Fireworks Magazine Online 76 - Interview with Tyketto


Interview by Ant Heeks

In 1991 New York's Tyketto released their debut album 'Don't Come Easy', an album that is rightly regarded as a classic within the Melodic Rock genre. 25 years later the band are stronger than ever, playing to ever larger audiences on each subsequent tour since their reformation in 2004, while also becoming a regular addition to the Festival circuit, including the Monsters Of Rock cruises. The amazing new album 'Reach'* is their first with the revamped line-up that sees original members Danny Vaughn (vocals) and Michael Clayton Arbeeny (drums) joined by the English trio of guitarist Chris Green, keyboardist Ged Rylands and bassist Chris Childs. With our very own Ant Heeks one of the first people outside of the band and Record Label to hear the album, Fireworks got in touch with Danny Vaughn to get the vocalist's initial views on the best thing to bear the Tyketto name since that mighty debut...


After you had just completed the recording, some of you took to social media to express your excitement about the album, even proclaiming that it could be the best thing you've ever recorded. Now that initial euphoria has died down, do you still feel the same way?

Yeah, there's no doubt! There's this crazy love affair going on where everything in the last two years of this band has been guided by really benign fates that's been helping us. And that goes from Brooke (St. James, original guitarist) not wanting to do this anymore. Do we want to keep doing this? Well, yeah, we really do! Right, guitar players... then Danny says "I know a guy!" So we get talking, and Chris Green slips into place so beautifully, and it's not just that he's a remarkable guitarist but it's also who he is and how he relates to us. Then Jimi Kennedy's life gets a little more complicated and he's not able to come over to Europe anymore and do tours, and wow, that's an easy call for me because I'm working with the best bass player in the UK all the time, but you don't know how that's going to work out as far as internally speaking, but as I said, it's a love affair! Chris Childs walks away from playing with Mike going "I can't believe this, I always knew he was good but I had no idea what we were capable of together!" And that's what came out of this, everybody's game just went up so high on this album, it doesn't matter which song it is, it doesn't matter when, if I focus on the bass I'm going "listen to what that bass is doing, listen to how amazing that is!" If I focus on the guitar, I feel the same thing, it's all exciting to listen to. That's a long-winded yes in answer to your question!

Do you think that going in to record it directly after a successful tour helped to keep the energy levels high?

Yes, that was absolutely the plan, everything that we conceived of doing has been gifted to us by lucky fates, and that was part of it. The idea for the shows came up, and on the previous tour when we played Steelhouse Festival we had been talking about it. The budgets for these albums are not very high and there's always the consideration of what do you want to do and what can you afford to do. Of course, what you want to do is do an album the way you used to do them. Rather than everybody in their own home studios doing their thing you want to be in a proper live-in facility where you're in there all day sweating it out, knocking the songs around; that's not very financially likely, or so we thought. But Chris Childs had just come out from doing some stuff at Rockfield Studios and he said we really ought to consider it. We were like "Chris, how are we going to afford that?" but he said, "You might be surprised, let's go and have a look and talk to the people there." We had a day off before we did Steelhouse and it's so close, so we took a drive there and met Nick Bryan, and of course that studio has massive history for me, that's where Waysted started, that's where we did the demos for 'Don't Come Easy', so it was quite surreal to be there 28 years later! This is the oldest recording facility in the world, there's microphones in there that haven't worked since 1970-something, there's gear all over the place, like all this vintage stuff that nobody has anymore, in this old Welsh farmhouse and it's just brilliant! And it all fell into place, and thank goodness the studio was really accommodating to our budget and I'm hoping that will encourage more bands to spend their budget wisely on their recordings, because the sound on this album? It doesn't sound like what it cost, I can tell you that! Every band's different, I know quite a few bands who when they get their budget they pocket a little bit and do most of the work at their home studio; it's an understandable technique, you've got to make things work somehow. But consequently you don't get many albums that sound as good as 'Don't Come Easy' did, but that cost a hundred and fifty grand to make! This album doesn't have anywhere near that budget but sonically it's just as impressive.

I think there is such a good balance of songs on there with some of the heaviest songs you've ever recorded along with the more familiar Tyketto sound.

Oh good, I'm glad to hear that. My opinion is the least of what matters. I'm the person who did it, it's the people who live with it, their opinions matter much more. But I don't hear any filler, that's what I've been telling everybody. The writing process was very different. One thing that was really challenging, and purposely so, it's the first album that Michael and I have done after all these years together where I said to him, "We've always done it where Brooke creates a riff or I come at you with some acoustic guitar and a melody and we build from there, so why have we never built anything from the drums? Get in your studio, start playing stuff, give me rhythms and patterns that excite you, that make you want to sit down and play drums." So he would just send drum patterns to Chris Green and if Chris was struck by them he would run into his studio and within an hour he would have music with it! We've never done anything like that, it's a brand new process – that was the gauntlet I threw down to Michael and obviously he more than excelled at it! There were some songs that were done the other way, that came from me or Chris, and I think there's a really good blend of that. Like 'Big Money', I didn't really know where we were going with that. I often found myself asking, "Is this a Tyketto song?" But I knew it was a good song so I thought I would pursue it.

