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Craig Chapman (Tara's Secret)

posted 25 Jul 2011, 11:46 by Paul Woodward   [ updated 25 Jul 2011, 11:48 ]
The album has been out a few months now.  What's the reaction and feedback been to "Vertigo" so far?

(Craig Chapman) Very good thanks, we’re getting some cracking reviews in various languages - though it's really good fun putting them through online translation programmes!

It’s sold pretty well from the off to our existing fans and still the print magazines and other reviews are yet to be published.  I wouldn’t really say that the album has been out for a while now, although we had it available from late October, it didn’t come out publicly until mid-January.  It takes a little while to catch up on the publicity drive, having only formed and registered our label Black Cat Music in October. 
This is the band's third album and you have two new members Dave Deville (bass) & JT (Drums).  How did they come to be part of the band?  And what do they bring with them to the band?
Dave auditioned to join the original band to replace Bolty, so he was “in the fold” anyway and JT was one a few drummers who answered our adverts.  We had to dismiss a couple of shed builders before he came along to audition, but as soon as he heard our songs, he was straight into the groove.  Although Johnny, Rich and I have been the nucleus of the band for a few years now, both Dave & JT have chipped in plenty of ideas on the songwriting side of things, as songs have developed.  Their own playing styles have also contributed to the newer sound of the band too.

How do you personally feel about how "Vertigo" has turned out?

I love it, the sound is so big.  I saw your face when you first heard it too and I’m pretty sure you bruised your chin on the floor!  I’m sure we would all have slightly different running lists, but it works very well and we’re very proud of it.  M2 Studios did us proud and we all had a very big say in the mixing.
Do you have any favourite songs on the album?

I had the biggest part to play in the writing of “Promises”, so hearing that played back as it is has my hair standing on end - but all of songs sound better than we could have imagined.
The song "My Reward" has unusual lyrics, is there a story behind the song?  And the hidden messages on there will we ever find out what they are?

(Laughs)  The middle bit does have some backwards messages and only our singer Johnny and Mark at the studio know the truth, but playing a CD backwards doesn’t work like an old vinyl album, so Johnny is probably saying “You’re gonna knacker your CD player you damn Dingo!”

I texted the chorus lyrics to Johnny and he added the verses, it could have loads of meanings.  I think a certain film scene did influence the lyrics, but we’re not saying which film!  Answers on a postcard...

The band has evolved over the 3 albums, how do you see it? Has it been a natural progression or was it intentional, purposeful evolution? I see major progression over the three albums, do you?

When Johnny, Rich & I got together to discuss reforming the band, we said we wanted to toughen up the sound, and make a more cohesive album.  We knew which songs worked best live from the last album and that is what we wanted to continue with - up-and-at-it, in-ya-face rockers.

The first (demo) album in 2004 did have a poor mix, but those songs still got us a lot of gigs and some very good crowd reactions.  Then “Tomorrow The World (2006)” got us invites for Firefest and Z Rock, though we just about ran out of having a band at that time.  We supported Y&T, Dante Fox and ACT and the hard rocking songs went down great.

We’ve had to grow up in the public eye as a band without a 20-30 year legacy that nearly all of the bands in this genre have behind them.  People only remember the bands from the late 80s at their best - not their growing years - so we’ve had to play catch up and in this modern day world of instant media, there have been those who can’t appreciate that.  Then there are others like you Woody, who have enjoyed watching the band unfold in front of them (ooh Matron! shall we re-phrase that?).  We’ve always played really strong live sets and now we’ve got an album that kicks the asses of the critics big time and we really couldn’t care less if some of them don’t like us for it – haha!

You've released "Vertigo" on your own label, "Black Cat Music", what advantages and/or disadvantages does this present the band?

 We had a few label offers that just would not work.  These contracts return the band so little that there would be no budget to make a decent album and we’d have a queue of angry wives wondering why we can’t afford holidays this year.  If a label could have come along and said “we can’t pay you much, but we can get you supports with this band and that,” it might have been different, but very labels few get that involved.  The big promo budgets go to the older bands with existing fan bases, it's understandable but damn annoying and possibly short sighted too.

Nearly everyone we had spoken to in bands, on radio and in mags, told us to do it ourselves if we could, but we had to see what was on offer first.  Black Cat Music is our own registered label and we’ll be happy to consider working with other bands in the future.  We now have total control and whilst many labels give an album a maximum 6 weeks promotion, we’ll be able to continue pushing this for 18 months if we want to.

We’re negotiating a European distribution deal right now and we handle the UK sales ourselves, with ST, Destiny, Loud 1 and Neverland all stocking the album and getting good sales. We’re playing catch up a little with the promo as we spent a few months talking with labels before making this decision, but it's all good fun and we can only blame ourselves if it doesn’t work. So far it's gaining a lot of support and we are lucky to have a few choices regarding some situations. There are some good guys out there too!

How important is the success of "Vertigo" to the future of the band?  Do you already have plans?

With having such a kick ass album I think you have to have a plan to follow it up.  We already have a few songs written towards the next album and we’ll be playing all sorts of shows to promote "Vertigo".  We have always been a band happy to stand up in front of a wider genre audience and play our songs.  Our live show works as well as the songs do and with that combination people cannot ignore this.  Melodic Rock has a very wide potential audience and we don’t believe in restricting our options.
How important do you think image and fashion is to bands?  And does it affect you?

