All Roads Lead To East Temple Avenue
All Roads Lead To East Temple Avenue
The journey to East Temple Avenue begins with guitarist/songwriter/producer Darren Phillips, who was hosting a melodic rock radio show in his native homeland of Australia. Throughout it’s run on the airwaves, Darren conversed with many artists from across the melodic rock world. These conversations would lead first to the dawning of The Darren Phillips Project and then into the glorious sonic highways of East Temple Avenue.
In addition to founding member Darren Phillips, the all-star lineup of East Temple Avenue features bass player Dennis Butabi Borg (Cruzh), lead guitarist Philip Lindstrand (Find Me, Arkado), drummer Herman Furin (Work of Art), and vocalist Robbie LaBlanc (Find Me, Blanc Faces). And now in this tumultuous year of 2020, East Temple Avenue launches Both Sides Of Midnight produced by Dan Skeed (Urban Stone) and released via AOR Heaven – and the results are absolutely stunning.
Highwire Daze recently caught up with two of the resident musicians found within the worldwide streets of East Temple Avenue for an interview to discuss the making of Both Sides Of Midnight, how the band members all joined forces from around the great big world, signing to AOR Heaven, and more…
Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in East Temple Avenue, and how long the band has been together.
Darren: I play rhythm guitar, sing backing vocals, co-wrote most of the songs and also produced the album. We decided to make an album together in 2018
Butabi: I’m the bass player and co-writer on a bunch of the tracks.
Where is the band based out of and what is the local music scene like there?
Darren: We are an international band with members from Australia, which is where Dan and I live, Robbie is from the USA and Butabi, Phil and Herman are all from Sweden. The local music scene here in Australia is virtually non existent these days, and this was the case before COVID. Back in the 80’s and early 90’s the local bar scene with full of live acts and there was practically a bar on every corner, so the choice of live music was endless! It’s a sad state of affairs here now unfortunately.
Butabi: I wouldn’t say that it’s totally different in Scandinavia but I’m thankful to live in southern Sweden, near a lot of bigger cities like Copenhagen, Helsingborg, Malmö and Gothenburg. We’re kinda spoiled in this region when it comes to touring bands and such, which also kinda reflects the fact that the region has produced a lot of talent. The scene is not insane, but alive for sure.
How did you wind up signing with AOR Heaven?
Darren: Georg was kind enough to sell Volume One of The Darren Phillips Project in his online store, so when we formed ETA and we sent him a couple of songs, he loved what he heard and offered us a deal to release the album.
Where exactly is East Temple Avenue?
Butabi: There’s a lot of E Temple Ave around the globe. Ours is located in a suburb to Los Angeles, California known for it’s twisted metal stories, I’ll leave it there…
Is there any overall story or concept behind the Both Sides Of Midnight album title?
Darren: Seeing as our band members all live in three different time zones, we often found ourselves chatting on both sides of midnight in our respective countries, so we thought it was an appropriate title.
Butabi: I second that, that’s how we roll in this band, on Both Side Of Midnight.
Select two songs from Both Sides Of Midnight and what inspired the lyrics.
Darren: Let’s pick one each Butabi. Forever Yours comes to mind for me because I wrote it for my daughter Zoe. As the song goes on I’m singing to her at different stages in life, from now til up to the time she get’s married. Robbie sang the song I wrote for my son Thomas on Volume One, so it’s great he could sing this one as well.
Butabi: I choose Don’t Make Believe since I’m responsible for all the lyrics except the chorus. This is one of my typical “makes no real sense but sounds real cool” lyrics, very inspired by Paul Stanley. “I had a vision tonight. With all my senses united. Like a shadow seeking shelter from the light”. I mean for real? I can relate to it, since I wrote it, but I have no idea what I meant that glorious day I came up with it, haha.
Who produced Both Sides Of Midnight and what was it like working with them?
Darren: You can take this one Butabi.
