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LIZZY BORDEN - Interview with Lizzy
By Wojtek Gabriel,
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Lizzy Borden metal band
11 years is a long time between releases, even for today's standards. Bands that wait that long to put out new material may quickly become irrelevant. Lizzy Borden did not. Named after the infamous axe murderess, they have been enjoying cult status since the '80s with their hardcore fanbase still following them after all those years. Will they take to the new album "My Midnight Things" which sees the band explore some new territories and lose some of their usual heavy metal bite? Time will tell. In the meantime, the band's mastermind Lizzy explains the change of direction in our interview.
I suppose you've already been asked this question countless times and you may be fed up with answering it by now, but why has it taken 11 years to put out a new album?
Oh, well, I didn't want to put out a new album, because you know, I put out "Deal with the Devil" and it didn't really do much, we didn't do any videos or anything. And then we put out "Appointment with Death" that didn't really do a lot and I just seemed like I was spinning my wheels making records that I couldn't get to my audience. They just didn't know they existed. A lot of people have no clue those two albums even exist, to this day. So, I just said, "What's the point of doing it?" We were touring so much and I was just happy just touring all over the world and doing that. But I did miss being a recording artist, I really did. And then Brian Slagel from Metal Blade Records just contacted me and just said, "Look, it's a different world now" and he talked me into seeing that it's gonna be better marketing now and it's a better way to get it to the fans who would love this kind of music, you know? He talked me back into doing it and I'm glad he did because I missed being a recording artist. And I'm loving making new albums again and I can't wait to get the tour going so, it re-starts everything, you know? That's how it started from the first album. I love the touring cycle as well, you know, writing an album, recording an album, going on tour, and you know, promoting an album, doing all that and then starting it again after the tour, so, the touring cycle is something I was looking forward to too.
So, what have you kept yourself busy with these last 11 years, apart from playing gigs?
You know, I always write, I always write a song and I record it and then I toss it away in a folder somewhere and I just keep doing that. But you know, when you're writing for the album it's a different kind of writing. So even though I have been writing and we've been touring and all of that it really wasn't a cohesive thing because there was no reason to do it. As soon as I came up with the whole thing for this album, then I had to really put my head down and start working on it. But yeah, I moved from L.A. to Vegas, that was a different change for me but other than that, yeah, that's what I've been doing.
There's very little of the usual heavy metal aggressiveness on the new album, the music is more into melodic arena rock direction I would say. So, why did you decide to go that way?
Well, I've gone that way before. I mean, my two biggest records are "Visual Lies" and "Master of Disguise" and "Master of Disguise" I had 40-piece orchestra on there. But this album, I wanted it to be about songs, I didn't want to showcase musicians, and I didn't wanna showcase how high I can sing, I just wanted to write good songs. And that was my main objective. So, any time it started to get a little to musician-y then I would take that part out and re-write it.
Weren't you afraid that your core traditional metal fanbase might not take to the album?
I'm never afraid, I just do what I do and each album's been different. I mean I put a 40-piece orchestra on "Master of Disguise" and a lot of people said the exact same thing you're saying to me right now. And they said, "Aren't you afraid of losing your core audience?" And I was like, "Well, if they don't like what I do then there's nothing I can do about it." And that album ended up to be wildly my biggest selling record. So, you know, I did it right because I wasn't afraid and with this album I'm not afraid either. If I lose every one of my fan base then there's nothing I can do about that anyway, but I'm not gonna just continue to write the same song over and over again to please a small part of my fanbase.
You and Joey produced the album yourselves. Are you guys happy with the final result?
Oh, you're never happy you know, it's never done. I could've recorded that album for another year, ha-ha! But you have to end it at some point and that's what I did. I'm already starting to visualise the next record and it will be a different production on the next record. The stuff that I didn't like about this one won't go on the next one but the stuff that I did love about this one will definitely go on the next few albums. So, you know, you learn from every record. I'm happy and I support it and I'm proud of it.
I think you recorded everything at your home studio, is that correct?
I had a studio in North Hollywood, after I was finished with the record I disbanded it, but it was a studio in North Hollywood, full-fledged studio, it had everything. We recorded quite a lot of it there and then Joey has a studio too so we moved to his studio. And then I finished the rest in a studio in Las Vegas, so that's how I kind of did it. Three different locations. But for the most part I did it in my North Hollywood studio.
I think your bass player Marten is still with the band, but I couldn't find any info about guitarists who worked with you on this record. Did you hire session musicians?
No, actually Marten did not play on the album. I mean he's in a different band now and my last two guitar players are in two different bands. Dario is with Black Label Society and Ira is in a couple of different bands. So, I didn't end up using a band for this record, because I wanted to write it in a certain way and I knew that if I brought a band in I was gonna get back to that showcasing musicians stuff. And I didn't wanna get back into that, I wanted to write songs. That's very hard to write with people that are known for their live performances, because it's all about showcasing their talent and I wanted the song to be the star, so I decided not go down that road.
