Interview – Lizzy Borden

Back in the 1980s, there was a ton of Metal bands doing the same thing, but then there was Lizzy Borden. A unique blend of balls to the wall Heavy Metal, theatrics that felt like a Horror flick live in the flesh, and a glamorous side, in the vain of legendary acts such as David Bowie. Simply point, Lizzy Borden did things their own way and their unique sound and image has taken them along a 35 year journey.

Breaking into Billboard 200 four times, each album the band has put out has stood tall with a unique story all it’s own. Now, rising from the underground once more, Lizzy Borden return with My Midnight Things, their first studio album in 11 years! A long overdue return, the new music bring a rejuvenated Lizzy Borden to the forefront, one prepared to do some big touring in the USA and beyond. Recently we caught up the mastermind, Lizzy Borden himself to talk the wild ride of the past 35 years, the work behind My Midnight Things, plans for the future, plus much more. – Lizzy Borden came together 35 years ago and in that time the band has attained its share of commercial success. Through the ups, downs, and everything in between, what has the journey been like for you?   

Lizzy Borden – Like you said, ups and downs. (Laughs) It’s been amazing, difficult, frustrating, a life lived. We have journeyed all over the world – played in places I never thought I’d even play, let alone go. It’s been amazing, but this is a restart, so the ride is just kind of restarting again. It’s all brand new again, so it’s pretty cool. – It is great to see the band back in full force! Lizzy Borden has always been uniquely their own. A combination of great songs that are catchy and heavy, do you think that sometimes the band is unfairly lumped into the more Popish Glam Metal scene of the 1980s?

Lizzy Borden – I don’t know if it’s unfair, because every one of my influences came from the ’70s. From the Bowie Glam side of things. All those bands like Sweet, I loved. I loved the heavier stuff too. I love Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and all those bands as well. It was kind of a split personality. I kind of did this to myself, I didn’t join a club. I didn’t decide to go on the heavy side or the Glam side, or whatever, I just did what I wanted to do and wrote the songs I wanted to write. Unfortunately, especially in North America, they love to lump you in certain categories. If they can’t, you get left out, or you are not part of the conversation, because you are not part of any clique. That is kind of what it was for me. I didn’t pick a side. 

I grew up on all the theatrical bands, and some of those were part of that ’70s Glam movement, mostly in the UK. It trickled to the Glitter Rock scene with KISS and some of the other bands in New York. I was part of the whole theatrical thing, that is the stuff I grew up on. Like I said, I loved the heavy stuff too, and that, in it’s own way, had a look about it. I kind of mixed the two together. 

Metal Blade
Metal Blade – Yes, and you are right about the North American market. If you cannot fit in a box, you kind of can be forgotten about sometimes.

Lizzy Borden – Yea, and I knew that, but it didn’t stop me. I didn’t want to have to write one thing. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do. It’s not art if you have to write a certain song because you are in a certain category. – Agreed. Throughout the years there has been members of Lizzy Borden that have come and gone, but Joey Scott has remained consistent in the band’s varied lineups. What is the working chemistry like with him, and this current configuration of the band?

Lizzy Borden – It’s amazing! I don’t even have a band right now, it’s just Joey on drums and me. He grew up on the same thing I did, so there is a shorthand. When I decided I wanted this record to sound a certain way, and I wanted it to be pure, I didn’t want bring in other people with their influences. I wanted to really do a record the way this record sounds.

There was very little convincing for Joey, when he heard the very first couple of songs I had demoed, he was in love with it. He actually had a big smile on his face when he was tracking his drums, this is right up his alley. It was very easy, we produced the last 2 records together, it’s second nature. The things he’s good at, I’m not, and the things I’m good at, he’s not. It’s a great working relationship. – It certainly has worked well over the years. The new album, My Midnight Things, is due out June 15th through Metal Blade Records. Your first studio album in over a decade, what was the writing and recording process like this time around?

Lizzy Borden – For me, we finished the anniversary tour in Russia. I just said, “Ok, I don’t know what I want to do, but I don’t want to keep creating shows without putting out an album.” I knew Metal Blade wanted to sit down with me and talk me back into making records again. After that tour, I let the band go, and they went off to join other bands. As soon as I sat down with Brian Slagel of Metal Blade, he told me that the industry is different, especially with Metal Blade, they are bigger than they ever were right now. That is because they figured out a way to make these records again, and get people to know that they exist. I signed a new deal that was based on that and discard the old deal we had. 

