Mark Kendall (2005)

Mark Kendall: The man behind Great White steps out on his own.



Shame on me for not getting this posted online sooner, but here it is. Being that it's an enjoyable and not overly time-sensitive interview, I think fans will still get a lot from it. This time however, it's not me doing the interview, but rather my Ohio buds Ron and Don Higgins, who help out transcribing interviews for the site. Their turn to sit down and chat away to one of the great guitarists from the last 20 years.



Mark Kendall Interview (Date 3/3/05)

Mark: We were going to a dinner and then we cancelled it and now I'm home. We were going to go with Joe, my singer, but they cancelled so we cancelled too.

Ron: That's cool.
Don: Not a big deal at all.
Ron: Every time we do one of these interviews something happens, so that's just par for the course. So that's great.
Mark: <Laughs>

Ron: I explained to him, Don, about Melodicrock and that we're taping the interview, we're going to transcribe it and then have Andrew post it to the site.
Mark: It's a cool site. I actually went to it to check it out and it's pretty happening. I like it.

Ron: So we said, “Why don't you let us do a couple of these interviews now?” and he said, “Sure.” So now we've done a host of them. In fact, we just talked with Troy Lucketta from Tesla last week.
Mark: Excellent, man.

Ron: They were getting ready to do that benefit show up in Rhode Island.
Mark: Oh, cool. Did Tesla do theirs?

Ron: Yeah, Tesla. They were doing that Wake Up To Love thing.
Mark: Yeah, I heard they did one.

Don: Wake Up To Love is the Foundation that Troy is involved with and in cooperation with the Station Family Fund. They did a concert where Tesla performed and Shinedown and some members of Vanilla Fudge -- Carmine Appice and Pat Travers. It was on Feb. 25, I believe.
Mark: Yeah, I'm supposed to call Troy but I haven't called him yet.

Ron: The night we talked to him was a few days before the benefit concert and the night after Tesla kicked off their new acoustic tour.
Mark: Oh, okay.

Ron: So that was pretty cool, he was giving us some info about that.
Mark: Yeah, those guys are great.

Ron: Yeah, they really are. They're going to be in town here in a couple of weeks. We're calling by the way from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Mark: Oh, okay.

Ron: Which is kind of funny because we just heard you on our local radio station yesterday.
Mark: Oh, really?

Ron: Yeah, you had called in to WEBN.
Mark: Oh, yeah!

Ron: And talked to Mr. K and Wendy.
Mark: What a trip. It's freaky because it's a total coincidence because that's something that my publicist got.

Ron: Is that what it was?
Mark: Yeah, and I hooked up with you guys through Todd. That's just a freak thing.

Ron: Imagine, we're sitting there, we knew that this – this was yesterday – and we knew that we were going to be talking with you tonight and we're listening to that show and they say, “We're going to be talking with Mark Kendall,” and I'm going, “No, way.”
Mark: That's so weird.

Ron: It was a riot but it was so cool because they did play one of the new tracks off of your new solo album, which I thought was cool.
Mark: Oh, cool.

Ron: They played “Hail To The Kitty”
Mark: Oh, “Hail To The Kitty”. Okay.

Ron: Yeah. So that was kind of cool that they did that.
Mark: Did you guys get a copy of the album?

Ron: No, we didn't but I'll tell you what we did, both of us, we went out to, which is where you can buy it and they've' got some pretty lengthy sound clips of everything.
Mark: Okay, good.

Ron: So we listened to every one of them and I think got a pretty good feel for most of the album.
Mark: There's supposed to be a tape on the way. I thought it was going to be overnighted.

Ron: Well, they might've sent it to Andrew. I don't know because we did this with Todd, not through a publicist.
Mark: Got it. I know what you mean.

Ron: I had asked Todd when he set it up if he had a copy of it and he didn't say whether or not he did, and Andrew is down in Australia.
Mark: Well before you guys go, I'll get your information and… do I have your address in any of the emails, or no?

Ron: Probably not, but I can just send it to you. I've still got your email obviously.
Mark: Yeah, just email me your address and I'll make sure you guys get a copy.

Ron: That's great.
Don: That's cool.
Ron: It's funny because Todd highly recommended it. I think his quote was, “The guy sings as well as he plays guitar.”
Mark: <laughs>

Ron: I'm thinking, “Well, the guy can play a guitar so…!”
Mark: Awesome

Ron: But I didn't know what to expect. Of course, what am I expecting? Something that sounds a bit like Great White, and it really doesn't.
Mark: Right

Ron: And that's not a bad thing. I love Great White but I always like when solo projects don't sound like the bands, because if it did, then why bother?
Mark: Yeah, well it's hard for me to sound like Jack Russell when I sing! <laughs>

Ron: <laughs> Well, you know what's funny? When I was listening to “Hail To The Kitty”, and I hope you take this as a compliment, but I thought you sounded a heck of a lot like David Lee Roth. Have you ever been told that?
Mark: I think somebody had said that they kind of hear those overtones.

Ron: Yeah. And I'm a huge Van Halen fan.
Mark: I'm kind of in his range. In fact, his range might be a little higher than mine with his squealing and that. When you don't have a high range you have to deliver with a lot of attitude. That's the way I make people believe me, I have to just give it maximum attitude.

Ron: Well, Todd was right. You can sing.
Don: I thought “Lift Me Up” definitely had a lot of DLR sound to it.
Mark: In the very early days of Van Halen, I used to really… because I saw them when I was in the 8th grade in a backyard party.

Ron: You're kidding.
Mark: They were playing like 3 blocks away from my house.

Ron: Wow.
Mark: I lived in El Monte, CA. They played mostly all covers. They were like the backyard party band. I just thought that they were a little better than everybody else. I was pretty young and everything, but there were a lot of bands around and we used to go see them play and a lot of people were playing in people's backyards.

Ron: Wow.
Don: Is that when they were still calling themselves Mammoth?
Mark: No they were called Van Halen when I saw them and them my friend we used to go see them, they were playing a few bigger venues like little basketball arenas, you know, high school arenas. They were the best band around. Their whole following was like mostly musicians, you know. There were mostly guitar players in the crowd, because of Eddie, how he played the guitar. But back then, he didn't have the whammy bar and he didn't use his right hand a lot on the finger board or anything, but he played a little bit outside of where most people were playing.

Ron: I had heard, I don't know if this is true, maybe I read it in David Lee Roth's autobiography, but it said that he used to play, when he played live in front of a crowd, he would turn around so people couldn't see what he was doing. He was kind of trying to protect his trade secrets or something.
Mark: I never saw him do that, but I heard that George Lynch used to do that.

Ron: Really?
Mark: George Lynch, when he used to play in The Boyz, he was doing that right hand thing on the finger board before Eddie was.

Ron: You're kidding?
Mark: No. So he would face his amp when he did that part.

Ron: Wow.
Mark: What they say is, now this is just the rumor, but Eddie knew what he was doing, kind of took that idea, now he probably wouldn't admit to it, but this is just what I heard because I grew up around all those guys, I know a lot of other guitar players too, and what they said is Eddie just turned it more into a musical thing, where Lynch made it more of a noise maker.

Ron: Yeah.
Mark: Like he used to do the hammer-offs but he also did a lot of sliding with his right hand and stuff.

Ron: Yeah.
Mark: And when he would hammer with his left hand, instead of alternating fingers, he said he had a hard time doing that so he would slide his finger back and forth.

Ron: Okay.
Mark: Lynch. You know.

Ron: That's cool.
Mark: Eddie just turned it into more of an orchestrated thing, like with “Eruption”.

Ron: Sure.
Mark: He would literally, you know, put beautiful melodies together incorporating that right-hand.

Ron: That's funny, because they're both phenomenal guitarists, but they definitely have distinctive styles.
Don: Yeah, with George Lynch I don't think of him as much of doing the hammer-ons and tapping but he always seemed to be more efficient at very fast plucking. He really sort of perfected that.
Mark: Yeah, he definitely has his own kind of thing. I just went and saw him the other day. This guy came down from this radio station called WMMT and he did a couple of shows with me. I can't think of where it was…

Ron: George Lynch did some shows with you?
Mark: No, no. he was playing in town out here, going to the NAM show and stuff like that and I guess he'd done some things with Lynch too and told me that he was playing so I went and saw him the other night at the House of Blues in Anaheim.

Ron: That would've been great.
Mark: I hadn't seen him in a long time. He was playing with kind of unknown guys, I guess, but it was good. It was cool.

Ron: Have you seen Dokken with their new guitar player? I thought he was pretty good -- Jon Levin.
Mark: Yeah. In fact, we did a show with him last year, we did a few shows with Dokken last year, some festivals, and that guitar player, Don said, I've known Don since 1975, so he's like, “Yeah, but the guy's too much like Lynch. He's exactly.” Yeah, but that guy is good.

Ron: Well yeah, and then you find out that in his spare time he's a lawyer. Its like, “Wait a minute!”
Mark: Oh, really?

Ron: Yeah, he was their lawyer.
Mark: I think somebody told me something about that!

Ron: Yeah, he was their lawyer and doing stuff for them and he obviously plays and he still does a lot of stuff for the band.
Mark: The guitar playing lawyer!

Ron: Yeah. He even said, he couldn't get in too much trouble and stuff because he's married and he's always doing paperwork on the bus. <laughs>
Mark: Oh, my goodness.

Ron: I told him, “You're kind of killing the whole rock and roll sort of image here, buddy!”
Mark: <laughs>

Ron: He was great. He was one of the other guys we were fortunate enough to interview.
Mark: Talk about something to fall back on!

Ron: Yeah <laughs> If the whole guitar thing doesn't work out…
Mark: <laughs>

Ron: But he was phenomenal. We saw Dokken last year with him when they came to Annies, that's the place down here in Cincinnati, and we were really impressed. Actually, the last time I saw Great White was at that same place, called Annies, down on the river.
Mark: Oh, yeah! I remember that. And a couple of guys from Cinderella played?

Ron: I don't remember that but, gosh, it's probably been 7 or 8 years when I saw that.
Mark: Oh, you're talking a way long time ago.

Ron: Yeah.
Mark: Oh, I thought you were talking about last year or something.

Ron: No. Did you guys come to Cincinnati last year? You were close. Maybe you did.
Mark: Oh, no. It might've been St. Louis.

Ron: I know you came close because either you or Jack, I think it was Jack, called that same radio station, and they were talking up the gig, but I think it was up closer to Dayton, Ohio, which is only about an hour and a half away.
Mark: Yeah, it probably was Dayton. That sounds familiar.

Ron: There's two things that I remember about that show. One, you guys were phenomenal live…
Mark: Annies?

Ron: Yeah.
Mark: I think we did… didn't we play there last year?

Ron: I don't remember. If you did I'm mad because I missed it! You might have.
Mark: It's like a large club? I think we played there with Warrant.

Ron: You know what, you might've. Warrant's been through town a lot.
Mark: It holds about 900 people?

Don: Yeah, it's got an outdoor area.
Mark: Yeah, it's got an outdoor thing that wraps around and then there's a lot of wood on the inside and stuff.

Ron: Yeah.
Mark: Yeah, we definitely played there last year.

Ron: Wow. Cool.
Mark: We played one show with Warrant last year. And the opening act was… oh, no, no. It wasn't Warrant. It was the guitar player who used to play in Warrant. Billy something. Billy Martin. That's where I met this radio station guy. It's WMMT, he was down there in Arkansas Mountain Radio, or something like that. Anyway, he was just out there and it was a freak kind of thing.

Ron: That's cool. Well the other thing that I remember about the show, other than it was a great show, was that after the show, every person in the band came out and met the fans and signed autographs.
Mark: Oh, yeah. We always do that. I don't leave until the last little pick is signed.

Ron: That is awesome. I've been to so many shows where…
Mark: Everybody tells me that, “Oh, so and so band didn't even stay - they all went and rushed off like they were The Beatles or something, and I get so sick of hearing that. When you're playing the big places, like all those years when we played the big arenas, it was hard for us to get to the fans, you know. You really can't go out and sign 20,000 autographs, you know?

Ron: Yeah.
Mark: Or you wouldn't even make it to the next show. Since we are playing the smaller venues, why not take advantage to meet some of the people and hear the stories, or whatever.

Ron: Well, I'll tell you, as a fan, I really appreciate that and I think all of the fans do.
Mark: That's awesome. I'm a fan myself and I know that seeing Johnny Winter, well he's pretty sick right now, but when I saw him a few years ago I got to go on his bus and got the full treatment. I saw him in a small venue, which was really cool. When I used to see him as a teenager, you know, I was like always in the last row of an arena and he was like the size of a B.B., or whatever?

Ron: Right.
Mark: To see your favorite artist in a smaller place is awesome.

Ron: It really is.
Don: Yep, yep. Because like you said, sometimes…
Mark: From a fan's point of view. Of course, we all want to be playing stadiums! <laughs>

Ron: Right, right.
Don: It's fun to go to the big shows, you know, I've been to the big stadium concerts and it's cool when you've got 40,000 people, but then again, like you said, usually the artist is so small, unless you get really lucky and get really good tickets. I pulled that off once. I saw the Billy Joel/Elton John combined tour, they were up at Ohio State University and they had the whole Horseshoe sold out and we ended up in the 10th row on the floor and we're like, “These are great seats, but look at all those people behind us!”
Mark: <laughs> Right.

Don: It's still a fun atmosphere.
Ron: Yeah, but we've been on the other side too. The Monsters of Rock tour in the late 80s.
Don: Oh, with Van Halen.
Ron: It was at the Hoosier Dome and I swear Eddie Van Halen was the size of an ant, we had the worst seats. I think our ticket stub actually said “Worst Seat In House”.
Mark: <laughs>

Don: I remember that. We were so far away, that you would watch the drummer and he would hit his cymbal and then you would hear the sound like a half a second later.
Mark: I know, I know.

Don: You were so far away that the audio and video…
Mark: Yeah, we played some of those kind of shows with Iron Maiden in Germany and I can't imagine being…I mean, they had two sets of delay towers, they were so far away.

Ron: Wow.
Mark: Because we would play with like Iron Maiden, David Lee Roth, KISS…

Ron: I'd pay good money to see that.
Mark: And I think Anthrax and a couple of other bands, one from up North like a Metallica like thing, but they were just really heavy. They guy sang through an Echoplex, like a hundred octaves low and stuff.

Ron: Geez.
Mark: Yeah <laughs>. One of those kinds of gigs, you know. It was cool. It was fun to play for so many people but.

Don: It's almost like you're not even there to see a band. You're just there at a really big party with really good music on the radio.
Ron: Right. With really expensive beer.
Mark: I went to a concert, the last really big concert that I went to because my manager was managing Guns and Roses, is we went and saw Aerosmith. Now this is after they cleaned up and were all kick ass and everything. We went and saw them at the Universal Amphitheater here in California and I had my wife with me and we got the full treatment and everything and we got these great seats right by the board, like we were going to have these real awesome seats, and these two huge bikers were in my seat and I showed them my ticket stub and they ripped them up and said, “What tickets?”

Ron: Oh, no!
Mark: I said, “I'm not going to deal with this,” so I just hung by the board for a couple of songs and then went backstage. <laughs>


Ron: That must've been the same two cats that were at the Aerosmith show in Cincinnati one year. A buddy of ours had to go to the hospital because it was the same thing, we were in the pavilion, this was down at Riverbend, which is an outdoor amphitheater and he came back with a couple of beers and there were two big biker guys in his seat. He decided he was going to get tough with them and they put him in the hospital.
Don: Yeah, he came back during the opening act, which was Jackyl, and the biker said, “We'll move when Aerosmith come,” and I'm thinking, “yeah, sure they're going to move when the headliner comes.” And he believed them.
Mark: <laughs>

Don: Well, they didn't and they all started swinging and like a fool, I put one of these biker guys in a headlock, I don't know what possessed me, but I was yelling, “Get off of him!” I guess they thought I was like a worker or some sort of security…
Mark: Oh, a security guard or something.

Ron: Lucky for you!
Don: Yeah, but my friend got knocked about two rows back and we had to carry him out and take him to the hospital.
Ron: Yeah, so it must've been the same two cats that were in your seat.
Mark: Yeah, I didn't go that far. I figured that they wanted to see them worse than me.

Don: Well, my friend was arguing with them and I'm just thinking, we can scoot down and squeeze you guys into our seats. I'm not going to tangle with those guys, but they had other ideas. Aerosmith, drawing in the ruffians, I suppose.
Mark: Right.

Don: Of the half of the concert I saw, it was very good.
Mark: Yeah. Right on. They sounded amazing. I couldn't believe it. I saw them like probably 1978 at the U.S. concert. I don't know what it was but it was a long time ago and they sounded kind of sloppy and the sound was really bad.

Don: Yeah, they had a rough time there in the late 70's when they were fighting between each other.
Mark: They were all fighting and drinking and all drugged up.

Ron: They put on a good show now though.
Don: They turned it around quite a bit.
Mark: Oh, man.

Ron: I saw them last year with KISS and boy that was a double bill.
Mark: Oh, yeah.

Ron: That was fantastic.
Don: it's good to see when bands have been around for a while and can maintain and come back.
Mark: KISS. It's amazing, because their makeup must be worth a lot. We played with them in like 1994 and we weren't really filling arenas and we had some actual thin nights, you know, when they didn't have the makeup or anything. Attendance was good some nights, but we did have some weak nights.

Ron: Yeah.
Mark: It was amazing. They put the makeup back on and they're playing stadiums again.

Ron: Yeah. The first time I saw them was without makeup. This was about '86. They had just come out with an album and had a few videos and just when they start to lose their fan base, they put the makeup back on and boom, it's craziness.
Mark: Yeah, right back to the bubblegum cards and everything.

Ron: Gene Simmons is, if nothing else, a marketing genius.
Mark: Oh, definitely. No doubt about that!

Ron: Dude, say what you want, but.
Mark: Oh, yeah. He's definitely a smart guy. A friend of mine was in the band, I think he was only in for a month or so…

Ron: Who was that?
Mark: It was New York, about 1984.

Ron: Mark St. John?
Mark: I was in this club called The Limelight and I was screaming, “Mark, Mark,” and he, I thought was saying, “I'm on KISS” but he was saying, “I'm in KISS!”. I finally got a hold of him outside and he said, “Dude, I'm in the band KISS,” and I'm like, “No way!” and he goes, “Yeah. We're doing this record and this video and they've got this apartment for me in New York here and all this stuff,” and I went and saw him the next day and we're jamming and stuff and it was just a trip. And then he got tendonitis -- woke up one morning and his hand was swollen to the bone. He couldn't play his guitar or anything. I guess he went and got it treated and was fine but when he went back they said they had found this guy Bruce Kulick.

Don: Is that Mark St. John?
Mark: Yeah. Mark St. John.

Don: He played on one album.
Mark: Yeah, he played on one album and a few videos.

Don: That was Animalize wasn't it?
Mark: Yeah, yeah. He was so bummed. That was his big break.

Don: I knew he had something medical but never found exactly what ever happened to him after that.
Mark: he basically disappeared. It broke his heart to be up there with a big band like that.

Ron: do you still talk to him?
Mark: He never really got going again. It was kind of strange because he played really laid-back, I mean, that guy could rip licks. On that KISS album he barely played at all. He really kept it tame. I think they told him to play a certain way or something

Don: yeah I always got the impression that Paul and Gene really control that kind of thing quite a bit.
Mark: I sat down with the guy before and I've seen him play live before. We kind of grew up in the same area. He can do “Flight of the Bumble Bee” backwards and all of that. The guy can play like Paul Gilbert and all of those guys. He played really laid back. I don't think he wanted to out-shine anybody.

Don: Yeah and like you said, if he grew up he was probably a fan and just so happy to be in KISS. As a fan, you're probably just so impressed that you're standing on stage with the guys.
Mark: Absolutely.

Ron: Do you ever talk to him any more?
Mark: Oh, Mark?

Ron: Yeah.
Mark: No, I lost touch with him. I moved around so much. We were just friends in passing and we were playing the same clubs and that was quite a long time ago

Ron: I was just curious what ever happened to him?
Mark: He was in the band called White Tiger or something like that.

Ron: Really?
Mark: yeah it was a band that didn't quite get there and I'm not sure whatever became of him.

Ron: I'll have to go check on the internet; I'm sure it's out there somewhere.
Mark: Yeah you can probably just go to the internet.

Ron: That's cool. Well, we definitely wanted to talk about this new solo CD because it's pretty fresh and like I said we both went through and listened to the sound clips of everything. I really kind of like “Hail to the Kitty” but “I'm The Man”, I thought was a really good ballad.
Mark: Oh thanks, man.

Ron: It's kind of got a country feel.
Mark: What happened was, I was at the music awards, at this LA music awards, and I was talking to George Lynch and stuff and I was just toying with the idea at that time. I had just done a couple of demos. I go, “What are you up to? I'm doing a solo thing.” He said, “Oh, cool”, and then I went upstairs and I met this girl that was… we were just talking and stuff, you know, she looked like somebody out of the '40s like she was out of her era, you know.

Ron: Yeah.
Mark: But she was really pretty, you know? And I go, “I'm just here with some friends and we were just checking it out. A friend of mine's band won some local band award thing, and I was just there for that. She said that she was a piano player and her husband was a producer for the Temptations and all of this stuff and I go, “I have this song, you're a piano player? Because I have this song.” I was working with this guy Douglas Day Stewart who was a movie producer who had done An Officer And a Gentleman he had won awards and stuff, anyway he had this new movie called Tanner's Wish and he had given me the script for it and I wrote this song but I hadn't recorded it or anything. She said her husband had this studio and I go, “I'd love to show you this song and I would like to check you out.” So anyways, I have this song pretty much finished but she added some touches to it that made it stronger and so when it came down to do my record… and then when I worked with her I brought musicians over and we recorded it and it turned out killer. I actually ended up having Jack sing on it because it was for a movie sound track.

Ron: OK
Mark: It didn't really matter. I tried another singer but the guy was way too much drama, the way this guy was singing.

Ron: Right
Mark: I couldn't handle it so I just got Jack and he knocked it out in about an hour or so. So we're building this songwriting relationship deal. Anyway, we were screwing around one day and I had some lyrics and I was showing her this piece of music I had and we did the same thing. That was “I'm the Man”. I actually co-wrote it with her.

Ron: Oh, great.
Mark: She came up with a couple of parts and we put it together and I go, “Hey, maybe I can put this on my solo album.” At first I thought that it might be too mellow but I thought that I would go ahead and record it anyway and when I put it up against the other songs it seemed to be fine, you know?

Ron: Yeah, it fits.
Mark: It didn't really matter that it was coming out of a really heavy song. It was almost a welcomed dynamic.

Ron: Exactly
Mark: So it really didn't bother me. Some people responded to it and stuff so it's cool.

Ron: Yeah it was sort of a nice change. Obviously the record has a very bluesy feel to it. Great White is obviously kind of bluesy.
Mark: The reason that I think Great White is a lot different, it's because especially with all of the original members and everything, a lot of people had a lot of input so you're going to hear a lot of their influences, everybody's idea getting into the soup, and then you get more of a band sound, you know what I mean? Michael Lardie, the keyboard player, was into Elton John and Billy Joel.

Ron: OK
Mark: …and people like that, you know?

Ron: Yeah
Mark: Jack was like the Zeppelin guy. He liked Aerosmith and all of the modern day rock stuff like that and I was kind of like Ten Years After, Alvin Lee, Billy Gibbons, Hendricks, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn and all of the big gunslinger type straight-ahead blues guys. I like the real stinky blues and heavy rock and stuff too but I was always more of the edge part of the band so when you've got those keyboard layers and all that stuff you can hear it in there somewhere but when you strip that all away and I just do something and especially with me singing it's going to be hard to sound just like Great White.

Ron: Right. Like I said, that's a good thing.
Mark: Sure, why do a solo album if it is going to sound just like Great White?

Ron: Right.
Don: Exactly. It's also cool because everyone knows that you're a good guitar player but since it's the solo album, and if you have some singing ability--as you obviously do although much different than the way Jack sings, it adds a whole other personal level to the whole project and it really comes across as, this is really Mark's solo album and a piece of who you are.
Mark: Right. Well, people say that I played way more guitar which is kind of true but you know I don't sing like Jack and also when I'm singing myself, when I'm not singing I automatically play in between the parts, you know what I mean. Whereas Jack sings a lot more and that leaves less space for me to play so I just have to insert the solo in that spot. To where, when I'm playing it's like, “Hey, yeah! < makes guitar sounds>”. It's a little different, plus it feels way different when your singing because when you're not singing you want to insert some music, you want to have some breath and hear the band play and stuff like that.

Ron: Yeah.
Mark: Instead of judging people's phrases like especially when you're playing live, well, I know how Jack sings now, of course, I've played with him so long but, it feels way different when you're playing guitar and singing, you know?

Ron: Sure.
Mark: You squeeze it into different spots because you can feel when you're going to stop singing you know what I mean? It's a whole different thing.

Don: I thought it was interesting because obviously as Ron had just said the Great White stuff is obviously hard rock/heavy metal with a blues influence. This album is definitely blues with a little bit of rock.
Mark: Right

Don: It's more of a blues album. But your vocals, if someone didn't know any better they would've thought that somebody went out and got this great blues singer to match this blues music. Your voice so fits the music. I mean, even if Jack was doing it… you voice fits it better than even if Jack was singing it. If that makes any sense.
Mark: Yeah, it is funny. The way Great White writes is a lot different than the way I put this together. Almost everything stems from jams, like I jammed for like a month with two guys who didn't play on the record but who would really lay it down for me very simple to where I can just try riffs and screw around and play for hours and I would just go home and listen to the tapes and I mean I have so many CDs full of music and I was kind of listening to things and I would go, “I really like that riff right there and I want to try and make that into something.” To where, Great White wouldn't jam for hours and hours and have things come out of that, you know what I mean? I would get together with Jack and show him a riff I have and then he would start writing lyrics and stuff.

Ron: OK
Mark: So it was like all of the music was written and then we would go rehearse it. That's usually the way they wrote, for the most part. Of course there were flashes of things that would happen when we were playing together and stuff like that. I always like to jam with a band. Things just come out of that. It just seems to have a different energy to it.

Ron : That's cool.
Don: That's the fun thing about, I'm sure, as an artist, for you to do a solo album is, you can approach the entire music project in a different way. You've got the freedom that once you step outside the band it just gives you a whole different approach to the music itself. It's got to be a little bit more fun and liberating.
Mark: Absolutely. Being in a band format, sometimes I'm afraid to tell them stuff because I'm afraid they're going to shoot it down or something. Whereas doing a solo project, there's very little compromise <laughs>.

Ron: Right. It's your baby.
Mark: It's my baby, man. These guys came up with some great ideas and I welcomed them. There's definitely a lot of compromise. 100% of your ideas don't get in there.

Ron: Right.
Mark: And that's really the whole reason for doing one, I think. Just to be able to express yourself 100% or 110%.

Don: Have you wanted to do a solo album for a long time and just finally got a chance to?
Mark: Yeah, I just finally got a chance. Actually, it wasn't that I've never had an opportunity to do it, but I was over a friend's house and he had a recording studio in his garage, you know, a pretty good little Pro Tools setup.

Ron: Okay.
Mark: He told me that if I ever had a little guitar riff or a little song that I wanted to lay down, feel free to come over and stuff. This guy went to my church and stuff. A great guy. He was a bass player. He plays in like the heaviest, believe it or not, full on death metal.

Ron: <laughs>
Mark: But the guy is as religious as they come.

Ron: Oh, yeah?
Mark: Yeah. But anyway, I go, "Believe it or not Shane, I have a riff right now that I would love to lay down because I don't want to lose it. I just want to put it away. And he goes, "Come on over right now." He had a guitar out there, a bass, everything, you know. I was just going to put the guitar riff. So we lay down this quick track and I did "Buckle Down".

Ron: Oh, you're kidding?
Mark: All the way through from front to finish. I already had the whole thing together. All of a sudden, he had these drums and we laid down a beat and he had a bass so I asked if I could play the bass riff and so I played the bass riff and before I know it, I'm in the singing booth and everything, doing the full thing. I go, "That doesn't sound bad does it? My voice isn't, like, horrible." He's going, “No, dude. You sound great!" So that just sparked me to realize, hey, wait a minute. I could put a whole collection of songs together and really do a record with me singing."

Ron: So "Buckle Down" was the first song?
Mark: Yeah, that was the first idea that I ever laid down.

Ron: That's got a really cool funky beat to it as well. It's got a good funky vibe.
Don: How long ago was that?
Mark: That was actually about, probably, at the beginning of last year. Right around January or something.

Ron: So that was pretty quick.
Mark: One night my wife and I went over there for dinner, there was no big plan to jam or anything, he's the one that came with it. It was just one of those freak things. Great White had a little time off so I went and just jammed with these guys for almost four weeks, putting all of these ideas down. And then I was in writing mode. When I was at home I was constantly writing on my acoustic and stuff. Laying things down. Grabbing riffs off of jam tapes and trying to come up with ideas. And then I was pretty much just scatting and I didn't really have any lyrics so I was just kind of scatting, you know how you're just kind of feeling the words and stuff, and then I came up and put it all together with some stories and things.

Ron: I've got to add, one of my favorite songs, and it is die-hard blues, is the last one "Kill That Red Rooster".
Mark: Oh, yeah. That's funny.

Ron: You sound like a 90 year old black guy.
Mark: The way I heard that, a friend of my wife about three years ago, she hooked up with this guy, he came over and was doing some work at our house or something and he goes, "Hey, I have a CD too. I have a band. Let me go out to my truck and you can give it to your husband and see what he thinks and stuff." Well, it was just like, these guys were really, really, good. They had an upright bass and harmonica and a wailing recording. It was really good. They did that song “Red Rooster” and I always wanted to do it so I just kind of took the opportunity to do it. I just wanted to do anything that I felt like doing. <laughs>.

Ron: Sure. It came out great.
Mark: Yeah, and the drummer and bass player were just phenomenal. These guys play on every project known to man, they're always recording and they're always playing somewhere, you know. They laid it down really good.

Ron: It's got a nice piano track in it too.
Mark: Yeah, that's the piano player I was telling you about. Her name is Jane Getz.

Ron: Yeah?
Mark: Yeah, what happened was, this guy has this huge, giant garage up in West Hollywood.

Ron: Okay.
Mark: And he just converted the whole thing into this big, giant studio. They live in this full mansion and his wife would come down 4 flights of stairs and play the piano. We'd call her on the intercom and say, “Come on down, Jane,” and she'd come down. I'd say, “I want you to play on this song.” She'd listen to it once and then play it. This music is like so simple for her it's stupid, you know?

Ron: You're kidding.
Mark: Oh, yeah. She plays all of this jazz stuff. She jammed with like John Lennon and she's a little older than we are. She actually played live with Hendrix before.

Ron: No way.
Mark: I cannot imagine. Yeah, it was like a few weeks before he died or something. Some little festival or something. I've never even heard him with piano.

Ron: Wow. How cool.
Mark: She's phenomenal. She did sessions with John Lennon and did some recordings and stuff. So anyway, she'd come down and I would just kind of produce her you know, come up with some little lines and stuff. If I wanted a little strings or something I'd come up with a little line of strings, but we didn't really over do, I didn't want it to be too keyboardy. I didn't want a lot of keyboards on the records so I did strip it down a little bit. There would be some spots for a little bit of keyboards, so I think I got some on some songs. I wanted that real Honky Tonkish, it's almost a jazzy but more in a blues…

Don: It's like an old Chicago blues.
Mark: Yeah, exactly. I'm just kind of wailing in the background.

Don: It's different than the rest of the tracks on there but it's a blues album and it certainly makes it fit. It's a cool way to end it, I thought.
Mark: Yeah, I always thought that the lyrics were really funny. “Don't ever mess with my old lady or I'm going to cut your head.” It's just awesome, take him out to the tree stump…” The lyrics are brilliant. That's why I did it, just a funny little song.

Don: It's fun.
Ron: But your voice was awesome in that. I don't know if you heard me before, but you sound like you're like an old 90 year old black guy.
Mark: <laughs> Right on , dude. Well I love those old singers. I'm sure it's a big influence, and you say I've got a little David Lee Roth or whatever, I'm sure he's influenced by them too because he used to do all those old songs. I never saw him but I heard that he used to do all those old standards. He used to go out to the Ice House in Pasadena with his acoustic and do all those old standards. Have you ever heard them do that old song that Eddie's dad plays on?

Don: “Big Bad Bill”?
Mark: Yeah, “Big Bad Bill” and the way he sings and stuff. <Mark sings: Just a gigolo>

Don: He's definitely got that kind of voice and he's good in that style. Van Halen is always known as a big arena hard rock band, but his voice fits that style of music very well. He was performing out in Las Vegas for a while.
Mark: Yeah, he was doing a Vegas things and…

Don: I think a lot of people didn't get it.
Mark: No, they way didn't get it. In fact, a good friend of mine, he actually married the daughter of the Imperial Palace, well they all went and saw David Lee Roth and he was playing out by a big pool or something.

Ron: <laughs>
Mark: He said that nobody was even paying attention to him, it was just like background music, like the David Letterman band. He's doing a big show and nobody is even watching. He felt really bad because, you know, those guys were our heroes when we were growing up. This was the friend that took me to see him when I was a young teenager for the very first time I had seen him.

Don: I think he had some good blues guys with him when he was doing that stuff. I think he had Edgar Winter playing with him.
Mark: Well I have tapes of Van Halen playing, like, “Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo”, they did “Tobacco Road”. They used to have like over 200 cover songs.

Ron: Well Roth did “Tobacco Road” on his first solo album with Steve Vai doing the guitar stuff, and it was great.
Mark: Oh, really?

Ron: Yeah, it was one of the best tracks.
Mark: Well, they used to do that with Van Halen, years ago. They used to play that and there was a big jam in it and everything.

Ron: It's a great song.
Mark: Most of the covers they did, Eddie would do some of the signature licks, but most of it would be his own trip. Even in Trower, they would play Robin Trower, and in the solos he would play a couple of signature Trower licks but it was mostly his trip. It was good when they started doing their originals, because a lot of times I liked the way the songs were, and even though he was just brilliant, I was like, “I like the Trower version”. But when they started playing more originals then I was like, “Okay, now his leads really fit.”

Ron: Right. Now I get it.
Mark: Now I get it.

Don: He was just warming up.
Mark: Yeah, absolutely. It was his own style. No one else played that way. It would just make you go home and work harder on your guitar and then you go and see him again and he improves from there. We all keep getting better. Refreshingly.

Don: They just came around here finally, after all of the trouble they had, they put a small tour together a few months ago and I know that he had been a little bit ill and they had some problems and so forth, but I was still impressed with his guitar playing.
Mark: Well I went and saw him in Dallas, just at sound check because I'm friends with Michael Anthony.

Don: Oh, okay.
Mark: Years ago we played at a wedding for a friend of ours, he actually worked for Tesla, he used to work for Michael in the off-season and stuff, but anyways.

Ron: How cool would that be?
Mark: Yeah, I stayed friends with him, he's really down to earth, a cool guy, and I know that Eddie was drinking a little bit. At the sound check they had 200 people from the radio station come down and he walked down and said, “My name is Bill W.” <laughs>

Ron: Oh, no. Bill Wyman, how are you doing?
Mark: But he played good. It was great, for the radio station crowd they were playing “Running With the Devil” and “Somebody Get Me a Doctor” and Michael Anthony sang. Sammy didn't come down to the sound check. But it sounded great. Michael, he's got pipes, man.

Ron: He does.
Mark: He can even sound like Roth a little bit.

Don: The first time that I ever saw Michael sing, and it's funny because on this last tour, he sang “Somebody Get Me a Doctor”, but the first time I saw him sing lead was back when they were touring with Gary Cherone singing and, when that album came out I wasn't a terribly big fan of that album itself, it just didn't work, in my opinion…
Mark: Yeah, it didn't work.

Don: But I saw the tour that summer with Gary Cherone and I thought that it was one of the best Van Halen tours because they were having so much fun and they were playing the complete catalog and Gary wasn't afraid to do his own stuff, Sammy's stuff, or Dave's stuff.
Mark: Oh, good.

Don: So they had a great set list. And that's the one where Michael comes out and sings lead.
Mark: Well he was a lead singer, years ago before Van Halen. I had never seen him, but he was in some band called Snake or something. They all met at Pasadena College.

Ron: Really?
Mark: He was in a little rival band so he decided to play bass when they got Roth because they had a singer. But he was a lead singer. He could sing Zeppelin or anything.

