IN THE STORE!
TNT Vocalist TONY MILLS
Submitted By Caroline Walsh on
This is James & Cassie here from the Metal Epicenter as we are being joined by Mr. Tony Mills. Mr. Mills, thank you for agreeing to stop by!
How ya doiní?!!
First thing's first, by now it is just starting to sink in to the TNT faithful that you are their new front man. How in the world did you end up fronting TNT?
I was working on an album earlier in the year when I had a call in the studio from a UK based label, informing me that the vocalist from TNT had left the band and asking whether I would be interested or not.
Having heard a lot of the material, I always thought they were a credible act and not a million miles from the style of music that I wanted to play and write, so I thought, íHey, letís give it a shot, nothing to loseÖí
After hooking up with the band in Berlin, we got on famously and within two weeks I was in rehearsals just outside Oslo getting ready for the oncoming twenty shows. It was difficult to start with, but it got easier as time went by, getting used to the change in my life etc.
TNT has a very solid and loyal fan base. But when the singer of a band, more so than any other position, is replaced, even die hards are hard to impress. So, how have the TNT fans accepted you so far?
I think it would be fair to say that there has been a real mixed reaction. Many people new of SHY and SIAM, so pretty much thought they knew what to expect and were happy with the change, or at least werenít too grief struck over it.
Other people are firmly buried in the wake of Tony Harnell with their fingers crossed and I understand that completely. A lot of fans have spoken to me personally over the issue and I think thatís great. Iíll sit down and talk to anyone and Iíve met a lot of fans over the last six months and weíve talked about it at great length. And of course there are the people that will Ďnever go to see the band againí, which I completely disagree with. If it was only ever the singer that you liked then fair enough. But the essence of the band hasnít changed and this is proved I think by the new album being recorded at the moment. People should continue to follow TNT with a different vocalist, I can tell you for a fact, that they are one of the major forces in Europe to be dealt with in the rock industry.
On the whole, Iíve had a very pleasant summer working with TNT and meeting the fan base. Their passion is proof of why I made the right decision.
Both Tony Harnell and yourself have very impressive vocals. But, if we may say so, we believe you have a larger range. When you perform the TNT classics live, will you be doing what some have done and singing the songs the way the former vocalist sang them or will you have a different interpretation on each song?
I donít do competitions. How Tony recorded the songs twenty years ago, and how he sang them last year could have been completely different for all I know. So whatís the point emulating what someone did a lifetime ago in the hope of keeping a few people happy and trying to win them over? No point whatsoever.
I take each concert on itís own merit and if an audience inspires something different in me, then thatís what comes out.
I think if anything, after working as a vocalist for 25 years, my range has extended, but only through greatness in depth and character rather than an extension in high pitch. After all said and done, itís always what is best for the song that is important, not specific performances, unless itís an intended solo section or something like that.
I think there is enough similarity in the classics live to satisfy the masses and judging by the last six months, thatís what has happened.
Both TNT with Tony Harnell and Shy have released albums that really impressed people in the past few years. But, there is a slightly different style to each. How will recent TNT style, heard on "My Religion" and "All the Way to the Sun" mesh with your diverse sound, on Shy's "Sunset & Vine" and your solo record "Freeway to the Afterlife"?
It will be a perfectly natural process. It has already happened on its own in the studio with producer H.P. Gundersen. The band had to have a raw edge to it, otherwise I would have been disinterested in being involved. TNT certainly have a raw edge. But along with that comes a grandiose vision of production with many vocal arrangements and majestic guitar soloís and sounds. All of this has already happened. But at the end of the day, whatís going on underneath the track, for me, has to be rock n roll. If it isnít , then I think the point has been lost somewhere. All of these things have been achieved in studio over the last month or two. If you mix My Religion with various SHY material and use seventies feels and production techniques used on early Queen and even Beatles albums; mix in the ability and poise of Ronni Le Tekro, put the powerhouse rythmn section behind it that we have now, then you will get pretty close to the end product.
Leading on from that, with Tony Harnell contributing largely to writing, will you be taking over the song writing duties?
