Wed
08
Feb

Keith Olsen (2004)

Artist: 
Categories: 
Interviews
Keith Olsen: Producer, Engineer, Classical Artist and Industry Advocate.

 

 

 

Famed record producer Keith Olsen talks in detail about the life of a producer and some of his experiences working with such artists as Sammy Hagar, Rick Springfield, Fleetwood Mac, Foreigner, Pat Benatar, Kingdom Come, Eddie Money and more. He also talks about the record industry's battle with file sharing and much more.
A very special thanks to Ron and Don Higgins for transcribing the 90 minute+ interview for me. Cheers guys.


Hi Keith, many thanks for your time and your willingness to talk to me about your career. I gather you're on the West Coast?
Yes, I'm up here in Seattle.

How long have you been there?
I've been here 3 and a half years.

OK, OK, and previously in LA?
Yeah. LA for 27 years before that.
I got head-hunted by this company called Mackie Designs (www.mackiedesigns.com).
I had to go to their office in Seattle.

Yes….
And I ran their professional products division. And we have parted ways. When they were purchased, Greg Mackie was bought out, and I thought it would be time for me to go too.

And you'll stay up there, do you think?
No, actually I sold my house and we bought one in Kauai in Hawaii.
It's the island of Kauai.

Right. Nice for some.
In fact, it's about 6 or 8 doors down from Todd Rundgren.

Oh is it really!? There's a few guys over there now isn't there?
Yeah, David Tickle is over there, and then ah, Gram Nash, Nathaniel Kunkel, Pankow from Chicago. Let's see, Phil Lesh from Grateful Dead. You know, too many.

I was surprised to hear you've been using my site, I was more than pleased to hear that.
Yeah, I took a look at it. Saw what you are doing, and it's cool. You know, there's a gazillion websites out there for every band and every member of a lot, of some of the bands that I've worked on have their own sites. It's good to see somebody's keeping some of that alive down there.
How many hits do you get a day?

About 10 or 11,000 at day.
Wow, that's amazing. That's great.

Yeah, there's a bunch of old rockers still out there.
Oh yeah. I can tell. They still buy my records.

Absolutely. You still get a check in the mail then?
Yeah. Still get the check in the mail. Twice a year.

I was going to ask you about that later on but I'll jump straight in now that you've mentioned it. I don't really want to ask what you're earning or whatever.
Well I won't tell you (laughs).

Exactly, that's your business. But a lot of people that read the site love the industry side of things. And how does a producer earn his living apart from just being hired to work the record?
Well you're hired to produce an album and when you produce the album you get a chunk of money, but the chunk of money is an advance against your portion of the royalties.

Oh, ok. So like the artist, you get an advance as well.
Yeah. And it's the strength of your production skills that is directly proportionate to how much of an advance you get to go into a studio with an act. When I was really, really hot, and having gold, you know albums in the top ten all the time, I had a 1 in 4 ratio of albums that I did that went gold or better.

That's pretty amazing.
And so record companies would look at it as hedging their bet. If I did the record, they had a 1 in 4 chance, instead of a 1 in who knows chance of making the album work. Now because of that, I was able to get more priority projects. And the priority projects are the ones that really work.
That is when the record company is so committed to promotion and videos and everything else it takes to market a record and make it sell. So it was mainly because of getting those priority projects. And then the other thing it's, a lot of it's timing. Getting the right song at the right time for the marketplace. Where they actually say, 'well this is unique or this cool or this rocks, whatever' enough to make it really work.

Have you had instances where you really struggle to make the record work?
Oh yeah. It wouldn't be the record business… Ah let's see.
There are times when, ah gee, you know it was a struggle with Whitesnake. On the Whitesnake '87 album. Whitesnake '85 [Slide It In] was really a snap. It was great, and easy to do. Whitesnake '89 [Slip Of The Tongue] was even more of a struggle because you're coming off of a record that sold 15 million copies. So everything that you do is checked, double-checked, thought about. You delve into every possible idiosyncrasy of what you're doing verses where you think the record, the band should go.

You got half way through that, or someone else was brought in, weren't they?
No, actually, it was a record company decision to bring in somebody at the beginning of the Whitesnake '89 album. Because this guy was… Let's go back to record companies for a minute. Record companies have guys that are A&R directors. Vice president, head of A&R. They put their life on the line every time they sign an act. Because if it doesn't happen, they're relieved of duty. And if it does happen, then the record company looks to them to make sure it happens again.

Yeah, ok.
Mike Clink is an old buddy of mine. And he just had a huge album with Guns and Roses. And so, Mr. Kalodner, bless his soul, decided that, you know, the best thing for Whitesnake would be to go into the studio and cut some tracks with the guy who did Guns and Roses - because it would be a much more heavy rock album. And, you know, they have total control.
And so they had booked me 18 months before and then I was put on hold for 6 months while they went and dicked around cutting the record. And so I remember going up and listening to the tracks for the first time, and listening to it and said, 'Wow, all these tracks are in the key of A. Don't you have any other songs in any other keys? It's going to be a little, kind of worrying isn't it?'
You know Mike is a good engineer and a good producer but he's not a musician of sorts. And so he uses his ears more than his brain, which is really cool. And he's really good at it, and he's done really well since, because of that. He has great ears and he knows what he's doing. But when it comes to things like, gee this song is in A and this song's in F sharp minor. Gee that's really just A. This song's in A minor, OK, that's A. And this song's in C. Which is a relevant major. And it starts getting where there's a common tone, common tones everywhere and it became where they were speeding up, slowing down, changing keys, re-cutting tracks and doing this just to get rid of all that stuff. And so we basically cut the album twice. And I came in, we cut it again, fixed everything, worked with, along side Mike which was fun because he's a good guy.

Yep.
And then there were other problems during that album. You know, a guitar player that got carpal tunnel syndrome, and he couldn't play [Adrian Vandenberg]. And so we had to bring in Steve Vai, which is always a real treat because when you have a player that's that good, then everything gets changed again because you have a guitar player that's so good you want to arrange things around that good a guitar player. And so the album was cut a few times.

Yeah. It does sound it too. It's a little bit…It didn't work as well as the 1987 album.
Right. A long time ago, a real good writer then, was good friend of mine, a long time ago. You can't use her name but I'll tell you who it is. But you can't use her name. It was ___ ___. I'm walking on the beach, in Malibu with her. And I went out to her beach house. It was July 4th, it was the afternoon. She was having a Barbeque. Her and I are walking along the beach, I'd had quite a disastrous summer, three days earlier my house caught on fire because of fireworks in the neighborhood. All this stuff.
But, so she made me come out to this party, and shoot off a bunch of fireworks. She just said, we're going to get you un-depressed. So as we're walking along the beach, she says, you know Keith, all your life you take these life experiences, you stick them in this bag that you carry on your shoulder. We'll call it the 'Life Experience Bag'. And every time you write a song, you reach into this bag and you pull out something and you write about it. And you tell the story. But don't get too comfortable, because when you get too comfortable, you're not putting anything in the bag, you're only taking stuff out of it. And then one day, you stick your arm in the bag and there's nothing left except an old, rotten apple core. And you know, nobody wants to hear a song about an old, rotten apple core. And you know, if you start looking at that, and look at the quality of songs from a lot of artists, the more comfortable they get. They're not struggling - they're not putting those stories in the bag. And they're not writing the quality of song that they did on their 'breakthrough' album that comes right out of some horrific time in their life. Because it's all about the song. The strength of an album is about the strength of the songs. The strength of the stories that are told, it's the strength of the melodies, and it's the strength finally of the performance of those great songs. You can have a hit record with a great song, you can have an even bigger hit record with a great performance of that great song. And you know, the very final thing is sound. And if you have a great song, that has a great performance and it's recorded on some piece of junk recorder that barely records, you still have a hit record. But if you can put all three together, you have those giant records. Where you have song, performance and sound.

Right, that's a great story to hear – absolutely right. And putting that together is where you come in.
Well, you know, a lot of the times I'm there in the beginning. Identifying which are the great songs. Getting the great performance, that's my job. That's a producer's job. To get the performance on tape in an accessible manner to the marketplace, to who your customer is. That listener out there. The guy or the girl that really wants to have…captures that feeling, the same feeling who can claim their song in that performance as their own. That's what a producer's job really is. That may sound too flowery. Bottom line is, that's what you do.

How did you get started? Did you always envision being a producer?
No, I was semi-classically trained. And that means that my parents made me study. And I kept shifting and shifting things where I really liked stringed instruments, I like cello, I like guitar, I like upright bass. I liked the classics, I loved Stravinsky. And I got good enough to play in the Minneapolis symphony. Studied under Stanaslav Strovashevski (sp). And let me tell you, that man know how to control 120 musicians.
And it was one of those things where you just, you went, and everybody is warming up and the concert master has you run through the piece once. And then Strovashevski comes walking in and everything is different. It is so much better, I mean everything just, everything changes. And it was my first experience of hearing that, and hearing that thing about how you get musicians to play tight, how you get musicians to play together. And right after that, I went on the road and started playing bass for, at the time it was folk acts.
And started writing songs with artists, arranging things, and then the next thing I knew, I was in the studio working with some act here and some act there. And then got a deal to go in the studio and work with The Association. With Curt Boettcher, Tommy Roe, and Curt Boettcher and just kind of crept into it, where I was never making a living at it.
Put together a rock band called The Music Machine. Had a hit record called 'Talk Talk'. Back in 1966. And then put together a band called The Millennium on CBS. And co-produced that, and got to be a staff producer at CBS when Clive Davis was running the show there.
That's when I first met Clive. But it all kind of started when I met Jerry Wexler and he said to me, he said, 'Keith, here at Atlantic records when we mix records we put a lot of middle and a lot of top on it. Call me when it's done.' (laughs). Ok. I called him when it was done. And I said, yep. And he asked me the same thing again. 'Did you use a lot of bottom?' Yep. 'A lot of middle?' Yep. 'A lot of top?' Yep. 'Must be done then.'
Bring me a copy, I'll send you a plane ticket. And I started getting more and more into the inner workings of Atlantic and CBS and all those companies. And I realized that you could actually make a living at this. But you have to go out and find your own acts to break through.

Yes, OK. You become an A&R guy as well.
Yeah, you have to find your own acts. So I found this band called Fritz up in the Bay area. Said wow this band is terrible. But that bass player can sure sing and that chick can play the tambourine OK and she has a real unique voice. And put this little duo together, it's called Buckingham/Nicks. It was Lindsey Buckingham and Stephanie Nicks.

Right!
Did an album for Polydor at the time.

Yes I remember that.
And it was different. It was unique. We really arranged a really unique vocal sound. It was different. It sold bupkis (laughs). You know what bupkis is don't ya?

Yes! But some readers may not!
Bupkis is baby shit. It sold a baby shit. It didn't sell.
It didn't sell worth a damn. It was certified bupkis on release.

Diddly-squat is what we call it in Australia.
That's Yiddish for baby shit. Anyway, I was working on some band that I can't remember what it was. Then I met Mick Fleetwood and he wanted to hear… because he was looking for some place he could make an album really cheap. And so I said, well you know there's this studio called Silent City. You can make pretty cheap albums out there, we'll make a deal with them. And he asked me to produce the record. And on New Year's Eve he called me and says, 'Well Keith I got some good news and bad news. The bad news is, Bob Welch has left the band so we won't be starting that album in February'. And I went, 'Here we go.' (laughs). 'But the good news is, you know those two kids, who were they? Lindsey and Stevie? Do you think they'd want to join my band? Could you go and find out?' And I took 12 hours of constant pounding on them to try to convince them to join Fleetwood Mac on a trial basis only. And they joined Fleetwood Mac as a trial basis and they said they'd do it just for 6 weeks. Then they got better, then they found out that they were making money, just because her brother's paying their salary at 500 bucks a week. They said, well this is great. We went into the studio, 3 months later we came out with that album.

