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HELLION Rises Again: Gnarly Charlie's Exclusive Interview With Ann Boleyn Of HELLION

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Monday, October 6, 2014 @ 5:06 PM

“If I was going to play music I didn’t like I might as well go and work in an…office or something. Not to put anybody down... You know what I mean. Then it becomes just a job. It’s not something that’s out of your soul.”

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Live Photo By Charlie Steffens

After HELLION played The Whisky a Go Go on October 2nd, any pre-conceived belief that the band’s golden era was set back sometime in the 80s has been dispelled. HELLION’s performance that night, on its Los Angeles home turf, was spellbinding.

Singer Ann Boleyn and her band worked their hometown audience into a fist-pumping frenzy as they played old favorites as well as new songs from the Karma’s A Bitch EP. Joined by Simon Wright (AC/DC, DIO) on drums, Maxxxwell Carlisle on lead guitar, Scott Warren (DIO, TYPE O NEGATIVE) on keyboards, Georg Dolivo (RHINO BUCKET) on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, and Greg Smith (TED NUGENT, ALICE COOPER) on bass, Boleyn sang with a good dose of piss and vinegar throughout the set. It seemed as if she met every set of eyes in the crowd with a smile.

HELLION is back.

While many fans have embraced the reformation of HELLION, there are those who have yet to hear the power and musical brilliance of the band. The To Hellion And Back anthology, released last April, along with several live shows, has helped to stoke renewed interest. Karma’s A Bitch unveils all-new, original HELLION songs that will rival any hard rock/metal album released this year.

Boleyn became HELLION’s first singer when the band formed in 1982 and over the band’s career remains the only original member. After years of relative obscurity from the music scene, Boleyn and HELLION have returned, performing and making music.

“It was just the right time to do it,” Boleyn says about the comeback. “I had a lot of personal reasons for not performing for a long time. The stars lined up in a certain way where I was mad about this, mad about this, mad about this,” she admits with an air of humor. “And the answer of it was to put all that anger into something productive and go forward.”

“It feels great and I’m honored to have what I consider to be the best band I’ve ever had together as HELLION. It’s great.” Karma’s A Bitch, the group’s first studio album in over 10 years, was produced by Boleyn, Wright, and legendary producer/engineer Ken Scott, whose resume includes the BEATLES, DAVID BOWIE and PINK FLOYD, among many other notable artists. “We’ve taken pride to really make those the best recordings we can. Taking our time and doing it right, as opposed to sort of trying to throw together nine or 10 songs and doing it really fast. And, of course, at the very end of the year we’ll have a re-issue of either The Black Book or Screams In The Night with some added content as a bonus.”

HELLION’s return seems to have met, and even exceeded, Boleyn’s expectations. “The response has just been tremendous. Just got offers now from a booking agent over in England and Europe to do festivals next year, which is great. We started off trying to book a couple of shows here and there. Initially people were saying, ‘Oh, that’s some band from the 80s. Who cares about them?’ To the point where I was afraid that anybody would book the band. Once the word got out that we were doing a tour, it went from five shows to 10 shows to 20 shows.”

Boleyn has maintained her elfin-beauty, a powerful singing voice, and onstage vitality through a healthy lifestyle and lots of candles. Different-colored candles, as she describes soberly, “…that you burn on certain days when the moon is in a certain place.”

“My voice is better than ever. I’ve never had any vocal problems. Ever. So I’m lucky on that. Different people have different kinds of voices”, she continues. “I can’t really give you an answer. I’m not a person that’s trained in ear, nose, and throat, or anything like that. I’ve never had any voice problems at all. I’m just thankful for all that.”

Having had many opportunities to be groomed into an entertainer by selling her soul early on, Boleyn chose to stay true to her artistry. “Hey, they’ll make me into the next Pat Benatar”, she recalls. “But what I’ve got to do is accept that other people are going to be writing songs for me. I gotta back off and not do so much throaty vocals. I got to have fake boobs, blond hair, all this stupid stuff. Teeth fixed, Nose done. It was insulting to me. Obviously you got to put a band together that looks reasonable, but the focus was always on the music. If I was going to play music I didn’t like I might as well go and work in an insurance office or something. Not to put anybody down that’s working in an insurance office. You know what I mean. Then it becomes just a job. It’s not something that’s out of your soul.”

Boleyn reflects on many memorable times in her career. Some are staggering, worthy of pages in a rock and roll memoir: “I think one of the highpoints in my career…was when HELLION had the honor of opening up for WHITESNAKE and DIO. It was very early in my career. And to be onstage and look at one side of the stage and see Ronnie giving me his thumbs up—or wherever he was showing approval—and then on the other side seeing David Coverdale, who was one of my all-time favorites in DEEP PURPLE doing the same…I thought I landed in Heaven (laughs).”


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