When looking to some of my favorite vocalists, Tony Harnell is definitely one that comes quickly to mind. From his early days with Norwegian rockers TNT through his more recent days with Westworld, Harnell has retained his vocal finesse and trademark style. Recently, Westworld released their second album 'Skin' Stateside via the Dreamscape Music Group. I had a chance to have a chat with Tony Harnell and to discuss the new album among other things. Hope you enjoy the read!
Heavy Metal Resource: Hi Tony! Appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. I wanted to look first at the Stateside release of 'Skin'. When did it street??

Tony Harnell: It streets on July 9th.

HMR: Great! I remember reading somewhere a while back that Spitfire Records actually had the album a while back.

TH: Yeah, they did. I actually went in and had a meeting with them and asked if they would let it go. I wasn't really happy with the promotion of the first Westworld album. I just wanted to give the new album a chance even if it took a couple of years to get it out.

HMR: I had forgot that Spitfire handled the debut. I bought a foreign version.

TH: Yeah, they did handle the first release here in the States.

HMR: Anyway, so Spitfire just let you have the album back then??

TH: Yeah, it wasn't quite so easy, but I had some people that I knew up there and I did end up getting it back.

HMR: So I guess at that point you took the album out and shopped it a bit??

TH: Yeah, we actually had a deal on the table with Koch. We were in contact with them and then the new president came in and killed every deal that wasn't already signed. So there again we were without a label. I went around to a few others and checked things out and finally came to the conclusion that maybe it was better to put it out ourselves. About the time I was putting it together I talked to Dave (Tedder). He was putting his label together and we quickly worked something out and he was very enthusiastic about it.

HMR: So you had known Dave Tedder (Dreamscape Music) before this deal??

TH: Yeah, but not real well. We had done some interviews together and stuff like that a while back. We thought he was a nice guy and he had a genuine interest in the album. We felt that we had nothing to lose. The record had already been out for a couple of years overseas. The album went to radio last week and has been doing phenomenaly well.

HMR: The album really is good. I feel it is some of your best work vocally.

TH: I think it has taken a bit of a turn. I don't think you could compare me now to what I was doing with TNT in the 80's. I'm glad the fans are accepting the direction I am taking.

HMR: I really think the direction is good. 'Skin' really seems to grab a lot of depth. With the older TNT stuff, it was very good and very direct. The new stuff really adds a dimension to that which brings out a bit more depth. As far as releasing the album Stateside, will it be the same basic format as the releases overseas??

TH: The only thing we did was added the Japanese bonus track 'Elastic' and also changed the running order. We wanted to do something a bit different for the American fans who already had it. It's not really a reissue, but a first release here domestically. We are actually in the middle of making a brand new album right now, we're actually almost finished with it. We are approaching 'Skin' however like it is a brand new album.

HMR: This next question may be old hat for some fans, but I'm sure you are attracting new fans all of the time. Just wanted you to tell us a bit of how the band came together originally. For those who don't know already, the band also features Danger Danger's Bruno Ravel, John O'Reilly who has worked with Ritchie Blackmore and Mark Reale from Riot.

TH: Well, the first thing that happened was Riot asked me to do backup vocals on one of their albums. We got along really well. We ended up getting together and wrote a few songs that turned out really well. We went forward and decided to make a record. We were actually suppose to have a different rhythm section originally. We ended up with Bruno and John and have been very happy about it. That's the short version of how we got together.

HMR: I also understand that Mark Wood has been involved as well.

TH: I brought Mark in on the first two albums to basically fill in the holes, keyboards, violin, and all of the beautiful things that he does. He really is a very important part of the first couple of albums. He has been so busy lately and we are good friends, but he won't be able to work on the new record with us. He is a really incredibly talented guy. He was just never really part of the band, but more of a studio helper.

HMR: You probably get asked this alot, but I'll ask anyway. What are your personal favorite tracks on 'Skin'??

TH: I would say probably the title track,'Black shadow symphony', 'Limbo', and 'Uninvited'.

HMR: I was really curious why you decided to do 'Uninvited'. For those unaware it is an Alanis Morrisette cover.

TH: Well, for one thing, I really love the song and am a big fan of hers. I just though it would fit well with what we were doing stylistically. When I first brought it to the guys, there was definitely not a lot of support all the way across the board. Once we started playing it in preparation for the album, it sounded so good that everybody agreed with it.

HMR: I was just a bit curious about the live release you did recently. That hasn't been released domestically yet??

TH: Actually, no it hasn't. We are thinking about that at some point. It may follow up 'Skin' over here. I might talk to Dave about that one.

HMR: I wanted to talk a bit about the events of 9/11. I remember the day that you did the pool set at Ultrasound 2001 how you were talking about being from San Diego, but had really developed a love for the city of New York. What were your thoughts??

TH: That was actually 2 days before it happened. I had left the following day after Ultrasound to stay with my grandparents in San Diego. I was going to leave the following morning and then all hell broke less. My flight was suppose to be that day at noon. I ended flying back the following Saturday or Sunday. I felt that you can't really stop living, but of course I was devastated that a part of my city was basically destroyed. When you live in New York and that many people die, if you don't know any of the people yourself that were involved, you absolutely know people who know people. I remember when I first came back, it was pretty sad place, but interestingly enough there was an energy around the city. The city started to pull together. People were actually being really nice to each other which is not really a New York thing. It was really amazing the way the city cleaned all that up and all of the emotional stuff that people dealt with. Ultimately New York is a stronger city now I guess. If there was any good to come of it, that is probably what it is.

HMR: Yeah, I think it really made the nation stronger as well. We became very proud of New York and realize why it is probably the number one city.

TH: Yeah, It is an amazing place. If you have never been here I highly recommend coming here and taking a week at least and checking out all of the things there are to see. It goes on forever. When I first moved here from California I said I would never stay here. I hated it. I wanted to get out as fast as I could to get back to the beach and go surfing. After about 3 years my whole viewpoint started flipping over. It's a great place. I can't imagine a better place to be and I would probably not move back to California until I was retired.

HMR: I understand that you have been back in contact with Ronni and Morty. Anything going on in the TNT camp??

TH: Well, we're signed up to do a few things. Universal is putting out a best of TNT album, but I don't know all of the territories that are going to actually see this, but I think it is going to come out almost everywhere and if not through Universal then another label. There will be at least 2 new songs on that. Then we are doing an ep for Europe and Japan. Then next year we will be doing a full length album. I've already got some songs from Ronni through our computers. It's great stuff. I'm really really excited about it.

HMR: So what can we expect from the next Westworld disc that you are working on??

TH: Mark is a pretty conservative guy. We kind of wanted to stay with the same basic vibe. It is like the first album, but at the same time a combination of the two. Bruno has been producing it.

HMR: Do you have a projection for a release date for the album??

TH: September I believe. Then we head for Europe and Japan.

HMR: Who do you deal with overseas for your label??

TH: With Z Records.in Europe and Marquee in Japan.

HMR: I was just curious about one of your other projects, the Morning Wood project. I really liked that one. Was that just a one-off or are you going to do something with it again??

TH: You know, we just finally got a release for it outside of Japan on Escape Music. I'm not sure when the release date is, but I think it is the Fall.

HMR: Something to look forward to definitely. In closing, just wanted to see if you had anything you wanted to tell your fans??

TH: I'm just really happy to finally have the second album out. I hope everybody likes it. Please request it on your local metal radio show. I hope to get out and do some shows outside of New York.

HMR: Thanks alot Tony. I do appreciate it!

TH: Thanks Dave! Anytime.

Westworld's 'Skin' available domestically!
Westworld Web-Official Website
Dreamscape Music Group