Interviewed by Mike Paradine
Thanks for taking the time for the interview. I must admit, I’m not really a fan of female metal singers except for a couple (Doro and Angela Gassow). As for me anyway, they sound the same, use the same operatic style or just don’t have the balls to sing metal. That is until I heard the first track “Immortal”. This is absolutely one of my favourite songs of the year and London is now my favourite female singer. So my question to London is not only who your influences are but do you consciously try to separate your tone from other female singers? And if so how did you accomplish this?
London: Thank you for the amazing compliment! My main influences are Ronnie James Dio, Geoff Tate and Rob Halford. Those were the voices I admired for their power, tone and control. There were no female vocalists singing in this power metal style that I knew of when I started out, and I always wondered why. There is such a stigma to the female voice in metal, that yes, in the beginning I did not want to be compared to them at all! I tried to mask all femininity in my voice at first. That made me a terrible singer. It wasn’t until I embraced my voice as not male or female, but just my own that I got good. There are plenty of amazingly powerful female singers in the soul and Jazz genres, two of my favourites being Judy Garland and Aretha Franklin.
Dave: There are many great things about working with London. For one, she has no interest in the operatic style of female singing that so many women in metal do these days. They seem to have all jumped on the Nightwish bandwagon and try to copy Tarja. I think Nightwish is great, but we are nothing like them.
Your vocal range is most impressive also. Where did you learn to sing and from whom?
London: I am self taught. I would record my rehearsals, then listen back and coach myself on what to improve. I tried to read theory books on how to sing, but they didn’t click with me, and didn’t seem to be relevant to the style I wanted to sing. I just use my ears to tell me what I am doing right and wrong.
As far as metal goes, California is really known for its thrash and glam bands and not really known for power metal. How is your reception there?
Dave: I think reception is more of a world wide thing these days with the internet. No matter what I have done in my career, it seems that I have done better overseas in Europe and Japan. Better to be loved somewhere…. then nowhere!
London: Our style of music is not typically popular where we are from. Even so, we find that after hearing us, a lot of people are surprised to find themselves enjoying our music. When music is done well, people respond no matter what the genre.
I seem to find in most musicians that during childhood, something triggers or influences a person at an early age to turn to music. When I grew up, though my parents never played an instrument, they always had rock and roll music playing and that’s where I got the initial music bug. Was this the case with any of your members or did it happen later, like say in high school hanging out with friends? Was there anyone in your family that really influenced you?
Dave: I never really had any support from my family. There was music around when I grew up, but it was Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, etc. As I got older, I got into hard rock and heavier stuff that ended up becoming “Metal”. In High School, a friend of mine loaned me his KISS Alive! album, and that really changed things for me. That’s what really did it, and KISS made me want to be a musician.
London: As a child my mother tells me I would drag my record player around by the arm, as if it were my favourite blanket. When I was seven, I found a 45 at the rec center that was a heavy metal band called “Steed“. It had a pounding drum intro followed by heavy guitars. I played it over and over, until my family took it and threw it away, because they couldn’t stand hearing it all day long. I can’t say I blame them! I was always attracted to the heavier sounding music, and I don’t know where that comes from.
Where there any other activities during high school or college that you were into such as sports, acting or whatever?
Dave: Not really, I was a bit of a loner in school. I had problems with my knees that kept me out of sports.
London: I didn’t spend much time in High School; I was living on my own by age 16. I took the GED and put myself through college and graduated when I was 18. I would have loved to be a part of the theatre or choir groups, but I didn’t have the resources or time for that.
Where did each of you grow up and describe the musical atmosphere at the time?
Dave: Dad was in the Navy, and I was born in Japan. We moved all the time every few years. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. It was a special time for me. I loved listening to music on the radio and collecting 45 rpm singles, my sister Tracey and I both did this.
London: I grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and other parts of the San Francisco Bay Area. There were lots of people around with long hair my dad called “Hippies” when I was a kid. In the 70’s, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, UFO, The Tubes, Kiss, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple were bands I grew up with and loved.
I’m always interested in the very beginnings of when musicians start their first bands. Do you remember your first band, how you got together and what music you were playing? Also can you describe your very first gig and how you felt?
Dave: My first band, I was in high school. We played all cover tunes. KISS, Ted Nugent, Bad Company, whatever else we were into at the time. We were probably horrible. I don’t really recall my first gig, it was probably when I was 19 or 20.
London: My first gig was singing a guest spot for my brothers’ band at a junior High School Dance. I think I was about 14. I was nervous as hell! They had me sing “Heat Wave” by Linda Ronstadt. But I really wanted to sing “Rock Candy” by Montrose! In the 80’s when the metal scene was in full swing in the Bay Area, I joined a few bands and did a few shows, but nothing lasted long. The bands would love my voice, but the female fronted image was something they couldn’t come to terms with, and I would be let go after a few weeks or months. I got frustrated, and by the 90’s I had retreated to doing studio work instead.
At the time of the review, I understand there are 3 members to the band. Has the band played live yet and if so, how is the Californian audience reaction to the band? If not, are there plans to do so?
Dave: So far….WildeStarr has existed only in the studio, and on the internet. We hope to change that with the new CD and do some shows and some touring.
London: Playing live is a whole new set of issues for us, since we have to find extra hands to fill the multiple instruments we play in the studio. We have tried to find permanent members to work with for live shows, but have been unsuccessful in that regard. The path of least resistance for us is to keep making great music and great records. If we build on that success, I think the live line up will eventually fall into place.
Dave: London and I have very high standards as to who we will work with. We have auditioned a handful of people, but none of them could cut it. It makes more work for us in the studio, but I also find that it makes it more meaningful. The 3 of get as much work done as other bands that need 5 or 6 people.
