INTERVIEW WITH THUNDER GUITARIST LUKE MORLEY
Date: March 5, 2021
Interviewer: Ruben Mosqueda
Sleaze Roxx got a chance to catch up with Thunder guitarist and founding member Luke Morley on March 5th, 2021. Morley is peddling his wares. Thunder have a new album titled ‘All The Right Noises’ which is set to be released via BMG on March 12th, 2021. Thunder have issued a couple of songs — “Last One Out Turn Off The Lights” and “Going To Sin City” — to promote the album. In addition to videos and doing the rounds doing press worldwide, Thunder have a TV Special stream performance on March 13th and 14th to celebrate the release of the album. It was great speaking with Luke. We hope to do it again. Enjoy the interview.
Sleaze Roxx: We don’t get Thunder come out to the United States, it’s been a while. We do keep on top of your new albums and happenings.
Luke Morley: It’s a bit hasn’t it? I can’t even remember what year it was? It’s been that long!
Sleaze Roxx: Well, you have been on board the Monsters Of Rock Cruise a few times.
Luke Morley: Yeah, we’ve done that twice [laughs]! That’s been the closest we’ve got, I’m afraid.
Sleaze Roxx: Real quick, before we get talking about the new album, what’s your thoughts on that experience?
Luke Morley: It’s kind of unusual, that many bands in that short span of time. It’s really for the die-hard rock fans I think. Literally, everywhere you go there’s rock music [laughs]! It’s everywhere! There’s no escaping it. So. I guess if that’s your thing, it’s the ‘perfect’ week. Now, from the band’s point of view, the facilities are pretty good. The food is good. When you’re in the middle of an English winter, there’s worse places to be [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: What’s your take on something like that post-pandemic?
Luke Morley: That’s a good one. I think the last time we did it, pandemic awareness was just creeping in. Everyone was starting to get a little paranoid. I think that post-pandemic, it might take a little time to get the people’s confidence back on a boat, because cruise ships are famous for spreading disease quickly. It’s a tough one!
Sleaze Roxx: Your new album ‘All The Right Noises’ features 11 tracks of no frills, straightforward rock ‘n’ roll. These tracks predate the pandemic, is that correct?
Luke Morley: Yeah, this was written pre-covid. I think it goes back to January of 2020, then the pandemic started taking off. The last three albums leading up to ‘All The Right Noises’ — one was a compilation. It was a little bit of an excursion where we went back and re-examined some of our old songs. We recorded in a different fashion, quite mellow, not exactly an acoustic album but close to that. In doing that, we built up quite a bit of energy to make a ‘thunderous’ rock ‘n’ roll record again! As the person that writes the songs, after not having done it a few years, you come back with a lot of momentum. It was an easy album to write, which I think is always a good sign.
Sleaze Roxx: How long have you been sitting on the completed record?
Luke Morley: Covid brought things to a halt and a lot of bands sat on albums for a while waiting for things to clear to tour. When that didn’t happen they released that album.
Thunder‘s “Going To Sin City” video (from upcoming album All The Right Noises):
Sleaze Roxx: Did you have material that was left from the sessions for the album?
Luke Morley: Normally, I write too many. This time around I wrote 15, and 11 made the record. Four didn’t make the record but they can be found on the deluxe version of the album. Our label was quite keen on us doing a deluxe CD and vinyl. We didn’t have enough content to do that. So, in July of last year, we went back to the recording studio, we recorded ourselves performing the album live. It was quite strange to do that without an audience but it was a fun thing to do. We all got tested and did all that. It was great in the middle of last year to get together with the guys and play music. This is the longest time I have gone without playing a show, since I was a teenager. I’m 60 now [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: How long has it been since you played a gig?
Luke Morley: Myself and Danny [Bowes] did this thing called ‘Rock Meets Classic.’
Sleaze Roxx: That’s the tour with the orchestra?
