Judas Priest founder and bassist Ian Hill continues to live and breathe metal. The 60-year-old legendary bassist may be on his final world tour but confirms that Priest is far from retiring. “We all genuinely love what we do and the thought of not doing it anymore is terrifying,” explained Hill in a recent phone interview with Beyond the Dark Horizon.
The band is currently on the US leg of its Epitaph World Tour and has just unleashed The Chosen Few- an album curated by Judas Priest’s contemporaries in the music world – each artist picking their own favorite Priest track and explaining why it is special to them. Hill spoke with Beyond the Dark Horizon regarding Judas Priest’s extraordinary legacy, tour and upcoming endeavors.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Hello Ian, thanks for speaking with Beyond the Dark Horizon, how are you doing today?
Ian Hill: Hello, I’m doing fine. Thank you.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: The US leg of the Epitaph World tour begins tomorrow. Are you prepared?
Ian Hill: I hope so [laughs] yeah. We have been practicing since June and that’s when the tour started in Europe. We’ve been gone since then and have been through Eastern and Western Europe and throughout Central America. It’s been great and now we’re ready for the USA.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Priest are kicking things off in San Antonio, TX-a city filled with legions of Judas Priest fans. San Antonio holds a special history for the band, care to share some of your experiences and memories here?
Ian Hill: Oh yeah! Judas Priest dates back to the late great disc jockey, Joe Anthony. He was a great character. We got there in the late 70’s, early 80’s and Joe did a hell lotta work breaking bands such as ourselves to not only San Antonio but Texas in general. And probably largely due to his efforts we’ve just always had such a great fan base in San Antonio. The people have always been excellent and we are really looking forward to performing there. It’s always one of the dates that we look forward to while on tour.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: A few selections from every album in the JP catalog will be performed while on this tour. Being the only founding Priest member remaining, has it been odd for you to journey back and dig up old tracks that you have not performed in years? “Never Satisfied” off Rocka Rolla is a perfect example.
Ian Hill: It’s funny you know. You start going back and think, “Wow our first album was out in ’74.” But yes, we are doing a song from every album. And as you look back at some of these albums you find that there are some songs that you had forgotten about. We had some great material back then and it’s been extremely difficult to get our set list together. And you know for each old song we have to drop someone’s favorite. It’s been a bit of a nightmare but we’ve done it, playing something from Rocka Rolla all the way down to Nostradamus.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Many critics and fans are throwing around the terms “farewell” and “retirement” which sound so permanent- but in reality, the band has plenty of journeys on the horizon. Glenn mentioned it was “the beginning of the end.” That must be bittersweet.
Ian Hill:It’s more of a slowing down process; not a goodbye or a farewell. None of us are spring chickens anymore, you know. It’s just the world touring thing that really gets to us. We all genuinely love what we do and the thought of not doing it anymore is terrifying! We love this. We never really intended to kill the band off. But by no means does this mean that this will be the last time that we are on stage, it’s just in the future we plan to do a handful of dates and take some time off and in the long run I think it will extend the life of the band. Doing this might give us a few extra years because we love it.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Did the addition of guitarist Ritchie Faulkner, change the bands outlook? A revitalization in a sense? New blood can fuel the soul and add to the fire.
Ian Hill: Definitely, he’s young [laughs]. He has the enthusiasm and he’s moving all of us. There’s a great future with him because he’s such a talented performer and an overall great guy. He’s a great find and we were very lucky to find him. It would have been difficult to carry on without someone of his caliber.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: The Chosen Few album was released today and it’s quite the ultimate “Best of” Judas Priest album. What are your thoughts on legendary musicians like Ozzy Osbourne and Alice Cooper taking part, sharing their favorite Priest tunes?
Ian Hill: It’s been truly flattering and I just love it. It’s great that they took the time out to pick their favorite track and it’s the first compilation album that we never had any control over. It was all whatever they picked ended up on the album. They all picked some great songs and the surprising thing about it is you get input from musicians from the early generation and newer generation and they’re all picking the same songs [laughs]. It goes to show that we are timeless when it comes to heavy metal I suppose.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Agreed. It’s amazing that the music of Judas Priest remains timeless and fresh. You can blast “Living After Midnight,” “Breaking the Law” or “Screaming for Vengeance” 20 years from today and it would still hold relevance.
Ian Hill: We’re lucky in that respect. We’ve had some excellent material that has been recorded over the years and whenever we are working on putting the set list together like you mentioned we have tracks like “Breaking the Law” “You’ve got Another Thing Coming” and those songs. And when you go on stage and see the fans reaction to it, everyone goes wild. We’re very lucky in that respect.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: You say it’s luck but Priest has always and still has a unique way of writing music. Share insight on how the band worked together throughout the years to dish out countless of classic heavy metal hits.
Ian Hill: I tell you what, we have always done what we felt was right. With each album we try to take one step forward and embrace anything that comes along the way. I don’t think we did anything special other than always trying to progress.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Albums like Defenders of the Faith, Painkiller and Nostradamus are testimony of this progression that you speak of. Judas Priest is known to up the ante.