As a big Primal Fear fan, I hear huge amounts of their style in the music and vocals. Was this pre-planned going in or was this something that just came out spontaneously?
Dave: I have never heard Primal Fear before, although I have heard great things about them. I just don’t listen to much music to be honest, I am too busy, and when I do… it’s usually really older stuff. I try to avoid new music, because I don’t want to be influenced by what’s out there right now.
London: You are not the first reviewer to mention that the new album has some similar sound to Primal Fear, but ironically no one in the band is familiar with their music. For Dave and me, our influences go back a little further to bands like Judas Priest, which is probably the common denominator. Our writing is completely spontaneous, with no intent to sound like anyone but ourselves. We see it as a good thing to be compared to a successful and accomplished band, it means we did something right!
Dave: And we don’t mean that to be a knock on Primal Fear. They have probably not heard us either. IMO, bands tend to be very busy with their own music and don’t listen to a lot of what’s out there. However, I did recently discover PASTORE, a really great band from Brazil.
Using the works of Edgar Allan Poe is nothing short of an ambitious project and something I was glad to hear. Some people love him, some hate him and some know nothing or very little about him. Do think that the subject matter may turn people off if they don’t like or know him well?
Dave: I think Poe and heavy metal is a great combination. Dark, moody, sinister, frightening.
London: I don’t know if listeners will care that much about the Poe connection, I think the main thing fans want is great music. You don’t need to like or know anything about Edgar Allen Poe to enjoy this record. It stands on its own.
Who came up with the idea to do the concept for “A Tall Tale Heart?
Dave: I mainly write the music, London is writing the lyrics and this was her idea. A great idea, I might add!
London: The theme evolved naturally without planned intent. When I began writing the lyrics and melodies for this record, I had a Poe book at my bedside I had been enjoying, and subconsciously themes and metaphors were creeping into my creative flow. After I had already written half the album, I noticed a pattern had emerged, and came up with the name “A Tell Tale Heart”. Dave was enthusiastic about it, so it stuck.
The cover artwork visualizes the music inside very well. Who was the artist and how did this come about?
London: I did the artwork for the album. I had other ideas that involved gruesome heart themes, and the guys really liked that. I wasn’t satisfied though, and felt that nothing expresses Edgar Allen Poe more than a raven. We had already inked a deal with Hydrant for the Japanese release, and at the last minute I convinced Dave to let me try out this idea of the bird. Together we came up with having a heart exposed in the bird’s chest. That sold Dave on the new idea. I had to work fast to get it done in time, but I am pretty pleased with the result, I think it represents the feel of the record much better than the other ideas I had.
As for the guitar work on the album, I hear a few different styles that keeps the listener interested but the one common thing I hear is an influence of Ace Frehley. Was he an influence on you? Who else?
Dave: I think you can hear some classic ACE in there. Also, Gary Moore, Scott Gorham, John Sykes, Schenker, Tipton/Downing, and a few others. IMO, the song is the most important thing, and the solo should accent or support it. I try to write solos that can stand out on their own, and make a statement. I have no real interest in solos that are fast for the sake of playing fast, with mindless sweeps and arpeggios. That stuff has no soul, and puts me to sleep.
And what is your preference, guitar or bass?
Dave: I switched over from guitar to bass about 7 years ago. I have not looked back. I do still play bass though, I play all the guitars and bass on the WildeStarr CD’s
What guitars and amplification do you use? What was the very first instrument that you possessed?
Dave: I love Les Paul’s, and I have a few of them. I also have a really nice Japanese Greco Les Paul, I have used it on the last 2 CD’s. I also have and an Ibanez Iceman that I used on the new CD. My first guitar was a classical that my dad bought me; I don’t even recall the name. A bit later he bought me a Yamaha electric. Both of them are long gone, but I wish I still had them! For bass, I used custom made 8 string basses for everything in WildeStarr.
When recording this album, did you mic your amplification for guitars and bass or did you go direct in and tweak your sound from there?
Dave: We went direct for all the guitars and bass. I used a SanSamp GT-2, and whatever effects were in the Cubase 5 computer. I use EMG active pickups for everything I do.
London: We recorded direct to Cubase, and Josh did a lot of EQ magic for the guitar tone. We spent a lot of time on the basic mix to get a bit of a tougher in your face sound than the first record.
How was the band formed and what former bands have you’ve played for, either as a full time member or as a guest?
Dave: London and I started to write songs together about 8 or 9 years ago. London and I met about 25 years ago, and we have been married for 11 years. When I played bass on the CHASTAIN CD “In and Outrage” back in 2004, around that time we began working on songs that would became WildeStarr. As for my other bands, many people know my past background playing bass with Vicious Rumors in the glory years of that band.
London: I met Dave at a metal show in San Francisco in the late 80’s, and we struck an instant friendship. I have been mostly a studio musician and recording engineer, and when Dave left VR in the mid 90’s, I did some recording for him in my studio for his solo demo project. Then in 2003 I engineered his bass tracks for the Chastain CD, and that is when we started talking about starting a band together. Josh entered the band after the first WildeStarr album “Arrival” had been released. Dave met him in our home town, and they exchanged CD’s. Josh had a solo EP project he was working on, and we were very impressed with the drumming style and sound he achieved. Josh was a breath of fresh air for us, very enthusiastic and filled with energy. His influence on the final outcome of “A Tell Tale Heart” is notable, since he did a lot of the engineering and mixing as well. He really helped us zone in on our sound, and was also a blast to work with.
As we now bring the interview to a close, I have to ask the obligatory question… Are there plans to tour this year or for 2013?
Dave: We hope to! We will see how the new CD does and what the labels think.
London: Touring will directly depend on the success of the record, so we shall see!