Tower Of Babel’s debut came like a thunderstorm. The veteran group follow Rainbow’s path and are proud of it. Even the band name is inspired by the great band, while Greg Gruber, the original bassist in Blackmore’s band in 1976, was part of their very first lineup. In a full on conversation where every band member chips in we get to learn the story of how this tower was built. Interview: Yiannis Dolas
Rockpages.gr: How did the band come together?
Joe Stump: Csaba and myself worked together in both RavenLord and Exorcism but in both those bands I just played guitar and didn’t write any of the tunes. I thought it`d be great to work together on something where it was the type of music that I really love to compose and play.
Csaba Zvekan: When I requested new material from Joe and Raven Lord´s guitar player George “the Kid” Karafotis, I ended up with two records that were totally different from each other. The riffs that George played were ideal for Raven Lord on Down the Wasteland, where Joe played all the solos and Joe’s riffs we used for Tower of Babel. On tour with Exorcism Joe said he would use the songs for a new band project and wanted me to sing on them. I agreed and we took it from there.
Joe continued writing more songs so a full length album could be crafted while I was looking for suitable musicians in Europe who would fit the band.
Rockpages.gr: Why did you choose the name “Tower Of Babel” for the band?
Joe Stump: I was talking to Csaba and since the material is so heavily Rainbow influenced I said we need a name like Stargazer (but obviously not that). Then Csaba said how about Tower of stone which is a lyric line from Stargazer and I said Tower Of Babel. What Tower of Babel is is a very famous /sought after Rainbow bootleg recording of rehearsals during the Dio/Cozy Powell era.
Csaba Zvekan: We were brainstorming over Skype one day and was throwing words, something with “Babylon”. So Joe comes up with the idea of an early Rainbow live bootleg record he had with the name “Tower Of Babel”. We both liked it then I hit up my logo graphic designer and we had our band in progress hahahaha.
Rockpages.gr: Craig Gruber was a member of the band until he unfortunately passed away. What parts of the album were recorded by him and can be heard on the album?
Joe Stump: Sadly Craig never got to the point of tracking anything I believe he was just starting to get sick around that time period.
Csaba Zvekan: Craig Gruber was with us in Raven Lord and the idea was to make something new for “the older” generation. Kind of like a “modern vintage” paradox hahahaha.
Originally we planned to merge and use also some material from Craig’s music but at the end that didn’t happen since his condition with cancer had progressed and he eventually succumbed his illness in 2015.
Rockpages.gr: How was to share the recording with a musician who played with Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio, obviously two major influences of the band?
Joe Stump: I spoke to Craig a bunch of times and he was always very cool and also extremely complimentary about my playing and writing which really meant a lot to me as not only did he play with Ritchie but he also played bass for another one of my heroes Gary Moore.
Mark Cross: Craig´s passing has been a very sad and unfortunate moment for everyone. Craig and I talked back in 2005 to work together and we´ve been mailing songs to each other and wanted to put a Dio – Elf kind of oriented band with ex members together, but eventually that never happened and neither led to any finished product. And only nine years later we found ourselves in Tower Of Babel. Sadly we never had the time and chance to actually play together. God bless him!
Rockpages.gr: You guys are all “veterans” in the rock/metal circuit. How is it for you to start something new, what are your expectations from Tower Of Babel?
Joe Stump: Well even though it`s a new band everyone involved are top notch well known musicians so obviously the thing has a bit more juice than just some random new band. So far the response to the record have been quite good and I think after the band goes out and does some touring it`ll take things up to another level.
Mark Cross Veterans, I like that! It´s a strong band and I believe we´ll make it through.
You know, it is tough to start any kind of new band nowadays, the Business is at the bottom of the lake and can´t get any worse to be honest. But still we have faith and when releasing such a wonderful piece of Music, we´re all for one and one for all! It needs a tough strategy and mutual understanding to take it somewhere. Touring and promotion costs money and most labels are just not behind you or the product anymore. Promoters and Clubs think that you don´t have to get paid and should struggle with a door deal and on and on. It´s just very tough and sometimes unfair for a newcomer band, no matter who you are or where you come from. We are working on shows to get Tower Of Babel on the road and set a healthy Business course from day one to make promotion and touring possible. With the right people around us and support, I´m sure we´ll get there where we need to be. It´s a very experienced band with ace Musicians and I know that Tower Of Babel will be an absolute kicking live band and give the fan what he wants. Just recently we came to an agreement with Hydra Productions, our booking agent from Belgium who is looking after our future concert bookings. All other affairs are being maintained by us and my agency Crossroads Productions at this point, until a bigger Management has been found.
