INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ AND SAMI RUOKANGAS
FM was supporting legendary Thin Lizzy in London in late January 2010. There we had the opportunity to sit down with founding members Overland and Jupp alongside the band’s latest addition Kirkpatrick and hear all the latest news and some past stuff and other interesting stories about FM… Read on!
A BRIEF HISTORY
British AOR band FM was originally formed in 1984 by vocalist Steve Overland, his brother and guitarist Chris Overland, drummer Pete Jupp, bassist Merv Goldsworthy, and keyboardist Didge Digital. The Overland brothers and Jupp initially formed the band Wildlife in 1980 and recorded the album BURNING later on that same year. Jupp decided to join Samson in 1983, but when Wildlife later broke up, the three decided to continue together, and FM was born.
The first album, INDISCREET, came out in 1986, and at the time, FM was touring with such bands as Bon Jovi, Meat Loaf, Tina Turner, and Gary Moore. The sophomore release TOUGH IT OUT was released in 1989. Although album singles “Bad Luck” and “Someday (You’ll Come Running)” did well in the charts, the band lost its contract with Sony, and they moved to Music for Nations. The next album, TAKIN’ IT TO THE STREETS, featured new guitarist Andy Barnett who replaced Chris Overland. FM’s fourth album APHROSIDIAC got excellent reviews, but unfortunately, it failed to reach commercial success. Didge Digital left the group, and former UFO member Jem Davis replaced him. DEAD MAN ‘S SHOES was released in 1995, and soon after band slowly disbanded. It took twelve years before FM got back together. In 2007 the band agreed to perform in Firefest in Nottingham. Andy Barnett decided not to continue with the band, and he was replaced by Guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick who joined permanently the band ranks in 2009. The year 2010 saw the new FM album METROPOLIS release, their first new studio release in fifteen years. The new album has proved to be a big success for FM in many ways. The reviews have been excellent, and it seems that the band is now sounding and doing better than ever.
THE SECOND COMING
First of all, what’s going on with FM? You guys were away for a while, but now you seem to be a really active band once again!
STEVE: Yeah, we did a British tour last year, and we released METROPOLIS, our first album for a long time. I don’t know how long it is but a long time. And that album was well received. In 2011, we just wanted to do more of the same, but we want to go further afield and go through Europe. We did Last Week in Rock, which is great, and we’ve got some other festivals lined up, so yeah, more of the same, really. And we already started working on the next album.
PETE: Yeah, we’re in the studio as well at the moment, already started before the next album, so–
It does sound that this will not be just a temporary reunion with just one album before disbanding again!?
STEVE: No, no, I mean, as we said many times that when we came back, it was basically going to be that. We were going to do one gig, the Firefest headlining, have a good time, catch up with each other again, and then just go off and do our own things again. But we just couldn’t get over the response and the demand for the band. And I think it just seems to be going from strength to strength and everybody seems to want it, so we’re having a great time doing it, so we’ll just carry on until we’re in old people’s terms.
At which point was it clear to you that this would be a permanent band again?
PETE: Well, it always was. After the first show, we were just trying to plan it really, what we were going to do. And we started writing songs, and we hadn’t got the usual record company saying you’ve got to have your album delivered by then, you have to do this. We thought we could just do everything.
STEVE: At the time, the plan was, to be honest, to release the full studio album at the second Firefest. But we weren’t entirely happy. So that’s why we did the WILDSIDE EP. That came after that because it wasn’t quite finished, was it.
JIM: No, we weren’t had time to get it right.
PETE: We thought, why just rush it out, and also, people were saying if you release it at the end of 2009, it will be dead; it will be an old album in 2010. They probably said career-wise, it’s better to wait and release it early in 2010 because you will get more longevity out of it, you know. I mean, it’s 2011 now, and we’re still promoting it. It’s still rolling along, which is great.
So in a way, it’s still a new FM album for many people.
STEVE: You know we’re still getting reviews on it, you know. One year later so it has lasted well.
JIM: Like you guys, you know it’s been one of your favorite albums, and it’s been like the top in all the polls, and that’s kind of kept us going, and that’s been great, you know.