Ron: Wow.
Mark: He's got a high voice. He could sing anything.

Don: Maybe that's Van Halen's answer to all of their troubles with lead singers. They just need to make it a three man band and carry on.
Mark: <laughs>

Ron: Hey, it worked for Genesis, right?
Mark: I think they like that front man thing, you know.

Ron: I know.
Mark: Basically, Michael doesn't walk around and say, “How are you people feeling tonight?” you know? He doesn't want to do that.

Don: Dave and Sammy aren't only good singers; they're good show people.
Mark: If you notice, over the years with Van Halen, their background vocals are really strong?

Ron: Yes.
Mark: He's a big part of that.

Ron: And he seems like he's just a great guy. Is he?
Mark: He's the most down to earth dude I've ever met in my life in rock, period.

Ron: Wow. That's the way he comes across.
Mark: And he's got this huge house with 12 garages with 2 vehicles in them, and there's no ego vehicles, I mean, he uses these cars.

Ron: Really?
Mark: He has his brother fully hired just to clean the cars.

Don: Yeah I saw him on TV on one of those shows about cars.
Mark: He is kind of a collector, but he doesn't have tons of Lamborghini's or ego-trip cars.

Don: No, they were more like classic cars.
Mark: Show cars.

Don: Yeah, that had been fixed up. Something like from the 60's or something. Not all of the Lamborghinis and Porches, although he may have some of those.
Mark: He didn't have the “dig me I'm a rich rock star” cars. He actually goes to car shows and stuff.

Ron: Do you still talk to him a lot?
Mark: I saw him at the Dallas thing. Not a lot. He says, “Call me, man” and I'm like, “Yeah, I'll call you,” but then we never do, of course. Every time we see each other it's like high-five city. The guy is just a full bro. He dances at the house with my wife all drunk and shit. He's just cool. He's a down-homer.

Ron: He just seems to be one of those rock guys that you'd like to meet.
Mark: No doubt. He'll go to the picnic. He's a family man. He's a cool dude.

Don: It' s funny with the media, because they're such a huge band, and of course they've had so much drama and everybody wants to talk to Eddie, talk to Alex, talk to Sammy, talk to Dave… all of these people need to talk to Michael. He's the one that's been there the whole time. He keeps quiet but he's seen it all. He's down to earth so someone needs to sit down and talk to him.
Mark: Every time I go to see Eddie there's always something wrong. I think I was born not to meet the guy. I've seen him all these years and I can never meet him.

Ron: Really?
Mark: Michael invited me down and I went and saw them when Hagar first hooked up with them when they did the “Poundcake” video.

Ron: Yep.
Mark: He invites me down. It's in LA at the Olympic Auditorium, and I'm down there and he's like, “Well, Mark, today's not a good day. He's been drinking, he's kind of being an asshole.” <laughs> I said, “It's okay. It's cool, man.” Hagar's all, “Hey, you can come in my trailer, man. There ain't no rock star egos here, man. Anything you guys want…” He's all cool.

Ron: Is he a cool guy?
Mark: Oh, yeah. He's like the old teenager. He's like full energy boy. He's the life of the party, always jumping around. Big energy guy. Really nice.

Ron: Excellent. Well, listen. We've talked about your CD, but I'm curious, are you touring on it at all?
Mark: What I'm doing is, right now obviously networking, trying to get a little airplay, trying to get it to some ears. I've been talking to a few companies about distribution. I want to get it out there. Try to get some airplay. I've got it on a few stations, XM radio and stuff like that. Getting a little attention. There's a couple of labels that I'm talking to that are interested in doing something and then I'm going to play this year in between when Great White plays, all I can, and then when, we'll probably play up until September or so, and then I was going to go out for a couple of months and maybe even 3 or 4 months if I can, and do a proper tour. I've been kind of doing it with a publicist and networking but I've got more people helping me.

Ron: Okay.
Mark: A couple of record company guys are helping me and I'm talking to a couple of other labels. Just trying to do something that makes sense. I want it to be in stores and all of this stuff. Right now it's just on my web site, My whole thing is, oh I don't want to go triple platinum or whatever, that's never been my concern. Oh yeah, that would be great, but I want a lot of people to hear it. That's the main thing. I want a lot of people to say “Oh, I hate it” or “It's good” or something. But to just not hear it… I hate that, when you do a record, even the one we did for Sony, because I don't really think, John Kalodner is brilliant, he's a rock and roll guru, he is a really brilliant guy, but I think that the mistake he made, this is just my opinion, was he signed too many bands at once when he tried to revive the '80s. He signed Cinderella, Ratt, Great White, you know. I wouldn't have cared if he had just singed Ratt and put a bunch of money into them and try to make that happen. But to sign all of the bands without the proper amount of money. I mean, we were doing in-stores with Ratt.

Ron: Really?
Mark: They were promoting both records at the same time. It was a little goofy. Stephen Pearcy said, “Let's sign each others names.”

Ron: <laughs>
Mark: Don't these guys have any money? God Bless him for trying to do that, but it was hard because the budget he had wasn't the kind of budget you need to promote eight bands at once.

Ron: And it's a shame because when I first read that John Kalodner was coming back and signed all of these bands, which were my favorite types of music, I thought, “Finally, we're going to get something,” and it just didn't go anywhere.
Mark: It was a great idea because he feels the same way I do. It ended before it really needed to. When Great White got signed and then Ratt or something and Motley Crue got signed like a year before we did there weren't like 55 bands. There were a few and then towards the end of the 80s it was like everyone was writing the same song or something. Is it Slaughter, Dokken, Warrant. It almost sounded like everyone had the same production and the same predictable big hook. So I think when the Nirvana thing happened it was almost refreshing to hear that trashy guitar, at least something different.

Don: You're exactly right. I think that's exactly what happened. And you had some good bands like you guys and Motley Crue when heavy metal was underground a little bit, but as soon as it hit the mainstream on MTV and radio, all these record executives said, “Hey, we can make money with this,” and they started signing anybody who even looked the part or sounded the part.”
Mark: That's why I don't really blame the bands. If something works, every record company wants theirs. It's just like new music comes in. Hey guys, that's not enough Pendleton's. The singer has got to wear a Pendleton.

Don: That's what happened to Nirvana. Grunge rock was still hard and bluesy. I thought it all could've worked together but it was a new generation.
Mark: Oh, I saw it coming. I go, “Okay, here's the next Nirvana coming out.” Here's a new style of music. Grunge rock. But even some good bands came out of that. Alice and Chains, I thought that was a viable band. So some good music came out of that. They always say it comes full circle so eventually the rock will come back.

Ron: And I think it's starting to. Look how well the Motley Crue tour is selling.
Mark: And, if you realize it, it's the record companies that force you and burn it out. That's why we sound fresh again. Everybody's ears have been burned out to the sludge mania, kill your parents, sludge, sludge, sludge, and now you hear “Rock Me” or something and it sounds cool.

Don: Every generation has their own thing but then when Grunge was big everything had to look grunge and they didn't want anything to do with metal, and then that goes away and now nobody wants that anymore.
Mark: Well I love it that bands like Motley Crue are back together and bands like Velvet Revolver and stuff. Anything like that, I love it that that's doing well.

Don: And of course Aerosmith has weathered the storm and continue to do well.
Ron: And you've got Judas Priest with Halford back. And Iron Maiden…
Mark: Right! That was one of the original big tours that we did, in fact, that was the 2nd tour we did was with Judas Priest. Way back in '84. We did a tour with Whitesnake in '83 in Europe for 4 months in England, Ireland, and Scotland and stuff. And then our first show in the States was in Niagara Falls with Judas Priest on their Defenders of the Faith tour.

Ron: Wow.
Don: That would've been a good one.
Mark: Oh, it was awesome, man. I was scared to death. <Laughs> I go, “We're going to play in front of that?” They had monsters and a big arm that came down and they were filming a video and we're like, “No way, man”. Where do I put my amp and stuff. <laughs>

Ron: When you called in to our local radio station, you mentioned that Great White was going to be playing some festivals this summer?
Mark: Yeah. I just saw one with ZZ Top and Cheap Trick. There's a ton of them. We're playing a few shows with Dokken and they're putting a little package together. There will be a lot of outdoor stuff, festivals and stuff.

Don: Those kind of tours seem to go over pretty well because some of those bands aren't getting a lot of radio play these days but now that the fans are in their 20's, 30's and 40's, they've got family's now and don't have as much money as they used to but they say, “Now I can see Ratt and Dokken and Great White and all of these bands together…”
Mark: Oh, right. It's funny, when we used to play there would only be 3 bands and we'd fill arenas and then these bands came out in the early '90s and there would be like 7 bands on the package. But they all sold like 2 or 3 million records. It was like, doesn't anyone go to these shows? They're selling millions of records but… it was weird. We would play a tour and be the center band and there would be an opening act and like Whitesnake or the Scorpions would headline and there would be 20,000 people. It's really weird that they had to put such strong packages together to fill arenas. Who could figure?

Ron: Who knows?
Don: It gets weird about what people will go to because the other thing I think is weird is you get a new band like Creed and then they're headlining tours and selling millions of records on their debut album.
Mark: Right. <laughs>

Don: I remember back in the day you'd have like Dokken, I'm a big Dokken fan, but you'd have them touring on Under Lock and Key, which is like their 3rd album, and I was still waiting for them to headline. They were still opening for people.
Mark: Yeah, that was hard. We headlined for like 5000 seat venues but we did a co-headlining tour where we flip-flopped with Tesla for like 13 months where we were both in our heyday of our success. One night we would close the show and the next night they would and we had an opening act. That was working out pretty good.

Ron: That was the same as the Aerosmith/KISS show I saw where they flip-flopped every night, which was kind of interesting.
Mark: That was a fun way to do it. We called it the Double Header tour. We had 2 girls holding a baseball bat. <laughs>

Don: I seem to remember that.
Mark: Oh, man.

Ron: Tesla's a good band too. I saw them about a year ago and they're coming back in about a week to do their acoustic thing. I'm not sure if I'm going to make it our not.
Mark: We just did an album for VH-1.

Ron: Yeah, the Metal Mania Stripped.
Mark: Yeah. They're thinking about putting a few shows together for that.

Ron: Oh, really?
Mark: All of the bands would go out and play 4 or 5 songs each.

Ron: That would be cool.
Mark: We just did it in Los Angeles. Not all of them, like the Scorpions weren't there, but most of the bands were there that played on the record. We played on KLOS, a local radio station here in LA and then we played over at the Key Club in LA. It was pretty fun to see all of those guys you haven't seen in so long.

Ron: Who are we talking about? Who was there?
Mark: Night Ranger, Kip Winger, the singer for Warrant.

Ron: Jani Lane
Mark: Yeah, Jani Lane. Slaughter. A band called Alias.

Ron: Oh, yeah. Alias.
Mark: Yeah, Alias played. Who else?

Ron: Yeah, they've got a song in a commercial now.
Mark: Oh, really?

Don: Yeah. “I Need You Now”
Ron: I think it's a Subway commercial.
Mark: That's so funny because we were offered so many commercials like McDonald's and this and that and our manager would always say, “Oh this isn't that kind of band”. We're not commercial. We're not going to sell cars with our songs. I was kidding around with Jack, I said that if they offered us a McDonald's commercial now, well, McDonald's is the greatest hamburgers in the world! <laughs>

Ron: That's funny. I don't know if you remember this, but back in the '80s Neil Young did a song, “This Note's For You”. It was totally making fun of people that were selling out and doing the commercial thing, but now, you've got bands doing commercials when they've had one album. It's like the first thing you do.
Mark: That's mind-blowing. You know, there's not too much wrong with that, I don't think.

Ron: Nah
Mark: I don't think it's a career stopper or anything. More people are going to hear your music but fans might say, “They're selling Subway, what are they doing?”

As long as it works lyrically, I think.
Mark: More people are going to hear your music.

Don: I think it's better for a band to actually write a song for a project, as opposed to taking a song that…
Mark: Right. Taking a song that's already on the record. Yeah. I'd rather see that too. I know that Aerosmith sure has a lot of music in car commercials and stuff. There's one chick, I don't know who it is, but we have one cable station out here, I don't know if it's nationwide or not, it's called Time Warner.

Ron: Sure. We've got that.
Mark: Have you seen that girl that sings “Time….” What is it?

Ron: Yeah, yeah, yeah. The Rolling Stones song.
Mark: Yeah, the Rolling Stone.

Ron: Is it Mandy Moore?
Mark: No, it looks like her. It's some new artist. I forget her name.

Ron: Yeah, she sings “Time Is On My Side”.
Mark: Yeah, and it's got her album posted on the screen. But it's the only time I've ever seen this chick.

Ron: I know exactly what you're talking about. We have the same commercial here.
Mark: Talk about promotion. A lot of people are seeing that. I would think that she's singing it because “time” and Time Warner. I don't think that she does that song on her record; I don't think but I don't know. <Mark starts signing the song> It's cool.

Ron: I thought it was Mandy Moore, but I think you're right, it's another young girl.
Mark: Yeah. It's a new artist.

Don: If it's a new artist and nobody knows who you are, then you can't fault them. Any exposure you can get, go for it.
Mark: Yeah, the selling out bit, I remember when the bass player for Metallica, he's no longer with the band, but he said, “Yeah, we sell out. Every place we play.” <laughs>

Ron: Yeah. Gene Simmons likes to say that too. It's a classic line. But Miller Lite had a commercial a while back, it was a Buffalo Springfield tune, a Vietnam protest song. The whole song was about protesting the war, and they turned it into a beer, let's get drunk commercial.
Mark: <laughs> A friend of mine, it's the same guy I was telling you about who lived in Vegas, now he lives in Santa Rosa, but they were out to dinner and his wife that he's with now, knows a lot of stars, you know, and they were out with this guy that wrote “Spirit in the Sky”. <starts signing>. You know that song?

Ron: Absolutely.
Don: Yeah.
Mark: He said that everyone thought that that was such a spiritual song, but it never was and they've done that in commercials that were kind of Godly, but he didn't write it about that.

Ron: Oh, really?
Mark: No. It wasn't a spiritual song. It was just a trippy song. The hippies, you know.

Ron: I didn't know that. Somebody covered that song in the '80s and had somewhat of a hit with it.
Mark: Oh, really. Oh, it was a big song.

Ron: Like you said, it was a big hit in the 60s, and I can't for the life of me remember who it was.
Mark: Yeah, I could call the guy right now and he'd tell me. I just don't remember the guy's name. We're all old now, you know. <laughs>

Ron: Yeah. <laughs> And we've got kids. That sucks all of the brain out of you. I remember that somebody re-did it and had a somewhat successful run with it in the mid to late '80s.
Mark: This same guy, he just did.

Don: Norman Greenbaum?
Ron: Yeah, Greenbaum.
Mark: Oh, that's it! Greenbaum. You've got it. That's his last name. Anyway, this same guy just played with a guitar player named Johnny Hiland. Have you guys heard of him?

Ron: No.
Mark: This guy's like the best guitar player known to man right now. He's really a Nashville kind of dude but he's really breaking out. Every guitar magazine you get now has him in it. Fender made him his own guitar. Steve Vai saw this guy and goes, “You're the only guy that I've ever said is like a million times better than me.”

Ron: Wow.
Mark: He's like frighteningly good. It's kind of that country picking thing, but he can rip leads, he'll rip your face off with soloing. His name is Johnny Hiland. Steve Vai signed him to his own label. This guy is frightening if you ever hear the guy play. He was just playing me some stuff on the phone, because my friend, he plays bass, he went and played on one song for a jingle or something because he knows this guy named Tom Finn who got him the gig. Now he's really good friends with Johnny Hiland. But Tom Finn used to be in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. He writes for a lot of Nashville people. He writes some trippy, folksy stuff too. He's kind of a trippy writer and stuff. Anyway, listen up for that guy.

Ron: Okay.
Mark: He was playing me some stuff on the phone today and it was just scary.

Ron: I've got to hear this stuff with an endorsement like that from you.
Mark: Oh, you've got to hear it. He's in every guitar magazine right now. He's just getting noticed. He's only like 29. He's kind of a heavyset dude; he weighs like 300 and supposedly he's all religious and stuff but his leads will scare you. You've heard some of these guys, almost banjo style?

Ron: Yeah.
Mark: But he plays rock stuff that he kind of throws in. It's wild. It's unbelievable that somebody would take that much time to practice! <laughs>

Ron: So Steve Vai signed him?
Mark: Yeah. I guess he's got a label or something.

Ron: I'll definitely have to keep an eye out for him.
Mark: Yeah, his name is Johnny Hiland. He's probably got a web site.

Ron: Sure.
Mark: It's amazing because this guy, my friend, gave him my solo and they just played a show up in San Francisco and he had it in his pocket the whole gig.

Ron: Cool.
Mark: <laughs> And he called Jim and he said he really liked it. It's so insane because this guy was a fan of Great White. He liked 80's rock and all this stuff, but the way he plays you'd never think that he was into anything like that.

Ron: Gotcha.
Mark: But he's a young guy. I think he's 29 or 30 or something. He's totally frightening.

Ron: Well I look forward to hearing his stuff. Well, what to you guys have going on with Great White? You're starting a tour hear in a couple of days up in Canada, right?
Mark: Yeah, we're going to Canada for like 3 weeks and then we're going to do 1 show in Pittsburg and then come home for a little bit and then we're going to go to Europe for about 3 or 4 weeks. Then we've got a lot of festivals coming up. Yeah, I'm really looking forward to playing with ZZ Top, because I've never done a gig with those guys.

Ron: Yeah, that would be fun.
Mark: I was at a casino about 2 months ago, just hanging out. Actually it was with Jack's mom. Jack was out of town and his mom lives up here. She's like 75 years old and she likes to go to the casino so I took her so she could play all of the machines and everything. So I was just hanging out, playing a little poker and stuff and I was just kind of hanging out and having a smoke and this guy walks by with this big ol' beard and all of this ZZ Top garb and wearing a Levi vest, and I go, “That guy looks like he wants to be Billy Gibbons.” I didn't think it was him because he kind of looked old and stuff and it didn't look like him. I know what Billy Gibbons looks like and stuff and it didn't look like him. Anyway, I was talking to this chick at this restaurant called Low's or something and she overheard me talking about it and she said, “Oh, yeah. He's in town. He's an outpatient. My mom works over at Betty Ford and he's an outpatient there.”

Ron: Really?
Mark: He's just there for a little temporary help with a miniature alcohol problem or something. He goes in and out.

Ron: For a little refresher course or something?
Mark: He doesn't stay confined or anything. He was just talking with some counselors or whatever. So he was hanging out in town and I could've been hanging out with the dude.

Ron: On, no.
Mark: It pissed me off because he's my hero.

Ron: Well you'll get to hang out with him soon, I guess.
Mark: Yeah, we'll do a couple of shows with them.

Don: That'll be a lot of fun.
Mark: People don't realize that ZZ Top have had about 4 or 5 albums in the past few years that just haven't been heard because of the way radio is and no MTV. They have an album they put out about 5 years ago called Rhythmeen that just smokes.

Ron: Yeah?
Mark: And then they have another album called Deguello that's killer.

Don: I remember that one.
Mark: But that album Rhythmeen is really, really good. There's probably no big “Tush” kind of songs on it or anything but there's some good songs and incredible lyrics. It's amazing how good Frank Beard is on drums.

Ron: Yeah.
Mark: I never knew how good he was. That guy, over the years, always kept it kind of solid and straight, and I didn't know that he could just riff out so outrageously. There was one song where he just goes crazy. I said, “My God, is he that good?” I always thought that he was kind of drum machine guy.

Ron: Charlie Watts kind of.
Mark: One dude who really plays well played on my record. This guy won like Buddy Rich drum-off contests.

Ron: Yeah, I read that.
Mark: He's like insane on drums, right? And he said that Frank Beard is hot. He goes, “Nobody's ever played 'La Grange' right. Everybody just plays it kind of how they think it is but here's how the beat really was,” and he's playing me the beat and there's a little tricky stuff going on with the kick drum and stuff that people don't catch. Stock drummers that just play straight, they don't catch the way that he was playing that. It's got a really cool beat.

Don: It's funny, that's the kind of thing that other musicians will pick up on because you'll hear musicians rave about other musicians that maybe people don't always think of at first because they're not that flashy. Like with drumming, a lot of people rave about Steve Smith, the drummer for Journey, but when you think about Journey the first thing that pops into your mind isn't, “Wow what a great drummer they've got.”
Mark: He was a big school of outrageous… like, he played jazz and all that stuff. So people that knew that said, “Yeah, he's upper echelon.” But when they get a big gig like Journey they've got to strip it down. You can't be noodling out.

Don: You've got to be in a band like Yes before you can get away with that kind of stuff.
Mark: Exactly! <laughs>

Ron: Well, we don't want to keep you all night because this has probably been the funnest interview we've ever done.
Mark: Well, thank you.

Ron: And we could talk all night.
Mark: No doubt. No doubt.

Ron: You'd better stop us.
Mark: When I talk about music I could talk forever.

Don: Well I'll warn you, we may end up paraphrasing a bit of this interview or it'll take forever to transcribe.
Ron: Don, I've done longer ones. I'm transcribing one for Andrew right now of him with Joe Lynn Turner…
Mark: Yeah, just paraphrase; otherwise, it'll be kind of like us just talking, which basically it's been like that, you know?

Ron: In a way, that's one thing that's kind of nice about the interviews on It is more conversational because so many people do interviews and it's 10 stock questions.
Mark: It's the same questions.

Ron: Exactly. And it's like, we already know that. We can go to the internet and we can read that.
Mark: I totally agree. I like this format of just talking because I don't really think it's the artists fault to kind of fall into being scripted when asked the same questions all the time. You're not going to have different answers every time.

Ron: Right.
Mark: You're going to answer what's on your head, but it's going to come out similar each time if you keep getting the same questions. How did the band get together? What am I going to say, something different this time?

Ron: Right.
Mark: <laughs> What should I tell them this time? Maybe I should tell them that my birthday is this week.

Ron: Yeah, I have 5 kids tonight and last night I had 3.
Mark: Right <laughs> Exactly. When are their birthdays? Give a different answer every time.

Ron: The other thing that I think is different is a lot of the guys that are asking these questions, they're getting paid to do this and it's their job. They may not even necessarily know you or the band.
Mark: Right.

Ron: Don and I, on the other hand, are fans first and foremost. We're not getting paid anything to do this. We're doing it just out of the love of the music.
Mark: That's awesome. I know that, being a fan myself, I know some kind of behind the scenes type stuff with musicians and stuff and we kind of touched on that. We've even talked about doing a book called Backstage or something just to talk about all of the musicians we've met and all of the behind the scenes stuff.

Ron: To me that's fascinating stuff.
Mark: I love that stuff. I always wanted to know, what does Billy Gibbon do on the weekend and stuff. What about Jimmy Page? Do they have a life off of the stage. That was my thinking when I was like 15. Are they like real human beings?

Ron: Do they eat…
Mark: Yeah, do they drive through McDonalds or do they just pop out of the stage, jam, and then disappear? When I was a teenager I always thought that bands were larger than life. I couldn't picture them doing regular stuff.

Ron: It's kind of cool having that mystery because when Ozzy came out with this TV show, there's stuff about Ozzy that I don't care to ever know. It should've stayed hidden.
Mark: Yeah, a little too much exposure.

Ron: Right.
Mark: They must've written some big checks to get him to do that.

Ron: Absolutely.
Mark: I wouldn't want to have a TV show at my house, man. Where that guy was then and where he is now, before Sharon Osbourne met him, I'm really happy for the guy for all of his success.

Don: He met a good woman, that's for sure.
Mark: Really good.

Ron: I'll tell you, if we could put Sharon Osbourne with Gene Simmons, now they might be able to solve the Middle East peace crisis.
Mark: <Laughs> That's good.

Ron: Those two…
Don: They're always thinking aren't they?
Ron: Well listen, is there anything else that you want to talk about? I know that you guys are still donating a lot of your proceeds to the Station Family Fund.
Mark: Yeah, we're still doing that.

Don: Very cool.
Mark: We're too glad to help out any way we can.
I've gone through so much with the therapy and everything. I'm starting to move on. The fellowship with the families and everything and some of the victims. We're all healing together but to relive that night, I don't want those thoughts or those visions. But I want to keep the awareness of the Station Family Fund. I don't want that to go away.

Ron: Exactly.
Mark: I know that these people still need help and we're going to keep that going forever.

Don: That's great. That's a good attitude.
Ron: That's exactly why we didn't want to focus our interview on that. It's about the music. We wanted to talk about the music but we wanted to make sure that people are aware that you guys are donating proceeds from albums and tours to raise the awareness.
Mark: The music is part of the healing process.

Ron: Absolutely.
Mark: Music. That's what we do. It's the only way we knew how to help. After that, I didn't even touch the guitar for so many months until I found out I could help. Once I found out I could help, then it was time to get busy and create some awareness.

Don: Sure. That's how you can help because that's what you are—a musician.
Mark: When Jack and I first got together, one of our main things was, we were pretty young guys, but we go, let's do this for our lives, nothing to fall back on, because everybody always said you've got to have something to fall back on but here we have nothing to fall back on. The only thing we have to fall back on is our music.

Ron: Yeah.
Mark: So we gave ourselves no outs whatsoever. <laughs>

Ron: That's cool.
Don: I've never heard anybody say that.
Mark: Yeah. You better get there dude. I swear, we fought. Even though it seems like it happened overnight, we played around for a few years and we played like 6 nights a week. We played all the time. We'd play anywhere. We literally played anywhere that had a stage, I don't care if it had 10 people in front of us.

Don: As a fan, and I first heard of you guys right when you first started making some more national noise when you came out with Once Bitten and you got a little bit of radio play, and actually at the same time there was a local band—they're actually still together—who played at Annies where you guys played called Prizoner, and they used to play “Street Killer” and “Stick It”.
Mark: Oh, cool.

Don: At first I didn't know who sang them and then I talked with them and they said Great White. That was right about the same time that you guys came out with this album and then you also had the Recovery Live album so I ran out and got that.
Mark: That was our first album, with “Stick It” and all of that.

Don: That's how I became a Great White fan, by listening to some other band cover your songs.
Mark: Back then when we had those songs, it was the early part of our writing, you know, and we were young. We didn't have keyboards or another guitar or anything. It was one guitar, a bass and drums and a lead singer. Everything we wrote was pretty much in the heavier vain.

Ron: That's the other thing that I remember about the concert when I saw you guys, was after the show when you were meeting everybody, as I was going through the line and getting autographs or whatever, I said to, I think it was you and Jack, I said, “Yeah I kept waiting to hear 'Stick It' or 'Street Killer'”, because it wasn't on your set that night, I remember Jack looking over at you and saying, “That's the 2nd person to say that tonight. We're going to have to add that to our set.” I was blown away.
Mark: We do play “On Your Knees” and we kind of do it a little different, we try to change the set around a little bit. You've got to do that to make it exciting. For us. You know, we keep playing the same set. I mean, there's a few songs that we have to play obviously but it's cool to play ones that… I always hated that, we record albums and then we never play some of the songs live ever. It's like, why do we even put that music on the tape if we're never going to play it. What, you just play it once and then that's it? You have to re-learn the song just to play it.

Ron: I always thought it would be cool if bands did a tour and they called it For the Fans and they didn't have any hits.
Mark: Well, we had an idea for our web site to have a fan write what his greatest hits would be, and we'll make him a CD like that.

Ron: Yeah! You know, Iron Maiden did something like that.
Mark: That's a good idea.

Ron: That's a great idea.
Mark: You tell us your greatest hits, I don't care if it's a live version or any song off of the first album, we'll make you a CD and create our own artwork and stuff.

Ron: That would be cool.
Mark: <Laughs> You know what I mean?

Don: With the digital revolution that certainly seems doable.
Mark: We should have like 500 fans pick their greatest hits album. Because the people that put out the Great White Greatest Hits just did it without us even knowing that it was coming out. We go, “We would never put those songs on there,” or I would've done it different or Jack would've done it different. You usually talk to the artist at least a little bit.

Don: That would make sense.
Mark: That's our greatest hits?

Ron: The greatest hits according to who?
Mark: Right. Well, whatever. OK, man. Thank you guys. I'll check out Melodicrock.
I'll keep you updated on my site. We're getting it built right now. It's been kind of frustrating. We went through a guy that's slower than a snail.
I want to make a really, really good site because we're doing a band Great White site right now and it's turning out really, really good.

Ron: Cool. Because it's right now, right?
Mark: This mistabone site is good for the fans to chat or whatever, but we need to get a proper site. I've been to some sites for like Van Halen and George Lynch and I go, “These guys have some really good web sites.” We need to get a good one going. So we're having one built right now and this guy's an expert. Even the first page is amazing. It's got this shark swimming at the bottom and then it comes out and there's stuff moving around. It looks awesome. It's a really good site. It'll keep people really updated on what's going on. Have somebody just doing that, constantly feeding people information. Don't have things from 3 years ago, you know. Come on! Tell these people what we're doing now, you know.

Ron: Right. Well, we'll keep an eye out for it. We'll just keep checking it.
Mark: This guy is going to work fast. We just had a meeting, we did a photo shoot in Hollywood a couple of days ago and then we had a meeting at the office with the web site guy and put a lot of ideas around and he's got a lot of ideas and we put it all together and he's going to build us a really good site. It's going to be called

Ron: Okay.
Mark: And then I've got mine. I've been having a really hard time with my domain name. That's why it's right now. I want it to be but some other guy has my name and stuff and wants like a million dollars for it, so we're bugging the guy and we're trying to figure it out. I want it to be not, because I just kind of came up with it. Jack's going to have his little site and then I'm going to have my site and then we'll have the Great White site.

Ron: That'll be great.
Mark: Okay, great, fellas. Thanks for calling.

Ron: Well we didn't mean to keep you so long.
Mark: Well, Rock On! And thank you guys.

Ron: Thank you!
Mark: It was great talking to you.

Don: It was a lot of fun.
Mark: See you guys in Ohio. I'm sure we'll be playing there this year.

Ron: Well, good luck with your album and with your tour.
Mark: Thank you, guys.

Ron: Take care, Mark
Talk to you later. Bye.
Mark: OK. Bye, bye.







Starbreaker (2005)



Starbreaker: The Start Of Something Special.

Vocalist Tony Harnell and guitarist Magnus Karlsson talk about their hard rocking Starbreaker album and how it come together across two continents!





An Interview with Tony Harnell


Ok Mr. Harnell…Time to start the interrogation! You've always been a busy man, but Starbreaker does further lift your profile in the rock world - how has the reaction been to the album thus far?
Amazing. Especially when you consider that this started as one of those project albums!!

Let's talk about the origins of the project first - you were slated to do a solo album. Who approached you to do that and how did it progress from there?
This never had anything to do with the solo album though, this was a totally different animal from the start. Something else to distract me further from doing my solo album :) Anyway, Serafino at Frontiers was calling me a lot and we were talking about doing something together. We decided to start the relationship with a project album to see how things went. At first we were not seeing eye to eye on the direction, and this almost didn't happen at all, but then he came back to me and asked me what I wanted to do, I said a heavy melodic metal album, we then proceeded.

At what point were you introduced to Magnus Karlsson? Did you have any prior awareness of his musical talents?
Not really. First I spoke to Fabrizio about the direction of the album and then Magnus came on board and started sending me material. I was very pleased with what I was getting and though it wasn't exactly what I had in mind it was close enough and I knew I could run with it.

What kind of conversation did you two have before setting out writing the songs? What was the vision anticipated?
We didn't really. Fabrizio spoke to him and it wasn't till much later that he and I were sharing e-mails.

With Magnus in Europe and Fabrizio in LA and you in NYC, writing and recording this album must have been a real challenge.
First the writing - how did you and Magnus do this?

Yes, thank God for MP3s and the internet. This album would not have been possible years ago. But it went very smoothly and easily. I think we were all very focused and that helped a lot.

Was this the first time you have done such, or have you written like this with TNT before?
Somewhat yes. We have done it this way a few times. It wasn't that big a deal for me. Magnus made it very easy as he provided me with great music to write to.

Now with TNT you flew to Norway to record - this time you recorded your vocals in NYC and the album was pieced together...well, maybe you should explain that! How did it work precisely?
I wrote everything in my apartment, then went to Bruno Ravel's studio where I have recorded vocals for Cyberdreams and My Religion. I feel really comfortable there and Bruno and I are good friends. First the music would come, and then I would write lyrics and melodies and then go to the studio. From there the vocals were shipped to Fabrizio. After that the drums were recorded and then the bass and then everything was sent back to Magnus to re-record the final guitars. It was that easy, like magic. And we were all shocked when the songs started coming together.

And were you happy with the result? Fabrizio did a fine job putting it all together - it really does sound great, although I could imagine what a million dollar budget and you all in one studio could have done!
Exactly. I haven't really seen any bad reviews, but I will ignore any of them if there are any. I am so proud of everyone involved with this. We worked on a shoestring budget, across oceans and pulled this off! You better believe that with a bigger budget and the ability to write in the same room and record together we would be able to make an even better album and that s something to get excited about for all of us.

Starbreaker is a different beast entirely to TNT - did you originally plan to have it be such a heavy and more metal sounding release, or did that just evolve?
No it was my desire and my plan. I would have been happy if it was even heavier, but I think this is a good debut album for the band and for me back into metal where my heart has always been.

Did you enjoy stretching those vocal chords into something heavier - doing something a little different?
Oh yeah! Definitely. I sang how the songs wanted me to though. I always do that.

Having lived with the CD for sometime - favourite tracks?
Break My Bones, Days Of Confusion, Save Yourself, Transparent, Die For You and more really :)

I also enjoyed the film clip - great energy. When did you all get together to do that?
We had just a few hours in L.A. Again on a shoestring budget and just jammed. We never even spent any time together before that so it's weird. We also did a photo shoot that day and we were looking at the Polaroid's thinking, wow, we look like a band!

I must also note what a classy bit of artwork the CD featured. You must be happy with that also?
Yes, finally a cover I can be proud of!

Any plans for touring as Starbreaker? I could easily see you guys doing some metal festivals. Is it all down to economics?
Sort of but we will get out there. We plan on doing things in the fall I believe.

How about a US domestic release of the album? Or might you do it yourself as you have done with TNT and Westworld?
Yes, well, Frontiers owns it for the world so it s up to them, but I have heard it is coming out through Locomotive/Warner in the U.S. Which I think should be pretty good. I mean we're not going to be on MTV, but we should get a lot of radio play which is always helpful.

So where do you envisage Starbreaker going? A lot of these albums are one-off projects, but I see a great future for this name and the band in general.
Yeah it kind of looks that way. We will take it as far as we can, we are calling ourselves a band and that is not a marketing ploy like so many of these project albums are. I knew going into this that I wouldn't settle for a release that would just be mediocre. I just would never do that. I had to put myself into it full on and try my best to make it more than just another one-off. I don t like to be a part of things like that. It's not good for the fans, for me or for the market in general. It had to be something.

We must talk TNT! My Religion was obviously a huge success; do you have any ideas of sales numbers for Europe and/or Japan?
Not really, but I didn't buy a villa in Spain that s for sure :) But it did very well for all concerned I am sure of that.

I thought My Religion (as you well know) was a perfect blend of classic and updated melodic rock, with classic TNT fans catered for as well as new fans.
What do you have in mind for the new album due later this year and how are things progressing?

They are coming along. The songs are just fantastic. It feels very good right now. Ronni and I have a chemistry that is undeniable and these songs are proof of that. I'm excited about where this is going.

Do you have the same recording plan as My Religion? The sound on that really was major label quality.
Yeah, pretty much. Tommy Hansen is our man!

Another one of your much admired projects is WestWorld. What's the status of the band and when might we see something new from you guys? Same line-up?
I don t see anything happening there for awhile if at all. We'll see. I love those albums. To bring Westworld back would take a special deal from a special label :)

How about more Morning Wood? That's still a brilliant CD!
I am working on something like that and if it comes together it will be relatively soon.

I know from talking to you there are a few other things on the go also! What else are you involved in this year Tony?
I have three songs on the new Brazon Abbot CD, and a few other appearances on other recordings. One song here and there. It's the most output from me in a year for sure. But I think all the things I have agreed to are good projects with good songs. I won't do this every year, but this one is special. My priorities are still going to be TNT and now Starbreaker for sure!

