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Chris Laney (Animal)

Interview with Chris Laney from Animal
by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos at 07 October 2008, 7:28 AM

Driven' by the excellence of Randy Piper's new ANIMAL album, Virus, I grabbed the chance to hook up with Chris Laney (songwriter and guitarist of the band - also a top producer in Sweden) since various topics would be fun to discuss with. Apart from tons of info given regarding the 'key' factors resulting in Virus, some good news was also born for the near future regarding Chris' other band, leading Swedish hard Rock 'n' Rollers ZAN CLAN.

Chris, hello from Metal Temple mag! Are you in Stockholm right now?

Hey MT!!!! Yeah! Stockholm is my home , I LOVE this town!!!

OK, it took quite a while for ANIMAL to release Virus, eventually. What happened? Any label issues?

I don't think it took THAT long, 2 years, that is quite common, isn't it? No problems at all, just the fact it takes some time to write the right material. We DID look for a new label that could take us further…over seas and stuff, and now we are happily married to Locomotive Records.

Who will handle the new album's distribution, really? We got our promo disc from Locomotive Records, so I guess Europe is reserved. What about the rest of the world?

Locomotive is our label for Europe and the US, Diesel & Glory for Japan.

To Virus, now: starting from the album's cover, I'd like to point out it's not quite clear what's depicted. It's a close-up photo of a virus in a microscope or something like this? Who had this concept?

The original idea, band's idea, is the one we have on Thinking about the lyrical ideas and stuff…you know…virus spread in the US via mail (the font), virus spreading by air (the kid in mask), virus spreading by blood (blood) you get the drill..Well, we had an idea…the final cover art ain't what we set it out to be, but it is cool enough. I mean, we are after all just a Rock band that wants to play music!!!

Accepted! So, third album for ANIMAL, your second appearance in the band and…first of all, are you the one who's written most (or all) of the stuff for Virus or you sat together with Randy? I have to say the riffs, hooks and melodies in the new album top every past ANIMAL release.

Thanx!!!!!!!! We do write the lion's share of stuff together…we don't sit together since there is an ocean between us…but someone comes up with the main idea and someone else works with it til the proper idea surfaces. I do come up with a lot of the main ideas but we finish it all as a band. The new album is something we all are very proud of and hope people will like.

When it was time for you to proceed to the songwriting for the new album, did you have some brief idea of the direction? I'm asking cause when you put the CD in the player and push 'play' you think you'll be listening to a pure Metal album, then the hardrockin' feel comes again, then things get 'classic' Heavy again…

Well, not really lol, we mainly just write songs till we find the stuff we like…no planning just playing!

Sweden - and Scandinavia, in general - has offered dozens of good bands playing in a more sleazy style but with an 80s 'metal' attitude. Did you have something like this in mind, especially since included in the band is a real Metal icon, Randy?

Nah…I am a Piper fan, I just wanted to make one hell of a Piper album, if you know what I mean…No goal more that making good fucking Bad music!

Virus boasts over 40 minutes of good music, with no slow-pace/ballad song included. How come?

As I said, we didn't plan anything, we just wrote and this is what came out…Ballads or no ballads, as long as the album rocks, I'm happy! We did record one more track that never made it, Living On The Edge, it was too sleazy, great but not connecting with the rest of the album. I think we will put that out as a bonus track on the Japanese version of Virus.

I'd not forget to applaud Rich Lewis' performance here. He does sounds familiar to Blackie Lawless at times, but I think he has developed his voice all these years to something more personal and artistic, while still rocking the house. How you've seen Rich's progress in the three - totally - ANIMAL discs?

He did do some amazing stuff on this album…First album (V.N.B.) I was involved with, I didn't really know his abilities, and now I do. He is the BEST singer by far I have EVER recorded, amazing in all ways…he has feeling, control and power. So in short…What he did on this album was heaven to work with. We had lots of fun laying down the vocal tracks, he is very easy to work with.

Your playing, too, I see it bombastic. Can you recall you had any feelings of fury while rehearsing for Virus? In particular, the leads are killer and the chorus fills 100% unbeaten. Are you satisfied from your contribution or you felt a little bit pushed/stressed in the writing/recording period for Virus?

Thank YOU! When I was in writing mode I sat at my studio drinking coffee playing my heart out 24/7. I try to get into the song when I do my guitars, not just play, but get the feeling, soul of the track in attitude, sound and performance…and I am very proud of the result. I never felt stressed, we had the songs ready for a while before we even recorded them, so everyone knew the songs inside out.

Really, how did you come with this album title?

I don't remember, to be honest…I know we were brainstorming a lot and titles like L.U.S.T., Instinct and stuff was on the table.

A couple of questions 'bout Randy: how did you meet in the first place?

I bought the 900lb. Steam album and got really disapointed in the production…IT WAS IN MONO for fuck sake!!!! I mailed Piper's manager at the time and said I'd remix the album for free since I hate the fact that a hero of mine sounded worse than anything I hear in a long time….the songs rocked, the performance was great too, but the sound…

So anyway…we started talking and when the band was going out on tour to promote 900lb… they asked me to join on guitar since Chris Holmes couldn't leave California for legal causes…I had to turn it down since I was too busy with ZAN CLAN at that point. We kept in touch and after a while Piper and Rich called me and asked if we should try to write something.

