August 22, 2017 – The following is the long form bio of the Apocalyptic Lovers known in the 90’s as Love And War. The band hopes that readers enjoy the details regarding the bands history and to please feel free to share their story as well.
The 1980s were an explosion of colors, styles, music, and culture. Big hair, over-the-top fashion, loud music, and MTV were standard fare for Gen Xers. In fact, MTV was so influential over the youth of the time that they were dubbed the MTV Generation synonymously with Generation X.
The debut of MTV was most definitely a colossal event – music had become more than a merely auditory experience, and teens all over the world were obsessed. David Hope, drummer for the Apocalyptic Lovers, remembers his early fascination with music videos. “I would stay up late, waiting for my parents to go to bed,” says Hope. “I would turn on the TV, turn the volume way down low, and sit right in front of it so I could hear. Watching those videos of Van Halen, John Cougar Mellancamp, Ozzy, The Cars… I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be a musician.”
And in 1985, while a freshman in high school, Hope formed his first cover band, Vyce. “I remember waiting in line for lunch, talking with a couple of my friends,” says Hope. “I was telling them we needed a bass player for Vyce. Mike Nagy, who is now the bass player for Apocalyptic Lovers but back then I only knew him from band class… he overheard us and said, ‘I’ll play bass.’ And that’s where it all began.”
Vyce enjoyed a few years of high school dance gigs and shows at small clubs, but inevitably went the way that most high school cover bands go. In spite of this, Hope and Nagy were fated to play together again (and again).
In 1990, Hope decided to put together an all-original hard rock band inspired by the likes of Ratt and Dokken. Once again, he called on Nagy. “I asked him if he would be interested in starting a band with me from the ground up,” says Hope. Nagy agreed and the band Love and War was on its way. The group went through several incarnations before they found the ideal mesh. “Like they say, good things come to those who wait. It took about a year, but we finally found a phenomenal songwriter and lead guitarist, Sean Magee.” Not long after Sean joined the band, they recruited vocalist Rob Kane, and the melodic hard rock band that Hope had envisioned was finally complete.
Based out of Youngstown, Ohio, Love and War played regionally and had much success entertaining crowds hungry for genuine hard rock, which was rapidly fading into the background amidst the rising grunge scene. In 1994, the band made a trip to LA where their unique marketing tactics intrigued Entertainment Weekly so much that they placed a small mention on the band in an issue of the popular magazine. That small mention snowballed into two distribution deals overseas.
The band was gaining momentum, but by 1997, the grunge era had taken its toll. It no longer seemed worth the effort to spend the thousands of hours it took to promote the band, drive to gigs, and perform – all for little or no money. Love And War had held on longer than most, but their time had come to a close. They played their final show and went their separate ways. It was the end of an era.
Except, it wasn’t the end. Decades passed, but the fire to create good rock and roll still burned. Melodic hard rock has made a comeback, and through something not entirely unlike divine intervention, Love And War has been resurrected.
Due to previous lawsuits from other entities also using the name Love And War, the band has reunited with a new name, the Apocalyptic Lovers – an apt description for a band that has survived the devastation of an entire genre of music and the music industry itself as a whole. They have overcome great distances in both time and space to bring their project back to life, and, as the old industry adage goes, “all it took was one song” to fuel the fire that never quite went out.
Unfortunately, a tragedy was the catalyst behind that one song. In 2010, Hope’s wife lost her younger sister. His wife was completely devastated, and he didn’t know how to help her in her grief. When Hope’s wife was on her way home from the services in Chicago, he left to pick her up from the airport and inspiration struck. “I heard a song. I have no idea what song it was, but there was a phrase in it that caught my attention – something about changing frequencies on the radio,” Hope says. “Somehow it just sparked my brain, and by the time I arrived at the airport, I had most of the lyrics in my head. After picking up my wife from the airport, I went straight to bed without writing the lyrics down. The next morning, I woke up remembering every single word.”
Hope continues, “I love to work on arranging songs, but my strength was never in melodies or lyrics. If I did try to write lyrics, I would never finish them or they would sound too close to something else, so I would just toss them. But this time was very different. It almost felt as if I were channeling the lyrics.”
The song, Change of Frequency, is written from a deceased person’s point of view. “If you have ever lost someone you love dearly, the lyrics will really speak to you,” says Hope. “My wife really liked the lyrics and so did the few other people I showed them to. But, I put them away and really did not give them much thought.”
A few years later, Hope was rearranging the music memorabilia in his house and noticed it had been just over 20 years since the release of Love And War’s full-length album. None of the members had been happy with the final product, and Hope wondered if they could get back together, even if only to produce a product that each band member could be proud to share with family and friends.
