I want to tell you about my friend and Producer Chris Tsangarides.
To say what I need to say here, I have to go back to 1981 and a band I was a part of before BRIAR ROSE existed. It was a rehearsal and we were doing the things bands do at rehearsals such as learning new songs, working on the regular set and talking about ideas that we had. After playing, we’d sit around talking about music, other bands, records we bought and records we wanted and basically whatever was current in popular culture at the time. We did this with the radio on and at that time, the station that was playing what we wanted to hear was in Boston, Massachusetts called WBCN.
I forget the DJ’s name but he said something to the effect that after the break he’d be coming back with some brand new music from Thin Lizzy. I thought, wow nobody plays Thin Lizzy around here and that statement was true. All you hear from the only other rock based station in the area was “The Boys Are Back In Town” which there is nothing wrong with that at all but Thin Lizzy had made so much music since then and 1981 but absolutely no radio station played it here. So I was indeed interested to hear what this new Thin Lizzy music as I’m a big Lizzy head. The song began…
What I heard was very much in Thin Lizzy’s style but was very, very, different in their overall sound. It was deeper and fuller than they had ever sounded to me. Someone had updated them and brought them into the new studio technology and they were wearing it very, very well. They sounded amazing. The song in question was called “Angel Of Death”. It is the first song on their album “Renegade”. I went right out and found the album, bought it and it lived on my turntable. I learned then that it was produced by a man who’s name that for many years I pronounced incorrectly. His name was Chris Tsangarides.
I was unaware of who Chris was and what he had produced which is kind of weird because once I learned more about him, I realized I had been listening to his work on one album for years prior as he had worked on Judas Priest’s “Sad Wings Of Destiny” album. I got more albums that I discovered as I got them that he had produced them. Tygers Of Pan Tang, Anvil, Mama’s Boys, Gary Moore, Anthem, Black Sabbath, Rock Goddess, Y & T… The list was growing and I loved they sound he brought to those band’s records. I told myself that one day I’d work with him. He had a sound I loved and wanted so much on the music I made with the band. That band unfortunately was not to continue. As it often happen with your early bands.
I formed some other bands with friends in different styles of music but at my heart, I’m metal and those band’s albums I mentioned above we never far from me on my stereo. One night in a great band I was in called BRIDESHEAD, all that metal came back out on stage. The very next day, BRIAR ROSE was born. We performed, recorded, toured, did TV, released two studio albums with my late friend and Producer Joe Moody but all the time in the studio, Joe kept asking me what kind of production I was looking for and I constantly brought him records produced by Chris Tsangarides. I knew what I wanted and Joe gave us as close as he could and while I love what Joe did, I still knew I wanted a touch that I was only going to get from CT. And then life got in the way…
I had to put the band on a bit of a hiatus as I took care of my parents in their final days. To keep in touch with what was going on in the genre, I started a fanzine for collectors and spotlighted new bands called VAULT. One of the bands that came to my attention was called GLYDER. I kept reading that they had a sound similar to classic Thin Lizzy and I said “No Way. Nobody sounds like Thin Lizzy”. I asked for a copy of the CD and Brian from the band sent me one. They did sound very Lizzy-ish. Who produced this?? The man was… Chris Tsangarides. I told Brian or “Bat” as he was know about how I’d always wanted to work with Chris and that I was ready to bring the band back out. Bat asked if I’d like Chris’ contact info and I did not hesitate.
I have been asked a million times how I got Chris Tsangarides to produce our album and believe it or not, the 100% answer to that question is and I quote: “I Asked Him”. I told him, doing my best not to sound like a fanboy about the band, what we had done, and what I was looking for the band to do now. He asked me to send him four mp3’s so I sent four from the second album we did and he said to give him a month to get to it and then contact him on it. That was one of the most anxious months I have ever lived. The time came to check in. I asked him if he had listened to the tracks yet and he said: “I’m rocking out to them now, man!! Get over here, we need to make an album!!”. Egad… I was speechless. This was actually going to happen!! I waited so long and it was going to happen!!
Arrangements were made and we were off to Kent to record what would be our third studio album after a long absence , “Roses Are Rare, Violence Is True”. The day came to meet Chris and I was full on nervous as hell. He came into the room and we got on right away trading scenes from classic British comedy and bad one-liners. When we got to recording, I could hear it. That sound. That “Tsangarides” sound. I was sitting there watching it come to life and he did it with such ease. Nothing affected this man when he was working. No studio problem became a problem to him for very long. He was a sorcerer in the studio and everything he did was magic!! Happy does not begin to describe how I felt. BRIAR ROSE finally sounded they way I always thought they should. Yes!!
