Tag Archives: rock music

Feature Interview: Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions

Scorpions band 2019 seattle

They may have been around since 1965 and have an average age of 63, but German hard rock royalty Scorpions are planning to tear Australian audiences a new one when they co-headline with Whitesnake in a few weeks.

The five-piece, perhaps best known for their 14-million-selling, 1991 power ballad ‘Wind of Change’, will have been on their ‘Crazy World’ tour for close to three years by the time they arrive for shows in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane on 19th, 22nd and 24th February respectively.

Founder member, 71-year-old rhythm guitarist Rudolf Schenker, can’t wait to reconnect with fans here, speaking of previous visits and chances to reconnect with the enthusiasm and vitality of someone a third of his age.

“We’re coming back because we love it so much,” he says. “I remember that in 1992 we had a fantastic offer to go to Australia, but my friends were so tired from touring after one and a half years on the road with the [original] ‘Crazy World’ tour, and we had a number one or number two hit in Australia with ‘Wind of Change’, and I said, ‘let’s get this done’. But we were tired and people couldn’t be convinced, and now we have the possibility. In 2016 we played some shows there with Def Leppard and we had a great experience there. That was the reason we said to our agents that before we go into the studio to make a new album, we would like to do another tour in Australia to heat up the market, then the offer to go and co-headline with Whitesnake came up.”

The two bands make perfect sense as co-headliners, having known each other for decades and recently having played monumental festivals together.

“We played with Whitesnake already this year in Brazil”, Schenker says. “We played Rock in Rio with the Chili Peppers, Iron Maiden, Muse, Imagine Dragons and our friends Bon Jovi, and [the festival] voted us the best act in Rock in Rio for 2019! That’s pretty good for a band that has been on the road for over 50 years.”

Founded in 1978 by former Deep Purple singer, David Coverdale, Whitesnake arrive in Australia on the back of the release of thirteenth album, Flesh & Blood, released in May. It’s been 12 years since they last played here.

“We get on so well together with Whitesnake as we have been friends for years,” Schenker says. “They are great people. I remember, in the old days, the headliners would try to fuck over the openers because they were afraid they would be better than them. Our way is different. We want to be the best; there’s no question about this, but we are friends and our bands, Whitesnake and Scorpions, have a crossover in fanbase. In the end, we have the possibility to convince the audience that the whole night was a great package and send them home happy. It needs to be the whole evening, the whole show, all the bands being fantastic. In the old days, rock and roll was a rough and tough kind of music, but, these days, David Coverdale is a gentleman onstage.”

‘Wind of Change’, which describes the breakdown of the former USSR and the fall of the Berlin Wall, became, for millions, the political anthem that accompanied the reunification of Europe after 50 years of division. Schenker sees it differently.

“’Wind of Change’ became the soundtrack to the most peaceful revolution on earth”, he says. “But we didn’t see the song as a political statement; we saw it as a human being statement or a statement of hope. We hope that people – human beings – can find a way to live together in peace. As our planet becomes smaller and smaller, we need to have the right way to bring people together and not against each other. The reason we are on the ‘Crazy World’ tour now is like when we were on the ‘Crazy World’ tour 30 years ago. Then, it was crazy in a positive way, with the Berlin Wall coming down and two big worlds coming together and making some peaceful decisions, but now, we are looking at a crazy world in a more negative way. We are always two steps forward, one backwards. In the ’60s and ’70s we started travelling around the world to show people that Germans weren’t bringing war; they were bringing love, peace and rock and roll. That’s the reason we were one of the first rock bands to play in Russia; to show people that music is a very important part in life. Mozart said, ‘What would be the world without music?’ and he is right. Music is the best communication you can have.”

The permanent addition of former Motörhead drummer Mikkey Dee in 2016 provided a welcome shot in the arm after James Kottak’s dismissal for alcoholism. The band’s live performance has benefitted in new and unexpected ways, Schenker says.

