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Articles Home » Interviews » Radioactive - 2005 Taken By Storm: interview with Tommy Denander
Radioactive - 2005 Taken By Storm: interview with Tommy Denander

Interview with: Tommy Denander
Written by: Gdazegod
Date: Dec 15th, 2005

As we wind down toward the end of the 2005 year, it is a good time to reflect on all the things which took place this year. Some good, some not so good. London had its first taste of terrorism with the Underground and Bus bombings racking the city in July. New Orleans is no more. The city is awash after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and then Rita. Weather wise it certainly was a strange year. A lot of people unable to do much of anything. Unlike Swedish musician Tommy Denander. It doesn't matter what hat he puts on - guitarist, instrumentalist, arranger, songwriter, producer. There always seems to be a project on the 'go', probably with the exception of hurricane prevention! Tommy of course is a major reason behind the success factor that is his project Radioactive. November saw the release of the third Radioactive instalment 'Taken', and like the two efforts before, it is chock full of appearances from many of the greats within the melodic rock genre. Just quite how he manages to pull it off is a testament in itself. I doubt you will find this many quality players on one album during the course of the 2005 year, from anyone anywhere.

And of everything going on in 2005, well Tommy has had a hand in many well known AOR/melodic rock projects this year. So all in all, it has been quite a busy/productive time for him.. Perhaps the understatement of the century, even if we are only five years into it? 'Tell me about it hahaha' says Tommy.. 'and stupid me said last year that I would take a year or two off from the AOR world. It's amazing that each new year keeps being better than the ones before and this year sure is no different. I've had my biggest success ever this year as a writer, producer and musician with my session work for Paul Stanley, Westlife, Jaded Heart, Silver, Locomotive Breath, Ambition, Balance II etc, plus writing a lot of songs including 2 huge hits here in Sweden and of course producing Sha-Boom, Philip Bardowell, Speedy Gonzales, Stan Bush, Jeff Adams (Starship) and my new Radioactive album. However, the biggest success is in the works actually cause I've had two killer trips to LA and I'm soon going back again but the result of these trips will be made public next year.'

GLORY-DAZE like many melodic rock sites have been glowing in praise of the Radioactive album. We think it's pretty cool, and as I suggested to Tommy, all the reviews coming in must be a great source of pride and achievement.. 'The reviews are incredible and the level of 'fame' around my name among important people outside of the rather small AOR scene is growing fast which is really what I'm working hard on' he says. 'Not to be famous but to be known among those who have the high power for major artists so I can produce, write and play for more of them. But yeah, the reviews so far have been stunning. Pretty much 9 of 10 in 95% of the reviews and the album is selling like crazy.'

The line-up is phenomenal. From ex and current Toto members: the late Jeff Porcaro, Steve Porcaro, Fergie Frederiksen, Bobby Kimball, Steve Lukather; Gary Barden, Kelly Keagy, Bruce Gaitsch, Michael Landau, Yngwie J Malmsteen, Neal Schon, Bruce Kulick, James Christian, Robin Beck, Philip Bardowell, Mikael Erlandsson.. the list goes on. With so many players involved, I asked Tommy whether it was difficult to try and get everyone working to a suitable schedule. 'Not really' he says, 'even though it takes a lot of work and time. But it's mostly a matter of me picking what each person should do and either send them a file or get them into my studio. It's like laying a 10 000 piece jigsaw puzzle which mostly involves A LOT of patience cause this puzzle consists of so many broken and oddly shaped pieces! hahaha..'

Talking of oddly shaped pieces, Tommy has managed to drag out and combine audio from past recordings. I asked him about this, and whether he has a few more snippets of recordings from yesteryear that he's not used yet. How many more does he have stashed away? 'I have some rare things that I will use for later albums including some really cool stuff' he says. 'It's not like I've been collecting these on purpose to spread them out thin. Sometimes things just end up on the cutting floor and either never see the light of day or by luck they fit in later on.'

