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Rox Diamond

Rox Diamond was één van de bands waarvan ik nooit meer had verwacht iets te vernemen. Nadat men in 1992 een schitterend debuutalbum op de mensheid had losgelaten werd het al snel heel stil rondom deze zeer getalenteerde Amerikaase A.O.R. band. Groot was dan ook mijn verbazing toen enige weken geleden 'Powerdrive' in mijn brievenbus lag, wat opnieuw een prima plaat bleek te zijn. Reden genoeg om eens polshoogte te nemen bij Paul Daniels, zanger en opperhoofd van Rox Diamond, die gaarne bereid was een en ander uit te leggen met betrekking tot de herrijzenis van zijn band.

Door: Sjak | Archiveer onder hardrock / aor

Since our younger readers won't know the band at all, I would like to go back in time first before talking about the new album. Rox Diamond was started off as Casanova if I'm not mistaken. What did you do before the Casanova period?
When I first moved to Los Angeles back in 1985, I was just another struggling musician trying to find my way in the big city. Actually before I hooked up with Kevin Achenbach, I auditioned for several bands. I quickly realized that all the bands at the time were all trying to do a Ratt/Motley Crue kind of thing and I knew that wasn't what I wanted. So I decided I would form my own band and do things my way, centered around my songs. It developed from there.

You original drummer Jeff Richfield got replaced by Dwain Miller. Why did Jeff leave and how did you get Dwain in the band?
Jeff was actually asked to leave the band. We were midway through recording the first album, and we were having issues with his performance. I loved Jeff like a brother, so it was extremely difficult for me to do personally. We were also strongly "urged" to do so by our management team and our producer at the time. It was a very upsetting situation to go through as much as we did with someone, and then tell him he's not working out. We brought Dwain in and it clicked right away. Instantly everything sounded better and Dwain's voice brought another instrument as well, besides the drums. It helped me immensely in the vocal department.

Did you do any recordings under the Casanova monicker?
Yes, in 1988 we actually had a song that was part of 'Unsigned Bands', that was produced by "Album Network". It was a compilation CD that had 17 different bands on it, all seeking record deals. Our song 'You're Not The Only One' was the first track on the CD. We actually got some attention from this. The version of that song was a demo of the version that would end up on our debut album.

When and why did you change your name into Rox Diamond? Why the name Rox Diamond?
We were known as Casanova all the way until the album was almost finished actually. We started doing interviews in Europe and Japan as Casanova. Our manager got a call from EMI I believe, that there was another band from Germany also with that same name. We had trademarked the name Casanova in America, but not worldwide. We literally were forced to come up with another name within days. Rick Falco had played in an earlier version of Rox Diamond, which had broken up, so we adopted the name right then and there. We trademarked it, and moved on.

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Rox Diamond's musical style can be described as a mixture of pomp rock and A.O.R. with great vocals and an important part for the keyboards. What were your influences at that time and how did you achieve the typical Rox Diamond sound?
I think you nailed it on the head. My influences growing up were bands that were all about the "vocals and keyboards" in addition to great songs. All our songs are written on the piano, so obviously that comes across in our arrangements. I write the guitar parts on piano also, although in some of the songs it's not always so obvious. My influences come from groups like Kansas, Foreigner and Journey, which all have great guitar players in them, but the vocals and keyboards were always very dominant in these bands and in their songs. I grew up listening and learning from Kerry Livgren and Steve Walsh, along w/ Mick Jones, Steve Perry, and Jonathan Cain of Journey. These guys were my teachers early on.

The debut album, which in my opinion is a real A.O.R. classic, was released in 1992 on the Active Records label. How did you get hooked up with Active records, which was more of a thrash metal label at that time?
I'm very flattered when people mention our first CD as a classic. I'm very proud of those songs. Our deal was actually with Funhouse Records from Japan. We also had distribution via Active Records within the European territories. At the time, our main audience was in Japan.

Since the beginning of the nineties was dominated by the grunge explosion the album remained more or less unnoticed despite of the fact that it got rave reviews. How do you feel about that looking back to it some thirteen years later?
We were unlucky I guess, along with thousands of other bands, that had finally achieved what we thought would be a long career, but it wasn't meant to be. I recently read an interview with Jani Lane, formerly of Warrant, and after all these years he is still asked this question. It literally pulled the rug out from under alot of people. Their record deals were yanked from them overnight. I was bitter for a while, but I'm a very upbeat guy. I don't feel sorry for myself very long about anything.

The debut album contained some great A.O.R. material like 'Familiar Strangers', the ballad 'Never Too Late' and my personal fave 'Face To Face'. What do you consider to be the best material on this album and why?
Those songs are some of my favorites as well. I also think 'One Way Street' and 'Lovin' You' are special songs. I remember it was very hard deciding on which group of songs would go on that first album. There were a lot of different opinions flying around. Overall, I'm very pleased with all those songs.

