Tony, congratulations on the solo album - the record sounds great.
Why a solo album now?
The album was recorded over a period of years in several sessions around the UK between 1990 and 1995. After I left SHY in 1990 I had serious intentions to become a solo artist, but through various management issues, it didn't really take off, and I ended up forming and working with SIAM until 1996. This material would have been the basis for the launch of a possible solo career. I had forgotten all about it until recently I put a studio in my house and the tapes were found in a flight case that had been stored. This was discovered whilst I was setting the studio up. Z records were interested and hey presto !
The solo album is obviously in place of the Shy album you have been working on for a while now. Can you share any of the frustrations of the recording process with us?
Trying to work together with people that you don't regularly stay in contact with can be a real problem. Every one has a very different life of their own these days; much has changed since we used to live out of each others pockets on a tour bus. Organising studio time where we can be at the same place at the same time when we live miles away from each other is probably the biggest issue. Just logistics, I guess.
The solo album happened to come to light during a rather long and unexpected cease in the recording process for the new SHY album. After six months in the studio, various problems were encountered with people, equipment, logistics and yes, money.
We had started in November 2000 and by April 2001, we had overrun our agreed schedule and another band were banging on the door to come in. Having yet to write various keyboard parts and some vocals and guitar parts, we decided to wrap it up for the time being, planning to go back in November. This didn't happen for various reasons and lo and behold, it will have been a year now until our return for completion.
Is it harder or easier generally to make a record in the year 2002?
I think when we were younger, we didn't have the knowledge that we do now, and with greater knowledge comes concern over how and why various procedures are carried out in the studio; you tend to question things more than you used to when it was all just exciting and you were full of apprehension.
It is an awesome task recording a project when you know everything has to be just right. If you are any sort of a perfectionist (and there's a lot of competition out there, don't forget!) then time scales disappear out of the window and it takes as long as it takes and nothing else matters.
Technology has advanced at a colossal rate since the band were formed in 1983, so the process of recording has changed beyond recognition.
Did you use any material intended for the Shy release on your solo album?
No. Steve Harris played the solo on the last track 'Let Love Rain Down' and that was the only connection.
How will the style of this and the Shy album differ?
Apart from Steve playing that solo, all other musicians were people I had never worked with before, and that in itself develops a different sound and attitude to the music.
Yes, the sound is generally AOR/Melodic rock, but the lack of Steve Harris' writing style made it very different for me. Don't forget, the solo album was written seven to ten years ago, and we haven't finished writing the new SHY album yet.
You have some very catchy songs on this album - what makes a good melodic rock song?
Usually, I find a good song happens when you create a combination of dynamic chord structures and production together with something you feel strongly about that you can put into words and make gel together. A solo that's not something off an
Yngwie Malmsteen album, that is fairly melodic and perhaps follows a motif.
Strong harmonies always help, and separation between kit, keyboards and rhythm guitar. Riffs are not always needed. I'm fairly fond of grand piano and especially saxophone, although i have only used it on recordings from that era that have now been lost.
Any solo dates planned in support of the record, or will you wait for the Shy dates to maybe throw in a solo number or two?
Too early to tell as yet.
What's your favourite part of the recording process?
Vocals! There is a time that is damn difficult to describe, when the lights are low, the ambience in the headphones is massive and you feel you could sing effortlessly for hours on end. If the headphone sound is just right, you barely have to try at all and this can inspire great things.
Can we do a brief description of each track off the Cruiser album?
Only Love Knows Why
Probably the hardest track on the album, although it remains melodic. Originally recorded on an 8 track in my studio at home in 1992, this version is a full 32 track digital version recorded by 'THE WHO' producer, Andy Macpherson.
Keep The Faith
Probably what might be called the Anthem of the album.
As Sure As The River Runs
I love this song. Simple, full of dynamics, sad and yet strong. Probably the best ballad I was ever involved with.
When Two Worlds Collide
Moody, powerful, yet never made the digital recording process, and consequently the quality suffered somewhat. I liked the song very much, but would probably have never used it live though.
Walking Away From Love
I was never really over keen on this track, although it was properly recorded and had a lot of time spent on it. It never really seemed to have much in the way of direction. One of those songs you almost expect to climb a key change as the chorus fades out !
We've Got The Night
One of my favourites ! A great motorway track. I remember the vocals had to be re-recorded though, as after we wrapped up the session rather drunk one night, we found out that I'd sung all the vocals out of key !
8 track version only though.
Hearts Under Fire
A lot of people love this song. Its moody and powerful, lots of space and was a pleasure to write and sing. Very dynamic track.
Into The Unknown
This is a rather sombre subject of meeting angels on the way to heaven, and being 'flown through the night'. Mike Cheshire co-wrote this with me, a great guitarist from Birmingham.
Dressed In Music
Uptempo pop/rock singing about exactly what the title says !
Don't Look In The Mirror Much
Could have probably spent a lot more time improving this ballad, but other tracks had taken priority. It has a fair atmosphere to it.
Let Love Rain Down
I love this track, a great uptempo rock pop song with wonderful soul singers in the background. Steve Harris on guitar. Unfortunately, a digital version could not be found although one still exists somewhere. Quality suffers slightly.
Thanks Tony - is there anything you would like to add?
What's next for you in 2002 and forward into 2003 - what can Tony Mills fans look forward to?
Currently working on a new SIAM album with Ian Richardson. Can't stop, gotta keep writing and recording!!
Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview with me!
Take it easy!