Skyscrapers are huge structures which can't just be brought to perfection in a few days and so it seems, the same is the case for the band who have taken the name of these monolithic buildings as their own. Way back in March of 2011, Sea of Tranquility's Steven Reid took the time to speak to the three main players in Melodic Rockers Skyscraper, singer Lee Small (Shy/Phenomena/United Nations), guitarist Tor Talle (Joe Lynn Turner/Fergie Frederiksen/Overland) and bassist Dave Boyce (Airrace/The Quireboys) about their debut album Elevation. However three and a half years down the line and this excellent debut platter is only now seeing the light of day and not through the label initially expected. So let's begin with a brief catch-up with Lee, Dave and Tor who were returning from a Skyscraper promotional visit to New York City.
We first spoke about Skyscraper back in May of 2011, how come it has taken three and a half years to go from recording this album to getting it released?
Lee: Releasing any record is about timing I guess... Now was the right moment to put it out for everyone concerned. We all have been busy with other things and still are! (laughs!) We didn't have the time to push or promote Skyscraper until now, it was the first chance we all had together to give it the time it needs.
Dave: As Lee says the timing wasn't quite right and there were lot of loose ends that needed sorting out before we could release the album. So we waited until everything lined up and that happened this year.
Tor: It's exactly as Dave says, we've been waiting for the right people to promote the album. I have also been busy writing songs and playing gigs in Norway.
So how did you finally hook up with Cargo Records for the release of 'Elevation'?
Dave: The release of 'Elevation' is a collaboration between Ghost Dancer Music and Cargo Records, Cargo being the distributor for UK/Europe. I met up with John Dryland and liked what he and Cargo were saying; I wanted the right people involved with the release and they have been great. A release in the US and Japan are being looked at as we speak.
Lee: John really loved the album and wanted to get behind it...
Did you go back and tinker with the songs in the time between recording and release, or were they perfect the way they were?
Lee: No, I am certain nothing was re-recorded, we just all left it alone and didn't listen to it for a year or so; I certainly didn't. So when I came back to it the record still sounded fresh and new. The only thing that changed was that it got re-mastered in London.
Dave: Nope, as Lee mentioned, none of the songs have been tinkered with in any way. Martin Kronlund did a super job co-producing the album and we loved his mixes – the only difference is from when we first spoke to you Steven is that I got it mastered by Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham. I was looking for a bit more edge and depth and I believe they brought that to the album.
Tor: We wrote and recorded these songs way back, but they still stand the test of time. Personally, I have developed as a songwriter and guitarist, and would probably now done some small changes on the production and recording side but I am very satisfied with the album as it is.
Can you tell us the full Skyscraper line-up as it is now please and has the band changed between 2011 and now?
Lee: No changes to the line-up, so myself on vocals, Tor on all guitars, Dave on bass, Imre Daun drums and Bruce Gaitsch additional acoustic guitars.
It felt from the outside that back in 2011 Skyscraper was maybe seen by you guys as a "project", however there's very much a band vibe about the whole thing now. Is that how you view it now too?
Lee: Yes, very much so, we really want to take it on the road next year if the right gigs arise. It would be great to play these songs live.
Tor: Skyscraper has grown out from a project to be a real band ready to rock the world!
Dave: It certainly started out as a project but, Skyscraper the band began to emerge from the project stage into a full band stage. With the energy and buzz that was being created by Lee, Tor and myself in creating 'Elevation' we all new that this had to be a band and that we would take Skyscraper on the road and do more albums together.
So there are still plans for a second Skyscraper album?
Lee: Tor has already started writing for Skyscraper II. I had the first track sent to me only last week!
Tor: Yes, three songs are already written for the upcoming album!
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Lee: We would just like to thank yourself and everyone for their kind words and love of the album. We are so grateful for the support we have been shown.
Dave: I would have to thank Martin Kronlund and Gregor Klee for their professionalism and patience, without which we would not have been able to get the album to where it is now. My personal thanks to Andy and Matt for putting the edge and depth I wanted on the album and helping us achieve that goal. And a very big Skyscraper thank you to everyone who has supported the band and album. There has been a fantastic reaction to the album by both critics and fans and that has galvanised us even more to get Skyscraper on the road and rocking with the fans.
Tor: Thanks to everyone who has supported Skyscraper and bought the album. Stay tuned cause there more to come.
