You may remember that earlier this year, we at MetalTalk Towers, spoke to some bands from the Russian Federation. Well, we received such good feedback for you, our faithful readers, that you asked for more of the same – so, in our quest to bring new music to you, I spoke to Mike Breeze (originally from Moscow but now based in Hamburg, Germany) for a chat about his band, Mirror.
I started the conversation by asking Breeze who the band members are, and where they are from: "Well, I was born in Moscow and then moved to Germany some years ago. Both Ramin (Andarmani – Guitars/Backing Vocals) and Ian (Weid – Drums/Backing Vocals) were both born in Germany.
"We are based in and around Hamburg (the second biggest city in Germany after Berlin) and quite important on the "music map of the world" due to the early days of The Beatles," explains Breeze. The Beatles, of course, famously played The Star Club and the Kaiserkeller in the city in the early 1960s before their debut single 'Love Me Do' was released.
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"Hamburg", continues Breeze, "really is one of Europe's most biggest and most famous European cities, as well as being one of the greenest cities in the world alongside New York City."
When asked how long the band have been together, Breeze explains that: "I founded the band in around 1994, when I was a teenager, y'see, I had this idea and it was everything – the band's name, the crested logo, the concept - I even had some early songs but it just took a long time to find the right band members who I could share my vision with.
"As a fan of bands like Queen, Mötley Crüe and Led Zeppelin, it was never my intention to change the line-up (of the band) once our first record was released," he explains. Ramin joined the band around about 2002 and Ian followed him in 2004, but it wasn't until 2006 when we actually released our first single, 'Red Dye'".
As Breeze has already name checked bands like Queen, Mötley Crüe and Led Zeppelin, I enquire what other bands have had an influence on him and his music: "If you're talking about internationally popular bands then The Beatles, obviously, and bands like The Doors, Dream Theater and Cinderella as well as some of the heavier Metal bands like Slipknot, System Of A Down, Pantera and to an extent (Gothic Rock band) The 69 Eyes.
"I also get influenced from bands that some of your readers might not have heard of like (influential Japanese Metal band) X Japan, (Brazilian Power Metal band) Angra too and of course, Russia's most famous Rock band, Gorky Park.
"There's a whole host of other bands that have influenced me, but those are the ones that I can think of here and now – but what's the point in printing a big list of band names?", he says with a smile. "The thing for me is that there are lots of interesting ideas in international folk music too, for example, and these are roots that we (as musicians) should respect. I also like symphonic music and opera - my grandmother is a violin instructor, and has been playing in an orchestra most time of her life – it's all an influence somewhere in my music, you just have to find it!"
Approaching the subject of the band itself, I ask Breeze how the dynamics work when it comes to song writing and arranging: "I always have lots of ideas, from the old favourite subjects of girls, books and movies to other less obvious inspirations like nature and philosophical thoughts. Television specials about other planets or the deep ocean can also trigger something off in my head, but I channel inspiration differently depending on... if, for example, I know that there will be some new release from us, then I might start writing a new track but If I feel that the new track isn't working out for whatever reason, I usually leave it unfinished.
"My philosophy has been to never release "filler" material in any of the bands that I've been involved with whether as a writer, producer, arranger or as a musician. I'd rather wait until more quality material is gathered – that way everything I am involved with is the very best that I can do at that time. If no new releases are planned, then I sometimes channel my new ideas into new arrangements of old or unfinished songs. Bands like X Japan and Gorky Park sometimes offered completely different live versions of some of their most famous studio tracks, and to me, that is so inspiring.
"As a Queen fan, for example, I always encouraged the other band members to write too, so that they could include their ideas into the material. I really like it when someone can read in the credits of a record, and see who created what, who was responsible for this or that idea, so that people see it's not only Mike Breeze and his backing band, but a real joint venture – a real band.
"Having said that "he concludes, "I don't like it if others write more songs than me (laughs)".
Mirror have already released two albums, 'Shocking Debut' and 'Valentine's Eve'. I ask Breeze if a third album is being planned? "So far we've had two albums and three singles and at the moment, no, there are currently no further Mirror activities planned.
"Ramin is working full-time as a teacher and Ian has had some problems with his back recently and as I said earlier, I want to keep the line up of the band as it is, so I have decided to concentrate on other projects that I have going on.
"I have to say, though, that I'm very, very proud of what we achieved with the 'Valentine's Eve' album (available on as a limited edition 2xCD/DVD set and Limited Edition 12" vinyl via Mirror Records/ Royal Audio Records) – it's a huge part of our musical legacy, but the bonus CD included seeds for what would have to become Mirror's third album but that's as far as we got.
