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Sue Willetts and Tim Manford (Dante Fox)

posted 9 Jan 2018, 08:21 by Paul Woodward

British Melodic Rockers Dante Fox return with a new album hot on the heels of their acclaimed ‘Breathless’ album. ‘Six String Revolver’ sees them revisiting their early albums and presenting updated versions of much loved classic Fox songs. Fireworks spoke to Sue Willetts and Tim Manford about revisiting the past.

Interview By Woody

The new Dante Fox album ‘Six String Revolver’ is made up of re-recorded versions of songs from the band’s first two albums. What was the inspiration or reasoning behind revisiting the band’s early songs?

Tim – Well those First Two albums are very close to our hearts and songs such as Firing My Heart, Under The City Lights, Lost And Lonely Heart still feature in our live set because they are great songs and work in a live environment.

Sue – I thought it would be a really good idea to re-record some of our original on the back of Breathless, Tim agreed and also felt that the original versions are not a good representation of who we are now in terms of our capabilities as artists and performers.

Tim - The first album was really made up of demos that Now and Then Records wanted to release. Back then if we had our way, we would have re-recorded the whole album and spent time on the performance and production quality. We wanted them to be reborn into the modern Dante Fox sound and style of Breathless and Lost Man’s Ground albums.

How do you personally feel about how this album has turned out?

Tim – I think it’s the strongest album of songs we have released so far and I absolutely love it and I think our fans will too. It feels like an album of brand new songs and I feel totally refreshed and satisfied with our work.

Sue - We feel that we have approached this in the right way keeping with the original essence of the song. We feel that with Al and Eric we have made improvements to the parts and arrangements where needed.

Tim - It’s all about the songs and that’s all that matters, I have tried to stay faithful to the originals but played better (I’m a much better player now I hope) creating a better tone and adding an extra bit of sizzle. I have to say that I think the lead vocals on this album are absolutely stunning and to this point it is a view that is running through every review I’ve seen so far.

When you approached this album did you worry how established fans may react to you recreating some beloved classic’s?

Sue – I did have some concerns and this was around whether we could make enough of a difference to justify the release, I absolutely think that we have.

Tim –No not at all because these songs are our creations and our DNA is all through them. Once we thought about choosing the songs we knew what they would need. I think the fans will relish hearing the songs getting our full professional treatment, as I touched on earlier we are so much better at what we do now and with Al and Eric this was a no brainer really.

When you were choosing which tracks to feature on this new album did you find it hard, given the quality throughout of both albums? And did the track list ever fluctuate once you started working on them?

Tim – It was quite easy really. The ten songs we have recorded are what we believe are the best songs but there are songs that HAD to be included such as  “Firing My Heart , Remember My Name, “Under The City Lights, Lost and Lonely Heart ” etc..

Sue - We originally included “Here I Stand” and “Don’t Call Me” but time was a factor too because our producer Sheena Sear was going to be a mom so mother nature decided on timescales and Sheena also had to finish the new Magnum album. So to make it happen we had to agree and keep to all rehearsals and recording sessions in order to finish it on time.

Tim -  I think “Don’t Call Me” would have been cool with Eric Ragno’s keyboard work and that chorus could have been explosive. Maybe we’ll revisit that and release it as a single sometime.

The first thing that struck me was just how dramatically updated these songs all are in many aspects, including new instrumentation and altered guitar parts. Are there any songs in particular you think have benefitted the most from you revisiting them?

Tim- Firing My Heart is even more of a stadium rocker now. I love Eric’s Keys in the intro that reminds me of Hagar era Van Halen. Under The City Lights is the single that never was, it has nice tight harmonies and Sue’s commanding lead vocal is even more emotive and crisp. A Matter Of Time has benefitted from Eric’s awesome Keys and they set the scene with solemnity and then you just listen to that lead vocal WOW. Sue hadn’t sung this song for Fifteen years and it just came out like she had sung it every day. I also love Lonely with its Country guitar bends in the intro and this has a genuine 80’s Heart vibe in the style but with an ultra- modern production.

