INTERVIEW BY ARTO LEHTINEN AND MARKO SYRJALA
It took nearly 30 years before the legendary American Metal icon Lizzy Borden landed on Finnish soil. The band, best known for their over the top theatrical live shows and 80’s albums like MASTER OF DISGUISE and VISUAL LIES, brought their “Death Takes a Holiday” tour to Helsinki in December 2011. Before the band got on the stage, Metal-Rules.com had the pleasure to talk with vocalist Lizzy himself about being on the tour, a possible new Lizzy Borden album, and finally took a brief return to the old days.
LIVING ON THE ROAD
You guys have been busy with that current “Death Takes a Holiday” tour. Do you still have many shows to do before the well-earned break?
We go to Greece tomorrow and then we go back to Sweden and we have five more shows including tonight and that’s it. It’s been the hardest tour because there are no days off. It’s been hardcore. I think it’s been 14 or 15 countries, playing every night, just insane. Travel, playing, travel, playing, travel, playing, that’s it.
It is like back in the old days in a way?
Yeah, I mean one time we did 28 shows in 31 days before, which was crazy. But yeah, we always have a tight schedule but this has been pretty tight. We started in Mexico, so it’s been crazy.
As you said you have a tight schedule in Europe and been playing without a day off - Is that because of financial things, trying to cut the costs or something like that?
We open it up to filling up the dates. We usually take Monday and Tuesday off, but in this case they wanted a Monday and we have had that same thing in other countries. They wanted the Monday; they wanted the Tuesday, so alright, fill it up. In the United States, you don’t play Monday and Tuesday.
Do you know what the reason they (Finnish promoters) wanted you to play here on Monday?
Yeah, there is a holiday tomorrow. It’s your independence day.
Correct! Your first time playing in Scandinavia was in 2008 and since then you have been playing here almost every year.
Yes, every year, a couple of times a year. The last time I think we were here twice.
So you seem to have a good following here?
We’re getting there. The last – since we put out APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH we were focused on touring here as much as possible, so we have just been building the years around coming here and trying to chip away a little bit. We are kind of establishing a new audience here. It’s a younger audience and so we want to keep playing as much as possible. It’s not just a yearly thing, but we can connect with the same people all the time and we have friends that now come out to see us. If we play twice a year, it’s kind of an event. It’s starting to gather steam all across. We hope it happens here too, because it’s been a long time coming and it took us so long. It took us 30 years to get here.
Does Lizzy Borden make enough money to make a living in financial ways?
It does, but it’s tough. I mean, now especially because everything is seasonal. We tour in the winter or we tour in the summer. You have to figure out what to do and making money off of albums is harder than it used to be. But it’s now where we re-established a new deal now and that will change things financially too. And we are starting to get offers to tour other parts of the world that we never have because of that Mexico show. We have already been offered a whole South American tour. So that will happen in an off-season market. So now our year is starting to fill up already next year with South America and probably Japan again and definitely the summer here. And then we will try to squeeze in the US somehow and try to get this album done.
A NEW LIZZY BORDEN ALBUM OR NOT?
So regarding the Lizzy Borden albums, the previous album APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH came out in 2007 and the album before that was DEALING WITH THE DEVIL in 2000. There is a seven-year gap. Does that mean there will be a seven-year gap to get a new album out because you haven’t however rushed releasing new albums?
Yeah, well the music industry collapsed, especially in the United States. From what I hear on this tour, they were telling me that the physical CD will be gone in Europe in 2013. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I keep hearing it. So, it’s like we put out DEAL WITH THE DEVIL and we were very disappointed with the way it was marketed and no one did anything and it just kind of came out there and most people don’t know that it is out there. APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH they did a little bit better only because everyone liked it so much. The reviews were so good and it kind of built up steam. We had two videos and we were doing so well in the US with it. So to put out another one I want to make sure it gets heard and it gets exposed but the industry has been so rocky and so crazy that I haven’t been in a rush to throw it out there. I know that it will get to our fans but I want it to get beyond that. And then I want to write a record that is the best record we’ve ever done. In order to do that you have kind of got to – I thought APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH was like that album came full circle because it was influenced by Lizzy Borden. It kind of went through our whole catalog and it was kind of influenced by us, so now that we have done that it is time to move on to try and do something and break new ground. It is a little bit harder to do that. You write 10 songs and you throw nine out and you get one gem, you know? You keep doing that over and over until you have an album. So that’s kind of why it is taking a little longer, but we are getting there.
At one point you said there might not be any more Lizzy Borden albums in the future. Do you still think that way or have you changed your mind?
You know, you make every record like it’s going to be your last. I think we will make the next one and there might be ten more but we’re going to make it like it’s the last one which we put out, you know? You just don’t know how it’s going to go down and how everything goes, but I hope there’s more records. But I don’t know. If we work on this next one we will work on it like it will be the last. Like I said, we could make ten after that, but we don’t know.
