Starbreaker: The Start Of Something Special.
Vocalist Tony Harnell and guitarist Magnus Karlsson talk about their hard rocking Starbreaker album and how it come together across two continents!

An Interview with Tony Harnell

Ok Mr. Harnell…Time to start the interrogation! You've always been a busy man, but Starbreaker does further lift your profile in the rock world - how has the reaction been to the album thus far?
Amazing. Especially when you consider that this started as one of those project albums!!

Let's talk about the origins of the project first - you were slated to do a solo album. Who approached you to do that and how did it progress from there?
This never had anything to do with the solo album though, this was a totally different animal from the start. Something else to distract me further from doing my solo album :) Anyway, Serafino at Frontiers was calling me a lot and we were talking about doing something together. We decided to start the relationship with a project album to see how things went. At first we were not seeing eye to eye on the direction, and this almost didn't happen at all, but then he came back to me and asked me what I wanted to do, I said a heavy melodic metal album, we then proceeded.

At what point were you introduced to Magnus Karlsson? Did you have any prior awareness of his musical talents?
Not really. First I spoke to Fabrizio about the direction of the album and then Magnus came on board and started sending me material. I was very pleased with what I was getting and though it wasn't exactly what I had in mind it was close enough and I knew I could run with it.

What kind of conversation did you two have before setting out writing the songs? What was the vision anticipated?
We didn't really. Fabrizio spoke to him and it wasn't till much later that he and I were sharing e-mails.

With Magnus in Europe and Fabrizio in LA and you in NYC, writing and recording this album must have been a real challenge.
First the writing - how did you and Magnus do this?
Yes, thank God for MP3s and the internet. This album would not have been possible years ago. But it went very smoothly and easily. I think we were all very focused and that helped a lot.

Was this the first time you have done such, or have you written like this with TNT before?
Somewhat yes. We have done it this way a few times. It wasn't that big a deal for me. Magnus made it very easy as he provided me with great music to write to.

Now with TNT you flew to Norway to record - this time you recorded your vocals in NYC and the album was pieced together...well, maybe you should explain that! How did it work precisely?
I wrote everything in my apartment, then went to Bruno Ravel's studio where I have recorded vocals for Cyberdreams and My Religion. I feel really comfortable there and Bruno and I are good friends. First the music would come, and then I would write lyrics and melodies and then go to the studio. From there the vocals were shipped to Fabrizio. After that the drums were recorded and then the bass and then everything was sent back to Magnus to re-record the final guitars. It was that easy, like magic. And we were all shocked when the songs started coming together.

And were you happy with the result? Fabrizio did a fine job putting it all together - it really does sound great, although I could imagine what a million dollar budget and you all in one studio could have done!
Exactly. I haven't really seen any bad reviews, but I will ignore any of them if there are any. I am so proud of everyone involved with this. We worked on a shoestring budget, across oceans and pulled this off! You better believe that with a bigger budget and the ability to write in the same room and record together we would be able to make an even better album and that s something to get excited about for all of us.

Starbreaker is a different beast entirely to TNT - did you originally plan to have it be such a heavy and more metal sounding release, or did that just evolve?
No it was my desire and my plan. I would have been happy if it was even heavier, but I think this is a good debut album for the band and for me back into metal where my heart has always been.

Did you enjoy stretching those vocal chords into something heavier - doing something a little different?
Oh yeah! Definitely. I sang how the songs wanted me to though. I always do that.

Having lived with the CD for sometime - favourite tracks?
Break My Bones, Days Of Confusion, Save Yourself, Transparent, Die For You and more really :)

I also enjoyed the film clip - great energy. When did you all get together to do that?
We had just a few hours in L.A. Again on a shoestring budget and just jammed. We never even spent any time together before that so it's weird. We also did a photo shoot that day and we were looking at the Polaroid's thinking, wow, we look like a band!

I must also note what a classy bit of artwork the CD featured. You must be happy with that also?
Yes, finally a cover I can be proud of!

Any plans for touring as Starbreaker? I could easily see you guys doing some metal festivals. Is it all down to economics?
Sort of but we will get out there. We plan on doing things in the fall I believe.

