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Ravenheart Music: Interviews

CORNERSTONE INTERVIEW DEC 2016

CORNERSTONE_2a.jpg
I have interviewed the awesome Austrian AOR band Cornerstone twice before, the last time was in October 2011 - doesn't time fly by? With another singer now installed at the mic stand, and another awesome album in the stores ('Reflections'), now is the time to have another little chat about how things are moving in the Cornerstone camp. So I arranged a chat with singer ALINA and band mastermind MICHAEL (far right in pic).

Let us first talk about your new young lady at the helm. I appreciate that you may not want to talk about the reasons for Patricia Hillinger leaving, but how did you come about new girl ALINA PETER?
Michael: Alina is a great and energetic singer, she sent a tape, and I thought in the first place: “This isn’t that bad”. Steve and I auditioned some interesting singers… we rehearsed with a RnB-singer, great voice, but it didn’t worked. We had an actor, who starred at an ABC-series in American TV and also do singing, who is great as a person, but it didn’t clicked musically. I was kind of frustrated and went into a Karaoke bar, to audition singers, but all of them were really bad. So I went home – it was 1:00 am in the morning – and went through Alina’s tape a second time, and listened to the other songs on it. It sounded fantastic, and the next day I called Steve and told him: “That’s the singer”. I dropped her an E-mail, started with the words “I want to cut a long story short: we want you in the band”, and so it finally happened. Very bread and butter.

Alina, how have you settled in to the band? And if you wouldn't be a singer, what would you be doing?
Alina: From the beginning we all got along very well. Of course we needed to get to know each other first, but after a few band rehearsals we got comfortable around each other. I also have the feeling to fit in perfectly with our style of music. I don’t know if I can’t imagine my life without singing, but I guess I would have been a dancer or a psychologist.

Do you keep in touch with Patricia and if so, what is she up to now
Michael: Patricia was with the band for 6 years, and she involved herself full heartedly for 5 ½ years. But, you know, people change…. you change, I change, she change, everybody change. It was a sad story, we couldn’t be in a room together anymore, and in general there was a very negative mood in the band, like a funeral party. I don’t want to go into any details, because this is a band-issue, and I would everyone ask to respect that. Instead I want to quote Brian May: “In case you don’t have to say something positive, it’s probably better, to say nothing – someone could get you wrong or so.” It was hard to ask someone to leave the band after six years, and I really can’t say that I wish her all the best for the future, but that’s history, and we are concentrating into upcoming things with the new Line-Up – which isn’t really new anymore, we’re playing together for two years now. I haven’t been in contact with Patricia since, and honestly I’m not interested in, but I’ve heard from a friend of mine, that she is trying to make it into RnB, and doing some kind of Beyonce-, Rihanna-like stuff with a few Austrian musicians. Ok.

The new record 'Reflections' was produced in collaboration with Harry Hess (Harem Scarem, Billy Talent, Muse, ...) in Canada. Harry Hess is awesome and Harem Scarem is one of my fave bands. How did that collaboration come about?
Alina: There has already been some talking about Harry Hess producing “Somewhere in America” (the last album) but due to time problems it was not possible to collaborate on this one. So now we are more than happy that it finally happened. It was a pleasure to work with such an amazing and experienced producer and musician, who is also great as a person.

And a tongue in cheek question - was he expensive?
Alina: Let’s put it this way: He was worth every Dollar we spent *laughing*

Anyway, Cornerstone is like a good wine, gets better with age (he says with a cheeky smile), and to be perfectly honest we love the newie here at Ravenheart as we do your previous releases. But how has the new album been received so far by fans and media alike?
Alina: Our fans love the new album, they are incredibly supportive and provided us with the best feedback you could ask for. A few radio stations in England as well as in Germany and Austria have already taken our new single “Last Night” into rotation, so I guess that’s kinda positive.

And where was it recorded and what was the studio experience like?
Alina: We did the Mixdowns, Mastering, part of the Keyboards and arrangements in Canada, the rest was recorded here – it would have been too expensive, to ship the whole band plus equipment over to Canada *laughing*. The studio experience was pretty awesome, but exhausting as well. We spent so many hours in there, we temporarily made it our second home *laughing*. Michael even fell in love with the most uncomfortable couch ever in the studio.

