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Fireworks Magazine Online 39 - The Dave Hill Interview

CUM ON FEEL THE NOIZE

THE DAVE HILL INTERVIEW

 

Slade are a totally unique band and though their golden years are long behind them they are still famous for having created some of the catchiest rock songs of the ‘70s, including ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’, ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’, and of course the universally played festive hit ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’. Yet true Slade fans know there are better composed and written songs in their back catalogue than a handful of hits. Though they are remembered as a singles band they released some outstanding albums, including, 1972s ‘Slayed?’ and 1974s ‘Slade In Flame.’ The original line-up with Noddy Holder and Jim Lea called it a day in the early ‘90s but Dave Hill and Don Powell have kept the name alive (under the moniker Slade II) with singer Steve Whalley and since 2005, Mal McNulty. So, Slade in 2010 is singer Mal McNulty, guitarist Dave Hill, drummer Don Powell and bassist John Berry. Over the past few years Union Square/Salvo Records have done an excellent job at re-releasing Slade’s back catalogue with bonus tracks and detailed sleeve notes. The recent addition is a new collection called ‘Live At The BBC’.

Neil Daniels spoke to Dave Hill about the band’s lengthy career and their enduring appeal.

 

The BBC sessions on ‘Live At The BBC’ were recorded during 1969-1972. To put the CD in context, what happened to the band during that period?

Well, we’d been together since 1966. Don and I were in a band called the N’Betweens which later became Slade. But it was the new N’Betweens which is when Noddy Holder and Jim Lea joined. Now, between 1966 through years and years of work to maybe 1968-69, Chas Chandler would have come in to the picture. I think that would be our introduction to the BBC. He would have got us some slots there... So Chas would have seen us and got us to write songs (’68-69). That’s what changed us. We took our knowledge and as Chas said: “You leant all these tunes. Why don’t you write? It’s all in your head.” So we all wrote at one point.

We used to write with each other and then Nod and Jim came together and it sort of worked from a melodic hit point of view. Our first hit was ‘Get Down And Get With It’ which wasn’t written by us – it was a Little Richard tune that we picked up on. We put our flavour on it and that started the hits in the early seventies and then it led to ‘Cuz I Love You’, our first Number 1. What would have happened at the BBC then was we were getting bits of airplay – because we used to do those shows called “needle time” which means you didn’t have to have a hit record but you were kind of [popular]. You had a slot. The only problem with our stuff was that some of the shows we weren’t suitable for like Jimmy Young and his house wives on a Sunday afternoon. We were not his cup of tea. He wouldn’t play one of our songs; that’s a good thing of course. The fact that we were different from anything else that was around. We’d got this style. Noel Edmonds and Tony Blackburn were the DJs at that time and I think we had a bit of flak but it was good in a kind of perspective that we were this noisy bunch from up North.

When we did get hits, which wasn’t over night – Chas Chandler was with us for a least a couple of years before that – he got us involved with the right people, the press, because he saw us live and liked us so much. We were like a breath of fresh air to the business. I think at that time there was a lot of progressive music about. A lot of people weren’t writing rock hits anymore. In a way, it was all that that helped us move in to this situation. We didn’t know what form it was gonna be – it just took place.

 

So it took years to learn your craft and acquire some kind of powerful stage presence?

Oh yeah, it was not over night with us. Don and I had been together since 1964. I used to work… I was an office boy – it was crap as well! I was playing guitar in a band at night. I used to hide me stage clothes from the office people! I didn’t want ‘em to know I was in a group because it was considered being, you know, “them lot in bands…”

In 1964 I met Don and I was in the N’Betweens and we were off doing shows at night, and I grew me hair and more or less got the sack! “Get your hair cut or leave!” (Laughs.) But it was a great time: Beatles, Stones, Who and all that was going on... It was a fantastic time in music, actually.

 

There was a lot happening in Birmingham back then, wasn’t there?

Yeah, there was. Roy Wood, there was Wizard, ELO, Jeff Lynn was in the Idle Race, we knew him well. We used to do the same pubs. Robert Plant was in Band of Joy and then he went on to Zeppelin in the end. The two big things from the Midlands was Noddy Holder and Robert Plant. They both had rock voices. They were doing unusual material.

 

It was a hard slog before the hits came along, so did you have periods of doubt and frustration?

There were no periods. I think there was times were [we] got frustrated. In those days it was trying to get the right connections and playing at [the right] places. In the sixties there were all these soul clubs and when the Beatles’ success changed there was a lot of soul and tamla motown and we were doing all that. Then we were trying to get better gigs or get seen in London. But you had to make connections and Midlands' agents hadn’t got any claims in London or up in some of the Northern scene but bit by bit we did get there. We got there by being, I think in a way, different. We weren’t playing hit records apart from tamla motown, Four Tops… We did some extraordinary stuff. There was some great music around, great melodies from America. Chuck Berry and all that. We learnt all that. I think the thing with us is that we weren’t manufactured. We were a genuine group that worked hard.

I was in groups before I met Don. I was in a [band] in the old council estate, up the youth centre and playin’ the guitar and drinking pop. I started off when I was fourteen and I had an ability, or I felt I had an attraction, towards melody. I became a lead guitarist because I loved Hank Marvin. That was my love at that time.

 

How did you get into wearing those flamboyant clothes and hats? Was it just about being different from other bands at the time?

