It is March 12th, 2020. Thor is preparing to go on stage at The Whiskey in LA. He is reluctant to perform as Covid 19 is slowly invading North America. Many questions and concerns but the show goes on with Neil Turbin from Anthrax as a special guest. The venue closes the next day.
Meanwhile, longtime Thor collaborator, Kevin Stuart Swain (Al Harlow Band, Idle Eyes) has been embarking on what could be considered an ill timed venture. Kevin has co-produced, played bass and guitar and co-written songs on the last 3 albums. He is also part of the touring band but is sitting this one out. He has been in Vancouver, B.C re-recording the title song “Rising” from Jon’s current album. It is to be released as “Rising (Video Mix)” utilizing another Thor alumni Scott Young to oversee the creation. The drums, temporary guitars and bass are done as the US tour commences on Feb 28 in Seattle.
In early March, Kevin engages David Stone (Max Webster, Rainbow) and they head down to Alchemy Studios to track Kevin’s bass and David’s Hammond B3 organ. It goes well and they become the last people to physically record in the studio as another door closes due to the Corona Virus.
They have the vocal from the album version, but the song has changed considerably. Thor will be on tour or in self isolation for the foreseeable future. Scott’s skills come into play and the existing vocal is made to fit. Scott plays final rhythm guitars.
Kevin reaches out to Ray Roper. Ray and Kevin have done many projects together including Kevin playing bass for Stonebolt. Ray was nominated for a Grammy as the guitarist and lead vocalist for the Stonebolt mega hit “I Will Still Love You”. Ray has been behind the board in many recording studios including his own. It is the same week that Thor begins his tour and Ray is heading from Vancouver to Seattle to play the following evening. Ray’s studio is in boxes and he is setting up a new location. He manages to bang out a lush Queen type vocal choir in the chorus that sounds amazing before grabbing his bags and jumping on a bus. It is this weekend that Seattle starts getting hit and one show is canceled. He heads back to the border.
Then it really starts to get interesting. All gigs get canceled and no one is going to be making money for awhile. Probably smart to get the wagons in a circle and cut their losses? Or embrace social distancing and make a record!!
Of course everyone is freaked out, it feels surreal to be in the midst of a pandemic. Many of the cell phone conversations drift from the song to the current situation. Pain and loss as well as courage and heroism dominate the news. Worry for loved ones and sacrifices being abound.
With all this in the background Kevin contacts Michael Schau. Mike co-wrote and played guitar on “The Rut”, a song on the Rising album. Mike and the vocalist from his band, Pedal Train (Chris Gilburg) supply Michael’s lead guitar and Chris’s killer vocals in the chorus of the tune from their studio. The tracks are sent to Scott Young’s Alchemy Studios to be added to the session.
Guitarist Anthony Della Croce of The Headpins is also asked to lend a hand. Anthony blasts some blistering leads in the wee hours while his family sleeps, oblivious to the mayhem that headphones and digital amp modeling make almost inaudible.
Scott, Kevin and Thor are now in full blown self isolation in different locations. Shit is getting crazy, apocalyptic.
Kevin became aware of mastering engineer Maor Appelbaum (Faith No More, Yes) while in Los Angeles this past January. Originally from Israel, he has built an extensive list of famous clients in his home of Los Angeles. Kevin was in town for the Metal Hall Of Fame awards and to mix his composition and first single from Rising,“The Party Never Ends” with Ronan Chris Murphy (GWAR, King Crimson). Maor introduces himself. His credentials and reputation are impressive. He ends up mastering that single.
Looking for a particular sound, Kevin asks Maor if he knows anyone that could mix “Rising (Video Mix)”. He recommends fellow Canadian Phil Anderson (Econoline Crush). Kevin gives him a call and learns that Phil is living in an Airbnb in Edmonton, Alberta, keeping his isolated wife safe with her health issues. Reality sets in. But they are all keep working like the band that plays on the deck of the Titanic. It is something they can control. It is an escape. It is normal in the midst of madness.
Phil sets to work the next day. Scott Young and Kevin listen to Dropbox mixes as they complete. Shopping lists of fixes that get smaller and disappear quickly. The mix rocks. Thor has been receiving mixes as mp3s attached to emails. That’s the way he likes to get them.
The mix goes for mastering. The icing on the cake, something that many artists don’t truly understand. It is essential and Maor Appelbaum knows what to do. He is an artist—each song speaks to him in a unique way.
Enter Lisa Freakrock. Lisa has been a fan and a friend of Thor since their first meeting backstage at The Armstrong MetalFest almost ten years ago. He has been a guest on her radio show, she’s promoted shows and played drums on the “Gonna Have A Rockin Christmas” video. Having worked on several of Thor’s videos she is now being asked to create one. She is in isolation with no ability to film new footage but must now produce something awesome. Kevin has been wanting to do animation, but it is costly and time consuming. Seeing something Lisa did in a comic book style, he asks if it could work for a full video. The result is way beyond his expectations.
All involved have all been home in isolation for weeks. They have created something in the confines of this new locked-down reality. It needs to be heard. At worse it will distract, at best inspire.
Cleopatra / Deadline Records
Written by Jon Mikl Thor / Kevin Stuart Swain / Scott Young / E.J Lurie
Produced by Kevin Stuart Swain/Scott Young
Vocals – Jon Mikl Thor
Background Vocals – Chris Gilburg, Ray Roper, Scott Young
Lead Guitars – Michael Schau, Anthony Della Croce
Rhythm Guitar – Scott Young
Hammond B3 – David Stone
Bass – Kevin Stuart Swain
Drums – Scott Young
Mixed by Phil Anderson
Mastered by Maor Appelbaum