English band Absolva release their fifth studio album, “Side By Side”, through Rocksector Records on 17th April. Ahead of the release of that album I had the opportunity to chat with singer and guitarist Chris Appleton about Absolva, the album and being part of Blaze Bayley’s band. We chatted via Skype on 27th February and you can hear that interview, along with four tracks from the new Absolva album and one from the new Blaze Bayley album on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 6th March - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/hosts/ni-rocks-friday-rock-show.html - it was also repeated on the Show on 17th April.

 

 

 

 

Check out the Absolva website - https://www.absolva.com/home

 

The interview has been transcribed and posted below.

 

Chris was previously a guest on the Show in 2015 when he released his solo album “Restless”. You’ll find that interview here - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/1776-ni-rocks-interview-with-chris-appleton-absolva.html

 

 

PLAYLIST -

SWANEE RIVER – Smoking Jacket

VIXEN – Not a Minute Too Soon

LITA FORD – Shot of Poison

MÖTLEY CRÜE – Home Sweet Home

ELECTRIC MOB – Devil You Know

FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH – Inside Out

BALEFUL CREED – Southgate of Heaven

ABSOLVA – Heaven and Hell

Interview with CHRIS APPLETON Part 1 (6 min)

ABSOLVA – Burning Star

Interview with CHRIS APPLETON Part 2 (6 min)

ABSOLVA – End of Days

Interview with CHRIS APPLETON Part 3 (8 min)

ABSOLVA – The Sky’s Your Limit

BLAZE BAYLEY – Life Goes On (Live)

ASPHALT VALENTINE – Living Dreams

AD INFINITUM – Marching on Versailles

DEVILSKIN – Corrode

SEVEN SPIRES – Bury You

LOVE/HATE – Wasted in America

JACKYL – Push Comes to Shove

POISON – Unskinny Bop

FM – Synchronized

ROBERT HART – Different People

AUTUMN’S CHILD – Rubicon Sign

JOHN HARV’S TWISTED MIND – Coming Home

 

 

 

NI ROCKS – Hi Chris, thanks for taking some time to talk to Rock Radio NI. Absolva release their fifth studio album on 17th April. That album “Side By Side” includes two cover versions. “Two Minutes to Midnight” and the track I’ve just played, “Heaven and Hell”. What led to the inclusion of those two tracks on the album?

CHRIS – Those two tracks have actually been in the live set for Absolva for quite some time; since we started in 2012. They were always included as encores at the end of the sets. Iron Maiden and the Dio-era Black Sabbath were a very influential type of music for me. Iron Maiden for the speed, and our bass player Karl has a very Steve Harris thing, and for me Ronnie James Dio is one of the best singers of all time. We just thought that it would be good to put these on as bonus tracks for the fans, because they have seen us perform these songs live and it would be good to document it.


NI ROCKS – As we mentioned the new album is released on 17th April, through Rocksector Records. When did work start on recording the album and did you look after all of the production work yourself?

CHRIS – Yeah, the album we actually started writing maybe over eighteen months ago. This has been the longest gap between albums that we’ve ever had. We started writing and started recording, especially tracking the drums, in between each tour that we had; and sometimes whilst we were on tour. So it was a long process, but we had time to perfect the song writing and to iron out any kinks. The production was 100% myself. We tracked the drums in Belgium and then we did the rest of the recording in the Rocksector HQ in Manchester. I produced the entire album and the mastering was done by a guy called Ade Emsley who works for Iron Maiden, and he did all the latest Iron Maiden remasters.


NI ROCKS – There are ten new tracks on the album along with the two covers. Do all four band members get involved in the song-writing process and if so, do you get together to write the songs or how does that work?

CHRIS – Normally the way it works is that myself and my brother Luke will be working on our own ideas and then we’ll get together with the laptops and acoustic guitars or whatever, and decide what ideas are the best. Normally the other guys don’t really get involved with the song writing. Karl put one song forward for this album – “Living A Lie”. The process is that we’ll write the song and sometimes we’ll go straight into the studio if it’s got a good energy, or we’ll rehearse the song and then we’ll go into the recording process.


NI ROCKS – “Side By Side” is the band’s fifth studio album since 2012. There is a distinct Absolva sound to each album obviously, but there is also a clear evolution over time as well. Has there been a specific focus on developing or diversifying the songs for the latest album?

CHRIS – I think this album in particular is quite unique to the rest of the back catalogue. The first four albums we used the same producer, whereas I produced “Side By Side”. So there is a distinct identity to this album. The song writing has definitely evolved over time. With our other projects – myself working with Blaze Bayley, and my brother Luke working with Iced Earth and Jon Schaffer  - we’ve had a lot of good experience working with top quality song writers. Our experience has kinda come together, so we have a good formula going on.


NI ROCKS – The cover art for “Side By Side” features what looks like a coat of arms, with the usual Absolva logo or symbol in the middle. What was the thinking behind that and who designed it?

