OD -Let’s talk about the new album and the title, what made you choose “War of Kings”?
JOEY – Well, “War of Kings” – well I got it from John Leven, the bass player – he said it first. I started working on the melody, and it felt like it could be about old Scandinavia; I was cooking it in my head and I was thinking “I need to re- read a book called ‘The Long Ships’”. It’s about the early days of about Vikings, and when they stated traveling and first battles they had outside of Denmark – it was the Norwegians and the Swedes starting that whole thing. So yeah, it’s loosely based on some interesting and important battles of the Viking age. But it’s only the song ‘War of Kings’ – the rest of the album is other ideas.
OD – You used Dave Cobb to produce and John Netti as engineer on this record and recorded in PanGaia studios in Stockholm, how was the overall experience of making this record and how did it differ from your previous albums?
JOEY – We got a boost after work, doing “Bag of Bones” with Kevin Shirley and we realized that we’re never gonna go back and do the traditional way of recording drums, bass, and guitar all separate and stuff, so we recorded “War of Kings” live, and the same thing with “Bag of Bones“. Dave (Cobb) really wanted to use the equipment from the old set so we ended up creating a really great vibe for the album, a real atmosphere that you can totally hear when you listen back. He used a mellotron, and sampled some strings and voices and stuff. We used the mellotron a lot, we brought the Hammond back, the Hammond B3 and C3 back a little bit. But, Dave was also part of the band during the process if you know what I mean.
We recorded everything in 2 or 3 weeks, live. It was all very intense; very creative. Dave jumped on board 3 or 4 tracks as arranger and writer, and he’s a very talented musician. We just wanted to elevate “Bag of Bones” a little bit. Bag of Bones was really a touring band’s record. This one took a little more time with the melodies, with the writing, with the instrumentation. We did work a little bit harder on “War of Kings” to make it something that we could keep and feel like it has a vibe to it. We’re very pleased. Otherwise, everybody was writing on this one.
Mic Michaeli sent me ideas, John Leven, as I said, had War of Kings, Hole in My Pocket, and a few others – he’s getting very prominent in writing, John Norum on a few tracks. And we kept most of it from the 2 weeks of doing the recording. John Norum kept doing his solos. He did a few overdubs afterwards, and Mic Michaela did a few Hammonds – we had to record the Hammond in a different studio. So all-in-all, 3 weeks I think. We’re very excited because we created something slightly different from the last album. We’re taking the band even further. I think War of Kings, the song, is slightly different to what we’ve done. It makes people react and we like that kind of thing.
We were talking in the studio; that this is always something we wanted to make. The drums sound really light, and we used the keyboards in the right way, like the retro, the Hammond, the mellotron – we created a special sound for the album. That’s what we meant, because we listened to records that had vibes all the way through, like Led Zeppelin “IV“, or Heaven and Hell, with Black Sabbath or “Paranoid” with “Black Sabbath”; something that had a vibe all the way through. Something that had a journey: heavy, but also emotional. It was more like that, I think, that we always wanted to strive for, whereas, “Bag of Bones” was very much a straightforward rock album. We put so much work into creating an atmosphere and stuff on this record.
OD – Can you talk about the concept on the album cover and the involvment of the bands decision for this cover. Did you give 100% artistic freedom to the designer?
JOEY – This band, no – we (laughs), we never give complete freedom to people around us. Everything is decided either here or in the dressing room. We obviously had the title, we decided in the studio that this song is special to us, we’re gonna open the album with this song so why don’t we call it “War of Kings“? Like, we played around with other titles. But this one was on that we all could agree on. And then we gave this title and the lyrics to an artist in London, and he did Black Star Riders’ first album cover and we really liked what he did with that. We thought that “we’re gonna try this guy”, and we gave him the instructions and the lyrics.
The other instructions were; no swords, no fire, no Vikings, nothing like that. Make it contemporary that would work today. It could be a president; it could be a king; it could be a businessman sitting there, and we discussed the chess angle with the artist as well. But, in all fairness, he took the shot of the guy in the suit, and did the whole thing himself, and he presented it to us. We did a few minor changes, but we were blown away by the image that he created, and we’re very pleased with that.
OD – You headlined Bloodstock Festival back in 2009 which was a tremendous success. What do you think about the future of the large Rock / Metal festivals and it’s capability to sustain their size as there seems to be a lack of quality in current bands today that can command such crowds?
JOEY – We discussed this as well. I mean, Metallica, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, they’re all still touring and they’re still commanding, and they’ll be going for a while longer. Let’s hope that there are bands in Europe that are still building and working hard, and building a relationship with rock media and the fans, and will take over and then we will have great shows and continue the tradition. But unfortunately, these things move on and the biggest ones survive.