Usually with every interview I undertake, I always try and include aspects of technology. Mainly because our readership are no dumbclucks and like to know what's going on under the hood, and musicians are keen to share their experience working with gear (hardware and software). Tommy is no different, and he happens to be a big fan of the Pro Tools environment. It enables him to work quite fast compared to the times when there was no Pro Tools. 'I honestly can't understand how I made an album before Pro Tools!' he jokes. 'It's without a doubt the greatest tool I've ever used. I'd quit without it haha. It's bullshit that you can't make things sound as warm and nice in the digital world as you were used to on two-inch tapes, it's just a matter of knowing how to record the stuff, but the advances in speed, safety and editing is beyond your mind.'

It is always interesting to hear the different processes that producers and arrangers go through before an album finally hits the store shelves. Tommy has his own way of critiquing songs. I asked him whether he played them back over and over again trying to look for any slight flaw? 'Having done this full time for 24 years makes my ears extremely trained' says Tommy. 'Having written some 700-800 songs on albums in all kinds of styles, plus having produced more than 100 albums has raised my inner bar to a level where I KNOW that if I like it, others will approve - depending on taste of course. You can't be a producer without being that secure but you still have to be open to everyone else's ideas because you don't own all the answers to everything of course. When I write I know when it's good and the same goes for recording it. So once I have all I need on tape, I just mix it. I can't even remember the last time I had to fix something during the mix except for maybe a solo that I suddenly felt I could do a better take on.'

The Radioactive albums have spanned every two years since 2001's 'Ceremony Of Innocence'. The second album 'Yeah' came out in 2003. So what was the major change between recording for 'Taken' and 'Yeah'? 'Just the style of music' says Tommy, 'because I was going for a more hard rock type of album on 'Yeah' and this time I wanted a more classic AOR sound. But the process was the same.'

Onto the songs now, and boy I was surprised by many of them. Can we start first with hubby and wife duo James Christian and Robin Beck. Man, that track 'Easy's Gettin' Harder' rocks.. I reckon they must've been happy with the final result too? 'One of the very best tracks on the album and probably of my life' says Tommy in agreement. 'The music and melody is mine but Bjorn Lindbom wrote the perfect lyrics to it with James and Robin in mind since they had agreed to sing it. The did a fantastic job singing it and I'm really please with this song.'

The Gary Barden fronted track 'Hit Her Where It Hurts' was also surprising good. So refreshing to hear guys like Gary sing in a different environment. 'I agree' says Tommy, 'and I was a bit worried how it would end up because Gary is not the type of singer that does AOR normally but he and Michael Voss did a killer job and it came out really cool. I've done the last three Silver albums so it was time for them to pay back anyway hahaha'

Tell us about Christian Ingebrigsten. That Richard Marx sounding track he sings on 'Forgiveness', is great. I've not heard his name bandied about that often. 'Christian is a great singer, songwriter and friend, we just spent 10 days working in LA together' explains Tommy. 'He was actually the lead singer for the million selling pop band A1 a couple of years ago. We're both signed to EMI as writers and were put together through EMI this summer in Sweden. I had the music for this song done and the two of us wrote the melody and basic lyrics for it and then we got some killer help from Marjorie Maye to finish the lyrics. Marjorie is a top American writer for stars like Celine Dion and Destiny's Child, who I work with very closely with these days.'

And as for 'Shattered' .. well .. I was literally. Classic classic stuff. That chap Phillip Bardowell is a talent waiting to happen. I reckon I might have to hunt his solo album down now too! Very Toto sounding Tommy.. What would a Radioactive album be without some reference to Toto eh? 'I wrote this track with Marjorie as well and you just can't go wrong with the amazing Philip Bardowell on vocals, what a great singer he is!' he says excitedly. 'Toto?....isn't that a dog from a movie?....don't know what you're talking about HAHA. Well, I never hide my love for them while doing these 80's kind of albums, I don't make copies but I pay a nice homage to them I think.'

I was watching a Lee Ritenour DVD the other day, ('Live At Coconut Grove') and Steve Lukather was playing a duet with Lee called 'Cause We Ended As Lovers'. You've no doubt seen it yourself.. I was kinda reminded of it when I played the last track on the album - the instrumental 'Never Gonna Let Her Go'. That whole LA session guitar scene is happening on that track.. great way to finish the album I think? 'I've got the DVD you're talking about and Luke is on fire as always. I've made it a thing to include instrumentals on many of my albums cause I'm still a real musician at heart so it's cool to try and influence the young people if possible and having guys like Luke, Landau, Colaiuta etc involved never sucks hehe. Plus it makes you leave the album in a relaxed way which I also dig.'

