BABYLON A.D. – “The Band Is Back Together And Rocking”

March 15, 2023, 9 months ago

By Aaron Small

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BABYLON A.D. – “The Band Is Back Together And Rocking”

In 1989, California rockers Babylon A.D. released their irresistible self-titled debut album on Arista Records. It included a song called “The Kid Goes Wild”, which was featured in the 1990 science fiction movie, Robocop 2. Furthermore, the late, great comedian Sam Kinison provided a vocal cameo on that same song. Add to that the hit singles "Bang Go The Bells" and "Hammer Swings Down"; Babylon A.D. was poised for serious success. However, the musical climate was about to change drastically, with grunge eclipsing anything even remotely related to Hollywood and the Sunset Strip. Despite a solid second album titled Nothing Sacred, Babylon A.D. couldn’t compete with the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. 

Knowing when to take a bow and exit the stage, Babylon A.D. wouldn’t issue any fresh studio material until the new millennium dawned, releasing American Blitzkrieg in 2000. That was followed, after another lengthy gap, by Revelation Highway in 2017. Here we are in 2023 and Babylon A.D. is ready to enter the ring once again, with their new live album, Live Lightning, due March 17 via Perris Records. “I know, it’s crazy. I can’t believe it sometimes. It’s weird,” begins Babylon A.D. vocalist Derek Davis. “We take these long hiatuses, a couple years go by, we all look at each other and go, what are you doing? Not too much. Well f*ck it, let’s do some jamming and write some songs. That’s how it happens all the time.”

The last hiatus was unavoidable due to the pandemic; everyone was forced to take a break. “That really sucked cause we were writing songs in our rehearsal studio and recording them on four-track, getting them down. We were going to make a new record right then. We had it scheduled to come out in 2020,” reveals Derek. “Right when it hit, we were just going in the recording studio. Then everyone was panicking – who knows what’s going on? A couple of guys got sick real bad. It was like, f*ck, I don’t want to be around anybody. So, we just took another long hiatus, trying to gather our wits.”

Derek explains the decision to release a live album in 2023, as opposed to a new studio album featuring those original songs Babylon A.D. was working on a couple of years ago. “Well, the reason for that is because we’re actually still working on those songs. I think we have about five of that batch that we had, and since then we’ve written about another seven more. And I think we’re going to write another five or seven more, and choose probably twelve from those. It was kind of a fluke, cause what happened was Tom (Mathers) from Perris (Records) called me up and said, ‘Hey man, are you guys going to put out a new record? I thought you were going to do a new record.’ And I said, well yeah, but we’re kind of in the rehearsal stage right now; we’re back to where we were four years ago, or whatever. Back to the beginning all over again. And he said, ‘Don’t you have any other material?’ I said, I have three concerts that we recorded live. Let me listen to the stuff – cause I hadn’t even heard it. I just had it on wav files from my soundman. So, I went in the studio and sat there and listened for two or three days. I listened to all the songs, and I picked the best songs out of the gigs. So, it was kind of like, ‘Let’s put this out as a teaser while you guys are writing and recording the next album.’ Basically, the band is back together and rocking. Eight months from now we should have a new studio album.” 

Live Lightning is comprised of 14 live tracks pulled from two shows – The Empress Theater in Vallejo, CA and Swiss Park Music Hall in Newark, CA. According to Derek, “The one at The Empress Theater was actually our record release party for the Revelation Highway album (which came out in 2017). And the other one was just a random gig; I think it was done in 2018… or 2016. I can’t remember because there’s nothing on the wav files to tell me. My sound guy gave me three sets of material. There was 16 songs to choose from basically. But the third one just didn’t have anything that sounded any good on it; it just wasn’t recorded good. And it was kind of painful, cause I had to listen to everything. I’d get about half way through each song – alright, this one’s out. Throw this f*cker away. So, it came down to those two gigs. That’s why (guitarist) John Matthew is playing on some of the songs, and then (guitarist) Danny De La Rosa is playing on some of the songs. One concert was recorded with Danny, and the other concert was recorded with John. So, if you look on the CD, you’ll see three guitar players, that’s why. I’m picking the best songs, not who’s playing guitar. And they were fine with it. Danny and John both said, let’s pick the best songs. Who cares who’s playing on it. Those guys have been good friends since high school.”

