Thor | Interview | “I was always interested in muscles and music”

Uncategorized July 9, 2024

Thor | Interview | “I was always interested in muscles and music”

The heavy metal titan Thor recently dropped his new album ‘Ride Of The Iron Horse.’

This year marks 50 years since Thor first brought his muscle-bound madness to the music world. From dominating bodybuilding to leading the ’80s metal scene, Thor’s career has been a wild ride, and 2024 is shaping up to be another interesting chapter. Some tracks on ‘Ride Of The Iron Horse’ date back to the ’80s. ‘Flight Of The Striker,’ for instance, was originally written in 1987 and features classic Thor collaborators like Steve Price and Mike Favata. 

“I was always interested in muscles and music”

Thor publicity photo

How does it feel to have your music out there once again after such a long and illustrious career?

Thor: It’s always fun to have a new album released and then go on tour to promote it. It feels great to perform in front of the crowd, playing the hits as well as new material. When we play live, the fans know all the words to the songs and sing along with us, loud and proud. Our music is always out there in one way or another. Whether in soundtracks for movies or re-releases, the music is well distributed by our label, Cleopatra Records.

Would love it if you could share some further words about the ‘While On Tour’.

After the concert in Salt Lake City recently, bassist Ted Jedlicki and I entered a truck stop after the concert. We still had our makeup on. The big burly truckers were leering at us. It looked like they were ready to rumble. I was cautious as I ordered our extra-large sandwiches. But we just went and sat beside them and said hello. We started talking about music and shared jokes. There was no all-out brouhaha. Just a few laughs and good conversation.

‘Flight Of The Striker’ has its origins in the ’80s metal scene. Could you tell us more about the journey of this particular song from its inception to its inclusion on this album?

In 1987, guitarist Steve Price and I started writing material for a planned new album when I was living in New York City. He and I would meet up at my Manhattan apartment and share ideas. We were working on ‘Flight of the Striker’ but never quite finished it. I eventually left New York to live in the Carolinas, so the tapes were stored away. I didn’t come out with another new album until 10 years later, in 1997. Eventually, in 2023, I went through my tapes and came across ‘Striker.’ I then started working with producer Kevin Stuart Swain to remix and complete the track for the new album.

The special performance at the Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood sounds like it was an amazing event! Can you give us a glimpse into what fans expected from your headline performance and the special guests joining you on stage?

The 50th anniversary concert event at The Whisky in Hollywood, on March 8th, was unbelievable. There was a sold-out crowd who were enthusiastic and loud. Members of the Thor Korr flew in from all parts of the world to be in attendance. Cheri Currie from the Runaways gave a performance, as well as Neil Turbin, the original singer from Anthrax. DJ Eric Jackson Lurie from WRCT 88.3 FM Pittsburgh came all the way from Pennsylvania to introduce the show. He announced that the ‘Ride of the Iron Horse’ single hit #1 at WRCT.

In addition to the incredible backing band from Memphis, Josephus and the George Jonestown Massacre, joined by Ted Jedlicki who was playing keyboards, many musicians who performed with Thor over the years traveled to California to join in and sing a song with me. Mike Kischnick from the “Triumphant” era, Kevin Stuart Swain, producer, and co-writer of the new album, Bruce Duff from the ‘Thor Against the World’ and ‘Metal Avenger’ timeline, Jim Cirile aka Stig from The Tritonz (Rock n Roll Nightmare), Zachary Nevel from the band Alien (we were label mates with Mongel Horde Records in 1983). Also, I sang ‘Let the Blood Run Red’ with Ed Gage, who I shared the screen with in the movie ‘Pact of Vengeance’ written/produced by Len Kabsinski, who was in attendance. JC Fasano, John Fasano’s son, was on stage to sing ‘Warriors of the Universe.’ What a wonderful night and the perfect way to celebrate 50 years of Rock!

Thor publicity photo

‘Ride Of The Iron Horse’ features original art design by Timo Wuerz. How did the collaboration with Wuerz come about?

I always loved Timo’s work. We connected in 2020, and he agreed to paint the cover of the then-upcoming album ‘Alliance.’ He is a master artist. When the Iron Horse project started, I knew he had to be the artist to bring the new concept to life.

Would you like to share about your upbringing? Where did you all grow up? Tell us about daily life back in your teenage years.

I had a wonderful all-American, all-Canadian childhood, like the American sitcom Leave it to Beaver. I guess I was more like the Beaver, getting into mischief. I would read a lot of comics and dream of becoming a superhero. So much so that one time in grade three, I changed into my Superman costume and jumped out the first-story window to impress the other students. I woke up in the hospital realizing it wasn’t the right thing to do. I learned that to become a strong human and look like a superhero, I needed to start lifting weights and became a star athlete and bodybuilder. As a teenager, most of my time was taken up by going to school, training, competing, and playing in bands.

What led to Thor and its concept? You started the band as early as 1973?

