Τρίτη 3 Ιανουαρίου 2012

Burning Starr - Jack Starr interview

The fire still burns... The Starr still shines!
Jack Starr shines again in the new Burning Starr album called "Land Of The Dead". Everyone should check this album and Crystal Logic talks with Jack about the album and very interesting tales from the past of this great musician.

Congratulations for “Land Of The Dead”! This is an amazing album and probably my favorite one for 2011. So, what are you doing these days?

Thanks Andreas and the readers of Crystal Logic to give me a chance to talk about our new album. As far as what I am doing these days, I am working on new material with the same line-up that I have done the last two Burning Starr albums with and for me and the other musicians in the band, it is a time of great growth and rejuvenation .We are all very pleased with the reaction to “Land of the Dead” which is fast becoming the most successful in the history of our band. It is amazing that some people like yourself, are telling us that LOTD is one of their favorite albums of the year. This is what we hoped when we were making this album that it would be strong enough to become a favorite album and not to be forgotten because in 2012 there are so many heavy metal albums that are released almost everyday that it becomes more and more difficult to stand out and be noticed and we are extremely grateful that this album is making a lot of friends in the world of metal.

Tell us a few things about the creation of “Land Of The Dead” and what have you done since 2009’s “Defiance”.

The creation of “Land of the Dead” was a long and difficult process that involved eight different recording studios, many remixes and the re-recording of the album twice as well as remixing the album several times. We are very happy that our record company Limb Music did not lose hope with us and stayed by our side and also the album could not have been finished without the help of our producer Bart Gabriel who was able to take all the different parts and blend them into a cohesive and excellent sounding album.
Since “Defiance” came out in 2009, I have been rehearsing and writing songs with Ned Meloni the bass player of Burning Starr and we have been in close contact with Todd Micheal Hall the singer who has been contributing lyrics and melodies to the new material ,and also we are pleased that Rhino the drummer has moved to Florida making it easier for us all to get together and play. It truly is an honor for Rhino to be in our band. The brilliant drumming that he did with Manowar is remembered with great love and respect by legions of metal fans through out the world and now we are very pleased that he has brought his considerable talents to Burning Starr and helped make “Land of the Dead” a great album.

Let’s go back in time. What do you remember from your cooperation with legendary singer Rhett Forrester back in 1984 for “Out Of The Darkness” album.

I remember Rhett Forrester like it was yesterday. First of all we began by talking on the phone and getting to know each other and it was strange because Rhett and I are very different people and we had to learn to trust each other. I remember one day playing a song on the phone to Rhett, the song was called “Concrete Warrior” and when I finished playing it, Rhett said "Jack ,you must have wrote that song for me because I am a Concrete Warrior and when I walk in the streets of New York City I fear nobody". I though that it was great that Rhett was making the songs come alive and I even wrote “Wild in the Streets” for Rhett because it was crazy hanging out with him, it seemed that women and trouble followed him wherever he went. In 1984, I invited Rhett to live in my house on Long Island it was during the summer and my ex wife had gone back to France to visit her family and I thought that I could practice a lot and write songs with Rhett but little did I know that Rhett had other plans which included a lot of drinking and partying and different beautiful woman coming to the house everynight. It was a time that I will never forget, Rhett was like the “blond god” in the movie “Almost Famous” and it was hard not to envy him but at the same time I was so proud that he was in my band.

When we got to the studio for the first day of the vocals for “Out of the Darkness”, Rhett showed up late with a bottle of Jack Daniels in his hand and a couple of words that he had written on a napkin, he turned to the engineer and said “I am ready and make sure that you are ready because I don't like to re sing the same song twice” and he was right because most of the songs were done in one take and when the church choir came in to sing the backups on the song “False Messiah”, Rhett looked at me and said “this song makes me feel good because it's calling out to God”. Later Rhett told me that he loved Elvis and that some of the best songs of Elvis were his Gospel songs because they were the most sincere and spiritual. Rhett, like Elvis, was a southern boy that could be wild and tough like his song “Hard Loving Man” but he could also be sensitive and reflective. It was a great honor working with Rhett Forester. RIP.

