Τετάρτη 23 Μαΐου 2012

FORTUNE, HARLAN CAGE and L.A. stories - Interview with Larry Greene

Larry “L.A.” Greene’s music career has spanned decades. Song writer and singer, he has performed most notably with the bands FORTUNE and HARLAN CAGE. In his long music career he has written and performed songs for movies like “Top Gun”, “Over The Top” among others, and television series. Crystal Logic speaks with Larry about his past bands, music and other interesting things. Enjoy.

How was the Los Angeles music scene back in the 80s, during the Fortune years?

The LA music scene had a unique heartbeat in the 80's. There was the Sunset strip Mötley Crüe - nail your bands fliers to the telephone poles outside of the Whisky a go-go crowd - right along with the back alley sex and drug groupies chasing the Guns and Roses sound-a-likes. Then there was the Toto, Steely Dan crowd engulfed in a much diversity as you could still call truthful. It was a crazy energetic time. It was also the peak of the recording labels glory - of course they had there own set of demons, but that’s probably a question for another day.

Along with Roger Scott Craig, you contribute a lot at the recordings and the final result of the famous “Fortune” album that was released back in 1985. This album had great impact in the music scene of that time, but after that you split. Let us know all the details behind the recordings, the promotion, the problems you had with your label, and eventually, the reasons of disbanding.

We started recording “Fortune” at Sound City in the San Fernando Valley just north of LA. By the time we finished we'd used several studios just trying to stay ahead of the craziness that seemed to follow us around. Kind of like dancing on the edge of a very sharp razor - if we didn't keep moving we'd bleed out. I think we finished at Village Recorders in Santa Monica about six weeks after we started.
We were with Camel records at the time. They were a subsidiary of MCA that was run by Bruce Bird and some of his gangster friends. Just after the release Bruce’s brother, Gary Bird, was busted for some kind of shady payola on the East Coast.  When MCA heard of it, they immediately terminated their association with the Camel label. That was the beginning of the end for us. Along with the bands Giuffria and Night Ranger (we were the only 3 bands on the label at that time), most of the other labels around town were afraid to touch anyone associated with that payola thing. It was a big deal at the time and something totally out of our control - kind of like descending into a bad dream you didn't know was out there.

What was your music background before Fortune?

I started playing and singing professionally before I could drive a car.  When I was 14 I signed with Capricorn Records in a band called Odyssey. We didn’t make much money, but the school girls thought I was real cool. And just as mania always seems to have the wind to its back, I went full speed ahead, eager to go pissing in the tall weeds with the big dogs - if you know what I mean.
I toured with several bands when I first got to LA.  I had just signed with RCA Records in a band called Teaser when I met Richard Fortune. It was about a year later when I joined Fortune with Richard, Roger, Mick and at that time David Deleon on bass before Bobby Birch came on board. 

After the departure from Fortune, you create Harlan Cage with Roger. What have you done until the mid-90s, when “Harlan Cage” was released? Let us know about your collaborations in movies’ soundtracks.

I met Giorgio Moroder in 1984 while I was still with Fortune.  I sang the song “Reach Out for the Medal” for the Olympic Games that year. Michael Dilbeck, the music supervisor for CBS at the time, called me about the possibility of singing a few songs to get Kenny Logins interested in performing on the much anticipated film “Top Gun”. When I sang “Through The Fire” I didn’t really think they would use my version, but Giorgio liked it and he had the final say. Then “Over The Top” came along. That gave me two songs to brag about.  Even though the film wasn’t very popular at the time, it's got a weird semi-cult following now - especially in Japan. I sang a song on the film “Mystic Pizza” a year later - Julia Roberts' first. Then on to many more lesser known.

Until early 00s, Harlan Cage had significant success mainly in Japan. Which ones were your most memorable moments of that course?

The first 3 Harlan Cage CD’s on King Records did really well. We got nice numbers on their Burrn! magazine charts as well as interviews, pictures and airplay on the rock stations. I’ve always loved the Japanese for the music they like. They’re real a diverse lot and really passionate. When the tsunami hit we contributed a H.C. song called “Sinners Grove” for the “Rock for Japan” CD released in Germany and throughout Europe. Hopefully that helped in a small way. 