And a legend was born.
And a legend was born.
I worked with them on that album. And then I really don't want to say what happened. I'm still friends with Lindsey and Stevie to this day. But I don't really speak very much to the rest of them. There was, just a nasty lawsuit. Just wanted to get paid, that's all I wanted to do is get my percentage. And so anyway…

So it goes.
So they went and decided to go and hire this kid who was my second engineer to be their 'engineer' because they could save money. A million and a half dollars later they finished. But it was hard to work with somebody when you're in a lawsuit with them.

OK, and so from there you just sort of, well you built a reputation from that album obviously.
Well it started with that album and then I remember my lawyer telling me you're the luckiest guy…. Then I went and did Foreigner. Produced Foreigner. And he said, 'Luckiest guy I ever met.' And then right after that I did Santana, Rick Springfield, Benatar. Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. And he said, he was telling me that, it might not be luck (laughs).

Yeah, it may not be.
And all I said to him, I'm just picking these really cool songs that these people have and recording them in a way that I really enjoy. And trying to give everybody a bit of their own sound. Instead of doing a lot of what was going on at the time where a producer's sound would carry over from act to act to act to act.

Absolutely.
Everybody…if the producer was doing…you know Mike Chapman is a great guy…But he had a little while there where he was using the same guys as players on a lot of records and he had the same techniques on a lot of records. And there were three albums in a row that sounded very similar. But it was exactly what radio wanted. And every single thing he did was getting tons of airplay. And I was like, Mike, this is amazing. I'm going to call you air hog from now on, you know? But…it caught up with him.

It didn't last did it.
Because sounds change and that is something that you always have to do and I stayed the course and kept making sure that everything sounded different. It's those things that you do. Boy, Mike Chapman writes good songs though, doesn't he?

Oh, absolutely, he's a fantastic songwriter. Worked with a lot of good female artists didn't he?
Yeah.

Absolutely, in fact I was going…, funny you should bring up that producers take their sound with them, you know you only have to listen to Shania Twain and Mutt to know that it's more him than anyone else isn't it?
Don't short-change Shania.

Oh no?
Shania has a lot of stories to tell. And she looks at her stories from a very female point of view and that's definitely not the way Mutt wrote. You know Mutt used to write everything definitely from a guy's point of view. I mean look at songs like 'Heaven in the Back Seat' [Eddie Money] and stuff like that (laughs). And Shania comes up with really great stories. I mean it's really, it's really good. Now, Mutt does have a way of making her sound absolutely fabulous.

Oh absolutely.
His arrangement and concept for a song is spectacular. How it crosses over from genre to genre is totally spectacular.

Yeah, well he brought Def Leppard to the masses didn't he? And AC/DC.
And he almost went crazy doing Foreigner (laughs).

Yeah, Foreigner and The Cars…
But you know, it's one of those things where Mutt is absolutely brilliant.

On this subject - out of your catalogue, there are 2 records that you produced which I think sound exactly the same. They have a really funny sound and I was going to ask you about that, and one of them was the Magnum's Goodnight L.A. album and the other one was Dare's Blood from Stone.
Dare's Blood from Stone?

Yeah. They're both about the same era. They both have the sound…not a muddy guitar sound but a…
It was that time…Magnum Goodnight L.A. and Blood from Stone, Dare was… they were projects where you had a very limited budget, limited time to do. And so a lot of it was, you had to whip it out. And those two particular projects were that way where you really had to cut to the chase on everything. I'll call them marginal record deals.

Yes, OK.
And marginal record deals when they want to record in America, they're traveling, you know, 6000 miles, putting them up. There's airfare, transportation, all of their gear and equipment and then you have this little bit left to go into the studio and try and get an album cut in six weeks. You end up doing things that are not…totally out of the ordinary because there just isn't enough time or on a budget. And those were two albums that were kind of in the same general time frame. There was just no time to do anything different.

In the heyday era like late '87 to '93 kind of time frame, or even earlier, even during the '80s: two questions. Not your personal cut or whatever, but what was the biggest and the smallest production budget you were given by a label?
You now, the band was given. Because I've heard of bands spending millions in the studio making a record then you've heard of other bands doing it on a dime.

The biggest…I always put in for about $150,000 for studio time and I always figured that ought to be able to cover it.

Ok.
Because that's 150 days in the studio. That's six months. Now if you have to have a bunch of outside musicians and stuff like that. You know, budgets usually ended up being about…usually under that. Right around a hundred is what it would end up you'd spend. I mean like Joe Walsh, The Confessor. Are you familiar with that album?

Not that album.
It's a really classic, unique, very creative album where everything is a different approach on every song. And it's really… we took our time, we got incredibly creative with big guitar, small voice. Everything had, every line, every bass line, every drum fill, every part figured out exactly how we wanted to play it, put it in. But it took us three and a half months to do it. Half a million dollar budgets were getting to be quite normal towards the end of, in the early '90s. And I was totally flabbergasted to find out what European studios were charging and getting away with it.
But you know, it's really amazing, all of those studios that were charging that much. Where a band would go in for 8 weeks and get a quarter of a million dollar bill. They're all out of business (laughs). It was the studios that worked with artists and producers and said…where you went in and said, this is how much money I got, take my money. I don't want to have that sort of stuff hanging in my head. Work with me on the budget. You could always do it. And, you'd say that to a studio and then you'd go back and keep going back to them, and over time…Like the hit factory. The hit factory was never about the money, it was about the record.

That's cool.
My own, you know, Goodnight L.A. studios - we would go broke letting a band finish a record. We would profit just one way. That's what happens with those things. The smallest budget, boy I think it was probably Sammy Hagar.

Really!? Which album?
Standing Hampton. I think we cut that album in 37 days. Cut it, overdubbed it, vocalled it and mixed it. That album was pretty low, I think it was like 40 grand or something like that.

Wow. It still was a classic album. So it's not always the budget, it's the songs.
You can do… the Kingdom Come record was done in 21 days.

Really! Tell us about that, I've got that album right here, because that album really caused a stir didn't it?
Yeah (laughs), of course it did.

Was it designed to cause a stir? I mean there was a lot of hype about the Led Zeppelin riff's and the rest of it.
That's all Lenny can do. Lenny can do one thing and one thing only, and that's sing that way.

Well he's never done it better than on that debut, he's never come close if you ask me.
Yeah, anyway, that's all he can do. And his band, geez, James Kottak might as well have been John Bonham. Plays the same way. I don't know if you've ever heard any of James Kottak's solo-project, Krunk.

Yeah, I have actually.
Yeah, it's cool isn't it?
When they go out live, Krunk, he has his wife playing drums, and he's the world's best rock drummer. I mean he really is. And now he's still…, he goes on the road with the Scorpions now.

Yes, Scorpions. But the Kingdom Come album was a pretty amazing record wasn't it?
Yeah, 21 days. Move 'em in, move 'em out. And one of the reasons it was so short was because of Lanny - he was impossible to deal with.

Really? So the sooner the better?
He put down his musicians every minute of every session. “You guys suck! You don't know how to rock and roll.” You know, he was German and he had a very limited vocabulary and he thought he was God.

Really!? Even then he had no track record.
Oh, no. He thought he was God.

It's a great album.
It really rocked.

They had journalists picking apart the album, picking out how may Led Zeppelin riffs were in each song.
I know. You know, there's had never been a really great Zeppelin rip-off band. And here they come! And Kottak was a drummer that I'd known from L.A. because he was just too good, I'd just run into him in clubs and all this stuff. You know he would just blow me away and so I really wanted to work with Kottak more than anything. He was just the best! I mean talk about a guy who can just twist and turn what he's doing and, you know, and he was a total student of Bonham, he just knew everything he ever did, how he played.
But the guy was a great drummer for sessions too. Cause you always need to have a great rock drummer around.

Now you've worked with Rick Springfield...
Yeah, I did a few projects with Rick.

The biggest one obviously being his break-through album.
Yeah I did all of but two songs on that first record.

And then what, the Whole of Success… wasn't it?
The whole of Success… and then Rock of Life. And Rock of Life, I hear is going to be released on CD soon.

Oh really? It's been out of print for a long time.
Yeah, I hear it's going to be re-released.

Great! Re-mastered I hope.
I have no idea. They don't bother talking to any producer because once you deliver it, when you call the producer, it just means it's going to cost more money (laughs).

Fair enough. How did you find working with Rick?
Oh Rick was always really fun to work with. He was always fun and I'd known him, remember Speak to the Sky?

Yes, very much so. Classic Australian.
Well what I did, I worked on that with Robert Jeffrey Campbell and who was the producer?

Robbie Porter?
Yeah, Robbie Porter. And I was brought in by Crystal Studios because I was the only guy in town that knew that desk and could cut anything with a razor blade. Because when they worked up some of it at a studio in London, every track there was a click. And they couldn't get them out. They couldn't get all these clicks out. So I said let's just mix the thing and we'll take out the clicks with a razor blade. And everybody thought I was crazy so I showed them (laughs).

Literally?
Literally how you can take out slivers 1/16 of an inch wide and the click's gone. So I sat in the master room and de-clicked it after working on the mixes. That's when I first met Rick. And Robbie and I said, well this guy's good.

We're talking about a lot of years to break through though.
Yeah, in this country, Rick Springfield got caught up in that whole payola scandal.

Really?!
Well it was with Capital records denying that they ever tried to manipulate charts, manipulate radio. And he was just getting on the scene and was just starting to become a hit.

When was this, '72, '73? I mean you're talking about Speak to the Sky here, right?
Yes. I'm talking about Speak to the Sky. And it was right at that time that they were firing everybody at Capital because they were in the middle of this huge drama that all started when Grand Funk Railroad, when they decided to make the album go gold by pressing up 300,000 units and sticking them in a warehouse. Pretty amazing but they did it! Made the album a smash. Grand Funk Railroad, and they got caught. Al Corey was the guy that got caught. And they were running everybody out of town on a rail. Including Rick Springfield. And so Rick was…

Man that guy…, so sorry to cut in, but he's had some shitty luck with labels (laughs).
Welcome to the record business!
He had this manager named Joe Godfried that said, you know, Rick you got a good looking face, maybe you can act. Sent him off, paid for his rent, bought him some junky car, got him some acting lessons and started taking him to auditions and casting calls. And got him the job on the soap opera, General Hospital. And he became so popular on that thing that all of the sudden he was making money, he was buying a new car and his manager, Joe Godfried, was cool. But Rick always wanted to be a recording artist. Always wanted to be a singer and writer. And so he'd been working on this album at Sound City and the other studio for months and months on the weekends…
I was helping him and he said you've got to do something for me. You've got to build me a studio next door at the radiator shop. And he said OK. And so I went in and it was right around the time I was in the middle of cutting Pat Benatar's first record. In fact it was about two weeks after cutting 'You Better Run' and 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot'.
And on weekends, I would go in. And in two weekends we cut 'Jessie's Girl' and 'I've Done Everything For You' - which I found on an old Sammy Hagar live album. And I thought, well this would be a good song and I said, “Rick, why don't we do this one?” He said, “OK, but I want this other song, one that I wrote.” So I said OK and so we worked on it, came up with the arrangement. I had great players and we cut it in...cut the basics in one day, did all the instrumental overdubs the next day, did all the vocals the third day and mixed it on the fourth day. Two songs and they were both hits.