STEVE: It’s great, so that’s what I mean because we’re gearing up to be quite busy this year with management and all that. And we’re sort of promoted, you know. We just want to be prepared so that we’ve got the album done when we go out. So that’s why we started recording it. We’re going three-day stints in the studio at the moment, going in sticking backtracks down. So it doesn’t come to the middle of the year, and we’re like we’ve got to do an album because we’ve been doing other things. So the album will be done, you know, songs are coming thick and fast, and we’re ready to release it when we need to release it when the opportune time is up.
Tell me something about the writing process for METROPOLIS?
STEVE: We tried to take all the best albums’ best elements and put them onto METROPOLIS, kind of thing you know. So everyone seems to have taken to it greatly. We didn’t know.
JIM: Well, we didn’t really know what we were doing. We tried to make a good record and didn’t really know….
STEVE: The thing, as we said we tried when we got back together, we said if we’re going to make another album, it’s got to be as good as the best FM album. Not just write 10 songs, and that’s it. So we just carried on writing, didn’t we, until we got the album. We still didn’t know if…
JIM: We didn’t know if it would go on the radio at all, so it wasn’t particularly geared at all for radio play.
PETE: We first did demos, and then we would send them to friends and people we knew in the business just for their opinion, and they kind of chose the songs because there’s one song, “Over You,” which demo’s quite different actually. The demo was more like it was very simple stuff. We were thinking like: “This is crap,” and then everybody came back and said that’s got to go on the record.
Steve Overland on stage in London
THE NEXT FM ALBUM
As you said, you’re already working on the next album. What kind of album can fans except you this time?
STEVE: Oh yeah, yeah. We know basically—as I say the thing with our fans, it’s always been the same we do just write tunes. I mean, when I write with Jim, they’re different types of tunes to when I write with Pete or when I write with Merv, whatever. They’re all very different because everybody’s got something different to bring to the table. There’s never like we’ve got to do an album like METROPOLIS; that’s not what it’s like. We just write a batch of songs, and when we’re happy, we’ve got another strong album to get finished.
JIM: So there’s a little bit of pressure in that respect.
STEVE: Yeah, yeah, because you know we’re not prepared to put it out yet, because it’s got to be at least as good as the previous one.
JIM: Because if it’s not, everyone will say, well, you know that’s it for them.
STEVE: So we know there’s a bit of expectation quite high for the next one. We know that, so we have to do a good job.
Do you already have an idea when the next album will be out?
STEVE: I don’t know yet.
How about the old FM albums? Who actually owns the rights for the first albums?
PETE: Epic does
STEVE: Sony owns the first two. The others possibly us now, you know.
Many fans have been waiting for the FM re-masters. Any chance to see those get released someday?
STEVE: Well, you never know!?
PETE: As much as I’m afraid to say, it would be nice actually to remix the first album, but…
STEVE: We’d have to get the original masters, and they’d all be on two-inch tape. Jem said we’re set finding the masters now.
PETE: Yeah, it would be a good idea. It would be a nice thing to do.
But going back to the FM reunion, tell something more about it. What finally made you reunite after all those years?
STEVE: Well, to be honest, we were still doing things in the business, making various albums, doing various things, but it was a case of the guy that does the Firefest, I used to speak to him, Kieran Dargan, and he would keep on at me and on at me saying just get the band back together, just do one show Steve and I’m like no, no it’s never going to happy Kieran, it’s not going to happen. Put the phone down. And he just kept on and on and on, and so I just, I was running amuck of something totally different, one brand one day. I was working with Pete anyway, and I just sort of said, what do you reckon? Should we just do it for fun?
That Firefest thing happened in the year 2007?
STEVE: Yeah, let’s just do one gig, have a laugh. If 400 people come, that would be great, or 200 people, and just be fun doing it again. And we were in rehearsals, and we really enjoyed it, it was great. So we did the one show, and as I say it sold out, there were people from all over the world came to see us, and it was a bit like–
PETE: It was a really great experience. To see all that these people are still into our music.
STEVE: We were shocked. When we came off, we were all a bit like just totally solid. We went into the dressing room, and we’re like, what was that what just happened, you know. And then from that other people said you’ve got to do more shows, you’ve got to do this, and you’ve got to make an album. And that was that. That’s how the reunion came together. It was going to be one gig just for fun, and since that, it’s just gone on and on.
When you once decided to do the reunion, was it clear that you wanted just this certain lineup for the show, or did you have some other names in mind in the beginning?
STEVE: No, I mean at first…
PETE: It was the last line-up, wasn’t it? That was the first port of call that we went to.
