Tony O'Hora on Horakane's "Eternal Infinity"Interviewed By Jon Hinchliffe on 2nd April 1999. I welcome any comments or criticisms of my interviews. If you have any additional questions you feel I have missed let me know.
JH - When was "Eternal Infinity" recorded?
TO - Some of the songs actually made it from the demo stages so it probably started being recorded 18 months ago really. I was just adding to it all the time whenever I got time.
JH - So was it done at your Studio?
TO - Yes.
JH - So how did you go about writing the songs ?
TO - Well if you listen to the message on the CD I mention a couple of these songs I had already written when I met Tino and Chris. And they were only really rough demos but they wanted to hear something with my voice on it. So I gave them that and three songs on the album were actually early demos and everything else I tended to write fairly quickly. Most of it is written on guitar actually because it is quite riffy. And I just wrote in batches it tended to be... Out of the first five demos I had 3 that I was happy with. I think there were 3 batches of five. And I just picked what I was happy with.
JH - You start with the music and then add the vocals?
TO - Yes
JH - So were the originals that you demoed to Tino in the same sort of format? This isn't the original "Remember My Name" is it?
TO - No, no, it's not and originally I was going to put the earliest "Remember My Name" straight from OK demos I had because that is where they heard the song. But it was done on a four track and I listened to the DAT and I thought "Mmm I don't know". I may see if we can put it on a bonus track on something else in the future because I know a couple of people that have said they would like to hear it because it is vastly different. And it is hugely different from the one I recorded. What I have tried to do with this one is like I said in the Japanese interview. There is no way I was trying to improve the Mantis one because I prefer what they have done with it. But I wanted people to hear what I heard in my head when I wrote it. I wrote it with quite a heavy sound and they striped it all away. What I was trying to do was recreate the original demo but it still hasn't come out the way I wanted.
JH - That's always the way! How did you meet and choose the musician's ?
TO - Well the main guy is obviously Jamie (O'Kane. The Kane in Hora-Kane). And he is probably one of the first guys I met when I came to England in 1988. We meet up at a gig in London or something he had advertised for a singer in "Melody Maker". I didn't meet up with him again until about 1992 when I was in a band with him called High Wire. We used to do all the "Marquee" circuit and things like that. So I was in a band with him for about a year and a half. But I knew his kind of guitar playing was for that kind of music. And with the other players that has got complicated! I was at a Judas Priest gig in Wolverhampton and I meet Steve and Brian (who I knew from a band I used to play in) And they asked what I was doing. I told them. They said "Great if you ever play live me and Steve are your men" I suggested they come down and play some parts on the album. Brian said "Don't worry if you are going to program the drums just stick my name down as an additional musician". That way if ever there were some live dates there is some history. I.e. they wouldn't go "Who are these two guys". The problem came about because Pony Canyon wanted some info and rough mixes half way through the recording. (When we were hoping to get them to record) So we sent them some and unfortunately the Burnn! Advert made a big thing of their names. This then annoyed their managers. I hope when they see the credits in the album things will be OK again. it was just an unfortunate mistake the Burrn! Advert and it has caused me some big problems.
JH - So what about the other musicians? Ivan Gunn was that just programming the drums ?
TO - Yes
JH - And he is an actual musician ?
TO - Yes he is a keyboard player and plays with "Balance of Power". But he was also very handy with some of the arranging because a lot of the songs are different to the state they were when he came up. He spent about ten days with me arranging and mixing. And a lot of the songs are now in completely different formats to how they were.
JH - What about Chris Dale who is he?
TO - He used to be in Bruce Dickinson's band for about 3 years and he is now in "Balance of Power". And that was through a link with me and Jamie. Years back lvan Gunn phoned me up and said "Do you know any bass players?" And I said "Yeah Chris Dale. He is available." He actually played on five tracks on my demos none of the parts of which made the album. But because I programmed all of the bass and played some of the live bass, the programmed parts are based on what he played so I thought it only fair to credit him.
JH - Yes. And Nigel Rockett ?
TO - Nigel Rockett actually played on it. He is the guitarist from "Onslaught" that I was in a band with for years. And he only lives an hour down the road so he played on "Voices" which is the really heavy de-tuned guitar track.