The thing is with me, I always used to love old musicals. I was brought up on classic thirties and forties musicals. I was born in the forties so I heard a lot of that stuff. We used to always watch musicals when we were kids. I always noticed that people either had got some look or some certain clothing people remembered ‘em for: Charlie Chaplin with his cane and hat. I think a lot of us at that time – Eric Clapton and all them – would have all been watching similar things. But we’re all coming from different areas. I am an entertainer as well as a guitarist. I was never that confident at school. I mean, there were kids who had the right hairstyles and there were kids who had the right girlfriends but I never went to those parties and I wasn’t popular. Someone might look like Cliff Richard or Elvis or someone like that. But for me, I didn’t find my feet until I grew me hair. I grew my hair and got out of my day job because my parents let me turn professional because they knew I could play. My granddad was a musician. My dad believed in me and my mum believed in me. I thought I’d give it a go.

The Beatles had the suits and fringes and I was looking for something. It was really that post-hippie thing and everybody was getting a little bit lovey-dovey and flowery. I was doing all that because I was dressing up in kaftans and things when the Beatles went towards that with the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ era. It all started when I bought a woman’s blouse, actually. It was bright yellow. I’d wear this for a laugh. Of course the band [said]: “You can’t possibly wear that!”. I was getting this reaction. I went onstage and all these people were smiling at me.

This bloke said: “Eh Dave, that’s a great shirt you wore tonight. Where’d you buy that?” I said: “It’s not a shirt. It’s a woman’s blouse!” I couldn’t get any bright clothes. I took it a stage further and I went to London (Kensington) and there was a guy there experimenting with shoes. Well, the Beatles had the Cuban heels and I wanted something bright. I used to spray them – the black boots. This bloke was making a platform and I looked at it and went: “What’s that about?” He said: “It’s like platform coloured shoes.” I said: “How about you put two platforms on it?” And he did! The following week I shown him the others and he said: “What’s going on here?” I’d glued another one on and I had three [platforms!] Suddenly it’d become a fashion. It wasn’t general because you couldn’t buy them – I’d got this guy doing it.

Then I was experimenting with some long coats. Years and years ago Mott The Hoople used to wear these long coats. I thought it was great. But there wasn’t any colour. There was a lot of black and white TV so I saw this long coat in Kensington, it was black, and I said to the guy: “Can you make that in silver?” And he did! I wore that with the platforms when eventually we got on Top Of The Pops. Of course, on the black and white telly’s silver looks good. That was the start of my journey.

From that point onwards I just grabbed hold of it. Marc Bolan was popular with the glitter. Not the glitter as much as I wore. He used to wear a tear on his cheek and I thought “That looks great, that.” I liked Marc…with his corkscrew hair. I had me own hairstyle as you know.

 

But Slade were serious musicians too, right?

The music is paramountally important to Slade because we’re a serious band with musical tastes, abilities. Nod and I were always up the front there, Nod with his hat on, sideboards and his trousers and I was always the one doin' some unusual [moves]. People used to tune in to see what I’d got on next. It’s only like booking Rod Stewart or Jagger or Elton John. Elton John’s worn some really bizarre costumes. I’ve been to see him play and in fact he’s been to see us as well. He was in too all that. Freddie Mercury’s another one. Freddie was a fantastic singer and a great writer but he was also an extrovert.

You possibly might agree with me, we don’t really have the likes of us around anymore. It’s manufactured pop… there are some talented people out there but it’s the ones that make a difference. You look at the sixties and seventies, you always knew that was Rod Stewart or that was Elton John. Everybody’s got their kind of bag. That’s what we had. We had a fantastic manager, Chas Chandler. He knew a good tune. He’d already managed Hendrix and he certainly knew what guitar was all about. He believed in us.

 

How did people take to Slade, initially?

A lot of people didn’t like us. Chas used to be going round trying to get people to write about us and some people just didn’t like us. People in their late forties/early fifties have followed us and their kids are following us. I feel at the moment the music has reached a point were there needs a shift in consciousness in the music scene in order for us to survive. You’ve got to find the talent to move forward. People are just not getting seen. We only got found by purely hard work. We didn’t have MTV and we didn’t have a fast ticket to fame. You bought your ticket in to it but you bought it for a lifetime. We didn’t buy it for five minutes of fame. In actual fact, if we hadn’t have been ready we wouldn’t have lasted. You get your first hit but you need another. You know what it’s like these days: two years down the line, you forgot what happened. I feel very fortunate that I grew up at a time when England was getting on its feet after the war and music was written with acoustic guitars and pianos. We didn’t have great technology but we had the soul of it. If you think about the greatest songs there’s ever been they’ve always been through struggle for survival. With Slade, I think we offered the public a change and some fun back in the music business. We offered a kind of personality.

Reeves And Mortimer did this series once were they used to copy us in a rock comedy routine. It was quite flattering in a funny sort of way. You can only copy people if you can remember them! Our country in the sixties, it was a fantastic time to grow up. We sort of ruled the planet one point. The Beatles are still the biggest band in the world…four Liverpudlians. You’ve got Black Sabbath, Zeppelin… A lot of talent came out of the midlands. I’m still enjoying it!

 

When you look back what are your thoughts on Slade “skinhead look”?

