An Interview with
Lead Singer of the Heavy Metal Band
that took place at Loaded Bar, Hollywood, California on July 26th, 2014.
Interviewed by Glenn Milligan.
Glenn: Right now, I’m sat in Loaded Bar and we’re very, very privileged to be here with Ann Boleyn from Hellion.
Ann: How you doin’?
Glenn: I’m doing good. So since we last talked what’s been happening with Hellion?
Ann: Well we’re getting ready to go out on tour – that’s for starters and a lot of exciting things are happening. We keep adding shows and the tour keeps getting longer and longer and longer.
Glenn: So what shows are you looking forward to most?
Ann: Pretty much all of ‘em. There’s a bunch of shows in places that we’ve never played before. There’s different cities we’ve had fans that have been begging for shows forever. I think were really looking forward to Philadelphia. That’s gonna be incredible. A lot – even places like Houston – I’ve never played there before. Some of those types of places. It’s gonna be awesome.
Glenn: So you’ve never played a big U.S. Tour before?
Ann: Never done it. Done England. Done Europe and things like that but it’s just the way things ended up working out. It was always like short bits ‘n’ pieces here and there.
Glenn: So what songs have you recently been enjoying playing mostly from the original Hellion days and new songs as well?
Ann: Well obviously the five new songs off the mini-album – those will be done. We’re having a good time going over the old catalogue and picking songs off of the new 2-CD Anthology. So all the songs that we’re gonna be doing are off that two CD Anthology and there’s quite a few to choose from. The things like ‘Break The Spell’. Some of the old classics – they’ll definitely be in there.
Glenn: So what do the fans think? Are they really surprised that you have got Hellion back together and going somewhat?
Ann: Well I’ll tell ya, it’s really interesting because you know, now that we’ve got things set up on Facebook you can see where your demographics are. One of the big shockers was that the majority of our fans are between 18 and 24. That’s a very good thing because not only do we have people that were into Hellion years back, we’ve got a whole bunch of new people that are into Hellion for the first time. So obviously we’ve got to deliver big time when it comes to going out and touring and I would expect that there will be no disappointments.
Glenn: Yeah I mean that’s good with the demographics and the age thing – it’s perfect because you’ve got everything covered.
Ann: We do.
Glenn: That must have been mind-blowing for you to find out that young kids are into Hellion. How do you think they found out about Hellion?
Ann: Well I think the internet’s a wonderful thing because back in the 80’s of course, the way that people heard about music was through the radio or printed magazines – things like that and a lot of that was obviously controlled by record companies and the powers that be. No longer is it that way anymore. Anybody can, you know, with a computer and pro-tools set up and be recording. So that’s taken a lot of the sort of the stoppers that the corporate music world used to have on blocking a lot of music. It’s taken that away and meaning people can share what they like and the music speaks for itself. But the privilege of working together with some awesome musicians – the best ever Hellion line-up ever. So I think that has a lot to do with it as well.
Glenn: Yeah and I guess there’s an awful lot of cameraderie between you all?
Ann: Yeah a lot of us. We’ve got… of course, I mean Simon (Wright) and myself go back a few years in business and we’ve got Maxxx who is a young guy and he brings thar enthusiasm about. A guy in his early 20’s and he’s just shredding – it’s awesome. It’s just great to see the enthusiasm for traditional metal. I think that’s one of the things where Hellion’s always been strong. In the beginning of the the 80’s there was Heavy Rock or Traditional Metal meaning Priest, Maiden, Scorpions – all those kinds of things where metal really came from. So that’s what we’re doing and I think there is a big interest in that as opposed to all these sub-genres that have come out.
Glenn: Yeah. Did you get any sort of backlash because you didn’t have any of the older members and you’ve got a brand new band instead?
Ann: Well if you understand Hellion’s history, you’ll know I’ve been thrown out of Hellion twice.
Glenn: I know.