Csaba Zvekan: I like doing new things and trying out new styles. Tower of Babel is focusing around Joe Stump as it is a guitar driven album. Not that the rest of the band wont’t matter, but Joe makes some heavy lifting here and that is supposed to be like that. Once it’s done and out it’s no longer new and we have been working on this album for quiet some time now. So for us it’s nothing really new only for the audience of course.
Nic Angileri: It’s fantastic! I see it like a great challenge and I love that. It just happened when for some reason one’s ready and has got the right ingredient for the recipe. We are 5 different people sharing a very similar “musical DNA”, its impressive, magic! Usually I used to record and listen only to the very final product and when I had a listen to Tower Of Babel ´s finished product I said : “WOW! Now I’d better get ready for this one” so I started analyzing closely what we’ve created together and keep focused for the live shows. I can tell you there’s something magic in there!.
I’m excited to play this album very soon in front of good audiences made of rockers like us, plus young ones from the new generation. This band is larger than I could imagine and will deliver awesome performances.
Maestro Mistheria: I personally have often collaborations with other amazing “veterans” musicians in the rock/metal scene especially on my solo albums and projects. Making music and playing with the amazing Tower Of Babel’s members just followed my way to make music and albums. I really expect that Tower Of Babel will perform soon live, especially I’d love to attend some main festivals, our fans are really excited about the band and the album!
Rockpages.gr: Is Tower Of Babel a side-project, or a real band? Are there any plans to go play shows? Do you plan a second album already?
Joe Stump: No it`s the real deal, this debut record is just the first step and there are touring plans for “Lake of Fire” in the pipes and more records to come.
Mark Cross: We were not too certain about it one year ago if Tower Of Babel would carry on after Craig´s passing, it was quite a shock, since everything was so Rainbow Dio driven. Then Nic joined forces and played the Bass and the whole thing shaped up. I think it pushed us all forward and made us think it over. Today I believe we like to call it a band. And as Joe said, there will be more albums coming 🙂
Nic Angileri: Thank you Mark I’m glad you said that and this shows how good it is to be a member of Tower of Babel. There is a lot of respect between us and appreciation and loyalty, pretty rare to find in a band nowadays. Finally I can be myself and express in music my knowledge and personal taste surrounded by the best players I could dream of playing with. Yes, we are a band! I think we will be announcing the first gigs this autumn.
Csaba Zvekan: I was just suggesting to get started with the second record so it’s ready for 2018. Not sure what the guys’s schedule is these days. Tour planning has begun as we speak and I think some shows in Europe are already confirmed. We also wrote to a couple of festivals in Greece for 2018 and also aim for a couple of dates in the major cities of Greece. You can safely say that this is a real band and we’re ready to do the whole nine yards.
Maestro Mistheria: Tower Of Babel started as a side-project for me, I work a lot as session-player in studios, the only special thing about this album was that the band members were friends of mine I had already been working with in the past and was super excited when Csaba called me to join the band. Month by month, it became a real band due to our plans and the effort from all of us giving input to the band, especially because things are moving out from the studio job and live shows are in the plans. A second album is “silently” been talked already, but we’re focusing now on bringing “Lake of Fire” live, it’s a “volcano” album and we’re getting ready to light up the stages!
Rockpages.gr: The production of the album is great letting everything shine in the mix, it’s almost like listening to classic albums. What were the “tricky” parts producing “Lake Of Fire” and what did you focus on while you were mixing it?
Csaba Zvekan: Like with every “patchwork production” where the individual musician records in his own studio or environment you have to put them together so it fits at the end.
I did all the rough mixes and eventually handed over the entire production for Francisco Palomo who then mixed the record. Honestly I just didn’t have the time to do it this time since I was busy with some private issues myself. However I was involved together with Joe in producing and shaping the sound to some extent.
Joe Stump: I wanted the record to have a more classic sound but of course have it stand up sonically to the hard rock and metal records that are released today. Since we`re on a smaller label and on a limited budget it`s a bit more challenging but I think it stands up quite nicely. To me it`s much more of a hard rock record than a metal record which was my intention.
