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Iain Ashley Hersey

Interview with Iain Ashley Hersey from Iain Ashley Hersey
by Grigoris Chronis at 05 December 2008, 8:37 AM

Had raised my interest towards Iain Ashley Hersey's repute as soon as I listened to his second solo album, The Holy Grail, a couple of years ago. Would not miss the chance to talk to this notable 70s-like Hard Rock guitarist just after the release of his latest Nomad CD was out this October. A kind person to talk to, Iain Ashley Hersey can be the vintage guitarist you're looking for if keen on the supremacy of Hard Rock the classic way.

Hi Iain, greetings from Metal Temple magazine!

Hi! Thanks for getting in touch with me.

Due to the release of your latest -third in a row - studio album, Nomad, we must take the chance to let you inform us what's your solo career's timeline so far, since many Rock/Hard Rock fans surely aren't familiar with your name.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I am not a household word.  As far as my output goes it really has been based around finances more than anything else. The first CD Fallen Angel was released in 2000, which was a compilation of a lot of material that I had been working on for a long time. The Holy Grail was released in 2005 and this last one Nomad was released late 2008.

I had the chance to listen to your previous album, The Holy Grail, a couple (or more?) of years ago. Fact is I find Nomad to be more attractive, in terms not only of songwriting but also due to its more vintage sound. Which are the similarities and differences between these two albums, in your opinion?

I think with The Holy Grail I had carte blanch to do what I wanted. It had been a number of years since Fallen Angel and I feel since than that I had finally established, found my own voice musically so just went more with where my mood took me. Perhaps a bit more self-indulgent artistically.

Nomad was more of collaboration between Carsten and Steffen Seegi Seeger, the producer, who tried their best to steer my more into a stream lined format. A lot of this was due to feedback from The Holy Grail where the biggest critique was that the songs were bit too long. There was a lot of back and forth, some pulling of teeth but at the end of the day I think we ended up with a very strong CD.

Does the album's title relate - in any way - with something personal status/belief? Or not?

Actually, Carsten came up with the title. At the time we were starting to think of a title, I was in such a transitional geographic and emotional flux…bouncing around coming back from Europe after a bad management deal, roller coaster relationship issues, living in Europe, spending time in LA and the East Coast of the States, moving back to LA. He just suggested Nomad…which reflected my life perfectly.

Did it take you to long to complete the writing of the songs? Did you spend lots of time for the recordings, too? Which studio did you use, and which other musicians contributed help to the recordings, apart from Carsten Schulz?

When I'm in a writing mode it tends to go pretty quickly. The writing for both The Holy Grail and Nomad I did when I was living in Amsterdam. For some reason every time I have been there I just get into this very creative mode. And it has nothing to do with cannabis, as I don't smoke the stuff. Just a very inspirational city with a great vibe.

As far as the recordings go, we knocked out the bed tracks in Mannheim, Germany in Seegi's studio, Seegewerks Studio, in a couple of days. But keep in mind that all the pre-production and arrangements had already been worked out as well as I had previously laid out a reference guitar track. I redid the guitar tracks after coming back to the States and that took a little while. I have a modest studio in Maine at my folk's house and had to keep chasing the poor 84-year-olds out of the house so I could play loud guitars. I told them it was for their own good and that they would thank me for it later.

As far as the rest of the players, Carsten enlisted people that he knew and he did a fabulous job. Great players. I was very pleased with all of them. Jochen Mayer played bass and Frank Kraus played drums on the majority of the tracks. Thomas Hutch Bauer and Bernd Hermann played bass and drums on the last couple of tracks. The producer Seegi's brother Holger Seeger played hammond and keys. For the remake of RAINBOW's L.A. Connection, a song I've always been into as well as my 'nod of the head' to Ritchie and Ronnie, we got a couple of Scotts involved. Doogie White on vocals and Paul Logue from EDEN'S CURSE on bass.

OK! Speaking for Carsten, in particular, where did you meet him? How did you decide to work with him in the first place?