I was always interested in muscles and music. I would go to the gym and work out and then later practice in the garage with the band. My favorite bands in the ’60s were The Beatles and Yardbirds, but in the ’70s, artists like Alice Cooper, KISS, and Slade brought more theatricality into the music. The bigger the show, the better. This particularly interested me. As I was competing and winning bodybuilding championships, like Mr. Teenage America, Mr. Canada, and Mr. World, I decided if Alice Cooper could hang himself on stage and Gene Simmons could breathe fire, then I would also take my performance to new heights and become a visual Rock Star. I would be a superhero character on stage. A musical Hercules. I would take the show on the road, where I could sing a searing brand of rock n’ roll and perform superhuman feats of strength, such as bending steel, smashing bricks on my chest, and blowing up and exploding a lifetime-guaranteed hot water bottle. All this while the band and I performed our original musclerock music.

Your debut album, ‘Keep the Dogs Away,’ was released in 1977. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind that album and what it was like to release your first major work?

In 1976, I made some noise in Toronto and Ontario with my band Thor and the Imps. The band was made up of Frank Soda on guitar, Charles Towers on bass, and skin basher James Lord. We released a record called ‘Muscle Rock’ and toured throughout Eastern Canada and garnered quite a fan base. An agent flew in from Las Vegas and saw a show and all this buzz on the act going on. He offered me a contract to headline the “Red, Hot and Blue” show at the Aladdin Hotel in Vegas. I talked it over with The Imps and agreed to accept the Vegas offer. Meanwhile, The Imps continued the circuit in Ontario till I returned. The Aladdin performance was a huge success and Merv Griffin invited me to perform on national TV live from Caesars Palace in front of a viewing audience of millions. This too went over big. When I returned to Toronto, I was besieged by offers. I then developed the concept album ‘Keep the Dogs Away’ and released it through RCA Records. The Imps went their own way and signed to another label. We are still friends all these years later. Frank Soda from the Imps will be performing with me on the current Canadian tour.

‘Keep the Dogs Away’ featured notable tracks like the title track and ‘Sleeping Giant.’ What was the creative process like for these songs, and how do you feel they represent the essence of Thor as a band?

In 1977, ‘Dogs’ and ‘Giant’ were more power pop, whereas my music became heavier and more metal by ‘the Unchained’ record in 1983.

Your second album, ‘Unchained,’ came out in 1983. How did the band’s sound and style evolve between your debut and this album, and what were some of the influences that shaped its direction?

In 1983, the new age of metal was in full swing, with bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. My influences were still more Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. But ‘Unchained’ fit right in and became very successful.

Thor publicity photo

‘Only the Strong’ is often considered one of your seminal works and was released in 1985. Can you share some insights into the making of this album and the significance it holds for you personally and within the metal community?

‘Only the Strong’ is a concept album about an apocalyptic world in 2045. I wrote the storyline and co-wrote the songs. We recorded in New York and London, England. On my recent tour, many of the fans have told me that the album influenced their lives. Reviewers have said “it was all killer, no filler.” Others have claimed “Possibly one of the greatest metal albums ever.” I have been approached recently by a film production company about producing a movie from the album’s story.

How do you reflect on your experiences during that era, particularly in terms of touring, recording, and the overall atmosphere of the metal scene?

The metal scene was at its peak from 1982-1988. It was a very exciting time.

Your music often incorporates elements of mythology and epic storytelling. How do you approach songwriting?

I can write a song while driving in my car. It comes naturally. I just let the melodies and lyrics flow. It could be in a coffee shop or at the park. I then record my ideas and thoughts on my cell phone.

Thor publicity photo

What have been some of the most memorable moments or milestones for you personally?

The show at the Whisky in Hollywood was very memorable. Going back, the concert in 1984 at the Marquee in London, England was unreal. Headlining the Aladdin in Las Vegas in 1976 and appearing live on national TV from Caesars Palace on the Merv Griffin Show. Receiving my lifetime achievement award in 2018 at the Musclerock festival in Sweden. So many great memories…. Winning the Canadian, American, and World bodybuilding championships at nineteen years old. Starring in the “Recruits” movie. I could go on and on. There have been a lot of good times.

Finally, what’s next for Thor? Do you have any upcoming projects or goals that you’re particularly excited about?

I am currently getting ready for the Canadian tour. Also, I’m writing a bunch of new tunes for the next album. We will be filming a new video for ‘Bring it On’ from ‘Ride of the Iron Horse.’ Lots of projects going on. I will be starring in a new movie “Fear of the Crimson Mask” directed by Len Kabasinski of KillerWolf Films.

Let’s end this interview with some of your favorite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?

Favorite albums:

‘Sgt. Pepper’s,’ The Beatles
‘The Doors,’ The Doors
‘Led Zeppelin II,’ Led Zeppelin
‘White Album,’ The Beatles
‘Elvis Presley,’ Elvis Presley
Watch out for Chamber Mage from Denver, Colorado, great band. Also, Chuck Chapman from Greenville, South Carolina, a talented performer and songwriter.

Thor (2023)

Thank you for taking your time. The last word is yours.

We are all Warriors of the Universe!

Klemen Breznikar

Thor Facebook
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