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Articles Home » Interviews » Statetrooper - 2002 Interview with Jeff Summers
Statetrooper - 2002 Interview with Jeff Summers

INTERVIEW: Statetrooper (Dec 2002)
Jeff Summers is back for the attack, with Statetrooper..

In The Spotlight - Statetrooper
Interview with - Jeff Summers
Written by: Gdazegod (Dec 29, 2002)

Dec 2002: When one thinks of glory days AOR, it's normal to gravitate back to the hotbeds of the genre during the seventies and eighties. Places like Toronto, New York, and San Francisco all have a rich history. But what about London? You'd have to think twice to get an answer. During the melodic rock heyday, London was a spot usually associated with the NWOBHM movement, which emanated out of the UK during the late seventies. Bands like Iron Maiden, Samson, Praying Mantis were cornerstones during that period, along with outfits from Birmingham and points further north.

At the same time, an unknown singer called Gary Barden was making his way in the rock world. Toward the end of 1979, Gary got the call up to be the new lead singer with guitar virtuoso Michael Schenker's new band MSG. Gary appeared on a handful of albums before being unceremoniously dumped in 1983 by Schenker's then manager Peter Mensch, in favor of Rainbow castoff Graham Bonnet. Taking time out for 6 months, Gary re-emerged with plans for a new project. Enlisting the help of brothers Paul and Steve Johnson and drummer Bruce Bisland, Gary released a series of demos in search of a new deal.

Also doing the rounds at the same time were London based melodic rockers Wildfire. Signed with Belgian label Mausoleum, the Brit band managed to release a couple of albums. The aforementioned Bruce Bisland was a member of this band, and as events transpired, the band were soon to be acquainted with Gary Barden in a big way. The relationship with the Johnson brothers was not working out, eventually both of them left. Bisland then suggested to Gary that the members of Wildfire be considered as part of his new project. Wildfire at that point included Paul Mario Day on vocals, but probably more importantly, guitarists Martin Bushell and Jeff Summers, bassist Jeff Brown and of course Bruce Bisland. The latter four would soon hook up with Statetrooper, along with keyboardist Steve Glover.

To give us some further insight into the Statetrooper tale from a 'Wildifre' perspective is guitarist Jeff Summers. The initial introduction with Gary was an interesting one to say the least. Jeff picks up on the story, as he remembers the event. 'Hi George. Great to talk to you. Well I guess it is of Gary being accompanied by Bernie Marsden (Whitesnake, Alaska) and our management company, who all came along to a Wildfire rehearsal to take a look at us as a potential new band for Gary's new (at the time) project Statetrooper. We had booked a couple of hours at John Henrys (a well known London rehearsal room) and played the basics of the tracks 'Set Fire To The Night' and 'Veni, Vidi Vinci' to them. Within 5 mins of playing, Gary was up on stage with us jamming away. It all ended up with an all night session down the pub around the corner and the rest as they say is history!'

Everyone knew of Gary Barden from his time with MSG, but Statetrooper wouldn't have been much without the other guys in the band. Potentially the media could very well have considered them to be Gary Barden + Hangers On. 'I don't think so' says Jeff. 'Wildfire were an emerging UK based band already on their second album, and had been featured on British and European TV and were being championed on the BBC's legendary 'Friday Rock Show'. Gary was of course an already established name and it was an honour for us to be chosen to play with him.'

The scene in the UK at the time was quite active - the tail end of the NWOBHM movement in a manner of speaking. These were the days of poodle hair cuts, spandex and black leather. 'It was a lot of fun' recalls Jeff, 'and London was the place to be at that time. Most of the musicians knew each other pretty well and there was never any resentment towards those who had made it. The whole ritual of dressing up in what we saw at the time as cool Rock-Chic clothes, and spending ages in front of the dressing room mirror getting the hair 'just right' was part and parcel of the performance and I guess gave us the opportunity to be someone else on stage.'

