Interviewed by Adrian Hextall (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
As one of the UK’s national treasures and finest exponents of melodic rock, FM will release their new studio album ‘Heroes & Villains’ on 20th April 2015, and embark on a ten-date headline UK tour from 1st May.
‘Heroes & Villains’ is FM’s first album release since signing to Frontiers Music Srl, and follows the band’s highly acclaimed 2014 E.P. ‘Futurama’ and sell-out UK arena tour with Foreigner and Europe.
In addition to the album review (which can be found below), MyGlobalMind (MGM) took the opportunity to speak to Steve Overland (SO) to get an update on what is rapidly becoming their most successful phase in their career so far.
MGM: You’re managing to be quite consistent in getting these albums out out now as well and you are definitely getting into a particular style that suits you all aren’t you?
SO: I think it’s a slightly, I guess, newer sound for us and we are trying to make it as current a sound as we can because we want to compete with what’s out there today. I mean the old stuff’s great but you’ve got to move on haven’t you? The fact that people, you included, are commenting on that which is great because that’s what we’re trying to do really. So much technology available now, there’s so many things you can use all around when we’re in the studio. We’re having fun doing it really you know. It’s brilliant.
MGM: That’s got to be the main thing I was going to say, there’s a real buzz or seems to be with when you’re putting these out these days. Clearly you’re very much energised again. Is that a result of say, Jim coming in and the dynamic of the band changing or is it just that you really are fired up once more?
SO: We are fired up, I mean the band is touring widely, everything, we are having such a great time doing it again. To be able to come back and get ourselves back to a level where we’re heading for and we are at now. We never thought we would be able to do it. That’s what gives us this fire and energy and enthusiasm that we have. Jim was a good friend of mine before he joined FM. We were mates so in a way, seeing that he’s sort of one of my best friends anyway, it’s the closest I have ever come down to having Chris (Overland, Steve’s brother) back in the band. He fits differently, he’s much younger, he’s 20 years younger than me so he’s always trying to sort of inject a bit of ‘different ways of doing things’ is probably the best way of putting it. He’s a brilliant player. He’s a very big part of the song writing, I do a lot of writing with Jim…. Yeah he’s definitely given us a kick up the backside as well. Even with the album, the reaction to the band from the press, people like you, everybody including national radio. Its just been so brilliant, it gives you that sort of energy to keep going, to keep trying to come up with better stuff.
MGM: This time you are on Frontiers aren’t you as opposed to pushing this one out by yourselves like you did with the PledgeMusic campaign last time. Frontiers must offer you a lot of promotion as well I imagine?
SO: When we first got back together, they (Frontiers) were sort of interested in doing something but we weren’t sure we were going to do albums because we weren’t expecting to make anything other than a one off show. We had no idea what we were going to do and how long we were going to do it for. Now it’s a good time to sign to a bigger label again. The band’s growing all the time, we’ve got numerous festivals in Europe again this year and Frontiers are a major force in the rock side of things. You know they’re very keen, they love the album so, I think it could be the start of a great partnership and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with it.
MGM: You mention the major festivals, you’re coming to Ramblin’ Man Fair (UK Festival Summer 2015) aren’t you?
SO: Exactly, the touring side of things for us this year are really coming together and we are now always out on the road doing things. When we’re not, we’re in the studio, its going to be this collaboration [with Frontiers]. If we can get to the States, that would be great for us and I am looking forward to seeing how it all pans out.
MGM: Let’s talk a little bit about the album. Obviously that’s the thing that is at the front of our minds. I’ve had a chance to listen to it many times now. Take ‘Life is a Highway‘, one of the things I noted is that its not a million miles from ‘American Girls’ if you put the right ears on at the right time.
SO: Well you’re dead right, you’re dead right. It didn’t happen on purpose, we didn’t sort of try and say we need to try and write another ‘American Girls‘ that’s not what we’ve been about any more. I had a lost framework of a song from a long time ago. I played the chorus to Merv at his house and he said “that’s great, it’s really like earlier FM but make it a bit heavier”. So we decided to rock up some really good hook and it was the last song recorded for the album. We just were in the studio and we put the backing track down and then just built on it and it came out the way it did. No thoughts of course of trying to make it an early FM or whatever, it just came out the way it did and everyone seemed to like it. So we included it in the batch of songs for the album and lots of people have picked up on it.
