Interview: Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth in Japan. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

British extreme metal band Cradle of Filth recently returned to Japan after a 16 year absence to do a great gig at the Loud Park festival. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson had a backstage chat with frontman Dani Filth where they discussed band chemistry, the brilliant new album, the creative process behind it (“a very prolific writing session slash team building exercise slash drinkathon”), the role of visual and lyrical themes, soothing the soul by getting demons out and much more.

Cradle of Filth likes to be controversial. But behind the sometimes provocative images and lyrics that have been constants in the band’s career, there is an intelligent and hardworking rock band. Dani Filth, fearless leader and frontman, is still going strong 26 years after founding the band. Over the years there have been many line-up changes. However, in the last few years Cradle seems to have found a stable and terrific line-up consisting of Dani Filth on vocals, Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka on drums, Daniel Firth on bass, Lindsay Schoolcraft on keyboards and guitarists Richard Shaw and Marek “Ashok” Šmerda. The Japan visit is the start of a new world tour which will see them return to Japan in May.

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

“It’s brilliant being back. We haven’t been back for 16 years apparently,” says Dani Filth as we meet a short time before Cradle of Filth is due on stage at the Loud Park festival in Saitama outside of Tokyo. The band’s latest album, “Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay”, was released in September and has been favourably received. “We’re particularly proud of it, yeah. Much of this year has been spent in the studio. Since we finished in the back end of May, we’ve been constantly entrenched in interviews and continuing to do so.”

With such a fab new album just released, the Japanese fans are hoping for some of the new material to be played at the festival. “We’re only playing for 50 minutes, so it’s really gonna be a cross-section of fan favourites. When we come back in May, we’ll have the opportunity to play for an hour and a quarter, so you can introduce more tracks from the new album. Obviously people expect new stuff, the last record, a cross-section of fan favourites and then we want to put some stuff we haven’t played for a while. If the drummer had anything to do with it, the gigs would be three weeks long each.”

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth in Japan. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Drummer Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka joined Cradle in 2006 as the replacement for Adrian Erlandsson. He has taken on a leading role in the band, adding keyboards and orchestration to his drum duties. “He’s obviously the backbone of the band. Everybody has contributed a lot to this record. When it came to the writing session, we went to the Czech Republic, to the hometown of Ashok and Martin. We were playing a festival in Slovakia at the end of a two-week period, so we thought, without sounding too profane about it, it was obviously going to be cheaper doing it with everybody meeting in the Czech Republic than it would be somewhere like London. Basically, everybody came together to create ideas. We didn’t really think that we’d come away from that with pretty much 90% of an album written, but we did because everybody had done so much pre-production. They came with whole songs and bits of songs and then riffs, pieces of the puzzle to put together. It was just a very prolific writing session slash team building exercise slash drinkathon.”

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth in Japan. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The British band is now rather international with members from all over the place. The current line-up, perhaps the band’s best ever, is solid and there seems to be great chemistry. “Yeah, it’s very strong. We’re very close… Well not close geographically, we’re literally spread across the known universe. But when we get together, like yesterday for example, we all went out together on a sightseeing trip. We walked around the whole of Tokyo. When we’re on tour we spend a lot of time together. Everybody is very appreciative of one another. We have a good laugh together. There’s a good connection. That’s very important. My other band, Devilment, played this year at Bloodstock. Fortunately Richard, the guitarist, lives a couple of stops away, up the motorway from the venue. So I stayed around his for four days.”

Cradle of Filth has always been a theatrical, cinematic extreme metal band. But its sound has evolved over the years and taken twists and turns. “That’s important obviously, because you don’t want to make the same record twice. Although, obviously, the building blocks of the band are there. You don’t want to stray too far away from the blueprint of what makes the band what it is. It’s like picking a set list for a show. Although you literally don’t write a game plan out, it’s a bit more natural than that. But you’ve gotta look at, also, the fact that you don’t want to stray too much away from the beaten path. But it’s gonna be novel enough that it’s new: new elements, old elements. You can make some big mistakes writing an album. This one, because the way the band gels, we literally just wrote… Some of the songs we developed on previous records. There is some stuff that didn’t make this record that might make another record. Some were whole songs which people introduced at the writing session. Others were just composites of lots of different ideas. I think that the only important thing is it sounds very British, it sounds Cradle of Filth, very cinematic. But at the same time, slightly different from everything else we have done.”

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth in Japan. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

How important are the non-musical parts such as visual and lyrical themes to the overall Cradle package? “I always do that off the back of the music. I think it would be very selfish and I think it limits the scope of… When you’re trying to write material, if you’ve been told how it’s going to be… I mean, if you’re going to do a full concert record, it would be good sometimes to come up with the ideas beforehand, so people got parameters to work within. But for this album, I wanted to… It came so swiftly off the back of the last record as well. I just wanted people to come up with their own ideas and bearing in mind it is going to have a common theme, it’s going to be quite concise and I can come up with ideas from that. The songs gave a flavour that enabled me to come up with a concept.”

In addition to new Cradle songs, the new album contains a terrific cover song, Annihilator classic “Alison Hell”. “We’ve been wanting to do it for absolutely ages. I think the catalyst was the fact that we bumped into Jeff Waters from Annihilator on a couple of occasions recently, mentioning to him our desire to do it and he was ‘Yeah, man. You guys would do such a good job with it’. We felt compelled to do it. And also, because the nature of the song, it’s very ornate and creepy and very musical. I think it sat very well with the rest of the album. Strangely enough, a lot of people have said ‘Oh, I really like that track’ without even realising it’s a cover version, people who weren’t familiar with Annihilator. Jeff’s heard it and he loves it, which is good. He actually put on his website that he thought it’s the best cover version he’s heard of an Annihilator track.”

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth in Japan. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

With a new album out, Cradle is also starting a new touring cycle with Japan being the first gig on the new tour. “Yeah, this could be considered the first show. In a couple of weeks’ time we’ve got a UK tour. Then we’ve got a couple of things pencilled in that haven’t been totally confirmed. The main bulk of the world tour starts mid-January and literally goes right through till the end of June. We’re only doing a handful of summer festivals because we’re concentrating on winter festivals next year, so that in 2019 we can do the whole run. Otherwise we would just be sitting on our asses in 2019.”

With a busy schedule for Cradle, does Dani have time for Devilment and other projects? “Yeah, absolutely. Well, not any other projects. I am still starting my novel, but every time the opportunity comes around, there’s something else to fill it. ‘We gotta do a new album.’ That’s what sucks the life out of that. But Devilment, people are saying ‘It’s just putting more on your shoulders’, which is true, but it’s also like an escape valve, pressure valve. It’s something I can do that kind of soothes the soul. Because you get a lot of demons out that get in the way elsewhere.”

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth in Japan. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Cradle of Filth will return to Japan in early May for three headline gigs in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. Get your tickets here: https://www.creativeman.co.jp/event/cof2018/

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Interview: David “Rock” Feinstein of The Rods

David “Rock” Feinstein in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

By Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

David “Rock” Feinstein made a name for himself in the late 60s and early 70s when he played with his cousin Ronnie James Dio in Elf. He then continued his career with the hard rock band The Rods during the 80s. When The Rods recently came to perform two sets at Spiritual Beast’s Japanese Assault Fest in Tokyo, Roppongi Rocks’ Caroline Misokane sat down with Feinstein to talk about his years in Elf, what led The Rods to stop with music for a while, the band’s first time in Japan and, of course, his cousin Ronnie James Dio.

You first shot to fame as a member of Elf where you played with your cousin Ronnie James Dio. What can you tell us about your years in Elf? “The Elf years were really great because Ronnie asked me to join him. At that time his band was called Ronnie Dio and The Prophets and they were like the best band, although they were local. I was in another one and there were many bands around that area. I was just out of high school and I was the drummer of my band. My best friend was a guitarist, so I knew how to play a few chords. When I went to see Ronnie Dio and The Prophets, I met Ronnie and he said ‘Hey, you know how to play the guitar?’ and I said ‘Yeah, I know about three chords, why?’ He said that their guitar player was leaving the band and asked if I’d be interested in joining them. I hesitated because I was playing drums, but slowly I started being part of it. Ronnie and the other guys were like five years older than me, so I was kind of learning from watching those guys. It was all a learning experience. I could spend hours talking about Elf. We spent a lot of time writing songs for The Prophets. When we wrote our first album, we became The Electric Elves and then Elf. We went for an audition for that album, with Columbia Records, in a rehearsal room in New York City. At the same time, Ian Paice and Roger Glover from Deep Purple were thinking about getting into producing bands and they came to check us and see if they would be interested in producing us. So, we were in this big room with five or six people and then we played our songs and they loved it. We didn’t know that, but in a few days we knew that the label wanted to sign with us and that Roger and Ian wanted to produce us. Then we recorded our first album with them. After that we started touring with Deep Purple because of the association, as in that time they were probably the biggest band in the world. We were playing in arenas with them. It was a great experience, as we started as a bar band, to play in arenas.”

Soon after you left Elf in the mid-70s, the core of the band were invited to join Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. Did you see that as a missed opportunity for you or how did you react to it? “No, actually I left the band before that because I felt I had to do something different, as when I was in the high school I never had any regular job, I was always only a musician. Then it became a career and it got to a point in my life I had to try different things. That’s why I left the band and I thought I’d leave for a while and then come back, but I wanted to try other things. I worked with many other things and during that time Ronnie and the rest of the guys had the opportunity because Ritchie had left Deep Purple to form his own band and he just took the Elf band with him. Their guitarist soon left the band, then the other guys too, but Ronnie stayed with Rainbow until the next step, which was Black Sabbath. I always followed his career. I always followed Ronnie and the band when we weren’t together. I always supported him because Ronnie was such a great talent. He really deserved to reach higher levels. I think if the Elf band had stayed together, we would have reached a greater success, because there was a certain magic about the original line-up of the band. Ronnie was destined to fame because his voice was so amazing. He was so versatile and he could have sang any other style, but he chose heavy metal and he was awesome at what he did.”

David “Rock” Feinstein in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

How would you describe how The Rods’ sound has evolved? Initially it kind of had more of a bluesy 70s hard rock feeling and then became more 80s American metal. “After a while I just felt I had to go back to music, because being a musician is something that stays with you, no matter how much time passes. I wanted to put a band together and play some bars, because I had done some other jobs and I knew I didn’t want to pursue those jobs anymore. But I needed to make some money and I thought if I’d put a band together I could play in some bars and earn some money. That’s how The Rods was formed,“ explains Feinstein how he formed the band together with drummer Carl Canedy. “We had two different bassists until we found Garry Bordonaro, who was the right person for it. Elf was more bluesy, kind of my musical background. I was influenced by people like Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore. Their styles are more of a blues base, and that’s my style. I’m not a technical guitarist, I can’t even play a scale. I don’t know any. When The Rods was formed, we started as a cover band, until Carl started writing songs and we recorded a demo to send to some people to see if someone was interested in signing us. We just started as a bar band, to play and make some money and all of a sudden we were making records and touring all around. So, it kind of happened because we didn’t start thinking about getting this big. The Rods happened to start at the time of the new wave of heavy metal, it was just the beginning of it. Bands like Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax were all friends of us and we played jobs along with Metallica and all those bands back in the days when we started. We kind of led the way for these other bands to carry on. But we got to a point in our career where we had so many bad business dealings with management and record labels, so when we stopped playing it was not for internal problems, as we stayed friends. However, we just got tired of the business and that’s why we stopped for a while. In a general way, we realised that The Rods was the beginning of the new wave of heavy metal. There are so many genres inside of metal, and people call our music classic rock, but in my opinion we are a rock’n’roll band. Our songs are not a commercial thing, it’s more like an AC/DC thing. So, I call us a rock’n’roll band.”

David “Rock” Feinstein in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

The Rods was formed back in 1980. What motivates you to perform with the band in 2017? “I started playing again because, like I said, music is in my blood. I recorded a couple of solo albums released by a German label called SPV. Then I got a call from Carl saying he listened to my stuff and that he liked it a lot and made him want to play together again. We had not seen each other in a long time and he proposed a reunion of the band. Then we played two shows, one in a bar in my hometown and another in Garry’s hometown. Today it’s all because of the internet, that’s how people notice you nowadays, and they come to the shows. We did not have any idea that people still cared about us and then they were there watching us again, bringing their old albums for us to sign. Thus we realised that people still remembered us. It’s been ten years now since then and we have been playing eight to ten shows a year; most of these shows happen when people contact us asking if we could play in their town. We don’t have a booking agency or a management, it’s all directly with us. We try to keep playing only a few shows a year, but sometimes it happens to be more, like in 2011 when we did a European tour supporting Dio Disciples. In these last ten years we have been in places we have never visited before, like Brazil, and now Japan. It’s our first time here and we always wanted to come to Japan. Because of the internet we know now that we have fans all around the world, in places we have never thought our music would reach.”

Your last studio album came out six years ago. Do you have any plans for new albums? “We will record a new album as soon as we come home after this tour. The songs are all written and we hope to release it in the first half of 2018. Personally I think these are the best songs we have written in our career, so it’s going to be a great record.”

