Kris Barras on his new album, world turmoil, and why Gene Simmons is half-right

Kris Barras onstage
(Image credit: Will Ireland)

With new Death Valley Paradise album to promote, Kris Barras and his band have just headed out on the road to do what he enjoys most about being a musician. The tour climaxes with a show at the Electric Ballroom in London on March 26. 

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You’ve stated that your lockdown was tough, and also that you had doubts over getting back to normal. 

Lockdown was difficult for most people, mine really wasn’t very special. But I was certainly worried about the music industry, and touring in particular because my favourite thing to do is to play live. 

In terms of your own career, quarantine couldn’t have come at a worse time

Yeah. We were halfway through the cycle of the album Light It Up. We’d done a headline tour of the UK and some European dates. We were probably one of the first bands to pull a tour. We were in Italy at the time, and then three weeks later the whole world was in turmoil. 

How do you think the powers that be handled the pandemic? 

[Snorts] Aaah, musicians are always the last to be considered. But I wouldn’t want to have been in charge of it all. 

Was your new album, Death Valley Paradise, conceived entirely in lockdown? 

We started it in April or May last year, when restrictions were relaxing. But it was written in lockdown. This time I did some co-writes with some American friends of mine.

What was the thought process behind bringing in those four writers: Bob Marlette, Jonny Andrews, Blair Daly and Zac Malloy?

I just wanted to mix things up, really. This is my third album for Mascot, though I did a first one [Lucky 13, 2016] independently, and till now I’ve always worked alone. I thought it would be interesting to go down a different route. And it was a really cool experience. It was good to have people of that calibre to bounce ideas backwards and forwards with.

Is it something you might do again? 

Definitely. I didn’t collaborate on every song, but even with the ones that were ninety-five per cent done, it was useful to take them to somebody and get them to add the final sprinkling. I made a couple of really good friends from the process. 

Death Valley Paradise is an evocative title, and it’s a darker-sounding album

It’s a darker album, yeah. But I liked the paradox of contrasting Death Valley, one of the hottest and most forbidding places on earth, and the ‘paradise’ part – trying to find harmony in a place where you are not meant to survive. 

With its opening line ‘Things are never gonna be the same’, was Dead Horses inspired by covid? 

[Laughs] No, it’s about a relationship that has run its course, one that’s gone on for far too long and needs resolution. 

What does the new rhythm section of bassist Kelpie Mackenzie and drummer Billy Hammett bring to the band? 

When we get a room together there’s more energy there. We’re all on the same page. Everything’s a little heavier and we’ve a bit more of an attitude. 

Gene Simmons bangs on and on about rock being dead. Is he talking out of his posterior? 

No. People get angry when Gene says that stuff, but he’s coming from a mainstream viewpoint. Rock music is a niche now. It’s not what young people listen to. But that doesn’t mean that it’s dead.

Kris Barras UK Tour

Mar 11: Cardiff Tramshed
Mar 12: Nottingham Rock City
Mar 13: Wolverhampton KK's Steel Mill
Mar 13: Bristol SWX
Mar 16: Manchester Academy 2
Mar 17: Liverpool Hanger 34
Mar 18: Glasgow St Luke's
Mar 19: Aberdeen Lemon Tree
Mar 21: Newcastle Boiler Shop
Mar 22: Sheffield Leadmill
Mar 23: Norwich Waterfront
Mar 25: Southampton The Brook
Mar 26: London Electric Ballroom

Tickets are on sale now (opens in new tab)

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.