Frank Russell tells about Lee Aaron’s Metal Queen album – Part II
How and when was the band signed by Attic Records? Was it a bigger label than Freedom Records?
I can’t say for sure how or when Lee was actually signed by Attic Records so I will have to reserve comment on this but Attic was a much larger label than Freedom Records, yes.
You worked on the new Lee Aaron material at the Phase One Studios in Toronto with producer Paul Gross. How were the songs written? Did you also take part in the songwriting?
All the songs that were recorded for the Metal Queen album were written on the road basically, while touring across Canada. We would rehearse in some of the clubs we played going across and would write them in hotel rooms. We went over arrangements in the rooms and the ideas for songs as well. I believe George whom I am still in contact with, was the only one that recognized that, I in fact helped to write the songs as they appear on the record. I did not sing on any of the songs though. At the time I had not discovered that I could actually…lol, so it was the guys and of course Lee, that did all the singing.
How did the recording sessions go?
How did the sessions go?….Hmmm…..well, from where I was sitting, I thought they went pretty good. I can recall a couple of times I’m glad I had a lot of hair though. For example, while recording Deceiver there was that tricky little turn where it goes to the upbeat followed by three shots which for whatever reason was giving me a problem. I stopped the session and stepped off and went to the loading bays and closed the door… I then let loose a frustrated and very loud scream like „aaaaaaaaaagghhh” and then composed myself, went back to my booth, sat down and said, something like, „okay….lets do this”, and finally nailed it. For the life of me though, I had no idea why that little part gave me such a hard time.
I really liked recording Breakdown and was one of my favorite songs. I just really liked the groove in it and how it felt when I was playing it. It was reminding me of a Led Zeppelin tune at the time we were recording it, not that I was trying to sound like John Bonham by any stretch, but I just liked it with respect to his playing. As for the other songs, I thought they all went really good and I didn’t hear any major complaints from the guys or from Lee, so I felt pretty confident about the tracks.
Did you get a decent budget from the label?
With regard to the budget from the label… I had no idea and still don’t…hahaha.
Was Lee Aaron’s second offering much improved than the first one?
The bands second record was in my opinion a little more on the commercial side though still rocky and the production might have been a little better as well to reinforce it.
In your opinion, did she possessed a very strong voice and a rugged tone and the band sounded tight and professional?
With regard to Lee’s voice, she definitely had strong voice, though I thought the material we were covering was really testing her range and durability and for sure had a more „rugged” tone. I definitely thought the band was tight and thought we carried ourselves very professionally. We would normally play two hour shows a night and I would play two drum solos as well.
In Quebec we played longer and I recall playing three drum solos in a night there. I found this to be a bit of a challenge trying to keep three solos sounding different enough so I wasn’t playing the same one three times… That was fun…lol.
How do you view that some parts of the tracks have the hard rock style, with full of backing vocals, while others are more metal?
For the most part I think the Metal Queen record stayed pretty consistent with regard to overall sound. There are parts that I think sound more metal than others. The best example of this would be Deceiver which is definitely more metal for sure. The rest of the record can certainly be classed as more hard rock in my opinion.
Did the guitars definitely have the metal sound: very razor, aggressive, loud, clean sound?
Both John and George had the most amazing racks for their guitars that they could make them sound like anything I think. Easily making them sound metal, very clean, and as you say „razor” and definitely aggressive, and most certainly „loud and clean”. They also sounded very „produced” if you know what I mean, and I just loved it when the two of them would play harmony solos. To this day it’s one of my favorite things to hear from two guitar players, and John and George did it so well together.
The title track is by far the strongest song on the album, as well as the heaviest sounding, Lady of the Darkness Night and the catchy Shake It Up are minor highlights. Do you agree with it?
The title track I believe should be the strongest track and on this record this is no exception. Not only did she become known as The Metal Queen, but the song itself became a signature song for her. Shake It Up was our little attempt at the time to put down disco music, in a heavier, rocky sort of manner. It was a pretty catchy number though and went over better than we thought it might… Lady of the Darkest Night, I thought was a good song though secondary to Metal Queen. Hold Out was enjoyable to play as well. Steal Away Your Love was a pretty heavy song with regard to the lyric and the music, and from my recall, meant a great deal to Lee herself. Head Above Water, Got To Be the One, and We Will Be Rockin, were all fun to play. The entire record was a most enjoyable experience to record and to listen to. To play all the songs live was fun and I believe by everyone.
