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.


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.

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.

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

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.

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.”

Interview: Edu Lane of NervoChaos talks about censorship and metal’s fight for freedom

Edu Lane of NervoChaos backstage in Tokyo in May 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Censorship reared its ugly head in Bangladesh recently when extreme metal bands NervoChaos and Krisiun from Brazil were stopped from performing at an already sold-out show. When the bands shortly thereafter turned up in Japan, Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson sat down with NervoChaos’ bandleader Edu Lane backstage before their gig in Tokyo.

Founded in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1996, Brazilian extreme metal band NervoChaos recently recorded its latest and seventh studio album in Como, Italy at the Alpha Omega Studio. “Nyctophilia” was released in April and the band is now on a massive world tour to back up the album.

NervoChaos on stage in Tokyo in May 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

They play raw extreme metal and with the addition of Cherry Sickbeat on guitar, the band’s sound has got a slightly punky hardcore edge to it which makes it stand out. “I would say extreme music” says Edu Lane when asked to describe the band’s music. “It gets it all. I don’t like to say death metal or thrash metal because it is kind of limited for what we do. We have some black metal-ish, and death and thrash and hardcore. We do what we like and for the people that we like. We don’t think about this or that crowd. We have just a feeling, just a passion.”

NervoChaos not only saw their sold-out show in Bangladesh cancelled by the authorities, they were also detained at the airport without explanation when they arrived in the country. “We were invited to play Bangladesh. As Brazilians we need visas. So we went to the Bangladesh embassy in Brazil, we got our visas, everything was working fine so far. The promoter was working on promotion. Ticket sales were very good. People were travelling from Nepal, India, from different places to the show. We arrived at the airport around one in the morning. We did the usual immigration deal, you know. I was let in. They stamped my passport and I went to the belt to get the cases.” Then things went from normal to bizarre as all the members of NervoChaos and Krisiun were suddenly stopped and retained in a small room, had their passports taken away and no information provided about what was going on. “Luckily I have a friend, a very good friend of mine who went to school with me. He’s the ambassador of Brazil. I called him,” explains Edu. After some 11 or 12 hours they were eventually released. “Only because I called the ambassador and he called people in the Bangladesh government. The ambassador told me they were going to arrest us and send us to jail. Just because we look different. We couldn’t believe it. We were shocked. We were not provoking or insulting their culture or anything. We thought: we have visas, the kids are there, the promoter is doing a proper job. It’s an amazing thing in 2017 to still have such a country. I feel bad for the kids there. Now they are fighting for their rights, they’re rioting. They are trying to do something which we support. It is freedom,” explains Edu about his feelings about the sad situation.

Edu Lane of NervoChaos backstage in Tokyo in May 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

As a result of the Bangladesh situation, NervoChaos cancelled a few dates on its Asian tour as they worried about more trouble. “We decided that, after the Bangladesh experience, it is better not to risk it. We do it for the passion. We don’t want to fucking die or go to jail because of that. We want to fight for freedom and metal is a big thing worldwide. Hopefully those kids in Bangladesh will get a better treatment and a little bit of freedom.”

Edu continues: “We don’t know what happened. What’s normal for us, seems not normal for them. Long hair, tattoos, black shirts, you know? Not even pentagrams or something like that. I am not sure if they checked the lyrics or even went that deep on the search. I think they just looked at us and said: ‘Nah!’”

NervoChaos has a partly new line-up, with Edu the only remaining original member. Notably Cherry Sickbeat (of Hellsakura fame) has added a dimension to the band with her guitar playing. The new line-up – consisting of Edu and Cherry plus Thiago Anduscias on bass and Lauro Nightrealm on vocals and guitar – seems to have had an impact on the band’s sound. “I think so. We’re trying to evolve as a band, always. I think that new members always bring their own baggage, their own touch, which is good. I try to keep our sound the same but evolving. Not being static, not even moving. I think they brought a new sauce to it. I think it is very good. They’re experienced and I think it is working fine. I hope it lasts!”

