Sezione interviste

 Stormzone born in 2005 by John Harbinson’ idea and they are practically unknown in Italy. Their new album will be release the 14th November by SPV so let’s meet this band that more closely by this nice interview to singer John ‘Harv’ Harbinson.


Hi and welcome on our Italian webzine ALONE MUSIC and thanks for your time. Before we get into your upcoming new album Zero to Rage let’s talk a little bit about the band’s history. Can you tell us a bit when you started the band and the ideas you got of what should become Stormzone?


   Hi and thank you for inviting me to talk to your readers. My name is John ‘Harv’ Harbinson and I’m singer with Stormzone. Drummer Davy Bates and I have been playing together in various bands since the 80’s. My previous band’s have included No Sweat, Emerald and Den Of Thieves. I also spent some time singing in Fastway. Davy played for Sweet Savage and they were put on the heavy metal radar when Metallica recorded a version of their song ‘Killing Time’ as B’ Side for the single ‘The Unforgiven’! Sweet Savage then became Emerald after the departure of guitarist Vivian Campbell to the ranks of DIO and that’s when Davy and I teamed up. We recorded a couple of album’s with Den Of Thieves, ‘Honour Amongst Thieves’ in 1995 and ‘Conspiracy’ in ‘1998’, both released in Japan. Our record company there, Zero Corporation, went bankrupt and for a couple of years we spent our time getting out of contracts etc.

   Eventually in 2000, contractually unable to record or form a new original material band, we formed a Whitesnake tribute band called ‘Snakebite’. This was a successful band making good money and we played all over the UK for nearly 4 years. That was when, in 2004, we were offered the chance to support Danger Danger, but it wouldn’t have been a good idea to support them playing Whitesnake songs, so we made an enquiry to Japan, it transpired that we were free of our obligations to Zero Corpration and we were able to once again perform and record original songs.                                       We did the Danger Danger support as Stormzone and enjoyed getting the original band bug back again. So we recorded the first Stormzone album ‘Caught In The Act’ in 2006. This was snapped up by Escape Music in the UK who signed us for a European and Japanese release in 2007. However we had recorded older songs for this first album, and when we began actually writing brand new songs for a second album, ‘Death Dealer’ as the name suggests it turned out to be a much heavier album than the debut. Escape Music are a very melodic rock label and we didn’t think they would suit our new direction. SPV stepped in and offered us a deal, but it took a year to get out of the Escape Music contract and eventually ‘Death Dealer’ was released in 2010. SPV have definitely been a great home for us, and free of any contractual problems and eventually finding the perfect label we were able to settle down to a great song-writing rhythm which has resulted in this year’s follow up to ‘Death Dealer’ entitled ‘Zero To Rage’.

   Apart from now having released 3 albums, we have also toured with such legendary acts as Stryper, Y&T, LA Guns, White Lion and Cinderella and played as Dokken guitarist George Lynch’s European ‘Lynch Mob’. Added to that we have appeared at some of Europe’s best festivals such as Wacken Open Air, Firefest, Headbangers Open Air, Raismesfest France and Sweden Rock.




And now, let’s talk about your new upcoming album Zero to Rage that will be release the 14 th november 2011 by SPV. How this album born and what are your expectations about it?


We were very fortunate to achieve the services of guitarist Steve Moore at the start of 2011. Right away it was obvious that we could work well together and Steve really became a vital part of our live sound. We did a tour with Stryper and appeared at this year’s Wacken Open Air and Steve’s live sound contributed to us sounding better than ever on-stage. It was then really important to begin writing with Steve to see how things would progress with him contributing to songs after ‘Death Dealer’, our last album released one year before this. Steve is also a great engineer and producer and has his own FireHammer studios. This was obviously a big help to Stormzone’s productivity and our writing increased to the extent that we had the songs for ‘Zero To Rage’ all written and recorded within 6 months of Steve joining the band. I guess that’s the reason why we were able to release the new album one year after ‘Death Dealer’ as we surprised SPV by it’s readiness and they gave us the release date of November 2011. So I guess the album was born out of our desire to see how we could write with Steve. That turned out to be very exciting and we worked really hard on crafting ‘Zero To Rage’ into an album that had a consistency of new songs running through it but also we had to ensure that it was not that much of a departure from the atmosphere generated by ‘Death Dealer’. I think we achieved that, we certainly didn’t want to sound like a new band, and we were fortunate there because Steve was definitely on the same page as us with regards to influences and ambition. Our expectations about the new album? Well of course it would be great if it was successful for us, but that also takes a great amount of luck. At the moment we’re just hoping that fans get as much enjoyment out of it as we did writing and recording it and hopefully the reviews will encourage people to go out and buy it.


Sounds and melodies, back us to the past and think about the ‘80s old school heavy metal. How did you work on songwriting?


