On The Record with Alan Kelly of 7HY aka Seven Hard Years
One of the most vastly underrated bands in the AOR genre was definitely the almighty Shy – a collective from England whose various albums, including Excess All Areas and Welcome To The Madness should have been played all over the radio airwaves. You can’t keep a passionate musician down, and Shy’s former drummer Alan Kelly has returned with a brand new project entitled 7HY aka Seven Hard Years. And while the monikers may be similar, the style of music 7HY unveils is more on the hard edged side of the spectrum. For The Record is their third exhilarating magnum opus, with Alan Kelly, co-conspirator Shawn Pelata, and the rest of the 7HY membership evoking an auditory vision that truly sets the imagination in flight.
Highwire Daze Online caught up up Alan Kelly for an all encompassing interview, discussing the origins of 7HY, some of the songs from the upcoming For The Record, working in the legendary Shy, memories of his former Shy bandmate Steve Harris who passed away from a brain tumor in 2011, and other topics from 7HY’s past, present, and future! So let’s go On The Record with Alan Kelly of 7HY aka Seven Hard Years for all the news on this dynamic rock and roll collective. Read on…
Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in 7HY and how the band has been together.
Hi Ken and Highwire Daze readers I am Alan Kelly, one time drummer of UK AOR band Shy and now I have my own band / project called Seven Hard Years or 7HY for short.
I always wrote songs both music and lyrics while I was in Shy although my music never really got a look in as Steve Harris was such an excellent song writer it was hard to compete.
Once I found myself no longer involved with Shy I was able to properly concentrate on my own songs, I built up enough material to be able to do three or four albums before I decided to try and see if I could get any of it released. Initially I played every instrument on the demos including lead guitar, until I realized that if I was going to get serious about it and put out CD’s then I would need to up my game when it came to vocals and lead guitar and production. Enter Shawn Pelata, Danny Beardsley and Andrew Chick.
Is there any story behind the band name Seven Hard Years?
When Steve Harris came up with the name SHY we were suggesting things that S.H.Y. could stand for, Steve came up with ’Steve Harris’s Yobs’ and I suggested ‘Seven Hard Years’.
So when I was looking for a name for my own project I thought why not use ‘Seven Hard Years’, after-all I was one of the founding members of Shy and had helped to build up the name and the bands standing over the years. Why wouldn’t I want to associate my self with that?, all the records, the touring, the producers, etc. Of course I want to be remembered for that, so having the name ‘Seven Hard Years’ seemed the perfect way of doing it and just to avoid and confusion over the initials I would write it in short as 7HY.
How would you describe the music of 7HY compares to your previous band SHY?
I would still say that it is ‘melodic rock’ but with a harder edge to it, as 7HY we can do ballads and out and out double bass drum almost metal songs if we want, it all works. But Shy was really AOR and would never venture into metal.
Is there any overall story or concept behind the album title For The Record?
No, that just came about because I had an idea for the cover to use an old 45 disc centre as the CD cover and make it look old like an original vinyl single. I adapted an old Iggy Pop label and made it look like it was 7HY ‘For The Record’. I was really pleased with how it came out. I then used that record as the cover for the CD. I just tried to make it look like we’d been busy writing songs, with the guitar pick and tobacco strewn over it and the whiskey glass, and it came out much better than I expected. I did a series of different photos based around that theme and used them as background pictures in the CD booklet and I’m very please with how they turned out – anybody’d think I was a professional!. Since it was all based around a ‘record’ and writing songs the title ‘For The Record’ seemed to fit.
Select two songs on For The Record and what inspired the lyrics.
Ok, I’m going to pick two ‘weird ones’, perhaps not the usual subject matter that you would expect from a melodic rock album.
The first one is a song called ‘I’m Gonna Be You’ and this is about a conspiracy theory that started way back in 1967 and is still on going today – and that is, that the original Paul McCartney from ‘The Beatles’ actually died in a car crash in November 1966 and was replaced by a look a like called ‘Billy Shears’…yeah I know hard to believe right?…well look a little closer at some of the evidence, after 1966 the new Paul is about a foot taller?…he has different colour eyes? …his ears are a different shape . Just put in ‘Paul McCartney is dead’ into ‘YouTube search’ and see the evidence for yourself …there is so much of it! It is my belief that ‘Billy Shears’ was in on the whole plan before the actual death of the original Paul, ‘Billy Shears’ wanted to be ‘Paul McCartney, he wanted his fame, his money and ultimately for Paul McCartney’s father to call him son…….there!…weird enough for you?
The second one is called ‘What Love Can Make Me Do’ And this came from a UK TV series called ‘The Secret’ a true story that happened in Northern Ireland where Collin Howell, a respectable dentist and pillar of the community, became a killer in partnership with Hazel Buchanan, a Sunday school teacher and wife of a Policeman. In a devoutly religious community Colin becomes infatuated with Hazel and they begin an affair and he suggests a murderous way that they can be together, They kill each others partners and set it up to look like the partners were having an affair and that suicide was their only way out, He is a calculating killer with little or no disdain and tries to use his religious convictions to justify his deeds.