What the name Harlan Cage stands for?

I got the picture of Harlan Cage as an American folklore character - beggar, thief, preacher man - around the time of the US civil war. Teethed on a crucifix - cradled in the delta – somewhere between a profit and a liar - I honestly don’t really know what’s true and what isn't.  I just liked the way it sounded.  Like Jethro Tull or Leonard Skinner (Lynyrd Skynyrd). A band of another mans name.

What AOR means for you and which ones are your favorite bands?

I never cared for the tag AOR, or any other name pinned on us. I knew we were compared to a lot of other bands, especially with Fortune, but it seemed a real drag that the record companies felt like they had to label everything just to get airplay. I hated it - but I actually think I liked most of the melodic rock bands back then - Foreigner, Journey, Guns and Roses. Bands like Foo Fighters are right where we left it off. I guess sometimes what’s good, bears repeating.

How easy or difficult was for a melodic rock / AOR band like you to create this kind of music in the United States of the mid 90s to mid 00s?

I think most of us who weren’t ultimately successful with the bands we started out with, pulled away from live performing in the 90’s and 00’s and went behind the consoles as engineers and producers. Survival pushed me once again into post-production films and television. I guess I already had a head start with the films I had done earlier, so it really wasn't too hard of a transition. Sometimes I feel like I'm walking on a rubber floor that keeps bouncing me back no matter how many times I fuck up.

Do you think you had a missed chance for bigger commercial recognition with Harlan Cage or you meant to stay for few but tasteful listeners?

We wanted to reach as many people as we could with Harlan Cage. I think both Roger and I really enjoyed busting out that kind of music when no one else was doing it. I guess by the time we put together the first few CD’s, the melodic rock scene was all but dead in the US. We became an export only band – a couple of illogical lunatics trying to make sense of it all.

I’ve always believed that if more people would listen to bands like Harlan Cage or my beloved Praying Mantis, our world would be better. The positive aura and the feelings of your music are capable to relax the mind and soul. From where all these bittersweet emotions that flow from your music and lyrics are coming from? It is summer now also and I remembered “98 in the Shade”… All these love stories and broken-hearted tales are coming from your reality?

I'm glad to hear our music touched you. Thanks for the compliment. There’s always been a little slice of life in the lyrics I write - although I must admit sometimes I just make it all up. I think I heard Tom Waits say “people don’t really want the truth as much as they want to be amused”. That said - there are a number of exceptions. The song “As You Are” about a relationship I treasured for what it became and not for what is was supposed to be, is definitely one of them. There are others too - “One New York Morning” was all of that. 

What’s your daily occupation?

I’ve been blessed being able to make a living in music and in the music business. It’s changed from the way it used to be, but non the less satisfying. I've recently written and performed songs for HBO, FX, AMC, and lots of others I can't remember. I'm also writing for other artists and still working on films that come my way.

What’s the status of Harlan Cage? Is there any chance for a new album?

I can’t really say about another H.C. album. It would be tough for Roger and I to make the time right now for the labour of love it would take for an honest CD we could be proud of, but with that said, I’ll always leave the door a jar.

Thanks for your time!

I hope you found this interview informative and thanks again for all of your support and encouragement throughout the years.

HARLAN CAGE discography

Harlan Cage CD - 1996
Double Medication Tuesday CD - 1998
Forbidden Colors CD - 1999
Temple Of Tears CD - 2002 

Πέμπτη 10 Μαΐου 2012

HOUR OF 13 - Interview with Phil Swanson

Hour Of 13 is among my favorite bands of the last years and their occult heavy rock / metal with doom elements seduces me. At the end of the month, their third album "333" will be released from Earache records and I took the opportunity to speak with the great singer and person Philip Swanson about the band and other interesting things.

What is the status of the upcoming album and what should we expect?
Album is done and at pressing as I type for a May 29 release. It actually is streaming now online at the Soggy Bog podcast in its entirety. You can expect a much more mature effort both vocally and lyrically and musically more dynamics I would say.