STEVE: Yeah, that was the lineup when we split; that was the lineup we had, so we just sort of all got that back together. So obviously Jim’s coming in the band, and you know that’s been a big sort of him being younger and kick off the backside, and he’s kind of given us a new lease on life, and that’s what I mean, it’s like it doesn’t feel like a reunion anymore. It’s like being in a new band again, and it’s great; it really is.
I have to ask one question for Jim here, how familiar were you with FM before you joined their ranks?
JIM: I did like INDICSREET, actually. I didn’t really have all of their albums, but I was aware of the songs and the music and knew about the guys, and I hadn’t actually listened to it for quite a long time until we sort of met.
STEVE: Yeah, we were friends before Jim joined FM. We used to do different things together. Jim has been working with many bands doing different stuff all over the world with great musicians. We used to meet up in the village where we lived.
JIM: We lived a mile apart.
STEVE: So it was just a natural thing, we tried people there. At the time, Jim was busy doing other stuff, and I just said, look, we’re going to make this a permanent thing basically. Andy had moved back to Malta and just couldn’t commit to anything anymore. So we’re going to basically part our company with Andy and asked Jim: “So are you interested in coming down and…
JIM: Are you serious? I wrote it in and said, well, you’re in then, “laughs.”
Jim Kirkpatrick, Steve, and Merv Goldsworthy
POSITIVE CHANGES IN THE MUSIC SCENE?
Overall, how is the music scene in the UK nowadays?
STEVE: I think rock is a lot more popular than it’s been for a long time. I tried to work out what it was because it doesn’t get played on the radio that much. But I wonder if it’s like from these video games.
JIM: Could be. There is lots of rock music used on video games.
STEVE: Because I think people never heard it, but now it’s in their living room, actually this is quite good, I like this. I’m just wondering whether that was one of the reasons it’s becoming a lot more popular in this country. It’s always been like the underground thing, you know, especially up north, rock music’s a lot more popular. But now it seems to be–
How do you see, is the time better for this kind of melodic music now compared to what it used to be some years ago?
STEVE: Yeah, it seems to be on the up again, doesn’t it? You know, I mean you’ve got all the bands like we’re doing some gigs with some other massive melodic rock bands. It seems to be they’re doing big gigs again. There’s a lot of interest in that, and obviously, with the METROPOLIS album, we had like a national radio play, radio two playing our records. That never happened the first time around, you know, it was like all of the sudden they’ve come on board, their support, and it’s like what’s going on. You know we’re not used to that kind of thing, so it’s obviously on the up sort of thing for me.
PETE: We were around at the right time for the change.
Right, and many older melodic bands are now doing better than they have in ages, bands like Journey and Foreigner, for example.
PETE: Yeah, exactly. They’re now doing bigger gigs again.
JIM: Big gigs are now doing really quite well here.
STEVE: Yeah, I think that’s the thing; I think live music as well. I think it’s the throwback from all the real music that we get thrown out a little over the X factor and stuff. I think people want to see a proper band playing instruments with attitude and actually playing live. It’s going back in time. You know what I mean.
JIM: For example, Thin Lizzy, I went to see them last week in Manchester, and it was sold out.
STEVE: Exactly, yeah. The live thing is that it’s the future, you know, and it’s like Foreigner and us, we’re now getting played on national radio over here, which is also unheard of. So it’s a very healthy time for us to have come back actually, so—it wasn’t planned.
PETE: We were lucky for once in our career “laughs.”
How about the record sales nowadays? I know it’s not a big deal, but when I was actually looking through record stores over here in London, and there was just one single shop where I found FM albums. How can you buy records when you can’t find those from anywhere? Simply, there are not too many record stores left here in the U.K?
PETE: I think most people now buy them off of the internet. Amazon and stuff, I mean, we’ve got our main chain of record stores HMV, and they’re in serious trouble. The fact is that retail sales on records are struggling big time. When you’ve got massive chains going under and closing down, people just don’t—I mean, I still love that thing of having a CD with the cover and all the notes, I still get my kicks out of actually physically holding something. Downloading is not the same thing for me because it just doesn’t have the same appeal.
STEVE: I think you just have to look at it differently now you know how we used to. I mean, there’s always been piracy. I mean, I used to record things on a cassette, you know. But in terms of sales, we’re probably doing quite well. Twenty years ago, it probably would have been five, six times what we’re doing now, but it’s still okay.
