Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 30: Dave du’Fort aka Hermien JD

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Englishman Dave du’Fort, also known as Hermien JD, initially made a name for himself as a drummer with artists such as Ian Hunter, E.F. Band, Angel Witch, Tytan and Mike Oldfield. Dave, who is the older brother of Girlschool drummer Denise Dufort, is now based in Tokyo where he is mainly focusing on creating cinematic production horror music and creepy and sinister soundscapes. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Dave to find out what five albums shook him to the core.

Led Zeppelin “The Song Remains the Same” (1976)

“The first time I ever listened to this album it practically blew my socks off. Unfortunately, due to the volume I was listening at, my neighbours on both sides nearly had their socks blown off too. Haha! One contacted the police to investigate ‘an apparent musical disturbance’. It’s a pity my neighbours had such poor taste in music. Me, on the other hand, had always been a big fan of Led Zeppelin as a band, collectively and as individual players. Somehow the tracks on ‘The Song Remains the Same’ seemed to capture the rawness and power of Zep live, but with the added slickness of a studio production. Plus, this album really showcases John Bonham’s unique style and power. In my opinion, Bonham was not only one of the best, most powerful drummers in rock, he was one of the first drummers to be at the forefront musically as an integral contributor to the overall sound of his band. Bonham, along with The Who drummer Keith Moon, paved the way for drummers by turning themselves into actual contributing band members. To this day, Bonham’s drumming is a major influence and inspiration to many drummers, and drum teachers new and established. With a unique style even having rudiments named after him, i.e. The Bonham Triplet, John Henry ‘Bonzo’ Bonham became one of my biggest influences, especially after repeated listening to this album.”

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow “Rainbow Rising” (1976)

“What is there to say about this and Rainbow in general that hasn’t already been said? Although many would disagree now, back in 1981, ‘Rainbow Rising’ was voted for, and categorised by British rock magazine Kerrang as the greatest heavy metal album of all time. An outstanding combination of great tracks from the amazing line-up that included one of metal’s greatest vocalists, Ronnie James Dio, along with Ritchie Blackmore’s incredible guitar work, Cozy Powell’s thundering drums, not forgetting Tony Carey’s inventive keyboards and Jimmy Bain’s solid bass. With tracks including ‘Tarot Woman’, ‘Run with the Wolf’ and ‘Stargazer’, this album totally blew me away, and still does.”

The Jimi Hendrix Experience “Electric Ladyland” (1968)

“I heard this double album in its entirety quite some years after its release. It immediately grabbed me. An amazing piece of work by an amazing power trio of musicians led by one of the most unique and inventive guitar players in rock, Jimi Hendrix. This guy was not frightened to take chances with music styles, experiment, fuse and combine to produce something unique and special, as can be heard throughout ‘Electric Ladyland’. On a first listening, the tracks seem to have a strange combination of looseness, tightness and an almost ethereal feel at times, but that was the whole purpose of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Despite its massive success, this album marked the last time Jimi Hendrix, bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell played together. This was the end of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Sadly, Hendrix died in 1970, two years after this album’s release.”

AC/DC “Back in Black” (1980)

“This was the first album from AC/DC after the death of vocalist Bon Scott. The black album cover, along with the title was actually a tribute to Bon Scott. Followers and fans of the band, including myself, were very unsure as to what to expect especially from Bon Scott’s replacement, Brian Johnson. With an outstanding collection of tracks, including a great opener in ‘Hells Bells’ and the slow but pounding title track ‘Back in Black’, the introduction to their new lead singer was immediately accepted, at least by most. Bon Scott was a tough act to follow, and Johnson had some big shoes to step into, but he kind of took the bull by the horns. Without trying to be Bon Scott Mark 2, Brian Johnson gave AC/DC his best shot vocally and came through with flying colours. The fact that although Scott will always be missed and is to this day highly respected for his work with AC/DC, Johnson, brought his own vocal style and attitude into the band. Since the tragedy of Bon Scott’s sudden death, and the introduction of a totally different style in Johnson’s vocals, AC/DC have continued to go from strength to strength.”

