Surrender

As I have said numerous times before, I love independent releases. Sometimes you can listen to a fantastic album that a group of guys worked hard to produce and they truly loved it. Surrender’s one and only album is precious for all the lovers and the collectors of melodic rock/AOR music. The band re-released it with the addition of three bonus tracks after 14 years. The drummer of the original line-up and the person who is responsible for the re-release of the album talked honestly to Grande-Rock.com about the band, the problems they faced through the years and in general he told us the story behind this album. Read below for more...
Surrender band pic

Hi Kenny... thx for re-releasing your debut album with the addition of three unreleased songs. It was a very smart move for all the fans out there...
 
K: Thanks, Thanos. I wanted to give our beautiful, beautiful fans their money’s worth, and these were 3 good songs that were appropriate for this release. Plus, they get to decide for themselves whether the whole analog vs. digital controversy in the record industry is worth the breath expended. We recorded a lot of songs with Eric, but they’re not, well... Surrender songs, as in this vein, with Surrender production values, so there was no point in going further into the vault.
 
 
Let me take you to the late 80’s to ask you some things. You wrote and recorded your self-titled album between 1987 and 1989 and finally the album was self-released in 1991. Were you trying to find a record label all this time to release it or you just felt this was the right time to release it?
 
K: Here’s a good story: Michael had a friend who brokered a listening meeting on our behalf with the VP of Rock A&R at Atlantic Records. Michael went with a portable DAT machine and a DAT tape of three songs that were in the can, and he proceeded to rewire the guys’ audio system so, that he could hear it. I don’t know which impressed the guy more, the system repatch, or the songs, but Michael walked out with a check for a few grand and a commitment to deliver another two songs in 2 weeks. And we did. And nothing happened. But, as we were able to lock out the studio and work day and night for two weeks, and squeeze in a good portion of another tune, as well, I remember thinking how good life could be if we had a REAL deal and could work on the tunes every day... We might finish in a year (laughs)!
 
 
So, what did you expect to happen after the release of the album? I mean that the feedback was pretty good but rock music in general was about to be ruined ‘cause grunge music was on the way. Hard times to make a record deal huh?
 
K: We thought we could not be refused. Who could pass on such a classic... I don’t remember what we thought, to be honest, because we hadn’t given it that much thought. We just did it. Here’s another example of life with Surrender, circa 1990. We sent a copy to Epic records, and a sweet English fellow called us back immediately, and he was pumped. We started to get things in motion for an L.A. label showcase, with backing, and we had some really good musicians lined up to flesh out the “band”, which was basically only two players on the recording. He called back apologetically about 3 weeks later, and informed us that he and his entire staff had been cast out on their butts, and that he’d contact us again when he’d landed on his feet. Get the picture? (i.n.: Sure dude… that’s what I call ridiculous people in the music industry!)
 
 
Then you called it a day till... 2005 when a fan of the band informed you about the interest that people had in Surrender... was that enough to make you contact the guys from the band and decide to re-release the album?
 
K: Honestly, yes. The whole thing came from such an incredible place that it was, and still is, unreal, and I could not refuse, since it came to my door. And I still love the purity of it, just this record, and the fans and the press, no other machinery. The guys were floored, each in his own way, but everybody has his own life, and, apart from Michael’s effort on the re-mastering, I did this myself, with some very powerful assistance from forces I still don’t quite understand. I felt it was down to me this time, to get it as right as I could and honor the opportunity.
 
 
Why did you decide to name the album “Better Later Than Never”? Do you feel that so many years were lost in vain for the band? By the way, do you know who said that quote “Better Late Than Never” and what for?
 
K: Well, it’s “Better Later Than Never”, and it’s a pun on the bizarre story of this record, and also on the titles of tracks 1 and 8. The expression “better late than never” originated with the Polish peasantry, and dates back to the 17th century, I believe. (i.n: Nope dude… “better late than never” was said by Socrates sometime in the 4th century BC.)
 
 
Listening to your own songs again after all those years and while you were re-mastering them what do you now think of them? Do you like them as you used to? Do you think that the band deserved something better back then? Now it is like you are having a second chance again, right?
 
K: The record sounds great, gets to people like a drug, and seems to fill a void in their musical listening lives. It was good then, and I think it sounds better now. I’m not a coulda woulda shoulda dude; life’s been great to me, and the fact that people actually gave a shit about us and this music, people from all over the planet, for all of these years, is spiritually rewarding in a way you can’t imagine, just priceless. It’s ironic to me that this record, which contains tunes that are anywhere from 15-20 years old, with a glossy sheen to it, is a beneficiary of the Internet, and an underground thing. Bless the sense of humor of the Cosmos.
 
 
I do not know if you have talked about the songs all those years but I want you to tell me a few things about them...
 
