20 QUESTIONS WITH…
SHY singer TONY MILLS!
Shy has been churning out highly-polished AOR since the very early 80s, and while they might not be the heaviest of metal bands, Shy features well respected musicians and a distinctive sound in singer Tony Mills. In the 80s Tony was known for his extremely high singing voice, and even higher bleach-blonde hair. In 1990 Shy released an album in the USA under the name "Shy England," so you may know them better as that. Or perhaps you?ve heard of Tony’s post-Shy heavier rock project called "Siam." Or MAYBE you’ve never heard of them at all, but today’s your lucky day because you’ll learn all about Tony Mills and Shy in this week’s 20 Questions! So here he is to answer everything we wanted to know, and he even throws in some great stories along the way (including one about Don Dokken)! Enjoy.
1. What are you currently up to? This is your one and only chance to plug your shit.
Various things. SHY are in rehearsal for European and UK dates at the moment, to promote Sunset and Vine.
I have just finished the backing vox and mastering for Norwegian epic metal band WINTERSTRAIN…classic stuff. A band based in the Arctic Circle, a million miles away from us city based rockers here in the UK. Check ‘em out on www.winterstrain.com
I am currently involved in a management company with my colleague Barry Keen (BAK MUSIC MANAGEMENT) looking after a welsh vocalist JULIA COLES and have been preparing her for major showcases in London. And of course seeking new up and coming bands to represent.
2. Let’s start with the question everybody’s just dying to know. Shy’s 1990 release "Misspent Youth" was released in the USA under the name "Shy England." Who’s idea was it to change the band’s name, why did you guys agree to it, and do you think that confused your existing American fan base and ultimately hurt the album’s sales? Come to think of it, didn’t you leave the band not too long after that?
That was four questions !!
There was a legal battle over the name from a US based outfit somewhere in the midwest. They refused to relinquish their rights, wanted a disgusting amount of money to sell the name, and the label weren’t prepared to pay it, so we had to adopt a suffix for the US territory alone.
I dont think the name extension hurt the album sales, it was without doubt the poorest quality product we ever released anyway, I can safely say that no member of SHY is proud of the album.
After considerable touring around the US and Europe, a break ensued for three months where I was not in touch with the band. After we eventually hooked up, I found that a lot of songs had already been written for a new album of which I was unaware. Having listened to the songs, I decided the band had took a wrong turn musically and I did not want to be involved with the band anymore at that stage. MCA consequently signed me as a solo artist and dropped the band.
3. In 2002, Shy got back together for the reunion album "Unfinished Business," basically to show everyone how it’s done. Yet it wasn’t a true reunion as longtime Shy drummer Alan Kelly had been replaced by some guy named Bob Richards. Word on the street has it that you were pretty happy not to work with Alan anymore. What’d he do to earn your scathing disdain?
Pretty straightforward really. Alan and myself never really hit it off. When I parted from the band in 1990, we were both happy people I think. When I was asked to write material with SHY again in 1999, I was only prepared to do that under certain circumstances, mainly being without the auspices of drummer Alan Kelly. The band were all happy with that and so were the record company. On the back of that, I was happy to continue.
There’s nothing else to say.
4. Rate the following singers on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being someone who sounds like they gargle roofing nails, and 10 being the ultimate rock vocalist.
Joe Elliot = 4
Paul Stanley = 5
Jani Lane =who ?
Vince Neil =5
Geoff Tate = 9
Justin Hawkins = who ?
Bruce Dickinson = 6
David Lee Roth =7
Don Dokken = 7
Bret Michaels = 6
5. We heard you once got stabbed on stage, and in Spain of all places!! What was that all about?
Well the sight of someone climbing over the security barriers with a knife, screaming , ‘ English Bastardos’.!!!!!!!!!!! might have had something to do with it. He really didn’t like English people, obviously. !!!!!
6. Don Dokken did some co-writing with Shy for your landmark album "Excess All Areas." How did working with Don come about, and how much of a pain in the ass was he to deal with?
You’ve met him then ?
After a meeting with my A&R manager, and Don slagging her (and the business in general) off at the top of his voice on a streetfront restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard in LA, we eventually hooked up at Total Access studios in Redondo Beach. He was getting paid to turn up and co-write, and was late. He insisted that he had crashed his chopper on the freeway and I was genuinely concerned for him. As it happens, he took me outside to show me the chopper, which he said he had totalled. I looked at the chopper, and it was spotless. He reckoned he had punched the dents back out of the tank, straightened the forks by hand, and managed to drive it to the studio. Not only that, but he asked me if I wanted to buy it !!!!!!! I later found out that Don was an ex used car salesman from Sweden. Everything made sense.
