Interview with bassist Phil Soussan
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: February 2, 2019
The super-group Last in Line was formed in 2011 when Vinny Appice (ex-Heaven & Hell, ex-Dio, ex-Black Sabbath, etc.), Jimmy Bain (R.I.P. ex-Dio, ex-Rainbow, etc.), Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard, ex-Dio, ex-Whitesnake, etc.) and Andrew Freeman (Snow, ex-Hurricane, ex-Lynch Mob, etc.) teamed up in order to go back to the roots of heavy rock and jam for the joy of it. The result of these sessions was the band's twelve-song debut album Heavy Crown, which was released in February 2016. The album received overwhelming response around the world and even landed at #1 on the Billboard Heat-Seekers Chart.
This good start for the band was accompanied by a dark side when the much loved and adored bassist Jimmy Bain passed away at the age of 68 nearly a month before the album's release. As saddened as the remaining guys were about the tragic loss of their dear friend, they knew Jim would have wanted to see them keep going, so they did.
Enter renowned bassist Phil Soussan, who earned his stripes with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Steve Lukather, Billy Idol and many more. Filling Jim's boots wasn't easy, but Phil was ready for the task. As usual, the band started jamming again until they had a good number of songs ready for their follow-up album.
In late 2017, they gathered in L.A. to start the recording of II. The album was produced by the band members and Jeff Pilson (Foreigner, The End Machine, ex-Dokken), who also produced the band's debut album.
The Metal Crypt checked in with Phil and he was kind enough to fill us in on some of the latest news about the band.
Luxi: First off, my sincere congratulations on your second album, II. What was it like making this album without the presence of Jimmy Bain (R.I.P.), who sadly passed away in January 2016?
Phil: Well, I cannot really answer that, but I can tell you that Jimmy was an integral part of the band that wrote and produced the most important Dio albums; the first three. As such, Jimmy was an essential part of Last in Line. His untimely passing was a hurdle that brought into question the future for the band. At the end of the day, the other guys felt that it was their duty to bring the music to the public through live dates, and for me being given the opportunity to play Jimmy's parts, it became my honor to do this for Jimmy's legacy. As the band played together, we started to gel in a way that was different yet not so far from the original styling of the band. Making this album it was evident that there was very close chemistry between all of us and I would like to say that at least for me it was a very natural process. Jimmy's legacy will always remain in the band and so this stage is a natural evolution.
MUSIC IS WORTH CELEBRATING
Luxi: Now you are taking care of bass for the band, what kind of an asset do you think you are?
Phil: I am terrible, but at least try to show up on time, haha!!
Luxi: I have been listening to your debut album, Heavy Crown, like crazy lately. I must admit your music has a lot of "soul" that many rock/metal bands lack nowadays. I bet this has a lot to do with your past experience as all of you know by now what it takes to create a soulful, catchy and honest rock/metal...
Phil: Thank you! We will take that as a compliment!
Luxi: Would you say that music is food for your soul? Without music, your life would be totally different, wouldn't it?
Phil: Speaking for myself, I got into the business completely for the love of music. While I had other options as a youth, I was and am a fan of all music, contemporary to classical. When I am sad music brings me up, when I am happy music helps me celebrate and when transitioning between those two states music becomes my creativity. At the end of the day in this crazy world sometimes music is the only thing that makes any sense to me.
Luxi: What was it like making this new album compared to when you recorded the band's debut album, Heavy Crown? Would you say it was tougher due to Jim's passing?
Phil: As said earlier, the chemistry had evolved to the point that the album became a very natural and easy process. From the very first track written, it became evident that we had a great album ahead of us!
TRUE TEAMWORK MAKES GREAT THINGS HAPPEN
Luxi: How much did each of you contribute to the songwriting for this album? Is this new album more a result of teamwork rather than a solo effort or just a couple of band members doing everything?
