»Escape!« is the name of the new EP by Chicago's finest, High Spirits.
The limited vinyl edition includes four brand new studio tracks:
“Escape”, “Stagefright”, “Feels Like Rock And Roll” and “Lonely Nights”.
Chris “The Professor” Black sees the EP as a souvenir for the band's most ardent fans: “Every time we come to Europe, we like to have a special tour vinyl. In 2013, it was the demos compilation of the same name, and in 2015, we had the »Official Bootleg« LP. I thought both of those releases were quite cool, not overproduced in any way, but still a worthwhile piece in the overall band catalog. So now in the year 2017, we hope »Escape!« will fit that pattern. Generally, the songs were written around the same time as »Motivator«. For example, 'Stagefright'
was in the middle batch of songs for that album, but then it had to surrender its middle section to 'Do You Wanna Be Famous'. On the other hand, 'Lonely Nights' was from the same period although not originally written for High Spirits, nevertheless a logical addition here.”
When I read the title "Stagefright" I instantly thought of Witchfynde but it is not a cover version... “No, it's more of a metaphor for life,”
laughs Chris. “For me there is always at least a bit of tension before the gig. It doesn’t matter if there are 2 or 2,000 people in the hall. I always want to give a great show. I would actually be worried if I stopped feeling a bit nervous before the gig. I think it’s healthy, like tension and release.”
"Feel Like Rock And Roll?" was also a song title on a solo album by NWOBHM legend Thunderstick (drummer for Iron Maiden and Samson)...
another little coincidence. “Was it?” wonders “The Professor”. “I guess I missed that one too. (It was you who told me about the U.F.O. album called »You Are Here«, right?) Neither album is in my collection, sorry about that, both are a coincidence.”
Believe it or not, High Spirits never recorded a single cover version in their career. As they are getting more and more well-known, it's other bands now covering High Spirits tunes: “A band from Denmark called Hawk Moth released a High Spirits cover already a few years ago! That was quite fun. High Spirits has never played a cover song, and never will.
As you said, it’s not really needed, especially in our live show. We already have too many of our own songs to make the setlist. It would be cool if anyone was playing High Spirits songs in their own band. Some of them are quite easy, to be honest! But the one Hawk Moth did is quite challenging, 'Do You Remember', which we have performed live one time only.”
Regarding the production, »Escape!« does actually sound a bit more rock 'n' roll than previous High Spirits records, which is exactly the way it was intended: “Each of our albums has a different approach to the recording and mix, and the end sound is indeed quite different from session to session. Overall, I find »Escape!« to be more aggressive in the sound, and I think it fits the more 'loud fast rock and roll' aspect of the songs themselves.”
As »Escape!« is a “tour souvenir record”, let's have Chris say a few words about how the tour is going so far: “The September tour is the fourth (and final) leg of the 'MotivaTour', with stops in a lot of our favorite cities and venues from past tours. It’s going to be a real killer because we have Argus also onstage at all of the gigs, and I think that is maybe an unexpected combination but also hopefully a quite powerful one. We were hoping to reach Scandinavia on this tour, but it seemed difficult. So, we try that again in the future. In the meantime the final itinerary is rather exciting anyway. A busy year for us means 25-30 shows, and that is quite good. We enjoy it immensely, and we want to be careful not to overdo it. Many bands are doing 50-100 shows a year, but that is too much for us. We want to keep it fun and special, so we go at our own pace.”
Chris himself has various side projects going on parallel to High Spirits. He doesn't have the actual time for a normal day job, it seems... “No, I haven’t had a day job since around 2008,” is his straight answer. “For several years I was quite busy with multiple bands, gigs, my D.I.Y. label Planet Metal, and also selling records at fairs, online, etc. Now that I have two kids, I need to focus my time a bit more. So, I don’t do the label and record shows anymore, since 2015.
For High Spirits I do most of the management functions myself, including a lot of the booking, and that can be a lot of time just in itself. Same goes for the merchandise, although the other guys definitely do their share on that.”
Keeping the artwork straight and simple, almost minimal, as with the new EP »Escape!«, was part of the general concept of High Spirits right from the first demo (album), correct? “Oh, absolutely,” nods Chris Black.
“The entire concept of High Spirits can be summed up in one word: songs.
The artwork, stage clothes, our indifference to publicity, all quite simple mechanisms for deflecting the attention back to the songs.”