Ian Hill: Exactly, taking a step forward is what has kept the band fresh over the years.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Let’s talk about the early Priest days. When you and Ken started the band back in your school days, what was your visualization or goals for the band at that point? Did you ever think that Judas Priest would end up being as successful as it is today?
Ian Hill: Actually no. We did what we did and rehearsed for years. We lived for that day and lived to play and that’s what we did. I don’t think any of us realized what we had or how long it would turn out we’d be doing this. The further we went, the more popular we got and before you knew it we were playing for people all over the world, records going gold and platinum. It’s a beautiful feeling. But back then we didn’t have a clue that this would be a fulltime gig. It was like I said, play for today [laughs]. We’re still doing this today because we love it. We love the music, love the fans and love to travel. That’s why it has been so difficult to give it up, it’s in our heart and in our souls.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Being in this business for 40 plus years, what has been the most important lesson learned?
Ian Hill: Tolerance and optimism. Those are the two things that you have to have. We’re lucky that we’re all friends. It’s very important to be friends. If you have somebody that you don’t really get along with in the band then it becomes difficult. We get along, we’re great friends with the same goals and ambition to move forward. It’s important that you tolerate peoples personality perks, it’s interesting because everyone’s got them.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: There is talk that Judas Priest has already begun work on the new album. How are the songs coming along?
Ian Hill: It’s been coming along a bit slow at the moment because of the tour but Glenn and Rob have put a lot of ideas together. This was before Ritchie joined the band so after the tour we’re going to see if he has input on the album. Once that gets done we’ll head over to the studio and complete the album. It’s going to be sort of a traditional Priest album, now that we got the concept thing out of us. There’s lots of classic metal in there, think of Angel of Retribution. It will be where we left off. We’re excited, it’s going to be a good old classic metal album.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: We’re looking forward to it. I know we are pressed for time, so here’s my last question for you. Where do you see the future of heavy metal? Do you think there are any bands today that can hold up that torch and standard that Judas Priest has held for over four decades?
Ian Hill: I’m sure there is but bands come and go so quickly these days. The minute you discover them they seem to vanish. It’s kind of a difficult question for me to answer since we’re still around but yet bands like ourselves, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, we’re all coming to the end of our careers and heavy metal will always be there. It’s a popular music genre and it will never go away. When we begin to vanish then other bands will begin to establish themselves and it’s up to the younger generation to keep it up.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: It’s been great speaking with you Ian, any last words for fans out there?
Ian Hill: We’re really looking forward to the start of the US tour that begins tomorrow. We have lots of fans everywhere and we hope to see everyone. Thank you.
With a little over fifteen minutes to inquire about a thirty year career, Beyond the Dark Horizon sat with Queensrÿche lead vocalist Geoff Tate prior to performing before an ecstatic audience in San Antonio, Texas on Tuesday September 20th. Tate discussed Queensrÿche’s latest album, Dedicated to Chaos, his new acting career and the secret behind Ryche’s successful reign.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Hi Geoff, thanks for speaking with Beyond the Dark Horizon. How’s the 30th anniversary tour going?
Geoff Tate: Wonderful, simply wonderful. All the shows have been doing well, considering the economy. The band is playing well; I’m having a great time. We’re out there exploring our catalog really because that’s what this anniversary is really all about, looking back and playing music from all of our different records.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Not too many bands are able to stay focused, united and enthusiastic to create music for as long as Queensrÿche has. To what do you attribute the success of a thirty year career?
Geoff Tate: Tenacity for one, just kind of sticking with it. But probably primarily it’s having a love and passion for creating music. That’s what attracted us when we first started out. We were all into writing music and tapping into our creative collectivity together to see what we could come up with. It’s still what drives us to this day, you know? If we couldn’t make music anymore, I don’t think that we could continue. If we just had to tour and play songs that we’ve already done from years and years ago, I don’t think we would still even continue on. It’s the drive to create new music that keeps us going.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Absolutely. Is there a specific memory you recall in regards to joining the band back 1981? Something that made you think, “We really have something going here.”
Geoff Tate: I was very impressed with the people. The band had an openness of having a wide variety of musical interests. Our influences was really the attraction. I remember the first time we got together to talk about music, we all brought selections from our record collection. We were referencing everything from Black Sabbath to Carly Simon, The Beatles, Carol King…you name it. We all had a pretty vast record collection and everyone had a very open mind to it. For example, if I brought in The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway from Genesis, we’d listen to the entire album and take notes and say, “That one song, I really like the core progression before the bridge section happens” or “I really like this section, what’s that song called?” Everyone was asking questions about everyone’s music, so that was really inspiring that we could all listen to something so varied and have an open mind enough to find something that we liked about it. You don’t see that happening a lot today. Most of the time people have preconceptions about things, something is already built in their head. They hear the name of a band before even listening and have already decided and say, “Oh that’s stupid.” We’ll if you have not even heard it, how do you even know if you’re going to like it. That’s the typical reaction from people.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Exactly. And with Queensrÿche, some people claim to be huge fans, but get upset when every new release doesn’t go back to the sound from Rage For Order. The latest album, Dedicated to Chaos has elements of rock, funk and even pop. I hear that traditional Queensrÿche vibe meshed with as you mentioned, bands like Genesis and even Peter Gabriel. But when you stop and think about the old Queensrÿche catalog, these elements have always been there. Regardless, Dedicated to Chaos is a very experimental album and it must have been extremely fun recording it. Do you agree?