Is it an enjoyable album?
I think I just answered this question, but yes, I think it is an enjoyable album. I think everyone played great parts for their respective instruments and I hope that what I played on this record was seen as interesting and helped to make the overall sound of each song better, or at least listenable, to the people that bought it or heard it.
Three singles (Metal Queen, Shake It Up and We Will Be Rockin) was released from the album. Did they help a lot to expand Lee Aaron’s fanbase or to make the band’s name bigger?
Those three singles from the record I’m sure helped a great deal to expand Lee’s fanbase. She got lots of radio play and did a lot of interviews which of course is never a bad thing. I think those three songs were the ones chosen because they were the easiest to take. A few of the others might have been too much for the listeners to deal with and possibly could have been too controversial…like Steal Away Your Love maybe, which dealt with rape. I would have liked to have heard Deceiver or Breakdown myself, but that’s just me.
Both those songs were the ones I like the most I guess you could say. There is no question that the songs chosen to be played though, certainly helped expand her fan base and I am really happy for her. The name „Lee Aaron” is well known in Canada and draws a crowd when she plays any shows. She come back to Toronto to play and when she does, the place is usually full, so I would have to say the bands name is still quite big. She is a great person off stage and was quite a hoot with a great sense of humour and I gotta say that I truly enjoyed playing in her band and all the guys were great as well. I still stay in touch with George and he was kind enough to invite me to show he was doing in Niagara Falls a while ago and it was so good to see him. He still plays as great as he always had in The Lee Aaron Band. I wish them all continued success with whatever projects they are involved with.
What were the shows in support of the album? Can you tell us more about it?
The only shows that I can think of that were in support for the album, were the ones going across Canada while writing and playing them as they became completed and of course the Reading Festival and any shows after the time I left that I am not familiar with.
Was Lee Aaron obviously a promising metal vocalist at the time?
Lee Aaron was certainly a promising up and coming metal vocalist and front person at the time or I don’t believe Attic would have signed her. She had stage presence and was good with the crowd she was playing to as in being personable enough to garner a good following of fans not to mention she is a good looking woman as well.
Why and when did you leave The Lee Aaron Band?
As I have mentioned earlier, I left the band after the Reading Festival and returning to Canada and finding out I had been replaced by Attila Demjen. They, or at least Bob thought I looked too old at the time for the overall image he was after apparently. I was not aware or was not told that everyone thought I was too old. George actually told me that he felt bad about how that all went down and that at least, gave me a good feeling, that was not lost on the image thing.
What have you done after it?
As for what I have done post Lee Aaron, well that entails several years and several bands. I guess the most enduring would be a band called Ten Mile Drive which was together for 11 or 12 years. I have played in a power trio called Animal Instinct with an amazing guitar player David Fisher and a high octane bass player named Rod Cobal. Both of whom I stay in touch with and have plans to record with. I currently play in two regular bands and have just recently reunited with some friends in a band called Jamdoctors. I have played in a Jethro Tull tribute band called Cross Eyed Mary and a Heart tribute band named Heartless. I was also asked to teach at a music store for several months by a friend of mine until I finally agreed to and taught for 12 or 13 years while playing in three bands, so I have been fortunate enough to remain busy. I am also writing an instructional book for the beginner and intermediate levels of drumming.
Did you follow the career of The Lee Aaron Band later on and what’s going on in the metal scene respectively?
As for following her career, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it following, but I do hear of her doing the odd gig around the Toronto area, and when I can, I will go to the gig and say hello and touch base with her. She resides in Vancouver these days and it is difficult to stay in touch as I am busy writing and recording and playing gigs etc. The metal scene here is still alive and still draws though I don’t see it as vibrant as it once was. I am now more into writing my own stuff and recording that, but I don’t know if I would label it metal as such.
There seems to be a great number of tribute bands around here now, which seems to have taken over the local scene, and a few of them are metal, but I do not see to many original metal bands coming out these days, at least from this area.
Frank, thanks a lot for your answers! How would you end this feature?
I hope you find my answers useful and interesting enough to use for your article. Please feel free to edit out anything that you may deem to be not useful or applicable to your purpose. It was a test of my memory to recall a lot of this and if I find out or recall anything else I will send it along to you. Thank you for allowing me this time with you David… Cheers to you all!