On the other side of the line, somewhere in England there is Luke Morley guitarist, song writer, produced and founding member of Thunder who are back once more in their career. We talk about “Wonder Days”, the way the band works, his influences, the way he writes songs and how “River Of Pain”, one of Thunder’s most popular songs in Greece was written.
Actually, that story was kind of disappointing because I was expecting “more spices” to it, but his ease and humor while answering the questions is a great reward. Interview: Yiannis Dolas
Rockpages.gr: Do you feel happy that “Wonder Days” is the first album in 20 years that makes it into the Top10 in the UK?
Luke Morley: Yeah, that’s really cool! It’s a nice bonus! We weren’t really expecting that to happen and it’s nice that it did. I guess it proves we have really crazy fans that are very loyal to the band and that’s really cool.
Rockpages.gr: I think that maybe this is what it means… since you are the main songwriter of the band, how does it feel to be responsible for the songs and the sound of the band?
Luke Morley: Ahh, over the years it just kind of evolved that way really. I mean it’s something that I have always done I guess… I love to write and also I like to produce as well. And the other guys in the band have come to trust me and let me do that, so that’s been my thing.
Rockpages.gr: Are you open to your ideas, suggestions, and remarks?
Luke Morley: Yeah, I’ve always encouraged them to send my ideas… we’ve recorded this album in three sessions. And after each sessions we sat around, and obviously I feel pretty comfortable with the songs as I write them most of the original twenty songs for the album. Some of them were obviously stronger than others, and I ask them what they’d think about them, so everyone has to agree with the original material.
Rockpages.gr: I’ve read in a previous interview you did lately that this kind of procedures where you had a lot of time and you worked chunks of material was something new to the band. Would you say that working this way was better than previous times where your time to work on your material, record and produce was more limited?
Luke Morley: Yeah, I think so! It’s always better to have more time to consider what you do. Because, we weren’t touring or anything like that beforehand. It allowed me the luxury of taking a year to write the album… that is not always possible! On this particular occasion because it was possible, since we weren’t doing anything until the album was finished, it was nice to be able to have no time pressure at all.
Rockpages.gr: “The Thing I Want” is classic Thunder material. How did you come up with that?
Luke Morley: Ahhm, you know I think I wrote this one really quickly. It’s one of those songs that you… I remember seating in front of the TV when I was writing this song and there was something that kind of gave me that idea. So, I picked up my guitar and literally the song kind of fell out of me. It’s just one of these times where you get a vibe going and you have to go with it, without analyzing too much, because it’s pure instinct. It was an easy one to write. I wish they were all that easy! Hahaha!
Rockpages.gr: I think that “Resurrection Day” is one of the best songs in the album. And it’s also on the slower side, but again Thunder have a thing about ballads. Would you say that it’s easier for you to write ballads, than faster kind of songs?
Luke Morley: Hmm, I don’t know to be honest, I think it depends… in the course of an album you write all sorts of songs… I enjoy writing both, I don’t prefer one particular style over the other. It depends on your mood as well, if I am sitting over the piano, or with an acoustic guitar in my hands I would definitely play differently than with an electric guitar. Because, there might be different ways, so sometimes this affects how you write. It’s really interesting with “Resurrection Day” because what we’ve just saying about “Everything I Want” being easy, “Resurrection Day” was the exact opposite! I re-write it three times. I kept changing the lyrics and the music, the tempo was wrong the first time we recorded the track. I changed that a lot… that was very difficult! It was like a woman having a baby sideways! Hahaha!
Rockpages.gr: Talking about the piano, you’ve returned to Rockfield Studios for the recording of the album and you’ve actually used the same piano “Bohemian Rhapsody” was recorded. Do you still feel awe with stuff like this?
Luke Morley: Yeah, I guess Freddie Mercury inspired me! Yeah, that was great! Rockfield Studios was somewhere we went a long time ago. We went there in 1996 the first time, and I went with Union a couple of times since then, it’s a very comfortable studio to work in. I love it! It’s really old fashioned, and hasn’t really changed much over the years. It’s got a great vibe and it’s a really cool place for bands to hang around without worrying too much about what time you could work, you can stay until late, you can make as much noise as you like, you can have a party, that’s not a problem! You can really relax there, I am not surprised at all that Queen loved that studio so much. So, seating where “Bohemian Rhapsody” was written was great…
Rockpages.gr: I also focused on the “party” part that you said!
Luke Morley: Hahaha! Yeah, you can party as well! I think we don’t party as much as we used to when we were a bit younger. I mean, the first time we wrote in Rockfield Studios in ’96 it was kind of a party where a record happens, and we were very excited about it. This time we were more serious about the work. Also, I guess we are all in our sixties now so a night partying kills us for two days. That never happened when we were young you know!
