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Austin, Jeff (Project) - 2002 Interview with Jeff Austin


INTERVIEW: Austin, Jeff [Project] (Mar 2002)
We talk with Canadian AORster Jeff Austin.

GO BIG OR STAY HOME?
In The Spotlight - Jeff Austin Project interview with Jeff Austin.
Written by: Gdazegod (Mar, 25, 2002)

Mar 2002: Toronto as a city can lay claim to being one of the nursery grounds for melodic rock. So many excellent artists and bands have been birthed in the Canadian metropolis beside Lake Ontario that we could probably dedicate a website solely to them. Legendary names run amok through my brain cells trying to recount them all. And then there's Jeff Austin. Where have I heard that name before? Well,
I'll gladly admit I hadn't heard of Jeff before his signing to Frontiers/Now And Then last November, but I'm thankful that I do now.

Jeff is on the threshold of his debut release 'Go Big Or Stay Home', and I'm sure many local fans scratching their heads back into the dim dark days of Toronto's club scene may just remember Jeff from his time with local outfits Striker and Thief. However, it goes back even earlier than that.

'Well, lets see. I was introduced to music when I was still in diapers' recalls Jeff. 'My Uncle worked for Capitol Records in Toronto so every time he came over for a visit, there was ten or so more albums. I played competitive hockey until an injury ended my dreams of playing at a professional level. That is when my life started evolving around music. Eating, drinking and sleeping it. I'd discovered many amazing bands just before then but it was definitely Rush that pushed me into it faster.'

Despite playing in bands, it was apparent that Jeff was itching to get out and play his own stuff, without the constraints that band pressures can put on a musician sometimes. 'Yeah, I made up my mind that enough was enough. I was tired of putting so much time into something, only to have it screwed up because the other members want to try 'trend of the month' bullshit.'

With so many local melodic rock luminaries footsteps to follow in, Jeff decided to take the plunge around about 1989 and go for it under his steam -The Jeff Austin Project, or at least the springboard for what was to become J.A.P some twelve years later. So we ask, whose footsteps? 'Well, by this time, I wanted to have my project continue in the AOR tradition without totally ripping somebody off' says Jeff. ' I had no idea that music was going to take the nightmare path that it did. So that's why it has taken so long. It's been hurry up and wait for a long, long time.' Jeff also adds: 'I'm not into jumping on any trend wagons. I figured, I've done this my way for a long time so if I go out there and fall flat on my face, at least I tried it my way.'

Even while swanning around in Toronto, Jeff managed to find time away down in the near tropical climes of Florida. 'It was just a fluke' Jeff readily admits. 'One of my old girlfriends was asked by her sister to go to Florida to baby-sit for her, so I decided to tag along. While I was down there I answered some audition ad's and received some offers. I was down there about four months later. I met up with Mark Severns and we've been friends ever since.'

As Jeff's bio points out, one of the critical moments in the progress of J.A.P was the involvement of John Albani, who produced the first 4 track EP. Obviously for us here at GLORY-DAZE, that bit of news sent the barometer reading through the roof somewhat, as most of us are big Wrabit and Lee Aaron fans. 'John is one of the biggest reasons that the project has made it to this point. I'm lucky in that I've known John for twenty plus years. He is a perfectionist and won't stop until he is satisfied and you are satisfied. He can play any instrument, sing, engineer, produce, and master. He's a blast to work with too.'

And from these beginnings, the material for 'Go Big Or Stay Home' took shape? 'Yes, the E.P. that I did at John's contained four songs that are on the album.'

Onto the initial stages of the album now, and we can see involvement from a few selected individuals. Namely, Mark Severns, and Rex Alan. 'Rex Alan was a real score considering that it was Mark Severns' father-in-law who suggested him. I didn't know that he was actually a guitarist from a signed metal band. Rex plays guitar, and writes and sings for Iron Cross. When he came in to play bass for us, he came in totally cold. He liked the material, was genuinely excited, went home that night and started recording the next night after working all day. He's made a couple of trips up here to Canada also. You name it and Rex is ready to rock.'

Coming in on vocals is a potential vocal hero in Mark Roebuck, who has been compared to a young Steve Perry. 'Mark only had a two-week window to come down and record and he was sick as a dog with a throat infection. I had met him a couple of years earlier playing in a club. I just walked up to him, introduced myself and we started hanging out. He was singing Journey, Starship, Boston, Grand Funk and it sounded great. I made him the offer for the open vocalist position and he took it.' says Jeff happily.

And of course we can't forget the man himself. After all, the band is named after him. Where is Jeff at musically? 'Drums, definitely drums' he says. 'I write on keys and have owned one or two in my day but I am no Keith Emerson. I got my first one in 1985, I guess I should learn to play the thing properly one of these years.'

So, after the completion of the album, did you put the material out to be shopped with a label? 'It wasn't' says Jeff. 'Except Rex phoned and asked if he could shop it to this company called Frontiers/Now and Then. I said sure and the rest is history.' Are they giving you the option of another album considering the material is slightly older? 'Yes, there will be more in the future.'



In your own words Jeff, where do you think the material from 'Go Big Or Stay Home' sits? Comparable with whom do you think? 'To be totally honest George, I let you guys (press, radio, etc.) decide that because after all is said and done, it's going to come down to people judging it when they hear it.'

'I'm A Fighter', one of the covers, is a Jimi Jamison/Armand Meyer outtake from the Cobra sessions, though it didn't make the 'First Strike' album. The other recorded versions are by Van Zant as well as Ray Roper (both featured on GLORY-DAZE). So now we have a third (or technically fourth). 'I have that Cobra record and don't remember it being on there (correct, it wasn't). It was the Van Zant version that I heard first and I've never heard the Ray Roper version. I took it on as sort of a theme song because the lyrics fit perfectly with my life in music so there was no use in trying to write something that was already there.'

Then of course, the other notable cover is the Orion The Hunter track 'So You Ran'. Another piece of AOR inspiration. 'That was more Mark Severns idea but yes we're both big fans of those bands' admits Jeff. 'Both of the covers were supposed to be bonus songs after we had done twelve originals but like I mentioned before Mark Roebuck was really sick when he was doing the disc. We would let him warm-up with the covers, and we ended up keeping these tracks thank God.'

So far are you happy with the reviews you've read around the place? 'I am totally blown away by the reviews and people that I've been in contact with. The sooner I can get to Europe, the better. Every aspect is so positive. I love it!'

I've spoken with many Canadian artists over the years about the melodic rock/AOR scene, but what was your 'take' on it during the eighties? 'Well, let me tell you it was a hell of a lot better than what it is now, but there were way more bands doing that style then so it seemed pretty hard to get ahead. Canada had so many talented bands and players but unless you were a star in the U.S. forget it.'

What does 2002 hold in store for you? 'I'm gonna have to wait to answer that one because I don't honestly know until the disc comes out. Then I'll have a conversation with Mark Ashton and get some sort of game plan happening. When I find anything out, I'll let you know.'

And 'know' indeed is what Jeff Austin will find out in due course as the album 'Go Big Or Stay Home' hits the streets. Embodied in a veil of eighties memorabilia is where you'll find the Jeff Austin Project. Unashamed and proud wearers of the AOR/melodic rock banner from a time gone by -transported into the 21st Century.

Resources:
Websites: FrontiersNow And Then

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