We have a great way of writing songs, and it involves every band member collectively or individually. Graham (bass), Steve and Keith (guitars) come up with an exciting riff, sometimes based on a drum rhythm that Davy (drums) has developed. Those guys get together for a night in Graham’s studio with small amps and small drum kit and together they knock out a basic instrumental which they think constitutes an intro, verse, chorus and lead section. That gets emailed to me and I’ll then work out a melody and lyrics and one more night is spent working out any changes if necessary. Then the guys go at different times to Steve’s (guitar) studio which has all the bigger instruments and recording equipment and the music for the song is laid down. I get a rough mix emailed to me and I finalise the vocal melody, lyrics etc and then make my way to Steve’s ‘Firehammer’ studio to lay down all the finalised vocals. Steve is also a great producer/engineer, so he gets to mix and master the songs. That’s exactly how every song on ‘Zero To Rage’ was created, and a method that was fast, effective and definitely the way we’ll be writing and recording future albums.


Listening to this album I found a sound variety with several influences that come from different styles. Melodic sound, sometime aggressive and scratching, sometime catchy as radio song…. What could you tell us about Stormzone sound influences coming from?


I’m not sure if it’s a matter of coming from a small Island like Ireland but we really embraced the essence of the ‘NWOBHM’ (‘New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’, the early 80’s movement which inspired the success of Iron Maiden etc) when it first appeared and never really let it escape! We all grew up listening to the big acts such as Judas Priest, Whitesnake, Ozzy and Dio etc, but we were also blown away by the smaller UK acts such as Praying Mantis, Diamond Head and Tygers Of Pan Tang amongst many others. (Strange but true, original Tygers of Pan Tang singer Jess Cox went on to become Stormzone manager!) It was only natural that we would try to sound like the bands we were listening to back then, and years later those styles are still very much embedded in our minds. We’ve consistently followed the success of bands who continue to fly the flag for classic metal such as Primal Fear, UDO, Hammerfall, Grave Digger and Helloween. So even though we’re into a much more modern period of metal we’re still going to have that classic rock aura about Stormzone and hopefully the modern production techniques in present day recording studios lifts that sound into one that makes our new album, ‘Zero To Rage’ relevant in the present day.





“Zero to Rage”, why do you decide to choose this title for the album?


I think any of the song titles would have made a cool album title, and where ‘Zero To Rage’ was concerned we took into consideration the artwork which was being submitted by the various artists we were in contact with for the cover art. The album title we thought best suited the final choice of artwork, even if the artwork doesn’t fully reflect the actual lyrics of the song. Every song on the album works as an individual story if listened to on it’s own, but also there is an underlying theme running through the album as a whole. ‘Zero To Rage’ as an individual song is definitely about an attitude, mine personally yes, but also yours too, and the guy or girl beside you. It’s about feeling trapped within your circumstances if you absolutely know that one change in your life can allow you to achieve the things you know you’re capable of. It might be getting out of a relationship, finding a better job, telling a bully to f##k off. It’s about courage and honesty and being able to deal the consequences of your actions. On the other hand, if taken as part of the whole album’s storyline, then you’ll see that it’s relevant to the underlying theme of ‘Uprising’, what’s going on in countries which have been oppressed for centuries and discovering that courage and people-power can actually bring about the fall of dictatorships!


Something different then; you have been in the business for decades, you have seen the scene develop during the years, bands and trends come and go. How do you look at the scene nowadays compared to the past when you started making hard rock and heavy metal?


I think if I was a young guy starting out I would have difficulty in choosing to start a band playing the sort of music we play in Stormzone. When you look at all the big European festivals you’ll see that the promoters and organisers dominate their billings with the heaviest bands, death and extreme metal and the very few melodic metal bands that get a chance are generally already well established acts such as Hammerfall and Helloween etc. I think the only reason Stormzone, as a relatively new band formed in 2004, only plays our type of powerful melodic heavy metal because some of us have been around longer than others and we couldn’t just jump on a modern trend to try to guarantee success. It’s getting harder and harder for a band like Stormzone to get on festivals and shows without being up at the level of Helloween, Primal Fear or Hammerfall, and most festival goers these days are more-or-less into the much heavier bands, especially at Wacken. But what I loved about our appearance at WOA 2011was the fact that we were sandwiched in between these extreme metal bands and yet when we (eventually) attracted people into the .W.E.T. stage area to watch us play we went down really well to what ended up being a packed area! If you can deliver heavy metal in an enthusiastic and powerful way then you can get the attention of even the heaviest of fans and Wacken proved that against the odds we weren’t out of our depth. I think promoters and festival organisers have forgotten how good and exciting traditional melodic heavy metal is, and I feel that we were a refreshing change for most people who had basically been getting bombarded with all sorts of extreme and death metal, we’re heavy in a different way, but we’re still heavy and hopefully, after Wacken, other organisers will see our reviews and take more of a chance on us!


Thinking about Up and Down during Stormzone career, what were best and also worse moments during these past years?