Take us back to your early days with Devil Childe and Phantom Lord and share with us a few memories from that period…
The albums Devil Childe and Phantom Lord have very interesting stories  When Burning Starr use to rehearse in the studio, sometimes we would like to start the rehearsal with playing thrash music for fun, and I would like to play the song “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead and it would make us all smile because the song was so fast and hard. At that time Burning Starr had the great drumming of Joe Hasselvander who had a very wide musical taste and he could play this music with a lot of fire and passion as also Ned Meloni the bass player, so what started almost as a joke became a reality because we realized that we loved this kind of music and so I went to the boss of the label that we were on and said I wanted to make a thrash record. He thought I was crazy because it was so different than the metal of Virgin Steele but he said yes and we made the first Phantom Lord record in two days! Some of the songs were written in the studio a few minutes before they were re-recorded it was very cool.
The owner of the label was so happy he asked us to make some more albums and Devil Childe was born and now more than thirty years later it is amazing that people still love these albums.

Albums like “No Turning Back” and “Blaze Of Glory” are among my favorites. They are powerful and melodic, with amazing riffs and solos. Plus, there is the unique voice of Mike Tirelli. I don’t think you would have done better if you had stayed with Virgin Steele...
Mike Tirelli was also an amazing singer like my singer now, Todd Micheal Hall. Both of them have very powerful voices and perfect pitch. I found Mike when I walked into a club on Long Island and heard him sing “Heaven and Hell” by Black Sabbath. My mouth dropped open because he looked so young and yet he sang with so much maturity ,I had to meet him so after the set I walked up to him and introduced myself and he said I know who you are Jack and I am a big fan of Virgin Steele and I love your singer David DeFeis. I told him thank you but that I was no longer in Virgin Steele and I needed a singer. Mike looked at me and said “I don't know if I am ready to be compared to someone like Dave” and I told him that I thought he was great and that he had his own style plus that if he could sing like Dio than he could do anything he wanted.
I had to finish some projects and contracts that I had but two years later, I called him and I said “Mike are you ready because I want to make some Heavy Metal history”. He laughed and said “I will do the best I can” and we made four albums together. “No Turning Back” which was produced by Dave DeFeis and then “Blaze of Glory” which I produced and then the Orange album and lastly in 1991, Mike and I recorded an album called Strider. We did not call this one Burning Starr because the band had already broken up and only Mike and I were featured on it, but it had some great songs on it including the last complete Burning Starr song called “Under the Influence”. 

In the 90s you were lost somehow. We’ve shared a few thoughts about the difficulty of being a heavy metal musician in United States during that period, but where were you back then?     
Heavy Metal music in the nineties was very forgotten in America. It seemed that no one was playing it and the clubs that featured it were now closed or doing another type of music. The big new trend was coming from Seattle and it was called Grunge and they did not have guitar solos or great musicians and I personally did not like it. I had a band at that time with the bass player of Foghat who had been a very successful band in America selling over twenty million albums and now their bass player Craig MacGregor was playing with me and my old singer David DeFeis on lead vocals. We were called Smoke Stack Lightning and we were a very good band but the labels were not interested in us because we were not part of the Grunge movement, so after that I became disillusioned and started to play blues and classic rock and was happy to play in small clubs .During that period I had several female singers and one project we were able to have Bobby Rondinelli play drums with us It was cool working with Bobby because he was such a great player and had many cool stories to share with me of his time in Rainbow and Black Sabbath.  He was actually the second drummer of Rainbow that I have played with the first was Gary Driscoll who was on the first Rainbow album and played on “Out of the Darkness” alongside Burning Starr's bass player Ned Meloni. I will always remember what Gary Driscoll told me one day “Jack I have played with a lot of great guitarists in my life including legends like Ritchie Blackmore, but I think your playing is right up there with any of them” and he told me to never give up and that is what I am doing because I love making good music and I will keep doing it as long as I can.

“Under A Savage Sky” was released in 2003 from Greek-based Cult Metal Classics Records under the band name Guardians Of The Flame. For me, this is among your best releases and it also includes a couple of songs written in 1997 at your Reunion of Steel with David DeFeis. The tracks you wrote together back then were split in Virgin Steele’s “Book Of Burning” album and “Under A Savage Sky”. How did you joined each other before that and what happened and you didn’t work together at last?
Thank you for the compliment. I agree that “Under a Savage Sky” was one of the best releases that I have done and both Ned and I are very proud of this album which was the start of us getting back together in 2002, I was very happy with the great work that Cult Metal Classics did for us and they were responsible for helping us make a comeback because they signed us back when many people would say “Jack Starr is he still around, can he still play” etc.  I had not made an album in ten years but I had made some demos on a very small budget with my good friend Chris Collins who some of you may remember as the singer of Majesty the band that would become Dream Theater. The quality of the demo was not good but despite that, Cult Metal Classics said that they heard the potential and  would sign me and it is thanks to them that I have returned to the world of metal, so I can say that I owe a big debt to CMC and my Greek heavy metal brothers and sisters.

