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Burn interview 

Submitted by Juha Harjula on 2008-05-06
After an enforced sabbatical, Burn return to the hard rock stage with their third album - Global Warning.
Based in Leicestershire, in the heart of the UK, Burn emerge regrouped and recharged with a harder sound but retaining all the stomping melody that brought their debut album So Far So Bad rave reviews (a 5K from Kerrang and 9/10 in Metal Hammer) back in 1993.
Fast forward to late 2006 and Burn are indeed rejuvenated. A year spent recording and infusing the new ideas into the remaining core of Burn - has resulted in easily Burn´s best material to date.
Hello Philip, how are you doing?
Phil Hammond: Very well thanks, Juha. Life is very busy at the moment, but I’m enjoying it.

First of all welcome back. You have released a new Burn album called Global Warning. Why has it taken you over 13 years to follow up the 2nd album Spark To Flame?
Phil Hammond: I reckon that is because Jeff, Barney and Marc took that long to get around to getting Jules, Benji and me in the band!

What have you guys been doing between these two albums?
Phil Hammond: Well, I think it has been fairly well documented that the original line-up was together for years – they all grew up together in a small town in England, called Shepshed – and they released the first two albums just as the whole rock climate was changing over to grunge. For a band that really belonged in the eighties, the nineties was a bit of a dodgy place to be. ‘So Far… So Bad’ had done OK – I think they sold about 10,000 copies – but ‘Spark To A Flame’ was not very well received and the momentum kind of petered out. They pottered about for several years but they received a huge blow when the original drummer, Beezer, was killed in a bike crash. That knocked them all for six and Rab, the guitarist, followed this up by packing it all in soon after. During this time the other three, Marc, Barney and Jeff, probably thought that was it, but credit to Barney, he kept it all going.

The original band had actually recorded versions of some of the songs that appeared on ‘Global Warning’, but they didn’t sound much like they do now! They had a few other guys help them out on the live front in the meantime, and one of them was Julian. Another one was Rob Vom, the drummer from Zodiac Mindwarp, At some point in 2004, as they were drifting about going nowhere in particular, they asked Julian to help with finishing the album off and Jeff came up with the idea of asking me to get involved as well. It was a bit bizarre really, as I had just picked up music again after 15 years out of it – the timing couldn’t have been better, really. We all pitched in, Jules and I wrote some new songs, we kept some of the original ones, and beefed them up a bit, and the end result was ‘Global Warning’.

Tell us about the new album!
Phil Hammond: Well, I still like it! It has been with the band for a while. Basically, it was mastered in early 2006 so to us the songs are not really new, but we are really proud of it. We like the way it sounds and I think the songs are strong. I don’t really think it sounds quite like anyone else, which is something I am very pleased about. We’ve had consistently positive reviews, and sales are OK, so I guess other people like it too. I like to think it is a modern sounding British rock album with a nod to our influences over the last few decades.

It was released in UK May last year, why did take almost a year to give it a world wide release?
Phil Hammond: It’s all down to economics, really. Formula One is a small independent label and it can’t afford to fund a simultaneous worldwide release. It takes a fair bit of money to get the publicity machines running in all four corners of the world at the same time so they have done it bit by bit. Ian (Formula One’s owner) has carried out a gradual roll-out strategy which has worked OK in that it has kept the album alive at different times in different territories over a protracted period of time. Some labels I could mention will publicise a record worldwide for 6 weeks then let it go and move onto the next one.

Who´s in the band today?
Phil Hammond: Well, there’s the original guys – Barney, Marc and Jeff – and the new boys – Julian, Benjy and myself.

I think the new album has more hookladen songs and fantastic melodies. I think the keyboards have got a more room on this new album so what was you main goal for this new album and what bands have influenced you?
Phil Hammond: That’s very kind of you to say. The keyboards are an important element of the Burn sound. We like to put epic keyboard themes in the songs sometimes, like in ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Another Lifetime’, but basically Burn is a guitar band. Barney is a great keyboard player in that he knows when to add and when to be quiet. He’s a big guitar fan so he’s very happy to hear the riffs chugging away but can bang in the big keyboard parts when the song needs it.

The main goal for this album was simply to make it as strong as we could and to make something that we could all be really proud of. If it all stopped tomorrow, I would be happy that I had been part of a band that had created a piece of work that a decent number of people have really rated. A genuine artist is interested in doing what he does, hoping that it is appreciated by others, but mainly feeling satisfaction in what he has achieved. Financial success should be a reward for ability and a by-product of the creativity – not the reason for doing it. A lot of young musicians get that the wrong way around and get a very nasty surprise when they realize that very few people make a living from being a musician.

If you asked all six of us what our influences are, you would probably get six very different lists of names. Personally, I have been influenced by anything and everything, and I hope that comes over in my songs. The real big influences on me were probably Cheap Trick, Rammstein, Enuff Z Nuff and UFO. Is that varied enough for you?

