This week begins the “Summer of Sarzo” here at Dare to Support Rockers Who Care! Robert Sarzo and Rudy Sarzo are the main inspirations for this page. Not only are they fabulously talented musicians, but they are kind, sweet, and respectful to their fans, AND they are both involved in numerous charities, most notably as animal rights activists. Laura and I cannot think of any musicians whom we love and admire more than the Sarzo brothers! Look for tour information for both Hurricane (Robert Sarzo) and GUNZO (Rudy Sarzo) over the next few months, especially as GUNZO launches a national tour! Stay tuned for everything Sarzo, folks! <3 AB
When Motley Crue made the announcement early this year that they were going to cease being a band following a big farewell tour, some fans actually cheered because it meant that bass player Nikki Sixx would have more time to devote to Sixx:AM, the band he put together with vocalist James Michael and guitar player Dj Ashba in 2007. With an unmistakable hard rock vivacity and cut-to-the-bone lyrics, Sixx:AM stood out amongst their peers. Sixx had lived what they were actually singing about and the fans gravitated to songs such as “Life Is Beautiful,” “Pray For Me,” “Accidents Can Happen” and “Skin,” the music touching that raw nerve everyone has within them. But Sixx had Crue and Ashba has Guns N Roses so finding time to delve into another full-blown project wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to accomplish.
But they did it. On October 7th Sixx:AM will drop Modern Vintage, their new opus born from their youthful admirations of the music that originally ignited their rock & roll fires. With the first single, “Gotta Get It Right,” a Queen/ELO-ish popper that catches on immediately, they are back with a sparkling vengeance. “It’s a very, very busy time,” Michael said with a smile. “But what a great thing to be busy with.” In Los Angeles rehearsing for a show they will play the day of the album’s release, the producer turned singer has found his vocal cords doing double duty. “Now that we’re in rehearsals and I’m having to sing a lot every day, the new songs are pretty demanding, what I’m noticing is that it’s actually the talking, the interviews, that are putting a big strain on my voice,” Michael explained with a laugh. Glide talked with the always bubbly James Michael a few days ago about the new album, songwriting, moving back to LA after five years in Nashville, and why he is and always will be a producer first.
The last time I talked to you a few years ago, you were in Nashville. But now you’ve moved back to Los Angeles?
Yes, I did actually. For the last five years I have been kind of bi-coastal. I’ve had a place in Nashville and a place out here in LA. I was spending most of my time in Nashville but I was really just missing the west coast a lot so at the beginning of this year, I decided to just move back here. I love Los Angeles. It’s always just felt like home to me. It’s a very soulful place.
I also heard it was your birthday last week so happy birthday.
(laughs) Thank you very much. It’s funny, I had completely forgotten and then I was doing a radio interview on the phone and the DJ actually wished me happy birthday. It was like so strange cause it’s the first time that I ever just completely forgot till about midway through the day. But I ended up having a great birthday. It was actually the first day of rehearsals for Sixx:AM so it was a perfect way to celebrate.
Did they get you something special or did they just make you sing all day?
(laughs) Yeah, I sang all day
This is your third time creating a body of music with these two guys, Nikki and Dj. How has the writing process evolved for the three of you?
Well, it’s interesting because evolve is a great word. It definitely happens in any type of creative situation is that you transition through things and you find what I call the sweet spot and I feel like the three of us as songwriters have really found our sweet spot where we just communicate so well, not only as friends but also as musicians and songwriters. So the process has grown over the years but the one thing that stays consistent, that is very important to us, is that the three of us actually physically are together in one room writing songs for Sixx:AM. It’s always been very important to us because, number one, we just love spending time with each other, we love hanging out and just being pals. But also, the chemistry really comes through when the three of us are in a room together. That has stayed consistent through all three records.
But the process was different on this record because first and foremost, we intentionally did not have a peripheral thing like a book or a photography book to attach this record to. We wanted this one to kind of stand on its own and as a result we knew that what it would do is it would really not only reveal to our fans who we’ve turned into as a band but it revealed to us who we’ve become as a band after three records. So on this one what we tried to do was really look back at the music and the bands and the albums that had influenced us ever since we were kids. So what we did was we went back and looked at the albums of the late sixties and seventies, at bands like Queen and Elton John and ELO and David Bowie and T. Rex and all those incredible records that really took you on a journey and captured your imagination. That’s the type of record that we wanted to make with Modern Vintage. So it differs in the sense that rather than reacting to, for instance, Nikki’s diaries or photography or that type of stuff, we went back and kind of looked at the entire lineage of rock music and what made us love rock music in the first place. This album is really a reflection and celebration of that.