Yeah, absolutely. And continually played on radio today, still. In fact some press seem reluctant to recognize he's even had more that one hit.
Well yeah, you know…….he had a bunch.

What was the change in working with him maybe ten years later on Rock of Life?
Oh it was great. Rick lived down the block from me in Malibu and we'd run into each other with Liam and my kids at the park. And Barbie and my ex-wife were friends. So it was just one of those things where he thought well maybe I should do it. And did this album and the record company came out and heard the track and they loved it. They were in love with this record.

Really!
And then they listened to the lyrics.

(laughs) Not exactly teen friendly stuff was it?
Well you know, 'Honeymoon in Beirut'….

(laughs) Pretty brutal isn't it?
Well, similar to the same story like with Foreigner with Head Games. They're coming off the Double Vision album, the one I did and we sold seven or eight million copies. They were primed and ready to be superstars. Super-superstars, and they come up with this album with every song basically saying, [off the record!]. 'Women and Fast Cars', 'Head Games'. Look at every one of those songs on that record was so anti-chick. And 75% of Foreigner's audience is female. So you know, I think that album returned gold.

Funny stuff. So the label were listening to the Rock of Life?
Right, well, they heard 'Rock of Life' and thought it was really cool and then they heard the rest of the songs on the record were so depressing. It wasn't 'Jessie's Girl', it wasn't 'Don't Talk to Strangers', it wasn't about teen love, it wasn't about, I love you so much I could die, you know? It was about relationship trouble. Fighting, anger and no passion. Some great arrangements and great playing of some really great melodies and stories that would curl your hair on the back of your neck. They were real good stories, cleverly said. But it takes a chick like Benatar to be able to pull that stuff off, the negativity.

The label didn't really support it, did they?
Well no. The label heard the record and realized that well, he's been on the label now for 10 years, we're done with him.
It was at the point where it cost too much to keep him on the label.

Sad. You hooked up with Lou Gramm again for the Shadow King record, didn't you?
Yeah.

That was a misunderstood record. Even now, any time anybody mentions it on my message board there's like a huge debate. Like 10 people hate it and 10 people love it with a passion.
Well you know what's really good on that record? There's one song in that record that is the most miraculous performance that Lou Gramm has ever given.

Really? What track?
Last track, 'Russia'. That is a reference vocal track I would not let him sing it again. 'Russia' is so good.

A really moody track isn't it?
Oh yeah. Now that's written by Vivian Campbell and Lou. And it's just…will take you away the next time you listen to it. Just let the lyrics take you away.
Listen to how he just, you know…He walked out. After just finishing the lyrics, he walked out. He said, 'I just got to try this once'. And he wanted to sing it again and I wouldn't let him (laughs).

Really?
Yeah. I said 'Oh no. Oh no. There's too much passion in the vocals. He was so relaxed. And he just told the story. It was fabulous.

Fantastic. Do you think… the album really didn't do a lot.
First off, anytime…if you're Lou Gramm, you do a record, you call it Lou Gramm. You don't…He got into this whole thing about wanting to be part of a band. And then the other thing is that he wanted to leave Foreigner. Now, at that time…and he left Foreigner. Now Atlantic is never going to let that album happen. If it had twenty hits on it, they weren't going to let it happen. Because where did they want Lou Gramm? Back in the band. Because Foreigner was a staple for them. Who's that kid that they put in the band?
Johnny something or other.

Johnny Edwards, yeah.
Johnny Edwards.

Didn't work did it?
No. Talented kid. Real talented kid.

So did Shadow King fail because it wasn't called Lou Gramm?
I think that's one reason.
And the other reason is that there were problems within the band. There were emotional hardships going on. Lou was having a really hard time with his wife during it. He was on the West Coast, she was on the East Coast. And Vivian Campbell was just this great player and the rest of the guys in the band were good players, real good players but it really wasn't a band. A bunch of guys playing star. So it didn't come off as a band. So there's a lot of little reasons. A lot of them were about performance. There's that one song on there that just makes hair stand up on your arms, 'Russia'.

You've been a part of Night Ranger's Man in Motion, another under rated classic.
Yes, you know, I always thought that one was going to work better. But it was on Camel Records/MCA and I think they didn't really have enough money to promote it right. It was at the time of independent promotion getting really expensive. Not as expensive as it is today but expensive. Kelly is a real good singer, you know, and I really liked the way he performed and the bass player of…I'm brain dead…, the other singer…

Jack Blades.
Yeah. Yeah, Blades was real good too. I mean they're both really good, and great guitar players, great guitar players. They did, they played so well together. It was great. I really enjoyed playing with that record because they would just walk into the studio and they performed this stuff. It was a band. Oh well. That's the one of the three that didn't go gold.

Yeah, exactly.
One in four so you have to do three others.

I talked to another producer, Eddie Kramer a while back who was sort of in with Eddie Money for a long time and he just had some great, screaming funny stories about Eddie Money to tell. Did you have fun working with him?
Eddie Money, at the time it wasn't fun because he was trying to decide what he wanted to do. He was totally being controlled by PGP Program Presents and he wasn't the crazy man he was. Like when I was working with Santana he was the other act on PGP that was making money. So he was the crazy man and on all the tours. So it was kind of fun.

I think when Kramer worked with him he had some drug stories. Pretty terrible.
Yeah, well you know, I'm trying to stay away from all the drug stories because, you know it was the '70s and '80s. Drugs were a way of life for the entire industry.

Was it really was as pronounced as… drugs were just everywhere?
Oh yeah. Yeah, it was everywhere. I mean it was in… it was how records were promoted, it was how record deals were signed, it was…
When record company presidents, the artists came in town, the record company president would score the drugs for the artists you know (laughs). It was some of the most amazing, amazingly stupid thing you could ever possibly imagine. It has taken its toll. I think the funniest thing though is what I call the Bic syndrome. You do an album with an act and it does really, really well. And this act is out there playing in front of 18,000 people a night. And you know that one time during that concert. Usually right as they're getting ready to leave the stage. 18,000 people flick those Bic lighters and start to scream 'You are the Greatest.' And they walk off stage and then they come back and play a couple more songs and they scream it again. 'You really are the greatest!' And you know, they play 18 months of concerts of which they're playing four days on, three days off. Whew! That's a lot of concerts.

Yeah.
In front of millions of people that are all screaming you are the greatest. And then you get back to the studio to cut your next record and they write some song about this old rotten apple core (laughs). And you suggest that maybe they rewrite that song. And they actually physically and mentally look at me and say 'No, because I am the greatest. How could all those people be wrong?' (laughs)

You came across that a lot?
I think every single act I came across said that one time or another. It happened to them. Because it's human nature. You just have to some how be patient enough. And as you work with artists you find a way where you can say, 'You know, you played that thing when you were tuning up yesterday. Why don't you try putting that line in?' 'Ah, what line?' 'You know it kind of went like this.' (sings some notes). 'Right there, right there. You played it yesterday. It's your line.' 'Ah, how did I play it? Sing that again.' (laughs).

So you have to have a tape rolling at all times then? (laughs)
No, I had my brain tape running. Running at all times. You know, they never played that line when they were tuning up or warming up. But you get them to say, where they can claim it as their own.

Oh Ok, Ok.
You're getting it now.

I'm getting it!
And all of the sudden you get past all of the B.S. I am the greatest syndrome and where they think that it's theirs. They claim it as theirs, they play it. And if it works, great, and if it doesn't work. 'I was wrong. It doesn't go there.' And I take the blame instead of the artist. And you start massaging it. You massage the tunes.

You honestly don't get paid enough for what you do. (laughs)
Oh believe me, I can tell you that, in the immortal words of Don Henley, you can never make enough money. But it is one of those things where I look back today, it was fond memories of some really great times doing what love doing more that anything and that's making music.

Yeah, yeah, fantastic!
So when this buddy of mine, Mark Hopkins, who I met when I was at Mackie, says that he has this friend of his, Paul Bonrud

Oh yeah, yeah.
And he tells me, you know, he's a pretty good guitarist and he asked if I would come over and mentor him through a couple of mixes. What are you going to do? Of course you got to. They're working on an analog non-, no memory, no automation, little analog, cheapo console. Real inexpensive gear. And you know, I'm having the time of my life. It's taking me back to a time when I had to build up every effect, I had to come up with things. I had to… I call it manual-omation. Instead of automation it's manual-omation. And you know, I'm really having a good time. All I'm doing is just mixing this and helping him out. And it's much better than it was before, it's not great. There are some great ideas, really good singer and that makes it fun. But there…it's stuff that they all cut at home. And I've never been involved in a record that's cut at home, ever. So I'm really having fun.

What caused you to stop producing? Did the grunge scene wipe you out as well?
No, I was convinced to record this album with Emerson, Lake and Palmer. And I signed on the dotted line and I had to deliver. Six months later and I was ready to kill myself (laughs). It was the hardest, most involved, most uninspired record that I had ever been on and it totally burned me out and I said, I don't want to do this anymore.

Stress, depression, pressure. Everything that works against you. And so I got a phone call from a guy named Greg Mackie, and I'd heard a little bit about him. And he wanted me to come down and talk. I met him at the studio and we're talking about consoles and so he brought this little tiny 1202 mixer to me and handed it to me. He said, 'Here. Hi, really great to meet you. Here. And I said, 'What's this?' And he said, 'That's the mixer.' And I said, 'No it isn't! That's the mixer.' And I pointed at my 96 track Diad. He laughed and it was kind of tongue in cheek and joking and we spent all afternoon talking about consoles and professional quality components and professional stuff and he dug around in my brain about where I'm not just a user but I know a lot about how they operate, what you want to have. And I know about marketing and I know about… because producing records and producing a product for a manufacturer is pretty much the same. You do your research, you try to get something that the user wants. You do that for a record. You find something that the user wants or the listener wants.

Yeah.
Same thing, so what we did is, he brought me in on the development of the DAB and then he pushed this piece of paper across the table and he said, 'I really want you to come work for me.' I said, 'Get out of here, you can't afford me.' Then I opened up the piece of paper. (laughs)

Yes you can? (laughs)
Well I guess you can, can't you? And he was really used to getting his way. So like a small version of a Bill Gates, getting his way. And he put together this team of super talented people and he wanted to come up with a professional product. Soundscape, IO8, 96, STR, HTR, NDR, Mackie Control, Mackie Control Extender, C4, Baby Huey and a bunch of new stuff that I left there halfway done. But it was stuff that I'd find, stuff that I came up with, did my research, prepared the marketing and the rest.

