Interview with Simon Daniels of Autograph

Simon Daniels

It’s a real pleasure to be joined on the phone from other side of the pond by vocalist Simon Daniels.

Thank you very much Dan and it’s my pleasure.

I’m gutted the fact that I missed seeing you guys at Firefest last year, unfortunately that was the only Firefest I couldn’t make and you did the Monsters Rock Cruise last year, and I missed out on that as well but it’s great to see you guys back with some new music

Yes, it’s really exciting.

So, you’ve probably been asked this question a million times, ‘what made you decide now was the right time to release something new?’

The universe, the circumstances. It was not like it was planned. We had the first year of a good run. Our first show was last year, January 31st in Pennsylvania and from then on we played quite a bit and we did the major festivals that are here in the US for this kind of genre. We did ‘Monsters of Rock’ as you said, we did the M3, then we did Moondance, the fest with and we opened for Foreigner and Styx and then finally Firefest and between all those shows we went for runs, mainly east coast of the US. East coast, south, mid-west and we went to Canada. So to answer your question, basically as we got some mileage, we got to experience a few things. We came up with this idea of ‘let’s just start recording a song, maybe something about the audience, maybe a gift to the audience, something that includes them’. This is truly the reception we received, everywhere we went people were extremely warm and we were very, very grateful for that

Well Autograph is a band whose earlier albums are something that are sort of placed in a bit of a revered window as it were. They take you back to a fantastic time. They’re just something that are top of the tree for a certain genre. Everybody liked Autograph. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t like Autograph or doesn’t believe that the first albums were superb, and to say that you guys are back, and obviously the reception that you guys have got, just shows that those fans have stayed loyal after all these years. Going forward, are you guys working on or planning to release a full album?

We just didn’t want to wait to write all these songs to make a full album because we wanted to deliver something that would immediately show that the new line up is gonna be writing and the style’s going to be similar and the melodies are going to be there, the harmonies are gonna be there. We wanted to make it a little heavier. The original keyboard player in the band unfortunately died five years ago and we decided to make more of a guitar sound from there on so we did the song, completed it and mastered it and then we said ‘let’s just drop it’. So the vibe starts spreading out and as we go with the process, especially these days, you can actually record a song, put it out, record another song and put it out in a couple of months. Here in the States, mainly it’s all downloads but we’re going to proceed and hopefully in the next few months we’ll have at least enough material for an EP and then we’ll make hard copies of it.

One question I have to ask, and it’s because everybody has asked if I was going to ask the question and you’re probably already fed up with hearing it, is that you replaced Steve Plunkett and in some people’s minds, Steve is Autograph even though Autograph can never be just one person. Is it something you’ve felt nervous about, filling Steve’s shoes?

Never filling his shoes. I’ve always liked him, I’ve always been a fan of the band. It just happens that this was right up my alley. The style of music that I really like to where I grew up and how I grew up. I predicted some resistance from the fans but the backlash that could’ve happened didn’t happen. Not even five percent of what could’ve happened. I put myself in that situation because I believed in what we were doing. Steve didn’t want to do it. He gave us the name, he gave us the logo, he gave us his blessing and he actually communicates with us here and there. He’s doing other things so everything is clean, everything is on the table but the one thing I won’t do is really, karaoke him. I’m going to put my two cents in and I’m going to be me in Autograph and a lot of fans don’t take into consideration that this is a long time. They don’t realise that 26 years is a long time. Nobody sounds the same from that time, nobody looks the same. If they only knew but they look at a video that was from 26 years ago and that is what they think that that’s what it would’ve been with the original singer but that’s not true. With that said, we’re doing Chapter 2 now of Autograph. Steve Lynch is a key player, is one of the biggest guitar players in the world. As a matter of fact, in the US the band was the most known because of Steve Lynch and all his guitar player interviews etc. Randy Rann has a big history as well. We wanted to start out and start playing right away, so let’s go play Autograph songs. I incorporated myself in it and now we have this new song. It’s not something that bothers me at all because I understand the emotional attachment that a fan has to something that when they listen they can remember what they were doing at that time. So it could be a little confusing or difficult to just let go of that but it’s just a matter of time. Every time we play we win the audience. Firefest was a good example. We felt a great vibe from the beginning. Maybe there was little bit of scepticism in the beginning but after the first or second song, people just went nuts and there was really only like just 1500 people there and by the end of the show I remember leaving the stage and it sounded like 20,000! We went out there, we talked to everybody, we did the bow and it was non stop screaming, so what’s cool about this situation is that we’re having to earn our position and it’s really a conquest because you will go play for sceptical people and if the music talks to them, if they have a good time and the energy’s strong then at the end of the show or sometimes after the first or the second song they jump right on board and this gives me a lot of satisfaction because we have to earn it.