It doesn’t seem as dark.
Yeah, I think that at first listen that would definitely be a reaction and I think that there are a number of reasons for that. When you go back and listen to some of those bands that I was mentioning, there was a lot of, I guess, seventies pop influences in those records. People were writing hooks in songs that felt very uplifting and I think that the thing that Sixx:AM has always done, and I think we do it on this record, is we’ve always found that balance, that fine line between darkness and beauty. We even did it with songs like “Life Is Beautiful.” In fact, every song on all of our records has always kind of walked that fine line. Musically, there are a lot of, I would say, kind of seventies-type of pop rock influences that show through that may end up having a bit of a lighter feel to it but in actuality when you really dig in and look at the lyrics on Modern Vintage, it’s still that very kind of troubling, dark angle lyrically to things. And we’ve always loved that. When you listen to a song, for instance like “Gotta Get It Right,” which is our first single, at first listen it’s very pop-y, it has a real bounce to it and it feels very uplifting. But again in typical Sixx:AM fashion when you actually dig in and look at the lyrics, the message itself is a bit on the darker side. And I think we’ve always just naturally done that. And I think on this record there are definitely moments that feel maybe a little more hopeful than on our previous records, even though we’ve always tried to have a good strong sense of hope in all of our songs and maybe that just shows through a little bit more on this record.
I don’t think you guys could write a fluffy pop song. There is always meaning in the songs.
Yeah, and we love that and sometimes the feel of the music doesn’t necessarily reflect the sentiment of the lyric and I think that is something we really love. We love that contrast.
Tell us about “Drive.” You overhauled and almost restructured that song to where it almost changes the whole context of it from the way the Cars did it.
That was a really exciting thing for us to do. Number one, we’ve never done a cover song before. When we chose that song, we chose it for a number of reasons but one of the real main focuses was the lyrics, cause when you listen to that lyric, even on the original version, it’s such a heavy, very isolating, very lonely lyric. It’s a very sad song when you really analyze what they’re talking about. Even the video that the Cars made originally was so sad and yet they had this kind of feel to the track which didn’t allow you to get too mired down in the sadness of the lyric. In the end, it just had this beautiful kind of hopeful feeling to it. You got the sense that this person was going to overcome this struggle that she was having.
When we did our version of it, we really wanted to shine a light on just how intense that lyric is and that’s why on our version we start off almost as a piano ballad. It’s very intimate, it’s very lonely sounding at the beginning and as the song progresses these moments of technology start to kind of trickle in and by the end it’s turned into this very elaborate, very beautiful vast sounding track. We wanted the listener to be reminded of what a beautiful lyric that was and what a beautiful story it was while at the same time celebrating the original version.
What about “Let It Haunt You.”
It’s a really cool song and what we ended up doing was we ended up putting that on the deluxe version of the record. It was not like we chose to leave it off of our record for any particular reason. We love the song. It’s almost a funk-type of song. It feels kind of like a seventies funk, almost disco type of feel, but it’s a very, very Sixx:AM type of song. The lyric is kind of like what we were talking about before. It has this beautiful contrast between pain and joy, and yet when you listen to the track it almost has, I would say, a Bee Gees or an ABBA type of funk/disco feel to it. As we were celebrating all these different genres of rock music that we all love so much, we couldn’t leave out that style, you know. I was a huge fan of bands like the Bee Gees and just those vocal arrangements and the backbeat and the danceability of those songs. It was pretty amazing when we went into the recording studio to record that one just how natural it came out. I was really amazed by just the soul which Dj and Nikki played the track. It’s a fun one and, like I said, the only reason that it didn’t end up on the record is just because we felt like with the main record we had told the story that we wanted to, and yet this was such an important track that we included it in the deluxe edition.
What was the so-called surprise song on this record, the one that almost didn’t make it on or turned out completely different from it’s original version?
