When Cobain and Vedder came along in the 90's and with one deep throated growl eliminated 99% of the bands in my record collection from the rock radar, it signalled the end for many other great rock bands as teenagers looked for something with more grit and anger to satisfy their musical tastes. Not that the 'Grunge Era' was a bad thing, it gave music a much needed kick in the ass and mainly it separated the good from the bad leaving only the real 'true' rock bands with something resembling a career. Meet Firehouse - one of rock music's truly great survivors. Having barely just tasted success with mega hit singles 'Don't Treat Me Bad' and 'Love of a Lifetime' from their self titled debut and following it up with a UK tour on the release of 'Hold Your Fire', they faded from the eye of the public. Don't be fooled though as original members CJ Snare, Bill Leverty and Michael Foster have continued to record and tour constantly for the last ten years all over the world. Now, finally it's time for them to return to the UK, along with bassist Allen McKenzie, in support of new album 'Prime Time' and guitarist Bill Leverty was more than eager to talk about the record, tour and his great new band Wanderlust.
What are you most looking forward to about coming back over to the UK and what do you remember most fondly about your first trip?
I like to talk to our fans, drink a beer with them, and just hang out. I really love playing our set, but afterwards, we do a meet and greet with everybody and I'm looking forward to shaking hands with the people who like our music. I have so many great memories of our first trip to the UK when we toured with Status Quo. We met so many cool people who really love music, and we also had the opportunity to see so many great historic landmarks. I also LOVE the beer over here!
Can you believe it's ten years since you last came to the UK? Does it seem that long ago?
It's actually been twelve years, we added it up the other day and we can't believe it, man! It seems like just the other day we were over here touring with the Quo guys. Everybody warned us that their audience was gonna throw stuff at us but actually they loved us. It was a great tour, Status Quo treated us better than any other band we've opened up for and we've opened up for a lot of them! They're the nicest bunch of guys and a great band.
A lot of bands changed direction or ‘updated’ their sound in the mid Nineties. Did Firehouse ever get tempted to do this?
We were never guilty of that and we’ve always wrote whatever came from our hearts and not try to chase any trends or jump on the bandwagon that's hot. Hopefully if we make what we think's good and believe in it people will get to hear it and like it.
You're very proud of the bands past but is there anything you'd change if you got the chance?
Looking back if I could change anything it would have been the way the record company released our singles, I wish they would have released our harder stuff first and maintained our credibility with the rock stations. 'Don't Treat Me Bad' was really a pop rock song and they went hard at that to pop radio, and then they released 'Love of a Lifetime'. Those were the two lightest songs on the record!
Is it hard to put together a set list these days to accommodate old and new material whilst keeping yourselves and the fans happy?
Not really. We love playing all of our songs every night, so it's not that difficult to balance the old with the new, and the hits with the deep tracks. We have a lot of hits, which is a good problem to have, but there's enough time to play songs from our newest album and a little bit from just about every other album we've put out.
What can people expect from the new album 'Prime Time' and how does it sit next to earlier albums?
I think that people can expect what the critics are all saying, that this is our best album ever, or at least since our first two. We've never been so happy about an album that we've recorded. I think that this album sits very well with our earlier albums and even has a little bit more of a harder edge.
If you could put together the ultimate summer tour who would be on it?
The Stones, AC/DC and Firehouse would work! I always want to get in front of the biggest audiences possible. We've always wanted to go out with Van Halen or Bon Jovi but we've never had the chance, that would be a great one to do.
What was the last new band that really 'kicked your ass' and blew you away?
New band? Hmm..... It's been a while since I was blown away by a 'new band'. What blows me away is amazing vocals, musicianship, song writing and emotion. All of those elements have to be there for me to be 'blown away'. I honestly haven't heard anything is years that had all of that. The last band that had a debut album that I thought was absolutely amazing was Dream Theater.
You have a new band Wanderlust, when did you decide to put this project together?
I never really made the conscious decision. I just wrote songs for many years and some of them fit my voice best, so I saved them for my solo album. After I had ten songs that I felt were strong enough to put out, I recorded them with the best musicians I knew, Michael Foster and Bruce Waibel.
Do you approach the song writing and performance side differently to how you do with Firehouse?
Not at all. I just let it flow from the heart. I wrote this album for myself, not for any market or any particular audience. I only wrote the songs with the idea that I would be proud of them and that these songs would be a direct reflection of myself as an artist.
What has been the reaction from Firehouse fans who have heard Wanderlust?
Everyone who has heard the album has said they love it. I have received nothing but overwhelmingly positive reactions from everyone, including critics, about the album. I'm very happy with the way it's been received. I only hope that more people will take the time to listen. Unfortunately, Wanderlust have never played live. If I ever get any time off from Firehouse, I would love to play a few gigs, but we haven't taken any time off in the last 12 years, so I doubt if that will happen any time soon!
The album's 'Prime Time' and Bil Leverty's 'Wanderlust' are out now.
For more info visit www.firehousemusic.com and www.leverty.com