So let's now whizz back in time by 42 months - a long time in anyone's book. During that period Lee Small released a second excellent solo album, 'Jamaica Inn'. The, as it turned out due to the tragic death of guitarist Steve Harris, final Shy album appeared to universal and deserved acclaim. Dave Boyce joined and then left The Quireboys, while Tor Talle has continued to collaborate with numerous musicians and built upon his interesting fjordguitar project. Also during those months, the label Avenue of Allies would appear to have passed on the Skyscraper album without even hearing the finished article (more fool them), even though the band were, at the time, very complimentary of their hoped for partners, before Boyce bought the rights to the recordings and teamed up with Cargo Records to finally allow this impressive set of songs to see the light of day…
Interview carried out in March 2011
Skyscraper is a new project involving Lee Small, Tor Talle and Dave Boyce, how did you guys get together?
Lee: I was introduced to Dave by ex Cozy Powell/Graham Bonnett guitarist Mario Parga. We were due to do an album together in Las Vegas but sadly it didn't happen. Tor I didn't know, he got brought in when we we sorting out a steady line up for this album. He also is a lovely guy and a great guitar player/songwriter. It is such a pleasure to be around guys of their calibre.
Dave: Lee asked if I would put some sexy bass down on the Skyscraper album and after hearing the tracks I just knew I had to be part this very exciting band and album.
Tor: I got introduced to Lee by a drummer from Sweden, who was wondering if I was interested to be part of this project as a guitarist and songwriter. This was in the middle of a busy period when I wrote songs for Steve Overland and Rob Moratti and I should have turned down the offer but something told me I should do this collaboration with Lee 'cause I love his soulful singing. When you hear the finished result you will understand why! Dave joined us later in the process and I am glad he is on board, he's a cool guy and a great bass player.
OK, so let's have a Skyscraper love in… What were the qualities that you saw in each other that made you want to work with each other?
Dave: Well, apart from their talent as musicians and song writers - both these guys are bonkers and certainly know how to work, play and party hard and that is very important to me, (laughing) but seriously, they really are great people to work with and we gelled the moment we started working together.
Lee: Tor is a wonderful person, he has such a gift as a songwriter, it is not always easy to connect with a writing partner, but I instantly got were he was coming from; the chemistry is there for all to see. He is also a very expressive guitar player who only plays for the songs, that is so important! And he does this with so much emotion, a very talented guy indeed! As for Dave (laugh) where do I start!? (Laughing) He is totally Bonkers!!! Seriously, he is a credit to the band, since he came into the mix of things the record really took off. He kicked everyone up the backside. He has such a passion for music and this project especially, and is one of the best bass players I have ever come across, we are lucky to have him on board.
Tor: Lee and Dave are two great musicians and they both add something special to "The skyscraper sound", but the most important things is that we all three have a good chemistry. It's an honour to work with these guys.
The three of you have reasonably different musical backgrounds. What influences have been brought to the band and how has it affected the sound of Skyscraper?
Lee: Tor has definitely bought emotion, and most importantly melody, to the band, his music will take everyone on a journey here. Dave has bought to the band a solid "no messin'" foundation that everything sits on which helps give everything else its own pocket of space to shine. Also just playing for the songs and not himself, he plays some lovely lines and passes that give the record a great feel. Myself, I would like to think I have bought a soul element to this and also more melody too - It's funny but on the first hearing of some of Tor's ideas, I knew instantly what melody I would use to work with them - that is the sign of great songs. It makes my job so much easier if I am honest.
Tor: Yes, with Lee's amazing voice and musicality and Dave's groovy and sexy bass playing we have found our own sound. I also hope I've added something that is important for me, namely good melodic songs and guitar tones that come straight from the heart.
Dave: I think we all bring a great deal of diverse musicianship to the band - Lee's soulful and powerful vocals linked with Tor's soaring guitar work combined with my sexy bass lines (laughing) are just a perfect fit!
Was the writing of the songs a collaboration between the three of you, or is it more of a case of a collection of individual ideas brought together to make an album?
Lee: Most of the album is penned by Tor and myself, although Tor has also bought to the table songs he has written solely and with other guys, one being Tony Mills. We have a wealth of lovely material here, this is melodic heaven for anyone who loves catchy tunes, but the most important thing to me is, I honestly think the band really does have its own sound; we don't sound like anyone else now or back in the 80s or 90s! This is different and although it has a classic rock influence, it is to me, 100% Skyscraper.