PETE: You know the world changes doesn’t it? You’ve got to embrace that change, and that’s why tonight you walk off from the show, you’ve got a memory stick with the gig on it or whatever it is. Also, it was funny when my little daughter comes to me saying that… she said, have you heard this band? It’s brilliant, and I said what’s the song like, and she said in front of me, “The Boys are Back in Town,” a great new band. She said this is Thin Lizzy. She said I don’t know who they are, but they’re brilliant. I said, so what other songs do you know? And she says they haven’t released any more songs. That’s what it’s like now because they don’t want a whole album. They just love that song; that’s what they are. Don’t stop believing “laughs.”
THE WILDLIFE AND AMERICAN INFLUENCES
We’re now going back to the time when you two had a band together called Wildlife. Back in the day, Wildlife was quite a different band here in the U.K. I mean, most bands in here were playing NWOBHM or punk, but you definitely did choose a different path when you decided to play melodic AOR instead?
STEVE: Yeah, I mean we would at that time listen to a lot of American music, and I think at that time we had really and truly the songs I’ve always been keen to being very commercial, so it was just the way we write songs, and I think it’s got to have the big chorus, it’s got to have the big harmonies, it’s got to be laid in a certain way and structured and that’s just how we write songs. And we still do, you know I and him, we were writing the other day, and basically, we’re sitting there with acoustic guitars, it’s a bit like it could be a Beatles song, it could be a rock song, it could be anybody could do FM songs in their own way. They’re not necessarily keyed up to be heavy rock songs; they’re just songs with good hooks. That’s what we’ve always written, so the music just comes out the way we write it. There’s no preconceived plan or anything you know.
At that time, was it hard to be “a different” band in here?
Something like that “laughs”… Now as I say that was it at the time, you had bands like Foreigner and Journey were massive, and Bon Jovi were then coming up when we did the tour with them is when they broke, and it was an up and coming kind of music from American then. But we were the only kind of British band that was doing it. So you know that’s how it came about, really.
With Wildlife, you didn’t have a keyboard player in the band?
STEVE: No, we just had two guitars, bass and drums. I did a showcase and got the deal, went on tour with Meat Loaf before we’d ever done any recording “laughs.”
Well, whatever did happen for Wildlife at the end?
STEVE: You mean, why did I decide to quit Wildlife? Well, what happened we were signed to Swansong, Led Zeppelin’s line, we were managed by Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin’s manager signed to Atlantic through Swansong, which obviously was Zeppelin’s label, and the label we were in the middle of writing the second album and went down to the record company one day. There was a truck there clearing everything out of the offices, and that was the end of Swansong, so the record label folded. So we talked about it at the time, you and Pete’d already got that sort of a lineup of FM going and that sort of thing, I wasn’t in it or my brother, and so we just sort of talked to Pete because we kept in touch over the years. Pete said, do you and Chris want to come down and join us if Merv is involved. We made a plan, we went down, we had four songs, and we said we’ll demo four songs and see how it goes. If we get there in the rest, then we’ll go back to Wildlife or whatever we’re going to do, and we’ll just call it a day if we don’t get a deal. And we did four songs and got offered a couple of deals.
At the time, you also played in clubs with bands like Pretty Things. I just happened to meet them a few months ago, and they were also in Swansong at the time.
STEVE: No, I didn’t know about that, and to be honest with you, Swansong was a very strange record company. It was kind of being managed by Peter, and everything was always top secret. Led Zeppelin was always like [whisper], you know you go to the offices, and there was this box of like tapes that they never listened to. I used to sit there when I was waiting for my meetings with the management, and I’d just pick tapes up. One day I picked this tape up, and I said to the secretary, have you ever listened to this, and she said, no, no, no, we don’t listen to them; we get millions of them. I said it’s a band called the Knack and the song’s called “My Sharona,” They said well, that song had been number one in America. I said yeah. I never listened to them. A million pounds are sitting in the cassette box.
THE STORY BEHIND THE BAND NAME
When you formed the new band after Wildlife, why didn’t you back in the day know that there was already a band called FM in Canada?
PETE: We did find out, that’s when we had to change the name to FMUK in America, in the States we had to change the name, which was really crap.
