Fireworks Magazine

Fireworks Magazine Online 79 - Interview with Sumo Cyco


Interview by Dave Bott

Canada's Sumo Cyco have been around since 2011, though they may be an unfamiliar name to many. Their debut album, 'Lost In Cyco City', was released in 2014 and by the time you read this, sophomore release 'Opus Mar' should also be available. Both albums have received favourable reviews in Fireworks, in the process generating comparisons to both No Doubt and Skindred. Lead singer Sever (Skye Sweetnam) was something of a Pop music sensation thirteen or fourteen years ago but decided her destiny lay in a totally different musical genre. Fireworks caught up with Skye in Nottingham, before a show that formed part of a co-headline tour of the UK with Devilskin, to find out more about 'Opus Mar' and her musical influences.

Sumo Cyco Interview

You know, UK audiences really seem as though they want to have fun. It's a night out, as though the band is a bonus. We've been here before and so have Devilskin but I think having a co-headline tour takes the pressure off both bands. We're getting on really well together and there has been a lot of mutual love and appreciation. Sometimes on previous tours we've been the support, or even third on the bill and you don't get much time. You have to make the most of the time you do get, hit hard and make an impact. Having a co-headline tour means both bands get to play a full set to show what we're really all about.

Sumo Cyco opted to crowd-fund 'Opus Mar' independently and realised more than double their goal. Skye discovered she even had a business sense during the process and would be keen to take the same route again.

Wow, it was such a time consuming process. As a band we know what we are striving to achieve creatively but from a business point of view it is such a very steep learning curve. I learned so much during the pledge campaign. We were trying to do so many different things for the fans. For example we created a deck of cards with a different Sumo Cyco character on each one. You have to judge how much time and money the things you are offering cost compared to how much you are charging for them. At the end of the day the fans get a really cool experience and it is so humbling for us to see just how many people enjoy what we do. For us, being independent is very important. I've been with a major label before and you can be a small fish in a big pond and they can only dedicate so much time to you. We do all our own social media, create all our own videos and produce our own music. The pledge campaign is basically the way we fund all that and is just a case of taking destiny in our own hands.

Whilst trying to find out more about the album title and the creation process behind the songs it came as something of a surprise to learn that there is more to the album cover than just a picture of a train.

We wanted a cool name for the album that would also be a cool name for a train. An opus is obviously a collection of music and to mar something is to ruin its perfection. The heart of the idea behind the album was a non-stop train, barrelling through and creating the equivalent of a scar on the landscape. The songs deal with a number of social and environmental issues and highlights that as humans we are flawed and like a scar on the planet. My dad had an old toy train lying around the house and there was a lot of work involved in getting it back in good condition, then using it in photos for the album and also in some of the videos for the songs. The thirteen train carriages are represented by the thirteen songs on the album. The creation process was a lot faster than the debut because we had the pressure of the pledge campaign and our management required us to stick to a schedule. The first record took a long time to bring together but we had built up a lot of momentum whilst touring and 'Opus Mar' captures a twelve month period in our lives. We'd played a lot more shows together so had a better idea about what things worked and what didn't. For us a live show is not just about playing the songs really well. It's everything involved in the performance and the connection with the audience. When we were writing the songs for the new album we always had the live translation in mind.

The Fireworks & Rocktopia review for 'Opus Mar' implies that the material it contains is slightly heavier than that on the debut and somewhat less commercial. Skye agrees to a degree but indicates that the songs take on their own identity without necessarily writing with a heavier direction in mind.

There are certainly heavier elements to 'Opus Mar'. During the first couple of songs I scream a little more. Since the debut I've become a lot more comfortable with the intensity in my voice. It is part of my repertoire that I'm not afraid to use now without feeling I may be doing some damage to my vocal chords. The album contains moments of chaos for sure, but to me both albums seem to sit well next to each other and there is a natural progression from the first to the second. I love trying to fit crazy fast rhythms into the songs, to try to make them different and interesting. Matt (Drake, guitarist/producer) always says that one listen to our CDs is never enough because there are so many things that will be missed.

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As well as being the guitarist and co-writer of the songs Matt Drake is also Sumo Cyco's producer. Skye appreciates that an element of objectivity may be lost by not having someone who isn't so close to the band producing, but is also keen to emphasise that she has complete faith in him.

Matt did a lot of pre-production. We had James 'Lerock' Loughrey co-produce and mix the album, so he was like the outside opinion for the music. He took the songs away and then made us cut or re-work certain things. We are usually quite self-sufficient in that respect so there were a lot of mutual decisions that had to be reached and a lot of ideas batted back and forth. I love that Matt can do all the things he does because it is not only great for the budget but also for creativity. We have our own studio in which we can record, rehearse and do videos. It's far easier to set a schedule and also be spontaneous when everything is done in house.

The song 'Move Mountains' features a contribution from Skindred frontman Benji Webbe and Skye finds it difficult to disguise her excitement when talking about his involvement.

Skindred and Benji have been a huge influence on Sumo Cyco and me in particular. It was always the intention to collaborate but initially it was only with touring in mind. It was suggested that we should actually do a song together so I contacted James (Lerock) because he has worked on the last three Skindred records. We managed to get it to work even though it involved firing files back and forth electronically whilst we were on tour. I remember being in a coffee shop in Manchester, downloading and listening to the finished track. We only got to meet in person when we did the video for the song.

Sumo Cyco have released nearly twenty songs digitally, alongside some striking videos. A novel approach for sure and Skye is keen to elaborate.

We like the idea of being spontaneous. When we create something we want to get it out there straight away, without having to wait for the album to be fully completed or the whole marketing side of things. There was a video for every song on the first album and they followed on from one another with a thread. Creating videos for every song is hard work but a lot of fun and we have no rules, we can do everything our own way. It means every song gets its own chance to shine and it doesn't get lost somewhere in the album.

Skye's change from Pop music sensation to lead singer in a Rock band has been well documented but it was good to get the chance to hear about the change first hand.

To me it doesn't really feel like a change. Obviously the musical style is different but it is something I'm very comfortable with and it feels so natural, a progression of sorts. Matt and Ken (bass player) were both involved with my backing band so I have known them since I was 14 years old, for the best part of fifteen years. We make and create music together now and they are not just hired musicians for a backing band. They have a bigger role and receive greater acknowledgement. When I was doing Pop music I got to work with some really cool people. The first producer I worked with, when I was 13, was actually a guitar player and I was always insisting that the guitars needed to be featured prominently in the music. I got to work with Tim Armstrong from Rancid and also with Matt Wilder who produced the No Doubt album 'Tragic Kingdom'. I was getting nowhere with my record label so I decided to take control of my own career rather than wait until they had something for me to do. I took a couple of years off and tried a few song-writing sessions. Matt sent me away with a few CDs to see if I could get any inspiration and 'Babylon' by Skindred struck a major chord.

The Sumo Cyco calendar is pretty packed right now and there are so many things happening. When the band are not touring or making music they are creating videos and Skye wouldn't have it any other way.

We have festivals to do in the Summer and hopefully we'll be back in the UK before the year is out. My little sister is getting married when we get home. Who knows, maybe there will be the chance to do a song.

A short while after the interview the band took to the stage and blew everyone away with their energy and enthusiasm. The crowd may have been small but that made little difference, the performance would have been identical if there had been 10 or 10,000 in attendance and that highlights just how much Sumo Cyco love what they do.

Fireworks Magazine Online 79 - Interview with Sumo Cyco

Fireworks Magazine Online 79 - Interview with No Sleep For Lucy


An interview by Mike Newdeck

Sweden's No Sleep For Lucy has been kicking around the music scene for a few years now, seemingly unable to get things together for a debut album release, they had a few songs here and there but nothing of any substance − until now. Choosing to finally release their debut album independently is a double edged sword. On one hand we get to hear this wonderful debut, reviewed in this issue, and yet the fact that the band remain label-less ultimately means that it won't get the exposure that a release of this calibre deserves. Fireworks caught up with vocalist Lukas Meijer to chat about the band and how the future looks.

No Sleep For Lucy - Interview

Why has it taken so long to get this album released?

It has been different bumps on the road that has been holding us back for different reasons. Let's just say it's much easier when you don't have anyone else to listen to but yourself and the band. We think it's all worth the wait.

Why have you not got a record label?

We're really proud of our material and everything with the band. We've been talking to some labels but nothing turned into a full commitment. We're really committed to our music and expect the same of whoever would be our partner, which maybe makes it harder to find the perfect match. I would say that what we would be looking for is a really good partner, rather than any record deal just for the sake of it. Hopefully we someday find someone who is willing to take this project to the next level.

It's a real labour of love, this band. What keeps you all going?

It's all about that feeling when you write something and feel, "Oh hell yes!" You imagine 10,000 people singing along and just freaking out. I think we all have that image in our heads more or less and it keep us motivated. All the good feedback from our fans feels incredible too and has a great impact for us as a band.

How did you get involved with the band?

Lukas met Christian and Kristoffer through Christian's sister. They had the same class at the University and she told him that her brother was searching for a singer. Christian and Kristoffer, who've been working as songwriters for a long time, wanted to go back to their roots and start a band, and there he was, a singer looking for a band as well. First time we met, we wrote three songs together and the journey began.

Why are you only a three piece?

It's all because we were the ones who had the most time for song-writing, photo and video shoots and other band stuff like that. We have a lot of talented musician friends so we knew we could make it work as a three piece and still turn up with a really solid band on stage.

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The album is expertly produced who did it?

Our guitarist Christian Rabb has been the main producer of all the songs except two of them, 'Feel Alive' and 'Going Down'. Chris is a phenomenal producer and really nailed every element on this album. The other two songs are produced by Mats Valentin.

How did you finance the album?

We've paid for every little penny ourselves. It has cost us a lot of money but more especially time. But we think it's worth everything. We have our own studio here in Stockholm where we tracked all the guitars, bass, vocals, live strings, except the drums. We went to another studio for drums.

