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Black Rose's Steve Bardsley: "A lot of bands our age are still going strong – Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Metallica and many more, they’re still making fantastic music and entertaining people so their age is irrelevant..."

Interview with Steve Bardsley from Black Rose
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 24 July 2022, 9:44 PM

Age is just a number, the heart and spirit matter most. There have been plenty of acts that have been around for decades, some of them crossed a certain threshold that some people believe that it is straight away to retirement. However, it doesn't have to be like that and there have been plenty of examples showing the opposite, continue until you can't, fight them until you can't fight no more. One of the relics of British Metal are Black Rose, which were a different type of NWOBHM band back in the day. Even so, with their brand new "WTF", they came out stronger, heavier and uncanny than their earlier years. Steinmetal had a talk with long time member Steve Bardsley about the return with a new album, age and more… 

Hello Steve, it is with great pleasure that I welcome you to this conversation with Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir?

Hi, and thank you for inviting me to do an interview with your magazine. I am very well thanks as are all the guys in the band, we are going through the heat wave that is affecting all of Europe at the moment so very hot, but as UK weather is notorious for being cold and miserable I’m not complaining lol.

It has been quite a while since I came across Black Rose, with the last time I believe it was a little more than a decade. Since then, compilations were released and that was it. So what happened within the Black Rose camp? Why did you stop after “Cure Your Disease”? What made you make a comeback?

Well we didn’t really stop as such, we were still doing gigs up until 2016, but then we stopped gigging and decided to concentrate on recording the new album. The last gig we did was the Xmas rocker HRH festival in Sheffield with bands like Girlschool, Blitzkrieg, Fist, Tygers of Pang Tang and loads of others. We also had a change in personnel as our drummer Chris Bennett left and we recruited our former drummer from the late 1980’s Paul Fowler.

I noticed that there have been numerous bands making their return with new material in the hasher, and tougher, years of the Covid 19 pandemic. I always wondered why that was, since the time period isn’t really ideal, so to speak. In your case, didn’t the pandemic come to be a pain in your neck while trying to work on something new?

Of course the pandemic was something that we’d never experienced before and it has been a strange time for sure. In the UK lockdown caused a lot of problems especially for musicians as no gigs were allowed so most of the time was spent sat at home, apart from going out a couple of times a day to walk the dog haha. But obviously due to the internet we could all keep in touch and we used this time to send mixes of songs to each other and finalize the sound we were after.

In regards to the personal effects of this wretched phenomenon, how did it influence your mental state, in particular due to the restrictions?

Personally, I wasn’t affected by it too much, there were the obvious worries about money and the lack of income but luckily my family and me managed quite well compared to some people.

Black Rose triumphed over this predicament of an era, and came through with its fourth album, simply stated “WTF”, and we both know what these initials mean. The first thing that I thought to myself was the same word the expresses the title. Enlighten me please, why?

Hahaha well originally the idea of the title came about after we played at Hammerfest in the UK and a review that came out afterwards of the gig. A journalist made a joke about us being old and wheeled on stage in our zimmer frames which I thought was unnecessary and unfair, especially when you consider that the headline act was Anthrax who are of a similar age to us. So my thinking was ' what the fuck ‘ has our age got to do with anything. A lot of bands our age are still going strong – Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Metallica and many more, they’re still making fantastic music and entertaining people so their age is irrelevant… this is why the album's title originated.

Other than the title, which is clearly a change of approach, the entire tracklist, and the suspected themes of the songs, generate a straightforward attitude, a direct approach that is not held barred. What pumped you up so much that made you come out so strong?

It was probably a mix of different things that affected my writing, the pandemic, the state of the world especially climate change, and maybe it was an age thing as well, wanting to prove that us old farts can still rock! Lol.

Being pissed off is one of the things that I could think of when listening to “WTF”. Aside from anger, there is also anguish and probably disappointment from what is going on, each subject to its own. In your opinion, what other issues bothered you?

I think we’re all affected by the world around us and we are mostly powerless to do anything about it, we have to rely on the powers that be – the governments of our planet to do the right thing…. which sadly they don’t always do.

Writing lyrics and songs is all we can do and it’s our way of shouting out about the way we feel and if people listen and more importantly take notice then that’s great and we can take some satisfaction from that.

Stating the problem is one thing, yet there is an option to provide a solution, without feeling the need to be political about it. Would you say that “WTF” provides a shred of what is possible to be done against the issues you raised?

I would love to think so…. but probably not if I’m being honest. Maybe if we sell as many albums as the likes of Iron Maiden…. then it might lol.

As a band that was involved in the NWOBHM era, crossing through the golden age of the 80s Traditional Metal period, and right into the second decade of the 00s, there have been changes. Nonetheless, it was never expected to have such a chunk of heaviness as on “WTF”. I guess that the seriousness of the themes made you also kick start things up by becoming stronger with the riffs and the general punch of the tunes right? What led to what exactly?