Anyway, we wrote a song called ‘ Last Chance’ which was great, but the producer scrapped it and kept the intro riff for Break Down the Walls. That was the end of Dokken for us.
7. Out of all the bands that Shy or Siam ever toured or shared the stage with, which ones were the coolest to work with, and which ones were the biggest bunch of wanks you’ve ever met?
Coolest – After he’d chilled out and got a fuckin life, – Gary Moore.
Mega Coolest – The Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson Band
Biggest Bunch of Wanks ?
Crown of Thorns. – Too much Kung Fu practice in the coach door mirror.
8. Yes or no, has Tony Mills ever:
Had a wank in a call box = nope.
Worn a pair of ass-less leather pants = nope
Had tea with a member of Duran Duran = nope
Played billiards with a member of Sabbath or Priest = nope
Passed out on the corner of Sunset & Vine = yep..
Visited Birmingham, Alabama = yep..
Been stalked by a fan = fan(s)
Shit your pants on stage = nope..
Owned a Siamese cat =nope, but lived with Chris Evans from SIAM who had several who used to eat the dinner off our plates, even before we had ….
Been arrested = yep. I n Georgia USA, for speeding and carrying coke with prostitutes driving the bus who didn’t have a licence. Who said AOR wasn’t exciting ?
9. Your voice, with its natural high range, has sometimes been equated to the sound of an "air raid siren." When you consider how badly Britain got bombed in WWII, do you find that description to be an insult, or is it a compliment?
I cant honestly take this question seriously. Get a fuckin’ life.
10. In 1994, Shy released one album ("Welcome to the Madhouse") with some singer named Wardi. Who the hell is that guy, what do you think of that album, and why did you leave Shy in the first place?
I’m surprised that you have done so much research on me and not on a singer that was US based from Madam X.
Wardi (John Ward) sang for Trojan, that became SHY in 1982, then I took over his job in 1983. He emigrated to the USA. After I left the band, SHY invited him back. And he flew back from LA to rainy Birmingham. I think the album sucks. The songs were the reason I left the band in 1990.
What else do you want me to tell ya ?
11. What ‘rock star’ deserves a smack in the mouth and why?
I have always carried myself quite well with words and not violence. As long as drummers dont come into the equation.
Dont hate anybody enough to want to hit ‘em.
12. What do you remember most about writing or recording the following songs:
Once Bitten Twice Shy = Wrote this in a damp disgusting rehearsal room in Birmingham in 1983. Didn’t think too much of it at the time.
My Apollo = the song that sealed a million pound deal with RCA in 1985
Break Down The Walls = Dokken meets my ex-drummer Alan Kelly. I really didn’t have too much to do with this. It wasn’t really my bag.
Young Heart = A battle, these lyrics were re-written 3 times and eventually landed as this. And justifyably so. A great song.
Give It All You Got = Commercial stuff really. Nothing to lose any sleep over. Great video in Time Square though. Well worthwhile.
Let the Hammer Fall = No thoughts really, this song changed lyrics a few times. I never wrote it.
Only You = A good commercial track that never really went anywhere. The last throwaway track to be recorded by Neil Kernon for Excess All Areas that ended up as the B side for a 12 inch single in 1987.
Whole Lotta Feelings = This song was a struggle. It was hauled out of me , note by note. Sometimes it gets played live, but apart from that it remains a studio track for me.
Don’t Jump the Gun = This is just a straightforward easy going song. All about not giving up your love for your life. There are no horror stories here.
Salvation In the City =There is a stench of lack of faith in the world, and here and there you pick up a scent of what could be your salvation. That’s what this is about. No mystery really. But a song I love and was pleased to make it my opening track on the FREEWAY TO THE AFTERLIFE album
13. Did the world really need another Tony Mills solo album?
(Note: Tony either accidentally overlooked this question, or he was so offended by our asking that he elected not to bother. Either way, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and will take that as a ‘yes.’)
14. Of the following, which do you prefer and why:
PCs or Macs = Macs – Work with LOGIC AUDIO at home to write on. Love it.
Girlschool or Vixen = Vixen – Fuckin great lead singer.
Scotland or Wales = No preference, if I did, I’d have my house burnt down and sheep and stags stuffed inside my carcass.
Pret a Manger or the West Cornwall Pasty Co. = who ? what ?
Dogs D’Amour or Tigertailz =I think Tigertailz were fairly talented weren’t they ? The other crowd suffered without such talent from what I’m aware of.