Luke Morley: That’s right! It’s a 40 piece orchestra. It was in Germany. We did five shows with Alice Cooper, Joyce Kennedy and the guy from Cheap Trick… Robin Zander! It was great fun! Everyone does a couple of numbers every night and then we all come out for the finale at the end of the show. This particular tour closed with “School’s Out” so I got a chance to play that with Alice Cooper. It was just a lot of fun! All the acts got on very, very well. We would stand on the side of the stage and watch the performances night, after night. It was such a cool experience. I remember after the fifth show which was in Berlin, we were getting breakfast and we got word that we were getting sent home, the tour was over because of the pandemic.
Sleaze Roxx: I love album sequencing. I love what you did with this album, as it opens with “Last One Out Turn Off The Lights” and closes with “She’s A Millionairess.” I love the stuff in between, but opens on a high note and closes on a high note. Right now, those are my favorite tunes on the record.
Luke Morley: Thank you. That’s interesting. I make detailed demos of the songs that I write in my studio. As the songs evolve, to save myself the headache of working it all out at the end, I try to find the songs that compliment each other and begin to sequence them. Hopefully, by the time we have all the songs recorded, the sequence is pretty much there. I came to live with it for a little while, so I haven’t decided what the running order will be for the 11 songs. That’s quite a cool way of doing it I think. “Last One Out [Turn Off The Lights]” was always meant to be the opening track. It says everything about Thunder that you need to know really. The last track [“She’s A Millionairess”], the lyrical content on a lot of the songs… They’re quite heavy actually. There’s some fairly serious subjects. We felt that closing with “[She’s A] Millionairess” was the right thing to do, as it was a light hearted song. I think that will leave the right taste in the listener’s mouth.
Sleaze Roxx: I love the horns and the female background vocals on “Last One Out [Turn Off Th Lights].” They really take the song to another level.
Luke Morley: Well, thank you. That’s good to know. Thunder is a rock ‘n’ roll band. You know that. It’s great to use different textures occasionally, providing you don’t lose your identity. If it’s complementary and it does something for the song, I’m in favor of it. We’re up for trying different things.
Thunder‘s “Last One Out Turn Off The Lights” video (from upcoming album All The Right Noises):
Sleaze Roxx: Can you speak a little regarding Thunder’s longevity? You did have a brief hiatus, but you have survived various trends.
Luke Morley: We’re like locusts! We’re hard to kill [bursts into laughter]! It’s an interesting thing, you know, when the band started, we started Thunder when we were all around 28-29 years of age. We’ve been friends before that. The foundation of the band stems from a very long friendship between Danny and I. We have known each other since we were 11 years old. That’s a lot of years! We have always… We’ve been through a lot together. I think our frames of reference are pretty much the same because we are all so close in age. We’re all quite different as people. I think that is the key really. When you get us all in a room together, we really still are like a bunch of kids. We make each other laugh. We like being around each other and we have a bond which is quite important, actually. We’re friends first before we are bandmates. I think that’s the biggest thing you can take away from our relationships within the band.
Sleaze Roxx: In listening to the new album and a number of records that you’ve released over the course of the past decade, it hit me. Thunder is a ‘sophisticated’ rock ‘n’ roll band. Like Bad Company, but more fun.
Luke Morley: Well, thank you. We are a product of our influences. We were teenagers in the ’70s, in the U.K. We grew up in London. It was just such a fantastic time to be a teenager. All of these great bands were coming out [with] classic records — Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Free, Bad Company…. We were still in the middle of a hangover from The Beatles, Cream and all of those bands that came out in the ’60s. It was just amazing to grow up in that time. All of those influences have filtered through in everything we do. What’s interesting is that it’s subconscious. We don’t do it with any forethought. We don’t say we’re going to do a song that sounds like Thin Lizzy. It’s just kind of there. It’s a wonderful thing! I’m so glad to have grown up when I did.
Sleaze Roxx: You made an appearance on Ricky Warwick’s new album on the song “You Don’t Love Me.” How far do you and Ricky go back?
