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Takara Interview By Aliza Benyair
Independent Writer
Rock World International

Q - The much anticipated release of Takara’s new album, Invitation To Forever, is here. Melodic Rock.Com has announced the current line-up as, of course, Neal Grusky on guitar, Bjorn Englen on bass, Patrick Johanssen on drums, Brook Hansen on keyboards and Gus Monstanto on vocals. How does this new line-up contribute to the Takara legacy?

A - Starting off, I think this is the most talented line up that, collectively, Takara has had to date. With this lineup, is ushered in a new Takara sound, not only with the influence of Gus but also the contributions of Bjorn and Patrick in terms of their performances.

Q - Undoubtedly, Jeff Scott Soto has left a lasting impression on a few of Takara’s albums. Michael Flatters then did remarkable justice to his enormous talent. Will fans expect measurable satisfaction with Gus Monsanto?
A - As most people can imagine, Jeff’s remarkable talents and contributions to Takara albums have stood the test of time, just as Michael Flatter’s talents and contributions to Perception Of Reality. Gus Monsanto’s talents and contributions to the songwriting that him and I have produced will have an enormous impact in and on its own right. Takara fans from the past and currently will, I believe, feel as strongly about this album as any previous album. Our new album, Invitation To Forever, will open new doors for the band and its fans that many people will not be expecting. Invitation To Forever draws from past classic Takara sounds that many people know and are familiar with, and brings them together with more contemporary Takara sounds. While they are still true to Takara, they will bring in new listeners that may have not been previously aware of Takara. Gus and I both strongly believe, that Invitation To Forever will break new ground for Takara and propel the band into a new realm that Takara has yet to experience in the world of music and we strongly feel that the fans will agree with this.

Q - Takara has been known to for its uncompromising and unique melodic rock sound. What can fans expect in the way of music from this album compared to the others?
A - There are many traditional earmarks in Takara sound that have been constant. In this album, Invitation To Forever, there will be an evolution in our sound, songwriting, and performance, as well as variety in songs that will be, we feel, well received by listeners.

Q - “Spotlight” is unquestionably a Takara classic. What influenced the decision to revive it for this album?
A - The influence to revive the song Spotlight was based on several different reasons. The first reason, being of which, 2008 is the 20th anniversary of the first recorded version of Spotlight. While Spotlight was released on the Eternal Faith Album in 1992, the initial demo version of the song was recorded in May 1988 by Jeff and I and Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles. The other reason I felt strongly about recording Spotlight on this album was that we would feel we would expose this song to a newer group of listeners that may not have heard some of Takara’s earlier albums.

Q - Where did you draw your inspiration for much of the compositions?
A - Being as I wrote the music for all the songs on the album, the inspiration for the music usually comes randomly and it is hard for me to pinpoint any one source ever. Lyrically, the small contributions that I had on this album were very small with the exception of a song called “This Photograph,” a ballad that I wrote the music and lyrics for, and dedicated, to my father.

Q - How will Takara continue to reign supreme despite the classic melodic sound that is competing with contemporary rock?

A - In my judgment, we do what we do and we try to do the best that we do and hope that everyone who buys Takara albums will enjoy the music. I feel, in my estimation, Takara albums reign supreme in comparison to other Takara albums and to other bands or the genre in general, because, after all, we are art, not sports. There is no competition. But, I do believe, that as a whole, the melodic hard rock genre is in a resurgent mode right now and that many of the fine quality bands that produce music in this genre are experiencing the resurgent growth of this style.

Q - JSS has laid the foundation for Takara’s early success. What is his expected association with present, past, and future Takara?
A - JSS’s association with past Takara is well documented. Many people know where he stands. He has made his opinions fairly known through interviews and the like. We feel that our association, with JSS, currently is as a friend, an influence, and a true innovator in rock.

Q - Many speculations have been made regarding JSS’s permanent/temporary standing with Takara. Many journalists have attempted to unfold the ambiguity. Would you care to clarify this once and for all?
A - The JSS association with Takara was based off of friendship which was then built into a working partnership. JSS has long maintained to everyone that he was there to help me as a friend to help get Takara started, nothing more, nothing less. JSS has never led me or anyone else to believe that he had any intention to join Takara.

Q - How would care to describe the instrumental dynamics of Invitation To Forever? Is there a new function for the instrumental elements that Takara fans are familiar with?
A - Invitation To Forever follows basic Takara standards. Some changes in the album are noticeable compared to the other albums. For example, the keyboard role is in more of a subtle, complementary role than the more integral mandatory role familiar to past Takara albums. In addition, drums and base have become more forward than prior albums. By that, I mean, that they have become more expressive than complementary than other albums.

Q - Gus Monstanto is, noticeably, a fresh new addition to Takara. How and where was he discovered, and what made you decide that he was the perfect candidate?
A - Gus Monsanto and I have been in touch on and off via the internet for a couple of years prior to beginning work on what is now Invitation To Forever. Gus and I share the same vision for what this music should sound like as well as quite a vast amount of the similar musical influences. Of course, Gus, hailing from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, and myself, from Los Angeles, California, proved to be a great geographical challenge, initially. Of course, with modern technology, being what it is, we were able to bridge the geographical gap. Next, we moved into the creative realm and wrote and produced our first song together which is called 555, which was our test song to see if we have what it takes to see if it could be a successful writing partnership indeed. My friend, Andrew McNeice, from MelodicRock.Com posted a news blog and mentioned that Takara was looking for a singer after the exit of Michael Flatters. Gus, being the dedicated JSS fan and Takara fan, responded and thus began, our working partnership/friendship.

Q - What is your anticipated itinerary for promotion, tours, shows, and otherwise for Invitation To Forever?
A - Currently, as we do this interview, we are in the process of completing Invitation To Forever. We plan to have the album released in Japan/Asia, Europe, and North and South America. Shortly, we will being a big promo campaign for the album which will then be followed by shows. We cannot provide much detail yet because it is still in the working stage. We expect ‘08 and’09 to be a very busy time for Takara as well as the anticipated release of Invitation To Forever. Takara plans on releasing its first ever live CD/DVD Best Of, along with which, a special 4- song unreleased demo EP will be released followed by the next Takara studio album which is currently in the works as we speak.

Q - Would you care to extend a special message to the fans?

A - We’d like to thank our fans for all of their years of loyalty and support and we look forward to rewarding their patience with the release of Invitation To Forever.

All of Takara past and present albums are available at TakaraRocks.Com Albums are available for pre-order. Please visit Takara on their Myspace page as well.
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