With a new line-up and an evolved sound – do you concentrate on the newer songs when you play live or do you still play a lot of the old material? “In the set list we have more songs from the new album, like three or four. But we do play songs from each of the albums we have. We don’t have a long set time, so it’s kind of hard to squeeze everything – we have seven albums now! Tonight we have 40-45 minutes, so I think we can do it properly. Usually we try to play at least one song from each album and focusing on the newer stuff.”

Edu Lane of NervoChaos backstage in Tokyo in May 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

While NervoChaos has been a hard-touring band for two decades, the recent Tokyo gig actually was the band’s first-ever gig in Japan. “Yes, it is the first time. We were supposed to play in Japan two years ago, but we had visa problems, so we couldn’t make it. We did the Asia tour without Japan. But this time we managed properly with the visas and stuff.”

The tour package bringing together Krisiun and NervoChaos has proven a popular one. “It is a good package. For us it is an honour to be touring with them. We did this package in Latin America together with them and that’s how the Asian promoters kind of asked for the package over here. That’s why we’re here. We’re friends for, I don’t know, 25 years. It’s an honour for us to be sharing a stage every night with those guys. I think it is a good combination. They have the more extreme, brutal kind of death metal and we play more the traditional, old-school metal.”

Edu Lane is a busy man. In addition to leading NervoChaos as its drummer and founder for the past two decades, he is also the newly appointed Latin American representative of Alpha Omega, the international music management company which operates in partnership with EMP Label Group, a company led by Megadeth’s David Ellefson. “It’s very new. We were recording the new album in Italy and that’s how I got the invitation to start working with them. I am doing the Latin American territory but I am not limited to it. I just booked a European tour for Ratos de Porão.”

Latin America is a strong market for many metal acts but it is also a territory where it is difficult to do business for artists from other parts of the world. “It’s kind of hard if you go down there with the wrong people. I don’t want to see the bands that I like and that are friends getting screwed, you know?” explains Edu on what he and Alpha Omega bring to the table. The Alpha Omega-EMP tie-up has so far been a successful one. “That’s why I joined them. I like the idea and the concept of Alpha Omega: a big network of experienced people working and trying to help each other.”

Last year, NervoChaos celebrated its 20th anniversary with a limited edition box and followed that with the latest studio album in April this year. What’s next for the band? “Lots of touring hopefully. After this we’re gonna do a big Brazilian tour, around 65 dates. From there we’ll go to Europe, probably around 60 to 70 dates in Europe. Then it’s gonna be the end of the year already. Next year we plan to a lot as well. I think two years is a good amount of time to tour and to promote an album. We want to release a studio album every two years.”

Edu Lane of NervoChaos backstage in Tokyo in May 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Relentless touring around the world is at the centre of NervoChaos’ business model. “That’s the only way to survive for us. Because if we don’t do enough shows, we have to go back to regular jobs. Then it is a nightmare, doing double shifts and stuff. So we try to play as much as we can so that we can live out of the band and fully concentrate on our music and dedicate us to our passion.”

Following our chat, NervoChaos puts on a great show for its Japanese fans. As I leave the gig, Edu stops me and says “Keep the flame burning!” Indeed. He’s a man full of passion for metal and its fans. Certain authorities may throw some speed bumps on the road once in a while, but they can’t stop NervoChaos and its fans.

Interview: Paul Shortino talks about his upcoming Japan shows

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Paul Shortino returns to Japan with a show packed with Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot and King Kobra material.

He made a name for himself with Jake E. Lee in Rough Cutt. He also sang with the Hear ‘n Aid project alongside Ronnie James Dio and Rob Halford before he fronted Quiet Riot and later King Kobra. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson had a chat with American vocalist Paul Shortino ahead of his two Japan gigs on 21st-22nd June.

What can the Japanese fans expect from your upcoming Paul Shortino Band shows in Japan? “The fans can expect a high energy show with lots of fun and great musicianship. I’m so honoured to perform with such talented and humble musicians. Great line-up with Jun Senoue on guitar and keys, Nozomu Wakai on guitar, Shoyo on bass, Louis Sesto on drums and Shigeki Fujii on background vocals.”

