JH: Is Lana Lane your stage name?
LL: My real name is Lane and my surname is in Norlander since I am married
to my Producer, Co-writer and keyboard player husband Erik Norlander. Erik
and I didn’t think that sounded very rock’n’roll like so we sat around and tried
to think of the name that would be memorable and roll off the tongue. I didn’t
want to just use Lana and have a single name like Madonna and Cher. I thought
Lana Lane with its Superman reference would be easy for people to remember.
JH: Do you consider Lana Lane to be just a single person or group or a duo?
LL: A single person. Lana Lane is a solo project that is run of course mostly
by Erik Norlander and myself. And I have the luxury of being able to work with
different musicians in different combinations on my records, which I really
like as it keeps my performance and musical ideas fresh. It also allows the
other musicians to be themselves and feel free to pursue their own projects.
In a different situation there might hard feelings and jealousy because individuals
want to go off and do things etc. I think my situation works very well. It allows
me to fully support them and I think it makes for a very nice relationship between
JH: How would you actually describe your music?
LL: It is melodic symphonic hard rock. There are people that call me Progressive
and there are people that say I am strictly symphonic. I think there might
be some progressive elements in the arrangements but I don’t think I consider
myself progressive, it’s just melodic symphonic hard rock.
JH: What you do you mean by symphonic?
LL: We use dense, orchestral arrangements, with lots of Polyphonic lines. Synthesisers,
real strings and lots of heavy guitar. It’s a denser lush sound. In hard rock
you really don’t have synthesisers and things like that anymore. It is basically
just bass, guitars, and drums. And that is why I would consider my music more
symphonic, basically there’s a lot more instruments involved.
JH: Who writes the songs?
LL: Erik and I. And then of course we have such great musicians that we also
work with such as Mark McCrite and Don Schiff, and Neil Citron the guitar player
has contributed some songs. Don Schiff who plays stick has a partner Tully Winfield
and I like to put at least one of their songs on each of my albums because they
are such a great writing team and they write such great songs that really fit
Lana Lane. But most of the time it’s Erik and I.
JH: When you decide to do an album do you sit down and decide a strategy
for it or would you just start writing and see what comes out?
LL: We just start writing and see what comes out. Then we can see at that point
what direction the record is going to. On the specialty records such as the
‘Ballad Collection’ there’s definitely a strategy involved. I.e. We had a definite
aim for the record so we chose the songs accordingly. But for regular studio
records we just start writing and mould the record around the songs.
JH: How do the songs usually develop?
LL: For the last few records I have been writing on guitar. Prior to that I
used to just come up with a melody and sing it into a tape recorder. Don or
Erik would then take those melodies and build chords round them. But as I say
recently I have used an acoustic guitar and written the melody and the chords.
So for me it used to be the melody that came first but now with the guitar it
is sometimes the chords.
JH: So when do you write the lyrics? Afterwards?
LL: Yes afterwards. Lyrics take a lot more time for me to write. I have been
using a lot of tools recently and reading short stories by Lewis Carroll and
Hans Christian Anderson. I just love fantasy. I have therefore been using them
for inspiration in lyrics.
JH: So don’t usually have anything in mind when you are writing music then?
For example you don’t have pictures going through your head?
LL: Sometimes I do. On ‘Secrets of Astrology’’s ‘Alexandria’ I definitely had
some in mind as I was writing that. But then other songs will come all at once
too. One of the songs for the ‘Ballad Collection’ came out all at once. Not
all the lyrics but a lot of them came out as I wrote the chords and melody.
I guess the bottom line is there is no real structure to my song writing. I
am still quite new to song writing. I have only seriously been song writing
for the last 3 years, so I still consider myself new to it. Maybe over time
I will find out what my particular song writing tools are but for now I take
them as they come.
JH: When say someone like Erik does a song do you still contribute the arrangements
LL: Oh Yes. But for the most part Erik and I have a very similar vision so
usually what he writes he writes for me and I can hear he has written it for
me. It is normally perfect. There might be the odd occasion when I change a
few things but there is never anything drastic. He really knows how to write
for me and that’s why we get on so well together! I am very luckily to have
such a great producer who is also my husband, because there is a lot of trust
that needs to happen between a producer and an artist. And you really can’t
have more trust than when you are a married couple.
