Stormzone - five boyos from Belfast, Northern Ireland with a reputation of 'keeping it real' and 'old skool'. Oi! it's heavy metal 'ala 1983, alright!? Lyrically speaking, these lads are definitely trying to stay true to the fine tradition of Manowar, Saxon, Angel Witch, etc. This from the titletrack off their new SPV album "Death Dealer" and I quote, "Darkness closes in, I feel a change will now begin, a new reason, the anger that courses through my veins. Cold steel on my face, all my memories erased, a new reason, the anger, to hell and back. I'm built to be victorious, Forever glorious, I'm built to fight, fight, fight", end quote. What follows is a chat with their 'mad' fighting frontman, JOHN 'HARV' HARBINSON, the former vocalist of Den Of Thieves, Emerald, No Sweat, Sweet Savage, etc. We spoke about the true meaning and sound of Stormzone and some of their best and worst highlights so far... Here's 'Harv'...
"Well, there are two different sets of influences for Stormzone, the original NWOBHM bands which gave us the determination and hunger to play similar music and then there are the bands of recent times that, although may not be evidently influential to the Stormzone sound, we definitely all as a unit appreciate. Our early influences are bands which emerged in the NWOBHM and established the style of music Stormzone has been associated with. Many never rose to become hugely famous but bands such as Tokyo Blade, Samson, Blitzkrieg and Angel Witch all played a part in creating heavy metal the way we want to play it, and of course the bands who did rise to stardom such as Iron Maiden, Saxon and Judas Priest gave us the belief that by keeping faith and persevering with the musical style we believe in then there's a chance for us with hard work and good luck. We still listen to those bands and we're also happy to me a modern band capitalising on recent interest in acts hailing from the NWOBHM".
"if we were to get to do tours with any of those great metal masters we would be exceptionally happy!"...
"You know, the albums that made me want to become a singer, not necessarily a band's best album, but the one that had the most impact, especially in the early 80's. Iron Maiden's debut and of course Number of the Beast, Saxon's Wheels of Steel, Diamond Head's Living on Borrowed Time and Motorhead's Ace of Spades. They would have been the albums that changed lives for sure! Then throughout the 80's great albums from bands such as Queensryche, Running Wild, Grave Digger, Helloween, Pretty Maids, Manowar, Rage and Accept would go on to inspire and influence, and still do!! Bands over the years right up until recent times that we also love are UDO, Helloween, Primal Fear, Hammerfall, Iced Earth, Manowar, Grave Digger and Gamma Ray to name a few. If we were to get to do tours with any of those great metal masters we would be exceptionally happy!"
..."There's been so many highlights though, albums released, gigs played but if I had to mention a personal best it would be when I was given the opportunity to play with legendary Dokken guitarist George Lynch! That was the best of both worlds and an opportunity that very few musicians get because Stormzone benefited as his support band playing a 45 minute set of our own songs, and then we returned to the stage as headliners with George to play a set of Dokken and Lynch Mob songs. An incredible experience and one Iíll never forget. It was hard over the course of a tour to do both shows every night but I'd do it all again in an instant."
"The worst? Probably meeting other musicians that you had respect for and then discover they're complete ass-holes. Take Justin Hawkins from The Darkness for example. The guy isn't right in the head. It was the end of a fantastic day which saw us performing at Sweden Rock, Hawkin's new band Hot Leg had just finished playing the same stage as us and we had all returned to the same back-stage area to get our bus back to the hotel. Our driver was a young Swedish girl and was distracted a little while reversing by the antics of our drummer Davy. She was gently rolling backwards, and I mean gently and we in the back could see that she was destined to reverse into Justin's limousine. We shouted and she slowed down further but did actually tap the long white vehicle, no more than a tap and the paint-work wasn't even broken.
"imagine then our surprise next day to learn that Justin had been twittering away referring to us as 'drunken Irish band Stormzone', claiming that we had hit his vehicle 'at speed' and 'ruined his Limo fun"...
We got out more to make sure the limousine wasn't badly damaged as we didn't want the expense of a big paint-work job. Justin Hawkins opened his door, declared that everything was ok and asked us for the name of our band. We told him, wished him all the best and he left in the said vehicle allowing us to get out of there too. Imagine then our surprise next day to learn that Justin had been twittering away referring to us as 'drunken Irish band Stormzone', claiming that we had hit his vehicle 'at speed' and 'ruined his Limo fun!!!' Ah well, I suppose it doesn't matter now but I'm glad you asked so I could put the record straight. It was a bloody festival, everyone, including giants such as In Flames, Motorhead and Journey were all happy with festival transport but Mr Hawkins has to go and make sure he comes off-stage into a Limo".
