TONY HARNELL – solo artist, Mercury Train, Starbreaker, Westworld, ex -TNT,

June 12th, 2012
by Marko Syrjala

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TONY HARNELL

INTERVIEW AND PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA

Antony “Tony” Harnell is an American singer, songwriter and producer, best known for his work with the Norwegian hard rock band TNT. Harnell joined bands ranks in 1984 and stayed with the band for next 22 years. During that period the band toured exclusively in Japan, Scandinavia and USA and released such classic and critically acclaimed albums as TELL NO TALES, INTUITION and MY RELIGION. Harnell quit with the band for professional and personal reasons in 2006, after finishing the tour supporting album ALL THE WAY TO THE SUN. Harnell’s other credits include working bands like Westwood, Starbreaker and Mercury Train, with whom Harnell released his latest album in 2010. On June 2, 2012 TNT celebrated its 30th anniversary by playing a concert at the Clarion Hotel in Trondheim. The band performed show together with the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra and Harnell, who now performed for the first time with his former colleagues since his departure from the band. On following day we had a pleasure to sit down with the man himself and discuss about his thoughts about the show as well as his future plans and of course some blasts from the past as well… Read on!

THE ANNIVERSARY

Metal-Rules.com: Okay let’s start from this current thing which is the 30’TH Anniversary show of TNT here in Trondheim. I think that the three main words here are: “never say never” right?

Tony Harnell: Well, I mean, look, when you have a history as long as the one that we had, 22 years, this was a celebration.  It wasn’t really a reunion.  It was a celebration and it was a way for me to close the door in a much better way than I was able to do the first time.  I didn’t have as much control.  I left in the best way possible. So this was a really nice, very nice, way of closing the door on this part of my life because it’s been, like, hanging around, you know.  This was, like, great for the fans.  That was the number one reason I did it.  Really, I turned – we’ve been having this discussion for a year about this.  I turned it down about I don’t know how many times and finally I said, you know, for the fans and for me to kind of walk through it so I can get through to the other side, it’s important.  It’s sort of, yeah, it’s just a happier way of saying goodbye to the band.

Metal-Rules.com: So was this the final goodbye from you to the TNT fans and family?

Tony Harnell: For TNT, not necessarily for other possibilities.  But for TNT, I would say so.  I never close the door on working with Ronni.  We always talk about that and we talked about it this trip as well, but we don’t know what that’s going to mean.  But of course, the music world that likes rock, you know if Ronni and I did a rock record together called something else; it would be, I’m sure, very much a lot of excitement around it.

Metal-Rules.com: Yeah, of course.  If you are under the old name, there’s lots of past weight on it?

Tony Harnell: Yeah, I think the best way for Ronni and I to do anything together should be done without the weight of that and I actually think the possibility of something really great could come out of it?

Metal-Rules.com: Like you said you turned this Anniversary show thing down for many times and I don’t wonder it because of things what did happen in the past. Once you did split with the band, there was a lot of negative writing for years, from both sides, so are things settled now?

Tony Harnell: I don’t even remember what I said, but I think probably I said something along the lines of feeling that something had been taken from me, yeah?  And you know what; I came to get it back.  Now I can go.  Now I can go and leave it behind.  It’s different.  You know, when I left, there were a lot of attacks in the press and a lot of lies, a lot of lies, and it’s very hard to deal because I’m in the U.S.  I’m hearing about it.  I’m reading the newspapers, but I’m there.  They’ve got total control over this situation here.  What do I do? Do I call the newspapers and answer every time I get attacked?  So we just decided, you know what, leave it alone.  Ronni’s book came.  It didn’t really sell.  So even though there was a lot of negativity there, he was just angry that I left him.  He wasn’t really angry at me, the person.  He was angry that I left him, you know, left the band.  He didn’t ever think that I would do that for real, you know.  So he was just – we worked all that out, you know.  He just took it very far.

Metal-Rules.com: Breaking up with band, it’s like a divorce, you know.  Someone gets hurt and someone gets angry?