Ronnie James Dio reunited with you on the fabulous The Rods’ song “The Code”. What brought that about? “This was a song written by Carl and at the same time it was a song written by someone in the band. It sounded totally different from what we are used to do. Me and Garry are the singers and we write more energetic songs, which are the styles we can sing and also songs that fit into our singing style. So, when we had a song like that we knew we couldn’t do it, we are not capable of singing that type of song. When Carl came with ‘The Code’ we were recording a new album and thought that it was a great song, but not for me or Garry, and it coincided with when I wrote ‘Metal Will Never Die’, which was more The Rods style, but not that much. Also, me and Ronnie were talking about making an Elf reunion album and then he offered himself to sing on a The Rods song. We gave him these two songs, because I knew they needed a really good vocalist, they were very different from what we are used to. We recorded those two songs three or four years before Ronnie passed away. He probably didn’t even know he was sick and it ended that ‘The Code’ featured on a The Rods album and ‘Metal Will Never Die’ made up part of a Dio album.”

You are now playing Japan for the very first time. How does it feel being here and what are your expectations? “It’s been so great being here. We have been here for a couple of days and we have been walking around, checking around, meeting some fans at the hotel and on the streets, people are so nice. Everything we have seen is so clean. The hotel accommodations are the best we have seen in years. We don’t have any expectation of what it’s going to be, no matter where we play. We just do the same thing if we are playing for ten people or ten thousand, it does not matter. We will hit the stage tonight and do our thing. I think people like us here. We’ve met many fans, they greeted us very well. We are loving being in Japan. People are very nice here and we hope that after this weekend we will be able to come back soon.”

Last year at Wacken Open Air, Dio Disciples played with a hologram of Ronnie James Dio and Wendy Dio has already announced a world tour for the hologram show. What do you think about it? Would you be part of it if invited? “For me there’s two different sides of it. I think it’s a great thing because of the technology evolved to make it happen and I want to go and see it live. I know there are a lot of controversy. Even not being too much on the internet to see all the comments, I know there are a lot of people who are against it. But I think no matter what you do, in anything in your life, there will be people against it and people for it. I just hope that when the band will go out on tour, they be well received by the fans. I hope that people understand what it is. Many bands are doing it and not only bands, but people like Michael Jackson performed as a hologram and it was really cool. I know many other bands will do the same in the future. It’s technology, something new. Personally I think it is a cool thing. I’m looking forward to seeing it. I would be part of it and that’s the way I feel about it.”

This year marked the tenth anniversary of the last time Ronnie James Dio sang in Japan (the Black Sabbath/Heaven & Hell tour of 2007). What are your greatest memories of him? “I could talk about it for five or six hours. Haha! I got asked the same question many times. It’s probably because of the beginning, before he was famous, when we started in a band and there are a lot of memories from that time. Also, I have so many memories from his last ten years, where we spent so much time together, with him visiting me in Cortland, where his parents live too. Ronnie was a very funny person. The thing I miss the most about him is that when you were around him, he was making you laugh. He was a naturally funny person. And he lived for his fans. They came first, always. I have seen him very ill, coughing, breathless and going to the stage and singing for two hours, like nothing was wrong. And after that going out to hang out with the fans, take pictures, give them autographs. He could spend hours signing things for the fans. He would never cancel a show, he would never disappoint the fans. He lived for them, it’s a very honourable thing to do. He knew how much he mattered to those people and how much they meant to him. In general, he was a very modest person, for being a superstar. Of course, he lived in a beautiful house, but he was a simple person, just like you and me. He was a very brilliant man, with a great mind, a great vocabulary. That’s why his lyrics are the way they are. He had a huge imagination, so when you hear his lyrics, you can clearly see where he was at the moment he wrote it. I miss many things about him. I miss being around him, but I guess I must stop now because I could spend a lifetime just to tell you about him. Haha!”

David “Rock” Feinstein in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

What’s next for The Rods? “One step at a time. Haha! Like I said, as soon as we get back to the United States we will start recording a new album, which we hopefully will release by the first half of 2018. We want to play more next year. We want to play at bigger festivals in the summer. But we take it easy, we take one day at a time. Also, we really hope to come back to Japan very soon.”

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Interview: Ronnie Romero of Rainbow and Lords of Black

Ronnie Romero on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

“I always try to sing the songs in a Ronnie Romero way,” said Rainbow vocalist Ronnie Romero when he recently visited Japan again with his band Lords of Black.

Ronnie Romero in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Legendary guitarist Ritchie Blackmore reformed his band Rainbow, one of the most classic hard rock bands of all time, in 2015. He surprised many by choosing a relatively unknown singer to front the new line-up band. Young vocalist Ronnie Romero was suddenly in the limelight as he stepped into the role of Rainbow frontman, following in the footsteps of Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet, Joe Lynn Turner and Doogie White. Not the easiest gig to take on for an up-and-coming vocalist. But Romero took it on and he delivered. The man can sing and his voice is a good fit for Rainbow’s material.

Ronnie Romero and Tony Hernando on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Ronnie Romero is a 35-year old singer from Chile. He grew up listening to Deep Purple and Rainbow. In his twenties he moved to Spain. “I met my wife nine years ago via the internet. She lives in Madrid and I lived in Santiago de Chile. We met once in Santiago and once in Madrid and then I decided to follow her to Madrid,” says Romero as we meet in Tokyo during Lords of Black’s second Japan visit in a year.

Ronnie Romero on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Lords of Black is a Spanish power metal band formed in Madrid by Ronnie Romero and guitarist Tony Hernando (ex-Saratoga). So far the band has released two studio albums. “I met Tony almost five years ago. He’s been working as a promoter of a Ronnie James Dio tribute concert with many local artists in Madrid. Then he invited me to sing a couple of songs in that show. We fell in love musically. We have very similar points of view and taste in music. We met at the Ronnie James Dio tribute concert and then we decided to put a band together,” explains Romero how Lords of Black formed.

Ronnie Romero on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Lords of Black played the Loud Park festival in Japan in October 2016 and then came back recently for a couple of very successful club gigs. The band enjoys local support from Japanese label Ward Records. “It’s one of the most important markets for us. We felt the support from the Japanese fans from the very beginning when we put the band together four years ago. Even with the first album, without any label support. Obviously this Rainbow thing happened and made us more important in the Japanese market, of course. We were really surprised about the support because we played at Loud Park less than a year ago. Then we have our first couple of headline shows. The Japanese fans, they loved the band from the very beginning. Besides the UK and probably Germany, Japan is very important for the band.”

Ronnie Romero on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Ronnie’s Rainbow role has meant a lot of publicity for Lords of Black which has helped the band sell records and concert tickets. But is there any negative side for Lords of Black to all the publicity surrounding your Rainbow role? “No, it’s really great. Everything’s positive from the Rainbow camp because… The Rainbow tour was just at the right time. When Ritchie called me for the first time, we were already working on the second Lords of Black album. We had already got the agreement with Frontiers. Everything is positive. I can’t imagine anything negative about Rainbow. There is nothing,” says Romero with a big smile. He clearly loves being a Rainbow member.

How do you prioritise between the two bands and other work as well? “In fact it’s really easy. We are really synchronised about the schedules. I’m always talking with Ritchie’s management. Everything is great with the Rainbow camp. There isn’t any problem with that.”

Ronnie Romero on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Nozomu Wakai is a great Japanese metal guitarist who has been playing with Paul Shortino Band and also his own band Nozomu Wakai’s Destinia. Over the past year he has collaborated with Ronnie Romero and also appeared as a special guest during Lords of Black’s Japan shows. “I met Nozomu last year at Loud Park. He was backstage and the guys from Ward Records introduced me to this amazing guitar player. Then, at the beginning of this year, he told me about the possibility to sing a couple of songs on his new record. I ended up singing all the songs! The songs are really great. They’re strong songs, heavy metal and rock songs. He plays really well. It was really great to work with Nozomu. This project is a little bit on standby at the moment because we have this new Lords of Black release. Then we had this idea to invite him to these shows to play a couple of songs and have fun on stage. People here will love it!”

Ronnie Romero in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Lords of Black has already established a signature sound. How has it evolved and will it keep evolving from where you are now? “We know what kinds of weapons we have in the band. My voice is not the best or the worst. It’s just my particular way to sing. Then we have this strong songwriting from Tony Hernando and the way he can play the guitar. We have this other element, on the drums with Andy C. He’s a really great and strong drummer and he can write lyrics and melodic songs. We try to put together all this in a big mix in the Lords of Black music. It’s distinctive kind of music. I think with the third album, we’re just trying to fill the empty spaces between the first and the second album. On the first album, we didn’t have any fan base. On the second album, you have a fan base because people start to know the band. On the third album, we need to fill the space between the people who love the band and people who know the band. You’re gonna hear the Lords of Black sound, but you’re gonna hear something different, something new, because we have these progressive elements and heavy metal, classic. We have a lot of things to show the people there.”

Ronnie Romero on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Power metal legend Roland Grapow has produced the first two Lords of Black albums. How important is he for the band? “We feel that Roland is kind of the fifth member of the band. He knows, he has this background from Helloween and Masterplan. He knows what we need to do with the music, with the sound. He’s been working with us from the very beginning on every album, on the songwriting process. He helps us choosing songs for the final track list. We love to work with Roland.”

Ronnie Romero on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

In Lords of Black you are singing songs you have helped create, but in Rainbow, so far, you are singing classic rock songs shaped by industry legends like Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet and Joe Lynn Turner. Do you feel pressure when you perform their songs? “Not really. I prefer to sing the songs in my own way, in my own style. Obviously you need to show some respect when you do those kind of songs with vocalists that I love, of course. But I always try to sing the songs in a Ronnie Romero way. So, pressure, nothing! And with Lords of Black and the sound, it’s just about fun.”

Ronnie Romero on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

At Lords of Black live shows, the band has mixed their original material with performing some well-chosen rock classics. “We always try to choose songs that we love. I started to listen to Rainbow and Deep Purple when I was seven years old. So, I really love to sing Rainbow songs, even with my band, not just with Ritchie. But sometimes we play Queen songs. Even on the last album we recorded a Bruce Dickinson song, ‘Tears of the Dragon’. And we recorded ‘Innuendo’ from Queen and ‘Lady of the Lake’ from Rainbow,” explains Romero who also reveals that “we have an Anthrax song!” which has been recorded but not yet released. “For the Japanese fans we have a special set list with a special encore with special covers.”

Ronnie Romero and Tony Hernando on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

While Lords of Black keeps busy with gigs around the world, they have also started work on the next album. “In fact, right now we are recording the album. We are recording the vocals. We have these Japanese shows, then we go back to Madrid to record the vocals. And then we need to go to Atlanta to the ProgPower festival. Then we have a mini tour with Voodoo Circle. It’s five or six dates around Europe. Then probably we will go to Russia in December. It’s not done with the dates, but probably we will make a couple of shows there at the end of the year.”

Ronnie Romero on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

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Interview: Marty Friedman | “I don’t really have any kind of genre that I’m shooting to make sure I fit into”

Marty Friedman in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Guitarist Marty Friedman recently sat down with Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson in Tokyo to talk about his new album “Wall of Sound”, his band, working in Japan, his new signature Jackson guitar and much more.

Having first played in Japan in the late 80s with his band Cacophony, Marty Friedman then became a regular visitor during his decade as lead guitarist in Megadeth. Shortly after leaving Megadeth, Friedman relocated to Japan, a country that had fascinated him for quite a while.

Having already self-studied the Japanese language, when he arrived in Japan he established himself as an artist, songwriter and TV personality. He played with Japanese acts and also as a solo artist. Many of his new Japanese fans did not know anything about his Megadeth past.

His fabulous new studio album “Wall of Sound” (released in Japan in August via Ward Records), the follow-up to 2014’s “Inferno”, is an explosive and genre-bending solo album.

Currently you are so genre-bending that I want to know how you actually create this music. Do you just cram great stuff in there or how do you create this kind of cross-over music? “When I am writing any particular song, the arrangement starts to present itself. There is really no rules at that point. When I hear the song that is coming out, I think ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to step up a string section here?’ or ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to de-tune the guitars here or add piano there?’ It all just comes along as the song gets written. I don’t really have any kind of genre that I’m shooting to make sure I fit into or anything like that.”

How is the new album “Wall of Sound” different from the last one? How have you evolved? It is very diverse with slower music, almost ballad-like with beautiful guitar parts, but then also some heavy stuff with some 70s touches to it. “I think the cover looks really 70s. I don’t know what part of the music sounds 70s, but certainly possible. I just think it is deeper, hopefully better, definitely more intense, more grotesquely romantic, dark and, in Japanese you would say ‘setsunai’. I don’t know how to say that in English. Even though it is happy, there is like an undercurrent of ‘setsunai’. [Editor’s note: “Setsunai” is a Japanese expression that is hard to translate, but it’s sort of a mixture of painful, trying, bittersweet, heartrending, miserable.]

