PART ONE – ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA PART II – MIK KAMINSKI AND ERIC TROYER
GOLDMINE: Before we get to the two Electric Light Orchestra Part II Renaissance Records vinyl reissues of your 1990s CDs, let’s go back to the ELO days of the 1970s. Mik, my best friend John and I are huge ELO fans. After we graduated high school in 1976, he went away to college where I visited him during his first quarter. On the radio we heard “Livin’ Thing” for the first time, with your violin opening and we looked at each other and we shouted, “ELO is back!” My concern after the success of “Evil Woman” is that maybe the band was getting away from the orchestra sound, but hearing your violin reaffirmed to me that you were still the ELO that I loved, and I bought the album A New World Record when I got back home.
MIK KAMINSKI: That was the main solo that I did with ELO, my first foray into stardom really, a couple years after I joined the band.
GM: Yes, you joined for the third album, On the Third Day, where you did such a nice job on the “Ocean Breakup” suite of four songs which opened the album. Side two included “Ma-Ma-Ma Belle,” pulling from the “Do Ya” sound from The Move days, which was later used as the flip side of “Livin’ Thing.”
MK: That one is raunchy rock and roll with a couple of cellos and a violin.
Electric Light Orchestra
Flip side: Ma-Ma-Ma Belle
A side: Livin’ Thing
Billboard Top 100 debut: October 23, 1976
Peak position: No. 13
United Artists / Jet UA-XW888-Y
GM: You ended up doing the ELO version of “Do Ya,” which is one of my wife Donna’s favorite songs, on the A New World Record album which we listened to when we were first dating.
MK: We are still playing that song live.
GM: Eric, at some point you joined Electric Light Orchestra Part II. How did that happen?
ERIC TROYER: I had written a lot of songs and was working with Jim Steinman at the time. Jim had written Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” who were managed by Don Arden, and I sang on that song. Don said that they were looking to restart ELO and asked Jim if he knew anybody who would be good for it. I sent over a couple of songs to Don. Then Don Arden, his son Dave, and ELO’s drummer Bev Bevan flew from England to New York, and we got together in a hotel. They were excited about the possibility for an ELO return of sorts, and we decided that we could start the band. Then a year-and-a-half went by while they worked on the legal side of things with Jeff Lynne.
GM: You are on so many recordings of Jim Steinman compositions that my family enjoys, beginning with Meat Loaf’s Dead Ringer album. In Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell days with Cleveland International Records, Steve Popovich was a music business mentor.
ET: Steve was such a great guy, as was Jim.
GM: “Honest Men” was the first single from Electric Light Orchestra Part Two. This is a wonderful song.
ET: It did well in England, Germany and other parts of Europe in 1991.
GM: When I listen to the beginning of the next single, “For the Love of a Woman,” I am reminded of the 1989 Mystery Girl album that Jeff Lynne produced and finished posthumously for Roy Orbison.
ET: Well, I wrote that for Roy and unfortunately, he passed away when I was in the process of getting it to him. His sound is what I was modeling that song after.
GM: The third single, “Thousand Eyes,” is quite catchy and at the very end is a touch of ELO’s “Strange Magic.”
ET: I actually wrote that one before I had any inkling that I would be working in an ELO genre, but those are my roots, British rock, as we are all children of The Beatles’ music. Jeff certainly is and I certainly am. Our generation certainly grew up with that in our blood, so anything that came after certainly has that as an influence.
GM: Mik, your violin shines on “Heartbreaker,” a dance rocker not too far from “Ma-Ma-Ma Belle” and reminds me of Foreigner, like it could have been on their 1978 Double Vision album.
MK: I went to Rich Bitch Studios in Birmingham to perform a quick solo and then went back to the pub, basically.
GM: You are more prominent on the next album, Moment of Truth, where two-thirds of the sextet were officially ELO related with you on violin, Bev on drums, Kelly Groucutt on bass and ELO’s orchestral arranger Louis Clark on keyboards.
MK: Yes, there was some strange stuff going on legally at the beginning of the Electric Light Orchestra Part II era and by Moment of Truth we settled into who was officially in the group, and it was good fun. I wrote some of the material on that album, too.
GM: “Power of a Million Lights” has swirling strings and a strong guitar solo from Phil Bates.
ET: Phil did a great job. He is a great guitarist. Phil and I had done a bunch of demos before that album.
GM: Three of those demos appear on side four of the new double vinyl album release, including that one. That final side is filled with great bonus tracks. Renaissance always does a great job with these packages. Side one ends with “One More Tomorrow” featuring a wonderful power ballad chorus.
MK: I wrote part of that song with Bev and Phil, contributing a few chords and a bit of melody thrown in.
GM: Mik, your violin break is great on “Don’t Wanna,” which is another rocker, more in line with “Don’t Bring Me Down,” ELO’s final 1970s hit, which I said would please fans of ELO’s “Roll Over Beethoven,” when I wrote the Discovery album review in 1979.
MK: I am happy you noticed my playing.
ET: Mik’s violin solo is probably the best part of that song.
GM: Then there is the wild violin solo on “So Glad You Said Goodbye” which is such a catchy song.
MK: I listened to that for the first time in a long time the other day in preparation for this session. It was such a long time ago and I am happy the album is getting some new attention.