Lets see…I first got wind of Carsten via Stuart Smith who is now in the band SWEET. I don't know if Stuart was looking for a vocalist or Carsten just contacted Stuart out of the blue. I'm not sure how their connection came about. Anyway, Stuart and I always share and he gave me a recording of Carsten and said I might like to check this guy out. I really liked his voice so got in touch. This led to him singing, co-writing several tunes, on The Holy Grail. I really liked working with him. He didn't 'Fuck' around with stuff. He'd write lyrics, melodies and got it recorded very quickly. 'Killer' vocalist with a great work ethic. We didn't actually meet till after The Holy Grail was out. At the time I was in Germany and went to see a couple of shows he was doing with EVIDENCE ONE opening for Alice Cooper.

Aside from wanting to meet him, I wanted to see if he was a good live as he was in the studio, which he was as, as well as a killer frontman!

We should not forget, however, that you also had a great collaboration with 4(?) singers on the The Holy Grail CD, featuring Graham Bonnet. How did you approach a legend like Graham, really?

Actually, that was pretty simple. Graham did a local show here in L.A. some years ago and after the show when he came out of the dressing room I just went up and asked him if he would be interested in doing some tracks for me. He said sure! and gave me his number. At the time, I had three tracks left to finish on The Holy Grail and had Joe Lynn Turner in mind but couldn't really pin him down as he had a lot of other stuff going on at the time. I would never thought of Graham unless I had gone to that show. It worked out great.

Are you a supporter of the opinion that a good song does not necessarily need the best singer to 'shine on' or music speaks for itself? I thought this while listening again to songs like e.g. Sacrifice The Sun or Vintage Love, tracks with a great vibe and no-doubt quality.

I'm of the opinion that a good song shines no matter what but a great vocalist really enhances it. On The Holy Grail, aside from Carsten's and David Swan Montgomery's contributions plus my version of Going Down, all the rest of the tunes I wrote all the vocal melodies and 98% of the lyrics. Sure I could of sung it but why, when there are vocalists that could do it so much better than I and really do the songs justice. On Nomad, except for L.A. Connection, Carsten wrote all the vocal melodies and lyrics as well as with Seegi, helped with the arrangements. He just did a fantastic job.

I guess the point being, while sure I can come up with something I much prefer to have the vocalist do it, do their thing and add their stamp…signature to it. Let them feel like their more a part, involved with the tune. Much more interesting as well as less work for me.

When you're writing music for a new album, do you have a brief idea where you should be heading to, or you leave things come their way according to what you may jam to?

I think it's just best to let the music and ideas just flow. Once I have some concepts than yes, I do try to focus, channel it in a certain direction.

Have you decided on the gear you like to use when recording, in order to create the desired sound? Would you share a little bit of information but the equipment you used for the making of Nomad?

Basically I'm a Marshall, 'Strat' Cat and have used the same set up for all of my CDs. The main amp is a ' 67 100w Marshall that was modified by Reinhold Bogner, through a late ' 60's 4x12 Marshall Cabinet with 25w green backs. For the rhythm sound I use three tracks. One left, one right and one center. Sometimes I will use a different amp and or guitar as well as a Pod of Koch pre amp in order to beef it up and fill in all the frequencies. I also replay any parts that are doubled as well as play all the harmony parts.

Guitars are 'Strats'. My main axe for solos is, 'Green Meanie', which is a one-piece ash body from ESP and scalloped Fender custom shop neck with Seymour Duncan single coil stacks. The other axes I use for the rhythms are a couple of custom built 'Strats' I had made as well as my trusty ' 56 blonde…that's as in guitars not a women. But all these together…you just get a wall of sound. The solos incidentally, are only one guitar centered in the mix aside from some occasional panning.

Since Iain Ashley Hersey's music sounds kinda 'outdated' for young Rock fans, do you think under what circumstances such a fan can be attracted to more 'classic' Rock sounds? Today's youth seems more focused on non-stop aggression or no-reason depression, in my opinion.

