he lead singer of a band is so integral to the identity of that band that losing them could be harmful or - at the very least - force the remaining band to go for a serious musical overhaul. Even legendary bands have come to the fork in the road. Some, like VAN HALEN, have been successful in brandishing two legendary front men with two distinct followings. What was left of GUNS AND ROSES ditched AXL for the late SCOTT WEILAND and formed VELVET REVOLVER. HYDROGYN is a band based out of Ashland, Kentucky that has made some noise as well some BILLBOARD charting with a series of albums released on this label and that label since 2004. A good chunk of the band's notoriety stemmed from the band's former front woman JULIE WESTLAKE - whose country and western roots couldn't be denied in her tackling of the more hard rock metal leanings of HYDROGYN. Following the 2014 EP BREAK THE CHAINS, JULIE stepped away from the band leaving HYDROGYN with a musical ideas and not much else. In steps ERICA PARROTT, the kind of pyrotechnic vocalist that a metal band of this caliber requries and according to founder and guitarist JEFF WESTLAKE, PARROT has got attitude to spare. We hear it loud and clear on the band's latest album REDEMPTION, where PARROTT not only commands the vocals but the lyrics as well.
ROCKWIRED had a chance to speak with JEFF WESTLAKE of HYDROGYN regardinthe new album and the band's new, dynamic frontwoman. Here is how the interview went.
REDEMPTION has been out for a few days now and now that's out there for everyone to take in, how do you feel about the finished work?
I love the album. In my way of looking at things, it's one of the top three albums in HYDROGYN's history. I rank it right up there with DEADLY PASSION. I rank those two albums equally. Right after that I come in with PRIVATE SESSIONS and then BOMBSHELL. I'm extremely happy with the album. If you listen to it you can figure out why I'm happy with it. It's just a good record.
CHECK OUT THE MUSiC ViDEO FOR MY REDEMPTiON!!!
Have there been any reactions to the album that have surprised you or that you didn't see coming?
I think you're always surprised. Even by the good stuff. This was an album that was five or six years in the making. We did PRIVATE SESSIONS in 2012 and we released an EP in 2014 with JULIE still on board. I had been writing other stuff and she wanted to do a poppier kind of thing and because of that, the EP was a little poppier. I was going to write all of this other stuff behind the scenes and then when JULIE exited the band, I pu tthe music on the shlf. I wasn't even sure that I was going to continue with this and then our sound man DAVO CHANDLER ran into ERICA PARROTT and he brought me over to meet her and we watched her play live. Afterwards, we gave her a track work with in order to see how well she wrote. When she gave us that track back, HYDROGYN was basically reborn. It's really nice to see the reactions to the music. The reactions are always unique and they are always real. I know that there are going to be some people that aren't going to like this version of the band because it's not with JULIE and that's all well and good. I personally love this version of the band and most of the reactions have been very postive and we're all thrilled to death because of it.
What do you think that ERICA brings to the table that was different from what JULIE brought to the table?
Attitude. Lots of attitude and a gruffer voice. I always had the idea to be the kind of band that IN THIS MOMENT has ended up being years and years before they came out but it wasn't something that JULIE wanted to do with her voice or could do - whatever the case may be. But ERICA brings that to the table and she's got a lot of attitude and she's not interested in being a model in the same way that JULIE was. JULIE was interested in the image of it a little more than she was interested in the music. That is the major difference right there and it really shows up in the music. You listen to the album REDEMPTION and you listen to any other album from the band you can hear that attitude. It's not hard to figure out.
And who all helped you guys behind the recording console. Or was the production a band effort?
I was behind the recording console for all of it. I produced the album and the pther guys had a hand in determining the direction of the album. We would try everything in the studio. I had JOHN PARSONS - who is an engineer and producer - come in and help on one of the sessions and that freed me up to help me concentrate a little more on the music. When it came time to get real serious I went to my friend IAN GLENN WRIGHT over in the UK. He and I met up in New York City and he got involved and that really changed things. It gave me that outside ear. He's a lovely guy who is very talented himself and once we had him onboard, we mixed the album together. That was pretty much it. This album was produced pretty much in-house.
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And what has inspired the songs on this new album?