Geoff Tate: Absolutely I agree. Dedicated to Chaos was a very fun record to make. It was very challenging and a test of musicality to create a varied kind of record. There are a lot of different moods to it. It’s easy to write an album when everything is all in one direction. For example aggressive is a mood and it’s very easy to write. It’s a whole different ballpark to try to capture melancholy, romance or something other than violence [makes a tight fist]. Violence is very easy. But with every record we sit down and discuss what we want to achieve. With this record, everyone wanted to stretch out musically and try some things that they have been thinking about for awhile. We wanted to challenged ourselves, instrumentally. Scott for example, our drummer set his drum kit up completely differently, so he did not automatically go to that drum when he was writing. It forced him to play different and I thought that was very courageous of him to do that. I set my studio up in a new location so I’d have a different view, a different inspirational place to go to. We all tried to do new things like that. Parker did some kind of weird thing where he taped his fingers together, in different formations so he had to learn how to play a certain scale using different fingers to force himself out of his habits.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Dedicated to Chaos was written, recorded and mixed using headphones. The band really embraced the concept of today’s portable accessibly of music on the go- iPods, mp3 players etc.
Geoff Tate: We work with headphones all the time, we do live shows with ear monitors- which are basically headphones. We write with headphones, so we started talking one day of how people listen to music. It’s not the way it used to be where people used to listen to music at a stationary stereo system in your bedroom, front room or wherever. You would sit listen to music and focus. People take their music with them now in their iPods or whatever…so we were talking about this and we said why don’t we just make our record for headphones, lets concentrate on that. Throw as much interesting stuff as we can imagine into the songs and the production of it and make it as interesting as possible for the listeners. Let’s design it for people to move to, you know let’s give it roll instead of rock-so that it feels good when you are listening to it. The rhythms of the songs correspond with the rhythms of your body. So we started consciously moving in that direction for this new record.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: So there was an obvious subconscious thought behind every notion of this album.
Geoff Tate: We always sit down and try to map out what we want to do. We spend lots of time discussing all the details and aspects of it. But sometimes we’ll sit for days and not play a note and we’ll talk about the storyline, the direction of the album and stuff like that. Then a couple of days will go by and someone will bring in some music and say, “Hey that conversation the other day got me thinking and I wrote this. Does this fit?” We’ll listen to it and be like “Exactly! That’s exactly it.” And just like that, boom we have a starting point for a particular song. It’s a cool way to work really.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: That’s interesting. “The Lady Wore Black” is the first song you penned with Queensrÿche. Does this track hold a special meaning for you today?
Geoff Tate: Yeah [laughs]. That song is very primitive to me but it holds the honor of the first song that we wrote together, so that’s special.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: And since we’re are speaking about your early catalog…many consider the finest concept record ever-made-alongside Pink Floyd The Wall is Operation Mindcrime. Lyrically, you were inspired by your time in Montreal. What specifically was it about the terrorist group and church that reflected your play on words for the Mindcrime album?
Geoff Tate: Well Mindcrime had an interesting beginning. It was one of those records that happened because of circumstance, the story took place because of that. I moved to Montreal, I fell in love with a French Canadian woman and followed her there and really kind of merged myself into the culture. She introduced me to some people that she knew that were part of this group that were trying to liberate Quebec from Canada. They were a separatist group, very violent. They were into kidnapping, extortion, bombs and blowing stuff up. They really kind of scared me. The ringleader was this older gentleman, who I modeled the Dr. X character after that. And so anyway, we as a band had been talking about…we’ll previously before with Rage For Order, The Warning were loosely based theme records and we really wanted to try to tackle an album that told a story, all the way through. So while I was in Montreal, I kind of pulled together all my experiences up to that point, ideas I had kind of gestating for awhile into that story. All of it kind of came together one night when I went into a church, just to kind of warm-up on my way home. And I was just sitting there, staring at all the candles that were lit, and the steam coming out of my mouth because it was freezing cold in there. And the title track to Operation Mindcrime popped in my head and I started singing the guitar line in my head. So I took out my dictaphone and started singing the parts and started to put together the whole melody for it. And I realized that I was sort of on a roll and I hurried home and started working on it and wrote out the whole story that night. Over the next few weeks I just kind of perfected it. Flew home for Michael’s wedding in March and pulled the band aside at the after party and told them about this idea and that started the ball rolling. Did that answer your question, I’m sorry I sort of trailed off [laughs].
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Oh yeah, you certainly did. Very interesting story. Queensrÿche’s highest-selling album to date, was Empire. How did your life change after the “Empire” album exploded on the scene? Did the success of hits like ‘Silent Lucidity,’ ‘Another Rainy Night (Without You)’ and ‘Jet City Woman’ up the ante in terms of expectations for the band?