Tony Harnell: I think most intelligent people who read it didn’t give it much thought.

Metal-Rules.com: Once you did leave the band, was there anything you were missing about Norway since you spend so many years of your life in here, more than twenty years?

Tony Harnell: 22 years but no, I didn’t live here ever.  That’s the thing but of course I’m missing Norway.  Everything but the food “Laughs” No, yeah, of course.  I mean, you weren’t really around last night, but I mean, or the last week really, that you know, from Oslo, I had a few days there before I came up.  I’m going to go back for four days and do some press and some other things, but I mean, when I come into this town, it was like a big family reunion last night back stage and everything.  You know, Dag Ingebrigtsen and there are people I probably didn’t even see that I wanted to see.  But the Ronni and Diesel’s oldest daughters, I’m like their uncle and there’s so much love between us. You know, so when they see me, it’s like oh my God and it’s great because I mean, I’ve known them since I was holding them like this.  So of course, it’s like family.  You don’t just walk away from that. Emotionally, I would have to be a robot.  Look, I’ve been extremely misunderstood and a lot of that is the cultural differences.  There’s a huge cultural difference between Norwegians and Americans, but the music is kind of the thing that always brings people together in the end, but when I had a chance to step away, I was really able to appreciate the cultural differences more because I realized that had I stepped more in their direction and they stepped more in my direction, that there would’ve been no problems. When you stand firm, like, you know, it’s their law and – you know what that is – and Viking and this is the way it is, you know that, and if I stand strong with fucking the whole American way – look, as far as I’m concerned, the most positive thing I brought to the band was that anything’s possible and when I joined the band, that’s when everything started happening.  The record deals got bigger and stages got bigger and the band got bigger.  I’m not saying that it was all about me.  It was the combination of me coming into something great that was already there.  It just needed that last element and that was me.

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Tony and Ronni Le Tekro in TNT 30′TH Anniversary show in Trondheim 2012

THE STATE OF SOLO ALBUM AND FUTURE PROJECTS

Metal-Rules.com: Actually you told me years ago that you are working on a solo album, but I’m still waiting for that one… So, what’s the state with that one?

Tony Harnell: I’m just sort of picky, but I mean, what happens is I’ll start working on it and then Starbreaker comes along and then Mercury Train Project comes along, you know.  I don’t know when it was I spoke to you last.  Was it – I’ve spoken to you before, haven’t I?

Metal-Rules.com: Yeah.

Tony Harnell: And when did I mention that the last time?  Was it four years ago?

Metal-Rules.com: That must have been in 2004 or something?

Tony Harnell: Yeah, I mean, and then it was TNT.  Then I was in the middle of that so that, like, really takes – and I did, what was it, in 2004?  I recorded MY RELIGION.  I did Brazen Abbot.  I did, let’s see, ALL THE WAY TO THE SUN came in the early part of the year.  We started writing that and then I wrote and recorded the first Starbreaker album.  So it was like… And then the DVD came out and then I started writing for the solo record seriously when I quit the band in 2006-7 and I put the EP out.  I put the EP out because the demos, I thought, were really good and I sort of thought I didn’t really want to shop them to labels.  So no record companies have heard those songs.  I never went to a label and I’m looking for a deal.  I didn’t think it was quite ready, but I thought they were good enough to give out as a little teaser. So as far as a solo record, you know what, I have a different point of view now about it.  The one point of view is that if it comes, it comes, but there’s another project that I’m working on now, which is even more exciting for me, which is kind of like a solo album, but it’s way better because it’s a multimedia project.  So it’s kind of, it’s not a musical.  That’s not the right way to put it.  And it’s not a rock opera.  That’s not the way to put it either.  It’s more like the best way I can compare it and I can’t talk too much about it because it’s a lot going on with it right now, but it’s kind of like Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars where he had an alter ego.

