Steve Overland Of FM Talks Atomic Generation
On February the 13th Rockgig had the pleasure to talk to Steve Overland of FM about their superb new album Atomic Generation due out on Frontiers Records Srl on the 30th of March.
Rockgig Thanks again for taking the time to talk to Rockgig it's now been over a decade since FM reformed for a one off gig at Firefest 2007 are you all staggered that here we are 5 albums and a re recorded Indiscreet later?
Steve We all are totally yes.We just wanted another crack at playing together again as a band.We had all stayed mates in the 12 year period when we weren't together and doing it for our own enjoyment and it's just gone mad.It went from getting another record deal to being signed by one of the biggest agencies in the country and everybody we knew before came out of the woodwork.So no we didn't expect this,we didn't think we would still be here.It's a funny thing FM it just seems to be well none of us can explain it it just keeps going from strength to strength and we just keep enjoying every minute of it it's just brilliant.The response to the albums and the band live,tickets sales it still surprises us even at this stage in our lives it still seems to be moving forwards it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.It's fantastic.
R Is that where you get your inspiration and where your creativity comes from to write more songs?
S Of course if your getting that kind of response to what you do it can only increase your productivity and it just makes you want to do it.Your enthusiastic to get on with the next theme and then get out there and tour and FM basically although we have released lots of records and the track record we have had over the year's it's all about now for us.Just making sure we don't just become a band that just goes out and plays the albums from the past.It's all about now and making great album's and that's what we are all about we don't want to be a band that just goes out and tours and do what we did way back it's important to us to do it.I will be playing That Girl and Bad Luck for the rest of my life but it's about playing the new stuff and making sure we keep the quality up there with the song writing because that's what we love doing.It's about us now we just want to keep going forward's and we are now well known in territories that we didn't know we were.
R Do you enjoy the writing and recording process more or less now?
S The same h'mm maybe more simply because when we were signed to the major label's that we were you had people saying you need to write a song like this or listen to this song or covering this song they were trying to style us,but now our record companies since we got back together because we have been around so long they just let us make the records.They don't listen to any of it until the record is finished.We give it them finished and fortunately touch wood they have loved every album that we have done.They figure that this many albums down the line between us that we know what we are doing.It's great now because we have total freedom to record and do whatever we like and we have none of those pressures of trying to be this band or that band we don't get that any more.
R Now that the albums are being produced by FM how do you enjoy that process?
S Yes we do and that's only because we write the song's we routine the song's they come from us so handing them to someone.I mean we have had some big producer's in our time Peter Collins and Neil Kernon who did Hall And Oates records and through every stage in our career so we kind of know what we want.Between us and Jeff (Knowler) who is our engineer and mixes the records we know what we want FM to sound like now.
So if we had someone else coming in they are probably not going to get it the same way we think we know what we want now,so it's an easy process the production side of it as loads of people have ideas about what works but this is how we do it.Jeff mixes it we go go through all the mixes with him and that is the FM sound.We kind of figure we know what we want so we just stick with just us doing it.
R Who has the best ear's in the band? Cue lot's of laughter.
S Blimey we all are a bit deaf after years of doing gigs.I don't know probably the main writing side comes from me I am involved in writing all of the songs.The band will come up with the initial song idea's for the record's and then the band come in and put the FM stamp on it because it sound's like FM when we play it immediately.I don't know the mixing side of it we leave to Jeff he's worked for Universal and worked on Bruce Springsteen he's a wonderful mixing engineerSo we leave it to Jeff it's his thing and we will come back and tell him what we think.We don't go and sit with him while he mixes,we produce the record and then we like somebody that hasn't sat through the 4 to 6 weeks of recording someone with fresh ears that put's their stamp on it and that's what Jeff does.We trust him to do it and we have had great result's that way.It's important to when you are very close to it when you have written it to not do everything so when you have that someone to give it to and say right mix this it's then great to get there interpretation on it and Jeff is such a great mixer.More often that not Mark he's 90% there with everything that he send's back and some band's wouldn't want that as some band's like to sit through the mix and all that but I don't think that's very constructive because it takes a lot longer.He knows how he mixes and we leave it to him really.