How would you describe the band's music?

No Sleep For Lucy has its base in the melodies. It's an epic, big sound where we want to blend sophisticated and catchy melodies with a modern, alternative touch.

What's the plan now that the new album is done?

After this release we want to come out and play more. A support act tour in Europe would be wonderful. We're now working on a live production so we are ready when the right opportunity comes.

I think it's one of the best albums of its kind ever recorded. What is your opinion on this new album?

That's just so fantastic to hear. After years of hard work those words really go straight to the heart, thank you so much! We're really proud of this album and this is really No Sleep For Lucy at its best. We think 'Until The End' contains a mix of all the elements we've been searching for. You find punch, aggression, vulnerability, all surrounded by the big melodies which glue it all together. We put in a lot of effort so to hear words like that make it all worth it.

There's all sorts of influences in there: U2, 30 Seconds to Mars, Lifehouse ...are they bands that you like?

Yeah, that's right. All of the band you name have always been an influence for us. Especially 30 Seconds To Mars who we think is the band nearest to our genre. They have the balance of great melodies, epic sound and a modern rawness. That's kinda what we're also looking for regarding sound. A bit of fun information: our latest single 'Don't Let Go' is co-written with Stevie Aiello, bass player of 30 Seconds to Mars!

Are you a Christian band? 'The Source' and 'Leaving Ground' seem to refer to Christ in a subtle way.

No, we're not a Christian band, but I see what you mean and I think that's the beauty of good music and good lyrics. It means different things to different people. For instance, 'The Source' is written as a tribute to Lucas's family and was actually the song that got Christian and Kristoffer really interested in Lucas as singer in the band in the first place. Eventually the song was tweaked and became more of a No Sleep For Lucy song than it originally was.

What's the long term plan for the band?

Our first mission is to come out and play this new material for everyone. We need to do the best we can regarding promotion and stuff like that. Hopefully more people find out about the band and maybe we get some extra motivation for a new album.

The debut album 'Until the End' is available now at Amazon and iTunes.

Fireworks Magazine Online 79 - Interview with Mason Hill

The New Noise On The Hill: An interview with MASON HILL

Interview by Wolf Gant

Here at Fireworks / Rocktopia we pride ourselves on always being on the lookout for "The New Noise", but just occasionally, one band or two just takes you by the throat and demands your attention. One such band in the last year has been Glaswegian's Mason Hill, who have been winning competitions left, right and centre and picking up some very good responses along the way. So now, just a few days after their fabulous support to Inglorious at London's prestigious Islington Assembly Hall, London and their subsequent signing to Frontiers' Records, Wolf Gant sat down with guitarist James Bird and vocalist Scott Taylor to celebrate signing to Frontiers and that wonderful support.

Mason Hill Interview

Nice to speak to you guys. We're talking now as you've just recently signed to Frontiers Records and recently made your London debut supporting Inglorious...But, first, a little history.....You formed back in 2013, but the seeds of Mason Hill were planted as far back as 2008. What inspired you? Was it the new bands that were then making waves – your home town of Glasgow is certainly a hotbed of musical variety - or were you inspired more by the classic artists?

JAMES: "Well, Scott and I have been playing music together from pretty early on. We were basically put in the same music class when I moved to Glasgow from Derbyshire, and it just went from there. I think we were into more or less the same kinds of music that inspired us both; bands like Black Stone Cherry, right through to Alter Bridge; but we were also, at that point in time, into bands like Lamb Of God, so it was a very wide spectrum of different bands and styles. There was actually a band called Logan who were from Glasgow too. They were really making waves at that time."

Considering where the band has progressed to now, and the way you've achieved that (which we'll come to in a minute), where do we see you now in the overall picture of the band?

JAMES: "I think we're still improving. Right from when Scott and I created the band, and through time with Craig (McFetridge – Drums), Matt (Ward – Bass) and Marc (Montgomery – Guitar), it's always helped to progress the band overall. We're constantly improving our live performance as a unit, and from here on we just keep working towards getting better and better in order to take very opportunity coming our way."

SCOTT: "Totally agree. As the main songwriters, James and I just keep working on material, as the bigger picture needs to be the songs and how they work."

You started pretty much 'in house'; the two-pronged attack of an EP in 2015, and live shows; but which of these was to you the stronger priority?

JAMES: "Difficult to say. On one hand, we were a very new band lacking experience on the live performance side of things; but in order to get gigs, we needed the songs recorded to showcase ourselves. It's really hard to say which had the stronger priority but I think I'd need to say that the EP perhaps held the strongest priority."

SCOTT: "Great question Wolf! I agree with James that it's a very difficult choice, as both are just as important as each other, but I think I have to agree with James. Although the live performance is key, without the EP and the songs on that, we'd have never got this far."

The self-titled EP was just four tracks, so what was the criteria behind picking those, and which do you both feel sums you up the best?

JAMES: "I think it would be fair to say that we both feel "Survive" and "Where I Belong" sum us up the best. "Survive" has the hard hitting, heavy riff with a catchy chorus, and on the other hand, "Where I Belong" is the slow number, the one that pulls on your heart strings in a very genuine, authentic way. We wanted to have a balance of 3 hard rock songs with 1 'ballad' if you will, as it showcases our diversity, without taking away the fact we are a strong rock band."

Describe if you will, the feeling of actually standing in the studio, recording with a named producer such as Sandy Jones? Many young bands find it a daunting task and it isn't always the most successful?

JAMES: "Sandy is superb! We got on with him so well that it just made the experience so easy and so much fun to do. Scott and I had done 3 demos back when we had started the band, so we weren't entirely new to being in that environment, but it definitely had a lot of buzz behind it just knowing we were recording the debut EP."

SCOTT: "Speaking for myself personally, I was so excited to go into the studio and record with a named producer such as Sandy. As a band (myself, James and Craig were basically the band at the time), we took to it and loved being in the studio. Sandy's professionalism and skill just made the whole experience flow so easily. The EP has helped us so much so we can't thank him enough."

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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Now let's talk about one specific trait that the band possesses that stands out for me, and that's the competitions you've entered (and won); The Highway To Hell – Hard Rock Hell Competition, and the Scottish Section of the Surface Festival Competition, which led to a gig at the 02 in London, being prime examples? What do you feel swung the judges in your favour and would you recommend other young bands go down the same route?

JAMES: "Well, we actually entered the Surface Festival Competition as our old band, prior to forming Mason Hill, but it was a key moment. At the time, we were just teenagers looking for gigs and crowds to play to, which that competition gave us. We ended up getting to the final and winning it, which led us to play the London 02 show!"

"I think what may have stood out to the judges at the time, is perhaps the fact that although we were always one of, if not the youngest guys throughout the competition, we were playing to the same standard as bands much older than us? I would only recommend something like that to young bands if they are just starting out and want some gigging experience."

"The Highway To Hell Competition however was quite different, as we did that last year after being asked to participate. Again, I'd say it's great for gigging experience, but it's really important as well, as there is so much networking availability at Hard Rock Hell, between the organisers and all of the bands involved...."

SCOTT: "For me, any competition that can help a young band reach a new audience is definitely something we would recommend. The Surface Festival basically taught me and James how to be professional musicians. Up until then, we had had very limited experience, so it taught us what it is to be around and involved in gigs of that professional nature. The Hard Rock Hell competition then was such a great opportunity for us to network with bands and those involved. Networking is such a key factor to music."

"I think what might have swung the judges, is the energy and excitement the band has, where the passion on stage is clearly visible."

Right, now, let's just pick a favourite track of ours to talk about in a bit more depth.... And, it's your favourite "Survive" you'll be glad to hear. Tell us where the ideas come from on that one and if that is 'typically' MH going forward?

JAMES: "I actually wrote the riff to this song when I was about 18 or something, and the chorus maybe when I was about 20. I had just kept it banked, as I knew it would prove handy some day in a song! Over time the rest of the music just came to me. I think the final part added to it was the bridge, just before the solo, which Scott just hummed at first!"

"For me, this is a really good example of the sound Mason Hill will have going forward. Whilst it maybe shows us to be youthful, it still has some basic fundamentals that give off a Mason Hill sound. We aren't closed off from evolving and maturing as we go along, but it's a really good 'entry point' if you like."

Any others you'd recommend people look out for live or recorded?

"I feel the best Mason Hill songs to check out now are the ones being written right now for the album! Unfortunately, there won't be much chance to check these out on-line until its release, but we will be testing them out at various gigs!"

Yes, those shows... You have quite a few prestigious live shows coming up (Winterstorm later in the year - again with people like Graham Bonnet, who I know you've played with already - and Wildfire next month to name just two), but given the album isn't due until Feb. 2018, what are your plans going forward for the rest of the year?

JAMES: "Well, we're not actually playing Wildfire this year, however we have some really great shows lined up, true. The show with Inglorious, at their album launch in London, was absolutely fantastic and I'm so happy we got that chance. We are appearing at the 'Boardie Walk Takeover' part of the Download Festival in a couple of weeks, then we have Planet Rock Stock at the end of the year, Winterstorm, and of course, our second headline show in our hometown on August 5th."

SCOTT: "Yeah, we do have a few prestigious shows coming up and it's a really exciting time! There are a few more in the pipeline we are excited about too, but aren't able to speak about them yet!"

"Our plans for the rest of the year are pretty much focused on writing the upcoming album, scrutinising every song and ensuring the detail and quality will be the highest we can give, to make sure we live up to the hype as we start this musical career!"

Sadly, this has to be back pretty fast, but please sum up where you guys are now? The management deal with Shock City has led to so many opportunities for you, and now of course, there's the Frontiers tie-in, which was announced just prior to that fabulous night with Inglorious? So, what are your realistic targets now do you feel?

SCOTT: "Well, as I've said, we will be focused mainly on making the record, but you're right. Our management deal with Shock City, and now the record deal with Frontiers are major assets to the progression of Mason Hill, and we will really continue to work together to keep the rise of the band going. We feel we now have a chance to show what we are about on a larger scale, so in my opinion, the journey is just beginning."