Making this record, I had a clear-cut vision of the way I wanted it to sound. The main thing is, I didn’t want to showcase musicians, I wanted the songs to be the star. Sometimes Lizzy Borden seems to be a conduit for amazing guitar players, but I didn’t want to showcase anybody, I wanted the songs to take over and be the star. That was one of my first things when I started recording. Once I started digging down deep to the theme, that was a process. (Laughs) It took me a while to figure out what this record was and where it was going. It was kind of writing itself while I was working on it. It just kind of took shape as I was doing it. I didn’t have all the demos done going into it. I kind of wrote and recorded it at the same time. 

Metal Blade
Metal Blade – Wow, that is different, but it worked out well. The album retains the classic Lizzy Borden sound and it has its heavier as well many melodic moments. As a songwriter, you have always done a good job of telling a story album to album. What inspired the story/theme behind My Midnight Things?  

Lizzy Borden – I did Deal with The Devil (2000), which was about religion, and Appointment with Death (2007), which was about death. I wanted something completely different for this theme, so I chose love. It seems obvious, but I really thought I could dig down deep and find some interesting things in there that would be interesting to pursue and try and write about.

It took me a while to figure out how to write these songs, because when you take a topic like that, the most overused theme of most songs, I really wanted to find out if I could find my own way of doing it. That’s the umbrella over the whole thing. Then I usually create a main character. Once I get the theme and main character, then I can branch out and start bringing the songs to live based on all that. – Very cool. It is fun when there is a story and character, that harks back to the ’70s Glam Rock. Look at David Bowie, he created one of the best characters of all, right?

Lizzy Borden – Yes, Ziggy Stardust is still around to this day, and iconic. That was the blueprint I used to put together Lizzy Borden. It was a combination of David Bowie and even The Tubes’ Fee Waybill, he created characters on stage too. Of course Alice Cooper and KISS, those were all my blueprints. When I created this band, I needed to fuse them all together. I didn’t want to be like any one of them, but I wanted to take elements of each one of them. That is kind of how I created this. – Yes, and Lizzy Borden has stood the test of time. You do have your diehard fans in America too.

Lizzy Borden – Yea, we have a different kind of fan base around the world. Any band that has been around as long as we have, the fan base changes. North America, at the beginning of course, was young kids frantically freaking out and going crazy, but then they eventually got older. Then the dynamic, from the performance and the audience, which is a huge part of what I do, changes. Around the world – all across Europe, Russia, South Korean – all the kids are in their early 20s and younger. It is like 1987 again when we toured everywhere else except for in North America. It’s pretty interesting to see. I almost have to alter the show based on territories I play.

I do feed off that audience and that audience response is such a big part of the way I created this band. I wanted to break down that wall and make the audience become a big part of the show. That was always my main thing. KISS did that, I think The Tubes did it too. I think Cooper and Bowie had that wall up, they wanted it to be a like a movie or something. I really wanted to break that wall down. The audience has changed over the years, but it’s pretty amazing how that all has happened. I am 35 years in and to see the audience get younger… 

Metal Blade
Metal Blade – That is facanstating. You are right, it is a completely different dynamic around the rest of the world. It seems like, in America, we have not done a very good job of keeping young people engaged with bands. It is not to say it is all the bands’ fault, it is more of the marketing, airplay, etc. 

Lizzy Borden – Yea, a lot of it was the Hip Hop and all the other stuff. Kids stopped playing instruments. Instead of going to an Iron Maiden show they were going to a Hip Hop show. That changed the dynamic of that demographic. Once you change that, you have to almost skip a whole generation until the young kids find these bands again. That is what has happened in Europe, the young kids, they are singing my songs, songs that were written before they were born. They are loving it as if it is brand new record from a brand new band.

In North America, I see it changing. Even in Vegas, we went to see Judas Priest and Saxon, they were on 1 stage, and they had some of the newer bands on the other stage, but there were a lot of young kids that were loving Priest and Saxon. I was consciously looking around and seeing that. I can see the trend changing and I am excited about that. If we launch a North American tour, I’m hoping some of those kids will come out too as well. I see the trend changing, and I haven’t seen that in a long time. – It does seem to be changing. Speaking of touring, can we expect some USA dates lined up?

Lizzy Borden – Yes. One of my main things, all we did in the ’80s was play North America. All we did was laps, we would finish one tour, book another one, and do another lap all around The States. It was amazing! It was such a great time, some of the greatest times of my life. I haven’t done a proper US tour in a long time, because the demand and money is better everywhere else. For this album, because it’s been the best reviewed album I have ever had – getting 1o out of 10, 5 out of 5 – I have never had that in my life, it has always been mixed reviews. I am getting such a positive response from this album, so I really want to make sure I do a proper North American tour.