JH - And did Tino get to do his lead guitar? (Tino mentioned he was due to go and record with Tony just after he caught his fingers on a power tool)
TO - He didn't in the end so what we did in the end on "Remember My Name" was at the beginning of the chorus, there is a bit of a acoustic guitar. That is Tino's guitar but that was actually part of the original recording if you would. And so was the vocal. It was just taken from the Praying Mantis recordings and restructured. Tino did want to play on it but what happened was when we were rushing to meet our deadline they gave us more time to try and organise it. And then Tino was going on holiday and they wanted the masters by the time he got back. So he said "Just send them what you can for now and then if I get time when I come back I will do it". And when he got back he didn't have time so he said "Don't worry about it" so... I mean at one point the idea was to get every one involved but with me moving house and everything it was such a bloody nightmare. I mean I listen to the album now and I am really disappointed the mix and stuff. There are some tracks where you can barley hear the drums and the guitars are way too loud. You set out with all the best will in the world but there never seems to be enough time, you know?
JH - Yeah and you can never get it to your perfect satisfaction any way.
TO - No. No. Funnily enough I was having this conversation with Chris the other day. We have worked out the tentative schedule for the next album. And we are hoping to have everything recorded and ready to mix by 2nd week of August and we have been given a date of mid September to deliver the masters for November release. So Chris said "For once (This has never happened but) we are in the ideal position of being able to record the album, mix it and then live with it" And this is of course what you would like to do. Finish the masters, pretend it is finished and live with the thing for two weeks. Listen to it then be able to go and make any changes that you want. Of course that will never happen. I said to him "With the best will in the world I can guarantee we will still be there at the last minute. If it has never happened before it won't happen this time". I think it is just some kind of utopia people think about.
JH - Yeah there are always delays no matter what the project is
TO - Of course there is. People say "Oh we can record that in a week" and you can guarantee it will be two weeks. It's funny.
JH - And who was Paul Heeren?
TO - Paul Heeren is a good friend of mine. He played on the original of "Remember My Name". But he did play a few little guitar parts for me before he moved to Australia. But I don't suppose he would be of any name in the music business. He did write and record the sound track to
JH - Is there going to be a UK or European release of the album?
TO - Yes we have just negotiated a deal this week for Germany.
JH - How much did you actually play? Do you play bass and do you play guitar ?
TO - Yeah I played the bulk of all rhythm guitars. I played all the live bass which is four tracks and I programmed mostly all of the rest. Jamie played the rhythms on "" and Nigel did the ones on "Voices". I played all the other rhythm guitars
JH - So how long have you been playing guitar?
TO - I am sort of a bit of a busker really. I used to be able to play just a few chords on an acoustic. Just enough to sort of mumble along to. But because I and Jas play a duo at the weekends doing cover songs, and a lot of it is like classic rock covers, when we started that I was just a singer. I could barely play guitar and I thought well I may as well try learning now because I had a lot of piano lessons when I was a kid and stuff. So basically only about four and a half years. Because I have had to play live every weekend, we do about three gigs a week, my playing just got better and better. I just had to practice because I was playing like an idiot and people we just laughing. You think "Oh my God I better get better quick!"
JH - So you can play Keyboards as well?
TO - Yeah. It's really handy for writing more than anything I mean I prefer just singing. I prefer the Mantis set up where we have two really good guitarists and I can just sing and run around. I wouldn't fancy playing live I don't think. It's just handy for writing and recording.
JH - "Over The Edge" is very Judas Priest sounding?
TO - Yes it is very Priesty. Funnily enough that was on the first demo that I gave Tino. And it didn't sound to dissimilar. It sounded pretty much the same. But for example we were talking about arrangements and how Ivan helped. You know where the vocal comes in and the track stops well it used just pound all the way through. He said "Look because it is such a heavy vocal why don't we just stop everything there and have it like question and answer with the guitar". And you hear it right away which I quite like but it does sound very Rob Halford. But erm that song was written really, really, quick
because when I first meet Ivan a couple of years back he said "Can you send me some stuff"?. And when he got it he said "Oh I didn't realise how light weight it was. Some of it reminds me of Winger. Can you send me something heavier?". I went upstairs and it was at the time I was still in the running for the auditions for Judas Priest and I sort of knocked that track out and I thought I want something to be very Priesty. I was trying to think of something like "Free Wheel Burning" or some thing like that. So that was deliberate it was supposed to sound Priestish.
JH - And the guitar start of Voices sounded vaguely like Ozzy's Perry Mason
TO - Probably. Funnily enough that's weird that song because Jamie wrote all the music but he didn't play the rhythm guitars on it, Nige did. Jamie had put them down but only roughly and we wanted to get a better sounding guitar so when Nige came up he said "This reminds me of Ozzy but I don't know which track." So I never thought of that. I think I have got that album I will have to go and have a listen in a minute.
