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The Rocking Heartbeat of Shaft Of Steel

The Rocking Heartbeat of Shaft Of Steel

The Rocking Heartbeat of Shaft Of Steel

Shaft Of Steel is an AOR collective based out of the UK whose melodic tunes are sure to leave a lasting impression on all who give a good listen.  Their debut full length Steel Heartbeat features the participation of Dennis Ward from Pink Cream 69 and Khymera – and is now available worldwide through AOR HeavenHighwire Daze recently caught up with guitarist Alex Markham to find out a whole lot more about the rocking Shaft Of Steel and their exhilarating Steel Heartbeat endeavor.  Read on…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Shaft Of Steel, and how long the band has been together.
Hi, this is Alex Markham and I play guitar in Shaft of Steel. We originally formed in 2004 when three of us were studying at Hull University in Scarborough, which is on the North East coast of England. We took a four-year break from 2007, after graduating from university. There have been a few line-up changes since we reformed, but we’re back for good now and things have never been better.

Where is the band based out of and what is the local music scene like there?
We’re based in London, but we’re originally from all over England and many of us still live a long distance from London. Being the capital city of the UK, it has been a great place to operate a band. There are some excellent rehearsal facilities here and that is really crucial when you’re putting in the practice hours. There isn’t much of a scene for melodic rock though. You have to go further north or into Europe for that.

How did you wind up signing with AOR Heaven?
I spoke to Georg Siegel (the label owner) a few years ago before we put out our debut EP. He really liked it, but labels need to make money and 4-track EPs don’t generate a lot of revenue, so he asked us to come back to him when we had a full album ready. We did that and the rest is history.

Select two songs from Steel Heartbeat and what inspired the lyrics.
Our vocalist Rob writes most of the lyrics. Each song on the album explores the different stages of being in a relationship and the feelings involved.

The song “All Because Of You” features lyrics that deal with infatuation and the insecurity of being in a new relationship. As the song progresses to the middle 8, the lyrics develop on this idea containing themes based around trust and building connections.
In the song “Falling Through the Flames”, the lyrical themes centre around the end of a relationship and moving on. In the chorus, the lyrics explore the idea of the inner conflict between wanting to rekindle past love and exploring something new.

Who did the cover art for Steel Heartbeat and how much input did you have on it?
Felipe Machado Franco did the artwork. He does the artwork for bands like Blind Guardian, Rhapsody of Fire and Iron Savior. We had complete control over the concept, but Felipe likes to do his own thing, so it turned out quite different from how we imagined. I’m sure it was a nice break from his usual line of work, painting goblins and elves.

How did Dennis Ward of Pink Cream 69 become involved with Shaft Of Steel?
We approached Dennis in 2013, when we were beginning to wrap up the sessions for our self-titled debut EP. I’ve admired his work as a producer and singer for a long time, especially the work he did with Eden’s Curse and the projects he was involved with on Frontiers Records.

We were happy with how our EP sounded, but felt it needed the finishing touch of a big name to really give it the push it needed. There was no question about who we needed to contact – Dennis was the man for the job! We sent him the songs and luckily, he liked them, so we were able to enlist his services as backing vocalist and mastering engineer on that record.
The EP was a big success for us, so we knew we needed to repeat the winning formula with the album.

What could one expect from a live Shaft Of Steel show?
All six members of the band are from a metal background, so we know the importance of putting on an energetic live show. You can expect a very animated 6-piece band, delivering sing-along melodic rock anthems with heavy guitars. The songs on the album have huge backing vocal choirs, and that is quite a task to replicate live. We are putting in a lot of rehearsal time at the moment!

What was the experience like doing shows with Vega and Newman, and did you get to meet or hang out with them at all?
The sort of venues in the UK where AOR bands play are far from glamorous! All of the bands on the same bill are usually shoved into one backstage dressing room, so yes, we all got to meet Vega and Newman and they are a top bunch of blokes.
The shows with Vega were great, as they have a dedicated following, most of whom are serious AOR fans. We played to highly receptive audiences at those gigs and ended up selling (and signing) lots of CDs.  We’ve come to know Vega quite well over the years and we’ve run into them at lots of festivals and gigs since first sharing a stage with them in 2014.

If Shaft Of Steel could open for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Iron Maiden. They’ve been my favourite band since I was very young. They really are the gold standard for any heavy rock band when it comes to live shows.

The Queen Of England invites Shaft Of Steel to play one song at a Royal Command Performance. What song would you do for Her Majesty and her guests and why?
Our bass player Dominic Swords will answer this one for you – “I would pick “Lucky Girl”. To me this song is something that would get a crowd of guests probably that don’t normally listen to AOR/Melodic rock music stood on their feet and enjoying the music. It’s fast-paced, with a strong melody, powerful vocals and intricate guitar harmonies that really drive the point home that Her Majesty is a ‘lucky girl’ if she’s hearing this song played live.”

Are you or any other members involved with any other projects outside of Shaft Of Steel?
I work professionally as a producer and music teacher, so I’m always involved with music. However, sometimes it can be hard to find the time to take on a new project when you put what available time you have into a band. I’ve taken up the Irish Bouzouki in recent years and I enjoy playing at Irish traditional music sessions every week in Hammersmith, West London. I’d like to write some songs and produce albums for other AOR bands and projects now that the album has come out, so let’s see if any offers come in.

What’s up next for Shaft Of Steel?
We are heading out on the road with Vega again in May 2020 and we’re playing a warm-up show at Forged in Fire Festival in Wales on May 9th. We’re really excited to be playing live again. We haven’t had many opportunities to do so in the last few years, despite a great deal of interest from the fans, but now we have a new album to promote and CDs to sell so the gig offers are starting to come in. We hope to meet lots of our fans at these gigs. They’re the reason we’re able to continue as a band and we want to show our gratitude.

Any final words of wisdom?
We recently released a music video for the main track off the album, “I’ve Never Been Alone (With a Girl Like You Before)”. The director has done an amazing job, so I’d encourage the readers of your excellent magazine to check it out on YouTube.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!
Thank you for the interview Ken. It has been my pleasure.

Band Members
Robert Fenning – Lead vocals
Alex Markham – Guitar and backing vocals
Adam Carruthers – Guitar
Dominic Swords – Bass and backing vocals
Chris Smurthwaite – Keyboards
Michael Levy – Drums

(Interview by Ken Morton)

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