So I have this project where I’m this alter ego and I’m going to Las Vegas in December to do a huge project, a three day – it’s called the World of Art Festival and I’m the – what they’ve done is they’ve invited what they consider to be the best artists in every genre.  So they have painters and photographers and singers.  So I’m the only male rock singer that’s been invited in the whole world because the guy running the show in Vegas at the biggest and best resort there, he thinks that I’m the best singer in the world.  So it’s an honor. So what that’s turning into is through that connection that’s turning into connections for this other project I’m talking about and we’re going to actually be meeting with some pretty powerful people about that.  I’m really excited because if that works, when it works, I’m going to say, it’s going to be a double album.  So it’ll almost make up for everything, but it’s going to be a concept because it’s a story and it’s going to fulfill basically everything I want to do in one package as opposed to solo record. In a way, you know, I mean I hate to be, and it’s not being negative, but it’s like that has more chance of success in every way with hits and with touring and with everything involved than Tony Harnell putting out a solo record.

Metal-Rules.com: Right and if you just put out a solo album, it won’t probably be a million seller, you know?

Tony Harnell: Yeah, but yes and no.  Who knows, right?  But the point is I never wanted to do a half, I don’t like to do anything halfway, you know.  These little Frontiers projects I’ve done, like the Starbreaker stuff, its okay.  I think the second record was very creative and very cool, but it’s like, for a solo album, I just kind of feel like it’s got to be great.  The producer has to be great.  The songs have to be great and if it’s not, I’m not going to do it.

Metal-Rules.com: So you have high standards with everything you do?

Tony Harnell: Very high, I mean, TNT has done things that I don’t think are, you know, perfect all the way through.  But I can say one thing, every TNT album has at least, I don’t know, three songs that I think are incredible and so I don’t hate really any –well, I might not like KNIGHTS OF NEW THUNDER as much but I don’t hate it.  That’s a special album because it was the first.  It was like the beginning of my – I was 21 and it was exciting and even though I didn’t really fully create the sound on that album, I contributed quite a lot to it. I mean, if people have heard those songs before I came on board, they were very different.  But TELL NO TALES, that’s where Ronni and I created a sound.  That’s where we made something new.  It was like American meets European rock and no one had really done it yet.  I think that what we did on that album … I think that the TELL NO TALES and INTUITION, to me, a lot of bands came afterwards and I could hear it when they were coming in the late 80s.  I’m, like, wow, that kind of sounds like us a little bit.  You know, Firehouse and Steelheart and blah, blah, blah, and so I think we created this form of melodic hard rock that you’re starting to hear a lot of bands doing now.  And you hear a lot of bands trying to do it on Frontiers’ records.  Some of them are pretty good, but I don’t know, what it’s missing for me is Ronni and I, it’s like you have a magic with somebody sometimes that’s indescribable and it’s not planned.  You don’t know if it’s going to work and we spent so much time together outside of writing songs, just as brothers, that when we sat down to write, it was like eating, you know.  It was just natural.  So we would sit down and write.  One afternoon, actually, looking at that one, one afternoon we said, he came down.  I had an apartment in Oslo for three months and we were working on FIREFLY and he said yeah, let’s write today. Okay, cool and we never know if anything’s ever going to come and we spent one hour, I think, and we wrote “Month of Sundays” and “Daisy Jane” in one hour and those are great songs.  So that’s the kind of stuff that happens with him and me.  And then we just were done.  We were just one hour, okay, that’s it.  How can we do better than these two songs?  Let’s just go out and have beer, you know.

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OTHER THINGS IN LIFE

Metal-Rules.com: On past years you’ve unfortunately lost many of your close people and friends. How much those sad things have affected your life and world view?

