ON THE PROWL
More were formed in 1981 when guitarist Kenny Cox (later with Mammoth) returned from a brief spell in Germany and met vocalist Paul Mario Day in a London pub. Paul had just left Iron Maiden, a band of which he was a founding member. To date More released two excellent full-lengths: “Warhead” (1981) and “Blood & Thunder” (1982). At one time More were pipped to become the next big band on a global scale but this augury was thwarted by record label interference, ill health and personal conflicts.
Now More are back again, wiser, re-energised and as passionate about their music as ever before with a line-up that is literally a hot-house of talent. Recently, just before More hit the stage, I got together with all the band in an attempt to uncover what they have planned for the immediate future. Individually, the members are all well experienced in the Metal scene and in the interview they also took the time to share their thoughts on their eventful careers.
The cheery guys I have around me are: vocalist Mike Freeland (also of Praying Mantis), guitarists Paul Stickles (Dangerous Breed) and Chris Tsangarides (well-known sound engineer who produced albums for band such as Metallica, Gary Moore, Overkill, Judas Priest, Exodus, Yngwie Malmsteen and many, many more), long-standing More bass player Barry ‘Baz’ Nicholls (also of Dangerous Breed) and neo-recruit Steve Rix on drums.
To start off I’d like to clarify what the band name is. You recently went by the names Exmore and More 2012…
Chris T.: Well it’s More 2012 just to say that we are the latest incarnation of this band. More is what promoters wanted us to be called as there was enough of us from the old band so they said “Use it.” But so as not to make any major mistakes we put ‘2012’. It is essentially the old band with new people.
Baz, you were part of the original band before the first split…..
Baz: We pitched up here in 1982. it was myself and Andy Burton on drums, Kenny Cox on guitar and Mick Stratton on vocals. Unfortunately Kenny had all the strokes and that’s why the band eventually folded.
[A number of years ago Kenny suffered a series of debilitating strokes, which forced him to quit playing.]
Baz: In the last reincarnation of the band, the vocalist was our dear friend Mike Freeland. So when we started Exmore, we had 3 members of More. Obviously we didn’t have a guitarist, so in came my dear friend Chris [Tsangarides] and Paul Stickles from our other band Dangerous Breed.
Quite recently Andy Burton (drums) had to take a step back from the band due to health issues. How is he now?
Baz: As far as we know he’s undergoing an extensive recuperation process.
Is it anything serious?
Chris T.: Yes, he has a long-term illness and he’s taking care of it. So hopefully next year he’ll be back in the saddle.
Baz: That’s Steve over there, by the way. He’ll be taking Andy’s place. He’s from our other band as well. He’s stepped in More and he’s helped us out.
Yourself, Paul, and Steve also play with Dangerous Breed but Mike had also sung with that band, right?
Paul: Mike was actually the original vocalist of Dangerous Breed but then he moved on. But now here we are playing with him again in More.
Mike: It gets a bit incestuous. [laughs]
Chris T.: I can tell you how Paul came along into More. Basically Mike and Baz approached me and I said O.K. but we should get Stinky in as well because 2 guitars would be better than one. After all that was how the original line-up was. So we hit Paul over the head and dragged him into our rehearsal studio.
Paul: They made me play, forced me to learn the songs at gunpoint.
Chris T.: Yeah, we kidnapped his daughter and then held her at gunpoint too.
Paul, where are you coming from as far as guitar influences are concerned?
Paul: My all time favourite band is Thin Lizzy, which is one of the bands Chris produced. I also listened to bands such as Gary Moore and Ozzy Osbourne. Iron Maiden was my favourite band as a kid. At the time I wasn’t too familiar with the music of More but I was always into ‘80s Metal and that’s why I enjoyed playing with More.
So with 3 members of More also in Dangerous Breed, don’t you think the identity of More will get weakened?
Baz: Well, no. I was in the original band and now play in Dangerous Breed as well. It’s only because now we’ve reassembled More that I play in both bands. Better to use people that you know and are familiar working with. And that’s why Steffi came in, cause he’s the man for the job, he’s a brilliant shredder and that’s it. We couldn’t use Kenny so we’ve had to bring in people and we have brought in the best people we could.
Mike, you had already been singing with More for a number of years before the band’s most recent reincarnation, is that right?
Mike: Yes. More had reformed in 1999 and in the beginning of 2000 we had already demoed a few songs to put on the next (3rd) album. In fact we were writing and recording new songs up until 2000. Kenny had his strokes in…it must have been the Spring of 2000. It was a real shame because we had some pretty decent songs.
What’s going to happen with those songs? Do you think they’ll form part of More’s stable repertoire?
Mike: Well, there’s a couple we’re going to do tonight to prove that More did exist in 1999. We also played them in Germany and they had gone down really well. It’s our way of saying that Kenny was still writing songs up until 1999.