Sweet “Desolation Boulevard” (1974)

“Sweet were in my opinion, one of the best commercial rock bands of the so-called glam rock days. Although they had a string of chart hits, especially in the UK, it was pretty obvious that there was quite a bit more to them than their image and music portrayed. And then ‘Desolation Boulevard’ was released. This was the real Sweet showing their true hard rock roots. Brian Connolly’s great and very underrated vocals, Steve Priest’s driving bass and often quirky over the top vocals, Andy Scott’s strong rhythm and lead guitar plus thundering power drums from Mick Tucker. Most of the tracks on ‘Desolation Boulevard’ had a much more aggressive feel and were much heavier than their hit singles. Not sure how true this is, but apparently Mötley Crüe bass player Nikki Sixx was totally into Sweet and supposedly used Sweet as a strong influence in the early days of Crüe. As another point of interest, Sweet’s original vocalist was Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan, proving that Sweet weren’t quite the poppy little band they were initially promoted as.”

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 29: Doogie White

Doogie White on stage in Tokyo in 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Scottish singer Doogie White is currently fronting classic hard rock band Alcatrazz. He and his excellent voice have also sung with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force, Michael Schenker, Praying Mantis, Tank, Jon Lord, Cornerstone, La Paz and many more. A new Alcatrazz album will be out in the autumn and Doogie has also the debut album of Long Shadows Dawn coming out on 6th August. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson caught up with Doogie to hear what five records rocked his world.

David Bowie “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” (1972)

“Thursday 6th of July 1972 changed the world for many, including this teenager. That was the date Bowie played ‘Starman’ on Top of the Pops. By Monday we all had Ziggy haircuts. By the following Saturday we were wearing pyjamas and our mothers’ red boots. I saved my pocket money and being young and never having bought an album before, bought ‘The Man Who Sold the World’. Of course, ‘Starman’ was not on ‘The Man Who Sold the World’. It took several more weeks of saving and doing chores before I finally got the album ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ with ‘Starman’ on it. From that faded in drumbeat to the lament of ‘Rock ’n’ Roll Suicide’ it had such an impact on me. Bowie has been a constant since that day. I never got into the three Berlin albums as by that time I had heard…Deep Purple.”

Deep Purple “Made in Japan” (1972)

“A gang of us went to Clason Memorial Church and on Saturday nights we had a Youth Fellowship. Boys in one ante-room, girls in the other. We had a record player and would listen to whatever anyone had bought that week. It was there I heard Purple for the first time. ‘Come Taste the Band’ was my introduction to the band that shaped my musical future. Over the weeks I was listening to every Purple album that was available. ‘Made in Japan’ was as powerful as anything I had ever heard. The singing, the playing, that guitarist. I can still put it on and know it’s absolutely live, no studio overdubs. That’s what a live band should sound like. Awesome!”

James Taylor “Dad Loves His Work” (1981)

“When I had my heart broken for the first but sadly not the last time, a friend seeing the pain I was in and knowing the healing power of music, lent me his copy of ‘Dad Loves His Work’. Songs like ‘Her Town Too’ and ‘That Lonesome Road’ soothed my weary, heavy heart. It led me to a lifelong love affair with the music of James Taylor. Every one of his albums has a number of songs that just tug at the heart strings.”

AC/DC “If You Want Blood, You Got it” (1978)

“I first saw AC/DC for 50p at Glasgow City Halls on a balmy summers night in 1976. 1976 was a great year for my introduction to live music. Robin Trower, Deep Purple with Tommy Bolin, Rainbow and AC/DC. The very next day we all went and bought ‘High Voltage’. I was lucky to see them seven times with Bon Scott and was at the Glasgow Apollo the night they recorded ‘If You Want Blood’. If I play it, I can still feel the vibe. I can still smell the elements of sticky carpet-ness. Angus was the first guitarist I saw to use wireless and he came down from the Apollo’s high stage and was carried on a security guard’s shoulders banging his head and sweating all over us. I did not wash for a week.”