Hope reached out to songwriter/guitarist, Sean Magee and asked if he would be interested in redoing the old stuff, and possibly writing music for the new song, Change of Frequency. Sean hadn’t written music since Love And War had split up, but was excited to give it a go.
When Sean sent the song back, Hope was more than impressed by what he heard. “I loaded the song into iTunes, hit play, and was just blown away. He tweaked the lyrics a little to fit the arrangement, and I could not have been happier with the results.”
Hope then sent the demo to vocalist Rob Kane to take a stab at the vocals and play around with the harmonies and melodies. “Rock and Metal singers tend to blow out their voices later in life, and I wanted to make sure [Kane] still had the pipes,” says Hope. Kane sings and plays guitar in his church band, and had previously sent Hope a recording. “He sounded really good – maybe even better than when we first got together. When I got the demo back from him, I felt like we had never split up, even though it had been more than 20 years. And what is even stranger, I received the demo with Rob’s vocals on the fifth anniversary of my wife’s sister’s passing.”
The five-year anniversary of her passing would be the catalyst that fueled the fire, and hence began the band’s rise from the ashes. With a new name and a new plan, the band began preparations to meet and to record what would become Redemption Volume I. The plan was to split the old CD in half and release two separate albums with six vintage, reworked songs along with two new songs on each.
In the time leading up to the recording of Redemption Volume 1, Hope who had not touched a drum kit in about 10 years, was feverishly working to get his chops back, juggle a family with five kids, and network the band. During his daily networking, Dave discovered a staple of the hard rock, 80s metal community living right in his home state of Arizona. Through social media, David connected with one-time manager of Guns ‘n Roses and Great White, Alan Niven. Niven’s resume is impressive, dating from Enigma Records, to signing major acts off the Sun Set Strip, to managing some of the biggest names in music of the time. Prior to the recording of Redemption Volume I, Hope spoke to Niven twice: once before the trip back east to record, and then during the first day in the studio where he said hello to the band and gave a pep talk. Hope said the best piece of advice he had ever received up to that point in his career came from Niven on that first call. “Alan said he heard a couple of the demos we had posted online and that we really needed to let the songs breathe,” says Hope. “In other words, slow them down a bit so your singer, who has a fantastic voice, can tell your story. With what Alan did with Guns n Roses and Great White, I figured we should really listen to what he has to say, and it turns out he was right. We slowed down about half of our songs a few notches, and we think it really allowed the songs to stand out.” Niven also shared stories about his days on the Strip, and about some of bands’ favorite acts, such as Dokken, Ratt, Great White, and Guns ‘n Roses. Hope and Niven remain in touch, and Hope holds Niven in the highest esteem.
It was August of 2015 when the band finally got together for the first time in more than two decades to record their 8-song album, Redemption Volume I. They traveled from opposite ends of the country– Arizona, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Pittsburgh – to meet up at MindRocket Recording Studios in West Middlesex, Pennsylvania. Josh Roman of MindRocket had engineered & mixed, Love And War’s original album, and Hope was ecstatic to have the opportunity to work with him again. “Josh’s projects always sound amazing – he has a fantastic ear,” says Hope. “Josh is incredibly easy and fun to work with, and no matter the genre of music, the end product sounds phenomenal every time.”
The band rerecorded six fan favorites and two new songs, Change of Frequency and, Who the Hell Are You?, a song the band had just begun to play before they split up. “It was great to have the opportunity to record again. And with no demands to rush, no immediate management, and with all of the wonderful technology out there, we were able to put out the quality the tunes deserved in the first place,” says Hope.
When Hope and the rest of the band heard the first versions of their new recordings, they were stoked. While mixing began, Hope who is know to shoot for the moon decided to reach out to some of Melodic Rock’s most notable producers to see if there was anyone else interested in working on the record as well. “I just thought that if this was a one-and-done type of project, I really wanted it to sound like all the arena rock we grew up with. I wanted to put that CD in and hear vintage 1988 blasting out of the car stereo, but I also wanted to make sure it did not sound too dated,” says Hope. “That’s when I had the idea to go though all my vinyl records and check out who worked on them. Honestly, Michael Wagener’s name was just about on every one of them for engineering, mixing, and/or producing – it was crazy. So, I picked the four most common names on the list, sent them each a message, and Michael got back to me within 24 hours or so. The next thing I knew, Rob and I were on our way to Nashville, TN to mix our record with one of our production idols – Michael Wagener at his Wire World Studios.”
