Before the show, I had the honor of speaking (actually more like stuttering with how excited I was) with Graham Russell about the new album, some of the bands history, and their plans for the future. Here’s what he had to say:
Diana: I’m here with Graham Russell of the world famous, multi-platinum recording group, Air Supply. They are currently on tour, supporting their 14th album, The Vanishing Race, released earlier this summer. I’d like to welcome you and thank you for your time. Can you give me a quick story of how you formed Air Supply, maybe where you got the name, just a little bit of history?
Graham: The name sort of came from nowhere. I get a lot of my things in dreams and I just had a dream about it one night, and I woke up and said that’s just got to be the name. That was in 1975.
Diana: Was that before or after you met Russell Hitchcock?
Graham: That was at the same time. We sort of formed the band together, but I actually came up with the name because he couldn’t come up with one. We formed in ’75. We were in Superstar for two years, Jesus Christ Superstar, and during that show we started to perform together in clubs and things and it sounded good so we wanted to keep working. And that was our basic motive, to keep money coming in. We just had a lot of luck. We made a record, while we were still in Superstar. It was a big hit in Australia and so we went from there.
Diana: So it just all kind of fell into place?
Graham: Yeah, we were lucky in our early years. We opened for Rod Stewart in the States for six months, in 1977. We went from being quite green to playing at Madison Square Garden and The Forum in L.A., opening up for one of the biggest acts in the world. In fact it’s funny you know, he’s probably just as big, if not bigger than he was then, and this is 18 years later. We’ve been very lucky and we’re proud of what we’ve achieved, but we still feel that we have a long way to go.
Diana: Is there one particular experience or performance that stands out in your mind as particularly memorable or important?
Graham: Well, one of our very first shows, back in 1976, we played in Australia, and nobody knew who we were, they just knew the record because the record was a hit. We just left Superstar, so nobody knew who we were, and we played to 19,000 people at the Sidney Opera House in Australia. Well, we thought nobody knew who we were, but then we walked out and there were 19,000 people there, and it sort of blew our minds. That was a great milestone for us. And we played for Prince Charles and Lady Diana in Australia too, in 1988. That was a big thrill.
Diana: Your newest album is titled The Vanishing Race. Where did you get inspired for the title track and the artwork?
Graham: I was given a book for my birthday a couple of years ago, by the band, while we were on the road, and it was original photographs of Native American Indians. I’ve loved the American Indian for years and years and what I love about them is their concept of nature and their spirituality, which runs parallel with my own. I love animals and trees and flowers and everything that nature has made I love. And so do the American Indians and I love them for that reason and what they stand for. And in this book, I opened it at random and it fell open at a page where there four Apaches on horseback going into a blizzard, and they just looked so dejected and I was so moved by it. And underneath it had a caption that said “The Vanishing Race.” I just started to get goose bumps and I went away and wrote the title track that afternoon, and I knew that it was going to be a concept kind of thing. I think we’ve reached a stage now, in our career, where we don’t necessarily have to cater to a lot of public demand. We don’t get the record company saying, “Well, you’ve got an album loaded with singles,” or, “Radio’s not going to play it.” We pretty much can please ourselves, which is a nice space to be in after going through the pop thing and the fame and the fortune and come out the other end, reasonably intact. We consider ourselves quite lucky. It just took my fancy to have an album called The Vanishing Race.
Diana: I notice that the album is more varied, with the Indian prayer in the title track and even the gospel type sound on “Faith.” Is that kind of an attempt to branch out into other styles, or were you just kind of interested?
Graham: Not really, in fact that vibe was kind of an Elton John kind of thing, which we wanted to have a go at. We wanted to just have a shot at other styles. I like kind of varied songs, not just the same song all the time. And I thought things like “Too Sentimental” is a different thing for us, but it works and we love the way they all came out. There’s definitely varied songs on there.
Diana: Do you have a particular favorite?
Graham: My favorite is “I’ll Be Thinking Of You,” by a long shot. It’s a very deep spiritual song. It’s so simple. The chords are very simple and the lyrics are simple, but it gets straight to you. For me, that was a milestone as a song writer, because it’s just so simple and I love things that are simple that work. And for me it was a milestone.
Diana: It definitely seems that most of your music is in the lyrics and how they get to people.
Graham: It is, yes, definitely.