Will it be a set list that spans your entire career? “The set list will be songs from the two Rough Cutt records, the Quiet Riot record I recorded and some songs from earlier Quiet Riot to pay tribute to Kevin DuBrow. We will also be doing songs from King Kobra and ‘Back On Track’. I will perform a duet with Shigeki Fujii, doing “Stars” from Hear ‘n Aid, a tribute to Ronnie James Dio.”

The Paul Shortino Band consists of Japanese musicians. How did this band come together? “My wife Carmen was contacted for me to do a symposium and live performance in Nagoya. Jun put the band together. I had worked with Jun Senoue on the Sega game ‘Sonic Adventure’ and recorded the song ‘Dr. Eggman’. I believe Louis Sesto had a lot to do with this. This band is so amazing. We are planning to do some recording and future shows.”

In the 80s, you fronted a Quiet Riot line-up that while it didn’t have any original members, it featured some serious pedigree and skill in Frankie Banali, Sean McNabb, Carlos Cavazo and Jimmy Waldo. What do you most remember from your time with Quiet Riot? “That was a great band. It’s too bad we didn’t do another record. We spent a year working together on the ‘QR’ record. We all got really close working everyday together. We toured South America and Japan and then the band came to a halt. I only wish we would have toured more and would have done another record. However, the band got derailed somewhere along the way and we parted ways.”

You have performed in Japan before, including with Quiet Riot in 1989. What’s your best memory from Japan? “In 1989 Quiet Riot did a promotional tour with Grover Jackson and Charvel guitars. Then we performed in Osaka and Nagoya and three days at the Sun Plaza in Tokyo, where we filmed the shows that later came out on a DVD. That whole experience in Japan was amazing! Seeing Japan outside of touring and performing. Playing to the fans, then experiencing Mount Fuji was beyond words. Big love for the Japanese people and culture.”

You’ve played with several major acts during your career and also had a prominent role in the Hear ‘n Aid project. What’s your career highlight so far? “I feel super blessed to be able to do what I love to do all my life. I know nothing else, except the song in my heart. So, really every aspect of my career has been a true blessing and highlight. I will say that I was very honoured to be a part of ‘Stars’ with everyone involved and the late great Ronnie James Dio. ‘Spinal Tap’ was pretty cool and followed me throughout my career. Haha!”

You appear in the cult move “This Is Spinal Tap!” How did you end up acting in this movie? “Well the way this came about, Rough Cutt was performing, Jake E. Lee was in the band, at the Troubadour, located in Hollywood. The band ran an ad in a local newspaper that we were performing at the Troubadour. The casting crew for ‘This Is Spinal Tap!’ saw the ad and asked Jake, Dave and myself to meet with Rob Reiner. I showed up first dressed in my white leather. Mr. Reiner and wardrobe said ‘We have Duke Fame. No need to interview anyone else!’”

After Japan, what’s next for you? Are you now mainly busy with the Raiding the Rock Vault show in Las Vegas? “Raiding the Rock Vault is an amazing show! I love doing it and will continue to perform in it five nights a week! I am also working with my Rough Cutt band mates, rekindling our relationship, writing songs and hoping to release another CD next year. I am hoping the Paul Shortino Band will be putting out some material of our own in the near future too, and touring with Paul Shortino Band would be fantastic! The difference with Paul Shortino Band is that I get to perform all of the parts of my musical career. It’s a win for my fans and myself. Big love and see you in Japan very soon!“

Paul Shortino Band will perform in Osaka on 21st June and Tokyo on 22nd June.



Interview: Dirk Verbeuren reflects on his first year in Megadeth

Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Megadeth are better than ever and new drummer Dirk Verbeuren has certainly been a great addition for the band. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson met up with Dirk backstage at a recent Megadeth/Anthrax show in Tokyo to talk about the former Soilwork drummer’s first year in Megadeth.