“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”…..if you can, check out the TV series, a well made dramatisation of coldblooded ruthlessness!
What do you think makes the combination of Alan Kelly and Shawn Pelata work so well together on the 7HY releases?
Shawn and I first met via Myspace. He liked Shy, and in turn I liked his voice on the stuff he was doing, I knew he had the quality and range that I was looking for. So I asked if he would be interested in singing on some of my songs, and we pretty much went from there. I usually give him a track with my vocals already down and he effectively copies what I have done. He will add the odd little bit here or there but for the most part he will stick to the original. And that is what I like about Shawn, he pretty much sees it how I see it and doesn’t start messing with the melody or changing things around too much, for me that is why it works.
What could one expect from a live 7HY show?
Total surprise!! because as yet we have not done a live show. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is very keen to get out there and do some gigs but while social media is fantastic for bringing people and artists together to write songs from all over the world I’m afraid the same cannot be said for live shows, Shawn is based in the US and I am based in the UK, so logistically that makes things very difficult – although with the right amount of money and interest, all that can be overcome. We’ll just have to wait and see if it will ever happen.
The Queen of England invites 7HY to play one song at a Royal Command Performance. What song would you play for the Queen and guest and why?
The English National Anthem, as even the Queen would have to pay attention to that and at least she’d know the words! …haha
Really that would be a tough one! Should we go for the epic ‘What Is The World’ or for the commercial single ‘Nothing Hurts Me Like You’? Probably the later as then it would go onto be a huge hit just because we’d play it there.
When you look back on Shy’s biggest album Excess All Areas, what do you think of it now?
I’m still extremely proud to have been part of that album and think it stands the test of time today. People are still raving about it. It’s a pity that the British press were more keen on ignoring its virtues and spent more time slagging off band members to really appreciate what they had before them. If they’d have of gotten behind us in the way that the Americans got behind Def Leppard, then it could have been a whole different story – as it is it will always be “that band should have been a lot bigger than they were…”
Another Shy album that should have been a monster hit was Welcome To The Madhouse. What do you think of that album in retrospect?
Again as you say ‘a monster album’ produced by Neil Kernon as was XS, I love it still, we had a great time recording it, what prevented that album from really making its mark was a real lack of money from the independent record label ‘Granite.’ They just didn’t know how to get the album out to the masses, and also that the music at the time was changing and was moving over to ‘Grunge’ and ‘Thrash’ etc. AOR and melodic rock was not current anymore – people and press were just not interested. Shame, it’s a great album.
Is there a memory of Steve Harris that you could share with us and did you keep in contact with him?
I knew Steve from the age of 15/16, he was a great lad, loved his music, was always playing guitar or writing songs – that was what he lived for. I found writing songs with Steve really easy – he was always full of ideas but he was very grounded, he was never going throw TV’s out of the hotel window or anything. He was quiet, he liked to keep himself to himself, I often wonder if he ever had any regrets about not enjoying the places that we went to more. He came out occasionally, but mostly he would keep himself in his room with the curtains drawn and play his guitar while the rest of us went out on the piss and living it up. Once I moved to Cornwall, I did not keep in touch with Steve. We didn’t end on good terms, which made it very difficult for me once I found out about his illness. I regret not getting in touch with Steve before he died, and that’s something that I’ll have to live with. He was an immense talent and is sadly missed.
Do you still keep in touch with any of the other Shy members?
No, I have sent the odd message to Paddy and Tony but its all very distant. Everyone keeps everyone else at arms length, and there is a certain amount of distrust between all parties. I have met up with Roy when I did the first 7HY ’No Place In heaven’ album at his studio in Birmingham, England. We had a few beers etc…sometimes you have to let some water flow under the bridge otherwise you can never move forward. He help me out, put the record out on his Lynchburg Label and it kick started 7HY. That helped gloss over some of the cracks I guess.
What’s up next for 7HY?
Well we have the new album ‘For The Record’ coming out on August 31st and were all very excited about that. We should have a nice shiny lyric video to go with ’Nothing Hurts Me Like You’, also there is talk of an acoustic EP and we may begin work on 7HY 4 over the next few months
Any final words of wisdom?
I would like to break through the little social media circle that we currently have, and out into the masses with this record, this can only be achieved if people buy the CD, spread the word, put it on the map. With the right backing behind us, you never know – we may yet take this circus on the road…here’s to that!…also listen to Ken….he’s knows his onions!!
For The Record by 7HY aka Seven Hard Years (Lion’s Pride Music) will be available worldwide August 31st, 2017!
(Interview by Ken Morton)
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