Michael Wagener’s stable of artists has sold over 110 million records over the years, including Metallica, Skid Row, Motley Crue, Ozzy Osborne, Queen, Tesla, Poison, and Janet Jackson.
“We funded and produced the entire project ourselves, but Michael made some fantastic suggestions. It really is 110% of his mix that brought our sound to where we wanted it,” says Hope. “We ended up mixing with Michael over 11 days at his studio in Nashville, just after Thanksgiving and into December a bit. Rob and I were in absolute awe watching him do his thing with our songs, and could not be happier with the end result.”
Of all the bands Michael has worked with, the one band that all members of the Apocalyptic Lovers agree on is the classic Dokken lineup, all of whose albums Michael mixed and/or produced but one. “Dokken was brought up a lot while discussing the mixing of our record, although it’s not like we said, ‘Ok Michael, we want the entire EP to sound like Dokken’s Under Lock and Key,” says Hope. “When I arrived at Michael’s studio, he and Rob were probably about 75% finished with mixing “Better Days,” the opening track and one of my favorite songs on the album. They stopped mixing to chat with me, and Dokken was included in the conversation, but soon we got back to mixing. Sean wrote a killer riff for “Better Days,” and the song is very up-tempo until it hits the chorus and slams on the brakes to huge a harmony chorus with half-time tempo. I heard the partially finished mix and thought it was amazing, but when Michael worked his magic and finished mixing the song, the hair stood on my arms. When the final playback ended, he turned and looked at Rob and me, and said, ‘There. You are Dokkenized!’ We thought that was the funniest thing at the time, and it became the running joke after every song was finished…we were Dokkenized!”
The infant stages of guys getting together simply to have fun and rework some old songs snowballed into the band actively seeking live shows.
The thought of playing live was in the back of their minds, but it was never the reason the Apocalyptic Lovers decided to get back together. For them, it was always about the music. As the project began to grow, many Love And War fans were messaging the band, asking if there would be any live shows. Because everyone lives in different states across the country, doing a live show would be challenging – not to mention that the last live show the guys had played was in the 90s. Pulling off a gig with little or no practice was a big question, but the band decided to answer it with a 50-minute, all-original live set celebrating the release of Redemption Volume 1.
The gig was on a Saturday night at the New Manhattan in Ohio. “We all flew or drove into Ohio on Friday with hopes of a long night of rehearsal and a final dress rehearsal on Saturday morning,” says Hope. “That plan was dumped after running though the set twice because it was like we had never broke up. We do a lot of crazy harmonies, so we ran through another time to focus on vocals. So instead of all the rehearsals, it was time for a cookout, some beers, and good times. The rehearsal was the first time we had played in one room together in over 20 plus years, and it was like magic.”
“We went on the following evening and nailed the set,” continues Hope. “And after watching video of the show, we knew we still had what it took to play live. We might all be older with families and full time jobs, but we have decided that YES we want to play live and carry the 80s metal torch, but in a less is more fashion.”
With the launching platform of MTV gone and most of major rock radio owned and controlled by major corporations, the guys are realistic that the days of landing a major label deal, touring in buses, and making millions has long passed them by. But who says they can’t share their brand of music with the masses a little at a time?
“We rebooted this project to have fun and to do it our way, with or without management or a label,” says Hope. “I figure some guys play golf, some go to strip clubs, so why can’t we continue to write and record music? We plan to release either a 10-EP collection or five full-length albums with both updated vintage material and new songs. We already have everything lined up and ready for Redemption Volume II, but we have so much new material, the trick now is to figure out what songs go where,” Hope says with a chuckle.
When Hope says less is more he really means it. “We can adjust our plan on the fly, but the working model as we have it now is to do fly/drive in dates when we are available to do so. In a perfect world, we would love to have one large targeted crowd at a festival or cruise every other month for a year or so. After that, we could take the next year to write, record, mix, and market the next record before doing all over again. There is a very large target audience out there that will LOVE our brand of music, and we want to bring it to them in small, targeted doses. As much as we love bands like Dokken, Ratt, Def Leppard, and Tesla, they won’t be able to go at it forever. We would love to be the ones to bridge that gap and to carry the rock and metal flag.”
The band is currently gearing up for Redemption Volume II while actively seeking management, investors, and/or record labels that share their vision. Promoters, managers, investors, and labels are welcome to contact the band via their website or social media to chat anything Apocalyptic Lovers. Hope’s closing message: “We may be older, but we are here, willing and able to make things work so we can continue to do what we love best – ROCK!”