Interviews > Thor
THOR
Interview by Athena Schaffer

Asgardian thunder is shaking the very foundations of Midgard in celebration of the 25th anniversary of THOR’s Only The Strong! This anniversary is marked with the release of the album, re-mastered and including bonus surprises. THOR is also getting the magical goats – Tanngrisni and Tanngnost - harnessed to his Thunder Chariot for a World Tour! As befitting a Thunder God, the album shot like lightning up the UK charts when it was originally released in 1985 on the strength of such anthems as the title track, “Thunder In The Tundra”, “Let The Blood Run Red,” still audience favorites to this very day! The original release was on vinyl, however, and ravenous fans have hungered for the album to be released in CD form. Not only have their prayers reached Asgard itself, they’re treated to these favorite songs remastered with the strength and polish of a well-honed sword.

Although new videos from the remastered version are in the works, check out: Thunder on the Tundra, THOR bending steel, Rock The City, and Let The Blood Run Red .

THOR was in Baltimore this past January – fitting, since Baltimore is Poe’s city, and the Norse Festival of Thor coincides with Poe’s Jan. 19th Birthday! The Crowgrrl was definitely there, despite the Jotuns bringing winter blizzards. But we did the following interview by phone shortly before the album’s re-release, and definitely before the Icelandic volcano rained molten ash on the travel parade to London and Germany. However, it offers a unique insight into the realm of the Thunder God and the many irons he has in the fire!



THOR: I had a great experience in Baltimore! It was great meeting you face to face, and it was just a lot of fun!

Definitely! It was great finally meeting you in person, too!

Thanks for hooking me up with Freddy Thunder! He’s really a great person as well. He really knows some talented people around the world. He’s a nice guy, and he knows a lot about the industry. He’s a hard working fellow.

I’m very grateful for that. Thank you very much! I think we’re going to have a press conference over in England as well, and he’ll get a lot of exposure at the Keep It True Festival. I’ll introduce him there and England. Neonfly’s already doing well, but it wouldn’t hurt!

He does a lot of promotion over there, and he’s an excellent musician!

Yeah! He’s a tremendous musician as well! He’s going to be playing rhythm guitar for my band – I don’t know if he told you that.

Yeah, he did! He’s really excited about that! He’s in awe of Steve’s playing, too. Those two will get along great!

The plan was that either Steve Price was going to go or Frank Soda. Both are phenomenal guitarists! So Frank Soda may be going, but he’ll be playing with a great guitarist! I know he’s been going back and forth with Frank with the songs and riffs and all that stuff. It will be quite exciting for them to be playing in the UK together and also the Keep It True Festival, which is already sold out. There’s a lot of ballyhoo about that!

Those German festivals are always big!

Yeah, and they’re getting bigger all the time! Bigger crowds, and they sell them out sooner than the previous year.

Yeah! Those and Sweden Rock!

Sweden Rock had the biggest crowd they had ever had last year! Same with the Muskel Rock festival in Sweden and Sauna Open Air Festival in Finland. They were all sold out and they’re going to be sold out again with even bigger crowds. They’re going to have to get bigger venues!

There are so many more Metallers in Europe, I think. Metal is continuously part of Life!

Definitely! So are you looking into any of the other festivals there for your World Tour?

Yeah! It looks like we’re going to go back to the Muskel Rock Festival in Sweden, and we’re also getting offers for pretty big concerts as well. We’re going to be doing a big concert in Montreal, Quebec City, and Toronto. These are not clubs – these are concert venues that hold 3,000 people! We’re getting to a point where we’re getting more of the arenas. They want us to play in an arena in Alberta, coming up. !

We are playing Calgary on April 16 – that will be in a club. But it sold out so fast that this other promoter wants to put us in an arena in June. That will be pretty good!

Very cool! So you’re doing this World Tour in stages?

In stages. At my age, that’s all I can handle.