On Live Lightning, it’s clear when the audio switches from one gig to the other. There’s an undeniable difference in sound between the two venues. However, that wasn’t an item of concern for Derek. “It didn’t matter to me, I didn’t care. As long as the songs sounded good. That’s all that really matters. I know a lot of bands that have albums out that are done at a bunch of different places. Most of the time it’s recorded at one place, but we didn’t have that luxury. Sure, I could have just made it all from one gig, but then I would have missed out on some of the songs. I would have had to leave off ‘Crash And Burn’ or ‘Sinking In The Sand’. But I didn’t want to do that. At the same time, I wanted the songs that sound the strongest on there, no matter what. You sit there and listen to the tracks, and like I said, we had three different shows to choose from. So, I’m sitting there listening to ‘Bang Go The Bells’ from three different shows. One time it sounds kind of sh*tty, the other one sounds kind of rushed; maybe somebody made a mistake. Well, hopefully the third one will be good – right on, this one’s great! It was that kind of thing.”

Live Lightning is the first Babylon A.D. live album without any cover songs. Live In Your Face featured “Girl’s Got Rhythm” by AC/DC, and “Rats In The Cellar” by Aerosmith. Live @ XXV included “Rock The Nation” by Montrose, and “Lights Out London” by UFO. That certainly sets this new live album apart from its predecessors. “Yeah, I had versions of some cover songs, but I decided to take them off. That’s why there’s 14 songs. I could have had 18 songs actually – 16 originals and two covers. But I thought it was a little bit overboard. I had a good version of another version of ‘Lights Out London’, and I had a version of ‘Sick As A Dog’ by Aerosmith. I had ‘Sweet Temptation’ and ‘Back In Babylon’, so I had to choose. 14 songs is almost 70 minutes. One CD is only going to go up to 70 minutes. So, I picked the songs that sounded the best. Plus, some of the songs, we’d already done them, like you said, on the other live albums. And they were recorded with different sound guys at different times in our career.” 

“Another thing I thought of when Tom asked, ‘Do you have any live stuff?’ I was thinking about it, and this will be our third live album; does it make any sense? Then somebody told me, ‘Hey man, Dave Matthews has like 36 live albums.’” Further to Derek’s point, Live @ XXV was released in 2015, which was followed by one new studio album, Revelation Highway, in 2017, and now there’s another live album, Live Lightning, in 2023. All totaled, Babylon A.D. has four studio albums and three live albums, it’s an unusual ratio. “Yep, it is. But what are you going to do.”

Apart from the cover song aspect, Derek reveals how Live Lightning differs for him personally, compared to Babylon A.D.’s other two live albums. “This one’s way better! I think because it has some songs from Revelation Highway on it. And it sounds better. It’s tighter. The other ones were… the first one we recorded at a lot of different places (Los Angeles, Dallas, Milwaukee, Detroit, Chicago, Phoenix, Salt Lake City), and they were pretty sh*tty recordings if you ask me. But it was what we had at the time. This one, I just had more to choose from, and the quality is way better than the other ones. The first one was really raw. We really are a live band! That’s when we’re at our best, is playing live.”

The self-titled debut from 1989 was Babylon A.D.’s most successful, most recognized release. Without chasing past glories, Derek speaks from the heart, when asked what the new material sounds like. “Actually, it sounds like Babylon A.D. It’s all my voice. It’s not like we’re going off and baking some kind of new cake. The songs that we’re doing right now, we’d probably do about twelve, and throw away six, after we rough recorded them. But the ones that we have, that we feel are good enough, are really, really good songs. When you hear them, you’ll go, ‘Oh yeah, that’s Babylon A.D.’ You’ll know that it’s us. We’re not trying to change anything or be more modern. It’s the same guitar tones. I’m pretty excited about this new record, I like the material we’re going with.”

Expect the new Babylon A.D. studio album in early 2024. “Yeah, that’s what we’re shooting for. We’ve got some dates we’ve got to play, starting in July. So, that’ll slow us down just a little bit, with the travelling. But yeah, we’re shooting for February.”

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