JH: How did you actually get started as an artist?
LL: My mother used to be a singer. She was born and raised in Holland and she
sang in a vocal group with her sister and three other guys. They did close part
harmony like the Modernaires who sang with Glenn Miller. They toured Europe
and they played an officers club where she met my father who was an American
in the service and they married and moved to the United States. All I can remember
from the time I was a baby was music in the house. My mother was always singing
and when she wasn’t there would be a Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald record
playing. Her sister had also moved to the USA and they still sang together,
although not professionally, just at family get togethers. So it was just a
natural progression for me to do the same thing. I didn’t know where it was
going to take me and I wasn’t really serious about it until High School. Then
at High School I realised I wanted to sing and people enjoyed hearing me sing
so I decided to see where it could take me. And here I am today.
JH: I don’t know if you are prepared to say but how old are you?
LL: I like to say I am younger than Madonna and older than Alanis Morissette.
JH: So how long have you been singing?
LL: I have been singing professionally about 15 years I think. Professionally
meaning earning a little money. My brother sings as well and we were the Karen
and Richard Carpenter of my hometown. So we used to get hired for weddings etc.
We got paid for it so I considered it professional.
JH: So presumably it was your family that inspired you to music?
LL: Yes definitely. It was a very musical family and my cousin Davy Vain
was a very popular Glam Rock artist in the early 90’s. He was on Island
records and toured Europe and Japan. So yeah, it is definitely in the family
JH: Do you play any instruments yourself? You have mentioned guitar
LL: Yes a bit of guitar and I also play keyboards a little. But I don’t play
either well enough to play live. On my guitar I am getting very close to having
enough courage to play it live but I still can’t get the moves down and you
have to look cool when you are playing! You can’t just stand their looking like
you are scared to death. I have been really working on that so hopefully sometime
I will be able to play some rhythm acoustic guitar or something. I would really
JH: Do you find it easy to sing and play at the same time?
LL: Yes especially now that I have been doing it for a while and know where
the chords are on frets. Of course when I started I got a stiff neck from looking
at the frets but that is starting to change so I am happy about that.
JH: On your albums you seem to be happy to have instrumentals on there despite
you being a vocalist. Do you actually have any involvement on those particular
LL: No I don’t and yes I am happy. I leave them as additional artistic impression
for the musicians because we do that live too. In my sets we usually have some
very taxing songs that require 110% vocally from me, so I need a break during
the set. We therefore let the musicians shine and it is nice for the audience
to be familiar with the instrumental passages that they are going to hear. If
a vocalist needs a rest at other shows you might get a guitar or drum solo whereas
I like actual musical pieces because it is more familiar for fans.
JH: Erik seems to play keyboards more like Rick Wakeman on your albums than
on his solo albums.
LL: Yeah he is more like Keith Emerson on his solo stuff.
JH: So is he adapting to what you want?
LL: No I think he is adapting to what the project needs. You see because I
am into Melodic Rock it would be difficult to put someone as experimental as
Keith Emerson’s style into this framework. I think it needs to be a little more
tempered for my taste and for the fans tastes. So I think he just adapts it
to the project. I think personally he likes slightly more experimental stuff.
JH: What do you consider the strong point of your music to be?
LL: I think Melody. I think Erik and I come up with some really memorable complex
melodies. And a lot of that is due to the fact I don’t read music so I don’t
play by the rules. In fact I don’t know what the rules are so it is very natural
music. I therefore think the music is the strong point.
JH: What do you think Lana Lane adds to the world of Music?
LL: Well I never set out to change the world with my music. I just wanted to
play music and make a decent living. I never really set out to be a huge Rock
star. I just wanted to make music. Without trying to sound stuck up or anything
I think the quality of our music hopefully sets the standard for other musicians
to strive for. Especially here in the USA where music is boring in the sense
that everyone sounds the same and you really don’t have to be that good. You
just have to be lucky and I think that is so sad. I think being a musician is
a privilege, especially if you have a talent. You should always be working on
that talent and making yourself better to share that with other people. Being
mediocre is really lazy and that is one think we try not to be. So hopefully
holding music up to a certain standard is what I contribute. I hope that people
listen to it and hear the work and the practice that has gone into it. I hope
this doesn’t sound pompous!
