Tony Harnell may not be as big of a household name as fellow rock frontmen like Ozzy Osbourne or Axl Rose, but he has no doubt earned his own rightful place among the best of them. In the mid-80’s, Tony began his on-again-off-again relationship with Norwegian headbangers TNT (with whom he recently severed ties with again in 2017). Fans may also remember he briefly fronted New Jersey hard rockers Skid Row for some time in 2015 as well.
But Tony has also built a large portfolio of solo work and side projects from over the years too, including Starbreaker, a project he started alongside Primal Fear guitarist Magnus Karlsson in the mid-2000’s that was recently resurrected for a brand new album, Dysphoria. Last week, I had the pleasure to speak with Tony via telephone regarding his current, past, and even future projects.
When I spoke to Tony last Wednesday afternoon, he had just gotten back from playing some shows in Europe and was battling a cold he caught while there. Still, he describes the trip as “amazing,” having just played a rock cruise with fellows icons such as Joe Lynn Turner and Michael Monroe.
When asked how he felt the reception has been so far for Dysphoria, Tony tells me, “The initial response has been overwhelmingly positive, which is always really great. ” I also asked if one could say there was a running theme throughout the album, for which he tells me, “Yeah, it occurred to me there was to a degree. When I write songs I just write what I’m feeling on any given day, and the emotion of that moment is what comes through in the lyrics. It definitely has a strong theme to it, and I like to kind of leave that open to interpretation. I think the record has got this beautifully sad quality to it. It’s definitely not a downer record by any means, but I think it has a theme on it that a lot of people can relate to. It does focus heavily on things that were going on for me at the time, and those things are definitely there and can’t be denied.”
I asked Tony if Starbreaker would become his main focus now that he’s no longer with TNT, to which he responded;”Outside of the fact that I still want to put out solo stuff and tour for that, I’d have to say “yes.” At this point Starbreaker’s what I’d call an important project to me for sure though. I would love it to become a full-on band, because I do think the demand is there for us to play shows, and I can see us performing maybe twenty, thirty shows a year, so we’ll have to see. But this record was really important to me because I haven’t released any new material in over 6 years (which is the longest I’ve gone without releasing new music), since I put out the acoustic EP I did with Bumblefoot from Guns N’ Roses called Tony Harnell and the Wildflowers. I guess in some ways you can say Dysphoria’s – and I hate to use this word – a comeback album, at least recording-wise, since I’ve still been touring a lot.”
I also wanted to known how he felt regarding his tenure with Skid Row in hindsight; “I think I would take my time more to just absorb what it was first, and I think I’m in very different, much healthier place in my life now than when I went into the Skid Row situation. So I think I would make better decisions from beginning to end if that type of situation were to present itself again.”
Aside from the new Starbreaker album, Tony tells me there’s a few more things to come in the near future; “TNT has a new DVD coming out in March which will be the last thing with me on it, which was filmed in Italy in 2017. But more than anything I’m focused on making new music right now, and getting out and playing shows.” Be sure to follow Tony on social media to find when and where he may be coming to a city near you (you do NOT want to miss the chance to catch him live!).