On The Edge Of The World... Robin McAauley Speaks Out.
Irish born rocker Robin McAuley is a well known name in the world of Hard Rock/ Metal having been involved with such bands as Grand Prix, Survivor, and more so with Michael Schenker (MSG), Black Swan and many more acts.
Robin really has made a name for himself over the years and with the release of his debut solo album 'Standing on the Edge' which has just been released through Frontiers Records, this is a must heard album for any fans of Melodic Metal, with some fine powerful vocals from start to finish and accomplished by a bunch of very professional Italian musicians along side him.
I managed to have a Skype chat with Robin recently to talk about his up growing as musician and to talk about his work with MSG and of cause his new album. Here is what Robin had to say, so grab a copy of this incredible album.
Welcome to Friday 13th Robin how are you? I'm good thank you. Well it's a pleasure to finally speak to you. So I'd like to ask you as I always ask artists some warm up questions 1st, so my 1st question is.. What memories do you have of playing the 'Schenker Fest' in Hull? I was at the show taking pictures, did you manage to see any of the city before the show?
"Hi Jason, hope you are well my friend, I'm good thank you. I had great memories of that festival and yes I did look around the city during the day, it's quite a marine type city, a very nice place and a bit chilly for me I am use to warmer weather as I live in L.A.. The show was awesome I really enjoyed the show and the festival that is for sure. Michael is scheduled to take the last album on tour and I am not sure if he is taking Ronnie Ramero, Michael Voss and Ralf Scheepers on the tour but I am not sure and this is hoping to take place in October in the UK.
I am not sure if I will be doing the dates yet as I am releasing 'Standing on the Edge' on Friday 14th May, and I am also 2 wks into the new Black Swan album and a week before the pandemic I was working in Las Vegas 7 nights a week for the last 6-7 yrs doing the 'Classic Rock' show and we were voted the best live show at #1 in Vegas for the last 6 yrs.
I managed to look at your website and it's great, I saw the picture of you with Motorhead that was way cool. Did you know that when Brian and Phil left Motorhead I started working with them both, we were called 'GMT' along with Chris Glen, we released one album 'War Games' as Grand Prix has ran it's course and so I got the call to see if I wanted to write some tunes, so Filthy, Brian and Chris had a thing for about a year, but Robbo pulled out for some reason and he was replaced by a Germany guitarist called Markus, who sadly passed away. Later on Mausoleum Records a E.P."
OK Robin, growing up in your teens what bands inspired you to become a singer?
"Well back in the day when I was in Ireland and England there was no day time Rock radio but you could always listen too Motown, so I would listen too a lot of Motown and it all had great hook lines with bands like The Four Tops, Temptations and many more acts. It wasn't until I heard Paul Rodgers singing with Free that I was blown away by a white guy who could sing so perfectly. So I made the transition to listen too one of the greatest Rock bands around. After that I started to listen too Bad Company, Thin Lizzy who I actually saw that the age of 12 with the original line up and then I saw the on the 'Live & Dangerous' tour.
I was also into Glenn Hughes and I got to work and perform with him and now he's in The Dead Daises', and Dough Aldritch is also involved with the 'Classic Rock' shows. That show is basically a bunch of stars who have toured and recorded and Doug comes and does the shows when he's not on tour. I was also inspired by Lou Graham I love his melodies and his writing style it's second to none.
I also love Judas Priest I took a friend to see them live he had never seen them as he was into Country Rock and he was blown away. In the days of me been the singer in Grand Prix we opened up for 'Iron Maiden' which was the 1st tour that Bruce had sang on (Ed: Did Grand Prix play in Hull - UK on that tour? I seem to remember you may of) Yes we did, and I remember we played Reading Festival and Maiden were headlining."
Talking about Grand Prix, tell me a little bit about the band.
"Well I playing in a top 40 covers band when Mick & Ralf walked into the pub and they asked me if I wanted to sing some original songs and back then they were called 'Raw Deal' so we went into the studio and recorded a cassette and this was released right at the time that Punk was becoming very popular so with us having long hair there was no room for us so every A&R guys were signing Punk to the max.
Things didn't start to pick up until several years later until the whole scene came back again and then we would change our name to 'Grand Prix'. They had recorded one album with Uriah Heep singer Berne Shaw who took a break and went back to Canada who asked me if I wanted to do some vocals for the band and when I left the studio I was the singer for the band, they were good times."
