Dennis Ward har varit proffesionell musiker sedan mitten av 80-talet, men det var inte förrän 2005, i Khymera, han ställde sig längst fram i ett band. Ja bandet är väl mer utav ett projekt utav Frontiers men ändå, det är där han är frontfigur. Med nytt album i bagaget, Hold Your Ground, fick The Maloik Rock Blog ett skypesamtal med Dennis.
MW = Mathias Westman
DW = Dennis Ward
MW: Congratulations on a great Khymera album.
DW: Thank you very much
MW: I would like to start by going back a bit to when you did take on as a lead vocalist. At what point in your career did you feel comfortable on take on the lead vocals?
DW: Well actually never. I was always interested in singing and I’d always written music and sang on my own demos for all my bands. But I also have a acute asthma so singing live was always an issue for me as I would run out of breath quickly. So as of about 6 years ago I started getting myself in better shape for being able to sing live and that paid off a lot. And now I can say I feel a bit more like a lead singer but still I consider myself a bass player who happens to sing as well.
MW. In my opinion Khymera really lifted with you on vocals even though your predecessor is a respected singer (first Khymera singer was Steve Walsh) but when you took over as lead vocalist the production also developed more into a more powerful sound. How would you describe that progress?
DW: Well it was a natural progression. At first my thing was only singing and mixing, I did nothing else. The second time I had asked if I could play some bass as well, or was it the third time… After that I got asked by the record company if I would take over the whole production, which I feel really comfortable with because that is kind of my main thing anyway. So because of doing the recordings myself and preparing everything myself I just sort of went the way I would have gone anyway, I’m into more of a powerful sound.
MW: Looking at the spotify streams The Greatest Wonder, released 2008, seems to be the most streamed album to date. What are your thoughts about the older albums?
DW: When it comes to the old stuff The Greatest Wonder is my favorite too. I definitely felt like the songs fit to me well, the songwriting was well done as well. Though I didn’t write on that album.
MW: So the new album, you did some writing?
DW: This Album I did a lot of lyrics and a lot of different adjustments, but the two previous albums I was involved a lot in the songwriting. I was not involved in writing songs for this one because when it comes right down to it there’s things like publishing involved and I would have to give up so many of my publishing rights and I did not feel it worth it. I figured I’ll let somebody else have the glory of the songwriting and change the lyrics, not because I felt like I should write lyrics but mainly because of very bad English and I refuse to sing bad English so I insisted on changing lyrics and I like collaboration. I’ve always worked better with other people when it came to being creative and this time I just took a step back and let someone else do the writing. Besides I’ve got a lot of work to do these days and I literally did not have the time to sit around for a couple months and write songs. Frontiers offered a complete 12-13 songs we picked 11 and I just took it from there.
MW: When did you start to talking about the making a new Khymera album?
DW: It was the beginning of last year I think or at the end of previous year.
We started tracking immediately after the desicion and it went pretty quickly after that. I got the songs, making all the song arrangements, adjustments and preparing all the tracks for the guys to rehearse and get ready. So yeah it went pretty quick after that and I was able to deliver the final master last October or September.
MW: So looking back at the earlier albums, most of them got a song that has named the whole album. But Hold Your Ground ain’t a title on the album. So how come you choosed that album title?
DW: Quite simply, none of us felt that any of these song titles were strong enough for an album title, including the label.
I had just remember one line in one of the songs being hold your ground. And I thought, you know that that sounds pretty demanding and it makes a point so, I thought it looked good, sounded good, and we decided on it right away. That was my first suggestion and the last one as well.
MW: Alright, so there ain’t no no statement or something else you want to put out there.
DW: I don’t really put out statements, period, ever.
DW: I feel when it comes to lyric writing, stuff like that, I want you to sort of get your own opinion of what I’m saying. Figure it out for yourself. Feel free to ask questions, maybe I can give a good answer because I feel I will always have my own meaning to whatever I do. And I think it’s great for the listener to develop their own meaning of what they think. For example when I was very young. The first time I heard Smoke on the Water. I had fantasized about the deep meaning of the song and what they were trying to say to me. I had an a fantastic story in my head so when I eventually read about it being some * fire that burned and there was smoke on the water, I was completely devastated.
Because the originality of it was not there at all, they wrote lyrics about something that happened and it wasn’t deep or anything.I came from listening to stuff like Genesis and Rush and I really liked deep lyrics, so I realized pretty early in my career that maybe it’s a good idea to just to do what I want to do and let other people interpret it. And actually I get a kick out of that because sometimes people come up with a lot, a lot more interesting theories than it actually is. So I think it’s fun for everybody that way.
