Interview with FALCON

Falcon (USA) 2005 lineup

Perry Grayson (ex-Destiny's End and Artisan) has been planning a '70s style heavy rock project for years and he finally found the time to start working on it. The project is called Falcon and the sound is a total throwback to what was considered "heavy" back in 1971. Joined by Greg Lindstrom (Cirith Ungol) and Darin McCloskey (Pale Divine), Falcon is part of the "power trio tradition like Trapeze, Budgie, Dust, Bang and Rush" Perry explains. Sit back and get ready for a really neat talk with Perry and Greg.

Greetings! Can you tell as a few things about the story of Falcon? It would be good to be more specific on how the whole thing with Falcon started.

Perry: Okay, I hate to tell you my life story, but you asked for it!? Falcon is a band name I’ve had lying around for a very long time. I always thought it fit the heavy ’70s style rock vibe perfectly. My name originated from the peregrine falcon (the bird), so it was sort of an obvious choice for me. And a lot of the music that I’ve written for Falcon also goes back a long way. Heavy rock is what made me pick up guitar in the first place. Before I discovered the more metal side of things, it was stuff like Aerosmith, AC/DC, Rush, Blue Oyster Cult and other popular hard rock bands of the ’70s that inspired me. When you’re 11 or 12 years old you can’t exactly just go out and buy tons of records. You’re sort of at the mercy of what’s on the radio. Thankfully radio sometimes still played stuff like Aerosmith a bit. I used to trade tapes with friends a lot, ’cause I could only afford to buy a few albums. As time went along, I got into faster and more modern bands like Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, Anthrax, Testament, etc. But my love for heavy ass metal coexisted with the blusier ’70s side of things. Friends introduced me to bands like Death, Venom, Voivod and Celtic Frost. All of whom blew my mind when I was in high school. But I never gave up listening to the bands who gave metal its birth in the ’70s. By ’92 or so I was getting really sick of the stagnation of the death metal genre. The attitude that anything without growled vocals was pussy and tons of sound-alike bands was really grating on me. So, aside from a few bands, I pretty much stopped buying death metal albums. What I was listening to and playing shifted more towards the ’70s and early ’80s metal. So, comparitively, I was only a die-hard death metal fan for a couple of years. Whereas I’ve been a heavy rock fan for almost as long as I can remember. I got introduced to Cirith Ungol by my friend Rob Preston when I was about 19, and they really fit into the ’70s mold-a very experimental, fantasy-inspired band. Falcon was one of the names I had on a list when I briefly played in a rock covers band around that time (’93). My fuzzed out guitar tone and original hard rock riffs sent the rest of the pop-inclined band members ducking and running for cover. It didn’t last for more than like one gig. But I definitely filed away a lot of those riffs in my head for further use. I always knew I’d come back to them. What’s the point in having tunnel vision so narrow you never play more than one particular style of metal? I think the beauty of real heavy metal is that there’s a lot of ground you can cover. I saw a lot of folks totally ignoring the roots of metal, but I fell head over heels for those early bands. Destiny’s End was pretty much the first REAL band I was in. Before that most of the stuff I was involved with either never had a full lineup or broke up before even a demo could be recorded. It was cool to be able to do the progressive/power metal type thing. I’m really happy that’s the first recording people heard me on, rather than a death metal album. I was planning to do something different in addition to D.E. whether I continued with them or not. At first maybe I was thinking of a doom metal (influenced by the ’70s) or full-on ’70s style heavy rock project. The only thing holding me back was that I needed the right peoplefor such a project. That took a while. Which is part of the reason why I ended up helping to found Artisan right after I left D.E. Artisan happened mainly ’cause I was bandless at the same time as Mike Bear (bass/vox) and Ana Greco (guitar/vox), and they’re total thrash maniacs. Finding the right musicians for Falcon wasn’t exactly instantaneous. Falcon actually first almost started in 2001, a year after I helped start Artisan. In retrospect, things happen for a reason, and that lineup didn’t last more than one practice. The two guys involved were my friend Mike Bear (bassist/vocalist of Artisan) and a drummer Mike had played with named Raffi Bartassian. Both great musicians, but not as crazy about ’70s heavy rock as I am. Which kinda leads to your next question. Me and Greg started jamming in Fall 2002. We demoed to tracks with a drum machine. I had already asked Darin if he’d like to work with us in Falcon. I’m a huge Pale Divine fan, and I knew that Darin is on the same page musically as me and Greg. Darin and I have actually been in touch for a lot longer than I’ve known Greg. Both guys are the best possible musicians I could ever have asked to be working with to make Falcon a reality.