Have we missed anything Tony? Anything you would like to add?
I love your site Andrew! You rock. Thanks for all the support you have given me throughout Melodic Rock's reign. The fans have been able to find out more about what I am doing because of you and this site. I love the crazy message board as well. It can get hot in there sometimes though!
I am looking forward to Firefest with my buddy JSS and the Firehouse guys. It's going to be a blast. It's going to be a busy year and I hope that both TNT and Starbreaker get to play as many countries as possible.

Thanks in advance for taking the time out to do the interview. Much appreciated.
Thanks again! Peace and love.





An Interview with Magnus Karlsson






I said this to Tony, but the same applies to you - Starbreaker further lifts your profile in the rock world - are you happy with the feedback to date?
I have not seen so many reviews yet. But the feedback from the people that I have played it for has been great. And I have of course been reading your review. Thank you for those encouraging words Andrew.

How did this project get started for you?
Serafino at Frontiers asked if I wanted to write songs for an album with Tony Harnell. But he warned me and said that every song must be approved by Tony and he is a real demanding guy when it comes to songwriting. Great I thought because so am I. And I am always up for new challenges so of course I said yes to the project.

At what point were you introduced to Tony Harnell? Did you have any prior awareness of his musical talents?
I must admit that I had never listened TNT before (and yes I am ashamed). But when I got this offer from Serafino, I started too listened to everything I came over with TNT and Westworld and now I am a big fan. I can't believe that I have missed so much great music. What a voice! Unbelievable, I'm still in shock!

What kind of conversation did you two have before setting out writing the songs? What was the vision anticipated?
Rule number one: NO POWERMETAL!
Ok Ok I won't.
No…just kidding it wasn't really like that. We had a discussion between me and Tony and Fabrizio and I got feedback on my demos I sent to them and from Serafino as well.
I know that Tony wanted to do something hard but still melodic and that's what I like too so everything went very smooth. I got a lot of inspiration just listen too Tony's vocals on old recordings. So when I start to write on a Starbreaker song I have Tony's voice in my head and try to imagine the result when he sings in the song.

With Tony in NYC and Fabrizio in LA and you in Europe, the writing and recording process had to be different. How did you go about it?
As I mentioned before everyone involved gets demos from me. The demos has no vocals just a guitar that plays the melody. Then Tony gets the same songs without the melody and he starts to do the changes he wants so they will suit him and the lyrics perfect. In the beginning I was terrified that someone was going to do changes in my creations but when I hear the result now I am convinced that every change has been for the better. Fabrizio did some changes in the arrangement. If he thought there was a chorus to much or something he just chopped it off. It's nice to have someone that listens to the songs with “new” ears. After a while when I have been working with a song for a long time I can't tell if it's good or bad any longer. I usually torture my friends or girlfriend with it. But now I just send it to the producer. That's great hehe.

Was this the first time you have done such?
Yes and I'm surprised it worked so well.

And were you happy with the result with the budget available?
I guess a million dollar budget is not a guarantee for a perfect production. Just listen to Metallica's latest album - (now I got me some enemies!).
Yeah Fabrizio did a great job and I think it's cool that he didn't do a traditional metal production and that he had the courage to try something new. I think it's something we need in this kind of music. I have heard the same production so many times.

Starbreaker is a little different to Last Tribe - how do you compare the both?
The biggest difference is the sound and of course the singer. Last Tribe has more progressive elements (longer songs) and more guitar shredding. And I think there more of old school guitar riff in Last Tribe.

Having lived with the CD for sometime - favourite tracks?
It changes all the time but Transparent and Lies and … ohh f%# it's hard to choose. I normally don't listen so carefully to lyrics but in this case I can recommend it. Tony can be really proud over them.

I also enjoyed the film clip - great energy!
That was really fun to do and then I got a chance to meet the whole band. Great guys by the way. It was done in November last year.

Any plans for touring as Starbreaker?
I really hope we will play live soon. I can't wait to perform these songs on a stage and we are discussing where and when but nothing is decided yet.

So where do you envisage Starbreaker going? I see a great future for you.
Thanks. So do I and the other band members. We enjoyed doing this so much so I am convinced you will hear more from us.

Now, how about Last Tribe? You guy shave been getting better and better with each release and building a strong fan base. What's next for the band?
As you know I have been busy in different projects but we have plans for another album. I just don't know when we will find the time for it.

I have to also ask you about the highly anticipated Lande/Allen project. How has that been going and what stage are you up to?
The songs were finished for almost a year ago and everything is recorded except for Russel's vocals. His solo album took a little longer than he planned. But he just told me that he is working with the vocals right now. I can't wait to hear his stuff. I already got Jorn's vocals and it's completely awesome. This album is going to be so cool. But don't expect any progressive and power metal just because its Russel Allen and Jorn Lande behind the mics. It's more of a Hard rock feel to it.

Have you been recording that in the same method as you did Starbreaker?
Not really. We recorded the drums In Roastinghouse studio that's just 5 minutes from my place here in Malmö. Jaime from Last Tribe did the drums. I recorded the rest of the instruments in my own studio and Jorn did his vocals in Norway and Russel doing his in USA.
And we are mixing it in Roasting house as well. And I wrote 100% of the music and lyrics this time so it has been a little less files to send around the world.

When might this album be ready for release?
I'm not sure but as soon as possible I think. Hopefully this summer.

And is there anything else you are working on Magnus?
I have just finished the songwriting and pre-production for an album with Tony O'Hora (Praying Mantis). I'm really satisfied with this one and I love he's voice. It's really a wonderful privilege for me to get the opportunity to write for all this great singers.
And I also just finished an album with my Irish folk music band Greenhouse. (not Greenhouze ). If you want to hear me play the banjo you should check this out!

Anything you would like to add Magnus?
I must again take the opportunity to thank all the wonderful people that are mailing me or write in forums and my guestbook for all the encouraging and warming words about the music I'm involved in. I don't think you understand how much it means to me and for my creativity.
Thank you all! And hope you will enjoy listening to Starbreaker.

Thanks in advance for taking the time out to do the interview. Much appreciated.
You're welcome Andrew. It's always a pleasure.







Heaven & Earth (2005)



Heaven & Earth: All Is Revealed.
Guitarist Stuart Smith talks Heaven & Earth - past and present - that re-release and missing lead singers included!


Stu, I guess the main objective of this interview is to promote the re-issue of the debut Heaven & Earth release…itself a bit of a classic.
Now, why the need for a new version - especially as it's already been released in Asia and Europe separately?

As you know we started our own label Black Star Records that, for the time being, is focusing on the States. The worldwide rights to the first Heaven & Earth album have finally reverted back to me and we felt that this would be an ideal first release as it's never been brought out officially over here.

Did copies of the initial release make it through to the USA at the time, or are you finding fans are picking it up now?
There were copies of this album in the States as the companies that released it in other territories had exported it over here, which was expressly against the contractual agreements we had with them but it's no use blaming a shark for being a shark. The sales have been going really well and things seem to be taking off so I guess we made the right choice.

The bonus tracks are an obvious attraction, but there will be a few annoyed that a CD they like is available again with extra tracks. What can you say to those?
I saw the comments on the Noticeboard and wanted to address them at the time but was so busy I never got round to it so now things are relaxed a bit I can answer the critics.

Firstly, nowadays every record company throughout the world asks for a bonus track for their own territory. It started with the Japanese companies and now I believe the European labels have jumped on the bandwagon. I personally don't like the idea as I feel the fans get the short end of the deal as they have to pay anything up to $40.00 for an import but when you're a new band struggling to survive, in a position of having a record label say they won't give you a deal without the bonus track, there's not much you can do about it. With our Black Star Records releases I'd love to find a way around this and would certainly be open to suggestions any of the readers have on this subject.

Secondly, apart from the original advances from the above mentioned record labels, which were very small, we have seen no money whatsoever and in some cases are still to this day trying to get our publishing money from them from when it was originally released back in 1997. For those of you that are unfamiliar with what publishing is, on every CD pressed 8.5 cents per song has by international law to be paid to the writers of the songs. This is how musicians survive. Now I know most people think that because someone has a record deal they're rolling in money but this is not the case. Generally you're lucky if the advance you get covers the cost of recording the CD and you have to survive on that and what you can make on gigs, which until you achieve superstar status, is not very much. I still play for the love of it but I also don't want to have to starve while I do it.

Next, the first Heaven & Earth album was never released and in the States and was never given the chance to do what I feel it could have done given the publicity and promotion that the labels that released it abroad did. Our release was targeted at the States and some distribution companies throughout the world wanted to purchase copies that we, at least, had the legal right to do. We did everything we could to make it up to the loyal fans that wanted the extra tracks to complete their collections like making them available on iTunes, etc. Re-releasing albums with bonus tracks is not something we plan to make a habit of and as I said before if any of the readers out there have any realistic ideas on how to overcome this bonus track issue I'd be glad to hear them.

Lastly, regarding the comments made on our launch party I'd like to say, “Thank you” to those of you who were supportive and to those of you that weren't, “Shut the hell up!!”
I assume you're participating in this forum because you love melodic Rock & Roll and want to see it come back in a big way. We at least are trying to do something about bringing good songs and well played music back to the forefront again as opposed to just talking about it and whining about what's out there. We spent a year of our lives putting together a business plan to get some investors to back us in our ventures as well as putting a lot of our own money into it and we made it happen. There has never been a better time than right now for the Classic Rock sound to re-emerge and all it takes is money behind it to get it there. You don't seriously think someone like Ashlee Simpson is where she is right now because of her staggering talent do you? All it takes is money and we are putting the kind of finances and effort behind all our releases that a major label would for a successful rap artist. We have hired a full time publicist, a full time radio promoter, a full time distribution consultant and we pay for listening stations and end caps in Tower Records, Boarders and all the independent chains throughout the country as well as internet advertising and full page color ads in magazines and we'll do the same for all our artists, not just Heaven & Earth. Some of you may not like me or like Heaven & Earth's music, I don't really care, but surely we're all on the same side here and want some changes in what we hear on the radio and television. The way I see it is that if you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem. When nearly every commercial on television in the States is featuring Classic Rock music and Heaven & Earth is picking up radio play over here and being one of the few bands ever to be invited to be on the nationally syndicated Rockline on our first album and seeing a standing room only crowd at our show last Saturday with Blue Oyster Cult I believe with all my heart that this music is coming back and thank God because I'm sure I'm not alone in being sick and tired of the same 200 songs being played on Classic Rock Radio. Everyone right now needs to work together and that means supporting the bands you like by actually buying their albums as opposed to burning a copy from a friend, calling and e-mailing your local radio stations and asking them to play a song you like. Do something to make a difference!!!

Something a little unusual with these bonus tracks too - they were actually recorded recently and have been added to the CD, not tracks that weren't used originally as is the normal case with bonus tracks. What was the thinking behind that?
The backing track for “Life on the Line” was originally written and recorded during the original Heaven & Earth sessions but “Still Got The Blues” was recorded especially for this release.

Ok, let's go thru those couple of tracks:
Life On The Line, featuring the brilliant Bobby Kimball –

“Life on the Line” was a song that Joe Lynn Turner and I wrote for the original Heaven & Earth sessions and it was recorded back then but didn't have any vocals, guitar solos or keyboards on so we brought in Arlan Schierbaum to add the Hammond organ again. Richie Onori had played with Bobby Kimball in the past and called him up to come in and add vocals. I think both of these guys did an incredible job. I added the solo afterwards, which, for once, I was really happy with.

An inspired cover of Gary Moore's Still Got The Blues with Joe Lynn Turner -
“Still Got The Blues” is a song that I have always loved and have played with various people over the years. Back in 93 Joe Lynn Turner and I had a band called Midnight and we did a show at the China Club in Chicago that somebody bootlegged and a version we played of this song made the rounds. After Heaven & Earth came out I had so many people e-mail me asking us to do a version of it so we did. We recorded the tracks at our Wine Cellar Studios here in Woodland Hills where we've just installed the new Pro-Tools system and sent it to Joe Lynn on the East Coast where he added the vocals.

We decided to make this track our first single as a way of getting into the Classic Rock stations in America. They won't add songs by new bands but we took a calculated risk and pressed 1,000 copies that we had our radio promoter send out to all the program directors. We felt that as it was a familiar song with a known “Classic Rock” voice they might be more inclined to add it to their play lists or at least give it a few spins. The gamble paid off and we had program directors wanting to hear the full album.

When the Blues Catch Up with You featuring Al Mirikitani –
When Frontiers signed Heaven & Earth they wanted a few bonus tracks as the original Samsung release had already been exported, again, against my agreement with them so we went in Al Mirikitani's Dog House Studios with Howard Leese producing and added Howard's and my guitar to an existing track Al had already recorded and sung.

Howlin' at the Moon featuring Paul Shortino –
Same deal with this one except we added Paul's voice as well as my guitar.

That makes for a very complete album now doesn't it?!
I'm not sure. Perhaps we should release it again next year with two more bonus tracks.J





For those that are new to the album and yourself as a performer - let's go back just a little bit. First off, you are English - how did you end up in LA?
In 1983 I got tired of the British rock scene which was not really going anywhere at the time and on one of his English tours with Rainbow, Ritchie Blackmore suggested I move out to the States as you could at least make a living there. I took him up on the suggestion and packed up my guitars and moved to Long Island, New York where I formed the first version of a band called Midnight. In 1984 Ritchie reformed Deep Purple to record the Perfect Strangers album and when they went on tour for that he invited me along with him for the Australian tour dates. On the way back we stopped in LA and Ritchie introduced me to a friend of his called Anna Fraley who was one of the Penthouse Pets. I ended up going out with her and she came and visited me when I was back in Long Island. I'd been offered a deal to do some recording back in England so I flew back out there and she joined me. It turned out to be an incredibly tempestuous relationship with Anna, every 3-4 months we'd break up and she'd fly back to LA. and I'd fly back and get her and she'd come back to England again and then after the 3-4 months we'd have the usual break up. On one of these stays back in England we got the crazy idea that things would work out better if we were in LA so in 1986 we packed up and moved there. Of course the location changed nothing and after 3 months we broke up again. She ended up leaving L.A. but I liked it so I stayed here till this day.

That wasn't an answer I was expecting, but thanks anyway! You made a lot of big name friends along the way - how did you rope those guys into being a part of the album, which turns out to feature an amazing line-up?
Well I had pictures and videos of them all in compromising situations and threatened to make them public if they didn't come and sing on my album. Also, its amazing how agreeable people can be if you send a couple of big lads round to have a chat with them. Seriously I had called Joe Lynn and Richie Sambora and once they'd said yes it was sort of like a domino effect, everyone wanted to get involved.

And the album sounds a million bucks and features some amazing names. The story of how it got made and it's original release it another great tale - can you run through that briefly.
Richie Onori & I were playing with Keith Emerson in a band called the “Aliens of Extraordinary Ability” and the guys from Samsung, the Korean electronics giant, had opened a record label that was going to be distributed worldwide through WEA were at one of our live shows and offered us a deal for an album. We couldn't do it as Keith was going to go off to do the ELP reunion tour with Jethro Tull and I was slated to be the guitarist for the reformed Sweet. Sadly Brian Connelly died so that didn't happen and then about 2 months later the top guys from Samsung heard me jamming at the Baked Potato with Teddy Andreas and the “Screaming Cocktail Hour”. They came up and talked to me afterwards and then came to my house for a late night drink where they heard the material I'd written over the years. They offered me a deal on the spot but it took 3 months to finally get it signed. Half way through the recording of the album the Asian economy collapsed and Samsung lost their distribution deal so when the album was finished it was only released in Korea. I bought 8,000 copies off them myself and sent about 300 of them off to anyone I knew in the business and the rest I sold off my web site, which I'd just started. After them seeing the review on your page I got the offer from Frontiers for Europe and after Richie Sambora had mentioned the CD in an interview in Burrn Magazine in Japan I got offered the deal from Pony Canyon for Japan.

I remember getting a package from you and reviewing an advance tape for the site - not even a CDR, an advance tape!
I know, it was all that I had at the time, as the Samsung copies weren't even pressed then.

And now it's back in your hands - Black Star Records is your own label. Who else is involved in it with you?
Apart from myself there's Richie Onori and Kelly Hansen dealing with the day to day running of the company and we have our publicist, Kathy Arnold, radio promoter, Kim Langbecker, artwork co-coordinator, German Arbelaez, producer/engineer, Dave Jenkins and distribution consultant, Clay Pasternack. We also have a few ancillary office staff.

You touched on this briefly before, but let's talk why you would want to start your own label.
There were a number of reasons but mainly it's because we were not happy with the amount of money the record companies make in relation to the artist. Record labels today are still working off a business model that's over 60 years old when records were made on vinyl and there wasn't the Internet to help with publicity. Manufacturing, publicity and shipping costs have gone way down yet the record companies out there are still taking a huge percentage of income, which we feel is grossly unfair to the artist. Also, once the labels have made about three times their money back they don't put much effort into further promotion such as live touring etc. We intend to change that.

Now, this just isn't a vanity project to get your own record into the market place is it? You have definite plans to develop the label and create
a roster of artists don't you?

Most certainly. We originally had a two year business plan with Black Star Records to release this first Heaven & Earth album, record and release the next one, “Screaming for Redemption” and do the same for Howard Leese's solo album but since we're gotten this label started and generated as much press as we have we've been approached by quite a number of artists, both well known and not so well known, to sign them so we're in the process of talking to investors right now so that we can expand earlier that we anticipated.

Can you reveal any of those plans yet? You have already announced Howard Leese's solo album....
Unfortunately I can't reveal anything new at the moment as we're still in negotiations but you'll be the first to know Andrew.

You just played a few live shows too…
We just played our first official show last month opening for Blue Oyster Cult at The Canyon Club that went really well. As we brought in a good crowd they asked us back so we're co-headlining with Mountain on May 21st which should be quite an interesting show as after we did Rockline last week we went out with Bob Coburn for a drink afterwards at our local hangout the White Harte British Pub and when he told us he was going to come to the show, our manager John Malta asked him if he would agree to M.C. it. He said he'd love to so I suggested that they should have a monthly “Bob Coburn's Rock Night” at the Canyon Club where it could be promoted on Rockline and KLOS. We talked to the club and they went for it so this gig on the 21st May is actually going to be the first one. We're also playing at Paladinos in Reseda on April 23rd and opening up for Europe at the Los Angeles House of Blues the day after, April 24th. Alice Cooper is interviewing us for his radio show this week as well so I feel we're on the right rack with this “New Classic Rock” idea.

Who's in the band for the show and is that the same for the next album?
For these shows at least the band will consist of Kelly Hansen (Vocals),
Me (Guitar), Richie Onori (Drums), Joe Petro (Bass), Stu Simone (Keyboards). As most of you already know, Kelly has the gig with Foreigner and we're in the process of looking for a replacement so it doesn't look like he'll be with us on the next album. It's come at an awkward time as everything seems to be finally moving for Heaven & Earth but I'm very happy for Kelly. I can't really be mad at him, as I know it's every singers dream gig and we'll still be working together with Black Star Records. If we can't find another singer I've got a hit man set up to pick Mick Jones off at one of their shows.

Any other live shows in the pipeline?
There are quite a few being offered as we have a new manager in John Malta who manages Pat Benatar but we don't want to commit to too many shows until we've sorted out the new singer as we're going to be running into conflicts with the Foreigner shows.

You have recorded and released one other album after this debut and last
year released a new 4 track EP. Featured on that EP, as he is on one of the new bonus tracks here was Paul Shortino. He was announced as the new singer for Heaven & Earth, but it didn't work out. Can you explain what happened?

That EP was really put together for a July 4th show we had out here playing to 40,000 people so we thought it would be good to have something to sell there. We brought in Paul to record the songs and sing at the show and wanted to try to work with him but it turned into the usual nightmare. Paul and I have tried to work together many times in the past and it always blows up but this will be the last time. I guess you could call it personality conflicts.





Kelly's a very versatile singer – can you two still plan new material?
Although Kelly is in Foreigner now I'm sure we'll be doing some writing together at some point and there's some tracks we wrote in the past like “Everybody's Girl” that we may use on the next Heaven & Earth album.

And what is the timetable for a new album?
I would really like to get recording it soon but we have to wait till we've sorted out the singer situation. I'd also like to get out and play the songs live a few times before committing them to tape as I feel you get a lot more magic down that way. I do hope to have it out sometime this year though.

Tell us about Richie Onori's involvement with yourself, the band and the label.
Richie has been my long time friend, drummer and business partner. We first met back in the 80's when I was asked to come and audition for a band he was playing in with a singer named Larry Greene. We remained friends to this day and he is really the behind the scenes driving force with Black Star Records. As well as being a great drummer he has a fine business mind. You should interview him one day; he has a lot of interesting things to say about the music industry.

You have done a bunch of press in recent weeks - what else have you got
coming up where folks can read more?

We keep the Heaven & Earth and Black Star Records websites pretty well updated so people can see what's going on there. We also have a One-list which people can subscribe to by putting in their e-mail address on the H&E website which automatically updates members as to what's new and exciting.

Recent times have seen three more rock stations switch format in the USA. Although the underground following for rock music seems to be building, the powers behind the money, or the corporations seem intent on continuing their quick fix/instant payoff policy. How can you get around that?
Probably by doing what we're doing right now. We find that having a good publicist and drawing everyone's attention to this “New Classic Rock” idea is paying off. There are a lot of people out there that are tired of the same old crap and want to hear some new well-played guitar driven rock. For the last 10 years we've had to put up with Alternative, Rap, Hip Hop and whiney Female singers and they come out with nothing more musically substantial than a hot dog. Now it's our turn!

Outside the current line-up, you did start working with a female singer and previewed one track on my site year or so ago. What did happen with you and that singer Doah?
Ahh Doah, the wild elemental force. What can I say? I first saw Doah when I was actually out on a date and went to a bar where they had Karaoke. As I came out of the restroom I heard this absolutely amazing voice singing “My Heart Will Go On” from the Titanic movie and I was completely stunned. When I turned the corner and saw who was singing I was even more blown away. I ended up going back to the same bar every night for about a week but never saw her again then one night when they had karaoke there again, the guy who ran it came up to me and told me he was a big fan of mine.
I told him that I was a big fan of the girl with the long curly red hair and amazing voice and he knew exactly who it was and told me he'd call me and let me know when she was in again. A few days later I was in a recording session when he called and told me she was there so I dropped my guitars, drove down to the bar, walked right up to her and introduced myself. We started working together writing songs with Howard Leese who loved her voice and recording them. Within a few weeks we stared going out together and she eventually moved in with me. We had this incredible chemistry going together and wrote some really great songs, which just came out naturally. The material we wrote was a cross between Bad Company and Heart, very bluesy and melodic but after a while it became obvious that that was not where she was coming from musically although she could pull it off incredibly. We then started working on new material, which was still very good but it wasn't happening fast enough for her and we eventually parted ways. There was a lot of personal drama that went down as well but I'm not going to get into that and although there's still some good songs we wrote together that I'd like to rework and possibly use with the new Heaven & Earth album, I can't help feeling I got a bit used on this one but as the saying goes “There's only one thing better than the love of a good woman and that's the love of a bad one” and Doah was a bad one.





Is there anything else you are working on Stu, either for the label, Heaven
& Earth or outside projects?

There are a few other things and one great idea that we have in the pipeline but as usual I can't talk about them just yet. Of course I may not have absolutely anything going on at all and am just saying that to keep you all guessing.

Anything you would like to add Stu?
Yes, I'd like to say thanks to all the readers who've supported us and hope we get to see you out on tour soon and to the bands out there, make an effort to write songs that the everyday people can connect with so we can bring the music we love back to the forefront. Unless your stage act depends on it like Dio, stop singing about wizards and dragons, they're not the kind of thing people run into in the everyday course of their lives.
I'm going to shoot the next person I hear using the words “River of destiny” in a song.

And there you have it – thanks Stu!








Glenn Hughes (2005)

Glenn Hughes: The Soul Mover Speaks.
Glenn Hughes talks at length about his soullyfully rocking new solo album, Iommi Hughes, that live DVD and a bunch of other great stuff!

This is a MP3 Interview in 5 Parts! I hope you enjoy the concept - it allows the lengthy interview to be placed online quicker than waiting for a transcript to be typed out.

Highlights of the interview include:

"The last 10 years ... it's been a nice little ride, now let's get serious.

What's missing for me is that I wanted to start focusing on what makes me tick. I want to make records now for the way I will be remembered in 10 years time.

I made a lot of records, what I did with From Now On…Feel…all different…that was a guy figuring out what I really want to do.

It's all me (style changes) – it takes me quite a while to feel comfortable in my own skin.

I'm really happy with the focus of what's going on right now….I'm allowing myself to have fun with my music now. Labels that want me to be one dimensional – no – I'm going to do what I want to do. I gotta be me.

This is the best record I've done – personally – in my mind…that's the way I feel. As an artist, I stand behind this record.

My life since I have been sober is not about music. I blew a million dollars up my nose and made it back. It's about making artist statements that will come through the music and the touring I'm about to do.

Although I am writing, I don't see myself recording anything this year. When Tony and I's record comes out, we want to tour behind that.

Deep Purple for me was pretty average – I'm writing better songs now and signing better.

I don't want to make too many u-turns, I've been blessed to be able to write in so many styles. I feel comfortable in all of it and that's kind of a curse in some regards.

I could do a 180 in 18 months time and do a ballad album…cause we all know I'm crazy!!

This new Iommi record…what we have here is one hell of a focused record. This is Iommi's best work. Riffs, songs…just blow your mind type stuff. I told Tony it was his best work since Black Sabbath.
It's one hell of a record….and when you here it you will know what I'm talking about.
The DEP Sessions was well received, we call that the appetizer for what's coming.
The whole rock industry took a shine to us working together again.
I'm going to do at least 80 shows solo this year and Tony and I will tour the world on this record.
It's an album for me that will compete with Velvet Revolver and Audioslave.
I couldn't sing live though…From 1976 to 1991 when I got sober, I did altogether no more than 40 shows….that's a crime for an artist like me who loves to play live.

(Regarding Deep Purple) - People talk about the Purple Mk3 getting back together. I would much rather do a thing with Tony than get together with 4 or 5 guys I don't even know! I don't know who Jon Lord is and Ian Paice and Richie Blackmore….I barely know who David Coverdale is.
I was in a band with these guys – we were all ego's and high or drunk or whatever, pretty much…I don't know who these guys are.
I saw Purple 4 or 5 months ago…I went backstage and I had no idea who these people were….no connection whatsoever….so I wouldn't look forward to that.

(Regarding the new Russian project with JLT) - The songs were written in the 80's, so they are more akin to a lighter Purple Mk3, meets Joe era Rainbow, in a Russian way! That kinda Russian vibe! Very melodic, kinda light…it will serve its purpose in that market. It was great to work with Joe again.

DOWNLOAD: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5.


Joe Lynn Turner (2005)

Joe Lynn Turner: The Usual Suspect.
Joe Lynn Turner talks about his new solo album, life with Richie, nursing Yngwie and some other great stories!
Thanks to Ron Higgins for his work transcribing this interview!



Hey Joe, Nice to talk to you.
Right. I appreciate your time.

No, I appreciate your time. I mean, what took us so long to get on the phone and do an interview? I'm not sure.
I don't know, because I love your site. I'm always on it.

Thank you.
I'm always checking things and checking new releases and who's doing what to whom. Honestly I am because I really do appreciate your take on what's good, what's not good, and so on.

Well, hopefully I get it right most of the time.
Oh, I think you do. That's what I mean, most people get it wrong most of the time, so you're on the other end of the spectrum.

Thank you, Joe. I appreciate that.
I mean that. No kidding. I'm not just kissing your ass. I'm not. I'm just saying, I check and see what you do. I listen to sound bytes and I go, “Hmm, I think Andrew's on it.” You're really a music person, so that's why it's great to talk to you.

Thank you, Joe. I appreciate it. I've been a fan for a long time, so the feeling's mutual. I have to say as someone who's bought your records from the word go, I'm very pleased to say that I think The Usual Suspects is up there with some of your best ever.
Well, I appreciate that. I was holding my breath, waiting to hear what you were going to say about it. I do appreciate that, Andrew. I thank you. I didn't try to make it my best or worst, I just got something else kicked into me and I said, “Let me get back to some commercial rock some melodic stuff., huh?

I belong on that site for sure. No, honestly, that's what happened. I had about 4 or 5 different tracks suited and I just said, “All I'm doing is making another blues rock record and I said, “Nobody gives a shit, you know?”
I said, let me write some songs that have some structure and that's when I got into it and I think the body of that combined with some of the older sounding, more bluesier sounding stuff works.

I like what you've got. You've got a rocking start. A little soulful sort of blues ballady sort of middle section and then you rock again at the end, so it flows well.
Exactly. It's a quilt.

It does. It flows well and I don't think the record is a great departure from anything you've done before but I think the songs are just spot on.
I appreciate that because that's really what I wanted to do, I wanted to get back into crafting some songwriting that I know I'm capable of that I've been writing for other people here trying to get deals and what not, and I said, “I should use this songwriting talent on myself again. This blues thing, people are getting the wrong idea. Oh, just another album from Joe. Oh there he is swimming in circles. I read it all, you know.




And I try to be above it, but it's difficult.

I'm much the same. People give me some stick sometimes with the things I do. And it's hard to take criticism sometimes when you feel so passionately about it. How do you handle it?
Well, Ritchie, I've got to give Ritchie credit again. When I was a young thing coming up, well I wasn't all that young, but I was immature that's for sure. I didn't know the ropes and Blackmore taught me the ropes. He always said one thing to me and it stuck.
We were in Germany at the time and I was reading a review and somebody had said, “Sure Joe Lynn Turner can sing, but can he sing for Rainbow… and he's a bit on the gay side,” and all of this. And in the meanwhile, I'm not gay at all, I'm the furthest thing from that and some of my best friends are gay so I have no problem with gayness or homosexuality or any of that. It was just like, “What the fuck does that have to do with music?” And I started to go off and Ritchie said, “Settle down. He said look. If you believe a good review, then you've got to believe a bad review so henceforth, don't believe any fuckin' review. You know exactly what you've done. You know if it was good or bad of if you challenged yourself in any way. So throw the paper away.

That's an interesting take.
I never forgot that. If you believe a good review, then you've got to believe a bad review. Don't believe any reviews. He said, “What do you care for? Ritchie is a true… Voltaire the French revolutionist, I'll share this with you, he said that he had contempt for his audiences because he said that audiences are like cattle. They bring you up, they bring you down, they push you around, they criticize you, they adore you and then they leave you flat. When you get too old they kick you to the side. And this was coming from Voltaire and I said, “Wow, that's pretty deep stuff.” And I try to look at the public as just people who…they're much like relatives, you know, they're always telling you, “When are you going to get a job, you're not doing this right, you're not doing that right <laughs>. So you've got to take them with a large block of salt. When they don't like something that you've put up or something you've said or you've quoted or you've given certain things to, you're going to get a lot of that because, first of all, it's your site.

So fuck 'em! <laughs> That's what Ritchie would say. It's you doing it. But secondly you take into consideration how they feel, but at the same time, if you did that, it wouldn't be your site. And it's the same with the music, it wouldn't be my music. Do I write… I always credit the fans for this. I say look, “Without you guys, I'm unnecessary. If you didn't want to hear me sing, if you didn't want to hear me do this, who the hell am I making records for? I'm certainly not making them for me. You don't. If I were to do this for myself, I'd make completely different types of albums.

If it was just for me. I know where I've come from, I know where I've been and I think you've said something before, which I will interject here, you said in an oblique way, they don't want you to really get outside of that corner, out of that pocket. They want you to be the same.

And you've got to try and be the same.
Yeah. They remember you a certain way so they want to remember you that way. If you depart from that, then they say, “What in the fuck are you doing?” You, know? <laughs> It's almost like the mafia. The more they let you out they try to pull you back in. That's an old phrase around here. It's hilarious because that's the one I use, “They pull me back in. Here's the melodic song.” I love all this stuff, but you just can't do what you want to do. It's impossible.

And you've got to try to be different while being the same as well.
Isn't that strange?

It is. It is.
Do they call that a dichotomy of sorts?

It is. You're absolutely right. It's always a popular topic of debate on the message boards. When somebody tries to do something different. Should they have? You know.
Well, here's the thing that I don't agree with, and I must share this with you, I don't agree with people like, and it's happened in the past with good friends of mine like Skid Row, they went completely over to like this whole grunge thing or some other bands that have tried to not be themselves. That is something that I don't agree with. That is unauthentic. You're not that. You didn't start as that, but now you're trying to be that. No matter how you cut your hair, no matter how many piercings you get, that's really not you.

I couldn't agree more. Something I quite often bring up myself, I'm all for everybody sounding and moving forward, and I hope bands do, but name me one band that's been successful changing their stripes.
Look, I look at AC/DC. They never change, and they never will.

And that's them, and fuck everybody. I love them. Everybody loves them. You know what I mean? They're just it. They're just a hard rocking band, and they don't give a shit. No frills. They're not going to do stuff just because you like it. I say stick to your guns, and they do. That's the only thing that I disagree with. They say, “You could've been more modern.” Modern how? Copy Pearl Jam? Oh, they're not modern. Let me think. Linkin Park? You want me to rap?

Yeah <laughs>
You know what I mean? It's very obvious when you depart from yourself.

I think you've been very true to yourself on Usual Suspects.
Thank you.
You know, someone likened it to a quilt, “I hear Fandango, I hear Rainbow, I hear…” You know, it's all you but yet it all works, whether it's “Jacknife” which is the old slammin', blistering rock and roll thing, or if it's the sort of melodic “Rest of My Life” with the R&B, you know, it's all me.

So, it's a quilt. It's a patchwork quilt. I think, and I hope, Andrew, and you can benefit me by this, I hope when people listen to it, it's an eclectic album, but yet at the same time there's a thread running through it.

Oh yeah. Definitely. I can hear little bits of everything and I was really pleased with that. I just thought that the song quality was extremely high.
Thank you.

I'm looking forward to reviewing it.
I appreciate it. It's about time I got a good review, well I haven't got a bad review, but it's been a long time since I've got an excellent review, anyway.
You know, it pissed me off because I know what I can do. I think, between you and I, I've dropped the ball a few times in the past and I didn't quite come up to the goal line. I'd be all around it but never quite cross it and it was kind of because I just went “fuck it”, you know. I'm not trying to… what do I have to prove and all this kind of crap. But I said that's not it. My attitude was wrong, Andrew. I admit that and I say to myself, this time I just said, “You know what I've got to do? I've got to write a record that I like.”

If I like it, other people will like it because I like music. Hello. And stand back from it. And also, I got nudged by people like yourself and journalists and managers and record companies and even Serafino got in my face about it. He says, “People love you as a melodic rock singer. That's what you're known for.” I said, “But I was always blues based. With Ritchie I was always blues based. That was the magic of Rainbow. We had a hard rock sound with a blues kind of singer who could transcend all of that and people just sort of go, “Well, that's different, but yet the same, but not.” And that was the magic about it. So they said, “Look, come back a little bit to center.” And I said, “You're right. So I scrapped 3 or 4 songs and I wrote 3 or 4 new ones and that's when the songwriting quality came up and I must admit I was tickled just doing this. This is great. I don't care if the songs are too sappy. Fuck it.

You've done well. Stuff like, “Power of Love” I think will be a fan favorite. Nice little anthems. Good strong vocals. Some great melodies.
You know, I was really wanting to hear what you had to say out of everybody. I've talked to journalists before, but I really keep abreast of what you're doing and I respect what you're doing so therefore I respect what you say.

Thank you, Joe!
I mean that, Andrew. You've put up one of the best sites. It's in my bookmarks, I refer to it constantly. I check out new things and I read what you have to say and your reviews and I get the sound bytes and all of that and I use the site as a meter of my music, of what I'm going to buy and what I'm not.

Well, I get a lot of great feedback, and that's all that I can ask for.
You've done marvelous things.

I had no idea where this site would go when I first started it. I'm still amazed that it is what it is. <laughs>
Well, I think that you're authentic. That's what really touches people.

Well, I don't hide behind the site... I want to talk to others that love the music too. You try to make yourself available, don't you?
I sure try to. I really do. There's nothing worse than being inaccessible. I don't mean that about like Ritchie because I thought that he was a very accessible person, but just misunderstood.

I mean that. I mean, he's always accessible when you want him. But at the same time he just didn't like many peoples approach to him.
So he backed off because he felt that he didn't really want to put himself through this.