It’s probably a tossup between two of them. There’s a song on the record called “Miracle,” which as we were just talking about, has this kind of funk, almost disco-type of seventies vibe to it which is really cool. I think that a lot of our fans will be pleasantly surprised by that one because it really kind of comes out of left field and yet it’s such a part of the music that we’ve always loved. So I think it will be a real surprise on the record for people.
Then the last song on the record, called “Before It’s Over,” is a really just beautiful song. It almost has a ragtime/vaudeville type feel to it which will be another real exciting and kind of shocking journey for the listener. But it’s another one of those songs where if you listen to the lyrics of it, the lyric of “Before It’s Over” is about this person who has lost somebody and has just not been able to let go, has not been able to move on with their life. Typically when somebody loses a loved one you go through this mourning or grieving period and then you eventually learn how to pick up the pieces and make sense of it all and move on. Yet the character in this song is unable to do that. He is unable to move on. He’s very lonely and isolated and he knows that he should be moving on but he can’t. So what we did was we took that character and we put him in this almost ragtime setting so there is this incredible contrast between the two. So it feels like it’s just a really uplifting, happy song and then as you listen to the lyric you realize that he wishes he could feel the way that the music sounds but he just can’t. It’s a real beautiful moment in the record.
Have you ever written a song that you felt like you opened up yourself too much? That maybe you shouldn’t put these feelings or truths into a song?
That’s a great question. I think that I probably have written that type of a song that maybe revealed a bit too much or exposed a bit too much but I think that when that has happened in my career, I typically have held on to it and maybe just kept it private or shared it with maybe the person I intended it to be heard by. I really have always used music as a form of communication and in a way it’s a safety net. It does allow me to say things and reveal things that typically in a normal conversation I might not be comfortable doing. But that’s one of the beautiful things about writing songs and about music in general. But I think that those would be very rare cases because to me having the opportunity to write a song and to share it with the world is, like I said, an opportunity to reveal something about you.
And I think if you have the courage to do that, it can reach a lot of people and I think that’s what’s been so special about Sixx:AM’s music is that we haven’t held back. We have always overcome that fear of being judged or being criticized and we’ve just shared what we felt was important to share and as a result our fans have been incredibly brave and come back to us and shared their stories about how their life has felt damaged or broken and is in need of repair and somehow our music has found it’s way into their lives and become a soundtrack of sorts to their struggles. So I think that while, yes, you can cross that line and maybe reveal a bit too much, I think that that’s part of the skill of being a songwriter is to know where that line is so that you can go right up to it and share as much as you possibly can without making yourself uncomfortable. A lot of times if you’re going to make yourself uncomfortable, you’re also going to make the listener uncomfortable and it becomes an unproductive experience and it tends to cross over into just maybe being a little bit too full of self-pities. So I think there is a fine line to walk and I think that Sixx:AM has found a natural way to do that.
What was the hardest part about getting this album done? Was it getting the three of you in a room together?
It was absolutely, yes, logistically getting it done. We started writing this record about two years ago. Then once the songs were done, the task of producing it and getting it recorded came to hand and that’s what took the longest. Because I was the producer on the record, it meant that I was having to do a lot of traveling. I would travel to Dj’s house in Las Vegas. I’d record him for a few days. Then I’d travel down to Los Angeles and record Nikki at his house. Then I’d fly back to Nashville to my recording studio there and I’d put things together. There was a better part of a year where I was traveling back and forth across the country, maybe two or three times a week. It was a pretty intense time but it just flew by because we were so focused on what we wanted to accomplish with this record that in a way, even though it sounds pretty grueling, it felt effortless because we were just so passionate about it.
The last time we talked you told me that you were kind of a perfectionist in the studio. What drives you crazy the most in a studio environment?
(laughs) You know what, it’s funny because I am a perfectionist by nature so nothing drives me crazy. I love being in the studio and I love being a perfectionist and I will literally work on something until it’s perfect in my mind and that’s just natural to me. What drives me absolutely crazy is the fact that in a live setting you throw perfection out the window and that’s the part that has really been a struggle for me. I remember when we first went out and did Crue Fest several years ago. We were doing all of these shows and “Life Is Beautiful” was a hit at the time and it was just such an electric and vibrant time and such a great tour. But I was struggling so much as a singer because I wanted every note to be perfect. Always.