Well, I suppose on reflection I didn’t particularly enjoy it. We all got our hair cut and all the rest of it. It had its good side. In a way we sort of grew our hair back after that. I think it got us noticed but it didn’t get us a hit. I think two years later we grew our hair. We grew it from the skinhead look and it became our hairstyle after that. I suppose in a way it helped as well. Sometimes you’re trying to be different and I think there’s nothing wrong in it but funnily enough the boots we worn then turned into platforms. We weren’t a band to wear jeans. Having said that Nod wore braces and a working man’s cap and that came from it [skinhead look] in a way. We all sort of developed something out of it.

 

On the whole the Americans didn’t take too well to Slade, did they?

When we first went there it wasn’t easy for us because we were very popular having Number 1’s in England. Polydor, the record company over there, were prompting us as fairly new. We went over and we didn’t have the Ed Sullivan show like the Beatles did. We had to go over and play. It’s not easy when you’re coming from such huge success. Oddly enough some of the audience were future bands. KISS with Gene Simmons – I know he’s a fan of ours, he’s a nice guy – tells a story about seeing us in New York. We played in New York and we had platforms on and they [KISS] were watching us, kind of getting the ideas in a way. They liked our sound. They’ve got a song called ‘Crazy Crazy Nights’; it’s very similar to ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now.’ Gene Simmons said: “We listened to you and watched you…” And they did!

I think in a way we were a bit soon to go there because I think there were still underground bands going on and it was still Woodstock and all that. We came across probably quite bizarre at first. We were very English and we had the look and sound. We seemed to have pockets of success in America; in St. Louis or a little bit in New York. The thing with America is they have a lot of different stations. Yet to get airplay it wasn’t like Radio 1 were you play a record and everybody heard it, you had to go from area to area. I think in some ways we approached it a bit too soon and we should have left it a while. We didn’t know. We had a good go at it. We left a mark there.

In 1984 we had a hit with ‘Run Runaway’ and ‘My Oh My.’ We went over with Sharon Osbourne and we did a few dates with Ozzy and a few dates on our own. We met up with the guys who were writing about us years and years before. It was quite nice. We haven’t been back. I’d love to have another look at it again. There’s a lot of interest over there.

 

What have your recent shows been like?

Playing in Slade now, we’ve been to Russia and across Europe and I’ve met fans who had difficulty getting our music because they’re not supposed to listen to it… We played a gig [in Russia] and its fifty degrees below and we’re doing this show and we’re looking at all the Russians and they were all loving it and they knew the words as well. You get hugs off them. It’s fascinating. You don’t realise how many people that you affect. They loved the image because it made ‘em laugh. That’s the thing with us. It’s like the Christmas song: 1973 and there’s a lot of strikes in England and we had this Christmas song out which went big time because it lifted the spirit of the nation. People have become very fond of it. Our band’s had a lot of Number 1’s but it seems to me that people think of us in an uplifting way.

We played the Indigo Rooms at the O2 Arena just the end of last year. It was magnificent because I’ve haven’t done a London gig in years. It’s a great room. I do shows abroad and sometimes I’m just playing to 500 people and sometimes to 15,000 people. It varies. Somebody said something to me, which I thought was important: “What do you learn on guitars these days, if you buy a guitar and want to learn something?” You’re likely to look to sixties and seventies music. It’s very true, isn’t it?

 

The breadth of Slade’s influence is very widespread, isn’t it?

It’s funny because Freddie [Mercury] used to work at Kensington market selling T-shirts. I used to go in there. I didn’t know him then, actually. He told a story about how he saw me knocking about for clothes. Once again with Queen you know them by the sound. Special. It’s like Shirley Bassey. Special. Comes from this country. Just made an album. Manic Street Preachers wrote that song ‘The Girl From Tiger Bay.’ It’s a great album. You’re just pleased someone has made a mark. She’s like seventy-odd and can still do it. It’s like Chuck Berry is still out there playing.  It’s in your blood. When I’ve done some shows I go home and I’m a family man, that’s important to me. It’s nice. I wouldn’t have known when I was twenty-odd… I wouldn’t be having this conversation with you! I never thought we’d last. It’s like the Beatles said: “Give it five years and we’ll be over.”

The bands like Oasis, Bono/U2, I know that they’ve all listened to us – I can hear it. Even the eighties bands, Duran Duran, in particular. I met the bass player long before they made it. I met him in a pub in Solihull. He said: “Oh, I’m in a band. Just trying to make it.” I went to see James Blunt at the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton. The drummer invited me. He said: “We’ve got a surprise for you.” He sang ‘Coz I love You’ onstage! How weird is that? You couldn’t possibly think that James Blunt would listen to Slade. Yet he did a version of ‘Coz I Love You’ which was fantastic in Wolverhampton because we’re a Wolverhampton group. What I’m saying is, you don’t realise how many people actually check you out!

That BBC album you’ve got there has had quite a few good reviews. People are going: “Oh, wow, there’s more than ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ to this group.”

 

Does it frustrate you that your singles overshadow the albums?

Well, some people might just know one song and turn up to hear that. It’s hard to compete with something as big as that. Germany’s not so bad because they know the other songs like ‘Far Far Away’. They know ‘Goodbye To Jane’. We stick a few rock songs in there that I wrote. It’s part of the act and I get a joy out of that. I know what you mean. Sometimes success can overshadow some of the other gems. Thankfully to Union Square/Salvo when they brought this album out, I think it’s done us some real good. People didn’t know we did some Moody Blues. I just gave a copy to Mike Reid, the DJ from Radio 1. We had a lot of musical ideas amongst us. Each of us in our band are totally different. We always had a strong purpose…music! We always gelled and come together for the main purpose. We never let each other down. We were always there. I see it in Take That. Watching them talking about their introduction – nice bunch of blokes. It’s hard to see how you can put people together and be successful – it doesn’t happen that way. With us, it was just a process of meeting up along the way.