Don’t say that! Age is a state of mind!

Yeah, Thor is Ageless! But we’re doing 10 cities, will have a break because I still have my sportswear business and the Vancouver Millionaires. I just got over the Olympics, which were incredible for us!

Then, of course, I’m filming this movie in stages as well, which is “Thor vs Hercules”. I shot part of it in Vancouver, then I’ve got to go down to California and shoot some more. I’m hoping that it will come out about the same time as the Thor movie that Marvel’s putting out.

Yeah, they finally cast the starring role in that one: Chris Hemsworth, the guy who played James Kirk’s father in the recent Star Trek movie.

Yeah, they’re already filming that. You know that Stan Lee had approached me in 1978 that I was to star in the Thor movie at that time he was putting together. I was the perfect Thor at that time. But then he never completed the whole production. We never even got to the part where we were starting the pre-production. But he couldn’t get financing for it, so it took this long to get Thor going. I understand that it’s got to be more of a younger guy at this stage to play Thor. I think the guy who played Captain Kirk’s father is the perfect guy for the role. He’s got that young look about him and everything.

But the movie I’m filming – Thor vs Hercules – I play more of an almost Odin-type character. He’s a little more wiser Thor, that kind of thing. I battle against a Mr. Universe winner – he’s a pretty big and powerful guy.

Awesome! I can’t wait to see that.

It’s going to be a B movie, but it’s still going to be fun!

All B movies are Fun! I watch them all the time! The Chiller Channel is on more than any other channel in this house, and that’s nothing but B’s! A whole hive of them!

Those movies are fun! I love the B movies! I didn’t think The Intercessor made a B movie – it was more an E movie. But, you know, it’s unbelievable! It evokes such responses from people! I see pages and pages written about the movie The Intercessor. It’s on Netflix. I’ve really got it distributed out there. People can rant and rave about how much they hate this movie. They find it appalling or fascinating or whatever, but it’s almost like essays are written up about it all over the internet. So if I can evoke that kind of reaction from people with a movie, that’s what it’s all about, right? You’ve got to get reaction from people!

(I apologize if you hear yelling from the other side of the living room. My son is playing a videogame: God of War).

Wow! God of War! Hey, did you hear Clash of the Titans is coming out?!

Yeah, I saw the previews for it in 3-D!

Yeah! “Release the Kracken!”

Actually, one of my pet fish is named Kracken.

Oh, wow! I was actually working on a song called “Release the Kracken”. I just thought that would be a good name for a tune – it’s a pretty powerful tune I’m writing!

I’m almost afraid to write my songs and submit them after that whole thing that happened with Kamen Rider! I sent that down to my friend John Fasano. John Fasano took it to the Wang Brothers or whoever they were, and they just totally copied my song and re-recorded it. I can’t believe it! And they didn’t give me any credit.

It sounds like your voice on there even!

Yeah, well that’s what they did – they just copied the song. I gave them two versions of it, and they just sort-of melded it together. Even John and his son, John Cody, said, “Hey! That’s Jon’s song!” He’s embarrassed by the whole thing! My lawyer said he would get into a lawsuit. But you get tired of lawsuits and all that kind of stuff.

I just went through a trademark thing with a company in Los Angeles with my Vancouver Millionaires’ V, in which I won the case. I actually won 4 cases of people trying to duplicate my Vancouver Millionaires’ V and everything. It’s just that it’s a lot of effort. I just can’t believe so many people try to get away with it, without doing things properly.

Nonetheless, what we’ve got here is: Ektro Records in Finland is releasing Only The Strong in Europe; Vulcan Sky Records is releasing it in North America. The European version will have a different cover than the US/Canadian version.

OK, outside of the cover, how are the two releases different?

They sound exactly the same. Just the cover is different. And the I-Tunes one that is coming out, the cover is also different, and there will be a different bonus track. But the album is exactly the same. There are bonus tracks on there, like there’s a live version from the Swedish Rock Festival of “Warriors of the Universe!” We’re really excited about that. It’s got really good crowd response singing along with the song.

