A previously posted part of this Interview contained statements made by DL Byron about Billy Joel which are completely untrue. The artist who was being referenced was Billy Joe Royal, NOT Billy Joel. We regret the error.
Hi DL! It’s great to have this opportunity to be in contact with you and see what you’ve got going on in the musical sphere these days. The movie Rock Of Ages starring Tom Cruise has hit theaters. What is your involvement with this venture?
My involvement with the film is my song “Shadows of the Night” being performed by Mary J. Blige.
Were you also involved in the original Rock Of Ages musical that appeared on Broadway?
“Shadows of the Night” has been in the show from the very beginning. Rock Of Ages is now running in NYC, LA, London, Sydney, and Melbourne. Plus the touring company is about to start its second round here in the US.
You have a new album out now titled &IU. Can you spill some details about its sound and themes and if it falls in line with your previous albums?
&IU is a departure from my previous works. My intention with this particular record was simply self-expression, and not adhering to what my fans would usually expect from me. It took three years to complete. It is a fusion of all of my musical inspirations. Ranging from the Stones to the Beatles and Byrds, it touches on all of those influences, and even has an experimental audio track dedicated to John Lennon.
You’ve had a long and storied career as a musician and songwriter, most notably penning “Shadows of the Night” which Pat Benatar recorded. I know you get asked a lot of questions about this song, but I wanted to ask about your opinion on Pat Benatar’s video for it and if her (or the video director’s) vision jibes with the intent of your lyrics.
Pat’s video was simply hysterical. I would have never imagined that it would be treated in such a way. Judge Reinhold was a big surprise. I suppose that the “Rosie the Riveter” idea actually worked on some level. I was extremely surprised. It was a good laugh.
I recently interviewed the awesome Fiona Flanagan for this site and she’s also covered “Shadows of the Night.” Fiona said that she used your “original version” with different lyrics than the Pat Benatar one. What is the difference between the lyrics?
Fiona based her recording on the original full band demo. She and Helen Schneider are the only two artists to have recorded the original lyrics, aside from myself. Might I please refer you to Shadows of the Night/Collector’s Edition which can be viewed on my website: www.zenarcher.com.
You broke through in 1980 with your debut album This Day and Age, which was produced by Jimmy Iovine. How did you end up working with him?
I wound up working with Jimmy quite by accident. Clive Davis had called Jimmy in for a meeting, wanting him to produce some other band. In passing, Clive played Jimmy my demo, Jimmy got very excited and said that he wanted to produce my project.
You were signed by “the” Clive Davis and were on Arista when record companies were king and were the only option for getting albums out to the public. Now it seems like there is much more freedom and diversity on how to do this. Do you feel like that’s a good thing or is it tough no matter how you slice it?
I think that today, the artist is in charge. That’s how it should be. The major labels just wanted you to spew out the same formula for each record, denying the artist an opportunity to grow and expand. Things are much better these days, and that is made plain by the Majors still chasing their tails.
Which do you find more satisfying, penning songs for other artists like Benny Mardones and Drive She Said or creating your own albums?
I really enjoy making my own records. I always loved working with Benny, he’s such a good lyricist, but I still prefer to make my own way.
Your self-professed main influences have been the legendary The Beatles and The Byrds. I’m a sucker for “Eight Miles High” by The Byrds, myself. What inspiration do you get from those bands that you don’t find elsewhere?
What I get from the Beatles and the Byrds, is both sound and song construction. In the Byrds case, the whole thing was about Gene Clark. In the case of the Beatles, you had the sour and the sweet; John providing the edge and Paul providing the opposite. That’s the combination that made the Beatles so successful.
You also mention that you have a connection to certain areas of New York City and that has influenced your sound. How so, and why NYC and not other cities?
New York City has a very unique soft underbelly. It has moved from the East Village to the Lower East Side. I lived on the Lower East Side before it became hip. There were hookers on the corners, you could cop heroin just about anywhere, or watch a junkie die by the entrance to the subway. It was real. Very visceral. Consequently, quite inspirational.
What is next up for you on the horizon? Will you be touring for your new album or shooting a video?
I never know what is next. Do you?