One of 2012’s breakout bands and following hot on the heels of fellow countrymen The Answer, the Ulster quintet have all the tools to take on the world.
In the second of an exclusive two-part interview, RUSHONROCK editor Simon Rushworth talked second album syndrome, Thin Lizzy and the classic rock revival with frontman Phil Conalane.
rushonrock: A Sinner’s Saint doesn’t suffer from second album syndrome – did you spend a long time getting it right?
Phil Conalane: I’d love to say we spent months and months tweaking it and perfecting the songs but that wasn’t the case. I think the sound is more to do with the fact that most of us have been around the block a few times and we know what to do when it comes to writing and recording songs. We like to think we know how to write a song and we know what a good song sounds like. I can appreciate a good death metal song in terms of its craft even if I’m not necessarily a fan of that genre. We appreciate what a good riff is and writing A Sinner’s Saint wasn’t too difficult. It all came very naturally.
rushonrock: So were you satisfied with your work when you sat down and listened to the final mix?
PC: Of course there are times when you think you could have done more. But for the most part the songs were whipped into shape pretty quickly and pretty professionally. Creativity has never been a problem for this band and as soon as we finished writing A Sinner’s Saint we were already writing more new songs. We don’t take anything for granted though – we know we’re lucky to be in that situation right now.
rushonrock: Would you like to see more bands putting out classic hard rock albums?
PC: Personally I think there’s a demand for records like A Sinner’s Saint. It’s one of the reasons why we got together as M$R. We wanted to hear more of that music and decided to do it ourselves if nobody else would! Since then a lot more bands have started to emerge committed to playing that kind of music and that’s got to be good news. You look at bands like The Treatment and the success they’re having right now – they’re a young band playing classic rock and playing to big audiences. It’s not always easy – you’ve got to remember that the bands they’re influenced by are still out there packing arenas and stadiums. The likes of AC/DC and Def Leppard are still doing the business so it’s not as if there’s a gap to fill. But there are good bands waiting to step into the void in the future.
rushonrock: Are the bigger bands holding back the new generation?
PC: No. I think they have the opposite effect. Look at what AC/DC did for The Answer. They offer the upcoming bands a platform to play to far bigger audiences and show that rock has a great future. People say there’s a revival in classic rock but, in all honesty, it never went away. Straight up rock is getting stronger again but proper rock and metal will never disappear. When it’s all said and done your Judas Priests and your Whitesnakes will always be popular with generations and they’ll always encourage new bands. Look at The Treatment – they’ve been on the road in America with Kiss and Motley Crue and their music is getting heard by thousands of new music fans every night. We toured with them a couple of years ago on the Powerage tour and they’ve reached a different stratosphere in a very short space of time.
rushonrock: So with new albums by Van Halen, Kiss and Aerosmith this year – plus Lizzy going back into the studio – are you confident there’s plenty of life in classic rock yet?
PC: Absolutley. It’s great that those guys can still put out new records and new records that really rock! I heard the new Kiss song on Radio Two a while back and it sounded every bit as good as their back catalogue. It could have been recorded at their 80s peak. For me, being from Ireland, I’m really, really looking forward to hearing some new Thin Lizzy material.
rushonrock: Is the current Lizzy line-up capable of silencing the critics with Ricky Warwick to the fore?
PC: There have been so many different versions of Lizzy during the last few decades and none of them had really captured the passion of that band. But it’s more authentic than ever having Ricky in there. Some people will always say it’s not Lizzy without Phil Lynott. But a lot of people said the same about AC/DC when Bon Scott passed away and Van Halen when David Lee Roth left the band. People might consider it sacrilege that Ricky is on vocals but he’s a great artist in his own right. He’s a great fit live and I’m really looking forward to hearing the new material.
rushonrock: So you don’t feel there’s any downside to the current line-up?
PC: With Scott Gorham and Brian Downey it’s not as if this is a completely new band – the past and the present is working together. And they’ve done it the right way. They’ve toured relentlessly and every single gig they’ve played has proved to the fans that they mean business. Vitally they’ve also shown that they’re a new band but Phil will always be there in spirit. They’re more than capable of winning over the most sceptical of fans.
rushonrock: What are M$R’s plans for the immediate future?
PC: We’ve got a lot of live shows left to play this summer and we’re hoping to firm up our touring plans for the rest of the year. Towards the end of the year we’ll head back into the studio with a view to releasing the follow up to A Sinner’s Saint in 2013.