Well, even in the 80s I had short hair as I was in the Army, but I’m assured the other guys had generous barnets!  I’ve still got my old biker’s leather jacket with Grand Prix’s “Samurai” painted across the back, but I can only get one arm in it these days!

Of course we still want to look like a rock band when we go on stage.  There’s no point in just turning up and not making that effort . But it’s not a case of back combed hair and spandex!  We look pretty similar to other hard rock bands from that age as they do now, there’s not many poodle perms out there and even back in the 80s they always raised a chuckle across the street, but I am assured that Johnny had quite a convincing one.

Do you have any gigs lined up? Festivals, support slots?

Yes, we’re booked up for a show in Barnsley this weekend (20th Feb) and have more shows at rock clubs in Notts, Yorkshire and Leicestershire so far.  Hopefully we’ll be on a couple of festivals too, but we are still talking to people about them.  If anyone has a venue near them and thinks we’d go down well, then give us a call, we love playing live and what you see is what you get, there’s no backing tracks.  I feel really cheated when a band is miming.
Are there any songs you're specifically looking forward to playing live?  And what will the set list be like?

Right now we are doing two different shows, either all originals or our brand new classic rock show.  If playing a classic cover show gives us the chance to play to a good sized crowd, then so be it.  I think for me and the rest of the band the songs we look forward to playing are those songs that get people singing and dancing along, if they are our own or covers.  It’s just seeing people having a good time. That’s why we play live.
 You recorded the album at M2 Studio's in Wolverhampton again, Is it studio you prefer to use? What’s it like working with Mark Stuart & Sheena Seer?

Mark & Sheena are superb to work with.  We got very involved in every aspect of this album, especially Johnny.  I think that as a band you need a producer that makes suggestions and develops the song as well.  There is no point having someone that just presses the record button, you could do that yourself.  We spent far longer recording and producing “Vertigo” than compared to the eight days it took to record our last album, and that shows.  We had been to other studios during our pre-production to see what they had to offer, but after a few we knew that M2 would be the place to record this.

How does the band write songs?  Individually or as a group?  Who's responsible for what regarding the construction of a song?

It all depends really.  Johnny would bring full lyrics and a basic vocal melody, then Richie would add a riff and we would build it from there.  Sometimes Richie would have a riff and then we would add lyrics etc.  This album only had one song brought to the band almost complete.  Once we had the initial idea or structure Dave and I would look at chord structures to bring the climax to the choruses and middle 8s.  I even brought in 2 riffs too!  JT would then add his drums, shaping the songs and we could hear the stadiums calling us!  It was good to have so much input from the new guys

Dave and Johnny put “One More Chance” together over an exchange in emails. Initially we all leapt in there, only to leap out again, sometimes less is more and that’s probably a good description of our approach to many of these songs. W e’ve layered the harmonies a little differently this time, instead of just throwing in oodles of them at every opportunity.  It really helps build the dynamics, and then when we do all let rip, it has so much more impact.
The band split up a few years ago, why?  What was the inspiration to reform?
The band split for 10 months because 2 guys had left and we’d had a right game fulfilling gigs with stand-ins, although 2 of the guys who did help out did a great job.  We all went off to do our own thing.  I started Tomorrow the World with ex-Tara’s Secret drummer Glyn Styne, Johnny joined covers band Storyteller's Night and Richie started writing his solo album.  But there was always unfinished business.  I think all three of us knew that there was another album just waiting to be made.  So we got together and talked and slowly formed a plan.

What have your highlights been with Tara's Secret so far?

For me, recording the 2 main albums and receiving messages from all over the world about how much people enjoy them. Playing live at some really good shows and just having a chance to get onstage with these guys and have a ball.
What have your low lights with Tara's Secret been so far?

The split for certain, we were just on the up and then: crash!  There have also been a couple of shows when other people’s agendas have blown up in our faces.  It's just rock n roll for Christ sakes, and maybe there’s some out there who need to remember that.
How do you see the British Rock scene at the moment?  Especially within the AOR/melodic Rock genre?

Unloved?  There’s some good bands about and the few attempts at bringing us altogether have crashed badly, the UK rockers just don’t have any faith in the UK scene.  When you get all manner of badly-suited noise bands buying the support slots to the major melodic bands out there, the majority of the rock fans must be thinking “well if this is the best the UK has to offer, then I’ll stick with my tribute bands on a Friday night.”

Opportunities are minimal and the main music media in the UK really hates rock music, unless it's angry or has a cheesy gimmick.  Maybe things are looking up with Journey getting into the charts?  Let's hope so.
Has there ever been a temptation to change your style radically to fit in with current trends?

Yes and no!  The original Fuse band which formed into Tara’s Secret was probably a lot more laid back, playing more of Matchbox Twenty-style and I’m the only remaining member from then.  Johnny and Rich brought in the rockier side of things and to be honest, I’ve had to adjust my playing style to it, but I grew up with this music and love playing it.
Anything you would like to add?

If you love rock music then get out there and support it.  Don’t sit back in your arm chair and say it’s rubbish!  Tara’s Secret don’t have a hidden agenda we just aim to blow you away!  If you want to see a band playing some good time new hard rocking songs then we certainly won’t let you down. And don’t forget to come over and say hello. Only the drummer bites!