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow “Stranger in Us All” (1995)

“This album changed my life. Ritchie Blackmore had asked me to join up with him for a 90s version of Rainbow. It was exactly where I had wanted to be from first hearing him in 1975 in the ante-room of the church on a dodgy record player. I treated everyday as if it was my last and given the Man in Black’s reputation, it may well have been. Ritchie, not for the first time, took a chance on a virtual unknown. He gave me a launch pad for my career that reverberates to this day. For that and many, many other things I will be forever in his debt. It was a magical time and we made a fine album but it was the live shows where we really made our mark. He was at his third peak playing wise and had a great band of musicians around him to allow him to stretch and show any dissenters that he still was the greatest guitarist of his generation.”

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 28: Lindsay Schoolcraft

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Canadian artist Lindsay Schoolcraft is best known as a former member of the British extreme metal band Cradle of Filth. From 2013 until 2020 she played keyboards and sang backing vocals for them. But Lindsay has many sides to her artistry. She’s a harpist, pianist, singer and composer. She’s a gothic metal solo artist and a founding member of chamber black metal band Antiqva. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson had a chat with Lindsay about the five albums that changed her life.

Evanescence “The Open Door” (2006)

“I’m sure a lot of people reading this right now are shocked over the fact that I didn’t put ‘Fallen’ here. While that album was heavily influential on me, nothing lit a fire under my ass more than ‘The Open Door’ in regards to taking my musical education seriously. I could probably sing and play this album on piano backwards and forwards in my sleep. I feel like Amy really got to show us the darkling inside of her on this one. She boldly took us to different keys signatures and chords that made what I feel is their darkest album to date. And while this album wasn’t fully embraced by the general fan base, I know it really touched the hearts of a lot of the fan base’s musician fans like myself. You can’t deny that the string, piano, organ and choir work on this album are some of the most well thought out and crafted pieces in their discography. Not over the top, but straight forward, dramatic, and vulnerable.”

Björk “Vespertine” (2001)

“This was the first Björk album I discovered and I’m so glad I did! Björk taught me all the things singing and music could be. How raw expression is so much more powerful than perfect and polished. As she has stated and how I interpreted it, it’s very much a winter album. It’s a very magical experience and one that I revisit every winter holiday. This album inspired me to take up the harp and incorporate it into my own music. I don’t think I’d be the musician I was if it wasn’t for discovering this album when I did. It’s absolutely a listen I recommend to musicians and music lovers everywhere! This one stands the test of time and is so very unique.”

VAST “Music for People” (2000)

“I think Jon Crosby is one of the most honest songwriters there is out there. This album really pulled at my heartstrings and I think I’ve listened to it for almost two years straight in my early twenties. There is something other worldly and heavenly about his music and on this album it’s such a magical escape. The songs almost paint a fairy-tale storybook play-through for you with each song. Any of his albums are a soundscape that you can get lost in. It was hard to choose between this album and his other great piece, ‘Video Audio Sensory Theater’, which I feel is the more angsty sibling to ‘Music for People’. But ‘Music for People’ was my first love on his discography and truly left an impact on me as a listener and as a musician.”

A Perfect Circle “Thirteenth Step” (2003)

“I feel like I just missed the Tool train when I was in high school. I wasn’t mature enough to appreciate them. But when I found A Perfect Circle, they really had a long-lasting impact on me. I had no idea this album was a concept around the twelve steps of recovery, but I knew I loved it because it was a journey from beginning to end that I could go on and I carefully listened to the story in each one. I’m just a really emotional person who likes to process things slowly and really feel my experiences through and this was the perfect album to do that to, especially during the pains of my twenties. I also really love Maynard’s voice and all the gorgeous soundscapes and production this album has to offer.”

Leah “The Quest” (2018)

“This has been a newer gem that I haven’t been able to stop listening to since it was released in 2018. Leah is well known for her Celtic-folk-fantasy style being put to metal and brings it to an epic level of being ‘Lord of the Rings’ soundtrack worthy. I’ve always been extremely impressed on how she can make things majorly heavy or ease off and throughout there are multiple worldly instruments adding texture or taking the lead. She has really shown me how to compose for the harp when adding it to metal and I appreciate how genuine and true she stays to her vision and sound from album for album. This album is such a magical journey that really takes you to another world. Each song stands alone with its own personality and story. I high recommend it to anyone who is a fan of metal and folk music alike.”

