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Rory during the "Disowned Heart" session
Sam during "One Hit to the Heart" sessions
NightStrike: "NightStrike" (1996)
NightStrike went on hiatus following the release and subsequent support of "Street Justice". During this time, bassist Jeremy Dishaw graduated from high school, left the band and moved to Hurley, WI where he eventually joined a top regional act: Headfirst Blues Band in 1994. Fiszer and Bennett spent the time away from the band enjoying their last year of high school, graduating in May of 1994. Both of them went on to play football at the collegiate level. However, by the spring of 1995, music was calling the remaining members back to focus 100% of their time and energy on writing and producing original music again. "This was definitely a time of change for the band. Our only option to keep NightStrike going was recording more of the songs we'd written. It seemed perfectly normal to us. All of our influences: Pistols, Kiss, Metallica, G N' R, had done the same thing. So, putting our own recordings out seemed like the natural move. We've always had an independent, Do it yourself spirit in this group. Obviously, long before it was fashionable. The internet didn't exist back then! Al Gore hadn't invented it yet.", said Drummer Sam Bennett. "After suffering through the defection of Lead Guitarist Kevin Johnson to Hawg Kaller a few months before the recording of "Street Justice" in 1991 and then Jeremy Dishaw's departure in 1994 on the eve of recording the follow-up to our debut recording, it could very well have been the end of the band. However, it turned out to be the most prolific period we had ever enjoyed!"
The remaining members regrouped in May 1995 to begin recording sessions in Sam Bennett's home studio. The first track they layed down was "Times of Old". This soulful ballad captured the deep longing for the familiarity of their hometown after a year away at University. Overwhelmed by the ease at which they had captured the song, Rory and Sam worked like never before to harness the creative energy now flowing so freely! Over the next three and a half months, the boys crafted such 'Strike classics as: "Out to Get You", "One Hit to the Heart", "Times of Old" and "End of My Existence". Of note, the guitar solo on "Times of Old" drips with raw emotion. It is widely considered to be Rory Fiszer's signature as a guitarist. They also made a first attempt at recording the band's "white whale", "Nothing Gold Can Stay".
Having recorded six new compositions during the summer, Sam and Rory returned to school (Rory = Moorehead College, Sam = Michigan Tech), where over the next three months, three more songs were written. The productivity was due to the fact that both suddenly had a whole lot of free time. Rory and Sam both sustained injuries that fall which wound up ending each of their respective football careers. During those dark days out of action they were able to write. During breaks from school, the band had just enough time to quickly rehearse and spontaneously record (which was the typical method. The raunchy gentlemen's club rocker "Go-Go Girl" was layed to track during the course of a long Thanksgiving weeekend 1995. "If ever there was a tune that captured the feel and sound on the seedy side of life, "Go-Go Girl" was it", said frontman Rory Fiszer.
With a lot more free time on their hands, the band started living the tales they were singing about. There would be consequences down the road, but at the time it made for some very compelling music!
A month later the band re-convened over Christmas break to track the band's first overtly political number, "The Objection". Written in the wake of the Branch Dividian standoff in Waco, TX, "The Objection" captures many in the nation's feelings of shock over the trampling of civil liberties by U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and the horror over the power David Koresch had exerted over those mis-guided souls who perished during the inferno. It was about the clash of wills between two madmen that ended in tragedy. Probably due to the intense feelings that poured out recording "The Objection", the band also recorded a tender ballad, "Care for You", which to this day, has never found it's way onto any NightStrike release.
Following the eight month recording process the band put out it's second release. Unveiled and distributed on tape in January 1996, it was simply titled, "NightStrike". The band felt it was the purest project they had ever undertaken. Completely written and recorded by Rory Fiszer and Sam Bennett, every aspect was done by the duo! From engineering, to every instrument and vocal. After all of the turmoil and uncertainty surrounding them since their 1993 debut recording "Street Justice", the band was now a creative phoenix rising from the ashes. The material finally captured the thoughts and feelings the band had been trying to convey musically during that first jam session eight years earlier in 1988!