Geoff Tate: Well yeah in America. Americans turn everything into competition, especially when it comes to art. You know it’s a shame. Other parts in the world don’t treat it like that. They treat it as is, art. But people in America start looking at sales and all of a sudden you’re somebody when you were already somebody. When you’re already somebody, sales don’t really mean anything. There just an easy go to in a competitive society, where we “judge” success on. To me it was an interesting trip to all of a sudden have people calling us to be on award shows, play that game. It got pretty weird, people were talking to us about making action figure dolls of us and that sort of thing. We said it was not what we really wanted to do. We got into this to be musicians not rock stars and we’d like to continue making music not on the cover of the Enquire magazine. So we pulled the plug on the band for a few years. We kind of disappeared and went into hibernation and eventually wrote music again…which was cool.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: We ran across the Programming the Nation documentary that you were part of and I wondered what are your thoughts on the subject of subliminal messages? Just how subliminal do you feel rock and metal bands are today?
Geoff Tate: I don’t know about other bands but I think there’s subliminal messages in just about everything. Advertisement works that way by trying to get you to buy something. They try to make you think its ok to purchase it, even things that are bad for you. Take Coca-Cola for example, almost everyone by now knows that Coca-Cola is really tough on your body. The amount of sugar and type of acids in it are enough to take rust off lug nuts for your car, you know. But we buy it and we drink it. Why is that? Well they’ve convinced us that it must be ok because why would they sell it. So in a sense that’s a form of subliminal messages. Advertising has convinced us that it is ok to buy. In fact we want it, we crave it, we buy it. [laughs] It’s everywhere and our culture really utilizes advertising in everything. We are a consumer society, that’s our culture. We need to buy, fit in and love everything or else we’re not good American’s. So there’s lots of psychology going on and I think most of the time we don’t really think about it. And that’s also a major point of this film as well.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Speaking of films, you’re also acting in a feature film called The Burningmoore Incident. How’s that going? Is this your first role in a movie?
Geoff Tate: I think it’s going to be out this winter but yeah, it’s my first acting job. I have a few other offers on the table but I haven’t decided to do anything with those yet. I’m done shooting Burningmoore though.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: What was the experience like for you, going from a musician to molding yourself into a character?
Geoff Tate: It was amazing but very challenging…harder than I thought. There was a lot of good aspects to it. I got to work with coordinators, directors, people who taught me what to do and what not to do. I had a very smart writer/director who included me on the script quite a bit and allowed me to make some observations and changes regarding my character, which I liked being able to do. I guess you don’t really get to do that in films but we all improvised stuff directly on spot, so it was lots of fun. The character that I played is a killer and it was very difficult to wrap my head around that type of person. Very challenging to kind of live, breathe this kind of vagrant guys life. In the end I had a hard time trying to come out of it [laughs].
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Awesome, we checked out the trailer the other night, looks pretty sinister.
Geoff Tate: It’s a cool film, its smartly done that you don’t really realize that it’s a horror film until the real horror begins. It’s sort of like a documentary story. It has some really funny parts in it, great characters and then it gets really gruesome.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Considering that we are pressed for time, I’ll run with these last two questions…Some of our readers are struggling musicians, trying to take their act to the next level. Do you have any advice for up and coming bands or those interested in pursuing a musical career?
Geoff Tate: Well it’s a difficult time right now. The musical industry is a downward spiral. The system that was in place for years and years is all unraveling right now. All the record companies that have been in existence for many years are now going out of business. On one hand it’s very dismal and on the other it’s also a very exciting time because we can all design the way we work. I find that to be very exciting, the things that you can do with the internet now. We’re all connected, so we don’t necessarily need record companies to make music anymore. I think music should be direct, unpredictable and on top of the moment. With a record company in place you have to go through their physical calendar in order to release something and that could take months and months. You end up missing the immediacy of commentary. The best thing to do is just release it on your own. So I think it’s all very exciting. And if a musician is just thinking about making music, they should make music. Follow your heart, follow your passion. Always follow your heart. Don’t make music because you want to get famous, you’ll never get there. You have to make music because you have a passion for it. It’s what you have to do and then you’ll have a shot.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Thanks once again for speaking with Beyond the Dark Horizon. Any last words or anything in particular we should be on the lookout for?
Geoff Tate: Expect the unexpected. Thank you.
* Part of Beyond the Dark Horizon’s interview with Geoff Tate. Here Tate discusses the birth of the Operation Mindcrime album.
One of the better-known Iron Maiden fan sites, MaidenCroatia.com, proudly presents a book by Stipe Juras, one of their founding members and a long-time music journalist and writer, which describes, for the first time in history, the life of the legendary metal musician and IRON MAIDEN founder Steve Harris. The book is called “Steve Harris – The Clairvoyant” and has just been released in English and Croatian, and a Portuguese edition is being prepared for the Brazilian and Portuguese markets (tentatively due in August).
The official book description:
This is the story of Steve Harris, bass player and founder of IRON MAIDEN, told from memories and anecdotes of his fans, friends, associates and family, a warm and intriguing story of a man who boldly followed his vision. It isn’t a biography in the classical sense; it doesn’t follow Steve‘s life chronologically, it’s more of an account about him from the perspectives of all the interviewees.