I made a remark in my review of 'Taken' about the varying styles of the songs onboard the album. 'Identity crisis' I think was the term. I raised that point, with the possibility that some day, Radioactive might hit the road and play live, in which case it would be difficult to try and replicate some of these songs in a live environment, purely because of the personnel that have been used. Do you have a view on that? 'I've always been a huge fan of albums that are really diverse' says Tommy. 'Take the earlier Toto albums as a good example, like 'Fahrenheit' where you have a rocker mixed with reggae, ballads, west coast and pure jazz with Miles Davis! I think the thread you get from the production keeps an album together as long as you don't stray too far away from your sound.'

'I hate an album where all songs have the same setting for instruments and where most of the songs have a similar tempo and feel, because I get tired.. But it's a matter of taste of course. My Radioactive albums usually have a long life span because people keep finding new things in them. Of course I'm aware that by adding diversity I often divide fans and listeners into separate groups: those who like this or that better. But I don't care because I view myself as a musical painter who is blessed to have all of these famous brushes and colours to paint with, and once I'm happy with a new painting I let others take part of it. If they like it that's great. But if they don't I don't mind because I'm pleased. If and when I play live it wouldn't be in a regular band setting but a bigger all star band with several singers etc so we could do the best songs live.'

Overall, would it be safe to say that this is the best Radioactive album released thus far? 'In my opinion it is but that said I'm very proud and pleased with the first two as well and they have moments that may top the highest of peaks on this one but i feel that 'Taken' is the most even, well produced and most mature of the three.'

Are there any other projects you have lined up in the wings for next year? Oh, and by the way, whatever happened to the long awaited David Roberts comeback? 'I have lots of plans for future Radioactive projects including the big documentary DVD that will finally be out this winter and we're talking about a Best Of with all the Japanese bonus tracks plus some new and unreleased songs. There are also some plans to do a huge show next summer that would end up us a live CD + DVD but it's early plans so far. My main focus for next year is actually outside the AOR scene even though I will be noticed with albums like Speedy Gonzales, Stan Bush, Jeff Adams etc but I'm mainly focusing on bigger things that will be revealed later. Regarding David Roberts, I would still love to make that album because we had some incredible songs but I got tied up with other work for so long that it was put on hold, and now I have no idea if it will happen or not. Hopefully it will because David is such a nice guy and the album would be a killer!' Yes, I agree!

A couple of years ago you gave us an idea as to what your guitar rig was. Has it changed much since then? 'It changes all the time but mostly in regards to guitars, my main amps these days are a Rivera knucklhead II, Vox Tonelab, an old Marshall JMP top, a Fender top, an Engl top, a Soldano X-88 and my old Butcher preamp, a VHT power amp and some Rocktron and TC effects in the rack plus some basic floor pedals. I'm endorsed by Yamaha guitars and Rivera amps, and I've built a new studio in the heart of Stockholm where I'm trying to put together a really cool set-up with guitar gear for all kinds of sessions so people can just bring their music to me instead of me taking all my stuff to them.'

So, a couple of weeks out from Christmas, so what is Mr Denander expecting to get in the stocking from Santa? 'I think he was kind enough to me for this whole year so I'm planning to take him to a nude bar for some whiskey and some fine naked women to say 'thanks mate' HAHAHA!'

Cool Tommy.. Thanks for sharing a most awesome album with us, god bless to you and your family over the Christmas and New Year season! Regards from the team at GLORY-DAZE. Thanks a million George and all the best to you and your family as well as all your cool readers.. Tommy.

Related Articles:

Radioactive - 2001 Ceremony Of Innocence

Radioactive interview with Tommy Denander - Oct 2001

Radioactive - 2003 Yeah!

Radioactive interview with Tommy Denander - Jun 2003

Radioactive - 2005 Taken

Radioactive interview with Tommy Denander - Dec 2005

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