All the Way to the Sun
When TNT first came on the hard rock scene back in 1984 it was in support of Knights of the New Thunder. Hailed as one of the finest and most prolific debuts of its time, the record forged the fire ignited by the NWOBHM. The Euro-metal fret-work of guitarist Ronnie Le Tekro gave the band an unexpected polished sound matched only by New York native Tony Harnell’s five-octave operatic voice. The combination of an American fronting a core Norwegian outfit made for dynamic tension that yielded classics like ‘Seven Seas”, “Ready to Leave” and the smash hit “10,000 Lovers” off Tell No Tales.
So it is remarkable that we are on the phone with the legendary Harnell some twenty-one years later to discuss the longevity of a band that far surpasses many of its peers. “It’s just as surprising to us to still have the fan-base that we have,” states Harnell. “We always believed in the band but twenty years is a long time. I don’t know too many people that keep the same job for twenty years any more.” The singer admits that the music industry is completely different these days for instance the band are current signed to half a dozen record labels worldwide to meet the demands of distribution.
“Another tool we have now is the power of the internet,” says Harnell. We sell a lot of our CD’s to fans who go to my website (www.tonyharnell.com) or the bands (www.tnttheband.com). But it’s mainly getting out and playing that keeps people reminded of us and our songs.” In TNT’s heyday, (1985-’89) the band saw their share of US crowds. They sold over three million records and had four sold out tours in the US and Japan. “We were working really hard almost to the point of exhaustion,” says Harnell. “By the end of the Intuition tour (’89) we were fried.”
The tide of metal was turning in the early ‘90s and though they continued to release records, TNT’s efforts were sub-par and bullied by the press. Both Realized Fantasies (’92) and Firefly & Live (’97) tanked. Harnell, Le Tekro, bassist Morty Black and drummer Diesel Dahl parted ways. Le Tekro and Black ended up forming the prog-rock Vagabond while Harnell explored writing opportunities in Morning Wood (with Al Pitrelli) and eventually settled in with Riot-guitarist Mark Reale for a three record project called Westworld.
TNT’s influences have always been varied ranging from Journey to Black Sabbath with a bit of Scorpions thrown in. Eventually the pendulum swung back with positive momentum for a TNT reunion. Spitfire records released Transistor in 1999 to a surprisingly supportive audience. Says Harnell, “We never really fell out of favor in Japan or Europe, so we knew we always had someplace to play.” It almost seemed effortless as the band re-established themselves playing festivals and friendly markets.
After the release of the eagerly anticipated My Religion (2004), TNT found themselves doing huge numbers in Spain, Portugal and Greece as well as most of Europe. “We were invited to play these huge festivals,” says Harnell, “…the crowds went crazy even though we were playing during the day. It was great to see that kind of reaction again.” He goes on to say, “My Religion is probably the heaviest record we’ve done. We had a lot of time to work on it so we were able to fine-tune it and give it that extra crunch songs like ‘She Needs Me’ and “Lonely Nights’ bring melody and muscle together.” The success of that record laid the groundwork for the band’s latest creation, All the Way to the Sun out now on Mayhem records.
“When we set about recording “All the Way to the Sun,” we wanted to make a powerful record that was unconventional maybe more daring, more mature,” says Harnell. “We didn’t have as much time on this one as we did on “My Religion” yet it sounds more polished.” The true test of any record is how well it reaches the fans. According to Harnell the ballsy “A Fix” goes down well as does “Black Butterfly.” The ballad “Sometimes” and “Ready To Fly” also leave a lasting impression. “We opened for Judas Priest last year,” says Harnell, “and we were a little apprehensive how some of our songs would go over with that kind of crowd but man, when we did ‘Ready To Fly’ the place went nuts.”
Harnell readily admits “Ready to Fly” borrows from the Scorpions structure building to a thunderous crescendo. He also admitted that the crowds respond just as enthusiastic to the new songs as the older tunes in their set list. Those not to be missed must include the melodic monster, “Too Late” a power rocker that bleeds beauty in the chorus. The AOR candy continues with “Driving”, ‘Save Your Love” and the delicate instrumental, “Mastic Pines.” But if it’s rock you want, set your shuffle to “All the Way to the Sun”, “Black Butterfly”, “The Letter,” and “Sometimes.”
Websites: TNT, Tony Harnell