 

Finally, you must have been pleased with the recent Union Square/Salvo reissues?

They’re good guys. Chas Chandler – funny he’s got the name of my old manager – is a really good guy and he’s a genuine music fan.

Fireworks Magazine Online 39 - Lillian Axe

LILLIAN AXE

Steve Blaze interview by Neil Daniels

 

Lillian Axe are one of the most fondly remembered bands from the late eighties American rock scene. Sure, they may not have reached such heights of success as Poison or even Slaughter but they produced some fine work that still stands the test of time. Their first few albums – ‘Lillian Axe’ (1988), ‘Love + War’ (1989) and especially ‘Poetic Justice’ (1992) and ‘Psychoschizophrenia (1993) – grabbed a generation of rock fans with gusto. Who can forget songs such as ‘Dream Of A Lifetime’, ‘No Matter What’, ‘Body Double’, ‘See You Someday’, the Badfinger cover ‘True Believer’ and ‘A Moment Of Reflection’? But as with many of their peers the grunge scene affected the music industry so much that it was hard for them to carry on. Lillian Axe called it a day in 1995. The most famous line-up of the band remains: Ron Taylor (lead vocals), Steve Blaze (lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Jon Ster (rhythm guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Darrin Delatte (bass guitar), and Gene Barnett (drums).

Led by Steve Blaze, a new incarnation of the band was formed but further line-up changes continued. In 1999 they released ‘Fields Of Yesterday’ and then in 2007, ‘Waters Rising’ was released but both of them were greeted with little fanfare. Here we are in 2009 and the band have released their seventh studio opus ‘Sad Day On Planet Earth.’ It’s probably their strongest effort since the early nineties with sturdy tracks like ‘Megaslowfade’ and ‘Down Below The Ocean’ on offer. ‘Sad Day On Earth’ is a real grower, for sure.

In 2009, the line-up looks like this: Steve Blaze (guitars, keyboards), Derrick LeFevre (lead vocals), Sam Poitevent (guitars) Eric Morris (bass) and Ken Koudelka (drums.) In November Steve Blaze gives us a quick lowdown on their new album as well as recalling some thoughts from the band’s past.

 

Your new album is called ‘Sad Day On Planet Earth’? What’s the story behind that title?

One day I was overwhelmed by the state of our planet and exclaimed out loud, “It's a sad day on Planet Earth!” It made me run to the studio and right the song. Then the theme seemed to encompass a large number of my songs themes.

 

How did you get involved with Blistering Records?

We heard great things about the label, such as their dedication to their artists and their desire to grow with their artists. That’s what we needed.

 

Are you pleased with the reaction to the new album?

[I’m] very pleased with the fans reactions. Lots of them feel as though it's our greatest accomplishment yet. That's what I look for. I take album reviews seriously, yet I feel that lots of journalists don’t truly put in the time and effort before they review any album. Some of them really get it. Lots of them miss the mark completely because they listen once or not even that much to hit a deadline. I think that’s irresponsible. I see that in lots of reviews not just ours. However, the reviews have really been better than I thought. I just feel that we are a band that it is hard to understand with one listen, but when you pay attention, the world opens up.

What do Lillian Axe fans want from a new album?

For us to continue to stick to our musical aura, and to move them with passion and dynamics.

What’s was the songwriting process for this particular album?

I bury myself in my studio and go into my own world. I write on guitar and keyboard. The ideas seem to channel through me and just come rushing out. It's a vey torturous process sometimes. I can't sleep while these ideas are rolling through my head all day long. Once a song is complete, I record it and send to the band. We then live with it and make necessary changes to improve it where needed.

There are 15 tracks on the new album. That’s quite a lot isn’t it?

Yes, indeed. And there's more where that came from. I want the fans to get more than their money's worth. It takes lots of music and ideas to get the points across sometimes.

‘Fire, Blood, The Earth And Sea’ is almost nine minutes long. What’s the song about?

The song tells about a séance in a church with a group of close friends and brothers summoning angels and spirit guides. Some secrets of life are imparted and a new realisation of beauty and existence are taught to the entire group.

 

Is it hard trying to get a balance between ballads and the heavier stuff?

Not really. I don’t look at songs as ballads per say, but rather dynamically drastic. I love the transition from light to dark and soft to powerful.

 

What do you want from a ballad when you’re in the studio?

The hair on my arms to stand up and a lump in my throat.

 

What are you favourite Lillian Axe recordings?

My faves are ‘Psychoschizophrenia’ and ‘Sad Day On Planet Earth.’ However, the other albums come very close in my mind.

 

How would you best describe you band’s music?

Passionate, dark, magnetic, cutting, melancholy, beautiful, a mountain breaking through the sea.

You’ve taken the band through various line-up changes. When you first started Lillian Axe did you think you’d still be around in 2009?

Yes. I will always be around. I am in this for life. Longevity is not an issue.

What is the rock scene like in the States now?

Very depressing. Not at all like it used to be. No support from radio, people don’t go to live shows as much. It's very expensive, so people stay at home on their computers. The fans are there but the economy has put a stifle on the industry on the whole. I could go on forever. Illegal downloading is also killing the industry.

 

For younger rock fans who weren’t around at the time, exactly how difficult was the grunge era for rock/metal bands?

