Interviews

Interview: A Conversation with LIZZY BORDEN

Inside the Mind of the Master of Disguise

Lizzy BordenFor decades, Lizzy Borden has been one of theatrical rock’s top front-men. And on June 15th, Borden will issue his first album in 11 years, My Midnight Things, via Metal Blade Records. With the hard n’ heavy tracks like “My Midnight Things”, “Obsessed With You”, and “The Scar Across My Heart”, the extended layoff between albums has not dulled his desire to rock and shock. “Although we have stayed busy touring all over the world, I missed being a recording artist. I look at the new album as a new beginning, I pushed the restart button on my career,” Borden comments.

When I was a young metal fan in my teens, his album covers seemed to be the ones that had outraged my parents the most. To discuss his new album, I was fortunate to be able to sit down with the original shock rocker himself as I tried to get inside the mind of the Master of Disguise.


ANTIHERO: I’m good. I’m glad we eventually got this sorted out after a few scheduling issues. Let’s talk about the new album. Why has it been so long since you brought out a studio album?

Lizzy Borden: Because we were touring around the world and playing all these amazing places. We did the Appointment with Death tour that last couple years. We did the 30th anniversary. That lasted a couple of years. I didn’t have the fire to make another record because when the music industry collapsed it kind of took the wind out of my sails. It made me not want to do it.  they structured this whole thing out to make it work in this day and age. Brian Slagel from Metal Blade talked me into getting back to recording. I really missed being a recording artist so that’s really why it took so long.

ANTIHERO: This collection, are these all new songs? Are they songs that you’ve gathered over the years and put together and have just recently had the opportunity to put them together?

Lizzy Borden: Well, the album is all new. There are a couple of bits and pieces that I have like a scrap folder full of riffs and choruses and verses and bits and pieces and a couple of those songs I took bits and pieces from old stuff that I had lying around. The majority of the album is written strictly for this album.

ANTIHERO:  You mentioned Metal Blade. You have a long history with that particular label going back to the eighties and your early releases.

Lizzy Borden: Oh, yeah. From the very beginning, it’s the only label we’ve been on. There have been Metal Blade joint things with Capitol and Warner Brothers and now with Sony, but Metal Blade has really been the main label that I’ve been on since the beginning.

ANTIHERO: Did you stay in touch with the label or was it something that you had to reconnect with the label? Was there always that link there?

Lizzy Borden: Well, the last album we did was almost 2008. It was the end of 2007. Then, like I said, the music industry collapsed, especially in North America. Then I really wasn’t interested. We didn’t even talk about doing another record. Brian Slagel had kept asking me to keep making another record and until he could convince me that the industry was back on some sort of track then I really didn’t have anything to talk about. Over the years he had expressed a lot of interest in making another record and I had to wait until the time was right for me. Now I feel that the time is right and I’m so happy that I didn’t do it any earlier.

ANTIHERO: A lot of artists these days are releasing their own music. I just wondered why you decided to use a record label for this release.

Lizzy Borden: I think that having a label there are so many benefits you get, and, in this case, we have Sony. Sony is able to distribute the record in a way that if I did it myself I could never even come close to getting it to the number of people that would be interested in wanting to buy this record. Just that alone. All the other stuff that they do is beneficial too because as an artist you don’t even know. At this point, I knew what I thought would be the singles, but you have to have a lot of people involved to make sure you make all the right decisions. That’s where they come in. They’re a different label than they were in the ’80s. They’re more inclusive to managers, directors, producers, everybody they’re involved in, the live show to the everything. It’s not just a record label anymore. They’ve expanded, and they work with everybody. People that you don’t even know, people that I don’t even know, will help with this record in some way. They’ll contribute to it in some way. You could never get that if I just released the album on my own.

ANTIHERO: I have read that there’s an underlying theme linking and joining the songs and that’s love. I just wondered if when you’re writing an album and you’re writing to a particular thing is it particularly hard or difficult to adapt to that and make the songs fit around that?

Lizzy Borden: Not really. Not for me because I’ve done it for every record. I picked a different theme that I’ve had on every record. If I pick something that’s wide enough … I don’t write concept albums. I write theme albums. It’s a lot easier to find different things that I can mine that subject matter and try to find something in there that hasn’t been done before or at least hasn’t been done to death. I can try to put my own stamp on it. Love is a general thing, but I wrote down a song like “Obsessed With You”. That’s a whole different kind of love. Then a song like “Long May They Haunt Us”, that’s people who are no longer in your life, but you constantly think about them, they haunt you, and you don’t want that haunt to go away. That’s the umbrella that I worked under. It was a pretty wide range under the same theme. For me, that’s what I’ve always done so it’s not that difficult.

ANTIHERO: You’ve also produced the album yourself. I just wondered in terms of those two different roles, being a producer and being the artist, is it difficult to step away and separate those two when you’re doing an album?

Lizzy Borden: Sometimes. When I listen to music I actually listen to the production. I’m not someone who just listens to the songs. I’m learning from other producers even if I don’t know them. When I hear a song, it doesn’t matter what genre it is, I listen to other producers and see what they’re doing and see. Joey Scott, who co-produced with me, he does the exact same thing. He breaks down the mechanics of it all. We’re adding bits and pieces from other … Just even writing music is the same thing. I’m influenced by everything that I’ve ever heard since I was 13 years old. It’s the same thing with production. You’re adding things to the production that even I don’t even know how to do but I’m starting to … I learn as I go. Some of the stuff that I threw in there this time was the first time that I had ever done it. You know, it was exciting for me. I was on top of it and I was able to separate between the artist and the producer.