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And I think you've surpassed yourself with the ballads 'Scream' and 'Letting Go'.

They're both good stories to those songs. 'Scream' is the only song on the album that's a co-write with an outside writer, which is not something we do very often. When we were first putting stuff together, a friend of Michael's named J3 contacted him and said, "I've got a song that I always felt would work for you." He sent us the original version which was a song called 'Louder' that was originally recorded by Methods Of Mayhem, believe it or not. I remember listening to it and thinking it was a good song, but not for us. Then days later I found myself humming the chorus, and that's always a sign to me so I revisited it, not knowing that Michael was going through the same process. He almost immediately said "not really" then a week later was going, "Let me listen to that again!" So we went back to him and said, "We're really into this if you'll let us change it" and he was fine with that. Musically it's pretty intact to what he had written but the melody to the verses and particularly the lyrics were a big change; the chorus is the same because that's what brought us in in the first place. So that was one of the hardest songs on the album to get right, there's always a problem child, perhaps that was the one of the album, but as a co-write I think it's an amazingly successful one. 'Letting Go' was almost the opposite, it was one of the last things to get written. I get an Email from Chris Green saying, "I just recorded this happy acoustic thing, and I know you're the acoustic man of the band and probably you don't need anything, I wasn't going to send it but have a listen anyway!" When I think of how close we came to never hearing that song! (laughs) There were no lyrics, just the music and I had that sucker written that night! I wrote him back saying "A: It's not a happy song and B: It's going on the album!" It absolutely grabbed me, literally on that first listen I had the melody, and it's so rare when that happens but you can't ignore it, you've got to put aside whatever else you're doing that day and get that song written. I wrote him back saying, "Thank God you sent me that song!"

Overall, I don't think it's as instant as your previous albums, it definitely takes a few listens to really appreciate.

Yeah, I would go with that but most of my favourite albums go that way. 'Reach' for me is pretty classic stuff for us, that's why it's the lead-off single, we wanted to make sure everybody's on familiar territory. Then there's other stuff that we were challenged by, stuff that even the Record Company didn't want on the album that we fought for. A song like 'Kick Like A Mule', why would you not want a song like that on the album? People were against that one, and that's a tough one for me when people outside my band tell me, "That's not Tyketto." No, you don't get to make that choice, we decide what's Tyketto! For us it's always been about change and growth, to write 'Wings' and 'Forever Young' again, why? We've done it and I think we did a damn fine job of it! It's easy for people to say, "Just write more stuff like that" but why would I try and outdo an album that, thank goodness, is considered a classic? It makes no sense to take that as your benchmark and say, "We're going to do another one of those". It's already there and, 25 years later, standing completely on its own two feet.

You already have a number of songs that are a staple of your live set, now you have another potential twelve songs that would make welcome additions. How will you be able to squeeze them in without sacrificing any of the classics?

The fully democratic way is to just choose four songs from every album and that takes you to sixteen songs, then maybe add one or two, but there's no way round it any more when you reach the catalogue we have. People are going to walk away not having heard their favourite song every time, there's no way around it. I think in this case for November and December, particularly in the UK, I think we'll be alright with that because you guys got to hear us do 'Don't Come Easy' all the way through. We only did that this year, we hadn't done that before, so I don't think it will be too traumatic for people to only hear maybe three or four songs from 'DCE' when we tour this time.

And you haven't done yourself any favours lyrically, as quite a few of these new songs have three completely different choruses...

[laughs] Aaah, I know! We started going through that, and you don't think about it until you get to the backing vocals because that's much harder work than the lead vocals, because you're going over and over and over. In some of these songs like 'Letting Go' and 'The Run', I don't want to tell you how many backing tracks there are on those songs – we were in the same studio that Queen recorded in, we got carried away! [laughs] To do that over and over again and go, "Oh great, we got chorus one done, just slide that into chorus two... oh no, we can't, it's different lyrics. Goddammit!" But I don't see any reason why I should relax at this stage of my life, you know?

As we speak now, 'Reach' is at Number Two on the Amazon Rock chart on pre-orders a whole six weeks before it is officially released, and without anybody hearing a note. That is a fantastic achievement.

And right now that's only downloads! It's hard to put into words how the guys feel about that, it's an incredibly humbling thing and it's part of this thing we talked about earlier, where over the past two years everything has been aligning. I'm hearing from people outside our Melodic Rock circle in various areas of the music business going, "There's something going on for you guys, you're being talked about." And that is proof of it, without hearing a note there are that many people willing to trust us and put their money down that early on and wait on it. Every band says their fans are the best and we're not any different, we think our fans are the best there are. For the last 25 years all the die-hards have refused to let go, and that in itself has garnered quite a bit of attention.

* Tyketto - 'Reach' - click HERE to read the Rocktopia album review

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