I don't know if I really have an answer for that. All I know is that I do what I do, what I feel and feel true to. That being said, I would like to think as more of the younger audiences get more exposed to what is currently considered heavy; they might be inclined to investigate what influenced it. Go back to explore the roots of what they are currently into and perhaps open them up to an appreciation of some of the previous styles of Hard Rock, Heavy Metal.

For example, if someone got into LED ZEPPELIN or CREAM, they might actually look into the original American Blues artists that influenced ZEPPELIN and CREAM. Unfortunately, a lot of what is coming out now does nothing for me. Whatever the genre, heavy or not, for me music has to be musical and have melody. A lot of what I hear currently, while rhythmically might be very tight, it is just very aggressive and quite often with demonic sounding vocals with no melody or message. It's seems like it is more about attitude and hostility than musicality.

I see…OK, you do not seem too eager to spend much time on a rather informative website; I really had a tough time trying to find info about you when writing the review of Nomad. You kinda oppose to all this typhoon of information or ultra-promotion in our days or you simply have not decided to focus more on your personal website?

To be honest, it really is so much work to maintain and keep up with all that stuff. I know I should be more on top of it but the reality is in this day and age unless you can farm it out, hire a web person and publicist to manage, take care of it…unless you're a major artist, it really now has become a very much 'Do It Yourself' industry, which also translates into one has to really manage and optimize their time.

With MySpace, which is so much more streamlined than a standard website, basically does it all in a glance. Currently I think websites really seem to be more of a supplement, as most people in this time and age, just want to get a quick overview. Aside from a few things like the photo gallery, most of the links on my website go to my MySpace page which I do try to keep current. Bottom line, if I spent all my time on MySpace and the website, plus studying audio engineering, putting a band together, rehearsing the band…there would be no time left to play or write, which should be the priority.

Are you keen on playing live? Are there any dates set for the promotion of Nomad?

I absolutely love to play live. To me it is the best outlet. At the moment I am working on putting together some good friends, great players to go out and do some shows around the L.A. area. Start with a few shows here locally and then who knows…off to conquer the world. Honestly, I would love to get back over to Europe to do some shows.

Last but not least: both as a guitarist but also as a fan, which guitarist(s) you now think have contributed the most to what we call Rock/Hard Rock music? Are you fond more of the British or the American side?

I guess for me it would depend on what era.  For me growing up, Rock, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal was DEEP PURPLE and LED ZEPPELIN. Currently, I'm not sure what that defines as the terms seem to keep changing. Anyway, Jeff Beck is a classic. He has always evolved and stands as himself no matter what genre he is categorized in. Blackmore, definitely has his own signature and I feel Hard Rock would not be what it is today without his influence along with the writing of Jimmy Page or the innovative style of Jimi Hendrix.

Yngwie has definitely left a mark, raised the bar and inspired, spawned a whole new generation, school of guitar players, shredders. Though I'm not personally into the neo classical or shred thing I do appreciate him, as he is brilliant at what does. But there is without a doubt, even though he's taken to a different level, that Blackmore influence. That said and done, I guess I lean a bit more towards the British influence.

As far as current players that get me off: aside from Beck, I'm more into fusion players. Alan Holdswoth, Scott Henderson, Allan Hinds, Mike Stern, John Scoffield etc. Brent Mason is another 'killer' player. Most people think of him as a 'Country Cat' but this guy can play Jazz or 'rock out' with the best of them. Anyway, not necessarily household names in the Rock world, but amazing and inspiring players who push me to raise my bar as a player. I also love great Jazz sax and piano players. I'm just more into great phrasing, tone and things that are harmonically challenging as opposed to playing as fast as I can over a single mode.

Would you deal with more 'Heavy' sounds at some time in your career, I'd like to ask? These two sub-genres (Hard Rock and heavy Metal) are closely related, in my opinion, that's why I'm asking.

Actually, as opposed to getting heavier, which seems to be the trend at the moment, stylistically I would lean more towards a fusion or heavy Blues direction or pursue more of an instrumental direction ala what Jeff Beck has been doing. That way the guitar becomes the actual voice.

Iain, thanks a lot for your spare time; really glad you're around all these years serving good Rock music.

Thank you very much and I appreciate your taking the time to chat.


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