Double page spread feature in 'This is Rock' magazine (translated from Spanish):
In 1980 you recorded with Bitches Sin, now you are working again with Steve Turton (drums), David A Mills (vocals) and the producer Chris Tsangarides. Old friends and new music. Which are the first feelings that come to you recording this album?
When we completed my debut album ‘Ascension’ in 2015, Steve Turton and I felt that there was still more to say and having written a good part of ‘Ascension’ in the studio it left us with a feeling of “what if?” ...
However… we had worked with Chris before and we knew what a brilliant creative environment we were going to be in so there was also a reasonable level of confidence. But, what none of us knew was how many songs? and more importantly, what will they sound like?? Because you should always aim for the stars and do your best for your fans.
In the event, the backing tracks were mainly composed by Chris and myself with Steve contributing the outline riff for ‘Burning Up’. There was just the 3 of us in the studio and it was very intimate and intense at times and also great fun, one of the best recording sessions I have ever been involved with.
- Take us through your typical workday with Chris Tsangarides in the studio?
A typical day with Chris starts with a full English breakfast at a local café called ‘Wellingtons’ in Deal, Kent which is about 7 miles east of Dover. We then head back to ‘the hut’ (a Scout crew hut) which is where we stay and is on the premises about 150 yards from Chris’ studio. We chill for about 30 minutes then Chris normally arrives about 10:15am.
First job is to switch everything on of course, desk, computers, amps etc and most importantly the coffee machine…hahaha. We talk about the previous day/evening and relax into the day. It is important to draw the parallels between 1980 and today. Back then we had virtually no money, so songs were written in rehearsals then we would rehearse them to as close to perfection that we could, so when we were in the studio we could make the most of the studio time. That studio discipline that we learnt back then helps the focus of today. Even though with this sessión by comparison to 1980 we were unprepared, the songs once written were typically recorded first take, including the guitar solo’s…this always makes Chris laugh!! But if you want the ‘live’ feel and to capture the excitement of the moment then this is the way to achieve this.
So maybe about an hour into the sessión we will start playing. We work for a couple of hours or so then break for lunch for about an hour then back to work for 2 to 3 hours and finish typically around 5:30pm.
The evening is usually filled with red wine, beer, chinese or indian takeaways and zombie movies…
- Do you feel more free today recording than in 1980 with Bitches Sin?
Based on ‘Ascension’ and especially now with ‘Masters Of Light’ I do feel more free today with these recordings. With Bitches Sin we were ‘born’ into a particular period of time and this is reflected in that music and of course other bands of that time and genre.
Today whilst I am essentially the same guitar player and still like to write in that style occasionally like the opening track ‘Underground’ on the new álbum ‘Masters Of Light’, recording as Ian Toomey offers up so much more freedom because the die has not been cast as it was with Bitches Sin. It also has afforded me the wonderful opportunity to express myself and tell about my life journey. ‘Ascension’ was very autobiographical whereas ‘Masters Of Light’ embraces much larger issues affecting us all, not just me personally. I am a great believer in the Truth and successfully completing our life journeys unobstructed and I love to share this message with fans and others who might discover my music at some point. This is shared by Dave as well.
- When you are writing are you doing so with the live setting in mind or how it's going to come across on the stage, or are you just writing the song for the song's sake?
We always write purely for the music and the song’s sake. I believe that if the music is of the right standard and the right quality it will work well in the studio as well as in a live setting.
- Listening to 'Masters Of Light' we discover your diversity as musician, hard & heavy could be the definition of you music?
Thank you for such a kind comment. I enjoy writing in that style as I believe music should be both exciting and inspiring and I hope others think the same when they listen to ‘Masters Of Light’.
- Writing lyrics today is not the same than 1980. Which are the key points on your lyrics?
There is so much wrong with this world today and so much disinformation and lies by our so-called leaders and teachers. Back in 1980 life was easy and just about having a good time and enjoying our individual freedoms…not so today. So it is important to get the message out there and encourage everyone to ‘wake-up’ to what is being done in their name and try to influence and change their view so that the world becomes a better place for everyone.
- What do you think about this NWOBHM revival? It’s real or only a underground thing?
It’s very interesting at the moment. I have been to Philadelphia 3 times in the last 2 years doing radio and other promotional work for ‘Ian Toomey’, and the NWOBHM ‘revival’ is very real. The only thing missing is a significant increase in interest from the major record labels. It is a fact that some, like me, have almost always gone our own way after very bad experiences with small record companies at that time who, I believe, only ever wanted the sales and monies for themselves as not a lot of bands got paid so the bands were never allowed to develop and build a truly global fan base. That restricted the amount of growth and hence the underground nature of the NWOBHM remains to this day.
What I have found in Philadelphia recently is that fans are ‘demanding’ to see these bands and are angry that they are not getting to see them live. I guess its a question of how do you close that gap? And give the fans what they want, certainly you could not risk working with any of those small record labels from the past.
- What was the easiest and hardest song that you had to write for 'Masters Of Light'?
Most of the songs were relatively easy to work with once we knew what they were!!...hahaha However, the hardest by quite a margin was in fact the most straightforward in structure and arrangement which was ‘Only Words’ our tribute to the late great Gary Moore. It took several takes with Chris at one point saying through the cans “what the f*ck are you two doing in there!...Oh Dear, but anyway first thing the next day we went in and did it first take…what a nightmare but nonetheless the finished ítem came out brilliantly.