Tony Harnell: Yeah, I lost, you know, I’ve lost a lot of people in the past couple of years starting in 2009 with my mom and then Dag (Stokke) in 2011, my grandmother in 2011 and then Mark Reale recently.  It’s getting a little old and so what I did is on my way home from Dag’s funeral, I decided to do something about it.  So I came home and I enrolled in a university project, a university course which is one year long and it’s all about being a holistic health counselor. So I’ve been studying for one year and now I’ve been certified as a holistic health counselor in the state of New York and in the U.S. and I’m not going to do it so I can sit there in an office and take clients all day.  I did it so I could learn more about health, also for myself, and I’m writing a book with a natural doctor for artists and musicians and not just some shitty, you know, book.  I mean, a really cool rock and roll, very awesome book that’s going to be not heavy, but light, like, just some basic, basic things you should do all the time when you’re touring and when you’re being an artist just to try to stay a few levels above the normal thing because our lifestyle is basically – forget the drugs for a minute. Forget the alcohol and the drugs.  You’re mostly awake at night.  That’s not healthy.  No sunshine, right?  You need sunshine for health.  You’re not sleeping the right way.  You’re travelling.  You’re eating.  This is number one.  You’re eating the worst fucking food on the planet.  You’re eating hot dogs and shit food and whatever mostly because there’s nothing else around, you know.  But if you’re smart and you do what I do, you fill half your suitcase with protein powders and greens and all kinds of things so that when you’re traveling, you can supplement. So these are some of the things that I’m working on.  The book will come out and then I will probably do a little line of traveling things for artists to take with them.

Metal-Rules.com: That’s a great thing and I think that might help some people.

Tony Harnell: You know, I want it to be something that has a rock and roll vibe to it, but I want it to be something that appeals to a businessman just because all businessmen want to be rock stars anyway.  So if it’s like a rock and roll kind of very basic health kind of thing – it’s not about bodybuilding or anything.  It’s about basic health and if it’s something like that and it’s got a cool cover, I think it’ll appeal to anyone that travels for a living and anybody busy that doesn’t have time to be healthy, but I was inspired when I watched at the funeral when I watched Dag’s, and losing my mom and going through what I went through when I was watching Dag’s eight year old son watch the coffin go down. I mean, you know, I’m just flying home and I’m just going and so many people I know in music, Ronnie James Dio, I mean all these other guys that are lesser known, cancer, heart attacks, you know, diabetes, all this stuff and it’s like, on and on and on and then you get into the drug stuff.  Then you get into Whitney Houston and then Michael Jackson and who did we just lose now, someone else just died; a big star?  Donna Summer to cancer, Amy Winehouse, drugs.  It’s just, it’s enough.  It’s enough.  If the book saves two lives, I’m happy. A girl came up to me, you probably don’t have it, but a girl came up to me after I recorded the first Starbreaker album, which has some great lyrics in there, and she said I used to cut myself all the time and one of your songs touched me so much that I just woke up the next day and I stopped.  It wasn’t even like, just something in your lyrics hit me and I just stopped cutting myself.  Now, when you hear stuff like that you go that’s why I do this.

Metal-Rules.com: So you did something right then?

Tony Harnell: Yeah, but that means more than all the fame and money in the world is that you have a possibility to put something out to the public and if it sells 10,000 copies or a million copies, you’re getting something out that not everybody can do that.

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WESTWORLD AND STARBREAKER

Metal-Rules.com: Well, okay, you mentioned about your future project which is kind of “secret” yet, but I bet that there are plenty of more things in works as well?

Tony Harnell: Well, that’s one thing, but yeah.  I have a few things going on.

Metal-Rules.com: Is there any life left on your old projects? Probably Westworld is done since Mark’s now gone? 

Tony Harnell: I mean it can always be resurrected.  Bruno’s around and John’s around and it’s not like it couldn’t be.  It’s funny though, I consider SKIN, it’s not a perfect album, but when I really look at that record and how it came together and my input on it, I could consider SKIN as being my first solo album in many ways, just I remember the process of it and I was very much in control of the spiritual direction of the album and Mark was such a great co-writer with me.  He really just like, yeah, show me this and I could sing a riff to him and he would pick it up and try to – so it was literally, like, he was helping me write songs that were in my head.  Ronni was like that too, but Mark had a special way that was a little different as well.

