Fireworks Magazine

Fireworks Magazine Online 40 - Nova Orbis

Nova Orbis are a gothic progressive metal band from Colombia who have, with their debut album Imago, managed to blend styles and influences that encompass traditional Colombian instruments, choirs and some killer gothically tinged heavy progressive themes, that when they all come together add up to a scintillating listen. Steven Reid caught up with guitarist Jose David Barajas, before also being joined Jose’s sister and the bands lead singer Ana Barajas, to find out more.

Hi Jose, when did the band come together?

We started as Nova Orbis in 2005, but the idea of the band was born in 2000 when David Martinez and myself first met. We both were studying engineering and had a common interest in music and particularly symphonic metal. We first started playing acoustic versions of bands like Kamelot, Yngwie Malmsteen and Dream Theater. After playing live, at last, in 2004, we decided to make a serious music project. So we invited my sister Ana and David’s cousin José Fernando to join the band. Over the next few months we were searching for another guitar player. In that moment, David and I were alternating between the guitar and keyboard while looking for a bass player and another guitar player. The band found Jorge Gutierrez and Rodolfo Caliz, respectively, the right guys to do the job. The rest, as they say, is history.

It took you three years between recording your first demos to releasing the excellent debut album ‘Imago’ at the tail end of last year, what has the band been up to in those three years and why did you wait so long to put out your first CD?

Well, during these years we were working really hard on the composition to make things better than in our first recording effort. We composed about 23 songs before we decided which ones would be recorded. Also some of us were finishing our studies, while others were working and also saving some money for the recording and production of the album. Actually, we started the whole pre-production process in early 2008. We recorded the early version, a home version, of the songs during the weekends that year and also we began to look for the right producer.

I think that time was well spent as the results on ‘Imago’ are a surprisingly mature and eclectic mix of songs and styles, was it always the band’s vision to push boundaries and to avoid falling into the stereotypical progressive metal clichés?

Thank you for your comments Steven. Well, that has always been the idea, try to find our own sound, our own voice, it’s a long process and we’re just getting started. I think that you will find some new ideas in ‘Imago’, and also some common places, of course, but the idea as you just said is to avoid the clichés. I think that the fact that we’re all working on the writing process also brings different sounds to the final result. Some of us are really into progressive rock, while others love soundtrack music, classical music, extreme metal as well as world music.

I was interested in how that works with all six members of the band have input into the writing of the songs. Do the songs come together through live jamming session, or do you all bring ideas that are already close to being completed songs?

Usually someone comes up with an idea of, riffs and bridges, or even a whole instrumental song and creates a midi file from that. Then all of us get together to work on the lyrics, voice lines and arrangements and try to complete the idea until we find something that works for all of us. Other times we kind of work in teams on each song, it depends on how each member feels about the song. If anyone thinks that they can contribute something, then they work on that idea, however sometimes you don’t feel up to working on certain songs so you ask someone else to work on that. After we complete the song, we record a home version to listen to it with actual instruments, sometimes in midi version a song sounds incredible and then you record it and it sounds like shit! (laughs) Then we re-work the songs if it’s necessary. Jamming isn't a strength of ours, I think that’s because we have limited time in the rehearsal room.

There are so many styles and genres covered on the album that I’m interested to find out what music you all listen to and where the slightly more unusual ideas spark from, as you said the whole band is involved, so who brings which influences to the writing?

Our influences are very diverse, but I think that happens inside of every band. Our common influences are bands like Kamelot, Dream Theater, Nightwish and Ayreon. But Ana, for example, listens to a lot of jazz, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Diana Krall and she’s really into the whole classical arias repertoire like Bellini, Mozart, Donizetti, Verdi and so on. David Martinez is more into soundtracks by composers like Hans Zimmer, John Williams, Tan Dun and especially anime soundtracks from Yoko Kanno, Joe Hisaishi, Hajime Mizoguchi. Jorge likes more progressive rock bands like Porcupine Tree, Magic Pie, Opeth and Tomorrow’s Eve. But he also loves bands like Three Doors Down and Cold. Rodolfo loves the technical bands: Symphony X, Liquid Tension Experiment and like Jorge he also listens to Opeth. Jose Fernando, our drummer, loves progressive and extreme metal like Xerath, Death, Dimmu Borgir, Alight, Guilt Machine, Circus Maximus, and like the other guys he also listens to Opeth. As for me, I am a big fan of Iron Maiden, Counting Crows, Ben Harper and John Mayer. But I also likes traditional music from all over the world like Yasmin Levy, Cholo Valderrama, Ali Farka Toure and Andy Palacio, among others, so it is a very eclectic mix.

The album includes a wide range of traditional Colombian instruments, as well as ambitious choir sections, how long did it take to arrange the music and make these disparate ideas gel into extremely cohesive songs?

Actually the whole process has been pretty organic. We had the idea of including choirs in certain songs from the very beginning. When we were rehearsing them, we could all feel that the choirs, in that particular moment were needed. We are no experts in choir arrangement, so a friend of ours helped us with that. In the case of the the tiple and bandola, used in the song “Change”, it was an obvious choice because the song is actually a guabina, which is a traditional rhythm from the central region of Colombia. Diego Saboya, who plays in Palos y Cuerdas, a band of traditional Colombian music, was really helpful. He heard the songs a few weeks before he went to record his part and was very excited about working on it. He did an excellent job with the instruments and gave us a very inspired bandola solo.

‘Imago’ was co-produced by the band and Juan David Garcia who has previously produced genres as diverse as country, jazz and rock. How much influence did he have on the band’s sound and what made you decide he was the right person to help shape the music?

