Sunday, May 29, 2011


BIG LIFE is a new band/project that surprised us this year pleasently! Behind this project, we find two very talented musicians, Steve Newman and Mark Thompson-Smith (ex-Praying Mantis). Great melodies, amazing performances and a tight musicianship are some of the things that you will discover by listening this really brilliant album. Below, you are about to read a very interesting interview that Mark Thompson-Smith gave to Heavy Paradise and talked about Big Life, his long time friendship with Steve Newman and some other interesting things. Enjoy!
heavy paradise: Hi Mark, I would like to thank you for accepting my invitation for this interview!

M.S. : It's an absolute pleasure, Vassilis!

heavy paradise: Firstly, I would like to congratulate you for the release of Big Life's album. A well-crafted melodic rock album and an album that, for sure, will please every single fan of this gerne. The reviews from all the net are great! How do you feel about that?

M.S. : Thank you very much...I'm very flattered and hugely pleased to hear that you like the album. The reviews from the melodic rock community have been amazing. Steve and I have been a bit taken aback by the reaction to be honest, particularly me. Having been out of the singing game for so long and not having written anything in 12 years or so, it's wonderful to see that people like the songs so much!!

heavy paradise : You and Steve Newman have a long-time friendship. How so and you guys decided to release an album with you as a lead singer? Was it an idea that you two worked for a long time?

M.S. : Steve and I have known each other since the mid 90s, meeting at the same time that I gave up singing and at the same point he was starting to plan his first album. We've been good friends since then. He's been really kind in asking me over to hear his new ideas on his albums and he started to get me involved on a few backing vocals.
In 2005 I started singing again, after a close friend of mine passed away, and when I finished the Swedish tour with The Sweet which was a totally unexpected opportunity, I decided I wanted to write again and Steve was the most obvious friend to contact to start.
We wrote a lot of songs, slowly started to put them together in the studio in a rough form and then Steve freed up up his schedule last year to put together the Big Life album properly. It was always our intention that I would be the singer as I'd co-written the songs and Steve really wanted me to get back out there.
(Mark Thompson-Smith, Steve Newman)

heavy paradise : Except of you and Steve Newman, who else was involved with the whole project?

M.S. : We know many fine musicians but there really wasn't any need to pull anyone in apart from Steve's trusty beat master 'Rob McEwen' ...we're really happy with the results so we think we made the right decision.

heavy paradise: If you had to pick your favourite tunes from the album, which would that be and why?

M.S. : Tough question as they are all my children :>).....I love Close To You as it was the first song that we wrote together, Better Man because it was the last one written and we both knew that we had a winner with that one, Leaves and Deep Water as they have personal meaning to my family and extended family....and the bonus track Hands Across the Water as it's my Thank You to my special American friends in New Jersey.
To be honest though I love them all!!

heavy paradise: Which are your influences Mark?

M.S. : My musical influences are varied and have become wider as I get to listen to an huge amount of music through the students in my rock schools. I've been around a fair while so it goes way back to the 60's onwards but I suppose I carry around the 70s, 80s and early 90s mainly so Toto, Journey, Heart, Rush, Whitesnake, Mr Big and Dan Reed Network.

heavy paradise: Over the last years, more and more great melodic rock albums were released. Do you think that this gerne has a lot more to offer?

M.S. : I think that there the wind has changed a little in melodic/hard rock's favour due to Van Halen's touring success, which led to promotors realising that there was money to be made again in the 'classic/melodic/hard rock' genre with the Guitar Hero and Rock band Dads and kids attending the gigs, so more of the bands from that era went back out on tour.
Virtually all of my stucents love that classic rock style of music with all of the great iconic bands and players full of exciting characters...they show no interest at all in the bands or players that came after Nirvana swept everything aside.
Of course, the Glee/XFactor/Journey Don't StopBelieving phenomenon has pushed it all into the mainstream again...without the latter you definitely would not have the Journey/Foreigner/Styx arena shows!!
So all in all, it's really becoming healthy again with more people taking an interest in the newer bands and the bands, labels, magazines and internet stations that have been playing and supporting the music in an almost underground way since the mid 90s
heavy paradise: From this year's releases, did you had the chance to listen some new ones? Which was the one that impressed you the most?

M.S. : Mr Big's What If....I saw them play at Shepherd's Bush when they came back and it was a very emotional moment when they hit the stage...there is a God!!

heavy paradise: A record deal with AOR HEAVEN seems to be a very good deal! Do you think that nowadays is difficult for an artist to get a good record deal?

M.S. : Record deals were difficult back in the good days as there was massive investment required but there were more labels around and obviously the music was heavily promoted via the radio and MTV and so was hugely popular. Technology has made recording less expensive so bands are becoming self sufficient and have CDs made ready to release themselves which makes it so much easier to approach a label if they want to. Having said that, as we know things have changed and this is very much a niche market now so there are fewer labels to go to and no mainstream radio or TV promotion.
Steve has known Georg for a long time and when Georg offered us the deal we felt really comfortable in signing to AOR HEAVEN as Georg cares passsionately for this kind of music and does everything he can to make sure that it's promoted well.
heavy paradise: I know that's a bit too early, but I have to ask that! Is Big Life a project or are we talking for a real band with more releases in the near future?

M.S. : There will DEFINITELY be a second BIG LIFE album. Steve and I really enjoyed the whole process of the first one and we're really proud at the way that it all turned out....add to that the positive reaction from everyone, including you, Vassilis, could we not record another one?

heavy paradise: Are there going to be live performances to promote the album?

M.S. : We really want to take the music out live and there's a full band waiting in the wings for a couple of shows possiblly later in the year. .

heavy paradise: I read somewhere that a new Steve Newman album is on the way later this year! Are you going to participate in this new one?

M.S. : Yes, Steve's working on the next NEWMAN studio album which should be out in September or October. There's a live CD and DVD from last year's FIREFEST due soon too..he's a busy guy! Steve has involved me on a couple of backing vocals and I've acted as a sounding board for a few songs. He's also involved some of our friends from the live NEWMAN band too so it's going to be a great album.
heavy paradise: Except of singing, how is it an ordinary Mark Thompson-Smith's day?

M.S. : I mentioned that I run rock schools so most of my time is with them and the tutor team. It's wonderfully inspiring to see the young students progress in guitar, drums, bass or vocals and play the rock gigs that we put on...check out Harvey...he's 15..absolutely amazing!!
I play regularly with my good friends in a great covers band called FAY's great fun and I'm just starting up a new one with my tutors playing rock songs from the glory years plus a few select Mr T-S and BIG LIFE songs I'm writing a few new ideas in readiness fo the next BIG LIFE album.
Everything in my life is all centred around music and family so I have great life but I'm always looking for new singing opportunities ..I didn't do it for all of that 12 years so I'm trying to make up for lost time, I guess!!

heavy paradise: Can you tell me your five loved albums ever Mark?

M.S. : Oh, that is such a difficult one...too many to chose from but here are five to be going on with Van Halen 1, Slam by Dan Reed, Trial By Fire by Journey, 1987 by Whitesnake...and the wonderful Simple by Xenon. I'll tell you the other 50 another time :>)

heavy paradise: At this point, I would like to thank you once again for this interview and to wish you all the best for the future Mark!

M.S. : Thank you once again, Vassillis, kρατήστε την πίστη!!!

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