JACK STARR’S BURNING STARR released one of the highlights of this year if you are talking about classic Heavy Metal with an epic hint. We couldn’t resist on getting the chance to submit a series of questions to Jack Starr who speaks about the new album, his legendary past and the band’s future… and then some more.
Congratulations for ‘Stand Your Ground’! This is an amazing album indeed. Please tell us what have you done since 2011’s ‘Land of the Dead’
Hello to the great metal fans in Greece and thank you for the kind words regarding Stand Your Ground. Since 2011 we have toured Europe twice played festivals in the United States and made two albums that most of which was placed on one cd but on two vinyl records,It took us a long time because we were making two albums but in the words of my bass player Ned Meloni “ We could have made four average sounding metal albums but we choose to make one good one” I think that he is right sometimes bands rush to make albums to satisfy record companies and they might be better off to wait a little longer and make a better album.
Tell us a few things about the creation of ‘Stand Your Ground’, about the process of songwriting, the time inside the studio, the equipment you used to record the songs. How was that to make ‘Stand Your Ground’ sound so ‘80s and at the same time so fresh and modern?
Well first of all we had a producer Bart Gabriel who loves the classic metal of the 80’s and the newer metal bands too so that helped us a lot because we wanted our album to sound good on modern stereos and headphones and Bart knows how to create this sound, We also had a great engineer Kevin Burnes who worked very closely with Bart and one other important factor is that our drummer Kenny Rhino Earl played real drums and this makes a big difference plus of course the fact that he is a great drummer is good too lol. Also for my guitar sound our engineer Kevin Burnes took the sounds we send him and re amped them thru some great sounding tube amps made by Bogner ,I think the sound has good sustain but still maintains the clarity of tubes and this helped achieve the 80’s sound where musicians were using real amps with real speakers in the studio.
How important was to work with a producer (Bart Gabriel) that is first of all a fan of your work?
It was very important to have the ears of someone so well versed in metal as Bart in fact to be honest. I don’t think we could have done this album without Bart because it would have been too incohesive; Bart was able to take all the diverse ideas in the songs and find the commonality in them and make them work. For instance, the song Stand Your Ground is 11 minutes and has many different parts and we had to work hard to make the arrangement fit and not make it sound like an 11 minute song, haha.
How do you arrange the tracks? Is there a method ον how you arrange the songs on a record?
Everyone in Burning Starr helped arrange the songs and some more than others, Ned and Rhino are very good at arranging and they tell me when I am putting too much in one song and what riffs fit and which ones should not be used and also Bart so I have a lot of help with arrangements ,for instance when I first had the riff to Stand Your Ground, we had a band meeting and I presented the song but Rhino told me “You can’t use this riff,it sounds like a Ted Nugent song” so I went home and a few weeks later I rewrote the song and made sure nothing in it sounded like Ted Nugent and yes Rhino gave it his approval.
As Todd is an excellent singer and also the voice of Riot I can’t resist on asking about the similarities you’ve seen on him and Rhett Forrester.
The interesting thing is that Todd and Rhett are totally different and each has amazing vocal talent but Todd is more disciplined and better at things like enunciation and harmony ,whereas Rhett had a natural bluesy voice and a throaty sound almost like Bon Scott, each one is great but in different ways. Todd could have easily been the singer for Led Zeppelin, if they were still playing and Rhett could have easily been the singer for AC/DC back then.
What do you remember from your cooperation with Rhett back in 1984 for “Out Of The Darkness” album?
I remember going to the studio and watching Rhett sing the songs with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey in one hand and some lyrics in the other, I remember some beautiful girls always following him or trying to talk to him as well. One summer he lived in my house and I was very surprised at how much he could drink and never be drunk and one other thing I noticed is that he never left the house without dressing like a rock star and this would surprise me because I would say to him “ we just need to go to the store , there will probably be no one that will recognize you” and he would say “ Jack I don’t care about that, I dress and act like I do for me and that is who I am” after that I understood that Rhett was unique and he would put on a show in a small club like if it was a festival he never short changed the audience, I learned a lot from Rhett.
As we are talking about the past, let’s suppose you haven’t left Virgin Steele How different would Virgin Steele Sound if you haven’t ever left?
If I had stayed in Virgin Steele I really think the band could have been very big and I say this not because I think I am great but because sometimes in a band there is magic and when that happens, it is incredible, and there was magic between me and David. I don’t think he recognized it at the time and maybe he still doesn’t . Also, my approach to music is very organic and bluesy as I am not a schooled musician like David but I think that the combination of our two approaches to music created a unique sound and that is what happened on the first two albums and the EP and that is why there are still many fans for those albums 40 years later.
The last time you ever worked with David was in 1997, already 20 years ago at your Reunion of Steel. The tracks you wrote together back then were split in Virgin Steele’s “Book Of Burning” album and “Under A Savage Sky”. What happened and you didn’t work together at last?
I think that back then David did not believe that we could still make great music and he really did not want to work with me, but did it to help me and at the time I had stopped playing metal so I was very happy to work with David again and I thought the songs we recorded sounded great and David calls them the “Sacred Demos”.
Correct me if I’m wrong but you still release albums as Jack Star (even though you have 6 years to release anything, last effort in 2011). Do you feel that you need more space as an artist that Burning Starr can’t give you? You also have released an album under the name of JACK STARR BLUES BAND, so can we expect another album from there too?
I like playing many different styles of music but my favorite is heavy metal , sometimes it is difficult for metal bands in the states to do shows and I like to stay in shape and play my guitar in front of people so that is why I also play blues and classic rock and I have found that it has helped my playing and made me more fluid, maybe there will be one more blues album but this is not my priority,my priority is making another metal album with Burning Starr in the next year and a half , I will not make albums every six years ever again, I’m too old for that, haha.
What are some topics discussed in ‘Stand Your Ground’ and why did you select this title for your album? To whom are you referring to? Has to do anything with patriotism or politics or even Trump’s election or is it just a metal attitude moto?
Stand Your Ground is not a political album ,it is an album of resisting authority and holding on to your beliefs whatever they might be, It is also a cautionary tale of what could be, I do think that the words “Stand Tall Stand Proud, the Storm is Coming” is true, the western world will have to face a storm soon because there is a clash of ideas, religions and entire civilizations that is unfolding. It is my hope that all this can be resolved peacefully.
Is there any song you feel is important for any special reason for you, from ‘Stand Your Ground’? Which one is your favorite from the album?
I really like the lyrics to False Gods which were written by Ned Meloni,Todd Hall and myself and I think the message of the song can be understood by everyone and taken in different ways, for instance the lyrics can be thought of in the spirit of the Bible which warns against the love of gold as personified in the story of the Golden Calf ,it can also bring to mind the story of Jesus who chased away the money lenders from the Temple or we can think of the modern story of the criminals who steal the life savings of people with lies and get rich schemes on Wall Street.
And what about the playing live plans; have you set any live dates for the near future?
We all want to play live very badly because we love it and we hope to come back to the beautiful country of Greece where we met so many wonderful fans who became friends to us, so in answer to the question, we need this album to do well so that we will get offers to come back and play in Europe.
Thank you for your time, the closing is yours. Say anything you like to your Greek fans!
We miss you and the next time we come we want to explore the city of Athens which did not have time to do last time we were there,but the next time we will make sure that there is time in the schedule ,and in closing Ned,Todd and Rhino and myself wish you all the best and hope you will take the time and to our new album because we worked very hard to make it good. Keep the metal burning!