Colourblind are representing Malta in this year’s Hard Rock Rising awards and now is the chance for all music-lovers to show their support to this local band, so I took this opportunity to interview frontman Paul Sky. All photography is by Johann Debono.
After an uber-hectic series of competitive rounds with other Maltese bands – throughout which Colour Blind had to battle it out against a total of 841 bands – the band has finally been confirmed winner of the local round of Hard Rock Rising, the global battle of the bands. The potential prize? A spot on the bill at the 2012 Hard Rock Calling music festival in London’s Hyde Park, featuring headlining performances by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Paul Simon, Soundgarden and other top names.
As of last Monday, global voting has now opened via the Hard Rock Malta’s Facebook page; at the stage, Colourblind are being pitted against 85 other Hard Rock Cafe local winners from across the globe. The 85 bands will be narrowed down to the top ten bands worldwide via fan voting on the Facebook pages. This is not the first time Colourblind have emerged winners when pitted against other bands; ten years ago, Paul tells me, the band took part in the Hard Rock Battle of the Bands and even then Colourblind came out on top. The prize in that case was three gigs at the Hard Rock Cafe in Rome, an experience that the band still remembers with enthusiasm.
“This time round, knowing that Hard Rock Rising is a global competition and that with it comes the chance for a full-on gig at Hyde Park…well, the motivation is even stronger! It’s going to be a long road, but we are keeping our fingers crossed.”
Taking part in this competition also, in a way, proved to be a nostalgic trip down memory lane for the surviving members of Colourblind from ten years ago. The band was formed in 1998 by brothers Alistair (guitars) and Shaun Galea (drums and percussions), who were later joined by Paul Sky, at the time on voice, drums and violin. Keyboardist Etienne and bassist Adriano joined the band a little later and Colourblind was born.
Two major band milestones revolved around the departure of Adriano in 2006 and of Etienne in 2010. In Paul’s words, the changes in lineup were a new challenge that offered the opportunity to explore new ideas and sounds; the addition of James Micallef on bass and of JoZi on vocals completed the new lineup. The addition of a female voice also helped the band achieve a different sound, adding harmony to the vocals. Their first full-length album, Spectre, was released in 2009,
In 2008 the band started to work on their first full length album and started to experiment adding a female voice JoZi to add harmony to their vocals and in 2009 the album ‘Spectre’ was released and given the results expect to hear and see more of JoZi in the band – some time later, Alvin Galea also joined the band as keyboard player and as of January 2012 work on the new album has officially started. So how has the sound changed since the band’s inception, apart from the addition of a female vocalist and Paul dropping his violin and drums and favour of guitar?
“When we started out, the style was a bit lost because we all had different influences. After a while we got more and more into progressive and classic rock bands and we all felt that this was our true style. This is true till today, but the music itself has become more mature,” Paul tells me.
Paul himself says that his love for music started at the very young age of eight, when he saw his uncle playing the violin and immediately decided that he wanted to learn this instrument.
“That is when my musical journey started. Over the years, many were the bands in which I found inspiration; from Guns N’ Roses’s Axl Rose to bands like Jethro Tull, Dream Theater and – the biggest one lately – Robert Plant. For me this musician truly possesses the best voice on the face of the earth,” he continues.
So how did the introduction of a female vocalist affect the band’ style?
“When JoZi joining, our style was already morphing, but with her input on vocals the songs have an extra dimension to them and the interplay between male and female vocals has become an important facet of our music; not to mention the harmonic possibilities of having two vocalists. She fits perfectly with what we do,” the musician tells me.
What they do, he continues, can certainly be described as progressive rock – but with a twist. The genre is a melding of melody and technique, with each song a journey of sounds with “peaks and valleys stretches of open road and a few hairpin turns”. The first album Spectre, offered fans a collection that was finalised after much turmoil; Paul frankly adds that the band chose to restrain themselves in some songs for the sake of keeping a radio-friendly product. Which is the track from this album that they consider as being the most synonymous with the band?
“This is quite a hard question. As far as style goes, I’d say Beyond Control would be the one. lyrically speaking, Miles and Spectre are certainly most synonymous to the band. Then there’s Dats (Part 1), a song we all love because it gives you so much more to come to. If we’re talking popularity, then it has to be between Spectre and Miles.”
The second album, he continues, is set to be on the heavier side than Spectre; the band is also planning a surprise for their fans to coincide with the celebrations for the fifteenth anniversary. In the meantime, Paul and the rest of Colourblind are hoping for a good dose of luck in this Hard Rock contest; their aim is to make it with the top ten bands chosen. If they do, it will then be up to a panel of celebrity judges and music industry professionals – including Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band, John Gourley, singer of Portugal. The Man, Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit, Fyfe Dangerfield of Guillemots, Live Nation Vice President of Promotions Toby Leighton-Pope and Hard Rock International Chief Marketing Officer John Galloway – to select the top three winners.
The first place winner will be flown to London for the ultimate rock star treatment, including a spot on the bill at Hard Rock Calling 2012. Second and third prize winners will receive $5,000 and $2,500, respectively, in ReverbNation Promote IT credits, a revolutionary tool that creates targeted, highly effective Facebook advertising campaigns for musicians and venues promoting songs, Facebook pages and concerts.
“I’m hoping our fellow Maltese music-lovers will support us with their vote on Facebook,” Paul concludes.
To vote for Colourblind and help them win a chance to represent Malta in Hyde Park, London, visit the Hard Rock Malta’s Facebook page. You can also download free tracks from the band! An edited version of this interview appeared on The TV Guide (The Times of Malta)