Jack Starr

Jack Starr's Burning Starr

BURNING STARR's Jack Star: "It is hard to persist in playing traditional metal when in America it is almost nonexistent, but the fact that this is happening is also exciting and reminds me of the early eighties…"

It would appear that it is hard to create traditional Metal in the US, at present, with all the modern stuff hanging around taking the scene, inch by inch. Jack Starr, guitarist, composer, and songwriter of the long time running band, BURNING STARR, has been one of the old school Metal remainders of an American scene. As it seems, in regards to Metal music, that vast Metal scene appeared to have almost forgotten about its golden era heritage of the 80s.

After a long period of hard work, BURNING STARR came up with a new album, "Stand Your Ground", also recently signed to High Roller Records. Due to the new release, Jack Starr talked to Metal Temple's Lior "Steinmetal" Stein about what has been going on all these years, how he sees the current Metal scene, and of course, discussing points regarding "Stand Your Ground", which is considered by the American guitarist as his prime achievement.  
July 20, 2017
Jack Starr (Jack Starr's Burning Starr) interview
Hello Jack, I am very pleased to have you for this interview for Metal Temple Online magazine, how are you doing nowadays?

Hello Lior and hello to the great metal brothers and sisters in Greece. I am doing good and happy to finally have a new album about to come out. It took too long and I really am not happy about that, to be honest, but it is true that we could have made a mediocre album every year, but instead, we worked very hard to make a great album and it took a long time

Alright, let's start with what is new. After almost six years, you are returning with the BURNING STARR lineup and a new album "Stand Your Ground", to be released in August, via High Roller Records. Why did it take you guys so long to get that one out? Especially considering small gaps between the early "Defiance" and "Land Of The Dead".

"Stand Your Ground", the new album, is really a double album, and on the vinyl version, it is also a double album. The album is 79 minutes long and that is after leaving out some material, so that, of course, is one of the main reasons it took so long; also it is a concept album and almost all of the songs deal with the demise of the western world and the clash of civilizations that is occurring now.

The chosen title "Stand Your Ground" has a sense of struggle in it. Were you referring to the ongoing changes in Metal music nowadays or something different entirely? Please elaborate on that.

"Stand Your Ground" is referring to the struggle that the western world will have to fight to maintain its heritage and national culture in the face of rapidly changing demographics and uncontrolled immigration.

I had the chance to review the new album, which was quite good, as a matter of fact. It would be interesting to know how have you been keeping this up, playing traditional Metal in such a hard edge growing modern Metal community? Especially when it comes to the US. What drives you to maintain the same style?

That is a good question; it is hard to persist in playing traditional metal, when in America, it is almost nonexistent. But the fact that this is happening is also exciting and reminds me of the early eighties when metal was very underground and tapes were being traded and everyone knew each other and were supportive of each other's bands. What keeps me driving is the burning desire to make great music and not let it die

What do you think musically changed in "Stand Your Ground" in comparison to the two previous albums?

"Stand Your Ground" is better recorded and that is thanks to our sound engineer Kevin Burnes and our producer Bart Gabriel, who demanded only great performances from all. I can say this without exaggeration; if there is a wrong note in a song, and even if that wrong note is buried under 10 layers of tracks, Bart will hear it and not be happy until it is fixed!! I think this is a better album. The title song, "Stand Your Ground", is epic and has amazing playing and larger than life riffs. The song is almost 11 minutes long, but it goes by very quickly because it is not boring at all. I also love the song "To The Ends of The Earth", another great epic that could be played on the radio if radio played heavy metal, and Todd Michael Hall's vocals are breathtaking on this song; he sings with passion and intensity that few singers are capable of. I also love how he sings the ballad "Worlds Apart", which I am very proud of. I came up with the song when I went to see my friend Lissa Knight sing and she was doing an incredible version of the song "Still Loving You" by the SCORPIONS. Afterwards, I went home and I wrote "World's Apart". I knew that I wanted to have a great ballad on the new album and listening to her sing that song motivated me. The songs I mentioned are almost all mid-tempo but the majority of the album is very up-tempo and heavy like the song "The Enemy" and "Hero". When I was young and living in my parents' house, often I would buy an album if there was one good song but on the album. I truly believe that every song is great!!!