TO - Yeah "Hold On" is the one I am least happy with because on the demos it was one of the best songs but the mix on the album I think is shit. The vocals are too quiet and the guitars to loud it should have been a lot thicker. And for the European release I am going to remix a couple of tracks which will make it even more interesting. They were from the same set of demos but I never saw the as being that similar actually.
JH - No it's just something that occurred to me the last couple of days. I haven't had checked it out yet. (It is the start of "Hold On" and the slow drum part of the middle of "End Of An Era" I was thinking of )
TO - It can be quite difficult. As I said to Chris from Mantis, I admired his song writing on the last album because it was so varied and it can be very difficult sometimes if you are writing all the stuff yourself because you can go "Oh this is a good riff. Where have I heard this before?" and you find out it is in three other songs you have just written. You end up using the same old little tricks. You have to be careful.
TO - Yes it also reminds me of "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark" in a way as well. I have noticed that with a couple of Mantis songs. But you can't get away from that I don't think.
JH - Whose idea was it to add the Karaoke mix and the message?
TO - The message was my idea because when we were in Japan I was speaking with Pony Canyon and we were discussing release dates and things. And I said "Look I have been here twice now and I see how faithful the fans are and the last thing I want them to think is 'Oh, oh the singer is leaving'" So I said I wanted to put a message on there to explain this is just something I had to release on the side but everything is still "A" Ok with Mantis. And they were really pleased with that. The Karaoke mix was just a bit of an off the cuff ideao in the end because it doesn't take two seconds to just mute the vocal. It was influenced by something Koh Sakai (From Burrn!) told me when we were over there. He said Megadeath had released a five track EP with no vocals on it. I said "What?" he said "Oh so fans can sing along at home" And so I mentioned it to Pony Canyon when I gave them the master. I said "There is a mix of 'Remember My Name' with no vocal so that Mantis fans can have something to sing along to". They said normally they wouldn't condone this but because they loved the track so much "Yes Ok". It always had a question mark beside it and it was up to them to decide whether to put it on or not.
JH - So how did the album actually come about with Pony Canyon? Was it to tie in with Demorabilia (and Dennis's Lionheart stuff)?
TO - Well no but I think it is quite nice that they tied up at the same time. Because at the moment what is really good that Mantis have done well in the readers polls in Burrn! this year. And an issue or two ago there was the live report. So the bands name is still up. Because the worst thing you can do is go over there and tour and then with all the other bands going there everyone forgets who you are. So when we had a band meeting last week we all agreed we really must get the next album out for November so that we can capitalise on all the progress. Without wanting to sound corny we are still on the crest of a wave sort of thing and whereas if we left it any longer, it is such a competitive market, we might not be able to sell any records. But the idea of this album is kind of the other way around. Ivan Gunn had gone to Japan to do some licensing for someone else and he play my rough demos to Pony Canyon. And he said this is a project I am working on "Would you be interested when it is finished?" They said "Oh yes, we would be interested in licensing that". They asked where I was from. "He is an English singer" and they said "Oh Praying Mantis need a singer". So Ivan came hone and said "They want to do your solo thing but erm can you get in touch with this guy Tino. They are looking for a singer." So I met up with Tino and Chris that week and I said to them that Ivan had been in Japan trying to sort out this Heavy Metal project album which they are all up for but if it works out with Praying Mantis we'll just shelve that until a later date. I promised them that when I was doing Praying Mantis that is all I would be doing. I would never try and wear two hats. I mean even the times we were in Japan I never mentioned this album to anyone even though I knew it was coming out soon. Because it is not the right thing to do. So it wasn't like I joined Praying Mantis and have now got this other idea. This idea was actually first. I had those demos written that long ago. And so it was only then they said we would like to release this around March and then with Demorabilia and the Lionheart thing I think it's really good.
JH - Yes because even though you have all been separated in a way you have all (except Bruce) got projects out. It's sort of like the Kiss solo albums.
TO - No. No. And it gives the fans plenty off stuff to get on with while we do the next album. So I think it is really good the way they released them on the same day actually.
JH - You didn't have any concerns it might reduce sales?
TO - Erm no not really because I think, I sort of imagined the people that are going to buy this will just buy it. I think whatever it sells in the first month or two will be virtually 90% of it's sales sort of thing. It's either the sort of Heavy Metal kind of kid. I don't think it is competitive with Demorabilia. I was talking about this with Jas "If it is as you describe there people will probably just buy it. Some will probably have bought both on the same day". We met fans over there that bought two copies of "Forever In Time" just so that they could come to the record store signings, you know? They are pretty dedicated.