“We were fighting very hard to get James back into the band,” he says. “We were hoping that we could keep him in the band, but after bringing him into a rehab kind of place to get him away from drinking, people were telling us that he needed more time than we could give him. Matthias [Jabs – lead guitarist] said that Motörhead had been friends with us since they opened for us in 1974 in Blackburn, England. When we got the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, they were there and we became friends. When Lemmy was very sick, I went to his dressing room to see him and I congratulated him for 40 years of Motörhead being together, and he congratulated me for 50 years of Scorpions being together. We were close, and when Lemmy died around Christmas, Matthias had the idea to ask Mikkey Dee. I called him, and he has always been a Scorpions fan. I can tell you, when Mikkey Dee was on the drums during our first rehearsal, I had to kick my ass again because it was a very strong attack he takes and he makes me a more effective rhythm guitar player. The right riff with the right edge is the way I play, and this is the way he plays his drums. We always have fun when we play every show. It’s fun to be onstage and kicking each other’s ass – people can see that and they are impressed. They can see that, even though those fucking bastards are 70 years old, they’re still rocking like a hurricane!”

For Mixdown

Record review: Stonefield – As Above, So Below (2016, LP)

stonefield as above so below

Okay, before I begin, let me say this: our very existence is on a knife-edge and everyone dies alone. In a world of uncertainty we have to grab hold of whatever takes the edge off the grim reality on the front pages. The country’s going to hell in a Hanson-shaped handcart, so the time for plunging worried fingernails into the small certainties that make life worth living is upon us. One of those certainties is the ability of a good rock band to soothe the soul and free the mind, and the four Findlay sisters of Stonefield have been a good – hell, great – rock band on the national scene for close to six years. This release, their second full-length along with a couple of EPs, is a work of maturity and drive that expands on their instantly-riffy, ’70s-soaked psych-rock sound and pulls in other influences from the wider rock realm to make quite the gut-kicker. The sludgy, Sabbath-esque ‘Sister’ and organ-driven ‘Dream’ let you know they haven’t gone soft since their 2013 debut, while ‘Love’, ‘Eyes’, and ‘Higher’ (what’s with all the one-word titles, guys?) sound like they will be monstrous on stage. There’s a lingering feeling this is much more of a ‘band’ album than previous Stonefield records. Rather than four talented individuals ripping into their instruments, it has a cohesion most likely forged by constant touring at home and abroad, including dates with Fleetwood Mac. Country Victoria can be proud of the Findlays, and the rest of us can take heart from the knowledge that while just about everything is slipping through our fingers, some things remain steadfast.

For The Brag

Record review: Bison Machine – Hoarfrost (2015, LP)

bison machine

Hamtramck, Michigan (population 22,000) might be just a tad off the beaten rock ‘n’ roll track, but stoner/heavy rock quartet Bison Machine don’t seem the types to let that bother them. Mitch Ryder (of the Detroit Wheels fame) is perhaps the most-well known musician to come from the area, but with their full-length debut Hoarfrost, Bison Machine are marking their territory in no uncertain fashion.

Fans of Sabbath, Thin Lizzy and early Queens of the Stone Age will find lots to like here; the riffs are bruising, the vocals big and the rhythm section relentless. Opener ‘Cosmic Ark’ wastes no time getting among the Iommi-esque riffs in crushing hard-rock fashion, as singer Tom Stec flaunts an impressive range as he attacks the mic. On ‘Old Moon’, the band take more of a psych approach, before punctuating the haze with riffs that could have been lifted from Zeppelin IV, while the space-y ‘Gamekeeper’s Thumb’ wanders and drones. Elsewhere, ‘Speed of Darkness’ continues the brutal riffage and closer ‘Giant’s Coffin’ finishes the album just as it began.

Bison Machine wear their influences on their sleeves, but it’s their ability to keep things varied and introduce a range of elements from the best parts of classic rock that makes them an exciting band. Besides that, these songs sound like they would shake the walls and raise the roof in a live setting.

The recent loss of talented founding guitarist John deVries, who has qualified to work as an orthopaedic surgeon, might throw a spanner in the works of the band’s future, but for now, set the dial to 1972 and crank up the volume on Hoarfrost. Bison Machine mean business.