Diana: Do you have a particular single that you have planned or already released?
Graham: “Goodbye” is the first single. They are probably trying to play it safe because it sounds very much like Air Supply.
Diana: I was thinking possibly “It’s Never Too Late.”
Graham: Well, that’s the single overseas and it’s a big big hit over there.
Diana: I guess we’re a little bit slower to notice it over here.
Graham: Well it’s a different kind of audience. The Vanishing Race album has been out 4-6 weeks in the U.S. and it’s got a real slow start, but in Asia and South America it’s already number one. Our markets are different all over the world and we feel very fortunate to have alternative markets.
Diana: Is there anything you would like to say about your current tour or your touring experiences in general?
Graham: We just want to make people aware of the album really because some people are having difficulty getting it. Competition is so fierce in record stores, now, because space is just so hard to get, because there is so much product out. A lot of stores will say, “Yes, we’ll take the album,” and they stick one or two albums in a slot somewhere. Of course, then people don’t know that the album is out. So that is our sort of main beef at the moment.
Diana: Just trying to get it up and known?
Graham: Yeah, because we know the album is a good album, because it’s number one in the rest of the world, almost everywhere. So we just want to give it a fair shake, that’s all.
Diana: You seem to have to work harder here.
Graham: We do, definitely. There’s a lot more competition. Everybody comes to America to achieve success and it’s a little tougher, especially since we’ve been up there once and we took two or three years off and now we’re coming back and it’s a little tougher, but that’s what it’s all about. If it was easy it wouldn’t be worth it.
Diana: Do you have any particular special plans for the future? Do you look ahead or do you play it by ear?
Graham: Well, we made this album because we wanted to and we don’t make any long term plans because I think in show business it’s rather foolish. We have plans up to the end of January when we go to Asia and after that we’ll see how the land lies. I know after that I’ll be ready to take two or three months off. We’re starting to do things that we want to do, individually and together. Like, for instance, in November, we’re playing a show for Tibetan refugees. So, I guess, having achieved a certain degrees of popularity, in the past, allows us to do these things now, which we wouldn’t have been able to do before. You know, shows where you’re not necessarily going to make money, but you do something for people. We’re into that kind of thing now. We’re okay now. We could stop tomorrow, but we don’t want to do that. We’re devoted now to doing something worthwhile in the world.
Diana: So most of your inspiration comes through dreams?
Graham: I get a lot from dreams. I work in the dream state. I’ve studied the paranormal for twenty years, so the dream state for me is something I’m quite familiar with. So it’s not surprising that a lot of my songs come through that way. I always consider myself sort of an interpreter of somebody else’s work.
Diana: Does it all come together from the beginning or do you write the lyrics first and then the music or vice versa?
Graham: Well it’s always different and it’s changed a lot over the last two to three years. I always carry a tape recorder with me at all times. I get ideas all the time. I write something every day, but it’s usually the music comes first for me. Or I’ll come up with a lyrics phrase that sticks with me and then the rest just adheres to it. It’s like electrons in an atom, they are just attracted to it.
Diana: Do you have any particular message that goes along with the album?
Graham: With this album, we don’t want anybody to buy anything or to save this, that, or the other. We just want people to think about the people that the American Indians represent to us, especially children that are from indigenous tribes throughout the world, because these people are dying out and they’re dying out fast, especially in the Amazons. But we don’t say to people, “Hey, send in money,” or do this, that, or the other. We just want people to think about them and maybe just spare them a thought because when these people are exterminated, and I don’t believe that word is too severe, they’re gone and they’re spirituality is gone. They’re gone forever. It’s like an instinct animal and the number of animals that become extinct each month is staggering. But it’s happening to human beings, and I only wish that life were worth more to other humans, in this world. Life is worth nothing, People die and nobody cares, but for me, I want people to care, and I want people to think about these other people that are less fortunate, that are suffering at the hands of civilization, because somebody has to pay the fiddler along the line. That’s the only message that we have, it’s an internal message, an emotional message.
Diana: More to get people to think rather than to tell them how to think?
Graham: Yeah, because I think for anything to change, in the real world, people have got to change on the inside and that’s what we want to start, to get people to think and do more themselves and get involved in whatever they want to get involved with.
Diana: Well, thank you very much for your time and good luck and have fun with your tour.
Graham: Thank you, we will. Goodbye.