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THUNDER (APRIL 06, 2022)



One year after the release of "All the Right Noises", Thunder confirms his return in great shape with a double album "Dopamine"...
STRUCK - 29.04.2022 -
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On this occasion, we met Luke Morley and Danny Bowes, particularly relaxed, who give us -with their very British humor- their uncompromising vision of a post-pandemic world populated by individuals more self-centered than ever... We will also come back to the wonderful days that the band seems to live since its return to business with the release of "Wonder Days" which marks the fierce will of the band to constantly renew itself in order to continue to progress...

Our last meeting in December 2014...

Danny Bowes: No?

Well yes, but you haven't changed...

Danny: Neither have you, you even look younger (Smile)!

And we had ended the interview with the question you would like me to ask you and you had no idea. More than seven years later, I wanted to know if you had thought about it and done your homework...

Danny: I'll have to apologize, I still have no idea (Laughs)!

On "All the Right Noises", the songs were written and recorded before the Covid crisis and yet, many of the lyrics could be related to this situation, like a premonition. What about "Dopamine" composed during the crisis?

Luke Morley: Most of the lyrics on "All the Right Noises" were inspired by what was happening in Britain at the time and in particular, the Brexit, the disillusionment with our great government, all the social problems but also Donald Trump... all these weird changes were reflected in this album...

... issues that spoke to everyone and especially in France with the Yellow Vests movement...

Luke : A subject that concerned the whole world on different levels.
"Dopamine" was obviously written during the pandemic and many of the songs deal with isolation, separation from people or things that we take for granted: social life, travel... all these things that characterize the modern world.

"All The Right Noises", which is considered by many specialists as your best album to date, entered the Top 3 of the UK album charts. Did you feel any particular pressure when you started writing the successor?

Luke: No (Laughs)! No, not more than usual! Writing songs is the thing I do most often when we're not touring. And the good thing about the pandemic is that I had more time...

And has it changed the way you work?

Danny: He doesn't need anyone when it comes to writing: he has a home studio and the result is that he does all his demos at home and sends them to us afterwards. And we were in a position that what he was playing to us was a complete representation of the songs as they are today...

So your way of composing didn't change during this particular period?

Luke: Not at all, except that we had more time to do it (Smile)! I guess it sounds pretty unusual in a rock band to have the majority of the writing responsibilities fall on the shoulders of one person, but that's the way it works.

The cover of "Dopamine" represents people taking selfies. Besides the isolation, the separation due to the pandemic, is it also a way to stigmatize an increasingly individualistic society?

Danny: I think it's a slightly ironic playful image to make people think.

Luke: On one side of the cover, you can see two girls in the bathroom and on the other side, four or five toilets away, you can see a unicorn. The idea is that these girls are so busy, so self-centered, that they totally miss what's happening next to them.
Maybe our narrow-mindedness means we have to have validation of our phones so we miss out on a better perception of what's going on in the world. 

Danny: You only read information from people who agree with you... which is dangerous in a way because it would mean that people who don't agree with you are bad so it prevents any dialogue. It's a weird business! I have my social media, it's a great tool, it's an amazing information system but you have to be very careful. I don't rush to my phone when I get up, it's not the first thing I do. I'm at an age where I don't really care about it, but there are a lot of kids that are guided by what they see on the social medias, the likes... and it's pretty scary!

Luke: That's the worst thing about the pandemic: people have lost their autonomy  and are giving that phone even more power...

Dopamine is considered the happiness hormone. Does the title of your album reflect a need to provide happiness or rather a dependence of our society on this same hormone?

Luke: Yes (Laughs)... for the second part of what you just said!

Danny: That's a really interesting question even though it's a very short answer (Laughter)... I read an article on American Psychologist about dopamine being a neurotransmitter... I know it sounds boring but the article is fascinating because it explains that dopamine is released in anticipation of pleasure and all the things we might be addicted to like drugs, alcohol, food, exercise, excitement, danger... anything really. And the problem is that the way the world is evolving that leaves us less time to think, to walk, to experience the world... but a brain still needs dopamine so we get it through the back door.

And we're often so caught up in the anticipation of pleasure that we're disappointed by the actual pleasure...

Danny: That's why dopamine is also considered a drug. When you get what you have, you get extremely excited and you want more, that's the beginning of the addiction...

Luke: We read everywhere that our lives should be continually great, special, wonderful, brilliant but most of the time they are very mundane...

Danny: ...and there's nothing wrong with that!

Luke: It's even good, not everything you do has to be fantastic...

Danny: But anyway, people lie and make you think their lives are great when they're not (Laughs)!

Let's talk about this album, a double-album precisely, which starts with 'The Western Sky', a powerful and almost angry introduction. What is at the root of this anger and how come you don't calm down with age?