Megadeth has had quite a few terrific drummers in the band’s long career. In 2016, they recruited then Soilwork member Dirk Verbeuren as its new drummer to complement the fantastic line-up of Dave Mustaine, David Ellefson and Kiko Loureiro. Originally it was a fill-in gig as live drummer on part of the “Dystopia” world tour. But after a few months, Dirk was offered a permanent place in the band. A year after Dirk joining Megadeth it is obvious that the Belgian-born and US-based drummer gels very well with the band and has lifted them a level or two.

“It’s been a lot of fun! It’s been, obviously, an unexpected change but a great experience. Like many people who are in this kind of music, I grew up listening to Megadeth, so now to be a part of Megadeth is still kind of unreal at times! Sometimes I’m on stage and I am like: ‘This is really happening!’ Hahaha!” says a very happy Dirk Verbeuren as we meet backstage in Tokyo before Megadeth and Anthrax rock the sold-out venue.

Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Megadeth’s fans seem to have warmly welcomed Dirk without any of the drama that many other metal bands face when they replace some members. “They’ve definitely been very kind to me, they’ve embraced me. The shoes to fill are big, you know what I mean? People like Gar Samuelson, Nick Menza… Even all the other drummers that played in the band, like Jimmy DeGrasso, Shawn Drover, Chris Adler from Lamb of God who recommended me to the band. Those are all top notch people, so it’s… Yeah, I’m doing my best! Haha!”

Stepping into a legendary band with a vast back catalogue of fantastic songs originally played by some rather fabulous musicians can’t be the easiest task. Do you try to copy the original drumming on the classic Megadeth songs or add your own style to the songs when you perform?

“Well, here’s the thing: the goal for me and what the band expects from me, is to be as true to the songs as I can. It’s a song by song case. Sometimes even a section by section case where I try to figure out what I can do, maybe what I would do, maybe what I can do differently. In other parts I am sticking to the original, pure and simple. A lot of the flair comes from the way one person plays compared to the next. And I play the way I play. I can’t sound like… Even though my groove is kind of similar to Nick Menza’s in a way. I grew up listening to a lot of his stuff too, so it probably kind of influenced me in that sense. In the end, I can’t sound like him. Only he can sound like him. Same with Gar and same with all the other guys. I don’t focus too much, I don’t think too much about that, I just try to honour the songs.”

When the offer came to join Megadeth came out of nowhere, was it an obvious thing to accept? “At the beginning it was supposed to be just a fill-in gig. That’s how I was approached. It only overlapped with, at the time I think it was five or six Soilwork shows that I was missing. I talked to the guys: ‘Are you guys OK with me doing this?’ I’m just filling in.’ ‘Yeah, cool, no problem! Of course you should go and do that’. Then as I was on the road, it turned into ‘Hey, do you wanna join?’ So by that time I had already had some time to sit and think about it. What would I do if they asked me? Because you never know. By that time I had had some thoughts, some conversations with my wife and stuff. Then I was like “Yeah! Haha!”

Soilwork mainman Björn “Speed” Strid early on expected that Megadeth would ask Dirk to stay permanently and told Dirk: “When I heard you play with them at Sweden Rock, I knew he was going to ask you to stay.”

Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Dirk was a long-term drummer with Soilwork and leaving that band was not easy but he remains on good terms with his former bandmates, not least because he pointed them in the direction of finding his replacement. “The Soilwork guys have been super supportive about it. That’s cool. No bad blood whatsoever. Bastian Thusgaard recently became full-time, so I’m very happy that all worked out. He’s a great kid, great drummer, very motivated, hardworking. I discovered him because he put on some Soilwork covers online where I was very impressed with his playing. When this happened, I thought of him. I showed the guys a few videos and they were like: ‘Yeah, man. Put us in touch with that guy!’”

In a way it is similar to how Chris Adler recommended Dirk to Megadeth when it became clear he wasn’t going to be able to do that much touring with Megadeth because of his Lamb of God commitments. “Very similar. Also, Kiko as well. I had met him some years ago. I actually saw an Angra show in ’96. At the time I didn’t know him personally. Then he came to see a Soilwork show some years ago in Finland where he was living at the time. We talked a little bit and stuff. So he also, when names came up and stuff, he was like: ‘Dirk is great!’ Yeah, I was warmly recommended. It worked out good,” says a very pleased Dirk.