Moving on.. What fond memories do you have of been in the Michael Schenker group at the beginning of you joining the band?
"Well we were doing a warm up at 'The Red Lion' in Fulham in London with Grand Prix before we went out on the Sammy Hagar tour and Schenker came into the pub with Chris Glen and Cozy Powell and I got a call next day saying that Schenker was in the studio and he liked what he heard and invited me to the studio. I told him I couldn't as I was about to go on tour with Grand Prix and then Kerrang magazine give me all this bad press saying who is this young Irish guy who wouldn't join Michael Schenker?
It wasn't until another 4 yrs with the Robbo and Filthy situation with GMT we where in Frankfurt recording some demos and a producer had heard my vocals I ended up recording a song with Bobby Kimball from Toto and we did a Led Zeppelin song 'Stairway to Heaven' and I said you can't record that. He said we were going to release it anyway and it was a huge hit in Europe.
Rudolf Schenker had heard it on the radio and I think it sold 2 million singles so he heard that track and asked who the singer was, he said it was Robin McAuley and he laughed and said 'That guy refused to join me band'.
So Rudolf told Michael that he should go after me again and I was in the UK doing some work with 'Far Corporation' in which they tracked me down and asked me if I wanted to come to Hannover to audition for the band and I said 'No we had been through this before', and we were label mates all with Chrysails Records with Grand Prix and I just didn't feel that I suited their music. I told them I wasn't going to waste there time or mine and I was upfront and honest. So I went in and I was one of 17 singers and they told me that Michael needs to break the U.S. market and they needed a single and break MTV and VH-1 and I was like that can I do about it?
In the end we ended up writing songs together and we got picked up my EMI and before you knew it we were on MTV and we were getting tours with Whitesnake, Rush, Def Leppard, and if people here in the states didn't recognize you on VH-1 or a MTV artist then you wouldn't really make it as a band. So we would write song and introduce them to management company and labels and they couldn't heard the single. So it would be back to the drawing board for us and so were we suppose to write by numbers?
Then you had people saying that Schenker had changed direction and he has sold out and too commercial and it's the singer who is responsible for that (laughing) so I use to say I didn't write the music I only write the lyrics. We had a big power ballad that got our feet in the door. All in all we did a pretty good job and it worked out really well. I'm a huge U.F.O. fan and 'Strangers in the Night' is an awesome record and that is were Michael made it and we use to finish off on U.F.O. songs in our set, it was such an honour. I am a stronger believe and we did 3 albums and had lots of success in the end.
In the end I took time out, got married had kids and and in recently time prior to the pandemic I did the debut Black Swan record which is one of the best records I have done."
Moving on now let's talk about your new solo album 'Standing on the Edge', why title and did you have any other titles in mind?
"Well the label asked me to make a solo album before the next Black Swan album was going to be released, so I am writing on the back bone of the debut album which is a great album and we have amazing reviews on it and then suddenly we had the pandemic. The label said I should do a solo album through lockdown and I had no idea who would want to listen too a solo album? They asked me to give them more of what I do best and I had no idea what to do, so anyway I reached out to my old keyboard player from Grand Prix so I called Howard Leese and asked him to give me a Bad Company song for this record.
He laughed and said he had a couple of ideas that are not finished, and so he sent them too me. Later on Tony Franklin introduced by to Tommy Denander and Tommy is riding high on the new Alice Cooper album as he co wrote and co produced that record.
He has worked with so many great artists such as Survivor and so I tried to make a connection with those great artist I had worked with to have a little bit of everything on this solo album, and then Alessandro Del Vecchio my keyboard player who also mixed the album he had sent me a few songs and I picked the 11 songs I wanted to use and I think 'Standing on the Edge' was the 1st lyric and melody ideas that I came up with. In view of the current climate pandemic & lockdown I thought here we are in this strange time we are in we will look back on this and say 'I can't believe this has happened?' It didn't just close town a city or a town, it closed the world and when I talk about it it's like the worst movie ever made.
And so 'Standing on the Edge' was sort of centered around that sort of mind set. I am also a big Batman fan and so I love Gothem and so I thought if I was a gargoyle how would I see this? So I started thinking to myself how would a gargoyle see this from up there looking down. The 1st thing that came to my mind was 'How the hell we you mess up this?' Hence the artwork on the cover. I think it's a great cover and captures what we are going through right now.