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Jeremy shown during recording of "Stranded"
Rory recording "You and Me"
NightStrike: "Road to Nowhere" (1997)
The group spent virtually no time promoting the release of it's second recording, "NightStrike", and instead went straight back into the studio in March 1996 to begin work on what would eventually prove to be their final studio album (to date), "Road to Nowhere"!
Ultimately a story of darkness and light (mostly darkness), "Road to Nowhere" found the boys experiencing life in all of it's graphic details...love,death, heartache, fear, betrayal, substance abuse...young men struggling with who they really are and what their place really is in the world. As personal as "NightStrike" had been, "Road to Nowhere" provided an almost uncomfortable insight into the band's personal lives. While the creative process played out from March 1996 to February 1997, an ever increasing series of life shaping events were going on behind the scenes. The people who began the journey were very different by it's end eleven months later. So much so, that an indefinite hiatus followed for the band after the completion of the project. The light?...bassist Jeremy Dishaw re-joined the group and the guys wrote and recorded some of the best music of their lives!
Despite being generally somber and introspective, the band was on a creative roll! The first number recorded was the crying guitar ballad "All Your Lies". In fact, the first two songs recorded for the album were slow jams..."All Your Lies" and "All these Years". It certainly set the emotional tempo for the album. One listen and you can instantly share in the the pain of realizing after years of longing for someone, you discover you are not the one...your freind is! NightStrike picked up the pace only slightly with the struggle to carve out your identity while beside the influence of another. "Standing in the Shadows" really needs no description, only a lyrical quote, "...would you live your life like everyone else before?...or would you turn around if you came upon a closing door?..."
In early June 1996, Jeremy Dishaw re-entered the 'Strike picture. Drummer Sam Bennett and Dishaw were taking part in a summer revival of Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple" (Sam=Speed, Jeremy=Henry) which was being directed and starred in by Damien Ernest. Sam asked Damien to take a stab at singing a new NightStrike song, "Stranded". Jeremy came along for the session and ended up laying down a bass line. This was the first time Jeremy had been in the studio with the group since February of 1993. (the final sessions for "Street Justice") The song also marked Sam Bennett's debut as a guitar player. Until then, Rory Fiszer handled all guitar work, but it turned out Sam's on acoustic and rhythm guitar were the keepers. "Stranded" marked the onset of another productive period in the band's history.
Over the next five weeks the band recorded six songs...the funky, yet bluesy "What's Goin' On", the soaring "Hold the Line" (both originally recorded in one day: August 1st, 1996), the deeply personal, rebellious rage number "Where Do We Go". This heavy duty, chaos rocker was as noteworthy for it's use of experimental (at the time, for this band)recording techniques (multiple vocal lines,unpolished tones, layered guitars, etc...)as it was for the startling and raw to the nerves insight into a young man's battle for his independence.
The final session of the summer took place on August 13th. NightStrike recorded two songs cautiously optimistic about newfound love..."You and Me", a driving rocker about the limitless possibilities of first hooking up, and a long distace realationship ballad "Forever". The mood had changed so much between the beginning of the summer and it's end. "Forever" saw Lead Singer Rory Fiszer in good spirits, actually whistling the chorus at the end of the song! ...another ray of light.
Cloud cover quickly filled the sky over the next month. Numerous changes occurred as the the boys headed back to school. Sam's family moved away from their hometown of Ontonagon, selling their house. (and Sam's home studio!) Sam ended up in Marquette, Michigan, now another 100 miles east of Rory, who was in Fargo, North Dakota, which made recording logistics even more difficult. Jermy Dishaw also moved to Marquette at the same time in the fall of 1996. Distance would take it's toll on the band's progress. As the next session saw a decidedly different feeling and atmosphere.