Ann: So there are a lot of people don’t have too much sympathy for the musicians who threw me out and I knew that all the time. It’s like, “It’s great to see finally that you’ve got a line-up which is ready to go out and tour”, and I’m very, very happy about that because that was always a problem in early Hellion. Some of the guys just didn’t wanna go out and those same guys who didn’t wanna go out were people that eventually tossed me out of the band and I had to recoup and form a new line-up. So no I haven’t had any backlash at all. I mean, obviously there’s a lot of people out there that have a lot of respect for the former musicians and rightfully so. Chet Thompson, Ray Shanks, some of these guys are great and very, very under-rated musicians and I will always support them on that. But no I haven’t had any backlash.
Glenn: That’s good. What songs would you say are going down the best right now from the current line-up?
Ann: Well we won’t really know until we get out live. I’ve got my favourites obviously. I always liked some of the early stuff like ‘Break The Spell’. I think we may even bring out ‘Don’t Take No For An Answer’. We’ve got a surprise but it hasn’t been announced yet that’ll probably be announce pretty soon. We’re bringing a rhythm guitar player along as well and I think people are gonna be very surprised and very happy when they see who it is.
Glenn: And you can’t talk about that right now?
Ann: We can’t talk about it yet but in a week you’ll find out. (It was revealed to be Georg Dolivo of Rhino Bucket).
Glenn: Awesome. Because you were thrown out the band twice and all the weird stuff that has gone on, did you have any problems with the actual name Hellion. Like, "Sorry you can’t use that because we own that name"?
Ann: No not at all because you have certain bands, like the Queensryche thing for example. You know Geoff Tate wasn’t an original band member of Queensryche so I think that makes it a little bit different. With Hellion, I put the band together. Actually Myself, Ray Schenck, a guy named Peyton Tuthill and Sean Kelly - we put the band together. Originally it was a party band just to go out and play and have fun because all of us and especially myself had been in bands that were trying to create an original band that was gonna do something special and usually what would happen is I’d get a great singer and a great line-up together and off goes the singer and you’re screwed.
So I just wanted to go out as originally a keyboard player and just play some music. So we started doing some cover tunes and just said, “Let’s get out there!”. Ultimately, well not ultimately but right off the bat things started going down really, really well and we were in Kerrang! and all that stuff. Literally months after we started the band. So we changed the name to Hellion after the neighbours called us a bunch of Hellions. I thought that was a great name to call the band. I had some very religious neighbours and them saying, “Now you guys are a bunch of Hellions, you’re gonna go to hell and the driving the neighbourhood crazy”. So I lobbied for that name, did the final logo which is the logo that everybody sees. That logo, I drew the one that was on that mini-album – granted, it was drawn off a variation of some earlier ones. But it was my situation.
So when I was that told I was gonna be replaced by a male singer, I said, “Fine go ahead but the name’s mine, go find another name”.
Glenn: So I understand you did the benefit at Paladinos. How was that and what was the reception to you guys who did that?
Ann: Well first of all, the benefit at Paladinos wasn’t really a Hellion show. It had Scott Warren and I had Maxxx Carlisle who is our new guitar player. By that time Simon was in Russia doing ‘Project Rock’. I guess that was it at that time. I forget that we’re growing. At that point then that was it. But it was great. I did two benefits ultimately. I did that one and I did one a couple of months before and the main thing was just to get out there and be on stage and kind of get my feel of doing that again. So anytime you have a situation where there’s a number of reputable musicians that come together. I mean, we had Dave Lombardo there. All kinds of guys were there that evening. It’s also an opportunity to help a good cause. It’s fun. You see some great players play and it’s all good.
Glenn: What songs are you most excited about that you have written recently?
Ann: My favourite new ones… it’s hard to say because the five songs on the new record are outstanding in their own ways. My personal favourites have probably got to be the title track ‘Karma’s A Bitch’ and also the opening track called ‘Betrayer’. Just because of (the fact that) ‘Betrayer’ starts off with a very sort of quiet part and goes off into just blistering… you know, everything that metal’s good for. So those are probably my two favourite tracks.
Glenn: So can we expect a brand new ‘Hellion’ full length album after the success of the ‘Anthology’?
