Interview by Robert Cavuoto
For decades, Lizzy Borden has always been one of the top theatrical front-men in rock, and on June 15th he will be making his triumphant return with his latest CD, My Midnight Things via Metal Blade Records. It will be his first CD in 11 years offering his signature heavy riffs with memorable melodies clearly evident on songs like “Obsessed with You” and “The Scar Across My Heart.”
Having signed a new contract with Metal Blade on the strength of three demo tracks, Lizzy Borden opted to produce My Midnight Things with Joey Scott as co-producer, who also handled all the drumming duties.
I caught up with Lizzy to discuss the making of the CD, why dark content influences him, and the importance of taking on the production duties for My Midnight Things.
Robert Cavuoto: For My Midnight Things did you find yourself creating something special then carrying through with the theme or did you have a preconceived concept prior to recording?
Lizzy Borden: With every CD the first thing I do musically is decide where I want to go. For this CD I decided I didn’t want to showcase musicians, I want to have the songs and vocals be the star. I knew from the beginning I wasn’t going to have a ton of shredding. The theme and lyrics came organically from there. I usually have an idea where I want to go, but sometimes I let the writing shape. Lyrically I knew I was going to work under a theme; it took me most of the record to figure out how I was going to get there.
Robert Cavuoto: What was it was like writing this CD after an 11-year break from your Appointment with Death CD?
Lizzy Borden: I always write and record songs, but when you are writing a record it’s a whole different ballgame. It’s so different from doing demos; it’s actually the opposite of doing demos. I had just signed a new record deal with Metal Blade, and I started to record the new CD. It felt so good being a recording artist. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until recording this CD.
Robert Cavuoto: You co-produced My Midnight Things. At what point did you begin to understand the term producer and when did you start to produce?
Lizzy Borden: I produced our last CD and few others as well. I really love working with producers as I’ve learned so much from them like with Max Norman and Jerry Brown in the 80s. In this day and age, you hire producers to do a job, and they put you in a box on how much time they have to record with you. I didn’t want to live under those confinements where it doesn’t matter if we get it right; we just have to get it done. I didn’t have an interest in doing it that way. I still love working with producers and under the right circumstance, I would work with one again provided I found someone that understood how I do things.
Robert Cavuoto: What does a good producer bring to the table for Lizzy Borden?
Lizzy Borden: When I was with Max he was more of a great engineer and less of a producer. I learned what not to do as a producer. When I work with Elliot Solloman on the Deal with the Devil and Master of Disguise records, he was a master producer who realized this was a personal thing for me. To a writer that means everything. It’s not mechanical; it’s personal. You get great performances out of people when you are doing it on the spot. He was a master of knowing peoples personalities and knew what I wanted even better than I did. It was a dream to work with him on those two records.
Robert Cavuoto: Your music has always managed to merge hard rock, melody, and horror/dark content where did that mixture originate from?
Lizzy Borden: I haven’t always written about horror, but I do go on the dark side of things. I grew up watching Alfred Hitchcock and Twilight Zone; all those great mind-twisting shows. It’s interesting watching something that you really don’t know what direction they are going down until your almost there. That unveiling is so interesting. I grew up on all those little-twisted tales, so it’s to put them in all my songs it just feels natural to me.
Robert Cavuoto: The song “Obsessed with You” is one of my favorite tracks on the CD and it perfectly combines your innate sense of writing great riffs can coupling it with melody. What can you tell us about its creation?
Lizzy Borden: That song has been around for a while. When I start on a record, I’ll work on new songs first; then I’ll look through my junkyard of stuff to find something that I can rewrite or recompose. “Obsessed with You” was one of those songs that I retooled. Like you, I think it is the best song on the CD. It was just green lite to be our next video. We will film it in about a month. That song has so many good hooks, and the imagery is very clear.
Robert Cavuoto: How would you describe the band’s musical evolution from the beginning with the Give ‘em the Axe EP?
Lizzy Borden: Its miles and miles apart. In the beginning, we didn’t know what we were doing as there were no teachers. The only teachers we had were listening to other people’s records. We didn’t have anyone showing us how to write a song. We had to learn on our own, just stumbling through the first couple of records. When I got to Visual Lies, I was sick of the way it was coming out as it wasn’t as good as I had envisioned. That’s when I decided to hire Max Norman as producer. He taught us a lot about tempo control, and it was a game changer. Before that, it was just wild crazy abandonment. Elliot Solloman taught me about properly using my voice in the studio. I recorded the vocals for Visual Lies in one and half days which is unheard of. With Elliot, I told him I wanted to spend a lot of time experimenting with my voice. By the time we got to Master of Disguise, I had all the time in the world, and I was able to figure out how to sing in the studio. With this CD I experiments even further. Vocally I wanted to take all the things I learned from the Queen records and try to adapt in to my CDs with my own personality.
Robert Cavuoto: Is not having a producer freeing in a way?
Lizzy Borden: Yes because I write and record at the same time. I don’t record a demo than try duplicate it in a studio. There were things lyrically and vocally that were off the cuff on this CD. I had lyrics, but when I sang them I didn’t love it, so I crossed them out, hit record, and just started singing. I liked that spontaneity. I love that the technology now allows me to do it. Also, the glue to this album was the live drumming by Scott. It’s fresh and exciting sounding not stagnant and put into little ProTool boxes.
Robert Cavuoto: I really like the key change at the end of the song “We Belong to the Night.”
Lizzy Borden: I liked that too, it doesn’t work on every song, but where it does work it is an interesting technique.
Robert Cavuoto: You had some outlandish outfits in the early days, where did you get the money for them as a new band.
Lizzy Borden: I’ve done that my entire career, I’ve never really stopped. Early on our rehearsal studio was next to a monster props maker for movies. He did the movie Troll and a few other 80s horror movies. I became friends with them and asked to help build some of my props and costumes. They were doing it for next to nothing. We put up with the smell of resin [laughing]. On the Visual Lies record, we had a little more money, so I hired Ray Brown to design the costume for the character I had called “Oblivion.” He was expensive because he was designing costumes for Judas Priest and Bon Jovi at the time.
Robert Cavuoto: Do you have anyone in mind to join the band for a tour?
Lizzy Borden: We haven’t got to that point yet. We are concentrating on the release, and a release party here in Vegas and I’m working on the show and scripting it out. Once I have designed then I’ll start to look for musicians to join me on The Midnight Things Tour.