In my opinion you’re the best extreme metal drummer in the business. Obviously you have the talent and capability to be he drummer in Megadeth, but was there ever any doubt in your mind about your ability to do this with such a big band? Do you feel any pressure in this new role? “Well, thank you very much. That’s very kind of you. Yeah, the first two shows, definitely. There was a lot of stuff going on in your mind. But in the end all you can do is rely on your experience and if something happens, sometimes crazy stuff happens, you trust the fact that you’ll make the right call. Sometimes you have to make a really quick decision: what do I do here? And so far I’ve done pretty good. In the end it’s rock’n’roll, it’s all about having fun and that is still the way I approach it. Actually, it’s even more now than in the past. It’s kind of like I realise how lucky I am to be here doing this, playing music that I like in front of lots of people who are coming to see it. I mean, there really is nothing to worry about, right? It’s not like we’re trying to solve hunger in the world or something. We’re playing music for people to have a good time.”

With a great, and what seems like a stable, line-up of Megadeth, this band can really do something fantastic with the next album. Do you expect to be part of the songwriting from now on? “I don’t know. Obviously I haven’t been in that spot, so I haven’t experienced that. We’ll see how it goes. I’m definitely open to anything. I’ve started recording some ideas, you know, just having stuff in my phone. I look forward to spending time with the guys working on ideas. Obviously a lot of it is centred round Dave. He’s been the main songwriter for the whole time pretty much. Kind of from there we’ll see how it goes. It’s good that I have this period of time, unlike Chris who came in and it was pretty much straight to recording. I think that’s difficult, because you have certain ways of doing things and then all of a sudden there is this band with this whole past. That’s quick adaption. That can be tricky. Whereas with me, I’m probably going to spend at least two years, if not more, playing the songs live. That gives me some time to see the different areas of the band, see the different styles. For example, Gar has a very different style than Jimmy, than Nick, than Shawn and Chris and all the different people. And Chuck! I forgot Chuck Behler earlier. Great drummer too. Actually, I met him. He came to one of our shows last year, on the US tour. Super cool guy. That gives me a chance to take that information in and all these different grooves. Then when it is time to create something, I will definitely tap into that. Because it is a very different way of playing for me than, obviously, Soilwork or any other stuff I’ve done.”

Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson and Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth backstage in Tokyo.

Megadeth has an interesting history of the band’s drum techs stepping up to become the band’s drummer. Clearly you thus have ensured that you now have a rubbish drum tech who is not threatening your position behind the kit, correct? “Haha! Well, I have Tony Laureano, so he’s not exactly a rubbish guy. He was Dimmu Borgir and he has played with Nile. I was actually on tour with Tony back in 2002 when my old band Scarve opened for Nile on a European tour. Tony was drumming then in Nile and I was very impressed with his playing. We’ve been kind of friends ever since. I can’t say we were in touch all the time, but we would email ever now and then and I would see him at festivals. I saw him once with Dimmu. He loves teching. He’s a great drummer and he still plays. He still has several projects that are in the works. But he just loves doing this, being on that side. Hey, it’s cool. He’s an awesome guy. Great tech.” (Prior to Dirk joining Megadeth, Tony did a few shows as fill-in drummer for Megadeth, including their headline gig at the Japanese festival Loud Park in October 2015.)