CHRIS – The coat of arms thing was originally my idea. It actually comes from my birth town coat of arms; from the city of Salford. I sent that to the artist and said can you make this look heavy metal. So we jammed a couple of guitars through it and set it on fire (laughs). It has come out really, really good. I didn’t think it would come out this well. It’s definitely a unique look for an Absolva album, because we’ve always had this similar theme throughout the front cover; whilst this one has got such a really good look about it. I’m really excited to see it on the front of a tee shirt.


NI ROCKS – We’ll play another track from “Side By Side” now. Do you want to pick a track and tell us something about it?

CHRIS – If we can have “Burning Star”. This one is about, lyrically, the guy Roky Erickson who was a psychedelic rock musician who fell ill with mental health and was given in the early 70’s electric shock treatments for a cure. And whilst he was in the mental hospital he was still writing lyrics and giving them to other bands. These bands ended up having chart success with Top 10’s and everything with his lyrics whilst he was still in hospital, so it was a good success story.


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NI ROCKS – As you mentioned, it has been almost three years since the release of “Defiance” in July 2017. That’s by far the longest gap between records – normally it’s two years at most. Has that partly been because you toured so extensively after the release of “Defiance”? Or is it a combination of factors?

CHRIS – It is mainly because we were doing a lot of touring. Myself, personally, I wanted to reach a lot of areas and countries that we had never been to before. So it was a combination of not wanting to turn my back on a fan base that were hungry for a new album, but also wanting to see new fans that had never heard of the four albums that we had already had. So it was a combination of those two. It definitely felt like a long gap, because like you say, there were a couple of albums where we only had eighteen months in between and two years at the most. So there was always a buzz going on and I think band and fans are definitely ready for this.


NI ROCKS – The band play Burr Fest in London on 7th March. What other plans does the band have to tour in support of the new album?

CHRIS – We’ve got many, many tour dates coming up, from Burr Fest onwards. We’re going out on tour in Europe shortly after the album is released in Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark. Then we’ve some more shows back in the UK and we’re very busy over the festival season. Festival season is looking very good for us, with a lot of festivals booking us for the double shift of the Absolva set and then playing the Blaze Bayley / Iron Maiden set afterwards. That’s been pretty fun. We did that in Brazil earlier this year – in January – which was great fun. We’ve got lots of tour dates coming up and they’re all on Absolva.com

(note – much of this subsequently impacted by the Covid19 crisis).


NI ROCKS – The band has a big following, as you mentioned, in many countries, but are there other specific countries that you’d like to target with the new album and future tours?

CHRIS – Yeah, one of our goals is to take Absolva out to places like Japan and reach some territories that we have never been to before. I’d really like to take Absolva to Canada, and because we had such good reaction in Brazil earlier this year, which was the first time that we’d ever been over to South America, I’d like to visit all the other South American countries such as Chile, Argentina, Peru and even Mexico. We did that on the same South America / Latin America tour. I’d really like to get to some more countries and really warrant the ‘world tour’ thing! (laughs).


NI ROCKS – The new album is available in a number of pre-order bundles, but I don’t think there was a vinyl version. Is there any reason for that?

CHRIS – We usually wait until at least six months after a release and we did this before with “Defiance”, because you’re never really know how much stock to bring in on the vinyl and it is so much more expensive than a CD. We wait until about six months afterwards and then we put up a vinyl pre-order and see what the reaction is like before we put the order in. I’m really hoping that “Side By Side” will end up on vinyl, mainly because of the artwork, but also for the music!


NI ROCKS – Vinyl of course has become a big part of the market – for the moment anyway. Have you got caught up in that at all and do you buying music on vinyl at all?

CHRIS – I do buy vinyl and I have bought vinyl for a long time. Even back fifteen years ago when you could get vinyl much cheaper than you can get it now, because it was almost extinct. I continue to buy vinyl but I do continue to buy CDs as well because it’s very handy to put on in the van or when we’re touring. The other guys are very much in the modern age of iTunes and all that so they always have plenty on their laptops or on their phones. I always like to have a cover and see artwork and read lyrics.


NI ROCKS – What albums have you been checking out recently? What has been the latest thing you’ve added to your playlists or picked up on CD or vinyl?

CHRIS – I think the latest one was Joe Bonamassa’s live album on vinyl – I can’t remember what it’s called now off the top of my head (“Live at the Sydney Opera House”) – but I’m big into my blues sound when I’m not into the heavy metal world with Absolva and Blaze Bayley. I do like to have, in my own time, a bit more blues in my laugh (laughs).


NI ROCKS – We’ll get back to the new album again now and play another track from “Side By Side”. Again, can you pick a track and tell us something about it?

CHRIS – Yeah, we’ll have “End of Days”, which is loosely based on the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie about the apocalypse and him generally going around and trying to save the world. That’s the loose theme that we picked.