STEVE: The album cover, can you imagine what it looked like, FMUK from a distance.
PETE: Yeah, fuck. Yeah, but now like we’re still suffering the name because you can’t go for the internet for the first name because you put FM in you get a billion—so but then we didn’t have it bad then, I mean we only got FM because it was the best of the band names. Merv had three names, one being Stiletto, well I didn’t like that, then I’ve got this other one, what about Inspector Clouseau. Uncle Ernie was my brother’s name. Merv said I’ve got one more, he said, you won’t like it, and he said, what about FM. So it could have been Stiletto, Uncle Ernie, or Inspector Clouseau.
Compared with the other candidate’s name FM does sound pretty good “laughs.”
Merv, Didge Digital, Steve, Pete Jupp and Chris Overland in 1986
INDISCREET AND THE BIG TIME
Back in the days when INDISCREET was out, you got to tour with such big names like Tina Turner, Gary Moore, Magnum – any funny memories from those tours, and which one was your favorite tour?
STEVE: My favorite one was definitely Bon Jovi. They’d just come over from the States doing as an opening act in arenas and stuff, you know, and they’d been treated really, really badly, and we said we understand, guys, we’re going to try and do everything we possibly can for you, you know. And during that tour, SLIPPERY WHEN WET went to number one on both sides of the Atlantic, and it was just nice to be caught up kind of.
PETE: They were in shock. The band was in shock, and you know you could see it; they were totally bowled over; they weren’t expecting it. It was suddenly they became the biggest rock band in the world when we were touring with them.
STEVE: And I think they were in New Castle when they found out they were number one on both sides, and it was a big celebration. It was great. They were great guys, really nice guys to tour with, nice friendly chaps, you know brilliant. Helpful, just great, you know.
PETE: I remember going to you know you go into, the drummer I’d have coffee with him, and I’d tell him you don’t have any money. Number one album all over the world, and you’ve got no money.
That tour was really good for you, right?
STEVE: Yeah, that tour took us up to the levels, yeah.
WORKING WITH DESMOND CHILD
I was actually going to ask about your cooperation with Desmond because, if I’m right, you were the only European band who worked with Desmond at that time?
How did it come about in the first place?
STEVE: That was a publishing company… I mean, he’d written all the Bon Jovi stuff like “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Living on a Prayer” with Jon and Ritchie, and our publisher said we’re playing some stuff with you on it, would you like to go over to the U.S and we’re like yeah. So we went over to Woodstock, yeah Woodstock Studios, he was working with Bonnie Tyler at the time. He’d worked with Joan Jett and Bonnie Tyler, and my brother and I spent about four or five days there just working. He just sees it very, very out-there guy to work with, you know. The way he writes is something like I’ve never seen. It’s like he sits down, he used to sit down, you go in the studio, he’d just sit on a piano, and he’d start going [sounds], and then he just sings the hook line. He was just going [sounds], really just out-there attitude. And he said, what about this and everything he writes? You can more or less hear an audience singing it, it’s all so blatantly commercial, and it’s very clever. But he doesn’t write in any kind of way I’ve ever written with anyone before. He’s got his own way of doing things.
How was it to work with him?
STEVE: It was brilliant. What you do is, I mean, Desmond gives you the idea, and then basically you take it away and finish the song; that’s how it is, you know. And I think that’s how Jon and Ritchie Sambora wrote with him as well. He probably came up with the theme of the song, or he did with the stuff we did. But he won’t finish the song because Desmond is like, it’s like he’ll write for three hours with you, then he’ll write with Dionne Warwick. And then he’ll do three hours with each person. It’s like you know he’ll write with you, then he’s off, and he’ll write with somebody else, you know, so he’s a busy man. He’s made a few quid “laughs.”
You had no problems or artistic disagreements when you were working with him?
PETE: Oh no, he’s great, no really he’s great because that way—I think what it is you get to put your stamp on the songs so you basically can make it sound like your band. It’s not a Desmond Child. They will have their own stamp, but if you listen to things like “Bad Luck” and “Burn My Heart Down” and listen to Bon Jovi and all that stuff Desmond writes, there’s a certain structure to them.
Yeah, yeah, when you listen to SLIPPERY WHEN WET or Alice Cooper’s TRASH, you can hear Desmond’s touch in there.
STEVE: Yeah, so it does work that way. They just sound like Desmond Child songs, but you get to put your own stamp on them, you know, which is a good thing.