Metal-Rules.com: Well, since you worked Mark for years, you probably knew about his illness for a long time?

Tony Harnell: Mark has been ill for, Mark was ill for 20-something years.  He had Crohn’s Disease and he battled it for a long time.  He had a lot of surgeries and so forth, but towards the end, we weren’t talking a lot and he was having a lot of problems with his health.

Metal-Rules.com: How is the state of band Starbreaker is there going to be more albums with them? 

Tony Harnell: Probably not, a lot of reasons why, if I owned the project and it was – I mean, it’s my name – but the way that deal was structured, it’s basically a project which is owned by Frontiers and so I’ve tried to just let them, you know, ask them to let me have the project, but they’re pretty stubborn so I don’t think it’s going to – I love Magnus, you know, but I think I’ve done what I need to do with – he’s fantastic, Magnus, but I think he’s found a good home with Primal Fear.  I love his style.  I love his playing, but I’m not sure that we’re a match made in heaven.  We really like each other.  Just musically, I don’t think it’s a great match.  I think that we’re – I’m not a power metal guy.  I’m not even a heavy metal guy.  I’m so miscategorized and that’s what I aim to do going forward, but I think that the Mercury Train helps a little bit with moving people very gently over to something else. It happens that I got successful with TNT, but before TNT, I of course, was singing hard rock and metal and everything, but I was also singing a lot of other music.  So it’s just that I got known doing that that people are like that.  But when I go and sing because I do these sort of big charity events or corporate events where there’s like 2,000/3,000 people who have no idea who I am and I’m singing, actually I’ve done “What a Wonderful World” a few times and I’ve done other music where I really show my voice off in a different way, you know, and the reaction is amazing because they don’t know what to think because they have no preconceived idea, they’re not thinking.  They’re just hearing it.  They’re not saying – see, for TNT fans, when they see us or hear something new I put out, they’re always going to compare it to what they think before.  They can’t listen fresh, but when I’ve sung for people fresh, the reaction is so great.  It’s not that I don’t love singing for the old fans because of course I do.  Last night was fucking amazing, but it’s a different trip.  It’s a different trip when people don’t know hear it, it’s like something from outer space for them. So I just want to pursue different things, but of course, at the end of the day, I’m a rock singer.  I don’t think I’m a metal singer or whatever.  I just think I’m a rock singer.  I think I’m more Robert Plant or Freddie Mercury than I am Geoff Tate or even Tony Mills or, you know, I think Mills is a lot, he reminds me of Geoff Tate a lot.  Geoff Tate and that type of vocal thing whereas I think I’m a looser, bluesier, kind of more just rock singer, you know.  Of course, you know, it’s hard to analyze yourself, but… you know? “Laughs”

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  JOHN TEMPESTA

Metal-Rules.com: If I do remember right, you once had a band together with drummer John Tempesta?

Tony Harnell: I had a band, yeah, before TNT.  We still talk all the time.  He’s one of my best friends, yeah.  It was an amazing thing because he was always incredible.  It was kind of like kind of the whole band was great and when I joined TNT, actually, before I joined TNT, the idea was I was going to come to Norway and record KNIGHTS OF THE NEW THUNDER but we only had a deal in Norway.  So I told the band in New York let’s go do the record.  It’ll come out in Norway.  I’ll come back and we’ll get back together because we had labels interested. So sometimes people say to me, you know, TNT, you should be so grateful because it’s the only way that you would’ve ever – I didn’t feel that way.  I knew when TNT came, I knew I was having very vivid, I have dreams that are like premonitions and before TNT happened, I was having very vivid dreams about being on large stages, record deals, I saw the whole thing. It was all planned.  I had no doubt in my mind it was going to happen and I knew it was going to be soon and it just happened to be that the TNT thing came, but I fully believe that if TNT didn’t come in at that moment, within that year, it would’ve either been the New York band or another band and I would’ve been in the same or better position, you know.  I don’t say that from an ego place, I just say it spiritual.  It’s just I knew it was coming.  I knew I was ready and it was just a matter of what band is it going to be. But when I heard the – I got this tape, you know, backstage at a gig with my New York band, KNIGHTS OF NEW THUNDER, and I came home and I put it on and the first thing is [humming] and it was, like, fuck, this is the shit, man.  Listen to that guitar player.  So when I heard Ronni play and I heard the sound and everything, I just said okay, that’s my band.

