Fireworks

Fireworks Magazine Online 39 - 101 SOUTH

101 SOUTH

Interview with Roger Scott Craig by Dean Pedley

 

101 South have recently returned with their third release, No U Turn, which marks the first album from the band since 2002’s Roll of the Dice. No U Turn once again reunites the songwriting and keyboards of Roger Scott Craig (also of Fortune and Harlan Cage) with the vocals of Gregory Lyn Hall and features some special guest appearances from Ian Bairnson (Alan Parsons Project) and Chris Thompson. I spoke with Roger to find out why it had been some seven years since their last release and also about his views on the current state of the music industry.

 

Hi there and thanks for talking to us here at Fireworks magazine, Roger. It’s been seven years since the last 101 South album, why did you take the break and why was now the right time to resurrect the band?

Well Dean, I’d moved on to doing other things for a bit and lost interest in making music that radio stations etc. just will not play. Plus, so many people now want their music for free that the incentive for the artist to work for months on creating a great album only to have everybody steal it using an illegal file sharing site, means that you have to have a really good reason to record. This just seemed that time?

 

Was the material all freshly written or do some of these songs date back a few years?

“There’s a mixture of old and new songs on this new CD.  I always keep any and all song ideas when I am writing and occasionally look in my vaults to see if there is anything good worth finishing off. One of the songs on this album is called ‘Blue Skies’. It was an old idea from 2003 which I listened to again and then decided to complete with a few interesting key changes. Several of the new songs were just sitting on hard drives and that helped me get back to where I’d left off in 2002!! Never throw anything away – you never know when it might be right for the moment!”

 

How was it working with Gregory again in the studio. He has turned in another amazing vocal performance.

“He is one amazing vocalist and we work really well together. It’s just a pity we have not gone on tour really, as he is really good and people deserve to hear his wonderful talents sometime in the future. But he doesn’t like spending too many hours in the studio with me; he prefers to work hard for one or two hours so he doesn’t ‘blow’ his voice!”

 

What would you say were the main differences between 101 South and your other band, Harlan Cage?

“Well, the bands are pretty similar in many ways, but for the first two 101 South CDs I wrote almost all the songs on my own and that is what is significantly different from Harlan Cage where Larry Greene prefers to write his own lyrics (even though I come up with the main hooks etc). All my bands are pretty similar I guess, because I am doing the writing, arrangements and the production, ha! ha!!”

 

How do you think “No U Turn” compares with some of the other albums from your career?

“I have no idea really although I thought we did a pretty good job considering the very small advance I got to make this one. People have no clue how small budgets are getting to make these melodic albums these days. I will make no money whatsoever on this release – rather it will cost me money! After paying all the musicians and the expenses in making this album, there isn’t much left.

“The distributors complain that so much music is downloaded illegally that they cannot afford to give us much money these days and yet people now expect the same quality of production and songs whilst the budgets are one tenth of what they used to be? I don’t know. It is time to do something about this and I am working hard to raise awareness about how the theft of our music will cause the standards of quality to diminish if people do not pay us for our work. Just look on Google for <101south No U Turn> and see how many illegal sites there are giving my new album away for free – pages and pages of Bit torrent and Rapidshare sites giving all my hard work away for free ? Do people ever consider how fair this is to the artist?”

 

Tell us about some of the guest appearances on this album. Chris Thompson turns in a great vocal on ‘Blue Skies’

“Well, I had just written the song ‘Blue Skies’ when I thought of Chris and I’m so glad he decided to do it when I sent the song off to him! He actually did his vocals in Belgium and sent them back to me in California and it worked perfectly with Gregory Lynn Hall who sang the second verse and doubled up the vocals in the chorus making up a ‘duo’ (and a new 101 South song) sung by two of my very favourite singers in the world! Then I was lucky enough to get Ian Bairnson, for me the best guitarist in the world, from the Alan Parsons Project to do the guitars and play a wonderful solo – what a moment!”

 

What’s your view on the whole melodic rock scene right now, are there any other artists who have impressed you recently?

“I hate to admit this but I have lost touch with the whole melodic rock world these days, Dean! I have been running a Real Estate company for so many years now and am out of touch with what is going on! But then, I was never really into reading reviews and following other bands. I tended to just focus on my own stuff and hope that people like what I do rather than follow others!”

“The whole music scene is in turmoil these days with so many bootlegs and illegal sites operating that we’ll be lucky if anybody is able to be making good new music in ten years! We really need to encourage people to support the musician by not stealing our work. Don’t burn copies or buy bootlegs; try to enthuse your friends into buying music for sure, but don’t give it to them! This is going on in so many countries now.”