Working with a producer is always quite an experience. You learn a lot. When you write a song, you think of it like your child. So when the producer tells you “this song isn't working, maybe you should make this bridge shorter”, well, it’s hard to give up on that because you think your song is perfect. The truth is that many times long repetitive passages are boring for the listener, and that’s the kind of vision you usually don’t have while you’re playing. Since the beginning, Juan David told us, “the idea is not being a 'Dictating producer' and to make things my way. It's better to find a comfortable zone where we all feel that the song works”. In that moment we decided he was the right person to work with. Of course, he influenced our sound, but in a good way, respecting our vision of the sound and trying to bring out the best of each song. He also helped us to really understand the concept of an album, not just a group of songs with nothing in common. This is the way a band makes a statement of who they are.

(At this stage David’s sister Ana joins us) Hi Ana, I was just about to ask how the advent of the internet has made it possible for bands from less well known musical markets to get international recognition, what sort of scene exists in Colombia for the style of music that Nova Orbis play?

Ana: The underground scene in Colombia has been growing in the last ten to fifteen years. I would say there are two big streams, the bands that are pretty tied to singing in Spanish and moving in the local or regional scene, and the bands that decided to take the path of English and try to push the boundaries of language and look for a wider audience that includes non-Spanish speaking countries. In general, there are many circuits and movement in different cities which helps to built a real scene, improve the quality of the bands and, of course, the quality of the music. So I’m pretty sure, in the future, you will hear much more about metal and rock bands from Colombia and South America than in the past. But, of course, getting international recognition is still something difficult if you are a band from this part of the world. And in our case, the internet has been a great help for spreading the word about our music, not only to Colombia or South America, but further. Having our album available on also means the internet will hopefully help us to reach a wider audience.

How easy is it to play live in Colombia and do you go further afield into other South American countries?

Ana: One of the main problems that we have in South America, in general, with underground music is that bars and places to play, most of the times, are not big enough and you just have to deal with it as a band. Sometimes stages are not big enough for the whole band, especially in our situation since there are six of us and often the audience is packed into small places. However, there is something good, at least in Colombia, which is that the government supports a lot of independent music through free festivals where you have the best sound quality and huge stages which is great.  
With respect to South America, ever since we released ‘Imago’ in October 2009 we began a strong promotional campaign in the neighboring countries and even in the south of the continent. Actually, right now we have plans for touring in Chile and Argentina by the end of May. Touring in South America as an independent band is not easy due to the really long distances between countries. you can’t just take a train or rent a van. It’s gonna take a lot of time. That’s why we’re planning on doing it first in Argentina and Chile and later in Ecuador and Peru.

I was interested to read that Nova Orbis are part of the Bogota Gothic Alliance with six other bands, how does this Gothic Alliance work and how do the bands benefit from it?

Ana: As we mentioned before, the metal scene in Colombia is something relatively new. The best way that we have found to keep growing, being completely independent, is working in a supportive network and that’s exactly what the Bogota Gothic Alliance is. There are seven bands working together in promotion, organizing gigs, sharing contacts and having a strong relationship with fans, local media, etc. We have gained important recognition in the national scene and we’re currently creating new networks with bands in other cities in Colombia and South America.

That’s great that you are building up this network and the government supports music, however I was reading some of the blog posts on the band’s myspace page and noticed that guitarist Jose David Barajas and singer Ana Barajas were currently in Buenos Aires in Argentina to try and further their journey as musicians, will the band have to eventually move away from Bogota to expand and grow musically?

JD: We need to grow a lot as musicians, persons and performers and naturally there’s a lot of things that can be learned through experiences in foreign countries. The internet opens doors to a lot of knowledge and information that was impossible to get just a few years ago, however there are certain things that you can only learn from these types of experiences and not from a computer screen.

It’s not unusual for bands to release albums without a record deal these days, are you hoping to be signed before starting on a follow up?

JD: It would be really nice, but we can’t depend on that. We are trying to make the band as visible as we can by obtaining contacts all around the world to help us spread the word because in these days record companies are trying to minimize their risks and they only want to sign bands that already have a fan base big enough to justify their investment. So we need to grow as much as we can using our own means. With or without a record deal, we’re gonna record a follow up. That’s for sure.

With those plans to grow your audience, do you have any plans to take the Nova Orbis sound out of South America and play some shows either in Europe or the UK?

JD: That would be great! Our idea is to take our sound everywhere we can. Playing in Europe and the UK would be an excellent test for us because these are the places where most of our influences come from and Metal has a really strong tradition there. We are newcomers, which is a good and also a bad thing. The good thing is that you can bring something new to the table. The bad thing is that you typically have to walk a long road before they take you seriously. So, to be clear, if we have offers, then we would really love to play overseas!

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, do you have a message for your fans?

JD: Thanks for listening and enjoying our music and rocking with us. Hope we can meet you all on the road!




Fireworks Magazine Online 40 - Issue 40 Promo

"I'm gonna make a statement, and you'll probably think I'm crazy..."

Sammy Hagar discusses Chickenfoot live, their "averagely brilliant" new DVD, Michael Anthony and Van Halen, Chad Smith being crazy, Joe Satriani being from another dimension, and why Sammy in a Smart Car is just a joke.


"I think if you’d mentioned a Jim Kerr solo album, even I would be bored. To get to the next stage, I just needed something else to hang it round."

Jim Kerr explains why he's becoming the Lost Boy for the purpose of going solo, and how to go from playing in front of fifty thousand people to three hundred literally overnight.


"It’s hard for me to judge by album sales alone, but certainly by the crowds that come to the shows, I’m noticing a lot of younger people have started coming to our shows in the last couple of years."

Dave Meniketti is only too happy to melt the faces of several generations of fans, as Y&T explode back onto the scene with their brand new album and head to Sweden Rock and Download.


"We had no plans to record an album before we did Firefest 4 in 2007... We thought if 400 people turned up at the gig we’d be happy, so when it sold out with over 1,500 FM fanatics, singing every word... it took our breath away. We owed the fans a new FM album."

FM's Pete Jupp explains that their reformation for Firefest was never intended to result in return appearances and the brand new 'Metropolis' CD, but the people spoke.