Metal-Rules.com: So you did choose to join TNT and the rest is history.

Tony Harnell: Yeah, no, but the guys in New York were great and John was always very cool and talented and he went onto be the roadie for – I think he started as the roadie for Anthrax and then he joined for…

Metal-Rules.com: Exodus.

Tony Harnell: Exodus and then Testament, I think.

Metal-Rules.com: Yes, he did play with both actually.

Tony Harnell: Yeah and then it was Rob Zombie and White Zombie.  Now he’s in The Cult and then he does other projects that are huge as well.  There’s a Cuban thing that he does as well, which he just played this place in New York, 8,000 people, Radio City Music Hall.  So he’s a very in demand guy, but we’re working on something and we want to do something together.  It’s just a matter of he’s so busy.  So it would be nice though.

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GOOD OLD TIMES

Metal-Rules.com: Like it’s been mentioned many times already, you spend altogether 22 years with TNT. Which were your personal high points from that whole period?

Tony Harnell: Of the 22 years? I’d say the high points were – Well, there’s a few.  There’s a few.  There’s a few.  ’87 in Norway, we couldn’t get much higher.  I think the album was number one.  Somebody told me it was number one for 19 weeks the other day.  That’s pretty crazy and the single was also number one, I think, “10,000 Lovers”.  So I think at the same time we were holding that spot.  That was kind of – and someone showed me the chart from when we first went number one and all the albums underneath us are pretty impressive. It’s like Bowie, Madonna, you know, Michael Jackson, and Def Leppard.  Yeah, it’s pretty impressive underneath, what’s happening there.  It was a weird year because it was hard for me to feel it because it wasn’t my country.  I wanted to be big in America.  So for me, it was like we were getting big everywhere else and it was cool.  Now, I look back and I look at the video and I go, oh, that happened?  You know, because my head was kind of somewhere else.  But yeah, so ’87 in Norway and ’87 in the US, I mean, in the US, we started getting very, very big.  We had videos, high requested videos on MTV and we did, of course, the huge tour with Stryper, which was for 20,000 people every night for three months.  That’s a lot of people and then jumped right onto the Twisted Sister / Great White tour and then we did our own shows that were always sold out in 1-2,000 seaters in the US.  So we were pretty big and we actually had more fans in the U.S. than we have in any other country in world, but because it’s so big, you know, and we sold more records there.  The only other place I think we sold more records or close to was Japan.  So that was the next – so I would say ’87 in Norway and ’89 in Japan because we had no idea when we arrived how, you know, it was like “Beatlemania” “Laughs”

Metal-Rules.com: On that year, TNT was voted as the number one live band in Japan.  I do remember that.

Tony Harnell: I don’t know if this is true or not, somebody told me we sold more records than Michael Jackson in Japan that year and he had album BAD out.  I don’t believe it, but someone told me that.  And then of course, I have to say that ’84 was pretty special.  ’84 was pretty special because I mean, look, I was 21 years old and I told my parents when I was 17 that I was going to have a record deal when I was 21 and it happened, you know. So that was kind of, this was a special year and I was real, real proud of this accomplishment and I’m thinking back to the feelings around this and we toured Norway in the winter.  It was a very hard tour and it was very, I think it was very successful and so ’84, ’87, ’89, and you know what, creatively, I would say the late 90s I really enjoyed making FIREFLY and TRANSISTOR, especially TRANSISTOR.  That was – Ronni and I went to Spain and we wrote that album in Spain.  It was – we really had a great time.  We had probably the best time writing an album than we ever had.  It was loose.  It was fun.  It was creative. We had no – we didn’t listen to what anybody wanted us to sound like.  We just said we’re going to make whatever record we want to make and that’s what TRANSISTOR is.  My wife is a lot younger than me, like, 20 years and she’s from England and when she heard TRANSISTOR, she’s like, this should’ve been a huge album because the time it came out, but because TNT was on there, if it came out and it was called “Dick Head”, it would’ve been huge with a different producer possibly.  I mean, it’s a good album, but I think the production is a little bit weak.  It has some great songs

