Stan Bush: In Touch
Perhaps a name more familiar to those of us who grew up with 80s action cinema, Stan Bush came to fame on account of several successful rock songs which featured in various soundtracks. Since that time he’s put out further impressive releases and has enjoyed good success in branching out toward other areas, picking up an Emmy award along the way. As we forward on twenty-odd years later, Stan’s music still finds new audiences; arguably his most famed piece “The Touch”, from the 1986 animated Transformers: The Movie, is bigger than ever and will soon reach new heights once it hits the video game Guitar Hero: World Tour in the next couple of weeks. We catch up with the artist and find and out what he’s been up to.
Welcome to DVD Times, Stan
Thanks, glad to be doing the interview with you.
So then to kick off, when did you actually enter the movie soundtrack scene as it were. Around the time of Barrage?
Around that time, I performed three songs in each of the first two Jean Claude Van Damme movies, ‘Bloodsport’ and ‘Kickboxer’. From the Barrage album, “The Touch” was in ‘Transformers: The Movie’ and “Heart Vs. Head” was in ‘The Wraith’, starring Charlie Sheen.
What was the first film you were commissioned to write for?
We actually wrote “The Touch” for a Sylvester Stallone movie, ‘Cobra’, but it wound up being used in the Transformers movie instead.
You’ve kept to a particular style all this time, not seeming too concerned with trying to reinvent yourself like many artists have attempted to do so over the years. Would it be fair to say that you're content with staying true to yourself and writing music for other like minded people?
During the 90s, I was into more of an acoustic thing, a bit like Don Henley. I kind of rediscovered my rock roots, in the last few years. But I have tried to stay true to myself though.
Your songs in particular don’t mince their words; they’re very direct and to the point. I notice a lot of them contain emotional themes of overcoming insurmountable odds, whether it’s to do with love or kicking arse. Is that something which organically came from writing for several action movies, or is it a belief you’ve always had and felt the need to include in your work?
I do tend have a positive outlook on life and believe in human potential, so I like to write songs hoping to inspire people. It kind of started with “The Touch“, but I’ve continued writing uplifting songs like “Capture the Dream” that was featured in the 1996 Olympics. I always felt great when I’ve gotten fan mail that said that my songs were a positive influence in their lives.
1996 was a particularly staggering year for you. Not only were you commissioned to write “Capture the Dream” for the Summer Olympics, you also won an Emmy for “Best Original Song” for US soap opera Guiding Light (“Until I Was Loved By You”). I’m sure you’re very proud. Does that then add any further pressure on you when it comes to writing and meeting certain expectations?
Winning an Emmy was very cool. It seemed to validate my work as an artist. Of course, each time I work on a new album, I try to set the bar higher.
You’ve had a few quiet spells it seems, that is if we’re not counting world tours. I could be a little ignorant here, as I’ve no idea the kind of schedule rock stars tend to keep. How would you describe the writing process and is it a challenge to get albums out more often these days, whether its due to budget constraints, lack of material, or studio interest.
The 90s were tough times for rock music, and it took a few years for me to arrange European distribution for my music. Now, I feel like my writing has developed more, but when I work on a new album I’m more focused on creating good songs than worrying about meeting a time deadline.
You seem to have a knack for writing as many love songs as you do hard-hitting survival anthems, to phrase that poorly. A romantic at heart?
I’ve always felt like love is the most important thing in life. Plus, I think most people can relate to it.
I was listening to some of your songs again recently in preparation for this piece, many for movies you’ve worked on of course from Blood Sport (“Fight to Survive”) and Kick Boxer (“Never Surrender”) to Transformers. I’d like to talk to you about your 1997 Botcon release “A Call to Action”. This features a nice assortment of energetic songs, many from your movie work, some of which have been slightly tweaked. What can you tell us about songs such as “Highest Calling”, “Total Surrender”, “Straight to the Top” and “Hold Your Head Up High” (the latter from 1994’s Dial 818-888-8638 album). I don’t recall these actually being in movies, so is there a story here, especially considering the title of the album? I recall from somewhere that “Hold Your Head Up High”, for instance, was written for the Transformers movie.
Call to Action was a collection of action-oriented songs, some of which were never used in films, but had a similar theme of ‘going for it’.
Some of your later albums, particularly “In This Life” and “Shine” feature some wonderful tracks, which remind me of your older movie work. For example the title tracks “Shine” and “In This Life”, not to mention “Falling” contain those brilliantly catchy hooks and strong messages. Do you try and send songs like this to movie studios, or is it simply a case of they’ll approach you.
