John Axelrod gives us the lowdown on the new touring band Classical Rock...
How did the idea for Classical Rock come about?
Conceived, conducted and produced by John Axelrod (aka MaestroX), with arranger Christophe Patrix (aka CPRX), Classical Rock is a unique and revolutionary concept album pairing the best hits of classical music with the best hits of classic rock.
Axelrod, the Music Director of the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire in France since 2010 and Principal Conductor of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano "Giuseppe Verdi" in Italy since 2011, is no stranger to rock-n-roll. Prior to his professional career as a classical music conductor, Axelrod worked in the music business as an Artist and Repertoire director for BMG/RCA Records and Atlantic Records, where he was involved in the discovery and direction of such artists as the Smashing Pumpkins, Marc Cohen and Tori Amos.
In 1997, he founded OrchestraX in his hometown of Houston, Texas, which developed innovative ideas of concert programming for younger audiences. There he tested with great success the idea of presenting an orchestra as a rock band, creating an interactive experience similar in definition to a rock concert.
However, it was during his tenure from 2004-2009 as Chief Conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra that Axelrod presented such a program for the Lucerne Festival in a hockey arena in front of 4000 people, with the lead singer from Krokus, Mark Storace. Once Axelrod saw that it was not only a success musically and commercially, but also measurably increased subscribers to the orchestra, he understood the potential opportunity to record this project and make it available for a wider public.
How does Classical Rock sound different than early attempts to mix classical and rock music? In the 80's there was a big boom in classical rock, do you think the interest will be there again today?
Classical Rock is the ONLY recording that combines the best hits of classical music with the best hits of classic rock in unique, authentic arrangements. Other attempts at performing classic rock hits tend to be stereotyped as "elevator music," easy listening for an orchestra to play rock standards for the crossover crowd. Neither the orchestra nor the songwriters were well served. Classical Rock is as heavy as rock gets and as virtuosic as the best orchestras.
choosing your singers did you want classically trained singers like Nmon Ford or was a more rock orientated vocalist considered?
Both. Nmon Ford is an opera singer for our "Oratorio" version of Bohemian Rhapsody with members of the best choir from France, Accentus. It made sense, given the LP by Queen was called "A Night at the Opera," to maintain an operatic approach. Whereas for Stairway to Heaven, given it is the archetypal rock ballad, it was necessary to keep the rock roots with a rock singer, only a female rocker, Patsy Blackstone, who is totally authentic and believable when she sings, "There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold....."
What sort of venues are you planning for the 2012 tour? Will you be doing a mix of classical venues and rock venues to get a cross section of audience?
Classical Rock understands the attitudes and lifestyles of its public. Classical Rock makes an interactive environment consistent with the definitions of what makes a concert experience successful for a rock public, while performing the classical repertoire at the highest caliber to meet the demands of a classical audience. Why? Because it is all good music. Muzak is not our interest. The integrity of classical music is presented at the highest level of performance. The orchestral arrangements of classic rock hits are unique and musical. The sonic levels remain consistent between the two worlds. We join in one universe. That is Classical Rock.
en that classical music can often have the air of snobbery over other musical genres can you see the classical music lovers embracing Classical Rock?
We can appreciate the purist in the classical music industry who considers such a project at best a novelty and at worst classical-crossover. For some, the return to compressed sound is blasphemous to the idea that the listener must be still while the sound must travel to be well experienced. We believe the listener and the music can ride together on this magical, mystery tour.
This project may appeal more to audiences more familiar with the rock music than the classical repertoire. But the hope is that those new audiences will hear the music in a new way and appreciate the recording and concert enough to come to more orchestral concerts.
Indeed, the real mission for Classical Rock, and for many musicians, is not simply developing audiences for classical music. It is in developing audiences to come hear live the instrument that plays the repertoire: the orchestra. Without this instrument, much of the great classical hits would never have been composed. And much of classic rock would have lost its most inspired influence.
What sort of stage show can people expect at the shows?
Lights, cameras, action.....As dynamic as any stage show, as intimate as any concert. Full chorus, orchestra, singers. Video and sing-along. And some of the best music ever composed.
How did you choose to work with the Prague Metropolitan Philharmonic Orchestra? Will the same orchestra be touring around the world?
The Prague Metropolitan Philharmonic Orchestra includes some of the best musicians from the Czech Philharmonic, Prague Symphony Orchestra and Czech Radio Symphony. Because they have a flexible repertoire of popular titles and symphonic works, and they have recorded extensively for recordings and tours, they are the ideal partner. While we plan a concert to be filmed in March and tour in August 2012, Classical Rock is available for any orchestra to perform. Orchestras know the classical music. They can rent our classic rock arrangements. Then they have Classical Rock and they can build audiences and raise funds at the same time. We plan to record Classical Rock Volume 2 in the fall of 2012. We invite our listeners to send in suggestions to our website: www.myclassicalrock.com
The Classical Rock Band, featuring multi-guitarist Bert Verschueren, drummer Bram Raeymaekers and bassist Herwig Sheck were the ideal musicians to give us the heavy, classic rock sound. They will also be featured on our tour.