Well, you'd have to talk to ERICA about that because ERICA wrote the entire album lyrcially with the exception of a song here and there. That was unsual. It's never happened in the past. JULIE would get involved in the songwriting now and then and would write some, but I always had a lot to do with the lyrics and the melodies of our songs before ERICA came on board. This is the first time that I have stepped back and let some one take the reins with the lyrics and the melodies. And the thing is, ERICA really wanted to do it and all of that is completely her. She was so on top of it and came in with such good stuff. All I had to do was sit back, play guitar and turn the knobs. That was awesome.
And what was your musical experience before HYDROGYN?
I had my own band. I had several bands before HYDROGYN. In '98 or '99, I started to get really serious and I put together the band WESTLAKE which was comprised of myself on guitars, SCOTT NILES on vocals and guitars NICK FELTS on bass and ROB HOWARD on drums. We were aound for three or four years and then it fell apart. When JULIE came in, I put together another band that was what became HYDROGYN. We started doing cover shows because JULIE had never done anything like this before. She had a great voice but she needed to develop it for this kind of band. We spent a year on the cover scene circuit letting her develop and when she did that I realized that she was right where she needed to be. We went and sought out MICHAEL WAGONER and from that point it went where it's gone. It's been really cool.
And talk about the other members of the current line up of HYDROGYN and what you think each of them brings to the table.
We've got JOHN CARDILINO on drums. I think he's an important element if not the most important element becasue JOHN brings the abilluty to do any kind of drumming that we need. He brings versatility, power, accuracy and lot of great ideas. You have CHRIS SAMMONS on bass who brings a lot of great ideas and some some tremendous playing ot the table. Those two guys are the rhythm section and musically we can go anywhere we want to go because of them. They just have the ability to do it. JEFF BOGGS who I created HYDROGYN with back in 2004 is a monster guitar player. my favorite guitar player. He is just full of really great ideas. BOGGS and I both wrote the music for REDEMPTION. You can't say enough about his abilities. There is no way to describe him or what he is capable of other thant he fact that he is a real mother on guitar and always has a good counter for what I come up with and is always able to work on the fly. And of course you have ERICA. she's her own entity. Just a 5'2" bombshell of a vocalist with a lot of attitude. It's a great blend.
What songs off of REDEMPTION have you the most excited to get people to hear and why?
I really like TAILSPIN and I really like MY REDEMPTION. FIXIR is a really unique tune. I had had it in my head for a while and I had showed the guys in the studio back in April of 2016 as we were tracking. I literally hummed the riff. I knew what the tuning was. I told JEFF what the tuning was and hummed the riff to him. In about twenty minutes we tracked the song and an hour later, ERIC had completely had all of the vocals ready to go. In two hours time we had that song completely done. All of the songs mean something. All of them are really good. All of the tracks mean something. DEVIL GOT DEVIL is another really cool tune. That was intended for a solo record of mine but when ERICA heard it she got back to me with her vocals nd we were like "It's going onthe record."
I'm not sure how many live performances there have been so far with this new lineu up but what songs have gotten a live audience going the most.
There have a only been a couple performances on stage so far but everyone is gravitating toward MY REDEMPTION and DEVIL GOT DEVIL.
And with the release of REDEMPTION behind you, what's next for the band musically?
Right now we're re-tracking some of our old tunes with ERICA on vocals. We want to make a "greatest hits" recording that features ERICA as the vocalist. It will put the old music in a new light with ERICA as the vocalist. We've also started writing for a new album and we're also looking at shooting a live DVD sometime in 2018. The year is busy. Of course we want to hit the road and start touring but ERICA has had to undergo a couple of serious surgeries so we're leting her do that and letting her heal up and once that's over with, we'll be moving forward.
This album is being released through RFL RECORDS. Describe the relationship between the band and this fledgling label?
The relationship is very odd for the simple fact that I know JON very well. It's a very good fit. We work together very closely. JON wants big things and he's got a lot of great ideas. We love the label. It's a hard situation to describe just because we're so positive about the situation. These days, you can get yourself out there on social media. A band like HYDROGYN was built on social media and now we have JON coming in taking that same plan and using it. He's willing to do anything. The guy is a true go-getter and he's passionate about the work not about the bottom line. You have to make money but he's more passioante about having people hear great music. It's all been working very well for us.
And with REDEMPTION, what's the big idea. What would you like for people to come away with after they hear it?
I'd like for them to come away knowing that we're a band that's got a lot of diversity. Before, I think people viewed the band as a side prject for JULIE and in some ways it kind of was. But now everyone is seeing the band as an entity unto itself with a lot of depth. Right now I think everyone can hear that we are right where we should be.
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