Luke: Actually, it's...

Danny: (Cutting in) Anger? Wait, wait, let's talk about your problems (Laughs)!

Luke: ... Actually, it's an aggressive guitar riff, very rock'n'roll but the song itself is about what we went through a few years ago. We were involved in a children's charity and we used to go every summer to the US and Canada -except for the last two years of course- we used to ride our motorcycles and raise money for the kids. And we'd go through some pretty obscure places in Idaho, Montana, Utah, places that you don't normally go to but are incredibly beautiful and we'd go through some pretty strange little towns with a bar...

Danny: ...and the bartender with a tooth...

Luke: A bartender with a tooth (Laughs) but that's the way to really experience the United States. This song is about that journey and also extrapolates a little bit about the pioneers of the 19th century westerns...

Songs like 'One Day We'll Be Free Again' or 'The Dead City' have a very AC/DC riff to them but to come back specifically to 'One Day We'll Be Free Again', what do you wish to be free from?

Luke: This song is really about the Covid pandemic and breaking free from all the restrictions, the confinements... And by adding the female backing vocals, the song takes a gospel feel and takes the song to another level which was not the intention...

Danny: It's like a fight for freedom, a positive message to people who are struggling... It's kind of a universal message that can resonate in all of us hopefully...

The groove of 'Black' reminds us of your habit of varying your compositions by not hesitating to move away from the classic territories of hard rock. Do you think that this recurrent risk-taking contributes to the regular renewal of your music and to your maintenance on the tops of the genre?

Luke : Yes again (Laughs)! A lot of bands -rock in particular- seem to release the same album every two years. We can't afford to do that, we have to keep experimenting. As a musician, it allows you to improve and to have the feeling of moving forward... It's essential for us to do that!

On the other hand, isn't it sometimes frustrating to be reduced to British hard rock while songs like 'Unraveling' regularly remind the North American part of your musical culture?

Danny: We are influenced by all types of music. But the problem is that when you call your band Thunder, people think we probably burn churches on weekends or bite the heads off small animals...

Luke: ... summoning the devil (Laughs)!

Like a black metal band...

Danny: Exactly! We can't get away from the label that people want to put on us. When some people hear our name, they say "Ah, I know what to expect!

Luke : It's something we can't control, especially when some media -with all due respect- write very unfair reviews of our albums.

Luke: We suffer particularly from lazy journalists in the UK... And It's very interesting because our relationship with the fans in the UK is very good - proof of that is we're going to do a five stadium tour in May - and that's the main thing because the relationship between a band and its fans is very important.

Danny: What's very interesting too is that probably since 2015 and the release of "Wonder Days", we've become vastly more known outside of Britain than we were in the previous 25 years... But that's not an accident: since that "Wonder Days" album, we've been pushing the boundaries of what we do in terms of creativity and it's broadened our musical appeal. And we did it really deliberately because we felt the need to make albums that we like above all!


As such, do you think that the break of more than five years that you made between "Bang!" and "Wonder Days", also made you more inspired than ever?

Luke: I really think so!

Danny: It gave us confidence!

Luke: Looking back, taking time gives you a better perspective on things.
During that break, I created The Union which was a great experience working with musicians younger than me. And that experience obviously had an effect on Thunder when we got back together to do "Wonder Days": I took things that I may or may not have done on the side. And it's the same for the other members of Thunder who also brought different and new things...

We also learned from what we did between the years 2003 and 2009, we released a lot of albums during that period but maybe the intentions at that time were not what they should have been. If I have to be totally honest and even if we released some good songs at that time, I would say that the way the albums were mixed was not the right way... And when we got back together, we were really determined and sure of what was going to happen: we were lucky to find a great studio, great engineers and we were super connected with Mike Fraser who did the mixing and that helped us a lot. Mike had already done our first album, he really understands the band and knows how a band should sound which is not something that every engineer can do, there are a lot of great engineers out there but not all of them have that ability!

It's usually the question where we type next, can we say that 'Last Orders' has inspirations from Elton John with its progression and its rhythmic ?

Danny : Elton John ?

Luke: No, it's interesting because there's a song on this album called 'Is Anybody Out There?' that definitely has an Elton John's touch with that piano and that vocal. But 'Last Orders' is a special song. Sometimes when you write, things come out in a strange way and you don't understand why... but for me, it's one of the best songs on the album because it's an unusual song. And the first thing I said to Danny was that this song had a Queens of the Stone Age's side. It evolves in a strange way: the rhythm and the groove are not the ones we usually play, it's really a strange song! It's a song about personal values, self-evaluation... and it's an old song but Elton John? I like the comparison (Smile)...

