Tony Harnell - Starbreaker, TNT

January 9, 2006


Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.orgr

Tell me a little bit about Starbreaker. I listened to the CD and loved it. That was some kickass shit.

Yeah, it was a very unusual project. Very sort of a fluke really. It just came about. I knew John and that was about it and I brought him in at the end. The album developed very quickly and we didn't know each other. It was put together by Frontiers Records in Italy and I started working with Magnus long distance writing the songs and I just dove into it. I had about two months off between touring with TNT and starting the last album. I just said "okay, this is the only time I have to work on this other project. I'm just going to dive in and see what happens." It definitely very far exceeded everybody's expectations.

I would definitely say so because every song on that album was wonderful. Nobody can accuse you having any filler material.

Well, thanks. Like I said, it was just I think a very lucky accident. I like to make sure that all my work is of a certain quality. That's just a given in I guess how I work as an artist so I knew it wasn't going to suck but I certainly didn't think it was going to be as good as it came out to be.

You said you guys didn't all know each other. How did you get hooked up together?

Like I said, that was through Frontiers Records in Italy. I originally had a deal with him to do something. We didn't know what it was going to be and he started sending me some music by some people that I wasn't interested in working with. I listened to some songs and I didn't think they were right for me. We almost didn't do anything and then a couple of months later he sent me some music from Magnus and I thought yeah, this is something I guess I could do. I knew I wanted it to be heavier. I would have actually wanted it to be even heavier than Starbreaker was but that was definitely more in the right direction and I think it was a lot of fun for me to try something a little different than TNT.

You basically wrote all of the songs yourself?

The guitar player and I. He would send me music tracks and I would take them and tear them apart a little bit and maybe do some editing and wrote all the lyrics and most of the melodies.

When you wrote the songs, what kind of a theme were you going for?

The songs are definitely about a lot bigger things than I guess what your average person thinks about every day. I don't know. That's not really a good way to put it because I think a lot of people think about spiritual things. There's a lot of spiritual things going on there but when I use that word I don't use it in a traditional sense. I just think that what I'm saying is, there's a lot of subject matter in the songs which I think is very important be it slightly political or thinking outside of the human body and more into other planes and other realms and other possibilities. It's about healing and about a lot of things. But a lot of my lyrics are like that whether it's with Starbreaker or TNT so it's not really I guess a new thing for me but I think the lyrics on Starbreaker and on the new TNT album and also really in general, the lyrics I've been writing for the past eight years or so have definitely been more directed in some areas that I think are very important to talk about. I know I'm being very vague.

Not at all. I'm Native American so my idea of spiritualism is not what I suppose white people would think it is. I understand what you're saying. We're on the same wavelength there.

Cool.

You've had a number of different bands like TNT, Westworld, Morningwood, and now this. How do you manage to juggle so many bands like that?

Well, they're not all going on at the same time so that makes it easy. TNT is my main band and it has been for a long time. Morningwood, I haven't done anything with that for many, many years. I may resurrect some aspects of that and do an acoustic album soon. The other stuff, I just pace myself and it seems to work out okay. So far there haven't been any major conflicts. Westworld isn't really together all the time anymore. There may be something in the future and I'm not really sure how far Starbreaker is going to go at the moment.

I remember getting a Westworld CD from Dave Tedder a while back. I really enjoyed that. You're a very talented boy.

Well, thank you. Thank you very much.

What's going on in the wild world of TNT?

The new album came out in November in the U.S. and we just got back from touring in Europe and I'm going back I think in about a week and a half for a short trip to open up the Hard Rock cafe in Oslo. They want us to headline that. They're having a big grand opening over there so we're going to do that and then we tour Spain. Probably Spain, Greece, and Portugal in March and we'll just keep going from there. We have a bunch of things going on in the summertime because all the festivals happen in Europe so we'll be doing a lot of those.

Oh yeah, those folks have some kickass festivals over there.

That's right.

They like to party, man.

Yeah, they still like rock and roll.

That's interesting. Everything over here is always trendy and people always go from one thing to another. In other parts of the world if something isn't broken don't fix it.

Yeah, unfortunately American culture has that funny thing in it where people think they have to keep up with what's going on around them. I think Europeans are less apt to do that. Obviously they do to a degree but I think if they like good music they like it. They're not sticklers.

Tell me a little bit about the new TNT record.

Well, I think it's great. I think it's a really great step forward from the last one which came out in 2004. That was called My Religion and I think that we're on a good roll right now and I think that creatively, this album is a nice step forward from the previous one. I think it's a little more daring and I just think it's original sounding. I think what I hear the most on this one is I really feel that TNT has its own sound. I think it's really been captured on this new album. Very, very pointedly captured. A lot of people have a lot of influences and so do we but I just really think that after all the years we've been together, I just think that this new album brings all those years together really and I just really am proud of listening to it because it sounds to me like there's no other band that sounds like us. I really love that.