For Heavy

Record review: Bad//Dreems – Dogs at Bay (2015, LP)

bad dreems dogs at bay album cover

Ahh; take a deep breath and suck in the smell of stale beer, man sweat and fetid urinals: pub rock is back and it’s as welcome as an icy stubby to a parched throat in the summertime. Adelaide’s Bad//Dreems are perfectly placed to provide Aussie rock with a shot in the arm with this debut album, having put in the hard yards touring at home and overseas and recently soaked the Splendour stage in much of the contents of their rider. The result is their music is no longer left of the dial, as their songwriting hero Paul Westerberg would say, but easily accessible to anyone with a penchant for heart-on-sleeve rock and wonderfully raw live shows. An early highlight is ‘Bogan Pride’, on which frontman Ben Marwe announces “Friday night and I’m five pills deep, I can’t think straight,” before questioning the motives of those overly-muscular boneheads every festival-goer loves to hate. Gutsy singles ‘Cuffed and Collared’ and ‘Dumb Ideas’ provide the rockier moments, but the real magic is to be found among the nostalgic ‘Hume’ and ‘Ghost Gums’; moments of sunburnt Australiana which mark this album as a guitar-rock classic. In true Westerberg style, though, the quartet know a record isn’t complete without at least three minutes of devastating loneliness; provided in the form of ‘My Only Friend’. Top-drawer production by the legendary Mark Opitz helps their honest and often bleak Australian world view come to the fore, on an album that will sound just as good at home as it will down the pub. Tip: best served with a refreshing pint of West End.

For The Brag

Interview: Chris Jericho of Fozzy

fozzy band

AS a former professional wrestler, Fozzy frontman Chris Jericho is used to talking big, but this time he really means it when he says new album Do You Wanna Start A War is the best of his band’s 15-year career. The metallers’ sixth album is due for release on July 25th, and Jericho has high hopes.

Your album’s about to come out. How are you feeling?

It’s always a cool time for you guys or for fans, but when you’re in the band and recording it, you hear the songs over and over and over again. From the writing stage to demo stage to tracking stage to editing stage to re-tracking to listening to putting the track list together and everything, we’ve heard the record hundreds of times. We think it’s the best record we’ve ever done. Now, a lot of bands say that and this is the way you should feel, but it’s always, shall we say, intimidating to wait and see what does everybody else thinks, and that’s kind of where we’re at right now. It’s a cool time to be at, because you make records for yourself and we did the best record that we think feels best for us. Hopefully people agree.

Why was ‘Lights Go Out’ chosen as the first single?

It’s one of the best songs on the record, has a great hook and is a little bit different. It has a little bit of a dance vibe to it. If Fall Out Boy and Black Sabbath had a bastard child, it would sound like ‘Lights Go Out’. You could hear it at a strip club and you could hear it at a Slayer concert and anywhere in between. The reason why it fits perfectly for us is that it’s still dark, but it’s got a groove that’s sexy and sleek. It’s a really cool song that we thought was one of the stand-outs. We wanted to start this record – even though it’s an old-school record like [Def Leppard’s]Hysteria or Appetite For Destruction, where there’s five or six singles on it, we wanted to start off with something a bit different, so when people hear it they go ‘wow, I never expected that from Fozzy’ or ‘we never knew Fozzy sounded like that’. It’s a song that opens doors, because it’s going to appeal to long-term fans and it’s going to make a whole lot of new fans, and that’s kind of what it’s all about.

How has the new material been going down live?

We’ve been playing ‘Do You Wanna Start A War’ and ‘Lights Go Out’. ‘Lights’ is making tracks on radio and we’ve been opening our sets with ‘Do You Wanna Start A War’; a song that people have never heard before. That’s always an interesting concept, but we can see people slowly getting into it because it’s such a hooky, catchy song and by the second or third chorus they’re singing it and they know it. I’m really excited to hear what people think when they hear the song for real; not just on a grainy, scratchy YouTube clip or just from experiencing it in the moment live. People might like it even better than ‘Lights Go Out’.

In a recent interview you said Fozzy have been playing both big arenas and small club shows. Do you have a preference?