It's an oft used phrase in this business – "The Next Big Thing" – but I think, as anyone who witnessed the band the other week at the Inglorious show, or who took time at the last Ramblin' Man Fair to check the guys out will testify, this band do indeed have the key ingredients, i.e the songs; and do have the swagger and the grit in equal measures to succeed. So, if you see their name on a bill near you, then do go and have a butches. You will not regret it.

Fireworks Magazine Online 79 - Interview with Harem Scarem

HAREM SCAREM: An interview with Harry Hess

Interview by Brent Rusche

For the loyal readers of Fireworks and those who frequent Rocktopia, little introduction is needed regarding this artist. Frontman for the iconic Harem Scarem (who still remain woefully unknown to lifelong Hard/Melodic Rock fans) and owner of Vespa Music Group, Harry and Co. have procured and nurtured a modest, yet significant and passionate fanbase spanning more than three decades. Starting with their self-titled debut in 1991, each of their first five albums for Warner Music Canada illustrated a shameless pursuit of experimentation. That same restless and creative spirit influenced a self-imposed rebranding as Rubber in the mid-90's to separate themselves from exactly that, themselves. Regardless of musical trends or labels imposed on the band, what remains is a consistent commitment to crafting quality and memorable songs. To the fans' delight and an outright unwillingness to terminate the band, May 2017 marks their 14th studio album and another brilliant one at that titled 'United.' Harry was kind enough to take time out of his schedule and chat about a plethora of topics. Losing power literally minutes before the interview was to take place, I was able to cobble together a setup by recording his audio broadcasting from the speaker of my mobile phone. Not the sexiest way to work, but work it did and what follows is an interview for the ages. The lengthy and (hopefully) satisfying conversation is something that I can now check off on my "bucket list" of musicians I always anticipated interviewing.

Harem Scarem Interview

Congratulations on another excellent recording with 'United.' Were all the tracks recorded at Vespa or did (like many bands these days) each member send you their tracks over the Internet and assemble the songs that way?

Well, no. Pete and I are basically the guys who sit there every day and work on the record. I have a studio and Pete has a home studio. We don't live that far from each other so it is not too inconvenient for us to get together. I know what you mean. A lot of bands are just working long distance who have never met, let alone been in the same room together. I've actually been involved with records like that where nobody has ever been in the same room but no, not for Harem Scarem. We're actually all in the room together, even when we are cutting drums. We're all there, chiming in on parts and fills and stuff like that. Pete and I do the demos beforehand so the structure to the songs are pretty much laid out. I will say, Pete does lots of guitar parts at home...about 99% of his guitar parts are done there. We have done this so many times together that now we can just branch off. I'll go home and record vocals or be in the studio doing my thing. We just attack it more quickly. I don't need to sit on the couch while he works on guitar solos and watch him do that, [Laughs] but we used to. When we did our first few records, we would both be there for every second of every part being recorded. Now, experience has led us in this direction of at least knowing what the other guy is going to do and trusting the other person's instinct.

Are you and Pete the principle songwriters on 'United' or did Darren, Stan and/or Creighton also have creative input with regard to the songs?

No, not with the writing of it. It has really always been Pete and I that have handled most of the songwriting. It's basically been like that since the beginning but there have been a few exceptions. In the beginning, I used to do a lot of co-writing and is really how I first got into the music business. The co-writing is what ultimately led into doing Harem Scarem and that is how the songs were written on the first record. By the time 'Mood Swings' came around, it was basically just Pete and myself and we've continued that tradition throughout the years with just a couple of co-writes along the way.

To use a simile, songs seem to flow out of you and Pete like lava from a volcano. Where do you find the inspiration to write consistently strong material that either supports or ultimately shadows the excellence that precedes it?

First of all, thank you. That is our goal when we are writing and talking about making a record. We are not going to bother unless we love what we are doing and by "love," I mean love the output. It is not just enough to say we have a collection of songs to record and release them. If that were the case, I'd rather not put them out at all. We try and raise "the bar" high but you'll still read comments from people that say they don't like it. There are too many people making records in 2017 that in order to make any kind of impression, you can't do anything less than you are capable of and what you think is perfect. We strive to write songs that we can't do any better with at that point in time. You are only left with the ideas that you have at the moment. We have probably spent the most time that we've ever spent making a record by working on the songs beforehand. I think this is literally the first time I ever had 10 or 12 choruses alone with song titles. Then I would put together pieces of guitar riffs and musical ideas that Pete gave me which is not atypical of how we've always worked. It's just that the more you do this, the better you do get at it. You learn from the last time you wrote and recorded and things that you end up thinking, "Ahh, I don't know if I like that or if I would have gone down that road again..." It's an experience driven goal of where if you can't learn from the last 15 times or [for us] over the last 25 or 30 years, you are not doing it right. I'm happy to learn that people think that 'United' is one of our best. We think so as well but everyone thinks that when they finish a new record! [Laughs] We are happy to hear that people seem to be agreeing with our feelings about the new record.

As far as I'm concerned and if my feedback means anything, it is absolutely one of the best in the Harem Scarem canon.

Awesome, good to hear.

Being that his voice is so identifiable, how did Jeff Scott Soto come to contribute background vocals on 'Bite The Bullet'?

He also sang on 'Hear Today, Gone Tomorrow.' I like Jeff, have been a fan of his voice and have always placed him on another level...not just an ordinary Rock singer or some guy in band just going through the motions. I've always thought that he was a special artist and special singer. There are a couple of guys that I really love...Tony Harnell is another one as well. Glenn Hughes and Nathan James are two other great singers. Guys that you just say, "Oh my God." [Laughs] Over the years, I have gone out of my way to make connections with some of these people. We kept running into Jeff at festivals and immediately hit it off when we were hanging out. It just popped into my mind when I was thinking that we should get some more people involved. Honestly, those are the most exciting parts of the record for me. Although I love working with the guys in Harem Scarem, it's kind of the same thing every time. Everyone has their own set of skills, unique sound or whatever else they bring to making a record. To bring in another voice, especially when you can clearly pick him out during his callback parts...we've brought in other singers in the past to sing backing vocals but it all becomes a blend and in the end, can't even tell that they are in there with so many singing. I told Jeff that I really wanted him to sing some callbacks and some end vamps. That would be the whole point of having a guest sing on a that we can actually hear them and their parts. I've had Eric Martin do some backing vocals on solo records and my favorite part of the song is when I can actually hear Eric singing or Tony Harnell on the 'Human Nature' record. You can actually hear the guest that you invited to participate on the song. In Jeff's situation, I just called him up and he recorded his bits at home. He sent the recordings back to me and it was really just that easy. He's a real pro and did a killer job.

The sonics on the last few albums have really been standout. What equipment in the studio do you employ to achieve such a massive sound?

Mixing and mastering is really what I do every day. I work on other musicians' records where I can hone my skills and after all of this time just being in the studio get better at doing it every day. The only other time a lot of other bands are in the studio is when they are making their own record but for me, I am in the studio every day and working at this craft. It is a combination of having a great studio, great equipment and being there all the time and striving to make the new album [sound] better than the last. That is really the reason that I keep doing this. Every time I go to record or write a song, I am literally thinking that I want to top the last thing I've done. I'm trying to do everything better than what I did the last time and is why I keep at it.

What is the brain of the studio, is it a Pro Tools setup or are you using another DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)?

We do use the Pro Tools DAW software but other than that, it is a traditional, analog studio. It [Vespa Studio] was built 40 or 50 years ago by Westlake Audio [located in Los Angeles]. At the time, there weren't any music studio designers in Toronto so they flew here. I bought this studio from Arnold Laney who was the main singer and songwriter in a band called Frozen Ghost. You may remember them from back in the '80s and '90s. They were a Canadian band that did very well and went on to produce bands like Our Lady Piece, Simple Plan and Finger Eleven. The studio really has a deep history of turning out records in Canada that have done very, very well with multi-platinum sales. At the time I bought it, we were doing Harem Scarem records and I was also involved with other projects. It has now turned into one of the top studios in Canada with regard to recording bands and releasing records. I am not even involved with a lot of what happens here. We're recording a lot of Rock records that do well here in Canada. We've recorded bands like Billy Talent, Three Days Grace...another Canadian band called Monster Truck that does very well and a band called Arkells who also do well. It all becomes, more or less, a part of what I enjoy about being the studio owner. To me, it is a world-class and traditional recording studio which features a large SSL [Solid State Logic] console. If you have the skills, you can make great sounding records on a laptop at home these days but for me, I am pretty "old school" when it comes to the tradition of being in a studio with a band and recording live. What you hear [on 'United'] are actual people playing instruments together in the same room. When it comes to a lot of Rock records these days, they don't have real drums and sometimes even bass. [Laughs] That so-called "Producer" is making that record on his own and pulling .WAV [industry standard, audio file format] files in from people that have never shared the same room together. That is all fine and cool to do but when we specifically say that we are going to make a Harem Scarem record, we want to make it in a certain way so that it is exciting and still has meaning to us. For me, there is no meaning in just everyone do everything on their own and then slamming it all together in the end and hoping that it turns out well. That is generic to me. The most interesting moments are when you are sitting in a room with someone who specializes in what they do...whether it be a bass player or a drummer and getting the best performance from that person and have them contribute to what you are trying to accomplish. When you are bringing in professionals at their craft and no single person making all of the decisions, that is when you can ascend to another level of making records.

As a fan, I am particularly thrilled that you continue to write and record for Harem Scarem (not to mention the quality with which you deliver new material). What keeps you and Pete both motivated doing this when the return seems minimal in terms of record sales, tours and outright exposure?