TNT has been around for a number of years. What's kept you guys going for so long?,p> Good question. It definitely can be difficult at times. I think the thing that really is probably the fuel to keep us going is just the creative energy that we get working together and I think that Ronnie and I have a really great chemistry when we write songs. That's what keeps me going. That's what keeps me wanting to do it. I always wonder what we're going to come up with next.

Does TNT pretty much have the same guys or have you had to go through a lot of lineup changes like a lot of other bands?

We've had the same guys. Actually, we have had some lineup changes definitely but we've gotten into a groove now where I think we're pretty much solid with this lineup we have. We got our original drummer back in 2001, Diesel Dahl, and then we had the original, original classic lineup together for a couple of years and then last year our longtime bass player left. Actually that was 2004 and we have a new bass player now who's really great. It's still three of us. The three old guys.

In other words even though you've had lineup changes, you seem to be on pretty good terms.

Yeah, definitely. The three of us have known each other for a very, very long time so it's an old marriage. It goes through its ups and downs but ultimately it's the music that keeps us moving forward and the fans of course.

I've had a lot of musicians tell me that being in a band is like being married.

Yeah, but to more than one person.

That's like a harem, man.

Yeah, and sometimes it's not very pretty but we try to make it work the best way we can. I think it's an unusual situation because we've got three guys in Norway and one guy in America so it's definitely not usual.

It's an international thing. You guys are doing a lot of European touring. Is there anything you're getting in the States?,p> At the moment, no. We're just promoting the album right now and we are talking to some agents and looking into the possibility of coming over again. The last tour that we did was a blast but it was a long time ago over here. We'd love to come back and do some shows if we can make it work logistically. We're working on that now so we'll see what happens.

Is there any touring you're planning on with Starbreaker or is that just a studio CD thing and that's it?

We're not sure it. It's a good question. We're just playing it by ear right now and waiting to see where that's going to take us. For now, we've done the album and I'm working on TNT right now and I'll be working on solo stuff the remainder of the year and TNT is going to be touring off and on for the rest of the year. We've got shows coming up in Spain and like I said, all the festivals that we're going to be doing over the summer so I think it's going to be a fairly busy year.

Yeah, it sounds like it. You're just a busy boy. Are you doing any videos for any of your stuff?

We are in the midst of planning a DVD for TNT. We did do a video for Starbreaker. It's actually on the CD I think. It's not a million dollar video but it's definitely pretty cool I think. As far as TNT goes, we're working on a couple of things so we'll have to wait and see what happens with that.

Actually I think some of the coolest videos are the ones that are low budget and not all slick and pretty.

Yeah, they can be. It all comes down to who did it and how well they're edited. Yeah, I like the low priced stuff.

On the Starbreaker CD, your bio talks about how you've never sung so heavy and aggressive. What made you decide to do something that was so much heavier than other stuff that you've done?

Well, that's where my roots really are. I just wanted to go back and explore them a little bit. I think personally I'd like to go way heavier than Starbreaker. I'd also like to go way lighter than TNT. I just like to do a lot of different things with my voice and with my songwriting. I'm just looking forward to experimenting a lot over the next few years and trying different things of course. The nice thing about having TNT is I feel I can keep a steady line there with the fans of that band. They don't have to like everything that I do. Those fans can always know that that's going to be always coming down the pipe but I can go off and experiment with other things and maybe open up the door to different people that maybe wouldn't have listened to my voice in the context of TNT.

Yeah, I know sometimes that people are weird like that. They're like "I don't know why he's doing this other thing because I don't like it as much as the other stuff." Well, you don't have to like it.

You're right. That's the whole point. Many artists I think have one band that they've developed a certain amount of success with and then they feel like they get boxed in a little bit with that and they want to go off and try other things and reach other people that just wouldn't like their main band. I think it's perfectly fine and I think that's what art is all about. It's about trying different things and experimenting. I love it when an artist reinvents themselves or does something that I totally didn't think they could do or expect them to do. I think that's great.

I do too. I can't wait to see what else you come up with.

You'll be surprised.

Cool deal. Any other thoughts or comments?

Thanks to everybody for all the support over the years and check out a couple of websites. We have www.tnttheband.com and we have www.myspace.com/tntonline and of course there's www.tonyharnell.com so people can check all those out to find out what's going on with me and with TNT and Starbreaker or whatever else they're interested in.

Tony Harnell