The way the movie industry works these days is a little different. I haven’t gone through the process of submitting songs from these albums except for the bonus tracks on “In This Life” that were submitted for the new Transformers movie.
You’ve even written for the U.S. version of Japanese anime Sailor Moon. Would you say there’s any extra freedom to be had when writing for animation?
I actually didn’t write the Sailor Moon track, but was hired to sing it for the soundtrack.
(Shitty research 101, kids)
I notice some of your music isn’t the easiest to get hold of these days, your older mixes especially. You have your official site of course and itunes, but there‘s very little from CD stockists. Is it more a case of on demand now, which seems to be the way the industry is moving toward?
Yes, it seems the music industry is moving that way, as more artists are putting out their own independent releases.
Your band recently finished working on “The Touch” in a bid to submit it for the upcoming Transformers 2 feature, despite having no luck in getting it chosen for the first film. I suppose, then, you’re living by your ideals of never giving up. Can you describe your new approach to this - any changes you personally felt had to be made this time around to entice producers?
I recently submitted a totally new modern version of The Touch to Paramount Studios for consideration for Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. I’m really pleased with the new track. I’ll be performing at the Transformers convention here in LA at the end of May. Also, Hasbro is releasing two new Transformers 2 toys featuring “The Touch“. All of these things, plus Guitar Hero, make me feel optimistic about its chances of being chosen.
The song is obviously very close to your heart, you’ve even recently used it for a video supporting troops in the middle-east. And of course it’s a huge part of the fan community now. Even today it crops up on various films and TV, from Boogie Nights to more recently an episode of hit TV series Chuck. That must be very humbling for you. Being that the song has become pretty much a phenomenon in itself, would you care to tell us how it all came to be and what it is you think makes it resonate so well?
I feel honored to be able to make a tribute to the troops. They’re risking their lives for all of us and deserve the recognition. You’re right about “The Touch” being a phenomenon. It seems to have a life all its own.
The original video is pretty cool isn’t it? Your guitar fires lasers and everything.
It’s pretty 80s, but it was fun doing it.
And I have to ask: Has the success of “The Touch” since made you into a raving Transformers fan boy? Come on now, how many toys do you have?
Of course, I love the Transformers. Little did I know that twenty years after having a song in a cartoon with robots, it would still be so popular.
I ask because you still attend the conventions and continue to write Transformers inspired music. More recently you had “Til All Are One”, which featured on your 2007 album “In This Life“, reworked from “Ground Zero” a number of years back. Will you continue to follow this trend in what I gather has become quite a passionate thing for you?
A lot of Transformers fans are also Stan Bush fans, and I still find the song inspiring.
Was “Dare” also written for anything else originally by the way?
Actually, I wasn't a writer on “Dare“. Vince DiCola co-wrote it with Scott Shelly, and it
wound up being used in the film. I was just the vocalist and it was on the Transformers
Any plans to visit the UK? Your last intended visit was cancelled a couple of years ago because of passport issues. Has there been many difficulties since then?
I would love to perform in the UK. I was really disappointed when I was denied entry over the work permit issue. Next time, I’ll make sure everything’s in order.
Is there currently a new album in the works?
Yes, I’m about halfway through recording the new album. So far, it’s going amazingly well.
So let’s get on to video games. Firstly, congratulations on getting your song featured in GH:WT. I’ve harped on about it before as have many others, so it’s nice to finally see it come to light. What actually prompted you to contact Activision/Neversoft and EA/Harmonix?
Actually, Activision contacted me. I’d like to thank all the dedicated fans who pushed for getting “The Touch” in Guitar Hero.
And of course gaming site Kotaku was pretty instrumental in seeing this happen, would you agree? The fan support right now seems to be crazy.
Yeah, I sent a thank you message to Kotaku. It’s incredible how much support has been out there.
Can we expect to see it on Rock Band? Which admittedly is my preferred game. Additionally will any other songs appear over time. “Dare” for instance, or “Total Surrender” with its cracking guitar solo?
I’m not sure about Rock Band. I’ll let you know.
Do you play video games yourself? And if you do have GH:WT can I give you a good kicking on your own song over xbox live?
I tried Guitar Hero at the Transformers convention two years ago. Even though I sucked at it, it was fun!
That just leaves me to say that I hope more people will be introduced to your music once “The Touch” hits Guitar Hero, and best of luck with getting the song in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen; I do hope it appears. You’ve entertained a lot of people over the years with your uplifting music, so I hope to see you continue for some time to come.
Thanks for the kind words. I look forward to seeing you on tour. For more information about upcoming events, fans can visit my website at stanbush.com