FM are midway through a triple-header UK tour with Gun and Dan Reed Network celebrating 30 years of three career-defining albums. Rushonrock Editor Simon Rushworth caught up with frontman Steve Overland.
Rushonrock: What was your reaction when you were first made aware of The Big 3-0 tour?
Steve Overland: It sounded like a very exciting idea. We’d spoken to our management about going out with both bands as different packages in the past but all three together sounded fantastic. We all know each other and tend to follow each other around – especially during festival season. We did a festival with Dan in Germany and then ended up on the same bill as Gun in Spain. We knew it would be a blast.
Rushonrock: What are you looking forward to most about being on the road with both bands?
SO: We all came up at the same time and all share some fantastic memories of the late 80s. I first saw Dan perform many years ago at the Cat Club in New York. I was there with Neil Kernon, who produced Tough It Out, and he said ‘I’m going to take you to see the best band in the world’. People always say stuff like that but it was Dan Reed Network and Neil was dead right! The core of the line-up is still the same and they’re still a brilliant band. The same goes for Gun. It’s a great night of live music. There’s a common thread that runs through all three bands and that makes it an extra special package.
Rushonrock: What makes all three bands so popular 30 years down the line?
SO: I just think that the music was always great and it still sounds great today. But we’re still shocked at the response to our music – new and old – since we got back together 11 years ago. Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves. We’re still finding new territories for FM even after all of this time! We’re doing more travelling, playing more dates and visiting more cities than ever before. And we can only do that because of the music. Our brand of guitar-based melodic rock seems to be particularly popular right now but I don’t think the genre has ever really gone away. Look at a great band like Thunder – people still want to see the very best in live music and always have done. I’m always amazed at the loyalty of the fans and there are some of the same people coming to this month’s shows who have been with us since the Indiscreet days. I can’t believe people are so loyal but it makes every show so much fun for us.
Rushonrock: Did Tough It Out feel like it would be a special album once you started recording with Neil?
SO: Looking back it did feel like a special record right from the start. We were signed to CBS and they had a few big-name producers in the frame. Neil had made his name with Hall & Oates but he’d worked with the likes of Queensrÿche, Dokken, Shy and Britney Fox before he took us on. Nigel Green was on mixing duties and he’d just wrapped up work on Def Leppard’s Hysteria. Everything was in place to make a great record – the right people, the right songs and the right vibe. The first few days were fantastic and once the songs started coming together it was clear we were onto something. After Nigel had mixed it we attended a playback and we were just blown away by what he’d done. It changed the way FM were viewed. It got us a big management deal in the US and we went to the States off the back of that album. Tough It Out opened so many doors for the band.
Rushonrock: Desmond Child has co-writes on Bad Luck and Burning My Heart Down – how did that collaboration with one of the most prolific 80s hitmakers come about?
SO: Desmond was the man back then. His fingerprints were all over the very best rock songs of the era. He’d been involved in some huge hits for Bon Jovi on Slippery When Wet and New Jersey, co-wrote Dude (Looks Like A Lady) with Aerosmith and had just had huge success with Joan Jett’s I Hate Myself For Loving You. He’d heard a few FM songs via our publisher and the record label decided to fly us out to Bearsville Studios, close to the Catskill Mountains. That’s where we met Desmond. He’d been working on Bonnie Tyler’s Hide Your Heart but we had enough time to come up with a couple of songs. It was an incredible experience working with a songwriter who was the go-to guy for the biggest bands in the world. Bad Luck became an iconic song for FM.
Rushonrock: Were the late 80s as hedonistic and excessive as people remember?
SO: Absolutely. It was a great time! But bands were just silly back then. We spent a fortune on things that didn’t really matter – just because the record label told us the money was there. I remember we had to have these particular lights which cost a fortune on the Tough It Out headline tour when I’m sure another set if lights would have done the job. But there was an open chequebook for us in 1989. Bands racked up massive debts because everyone thought it would last forever! There was stuff piling up in the studio that we never used. I remember this Yamaha piano which we never touched – but the cost of hiring it every day must have been astronomic. We were flown to Jamaica to shoot a video. We even flew to Los Angeles to shoot a video and spent two days in a warehouse. It looked like any other warehouse in the world! We could have stayed at home. But money was no object. I even had my own stylist whose job it was to find me the right pair of Levi’s!
Rushonrock: The photography on the Tough It Out album sleeve certainly reflects the era…
SO: I guess it does. Jeans and cut-off denim jackets were a must. I had a biker jacket at the time but I was told by my stylist that it wasn’t the right kind of biker jacket. I had to have a specific jacket from a specific shop in Melrose in LA. A girl used to take me shopping for jeans – that was her job. I never really embraced that side of things. I was in the music business to play music. The whole fashion and image side of things was just a massive inconvenience. I just wasn’t interested in getting 15 pairs of jeans that all looked exactly the same apart from a tear here and a rip there. I didn’t have a lot of time for that but it was what you were told to do and you went along with it. We were spending a fortune on all of these clothes that we never wore. It was just ridiculous and it’s great that it’s nothing like that anymore.
Rushonrock: Are there songs from Tough It Out that have been played for the first time on The Big 3-0 tour?
SO: It’s the first time that we’ve played Feels So Good, Obsession and Can You Hear Me Calling. In rehearsals it was great fun going back and remembering what those songs sounded like all those years ago. The amazing thing is that as soon as you pick up a guitar – and it’s a song that you contributed to at the time – you just instinctively know where to go with it. But I have no idea how some of the lyrics are still stored away in my addled brain! It’s incredible what you remember. It’s been really enjoyable reconnecting with all of the songs from Tough It Out. We only played Everytime I Think Of You about four times on the Tough It Out tour before we dropped it because we had other ballads. It’s been great hearing that again.
Rushonrock: Looking back are there songs from Tough It Out that could – and should – have been bigger hits?
SO: You can always argue that’s the case. When the record was first released everyone just assumed it would spawn a load of massive hits. We had the same management at Survivor and REO Speedwagon and of course there was the link with Desmond. But shit happens. We found ourselves at the centre of a record label squabble. Things didn’t go that well for us but the response to Tough It Out was off the scale. The problem was that everyone wanted to control the band and we were just trying to concentrate on writing good songs. Our time came and went…to an extent.
Rushonrock: Like Gun and Dan Reed Network you’re still making new music – how important is that?
SO: That’s what counts as far as I’m concerned. We’ve been working on the final mixes for the new album that will be released via Frontiers in the spring. They’re a great label. They just let us get on with things and have every confidence in what we can do. It really is a fantastic relationship and when it comes to rock music they’re unbeatable as a label. For me it’s always about the next song and the next album. The Big 3-0 Tour is a fantastic package but it’s about what we do next.
The Big 3-0 Tour stops off in Newcastle tonight with the remaining dates as follows:
18 Leeds – O2 Academy
20 Manchester – Academy 2
21 Glasgow – Barrowland – SOLD OUT
Main Image By Simon Dunkerley