R With Heroes And Villains being critically acclaimed and fan rave reviewed did that increase the pressure felt when writing Atomic Generation?
S Not really mate we now just write songs we don't have any particular thoughts that we need a song like this or like that.What we do is write well over the odds each album with 20 plus songs and we hope out of that we have got a good collection of songs.We are very picky that's why we take 2 years to write an album (laughter).We have to keep the standard's up and it's very important to us to not just put the first thing out that we come up with and we analyse what we have almost too much sometimes.We speak to people like you mate we don't know really what the reaction is going to be with the records.We have done all that we work on them and we just try to make the best record we can and until we put it out to radio and to the press like you we don't know what he have done and how it will be received and we just make the best record that we can make.The fact that Heroes And Villains was so critically acclaimed everything that I have done for this one so far has been absolutely phenomenal with a fantastic response so far so it look's like we are doing it right.
R So who came up with the title Atomic Generation and what does it mean?
S Jim.We had some really shit title's (laughter) and Jim came up with that and we thought that's not quite as shit as the other's that will do so that's the story behind it mate.It's quite current with all that's going on in the world at the moment because we had a slightly different angle on it and that was the less shit one we had.(More laughter)
R Did you demo the songs before entering the studio?
S Yes we did mate we always do.There is a couple of song's on there In It For The Money was one that was actually put together in a rehearsal room.You can only play That Girl or Bad Luck so many times before you start to lose your mind so we sometimes just start banging around an idea or two that someone might have and that song came together from Jim coming up with drop D riff in it.I said that's great and we could do a real Bad Company thing with it and then we did the song.Most of them are all demo d,routine d and knocked into shape before we go in the studio because I think you need that way you get rid of the rubbish before you get there and your not wasting money or time.So we sift through them get it right,pick the arrangement's apart and do a proper demo of it so when go into the studio to do the drum track's we have everything the way we want to do it with the correct feel and we are not dicking around too much.
R Where was the cd recorded?
S We have a mate who's got a studio me and Jim have worked this out over the year's because every time we go to London it's a hell of a long way to find a studio for us.We live in Cheshire so we basically we have a really good mate called Scott Ralph who is a brilliant musician and singer he can play everything and he did all the brass on Playing Tricks On Me.He's a great engineer too he's worked with Robbie Williams well everybody really a lot of chart bands and he's got a studio and he's one of Jim's mates too.
R Any song title's or specific stories you can tell us about?
S Not really I mean our song's are not political messages I think music is for relaxation and enjoyment not getting my view's across really.In It For The Money has a story behind it because obviously as I wrote the lyrics about all the people that I have met in this business.There are so many people that are in it for a different reason I have always been it for the music to me the money is something you have to have to survive but I love doing this as a job it really is as simple as that.The money really is a secondary thing that I just have to have to survive and enable me to do this but that is not the case for a lot of people that I have met in the 35 to 40 year's I have been doing this and to them it's all about the money.It's a song about taken from totally ruthless people who I have met in my career.
R Do you have a personal favourite track off the album?
S I don't have one I mean with a new album I have lived with the songs right from the start and I just want them to be the best they can be.The great thing about this record is everybody usually pick's 4 songs and say's there the song's and they pick the same ones.This album there has been some real curve ball favourite's and to me that kind of say's that every song on the album has it's own place and identity on the record and it's great that everyone has their own favourite track sometimes a bit unexpected.I don't have a personal favourite.
R I have been lucky enough to live with Atomic Generation for the last month and I have to say it is fantastic.For me it's like a greatest hits album with all the best bits from the last 30 year's on to one cd with a nod to the past but sounding fresh and modern.The album sounds huge with a heavy bottom end sound.Was that a pre conceived idea or just how the sound developed?