Fantastic.
So the whole time I'm up here doing it, I'm thinking to myself, “Why am I up here doing this?” Because I know what to do in the studio, I know how to make this stuff synch. This is really fun and I thought it would be a lot less pressure because… I went up as just a consultant and they made me a project manager, then they made me a supervisor then they made me a director and then they made me corporate director of the corporation. And I'm going, I'm not doing what I came up here to do, I'm doing corporate junk. And it was one of those things where I was just another corporate cheese. And I didn't enjoy it so we parted ways. Greg Mackie and I are still very good friends, he was bought out of the company just recently and that's when I decided to leave, because the reason I came up here was for Greg Mackie and Peter Was. So it was time to leave. So for the last two months I've been trying to decide what I want to do and I've been very active here with N.A.R.A.S., National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Yes.
Grammy people. And I've been voted onto the board of governors up here and was voted to be a national trustee along with Phil Ramone and Al Schmidt and Jimmy Douglas and Jimmy Jam. You know, the guys. The Guys. And so I started becoming more involved in advocacy against illegal downloading and archival and standardization and stuff like that. I became…I've become more and more involved in it. To the point where I'm really involved. I may be going…they may be put me back there and to work full time at N.A.R.A.S.

Where are they based, in L.A.?
In LA, yeah. So you know, keeping me out of the studio is hard to do. But yet at the same time somebody has to look out for all of the guys who are coming up. And the new artists, somebody has to look out for them because for the last 10 years, all of the earlier works, of this generation of new artists that are out there are lost. Gone forever. Because they were done on some computer that won't boot anymore, was saved on an old SCSI drive or the drive won't even turn anymore or it was a single wide, slow SCSI that operating systems don't even touch yet, you know. I know personally that Pro Tools is going to stop supporting any project that was done in Pro Tools 3.0 or earlier.

Right.
And so all these projects, all these songs are lost forever. So it's…who knows when the next person turns on Pro Tools and starts doing their project, is going to be the next big thing that it's going to be, that is going to change our lives. Who's going to be the next Nirvana? And all of the early works are going to not be there. Unless somebody at least knows enough technically, steps up to the plate and somehow protects that music, protecting that art from being lost.

Right.
You know, so it's my advocacy position and it seems like that's where I'm headed. I don't know, I'm so…I'm very passionate about it because I know what has happened to my early works that I did. My God, it's still selling. And it's all still there because it was all on an analog tape and here it is thirty years later and they can still play the analog tape. My God, let me tell you, a CDR, if it's a green CDR…4 to 5 years and that's it.

Really?
Oh yeah. Gone. Because the hydrocarbons are attacking the pits on the green ones. The gold ones they now know that they last seven years. But they still don't know if it's going to last 50 years. I mean look at our heritage, our musical heritage. On analog. It's still there. But if it's on anything…I mean stuff that's being done today on a G-4. In ten years do you think a G-4 will be around?

No, no.
No, there'll be on G-8s and the G-4s will be in the computer junk pile. You know,
look all the stuff that was done on 8-Ms, BA-88s, those things won't synch up or play those tapes in a matter of years from now they will be unplayable. And you know, it's… those are all the works, the early works of some of the best writers out today. All of their early works are on 8-M. They're all going to be in the computer junk pile.

So you're basically trying to get publicity and fix these problems.
Actually what I'm trying to do is …for instance, did you know that if you take all of the unauthorized sites ad add them together (for illegal downloading), and you add up how many songs are downloaded per year and attach a retail price on that, do you know what it is?

It's hard to imagine.
It's 41 billion dollars.

Wow!
Right, this industry today is 26 billion dollars legally. 41 billion dollars of it is…

A lot of money.
Not only is it a lot of money, but anybody I know in the record business, every record company that I've ever dealt with, the people that are in them. By June of this year, 35% of them will be gone.

You know, I've heard about downsizing Sony. Already at work doing it aren't they?

Well how about Time-Warner? Here's AOL/Time-Warner, they had to take a 1.5 billion dollar loss. When they took that loss, they put it on their quarterly statement…big cut back.

Is there a solution to the whole mess?
Yeah, there's many solutions. There are many solutions and part of it is education. Because if a kid on his computer at night, sitting up in his room downloading all of this special, best music that he wants. He doesn't care that it's illegal, he knows it's illegal because he's heard enough about it. But he doesn't care. But you know, it's the law in America that if you download a song for free you are stealing and it's punishable by five years in jail and $250,000 dollars per song. So yes there will have to be some enforcement done, there will have to be some examples made. Too bad but you know, it's out of hand. There are encryption methods that everybody's afraid of doing because they say you're going to piss off the listen. Well the only listener you're going to piss off is the one that can't download for free. But DVD-A is definitively a… you know the DVD-A two sided disc is a way of doing it because you can put a standard CD on one side and the DVD-A on the other side and the DVD-A sounds 5 times better than the CD and it has all this extra stuff on it and DVD players are as cheap as CD players now. And what it will do is it will…OK we're going to be totally compatible but then in three years we're going to stop making the dual sided disc and only have it the single sided disc, the DVD-A. And by doing that every single song, every song is tied to…first off the file size is 5 times bigger and when you tie it within the bit stream to video clips, all these extras, the file size for an album is 5 gigabyte so you have this 40 gigabyte drive in your computer. A gig is your operating system, a bunch of games is another 4 gig so you only have 35 gig left. Oh gee you can have 7 albums.

Not 700 as it is.
Not 7000 like it is now. And you can not, there's just physical file size is one thing, the other thing is the watermarking technologies. The challenge response software that can be put on the front edge of the bit stream. Where for it to play it challenges you to put in a pass code. Your computer can put it in automatically if you got it. If you don't have it, it throws the file away. Unrecoverable data. All sorts of things. There is search tools that the government has been using to scan the internet for keywords like MP3. Bang! Or any song title you can scan them and find the files. The internet is not anonymous. There's an IP address to everybody.

Let's talk about something just briefly, I've been on the phone here a while so I'll let you go, you've been great, but let's talk about something that I'm doing for example on my site, I put 1 minute edits up on just about everything and people love that, you know, to sample it. But every month I do 6 full songs. Not new releases, I just do sort of revisiting the classic tunes to promote the artists and folks love it.
Do you have the licenses for those songs?

No I don't. I've been doing it since I've started so in essence that's, what I'm doing is obviously…
You're pirating.

Yeah.
If you enable somebody else to download it and keep it. Now is it just being able to be heard or is it able to be downloaded?

No, it's an MP3 downloadable. And I basically…
Why don't you make it something that can just be heard but not downloaded?

I might have to, I might have to. I basically put it there saying, hey, here's a song off this classic album, it you like it, go buy the album.
Well you know, the thing is, is that a song or a part of a song or something like that, you know that's not the problem. The problem is the file sharing. Kazza. Kazza has 2.8 million people on their file sharing at any one time.
Are file sharing at any one time, at any instance of any day. Isn't that amazing.
1.6 million copies of their software is downloaded every week.
And what are they getting out of it? Banner ads. And let me tell you, they're selling those banner ads like crazy. And they're killing the music business.
For the price of a banner ad.

The purpose of my site is to generate interest in albums so people go out and buy them.
And that's what you're doing. And you know, there are ways that… We need to embrace what you're doing and the record industry on a whole needs to embrace what you're doing.

Unfortunately I talk to…, it's great talking with indie labels and independents but I talk to a major label and it's like, 'internet, no sorry.' And they hang up on me (laughs).
Well yeah, the reason why is because it's stealing their jobs. The internet today is taking their jobs.

Right.
See, the only sales channel that the…Where does the record industry get the 28 billion dollars worldwide that they get today? Where do they generate that money?
Believe it or not, most of it is in the record store. Their retail channel. That sales channel is what they're paying themselves, they're paying their infrastructure, their admin. costs and they're paying signing costs, their legal costs, manufacturing costs. Everything is all from retail purchase. Now in this day and age, if you want a record that is only available in Southern California, you can't hop into your car and go down and get it, you're a little bit too far away. But you can download it because it's convenient. It's easy. You can also download the cover, print it and get the jewel box. Put together the whole package. But the record companies don't want to do that because they're so scared of rocking the old apple cart. Because their retail channel is 27 billion dollars strong.

Yeah.
If they start selling it on the internet themselves, their retail channel gets upset. So the retail channel then says well I want special deals. I want to be able to sell this record for $11 instead of $17.98 so I can keep the customers coming in here. Because when you buy the real thing, you're buying the experience, you're buying an event. You want to buy the whole album. You want to have the proper printing, the same sequence, all that stuff and the higher quality that you get on CD than for MP3s. And you get a glass stamped mass product instead of a CDR that the first time you scratch it, it will never play again.

Yeah.
But you can't afford the real thing and it costs you a dollar to download it and fake it on us. It costs you a buck. But if you buy the real thing, $17.98. So we have to figure out how to pull in margins and get a lower price retail product. We're starting to like $11.00, $10.99.

That would be great.
Because kids today know that they can make their own for a buck.

Yeah.
So the record companies are making it for a buck so how can they mark it up ten times? Just because it has some ink on the top.

It's a complex issue isn't it?
It's a very complex issue that is going to take a lot of work. And that is why Bill Portnau has spent a bunch of time talking with me this last week. He and I had a meeting talking about how we can do this. Bill Portnau, president and CEO of N.A.R.A.S.

Right.
Because Hillary Rose has stepped down from the RIAA. And so who is going to take up the fight? And it looks like it's gong to be N.A.R.A.S. And so there's a lot of issues, there's a lot of remedies. A lot of them and it's…, got to look at the remedies that the film industry is doing and apply it to records. Because it's keeping the film industry in business. Not too many people downloading a DVD movie. Which they're all available on Kazza or Morpheus. Everything's available. You can just download it. But who wants to have that movie? Because it's a bigger fine. It's a $100,000 and ten years in jail. Or no it's $250,000 and ten years I think. But there's a big FBI warning on the front (laughs). In red ink.

That's always alarming!
Yeah, you push play on any VCR and there it is. FBI warning. Now on a record, you know where it says anything about it? In very small print at the bottom it says, 'all rights reserved'.

Yeah (laughs). What does that mean?
That's it! You know that's the first problem. Let's start and… you know how we've trying to teach kids to not do drugs, not to smoke. But it takes a generation. Record industry doesn't have a whole generation.

Yeah. Well this has sprung up in like 4 years hasn't it? Three years or five years.
Well we put Napster out of business and as soon as Napster went out of business, then there was Morpheus, Kazza and so it was over the last 3 years that they've all come in. And I know that I see my royalties going down.

Really?
Drastically.

Seriously?
Yep. And it's not as bad as the new artists. New artists, because kids that are downloading stuff are downloading new product. They aren't really downloading classics. But I've seen an 18% reduction.

Wow! Ok.
You know, when Napster was happening I saw 18% less. Napster went under, the royalties rose again.

It's interesting to hear 1st hand the experience of somebody who's been involved in different eras – and different sides of the great machinery of the industry.
There's so many things that can be done and not any 1 will solve the problem.

Yeah, but a whole bunch will.
It will be all of them. Look at what Microsoft does on a daily basis. It's unbelievable.

Really?
It's unbelievable what they do. They have a whole department, a whole building - that's all they do. The record industry doesn't have that. They have a Chief Technology Officer and a couple of lawyers. That is not going to get it done. You've got to approach it the same way, because we're talking computers here. The person I would team up with and make this thing work... I would go down to Redmond. I'd get in my car and drive to Redmond and have a meeting with Bill Gates. That would be the first place I'd go, and I'd become aggressive about it. But I would also team up with the person in the company that operates the operating system for 98% of the computers in the world.

Ok…that's what the music's getting played on and downloaded on.
Yeah, it's all working on Windows. That's where I'd go first and I'd start having a forum, because they have a whole division of their company that protects them. They're losing billions too. But it's a lot better now and that's why they started this thing up. It costs a lot of money to do it and that's what they're doing.