"We used the bonus disc to add in some collaborations that we did with other artists as well as some remixes and some re-recorded versions of some favourite Mirror tunes from our back catalogue. I listened to the old material and decided that some of it could benefit from a fresh, new arrangement. Obviously I would like to play live or release something new with Mirror one day, but even if it doesn't happen, 'Valentine's Eve' is out there to be enjoyed, and there's so much of it, you can spend a lot of time discovering and re-discovering the material."
When pressed about his other projects, Breeze tells me that he can devote time to his "acoustic glam rock band Solowshow*, which I put together with Leif Astroid from the band, The Pleasures. When the two of us tour as Solowshow*, we play not only Solowshow* material and our favourite cover songs, but also lots of Mirror favourites and even one or two tracks by The Pleasures!" he says with a smile.
Coming back to Mirror, we discuss the fact that their material is really an own label release and I ask Breeze how he sees the larger record companies surviving in the future: "I often think about it. Of course, I have no answer. There are several possibilities, though, such as someone coming up with a new revolutionary idea how to rescue showbiz, in terms of selling records or people will begin to educate their children properly and explain that it is not right to steal music from the artists.
"On the other hand, it is entirely possible that the whole internet will crash down because of some magnetic storm or something like that and all those crappy mp3 files will become what they should have been right from the start – nothing!
"There is a third possiblilty, of course", he muses, "where music fans will continue going to live concerts, but nobody will pay for studio records any more. All the big musicians will disappear, as will the record companies, and there will probably be no new archive material released by Queen or Led Zeppelin and no new albums will be released by the likes of The Rolling Stones or AC/DC because without huge financial and promotional record industry support, a band can't be so easily become popular – no matter how talented they are."
Moving back to a less controversial subject, I ask Breeze about touring and mention that Mirror have toured Russia and Germany frequently over the past couple of years: "As we live in Germany and I was born in Russia, it's easier to tour these countries because we already have connections there. Our manager Bella (Ananyeva from Crazy Muse Group) is very talented when it comes to booking gigs in Russia, and she mostly looks after Solowshow* now because Mirror are unfortunately not a touring band any more. I have played gigs in Moscow under the "Mike Breeze from Mirror" banner several times with some local guests as well as with Solowshow*, though."
When pressed to choose a favourite city or venue to play, Breeze takes a moment to think before telling me: "Anywhere where people love us, and participate in the show too! That's why I love rock music more than, say, sports or opera and ballet. Sports, for example, is always about opposition – two teams against each other, and with the opera, the music and performance might be absolutely wonderful, but everybody is sitting down in their little seats! Once again it's opposition - one on stage and the other in the audience, but at rock concerts, if everything goes right, the band and the audience become like one – and that's the magic."
When asked if there are there any countries that he hasn't performed in yet but would like to, Breeze smiles and tells me: "I always say I would like to play anywhere as long as no humans or other animals are discriminated there, and, I would love to play on other planets too! Maybe if we all live long enough we can actually make this happen!"
When asked if he has any live shows planned, Breeze explains: "As I said, there in no Mirror activity at the moment, but I did tour earlier in the year with Solowshow* where we played included some unplugged renditions of Mirror tracks in the set list. We played at an open air wine festival in September too. More recently we've played some club gigs but we (Solowshow*) hope to cover countries other than Germany and Russia in the next year. Although I haven't toured the UK yet, The Pleasures have successfully toured some Rock clubs in the UK many times but we're hoping to get either Mirror or Solowshow* touring the UK in the future!"
When asked what he (realistically) wants the band to achieve, Breeze again thinks for a moment before telling me: "Mirror and Solowshow* are like the left and the right hand to me - I love both bands and I want to be proud of what I've done in the end. Yes, there have been mistakes, but it's all part of life and there is no need to bang your head against the wall about these mistakes because you cannot change the past any way. Of course, I would like to achieve the biggest possible success with all of my bands without having to compromise my ideas as a composer, musician and a person, but I'm more than happy with what I have achieved so far and still have more ambition."
Everyone here at MetalTalk Towers wishes Mike the very best with both Mirror and Solowshow*, and keep an eye out here and we delve into the back catalogues of both bands and many other bands from the Russian Federation in the future.
Thanks very much to Mike Breeze for his time.
You can watch the official promo video for 'Rock' here:
Mike Breeze - Vocals/Piano/Bass Guitar
Ramin Andarmani – Guitars/Backing Vocals
Ian Weid – Drums/Backing Vocals