And I remember we were doing a show in Los Angeles actually and I had gotten off the stage and it was an incredible show. There were like 15,000 people there. The crowd was electric. We got off stage and I know that both Nikki and Dj noticed that I just wasn’t myself and I went back to my dressing room and I was just kind of sitting there on the couch in a funk. And Dj came in and he said, “What’s wrong?” and I was like, “Man, my voice cracked.” I was so bummed because my voice had cracked ONCE through the entire set (laughs). And he just sat down next to me, and I’ll never forget this, he said, “Dude, it’s time you take your producer’s hat off. These people don’t want perfection. They want passion and that’s what you’re giving them.” From that moment on, it was a real eye-opener for me and I’m just grateful for both Nikki and Dj and all their touring experience because they really helped shed a light on the fact that the two things are very, very different. Being that perfectionist in the studio is very different than being that passionate person on stage. Once I learned that, it was so exhilarating. But it was a struggle for me at first.http://www.glidemagazine.com/glide/wp-admin/post-new.php#edit_timestamp
So how do you separate yourself when you’re producing yourself? How easy is it for you to one minute be the singer and then the next minute to hop over to the other side of the glass and be the producer of yourself? Can you step back and make yourself a separate entity?
That’s a good question and you can and I will tell you how. I think it could be difficult for a lot of people. I’ve always been able to separate that and I think here’s why. I’ve never really thought of myself as a singer. At the very most, I would say that I’m a vocalist and I have a knack for telling a story vocally. But I’ve never thought of myself technically as a singer so what that does is it enables me to stay objective as a producer. I’m able to kind of step back and assess whether this song is being honored and whether the performance is telling the story properly. Because I really don’t have an ego when it comes to singing, I don’t even really like the way I sing, so I’m able to just kind of get past that, separate myself from any ego, and just stay focused on whether or not the message is coming across, whether or not I’ve done justice to the song. So I think that has helped me draw a separation between the two. I think that if I really took a lot of pride in my singing and felt like I was a good singer, I’d probably be way more critical of myself. I just kind of get through it and make sure that the lyric is being honored and that the passion and the emotion of the song is proper; and everything else, I just have to kind of tune out because, like I said, I’m not a real fan of my voice.
Who was the first real rock star you ever met?
Ooh, I love that question. Let me think about that. You know, I think I would have to say, probably Nikki was one of the first that I actually met in the true sense of meeting somebody. I just thought about that right now. It’s kind of interesting that that friendship we forged has lasted this long and has bared so many amazing things. I remember meeting him when I signed my very first record deal. Motley Crue was in partnership with the label that I signed with and we just met in the halls of the label one day and we’d keep on meeting each other and he was just so larger than life but also so human and so kind and we just instantly became friends. I’ve met a lot of rock stars since then but when I really think about it, he was probably the first. It’s kind of neat to think of the fact that we’re such good friends to this day.
So do you believe that the friendship you have with both Nikki and Dj makes it easier to create songs together?
Yes, absolutely. The friendship plays a huge part in that and it’s because we trust each other and we make each other feel safe. So there is no judgment, there’s nothing that any of us can say that would be stupid or that would be held against the other person. So we dare to say anything, try anything, and we know we’re not going to be made fun of and I think that sometime in those moments of vulnerability and exposing something about yourself that you just wouldn’t dare to expose to anyone else, I think in those moments are where some of the most magical Sixx:AM things happen.
When all of this is done with Sixx:AM, are you going to do anything on your own again?
You know, I’m always producing other bands and writing for other bands, so I have a really, really wonderful career and Sixx:AM has absolutely been the icing on the cake for me. I’m a very, very lucky person in this music business. So yeah, I will. I’m always doing different projects and if you’re referring to any type of solo stuff, I would say that it just depends on how much time I have. I’m always writing songs, I’m always working with people, and if I come across something that feels like it’s just not right for any other project or maybe it would only be suitable for me, then I’ll get back in the studio and do some more stuff on my own. But right now I’m just loving where Sixx:AM has come to and the fact that as Motley Crue is beginning to wind down their incredible career there is going to actually be more time for all of us to actually bring Sixx:AM more to the forefront of our lives. So it’s a very, very exciting time. We’ve all, the three of us, have actually already started talking about a fourth record and stuff like that so in some respects even though we’re three albums in and we just built this beautiful thing that is Sixx:AM, we also feel like we’re just at the very beginning, just scratching the surface of what Sixx:AM is going to accomplish.