K: With pleasure... it takes me back.
 
“Never”: Frank wrote the melody and the lyrics, and gave us a co-write after we Surrenderized it. The “dah-dah-dah” guitar double stops are actually recorded on the individual strings separately, and then triple tracked for extra phatnuss. We used that technique on “Nikki” and “Little Asia” as well.
 
“Claire”: There are two Claires. Claire 1 was my Aunt, who passed away during the recording of Surrender, and she’s honored in the dedication. Claire 2 was a tall, beautiful and immensely gifted clarinetist, with whom I had a tempestuous physical and emotional relationship that ended disastrously. She’s the song. This is for you ladies, wherever you are.
 
“Sunrise Goodbye”: Another marriage down the toilet. Mine, unfortunately.
 
“Nikki”: The a cappella intro and outro is basically 22 tracks of Frankie, sampled and mapped over the length of a midi keyboard. The “round” is me fooling around at 2 AM , but heads started popping in the studio door, as in “whahtthefuckizzat?Iluvit!Whoizzit?”. So that’s what you hear on the record.
 
“Feel The Burn”: A former publisher pitched this tune in its original version, “Feelin’ You” to some name brand R&B female vocalists, all of whom passed on it. Frankie and Michael asked me to Surrenderize it, and I did. Rewrote the lyrics for my girl, who’s now my wife.
 
“Last Time I Say Goodbye”: We always tracked the bass last. We finished this at 1 AM, July 4tth, made a cassette, bought a 6-pack, lowered the sun-roof, and drove around NYC laughing our asses off in sheer joy, listening. Whatever happened, this was a good one.
 
“One Tough City”: Paul McKasty was a genius and a sweetheart, way ahead of his time. He was brutally murdered, and this is his song. Michael’s atmospheric guitar and fretless bass work is just art itself, and my eyes still well up with tears when I hear this song.
 
“Later”: Another relationship going south. I like the break down section a lot.
 
“Thought You Should Know”: The first song we recorded as a band. Note kitchen sink production. I have no idea how we were able to mix this, but we had an excellent time recording it.
 
“Carrie”: Originally entitled “Sonya”, a progressive song with multiple time signatures and no commercial potential. We were invited to submit a song for a feature film, and again, I was asked to jazz it up, and give it that pop feel! Frank’s performance is just awesome, whether or not you like songs like this.
 
“A New Game”: Eric’s performance is great. Baby’s first all-digital recording. This is one of my favorite songs, but the fans hate it. It’s not quite Surrenderized, I guess.
 
“Little Asia ”: Based on a story I did read in a magazine, and quite a dramatic one at that. Again, Eric’s performance is marvelous.
 
 
As I know and many others as well... the original album was being sold on the net for astronomical amounts... was it another reason that made you wanna re-release the album? Do you think it is right for someone to pay such amounts in order to get your record or any record?
 
K: Collectors are people I don’t understand. I was initially outraged, but once the whole mentality was explained to me, I stopped caring. It’s all about rarity, and little else. The bootlegging was what I didn’t appreciate, and that was something I could do something about. So I did.
 
 
Well... let’s return to now. How did the other guys from the band feel when you contacted them and you told them that you should re-release your debut album? Did you surprise them by saying that people are still interested in Surrender?
 
K: Everybody got the numb+buzz+shivers feeling you get from this level of unreality. We are in our own little movie. And I honestly think that was about it. We’re on way separate paths. That is life.
 
 
Do you have in mind to release the album through a major or independent label this time? Do you want to have the total control of you work again?
 
K: This is very cool for me as it is, and I want to see how far it goes in the purity of the Artist/Fans/Press relationship that this release has going for it. I’m really enjoying that. It’s personal. It’s uncontaminated, and it’s real in a way I don’t want to mess with, right now. It’s a no lose situation, for me, anyway. That being said, if I think the distribution I’m able to access is not adequate, I’ll look for broader distribution. This market is pretty small, to tell you the truth. But, it is a special record, and I made a pact with the universe that I’d give it the best shot I could.
 
 
So, allow me to ask you a very vital question. Is the band active again? Do you intend to release any new material sooner or later? And if yes, will it be with the first singer Frank Siccoli? Do you have any label in mind that you want to co-operate with? Many fans of the band want to know what will be the next step of Surrender.
 
K: No, the three guys that made this record are not in real contact with each other, as of now. If there is another Surrender record, Frank is the voice of Surrender, and it would have to involve him, let’s face it, because he has a beautiful voice. Michael played the superb guitars and basses, and twiddled those console knobs, so any Surrender recording is basically branded by those two killer talents. We’ll see.
 
