Shy & Lee Small

Unfortunately Shy’s homonymous album was meant to be the last work of the band. “Shy” is indeed one of the best 3 works of the band ever… not second thoughts about it. Grande Rock had a chat with Lee Small, the vocalist of Shy, about the great guitarist and composer Steve Harris (R.I.P.), Shy’s last album and for Lee’s new second solo album, “Jamaica Inn”, which will be released on January 20th, 2012.
Shy & Lee Small pic

Hi Lee… Thx for taking the time to do this last Shy interview… although the good news was that the band was back with a new album after 6 years… then the really bad news about the loss of Steve Harris came that made the whole music world and the fans sad.

L: It has been a very sad time for us, after coming back with the record we made, to lose someone so special is so hard to come to terms with. Steve was a unique person, so humble, but such talent, he was a genius & is irreplaceable. He has left a great legacy & I think he has gone out on his best work ever, I am so glad to have been a part if it all. No one knew the album would be so greatly received by everyone, so this is a testament to the great man.


Those 6 years till the release of the album were kind of weird for the band. I mean you had some “come & go”… the line-up wasn’t stable. That maybe was the reason why the band hadn’t started recording or writing anything…

L: Yes, it was unstable, I was in, then out again due to my own commitments really, but we had started working on this in 2007, it just got really messy for a while, just glad we all pulled together in the end to get this out as for a time I feared it would never see the light of day.


So, when the final decision was taken and the line-up became steady… did Steve begin the writing sessions for the album or had some songs ready beforehand?

L: Steve had been working on these songs for a while & presented us all with the demos in Jan 2007 & we started recording the first wave around March the same year.


Were you asked to write the lyrics for the new album or you had lyrics “in stock”?

L: Yes, everything was fresh & written especially for the album, I don’t keep “old stock” although I used to in my early days, I don’t think you get the right vibe trying to “mix n’ match” old re-hashed stuff.


How was your co-operation with Steve during the writing sessions in the studio while you were recording the album? Did all the guys make you feel like a part of the team right away? That’s always very helpful for a new member, right?

L: Steve & I hit it off from day one, we really struck up a bond, both had so much in common, I loved working with him, he gave me great support & never missed a session I did on the album, until he became too ill to attend.


What are the best moments you can recall during the recording of the album?

L: All of it really, I had a blast & really enjoyed the challenge of finding the right side of me to suit the band.


Were you aware of Steve’s health when you were in the studio recording the album? Was it something that held the whole project back?

L: Not initially, no one was, he had recorded his parts before he got ill, but when he was diagnosed it bought a unity within the band & gave us all the kick up the behind to get this finished, we were indeed a “Union of Souls”.


I do not know if there had been any discussion with Steve… but it seems that he truly wanted to record and release a new album… he had lost valuable time the previous years… so maybe he was feeling that he had to do it…

L: I know this album meant everything to him, he had put so much time & effort into it & his best work to date, I personally think so anyway. He wanted to see this out & I am glad he managed to do so, I just wished he knew how much his music meant to everyone out there. (i.n.: Me too… gratefully his music will live forever and ever...)


Did Steve decide to name the album “Shy” and the cover to be black? I believe that this is indeed Shy’s most gloomy album… what do you think?

L: I think it was Roy’s Idea to call it simply “Shy”. It looks classic, well gloomy?, It wasn’t the best of times with what was going on behind the scene, all of us knowing how ill Steve was, I don’t think it was a conscious thing to do, but looking at things now, it is fitting as the band are in mourning for SH & it is the last one.


Since you have written most of the lyrics, please tell us a few things about each one of the songs.

L: Most of the lyrics I write I hope connect with people around the globe in every walk of life, everyone has problems in life & love so most people can reflect on some of these songs in some way.

Others like “Land of a Thousand Lies” is about Terrorism, “Blood on the Line” was about Bram Stoker’s Dracula, “Pray” was about a conversation I had with a lovely old lady reflecting on her life & WWII, as for “Only the Night” & “Over you”, Steve wrote those lyrics, he was also a great lyricist.


The production of the album is probably the best that Shy ever had. I know that the songs were recorded in Sable rose Studios at Coventry by Andy Faulkner, and at Arkham recording Studios at Birmingham by Alex Cooper. The production was done by the band along with Andy and Alex. Tell us a few things about it? Did you have a specific sound in mind at that time? You had also chosen not to do a mastering at the album… I think that it was unnecessary… but who suggested it?

L: Andy & Alex both did the recording & Alex worked so hard on the pre-production, but we got Simon Hanhart in to produce the album & he did a fantastic job.


Ian Richardson played some guitars on the album. In which songs? Why did he leave the band?

L: Ian is a great guitar player & guy, I am not sure exactly what he played as I was not there on the sessions, but played a lot of rhythm tracks, I think he left due to his own personal reasons.


Steve and the other guys have chosen you in order to replace Tony Mills. They actually didn’t want a Tony clone for the vocals and that decision was quite risky… meaning that the fans value each singer’s distinctive voice… so changes in this field are not always welcomed. But Steve and the guys have made the best choice according to my opinion.

L: Thank you so much, I don’t think it would have worked going for a clone, in the end of the day, you have to compliment the “Shy sound”. I think although our voices are so different, we both managed to do just that in our own way.