Well, look, that's probably a pretty good point to leave it where I sort of had stuff to ask you about. Can I ask you a favor?
Yeah.

You've touched on a lot of really interesting stuff that I know will get some people thinking and some conversations going. Maybe we could do a follow-up Q&A for those that have questions arising from what we have discussed here today.
Yes, happy to.
I've got a book happening too by the way.

Fantastic. Tell me about it.
It's not a "Tell All" book, it's not a "How To" book, it's a book about just thoughts on how to create music. It's a production series and this is Volume 1. It starts from the beginning of the elements that are in hit records and the song and performance and sound like we talked about here. But it does it in great length and great detail.

Right.
And it talks a bit about the recording process. Recording at home, and can you do it and what's going on. Scenarios that seem to happen more than not. And then it goes into, okay so now you're going to record it at home, let's start at the beginning and talk about the source. Then it talks about microphones and placement and what do you record on, what are you doing, how are you going to record the most important element, what hat are you going to wear. And it goes on and on and on. And then it goes through the competition. The competition is fierce and collaboration is cool and how to protect yourself with copyrights and how to protect yourself against downloading -- which you really can't today, but people hopefully will by the time the book comes out.

That's going to be an interesting read.
It's a real interesting read. It's a fun read. It's not... it doesn't get too boring when it comes to technical stuff. It's more about trying to plant the seed in people's minds of how to do it their way. Not telling them that there are any rules, but giving them the rules to start of to because if you know the rules then you can break them.

Yes.
It's an entertaining book, but very informative for a someone before he goes out and spends $20,000 to record an album. It's almost done. I'm in my second re-write right now.

I look forward to that, because I do know a lot of young bands would probably find that handy.
It will be incredibly handy for anybody who's thinking about getting into this business or wants to have a home studio or record at home or record his own album or anything. It's going to be so handy before he spends a bunch of time and energy to learn a little bit about the stuff.
Where to get help, where you can do it yourself, where you don't need help. It's fun. It's a fun read and a good read.
I'm going to do that little bit of that self promotion and when it comes out I'll make sure you get a copy and you read it. If you like it, you can start sticking stuff up on your web site.

Awesome. You can count on it.
I would love to get a quarter of a million knowing about it a month.

Thank you, Keith. I appreciate it. I could talk to you endlessly and I could probably go on all day but this has been great.
Thanks again and we'll do that follow up if any questions come back.

That would be great. Well thank you very much.


If you have any questions arising from this interview - e-mail them in, or just let me know how you enjoyed the read!

 

 

 

More information:

 

 

Keith Olsen Bio:
Keith Olsen is an industry celebrated producer of such notable artists as: Fleetwood Mac, Foreigner, Pat Benatar, Rick Springfield, Santana, The Babys, Sammy Hagar, Whitesnake, Ozzy Osborne, The Scorpions, Heart, just to mention a few. His many soundtrack albums include: Footloose, Flashdance, Tron, Vision Quest, Top Gun, That Was Then-This Is Now and many more. See:
He produced and engineered more than 125 full albums garnering a 1 in 4 gold album ratio and was awarded 6 Grammy's. He has sold over 100 million units at retail.
During the late 90's he was headhunted by Mackie Designs, a pro audio equipment manufacturer, to design, develop, and define higher end very professional products for their newly started Mackie Broadcast Professional Division.
Being an advocate on issues concerning the industry, its problems and challenges, he ran for the Board of Governors for the Pacific Northwest Branch of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He was elected to the post of National Trustee of NARAS in 2001. From this position he has had ever increasing visibility is areas of Intellectual Property Rights, Illegal Copyright Theft, and archival of past works. Being in close communication with noted alliances for the structuring and preservation of these rights, Olsen has worked tirelessly toward solutions to benefit all property rights owners. The purpose of archival so as to not lose the early works of the current generation of artists is currently the focus of Mr. Olsen's work.

Keith Olsen Discography @ All Music Guide: www.allmusic.com

 

 

 
Wed
08
Feb

Bret Michaels (2004)

Artist: 
Categories: 
Interviews
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Bret Michaels: Poison and solo - the best of both worlds.


Something a little different for you. Some of my phone interviews are lovingly transcribed by the rather awesome Ron and Don Higgins. Much appreciated guys! Anyway, they asked if they could possibly team up and interview Bret Michaels on behalf of the site - which I thought was a great idea. Below is the interview - a nice indepth look at the Poison frontman, who has recently released his new solo album Songs Of Life.



Ron: Bret Michaels! How are you doing?!
Bret: I'm doing awesome.

Ron: I'm sorry to hear about your voice. Apparently you're having some troubles?
Bret: Yeah, it's okay. You know what it is? I'm a little… I'm usually not sick, but a couple of the guys got the flu and it just got into my chest and my head. You know, we're doing six shows in a row so it doesn't give you much rest.

Ron: Exactly. Well I appreciate you calling, especially with having the voice problems. I just really appreciate it. I just wanted to let you know that I believe my brother is also on the line. Don, are you there?
Don: I am here.
Ron: Okay.
Don: How are you doing, Bret?
Bret: I'm doing awesome, man. I can barely hear you. You may have to speak up a little.

Don: Okay. Is that better?
Bret: Yeah, that's much better.

Don: Okay, cool.

Ron: We'll try not to keep you too long.
Bret: You've got it. This is going to be exciting.

Ron: Well, really we just kind of wanted to talk about the tour, obviously, and we can talk a little about your record and maybe just a little bit about what your plans are in the future.
Bret: You've got it.

Ron: I think probably the best way to start is to talk about the tour. It actually started here in Cincinnati, Ohio, which is where we live.
Bret: Right.

Ron: And I guess you were probably at our favorite stomping ground, Annie's Riverside Saloon.
Bret: Yes.

Ron: I'm just curious, how is the tour going?
Bret: The tour's been great. I was out on the road from May until September 12, early May to Sept. 12 with Poison, and then I had about 12 days in order to get ready for the show and we came into Cincinnati on the 23rd I believe it was and rehearsed down there at Annie's for 3 days and just got everything… making sure we had all the right gear and equipment and it was very, very, very exciting for me. Annie's was pretty much a sellout the 1st night.

Ron: Yep.
Bret: And all the shows so far have just been… as far as musically, I just have had an absolutely great time being out on the road playing… you know, it's nice for me because I get to play not only a bunch of new solo stuff but I get to play the Poison hits, plus I get to do a bunch of songs that I've added to the set like, “Let It Play”, “Good Love”, “I Won't Forget Your”, a bunch of songs that we don't get to do that often anymore.

Ron: That's awesome. That's great. I'm curious. Why did you choose Cincinnati? I think that's awesome.
Bret: A couple of reasons. Most importantly, the friend of mine that booked the show there at Annie's… there were two most important reasons, first, we were able to rehearse there. They gave us a couple of days to rehearse and obviously WEBN and WTUE out of Dayton, the stations there treat us great.

Ron: Oh, good.
Bret: And I love… well obviously you know Riverbend there in Cincinnati, I love the fans there. They're ravenous and they're party fans. They're great and that's why I love them. We couldn't have picked a better city and the other reason, it was such a great central location to base out of because our next night was Detroit, then Cleveland and Indianapolis. It was really a good luck place to start the tour.

Ron: That's awesome.
Don: Yeah, my brother and I, we've seen you guys a couple of times and it seems like you guys always draw a really good crowd wherever you go. Part of it, I think is because you guys are so accessible to the fans yourselves, and I think the fans really reciprocate that and it's just a good time for all.
Bret: I'm going to apologize again. Ron, you may have to sort of repeat what he asked. I heard like occasionally... you started, then I heard “good crowds”, I heard bits and pieces of the question.

Ron: Yeah, you're coming through kind of rough for me too, Don. I don't know why.
Don: It must be the other line I'm on.
Ron: He was just saying…
Bret: Yeah, give me the gist of the question.

Ron: Really he was just making a comment that one of the reasons that he thinks that you do so well, both solo and with Poison, is because you are so gracious to your fans and so accessible as a band. An example is your web site. People that join up at Bretmichaels.com get backstage passes to meet you.
Bret: Well, first of all, thank you. I really think it's a couple of reasons. Anyone who is around me knows this; I'm extremely passionate. I'm as passionate today as I was the day I started making music about continuing to make music. I like being on stage, I like playing, I like being there. I love being down and dirty, I like being with the fans and jamming, you know what I mean?

Ron: Yeah.
Bret: And anyone who knows that about me knows my energy. I really am excited when I come on that stage and I'm never going through the motions.

Ron: Oh, yeah.
Bret: And also with my fan club, I've always tried to stay connected to our fans throughout our entire career and I think that that combined with them liking the music. I think if you've got good music and you're good to your fans, you're going to have a long career.

Ron: I think so too. And as a fan, I mean, I've been a fan of Poison since I think I saw “Cry Tough” back in '86, I guess.
Bret: Yeah, thank you. It may have been only you and me that saw it because I think they played it only once.

Ron: Correct me if I'm wrong. Wasn't that the first video that you released?
Bret: Very first video, and they played it like, I caught it at like 3:00 in the morning, like twice.

Ron: <laughs>
Bret: That was our first video and that was when we did it on our own. That was our own record.

Ron: Oh, okay.
Bret: That was Cyanide music through Enigma records, or Enigma Distribution and right after that, the record… Poison was the first band to have a million selling independent record.

Ron: Wow.
Bret: Then Capital picked us up and did distribution, but basically Poison has been its own label throughout our entire career.

Ron: That's amazing.
Bret: Yep

Don: That always was one of my favorite songs off of that album.
Ron: Yeah, I agree. It's one of the best songs and I remember, when it came out, I saw the video and I thought, I don't know who this band is, but this is a great song and then I never saw the video anymore and then of course they started playing The Big Hit.
Bret: “Talk Dirty To Me” was next.

Ron: Yeah, and I was like, “What happened to the other one”?
Bret: I'll tell you what happened to the other one. Like I said, we were out playing every club we could find and we had about $8,000 left to our name to exist.

Ron: <laughs> Oh, boy.
Bret: We spent it all on “Talk Dirty”. We gambled big time on “Talk Dirty To Me” and just threw a party at a warehouse and did the video and it luckily, thank God not only for our fans, but thank God the song hit because it was… it was really it. It was all that we had left.

Don: Sort of do or die.
Bret: Yep.

Ron: Well that's a great video because I remember the one thing about the video I remember, it just is sort of what your band is all about and what you've always been about. It's all about fun. That's kind of what turned me off about the whole grunge scene in the '90s, people are getting too serious. I've got enough problems, I don't want to hear everybody moping and crying and gosh, you guys came out with that video and it was just wild. It was like, “Let's have a good time”. I think that was '80s music in general.
Bret: I agree with you 100%. This is what I say, I never cut down, myself, I never put down any form of music. There's just certain forms I like more than others, right?

Ron: Sure.
Bret: I think that the magic that Poison had, and this includes my songwriting style, is that you've got to be honest with the way you write and here's what happens. I'm a person who has lived with Juvenile Diabetes – 4 injections a day – for my entire life. I take about 8 blood tests a day and I try to look, even at the most negative things, I try to find something positive.

Ron: That's great.
Bret: And so for me, I not only think that our music was fun, but I think we also had an energy even when we did songs that were depressing, like a “Broken Heart, like “Every Rose”.

Ron: Sure.
Bret: Or “Something To Believe In”. I try to inject positive things into very negative things in my life.

