Interview with the Muscle of Metal, the Mighty Rock Warrior Jon Mikl Thor

By Mick Michaels

COSMICK VIEW: Hello, Jon! Welcome to The Cosmick View. Thank you for taking some time out of your day to chat with me, it's greatly appreciated.

CV: So many things can define an artist; their sound, their style, their look or their attitude to name a few. What do you feel makes an artist iconic?

Jon Mikl Thor: I feel it’s the image, songs, sound, live performance and uniqueness that makes an artist iconic. Elvis and The Beatles were unique for their time era…their image and music transcend time.

CV: Does being labeled "iconic" often mean being looked at as passé for an artist?
JMT: As time goes on, longevity also comes into play to be labeled iconic. KISS are iconic. Paul McCartney is both legendary and iconic…Jim Morrison had a shorter career but his legend lives on. So he and the Doors have become iconic as their great music lives on.

CV: What was the overall inspiration to combine music and muscles? Did such a pairing seem natural to you? JMT: Music and Muscle seemed the perfect meld for me. When I was a teenager training for Mr. Universe, Mr. World and Mr. Teenage America, I would listen to Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and work myself into a frenzy. I got super pumped from combining these forces. At the time, I also played bass in a band. I started taking off my shirt during performances and this got quite the reaction from the crowd. I was impressed by the theatrics of David Bowie, Alice Cooper and KISS. I set out to become a Hercules on stage…a muscular heroic concept.  Instead of breathing fire, I would bend steel and smash bricks. I would become a true to life superhero...thus, the moniker of "THOR"…thunderously powerful music and a show that the audience would not forget.

CV: Jon, what was the fan reaction like in the early days as you took the Kings of Muscle Rock on tour? Did fans know what to make of it at first? JMT: At first people didn't know what to make of the first incarnation of "Muscle Rock"…I'm talking 1973-1974 era. Then everyone started getting into it. There were massive line ups down the block of fans wanting to see the concert. They could see that there was strength in the music and sound as well as the image. Robert Geldof, who was a writer then for a weekly called the Georgia Straight, gave the performance he saw at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver in 1974 a rave review.

Later when we released the "Kings of Muscle Rock" album, the act really exploded onto the scene with songs like "I Gotta Eat," "Land Lover" and "Do The Muscle".

CV: What do you believe an artist can do to stay current in an ever changing industry besides just following the trends?
JMT: It’s tough to stay current in the mainstream market. Am I going to start doing Rap or Pop? I am THOR-The Rock Warrior, THOR-The Metal Avenger. But there are so many genres of Music. In fact, there are so many genres of Metal. I just keep playing Rock n Roll. That's who I am in my heart. We still can pack the venues because there are so many fans who want to hear Rock and Metal and see a tremendous show! It would be great to have a number one, mainstream radio hit. But you have to think outside the box and utilize the tools of the time to stay relevant. Technology continues to advance. So "Adapt or Die"!

Our videos and songs are all over Youtube, Spotify, etc. Our movies are on Netflix, Amazon Prime… A whole new generation has gotten into Thor, whether it’s from our movies like "Rock n Roll Nightmare" or streaming our movies and songs…songs like "Thunder on the Tundra" and "Anger" get millions of hits.

CV: Can an artist truly reinvent themselves or is it a more "refined version" of their previous persona? JMT: I love what David Lee Roth is doing. He has reinvented himself and it is working for him in Las Vegas and opening for KISS.
I feel too, that I have reinvented my look from the 80's and updated to the modern era. I have new costuming and props, but I'm singing the classic songs that the fans want to hear from "Only the Strong" to "Unchained". I'm also keeping a lot of the same elements of the show from the 70's and 80's. I will introduce songs from the new albums into the set, but only those that the fans have latched onto and want to hear.

CV: The 2015 documentary, "I Am Thor" is a very telling and moving account of your career. The film won awards along with audience and critic acclaim.  Were you at all initially hesitant to participate in the making of the film or was it a welcoming project to tell your story?
JMT: I wanted to tell my story. There are things in the movie that I didn't wish to be shown or told. However, I let the director become the fly on the wall. What happened happened. You can love music but it doesn't always love you back. It’s the tale of a Rock n Roller who kept on fighting…a human interest story with me as the protagonist. It’s a real Rocky type movie with the good, bad and the ugly.

CV: The movie's release resulted in a sold out tour as well as leading to the reissue of your 1977 album "Keep the Dogs Away" in 2016 among other things. How did all that new found attention and success translate on an overall psychological level for you?JMT: It has been great. Since the movie was released, I've toured the world, released a follow up doc called "Return of the Thunderhawk" and recorded six brand new albums with Cleopatra. That doesn't include the ten re-releases. I am also writing soundtracks for TV series and upcoming movies. As well, I will be back starring in some new films. 

CV: Inspiration seems to be the stuff heroes are made of. Jon, do you feel music fans, or for that fact, people in general, love a good comeback story?
JMT: It is the true champion who can overcome obstacles and come out on top. Laugh back at the laughers and kick back at the kickers. 

CV: In your opinion, is "rock star" still a relevant term in today's music industry? And is it something aspiring, young artists need to concern themselves with when building a career in music? JMT: In the 1970's, if you were labeled a "Rock Star" it was something special. You were an icon just like a movie star. Marc Bolan of T Rex was a "Rock Star"…Jimi Hendrix was a "Rock Star". Now the term "Rock Star" has been embedded into our culture. The guy at the insurance company who sold the most policies is called a Rock Star by the boss. Or if you sold the most brownie cookies, you’re a rock star, etc. The term represents someone who is revered for their accomplishment these days.

Making a living in the Rock Business as a young artist is much harder today than it was in the 1970's. There are so many different types of music. A young band has to really work hard, utilize the social network, tour, and try everything possible to promote themselves in all media whether now known or hereinafter devised!

CV: How would you define the current state of the music business and then compare that definition to what the business was like 30 years ago? JMT: 30 to 40 years ago the labels were fat cats. Artists and record companies were making huge money just from releasing records. Now that technology has changed everything in the industry, bands have to tour more. The record is more of a promotional tool for the artist. That's one reason so many older artists continue to tour.

CV: How would you compare yourself now to the THOR role from the 70s and 80s?
JMT: I have revised the character of THOR. I can still Rock and put on a kick ass show! The younger musicians in the band, in their 20's, have a tough time keeping up. My voice is better than ever. Like a fine wine, I am at my very best right now!

CV: Jon, in your opinion, has the THOR story been that of a hero's journey so to speak?
JMT: Yes! Never give up, believe in yourself! It's the American Way!

CV: What's next for you? What can fans expect to see?
JMT: See you on tour! Watch out for the new album "Rising" to be released Feb 28th on Cleopatra Records… I will be starring in the new upcoming movie Pact of Vengeance along with Leo Fong (Lo Blow) and Matt Hannon (Samurai Cop) directed by Len Kabasinski. I will be displaying some of my fighting skills in the film…a lot of action. Rock The City!

CV: Thank you again Jon for spending some time talking and sharing with
our readers. It was a pleasure. I wish you all the best and continued success.
JMT: Thank you! 

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My name is Mick Michaels...I'm an artist, music fan, songwriter, producer, dreamer and guitarist for the traditional Heavy Metal band Corners of Sanctuary. Writing has always been a creative outlet for me; what I couldn't say in speech, I was able to do with the written word.  Writing has given me a voice and a way for me to create on a multitude of platforms including music and song, articles, independent screenplays, books and now, artist interviews. The Cosmick View is an opportunity to raise the bar and showcase artists in a positive and inspirational light. For me, it's another out-of-this-world adventure.

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