I went back to Massachusetts a happy, happy man. For weeks I played only two CDs. Our new album and ANVIL’s “This Is Thirteen”. Both produced by CT. A Happy man I was indeed. I ended up losing my job because my boss became jealous as she was no longer the talk of the workplace. It happens. I let Chris now what had happened and he Skype’d with me for an hour talking about what bastards they were for doing that to me. Wow… totally surprised but grateful for the talk and he checked in with me over the weeks to see how I was and how we were doing. This man did not have to do this but he did. We kept in pretty regular contact through e-mail, Facebook, Skype all the way to where we were ready to fly back over and record what was to be at that time the yet to be titled next album.
Recording with Chris this time would be more difficult as we had a band member who for strictly being kind here, was not ready for the experience and did not conduct himself in a very professional manner , in the studio, on stage or socially. None of this phased Chris in the least. It is safe to assume that the man had seen it all in his many years in this business and knew the best way to get around any issue and I base that on the incredible tales and stories he related to us while we trying to get the album done. He did so much additional work on that album that we, in an unceremonious ceremony in his studio’s front room, made him an official member of BRIAR ROSE. Why not?? He’s all over that album!! He even gave us a support slot for the band he was in, MORE’s performance in the town of Deal where we also met the awesome lads of Wretched Soul.
Through Chris’ dedication and sheer magic we were close to having the album finished when we had to return to Massachusetts but Chris promised us he would finish up the album, master it and send it on. It still needed a name. Before we left, we sat with him and told him the album would be called “Dark Lord”. After all the help he gave us and the additional work he put in, there was no other name it could be called. Our benchmark album had always been our second album. That status now belonged to “Dark Lord” and it will be very tough to beat. Because of the genius of The Dark Lord himself, the amazing Chris Tsangarides. Never enough thanks.
Again he remained in regular contact with me and the band. Always checking in on what we were doing and writing. He was making suggestions for stage ideas and of course his birthday greetings that could be quite interesting. I ended up in Hospital and came close to leaving this mortal coil but obviously pulled through but every few days while recuperating, there in my Facebook messages was a note from Chris seeing how I was. Again, this man did not have to do this but he did. We set back to work on writing the next album and would touch base with him on ideas from time to time. We sent a few demos and he said he liked what he was hearing and where the songs were going. Right up to my birthday in December and Christmas we were in touch. He was asking for more demos. I was happy as before as we were doing preliminary recording here and he’d soon have working demos. The year rolled over to 2018…
Today I learned that Chris Tsangarides, a truly great man, an incredible friend and amazing talent is no longer with us. The world just stopped. This was impossible. I just spoke to him. This is one of those hoax things that people do. But it wasn’t. Chris Tsangarides is gone, may he rest in peace.
It is easy to recall memories and the events that lead up to meeting someone you’ve always wanted to work with but it is not so easy to look to the future and see that a great man that you love and respect will no longer be there do gather advice and bounce ideas off of. All the time we recorded with him, I sat quietly by him at his computer while the band was in the studio and Chris was at his controls. I had a guitar player say to me. “Are you paying attention to what is going on??”. I did not look up but said the following “Do you see that record award for Judas Priest’s “Painkiller” album and the Grammy Nomination right next to it for it?? I have nothing to worry about. The album is in the best hands it could ever be in”. That was all I had to say.
Chris Tsangarides is not someone you can just replace both professionally or in your personal life. His knowledge and compassion was genuine. I trusted him with my music but I could trust him with personal matters and with all the work he did, he took time to listen and offer advice. He did not have to do that but he did. There are not enough thanks in the world that I could give him. I do not know what my next step is here. Our next album was to be our third with Chris. I have to collect everything I have ever learned from this great man and try to follow in the path he set us upon. This will not be easy, he can’t ever be replaced. Working with him brought me incredible happiness. His passing will leave a sadness in my heart that I can’t be described but I will try to build into a memory that will live strong in me for the rest of my life.
He told me once while showing me the white cliffs of Dover, “You see those cliffs?? They have to paint them every day, don’t they…”. I’ll take that as “Never Stop, Keep Going”.
Thank You Chris Tsangarides, The Dark Lord Himself. And a bloody great man as well.
Randy Blake II