MGM: I love it as it makes me smile when I hear it because its got that little nod to the past so as you say it still sounds fresh and modern as well so its great.
SO: Yes we can’t deny that as I say it is an old song, not an old old song but ….one I have had for a few years. People reacted to it because it was reminiscent of what FM used to be about and people (of course) like what they know don’t they, if you know what I mean? That’s how it all came about really, no sort of conscious effort to put on an old style FM track. It just all sort of happened.
MGM: What about the last track on the album ‘Walking with Angels‘ without knowing the story behind it sounds very special?
SO: That was a song that I wrote on the acoustic guitar, not necessarily for FM but I had all the lyrics and when I was in the studio I first played the song to Jim, he sat down he said that’s a beautiful song. He said we have to do something with that sometime. We write so many songs though that we’ve always got ideas and songs kicking around, they often kept popping out and back in to our thoughts. That’s what happened with ‘Walking with Angels‘. One day Jim said “what about that song called Walking with Angels that you played me?” and I said “Oh blimey yes…” and I got my guitar and I played it. It was difficult trying to remember it along with the lyrics. Everybody just said that we don’t need to do much to the song. It’s a fantastic song, with acoustic guitar and vocals so we kept it stripped down as it is on the album and just added the strings to it with a friend of ours who did an arrangement for us. We just kept it stripped back so that the song could come to you (the listener) really.
MGM: And I was going to say with the strings piece, it’s very subtle but it really just brings out the emotion doesn’t it? So who \ what have you got playing in the background then?
SO: Its basically this girl we know, she came in and just played cellos. We just wanted to keep it simple, not big and rock driven, just to keep it stripped down, everything natural instruments. She did a little arrangement with it and it is kind of subtle but it really adds to the track.
MGM: Absolutely gorgeous, you can imagine it’s one of those tracks the guys play to their girls on many an occasion.
SO: I hope so (laughs). First dance at a wedding song isn’t it? No.1 single hopefully! (laughs).
MGM: Obviously with the tour coming up, you’re going to have to pick a few tracks off the new album to slot into the set list. Do you have any thoughts around which ones? I’ll throw ‘Fire and Rain’ in as a suggestion from my side.
SO: We haven’t but I imagine we sort of touched on it but ‘Digging up the Dirt‘ will probably be in as it will be a good live track that one. As far as the others go I’ll throw ‘Highway‘ in when we get talking about it but not really talking about it in any great depth. Once we start rehearsing, we will probably learn a few of them. See how they sit in the set, In rehearsals, we normally change the set about five times because we play it and we don’t know if it works right so you will have to wait and see on that one but I imagine ‘Digging up the Dirt’ will be one of them.
MGM: I suppose when it comes to doing your set list, you must be in that catch-22 situation where you’d love to play the new stuff but your fans always hanker for the classics?
SO: The problem we’ve got is all of the fans have different favourites so you can’t please everybody. That’s why we try and change the set around as much as we can. We included so many that people were asking for. Take ‘The Story of My Life‘ [from Rockville] when we were touring last year and we just included a stripped down version of that for an encore and that became a big fan favourite. The fans were writing about it so we did it on the last batch of gigs as well, as one of the encores. It changes all the time, people saying “why don’t you play this song? Why don’t you play that?” and we say “well maybe we’ll have a go at it and include it.” We are going to try and change the set around quite a bit for the next tour if we can. There’s a limit on how many new songs we can put in. You are in that Catch-22 where people want to hear ‘That Girl’, the old stuff and I would rather play the new album personally. We have to play some of them so we will see what we can do and include as many new ones as we can.
MGM: And just on the point of playing a full album, you guys of course did the ‘Indiscreet’ 25th Anniversary shows not that long ago, you’ve got ‘Tough It Out‘ to consider an anniversary platform 25 years coming up as well. What about that one?