“Wall of Sound” features some fab collaborations. You have Jinxx form Black Veil Brides, Shiv Mehra of Deafheaven and Jorgen Munkeby of Shining. How do you choose which musicians to collaborate with? “It’s really just an honest…like what I like. I like this music so let’s see if that guy would be interested in doing a collaboration. Just throw it out there. In Japanese you say ‘damemoto’ [Editor’s note: “Damemoto” means giving it a shot even if you’re unlikely to succeed.] You never know. I’m a huge fan of Deafheaven and all of a sudden, out of the blue, Shiv calls me up and says ‘Dude! I’m in Tokyo!’ We had never even met before. Somehow he got my info from someone at the label or something and gets in touch with me. I was in town so we headed out and had sushi. Things just really clicked and it was like ‘We got to do a song together. Yeah!’ Very organic way. Jinxx is the same type of thing. Well, a little bit different, because Jinxx is a guitarist in Black Veil Brides, but he’s also a violinist. When I heard that I knew that I wanted to do something that was going to shock a lot of people. Because he doesn’t really get to show his violin side in his band. So I wanted to kind of like blow minds with that and I just kind of create a monster of that thing.”

It has become rather difficult to define you musically now. “That’s all good!” says Friedman with a big smile.

Apart from the guest stars, what can you tell us about the musicians in your band? Are they the same on the album and for the tour? “This time I’m using my touring bassist Kiyoshi. She’s insane! By far the most aggressive female bassist I’ve ever heard of. Maybe the most aggressive bassist period. Drums were done by the same guy who did ‘Inferno’, Anup Sastry, who’s a monster. He’s like 24 years old and is really an innovator on drums. Yeah, it’s basically that core band and everybody else was pretty much cherry-picked. I had five different piano players, keyboardists. Their personality fits particular songs. It’s kind of like that member process is almost like pop albums. You know when you get Lady Gaga or Britney Spears, look at each song and there’s 50 different players and different studios and different producers and all that. That’s the way I did this album. Each song has particular people that I thought fit that song the best.”

Is it possible to recreate this and your earlier albums live? “Live is a different animal. Live is that interpretation. In the studio you just make it exactly… Like you’re painting a picture and it has to be exactly that way. Live, you’ve got your band and you just do it the way that band does it.”

On your own albums, you are mainly focused on instrumental music. There’s only one track on the new album with vocals. How come? Do you prefer the guitar speaking to the audience rather than having vocals? “There are very few vocalists that really fit into my radar as far as the sound that I like. I am not particularly a fan of instrumental music as a genre. I need a vocalist there, but since there are so few… The music I play is really aggressive, heavy music. I find that there aren’t a whole lot of singers in that genre that… Maybe there is, I just don’t know that, because there probably are a ton of them out there that I might like. For example, Jorgen’s got a voice that I just absolutely love. I think, as a fan I prefer vocal music by far. But, as it turns out, I wanted to be the lead vocalist on guitar which has its own challenges for me that I like. My main goal is when you’re listening to the music, you’re thinking…you’re not thinking ‘Oh, I miss the vocalist. This would be so much better with a vocalist.’ So that’s my main objective with this stuff.”

Do you still have time for other musical projects and TV work now that you have a new album out? “Not really as much when I am touring and things like that, but I still do other projects that I am committed to. I don’t have any regular television program right now, so the TV I do is all one-offs. If they fit in my schedule, fine, if not, that’s totally fine with me. But when you have a regular TV show, it really bites into any kind of time for touring and stuff like that. I had to slip this month and a half of touring in before any kind of regular TV stuff got decided. That’s all good. Right now, I’m really focusing on my album and touring and playing live.”

Marty Friedman. Photo: Takaaki Henmi

You’ve done so much in the past three decades. What’s the highlight of your career so far? “It’s coming up. I don’t even remember what I did yesterday. It’s not important. Every time I do something really cool, I think ‘This is so cool!’ and a week later, or even less, I’m just not high on that any more. Last year I played at the Hollywood Bowl. That was a big deal for me because growing up with Bugs Bunny at the Hollywood Bowl with that opera singer. That was a big one for about a second. Of course, playing in Budokan in Japan so many times is big. But I’m way too busy thinking about what I’m gonna do next. The highlights are yet to come!”

I understand that you are working on a biography. Is that in English or Japanese? “Yes. Right now it’s in English. We are also doing a documentary film and been working on that for about a year and a half now. The biography is actually done, it’s being edited right now. Full life, everything, so far. That’s the hardest thing with the biography, because there are things coming up that I’m gonna definitely wanna add in. When we finished the actual manuscript to the biography, I had yet to do this Ambassador for Japan Heritage. It didn’t even have that chapter which is starting now. That is in insane contrast to everything I’ve ever done. Coming up with an ending… How do you end it? It’s kind of right in the middle. Either way, it’s done for the most part and we’ll see where it goes.”

When will the biography be released? “That I don’t know yet. I would say probably middle of next year.”

Tell us about your recent appointment as Japan Heritage Ambassador by the Japanese government. “It blew my mind! A foreigner! The only foreigner. They appointed like six other people and they’re all Japanese. I really was blown away by that. Even more so that they asked me to play the Tokyo Marathon as a foreigner. There are so many Japanese artists they could have had do it. It just blew my mind. I think everybody can learn a little bit about immigrants from that kind of treatment. If people come into the country and they don’t break any laws and try do something nice, it’s a nice thing.”

Your guitar solo on Megadeth classic “Tornado of Souls” has been called one of the best guitar solos of all time. Do you agree? “I don’t really look back at things like that. I definitely don’t get caught up in what people think is better than another thing. If I do that, there’s no end to it. With that I just think maybe they like it because it’s long. All the big, when it comes to guitar solos, it’s like ‘Free Bird’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and all these songs with long-ass solos.”

Is there any guitarist in heavy metal today that you are impressed by? “Oh, lots! There are so many great things happening in metal. That’s why metal still exists now, because metal is like a guitar genre, obviously. We thought that metal… In the old days, we thought Metallica was never even going to get signed. So when they got signed, we thought metal is going to last for a good three-four years. And here we are, with more metal than ever. There are so many guitar players that really are coming to the party and doing cool stuff. A lot of great guys. The first guy that comes to mind is the guitarist in Skyharbor, a guy named Keshav Dhar who I have worked with a lot. This guy is a stud. He’s a star. I think that he’s awesome.”

Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson and Marty Friedman in Tokyo.

Here in Japan you have played everything from J-pop to metal and performed with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. Which artists and musicians in Japan are you appreciating at the moment? “I’m always a big fan of stuff like Mr. Children and Flumpool. And obviously a lot of idols, like Momoiro Clover, AKB48 and Nogizaka and all that stuff. And Perfume and pretty much anything that Nakata-san does and Hyadain and anything that he does. I’ve had the honour to work with him many times. I like all that stuff. I like a lot of the current Japanese music a lot. [The Nakata-san mentioned by Friedman is Yasutaka Nakata, the producer behind J-pop group Perfume and Hyadain is Kenichi Maeyamada, a songwriter for various J-pop acts.] The thing about Japanese pop music, it has so many elements into it and they all serve the song. It’s not just a pile of garbage. It’s not ‘Let’s mix anything up’, it’s ‘We’ve got this song. How do we interpret it in a unique way?’ That is very Japanese. There are no genre lines like back home: metal is metal, R&B is R&B, hip hop is hip hop. They don’t mix it as much. It’s frowned upon so to speak.”

Tell us about you becoming a Jackson-endorsed artist again and your new Jackson signature guitar. “It rules! I’m going back to Jackson. So, if I am gonna go back, it better be a damn good reason. Jackson has supported me even in the years I wasn’t with Jackson. The people there have never abandoned me and never not been there to help in many capacities. They always said ‘Look! Door’s open.’ When I started working on ‘Inferno’ and toured ‘Inferno’, I was thinking I really need a heavy metal work horse to do this tour. They were ready and willing and definitely able. They built me a bunch of guitars as prototypes to kind of work with on the tour. Once we started to decide ‘OK, now we are going to make a signature model’ then I started going over details with them during the tour and giving them critiques on the guitar. Over about two years of hard work on their part, they came up with a total beast. Yeah, it’s a beast!”

Marty Friedman in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The album release was immediate followed by a North American tour. What’s next? “I’m recording a new project. I can’t even talk about it. I’ve got commitments in Japan for all of September and then the tour will resume, whether we’ll play more Japan shows or more America shows. I’ve got to do tours in one-month chunks due to a lot of Japanese work and stuff.”

Will there also be European shows? “Hopefully. They have been asking and I’m interested and would love to play in Europe. Always done Europe. It’s about going to the next level. I’m really actually so busy I don’t want to do anything that is a lateral movement. Often in the world of touring, when you’re gone for a year, it’s really hard to move up. You get a lot of offers that is kind of lateral to what you already did. I’m kind of too busy in Japan to really entertain that, without sounding like a goofball. What I really want to do is reach a larger audience in Europe. I love headlining, but I would rather be a support act first to someone who is much bigger than me so that I can reach some new fans. When that happens I’m gonna play Europe.”

After the previous album, “Inferno”, you did a successful package tour in Europe. “We did Shining and Arch Enemy and Kreator was on that bill too. It was great because I played some of Shining songs and they played some of my songs. It was interesting having an all-Norwegian band play my music. Usually I have an all-Japanese band. I’ve had an all-Israeli band, I’ve had an all-American band and now I’ve had an all-Norwegian band. It’s so interesting to peek in different cultures, everybody playing my music. I’ve played in an all-Chinese band and Chile, South America. It’s so interesting the cultural differences that I’ve been privy to see. I’m thankful.”

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Interview: John Corabi | “It’s very easy to put a band together until you get into a tour bus”

John Corabi in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

When former Mötley Crüe singer and Ratt guitarist John Corabi recently visited Japan with his current band The Dead Daisies, Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson sat down with him in Tokyo for a chat about his career and what’s coming up.

Vocalist and guitarist John Corabi is perhaps best known as the former lead singer of Mötley Crüe, but he has been involved in numerous bands over many years until he joined The Dead Daisies. He first started to make a name for himself with the band The Scream in the late 1980s. Here he briefly played with drummer Scott Travis who would soon go on to join Judas Priest.

In 1992, Corabi joined Mötley Crüe to replace the original singer Vince Neil. He remained in the band for several years, recording both the full-length studio album “Mötley Crüe” and the “Quaternary” EP and touring with the band. After Mötley, Corabi teamed up with former KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick in a band called Union. The band released two studio albums and a live album. During a Japan tour in 2005, Union used KISS drummer Eric Singer as a fill-in. Corabi, Kulick and Singer also played together in the Eric Singer Project. Corabi, did a stint with Nikki Sixx and Tracii Guns in Brides of Destruction and joined Ratt as a touring guitarist for a number of years. In early 2015, he was invited to join The Dead Daisies as its lead vocalist. In The Daisies he fronts a band formed by Aussie guitarist David Lowy that now consists of a seasoned bunch of pros: guitarist Doug Aldrich (Dio, Whitesnake), bassist Marco Mendoza (Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy, Ted Nugent) and drummer Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol, Foreigner).

John Corabi in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sometimes a lead vocalist, sometimes a guitarist, sometimes both. Do you miss the guitar when you’re focusing on singing? “I think I am OK, yes. The thing with me…there is a left brain, right brain thing. I think when I am playing guitar, I’m not as good vocally. Something’s gonna suffer a little bit. It’s not like ‘Oh my God! That guy sucks!’ So, I love the fact that I am just able to focus. Being a frontman, your job is to connect with the audience and be visual, you know, ringleader at the front. So I’m able to do that a little better without the guitar.”

“I have way too many guitars already. I’m always playing at home,” explains Corabi about his love for the guitar. But Corabi always seem to keep himself busy, with or without guitar. “We’re getting ready to go back in the studio in November to do a new album. And I have a solo record to do as well, contractually.”

The Dead Daisies is a hardworking band. As part of their touring around the world, they have played twice in Japan in the past year and released a fabulous live album, “Live & Louder”, which basically contains the show they are now performing around the world. It was recorded during a co-headline European tour with The Answer. “When we were out with The Answer, we only did a 60-minute set. So we were kind of changing songs around, so that we could have everything. We recorded, I think, all the shows in the UK, Germany, we did one in Paris. Then Doug did an amazing job going through all the different versions of everything and finding the one, like ’OK, this one’s really good. Everyone’s playing great, so let’s use that one.’ He kind of went through everything and then we gave it to our buddy Anthony Focx. He mixed it for us.”

John Corabi and Marco Mendoza of The Dead Daisies on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The Daisies is a band full of talented rock stars with strong wills. How does the creative process work in such a situation and how does it differ from you writing your solo stuff? “The funny thing about it is… I’ve got solo record to do. So, if I want to wank off for eight minutes – y’know what I mean? – I can save it for that record. The cool thing about it is…nobody really comes in… We know that we’re gonna write and the way we write is everybody grabs an acoustic guitar and we all sit in a room together, including Brian, who is an amazing guitar player. We all sit in a room together. ‘Hey, we’ve got this riff’ and we just starting jamming the riff. We’re all throwing shit in at the same time. It’s a very collaborative thing. Nobody really comes into the band, for the last two records anyway, with full songs. It’s just a riff or an idea. It’s just a very primitive, loose idea, where everybody is like ‘OK, what do you guys think of this riff?’ ‘Awesome, let’s work on that!’ Then everybody starts to throw their ingredients into the pot. As far as my solo thing… That will be something where I’ll focus more on finishing the songs and having set finished songs before I go into the studio pretty much on my own. So I’m not worried about the process in this, it’s really easy. I’m more worried about doing my solo record than having to actually finish a fucking song. It’s crazy.”