Rockpages.gr: So, to whose “Wonder Days” the title of the album refers to?
Luke Morley: Well, the song was really written about being a teenager and growing up going to school where Danny and myself went to, just growing up in London and always listening to songs and obviously discovering music was a big part of it… you know going to school, having the latest haircut, the latest clothes, getting interest in girls and joining your first band. All those things really, it’s just a thing that reminded of that era. This song actually links with another song on the album called “When The Music Played”, which also touches how inspiring music was for me as a kid in the ‘70s growing up. And that kind of theme is how we came up with the idea for the album’s sleeve and artwork. We tried to get a bunch of kids who represented us in that time…
Rockpages.gr: Which by the way is great, and I read that you found it quite difficult to get that bike there!
Luke Morley: Hahaha! Yeah, no shit it was very difficult, but it was fun actually. My sister who is a theatrical costume designer, she makes clothes for theatre she had some ‘70s kids’ clothes for a play she was working on and that really helped, and my wife is a makeup artist, she works for film, and TV. So, she had access to some wigs for a couple of kids with long hair, so it kind of all came together and send them and got them on the street which was kind of difficult. We spent a day doing that but it was good fun.
Rockpages.gr: Well, I think that if you listen to Thunder the band, and you haven’t heard of them, or haven’t listened to their music before you might as well take a bet that they are British. How does your nationality come across into your sound, and music?
Luke Morley: Wow, that’s a difficult question, I don’t think that anyone ever asked me that before… I guess because we grew up listening to bands… the whole British blues phenomenon, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles… massive fundamental influences for me and the guys in the band. Those were the albums as well as American music too, I love Motown, I love Stevie, all that sort of stuff too, but I think that when we started going to see bands, it was bands that played in that style. We watched Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy quite a lot. Those were bands that had that English blues sensitivity, also if you are English my age, then you can’t failed to have been influenced by the Beatles, the Kinks and all that, so it’s a strange mixture of English things. English blues, English pop music, all that influence I guess…
Rockpages.gr: Having all those influences and being to all those shows in England, have you ever felt that Thunder were in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Luke Morley: Hahaha! Maybe! Yeah, I guess. It’s difficult to say! I certainly think that was the case in America. It’s very strange how the band broke very quickly in England, and then America we started great. We started very well, we sold a million copies it took very very good, and then grunge came along and blew us out of the water… radio stations, our record company, Geffen records dropped us and all that sort of money disappeared from our marketing campaign and it went towards making Nirvana even bigger. In America times were really shitty, while in England it was very good, so I don’t really know. You can create great music when… you have to live a certain life to make music that touches people, and you have to have some experience I think for us to have done that before, we’ve had to have been born in 1945 or something. And to be honest with you I was kind of happy that I was born in the 1960’s.
Rockpages.gr: One of your most popular songs in Greece is “River Of Pain”. Can you tell us a bit about that song?
Luke Morley: “River Of Pain” yeah… that’s another one of those songs I wrote very fast. Some times you’ve got some kind of a riff together and I came up with the chorus very very quickly and the rest of the song grew from there. It’s a big song for us. It’s a big live song and it’s one aspect of what we do. It’s a very to the point pop song if you like with big rock guitars. Danny sings it great, and it’s a very simple subject. Using a river, or water for a metaphor for life overcoming you, drowning you, it’s not a particular original idea, but I think it’s a thing everyone can relate to, you know?
Rockpages.gr: How would you say that you receive criticism when you are working, when you release an album? Would your reaction to criticism has changed over the years?
Luke Morley: Before we started Thunder, myself, Danny and Harry were in a band called Terraplane and we made two albums for CBS or Sony and the albums didn’t sell and soon we’ve quit the band, but we’ve learned so much… one of the mistakes that we made over that period of time when we were very young was that we listened maybe too much to the people around us. To our record company, to our manager, we listened too much and maybe ignored our own instincts. With Thunder we were very determined from the first day that this would never happen, and that we were going to make music that we liked the way we wanted to do, with the people we wanted to work with. We figured that if we do that and it doesn’t sell, at least we’ve made music that it’s as honest as it could be for ourselves, and that’s very important. Of course, as soon as we did that we’ve started selling records. That’s the moral to the story really! You can’t really listen too much to other people. Sure, you can take into account what they are saying, but at the end of the day with any kind of art, whether it’s writing, or it’s making movies, or it’s making music, anything, you have to trust your instincts and be guided by how you feel. It’s all about how you feel, you can’t be too much objective about it because such is the subject of the business.