25 Nov 2016

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? THE CASE OF BLACKTHORNE Featured

Blackthorne was a short-lived supergroup that unfortunately, for a number of reasons, didn’t achieve the success that so rightfully deserved and almost right after the release of its debut album “Afterlife” in 1993 it vanished in obscurity! Flash forward 23 years later and Cherry Red Records brings forth the second “lost” album by Blackthorne “Don’t Kill The Thrill” thus we grab the chance to talk with Bob Kulick and Jimmy Waldo; two founding members who shed more light on the case of Blackthorne.
Interview: Sakis Nikas

Rockpages.gr: Jimmy and Bob, first of all, thank you for taking the time. I really appreciate it. Since this is about Blackthorne, let me tell you that lots of fans were pleasantly surprised with the release of the second lost album “Don’t Kill The Thrill”. Did you expect that it would eventually be released after 20 plus years?Blackthorne01

Jimmy Waldo: Yeah, I mean it was really weird that went down that way. We loved the songs but it didn’t work out. The songs were put on the shelf, so to speak and now the time has come for people to hear those tracks.

Bob Kulick: Not really…these songs have been lying around, as you said, for more than 20 years. I am glad that the audience will have the chance to listen to those songs because they are actually really good songs. We had worked very hard on these ones and I believe that this could be a great follow-up after the first album that we did, “Afterlife”.  

Rockpages.gr: Let’s go back in time a little bit…when you first started with Blackthorne, did you approach it as a regular band or as a project?

Jimmy Waldo: Right from the beginning we intended to approach it as a real band. I had played in the past with both Chuck (Wright) and Frankie (Banali)…of course, with Graham (Bonnet), too, in Alcatrazz. So yeah, we looked at the whole Blackthorne thing to be our band but it is very difficult to keep people. Bob (Kulick) and I were always making phone calls but nothing really stuck.

Rockpages.gr: Is it safe to say that you two were the key members of Blackthorne?

Jimmy Waldo: Yes! Bob and I were the main songwriters…I know Bob for years and Blackthorne was our idea really. We always wanted to work together but the schedules didn’t allow us to do that. When the opportunity came with Graham, I mentioned it to Bob and we immediately agreed that this was perfect.

Bob Kulick: Along with Graham, obviously…he was the singer on both those records. He was very important in the overall shaping of those two Blackthorne albums. Having said that, Jimmy and I were working together…we were the songwriters, so to speak. Blackthorne02

Rockpages.gr: Was there ever any thought of working with another singer?

Jimmy Waldo: No, not really. It started with Graham. He was in Australia and we always talked and wanted to work together again on something. I told him that I was thinking of doing something with Bob and he was totally into it. So, Graham was the guy right from the beginning. We never looked for another singer…Blackthorne started with Graham right from the very beginning.

Rockpages.gr: I remember when I first bought “Afterlife” when it was released I was absolutely amazed by the sheer quality of it and at the same time I couldn’t believe that it failed commercially. Were you surprised that it bombed and it didn’t connect with the audience?

Jimmy Waldo: I was very surprised and at the same time very disappointed. We were hoping of establishing at least a core audience…lay the foundation that we could tour, record more records and take it from there. It just didn’t happen. It didn’t sell in Japan which came as a huge surprise to us; it didn’t sell well in America or Europe…so, yeah…it wasn’t received as well as we’d have hoped.

Bob Kulick: I think that the album had some really strong songs but we couldn’t really find a way to promote our work…maybe, it had to do with the label or the fact that we didn’t back it up with a proper tour. Maybe those were two of the reasons why we failed to connect with the audience. But everyone in the band was really happy about the songs…we had heavy songs and the same time we had some melodic songs like “We Won’t Be Forgotten” that could have been played on the radio. It’s unfortunate that “Afterlife” didn’t appeal to the audience at that time.

Rockpages.gr: Why do you think this happened? What was the reason behind this commercial failure?

Jimmy Waldo: You know, I honestly don’t know. I thought that the songs were really strong, it was produced well; everybody played great…so, I never really understood what happened to be honest with you. I thought we fit right in with what the radio was playing at the time. I didn’t really see the difference between us and everybody else. We were as good as anybody out there. Blackthorne was a good band!

Rockpages.gr: Maybe the fact that, at that specific time period, grunge music was at an all time high played a certain role…

Jimmy Waldo: Quite possibly…that’s a good point.

Bob Kulick: I think that it might have been different…it’s possible. Certainly the fact that new bands were coming and there were labels that supported them played a certain role. I think that the perfect timing is a key factor for the success or failure of a record. Things could have been different for Blackthorne if the record has been released 5 years earlier.

Rockpages.gr: My favorite cut on the album is definitely “We Won’t Be Forgotten”…what can you tell us about that song?

Jimmy Waldo: It’s a great song…I love it. Bob wrote it…Paul Taylor and Bruce Kulick were also involved on this.

Rockpages.gr: How about “Afterlife”, the title track…you co-wrote that song.

Jimmy Waldo: I came up with the original riff, ironically on keyboards (laughs)…I did a quick demo of it and Bob really liked it. Graham liked it, too…so, it worked out really well.