Luke Morley: Yes. I have known Ricky since The Almighty. They might have started about the same time as Thunder. We might have started slightly before. We used to go out and check each other’s bands out. I got to know Ricky, funny enough, in Japan. We were out doing promotion. This was in about ’91. The Almighty were out there too. One night, we went out and we got drunk [laughs]! It was just musicians hanging out, complaining and moaning about anything and everything [laughs]! We were just having a nice time. We got to know each other and our paths crossed several times over the years. I also know Scott Gorham. He and I got to know a bit more recently than that. I play golf with Scott quite a bit. Anyway, the Black Star Riders thing — they were between guitar players. They had a South American tour. Thunder weren’t doing anything at the time. Scott asked “Do you want to come with us and play some festivals in South America?” I was like, “Yes! Fantastic! I’ll do it! It’ll be an honor!” I love the guys in that band and to get the chance to play “The Boys Are Back In Town” with Scott Gorham playing next to you, that is pretty cool. As for the appearance on Ricky’s album, again, we were out having some drinks and he asked, “Do you fancy playing on my record?” I said, “Send me the track. I’ll do it!” It was that simple.
Sleaze Roxx: I have to crowbar something on ‘Backstreet Symphony’ because it was the album that introduced me to Thunder. Even back then, I was aware that the album in the U.K. had a different album cover, there was a different video clip for the single “Dirty Love.” How did you guys feel about the changes? It seemed to me even back then, that the label was trying to squeeze you in with the American ’80s glam, image oriented bands.
Luke Morley: That’s a really well observed question there Ruben, because that’s precisely what happened. Geffen, which John Kalodner was the A&R man for the label, signed us. The album was originally released by Capitol Records in the U.S.. The guy that ran Capitol Records in the U.S. made it clear that he wasn’t particularly fond of the band [laughs]! We were signed to EMI in the U.K.. We asked that they let us go in the States, otherwise we’d be dead in the water. We didn’t know at that time that Steven Tyler, Axl Rose and David Coverdale, who were on Geffen, had mentioned us in passing. So there was a bit of interest there that we didn’t know about. It manifested itself in 1990 when we played on the Monsters of Rock Festival where Aerosmith was on the bill. John Kalodner who was their A&R man, who would subsequently go on to be our A&R man. He was there on Aerosmith’s bus. They were second on the bill that night. We were on the radio and he was listening to us. He said, excuse my Kalodner impression, “Who are these guys? They rock [laughs]!” Tyler says, “That’s that band I kept telling you about. They’re great!” Tyler found out about us through Mike Fraser who had done ‘Pump’ and recorded and mixed that album and also worked on ‘Permanent Vacation.’ It was all kind of wrapped up into one neat package.
The next thing you know, we’re on a plane to L.A. and we were signed. It happened very, very fast. Then it was a kind of struggle. I was forthright with Kalodner and he was forthright with me. We got on great, don’t get me wrong, but he said [again in a Kalodner impersonation] “I don’t hear a single.” I said “Well, “Dirty Love” is the single.” He said, “Well, I don’t like the video!” So I was like, “Then let’s make another video.” Then he says, “Well, I don’t like the album sleeve [laughs]!” So we came to an agreement where John had to do what he had to do and we had to do what we had to do. There was definitely a sense the way we were being photographed, the way we were being filmed was kind of like we were being marketed like bands like Winger and Warrant. We didn’t feel like that. We felt like you described — a British rock ‘n roll band. We weren’t ‘big hair’ and ‘make-up.’ We were more jeans and t-shirts. We got slightly misappropriated by Geffen, but on the plus side that album did sell about a quarter of a million copies. What blew us out of the water was the arrival of grunge. That’s the music industry, you just have to go with it.
Sleaze Roxx: What’s your favorite classic Thunder track to perform and what’s a new song that you like performing?
Luke Morley: I always love playing “Backstreet Symphony.” We open our set with that one quite often. It is really great. It sets the mood for the show and gets us moving. There’s a song on the new album called “Destruction” that I’m really looking forward to performing. It’s got a massive brutal guitar riff. Just in the times we’ve run through it, I think it’s going to be a great song to play in front of an audience as soon as we possibly can.
Thunder‘s “Backstreet Symphony” video (from Backstreet Symphony album):