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Articles Home » 2001 Articles » Honeymoon Suite - 2001 Interview with Derry Grehan
Honeymoon Suite - 2001 Interview with Derry Grehan

INTERVIEW: Honeymoon Suite (Dec 2001)
Suite and Sour? Get a taste of Lemon Tounge with Derry Grehan.

In The Spotlight - Honeymmon Suite
Interview with - Derry Grehan
Written by: Gdazegod (December 10, 2001)

Dec 2001: Do you all remember when Honeymoon Suite's Johnnie Dee uttered the opening strands of their first hit song 'New Girl Now'? 'Hot Summer Night.. Stormclouds in the air..' Oh yes. Big drums, big guitars, big keyboards, and big hair. And a reasonable amount of success down through the years. The band have released a handful of albums before this year: 'Honeymoon Suite', 'The Big Prize', 'Racing After Midnight', 'Monsters Under The Bed' and '13 Live'. Now they have released their newest studio album 'Lemon Tongue', a good ten years after their last effort 'Monsters Under The Bed'. The band have seen a lot of water pass over the falls during their career, quite appropriate really since they come from a region abundant with water, the St Catharines/Niagara Falls area, right on the US/Canadian border.

You could call this a mini-comeback of sorts, considering their inactive status. So, who's in the band now I hear you ask? Well the two mainstays Johnnie Dee and Derry Grehan are still there, forming the nucleus of the band, and coming along for the paddle are the new members Rob Laidlaw - bass, Peter Nunn - keyboards and Bret Carrigan on drums. So, what do we know about 'Lemon Tongue'? Well, I put a few questions to guitarist Derry Grehan, and get an update as to where these guys have been hiding for the last wee while.

Lemon Tongue (2001, Wildfire Music)

I suppose the first question I have is: where have you guys been lately? We thought you'd dropped off the planet. It's been six years since the last album. What have you and Johnnie been doing during that time? 'Hello George. I think I should start by saying that HMS never broke up as some people think. We have had a number of personnel changes over the years but Johnnie and myself, being the two principle members, have remained intact'. Derry eloborates. 'We have consistently gone out on smaller tours over the years and we have both taken time away from the band to pursue outside projects of our own. Up until now, we have really not had anything new to promote, so there was no reason for us to be doing interviews or be on TV'.

A relatively light output of two albums during that period. Was there ever a chance to release more? 'The only album that we have released in the past six or seven years was the live album called '13 Live'. Other than that we have always kept writing and demoing but the situation was never quite right to do a full album of new songs up until now'.

If I can ask, what was the situation for you, Johnnie and (keyboardist) Ray Coburn after the 'Monsters' album? 'Monsters was our last album for Warner Music and although it was a great record, the label had already decided to drop the band and was just going through the motions of putting the record out and not really promoting it. We did an extensive tour for that album and it was great but without label support it was very hard to make it happen'.

Did you feel at the time that melodic rock was being sidelined with the likes of Nirvana and the grunge scene coming to the fore? 'I think grunge and alternative totally killed melodic rock to a degree. Thats the music biz, always changing and going in cyles' muses Derry. 'I think it was good in some ways because some of the 80's hair bands at the time were such crap I was glad to see them go'.

Considering the nineties was a fairly lean time for you, what sort of music were you listening to during this time? 'I was listening to stuff like STP, Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Radiohead. And I've always been a Van Halen fan'. I suppose a few of these influences came through on the new album? 'I listen to a lot of different kinds of music and I'm sure that it influences me in some way'.

The new album is called 'Lemon Tongue'. Firstly, what is the significance of the title? 'Lemon Tongue is the first track on the record and it is good because it is a catchy title. It is something you'll remember and thats what you want when your trying to name an album'. Secondly, tell us about how this collection of songs came about? 'We have some warehouse space in Toronto where I like to go and write and jam' explains Derry. 'I have spent a lot of time there in the past few years working on songs for this album. There are other songs that date back to the early 90's. In the end, you pick the best material that you have and you record it'.