Yeah, you're right. It is a strange time in the music business and it just keeps getting stranger. Not only for Harem Scarem but every record I've worked on...especially new artists. You just wonder as to what the point of all this is! [Laughs] How are you going to find an audience? I'm speaking to a new artist that I may be recording or someone who wants to make a record or even a single and you can't help but think, "How are they going to fight through the millions of things coming out?" It's weird because there is more recording, writing and musicians trying to do whatever it is we are all trying to do than ever because there are no "gatekeepers" anymore. It is not like 15 or 20 years ago where if you didn't get a record deal then you weren't going into a quality studio and weren't going to get a quality Producer, Engineer, Mixer or whatever since there was no funding. Back at that time, "the bar" was set so high with regard to what you had to put into [making a record] financially that it made it nearly impossible to get any kind of quality from something done independently. You were left either recording demos with friends in your basement or in small studios or you were making quality records with quality people. Now, all of those lines are blurred and everyone is able to do whatever they want. Like I can now make a record at home with your laptop but 99% of those recordings will never see the light of day because they will simply not be good enough [to make an impact]. I say to people that every great song that you hear on the radio, regardless of style...Katy Perry, Lady Ga Ga or even John Mayer...there are professionals involved, I guarantee it. There isn't someone who just decided that they wanted to start making records and end up making hit songs. Those people involved [writing those songs] have all been doing this a long time, are really good at what they do and who you are competing with whether you realize it or not. There is a complete culture of people making records that are amateurs while trying to be professionals. They now have the same advantages as everyone else these days which I think is great. I think that everybody should be able to make a record, release it, upload to iTunes or whatever...but it really "muddy's the field" for fans trying to find something who feel is quality and not waste of 3 or 4 minutes of their lives. That ultimately turns people away and as a result, fans will start to lump a lot of those bands into a similar pile [of rubbish]. To this day, the motivation for me and like I said before, is to do better work than I did the last time. That is the "crazy person" in me. I don't know, I really don't. I think it is weird as well [to think there are all these musicians] that maybe cannot make a living doing this. You say to yourself, "Nobody has a gun to my head, [Laughs] so why don't I just go and get a day-job and do this as a hobby or call it quits?" There is something in a musician's brain that won't allow them do that and keeps doing it even against their own better judgment. I have friends that know that things aren't working and know that things won't change. They are pushing 50 [years old] and haven't had the success in the past or even currently to make a living doing music but they can't stop. This is all they know and it is all they have ever done. There are guys playing in bars for $100 a night who maybe can eat and make their rent but when is that going to end? That is something that I think about quite a bit. I've been fortunate enough...I mean, Harem Scarem has sold well over one million records and I've also been involved with other albums that have done very well, so life has been great for me in the music industry. However, that is only because I am working at it every day and I've been lucky. However, I know that a lot of other people that haven't been as fortunate for whatever reason. Being a musician now in 2017...I don't even know what that means...I really, really don't. Unless you are one of the less-than-1% that is out there selling records and touring...but who is that in this world of [music] streaming? People aren't [working to] sell records anymore. They make them so that people attend the live concerts where they will buy a $40 tee-shirt. This is all what makes this a really strange time in music and to be a [professional] musician today.

Based on your philosophy that you shared in the last few minutes, would it then be correct to assume that your motivation to continue to do Harem Scarem is a completely selfish endeavor and done simply out of the love of for the band's legacy and your current fan base?

Yeah, that is exactly right. I've said this to Pete and other friends or guys in the band, I say, "Isn't it stupid to spend your whole life to try and become great at doing something..." and we'll use Harem Scarem for an example...we've spent 30 years of our lives trying to achieve and get great at something to just stop and quit!? It's counterproductive to continue if it [what you are doing] is an outright failure or going downhill but at the same time. It feels really strange to spend your whole life trying to get great at something just to stop doing it because of an outside influence which might be due to not selling enough records or that it is not making you the money that it used to make you. For us, we still do well enough so that it's worth our while to do it along with making a bit of money with Harem Scarem. That's all cool because we've built up a dedicated fan base over the course of 30 years. We sell enough records around the world that it's worth everyone's time to get involved and make a record. Again, we are both unique and fortunate in the sense that those circumstances are our reality but it is certainly not what it used to be. I tell people that I thought we were losers getting $140,000 from Warner Bros. to make a record back then. No one gets $140,000 to make a record anymore! [Laughs] That was literally the cheapest, smallest budget from anyone I knew making records [at that time] but that was what we received. We were in Canada, hadn't "broken" internationally and weren't anything special...just a new band with a record deal and we just wanted to see what happened. However, we had friends that were awarded million dollar budgets...and I'm not exaggerating...$1,000,000 to make a record but that was over 20 years ago. However, those same musicians today are trying to figure out how I make a record today if I no longer have that [record label] support or budget? Fortunately for us (believe it or not), we never did well enough to ever rely on other people to help us. As a result, we started to learn how to make records. At the time, I was into recording and started building a recording studio and in retrospect, all those things led us to where we are today and make it possible for us to continue to make records because we don't need to go to outside people for help. If you look around, that is the situation with a lot of the bands still making records in 2017. Someone who has the ability to get production accomplished and get across the "finish line" without ever spending $100,000 is required because that [type of budget] is just not possible anymore. I think that a realistic approach to making records is having to find a way to make it feasible to sell two, three, maybe 5,000 records worldwide and make that work for you but only a few people can do that.

Speaking of Harem Scarem selling records around the world, what are the top three largest markets for the band?

Well, as far as sales go, you would definitely start in Japan and then just pockets of Europe. We used to sell pretty well in Germany when we are Warner Bros. Since we've been independent, things have picked up for us in the UK, Spain and Portugal...smaller territories. But when you add it up around the world, we just have a small, underground fanbase. Even in America, we have a small underground following. When you add it all up, it is still meaningful compared to a lot of other things going on. Like I said, I wouldn't want to be starting from zero today because it is just so hard. For us, we used to release a record and sell 100,000 copies of it quite quickly around the world. Now, that has turned into 5,000 to 10,000 units sold around the world. You just got to figure out a way to make that work and we more-or-less have been able to do that.

It's great to learn that you are actually selling units...and by that I am assuming you are referring to sales of physical product as opposed to digital downloads or streaming.

Yeah. It's funny because I think our demographic and the people that buy our records and that are into what we do still like to have CDs. They have bought them their whole lives and that is the way they acquire and consume music. It's very different for Pop artists whose fans are 15-16-17 years old...there will come a time pretty soon where there is a generation of people growing up that won't even know what a CD is! I master records for a living and I don't even bother making physical CDs anymore for masters because typically, what is happening is that you are mastering digital .WAV files, sending those back to the client, they are uploading it to iTunes and people are downloading directly into their phone or laptop...they will never "burn" a physical CD. When you are talking about people, say 45 [years old] and up, they like physical CDs. They like collecting them and that is why vinyl has made a bit of a resurgence over the last few years. It is a nostalgic thing for them to hold something in their hands that they've paid for. It doesn't have anything to do with music in that sense other than people's buying patterns and what they think they should be getting when they pay money for music. I think that our demographic and the people that like what we do still like to buy physical CDs and you still see that pattern of people doing that.

I couldn't agree more. I am 40 years old and have my collection of 3,000 CDs which continues to grow. As a matter of fact, I recently purchased the Harem Scarem CD/DVD 'Live At The Phoenix.' I really enjoy it and will purchase CDs when and wherever possible. I don't even have an iTunes account because I want the whole package. From the music to the artwork and the liner notes. What I think an artist is trying to accomplish when they release an album is to deliver a unified piece of work. Like a painter, he is not going to release just 1/3 of a painting, he is going to present the entire image.

Yeah, you are absolutely right. Again, if you are of a certain age and that is how you listen to and how you bought music...I grew up buying vinyl and then made the transition into CD because I didn't think that was too much of a leap. You still were able to hold it in your hand, you could read the liner's weird. I have people who email me and say, "Hey, I just downloaded the song but what are the lyrics?" or "What does the artwork look like?" I just think, "Wow, that is so strange!" It's a struggle for people that work on records because their names aren't out there anymore as Producers, [Recording, Mixing or Mastering] Engineers. You don't even know who worked on their record. If you just buy and download the track 'Bite The Bullet,' how would you even know that Jeff Scott Soto is on it? Again, I don't think that is our audience. I think our audience is what you just described...people that are real fans that want a certain experience. They are buying the CDs because they love the whole idea, not just a moment in their day or frivolous thing. It is serious to them where a lot of kids that are much younger just don't care that much about music. They will download a track "throw" it into their phone and they listen to it for entertainment purposes where it is "flavor of the month" or what have you. I find that fans of Rock music and the kind of music we make are pretty serious about it, love it and are die-hard fans. That is who we see left in this genre and thank God for them because they are very supportive, keep coming back and who are very loyal. Without them, you really wonder who you would be doing this for. I say good to all of those who are still buying CDs, cares enough to have a collection and enjoys them.

Yes on all your points. I really appreciate all of your insight with regard to that topic. I am going to get tangential for a moment and the word "unprecedented" has entered our lexicon with alarming force. Getting political for a moment [Laughs]...and to the best of your ability, what is the general feeling of our new President in the eyes of fellow Canadians? Has it created massive divisions or has it been met with a complete uninterest?