SO: Well its a possibility – never say never. I won’t deny that it has been mentioned before on a few occasions. By the record company, the management sort of talked about it but we’ve got no plans at the moment. With the new album coming out, we’ve got to get on with that. Give that a fair crack of the whip, give that all the promotion that we can. So that will be our priority now but who knows? New ideas get thrown around every week and so anything can happen. We’ll just keep going really and take it all on board, it may come up, we may do it. I’m not saying we definitely won’t so we will wait and see.
MGM: You talk about your touring and the demand for you is increasing rapidly with every new album that comes out at the moment. What do you do to keep your voice sounding so strong? To my ears, your voice is as powerful now as it was back in the 80’s.
SO: I don’t know – it just seems to keep working. I’ve never had any formal vocal training in my life. I wanted to be the guitar player. I didn’t want to be a singer. That wasn’t my intention at all when I got into music. I love to play the guitar, I used to sing along to play my guitar in my bedroom and my brother heard me sing one day and he came in and said “was it you singing?” and I said “yeah” and that was it, I joined his band and I became a singer, a singer/guitar player more than a guitar player. I don’t really do much. When I go on tour I try to keep the drinking not too extreme if I can. I don’t take any sort of magic potions, I probably take a bit of honey just to soothe it after a show and I try to keep fit, I think that helps as I get older. I am no spring chicken anymore so I do running and things like that as I try to keep fit. A lot of it is just down to knowing how to be economical with your voice when you’re doing a show. Singing in the right place, not pushing it too hard. It just sort of happens and that is all I can say. I have no secret way of keeping it happening, it just does. Thank god for that and I’ll just keep touching wood.
To be honest, ……they’re quite demanding gigs for a singer but I can’t really put my finger on it. It just keeps working and as long as it does, I’m happy.
MGM: Its interesting you mention the piece about wanting to be a guitar player because even though you’ve got Jim in there, effectively as your lead guitarist, you seem to pick up these days, more guitar work than you used to when it was say, you and Chris in the band?
SO: Yeah, probably because a lot of the recent stuff on the record, I come up with the initial ideas but I mean I enjoy the guitar playing, I always have done, all my songs are written on the guitar. When Jim came into the band, we said to bring back the twin guitar style of things that Chris and me used to do a lot of and I think it just worked. Jim lives about 8 or 9 miles away from me so I’ll go round to Jim’s house. He’s got about 35 guitars in his house and we just sit there and play so I think its just something we do. Jim will be like “lets play some guitar.” He likes the guitar harmony stuff we used to do back in the day that you think of as part of the old FM sound. He was very instrumental in bringing that back with the sound when he came into the band and I enjoy it so if I can get the odds and sneak in a bit of a solo, I’ll try you know, if he’ll let me have one!
MGM: Its certainly noticeable when you play live, it gives it all a bigger sound doesn’t it with the two of you playing together so often.
SO: Yeah the secret thing of FM is that what always happens is two separate guitar sounds, you’ve got the big rock guitar sound that Jim provides and I’ve always done the scrappy jangly sort of clean stuff and when you get to the band its a big sound, you’ve got contrast in the parts all the time rather than two guitars playing the same riffs. You may have a picking part over the top of the heavy riffs. Its interesting working it out, who plays what on the guitar front and you know its fine, I enjoy guitar playing so I’d still love to be a big guitar player now. (laughs).
MGM: I don’t think the rest of the lads will let you do that somehow.
SO: Yeah I don’t think that’s going to happen really is it.(laughs).
MGM: Between albums you’re also keeping us entertained with your EPs which tend to clock in about a length of an album, just to keep us all happy. One of them I want to ask you about I think it was the ‘Only Foolin’‘ EP that has got ‘Shot in the Dark‘ on it. I didn’t realise until you released it that that was one of your tracks from ‘Wildlife‘ [The Overland brothers band before FM] days that I assume you passed onto Ozzy [Osbourne]. I am just curious to know how that all came about?