TOUCH OF SOUL
One of many songs that people remember about FM is your brilliant version of the old soul classic “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” How you ended up picking that song and record it for TAKIN’ IT TO THE STREETS?
STEVE: It was very well known over here, actually one of the songs that did get radio play and did a bit of TV work, stuff over here. But it came about; Andy came up with this riff for it, you know the main riff in the song. I mean, me being a massive like you endless soul fan, I’m like we can’t cover that, I’m not singing a Marvin Gay song, I’ll be crucified for it, you know. And we just did it, and it was a bit of a laugh, and the record company heard it and said you got to release that as a single; it’s absolutely brilliant. And so it was an accident really, we just sort of messed around with it a bit, and they came down to the studio and heard us playing, and that was it, you know. I was dead against it at the time, and I didn’t want to do it. It’s like doing a Stevie Wonder song, isn’t it?
Yeah, it’s a great version.
STEVE: Because it’s totally different, I think it works, you know what I mean. If you try and copy the original where we’re so totally removed from the original, it works…
It would have been great to hear some more that type of material from you, like single B-sides or something?
PETE: We did “Get Ready” on DEAD MANS SHOES.
STEVE: Yeah, yeah. But now we don’t really think about it. We’re writing songs in our fashion, so we’re just kind of doing our own stuff for the moment, you know.
Who has been your biggest influence on singing?
STEVE: There are many influences… Paul Rodgers was a massive influence on me. And Stevie Wonder, they’re my two favorite singers. To me, they’re the two greatest singers, you know, just fantastic. You know you got to respect them. I mean, I’m really into soul singing, and he’s just a brilliant vocalist from that time era, but they would be the two that are some of the biggest influences.
I think there are not too many singers there who have to bring soul influences to rock. There are some of them but not too many.
STEVE: Yeah, that’s true. I think it’s just what you grew up with now. I think so many singers who sing hard rock just have listened to hard rock. So they sing it in the same style as all the other people, whereas I just sing like that anyway. I was in a soul band when I was 13, you know, but I can sing that stuff. That’s what I did for four or five years, so I grew up singing that stuff from a very young age, you know. So you never get rid of it, do you? You know that’s what you start doing, so it doesn’t come naturally for some singers, you know. Same as I can’t sing like Ronnie James Dio, that wouldn’t come naturally to me, I couldn’t do it, or Bruce Dickinson. That’s their style of singing, and this is my style of singing, you know.
In the late 80’s early 90’s, there were many changes in the band. Your brother Chris left the band; you changed record labels, and so on… Was that all too much in such a short period?
STEVE: You could be right, probably. I mean, the whole thing was my brother decided because the TOUGH IT OUT tour was really intense, lots of gigs, never at home. And I think he’d just had enough, and he just came to me one day and just said I don’t want to jack with you, I can’t be doing this anymore. And I was a bit shocked. I said, well, think about it and see what you think, so Chris went, and obviously he’d only ever worked the guitar part of the work, so it was through me I threw it around a bit and tried to find somebody to replace him because he has quite a melodic unique style of playing. And as you said, the record company said we could have stayed with Epic, but we chose to leave Epic. That doesn’t happen very often. I couldn’t tell you why we did that, but what it was basically, we didn’t think we were going anywhere with them. We made two albums, and we kept touring the same territories. They were having a battle on both sides of the Atlantic, we were going to take over the band, we wanted to bring them to America, so the Americans saw the British side, and we were making no headway. I remember going to a meeting, we went in, and they said right we’re doing another album, and we already owed them a fortune. So we stood to make no money ever in our lives if we’d have stayed with them, so we just said, why are we doing another album, you know. And after a lot of stuff, we managed to get out. And so that was our choice, actually. We sort of had a pairing with TAKIN’ IT TO THE STREETS. We were finding our way really, we just didn’t know what we wanted to do, and then we got it back together with APHRODISIAC, I think which I really love that album, you know.
The early ’90s was really a difficult time for hard rock and melodic music. How much did it affect you?
STEVE: I think definitely the whole music scene started to change and we soon became really unfashionable. It just got harder and harder and harder.
PETE: We were just doing this, we’d tour, and we could fill or do gigs at the same venues, but we weren’t going anywhere.