“Steve Harris – The Clairvoyant” is available for order on the author’s web site via PayPal. It can be shipped worldwide. A special 55-copy series, titled the “Birthday Edition,” celebrating Steve Harris‘ 55th birthday was sold out in a matter of days, but the author plans to sell exactly 666 hardcover copies of the so-called “Number of the Beast” edition, containing a bonus CD with audio interviews with DJ Neal Kay, the person who helped MAIDEN make their way to stardom, and Dave Lights, their legendary lighting designer from the ’80s. The book is 300 pages long, A5 format.
Some of the people who were interviewed for the book are Dean Karr, Keith Wilfort, Paul Di’Anno, Dennis Stratton, Clive Burr, Neal Kay, Markus Grosskopf, Blaze Bayley, Mike Kemp, Lauren Harris, Paul Anthony Quinn, Slaven Bilic (ex-West Ham player and Croatian football team coach), and many more. The first copies of the book have just been shipped and already some of the people on the official IRON MAIDEN board were more than thrilled with what they have read.
Stipe Juras isn’t planning this to be the only book — he has already announced his plans to write similar books on every MAIDEN member. His next book, “Stranger In A Strange Land”, which deals with the life and career of Adrian Smith, will be available for pre-order from December 2011.
Right now, author is in negotiating process with U.S. agents for issuing book on U.S. and Canada market on paperback version. This, hardcover version with bonus CD is strictly limited to 666 copies and will never be reprinted in same format.
Thursday September 22, 2010- No time machine is required to experience the brilliant musicianship of RUSH. Nineteen studio albums in, a successful 36-years plus career and the legendary Canadian rockers still astound and surpass the test of time.
Rush brought their “Time Machine Tour” to the San Antonio AT&T Center last Thursday night before a cheerful crowd of over 15,000. Bassist/Vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart delivered an intense and euphoric three hour performance.
Impactful and full of spirit, the band ran down the past, present and future with humor and prestige. The show opened with a short film skit called “RASH: The True Story of Rush” which featured Lee, Lifeson and Peart portraying characters that sat in a diner while a band called RASH performed “The Spirit Of Radio,” polka style. Lifeson’s character, a German filmmaker kept the audience afloat in laughter. After tampering with a time machine, which also happened to be located in the diner, RASH suddenly transforms from a polka band to a disco group, country music playing trio and then suddenly the real in-the-flesh RUSH makes an entrance on stage performing “The Spirit Of Radio” the way it was intended.
The stage was full of detail, invoking a classic H.G. Wells “The Time Machine” sort of feel, while mechanical state of the art lights morphed into what looked like a spider or UFO lurking high above the band. Up next were 1987′s “Time Stand Still” and the title track to 1989′s “Presto.” Geddy Lee’s vocals were incredible, hitting all the high notes with precision. Peart beat his skins senseless, holding things down front and center, while Lifeson performed with such passion that his energy glowed right through the child-like smile he wore for most of the evening. Lifeson’s phenomenal guitar skills were exclaimed to the fullest when he appeared before stage armed with two guitars-playing a beautiful intro on a 12-string acoustic that echoed right into “Closer To The Heart.”
The evening unfolded a few surprises when RUSH unleashed a couple of new tracks, “Caravan” and “BU2B,” that will be released on the band’s new album next year. The tracks are heavy, flamboyant, proving that the trio still has spark and hunger for rock n roll. The real crowd pleaser was RUSH performing their most celebrated and successful album to date and in its entirety, 1980’s “Moving Pictures.” The audience was left in total bliss as RUSH performed “Red Barchetta,” “YYZ” and “Limelight” all in a row. The album’s b-side also went over well in the live setting; tracks like “Witch Hunt” and “Vital Signs” floated smoothly. The climax of the evening was a spunky and carefree Lifeson, leading the pack to “2112 Overture,” while Lee ripped through “The Temples Of Syrinx,” with intensity. The band was on fire and the crowd went nuts-Peart bashed, Lifeson’s guitar scorched and Lee played the four-string like a madman.
With a catalog spanning back over 35 years, RUSH is still creating memorable tunes and bridging generations of fans. The Canadian trio is the only rock band that can make “Time Stand Still,” and make it look and sound good.
Rock n roll’s monstrous dare devils, KISS brought their larger than life extravaganza, “The Hottest Show on Earth” tour to San Antonio, Texas Sunday. The rain didn’t stop the KISS Army from uniting, generation after generation of fans poured into the AT&T center for a spectacular night of music and Kiss-atrical mayhem. From a family of three dressed in full KISS costumes, to a drunk and spunky woman telling stories of her days working as a KISS roadie, to the curious “first time” virgin spectators-the KISS Army was defiantly in full force.
From the start we were in for quite a ride. The show began with video screens projecting KISS backstage with manager Doc McGhee making their way to the stage; the crowd went nuts. “Alright San Antonio you wanted the best you got the best; the hottest band in the world…KISS,” wailed front man Paul Stanley to a packed screaming crowd of over nine thousand.