Also featured in Fireworks Issue 40:

Chris Laney
Coheed And Cambria
Crash Diet
Jon Olivas Pain
Kasim Sulton
Michael Monroe
Reckless Love
Sacred Heart
Taking Dawn
White Wizzard


Fireworks Issue 40 comes with a FREE CD featuring Y&T, Chris Laney, FM, Serpentine, Reckless Love and much more!


Fireworks Magazine Online 39 - Bowling For Soup


Interview: Andy Brailsford

As readers will no doubt know, I have been a follower of Bowling For Soup since I first became acquainted with them back in 2002 after someone sent me their ‘Drunk Enough To Dance’ album for review. For a band that has been described by their record company as ‘pop/punk,’ I have watched their audiences grow and become quite diverse, as they can play to a crowd of 14 year olds, while still filling the main arena at Download with heavy rock fans. Having had a bit of a break from this country, I caught up with Jaret Reddick before their set at Sheffield Academy in October.

It’s been 2 years since we’ve seen you over here, and when we were last talking about the DVD you’ve recently released, you said you were going to put all the promo videos on it, which in the end weren’t there. Was there any particular reason for that?

“Well that was just one idea that we had, but the label wouldn’t really go for it because they’re really fighting the urge to do the ‘Greatest Hits’ yet. So basically a DVD compilation like that would be considered a ‘Greatest Hits’. But they actually did that in Japan – put out all the videos on one disk, which was rather cool and is helping increase sales over there. It will eventually happen over here, it was just the label saying that we’ve got a new album coming out and they’re not ready to do a Greatest Hits.”

On the new album, and the opening track ‘Really Cool Dance Song’, you sing that dance music isn’t really what you do and you had to borrow a keyboard for the middle eight section. Did you really borrow a keyboard?

“We actually did. Well, we rented it. “

Yeah, I thought, that wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest, when I heard it. I actually like that bit, when the keyboard comes in it’s like ‘Blimey, a bit of prog there!’

“Very auto-biographical, that song."

You’ve brought back 'Belgium'. Whose idea was it to do it Polka style though?

“The band Brave Combo is this Grammy-Award winning band that lives in our home town and we’ve talked about doing a collaboration with them forever and ever. And so we wanted to do something on this album, and what we were going to do was have them do a medley, like a polka medley of 1985, Almost, Girl All The Bad Guys Want .. all of our bigger hits. And then I was thinking, ‘Wait a minute. Why don’t we just collaborate on ‘Belgium’?’ It just seemed like a good thing to do, and so that’s what we did and the fans are very happy, because we took a lot of flak for not putting it on the last album.”

There’s a song on the new album, ‘America (Wake Up Amy)’. Obviously it is a political comment .. I wrote in my review, ‘The conscience of America finding its voice in this song.’

“You know, it’s a political song, or maybe not. Like a few of the other songs on the album, it’s kinda up to the listener really. There was indeed a girl in my past whose name was America, and they called her Amy, and she did indeed have some of the problems that are hinted at in the song. So again, it’s sort of to be taken however, you know. If you want it to be about a girl, it’s about a girl, if you want it to be our political song ... I can’t really say it’s a political song because I said I’d never write a political song. Most people get it, and I think that everybody understands the reason why I would hide the political thing behind a different sort of wall.”

Is it your daughter that sings on the end of “I Don’t Wish You Were Dead Anymore’?

“Yeah, Eric and I were doing the vocals for the demos at my house, and she had gotten home from school, so she gets off the bus and gets her little snack and comes in and watches us work, or do her own thing while we work, or sometimes participates, and she just started doing that little cheer. And I asked ‘Do you want to do that in the microphone?’ and she said yeah, so she came out and did that – she made it up and everything, it was all her.”

Where did the heavy metal middle eight in the middle of ‘I Gotchoo’ come from?

“Well you know, I’m a metal kid from way back. Before Bowling For Soup I was in a Death Metal band called Terminal Seasons, so whenever I do Karaoke I do all Skid Row, Motley Crue and all hair metal. It was time to show the world we can really rock.”

I’ve always said in all the reviews I’ve done that the heart of Bowling For Soup is a rock band. I mean, you’re described in various press releases as punk/pop, but Download ... you’re not going to get away with doing Download if you haven’t got some rock in your veins!

“Yeah, that’s so true and I think that people see that. I think we’re just sort of one of those bands that’s hard to describe. In the next 2 weeks or so, it’s there for us if we decide we want it but I think it makes more sense for us to be over in July to do O2 and T in the Park. So we’ll see. It’s too expensive for us to fly over, then fly back and come back again. So we have to be here for about 4 to 5 weeks. That’s a really long time for us to be away. “

One track on the album, ‘Me With No You,’ screams out to be a single release. Is there any chance that you will release this as a single?

“Yeah, well, it obviously depends on the success of ‘No Hablo Ingles,’ They released ‘My Wena’ over here first and ‘No Hablo Ingles’ over there, so hopefully 'No Hablo Ingles' does okay for us and we can release another single, and the two record companies can work together on releasing ‘Me With No You’ as a single. Right now the reaction to ‘Really Cool Dance Song’ over here is just crazy. Singles don’t sell in the way they have done in the UK in the past, with putting it in the stores all over. But the singles do drive albums because airplay and video play is crucial. And also you sell singles on iTunes, which is a song at a time. But right now our biggest seller is ‘Hooray For Beer’, which has never even been talked about as a single, but that’s the song that sells the most on iTunes.”

And ‘BFFF’ .. has it become a tradition having a song on an album about being gay?

“[laughs] You’re the first one to actually put those 2 together. I almost wrote that song completely differently based on the fact that I’d already written ‘I’m Gay’, but it definitely wasn’t an intentional thing to have a song on both albums with the gay thing ... but that chorus had to be written that way.”

What does the other ‘F’ stand for, by the way?

“[laughs] Well, you have to decide for yourself.”