I find it hard to understand how people are so easily swayed like sheep to slaughter. The press made this big deal about music changing from metal to grunge, so the public bought it. It was all the same with different wrapping. It still exists today. Everyone becomes more consumed with the press aspect and the outer trimmings than the essence. We are still here. How many grunge bands are there still? The grunge bands were simply rock bands in flannel. Give me a break.

 

Lillian Axe disbanded in 1995 and reformed four years later. What did you do during that period?

[I] formed Near Life Experience, wrote, toured, got my head together. Purged my soul and had a great growth experience.

 

Do you still enjoy playing live?

Absolutely. I enjoy it more every day. It is very tiresome and gruelling, yet I have a new outlook. It's hard now because I have a six month old baby, and I miss him a lot.

 

What’s life like on the Lillian Axe tour bus?

The tour bus is very clean. We are like a bunch of old maids keeping it straight. It is a place of sleep and rest. Lot of TV and DVDs being watched. After shows we are very laid back, but our band and crew are hilarious. We have a great time together. Now in the early days, it was very chaotic.

 

Are you disappointed that you won’t be coming to the UK after the cancellation of Rockfest?

Very much. We really want to tour Europe badly.

 

Is 2009 a better time for bands of you ilk?

Not in the States. The industry is in the mud.

 

What has been the highlight of your professional career so far?

So many to pick from! Going to Japan and touring with Alice Cooper are two of the tops.

 

What’s next for Lillian Axe, projects-wise?

We are doing a video for ‘Megaslowfade’ in three weeks. I am writing the next album right now. More touring in January and the months to follow. More records, tours, writing, etc.

Fireworks Magazine Online 39 - Brainstorm

BRAINSTORM

20 years into their highly successful career, Brainstorm have released what is probably their most complete album yet that brings together musical elements from all stages of their existence.  Roland Oei talked to founder and guitarist Torsten Ihlenfeld about the band’s latest release, ‘Memorial Roots’ and to find out more about the bands history.

 

How long has the band been together?

We started the band back in ’89 and we released our first album in ’97, ‘Hungry’, and now we have released 8 albums to date and we have toured a lot, played a lot.

 

Why did it take so long to put the first album out?

There was no Heavy Metal in the 90s because of Grunge but we grew up with Heavy Metal so we never did anything else.

 

Didn’t you feel like challenging the grunge scene at the time?

We would have but we didn’t get a record contract at that time.  Heavy Metal was what we always wanted to do so we waited.

 

Can you remember your first gig as Brainstorm?

It was an unofficial first concert in what was our rehearsal room and so we printed flyers and had about 150 people in the rehearsal room so it was really packed and we had the drums set up on beer cases so that was the beginning.  It was first of January in ’88.

 

Andy joined you on vocals 10 years ago.  What was it about his voice that you liked?

I knew him before and we talked about doing something together someday and so when we had our vocalist leave I phoned Andy and he was the perfect choice.  I like almost everything about him.  He has a very powerful voice and he can sing whatever he wants so there is no limit to lows and highs and he is an amazing live performer and I think especially for Heavy Metal this is very important.

 

He is also part of Symphorce, and vocals make bands unique.  How does he keep that separate from what he sounds like in Brainstorm?

It’s not that difficult.  In Brainstorm it is me and Milan that write the music and I think even his voice is a little different when he sings for Symphorce compared to Brainstorm.  Definitely his main focus is on Brainstorm.  Brainstorm is the bigger band so every time we take a break or we do song writing he is free to do something with Symphorce.

 

Have you ever thought of doing a tour with Brainstorm and Symphorce together?

No.  We won’t do that.  Even Andy won’t do that.  There is no reason for it, that’s how we see it.  It makes no sense going on tour and having the same vocalist on stage the whole evening.  First off it is very challenging and I don’t think it would work out well especially for the people.

 

Do the two bands share the same fan base?

I think they are the same fans but the music is different enough to have different listeners.  I think Symphorce is a little bit darker and more progressive and we are more traditional Heavy Metal and we have more melodic influences than what Symphorce do.  So I think the difference is big enough and Andy has been in Brainstorm for over 10 years now and so we never had any problems or issues with fans or whatever.  There are always fans that ask why don’t you go on tour with Symphorce opening for Brainstorm.  I don’t think it would work, I haven’t tried it.  King Diamond tried it with Mercyful Fate and King Diamond and I love both bands but I don’t think it was the right experience for the band.

 

The new album is called 'Memorial Roots'. Where does the name come from?

There are several meanings for the title.  First off we wanted to have roots in the album title because everybody has roots where we come from but we are building new roots with a new record label and so we thought about something that makes a whole picture for us and Memorial Roots does express exactly what we wanted to with the album

 

You mentioned you changed labels, you went from Metal Blade to AFM.  Why did you make that jump?

We were with Metal Blade for 8 years and 5 albums so the record deal was over and of course we were free to look at the offers that came in and AFM simply did a very good offer and so we decided it was time to start something new.

 

In these days of Myspace etc, did you not think that you could self release the album and go it alone?

No.  Why should we?  Having a label in the back that supports you is important especially in a band of our size and status.  It is more helpful than to do everything on your own.  I think when a band is smaller and not as established as Brainstorm is, it could be helpful but it is important when you go on tour and you need tour support but to do everything on your own it has to be way bigger than what Brainstorm is, especially to have the financial backing.

 

What do you feel are the highlights of the new album?