'Bohemian Rhapsody' has been released as a download single, how has this done so far?
The debut on November 24, 2011 in Montreux, Switzerland, in honor of the 20th anniversary of the death of Freddie Mercury, was an historic event. 1800 people listened to Bohemian Rhapsody in Stravinsky Auditorium during the Queen events presented by la Saison Culturelle. We instantly had over 2000 downloads. As a result, we have now over 13,000 viewers and loads of comments on our YouTube channel. Downloading is easy and inexpensive on our website for both the full recording or single tracks. And the word is spreading. We are very happy that people hear not only the quality but the coolness of Classical Rock.
Last edited Mon Dec 19 13:48:27 2011
We catch-up with Astral Doors vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson as the band release a new album 'Jerusalem'...
1. What are you currently up to?
-We are promoting the new album as hard as we can and we are also rehearsing for the upcoming European tour "The Desert Forces of Rock" with Riotgod as Co-headliners! It will be a blast!
2. Could you take us through the new album ‘Jerusalem'? (e.g. ideas behind the songs etc)
-It's pretty much a concept album built around religion. It's such a great subject to write metal lyrics about and we actually had the title of the album in our heads even before we started writing the songs. "Jerusalem" is a truly epic city in many perspectives and it's a perfect name for an album that deals with religion. Music wise, this new album is more straight forward than the previous two and that was the intention right from the start: to make a true hard rock/heavy metal album in the style of our first two albums, but stronger.
3. Astral Doors have never been afraid of tackling controversial subjects in your lyrics. Have you ever had any negative press because of this and why do you think metal bands can push the boundaries of lyrics more so than other musical genres?
-Well, the difference between us and most of the other bands in the same genre, classic heavy metal, is that 99% of the other ones write lyrics about mainly, fantasy; the Second World War; love and Friday nights out on the town. We think the fans deserve better: we write lyrics for the thinking man. Controversial or not. The fact that we write about perhaps not so typical metal stuff, makes it more interesting. At least that's the way we feel about it and we have never seen any bad reactions. And to be quite honest: look at the death metal scene, their lyrics are much rougher than ours!!
4. How did the Bang Your Head festival go? Do you get much time to check out the other bands at a festival?
-It was a ball. The audience was great and even if we played pretty early, we had quite a big crowd on our gig. After the gig we had a listening session for "Jerusalem" with the German press and when that was finished we rushed away to do a signing session. So...we didn't have the chance to see so many bands, but at least we got to see Slayer who did a great show.
5. How did the recent signing session go at Bifrost Records? Why do you think bands like Astral Doors are more popular in countries like Scandinavia and Germany but don't have the same sort of following in the UK?
-The signing session was cool. We love to support local record stores and Bifrost is a pure metal store so it was cool. UK is strange. I mean: this land actually invented Heavy Metal. Something must have happened in the 90's man....Heavy Metal wasn't cool anymore. It has recovered in the rest of Europe but in the UK it's still not so cool with heavy metal. However I know we have many fans there and also some requests to come there to play. We played there once, as support to Blind Guardia: it was amazing, a crowded KOKO Club.
6. In an ideal world which bands would you like to tour with?
-Oh, my answer is of course Black Sabbath. Imagine what a package: Black Sabbath and Astral Doors: sounds good in my ears :)
7. Is the rock and metal scene still in good shape or do you think there maybe to many bands out there now competing for an audience that isn’t growing that much?
-Good question. You got a point here! At many clubs in Germany they have concerts EVERY night. This means of course that people can't afford to see everything they want. Since the record business is fucked up today, every band must play a lot more live shows to be seen and since every band think the same, we end up in bad circle. The good thing with this is that it's tougher for crap bands to get real record deals with serious labels. Must save some the ears for many metal journalists, am I right? So, is the metal scene in good or bad shape, hmm, something in between I must say!
8. How do you manage to divide your time between Wuthering Heights, Lion's Share and Astral Doors?
-It's no problems at the moment: Wuthering Heights is resting at the moment, since the band leader, Erik Ravn has problems with his health; Lion's Share is not doing much either; we have a lot of song ideas for an upcoming album, but Lars Chriss doesn't really wanna do anything until I can focus 100 % on Lion's Share, so I guess that we won't continue with the upcoming Lion's Share album until after the Astral Doors tour. As far as I'm concerned, I really wanna make a follow up the amazing "Dark Hours", so I hope that we can find a solution.
9. Any good rock ‘n’ roll tales to tell…
- Too many:) One nice story that happened at the latest Astral Doors gig was this: After the gig we got drunk and visited some bars. When we got back to the hotel, the drummer, Johan, wanted to take a bath. The thing is that he fell asleep without turning off the faucet. The morning after...it was wet out in the corridor and in the hotel room it was like a flood, hahaha. Talk about a wet night! I don't know how much it cost him!
10. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from music?
-I like to watch soccer on TV and I like to read a good book. But most of all, I like to sleep.
Anything else to add and a message for your fans...
-Stay metal, buy albums and don't stop believing!
Last edited Fri Dec 2 15:17:23 2011