Fireworks Magazine Online 40 - Francis Rossi

Taking It One Step At A Time

Everybody knows Francis Rossi as the frontman for Status Quo, a band he has played guitar and sung with for over four decades. Together with fellow guitarist/vocalist Rick Parfitt, they are recognised as a British institution. During their tenure they have released nearly thirty studio albums, plus numerous live documents and compilations, and had more hit singles than any other act, along with shifting 118 million albums. In all that time, Rick only briefly dallied with the idea of a solo career, making an album which to this day is still unreleased (although many tracks surfaced as B-sides) and Francis made one album, ‘King Of the Dog House’ back in 1996, which was penned almost entirely by outside writers. Now, in 2010, Francis is preparing to release a brand new solo record called ‘One Step At A Time’, this time featuring all original songs. James Gaden rang Francis at his studio to find out all about the album, the fact Francis will go out on his first ever solo tour to promote it, what not to do in the music business, and which lettuce is the best for salad.

Hi, it’s James from Fireworks Magazine.
Who works?

(Laughs) I remember! Sorry, I was just in the middle of trying to write a verse with Bob (Young).

Sorry, hope I didn’t spoil the flow!
Well no, it’s good you’re calling, it means people are still interested in what I’m doing and so I have to keep doing it. Never mind, you get me on my soapbox and I’ll be on Speaker’s Corner if you let me go.

(Laughs) Firstly, how’s Rick? I saw in the press that he hadn’t been well.
He’s fine.

Ah, good, I saw it in the paper but hadn’t seen anything on Quo’s site, so I wondered if they’d made something out of nothing.
They certainly did. His son isn’t well, he’s in trouble at the moment, but no, Rick is fine.

Good, excellent. On to the reason I’m calling, which is your solo record. I got the promo and I have listened to it a lot, I really like it. It reminds me a bit of ‘Thirsty Work’, it’s like a sequel to that for me, with the more pop influences there...
It’s more me I suppose. I can’t get away from it. A lot of Quo fans think I have that rock thing going on... even Rick, somebody said to Rick in the seventies that he wasn’t very rock and roll and Rick tried desperately to be, like there’s something wrong with being something else. There’s this macho image about “being rock”, like “hey, you’re a man!” Obviously I’m not a man then, because I like pop music, country music, I like it all. Most of the songs on this record, I could have maybe made them harder sounding, but I do them and enjoy them as they are. I wanted to do an album, I mentioned it to the manager, then a record company got interested, and then it was “well you’ll have to do some shows”. I don’t want to do any shows! Then I thought well, maybe I do! So now, I’m shitting myself about the shows!

(Laughs) Why?
Well I’ll be singing all bloody night for a start! I like to wander round the stage and let Rick sing! But I’m glad you like it. It’s funny, making a solo album, because normally I know that some people will like something, and you jockey with them about what will go on the record and what doesn’t, but there’s nobody to fight with this time! Hold on a second, it’s my wife...
(I’m then privy to one side of a conversation in the Rossi household that stands the test of time as one of the most rock and roll things I’ve ever heard...)
I’m doing the salad. We got Iceberg? What? Did you hear that? She’s shouting. Don’t marry an American, they’re not nice. This one’s tall and she’s not nice. I’ll murder her out of pity for myself. Hang on... no, I don’t want that shit do I? I like Iceberg. I’ll make the lettuce, the salad tonight. I’ll... hang on, this interviews a waste of time now, I’m not doing a solo record, I’m getting divorced! I’ll have Iceberg, I’ll do the salad. God love the woman, she takes all sorts of shit from me. I don’t know why.

(Laughs) If you want these tapes as an alibi if you do commit murder as your defence, just let me know.
(Laughs) Oh, she’ll love that! Where were we up to? I’m waffling!

We said about you not having to fight anyone in the band because it’s a solo venture.
Yeah, it’s a unusual thing. We try and keep things democratic in the band but there’s always going to be the odd fight. I could try and dictate I suppose, but I’m more interesting in democracy and hearing what people think. But then you realise some have their own agenda, they might not like a certain song simply because it’s not “rocky” enough. Alan Lancaster, when he was in the band, had a serious problem with some stuff. He’d get really embarrassed by stuff like ‘Dirty Water’ or ‘Marguerita Time’, and I mean really embarrassed. I’d be like ‘What’s the matter with you?’, you know? It comes from a testicle place I think - it’s a lot of bollocks, but some men have this macho feeling about music. I don’t have that, music hits me and I love it. That was the main thing with this album, nobody was there to say ‘oh, I don’t like that one’. I like that one, I’m putting it on! I just go through some strange thoughts about it like why now, why did I wait this long, who the bloody hell cares, what’s the point, but I’m doing it!

I was going to say what a long time it’s been, because you only made one other solo record which was ‘King Of the Doghouse’...
Yeah, and I let somebody else take control of that, because I was a bit down at that point. I should have taken control of it. This one is just me and an engineer in a room with my songs. I’m sitting here with Bob now doing stuff and we have to do some sleeve notes and he said we need to list who is on the album. Nick, my son, played something, John Edwards played something, Andrew (Bown) played something, two or three other keyboard players played something, I played some bass, but I don’t remember who played what, where or when! That’s another thing when I was thinking about this record, I thought oh, I should know all that! But I’ll put a list of all the people that are on it - fuck knows what they all did! (Laughs) It’s all new to me, this! It’s like having short hair, it’s all new! I always think I’m being really wild and different when I do something, like in the eighties, when I was wearing suits I was thinking ‘Look at me mother, aren’t I wild!’ But she mentioned that people had worn suits before me and I thought ‘Oh yeah, they have haven’t they...’ I’m not the first. But I’ve got short hair! No, there’s lots of old guys with short hair and a bald bit at the back. Common as fucking muck. (laughs)