When you decided to put this album back out for its 25th Anniversary, did you re-master or enhance any of the songs?

We totally re-mastered and enhanced everything, remixed it. I give all the credit to Steve Price and his studio Stepco Sound in Boca Raton, Florida, for doing that. Steve really worked hard in the re-mastering.

We just got offered a show for the White House Secret Service – to do a benefit for the Secret Service. It’s a non-paid thing. We’re thinking about going ahead and actually doing this. If we do it, it will be in May. Steve Price will play that. They said they’re going to give us a tour of the White House and the whole bit.

That’s awesome! Most bands don’t get that kind of an honor.

Yeah! We’re really lucky that they invited us to do this. It is a benefit. They would fly us in, even though we wouldn’t get paid for it. Then they would have lodging and food and a tour of the White House and all that, so it would be a real honor.

Definitely! Now, back to the album, are you going to do any videos for it?

We’re prepared to make a video. When you get the US version – I’m not going to tell you all of the whole thing that’s happening – but there’s a few clues about what’s going to come in there. You’ll see it in there when you get the US version. There are a few surprise clues in there that are going to be happening in the upcoming future in THOR. There’s a few changes -- THOR’s going to go through a whole reinvention. New concepts, new avenues we’re going into, new directions with imagery. So there will be clues in there about that.

Then, of course, the follow up album is going to have the full bore situation.

Very cool! So you already have a follow-up ready or are you still writing for it?

The plan is to go into the studio probably sometime in July to start the next album. We thought it was important to put this one out because it’s the 25th Anniversary of Only The Strong, which is one of our most successful albums ever in our career. A lot of people thought it was Keep The Dogs Away, but actually Only The Strong was our biggest seller.

Right! It’s got some of your most memorable hits on it.

Yeah, like “Thunder In The Tundra” and “Let The Blood Run Red”, which did well on the charts in the UK at that time, then crossed over into the US as one of the Cult Hits.

You mentioned that you’re going to do a video for this album – which song?

Well, right now we’re looking at a remake of “Let The Blood Run Red”. We might also just do “Warriors of the Universe” and take cuts that we have from the live footage from Sweden. We’re going to do that. There’s another one I want to do: “Lady of the Night”, which we added onto the album, which was one that was not originally not on the Only The Strong album. So it will be that one or “Let The Blood Run Red”.

Do you have a storyline to go along with the live footage? What’s it going to be like?

It’s “Let The Blood Run Red”. We’re just going to have a lot of – it’s going to be very much like Clash of the Titans.

All this kind of stuff is coming out right now. More and more you see it in the media, in the movies: this imagery. They feel that the “Thor” movie is going to be very big! Even Disney, who is part of Marvel now (they acquired Marvel titles) introduced that movie How To Train Your Dragon, so they’re slowly integrating even to a younger audience the medieval sort-of thing, the Sword & Sorcery situation. The fact that they remade The Clash of the Titans and all these super hero movies that are coming out like Iron Man 2 - all this stuff is really getting bold right now. I think the Thor movie is going to be huge! It’s going to be very much like when Arnold came out with Conan the Barbarian the first time. It did huge at the box office. The same is going to happen with Thor.

We’ll basically coincide, we’ll probably piggy-back off that publicity and promotion that’s going to come out on Thor, and the fact that we ARE the musical entity of Thor, and we’ll be prominent.

I’m seeing it all already. I’m getting offers right now for shows that were never there before, just all of a sudden these wild shows and really cool opportunities. Also, of course, I’m doing the Thor movie they’ve been filming for 10 years – the documentary that Riff Rock Productions has been filming for 10 years, following me all over the place. I’d really like for them to finish this movie. They want to come to Germany to film some last scenes, and the UK. It would be great to have Freddy Thunder on there and have him interviewed as well.