Tor: That's right Most songs are written by myself and Lee, but we also have a song that I wrote with Tony Mills (TNT/Shy) and another that I wrote with Lars Abrahamsson from Sweden.
Dave: However the second album will be a collaboration of all three of use as songwriters.
Did you record the album as a group, or individually?
Tor: You know, in these times when the budget is not as it used to be in the music business, we can, thanks to technology, make records without having to be together in the same studio.
Lee: We live in an age now where everyone can collaborate with people from all over the world. We are lucky to all be able to record in our own various studios, whatever country we may live in or be in at the time, due to the marvels of technology.
Tor: Although I miss the times we could all be together in the same room and write and record music for our fans that way.
Who else has been involved in the recording of the album?
Lee: On the album we have Imre Daun on drums, he is a solid power-house drummer who has worked with the best. Also we have Bruce Gaitsch (Survivor/Chicago/Madonna) on additional guitars too.
Dave: All the bass was recorded with producer Pedro Ferreira (Darkness, Therapy, Tank) at his studio in London and, as Lee mentioned, Martin Kronlund brought in Imre to do a fantastic job on the drum tracks after we were let down by the previous guy.
Martin Kronlund, who produced the excellent Blind Faith album by Phenomena, has produced the album, what made you ask him to be involved?
Lee: Tor knew Martin and said he was the man to give us the sound we want for our first record. We know we can all trust his judgment, so Martin was in, also my friend Tom Galley had been working with him too and he also recommended him to me when I said he was in the mix (mind the pun!).
Tor: I knew Martin because I had worked with him on the Steve Overland album, 'Diamond Dealer'. He's a great producer and a really nice guy, so it seemed obvious to put his name forward.
Avenue Of Allies are a reasonably young record label, but they have already released a number of impressive albums. How did you guys hook up with them and what made you decide they were the right label to go with?
Lee: I was made aware of Avenue of Allies by the guy who initially brought us all together for this project. I didn't know too much about them at the time but must say how supportive and patient Greg and the team have been regarding making this. There has been so many hiccups and stumbling blocks along the way, but he has really been patient and supportive to the whole band and situation. I cant thank him enough!
Dave: I would like to say a personal thank you to Gregor and the record company for believing in the band and the album. I think Avenue of Allies look forward in regards to accessing and promoting new talent, as we have found out, and not just relying on old established bands. Once they decide to get behind you, they will support you and make sure the best album will be delivered.
Can we expect any live dates from Skyscraper and would the UK be included in any tour that would take place?
Lee: YES! I think we all want to get this on the road, schedules permitting.
Dave: And that has to be a big fat YES on both counts from me!
Tor: Hopefully in both England and Norway.
I know that it is early days, but you suggested earlier there are plans to continue this project/band in the longer term as well? Is that correct?
Dave: Again a big fat yes! We have started putting ideas together and work has begun on songs for the second album - which I am very excited about.
Tor: Yes, we have already started writing songs for the next album!
Lee: Without a doubt, this is only the beginning, I don't think I have ever been in a more comfortable working environment as this before. It really is a pleasure to work with everyone involved.
If I can guys, I'd also like to touch on some of the other musical projects you've been involved with… Lee have released a fantastic solo album 'Through The Eyes Of Robert Lees' and were also involved with a band called Surveillance, who released an album called 'Angelstation'. For those not already aware of your previous work, what can you tell us about these albums?
Lee: Ok, the Surveillance record 'Angelstation' came out in 2006 through Escape Music. They wanted to market this as a new band at the time, we respected their wishes as they put faith into re-releasing this, but in fact, we recorded it back in 1997/98 at Magnum's studios. I had just done the Phenomena record at the time and they wanted something to put out to reintroduce me to the scene, as I had been out of the recording industry for nearly five years and that was all I had available at the time. The record was initially called 'Primitive Soul' and the band were called Native Cain. It also featured some people connected to the Magnum family tree at the time, as we were all in there together during most of the recording of this. We were there certain days doing our record, they were there certain nights doing theirs. It was a wonder we didn't all turn up to the wrong sessions! (laughing) but it was a great album and I lovely memories of the time too. It just suffered through a lack of budget regarding the final mix. As for my solo album 'Through the eyes of Robert Lees', I am extremely proud of it. Most of it is based on the Jack the Ripper murders - but not in an obvious tacky way! It is still available online in all major stores so I am giving this another welcome plug! (laughs!)
