Tony Mills Interview12th March 2015
I managed to catch the one and only Tony Mills, lead Singer of SHY, Siam and TNT amongst others for a telephone interview, open and brutally honest, he spoke of his new album, the industry and what’s ahead.
AATR: Hey Tony, Thanks for taking the time out for us today – can you start by telling us a bit more about the album?
Hey Matt, sure – it’s a collection of songs that reflect on my life after I basically died at the airport in Oslo and was brought back again after a few minutes, by some fast acting people and the medics. There was no chap with a great white beard, in fact there was nothing till I woke to the sound of myself screaming, and that then prompted the question in your own head of where do you go from here you know?
You start to reflect on how you felt before and how you felt after, searching for the middle in retrospect. The more I thought about it – and I did for many months trying to understand and explain it all, the more the album then grew and I kind of got over when I was writing, the stress that was before this all happened and the bad feeling we had got then in the band and the way we were with each other – it was very difficult to tour together and the stress of it all was pretty much what knocked me over in the end and while I was there on the floor, some of the band had already got on the plane to leave, some of them got off and some didn’t bother, and that said a lot to me.
So after that it was very much a downhill situation. I did like another 100 shows but I’d already made up my mind it had to stop, I’d actually left the band 18 months before it was announced in the press; we just toured to cover the commitments and make sure we didn’t let anyone down, you know?
Everyone was always doing side projects, but the primary interest was in the band and it’s not the band without everyone being there, but that situation is finished. It finished 2 years ago even though now I understand Tony Harnell has now left the band again, although I don’t have a clue why, it was just too self destructive all round, I guess.
AATR: I interviewed Serpentine some time back and I remember them commenting on how much they’d developed as artists down to the experience you shared with them and gave them, especially on how a song should end on an album – not just fading away as it was a cop out J
Yeah well y’know those guys were young and I always remember that all the intros were the same and for me to help them develop it was about thinking of different approaches and to give them a different perspective.
They’d done some work before with an American singer, and after he’d gone they were looking for a replacement and I offered to write some songs with them whilst I was off the road at the time and it was okay really, the second album was very much a step up.
It was at that time I had the heart attack and they’d wanted me to go on the road with them and two things occurred to me and it was a typical SHY problem, they wrote all the song’s in E Major and as a singer you start off at the top and you can’t come down and after five or six songs you start to sweat cause as a singer you have you’re work cut out for you It’s difficult to stand on stage and perform fifteen songs in that key – its definitely easier when you are twenty years old than when you are fifty and they needed a twenty year old singer and that’s when we found Matt Black to replace me, but I believe they now have a new singer, they’re a good set of guys and I wish them well.
AATR: So back to your album, are there any songs that are harder to perform live than others, given the fact they all relate to your personal experience?
Well to be honest, I laid myself bare with all of them. I couldn’t have put myself in a worse position than I did. I emigrated, I lost my family, everything was a complete disaster so with the songs it’s not like one is less appropriate than the other.
I’ve just chosen to shoot a video for “Somewhere In London” which is one of the later songs on the album that was co written with Robert Sall from Work Of Art and it really lifted up the record to another level and originally I wasn’t going to include it on the record but everyone was jumping up and down for it – I was aiming to put it on the next album, But in the end I had to agree, everyone else was right and I was wrong, I mean you can’t be right all the time can you? 😉
It’s definitely a video that needs to be shot on location and that’s what I intend to do cause it lend’s itself to Bayswater Rd and Hyde Park, Soho at night etc so I have to apply for the permit’s etc – It’s not the easiest thing to do, to film a video in the middle of London at night but I hope to, at the end of May.
Come April I’m away for a short holiday and then hopefully do the videos before the summer, so there is enough to think about. Two years ago when I started on the album I was actually writing an autobiography with everything that’s gone on in my life, and with the album a hell of a lot has changed in the last two years, so I’ve got some catching up to do.
There are so many people involved I just have to be careful they don’t all get divorced when my book comes out! lol
AATR: You’ve done so much and you even took some time out from music didn’t you?
Yeah, in 96 after Siam ended because of the grunge market taking over, I had a spinal operation that year and was told I couldn’t function for nine months but with the British government I was signed off fit for work after nine days!
I went straight on a computer course cause I knew nothing about them, so I went working for an Agency and ended up as a Manager for six years in engineering, I then took a year out to spend some time with my daughter, before I worked briefly with The Sweet before then joining TNT.
I did take SHY out on the road, but it wasn’t the same, so I emigrated to Trondheim.
AATR: What’s the plans now to promote the album, will there be any shows in the UK?
I seriously doubt it with the UK, and that’s just being honest, after flight, hotels etc it’s not worth it, but over here I’m running myself crazy with the opportunities I have.
If I had to perform this album live I would need everything visually to back it up, not mentioning the production side of things, and will that happen? I honestly don’t know, it would cost a lot. What may be an option is to approach it from a video side where we build the album that way.
I have had shouts from Australia and others but I’m not convinced at this moment in time. In Norway you have to have a single to get the backing but here the government is right, they pay me to write my lyrics, to shoot a video, to record your album, I also talk to kids about music and present at the culture houses, they fully support you.
AATR: For me if I like the album I have to buy the original, you break everything down and it’s like minimum wage – you like it, support the artist and recognize what they do
I know exactly what you’re saying, my partner, who is also my manager hates the army of people who ring up wanting free albums, backstage passes and she tells them to Fuck Off, it’s like it’s a work of art just as much as another artist so support them and buy the work.
The public will always be the public and you still have to manage that and you don’t want to annoy fans but please support the work.
I ‘ve had it from ex managers who’ve also ripped me off, you can get it from all angles.
I still love music though and no matter what else I’ve done, it can’t be done just for the money ’cause at times it just isn’t enough, at least here in Norway you get the royalty cheque every 12 weeks and that’s again set up to support the artist; it was never this efficient in England.
After Steve Harris died I tried to upload a few songs and I couldn’t – due to some copyright infringement– songs that I had co-written with Steve!
And after having spoken to the PRS/ MCPS, it had become apparent that people were trying to re-register his songs in other names. Poor show is an understatement. The money that they earn should all be going to his widow.
AATR: So with it being so cut throat how do you stay so positive and keep on pushing through?
I have a good partner, she’s been so supportive over the last five years, It’s only a couple of years ago I left TNT and it had really come to it’s end anyway, performing for the fans was great but the band wasn’t the same. After that I started doing shows with big brass bands, wood sections and choirs and it was great – y’know different stuff.
There’s also my daughter who I love to fly over and see as much as I can.
I’ve done a few tribute bands but that’s not as rewarding, once I’ve finished the book then who knows what the next steps will be.
I had one funny recollection when Bobby Kimble from Toto was over in Oslo and they’d been getting local singers up, So they invited me up and I was like, yeah definitely!!
Five days before they were in Oslo I developed the virus from hell, but I didn’t have the heart to pull the gig, so I went to the show and was so bad that I could hardly speak so it was like “Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s Tony Mills!”
And of course, nothing happened. I just went blank and whispered in his ear,’ It’s alright mate, you do it yourself’, I never thought I would get that call again, but I did. Unbelievably, I was flying out the day before. There is an ill fated collaboration, if ever there was one.
AATR: Awesome! – Thanks for your time Tony, good luck with the album and take care!