Well, you would have to be of a certain age...I never paid attention to politics, never, ever, ever. To be honest, it's funny because I now know the names of Congressman in America! [Laughs] It has really heightened everyone's awareness of what is going on. It's been a pretty serious civics lesson over the last few months because...and if I'm being honest...looks like a complete "train wreck." [Laughs] I'm glued to CNN like it is my favorite Reality TV show. I feel like my friends are on TV because I am getting to know, like I said, Senators and Congressmen from another country. We've always watched closely to what goes on in America...even musically. I tell Americans that Canadian radio is just a mirror of what is happening in America. With regard to population, we are a small country but we take our cues from America about what music is cool and hip and what we like. We have a few Canadian bands that come out, do well and they live in a little bubble in Canada. For the most part, it is 99% American culture which we grab onto and make our own. Politically, it has been very interesting. Canada is a very liberal, diverse country based on the premise that everybody is welcome and we figure out how to make it work with whoever comes in. Anyone that knows Canada knows that it is the premise of being a Canadian. We don't really feel overly patriotic because everyone feels like we are sharing a country that they came is not the "This is my country, get out!" type of vibe. I think that is where our politeness comes from. Everyone feels that they are kind of "renting" as opposed to claiming ownership over a specific area and saying, "This is mine and no one else is welcome." That is more-or-less our view and is shared by everyone that I know. I socialize with musicians and typically, they are very open minded. If you travel and you've been around the world...and I learned this when I was 19 or 20...Guess what? There are assholes in Japan and there are awesome, great people who I consider some of my best friends in Japan. Then I would go to Spain and I'd meet assholes in Spain and then I would meet some people that are still, some of my best friends today. When you travel around the world, it opens your eyes to see that there are idiots everywhere and there are fantastic people everywhere. So, there is no point pigeonholing a race or people from a specific ethnicity or whatever. When we look at what is happening in America, I think it is pretty shocking to Canadians. Honestly, we can't believe it. First of all, we can't believe that Donald Trump got elected because he got elected, to us...or to me and will speak for looked like he was a fantastic game show host and people got tricked into buying the idea that this guy is going to help us because he is a billionaire, a successful person and not beholden to "the swamp" in Washington D.C. I also think people bought into the idea that he was going to help people get out of a horrible situation because a lot of people find themselves struggling so it was the "What do I have to lose?" type of mentality. Now, it feels like it is backfiring because I don't believe that he has a whole lot of interest in helping individuals. He spent his whole life becoming a billionaire and you don't become a billionaire without worrying about yourself and how much money you're making. You're not a philanthropist if you are out there every day padding your bottom line and making sure you are on the winning end of most deals. The idea is at odds with itself that he would come in[to office], help hundreds of millions of people when he spent his whole life just helping himself. That's where we, and I especially, are very critical about that because I was never sure how this was ever going to work. Now, it is not working too well and his credibility is really on the line. Media outlets are going to throw whatever the flashiest thing they have out there. So, a lot of the stuff that we see is him acting like a buffoon. I don't know how fair that is and to be fair, I'm sure [what we see] is everything of who he is, what he is and what he stands for but that is what we see. So when we turn on the TV here in Canada, all we see are these ridiculous one-liner comments and see the most ridiculous s&!t. Nine times out of 10 you can't trust what you see on the Internet, so we tune into what we think are reputable media outlets like CNN or FOX News...even FOX is turning against the guy! [Laughs] That is kind of our take on things right now. We are standing back saying, "Oh my God, I can't believe what is going on!" If I talk to friends in other countries like The Netherlands, Germany or whatever, it is the same thing. Everyone is standing back and saying, "I can't believe what is going on." Absolute shock is what it is...what's your take?

I completely agree. Thank you for the feedback to that question. What I wanted to add is that you don't achieve the success he has in the business world without stepping on some, if not a lot of toes in the process.

Absolutely. Even to my surprise, I didn't know anything about American politics because it is just not something I have spent a lot of time thinking about...or even politics in general. I don't think he knew what he was up against just like any guy walking in off the street saying, "How many people do I need to now make happy?" The news is joking about how he wrote [the book] 'The Art Of The Deal' and is the big "deal cutter." When you are looking one person in the eye if you do have to cut a deal, that is very different than making hundreds, thousands, if not millions of people happy with whatever you are trying to sell. You can [easily] see why politics are so complicated and so divisive because you are not going to be able to keep everyone happy and you are not going to be able to do what you did before. You can't walk into the boardroom and say, "I've got 10 billion dollars, what I say goes..." and everyone just says "Yes" and follows along. That is not what this thing is. I think he mistakenly thought he could do whatever he did in the past that got him to where he is today. Arguably, he is a successful person and you can debate that...but the same rules don't apply [to each situation] and you just can't do what you did what are you left with now? He has no experience in politics! [Laughs] People were saying with the latest [Health Care Reform] bill he tried to pass, politicians in the Republican Party are saying that they don't think that he even read the bill and don't think he knows what is in it. How would you? If it is not something that you've spent you're whole life doing...everyone can criticize career politicians but what you have to give them credit for is that they probably know what they are talking about, whether or not you agree with them. Whatever they are trying to accomplish...they probably know their job and I don't know why anyone would have thought that he [Donald Trump] would know anything about that since he hasn't spent even a minute of his life diving in, reading and learning everything that is contained in these bills and all these [executive] orders that he is passing. It's going to get strange, isn't it?

It's well beyond strange from my vantage point.

Yeah. Look, I don't know a lot of Trump supporters. I know liberal musicians who are very laid back. People that I know in New York and LA...I don't know a lot of people from Middle America. I'm not saying it is a good thing or bad thing...that is just my experience. I just know these liberal musician-types so the feedback I typically get is that this is a "s&!t show" and we don't agree with it at all. I'm sure that the truth lies somewhere in the middle because everyone has their own perspective and reality that they are trying to deal with and live through and I don't doubt that things can be better for a lot of people. I just don't know how you would make that leap and think that this guy is going to be [the answer]. It's a problem and we'll have to see what happens. America is an amazing country and I just hope that somehow it all gets straightened out and everyone gets back on the proper path. I kind of hoped that once he got into office he would have been quiet and he would just get his job done. The economy responds well to big business and it could have been a great thing and I just don't know where this is going to go because it is all about creditability right now and don't think a whole lot of people have faith in believing a word that he says. I think it's going to get worse before it gets better but we'll have to see what happens, right?

I think you are absolutely correct when you say that things are going to get worse before things get better but I really appreciate your candid response and think that is some great feedback from you.


You probably don't remember, but had an in-depth conversation that evening in the hotel cafeteria during Melodic Rock Fest 3 when we sat back and watched all of the drunken debauchery on display! [Laughs] We spoke at length about the fate of Harem Scarem's Master Tapes currently in the hands of the mighty Warner Bros.

Right...right, OK... maybe you do remember!

Yep, it's ringing a bell!

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Refusing to release said tapes back to the band, you were forced to re-record Mood Swings to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Have you been active pursuing gaining the rights to those masters and do you know how Wounded Bird Records has been allowed to re-release all of these albums from the Warner years?

Yes. They are affiliated with Warner Bros. They are distributed by the Warner Music Group through...Rhino records, I believe? So, there is some sort of affiliation through Warner Bros. because I was contacted by Warner Bros. to be involved with a few of the re-issues they released because nothing of ours was ever officially released in the US. Rhino came along with this [subsidiary] called Wounded Bird Records and re-released a few titles that you know. So yes, that is a Warner Bros. affiliate. All they have to do is call up Warner Bros., state what they want and 9 times out of 10, Warner Bros. will just "rubber stamp it," for its release and remains in the same family. We're actually putting together an idea right now with Harem Scarem specifically around the Warner Bros. material and am currently chatting the idea with them. I would like to do a remastered, box set of all our records and put it out so everything is in one place. That is my goal to sort that out over the next few months so I have my fingers' crossed that they will allow us to do something [like that]. It is something that I'm trying to do right now so it is funny that you mention it.

Wow, that is wonderful news. I am happy that I've mentioned and yet forever upset that I never asked to get a photo with you since our conversation that night was going so well.

[Laughs] Well, next time...

...and yes, there will be a next time!

Good, good...awesome.

How much, if any, disappointment did you and/or the band feel with Warner Bros.' seeming unwillingness to promote the band in America. Did the band ever think of relocating to the (at the time) Hard Rock, Pop Metal mecca that was Los Angeles?

When we first started out, we were 18-19 years old so we were all still living at home when we started Harem Scarem. The reality of "picking up and going" was a little bit harder than [actually] doing it financially since we were just kids. It was, "the thing to do" [at the time]. There were older musicians that were in their mid to late twenties that we knew who picked up and moved to Los Angeles and they all had great success. Whether they were producers, engineers or musicians, everyone that left Canada to go to LA all did very well. I remember us talking about it quite a bit. We ended up signing the [record] deal with Warner Bros. Canada out of ignorance of not understanding what our deal outlined. We had a worldwide deal Warner Bros. but didn't understand that the only territory we were guaranteed was Canada until after our [first] record came out. We said, "What do you mean that it is not going to be released in this country or that?" They explained to us that although you have a worldwide contract, it is up to each individual territory as to whether or not they want to release it. It can't be forced upon them even though they are part of the Warner Bros. family. While we were making our [first] record, we were actually making trips down to LA and having writing sessions along with great meetings with Warner Bros., Geffen (who was distributed by WB at the time), Hollywood Records and a couple of others. We had great meetings with all of their counterparts in America who all loved what we were doing. They told us to inform them as soon as the record is finished and then they would chat with the guys in Canada and schedule a formal release date. The entire time that we are working on our first record, we were completely under the impression that it is going to be released in America, they will help us out and it's all going to be good. Then, Nirvana's 'Nevermind' was released and [what is now known as] Grunge clouded over anything that resembled Hard Rock at the time. We were doing dates in Canada with Foreigner who were signed to Atlantic (another Warner Bros. affiliate) who released A LOT of big Rock [acts] as you know. They ended up dropping Foreigner when while we were on tour with them! We were also getting word from Warner Bros. management the same news and I immediately thought, "Well, what does that mean for us?" Foreigner sold 60,000,000,000 records, we've sold what is going to happen to us? To make a long story short, they never even bothered with releasing records that they thought resembled this style of music. If they couldn't sell Foreigner records then they certainly couldn't sell Harem Scarem records so why would they even bother releasing our [first] record? That is how that all started. Our career began under the cloud of Grunge and we were defined as a "Hair Metal" band. It was very weird and confusing for us because we spent our whole lives [Laughs] making that style of music. Probably out of self-preservation (but being honest), we actually liked a lot of different styles of music and we liked that Grunge style. I loved Alice In Chains...I didn't love all Grunge. I never really got into Pearl Jam but I loved Alice In chains because I loved Layne Staley's voice and I thought there were elements of [the music] that I thought were awesome. I love Metallica and heavier music. I grew up listening to Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and was a "metal head" as a kid but when I wrote songs, they were way more melodic which probably comes from...Def Leppard happened to be very popular when I started writing songs. So, I was probably listening to 'Pop Metal' at that time and if you remember in the late 80's, that music was on the radio. Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Scorpions were broadcast...that was Pop music at the time. When we started looking at our career and moving forward, we thought that we better get on board [with that vibe] so we started experimenting with detuning and a heavier sound which is where 'Mood Swings' came from. It was always melodic, but with a heavy edge. It went even darker after that. We were lost at that point because we thought that we're not a Pop Metal band and we're not a Metal band so we are... kind of, whatever. We really got lost in that shuffle in that changing musical climate. It's big, corporate business. It's not about the love of music when people are deciding whether or not to release a record or even support it. They are getting behind records that they think are timely and that are going to sell [units]. Fortunately for us, we started to sell units in Asia, Japan, pockets of Europe and that made Warner Bros. Canada think to keep us on and let us keep making records but with no mandate or really giving "a s&!t" what happened...even locally in Canada! [Laughs] After our third record ['Voice Of Reason' and criminally underrated], we didn't even bother "working" the record in our own country, let alone in America. We just went to where it was working which was Asia and pockets of Europe. That is our little story and game behind it. In retrospect, I see how it happened but at the time, it was very weird and confusing.