With all these old songs been given a modern Fox touch, does this mean we can expect even more old songs in future Fox live shows?

Tim – I would love to play Lonely, Still Remember Love live again so when we book more head line shows we’ll look at including these songs too. We rehearsed A Matter Of Time recently and it sounded amazing so that would be a favourite too.

Sue - Compiling set lists is tough because we have such a back catalogue now. Yes I think that it is important to try and mix things up especially if we play more live shows.  

Tim – At the moment The Breathless album has to be the main feature in our next few live shows but we also love playing songs from Under The Seven Skies and Lost Man’s Ground.

Following that up do you have any live shows planned you can tell us about?

Tim – Yes, we will be playing our First ever show in Germany on 2nd December at the HEAT Festival that has a great line-up of bands such as Hardline, Tyketto, FM, Dare etc.

Sue - We are playing HRH AOR March 2018 on the opening night before Eclipse and Joe Lynn Turner so that should be a great night of melodic rock.

Tim - The live set is sounding really tight and exciting with our new drummer Scott Higham (Ex – Pendragon), with Scott on board this is the best sounding line-up we have ever had. Wait until you hear Young Hearts and All Eyes On You live.

The Fox are notorious for having long gaps between albums, so when ‘Six String Revolver’ was announced I was a little shocked! Why did you follow up ‘Breathless’ so quickly?

Sue – It was always my intention to follow Breathless with another album in 2017. Breathless created such a lot of exposure but due to unforeseen circumstances we have not been able to gig as we wanted this year.

Tim – We spoke to Georg at our label AOR Heaven just after breathless was released, he thought it was a great idea and was on board supporting us which was all we needed to make it happen.

Sue - In terms of being notorious for long gaps between albums we are also notorious for delivering quality albums. There was a two year 4 month wait in between our first two albums, which is acceptable given that we were playing lots of live shows too. After the Second album The Fire Within we ended up taking a very unplanned break due to some band decisions that left us very low. Our original drummer wanted a break, our Bass player moved on and they both started families so it wasn’t a break it just all stopped.

Tim – Yes this is one thing that Sue and I regret, we should have fought through this lull recruited new members and returned with a new album. Anyway in between 2001 and 2004 we did nothing apart from write songs and try and get the hunger back. We returned in 2005 to support Vixen and play Firefest with a new line-up. Our Third album Under The Seven Skies was released by Frontiers in 2007 but again even though the line-up was great in the live arena, the chemistry wasn’t there to write a new album and again we went through a difficult period. This took us from 2009 to 2010 with nothing happening other than me learning how to use Pro Tools recording package and writing material for Lost Man’s Ground.

Sue -  Lost Man’s Ground was delayed whilst we waited for the super busy, super talented Alessandro Del Vecchio to do backing vocals (he was doing this as a huge favour) so hopefully you can see that over time we have had our fair share of tough luck.

Tim- What you have to remember is we have always been reliant on other people within our various line-ups and to be honest if the band isn’t their priority we ultimately suffer because of it.

Sue – Band members don’t earn a living from the band in fact it costs a lot to be in bands at our level and people have other conflicting priorities too. People, who really know how difficult it is to be in a band, will understand how much sheer determination we have, and our love and passion for creating music that has driven us for so many years.

Does this mean we should expect a longer gap before the next Fox album too?

Sue - Six String Revolver has been created through sheer determination and there will be another album of new material recorded in 2018. This has been the plan since releasing Breathless.

Tim- We will be working on delivering a new album for late 2018 /early 2019 for AOR Heaven and capitalising on our new killer line-up. We want to keep it melodic and anthemic but also inject some individual performances and energy into the arrangements.

 Is There anything else you would like to add or say about the new album?

Tim –  We love what we have created with Six String Revolver and you won’t be disappointed either so BUY IT AND SUPPORT OUR CAUSE