Yeah. That makes a lot of sense.
It does. I'm totally accessible. A journalist asked me the other day, he said, “What do you think of this album. I think it's the best of your best. Have you reached the mountain and the top,” and all of that, and I went, “What? Mountain top? Best of the best? I don't know. Yeah, I think it's a good CD and I like it, but they're like children. I love them all but differently. Maybe this is a special child.” He said, “What's your quote?” I said, “It's not for me to quote.” It's up to you to quote. That's why you're calling me, right? It's my opinion but if you want me to say, “It's the best fuckin' think I've ever done,” I read other artists quotes about their own stuff and I have to laugh. You know, “…Now I can die happy, it's the best fuckin' thing I've ever done and it'll blow you away,” or something crazy and I go, “Really? Can you say that about your own stuff?”

I'm glad you said that because that does kind of annoy me too, because then they say that the next interview you do.
That's what they always say, “It's the best thing I've ever done, I've reached the pinnacle of my profession,” and I'm always like, “Look, I don't know,” I said, “You listen to it. You tell me.” I'll respect your opinion and your critique and I'll keep it as just that, an opinion and a critique. We all know what opinions are, so…but anyway it's just great to talk to somebody who actually knows what they're talking about <laughs>.

I hope so. I hope I can bluff my way through it.
It's like they say, “If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

It works for me sometimes!
It works for me as well. <laughs> I've been sliding by for years on that. Seriously though, getting down to it, putting the accolades aside for both of us, I'm glad you liked the record, I really put some time into this one. I did the vocals at my house, so I've got the dog running around and phone calls interrupting me and everything. So I think that's part of the magic of it, because I felt so comfortable at my house in the studio here as opposed to being in a clinical studio. It makes a big difference to me because I was doing most of them barefoot and my wife talking to me and I'm going, “Yeah, honey, I'm doing a vocal.” You, know. Normal. Natural.






You've got your long time buddy Bob Held there with you. How important is he to the process?
Well I'll tell you, I answered this question once before this weekend, it was in a different manner, but Bob Held knows who I am. He likes the polished product. I could get many different types of producers or produce it myself but Bob gives me a hard time. For example, “Power of Love” had a completely different lyric. Similar melodies, but a whole other song. He said, “This is not up to your par.” I said, “What are you talking about? It's my favorite song on the album.” He goes, “No. We need something that's going to reach, that's going to give hope, he says, you don't have that on the record and I kind of resented it for two days, I'm coming down to the end of the album, it's the last vocal I did and I'm like, “you always put me in this position,” but I always respect what he says.

Again I knew that if I pushed myself it's like you said, it's an anthem and I like it much better. That's one of the sparkling traits that Bob has He can push me to the point where I want to punch him yet he's right about me reaching more of my fulfillment of purpose. You don't find many people that (a) you can trust, and (b) that can stir you to the point of long time friendship violence. You know, best friends can say anything to each other and that's what Bob fills the role. He'll say, “I don't like that vocal there,” and I'll say, “But I love that line. That was a great line. Lou Gramm could have that line, Paul Rodgers could have that line,” all of my favorite singers you know, I'll bring them up. I'm bringing up Elvis, I'll bring up everyone from the dead if I can to support my argument and he'll go, “Nope. I want one more,” and I go “You're killing me here! I fuckin' sung it 12 times,” and he goes, “I need one more I need it to have that thing,” and I go, “What thing?” “That Joe Lynn Turner thing.” He goes, “I don't believe it,” I go, “You don't believe it? All right, well, believe this,” and I'll sing something and he'll go, “That's it. Next” And I'll go, “You mother f…you cock sucker…” <laughs> That's the importance of Bob Held. He knows how to push my buttons the right way so that I don't settle.

Is that the same as working with Ritchie.
Yeah, Ritchie was like that. He'd just raise his eyebrows at me and go, “Is that it?” and I'd go, “You're right.” And then I'd go in and realize what I had done. I might have sang it better, but I didn't believe it when I sang it and he can always pick up on that. He was the first one to come in, I'll never forget, with “Street Of Dreams”, we were in Copenhagen and, first of all, the song evolved mythically because the music was 4 different jams, and I put these 4 pieces together because I sat with the tapes and said, “All right, let's put this piece with that piece and this piece with that piece,” and he goes, “Okay.” And then I come up with the title and melody and hook and sang, I might say, one of my better moments and he came in to the kitchen of the studio… hang on a second… Ritchie came up to me and he says, “I can't play. I can't play the solo.” And I said, “What do you mean?” and he goes, “The vocals are intimidating me.” And I go, “What?”

This is a true story. I said, “What do you mean?” He goes, “Shining moment for you.” I went, “Well, thanks,” but I go, “But Ritch, come on.” He goes, “I don't know where to start, I don't know where to go, I'm all confused.” I went to the refrigerator and grabbed 2 Heinekens and said, “Sit down mother fucker let's get into this. You've just got to go in there and be an extension to the song. You know you're a song man, you know you're not full of guitar pyrotechnics, you don't give a shit about that, you can do it, but you don't care about all of that.” He played the most melodic solo after that.

I can still sing it to this day. And that's what it's about. He was like that with me and I think at that moment I was like that for him. They say the greatest gift you can give someone is that self revelation, you know? I think I at least gave it back to him a few times.

Absolutely. You're whole history is sort of linked back to where you started.
That's true.

You guys did the best, his work as well. It still acclaimed as some of the best stuff that was ever done, isn't it?
Well, I think we had a magic and chemistry. Look, I love all the other singers, Dio was great, all the Dungeons and Dragons themes and all that stuff is great, but I think we came into a modern age that elevated Rainbow, whatever was between us, the tension, the mutual respect, whatever it was, we had it and it worked and I still believe it could work today.

Do you think that you would ever try it again for old time's sake?
If he was up for it, I'd be there in a heartbeat. It's really up to him because I know what we had and I miss that. That's like a hole in you soul. There was the eternal partner, there was my match. That was like a soul mate. We were also very connected on other dimensions such as all of the supernatural and paranormal stuff. We both loved that, it was incredible that ran through our lives. I just knew that we had this connection. The blues and so on and so forth. And perfectionism. Not settling and besides I had a real affection for him as a mate because he really took me under his wing and grew me up. He protected me, he was always on my side if somebody was coming down at me. He threw himself in the way of critics and band members. You've got to love somebody like that if they'd do that for you.

I'd like to see it happen, but obviously Ritchie's in his own spot isn't he?
God bless him because I know he's doing what he wants to do.

He's making records for himself isn't he?
He really is. And he couldn't give a damn about anything…I gave a little bit of a tribute for his birthday on I guess it was the other day an e-mail, somebody that's got blacker than purple. I think the last comment I said was, “I just want to say, Cheers mate,” I'll paraphrase it, “To many years of great music, to a man who follows no one and nothing but his heart.” That's true. He follows no one and nothing but his heart. He loves to do that Renaissance music. So be it far from me to say you've got to come out and do this. But you know what? It's not that I want to take him away; I just want to add to it. I'm lucky enough, I hope they… Candice and himself, they offered me a duet on the next record.

I did hear that. Yeah.
That was fabulous. That came out of Carol Stevens, they wrote me an email and said, “We always liked you, Joe. The rest of them we couldn't give a hoot for.” <laughs> I was very impressed with that. I just wrote back and said, “Well, we've never had problems.” Really. Ritchie and I never had problems.

That's something to look forward to then, isn't it?
Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. I told Carol Stevens, I said, “Look, when you get ready for the material if they want me to co-write, if they just want me to sing, I'm available because I like to stretch out as well. I find it difficult that people allow you to stretch out, and I think this would be an educational process for everyone including me. So yeah, that would be great. I'd love to get back together. I don't care if it would be for just one album or what, but I think we could write some great songs.

I do too.
In the meantime, I try to be reminiscent. In my own material, I try to say, “Well this is where I come from, and it was a large part of my life. How would Blackmore approach this and how would we do it if we were in Rainbow?”

Yeah, I think you've definitely got some of that in the new record.
Yeah, it's definitely got some Rainbow-esque stuff on there.

For sure. Someone also mentioned that your work with Yngwie is probably regarded as probably his best album ever.
I think so.

That's 2 for 2 then, isn't it? You must be proud at least of the legacy of that.
I am, Andrew. Honest to God. Again you can't talk about my life without Yngwie. Odyssey is a pinnacle. I love it.

It's my favorite album that he ever did.
It's one of my favorite albums that I ever did. Again it came together and I think that when I get together with these ornery guitar players – I used to be an ornery guitar player, I am one – I was a guitar player first and a singer second so I think I understand these guys. I don't know, I just get a whip and a chair and I go in there like a lion tamer and I try to bring something else to the table. One thing I must mention to you, a journalist I spoke with this morning from France or somewhere, they said “Crystal Ball” sounds so reminiscent of Joe Lynn Turner yet there's no credits of you. And I said, “Oh no. He's at it again because there was a time there when Yngwie was taking my name off of all of the publishing credits.

Oh, really?
Fuck yeah. I was like going, “What? Where is this happening? What is this about?” I said, “You better go and check the original credits because you'll see that I am co-writer of Crystal Ball. Melody and lyrics. Hello. That's probably why you hear me. So I think he's up to his old tricks that Ying Yang.

That's sad.
I don't know what's up with him. I mean, I saved this guy's life. I was there. I was the elder in a mass of confusion when he wrecked up that Jaguar.

I only vaguely recall that. What happened?
Oh, well geez, Andrew. I was there getting ready to do the Odyssey record and I flew back to New York to get 6 months worth of clothes to fly back to LA to do the record, and by the time I got back, it was May Day weekend, May 7, or something like that, it's a big weekend in Sweden. They were drinking and doing all kinds of cheese and the drugs and all of that. He went out about 8:00 in the morning when the 7-11's would sell beer again, I suppose there was a curfew on it or something. He was coming back with oodles of beer to continue the partying and he wrecked his Jaguar with Thomas his good friend and a friend of mine as well that I became friendly with, and they both ended up pretty banged up.

Here is the thing, I'll just give you the highlights. His manager Andy Truman, he used to manage the Bay City Rollers, was taking all of Yngwie's money, he was taking all of the advances so Polygram put me in as a spy and said look you've got to get involved in this. Now, here's a guy that's doing tons of cocaine he's got guns all over the house, he carries guns with him, he's out of his fuckin' mind, he talks in the third person every time he said something it was like, "Well Andy says," because his name is Andy Truman, and I said, "Well, aren't you Andy?" and it was really freaky because, you know, you hear somebody talking in third person, you think, this guy's a wing nut.

Yeah, what's up with that?
You fuel that with cocaine and booze and everything else and guns. He tells me, "Yngwie, he's going to be all right, and he's had a bit of an accident.” He picks me up at the airport, right, so I go, "All right." I dress up a bit and shave and put on a jacket and say, “I'll go to the hospital a little later.” So when I get to the hospital, he's straight up to the ICU. I said, "He's in the ICU? The intensive care unit?" And they go, yeah. And I'm like, man, he's in a bad way. I look in through the glass and his head is 5 times the size.

Oh, wow.
And he just looks like some beast. He's not responding. He's not talking and the doctors say he's in a coma. I go, “Coma?” Andy Truman never told me he was in a coma! He said he was a little banged up. That was it. So a couple of days later the administration -- I'm there every day, of course with Jens Johansson and Anders Johansson and everything, and I'm sorting out, because these poor guys, Yngwie wasn't paying them really well, or at all, and they were living on the floor in a one bedroom apartment. They didn't even have enough money to buy any underwear. It was unbelievable.

So I'm trying to sort them out and get them a living space that's more humane and also trying to deal with the hospital and the administration and stuff because I was the older of the bunch and had more experience and they needed $80,000 or they were going to pull Yngwie out of ICU. Andy Truman is all in favor of this because he doesn't want to spend any money, does he? And I said, "Andy, if you pull him out of ICU and you bring him down to LA Country which is where the "common” people go, because Northridge was a very select hospital and he lived close to Northridge so they flew him in on a chopper. That's how bad he was. They had to use Jaws of Death to get him out of the car and fly him in because he was going to die right there.

So this is really serious, right? So Andy doesn't want to do this because he's full of advances and out of his mind and doesn't even realize that if Yngwie dies, there goes his meal ticket. So this is all just absolutely surreal to me and absurd. So I get $80,000 from Polygram wired to the administration to keep him in Northridge. Meanwhile, Andy is trying to get me to go down to County Hospital to say, "Oh, it's nice down here, everybody down here is great." And I'm like, "Andy, its death down there. You walk in and you smell death. I've been there. I know what it's about. No, he can't leave. Even the doctor said that if he leaves for an inferior institution he's going to die.” So meanwhile, Polygram's got me watching Andy Truman, they're trying to get rid of Andy. Andy doesn't know that I'm a spy reporting back to Polygram. I could've been shot. This is real intrigue. This was 007 shit.

To make a long story short, Yngwie comes out of the coma, I don't know how many weeks it is, but he finally comes out. We were there every day. He had bleeding in the brain which could've been retardation. Sometimes I think maybe he did bleed in the brain. So he actually recovers from this, now he's on powerful medication, and of course I'm trying to monitor him and he goes out one night and starts doing cocaine and shit so, as big as he is, I grab him and slam him up against a wall and said, "Look, you fuckin' die on your own 24 hours, not on my watch!" I said, "I'm just so sick of this bullshit." I threw him up against the wall and jumped back in the car and sped off. I was livid that he would actually do this. So he got the message and he's kind of straightened out a bit but other than that he was going to die without anybody caring for him.

That's amazing. Whatever happened to the manager?
They got him. They finally pulled all of his power away from him, they didn't give him another nickel, they re-routed Yngwie's funds, I think that's when Jim Lewis was still with Polygram and became Yngwie's manager (and that's a whole other story, the way they broke up) and really Jim went to bat for Yngwie and the last I heard was that Andy's wife left him and stole everything, including the Roller, she took the Rolls Royce, everything, and he was trying to track her down. At one point, Andrew, I must interject, we had a 24 hour security guard, fully armed in front of Yngwie's house, this was for over 2 months because we were afraid of Truman. He would drive by and some of his other compadres would drive by and we would see them peering into the house trying to see what was going on. We were afraid that they were just going to come in blasting away one day. And, of course, Yngwie's got guns, so he's like, "I'll shoot them and kill them," and I'm just like, "Just calm down, man. You're not going to shoot anyone."

No wonder you only did the one record! <laughs>
Well, yeah. And the other thing was, originally, we were supposed to have Eric Singer as the drummer, Bob Daisley as the bass player. It was going to be a super group. It was all looking really good. As you can see, Bob did play on a few tracks, but Eric unfortunately got pushed out, but he did all right for himself.

And he's a fabulous drummer and a wonderful guy. A very funny guy. We're friends to this day. What I'm trying to say is that Yngwie just wanted to have full control of everything. I think, personally, he could've gone much, much further in his art and music if he would've just let other people in. Yeah, but he was going to die. Like the doctor said, if he does not come up from this coma, and he was bleeding from the brain, in 3 days, they said if it didn't stop and it stopped now, they said it's over for him.

He will be brain dead and we will keep him on the respirator but he will be a vegetable.

That's awful.
So I kept him in that hospital, made sure the administration was paid, because hospitals have no heart, they just have money, money is where it all comes from, at least here in the states. To make a long story short, that's why I claim, quite humbly really, that I was instrumental in saving his ass. That's why I can't understand why he's got this bone of contention about me.

That's probably why, isn't it?
It might be. That seems very psychologically normal. Love and hate's a fine line. But anyway, I wish him well but I wish he's stop taking my name off these songs.

Well, we won't hold out for a reunion then. <laughs>
<Laughs> No, I don't think so. I told him last time I talked to him, I emailed him, "Good fuckin' luck, mate." But apparently he seems to be doing all right.

Yeah, not too much bad press from recent times.
So that's the story.





You went on to work with Bob not long after that, so what's the story?
Right. We did Mother's Army.

What a great set of albums. I love the first one.
You know what? I got an email from Jeff Watson who emailed Aynsley Dunbar, and I emailed Bob and we're all starting to think about maybe putting that all back together.

Yeah, do it because Jeff's a wonderful, wonderful guitar player, isn't he?
He is, a wonderful writer, guitar player, a great guy. Bob is too. Lyrically Bob and I, those albums were hard rock, man. They were really deep profound stuff.

Not commercial at all were they?
No. they were meant to be a Pink Floyd twist to them.

I still love the first one the most.
Yeah, “By Your Side” and all those great songs, yeah.

You changed your voice somewhat for the first album, didn't you? There were some comments that, “Oh, Joe's voice is shot,” but that was never the case, was it?
No, I can be a lot of different characters really.

Yeah, when you listen to The Usual Suspects, you're as soulful as ever, but your voice was really raspy on that one, wasn't it?
Yeah, we kind of tried to want it to be, during that period of time the raspy vocal was sort of in. To be honest, there was a lot of pressure to try and at least make this stuff fit in. I said, “Well, if that's the case I'm going to sing a bit gritty.” Maybe the grit button was up too much.

Oh, I love it. I thought it was great.
Yeah. Here's the thing. That's what Ritchie always liked. Ritchie always liked that I could do this operatic shit, pointed, clear as a bell, but then I could growl at the bottom.

I love the growl. I hope you do another record. That would be really interesting.
Well, we're toying around with the idea now. It's in the e-mail stages.

That's great I do talk to Jeff every now and then. We've done a couple of interviews and stuff. A longtime fan of Night Ranger. That would be great.
Did I ever tell you about the time JLT toured with Night Ranger?

No, I don't believe I've heard that.
We got kicked out of Tyler, Texas. It was nasty. It was the Joe Lynn Turner band. My bass player was going out with a stripper and he decides to bring her out on the road. She decided to try a designer drug one night in Tyler, Texas and we were opening for Night Ranger. Well, my set was relatively free of incident, but I guess she was getting off during Night Ranger and right in the middle of “Sister Christian” she comes out and does her act.

Oh, no.
She took this huge flashlight and did preposterous things with it. The cops came. There were children at the concert. They surrounded us and made us sign disclaimers that we would never come back to Tyler, Texas. So we got kicked out.

Terrific. The life of a rock and roller.

That's great.
It was really funny because Kelly was throwing sticks at her and Brad was coming over to the side of the stage to me and saying, “You better get her off the fuckin' stage and I'm saying, “What do you want me to do? Walk out and pull her off? Get one of your roadies to get her off”. So finally Jeff just gets frustrated and picks her up and walks about 20-30 feet and dumps her on the side of the stage.

Now if only somebody would've bootlegged that on video. That would've been great.
I wish we had it. It was hysterical. Yeah, I hope we get that thing back together. We had no luck with that band. What I mean by that is we had no apparent management. Carmine's manager Warren Wyatt, I have nothing nice to say about this guy.

Yeah, I've had some dealings with this guy too.
I don't know what your experience was like.

Not great.
Ours was terrible. He actually took the money for the record. We couldn't finish the record. By the time we got the lawyers on it and found the money. He gave it all back minus his commission, like he was owed a commission! What balls does that take? He takes all the money and he kept saying, “Well the Japanese don't like what they've heard so far so they haven't given me the rest of the money,” but he had the rest of the money in his bank account. So if we do it, I'm not going to do it without proper management and a record label and all of that. Because that's when it goes awry. Everyone's got an uncle in the business. Carmine brought Warren in and we wouldn't even talk to Carmine after that because Carmine sided with Warren and that's when Aynsley came in.

Yeah, Aynsley's a great drummer. That's a good pick.
He just emailed back and said, “I'm up for it. That's great. Let's do it. I can't wait to see everybody again.” We'll see.

That would be awesome. I should also mention while we're here the Hughes/Turner was a couple of pretty nice albums for you. I talked to Glenn a few months back. Are you done with that for now?
I haven't talked to Glenn for a month of two but I know that he's doing the Iommi thing and he's got Soul Mover out now, which is a great album, I'm happy for him. So HTP has to be in hiatus. I would never say that we wouldn't get back together for another album or two and I hope he feels the same way.

Yeah, you two, your voices are just a great match for each other.
Thank you for your words. It had never been done to my knowledge and never quite that good.

Yeah, especially the first album, I really still enjoy it.
Me too. I have to tell you. It was quality stuff. I think we both sort of raised the bar. Together we gained inspiration in our own solo careers.

I agree. I think it gave you new momentum to your solo career. You were just doing an album for Japan but it's really shifted to the European side now hasn't it?
Yeah, I just signed with Yamaha in Japan as well. That's a good label there. They're going to try to do other things with me over there like bring me into their sound products and their commercials for their motorbikes and things like that.

Yes, so I was and now I'm full blow into Europe and looking towards this record release in the US.

Yeah, Stu [Stuart Smith] mentioned that, he was going to talk to you about that.
I appreciate your thoughts on that. I think we're going to do it. Getting back to Glenn. I love him like a brother. We just put a couple of years together, it was phenomenal, now it's time to sit back, breathe, and do other things.

Well that's cool. In a couple of years time you can get back together again and hopefully there will be a third album.
You know, somewhere down the line I do too because it was magic. I'm just so fortunate to be hooked up with such wonderful people in my career, for the most part anyway, including Malmsteen, the guy's brilliant regardless if he can be an asshole sometimes.

He makes some great music, no doubt.
He's brilliant. I'll always give that to Yngwie. He was a forerunner. The guy's just crazy good. But I would love to do it with Glenn, but I wish him all the best with the Iommi thing and he's got Sanctuary here for the Soul Mover and I hope they can do something with that. He really deserves it, he's such a fantastic singer and he's a great person.

Absolutely. I love talking with him. He's always full of life.
He sure is. He's one of the funniest guys I know.

You've recently, you've probably seen it, but Rescue You got a CD released in America, that was a good move.
Can you believe that Wounded Bird?
I can't. So many people told me, “You've got to re-release Rescue You and all this stuff, and I'm like, “Do you know what that entails?” You've got to go there and wrestle the people at Mercury and Electra and they're not going to press this record if it's 20,000 copies.” They won't. That's the reality of it, isn't it?

So then this Terry goes along and whatever he did, I love him for it, because now you can actually buy Rescue You on CD and it's a damn good record.

Yeah, I've got the original Japanese release but I think that even that was only out for a short time wasn't it?
Absolutely. It was never meant to be released for much longer. I've got 2 copies of that one that's still in the packaging and I'm not even touching them.

I don't blame you.
Because that's the only place that you could buy the CD -- Japan. And vinyl, of course. I still see vinyl popping up every now and again. Regardless. I think that Wounded Bird thing is a great outlet for stuff, he's got some Yes things on there and Allman Brothers.

Some old acts. A lot of great stuff.
You can't get it on CD.

There should be more of it. There should be less resistance from the majors to license it off for someone else to do it because they're not going to do it, are they?
No, it's just collecting dust.

You know what. My manager had gone back a few years ago and looked into it and they just laughed and said, “If it's not going to sell 150,000 albums, then we don't give a shit.”

Yeah. Isn't that sad?
He said, “I know it's not Joe's day anymore but at the same time there are plenty of fans in the US and everywhere that would love to hear this record. It's not going to be crap, but no, we don't expect to sell 150,000 records. They just laughed and said, “It's not worth it.” However he did it, and whatever he did, and whom he paid to get this… some day I'm going to email him and just say, “Terry, give me the low-down.”

And based on what you've said there, I guess you do have one unreleased album still in the vaults, don't you? The follow-up to Rescue You.
Oh, yeah.

Is that right? That's never been released anywhere, has it?
Well, no. You know what's happening though. One of those drunken nights on the road, somebody must've been in my party room and nicked one of the tapes.

Uh, oh.
Serafino had it for years. He's been getting different artists to do different songs of mine from that era. <laughs> And I find it really funny because I never got to record them properly myself. And he's always, can I get Terry Brock to do this song, and somebody else to do that song. And I go, “Sure, go ahead if you want.” And then he wanted me to do those songs on this album and I said, “No, no, no.” Look, that's a different time. If you want me to do an album like that from that time then I'll do that album. Now's a different time. Really, yeah, there's an album there, but I'd do it as an album.

Because you can't just put “Forever Now” the song in the mix with the stuff I've just done. I don't know, maybe you could, I just hear it. Yeah, that was strange because the tape got around and the next thing you know, people are all going, “When are you going to do this song? What about that song?”

You're like, “Where did you hear that from?”
Yeah, I'm just amazed and then I go, drunken stupor, that was it. Somebody nicked the tape.

You'll have to release it officially now then won't you?
It wouldn't be a bad idea if I at least got commissioned to go and do these 8 or 10 songs and call it Demos.

Yeah, exactly.
Call it Demos.

I'll look and see what I've got in the can. I'll see what I've got on the 24 track. That's almost ancient, isn't it?

Yeah, exactly. You could put an album out in between and just say here's a collection, or compilation. That would be great.
Yeah. I think so. I might just have to do something like that because I love those songs and all. They're a real big part of me.

Exactly. And just like people want to hear Rescue You, they want to hear anything, don't they?
Yeah, they want to hear what it was once, what it was then. A return to their youth, or a return to the good times, whatever you want to call it and I can't blame them because that's what I do. My daughter is 15 so I'm up on all the new stuff.

Oh, great.
Forget about it. Thankfully, she was brought up on Beatles and Hendrix. She's got a great ear, plays classical piano, and now she's learning guitar. And she's bitching at me because I don't have time to teach her so she's learning on her own and she's humiliating me. I go, “Where are you learning from?” She goes, “The internet.” So I'm like the absent father. I'm going, “How about on Monday?” but then Monday comes and I'm like, “I'm too busy right now.” But to make a long story short, I'm up on all the new stuff but I go back to all the old stuff because it just makes me feel good.

Of course.
Plus, it was great fuckin' music! I mean, what am I supposed to listen to? Ashlee Simpson?

Please. Arrghh.
<laughs> What they call talent is unbelievable.

I know. It's sad isn't it?
It really, really is. I mean, hello. And this is, she sold 3.5 to 4 million records.

I know. It's depressing isn't it?
It is. We're all struggling to sell 20,000 records. It's absurd.
This classic rock thing is sort of returning though.

I think so, yeah.
I hope you see it on your end. Because I'm feeling it with the little feelers that I put out. But who's to say. Everybody's been saying that for the last 10 years. I think this time it really starts to feel like people are getting sick and tired of the crap. All we want to do is just get a bit of nostalgia and look back and say, “Ah, that is when people could play and sing and write songs.”

Yep. Exactly.
You're doing a lot for that with the site and all because there's a place to go, like a haven. You're almost like a shelter for me because nowadays it's like just go to Melodicrock and you'll find out. All of your buddies are over there.

I'm just happy it's working…I've had some really crappy visions in my years! <laughs>
<laughs> Haven't we all. I've written some pretty shitty songs as well. It's splendid to talk to you, really...

Thank you, Joe. Look I've really enjoyed this time on the phone.
My pleasure Andrew!










Andy Johns (2004)

Andy Johns: The man Behind The Legends.


Record producer Andy Johns talks about some of his experiences over the years, including work with Van Halen, Eddie Money, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones...

Well, how are you?
Well, I'm all-right. It's been a bit hectic this week but I'm getting things sorted out.

Yeah, I hear you've been to Florida and back.
No, not me.

Oh, OK.
I was gonna go, now it's not Florida, I've got to go to Chicago and then San Francisco.

Well that's a nice schedule.
…to do some guitar stuff with Rick Nielsen from Cheep Trick and Joe Satriani.

Oh really! What are they doing?
Well it's for this…Desmond Child is producing, executive producing this Latino artist called Alejandro Guzman. And he wrote all the songs and they just wanted Scott and I to sort-of cast around and get some guitar player types. And that's what we came up with.

You can't get past Rick Nielsen and Satriani can you?
Well they wanted Eddie Van Halen but he didn't want to do it 'cause he said Warner's wouldn't let him.

Right, OK.
That was his excuse anyway.

(laughing) Yeah, I might get on to him in a bit…, now whereabouts do you live Andy, full time?
I live in L.A.

You do? OK.
I've been here for years.

Yeah, I thought as much.
I've been here since '75 and you know, I started working here. The first time I came here was 1970. I was just saying to Annette, jeez I've been kicking around this town for thirty-one years now.

Actually there's not many people that I know that have survived L.A. that length of time.
Well, you know, it's funny, man. You know, obviously I'm an English guy but it really seems, obviously very much like…, this seems real to me here. I know that sounds strange but there's something about…, once you've been in L.A. long enough, even if you grow to hate it, it all starts to seem real. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing I do not know.

Oh, I love the scene personally, I absolutely adore being there. It's great fun. It's the hub of activity isn't it?
It's still where the action is. So look, do you have your tape machine on?

Yes I do, yeah.
OK so we're cool on that, good.

Yeah, yeah, I can't write that fast.
So what do you want to know?

Look I just want to touch on the work that you've done. I've been going back through, I've pieced together a resume of yours and you have quite an impressive career that not many could match.
Well, I don't know about that. I mean there's not many people that's been sort of at it this long.
You know, and I'm still going. Most of the people that I grew up with, like Tom Dowd and Jimmy Miller's dead, you know. My brother sort of retired. Bill Halverson, I don't know what he's doing these day. Bob Ezrin is still going.

But he kind of came along after I did anyway.
At least the first time I met him I think was in, '73, '74. So yeah, been at it for a long time man.

What do you put it down to? The fact that you can still get work after what, nearly 30 years.
Well, it's not as easy as it used to be, let me tell you.

There's so many more people out there that call themselves record producers. Also, by the, sort of, mid-90s . After the grunge thing happened. It was, well you know, why get Andy Johns? You know, he wouldn't understand this sort of shit, which is so stupid, you know. Because it's just music. What's the diff? You know, I've seen, I've gone through psychedelic, straight rock and roll, heavy metal, punk. You know, I've done orchestras, I've done everything. It's all just music.

So it got a little tough round about then, then all of the A&R departments got…, for a long time it was the same people pretty much going from one label to another. Some guy would be at Epic for 2 years, he'd get kicked out, he'd go over to Warner's for 3 years. He'd get kicked out of there, he'd end up at Capital. So you knew everybody.

Yeah, OK.
And then a lot of, a lot more people joined the business, most of whom didn't really have any credentials. You know, they had a CD collection and they'd been to a few gigs and maybe they played guitar for 2 weeks and they thought this qualified them to A&R records, you know. And they would tell me what they thought, like I gave a shit, you know. It's unbelievable. And so, you know, that was a bit frustrating. But things are settling down now.

Fantastic, fantastic. What's your favorite record from the…, I guess you have 2 stages, the '70s…
Well the one that sticks out for me most of all, that was a big watershed thing for me, was Exile on Main-Street.

Yeah, absolutely. And it's still regarded as an absolute classic.
Because I was a Stones fanatic, when they first came out, you know. My brother used to work with them, and I wanted to work with The Rolling Stones more than anything, in my life. If I get the Stones I would be, you know, I would have done everything I ever wanted to do. And I started working with them with Sticky Fingers. I did half of that and mixed some of it. But then the Exile thing, it was… They built the first mobile unit in Europe. Like a truck with gear in it, you know. Before that, if you wanted to record something live, some guy would show up in a van and you'd pull the mixer out and some speakers and you'd plug it in and hold it together with string. So we took their truck and went to the South of France. It took a year, which in those days was almost unheard of.

Yeah, absolutely.
And it was a life changing experience for me.

And the record came out great!

I still like that record. Mick doesn't like it.

He always puts it down. Anytime I see an interview about it, 'oh well, that bloody thing. We were not at our best'. It's actually bullshit because, I don't know, about a third of the songs, or several of them, were from previous sessions, you know. Going back as far as Let It Bleed sessions. And then the other stuff, from the South of France, 'Rocks Off' and 'Tumbling Dice' and shit like that came out bloody marvelous.

Oh absolutely. To this day it still makes Top-10 classic album lists.
He hates it. But whatever, you know.

Temperamental rock star.
L.V. disease (laughs). Lead vocalist disease. So there's that one and then of course the Zeppelin 4, you know, that was sort of...

What a classic.
Everyone always asks me about that, 'what was it like? Did you know it was going to be a …'. I mean at the time, obviously Zeppelin were just a dream to work with in the studio as far as the music went. Because they were so good. And it all went very quickly with those guys. You'd always get a couple of tracks a day. No hassle doing vocals. None of this two days on a vocal. “Oh it's my turn to sing now, OK.” Boom. A couple of takes and he's done. So you expected it to be good. Because it was then.

And then, because of 'Stairway to Heaven' I suppose, which I remember thinking at the time, this is all-right, I like this one.

Yeah, really?
It's funny because on those sessions I was trying to do a building song for a couple of years to beat something my brother had done.

Oh really, what was that?
I wanted to…you know the biggest building song of all time. I said Page, we really need a song that builds on this album. He went, 'Well I've got something that does that, wait until you hear it.' And that was 'Stairway to Heaven.'

Really! And what song were you trying to beat from your brother?
My brother had done this song with…he used to write with Steve Miller. A Boz Scaggs tune on the second album of theirs was a total rip-off of 'Jumping Jack Flash.' I mean the riff, completely, stone cold riff. And he called it something 'A Dime a Dance Romance'. But the way (he) had mixed it, it came in great and it just kept getting louder, as it went on. And I thought, I've got to beat that. And I tried a few things with Jethro Tull, didn't happen. So hey listen to this bit, because he didn't like 'Stairway to Heaven' because I worked on it. Usual shit.

And has he since relinquished his crown?
Oh I don't know. I don't think we've really talked much about Led Zeppelin. He got a bad taste in his mouth because on the first record he was supposed to be credited as producer. And after they finished it they didn't.
And so he was sort of anti-Jimmy Page. And of course I did a little bit of work on the second record. They came to Morgan Studios where I worked at the time and did a couple songs on the second record. And I don't know, Pagey just called me up to do the third one. That went OK. I think I could have mixed it a little better. We mixed the whole thing in about two, three nights at this studio at Island which really wasn't the greatest place to mix, it was great to track in. I'm sure if I mixed it now, it would sound a bit better. We sort of went on from there. Then on the fourth one, there was a bit of a falling out because I wanted to see this chick in L.A. (laughs) so I said, “We should go to L.A. to mix this record Jimmy, there's this place, Sunset Sound. I was just there and it's great. You'll love it.” OK, great.

So we went to Sunset Sounds, the room that I had used, they changed. It was completely different and I didn't like it. So we went into another room and sort-of floundered around for a few weeks and we thought it sounded wonderful. We brought it back to London and the rest of the band wanted to listen to it so we all showed up at Olympic and we put these tapes on and they sounded bloody awful.

Oh dear.
Pagey and I are literally cringing on the floor in the corner. So I got blamed for that. Understandably so I suppose. Well the last time I saw Jimmy, he told me that the mix we had done in L.A. of 'Levee Breaks' was the one that actually ended up on the record. Which I didn't know till all these years later. So I guess we got something out of it. Then I mixed the thing again at Island and it all got a bit weird. And I'd asked him for a co-production thing and he said, 'You deserve it but I'm not going to give it to you.' And then but Pagey, actually I mean he would have liked to work with me again I think but Bonzo wouldn't want to have anything to do with me.

Oh, OK. Didn't you give him loud enough drums or something?
No, I think he just fucking hated me (laughs). I think he just fucking hated me. 'Cause the last time I saw him he wanted to beat me up. We were at a club some where. And “Oh, you look stupid with that fucking hat on.” I said, “Well you get rid of your two bloody bodyguards and we'll do something about it.” And then, “All right, fuck you.” It didn't happen. Because after that, Pagey had me produce a band called Detective that was on Swan Song, that he originally was going to produce and then he couldn't do it, whatever, he was committed to something else. And he called up and said would I like to do it. So we were still pals you know.

And I still see him every now and again, hello, how are you? Obviously I learned a tremendous amount working with him.

Oh, for sure. I was going to ask you in regards to Zeppelin quickly, they were sort of like one of the pioneering bands of different layers in their overdubs and different layers of music, you know, guitars and stuff. Was it an absolute nightmare to try and put together?
Well no, actually if you listen to those records there really isn't that much over dubbing. Compared to what we would do now. It's bass, drums. If it's a rock tune, it's bass, drums, a guitar and then he might put on another track the solo and a counter rhythm or something and then there might be a few sound effects, maybe a little bit of Hammond or something. But it wasn't anything like what we do now. It was 8 track, 16 track those things were. But I mean, even on 'Stairway', if you listen to that, it's fairly simple. We cut the track with drums, John Paul played a Hofner electric piano, looked like a little upright. And I tried to get as much bottom end out of the left hand as I could so we have something on the bottom end when they were tracking and Jimmy Page played the acoustic and then John put bass on it and then Pagey, we put the two 12-stings, Rickeys which I did direct, that's why they're so twinkley…, that stuff. And then there's a main sort of electric rhythm when it kicks in and a solo. And the recorders on bookends type of thing. And that's it. It really isn't that much.