Ron: Uh, huh.
Bret: And I think that is what's kept us around that we were able to write on one album, we could have a song like “Nothing But a Good Time” but also “Every Rose”. We could have “Talk Dirty To Me” and then we could have “I Won't Forget You”. We would have a song like “Something To Believe In” and “Unskinny Bop”. And our fans, this is how cool our fans are, because I believed in the music I wrote, they allowed me to be what I wanted to be, and I don't think there's a better form of music than hard rock or melodic rock music.

Ron: I agree.
Bret: It allows me to do exactly what I want to do. I can be heavy like Metallica if I want to be, or I could turn around and write a song like “Something To Believe In” if I want to.

Don: That's pretty broad.
Bret: That's a good feeling.

Don: It really gives you a lot of room to express yourself. And I think you did just that on your new album. I was really impressed with all the different sort of styles within the melodic category but it all sounds like Bret Michaels. A little bit like Poison, but a little bit not.
Ron: Can you hear him okay now Bret?
Bret: Yeah, just a little bit. I got the gist of it. And what I wanted to say too, like on the new album Song of Life, part of my growing up, some of my biggest influences as a child, and I've said this to a lot of people, my first taste of music was actually country music. That was the first thing… my dad was a country music fanatic.

Ron: <laughs>
Bret: I'm talking old school. We're talkin' Conway Twitty, Hank Williams, Sr., Patsy Cline, I mean that's what I heard first, and then I got used to listening… my mom liked The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan so I got to hear that. My first two records that I ever owned, right, really owned, right? Was Led Zeppelin II, and Lynard Skynard Pronounced [Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd].

Ron: Wow. That says it all.
Bret: Yeah, I've got a pretty good feel of… I'll give you an example, last night I played Nashville and I had Jeffrey Steele who won the Country Songwriter of the Year. He's a buddy of mine and he came on stage last night, and I gave him my guitar and he just played. I mean, right in the middle of my set I played “Something to Believe In” and I said, “Hey, here's Jeffrey Steele, CMA Songwriter of the Year”. You know, he wrote every big hit you hear, whether it's Faith Hill or Tim McGraw or Kenny Chesney. He wrote all those songs. And he's writing some stuff for my upcoming solo record in the future. We're writing a bunch of stuff together. And the audience… I went up on stage, I gave him my guitar and I just let him play and I was singing alone with him and the fans loved it because it was just… a good song, is a good song.

Ron: Exactly.
Bret: And they were loving it and digging it and having a great time, and then I turned around and had the guys from Saliva come up and join me on stage a few nights before that. And Josey was having a great time, you know? I think if you're up there and people with me, I'm passionate about music and when they see that I don't… I have an attitude because of wanting the music to be right.

Ron: Sure.
Bret: But I never have an ego, I absolutely love and enjoy being around other musicians and listening to them play. I have no ego. I'm not one of those guys that don't want someone standing in front of me or you can't play my guitar, and I think that people know that.

Ron: They do.
Bret: In 18 years they've figured that out about me.

Ron: It comes through in everything you do. Just like you're describing some of the things I've heard about other singers, you know? And the fans know it.
Bret: You're absolutely right. Go ahead, I'm sorry.

Ron: No, it's just, I also saw a band once at Annie's and after the show, every single member of the band came out and signed autographs and shook hands, except for the lead singer who was “too tire” according to his roadie. Meanwhile, their bass player is running around like a lunatic the entire night and he's the first one out signing autographs.
Bret: Right. Absolutely.

Ron: I will say to his credit that he did allow people to pass items to his roadie and then he took them back and he did sign them, but most people that are fans, myself included, would much rather have just shook his hand and said, “Great job,” as opposed to getting… for all I know, the roadie signed it, you know?
Bret: Right. I got you. Again, I don't know that particular situation, but I think you find with some musicians, some of them got into music for the fuckin' wrong reason.

Ron: Yeah.
Bret: I'm not saying him, I don't know about him. I'm just saying, certain people… it's weird, I watch them and I'm like, “Dude, if you don't like playing music any more and you're going through the motions, just find another gig.”

Ron: Yep.
Bret: I can only make music because I really enjoy doing it. And when I'm up there smiling at Riverbend, believe me, you'll know if I'm having a bad show. I've started songs and fucked them up myself, and I'll stop them and say, “Hold on, hold on, that sucked.” And then we'll do it again. I'm going to get it right, you know? I think if you believe in it, that's what makes people believe in you.

Ron: Absolutely. And it comes through very clearly. With you, I think the thing that's obvious is that you're a fan of the music first and foremost and you're doing what you love.
Bret: Absolutely.

Ron: And it comes through great on this new album too, which I guess that's what you're touring on so we probably ought to talk about it at least for a little bit. I wasn't sure what to expect, and I was actually quite happy when I got it and listened to it because, although there are Poison elements there, so Poison fans will enjoy it, it's much more diverse and I think that's a good thing because if it sounded just like Poison, I would question why bother doing it as a solo record.
Bret: You're ab… no, you're taking the words out of my mouth. I'm giving you more of… you hear the diversity in the way I was raised musically. And I get a chance to just spread my wings a little more. When you do a solo record, when you're in a band you share, the four of us share everything, C.C., Bobby, Rikki, and myself. And that is the way a band is supposed to work. Even through me and C.C.'s biggest fistfights, we're still a band of brothers. We still love each other in some sick way, right? But that's what makes Poison work, is that the four of us all get a say-so in the music and then they allow me to write the lyrics. But we all contribute to that song, and we all four take credit, and that's the way a band should work.

Ron: Yep.
Bret: And when I'm on my own it allows me to go out and spread my wings and do some things that are just different. In other words, now I can put a slide guitar as a solo, I can do a harmonica in a spot where maybe Poison wouldn't do it.

Ron: Yep.
Bret: I can do a song like “One More Day”. I did that song exactly the way I felt it should be done. If that was a Poison song, we would've added, everyone would've contributed as – let me say this properly – as they should've. But when you're a solo artist, it allows me to acoustically play the guitar and sing a song, and that's a great feeling too.

Ron: Is that the song “One More Day” you're talking about?
Bret: Yes.

Ron: That is… I've got to say, that is one of my absolute favorite songs on this album along with, of course, Raine.
Bret: Thank you.

Ron: To me, Raine is great, because, to me, it's the closest thing to what I would call a Power Ballad very similar to Poison and I love the Poison sound, but I love it lyrically as well. I myself am a father of three; in fact, I have a 3 year old daughter, like you, so I can kind of relate.
Bret: Absolutely. And that song was about life in general, what I call the circle of life. In other words, for me, I was a first time father there and it was such a beautiful… if you listen back to the song now the first verse, I'm just in love with my daughter and I'm strong for her. The second verse, I went out on the road on the Power To The People tour in 2000, a week after my daughter was born.

Don: Yeah, that would be hard.
Bret: I felt guilty for being away from her and you can hear that. And then when you listen to the third verse, “You are my flesh, you are my blood and I will always be there and stand by you,” you know that no matter how far you travel, that is your flesh and blood, and that is a great feeling.

Ron: It's awesome. That's what I like about the song. Musically it's great and lyrically it's great as well.
Don: And all parents can relate to that song. Obviously that'll be a special song for her for the rest of her life.
Ron: Yeah.
Bret: That was Don talking, right?

Ron: Yes.
Bret: Just tell me what he said.
Ron: He just said that that would be a special song for her, for the rest of her life.
Bret: Absolutely. And, Don, if you can hear me, thank you.

Don: I can hear you perfectly.
Bret: Okay, good.

Don: I'm trying to yell for the most part.
Bret: Let me try that, I dialed up my phone a little bit.

Ron: Okay. The other thing I found interesting when I was reading your biography is that your daughter's birthday, May 20, is actually the same day as my youngest son's birthday.
Bret: That's awesome, and it was the same day I released Songs of Life.

Ron: Wow. Look at that.
Bret: It was a win/win/win for me.

Ron: That's great.
Bret: Congratulations, that's awesome. I was going to say too guys, and I apologize because my voice is really hurting.

Ron: Okay.
Bret: If you want to cut in to the Poison stuff, I could give you a little of what our future is going to hold.

Ron: That would be great.
Bret: And I apologize, on my day off I normally don't talk a whole lot because I've got 6 more, actually, I've got 7 in a row now.

Ron: Well, I just appreciate you calling, so you do whatever you've got to do.
Bret: Well, I was going to cut to the Poison and I'll give you a synopsis of what we're looking for.

Ron: That would be great, and I would like to hear just a blip about your next solo album because from what I'm reading it's going to be country influenced. I think that would be really interesting.
Bret: Actually, yeah, it's going to be very, almost, kind of Americana-ish, you're looking at somewhere between John Cougar and Springsteen.

Ron: Yep.
Bret: Or even a John Mayer kind of feel, meets a little bit of what Kenny Chesney does too, which is very contemporary country.

Ron: Sure.
Bret: You know, I'm not going to… although I like what Merle Haggard did and George Jones, it's not… although I appreciate it, I couldn't make a record like that.

Ron: Right.
Bret: I wouldn't do it justice; you know what I'm saying?

Ron: I hear ya.
Bret: This is almost going to be like that early Rolling Stones, a little of what The Strokes do.

Ron: Gotcha.
Bret: The Stones, meets John Mayer, meets Tim McGraw.

Ron: That sounds great.
Bret: Yeah, I'm excited. In 2004, what I'm doing is I'm going to be back on the road solo.

Ron: Okay.
Bret: Poison will be off the road for 2004. I'm pretty sure we're going to be off completely. Then, we're coming back in 2005 with a brand new boxed set. This is going to be so amazing, it's going to be a CD and a DVD. It's called Twenty Years of Stuff.

Ron: Cool.
Bret: It's basically a history of Poison musically and visually. And then have about probably 3 or 4 new songs as well as old songs. A whole collection.

Ron: That sounds great.
Bret: And we'll be back on the road from 2005 until 2010 as Poison every year.

Ron: Oh, great!
Bret: We're going to take a year off just to kind of reboot and regroup and I'll be out solo all year with a new solo record and also I'm going to plan on doing a brand new film this year called, “The Forgotten”.

Ron: Yeah, Lorie mentioned that you're going to start filming that in January?
Bret: Yes. January, February, and March.

Ron: Is this something that you've written again or is this…
Bret: Yeah.

Ron: Can you give us…
Bret: Yeah, I can't wait for you to see it when it's finished, but it's really a very, very topical suspense thriller. It's very, very cool.

Don: Is this still in conjunction with… I know you've worked with Charlie Sheen.
Bret: I heard Charlie in there, I just didn't hear the rest.

Ron: He wanted to know if you were going to work with Charlie Sheen again?
Bret: I sure hope so. And if his schedule permits, yes, I'll do it and there will be some other different actors in there, some top name actors as well.

Ron: That's great. That's the other thing that I appreciate with you is that you've expanded your creativity beyond just music, going into these other avenues. You're tapping into country music and tapping into film making. If you're a creative person, you're creative – period.
Bret: You said it. And an artist, a true artist, this is what I always try to tell musicians and everybody, whatever you do in your life, don't push all of your life to be this artistic musician and then trap yourself in your own box.

Ron: Yep.
Bret: In other words, a lot of people go, “Well, that's my sound, I'm never allowed to leave that,” or, “I'm only allowed to do one thing.” Well, that's your own prison, don't do that. Go out and do what you feel.

