Hi Torstein, this is Woody from UK website Midlands Rocks. Hope your well.
Very well thanks Woody…. Good to speak to you!!
When you were writing the new album “Always” (just released on AOR Heaven) did you feel pressure to give the album a similar sound to earlier classic Stage Dolls albums? Or did you just write songs as they came to you naturally?
When I write, it usually comes naturally yes, but of course there's this little bell that tells you when it's a song that would suit the band? Having said that, some of these songs this time, like particularly, “Rainin’ On A Sunny Day”, are a bit more 'off-line' from our ‘normal’ style, so you never know! …. As long as we think it's a good song, we try to work on it as much as possible.
I hear a slightly more mature vibe in the song writing, but it does have a lot of the Stage Dolls traditional trademarks. The band have never stood still in its sound, whilst remaining within the AOR/Melodic Rock genre, from a poppy sound on "Commando’s" to a more smooth traditional AOR sound on "Stage Dolls" to a heavily acoustic & harder rocking album in "Stripped". How do you see the evolution of the band over the past 25 years?
I guess each album reflects the time it was done. On our first albums we wanted the sound to be big. We used a big studio room and a lot of effects. Then on “Stripped”, we tried to focus on a more simple sound, with just one guitar on some of the songs. Here, on “Always”, we're back to the big sound again with heavy guitars and reverbed drums, which is still really uncommon today. My feeling is that, in a way we’ve returned to the approach of the first few albums…., but built on it using the experience of the others!
What’s the song writing process with Stage Dolls like? Do you write most the songs or is it a band effort? Do you ever work with outside writers?
To be honest, I usually do the songwriting myself (on an acoustic guitar and with pen and paper) then the whole band joins in on the arranging side, not just instrumentally, but also musically, contributing their parts wherever possible…
On “Always”, there's a few songs I've done with other writers, and I may do that more in the future. It was really interesting to see some of the feedback from people outside the normal circle!
Do you find it easy to write lyrics? Do you write from personal experiences or do you just say I want a song about this or a song that reflects this and write it in a particular vein?
I usually get a picture in my mind first and try to focus on that. Sometimes it may be personal yes, but it can also be in the way of a small novel. Then, you might just get an idea for a line in the chorus and build something from that? There’s no golden rule, but for me the musical side of the lyrics are very important. I need to feel the flow!
On a couple of the song’s I detect some modern country influences, was this intentional? Or is it just me? "Highway’s Open" could quite easily storm the US country charts!
Why not..., He! He!? I must admit, it’s not intentional…When you're in the middle of writing a song, you don't think about that at all, but I can clearly see your point.
Do you like Country music? And is their any artists you really like or are influenced by?
Hard to say.. Country Music today is closer to Rock 'N Roll than it’s been for quite sometime, that's for sure. But, I guess my guitar playing has always been influenced by people a little bit more on the side of hard rock, such as Mike Campbell from Tom Petty for example…? But Country Music often has lyrics that often tell a little story, and I think that may be the case with my lyrics too.
What songs from "Always" are you particularly fond of? Any reasons why?
My personal favourite is 'Taillights'. I like the way the song evolves… You don't have the usual verse/chorus/verse thing going on, but still it feels right. I also like the guitar solo on that one!
It’s been a while since the last Stage Dolls album, was it hard to get back in the groove or have you continued to write and record over the intervening years?
Not too bad, actually… I hadn't really tried writing anything for this record before 2007. I wrote “Rainin'….” that Fall (end 2007), thought that was a good song, then they started to pour out a bit more…. We hadn’t really talked about a new album up ‘till then!
I see bands pouring out a new album each year to be ‘in business’, so to speak, but, to me it seems wiser to spend some more time and then release something you really feel is worth it!
"Love Cries" is probably my favourite all time Stage Dolls song. In your face and catchy as hell AOR, it doesn’t get much better than that for me. What songs from the Stage Dolls back catalogue do you still have a passion for and are particularly proud of writing?
Well, “Love Cries” is certainly up there, I would agree! We play all these songs in our live set still and I don't get tired of any of them. “Love Don't Bother Me” is probably my favourite of all-time, if I had to pick just one?
How do you see the state of the AOR/Melodic Rock scene in 2010? Many see it as a dying genre, yet there are still plenty of passionate fans and bands still giving the scene life albeit on a far smaller scale. Is it hard being a band that is labelled "AOR"?
No, not at all! We've seen a whole new generation coming to our shows in the latter years. I think they appreciate the attitude bands like us have! We're just trying to write and perform as well as possible. Another important thing too, is that possibly, we have a bit of humour and self-irony these days, something that is lacking in other places.
Having taken the hard road which we have, with all the touring over the years, we’re also taking a more humble approach to the gigs these days; people have paid a lot of money to see us and we're there to deliver a good show!
Do you have any gigs lined up for Stage Dolls in support of the new album then?
Yes.. We did 2 shows in Norway in January in connection with the release there…
We're gonna take it easy this winter, but will be starting a Summer Tour in Norway in mid May..., that will run right through to September. Then it's Firefest in the UK on the 30th and 31st of October which we're really looking forward to! That’s pretty close to you I think, Nottingham, right?
Do you enjoy playing live? Is it something you see as important to the appeal & promotion of the band?
I love it! In fact, if we didn't like it, I don't think the band would exist today! Playing live is where we started and we love being on the road. You also learn a trade in a way? We've played for 1(one) person and we've played for thousands! There’s no better way to live!
Are their any songs old or new that you’re particularly looking forward to playing?
It’ll come down to the night, they’re all different... But, I like the new ones we're doing of course, especially “Rollin” and “Taillights”, which are songs that are made for a live performance. Then, of the older ones, “Commandos” is a great live song…. There’s loads of good ones! I hope you can check it out!
What bands / artists are you currently listening too and enjoying?
I’m listening to my old heroes of course; Queen, Tom Petty, City Boy just to name a few… But, of the new bands, I really like Muse. I like the 'out of this world' approach they have live and all those little things in their music that remind me of older bands. They really have something!
What does the future hold for Stage Dolls?
Well, let’s see? We just hit the #1 spot with the new album in Norway (in January), which was certainly a good answer to that question from the fans, so I hope we can continue for many years to come. We have the Japanese release coming up in April, then there's the summer tour. I also hope that we get out to play more abroad after this release – it’s been way too long since we did that on a really good bill…. I’m looking forward to Firefest immensely, of course (in October), then, we’ll see where we are. I don't think it will take 6 years ‘till the next album, that’s for sure!
Anything you would like to add or say to Midlands Rocks readers?
Well, just to say, thanks for reading this and to you for the interview! Hope you check out the album “Always” and we’re looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible at Firefest!!