So far you have a solid presence as a band, twisting around heavy rock, old British metal, doom and the occult. Where do you thing Hour Of 13 stand for today’s metal music?

As for modern metal music we are quite primitive in comparison. We are obviously treading in familiar waters and living much in the past but in a current relevant present with the doom leanings that are so popular at this time.

What is your inspiration and influences for the Hour Of 13 lyrics? I know there is a lot of underground cult and horror cinema beyond your words. Even the cover of “The Ritualist” is from a scene of the old Swedish/Danish film “Häxan”.

Originally as the idea for an occult band was virgining I had in mind inspiration from most importantly Angel Witch but also Christian Death as well as Coven (thrash), Talon (aka Sedition) and Satans Massacre. I just used those influences to form the template then went in my own direction of realizing satanic panic of the 70s and 80s which I guess works so well due to the fact the music is so influenced from those eras.

We both share great respect and love for Black Sabbath and NWOBHM. Which bands of today do you think stay true to such a state of originality?

There allot that do and allot more that say they do but don’t at all. But as I type I am listening to Lord Vicar and they most defiantly stay true also I think Northwinds, Touch the Spider, Horrors of the Black Museum, Year of the Goat, Steel Mammoth, Grand Magus to name a few. To me you have to have a certain rawness to have the NWOBHM appeal and a special progression to carry the Black Sabbath flag honorably.

Atlantean Kodex is another one band I totally support and admire. What do you remember from your days with Manuel and the rest of the guys? Until now, “The Hidden Folk” remains the landmark song of this band that represents the whole essence of Atlantean Kodex.

You make it sound so long ago hahaha! What I remember most about working with Manuel and Florian was their patients with me. I am very one dimensional in comparison. They both had very strong ideas and I tend to myself and the fact we were able to get as far as we did was an accomplishment in itself. It was a huge honor for me to have that chance to work with a foreign band and really paved the way for me. I learned allot from that experience and since made a very conscious effort to be patient enough to be the kind of singer they wanted at that time. Now I have my own resume I am much more comfortable takeing on the role as a session singer or as I would describe it an “instrument”. I don’t do it with Hour of 13, Seamount or Vestal Claret and I do write all my own melodies but Ive allowed myself with Briton Rites and Lords of Triumph to sing other peoples words now and on a more recent unheard project even allowed some melody coaching. I mostly now want to do that to add some variation to my bands and there has become so many.

Seamount, Vestal Claret, Briton Rites… how do you manage to work with all these bands? And by the way, in which development stage are you with Howie Bentley and the upcoming Briton Rites album?

Its all about my mood, usually when I'm stressed or frustrated I turned to writing to escape my ordinary life much like some would turn to drug or drink. So I mange my music much like an alcoholic or drug addict I guess? Over indulgently and out of control. Howie had just emailed me the other day actually and we have four songs written and planning four more, I hope to have it done by years end. I'm not as anxious as I used to be so whenever Howie's ready I am.

What is your personal perspective for religions, today’s society and world?

I find it obsolete actually unless is more scientific or spiritually unknown. The only problem I have with religion is its insistence of trying to define God or something obviously undefinable or unexperienced.

What kind of person is Chad Davis and how it is working with him?

Chad and I get along great when together but that’s a rarity we are more involved in a professional relationship. We live completely different and separate lives and work independently of each other on our parts to Hour of 13. There is really no input from either side, just allot of faith and trust in each others individual talent.

Five years after the great self-titled debut of Hour Of 13, how do you see it now and which are the most memorable moments of this journey to the occult?

A long difficult and seldom rewarding road. Getting that concept completed that appeared on the first record was a very difficult turbulent time. Looking back it makes me proud that it has paid off from a simple whim of an idea to what it has become today. The single most memorable moment that will stand the length of our career I think Chad and I would agree is our live debut at Dublin Doom Days fest, just an incredibly surprising moment.

Hour Of 13 (Shadow Kingdom Records - 2007)
The Ritualist (Eyes Like Snow - 2010)
Possession / Darkness - single (Svart Records 2010)
The Rites Of Samhain - EP (Yersinia Pestis 2010)
333 (Earache Records 2012)