The whole album in total I would say because almost every song turned out the way we wanted them to turn out and I think 'Memorial Roots' is a very good reflection of what Brainstorm is all about.  It’s got heavy riffs, big melodies and fast songs, epic songs and I think there is everything in this album that defines Brainstorm.

 

Your DVD release called ‘Honey From the Bees, Beasting Around the Bush’ is a weird title.  How did you come up with that and what is on that DVD?

Well we had been thinking of doing a different title than what people expect from a regular Brainstorm album and so especially the front covers, you often have monsters on the covers so we are well known as a good live band that has a lot of fun when we go on stage and we enjoy ourselves a lot when we play and we wanted to express that with the DVD, that’s why we did the comic paintings for the DVD and that’s why we searched for an unusual title and we thought 'honey from the bees' is something like a gift for the fans like honey is for bees. 'Beasting Around the Bush' was added because we like it very much, the expression, so that’s why we used it.  The main focus is the honey.  There are many live shows on the DVD.   We have Wacken 2004 in front of 30000 people and we have a headlining show from the Liquid Monster tour in Budapest and also the Progpower show from Atlanta in the USA from 2004 and some small bits of concerts from the very beginning.  Its two DVDs that run for 5 hours and we have new clips on there as well and an overview of some festivals where we did 2 or 3 songs to give the fans a big overview of what Brainstorm is all about.

 

What do you like and hate about touring?

What we like of course is to play live every evening, meet the fans and this is the greatest thing a band can do and there’s not that much to hate.  Of course you are away from home but that is the price that you pay.  We are very lucky to have such a dedicated and loyal fan base and it is always a big pleasure to meet them when we go on tour and do club shows because they are more intimate than when you play festivals so usually when time allows it we hang out with the fans after the show, because that’s how we are and what we are.

 

How does your profile and popularity compare in Germany, the UK and the US?

I think Germany is the biggest market for Brainstorm.  The albums do get in the National charts.  The first album that was in the charts was ‘Soul Temptation’ in2003 which was 73 in the official album charts and Liquid Monster was 72 and the last one was at 53.  Even in Switzerland and Hungary it is usually top 10 for us.  We are in front of Madonna when we release a single over there.  The last single we did, ‘Fire Walk with Me’ was #1 in Hungary in the singles chart.

 

What else do you want to achieve with Brainstorm?

We take it as it comes.  We do it with all our heart and a lot of fun and as long as we can do that and the fans love it we will go on.  We want to write and release good music and go on tour and then we will see what happens.  Of course if it goes up we will not say no.

 

Any message for your UK fans?

Yeah, it feels very good to be back in the UK.  It took us a long time.  I guess 2006 was the last time and now we are here and we are looking forward to it because we had such a warm welcome the first time we were here.  We played at the Astoria opening for Nightwish and that was great.

Fireworks Magazine Online 39 - The Butterfly Effect

THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT

Roland Oei talked to Ben Hall (drums) and Glenn Esmond (bass) from The Butterfly Effect to find out more about this exciting band from Australia and their great new album ‘Final Conversation of Kings’.

The name of the band refers to the chaos theory.  How does that relate to the band?

B : When we were initially looking for titles for the band, it was at a time when Limp Bizkit and Korn were quite popular and we didn’t want to turn a letter around or spell something differently so I had been reading a book and it had Chaos Theory in it and it explained the 'butterfly effect' and  I brought it in to the boys and they thought it was a cool idea and it made sense; a butterfly flaps its wings over an ocean and a hurricane forms in the Pacific, you know, it was  a cool interdependence of actions that we really liked and I guess as the band has progressed it has related to us starting small and people hearing a song or two and then enjoying it more and more people enjoying it.


You formed the band in 1999.  How long did it take for you to play an international gig and where was the first gig you played outside Australia?

B : 2004 was the first gig we played here in London.  Actually no in 2003 we played in LA, then in 2004 here.  I remember we have played a few gigs in London.  We played the Camden Barfly, the Water Rats, The Garage and then we went over and did a European tour and came back and played the Garage as the final show.  That was great, it was the first time we played to audiences outside of Australia.  We jumped at that with a lot of enthusiasm.  It was the first time I had been to the UK and it was a very eye opening experience.

The band is a household name over in Australia.  Can you guys walk down the street without being recognised now?

B : I don’t have such a problem with it but Clint being the front man of the band probably  has a bit more people recognising him.   Being the drummer you kind of get the best of both worlds.


Where did ‘Final Conversation of Kings’ enter the charts back home?

B : The Kings of Leon were number one at the time, Metallica were number 2 and we were number 3.  The Pussycat Dolls were number 4.

What went through your mind when you saw that?

B : Why did the Kings of Leon and Metallica have to release albums that week?  We had the Pussycat Dolls covered.  It was great company to be keeping so we were honoured of course.

Has the increase in popularity been a steady climb?

B : There’s a government run station in Australia called Triple J.  They started playing the songs after we recorded an EP in 2002 and we started touring as soon as they started playing the songs and it’s gone from 200 capacity rooms to 2500.  That’s taken about  7 years so it’s been slow but steady.

G : (Glenn enters the room). It’s all lies.

How has the music evolved over your 3 albums?

G :  When I first joined the band, I’m the bass player and they had another bass player for 2 years before that, so it took a while for us to get used to writing together.  I like pop music a little bit more and we argue about that a bit but I try to bring the pop sensibilities in some ways.  It’s not very apparent but I try and do that a bit more plus we also have got to the point where we are less afraid to experiment.  We do what we do well I guess so once you get confident with that you can progress and start using more extreme arrangements or using different instruments.  I think those are the 2 big things we have done.