John Corabi in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Having played in so many different bands over the years, Corabi has had a career taking him on a roller coaster journey around the world with some great highlights. “All the bands, for one reason or another, were… Each one had an individual characteristic about it. It was like The Scream, for us it was a first record deal, like a major record deal, for all of us. It was the first trip to England and Europe. It was our first big tour, first tour bus… I’m pretty sure 20 years from now, you’re gonna sit back and you’ll remember your first blowjob. You know the girl’s name, what she was wearing, what you were listening to… So that’s The Scream. Mötley, obviously, everything just got shifted into a way higher gear with those guys. They are all great musicians but crazy. That was five years of my life that was a blur. Then the thing with Union was equally… I thought the band was a great band, there were talented players in it. But I think Union was kind of a…it was almost very therapeutic. Because Bruce and I were going through the exact same fucking thing at the same time. He got the boot from KISS so that they could do the original line-up with make-up and he split up with his wife of like 10 or 15 years. I went through the exact same thing. They were getting back together. The band’s getting back together, I was on the out. The girl that I was engaged to for years decided…whatever. So for Bruce and I, it was just therapeutic for us. The Ratt thing was just basically me giving myself a bit of a mental break without really having to get out of the business. It still allowed me to go out and do music, travel the world, play my guitar. Not be in the limelight, just be back here. Like anybody else that has a job, on Friday I just put my hand out and I get a cheque. I didn’t have to worry about t-shirts, tickets, nothing. I just did that for a while until I’d cleared my head and I was like ‘Alright! Now it’s time to get back to work’ and I started trying to put a band together. It took me forever.”

John Corabi in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

“It’s very easy to put a band together that looks great on paper until you get into a fucking tour bus with people for like six months at a time, or three months at a time, a month at a time! Then you start seeing people’s idiosyncrasies, their quirks and… ‘Oh my God! I’m gonna fucking kill this guy’, do y’know what I mean? That was part of my process too. Once I decided I wanted to do my thing, it took me a while… I had three or four drummers, I had a dozen guitar players. ‘Til I found the right combination I didn’t want to do anything. Then I finally got it. Now my son is my drummer, so it’s pretty cool.”

“With The Daisies, there was just like ‘OK, let’s go tour on this record’. David and Jon Stevens actually just wrote a bunch of songs and went into the studio and recorded it with session guys. And they decided to go on tour. Whether someone’s schedule or somebody not getting along, or whatever, there was a bit of a turnover there because they were growing in public. Well, here we are. Everybody seems happy. Everybody seems reasonably happy with our turnout here in Japan and record sales. So, onward and upward, Johnny!”

John Corabi in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Corabi seems very comfortable in Japan. Having played here twice with The Daisies, he has also performed in Japan with Ratt, Mötley Crüe, Union and ESP. “Japan has always had… I don’t know what it is. I just remember reading magazines growing up as a kid. The Japanese audience. Cheap Trick live at Budokan. Just all these great records. Mötley, when we came over here, they were like ‘Dude! You’re gonna fucking lose your shit in Japan. You’re never gonna believe it! The fans they come out in droves and they come bearing gifts.’ My first trip here and they were right! I was like ‘Holy fuck! These fans are unbelievable.’ You go to the hotel, there’s a hundred of them in the lobby. They just want an autograph and they are very polite, have a picture. ‘Sorry, sorry, sorry!’ I just kind of fell in love with it the first time I was here. The fans, I don’t know how they do it. My first trip over here was with Mötley. I showed up and these two fans came and they gave me Converse sneakers. I was like ‘Oh, wow!’ I’ve always been a Converse guy. So they gave me these Converse, I guess they were made for Japan, you wouldn’t get them in America. The thing that freaked me out… Now you can go on Google or Wikipedia and it’s got like my birth date, my shoe size, everything is there. I’m talking 1994, when shit was dial up, fax… These fucking people showed up with two awesome pair of Converse high tops, in my size! How the fuck do they do that? What used to amaze me, we would get on the bullet train, because we hubbed out of Tokyo for like six days, seven days. And we would go to Sendai and back or we’d go to Yokohama and back, Nagoya and back. I would get on the train and we would take off and I would see them on the platform as we were pulling away and then we would get to Nagoya and we would get off the train, and I would see that person… ‘How the fuck did you guys get here?’ Even today when we went to the train station, there was a bunch of fans from the show last night. How the fuck do they know that we’re on this train and this time? It’s like a mystery to me. It’s amazing to me, it really is. I love it, man. I’ve never met anybody that I had to get verbal with. Never aggressive, they are always apologetic. Like last night when we got in from the gig, it was like ‘Aargh! OK.’ We just did a signing. We did the gig, we did the signing, we changed, we came back to the hotel. I was starving and then, you know. But it’s part of the gig. It’s amazing to me. I’ve always loved Japan and the fans, their affinity and love for what we do. It’s awesome!”

John Corabi in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

While The Daisies keep Corabi quite busy, he still has a bit of time for side projects. In addition to the solo record he has in the works, he also plans to release a special live version of the 1994 “Mötley Crüe” album he sang on. “I didn’t even know it was the 20th anniversary. I did a show, I forget where I was. With my band, we were doing a little bit of Scream, Mötley, Union, new stuff, whatever. Somebody in the audience yelled ‘Happy anniversary!’ I was looking around, I thought somebody was in the audience. I’m looking around and they’re like ‘Happy anniversary, Crab!’ And I go ‘It’s not my fucking anniversary! What are you talking about?’ And they’re like “Nah, dude. It’s 20th today! It’s 20 years since the Mötley ’94 thing came out.’ I was like ‘Cool’ and my manager, he actually set it up where we went and we learned the whole record and we went out and did some shows. Then I really wanted to bring it over here, to bring it to Australia, to the UK and all these different places because – well, Japan we played – but we didn’t play a majority of the United States, Canada, South America, Europe. We never played one note of music. This could be cool. It was funny – I was doing that and we were continuing to roll it into 2015 when The Daisies called. So, I had a break and I went home and, not to bring up business or whatever, but I started to research bringing my band to places like the UK, Europe and even here. I started to realise the amount of money I would have to ask for. Like the UK now is…it’s not just about hotel rooms and flights and food. There’s visas and they don’t do the band visa any more. You’ve got to do individual ones. It’s like 700 or 800 bucks a guy. I’m like ‘Fuck! I’m going to have to ask for an astronomical sum of money to make this work.’ The crew guys, the band – it’s five guys, then there’s the merch and… I talked to my manager about it and I said ‘Let’s go in.’ We went into a club in Nashville, where I live. I literally called the club owner, it was like two weeks out. I go ‘Do you have a day available?’ He goes ‘I can give you like a Tuesday.’ Fine, whatever, it doesn’t matter and I promoted it for two weeks really hard. I probably had 300 or 400, 500 people in the place. I just set it up, we recorded everything and videotaped a bunch of shit from the show. I basically gave it to Michael Wagener. I asked him to do his thing. He was like ‘Do you want to fix anything?’ I’m like ‘No! As is.’ That’s actually coming out, it was gonna come out last year, but ‘Make Some Noise’ was coming out. We were literally the same week. So I pulled my record and then I figured I was going to put it on in January and Daisies were like ‘We’re gonna do a live album’. So, I said ‘Alright, I’ll hold my live record ‘til The Daisies’ comes out, runs its course.’ I’m gonna release mine probably sometime between September and November. We’re gonna take a break mid-September, we’re gonna write for a couple of weeks and then we’re in the studio November 1st. That’s a perfect time to do it. Then the first quarter of next year, I’ll have off probably with these guys so I can go out and do some shows if I have to. I just put that record out and that way everybody can hear what it would’ve sounded like.”

John Corabi in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

“For me, I did some of the shows and inevitably there’s still that huge conglomeration of fans that are still kind of pissed at me for even thinking of joining Mötley. So, I was out doing the 20th anniversary thing and some of the people are like ‘Ah! Riding their coat tails again’ and I’m like ‘No. Actually I wrote this stuff. I do whatever the fuck I want.’ I’m not gonna do the shows anymore, let’s put the record out and now I can go out and go back to what I was doing with Scream, Mötley, Union. The last show I did, we were on the Monsters of Rock Cruise in March, we actually did some Daisies stuff, some new shit and we had some fun.”

The Dead Daisies on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

At age 58, John Corabi is clearly enjoying himself and has a bright future with The Dead Daisies and his side projects.

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Interview: Doug Aldrich – three decades of playing guitar for the Japanese fans

Doug Aldrich in Tokyo in July 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Former Dio and Whitesnake guitarist Doug Aldrich recently sat down with Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson in Tokyo to talk about joining The Dead Daisies, his love for Japan, auditioning for KISS as a teenager, the new Revolution Saints album and an unreleased Dio demo.

The Dead Daisies on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Japanese fans love guitar heroes. Doug Aldrich is one of them. He made a name for himself playing guitar next to Ronnie James Dio in Dio and David Coverdale in Whitesnake and the recent Guns N’ Roses reunion saw him being offered a spot with The Dead Daisies last year. It seems to be a great fit for Aldrich who in The Dead Daisies play with David Lowy (guitar), Marco Mendoza (bass), Brian Tichy (drums) and John Corabi (vocals). With Aldrich joining the band last year, this project’s revolving doors stopped and it became a proper band. And what a band it is. “It definitely gels. It’s fun,” says Aldrich as I sit down with him and his beloved guitar in the offices of Ward Records in Tokyo. The Dead Daisies have just completed a successful tour of Japan which followed last October’s appearance at the Loud Park festival. The Daisies’ pedigree works for them but already the Japanese fans love this band for what it is now, not just for where the members came from.

It is the third time in a year and a half Aldrich is in Japan to perform. And before that he has been here many times since he first came here in 1987.

The “Live & Louder” live album

“The Dead Daisies does work a lot. We’re trying to build this thing,” says Aldrich about the hardworking band he is now a vital part of. It’s a great live act which recently released a terrific live album, “Live & Louder”, recorded during a European tour in 2016.

“It’s pretty easy actually with The Dead Daisies. You can have fun, still throw some shapes and it still sounds pretty good. For me, it took me a while to find my place live and feel comfortable. Even though the majority of the songs we’re playing, were stuff we wrote and recorded together, I need to find the right balance of everything, getting comfortable with endings, just the whole thing. It took about five or six, seven shows and then I started to feel good. But I noticed in the fall… We had done a bunch of shows and come to Japan and then we did the KISS Kruise and I noticed that we started even become tighter. It kind of was apparent to everybody that we were gonna be doing our full show, headline set, doing clubs and we started to really go for it. Then the management said ‘Why don’t we just record and see what we get?’”

“We recorded, I guess, between 12 and 15 shows. Some of them were in really small places. There were a couple of complete shows that were really good, like London was great, Paris was great. It’s always kind of like, and this sounds bad, but usually in those bigger cities you’re always up for it! Because you have a lot of friends there and there’s pressure and you’re just on your best behaviour. But we decided that maybe it would be more interesting for the fans to break it up and have it from various different shows. It made it a lot easier for editing purposes, because there are situations…if you listen to one show, sometimes there are tuning issues, sometimes there’s a mistake. Primarily with this recording, you can keep them all live because basically you’ve got 12 chances to get it right somewhere. So, it was pretty easy actually.”

Doug Aldrich in Tokyo in July 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The creative process

Having performed with Dio, Whitesnake and most recently with Glenn Hughes, Aldrich has been touring the world with shows where he, at least partly, has been playing someone else’s classics. “I felt like I did a good piece of rebuilding Whitesnake. I was playing live songs that I wrote with David. We published 30 songs together, me and him. Co-produced over those 12 years or whatever. So I felt I really put my stamp on the Whitesnake thing. Now I am just starting over with The Dead Daisies.”

Is it different writing as a band member of The Dead Daisies than writing for Dio or Whitesnake? “It’s the same when I am writing. The thing that is easier is that this is a real band situation where everybody’s together, working together on every idea. Each one we’re all putting our best effort towards. The thing with Whitesnake was that it was just me and David. So we were always writing everything. That’s what we did, that was our sound. This, The Dead Daisies sound, we’re still playing the same way, but now I’m playing some parts are mine, some parts are his and we’ve got a producer involved. He’s got a big hand in the way that the whole thing sounds and everything. It’s like if you and I wrote a song together, it’s gonna sound like me and you, versus if you just do it by yourself, then it just sounds like you. I feel like it’s easier with The Dead Daisies. I think there is great value in, after doing what I’ve been doing, to come into a situation like this with guys that I trust and like. We don’t put our egos up. We are basically just friends.” Aldrich played with both Mendoza and Tichy in Whitesnake and knows Corabi (ex-Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Union) well as a friend. “I’ve known John since we were kids. I met him in 1979. We never played together, we never wrote a song together, but we’ve been friends for all these years. It’s cool.”