Since its inception, heavy metal has borrowed liberally from the work of classical composers – what is Black Sabbath’s “Black Sabbath,” after all, if not a reworking ofGustav Holst’s “Mars”? Since 1993, the cello-based Finnish group Apocalyptica has been working to reverse engineer that formula, first reimagining Metallica’s compositions before branching out to include their own work, drafting in vocalists from the likes of Slipknot and Bush to round out their sound. For their eighth studio album, Shadowmaker, the group (which now includes full-time vocalist Franky Perez) hunkered down in a Tennessee studio to produce their most cohesive release to date. Lead cellist Eicca Toppinen and drummer Mikko Sirén recently spoke with the Post’s Jonathan Dekel about refining their sound, the stale metal scene and finally becoming a band two decades after forming.
Q Your last release was a live album with a full orchestra celebrating the 200th birthday of Richard Wagner. How did that evolve to Shadowmaker’s relatively minimalist arrangements?
Sirén: As we flirted with all these large bands we had an urge to go small, back to the essence of the band.
Toppinen: After we finished the last orchestra tour we wanted to focus on ourselves — to put our musical interests in focus. And when it came time to record the vocals we decided to only have one singer because that helped us not depend on anything outside the band, so the band could deliver everything. Metal music has the inclination to try to make everything sound bigger and [the result is] nothing sounds personal. Nothing touches you anymore; it’s just a wall of sound.
Q: As instrumentalists, how do you find that personality?
Toppinen: When we started writing this album we were listening to bands like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Rage Against the Machine and System of a Down– all the bands who have a really strong character. That was something we really wanted to approach.
Q Do you see yourselves as outsiders in the metal community?
Toppinen: There has always been difficulties defining Apocalyptica because we’ve always been moving and changing and that’s something we wanted to eliminate: make the whole package more tight. We wanted to be treated like a real band.
I think we are very much in between [worlds]. We combine a lot of elements from pop music and aesthetics from electronic music with the metal elements. Old school metal is old school metal and there are some cool metal bands today which are trying to refresh the scene but I think there’s too much metal without the metal attitude. There’s no feeling of anarchy or challenging authority.
Sirén: Now-a-days it’s enough if you have distortion and a double bass drum. In the beginning it was punk, it was rebellious; it was dangerous. You could smell the music. Now it’s super clinical. All of a sudden the music which began as a way to go against rules and storm barriers is suddenly the most protective and most conservative.
Q Do you think your name’s connection with Metallica has helped or hindered your success?
Toppinen: That’s part of our history and we wouldn’t exist without Metallica so we have no problem with that. Of course, it’s funny to see in reviews that the intro is always about the Metallica covers and stuff like that and it’s f–king almost 20 years ago that we made the Metallica record. But it’s still a way for journalists to explain the band and we’re totally fine with it.
Shadowmaker is available now. Apocalyptica play Vancouver May 30, Edmonton June 1 and Calgary June 2.
Apocalyptica, Finland’s top musical export, performs on May 30 at the Commodore Ballroom.
May 30 at 9:30 p.m. | Commodore Ballroom
Tickets: $32.50 at ticketmaster.ca
What began as a Metallica tribute band with cellos has evolved into Finland’s top musical export. Since 1993 Apocalyptica has released eight studio albums, each staying true to its heavy metal/classical roots while relying increasingly on original material. Shadowmaker, the latest, follows this pattern, but with a difference — rather than welcoming a number of guest vocalists, as on previous albums, the new record features just one, Franky Perez. Now a full-fledged member of the band, Perez — whose previous gigs include playing with the band Scars on Broadway and with Guns N Roses guitarist Slash — talked about his future with Apocalyptica, staying true to metal roots and being a Yank in Finland.
Q: Have you noticed anything different about playing with a bunch of Finns compared to being in American bands?
A: There’s definitely a little bit of culture clash. They live on the other side of the world, and I’m from Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s polar opposites. But, without being cliché or cheesy, we speak one common language — music.
Q: Did you make the album in Finland?
