Starship Featuring Mickey Thomas
“In some ways, this feels like a 70s record. It’s organic, and there’s a real edge to it.”
Mickey Thomas isn’t speaking in a nostalgic sense. The frontman for Starship, the venerable San Francisco band behind several of the 20th century’s biggest pop and rock anthems (“We Built This City,” “Sara,” “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”) is simply talking about the vibe of his band’s new album, Loveless Fascination, the group’s first studio record in over 20 years and first for Loud & Proud Records.
“We stopped and started this record so many times over the past years,” says Thomas. “But once we found the right guy and hit our stride, it all clicked.”
Helping the record click: Jeff Pilson, the talented musician/producer (Dokken, Foreigner, Dio) who manned the boards for Loveless. “He’s exuberant,” says Thomas. “He brought a harder edge. Once he came in, we found our musical direction. He helped us craft something classic, but with modern elements.”
Indeed, Loveless sounds like the work of a reinvigorated band. “It’s Not the Same as Love” and “Technicolor Black and White” feature a much harder rock sound and heavy guitar riffing, while even slower numbers like “How Do You Sleep” possess a real grit.
It’s a diverse record, too: a big gospel choir lifts up “Nothing Can Keep Me From You”, while the string-laden “You Never Know” recalls the band’s 80s pop highlights.
Still, there’s a serious lyrical tone lurking underneath the music. “The overall theme of the record has to do with relationships that don’t work out,” says the singer. He laughs. “But that’s OK. The Eagles made quite a career out of that.”
While Pilson played a pivotal role in the record, Loveless is really the cumulative effort of Starship’s longest-running lineup, which includes mainstays Jeff Adams, Darrell Verdusco, Stephanie Calvert and Phil Bennett (John Roth replaced the late Mark Abrahamian earlier this year). “The core of this band has been around the longest since any incarnation of the band, including Jefferson Airplane,” says Thomas. “And they’re all represented on there.”
Loveless marks Starship’s debut for Loud & Proud, the independent record company founded by industry vet and proud rock’n’roll fan Tom Lipsky. “I wanted to be on a label like this for years,” says Thomas. “Tom’s worked with all these wonderful heritage and classic rock groups. When he got his own label, it just seemed natural to join up.”
The band’s new record marks another important turning point for the group, which has one of the most storied histories in rock’n’roll. While forming as Jefferson Airplane in the 1960s, the current incarnation of what is now Starship began in 1979 when Thomas joined Paul Kanter to resurrect JA’s follow-up group Jefferson Starship. (Airplane/Starship singer Grace Slick rejoined Starship in 1981, leaving again in 1988)
The pre-Starship Thomas was best known for his work with the Elvin Bishop Band (“Fooled Around and Fell in Love”). His powerful, melodic vocals marked a new chapter in the band’s history, helping Starship land a string of hits on radio and MTV throughout the next decade, including “Jane,” “It’s Not Over (‘Til It’s Over)” and the No. 1 hits “Sara,” the Oscar-nominated “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” and “We Built This City,” which newer fans may best know for its placement in the popular musical/movie Rock of Ages.
Thomas credits his musical good fortune, in part, to his first rock’n’roll show: The Beatles. “I saw them when I was 15,” says Thomas. “My friends and I got on a bus, took a six-hour trip to Atlanta and set off on this adventure. Right after, we were like ‘we gotta do this.’
Although Loveless marks Starship’s first full studio album since 1989, the group has remained a popular draw on the road. “It’s a real wide generation of fans out there,” says Thomas. “I’ve seen 12-year olds, 65-year olds and everyone in between.”
For their upcoming tour, the band will mine their deep back catalog — “we’ll play songs from every record I had a hand in,” says the singer, promising early hits like “Find Your Way Back,” as well as a medley of the group’s earliest hits as Jefferson Airplane. And, of course, the new material.
As Mickey gets ready to start a new chapter in a career that has spanned forty years, his voice is on-fire and the music is a compelling blend of then and now. Loveless Fascination is sure to appease long-time Starship fans while opening the door to a new generation of rockers.