According to a couple of recent interviews you have said that if there’s going to be a new album then it’s going to be something really completely different than anything you have done. Do you already have a picture what we can except from the next Lizzy Borden album?
Well, I mean I want to get back to song structure. We’ve done it in the past, but to me I want to get back to the hook song, the song that stays with you. I mean, we can’t go on stage without playing “Me Against the World” or “American Metal”, and there is a reason for that. Those songs have been around for so long because they were well-structure songs. With APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH we had so many guitar players on it; we knew that they were coming in so we would extend the guitar solo parts. We would extend these sweeping keyboard parts and stuff like that, and I kind of want to go back to song structure. I also want to do some things that we have never done, so I am trying to go in that direction as well where it is new to us and it is really new. And we’re using technology to do that. Every Lizzy Borden record has been different than the one before it. If you listen to LOVE YOU TO PIECES and you listen to MASTER OF DISGUISE, you would be hard pressed to say it was the same band except for the singing. So I don’t feel that we are stuck in any – we’re not like AC/DC where we have to do a certain thing. We can do anything that we want. And what I want right now is to do something challenging for me. It doesn’t mean it has to be complicated, it just means it has to be sonically a certain way, and I don’t want to have to – like I said, APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH was the end of that whole kind of thing and now I want to continue with doing something really interesting. It will still be Lizzy Borden and hopefully it will be 10 songs that people want to hear.
To me it sounds like that you are planning on doing something like what you did on MASTER OF DISGUISE?
In a way, but not musically but it’s going to be definitely a departure. Definitely something where I want to listen to this record and be blown away by it. I don’t want to say, well, I think everyone is going to like this record. I really want to like it and I want to listen to it, so I want to make that record where I am in a fast car and I am turning it on and loving it, so that is the kind of record I am looking forward to. I want to be the biggest fan of that record, so that is kind of where I am putting a lot of pressure on it but I want to make classic songs. When we put out a record, we play it. We played 7 or 8 songs off of APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH and made no bones about it. We still play 3 or 4 because we are a band that lives in the present and looks to the future and that’s what I want to continue to do. I don’t want to live in the past. We do play older songs but I am not tied to them.
Last year you spent some time in Stockholm writing new material. Did you get anything done during those sessions?
Yeah. Well, we were experimenting. That was the first phase of it. We wrote one song with – we sat and wrote in a cabin somewhere and then we wrote different songs and those songs probably ended up on the record. We didn’t think about what we had done we were just trying to do something, write something interesting. And some of those songs came out really good. And just recently we did a session where we had seven or eight new songs that were right on the money. So we are going to go back after this tour and start hammering on those and start tweaking into the direction we wanted. We are going to play one new song tonight.
NEW AND OLD BLOOD
How much does this new line-up inspire and motivate you to write new music?
Oh, it’s everything. It’s the enthusiasm that I’m looking for. I wanted that power punch. Dario and AC, they are different types of guitar players and they’re extremely different so you get two different blends and two different ideas. And so yeah, I’m excited to do it. This line-up has been the best line-up we’ve ever had personality-wise because we’re all clicking, and that’s never happened.
I would say that this new line-up is a mix of old school and young fresh blood. Do you agree with that?
Fresh blood, but they are both so influenced by old school music that you couldn’t tell that they weren’t – they’re young but they have been playing like they have been playing for 30 years and they have that old school style too. We’re not playing with metalcore kids but we’re playing with guys that are full on talented that are way beyond the norm.
Dario Lorino is a really interesting guy to have in the band for sure, because he was kind of a “child star” when he first came out in publicity with Jani Lane’s band and he was only 16 years old. How is he to work with because you are a little bit older than him?
No, he is older than me believe me. (Laughter) He is way more mature than I am. It’s been a dream. He is totally professional, professional to the hilt. But his style is so old school that it is so comfortable for me when we write together it’s like total comfort. But he wants to do something beyond what we have done and what we have created. As we all do. We are all looking at the same thing so that is a good thing. He is way beyond his age.
As for AC, correct me, I might be wrong, but does he still play in the band called Warrior?
I think when they do play, but they don’t play very often. But I think whenever they do something – since he has been with us he hasn’t but if they did something he might do it. I don’t even know if they still play together. I have no idea. He is the exact opposite of Dario. He is flamboyant and over-the-top and tons of personality in his playing and in his style. You will see him tonight, believe me.
You have had so many different line-up changes, but one that is staying with you is your brother. It seems that you two have really strong relationship?