Phil: This album was a true collaboration in every sense of the word. We approached the writing coming into the studio with nothing pre-prepared. The idea was to jam on new ideas and turn those jams into songs and that is exactly how it happened. All four of us worked together on every aspect of the songs.
Luxi: As you have two albums, that means you have a great selection of songs to choose from when putting a set list together. Do you have some personal favorite songs that are always great to perform live?
Phil: We try to pick key songs from our material that represent those that are most popular and that fit well together in terms of tempos and keys when building a set list. There are also five or six songs that Vivian and Vinny co-wrote from the Dio catalog that our fans expect us to play as part of the Last in Line pedigree, but it is nice to have two albums from which to pick songs. Indeed, it is tricky picking new songs because we are keen to hear how many of these are going to sound when performed live!
THE MONETIZATION OF MUSIC MARKETS
Luxi: You have a Pledge Music campaign going on for this album with all kinds of goodies available. How important is this platform of Pledge Music for bands as a marketing tool? Do you believe more and more bands will find it a better alternative to record labels with their often-complicated contracts (royalties, merchandise, etc.)?
Phil: Considering the change in role of the record, which has gone from being the end product to being a marketing product, the monetization of music has reverted back to the live show and associated products such as merchandise. As such, it is imperative that bands seek to maximize their merchandise campaigns and to that end, Pledge Music is a highly valuable option. There may be others, but we elected to work with Pledge Music and it has been very exciting.
Luxi: How do you see the music business nowadays with the Internet and its countless possibilities which have changed the industry quite dramatically and not necessarily in a good light?
Phil: Not necessarily. The main difference in the music business today can be summarized in the fact that the role of the recording has changed from an end product to a marketing product. At one time we used to make records and CDs and sell them. We used merchandising and live performances to some degree as a promotion to generate sales of records, but now we use the music to promote the live show experience and sales of merchandise. In a way this represents a much more traditional and pure industry in that the live show is at the center of the business; a recording can be copied but a live show cannot. There was also a colorful debate a while ago where artists were not happy with the level of compensation that they received from record sales compared to what the labels would make. I think that this has now changed and that the new industry can be made to be more equitable.
ABOUT WORLD DOMINANCE, PEACE ON EARTH, TIME TRAVEL AND A SPIRIT OF LOVE IN GOTHAM CITY
Luxi: I assume your current US dates are only one part of your future touring plans. Do you have plans for some European summer festivals? Are you aiming to cover the rest part of the world as well, countries like Japan, Australia, Russia, and so on?
Phil: Hopefully! We do have to work around Vivian's schedule with Def Leppard for example, however, we are trying to plan dates in Europe and South America. We hope to be able to plan shows in Japan also.
Luxi: Do you have some important venues that are always great place to perform for you personally? If so, can you name which ones are some of your favorites?
Phil: Not really, all the shows are great for us primarily because of the fans and not so much for the venues! Having said that, it is going to be a thrill to play the Download Festival this year. The last time I played Donnington was when we headlined it when I was with Ozzy back in 1986. Funny, as Def Leppard supported us, and it was Rick Allen's first show after his accident.
Luxi: What can you tell us about the age distribution at your gigs? Do you see the band's shows as uniting many different rock/metal generations?
Phil: Yes, we see people of all ages but ultimately all fans of modern classic rock music. Ours is a style of rock that seems not to be that common. Playing some of the festivals over the last couple of years it seemed to me that many of the bands were more metal than classic and that those that were classic are playing old hits with less of a focus on new music. We are very fortunate in having that magic spark that draws people to our new material and that seems to be reflected in the wide cross-section of our audiences.
Luxi: Okay, one last question and then we are done; what's your personal goal with Last in Line that you'd like to reach in 2019?
Phil: World dominance, peace on earth, time travel and a spirit of love in Gotham City.
Luxi: I sincerely want to thank you for your time with this interview and I wish you all the best in life in and out of Last in Line. May the final words be yours...
Phil: Just looking forward to seeing our fans and taking this album, that we are so proud of, to them in person!
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