Touring with Glenn Hughes and joining The Dead Daisies

Glenn Hughes, Pontus Engborg and Doug Aldrich on stage in Tokyo in 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

In the year leading up to joining The Dead Daisies, Aldrich was touring Europe, South America and Japan with Glenn Hughes (ex-Deep Purple, Trapeze, Black Sabbath) and Swedish drummer Pontus Engborg. In The Dead Daisies he replaced Richard Fortus who was invited back to tour with Guns N’ Roses.

“The Dead Daisies had asked me to fill-in on some dates because their guitarist had gotten injured. He had a motorcycle accident, Richard. I had already committed to Glenn to come to Japan.” The Dead Daisies management asked Aldrich if he could fill-in on tour around November-December 2015. “I can’t, I’ve got two shows in Japan. I can’t cancel, it’s not cool,” explained Aldrich his commitment to the Glenn Hughes tour. “The following year, in March, we were going to do the US. To be deadly honest with you, Glenn changes his mind all the time. One minute he was ‘I don’t know if I should do a record’, the next minute ‘We should do a record together, Doug’. I wasn’t really sure where he was going. I wasn’t against any idea, but there really wasn’t a set plan. Then I got the call that The Dead Daisies were looking for a guitar player, full-time, because Richard is going back on the road and they were gonna make a record. And I thought ‘Sounds like fun’. They’re my friends, great guys. They gave me the schedule and it clashed with the dates I had with Glenn in March. So I said ‘I can’t do that. I am committed to Glenn and I am not going to change it.’ They were very kind about it, The Dead Daisies. Everybody was involved, the producer… ‘It’s the only time we can do this!’ Everybody somehow made amends and moved it, so I was free to continue with Glenn in March. We didn’t know what the schedule was going to be after that, so I could’ve done more stuff with Glenn, but there was no commitment. But he cancelled the dates when he found out I was doing The Dead Daisies. It was always a ‘Glenn featuring Doug’. That was the deal. He had asked me to do it. I said ‘That’s alright as long as we play a Whitesnake song.’ That’s kind of where it started to go a little south. He goes ‘I’m not feeling that song’ and I say ‘Alright, I sing it’. It was in Tokyo. I felt like he wasn’t fair… Then he sang it and it was fine. But he was not happy with my doing The Dead Daisies and I’m like ‘What’s wrong with you? I’ve made these guys change their whole schedule for you, so that I can do the dates I promised I would do with you.’ Besides the fact we knew he was going into the Hall of Fame, so I said ‘Maybe at that point, Glenn, if you’re not sure what you should do, maybe you should really just focus on you and your solo situation and not worry about whatever baggage I got going.’ That’s one of the things we talked about, that he should focus on exploiting his fame more. Which is what he’s doing right now. I was prepared to carry on, but he didn’t want to. So, I was like ‘Cool. If that’s how you want it to be, I get it.’”

Doug Aldrich in Tokyo in July 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

A 30-year love affair with Japan

Aldrich made a name for himself in Japan already back when he as a member of the band Lion in the 1980s. That band is perhaps best known for having songs included on the soundtracks for some of the “Friday the 13th“ and “Transformer” movies. “I love Japan. I’ve been coming here for 30 years now. My first time was in September ’87. It’s always been an honour, a huge privilege to be able to come to Japan because it’s so amazing. In Whitesnake we always had a saying; ‘Everything’s better in Japan!’ Because everything is better. The cars are better. The food’s better. The escalators are better. Everything is better! It’s just awesome. Everything is great, but the fans especially. The main thing is they’re so loyal to music and people that they like. It’s humbling, awesome! The people have been so supportive. I still see the same faces. We all got a little bit older, but for some reason I look more older than they do. They seem to look the same to me.”

The KISS audition in 1982 and the KISS tour in 2016

As Aldrich was just starting out as a guitarist, he auditioned to join Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Eric Carr as Ace Frehley’s replacement in KISS. “It was 1982. I had moved away from my parents’ home in ’81. I told them I was going to go to college and they gave me a budget. They were gonna help me get set up in an apartment and make sure I was OK. I went to the college one day and I decided it’s not for me anymore. I always had my guitar with me. I came to California because I knew that music was original in California. I was born in North Carolina but at the time I was living in Philadelphia and all the bands were playing cover music. I had a dream of the California lifestyle that I wanted. There was something about it that I just loved. I had visited a couple of times and I loved it. I was just a kid, so I drove up and I went to school one day and I quit. Then my parents said ‘OK, well then you’ve got two weeks to find a job.’ So I got a job and I started taking care of myself. Ever since I was focused on the guitar. I immediately got a band together, so within three or four months I was playing in the clubs, in some of the famous Hollywood clubs. A girl said that KISS was auditioning guitar players and that she thought I’d be good. I thought she was joking but a couple of weeks later, we played the same place and she brought Eric Carr with her, which was her boyfriend. It was weird because at that time you hadn’t seen these people’s faces. So, I was looking at him like ‘He’s got the exact same hair. It does look like him.’ Of course, it was him. He said ‘I want you to come down to the studio and meet the guys.’ At this time, I didn’t have a phone, so he called me at a music shop where I was working. My parents never told me about paying bills. One month goes by and my phone got shut off. So, he called me at the music shop and I went down and I met Gene and Paul. They were singing backgrounds. I was kind of test demoing some of their tracks in the studio and Gene said ‘It sounds really good, Doug. Do you ever use the major scale?’ And I said ‘Major scale? What is that?’ He goes ‘Oh, you know: Do Re Mi Fa So…’ I’m like ‘Oh! I know that! Yeah, I know that one.’ It clicked. I didn’t know anything about music. I knew how to play certain things but I didn’t know about music. It was a little embarrassing. But I did play it and I played well enough that he invited me to go to a rehearsal situation and play live. That was my first time playing through multiple Marshalls. There were four Marshall stacks just for me. It was in a huge airport hangar. We played three or four songs and then they called me back a few weeks later. I thought ‘Wow!’ To be honest, I wasn’t the biggest KISS fan. I was more a Led Zeppelin fan. But I was impressed and I thought I can make this work. I make it work to be in KISS! Haha!! But I go down to the second audition and I did play pretty good but I could tell they were kind of like ‘This guy’s too young.’ They were talking about actresses and going to parties. At that time, ramen noodles were really big in the US. You could buy ’em for ten cents a pack. I would just buy three dollars’ worth and that’s how I lived. Ramen noodles! So, I just couldn’t relate to their conversations.”

Doug Aldrich and Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson

”I think, in hindsight, if I can give advice to any musician, one of the most important things is to be able to be comfortable hanging out with the guys that you’re working with. Because if you’re not comfortable, they’re not gonna want you around. It doesn’t matter how good you are, how good you sing or play, or how good you look. You really have to be comfortable being together.”

“So, I didn’t get the gig and Eric said ‘You did great! You were pretty close but I think you’re too young. We found a guy we think is going to work out.’ Which was Vinnie Vincent. But I had Gene’s number. Six months later, they are on tour, promoting their record and I told my friends ‘I’m gonna call Gene and get us tickets!’ All my friends were standing behind me and I got on the phone and I called his house. It was like a party situation. I go ‘Gene, this is Doug Aldrich. Do you remember me?’ He goes ‘Lose this number.’ Click! Haha!! I turn around to my friends and go ‘I don’t think we are gonna be able to go, guys. I’m sorry.’ It was like ‘Man, that’s not cool. He hung up on you!’ Later, Gene wanted me to join a band called House of Lords. I said ‘Gene, do you remember the last time we spoke?’ He was ‘Yeah, you called my house.’ I was like ‘Yeah, you hung up on me!’ He’s awesome. I love him. You know what, you listen to those old KISS songs and you’ve gotta give them credit, man. Those are some good tunes!”

“I think he’s done some great bass work. Listen to the bass part in ‘Detroit Rock City’. That’s pretty cool that part. They are amazing. And Paul, as you get older your voice changes and stuff, but he can still do good. He can still tour. You know this, because you’ve seen them. I had never seen KISS until we, The Dead Daisies, toured with them. To watch Paul Stanley, it’s like a lesson, in one minute you see 25 of the most classic rock moves. He is unbelievable! And he plays great. Pound for pound, that’s the best rock show I’ve seen. I’ve seen a lot of really good shows, but that was like…somebody’s flying, somebody’s exploding, somebody’s guitar’s on fire. It’s awesome!”

Doug Aldrich in Tokyo in July 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Revolution Saints

One of Aldrich’s side projects is the band Revolution Saints, featuring Jack Blades (Night Ranger, Damn Yankees) and Deen Castronovo (Journey, Ozzy Osbourne, Bad English, Cacophony). The band will release its second album, “Light in the Dark” in October. “The Daisies, of course, we are working a lot and there isn’t much time, but I have a couple of things that I do in my free time. One is a thing called Revolution Saints. There’s a new record that is gonna come out later this year. We never really did anything with the last record, but it did pretty well and got some good reviews. This one, to me, is even better. We had gotten some offers to do some gigs, maybe we’ll do a couple. Jack is definitely primarily in Night Ranger. He’s not gonna change that. So, he’s gonna be busy with that and I’m busy with Daisies. But I’m really proud of Deen. He’s doing great, he’s clean and sober and back in the relationship he was in. So it is all working for him now. A lot of people turned their back on him, I didn’t. I knew the guy inside was a sweet guy because I’ve spent time with him before. Originally it was going to be his solo record and he said ‘I want Doug’, because we’re friends, you know? Then he got in trouble, these things happen. At some point you gotta say ‘Hey, everyone deserves a second chance.’ I’m really proud of him. He’s singing great and playing great. He’s very happy.”

The unreleased Dio demo

Aldrich was a member of Dio during a number of years. Among other recordings and touring, he played on the fabulous song “Electra”, which would become the band’s last ever single, together with drummer Simon Wright, bassist Rudy Sarzo and keyboardist Scott Warren. As we finish off our chat in Tokyo, Aldrich reveals that there is an unreleased demo recording from that period.

“I have a demo of Ronnie, an unreleased song nobody’s ever heard. I offered it to Wendy and, I don’t know, maybe she forgot about it, but I said ‘I have this song. It’s really haunting.’ It was during that time… He wrote ‘Electra’. I just played on it. We were kind of bouncing around some of his ideas and working on some of them. Before we did ‘Electra’, he had this other one that he said ‘Can you put a solo on this?’ and he gave me the track. I had put a solo on it and then when I brought it to his house, he goes ‘No, no, no. I’ve got this new idea called ‘Electra’.’ We didn’t even listen to it. I don’t even think he ever heard the solo because we were so focused on trying to get one song done to promote the tour that we were gonna do. I was still a member of Whitesnake but I said to him ‘If you work it out with David, I would love to go out on the road with you.’ Because he had asked me to go. He worked it out and then he got sick. But there is this one track that is haunting, because the lyrics are… And he doubled his voice, it’s just really trippy. At some point it will have to come out. I got it. I got the mix. I actually have the recording session, which has got Ronnie playing bass, Ronnie playing rhythm guitar and vocals. And then a drum machine. One day.”

Ladies and gentlemen: Doug Aldrich. A great and busy guy travelling the world with his guitar. Three decades on and he is still playing his guitar for the Japanese fans.

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Interview: Marco Mendoza – a travelling bassist breaking new ground in the name of rock’n’roll

Marco Mendoza in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Former Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy bassist Marco Mendoza is better than ever in his current role as rhythm master in The Dead Daisies. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson recently sat down with Mendoza in Tokyo for a chat about his career and his current success with The Dead Daisies.

Bassist Marco Mendoza has had a long career as a session musician for many famous artists and a member of major bands such as Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake. In recent years he has found success with The Dead Daisies, a star-studded band with great songs and a terrific live show.

The Dead Daisies on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

“In the beginning, when I got to LA, first what happened was I got sober. I finally stopped dicking around, goofing around with life and my career. I had a chance to get sober and took a look at how privileged we are to do music. I got serious. I got to LA very focused. Within two-three years, I became somewhat of a session guy,” says Mendoza as we sit down for a chat in Tokyo. Some of his early work included playing with original Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward and in Blue Murder with John Sykes of Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy fame.

As the bassist in already established bands like Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake, Mendoza had to step into someone else’s shoes and play their classic songs. “When David Coverdale calls, you say yes! Haha!” explains Mendoza how he reacted when Coverdale wanted him to join Whitesnake. “I don’t look at whose shoes I am filling. I just: OK, there’s some music that is established. I am a bass player, so I am going to do it justice and do my part and bring that to the table. When you play bass parts that Neil Murray recorded, that are very well-known… When you play bass parts that Phil Lynott recorded and they are established parts of classic rock’n’roll songs, you learn so much if you open your mind. So for me it was going to school. To learn to take what the essential part was and then, at the same time, you have to own it. You have to add a little bit without compromising the thing. It is a little grey area and I learned how to do that. When it comes to doing your own vibe, your own music, you let yourself speak but you’re channelling what you’ve learned before. Because it’s all in you. There is a little bit of freedom to express yourself as a bass player and a songwriter, but I always try to remember I’m a bass player. My main objective is to support the song and the soloists and that’s it. I hear from a lot of people that I have my own style and all that and I’m going ‘OK, thank you’. But I am just re-emulating what’s been done before and then, at the same time, you’ve gotta own it in the performance.”