JH: What inspired the releases of the Mini Echoes albums?
LL: Those were to coincide with my tours of Japan. They were released on the
day of my arrival in Japan and contained remixes, alternate versions and maybe
a new song or two. They were basically for my Japanese fans.
JH: But aren’t the tours to promote the proper albums?
LL: Yes those too.
JH: And didn’t they distract sales from the main album?
LL: No I don’t think so because they are just alternate mixes etc.
JH: And there was been not Echoes mini album for the ‘Secrets of Astrology’
album because the recession in Japan has really hit the gig market hard now?
LL: Exactly and thank God because we finished our second ‘Ballad Collection’
in November and I doubt we would have had time to do an Echoes.
JH: Are there any plans to do a tour in Europe?
LL: Yes they have been talking about us coming over in mid-2001. May I would
think. I am not sure who would be coming with us as that depends on what the
financial package would be. We have great musical friends on both sides of the
Atlantic so we could choose any one.
JH: Do you know what sort of countries you might play?
LL: Germany and Holland. Maybe Paris and of course, we would like to come back
to England. We played there in 1997 and I was really sick. I tried to sing but
wasn’t very good so I would like to come back and show you what I can really
do. England was first and the German rock festival was a week later so of course
I sounded a little better by then. In England it was really bad though.
JH: So was that the last time you played dates in Europe?
LL: Yes in 1997. We are really looking forward to coming back actually so fingers
crossed it all works out as planned.
JH: So it would depend on finances as to whom you would have in the band
LL: It would be a factor. I would certainly love to bring Neil Citron because
I don’t think Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) would do a tour even if it were close
to home. He did say though when recording ‘Secrets of Astrology’ "If I
did it for anyone I would do it for you". So I will have to work on him!
He is very tough though. I don’t understand why he doesn’t want to play live
anymore. That is one of the great parts of being a musician to me. I love playing
live and getting that immediate response. In the studio you only have each other
to pat you on the back.
JH: He is not alone like that ELO’s Jeff Lynne prefers the sonic perfection
of the studio to playing Live.
LL: Yes there are musicians like that and I understand him really. He said
that he has done it all already with his previous band Vengeance so I can understand
it from his point of view. I would therefore like to take Neil and I would also
love to use Ed Warby who drummed on ‘Secrets of Astrology’. I know that he would
be up for it. So I have got people I would love to take but it’s the logistics
of rehearsing that have to take into account to. I.e. Do we bring the Dutch
people here or do we go over there? It is complicated but we will figure it
JH: You are presumably primarily a Japanese artist in the sense that it
is your biggest market. So do you find the record label supports you outside
LL: Yes. From the very beginning in 1995 when I released my first record they
just seemed to connect with my voice and music. They have been with me ever
since and they have allowed me to develop as an artist. With each record I have
released I have sold more copies and I think that is a direct result of them
allowing me to grow. I think if they had looked at the numbers and I had been
on a record label in the USA I would have been long gone. But the Japanese are
loyal and they have allowed me to grow. I wouldn’t have the European following
I have now if it wasn’t for my Japanese label because they have really allowed
me to grow.
JH: Have they ever caused you any problems with getting albums out on other
labels in the rest of the world?
LL: No because I am not exclusive to them. I am just with them in the Asian
market. They prefer it if we can release in Japan first and we try to do that
for them. They are very supportive and they realise to be a successful artist
you have to be released in more than one territory. As long as we are professional
about it they don’t have any problems with it.
JH: So how did Lana Lane actually get established in the music business?
LL: I had taken some voice lessons for about three years in Northern California
and I started a few top 40 bands with one of the guitarists from ‘Secrets of
Astrology’ David Victor. He and I started a band called Alley Opera up there
and we did tours around the States. We played in Oregon and places like that
and we did mainly top 40 stuff. We did include some original stuff though. I
then decided to move to Los Angeles because I thought there was a lot more work
there and I could get in with the right types of people. I had a female friend
down here who was also a singer, I stayed round her’s and we started a girl
band called Tres Max and it was three part harmonies a bit like my mother did
but more commercial pop music. We had a band and ironically Dave Meros who is
the bass player in Spock’s Beard was the bass player. It is a very small world
once you get into the circle. Then we hired Erik to replace our keyboard player
Paul Mirkovich (he went on to tour with Nelson and is musical director for Cher)
who decided to leave. It was our drummer who suggested Erik, so I sent him a
tape and he liked it and he joined us. A few months into the project he told
me he thought I was the best singer and the music was a little dated sounding.