US metal band Lizzy Borden
So, who actually recorded all the instrument parts?
Joey played drums and then I had a great pianist called Marliese Mildenberger and she played the majority of the keyboards on the album and then I did everything else.
The mixes and mastering were done by experienced guys, who have worked with bands like U2 or David Bowie before. Were you looking for people who knew how to give you the more commercial sound you were after?
Well, I just wanted them to understand the songs and do the best with the songs. I wasn't necessarily trying to go commercial, I was trying to write good songs. I mean all the songs that I look back on that are great songs, are still around today and played every day, because they're great songs, they are well-written songs. And that's all I tried to do. I'm on Metal Blade Records, there's no way I'm gonna make major radio and there's no DJs out there that are gonna all of a sudden miraculously start playing it, it doesn't work that way. So, I knew that none of these songs were gonna get major radio, no matter how good they were. But yeah, I was looking for people who've already been there, done that, they've already made records that have been successful so, they already know how to do that. So, when they got all of my album, they were able to adjust the way they do things for this album and that's what I was looking for. That was the only reason. I wasn't really trying to hedge my bets on commercial or anything like that. I was just trying to get the best people for the job.
You've always had a lot of vocals on your albums, but this time around it's layers upon layers upon layers... What was the idea behind it?
Well, I've always done that, or at least for the last four albums. I mean even "Master of Disguise" was probably even more than this one. I was clocked in at 7-octave vocal range on "Master of Disguise", all the backing vocals, I was going from low to high in every way. I just love the mixing and matching the melodic vocals going in and out and it brings different personalities to my voice. And that's the thing that I like. I don't wanna one-dimensional vocal you know, I really love the multi-dimensional vocal throughout the song. You know, like Queen, they're one of my favourite bands and they had three or four different singers so they were able to capture all those different personalities and make them all one. But for me, it's just me but I'm trying to find those personalities within my voice, so that's always the goal, I just don't wanna be a one-dimensional heavy metal singer.
You did a lyric video for the title track. Are you planning to shoot a proper video clip, something with bigger production like "Under Your Skin" or "Tomorrow Never Comes" the last time?
We already shot it, for the song "Long May They Haunt Us". We shot it last weekend and it was amazing, the shoot was amazing, I haven't seen the video yet, it should be coming any day, they're editing it now. But I think, based on the shooting, I can see it now being the best video we've ever done. The script was really good, and it was a really fun shoot. We shot a lot of different types of things. It's gonna be a multi-dimensional video. I'm hoping it all turns out the way that we felt it was when we shot it. But yeah, that should be done any day now. And Metal Blade, they already green lighted the next video, so as soon as this one's done we're gonna go back and shoot another one.
You usually have a common theme to the lyrics and it's no different this time around. Your last theme was death, why is it love this time?
I wanted to tackle that theme. I had done it, tackled you know little pieces of that theme before, but I figured it's such a universal thing that I really wanted to see if I could dig down and find unique aspects of it, 'cause I know that of course that's the thing everybody writes about in the majority of songs. But for me, I wanted to see if I could find anything unique to it and put it into each song. So "Long May They Haunt Us", to me that songs is about those people that are no longer in your life but you wish that they were and they haunt you every day 'cause you keep thinking about it and you don't want that haunt to go away. So, that's a unique kind of love for something that's no longer here. And then you know, "Obsessed with You", of course that's a whole different kind of love, ha-ha! And I tried to be multi-dimensional with that as well because I didn't want it to be just about obsession, I wanted it to be about confusion about love. And that's kind of what that song is about. And on and on, throughout the songs I tried to find a unique thing that would go under the umbrella of love.
I suppose you started to sing much earlier than with the Lizzy Borden band so, you must have been inspired by some of the great '70s rock singers at the beginning. Who were you vocal gurus back in the day?
Yeah, that's all I've been. I was never influenced by anybody from the '80s or beyond, it's always been about the '70s for me. And it started out with Ian Gillan, you know the first time I heard "Child in Time" I almost collapsed, it was so moving to me and I wanted to learn how to do something like that. And then Glenn Hughes of course, he was so amazing, and you know, Freddy Mercury and Klaus Meine. Really there were so many great singers out of the '70s and I loved every one of them in whatever way and that was my whole thing, you know? I didn't want to just find one singer and copy them and try to emulate them, I never tried to do that. I always tried to listen to each singer and try to find something in them that I could use. You know, Rob Halford of course is a huge influence, when metal came really into focus, he did so many amazing things on every album, that I loved too. So, I loved every one of them. And then, towards the end of the '80s, I started to work back and tried to develop more my lower voice. So, it's been an ongoing thing about trying to improve and trying to be unique. But yeah, it's always been about the '70s singers.
Lizzy Borden metal band from the US
You took yoga breathing lessons early in your career, to help you sing. Why not lessons with an actual vocal coach?