S Cheers mate.That is one of the reason's we use Jeff as he mixes everything from Kylie Minogue to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to Bruce Springsteen to Disney records he really does everything.The great thing with him is why we work with him because he knows that we don't want to sound like we did in the 80's.Basically that was a great time for us.Tough It Out for an album of it's time sounds amazing.Things move on and studio technology moves on and record's sound different and we try and bring an element of the new.You know how the bottom end of a dance track sounds when you go in a club we thought if you try to bring that into a rock record?We used sequencers to part's and track's that a lot of rock band's don't use that is generally used in dance music.You don't hear them but the subliminal is and they are there and they give the track a different feel.Using thing's from different styles of music in rock music I think is important like the things that Dan Reed did when he did did first record.It was very cutting edge with dance like keyboard sound's in rock music and I think it's important not to just stick with what you have done before and change thing's around a bit.It makes you seem not just like an old heritage band which we don't want to be.We want to keep tying to move forward.I have got 3 son's and I have to listen to this dance shite music all the time and I'm thinking christ the bottom end on that is good why can't I have that on my album?So in the studio I asked that question and why don't we do this?I'm not really listening to the song that builds up the pomp in the clubs,I'm listening to and taking it in with out knowing about it.In the studio I'm thinking if we had one of those sub basses that I heard on that dance record so that's what we do and try and bring stuff that maybe you don't hear on rock record's.If we can do that then that's great it shows we aren't just going in and recording with a rhythm and lead guitar bass and drum's and that's it,which is nothing wrong with that because some album's need to be that and sound great like that and I love stripped down record's too but FM's all about the kitchen sink mate.
R When I spoke to you last time you said to play all of Tough It Out live you would need St Johns Ambulance on stand by.
S And nothing has changed mate (laughter)
R On the new cd on Too Much Of A Good Thing the vocal is stunning will you play that live?
S We might we don't know yet.I tell you what between you and me we haven't even discussed anything yet including what we will play off the new album.There will be a collection of them in the set but obviously the set will be completely different when we go out next time with the new album,so we don't know yet which one's we are going to pick until we talk about it.
R Your singing better than ever how do you keep your voice sounding so strong with any specific training?
S Do you know what mate people keep saying this to me and talk about all the singers that it has happened to and I don't think you have any control over it.People who's voices when they get older suffer a bit it's a muscle you know mate .I really don't know.I don't abuse it I have never smoked I keep fit I try not to abuse it but I do drink beer and wine after gigs so I don't go to bed early (laughter) I'm just lucky mate there is no secret.
R I know you love your guitar playing so how many guitar solo's did you sneak onto the new album or did Jim let you play?
S The thing is with Jim I play some of the solo's but Jim gets all the credit for them.There is a solo on The Story Of My Life and we did a gig and the solo off Rockville is played by me.I remember being with Jim and this guy came over and said Oh Jim I love your guitar playing and that solo on Story Of My Life blows my mind and Jim says yeah that's one of my best that and I'm stood behind him saying yeah really good that Jim.I still do a lot of playing on the album but he is the main man and he is a brilliant player.He is the guitar player and I still do all the kind of clean stuff and the picking stuff.We both do a lot of guitar playing on the album together but I leave a lot of the solo's to him but I will do a bit really he won't let me play and keeps me away from my guitar's if he can.
R Mid album I love the variety of songs showcasing all of the band's sound and legacy too.
In It For The Money is heavy and melodic,Golden Days is pure AOR and Playing Tricks On Me is a funky number with horn's thrown into the mix too.Did the running order for the cd come together easily?
S Yes I mean because of the diversity It's easy to pick a running order because their is no two song's that you can really say are similar.When you are picking an album and you have song's of a similar vein with a similar mid tempo it can be difficult but when they are all very different it's quite easy to pick a running order.We knock it about a bit to see what everyone think's but I think it's probably one of the easiest running order's that we have ever picked for an album.It just came together and we wrote the stuff down put it in and pretty much give or take one or two songs we all had the same running order.
R Golden Days reminisces about going back to those summer days and nights.When would you say was FM' s golden days?Back to 1986 touring with Bon Jovi as they were the biggest band in the world or since getting back together and the continued success?