Mike, before you joined More around 1998, I heard you were already acquainted with More’s original singer. Could you tell me more about that?
Mike: Yes, my acquaintance with Paul Mario Day goes back to the days of my very first band, when I first started singing. We had got a support slot with a band called Wildfire and Paul Mario Day was the singer of Wildfire. I only realised that Paul was in More when some time later I met Barry and Kenny and they gave some More songs so that I could learn them. And when I heard the recordings I said, hey I recognise that voice. That’s when I realised that Paul Mario Day was the singer from More. It was pure co-incidence because before that I didn’t know that Paul had been the original singer of More.
Chris, do you think that playing with More could benefit your work as a sound engineer? It probably helps you to put yourself in a musician’s shoes when producing an album...
Chris T.: Yeah, it does. It always does. I’ve been playing in bands forever. And I love it. It’s good fun.
And have you also played live with bands?
Chris T.: Oh God yeah, of course. The major tours of the Far East and elsewhere. Ever since I was a kid I’ve always played instruments…keyboards, bass...and now I’ve ended up hacking my way on the guitar. It does help. It really does help. It puts me in the same place as most of the people I work with and it gives you a different perspective of what’s going on.
One of the bands you’ve played with was Bitches Sin – are you still involved with that band?
Chris T.: Yeah, I am.
They played in London earlier this year...
Chris T.: That’s right. And they’re coming down again in January and we’ll do some more stuff. I’ve never played live with them though – I tend to do it in the studio.
Generally speaking I think the material in “Warhead” is more suited to for a live delivery than “Blood & Money”. Do you agree?
Chris T.: Yes, personally I do.
Baz: Our live favourites are the older ones but we’ve got some really good songs written around 1999 and we’ll be playing one tonight.
And are you writing new material with this formation?
Chris T.: Well, we’re thinking about it. There’s lots of good ideas flying around – we just want to see where we’re going to go with it.
While showcasing new songs from a stage, I presume...
Chris T.: Yes, of course. That and seeing what future there is. You know, for example would people like to hear new More songs? Because the writing will be a bit different but it will be in the spirit of More…in that style.
Chris, I hope you don’t mind me asking a few questions about your career as a producer...
Chris T.: Sure, no problem.
You’ve produced albums for a wide range of bands….Overkill, Depeche Mode, Metallica, Tom Jones…..do you have a specific modus operandi on how you go about this?
Chris T.: Same as ever, I set them up and they get to play. I don’t use machines and other nonsense because I believe Rock ‘N’ Roll should not be about me showing how clever I am with a computer. It’s still done in the traditional way.
Today’s recording technology is much more accessible than when you started out in the business.
Chris T.: Oh yeah. Absolutely.
What are you views on this?
Chris T.: Let’s put it this way, they’ve invented cars now that I can easily go and buy but would I beat Lewis Hamilton in a race? I don’t think so. Basically it’s not the technology that counts, it’s the chimpanzee that’s sitting at the desk. And that’s the difference: the experience and the know-how. That’s one thing. The other thing is being able to keep five or six people happy for a sufficient period of time to record.
I suppose that to be a good producer, you also have to be a psychologist of sorts.
Chris T.: Oh yeah, I’m a Rock N Roll doctor, that’s what I always say. Well, actually I’m a Rock ‘N’ Roll proctologist, because I have to deal with a lot of assholes too!
[Everyone, including myself, bursts out laughing.]
Tonight More will be playing a song you wrote for Judas Priest.
Chris T.: That’s right, we’ll be playing ‘Touch Of Evil’ because we just thought it’ll be fitting. And it is.
[‘Touch of Evil’ appeared in Judas Priest’s “Painkiller” album. Chris Tsangarides co-wrote that song when he was producing the album in 1990.]
Two of the guitarist you’ve worked with as a producer are Gary Moore and Yngwie Malmsteen. How are these two musicians different with respect to their approach to playing guitar?
Chris T.: Different styles of course – Gary played a Bluesy type of Rock while Yngwie played his Neo-Classical Rock.
Yes, but how are their personalities different?
Chris T.: Oh, personalities? Gary was sort of regimented, more strict with himself and Yngwie just kind of woke up and started playing and then stopped because maybe he couldn’t stand up. Two completely different personalities, definitely. But both equally talented in their respective genre.
You’ve also produced albums for one of my favourite Japanese bands: Anthem. Anthem famously used both Japanese and English lyrics in their songs, so didn’t this cause any problem to you when producing the vocal tracks?
Chris T.: The only thing I couldn’t understand was whether they had to say ‘le’ or ‘re’ because there isn’t actually an R or an L in the Japanese language, it’s a mixture of the two. Sometime it would sound more like you’re saying ‘lu’ and sometimes it would sound more like ‘ru’. So I would tell them: “Wait a minute. We’ve just done that line, I’ve dropped it in again and you’ve sung ‘ru’ and the line you’ve sung sounds ‘lu’…what the heck is it? Am I going mad?”
