– Hi Mr. John Mitchell and thanks for your attention and time. We can start with the questions if you agree. First off, if you don’t mind, I would like to start talking about your other bands, specially about ARENA and FROST*, and later I’ll ask you about this amazing IT BITES’ new album entitled “Map of the Past”. So, first of all, you are considered a magnificent professional guitar player into the progressive world since you started playing in ARENA replacing Keith More. But, how were your first steps like? And what were your inspirations back then both as a band member and guitar player?
My first steps in Arena were the same as the first steps in any band I’ve joined – I try to do something different to the person previous to me. My inspirations back then are the same as they are now. I’ve always loved Jeff Beck, Trevor Rabin and Dave Gilmour. The main difference is that my guitar playing has probably improved somewhat since then.
– And still talking about ARENA, how did you get involved in the band? Did you know some of their members? And how did you feel when you started playing with “progmasters” such as Clive Nolan or Mick Pointer?
I was friends with Mark Westwood (the guitarist of Neo and Clive Nolan’s Caamora project) through my studio work, and he introduced me to John Jowitt who then took an inordinately long amount of time to get me in the band LOL. It was quite a challenge when I was 23, and I look back on that time fondly.
– In late 2011 ARENA released their seventh studio album, named “The Seventh Degree of Separation”; has it got much success? Is it what you could expect about it when you recorded this opus? And how was your tour in November? Have you thought about releasing a DVD containing that latest ARENA’s tour?
The album is doing very well, as far as I am aware. The audience and critical reception have certainly been very positive. Funnily enough, we did record a DVD of the Polish concert in November featuring many of the new songs, and I believe it will be available to buy soon.
– Another project of yours is FROST*. Jem Godfrey, its leader and keyboard player, asked you in 2004 to become part of the band, and since then you have unleashed two superb Progressive Rock masterpieces as “Miliontown” and “Experiment in Mass Appeal”. Godfrey announced the third FROST*’s album will come out soon but some time ago Godfrey talked about a possible split-up; what was the main reason behind this? What do you know about this upcoming album? (Maybe you could tell me its name or its release date as exclusive news? Haha).
Jem is a busy man and has to prioritise his work commitments over what is effectively a hobby. FROST is really his baby, and you’d have to ask him for these answers!
– I love FROST*, your sound and your playing style. Due to this I can’t help asking you about the chances of seeing FROST* in Barcelona or touring Spain; is there any shot? By the way, do you know Barcelona?
I do know Barcelona from touring with Arena, sadly the only chance of getting FROST there is if somebody invites us and offers us a vast amount of money! J Over to you…
– Well, is now time to discuss about the reason of this interview; your new album with IT BITES entitled “Map of the Past”. This is your second effort with this mighty band and I know you were a fan of the original IT BITES of the 80’s, weren’t you? What was your favorite song and album of the original IT BITES (with Dunnery)?
Simple! My favourite song is Once Around The World, and my favourite album is Once Around The World.
– I guess you may known your mates thanks to your great album “Picture” under the name of KINO, another “Progmasterpiece” for me but, do you know Bob Dalton and John Beck? How did the idea of resurrecting IT BITES with you as lead singer for the XXIth Century arise and how do you feel as replacement for the great Francis Dunnery?
I got to know John Beck when we both played in John Wetton’s band in 2003. I invited him to work with me on the KINO album, and as a result, also got to know Bob Dalton. They knew I was a big fan of It Bites, and it seemed to make sense to see if this crazy idea would work! As for the Dunnery question… it was an honour and hopefully I’ve made the role my own now.
– Is natural you are now sounding different to the band’s period with Dunnery. I could say you now sound as a mix between both KINO and the 80’s IT BITES; what are your thoughts on this? When you are writing new stuff, what do you look for or where do you draw inspiration from?
Well that’s certainly true as of course John Beck wrote for both It Bites and KINO, and our writing partnership has quite a distinctive style. I often draw inspiration from the titles of books on my bookshelves, such as The Tall Ships, Great Disasters, and The Wind That Shakes The Barley.
-“The Tall Ships” came out in 2008 and it has taken you four years to unleash this brand new “Map of the Past”. Does that mean the next IT BITES’ album will hit the streets in 2016? If its quality would be the same as on your two latest records, it will be worth the wait.
Who knows! It depends how busy I am between now and then, and whether anyone wants a new one!
– In fact I’ve just reviewed your new CD, “Map of the Past”, and I rated it 9/10. If you had to rate your own work, what score would you give it?
Considering the love, sweat and tears put into it, absolutely a 10. What did you score it down on then? 😛
– This new “Map of the Past” is a concept album: why? Is it inspired by a real story?
Why? Because I thought it would be nice to do something elaborate, and choose a theme that we could run through all the songs. The concept of Map of the Past came about from being given an old family photo from the turn of the century, and wondering about the people within it. You can see this photo in the album artwork for the song ‘Man in a Photograph’. The title of the album itself came from a lyric from the band Car Park North.
– If you had to choose one song off your three bands (ARENA, FROST* and IT BITES); which one would you pick?
Arena – Moviedrome
Frost – Black Light Machine
It Bites – This is England
– Throughout your career you have worked with several great artists into the Progressive Rock world; who could you highlight and why? And with whom would you be happy to collaborate with (and you haven’t done it yet)?
It’s always been a great pleasure working with John Beck, as we have a good chemistry and don’t argue!
I would quite like to work with Peter Gabriel or Steven Wilson. I know Steve a little bit, so that might be a more realistic proposition. Steve, call me!
– If I’m not mistaken this year is the 25th of the IT BITES’ foundation back in 1982; what were you up to back then? Have you ever thought you would ever be part of the band? And have you thought about doing something special to celebrate this anniversary (maybe meeting with Dunnery or some other exmember)?
I was 9 years old in 1982 and I was probably playing conkers rather than listening to music : ) Until you’ve mentioned it, I don’t think anyone’s thought about it being an anniversary. If we were to do something, it would probably be something for the fans.
– This May you will start the IT BITE’s tour in support of this “Map of the Past” named “Tour of the Past”. So far you have announced only British dates; will you add dates in any other countries? Will this tour include Barcelona or Spain?
I’m not sure our fanbase is strong enough in any other country apart from the UK and Japan unfortunately, to warrant a tour elsewhere. We’d be happy to support a band with that European fanbase, which might be the best way of getting us over the Channel.
– That’s all Mr John Mitchell. Thank you for your answers and for taking your time. If you want to add something, is your time.
Thank you Alex : )
Alex M. Romero