What's the reason that Kevin Achenbach is called Kevin Bach on your first album?
Kevin's real name is Achenbach. It was management and our producer at the time that suggested for "simplistic" reasons, to shorten his name. It was easier to pronounce and to remember. The first group of people to hear about us were in Japan, so we wanted to make it easy and memorable.

You've also released a video called 'Live In Japan 1992', which is now available on DVD via the band's website (I have already ordered it and so should any serious A.O.R. fan - Sjak). When and where was this video recorded and why did you decide to record a video after just one album?
Thanks for the plug! It was decided by our record label, to bring us over, not only for a promotional tour, but also to record us live specifically to be released as a concert video. We were blown away at the time. It was a lot of pressure, now looking back on it. The label wanted as much "product" as possible right away from us and this was a good way to do it. It was recorded at a big club in Tokyo in early February of 1992. Two 24 track mobile trucks outside, seven cameras, tons of lights. It was a big rock show! Great, great fun, and lots of great memories.

The present

Thirteen years after your firstborn your second album 'Powerdrive' is released. Did you feel that the Rox Diamond story was not finished yet?
Thirteen years after my firstborn? You could also be talking about my daughter Chelsea as well! She's 13 this week, it is strange to think that 13 years went by between albums. I had always hoped we could do another album together, so when the opportunity presented itself, we jumped at the chance. It wasn't about making money or hoping we would be rock stars, because at this point in our lives, it was truly, truly, for the fun of making music again. I guess in a sense, I felt Rox Diamond should add another chapter to the original one. I was just as curious as everyone else as far as "How will these guys sound after all these years?" I think we pulled it of, I'm very proud of 'Powerdrive'.

What in heaven's name did you do in the time between the two releases? Were you still involved in music or did you become a family man with a “normal” daytime job?
I literally walked away from the music business for a long time. I was burned out, after years of doing demos, and playing, and knocking on doors hoping to get a break. I knew it was time to step away from it for a while. I became a family man with the birth of my daughter, became a regular working stiff, bought a house, and settled down. I continued to write songs and record some demos with other friends and musicians, but nothing serious.

Was the band not existing during this period or was the band still in existence?
The band completely broke up. Kevin and I remained in Los Angeles, with him eventually moving out of the area because of his work. Rick and Dwain also both moved out of the state. We all kept in touch, but Rox Diamond was completely over.

If I'm not mistaken, the album was supposed to be released on Mark Alger's Z Records. Why did this not happen?
Mark Alger and Z Records, what a great opportunity that turned into a "comical nightmare" of a situation. He is legendary in how he mishandles bands and yet he still gets away with it (unfortunately I found that out too late). Bottom line is we signed a two album deal with him in October of 2003 to re-issue the first CD with a bonus track and to record a new studio CD. He was absolutely great in the beginning while he was getting everything he needed from me to get everything underway. The problems started when it came time to actually start sending me advance money for the new CD, it simply never happened. He must have sent the same "check that mysteriously got lost" about 47 times. After several months of this nonsense, with excuse after excuse, my attorney sent him a very simple letter stating "comply to what is in the agreement, or this contract is void". We haven't heard from him since, so I decided to move forward myself, on my dime, and complete this CD. He has absolutely nothing to do with anything that has Rox Diamond on it.

Now 'Powerdrive' is released on your own Rockjock label. How do you make sure that the album gets the attention it deserves, since you don't have a record company to back you up?
That experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth as far as overseas labels I'm afraid. I decided I'm going to keep it simple and put it out on my own label. I realize that if I was signed to a label, I would get more exposure, but the trade-off is not knowing exactly what is going on in terms of sales and such. You are at the mercy of what the label tells you. Like I've said before, I'm sure there are some honest and reputable labels out there, but this is what I chose to do. Keep it simple. It may take more time, but people who want it, will find it.

'Powerdrive' consists of six new songs which were recorded in 2004 and 2005, three oldies from 1986 and 1988 and a live version of 'You're Not The Only One' (recorded live in Japan in 1992). Didn't you have enough inspiration during those thirteen years to surprise us with more new material?
I have lots of songs, but unfortunately because of time and money and also the time wasted waiting for Z Records to come through, I made the decision to finish six and include some past recordings, so I could deliver the new CD this year and not push it back even farther. My time is very limited unfortunately, so it seemed like the best compromise. Over the years I have written several songs that are not "typical" Rox Diamond songs, that I would love to record and release. A lot of songs that only Kevin has heard. I can't say that it would be a Rox Diamond album though. A lot of them are more "pop/bluesy" type songs that I wrote purposely "outside" of a rock format. Who knows? Only time will tell.

When did the band actually get together again to start recording the songs for the new album?
All the guys flew out here in January of 2004 to rehearse about 25 to 30 songs. We narrowed it down to 12 and then they came back out to Los Angeles the end of February of 2004 to record the basic tracks (drums and bass). Kevin then came out from time to time to record guitar parts in between keyboards and vocals. We literally pieced it together over quite a long period of time. It seemed like it took forever, but I loved every minute of it.