Rockpages.gr: It’s actually a bit of a surprise hearing you say that this song started from a keyboard riff because it’s a really heavy track.Blackthorne03

Jimmy Waldo: (laughs) Yes! I never necessarily intended to keep it as a keyboard riff…I had a friend of mine who played guitar and when he started playing that riff on guitar it sounded much much better. As I said, I played it to Bob immediately and it sounded even better.

Rockpages.gr: What can you tell us about the overall recording of “Afterlife”…? What do you remember from those sessions?

Jimmy Waldo: That went pretty well actually…we rehearsed the material…Graham had finished most of the lyrics. It was really quick. After the rehearsals, we went into the studio and cut the tracks. After we cut the basic tracks, Graham was working on melody and additional lyrics…he had pretty much finished. It didn’t take long…I don’t remember exactly how long but it didn’t take long.

Rockpages.gr: I always thought that this was quite a heavy album for you, I mean being a keyboard player and all…

Jimmy Waldo: Well, I love that kind of music. You know, it’s funny…in Alcatrazz I always preferred the heavier stuff. I love heavy music…I am a guitar freak (laughs). So, it was pretty easy writing and recording “Afterlife”.

Rockpages.gr: “Don’t Kill The Thrill” carries on from where “Afterlife” stopped and it is actually a little bit heavier. Do you agree?

Jimmy Waldo: Oh yeah! It was heavier…no doubt about it although it was not a conscious effort. It kinda came out that way…it just happened. We just wrote songs and our instincts take care of the rest…it showed us the direction.

Bob Kulick: Well yeah…at that time it was the heavier, the better! That was our approach. We didn’t want to repeat “Afterlife” and we really pushed ourselves to be more metal. So yeah…most of the songs on that second album were way heavier than “Afterlife” but at the same time they had the same kind of vibe.

Rockpages.gr: Graham Bonnet has said many times that he might have liked his recording experience with Blackthorne but it didn’t fit his voice…he preferred a more straight ahead rock n’ roll and not a heavy metal approach. Personally, I think that his voice was perfect for Blackthorne…what’s your comment?

Jimmy Waldo: Right…well, I also think that his voice was perfect for Blackthorne. I know what you are saying…Graham never expressed a disinterest in Blackthorne’s music when we were writing the album. We would come up with a song and Graham would write the lyrics and think of the vocal melody. He never said: “guys, this is too heavy…let’s go for a more straight rock sound”. We would discuss sometimes the lyrical direction…Graham would take a different direction on some of the songs, so we would talk about it. Bob and I tend towards the more heavy lyrical content. He was OK with that. It’s a fine line for him…once Graham sees that the song is pure and honest then he would go all the way with it! He just doesn’t want to be pretentious. Once he gets the whole lyrical idea, he makes it his own…that’s for sure!

Bob Kulick: I’ve read those comments, too. I also believe that his voice was a perfect fir for Blackthorne and I must say that we pushed him to be heavier because that was the overall approach and mood of the albums. I know that GrahamBlackthorne04 prefers a rock style and not necessarily a heavy metal style. But the songs on the two Blackthorne albums were heavy and I believe that he did justice to them in the studio as his voice is flawless and powerful as ever.

Rockpages.gr: Later on, Graham left and you actually carried on with Murderer’s Row which was more or less Blackthorne with a different singer.

Jimmy Waldo: Right.

Rockpages.gr: The album was great but once again it failed commercially. Any explanation…?

Jimmy Waldo: I don’t know about that either. The album came out in Japan with a different label and it didn’t do absolutely anything anywhere in the world. Again…I don’t know the reason of the commercial failure. I think David Glenn Eisley is a terrific singer and the songs were really good. David sang his heart out on this album. We had so much fun making that record and we all got along well…pretty painless recording experience. I thought that it would achieve more success but…

Rockpages.gr: By the way, did you play any shows with Murderer’s Row?

Jimmy Waldo: No, we didn’t…we never had the chance of playing live with Murderer’s Row. There was no support by the label…the record didn’t do well…very disappointing.

Rockpages.gr: Well, Jimmy the 90s were tough for the majority of the hard rock artists…I can imagine your frustration and disappointment.

Jimmy Waldo: I know…it was a very frustrating experience.

Rockpages.gr: I remember listening to a bootleg tape from the Foundations Forum show in 1994…that was a show that was cut short…

Bob Kulick: Oh yeah. I remember that show. That had nothing to do with us…it was something with Yngwie Malmsteen who had played before us. There were some flash bombs and stuff on stage that were against the regulations so the Fire Department came a little bit late and thought that were responsible for it. Yngwie was later apologetic about the whole thing…that was OK. We tried to secure more shows but unfortunately it didn’t happen. We just did a few acoustic performances with Graham in Japan and that was it really…it’s unfortunate because with a proper tour “Afterlife” could have had a better luck.

Rockpages.gr: Last but certainly not least; Blackthorne has a cult and loyal fan base. Do you think that there will ever be a chance of a live reunion show just for the sake of it?

Jimmy Waldo: Yes! It’s just a matter of logistics. But yeah…I’d love to play with Blackthorne. That would be awesome.  

Bob Kulick: Sure! Of course I’d consider doing a reunion show with the guys. I did the same thing with Balance…it’s really something to do with time and of course if the offer is right…why not?

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