I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with Ian and Richard from Soldier, a few days ago and spoke to them about the band’s history, and their releases Defiant and Chronicles:
- What inspired the band’s name? What are your influences and have they remained the same throughout your career?
ID: Well my Dad used to read a lot of World War 2 novels and they were always lined up on his bookshelf so I got the idea from them.
Prior to that he was always reading westerns so we could have been called Rawhide!
As for influences, a lot of 70’s bands, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Montrose, Pat Travers Band etc. These bands influenced a lot of the early Soldier material in one way or another.
More recently it’s people like Alter Bridge, Joe Satriani.
RF: The first rock band I really got into was Deep Purple and all the associated off shoot bands, Rainbow, Gillan, Whitesnake. But my music collection goes from Motorhead to Yes to Night Ranger and pretty much everywhere in between. If it’s got melody and is played well I’ll listen to it!
- With so much experience under your belt, as a band and individually, how does that influence the way you approach writing and recording songs, as well as playing those songs live?
ID: When the band recorded back in the late 70’s/early 80’s you had to go into a studio where a man in a white coat would twiddle all the knobs and you’d have two or three chances to get a take and that was it. Apart from some guitar overdubs and some backing vocals it was pretty much a “live” take. And it would cost you quite a lot money.
I’ve always been interested in the recording side of things and so as technology improved I started putting my own home studio together and since the first album, Sins Of The Warrior, the band has done more and more of the recording “at home” as it keeps the costs down and takes the time pressures away.
On Defiant, apart from the drums, which were recorded in a live room, everything was done at home. The great thing is you can produce some really big sounds but the down side can be that it makes it hard to reproduce it live. Having said that, a band with a history as long as Soldier’s means that putting a set list together always means having to decide what you can’t play as a lot of the gigs tend to be multi-band/festival gigs were you only get 40 minutes anyway.
RF: The writing process for Dogs Of War and Defiant were very similar in that Ian would write all the music and on a few tracks the lyrics as well. He’ll send that to me and I’ll work out lyrics and melodies for each track and then we build up the final track from there. Ian is quite a prolific writer once he gets going so there’s always plenty of stuff to be working on.
- Could you talk through the process of writing and recording for Defiant? Which songs stand out from that record, and why?
ID: I had all the music demo’ed and a few lyrics as well. I sent those to Richard for him to work on. Once we had all the vocals sorted we rehearsed the songs for a few weeks before we went in to record the drums.
This was done “live” with Tim in one room and the rest of us in the control room playing through each song. That took a couple of sessions to finish.
Then all the guitars, bass and vocals were done in mine and Richard’s home studios.
Once we had the tracks finished and mixed we sent them to Abbey Road Studio in London to get them mastered, and it was worth every penny. Whilst the final mix I did sounded great the mastering really brought them to life.
There is quite broad range of songs on Defiant from 3 minute rockers to long epics, but I think the stand out track for me is Conquistador. It’s a long and complexed track with a great story to it.
RF: I did all the vocals at home, which is good in one way, but it does mean you end up getting very picky and re-doing stuff over and over again, which I am very guilty of! I always want to do better than the last recording. There’s always something new to learn about how to sing a line and how to record the vocal.
I think my favourite tracks are Bullet Belt Blues and Don’t Come Crying To Me. Ones is a straight forward rocker and the other is probably one of the heaviest songs the band has ever done. They are a good example of the different feels that Ian writes in, but it all sounds like Soldier.
- What inspired the decision to release the Chronicles collection?
ID: In the early days of the band we recorded a lot demo’s in the hope of getting to record a proper album. Unfortunately that never happened until many years later, but Steve Barlow (bass player) and I had copies of pretty much everything we ever did.
Once we re-formed the band I really wanted to focus on new material but there are a lot of Soldier and NWOBHM fans out there who also wanted to hear the stuff from the original period. So after we had done the Dogs Of War album Steve and I sat down and went through everything we had. Demo’s, rehearsal recording, gig recordings.
We whittled it down to the stuff that we thought was of an acceptable audio quality and/or was of historical value/importance from the history of the band.
We ended up with tracks from pretty much every Soldier line-up from the original 1979-1982 period, plus some rehearsal recordings we did with Richard a few years before he actually joined the band and four demo re-recordings of some Live Forces era songs.
There are extensive liner notes by John Tucker along with loads of pictures. All in all it’s a great package that really shows how the band changed and developed over the years.
The most interesting part of it for a lot of people are the two tracks that the band demo’ed with Phil Lewis (Torme/LA Guns) on vocals.
It was also during this process that we found the recordings of the gig at The Heathery in Wishaw, Scotland which we also released.
RF: This was a great project for me as I got to hear loads of stuff that I had never heard before and I think it really shows how different the band were to a lot of the other NWOBHM bands at the time.
It was also interesting because prior to joining Soldier I had been in a band with the original drummer (Steve Garner) and it was great to hear his playing from all those years ago.
- What plans do you have for the future?
ID: We are currently working on some new songs which will probably form an E.P. towards the end of this year/early next year.
Gigging wise we have had some time-out this year due to work and family commitments. But Miles Goodman (guitar) and Tim Churchman (drums) have been out and about with other bands, Miles with Burnt Out Wreck and Tim with Red Hawk Rising.
We’ll have to see what next year brings but even if we don’t get out to gig we will continue to write and record new music.