With the promo, literally all I’ve got is a paper sleeve with the song titles. I presume they’re all new ones you’ve written, unlike ‘King Of The Doghouse’...
Yeah, these are all mine and Bob’s. Oh, there’s two by myself and a bloke called Guy Johnson who came to my house when he was about nineteen. I’ve been interested in working with him for years, he’s a lovely bloke and we write together now and again. One song we wrote, called ‘Here I Go’, we did in Jersey a few years ago and a few years back before I moved we wrote ‘One Step At A Time’. I think that’s my favourite on the album. But the rest of it, that’s all me and Bob. There’s one I decided on for the set, and that’s ‘Old Time Rock And Roll’, ‘cos I like it. But the rest of the set will be pretty much mine and Bob’s stuff. I won’t be doing anything that isn’t Francis Rossi so to speak. I’ll try and do most of the album, but there’ll be some Quo songs in there. One thing I realised while putting a set together is some Quo songs are about four or five minutes. You put in four of them, and you’ve done twenty minutes. All my songs are about three minutes - three or four of them, and I’ve only done twelve minutes! (laughs). So the set could get bogged down with too many tunes. All those things are bothering me - because I’ve never been in another band! I’ve only ever been in one band. I’m the only person who didn’t join Quo. Fuck, this is weird! Half of me is like ‘Aw, yeah!’ and the other half is going ‘Oh no!’

(Laughs) I think it’ll be good. You’ve not booked yourself on a huge tour, you’re doing six shows, so there’s enough time to enjoy yourself but it’s not going to take you out of your comfort zone for too long.
Yeah, but the insecure little showoff in me needs to know he’s sold a few tickets. The Glee Club in Cardiff, I hate clubs, I’m not looking forward to that at all. Now I’m asking how are the tickets selling and they’re saying ‘so so...’ Shit, I’d forgotten what it was like to deal with all that! But then again, would I want to do it in front of a large Quo audience - I’m not sure of that either! I’m only used to being on stage with Quo. I’m used to certain things and certain ways, so I might start panicking. The show off in me will worry if it doesn’t start well, the professional in me will say just get through it. I suppose I won’t know until I’ve done a show. I’m in the dark. I don’t know how the band sounds, do I? If I do an interview about Quo, I know what we sound like, but this is new. Everything I’m about to do is uncharted territory. I’m thinking shit, do I really want to do this? But I’m committed now, everything is in motion. But that said, you catch me in another mood, I might say ‘oh yes, I’m so looking forward to it!’ (laughs)

I think once you’ve got a show under your belt and you know how the set flows and how everything sounds, you’ll be better.
Yeah, I think you’re right, it’s like trying a pair of shoes on for the first time, before they become really comfortable.

I saw on the press release I received that you’re going out with an eight piece band. So what extras are you adding, a brass section?
No, I was gonna go brass - I love a bit of brass chuck, but I’ve got two guitar players. One of my sons, Nicholas, I’ve always wanted to take out on the road with me, he’s coming, and John Edwards’ son, who I’ve known since he was born, he’s a nice boy and I like his guitar playing. I said to him years ago if I went out, did he want to come, and he was only about twelve at the time but he said ‘ooh, yeah!’. So he’s coming. He’s very, very good. I’ve got Paul Hirsch on keyboards, Gary Twigg on bass who I’ve known for years, a drummer who played on the album called Leon Cave... what a name! He sounds like a star doesn’t he? So two guitars, bass, drummer, my guitar, keyboards and two girl singers. I always wanted girls singing with me. That’s another thing, tunes on the album like ‘Crazy For You’ and ‘Sleeping On the Job’ which have Quo leanings, if I had a guy singing the harmony parts, where Rick would normally be, it would just make it sound like Quo. So the idea is put a girl above me - ooer! Put her in the mix, I just love her voice, and there are things she did on there, for me, it’s better than porn. Better than wanking!

(Laughs) You’re absolutely right! With ‘Sleeping On The Job’ opening the album, the thing the struck me, other than the fact it’s a great up-tempo feel good song, is the catchy chorus with the women backing singers that just lifted it all.
I know. For me, that’s great, but there are certain Quo fans who will find that a complete no no. They’ll shut it down. It’s interesting that you compared this record to ‘Thirsty Work’, which I produced and wrote most of. I produced ‘Rock Til You Drop’ as well, and to me, I think those are very good albums... well I would, I produced them. But ‘Thirsty Work’ wasn’t that well received by the Quo audience. I think there’s a certain element of the hardcore fans who just want us to do what AC/DC do, do the same stuff we were doing on ‘Piledriver’. I’m not knocking AC/DC for that, they do it so well, the kind of tracks they write and the way they record them are the same as what they did on their first album.
If you or I were advising an upcoming act in this business, we would tell them to do the opposite, because you will never make it work doing the same album thirty years later. But AC/DC can do it. You would tell a young act you cannot be a heart throb in this business, be gay, get caught playing with a policeman’s cock in a toilet and make it - oh, yes you can. You couldn’t get away with being gay years ago, not only can you be gay if you’re George, but you can get caught playing with a policeman’s knob in a bog, and talk about it, and STILL be a heart throb! You would hardly advise an act to do that, but it works for him! You would probably advise a kid on the X-Factor not to say they were gay to start with, because people will be turned off, but it’s not really an issue now. The business is full of things that work which you wouldn’t advise. You cannot make the same album for thirty years... AC/DC can. You cannot make it big without singles and airplay in the seventies.... oh, there was Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, they did okay... so you get to what I’m doing, you’d think there’s no chance a sixty year old like me who has been in a successful band for forty years is going to do anything with a solo release... hang on, maybe there is a chance! Again, the insecure little showoff in people like me makes us try it. ‘Please like me, please!’

