Fireworks Magazine Online 47 - Arabia


John Blaze Interview with Mark Warburton

Arabia will return on June 6th with their all new album ‘Welcome To The Freakshow’ but that’s not the end of it - the band are also set to finish album number three for Z Records this year for a 2012 release! After so many rumours emanating from sources claiming to be in the know, it’s clear to say that Arabia are back following the debut release ‘1001 Nights’ which made such an impact, and founding member and band leader John Blaze is still here after some years later, alive and well in NYC. The member line-up had changed several times as nothing really clicked into place for John, and which he stated recently, “the recording became a freakshow of events but ultimately he found a groove with great guys who shared my musical tastes.” So out of the rubble of posers and freaks, and after a few years of torture and pain, a new Arabia record ‘Welcome to The Freakshow’ is due to emerge on Z Records on June the 6th and the band will have played Z Rock 2011 on the May 15th at The Asylum in Birmingham by the time this issue comes out. So with this in mind, I thought it was about time I got the lowdown on all things Arabia from founder and mainman, John Blaze.

You must be very pleased with the new album ‘Welcome to the Freakshow’. It’s a great follow up to your debut release.

I am extremely excited to have a new Arabia release on Z Records. Mark Alger from Z Records and I never stopped believing in the band. We remained focused that when we had the right tracks at the right time we would release another killer record. ‘Welcome To The Freakshow’ rocks and we’re happy to have it as a second Arabia release. In fact we are now working on a follow up which will be released early 2012.

Can you tell me about the writing and recording of the album ?

‘Welcome To The Freakshow’ was written over many years and has various types of emotions. At some point I realised I was meeting people who weren’t serious about their art … poser musicians and music biz wannabees. I looked at myself and said, man, what a freakshow. At that point, that’s when I knew I wanted to call the new album.

Are their any real stories behind some of the songs from the album?

In writing the record, I did go through many phases of my own life. General realisations of what’s important, reflecting on how I got to where I was as well as never forgetting to keep things fun. Rock and roll is meant to be an escape – have fun – a release from the day to day madness of our normal lives. To pick some of my favourite tracks and stories behind them, I wanted to take my mind to a dark place for ‘Welcome To The Freakshow’. I imagined a rock and roll beast of a character who wanted to take over the world and just take no prisoners. The part of me that was frustrated with things and just wanted the music to do the talking. To tell everyone, “Come let the music move you….” That’s what it’s all about. Other favourites include “No Place Like Home” which is pretty self explanatory … just about where your heart belongs. I went through a phase during the writing of this album when I recalled a musical called Jesus Christ Superstar. I actually had the opportunity to see it live. The images also stuck with me when writing ‘Last Temptation’. I also remember walking in NYC one day and seeing an 8x10 hologram photo of Jesus. When you looked at it one way, Jesus was a normal image and if you changed the angle and looked at it and he was weeping. I went into the store and asked the merchant what it was and he said the image was a Jesus Wept. Just always stuck in my mind. ‘Blood Runs Blind’ is a realisation to me about the AIDS crisis. Although I didn’t lose any friends to the disease, I imagined myself knowing someone who was infected. What I would say to them if I loved them, “I can touch your broken glass, ‘cause I’m not afraid to die”. So, anyway, what’s a rock LP without a fun song talking about a girl. ‘Drive’ is just balls out fun. Knowing a girl who just wants to get away, hit the road with ya and have fun. I’ll leave you with that to determine who she was…

How did the initial deal with Z Records come about then?

You know – I feel like I’ve known Mark Alger and Z Records forever. We have been part of an extended family that went through good times and bad and the label is now rising like a Phoenix just as Mark Alger told me it would when the time was right. We met through friends in the business and did the first Arabia record. The band line-up changed, me and Mark always stayed in contact and when the timing was right, bam, ‘Welcome To The Freakshow’.

Who have been your biggest influences on your career and why?

That is always a good question. I’d have to say it all started with KISS. When the first KISS record came out… wow, who are these guys in makeup? Cool! There were always in and around the NY area even playing small clubs in the beginning. I was too young to get in but the word was spreading. Following KISS lead me to other artists like Alice Cooper and Bowie. Then, when I heard Halford’s voice I was like – oh man – this guy is king. Dio was always a favourite of mine and, I’ve heard, a great guy. I think it was a combination of all of these artists that made me who I am today. While I never thought I maintained a “singers voice”, I felt being a great frontman and showman was just as important. A voice is a matter of taste and if someone is at least real in their approach as an artist, that is what talent means to me.

How much input did you have with the production side of things?

I am the writer and producer of all the tracks. Of course, with some help along the way from input of band mates and the engineer. But, for the most part, I steer the ship. It’s both a blessing and a curse. At times, I just want to sit back and sing but the production side of me can’t be controlled so I gotta get in there and produce. I have a schooled background in audio engineering and maintain a BFA in communications. I also spent 10 plus years behind the scene with record producer Ric Wake. While his company was mostly noted for pop songs, we also rocked with a few artists like DRILL on his DV8 record label. I also learned a few microphone tricks from Jack Douglas of Aerosmith fame and enjoyed the company of the great Eddie Kramer as well. All of these major producers had an influence with me on how I approached production. Of course, since the introduction of Pro-Tools, things have changed a bit but – music is still music no matter how you slice it!

When was the last time you played live with Arabia, John? I bet you cant wait to get back into the live arena?

Man, it’s been almost 9 years for Arabia. Can’t believe it’s that long and how time flies. I always gig in NYC with other projects but for Arabia – yeah, it’s been a while. I’ll be honest that I’m both excited and a bit taken back. We never ramped up to what I thought the potential of the band was and there’s a lot of time now in between. I hope the great fans we had remember me and welcome me back. I’m real sensitive so I’ll suck if people don’t did the live show. But, I’m confident that it’s gonna sound great so let’s party!

That leads me on nicely to, besides the performance at Z Rock. Will the band be performing any live shows in the near future ?

I will follow Z Records lead and my manager. Right now we’re releasing the new record, performing Z Rock and we’ll go from there. Mark at Z has some great plans and he’s a master with the live shows and what he wants, it amazes me how much Mark can do at a PR level on his own, he is a serious talent in that field. I’m ready to go where I gotta go. The bigger the better so I’m ready for anything. [Note: Arabia shows have now been announced for November in UK]

What niche as to regards to Sound and Style wise, do you feel the band are placed in?

We are sort of you classic hard rock, heavy metal band. I’m proud to be in the company of bands like Judas, Kiss, Def Leppard, etc. Somewhere in there I’m okay with.

What sort of music do you listen to these days?

For me, my musical tastes are really diverse. I have to have my hard stuff but also like to chill with Jazz and any great vocalist. For the hard stuff I turn on my Sixx AM CD or new and old Whitesnake. Then, chillin’, I’ll put some Jazz on the radio and then, if I hear a song with just a great singer like Pink, I’ll turn that up too. So, really, I listen to mostly everything. Good music, again, is good music.

Where would you like to see the band be in five years then?

Five years eh? The main thing – still together and playing. It would be awesome to be big and famous. A person would be lying if they didn’t say that. But again for me, I’d like to still be playing and making great music. Also, being healthy, that’s really important to me.

Finally what are your plans for the remainder of 2011 and will you be working on any other side projects?

I am just looking forward to the new release – ‘Welcome To The Freakshow’ and whatever I can do to support it - thanks for the opportunity to be part of the magazine!

Mark Warburton


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