The ageless and venomous KISS literally made an over-the-top entrance high above the stage in the midst of sonic explosions and fire to open their massive two hour plus set with the “Sonic Boom” track, “Modern Day Delilah.” KISS bassist Gene Simmons, guitarist Paul Stanley and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer spontaneously emerged behind Eric Singer’s drum kit with a mini stage spun out from behind, transporting them to the front of the stage. Lights and fire swarmed all around and the show had just begun.
Next up was “Cold Gin,” which featured Simmons’ vehement vocal skills, while Stanley sported and shredded his guitar like a madman. When KISS hits the stage, they always deliver. The band still has heart, overflowing with just enough sparks to kick start anything in their path. As each song progressed, things only got bigger and better. Stanley not only entertained but connected with the audience and the crowd rejoiced licking up everything and anything he threw their way. At one point Stanley even had a woman in the crowd spinning in circles, simply because he gestured.
“Let Me Go Rock N Roll” and “Firehouse” heated things up with a writhing -tongued Gene Simmons delivering his famous fire breathing trick to the crowd. As if that wasn’t enough, Simmons upped the ante during “I Love It Loud,” which featured blood spitting through smoke and dry ice, while Simmons flew to the top of the lighting rig to performing above thousands of anxious spectators.
Lead guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer also gave a wonderful performance, full of energy-twists and turns. Thayer performed his version of “Shock Me,” which included a killer, relentless guitar solo that eventually meshed into an all-out jam session with Singer.
KISS closed up the main set in high spirits, performing staple tracks “Love Gun,” “Black Diamond” and “Detroit Rock City” before making a triumphant return to the stage for a six-song encore. Stanley even dished out a chunk of Zeppelins’ “Whole Lotta Love.” Among the highlights of the night was Paul Stanley’s version of the hit, “I Was Made For Lovin’ You,” which he sang after gliding on a zip line from the stage to a platform set across the arena.
Eric Singer also shocked the crowd when he stepped from behind his drum kit and made his way to the front of the stage to sing the ballad, “Beth.” Other classic tracks unleashed were “Lick it Up,” and “Shout It Out Loud.” The stadium anthem hit, “Rock And Roll All Nite” closed and topped off the night. Mounds of what seemed like never-ending confetti showered the crowd, while Stanley vigorously smashed his guitar to pieces. Stanley’s content smirk of satisfaction echoed a job well done.
Overall, KISS put on one hell of a show, the set list was seasoned with an assortment of songs not just from their make-up years but from all monumental eras of their iconic career. Age has never made a difference with KISS, the fact that a band can bridge generations of fans is simply phenomenal. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the art of stage show doesn’t get better than this.
1. Modern Day Delilah
2. Cold Gin
3. Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll
5. Say Yeah
7. Crazy Crazy Nights
8. Calling Dr. Love
9. Shock Me
10. I’m An Animal
11. 100,000 Years
12. I Love It Loud
13. Love Gun
14. Black Diamond
15. Detroit Rock City
17. Lick It Up
18. Shout It Out Loud
19. I Was Made For Lovin’ You
20. God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll to You II
21. Rock And Roll All Nite
It’s been over four decades since guitarist Rudolf Schenker formed The Scorpions with vocalist Klaus Meine. The combination of relentless determination and ultimately friendship, earned the German rockers global success. Seventeen studio albums in and the “Get Your Sting and Blackout,” farewell world-tour in full effect, leaves Schenker optimistic and still hungry for adventure.
“I don’t know what next will be; it’s written in the stars. When you are open minded, things will come and you will follow this stuff. I think this is the most inspiring and effective way of living,” says Schenker by phone. Back in January, the band announced that the recently released, Sting In The Tail will be their final album and following a world tour, SCORPIONS–one of the most successful rock bands in the world will retire. But ‘retirement’ is such a permanent word, a term that doesn’t complement Schenker’s spunky and care-free personality.
After a lengthy, philosophical conversation with the legendary guitarist, I’ve come to conclusion that “The Best is Yet to Come.”
Beyond the Dark Horizon: I’ve been following the tour through your facebook page and l gather that you’re having the time of your life.
Schenker: Fantastic! What can I say, we have a 40 year career now and this tour has really been about celebrating around the world-Get your sting and then Black Out. That’s what we do. We have a blast every night on stage and now we are here in San Antonio, Texas and the people here from what I heard are getting crazy. Tonight will be a special night; a night to remember. That’s what we’re trying to do with the whole tour. We started March in Moscow and then we went through all of Europe, most places we’ve sold out, which means we’re playing before 25, 000 people and it’s really great to see that all the fans that have been part of our career and rock music are coming out to celebrate with us. It’s amazing.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: What’s even more amazing is the fact that the story of The Scorpions has always been about friendship. What started as friends will end as friends. Friendship is the foundation.