(Laughs) I think, you mentioned Alan Lancaster having the macho rock style about him, and not getting on with ‘Marguerita Time’ which increased you to a more mainstream profile, I have always perceived Quo, from a fan’s view, as you having more of the pop sensibilities in your writing and Rick being more of the straight forward rocker. When ‘Thirsty Work’ came out, Rick didn’t write anything on that, so I immediately assumed it was a Francis driven record, and was more pop orientated than ‘Rock Til You Drop’, but I really liked it, I thought there was some great stuff on there. Some of the die hards won’t like it, but that’s why you’re playing smaller clubs, the die hards don’t have to come do they?
No, I don’t think so. I’m interested to see what happens. It makes me wonder about these die hards. I think they’re a bit blinkered, I’m not a guy who can understand those who say ‘oh, I only like rock’ or ‘I only like blues’ or whatever. I like so many different things. Certain bands I just don’t like, but they might write one song and I’ll think ‘God, that’s good’. Doesn’t mean I’m gonna start following them around or shag them or anything, it’s just that thing got to me. And that’s the best thing about music. I can just hear something - for instance when I first heard Snow Patrol’s ‘Chasing Cars’ I thought ‘oh fucking hell, I should have written that!’ It’s three bloody chords, I can do that shit, and it’s one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever heard. I heard it on Grey’s Anatomy, and it came on over a sad bit, and I sat there booing for ages! For music to have the power to do that, it’s such a joy. But the rock thing, when it’s so guarded, that’s not real. That doesn’t mean I don’t like rock, but it ends up being forced because you end up thinking ‘Is it this, is it that, is it tattooed and manly’? I don’t care if it’s tattooed and manly or if it’s a poof, is it good? You know?
For example, I’ve never really liked the Pet Shop Boys, there was some friction between us some years ago and I’d take the piss whenever I got chance. They brought a single out at the end of last year, and I just loved it. So I sent them a telegram saying ‘I hate to admit this guys, but I absolutely love your new single. P.S. Mind you, it is a shuffle.’ And it was a shuffle. And they wrote back ‘Why don’t you do a version then?’ And all the animosity and shit went out the window! They did ‘It’s A Sin’ - I loved it and they got so much stick for that. That’s what I like... I can’t say ‘ooh, I don’t want to like that’ because the music makes me like it. I can’t help it. So I don’t understand how people become elitist and intellectualised about music. What are they fucking talking about? It’s the same about a woman you might like. You love her because you connect, it doesn’t have to be because she looks or acts a certain way.

Exactly. I interviewed you when ‘In Search For The Fourth Chord’ came out and I said that I thought the last three Quo albums, ‘...Chord’, ‘The Party Ain’t Over Yet’ and ‘Heavy Traffic’ - I loved them to bits from start to finish. I thought they were much stronger records, track for track, than the so called ‘classic’ albums.
Good man! That’s because you’ve listened to them, that’s why.

Yeah, I remember discussing this with you and you said the old albums obviously had some magic moments with the classic songs you still play today, but some of the others had sloppy playing or were real filler tracks...
Real sloppy playing on ‘Hello’!

Exactly! But people I know immediately dismiss the notion that you might have made a decent record since the seventies, and it really winds me up, it’s bollocks. And they state it like it’s a fact, rather than simply their opinion, which is even more annoying.
That’s because it’s one of those things people say - they hear others say it and they join in. I’ve heard that about so many acts, not just us. Any act that’s done the rounds gets it from someone, and it’s... fuck me, couldn’t they come up with something original to say? And it’s not true. I totally understand we need to keep the nostalgia thing intact, but we’re not going to keep making ‘Piledriver’ and ‘Hello’. I’ve been there, done it! I listen back to those albums and think ‘shit, that’s bad, oh God, that’s embarrassing, oh, that’s magic though...’ But those albums are not ten tracks of blinding magic! I agree with you, I think ‘Heavy Traffic’, ‘Under The Influence’, ‘...Fourth Chord’ - they’re bloody good albums. There’s a good mixture of material and I have this argument with people who perceive Status Quo as being like
AC/DC in that we don’t vary our style much - wrong. We have ballads by Rick, he used to write all the ballads. He wasn’t a rocker at all, but someone convinced him he needed to growl and sing like that. Rick’s voice is a good, classic cabaret voice. Not that anyone will ever hear it. So he gets lost on that ‘It has to be rock!’ trip. No! Let’s make the album with the material that’s coming out. That’s what we did in the seventies. We did a track called ‘A Year’ on ‘Piledriver’. If we did that now, people would laugh at us. They’ve got this image of us. I suppose with it being showbiz, 95% is bullshit. People end up thinking the seventies were a certain way, they forget the crap... if you lived back then you had three day weeks, power was going off, people were really unhappy... but when you look back it’s ‘Oh, wasn’t it marvellous back then?’ Yeah, alright, if you say so.

On the subject of Quo songs, you’ve re-worked ‘Caroline’ on your new album...
(Laughs) Mmm, yes, did you like that? Cheeky isn’t it!

I did, I thought it was really cool how you did it. I was wondering, did you do that so there was something familiar to Quo fans on the record, or did you always want to re-work it?
Well, that was how me and Bob wrote it in the first place. I spoke to my manager about doing stuff for this album, and I heard Robert Plant doing some things from his back catalogue and changing them, and I thought oooh.... and my manager said about maybe taking one or two of the Quo ones and trying something similar. I wasn’t too keen at first, they’ve been done and I wrote them anyway! But I was in here, the studio, like I am now down the garden, and I started going “diddly diddly diddly...” and ended up muttering “If you want to... turn me on to....” over the top and then thought ‘oh shit!’ So I quickly put the basic thing down to capture the feel, and did it properly the following day. When I heard it back, I smiled, because I thought it was cheeky. (Laughs) Guess what, I’m gonna open with that fucking thing. I’ve opened with ‘Caroline’ for centuries, and I can just see the smart arses saying ‘He’s not going to open with the same song...’ Yes he is!

(Laughs) I think it would be great, it’ll set the scene for the feel of the show, but still be familiar. It shows it’s not a Quo gig per se but there’s enough there that if you like Quo you should enjoy it.
I think it’ll be excellent as an opener. I can’t detach myself from Quo totally, because that’s who I am, I wrote these things for Quo and I play guitar and sing those songs within Quo. So unless I try and go against the grain and refuse to play Quo stuff... well it’s not possible. It’d be like telling Eric Clapton to not be Eric, or any other established artist not to be who they are, it’s kind of silly.