How about a US domestic release of the album? Or might you do it yourself as you have done with TNT and Westworld?
Yes, well, Frontiers owns it for the world so it s up to them, but I have heard it is coming out through Locomotive/Warner in the U.S. Which I think should be pretty good. I mean we're not going to be on MTV, but we should get a lot of radio play which is always helpful.

So where do you envisage Starbreaker going? A lot of these albums are one-off projects, but I see a great future for this name and the band in general.
Yeah it kind of looks that way. We will take it as far as we can, we are calling ourselves a band and that is not a marketing ploy like so many of these project albums are. I knew going into this that I wouldn't settle for a release that would just be mediocre. I just would never do that. I had to put myself into it full on and try my best to make it more than just another one-off. I don t like to be a part of things like that. It's not good for the fans, for me or for the market in general. It had to be something.

We must talk TNT! My Religion was obviously a huge success; do you have any ideas of sales numbers for Europe and/or Japan?
Not really, but I didn't buy a villa in Spain that s for sure :) But it did very well for all concerned I am sure of that.

I thought My Religion (as you well know) was a perfect blend of classic and updated melodic rock, with classic TNT fans catered for as well as new fans.
What do you have in mind for the new album due later this year and how are things progressing?
They are coming along. The songs are just fantastic. It feels very good right now. Ronni and I have a chemistry that is undeniable and these songs are proof of that. I'm excited about where this is going.

Do you have the same recording plan as My Religion? The sound on that really was major label quality.
Yeah, pretty much. Tommy Hansen is our man!

Another one of your much admired projects is WestWorld. What's the status of the band and when might we see something new from you guys? Same line-up?
I don t see anything happening there for awhile if at all. We'll see. I love those albums. To bring Westworld back would take a special deal from a special label :)

How about more Morning Wood? That's still a brilliant CD!
I am working on something like that and if it comes together it will be relatively soon.

I know from talking to you there are a few other things on the go also! What else are you involved in this year Tony?
I have three songs on the new Brazon Abbot CD, and a few other appearances on other recordings. One song here and there. It's the most output from me in a year for sure. But I think all the things I have agreed to are good projects with good songs. I won't do this every year, but this one is special. My priorities are still going to be TNT and now Starbreaker for sure!

Have we missed anything Tony? Anything you would like to add?
I love your site Andrew! You rock. Thanks for all the support you have given me throughout Melodic Rock's reign. The fans have been able to find out more about what I am doing because of you and this site. I love the crazy message board as well. It can get hot in there sometimes though!
I am looking forward to Firefest with my buddy JSS and the Firehouse guys. It's going to be a blast. It's going to be a busy year and I hope that both TNT and Starbreaker get to play as many countries as possible.

Thanks in advance for taking the time out to do the interview. Much appreciated.
Thanks again! Peace and love.

An Interview with Magnus Karlsson

I said this to Tony, but the same applies to you - Starbreaker further lifts your profile in the rock world - are you happy with the feedback to date?
I have not seen so many reviews yet. But the feedback from the people that I have played it for has been great. And I have of course been reading your review. Thank you for those encouraging words Andrew.

How did this project get started for you?
Serafino at Frontiers asked if I wanted to write songs for an album with Tony Harnell. But he warned me and said that every song must be approved by Tony and he is a real demanding guy when it comes to songwriting. Great I thought because so am I. And I am always up for new challenges so of course I said yes to the project.

At what point were you introduced to Tony Harnell? Did you have any prior awareness of his musical talents?
I must admit that I had never listened TNT before (and yes I am ashamed). But when I got this offer from Serafino, I started too listened to everything I came over with TNT and Westworld and now I am a big fan. I can't believe that I have missed so much great music. What a voice! Unbelievable, I'm still in shock!

What kind of conversation did you two have before setting out writing the songs? What was the vision anticipated?
Rule number one: NO POWERMETAL!
Ok Ok I won't.
No…just kidding it wasn't really like that. We had a discussion between me and Tony and Fabrizio and I got feedback on my demos I sent to them and from Serafino as well.
I know that Tony wanted to do something hard but still melodic and that's what I like too so everything went very smooth. I got a lot of inspiration just listen too Tony's vocals on old recordings. So when I start to write on a Starbreaker song I have Tony's voice in my head and try to imagine the result when he sings in the song.