STEVE: We decided that it’s probably the best thing to do now. We were all good friends, and it was just time to stop. It was impossible to continue. We were just not making any headway, so—we could have just carried on putting out the records, and to be honest with you, the records were getting harder to write because you are fairly uninspired because your music wasn’t happening at that time. You’re a bit like, why are we doing this now? Why don’t we just call it a day, and we went off and did, write some songs for this side project that was completely different from FM. And so they were easier writing than the FM stuff at that time, and we just needed to stop, you know, so that’s why we quit.
So what if we go now back to the recording session of the very last FM album back then, DEAD MAN’S SHOES. What kind of memoirs you have from those sessions?
STEVE: That was—you tell me. No, DEAD MAN’S SHOES, to be honest, was the beginning of us probably winding it down. We kind of, it was a very bitter album, nobody was really satisfied. I was already thinking the only thing I was going to do after which I found is never very helpful. Hence, the album was; basically, we had to make another record, a contractual obligation.
PETE: We had to make it, so the way we recorded it was a real struggle kind of thing, and it was just hard work, really.
STEVE: It was all leading to the time we called it a day really at that time and not just keep churning out substandard stuff; that’s what we were. We just said, look, we’re not writing our best stuff anymore, so it’s time to stop, you know, and so that’s what we did.
At that time, most of your style bands had quit or attempted to follow the musical trends, but you didn’t do that.
STEVE: I think you’ve got to be honest and not cheat your fans because you know what people who follow bands will keep buying your product. But if you know in your heart that it’s not really your best work, then it’s just cheating, really, isn’t it? It’s time to stop. And now we’re like we’re 20 again, and now we’re back—not quite, you know, but—so we sort of as I say the songs are coming fast. Jim, Jem, and the band have been brilliant. I mean, it’s given us a real boost, you know, and it’s great. The band now, to me, is as good as it’s ever been.
PETE: It was a good thing because, during the break, we were doing different things, and when we all got back together, we were all totally focused.
STEVE: Like we’re just taking each day as it comes. We’re just having a great time. There’s no pressure now, really, you know, or there’s not as much as there was, you know, back in the ’80s and ’90s.
PETE: The band now sounds more like the band of INDISCREET in top hour kind of thing. And there’s been there’s a kind of alliance of long-term fans saying it’s more powerful than ever and a new album. That’s the best stuff they’ve heard from the band since 1986 or something like that.
STEVE: Well, it’s all the reviews as well, which is great considering we’re all about 30 years old, right. Brilliant, you know, it’s great.
Steve, by the way, what is your brother Chris doing these days?
STEVE: My brother, he’s a teacher, a guitar teacher, so he has a place on the back of his house. He’s just inundated with people wanting to buy lessons. He works four days a week, makes a fortune, and never leaves his house. He has one door in the other one, then he goes to bed at night, and that’s it, you know. But he’s a brilliant player now because he sits and plays guitar all day; that’s all he does. He has all these guitars around, there’s six there, and teaches, you know?
THE SAMSON YEARS
Pete, back in the day, you decided to quit Wildlife and join the band, Samson.
Was it a big shock for Wildlife when Pete decided to quit with the band?
STEVE: Well, I think it was all… there were a lot of changes going on. Pete sort of got the Samson thing, and they got the Simon Kirk connections with Swansong, so it was the record company’s problem people were different people at that time, and you just took a break, and he went and joined Samson.
PETE: The Samson time, that was a good time; I mean, Paul was fantastic. He’s probably the funniest person. I did two tours with them, then Merv briefly joined Samson, and then we left Samson and formed FM. But that Samson time was good; it was good fun. We had some good tours. We did Whitesnake, and we did Gary Moore, Journey, we did Accept tours with Samson. We traveled around in an old Ford Cortina called Roger. It was great, really good times and I’d say that Paul was a hilarious guy, you know.
Did you stay in touch with Paul after you left the band?
PETE: Yeah, and then he became ill, and well then ultimately he died and also Chris, the bass player, he’s also dead. And the one person you thought would be dead, Nicky Moore, because of his big size, but he’s still going strong.
I actually saw him at Swedenrock a couple of years ago. He was there announcing bands on stage with his …
PETE: Cane, yeah. Because he turned up when he was in Mammoth, remember that band Mammoth?
Yeah, I do remember the big guys with eight bass drums on stage “laughs.”
