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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

10 Q's with NORWAY

Norway have just released a superb melodic rock album ‘Rising From The Ashes’ via MTM. Over to Norway’s Jim Santos…

1. What are you currently up to? (E.g. touring/studio, etc.)

Right now I'm keeping pretty busy promoting the new record, and starting to write for the next record. I assure you it wont be 6 years before the next one ! I'm also mixing a few songs for a project of a friend Kurt Vereecke, Frozen Rain. They have some really great stuff on there, Tommy Denander is playing guitar ( I added a couple of rhythm guitars and a lead so far) that should be out late spring 07

2. Could you take us through the tracks on the new album 'Rising From The Ashes' please (eg ideas behind the songs etc)...

1)Save Me-this was written by Dave Baldwin, and was the 1st song he brought to the project. We liked it immediately and it's one of our favorites. He wrote it at an emotional low point and I think the song just radiates genuine honesty and emotion. Dave 's a great writer and was really open to my "Norway-izing" his song .

2)Anything At All - I like this song a lot, it’s got a fairly heavy pervasive feel to it and a powerhouse chorus that goes with the positive message. Be confident, don’t give in to fear, stand by your beliefs. I was listening to a lot of U2 around the time I was working on this, so you can hear that in the prechorus section, and the section after the solo. But most of all this was the first collaboration of the new Norway, written by Joe Slattery, Dave Baldwin and myself.

3)Only One I Need - every NORWAY record has a big huge ballad on it, and in this case its this song. It’s one of our ties to the past in that one of the co-writers along with Joe and myself, was ex singer Glenn Pierson. We really like the way it builds from the acoustic opening into a strong power ballad. Very complex vocals, and I especially like the guitar solo through the ending of the song.

4)American Girl - I wrote this thinking about the differences between the sexes. On one hand when the guys go out and hit the clubs they want this rocking party girl, but on the other hand she will probably grow up and be someone's mother and wife. I mean, these girls would come backstage when we were playing the clubs and quite literally gang bang the band. Where are the now ? So I wrote a song. I know it's probably the most cliché song on the record,but there it is. It's upbeat and has some really nice playing on it too.

5) The Power of Gold - When I started this song, it was with the idea to write something in the style of two of our most popular songs Heartbeat (Night Dreams) and Givin' It All (Arrival). It ended up evolving into something else,conjuring up visions of the Spanish conquistadors seeking gold in the new world, and I also wanted something I could play a little "Blackmore" style guitar in.

6) Since You've Been Gone- This was the last song brought in by Dave Baldwin. He had a rough keyboard/vocal demo and I liked it right away.

He left it with me and I arranged it,recorded a better demo and added all the guitar parts and we fell in love with it.In fact he gave me co-writers credit on it. I think it started out being a Dennis DeYoung /Styx thing with the call and answer of the chorus, but ended up sounding very Journey-ish I think,with the guitars.

7)Tell Me - Another throwback song,cowrtten by Glenn Pierson and myself as yet another attempt to refine the Norway sound. Starts with the power chords, and an intro solo-breaks down to acoustic sections, rousing prechorus and another slamming Norway chorus! By the way, the middle solo break on this was played by Steve Massa (Ted Poley Band). Joe and Marty had been backing up Ted in the years we were idle and I had played a hundred solos for this song and wasn't happy. Steve came down and played a winner in one afternoon!

8)Wont Let You Down- I had written this song in it's entirety several years earlier. I had worked on it a bit with Glenn , but it was then put away.
When we were choosing songs I played it for Dave and he freaked! So we rewrote some of the lyrics and made a few chord changes and put it on the record. I didn't want to put an acoustic only song on the record, but it came out so well Dave and I felt we should.

9)Haunted - I had the music all written for this during the Arrival sessions, and again had worked on it a little with Glenn, but never had finished the lyrics. I wanted to do this song so I dusted it off, and I finished the incomplete lyrics. I wanted to do a huge bombastic number that recalled the metal power ballads of Def Lepard, and had some bluesy guitar riffing and complex multiple guitar parts like Zeppelin.

And briefly the song that's only on the Japanese release-Bridge of Faith. I wrote this for the "United" 9/11 benefit project that was never released.

I'm happy to have it released now, and I'm personally donating 50% of any royalties earned by this song to musicrising.org which is for instrument replacement for musicians who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina.

3. How did you hook-up with MTM?

It's quite ironic that they are the label for this release. We knew of MTM from before our indie debut, as former partner Magnus Soderkvist had sort of discovered us via our website, and at that time passed us to Georg Seigl of AOR Heaven,who was absolutely fantastic and was the one to urge us to do an indie release, and bought 250 copies to start us off. Then prior to Arrival we wanted to sign with MTM, our former singer Glenn Pierson had even visited with Mario Lehman, but the time wasn't right. This time I think I emailed Mario so many times he just gave up saying no !

4. Which song(s) do you enjoy performing most live and why?

We are currently not performing or touring, but when we had gotten together to rehearse, Haunted because it's so much heavier and louder live..and Giving it All from Arrival, and Heartbeat from Night Dreams. Those two sort of epitomize the NORWAY "sound" and we seem to be able to play effortlessly.

5. What happened after the 'Arrival' album released on Now & Then ie why did the band go on such a long break until this new album?