So, what drummers have influenced you? Are you listening to drummer from different genres than metal? “Yeah, I listen to a lot of different things, but I do listen to a lot of metal. I don’t know that I feel that I am the best metal drummer. I like that you think that, it’s very kind, but you know I get a lot of inspiration from metal guys. Like I love Mario from Gojira, I love James from Vader, Tony was a big influence of mine for many years, especially around the Nile years. He was doing a lot of crazy stuff. Sean Reinert. I definitely listen to other styles of music as well. It’s very diverse. If you look at my phone, there’s everything from jazz to electronic to industrial to pop music to rock music, old-school punk. All kinds, even classical music. Sometimes when you come out of a tour or show or something, you just want something completely opposite. Kiko has been showing me a lot of Brazilian cool stuff. He’s a great acoustic player too. Sometimes he’ll sit after the show and just play beautiful things and I just sit there listening to him for an hour because it is so nice and a totally different vibe. The same with drummers. I like to keep things interesting. If you always listen to the same thing, especially as I get older, after a while… I need something else now. So I switch from Napalm Death to Squarepusher to Miles Davis within a few hours.”

Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

You have always had multiple projects and bands on the go throughout your career. Now that you’re in Megadeth, do you have time for side projects and teaching drums and such? “The focus is Megadeth obviously, but I have been teaching quite a bit when I am not on tour. I have a few students locally and a few Skype students and I really like that part because I love when younger drummers ask questions and wanna learn stuff. I kind of make myself useful in a different way than entertaining people, passing on some stuff I’ve learned. I’ve been doing this pretty much since I was 18-19 years old, so it’s been a while. And, yeah, some side projects. Pretty under the radar stuff, like Bent Sea. It’s purely for fun. No ambition whatsoever, just making noise. I’m just kind of doing my own thing whenever I feel like it. There’s no schedule or business plan, it’s just the old-school way.”

One of the talented and hardworking musicians that Dirk frequently plays with is Shane Embury of Napalm Death and Brujeria fame, who is also in Bent Sea with Dirk. He is in so many bands and projects that he recently ended up performing three sets in a row with three different bands every night. “That’s Shane for you. Great guy. Super humble. Loves music, loves making music with people. We have several things in the works together. But my focus is on Megadeth. It’s obviously where I put everything in right now.”

Following a very successful Asian tour, more touring is coming up for Megadeth. “We first go to the US with Meshuggah. Really good friends of mine. Great band. Tomas Haake is another big drum influence of mine. We’re going out with them for a month in the US and from that we pretty much go straight into the European dates. Then back to the US for the Scorpions tour. It’s a pretty packed year this year.”

Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson and Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth backstage in Tokyo.

The much talked about Scorpions/Megadeth tour will bring Dirk together with another fab drummer, Sweden’s Mikkey Dee, the former Motörhead, Don Dokken and King Diamond drummer who joined Scorpions last year. “I love watching that guy play. It’s energising to see. He’s still on fire, man. He plays maybe better than he did before.”

Megadeth opening for Scorpions was a tour package that was rather unexpected. “Scorpions at the time was one of the biggest hard rock bands before thrash really existed. It’s not often Megadeth will open for somebody. It’s kind of like an interesting bill. I think it’s going to be really cool. Big venues. It should be a really interesting tour.”

It is time for Dirk to warm up for the first of two sold-out Tokyo shows with Megadeth. As he walks on stage a couple of hours later, he is a beast behind the drum kit proving that he was the right pick for the job.

Interview: Mark Jansen on how Epica’s sound has evolved

Mark Jansen of Epica in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

It took Dutch symphonic metal masters Epica some 15 years to get to Japan, but when they did show up they got a warm welcome by their Japanese fans. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson met with Epica mastermind Mark Jansen before their sold out show in Tokyo.

Simone Simons and Mark Jansen on stage with Epica in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Mark Jansen founded a new symphonic metal band when he left After Forever in 2002 over “musical and personal differences”. As we sit down backstage before Epica’s Tokyo gig Mark explains: “In After Forever there were two captains on the ship. All the time we had different opinions. It was taking a lot of energy. Yeah, I like to be a bit more in control. I am not a control freak but I need to have some control of things to feel happy.”