OK, so his guitar playing is just simply…
Well it's just because of his parts. His parts were so instinctively correct. If you listen to something like 'Ramble On' which I didn't work on but I wish I had. That guitar part of his that comes in on the last verse which really is a bit of a nick from the bass line that John Paul's doing, I mean that's probably the only real overdub on that apart from the knee slapping thing on the intro. So there really wasn't tons and tons of stuff. I mean 'Levee Breaks' that's bass, drums, 2 guitars and a harmonica, vocal.

That's pretty simple then really isn't it?

How about another English legend that you worked with, one of my personal favorites - Rod Stewart?
Oh, it lives!

A character and a half?!
Yes, very funny man.
Extremely funny guy. I mean there's two or three different Rod Stewarts that I counted in the years that I worked with him. There was, 'one of the lads', Rod. There's the 'I'm a huge rock star and you're not', Rod. And then there's the 'I've changed my clothes four times today, I don't know who you are when he comes to my house and Frank Sinatra's here.' But the one I spent the most of my time with was the hard working, committed to getting good music done, very, very hard working man who had fun when he was working and was very funny. Extremely witty guy. And a great singer.

Yeah. I've heard some interviews, they always make me laugh for some reason. Yeah, great singer.
Lot's of practical jokes.

Constant. You really had to watch out. You had to be aware that probably a joke was being played on you all the time. Example, one day…I'll give you one.
One day, we're doing this big string overdub. Just Rod and myself and the assistant engineer and this big string section, 36 pieces, something like that. There's, I don't know, 6 celli and one of the people playing the cello was this very pretty girl in a red dress. And Rod and I are in the control room are going, 'Whoa, look at her!' And trying to get the assistant to give her little messages like you were in school type of thing. And wanking under the mixer and running out…I remember we moved the conductor's podium at one point during the middle of a take so we could get a better look at her. And she sort of picked up on this. And then he goes, 'So Andy, what would you do to her if you had her out in the parking lot?' And I went, 'Ah, well you know I fuck her in the ass and then run around the front and gizz all over her face.' So he said, 'Andy, look.' And he put his elbow on the talk back button and turned it up really loud. So sting players man, they're pretty straight, little old Jewish ladies with blue tinted hair and I'm looking out the window and they're all, jaws on the floor and I obviously turned absolutely beat red. What do you say? But she was a sport, she came next door for a drink afterwards. Said, 'Sorry boys you're out of luck I got married last Saturday.' I think she had fun.

I do like that! (laughing)
So it was always…, you had to be careful. I used to wear clubs [pants] in those days.

Any you know, as soon as I'd sat them beside me, push them off, be running around. Every day I would do this and every day they would hide them. They'd be in the freezer, they would be nailed to the ceiling. The roadies had gotten up…the roadies were always in on these things. So it was awful. You really had to watch out. They got a jacket of mine. I bought this really expensive suede… I don't suppose I'd do that these days…jacket, and they knotted the sleeves. Four blokes tugging on the sleeves so it would never come undone. Cost me like twelve hundred bucks.

Oh dear! (laughing)
Never put that on again. So I took Carmine's [Appice] trousers, you know, he'd change into sweats. Because Carmine would get in on these things as well. So I got his trousers once and soaked them, put them in the freezer so they were iced trousers. He couldn't get those on. All sorts of wonderful gay little events.

It's amazing any music actually got made.
Well no…what would happen is, we'd start at twelve, Rod likes to start early and work diligently on whatever we were doing until about six, nip next door to whatever the boozer was, get slightly tipsy, come back, do the actual takes. And then work's done for the night, whoa let's have fun. You sort of hang around the studio for another 2 or 3 hours just getting pissed, fooling around with girls and telling a lot of lies. It was great fun.

Great stuff!
But the work got done, man. He likes to work. He's a good worker.

Yeah, well you're putting out an album a year basically then weren't you?
Well, yeah. But he was selling so many records. That one with 'Do You Think I'm Sexy?' and all that, I don't know that must have done a bout 10 million, 12 million.



At least, yeah.
That was his big peak then. And then we went…I did three, four records with him. Foolish Behavior…, I can't remember now. The last one was Foolish Behavior where Tom Dowd had actually been asked not to participate any more. But it was just us, school boys having fun. Actually I think we did pretty well. There's a couple of good things on that record.

Yeah, yeah. In fact I don't think ever Rod's basically made a bad album back then.
I don't know, some of these techno things he's done have left me wondering what the hell is going on.

Ah yes. I stopped buying his records in about 1990 unfortunately.
I don't know what goes on.

He's still a great singer.
He's still a great singer.

Yes, yes, absolutely. In the '80s you moved on to sort of … hard rock more often.
Well yeah, I mean the '70s went into the '80s quite nicely. I was still working with Eddie Money.

I love Eddie Money.
Eddie was a gas. I mean some really good rock and roll albums done with old Ed. I was still working with him a bit and then Ronnie Wood. I did an album with Ronnie Wood. Hughes/Thrall album that I really liked, I don't know if you ever heard of that.

Oh, absolutely.
A lot of muso's like that.

Absolutely! In fact I've got that here to talk to you about.
It's funny, I was just talking with Pat the other night. Pat [Thrall] and I are still really good mates.

Excellent, excellent!
Wonderful, wonderful man and probably of all of the guitar players I've ever worked with, he's just as good as fucking anybody I've ever worked with. I mean he's really one of my favorites of all time. And not many people know because he never really became the guitar hero that I see him as.

I saw him live with Meatloaf. Fantastic! I mean, I love the Hughes/ Thrall album.
Hughes played stuff really that just had me weeping. Seriously. Because he's just, you know, whatever he's got in his soul, he doesn't have any problems translating that to music. He's very, very soulful player. Pat, and technically just an absolute expert. And I'll never forget one day, I said to Pat, you know we need bottleneck on this, you don't play bottleneck do you? He says, no I never learned that but wait, I can do it with the whammy bar. I sat down one afternoon and taught myself how to do it with the whammy bar. I said, kid, give me a fucking break. I want the real thing. He said, no, listen to this. And you'd never known it wasn't a bottleneck. I swear to God!
Just fucking magic man.

Wonderful. Have you…actually in waiting for the interview to call you, I actually tried to give Glenn Hughes a ring to get an update, to say G'Day.
Oh really?

Yeah, because I'm a huge fan of his.
What a voice!

He's just so good. Sometimes I don't think he quite does the right material.
He's on this R&B…I don't mean rap music. He's been trying to be Stevie Wonder for a long time and I don't know whether it's the right thing either.

Well I think he should concentrate on being a rock singer because there's none better.
Yeah. It's unfair man. It's not difficult for him at all. He's got more talent in the end of his little finger than most people would have in several incarnations.

'Oh sing now. OK'. And he'll go out,' I don't want to sing, give me another burrito.' Glenn, go and sing. 'Oh, all right.' And half-heartedly and these fucking notes are coming out and he's going…you can see he's going to go for this note and you going, he's never going to get there and he makes it and then he'll do a third above and you just shit yourself. It's not fair man.

Absolutely. Are you at all tied up or heard any of the Hughes/ Thrall 2 sessions that are gong on right now?
Well I don't know. Are they doing anything?

Yeah, they were - on and off again…Off again now I think…
Well I know they did bits and pieces. I thought it was sort of on hold at the moment.
Pat hasn't mentioned it much to me in the last six months. Maybe he just feels that I would be disappointed to hear about it. I don't know not being involved. I know they were starting to do it and then Pat was going, you've got to work with this, and then they did a bit and then they didn't do any…I don't know whether they are still doing it or not.

I'll ask you briefly about Eddie Money. He's one of my personal favorites. I did an interview with him once. It was mid-day L.A. time and I think he was already half pissed.
How long ago was that?



That was only 3 or 4 years ago I think.
Oh! Really!

He didn't sound in the best of shape.
Because Eddie's been, 'I'm straight, I'm straight, I'm straight.'

Yeah, I heard that too.
The last time I saw him, I was sitting in this bar in New York at the Mayflower Hotel with this guitar player friend of mine who's always going on about Eddie Money this, Eddie Money that. What was he like? And who do I see coming through the door but young Edward who's supposed to be straight, pissed out of his mind doing naughty things in the kitchen with the waitresses.
Then he comes upstairs and says to me, 'Andy, hey kid, you really shouldn't drink so much' as he falls off his chair. (laughing). He slid off it slowly as he went on the floor he's still telling me, 'Jesus Andy, you've got to stop with the booze kid.'

He's such a character.
Well he's the best liar I've ever known in my life. He'll sit next to you and tell huge whoppers about you! While you're sitting there! It's unbelievable!
One night, we called these 2 chicks, I don't know, but this will give you an idea. We're at the Tropicana Hotel, a real dive, and we called these 2 chicks from Barney's Beanery and we get back to the room…………unprintable!………….. Eddies on the other bed and he's numb, just like…da da da…nothing. He jumps off the chick and goes, “'Hey baby, this must be the best you've ever had! My huge thing in you love mound, oh yeah!” I just burst into hysterics and lost it completely. I mean he'd even lie about that to the chick, when he can't even get it in (laughs)!
Another time he had done this very naughty thing to me. We were doing this session, it was like 3 in the fucking morning……………unprintable! (but it involves Nuns - seriously!)…………So you can't print that one either.

No, I'd better not! (laughing)
We used to get into all kinds of trouble.

He was a funny guy. It's one of the better interviews I've ever enjoyed doing. I asked him about something, he goes, “Oh fuck man. That was 3 rehabs and 2 ex-wives ago.”

I thought, WTF??…he's a rock star isn't he?
Well, I would love to do another record with old Ed but he seems to have dried up a bit.
I talked to his wife about a year ago for a good hour. He was off somewhere doing something. We were really, really close for 5, 6, 7 years. He was godfather to my first son with Annette. We used to hang out and get in a lot of trouble. That's why they never really let us do an album with just me and him. Except the last time we worked and everyone else just sort of packed up and gone home. I said Ed, you should let me come in and fix this record and we spent a lot of money and it wasn't a big hit. Had far too much fun than necessary.

What a character.
In fact I've got this great story about those sessions. Listen to this one. John Nelson, the guitar player who is an absolute sweetie and a really good blues player but a bit shy and like all of us, a little bit paranoid. And we're doing this guitar overdub and its Eddie's idea so I was wandering around while they worked together. Didn't really have to be there. And a friend of mine called Les Dudak who was like a hot shot guitar player in L.A. in those days came wandering in, sits down, puts his boots up on the mixer and I know he's going to start telling John Nelson what to play and I went, fuck that. Oh Les, come here… a little bit of catching up and goodbye. I went back in and John says to me, “Oh Andy, thanks a lot man I hate having other people... It's like having Jeff Beck standing there or something like that. I said, I know, so I got rid of him. So I go out of the control room and who's coming towards me up the corridor: Carmine and Jeff beck. I said, ”Jeff quick, hide, hide, just simple stuff, do what Andy does.” So I just sort of, with my back to the control room wall, sliding down the wall. Jeff's like, OK, I'll do this. John's playing away. He can see me out of his peripheral vision. Finishes his bit, swivels around in the chair to go, “What do you think Andy?” Then he sees Jeff and goes, “You c*** Andy!” (laughs). I said yeah it's OK. Thanks Jeff, goodbye. Jeff's “What was that?” Sorry man, I'll come see you in a minute. “You c*** Andy!” how could…the timing. You couldn't wish for that to happen.

No. That was brilliant.
I also learned quite a bit with old Eddie. Because we would sort of room together and stay in places together so I would be more involved than I would have. For a while in the middle of the '70s because I fucked up so much after the Stones and had a little bit of a problem and all that, went back to just engineering for people. Which was fine with me. Because it was really quite hard to produce in those days. Didn't have all the knowledge. So I was happy doing that. But with Eddie, I could sort of practice doing that without having to take the full responsibility you know.

So that was fun. And he's a very clever chap.
Yeah. He's a great songwriter.
Hard on drummers.

He's hard on drummers is he?
Well, yeah. Eddie's hard on everybody. You have to know his humor really. But I've seen…reducing them to tears. People storming out and throwing drumsticks. And he'd go on and on about the fills. He would be very specific about what fills he wanted. And I used to think he was just driving them potty. You know I do the same thing now. Perhaps slightly more diplomatically. But it is. It's necessary man.

Well if you get a good result in the end I guess.
Well yeah! I mean the fills…you've got to play this song you know. And to connect parts together if it's the wrong fill it just jerks it around. You lose the flow. So you've got to get those right. If the guy's playing something…you hear what you want. And then explaining it is a little tough sometimes. You learn how to do that in the end. It's actually just telling the guy what to play until he does it right. As opposed to giving up, going on, must be driving you nuts. That was too bad.

Get it right.
We're going to get this right. OK. Once you've done a few things and the guy trusts you, then it's totally cool. If you ask him to play rubbish, the he just thinks you're a dick. Which, of course, isn't good for anybody.

No. Obviously not. Tell me about one of my favorite albums of all time, is Van Halen's For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.






How did you get roped into…because that was a pretty important album for them.
Yes, I really had a grand time doing that. I met Eddie once at the Madison Square Garden and we hung out and did a lot of silly things and then I was working over at the old Warner Brother's annex called Amigo with this band called Broken Hobs. And there was Eddie. And we started chatting. And then the next thing I know, he called me up, “Well, you want to come in and work with us for a few days and see how it goes?” I think Alex mainly…Alex really wanted…He always wanted to sound like Bonzo. And I remember the first time he plays me this one fill of 'Stairway to Heaven', he goes, “Make my snare sound like that.” I said well, you know, yeah right! Sure, no problem. So we went from there and it took a very long time.

Yeah, that album was put back several times wasn't it, for release?
Well it took a year. Because it's Eddie's house and as far as producing that record went, they would do like a demo because he was writing as we went. We'd do a demo, then we'd do another demo and then we'd actually start in on it. And I wouldn't really start making suggestions until we'd done a couple of demos on it because the thing is still evolving. When it stopped evolving, then I started putting my 2 cents worth in. OK, now you've got me here, you're going to stay there. How about this and this? So I'd have to keep quiet for 10 days, 2 weeks. The only song I really got in on from the very beginning was the…'Right Now.' We demoed that on just the piano and I think I changed the B section and the verse around. And I had the idea for the Hammond. I wanted to make it a bit Steve Winwoody.

And then we tracked that 3 or 4 times just to get the drums spot on, looking for the fills. Looking for the right fills. And we really nailed it in the end. It was a blast working with those guys. It' just…it sort of went on and on you know?

Yeah, yeah. They're a band which…well they seem to run on tensions don't they?

Would that be true to say?
Well, I wasn't quite aware. Sammy wasn't around much. Sammy would come in 1 or 2 days a week to see how we were doing. Give him a rough mix. Sammy and I didn't really hit it off you know. So that's why he wanted Ted Templeman to come in to finish the record. Ted ended up doing the vocals with Sam, which was fine with me. Fuck this, you guys go to the Amigo and do the vocals and I'll keep working with Ed. And Sammy really thought I'd freak out and split because he brought Ted in. And Ted and I just became fast friends you know and worked really well together. So it sort of backfired on him a bit. But Eddie and I were really quite close then. I was his new best friend.

Yeah OK.
And we worked together brilliantly and I got along great with Alex. Had a grand old time doing that record.

Ted Templeman is a name I've been struggling to find anyone who knows too. Is he still kicking around?
Well Ted is no longer at Warner's. I mean after 25 maybe 30 years all that shit over at Warner's. The old guard are all gone. He's sort of semi-retired, lives up in Santa Barbara and I do not have a number on him.

Good to know that he's still kicking around.
Well yeah, Ted, he had a barrel chunk of stock with Warner's because of all those years. So I don't think he really has to work.

Great bloke though.

Yeah OK. Great producer for sure. You said the album took a year, you mentioned Eddie's health there, what was the concern there?
Well there was no health problem on that record.

He was fine. Valerie would get a little concerned sort of about seven o'clock and eight o'clock at night when Eddie and I would be sort of cavorting, shouting and screaming.

Yeah sure.
So she put an end to the day, off you go type of thing. But everything was fine. Eddie's had a few problems lately but he seems very convinced he's got it sorted out.

Yeah, that's what I've heard. Positive. Positive. Very good news.
Had his hip replacement thing and then this awful other thing came up but he tells me he's got it beat.

That's great news.
Yeah it is good news.

That's what I heard. Do you…well there's a lot of stuff going on with the band. Are they working, whatever now. Are you working with them in any capacity?
Well you know, they're a bit cagey about all that stuff. I know what's going on but I can't talk about it because that's for them to talk about.

Yeah, for sure.
There's one or two things that nearly happened to them, there's some other stuff they've got up their sleeve and it's all kind of up in the air right now, you'd have to ask them.

Yeah, that's fine, that's fine. They did produce or they did record three songs with David Lee Roth last year, you weren't the producer for those tracks?
No. And they were going to put a whole thing together but it fell apart.

That's what I heard.
They were going to do a whole thing and then it was, money and stuff. It all went down the tubes.

That's where I hear things are pretty much now, just sort of…
That's where they're at. They've got a shit load of stuff recorded. They've got enough stuff for a couple of albums down on tape. It's just, who's going to sing it, you know?

Yeah, that's what I heard. They can't seem to get to terms with Sammy or Eddie.

And I don't think Warner Brothers wants a singer number 4.
No. So we shall see. I'm sure someone will come to their senses at some point.

Yeah, well I hope so.
'Cause they can't just go on like that. But Eddie is still kind of watching his health as much as any thing else. That's what's going on.

That's important, for sure. What's the most recent thing you're working on, Andy? I heard something with Tom Keifer. Is that right?
Well Tom was going to do a bit of singing on this thing I'm working on with this Latino woman but apparently that's not to be. I was trying to help Tommy get a new record deal because he's got these new songs that are really, really good. His writing has just gotten better you know? But he was with Sony, with John Kalodner and then they got dropped for whatever reason. Mostly politics from what I can tell.

Yes, I heard that.
And now they're sort of shopping around and when it gets sorted out I'm supposed to work with them again.

Oh, good.
Give it another shot. Tommy and I are still really good friends. He's one of my best pals in fact.

Oh great, OK.
We talk all the time and he's a good mate.

Yeah, he's a good singer. I was looking forward to them finally getting some tunes out there.
Yeah, I tell you man I went to see them about 18 months ago at this club here, a big club and they blew me away. I mean live they were always pretty good but this one night they did me in. Really, really, they are so good now. And they just went out on this tour last year, played in front of, I don't know, a million people or something. There's Poison and themselves, and Warrant and a few other sort of wankers and they were blowing everyone away. And it's just amazing to me there aren't labels going, we've got to get you in the studio. It's so weird. The kids would love to have a record. The old fans and the new kids. You should see some of the email that Tommy showed me. It's outstanding. But the A&R people who think they know. It's Cinderella, that's all past and no one would ever go for that. Well the kids don't think that way. It's just the bloody people at the labels. They should change their name. Who are these people?

It's terrible. It really is. I know a label, I know there's a couple of independent melodic rock labels in Europe which would kill to have them on board. I don't know if they'd offer the money that probably…
Hang on, someone's at the door. Hang on.

Yes mate.
Yes, yes.

Yes, I don't know whether they'd be offered … can't offer the money that Tom might be looking for.
Well I don't know, it's not…I mean as long as it was the proper label that knew how to sell records. I don't think he wants millions of dollars just to sign anything. It will happen. It's just this thing they went through with Kalodner. He had them for three years and kept putting it off and putting it off and he signed a bunch of other sort of wally hair bands from the '80s which I never really saw Cinderella as. They're more of a proper rock and roll band.

They were.
And because of these things that they put out didn't do well, whoever was in charge over there said, well screw all of this idea and Cinderella got the boot at the same time. Which was OK with me because I don't think Kalodner would have let me work with them. Yeah I think he would have put the kibosh on that one. We're not exactly close friends.

Anything else you're working on currently, Andy?
Well, let's see.

Or recently that hasn't come out yet?
No. Can't say I have. I've been doing some work with this guy Danny Saber. We're going to do some drum sort of stuff for Pro Tools. I don't know whether I should talk about that.

And there's this other band Scott just dug up for me that are absolutely bloody marvelous.

Who are they?
They're called Sloth.

Yeah. Which is all right for a name I suppose.

Yeah, I don't know that I've ever heard of them.
Better than Dungarees I suppose. Well that's a good name too, who knows? And hopefully they're going to be on Blackwell's…Chris Blackwell's new label Pav. Which would be great for me because I haven't done anything for Chris Blackwell in eons. I used to love working for Chris, all those Free records and stuff. We used to get on really well. Mott the Hoople and Free I did for him. Average White Band, Bits and Pieces.

Yeah, wow!
He was a good guy.

OK. And he's got a new label together?
Yes, which is a good thing.

What style of music is Sloth?
Well I think Chris…it's the world music thing, right now. The last time I did anything for Chris, was that the motion pictures related thing? No that was with Denny Cordell, sorry. Denny Cordell and Chris were very close with each other. They sort of started off together and they used to cross pollinate a bit. That's another sad loss. Denny Cordell going.

I didn't hear that.
Oh he's been gone for about 6 years. Liver cancer.

Oh, Ok.
Wonderful bloke.

Yes it is.

Yeah. Too many good names going isn't there?
Lot's of people dead man. When Nicky Hopkins died it took me…I'm over it now but for about 2 or 3 years I would be working, I would go, I've got to get Nicky to play on this. Jesus, I can't do that anymore. He was just stellar, old Nicky was.

I think he was the best bloody pianist I ever worked with…I mean listen to 'She's a Rainbow' (sings notes). Without Nicky doing that, that wouldn't have been anything like…I mean that is Nicky. You'd be tracking away with them, you'd turn the piano off to see whatever and the whole thing would…what's this? You'd notice that the two guitars were actually going around what Nicky was laying down. House of cards would collapse. And he played with everybody. The Who and lots of stuff with George Harrison, I mean everybody, everybody. John Lennon. If you ever watch that thing on Lennon where they're at their apartment in New York and Yoko comes out and she goes, 'John, John.' And Nicky's sort of doodling away on the Wurlitzer. 'John, tell them they're jamming too much John.' He goes, 'Guys, you're jamming too much.' Nicky sort of looks up at the ceiling and keeps playing exactly what he was doing. 'Fucking, we're jamming too much.' (laughs) Get out of here.

Could that be possible?
Like, well, yes, that is possible some times. He was wonderful. Very funny man too.

OK. OK. Who, out of every one you've worked with, stands out as the most eccentric character?
Moony was pretty eccentric. I mean, there's been many.

They're rock stars.
I myself have been known to be fairly eccentric. I suppose Eddie Money was pretty eccentric. Zeppelin used to get up to some pretty weird games. Which is one of the reasons I started thinking, what's going on here?

I've heard about some of their exploits with fish!
Moony was obviously the be all and end all, beyond practical jokes. I never did that much work with him.

Keith Moon you mean?
Yeah, Moony…there's only ever been one of him.
Only ever been one of Moony.

Yeah, a legacy that's lasted.
No one's ever been able to outdo him. But then you know, it killed him you see. He didn't make it. He was only 33 or something.

That's tragic.
I mean everybody's a bit… I mean what do you call eccentric? I don't know (laughs).

Yes, mate. Yeah, I think I've asked you everything I possibly could I appreciate that. Apart from more VH gossip….
Well Ed started thinking he didn't have to listen to any body. And he fired everyone in the band. The only one left was him. Everyone else was gone. He even fired Alex.

Yeah. And they've been trying to get rid of Michael on and off for a long time. And I said, you're out of your fucking mind!
But Eddie thinks he's this sort of genius who really…We'll see. Poor old Ed's been going through a lot of shit lately. Can't say anymore…

No, no, that's fine. That's perfect.
So, are we through?

Yes Andy, thanks very much for spending so much time with me and sharing some amazing stories. Just awesome.
Take care!

Thanks, my pleasure.

Interview by Andrew McNeice. c. 2004





Gotthard (2004)

Gotthard: A new team in 2004.
Gotthard Interview with Steve Lee by Sven Horlemann - from the Bang Your Head Festival 2004

At the Bang-Your-Head Festival in Germany (read the review here) I had the chance to talk to Steve Lee from Gotthard right before their concert. We did the interview in German, so what you are about to read is my translation.

Thanks go out to Frank Süpfle to make it happen.

MelodicRock – Hello Steve, I would like to know the actual status with in the band. Last news is you have a new band member. Also 'Human Zoo' marks a new era for the band because it was the first time Gotthard worked without Chris von Rohr (mentor of the band since the beginning).

Steve – Well I have to say that the 'Human Zoo' tour was the best tour we ever did. After 14 years of Gotthard rocking the world me and the band are very proud on what we achieved. You know that being in such a kind of business you have your highs and lows, but until now each year we were fortunate enough to get the band another step further. We also stick to our original music style. Of course we also like to experiment.

'Human Zoo' as an album was more rockier, after some more melodic releases we had. Still we had our signature ballads on 'Human Zoo'. After the 'Human Zoo' tour we had to discuss within the band some problems we had with our management, with people outside the band. So first of all we had to “clean our house”. I have to say that now we are pretty much on the right way. We have a new management, we have a new guitar player – Freddy…

MelodicRock – … Freddy (Laurence) is known as a member of CHINA …

Steve – … yeah, Freddy was with China and did work with a lot of bands since then, therefore he his very professional. Mandy Meyer did want to release a solo record, also we had some discussions about the musical direction…

MelodicRock – … is he more into the melodic, the softer style?

Steve – I would say yes. You know, he is a great musician, but he always kept to himself. Like living in his own world.

MelodicRock – And Gotthard is a team…

Steve – That is right, the four original members of us are a team for more than 14 years now. Freddy will take part on the current tour and our activities throughout this year, and then we'll see. Generally Gotthard are the four of us plus Freddy.

MelodicRock – It seems to me that he is the right player for Gotthard.

Steve – Well I have to say this is the 3rd concert we do with him. I have to admit I am deeply impressed with him learning about 30 songs in 2 weeks. We had our rehearsals, and it felt like we've been playing together for a long time.

Funny thing is, that Freddie knows Marc from his time with China, so there you have another instant connection. OK, with much lesser hairs now… (laughs). At least it is fashionable these days.

What I really like about this band is that right in your heart you have to feel it, and have the right attitude. Gotthard is not so much about fashions and what to wear. With Freddy we have fun on stage, and this is most important.

MelodicRock – If you are looking to bands like Harem Scarem, short hair without doubt is no problem these days.

Steve – Yeah, I know them. Though hard rock is conservative, if you are into the sound, music should come first.

MelodicRock – What I recall from the press in criticizing the 'Human Zoo' record is that they didn't find it as hard as they did expect it. After listening to it myself I have to say that the production certainly is a melodic rock, radio rock style, but the songs have more drive and a more rocky attitude.

Steve – You can hear that this record was written in rehearsals. This is not a studio recording. Gotthard always worked on the songs like a band should – rehearsing them together. In the studio you only have to press the record button and capture the song. It is like checking the songs out in a live environment. This certainly takes more time. I am really looking forward on the new songs.

MelodicRock – As far as I know there will be another release finishing your record deal with BMG International.

Steve – First of all there will be a 'Best Of'. With ballads and rockers. Then we plan to head to the studio in September, working on the new album. I think it will take some time to have the album ready. We want to take our time. You know, quality take its time. That is very important for us.

MelodicRock – When I am thinking of the Swiss rock scene, names like Krokus, China and of course Gotthard come to my mind. Leaving the underground aside, these three names are mile stones in the melodic rock world wide.

Steve – I think there is a simple reason for this. A lot of Swiss people who want to become successful are singing in one of the 4 Swiss dialects or Italian. Most of these people are lacking the courage to use English as their musical language and try to succeed on an international level. A lot who tried this were laughed at …

MelodicRock – … reminds me of the Scorpions in Germany …

Steve – … absolutely. Right in the beginning of Gotthard we had the same discussions with people. We realized from the beginning if the music comes from the heart, there are no boundaries.

MelodicRock – That is something that impressed me from the beginning. Your international level in the studio as well as on stage. Seeing you live and Hena (Habegger the drummer) giving the songs such a drive, making you compete successful with all the other international acts…

Steve – Yeah Hena was on the musicians institute in the USA. Acutally James Kottak (ex-Kingdom Come, ex-Warrant, Scorpions to name a few) was his teacher. We did meet him in the USA. The original drummer had physical problems so we were looking for a new drummer. First we did want to have James Kottak, but he declined because of scheduling problems and recommended Hena, who just finished his studies and by the way was also a Swiss.

MelodicRock – The first albums all were very straight forward, groovy. Still you don't want to be like AC/DC, staying limited to one style. Kind of the Survivor syndrome (hey I like all the bands, ok!). So the break was possible with your record 'D-frosted', an acoustic and orchestral album that was different. Did you plan on that?

Steve – Yeah we did. After the first three hard rocking albums we wanted to do something special, using acoustic guitars etc. I have to admit we always did a little bit what others already had done. So we wanted to make an unplugged record. And we were lucky. 'D-frosted' was the album that put us on the top of Swiss music scene.

But not in all countries. Japan or Germany for example are much more into the harder songs, so they were not very happy about the album.

Next came the big question: Are we going to do another hard rock record or shall we take the softer approach? Of course then we did 'Open', a record were I still like the songs very much. But I am not so happy with the production. Today I feel it is too much a pop production. Sound wise we achieved a better result with with the next album 'Homerun'.

MelodicRock – 'Eagle', I love that song!

Steve – You like that? That's interesting. Well then you are happy to know that a lot of the new songs will be in this direction.

MelodicRock – Oh, that would be great! When I listened to the Anthrax concert I was overwhelmed with the audience reaction. I was wondering why, and the answer seems to be simple: they got hook lines, and people love to sing along.

Steve – Absolutely.

MelodicRock – Someone once said that whatever style you are playing, if you can play a song on an acoustic guitar and make the people feel it, then it is a good song.

Steve – You are absolutely right. The way I see the 80's rock genre starts all over again, you can feel that people like to hear those songs again. People love to hear melodies, and when the band is right …

MelodicRock – … and the voice is great …

Steve – … of course the voice is a big part of it. If you have a great band but a not so great singer, then you have a problem. I believe the voice you get from god, and everything else is discipline and working on it.

MelodicRock – I feel that classic rock is coming back. Not meaning some old dated music but bands that still put out very good albums with new songs. Do you think you are part of this trend?

Steve – I would say that a lot of songs we did write fit perfectly in this genre. Not all, but some. We are heavily influenced by the bands of the end of 70's, beginning eighties. Being the oldest in the band, I grew up with Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin and still hear them today.

Man, we had the chance to be playing 5 shows with Deep Purple in France. There you see that they still love to play their music. They have a lot of fun playing on stage. After the 2nd show Ian Gillan came up and said we should play 'Hush' because they liked the Gotthard version so much. That was very cool. The French fans did receive us very well, by the way. Deep Purple are really gentleman's of rock'n'roll.

MelodicRock – I remember interviews with Steve Morse complaining about the song announcements of Ian Gillan, because he has a hard time understanding what he says. Also in rehearsals, with their British accents, sometimes everybody is laughing only he didn't get the joke. Is this something that could happen within Gotthard too? You also have different languages spoken by the individual band members.

Steve – Ha ha, Freddy comes from the French side of Switzerland, Leo is from the Tessin, so he speaks Italian, I speak everything a bit, but my main focus would be in Italian. Still it sometimes is a bit chaotic having 3, 4 languages in your head all the time.

During the interview you might have noticed that sometimes I am looking for the right words. Maybe I got it in English or Italian, but I am looking for the German expression. But after all this time we got used to it.

MelodicRock – Looking in the future, what feelings do you have regarding Gotthard?

Steve – To be honest, 5 months ago I was a little bit uncertain on how things will develop. As I told you we changed a lot of things like our management, Mandy Meyer left the band and for some months we didn't know what the future will bring.

We knew that we wanted to proceed as a band musically and on a business level. We had people involved were we were not convinced with the job they had done, financially spoken. We were disappointed. To break up was the best decision.

Today I am much more convinced that this band has a great future and will make a great new album. Even if you are in the late thirties, if it is in your heart you can still rock'n'roll.

Overall you have to have fun in what you are doing. This is the fuel to the machine. We have so much fun going on stage and play rock music, this is the most important thing for us.

MelodicRock – You mentioned the business aspect. Duff McKagan (Velvet Revolver) at some point wanted to understand the accounting that has been done leading up to the royalties he got and started to study accounting. He said that his knowledge was very helpful for the Velvet Revolver negotiations because he understood every aspect of the negotiations, which also earned him some respect.

Steve – Actually some in the band have learned to understand the accounting. This is when we found things we were not very happy with. It is amazing what some of the people earn with what you do as a band. Whatever, we look into the future now and things look promising. We wanted our freedom to decide what to do next, and not some legal battles. In Switzerland some people tried to make it a big topic, talking about it in the magazines.

MelodicRock – In Germany I didn't hear something bad about you separation from the old management.

Steve – I think there was something in the internet. But in the internet also someone wrote that Gotthard split up. Maybe these were some envy related issues, I don't know. We didn't say something about it. We thought it best to come back right on stage and prove them wrong.

MelodicRock – Steve, anything else you want to share with

Steve – We will also play in Athens in August, you know. This is very cool. Just a small 20 minute concert, more for the Olympic teams there.

I'd like to say that we will be back in the studio in September, beginning next year you can expect a new record. There will be the 'Best Of' album, but this doesn't mean this is the end of Gotthard. It is merely a conclusion of a contract.

MelodicRock – Are there some bonus tracks for the 'Best Of'?

Steve – Oh, we got lot's of bonus tracks. I won't go into details now, but there will be the Olympia song we did for the Swiss team on the album.

MelodicRock – Steve, thank you for this interview. It was a pleasure talking to you.

Steve – Thank you too, Sven, and take care.

Dokken (2004)

Dokken: Hell To Pay in 2004!


Dokken guitarist Jon Levin talks in detail about the new Dokken album Hell To Pay and about life in the band in general. Jon talked to Ron & Don Higgins, good friends of mine, who put their hands up for the interview and conducted it with enthusiasm. Thanks guys...




Ron: How are you doing, Jon?
Jon: I'm doing great.

Don: There's two of us on the line. I'm not sure if they told you that when they set this up but, I'm Don and then there's my brother, Ron. We're twins.
Jon: Hey, guys. What's going on?

Ron: Not much.
Don: We'll be doing this together. In fact, we met you on Friday night; you may or may not remember.
Jon: Oh, okay.

Don: At the show in Cincinnati.
Jon: Awesome.

Don: And by the way, that was a really good show. I was really impressed with the way the whole band sounded and, in particular, with the way that you really seemed to match all of George Lynch's notes. You did an outstanding job.
Jon: Thank you very much.

Don: It was really good. I liked the new song that you played, “Escape”.
Jon: Oh, you did like it?

Don: Yeah, I kind of wish you would've played more off of the new album, to be quite honest.
Jon: Well, we're going to be. Don had to do press in Europe so we're now going to be getting new songs worked into the set. We have to rehearse, you know.

Ron: Is this pretty early in the tour?
Jon: Oh, yeah. This is really early. In fact tonight we're opening with “Unchain The Night”.

Ron: Oh, great!
Jon: And we're going to have “Haunted” and “Prozac Nation” in the set within the week.

Ron: I love “Prozac Nation”
Jon: Awesome. And we're going to add “Dream Warriors”.

Ron: Oh, you're kidding?
Jon: So yeah, the whole set is really going to be overhauled within the next week. Like I said, Don had to do press so we lost our rehearsal time.

Ron: Gotcha.
Jon: Actually, after the show last night we all got in the back of the bus and rehearsed.

Ron: That's great. It's funny because my brother and I have both seen Dokken probably 6 or 7 times and, yes, we've seen every guitarist <laughs>, but we were trying to debate on what would be the opening song and the last few times we saw you they opened with “Erase The Slate”, which is interesting because it wasn't even in the set, at least here.
Jon: Yeah.

Ron: So I was thinking it might be something new off of the album, possibly “Don't Bring Me Down”.
Jon: We were thinking about that. You know, it's never really a great idea to open up with a song that nobody knows yet, though.

Ron: Well, yeah, that's what I was going to say. I was pleasantly surprised because I was kind of expecting that since that's what's being featured on Dokken Central right now and it's got that killer guitar riff, and that, by the way, is my favorite song on the album.
Jon: Oh, cool.

