their early demos Serpentine hooked up with the experienced American vocalist
Greg Flores (Kamera) but logistical problems led them to legendary
vocalist Tony Mills (Shy, TNT).
album 'A Touch Of Heaven' was recorded at M2 studios in Wolverhampton and
produced by Mark Stuart and Sheena Sear (whose work with Magnum is well known).
bassist Gareth Vanstone answers our questions...
What are you currently up to?
Hi Jason. Thanks
for the opportunity to talk to you about the new record!
Our debut album A
Touch Of Heaven was released in Japan on Marquee/Avalon last month and in Europe
and the UK on AOR Heaven on the 26th March (here it's Monday the 29th).
At the moment, we
are trying to promote it as much as possible, because as supporters of the AOR
scene, we really want fans to hear it.
We are also
rehearsing like demons at Madhouse Rehearsals in Birmingham in preparation for
some live dates in the near future and we've also just begun the laborious
process of writing for the second album.!
Could you take us through the songs on the new album A Touch Of Heaven now
(e.g. ideas behind the songs, songwriting process etc)?
first track on the album is the title track A Touch Of Heaven.
(Noon - Keyboards) and Chris (Gould - Guitar) have always been fans of big, epic
tracks on albums and we wanted something like that to kick-start the album.
As with most of
the tracks, with a couple of exceptions, all the music was written by a
combination of myself, Gareth and Chris with Tony (Mills - Vocals) writing all
Whatever Heartache started off with a more ‘west-coast' vibe but when Chris
added his guitars it changed considerably. Tony finished off the lyrics and
vocals and we were just blown away by the hooks he'd created. When the prospect
of shooting a video came around, Whatever Heartache was a natural choice.
The third track
Lonely Nights was one of the exceptions to the writing process. Whilst Tony
was working on some of the other tracks, he found an old flight case with a load
of old demos that he had done in the late eighties and early nineties.
The track was
co-written with Mike Cheshire and had a very dated sound to it, but when we
heard it, we thought it was a great track and wanted to put our own stamp on it.
The chorus for
For The Love Of It All, track four, was an idea that Gareth had been playing
around with for a while so when he and Chris told me they had finished it, I
couldn't wait to hear the music I knew it had great potential. Tony put a lot
into this track emotionally. It's very much a song that can apply to countless
Track five on the
album Let Love Rain Down was a track that was supposed to be on Tony's
solo album Cruiser but mysteriously got left off. Tony suggested that it might
fit in with our sound. It was co-written with Simon Harrison from the band
Atlantic and since recording the track, Simon has become a close friend of the
band, so we must have done a good job!
Next track, In
My Blood, is a track that was written really quickly, as was the case for
most of our tracks really. The music was written and finished in less than a day
and Tony had all the lyrics and vocals done in a couple of days!
one of the last tracks to be written for the album and I think that it really
shows off Tony's vocal range.
Track eight, We
Belong, is really the track that started it all for us back at the
beginning. The lyrics were written by Greg Flores, an Amercian singer from the
band Kamera, who worked with us before Tony's arrival.
We worked with
Greg for a while but being so far away from each other, meant that things
weren't moving as quickly as we would have liked and the difficulties of
eventually playing live were a bit of a bridge too far. He did a great job with
this one, though!
the penultimate track, was sent to Tony and he liked the track but he felt the
verse needed more work. We managed to rework the verse in about twenty minutes
and the lyrics and vocals were done in a couple of hours.
Then there's the
final track Unbreak My Heart, which was originally recorded by Toni
Braxton. Tony thought we needed another ballad on the album so he suggested this
track! What album is complete without a Diane Warren ballad though, eh?
So how did the band come together and how did you hook-up with Tony Mills?
OK.. Gareth and I
were in school together and started getting into the genre at about the age of
16. We started writing songs as a bit of a hobby to be honest!
It wasn't for a
couple of years until we both decided to start getting a band together. It was
in May 2007, when I told Gareth that a friend of my brother's was a guitarist
called Chris, who'd heard the rough demos we'd put together and was interested
in doing something. Over the course of the next 18 months, we demoed probably 30
songs or so as a trio., and it went from there!