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 27: Jeff Scott Soto

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

American singer Jeff Scott Soto made a name for himself as the vocalist for Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Rising Force in the mid-80s. A few years later he teamed up with his former Rising Force bandmate Marcel Jacob to form Talisman and later went on to front Journey. During his career, Jeff has been performing as a solo artist as well as with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, W.E.T., Sons of Apollo, Axel Rudi Pell, Soul SirkUS and many more. 31 years after first interviewing Jeff, Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson caught up with him to find out about the records that inspired him.

“Not in any order…For the readers: please don’t hate, I am not your average metal guy. I grew up with no rock’n’roll in my blood until I was 16!”

The Jackson Five “ABC” (1970)

“As I was just five years old when this album came out, Michael Jackson was only 12. He was my first role model in knowing this is what I want to do with my life. Even that young I knew it because I thought ‘he’s a kid, I’m a kid, I want this too!’. Learning later the Motown team of musicians who were on so many famous albums and songs also recorded the music for this, as a kid I assumed the Jacksons played everything.”

Toto “Toto” (1978)

“I grew up loving only pop, R&B, etc., because rock’n’roll for me was missing the soul and swagger from the stuff I loved until the first Toto album emerged! Hearing ‘I’ll Supply the Love’ and ‘Hold the Line’ for the first time blew my mind. Bobby Kimball’s white soul voice was the perfect vehicle to win me over what I considered ‘heavy’ for the time. From there, I discovered the likes of Foreigner, Journey and Starship with Mickey Thomas, all groups with singers who were cut from the same cloth of singers I loved!”

Styx “Pieces of Eight” (1978)

“I remember the day my brother came from our local store with this album and quite a few others he stole that day. We grew up very poor and I was too scared to steal even a piece of gum, but Joey got this Styx album for me because I loved the song ‘Blue Collar Man’ so much. This album forced me to discover their entire catalogue to date and from then, I was a massive Styx fan, even defending their ‘Kilroy Was Here’ album!”

Queen “Live Killers” (1979)

“In high school, my best friend’s sister had this album and I thought the cover was so cool, I asked to borrow it. I was not a big Queen fan just yet, well I just didn’t know it, as I listened, I realised how many of their songs I actually knew but didn’t know was them. But one thing I took from this album was how great four guys could pull off songs that you would need a 50-piece band to do live! Queen were actually two entities, a studio one that no one could touch back then with their levels of extreme and intense influence and the live machine they became. The songs truly took another course live!”

Iron Maiden “The Number of the Beast” (1982)

“My first real metal album…. By the time I got this album, I was already into Judas Priest, Dio, Saxon and all the rest that injected metal into my DNA by then. My brother listened to Maiden’s ‘Killers’ on repeat but I could not stand Paul Di’Anno’s voice then. But Bruce Dickinson for me was a game changer. That album, like the others above, was all killer/no filler!”

Honourable mentions: Prince “Purple Rain” (1984), Terence Trent D’Arby “Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby” (1987), Judas Priest “Screaming for Vengeance” (1982), Extreme “Pornograffitti” (1990), Boston “Boston” (1976).

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 26: Bruce Kulick

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

American guitarist Bruce Kulick is best known as the former lead guitarist for KISS. But Bruce is much more than that. For the past two decades he’s been a member of Grand Funk Railroad and he has also played with his brother Bob Kulick, Meatloaf, Union, Eric Singer Project, Michael Bolton, Paul Stanley, Avantasia and many others. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson asked Bruce about the five albums that really shook his world.

Cream “Fresh Cream” (1966)

“This LP when it arrived in the US, got me very excited about what a power trio could be. Eric Clapton’s tone and vibrato, Jack Bruce’s voice and creative bass playing, on top of the thunderous drumming by Ginger Baker, was a lethal combination of talent. I remember driving on the freeway in NYC singing ‘I Feel Free’ feeling like I could conquer the world. Cream was so influential for me and my brother Bob, and my first electric instrument was a Gibson EB-3 bass guitar, so I could be Jack Bruce to my brother’s ‘Eric Clapton’! The LP had bluesy songs, with a pop approach and psychedelic lyrics. Everything this young teenager could hope for!”