Ron: It's just great, with that opening and then that killer lead in the middle. Unbelievable.
Jon: Thanks so much, man. Which show did you say you were at?

Don: Friday night at Annies.
Ron: In Cincinnati, Ohio.
Jon: At Annies. Cool.

Ron: It was unbelievable, but when you kicked off with…
Jon: “Kiss of Death”

Ron: Yeah, “Kiss of Death”, which is a great song that is so up-tempo, it sort of grabs you by the jugular and doesn't let go, you know?
Jon: Yeah.

Ron: I thought that was an excellent way to start.
Jon: Well thanks. We'll see how it goes tonight because, like I said, we're changing it because we've done “Kiss of Death” so many times. We thought people might want a change, but we'll see.

Don: Well “Don't Bring Me Down” is, if you could incorporate that into your set, I would say that that song is definitely the most up-tempo song on the new album.
Jon: Yeah.

Don: And it is also the one that I would say stands out the most as being the most like the old classic stuff like from Tooth and Nail through Back from the Attack. It could almost be straight from one of those albums.
Jon: Yeah, I know what you're saying. I agree.

Don: The other stuff is more reminiscent of Dysfunctional through Long Way Home.
Jon: Do you guys like the album?

Ron: Oh, I love it.
Don: Yeah, I think it's very good.
Jon: Great.

Ron: I've actually liked the last few albums. I actually liked Erase the Slate a little more than the last one, but I'm seeing a lot of comparisons to this being like the older stuff, and I'd have to agree. I think it really is. We're doing this for which is for the most part a one man show with Andrew McNeice out of Australia, so he's the one that wrote up the review of the album.
Jon: Yeah, he's the gentleman I spoke to once. He's a real nice guy.

Ron: He is a heck of a guy. It's funny because he's in Australia so I've never met him, but I've transcribed so many of his interviews and sent him so many emails that I feel like I really know him.
Jon: You guys are going to do this interview and send it to him?

Ron: Yes. Well, I should mention this too, we're taping it.
Jon: Go ahead. That's fine.

Ron: And then we'll go ahead and transcribe it and then we'll send it to him and he'll upload it whenever he can. And, of course, this is with his blessing; in fact, he told me when I asked him if that would be okay, he said that he had a note to try and interview you, so when you say you talked with him, that makes sense.
Jon: I spoke to him a long time ago. We had a brief conversation, but he's a real nice guy.

Ron: Yeah, and he was happy to have us do it. Because he runs the site by himself, he is so swamped with work. We're very appreciative to him. He had a great quote in his review. He does this thing called The Bottom Line and it says, “It's certainly the band's most consistent and traditional sounding release from their recent history. This album will please the majority of the band's long time fans.” And I couldn't sum it up any better. I think that's exactly right.
Jon: Well, that's nice to hear. That's awesome.

Ron: I'll tell you something else that he said and I'm hearing this a lot too. You're going to love this quote if you haven't hear it, it's talking about you specifically. “His part in this album is not to be undervalued in any way – he rules this record.
Jon: Oh, wow. That's nice.

Ron: Yeah, and he goes on. He says that this is very comparable to the last album, and he says, “So if Don hasn't changed – why is this album so much better and why will fans be very happy with the result? The answer is Jon Levin.”
Jon: Oh, wow. That's very nice.

Ron: And again, I have to agree. Like I said, we've seen Dokken with all 5 guitar players and for the first time I didn't feel like here's the guy filling in for George Lynch, it's like, here is Dokken's new guitar player.
Jon: <laughs> Oh, that's awesome. Thanks!

Ron: Seriously.
Don: Some people may or may not know, but you played in Warlock for a while.
Jon: Yeah.

Don: I'm wondering, was George Lynch, perhaps one of your influences?
Jon: Yeah, definitely. He's older than me so I was just a kid but he was definitely one of my guitar influences, not my only one, but certainly one, you know.

Ron: Sure.
Jon: And Eddie Van Halen was a huge one. And Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix. All those guys. For myself, a lot of the guys who played in Dokken were great guitar players but for me the style didn't make sense. I sort of missed this type of style and I just happened to have his influence, being from the younger generation, and it seems to work. We get along really well, everyone in the band, which is really nice too.

Ron: Yeah. Well, you always hear so many stories about this and that and the wars between George and Don and yet, when I got to meet him at the show, he was extremely nice.
Jon: He always is. Don't listen to all the BS that people say, you know? You know what it is with bands, especially when you play together for long periods of time, not every two personalities match well together.

Ron: Right.
Jon: And just for some reason, I've never met George so I know anything about him, but for some reason his personality and Don's didn't go well together.

Ron: Yeah.
Jon: But ours, my personality and Don's, we go great together and we were friends long before I ever played in this band.

Ron: Really?
Jon: Yeah. <laughs>. So it's actually cool to be in it and have someone that's a friend in it too.

Ron: Sure.
Don: Well, you guys are all older now than they were back then so you live and learn.
Jon: Yeah, I don't know how everyone was back in the '80s, I'm sure there were probably some egos going around, but look, everyone's grown up now and we're all in this because we love to do it and that's why we're here, you know.

Don: Exactly.
Ron: Well, it shows because it looked like you guys were having an absolute blast on stage.
Jon: Yeah, we all get along really well, you know? There's no tension. We're all just enjoying ourselves and we're all really grateful and happy that we're able to do what we like to do, and that's play music for a living.

Ron: And I guess if you're going to be around Mick Brown for too long, you can't be too unhappy.
Jon: <laughs>

Ron: Because that guy, he is always up. He's like Mr. Life of the Party.
Jon: Yeah, he really is, you know. That's his role. He does it well.

Ron: Is he like that always?
Jon: That's how he always is, yeah.

Ron: That was my sense because, like I said, the two times I've had a chance to meet him and just the way he is onstage, you can just tell. It kind of reminds me when I saw Van Halen back in the day with David Lee Roth and it was a great show, but the next year when they came with Sammy Hagar for the 1st time, you could just tell that they were more relaxed and just having a blast. And it does make a difference, you know?
Jon: Yeah.

Ron: The fans can really tell.
Jon: Yeah, when everybody is getting along it's much better than when people hate each other. I mean, if it ever got to that point I'm sure nobody would do it anymore, at least I know I wouldn't. I'm an attorney; I don't need to be away from home and losing a lot of money from my law practice to do something that I hate.

Ron: Sure.
Jon: That doesn't make sense.

Don: And when the band is having fun it comes through the music and then the fans can pick up on that, I think.
Jon: Yeah, we're really enjoying it on this tour. I can't speak for anyone else; I'm fairly short because it's going really well.

Don: Now how long is this tour going to last? I know you've got dates scheduled through July.
Jon: Oh, man. We're scheduled through August 21, that's the last show of the 1st leg of the American tour and then from there I think we're going to do Europe for 4 or 5 weeks and then after that hopefully come back and get an arena tour with someone.

Ron: That would be great.
Jon: Yeah.

Don: If you come back around, especially if you incorporate some new songs, I'd like to check out the show again if it comes anywhere near.
Jon: Oh, yes. Please come again. Like I said, we're in the process of renovating the set. We've already got “Escape” now in it. Tonight we've got “Unchain the Night” in it and, like I said, one week from now there's going to be two more new songs off of the new album, probably “Prozac Nation”, and “Haunted” and it looks like we're going to try “Dream Warriors” too, so we're really trying to switch things around, make it fresh. We're rearranging things.

Ron: That's awesome.
Don: As a fan, I would even like to personally hear one or two of the ballads that you have. I think there's two or three on this album and then on Long Way Home there were like three of them and I think that's kind of a gamble because a lot of fans really want to hear the hard rock, up-tempo stuff.
Jon: Yeah, it's a little tough thing, I mean, we get by with “Alone Again” but I don't know how they'd react if we did more than one.

Don: Maybe if you did one right after the encore or something. Those songs are really good, they really showcase Don's voice when he sings in that mid range. You can really tell that he's a very good singer and I think those songs are pretty radio friendly. I think that if those were ever pushed by Clear Channel or somebody that you guys could legitimately be on the radio and hit it big with this album.
Jon: Well, thanks.

Don: A lot of people just don't know those songs.
Jon: Well, “Escape” is the first single off of the new album.

Don: I thought it might be because that's the new one you played.
Jon: Yeah, “Escape” is the new one and it went to radio two days ago.

Ron: Okay.
Jon: And the album comes out July 13, so hopefully we'll get some action on “Escape” as the single before the record comes out.

Ron: It's a very good song. I like “Escape” a lot. I noticed here that Andrew noted that that was one of his four favorites. He mentioned “Don't Bring Me Down”, which, like I said, is my absolute favorite, “Prozac Nation” and then “I Surrender”. So I think that's a good pick.
Jon: Yeah, that's a good one too.

Ron: See, even though my brother and I are identical twins, we're not entirely identical. I'm the guy that wants to go to the concert and hear all of the up-tempo stuff. So when he wants to hear the ballad, I want to hear “Don't Bring Me Down” <laughs>.
Don: Now I didn't say I didn't want to hear that.
Jon: That's funny.

Don: I think that's probably my favorite one on there as well. I would love to hear that one but yeah, I did like the show that we did see, but it was more like the Greatest Hits kind of thing, but all of the songs were certainly crowd pleasers, I would say.
Jon: Oh, good.

Ron: Well, here's the other thing, most people anymore that go to a show like Dokken really want to hear a lot of the older stuff. And you guys, gosh, I think you played five off of Tooth and Nail, at least three off of Under Lock and Key, so people that do want to hear the classic stuff, were not disappointed.
Jon: We're giving them a good mix. I mean, we have stuff from all the… basically, we've got a Greatest Hits show going now.

Ron: Yep.
Jon: However, we went ahead and substituted out some of the old ones now that we're going to refresh the set with what I was telling you and hopefully in one week from now approximately we're going to have three new ones off of the new album and have a whole new show going.

Don: That'll be great. And if you keep one of the old songs, I would definitely say keep “Paris is Burning”.
Ron: No doubt.
Jon: “Paris is Burning”? Unfortunately that's the one we might cut <laughs>.

Don: Well, again, not as many people know that because it's off of the first album but that's the one you guys played that I think you closed with.
Jon: Yeah.

Don: I was really surprised.
Ron: Well, the question is: If you drop that song, what are the 10 year old kids that get pulled onstage going to sing? Do you remember that?
Jon: Oh, no. What happened?

Ron: From the Cincinnati show when Don pulled up the kid onstage?
Jon: Oh, wait. That's right. I have a vague recollection.

Ron: Yeah, there was a kid right in front, and Don kept saying, “Man, how old are you?” And he was right up front and the kid said, “I'm 10”. So Don reaches over and pulls him up onstage and the kid starts singing, at least the chorus, to “Paris is Burning”. It was hilarious.
Jon: That's amazing.

Ron: And Mick was dying. After the show, he was talking about it because basically, Don just gave him the microphone…
Jon: I've got to tell you, I guess I'm so in my own world when I'm playing that I don't even have much of a recollection of it happening, but I believe you when you tell me it happened <laughs>.

Ron: Oh, it was great. And the funny part was, here's this kid who's 10, right, he's onstage and has no idea what he's supposed to do, so he starts saying, “Thank you, thank you all, thank you.”
Don: Like he was a temporary member of the band.
Ron: Mick was absolutely in tears laughing about that after the show.
Jon: That's great.

Ron: But it was great. See, that showed a side of Don that most people don't get a chance to see. He was so impressed that there was a kid that young that was into, not only Dokken, but stuff from the earliest album, that he pulled him onstage. That's classy stuff right there.
Jon: That's great. It's exciting for us to see a new young fan that's into what we're doing.

Ron: Absolutely.
Jon: Especially somebody that's that young.

Ron: No kidding.
Don: Obviously his parents were big fans.
Jon: Yeah.

Don: Speaking of the younger generation, I thought it was interesting, I know that Don talked about it in concert, and I think that I read about it on the website, where you guys did a show with some of the newer bands like Stained and Eve 6.
Jon: Oh, yeah. I remember that show. It was in North Carolina, I think.

Don: That must've been interesting.
Jon: Yeah, that was a good show. It was good that we went over really well that night. It was nice with all of the young crowd that's into all the new bands, they liked us too.

Don: That's good because I think a lot of times when it comes to bands that have been around for a while, it's not like they suddenly become bad, it's just a generation of people just don't know about them.
Jon: Yeah, things are very different today. Dokken has always been a band about musicianship and songs. And a lot of the bands today, I don't even know when the last time I heard a guitar solo in a new song in recent history.

Ron: Exactly.
Jon: So, things have changed a lot, especially in the past 10 years.

Don: Yeah, through the '90s with the whole grunge movement, the guitar solo kind of went away.
Jon: There were none. Now, we'll see. It seems like some of it is starting to come back.

Ron: It is. It's kind of a shame that more of the Clear Channels, the Infinity Broadcastings, the MTV's don't pick up on that because, you know, some of the stuff coming out, I don't know if you've heard The Scorpions new album, it's just great stuff.
Jon: Yeah, I heard it was supposed to be really good.

Ron: I was reading your bio on the Dokken web site and it was kind of funny that you mention how you went to LA and then when the grunge scene came, that's when you decided to become a lawyer!
Jon: Yeah.

Ron: I was not a fan of that; it's hard rock, yes, but it was missing some of the key elements that I like and anymore it's the same way.
Jon: I liked it, but it wasn't anything that I wanted to play. Hey, do you guys have a specific set of questions that you want to ask me?

Ron: We've got a few more, but mainly, we wanted to talk about the tour and get your reactions to it, which we've kind of done and get your comments on the new album because that is what people are really interested in right now, the new tour and the new album.
Jon: Okay, cool. I just wanted to make sure that I cover everything that you guys want to know.

Ron: We always tell people, we only want 15 or 20 minutes of your time, because we know you guys are busy.
Jon: Hey, I'm not that busy today, man. I'm in the middle of North Dakota. We're in a bus waiting to play 4 hours from now.

Ron: Oh, wow. Yeah, it looks like you're off tomorrow.
Jon: Yeah, we drive back to Minnesota from here and then we have a day off here.

Ron: Okay.
Don: If we could just ask a couple more things…
Jon: Yeah, sure. I've got time. Shoot.

Don: Do you have a favorite song off of the new album?
Jon: Ooh. I have to pick one?

Don: A couple. What are some of your favorites?
Jon: I can give you a couple of my favorites. I like “Don't Bring Me Down”, I like “Escape”, I like “Letter to Home”, I like “Haunted”, and “The Last Goodbye”.

Ron: “Letter From Home” was interesting. It does sort of have that sort of Beatleesque feel to it and just a little different than what you would normally expect from Dokken, which is a good thing. It shows the musicianship.
Jon: Yeah, we took some chances and that was one of the ones that paid off nicely.

Ron: I agree. Definitely.
Don: You took a chance on another song “The Last Goodbye”. I thought that was interesting. It had almost like an Eastern sounding influence.
Jon: Yeah, I like that one a lot. That's one of my favorite ones as well.

Don: Yeah, that one's very different, but different can be good. I did like that one as well, but the vocals and the guitar have that real Eastern sound to it, for lack of a better term.
Jon: Yeah, it's also got that sitar in the background.

Ron: Was that an actual sitar?
Jon: Yeah.

Don: I didn't know if it was a guitar made to sound like a sitar or if it actually was one.
Jon: Yeah, that was a sitar. Don actually played the sitar on that.

Ron: Really? That's cool.
Don: That's very cool. I didn't realize that.
Jon: Yeah.

Ron: See, it's funny, as you were going down the list and saying the ones you like, to me, it just reinforces how good this album is because I'm thinking, “Yep, that's a good one, that's a good one.” It is a solid album.
Jon: Oh, thanks. There's not really any that I don't like, you know? But those are the ones that stood out more.

Ron: Sure.
Don: That's understandable.
Ron: Now from what I understand, you were actually a fan of Dokken before you were in Dokken and that's why you were sort of shocked and surprised that you were asked to join. Is that true?
Jon: Yeah, I was always a big fan and I saw Dokken probably three or four times when I was younger, in the '80s.

Ron: In the day, as we like to say.
Jon: Yeah, I was like 21 years old or something. I always thought that Dokken were a big cut above all those other bands that were going on with the big hair and the nonsense, you know. Because they could play and they had good songs <laughs>.

Don: I loved a lot of those bands, and even some of the cheesier ones, but Dokken has always been one of my favorites from that era because I thought their songs were a little better and the musicianship was a little better. In some regards it was a shame that they didn't get as big as some of the other bands who I thought were lesser bands.
Jon: I agree.

Don: I don't know if it came down to image or luck.
Jon: It was on its way and I just think they sort of self destructed right when they were on the verge of exploding.

Ron: And they were huge, you've got to remember that by the time they did Back for the Attack and were doing the video for Dream Warriors they were at the top of their game.
Jon: Yeah.

Don: Yeah, that album and the two previous ones all went platinum, I believe.
Jon: We're hoping to bring it back, you know.

Ron: Well we're doing our part and that's why we wanted to interview you and get the word out because it's really a great album and people need to know about it.
Jon: Thanks very much. I mean, especially when two young guys like you like it, man, it means a lot.

Ron: I think we're about a year younger than you so…
Jon: Oh, yeah? You guys sound like you're real young.

Ron: Oh, great! I appreciate that because we just had our 37th birthday two weeks ago.
Jon: Well, Happy Birthday!

Ron: Thanks <laughs>. Anything to make me feel younger is outstanding <laughs>.
Jon: That's awesome.

Don: I've asked you about your own work, which is kind of unfair, but do you have some favorites from the Dokken catalog?
Jon: Songs?

Ron: Yeah, what would be some of your favorite songs or albums from when you were a Dokken fan before you joined the band?
Jon: My favorite three albums are Under Lock and Key, Back for the Attack and Tooth and Nail,

Ron: Yep. Absolutely.
Jon: And my favorite songs are… pretty much everything we've done in our set would encompass my favorites. There are a few that we didn't do; I like “Heaven Sent”, “Lost Behind The Wall”; I like “Prisoner”.

Don: I always liked “Bullets to Spare”.
Jon: Yeah, that's a cool one. That's about it, everything else we seem to be playing. I like “Unchain the Night” which we're going to be doing tonight for the first time so we'll see how that goes.

Ron: That's a great song.
Jon: Yeah, we're going to open with that one tonight.

Don: Oh, really? That'll be a crowd pleaser for sure.
Ron: I agree with you. It's nice to start off with something that people know that's full throttle and you don't let them go for the rest of the night.
Jon: Do you guys think that will be strong enough to lead off? We're still going to play “Kiss of Death”, but we're going to move it down a little.

Ron: I think it will be.
Don: I think that “Unchain the Night” is maybe… I personally like that song better than “Kiss of Death”, although I like “Kiss of Death”.
Jon: As fans, do you guys think that it will be as strong of an opener as “Kiss of Death” will be?

Ron: I think it will be. Do you, Don?
Don: I do, actually.
Ron: That was actually one of my favorite songs off of that album.
Jon: I like it a lot, but I'm just wondering if the tempo is fast enough to get it going or if it's too slow.

Ron: Hmm. “Kiss of Death” is definitely faster. “Tooth and Nail”, that might be something interesting to kick off with.
Jon: Yeah, we've tried that before. We did that once in the past.

Ron: How did that go?
Jon: It sort of works better a little later in the set. We're going to try this tonight and if we speak again I'll let you know how it goes. [Note: in a follow-up email, he noted that they decided to switch back to opening with “Kiss of Death”]

Ron: Yeah, I'd be curious because, like I said, it's one of my favorites, but you bring up a good point. It's not quite as fast as “Kiss of Death”, but it's a great song.
Jon: Yeah, it still rocks, so we'll see. It also matches with our intro tape too so…

Ron: Well, that's always important.
Jon: We'll give that a shot tonight and see what happens.

Ron: I do have another question and I'm not even sure if you would be able to answer it, but the one thing I've noticed with at least the last three albums, is there's a real spiritual aspect, at least with the album covers, and when we met Don after the show, he was talking a bit about it, saying that he felt blessed by God to be able to do this kind of stuff. He just comes across as being a real spiritual guy. Is that true?
Jon: Yeah, Don is definitely a spiritual guy. I am too actually.

Ron: That's great. Sometimes there's a misconception that people in rock and roll are all about sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Of course, that's one of the things I liked about Dokken because, lyrically, they were much more than that. It's good to know, that spiritually…
Jon: From my own perspective, when I say spiritually, I'm not religious, but I am spiritual. For me, as far as the sex, drugs, and rock and roll thing: I don't do any drugs, I'm married, so I don't fool around at all <laughs>, so all that's left for me is the rock and roll.

Don: Well, that means you get to focus all of you attention on the rock and roll, which is good for a musician.
Ron: Well, the other thing is, the guys who were into the sex, drugs, and rock and roll, where are they now? You can't live that lifestyle for long.
Jon: No, you can't.

Ron: Aerosmith found that out.
Jon: For me, it is and it always has been about the music.

Ron: That's great. I agree 100%. I think some of these guys realize that they can actually play better when they're sober.
Jon: Yeah. That's right.

Ron: So you're a lawyer, you're married and you don't do drugs. Man, you're killing the whole rock and roll image. <laughs>
Jon: I still rock out as hard as I can.

Ron: Phenomenal. I can see some kind of lawyer convention where you get onstage and kind of freak everyone out. That would be kind of cool.
Jon: <laughs> That's pretty funny, huh?

Ron: That's what's great about heavy metal, it doesn't appeal to just one type of fan, you know, the drunken bozo. Although, there were a few of those standing around to meet you guys the other night, which was interesting because either you or Don kept saying, “You're not driving home are you?”
Jon: Oh, it was probably Don.

Ron: There was one guy who was just way out of control.
Jon: Was he?

Ron: He wasn't starting trouble or anything, at least he was a happy drunk but he won't remember meeting you guys, I'll put it that way! I just thought it was interesting that Don kept rehashing, “Hey, I don't want to be on the road with you even though I'm on a tour bus.”
Jon: We're all over that at this point, you know?

Ron: Yeah. I'm married as well and so is my brother. Do you have any kids?
Jon: No. I don't have any kids.

Ron: That's what you need to do right there. That'll shake things up a bit.
Jon: Oh, really? Yeah, probably. When we're ready. My wife's very young, and I'm on tour right now so it's not the right time for me, but maybe one day.

Ron: It's great. I've got three of them and they're a blast. I've got friends that tell me they're not ready and I tell them, “Well, you're never ready.” <laughs>
Jon: I guess not. It just comes when it comes, huh?

Ron: That's right.
Don: I just have another quick music question.
Jon: Sure.

Don: I know from reading how you got together with Dokken, that really it started off because you were friends with Jeff Pilson first.
Jon: Right.

Don: I'm just wondering, now that he's not in the band and they've got Barry [Sparks], are you still close with him or know what he's been doing?
Jon: I think he actually just had a baby.

Ron: Really?
Jon: Yeah. He did. He just had a baby. Yeah, Jeff's a friend of mine. I haven't spoken to him in a while just because I've been busy.

Don: I know that he just had that album with George Lynch.
Jon: How was that? I haven't heard it. Is it any good?

Don: Yeah, I thought it was pretty good. Actually, I think Jeff does all of the lead vocals on it.
Jon: Oh, I think I did hear one song, actually, from that.

Don: It was pretty good, I thought.
Ron: It was a little slower tempo than I kind of expected, but it was a good album. With George Lynch, you always want to hear something really burning and rocking.
Jon: Yep.

Ron: Of course, his interests and styles vary all over anyway so depending on what mood he's in that day determines what he'll put down.
Don: It's great that everyone can still be friends and just try to make good music together. That's what it's all about.
Jon: Well, that's what we're trying to do

Don: I think you've done it with the new album and a lot of it just comes to exposure.
Jon: Well we appreciate you guys taking the time to get us some. Hey, by the way. If you guys need any photos or anything, I'll give you my email address and you can ask me and I'll send some to you.

Ron: That would be great.
Jon: It's <email address>. I've got to run right now, but if you have something else that you wanted to ask, feel free to holler and give me a call back.

Ron: We appreciate it. Maybe the next time you come through town, especially if you're doing the arena thing, we'll try to hook back up with you. All I can say is it was a great concert, the album is awesome, and I can't wait for it to come out on July 13. I hope you guys have great success with it.
Jon: Thank you very much, guys. Man, I really appreciate it.

Ron: It was our absolute pleasure talking with you;
Jon: Awesome

Don: Congratulations on the new album. It was a pleasure as well.
Jon: Speak to you soon.

Ron: Take care. Thanks a lot.
Don: Thanks a lot.
Jon: You're welcome. Take care.

Ron: Bye
Don: Bye
Jon: Bye.




Magnum (2004)

Magnum: A brand new sound for latest CD.


Magnum Interview with Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin by Sven Horlemann - from the Bang Your Head Festival 2004

At the Bang-Your-Head Festival in Germany (read the review here) I had the chance to talk to Bob Catley. It was fun to talk to him (as you will see in the interview). By chance Ollie from SPV got me another 15 minutes with Tony Clarkin, and I didn't had to think twice about interviewing one of my guitar idols. Thanks go out also to Mirko for making it happen.

MelodicRock – Hello Bob, thank you for taking your time to talk to
Bob – Oh oh I lost my voice I can't speak.
MelodicRock – I had the chance to talk to Lenny from Kingdom Come yesterday, though right after the concert all interviews where cancelled because he caught a cold and the voice was gone.
Bob – Lenny Kravitz?

MelodicRock – Oh no, more like Lenny Wolf from Kingdom Come.
Bob – (fumbling with some cigarettes) I am going to blow some smoke in your face. Ah, filthy habit. (begins to sing).

MelodicRock – …
Bob – Have we started yet?

MelodicRock – Yes.
Bob – Ok. What's your name again?

MelodicRock – I am Sven writing for And I know the webmaster Andrew is very much into Magnum.
Bob – Ah that's nice. [Good of Bob to remember our last encounter at The Gods 2003….but I guess he was a few drinks into the day!! – Andrew]

MelodicRock – It was great to hear two new songs from the upcoming record 'Brand New Morning' live this afternoon.
Bob – Yeah, 'We All Run' and 'Brand New Morning'.

MelodicRock – 'We All Run' is one of those songs where you get instantly hooked on.
Bob – That is great. And it shows it works. We thought it was the right thing to do. It's a nice commercial number that everybody can listen to and enjoy. The hook is there, nothing too heavy, like a party sing along song. It is actually about the holocaust…

MelodicRock – No!
Bob – Yeah. The nuclear holocaust. The songs starts with (begins to sing)
'I dreamt I saw the cities burning, at the gates I saw the angels cry.
Now there be no turning, and still I wonder why.
I dreamt I felt the hand of reason, coming slowly down and pass me by.
It's just a killing season, yeah it's a foolish lie.
We all run, it's a pity for every one.
It's all gone, and there's nothing that can be done.'

So you got the cities burning and the gates of heaven in the first sentence. There is all this stuff going on. (Recording it) I thought what did I just sang? It was wonderful. With 'the hand of reason that passes me by' that means there is no sense, no meaning.
You know, we all get away from the bombs, get away from the nuclear shit. But we do it like in a swing-your-arms-thing, you know. 'We all gonna get killed' (waves his arms)… if they only new what we were singing about! They have to go home and put the words in front of them, because we always put the words on the album, right, always did always will. And you go 'Wait a minute, this is about people dying'. We simply put these lyrics in a light, melodic way, you know. 'We All Run' could have been written as a speed / thrash / metal song. It could have been done that way.

MelodicRock – Is there a different concept behind 'Brand New Morning', because the cover is very dark with a kind of sinister atmosphere…
Bob – Oh, everybody is saying that. It is dark, whatever. I think it is fine. I think it reflects a lot of the lyrics on the album. Ok, there is a scarecrow. I think it looks fine. Sue me (laughs). You know, the lyrics are darker on that album, much darker. Magnum have done dark lyrics before. Right from the first album. What do you think 'Kingdom Of Madness' is all about? But we don't do it in a thrash metal way. Only because the lyrics are dark, it hasn't to be (grunts into the mic), you know.
We are a heavy lyric band. We are a rock band that does lyrically heavy songs. Talk to the man who does the songs (pointing to Tony sitting at a different table across the room). Talk to him.
With the song 'Brand New Morning' it is like the first day of the rest of your life. Forget everything else. Just wake up with the sun shining and start living. I only got one life. Same as you. So stop bitchin' about it and get on with it. That is what 'Brand New Morning' is all about. 'Spread your wings and you'll take flight'. Come on, what a good line is this? Ha!
I am very proud on the lyrics of this album. Especially Magnum has to be like so good for it to exist any longer. It has to be extra special for all fans. And nothing else we are going to do.

MelodicRock – Have you written any lyrics yourself this time?
Bob – Tony Clarkin writes the words. Tony is the most superb songwriter I've ever known. I just sing 'em, you know. Tony gives me words some time I don't … it doesn't hit me until we recorded the album. And when I take it home I go 'Ok, this is the finished album, let's see what we've done'. So this is what the world is going to hear in three months time, right?
Then I sit down. Cause when you are working on it, it just gets past you, you try to get some music down. Sounds good – ok. You don't analyze it too much. When you've done it and it is there you take it home. Then you put the album on. I can't listen to it straight away afterwards. But when I put it on properly – am I saying the right things? – I think 'Well, that's brilliant!'. I hope that is what gets across the people.

MelodicRock – Being right into the creative process it is hard to keep your distance and judge on your own material.
Bob – Somebody else must tell me if it is a good song. I don't know but I think it is. Tony comes with his stuff and I say 'Tony that is wonderful'. And he asks 'Is it any good?'. And I say 'It is brilliant!'. And he goes 'You are right!'.
You know, you are trying to make something that is really great. And you got to like it. Of course everybody else is going to like it even more than us. It is difficult some times. You are too close to it. Hopefully we get it right.

MelodicRock – How do you get attracted to the songs?
Bob – The first time when Tony writes down the words for me and the music is there because the tracks are done, but of course there is no singing. Tony sings to me in the studio. He puts the words down and of course we can change them if I don't like them, right? And he plays it. I then have to write it down in my own handwriting because his writing is very calligraphic. It is wonderful, but I can't read it. I have to put it down in block capitals, big letters. Like in TV with those teleprompters. And then I try to get the melody right, and see if this works. Then I realize what the words are. I don't look at the lyrics at first. Cause when you are doing it you are just trying to get it right.

MelodicRock – As a singer it is not only the melody and the words, it is also the phrasing that makes the difference.
Bob – The phrasing is most important. It got to sound natural. The way you phrase it has to live and be part of the music. And then you get it right. Also it is easy on your ear.

MelodicRock – Tony is also producing the Magnum albums…
Bob – Oh, Tony is a very good producer. He is not an engineer, he is a producer. He tells you what he wants. We use an engineer.
He goes like 'Play me one more time.', and it's the hundredths time he said that. He is never convinced. It takes him a long time to decide whether it is right. The right balance, the right mix, is everything there? And it takes a long time. But it is worth it. You can't make an album in ten minutes. Forget it. It is not going to happen.

MelodicRock – I don't know Breath Of Life, but …
Bob – 'Breath Of Life' is a good album. But this album is better.

MelodicRock – And what about the Hard Rain interlude?
Bob – Hard Rain was an intermediate thing that we did in between Magnum breaking up all those years ago. This was something we wanted to do. We didn't have to be Magnum, we could have done anything we wanted. Anything. But then everybody is going 'Oh, it is not Magnum', and I said 'Well, it is not supposed to be Magnum!', you know. But with me and Tony they were expecting Magnum.
Magnum wasn't working then. It had gone. It was finished. But we never closed the book. It was always there. And we did Hard Rain with two albums, two tours, and it was pretty good. We had some pretty good songs on these albums. Still everybody was going 'Oh, it is not Magnum…'.
So we asked ourselves: should we do Magnum again? And we said, ok, we can manage Magnum one more time. So by public demand, we are back. It is only because of the fans wanted us back.

MelodicRock – The songs Magnum stands for are such classics, they are a value for a lot of people.
Bob – Well, yes, thank you. I do hope we have classic songs. This is what the people who buy our records have to say, not me. I need people to say that to me (laughs).

MelodicRock – You got a lot of classic songs that mean a lot to the people.
Bob – When I see people in the audience sings our songs, I can't believe it. Their reaction just chokes me up. Sometimes I think 'Don't do that, I'm trying to sing here' (laughing).

MelodicRock – I got the impression your voice got better with the years.
Bob – It got better? That is because I am really old.

MelodicRock – I really mean it. It was like with Phil Mogg from UFO, he still got that impressive voice. You still have that power …
Bob – Well, we just got better. Everybody is saying the same things. I thought it was always good. But it just got better I guess. Maybe I am better than I was. You are not saying I was crap before (grins)? All right, so I am good now. I am joking of course…

MelodicRock – I feel a difference between the role of the keyboards in the past and today.
Bob – The keyboards still play a big part on the new record. There is a lot of keyboards on the new record. It is those little keyboard touches. We've developed over the years, like every band would. It is quiet different now. Before we were a pomp band. That's what we were told. Now we don't do this stuff anymore, so… Let's have an argument!
… we are different now. We have a lot of atmospheric things going on now. The keyboards are still very important. On the stage there are still the big chords. We tend to push the little touches more for the stereo effect and the atmosphere on the record. On stage you can't do that stuff so you just do the big chords. But that's how it always used to be. So nothing has changed there life. We are the same band life. On record we try to be a little more posh than on stage. We wanted a nice, classic production. You know, that's what we wanted to do.
I think this new album sounds like a band in there playing. And with Harry on the drums, he is holding all together for us, which we hadn't had for a long time. He is really good for us and now we got the right drums for us. And now we can be that big monster rock band again, and we are all back into it. But we still wonna do these nice keyboard touches, you know. Which is easy, you know, Mark comes in and Tony says 'try this and this', and it is more like some of these new production techniques.
We don't have this on stage, because there is no backing tape, it is all live. Live we are going to the basic bump and grind. It is like two different band. There is a recording Magnum, and a live Magnum.

MelodicRock – You have two new members since the reunion…
Bob – Yes it is Al Barrow, he was also bass player on Hard Rain. He was with us on the last Magnum tour, the 'Breath Of Life' tour, and he is with us now. To a lot of people he is very new. They ask 'Where is Wally?'. I mean, he is not in Magnum since 1995. Just like 9 years ago! He is gone. Al fits perfect.
Who else would I want on my right side on stage? Nobody but Al. Who would I want behind me? Harry. And left of me? Tony, who else. It just works. It is like it should be.

MelodicRock – Are their any tours coming up?
Bob – September, October and November. The European tour is mainly Germany. This is our biggest market. Always was. Still is.

MelodicRock – Not so much in France?
Bob – No, but I don't know why. We used to play Paris, but that was it. We never did a French tour. I would have loved to. Italy is the same. We did Milan and Bologna and that was it. What happened to Rome (laughs)?
It is to others to decide what should happen, not me. I'm not into booking the band, I'm just singing the songs.

MelodicRock – You feel comfortable here, at this is a heavy metal festival?
Bob – Yeah. I am fine. There is definitely a place for us today. I'd like to be on stage a bit later, but maybe next time. You know, when it is getting dark and the lights are coming down. I would like that then.

MelodicRock – Yes but it is nine o'clock and still light.
Bob – Yeah, it is still light.

MelodicRock – You got some solo things in the works.
Bob – Solo stuff is still happening. I do it in between Magnum any way it works. So with Tony organizing Magnum and when that's finished my manager and I can organize my solo stuff. Everybody feels comfortable with that. I will be doing some festivals next year.

MelodicRock – Any new directions on your solo records?
Bob – It is pretty similar to Magnum, you know. It is a bit heavier. Vince [O'Regan] plays some more metal riffs than Tony does. Vince is a metal guitarist. The lyrics are a little more 'metal'. Whatever a metal lyric is, I don't know. It is all about war and killing people and having a drink in the pub.

MelodicRock – One could have expected you turn more melodic, more soft on your solo albums.
Bob – Oh no, I am into more heavier. I like the hard rock and metal stuff, I do. I am a big Ronnie James Dio fan. A lot of the songs on the last album I did my Ronnie James Dio impersonation. Pretty well I thought, thank you very much. I am sure Ronnie would have been very proud of me (laughs).