GM: Now you two are the senior members of the group simply known in this century as The Orchestra and you seem to tour as much as possible. What songs will fans hear in your shows?
ET: We mainly play the ELO hits, which is what the audiences want to hear. We do have a lot of fans who wish we would play songs from the Electric Light Orchestra Part II albums, but for the most part, up to now, we have stuck with the hits as there are so many. When you have a ninety-minute show, we jam pack it with twenty songs that everybody knows.
GM: The eight-minute version of “Roll Over Beethoven” is in my all-time favorite top three songs as ELO is also in my all-time favorite top three groups. I have heard The Orchestra’s live version of “Roll Over Beethoven” and wow, you do a great job!
MK: Thank you. In our live shows, “Mr. Blue Sky” is one of my favorites.
ET: “Turn to Stone” is one of my favorites. It has a lot of energy and is powerful.
GM: Yes, those are both great songs, from ELO’s double album masterpiece Out of the Blue. What do you have coming up?
ET: We have live shows planned for January in Israel. We’ll be back near you at Disney World’s EPCOT in March at the International Flower & Garden Festival again. South America might be in spring and there are European dates which we will probably play. There will be a lot of activity coming in 2022. We thank you for promoting our music.
MK: Thank you. Cheers.
Electric Light Orchestra Part II and The Orchestra links:
PART TWO – TIFFANY
GM: Tiffany, it is just a few months since we talked, and we have more news to share with the Goldmine readers. I am so pleased that Deko is releasing Pieces of Me Deluxe Edition. You know I am such a fan of this album, which didn’t get the full promotion it deserved due to the pandemic. Let’s talk about the three new unplugged versions of songs which have been added to the album. "Worlds Away" is a powerful opener for Pieces of Me and the new unplugged version still captures that power as the finale on this new deluxe edition.
TIFFANY: This was the first song written for the Pieces of Me album. It is a very powerful song with a true rock edge but acoustically I think it captures that acceptance of saying goodbye and moving on.
GM: When I first heard "Kings of Lies" I was reminded of the early Neil Young song "Down by the River." Like your update of "Worlds Away," the power continues on the new unplugged version on “King of Lies.”
T: This is the band’s favorite song to play live. We rock this song and we also love to play this acoustically. I enjoy that I can really have fun and open up vocally on this song.
GM: On the unplugged version of "Starting Over," the piano and your vocal vibrato are so engaging on this gentle number about a topic so many of us have faced.
T: I wrote this song about struggling emotionally, reworking your life and not knowing just where your path is going. Sometimes we’re just lost for a minute but in time we find where we’re supposed to be to start over again.
GM: Congratulations again on this new deluxe edition of Pieces of Me. Let’s conclude with a newer song since the original release of Pieces of Me, "Angels" which we will get on the radio on December 18th as part of our “12 Songs of Christmas” hour.
T: Oh, thank you. I am so proud of this song. It was written during the pandemic. So many people were alone and scared and were looking for comfort. The song has the theme of angels all around, watching over us. It was written for people to know there’s hope and we’re all in this together. Thank you so much for all your support of my music.
PART THREE – NATALIE SCHLABS
GM: Welcome back to Goldmine. Last year we discussed your album Don’t Look Too Close, containing full sounding songs, like “Home is You,” which I compared to Fleetwood Mac. Now you’re back with acoustic versions of three of those songs plus a pair of new songs on your EP DLTC B-Sides (DLTC for Don’t Look Too Close). Being the flip side guy for Goldmine, you know I like that title. This concept reminds me of some of the cassette singles from the 1990s when the flip side might have been an acoustic version of a prior hit, for example, in late 1990 Don Henley released the cassette single “New York Minute” and on the flip side was his acoustic version of “Heart of the Matter,” a Top 40 hit earlier in the year. Before we highlight those three songs, let’s begin with the pair of new songs. My favorite new song is “Nobody’s Fault,” which is nice and tender.
NATALIE SCHLABS: Thank you. I began writing this song with my friend Hannah Miller about painful goodbyes, but as we continued it became clear that it could be about the acrimonious state of our country as much as anything else. “Who's gonna fix it, if it's nobody's fault” could be speaking of the experience from lover to lover, friend to friend, or American to American.
GM: You and Hannah have written a wonderful song. I remember you telling me about her music being included in NBC’s This Is Us. Now let’s go from Hannah to “Vivienne,” with colorful poetic imagery, “Vivienne, look to the red oak. There’s a morning song budding in her rusty orange throat.” Is Vivienne a bird or a woman?
NS: Great question, both! My inspiration for Vivienne was seeing a bluebird outside my living room window. She looked so beautiful in the summer sunshine. I reimagined her as a woman who had been through a sort of a winter of the soul, to reemerge as beautiful and free as ever. I’m not usually so whimsical in my songwriting, but I was working on letting myself write without so much self-censoring.
GM: Well, speaking of reimagining, you did that with the piano version of “See What I See,” the acoustic version of “Home is You,” and my favorite of the new versions of songs from your Don’t Look Too Close album, the title tune. Now your Christmas related words really jump out, so I have chosen “Don’t Look Too Close” for our “12 Songs of Christmas” radio hour next month.
NS: Thank you very much for including it and for sharing my music again with Goldmine. Have a great holiday season.
Natalie Schlabs links: