Hard Rock Interview With Sean Tarr

SEAN TARR - "We haven't consciously tried to make an 80's style album..."

We have found true pearl among the last releases. New album of American band TNA has a great sound that will make hot the hearts of hard rock fans. We decided to learn something about creating such a good material. The answers are coming from Sean Tarr, the guitar player...

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Hello Sean. This month Your new album Branded is released. I think this release is much better than Your debut from 2001 year. It's going "in plus" for the band.

SEAN: Yeah, I agree. :) Branded is definitely a step forward for the band and I think our fans will find it worth the wait! With any luck this record will prove to be much more of a breakthrough than "Trigger" was. :)

HARD ROCK SERVICE: To begin our discussion please reveal us the secret about material that we can hear on the debut CD.

SEAN: Not much of a secret really. :) There was just a lot of pent up aggression and creative juices bubbling under the surface of the TNA "pot pie". It's amazing what comes out of that sucker when you stick a fork in it!

HARD ROCK SERVICE: I know that the band was formed in the early 90's...

SEAN: More like the late 80's. :)

HARD ROCK SERVICE: ...but was disbanded circa 1992 year before any contract can be reached. Is the debut material coming from the beginning of the band times or were there brand new songs?

SEAN: I'm assuming you mean the material on Branded? All of the material is relatively new with the exception of Walk Before You Crawl. That was a live favorite from "back in the day" that we always meant to record but never did for some reason. Feel It has an older "vibe" to it as well although it wasn't written that long ago. We just have a certain sound I guess. We're not consciously trying to write 80's/90's sounding material. We're just trying to write period! :) I guess everyone in the band just has different influences than a lot of the bands out there these days. I doubt you will ever hear TNA sounding like any band from the Nu Metal genre for instance. I like a little melody with my crunch guitars thank you. :)

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Branded is produced by the band itself and it's made very good. Why You don't decided to employ some famous professional producer? How much time You spent on the production?

SEAN: Now there's a question! :) Deciding on a producer is always tricky. First of all, handing over control of the creative process is never an easy thing. I mean, your name is going to be on the record and you will have to listen to it the rest of your life! A re-mix doesn't always fix everything either. There has to be a lot of mutual respect there for the magic to happen. You have to know before the first note is recorded that everything is going to sound great. Not that anything is certain but you need to have that "faith" in who you're working with. There's always the budget factor as well. Can you afford who you want to work with? Some of these guys are outrageously expensive, others are surprisingly affordable. You might find a guy who just loves your music and will work something out with you. A lot of times it's just dumb luck and having the right project at the right time. All things considered, we decided it would be better if we just did it ourselves. We knew what we wanted the record to sound like, we knew what to do in pre-production and we have the studio experience. With the help of Kivel Records we hooked up with a great engineer and made it happen. We spent a little over 50 hours of actual recording time but it took a month or so to finish everything. Scheduling a bitch. :)

HARD ROCK SERVICE: To be honest new LP is one of the favorites to be called "album of the year". Is the direction taken by the band to follow it on the next releases?

SEAN: Really?! How cool. Thanks! :) I can't promise you it will sound exactly the same, nothing ever does, but I can promise you that we will do the best we can to create a worthy successor to Branded! I have every confidence in the future of this band. :)

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Do You prefer to play live in front of the audience or to write new songs and record them in studio?

SEAN: Both! :) They really go hand in hand. The best of all worlds is one in which you get some quiet time to write, rehearse and record then hit the road and bring it live! Recording and playing live are really two different mind sets. The studio takes a lot of patience and you don't always get the instant gratification you do when you play live. It isn't until you start listening to the mixes, after all the tracking is finished, that you fully realize what you've done. It's all good. :)

HARD ROCK SERVICE: It's amazing but the compositions on the CD sound very eagerly and spontaneous. It looks like You do not use the studio additions after the previous sounds were recorded. These things were in fashion in the 80's music and Your band's style seems to be deeply set in these times...

SEAN: Well, we tried to keep the overdubs to a minimum and there was minimal processing. In other words, as live as we could make it sound and still have good production values. After all, you still want it to sound like a "studio" recording but not so far removed that the band couldn't reproduce it live. As far as 80's production values, we really didn't want this record to sound like it was recorded in the 80's if you know what I mean. :) We have that kind of style by default. Our sound is our sound and that's what we like but we haven't consciously tried to make an 80's style album.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: There is a dominant role of guitar playing in the TNA's compositions and from this I conclude that You are the main composer in the band. What is Your reaction when other member of the group has own idea to make some song? Are You a type of composer-tyrant or have You more democratic approach to music creation?

SEAN: I have been known to be an asshole at times but only when my temper gets the best of me. :) I have to admit that I like to have a degree of control when it comes to writing and recording but I try to be as diplomatic as possible. It's much healthier that way. :) Everyone in the band certainly has as much room as they want to contribute to the writing process. At the moment I do write the majority of the material but if you scan the song credits you'll see I had collaborated with Mike McManamon and a few other friends along the way. In fact, I see Mike and I writing a lot more together. He's very good with lyrics and melodies. (just check out Kill Your Idols) Doug O'Dell and Danny Tore will undoubtedly bring more to the table as well next time around. :)

HARD ROCK SERVICE: When we talk about the music from the songwriting side... Do You write the songs all at once or do you leave the parts unfinished to finish them later?

SEAN: I usually start by compiling "riffs". If I get an idea I'll work it out on the guitar and record it before I forget it. Sometimes whole songs will come to me but often it's just bits and pieces. If they're really good bits and pieces they'll stick in my head. Many times I'll build a song little by little in my head and record it later. In any case, I usually have to be inspired by something. It's always an emotional connection. I don't like to just sit down and say, "Ok, lets write a song today!" I can do it if I have to but it doesn't usually produce the best song.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Do You improvise Your guitar solos or do You play any scheme devised earlier?

SEAN: Years ago I used to work out every little part of a solo and practice it until I could play it backwards and forwards. These days I tend to improvise a lot more. I'll experiment during rehearsals and leave it until the very last moment but I'll usually work out a finalized version before we track. It really depends on the song. Some arrangements give you more room to fly while others demand a more structured and calculated solo. Come to think of it though, I did improvise a lot of the outro solos on the spot as we were recording. I would eventually like to improvise every solo on the spot and truly capture the moment.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Which one of the songs from the new album is the best in Your opinion?

SEAN: It's a tie. My favorite songs at the moment are The Sound and Kill Your Idols . I'd have to say my favorite solo is the one in Walk Before You Crawl although I really dig the solo in Lies, Guns, And Violence too.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Which one is worthy of distinction? Was there any that was difficult to play for You?

SEAN: Eva's Song was a little tricky. It's not that hard to play but there were many layers that had to mesh seamlessly. It required a very accurate, clean performance on 6 string acoustic, 12 string acoustic and 6 string electric guitars.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Tell us about the albums art and what it means. It is very impressive with its image. Whose idea was it to do such a ambitious cover such as yours?

SEAN: Well, we wanted to go in a different direction than "Trigger". Trigger was a cool concept but we didn't want to do the "naked girl" thing again. We'd already done it, why do it twice? Anyway, we wanted to go in a slightly darker more current direction concept wise, something more in tune with the songs and our current frame of mind. I think somewhere along the line Mike McManamon suggested we call the album Branded. From there John Kivel came up with the album cover art concept as you see it now.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: The new bassist Doug Odell came to TNA recently. Now we can hear his playing on new album. Please tell us what was his way like to be accepted to the band?

SEAN: Doug is great. :) He's a nice guy and one hell of a bass player. We were lucky to get him when we did. John Kivel actually got us together. Doug had played bass on a few of Kivel Records previous releases and John thought he would be good for TNA.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: The Mike McManamon's voice is a little similar to the voice of Oni Logan of Lynch Mob.