The Jimi Hendrix Experience “Are You Experienced” (1967)

“This black American guitarist from Seattle took guitar playing to another level. He played with such fire and passion that he became my biggest guitar hero. His entire vibe, from clothing, to performing to songwriting and recording was visionary. He created elements of music, no one dreamed of, and he owned them all. From feedback to stereo panning, to making a guitar sound like a spaceship, no one can ‘out-Jimi’ Jimi Hendrix. My first stereo, wimpy by today’s standards, in my parents’ home had this LP cranked, and I actually cried when I heard the guitar tones panning from left to right. It was mind blowing! Jimi’s influence on rock music and pop culture is undeniable. This LP made a huge impact on my desire to play guitar with emotion. Every song is incredible, every note perfection.”

Yes “The Yes Album” (1971)

“This British band and this LP was like a kaleidoscope of colours in my mind. Songs like ‘Yours Is No Disgrace’ and ‘Starship Trooper’ felt like a magical journey of sounds and space. Undeniable talent from every member, making music that was so creative and beautiful. Steve Howe approached the guitar very differently than my other heroes like Clapton and Hendrix. His clean tones and unique jazzy approach opened my mind up to new techniques and tones. Chris Squire’s bass lines interweaving with Bill Bruford’s tight drumming, topped with the majestic keyboards of Rick Wakeman and angelic voice of Jon Anderson, all created a fantastic world of wonder to my ears. This LP was played often, and the black light posters glowed!”

The Beatles “Revolver” (1966)

“The Fab Four changed the world in 1964. From the moment that America saw them on the Ed Sullivan show, the magic of their music would create a powerful new level of entertainment for the world to enjoy. ‘Revolver’ was very visionary in how they developed as musicians and songwriters. Even with their influence with the youth in America, it was the pure talent of these young men to write songs that connected to my generation. They led the British Invasion with their powerful passion and vision, expanding sonics by breaking all the barriers of music that came before them. They took my heart and soul with this LP, and I was ‘Beatle Bruce’ owning every bit of music they put out, collecting everything related. From ‘Taxman’ to ‘Eleanor Rigby’ to the trippy ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, this group created music that was unstoppable and they will never be matched in talent from another band. Always a part of my life, ‘Revolver’ represents a level of creativity that was pure imagination.”

Frank Sinatra “In the Wee Small Hours” (1955)

“I discovered Frank Sinatra much later in my life. But his impact, especially with this Capitol era LP is very important to me. Never before did I hear a singer’s voice that completely overwhelms me, as if I am sitting in front of this man called ‘The Voice’. His tone, phrasing, and vocal techniques are all beyond what I can imagine can be created by anyone. Perfect vibrato, pitch and emotion from every word, every syllable he sings. He owns the song, he is the song, he takes every word and makes you not only hear what he is singing, he makes you feel every emotion he is conveying. The recording of ‘In the Wee Small Hours’, created in the mid-50s, is astonishing from every angle. Everything is recorded perfectly, boldly balanced and never brash. Powerful emotions emit from every instrument no matter how softly and carefully they are performed. All led by the greatest singer of all time. Arranged by Nelson Riddle, every note is perfection, every song precious and it leaves me devastatingly pleased. An emotional roller coaster of mood songs carefully picked by Frank, in an order he directed, since the 12” LP was new to the world. From the delicate opening title track to the haunting ‘Mood Indigo’, you know there’s something special going on in Frank’s world. He is sarcastic in Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘I Get Along Without You Very Well’ and laments in ‘What Is This Thing Called Love’. ‘Last Night When We Were Young’ is so emotional with Frank’s perfect phrasing leading the band. It’s powerfully expressive and touching. The LP’s last song, ‘This Love of Mine’ with its gentle strings leave you satisfied, and I always wonder how he could create a great sequence of such incredible songs. All of them represent a masterpiece of music, truly a momentous creation that I always enjoy and will till my very last day. I think you can tell I love it, so check it out!”

