Steve Mann is talking to us from his studio in Hanover, Germany, as he prepares for the release of a the new Lionheart album The Grace of a Dragonfly. “I opened my first studio here back in 1988,” he says. “Frida Park. We moved back to England for five years and then came back here, at which point I decided I might as well build a studio in my new home. I can roll out of bed, grab a coffee and start work.”
The studio is called Flying Vivaldi Studio. It’s a link between the classical composer Antonio Lucio Vivaldi “I’m a Vivaldi Freak” and a new Flying V guitar Mann bought.
Lionheart are in a perfect purple patch. Formed in late 1988, their debut album Hot Tonight would be released in 1984 before the band went on an extended hiatus in 1986. 30 years later, there would be a reunion.
“You’re right about the hiatus,” Steve Mann says. “We never actually broke up. We just didn’t see each other anymore. We got involved in different things. Dave Herron and his partner ran the Rockingham Festival. Dave had always been a Lionheart fan. He contacted Rocky [Newton] and asked if there was any chance of getting the original lineup back together to do one show. Rocky phoned the rest of us, and everybody said, great idea because we all loved the band. We never broke up on bad terms.”
The only one who could not do it was Chad Brown. “We were very lucky,” Steve says. “We found this guy, Lee Small. No one knew anything about him. We just saw a couple of YouTube videos, and we loved his voice. We were knocked out with what we heard, but we didn’t know what kind of guy he was gonna be. We met two days before the festival for two days of rehearsal.
“That’s the first time we had seen each other for like 45 years, whatever it was. We just hit it off and Lee is a lovely bloke. He’ll get on with anybody, even the rest of us in Lionheart. We just hit it off straight away and he had done his homework. He had learnt all the songs. The first song we played was Wait For The Night.”
“At the end of it, there was this kind of silence. We all chewed over what had just happened. It was perfect. It was like we hadn’t o stopped playing. The harmonies were perfect. The guitars were perfect. Everything worked. The only difference was that we tuned down a half step because the voices weren’t quite as high as they used to be. We did the festival, and we had so many people come to us afterwards and say, ‘You’ve got to do an album. I’ve been a Lionheart fan for decades, and I would love to hear a new album.’
“So they persuaded us. That’s when we did Second Nature , and that came out so well and went down so well with the fans that we thought, let’s stick together and carry on. We’re all very, very glad that we did.”
Reality Of Miracles would arrive three years later. Again, well received, it must have been rewarding for Lionheart as a band and as individuals to know there was that level of appreciation.”
“It really took us by surprise,” Steve says. “We thought that all old Lionheart fans would be either dead or they had moved on to something else, Frank Sinatra or something. We were amazed at how many closet Lionheart fans there were out there. They all came out of the closet when Second Nature came out, as did the ones that went to the festival.”
“We were absolutely amazed. So we started the Facebook page, and we got hundreds of followers really, really quickly. We thought, well, there is a market for us out there. That was, I suppose, not the reason, but it motivated us to carry on with The Reality Of Miracles. Second Nature had very much been an album of reconciling old Lionheart with new Lionheart. We had a few new songs on there, but there are a few songs that have never been recorded properly, like Give Me The Light and Prisoner and songs like this.
“We thought they were great songs. They’ve only ever been demoed in the past. So, let’s get those up to scratch. So it was a meeting of ’80s Lionheart and naughties Lionheart.
“Once we got that out of the way [Second Nature], with The Reality Of Miracles, we could then just drive forward. Lee and I developed a very, very good, healthy songwriting partnership, which is still blossoming now. I’m amazed at how well we work together. So The Reality Of Miracles is really the first new Lionheart album that was solely new Lionheart. Now, with the Grace Of A Dragonfly, we’ve continued that process.”
Incredibly well-travelled musicians in their own right, there is an impressive pedigree: MSG, Iron Maiden, Shy, Sweet, Wild Horses, UFO. To get that mix of musicians together must have been quite a balancing act sometimes, but it really just gels.
“Yes,” Steve says enthusiastically. “The partnership of myself, Dennis Stratton and Rocky Newton started in 1980 when the three of us first met. We just hit it off straight away. Lionheart, I mean no disrespect to any singers that we’ve had or drummers, but the three of us were the constant in Lionheart and we still are. We are very, very close with each other.
“Clive [Edwards, drums] came into Lionheart during the 1980s as one of our drummers back then. We got on with him really, really, well. He became a real member of the partnership if you like. So it seemed natural that when Leonhart got back together again, Clive should be the one that we approached. Of course, he jumped at the chance. So it’s now the four of us. Then, when Lee came in, he just slotted in perfectly.
“So the partnership that started with myself, Dennis and Rocky back in the ’80s has now extended to a very close partnership with the five of us. We’re probably the only band I’ve been in where we just absolutely hit it off and understand each other. We can say whatever we like to each other. No one gets upset. There are no real egos. It’s just a very, very, good working partnership.
“We’ve gone through many musicians. I mean, drummers alone, we’ve had Nicko McBrain, Les Binks, Steve Hopgood. I could mention many. We’ve had many singers. We’ve kind of picked and chosen as we’ve gone through the years. The lineup we’ve got now is, I think, the best Lionheart lineup ever.”
Talking to Steve Mann about Lionheart is infectious. You can feel that the band is a passion project for them all. “100%,” he says. “Lionheart is the project that we come back to, and that’s where all the creativity comes out. All the enthusiasm and the motivation. I think in the other bands that we’re in, there’s normally one guy that’s running the show. Obviously, in MSG, it’s Michael [Schenker]. I think the other guys have the same thing.
“When we come together in Lionheart, then that is our passion. From my point of view, if I was gonna do one band for the rest of my life, it would be Lionheart.
“Just because it’s really allows me so much creativity. It’s a great vehicle for me to get out what’s inside my heart. What you’re hearing now is me, as well as the rest of the guys, obviously.”
There is much more to come from Steve Mann and Lionheart this week at MetalTalk. We have more in-depth news of Lionheart’s new album, The Grace Of A Dragonfly, and the band that Steve would have joined had the Lionheart reunion not happened.
Lionheart – The Grace of a Dragonfly – will be released through Metalville on 23 February 2024.