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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 - 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.

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 - Amanda Palmer

AMANDA PALMER

Amanda Palmer is/was, (it’s still not totally clear), half of the duo the Dresden Dolls, and since releasing her first solo album ‘Who Killed Amanda Palmer’ her profile has risen considerably.  She is, first and foremost, a performer, rather than just a musician, which is reflected in all the offshoots that have come along with the album.  People are starting to catch on to this lady, and I was lucky enough to get to speak with her before her show at the Union Chapel in Islington in September.

So, I’ve seen the new DVD. When I first watched it, and I’ve seen all the ones you’ve put up on YouTube, I was thinking some of these are different to the ones I saw on YouTube.

“They wouldn’t be different edits but the quality was vastly different.”

I couldn’t believe it when you said not to buy it from Amazon and the likes, because you don’t get a penny out of it. How does that happen?

“Well that’s a classic major label thing where I’m ‘not recouped’ so until I recoup – which means they’d have to make back all the money they spent on the Dresden Dolls and all the money they’ve spent on me, before I see anything. The irony is even if I was recouped I would be getting a terrible royalty rate on things like this. I was very naive when I signed that record contract, that’s what it comes down to.”

It mystifies me that they’re not giving you support. There was a link for tickets for these shows on the net - £14 face price going for £150!

“And I’m broooooke!! [laughs]. Let’s scalp some tickets! Fuck ...it’s not too late, haha!  But you know, that’s very typical – a lot of artists are scalping their own tickets nowadays. They don’t do it openly but it’s a fucking racket and a half, it’s so bad.”

Am I right in thinking you’re doing a free show tomorrow night?

“No. It’s £10, which is close to free. I like keeping it cheap [laughs]. I don’t mind being broke with all my fans – I kinda like it. I always had a huge amount of respect for Fugazi, who famously would only play $5 shows. They were just so politically minded, they didn’t want anyone not to be able to come.”

Are you doing ‘Please Drop Me’ tonight?

“[laughs] You know, I think that song was a time and a place and I did it for YouTube – I was, like, I’ll play this song once, I’ll get my message out to the label. This doesn’t need to become an Amanda Palmer staple, haha.”

Has it made any difference?

“No. I think they think I’m cute and annoying, when they see stuff like that.”

So what does it actually mean for the future? You’ve just done this album, and you’ve obviously got irons in the fire. So what does all this controversy mean for you now?

“It means that I feel incredibly unsettled in my life. I’m just kind of floating very blindly right now – I don’t really know what I’m doing next.  I’ve amassed a sizable debt on this project and this record, and these past few tours and I have a lot of available income and ways of making money that are blocked off to me because of the label, and since I’m not actively out touring and supporting this record right now, I’m not really making a lot of money. So it’s a weird time for me right now. I’m sort of looking around every day going like ‘What am I doing?’ But I feel like right now it’s kind of a waiting game and I’ve been locked into the waiting game since June and it’s just protracting and protracting, so it’s frustrating but also the past few months have been really healthy for me because I’ve finally let go of my resistance and allowed myself to bounce around and enjoy life a little more impulsively, and I’ve finally caught up a little bit emotionally, where I started to lag when I was on tour with the Dolls endlessly, and I’ve reconnected with friends and family that had just disintegrated, because after years and years on the road and you come through town enough times saying ‘I don’t have time to see you, I’m way too busy, I have to do press, I’ve gotta do shows etc’ the building blocks of your relationships start to turn to dust, and you have to stop, and actually spend real time repairing those relationships.”

Is it fair to say the ‘Who Killed Amanda Palmer’ project is bigger than the Dresden Dolls, because you’ve got all this, you had the book. I look at things and you have more people into your music than you did when you were doing the Dresden Dolls stuff.

“I think it’s all relative. To me, whatever I’m working on at the time is the biggest project of my life and I never really measure things one against the other. It’s funny, I can’t think of the Dresden Dolls as an entity. To me, it’s my band, my songs – it’s all me, and when Brian was a part of it he was a huge part of it, and it was all us. But it certainly doesn’t feel like part of the past – everything feels like it comes with me.  And it’s interesting – because it was all of my song-writing, I’m playing as many Dresden Dolls songs tonight as I am originals and covers. And none of it feels like back catalogue – everything feels like it part of the same menu.  The first Dresden Dolls record continues to outsell everything, and I’ve noticed when I look at my set-list, some of those songs live really stand the test of time: songs like ‘Destiny’, ‘Half Jack’ and ‘Coin Operated Boy’, and I love the second Dolls record – some of those songs are my favourite, but as live songs they haven’t persisted as much as that first album.”

As well as the album and the DVD that came out under the Who Killed Amanda Palmer heading, there is also a book, filled with elaborate photographs of yourself, killed in many different ways, and also stories written by your partner, well known author Neil Gaiman. So was that your concept, or was that Neil’s idea, after you two hooked up?

“It was my idea. It was originally sort of glorified album artwork because I was given no packaging budget from Roadrunner so I decided I would just put out an autonomous piece of album artwork and then the book grew and grew and grew and I invited Neil to write the stories, thinking that he would shoot me off an email with a couple of clever things, never knowing that we would get as involved as we did, nor knowing it would spawn a relationship either. So that was just one thing leading to another.”

So about this acting thing – you’ve been doing a short movie?

“Yeah, I just saw the rough cut today. It looked amazing.  It’s fun, I kind of got to play an alternate version of my old self – I play a bad living statue. It’s so great! I play the saddest, shittiest, loneliest little living statue. She’s just awful and no-one gives her any money and it’s a great, sort of bizarre love-triangle between two living statues and a lonely old guy. That will be airing on Sky Arts and there’s one silent film per day on the 12 days leading up to Christmas.”

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