'80s - Air Supply (2009)
'Talkin' 'Bout Mumbo Jumbo!'
With their heavily orchestrated, sweet ballads, the Australian soft rock group Air Supply became a staple of early-'80s radio, scoring a string of seven straight Top Five singles.
Air Supply, for most intents and purposes, was the duo of vocalists Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell; other members came through the group over the years, yet they only functioned as backing musicians and added little to the group's sound.
Hitchcock and Russell met while performing in a Sydney, Australia, production of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1976. The two singers formed a partnership and with the addition of four supporting musicians -- keyboardist Frank Esler-Smith, guitarist David Moyse, bassist David Green, and drummer Ralph Cooper -- Air Supply was born.
Earlier this year, they signed a label deal with Las Vegas based independent label, Odds On Records. Distributed by E1 Music (formerly Koch) and headed by former Warner Bros. marketing and promotion executive Ted Joseph, the full-service company plans to release a new Air Supply studio album in 2010.
The timing of their first commercial release in nearly a decade coincides perfectly with the groupís 35th anniversary next year.
Exclusive Magazine had the recent pleasure of chatting with Graham Russell about the band, their upcoming new CD, his favorite Air Supply song, ... and, of course, penguins!
Your music has been heard by millions around the world for decades now and you still tour extensively today, but in all those years that have flown by, what's changed the most about touring and playing live? "TOURING NOW HAS BECOME MORE TECHNICALLY INVOLVED AND MORE SOPHISTICATED, BUT IT HAS ALSO BECOME MORE EXPENSIVE TO TOUR SO ARTISTS HAVE TO BE VERY AWARE OF THE COSTS INVOLVED AND STICK TO BUDGET. PLAYING LIVE IS NOW AND ALWAYS WILL BE THE DRIVING FORCE FOR US, NOTHING COMES CLOSE TO THE EXPERIENCE OF PLAYING LIVE ALTHOUGH IT IS VERY DEMANDING ESPECIALLY PHYSICALLY. YOU HAVE TO BE IN GOOD SHAPE BOTH MENTALLY AND IN EVERY OTHER WAY."
You met Russell Hitchcock back in 1975 while you both were performing in the Australian production of 'Jesus Christ Superstar.' Air Supply formed a year later as a five piece, but soon after the release of the first album you were back to a duo. What happened back then and in reflection, would you have done anything differently today? "WE BEGAN AS A DUO FROM THE VERY START AND KNEW THAT THE OTHER MEMBERS WOULD COME IN AND OUT. FOR RUSSELL AND I IT WAS ALWAYS A COMITTMENT LONGTERM BUT WE KNEW THE OTHER MEMBERS WOULD NOT MAKE THAT COMITTMENT AND SO WE DECIDED TO GO BACK TO OUR ORIGINAL CONCEPT OF THE DUO WHICH WAS BASICALLY THE SINGER AND THE SONGWRITER."
And just where did the highly-original group name originate anyway? "I DREAMT OF IT AND SAW IT ON A BILLBOARD WITH FLASHING LIGHTS!"
Word on the street has it that come 2010 we shall see another Air Supply album in the stores! Is this true and if so, is there a working title for the new CD yet, perhaps? "WE DO HAVE A BRAND NEW ALBUM COMING AND IT IS CALLED 'MUMBO JUMBO.' IT IS COMPLETED AND WILL BE OUT WE HOPE BEFORE THE END OF THIS YEAR."
And from this upcoming new album, what can your fans expect in the form of another stand out song that can become yet another romantic perennial? "THE NEW ALBUM IS QUITE DIVERSE WITH MANY DIFFERENT KINDS OF SONGS FROM DANCE TO INTROSPECTION TO THE SOARING BALLADS WE ARE FAMOUS FOR. IT IS WITHOUT QUESTION THE BEST ALBUM WE HAVE EVER MADE."
Indeed, how easy or hard is it to create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderments and accomplishments that preceded it within the industry? "YOU CAN ONLY FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCTS WHEN CREATING ANYTHING. WITH THESE NEW SONGS I WAS SENT TO ANOTHER PLACE AND ALLOWED THE CREATIVE PROCESS TO LEAD ME. THE MOST DIFFICULT PART WAS DECIDING WHICH SONGS TO CUT AS WE HAD SO MANY. I ALSO WROTE WITH FELLOW BAND MEMBERS JONNI LIGHTFOOT AND FRANKIE MORENO ON THIS RECORD WHICH I ENJOYED VERY MUCH AND THAT TOO GAVE ME ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE AS A SONGWRITER AND WE ALL LEARNT FROM EACH OTHER."
If you had to choose your own personal favorite romantic Air Supply song to have a cozy night in with the Mrs, which would it be: 'All Out Of Love,' 'Lost In Love,' 'The One That You Love,' or 'Making Love Out Of Nothing At All'? "FOR ME IT'S 'ALL OUT OF LOVE.' I NEVER GET TIRED OF HEARING IT. IT IS SUCH A CLASSIC ROMANTIC SONG THAT IT IS IRRESISTABLE TO ANYONE WHO HEARS IT. WE ARE LUCKY TO HAVE MANY IN OUR ARSENAL."
And, on that note of those very same song titles, why is it you can't stay away from making every hit song name come complete with the word 'love' in its title?! "I NOW TRY TO AVOID THE WORD LOVE IN THE TITLE, BUT WE DO HAVE 2 ON THE NEW ALBUM!"
In 2008, Air Supply was named as the #83 best musical act of all time in the Billboard Hot 100's 50 Year Anniversary Edition! Did you get a nice, big trophy for such an achievement, perhaps? "WE DIDN'T GET A TROPHY OR ANYTHING FOR THAT MATTER, ONLY GREAT PRIDE IN OUR ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR, BUT WE HAVE NOT EVEN BEGUN YET. THE BEST IS COMING WITH THE NEW ALBUM, OF THAT I AM CERTAIN."
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today and why? "I WOULD BE VERY RELUCTANT TO COVER A CHEESY POP SONG AT THIS STAGE IN MY CAREER. I WOULD HOWEVER WRITE A NEW ONE FOR THE SAME CAUSE."
OK, bringing this interview into its final bend here ... does anyone in your family ever call you Cyril?! "SOMETIMES RUSSELL DOES AND I DON'T MIND AT ALL. IT WAS MY FATHERS NAME AND ITS VERY UNUSUAL."
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins ...do you? "I LOVE ALL ANIMALS BUT ESPECIALLY PENGUINS. THEY GO THROUGH SO MUCH TO PROTECT THEIR EGGS AND FAMILY, HUMANS COULD LEARN A LOT FROM THEM. HUMANS COULD LEARN A LOT FROM ALL OTHER LIVING THINGS."
Interview: Russell A. Trunk
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