MW: Yeah, yeah, alright, cool, cool.
So you released 2 singles Firestarter and Hear Me Calling. I would have gone for the first track. Don’t Wait For Her, partly because of its contagious melodies of the first lines in the chorus.
DW: OK, cheers.
MW: But have you been involved in choosing the singles?
DW: Well they, Frontiers said which songs they’d like to go with first, and they offered 3 songs and we decided together and I was fine with it. You know, I’m not much into singles anyway. I realize that some people are and it’s important for the first song to be very much representative of the album. I get it totally, but at the end of the day probably six or seven of the songs could have been the first single without any issue. In my artistic opinion.
MW: I agree. The only track I, well… it sort of got me to raise my eyebrows actually, I mean that in a positive way. The song Runaway because it was more guitar driven. It sounds a bit different.
DW: Yeah, that is the most guitar driven song on the record, and for me, I thought of that song as like an up tempo Bryan Adams number. I actually wanted to keep the keyboards a little low or less, and that song. It was a little bit different from the others, but still it was pretty classic AOR so it fit.
MW: One of the question I wanted to ask you is if one could the estimate how many hours in general you put into a song when recording it?
DW: It’s actually hard to say in hours. I mean, I’ve been doing this professional for, like almost 30 years. Besides being professional musician for almost 40. It’s not very difficult. You know it’s very easy these days. I don’t have to put tapes on machines I don’t have to wait for things to happen. I can do work on my couch in the evening. If I have to I can program keyboards on my laptop. It’s uhm, it’s become very easy once you’ve got a vision. And a good idea of where you want to go with it. I find it to be a very quick process to be honest.
MW: All right. Since I know you’ve been around since like 85-86 or something like that and today it’s lot of work for not that much money because the industry has changed since you started. What’s your opinion on that?
DW: The industry is dead. There is no industry anymore. It’s a, It’s a thing you do because you want to do it. The only money to be made, if there is actual money to be made is a good live show, merchandise, things like that. Maybe getting a YouTube channel going and promoting yourself or through social media, things like that. Things that you didn’t have to worry about in the past, you know it’s a completely different ball game.
However, with Khymera, because it is a project of Frontiers. I don’t really have to worry about all that. You know, it’s not my baby, so to say, you know, I don’t have to think about details and I don’t know If I would even be willing to do something like that again, which I did do about 10 years ago with the Unisonic. That project was a lot of work, a lot of involvement. I had to be around for a lot of things. Had to take lots of stuff into consideration. I had to cut my losses, had to take risks. But right now, because people don’t put value on music anymore, we have to see it like that, they just don’t. Only maybe paying for a ticket for a live show or a T-shirt. That’s the only way to make money with this, and that’s also the reason I won’t spend too much time doing an album like this.
I’ll do it! I’ll do it quickly. I will definitely scrutinize myself and make it to the best of my ability. I’m always self critical.
MW: But as you’ve been around for a while, I guess you built a reputation, but how do you…well in lack of words, keep yourself interesting enough too get jobs or do you think it’s all in what you deliver? Like well… sell your side of the production or how I should put it?
DW: I’m fortunate that I’ve got enough to do. I do a lot of mixing and mastering in my place. I also work part time at a multimedia school, which is also fun because it allows me to connect to people and, you know, do different things and try stuff out which is… You know, I’m a nerd. I enjoy playing around, yeah. I am just happy to be able to do it and sustain my life doing it. That’s for me satisfaction enough. I’m very fortunate. I know a lot of people that have been trying for years and years and haven’t gotten very far or anywhere at all. So I’m just happy that it’s going like it is and I keep it interesting for myself just by enjoying what I do. And uh, as soon as it ever becomes a hassle I will stop.
A bit more about the album. When you put the album together, are you involved in the part of what order songs comes?
Yes, I have a little bit to say in that respect, but, you know, we decided together, that’s never been a real issue when I’m working with the label. You know we get to the point pretty quickly. We seem to be on the same page when it comes to that. Also, when there’s a song that I’m not happy with it all. If they offer a song that I think, sorry guys, this is not gonna work for me. We’ll find something else. So I’ve got my freedom, you know. But I also accept this as a project job and I’m being asked to do a service and I am not the diva artist when it comes to a Khymera.
MW: OK. As a Swede, I feel obligated to ask about the co-writes with the Swedes on the album. Have you been? Well, writing, uh, meeting up with them. On Skype or anything?