The other track which was a little more difficult rather than easy was ‘Too Many Goodbyes’ because I really wanted that cosmic, ethereal, sensation of space so that the words had máximum impact. Chris’ production though was excellent as usual and he did a fantastic job.
- 'Devil’s Chord’ start with a Metallica style but the song open a new way to a more rock dramatic and dark touch. Where do you find the inspiration today?
Musically, ‘Devil’s Chord’ was Chris’ baby.whilst I principally looked after the lyrics, so I will let Chris answer this for you:
Chris T: “I tend to come up with ideas when I’m just playing the guitar for fun. The Devil’s Chord came about when I picked up the guitar and had my fingers on the wrong strings and this disonant sound appeared. I liked it and started playing it over till I figured the rest of the song out. My inspiration comes from the different moods I’m in at the time.”
- Can you tell us something about the writing process on 'Masters Of Light'? How born this album in your home or in the studio jamming with the rest of band?
Apart from a few riffs that I had written after ‘Ascension’ all of ‘Masters Of Light’ was written, arranged and produced and born in Chris’ studio. A fantastic experience.
- I feel that ‘Masters Of Light’ is more an album band, more live and intense, than ‘Ascension’, which was more personal with an one-man-band feeling.
I agree with you Juan, and it really shows how much energy the band was putting in to the whole recording experience. I have always admired Steve’s ability as a drummer but truly I have never heard him play with such passion and intensity as he does on ‘Masters Of Light’. And as I have already mentioned as soon as the song was written we went for a ‘take’ to keep the momentum and energy of the song intact.
‘Ascension’ was an álbum I had to write/record and include Pete Toomey on as well, because it was the completion of a chapter in my life before going fully solo. With the continued interest in Bitches Sin the autobiographical nature of ‘Ascension’ would have always embraced that part of my musical past. That complete, the ‘one-man band feeling’ was complete and a new chapter could properly begin which is fully reflected in the ‘Masters Of Light’ recording.
- John Tucker says that “‘Masters Of Light’ appears to be an album that’s more about the journey than the destination”, how is this journey? And do you have in mind a destination or it’s only enjoy the present?
‘Masters Of Light’ is very much about the journey, about life’s journey, and what we learn and deliver what has been expected of us while we are here. The sleeve design accurately reflects this and is a concious choice. I believe we all travel toward a temple of learning but nonetheless this remains only a stop along the way, but a good place to reflect and look to the future. Since I was very young I have always believed life was meant to be an adventure and so like the ‘Masters Of Light’ recording sessions which were approached with the same mindset. The world being so uncertain, I firmly believe we should enjoy the present because the past has already gone and we do not know what the future may hold so it is difficult to control. I have a very open mind regarding any destination so I live in the present.
- 'Too Many Goodbyes’ is a mix of Black Sabbath intense riff and Deep Purple Bolin period solos. What do you think about the great Tommy Bolin?
Tommy Bolin was a fabulous guitar player who died at the tragically young age of 25 years. I was never really convinced when he joined Purple because it was always Ritchie’s band and he is a unique guitar player, quite different to Tommy Bolin. That said ‘Come Taste The Band’ was a great álbum but it was Tommy’s solo albums that really showed what he could do. They have great atmosphere’ enhanced by his vocal approach and brilliant guitar playing. ‘Too Many Goodbyes’ is the story of two souls who keep meeting and falling in love through the millenia in different lives, a story captured beautifully by the words of David A. Mills. The guitar solo was played while I was ‘warming-up’ and had a real presence about it so Chris said we would keep it, no other solo was tried for this track and I hope that if Tommy Bolin was ever to hear it he would approve.
- The NWOBHM is more a spirit today than a real inspiration on your music?
Yes that is true. For me NWOBHM was where I came from and born of a different time. It has given me the independence of mind and strength of charácter and therefore the spirit that remains in the music of ‘Ian Toomey’ to this day. As inspiration today, I take more from the spiritual aspects of our lives.
- Who is the most underrated NWOBHM band of today?
I always felt that Bitches Sin were underrated in certain circumstances probably fuelled by the jealousy of others. As far as today is concerned I haven’t seen enough bands to give you an informed opinión because I have been so wrapped up in the ‘Masters Of Light’ project. I hope that they are all enjoying the renewed interest and having a good time.
- Do you consider yourself as an anti-hero of NWOBHM?
It is a title that seems to have come my way but I only see myself as ‘Ian Toomey’.
- Name your three favorite pieces of gear and why?
I love my PRS McCarty guitar, absolutely beautiful tone and incredible sustain and my 1982 Washburn A-20 Stage guitar for its speed and attitude. I know thats two but I can’t split them.
My Marshall 50 watt JCM 2000 Dual Super Lead for the attack and classic Marshall crackle…
My Vox ‘Original Cry Baby’ for when you need that extra expression in a solo…. which almost always chooses itself!!
- Have you ever been so moved by a song that you cried? When happened this?
My mood always influences what music I listen to and how I write at the time.
A lot of music moves me, but I think the only time it has moved me to tears was when I lost my Mother and around that time ‘Who Wants To Live For Ever’ by Queen came on the radio and it hit me really hard. It still has a strong effect on me to this day.