TNT: All The Way To Another Hit Album
TNT & Starbreaker frontman Tony Harnell talks about the latest TNT release and the work that went into getting it recorded and released.
So Tony, TNT time again....it doesn't seem that long since My Religion - at least compared to the gap between that and Transistor! Was it a conscious decision by you and the band to try and keep the momentum rolling?
To some degree yes. We had an opportunity to keep things going, we felt creative and thought it would be nice for once to have two albums in two years. Something we have never done before in our career.
When did you start writing for this album and how long did the studio process take?
We started writing in December 2004 and a little more took place in early 2005 and then we had one false start in the studio before finally getting to work in February/March.
While the album has its own personality, I can hear similar production values to My Religion - did the recording process itself alter much between albums?
Not that much, I think this one came out better in that regard. Some small changes were made. I recorded half of the vocals on MR in Norway and half in New York, but on this one I did all my parts in New York and I used come different microphones and pre amps. But in general, it was the same approach with Ronni and I producing and Tommy mixing brilliantly.
The departure of bassist Morty had to be a blow for the band. Why did this come about?
It wasn't our decision for Morty to leave. He left of his own volition.
The fallout from this was that we don't have our classic line up in tact, but we no choice but to move onward and upward as they say.
And new boy Sid - how did you guys know him and draw him into the fold?
He's not our new boy actually. We tried him out on the album and he does an adequate job there, but overall he just wasn't the guy for us. We have a new, amazing bass player named Victor Borge. He's a killer player and a great guy, just the personality we needed right now! And he sings great. He's really happy to be in the band, he's enthusiastic and very talented. It's unfortunate we didn't find him before we recorded, but he'll be there for the next one and he will certainly make all the touring this year excellent.
I'll be honest with you - I think Morty's departure is noticeable on All The Way To The Sun. I miss his playing on there.
So do I a bit, but I don't think it affects the overall energy of the songs or the production.
Ok, so what else mate - what was the hardest aspect of making this album?
Some members of the band were going through some personal issues and changes but all that's been sorted now.
Have those hardships and challenges affected you in any way that would make you think twice about the next album and the process involved in writing and recording it?
At one point I would have said yes, but now I would say we are working through a lot of things because we believe in our music so much and in ourselves as a team.
After so long in the business, does the band still have any long term plans at this stage?
Of course we have lots of long term plans and that is why we are always looking for solutions to whatever problems we encounter. We are no different from any other band that has been together for 20+ years. We have our ups and downs and disagreements. Well, we are different actually because we have a band scattered across the planet and if you are Audioslave you have the recourses to deal with that, but if you are TNT you don't as much. It's no great controversy, its simple, normal stuff with our unique stuff added to it.
Ok, enough grilling for a moment...to the songs of All The Way To The Sun. There is a definite change in style for the band (again) here. Was that a conscious decision, or natural in that the songs were influenced by your surrounds at the time of writing?
The latter. We just write and don't over think things too much. That s the best way to be creative.
I detect a more aggressive approach overall - true?
Possibly. I thought we'd go a lot heavier, but it just didn't go that way. And in a way, I am happy for that. I think we did a pure TNT album. It's original and it's very us. I'm proud of that. But I think that people will have different views about the style or direction.
Having said that, the album contains a couple of the band's most commercial numbers ever - Sometimes and Driving. How has the response been to these tracks?
Very good actually. And I think that s because they are good songs. Good songs always get people no matter how pop they might be.
And how - so far to date - has the response to the album been as far as you have heard? There's always a lot of debate with any TNT release, but I felt that the My Religion feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
What is the vibe for All The Way To The Sun?
Actually, it seems to get more positive the longer it's on circulation. The overall feedback has been even better from many people and the sales are better so far. I think it s a bolder album and that can go either way, I think it's working for us right now.
I'm sure you have heard a few it is not as good as My Religion comments - as well as some that like it even more. But on My Religion, you guys really had to make a classic didn't you?
I think this one is a classic and have heard so from reputable writers and long time fans. It's just another album in a long string of them and I just think we keep getting better with each one. Not everyone will like even the best things we do, but in some aspect of our writing and performing we always grow and for a band that's been around as long as we have that's a rare thing.
