Recent Music Reviews
10Q's with AFTER HOURS
Guitarist Tim Payne fields the questions.
What are you currently up to Tim? (recording, gigs, plans etc.). Been a while since the album came out in May?
“That’s right Jason. At the moment we are in the midst of rehearsing and getting a live show together for After Hours! Chris Pope (d), Martin Walls (b) and I go and play some blues stuff now and again at a mates bar, but apart from that, we’re not too busy. It’s strange, after you finish an album, even one as much fun as “Against The Grain”, you kind of want to put some distance between each other for a little while, right? The other guys all work full time and have busy lives. I’m probably the only one in the band that has time on my hands?”
“Sean and I have been goofin’ around with new amps and establishing some ground rules for arrangements but this might be pre-empting your next question?”
That’s alright mate! Could you take us through the songs on the new album “Against The Grain” please? E.g. ideas behind them, the song writing process...?
“Well, for me song writing is not a methodical procedure and if I sit down with any intention of composing it immediately becomes too premeditated, so I’m possibly not the best person to answer this. Personally it works best when I’m doodling and find a theme accidentally? Also, if there’s some current news stuff that seems pertinent, I sort of incorporate that, so it’s more emotional than intellectual!”
“Sean had a huge effect on this record, as he not only plays guitar but wrote and arranged the keys as well, which obviously puts a different slant on things. An example of this is “Angel”, which at one point we were going to drop; but Sean came up with a really cool piano part, which just required minimal support from the guitar (again his idea), and all I did was throw a solo on to it. We took away lots of unnecessary parts and fills, and that seemed to lift the feel of the whole song!”
“Martin‘s ideas were all fairly much based around acoustic guitar, which is the opposite end of the spectrum to me but just as effective! He came up with the opening chords and verse for “Eleventh Hour”, which is for me an outstanding moment on the album, and it was a really key moment! I really love the vocal melody John put to this with Chris!”
“Chris, as well as being a mind blowing tub thumper, contributed some killer idea’s for vocal melodies too and John simply had to change things or shift them ‘til he was happy. Unbelievably, it was fairly painless and we didn’t really get hung up or become entrenched in a “my way or the highway” thing, which was definitely not the case many moons ago…..”
“We all agreed that it’s equal input on the songs, even if three or four of us didn’t necessarily add to the composition. By standing back and letting someone else follow their idea to a conclusion, you are still contributing to the big picture... It equalled itself out over the course of the album! The only real exception was the title track, which John and I wrote and demo’ed for the 2nd album back in the previous band! It had been turned down by the record company back in 1991, but even this, was re-invented by Martin and Chris’s contributions!”
What made the timing right for the band to get back together when you did and in hindsight, could the band have possibly weathered out the grunge storm and carried on back in 1991?
“I don’t think so, no! Fate and the planets really came together this time! It was very much a bunch of strange coincidences and a lot of luck! We certainly didn’t expect it!”
“I don’t think the grunge thing totally, really did for us! I reckon we didn’t need any help shooting ourselves in the foot back then! But, the one thing we do have now is a sort of “united we stand” thing going; no external pressure to succeed; just being able to get together and enjoy doing what we do for the sake of it!”
“We got back together famously as the story goes, after I bumped into Martin and we gave Johnny (Francis) a call, but it could all have been different! When we went to meet him he’d already gone back to Wales after going to the wrong pub; but we overcame all the crap and went into record a song at Rob Aubrey’s studio in Southampton, and it went from there!”
“Rob had previously worked with ex members of Asia and various other notables… but he was errr, cheap too, LOL! I asked Chris to come and do the drums and a mate of ours, Ray Drury (from The Producers) played some fantastic Hammond organ, but I always felt Sean was gonna be the ‘ace in the pack’ so to speak ...and when I bumped into him in a supermarket, literally, and asked him to come and have a listen to what we were doing, that was the 5 of us back together!”
How did you hook-up with AOR Heaven and what expectations do you have of the album in terms of getting exposure for it?
“Well, Martin sent a demo of one of the songs to Georg Siegl, via a good mate in the industry, and bless him, he decided we were worth a gamble! He’s actually been simply brilliant; if all record companies had his ethics and straight talking, there would be a lot more rock music out there. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if it wasn’t for Georg, simple as that!”
Any plans to re-issue the first two albums and are there any unreleased songs from back in the day that could be added to any re-issues?
“Not really mate, LOL! Georg re-released the first album on the ‘AOR Heaven Classix’ Label in 2010, but I wont be sorry if the second album never sees daylight again to be honest! There are guys going, who John actually recorded songs for, who call themselves After Hours, but that’s only come to light on Youtube since we got back together, and you can hear by the quality of the demos that they’re definitely not us, so, in a word no, there’s nothing else to disinter!”
Is melodic rock/AOR music in a healthier state now than ten years ago? How important has it been to have specialist magazines like ‘Classic Rock Presents AOR’, ‘Classic Rock’, ‘Fireworks’, etc. in the High Street stores raising the profile of the music?
“I personally feel it is in a healthier state now than ten years ago yes, and you cannot underestimate the support that the mags you’ve mentioned have contributed. Thankfully, enough time has elapsed since the 80s for us to evaluate the rock music of that period without the clichés that used accompany it now!”
“ .. The UK is still lagging behind though. Fashion gurus might kick us all in the nuts and, sadly, people follow them blindly, but personally, style never goes out of fashion and for me there is so much quality that is simply ignored here, because the media can’t dictate the terms or simply don’t get it, that it has to be good that there are people out there prepared to listen!”
“The U.S has a far deeper sense of what rock n roll is all about and radio stations there are the bastion of this conviction! That’s what’s so wrong over here. One digital rock station that mostly plays only very well known play-listed names is simply not good enough and ultimately portrays mainstream rock more as a parody of itself performed by old geezers that have been around forever, than showing the new guys that are working really hard! This merely reinforces the idea that Classic Rock and AOR are a thing of the past and that it doesn’t evolve, which is obviously not true!”
That’s a good point.. Why do you think, with the possibly the exception of FM, that the wave of late 80’s UK AOR/melodic rock bands never made a big impact in the US?
“The poor production quality of many UK recordings was definitely a factor, plus a U.S home market that more than sustained itself with home grown talent, which probably played a part as well?”
“We should perhaps more importantly ask though why did so many U.K AOR bands never get a look in here at home? Our first album went down well on the continent but didn’t do much in the UK.. It did even less in the U.S, because it was all done on a miniscule budget and lacked real quality in terms of production and recording time! I don’t know…”Take Off” cost £4K. Ok, so it was a long time ago but even so...? I did all the guitar parts for that album in 12 hours. I started at 11 o’clock at night and finished at 11am in the morning!! Lots of coffee, right??”
What have been the live highlights so far and why?
“The highlights are constantly evolving; listening to the new album; after 20 years out of the picture, speaking to you guys, reading good reviews and thinkin’ what if only? It’s all good!!”
In this age of downloads and declining CD sales has the internet helped you get your music out there or has it in some ways hindered it by websites offering free downloads etc.
“It’s a double edged sword, it really is! It helps and equally scuppers any chance of recovering costs unless you have a loyal and discerning fan base! We will wait with fingers crossed!”
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from music?
“I dig motorcycles, but broke myself up fairly badly in 2002 and although I’ve had a couple since, I really only want an old Brit Bike now which potters around; maybe a Triton or B.S.A Cafe Racer!! Go on; please buy the album, LOL!!”