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Sunday 09 Dec 2007 (Michael Bugeja - The Sunday Times of Malta)

Although it’s not quite what one would call a band with the highest of profiles, rock outfit Access To haven’t let the lack of public exposure stop them from pursuing their goals. I’m meeting the band at Tony’s Bar in Sliema ahead of the official launch of their debut CD album, simply called Access To. Earlier I had a look at their website for a few pointers, and found the following sentence at the top of their ‘About Us’ section: “The access to a better life is the aim each and every one of us hopes to achieve during our lifetime”. Hmm, that’s one question I won’t be needing to ask then! I actually wasn’t planning to ask too many questions to begin with, as meeting an artist/band in person usually works better as far as content and flow go.

Coffees all round, and away we go! A quick flit through the band’s history, basically that they have been around in some form or other for a decade or so, but the current line-up, has been together for the past five. They all agree that it is in the latter half that Access To really gelled as a ‘real band’. “Before that there were too many line-up changes”, they tell me, “but with the current line-up we feel we have a more defined direction”. The direction, going by the songs on their debut album, is essentially Classic Rock and it’s a genre that they are all individually partial to. Sure enough their influences crop up in the songs – Scorpions being one of them, Whitesnake, Pink Floyd, perhaps even Europe, but there’s also a dash of Metallica here and there. The fact that their influences are not that contrasting then, doesn’t stop the flow of their creative juices.

“Not really”, Michael, the band’s vocalist tells me, “the songs are usually a band effort, stemming from a jam session or an idea one of us brings to the rehearsal room.” Once it’s in the room, anything can happen. It’s been happening step by step, song by song, all recorded separately in the last five years, and finally compiled into the album they’ve been wanting to release ever since. Despite the time it has taken, together, the featured songs are very closely related; enough in fact to subtly suggest a concept. “Not this time”, Brian, the keyboard player intervenes, “there are some deeper inspirations in some songs more than others, but it’s not a concept album. That will hopefully be our next album”.

Access To’s first release actually dates back to 2002, when they released Like A Sparrow as a single. The song did garner some airplay back then, and I’m curious if it’s re-issue now has improved on that. “We’d definitely like to hear it being played more on the radio”, the bass player Justin comments, “We’ve sent the album out to several stations, but as it stands only a few have played it, and we do feel it has enough potential”. I agree. It’s a rocker of a tune, catchy too, and I honestly can’t fathom why local radio stations find it hard to play this instead of - or at least alongside - the large percentage of recycled and/or computer-constructed remixes that the local airwaves are taken up by. The conversation turns to the methods employed by different radio stations. Each one seems to have a different playlist policy but unfortunately, not a diverse enough scope to include a wide enough segment of the local scene. “There is a good amount of local music being played on the radio, but this should be extended to include more bands and artists”. It’s a comment they’re all in favour of, and I must admit that unfortunately, it rings all too true.

Another issue is the lack of available venues, which the band feels could reduce the chances of securing a gig. Fortunately, in their case it hasn’t, probably because they only perform live every so often, but it has happened to other bands. The radio and venues issue is one I also feel needs to be addressed in more depth than has been done up to now, as is the need for a proper export office to assist local bands in developing and expanding their horizons beyond our shores. They’re all valid issues, but the band is adamant to look ahead regardless. Their plans include releasing another single in the coming months, most likely it will be “Something About You”, a song Michael feels is broader in appeal. “It’s still a rock song, but watered down to give it a more mainstream touch”. It is, I feel, as close to pop rock as this band has come, and with its catchy melodic driving flow, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be on any radio’s ‘drivetime’ playlist. Aside from ‘Like A Sparrow’ and ‘Something About You’, the album features several other noteworthy tracks. Of these, Chaos (parts 1 and 2) and If Tomorrow are my personal favourites, but there’s more to cherish, such as closing number ‘You’, with its fitting string arrangement, Life On My Own or the symphonic drive of Give Me A Sign.

My parting shot is about their time in the recording studio, namely Padded Cell Studios where they worked with Robert Longo on this album. “It was a great experience”, drummer James adds, “Longo knows his stuff. He’s a veteran musician and we learnt a lot in our time working with him, but we absolutely love performing live. Being onstage with an audience in front of you gives you a fantastic feeling”. And live onstage is where Access To will be doing what they love to do best on Friday 14 December at City Bar in Mosta, for the official CD launch of their debut album.

Access To website

Access To at MySpace