of the hardest songs on the album to get right, there's always a problem child, perhaps that was the one of the album, but as a co-write I think it's an amazingly successful one. 'Letting Go' was almost the opposite, it was one of the last things to get written. I get an Email from Chris Green saying, "I just recorded this happy acoustic thing, and I know you're the acoustic man of the band and probably you don't need anything, I wasn't going to send it but have a listen anyway!" When I think of how close we came to never hearing that song! (laughs) There were no lyrics, just the music and I had that sucker written that night! I wrote him back saying "A: It's not a happy song and B: It's going on the album!" It absolutely grabbed me, literally on that first listen I had the melody, and it's so rare when that happens but you can't ignore it, you've got to put aside whatever else you're doing that day and get that song written. I wrote him back saying, "Thank God you sent me that song!"

Overall, I don't think it's as instant as your previous albums, it definitely takes a few listens to really appreciate.

Yeah, I would go with that but most of my favourite albums go that way. 'Reach' for me is pretty classic stuff for us, that's why it's the lead-off single, we wanted to make sure everybody's on familiar territory. Then there's other stuff that we were challenged by, stuff that even the Record Company didn't want on the album that we fought for. A song like 'Kick Like A Mule', why would you not want a song like that on the album? People were against that one, and that's a tough one for me when people outside my band tell me, "That's not Tyketto." No, you don't get to make that choice, we decide what's Tyketto! For us it's always been about change and growth, to write 'Wings' and 'Forever Young' again, why? We've done it and I think we did a damn fine job of it! It's easy for people to say, "Just write more stuff like that" but why would I try and outdo an album that, thank goodness, is considered a classic? It makes no sense to take that as your benchmark and say, "We're going to do another one of those". It's already there and, 25 years later, standing completely on its own two feet.

You already have a number of songs that are a staple of your live set, now you have another potential twelve songs that would make welcome additions. How will you be able to squeeze them in without sacrificing any of the classics?

The fully democratic way is to just choose four songs from every album and that takes you to sixteen songs, then maybe add one or two, but there's no way round it any more when you reach the catalogue we have. People are going to walk away not having heard their favourite song every time, there's no way around it. I think in this case for November and December, particularly in the UK, I think we'll be alright with that because you guys got to hear us do 'Don't Come Easy' all the way through. We only did that this year, we hadn't done that before, so I don't think it will be too traumatic for people to only hear maybe three or four songs from 'DCE' when we tour this time.

And you haven't done yourself any favours lyrically, as quite a few of these new songs have three completely different choruses...

[laughs] Aaah, I know! We started going through that, and you don't think about it until you get to the backing vocals because that's much harder work than the lead vocals, because you're going over and over and over. In some of these songs like 'Letting Go' and 'The Run', I don't want to tell you how many backing tracks there are on those songs – we were in the same studio that Queen recorded in, we got carried away! [laughs] To do that over and over again and go, "Oh great, we got chorus one done, just slide that into chorus two... oh no, we can't, it's different lyrics. Goddammit!" But I don't see any reason why I should relax at this stage of my life, you know?

As we speak now, 'Reach' is at Number Two on the Amazon Rock chart on pre-orders a whole six weeks before it is officially released, and without anybody hearing a note. That is a fantastic achievement.

And right now that's only downloads! It's hard to put into words how the guys feel about that, it's an incredibly humbling thing and it's part of this thing we talked about earlier, where over the past two years everything has been aligning. I'm hearing from people outside our Melodic Rock circle in various areas of the music business going, "There's something going on for you guys, you're being talked about." And that is proof of it, without hearing a note there are that many people willing to trust us and put their money down that early on and wait on it. Every band says their fans are the best and we're not any different, we think our fans are the best there are. For the last 25 years all the die-hards have refused to let go, and that in itself has garnered quite a bit of attention.


* Tyketto - 'Reach' - click HERE to read the Rocktopia album review

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