Fireworks Magazine

Fireworks Magazine Online 77 - Interview with Pretty Maids

PRETTY MAIDS - An interview with Ken Hammer

Interview by Dave Bott

Despite having been around for over thirty years, Pretty Maids have hit a truly purple patch with their 'Pandemonium' and 'Motherland' albums, some of the best of their lengthy career. Well known and much loved for their music being equally heavy and melodic, the band have always made regular appearances in Fireworks, so we couldn't resist a jovial chat with the band's guitarist Ken Hammer to discuss their latest release 'Kingmaker', amongst many other things.


Earlier this year there was a personnel change within Pretty Maids. Are you able to explain what factored into Morten Sandagar leaving the band?

Well you know how it is, this is like a marriage... sometimes people get fed up with each other. I have tried it three times so I know what I am talking about, ha-ha. I think regarding Sandagar, it was a personal issue and to be completely honest with you, I am not totally sure why he left. I think he had some things he needed to sort out. We are still on very friendly terms and we talk to each other a lot so there are no hard feelings. In short, we have been working constantly and he had some personal things as well. I think he just needed a break.

I'm aware you had somebody step in to help on keyboards for the new album but who have you drafted in to replace him permanently?

Chris Laney is a very good friend of mine and has been for many years. He is a producer, a song-writer, plays keyboards, obviously, and also plays guitar and bass. I always wanted to try and see if we could bring in another guitar player because I like the two guitar sound, especially on some of the songs. As Laney could play both keyboards and guitar, for me, it was an obvious choice to try and check him out. Everything is going very well too, we have done three shows with him now and he is a good guy. We also wanted to see how it would work with us socially... we are a bit nuts and maybe he wouldn't like that. Ronnie Atkins and I have been together for almost forty fucking years, it's difficult for people that come into that to try and be a total part of it. We are very tight and we have pretty much done everything together. We wanted to see how Laney would work with that and it has worked out really well.

Your new album is entitled 'Kingmaker', how did you come up with the title?

We had been working on that because we had to find something good. We thought that the last album, 'Motherland', was a strong album title and we thought we needed something that had the same power and impact to it. We went through a lot of different titles, we thought, what about this and what about that. We also had a lot of back and forth conversations with the guy who did the cover and he actually said "I have a great idea for a title" and me and Atkins said "bring it on man, bring it on" and he suggested 'Kingmaker'. It's funny because I had something different in the back of my mind but with King or Maker or something like that. He came up with that and Atkins and I said right away "that's it". Fuck man, it was just one of those things and it sounds good when you say it.

As you mentioned, Chris has joined the band, but before that it was Kim Olesen of Anubis Gate who stepped in to help with keyboards for the recording. How did that come about and why did you opt for him?

Well, Sandagar left a couple of weeks before we were due to go into the studio and while we were there our producer (Jacob Hansen) asked who was going to do the keyboards. We replied "fuck, we are not really sure... guess we are going to have less keyboards on this album!" That was the obvious choice to take but then he said "I know this session player that I have worked with a few times, maybe he could do it". So he came up with that name and Atkins apparently knew him from way back because they have lived in the same town; I didn't know him. He came down, we had a talk and he came up with a few ideas so we decided to see if he would work out. He did and we thought what he suggested sounded great. We were very happy that it all went smoothly so there isn't really a big story in that. We have been very lucky on that front.

How do you, as the artist, feel this album compares to 'Motherland'?

We have done it the same way, using the same procedure, as we did for 'Motherland'. It is pretty much the same thing we do, but obviously sound-wise and the way it develops, with keyboards or whatever, changes a song from where it started to the end result that you hear on the album. In general, it is the same thing we do when we write songs... at least eighty percent of the time. I feel that this release is more complete. We started off with 'Pandemonium', which was a great start... I thought 'Motherland' was complete as a whole album, but I think this one is even more complete than that. It sounds great and I think this album... I think that it grows. Maybe the first time you hear it you go "okay, this is alright". Then next time you hear it you think "umm, oh yeah" and then some of the songs start to stand out a little bit.

And that sometimes makes for a better album. The growers are the ones that last.

Exactly, that is the sort of album that will last a long time. You have got to have one song right away that catches people's attention, then later on, when they have bought the album and have given themselves time to listen to it a little more, they go "wow man, fuck".

So everything was done as before, you haven't tried anything new for this album or something that you haven't tried for a long time?

I have to think back man, it was very stressful at that time because most of the songs were written within a two month period, except for maybe 'Face The World', I think we had that going earlier along with a few riffs and stuff here and there, but most of the songs were written in that two month period. We were kind of pushed on time because we had already booked the studio, then Sandagar left us. We were sometimes standing there thinking "okay..." because a keyboard intro can sometimes inspire you to do something. Since he wasn't there we were like "fuck, we are going to have to think, or pretend for now, that this will be a keyboard intro". We were a bit pushed at that time but it worked out quite luckily in the end.

What songs stand out for you personally?

'Humanize Me', definitely... 'Bullseye' I like because it is just a good live song and has a good live feel to it. Fuck man, it is difficult, I like 'Face The World' as well because it's a good tune, it could have been a fucking smash hit if that came out in the eighties. That could have been a song like when Van Halen did '5150'. If that song had come out at that time, man, I would not be living here where I live now... I would have lived in bloody Los Angeles because then I could have afforded it, ha-ha.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

Timing is everything isn't it?