Well I suppose it’s easy to be sceptical without actually hearing what you’re going to sound like with the band. I mean it’s a situation where you could think of quite a few bands where the lead singer has changed and ‘hang on five minutes guys, you need to see what the new sounds are like before you make judgement’

The funniest thing is some people are scared of liking it

Yeah, that’s probably a good way of putting it, absolutely

So with that said, life is what it is. Steve Plunkett is happy doing what he’s doing, I’m happy with what I’m doing and I think quality will prevail and it’s a matter of just replacing old memories with new ones. As we go out and play, people sing all the songs. They sound very similar except they’re heavier and my voice might be a little bit deeper and a little bit lower than his and I interpret the songs like if I wrote them of course. I live the lyrics when I’m singing. I’m not just doing what the guy from Journey, the guy that they hired

But he’s a karaoke session isn’t he? Let’s be honest

But that is what the fans expect so you somehow don’t interfere with their emotions to their memories. Yes there are comments like ‘this guy doesn’t sound like Steve Plunkett’ but I’m like ‘yeah, duh, that’s exactly it’. I don’t want to sound like him, not that I don’t like what he sounds like but I don’t need to try to sound like anybody else because I think I deliver myself and it fits very well in this band

Yeah, absolutely and the comments you made there, I would totally agree with that. As you say, some people live in a bit of a bubble. To me, back in the late 80’s, early 90’s was a fantastic time in my life. I was in London, the music scene there was huge. It was all about rock music but times change, things move on. As you said, this is, for want of a better phrase Autograph Mk II.


Well I just wanted to say this, I lived that whole era because I was here in the 80’s and I saw the entire metal scene and I’ve been in other bands before, I was in a band called Jailhouse. It was a merger with members from Rough Cut. I’ve had many record deals, I’ve done many things before I had the solo career so I had quite a bit of experience with this situation. The time that it was then was fantastic. You didn’t need to worry about anything, not half of the things you have to worry about today. What I’m proposing to do, is the music from that time remained as classic rock, so you will listen to AC/DC records. People are going to listen to ‘Back in Black’ more than they’re going to listen to the new album they put out. When the Rolling Stones go out, they play one song off their new record then they play everything from the best but there’s a reason for that.

That’s what fans expect, yes

What we’re proposing to do is, yes, we will deliver that. Of course we’re going to play ‘Turn Up The Radio’ or ‘My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend Isn’t Me’ and by the way Autograph have never performed half or even 2/3 of the set that we play. They have never because Steve Lynch and Randy have told me everything that they have never performed. We are performing songs that are in the Autograph records that were never ever performed live so this is an opportunity, like ‘All I’m Gonna Take’, that we played at Firefest that had an incredible reaction, it was never played live before. So we are playing and delivering things that are to a certain degree, never done before, not to say that Autograph have never left the US to tour outside, never! So there’s a whole world market that’s open, that has never been reached. With this new song, what we wanna do is maintain the style but with fresh music, so if you could write songs that sounds like those songs did back then and make the lyrics somehow current, but somehow uplifting and real. With that kind of music, then you’re giving that same music again to people but it’s something fresh that you haven’t played 30,000 times