S Both just because the days we had back then were fantastic and we toured with some of the biggest bands in the world and now I don't feel like it's any worse than it was back then.It's the same mate in fact now you enjoy it more because at my age you don't feel those pressures any more.When I go on stage now I go on to enjoy it and not thinking christ what if it goes wrong or it has to be the best gig we have ever done.I don't think like that.We go on stage and we have a great laugh and time as FM is not about us all pacing about all nervous not anymore.We just get on with the gig,we know what the band can do as we have done so many show's and we just enjoy it.The festival's we go and talk to all of the other band's and enjoy the vibe of being there.It's a real good fun band now and it is a different thing to back then when everybody was saying oh yeah FM are going to be the English Bon Jovi and are going to be massive and you do feel the pressure then when you are in your mid 20's when people are telling you that you have to be this.Now we are what we are so we just get on with it and don't feel that pressure anymore.
R Do You Love Me Enough is from The Ladder's Future Miracles cd what was the idea behind re recording it and when was the song first written?
S It was first written before we split up it is that old.It's a song that didn't go on a record but a song that we all loved and Merv has a real soft spot for that song.Funnily enough it came up and we were looking up old tunes and that song came on and Merv said I love that song why don't we do a proper version.We never recorded it properly and I said we can do it to see what it comes out like.We took it in the studio and did it and it came out great and the management heard it and said you have got to put this on it's brilliant so it went on and it's a cool song that never got the real benefit of FM recording it properly,so that is what happened with that one.
R As on the last 3 albums it has a huge vocal tour de force ballad for you to show case your voice,Love Is The Law is superb.Story Of My Life has been played as an encore on the last few tour's will you replace it or rotate it and maybe add Walking With Angels to the list?
S Oh now your talking a lot of people's language there(laughter).This Walking With Angels thing every time we play a gig I get Why didn't you play Walking With Angels?So it is something that we are going to have to look at.It's just a song that I did on an acoustic guitar and played it to Jim.I had the song for a long time and had never finished it but I had the chorus the verse and a bridge.I played it to Jim and he said why haven't you finished that song?I said ok as he was getting sick of hearing the same verse,bridge and chorus that I was playing on my acoustic in the studio.I finished it and I said well what are we going to do with it?Rehearse it and he said no you just sit down and play it and sing it like you have been doing for the last year and we will build it from the ground up with acoustic guitar as it's all about the acoustic guitar and your lyrics it's not about what we are going to do on it.So that is what we did.We put the acoustic part's down I did the vocal all in one take and we built it from there and made it what it was supposed to be.I love doing stripped down track's it gives the song a chance to breathe.You have those massive production track's so it's nice to finish the album with it.
R How excited are you to be finally playing a show in the US in May?
S It's amazing that we have never been isn't it really?
R Have you been offered the chance before?
S Yes ton's of times we have been out there and done TV and radio.We had a radio hit with Frozen Heart and I have been out there writing with Desmond Child who did the Bon Jovi stuff Livin' On A Prayer and I wrote Bad Luck with him and Burning My Heart Down that me and my brother did and I have done writing trip's.I have been to Woodstock in the studio i really have done everything in America apart from doing a bloody gig (laughter).
I have even been out there when CBS sent us out to buy some clothes once to LA.(laughter) and no one thought while you are out there try doing one of those thing's you do called a gig (laughter).They sent us over there to buy jeans,a leather jacket and a t shirt that I could have bought in Stoke (laughter).When you are 25 and they say do you want to go to LA to buy a white t shirt you say yes I will go but never a gig.We are really excited about it and it means we have got the visa's for a year so the plan is with the management is to hammer it basically when we are not touring in Europe and the UK we try and pick up some dates doing our own show's in LA and New York whilst the visa's are there for a year just to make the most of it.
R You are also playing the Frontiers Festival in Italy in April and I see recording a dvd will that be a greatest hits set?
S Do you know it's funny you should ask that as we were talking about it as I was down with Merv and Jim yesterday for a meeting and we don't know as we do have to play some of the new stuff don't we?It's a bit of a tough one as we have to play the song's that they want to hear but as it's another live dvd we don't want to put out the same stuff that we have put out before.We want to do some song's that haven't been recorded live before so we will have to sit down and really think this through.For the new album and play some of the song's people want to hear it will be a tough set to pick Mark if I'm honest and we are not sure about it yet!!