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 25: Snowy Shaw

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish artist Snowy Shaw is perhaps best known for his work as the drummer for King Diamond and Mercyful Fate. But he is also a vocalist and a multi-instrumentalist that has played with bands such as Therion, Memento Mori, Notre Dame, Dream Evil, Dimmu Borgir and many more. Snowy has also worked a lot as a solo artist. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson talked with Snowy about the five records that rocked his world.

“Five albums that have made a huge impact on me as a musician and been life changing to the core. If only I had a penny for every time I have repeated this in interviews. An almost impossible task. With so many influential albums it is of course hard to pick out just five and if you’d ask me tomorrow the list might look a little different but the first couple are carved in stone as life changing.”

KISS “Destroyer” (1976)

“To this day, this is still the masterpiece I use as a benchmark for everything I do. Or actually that whole sensation and wow experience it represented to me as a seven-year-old fan of horror and superhero comics. Prior to that, I listened casually to pretty much everything that the older and tougher guys in my world were listening to, like Deep Purple, Nazareth, Sweet, Bachman-Turner Overdrive and so forth. But it wasn’t until I accidentally stumbled over this LP at a local store that sold comic books, posters and toys among other things like LPs. At first, I didn’t even know what it was, a calendar from Marvel or something but one thing that I knew was that I just had to have it regardless of what the hell it was, because it looked so amazingly awesome. Unexpectedly, on top of the visual impact it turned out to be the most cinematic and fantasy triggering heavy rock music I had ever heard. All due to the amazing production of genius Bob Ezrin. It was like listening to the soundtrack of a dark action movie with layers of effects. Truly it was one of those before/after moments and from that moment on nothing else mattered. KISS was everything (for the next two years or so). We’re talking life-changing albums here but I’d go as far as to say this was a life saver. Hadn’t it been for this, I don’t think my life would have developed in the direction it did which eventually led to me becoming a musician myself. KISS gave me a chance to dream of something bigger and more fantastic than what I was destined for: working in the nearby Volvo factory. In fact, without my introduction to KISS and ‘Destroyer’ I might have ended up a criminal suburban junkie, in jail or dead.”

Manowar “Into Glory Ride” (1983)

“Although I was there from the debut, which I loved, but it wasn’t until here on their second album where they found their own unique and epic style and sound, although lots of people complain about the poor sound production and lack of low end. I guess they fail to fathom the sheer epic brutality that to me is Manowar. Must be false metallers or posers then… Gradually as the 80s heavy metal phenomenon progressed towards a more Americanised radio-friendly commercialised style by the mid-80s, ‘Into Glory Ride’ became my black bible, slightly ahead of ‘Hail to England’. It probably wasn’t until then I fully understood and took their motto of ‘Death to False Metal’ to my heart, wholeheartedly. To me they came to represent ‘true metal’. A powerful unit with strong integrity that followed no trends or fashion but their very own path. Eric Adams is probably my all-time favourite singer and warlord leader Joey DeMaio was my own real-life superhero. What KISS represented to me in the 70s, Manowar did in the 80s. Funnily how they would later totally rip off the artwork of ‘Destroyer’, which ruined it for me and I actually cried, I shed a tear. I sensed that this was the beginning of the end and sadly they would later become a parody of themselves. However, I still hold to this day this early period and ‘Into Glory Ride’ in particular as a sacred masterpiece and one of my biggest musical influences ever. In fact, it’s written in my testament that at my Viking funeral ‘Gates of Valhalla’ must be played.”

Uriah Heep “Sweet Freedom” (1973)

“As I just mentioned, I loathed the way my beloved metal music turned by the mid-80s, where the new trend for household names was to be more commercial and Americanised. With a few exceptions, I basically gave up on contemporary bands’ music but since I still had a huge hunger for new music that necessarily didn’t have to be new. Thus, I turned my eyes to older music I had previously kind of missed for being too young in the 70s. Such as Alice Cooper, Sparks and Arthur Brown but, above all, Uriah Heep. I had heard a few songs by them before but thought it sounded old fashioned and boring compared to Iron Maiden, Scorpions, Accept, etc. Once I did overcome the threshold of the rather poor sounding recordings, I discovered the most fabulous compositions. I may have my favourite highlights on other Byron era albums, like ‘Return to Fantasy’, ‘Look at Yourself’, etc, but I consider ‘Sweet Freedom’ their most even effort and, above all, it was my introduction to the wonderworld of Uriah Heep, undoubtedly one of my biggest musical influences. The title track is, by the way, another one for my funeral.”