Ron: Yep.
Bret: In other words, do exactly what you feel. If you want to go try to make a movie, if you yourself or your brother want to write a book, fuckin' go for it. There's no boundaries. In other words, we don't get to do this life over, you know what I mean?

Ron: Exactly.
Bret: That's what I try to tell people. Go enjoy it and live it out, man.

Ron: It's a great motto, because both my brother and I are doing the typical 9 to 5 jobs.
Bret: But that's okay. In life, believe me, I've worked every job you had to work and I never would've financially made it, musically. I would still be in a band on the weekends. I love making music that much. I will always look… I will find a way until I found a way.

Ron: That's great.
Bret: In the music business, and being an artist. It's truly, feast or famine.

Ron: Yeah.
Bret: There's no real in between. All you do is keep working at it until you find… that's what life's about, it doesn't mean you have to stop dreaming because you have a job 9 to 5.

Ron: Sure. I agree. I have friends… I'm 36 and they're already looking forward to their retirement. It's funny you mention that because my brother and I, we have written a book and we're trying to solicit publishers and things, but people ask us, “Why are you doing that?” Well, the 9 to 5 pays the bills, but we want to do something interesting and be creative.
Bret: But you know what it does? It gives you, it allows you… I tell a lot of people this… if you have to work a 9 to 5 job, there's no disrespect in that, just use it to supplement your dream.

Ron: Exactly.
Bret: And then it gives you something to work for.

Ron: I think that's a great motto. I keep trying to tell my wife that I'm working the 9 to 5 and retiring from there is my worst case scenario, but that's not such a bad scenario, really.
Bret: No. And hey, if you can write stuff, publisher's are out there. What it is, you'll have, believe me, every successful artist has 12 million failures until they got to their success, believe me.

Ron: Sure.
Bret: If I played you some of my songs that I wrote and you heard them and you were done laughing, then you might say, “Now I understand.” It takes missing with 15 songs before you find that 16th one that's a hit, you know?

Ron: You've jut got to keep plugging away.
Bret: I was having fun while I made them.

Ron: Exactly.
Bret: Well, guys, thank you. I'm sorry. My voice is going.

Ron: No, we appreciate it. When you do your tour next year with your new album, I hope you come back through Cincinnati again.
Bret: You know I will.

Ron: And we'll make sure that we're there and we'll give Lorie a call and see if we can hook up and do another quick, see-how-it's-going little talk.
Bret: That would be awesome, and hopefully you can come down to the sound check and we can hang out there.

Ron: That would be incredible.
Don: That would be great.
Bret: Well, plan on it, and speak to Lorie, and Don, you guys, and Ron, have a great holiday.

Ron: Well you too, Bret. Thank you!
Don: Thanks, we appreciate it.
Ron: Have a great Christmas.
Bret: I will indeed.

Ron: Take care. Bye, bye.
Bret: Take care, guys.

 
Wed
08
Feb

Ricky Phillips (2003)

Categories: 
Interviews
Ricky Phillips: A new man joins the Styx club.

 

Ricky Phillips taks about his new rols as Styx bass player and what's ahead for him and how it feels to be part of a band once again after a long time in the studio.


So Ricky, I must thank you for taking to time to chat and offer some comments on joining Styx! Congratulations! I'm a long time fan of the band, but even more so a fan of Glen Burtnik and Lawrence Gowan, who I thought were great choices to join the band.
Yeah, I'm just the opposite...a huge STYX fan who is now a Lawrence and Glen fan.. Lawrence Gowan is the most amazing keyboardist. He can jump from rock to ragtime to classical like the flip of a switch...and scary good. He's also hysterically funny... I didn't know too much about Glen Burtnik. I had heard his name but he's East Coast and I'm West so our paths hadn't crossed. When I first got the call for the gig I went to a show in Orange County with Tommy, Todd and the tour manager George Packer. When we
got there I asked someone to introduce me to him. He and his wife were both very sweet. They couldn't have been nicer. I started talking to him and he said he did some gigs with [John] Waite and I said wow, small world.
...Tommy and I figure we've known each other for over 20 years…

Are you serious? I was wondering how you got the gig!
Well you'd have to ask them that but I do remember saying I'm honored and flattered, but why me? I guess Todd said they put a list together of who would compliment the
band's style and I'm sure other various considerations and somehow I ended
up at the top.

Fantastic!
Yeah, they did their homework checking me out, they called [John] Kalodner
and other people who knew me and had worked with me.
But I was really surprised. The biggest contention ... the biggest hurdle...
JY said to me "We're not even going to get into the bass playing end of it,
that's a done deal." But what he was concerned with was that... well, Styx
has this identifiable vocal sound - you throw in one voice that doesn't fit
and it can sound completely different.
Good bad or ugly you don't know what that's going to do or sound like until
you do it...and I knew JY was Right.
So they did their last shows in Orange County with Glen and the following night was in Pomona that was the last show. They had the trucks still loaded with all the gear and stuff and we got a soundstage in Burbank, went in and blew down the first 4 song opener and a 14 song medley that they do in the show. Then, Lawrence and I started doing the Beatles thing...and Tommy throws on his 12 string and starts going up to the mike doing his thing, then Todd jumps in it was brilliant. Then we blew through the back
side of Abbey Road...ya know...Golden Slumbers on out it was unbelievably
comfortable.
It was just like a bunch of guys hanging out like we'd been doing this for years.

They started firing new songs at me, as they are going to change the set around. They haven't been doing "Snowblind" and I dig that song...we're going to do that and they are going to revisit some cool songs they haven't been doing for a while. I toured with Styx when it was all the original members and I somehow have a feeling it is going to get back to that sound... with the addition of their new CD.
When I first heard the Cyclorama CD I was blown away with how good it sounded...a very clever fusion of styles. My 1st take...Definitely a modern sounding Styx with retro visits...Yes, 10cc,Zep The Beatles and some new territory.

For Styx fans that are interested, I think you are a very intricate player - Frederiksen Phillips and Coverdale Page for example.
Yeah, when I moved to LA, the first band I was in 'Dulaine' was like Genesis meets Yes meets ELP with Beatle harmonies. And there were only 4 of us in the band. His songs (Timmy Dulaine) were the hardest I've ever had to learn in my life.
That gig was in a round about way the reason I got the gig with The Babys. (Explains.....)
The point of that story is that I was doing really intricate sort of music back then and The Babys was an offshoot of Free, The Faces, Humble Pie and even the very first Led Zeppelin album. Real rootsy English stuff. I loved those bands. I like going from intricate stuff and still appreciating simple rootsy rock n' roll...not overstating the obvious by overplaying...I like all that. The best of both rock worlds.

Styx fans are very obsessed and they can be pretty intense.
Yeah, I've already got a lot of e-mails!

I bet you have…haha…so you see yourself as more of a traditional member?
I'm not sure what you mean. I don't know what I am. I have been writing stuff with no avenue for it. When Tommy said let's go to the beach house and write, I was going shit man, maybe this is why I've been writing all this music. He and I have had conversations about...things that appear on the path were probably meant to be...and..."be careful what you wish for". It started when I said to Tommy, "Did you ever think 20 some years ago, when the Babys opened for STYX that we'd be talkin' about this"...me joining STYX.
Anyway, I have CDs and idea tapes of all this music...but I'm not even sure if its in a STYX direction...maybe. At one point I thought, ok I'll do another Frederiksen/Phillips record. I'm ready now. But now I have other things on my mind......
Neal Schon got on the phone a few days ago, and he says “..."Is this Mr. Roboto?"

Ha ha...that's cool.
Yeah, he and Deen both called me, they were supportive and excited for me.
It was a great phone call. They were telling me what a great organization Styx have and what great guys they are. Neal was saying this is the perfect band for me, how I can stretch out and do some cool things.

I saw the show in LA in May. I came around your place but you had to head out.
Oh yeah, I was I in the studio with Montrose that day.

Yes, you were. How's that going?
Great. Ronnie has asked me to produce the CD with him. Hagar's doing a track, Eric Martin is doing a track, Edgar Winter, Greg Rollie, Terry Reid, Mark Farner, and a few more surprises. We're having the singers write the songs with us. We've got the basic tracks done, but we're going to finish the tracks with the singers, so they can
have a little piece of themselves in each track.
The basic tracks though are absolutely fantastic. No click tracks, recorded as real live rock n roll. We recorded it on the same machine that recorded The Wall.

Good to see Sammy on there.
Yeah, Sammy and Ronnie are good friends again, so that's great, they did
those shows together with the original Montrose line up.

Joining Styx is a really big deal - you haven't been in a band for a while
now….

Yeah, The Styx guys are great guys. Tommy and I have been friends for ever.
And Todd Sucherman - When we first worked together I told him he was the
best drummer I'd played with since Deen Castronovo and now Deen is a huge
fan of his.
Todd is a-mazing, we are having so much fun. We did this record together
that never got released a couple years ago called Forrest Blackburn. And
we've had this mutual admiration since.

We'll I think it's great for you. I gather you are in for the long haul, not
just this tour?


This was one of the conditions. Tommy said, "We are going to tour until me and JY drop... we want to do that. Is that what you want?" I like these guys...besides being great musicians they are good people. I'm really digging playing live again. I love producing and writing songs, but that was never supposed to replace performing live. Sometimes you have to know when to put your boots back on.
Styx carries a full crew just like they always did. They care enough about the show to carry and keep employed a full crew like in the old days, even a carpenter. They insist on delivering a quality show.

It looked like it too…
I respect them for that.

How did the first shows with the band go?
The first shows have been really very good but each one seems to get exceedingly better. We're havin' us some fun up there!

How were the fans and the band's reaction to the shows?
The fans are amazing...they send presents and cards backstage...and some things I can't mention. They've held banners saying Welcome Ricky and a little kid handed me a button with a picture of me on stage from the night before with "WELCOME TO STYX WORLD RICKY" printed on it. Sweet stuff.

And have you discussed any other plans with the band as yet, or just the
immediate touring future?

Yes, we plan to rock your world.

Well, I can't wait to hear the next Styx record!
Haha me too buddy! I'll be doing what I can.

Good to talk to you Ricky.
Oh, thanks very much for your interest in calling me, it's always good to
hear form you. Anything you need, let me know.

Thanks, same goes. Bye for now.
Take care.

Check out www.rickyphillips.com for more on Ricky and www.styxworld.com for more Styx.

 

 
Wed
08
Feb

Duran Duran (2003)

Artist: 
Categories: 
Interviews

 
Duran Duran: Back to business in a new place and time.


Duran guitarist Andy Taylor talks about the band's return to work and what that entails - dealing with the music industry, record labels and life on the road in 2003. Andy was also gracious to allow some talk of his solo, songwriting and production career. We had 30 minutes of scheduled interview time to cram in as much as possible. I think we did pretty well!

At the peak of their popularity Duran Duran were the number one band on the planet. In a few short years, they went from unknowns releasing their debut album, to five celebrated stars, whose pictures adorned bedroom walls worldwide.
The band's original and most celebrated line-up only ever recorded three studio and one live album – all done within a seemingly impossible time frame by today's standards.
While the band lived life to excess and became ever more stalked as celebrities, pressure on singer Simon LeBon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, guitarist Andy Taylor, bassist John Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor intensified. As their fame increased, things began to change and the band started to splinter.

