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Stairway

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You might say this is a veteran band. Very few bands manage to stay together for longer than ten years yet here's a band from the United Kingdom that's been doing their thing since the late seventies. Started out as a high school band Stairway has found its own trademark classic hard rock/metal sound inspired by the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. After being together for so many years (the last lineup change was in 1982) one starts wondering what it means to be in this band. Singer and guitarist Graeme Leslie is the one in charge of answering questions!

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Discography: No Rest: No Mercy (1993); Bleeding Heart (1999); On Hallowed Ground (2002). Available through: Stairway. Official website: Stairway. Interview by: mpo. Date: October 17th-31st 2002.

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Stairway FLTR: Rob Jennens, Andy Edwards, Pete Jennens, Graeme Leslie

Stairway has a new album out, On Hallowed Ground. The first album came out when the band existed for 15 years, the second took six years and this one three years. Are you guys finally speeding things up? :)

Yes, you might say that....Although, we were in fact signed by Kingsway Records in 1989 and recorded two tracks for the White Metal Warriors compilation at that time.....it took nearly two years for the album to be released and a further two years to get No Rest: No Mercy out. Prior to that, we had recorded various demo tapes, our first was around 1984, a couple of years after Andy had joined us; one song from that era appeared on the White Metal Warriors album.

I was discussing the demo years with one of your biggest German fans the other day and I wondered about the kind of music the demos featured. Was Stairway already playing music inspired by the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal?

Heavy Metal was always an inspiration to what we played, even in the early days - we did at the very start, play material more on a par with the Eagles, but with a slightly heavier feel, so we   always had leanings toward the metal sound.

What do you think of the new album?

We are pleased with what we've come up with, we decided to take our time with the songs and recording. We didn't want to rush things....so took things slowly, a few songs were discarded along the way and new ones added. We feel that the outcome is just about right.

What is the background of discarding songs? Because they didn't fit in musically enough or weren't they good enough or...?

A lot of material was written for the album, some of it wasn't completed and may appear on future projects; ballads are a different thing, and tend always to come out in multiples, so again a couple of these may feature in the future. I've never been one to fall in love with an idea either, if it doesn't work, I usually scrap it and move on to something new; this happened a couple of times over the recording and better songs came out -  all in all, I think the mix is about right.

On Hallowed Ground

As there's no title track I was wondering what made you choose On Hallowed Ground as a title. Does the title have some sort of connection with the content of the album?

Yes, we don't go for title tracks, preferring to use a title which reflects the whole content of the album. We have done this on all our albums, and will probably do the same for future releases. For On Hallowed Ground, the concept of the album is Salvation through a belief in Jesus Christ; there will come a time when we all will stand On Hallowed Ground before Jesus and for those faithful few, there will be eternal life. The cover depicts consecrated ground in Jersey where St Helier was murdered and subsequently canonized.

There are two types of recording bands. The bands that record songs they've tried out on the public prior to recording, and bands that introduce the new songs through an album. What kind of band is Stairway?

We don't introduce new material very often before a release; personally I was always excited when my favourite bands released new albums and I hadn't heard anything off the album, it made it more of an excited expectation. We like to, hopefully, give the same sort of impact with our releases.

Personally I think Stairway has some real nice songs on this album, yet I wish it had a better production. What do you think of this aspect of the album?

We are pleased with the production on the album, we wanted to get a sound with space in the recording, so there are not too many production tricks which can over-colour the original idea for the songs. We wanted to get back to basics;  guitars, drums and the occasional keyboard to give a sort of 'live, impromptu feel' this is one reason we recorded Foolish Heart live in the studio; in one take as well!! All in all we are very pleased with the sound and feel of the album.

The booklet is quite simple with black printing on white paper. Of course you didn't have a huge budget though a little beautification doesn't have to cost a lot. So, what were the exact circumstances under which you made On Hallowed Ground?

We have, with this album done a few things which weren't included on the last one, like a picture disc and photos of the band,  we are still working within a relatively low budget, and shall improve things a little with every album we release. The over-all sound of the CD is, we feel, an improvement on Bleeding Heart and from the reviews we have received seems to confirm this, which is re-assuring for us.

So, how are the reviews like then? What kind of feedback do you get?

So far, the reviews we've had are good and comment on the progress we've made over Bleeding Heart with this album. Most of the feed back we've gotten from magazines and fans is, that it's great there is a band still playing and recording the NWoBHM style of rock, this is great for us, as we love to play this style and it seems we are one of the only 'new' bands doing it.

The band exists for a great many years now. I reckon all of you are married nowadays, with children and day time jobs. So, what part does music play in your life, particularly the band? And what do you do to improve your skills as a musician?

We all have our, very respected other halves, and children "in tow".....the band takes up most of my time, with promo stuff and interviews etc etc. I tend to listen to new bands to see what is going on there, and apply some of what I hear and see in what I do personally and as a band collectively.

I'm trying to imagine how it is to be in Stairway. Do you guys practice a lot in the week? And as you are one of the guitarist, do you spend much time to improve your skills and to get new ideas?

We don't practice as much these days as we used to, we tend only to practice when we have something to do, such as rehearsing new material for an album; we do meet up quite regularly to discuss how things are going and planning for the future and where we want to go.

And as it comes to music from other bands, what do you listen to and how much does it involve your lives? And do you go to concerts and such?

There is always music playing all the time, whether it be at home, in the car or where ever, of all different styles, genres, eras etc. I listen to anything from the Beethoven classics to Nickelback and some times even pop, my missus bought the Sugababes CD the other day, and you know, it's really quite good!! Recently, only last week in fact, I went to see a John Lennon sound and look alike, he and his band played a lot of early Beatles stuff, and they were amazing! Gary Gibson is the spitting image of John Lennon and sounds like him as well??!! Unfortunately, I missed the Deep Purple gig a few weeks back which was a real disappointment. I do try and go to as many local band gigs as I can, when time allows, it's great to see new bands in the raw!! A real buzz!!!

I expected you were going to mention a lot of good ole hard rock bands!

Okay........yes.....on second thoughts you're probably right!!?? Perhaps we'll put that down to a momentary lapse!! I have recently got my old Zeppelin records out, good times in the good ole vinyl days eh!!

Graeme Leslie

And who are the members of Stairway in real life? Can you give us a sneak peak into your private lives?

Mmmmm.....that would be telling!! We all live around 20 miles from each other and meet up as regularly as we can, to discuss band issues and to socialize now and again.  Andy has two kids and a parrot; Rob, and come to think of it, Pete also, has two kids, but no parrots; I don't have any kids but Cheryl my other half, has a house rabbit which terrorizes the whole house!!!

Okay, and what exactly may we expect from the band, both in the near future and in the long run?

Well, we hopefully, will be doing some live work next year, something we haven't done seriously for a while. And maybe we will be able to get over to Europe sometime as well which would be great; in the long run..........we plan on another album but as and when......we don't have a set time!! All in all, we shall continue with what we are doing at the moment, and to increase our exposure when ever and where ever we can, God willing!!

You hope to do some live work next year. You have just released a new album. Most bands try to do some shows to support the new disc immediately after release. How easy is it to get a tour or at least an agenda filled with dates? Or, to rephrase this question: What does it take for a concert promoter to get Stairway?

Easy.... stairway.deoduce@virgin.net. We'd like perhaps to do some festivals and go on from there - if any promoter is interested in booking the band, get in touch, and we can sort something out, it will be great to play some of the new stuff and meet the fans again.......so..... here's looking to the future!!!

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