Rudolf Schenker: That’s correct. That has always been the basic idea, vision and philosophy of The Scorpions. When I decided to start up the band, the inspiration came from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones’ British invasion, which basically was 4 to 5 friends making music and traveling around the world. For me, that was the kick that got me into playing guitar. When I got the band together, the first priority was to find good musicians but get people in the band that I could build a friendship with. So in the end, especially when you’re on tour for over a year then it makes very much sense. If you are creating music with someone together and you find out on tour that it’s someone that you can’t live with, it becomes terrible for the career and music. When people can’t build a kind of relationship with friendship, everything becomes meaningless. ‘Friendship’ is the most important thing about The Scorpions; it’s the reason why The Scorpions really have built bridges between generations, religion, countries and current events. This was also the basic idea when we went out on tour in foreign counties.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: And from the beginning you knew the band was bound for success?
Rudolf Schenker: I always knew. In the beginning, German media didn’t want to listen to The Scorpions because we were inspired by the English/American music. We went into different foreign countries like France and Belgium and we were like ‘Bang Bang Rock with the Gang.’ We were literally like a gang, going into other countries and really going on stage and not giving 100%, giving 150%. And that made us special and their media began writing highly about us; in England even. This whole reaction came back to Germany and the German media said “I can’t believe, this is our Scorpions from Germany and we have to write about it.” That was the whole idea for Scorpions and we always, especially in Russia made an impact. When we first started playing in Russia, we had a huge press conference and we said “Our parents came in with tanks and we’re coming in with guitars and love.” This is the message of The Scorpions. A year later, we were invited to play The Moscow Peace Festival, two nights with 110,000 people and sharing the stage with us was Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourne, Cinderella-along with some Russian bands. That night we felt something in the air, we said, “something will change in the world,” — inspired, Klaus wrote the song “Wind of Change.”
Beyond the Dark Horizon: One of The Scorpions’ most powerful and moving songs.
Rudolf Schenker: Wind of Change became the anthem for the most peaceful revolution on earth. The reaction of that was being invited by Michael Gorbatschew to The Kreml. We are still the only rock band ever being invited in The Kreml and even talked to the leader of one of the biggest countries of the world. We had the opportunity to have a 45 minute talk with Gorbatschew. It was a powerful conversation about the world, music and everything. I mean that’s something where you can say, there is a career of band, coming from a place like Germany and being told in the beginning that we were doing everything wrong and in the end to find out that we did everything right.
That’s the reason why I wrote the book, “Rock Your Life,” where I tell people, don’t follow the money line–follow the line of your instinct. Go for whatever is fun for you by making your hobby an occupation. I think that’s the best, most important point of this message I gave in this book, which is out now in Germany, Switzerland and Portugal. It has a forward written by Paulo Coelho the big writer from Brazil. So this message is the message of The Scorpions and an example for people to believe in yourself and don’t believe in what other people are telling you to believe in. If this is the message that The Scorpions can give, then anything is possible. Together, really go for it and make your life an adventure.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: So basically aside from ‘friendship,’ the entire success of The Scorpions has been based on the notion of pure positive thinking-a philosophical approach?
Rudolf Schenker: Of Course! Everything is possible and can happen if you believe it. Most people don’t believe in anything. They believe in doing as less as possible and getting as much money as possible. That’s not the right way. It doesn’t bring you happiness but only keeps you looking for the next money opportunity. There’s always money; it’s always going to be there. There’s only one way and it’s follow your own instinct. You will then become stronger and build your personality up.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: How would the band get through confrontations or bumps in the road?
Rudolf Schenker: There were bumps in the road throughout the 90’s-when alternative and grunge music came into the picture. But, we we’re lucky enough that we did not follow the money line, by only playing in the places where the money was-like Europe, the United States and London. No, we went early on in the 80’s to Asia. We were building up the Asian market even when there was no market. In this case we played there and when the Asian market built record companies, we we’re already big there. While grunge was taking up the scene in North America and Europe, we played in huge stadiums in Asia. This is where you follow your instinct and this is why we would not come across too many bumps.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: You live a very positive and spiritual life; did religion play a role in your childhood? How did this awakening for a positive way of thinking come about?
Rudolf Schenker: What inspired me the most was Eastern Philosophy-yoga, meditation, gurus, Buddha and all the people who have a right picture of the world. They help give you the right inspiration of what is very important in life. Ours has just been here in a messed up world, more and more go in the direction of please, they please everything outside themselves instead of inside themselves. What they feed themselves is the rubbish that they can get their hands on. They have to get the best computer in the world, iPods, iPhone and everything but go to the cheapest markets to get something to eat. They do this without realizing the conditions of chickens in farms-they can hardly move and pigs are getting injections like crazy to grow faster. Their whole world is upside down and that’s the reason why nobody is ever satisfied. Then you switch on the TV and see a few films of people killing each other, commercials telling you to eat pizza and burgers when the ingredients contain chemicals.
This is a world turned upside down and where the people who achieve the most money are living in a glamorous world and present themselves every day in new outfits. So this is a situation where the world is cliché and the real stuff, nobody goes for that because it’s not interesting enough. This is the reason why I went very early on into yoga and meditation, to find out what the most important parts in life are and follow this line. But, not going to India and sitting there, no, I’m living in the real world and trying to connect my knowledge to other people who have the same thoughts and also give people across the world great music to enjoy with their life.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Understood and experiencing fame early on you had to learn balance.