He suggested I should try to go solo because he liked my song writing. I was
a little reluctant to leave but I did and we came up with the name and pushed
forward from there.
JH: So where did the Rocket Scientists (Another of Erik’s many side projects)
fit in with this?
LL: That was Erik’s band at the time I met him and hired him to be in Tres
Max. During the Tres Max period he wanted some backing vocals on a Rocket Scientist
project and so he asked me. So that is how the Rocket Scientists thing developed
JH: And how did you get a deal in Japan for your first release? Or where
did you try and sell it first of all?
LL: We didn’t really because we didn’t plan on it doing very much. It was really
just a calling card to get Lana Lane out there. We didn’t really have any high
expectations for ‘Love Is An Illusion’. We just wanted to get great songs and
show off my vocals. We had various little distributors. For instance there was
on back east a very small little fanzine type thing and somehow Naohiro Yamazaki
the President of Marquee my record label, got a copy of ‘Love Is An Illusion’
when requesting some samples of other records. And that’s how it started. He
contacted us directly and said how much he loved it and ordered 250 copies.
Erik and I were like "Oh my gosh!" because distributors were normally
asking for 10 at time. You know that is how it goes when you don’t play out
regularly and no body knows you. He ordered 250 and then 500 and we only originally
pressed up 1000 so we were thing "Oh my, we are going to have to press
JH: So the first album wasn’t even on Avalon (The Japanese record company’s
label for Lana)?
LL: That’s right it was on out own label Think Tank Media.
JH: And that is why when it was eventually released on Avalon it was the
1998 remixed version?
LL: Correct. We did that on a very small budget in my different studios and
on spec time. Over the years Erik has become a better producers and arranger
etc so we wanted it to sonically fit in with my other records and that is why
we remixed it and remastered it. Some of the drum tracks were actually damaged
so we had to re-record some of the drums and we re-did the guitars.
JH: So after selling quite a few of your ‘Love Is An Illusion’ CD’s, did
they then request a 2nd album?
LL: Yeah and he asked if we would license a second record. So we said "Of
course" and we produced ‘Curious Goods’. We were a little more experimental
on that album and it was only a four-piece band. It was Tony Franklin, Erik,
Neil and Tommy Amato. That of course then sold better than my first and they
then licensed a third one ‘Garden Of The Moon’ which did really, really well
and that is how the story has gone so far.
JH: I was reading an Interview you did from ‘Queen Of The Ocean’ promotion
and it was suggested in the press release that it was the end of a trilogy.
When asked about this you were saying you didn’t like that idea. It does seem
to have been the case though since you suddenly changed all your musicians for
the next release.
LL: No, I don’t think we changed all the musicians in that sense. We have always
varied them a little bit. You know like on ‘Curious Goods’ Mark McCrite wasn’t
involved but on ‘Garden Of The Moon’ he was, a long with another guitar player,
Danelle Kern. But she wasn’t involved on ‘Secrets of Astrology’. It’s not because
we aren’t using the original people it is just we have liked to vary the line
up. Since we meet up with Arjen to help out on his ‘Universal Migrator’ albums
we thought it would be really nice to use some different musician again. So
it wasn’t that we were moving on or ending something it was more that we were
taking advantage of the opportunities that came our way. We were over in Holland
to track guitars with Arjen and we thought, "Oh gosh while we are here
there is this great drummer who is available. Lets use him too." And because
we recorded and mixed it in Europe the sound is different. I.E. Because the
equipment is different in Europe and the engineers in Europe do things differently
to what American engineers do. So it wasn’t an intentional change of sound it
just kind of happened that way. And the new ‘Ballad Collection’ is warmer sounding
again. My records always have a little different feel to them. I think that
is what makes them interesting. If everything sounds the same all the time it
becomes boring and predictable. If albums come out sounding a little different
or we are using different people it is because that is what we always do.