A: We did some pre-production in Nashville. Once we got the songs where we wanted them, we went back to Finland and rehearsed them for a couple of weeks and got them really nice and tight and went back to Nashville. I’ve been to Finland three times now, and come July, I’ll be there for awhile. I’ll be hubbing out of there while we do festival appearances in Europe.
Q: It seems you’ve been kind of a floater, leading a nomadic musical life, playing in a bunch of different bands.
A: One steady thing I’ve had in my career is my own stuff. But I’ve been a singer and musician for hire for over 10 years. This is a bit of a change. You have to find ways to provide and make a living. I’m very fortunate to have been a professional musician all my life. In the same sense I’ve been looking for that project. I thought Scars on Broadway was it, then the plug was pulled on that. I went back to being a musician-for-hire. Then when this came up — I’ll be with these guys as long as I can, they’re a great band, the music’s amazing. I’ve been offered full-time positions with other bands but this one really hit home, and made me want to be a part of it full-time.
Q: What was your relationship to Apocalyptica before you got the call to sing with them?
A: About four or five years ago, Scars on Broadway was playing the Area 4 festival in Germany. We were on the same stage as Apocalyptica, a few bands before. There’s been a big buzz around the festival about them, so I made a point after our set to stick around. So I sat on the side of the stage and watched them play, and now five years later I’m in the band.
Q: Apocalyptica started out playing Metallica covers. Is that something you still do?
A: They’re very true to their roots. There’s a part of the show where they throw it back to Metallica. They let the crowd know this is where they started, and they do (Metallica song) Nothing Else Matters. They might do a couple. They know where they came from. These guys are standup guys. They know what fans want and they do it.
Q: And Apocalyptica is going to be on a stamp in Finland. What do you know about that?
A: It’s amazing. From what I was told, they’re doing a whole series on Finnish artists and music. Apocalyptica was the biggest musical export from Finland, so it was a no-brainer that the Finnish government would give them a stamp. I was there when they got the email. Paavo Lötjönen, the bass cellist, was reading it. He looks at me and goes, “Hey Frankie, do you have a stamp?” I said “No.” And he said, “I do.”
According to MÖTLEY CRÜE bassist Nikki Sixx, his SIXX: A.M. band — which also features guitarist DJ Ashba and vocalist James Michael — will enter the studio in late June to begin work on its fourth album, tentatively due in 2016.
SIXX: A.M.‘s recently completed “Modern Vintage” tour included a limited number of dates all across North America. While on the road, the prolific band was in the process of writing music for its upcoming CD.
To round out its live lineup, SIXX: A.M. added drummer Dustin Steinke of BLEEKER RIDGE into the mix for the tour, as well as backup singers Melissa Harding and Amber VanBuskirk.
He continued: “When we put out the first single, ‘Gotta Get It Right’, it was a daring choice for us, because we had other songs on the album that were so much more what SIXX: A.M. fans are expecting. But because of how different this record is and how important it is to us, we wanted to put out a single that kind of set the stage for what is to come.”
Michael added: “DJ and I got back from Europe [where] we were doing a bunch of press, and I was kind of blown away with how positive the reaction has been, because when you take risks like this, you fully expect to get some pushback. But it has been wonderful so far.”
Read more at http://www.blabbermouth.net/news/sixx-a-m-to-enter-studio-next-month/#Qbg5u5f2g6vvsqH0.99
We might like to imagine that it was us clever North Americans who came up with the awesome idea to play Metallica songs with cellos – or that we had the shameless determination to make it more than just novelty.
But no, Apocalyptica is another fine Scandinavian import.
Part of the rich legacy of music from the dark, cold region that brought us Bjork, ABBA, Ingmar Bergman, death metal and Vikings, the Finnish cello trio guarantees no guitars will be used during its show at the Union Hall on Monday, June 1. Hard to believe, but it’s true. Those cellos can really rip through a good Blackstar guitar amp – which also provides the best clean sound a real cello craves.
Apocalyptica first popped up in mid-1990s, armed with heavy metal covers played by a classically-trained string quartet – which attracted an unusual cross section of fans from both the metal and classical worlds. At first, the group members didn’t think it was much of a novelty. They were simply playing the music they liked with the instruments they knew how to play. Then a record company guy caught a show and saw dollar signs, or Euros, anyway, and tried to talk the guys into making a record.