A couple of years after Guardians Of The Flame you came up again to Burning Starr. What did you do those years?
I play gigs and mainly recorded as well as writing songs for the “Defiance” album, it was Joey DeMaio's idea to go back to the name Burning Starr. One day he called us and said we should go back to the name Burning Starr because we had created a lot of good will with that name and that the old albums are still remembered so we should be proud of who we are. I think that he was right and now we needed to make sure that the new albums would be as good as the classic albums like “No Turning Back” and “Blaze of Glory”. I knew that this would be difficult but when we all heard Todd Micheal Hall for the first time in 2004 we were sure that the singing would be just as good. Now with the addition of the great Rhino on drums we have great drumming as well as Ned Meloni's very tasteful and precise bass playing. In fact, in the last few years Ned's songwriting has become more predominant and I am thrilled that he has been bringing great songs to the table like “Warning Fire” and “When Blood and Steel Collide” as well as co-writing with me.

So, as Jack Starr’s Burning Starr you released “Defiance” through Magic Circle Music. How was your cooperation with Joey DeMaio?
Like any relationship, there is good and there is bad and our time with Magic Circle was no different but we choose to remember the good times and the big step forward that we took by coming to Europe to play the Magic Circle Festivals in 2008 and 2009. Also we learned a lot by working in the studio with Joey DeMaio who is very strict and very demanding and actually this prepared us for working with Bart Gabriel who is also very hard to please. So I can honestly say that the saying “what does not kill us, makes us stronger” is true. We have learned to give 100 percent and to not be satisfied with a guitar solo or vocal melody or a bass intro that is not the best that can be done. When we record, we have very high standards and some of the solos I had to redo ten times to please Ned and Rhino who would sometimes hear a wrong note that I did not even hear!
Rhino is also very hard on himself even though I did not hear one mistake but he was not satisfied and kept redoing tracks until he said “okay I am done with the drums”. I did not think that it would be possible to play better but Rhino did it and as far as I am concerned, Rhino is one of the top five drummers in heavy metal today.

And now, a new album is out from another record label. For me, “Land Of The Dead” is among the best releases of the last years. The “Jack Starr” trademark sound is here, Ned Meloni and Rhino are a great rhythm section and Todd Michael Hall’s voice is outstanding. What is the response of fans and press so far?

The response of the press and the fans has been incredible and this album is only our for one month. I am sure that it will be the biggest selling album in Burning Starr history and will open many doors for us. I think that the secret is that everyone is playing without any restrictions. It's like when Bart Gabriel, the producer, told me “Jack, I love the old Burning Starr albums. I want you to play with the same passion and fire as before, but I want to make the album so well produced that it can also appeal to the new generation of metal fans who are use to high standards of production”. And this is what Bart did, he took the classic Burning Starr sound and updated it so that a new generation can appreciate it.

The album is released through Limb Music, produced by Bart Gabriel and you are also managed from him. How easy or difficult is to work with a European partner? Do you think that Europe is the best market for Heavy Metal and how are things nowadays in USA for traditional metal?
Right now Europe is the best place for metal but I think that South America will continue to grow and maybe one day metal will come back to the U.S. We love working with Limb and they seem to really understand the kind of music we are making and Limb personally is very knowledgeable and loves power metal. He can be trusted to give an intelligent opinion and sound advice and that is what he has done and also the manufacture of “Land of the Dead” is great and it comes with a 16 page booklet with pictures and lyrics and it really is a beautiful package, so we are very proud that Limb has made such a great album presentation for us.

Which are your plans for live shows in 2012?

Our plans for the year 2012 are to come to Europe and of course Greece. Our new manager, Bart Gabriel, is talking to promoters and there is interest in Burning Starr to come to Europe and I believe and I am sure that this will happen. In closing, I want to tell all my friends in Greece that we will be coming and we hope to see them at the shows and share a drink together. Keep the Metal burning! 
Jack Starr, January 2012 

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