Metal-Rules.com: No, I get the point that you keep on saying that you had the heavy load from the past then already. That’s what you’re saying, right?

Tony Harnell: The heavy load… but here’s what we did next, MY RELIGION, that album to me, you see what’s so great about this album is that we had a little break.  Ronni has it wrong.  Ronni says I quit four times.  That’s totally untrue.  Here’s the way it went, ’92, we broke up.  I didn’t quit.  Everybody quit.  ’96, we came back together and we worked on FIREFLY.  After FIREFLY, I didn’t like the manager that we had over in Norway and I said he goes or I go.  It had nothing to do with the band at all. So I came right back again the following year.  We worked it all out.  We did TRANSISTOR and then we just had a break.  No one quit.  No one did anything just from TRANSISTOR to The BIG BANG.  It was just a break and then we came back and we put that out.  It went gold in Norway and then we started working on this and the thing about this is at this point we knew that we needed to take all of the creativity that we had on TRANSISTOR and FIREFLY and somehow bring it into current times. We had to actually take all the creativity and we had to actually pull the old sound somehow back into a new sound and I think that of all the older bands that tried to make kind of a semi-modern record, I think that this is the best one.  Ronni and I talked about it.

Metal-Rules.com: If you ask me, MY RELIGION is one your better albums and for me it does sound like a mix of TELL NO TALES with some taste of FIREFLY on it?

Tony Harnell: Yeah, but it’s better produced than FIREFLY and I, just in my opinion, I think that if I, if someone said what is the best TNT record in their whole entire career, that’s the one because it takes the whole thing and to me, it puts all of it together in one album and it’s a lot of songs and it covers the pop side of the band. It covers the very heavy side of the band.  The ballads on here are stunningly beautiful, perfectly.  ”Hey Love,” yeah, I mean, I wrote that for my wife and she was in the studio while I was singing it, crying.  How much more great can that be?  I sang the shit out of it that day.  So this is the one man, for me, this album, if anyone said “What does TNT sound like?” then that’s the one they should play.

Metal-Rules.com: MY RELIGION was a success and put the band back in fold. What was the reason that longtime bassist Morty Black still decided to leave the group back then? 

Tony Harnell: After the tour, before the end of the tour actually, yeah.  I don’t know.  You have to ask him why.  I’m not really sure.  He had a lot of reasons, I think, and he may or may not want to state what they are.  It’s really quite funny because if you read the bio of TNT that he has on his website and you go read the bio that TNT has on their website and then you read, kind of, my bio, and then you read other things, there are very few accurate, 100% accurate, bios. There’s like, in everyone’s mind, there are big missing chunks of truth and time periods that are just shoved away.  So I guess it’s a matter of yeah, I don’t want to think of that period, you know? But I have the – but here’s what I feel about it.  Aerosmith did this great book called Walk This Way and what’s so awesome about it is you’ve got all – it starts with one story, the same thing, right, four guys telling the same story, but it’s a completely different story with each guy and I do want to do a book like that with TNT.  It would be so funny.  Okay, what happened with – and just pick a situation and then have each guy telling it and it would be like over there, over there, over there, over there.  But you know that’s the way life is, right?  I mean, everyone has a different perspective on a situation from their perspective.  So somewhere in between all of that lies the truth, but it’s not there completely from any one person.

Metal-Rules.com: One more thing about TNT, in your opinion, what was the main reason that TNT never made it really big way?