Lizzy Borden

DreamHost

ANTIHERO: Many artists of a certain vintage tend to lose much of their vocal range as they get older but listening to this album your vocals seem to have increased in terms of range. Any particular reason why your voice actually seems to have got better over the years?

Lizzy Borden: Well, I’ve worked on it. I started out singing so high and then around the time of the Master of Disguise album I worked with a producer named Elliot Solomon who essentially taught me how to sing in the studio. He was showing me all the things I could do. I had no idea of all of this. He clocked me in as a 7 vocal octave range and I had no clue I had any of that. I just knew I could sing high and I can sing low. The low is something I’ve been working on to try to add that richness to my voice. I still work on it. It’s an instrument and I try to take care of it. When I did this album, I had no problems hitting any of the notes I wanted to hit. It wasn’t a struggle for me and I hope it stays that way. The low is something I’ve been working on to try to add that richness to my voice. I still work on it. It’s an instrument and I try to take care of it. When I did this album, I had no problems hitting any of the notes I wanted to hit. It wasn’t a struggle for me and I hope it stays that way.

ANTIHERO:  In terms of touring, you mentioned previously there the extensive tours you did for the last two albums. It’s bound to have a strain on your voice when you’re playing gig after gig, show after show after show.

Lizzy Borden: Yeah. The last tour we did was very difficult. It wasn’t difficult to sing but it was extremely exhausting because we were country hopping across Europe. We’d done that on the Best Of tour as well on the early part of it. I was used to not sleeping but the last one we did was very difficult because right after the show you have to go to the airport, drive how many hours to the airport, and then you have to sit in the airport. Then you have to wait for your flight. As soon as the flight arrives you’ve got to go through customs and then you’ve got to go right to sound check and then start the whole thing over again. That was exhausting. For the Midnight Things tour, I’m definitely going to schedule things a lot better. It costs a lot more money to do that but it’s too difficult to do it any other way.

ANTIHERO: You mentioned there the touring aspect of things. You’ve always been known in terms of presentation and theatrics when it comes to playing live. Just wondering do you have any plans for the forthcoming tour in terms of the stage production, how you’re going to put across the songs?

Lizzy Borden: Yeah. I mean, right now, we’re working on the stage production and this could be the biggest stage production we’ve had since Visual Lies, which was one of our biggest. I’m so excited. Because of new technology I’m able to bring this all around the world. It won’t be a problem. I’m talking to people about that right now and we’re kind of mapping it out and finalizing the details a little bit. I kind of know where I want to go. As far as the production side of things it’s going to be amazing. It’s going to be really fun. Then as far as the song structure and all of that and the theatrics go, I’m mapping all of that on as well and soon as I get everything, all of that close, then I’ll start assembling a band for the tour. It’s all going slow, but I really wanted the album to come out first and I wanted … Since it’s been so long since I’ve had an album I wanted the album to come out before I started the tour. That’s why I haven’t already announced shows or anything because I want to make sure the album is just out there by itself for a while with no distraction.

ANTIHERO: What about in terms of setlist then? Is it too early? Will you be doing the whole of the new album or would that be maybe a bit too much for an audience do you feel?

Lizzy Borden: Well, I’ve always done the majority … When I create a show, it’s based on the new album. I always do at least seven songs from any album I release. I’ve done that from the very beginning. This will be no exception. It will be the Midnight Things tour. I also will play as many older songs as I can squeeze in the set based on the at least seven songs I’m going to play. Yeah. That’s how I do every tour. I pick the songs that I have to play off of this new record and then whatever time is left I will go back through the back catalog and find some songs. Sometimes I’ll make room for at least one song that I haven’t played ever or at least in a long time. I try to do a well-rounded show. It definitely will be the Midnight Things tour.

ANTIHERO: Would you have plans to maybe visit Europe with that tour?

Lizzy Borden: Yeah. Europe is what we’ve concentrated on the most in the last 10 years really because we found a new audience there. They’re a very young audience for us. It’s really exciting to get that kind of response every night. It feels like it’s 1987 again every time we play Europe because the kids are so responsive and excited and singing along with all the songs and everything. That will definitely be part of it, part of this tour. Hopefully, it’s going to be a world tour. We’ve played all over the world and everybody said they wanted to bring the tour to their territory so once I start assembling the tour I’m sure it’ll be hitting territories all over the world.

ANTIHERO: Okay. Lizzy, that’s it. Great. Thank you very much for chatting to me. Glad we finally got this done. As I said, it was actually quite a surprise because I had some of your ’80s albums growing up as a young rock and metal fan. I do remember your album covers were the ones that sort of upset my parents I think probably the most.

Lizzy Borden: Awesome. I love it.

ANTIHERO: Thank you very much. Good luck with the album. Hopefully, I’ll get to see you in the UK.

Lizzy Borden: I hope so too. We’re trying to break down the wall of the UK. We started playing there, the original Reading Festival and more recently the Hard Rock Hell. We haven’t done nearly as much touring in the UK as I wanted to. Hopefully, the My Midnight Things album will get us in that door and we’ll play a whole lot more there.

Tags

Mark Dean

I'm a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal - my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time.Photo: Mark Dean with Jeff Kendrick of Devildriver - Photography by Olga Kuzmenko

Related Articles