I mean, Download in the UK, Wacken in Germany – there are several festivals that are becoming huge and there are lot more that will survive because they have a vibe at the festival. People wanna go to a festival no matter who’s playing because it’s cool to go, and I think that will continue. I hope there will be a new team of players like ourselves and some other people that can take over, because we’ll be going for 10 or 20 more years. A lot of festivals have popped up over the last 20 years and I don’t know who will survive, but there is a healthy scene for rock bands that you can go out and play.
OD – It’s no surprise that your all fans of Thin Lizzy, so how does it feel to be embarking on a Ireland / UK tour with Scott and the guys from Black Star Riders?
JOEY – Oh it’s really sweet! We met them on the festival circuit a few times and Scott Gorham guest appeared with us a few times on our anniversary show headlining at the Sweden Rock Festival a few years ago, and we met Ricky and the guys a few different times at different concerts and festivals. So, they’re all cool and it’s gonna be so nice. It’s gonna be a real team and a lot of fun. Two bands with new albums and new music out, and I think it’s gonna be a great evening. On another note, they have a lot of other classic songs – obviously they’ll do some new stuff, but also, doing songs of their own and they’ll be amazing. And we have some great new songs and some classic tracks as well. It’ll be a whole evening of great stuff I think.
OD – Will you be playing “Ready Or Not” at the Dublin show in the Olympia on March 2nd?
JOEY – (laughs) I dunno we haven’t rehearsed yet. We haven’t played that in a long time. We have to fit 10 albums in now.
OD – Your show in Ireland will be the first in 25 years! How has it taken this long for you guys to get back here?
JOEY -It’ll be cool to come back to Dublin because I used to live in Ashford in the 90’s. The guys from Europe, they were having a break, and they used to come over and see me. I remember jamming there and discussing putting the band back together. But I had a great time living in County Wicklow, going into Dublin to see shows in the Olympia, and now we’re gonna play there with Black Star Riders. I cant believe its been so long since we’ve been back. Personally as well, I used to live there between ’96 and 2000. I had a great time there and its amazing coming back – for 2 reasons: For me personally, because I had a great time living there, but also for the fans, to be back after 25 years. And we’re opening that night, the first night of the tour, and also, the album is released that day, March 2nd. So it’s a very big night in Dublin.
OD – You lived in Dublin for a period of time in which you recorded some of “Azalea Place” have you any fond memories of your time in Ireland?
JOEY – Yeah I did go to the studio, I cant remember the name of it. U2 used to record B-sides, it’s upstairs from a record shop. I had some meetings there at the Windmill Studios. Then I went to London to finish them and Nashville to finish “Azalea Place“. But I did some work on it in Dublin. That’s the reason I moved to Ireland. I started listening to The Waterboys and some Mike Scott stuff during my years in Europe, when I discovered some singer-songwriter stuff like Neil Young and Van Morrisson, all kinds of stuff. The Waterboys was also one band that intrigued me, so I started following Mike Scott’s footsteps a little bit and went over to write in Ireland, so I rented a place in County Wicklow for a year to get some inspiration. A lot of my solo stuff, even “Azalea Place” has a song called “Hold the First One” I wrote partly in Ireland. It was important to me as a writing place actually. So I had a great time there.
OD – What can we expect from the live show in the Olympia and will you be delving deep in the bands rich catalogue. In particular will you be playing “Scream of Anger”?
JOEY – We’re gonna meet up in a week or so and discuss all of this, and “Scream of Anger” is a staple in our set, we love it because of its energy and it gets our spirits up too. When it comes to old songs, we usual always play “Rock the Night, Final Countdown” and “Superstition“, we love playing it, and then a few more from that era and some new songs we love playing. “War of Kings“, we’ll have that for sure as it’s a fast rocker – it’s an amazing track. And a few more from “War of Kings“. It’ll be a mixture.
OD – What’s the most surreal situation you have found yourself in over the last 30 odd years?
JOEY – Oh there’s been a few…. Just meeting some of the heroes that you have! I was standing next to David Bowie at Gothenburg Airport, just next to him without knowing it. I just turned around and there he was. It was amazing. There’s been crazy things – when I was living in Wicklow there was a break in at our neighbour’s house. It was not to close but it was next to us. And it was a fan from Italy trying to break into the wrong house, looking for me, and he got caught in the fridge. So police station in the middle of the night, it was surreal!
So yeah there’s been a few over the years, but meeting people is great. I met Scorpions in Paris the other day, and we just remembered all the old albums we used to listen to, like N-Trance, and everything came back to me. Like those things are really cool for me. One of the first shows we saw when we were kids was Scorpions in Stockholm with Def Leppard supporting. It’s cool and it’s so surreal, now that we used to go to see Thin Lizzy all the time. We used to see them when they all came to Sweden and now we’re going to play with Scott and the guys – it’s incredible.
War of Kings is out on March 2nd via UDR Records.
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