It’s always been the way for us. Our motto is “10 or 10,000”; we play the exact same show whether there’s ten people there or whether there’s 10,000 people there. Any band will tell you this; it doesn’t matter if it’s Avenged Sevenfold or the local pub band playing across the street from you right now. Sometimes crowds are loud and crazy and sometimes they’re not, and it doesn’t matter. You have to be able to go with the flow, work that crowd and get them into it as much as you possibly can. Some nights you play in front of bigger crowds and some nights it’s smaller crowds; it doesn’t matter. You should never punish the people who’ve showed up. They’ve paid their money no matter if there were thousands or dozens of others with them. You can’t phone in a show, because every show matters, and we’re in the big leagues now.

Are you keen to throw your hat into the ring for Soundwave next year?

We’d love to play Soundwave. We played Soundwave in 2013 and it was one of the best tours of our career. We had great crowds; we were one of destination go-to bands every day. It was funny, because I always pay attention to what the crowd is like before you played and what the crowd is like after you played. It was very interesting, because although we were on early, you could tell people were coming to check us out because the band before had not a lot of people, then we played and there was six, seven, eight thousand people. In Sydney, eight thousand people came to see us and then I’d go out 20 or 30 minutes later, and the next band was playing in front of dozens of people. That’s when I started to realise we’re a destination band; people would come to see Fozzy and then go on to the next band. When you get that sort of reputation and response, you know you’re making headway. We’d love to do Soundwave again; hopefully it works out. If it doesn’t, we’ll come back in another capacity, because Australia has always been a great country for us. We’ve been touring there since 2005, and you can just see how the band has been growing and evolving every single tour, to the point where we toured Australia twice last year. I’d say that’s a pretty rare thing, to be able to do that. I love Australia; it’s a great rock and roll country, it has great fans, beautiful girls, awesome food. What more could you want? Book me now man; I’ll come play at your house.

You’ve had a few line-up changes over the years, but what makes the relationship between you and Rich Ward work so well?

It’s just chemistry and understanding. We’re lifers, man. We understand what it takes to make it. In all fairness, there were three of us who started; me, Rich and Frank Fontsere. Being in a partnership with two other guys for fifteen years is a pretty cool thing. Obviously everybody wishes they could be U2 or ZZ Top or Rush and have the same line-up their entire career, but everybody’s line-up changes. There was a time in the early ’90s where Iron Maiden had only two original members as well; Steve Harris and Dave Murray. And to this day they only have two. For us, the core unit is Ward, Jericho and Fontsere and it’s just one of those things. It’s like being in a marriage. If you’re going to make it in a long-term relationship you have to compromise and weather the good and the bad, and it’s the same as being in a band. It’s just that instead of being with one guy, you’re with two or three or four, and you don’t get to have sex with them, so there’s not even any fun in that respect either.

Will you be pretty much be touring for the rest of the year?

Yeah, just getting ready to release the record, getting ready to release the video and playing a bunch of radio festivals here in the States. Then we’ll start hitting the road in earnest, starting with the States and then heading overseas early next year. We did 17 countries last time, and I expect to beat that easily with this record.

DO YOU WANNA START A WAR BY FOZZY IS OUT JULY 25.

For The AU Review

Live review: Band of Skulls + Apes – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane – 21/6/14

band of skulls

“IT’S the last night of our world tour,” says Band of Skulls frontman Russell Marsden, a couple of songs into his band’s set at The Hi-Fi. “And we’ve got nothing to lose”.

Tonight is the kind of night that breeds those similar feelings in band and punter alike. It’s Saturday, it’s Brisbane’s West End, it’s raining and the night is young. The need to be responsible is more than 36 hours away, and with a little help from this English rock trio, we’re aiming to fit a hell of a lot in.

Ballarat’s Apes are up first as the venue fills with anticipation and beer farts. Kicking into gear mid-set, the quartet make their mark with an excellent finishing brace of new single ‘Pull The Trigger’ and ‘Helluva Time’.