I went to one vocal class and I saw the way they were teaching and I just didn't wanna do that. It just didn't make any sense to me. I've gone down that road with playing guitar you know, when I first went into playing guitar I was like 7 and I got a teacher, and she was teaching me how to play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" all that stuff, and I'm like, "No, I wanna play Black Sabbath!", ha-ha! So, when I decided to develop my voice I realised the best teachers were Ian Gillan and Glen Hughes and Rob Halford and all these people, so I just set up a makeshift PA system and I would put on my favourite records and I would sing along to them. And I would try to adapt little pieces of each singer. But when it came down to touring I realised that it was really hard for me, because I was singing so high and getting no sleep and travelling all around the country and I realised, "I've gotta figure out how to be perfect every night." I didn't wanna be half-assed or half a voice. I really wanted to figure out how I could sing at the top of my range every night and so I found a person who didn't even know how to teach singing, she wasn't a singer, she taught breathing. And once I learned breathing that's all I needed. I didn't need to learn how to do anything else. And I still use the same technique to this day. I don't do scales, I don't do any of that stuff that normal singers do, I do breathing exercises and that warms-up my voice.
You are one of the very few bands that still do the theatrics. There's of course the legends like Alice Cooper or Kiss, but new bands rarely care about that stuff these days. So, what inspired you to create the proper show to go with the music?
Well, the first concert I ever seen was Kiss. Once I saw that I think the next band I saw was Bad Company and they were just standing there with jeans and although I loved their music, I was like, "Where's the show?" ha-ha! So, I just thought, "Why can't I do both? Why can't I put on a show and why can't I have great musicians and why can't I try to be a good singer?" It just didn't make any sense to me that I had to sacrifice one over the other. I didn't see why I had to do that. And I loved being a performer, you know? To me it's a way to illustrate the song in a unique way rather than having you just use your imagination. You can actually see me perform the songs in the way that I think the lyrics are telling me to sing it. So, I didn't really feel like I had to give up one or the other. It was a lot of work to do both, a lot more work, but I loved it. I loved the work, I loved the challenge of it and I love to this day keep trying to create new shows that would be different than the last show.
When you tour you always play a lot of songs off the new album, not just two or three like most bands do. Why is that?
I just think that the way that touring was set-up originally, the whole original thing for touring was to support an album. So, you can't support an album unless you play it. You're now just supporting the band or your back catalogue, you're not supporting the new album if you don't play it. And I still think that that is the reason to tour. I tour to support a new album and I don't tour to support my back catalogue. I will play a few songs, because I know people wanna hear it, but really, if I'm on the "Midnight Things" tour, I'm on the "Midnight Things" tour, I'm gonna be playing those songs. That's to me the way touring was originally meant to be and I'm kind of a traditionalist when it comes to that.
You've been playing and recording for 35 years now. Unavoidably, at some point you'll have to say, "OK, that's enough." I hope it's far in the future, but when are you planning to stop?
When I can't do it to my full extend and have to compromise what I do live. I give a 100% every show, I don't even know any other way. If I'm not drained by the end of the show then I've done something wrong. And so, if I get to the point when I can't do that, then that's probably when I'll say, "I've had enough." But I look at Mick Jagger and all these people, you know, Mick is still doing what he did when he was 20 and he still gives a 100%. If you keep your body healthy, which I'm trying to, hopefully I can do this for a lot longer, 'cause I love it. I love doing it.
OK, let's wrap up this chat. We've already discussed the theatrics so, are you planning to do anything special for the "My Midnight Things" tour?
Absolutely. This is the first tour where I really have the label supporting me. You know, Brian Slagel absolutely loves this album and he's never said that about any Lizzy Borden record. So, he really wants to support this record every way and his opinion is to put on the biggest show that we possibly can do. It's a bigger production than we've ever had, at least since "Visual Lies" tour where we had gigantic TV set on stage so, yeah, this is stuff we're talking about. I wanted the album to come out first 'cause it's been 11 years since I put out an album, so I wanted the album to come out and everyone get used to the songs and everythin. But we're starting to work on the show right now. So far the production, the ideas that we're talking about and even the theatrics are gonna be really amazing and unique to me. The last few shows I did was the "Appointment with Death" tour and a best-of tour that lasted quite a long time so to just scrap all of that and create a whole brand new show is so exciting for me.
I'm just hoping when you come to the UK it won't be for just a one-off show in London!
UK is very hard for us to play for some reason. The promoters are not that anxious to bring the show over there. So, we've been trying but it's a struggle to play the UK. But I'm hoping to bring the show to you. It's gonna happen one way or the other.
Interview by Wojtek Gabriel
Photos by Stephanie Cabral

Official Lizzy Borden website:
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Tags: Lizzy Borden, heavy metal, US metal, My Midnight Things
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© 1997-2020 Wojtek Gabriel. All rights reserved.
Unauthorised use of any works published on this website is prohibited.
Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part by persons, organisations
or corporations without the prior written permission.