The band next recorded in an unfinished (and unheated) addition to the WUPY-FM studios in Ontonagon, Michigan. Thankfully it was above freezing on November 22, 1996 (it wouldn't be for the final two sessions) as the band put down the title track to the album,"Road to Nowhere". The hard rocking number featured blazing guitar work and harmony vocals that really added punch to the tune. It also featured a return to the somber and reflective mood of the album's first few sessions. That mood continued as failed love was originally documented on January 5th 1997 in "Broken Promises". The summer's promise of love ("Forever") had turned to lies so cold (literally!) by winter. The band was now recording in sub-freezing temperatures (again at the unfinished additon to the WUPY-FM studios) with only a half inch of plywood protecting them from the elements! Six weeks later, the band completed the album (same cold, unfinished studio) on February 22nd, 1997. The final song recorded during this session was "Nothing Gold Can Stay".After nearly two years they had captured the big, radio friendly sound that had eluded them. It proved to be a prophetic final song to the album! (and band) After trying unsuccessfully for almost two years, the band were able to finally capture the sound they were heard (but, not the voices!) in their heads.
NightStrike spent the next few months mixing the recording, and for the first time, using a computer to do the graphics, artwork and layout of it's cover. However, members began to drift away from the band through the course of the year. The recording had been an arduous task that made a break inevitable. Beginning in March 1995 and concluding in February 1997. NightStrike wrote and recorded nearly two dozen songs, putting together two albums worth of material! NightStrike needed a change of scenery...the studio had worn the guys out.
The project limped out in September 1997 with even less fanfare than the previous recording. No one in the band wanted to do shows to support it, so it just faded away. By this time the band was on indefinite hiatus. The future was uncertain.
Over the course of the next three years, Sam built his practice in Marquette, Michigan while also finishing his degree at Northern Michigan University. Rory received his degree from Concordia College. Afterwards, he drifted around America, heading west to Las Vegas, then returning to the Midwest, settling in the Detroit area. Kevin Johnson married his high school sweetheart, had three kids and took a job managing a big box retailer in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area, later divorcing and marrying again in May 2005, adding four more children to his flock. Jeremy Dishaw also moved to Marquette and remained a professional musician, playing with many successful regional acts during the period. In 2004, Jeremy moved home to Ontonagon where he is helping raise his two sons.
The NightStrike hiatus officially ended when Rory attended Sam's college graduation party in May of 2000. This was the first time the boys had played together since that cold day in February of 1997! Rory, Jeremy and Sam played together one on one for the next four years until fate intervened on August 28th, 2004. After 13 years, Kevin Johnson re-entered the picture! History is being written as we speak! ...STAY TUNED!!!
NightStrike: "One Hit to the Heart" (2006)
In 1988, they were a bunch of young rockers with a dream-to live on top of the rock and roll world. But careers, families and the necessity to earn a living got in the way of living out that rock and roll dream. By 1997 it's members scattered in four different directions...Over time, the band broke up! Then, on August 28th 2004, the stars lined up for an historic reunion of NightStrike's venerable lineup! Jeremy Dishaw, Kevin Johnson, Rory Fiszer and Sam Bennett all ended up at the legendary Stubb's Bar in Ontonagon, MI at the same time to check out local favorites (and NightStrike influences) Mother Ruckus. The four members had not been in the same room, let alone played together, since that last show in the 90's. After all those years apart, the chemistry was still there. The band graciously allowed NightStrike to use their gear for the impromptu set. NightStrike launched into an unrehearsed set of favorites. The crowd was electric through the first moments of Poison's "Talk Dirty to Me" to the closing jam on a wild rendition of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World". However, it wasn't cover songs that the boys were thinking about. An opportunity for a development deal with a record label under the sponsorship of North Lake Studios pulled them back together-and members of the independent rock group NightStrike began to dream again. The U.P. rockers reunited, and headed back into the recording studio to begin work on their first album in over eight years.
NightStrike chose to re-record a collection of their favorite numbers from their back catalog of songs for their first studio CD, "One HIT to the Heart: The Best of NightStrike." On Friday March 11th, the band entered North Lake studios. The band worked with engineer and producer James Harju at North Lake studios to capture the band's sound. In fact, North Lake Studios was contacted by Sony/Columbia Records to scout bands for a possible development deal. According to North Lake's spokesperson Ryan Saari, NightStrike was that band and their music is North Lakes bid to land a development deal with the major label.