With 'Big Pink Supermoon', you go straight into jazz territory, reinforcing what we've been saying, that you're always evolving and exploring. On the second CD, you move away from hard-rock more often with tracks like 'Just A Grifter' or 'I Don't Believe The World'. Is it intended to give each disc its own personality?

Luke: It's kind of weird too because it wasn't intentional. Like a lot of things on this album, the flow, the sequencing of the tracks was meant to be totally spontaneous and that's actually a good thing.
The way people listen to music today -and especially young people- is to listen to one track. We were born at a time when sequencing was everything: could you imagine "The Dark Side of the Moon" in another order? Sequencing is very important. Sometimes it's hard to know why you feel something is in the right place: sometimes you can't analyze it, you just feel it... and that's clearly the case with this album. And I think the fact that there are two CDs or vinyls means that there's a sort of separation somewhere in the middle and that separation reinforces what you were saying, that it's a second album that's intentionally different but it's not... No really, it just happened that way!

Danny: The weird thing is that since we've been doing interviews about this album, everyone's been pointing this fact...

Luke: Which is great, proving that people are paying attention to what we do! 

And in the idea of sequencing, have you ever thought about doing an album with only one song or tracks that would follow each other?

Luke: Yes, tracks that would follow each other naturally. It's not something we've considered but never say never and maybe it will happen in the future. As we said before, we are always trying to move forward, to do things that we have never done in the past. We've never been concerned with what's trendy or what's cool, we just do what we like. But who knows? Maybe we'll get into an idea like that, it might be an interesting thing to do...

Danny: But if it ever gets done, you'll get no credit!

Luke: (Laughs)! 

The song you mentioned earlier 'Is Anybody Out There?' is particularly melancholic. What is the mood of this song?

Luke: It's an interesting song because it was written on guitar. It was written when it was grey, it was raining... Mind you, I'm not a depressive person... And when this song was written on the guitar so, I didn't know why but something was wrong with it, even though the melody was good, the lyrics were good... I was wondering what the problem was... and then I tried it on the piano and suddenly, everything was fine!

... On the other hand, by choosing 'Dancing In The Sunshine' as the first single, did you want to send a positive signal after the health crisis?

Luke: Again, it wasn't a conscious thing to be positive on that track: we just thought it was a great rock'n'roll song, it was fun...

Danny: No, really, you guys are digging way deeper than we are!

Luke: (Laughs)! That song just sounded good, we don't know why. When we did this song, we didn't plan anything, we didn't know what was going to happen in Ukraine, we didn't know the drift of Covid, that the prices of gas and petrol were going to explode, we didn't know any of that. The album is going to be released and the reactions that are starting to come in are that it's a fantastic album because there are some really positive songs in these complicated times...

Danny: Music has always had an effect on people and it always should. So when you put out a song that is hopeful with a simple positive message when people are feeling unhappy, it will make them feel better if only for four minutes, four minutes of escape... It's a happy accident if it happens!

As we said, your previous album "All the Right Noises" entered in the Top 3 of the English album charts and is considered as one of your best. One year later, you released a double album that will see you touring in Great Britain in five stadiums including the Wembley Arena. Clearly, nothing seems to be able to stop Thunder since your return in 2015 with "Wonder Days"... Can we conclude that the wonderful days are the ones you live since your return?

Luke: Yes, for the last time (Laughs)!

Danny: That's the headline we're going to have to take credit for...

Luke: We should really be thankful for this. We're getting old - we're over 60...

Danny: ...almost dead!

Luke: But we're still alive and we're still making music...

Danny: Which is a miracle in itself (Smile)!

Luke: ... and we're still having fun, which is the crucial thing!

Speaking of health, how is Ben Matthews doing?

Danny: He had a major surgery last year and he's following the doctors' recommendations. I would say he's recovering even though you never come out of surgery the same. Hopefully, he will still contributing to the band but in a different way: he can't sing anymore for example.

And will he be on the tour with you?

Danny: We are very honest with each other, allowing us to find solutions to every problem. We always had meetings whenever something new came up, we had a kind of group meeting where we discussed if he could physically do such a tour. If he could he would do it, if not we would find someone else...

Luke: I mean, he's fine with it.

Danny: For example, we're going to do five festivals in June: he's going to do the first one and the last one, which is Hellfest, not the others because it's a lot of long, tiring travel and we agreed that he wouldn't handle it well.

So if I understood correctly, we'll see the whole band again at Hellfest... Thanks!

Thunder : Thanks a lot !

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THUNDER: Dopamine (2022)

Once again, the risk-taking pays off and Thunder succeeds in offering a captivating and varied work with a "Dopamine" as effective as committed.
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