There’s a bonus track on there of ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ - was there any reason you chose that or was it a personal favourite?
Yeah - just as I was moving, about two or three years ago, I moved about spitting distance from my old place, where I’d been for about 34 years. We were moving into this new house and myself and the engineer were decommissioning the old studio because the new was was ready to be moved into. We got a call on the Wednesday from some guys who needed a song for the Friday for a movie.
There was a film out called ‘Three And Out’, it was really good. The press picked up a funny angle on it, and like the PC brigade kicked in about it. It’s about a guy who drives a subway train, and someone throws themselves in front of it. Then it happens again and he gets told that if three people do it, they retire you for life and give you money. So he ends up hunting around for a third person to dump in front of his train! (Laughs) He’s looking for someone depressed who wants to bump themselves off.
Anyway, I was asked to do a track and we did ‘I Can See Clearly Now’... very flouncy to what it is on the record. Pip Williams produced it. Anyway, they used something else instead, and when we were looking for a bonus track, we thought about that. I don’t want it as part of the record itself... as a bonus track on some versions, fine, but I don’t want it as part of the album. I like it, but I want to keep the album as my own material really. What we did for the movie I thought was blinding, but sadly the film went pear shaped, thanks to the PC brigade or someone getting involved. They really hammered this film and I think it was taken off after only a few days. Poor bastards, it’s a good film.

Well I’m all out of questions Francis, so I’ll let you and Bob get back to your writing.
I’m sorry, I waffle on so much!

Don’t apologise, it’s great! And it makes my job easy. I can come in with four questions and I’m done! (laughs)
(Laughs) Thanks very much!

I really enjoyed the album, and I hope the tour goes well and I hope to see at one of them.
That would be good, you take care!



Fireworks Magazine Online 39 - Gong

To say that Gong, over the years, have been perceived by the majority of rock fan as strange is probably an understatement. Since the late sixties, Daevid Allen, the driving force behind the band, has been purveying his pixie rock and flying teapots to anyone who is prepared to listen, and there are many who are prepared to listen. How else could a band survive for so long were that not the case? Their new album ‘2032’ sees the return to the fold of guitar wizard Steve Hillage, which has resulted in this latest work having a more structured feel. And in support of the album the band ventured out onto the road again, playing various cities up and down the country, all of the shows well attended and some selling out. Andy Brailsford managed to get to speak to both Daevid Allen and Steve Hillage prior to the band coming to the UK, and asked about how the album, and the re-union, came about.

The impression I get when I listen to the new album is that it’s less progressive and more melody orientated. Would you agree with that?

“Yeah, it’s more rock and roll for sure and it’s definitely got songs and melodies, yeah. That’s the result of Steve and I working together I think - we do trade each other off in a really good way. He’s been away doing other stuff and it’s so lovely to have him back. We’d been hanging out socially but he’s had a real career path there with System 7, and he’s made it in many ways in that scene, and has been flying around the world like a crazy man. So it’s really nice that he would come back and bring a bit of the energy back to us, it’s really, really sweet of him.”

So what’s was the mechanics behind Steve coming back?

“It really started because we did the concert. We had this thing about two years ago called The Unconvention. It was in Amsterdam and all of the musicians came, all the musicians in the gang and their families gathered together for the whole weekend, and we went three days, two theatres and just ran non-stop Gong: all the different Gongs and bands associated with Gong, and just had this fantastic weekend. And as a result of this, Steve – who played with System 7 and Gong that weekend – had such a ball and enjoyed it so much, it brought back to him how the family never went away – the family is still big and strong, is multi-national, very friendly, very supportive and very loving. Over the years that’s what Gong has created – this great group of people. So when he tasted that again, he wanted to get back in because he had so much fun – both of them, Miquette (Giraudy), and he. They wouldn’t be doing it if they were bored by it, they’re doing it because they’re really getting turned on by it again.”

Many people call your music ‘weird’, but in the context of your songs you have some fairly strong messages there. My favourite has to be ‘Wacky Baccy Banker’ cos I thought that is bang on the nail. And there’s also ‘Guitar Zero’ when you’re on about war. But with the banks, that’s something we all know that’s happened quite recently, so was that song something you’ve written lately, or something you’d already written before all these problems came out in the press?

“No, I wrote it on the spot, literally writing it just before the recording started – it was really hot off the press, that one. I mean, most of this album was written this year. There’s a couple of things that weren’t but 90% of it was.”

Speaking of that track, do you think it’s essential to have a sense of humour in your music?

“Totally. You know, if everything is going bad around you, if you can find something to laugh about, it’s a healing thing, it lifts you and takes away some of the pain. I don’t really imagine it’s possible in the human condition to spend more than 50% of the time in a positive state, but it would be nice to think we could be happy half the time.”

I’ve seen the promo vid on YouTube, which is pretty good. That was done in Japan for you, and based on your artwork. How did you feel when you saw it, because it’s like your artwork come to life.

“You know what? I’ve always been dreaming about that and I never thought it would happen, and it sort of happened by surprise. I just suddenly saw it and I was speechless for a couple of days. And then I was at a gig and I ran into John Cooper Clark and I was so happy to see him I completely forgot about it [laughs]. But it really did have a huge effect on me ... but so does John Cooper Clark [laughs]. You know, life’s full of lovely surprises.”

My favourite song title has got to be ‘Pinkle Ponkle’. Where the Hell did that come from?

“[laughs] A girlfriend of mine in Australia, that I haven’t heard from in a long time, used that term to describe duff music – all that party music, ‘pinkle ponkle’ music. It was such a funny term, and the way she said it and the crazy look she had in her eye and the smile on her face, it sounded very endearing and always stayed with me. And when I heard that piece I just thought, ‘Oh, pinkle ponkle.’ So I rang up and said you’ve been saying pinkle ponkle for years, do you mind if I use the title? And she loved it, so there it was.”