David Bowie or Iggy Pop = Perhaps, the most difficult question you could have ever asked me. Bowie inspired me to be a singer songwriter, Iggy inspired me to be raw and aggressive on stage. These two people were the fuel behind me and probably still are today. I cant say I prefer one to another. I need them both in my life, and always have, I admire them both greatly and owe them much.
Kajagoogoo or The Human League = Neither, I have no time for either of these artists.
Alan Kelly or Bob Richards = Alan was a really good singer, I used to harmonise with him real well. Bob’s a good drummer, but not such a good singer as Alan. I think I prefer Bob, as he’s good at what he’s supposed to be doin’ and concentrates on that.
Sleeze Beez or Enuff Z’Nuff =Enuff Z Nuff. They didn’t get me coked out of my head, trash the fuckin hotel rooms, leave me with the contents of the ashtray in my mouth and the bill for the fuckin’ damage.
Cod or herring =cod – I love white fish, but herring doesn’t have much going for it.
15. We heard that the band Manowar once kicked you off their tour, deeming Shy as ‘inappropriate’ to open for them. What did you guys do to piss them off so badly?
Nothing. we were going down a storm in Turin, Italy, when the power was pulled from us after the fourth song. We were asked to leave the stage, as we were not compatible. There were a lot of unhappy people. Manaowar’s management actually paid the whole of the tour costs back to MCA because they said we werenot compatible. Personally, I think they felt threatened. Eric Adams has nothing to fear from me, but I was on form, and I dont think he liked it too much.
16. We also heard a rumor that you turned down an offer of 1/4 % of royalties for singing backup vocals on Cinderella’s debut CD "Night Songs." Dude! If that’s true, why did you do that? People have committed suicide over smaller errs in judgment! What do you have to say for yourself?
Sorry guys, I was broke, and I never thought a band with such a pussy name would ever get anywhere, so I took the money and drank it all in the bar.
C’est la vie ……
17. Time for a Metal Sludge walk down memory lane! Give us your fondest memory from the following years:
1979 = Riding motorbikes
1984 = Touring the UK nationwide with a record contract after so many years of effort
1987 =Recording Excess All Areas, touring with Gary Moore and Meatloaf
1989 = Touring with Ian Hunter/ Mick Ronson
1991 = Recording my first solo album ‘CRUISER’
1993 = Finishing SIAM’s first album, ‘THE LANGUAGE OF MENACE’
1996 = Touring SIAM’s second album ‘PRAYER’
1999 = The return to SHY for Unfinished Business.
2001 =The beginnings of the writing of a second solo album, FREEWAY TO THE AFTERLIFE
2004 = The writing and recording of Sunset and Vine
18. If you were held at gunpoint and forced to shag one of the following people, which one would you pick and why:
Rob Halford, Sharon Osbourne, Rowan Atkinson
Well i guess it would be Sharon, ’cause I aint gay.
19. The Last of Tony Mills:
Last book you read = Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant…. again…..
Last song you wrote = Freeway to the Afterlife
Last film you saw in the theatre = I dont remember
Last concert you watched from the audience = I dont remember
Last ‘rock star’ you shook hands with = Tony Clarkin from Magnum.
Last time you went to the dentist = 2001
Last time you were in the USA = 1991
Last time someone asked you if the Steve Harris in Shy is the same Steve Harris in Iron Maiden = Last month
Last time you bleached your hair = Last decade
Last time you got blind drunk = Last week
20. Time for Metal Sludge’s Word Association! We mention a name, and you give us your thoughts.
Gene Simmons = Tongue
Nikki Sixx = Warpaint
Sharon Osbourne = Charity
Alice Cooper = Falling asleep during his show at Wembley after spending an hour kissing my fiance in 1990.
Steve Harris (from Shy, not Maiden) = Withdrawn, quiet and dedicated.
Steve Harris (from Maiden, not Shy) = Aint got a clue, but I think he’s a good strong ploddy bassist.
Michael Bolton = Great songwriter, preferred him with the hair.
Biff Byford = Didn’t he used to shit himself on stage?
Chip Z’Nuff = Silly, unnecessary sunglasses.
Axl Rose = I think, a lucky guy, who found his niche, quickly and made the most of it while he could. Not a great singer, but a good frontman.
There you have it. Another intriguing 20 Questions from your pals at Metal Sludge!
Tony didn’t do too bad. He didn’t get completely annonyed with our questions, and that Don Dokken story was absolutely priceless.
For more information on the life and times of Tony Mills (including some great Exposed-style early photos), head on over to www.tonymills.net.