Yeah. The story that you just laid out is 100% congruent with the remarks and story that Danny Vaughn from Tyketto said during a recent interview with Eddie Trunk on his satellite radio show. My next question is something that you clearly answered a few minutes prior, but the question is...Harem Scarem's S/T debut was released in the nebulous year that was 1991 just one month prior to Nirvana's 'Nevermind.' By the time the album was out and in full distribution, do you think that Warner Bros. deliberately pulled back on support for the band once they saw the success building around 'Nevermind' or is there simply no correlation between the two?

No, that is 100% what happened. The music industry is like any other who will pursue [the current trend]. If what you said wasn't true then there would have never been another Grunge band that got popular or get signed...and we all know that is not the case. The music industry started to follow the trend that was happening and working. Again and in retrospect, who can blame them? That was where things were headed. Corporate Hard Rock, Hair Metal or whatever you want to call it was over and it's just unfortunate that it was over before it started for us. If we released our first record three years earlier, we might have sold five million copies. For us, it was literally within 24 hours [that it was over] and I'm not joking. There is a funny thing on Facebook that someone posted on my "Wall" where our album release party for the first record was at a club called The Opera House in Toronto. The flyer reads, "Warner Music artist Harem Scarem album release party." That happened on a Friday night and the next night...Nirvana. [Laughs] So, it literally points it out. Our career was, in a way, 24 hours long. We had all the hope and [the reality] is staring at you, right in the face...Harem Scarem is Friday night, but do you know what's coming Saturday night that is going to change everything?...Nirvana. It is hilarious when you look back at it now. You say, "Yep, we had a 24 hour career (or hope of a career)." When Nirvana came out and it started taking over, it completely overshadowed anything that came before it and that became the direction for labels, musicians...anyone who had any hope of moving forward doing Rock music was going to be in that style or something similar. Labels...and again, you can't fault them but they were thinking, needed to get rid of all this other stuff and have to start signing these types of bands because that is what is going to be the new direction and the new music trend. Warner Music Canada was no different. We had friends that worked at the label who were sympathetic to what Harem Scarem was doing and they wouldn't have kept us if we weren't selling records...but we were (which was the strange part). We did so well in Japan, Asia and parts of Europe that they couldn't get rid of us...well, they could have but it would have been dumb [on their part]. Again, they are in the business of selling records and we were actually selling records. It was very weird because we weren't doing anything remotely popular or even what they wanted to support. So, we weren't working singles through radio and the band wasn't really on the tip of anyone's tongue working at the label saying, "You've have to check this out." If anything, it was best to just keep it quiet and they [Harem Scarem] go on their own and make these records that happen to sell...very weird.

What incredible timing with regard to the record release party and the Nirvana couldn't script that!

Yeah. You can feel sorry for yourself but like I said, we were selling records in other countries where friends of mine who also had record deals and doing what we were doing and just got dropped. Their careers were over and they never got another shot at music because you just wouldn't, right? You don't get to try again when you're 30 just to start all over again. You don't know these things at the time. When you're 18 or 19, put a band together, writing in a certain style of music and you're trying to get a record deal, you don't realize that is your window of opportunity. You are going to be judged at that moment of who you are, what you do and what you are potentially capable of doing. You don't know [these things] because you are just doing it out for love of doing it and you're stupid. However, there are 30-40-50 year-olds working at record companies saying, "What do these guys look like, what are they doing and could this possibly sell some records?" That is the point at which you are being viewed and judged and we didn't realize any of it. We were just doing what we liked to do, having fun and of course, had high hopes of selling records and having a career. In many respects, that is what we did. We got to travel the world, we sold records and still do it to this day. It's hard to complain about it and even looking back, it's hard to see what we could have done to make things any better for us. We would have to have been older and had to have been signed 3-4 years earlier. Our first record would needed to have been released in the Mid-to-Late 80's, not the earlier 90's to have the success doing what we grew up learning how to do. We didn't have the luxury of being a Bon Jovi or Aerosmith or a band that sold 20-30 million records. Even though the industry changed dramatically, if you were a band like Aerosmith and had such a large fan base...I remember going to an Aerosmith concert in 1995 or 1997 and thinking, "There are 20,000 people here...where are these Rock fans because we can't find them!" That is the strange part about music. You can have fans that like a certain band and a specific style of music that [even though] is not popular can still go and fill an arena. Bon Jovi can fill an 80,000 seat venue in Europe...80,000 today! You say to yourself, "How is that possible when it is so-not-cool to be Bon Jovi in North America!" [Laughs] He has a fan base and has sold hundreds of millions of records...but if you never had the luxury of selling all those records like a band like us or Tyketto... I remember being in Belgium and being in a club that held about 150 people...I was producing a record for a Belgian Rock band and we went out one night and one of the guys said that is awesome band called Tyketto is playing. But they were an indie band, I don't think that they were ever on a major...

No, they were signed to Geffen. Their first album, 'Don't Come Easy' was...

Oh, you're kidding? I didn't know that. I only had heard of them as an indie band.

Tyketto's first album, 'Don't Come Easy' was released on Geffen and they had John Kalodner as their A&R representative who was a big league guy in the industry.

OK, I didn't know any of that...that's interesting. They would have felt what we felt, but 10 times more. In America, it would have been all or nothing, right? In retrospect, if we would have been signed to an American company, we just would have been dropped right away because they wouldn't have been able to invest the money, time and effort into dealing with a band that is selling a few records around the world, specifically in Asia. For Canada, a small territory, any sales [no matter how small] were good. So, they had this band that they were probably a bit embarrassed about but we were selling records and making them money and (at the end of the day) that is what they are in business make money. That is another reason that we got to continue to make records on a major label when no other Rock bands were getting major label budgets to make records. Again, that was very different than most people's paths at that time.

The 'Extras portion of the 'Raw And Rare' DVD show you backstage warming up for the gig at 'Coconuts.' 1-How do you keep your voice so strong, 2-Do you still use those warm-ups when preparing to sing and 3-Can you still hit that insanely high note in 'If There Was A Time?'

[Laughs] Yeah! The problem for is a two part answer. Yes, I still do the warm-ups and I think I'm a better singer now because I think I understand my voice better than ever. Again, it all has to do with experience and just knowing what to expect. I haven't lost my voice singing live in 20 years but in the first five years it would happen all the time. I remember doing gigs where I literally couldn't "eek" out a line because I was just abusing myself. We were playing a lot more back then so now, my challenge is getting into "vocal shape" to be able to pull it off. The last thing we did in Europe, I think we did 15 shows...we did something like 15 countries in 18 days. We were getting up at 5 or 6 every morning, getting to an airport, flying to the next place, doing the show and repeating that process. I had no idea how I was going to get through this but in the end, was the best vocal experience that I ever had. I was able to calm down and temper myself through the whole process and not overdo it in the beginning and lose my voice. If you can get over the hump of those first four or five days without losing your voice, what will happen is like a muscle. You start to build it up and it gets stronger and stronger. By the end of the month [of shows] that we were doing, those were the best nights that I ever had and never worried for a second going out there...I could pull it all off and do it. It is when you haven't done it in a long time...I just won't sit around singing. People call me and ask if I can do some background vocals or even when I'm in my own studio where there is a band recording and say, "Oh, Harry is here. Why don't you sing a line?" and I tell them "No, I can't...I haven't opened my mouth in two weeks to sing anything so it won't be good." You really have to work your way up to where you want or need to be and it is not an overnight thing. When we're rehearsing to go out and play live, it's a very regimented thing build up, even to get through a rehearsal because I am not singing every day. It's not like this is all I do where I am a singer that is it where I sing every day where I constantly have the muscle's not like that at all! [Laughs] When we go out and perform at festivals, it is a bit of a drag because sometimes it will be the first gig that we've done in two months and I am not where I want to be vocally. Even the 'Live At The Phoenix' was good but not was just OK but I can live with it because that is the reality of it. I didn't do two weeks of preparation before that [gig] and get to the point where it was easy for me. It was a bit nerve-wracking to get up and record like that. It's a [slow] building process of getting to where you want to be vocally and having enough experience to not overdo it and blow out your voice. When you're young, that is where you get into trouble. You just run out there and everything is on 10 and five songs in you say, "Uh, oh..." [Laughs] It would happen a lot.

Again, it all comes down to experience and suffering through those gigs where you lose your voice and like you said, you learn more about physical yourself and what you can and cannot do, how to do it and you get better at it as you get older.

