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Neal Grusky (Takara)

Interview with Neal Grusky from Takara
by Grigoris Chronis at 01 February 2009, 6:14 PM

With a new album after 6+ years, it's nothing less than grand news for the melodic Hard Rock world to have a brand new TAKARA CD around. Invitation To Forever shall not - by any means - let down old loyal fans plus a new generation can as well get trapped to the band's dynamic/melodic sound. Mainman Neal Grusky sends us his thoughts regarding this new release, plus he swears TAKARA is here to stay from now on.

Interview with: Neal Grusky from TAKARA.

Well, Neal, we would not ask nothing else - for a start - than why it took so long for TAKARA to release a new album? Was it your own decision to put the band on ice for a while or you had other obstacles preventing you from carrying on (e.g. lineup problems, label issues etc)?

Initially, I intended to take some time off, and write for the next album. I also realized that during this time I didn't need to rush to get a new album out since the music scene was still in a rather good sized transition period that was not to supportive to bands such as TAKARA. As I proceeded to work on the follow up album, I experienced the passing of my father, and one of my best friends, as well as some major personel life transitions. Due to these circumstances, this is what delayed the release of the new TAKARA album Invitation To Forever. With all the time off it was important for me to make sure that our new album was a really great TAKARA album.

It is finally great to see TAKARA back on the map. So, tell us a few things about the period preparing the new album, Invitation To Forever.

As I mentioned before I was writing songs the whole time for this new album. I had quite a lot when I was ready to start deciding which ones I was going to put on the new album. It's interesting that I left off may songs that were quite good, but were too reminiscent of past TAKARA albums. I was looking for this album to make a statement, and forge ahead with a new, and somewhat more contemporary sound. I think in the end I was able to achieve what I set out to do sonically with the new album.

Are there any songs - I wonder - included in the new album acting as leftovers from the previous albums?

Actually there are a couple of songs that predate the first TAKARA album Eternal Faith. I had written these songs, and forgotten about them till I ran across them accidentally in my archives. Granted, they are quite changed now from their original versions, but still retain what I wanted them to achieve.

The new lineup seems hungry for letting out some good music indeed. How did you meet new singer Gus Monsanto, first of all? We can see he has credits in many songs in Invitation To Forever. Was it an initial thought to cooperate with him in the songs' making anyway, or it's something that happened on the way?

Gustavo is another great singer and friend. He came to me through online news clip I posted shortly after Michael left the band. Gustavo and I share a lot in common views, and tastes when it come to our musical direction. One things we don't share is our tastes in food! He knows what I mean!

As far as writing with Gus went, we completely clicked. It was truly amazing, and we both felt it. I had intended right from the start to collaborate with Gus on the new material for this new album. I am looking forward to the next album to work with Gus again! You are right about the lineup too, we are very hungry to release some great music. I have a feeling we have some really great stuff ahead of us to write.

You have already stated you think Invitation To Forever bears a more 'heavier' attitude. Could you explain this a little bit more, since many 'melodic' fans of the band should know what to expect from 2009's TAKARA in regards to your previous discography?

I think through and through the new album represents a much heavier attitude. The edger vocals, guitars, drums, and keyboards are a big part of the heavier sound . Much of this is also attributed to the music of course. The combination of everything all together create an album that makes me feel like we achieved what we set out to do for this new album.

The cover artwork is immense again! Tell us a little bit who took care of it and in what way is it associated to the album's music. Is there any direct link to any song(s)?

I became involved with Guilherme through Gustavo. Gustavo and Guilherme are very close friends in Brazil. He is an amazing artist. He incidentally revamped our site , and our site as well. He is fanstastic. I can't say enough about him. Actually, there is no relation to the lyric song content. It was just a great art package that I fell in love with from the first time I saw it. He actually did this work without a word or advice or direction from me.

You believe a book should or not be judged by its cover, by the way?

Every book deserves a nice cover to represent what is inside. Ultimately, the book has to be judged by its contents, not its wrapping. I truly hope at the end of the day people out there will be happy with our album package from the cover, to the music contained inside.

The lyrics are another remarkable thing in the new album. Is it Gus' concepts penned or you did contribute ideas too? Some songs seem to have a 'personal life story' attribute, to be honest.