Ha-ha! I can picture that situation – it must have appeared quite comical to an outsider.
Chris T.: Exactly. I mean it was something we did laugh about. I would tell them resignedly “OK, carry on then.”
[Baz laughs heartily.]
Chris T.: I had a similar thing with Loudness. One of the strangest things with that band was why call yourself a name you can’t pronounce! Sometimes it’s as if they’re saying ‘Roudness’.
It must have been such a farce. Loudness is another band I love, incidentally. I’ve been following them since the early 1980s.
Chris T.: They were brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
Chris, you produced Ozzy’s first solo album “Blizzard Of Ozz”, a groundbreaking album with a shadow of controversy behind it.
[Such controversy includes allegations of unpaid royalties and a (unsuccessful) lawsuit for having incited a suicide through the song ‘Suicide Solution’. Ozzy & co. had opted not to go ahead the production efforts of Chris Tsangarides. And when the album was re-released in 2002, the drum and bass tracks of Lee Kerslake and Bob Daisley were replaced by tracks recorded by Mike Bordin and Robert Trujillo respectively. It was only fan outcry that the band was forced to release the album once more, in 2011, reinstating the performances of Kerslake and Daisley.]
Can you please clarify your involvement with that album?
Chris T.: Basically they weren’t very rehearsed up and I told them they should really just go and rehearse before we come back in again. They said “Oh, no, no ,no. No need.”
Did that assessment include Randy Rhodes?
Chris T.: Randy was brilliant. The rest of them, in my view, needed to rehearse the songs better. David Arden, Sharon Osbourne’s brother came down to the studio, took the band into a room, said something to them and it was all great. We started recording, we did the backing tracks, got into solos and then I got an ear infection. I was ill and I couldn’t work so I left. And that’s the story. That’s my story and exactly what happened. Any other bullshit you may have heard, such as that I was hired to mix it and that they sacked me, is a load of crap.
I was asked to re-record the drum and bass tracks on Ozzy’s second album (1981’s “Diary Of A Madman”). Don Arden [Sharon Osbourne’s late father and musical impresario involved in the careers of bands such as Black Sabbath, The Small Faces and ELO] called me and asked me to re-record the drums and bass tracks with the band’s new drummer and bass player. And I said: “How can we do that? Isn’t it already released?” It was. I don’t know if they ever did it but that was the last I heard of him.
Steve, you’ve only been playing drums with More for 3 months and you joined Dangerous Breed earlier this year. How are you coping with your new schedule?
Steve: Well, it’s obviously not easy. It’s busy but it’s fun. That’s what keeps me psyched, young and gorgeous.
Baz: He plays by numbers anyway. [laughs]
So, Steve, could you tell me something about yourself for the sake of readers unfamiliar with you?
Steve: I’ve done lots of stuff before. In fact I’ve been playing drums for more years than I care to mention. Probably for 25 years…maybe more…I don’t wanna say. I suppose Rock and Metal is where my heart is although I’ve done a lot of Prog stuff over the years. I was member of a Prog band called Walking On Ice, which was quite a big Prog band in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I’ve been working with (guitarist) Dave Colquhoun, who’s currently on tour with Rick Wakeman (Yes).
I kind of whore myself quite a lot as a Rock and Metal drummer…and that’s how these guys found me. They got in touch with me via one of these musician’s websites and told me: “We need a drummer, do you want to do it?” “Yeeesssss! I’ll do it.” And before I knew it, they got me into two bands.
Next week you’ve got a golden opportunity to showcase your current line-up when you play at the Hard Rock Hell festival in Wales. What are you expecting from that gig? Will you be going with the mindset of veterans or newcomers?
Chris T.: Well, I’m a veteran of many things but a newcomer to this. The stage we’re playing on is billed as the NWOBHM Stage so we’re bound to have fans who already know us.
And what does More have planned beyond the HRH festival?
Chris T.: Some European dates is what’s on the cards…Norway, Sweden, Germany…for next year. And mainly, the appeal for us is really festivals. Wherever we are on the bill doesn’t matter but that’s the crowd we’re seeking.
I suppose it’s what economists refer to as ‘economies of scale’…reaching the largest amount of people with the least amount of performances.
Chris T.: Exactly, but aiming at people who remember the band from the beginning.
Mike: We’re hoping to see more people at our gigs. Last summer we played in Germany and we were taken aback at the amount of people who queued up afterwards to have their vinyls signed and who were eager to meet us.
Chris T.: It was amazing. It really was.
Mike: There are people out there who know More and know the More songs and want to hear them.
Chris T.: [grinning] They were all singing to our songs…I mean not even I know the lyrics that well.
© 2012 Chris Galea
Interviewed by Chris Galea