JH - Have you heard how it is doing?
TO - No, Ivan was going to check next week. Apparently it did 3,000 in the first couple of days. So it's not to bad. I just want it to sell enough so that they are pleased with it. I am not to concerned about selling tons. This one is just like having a door on the right-hand side that I can open up and put out a load of other songs, you know? Some of these songs I really like. My favourite is probably "End Of An Era" but we couldn't do it with Praying Mantis because it's just not Mantis. It doesn't mean they are crap songs. It's just Mantis have a certain style and I don't think hardly any of these would fit in. I think it is great to be able to record them and get them out of you head sort of thing.
JH - Are you going to have more of an active role in the writing this time?
TO - I hope so. I have a couple of ideas. Chris has already written 5 or 6 songs and 2 of them are real stonkers I think. Very much in the line of "Forever In Time" really. They are just keyboardy demos at the moment but you can hear what they are going to be. What we agreed at the meeting was it doesn't matter if Bruce wrote all the songs (the standing joke at the UK warm up gigs) as long as it sounds like Mantis. It's not a competitive thing with them which is nice.
JH - Who did the album cover or what was the basis of the design?
TO - I really like it actually. When I first got it I wasn't so sure. The guy who did it is called Sebastian Kozak. He lives in Manchester. He has done a couple of album covers. He did one for Ten and one for Crown Of Thorns which is quite an elaborate cover. And it just an idea on the title being "Eternal Infinity". He thought about this crystal ball business but he has purposely made that face sort of Japanese. Because this album is mainly meant for Japan. It took me a while to get used to it but what I did like about it, I mean it looks great all packaged up, you know what kind of music it is. It reminds me like a cross between an old Kiss album cover.
JH - Yes 'Rock and Roll over'
TO - Or Queen (A Day at the Races) or something like that. Especially with the font and the actual text and everything. As it is wrapped up on the shelf between the front cover and the back with the writing and everything you can tell it is a rock album. So I like it in that aspect it has really grown on me.
JH - Yeah I really liked it but then I am partial to Black and White. So he is from Manchester. I expected him to be in house Japanese.
TO - No, no we supplied them with everything. I mean the packaging is brilliant but we actually supplied the artwork and they just printed it.
JH - Ah so that is why they did the B&W book for the Japanese parts.
TO - Yeah. I like the way they have done that actually. It is good. I must say between this and Demorabilia Pony Canyon have to be commended on their packaging because they do that very well.
JH - You say "End Of An Era" is your favourite as well? Why?
TO - I think because the whole sound of it is the closest to what I wanted the whole album to sound like. It's got that kind of live sound to it and a little bit of space. But I didn't want this album to sound really polished. I could have layered it with keyboards and sweetened it all up. I wanted it to sound edgy almost as if it was a live band kind of thing and I think "End Of An Era" is closest to that for me soundwise.
JH - Do you think you will play any of these live.
TO - I don't know. It won't be with Mantis I wouldn't have thought. I think if there were to be any live dates it would be after another album in all reality. Unless it sells well in Germany and they offer some dates. But as of now the plan is no.
JH - Yoko Abe wanted to know how you came to meet Brain from Cathedral?
TO - The thing is I was in a band with Brian in Torreno(???) for a couple of years. We used to play together when I was in Liverpool. I was the singer in Torreno and we toured all over Britain. Once again the club scene, which was a good laugh. So I know him from back then.
JH - She also wanted to know Jamie's Biography.
TO - Basically I know him from the Highwire days. He has done quite a few bits of session work lately. Once again he grew up with the kind of heavy metal guitar school sort of thing and that style of playing is so out of fashion now. He's played on the telly and he was in Mama's Boys for a while actually. That's the only rock band really.
JH - What sort of bands do you listen to normally?
TO - It really is right across the board from Metallica to the Eagles. I love a lot of that souly stuff for instance I love Maria Carey and things like that. I also love bands like Queensryche and Judas Priest. It is just whatever my mood is. It might be Eagles one day Bon Jovi the next. I have go quite a varied collection. This stuff is probably reflective of what I was listening to when I was 15-20. You know because I grew up near Detroit. I used to go to all the concerts and I saw Kiss and all those other bands there. It's probably my favourite music at heart.
JH - How old are you?
TO - 31
JH - Well I think that is it. Thank you very much.
TO - Thank you very much.