R You have 3 dates in the UK in April before the Frontiers show will that be the same set for the shows in May with Dare and Toby Jepson?
S Possibly.We are aware of the fact that the show's with Dare and have already had this discussion that we need to give the set a real re vamp and shuffle it about.We have kind of kept the Heroes And Villains set for a long time it was a great run but we are very aware that it's maybe time to bring in some of the stuff that we haven't played for year's.Just give it a real change so we aren't playing the same track's but there will still be Bad Luck but maybe bring some of the more obscure track's from the other album's or song's that we haven't played live or only played about once.
R So with the show's with Dare I have read that is a co headlining tour with the same length set is that correct?
S I don't know as we haven't sat down yet about that but it won't be a problem.We did a gig with Dare at Warrington Parr Hall and they supported us that was about a year ago.We will probably have to pick who will have the head line thing yet as it's not been discussed.It doesn't bother me Mark (laughter)if they want to go on in after us in Manchester because that's Darren's home town I'm ok with that I have no problem with that we will just work it out between us.We are all mates I mean Toby,Darren and us are all people that are involved with that tour have known each other for year's so it's not going to be any falling out's over it to come up with the best plan for the night and that is what we will do.
R Before Christmas on your Facebook page you teased us with a new project with some Swedish musicians.How did that come about,did you help write it and when will it be released?
S The record company put me together with some people out there and the band is called Groundbreaker and the album is great Mark.They gave me a brief of what they wanted.A real heavy Steve Overland style AOR record so I went out and did some work out there and shot 3 promo video's for it and there is another project that I have done too although not really a project more of a main band that I will take out on the road too.I can't tell you too much about it as I would have to kill you (laughter).
It's something I have been trying to get together for a very long time to make a record like that is.The band's called Lone Rider and it's a record with people that I have wanted to record with for a long time and a style of album that again I have wanted to make for a very long time.There's a few things going on mate to talk about and at the moment I'm flat out with FM so those things are going to have to go on hold till we have got everything in place.
It's great that people still want me to do this stuff at my age.I must be the only old bloke with 3 record deal's.
R Do you ever write a song and think I will save that for a specific band or project?
S What I normally do is I will write songs for the band that I am working with on the album at that time.I will write the song's for that record.FM is FM the other album's I make don't sound like FM it's a different thing and I try to keep it that way and be specific for each band giving it a different approach.
R I have asked you this before and you have sort of answered it.Last year in Derby you played a solo show now with 3 solo cd's,Shadowman,Ozone etc any chance of any more solo shows?Or is that the show's with Lone Rider?
S Shadowman I have put to bed for this project I said to the record company I want to do this and I want to make this record and they let me do it.It's come out in fact I think it's one of the best record's that I have ever made I think it's brilliant.
R It's already recorded?
S We recorded it at The Vale where FM recorded their Metropolis record it's a beautiful studio with a big manor house in Wocestershire.It's like a proper old school residential studio it has accommodation you eat there you live there and you make an album there.One of the guys that is on the album came in from the States to make it with me so we were all together for a while and we did the album the way we used to be made in a studio as a band.It was great and that is the vibe I wanted a 70's rock album sound and vibe.Right down to the drum kit that we used it's all very retro sounding.
R An incredibly busy year for you with 3 album's coming out and FM gigging in Europe,UK and the US what else for 2018?
S There is a lot yet to be announced for this year Mark with what has been announced for FM is just the tip of the iceberg really.That is what the meeting was all about yesterday there will be a lot more stuff happening so it's just a case of watching this space and keeping an eye on things.It's going to be a busy year and I'm looking forward to it.
R Any last word for the fans?
S I hope they love the record we put a lot of work into it and we are well pleased with it.I hope they love the record and I can't wait to get back out on the road you know all these one off gigs are harder than doing a tour.We just want to get out there and see them all again as it's been a while since the last proper tour so looking forward to it Mark.
The conversation ended with me asking what dog Steve has as he was walking it pre interview.A black Pug called Gnasher he informed me.
Huge thanks to Steve for his time and to Dave Clarke of Planet Earth Publicity for setting up the interview.