Which were the criteria that made you ask Greg and Darin to join you behind the bass and drums [respectively]? Would it be their works with Cirith Ungol and Pale Divine correspondingly?

Perry: Without a doubt, man! I love Cirith Ungol and Pale Divine. I remember hearing Pale Divine for the first time in ’97. I was caught in their web after the very first few seconds. As for CU, I only wish I’d been born sooner, so I could’ve seen Cirith Ungol in ’81 with Greg playing guitar. Cirith Ungol got its start in the ’70s and Pale Divine is ’70s inspired. So, it’s like a perfect match. I knew that there was no way to get Falcon off the ground unless I involved people who were as die-hard about ’70s heavy rock as I am. My first thought was to ask Rob Garven from Cirith Ungol about playing drums, but Rob hasn’t touched a set in over a decade, so that kinda ruled it out. But Rob would always mention to me that Greg was itching to play music again, and that I should ask him. I’d known Rob for years, but I only met Greg a few years ago. Personality also played a huge part in selecting people for Falcon. There was no way I was gonna have someone involved unless they were down-to-earth and realistic about things. There’s no room for egomaniacs and hardcore drug users in Falcon. We play music ’cause that’s what moves us.

Greg, do you think that now in Falcon you would have the advantage to publish some interesting of your music material that was hidden all those years? It would be a good chance for you to bring to light some material of Cirith Ungol that was never released in the past. Please talk a little further about it.

Greg: I’ve been looking through my book of songs, and there are 40 complete songs, but only 15 of those were recorded and released officially on CU albums. So we have a lot of song possibilities for FALCON. We’ll be doing a few of these (“Route 666”, “Half Past Human”, and “Shelob’s Lair”) for our first album. It’s a bit strange for me, since it’s been almost 20 years since I’ve played some of these. I’m having to re-learn my own songs.

Which is your opinion about the current US rock/metal scene? Are you satisfied with the way that things are happening?

Perry: Well, it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand you have the whole nu-metal thing, which I’ve been opposed to since its inception. Who would’ve thought when Tom G. Warrior let loose his first growls and grumbles in Hellhammer that growling would become commonplace in pop music that’s on the charts?! The novelty is completely gone. In its place you’ve got a bunch of directionless aggression. And a lot of the music just seems to lack both immediacy and passion. But on the other hand you have a healthy crop of heavy rock bands lurking beneath the surface who are cutting to the chase when it comes to image and just playing music that matters to them. I still go to shows regularly in L.A. Only I really don’t spend much time on the Sunset Strip. I’m usually down in Silver Lake checking out cool heavy rockers like The Superbees, Sasquatch and Nebula at the Garage.

How difficult is it in today’s USA scene to create a band with such a musical style that Falcon have chosen to play? Are there people who are interest in such musical stuff? Is there any space for true glorious metal musical tunes inspired by 70s stuff (the way that Falcon sounds to me)?

Perry: It’s tough. In order to find musicians who are into either obscure heavy ’70s rock or epic early ’80s metal is nearly impossible. I’ve been very lucky in that way with Falcon. Like I said, I couldn’t have asked for cooler people than Greg or Darin to join Falcon. Beyond that, I think it’s actually as good a time as any for a band to do their own thing. ‘Cause it’s actually cheaper now to press your own music if you’d rather not rely on getting a contract with a label. You can play whatever you want and not have someone forcing you to “be more modern” or sound like what’s “hot” at the moment.

Why have you decided to release this demo and not to collect and prepare musical stuff for a full-length album?

Perry: The demo WAS conceived as preparation for a full – length album. We figured that people would want a taste of the Falcon tunes, to see what we’ve got up our sleeves. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of press releases with nothing to back it up. We should be in the studio during mid November recording the first Falcon album with Chris Koslowski in Maryland.

It is true that you don’t live in the same place. Doesn’t this make things difficult for Falcon? I mean it would probably be very difficult to rehearse together. How do you cope with it?

Perry: It’s frustrating to do this kind of thing in a way, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Darin is the perfect drummer for Falcon, regardless of the fact that he lives 3,000 miles away from L.A. (in Pennsylvania). There was no way I was gonna just place ads in local music papers and get complete strangers to come down to audition. Falcon has to be done right. And Greg and Darin are precisely the right members to complete the Falcon line up.

Do you count Falcon as a full time band or it is a side project just to play your favourite kind of music? Are you going to continue working on stuff for Falcon?