There are some definite hints to the new modern era of pop/rock on this album. Was this a strategic move to go this way? 'I think there are elements of 'Lemon Tongue' that are classic HMS, thats what our fans want to hear but at the same time I am not going to make the same album I did in 1986. You have to be aware of whats going on in music today and use that to your advantage while still keeping true to your roots'. And what moves are there in place to get the album out there on radio or in the mainstream press? 'We are shopping the album worldwide at the moment and early responses have been great. We are looking at a Canadian release around Feb/March of 2002 and along with that will be a large publicity campaign to get us back on the radio and in the press'.

The trick for bands who peaked in the eighties and who want to reposition themselves is to not get lumbered as a 'classic rock' band. Did this cross your mind? 'You have no control as to what labels people want to pin on you. I only know that we are still a viable working band with a new album out and we have to hit the road and get out there and work it the same way we did ten years ago. The music speaks for itself'. Just having interviewed fellow Canadians Earl Johnson of Moxy and Gerry McGhee from Brighton Rock, both those bands are going through a similar repositioning exercise themselves. What chance of picking up on a new generation of Suite fans? 'I see this all the time at our shows' agrees Derry. 'We have a lot of our older fans coming out and there are kids there who are way to young to remember the 80's but they're diggin' the music and buying the CD's. Thats very rewarding to me as a songwriter, to see the music stand the test of time'.

Did the opportunity for a name change ever rear it's head, considering the slightly different musical approach? 'Sure. Johnnie and I talked many times about changing the name and just starting up a new project' says Derry. 'But the fact is that when the two of us get together to make music it is HMS and there is such a large body of work behind us of great music, its something I'm proud of'.

Would it be considered unusual being a Canadian band with a US management team called Wildfire Music based down in Chicago? 'I don't think thats unusual at all in fact, I think that works to our advantage. In the 80's we probably spent more time touring and recording in America than anywhere else and we still have a lot of friends and fans down there'.

How is this relationship going? Do they do all your bookings etc? 'We have a great relationship with Wildfire Music. They really believe in what were doing and are directly involved in booking HMS in the States'.

Talking of bookings, I notice you've got a show on New Years Eve up on the lake at Thunder Bay. What have they got planned for you up there? 'I don't know what they have planned for New Years Eve. As long as we're playing indoors because its so coooooold up there!'

At the moment the band's creative energies are split between yourself and Johnnie. Are you writing in sync with each other or are you both bringing contrasting styles to the table? 'It's a bit of both. Sometimes I'll bring him a piece of music and he'll do something with it vocally that I never would have thought of, but it works'. Tell us about the new boys in the band (Rob, Bret, and Peter). I know of Rob from his New Regime days with Kevin Connelly.. 'Bret is a rocker, Peter is a little eccentric (but name me a keyboard player who isn't) and Rob is the life of the party, a little hi-octane'.

Anything big planned for 2002, particularly summer fests etc? 'We're hoping to have a busy summer during the next year. The fairs and festivals are great for getting in front of a lot more people and this year we finally have a new album. We're concentrating on the US a lot more, as well as Canada obviously'.

What about you Derry, regarding guitar playing? Who's out there thats impressing you at the moment? 'I love Ian Thornely's playing with Big Wreck. What a breath of fresh air to hear a kick ass rock band again who all really play' says Derry enthusiastically. 'I'm always a fan of Eddie VH but I'm also a little worried about him at the moment. Doyle Bramhall is great rock blues and Dean Deleo with STP is unique'. Yes, I notice your email address has a certain relevance to Mr Van Halen. Are you still listening to some of the older stuff, from the era in which you came from?

'Yeah, early Van Halen is still the best. Even in 2001, you can put on their first album or 1984, and it rocks. Nobody is playing solos anymore. I just see a lot of tattooes and body hardware and kids banging away on a guitars'.

And I suppose finally, the obligatory wrap. Any words you'd like to share with our readers? 'Yes, Honeymoon Suite is back and, God willing, we will be touring in a place near you soon. Keep checking the Website'.

So, for all you Honeymoon Suite fans out there, you have at long last, something to sink your teeth into. As Derry quite rightly pointed out, the band do not want to reinvent what has already gone before. Mindful of the fact that current listening trends have moved off into different tangents, the band are fully aware of what's popular, and what's happening, without losing any of the appeal that made them big in the first place.

You will no doubt see Honeymoon Suite on the tour circuit during 2002, with the stated intent of doing significant work in the USA over the Northern Hemisphere spring and summer. Check them out for a taster of 'Lemon Tongue'.

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