Mark Cross: Very true, with a small budget you try to achieve everything you can and it can be tough putting all the pieces together. I recorded most of the drums after the completion of the Tainted Nation drum recordings 2015 in Sweden at TN´s Bass player Pontus Egberg´s Studio in Stockholm and three more songs at “The Drum Dungeon”, my Studio in Hamburg, Germany early 2017, when we decided to finally finish the album and release it. Even then at that point we were uncertain if Tower Of Babel was a band or just a Stump project. After the mix we were blown away, sat down and just said…. Fuck it, let´s do it and kick ass, “Lake of fire” is the sh…..and a great album title too, know what I mean? I´m glad that we all agreed on approaching that classic rock vibe in the mix and not just boost up the guitars and compress the rest to death. It´s definitely not a Metal album and I´m very happy about that. I´m sure that on the second album it will even sound better now that we know the recipe of Tower Of Babel. Bigger drums I mean of course….(big smile)!!
Nic Angileri: Thank you, I like the sound of this record, from my side, I’ve provided the best bass recordings I could do in my small studio in Switzerland (Bellinzona) and yes, you can get a taste of it on every song.
Maestro Mistheria: When the album was a work-in-progress and after my keyboard parts were recorded and delivered, I was totally busy with my Vivaldi Metal Project (in which Csaba, Joe and Mark are featured as well), therefore I left the production job to my band-mates who did an awesome job I’m really proud of!
Rockpages.gr: One of the songs that really stood out for me from the first spin of the album was “Addicted”, can you tell us a bit about it?
Csaba Zvekan: It’s funny since this is a song that everybody likes the most. Originally it wasn’t my favourite and I actually asked Joe not to release it. But we decided to do it anyway.
I thought it was too poppy and not really my style. But I had similar experiences with Exorcism’s “Stay in hell” and Sardonyx “Call me” that turned out to be favourable for other ears than mine.
Joe Stump: That`s a bit of a departure for me as usually the stuff I write is heavier and darker. I had that track laying around for a while and then went back to it and developed it. Usually when I play or compose something I’m channelling one of my heroes/influences and on that one it’s an old Michael Schenker group type of thing or at least that’s what I was going for. I also really like a lot of Axel Rudi Pell’s stuff he writes some killer stuff so there’s some of his influence in there as well. But a lot of the credit goes to Csaba as he really did a killer job on the lyrics and melody lines.
Rockpages.gr: The album closes with “Eyes Of The World”, how come you’ve chosen that one? I am glad you did it’s one of my favourites!
Joe Stump: That was Csaba’s idea, he said to me that it’d be a great track to do since nobody’s done it and it is bad ass and epic song, on our version we’ve managed to stay fairly close to the original but added a more aggressive heavier vibe to the track.
Rockpages.gr: OK, as a fan to another fan I have to ask you: what did you think of the recent “Rainbow” reunion?
Joe Stump: Well Ritchie is 72 now so his technique isn’t quite what it was last time he was out playing hard rock with Rainbow back in 1997 during the Doogie White /Stranger In Us All period. The first German show it seemed like he was knocking the dust off a bit as he was kind of tentative at the start of the show. But his touch and musicality are still all there and there were plenty of moments of brilliance guitar-wise during the first Loreley show. The second show was much better he seemed much more in command and relaxed as well, played much better. As far as the rest of the band goes Ronnie was killer, just a great vocalist , he sang everything wonderfully of course especially the Dio era stuff. Jens on the keys was also tremendous he`s a virtuoso plain and simple , but the bass player and drummer while very good musicians didn’t really interpret the stuff like hard rock guys so there was a certain amount balls missing from the sound of the band. Also since Ritchie’s getting on in years he no longer had the stacks as he can’t play at the volume levels he used to so a certain amount of impact was missing from his sound as well. But all and all I really enjoyed it , he’s my hero and guitar-wise he’s still brilliant. I went to Glasgow this year, sat in the 4th row center – it was awesome the whole show all around was drastically better than last year’s German shows.
Mark Cross: I´ve seen both shows with Joe in Germany in 2016 and was quite disappointed to be honest! I know times change, Richie grew older, but man, this is not a Blackmore´s night performance, please! If you want to represent a Rainbow show, it needs the right cats to do the job, musically and visually! It´s rock´n roll man…..a double Bass drum set and a wall of amps and the Stargazer drum intro was missing? That I believe is the least a Rainbow show has to offer and of course better playing.
Richie is a very special, talented and unique guitar player and personality, but please don´t take that image of Rainbow away or just leave it in good memories!
Ronnie and Jens did a superb job, but I bet it was tough work for them. The foundation was unfortunately musically misplaced, I totally share Joe´s opinion here, bass and drums just could not deliver the sound and playing Rainbow´s Music needs.
Recently I played a show with Joe Lynn Turner and my good friend George Gakis in Moscow doing all that old Purple and Rainbow stuff of Joe´s era and man, we had a blast.