“The record company needed to convince the dudes, hey, let’s do this anyway,” says drummer Mikko Sirén, who joined the group 13 years ago, well after Apocalyptica had ditched the cover band shtick. “They were concentrating on classical careers back then so it took them a long period of time to realize, that yes, there is a bigger interest in this kind of music. Maybe the guys were being naive or dumb not to realize it.”
That didn’t last. With some members changes here and there, and cellist Paavo Lötjönen the only original left, the group has released seven albums since the 1996 debut Plays Metallica By Four Cellos. The latest, all original, is Shadowmaker, the band’s first with a permanent vocalist (Franky Perez; they’d previously worked with guests that include Corey Taylor from Slipknot and a host of other stars of the North American metal scene), and an album that certainly sounds as dark and heavy as anything from the modern Scandinavian metal scene. And as fans know, that’s pretty heavy. You can just hear it.
That’s because rock bands are a product of their environment, Sirén says. “Heavy metal,” he says, “especially in Northern countries, in Finland and Norway, it’s very strongly connected to our folk music, chord progressions, even the instruments used, and how we feel we are so close to nature. Nature over there is wild, untamed. However cliche that might sound, I feel that reflects in the music that people from the North do.”
He adds, “No matter what you do, only American bands sound like American bands, only British bands sound like British bands. Your culture, your heritage has a lot to do with how you sound.”
On May 20 and 21, 1985, one of the greatest heavy metal summits of all time took place at Los Angeles’ A&M Records Studio for the creation of a charitable single, “Stars,” later issued by the project known as Hear ’n Aid. The cause was raising money for famine relief in Africa — as it had been for recent efforts undertaken by pop musicians, in both the U.K. (Band Aid) and the U.S. (USA for Africa), but that’s where the similarities ended and Hear ’n Aid stood alone.
But it was in fact 1984’s Band Aid that sowed the general seeds for Hear ’n Aid’s existence, along with a 48-hour radio telethon hosted by L.A. radio station KLOS, specifically, which happened to be attended by Dio members Vivian Campbell (guitar) and Jimmy Bain (bass), among many other stars. Together, the duo crafted a new song and asked their boss, Ronnie James Dio, to help with some lyrics and, before anyone could count to 11, heavy metal had an answer to Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and USA for Africa’s “We Are the World.”
Its name was “Stars,” and the roll call of hard rock and metal stars eager to lend their talents to those sessions was nothing short of astonishing. In common with those pop music efforts, “Stars” witnessed a string of leather-lunged singers trading lead vocals lines — namely Dio, Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, Blue Oyster Cult’s Eric Bloom, Quiet Riot’s Kevin DuBrow, Queensryche’s Geoff Tate, Y&T’s Dave Meniketti, Rough Cutt’s Paul Shortino and Dokken’s Don Dokken, as well as dozens more providing backup, including members of Motley Crue, Twisted Sister and W.A.S.P.
Distinct among all these musical charities of the time, “Stars” did its metal heritage proud by boasting an extended jaw-dropping guitar solo that collated fireworks of shredders like Yngwie Malmsteen, Dokken’s George Lynch, Craig Goldy, B.O.C.’s Buck Dharma Roeser, Twisted Sister’s Eddie Ojeda, Journey’s Neal Schon, Quiet Riot’s Carlos Cavazo, Night Ranger’s Brad Gillis and co-songwriter Campbell, who also contributed rhythm guitar parts, along with Iron Maiden’s Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, who flew in from their band’s massive World Slavery Tour to do their part with harmony parts.
Unfortunately, obtaining legal clearance for so many artists signed to so many different record labels proved a daunting task that would delay the music’s release for months. The Hear ’n Aid compilation LP finally arrived in stores in January 1986, packing recordings donated by major names such as Kiss, Rush, Motorhead, Accept, Y&T, Scorpions, the Jimi Hendrix estate and Dio.
By then, “Stars” had also been made available as both 7” and 12” singles (peaking at No. 26 in the U.K., No. 39 in the U.S.), and the entire historic event was eventually celebrated by a 48-minute documentary filled with interviews, outtakes and behind-the-scenes clips. And while some of those involved feared that the legal delays had diminished Hear ’n Aid’s impact, one could likewise argue that they also extended awareness for famine relief for a few more months, well into 1986.