The new band Mark assembled was originally called Sahara Dust, but as they entered the studio to record they stumbled upon a much better name, Epica, which was the name of a Kamelot album. “We were recording in the same studio where they were recording the album ‘Epica’. We saw the cover. We were called Sahara Dust at the time. The name we weren’t completely satisfied about and we couldn’t find a better name. Then we saw that album cover of ‘Epica’. We already liked the music of Kamelot a lot. We sent them an email: ‘Are you OK with that?’ and they were fine. Not right away but after a while. They said themselves already that Epica would be a great name for a band. But I think it fits really well to us. I think not many bands who have a band name that fits their music so well as we do,” says Mark while looking very satisfied.

Mark Jansen on stage with Epica in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Epica debuted in 2003 with “The Phantom Agony” and rapidly won a loyal fan base globally, including in Japan. In 2016 they released their seventh album, the fabulous “The Holographic Principle”. So why did it take the band some 15 years to come and play for their Japanese fans? “Several reasons. Every time when we tried to come over, the promoters said ‘Look at your CD sales. It’s not high enough in Japan to bring you over. Probably we’re not gonna sell enough tickets’ and that kind of story. We kept trying and then two years ago there was finally one promoter who wanted to get us, but then our management said we should not go yet because if we worked with that promoter we could not play Loud Park, for example. You have these kind of things. Then we said, next opportunity, we go. We can’t wait forever to go to Japan,” says Mark who is very pleased that they managed to come to Japan for a three-city tour and that the band’s first ever Tokyo gig is sold out. “Sold out! To be able to do three shows is already amazing. I’ve never been so relaxed on a tour in a country like here. Strictly on time, everything is well organised. It’s sometimes different in other countries.”

Mark Jansen of Epica in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Epica has arrived at a signature sound which means that nowadays it is rather easy to spot an Epica song. But with such success also comes expectations when new music is created and some artists feel that they become constrained to create music that fits into what is expected of them. “Usually I just start and then whatever feels right, I do it. I learnt to not think inside the box, but to just do whatever feels good. In the end, there is always something happening that makes it sound Epica. Even if you have a piece of music that in the beginning doesn’t fit well, something happens and it always fit in the end. And if it really doesn’t fit I use it for another project. So, whatever I write fits somewhere,” explains Mark his creative process.

Mark Jansen on stage with Epica in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

One part of the Epica sound that sets it apart from some of the other symphonic metal bands, is that they use death metal-like growling or grunting in addition to clean singing. “It’s a funny story how it happened. When I started to listen to metal music, I ran into an album of Amorphis. I was listening to it and as soon as the guy started singing: ‘Oh, fuck! It’s grunts, I hate it!’ Still, I bought the album because the music was so amazing and I slowly got into it. Then with my first band, we started as a melodic band with a grunter as a singer because we couldn’t find a clean vocalist. We were also looking for a background singer. Floor Jansen came to do an audition. We heard, instantly, this is not a background singer. This is somebody who has to be the front. But the grunter didn’t like the idea, so there was some competition going on… He left. Then we decided to do some of the grunts ourselves in After Forever. I kept doing it with Epica ever since. That’s how it started,” explains Mark about how Amorphis has helped shaping the Epica sound and continues: “With the new singer they were back on track. Now I love them again!”

Mark Jansen on stage with Epica in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Mark is clearly the mastermind behind Epica’s music and he pays attention to all the details. On recent albums the Epica guitarist is not even playing guitar on the tracks because he’s too busy with other things. The band’s other guitarist Isaac Delahaye handles all guitars in the studio. “I prefer to focus on the lyrics. That is already so much work. It would take me twice as long as Isaac to record it, so I prefer him doing it, rather than me working my ass off doing all these riffs. When he is done with the songs, I have two-three months’ time to study all his riffs for the tour. In the studio, if I have to work on the lyrics and to study these licks and to record them, I would go nuts!”

On the last couple of albums, Epica has used Joost van den Broek as a producer. Like Mark, Joost too has a past in After Forever, although they didn’t play in the band at the same time. “So I knew the guy and ever since we started working together, we became friends,” says mark about the close relationship. Joost is very involved in Epica’s creative process. “Definitely more than a technician. During the recording process and demo phase, he’s like a seventh band member. He’s travelling with his equipment separately to everybody’s home studios. He asks: ‘What have you got? What did you write? Let me listen to it. Let us work on it.’ Then, when he has the overview of all the music written… Is it enough material or even too much? Then we bring it together and start working on each other’s tracks. Because in the beginning we like to work on our own. There are a lot of opinions in Epica, a lot of strong opinions. When you feel like you cannot bring it any further, then we start working on it together. Then it is also easier to accept criticism.”