Ann: Well I tell you one thing, right now with the music business the way that it is, no-one makes money off of records anymore or recordings. However, I subscribe to the philosophy that any band should be releasing two products every year at least if not three. I’d like to do three. We will definitely be bringing new releases out all the time. I intend to record shows on the North American Tour and we are already writing new music and of course we have got this wealth of back catalogue that is largely unavailable. Things like ‘The Black Book’. The Black Book was accompanied by a novel that was supposed to actually be published.
Of course due to the nonsense that happened in about 1990 with the grunge music coming in and the delay of that particular album, the book never came out. So there’s talk for example of about maybe doing a spoken word version of that. Something to add some interest. But like I said, there is so much music.
The release of new material is very important and it definitely will happen and we’re just starting to gel as a band. When we went in to do the mini-album we rehearsed for three days in a rehearsal studio and went in - boom – did it. The majority of the melodies and things like that were actually written in the studio. So now that we’ve got a chance to actually work together and get used to each others feel, we are really excited about what’s gonna be coming down the line.
Glenn: So which songs when you got the brand new band together gelled together well and which songs took a bit of working on and why?
Ann: Well I think all of them took a bit of working on because I’m pretty much a perfectionist when it comes to writing melody lines and lyrics and things like that and not being in the studio for a long time. It was definitely a situation where I was out of my element for the first few days in the studio for sure and asking the engineer to run off cassette copies for me. (Laughs)
Glenn: You had to learn your own songs again?
Ann: Well not to learn my own songs but to hear things back. I was just not used to the technology of the studio and how things have changed.
Glenn: Do you prefer the studio now as in how it’s all gone digital or would you say you prefer it how it used to be?
Ann: Well I preferred really going into a rehearsal room for weeks or maybe even months and learning songs and working them out and playing them live on stage and seeing what worked and then going in the studio. To me that was the very best. That’s how ‘The Black Book’ and all kinds of things were written. But unfortunately that’s not the way things are done anymore. To a certain extent, I’m hoping that when we’re on the road this time that we can try out a few things during sound-check and when we’re done with the road we can go back and immediately go in the hammer out a couple of songs. That’d be great but there’s benefits of doing both ways.
Glenn: Dare I say you are rehearsing in front of an audience to test the band out and test the reception of the songs to a live audience out there as well?
Ann: Yeah but you know one thing that’s always interesting is a song that goes down live doesn’t necessarily go down well in the studio. Some of my very favourite songs I’ve heard on album don’t necessarily transform into an exciting live song.
Glenn: I’ve noticed myself that some songs or some bands are great to just chill out to and lie back on the settee/couch but when you’re there live it’s not happening. It’s like ‘Ugh’.
Glenn: I guess it’s the same for you guys?
Ann: Well I was referring more to songs than performance. I can think of a number of songs that are great. Not necessarily with Hellion but with other bands. They are great on a CD or LP or however you are listening to them and you get out and you almost never hear ‘em… they are never played live.
Glenn: There are certain songs you hear that you love on certain bands albums and they don’t play them live and you’re like, ‘Oh come on do that one,’ you know?
Ann: Well with me it’s important that songs that are played live go somewhere.
Ann: There needs to be a certain type of intensity that starts some place and hopefully takes that intensity up a few notches by the end of the song. I think that’s very important with a live song. All songs you can’t do that.
Glenn: So when you are going out playing live on the US Tour are you going out solely as Hellion or are you going around with another act as well?
Ann: No we’re headlining the tour and it’s great. We’re gonna be bringing six musicians in Hellion. it’s the first time the band’s ever gone out with six – two guitar players, a keyboard player and a crew. We want to do it right so people have good sound and good visuals. I think that’s important. People deserve a show.
Glenn: Awesome. So would you say that these days you have to do certain ritual to look after your voice to deliver?
Ann: Not really. Not really. I think that the main thing is just be in rehearsal. To be in practise. I did detot for a while and that was a totally different type of singing. So when I went back to Hellion stuff which is the way I naturally sing that took some getting used to. It’s a situation where the type of singing I do is very much about the way I breath and it’s very, very physical. So that’s really what you have to get back into is the mindset of the physicality of doing what you do and that’s basically what it is. But I’ve had no problems. I’ve never had any voice problems ever.