Even though we were around during the 1980s NWOBHM era and got associated with that movement, we were not your typical NWOBHM band. A lot of people back then called us more' Glam rock ' or ‘ Party Rock ' and listening back to the music we did that’s probably a fair comment.

Although I always liked the heavier stuff when I was younger, I also liked catchy sing-a-long type songs, so that obviously influenced my writing back then. The last album ‘cure for your disease' was a definite throwback to the 1980s and had quite a bluesy rock feel to it, so this time we wanted to go all out, heads down, fists in the air, heavy metal rocking….and so far everyone seems to think we’ve achieved that.

In your view, as a person that has been in the band for so long, is this the new version of Black Rose? Is the musical perspective of “WTF” the next stepping stone for the band?

Yes, without doubt it is, I’ve already wrote a lot of new material/ demo songs and it’s definitely in the same direction as this album…possibly even a bit heavier. The positive reviews we’ve had so far reflect that other people enjoy our change of direction too, so why spoil it.

This kind of musical approach as on “WTF” is bound to be influenced by directions that might be newer than what was in the past. What can you share in regards to what musical guidance guided you while writing the songs, coming up with the riffing, etc.?

I like to think I’m open minded when it comes to music and I’ll listen to a lot of stuff. Some of the new modern bands are amazing both musically and technically, although I may not be directly influenced by them I definitely take notice of what they’re doing. Of course trends have changed even in the heavy metal genre but I hope we have achieved a blend of the old school rock heart with a modern metal twist.

In regards to the songwriting process of “WTF”, and since you probably hadn’t sat together, or apart, to write the tunes in a while, would you say that things changed in a way in the manner of how you see a song forming up?

As I am the main songwriter so that does make things easier as I write most of the riffs and melodies, record them and then let the guys listen and they will give their input. A couple of the songs on the album Kiko and me co-wrote and that’s great when that happens.

Are there songs on “WTF” that were once pieces or leftovers from previous albums, or works that were shut down abruptly or postponed?

No all this material was written within the last few years and it has taken a little while to get them to this final stage, with changes and various remixes but it’s all new stuff. In fact we originally mastered and mixed the album ourselves but to be honest we’re not engineers and so on the advice of Pure Steel Records we had it remixed by Robert Romanga at Audio Stahl and he did an amazing job.

What can you tell of the hardships, or obstacles, that inflicted upon the process of rehearsing the songs, and of course recording? How were you able to champion through the completion of the album?

Luckily the majority of the album was already recorded before the pandemic hit so it was just a case of final touches and mixes which we managed to do over the internet. This album wasn’t recorded in the traditional way of us all going to a studio, we recorded most of the drums and vocals at Kiko’s home studio and the rest was recorded at our own home studios, so we were working from home… sort of.

A tougher sound for a tougher kind of music, at first I was surprised to be honest, but accepted that for the right attitude, one will need a wall of sound that would fit the character. How do you find the sound of Black Rose in 2022?

Well we can honestly say we are very happy with the sound of the album, we wanted a heavy, clear and dynamic sounding mix, which together with Rob we worked to achieve. Hopefully this is the sound we will continue to have for as long as we’re still around.

Coming up as the first song that showed me the new face of Black Rose, is “Detonator”, showing that this approach works for the band, and it is like a fist in the face in a way. What is your opinion in regards to this song’s directness? What is it all about?

Detonator is a fast and heavy song about the possibility of how things might turn out if we don’t get our shit together as a planet regarding climate change. We are seeing how much hotter the summers are getting and it’s obviously not just a coincidence, but the powers of world government don’t seem to be willing to do much about it, until we become a great big ball of fire… then maybe they will. It is one of my favourite songs on the album and apart from the underlying message…. it just fucking rocks lol.

Well this next number took me to the early 90s, rather the American vibe other than the British persuasion. The first thing that came to mind was Skid Row, and it just continued to swallow me up with ease. No doubt that this is your major hooking tune, it could easily make it to higher places in the 90s. What is your appreciation of this track? Would you say that it made its impact on the record?

It’s funny you’re not the first one to mention the Skid Row connection, but the strange thing is I’ve personally not listened to them much over the years. I know their big hit songs of course like 18 and life and Youth gone wild, but Kiko our bass player is more of a fan than me and Ash our new singer is also.

But there is obviously a similar sound to them on this track as others have mentioned it, which we’ll take as a compliment I guess. I think personally that each track has its own merits on the album, which is why it hopefully makes for a variable listen and glues it all together.

Surging through the summer time, with plenty of festivals to go around, is Black Rose featured in some of the bills? Do you intend to tour in the UK, or beyond, to support “WTF”?

We have our first gig since 2016 coming up in September with our new vocalist Ash Robertson at Trillians Rock bar in Newcastle,UK as I’m now concentrating on guitar and backing vocals. We hope that we can do some festivals and play gigs to promote the album we are certainly ready to rock again without doubt.

Steve, major thanks for your time for this interview, it was good to have you. Also, the record is quite impressive with new things to offer musically from Black Rose. All the best  

Cheers Lior, Take care buddy.


 



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