Marsden, bassist Emma Richardson and drummer Matt Hayward look and sound like they mean business from the off. Lean, mean and tour-tight, the Band of Skulls trio appear up for it and then some; opening with ‘Asleep At The Wheel’ from new album Himalayan, and following on with the title track and ‘You’re Not Pretty But You Got It Going On’ from Sweet Sour. ‘I Know What I Am’ gets the first big sing-along moment, and arms flail and flap in efforts to grab plectrums tossed audience-ways by Marsden. “Don’t worry, we have plenty,” he assures the most frantic, which makes no difference whatsoever.

A stripped-back ‘Nightmares’ threatens to explode into life but never does, providing a poised mid-set highlight and a final ‘Hollywood Bowl’ leaves an audience beaten and bruised yet baying for more, as stomping feet threaten to knock the smell of stale beer out of the Hi-Fi’s carpet once and for all.

A final trio of ‘Sweet Sour’, which Marsden dedicates to the crew, ‘Light Of The Morning’ and ‘Death By Diamonds And Pearls’ is a strong finish and the perfect way to mark the conclusion of one of the best rock performances to grace Brisbane this reviewer has experienced in recent months.

For The AU Review

Record review: Tape/Off – Chipper (2014, LP)

tape-off-chipper

They say life is a little bit more laid back in Queensland, but the length of time it has taken Brisbane’s Tape/Off to record and release their debut album is surely taking the piss. After years of putting out singles and EPs, the quartet of Nathan Pickels (vocals/guitar), Ben Green (guitar), Cameron Smith (bass) and Branko Cosic (drums) have finally gone and done it, and thankfully it has been worth the wait. While first single ‘Pedestal Fan’ is a typically brutal piece of Tape/Off alt-rock, it isn’t necessarily an all-encompassing indication of what’s to be found on this 11-song effort, as there’s more than a healthy dollop of shoegaze messily slopped all over. Opener ‘Australia’s Most Liveable City’ eases us gently into proceedings with a dazed, meandering stroll through the beauty and banality of living in Brisbane in 2014, before ‘Peggy’s Lookout’ opens up into the heavy sound we know and love Tape/Off for. There’s still a debt owed to Pavement through tracks like ‘Different Order’ and ‘Believe In You’, while fractured New York Dolls-esque highlight ‘Climates’ exemplifies their ramshackle charm. Trying to guess whether each upcoming song will be a cruncher or a softie is like trying to predict whether the school bully will focus his meaty aggression on you on a particular day, but somewhat surprisingly it’s the less brutal tracks that are most memorable, like ‘Escalator’ and downbeat closer ‘Another Year’. It’s this fantastic mix of aggression and restraint that make you want to grab the band by the lapels and – in true school bully fashion – tell them not to leave it so damn long next time. (Sonic Masala)

For Beat Magazine

Russell Marsden of Band of Skulls: “It’s a tipping point now”

band of skulls

ENGLISH alt-rockers Band of Skulls are probably one of the hardest working bands in the business.

Since their 2009 debut Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, the trio of Russell Marsden, Emma Richardson and Matt Hayward have consistently won fans the old-fashioned way; by touring relentlessly and improving with each album. Singer-guitarist Marsden explains how their hard work is paying off with new record Himalayan.

“It’s an exciting time,” he says. “It’s a tipping point now. The fact now that we have three albums to choose from really makes a difference. Only having one record makes playing a show for more than forty minutes quite a challenge, so now that we have all these records to choose from makes our shows much stronger. We’ve had the record finished for a while and it’s kind of a relief to be able to share it with people. I think that’s probably the emotion that’s going through our minds right now. We’ve been playing the songs live, so we’ve got a little bit of a feeling about how people feel about the new songs, but now people can get the record, take it home and live with it, then come see us play. When we’ll be down in Australia, that will definitely be the case, so that’ll be exciting.”

The band’s second album, Sweet Sour, was released in 2012 and saw their songs evolve with a cleaner, harder sound. This time around, they weren’t willing to sit still either.