In any case, the nearly $1 million raised by Hear ’n Aid speak for themselves, and the still-unmatched collection of heavy metal star power that came together during those two days in the name of a good cause.
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Read More: 30 Years Ago: Heavy Metal Legends Convene for ‘Hear ’n Aid’ Sessions | http://ultimateclassicrock.com/hear-n-aid-stars/?trackback=tsmclip
A behind-the-scenes interview with QUIET RIOT drummer Frankie Banali filmed during his recent appearance on VH1 Classic‘s “That Metal Show” can be seen below.
Asked how well he knew late OZZY OSBOURNE and QUIET RIOT guitarist Randy Rhoads, Frankie said: “Not as well as people would assume that I knew Randy.”
He continued: “It was really funny, because I was a in a three-piece band called MONARCH, and it was all originals, and we were playing the same circuit — you know, the Starwood [in West Hollywood]. We actually played with QUIET RIOT a few times. And that band was a cross between LED ZEPPELIN and FREE; that kind of material. At one point, QUIET RIOT were thinking of getting rid of the drummer they had at the time. And so Rudy [Sarzo, QUIET RIOT bassist] had already known each other since 1972, so he wanted me to come down and audition. And I agreed — reluctantly I agreed — because Rudy and I were friends, and because QUIET RIOT were a great band, but, to me, QUIET RIOT was more of a pop band than what I was into. So I went down and played, and all sides agreed that maybe it’s not gonna work. But because of that, he was the one that told Kevin [DuBrow, QUIET RIOT singer] that he should get me in Kevin‘s new band after Randy left to go play with Ozzy. But when Randy went to audition for Ozzy, afterwards, he called me up and he goes, ‘Hey, Frankie.’ I said, ‘Randy?’ [He said], ‘Yeah. You wanna come and play with this guy Ozzy?’ And I said, ‘The guy from BLACK SABBATH?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘Okay. I don’t have a car.’ He goes, ‘I’ll pick you up.’ And we went down and we had some rehearsals, and it sounded great, and that was gonna be the band. But, ultimately, the label decided they were only gonna spend money on one guy, and the guy was Randy. But we kept in touch. He actually called me… I was in Germany doing a record for Tony Carey, who had just left Ritchie Blackmore‘s RAINBOW. And [Randy] called me up when he was in England doing the first Ozzy record. So we stayed in touch.”
“Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back”, the feature documentary on QUIET RIOT, screened this past Thursday, May 14 at the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France.
The inspiring and surprisingly relatable documentary is an inside look at Frankie‘s road to recovery after losing his best friend Kevin DuBrow to a drug overdose in 2007 as he forges ahead to conquer his loss, regain his life and put the band back together.
The film begins in 2010, three years following the loss of Kevin DuBrow. Frankie Banali faces a crossroads in his life and finds himself talking to former QUIET RIOT bassist Rudy Sarzo who said, “If you don’t carry on the legacy of your friend, nobody else will.”
At times both utterly tragic and downright hilarious, like an outtake from “Spinal Tap”, the film follows Frankie‘s journey through the emotional feat of trying to fill the void left by his singer and best friend.
The 105-minute character-driven documentary looks beyond the guts and glory of the common getting-the-band-back-together tale. “Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back” reveals an unforgettable man who uses ambition, relentless determination and principle to navigate through the obstacles that attempt to control his fate.
Watch for cameos from Matt Sorum and Steven Adler (GUNS N’ ROSES), Glenn Hughes (DEEP PURPLE), Dee Snider (TWISTED SISTER), Rudy Sarzo (QUIET RIOT, OZZY OSBOURNE), Dana Strum (SLAUGHTER), John 5 (MARILYN MANSON, ROB ZOMBIE) and Martha Quinn (original MTV VJ).
“When Frankie told me he was planning to meet with Kevin DuBrow‘s mother to get her blessing to go on with the band and find a new singer, I thought this would be an extraordinary story for a documentary,” explains director and producer Regina Russell.
Regina gained access to the private video and photo archives of the band. She followed Frankie for four years and interviewed many of the integral characters in the band’s history.
Read more at http://www.blabbermouth.net/news/how-quiet-riots-frankie-banali-almost-ended-up-in-ozzy-osbournes-band/#1l3iYgBH7IOXDbYw.99