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NI ROCKS – You’ve been part of Blaze Bayley’s band now for many years, both live and in the studio, recording the three “Infinite Entanglement” albums. The most recent dates, as you mentioned, were in Brazil. How did that go?

CHRIS – It was great. We did eight shows in Brazil. The schedule in Brazil is always a bit tougher than anywhere else as you’ve got a flight, at least one flight a day; there’s no travelling by car or van or anything! You’re always flying! But the Brazilian fans are incredible really. On this Blaze Bayley tour with Absolva as special guests, the Blaze Bayley tour was the Iron Maiden 25 year anniversary from when he joined Iron Maiden. So you’ve got a high octane set of Absolva, then a fifteen – twenty minute changeover / break, change the shirt, take a drink and then go back on and do ninety minutes of Iron Maiden – Blaze Bayley era. It was a great show to do and the fans absolutely loved it.


NI ROCKS – Blaze releases the “Live in Czech” album on 3rd April. Can you tell us anything about that album?

CHRIS – Yeah, it’s another live album that I produced and it’s the second live album that we’ve done as part of the whole “Infinite Entanglement” package. The setlist was the ‘Evil Spirit’ setlist which is much more different to the “Live in France” album. We were doing a lot more of the longer, bigger, progressive songs from the trilogy. Blaze is singing more in motion in the songs and the choice of songs was very specific. It does have that more epic feel to the whole live album and I’m very, very proud of it.


NI ROCKS – We’ll play something from that album later in the show. Do you want to pick a track to play?

CHRIS – “Live Goes On”


NI ROCKS – The last studio album from Blaze was in 2018, which was the third part of the trilogy. When do you think there might be another studio album from Blaze?

CHRIS – We’re planning that right now. We’re actually about half way through the song writing process and we’re looking to get into the studio in the coming months. We’re hoping to have that album ready for 2021. That’s going to be – the working title for it at the moment is ‘full metal album’ – as the “Infinite Entanglement” trilogy involved a lot of voice actors and choirs, and everything was a concept, so all the tracks ran into each other. So we said the next album we’re going to get back to basics, we’re going to go guitar, bass, drums, big vocals and get back to pure metal. It’s loosely going to be, stylistically, very similar to “Silicon Messiah”, his first album, and to “The Man Who Would Not Die”, with a more intense sound.


NI ROCKS – I look forward to that! I know Blaze is playing the Diamond Rock Club here in Northern Ireland in October, but I presume he has got other live dates coming up. Do you know what you’ve got planned with him?

CHRIS – Yeah, you’re exercising my brain today! (laughs) We’ve got a lot over the summer with the festival season. We’re not sure, but we think this might be the last summer that we’ll do the 25 anniversary setlist, because we don’t want to overdo it and almost become a Maiden tribute band. It was a celebration, not a money-making scheme. We’ve got a “Tenth Dimension” anniversary and we’re repackaging that “Tenth Dimension” album to go with the tour, and a new vinyl. I don’t think that album ever got released on vinyl in 2002. So we’ve got a full UK and European tour coming up at the end of this year and I think we’re going to try and squeeze in some unplugged dates; which is myself, my brother Luke and Blaze, just the three of us. We do a completely different setlist again and it’s almost like a Q & A as well, because Blaze explains a lot about the different songs, the song writing and the meanings. So we might be doing some unplugged shows as well.


NI ROCKS – The last interview we did was in 2015 when you released your solo album “Restless”. Your brother Luke released a solo album last year. Are we likely to see any more solo material from you in the near future?

CHRIS – Maybe, yeah. At the moment I’ve kinda got my hands full babysitting Absolva and Blaze, but it’s definitely in my sights. If I did do another solo album, I probably wouldn’t do it acoustic again. As I mentioned before, I’m a big blues fan, so I’d probably do something that is like a combination of Joe Bonamassa and Gary Moore, with a bit of Joe Satriani thrown in there! Like a bluesy, but whiddley guitar album! With some nice vocals. If I did do something like that I’d probably record it completely differently. I’d probably record it all analogue, really stripped back to get more of a 70’s sound.


NI ROCKS – You are very busy with Absolva and Blaze, are there any other projects that you’ve involved in or hoping to get involved in?

CHRIS – You mentioned my brother Luke. I was producing his album and mixed his acoustic album. There are a few other bands that get in touch with me a lot, asking me to produce albums. Sometimes I might just do one or two tracks, if the recording process has gone really well and it doesn’t take much time from me. But usually I just tell them that I’m so busy with everything else. It’s really hard to squeeze everything in and still get time to see my girlfriend! (laughs)


NI ROCKS – That’s all the questions that I have, but we’ll finish by playing another track from “Side By Side”. Do you want to pick a track and tell us something about it?

 

CHRIS – Yeah, if we can have the third track – “The Sky’s Your Limit”, which it’s in the title, it’s about positive feeling, positive thinking for everybody. You can achieve anything if you put your mind to it.

 

 

Last Updated (Sunday, 19 April 2020 00:25)