Marco Mendoza in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

One of his many Thin Lizzy tours led him to his current role with The Dead Daisies, founded by Australian guitarist David Lowy. “I was touring in Australia with Thin Lizzy with the Mötley CrüeKISS tour and David Lowy was playing there with his band. He was the opening band. So, I started hearing these songs with this band that he had. It was really cool. We started to talk and before the tour ended, he and his manager say: ‘Marco, we did an album but we don’t have a band. We’re considering putting a bunch of guys together and playing some shows and see what happens.’ Just like that, real casual. ‘Would you be interested in collaborating and participating?’ I’m always looking to do some cool stuff. They sent some songs and I immediately, within listening to two or three songs, this is speaking very loudly to me. Wow! This is just up my street!” Mendoza accepted the invitation to join the band which in its early years also featured two Guns N’ Roses members: Richard Fortus and Dizzy Reed.

“The first commitment was seven shows. Opening up for Aerosmith. When I heard that, I moved my schedule around. I was working with Neal Schon in the studio and Dolores O’Riordan. They are both my friends,” explains Mendoza. His friends had no problem in moving things around to allow Mendoza to do the Aerosmith tour with The Dead Daisies.

Marco Mendoza in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The new band was a great fit for Mendoza. “Within the second day of rehearsal, we’re all looking at each other going: ‘This is really cool!’” The good start led to the band’s management offering Mendoza and the others to do more shows.

“It’s funny how things are in this business. The Dead Daisies then was starting to get established, getting a bit of momentum, ended up opening up for Thin Lizzy in the UK, ten shows. I was starting to really fall in love with The Dead Daisies and what we were doing with that camp. With all due respect to the Lizzy camp, we were still representing things that had been done already. The Dead Daisies was like new territory, breaking new ground! For me, always, I’ll be that guy. As much as I love classic rock’n’roll and everything, I’m always the guy that: Sign me up to break new ground and try new shit! I am the risk taker.”

Thin Lizzy’s mainman Scott Gorham didn’t seem too keen on Mendoza pulling double duty on the Thin Lizzy/The Dead Daisies tour. “Out of respect to him and the Thin Lizzy camp”, Mendoza stuck with Thin Lizzy on this tour and Darryl Jones of The Rolling Stones temporarily stepped in as bassist for The Dead Daisies.

“From that point on, I’m digging this so much, I’m going to move everything else. It’s hard to explain, when you find something you really dig, you feel at home. Everything else takes second place. It feels good. It’s got gasoline, man! It’s got a good engine,” says Mendoza of his love for the new opportunity that The Dead Daisies presented him with.

While the band has only been around for a few years, there is already a string of former members. From the outside it has looked like there’s been somewhat of a revolving door until former Dio and Whitesnake guitarist Doug Aldrich joined in 2016. “It started very casual. This business is very fickle. People who are working, who constantly work, who are pros, are the guys who fulfil their commitments. Because if you flake out on things, the word gets around and you have a reputation. You don’t want to do that.”

Marco Mendoza in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

“Now, the chemistry is there, Richard and Dizzy got busy with Guns N’ Roses. They got that call. We all get it,” explains Mendoza the impact the Guns N’ Roses reunion had on The Dead Daisies line-up. “We’re lucky that Doug was interested.” In addition to Mendoza, Lowy and Aldrich, the band currently consists of vocalist John Corabi (ex-Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Union) and drummer Brian Tichy (ex-Billy Idol, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake). It seems like a solid line-up with a bunch of professionals who get along on and off stage.

“Yeah, you can sense it. Even with the fans. It’s been well received and people dig it. We’re trying to find our thing. This next album that’s coming is going to define it even more, I think. We’re very happy with the line-up, we are very happy with the response, we’re happy with Ward Records and SPV. We’ve got killer management and we’ve got a killer social media team. It’s a family.”

The Dead Daisies now has no less than three former Whitesnake musicians in its line-up. David Coverdale and his Whitesnake has meant a lot to this band.

Marco Mendoza in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

“For me, it was definitely a highlight in my career working with David Coverdale. I’m only the bass player, but when you work with cats like that, that inspire you, that you’ve held up on a pedestal at some point in your career. And you finally end up working with them, they’re teachers. For me, I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned to be very meticulous, the image thing is very important, it is. I learned so much from him. The rehearsals, when things are not sounding right, let’s work it out. Find out why it’s not working out. OK, let’s fix it. Boom! He is very meticulous, which is why he is very successful. He started way back. Rock’n’roll royalty!”

Despite having a great time in Whitesnake, in 2005, Mendoza made the difficult choice to leave the band. “When I made a conscious decision to move forward, it was because David had reached a point in his career when he was taking pauses. I was just starting to move and I took it upon myself to say: ‘He’s going to take a year off, I have, let’s see, Ted Nugent’s calling, Thin Lizzy is calling, Neal Schon to do the Soul SirkUS thing, I’ve got Dolores here and I can’t sit around and wait and not knowing when the next thing is. I’m gonna waste another year or another two years.’ He wanted more of a commitment. He didn’t want his players to be moving around so much. I can’t do that.”

Years later, The Dead Daisies and Whitesnake happened to be working in the same studio complex and Marco Mendoza took the chance to say hi and asked Coverdale to take his new band out on tour as Whitesnake’s opening act. “It was a great tour for a lot of reasons, mainly because the established Whitesnake fan base was there. He opened the door for us that allowed us to become more established with that fan base. David was really happy with the combo. It was working well, the tickets were moving, there was a buzz. Then Richard left and we got Doug and then…. It’s like Whitesnake Light opening up for Whitesnake! Haha!” Three former Whitesnake musicians was one too many for an opening band on a Whitesnake tour. “But he was very cool, very supportive. I can’t thank him enough. He’s a great guy, David.”

Marco Mendoza of The Dead Daisies and Stefan Nilsson of Roppongi Rocks in Tokyo in July 2017.

Despite some great original material, The Dead Daisies frequently performs covers of rock classics. “The main reason we decided to do this was we had an album of songs that were good but nobody knew. So, we’re opening for Aerosmith and we’re like ‘Guys, we got to play some stuff here that kick some butt, that people recognise and let’s pepper our songs around the set.’ So, that’s what we did. We did some great stuff: some Faces, some Free. Now it’s become a tradition. The fans love it. And at the end of the day, Stefan, it’s about the show! It’s about the fans. Yes, we have a mission to play our own music, but you give them what they want. They have a good time and then they open their hearts and minds and then: here’s our stuff, guys.” So far they have stayed away from playing songs by any of the band members’ previous bands. “I think we are never gonna cross that bridge…unless we do! Never say never again. You never know. What I think we do with the covers is tipping our hat, giving credit, saying hello and thank you to the bands that we listened to growing up.”

While best known for his work in the hard rock genre, Mendoza also plays many other kinds of music. When time allows, he is working on other projects and continues to do session work. Despite a busy The Dead Daisies schedule, he still makes some time for other things, including fronting his own jazz fusion trio. “It’s fun when it happens. It’s very challenging for me to play with these cats. I gotta get ready and I love that. When I stop doing that, when I stop growing, it will be the beginning of the end of my career. I need to keep doing it.”

The Dead Daisies recently released a fab live album and they continue to tour in Europe, Asia, South and North America. Shortly after their Japan visit, they went to Poland for a special one-off gig with the Gorzów Philharmonic Orchestra. “That’s what’s cool about The Daisies: constantly moving, constantly embarking on new episodes, new chapters. Always trying to check things out,” says Mendoza with a massive smile on his face. He is so clearly enjoying himself.

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Interview: Paul Shortino’s unfinished business

Paul Shortino Band on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Unfinished business: The former Quiet Riot frontman Paul Shortino is still raiding the Vegas rock vault, has a King Kobra live album coming out, a new Rough Cutt studio album in the making and a great Japanese collaboration. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson recently sat down with Shortino in Tokyo to talk about his past and his future.

Paul Shortino in his hotel room in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

One of the nicest men in rock finishes our recent interview in Tokyo by giving me a big hug. That’s Paul Shortino in a nutshell. A great singer who has both the vocal abilities and the stage moves to pull off a great show. But also a decent chap full of love and gratitude.

Shortino is in a great mood as we sit down in his hotel room in Shinagawa in central Tokyo. He has taken a brief break from his Las Vegas show Raiding the Rock Vault to come and do some gigs in Japan with his all-Japanese Paul Shortino Band.

Shortino started to make a name for himself as the frontman for Rough Cutt, one of the many LA-bands that appeared in the early and mid-80s. Rough Cutt’s manager was Wendy Dio and her husband, Ronnie James Dio, also got involved in helping the band with some songwriting, production, promotion and guidance. Most crucially, he decided to include Shortino as one of the lead singers on the track “Stars” for the Hear ’N Aid charity project in 1985. This put Shortino next to not only Dio, but also rock stars such as Rob Halford of Judas Priest, Don Dokken and Kevin DuBrow of Quiet Riot. Shortino also landed a small role as Duke Fame in the cult movie “This is Spinal Tap!” Shortino eventually joined Quiet Riot (singing on the great “QR” album in 1988) and later Carmine Appice’s King Kobra, in addition to many solo things and other projects. In recent years his main project has been the very successful Las Vegas show Raiding the Rock Vault.

Paul Shortino on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Touring in Japan

Shortino has successfully been touring Japan in the 80s, twice with Rough Cutt and twice with Quiet Riot. He returned to Japan to perform with the Paul Shortino Band in 2016 and 2017. “It’s a pleasure to be here! I love it! I love this country. I love the fans, they’re nothing like anywhere in the world. They’re really loyal and just beautiful people,” says Shortino who has great memories of his Japan visits in the 80s. “When I was here, we also did a two-week tour for Charvel Guitars with Grover Jackson. We got to actually see more of the country, outside of the cities. We went to Mount Fuji and went to the hot springs. It was nice to see Japan outside of the cities. Because when you come here to tour, you perform in the cities and – boom! – you’re gone. This time we were actually able to see some of the beautiful cities and the countryside. It’s so beautiful here.”

Paul Shortino Band on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Leaving Rough Cutt to join Quiet Riot

Paul Shortino-fronted Rough Cutt, a great American band from Los Angeles, got a record deal with Warner and did well – including two successful Japan visits – but not quite as well as some of the other bands on the LA scene at the time. One issue was that they were waiting for their chosen producer to be available to record their debut album. “We waited so long that that window for that type of success that was going on in the 80s from Ratt, Dokken, Mötley… All those bands that at that time, they already had records out. Lovely Tipper Gore decided to put labelling on records. Our album didn’t sound anything like… Maybe the cover with the spider and the heart and the knife. For people like W.A.S.P. and bands like that, the more gory the album cover was, it didn’t matter if there was a sticker on it. They already had a following of fans and everything else.” When the debut album finally came out, “We were touring with Ronnie on the ‘Sacred Heart’ tour in the States,” explains Shortino who thinks the warning labels that were put on the band’s album covers put off some people. “It had a stamp on there that is was evil. It was far from that. So, timing is everything.”

Paul Shortino in his hotel room in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

When the band’s major break never happened, the record label dropped the band and Rough Cutt’s members went on to play with Dio, Ozzy Osbourne and Quiet Riot. “The last time Rough Cutt were here in 1986, we were touring and Quiet Riot were touring right behind us. They were touring Japan at the same time.” When Rough Cutt came home to the States following the Japan tour, Warner decided to drop the band and that is what opened up the possibility for Shortino to replace Kevin DuBrow in Quiet Riot.

“We went into the studio and started recording new songs to shop for a new label,” explains Shortino how Rough Cutt tried to deal with the situation. “I got to meet all the guys in Quiet Riot when we did the ‘Stars’ thing. We became very close during that and getting to know each other. For me it was like a dream come true to be in a room with Ted Nugent, Carmine Appice… Even now I’ve done a few projects with Carmine, but at the time, I idolised all of these guys. We got to know each other and then I was approached when we got back to the States because they had discrepancies with Kevin here in Japan. So when I got home, someone gave me a call and asked me if I would be interested in checking out Quiet Riot. Kevin’s voice was so much different than mine. He had big shoes to fill and he was a taller guy as well! Haha!! I checked it out.” Although he was in the studio with Rough Cutt at the time, he joined Quiet Riot and spent a year working on material with them for the “QR” album.

Spencer Proffer produced the 1988 “QR” album and he brought out the best in Shortino. “When I got to meet Spencer, I really enjoyed what he brought out of me. He was the first producer that really focused on vocals.” Shortino had previously recorded with producers Tom Allom and Jack Douglas during his time in Rough Cutt. “Tom Allom and Jack were really more focused on the production of the Rough Cutt stuff.”

The manager Wendy Dio was the one who suggested that Shortino should replace Kevin DuBrow in Quiet Riot. In 1987, Shortino joined Quiet Riot which then consisted of Frankie Banali, Carlos Cavazo and Chuck Wright. Wright left shortly thereafter and was replaced by Sean McNabbJimmy Waldo (Alcatrazz, New England) also joined.