SEAN: Oni Logan is great and I loved him with Lynch Mob but Mike has a sound all his own. He is a true original. :) His time has come. Be afraid, be very afraid. :)

HARD ROCK SERVICE: ... But Your music in some moments is similar to early Van Halen's albums and... to Winger the band.

SEAN: Right on! You are the first journalist to pick up on the Van Halen connection! I was trying like hell to do a record that captured the energy and sonic blast of the early Van Halen stuff. Not to sound like Eddie so much, (no one else sounds like Edward anyway) but to achieve production values similar to those on say, Van Halen 1. It's all about energy and warmth!

HARD ROCK SERVICE: ... For example there is a guitar working in the Walk Before You Crawl song that sounds like it could be played by Reb Beach. Personally I very like this guitar player and simply I must to ask You: was Reb Your inspiration?

SEAN: Reb is a great player and a nice guy to boot but he wasn't the inspiration for that particular riff. It does sound a little like something he would play though. I appreciate the compliment. :)

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Is there anything surprising for You in the music of other artists after passing years? Is there any modern artist which could be inspiring for You today?

SEAN: The most surprising and inspirational thing in hard rock music today is the new interest in some of the older great bands and the fact that some of them have just kept rocking after all these years! Look at Ronnie James Dio or Motorhead or Iron Maiden. These guys wrote the book and they still kick ass. I'd play for Ronnie James Dio any day. :)

HARD ROCK SERVICE: In the early 90's You had played many concerts with contemporary hairmetal stars like Skid Row, Winger, Kix or Trixter. How do You recall those shows? Is there something special from that era in Your mind that you can share?

SEAN: The thing that was so cool about those days was the energy and the scene. It was genuine. There was a scene back then and not just in LA. NYC had a healthy hard rock/metal scene in those days and Kix was the undeniable heavy weight club champion. :) Those guys could pack em in wherever they played. It was great opening for them at LaMour. One of the best shows we ever did! Winger was a great show as was Skid Row at the Stone Pony. We shared a lot of stages with Trixter over the years. It was kind of a friendly competition in those days as we were all trying to get a record deal. They got signed first and did well. Now it's our turn. :)

HARD ROCK SERVICE: It seems that only bands living in Los Angeles could be "rock stars" in the times when Your band started to play. TNA is from New York. Was this fact disturbing in any mode on Your way to conquer the music market?

SEAN: Not really. Obviously, LA had a better scene but there was enough cooking in New York to keep us busy. Nobody really wanted to move to LA anyway. Have you ever been stuck in rush hour traffic on the Hollywood freeway? In all fairness, it would be nice to be bi-coastal. Live there part of the year, live here part of the year.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Have You any plan to play a few shows in Europe? Maybe some show near to Poland...?

SEAN: We would love to play in Poland! A European tour would be oh so cool! If you've got any booking agent connections let us know! :) See if you can get us an opening slot for Def Leppard. :)

HARD ROCK SERVICE: And now please give some info for guitar players. What is the gear that You used to play? Guitars, amplifiers... Do You use also any special effects?

SEAN: I'm a fan of vintage guitars and amps although I do use a Tech 21 Trademark 60 combo amp for smaller rooms. It's a great little amp, built like a tank, awesome tone. My main amp is a 1969 Marshall 100 Watt Super Lead head and a Marshall 1960 re-issue 4x12 cabinet with 30 watt Celestions which I used on Branded. I also used a 1980 HIWatt DR 504. The Marshall is the shit though I will probably have to come up with a more road worthy rig come tour time. Besides, I'm not crazy about taking my favorite vintage amp on the road. :) I prefer my old Gibson Les Pauls and Flying V's although I love my 85' Charvel and Gretsch 6120. I've also got a 95' sea foam green Fender Strat that rocks! The only effects are a few stomp boxes and a Vox Wah Wah.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: For the end of the interview please tell us what is the meaning of the name TNA?


HARD ROCK SERVICE: Any parting words for our readers?

SEAN: Keep digging the Rock! Don't forget to check out our album! Take care of yourselves! We want to see you at the shows! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Thank You for the interview. We are waiting for third album of TNA.




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