Glenn: I guess it’s just good to get back and be on the road?
Ann: Oh it feels so good. It feels good.
Glenn: What are you most looking forward to on the road?
Ann: Well I’m really looking forward to meeting a lot of the people that have been corresponding with me back. Some of them back for 30 years and also meeting new people. That’s my very favourite part of the whole music business – it’s the magic that happens when you do a show and you connect with people. I remember going to shows years and years and years ago when I was very young and going into an arena or a club and feeling that I was a part of something. Just being in the audience. It felt like I was among, whether it was a handful of people or whether it was 20,000 people and we were all there for the same purpose of enjoying the same music and there’s something really special about that. Both being a fan but it’s even more special when you are performing. That’s what I look forward to.
Glenn: So when can we expect Hellion coming to the UK or just Europe in general?
Ann: I am absolutely dying to come to the UK. We’ve had a lot of interest from one festival or a couple of people that wanna do shows in London or here and there. But these days and always really, you’ve gotta put a tour together to make things work. I mean back in the 80’s it would cost us 450 bucks per person to go over to the UK, sleep on some Kerrang! journalists floors etc and then you’ve got the beginning of a tour. But these days it’s entirely different with 9/11 and all that.
Glenn: And then you’ve got all your visas?
Ann: You’ve got your visa concerns. We always take care of the visa things properly and things but you have a lot of concerns that you didn’t have back then. Not to mention the airfare being like 3 or 4 times, you kno, 1500 bucks and things like that. It’s just crazy. So you can’t just go over and do the odd stint at the Marquee like you used to do.
Glenn: You need two or three good paying gigs and a couple of festivals to break even.
Glenn: Yeah. I know how it works.
Ann: We were spoiled because back in the day we had ‘Music For Nations’ and they were the best.
Glenn: I guess for you guys now it’s all self-funded?
Ann: Oh yeah, well we always have been. I mean, pretty much with anybody. I don’t care what band it is. You name the band – they’ve gotta get funding somewhere. Whether it’s mortgaging their house to do a tour or whatever it is. I think very few people realise the self-sacrifice that goes into putting a band on the road and it doesn’t make any difference what level band that is. It’s huge. You could be Ozzy Osbourne. Believe me, I’m sure that Ozzy’s having to do some sort of financial dealings big time in order to get the funds together to get the trucks and the buses etc to go on the road because it ain’t cheap. With a band that’s taking out a tour bus and a road crew and stuff it’s expensive. Like 500 or 600 bucks a day and that’s not including the gas and that’s not including the driver and that’s just for one bus.
Glenn: So for you guys to go out there basically…
Ann: It’s a lot of money.
Glenn: And the sad thing is that it’s almost like a loss-leader.
Ann: It is. But then again for music – it is a business and if you can’t do business you can’t afford to sustain yourself. Anytime you’re starting off something new which in essence is what we’re doing because we haven’t been out for so long. I mean, literally the last show that Hellion played was the ‘Monsters Of Rock Festival’ in Russia. That’s a long time ago. I should have said ‘The Soviet Union – The USSR’. That’ll give you an idea of how long the time it’s been since this band’s gone out and actually done shows. So your talking to booking agents and they’re asking, “What’s the draw?”, “What’s it like?”, “What numbers do they pull?” and people shrug their shoulders and go ‘No-one knows’.
So it’s been very exciting with this tour. Initially we booked very small places – 200 seaters, like 300 seaters – very small. When all of a sudden you’ve got shows that the tickets are selling, suddenly they’re coming back and saying, “Hey, how about this bigger place?”. So no complaints on that at all but you do have to prove yourself and anytime that you’re willing to do anything – I don’t care whether it’s sports or learning a trade or music or whatever, you’ve got to sacrifice and you’ve got to put money into it. You do.
Glenn: It’s frightening.
Ann: And if you’re not prepared to do that – forget it.
Glenn: That’s great. I think we covered quite a few things there.
Big thankyou to OZZFestAmy for taking the photographs of myself with Ann Boleyn; Simon Wright & Ann herself for an honest up-front Interview.