Paul Shortino on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

“Wendy thought it would be a great move for me. However, it seemed like it was more business than it was…. They had a lot of stuff that was going on. I respect them to the utmost and I don’t have anything bad to say about any of that because it was a great experience for me. The one thing that I did miss was the companionship of Rough Cutt. We were a band. We went through hell and high water together. We were really tight friends and since I left that band, I’ve never experienced that feeling with any other projects. Even in the Quiet Riot thing, as we worked for a year on material at Jimmy Waldo’s house after I had said to Rough Cutt I’m gonna join Quiet Riot. It was like a year of us doing pre-production. Then we came and did Japan Aid. What was interesting about that show, we were working on new stuff, so I didn’t have any idea of the old stuff. Last minute, and Sean McNabb just got in the band, so I had all these lyrics for the songs on the stage and they put them in the wrong order. It was quite an experience. It was the first show that we did with Sean McNabb and myself and Frankie and Carlos. And James Brown was headlining that particular event. It was quite an experience! We went back home and then we worked on the record a little longer. I think we came out with a really good record.”

Rough Cutt is back at it

While Rough Cutt might not have made it back then, they are now giving it another go. “We’ve actually touched base again. We’ve written some songs. It kind of went full circle,” says Shortino. “It took a long time for us to come back. I did a King Kobra record with Carmine and all the original members except for Mark of course. After we did that record, Frontiers approached Rough Cutt to do a record. It wasn’t the right time so we didn’t do it. I did another record with King Kobra.” Shortino also has released albums with The Rhythm Junkies, Badd Boyz and Jeff Northrup (“An incredible songwriter he is. I was only supposed to do a few songs and we connected and I ended up doing the whole record with him.”)

Paul Shortino in his hotel room in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Rough Cutt is back with its classic mid-80s line-up and still with Wendy Dio as its manager. ”We’ve been writing songs and Wendy and the band want to do something. We’re thinking about calling the album ‘Unfinished Business’ because we did not finish what we started. It’s something that I think we all agree upon, that this is unfinished business. She was managing Rough Cutt, and of course her husband Ronnie. Ronnie was already established so she was able to take him on a solo project to a new height and level of his career and at the same time, she was trying to break Rough Cutt as a new act. So, it’s unfinished business for her. And because I stepped away from the band and now we have kind of connected again. It’s really neat to work together again but on a different level. I live in Vegas, they live in California. Now that we have studios and technology, we can send ideas to each other. It’s much easier to write songs than sitting in a studio. You know, everybody’s banging away stuff and you’re recording it on a Walkman or something. Then you go home and decipher it. Now it’s a little more focus to writing songs. We’ve written some really great songs. Right now, she’s actually been talking to a few labels and it’s a possibility that we will be coming out with another album. Next year. And we’re doing the Monsters of Rock cruise in February. That will be our first gig. We’re hoping to have something to go.”

Paul Shortino on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The Japanese Paul Shortino Band

For Shortino’s Japan gigs in 2016 and 2017, he has performed with a fantastic all-Japanese backing band band led by Jun Senoue (Crush 40) on guitar and keyboards and consisting of guitar wizard Nozomu Wakai (Destinia, Ronnie Romero, Mari Hamada), Shoyo (Cross Vein, Jupiter, Hizaki Grace Project, The Powernude) on bass, Louis Sesto (Blindman) on drums and Shigeki Fujii (Slangrade) on vocals. “What’s really cool about working with the guys here in Japan, it’s taking me back to be able to do some stuff through my whole career. They are very talented and very humble guys. I’m honoured to be on stage with them as well. Mr. Fujii, he will be singing ‘Stars’ with me. I actually asked him to come out and sing some of the lines. I just don’t want him to be in the background. He’s such a good singer. It’s enough room on the stage to share. I’m honoured that he is involved. Louis and Jun, I did a thing with Jun when I left Quiet Riot. I did a thing called ‘Sonic Adventure’ and did the ‘E.G.G.M.A.N.’ That’s how I met Jun. I didn’t know this until I was here last year, that they were at the Sun Plaza and they saw me with Quiet Riot. Those two guys. It was their dream to all of us play together. Which was something they shared with me the last time I was here. It’s like a dream come true to come back to this country, because this is far away for a lot of people. I’m really honoured to be back here,” explains Shortino. “And I’ve been talking to the guys here in Japan that I would love to do an EP. I would love to record with them. That’s something that we’re discussing. Nothing is solid yet.”

Appice drum bros and King Kobra

Ever since Shortino performed with drummer brothers Carmine Appice (Ozzy Osbourne, King Kobra,Ted Nugent, Vanilla Fudge, CactusBlue Murder, Rod Stewart) and Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio, Heaven & Hell), their careers have crossed paths here and there. Carmine plays with Shortino in King Kobra and the brothers also have a new album coming out which Shortino is involved with. Since Shortino joined King Kobra in 2010, they have released two studio albums and done some touring. “We have a live album coming out. We only just did a few dates last year. We might be doing another record. I just did some songs for Carmine and Vinny, they have a record coming out together. I have a studio and Joel Hoekstra from Whitesnake sent me a song. A few songs I wrote with them. We recorded a song for the album and it was recorded for Ronnie. It’s called ‘Monsters and Heroes’. It was supposed to go out for a compilation album for Ronnie’s cancer fund Stand Up and Shout. I took some of Ronnie’s famous lyrics with my lyrics and told a story about Ronnie. The first line was ‘Sing me a song, you’re the singer. You’re the man on the mountain who rocked the world with his songs’. Now that song is going on their album. The song is finally coming out and I’m really glad.” The Appice brothers’ album “Sinister” is scheduled for release on 27th October via SPV/Steamhammer.

Paul Shortino on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Raiding the Rock Vault

While Shortino has been busy in recent years with various bands and projects, his main gig has been with the successful Las Vegas show Raiding the Rock Vault. “I also want to try bringing ‘Rock Vault’ over here. To bring some of the classic rock guys that are in the show over here and bring the show over here. Maybe a week, or ten days, in Tokyo and Osaka and Nagoya, so people can see it. It’s an amazing show, it really is. It’s the history of rock from the 60s to 1989 and then grunge took over. There are 38 songs in the show. There is a lot of costume changes, because we kind of want to be with the time period. It started out really focused on that and it’s changed. The show was two and a half hours when it started. No shows in Vegas go that long. They go 90 minutes, because corporates are thinking about how much they are losing when people are watching a show. So, we went and cut it down. Now it’s down to 90 minutes. There was acting before, now there is just dancing and music.” The show has been housed at a few different hotels in Vegas and is currently at the Hard Rock.

Paul Shortino in his hotel room in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

“We have Robin McAuley from MSG and Survivor, and Mark Boals, who was with Yngwie and have done stuff with Dokken, and myself, and then also a new young lad who is working with Vinny and Vivian Campbell and the late Jimmy Bain, Andrew Freeman. They have a project called Last In Line. They have a great record. Great singer as well. We have a few girls that come in. We had Stephanie Calvert from Starship, now we have Cian Coey who’s been working with Dweezil Zappa and also Meat Loaf. She’s a power house. And a local girl who comes in, Lily Arce, and she does other Vegas shows. We’re the only rock show with real rock stars. Paul Dexter, who did a lot of stuff for Ronnie, the ‘Sacred Heart’ stuff, all of that stuff. He’s designed the set.”

 

Part of Rock Vault’s success, in addition to that it features real rock stars, is that it is an all-ages show. “So, young people they’re learning about classic rock. It is something that is cool for the new generation because there is so much history in that time period. The music today is not like it was yesterday, you know? I mean, I like some of the stuff that is out there and some of the new bands, but it’s not like the old days.”

Paul Shortino on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

64 and still got it

Shortino is now 64 years old but, unlike some other singers of his generation, he still has a golden voice. “I’m so grateful to God and the universe for giving me my voice. I don’t have some of the range that I used to, but my voice is better than it’s ever been. I listen to some of the old Rough Cutt stuff, even Quiet Riot stuff, and I sing it differently now. You become more seasoned. Instead of showing off everything you can do… When we started to put this set together, listening to some of the stuff I did back then, ‘How in the heck am I gonna sing that now?’ Haha!! So there are some things that I don’t do the same, only because I would have done it differently because I’m older now and I’m more seasoned. Some of the stuff I did was overkill. You just kind of get in the studio and ‘I want everybody to hear what I can do’, you know? I don’t play over the solo in “The Night Cries Out (For You)” even with Rough Cutt. I let the guitar player have it. You learn through time.”

Love and gratitude

Love and gratitude are nowadays at the centre of Shortino’s daily life. It is very obvious that he is so grateful for being able to live the life he lives. He’s a world-class performer who loves doing what he does. “We take so much for granted as people on the planet that we get lost in our own little world. The more grateful I am for things, my health gets better. My voice gets better because I am so grateful that I can still sing, that I have been given a gift. I’m really grateful for that. I’m sorry, I’m a little emotional. It means a lot to me to share this. The world needs to know how love can change everything. Because there is so much hate in the world right now. It breaks my heart to see. Mankind could do better for others,” says a teary-eyed Shortino. “I don’t believe in religion. I was raised a Catholic, but I don’t believe in religion. I think that religion is something that wants to control people, political things. I believe in spirituality. It’s been a great journey for me. I am getting a second chance at life, in my career, everything in life. It’s been a magical journey. I feel for all my other rock guys, who are struggling with addiction. I pray for all of them, because they could find true happiness. Maybe I am supposed to share the things that have changed my life that could maybe change others’, you know? A movement of love and gratitude. I live by that every day.”

Ladies and gentlemen: Paul Shortino! The real deal. Great voice, great guy.

Paul Shortino in his hotel room in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

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Interview | Treat: “We’re not a jukebox band!”

Treat posing in Tokyo in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

When Swedish melodic hard rockers Treat recently toured Japan for a third time, Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson met the band for a chat about the balance between being a nostalgia act versus creating new music.

Melodic hard rockers Treat had their heyday in the 1980s, releasing their debut album “Scratch and Bite” in 1985. Quickly becoming a name in their native Sweden, they were invited to open for W.A.S.P. during their first tour of Sweden in 1984 and did the same for Queen and Gary Moore in 1986. The band then made an international impact when they had some airplay on MTV of the video for “World of Promises” and were invited to play the Monsters of Rock tour in Germany in 1988 with the likes of Iron Maiden, KISS and David Lee Roth.

In 1990 they toured Japan for the first time, but shortly thereafter melodic hard rock was no longer flavour of the month. Vocalist Robert “Robban” Ernlund left the band. He was replaced by former Swedish Erotica and future Yngwie Malmsteen and Candlemass vocalist Mats Levén. With Levén, the band put out a great record but commercially it didn’t make much of an impact and the band soon thereafter called it quits.

In 2006, in conjunction with the greatest hits album “Weapons of Choice” being released, the band reformed and has since put out two great records of melodic hard rock, 2010’s “Coup de Grace” and 2016’s “Ghost of Graceland”. In January 2015 they finally returned to Japan for a few gigs as special guests of fellow Swedish rockers Europe. That laid the groundwork for their recent return for two great gigs in Japan in 2017.

The current line-up of the band is the same as they had in the late 80s: Anders “Gary” Wikström on guitar, Robert “Robban” Ernlund on vocals, Jamie “Jompa” Borger on drums and Patrick Appelgren on keyboards. Having used a couple of different bassists, last year they recruited Pontus Egberg as a permanent member. He is also a member of King Diamond and Kryptonite and was previously in The Poodles, Zan Clan and Lion’s Share. As I watch Treat perform live the day after the interview, it is obvious that Egberg brings this to a whole new level. He’s a rock-solid bassist who also knows how to perform on stage.

Pontus Egberg of Treat posing in Tokyo in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

“Earlier I played in The Poodles and we toured together, The Poodles and Treat, around 2010,” explains Egberg. “Thus, we know each other from then and earlier too. When it was time to make a new album, ‘Ghost of Graceland’, I got a call from Mr. Wikström who wondered if I could help them by playing bass on the album. And that’s how I joined. Since then we’ve been out playing a bit in Europe and at home in Sweden too. It’s worked great so far.”

The loyal fan base in Japan is still there. In Japan, Treat’s albums have been licensed by local record company King Records. “It’s an important market for all artists,” says Patrick Appelgren. “That’s how it is. It’s very different from the European and American markets. Here you still sell physical albums.”

Band leader Anders “Gary” Wikström continues: “The Japanese fans had waited a long time for us to come back and play. Yes, there was an audience for us here. We didn’t really know if the audience still existed, but they were here and then it is up to us to nurture that audience. We need to come here more often and follow up properly. To come here and play is something we obviously like to do. It’s hard to beat the impressions we get when we come here.”

Treat posing in Tokyo in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

So why did the band decide to reunite in 2006? “Anders and I sat in car on our way to Sweden Rock,” says Jamie Borger. “Yes, we were going to check out Mötley Crüe,” adds Wikström. “I thought that we could have another go with this band. It’s fun. All of us had continued with music so it wasn’t impossible,” says Borger who during Treat’s hiatus played with Talisman. “It was quite simple to get everything to work again music wise. When we all got together in the rehearsal studio it really clicked once again.”