Yeah man... our timing sucks I tell you that, ha-ha. It always has, we are either late or very late, ha-ha!!

Turning to the album in general, what other lyrical themes do you explore on the new album?

It is all about stuff that we see happening everyday throughout the world. That's pretty much where the main inspiration comes from. It is not a concept album at all, although it could have been because some of the songs are similar in terms of what goes on in the world today... the fucked up world we are living in!

I must admit there are times when you look around and wonder should you be in an asylum or whether you are already living in one...

Exactly, you have this feeling sometimes; are you going to wake up and find someone saying "it was all a joke". I watch TV and I think, where are we going and what is going on? It is scary shit man.

You're a band well known for being equal parts heavy and melodic; do you ever find it difficult to balance the two sides or is that something that just comes naturally to you all?

We have done that since the first album. The funny thing is that a lot of people ask us about that and I have started to think about it and come to the conclusion that this is just our style. We can be Judas Priest or we can be Journey. We have to limit ourselves sometimes to one of the directions because we find them equally interesting. I like Journey as much as I like Pantera. For me, there are really only two types of music and it is that simple – good and bad. After that, it really comes down to the moment; sometimes I like to sit and listen to The Eagles then the next moment I can be listening to Five Finger Death Punch. You couldn't be fucking further away from each other... it is just music that I like. I have heard people say "how can you say you like Keith Urban if you play Heavy Metal"? What the fuck has that got to do with it? I like Earth, Wind And Fire as well so does that mean I can't listen to Iron Maiden? That is what inspires me. I can't understand why some people want to be so limited. They confuse loyalty and in doing so can miss out on so much other stuff. I just feel sad that people won't let new music inspire them. It is just music... we are not at war. I can hear a Country song and feel the emotion and I can listen to another from that genre and think that it is far too corny. If they sing great, the harmonies are brilliant and the sound is good, that is what I listen to... how it sounds.

I can see how listening to varied types can provide not only enjoyment but also inspiration.

Absolutely. I know towards the end it will sound like Pretty Maids one way or another but that doesn't mean you can't suck out some of the good things from elsewhere.

You mentioned that these songs were written in a short time frame and that it was a little bit stressful. Was the actual recording a little easier than for 'Motherland' because I know you had some issues when it came to touring and recording at the same time for that?

Ha-ha... yes because this time we could actually focus on doing this whole album. Of course there was the other stress factors of going into the studio with only four guys instead of five but I guess that is the story with this band. There will always be something, it just goes on and never stops but then again, it keeps you excited and life interesting. Sometimes I wish it would be a little less fucking interesting, just for once, ha-ha.

You have once again turned to the same producer, Jacob Hansen; what makes him such an important and now regular part of the Maids sound?

First of all, it is his sound itself. That's the sound that, in my head, I have always heard that Pretty Maids should have since bloody day one. That in itself is, for me, enough really. I think his sound is brilliant, he adds ideas and craziness to the songs that we wouldn't have come up with ourselves. He is a brilliant producer, his sound is heavy, it's round... oooo I just love it!

I have seen you have already announced tour dates for the continent, have you got any plans for any dates in the UK?

I'm quite sure it is being worked on at the moment, but whether there is any facts and stuff to it yet, I am not sure, but I would love to. On the last tour we only did one gig in England and that was in Camden. I would love to do more shows in the UK. The first tour we ever did back in 1983, we did a full UK tour. I promise you we will try and work on that.

Given you have been together for over thirty years, what is the secret to the longevity of your relationship, both musically and personally, with Ronnie Atkins?

Alcohol ha-ha... actually I'm not that far from the truth. We have had a lot of parties and a lot of beers together but of course mutual respect is a huge part of it. It is funny to think that I have been with Atkins longer than any women in my life. Bit scary isn't it ha-ha? We have our moments of disharmony where we are not that close but of course, when you spend so much time together there will always be those moments. Even with girlfriends and wives, you can't always be friends but as long as it doesn't get carried away, it is all part of it.

The band has appeared rejuvenated since 'Pandemonium', what do you attribute this new found energy and creativity to?

Jacob Hansen is a good answer to that I think; he brought in a new sound, a new inspiration and a new way of looking at things. I also think the fact that maybe I started listening to new kinds of music and bands kind of inspired me a lot. For me, it is fantastic that there are new bands out there that when they come out with a new album it can inspire an old guy like me. I want more new bands bringing out some good shit... there is not enough of it.

Fireworks Magazine Online 77 - Interview with Accept

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

Interview by Steven Reid

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


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

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

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

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

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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

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

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

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

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

Fireworks Magazine Online 77 - Interview with Pride Of Lions

PRIDE OF LIONS - an interview with Jim Peterik

Interview by Alan Holloway

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fireworks Magazine Online 77 - Interview with FM

FM: An interview with Merv Goldsworthy

Interview by Caesar Barton

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your bass certainly sounds more prominent on the new recordings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fireworks Magazine Online 76 - Interview with Marillion

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

Interview by Steven Reid

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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