The Return of The Kings of Melodic Rock
If there is one band from the UK that could be the equivalent to Journey or Foreigner, it might well be FM. With their tenth album Atomic Generation on the horizon, the London-based quintet are staged for a massive year including a rare, one-off show in the states at MelodicFest 5, May 6 in Chicago (Arlington Heights), Illinois. The band’s humble beginning was the summer of 1984 when ex-Samson bassist Merv Goldsworthy and drummer Pete Jupp joined forces with the Overland brothers Steve (vocals/guitar) and Chris (lead guitar). The Overlands had some success with Swan Song artist Wildlife which also featured Free/Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke and was produced by Bad Company guitarist Mick Ralphs. Adding keyboardist Philip Manchester to the lineup gave FM the right mix which soon had the band cranking out some serious AOR. Their debut, Indiscreet was released in September 1986 and saw moderate success with single ‘Frozen Heart”. Later ‘That Girl’ (covered by Iron Maiden) and ‘Love Lies Dying’ would become fan favorites. Though the record suffered from a dated production, many consider it a treasured classic.
We caught up with FM at the Giants of Rock festival at Minehead in Somerset, England to chat about their 34-year career and the secret to their massive success. The first question we posed was in regards to the re-recording of Indiscreet in 2016. “Some people prefer it the way it was and others like the re-recorded version,” says vocalist Steve Overland. “It has become this iconic sort of thing with a life of its own. It captured a certain moment in time for us as a band, but the honest truth is we really didn’t want to re-record it. I love the original album and I think the songs are great, but when we play those songs now, in a live setting… well, it’s a different ball game. People have heard how we play those songs now and (the decision to re-record) it really came from the fans.”
Guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick, a veteran of the group for ten years chimes in. “A lot of bands have revisited their older catalog recently. Def Leppard comes to mind with Viva! Hysteria. It’s also worth noting, FM doesn’t own the original recordings, so we have no real control over what the record label does with them. By re-recording those songs, we put the control of the current recording back in our hands.” Indiscreet 30 (2016) got a tremendous facelift as the band decided to produce it themselves making sure every nuance was captured perfectly and put in its rightful place. The songs sound a bit tougher, stronger with more punch. Though the keyboards are there they don’t sound dated or thinned out. “There are certain heritage bands that don’t write or record any new material,” continues Kirkpatrick. “They just constantly re-record their old stuff. We didn’t want to get caught in that wheel.” It’s one and done the band assured us. When we asked if their revered second album Tough It Out would receive a similar treatment, Overland firmly stated, “You can’t improve on that record!”
The Giants of Rock gig was the first FM show of 2018 and the band was keen to discuss their new opus Atomic Generation slated for release March 30th. Advance reviews already herald it as a masterpiece and a new era for the melodic rock champions. “The new songs are great,” says Overland. “It’s a bit more diverse, has a bit more depth. The response to it, for those who have heard it, has been amazing. We filled the album and still had another six or seven tunes that were completely finished recorded, mixed, done. I think we had a total of 21 songs done that we picked from for this record.” The band advanced the record with the single ‘Make the Best of What You Got” a catchy little ditty with a muscular chorus proving that modern-day FM are reaching their creative zenith. Admits Overland, “When you put it out to people and they say it’s amazing, that’s when you know you’ve done a good job.”
Some might not know FM took a break in the mid-nineties till 2007. After sharing the stage with bands like Foreigner, Status Quo and Bon Jovi, they started to dismantle with each lineup change. “I never wanted to get back together,” says Overland, “but after a few years off we started getting offers and I agreed to a couple shows. My thing was, ‘Let’s do one gig for a laugh, play some of the old stuff. Whether there’s 50 or 200 people coming around to see us, let’s just do it for us’. We did the first Firefest and it was sold out. What we weren’t expecting is fans from all over the world were traveling to see us. They were holding up signs like FM Greek fan club. I didn’t even know we had fans in Greece. We felt like the Beatles. We came off stage totally speechless. We didn’t expect any of it.”
A few changes have been made to the lineup including the return of keyboardist Jem Davis (Tobruk, UFO,) who first joined the band in 1994 and guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick. “We decided that if we were going to do this again we needed to do it as well or better than the first time,” says Overland. “We needed 200% from everybody because we’re older now. Andy (Bernett) who replaced our original guitarist Chris didn’t seem interested, so I proposed a friend of mine, actually my neighbor Jim Kirkpatrick who was working with Bernie Marsden. He’s been with us ever since.”
At the Giants of Rock festival, we were treated to an hour long set of some of the band’s biggest hits. The FM live show surpasses their eighties heyday with the energy level of a prize fighter. In the works is a proposed live album/DVD to capture the band in full flight and a new label contract that will keep FM committed to new music for at least the next five years.
Website: FM, Frontiers Records.
Special thanks to Steve Overland, Jim Kirkpatrick and FM publicist, Lidia Samson.