I will tell you all the TAKARA albums as you might know always contain at least one song, or more that I wrote the lyrics on, then the rest of the lyrics are the singer's creation . This new album Invitation to Forever was no different. I wrote almost all the music, as well as one song of lyrics. I wrote the ballad This Photograph. All my songs are a reflection of my views, opinions, and feelings on things around me. This song was no different. It was written for my dad shortly after he passed. It is dedicated to him as well. While he was with us, he was always a big fan of my music, particularly my ballads. So, I wrote one special for him. I am sure he would have loved this one too. His favorite song of mine to the best of my knowledge was Colors Fade from our Eternal Faith album.

You decided to re-record Spotlight from the late 1993 debut CD, Eternal Faith. Is there any special reason you thought about re-recording this splendid song? Was Gus nervous enough, in regards to Jeff Scott Soto's original vocals?

I love this song Spotlight. I always have. You know when we rehearsed it for fun a few times, and it just sounded terrific. Then I though you know, it has been 20 years since it was first recorded. There is a whole new group of fans who maybe have never heard this song. Why do other peoples music, when I can if I want redo my own? I wont be making a regular thing out of redoing my own songs. This was quite worth it for me personally. Gus was excited to redo this song too. He was no nervous at all about rerecording it. We had a great time, it was worth it.

Speaking 'bout Jeff, in what ways has he contributed to the new album? Did you initially ask him to handle the lead vocals? Did you use any advice from him regarding the preparations of the new album, in any way?

I asked Jeff to help us out on back round vocals on 5 songs. That was all he did for us. He was amazing as always. He is a living legend, and I think most people realize someone like him comes along maybe once in a lifetime at best. It would have been great to have him there more for production. I never did ask him for more than back round vocals since Gus is an official band member. Maybe someday it would be great if him and I were able to collaborate again on a song. Who knows what the future holds for us. For right now I am concentrating on producing TAKARA albums.

I admit I was a little bit worried reading TAKARA's new album would be issued via a label called ProgRock Records, haha! How did you come in contact with them anyway? Was it before or after you had finalized the making of Invitation To Forever?

The combo of ProgRock and TAKARA who would have thought?!? I was in contact with them during the process of the album. My friend , and PR guy Nicky Baldrian referred them to me. It was a perfect match. We hit it off right away. It was like a great relationship from the start. In the end Progrock sought to expand the music they were signing, and we sought the kind of support they have to offer. Incredible promotion, and band support.

Are you planning to extend you deal with Progrock Records? To be honest, I was assuming a new TAKARA album to be released via e.g. Frontiers Records or AOR Heaven. Did you get in touch with them or vice versa?

I am expecting to extent our deal with ProgRock. We also have a deal with SPV for Europe. Progrock and SPV work together on releases. Incidently, AOR Heaven does sell our albums too. We the band offer CD sales via either of our websites too, and Many people have bought their CDs direct from us already. We ship worldwide. We encourage people to go to our sites and buy if they like.

Neal, have you lined up any dates in support of the new album? Are you looking forward to hit the lights onstage in the near future? If so, will you preserve the same lineup?

We have some tentative plans for shows. There is 2 huge festivals that have stated desire to have us perform. We are awaiting confirmation as we speak right now. I am excited, and ready to perform. I know the TAKARA fans have been patient, and we hope to reward their patience hopefully soon. As far as the lineup goes time will tell. The drummer and bassist have many commitments, so that leaves us unsure of what we might have to look forward to with them. Gus and I are absolutely going to be there. Trust me it will be worth the wait.

With TAKARA being around for more than 15 years now, do you think the band's new album will stand the test of time? I think all your previous releases have been certified as 'memorable' to the majority of melodic Hard rock fans. What are the key points for Invitation To Forever that can make it another 'classic' TAKARA release?

Thank you very much for that kind compliment. You know we still sell many of the old albums via our site regularly. I have had many fans tell me that they are classic already. I am most proud of this. I think that the new album will be another TAKARA classic in 10 years! The key points to the new album is the great songs. This has been the key to TAKARA success over the years, and will continue to be. This new album will be no different either. Songs like Angel Of Lies, Final Warning etc will be the backbone of this album for sometime to come I think. It is the result of power, melody, dynamics. We put this all together into a catchy song that is a TAKARA trademark any day of the week.

Neal, thanks a lot for your useful information regarding the new TAKARA CD. Really hope you will accomplish everything you want with this new album. Plus, we wish we will not have to wait for another six years for the next album, haha!

Grigoris thank you so very much! Thank you for the opportunity to let me tell everyone a little bit about our new album and some classic TAKARA history. As far as the wait goes for another album, Forget It! It won't happened again. We are here to stay. I just want to thank all our fans for all your support and patience over the years. Keep rocking everybody and have a great new year in ' 09! Cheers and Peace! Neal Grusky.


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