Such passion from an old school Metalhead always warms my heart. Heading on, as one of the remnants of true Heavy Metal, do you believe that the industry had enough with 80s Heavy Metal or do you see a revival in the horizon?

I think that there will always be a place for good metal and even the term 80's metal encompasses many styles and some were very different like POISON to VIRGIN STEELE, or RIOT to MOTLEY CRUE. For me, when I think of the 80's, I think of DIO, but in America, most people when they think of the eighties, they are thinking about hair metal and TWISTED SISTER, POISON, RATT, CINDERELLA. They are not thinking about RIOT, BURNING STARR, SAVATAGE, etc. and that is a shame. Yes, I think that good melodic metal will always be here

In general, do you believe that, with the availability of the technical means and advancements in production, the issue of a large series of albums on a yearly basis is something good for Metal music, or the opposite?

I think it would be better if more bands took longer and made better albums instead of flooding the market with product that sounds like it was made fast but not carefully. In America, there is a famous company that makes wine and its motto is "We will sell no wine until it is time". I think that is a good philosophy for music too.

So true indeed. When looking and listening to the newcomer bands, along with those that are constantly trying to preserve the old Metal flame, how do you see their efforts?

I think that some of them do very well and when it is mixed with good production and intelligent songwriting than it will be something that I as a fan will also enjoy.

Have you noticed any new prospects in the new generation that might have a chance to live on?

I think that SABATON is cool and I like CRYSTAL VIPER, but I don't know so much about newer bands; maybe you can recommend some good ones to listen to.

Let's head back to "Stand Your Ground". Recently you signed with the German label, High Roller Records. Other than it being a specialist in old school Metal, was there any other basis for the decision to head on with it?

We heard that it was a good label and we wanted to make a change; also it was recommended to us by our producer Bart Gabriel

Is there any song on "Stand Your Ground" that you felt attached to more than others? Any special meaning that concerns present state of events?

The song "The Enemy" is a modern take off on the story of the trojan horse and it is a cautionary tale of how sometimes the enemy rises from within and that this is even more dangerous than the enemy that you can see and defend yourself against.

Honestly, I found that song to be one of the album's best. In one of the recent interviews you talked about your guitar solos work on "Stand Your Ground" and from what I have been listening to all these years, you are an amazing guitar player. Ever thought of doing some shredding here and there?

Thanks for the good words; I am very proud of the guitar playing on "Stand Your Ground". I think that I am flowing better and better and playing more melodic and less confined to the pentatonic scale than before. For me, my guitar playing on this album is the best I have ever done also, a great help to me on this album was the precise rhythm playing and harmony layering by Kevin Burnes, who really was a tremendous help in making the solos come alive.

Following your work with vocalist, Todd Michael Hall, even since his debut in the "Defiance" album; what is your impression of his singing on "Stand Your Ground"?

Well I have to say that Todd, in my opinion, did his best singing yet. He did some things that only a very great singer like Freddy Mercury could do. Some of the songs have many tracks of vocals and the cumulative effect is brilliant. Todd transcends metal in his singing; he is capable of much more, for instance, if the band BOSTON or STYX needed a singer, he could easily be hired. Todd can integrate his melodic style in many a different band as he has. He sounds great in RIOT; he sounds great in BURNING STARR; he brings a lot to the table in whatever he does, I even really love his Christmas songs that he does every year lol.

Will the BURNING STARR lineup be an active touring band, or will it now remain a studio project only? If it will be going live, what are your plans ahead, touring wise?

BURNING STARR will be playing live if this album does well, which I think it will, and it is my hope to come back to Europe and bring our classic metal sound there for another round or two or three.

Jack, I would like to thank you for this interview. Best of luck with the support for "Stand Your Ground". It was a true honor having you for this chat.

It is my honor Lior, and I hope to see you and all the great metal people in the beautiful land of Greece soon. Metal Onward!

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