Why did you go for a more indie sound for the band rather than a metal approach?

B : I guess I don’t really think any of us have been Metal fans I mean I loved Sepultura when I was younger but I grew out of it fast.  We started off liking Faith No More and Deftones, Grunge initially and then your Limp Bizkit came out and the riffs were amazing and they were really good players and from there individual tastes diversified a lot.  Everyone has a wide taste so I think we just try and find a middle ground every time we try and write a song to please every ones ears.

G : We don’t really think about it too much and that’s the honest truth.  It’s all about what sounds good at the time.  We argue a lot about what we think sounds good in a particular instance but then you get a chance to explain where you are coming from and give another song as a reference and suddenly everyone is oh cool, no problems and the songs evolve naturally so I think as we have evolved as people the songs have moved away from the simplistic to more complex.

The new album is inspired by conflicts.  Is there a story in particular that inspired that?

G : Clint had been writing the lyrics for the record and he looked back at them and noticed that there was a theme of conflict running through the songs and he kind of made up this story, he made up pieces of prose that featured the sounds of marching boots running through the streets and the father sending the son off to war and he had these really strong images that he wrote these paragraphs about and they sort of began to inform the common theme and then when we decided on the artwork those things came more to the fore.

The recording studio you used looks pretty secluded on the Youtube footage.  Is that how you like to work?

B : It was only 20 minutes from everything that you need but it is up in the bush away from the city in New South Wales.  The last record we went to LA to do, the record before this, and the one thing that was good about this studio is we were away from distractions but not far from home as well and it was very relaxing and had a great vibe.

G : And living at the studio it was really great to be able to have the option to record up to 5 in the morning if we wanted to.  We were just staying 100 metres from where we were recording.

Did the songs come quickly? What happened with the writing and recording process?

B : No, I don’t think it came quickly.

G : It was fairly methodical I think.  We were very particular about the process.  There was a lot of demoing and it was probably 12 months worth of serious work.

B : With us when we write it will always start tediously and as everyone comes together and we can see what people are trying to do and where each of us is going, the writing process becomes more streamlined so towards the end of the writing process we will write our best songs so 18 months into writing which is about 2 months before recording we will be writing the best songs kind of thing.

G : It takes a while.  You record an album and then you take 6 months off and tour it and have fun and you don’t really think about writing at all and then everyone has to get back into that mode of being creative and have something that you want to put down on the record.  In the latter part of the writing process you usually come up with things that generally stay.

Do you end up scrapping a lot of songs?

B : Usually the first 3 or 4 songs we write don’t make the record.  They get done and parts of the riffs may get cannibalised and used in other parts of the record.

How do you feel you have pushed yourselves as musicians on this record?

B : Pushing ourselves as players a bit more.  That’s the thing from my personal perspective that I have worked on.  There’s a general rule that we try not to take the easy option and perhaps think outside of the square and push yourself a bit more.  If we really wanted to we could probably write a song a day but they wouldn’t be interesting songs.  The idea is to push ourselves individually so that we come up with something that is more unique.

Are there a lot of band springing up in Australia that are copying your sound?

G : I like to go and see young bands and there are a couple of bands that I think I hear their roots and I go that kind of sounds like our riffs but it’s hard to tell.

B : I haven’t noticed it myself but you get emails from bands saying we love you guys can we play with you so it’s an honour if you do hear it.

Are you still quite hands on then in terms of the internet and business?

G : Yeah I take care of all that on line.  Everything is done personally and when people ask questions I like to reply personally to them.  I think that the internet is responsible for a lot of bad things with the music industry but it’s also responsible for some great things, the idea that bands can reconnect with their fans on a one to one basis.  There were times in the 80s and 90s when bands thought they were bigger and better than their fans and the fans were the ones that put them in that position and its almost arrogant not to be in touch with the fans one to one and they love it and it works very well and creates a good relationship.

Any message for your UK fans?

B : We will keep coming back and playing for you if you keep coming to the shows.

G : If you build it we will come.  If you like what you read in this interview and you want to see a bit more about the band you can go to our myspace page which is myspace.com/thebutterflyeffect.

Fireworks Magazine Online 39 - Belladonna

BELLADONNA

For a band that have been described as "the most listened to Italian band on MySpace" it really is surprising that Rome-based Belladonna still remain unsigned. Formed by guitarist Dani and sensual lead vocalist Luana back in 2005, the band played a recent promotional show in London to promote their second album release, 'The Noir Album', where Roland Oei caught up with Dani to get some more details.

 

Can you give us a brief history of the band and the highlights of your career so far?

Me and Luana put the band together in early 2005 and at the first we were writing all these songs and we just wanted to record them and play them live.  There was no master plan.  We started doing demos in a rehearsal room and then when we opened our myspace page in 2005 all hell broke loose.  There was this huge word of mouth thing that happened around us so we were forced to release those demos and from there one thing led to another.  One of the songs made it into the ballot of the Grammy Awards in 2008 and it was a big thing for us that lead to many other major things like playing on the same stage as Nine Inch Nails, Korn an Duff McKagan and then we went to the states to record our second album with Sylvia Massy who produced Tool and System of a Down and she was really into our band so we went to her studio in California and recorded our second album there which has just come out in England.