Did Steve have your voice in mind when he started writing the songs of the album? This album differs (it’s darker and heavier) from the other works of the band and your voice fits perfectly…

L: I think he did, he wrote the majority of those with me in mind.


You are totally blessed to have had the chance to play, tour and record with a guy like Steve Harris… he will be missed… ‘cause he was a great composer and guitarist but also a great man. What are the last things that you remember from Steve… I bet that you haven’t realized it yet…

L: The biggest honour was to be regarded as a close friend of his, I feel blessed indeed, there will never be another Steve Harris… (i.n.: I totally agree with that… Steve will be missed by everyone…)


Honestly, do you believe that “Shy” is the best album you have participated in till now? Which are your 3 beloved songs from it?

L: Yes I believe so, I have gotta say “Pray”, “Breathe” & “Only the Night” but I love them all! (i.n.: I know it’s hard to choose… there are so many great songs on this album...)


Were you surprised by the reactions of the fans and the press for this album? Did you expecting it?

L: I was really surprised, we knew it was a good record, but I think we have all been taken back how well it has been received.


Let’s change the subject… Tell us a few things about your solo album… when did you first get the idea of releasing a solo album? Did you include only new songs on it or you also had some old songs you re-recorded and featured on the album?

L: This is the second Solo record I have put out, the first one was “Through the eyes of Robert Lees” back in 2008. This one was a change of direction, all the songs were new & written & recorded this year.


Why did you name it “Jamaica Inn”?

L: Because of the concept I named it after the classic Novel.


Who made the artwork of the album and how it is connected with the music and the lyrics?

L: Richard Jones did all the artwork, he has done a fantastic job & reflects the whole concept of the Smuggler/Highway man thing!


When did you start recording it? You’ve also played the bass and some guitars on the album… how so? Tell us some things about the musicians (the guitarists Carl Anthony Wright, Des Sherwood, the bassist Paul Bradder and the drummer Imre Daun) that are participating in the album.

L: I started recording it around March 2011, it features some great musicians, Carl Anthony Wright, a fantastic guitarist & good friend of mine who has been working with Tom Galley of late, also Des Sherwood, another great player & friend who once was called by Ozzy Osbourne to replace Zakk Wylde!, also Paul Bradder on keys from Saracen & Martin Kronlund & Imre Daun from Gypsy Rose.


Also, tell us a few things about the guest musicians: Martin Kronlund: Guitars (Gypsy Rose); Imre Daun: Drums (Don Patrol, Gypsy Rose); Paul Bradder: Keyboards (Saracen). How did it happen to cooperate with these musicians?

L: They were all recommended to me via Escape Music, my record label.


Where “Jamaica Inn” was recorded and who is responsible for the mixing, the production and the mastering of the album? Did you contribute in any way?

L: “Jamaica Inn” was recorded at Leylands Tank in the U.K & got produced, mixed & mastered at JM Studios in Sweden by Martin Kronlund...


What are your next plans? What do you have in mind? Going on as a solo artist or as a part of a known band?

L: I have a few things in the pipe line, I feature on the new Phenomena album “The Awakening” out in 2012, so was nice to re visit my association with Tom but as for the rest, Watch this space!


How do you see the future of rock music? Can it gain its 70s-80s glory or times now are nowhere close to that era?

L: I don’t think we will see the likes of those glory days again… (i.n.: I like to be optimistic but things are really hard nowadays…)


I believe that quality is what our music is missing on this time period. Everything is so similar and so easy-going that most of the fans are truly confused. Which is this “force” that will bring things back to what they used to be… to a time period that music was art…?

L: In the old days, every band had its own sound, that is what is missing today, all the new emo/rock bands could be the same band, they all sound the same & use the same formula. (i.n.: Yeah… that’s so true…)


Do you believe that the internet has given a helping hand to the bands… or it has caused them problems? Some bands have decided to call it quits due to downloading problems. What do you think of that situation?

L: Illegal downloads are a big problem, taking food out our mouths, it effects everything especially sales... But yet the internet is great for other things like promotion…


And a few weird Questions now!!! Which are the things that piss you off from today’s music industry?

L: Financially labels can’t promote & back you like the old days due to the state of the world & the recession. The music industry is in decline, a lot to do with the previous question.


Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music, which album would it be and from which band/artist?

L: Kansas, “Leftoverture”.


What would you tell to someone to convince him to buy your album instead of hundreds others that are being released every month?

L: I have no idea lol, just that it is made with heart n soul & with a lotta love …


What would you do, if you had supernatural power?

L: Getting some tips from the greats!


What do you think about the International financial crisis? The rich is getting richer and the poor is getting poorer… but for how long?

L:  I can’t see things improving for a long time to come…


Imagine that your girlfriend is selling your whole album-collection just to buy for herself an expensive ring. How would you react?

L: I would say, “It’s cold sleeping in the Garage this time of year”! (i.n.: Hehehe good one…)


Those were my questions Lee. Thanks very much for everything, please leave a note to Grande Rock readers… Take care!

L: You are welcome, to all the readers, Keep supporting Grande Rock & Music in general, thanks for your support! (i.n.: Thank you dude… for everything!)