JH: ‘Secrets of Astrology’ was quiet a bit of a change to ‘Queen Of The
Ocean’. You used new musicians and it was a lot heavier. You used Arjen Lucassen
and when I heard this I would have expected you to use him in his melodic Dave
Gilmour’s style of playing but instead you went for really heavy backing rhythms.
LL: Yeah, because I like that! I like that a lot. In fact Danielle Kern did
that on ‘Garden Of The Moon’ and ‘Queen Of The Ocean’. She is a really great
chugging chucky guitar player. And I really liked what she brought to those
two records and I wanted to experiment with that a little bit more.
JH: Would you agree it is heavier than the previous two studio albums?
LL: Oh yes definitely. I just really liked that element.
JH: There also seems to be a lot less focus on string type sounds from Erik.
I.e. On ‘Queen Of The Ocean’ I thought he was sounding like he had been listening
to what Louis Clarke had done with ELO.
LL: Yes. And what you have to remember is that ‘Queen Of The Ocean’ was done
at the end of a very busy year for us. So the whole tone of the record is a
little darker. More moody and melancholy. ‘Secrets of Astrology’ is more crisp
and excitement driven.
JH: You also seem to have split the fan base with the
inclusion of ‘Speed Of Sound’ and it’s double time drumming. How do you actually
like that one yourself?
LL: At first when I heard it I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it. It was
very challenging to sing and after singing it I felt like I had reached a different
level so I like it. I do hear what you are saying about splitting the fan base.
There are a lot of Japanese fans that skip over that song because they are just
not used to it. But then there are other people that e-mail the web site and
say it is their favourite so it is a very controversial song. I guess that is
a good thing really.
JH: Were there any differences in reaction to the ‘Secrets of Astrology’
album in the different market places?
LL: No I think Japan knew we were going to have a little heavier guitar, so
that is what they expected when they got it. You know there are not a lot of
female musicians that do what I do so as long as the quality and the songs are
there, the Japanese are very receptive to it and they have enjoyed it. I think
the ‘Secrets of Astrology’ album has opened up a larger market for me in Europe.
JH: Do find that Europe tends to prefer heavier stuff
than the Japanese who seem to prefer melodic stuff?
LL: Yes I do. But Europe also likes the melodic stuff like the ‘Ballad Collection’.
I didn’t think there would be a market for that in Europe but Transmission Records
seems to be doing really well with it. So you never know what people are going
to like. It seems that people like quality so that is the main thing to remember.
If the songs are good and the vocals are good what is there not to like?
JH: So now after ‘Secrets of Astrology’ you have done
another ‘Ballad collection’. It’s not that you thought ‘Secrets of Astrology’
a mistake or anything?
LL: Oh no. The Japanese label has been asking for another ‘Ballad Collection’
for some time and we have just been too busy to do it. You know we did a live
record, the reissue of my original record and touring of course. There just
hasn’t been the time previously. So late 2000 we decided to make the time. My
first one came out in 1998 so we thought it would be a good time to do another.
JH: You seem to be releasing records at a fair old rate
regardless of Erik’s solo albums and Rocket Scientist work and teaming up with
LL: Yes I know. Erik is amazing. I don’t know how he does it. I only have to
worry about Lana Lane. I of course do worry about his other work too since he
is my husband and he is working so hard. I try to help him when he is mixing
and things like that but he doesn’t really have a lot of outside help. He pretty
much generates everything himself and he is a very busy guy, who doesn’t have
a lot of free time.
JH: How would you describe your voice? Is there any woman
you would consider your contemporary?
LL: Well like I said there are not a lot of woman that do what I do. There
are singers that I like such as Ian Gillan (Deep Purple), Tony Martin (ex-Black
Sabbath) and Frank Sinatra. I love a wide range of singers. There isn’t anybody
I would say I sound like or sounds like me. I mean people have compared me to
Kate Bush, which I don’t hear. And they have called me the Metal Celine Dion,
which I think is hysterical. And there is a singer I haven’t heard called Tracy
Hitchings (Landmarq) who’s name comes up a lot. Since I haven’t heard her I
don’t know if that is a far comparison.
JH: What is your range as a singer? You seem to be able
to hit the high notes without sounding as thin as some other singers.