MelodicRock – Dio were headlining last years Bang-Your-Head festival.
Bob – We are good friends. We met a few times and had a few beers together. He is a nice chap.
I wouldn't copy anybody, but I am influenced sometimes. And Ronnie is a big hero of mine, so why not. We all need a hero. And Ronnie Dio is my hero. I think his vocal performance is absolutely wonderful. If I can approach that sometimes then I am happy. It doesn't work with Magnum, but with my own stuff, that is mine, you know. In the old days David Coverdale used to influence my voice. Or Steve Perry. I do more Steve Perry with Magnum then I do with anything. Because I am a big fan of the guy. That's respect. That is good.

MelodicRock – Can you feel that there is a classic rock revival, not in a dated way, but people seem to be more open to melodic rock these days.
Bob – Something is happening. I don't know what, but something is happening for the better.

MelodicRock – Thanks for your time Bob, hope to see you on your tour.
Bob – Thank you.

We were fortunate enough to get another 15 minutes with Tony Clarkin, so I changed places and fired my questions.

MelodicRock – Since the reunion of Magnum the albums seem to by darker. I thought that maybe this is due to a certain change within Magnum. Is this intentional?
Tony – Really, there is no plan at all. I just write my songs. And we just went to the studio after I demoed them and that is it. You know, I don't even use proper guitars on the demos. It's all drum machines and guitar processors. And then we start producing properly. It just worked out really as it is. No plan. But I mean I am very pleased with it. I have to say that. It's a bit heavier and I like that. I don't know, I really don't know.

MelodicRock – The new CD is straighter and much heavier. Maybe this is because the role of the keyboards, providing major themes within the songs, changed.
Tony – Yeah it is more guitar orientated. So I guess this gives it a heavier sound. But I don't know. It was a very easy album to record. I mean Harry (James) he comes in and plays the drums for the whole album in two days. Al (Barrows) pretty much did the same with the bass. It was really easy to record which is great when it is over, you know. Whether it makes any difference to anyone listening I don't know. But it is nice to say it wasn't and album you go 'oh oh' after you finished it.

MelodicRock – 'We All Run' from the upcoming album is such a good song to show of the new CD and generate interest. The lyrical concept behind it is quiet surprising as Bob told me.
Tony – The idea of the song is that we ignore the important things in life. And the actual verse is really poetic license. I was trying to create a picture. And when it goes 'We all run' it is like we don't care anymore. Like with the cities are burning, like people starving to death, that kind of things. So that's what it means.

MelodicRock – That's comforting to hear. After Bob's explanation I was flattered by him saying it is about nuclear holocaust.
Tony – (Laughing).

MelodicRock – Of course in Germany people usually don't understand the lyrics, especially when they hear a song for the first time in a live concert. Talking about your pre-production you mentioned demoing at home. Do you work on a computer?
Tony – Yeah. I am on a Mac.

MelodicRock – Are you running Pro-tools or Nuendo?
Tony – No, I use Logic. But I really don't do complicated things there. I get my drum rhythms down and record some pilot guitars.

MelodicRock – Tony, about things to happen in the future – what are you going to do with Magnum?
Tony – We will start touring in September in Great Britain, Germany, and in Japan.

MelodicRock – How is your reception in Japan?
Tony – Well, we've never played there ever. It may not come off, but it looks like it will come off. The rest of the tour will be Scandinavia so we will be quiet busy.

MelodicRock – Seems to my it was the right decision for you and Bob to bring Magnum back together again.
Tony – Of course there was a 7 years gap (filled with Hard Rain, also fronted by Bob Catley). But I feel fresh and good again.

MelodicRock – Last years appearance at Bang-Your-Head had to be cancelled due to health reasons. This is well behind you now?
Tony – Yeah, I seem to be ok.

MelodicRock – Tony, thank you for taking your time to talk to
Tony – Oh, thank you.



Steve Lukather (2004)

Steve Lukather: The hardest working guitarist in the business.


Steve Lukather, the legendary Toto guitarist and phenomenally popular session man lays it all on the line in this exclusive interview conducted a couple of months back. Steve and Toto have both had illustrious careers and Toto continues to tour heavily throughout Europe and beyond. Their work schedule is at time grueling and life on the road can take its toll. Steve talks candidly about the life of a rocker on the road and the ups and downs of the loss of a stable routine.
That's here in the now - Steve also delves into the past for some more brutally honest and at times, hilarious insights into his career and life with Toto. We talk about the singers, the record labels, the current musical climate and plenty more. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did conducting it.
Special thanks to Don and Ron Higgins for their tireless work in transcribing the interview.

What's up!
You there you old bag?

(laughs) How are you mate?
We finally, actually talk on the telephone. I hear the voice now.

Yeah, exactly. Yours too, how are you?
Good to talk to you mate. I'm fucking great. Top of the world actually.

Fantastic! I can't believe that we… I don't think we've ever done an interview have we?
No never.

How did we let that oversight happen? [Well, in fact, it turns out I did do a shorter Feature-Interview some time back. Check it out.]
You know what man, I guess the timing's right now.

I've been looking forward to it!

Yeah, me too!
I don't usually look forward to interviews. I figure you're not going to ask me where'd I get the name Toto.

I'll skip over the basics.
Yeah, please. It's boring and everybody already knows the answer to it anyway. Let's get into the nitty gritty shit that you want to get into.

Yeah, absolutely.
No subject is taboo. Just bring it on.

Ok, ok, we'll do that. Tell me though, what are you doing right this moment?
I'm walking through my home, I have a glass of good Italian Chianti, waiting for my wife to bring home dinner so I can eat after we're done. My daughter's got her mother's dog staying here at the house. My son's in rehearsal with his band. My wife's out and I'm just chillin'.

Great! How old is your son now?

Wow! What music is he playing?
I would say modern melodic rock. He just joined another heavy band so he's got a couple of things going.

Good on him.
He's going to play with me at the NAMM show Thursday night at the Guitar Player Magazine event Steve Vai is hosting.

Oh great!
I'm going to play a tune and he's going to get to play one of his tunes. Bissonette, Dave Garfield and Larry Carlton... You know that's going to be fun. And then get back into rehearsals and go back on the road again. Now that Simon and Dave are back again.

How's Simon doing?
He's doing much better. He's still recovering, a really tough year for him.

What happened to him? What exactly happened to him?
You know he has a pre-existing condition in his lower intestinal area. He got an infection in his body and other shit started to go wrong and the genetic thing his mom had he has to watch himself. He gets stressed, overworked, undersleep. Undersleep is not a word is but if he doesn't catch up with his rest he'll come down with something. And it kicked his ass. He had to stop working.

You're looking forward to NAMM. Is that a good thing to go to - is it still the #1 event?
Well you know we do it every year, it's the National Association of Musical Merchants. It's the guys they pick up from around the world and everybody shows off the new gear for 2004. And all the endorsees and different companies make their appearance. So I get paid, get royalties off like my guitar and I have a lot of other people that I support. And it's a big event, everybody shows up. People from around the world come and there are a lot of different shows, concerts at night. During the day you can't walk three feet without somebody wanting a picture or autograph or something. People come from around the world just to kind of stare at you. It's kind of unnerving really.

Yeah I'd love to go onetime….
Yeah it's going to be great. Steve Vai hosting, Satriani's on it, John Schofield, Vernon Reid. Pretty eclectic rockers. Everybody gets up and does their tunes and the house band is really killer. It's always a good hang.

Yeah, and everyone speculates whether Eddie's going to turn up or not.
Eddie was at my house last night he's not turning up at the NAMM show. The last time he did that it was a disaster.

Yeah, last year. It didn't go too well did it?
I didn't see him. I tried to go find him and he had left 'cause he got all freaked out. You've got to ask Eddie, Eddie questions. I'm privy to stuff I'm not supposed to talk about.

I understand.
All I know is, he's in great shape and I've heard the new music and it's incredible. What they're going to plug into that & who they're going to plug into that I'll let him answer.

I'm not going to ask you any stuff on the record.
That's cool. He's my bro. I'm just making a comment that it's not for me to be the one that lets it all out.

Absolutely mate, I agree.
But I know that, like I said, I've heard the music, it's incredible.

Can't wait to hear it.
You will, soon enough.

So when are we going to hear some new Toto stuff? What's the plan?
Well we worked really hard last year and we're going back out again. See the thing is, it's the world that we live in now. The world is not waiting for the next Toto record as far as a massive scale. We make our living on tour. You know the days of getting three million dollars to do a record are way behind. Nobody gets that anymore unless you're Bruce Springsteen. Even Bruce's sales are down. I mean overall compared to what he normally does …usual ten million. We live in a world where, face it, downloading and DVD copying, people don't have the money to spend. They don't have the disposable income. And now we are looking at concerts that cost fifty to one hundred bucks. In some cases, two hundred dollars a ticket. I mean people don't have that kind of money so they're very careful how they spend it. And you know the world economy is all fucked up.

Very much so.
So we're going to do a record assuming that we all get along. We had a little bit of a falling out in recent years and it looked rather dire for a minute there.

You did! Did you really?
Yeah but without getting into the gruesome details of it, you spend enough time on the road, people get sick and money's involved. We had a meeting last week and we aired all of our differences, so not do this anymore?
Get all of our shit out and talk about it. Start the year fresh or we could walk. We decided to hang in there. There were some miscommunications, and the right hand not talking to the left hand and bad feelings erupted out of lack of communication, as it often does. You know we needed to, as brothers, sit down in a room, in a neutral area and get it all out. We realized most of this shit both sides were pissed off about were misunderstandings on reality.

OK, that's good.
We all hugged and kissed and said we're going to go out, you know, I'm writing songs. I mean I got eight or nine pieces myself. I know Dave's got some stuff. We haven't really gotten into the crux of mean writing. And that requires time. We don't want to just throw out another fucking record, go out and tour again. Like we did last time. Shit, I'll never understand why everybody was so mad at us for doing that.

Which is this?
It wasn't greeted universally as a positive thing.

Is this the covers record?
Uh huh. Did that for fun.
Everybody's done a covers record. We didn't think we'd get more intense negative feedback. They said we couldn't write songs anymore, we sold out. I find it hard to read all this stuff. I don't really go onto the message boards and stuff; I don't have the time to do it. People send me snippets. Maybe I'll sneak in and have a look. See what people are saying. Sometimes I scratch my head and sometimes I say, well, I can see their point, I can did it. I can dig negative criticism.
But when it just gets mean spirited. It's not really…it's destructive more than anything.

There's a difference isn't there?
There is a total difference. You can make your point without being an asshole. Sometimes it gets like that. One over zealous fan can trash a message board. Somebody told me that they closed down our message board because some lunatic was on there. I don't know much about that, I check in to see what the news is, to see what's going on. I don't necessarily go through like a 900 page message board thing. I don't really…sometimes it pisses me off and makes me feel like shit. There's no point in me feeling like that. Everybody has a right to their opinion, good or bad but some people start slamming each other and it has nothing to do with the band. You know that's not good, that's not what it's all about. I'm sure you've had to deal with that on your website.

Sadly so, actually yeah….more than I'd like.
It only takes one asshole to keep lots of people out.
Some people love the attention. The internet is an anonymous thing. You can make up some silly name for yourself and go on there and just fuck with anybody just for the sake it. We're not supposed to universally love bands…..There's been a lot of misunderstanding about who and what we are, and what kind of people we are. We're just humans like everybody else and we have feelings. If somebody says, you're a fucking c***, you're an asshole, I hate your shit, you're the worst guitar player in the world, your band is gay, you should stop playing. You go, hey, that's one guy's opinion…you know what I'm saying…It's like, OK, fine, don't listen to the shit. There's plenty of music out there.

I was going to ask you, about Toto and the perception by…, not the fans but some of the wider public.
They hate us.

Why do you think… you guys as individual people are such accomplished musicians.
You know what it is… That's the problem. You never see any mainstream rock critics, never give anyone with a speck of proficiency any good reviews because they're all failed musicians. All of us remind them that they'll never be able to play like that, ever. That's why they like the White Stripes, the Strokes and all that.

The White Stripes (laughs).
And then they go for the lyrical angle, which is cool. Because some people are poets, they're not accomplished musicians for lack of a better term. And you know it's always been that way. But you know they can't hurt us, 27 years later, we're still going on the road doing arenas. We go where people like us. In the United States, and basically every English speaking country we do terrible. And the perception is that we're dead or we're not selling. But we had the 7th biggest grossing tour in the world last year, much to most people's chagrin. 600,000 tickets sold in 3 months. We were up there with the Stones, Springsteen, Simon & Garfunkle and people are scratching their heads going, “How the fuck did these guys sell that many tickets?” And so we were scratching our heads going, “Damn!” There's nothing wrong with being attached to something that's successful.

So some people thought, well that's kind of gay, you guys, you didn't really go out and play your set or whatever. It wasn't our audience. It was an overall audience. So we got to play in front of a lot of people that dug our shit and now will go out and buy our records. We've seen a spike in catalogue sales.

Have you really?
Yeah! And then people come back and dig the shows. Like they'll come back… We came out and we kicked ass at those shows under the face of intense subversion. With Page going down, Simon going down. I was out there with half a band, but we hung in there, never missed a show. And we made some of the greatest friends I've ever made in my life.

I mean like the INXS guys are like my soul brothers. Man I love them. I've become an honorary Australian. They did some voodoo ceremony. I love those guys. Every single one of them. And we're the most unlikely… I remember Timmy Farris like doing an interview in the UK while we were out. They go, “Why would you play with Toto?” Really great guys, we have a lot in common. Three brothers in the band, they lost one of their key guys, we lost one of ours. And we come from the same era. They've been together since they were kids, we've been together since we were kids. We have so much in common it was scary.

We don't play the same kind of music but we appreciate each other. Hold on a second, my phone's dying here, hold on.

Hello. Hello. Are you there?

OK, good, sorry. Fucking phone died instantly, I don't know why. Anyway, where was I? Talking about the INXS guys, we had so much in common. And then there are people that you think you wouldn't have…Huey [Lewis] came out, he's an old friend from like 1980. And you know it was just a love-fest out there. John Miles, I mean there was great bands, we hung every night. Everybody had a big hang after the show. It became a family it has to be. One bad apple out there can spoil the groove for everybody. There were 400 people on that tour.

I mean that was… an 80 piece orchestra and shit, it was intense. The production was over the top. I look at it as a very positive experience. Not to mention lucrative.

Yeah, you were saying…
You know we had a lot of time to sit around and shoot the shit. We were supposed to really write out there. But since Simon and Dave went down, what the fuck am I supposed to do? You can't write a record without the key guys. And our intention is to write a really…a great record. Now what that is, has yet to be determined.
Don't expect a record real soon, but we are working on it. I mean we're all writing with our old writing partners. Randy Goodrum is coming over tomorrow. He's in town.

Randy's cool.
We're going to try to write…we've already got a couple of things in the can that are really good. But you know, I think we might want to stretch out a little bit, be a little bit more musical, a little more experimental. Because top-40 radio ain't going to play our music anyway, we could write fucking Sgt. Peppers and they wouldn't play it. Just because it's Toto and we're middle-age guys.

You know if you're over 30 you can't get on the radio. If you're over 40 forget it. Andrew I wish I could tell you the kind of record we're going to make. I mean, everybody has their own idea of what we should make. People expect Toto IV or whatever. How can you go back and recreate that? If I could do that, I would have done it. It's very difficult to just magically conjure up images. We've touched upon things, there's a style that we have when we really put our minds to it but I don't know what that's…I know we want to make the big production.

The big production. All the percussion instruments, the big vocals, really cool solo sections and stuff and really go to our strongest suit. I've gone back and started listening to little bits and pieces of some of our records to try... and my son has become obsessed with Toto.

Oh, Really!?
I mean he's playing…I'm getting into his car, he's driving along all the sudden he whips Hydra on or Isolation. I'm going, I haven't heard this shit in 20 years. He's like, “No Dad, me and all my pals are really into this shit.” Come on. To the point where he calls one of his bands Hydra.

Oh Really?
Oh yeah. I go, “Dude, you don't want to associate yourself so close. “ He goes, “Dad, do you think anybody my age knows what the Hydra album is?” I had to go, “Well I guess your right there.” So but you know, I mean it's just a matter of…the record business doesn't want to promote music like that. They want disposable shit they can hail and discard and then get onto the next.
Now we're looking at the conglomerate, there's only going to be 2 record companies and they're going to fold because all the retail chains are going down. Tower Records went under for God's sake! That was like part of my life, you can't go into any place and find any old records, they don't stock them anymore. They don't stock like CD versions of my favorite '70s records. You have to go to or itunes is stating to get hip to a lot of it. They have a lot of our stuff on there. But we're going through a transitional period in the business where the whole scene is going to change. We're just in the middle of it. Back in the '20s when radio came out all the sheet music publishers freaked out. Well there goes our business, nobody is going to buy sheet music, they can hear it on the radio and learn it.

And then when cassettes came out, it was the same thing. You can record any song on a cassette you want to, they said people won't by records anymore, but they did. It's on a new media. We're in a transitional period and people are going to have to be patient. And we're very lucky to be free agents right now rather than hooked up with some major label. Although Sony has been courting us to come back and do a record, they made a pretty decent offer.

Is that right! Now why would…?
It's ironic that there's only 2 labels left, EMI and Sony. That's it. EMI wasn't good to us so what the fuck. Where you gonna go, it's a one off deal.

Two questions. I want to ask you about EMI but why would Sony come back to you guys?
Our back catalogue is ripping. I mean they put these 'Greatest Hits Part 9' records out we have nothing to do with. Dodgy album covers and whatever selection of songs they want to put on it. They own the masters so the can reconfigure them any way they want. They still have to pay us but we have no say in it. What they're finding is that, like, you know, they're released, they still…it goes gold here, it goes platinum here and we're just on the road. We're not even on the label anymore. And the thing about these 1 hit artists is that there's no back catalogue. Their back catalogue is 50 to 60% of their income. So us old farts as the like to refer to us are making them a lot of money.




Yeah, OK. So they've got all these new artists but basically they come and go overnight.
They come and…one song. Rap artists. One hit. One record. I mean there's a few standouts, I mean Eminem. I dig Eminem, I thought that shit's cool. You know, I have teenage kids, how can I not…, I'm more aware than most people that are 46 years old about what's happening now musically because I got teenagers and I listen to their music, they listen to mine. For that it's a positive thing. I can't sit there and go like, “Well that sucks, that sucks.” Because I'm not supposed to like that music. I'm the bad… I'm the anti-Christ, I'm the old guy. Their music is supposed to piss me off just like rock and roll pissed off my parents. It wouldn't be…so that's why I've let go of all that “fuck everybody else.” I had so much anger and so much bitterness in me at one point.
I was anesthetizing myself, I wouldn't feel anything. Started to suffer in a lot of different areas. Had a little health scare that fucking woke my ass back up.

Yeah, tell us about that.
A little bit, well you stay on the road long enough, 9 months a year for 27 years.

Can't be good for you.
It's not that. Trying to live a life like you're still 22 years old and you're 46, 45 years old and you get depressed and shit. It's very lonely. You go from 10,000 people screaming for you to an empty hotel room and you're away from home and things happen. My doctor started putting me on anti-depressants, you get Zanex, you get tweaked. I was drinking hard liquor, way too much of it and I started to suffer.
My playing. I didn't even realize it, but you never fucking know. You think everything's cool until you have to take a hard look at yourself. I had problems with my playing on the Live from Amsterdam record. I saw it for the first time at a friend's house over New Year's. Hadn't seen it in 6 months. I refused to watch it because it was painful for me to watch because I could see that I wasn't 100% there, knowing myself.



It wasn't as horrible as I beat myself up for when I first saw it but it's certainly not my best work. They caught us on a bad night, it was the end of a long tour; they made us rehearse all day long. I was burnt and I was really sick. I had like a flu. It wasn't the flu but I was just sick, puffy and weird looking. I wasn't there.
You can look at yourself and go, I'm not there. I'm not in that moment. Where there were like 100 other shows that were great. When you only record one show, you're stuck with it. You can't fix it live. You can fix a note, you can't fix it live. It wasn't a strong night for any of us, but least of all me. But, you know, sometimes you got to live with that shit. It was a wake up call.
Then I got really sick. I got hepatitis A from eating bad food somewhere in Europe. I was in Tahiti and it became full blown. My eyes were orange, my piss was orange, I was sick, I lost like 24 pounds. And I still had to work. And I became really depressed because I had to stop everything. I just cleaned my whole self out, I was fucked up. I started to lose sight of why I do this. The love for it, the fire. I came back to finding out that I really do love it and I really do care about it. I'm the luckiest mother fucker in the world and I cannot blow this like most people do.
I was just gonna…I just felt like my foot was nailed to the floor and I was running around in circles. It's real easy to lose sight. People don't understand this life. They think it's all limousines, the beautiful people life and everybody wipes their ass with hundred dollar bills. That's not the case. It's hard work. And it really stresses you out. The loneliness. You go from the highest highs to the lowest lows. You can't just go back to your room after a show, read a book, go to bed. There has to be a wind down. And with the traveling on the bus all night long, interrupted sleep.
You wake up at four in the morning, you get off the bus, you go to the hotel, the hotel rooms aren't ready, you can't get any food because the restaurant's not open. Or you miss breakfast completely and then they don't have food until like dinner. You just kind of lose yourself. Some people are better at it that others.
I was always, Mr. Party after the gig, woo-hoo, let's hang. How may shots I can do before I pass out. I'm just too old for it now. You're 20 years old, you can go out and party. When you're fucking 45 years old, that's it.
So I had to catch myself in the ugliness of what could be. Find my heart and soul and my passion for it all over again. And after a couple of months of complete cleanliness, getting together, getting healthy, man, I kept my weight off, practicing guitar again and finding my writing thing again. I'm excited about it. I'm appreciating all the people around me that matter, my family, the kids, wife, my friends.
People I know are dropping, man they're getting sick and dying. It's a myth that you can keep going and keep going. I mean nobody has the constitution of my man Keith [Richards], you know what I mean?

That's a tough one to chase after. I love to hang, you know, and I still have a couple of beers now and then. I'm not like a fucking saint. I didn't have to go to rehab or nothing like that. I just didn't realize that I was a mess. I kept anesthetizing myself and I'd feel fine, or so I thought. I'm human man.
It's a rock and roll cliché but there's a reason why people keep going down the same path. If you're lucky enough to catch yourself then you can hang in and fix it without having to go through all the big announcements. “Oh, I'm never going to have a drink again.” Just don't need to be doing tequila shots, taking pills and all this other shit.
I found myself thinking that if my doctor was giving it to me, it must be cool. But that's a big myth. I wasn't a big pill freak, I wasn't taking handfuls of the shit. I was never clean, I always had something coursing through my veins.

So at my age you have to get a grip on that, before it completely destroys you. My attitude was fucked up. I wasn't an asshole but just like, didn't have time for anybody. Wanted to be by myself.

I can understand that though…
Well, you know. I apologize to anyone if they saw me at a bad time. Like I said, it's not that uncommon for cats like me that have been on the road for as long as I had, 27 years on the road, man.
I stopped a lot of real bad shit but then I thought, well this isn't bad, my doctor gave it to me. I can still drink a lot. I'm cool. Realizing that if you take a pill in the morning makes the hang over go away so you think you're OK. So it's a big lie. But basically I'm healthy, I feel good, I got the gleam back in my eyes, I'm motivated and I want to do personal best from here out. In the studio I wasn't too bad but on the road.
At home I wasn't like that, but it was just on the road. I'd come home and be a completely different person. Because I was up early…But you get on the road, you wake up at four, you take a shower, you eat, you go to the gig and it's on again. Every day. Every day, for like a year at a time.

That's got to be hard.
You wake up in a hotel room you don't even know what city you're in, you don't even know in some cases, what country am I in? Really, you can't get a hold of anybody because of the time differences. While you're still crawling to the mini bar, it's a dangerous thing.

So this tour coming up, you're doing things a little bit differently, or…
Well dude, we're going to places we haven't been. So basically we're pulling stuff, we're adding stuff but we don't have a lot of time to rehearse because we're implementing these new technical people. So that makes it a little more difficult and plus people are dealing with some other issues that they're dealing with, not me. And we're going to do some gigs, we're going to some really out of the way places.

In the meantime we're, everybody's writing and pulling it together and I figure we're just going to be… what we want to do is like, Ok, book us a couple of weeks worth of gigs here and there so we make the pay and then we said we'd write for a couple of weeks and then we go and record for a month and then we would take a look at what we got. We are going to really scrutinize the material. We're going to write like 50 tunes and go, “Is this really the best shit we got?” And you know, stylistically we're going to pay tribute to our past but with keeping it in the present. I'd like to see us do longer, more adventurous pieces of music than just the 4-minute extravaganza.

Yeah, OK.
I mean, there will be some of that, of course. A good tune is a good tune. It'll get cut. But we're really going to scrutinize ourselves, each other. And play stuff for people and say, “What do you think?” You know. We're never going to please everybody. No matter what the fuck we do we're never going to please them. And so we have to please, we have to look at ourselves and go, “I think this is really a great record.”
You know the whole thing about, like, OK we got four months to do a great record and then we have tours booked. This is as long as we got to do it, this is the budget we have, well now everybody's got home studios and stuff like that, and we're not signed to a label per se. There's no pressure for us to do that. We can't go back and just keep going back to the same places without a new record. We're not going to do that.
We're going to take this tour to places we've never been before. Who haven't seen it yet. And in the meantime get our chops back up with like who's really in the fucking band and who's not. We're going to have those issues too. It becomes very difficult for me because I'm the only guy that's never missed a gig and been there from day 1.
See, and I got to front the band. And I'm fine with that but I need to be frosty in my head, my heart and my soul and body to do that job the best I can. And to play my ass off.
I always try to play the best I could but inspiration's inspiration. I can play good but it doesn't necessarily mean it's inspired.
I have harsh critics, people who think, ah man the catalogues faded, Luke doesn't have the shit anymore. My answer to them is fuck you man, why don't you fucking do what I do, for this long and be under the hammer, and under the gun and under the criticism.
A lot of cats are armchair guys. They sit in the room, they make records and they're very critical of everybody else. In some cases, I'm sure many people go, “I can play better than that guy. Why don't I have that gig?” But they don't understand the politics of it all. And the actual physicality of it all. And just the wear and tear, the stress.
My skin's real thick. They told me I suck from the first record to now. Other musicians that I respect, my peer group, people that are really my friends, some are the best musicians in the world, the give us a lot of props. They give us a lot of support and they come to town when they can, they come to the shows. I play records for them, “What do you think of this, what do you think of that?” They'll tell me.

You've only got to look at the list of albums you've played on over the years to look at how many people want you involved.
Well, you know, that's the thing of our band. It's so funny, they say that we suck but if you look at the discography, how come those great artists wanted us to play on their records? Because we suck? I don't think so.
I mean, we became the poster boys for 'this is a band you're supposed to hate.' If there was a critic's school, the first thing you'd learn on day 1 is, 'this is a band you have to hate.' Years and years and years ago during the Toto IV tour we had a guy come out, he was writing for Rolling Stone… Timothy Schmidt was out with us singing background after he left the Eagles. He came to check out what Timothy was doing and I ended up getting high with him…and I got it out of him… “Like what is it about you guys. I'm a nice guy, we're hanging out in my room, fucking getting drunk and doing whatever”.
The guy's now the president of a major label. Now I'm not going to say who it is because it'll get me in trouble. But he's the president of a major label, he started out as a little puke writing for Rolling Stone, he started telling me, “Look to be honest with you, I think some of your stuff's cool but we're not allowed to write good stuff about you. You're the band to hate.” Because we're really good musicians they thought that we were put together by some corporate people.
They didn't realize that we were a high school band, we just happened to be really good players that could actually, …that were schooled enough to read and be able to do stuff. To be able to create on the spot and play really well in an era when that actually mattered. And we had hit records that they were mystified by. They thought that we had no soul because our records were slick and polished. Well we actually sat there and played that. There was no computers to fix shit back then.
You had to get a performer. So if it was played well and it was in tune, we layered the vocals. We sounded so good they hated us. That was when the punk thing was just happening: The Clash, The Sex Pistols. We were at the end of the '70s. We were holding on to what we dug. People we wanted to sound like was like Steely Dan except with a harder edge. From that point 'till now…
Then we won the Grammy. That was great but we told Rolling Stone magazine to fuck off. They wanted to put us on the cover.
They had been trashing us for so long we said OK this is our chance to get even. Fuck you Juan Leonard, he's just going to trash us anyway. And the guy tweaked into the sun. No one had ever turned down the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Which by hindsight I wish we hadn't done. But at the same time, we made our statement and then we won the Grammy and they didn't even write about it.

Oh yeah. We're banned from that magazine forever. Now they put Britny Spears and the American Idols on the cover. I mean they used to be this big convert, underground magazine. Now it's like fucking teen magazine.

I haven't bought a copy in years.
They have no clout, nothing. It don't mean anything anymore.

Now I know this will get you fired up, but their top 100 guitarists of al time list was an absolute embarrassment wasn't it?
Well, you know, that was a joke. I think they just did that to piss everybody off. Because look at the people…Eddie Van Halen was #70.

I know…Hello!!
Jack White is #12. I've got nothing against the White Stripes, they are…he's got some talent. The drummer's bad, just bad. It's hard for me to criticize guys like that. They're making their statement, they're doing what they're doing now. I have no idea if the guy's a nice guy, he's an asshole, that he can actually, really play.
He plays some interesting stuff. But they need a bass player desperately. That's not for me to criticize. I'm only going to talk about myself because that I know. That's just…we made some errors along the way. But we were very misunderstood and we'll never be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you know what I mean? It's run by all those people. You'd be really surprised who actually makes the choice. You have to pay to get into that thing. It's like having a star on Hollywood Boulevard: 50 grand.

So it's not really based on merit. That's why you see so many people being overlooked, that really should be there.

Van Halen this year didn't get a …
No because they refused to play it again. They're not going to play with Roth again. I can't speak for them but I'm saying they want it all tied up into a nice, neat little package. They'll eventually get in. They deserve to get in.

Of course they do.
But, you know, it'll be when they have another hit record. And there is a Van Halen band attack. That's probably another reason, there's not another Van Halen band attack right now. Let's face it, the name of the band is Van Halen. That means Eddie and Alex. The singers have come and gone, hopefully they'll pull it back together again. It's not fair, there's a lot of bands…once…I know they're thinking, once they let a Journey or a band like that in, who deserves to be in it, they'll have to let all the rest of us in. You know what I mean?

Come on, we won album of the year, I've got 5 Grammys on my shelf, 2 are outside of the band, one was two years ago so I'm still relevant in the 2000's. But guys like us, if I live to be 80 they might say, well he's a good guitar player and give me some little dodgy, posthumous award after I kack!

Great! (laughing)
But I don't need that to pat me on the back because it's not based on any reality, it's based on a popularity contest by the same assholes that write and say shit about us and hail the other stuff.
Let's face it, the famous David Lee Roth quote about Elvis Costello, it's like the critics love him because they all look like him. He said that in the '70s, which I thought was one of the most brilliant statements I've ever heard. It's like if one of those mother fuckers come up and pick up my guitar and play better than me, then I'll take their criticism with some sort of value.
But they're not musicians, that's what's wrong with the music business, it's not run by musicians. Its run by fucking lawyers and promotion people that wouldn't know…It's like the famous quote from Amadeus. A music critic goes, “There's too many notes in this.” And Mozart goes, “Which notes don't you like?” You know? They don't have any credibility. They can have their, Kurt Loder's of the world. The guy writes about what other people do. He calls himself a rock writer. Anybody can write the Tina Turner story if you sit down with Tina and clock it all and write it down. I guarantee I could write a better book than he could make a record. But there's no point in throwing shit at anybody because it bounces off and ends up sticking to me.
I'm the asshole for calling everybody out on it. I don't think I'm the best guitar player, matter of fact, I'm very self deprecating. I don't think I'm that good at all, I think that my best shit is yet to come. That's what keeps you motivated. As a musician you never wake up one day and go, OK now I know everything, I don't have to do it anymore. Les Paul is eighty something years old, he's still out there kicking it. I hope I get to be like him.

Absolutely! Why not?
Nobody's the best at anything. They're just insane. Ask a blind person who the best looking chick in the room is, he'll tell you the one that feels the best. You know what I mean? It's not based on face value.

That's a good quote.
It's the truth. They listen on another level. They feel on a different level. People just want everything black or white. There is a gray area. And most people base their opinions on what other people think, not what they think. If so and so says this is cool, what kid doesn't want to wear the coolest clothing, be into the coolest music? They learn to like what everybody else likes.

When we were kids we were listening to everything man. How many radio stations… there's top-40 radio… there is no alternative, real alternative music. When I was a kid, FM radio was like they played Aretha, they played Miles, they played Hendrix, they played like, a Led Zeppelin album came out, they'd play the longest cut on the record. You'd sit around, you'd really get some schooling about what's happening out there. Now it's just, maybe there's some underground radio stations here and there but it's not mainstream. Because it doesn't sell units.
I mean, music is an art form, now it's just business. You don't have to be good. We can fix it. I own a recording studio, some of the biggest artists in the last 10 years have been in there. All these new young people…They just go in there and play it the best they can, they go home, and it magically sounds incredible the next day. Cat stays up all night and makes it all right. And they have an attitude about it. “Well man that's old school shit”. I still believe in sitting in a room and playing until you get the shit right. That's the way I am, that's the way we all are.

A lot of what you said is mirrored by the guys in Journey – they feel the same way.
We all came up together. I have nothing but extreme respect. Neal Schon is a brilliant guitar player. Great writer. And a really cool guy. We've been friends, we don't hang out all the time but I'm always glad to see Neal, man we've always got big hugs for each other. He's always been very cool to me, said nice things about me and, you know, I admire him as a musician. He doesn't get enough love. You know what I mean?

They're in the same position aren't they? As are a lot of other bands.
Somewhat, yeah. They kill it in the United States but they don't mean anything anywhere else. We don't sell shit in the United States but we cook and mean something in Asia and Europe. So I mean, you can't always have it all. I'm really happy to be working though. I'm a working musician, I working, I'm hooked up man, I'm happy. People out there dig it or they don't. I mean your site, look at your site. It's an alternative site for people that like the kind of music that we all like.

I mean, I have a jazz/fusion side of me that put some people out but like, you know, I love that part. And then I come back to the other side with Toto and I'm fresh, I got new ideas and I got that shit out of my system. I'll always be that way. I enjoy it. It makes me feel good. It's not going to sell a million units but I don't give a shit. It's still music from my soul. Can't, like once again, can't please everybody. Some people think that's the only shit I should be doing. Ask one person, ask anybody, you're going to get a different opinion. So I just have to follow my heart, you know why? Because it's cool. Is it the best thing I've ever done? I don't think I've ever tried anything I've done, is the best thing I've ever done.

It's all hind-site. If something's really successful people think it's great. It doesn't mean it's great it means the perception is, it must be great if millions of people are buying it. Millions of people buy shit too, doesn't mean it's great. And that shit is subjective.





What happened with the deal with EMI?
I was a one off deal.

We were looking to license the record. We wanted to do something for our 25th anniversary and we didn't have... You know I was out on the road with Larry Carlton for a year. Paich was producing Bob's record. Simon was doing fusion records with Derek Sherinian, doing his jazz stuff. Mike was doing sessions.
Bobby was out doing whatever Bobby does. Classic rock stuff. Makes appearances with other people and stuff like that. Which is Ok to me as long as he doesn't use the name Toto. We kind of got that shit straightened out.
And then there's other assholes out there. Fergie, he's out there fucking booking like he's the lead singer of Toto. Singing 'Rosanna', 'Africa', 'Hold the Line'. Like he actually had something to do with that. In the United States he's burning opportunities for us because they go, 'Well we already have Toto'. What do you mean? You didn't have Toto. 'No we had Toto, the guy, the singer was here.' It was Fergie. He's not just out there singing the songs off of Isolation. He was passing himself off as something he is not. And that fucking pisses me off.

That must be frustrating.
And when Bobby was doing it before, when he was out of the band, we had like a restraining order against the guy and shit.

I never knew that.
Joe never did that. Joseph was way cool. I'm really happy for his success. I haven't heard his new record yet but I heard it's pretty good.

Yeah, it is actually.
And you know, I have nothing but respect for Joe. He really got his life together again, he's happy, he's doing [film] scores. It's what he wants to do, he wants to be around the kids, he doesn't want to go on the road anymore. Steve Porcaro doesn't want to go on the road anymore but he's doing scores, TV scores, I had lunch with him today.