 

Could it ever be commercially viable for you to take 101 South on the road or would the budgets simply not allow you to do so?

“I don’t think there is any chance for us to go out on tour although we would love to! Then, I sometimes ask myself, who would show up to see any of my bands? It would be interesting to put the old Fortune band together and do some gigs; or even Harlan Cage or 101 South but I seriously doubt we would have anybody show up to see us!! Maybe I am wrong? It would be cool if somebody could find a way to pay for one of my bands to come over to Europe but it’s probably not cost effective at the moment.

“The whole problem is radio. So many bands like 101 South are just not played on the radio because we are too old and we refuse to pay the radio stations to play our stuff. The music you hear on radio generally is paid for by the larger corporate record companies and they totally control what people get to hear and then what they buy. ‘PAYOLA’ is what killing the business of radio really - so many people out there might actually like my bands if radio stations would just start playing the music? But they won’t and that is the problem with the music business and radio – no matter how great a song I write, nobody will play it unless they are paid to play it!! Full-stop!”

 

You’ve had some strong reviews over the years both with 101 South, Fortune and Harlan Cage – is it frustrating that these don’t always translate into increased sales figures?

“You can never really believe sales figures since most accounting practices at record companies are a total joke and most bands I know feel they have been ripped off and raped over so many decades. My first band Liverpool Express had many number ones all over South America and yet we never saw one dollar from that success. People think we are all rock stars living on the beach in Malibu when in reality we are all struggling with nobody wanting to pay us for our music. 95% of music is now stolen. How do the fans expect us to make new music if they expect this same music for free?? ‘FREE’ is not a business model any industry can support and that is why I am asking real music fans to come together and not to burn illegal copies or to use the illegal sites. Hopefully, one day, someone will listen!”

 

What does the future hold for 101 South and what other projects are you working on right now?  Do you still work on film and TV music?

“I have two projects I am trying to finish up soon – one is an R&B project which includes performances from both Michael McDonald and Christopher Cross – it’s nothing like melodic rock. The other project is called No Category Music and it is very zany and totally crazy! Not something your readers would enjoy, Dean -  with songs full of tempo changes and drastic changes in musical direction. One song is called “88 beats Per Minute” - it starts at 88 beats per minute but speeds up gradually until it gets to 144 BPMs!!”

 

Can you tell us more about the Support Musicians website that you are involved with?

“Sure. We’re trying to make people aware of just how serious the threat to our livelihoods is. I went quite recently to many of my old friends in the Beatles camp and others and told them that, now we have 95% of our music stolen, quite literally, we need to do something to help. Thankfully, they all offered to help.

“We are asking people to support musicians by not stealing our music but sadly so many people just do not care about the welfare and well being of musicians and think we are all wealthy and don’t need the money, that they think it’s fine to carry on with the status quo. Folks, the musicians you love are all going bankrupt and driving around in cars with bald tyres! Wake up! 97% of music releases make no money. Stop dwelling on the very few (3%!!) of musicians who make money. Record releases have a 97% failure rate and yet people have no clue about the business of music. They need to be educated so they understand why we are now asking them to pay us for our music and recognise how much the artist is dependent on the fan, otherwise we may soon all say “forget it, good riddance and see you later”. The site will soon be operational and it is called www.supportmusicians.org… Please check it out; it’s for your benefit too!”

 

I’ve heard that the band you were in during the 70’s, Liverpool Express, have been playing the occasional gig. Are you ever tempted to hop on a plane from California and join them for a couple of shows around Merseyside?

“I did, in 2003 actually, and we all got together in Liverpool for a reunion show which was a lot of fun and very emotional too for me. It was great to have all my old friends together again and we all enjoyed catching up and seeing each other.

“I’m not a great fan of that ‘old cabaret’ circuit, but I think we would also love to go back out on the road, especially to Brazil where we toured in 1977 and where we had three number ones! That would be a real blast. I am not sure how we would find a Promoter to sponsor us and bring us back down there in 2010, but you never know. We shall see.”

 

And finally, do you have a message for our readers...

“I’ve been saying it all afternoon Dean, but it’ really down to the fans, readers and listeners. Please support musicians by buying their music and not stealing it using an illegal site. If you do, this music can still be around for the next generation.

Please support musicians by telling your friends about us and ask them not to burn copies of our hard work! It’s a simple choice! Thanks for listening!”

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