Paul Laine – innocently I believe it’s possible to have a second coming of hard rock

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Paul Laine is a legendary figure in the hard rock community. And not only this; he’s, also, a great human being and a talented musician. His first solo album, along with his records with Danger Danger but also with The Defiants are rightfully considered classics thus we didn’t need any special reason to get in touch with him for a really interesting interview as you will read below… Interview: Sakis Nikas

Rockpages.gr: Paul, first of all, how was life in Vancouver as a teenager in the late 70s and early 80s? What kind of bands did you listen, back then, and were there many rock fans in school at that time?

Paul Laine: There was such a great scene back then. Looking back now, I realized what a magical time I grew up in. Because of the great recording studio scene in Vancouver, places like Little Mountain Sound and the legendary Mushroom Studios where Heart recorded their first big albums, and record producers like Bob Rock, Bruce Fairbairn and Mike Fraser turning the knobs, it became THE place to make rock albums. Vancouver was alive with the biggest rockstars and biggest albums happening in that period. I am so happy to have been in the middle of it all. It changed my life. Back then I was listening to local groups like Loverboy, Bryan Adams and my personal favourite Prism…particularly the “ Armageddon” album. I still love that record…It was the first album I had read the name “Bruce Fairbairn” on, and I vowed in my teenage heart, if I ever got a record deal, that is who I would get to produce my first record. Be careful what you wish for!! That dream, thankfully, came true for me…

Rockpages.gr:  I believe that it was the second demo that drew the attention of Bruce Allen who added you to his roster of artists. Did you think that this was the turning point of your career or at least the beginning of it…?

Paul Laine: Definitely was the start of my career. Bruce Allen was arguably one of the biggest managers in the world at that time. And it allowed me to stay close to home as he lived in Vancouver. I didn’t have to move to L.A. or NY to be closer to the business. But as time went on, it sadly became the wrong decision. 

Rockpages.gr: The first album was produced by the Bruce Fairbairn. Was it an eye-opening experience for you working with such a legendary figure in the music business? How was the overall working relationship with him? 

Paul Laine: First of all, It was my biggest dream come true. Bigger for me than landing a record contract. I was working with my childhood hero, and that experience of working with him taught me so much about music, songwriting and making records. The fact that he was a genuinely wonderful human at the same time, made it all the more special. i was crushed when he passed away a few years later. 

Rockpages.gr: “Stick It In Your Ear” is rightfully considered a hard rock gem among the fans although back in the day it was met with a lukewarm response. Personally, I truly believe that it was an instant classic. Were you happy with how it turned out? Why do you think it hasn’t sold as many units as probably Elektra expected?

Paul Laine: The reason “Stick It” didn’t get the chance it deserved, was because my manager at the time (Bruce Allen) got in a war with the new owner of Little Mountain Studios – who noticed that there was still money owing on the recording of my album. I had no knowledge of this, and was surprised to learn that my album had been pulled from the shelves until the dispute was settled. I left Bruce Allen over it, because I felt it was a very immoral stance to take to not pay your bills. And he hadn’t paid the bill. A giant pissing contest between two men that never needed to happen. After all of the work and sacrifice I had put in to get there, it devastated me. Bruce was like a father figure to me. That hurt me very deeply.

Rockpages.gr: I remember in the mid 90s, I was reading the latest issue of Metal Edge and saw that you joined Danger Danger…completely out of nowhere, at least for us, the European fans…tell us what happened exactly…

Paul Laine: Not a lot to say really…They were going through some irreconcilable differences with Ted, and I got a phone call. The Danger Danger/Paul Laine story goes back to my first album. Danger Danger loved the sound of Stick It In Your Ear, and wanted the same production values for their upcoming “Screw It “album . After Bruce Fairbairn turned it down, the engineer who made my record (Erwin Musper) said he could get them that sound. That’s how I ended up being in communication with Steve and Bruno from Danger Danger. It all coincided with my leaving Elektra Records and Bruce Allen Talent, so I took the job.

Rockpages.gr: Speaking of Metal Edge, quite recently Gerri Miller passed away…she was one of the very few people that kept the hard rock flame burning in the harsh times of the grunge era. Any comment?

Paul Laine: Gerri was a lovely person and a force in the media back then. Gerri could give you instant cred amongst the people who loved that music back in the day. I only got a chance to hang out with Gerri a couple of times, but she was like a Mom to so many rockers back then. And she absolutely adored the guys in Danger Danger. I felt very badly for the fellas in D2 when she passed as I know how close and how long of a relationship they had with her. Another legend gone too soon..

Rockpages.gr: I love all the albums that you did with Danger Danger and I am one of the few, I guess, people who don’t go into comparisons with Ted Poley…two completely different singers. Wouldn’t it be cool to do a few reunion shows with them -including both you and Ted- after this horrid Covid-19 situation? Have you thought about it? 

Paul Laine: Uncle Ted and I will probably do that one day…It has been talked about… 

Rockpages.gr: I know that you are working on the third The Defiants record. Should we expect a 2021 release and will it be in the same vein as the first couple ones?

Paul Laine: It’s gonna be out in 2022! We are currently hard at work on it as we speak… Every Defiants record we make, we really try to top the last one. Hopefully we can get close to the mark with Defiants 3!

Rockpages.gr: I read somewhere that you are also doing a soundtrack for a movie called “Summer of ’88”. Is it true and if yes, what should we expect from it…arena rock like it was 1988 all over again?

Paul Laine: Yes…exactly! As some people know- when I’m not composing for The Defiants, I’m scoring music for film and television. I’m working alongside fellow TV/Film composer, Andrew Oye, on an entire album of songs that are time period correct for 1988. Crucial Music which handles a lot of the Netflix brand of movies and series, has allowed us to write for them and retain the rights to the album/soundtrack to release as well. So a non exclusive deal on the music, that you will see show up in all sorts of 80’s based shows on Netflix. It’s a cool opportunity to write era specific music for films set in that time period.  

Rockpages.gr: Hard rock music had its ups and downs through the years. Lots of hard rock bands are still around although most of them are mostly underground playing clubs. From your perspective, will we see in the future a commercial resurrection of the genre? What will it take…? 

Paul Laine: I already see it happening in Europe, with the advent of shows like Sweden Rock and the legions of fans that show up to hear all of this style of music from the past. When shows like this sell 38,000 tickets every year and sell out in days, it’s a good sign that people love rock concerts again. Going to Sweden Rock is like stepping back in time to the glory days, and it’s fantastic to see thousands of young people loving this music. So yes – maybe innocently I believe it to be possible to have a second coming of this music, as wherever there is a chance to make a dollar- there will be somebody willing to produce it. Sweden Rock has proven it.

Rockpages.gr: Last but certainly not least…what do you remeber from the one and only visit (so far) in Greece?

Paul Laine: So many things. Firstly – flying in, I was overcome with emotions, landing in Athens.I was actually crying as the jet was coming in for a landing…there , before me-  A boyhood dream come true. I couldn’t believe i was finally in the land I had dreamt about my whole life. And it was better than I had imagined. Like all things, when you’re traveling, its the people who make the memories all the more special. The outpouring of love i received while in Greece, I’ll never forget. 

Paul Laine
Photo by Scott Smith: Lens Of Rock