My Religion is a great album, no doubt, but we were a little bit conscious of keeping more of a classic TNT sound in there to bring everyone back, but we were still bold and mixed it up with modern elements. This one is just us being us without worrying about all that. To me, My Religion is a bit safer than this one and that is ok for what we needed to do on it. It would be natural for this one to be a little riskier, just shows we are following the path an artist should follow.
The most commented on song to date has to be What A Wonderful World! It's definitely a bold choice to cover, can you tell me a little about why and how?
We talked about covers, we didn't want to do the obvious, Ronni chose this one and I said go ahead and record the music and I will try it. If it works great if not we'll skip it. We were all happy with the result obviously and I love that it gets such a wide range of responses. It's great. People absolutely love it, they totally hate it. That's perfect. It's getting a response. Well, it's good enough for the largest TV channel in Norway-NRK-to make us the feature artist on this years Christmas Special and we are performing that song with the Oslo Symphony Orchestra and Gospell Choir! So that's pretty cool. This may not be happening, or likely would not be had we not done this song. So there you go!
That's pretty cool
What are your favourite tracks on the album?
That changes a lot but right now - A Fix, The Letter, Black Butterfly.
Something I made note of in the review - there was a definite move away from the immediate chorus hooks into something a little darker. Would you say that was true?
Yes and no. I think the hooks are there, just less obvious which is more pleasing to me right now and probably why it's like that. The songs still have a very positive feeling overall, but maybe a bit less of a HERE'S THE CHORUS, NOW SING ALONG 80s mentality. Which is also great sometimes, but right now this felt right. Maybe next time something else will feel right.
TNT - will you tour in support of this release and when/where?
Yes, we are working on a lot right now. Confirmed is of course a full Norway tour and Spain. Spain will be in March. We are lining up a lot of other things right now though and hope to fill in the year pretty nicely and go places we haven't been in awhile as well as new places.
You see posts to the message board from US fans - although it's logistically and financially near impossible - any chance of any US dates?
We are working on it. It is not impossible actually, we're trying to make it work. TNT is worth more than most people would imagine, even us!
Ok Tony...let's move on to something different - Starbreaker! You must be immensely proud of this release.
Of course, it was a great experience.
Did you anticipate how well this would be received?
Maybe not quite as much!
And you see a definite future for your partnership with Magnus Karlsson?
I would like to yes. He's a great guitarist and a great guy to work with.
Do you see Magnus' collaborations with other artists in a very similar vein to Starbreaker as a help or hindrance to creating longevity for your partnership?
A little of both maybe. This is a year where I have done the most and next year I am taking a totally different approach. I think I can get away with it for one year, but it won't continue. Most of the projects were great but the ones I was the least happy with are the ones I could control the least either during or after the vocals were done.
I think the vocal performance on this album is amazing and I think some of that flowed through to the vocals on the TNT album. Do you enjoy singing with that harder edge?
I like singing period. I like exploring new ways of using my voice and that's going to continue for as long as I sing.
You've also laid a vocal down for Liberty & Justice correct?
Are you amazed that you can have one of your busiest years in the business some 20 years after first entering the biz?!!
Yeah, I am very grateful for that. But as I said above, now I want to focus on what I really want to do. I am looking forward to this year more than any other I think.
No interview would be complete without asking after the much loved Westworld - what are the chances for a new album - perhaps in 2006 and would the line-up remain the same?
I was working on it, looking into it etc... But I think again have decided that it would be best for me to focus on my own music for awhile.
Ok, to finish up - reflections of the state of the music business. It's pretty much in the toilet don't you think? John Kalodner blames the MP3 and the inaction of labels to harness that power before it escaped into the free domain. What are your thoughts on the industry as you know it today and also the scene covered by me and this site?
That's pretty involved, I will make it brief and just say that I think there are many problems and they won't all get solved overnight. I am an optimist and I know it will work out for the artists in the end and therefore the fans too. You can't replace the singer, the songwriter and the musician so if the record industry really does fall flat we'll all have to boycott making records for a couple of years and play live! I am one of those that thinks downloading for free is stealing and there is no justification for it, though some try very hard to.
So what else do you have up your sleeve Tony? I know there's gotta be something?
Anything you would like to add or something I have missed Tony?
Just that I really appreciate all the fans around the world and sites like yours. I love what I do and will never stop making music for people.
Many thanks for your valuable insights and patience in replying to this interview!!