“With three+ albums worth of music to choose from, we thought re-recording a “best of” record would give our old supporters a modernized blast from the past as well as being a great way to expose new fans to our music”, said Lead Singer and Guitarist Rory Fiszer. NightStrike re-convened on March 13th, 2005 at North Lake Studios in Ishpeming, MI to begin recording their comeback CD under the watchful eye of Producer James Harju. “As an independent band, we did not have the big league budgets to record with, so nearly a decade later with the aid of modern technology we have an opportunity to sonically update old favorites,” said Drummer Sam Bennett. Recording an album is a difficult task for any group, but add in the geographic distance (Rory lives in Lapeer, MI, Jeremy in Ontonagon, MI and Kevin in Wausau, WI), not to mention those same family, career and financial pressures that we all have and now you have a challenge very few bands have ever faced successfully. Despite all that, the members of NightStrike were determined not to let the good fortune of a second chance pass them by. The group made near monthly treks to the Marquette area to continue recording sessions that concluded on June 8th, 2006. Over the course of those 15 months the group logged nearly 50,000 miles on the road, sent thousands of e-mails, made hundreds of phone calls, had two babies, but most importantly, four friends became a band again! The album, “One Hit to the Heart” was Mixed by Harju and Drummer Sam Bennett. Following the Mix process, Charles Ritola (PJ Olson, Head, Jeremy Rowe) Mastered the project at his facility in Atlantic Mine, MI.
With the popular resurgence of straight ahead rock music from the 80's and early 90's things have come full circle for bands like NightStrike. "People want to have a great time at a show and escape their cares and concerns for a few hours. Going to a rock show is about having fun and letting go! That is exactly what NightStrike is all about." said Lead guitarist Kevin Johnson.
The new NightStrike album, "One Hit to the Heart" was released to worldwide critical and fan acclaim. After a long, steady climb, the title track first single would eventually reach the top spot on the charts by February 2008!
20 years after first forming, NightStrike had their first song sit atop a music chart! The circle is complete.
NightStrike: "Coming Home Alive" (2007)
Following an impromptu reunion performance Labor Day 2004, the members of NightStrike re-grouped, recorded and released a comeback CD, "One Hit to the Heart". The group promoted that album by playing to thousands of fans at Festival, Fair, Theater, Casino and select Club dates on their "One Hit TOUR 2006/2007" "Coming Home Alive", captures the group during their triumphant homecoming performance at the Ontonagon Theater of Performing Arts on Saturday September 9th, 2006. The DVD was digitally filmed by the fans, for the fans. As such, the group allowed unprecedented access...backstage, onstage, front row, back row, balcony, etc... The group performs their best known tracks including, "End of My Existence", "You and Me", "Go-Go Girl", "Train of Love", "What's Goin' On" and so many more. In addition, the group pays tribute to a fallen friend during a blazing rendition of Bob Dylan's classic, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door". The audio of the show was recorded by Ritola Audio of Atlantic Mine, MI. The visual aspects of the show were captured using a four camera shoot, with a DVD edit by 4th Degree Productions. NightStrike have officially released downloads of the audio tracks from "Coming Home Alive" to iTunes, Rhapsody, Napster, E-Music and Amazon MP3. Promotional clips from select tracks on the dvd can be viewed below.
- W.A.L.T. (intro)
- Road to Nowhere
- Out to Get You
- Train of Love
- Bass solo (Jer)
- Where Do We Go
- What's Goin' On
- Piano solo (Fish)
- Go Your Own Way
- Go-Go Girl
- Guitar solo (Kev)
- Standing In the Shadows
- Fly Me Courageous
- Knockin' On Heavens' Door
Drum solo (Sam)
- End of My Existence
- Times of Old
- You and Me
- One Hit to the Heart (encore)
The show has a running time of 84 minutes (not including bonus materials).
Street Justice NightStrike Road to Nowhere One Hit to the Heart Coming Home Alive