Yeah, fist in the head. No, no. (Laughter) I mean, it’s a relationship where we can disagree and still continue to work. We all had the same vision from the very beginning. Even when I first put out the ad, I was sick of playing bands and I was trying to convert bands into doing what I wanted to do and I had enough. So then I just said, I’m going to form a band, do you want to be in it? This is the band I want to do, and he said I’m in. So he has been in from the word go and we have always had the same direction.
Do you expect this line-up will be stable and you’ll carry on for ling with these guys?
You can never expect it. You never know what’s going to happen. Like I said, we live in the present; we plan for the future, and hope for the best. And you just never know. And right now we are all having a blast and every time we play all these festivals we get the best reviews and we are already confirmed for Hellfest in France this summer with Black Sabbath and I think Van Halen, that’s what I keep hearing. So we keep looking to the future and everyone is still on board. So as long as they are still on board we will continue to work. We will see what happens.
You, Joey and Martin also played together in a band called Starwood in the 90’s. What the story behind that “project”?
Yeah, at that time the music industry completely collapsed and we realized putting out a Lizzy Borden album would be worthless so we decided to just have some fun and play a style of music that we grew up on, which was Cheap Trick and KISS and AC/DC and all these types of bands, a lot of the glitter rock stuff from London and from New York and the 70s and that kind of style, so let’s just create this thing and have some fun with it. We took it to Japan and we played in the states and we had a blast with it. There were no theatrics. I was playing guitar on stage and it was a completely different thing. And we kind of waited for the smoke to clear after the industry collapsed and once it did then we popped our head back out and continued to work.
REALITY TV AND DVD MOVIE OF LIZZY?
I recently saw Saxon and Anvil playing here in Helsinki. Anvil opened for Saxon, but after they had finished half the people left. The people just came to see Anvil and when I asked from many people there how many songs Anvil they did know – and they were like “I know the movie, its great”. Have you seen ANVIL –THE MOVIE?
We just played with Saxon and Anvil in Germany at a festival last week. It was Lordi, Saxon and Anvil. Yeah, last week sometime, it was great, but yeah, that’s kind of the way it works with some of those things that happen. People get exposed to a certain thing and they become a fan, but they really don’t know too much about it. They only know what they know. However it takes to get those people in and that’s fine. A lot of the things that happened to them in that movie happened to us, including having that tour booked by that same girl. She offered us that same tour. She offered us a tour and it was every country you could think of, but next to it there was TBA, TBA, and TBA. It didn’t have a venue, it just had countries. It was like if we would have signed on to that tour we would have been just like them. Be on tour with no place to go, no club, no nothing. So you get exposed to all those people who don’t know what they’re doing but they want to be in the business so bad that they just pretend that they do. You get a lot of those guys and girls.
But they got catapulted to a new level of the success with that movie.
They did, yeah, but it was a fluke. I wish we had that fluke.
Well, how about doing the Lizzy Borden reality TV or the Lizzy Borden DVD movie a ’la Anvil, how does that sound?
If you had a camera following us around it would be the funniest thing you’ve ever seen. If you follow Anvil around and they are kind of so crazy that you are going this is just a weird world. Most of the time it is like New Year’s Eve with us and we are always looking for fun. After the show I am sure we will be finding a club and we will party all night and bring a whole bunch of people back. If you have a camera following us it is just chaos every night. Every time something happens it is outrageous and we say “Where is the damn camera?”
MISSING THE OLD DAYS?
Do you miss some short-term things that you had in the 80’s when you didn’t worry about life, just having parties and the albums used to sell – Do you miss the old days?
I don’t. I mean, number one I have a better band and I have nothing but talent and everything going right and the show is the best show we’ve ever done. And if you have those things and you are traveling, the fun is there, because I have always had guitar players that we never really liked. They went there way and we went our way personality wise. Talent wise I have always talented guitar players but personality wise it has never been right. But this here, we have so much fun. The old days was arguments backstage before we went on and arguments after we went on, firing someone halfway through a tour. It was just a nightmare. But I guess some of the early mayhem we had – the first time we went to Japan we had seven limos waiting for us outside the airport with tons of kids and we had to run to get in our limos and they were beating on the doors and everything. That kind of things don’t do happen anymore for too many people but that kind of things are just so beyond your thinking. We have been mobbed in different areas and those kinds of things and that was just outrageous. And we used to do the huge, really big in-stores where you would have 1000 kids coming in, and those things were fun too. You would spend all day signing or at least two or three hours or whatever. Those are the organized things. We just played the Hellfest and they had the press room. And it was a giant press room filled with press and I did six hours of press there, but it was not like the old days where they had it completely organized and you had your publicist walk you around and it was all done really professionally. This was so loose. I liked the organization better. It flowed better. But it was still fun and I still had a good time, it’s just different now.
I just read the Slayer book and there was a really interesting thing like the guy Rob Fair and he produced the HELL AWAITS album by Slayer and I guess he used to work with you on the first album.