Mark Jansen of Epica in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

With a firmly established signature sound, is the Epica sound still evolving? “I started writing music for the next album about two months ago. But it is too early yet to know what direction will evolve. Because I don’t know the music yet of any of the other guys. I know that some other guys have recorded some ideas. So, everybody is already doing something, but it is too early to know where it will go to. But we always try to make things better. There is always something on an album that we think ‘Let’s try it in a different way next time’. That is also how you keep the stuff fresh. When I listen to all the past albums…at that time it was the best we could do then. If we would make it now, we would do it differently. But it wouldn’t necessarily be better. These albums have to be like they are, they have to stay like they are. That’s also why I am still very happy with them.”

With seven studio albums below their belt there is plenty of music to choose from for their gigs. Set lists can’t be easy to compile at this stage. “It depends on where we play. For a show in Japan, we try a little bit of an alternative set list then what we do in Europe. The first was doing well, the second show we were changing some things and now in Tokyo I think we found the right balance between the new album and other songs.” In Tokyo the band performs “Unleashed”, a track no longer featured at most gigs, but a favourite among Japanese fans. “It’s one of the songs people love here. So we decided to put it in the set. So tonight has a very balanced set to keep everybody happy.”

Mark Jansen on stage with Epica in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

In all of his bands and projects, including Epica, After Forever and MaYaN, Mark has been fortunate enough to be able to work with some very fine vocalists. Current Nightwish vocalist Floor Jansen is one of them. She sang in After Forever and also brought in Mark for some cooperation in ReVamp. “She also sings with my other band MaYaN. In the beginning she did even some touring but when she got asked to do Nightwish of course she ‘flew away’! And that was completely understandable, because that was the big chance and I would have done exactly the same. But she sang on some songs with MaYaN and it sounds fantastic. Then she said ‘I want you to sing on my band’s album, ReVamp’. So I did as well. Also with ReVamp, she has no time for that any more for the same reason. Nightwish takes all the time and that is also completely understandable. But it was really fun. It’s always nice to work with her. I’m pretty sure in the future, maybe it can take quite some years, I am sure in the future there will be some collaboration.’

Mark Jansen of Epica in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

German power singer Henning Basse (Gus G, Firewind, Gamma Ray) is also someone Mark has worked with in MaYaN. “He’s an amazing singer. He’s a singer of world class. With his qualities he could be singing in any huge band who needs a big singer. But for some reason it didn’t happen yet. So, he’s still in relatively small bands with all respect. I think if Firewind or MaYaN or Gus G is becoming big in the next couple of years, then he goes fully for them then. But at this moment he’s not yet fully attached to one band because they are all too small to make a living from. I’ve been saying that for years already because when I heard him sing for the first time, it was with Sons of Seasons, I thought ‘This singer is really world-class’. I’ve had the honour to work with so many great singers, like Floor Jansen. It took some years but now she’s the singer of Nightwish. And when I heard Simone Simons for the first time, I knew that was going to be good. In MaYaN we work also with Laura Macrì, who is also my girlfriend. When I heard her voice I also knew that this was top, top quality. I’m in such a lucky position to have worked with all these great singers.”

“There are two things that are extremely important: the singer and the drummer. When there is a shitty drummer the whole band sounds like shit. And when the singer is shit, everybody hears it right away. When there’s like one of the other musicians is not 100%, it still blends into the music. But the drummer and singer they have to be top quality. We’re also in a lucky position with Ariën van Weesenbeek, who is also a machine! Now that we became a big band ourselves…otherwise some band would have taken him, stolen him from us, I’m sure,” says Mark proudly of the drummer of both Epica and MaYaN. /