With Tony in NYC and Fabrizio in LA and you in Europe, the writing and recording process had to be different. How did you go about it?
As I mentioned before everyone involved gets demos from me. The demos has no vocals just a guitar that plays the melody. Then Tony gets the same songs without the melody and he starts to do the changes he wants so they will suit him and the lyrics perfect. In the beginning I was terrified that someone was going to do changes in my creations but when I hear the result now I am convinced that every change has been for the better. Fabrizio did some changes in the arrangement. If he thought there was a chorus to much or something he just chopped it off. It's nice to have someone that listens to the songs with “new” ears. After a while when I have been working with a song for a long time I can't tell if it's good or bad any longer. I usually torture my friends or girlfriend with it. But now I just send it to the producer. That's great hehe.

Was this the first time you have done such?
Yes and I'm surprised it worked so well.

And were you happy with the result with the budget available?
I guess a million dollar budget is not a guarantee for a perfect production. Just listen to Metallica's latest album - (now I got me some enemies!).
Yeah Fabrizio did a great job and I think it's cool that he didn't do a traditional metal production and that he had the courage to try something new. I think it's something we need in this kind of music. I have heard the same production so many times.

Starbreaker is a little different to Last Tribe - how do you compare the both?
The biggest difference is the sound and of course the singer. Last Tribe has more progressive elements (longer songs) and more guitar shredding. And I think there more of old school guitar riff in Last Tribe.

Having lived with the CD for sometime - favourite tracks?
It changes all the time but Transparent and Lies and … ohh f%# it's hard to choose. I normally don't listen so carefully to lyrics but in this case I can recommend it. Tony can be really proud over them.

I also enjoyed the film clip - great energy!
That was really fun to do and then I got a chance to meet the whole band. Great guys by the way. It was done in November last year.

Any plans for touring as Starbreaker?
I really hope we will play live soon. I can't wait to perform these songs on a stage and we are discussing where and when but nothing is decided yet.

So where do you envisage Starbreaker going? I see a great future for you.
Thanks. So do I and the other band members. We enjoyed doing this so much so I am convinced you will hear more from us.

Now, how about Last Tribe? You guy shave been getting better and better with each release and building a strong fan base. What's next for the band?
As you know I have been busy in different projects but we have plans for another album. I just don't know when we will find the time for it.

I have to also ask you about the highly anticipated Lande/Allen project. How has that been going and what stage are you up to?
The songs were finished for almost a year ago and everything is recorded except for Russel's vocals. His solo album took a little longer than he planned. But he just told me that he is working with the vocals right now. I can't wait to hear his stuff. I already got Jorn's vocals and it's completely awesome. This album is going to be so cool. But don't expect any progressive and power metal just because its Russel Allen and Jorn Lande behind the mics. It's more of a Hard rock feel to it.

Have you been recording that in the same method as you did Starbreaker?
Not really. We recorded the drums In Roastinghouse studio that's just 5 minutes from my place here in Malmö. Jaime from Last Tribe did the drums. I recorded the rest of the instruments in my own studio and Jorn did his vocals in Norway and Russel doing his in USA.
And we are mixing it in Roasting house as well. And I wrote 100% of the music and lyrics this time so it has been a little less files to send around the world.

When might this album be ready for release?
I'm not sure but as soon as possible I think. Hopefully this summer.

And is there anything else you are working on Magnus?
I have just finished the songwriting and pre-production for an album with Tony O'Hora (Praying Mantis). I'm really satisfied with this one and I love he's voice. It's really a wonderful privilege for me to get the opportunity to write for all this great singers.
And I also just finished an album with my Irish folk music band Greenhouse. (not Greenhouze ). If you want to hear me play the banjo you should check this out!

Anything you would like to add Magnus?
I must again take the opportunity to thank all the wonderful people that are mailing me or write in forums and my guestbook for all the encouraging and warming words about the music I'm involved in. I don't think you understand how much it means to me and for my creativity.
Thank you all! And hope you will enjoy listening to Starbreaker.

Thanks in advance for taking the time out to do the interview. Much appreciated.
You're welcome Andrew. It's always a pleasure.