The album is filled with awesome songs but could you give us some comments of couple of them?
Phil Hammond: - Shadow Of The Satelite

I came up with the majority of the music before I joined the band but couldn’t come up with a chorus I liked, so it stayed on the back burner as we recorded the other songs. One day Barney was ranting on about how in the UK we are watched wherever we go by one camera or other, and how at any time in your life there is a satellite spying on you, and there was the title and it just rolled out from there. I wrote the lyrics during the following few days and it was done. Jeff delivered a great performance and I knew we had the album opener there and then – a statement of intent.

- Dangerous Times

This is one of Jules’ songs. He came up with that great riff and all the music. It was the first brand new song that was written for the album. When I came on board they were trying to get the vocals sorted and nothing was really happening. I was the new guy, and listened to what was coming out, but to my ears nothing seemed to work. I just came up with something, which is pretty much how the vocals sound now, and the others said, ‘well that sounds OK’ so we went with it. That was a big moment for me as it was my first contribution to the band. The words are about Globalisation, basically, and how people in the developed world demand so much at the expense of those in the undeveloped world. Not normal lyrical content for a melodic rock band but there you go……….

- Down In Flames

This song was written for the original album, by the original members, but it was a bit more AOR than it is now. I always thought that it was a strong song with a killer chorus, but it was a bit too laid back for me.. One day I turned up at the studio and Barney had totally changed the song structure. He played me the intro and I thought, here we go, re-recorded the rythmn guitars, and the song was transformed. I can say that I think it a great song, as I didn’t write it. It is the opening song in our live set and a good song to kick a gig off with.

- Pray For Rain

Another song that was written by the original band that was on the first incarnation of the album. I love this song. The middle section is particularly striking as it is kind of unexpected when you are listening to the album, and it shows that we are capable of more varied and adventurous things than straight ahead rock songs. We changed the guitar riffs a bit and the feel of the chorus, but basically the song is as it always was.

- Give Me Tonight

Another original song from the original band, this is a real nod to their AOR influences. It’s a nice way to finish the album as it’s a bit more chilled out than a lot of the material. 20 years ago it would have been all over the radio, I reckon.

It´s hard to pick out a favourite track but if I have to pick one I would say Down In Flames with the pompish and melodic keyboards. What´s your and why?
Phil Hammond: I’m most proud of ‘Forgive Me’. It was one of those songs that just came together in a natural organic way. The icing on the cake was Jules’ solo, which is just awesome. When you have a talent like him and a singer like Jeff to deliver your songs how can you fail.

Do the guys have dayjobs or do you survive by being musicians?
Phil Hammond: I think you’ll find that very few musicians can make a living from music alone. It is a bit of a myth that all rock bands sleep all day and party all night and that royalty cheques pop through the letterbox at regular intervals to feed their debauched lifestyles. We all have regular jobs and families to support like other people.

Are there any plans to get out and play live shows?
Phil Hammond: We did a bunch of stuff last year in order to help to promote the album in the UK and to get used to playing together, but, to be honest, the live scene for rock bands in the UK is very poorly supported. There are lots of bands and numerous enthusiastic venues, but getting punters to get out and go and see bands play is hard work. Added to that it’s always raining! We are doing selected gigs in the UK this year where we will get across to the maximum number of people. We are doing the Rock Of Ages Festival in September and Firefest V in October and are hoping to get on some Festival bills on the Continent in the summer.

What 5-CD´s are in your CD-player right now?
Phil Hammond: 1. Mind’s Eye – A Gentleman’s Hurricane. Best album of 2007 in my opinion
2. The Killers – Sam’s Town. The rest of the band hate them but I think they are great
3. Senses Even – Paramount. Really intelligent band – great material
4. Muse – Haarp. The best band to come out of the UK for a long time.
5. Nevermore – The Godless Endevour. My favourite Heavy Metal band of the decade so far

Philip, you´re a guitarist so I wonder what players have influenced you and what´s your favourite guitar?
Phil Hammond: I don’t claim to be anything more than a competent rythmn player, so cannot really claim that I have been particularly influenced, but Julian has shown me so much stuff and helped my playing no end that I would have to say he is a major influence. As a lay person though, I always loved Schenker, Eddie Van Halen and John Petrucci.

What are the future plans for Burn?
Phil Hammond: We want to spread the release of Global Warning all around the world this year and to build up the fan base as much as possible. The band has been away for 12 years so there is a lot of catching up to do. We are just starting the process of getting material together for the next album. I’ve been writing and recording demos for a couple of years and Jules has a load of stuff. The others will contribute as well and we are hopeful that the next one will be a step forward from where we are now. The plan is to get it released about this time next year.

Why should a melodic music lover buy the new Burn album Global Warning?
Phil Hammond: Well of course I am biased, but I reckon that if you like big melodies and even bigger guitars and want to hear one of the best undiscovered voices in rock belting them out, you should get it.

Ok, thanks Philip for taking your time for this interview. Is there something you would like to say or add for the readers of
Phil Hammond: Thanks for reading this, and to everyone who has bought the album, thank you for taking the chance on us and I hope that it was one that you are glad you took. Keep supporting rock music in general as you probably need it more than it needs you.