Perry: I started Falcon while I was still doing Artisan full-time, but it became all too clear after a short while that I was just burning out on playing super fast and insanely technical metal for so long. Falcon’s just a natural progression for me, not something that came up out of the blue. My decision to leave Artisan was something I thought about for a long while. The rest of the Artisan folks are definitely much more into modern music than I am. I still like some thrashy technical and progressive metal, but I’m not as absolutely nuts for it as I was when I was younger. Right now I NEED to slow down. I never used the word “side” when referring to Falcon. Project maybe, but not side project. It can’t be full-time by nature, seeing as we don’t all live in the same state. But we work so well together that the distance makes it worth the trouble. I think ’70s style heavy rock is an inherently spontaneous music that requires lots of improv. A sense of flying by the seat of your pants. To overthink it would suck the soul out and kill the music. So, in a way the distance sort of forces the spontaneity. There’s enough material already for two full Falcon albums between Greg’s unused Cirith Ungol tunes and my Falcon originals. I’d personally like to keep doing this for as long as it’s fun for the three of us. I realize fully well that Greg’s much older than me and Darin and stuff, so I’ll be happy for as long as we’re able to keep it going. Hopefully it’ll last for at least a couple of albums and a few select live gigs. But I would definitely like to play some shows with Falcon when it’s all said and done.

Greg: MUCH older? Jeez! I’m not ready for the retirement home just yet! I’m definitely looking forward to doing some live shows and I’d love to do a Euro festival or two before I die. And I would love to do an album of obscure heavy 70’s cover songs, maybe under the FALCON moniker, maybe under some other name (The Greg Lindstrom Project, The Darin McCloskey Experience, Grayson’s Raiders, who knows?)

I think that bands like Falcon who have influences from older musical tunes (70s stuff) is a good way for the younger ones to realise that heavy metal music includes very special and important bands that have been active in older periods. So if someone would try to check a specific band’s influences (for example Falcon’s influences) he may manage to listen some stuff from interesting bands. Do you think that this is a possible way of keep the flame alive? (For example if someone reads on your printed statement that you are influenced by Mountain or Blue Oyster Cult he may want to check those bands, I bring this example in case you do not understand)… Talk us about your influences in general.

Perry: Sure! If I’m talking about Trapeze or Buffalo… Three Man Army, Tear Gas or whoever, some people are gonna want to check out those obscure ’70s bands. Some of ’em weren’t very obscure. Like Mountain, BOC and Thin Lizzy. Metal came from somewhere. In order for their to be a Cannibal Corpse or a Cradle of Filth, you first had to have Judas Priest, the Alice Cooper group and Black Sabbath. I owe a lot to metallers like Chuck Schuldiner and Gary Jennings for listing killer bands that inspired them like Witchfinder General, Sortilege, Leafhound, Atomic Rooster and the like in their liner notes. That turned me on to some great music. I think one of the main reasons why the ’70s influences have stuck with me for so long is ’cause (from a guitarist’s standpoint), those old players dug into their instruments with feeling. They could bend the strings and just make you weep or get totally pumped up. Leslie West, Scott Gorham and Mel Galley are a few guitarists in particular who I can think of who play with that kind of emotion and fire. Can’t forget Jerry Fogle (Cirith Ungol), Vincent McCallister (Pentagram)-or the late Randy Palmer from Bedemon.

Greg: You can check out the FALCON website to get an inkling of each of our favorite albums. I would have to say that my favorite of all time is the first Captain Beyond. It floored me in 1972 and it still floors me today. But besides all the usual heavy rock influences, I listen to everything from King Crimson and Camel to The Posies and The Wildhearts. But I think that it’s natural to have the greatest affinity for the music you grow up with, and for me, it’s the early 70’s stuff.

Which are your plans for the future? Is there going to be a full-length album (probably in vinyl format, heh!) or a tour? Have you come in contact with any record company?

Perry: Falcon NEEDS to be on vinyl. No question about it! This style of music just has to be played LOUD on a turntable. But it also has to come out on CD, ’cause most people don’t even own a turntable. But I’ll be very disappointed if it doesn’t get the vinyl treatment, with a nice gatefold cover. Like I said, we’re supposed to record in November-label or no label. I’ve sent tons of promos to various labels who put out ’70s inspired rock. We really haven’t had any bites yet aside from my friend Rich Walker (The Miskatonic Foundation). Whether there’s any kind of limited gigging of course depends on how people take to Falcon. The truth is that we’d love to play even a few dates in both the U.S. and Europe if given the opportunity.

Well guys we’ve reach to the end of our interview. Thanks a lot for your time! We wish you the best for Falcon! Please finish it by sending a message to the readers of The Forgotten Scroll Webzine.

Perry: Thanks very much for the killer support and for the space to talk about Falcon! We hope to play live for our Greek fans sometime in the future!!!

Greg: Thanks so much for supporting CU in the past and FALCON in the future! We hope to see you all soon.