A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories

Persistence, Timing, Diversification and playing to your core audience

I am reading the recent issue of Guitar World and I come across a question where Mick Jones from Foreigner is asked how it was to work with Mutt Lange? For those that don’t know Mutt Lange produced the Foreigner 4 album in 1981.

Mutt had really wanted to do our second album [1978’s Double Vision], I believe. But he didn’t seem quite ready at the time. So we did the next one [1979’s Head Games] with Roy Thomas Baker.

So Lange goes away and he proves himself to Foreigner. He takes on AC/DC and produces Highway to Hell in 1979 (their American breakthrough album) and Back in Black in 1980 (their first with Brian Johnson and their biggest album in regards to sales to date). He also produced For Those About To Rock We Salute You in 1981.

He didn’t just give up. In between the period between 1977 and 1981, apart from AC/DC, he also produced albums for artists like City Boy, Clover, Supercharge, The Boomtown Rats, The Rumour, Savoy Brown, Michael Stanley Band, Outlaws, Deaf School, The Records and Broken Home. He is paying his dues, getting the stats on his side, just so that he can work with a band that he wants to work with.

… then Mutt was kind of knocking on the door again. I must say, he was quite enthusiastic.

Then he gets the gig to do Foreigner4 which came out in 1981. Persistence. Paying your dues. Credentials. Hard work. Timing. They all play important parts in the recipe for success.

Mutt’s persistence to hard work, made him turn over a lot of records as a producer. A lot of those records made a large impression with the public.
Mutt’s timing was off when he first approached Foreigner in 1978. It wasn’t off in 1981. This time around he also had the credentials to back himself. For a producer, your credentials are the works that you produced, for an artist, your credentials is the music that you make.

He was the first producer I worked with who really challenged me. He was not only very insightful with the songs and in helping to bring them to fruition but he was also really great at achieving sounds.

The real rock stars hated to get challenged. The “songs are their children” is a common cliché that so many of them would say. Mutt Lange didn’t give a shit about that. He wanted perfection. He wanted greatness. He wanted to be involved in something that would last forever.

He was just unbelievably dedicated to the process…to the point where I think we kept Def Leppard waiting six or nine months because Mutt was still working with us on 4.

Def Leppard waited for him. Why? They knew. They knew that this guy was special. They knew he was the person that would be able to capture their pop leanings and merge them with their rock and blues influences. All of that pales, compared to what they really needed. Def Leppard needed a song writing partner. Look at the history that they created.

Def Leppard – High ‘N’ Dry, 1981
Def Leppard – Pyromania, 1983
Def Leppard – Hysteria, 1987
Def Leppard – Adrenalize, 1992

Mutt really set a standard with Def Leppard. I called it the layers standard. Others call it the over dubs or over producing standard. Others call it multi-tracking. The fans loved it. They wanted the big vocals, the arena rock chorus’s layered in harmonies. Once Hysteria exploded every other band released albums in the same layered style. Suddenly every hard rock band was doing the Bon Jovi and Def Leppard thing. Kiss went all pop metal with Crazy Nights and Hot In The Shade. Whitesnake did it with Slip Of The Tongue. However, there was one band that was doing things their own way. That one band is called Guns N Roses. I digress.

Once you become successful, it doesnt mean you stop. Mutt Lange didn’t. He kept on going.

Song writing for other artists became a new income stream for him from the eighties onwards. As an artist, if all you do is just write music and perform it live, you are limiting yourself to that income stream. However, if you write songs for other artist, you have an additional income stream. If you produce for up and coming bands, sharing your expertise and knowledge, then you have another income stream. If you are a guitar player, become a guitar teacher on time off from recording and touring. That is another income stream. Suddenly, you have a years’ worth of work. Yes it is hard work. It was never meant to be easy.

Look at the following list of people that keep on working hard;

Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater. He plays keyboards in Dream Theater, he is a solo musician, he is an instructor and he is an app developer.

Claudio Sanchez from Coheed and Cambria. He is the founder, singer, guitarist and main songwriter for Coheed and Cambria. He also has a side project called Prize Fighter Inferno. He has written novels and comics. He appears at Comic Conventions. He has just signed a production agreement for The Amory Wars story to be turned into a movie or movies. He is also an app game developer.

Corey Taylor is another. The recent House of Gold and Bones releases by Stone Sour have seen that concept story turned into a graphic novel and comic book, as well as a production deal to turn it into a movie. Apart from Stone Sour, Corey still tours with Slipknot. He is also a novelist.

Nikki Sixx is the leader of Motley Crue. He does Sixx A.M as another band. He does photography and his work is being exhibited on line. He has penned two autobiographies (The Dirt and The Heroin Diaries), as well as a picture book/biography for This is Gonna Hurt. He uses social media to build connections with fans. Finally, he is overseeing the long overdue Motley Crue movie. There is also the SixxSense “radio” gig and a range of other outlets like clothing and accessories.

Phil X is currently fill in guitarist for Bon Jovi. He is a session musician. He is a fill in guitarist .He is a solo artist. He is a band member. He is a guitar teacher. Five different income streams. He endorses different product lines of gear.

Kevin Churko is a producer, sound engineer, masterer, mixer and a songwriter. While his production credits involve the hard rock and metal genre, I bet a lot of people didn’t know that he was involved with Britney Spears when he started off. Yep that is right. In 2000 he was the Digital Editing and Programming guru on Britney’s Oops!… I Did It Again album. He had that same job title for The Corrs, Shania Twain and Celine Dion albums that followed between 2000 and 2003.