I wanted to create a story book the beginning the middle part and the end and so I took a little time off to capture that vibe for the record, I mean you have songs like 'Thy will be Done' to 'Chosen Few, 'Run Away' to the last cut 'Running out of Time', did we really run out of time?"
I have noticed that this album features Italian musicians, how did the come to be part of the record? Was it Frontiers who picked the musicians?
"Well it wasn't that difficult for me, Alessandro works with such a wide range of musicians and Frontiers has so many different genres within the label, plus back to the lockdown Alessandro normally lives in Florida but when the pandemic started he was in Italy and so he had to write and find the musicians for this record. So it was difficult for me to find musicians here in L.A. so he had access to his studio people and the guitarist Andrea Seveso is one hell of a guitar player, I struck gold with him.
The drummer Nicholas Papapicco is an incredible drummer and Alessandro said he had the guys in Italy to record the album and I was going to use Howard for guitar overdubs etc.. and ended up doing most of the stuff over there in the studios as we weren't allowed to be in the same room to record the album especially when I started to record the vocals at 7pm here and its 4am in Italy it just wouldn't of worked out.
So I did my vocals and sent via email to him and he mixed and did an amazing job. He did all the music at his end and sent to me and asked me what I thought of the music and we would make our adjustments."
So what songs from your debut album do you like them most?
"That's a tough question I try to make a record with a good balance of songs, I love the opening track 'Thy will be Done', I think it really sets up the album because I am really into the Nightwish sound right now, the lyrics for that song are 'Thy will be Done, all we have become...is all we have broken'. I also write a song about my wife on this album 'Late December' and has a singer and lyricist over the years I have been married to her for 28yrs, so every time there's a love song she would say 'Is that about me?', so this time around I surprised her (laughing), it's a great song.
I also like the song 'Run Away' which is a childhood song abut me growing up and it always rains a lot if Ireland so I wrote a song about it, do the rain drops ever talk to one another (laughing).
I also like the song 'Wanna take a Ride', that title was wrote during lockdown and I really had enough of been indoors, so I got the car out and went for a ride, which is a very up beat and fun to write. I also like 'Running out of Time', the last song on the record, it is bombastic and its out of control and basically is the temptation we have slipped into from all sides and if you don't fix things you really won't have time to do it, do it now before its too late."
How long did it take to record the album?
"It was a strange period, I can do all my demos at home but I needed a studio to properly record my vocal tracks so we found a studio which was about 20 minutes away from my home with Andy Tuckerman who said he did a lot of soundtracks for movies from home and he said he would give me a Tuesday & Thursday night to record the vocals from 7- 9 pm, so I had 11 songs to sing so I would have it done in no time, it was a quick progress for me to record my vocals.
The vocals were sent via the internet to Alessandro and didn't make any changes he was totally happy with the performance, so it just goes to show that it can work without been in the same room. Alessandro did a fantastic job no doubt about it."
What sort of reviews have you been getting for this album?
"Very good actually, the press love it and George Lynch heard the album and called Jeff Pilson and asked if he produced it, he said he didn't and George said it sounds just like Dokken (laughing). So Jeff explained that the guitarist on the album is a big George Lynch fan so that was kind of funny to hear. I hope the people out there like it and take it for what it is."
How many promo videos are you doing for this album? Are they all going to be lyrical videos?
"Well we have done one for 'Standing on the Edge' which was actually a video, the 2nd one and the 3rd one will be a lyrical one."
Just before we finished have you started to record the new Black Swan album? Also how will it differ from the debut album?
"Well we are 6 wks into the album and I am going to record the vocals in a week and the music will still be Black Swan and when you have Reb Beach playing guitar your going to get some really groovy stuff and the music is very powerful yet melodic tunes with a little bite."
Well Robin I want to thank you for talking your time out and doing this interview, I wish you well, stay safe. It's been a pleasure to finally speak to you, it's been fun. I hope we meet one day. But before we finish do you have anything to say before we come to an end?
"Yes, it was a pleasure to finally speak Jason, be safe and yeah lets have a beer some time. To readers, thank you for your support over the years with all the work I have done, be safe and I hope you like the new album as much as I loved making it. Stay safe!!!
Thank you to Gary @ Redsands and Robin McAuley.