Tony Harnell: There are a lot of reasons.

Metal-Rules.com: Yeah, you said once that the main reason was that you didn’t stay enough in States?

Tony Harnell: That’s true.  That’s true.  That’s probably the main reason, but we also had management that wasn’t great.  We had a record company, which was behind us and then it was, like, halfway and you can’t do anything sort of halfway.  You know, you have to be all the way. Touring in the U.S…  Why didn’t we get bigger; there were a lot of reasons and it’ll have to be in my book to get all the reasons in there.

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Tony and Ronni in Swedenrock festival 2004

THE FINAL WORDS

Metal-Rules.com: Okay, overall I’m a bit surprised how positive you are about TNT now because like it earlier said, after reading all those negative things in the past, it clearly seems that things are better now. And, as you said earlier, you now closed the door with TNT in positive way and with good vibes.

Tony Harnell: In terms of being negative, you know, it’s like I mean, I don’t even think that everybody around the world saw the press that was happening in Norway and saw the negativity that was happening towards me here.  Only people in Norway, but I was hearing it, you know, and fortunately I had some friends here that were kind of feeding me the stuff and I kind of wish they weren’t because it would’ve been better for me to be almost blinded to it because then I could’ve had my own – just left it, you know.  And I really, so when you say negativity, I mean, you have to understand that it was in response to quite a lot of attacks that, I think, were very unfair, unfair attacks.  So that’s where the negativity came from, the response, you know.  It’s a natural response when you’re being attacked, you’re defending yourself.

Metal-Rules.com: Of course, but things do seem to be fine now?

Tony Harnell: Yeah, I mean, look, you said never say never, right?

Metal-Rules.com: Yeah “Laughs”

Tony Harnell: I mean, look, for what you’re talking about behind your words to happen, there’d have to be so many business changes that I really can’t see it happening.  There’d almost have to be one or two guys would almost have to have electroshock therapy, you know, but like I said, you know, the world – we’re still relatively young and I’m feeling pretty young. I had a natural doctor friend come up to my room yesterday and, you know, he analyzes people by looking at their tongue.  It’s Chinese medicine and I’m going to be 50 this year and he said you have the tongue of a 30 year old.  I said wait until I tell my wife.  She’ll like that one. I was made to feel like there was, like, a little bit of – like two camps that went like this but now I understand that it wasn’t like that.  It was more, I think that it was just more that there was a certain part of the camp that felt like they, they just wanted to support the band going forward in whatever way they went forward, you know, and that’s good in a way, you know.  They were just trying to support Ronni, but Ronni said something great.  We were having a little discussion about some of the songs that I was going to sing and I said Mills can sing any 80s song of mine he wants, but I was a little bit upset he did ”Invisible Noise” just because I feel like, you know, the lyrics, I mean, they’re all my songs, you know, but I said I got to do at least one more current from MY RELIGION period, like something a little more current so that people, when I’m up there, I’m not just nostalgia guy because that’s kind of been the biography that’s been painted is that nothing happened with me between the early 90s and today and that’s so not true. I’ve released more albums since the early 90s than I did in the 80s, probably almost one a year, one every year, every other year.  So we were trying to negotiate and I said, Ronni actually wrote an email and said Harnell is going to do “My Religion.”  So I said okay, that’s cool.  So then we were working it out and Diesel said “no”.  Mills didn’t care.  So there was this big thing, this little argument and Ronni said – it’s really funny.  I just kind of sat there.  I just backed away and said whatever you guys want to do.  I’m a guest and Ronni said before, with him, pointing at me, there were two bosses and now there’s one and it’s me.  He’s doing “My Religion” and that’s the end.

Metal-Rules.com: Okay Tony, a million thanks and we’ll see what the future holds for you?

Tony Harnell: Thank you !

 


WWW.TONYHARNELL.COM

A FEW MORE SHOTS FROM THE ANNIVERSARY SHOW IN TRONDHEIM !!

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Posted in 2012 | Comments (0)




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