He’s one of the hardest working and hardest rocking men we know but there’s a reason Tony Mills pops up all over the place – his voice still remains strong two decades after SHY burst onto the melodic metal scene.

With new records by State Of Rock and Serpentine under his belt and talk of a brand new SHY record later this year we’ll be seeing a lot more of the likeable Brummie throughout the year. Read on to find out what Mills has to say about life as one of rock’s most respected hired hands.

rushonrock: How did you come to be involved with the State Of Rock project and why was it worthy of your precious time?

Tony Mills: I was working in the studio and I got a call from a good friend at AFM. He said he had a band in Nuremberg that used to be Frontline and he wanted to see them on stage. But they didn’t have a singer. He asked me if I’d sing the sing the songs and I asked to hear some of the music. The guitarist, Rob, sent some music over and I thought to myself that this is cracking stuff – I was standing in the kitchen thinking this is really good stuff but where are the lyrics? It turned out they didn’t just need a singer, they needed someone to write the songs too! I suggested the rest of the band send me some more music asap!

rushonrock: You were obviously hooked by this point…

TM: Well they sent me three or four more tracks and every one was really, really good. I realised I couldn’t turn down this chance. I accepted the challenge and we co-wrote the whole record in eight weeks. We did it all in Germany and I lived with the other guys in Nuremberg – I had an absolute blast for two months and then came home again. The album’s had some great reviews so I suppose I was write to get on board. We were hoping to play Firefest this year but that hasn’t come off. Look out for some live shows later this year though.

rushonrock: Does that mean SOR are more than just another studio project?

TM: Absolutely. The bond between us was so good that we knew this was going to have legs. It’s not always like that and there are times where you go in and work with someone, you do the job but there’s no chemistry and you go your separate ways. The rest of the band pretty much don’t speak English which isn’t ideal but that gives me carte blanche with the lyrics and they don’t really want to get into that. It’s the music that matter most to them. They gave me free reign to write what came from my heart and, in all fairness, only one track was scrapped. The label said it sucked! I can take that. But everyone liked the rest of the stuff I wrote. SOR is, without a doubt, one of the best projects I’ve ever worked on. The intention was for us to make a hard-edged mainstream rock album and I think it ticked all the boxes.

rushonrock: As a melodic rock singer is there plenty of work for you in 2010?

TM: As well as singing for various bands I run a studio and I’ve been very lucky – I’ve been working non-stop for five years. But I have to be honest and say I’ve noticed the work has started to dry out lately. I’ve been working on an album in Italy but I’m preparing for a gap after that. I know there’s the first half of the new TNT album on the way to me and I’ll be playing live this summer but I am preparing for a quieter spell. But it’s just another blip and I know things will pick up again. To be honest I need a break – I had three days off in 2009 – and there’s no point working so hard it’s going to kill you. It’s hard to turn the work down when it’s there because everyone has mouths to feed and you always worry it might run out one day. Then again I’m determined to enjoy some time off while I can.

rushonrock: Are you happier now than when you were at your commercial peak with SHY?

TM: SHY was a very busy time and I’ve done so many different things since then. I have a bit more experience under my belt and I have a greater freedom in terms of what I do and don’t do. But am I happier? I think I’m wiser if that’s the same thing? I’m certainly in a position where I can pick and choose and I have turned some projects down in the last few years. I have to think about my credibility and you can’t sing for the tramp down the street just because he asks you. I have a family now which I didn’t have when I was with SHY and so that has a huge bearing on how I approach things. Sometimes it works out nicely when I can take my little girl on tour and she appears on TV with me but other times it’s tough when you’re away for weeks at a time.

rushonrock: How is the new SHY album coming on?

TM: It’s a long process but it will happen. It’s something which has been going on for a couple of years now but there’s definitely the will to make it happen. When I had the call from TNT all those years ago I didn’t have a lot of choice and I suppose it was a financial decision as much as a musical one. And at the time Shy had no other choice but to find another singer. They found one but it didn’t work out for whatever reason even though all the tracks on their next album were virtually completed. That record is still there but the rest of the guys decided the vocals didn’t really suit the band so that’s when they called me up. I’m working on it as and when and we’re hoping there’ll be some more news soon.