Reverting back to Wildfire for a tick. The band released two albums. Comparisons with local area bands such as Samson, Wild Horses, Stampede and Praying Mantis were inevtiable as all were playing a similar style. 'Yes that's right, Wildfire did release two albums: 'Brute Force And Ignorance' circa 82 and 'Summer Lightning' around 84. I think these two records highlighted just how good and individual the band was at the time. Remember, these records were way before the likes of Bon Jovi had taken the world by storm with a similar type of sound. Mausoleum were perfect for us as a record company in as much as they believed in our music as much as we did, if only our management company at the time had as much belief in us as did Alfie Falkenbach. Alfie was the MD of Mausoleum Records at the time and we had a lot of fun recording those records in Shiva Studios in Brussels. Shiva was a little 32 track recording set-up cleverly hidden at the back of a lovely little restaurant called 'Le Jakanna' (the name taken from a combination of the two owners names). 'Brute Force And Ignorance' was recorded entirely at Shiva within the space of about two weeks' says Jeff.

When Gary started again after MSG, the pieces fell into place with the gradual recruitment of the Wildfire members. 'After the world-wide success of MSG, Gary decided that he wanted a little more say in the personel and direction of his new venture' recalls Jeff. 'MSG was very much Michaels baby despite the obvious influence of Gary Barden on the classic MSG sound! With Statetrooper, Gary had already tried out many different musicians to create the sound he was looking for and his search led him to Wildfire's drummer Bruce Bisland. Wildfire shared a management stable with Gary (London's Pride) and Bruce agreed to perform on Gary's initial demo's. As you mentioned, ultimately things didn't work out with the Johnson brothers, so Bruce introduced Wildfire's players to Gary and Statetrooper was born.'

Those years also saw the success of UK contemporaries Saxon and Iron Maiden (who went down the heavy path), yet some other UK bands were flirting with the US scene... a la Def Leppard and to a lesser degree, Lionheart and Shy. Statetrooper had a decision to make in terms of their own path. 'We just kind of followed our instincts really. The songs were all important and as probably the most influential writer in the band I guess my influences came very much to the fore. There was never a conscious effort to sound like anybody else and I don't think that we did. I think we were heavier than say Def Leppard, but more song orientated than Iron Maiden. Our influences were as diverse as say Deep Purple and T Rex to Stevie Wonder and the Police, however we were unfortunately never as successful as Iron Maiden or Def Leppard and sometimes that's just the way things turn out.'

The Statetrooper sound ended up being a mix between typical British hard rock and the softer tones of AOR. Potentially there could've been a struggle within the band members to come up with an agreed sound. 'No, We all agreed on the material and all contributed to the song structures' says Jeff again. 'I think the production of the album may have subdued a little of the bands heaviness and power. The record companies were certainly looking for hit singles at that time and sometimes the producer can get a little caught up in that. I think if you listen to the two live tracks on the album, you get a clearer idea of how powerful the band were live.'

How difficult was it to try and capture the attention of labels, considering the independents like MFN, FM/Revolver, Powerstation, Roadrunner etc. Were Statetrooper wanting to aim higher? (ie: MCA, Atlantic etc) 'Yes George, we had received offers from some majors at that time, including an explicit offer from Geffen Records. It didn't really work out for us though, due in part to our management company. They seemed to be more interested in the social aspects of it all and kind of expected rather than worked for a Major deal to land in our laps.'

The band's heyday was in that 1985-1987 period. There were some obvious highlights for Statetrooper during that time. 'The British tour with Blue Oyster Cult as headliners was excellent and we were getting rave reviews in most of the music rags of the time. I remember both 'Sounds' and 'Kerrang' championing us as the 'Saviours of British Heavy Metal' as there had been no new British talent emerging for a few years. The European festivals were a lot of fun also, but my personal overriding memory happened when we were flown to Frankfurt to record the video promo for the proposed single off the album 'Last Stop To Heaven'. Staying in the same hotel as us for a two week period was Toto's Bobby Kimball. He was an absolutely outrageous character with limitless levels of energy and Bobby hooked-up with us on the first night of our arrival upon hearing the British accents at the bar. We had one or two little impromptu jam sessions in his hotel room late at night and I wish we had had the good sense to record them. He is a great, great singer and extremely instinctive Jazz/blues keyboard player' Jeff remembers fondly.

Discography wise, how many recordings did the band make? 'Gary recorded about four demo tracks with the early line-ups which all featured Bruce on drums' recalls Jeff. 'We then demoed most of the material for the first Statetrooper release which was the 12' single EP 'She Got The Look' which featured three songs that would make it on to the debut album. We then recorded the album and later demoed three songs that were originally written for the follow up Trooper album which unfortunately never saw the light of day. These songs were called 'Love Lies Bleeding', 'How Does It Feel' and 'Juliet' the latter of which can now be heard in its original format on the re-mastered Statetrooper CD.'