Mercyful Fate “Melissa” (1983)

“Always in search for new heavier music, in 1983 I bought a compilation LP and there was a song called ‘Black Funeral’ by Mercyful Fate that I really found intriguing yet catchy, not to mention the impressive high falsetto vocals where he sang ‘Oh Hail Satan!’ and all that provocative and dangerous stuff. Me and my buddy Sharlee would try to pick out and play the song in our suburban rehearsal room. As this was long before internet, it wasn’t until later I read an article in OKEJ, Sweden’s main music publication, where I saw that they hailed from Denmark, our neighbouring country. My 15-year-old self also learned that their singer called himself King Diamond and was a real Satanist in evil-looking corpse paint and a mic stand of human bones among other scary things. Did that scare me? Nope! As shocking as it was, I immediately ran to the record store and bought ‘Melissa’, which I thought was incredibly mysterious and progressive with super complex time changes and I couldn’t understand for the world how they could remember all the parts. Little did I know then what time had in store for me. Only six years later I’d be replacing Mikkey Dee in King Diamond and a few years later be the only non-original member of the reunited Mercyful Fate. I would also persuade my best buddy Sharlee to swap to bass guitar so that he could join the groups. This and so much more, read all about it in the ‘Book of Heavy Metal’, my life story and autobiography.”

“Lastly, album #5 and here’s when it gets a little tricky. Should I go with ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ (Judas Priest, 1976), ‘Rising’ (Rainbow, 1976), ‘Mob Rules’ (Black Sabbath, 1981), ‘Restless and Wild’ (Accept, 1982), ‘Live and Dangerous’ (Thin Lizzy, 1978), ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ (AC/DC, 1976). I could really have picked any of them as life-changing albums depending on what day you’d ask but today I’m gonna go with Sweet’s ‘Strung Up’.”

The Sweet “Strung Up” (1975)

“This double album collection of hits and a rough live album helped lay the foundation of my taste and likes in music forever. Plus, Mick Tucker is probably my all-time biggest drumming influence and I learned playing by pretty much stealing everything from him.”

Album review: Velvet Insane “Rock ‘N’ Roll Glitter Suit”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Glamtastic Swedish glitter rock and pop on new Velvet Insane album.

Velvet Insane is a good-fun Swedish glam rock band. On its new album, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Glitter Suit”, they bring the listener on a glamtastic musical journey into a valley filled with The Sweet, Marc Bolan & T. Rex and Slade. One of the album’s highlights is the handclap-filled track “Backstreet Liberace” where Nicke Andersson and Dregen appear as guests. It is no coincidence that the two The Hellacopters members appear here. Velvet Insane is essentially a less dangerous and poppier version of The Hellacopters. With more glitter and less grit. It is as if Elton John instead of Noddy Holder fronted Slade. Well, I guess that gets us Marc Bolan, kind of. Most songs are far from heavy but they are very good. With Velvet Insane, a good melody may take the band into pop land and that is OK. Good music is good music whether it is heavy or not. Some of the songs take us to back alleys filled with classic British rock like The Rolling Stones, but, overall, this album is more 70s than 60s and somehow these Swedish lads manage to deliver their music without sounding dated or even retro. The highlight for me, in addition to the terrific “Backstreet Liberace”, is glam rocker “Space Age DJ”. This terrific Swedish trio – Jonas Eriksson (vocals), Jesper Lindgren (guitar) and Ludvig Andersson Lindgren (bass) – is very entertaining. They make me happy.

Velvet Insane’s album “Rock ‘N’ Roll Glitter Suit” is out now via Wild Kingdom Records.