He mixed GIVE ‘EM THE AXE EP.
Okay and now he is working with Christina Aguilera. It’s funny how things do change during the years.
I know. He’s a big name in the business now. He worked his way up from the bowels of heavy metal into pop music and that’s where all the big money is. But you know if you are good with something you can do it with any kind of music. We are looking for a producer right now that can do that, that can do anything. Usually you get the heavy metal engineers who want to become a producer and they only know one way of doing it and its old school but I want someone who can do anything.
There is one guy in England called Andy Sneap… “laughs”
Yeah, but we’re also on Metal Blade records so there is not a lot of money for that guy.
Metal Blade has been your home since the first album and the home of several other bands like Armored Saint, who left and then came back. But is Metal Blade the loyalists and most reliable for the bands like you, Armored Saint and even Cannibal Corpse?
I mean at one point no one wanted us and they signed us and then we got to a point where we were signed and other labels wanted us but we were kind of in the middle of things and then the industry collapsed, so we have never known another world. We have never known a big label world. We have never known in a big money world, we have always had to improvise doing everything we’ve done. So we’ve learned how to do this with low budgets, but it would be nice to do it with the big budgets.
Metal Blade signed many great names back in the day but they never signed any glam bands, right?
Yeah, Brian Slagel just wasn’t interested in it. One time we were in a limo going to some concert and all of us were partying and this new band Poison was playing at Troubadour and they were starting to get people there. And I said that band is going to be huge, and he put out his hand and said they are going to be nothing, I guarantee you they are going to be nothing. And I said I guarantee you they will be huge. You go to the Troubadour and it is 99.9% women. Wherever the women go, the men go. So now you are getting the double following here and of course I was right and they went on to sell 20 million records or something. He never really liked the glam thing. But oddly enough he grew up in the glitter rock scene, the kind of gutter version of glam which was KISS and The Dolls and David Bowie from the Ziggy Star era and all that. So he kind of grew up on that, so it is weird that he never liked any of the glam stuff. But I understood it.
Back in the day Lizzy Borden and Slayer were label mates in Metal Blade. How did you like Slayer then and how well you two bands knew each other?
We played with Slayer before they even had an album out and we had an album out. I didn’t know the thrash music scene. I saw Metallica one time and there were four people there. No one got it and no one understood the thrash movement at that time. And when Slayer played no one cared. And then when it started picking up steam I saw them and I started hearing about all the thrash movement and all these other bands started to happen. We went to the country club one time and there was a beehive. I had gone to punk shows before where they beat each other up and stuff, but I never saw the organized pit. And I saw that as power, that is massive power right there. And it went on to become huge, of course, but that was in the early stages of thrash music. You know, at that time there was no categorized thing, because everyone was trying to get THAT slot and get to playing in front of anyone. We started at the Troubadour when they had tables and chairs so it was a sit down thing. Two years before us it was Elton John on the piano or somebody playing acoustic guitar. So they didn’t know what was happening, we didn’t know what was happening. It was the birth of metal, in L.A anyway. I think in London they were already playing in the pubs and they kind of understood what was going on. That was already established in those little tiny pubs, but in LA it wasn’t established yet. It was just a new thing.
Our time is running out, but we have to ask about your live shows. Have you ever tried to bring some new technical advances in your show?
Yeah, we actually had a long conversation on the way here of doing a full upgrade of everything. We are going to take the time between Hellfest and when we end this tour and do those massive upgrades. We have been talking about it for a long time, but when you do these runs, here with no crew and a skeleton crew and trying to re-establish ourselves and re-introduce ourselves to a new audience, and a younger audience, and the older audience, we are blending the whole thing, but we also want to keep the show going to the next level. We have kind of pushed it as far as we could push it right now with what we have to work with, so now it is time to start upgrading. We have talked about upgrades for the last couple of years now and we are going to do some ones that we can absolutely do right away when we get back. And then hopefully we will really take it up a few notches before we get into the summer festivals.
That’s good to hear. One more question. When can we expect to see a book of your life?
(Laughter) I keep getting asked that. I want to do it, and I started doing something a long time ago and I started writing about Gene Simmons and all these different things that happened to me and I thought this is going to take forever so I just kind of got tired of it. Much later, I will wait until I’m at the peak of something. But yeah, it’s just endless. Trying to write it yourself would just be killer. I would probably write it with somebody and just tell them the story and they can write it because if I wrote it myself you are just tearing down every detail of it and it becomes fun, I guess, but I don’t know. We will see what happens. I definitely want to write it and it will be interesting I think. All the adventures we have been on in 30 years. We have got the 30 year anniversary coming up, so it’s going to be interesting.
We thank you for your time.
Thank you guys!
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