Let’s start with your latest recording. When you look back at it now what kind of feelings do you have for it?
-Mainly a feeling of accomplishment because it took several years for everything to come together. I was out of music for a long time before getting the itch again around 2011 after talking to our old bass player, Cat Tate. At first, we tried to get the other guys who were in the original LIGHTNING STRIKES involved, which didn’t happen, I we had to look for new players to get involved. We started re-working some of our old material and wrote new songs and bit by bit got the guys involved you now hear on the album, Rob Math from Leatherwolf on guitar, Tony Martin from Black Sabbath on vocals, Brazil native Nando Fernandes on vocals, and Noah from Avanchick, also on vocals, plus Derek Sherinian from Dream Theater and Billy Idol’s band on keyboards, and Masayo Ishigure on koto.
I am fascinated by band names. What was it that made you settle on the one you have and what does it mean to you?
-LIGHTNING STRIKES is something myself and a guitar player by the name of Levon Mkhsigevorkian came up with when we began to jam together back in 1983. This was before LIGHTNING STRIKES even existed as a band. To me, it’s a cool name that fits a metal band. Heavy metal is the most powerful music in the world and a strike of lightning is an amazingly powerful, electrifying (literally!) thing, one of Mother Nature’s most awe inspiring displays!
What does it mean to you that there are people out there that actually appreciate and look forward to what you are doing?
-It’s very gratifying, of course. It is very human to want approval and artists want to be appreciated and loved for what they do (even those that claim they’re only doing it for themselves). It’s pretty damn cool to get e-mails and comments on social media from people around the world who’ve discovered LIGHTNING STRIKES and love the album and want to hear more. I love how the internet has brought bands and fans together where instant feedback and one-on-one communication is possible.
How important is image to the band? What impression do you want the fans to get of the band?
-I think image is important to a degree although less so now that I’m older than back in the day when the original LIGHTNING STRIKES played the Hollywood scene at the height of the Sunset Strip craze and image seemed to be more important than the music in some cases. We never indulged in any kind of glam outrageousness (no embarrassing photos to hide from the public, ha ha!) – we were more into the classic denim and leather metal look.
I am a huge fan of LP art work. How important is it to have the right art work for your album?
-I think everyone wants their album to have great, eye catching artwork because artwork that stands out will automatically attract potential fans and buyers. Let’s be honest – we’ve all bought albums because we thought the artwork looked killer! A band like Iron Maiden has made a fortune off their iconic album covers translated to merch items. They must be making way more money off merch than they ever did from record sales. Rod Smallwood was a genius for hiring Derek Riggs to create Eddie. That character and its many incarnations has created a never ending bonanza for them.
We live in a superficial world today where you don’t exist if you are not on Youtube and Facebook. Has social media been only beneficial in socializing with the fans or is there a down side to it too?
-Social media has been very important to us because LIGHTNING STRIKES is not an active touring band at this point. So the only direct interaction with fans happens on Facebook and the other social media platforms. I can’t say there’s been a downside to the whole social media aspect for us – no stalkers or rude people yet! I guess, one of the downsides of social media is the part it plays in de-mystifying rock’n’roll because everybody puts everything out there. When I grew up, there was a real air of mystery about the bands you loved because other than magazine articles, which were mostly few and far between, you’d have no way of knowing anything. Going to concerts was the only way to really connect with your favorites – unless you were persistent enough to hang around after shows in hopes of getting an autograph or a quick photo taken. Those were very different times indeed.
When you play in a band does it feel like you are a part of a massive community? That you belong to something that gives meaning to your life?
-I am not doing music full-time these days and, as I mentioned above, LIGHTNING STRIKES is not a touring band so there is no feeling of massive community in that sense because I’m not hanging out with other musicians day and night. But, we are part of the global metal community and it’s great to get virtual feedback from all four corners of the globe, from Japan to Brazil to Germany and right here in the U.S., via social media and e-mails. I wouldn’t say that belonging to a scene is giving meaning to my life – but music has always been import to me in my life, both as a fan and as a musician.
When you are in the middle of it do you notice what state our beloved music scene is in? Is the scene healthy or does it suffer from some ailment?
-I think the metal scene is pretty healthy these days if you look at the amount of releases, tours, and festivals out there. Of course, sales are not what they used to be due to illegal downloading and the streaming services, and metal is not supported by terrestrial radio and MTV like it used to be back in the 80’s. I guess, one negative factor is that there are too many bands out there that sound the same – there was definitely more originality back in the 70’s and 80’s where most bands really had their own distinct sound. Either way, there is still some really good newer stuff out there whether you’re into traditional hard rock/metal or other subgenres. You just have to take the time and dig a little deeper nowadays.
How much of a touring band are you guys? How hard is it to get gigs outside of your borders?
-As I mentioned earlier, we are not a touring band and likely never will be. When I put this line-up of LIGHTNING STRIKES together, the goal was to make the album we never got to do back in the 80’s and to just have fun making music again. Pulling the people together for gigs that are featured on the album would be a real challenge and require a financial investment since Tony (Martin) lives in the UK, Nando (Fernandes) is in Brazil, and Noah resides in Japan. And Derek (Sherinian) likely wouldn’t be available because he is so busy with different things.
What will the future bring?
-As far as LIGHTNING STRIKES is concerned, I really don’t know at this point. We’ll certainly let the fans know when we have news.