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All the song material has always been written by yourself. Didn't any of the other band member feel the urge to contribute or is Rox Diamond purely a Paul Daniels project?
I always wrote the songs from the very beginning for the band. I don't think it was an intentional thing, but I think I always had a pretty clear vision of what the band should be. I guess I don't write like most conventional rock bands do in the sense that the guitar player writes the music and then the singer writes the melody and the lyrics. I don't mean to oversimplify how other bands do it, but I tend to write and arrange the entire song in my head complete with all the parts. It's pretty much complete by the time I present it to the band. Rick is now experimenting as a writer and Kevin has some great ideas, that I would love to finish with him and possibly put on a third Rox Diamond release. Again time will tell....

In my opinion the new material has a more rougher edge and the guitars seem to dominate much more than they used to do. Was this a deliberate move or something that just happened naturally?
I think it happened naturally. Although I'm a keyboard player, I think I'm a frustrated wanna be guitar player also! Kevin is such an amazing guitar player, so it's fun to write stuff that translates to the guitar so easily. Most people wouldn't listen to the song 'Powerdrive' and think that it was written on a piano. Same thing with 'Heartbeat Away'. As far as production, I wanted to keep the new songs very "dry" and "upfront" so the vocals and the guitar are really punchy and in your face.

A good example of this more rockier approach is opening track 'Powerdrive', which will make a great live-track don't you think?
I absolutely agree, you and I think a lot alike my friend! I told everyone before this song was done, that it would be a great show opener. Not only because of how the music and the song builds, but also lyrically, it's all about the adrenalin rush before you play. As a performer you are literally jumping out of your skin before that first song, in anticipation, and when you finally hit the stage, it's a major release of energy.

I guess that the song 'Joann' is written for your sister Jo. What was the reason to write this song?
'Joann' was written several years ago about my sister Jo, who is a couple years younger than me. Growing up, we both had huge dreams of being famous singers. She has such a great voice. She is singing the backup vocals with me on 'Thinkin' Bout Love'. We were always very close as kids and we still are. I'm a typical "big brother".

'Innocence Of Yesterday' has your children Chelsea and Paige singing on it. Is it also a song written for your children?
'Innocence of Yesterday' is really a special song to me. Because my kids are singing with me on this, it makes it an incredibly special and rewarding song. I wrote this before they were actually born believe it or not and I used to tell the guys in the band, "Wouldn't it be great to have a choir of children sing with me on this?" Little did I know it would be my own children. I was a very proud daddy in the studio watching them sing!

Why did you decide to put a live version of 'You're Not The Only One' on 'Powerdrive'?
I guess a couple reasons. That song really showcases Dwain and Rick and I wanted to remind people of the power of the band live. I also was planning at sometime to release the 'Live In Japan' DVD so it was also a great prelude to that, for anyone that didn't know about our concert DVD.

You've added some older tunes to the new stuff. What else is there in the Rox Diamond vaults?
The older stuff is still fun for me to listen to, the reviews so far have been incredible. Some of the most complimentary things written about 'Powerdrive' have included 'Lovers in the Shadow', 'Holdin' Out For Heaven' and 'Thinkin' Bout Love'. They are all very pop oriented but it really shows everyone where we started and gives them a glimpse of the past. There are more songs in the "vaults"! Stay tuned!

The new material sounds just as awesome as the material from way back. What are your expectations of this album? Will you go touring again to actively promote it (I would love to see you in Europe! - Sjak) or are you just going to wait and see what it does first?
Thanks very much, I appreciate that. My expectations are to reach as many people as possible and if the opportunity presents itself, I'd love to bring the band to Europe. It depends a lot on hooking up with the right promoter and making sure that the financial end of things are taken care of. I wish we could get on a plane tomorrow and come over there!

(Hard) rock music is back on the map nowadays. What do you feel about the state of rock music nowadays and do you think there's still a place for bands like Rox Diamond?
There's absolutely a market for our music, several bands are proving that right now. God bless Aerosmith and Bon Jovi for still doing it. I really miss those type of rock stars, a band in jeans and a t-shirt doesn't always spell ”rockstar" to me. I admit there are some very good bands out there now, but I'm "old school" when it comes to pure rock and roll entertainment.

What are your plans for both the short term as well as the long term future? Do we have to wait another thirteen years before a next release?
I hope not! Right now I'm trying to get as many copies of 'Powerdrive' into as many homes as possible! The guys and I have already started talking about the possibilities of doing a third CD. I can't say when exactly that would be, but I hope it's much sooner than it took for the second one!

Paul, thanks for answering my questions. Any last words from your side?
Thanks very much for your support my friend, and again I'd like to compliment you on your questions! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me! I appreciate all the great comments on our new CD from everyone! Thanks from ROX DIAMOND!

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