From 2003 onwards, he then started getting appointments as an Engineer and a mixer. He had those titles for Shania Twain and Ozzy Osbourne albums.

Then from 2006 and onwards he started getting producing appointments.

Churko built up a credentialed name for himself between 1999 and 2006. Since then he has done I Don’t Wanna Stop, Black Rain and Scream by Ozzy Osbourne. Apart from being the Producer, he was also the Engineer, the Mixer and Composer.

He has filled the same role for In This Moment, Hinder, Beggars and Thieves, Emerson Drive, Five Finger Death Punch, Otherwise, Kobra and The Lotus and Rob Zombie.

The point in all of this. Success in music is not just about writing a song and watching it sell. You need to earn your success. You need to pay your dues. You need to live and experience life. You need to be patient. You need to persevere. The bottom line; don’t quit.

And remember: still play to your core audience. That is what all of the above artists are doing. They are keeping their core audience satisfied.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music

The KISS that rocks

Revenge made Kiss relevant again.  1982’s Creatures of The Night and 1983’s Lick It Up, re-established Kiss as a force to be reckoned with in the Eighties.

MTV was the outlet, and every time Lick it Up came on, it made me stop and watch.  This was all about the music.  The band had removed their make-up and they needed to make a statement.  Lick It Up was that statement.   That crunchy and distorted guitar from Vinnie Vincent is what makes the song roll.  Of course, it wouldn’t be long before Vincent was shifted. It’s like Gene Simmons can’t handle having talented people around me for a long period of time. Gene likes to rewrite history that Vinnie Vincent’s contribution to KISS was as a salary paid employee, however the music doesn’t lie.

Life’s such a treat and it’s time you taste it
There ain’t a reason on earth to waste it

We all know what Paul is saying in the lyrics to the women in the world.  Make sure that no mess is left ladies.

By the time the keyboard heavy Crazy Nights (1987) and the pop metal Hot In The Shade (1989) came out, fans started to accuse the band of following whatever MTV trend was popular at the time. 

Crazy Crazy Nights to me was so hooky and it was as good as anything else that was in the Charts at that time. I personally love the song, and this is in the era, post the Slippery When Wet explosion.  It just reminds me of good times and crazy days, sort of like how Tesla’s Lazy Days and Crazy Nights song does.  Listening to the Crazy Crazy Nights song today (I did an Eighties’ CD for my wife and this song was one of the songs I put on it) it just reminds me of how busy my life has come to be, where most of the time I am running on empty or caffeine.  It would good to be able to kick back and relax. 

They try to tell us we don’t belong,
That’s alright, we’re millions strong
This is my music, it makes me proud,
These are my people and this is my crowd

A song for the rock show, making the people believe that they belong here. Crazy Crazy Nights was co-written by Paul Stanley and Adam Mitchell who he used on the Creatures of the Night album as well.  Going back to the well that gave birth to quality previously, is a good thing.   

Going back to the Revenge album. The Nineties had a massive paradigm shift in the music business.  Kiss, now had to compete with bands that released game changing albums.  Nirvana released Nevermind and Pearl Jam released Ten bringing Grunge and Alternative Rock to the masses.  U2 released Achtung Baby, Red Hot Chilli Peppers released Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Metallica released the Black album, The Cult release Ceremony, Guns N Roses released the Use Your Illusion I and II albums, Ozzy Osbourne released No More Tears, Skid Row released Slave To The Grind, Pantera released A Vulgar Display of Power and Van Halen released For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.  The majority of the albums had a heavy rock feel and in the case of Van Halen it was return to the brown sound. 

Coming into the recording process of Revenge, Kiss already had some momentum going with God Gave Rock N Roll To You, which appeared in the movie, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey in 1991. The song is an Russ Ballard composition for the band Argent, however additional credit is given to Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Bob Ezrin.  Argent at that time was trying to follow up their mega hit, Hold Your head Up, so when God Gave Rock And Roll To You came out, it bombed.  However the song is a great song, and it is a good thing that Kiss rescued it and turned it into a hit.

For Kiss to be relevant in the Nineties, they had to do something different, so they hired a marketing consultant firm to find out what the fans wanted. The answers came back.  The fans wanted more Demon, more heaviness, more rock and an album to rival 1976’s Destroyer. It was time to get the team together.  Bob Ezrin who produced the epic Destroyer and the terrible Music From The Elder was hired to produce.

The biggest decision made was to use the fantastic, talented and egotistical Vinnie Vincent as a songwriter.  Simmons and Stanley realised that Vincent’s contributions to the Creatures of The Night and Lick It Up albums, had produced songs that have become some of the best and well known Kiss songs in recent memory.  The sinister single opener Unholy was written by Simmons and Vincent.  It is heavy, it is evil and it fit perfectly in the current music climate at the time. 

You send your children to war
To serve bastards and whores

It’s a tough lyric line.  There is that devilish theme throughout the song.   

Other classic Vincent penned songs that appear on Revenge are Heart of Chrome is written by Paul Stanley, Vinnie Vincent and Bob Ezrin, while I Just Wanna is written by Paul Stanley and Vinnie Vincent.

It is a shame that this song writing partnership went sour so quickly again, and they haven’t collaborated since. 

Revenge is Kiss being themselves and by doing that, they made a record that satisfied the hard core fan bases and somehow also fitted in with the times,

Of course, the album is also in memory to drummer Eric Carr, who passed away due to cancer, before the recording process started.  Eric Singer took his place in the band and he has been with Kiss, since then.  How good was the Badlands project that Eric Singer was in, with Jake E.Lee, Ray Gillen and Greg Chaisson?  However that is for another day.

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