 

What do you think caused the popularity on myspace? Did you have someone actively adding your profile to key sites?

What made it all snowball was when we put our first video on youtube which was Black Swan.  It became really big and this was in early 2006.  One of our fans was saying on her website in a blog, this is just to give you an example, she was saying oh I have taken some videos off my myspace page, including the Belladonna one like Swan, not because I don’t like it but because everybody has it.  It was like everybody on MySpace seemed to have our video.  For no particular reason, I mean I don’t know.  I guess it’s a combination of luck and our music striking a certain chord at that moment in time with so many people.  So we started receiving all these emails and comments from all these people and me and Luana, we don’t have anybody working on it - we do it ourselves, we always take great care in answering every single mail and we still do.  We always answer everybody personally.

 

You are on your own label Belladonna records.  Are you happy to stay that way or are you looking for a major label to back you?

We are very happy to stay on our own.  Belladonna records is just a name.  We had to say something so we just wanted to make it clear that it is our own operation.  It’s not a label as such, we are not signed with anybody.  I mean we would love to be with a label if we find one that is good enough but it’s like we are happy being single and when we receive an offer we will consider it.

 

Did you finance your videos yourself and who came up with the ideas for them?

Some of them are zero budget.  The 'Foreverland' video for the song off our first album we just did it on the mountains in the snow and me and Luana had the idea for the story and we just shot it ourselves and edited it at home.  It didn’t cost anything and most of the videos are done that way.  We are not video makers you know, we are musicians but we know it is necessary like people want to know what you look like and videos are a standard way to present your band and we had a great time doing them.  We prefer to do them ourselves and present the band the way we want to present ourselves.

 

You have come up with your own genre which you have called Rock Noir.  Can you explain what that sounds like?

Yeah sure, when we started recording our songs, we realised that they didn’t sound like anybody that we knew so we felt it was necessary to give it a term, to define it, to describe it in some way.  It’s certainly rock.  It’s not Metal or anything but it is certainly rock.  The Noir thing comes from the mystery, the erotic element that we have in our songs and the fact that many of our songs are like tales, they are stories with characters and something happens in the song like in old folk music.  There’s a big element of story-telling and all the stories have elements of mysteries so that’s pretty much a Noir thing and some stories are like short films and they are very Noir in their content so we thought Rock Noir is an apt way of describing it.

 

What else do you think the music has in it, besides the Rock elements, that makes you stand out from other bands?

For me when I hear a record that I love, I hear the personalities of the musicians that recorded it.  So when someone is doing something that comes from the heart then it becomes unique because the purer you are the closer you are to your own self and the more peculiar it will be, so I guess that’s what makes us unique.  That’s actually the most frequent comment that people tell us, that we are unique, so people don’t really put us in the same record space and we take it as a compliment because it means what we are doing is pure and true to what we are.  We go out of our way not to sound like anybody else.

 

When you recorded the album you didn’t use pro-tools and you recorded the songs live.

Yes, that is something that we really wanted to do.  We did try you know, with Sylvia Massy with click tracks and pro-tools with a lot of overdubs, and she did a great job but then when we heard it, it sounded like an American band. I mean it sounded great but it didn’t sound like us so we spoke with her and said that we would prefer to record it live and she said well I am not sure, so we tried, we just stood in a circle and recorded it live with no click tracks live and it just worked and she was like yeah, this is great, let’s do it this way.

 

Was it harder to record it live?  Were there many mistakes that needed to be sorted out?

It was easier, it was more fun.  If there was a mistake ... like on 'Stairway to Heaven' there is a mistake that Jimmy Page does half way through the song.  It’s on the right channel about half way through the song.  I never noticed until I really studied the song.  When you do a mistake like that it doesn’t really matter.  People don’t really hear it and it makes it more human.  Like our faces are not really perfect, not even Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie are perfect, and it’s the imperfections that make us unique and beautiful.  That is what I believe.

 

You say that you have more fans abroad than in Italy.  Why do you think that is?

I am not sure, maybe it has something to do with the fact that our lyrics are in English?  So they are more easily understood abroad.  In Italy we don’t have a Rock tradition as such, I mean people love Rock n' Roll but they seem to like bands only when they are really big, like Metallica and Iron Maiden, that play big arenas but new bands always have a hard time in getting themselves known.  This is because in Italy the TV is so powerful that unless you are on TV you are not on the map so it’s just a completely different set up media-wise and so people get influenced in a different way to the rest of the world where the TV is not unimportant but the printed media and radios still have a big influence as well.

 

You do most of the writing with Luana.  How does that partnership work as far as writing is concerned.

It varies depending on the song.  What happens is one of us has a snippet of something and then we develop it together.  We do it with guitar and voice or with piano and voice and we finish the song that way, lyrics and everything before we even play it to the band.  If we feel it is strong enough then we go ahead.  But it is all done in a stream of consciousness sort of way.

 

What are the plans for the next year?

Our plans are to do lots of gigs and we are already working on songs for our next album and we plan to record it in the summer for a late 2010 release or early 2011.  We will have to see.

 

Any message for your fans in the UK?

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody for their support which has been incredible and very important for us because we are a do it yourself band and I know it sounds very corny but without our fans we would be nothing.  So we are very grateful and honoured.  I would like to say to everybody go to www.belladonna.tv and they get directed to our MySpace or look for us on twitter or Facebook where we are easy to find and just drop us a line.  We answer to everybody and keep in touch.

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