What other projects have you been involved with?
Lee: Over the years I have had the pleasure of working with lots of talented people. I worked with Glenn Hughes, Tom and Mel Galley, and Tony Martin to name a few on the Phenomena 'Psycho Fantasy' album, where I also co-wrote most of the songs with Tom. I was once vocalist for John Thomas in his version of Budgie, did background vocals on a few records including for the The Wildhearts, which led me to do some lead vocals on Ginger's solo album 'Market Harbour'. I also was due to front the Mel Galley band, although all the dates got cancelled due to Mel becoming ill; what a lovely man he was… and most recently was lined up to do some live dates with Diamond Head but sadly these didn't materialise either.
You are also currently singing with the band Shy who have been promising us an album for quite some time now, how is that coming along?
Lee: The Shy album is completed now, it has been a long journey but I must say, It has been worth it, it's a Monster! Steve Harris has never written a bad song, so if I say these are the best songs from him in years, you will know how good they are. His playing is breathtaking at times too, I think these are his best performance on a record to date. This guy should be ranked as one of the best guitar players this country has EVER produced, he should be up there with the best. What a talented and lovely grounded guy he is, it is an honour to be a friend of his. However everyone has played their part in making the record the epic I truly think it is. I can't wait for its release.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
Lee: I have a couple of things I am involved at the moment and I recorded an 'Acoustic Cover' version album last year, which I haven't done anything with as yet. I also recorded a Sci-Fi Rock Musical called 'Vampire Zoo', featuring Sue Willetts from Dante Fox. I am in talks with people regarding a release of that too and would love it to go out as a Theatre show if I could find the right people to make it happen…
Dave, I had the pleasure of seeing Airrace live for the first time in April of last year when you supported FM in Glasgow. I thought the band were very impressive on the night. How was it playing together after so many years away?
Dave: What a great night and Steven, I'm so glad you had a rockin' night and enjoyed the evening! I have to say it was a pleasure doing those dates with FM, top band and guys. I had a great time with Airrace and getting to play with Jason Bonham on the Thunder dates was a great honour. Supporting Tesla and then to do the Winger tour just made 2009/10 a great and fun packed year.
Had you stayed active in the music scene in the time between Airrace packing it in and surfacing?
Dave: I have been in and out of the music scene over the years - I played with Paul Samson in Samson for a few years, then got into feature film screen writing for a while, with mixed results, but once music's in your blood it draws you back and when I was asked to tour and record with Toby Jepson (Little Angels), I just had to get back playing and had a fantastic time with him; which in turn led to Airrace and now Skyscraper. Things have just got better and better and I'm loving every minute.
On that night in Glasgow, it was said that we could expect a new album from Airrace. Is that something that is still likely to happen and if so, when can we expect to hear it?
Dave: I do believe there is going to be an album - but unfortunately I am not privy to any information that could confirm that, as they have re-engaged their original bass player Jim Reid. The band felt it was a move that made sense and I must say I totally agree. People who know me, know I loved being in Airrace but having the original line-up or as close to it as possible, makes sense. So I stood down and I wish Jim and the lads all the best for the future and if there is another album I am sure it'll be great.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
Dave: Musically? I am having such a great time with Skyscraper, I'll put all my efforts into the next album. I am always writing so a couple of screenplays are being written as we speak.
Tor, other bands you've been involved with are Overland (with Steve Overland of FM), Memoria Avenue and Shine. How easy is it to go from project to project and do you have to tailor your style to suit the other people you work with?
Tor: Just give me a bottle of red wine and I can write you a song in ten minutes!! As long as I write songs in the style of AOR, hard rock, pop, rock, ballads, I can work very fast and write two to three songs each week. I would also mention other artists I have worked with and who have given me the inspiration to focus on writing good melodic songs, such as Joe Lynn Turner, Fergie Frederiksen and Rob Moratti.
I believe you also have a solo album on the way as well. What can you tell us about that?
Tor: Yes! I am working now on an instrumental solo album. This will be a multimedia disc with beautiful music and videos from the great fjords, mountains and nature of Norway. I also plan to make a sequel to the 'Northern Light' album and have already recorded some songs with some well-known singers.
As if that wasn't enough, do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
Tor: Memoria Avenue. The debut album will be very special and my good friend and singer Jan Le 'Brandt does a wonderful job. I think that this is some of the best songs I've ever written.
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(Click here to read our reviews of Elevation )