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Guitarist John Mitchell is a member of prog rockers Arena, has his own band the Urbane and also finds time to play guitar in John Wetton's band! Thanks to Claire Lee for passing on the questions.

1. What are you currently up to?

Well, we've just released the new Arena album and the John Wetton album (in Japan for the moment) so I'm quite excited about the reaction that both of those are getting. Touring wise, I shall be away with Arena in just over a months time and John's dates are starting to come in. There is some other stuff, very exciting stuff, but I have been sworn to secrecy for the moment. You will find out in time! ;-)

2. What has been the highlight(s) and lowpint(s) of your career?

Highpoint, hmmmm...... Arena at the Paradiso 17th October 2000.

Lowpoint.......a disasterous tour with a talented lady by the name of Robin Brock a while back. It reunited me with John Jowitt which was nice, but the gigs were very badly attended. It wasnt Robin's fault, but I'm not going to name names. Bit of a morale killer, that!

3. Who have been your main influeneces on your career?

Easy. Trevor Rabin and Francis Dunnery. Simple as that. They are both ace. Or at least they were when I was into them.

4. The new Arena album, 'Contagion' is just out and it is fantastic IMHO. The guitar parts are much heavier - was this a conscious decision or something that just developed with the song writing? What are your personal highlights on the new album and why?

Its a lot heavier for a number of reasons. I would say the main reason is that a lot of the guitar is tuned to dropped C tuning. Thats what a lot of these kiddy metal bands do isnt it? The reason that we did it was that a lot of the songs suited Robs voice better in that key. They were originally up a tone, but his voice works best when he has a tones worth of headroom above him and it was a bit on the edge in D which is how it was originally. My favourite song on the album is Skin Game. Its a good arrangement, and we'd never done anything like it before. I like the way it ends with just acoustic guitar and I think the way that Rob sings the outro is just beautiful. It just works well as a whole and is neither too mainstream or too left of centre. Oh, and its steeped in melody, which is nice!

5. How did you come to play with John Wetton? Will you be involved in the tour for his new album?

Well, he basically rang me up and asked me if I wanted to do it. He saw me play with Arena in Holland and liked my playing style and when he parted company with Kilminster, he got straight on the blower to me, and the rest is history. JJ put him in touch and I thank him greatly for that. There's a lot of mutual respect between myself and JW and we agree on an awful lot. As for a tour, if and when it happens, I shall be in there like swimwear!

6. The Urbane - briefly how did the band get together and what style of music do they play? Plans for 2003?

The band basically grew from a studio project that started a long, long time ago. It features the IMMENSELY talented yet sometimes unobtainable Scooby on drums (and anything else he cares to play at the time), Martin Raggett on bass, Paddy Darlington on weird noises/loops/keys, and myself on guitar/singing.

We play very melodic noisy rock music. Nothing flashy, yet to the point. The only forseeable plan for this year is to get our second album 'Glitter' out before we all turn grey. Its been in the wings for a year now and its ongoing delay is becoming more than a little embarrasing. You might describe it as a highly polished, very impressive, melodic albatross.

John Mitchell

7. Are there any artists/bands that you would like to work with in the future?

Hmmmm.....good question. I'd quite like to work with Ray Wilson, and that may indeed be happening at some point if I can find the time to finish writing the album project that I want to involve him with. The idea was suggested to me by Inside Out in Germany and its going very well. Of course, Ray has to be into it as well.

8. How did you come to join Arena? Have you managed to get more input into the band as time has gone on?

Well, Keith More parted company with the band and my mate Mark Westwood (who is mates with JJ) put me forward. I did an audition and Clive claims that he cant even remember how it went because he was in a lot of dental pain that day (something to do with his wisdom teeth). It cant have gone that badly as i'm still here after all these years! :-)

As for involvement, the answer is yes. The writing team is now myself, Mick and Clive, and I got to mix and co-produce the last album, so you might say that I'm quite involved.

9. Last book that you read...

The Dirt by Motley Crue.

10. Message for your fans...

Thanks for putting up with my drunken rambling at after shows! Oh, and please dont tell me that The Visitor is STILL the best Arena album cos I don't think it is.

Oh, and most importantly, thanks for supporting us!!! ;-)

Related>> Clive Nolan interview

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Interview © 2003 Jason Ritchie/
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