That would be very cool! Speaking of which, are you going to be filming the London show?

Yes, they’re supposed to be coming over to film the London show. It’s going to be sponsored by Total Rock Radio, of course. Malcolm Dome who runs Total Rock is a friend of Freddy Thunder. Also, back when I lived in London in ’84 and ’85, I used to know Malcolm Dome very well. He was a great supporter of THOR. He wrote for Kerrang Magazine at the time.

I’m very familiar with that magazine. I’ve always loved it.

It was the Bible of Rock and Metal back then.

Yeah! Is it still around?

I think it’s still around, but most of the writers and editors from that magazine are with Classic Rock Magazine right now, which is a beautiful magazine, I think. Full of color, it’s quite thick, and they’re also great supporters: Geoff Barton is there, Xavier Russell, I think Chris Welch writes for them sometimes.

Didn’t he also used to write for Creem?[ http://www.creemmagazine.com/index1.php]

Chris Welch? Yeah, as a matter of fact, I saw him recently on a Paul McCartney documentary. He was featured on there. Very famous guy! He got me in Kerrang for the first time, the first big article in Kerrang back in 1984 just before we went there. It caused a lot of people to come to the Marquee from that article. The rest is history.

For your shows on this leg of the tour, are you going to be concentrating on JUST the Only The Strongsongs? Or are you going to do some of your other material?

We’re going to concentrate on Only The Strong. We’ll probably do Only The Strong in its entirety. But we will have a couple others, like “We Live To Rock” – everybody always wants to hear that one from Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare which of course was recently voted The Greatest Rock & Roll Movie of All Time by Exclaim Magazine, which we’re very proud of! That’s over A Hard Day’s Night and all the biggest Rock movies of all time! Even Spinal Tap! We were very proud to get that award!

Definitely! That’s quite an accomplishment!

Yeah! And that song “We Live To Rock” is from that movie, and everybody wants to hear it all the time. So we’ll play that. Of course we’ll play some of the favorites, but we’re mainly concentrating on Only The Strong.

What’s going on with the Vancouver Millionaires these days?

It was the rage of the Olympics! As you know, I had Wayne Gretzky wear a jacket. We have a Vancouver Millionaires store downtown, one in North Vancouver. On CBC Television, Shane Foxman who’s the major newscaster there said it was the “Unofficial ‘Official’ Logo of The Olympics. who’s the major newscaster there said it was the ‘Unofficial ‘Official’ Logo of The Olympics’. Of course, Bannock and the Olympic Committee were very worked up about that, but nonetheless it sold really well. It was a rage! If you go to VancouverMillionaires.com, you’ll see all these people wearing them: Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille, which of course are huge icons in Canada! I know hockey is a Canadian sport and not as popular in the United States, but up here it’s a way of Life. Hockey IS Life in Canada. To have Wayne Gretzky wearing the Vancouver Millionaires is absolutely amazing for me. It got us huge publicity. So Vancouver Millionaires are doing phenomenal right now – greater than I could have ever imagined.

So what other irons do you have in the fire these days?

Besides the movies and sportswear and touring and so forth?!

Seriously, where would you have any other time?

That’s probably all I do, really! See, when something is fun, I enjoy working at it. I’m having a good time with all this.

Although it’s coming to a point where eventually it will be just like The Phantom. You know the legend of The Phantom – how did he last for so many hundreds of years looking the same? It’s because he would have a new guy come in, put the mask on, and keep going. Eventually, I’m going to have to hand the Hammer down to the Son of Thor or Thor #2, whatever he’s going to be called. He will have to lead the band. That will happen.

As time goes on, my plate is getting more and more full where it’s going to be more difficult for me to tour. If you look at different bands, there have been band changes. The Doors have come back with a new singer. Queen came back with Paul Rodgers. When David Lee Roth left Van Halen or was kicked out of Van Halen, Sammy Hagar came in. I think bands can be interchangeable, and so is Thor. Thor can have a different singer, as long as it’s somebody worthy of the Hammer.