On the other hand, I’ve never stopped writing and producing music all these years, and I had a project in the works I’ll complete either way, with the working title of True Companion, that I had to put on hold in order to launch “Better Later Than Never”. It’s a collection featuring the crafted songs and harmonies associated with Surrender, but sounding like it’s been recorded 50 years from now, and stylistically much more diverse, which is how rock music should be. We’ll keep things updated on our website.

 
 
And some weird questions now to relax somehow!!! Which are the top 5 rock albums of all time according to you and why?
 
K: ELP - “Brain Salad Surgery”. They shot their wad on this one. Three musicians in their absolute prime, intelligent lyrics and Mr. Eddie Offord getting it all on tape.
 
Saga – “Worlds Apart”. The record that defined the way 80’s rock was gonna sound like. Great musicians, good songs, intoxicating mixes.
 
Zappa/Mothers - “Overnite Sensation”. The Great One making an accessible, humorous, and Hot-sounding record with great players and unbelievable intelligence lyrically and in the production.
 
Tears For Fears – “Songs from the Big Chair”. Incredible songs, incredible feel, incredible sound. Chris Hughes is the most underrated producer on our planet. Hope he’s OK.
 
Slipknot – “IOWA”. The first time I listened to this record I didn’t move until it was over, and I then discovered a small pool of drool on my shorts. Passionate performances, uncompromising attitude, and underneath it all a real strong and perverse pop sensibility. 9 honest guys from America ’s Heartland.

 
 
If you were obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that which would represent the whole human music... which album would it be and from which band?
 
K: Sorry, there isn’t one. I’d sure as hell invite the extraterrestrial over for dinner and drinks, though.
 
 
Do you believe that rock music is on its rise again?
 
K: Has it really fallen? Seriously, there’s no shortage of good music out there. You just need to hang out with sophisto 20 and 30 somethings to get clued to it.
 
 
Which are the things that piss you off from today’s music industry?
 
K: Don’t kid yourself, nothing’s changed. If anything, there are more avenues for independent distribution and music production than ever before. Sorry, I’m chronically happy and optimistic.
 
 
Do you prefer the 80’s era of music or not?
 
K: Not. Good music is basically timeless, and as a writer I’m a generally eclectic music listener. It’s a sobering thought that in many ways my biggest influence, as a composer of intricate harmonies, is in fact the Ink Spots, an American vocal group from the 40’s and 50’s. They Rock! Check ‘em out. Besides, don’t forget 80’s Synth-Pop. Classy stuff! (Laughs)...
 
 
Do you believe that it is easier for a band to differ in today’s music industry than in the past? And if yes, what shall it do in order to achieve it?
 
K: I’m the last guy that should be giving career guidance.(Laughs). The same verities still apply: Music is both Art and Craft, and any artist or band that is the real deal will study and expand on both aspects, with passion. Most of the reward lies in the sheer pleasure of the work itself.
 
 
Which is the most overrated band today?
 
K: Please, Thanos. I’m a positive guy. I don’t wanna diss. There’s enough negativity in the world. It’s my purpose in life to heal, and appeal to the better part of the human spirit. I don’t want to hurt anybody.
 
 
Which band do you consider that can take a leading part in rock music in the future?
 
K: Spymobb, The Mars Volta, Henry Maldonado’s Son of Sound, Kenny Hamberg’s True Companion, Corey Taylor... ya never know.
 
 
Imagine that your wife is selling your whole album-collection just to buy an expensive ring for herself. How would you react? laugh
 
K: (Laughs) Dude, my wife’s record collection smokes mine in variety and eclecticism. She was an FM Disc Jockey for years. Plus, I hooked her up with a Mad Gorgeous ring last year in celebration of our 10th anniversary, so the finger action’s covered. (Laughs again)!!!
 
 
Is there something you would like to say, but I didn’t ask??
 
K: No, this has been great, Thanos, and I thank you! I would like to say this: There have been a lot of people in the press and radio that have been unbelievably kind and generous with their time, information and support, way too many to mention here... my heart is full. These people believe in this record, and they’d really like people to know about it and see it succeed. How cool is that?
 
And then I have to thank the fans, again; they’re unbelievable! This whole thing has been based on people I’ve never seen, from all over the world, who get off on this record, and tell me about it via e-mail. I’m a music fan, and I never wrote a fan letter in my life, or even thought about it, and I probably should have. This tells me that the pure power of music is transcendent and cross-cultural, and that people use it, this music, the most abstract of the arts, to bring themselves a bit of visceral, concrete... joy, energy, escape – and they feel better for it. It’s an honor, to feel that affection coming off of a computer screen!

 
 
All my best wishes for the future Kenny! Thx for being so kind! Leave a message to Grande Rock readers for the end...
 
K: Cheers, guys, thanks for reading, and if you love life, life will love you right back!