“We changed producers for this record,” Marsden says. “That was kind of a big shift. Nick Launay came in to do this one, and we made it in London, so this was the first time we didn’t record in the middle of nowhere. We went into the studio every day and worked on the songs, instead of being stuck somewhere on a farm. It really changed the dynamic of the recording session, and I think that comes out in the music; it was fun to do it every day and we really relished the challenge. Previously it was more intense, but this time we were doing a week together and a week apart. This time we definitely took the work away, then reconvened and kept the best ideas and trashed the rest. We all had to learn to accept that fact that your idea might not be the best idea. We’re quite good at it; we don’t come to blows but we might disagree now and then. Musically, I think the sound has come of age. We know what our sound is, but we also feel allowed to not just be a blues-rock band or just a heavy band, and our audience will allow us to continue to experiment in a few different directions. It’s more of a challenge to be able to play the new songs; we’ve written some that are quite tricky and are just at the edge of our ability. We challenge ourselves, and the first few times we play them live are seat-of-the-pants moments, but once you get over the first couple of times the confidence grows and it becomes more natural. Once we get our teeth into them, it’s really great. The record comes out soon and the songs know it; I think the songs are onto us. But there’s a certain buzz about playing tunes for the first time in front of people, and that’s part of the thrill which we’ve enjoyed so far. There are a couple of tracks we haven’t done yet too, so we’ve still got a couple of those moments left.”

Despite the obvious benefits of having new songs to play live, Marsden admits the expectations the band put on themselves to write the best songs possible is the driving force behind the band.

“We give ourselves our own pressure,” he says. “Outside pressure doesn’t even get a look in. We’re really proud of the two records we’ve made and we loved working with [producer] Ian Davenport on those records, but we set the bar higher this time. If a song isn’t as good as something you’ve done before, then it basically isn’t good enough. Recording is an amazing experience, although it’s not easy. There are a lot of long hours, and it can be relentless and the hours are gruelling. It can wear you down and drive you insane. It’s a bit like sitting an important exam, where the result is going to affect your life in the future, but seeing ideas that you have in your head realised is a thrill. When something comes out well in the recording, you can’t help but sneak a thought about how it’s going to sound playing it to people in the future.

An upcoming June tour of Australia is something Marsden is hoping the group can repeat in the near future.

“We’ve been a couple of times now and the audiences are fantastic and really knowledgeable,” he says. “Your festivals are really good as well; you get a lot of international acts coming over. The competition is stiff, and we know it’s not going to be an easy ride, but we’ll be playing some bigger venues for the first time and that’s really exciting. I wish we could come back to Australia more often, but it’s a long way and it costs a lot of money for bands to come over. Hopefully this won’t be the last trip on this record. If it goes as good as we hope, we can maybe come back and do some more cities as we only have three stops this time. Hopefully we can return not long afterwards.”

HIMALAYAN BY BAND OF SKULLS IS OUT NOW. THE BAND TOUR AUSTRALIA IN JUNE.

Record review: Band of Skulls – Himalayan (2014, LP)

Band of Skulls Himalayan

The argument over whether rock ‘n’ roll is or isn’t dead or dying is one that is regurgitated every couple of years, but thankfully groups like Band of Skulls prove it isn’t at all necessary to be desperately searching for the next saviour of the form. The English trio has been making straight-up rock with garage and blues hints since 2008, and shown a pleasing progression over the course of their three albums; from the fresh but scattered Baby Darling Doll Face Honey to the the harder, more polished Sweet Sour and now this third effort, which is also the first to be produced by Nick Launay (Arcade Fire, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds). Radio-friendly singles ‘Asleep At The Wheel’ and ‘Nightmares’ stay rooted in familiar territory, while others tiptoe down unfamiliar alleyways, like the rockabilly-tinged ‘I Feel Like Ten Men, Nine Dead And One Dying’, darkly Gothic ‘Toreador’ and lighters-in-the-air anthem ‘You Are All That I Am Not’. Bassist Emma Richardson’s vocals on ‘Cold Sweat’ are grand and graceful enough to make the song come off like a Bond film theme, and she ultimately steals the show over the course of twelve songs. While there’s no stand-out killer of a track, it’s satisfying to know there are still bands like Band of Skulls making rock music and winning fans the old-fashioned way; by putting in the hard yards on tour and getting a little bit better with each release.