DW: Oh no, I don’t even know who wrote what to be honest. I know that there was a lot of people involved. I really don’t know who did what I have no idea and this is where my arrogance comes out. When it comes to me singing something, if I don’t like the lyrics, I’m going to change it. If you don’t like it, I’m not going to use your song. That’s just the end of it. I’m not going to discuss it. I’m not interested in your opinion or you know, I just really do not. If you want to offer something new, please do that. I feel confident enough to do it myself and if it would ever come to a point that I would need help, I might try to get a hold of somebody. But all in all, when I get a demo where everything sounds OK-ish enough that I can work with it. I know how to take an arrangement apart, how to make it start more interesting, end more interesting, maybe change the middle part to make it do something else. I’m very OK with that and I just need to have the what we call the springboard like on the diving ramp. The thing that gets me going. That’s all I need. And once I have that I’m good to from there.
MW: Yeah. OK. OK. And the line up Khymera has today, uh. Most of the guys been around since, 2015. Has it ever been on the table to write as a band?
DW: Yeah, well, we did actually. I mean, the past I’d written stuff with Pete Newdeck and I’d written stuff with a couple of other guys and with Michael Klein, he also offered some material. But like I said, because of the situation with publishing, it’s not in my best interest anymore and it’s not a band, we don’t play live and there’s no reason to meet up and make stuff, you know. It’s simple enough and we have a song that I go, OK? I’m going to take it apart. And I’m going to put it back together and make it work somehow.
And you play the guitar, you do the backing vocals and I give you all your freedom. If I have something I don’t like I’ll tell you that. But yes, do give me an offer and if I don’t like it I’ll say something, we’ll find a way to make it work. Because if we got got into the artsy thing about letting everybody do stuff and discuss and decide it would take forever and when you have a band and you meet regularly. For rehearsals, you can get a lot of stuff accomplished quickly. When you’re work with four or five individuals located all over the world, it’s impossible. And I’m not even going to try. I want to get it done like I said, I want to get it done quickly and good?
MW: You’re into a straightforward communication?
DW: Yes, absolutely. Like I said, this is not nobody’s baby and we don’t have to worry about somebody’s feelings getting hurt or about something not turning out the way they expected it to, it’s not an issue.
MW: No. OK. The label Frontiers, Khymera is sort of like a project on their label. Another project they have is Sunstorm where they replaced original singer Joe Lynn Turner. In my opinion, it would be a blow if they did the same with Khymera. But you seem to be fine as a hired gun.
DW; I’m fine with that, it’s like I said, it’s not my baby. If they want to replace me tomorrow, they have every right and I couldn’t care less. To be totally honest.
MW: Yeah. OK. Another question on you playing live from what I hear from you I guess that would be a no in the future?
DW: Yeah, it would be. I mean it comes down to the logistics of a thing like this Khymera is a small project. There is no way in hell, we could get a decent tour that would make it financeable feasible For everybody to actually exist, you know, we’re not teenagers anymore. Nobody wants to sleep four people in a bedroom and drive in little vans for weeks and, you know, eat hamburgers and french fries three times a day. So it’s simply not an option. And then to play a festival here and there, the logistics to to get a band together that could actually perform these songs live would be such an undertaking that it’s just not worth it, you know.
MW: No. OK.
DW: I’d have to get people from my area because I cannot fly in Eric Ragno from the US and get Michael Kolar, who lives on the other side of Germany. I can’t get him down for here. It’s just too much trouble, you know? So the only way it would work is because Michael Klein lives close enough to me. I’d have to find a drummer and a keyboard player from my area. And then we have to work on the songs for a long amount of time. And maybe play what… I don’t know, five shows or something and then you know it’s comes down to the question for what? And then I would be promoting an album, a project that isn’t even mine, so it’s just doesn’t make sense. You know, I was actually talking to Frontiers at one point about it and there was a kind of a plan that never happened, mainly because of Corona, but now the way things are today. I think the risk factor would be too big.
MW: What holds the next for Dennis Ward?
DW: Well, I’ve got lots of studio work I’m doing right now, I’m mixing some stuff. I’m working with Firewind. I’ve got a couple of songs mixed and we’ll be mixing every month a couple of songs and releasing singles. And I am also working with Angra trying to finish up somehow as soon as possible.
I’m preparing to play a couple of shows, like Oliver Hartman. Again, I helped out because the bass player had a family issue that he had to take care of. And in July, I’ll be playing a couple of shows with Stewart Copeland the drummer.
MW: Oh yeah, from The Police.
DW: And at the moment, that’s those only bigger things. And other than that, lots of studio mixing.
MW: Well, I’m looking forward to hear some of that. So have I missed out asking you something about the new album?
DW: Nothing I can think of, no.
MW: It was a pleasure talking to you. Thank you very much and have a good night.
DW: Thank you too. Take care. Bye bye.
Intervjun gjordes av Mathias Westman.