Oh did you?
Played me some great shit. He's got an album's worth of material I told him, play the shit for people man. He's got different singers on it and stuff but it's still Steve Porcaro. It's really melodic, almost Gabriel-esque with his flare to it you know. Should put this fucking shit out, people would eat it up bro.

He's a great singer.
He didn't get any of us to come in and do a solo or just doll it up a little bit, it's there. Like I said, I'm not enemies with everybody's that's not in our band anymore but I only get pissed off at guys that used us in a wrong way. I was always cool with Fergie until he started going out and being Mr. Toto. Pissed me right the fuck off. Anybody can go out and sing our songs but don't pass yourself off as Mr. Toto. Because people don't really know what we look like and they believe, you know, face value. Like he did this big TV show in America, Regis morning show, like millions of people, and they introduced him as Toto.

And then he comes out and sings 'Hold the Line'. Badly.

Oh, no.
Yeah, so you know, there's a reason. I not just like some kind of guy that flies off the handle hating people. It's not in my nature, I'm really a nice guy. Ask anybody that really knows me. There's people that don't really know me, that maybe met me and asked me a stupid question and I flew off the handle. You know, I'm sorry about that. I apologize to anybody that I was a drag to. Like, you know, I take this shit seriously. They've been my bros for 30 years. We put a lot of time and effort into this.

We still keep this shit close to home. When I go on my solo tours I don't do Toto songs. And I have every right to if I wanted to. But why would I go sing 'Hold The Line'? I didn't sing it. I played on it. I could legally and in my heart go out and sing any song that I wrote and sang. But I don't do that because that takes away from what the Toto thing is when we go on the road. Why pay for the arena when you can fucking see it in the club?
My solo tours are you know, 1000 seats a night. And now he's passing himself off, that's not right. I wish him well with his solo project, I wish him well with his stuff, you know. I don't hate him as a person. I think he's jive for pulling that one off. And you know he has no right to do that.

No, I agree. That's fair enough.
That one album he did with you is still one of my favourites though!

It was the most painful thing we've ever done in the world.

I mean we were mixing the tracks while he was still trying to gag out a vocal. It was painful, punching one word in at a time. I wish we had Pro Tools back then bro.
You know, and like he was good for like two nights in a row and then he'd get sick, he's get sores all over his face, he was so nervous and he'd get all freaked out and shit. Just doing the back flips and shit. You know, once we lost Bobby, we lost the integrity of the band and we were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. That's why we kept going through them and going through them.
Joseph was great until he got fucked up and he'll be the first one to tell you that. Love Joe, funny guy. The first tour, the Fahrenheit tour he was brilliant. Sang great every night. And then, you know, you can't be a lead singer and get high. Like freezing your vocal chords and eventually, you know, you fuck yourself up. I mean, I'm not trying to go back and dig up some old shit that he's already gone way past, 15 years ago. He's not like that at all anymore. It was a rough spot in the road and in that era everybody was doing it. I was doing it too. Not make it seem like I'm some innocent guy in all of this. We were all fucking getting high. It was the thing to do in the '80s. But you can't be the lead singer of a band, staying up all night doing that shit, destroying …It would be like me taking a sand blaster to my fingers every night and then trying to play. You can't do it.

You've gone through a few vocalists but I still don't understand what happened with that other…the dude you did 2 tracks with on the greatest hits album.
Oh that was the record company's idea. We were out a singer. We actually…check this out. This is a real story. When Joseph left, we went, what the fuck are we going to do? So we started writing some tunes. Dave came up with, Dave and Joseph actually wrote 'Going Home'. So we said, we could pop you back in. See what happens. Singing somewhere on the road. So we get him to come in and he sang but it was a struggle. It was a struggle to get going. And we got what we could out which is on the Toto XX record, that's the version you hear. And we turned it into the record company and they said 'Nah, that's shit. We need to…we got a guy for you'.
And so I'm like, Oh I can't wait. And this is what they came up with for us. Jeff Porcaro was a very strong force. Jeff really had more to do with choosing our alternative lead singers than Dave and I or Mike did, you know what I mean? Jeff was like… When Bobby left, I wanted Eric Martin.

Is that right?
Me and Paich wanted to get Eric Martin to be our singer. I thought he'd be perfect. I loved his voice. Jeff didn't dig his vibe for some reason. I think he got drunk and he was a little silly and Jeff was like, this super cool guy, didn't dig the silliness of it all.
It's not Eric's fault, the guy got a fucking buzz on, was not his fault. And there was one thing. We tried to get him to sing their song, 'Could you be love'…not you be love, 'Could this be Love?' that was on the Fahrenheit record. And that was like his audition song and there was a very specific way that Dave wanted to sing it, since he wrote the song.
And he just didn't hear it that way. So he kept trying to change it, he wouldn't sing what Dave was singing. Jeff was there and was like, nah, he isn't the right guy.
He kept pretty much backing to Fergie. So we said OK, Jeff, he was always our spiritual guru and our big brother. To all of us. So we went with that. As it turned out, he was very difficult but we made a pretty good record.
But all of our shit was done, we were trying to implement him into this, and it was very nerve-racking for him. The myth about Bobby singing the whole record and then replacing every song with Fergie, is just that, a myth. Bobby sang on about 3 or 4 things and it was really hard because he wasn't in good health, and then he wouldn't show up, he was in a bad way. Like I said, he's nothing like that anymore either or he wouldn't be in the band.
People have these crazy ideas, it's like hearsay, myths about our band. I'd love to clear some of that shit up too man you can ask me any of that. But anyway, long story short…the Byron bummer.





The record company brings this guy in. The same scenario. Actually, let me go chronologically.
After Fergie, we went on tour and the cat, we got through the tour, we were writing the next record and he started to come in and try to sing the record that would become Fahrenheit, he just couldn't sing in the studio. He just could not sing in tune to save his life. Freaking himself out because he knew he wasn't cutting it, so he'd psyche himself out that much more.
And we finally said, look, this isn't working, we can't do this anymore, we got to have somebody that's at least half way as good as we are at playing our own instruments.
My vocals didn't take that long, even Dave's vocals didn't take long. Dave was singing more than he wanted to. Now he doesn't sing, he doesn't want to. It's too much work. But so, he left and once again Eric Martin came back up again. We didn't call him but me and Dave were going, remember this cat, Eric Martin?
I think it was right before Mr. Big happened. We didn't call him, but me and Dave were going, Eric Martin, he's the right guy. Because he can sing his ass off, he didn't understand some of our phrases but that's not to say that the one time he's going to be like that every time. So me and Dave kept trying to sell Jeff on him again. He said we've got to do this guy Joseph Williams. And I had worked with Joseph. I grew up with him and his brother. Used to play in bands together with Landau and all these guys when we were kids. So I knew the William's brothers. I thought they were incredibly talented. Mark's really talented too, his brother. And obviously they come from good stock, John Williams is the father. Joe came in and Jeff goes, this is the guy.
So we said OK great. He brought in some cool tunes, he was a funny guy. He came in, skinny, looked the part, way into it. Sang his dick off on the record. Painless, it was fun. Go on tour, killer fucking tour. Just ripped it a new ass-hole, he was great every night.

And then, you know, we came back and that was really successful. The album did really well. We had a hit. And we started on The Seventh One record.
Writing was going great. Did the record. The record turned out really good. I really like that record, I'm proud of it. Did really well with it. And then we went on tour, and drug problems crept in.
The first gig we were doing was in Rotterdam for live radio broadcast in front of God knows how many millions of people all across Germany. We were going Joe, don't do that shit until after the gig's over. Sure enough, he did. Came out and sang first song, second song was 'Stop Loving Me'. He started singing it and pipes went. Couldn't even make it utter a sound. It was like…I'm looking at Jeff and I'm going, 'I can't sing that high, think of something. This is going out live.' The beginning of a fucking six month tour and the cat lost his voice. And it never really came back.

Yeah, Ok.
And then he was ostracized. It was a drag. It was a bad vibe.
I felt bad…looking back I feel bad for him now. I love the cat, he's not anything like that, you know he made some poor choices. And he got himself into some trouble with the law and stuff.
So we had to cut him loose. And then we come to the point where like, now what the fuck are we going to do?
So then we tried Bobby in the record. We didn't dig that. That wasn't really feeling right at that time anyway. Because he wasn't really all the way there. He hadn't reached his full bottom yet. As far as like, you know, you hear about somebody who just finally gets it together because he can't get any worse.
And so they go, look we got a guy. Use this guy, we'll stick a ton of money into you, we'll promise you the world. He's a little off the beaten path, maybe you guys need a change of image, blah, blah, blah. Music is changing, you guys aren't being accepted as a hard rock band because radio won't play it anymore because Sony kept putting out nothing but ballads for the radio. We were perceived as some Air Supply kind of band. Which is really a fucking drag. Nothing against those guys. You know, they're soft rock and people that saw us live knew that we were a lot more than that.

Their albums do real well. Radio just would not accept them. Maybe you should get into this dance, whatever the shit that was happening in 1989 to '90.
Well they get this guy and there was like this ridiculous image, over the top. Completely off beat what I would ever think would be right. Jeff was like, maybe we need to do this. We got nothing to lose. They're making us all these promises. We're doing a greatest hits record, we only have to do a couple of songs.
So we wrote a couple of songs.
Dave had a few, I wrote a couple and we got in the studio. We were having a great time, and then you start to find out about what people are really like. The guy never listened to Hendrix or Zeppelin or anything - pretty much the George Michael story. Wearing a little glove, let me get to that later…
Singing in the studio was really hard. I never heard anybody with louder headphones in my life. He had a real pitch problem too.
We worked with James Guthrie who worked with Pink Floyd, and we got these great tracks for what that kind of music was and stuff. Killed the tracks and did what we were supposed to do. We tried to implement this guy into our scene. We'd never seen him perform live. We go to rehearsals and we're going on this tour, the 'Greatest Hits' tour. And he wasn't belting out Bobby's stuff, very few people can. So the guy, he's sitting on his stool in rehearsals, getting through it, it was OK. Singing better in the rehearsal room, as far as pitch and all that stuff. We'd never seen him perform.
So we do all this rehearsal and we go on tour, the first fucking gig and we see the guy putting on his fucking clothes. A little sheriff's badge on, he puts one golf glove on. We're thinking, man that's fucking funny, that's great, man that's a great joke. Hey says, “What are you talking about?” I go, “You're not going to go out there with a fucking glove, that's Michael Jackson's shit.” He said, “No it's not, it's my stuff.” I'm going, you've got to be fucking kidding me. We get on stage and we start the first tune, 'Love Has the Power' and he starts dancing around like fucking Richard Simmons on acid. Some fucking fruity shit going on man. And the crowd is like looking at me and going, something's up. They're looking at him and flipping him the bird telling him to get off the stage. And I'm looking at Jeff Porcaro and he's looking at me going, what the fuck is that? I mean is was unbelievable…He thought he'd come to save the day. Like Christ had come down and blessed us. We get off the gig and we're like, what the fuck is that? We're nuts, we're psycho. You can't do that. He goes, “I'm going to make you all very famous.”
He thought he was the shit, he was hysterical. And I was single, newly single at the time after my first divorce and I was out there for the chicks and every time I got with a chick, he'd try to get with her.

Oh really?
Like cock blocking. I was like dude, you don't do that, you don't even know the rules of the road. Things you do and things you don't do. Me and him didn't get on at all. And it got to the point where it was excruciating. The whole tour was excruciating, to be around him. It was a drag. I'm not saying he's an evil guy, but his ego. He thought he was the shit. He thought he was going to be the biggest star in the world. We were lucky to have him.

Well after Toto he really went on to big things didn't he? (laughs)
Didn't he!

He's probably working in a car wash somewhere.
I don't know what he's doing but obviously it proved wrong. It was disastrous. We basically phased him…as the tour went on he was doing less and less and less to the point where he was basically…That Live in Paris video in 1990, I think he is in for like a half a tune or something like that. We threw all his shit out. It just wasn't right. And then we were like really, what the fuck do we do? I ended up singing so much of the show. Jeff and the cats were, let's fucking do this, let's go make a rock and roll record. Kingdom of Desire.

Man I love that record.
I do too. And a lot of people didn't dig that record.

Nah, it's great.
Fine you lost all the…Seventh One Toto, what does Luke thinks he's running the band. Like it was my choice. Like I was trying to take over or something like that. Like I said, lot's of misinformation. We didn't want to go through putting a 5th guy in.

Yeah, yeah.
It became ridiculous. So we did that. Very proud of that record. Especially because it was Jeffrey's last record.

It's a killer record.
'91 was our last tour, the ship was going down. Before the record even came out. Then brother Jeffery died on us. That was another, what the fuck are we going to do?
We were in a tailspin. We lost our fucking mentor, we lost our guy. The heart and soul of the band. But we had to carry on; we didn't know what to do. We had a tour booked, 40 people on the payroll, 50 people on payroll expecting their families to eat during Christmas. Had we not had the tour already booked, we probably would have broken up right then.

Yeah, really?
Something kept us together, Simon Phillips was the only guy that we called. Couldn't get somebody that tried to sound like Jeff, we needed somebody with a name, and someone Jeff dug. Would bring some integrity and something else to the gig. Simon, Jeff I knew, dug. And he was going to move to L.A. There was a lot of serendipity there. He was going to come here anyway but he never thought, you know he had just gotten divorced, he wanted to leave London and come here and join our band. Do studio shit.

Me and him already had a relationship through playing with Jeff Beck and Santana in 1986. Became friends. And then he came on the gig, we did like 5 months on the road, decided at the end of it all, did a wonder tribute concert in L.A. at the amphitheater. Henley was there, Eddie Van Halen, we got Donald Fagan out of retirement before they reformed Steely Dan. We had Boz, we had David Crosby, Michael McDonald, George Harrison came out and played with us, Sheryl Crow before she was famous, she was singing background for Henley.

We had all the cats. At the end of that, Jeff's wife was there and Jeff's family, mother and father. You guys got to keep doing this. You're not going to bring Jeffrey back by quitting. And the fans, we get all these letters saying, look, it's never going to be the same without Jeff but you've still got something there. Hang tough. And so we did. Now you can ask me whatever you want. That's pretty much up to Tambu.

That's pretty cool.
Like I said, if you want to get the real information, don't go by hearsay, go to the source.

Yeah, absolutely. You did Tambu again yourself didn't you?
Yeah, because at that point we said well, let's see what this would really be like doing it without Jeff. In the studio, Dave and I and all the guys, you know, the first time we've written with Simon. We went in the studio, Elliot Scheiner wanted to work with us. And that's somebody Jeff always wanted to work with. We all worked with Elliot outside. We thought that was the right thing to do. We went in and wrote more of an organic sounding record. But once again, I'm saying there's no point in you guys doing a hard rock record because Kingdom of Desire whereas by today's standards it sold a lot, by those standards at that time, it didn't. Rock radio wouldn't touch us. We figured, well, maybe we should go explore the mellower side and the more world music side or whatever it is, or acoustic. You know, acoustic guitars, acoustic piano, I play a lot of keyboards on that record.

And we just did that record. We had the semi hit 'I Will Remember' and the tour was very successful. We implemented a couple of background singers that would sing the Bobby parts or Joseph parts. It was more like the Toto review and those guys were great. Jenny and John were fantastic. They really came at a great time. It was something completely different. That tour was very successful. Very successful.





Was the record successful?
Considering, and we came back and at that point we were going like, you know, well what are we going to do?
What do you want to do here? And then the 20th anniversary came around and we hooked up with Bobby again and he'd gotten himself together. And me and Dave started putting the record together, digging through the archives trying to find some shit from day 1 up until that point when we made that record, of salvageable tracks that were in the can that we never released...that were done, from all the different eras. There's some interesting stuff in there. I mean it's for the most staunch Toto fans of course.

But you realize how young some of this shit was and how there are reasons why they didn't make the real big records, but there's still some music in there worth putting out and it's a way for us to find our way back to the original concepts. Which was when Bobby came back in the band we did a couple gigs with Joseph and Bobby, Joseph really wasn't up for the task and Steve Porcaro came out and we did like 5 gigs. Had we actually rehearsed and done it right, it would have been a lot better. Because it was a little rough, vocally. And we decided Bobby was singing so good we were going to keep Bobby. Let's go explore this possibility and that leads us to Mindfields.

Yeah. I really, really like some parts of Mindfields, it's an album that took a long time to grow on me.
You know, I listened to a couple of tracks the other night, I was putting, my wife was putting stuff into my I-pod, my new favorite toy.

Yeah, great.
5000 songs in a fucking little box, you don't have to carry any CDs on the road with you. You got to love that. I've got to give my wife al the props on that one. She's going, “Yeah me!” It kind of brings me back, because I don't sit around listening to old Toto records. But I sort of wanted to get back to writing this new album. People wanted me, they said go back and listen to your old records. Remember the spirit of it. We're not going to write the same record, there's no point. It's not possible. Get back in the spirit. I thought there was some really good stuff on that record.

Yeah, yeah, there was. There's still a few songs I don't dig today…
Listen, nobody loves every song of every record. Nobody. I don't.

I mean stuff like 'Caught in the Balance' is just magical.
Yeah, that was a great song.

Melanie was cool...
Yeah, I mean that was a little light for me. It was a little fluffy for me.

What a video clip though!
Oh I hated that video. I didn't want to do it. I refused to be in it.
If you look at my face, you can see I'm about as happy as getting a prostrate check.

LOL! How much money did you spend on that clip?
Nothing. A French company did it for free.

Are you serious?

Because it looks like a million dollar clip.
(laughing) It depends on what kind of glasses you're looking through. It was like a million dollars worth of shit to me. David Paich floating around, I mean who wants to see that? I love David, I don't want to mean anything like that but they wanted to tie me up and to this blue screen shit. I said no fucking way I'm doing Peter Pan with you bro. Ain't going to happen. And I pissed everybody off.

Did you?
Oh man, I was fucking going, man you don't have enough booze in this place to make me do that. I will not do it.

What was the concept behind the clip?
Just like, the computer thing had just started happening. The images were cool. Doug Brown who did our album cover, brilliant, fucking great. Really great concept. Really psychedelic, old school. But they wanted to implement us in that and …our videos suck ass, they always have. We're not actors, we're not pretty boys. They implement us and I always look like I'm wearing my Mom's clothes in the fucking videos. I mean the hair and the fucking…stupid, awful. I mean, shit man, videos. MTV ruined everything.

So there won't be a video clip DVD released.
There will never be another video unless it's liver ever again. Live, fine. That's live, that's different. Concert videos are great. Love concert videos. But a fucking bunch of middle-aged guys trying to be…their hair poofed back, wind blowing their face, about the saddest concept I could ever think of.

I always enjoyed, still to this day, the Van Halen videos are great for that reason.
Yeah but they were funny. They were fun. They were rock stars. They looked the part and you believed it. I never believed it when I saw myself trying to be like that.

They never did the sort of clips…
So if you don't believe it yourself, how can you expect anybody else to believe?

It looks uncomfortable. It's like, somebody can be outrageous and look outrageous if they really sell it, they really believe it and they live it. But when you try to put clothes and hair dressers and stuff on people that don't feel it, who aren't feeling it, it's just comes off as really fake. Really bogus. It's like bad acting. We're not a video band. We never were. Never wanted to be. We wanted to be in a band to play music. Then MTV came along, changed everything. They fucked everything up. They turned it into a fucking McDonald's commercial. Music selling Coca Cola and t-shirts and now it's the reality TV. Music was an art when we started. I may die trying to keep that concept alive.

God bless you for that. When you got the guy starring on the Batchelor making records you've got to…
Well you know what I'm saying, come on. Any, look at fucking Kelly Osbourne's record.

Oh dear.
Oh my God.

How sad. How sad that Ozzy actually wanted to do a duet with her now.
Well I don't think that was probably Ozzy's idea. I don't know. I love Ozzy. Zakk Wilde is a great friend of mine, one of the greatest guitar players in the fucking world.

I couldn't agree more.
And a sweetheart. He gives these late night phone calls where he calls up and pretends to be Jimmy Page. Fucking hysterical. Me and Zakk have a great relationship. We don't really see each other much, but we talk all the time.
And I think he's one of the most brilliant, committed. This is the last of the great rock and roll heroes. He lives and breathes it. There's nothing fake about him at all. That is the real cat. He lives and breathes the guitar. And music and his family…a committed husband, a committed father, a committed psychopath. I love him. One of my favorite fucking humans on the planet.

Oh God bless him.

I love his work with Ozzy.
I consider him, I've know him since the '80s. It was just like the first couple of Ozzy records and stuff, he was a great kid. He's like a little brother to me. He's the coolest man. And I love, we played on Derek Sherinian's record together and stuff, you know.

That's right. I've got that. It's a great album.
It's great. I love that shit.

Derek's a good guy too.
Derek's a great guy. Very, very talented. I love… he just wants to make it as out as humanly possible. I love anybody with that kind of commitment. It's like Petrucci, same thing. He was actually in John's band for a while. John's like another one of those alien creatures who lives and breathes it. Also one of the nicest guys you'll meet.

Really, that's cool.
Music Man, we're all Music Man guys. Their endorsement roster is one hand. Me, John, Albert Lee, Steve Morse, Vinnie Moore and I think that's it. They had Eddie for a while but that's a whole other thing. I don't even want to talk about that.
It has nothing to do with me. But what I'm saying is, he only endorses cats he really feels are really great players and he ends up getting us all together to play together which is really wild, because everyone comes from a different world. But I'm a huge fan of Dream Theater. Dream Theater are awesome.

They're a cool band.
A great band with a committed bunch of musicians. All of them are great virtuosos. And they have a vision and they stuck to their vision, now it's paying off. They're bringing back a whole genre of music that I thought was dead. Yet it's uniquely their own. I could sit and talk about music with them like from the '70s when we grew up. And I'm older than those guys so. We talk about records like Genesis' old Selling England by the Pound, all that stuff like, you know, John's one of most unbelievable musicians. Just scary. I just feel like, Jesus, why bother when you hear a cat like him and Morse and shit.
But these are my bros. I'm always inspired by greatness. When you hear greatness it makes you want to practice more.

Yeah! That's cool. That's very cool. Do you think in hindsight the covers record was the best thing to do?
It certainly wasn't the worst thing to do. I mean we could have gone out with no product.





It takes us a long time to make records the way we like to make them. We thought, wouldn't it be a kick if we played a bunch of songs from our childhood and redid them in our own style. And, you know, just the whole concept got bad to people. What's the matter with you guys, we don't want you to do that stuff. Paich was all up into the…. Paich is like our resident rap guy. It cracks me up. We don't have any business going into that world. That was Dave's thing. My wife chose the song… let me look into your record collection. She's 14 years younger than me. So she's listening to… when I went out with her she had everything form the Grateful Dead to like you know, what was that band, the industrial band?

Nine Inch Nails?
Then she'd have like the Carpenters. What kind of a…she's got very interesting…I dig her record collection. Bob Marley and all this really weird off the cuff stuff. I go, let's go look at your record collection because I'm sure you have a very different one than mine. And we just went…we didn't have a lot of time to think about it. We just went in and stated playing shit and if it felt good we cut it. We cut it really fast and we did it fun, it was cut live in Simon's fucking living room. Except for the vocals and a few bits and pieces here and there. We just thought we'd have something different to do and go on the road with some new product. And just to buy us time to do the tour and for our 25th anniversary officially and then we'll write a record after that. We thought it would be fun. Everybody in the world's done a covers record. We do one and we take a bunch of shit for it. Come on now, there's some really good stuff on that record.
Maybe it's not everyone's cup of tea but not the worst fucking record of the year. I mean just from a musician's stand point there's stuff on there to listen to. Song selections on there are everything '70s. Everything that we were playing in high school. 'Bodhisattva' was the first song I ever played with Steve Porcaro and Jeff Porcaro.

Yeah, Ok.
You know, there's a story behind each song. We didn't randomly pick stupid songs. There was a reason why, emotionally for some people.
Everyone got to pick their own, you know, wish list and we sat around and whittled it down and said, let's try this one, let's try that one, let's try the arrangement on this, blah, blah, blah. It was fun man. We weren't trying to save the world and go like, this is our greatest record ever. This is an interim period record. Much like a greatest hits record. People go, why don't you just put out a new album? Why don't you put out another greatest hits record? Why does anybody do anything? I think we were taken to the whipping post a little too hard on that one. Because we went on the road, we did like three songs off the record and the whole rest of it was our catalogue. And some people loved the record and some people absolutely hated it. I'm sorry. That's pretty much the same vibe with any record we put out.

It must get frustrating.
You know what? If I believed everything I read, good, bad or indifferent, I'd never play again.

Yeah, really?
Because I'd be so depressed. I'm going like, what if I do this and that guy's not going to like it or this person or these people won't like it. You've got to throw the dice, you know? You don't get a seven every time sometimes you crap out. As the years go by, in ten years time people go back and listen to that record with a different point of view, they go, well I don't love all of it but there's some good stuff on there. And I will stick to this. I don't love every thing on it but I think there's some really good stuff on there. Interesting reworking of old arrangements. I thought my fucking Elvis Costello impression was awesome.

I do admire that.
I mean that was done as a piss-take, unbelievable. I just hope the cat got to here it. Because he certainly got a royalty check.

I was going to ask you whether he ever got to hear it.
I don't know but he's with Diana Krall who's actually peripherally a friend. Elvis takes himself way too seriously.

Yeah, I agree.
But I don't really know him. Just reading what he says about himself and other people. Dude, you're not God's gift, I hate to tell you. Look at your record sales compared to mine. Kiss my ass.

(laughing) I like it.
And I'm a fan. I think he's great. I mean I think he's written some great songs. Wasn't such a c*** about it, I would by all his records.

What about your solo records Steve, you got a favorite?
Candyman is my favorite.





Really? That's the most diverse isn't it?
That's the most perfect representation of who I really am. I mean its ten years old now so obviously it's now who I am right now, but back then, I was really proud of that record. I think that one really holds up better than all the rest of them.

Is that right?
There's good stuff on the other ones but my first solo record is very dated sounding. There's like 3 or 4 things on there I think are really cool, some of my pop/metal/rock stuff sounds really forced.
But the stuff I did with Eddie and the stuff I did with Steve Stevens and things I did with Kortch and that ballad 'Turns To Stone' I wrote with Randy Goodrum, I'm really proud of that song.

I love that whole album.
There's a couple, I was trying too hard. In that era, you have to remember it was like the hair days.
I was trying to put the music into the hair music and try to jump off the Toto bandwagon. Like I actually thought I might be accepted. It wasn't. People that like my shit they thought, they can look back on it, there's some good stuff on there. Out of all my solo records that's the one that sounds like I was trying too hard, to try to be too many things to too many different people all on the same record.

Right, OK. I love it, I must admit, I'm a big fan. I paid like 38 bucks for the album. For a CD.
I wish I got my percentage of that royalty. I think I made a $1.25 on that one myself.

I had to get it on import down here, it cost like 38 bucks.
As usual. Our strong Australian presence.

Yeah, I know, I know!
I mean, we can't even get a gig down there. We can get a gig, but they don't want to pay any money.

I'm so frustrated about that.
We're not going to go down there and fucking suck. We've been trying to get in there. Keep trying. The INXS guys are trying to get us in there. I want to come to Australia. I mean, I may just have to come down there just as a solo artist. It's not over 'till the fat man sings. We're still working it, there's a little bit of interest. It's a shame because we're going down that way, coming through it would have been nice to actually have played a gig or two.

You go to Japan?
Yeah, I'm going to Japan. I'll be in Japan a couple of times.

I would love to see you down here. That's for sure.
Well hey man, tell a friend. You never know, like this next record deal if it works out that way. We're going to make some very strong points about going, well if you're going to want us, you're going to make this happen everywhere. At lease try.

So what do you do? You going to shop to the labels or you going to try and do it yourself?
Well, there's only 2 labels now. You either do it independent, which is really difficult. The distribution is so fucking hard to deal with.

We can't get in there. You can sell it on your website but you'll never... You need that big machine behind you. For promotion and all the rest of the stuff. It's a question of, who's going to give us the better shot. I would never have thought in a million years that … I hesitate to mention this kind of thing because I don't want to blow it before it happens, but there's some offers on the tables. We had a great relationship in a lot of countries and horrible ones in others.

So in order for us to get back to it, we need to say, well what about these troubled areas? We can come back to that and use that as a deal for you, rather than give you more money.

Yeah, like actually get the record released in Australia.
Well they were released but they just, nobody ever knew it and they bought like 100 pieces. In all of Australia. Because we were considered not hip. The record companies are being run by 20 year-old kids. 25/27 year-old kids. They don't want to be associated with something their mom listened to. You know what I mean. It's the hip factor. It's funny, we get sampled and stuff like that and that's cool. Ja Rule has a hit with 'Africa'. And like, you know, I had that big huge hit with Roger Sanchez for 'I Won't Hold You Back'. That thing sold fucking 15 million copies. Man I'm laughing. I'm laughing. I'm just going, thank you God for that taste.

So without getting into…
And yet the name Toto doesn't appear anywhere. Usually it's like sampled by this or featuring so and so and 85 names. Our name is never mentioned.

Yeah, why is that?
It's my voice, my song. I mean grant it, the first in line's the song. I never thought that was going to be a hit. But our music, Toto IV has been raped as far as fucking samples go. I mean six of those songs. We were doing hip-hop before they had a name for it. 'Waiting for Your Love', listen to that groove. That's a little more up-tempo hip-hop record. We used to call them funk a shunk. We didn't have a name for hip-hop. Hip-hop is a black thing man. Or I should say, it's not just a black thing but it's an urban thing.

A bunch of white kids in the valley can't, you know, talking about, kill the white man, kill the white man. It's a joke. It's like, once again, it's like videos bro. We can't fit ourselves into someplace we don't belong. But I can see the art form. When I saw the move 8-Mile, that's when I got into rap. I figured this is a really interesting concept. Even though it was fictitious, I still kind of saw where it was coming from. How difficult it is to come up with them rhymes. No melody involved. There's no melody involved at all. The saddest thing in the world is to see a rap guy try to sing. That's pathetic. It sounds like your grandpa's getting a prostrate check. (makes horrible noise) Those guys can't sing. Don't sing bro. Get somebody who sings. But rap. I give them all the props in the world for that. That's an art form all its own.

Yeah, 8-Mile was enjoyable for sure.
Yeah, it was great. I really understood the whole concept, even though it's a small version of that. I dig the old school. I see where it all comes from. It's nothing I can do myself, because I'm just not qualified to do that but I can appreciate how hard it is to write those lyrics.

Now, you made the headlines last year. You knew I was going to do this.
Best press we ever had. One of the great publicity stunts of all time.
Never thinking any of it would get past our website. That anybody would actually believe that without even calling our office and seeing if it was true. But we got more press out of that. Front page all over the world.
It was hysterical when we started getting thank you notes from the Transgender Society. Then I started to feel really bad. Now these people are hailing Dave like he's going to be their new poster boy. Dave and his family thought it was hysterical. Then we had to come back and retract it. Sorry, didn't mean to offend anybody, I never thought it was going to go this far. And we basically took this…makes you stop and think about the bullshit they put in newspapers without corroborating any of it. Not one person called our office to see if it was true.

Is that right?
They took it at face value.

And Dave really didn't mind?
Dave thought it was hysterical. He still signs his e-mail Davita.

Oh does he?
Oh yeah. His daughter thought it was absolutely brilliant. His wife was laughing her ass off. We all thought…we couldn't believe that anybody would actually take that serious. Please. I can't wait to see what my next one is going to be.

Well that was what I was going to ask you, what's next?
I don't know, I think people will be a little more gun shy next time. It'll have to be a really good one.

We'll put some thought into that then will we?
Yeah, well, you never know. They say any press is good press.

Yeah, absolutely. What else do you…, let me change tape here. What's that?
I've got to eat some dinner here in a minute. We've been going for an hour and a half.

Yeah, we've talked about enough.
You better give me more than a paragraph after an hour and a half.

(laughing) Exactly. What did you want to say? Is there something you want to say?
I've said too much already (laughs).

Yes, you've said plenty!
I'm just saying, like you know, we're going to so our thing, be patient. Hopefully you'll dig it once it comes out. It's not going to come out until we all look at each other and go, it's time to put this out. In the meantime we're going to work and do what we're going to do and take some time off and do some other projects ourselves. And take our time with making a brilliant record. Or what we think is a brilliant record. It will be up to you guys to figure out if you like it or not.

Once again, I say, you can't please everybody.

Yeah, well exactly, you can't.
You've got to please yourself. I want to make a statement as a musician myself and as a songwriter. Don't know 100% what that's going to be. I've got some ideas. I've got CDs, demos, ideas I've been dicking around with. I won't know what makes the final cut because we haven't really, really gotten into it yet.

I think I'm ahead of the game more than the other guys as far as having material. But like once we start taking it real seriously then it will become a much more serious thing. You can check in with me another time.

Yeah, definitely.
I'll let you know what the progress is.

Definitely, definitely. I just want to quickly mention, one of my favorite records of yours is Fee Waybill's Read My Lips.
That was a great record, and it didn't happen. Which really surprised me. Considering it was coming off the new hit single that me and Bobby wrote together with Fee [Waybill]. We thought we made a really great record.

It was. I love it. You know, coming out on CD?
The big machine didn't get behind it. And that's what it takes man. You can sell anybody anything if you have enough money behind it. But we live in an era now where record company people…In the old days, if somebody was passionate about something they would make it happen. They would get everybody in the company excited about it. Now it's like, the famous story, Andy Johns tells this story. He fixed the record and turns it in to the A&R people. In the club he's telling the A&R guys, Andy goes, what do you think of the record? He goes, I don't know, I'm the only one that's heard it. The guy's afraid to make any opinion he might get fired for.

Yeah, isn't that sad.
And it's even worse now. I don't need some snot-nosed, twenty year-old kid telling me he doesn't like my music. I'll kick his ass. What do you got mother fucker? It's a young man's game. For guys like us, guys our age, we just make records for people that dig what we do and we've been around so long we can still go out and people will come see us. No matter what it is. They know they're going to see a good show with really good players, that are actually up there playing, and have a sense of humor about all of this.

We're not trying to change the world, we're not capable. That's somebody else' job now. I'm just trying to live and have a good time, have a laugh and play music. I'm very lucky, very honored, very humble about it and I'm just trying to do the best I can. It doesn't always come up to what everybody's standards think I should be doing or what we should be doing.
That's a very difficult thing. Because everybody thinks, well fuck this, that record's no good, this song's no good. They lost it. They don't have their thing anymore. But other people go, that's so much better than what you used to do. So, who do you listen to? You have to listen to the little voice inside.
He goes, like, I think this is good, I hope people dig it. As far as us having a # 1 hit single again: probably not unless we're sampled again. But who knows, who knows. Tomorrow's another day. You never know. Having teenagers…MTV is not roasting in my house like it used to be. They don't even play music on MTV anymore. I think people are more interested in live DVDs and going to see live shows.
Because that's the only thing that's actually real anymore.

Yep. I agree.
Even some of the live shows aren't real. There's like 5 Pro Tools guys behind the stage and they're up there just faking the whole thing.

I know. I can imagine.
So that's why people, like we can still sell concert tickets and maybe today with the exception of some of the great bands that are out there like Coldplay and Radiohead. Making brilliant music. Melodic, soulful and played by real guys. The run of the mill pop groups…it's like eating too much candy.
You're going to barf after a while. Too sweet, too…And they still rail on us. Put that on the cover of a magazine that they still think Toto is the worst fucking band that ever happened. You just kind of shake your head, scratch your head and go well, 600,000 people just bought tickets to see us and our record sales are happening, I'm booked up this year, I'm 46 years old, I'm happy to be alive, I'm happy to be playing music, honored to have an audience. Who doesn't always love every thing we do but loves us in spite of ourselves.

That's awesome.
Be patient with us. Be gentle. We're old guys.

That's awesome. I can't imagine a better note to finish grilling you on.
I think we've said it all.

I think you've said it all.
I can't wait to see how you put this on the site.

Well, it's going to take a little while to type up obviously.
I'm sure.

But I'll talk to you before I post it.
Maybe in a couple of months I'll check it out.

Let's hope I get it done quicker than that.
If you need me to do anything for you, that I can do, promotion wise or anything like that. You've been very kind to me. I appreciate that more than you fucking know.

Oh no, thanks man, I appreciate it.
I'm not the c*** that everybody thinks I am.

And what better way to end the interview! I'd add the goodbyes, but the tape ran out. I thank Steve for an awesome and open chat and hope to do it again sometime down the track.











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