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 24: Stephen Pearcy

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

American vocalist Stephen Pearcy is the founder, led singer and songwriter of Ratt. He is still actively touring with the band as well as doing work as a solo artist. Ratt, formed as Mickey Ratt in San Diego, California in 1977, relocated to Los Angeles in 1980 and was at the forefront of the early 1980s glam metal scene in LA. Stephen published his autobiography “Sex, Drugs, Ratt & Roll: My Life in Rock” in 2013. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson asked Stephen about the records that changed his life.

Black Sabbath “Black Sabbath” (1970)

“I heard Black Sabbath at 14 years old. It absolutely blew my mind!”

Led Zeppelin “Houses of the Holy” (1973)

Van Halen “Van Halen” (1978)

“Van Halen was the reason that I moved to LA to pursue my dreams. Actually, I had been going to Van Halen shows and befriended Ed Van Halen prior to the record release but Van Halen was THE reason I moved my San Diego band to LA.”

Judas Priest “Sin After Sin” (1977)

“Robbin Crosby introduced me to Judas Priest. I was into Led Zeppelin and Blue Öyster Cult. He had me listen to Judas Priest one day and it totally blew me away.”

Adam Ant “Friend or Foe” (1982)

“I was a rocker. My band Mickey Ratt would play a lot of Blue Öyster Cult B-sides like ‘Dominance and Submission’ from ‘Career of Evil’. One day someone turned me onto Adam Ant and I fell in love with the drums! Then when I saw his look…I was sold! Ultimately, my early 80s look is based on Adam Ant’s style.”

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 23: Mats Karlsson

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish guitarist Mats Karlsson co-founded melodic heavy metal band 220 Volt in 1979. He remains active with the band as well as releasing music as a solo artist. His latest solo album “The Time Optimist” was released in December 2019. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Mats to find out what albums rocked his world.

Deep Purple “Made in Japan” (1972)

Led Zeppelin “Led Zeppelin II” (1969)

“The first two albums that changed my life were Deep Purple’s ‘Made in Japan’ and ‘Led Zeppelin II’. They were the first hard rock albums I heard. An older cousin played those albums to me and my older brother when I was around eight years old. I was floored! My interest in hard rock started to grow. I always liked the melodic and musical bands with great musicians. But I’ve also had periods when I’ve zoomed in to other stuff.”

Kansas “Point of Know Return” (1977)

“This is a fantastic album and I rank Steve Walsh as one of the best singers in rock. I like almost all their catalogue, but this was the first one.”

Rainbow “Rising” (1976)

“When that keyboard intro comes and end and the guitar starts to fade in on ‘Tarot Woman’ is, to me, maybe the coolest intro ever on an album. It changed my life.”

Sheryl Crow “Sheryl Crow” (1996)

“Her second – actually third if you count the first unreleased one – album is an example of singer/songwriter album that stands out for me and opened the door to that world for me. She’s just got an incredible voice and write fantastic middle eight parts.”

“On another day I might have chosen only hard rock and metal albums but I listen to a lot more than that, and a fair bit of the prog bands and artists, so the list could also have included stuff like that.”

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 22: Denise Dufort

Denise Dufort of Girlschool in Tokyo in 2019. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

British drummer Denise Dufort co-founded Girlschool in London in 1978. She has been in every line-up of the band and remains the foundation of the band’s rock-steady rhythm section. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson had a chat with Denise about albums that had an impact on her.

Colosseum “Daughter of Time” (1970)

“Jon Hiseman in Colosseum, fantastic drummer! He really inspired me.”

Status Quo “Blue for You” (1976)

“I used to love Status Quo but my fave album at the time was ‘Blue for You’.”

Deep Purple “Machine Head” (1972)

“Deep Purple’s ‘Machine Head’ was absolutely brilliant and I loved it because it was a really heavy album with great songs and fantastic drumming.”

Rainbow “Rising” (1976)

“’Rising’ by Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow had fantastic and brilliant drumming by Cozy Powell and amazing vocals by Dio.”

T. Rex “Electric Warrior” (1971)

“I also loved Marc Bolan and T. Rex but my favourite album by them was ‘Electric Warrior’.”

“I have so many more that inspired me but these are the ones that I think did the most…”