Yeah. My only regret now when we get up and do shows is that we are not doing enough of them to get the best out of who we are. If you do ten shows and then play the eleventh, you are obviously going to be better than if you show up for the one night and it's a "one off" for you but that is the reality of the music industry for a lot of bands. A lot of the bands that are even playing at the festivals have day jobs! [Laughs] They are rehearsing a couple of times before doing a festival and that can't be the best version of that band, it just can't be. A lot of people are in that situation. It is just the reality of what you're dealing with because these bands aren't doing music full-time and out there on the road and doing their thing which was more typical say, 20 years ago. [Back then], that is all we did. My job was [being] the singer in Harem Scarem and that is all I did is very different now.

Although you ended up singing 'Sentimental Blvd.' on your solo album, how did it come to pass that a tune that you penned resulted in Darren [Smith, drums] singing the lead vocal on 'Mood Swings' and when performing live?

I like the idea (not unlike Queen) where you would have different varieties of not only [musical] styles but singers on a record. I thought that it was kind of boring to do the same thing over and over again even with regard to a vocalist. I've always enjoyed a lot of variety in other bands. In retrospect and when I was a kid so when I think of a band like Queen, there is a great example of a drummer that can sing like crazy. Darren has always been a great vocalist and a part of our sound. You can always hear him singing in the chorus' and the two of us singing together don't sound like either of us singing individually. It is the combined sound to make it what it is in the end so to me, the chorus' for Harem Scarem have a very specific sound and that is due to us singing together to achieve that. I wrote 'Sentimental Blvd.' but I thought to get some variety in with Darren being featured as a lead vocalist because he is a great singer. I've never been precious about being the guy in the spotlight or even wanting to be. If anything, I'd be happy to hide in the background and let someone else stand up there, do the talking and jump around like a monkey! [Laughs] I've always liked hiding behind a mic stand, a guitar or something like that. I don't like being front and center so this was, perhaps subconsciously, a way to deflect a bit by getting other people involved. Barry [Donaghy, former bassist] sang on a track on one of our records ['Sometimes I Wish' from 'The Big Bang Theory] and Pete [Lesperance, Guitars] has done it as well. They are all great singers and that was always the premise of Harem Scarem...putting a band together and being involved with very well-rounded musicians. Darren is a great guitar player...he can do anything and is a great musician. I like to surround myself with people that are not one dimensional but can also understand and anticipate what the other person is trying to do. [Those attributes] make it a better band and I think it would make it more exciting as well. When it comes to Darren, we have similar voices and a lot of people didn't even know that it was someone else singing that song. We would get comments of people saying that they had no idea that wasn't me [singing]...

I am for one, one of those very people.

Yeah, OK. We sound very similar and oddly enough, that is when Jeff Scott Soto sings backing vocals on 'Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.' I don't think I hear a giant difference on the low harmonies with him and me singing in that chorus. We have a similar timbre when we're singing [in unison] but when he is doing his solo lines, he has a style that is unmistakable so you know it is Jeff. In a cluster of voices however, it is very hard to pick out one individual voice like I was saying before. With Darren, since we have been working together since we were 14 or 15 years old, we have melded into a style that is very similar with what we are trying to do. We sat in the studio singing harmonies we were trying to do and make sound like one part where we are starting and ending at the same time...the bends, the nuances, the approach and the way we sing...we are trying to blend together and I think when we go and sing individually is probably why it is not that much different.

Since you mentioned them just before, Cheap Trick and Queen are obvious influences, who else does the band site as directly (or indirectly) informing the sound and direction of Harem Scarem?

Everybody's got a thing. I always say that when I open my mouth, I sound a certain way. I think if you are going to write songs, you have to write them to suit what you do best and be aware of that [fact]. Because I love Queen doesn't mean that I can sing like Freddie Mercury. You have to differentiate between what you love and what you do best. [You need to] write, record and cater to your strengths...not your weaknesses or even what you love. Yes, both were major influences as well as bands like Boston. I've always loved big harmonies...big singable choruses and that has been my thing. I have also always loved the quirkier side of Queen and the fact that they weren't just a one-trick-pony band. That has heavily influenced me with regard to what I like and style but again, if I want to stay true to what I do best, that's what Harem Scarem is [by writing to what suits us].

Did you or the band ever get consulted when it came to the release of 'The Essentials' compilation which stands to be (at least here in the USA) the most accessible collection of those earlier recordings?

No, not really. They kind of floated it out there and what I noticed was that it was just a collection of singles that we released. It looks like someone who didn't really know anything about the band just went through the list of singles that we released domestically and figured that would be their "essentials" package. That is what it felt like they did. Being Warner property, they don't even really have to ask my permission but they were kind enough to involve me. I think I did remaster a bunch of that material that ended up going out just for myself because I thought that I could make some of it sound better. Other than that, it was all at very "arm's length." They told me they were thinking of doing this and unless I had a problem with it...I would just say, "OK, cool." Again, you are just trying to release as much stuff to expose the band to as many people as possible so I would never say, "No" to anything like that. We've been involved in probably 50 compilations over the last 20-30 years. We are on "Essential Ballads" in Philippines, we're on "Rock Classics" in the UK...we're on records that I don't know what they are or what they are called. I've signed off on them and used to keep stacks of paper from Warner Music that I signed off on and allowing them to include a track on some sort of compilation. In this day in age of where people are just downloading any song(s) that they want, people no longer buy compilation CDs since you can now make your own compilation of your favorite songs. We've been involved with lots of things like that and a lot of them that I've never seen or heard. I just know that there have been tracks that have gone out on these things around the world and the Wounded Bird releases in America is really not that different except it is probably a bit more involved than just one song on a compilation. It is a concerted effort of putting things together that they thought would represent us well and that probably debatable as to whether it does that or not! [Laughs]

I can only assume that you have asked him over the years, especially when it came to re-recording the seminal Mood Swings album so what ever happened to Mike Gionet, Harem Scarem's original bass player?

It was a strange thing. He was never into Rock [music]. We got him into the band because we had heard from mutual friends that he was a great bass player which, if you are assembling a band, you want the best players possible. Stylistically, he never liked that type of music where Pete, Darren and I grew up liking Hard Rock and Metal. The three of us were very much on the same page musically but Mike was not. He liked being in the band because he enjoyed the musicianship. He liked the fact that everyone could play, everyone could sing and that was our common ground. But that was all short-lived. We did our first record, we toured a lot, did the second record, toured a lot but by the third album...before 'Voice Of Reason' was even released, he was off and doing other things. I specifically remember calling him when he was over in Europe and I said, "Hey, we are going to shoot a video for our single, 'Blue'" (despite him only playing on a couple of songs on the VOR record). Pete and I were in such a tunnel-vision headspace that Pete ended up playing bass on most of that record. We were just right there and wanted to keep going with what we were doing while Mike was not even in the country. Since he could play [bass], let's get Pete to do it and we trended on doing that moving forward. When I called Mike and said we were going to do this video, he told me that he didn't think that he could make it back in time. I knew it was over when he said, "Just do it without me." [Laughs] I said, "What?!" and he said, "Yeah, no one will notice, just do the video without me." I said, "Do this video without one of the guys in the band?!" That is when I could see where this was heading. My next correspondence with him was when we were filming the video on whatever date and if he couldn't be there, then someone else is going to be in there. That was the ultimatum I gave him and obviously, he was happy with that and didn't show up and that's when we got Barry. We knew Barry as a friend. He was from another local band and we loved his bass playing and he is an incredible singer. He was a perfect fit for us and Barry was happy to join and be a part of the band. I ran into Mike at a New Year's Eve party a couple of months after that and there was nothing tension at all. Nothing was ever said or brought up about the way things ended. He was just out of the band, seemed happy and couldn't be less bothered by the whole thing. I wasn't going to make a big deal out of it because I was happy that we had a guy in the band that wanted to be there and liked what we did...someone who was more like one of us, musically. That was it for Mike. He ended up moving to LA and I didn't see him for 10 years. When he came back, he visited me in the studio. Our interaction has always been pleasant, there has never been anything weird and still have never really discussed it [of his leaving the band] face-to-face. I think that he always felt like it was not his thing, Being never really into it, whenever it ended. Obviously for us, it was much more important. The band was our baby and [we] cared very deeply about what we were doing and where it went.

Wow, what an incredible story!

Well, we've got lots of them! [Laughs]

It sounds like he didn't have the "balls" to say that he wasn't into the band and was leaving. He let you figure it out for yourself!

I don't think that he had some great plan in mind. I just think he was literally not willing to change his plans at that moment to come back and do something that he really didn't care about. What other conclusion can you come to? When you are making a record or shooting a video, think of how many people have to be on board and commitments to certain things and dates. It has always been that way in a band situation where you have to put aside what you are doing personally and agree to be there...rearrange the other things that are getting the way and not the other way around. You would end up just changing dates all day long and never getting anything done. If you are serious about being a musician, you have to prioritize about what you want to do in order to get things done. We have always been very serious about getting to work and doing things that we needed to do. We weren't going to wait for him to come back because it didn't suit the album's release date or when the Director of the video could be there. All of those things were rolling and you have to just get on board or we are going to keep moving without you. That simply has to be the way that it is. To me, that was his decision, not ours. The only decision we made was to stick to our schedule and get things done that we agreed to get done. We're not calling the record company to tell them that we aren't filming a video or it's not going to happen for a couple of months because our bass player doesn't feel like coming back and won't be in it...that's just not going to happen. [Laughs]

Well, you have been wonderfully candid with all of your previous responses so you have to be as candid with this one...With such an impressive catalog to choose from, what is your favorite Harem Scarem album and why?