First song was I Am Alone, a heavy dark track…hmmm…I forgot about that one lol, might just record that for the next album, haha!! Anyway…we started working and the rest is history.

Spending time with Randy, how valuable his W.A.S.P. experience would you say has been in ANIMAL's music/vibe? You think - knowing him better day by day - he did not manage to achieve what he deserved being in W.A.S.P.?

His background is - of coz - important to the band…NEVER forget your roots. And since I am a W.A.S.P. fan, the sound is in my blood too. I think Piper left W.A.S.P. for other reasons than just musically..I know he became a father at that point, too…not easy being home 1 week and on tour 9 months at the time when you have a family.

From your impression all these years, plus from your cooperation with Randy, do you agree - as often said in the Press - that Blackie Lawless really is a 'difficult' person? Just an opinion, if you want.

I think he is a bussiness minded man… For good and bad…I met him once, very nice guy…But I have never worked with him so I can't really say anything. He should reunite the original line up of W.A.S.P., I would be standing at the front row cheering, hahahaha!!!

Back to Virus: two-dimensional albums have a risk in the making, in my opinion. To expand: Virus has the dynamics to please both hardrockin' metallers and more 'melodic' Rock fans. Do you thing it'll eventually do so? You know, there are persons - and periods in music - that someone was his music/bands strictly one thing. In all three ANIMAL releases (well, so and so in the first one…) I've been satisfied in both my Hard Rock and Heavy Metal wants. Do you think the same can apply to the average listener?

I hope so…as I said, we just write music WE like…I think the listener can hear when a song is honest…we play from our hearts and with our balls!

Is there a certain story for picking up Zombie for a cover version?

We sat and talked about songs that annoyed us in someway…I was working as a music teacher at the time Zombie was a hit with CRANBERRIES…ALL my bands wanted to learn how to play that song and Delores' vocals was about to kill me after hearing it a million times. So, anyway, I said I hated that song…Rich didn't remember which song that was, so I looked it up on YouTube to play it to him…and we went goddamn what a good song that is!!!! Lyrics are amazing and so on…so we said almost sync Let's try to make a cover of it, it would be awesome on the album!!!.

Would you tell us a thing or two about the lyrics' concept? Is there a general idea behind the lyrics?

I was ill during the period of writing…I was in out of the hospital and the doctors couldn't find out why I was in so much pain…Later on they found out I had  gallstones. Songs like Don't Wanna Die is based on that. Shoot To kill is about the Killings in Virginia. Crying Eagle is about dying. Cardiac Arrest is about working yourself to death…You know…it was just an intense period of my life and being in pain, working, not knowing if you gonna live tomorrow you look at life in another way…The lyrics on this album is something I am very proud of.

Chris, a DVD release from ANIMAL has also been announced in the near future. Is there an official release date now set? Also, do you have in mind what exactly the menu would be?

No date is set…we wanna wait til Virus has been released worldwide. The DVD is ready, it is basically a DVD I made for the guys in the band as a gift, but the label loved it and asked if we could see it being released. It is like being a fly on the wall… The story of, with old live clips from 1987! 2007 rehearsals, interviews, photo sessions, signings, recording the album and tons of music…there is 8 videos live-sound taken from a show in Sweden with live motion pics from different shows. It also has the whole Sweden Rock Festival show as bonus.

The quality is not the best, but if you are a fan of the band you will love what is included anyway…I know I get happy everytime I see it!

How was summer for ANIMAL? You played any gigs? What was the reaction of the crowd in new songs (Virus was not released yet)?

We haven't played since last year…but we are planning on touring early 2009.

So, apart from ANIMAL, what's the story for ZAN CLAN? No news for a long time, I'm afraid. How's Zinny? Are you preparing something new together?

ZAN CLAN is kind of on ice right now…Me, Koleberg and Grizzly is in ANIMAL, I just produced Zinny's old reunited band EASY ACTION's latest single, I also produced Rob Loves' new band DYNAZTYRob also plays the solo on Don't Wanna Die…we're all a big happy family hahaha!

I spoke to Zinny last night, we will make a new ZAN CLAN album soon. We have about 18 songs written BUT we don't have a label so we need to get that going before we hit the studio.

Chris Laney as a producer: having a 'close taste' of Sweden's new R'n'R/Sleaze/Hard Rock scene, what was the spark that resulted in the Scandinavian fire? CRASHDIET, ZAN CLAN, CRAZY LIXX, GEMINI FIVE, BABYLON BOMBS and the list goes on. You think this typhoon will last?

Well, I think ZAN CLAN and CRASHDIET were the bands that got people into the Hard Rock thing again in Sweden. Now it is snowballing, there is a million new bands popin up everywhere…I think it will last, I hope it will spread all over the world. People wants to be entertained and Rock bands now how to deliver.

I am producing the upcoming BABYLON BOMBS album, starting on Monday. I am currently doing some pre-production with CRAZY LIXX looking thru songs for their next album. It seems like it will be a rocking future ahead!

Chris, thanks a lot for your precious time. Really hope all the best for ANIMAL and all your activities, too!

Thank YOU Greg for you interest for the band and me…It was one of the best questions I have read so far. Thank you!Chris Laney


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