We will start booking, but I wanted the album to come out before I play, because it’s going to be based around this album – we are going to play songs off this album. I want to make sure the album has been out for a while so people get used to the songs. We are already working on a stage production, theatricals, and all the stuff I want to bring to the table on this show. After the album gets down, I will start looking for musicians to do the tour with me. Then we will start looking into what territories we are going to attack first for the My Midnight Things tour. 

Metal Blade – That is great news! Hopefully, with the record receiving positive reviews, it will attract more attention for the live shows.

Lizzy Borden – Yea, and the fans don’t even know how much power they have to getting to see us. If they buy the record, they put the 10 bucks down to buy it, it actually opens up that terrority. They don’t realize if they just stream it, they love it, and they don’t buy it, that territory almost gets shut down.

You can kind of look and see who is buying the record and what territory. If a lot of people are buying it in a certain area, there is a good chance the tour is going to come by that area. That is kind of what every band does for the most part. People can download all they want, it’s all good, but at least pay the 10 bucks for the album so I can definitely do a proper tour of North America. – Yes, that is really not too much to ask. With My Midnight Things due out, can we expect new more Lizzy Borden music sooner than later? Or will it be the last for a while?

Lizzy Borden – No, I am so excited to get back into this. I missed this part of it, I got into this to be a recording artist as well as a performer. The last 11 years, I have just been a performer. I signed a 3 album deal and I am already putting the skeleton together for the next album. I have already written a few pieces, kind of know what the theme is going to be. I am excited to put it all together. I imagine, depending on how long this tour lasts, you will see within 1 1/2 or 2 years, you will see the next Lizzy Borden album for sure. – Excellent, a lot of positive things happening! 

Lizzy Borden – I wanted to get back on that – you do an album, you prepare to tour, you do the tour, then you come back, and start writing the next record again. That is the cycle I was used to, at one point, we put out 4 records in 14 months. I love that cycle and I am excited to do that again. Now it feels whole. – Yes, and it is a whole product. Now you will get to interject new music into the live shows. 

Lizzy Borden – Oh yea, for me it’s everything, because I’m a singer as well. I love singing new songs. I love singing the old songs, because I know the reaction I am going to get. To design a whole show around a new album, that is like heaven on earth for me. – Absolutely, it keeps it fresh and a new challenge. My last question for you is regarding films. is a Rock/Metal and Horror news site, so we like to focus on all genres.  Are you fans of Horror films, and, if so, what are some of your favorite Horror films?

Lizzy Borden – Wow, that’s a hard one. (Laughs) I am a Sci-Fi nut! Right now, I am watching Legion, and I find it amazing. In the ’80s, everything that was out there that was Sci-Fi, I loved. Aliens (1986), Blade Runner (1982), and almost every Sci-Fi movie that was on the darker side, I was a big fan of. 

On the Horror side, I grew up on all the Freddy Krueger, Jason, and all those great villains that were so popular and famous back then with amazing backstories. I think that is the best part of any movie. If you just have a Slasher film with backstory, it’s not interesting. When you see the backstory of any well-written character, especially a villain, it’s such an amazing thing. Those are the movies I still gravitate to. If it is just no rhyme or reason, it’s not very interesting to me. When there is a backstory, and you almost feel sorry for the villain, that’s just amazing. There have been so many movies like that. 

Compass International Pictures
20th Century Fox – Yes, when you speak about the straight-up Slasher, that idea was sort of beaten to death in the late ’70s into the ’80s. There, fortunately, was some amazing Horror flicks that gave compelling stories. Look at 1978’s Halloween, it initially provided a little backstory about Michael Myers, but you felt it, and knew it. 

Lizzy Borden – Yes, the first Halloween was barely any hardcore craziness, it was more of a Thriller. That is why people were on the edge of their seat. To this day, it is a genius movie. It was about the stalking rather than the killing. When you did get the pay off, it was even more scary. John Carpenter was so great at witholding all of that and making you stay on the edge of your seat.

Great filmmakers who know how to do that, it’s much better than slash, bang, and boom. I grew up on Hitchcock and he was amazing at that – he was one of my favorites. All of his films, TV shows, had tension, it was more important than just the slash and bang. Those are the movies that I love. – Yes, that tension is something that is irreplaceable. It is what separates a decent Horror flick from a great one.

Lizzy Borden – Yes, and some of that stuff ended up in songs for me. It ended up in just the way I was thinking for the stage show. It was a big part of Heavy Metal in general, but especially a theatrical Rock band.

We were at every movie premiere in Hollywood during that time. We had a great publicist and we were on the red carpet for every big Sci-Fi or Horror movie, anything that happened, we were there. It was an amazing time to have that seep into your mind and it came out in our costumes, it came out in my songwriting. All that stuff filtered through because it was such a huge influence. The early ’80s was very influential with Horror and Sci-Fi movies for me.

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