Hooking up with
Tony was a bit of luck really. Chris was visiting a friend of his at a local
recording studio and Bob Richards (the drummer from Shy) was recording drum
tracks down there. Chris was chatting to him and mentioned that we had been
working with Greg but that it hadn't worked out and that we were looking for a
Bob gave Chris
Tony's contact details to see if he would be interested and when he heard the
material he was really enthusiastic about working with us. As the tracks came
together, we added a proper drummer and second guitarist (John Clews) to the
line-up. John is an immense talent who will no doubt play a full part in the
You're a new band, albeit with an established vocalist in Tony Mills. How did
the band set about getting a record deal and how did you end up on AOR Heaven?
Well, once the
album was finished, our manager (Lyndon) was talking to different labels but
Tony mentioned it to Georg Siegl at AOR Heaven and it kinda went from there!
Tony played Georg
some of the album and he was very enthusiastic about hearing more. He arranged
to meet our manager before the Firefest gig last year (he was flying over for
it), and we signed to the label that night.
Are there any plans for live dates and how easy/hard is it to get a decent
run of tour dates? In an ideal world who would you like to tour with and why?
There are definite
plans to play live and we are rehearsing a lot to make sure that when the
opportunity comes, we're ready.
We were originally
going to play the ill-fated Rockfest gig last year and a couple of warm of gigs
before that, but when the festival collapsed, the warm up gigs were put on hold.
If we could get
onto a tour, that we be great All of the band are itching to get out there and
play live. If we could tour with anyone, for me personally, it would have to be
Toto as they are my favourite band. With a band like that, jam-packed so full of
talent, it would certainly help anyone like us improve as a musician.
You've already shot a video that is up on YouTube. How did the video shoot go
and do you think videos on YouTube help spread the word, especially now most TV
based music channels don't cover newer melodic rock bands.
The video shoot
was a great experience and I think it has definitely been a big positive for us.
It has certainly got us noticed which is vital for a new band these days. It's a
great promotional tool and being as bands in this genre don't get onto music TV
channels very much, youtube is the best way to get it out to the fans.
What would the band like to have achieved by this time next year?
For us, I think we
just want the album to be received well and then, to get out there and play live
really. If we can get on a festival or a tour that would be great too!
Have you seen an upswing in the interest in metal and rock over the past
couple of years? Has the Internet helped get your music out there or in some
ways e.g. illegal downloads has it made matters worse?
Yes. I think there
has definitely been a big rise in the interest given to a lot of the 'classic'
bands, like Journey and Foreigner etc., in the mainstream media over the last
couple of years; and a lot of bands are doing big tours again rather than just
playing the clubs.
I think a lot of
that is due to tracks being included in TV programmes and films. It reminds
people that this music is still out there.
As far as other
bands go, there are still a lot of opportunities out there. Illegal downloads
will always cause a problem but I don't think it's something that will go away.
The Internet is simply too strong.
I think in this
genre though, it isn't that much of a problem, because it's a tight knit
community and people do go out and buy the product. More people in this genre
seem really passionate about the music, and I think the problem is less here
than in other genres.
Who are your musical influences and why?
As a band; Toto,
Journey and Survivor are probably the biggest influences which are evident? But,
personally, Whitesnake are a big influence on me as I have been a fan since I
first rummaged around my dad's CD collection at the age of 12 and found the 1987
record. I was blown away.
Chris is very
influenced by bands like WASP, Iron Maiden and Ozzy Osbourne, as well as AOR and
melodic rock. It's all these different influences that give us our sound.
Message for your fans...
Just a big thank
you for all the positive feedback we've received already and hope to see all of
you on the road soon!
March 2010 Jason Ritchie. All rights reserved.
Tony Mills interview
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