There actually have not been any worst moments for Stormzone as a band. Individually we’ve all had various personal downs, Davy’s mother has been taken ill with multiple sclerosis, Keith’s marriage broke up and I my younger brother died two years ago, but we fought through these things and the band always stayed focussed. A funny thing is that one of the worst moments for me personally as a musician actually turned out to be great for Stormzone. I was actually chosen to be the singer in Fastway, the band featuring Motorhead legend ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke. I had been rehearsing with them for quite a while and we were supposed to then play various festivals such as Download, Sweden Rock, Wacken and Graspop. A few weeks before these shows the band decided that my voice didn’t suit Fastway songs, and they told me they were going to ask Toby Jepson to sing instead. I was obviously devastated that I wasn’t then going to play on some of Europe’s biggest stages so I was sad for a while and my ego took a bit of a hammering, but the good thing was that I had refused to give up playing for Stormzone while I was doing the Fastway shows. We were able to re-group immediately, our first album, ‘Caught in the act’ was released shortly afterwards, we then played UK’s Firefest, I met Spanish promoter Robert Mills and we then went on to tour Spain with George Lynch. From there everything started to develop in a very positive direction, so the negative aspect of my Fastway experience actually developed into a determination to succeed with Stormzone and I think I’ve come out of things with the better deal!


And looking back to your own personal career how far have your musical dreams and ambitions changed compared to the present?


Well I guess as a young singer during the 80’s I would have dreamed about reaching this stage of my career and living the successful rock and roll lifestyle, but as time has went on and maturity and experience took over then I was able to see things with a much more realistic attitude. In earlier bands Davy Bates (drums) and I achieved a lot, support tours with WASP, Dokken and Thin Lizzy etc and Davy even had a song he wrote with Sweet Savage, ‘Killing Time’ recorded by Metallica! But here we are many years later and for some reason or other the Gods decided to allow us to create Stormzone and at this stage of our careers it would seem we’re actually more at the beginning of something than at the end of anything. It’s not like we’re ancient, Davy and I are in our early 40’s and the rest of the guys are in their 30’s, so there’s plenty of life left in the old dogs yet and, most importantly, still a lot of ambition!! We’re about to release our 3rd Stormzone album and we’ve toured all over Europe with some fantastic bands as well as playing at most of Europe’s biggest festivals. Our ambitions now are to continue life on the road, achieving higher positions on the festivals and releasing more albums. Way back in the early days I would certainly have been happy with that!


What do you expect for Stormzone? I mean you guys got lots of experience and you probably know well what music market can currently offer…


Yeah, we’re experienced enough to be very, very realistic about everything. As you have already mentioned, our sound is a very specialised one. The NWOBHM era that influenced us has probably been forgotten by too many older heavy metal fans and never experienced by most of the younger ones to ensure huge success. All we can do is stay true to ourselves, continue creating the music we love and hope that people realise that it’s cool to like Stormzone even if we sound like a real blast from the past to them! There’s always hope, and that can sometimes depend on getting a big break from one big song, but one thing is for sure, success or not, we’ll keep on releasing albums that we feel people will really enjoy. I’m a heavy metal fan, I always have been, I know what excited me, and I think there’s a chance our music, if given a chance, will excite new fans the same way!

Each band got his method approaching live gigs, someone re-arrange songs to make them more effective live gig, others play as from the album version . How about Stormzone?


Normally we will have already rehearsed and played each song collectively as a band before separating to record our individual parts in the studio, so the recorded versions of the songs always end up identical in length and arrangement to the versions we play live. We try to be careful not to make the recorded versions of the songs sound too over-produced that they can’t be re-created onstage with the same degree of power and excitement as in the studio. Also because each of the other guys sings pretty well (except Davy on drums, he bever gets a microphone, haha) then we can also expect the backing vocals that make the recorded songs sound so big during the chorus sections to be delivered well live too.


Can we expect to see you on tour soon and maybe play live gigs in Italy?


We will be playing live around Ireland immediately after the new album’s release in promotion of it here locally so we can get used to playing the new songs in front of audiences and then definitely at the start of 2012 we are hoping to get a lengthy support tour which will take us to mainland Europe in promotion of the new album. We will, of course, still play some of the ‘Death Dealer’ classics too. Spain has been a great friend to us over the last few years, we’ve played there recently with Stryper, Cinderella and Y&T and no matter what happens we will be touring there soon. Let’s hope Italy becomes a good friend to Stormzone too and we can get to your wonderful country to show you what we can do live!



What more can we expect from Stormzone in the near future?


Definitely live shows and most certainly new albums. We have already written quite a few songs for a follow up to ‘Zero To Rage’ so this time next year I would be very confident of a new Stormzone album being released. As for the next few weeks, we’re shooting a video for the title track and this should be available before the end of 2011. We’ve also had quite a few of our festival appearances captured professionally on video so a live dvd might be a possibility in the near future. The main thing to expect always is continued commitment to the cause of true metal and dedication to bringing exciting experiences on stage and cd to new and old fans alike. Right now I can absolutely guarantee that my immediate future involves a few cold beers and a rest from the laptop, hahaha!


Would you like to add something to fans that will read this interview?


Indeed I would like to add that heavy metal fans in Italy are very important to us and we're looking forward to making our way to Italy soon to be able to repay your faith in our music the only way we can, and that's by re-creating 'Zero To Rage’ on-stage. I sincerely hope to see and hear you all very soon and many thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak to fans of ALONE MUSIC!