Will they have to follow in your footsteps with the bending steel and everything?

That’s what everybody wants. I was even asked by the folks in England if Thor’s going to blow up and explode hot water bottles. I’ve probably blown up and exploded 3,000 hot water bottles in my life. Who knows how many brain cells I’ve destroyed! Eventually something’s going to pop there.

But I think with the right training, the guy can bend the steel bar. You get the right guy who’s got the strength and got the wit and got the technique together, he can bend steel. There are other strength feats that can be done. Basically, I think it’s a concept. As long as there is a concept there, some great theatrics, and great music…

The music has to speak for itself. If the music speaks for itself, people want to hear the sound and see the image, then it will all work out.

Will you continue to write the music?

Yeah, I would write some of the music, I think. But I’d like if somebody else came in, I’d like to see them write music themselves so they have their own feel to it. The guy couldn’t just be one-dimensional. He would have to do all the thing I would expect him to do: that is to be a songwriter, a film actor, a performer, have strength, have discipline, have the smarts – everything that is needed to be Thor. There’s so much involved in being Thor, right?! You just can’t take any muscle man off the street and say, “Hey, you’re a Mister Universe guy. I’ll make you Thor.” It just wouldn’t work.

Right! Your war boots are pretty big ones to fill!

Yeah, I wear size 13!

Yeah, but you’re a legend! That’s a real tall order for somebody!

Yeah. Well, you know, it’s like Elvis is no longer around but yet there are Elvis impersonators – some pretty good ones out there – that satisfy that need for the Elvis image. There’s only two Beatles left: McCartney doesn’t look like he used to, Ringo Starr doesn’t. Yet there’s bands like Rain that look just like how I wanted to see The Beatles. I went to the theater, and there they were.

There’s a certain image that can be captured. There’s the image I had in the ‘80’s. There’s the image I had 10 years ago when I made my comeback. There’s the image I have now. I’m always having to re-invent the image. But then if you look through the cracks of time or if time stopped, what’s the favorite image? I think one of the favorite images is the 1980’s Thor or 1970’s Thor with the long blond hair with the armor and that kind of stuff. So to bring in someone younger from that period to become Thor is going to be the natural progression and the most logical.

So why did you cut your hair???

I didn’t want long hair anymore. Why did the guys in Metallica cut their hair? It’s because you go through stages in Life and you don’t always want long hair in your mouth and whatnot. I would spend hours on my hair. I grew my hair very long at one time. In ’85 I had it down to my ass! But it got tangled all the time. It took me hours and hours to wash it and everything. Right now, as well, I have to do a lot of business like with the NHL and all sorts of major sports teams. I have to sometimes get dressed up in a suit and have short hair – long hair doesn’t work for me right now.

Right now the Rock Star of today can be anything – like this pop star Lady Gaga or like these Heavy Metallers or Rockers that have shorter hair and a goatee, and there are some that have the long hair. So anything can go right now. It’s whatever works for you.

Is there anything I didn’t ask that you’d like to tell our readers?

Basically, we’re looking forward to a spectacular show to promote the Only the Strong album! It’s been 25 years since I last came to England – that was when Only The Strong first came out. I think that is pretty fascinating to come back again.

Really?! You haven’t been there since then?

Really! It was 25 years ago since the release of Only The Strong, now we’re re-releasing it 25 years later, and it’s been 25 years since my last appearance in England.

But you have a huge fan base there, don’t you?!

Oh, yeah! All indications by Freddy Thunder is that people are going wild about the show. It’s going to be jam packed! And, of course, we have a lot of fans in Germany. It’s going to be absolutely amazing in Germany!

I just think there’s a lot of excitement about the album, about the tour, and about THOR in general. Watch out! It’s going to be amazing!