I am technically an Alto singer but I can reach 2nd Soprano notes. I think
if you sat at a piano and tested my range you would find my comfortable range
is an Alto. But I have a lot of power and you will find I can reach the 2nd
soprano register and stay there for a little bit. I have also been compared
to Anne Wilson in Heart. But there isn’t any person that I am aware of sounding
like. And I think that is a good thing as it makes the music sound unique.
JH: Do you enjoy singing the stuff where you are having to hit the high
notes all the time?
LL: All the time, no! I think that gets tiresome for the listener to. I think
the range and different emotions required in Ballads and even up-tempo songs,
need the tension and release. So you can’t always be singing up high and impressing
everyone with your range. If you always stay up there it doesn’t seem so impressive
any more. If you come back down and then sneak back up there, it is more exciting
to listen to.
JH: Do you prefer singing fast songs to Ballads or do you like the variety?
LL: I like the variety. It depends on what mood I am in. I like doing some
of the Ballads because they are much more intimate. You are pretty much on your
own for those songs because there is a lot of space for the vocals. I also like
doing ballads because when someone sings a ballad you can really hear their
voice and the feeling they bring to the song and the lyrics.
JH: You sang two tracks an Ayreon’s ‘Dream Sequencer’
album. To me Arjen used you in a completely different way to the way you Erik
uses you on your albums. Would you agree?
LL: Yes and that is one of the reasons I wanted to do it. I thought it would
be a lot of fun to do something completely different such as the computer voice
and more of an Art-like Space Rock type record. I also got to sing a lot of
the reference tracks for other singers such as the song ‘Black Hole’ which Bruce
Dickinson did on ‘Flight Of The Migrator’. It was just a really interesting
and challenging project to do.
JH: Was it different for you to sing or is it just that you were produced
LL: It was definitely a different way of singing. On ‘2084’ it was more monotone.
It was a song that was about me having died and I was floating above my body
looking at myself. And I never sing about subjects like that. I never write
songs about dying or death. I just sing or try to sing about positive things.
Arjen’s music is a lot darker. So yes, it was challenging and fun.
JH: How would you sum up each of your albums?
LL: I think each of them are a testament to our growth as musicians and as
human being’s actually. All of the people that I have worked with over the years
have contributed to my success and their success too, of course. And with each
record we become better musicians and better with dealing with people. We have
a higher level of expectation and a great amount of patience. I know people
say, "How can you get any better than your last album?" but you just
try. You might make mistakes and it may fail. You might fall flat on your face
but at least you tried and no one can fault you for that.
JH: Do you have a favourite album?
LL: I would have to say ‘Secrets of Astrology’ because I got to contribute
a lot of my own songs. Also the attitude in my singing was different and more
aggressive. So I would say ‘Secrets of Astrology’ at this point.
JH: Do you have a favourite track?
LL: No I don’t have a single favourite track. I have several. I really, really
love ‘Asherah’ because of the harmonies and just the big plodding rhythm of
that song. I also really love ‘Guardian Angel’ which we co-wrote with Mark McCrite.
I am also proud of the song I co-wrote with Arjen ‘Tarot’ because to me that
sounds totally different to any other song on ‘Secrets of Astrology’. It had
a sort of travelling Minstrel feel at the start and then went into a big Boom,
boom, boom type song. I am also really proud of ‘Alexandria’ because it is an
intimate mid tempo song. I just couldn’t tell you a favourite because I have
so many favourites for different reasons.
JH: How many songs from ‘Secrets of Astrology’ would you expect to get into
the set if a tour comes off?
LL: We normally manage to get to do about 2hrs worth so I guess about 3/4 of
it. It depends, sometimes we will do a medley of songs and maybe it would be
a medley of the Preludes of the last three albums or something. So they might
not be whole songs but bits and pieces of them.
JH: And what are you doing next?
LL: We have been asked to contribute to a Uriah Heep tribute album. And then
Erik has been asked to do the string arrangements for a German Metal act called
Metalium so he will be doing that. And I have been writing for my next record.
JH: You mean a full-blown album?
LL: Yes. And I would expect that to come out the end of this year or early
JH: Well that’s it. Thank you very much for your time.
Lane Lane’s Website can be found here
Another excellent source is here