PETE: Yeah, yeah. That was a massive setup they had…“laughs” He was massive, and I just went… because when I was in Samson, he lost eight stone. Yeah, he lost a whole of me, and he put it back on obviously with Mammoth, you know it was a perfect time for him, really, but he was big.
That must have been an image thing for him, “he laughs.”
PETE: Exactly, he’s a great singer, he’s a great person, and he has a great voice. He’s another lovely guy. So that was good. I had a great time in Samson.
THE SHADOWMAN AND MORE
Steve and Pete, during the off FM years, you both played on loads of different tribute albums, right?
STEVE: Yeah, yeah, I did about 10 of those. I did the Police, UFO, ZZ Top, T-Rex, Whitesnake, Nazareth, Rod Stewart, Slade, Rolling Stones, everything “laughs.” I used to turn up at the studio with this guy called Lee Hart, he was–
PETE: Oh, I know the guy, yeah. We never got any money from him, “laughs.”
STEVE: The situation was if you haven’t got the money when they get there, go down to cashpoint and get it. So I used to get there, and Lee would finally say, Steve can you come down to the studio and make a few tracks for me? I’d go, yeah, Lee, what am I doing? I’m not telling you. I’d be like no, no, tell me, tell me, so I’m prepared, no I’m not telling you, and I’ve got there, and it would be like don’t run out the studio door, we’re doing an Iron Maiden album. I’m like Iron Maiden, he said it would be great, “Run to the Hills” with you singing will be great, and I’m like money, please. It used to be good fun doing them because he’s a funny guy, Lee.
Steve, tell me something about your other band Shadowman?
STEVE: Yeah, I mean, I’ve got a band, Shadowman with two guys who used to be in Thunder, Harry James and Chris Childs. Steve Morris, the guitar player, he’s playing with Ian Gillan and Heartland, the band Heartland. And we have just done a new album; this is our fourth album. I’ve been working on various projects and albums with millions of people, other students of all sorts of records, really, yeah. Tommy Denander’s albums, a couple of them and things like that and just sessions and all kind of stuff.
Is the Shadowman is more like a project or a real band?
STEVE: Well, it was going to be a real band. I mean, we keep getting asked are we going to tour by people, you know. But it’s a job to fit it in with the other things we’re doing. Obviously, with a band like that, you’ve got Harry plays with about every rock band in the world, so he’s never off the road. Chris is out of the union, and he also plays with one of the Eagles things. Everybody is busy, Steve is a session player, and he does all sorts of things. He just came back from Canada, and although we’d love to do it, to get the whole band in one place would be virtually impossible for all of us. And as I say, with the schedule FM has this year, it’s going to be tough, you know, to do some shows, although the record company wants to and would support us to do. We’ll see.
As you said, the fourth Shadowman album is going to be out soon…
STEVE: Yeah, it’s just being mixed. We just sent a couple of the mixes back to Sweden to be sorted out. Not happy with them, just a few tweaks, and then it will be out later in the year. This new album, we’re really, really happy. Jim’s been engineering and doing stuff on it and things with me and working on this, really good. It’s nice to do different things, isn’t it because? It keeps you fresh and makes sure that everything has its place and it’s not the same, then it’s good fun to do, you know. It keeps you busy.
BACK IN THE SWEDEN GROOVE
It’s time for the last question…Which countries have been the best for FM outside the UK?
STEVE: Scandinavia was great for us when we did the tour with Europe there. I think we handled ourselves very well in there.
Did you also play in Finland on that tour?
PETE: You should ask Merv. He’ll know Merv will know if we’ve been to Finland.
STEVE: I don’t know, I mean, we did Sweden, and it was a good place for us because of the Europe tour and stuff when we did that. They were a big band then.
So next summer, you’re returning to Scandinavia to play in Sweden Rock. I think it will be the perfect festival for you.
PETE: Yeah, it’s going to be great.
STEVE: We’re looking forward to it. We really are for the time that we’re going to be there.
PETE: Yeah, we’ll actually fly in and fly out again. Yeah, literally, we’re probably in the country for probably three hours or four hours, and then we fly back to England for another gig. Then we fly somewhere else at the end of that day.
Okay, I think this is enough this time. Thanks for your time, and see you in Sweden!
FM: Thank you guys, and see you later!
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LIVE PICTURES FROM FM SHOW IN LONDON 2011