It’s funny, I watched a documentary on the BBC about a year or so ago and they were doing a break down of rock music and the different types of genres of rock music and they had these so called critics and experts on, talking about the music of the late 80’s, early 90’s and what you guys call hair metal or hard rock, whatever label you want to put on it and they were almost putting down those sort of easy going lyrics and the fun music along with the rest of it. I thought ‘you’re really, seriously missing the point of what the music was about then’. It wasn’t about saving the planet or some great social event. It was all about having fun

Well Dan, there are all kinds of different bands. Each band, you know do what they do. U2, for instance, have been doing that kind of music for a long time. But Autograph was created as a fun band. It went out with Van Halen, the first tour. At this point, I’ve lived through the 90’s. I was also in a band called Flood and produced by Terry Date and he produced Buckcherry, Nine Inch Nails, Pantera, White Zombie, all those heavy bands. You know, things go in a circle. I don’t think the world needs more complaining right now. There’s enough of it and our proposal is to make everybody feel united, good and party and have a great time because that’s what makes us feel young so we’ll just leave the catastrophes and tragedies for the other bands. In terms of the critics and the experts that you were mentioning, first of all, music is not a science. There are no experts, there are no critics, there’s just opinions and most of them come from first rated musicians that never made it. They have personal reasons to tear things down because unfortunately the nature of the human being is to maybe feel a little bit elevated for 5 minutes when you tear somebody down. I’m very well aware of that and none of this is ever going to interfere with what we’re doing

Well I’ve always said and I’ve said it a million times, there’s only two types of music. There is good music and there is bad music and it’s as simple as that.

Yes, because somebody likes seafood, another person can’t say, ‘you will never convince me to eat shrimp, ever!’ It’s not how good it is, it’s not gonna happen, what can I do? So you just gotta respect. If somebody likes something, it does something for them, I respect that too. Even saying good music and bad music, it’s a little bit too solid because how many times have we changed our minds and how many times did songs grow? We are human beings that change our minds, constantly with everything and every time we change our minds we think that’s the final conclusion and then a year later it’s like ‘what was I thinking?’ You know, rock ‘n roll is really a gut thing and if you start to think and analyse and judge and experts and critics and all that stuff, it has nothing to do with it! Because the brain has nothing to do with the gut. The brain is just a computer that should work for your spirit and you can’t let the brain take over it so you’ve got to stay in spirit

Well Simon, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. I’m loving the new single and impatient for more new music from you

We do have another song that’s already been written and we’re going to start working on it. We’ll proceed and continue touring. This year is going to be very busy because it looks like in summer time, we’re gonna be going out not in just runs but it’s going to be steady for like a couple of months and on the road. I’m very happy with the band. This line up, we’re friends above the band. Which means that it’s in our interest that each member is happy as a person. First of all because that is naturally what’s happening. We became friends and talked for 2 months before we even got together the first time. The first time we got together there was an incredible amount of chemistry and we were all excited. There’s a mutual respect in this situation, where it’s very simple. If you understand that the guy next to you, in your band, is happy and he wants your happiness, you will always find a compromise with resolving everything. The problem that bands have is that when somebody wants something their way, only because it’s their way and they’re not willing to compromise or to listen to somebody else and that becomes more important than the happiness of the others but if you the 4 or 5 members happy with the situation, having fun, cracking jokes, on the road non-stop, being friendly, leaving a trail of friends and fans behind everywhere you go, I don’t see how you’re gonna go wrong.

You’re absolutely right. Simon, a real pleasure having you on the show mate. I appreciate you coming on and as I said, looking forward to the new music and hopefully you guys will pop back over the pond and come back to the UK because you will be truly welcome

We certainly will. We’re working on it and I want to thank you very much Dan for taking the time and having this chat with me. Thank you bro

Cheers, thanks ever so much indeed.

Transcribed by Carol Baker Tucker