The fact is, that after Arrival we were prepared to begin another record about a year later. At that point we were signed with Now & Then, who happened to use Frontiers as the record label. When I started inquiring as to budgets for the next record, I was stalled for perhaps 6 months, before the told me they didn't want the "option" on the 2nd record. That was a shame because Arrival actually did fairly well. The problem was I think they were spending a lot more money than they thought ,buying Startrack studio etc, and looking back, at that point Now & Then was probably starting to feel the financial pinch. By now it was middle of 2002, and we agreed to a certain low budget figure, which I would produce and deliver for that amount. But still that dragged on, I sent demos, they only liked 3 or 4 songs, I sent more demo’s,etc. After another year, I asked to be released from my contract, which they agreed. So I really started on this record in May of 2003.

So now we had no label again. I bought some lo budget recording gear and got started recording "guide tracks" for the new songs for the band to learn. I usually play a guitar,synth,bass and add a rough vocal to a click track. Marty came to the house over the next 2 years and recorded the drums in my family room. At this time, our former singer Glenn Pierson was having some difficult times with some personal commitments and over the next year was basically unavailable to work on the songs. This put me in a spot,because we always worked together creatively on everything. I was holding back trying not to get too far ahead recording with Glenn. I didn't want to record a million guitar parts and get close to what I was doing, only to have him come in months later and say"It all sucks,lets start over" LOL ! But eventually I knew we had to part ways if I was going to continue making music. As it was when we talked, he understood fully and was actually quite relieved of the burden. We parted and remain close friends, I spoke to him a few weeks ago and we even talked about recording a few things.

So back to the story! Now it's 2004 and I have 6 songs with drums and just a few guitar tracks, and no lead singer. Enter Dave Baldwin. Dave had sung on my benefit song Bridge Of Faith and impressed me for being very professional, and a great singer. I asked Dave if he would consider working with me to complete the Norway project and he agreed. So over the next year and a half I kept buying better gear, we wrote the last 3 songs for the record and recorded all the other parts. The record was completed in Feb 2006, and the plan was to do another indie release. It took until July for MTM to pick us up.

6. Have you seen a upswing in interest in melodic/hard rock in the US recently or is it still very much classic bands touring eg REO Speedwagon, Styx but little in the way of exposure for newer/less established bands?

Yes, pretty much touring and t-shirt sales for "Used to be somebody's", not too much activity on new bands. There's some pretty nice stuff happening in my opinion from bands like Chemical Romance and Green Day, but it's really not melodic hard rock as we want it to be.

I liked Nickelback at first..but after a bit I realized it was the same song over and over. Even "classic rock" radio stations barely play anything new even by established artists. I don't even listen to radio anymore, I have SIRIUS satellite in my cars and house. Hair Nation 24/7!

7. If you could create a fantasy band line-up who would be in it and why?

Well first me,'cause I need a freaking break ! Actually I've played in so many cover bands I could probably play with all my fantasy band lineups.
I don't really think I can answer this one..I like too many different styles of music. Ill try a quickie

Guitars: David Gilmore, Ritchie Blackmore, Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi, Jimi Hendrix, Dicky Betts, Neil Schon, Todd Rundgren & Steve Vai -that should cover just about ANY JAM -
Bass- Rudy Sarzo for the slam, Jack Bruce for the Jam, Willie Weeks for some funk and groove, and McCartney & Greg Lake for some style and vocals
Drums- Bonham, Palmer,Dunsbar & Carmine Appice-enough said!
Keys - Wakeman for flash, Steve Walsh -because he can wail, and Gary Brooker for class and smooth vocals
You might as well throw in Tower of Power Horns and 3 or 4 girl backing singers -make it the Ronettes

Ld Vocals- It's got to be Ian Gillan, Robert Plant, Janice Joplin, Halford, & Lennon and McCartney for the sweet stuff.

8. How did you get your first break into the music business? What piece of advice would you pass onto budding musicians?

Well back in the day.....it was my sister who was 5 years older than me who wanted a guitar, because her boyfriend and his friends had a "folk rock" group that played. Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, Pete Seeger etc. So our parents bought a harmony Guitar and Gretsch amplifier that we were supposed to share. Of course it was only a few months and I could play a dozen Beatle songs and she had given up! From there it was the usual local bands playing at school dances, church functions and all that. That continued until after high school, we started playing clubs in various groups. I had been in a couple very large area cover bands in the early 80's and left the scene in '85 to pursue originals only.

And here I am.

Advice to budding musicians? Go for it! Don't listen to that "Don't quit your day job" nonsense. I can tell you from hard experience, just do it.

Work just enough to support your music and keep pushing forward. Don't get caught up in drugs and booze..that will slow you down.

And in my own case, while striving to "make it" I wasted years and years with musicians who didn't really want it. You know the type :

Cant make rehearsal or always late, doesn't know the parts, etc. I had one dear friend I played with for almost 10 years-and my loyalty and friendship to not throw him out, probably caused me to miss some bigger opportunities. We almost signed with Geffen in '85 and he would miss band practice when it was at his house !

So that's it. Go for it, don't look back.

9. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

What is spare time?? LOL! I do make sure there is some spare time on weekends for my wife and son.

Together we like movies and music. My wife and I like going to concerts, wine and gourmet dining. I read 1 or 2 books a month and I also collect guitars and do all my own repairs , setups, even refinished a few of them,so that's fun too. In the summer my son and I like to take trips to the beach, and we often shoot some billiards too.

10. Message to your fans...

I cannot tell you how grateful we are to our loyal fans who supported us for years without even a shred of hope we'd do another record.

It truly was a labour of love to do this record. We had no label,no record deal, and no singer. In a short time that turned around, and literally have Risen From The Ashes so to speak. Thank you all so much.

Jim Santos/NORWAY

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