Butabi: Total nightmare… Just kidding. We all recorded in our separate parts of the world and then sent the files to Darren and Dan (keys) in Australia for completion. It’s worked beyond my expectations, the hardest parts were the never-ending delays in our conversations. Every reply to a message takes 24 hours for everyone to read.
What has it been like to work with Robbie LaBlanc of Find Me and Blanc Faces and how did Robbie become involved with East Temple Avenue?
Butabi: Rob is an important piece in the ETA puzzle, as is the other guys. I’ve enjoyed working and get to know all of them. Rob is like a veeeery fine bottle of wine, getting more and more awesome along the years.
Darren: I interviewed Robbie for my radio show a few years back and then asked him to sing on a couple of my songs, so when we formed ETA, he was naturally the first choice. The fact that Robbie has not been a superstar in the melodic rock world, or any world for that matter, is the greatest crime. The vocal performances he delivered on every track were always way up there with the best in the business, in fact I’ll go as far as saying he is better than most. He is extremely self critical which always brings out the best in him. It’s been the greatest pleasure and a great honour to be able to have him sing our songs
Philip Lindstrand of Find Me and Arkado also appears in East Temple Avenue. How did you he become involved?
Darren: Phil actually introduced me to Butabi.
Butabi: My main band CRUZH hired Phil as a live singer supporting our first album in 2016-2018. The two of us hit it off real well and became great buddies along the road, always laughing a lot and sharing the same sick sense of humour. While playing those live shows Phil also sang and played on Darren’s first project album which led to me playing bass on two tracks on the same record. I’ve never seen any guitar player as Phil. In a weird way it’s in his DNA, when he picks up a guitar he becomes it and finds the right tones instantly. Extremely competent improviser.
Also included within the membership is Herman Furin from Work Of Art. What has Herman contributed to the overall East Temple Avenue experience?
Darren: Herman is a world class drummer and to our benefit also a good songwriter. He wrote the original demos for Don’t Make Believe, Forever Yours and The End of Me and You.
Butabi: I’m a big fan of Herman’s band and was really happy when he wanted to join ETA too. Probably the most professional and musically skilled in our bunch, I’m really impressed by his playing.
How difficult was it to coordinate the recording of Both Sides Of Midnight in the middle of a worldwide pandemic?
Darren: The pandemic actually helped. It freed up a lot of time for some of the band so they could actually record things a lot quicker. If it wasn’t for the pandemic I’d say we’d still be recording. Overall the process of recording was hard to juggle a lot of the time. We had six very busy band members, with their own bands and/or side projects plus jobs and life in general. But we were all dedicated to making this album as good as we could make it, so we made it work.
Has East Temple Avenue ever played live or plan to do so in 2021?
Butabi: East Temple Avenue has never even been in the same country together. I’ve never met Darren or Dan physically. A lot of things have to click for a gig to happen, but under the right circumstances we’d all be up for it for sure.
Darren: I have a plan to bring the band to Australia for my 50th birthday next year, so if the album does well enough, who knows what else may happen?
If East Temple Avenue could open for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Butabi: The reunited AC/DC, in Australia, just for the insanely huge crowd attending.
Darren: Wow. This is almost impossible to answer. I’ll just list my favourite bands/artists from throughout the years, KISS, Huey Lewis and the News, Neil Diamond, Harry Connick Jr and Gotthard with Steve Lee.
What’s up next for East Temple Avenue?
Darren: Hopefully were celebrating the success of our album when it’s released on November 27th! Apart from that I have some music videos to edit for a couple of our singles
Butabi: I’m checking my mailbox every day for the first badge of CD’s from Germany. Nothing beats a physical release.
Any final words of wisdom?
Darren: If you base success on actually doing the things you love, you will never fail
Butabi: Every single day is another chance to turn it all around
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions! And congrats on the amazing new album!
Darren: Thanks Ken!
Butabi: Thanks, enjoy the album.
(Interview by Ken Morton)