We started chating about "guilt" and any secrets of their own, so to speak... "Nothing too serious, I remember getting in touch with Magnus Karlsson to get Rodney Matthews contact details as we wanted him to paint the cover for our 'Caught in the act' album. Magnus told me that Rodney was very busy painting the cover for his new Allen/Lande album and may not have the time to do ours. I contacted Rodney anyway and explained what we wanted and his reaction was to put Magnus's painting on hold for a little while which delayed the release of that album. I probably should have listened to Magnus and not contacted Rodney until he had completed his painting but I didn't have the patience. It's not that guilty a secret and I'm sure if you ask most people that question they won't reveal too interesting an answer as the real ones would get them into deep trouble, haha! If we meet in the near future I'll tell you some real 'off the record' stuff!"
"they had such an awful uncaring attitude and we basically had to get changed into our gig clothes at the side of the stage as there wasn't a dressing room "...
"More secrets??? Well, the 'Underworld' in Londonís Camden wasn't a great place. It was like most other dark and dingy gigs but we played there a few years back with George Lynch and when we arrived (having flown there from Belfast) the promoters asked us if we'd brought a backline!! I asked how the hell we were expected to get amps, drums and cabinets etc on a plane as hand luggage! We then had to basically go into the bar upstairs and ask people if they had access to a backline and thankfully decent people got immediately into action and a couple of hours later we had everything we needed all borrowed from fans! This wasn't just to provide us a backline as support band, this was also to provide George Lynch with his. They had such an awful uncaring attitude and we basically had to get changed into our gig clothes at the side of the stage as there wasn't a dressing room. I mean thatís not so bad and weíve done that many times, but the audience were in full view! That kind of takes away the mystery surrounding a band and the Underworld' is definitely a venue I wouldn't look forward to returning to."
Yeah, but what if you are in a balloon with Axl Rose, Gene Simmons, Tipper Gore and Simon Cowell who would you throw out as ballast and why?... "Haha, there's actually a joke here that would probably be a better answer to that question, a hired gunman manages to kidnap Axl Rose, Tipper Gore and Simon Cowell and has them tied up ready to shoot them all. He realises that he only has two bullets in his gun but has three captives. He phones his boss and says 'Hey boss, Iíve captured Simon Cowell, Axl Rose and Tipper Gore but there are only two bullets in my gun, what should I do?' His boss says 'Shoot Simon Cowell TWICE!', hahahaha!. And the 3 words that describe me best? Ambitious, determined, mad!!!."
"they call themselves immortals, they're the truest of the true, and in that very moment, i was born again like you""...
Well, what song do you identify with the most and what is the best TV theme tune ever?... "Wow, what a question(s), so many to pick from as there are thousands that have had an influence, but if I had to pick one which I could relate to the most it would be 'Die for Metal' by Manowar! Not only is it a brilliant song musically it also has those inspirational lyrics: 'THEY CALL THEMSELVES IMMORTALS, THEY'RE THE TRUEST OF THE TRUE, AND IN THAT VERY MOMENT, I WAS BORN AGAIN LIKE YOU! Most of the memorable TV ones are probably cartoon theme tunes but if youíre asking for a rock-related tv theme tune then that's probably the 'Transformers' one (Stan Bush, huh?). Of course the one that probably sticks in everyoneís heads and is instantly recognisable is the famous 'A Team' team tune."
what are your future plans for Stormzone?...
"Reaction to Death Dealer will immensely determine how much progress we can realistically achieve after the cd is released. We've been around for a few years but still a relatively unknown band playing music that most people thought had been buried with the NWOBHM so we'll need a huge amount of luck to achieve our dreams and ambitions. We do, however, have the very best team looking after us, a fantastic label with SPV and a lot of great friends ready to help a band going against the grain to show people that classic heavy melodic metal can still be relevant these days. Because of the timing of the album release we've probably missed out on the ability to use the press and publicity to get on any of the big festivals this year but our dream is a lengthy tour with a band such as Hammerfall, Helloween or Grave Digger etc and something like that is still a possibility this year if ,Death Dealer, gets us the attention weíre hoping from it. I would like to add that metal fans and readers of RockUnited.com are very important to us and we're looking forward to making our way to lots of European cities soon to be able to repay your faith in our music the only way we can, and that's by re-creating 'Death Dealer' live on-stage. I sincerely hope to see and hear you all very soon and many thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak to the readers of Rock United! - JOHN 'HARV' HARBINSON /Stormzone.
It’s been a good chat, and for more info check out: www.myspace.com/stormzoneuk
Urban "Wally" Wallstrom, @ urban "at" rockunited.com