No, I wouldnít just demand something. Ronni is very much his own man and knows his own mind about what he wants artistically. If he already has a hook for a guitar line that heís written, Iím more than happy to supply everything else.
The door is wide open for everyone in the band to contribute to writing material and thatís exactly whatís happening as we speak.
You mentioned there being a culture shock from the UK to Norway especially in the media attention received. Why do you think rock 'n' roll is not being given media attention in the UK or, for that matter, the US as much as it should? What has to happen to give rock 'n' roll its bite back?
Having listened to the unadulterated rubbish that is the prime focus of the British public in the mainstream charts in the UK, there has been a consistent brainwash of R&B for many years now, to the point that the public practically expect to hear a drum machine and a synth bass pumping out the rhythm and a troop of skinny women cavorting around in unison in the background to a half cast vocalist who can hit 700 unnecessary notes on her way to destroying yet another well known classic. Itís sickening; it hasnít always been like this. But Iím struggling really to remember a time after the eighties when itís ever really been any different in the UK. The rock fraternity has always been a minority and never really generally accepted by TV and radio. There will always be the token radio show but certainly no TV. Unless itís shipped in from elsewhere.
You guys should look to your own colleagues to answer the second question. If the media machine cant promote and force change, the musicians cant do it on their own. And record labels will be looking for profit from the masses rather than charge out and force a media crusade. At the end, we can only follow what we believe in, write songs from the heart, perform them as well as we can, and do our best to promote our art and industry. The public can buy itÖ..and if they want to, the media can kill it.
Venturing away from TNT with our questions, we at the Metal Epicenter are more than familiar with your body of work, especially in Shy and your solo material. For those of us who love to live the dream, when did it dawn on you, "I'm a HUGE Rock Star!"
It hasnít. Am I ? I think my profile as an artist has been elevated considerably by joining TNT, certainly in Scandinavia. But I just do what I do, every day I write or record something and the only reason I donít is because Iím on the road to go play some club or festival or something. Itíll be same today and tomorrow. I just get on with it. I feel a bit of fate kicking in sometimes, Ďpre-destined pathsí and all that sort of thing. I feel pretty much on auto pilot and I just do what I have to do to achieve things artistically.
How does an engineering apprentice from the Midlands wind up fronting one of the most well known euro-metal bands?
Well it doesnít happen overnight, Being a fan of music is where it started for me and having friends that were like minded. Winding up in garages playing and singing Beatles and Bowie songs through what equipment we could scrounge and pissing the neighbours off no end. To meeting other musicians in college to playing small gigs and eventually getting press to a point of management and record deals. Itís a slow process, but if you plug away at it long enough, you get somewhere in the end. Iím a great believer in people finding their own level through their own efforts.
Iíve never given up on music and TNT is where Iíve reached after persisting since the late 70ís and doing something every day toward one ultimate aim.
With Shy you toured with some pretty big names, do have any memories of touring with Twister Sister that you could share with us - or one which is printable?
I remember TS being a great live band, although I havenít seen them since the late 80ís. The drummer used to tell me how he really wanted to play for Rush, and Dee Snider was the protective Ďbig brotherí type always looking out for everyone elseís interests. I remember a musician of another support act on the same tour being particularly obnoxious backstage at Ipswich Gaumont (which doesnít exist anymore) and Dee saying, ĎLet me know if you have any more trouble with these guys and Iíll sort them out !í I liked that guy, he didnít take any shit. I believe heís still doing great shows around the world.
If we could pick your brain, we've been more exposed to the inner workings of "pop" music with the inception and explosion of the Internet. New terms have been revealed to music lovers such as "relevant" and it seems like musicians from your genre have taken that and tried very hard to almost follow the trend to stay "relevant." As a recording artist, do you consider what is popular at the time and incorporate elements of it in your songs or do you feel you'd rather be true to yourself? Can both be done?
I have been in a position where a label has insisted on only releasing certain songs in certain genres, or otherwise refusing to release product at all. That was an extremely unhealthy situation, lacking in any artistic integrity and unbelievably manipulative for the sake of profit.