Statetrooper put out the one album. How was it received at the time? 'It was generally received very well by the press at the time and still continues to sell in its original vinyl format to this day. If only we had worked with the right people at the right time.. ahh if only' reflects Jeff jokingly. FM/Revolver put it out in 1987 according to the references on the album, though it was recorded earlier than that. 'Yes, the material was recorded at the latter end of 1985 and early/ mid 1986' confirms Jeff. 'We kind of recorded when and where we could because the album was self-financed.'

The album had seven studio tracks and two live tracks. Did the band have more original material to play with at the time? 'Yeah as stated we had more material and some would argue superior material. The two live tracks were included because the management insisted that they go on. They are genuinely live and we liked them a lot and still do.'

I take it the usual round of politics and frustrations put paid to further Statetrooper activity around 1987/88? 'I don't want to sound like an old windbag but it was mainly the Management company.. we were tied in with them but felt that we would get nowhere if we continued under there guidance. Eventually we had no choice and decided to call it a day through the frustration of what was/wasn't happening, it was all beyond our control' Jeff says.

Of recent interest to melodic rockers is the long overdue release of the Statetrooper album on CD by Escape Music. Khalil and Barrie contacted the band to get the ball rolling, the result being a 2002 CD release, fantastic news for supporters of this excellent album. 'Khalil contacted me via our website confirms Jeff, 'and asked if he could re-release the album. Khalil as I'm sure you know, is a real gentleman and a genuine fan of good music, this kind of person gives you new belief in the music business and encourages you to go on to better things! Barrie, I have never spoken to, however I hear he is a huge Gary Barden fan!'

To top it off even further, the band (or members thereof) are back writing again to rev up Statetrooper Mk2. How far down the track are you on this? 'Yeah.. this is really exciting for us' enthuses Jeff. 'Myself, Gary Barden, Bruce Bisland and Jeff Brown (all original band members) are currently in the process of writing and rehearsing a new record. We currently have around eight songs and are beginning to get offers of live work. We have already been confirmed for a festival show in New York to be played over the weekend of the 7th/10th March 2003 and more live shows seem to be in the offing.'

Hopefully Statetrooper Mk2 will lead to some new opportunities? 'It already has George. Apart from the fact that it has given us the opportunity of playing together again, we have re-discovered the old magic of both the band musically and personally. We are genuinely very good friends and it's absolutely marvellous to be in the company of the guys again, this time under less pressurized circumstances.' Jeff continues.. 'Add to this the new record and prospect of lots of live work, and I think you could say that the opportunities are there to be taken.'

I know that Gary has been working with Silver, Jeff Brown has done work with The Sweet while Bruce has been involved with both Praying Mantis and The Sweet. What about yourself Jeff? 'Because of family commitments, I had to get myself a proper job after the demise of Trooper in 1988, but have continued to write and perform in various projects over the years! In between the new Statetrooper sessions I also play with a local covers band called the Loudshirts. It's a lot of fun, and gives me the opportunity to continue performing.'

Just to finish up, how do you see the current state of the melodic rock scene at the moment? and is there still incentive for Statetrooper to be involved within this scene? 'It's waiting for a new champion George. The older established acts are kind of sitting on their laurels, comfortable with the knowledge that they need write maybe two decent tunes on each new album, but not secure enough to take a drastic step with the direction and attitude of their music. Rock music is all about excitement and chance taking, I think with this attitude you may lose a few fans along the way, but pick up more people who get a little fed-up with listening to the same thing being turned out album after album. I really like a lot of the Nu Metal bands that are surfacing at the moment, they seem to have brought a secondary impetus to our music. Bands like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Korn and Nickelback are making rock music exciting again inducing the 'Breath of Lazarus' into rock music if you like, and inspiring a new young audience to listen to some of the 'Old Guys'.'

Thanks for your time Jeff. I look forward to catching up with you again. 'Cheers George, I've really enjoyed our chat and please keep up your excellent work with GLORY-DAZE. I love the format and content of the site, I think that you'll appreciate through your work with GLORY-DAZE that like rock musicians, it is very difficult to be constantly creative and progressive whilst maintaining the impetus at the core of your subject matter.'

I sure do. Thanks again, and we look forward to further developments in the Statetrooper camp during 2003.

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