[Pause]...There are more moments on records rather than entire albums. Whenever I hear a collection of songs that we called a record, there are always things on it that I don't like and there are always a couple of moments on it that I think are really great and I'm proud of. I think about it more in terms of songs rather than records. For me, the standout moments were our records where we achieved something beyond what we thought we could do. I know a lot of people hate our third album, 'Voice Of Reason' but for us, it was a real triumph. We achieved doing something stylistically that was something that we had really never done before. It is the same with the Rubber albums. Songs like 'Sunshine' and those very Pop-inspired songs [we wrote] were things that we had never done before. We were proud of ourselves as musicians, producers and our ability to be chameleons and make what sounded like Metallica-meets-Queen on 'Voice Of Reason' and then go to something very Pop-influenced and with an almost Country sound at times. We prided ourselves on being able to do lots of different things and pull it off. Musically, those have been the highlights for me. If I had to pick a record, I'd say 'Mood Swings' because it really was the record that catapulted us into another league and another level. Internationally, it was the one. On our first record, we had three territories...Canada, Spain and another that I can't even remember. With 'Mood Swings,' we had around 50 territories that released it. For me, I think back to that time fondly because it was really the album that broke us [internationally] in that way.

Do you have any interest or designs making another solo album to compliment 'Just Another Day?'

Yeah. I actually did one...Geez, how many years ago was it now? 'Just Another Day' was I think about 10 years ago...maybe even longer? Honestly, I'm horrible at keeping track at what've I've done. I released a second solo album...what was it called? Oh yes, Living In Yesterday'...about five or six years ago. I do have almost enough material for a third solo record. That is all just a bunch of co-writes that I've done with people over the years that haven't be suited for Harem Scarem. Like I said, the band is not really interested in co-writes that I've done with outside people because to me, Harem Scarem is Pete and I doing our thing and obviously involving Darren, Creighton [Doane, Drums] and Stan [Mizcek, Bass]. Some of the co-writes that I've done were for other projects...other bands or pitches that never went anywhere but I like the songs. It's just creatively and getting other ideas out that you've done that you think people would like. I probably have seven or eight of those songs [compiled] and when I hit ten, I'll record that record and get it out there to add to the pile of things that I've done.

In other words, add it to the resume...

Yeah, why not! [Laughs]

Vespa Music Group is obviously busy recording, engineering and producing musical talent outside of Harem Scarem. What projects are you currently involved with that excite you the most?

There is a band from Australia called The Lazies...lovely name [Laughs] that we are working with. It is a Production deal that we are doing with them and that is an exciting thing. Next week, I'm going to attend the Canadian version of your Grammy Awards [in America] called the Juno Awards. The bands that we are working with and have had some sort of luck in the last few years is a band called Monster Truck, a very cool Hard Rock band. They are actually on tour with Nickelback in Europe and I think they are doing some dates with Deep Purple in Europe...they are definitely one to check out. We've recorded most of their records and I've Mastered their music as well. When I say "we," it is just a bunch of Producers and Engineers that work out of my studio...not me specifically. The only thing I did specific to Monster Truck was that I was the Mastering Engineer on the record. Another band called the Arkells who are a Pop/Rock band and have had Gold and Platinum records here in Canada are another band that we have worked with. Those have been the two of the latest projects that we've done that have gone on to do very well.

Harry, this has been a bucket list interview for truly has. Ever since that evening talking to you very casually down in that hotel cafeteria seven or so years ago, I've always wanted to have the opportunity to have a conversation on record and this has been an absolute dream. I don't want to take up any more of your time, so I want to thank you on behalf of myself, the magazine and the website. I hope to do you proud with what gets published in the next issue of Fireworks.


Is there anything else that you want to add that I haven't asked that you thought I should have or go tell me to pound salt?

No, I think that we've covered a lot of ground. People who are into what we do have known about us for a long, long time and we are just grateful to keep plowing away and continue to do stuff that people like. If anything, a thank you to fans and everyone that keeps supporting it...that is the final message.

Fireworks Magazine Online 79 - Interview with Can't Swim


Interview by Mike Newdeck

Can't Swim came to prominence really quickly. Starting as a solo project when band leader Chris LoPorto impressed a record label with some demos cooked up on a laptop the only way has been up for the fledgling band with ensuing tours in the UK and a debut album 'Fail You Again' released recently. Mike Newdeck chatted to Chris about the prominent rise of the band from the humble beginnings in New Jersey.

Cant Swim - Interview New
You're pretty much a fledgling band how are things turning out for you so far?

Well I was doing music as a hobby really, I was never really song writer and I never played guitar either. I was primarily a drummer who'd played in a million bands. I was really doing stuff for fun, goofing around after school on my laptop and I learnt guitar from messing around rather than learning it in the normal way. Once I had got a grasp of things I then went onto writing songs and then Can't Swim kind of started. I made some demos which I sent to a few friends and then Pure Noise got to hear it and wanted to be part of it. I was totally unexpected.

So you're basically a band of drummers and ex-drummers?

Yeah that's right, I did the drums on the first release, then Danny and I split it on the full length and now we have Andrea a friend of mine playing. We're a bunch of drummers masquerading as guitar players. We're not the most gifted of drummers but we like to write good songs and leave it to Andrea who's more dynamic and tight but it helps to have lots of rhythmic people in the band.

Do the band share information about how to get the best out of each others instruments?

Well. every band member plays every instrument to varying degrees. On the album the bass player played some guitar parts, I played some of the bass. Our producer and guitar player wants to always get the best performance out of the band and so it's horses for courses. One player gives a straight down the meddle performance another might give a more groove feeling to the sound and we then use whichever fits best for that song. I play my guitar in a pretty rough style which suits a other songs. Pride for our instrument and parts goes out the window, it's more to do with getting the right end product. Maybe on the next album I won't play the guitar at all. We have toyed with the idea of Danny using different instruments live to give us a different soundscape but generally we stick to our own roles although we do freestyle sometimes by playing our parts differently.

Female drummers seem to be the trend at the moment?

Well, we didn't consciously pick a female, we just wanted to keep the band as friends rather than bring a stranger into the set up. We went to high school with her and she lives on the block so she's a great friend. When the vacancy for a new band member came up she was first on the list.

Working with friends is a double edged sword though isn't it?

It can be like being in a marriage with all the strains associated with that; I had that in previous bands. In Can't Swim the dynamic is far more easy going and supportive and we're all in it for the same reason and we don't have individual goals. In fact the band has probably brought us closer and we're like a family when we're on the road. In previous bands there'd be a n argument over where to eat.

The dynamic no doubt helps the writing process?

For sure. The first release was just me and I did everything but for this release everyone is involved with their differing personalities. That way we get more emotion feeling and personality in the music as well as an increased openness because we all know each other so well. We're all very open to criticism and many bands fail if their not. We're not defensive about anything. An idea becomes Can't Swim only once it's been through the modification process.

How about media criticism, are you open to that?

Well we know our limitations but we just do what we do as a band and outside criticism doesn't really come into play. I do like inducing emotion in people though negative or positive, it's all good but ultimately it's about your own team being happy.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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How has the band progressed since the last esp musically?

Well this is more of band really rather than a solo project. My guitar knowledge is limited and so the rest of the band have more to offer in terms of chords and making the sound fuller. The e.p was meat and potatoes whereas this album is complicated and there's more vocal interplay. It's different lyrically too; the e.p was more to do with a specific relationship whereas now it's more varied in its subject matter.

Did the album turn out how you expected it to?

Well I never thought that the first five songs that I did would ever leave my laptop and even now doing the full length I still had shaky legs, it's unbelievable but also truly beautiful. Everything has exceeded my expectations

What opportunities are there for bands in your neck of the woods in New Jersey?

I'm very out of touch with the local scene really, probably because I'm in my late twenties. I'm unfamiliar with this type of genre. Growing up we had loads of bands play this area but many of the clubs have closed down now which is a shame but I'd imagine that there's still a scene as we're so close to New York. Can't Swim don't do anything locally and we've played more times around the rest of America than we have in our home state. Our first gig was in Maine with Four Year Strong.
I lose sight of us being from around here sometimes because we started touring straight away. Ohio is a state that we play often and we've played in the UK more than around here, it's crazy.

UK and European bands aspire to being big in the U.S Can't Swim is operating in the opposite direction isn't that a bit odd?

It's luck, fate, call it what you will but all I know is that you guys seem to like us over there; we always get enthusiastic responses when we play there. I'm really not sure why we're liked in the UK, it's a bit of a mystery. Sometimes I wish that I was born there really it would make things simpler. We've talked about moving over there before not only for the music but also for the economic and political reasons. We were in the UK when Trump got elected and so we really wanted to stay. It's a great country and I suppose it would make sense to move here if we're going to tour. The Descendants did a similar thing they moved to Chicago because they were touring the country so much.

Touring costs money and Pure Noise is only a small label do they finance it?

Well it's all worked out in the budget and the label are incredibly supportive of us, they don't just hand us a million dollars though. We have enough to play, tour and eat so that's more than enough for now.

Can't Swim has a live raw edge on the latest album and a sense of realism was this conscious?

It really comes from inability. I can't hit all the notes I'd like and so I suppose it comes over as realistic, and that's what it is really. We play to our strengths and it all came pretty natural to us being that way. Combine that with a producer who wanted a genuine performance and that is what comes out. We're not a polished pop punk outfit and we don't want to be. There's no autotune, compression or tricks, it's just us.

Pop punk bands are usually upbeat, bright and breezy, Can't Swim is far more angry aren't they?

I think again that comes from what a find natural to sing. In fact I find it easier to yell rather than sing and so I think we tailor the music around that aspect. The other thing is that if you can't sing in a particular way in the studio it won't be possible at a gig.

From what you have said, is the band name a reflection on your insecurities as a singer?

Well in first grade I was very nervous about speaking in front of people and the teacher went round and asked everyone what their defining feature of their life was. I really didn't know what to say and the kid before me had said that he loved to swim so in a nervous voice I just said that I can't swim. Everyone laughed and twenty years later I thought it would be a great name for the band.

'Fail You Again' is out now on Pure Noise

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