Going back to the promo video for ‘How to Stay Alive’ there’s a very basic Eye of Horus in there, the eye in the pyramid. Was that meant to symbolise the Eye of Horus, or was that not really your intention?

“Well essentially the central design is the Gong mandala. We just did the book launch last night of Gong Dreaming 2 and the story of how that all happened is in there, but it was revealed to me by the guy who designed the first pyramid stage for Glastonbury, because he was building that stage according to laws of proportion, not mathematical calculations, and he showed me how to make, with just a compass and a straight ruler without any markings, how to make a cross, how to make a triangle, then a four, and a five sided star and then a seven sided star. And he said ‘I don’t know why I’m showing you this because I was told not to give it to anyone’ and I told him it’s going to a good cause, don’t worry. And that solved the problem I’d been working on for about 2 years at that time, and I suddenly realised I could create the Gong mandala and I did it in 32 moves and it’s all done from proportional geometry. And it actually resolves 22 over 7; it resolves the 7 and 22, (that’s pi to those not of a mathematical bent), which you can’t do mathematically. And we’ve used that as a sort of power symbol, a power driver and source for lifting people up and making people feel more positive.”

So from the new album, which are your personal favourites?

“I really like ‘Escape Control Delete’ but I also like ‘Wacky Baccy Banker’. I really enjoy singing ‘Escape Control Delete’ most of all. With ‘Wacky Baccy’ I just get puffed, because I dance too much and by the time the second verse comes around I haven’t got any breath to sing [laughs].”

Have you had any reviews back yet?

“Yeah, the reviews are amazingly positive. It’s even getting reviewed in the weirdest session magazines and all kinds of stuff. “
Which is great because it gets you to a wider audience.
“It does, but again, I’m not that keen on having the audience at any cost, you know what I mean? It just says if you can hack this, if you like this, then here it is. I’m not trying to force anything down anyone’s throat. I’m not in the ‘big sell’ in other words.”
That’s probably the best situation to be in, making music. Money isn’t the all important factor, it’s the creative aspect and getting the message out.
“Yeah, I hesitate to advise it, but I usually find that I’m right on the edge of destitution almost all the time – I don’t get any royalties from the old records. But I’m never short either. I met this record company guy who owed me a lot of money. He took me out to dinner and I said to him, ‘You know what? You owe me over a million pounds, yet I’m actually glad you’ve got it because I don’t think I could bear the responsibility of having it.’ But I live like a millionaire because I don’t actually want for anything. I don’t have very expensive tastes and I get around all over the world doing a job which I love doing. I’m very happy the way things are.”


I was talking to Daevid and commented how I thought the new album was more melody orientated rather than progressive rock, and he attributed a lot of that to you.

“Well I’d attribute a lot to Daevid as well. His vocal melodies are fantastic – listen to a song like ‘The Gris Gris Girl’ the vocal melodies are all him, and they’re brilliant. I come up with the chord sequence, but he came up with the melodies. I mean, it was a joint effort – let’s say it like that. We co-wrote a lot of the stuff and it was very enjoyable to work together.”

Your guitar work has been missing from Gong for many years, but the album sounds like you’ve never been away. How easy was it for you to get back into the Gong mindset.

“Well it’s all based around the live experience. Having done the Amsterdam show, then the 2 shows we did in London in 2008, which was also part of the process ... so having got the chemistry firing live it was just a question of transferring that to the recording environment which I think we successfully did.”
So is the live side of things your main objective?
“I think with regards to the Gong project, the impetus is on the live side, yes. But I think we’ve made a cracking album and it’s a studio-made album but it’s based around the live sound of the band.”

‘Escape Control Delete’ is quite a heavy song for Gong.

“Well I think it’s a strong nod to what you might call the Kraut Rock beat, and it’s something I’m particularly keen on – making a nod to our German compatriots from that period: Can, Neu!,Ash Ra Tempel, because the 70’s psychedelic movement was essentially what Gong was a part of, although David and Gilli, (Smyth), their project started in the 60’s. But the thing we were all involved with – the so called trilogy – was a 70s thing, and we felt quite a strong affinity with our German colleagues. So I was feeling that while creating the music for ‘Escape Control Delete’. But the melody is a typical Gong melody.”

Talking about the 70s they had a week on BBC to do with progressive music, and I was quite surprised not to see Gong featured, although you did appear on a studio recording of ‘Tubular Bells’ with Mike Oldfield.

“To be quite honest, David and I use the word ‘progressive’ in the context of Gong with great caution. A lot of progressive rock fans don’t like Gong – we’re far too wild and wacky for them, you know. Also we’re quite funky, and for some strange reason progressive rock fans don’t like funk, they don’t like black music ... they hate techno. The fact that I’ve done the System 7 project means I’m on the black list, you know. So if you analyse our music, there’s certainly a strong, what you might call progressive element in Gong because obviously we’re very much part of the Canterbury scene and we use odd time signatures and we have a strong influence of early 20th century French music in the chords and melodies, which is an important component of the Canterbury and progressive musical style, but we’ve also got the funkiness, the wacky electronics and of course, all the humour and comedy and spirituality of the lyrics that a lot of real progressive fans don’t like. So it doesn’t upset us not to have been included in that specific progressive rock programme.”

So does modern technology allow you to do much more when recording, that you maybe couldn’t have done back in the 70s?

“I don’t think it’s made an absolutely total difference to the way the Gong sound is made, but it’s made some things easier. It’s made making this album easier because although we did the main writing and some of the recording with Miquette, myself, Daevid and Gilli in one place – that was Australia – we recorded the rhythm tracks in London. So quite a lot of the record was made by actually swapping files over the internet. You couldn’t do that in the 70s! [laughs]”



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