SO: Well, I can’t talk too much about that because it’s been going on for years really. ‘Shot in the Dark‘ was a song from when I was in Wildlife with Simon Kirke [Bad Company]. We were due to do another album which would have included ‘Shot in the Dark’ which was a song that me and Chris wrote with Phil Soussan the bass player in Wildlife at the time.
After we’d recorded the second Wildlife album (on the Swan Song label) with Simon Kirke, we then filled the bass player slot in that lineup with Phil, we wrote the song with him and he then went away and joined Ozzy Osbourne’s band as the bass player. I rewrote the lyrics and the song came out and it was Ozzy’s biggest single obviously. A huge track really.
But we never got any recognition for the song which is something that has been going on for quite some time now. Ozzy’s been great, Ozzy, the Osbournes have been fantastic trying to support us and sort it out but we still haven’t so that’s how that all came about but the song was written for the next Wildlife album. Phil went off and took the song to Ozzy. Ozzy did rewrite the lyrics and so that’s how that all came about really.
Its an ongoing thing, what arrangement will come out of it I don’t know. I try not to dwell on it too much if I can.
MGM: Thanks for sharing that Steve. I was blown away when I heard it on the EP, thinking “Blimey, why have they covered this?” So you start to dig into it a bit and you realise that it’s actually yours in the first place.
SO: That’s why we did it. That version that’s on the EP is just a modern day recording of the original version that Wildlife did. Not a rip off of Ozzy’s, a slightly different version, its just very reminiscent of how the original version sounded. Now that was done really as a statement to show this is how the song was in its original form. That’s why we did it really.
MGM: Moving on then to discuss your recent touring partners, not so long ago you went out with Foreigner and Europe. I imagine that one must have opened you up again to a wider audience? They were some fantastic shows.
SO: Yeah that was an unbelievable tour. We toured with Foreigner back in the day on the Foreigner 4 album, we did some massive gigs with them then ..the original boys….I mean I love Mick’s song writing from back then. They were brilliant songwriters, they have some of the best of melodic rock songs ever really! And when you hear that catalogue at a gig, every song you know it, you don’t realise you do but they have some seriously great tunes. And Europe, we also toured with them back in Scandinavia where obviously they are a bit like the Beatles so that was an unbelievable tour. This time around therefore we kind of knew both bands but to get the chance to go out with both of them on the bill was something else. The great thing was that even we were on first, everybody turned up to the gig early, the venues were full, we were totally blown away. We were on stage at seven, seven fifteen each night and we thought “will people get back from work, will they be in the venue?” but people came to see all three bands and the collection of fans came for all of the bands because it was such a complimentary bill. We definitely picked up many new fans.
It was like that at every gig, it was amazing, I mean we then went to Europe with Foreigner and we took over as the main support in Europe and once again, it was just fantastic. I mean the gigs in Paris were just rammed when we went on stage and we got to play for them. The two bands get along really really well. Foreigner’s manager was blown away with us who thought we were a fantastic band and so did all the Foreigner crew. We sort of made a bit of a friendship with Foreigner and Europe to a degree. Ian’s [Haugland] a lovely guy and so are the rest of the Europe guys so we will hook up with them again and do some more dates with them because they are a great band too. It just worked well didn’t it?
MGM: From the show we saw, the crowd was grinning from ear to ear so couldn’t fault it at all.
SO: So as I say maybe some more dates with those two bands would be great. We will wait and see!
As we wrap up, I wish Steve and the band well for the upcoming tour and the dates for these are shown below.
FM – HEROES AND VILLAINS UK TOUR DATES:
1st May – Bristol, Bierkeller – Tickets
2nd May – Wolverhampton, Robin 2 – Tickets
3rd May – Portsmouth, Wedgewood Rooms – Tickets
5th May – Nottingham, Rescue Rooms – Tickets
6th May – Glasgow, Classic Grand – Tickets
8th May – Newcastle, O2Academy – Tickets
9th May – Manchester, Academy 2 – Tickets
10th May – London, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – Tickets
MGM’s review of Heroes And Villains can be found here: