Niagara Falls is known more for its romance than its melodic rock, but Brighton Rock guitarist Greg Fraser is hoping that changes with his new band Storm Force which is releasing its debut album worldwide on Jan. 25.
We caught up with Greg ahead of the 10-song album’s release to catch up on everything Storm Force and Brighton Rock.
You have a new band? Tell me about it.
Well, the new band is called Storm Force and it’s been a few years in the making. Back in 2012, 2013, Brighton Rock got back together to do some festivals over in Europe and stuff. And it’s really exciting and we tried to do a record, a new Brighton Rock record and we just couldn’t get it off the ground. Everybody’s leading different lives in different areas now, in different schedules. It’s really hard for us to connect.
So in the meantime, I wanted to keep going and a few years ago, I just kept writing. I’m always writing anyways, but I started accumulating some songs that I really felt strong about. I wanted to make sure that the band that I got together was near where I live for a change, because every band, especially in Brighton Rock, we’re always so far apart and it’s always difficult for us to get together and rehearse and write together. So all the guys in the band are the best of the best. We’ve got one of the best singers in Canada, Pat Gagliardi. This guy can sing anything. I mean, it’s unreal. Our drummer, Brian Hamilton, he lives 10 minutes from my house. All the guys in the band, Pat Gagliardi lives 15 minutes from my house, our bass player, Mike Berardelli, lives 15, 20 minutes at the most. So we’re all close by. We can get together at a moment’s notice, which is huge. And we can really hone on songs.
Why is the name Storm Force?
Okay, well, there you go. When we did get our record deal, we were going to be called Ring of Steel and that was the name. It’s so tough. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried forming a band, coming up with a name and then you do a Google search of the name and sure enough, somebody’s got it. Somewhere in this world, somebody’s already got that name. So Ring of Steel, we were thinking, “Ah, we like that one,” and we’re going to use that. So the record company wasn’t crazy on it. They said, “It kind of reminds me of Lord of the Rings or something.” So it’s like, okay, well, let’s find another one. And then that was the toughest thing ever. Trying to find a name. Every name that somebody would like, somebody else didn’t like it. Or if we all liked it, some other band already had it. They had a website. It was like, ugh.
And then between me and the president of the record company, Khalil, he would say, “How about Storm 10 and how about,” You know. And then I would say, “How about something Force?” And then somehow we just kind of, “How about Storm Force?” And we both went, “Yeah, that’s pretty good.” And I look and there’s no real band. I think there might be an English pub band that just plays little pubs that has the same name, but no recording act has used that name.
Other than everyone being about 10, 15 minutes apart from where you live, what makes Niagara Falls a great place to form a band like Storm Force?
Well, I found growing up in Niagara Falls, which is a border city with New York state. So we have Niagara Falls, New York was right beside Niagara Falls and also Buffalo, New York. So I found growing up, if you start getting a little bit more Northern Ontario and out west and stuff like that, a little bit north of the border, you’re basically only hearing Canadian radio. So whatever’s on that radio, that’s all you’re getting? And you’ll have some Canadian content for sure, which is cool.
But being a border town, we were lucky enough to be exposed to American radio, American radio stations that would play a lot of bands that Canada would never touch. So I’d discover these bands way before Canada even knew they were out because it was on American radio. And I don’t know if Niagara Falls is, other than Honeymoon Suite and Brighton Rock, I don’t know if it stands out compared to a lot of other cities. It just happened to be a couple of big bands that came out of this area. But I think that’s a big part of it, was the American radio exposure that just give us a little bit more wealth of music to pick upon and to learn from.
We’ve had a chance to hear four of the songs ahead of schedule. So I was hoping we could chat about if they mean anything special to you.
Well, lyrically, I only wrote the very first song you might have heard, Because of You, and the other nine songs of the record, our singer Pat wrote all the words. The only reason is because I had that song written before this band actually started. It was just one of the ones that I was always around. Because of You, the song itself could mean different things. That could be a person that you love. That could be something that keeps you going in life. A lot of people hate their jobs. what keeps them going? So sometimes, if you don’t have an outlet or a hobby or something, sometimes it might be sports. Like, “Thank God for the Toronto Maple Leafs.” Somebody who hates their job, their whole life is based around that team or a football team or music group or somebody. And that’s what that is. Because of you, you make me stronger, you keep me going. And that’s what that song is based, really, about.
The sound has a really good melodic rock sound to it. It’s not too old. It’s not too new. It’s kind of right in that pocket.
I appreciate that you say that. Thank you. It’s not really an approach. It’s just what we are. That’s what comes out of us. That’s our roots. It’s not like we sit down at a table, “Okay, we got to strategize our sound.” I’ve always kind of wrote that way. If you hear the rest of the record, there is a couple of harder rock songs, for sure. But then there’s some nice soft tender ballads that round it out. I think melody is a big important part of our sound and it’s what I’ve always, I found to be a big part of music that I like.
All my favorite bands, whether it be Journey or old British group UFO or Queen or the Beatles and Zeppelin, they’ve all got strong vocal melodies where you can remember the choruses, you can hum it. When you’re not hearing the song and everything, you can still kind of remember the hooks. And that’s what always grabbed me. And that’s what we tried to do with this record.
North America, especially Canada, we always seem to have a hard time supporting its melodic rock bands, but overseas it’s a bit different. Are you expecting Storm Force to be a bit more popular over there as opposed to here?
Absolutely. When the grunge scene first started taking hold in the early ‘90s, a lot of the groups like Brighton Rock, a lot of the hard rock melodic groups, they got pushed aside and the grunge took over. In Europe, it didn’t take over as much. They still liked that music. So all through the ‘90s, those groups, the big groups were kind of big over there, Nirvana and Soundgarden. But all those other ones that only had like one or two hits in the grunge part of time there, they didn’t really do anything over there. So a lot of bands that were kind of on the verge of breaking up and stuff like that, they were still doing great over overseas. Even a group like Toto. They’re not playing arenas and stuff like that anymore here, but they are over in Europe. You know what I mean? And they can play in front of 10,000, 20,000 people in an arena. They’re not going to draw that around here.
So that’s melodic rock. I found that when I released my two solo records and Fraze Gang, I’d say 70% of our sales was from Europe and not North America. And for some strange reason, the biggest selling country was Germany. They really took a liking.
How does Storm Force fit into your life with Brighton Rock and Fraze Gang?
Well, Fraze Gang, I put that to bed for now. The one thing I found, I loved making the Fraze Gang records. I loved recording. Being that I was the lead singer, I love recording the lead vocals, but I didn’t like playing live. I’ve always just been a guitar player live. I can just concentrate on my playing and have fun. When I became, all of a sudden, a front man, it was too much for me, trying to play all the guitar parts perfectly, remember all the words, sing on key, engage with the audience. It’s just, whoa.
So I decided when I was going to make a new band, I didn’t want everything to be just me. I want it to be back like the Brighton Rock thing where it’s a band, a team, and have a front man that I could play off of. But as for Brighton Rock, since 2012, we’ve only been doing two or three, maybe four shows every year. That’s about it, which keeps everything fun. There’s no illusions that we’re going to go back on tour or try to make it and all that kind of stuff. So it is what it is and we’re all happy with that. Which leaves the door open for Storm Force, which means if you did want to go do a tour, we have an open door. There’s no, “Oh, I can’t do that because we’re tied up with Fraze Gang or Brighton Rock.” We’re really looking forward to start playing some live shows in 2020 and hopefully we’ll play somewhere out in Windsor. You can come out and see us.
Brighton Rock has released its first single in 28 years this year. End of Time. Why, now, you mentioned a little bit, that it was hard for you guys to get together. Is that the reason why it took so long?
The band broke up in the early ‘90s and then I joined a group called Helix. I was with them for over three years after that. And we didn’t, that was it. We broke up and then once we got offered to do this one particular festival in England in 2012 called Firefest. It was so exciting right away. It was like, “Let’s make a record again.” Right? “Okay. Let’s try.” And then we soon realized that it’s not like the old days, because back in Brighton Rock, that was our full time job. Seven days a week, 24/7, everything was Brighton Rock. So we’d work on a record, we could work on it 12 hours every day. It’s not like, “Okay, I can’t record anymore because I got a job to go to,” or, “I can’t, I got to do this.” No, no. That was number one. That was your first priority.
We soon realized back in 2012 when we started trying to make a record. It was like, “Huh, okay, when are you available?” “Okay, I’m available in three weeks on a Tuesday.” “Okay, well, I can’t make that one, but I’m available in two weeks.” “Well, I can’t.” So there was always one guy or two guys could never make it. We could never get us together in the same room. It’s impossible. Even just to rehearse for a show, let alone trying to make a record. But we tried. We just kept kind of chipping away at it.
I think we had about eight songs, they were written on my part, the songs were finished, but we couldn’t record them. So you hear these eight different songs that still needs a bass track or it still needs backing vocals, but it doesn’t have vocals yet because he hasn’t wrote the words.
But that one particular song, End of Time, was the one song that was completely finished. We just happened to have that one completely finished. And then we’re getting close to finishing the second one and its like, “You know what, let’s just put it to rest. Our singer’s got to go to Europe for his record company conventions and he’s going to be gone for six weeks.” And then we just never went back to it. I just soon realized, “This record’s never going to get done. Let’s just put it to rest. Maybe someday things will change, we can revisit it.” But that was the one song that got finished and luckily we even have that.
A couple of years ago you did a Kiss cover as well. A very unique take on Creatures of the Night. Why did you guys choose that song?
There’s a gentleman named Mitch Lafon. He’s got a very popular podcast and he was putting together a compilation record of all Kiss songs and I think it was a double record, actually. So he reached out to all the bands that he likes and stuff and so he gets some pretty, Honeymoon Suite’s on there. He got a lot of guys from Docket and different groups from the States. He just reached out to everybody, “Hey, you want to do a remake of a Kiss song?” So I knew everybody basically was just going to do a version and just kind of replay the same version. So I took a risk and I heard that song, Creatures in the Night. It’s really heavy for Kiss. They don’t usually delve into that kind of territory.
You’ll probably be touring with Storm Force in 2020, I assume.
Well, tour’s a big word these days. We’re definitely going to do shows, but to do a real tour, you got to have some name power. Right now we’re just going to do as many shows as possible. It might be one a month or one every few weeks or whatever. We’ll just take what we can get and get our name out there.
Exclusive Online addition questions:
Niagara Falls is more known for its romantic side more than its rock and roll.
Yeah, I guess so, being the honeymoon city. I mean, you’re Windsor, so you’ve got a board house, so you’re exposed to all that Detroit, Motown and all that kind of stuff. So I’m sure that’s, to a certain extent, that really helped form a lot of bands in that area, too. I think the Tea Party are from Windsor, if I’m not mistaken.
Yeah. Listen to the Tea Party, they don’t really have a Canadian traditional sound. Right. They’re kind of a lot more adventurous Niagara Falls is the honeymoon city, so there’s hearts everywhere and heart-shaped bathtub hotels and everywhere you look it’s love, love, love, love, love. We’re okay with it. Nothing wrong with that. Better than hate, hate, hate everywhere, I guess, eh?
Let’s chat about your new songs – how they were written and if they mean anything special to you.
I can’t really speak what the lyrics are about. I’m kind of bad at that, to be honest with you. I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t know how to answer that question. The lyrics for that one and the next one, what’s the next one?
Age of Fear
It’s basically just the song that the way things are these days, it’s we’re living in an age of fear. People that watch the news, they don’t start the news off at the top of the hour with happiness. It’s always negative, right? Like, the jobs are bleak. The Wall Street’s taking a beating. It’s all scare tactics to keep people, and it’s even with the internet, with click bait, it’s all fear that attracts people. I mean look at these, why are horror movies so big? Because people like to be, they’re enticed about the unknown, the fear. And I feel like it’s starting to really come to a head. Everybody’s so sensitive now. We’re living in an age of fear and Storm Force is going to try to rock our way through it.
The artwork is fantastic for the cover. How did that come about?
Oh, wow. Our record company would really appreciate you saying that. Escape, they’ve got their own art department that they’ve been using since the ’90s and when we started discussing the album cover itself, our president Khalil, he really took a shine to the song title Age of Fear. Personally, I wanted it just to be just a debut record. So it would just say, “Storm Force,” and nothing else. But he said, “No, that’s a great title, man.” So out of the blue, he just sent me that. So he must have talked to his art guy and said, “I want a big huge bullet going through the world because everything’s guns and there’s an Age of Fear.” And I didn’t really see it coming and he just sent it to me. I went, “Whoa, that’s cool. Wow.” And then we went back and forth on a different logo. We had some different logos and we settled upon the one we got, we’re all happy with it. The record company can definitely take credit for that, because their art department did a fantastic job.
I want to go back to the writing. Is the process different, because you write all the time, so is the process different for Storm Force than it is for Brighton Rock?No. It’s exactly the same. A lot of people write different way, like I know Elton John, his lyricist, Bernie Taupin, would write the lyrics first and he would give him basically like a poem almost and he would look at that and then be inspired and write music from that. I’m the opposite. The last thing to get done on the songs that I write are the lyrics.
A lot of times I get vocal melodies in my head. I’ll be just driving around, so I don’t have the guitar in my head, but I’ve got this vocal melody. You know, (singing). There’s a melody and I’ll just keep doing that melody and kind of add onto it. Then I’ll, if it sticks to my head, , “Well, I think I’m on to something, because it’s sticking there.” Then I’ll go home and grab a guitar and then I’ll get some chords and kind of work with it and then it kind of takes on a life of its own. So basically when I write a song, the vocal melodies are already done. I hand the song to the band pretty much almost written. Everything but the words.
I’ll have a basic drum beat, and then I’ll have a basic bass pattern on bass and then here’s the arrangement of the song. I’ll work on the arrangement and then get it kind of close. And then the singer, he would hear what he would be singing without words, to a certain extent. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It isn’t it has to be exactly like this, because they’ll put their own spin on things and their own flavor which is what I want. Bring some life to it so it doesn’t sound stiff. As with the drum and the bass, like I said, I give him a basic drum pattern. Now all of a sudden he’ll start putting his stamp on it and bring it to life.
And that’s exactly the way we wrote in Brighton Rock. All the songs that you might be familiar with, they’re already written just the way I told you now. A lot of bands are different. Sometimes bands will go into a studio and have nothing written. “Okay, what do you got?” “I got nothing.” A drummer will start a drumbeat. “Hey, I like that beat. Let me try to play on top of that.” And they’ll kind of build from that. Which I did in the past, but because I’m writing so much, I’ve just got so much stuff to pick from. I just never seem to get around to we’re just jamming and stuff like that. Its like, “Hey, I got 10 songs here. Let’s see what we can do here.” You know? So that’s the way I’ve always written and it seems to work.