Rudolf Schenker: It’s always been about balancing; because it’s really up to you how you view the world today. You can see it miserably or in a very positive way. There’s always a positive side to things and if you see the positive, the frequency of your mind goes up and then you’re not involved with all the bad stuff in the world. You begin to really build your own plateau of where you want to live.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Thoughtful of you to share your views by writing a book; do you plan to write another after this tour?
Rudolf Schenker: After this tour is done, I plan to travel and promote “Rock Your Life” in different countries. After that I think everything will come up by itself and fall into place. The idea for this book came from one second to the other. I was never even thinking about writing a book, it’s a biography kind of but more of an example of The Scorpions including the help of other people.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Many critics are throwing around the word “retirement,” which sounds so permanent but you obviously have lots of more journeys to explore.
Rudolf Schenker: Correct and that’s the reason why I was a part of the “Dakarr Rally” at the beginning of this year in South America; it’s the most dangerous rally in the world. I was asked by Volkswagen because they read my book and said, “Hey, you like adventures this is something for you.” It was an adventure and I said yes immediately because I had a good feeling about it. My manager told me “Rudolf, you’re crazy, we have a whole world tour planned in front of us-this is dangerous!” I replied by saying, “It’s not dangerous, It’s helpful,” and it became one of my best adventures and things that I’ve ever done. So there will be so many things coming up for me; things that I still have no idea about can come up. In this case, there really is no retirement.
As for The Scorpions, after we completed the Sting in the Tail album, our manager said “Hey guys this would be a great piece to end your career on a high note.” At first we thought of it as a joke but after much thought we figured out that he’s exactly right. Right now we can run, jump and really deliver what our fans are used to seeing in ourselves. Going out this way, we won’t disappoint anyone. We have always been a band that gives 150%. It would disappoint us if in a few years, we we’re unable to deliver to the people. So in this case, it’s the perfect time to really give the people a great album and tour. The “Sting in the Tail” album is really an essence of what The Scorpions was like back in the 80’s. It’s sort of like a best of The Scorpions 80’s era but with new songs on it. And we have a fantastic live show; an 80’s rock show with a twist. We have 3 huge screens and movie media. Sometimes you have a feeling that we are part of the film and we have an outstanding set list that has really been pleasing the fans-with the new stuff, the classic stuff and hits. So we have everything and now what is the most important part and the reason that we could make this album, “Sting in the Tail,” is that there is now a union for the 80’s. Somehow the 80’s are back, what’s helping us has put us in a situation that we’re coming back here on a wave with twists and with a good base of feelings. People are really enjoying what we are doing.
One of these last concerts, we would like to record for a DVD at a very special place. We’ve played in front of the pyramids in Cairo, we’ve played in Manaus-the main city of Amazonas in the jungle in front of 40,000 people. We’ve played at some very outstanding places and we want to film one of these outstanding places and eventually release a DVD.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: When writing material for “Sting in the Tail,” how did the band go about channeling that successful 80’s vibe that The Scorpions are highly known for?
Rudolf Schenker: It was very easy. After our previous album, “Humanity: Hour 1,” which very much had an American polished kind of sound and was a concept album with a message about humanity-the message was to be careful. After that the damage was done and the financial crisis came in and we said that we did not want to do a Humanity Hour 2 because there was nothing to say anymore. We wanted to do a fun album that we are really based on. We we’re raised on rock and we thought, let’s do something!
I was very close to calling the album “The Rock,” but then we thought that was too boring and we really began building the album based on our history. What was helpful for us were the two Swedish producers, which we called and said “Hey guys we want you to produce our album and we want to do it in our studio in Hannover, please come over.” They came over and said, “We love the studio and want to do the job but for us it’s very important that we have the essence of The Scorpions back again-great guitar riffs, vocals and melodies.” These guys kicked Matthias and my ass very much to get out as much as we can give for The Scorpions sound. Just working with these guys was very helpful. They pushed us to the extreme because they are Scorpions fans and they know what to expect from The Scorpions.
Also, looking back at our raised on rock situation, all these things just started to spill forth. Everything that we are saying on this album it wasn’t only on the conscious level but it also painted a clear picture of what we did in our career. For example, the song SLY-what is the song SLY really about? It’s really a song that we created in ’85 as “Still Loving You.” In France it was a big hit. We sold over 2 million singles in France alone. Many couples made love to the song, Still Loving You and that is the reason why it created the baby boom. Many couples ended up getting married and had kids; they even named their kids SLY. We always really try to connect ourselves to the feeling of The Scorpions sound with the feeling of our lives.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Where do you see the future of Rock n Roll? Do you think there are any bands today that can possibly hold up that torch that The Scorpions have held for 4 decades?
Rudolf Schenker: (A long pause of silence) Believe in yourself. Follow your instincts and look for people that have the same vision and ones you can build a friendship with. That’s the basic line and everything else will come by itself. It’s a very important point and yet most people want success immediately. But you have to give space. Space is a very important part of living. If you want to have everything immediately, you will not have patience and you will get nothing. You will always change your direction and as soon as you find out that you’re not getting what you want, ‘you go this way and that way’ and then you end up running your whole life away, away from what you really want.