You have to follow your heart and write what comes from within to create original material. If you allow influences to extensively dominate your writing, you end up emulating other peopleís work to the point of unoriginality.
As a producer, did you find that you influenced the overall sound of the recordings youíve worked on?
Yes, but Iím a firm believer in giving musicians a free reign as well, to promote their input and see if it really helps build a better song. If they play things that arenít conducive to building a song, the parts get left out. I think Iíve left my mark on my own material, who wouldnít ?
What is your opinion of death metal and the like? Do you agree with us that rock has to become more melodic than it is right now in order to sustain itself?
Lets not belittle any sort of rock music. The industry has enough hurdles to get over as it is. Death and Black metal is such an enormous underground market, that itís undeniable and makes for great music to a lot of people. The metal festivals in Europe are living proof of that. I have to say, that I donít really listen to it myself, it has never been a part of my make up and I cant force myself to get into streams of music that donít naturally appeal to me. But there are a lot of musicians that have become well known in their own right through doing what feels natural to them.
I think the world is big enough to sustain all styles of music and so it should. Rock will never die, I donít think itís a case of Ďsustaining itselfí.
As you hail from Birmingham, we have to ask - Aston Villa or Birmingham City FC?
I gave up football at the age of twelve for Rock n Roll. I used to be a Birmingham supporter then, but they never won a damn thing and I got fed up with watching all the fights between supporters of the same team, not to mention the amount of spit I used to get covered in when a police horse would come nearby. What the hell is that all about ? I wanted to make things and be constructive, not join gangs and fight other people for no real reason. Music suited me much better, I think.
After Metallica blew the whistle on music downloads, a lot of bands came out both for and against the ability of downloading music on the Internet. Do you think that the ability to download music has hurt the music industry?
Not really. I think it has made it more affordable for a lot of people. I have never suffered from being ripped off on the Internet, on the contrary, Iíve probably done more press since the onset of Internet webzines and the like and the people all over the world, whether they be musicians or fans, are all talking to each other like never before. Surely that has to be a great thing. Look at My SpaceÖÖ
If you were to put one song you performed on in a time capsule to be preserved for people to hear 1,000 years from now, what song would you pick to sum up your contribution to rock 'n' roll?
Probably ĎNew Age Warningí from the SIAM album ĎPrayerí.
By the same token, what song, if any, do you wish you hadn't performed and wish you could erase from your catalog?
Probably ĎDevil Womaní from the SHY album ĎExcess All Areasí.
What's next for Tony Mills the man and Tony Mills the musician?
Well, Iím spending as much time with my family as I can before the completion of the new TNT album in February, because the ensuing touring to promote the album will no doubt be very extensive so I guess I wont get to see them too much next year.
If you have a one word answer that sums the person up, that will do. If you'd like to share a thought or memory, we welcome that as well!
The reason I ever became an artist at all. Utterly inspiring
Great memories of funny stories with Tommy in London restaurants in the late 80ís. God bless him. Iím just sorry I got drunk and ate his flowers.
A clever and patient man.
For someone who tried to sell me a Harley that he said heíd Ďtotalledí on a freeway and repaired by hand on the side of the road as an excuse because he was four hours late for a writing session in a paid studio in L.A., I donít have much to say. Oh, and Don, I didnít believe that story about you and your guitar on a horse in the middle of the desert writing the next Dokken album either.
A talented guy; respect.
An old friend
A warm and wonderful guy, who looked after me in L.A. when I was a stranger there, he was the friend I needed.
I'd like to thank Mr. Tony Mills for spending this time with us at the Metal Epicenter. Do you have any closing words you'd like to share with your fans, site links, or anything like that?
Hey, what can I say ? Thanks for this, itís been a real pleasure. Like all TNT fans around the world, Iím looking forward to the completion of the new album as much as you are. Donít forget, at the end of the day, itís gotta be rock n roll, or it aint happeniní !!!
Once again, thank you for doing this.
Take it steady.
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