Michael: I did *laughing*. The couch felt very cosy after hours and hours of work *laughing*

Do you have any fave tracks on 'Reflections'?
Alina: I can only speak for myself, but I love “Northern Light” and “Nothing To Lose”.

Michael: I love “True Confessions”, because it’s so personal, “Northern Light” because the arrangements are perfect on that and “Sooner Or Later”. “Sooner” was the most difficult tune to produce, because it was intend to have a Sixties-feeling. I worked with an Upright-Bass, but had absolutely no experience with it, so we have to re-record it three times. Also the organ and typical “Aaaaahhh”-Backgrounds at the chorus were a nightmare to do. But in the end it worked out absolutely fine, and in general I love the track, because it’s so positive.

I mentioned in the last interview that Cornerstone should technically speaking send the USA AOR/Melodic Rock music fan into raptures with your style of music. Has there been any in roads into the USA regards your band and the music you record and play?
Michael: Well... we’ve been signed to the US-based label ATOM Records, and basically Steve and I write the songs in a musical style, with which we grew up with... Journey, Fleetwood Mac, Alan Parsons, Toto, this kind of music... ok, of course Alan Parsons is not American, he is from the UK *laughing*. In the very beginning, people told us, with our music we belong to America, and I thought “Of course... they will wait for Cornerstone there”. Yeah, and one day back in 2006 we got an offer from an American label via MySpace... this was in the Heydays of MySpace. They also translated everything into german language, but the translating programs weren’t that good 10 years earlier... *laughing*. It sounded quite funny, but it was clear, what they wanted to tell us. I literally called everyone in the band... it was half past six in the morning, so they weren’t that happy, but after I told them from the offer, they were *laughing*

And how are you going down in your homeland?
Alina: In Austria, the music business is hard to conquer. At the moment they are all about German speaking music or Dance music. It’s hard for an Austrian band to actually make it in Austria. For example, even Falco had to pursue his career abroad first to get noticed in Austria.

How have your recent gigs been received and what was it like to be back in the UK, it almost seems like your second home here?
Alina: Yes! We love England! It is sooooo different than Austria. The audience really listen to the music, the lyrics and everything and they are a lot more appreciative. We also did a few gigs in the North of Germany, this area is also funny to play.

And talking about the UK, in 2013, Cornerstone released their version of the Eighties-hit "Smalltown Boy" (by Bronski Beat), that appeared in the charts. All the proceeds for this single went to the "Room to Breathe"-campaign, a charity organization for the research and treatment of the immunodeficiency disease cystic fibrosis at the Nottingham City Hospital here in the UK. What made you decide to do this?
Michael: We knew this guy who had cystic fibrosis. It’s a horrible disease and we saw him in Nottingham City Hospital. We thought we could do something to help, the goal was, to get the song into the UK-charts and make some money for charity: let’s do a cover of something no-one would expect. The UK likes dance music a lot. We thought about Erasure in the first place, but no-one felt really comfortable with that, so we did “Smalltown Boy”, because it’s pretty cool. Ironically, it didn’t chart in the UK but it entered the charts in Austria. The whole thing wasn’t a great idea. It wasn’t Cornerstone music, Patricia and I created it for charity - a good charity - but I’m not proud of it musically. We’re a rock band. Looking back, I wouldn’t do it again.

How do you foresee the future of Cornerstone as we approach 2017 and can we expect to see you again here soon?
Alina: Yes we definitely will be back in England and we will play a few gigs around Europe as well. We are really looking forward to go on stage again next year.

And will there be a 4th album? :)
Michael: It will definitely happen, but not next year: 2016 was a nightmare, working wise, and all of us need a rest to care about our private lifes, families, friends, etc. From April on we’re starting playing gigs again, and slowly starting to write new tunes, but no stress: for the moment we have enough about studios, recordings and so on, but I guess the hunger will appear again *laughing*.

Thank you again for this interview and please keep up the good work. Is there anything you would like to say before I sign off?
Michael: Well, thx for the interview, Dave, and all the best to the readers of Ravenheart . In case you want to support Cornerstone, the new album “Reflections” is available at amazon, iTunes, etc. – we have to pay the rents for our Villas in Los Angeles and tank our Limousines, so this is kinda expensive... *laughing*. Seriously: to find out more about the band, please visit www.cornerstone.co.at and www.facebook.com/cornerstoneaustria. Thx and cheerio!
Dave Smith (Dec 8, 2016)