Jamie “Jompa” Borger of Treat posing in Tokyo in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Robert Ernlund continues: “I didn’t realise there was still any interest in Treat. But we had fan clubs all over the place. What? Still? Unbelievable! When we got touring in Europe and played a song from ‘Organized Crime’, everyone was singing along. Shit!”

Having fun has always been at the centre of how Treat operates. “When we started to work on the greatest hits album it was kind of a test,” explains Appelgren. “That’s when we realised it was fun to play together and be around each other again. That resulted in us doing a new album and then one more album. If it wasn’t fun…” Wikström continues: “In the 80s we had pressure on us to tour to promote an album. Today it is all about performing, connecting with fans. That’s a goal in itself. That’s a big difference. That’s why it is important that we’re having fun. Otherwise there won’t be any music.”

Treat is a band with experienced musicians who keep themselves rather busy not only with Treat but also with working with other artists as producers, sound engineers and musicians. Thus, Treat rehearsals are few and far between. “We rehearse when we have something specific coming up,” says Wikström. “You sort of have to trust that everybody is rehearsing on their own. It’s not like when we played with the band full-time. Then we met in the rehearsal room to have something to do. Today we’re so busy that we have to schedule things properly.” Appelgren adds: “We’re experienced. When we were 20, we lived in the rehearsal room.” Egberg continues: “As everyone has so many other things going on, it’s a necessity that everyone deals with this professionally and that they have done their homework when we meet up for rehearsals. Otherwise it would never work.”

Anders “Gary” Wikström of Treat posing in Tokyo in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

In 2013, after a great reunion album and some successful touring, the band took a bit of a break. “We were actually a bit unsure if we were going to continue,” explains Wikström. “Should we or shouldn’t we? Unlike many other acts, we never did a farewell tour. For us it’s a lot about inspiration when we make music. We are not a jukebox band! We don’t just tour and play old songs from the past. I don’t think that is justifiable, Treat without any new music to showcase. We want to show people that we are active. Music comes first, then playing, then touring. That’s the order it has to be in. We can’t just fall back on our old songs. I love playing songs we did 30 years ago that people still like. It’s fantastic. But it can’t be just that. Whenever we have added newer songs in our set list, we’ve had stronger and better gigs. Many people have told us that we are one of the very few bands whose new songs are as good, or even better, than back in the day.”

With a back catalogue consisting of seven full-length albums, Treat has plenty of great songs to choose from. “It’s hard,” says Wikström. “But it sort of leaves many wanting more which is an advantage.” One way of dealing with this dilemma is to play medleys, such as the “Dreamhunter” medley they performed on the Japan tour. “We have to do it that way,” says Wikström.

The response to the newer songs has been great at the live shows. “When we play some of the old hits, we get a nostalgic reaction from the audience, but the newer songs have really worked well,” explains Egberg. Ernlund continues: “They’ve been growing on people. Take the ‘Coup de Grace’ album, it’s really grown on people and properly landed. The new album too, slowly but steadily. The more we play the more they have become part of the Treat catalogue.” Borger adds: “These gigs that we are doing now, we kick off with three new songs in a row, before we look at the back catalogue. We’ve planted them there to show that we actually have great new songs that we can play. It feels great, they’re great songs and that’s why we start with them.”

Patrick Appelgren of Treat posing in Tokyo in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

How does the band create new music? “The engine is Anders and the rest of us contribute our own things. All of us have some unique abilities and that’s how we try to get the best out of all of us,” explains Appelgren. Ernlund continues: “With this record, ‘Ghost of Graceland’, we were in a situation where we had to ask ourselves if we should continue or not. Then one day Gary calls and says he has ten songs. Oh, OK! Then we worked on it from there.”

“In the end it is the personal touch which all of us put into the music,” says Wikström. “That is very important for how any band is defined as a band. I understand that very well from my work as a music producer. Nowadays it is very easy to create music on your own and then call it a band or a project or whatever. That’s how many are doing things now. That’s why it is even more important for us to use a proper studio where we meet up. It is a kind of a pep talk for ourselves: now we’re making a record, laying down the drum tracks with everybody there together. Even if we don’t record the entire album there and then, it serves as a morale boost by getting everyone focused on working together. That’s how you have to do it in order to catch the feeling we had when we recorded albums in the 80s when there were big budgets to make albums, when you went away abroad for two months with the whole band staying at a hotel. You can forget about that nowadays as there is no budget for such things. But one can recreate that feeling a bit by meeting up and do things together.”

How does Treat create new music but stay within what is expected from the classic Treat sound? “It sort of happens naturally,” says Appelgren. “It depends a lot on the musical arrangements. How I play my keyboards, what Jompa does with his drums, how Robban sings. It’s the way it all interacts, that’s what makes it Treat.”

Wikström elaborates on Treat’s creative process: “It’s kind of brutal. If I have a couple of song ideas in my back pocket that I show the rest of the band, it is very clear if it doesn’t fit. Then those ideas won’t make it. That’s how it is. If people don’t get turned on by the song idea, then I just put them to the side. Somehow we all feel what kind of things can be worked on together to arrive at our finished songs. I also think about this technically: writing things that will fit well with Robban’s singing. It has to fit or it won’t be much fun because his voice will front this. The vocals are a key component in our songwriting.”

Robert “Robban” Ernlund of Treat posing in Tokyo in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

A live DVD, “The Road More or Less Traveled”, recorded at the record company Frontiers Music’s own festival in Italy last year, was released earlier this year.

“There have been big gaps between the albums. We get punished for that. We need to make more frequent releases to keep things cooking,” says Wikström.

Treat’s summer is filled with festivals and gigs in Europe. “I will also try to sit down during the summer to start work on a new album,” says Wikström. “I’m at least going to start so that we have a chance of getting the new album released during next year.”

Treat posing in Tokyo in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

They have an existing record deal with Frontiers Music for the next album too. “They love what we do!” says Wikström and Egberg continues: “They almost have a monopoly when it comes to melodic hard rock nowadays.” Appelgren adds: “They’re an indie label which is almost a major in this category. It is a bit of a monopoly but they have really succeeded. They have really managed to attract bigger artists away from the majors.”

While Frontiers has its own festival, they don’t seem to have moved into producing tour packages, despite their extensive artist roster. “It is almost surprising that they haven’t done that, taking a couple of acts and get them on the road on a tour together. It should be a good business idea for them,” says Egberg.

During their third Japan tour, Treat shows us that they are better than ever. Their newer material is great and with the addition of Pontus Egberg on the bass and back-up vocals they have got a heavy vitamin injection. This is definitely no mere nostalgia act.

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Interview | Krisiun drummer Max Kolesne | “Speed and brutality is something natural for us”

Max Kolesne of Krisiun backstage in Tokyo, Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

When Brazilian extreme metal band Krisiun recently returned to Japan, Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson sat down with drummer Max Kolesne for a backstage chat before their Tokyo show.

Formed in Brazil in 1990, Krisiun released its debut album, “Black Force Domain”, in 1995 and has been a hard touring band for the past couple of decades. They are currently touring in support of their latest album, 2015’s fabulous “Forged in Fury”. Krisiun consists of three brothers: Alex Camargo on vocals and bass, Moyses Kolesne on guitar and Max Kolesne on drums.

“It’s a pleasure and honour to be back. It’s our third time. We were here in 2002 and then 2014, three years ago now,” says Max Kolesne as we sit down in the band’s dressing room before their Tokyo gig.

You are three brothers in the band. Have you ever faced any issues in the band where being family has complicated things? “I think it is a really good thing. We’re not just brothers, but we are best friends. Every time we might have some argument, some stupid fights here and there, it just takes a few minutes to be friends again. We never really fight against each other. We also say the truth to each other, right in the face. We are best friends so we never have this issue to get to the point where someone would say: ‘Man, I wanna leave’ or whatever. We always stay together, very united. Especially nowadays when we’re older, more mature. We enjoy more to be on the road and just spending time together.”

Max Kolesne of Krisiun backstage in Tokyo, Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Krisiun seems to be touring all the time. 27 years after the band started, they are touring as much as ever. “Yeah. Real touring started in ’97. We started the band in the beginning of the ‘90s, but it took some time for us to start touring a lot, like in Europe, the States and South America. 1997 was the first tour we did in Europe. From that point on we’ve been touring every year.”

In order to cope with the tough schedule and to get time to produce studio albums as well, Krisiun takes time off from the road once in a while. “When it’s time to start writing music and get focused, we take some time apart from touring. We have two more tours in Europe, after this one. Two summer tours, one in June, the other one in July. Then we‘re gonna have a break from touring just to get focused on new songs, start writing songs for the next album. We always do it like that. Of course, even during touring we have ideas, especially Moyses is always writing riffs and recording riffs. But when we get to this point, we have to get together and put the stuff together, start building the bones of the songs. That’s when we take some time from touring.”

Krisiun on stage in Tokyo, Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Your style of death metal is very fast. Do you feel that when you write new music you have to fit in with the past and what is expected of you? Or do you just write good music? “It’s more about writing good music. Every time is different. When we were writing the latest one, ‘Forged in Fury’, we just followed our feelings. We wanted to do something, let’s say, not so fast. More like a natural writing process. Playing songs and having a good time. Playing songs that make you feel like banging your head and enjoying the music. Speed and brutality is something natural for us. It’s always gonna be there. Every album is going to be a little bit different. Like ‘The Great Execution’ I’d say it’s more like…more epic than ‘Forged in Fury’. ‘Forged in Fury’ is maybe more old school, more diverse, a little slower. There are more slower parts, more diversity. For the next one we are already thinking about it being faster and more brutal. It’s just natural. We just follow the flow, the natural flow. We are already thinking like this: the next one is going to be more explosive, more brutal, faster.”

Max Kolesne of Krisiun on stage in Tokyo, Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Krisiun is a riff-heavy band – but you’ve only had one guitarist for most of your career. Did you ever consider replacing Altemir Souza (who left the band in 1992) and Mauricio Nogueira (who left in 1994)? “No, I think we are good like this, man. Especially if you listen to ‘Forged in Fury’, the bass guitar is really loud in the mix, so I don’t feel like we’re missing one guitar. The chemistry between us three is great. We’ve been playing together for so long it would be weird to have somebody else in the band right now at this point. I think we should just stay like this.”

I understand that you are currently working on the follow-up to your latest album, 2015’s “Forged in Fury”. When will the next album be released? “It’s hard to say right now. But we’re not gonna take too long to finish the writing process. Maybe in the beginning of the next year, maybe after March. For sure it is going to be before June or July.”

Will it be produced by Morbid Angel legend Erik Rutan (Belphegor, Cannibal Corpse, Goatwhore) again? “We don’t know yet. We’re still thinking about it. He’s the first option, I guess, but we still have to think more.”

Max Kolesne of Krisiun backstage in Tokyo, Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Just before coming to Japan, you were stopped by the authorities from performing at a sold-out show in Bangladesh. You were also detained at the airport and denied entry. Has this kind of extraordinary thing happened to Krisiun in other places in the world? “Not like that, man. I think that the worst experience we have ever had was in Bangladesh. I feel sorry for those guys, the metalheads that live there. They have to live under the shadow of all this extremism, religious bullshit, whatever. I feel sorry for those guys. We talked to some of the metalheads, like the promoter and the other guys. People like us. They like the same kind of music, they like to have fun, they like to have friends. They are open-minded people. But unfortunately, in their country, I think 80 percent of the people living there, they are not open minded like they are, like we are. It’s kind of complicated. Hopefully, one day all this shit is going to change, but it’s hard because people are going more crazy nowadays. They wanna conquer the world. It’s really fucked up at this point. We’ve never had a problem like that. One time we had one show cancelled in the States, just right by the border of Mexico. The city was Corpus Christi in Texas. A lot of religious people and politicians, people there were like: ‘This is not gonna happen!’ It was us and Angelcorpse in, I don’t remember, 2002 or 2003. Unfortunately we had to cancel the show because of religion and politics again.”

This has been your third successful visit to Japan. Will you be back soon? “I hope so. If it was our choice, we would come here at least every two years, at least. It’s kind of hard to bring us from Brazil all the way to here. It’s very expensive so we always have to set up some kind of tour, try to book shows maybe in Australia or more shows in Asia, Right now, on this tour it is the first time we play in countries like Indonesia and Singapore, which was really good and really nice people and the crowds and the promoters. Everything went really smooth and nice. Probably for next time, it’s gonna be like this tour. We are gonna set up some kind of tour of Asia. It’s gonna be easier for promoters to bring us all the way from Brazil.”

Krisiun always seems to be part of very cool tour packages. How do you decide on what bands you tour with? Is it coincidences or do plan carefully who you tour with? “Luckily, especially in Europe and North America, we have a good agent. They have good bands in their agencies too, that’s how it goes. We have to have a good package to tour, especially in North America and Europe, because so many bands, so many tours are happening at the same time. If you go alone, by yourself, it’s kind of hard. Not just for us, but for all bands. Even bigger bands, they need a strong package. For us, touring with NervoChaos is such a pleasure. We are friends for so long, for more than 20 years. It’s a good time. We always have a good time and laughing and talk shit all the time.”

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