By 1985, a mere 5 years since that debut album, the band had decided on a break. It was a break some members wouldn't return from.
Andy and John Taylor joined the hard rock project Power Station with singer Robert Palmer, Chic drummer Tony Thompson and famed producer Bernard Edwards. Sadly aside from the Taylor's, the remaining members of Power Station have all now passed away.
LeBon and Rhodes formed their own side project, the more pop styled Arcadia.
When Duran got back to business for the Notorious album, things had changed. Andy Taylor played guitar on only three tracks and continued on his own path as a solo artist and sought after producer, while drummer Roger Taylor had retired from public life altogether.
Duran continued on with LeBon, Rhodes and John Taylor as the backbone of the band for another 10 years, with Taylor eventually leaving in 1996.
The albums that were released never reached the fan base of the original line-up and in 2001 LeBon decided it was time to try and piece the original band back together.
One of the first on board was Andy Taylor, who I spoke with from New York, preparing for the band's latest stint on the road, a 7 week trek that will take them through select US dates and here to Australia, supporting Robbie Williams, while also taking in a few solo shows.

 

It was full circle for the band with a rather complicated history - ”…to put in mildly!” says Taylor.
The band has already played a range of shows that have met with wild scenes bringing back memories of the glory days. They even have new teenage groupies.
Andy Taylor says the whole band are really honored to be receiving such a reception.
“We went out in July and did some shows in Japan and a few shows in the States and it just went kinda crazy. We thought, ok, let's do some more! We just kept putting shows together, it's been incredible. We did a show in London a few weeks ago – that was the first show we'd done in the UK for 20 years.”
That UK show saw over 200,000 applications arrive for only 2000 available seats.
“It was mind-blowing. It was a small place with 2000 standing up tickets. The smiles on our faces – it's great to have your band back and working and playing again, people have been so generous.”

So just what was the catalyst for the guys reuniting? Fears of an 80's revival cash-in are quickly allayed. “We've never actually stopped talking.” says Taylor, “We all saw each other – there wasn't any great divide. There were no big walls or barriers to get over other than why are we doing this?
We sat down and within a short amount of time it was fairly evident that nobody wanted to do this as a one-off thing. It's too big a part of our life to do it quickly and dispose of it and kinda run out and make some cash.”


That sentiment is supported by the fact the guys have been together now since 2001, writing and recording a brand new studio album, which is due for release in 2004.
“The first thing we decided we wanted to do was we wanted to get back together and write. We spent the last year and a half or two years before we got back on the road just writing and putting that thing back together.
When you have such a huge past, a big background as we have – you can play off that – a lot of people do. But we felt that we wouldn't have a legitimate future unless we put something new together and actually took it to people and said this is us now, this is where we are at.
Most of [the album] is recorded. We have about a month of work to finish it off, to touch it up - it's really like making your first album.
You get together and everyone has all these different ideas, so it's been a very creative thing.”

The band resisted jumping out on the road initially, preferring to get some new material behind them first. Unlike several other acts on the road, Duran don't want to ride the coattails of their past.
“We didn't just want to go out and do that whole greatest hits thing. Obviously we play those songs, no one goes away from a show disappointed, but we felt if we didn't have new material in us and we didn't have a real reason to exist, then we probably wouldn't have done an 80's revival thing. We are very conscious about the fact that's what we are as a bunch of people. To passively get up and play a bunch of old songs wouldn't have really motivated us.
So we are bringing the new material into the set and it goes down really well and it works well with the old material. It's doing what we wanted to do.”

If the band has any fears about the future, Andy doesn't let it show.
“We had a huge audience, we sold truck loads of albums, so if we do something that's cool, people will listen to it. If we don't, then we would be selling people short.
The five of us don't know how to exist in any other way. We are an ambitious bunch I guess.”
And five very different people, “Everyone has a different angle, we mix it up in the middle and somehow it works.”

 

 

x


Duran have already released some concert CDs from the first set of dates the band played in Japan and the USA, through online company TheMusic.com; it was another decision by the band to help them reconnect with old fans and introduce new material to those that couldn't make the shows.
“We did some straight off the board CDs from the shows. It was one of those things where we thought we may as well do it and make them good. You always get bootlegged and they sound crap.
When you get back out again like we are, you want to get as many people as possible back in touch with what you are doing.
The great thing about the Internet and what that drives is that it allows people to find and consume music and we wanted to get everyone back focused on the fact we are playing live again and it really does sound great.
We recorded a bunch of the shows because they were the first shows we'd done back together - we wanted to have a memento of them.
The very first date was one of the most amazing dates in all our lives. There we were about to walk on in front of 8000 people and it was like fuck, we're actually doing this!
Now it's on record and everyone can share that. When you don't have a record label [yet] and you have been on your own as we have, you can look at all these other ways you can get in touch with other people and get music out there again.

 

 

 

 


Duran were famous for their signature hook lines within their songs. Their musical theme was feel good pop anthems, with big budget videos shot in various exotic locations further serving to help fans escape their own realities. 2003 sees the pop scene in a very different mood, but Andy suggests that Duran will continue to do what comes naturally.
“I always thought it would be weird if Duran Duran came back but didn't have a great song the whole world could sing. That's one of the things that drives us - melodic songs that people can relate to has always been our thing. I was a Beatles fan as a kid - that song sensibility where you have to get a perfect 4 minutes out of things.
In this fucking dark gloomy world…It's something I have noticed with audiences in America. You might have a lot of grey days at the moment, but we're a sunny day. Music is escapism, its entertainment.”

Before recent events, it was 18 years since the original Duran line-up played their last live show – the Live Aid benefit in 1985. It's been 20 years since their last world tour – one comprised of groupies, living the high life, private jets and no expense spared at any turn.
Now with wives and families in tow, the guys will tackle touring in 2003 a little differently. Andy Taylor included!
“You can't do some of the things you used to do….haha. I suppose you have to go at a gentler pace. I mean, God help us, you can't sit at home being a Vicar or anything. When you are younger, you are running on that pure naive adrenalin, you don't have any real responsibility aside from making sure you get there and play. And there's usually someone there to help you do that!
But yes, everyone has their own responsibilities now and that does make you easier on yourself.
You have to be! We play a long show and you can't beat yourself up too much over it as physically you just kill yourself. It was always good fun on the road and it still is.”

 

 

 

 


As for hitting Australia, Andy and the band were last here in 1983, on tour and also recording parts of their smash-hit "Seven & The Ragged Tiger" album in Sydney.
“I haven't been since the band, so it's been 20 years. We are really looking forward to it. We have nothing but good memories…haha….most which I'll keep to myself!!
I am so happy we can come back, do some shows and some big shows with Robbie also. It's going to be great fun.
It's just the 5 of us. No side men, just the five of us on stage. We have stripped it right back down to just the band playing. You don't have to worry about how it sounds…there are very few guys you meet in your life that you can work with, but the 5 of us just know what the other guys are thinking and where we fit.”

The good news for fans is that Andy and the rest of the band intend on being back for the long haul. When asked about continuing to tour, one of Andy's favourite acts, The Rolling Stones comes under discussion.
“What they have done I really admire. They have extended the longevity of rock n roll for guys like us. I don't know if I'd like to look like Keith, but I wouldn't mind his bank account. They have always inspired me, The Stones. They know how to get fucked up, but they also know how to make money!
All those guys have stayed right through until their late 50's, early 60's.
I mean, if you were looking at where you would like your career to go, then you would have to cherry pick The Stones. There is no finer example of where a rock n roll band should be and end up. People just love coming to see them as they have so many great songs. They are it, they are the most definitive rock n roll band ever.”

Dealing with the record industry in 2003 and finding a new recording home for the band is another challenge that the band has faced. It's something they have spent their time together analyzing.
“This is a very screwed up business. We are just about to put the ink in the pen - very close and very excited and very cool. It's one of those things we didn't want to rush into it. Record labels don't sign a lot of bands these days too. Whoever we signed to – that's it. We just want to find a home and stay there and make records and do our thing and not have to look over our shoulder and have stability, which is something you don't have when you are younger.
We've kinda been watching the business fall apart and have been wondering how to take care of our business and make sure it doesn't get affected in the same kinda way.
It's interesting times out there….when you are alive and kicking, like we are, we have been in the fortunate position where we can sit back and hold off until the right scenario is there for us to do our work and get on with it.
You want to have stability in the commercial aspect of your operation, if you like.
But we sound powerful, and we love playing with each other…er….hahaha. It really works. Very soon we'll announce the label,” and get the new record released, “the first half of next year, because we've got to get out and play! Arrghh, there's a deadline!”

All the members of Duran have kept busy over the years, with LeBon and Rhodes continuing on in Duran and releasing their last album together as recently as 2000.
John Taylor went on to record his own solo album and release a one-off album Neurotic Outsiders with former Sex Pistol Steve Jones, Duff McKagan of Guns N' Roses, and Matt Sorum of the Cult and Guns N' Roses.
Andy spent the latter part of the 80's and early 90's as a successful solo artist, coincidently writing and recording his debut solo album “Thunder” with Steve Jones in Los Angeles.
The 1987 album gained a cult following and is still highly regarded today, and indeed, is hard to find. It's a time Andy has better perspective about today.
“It's funny…I suppose whatever you do musically, even if you don't understand it at the time, it is a reflection of where you are at.
When I look at the early Duran stuff you can hear the early club vibe from it, you can hear where we were at as people.
That “Thunder” album I did as the whole band was falling apart. Some of the songs like “Don't Let Me Die Young” were actually about that. When I look back it was quite scary…there was so much shit going on at the time. I guess that's why I went off in a more 'fuck you, this is me' guitar kind of direction.
It was trying to find your own identity away from what the cocoon of being involved in Duran Duran was. It was like 'hello, there is an individual in here'. At the time you aren't conscious of it, but when I look at it now – even my wife says, 'you don't realize how deep that record is'.
It's one of those things – you don't recognize the person that did it, but it was you.”
A re-release of the album is being discussed for the future, “We thought we might do that at some point, but I'm not sure yet, how complicated things are, with labels and masters and that.” When encouraged to do so, Andy adds “Well, the thing about Duran…that gives you the ability to bring all that opportunity (to re-release) back into your life.
I may get it out one day.”

 

 

 

 

xx


Andy Taylor wanted to be a solo artist. His first break on his own came with the hit “Take It Easy” from the film American Anthem, a soundtrack which he also contributed another two tracks to.
“I did that all in America and after I did it, I discovered that it was a lonely world being a solo artist. Then I started working with another solo artist – Rod Stewart – and he used to tell me how lonely he was! It was funny…it was such a different existence for me.
It did ok, but it was a great way to express myself, communicate in a way people didn't know you would do.”
That work with Rod Stewart was in the form of Stewart's “Out Of Order” album, a kick-ass rock album that won acclaim as one of Stewart's best albums in years.
But recording the album took so long; outside help in the form of Taylor's Power Station buddy Bernard Edwards was needed. It seems the duo was having more fun drinking than recording and needed a guiding hand to help complete the sessions.
Yeah, we needed a little help at the end…haha….not with the drinking though. Yeah, those were the days you know. Rod and I – it's an English thing, as soon as it's gets to 6pm of an evening; you have to go and have a drink. It's just the way it is and we used to stick to that religiously. And the thing with Rod is that he pretends he's drinking, but he throws it away - he's a bit of lightweight.…haha.”

 

 

 

 

xx


Taylor's standing as a solo artist and producer received another boost when he recorded and self-produced an album of classic rock cover tunes, titled “Dangerous”. The highly energetic, good fun hard rock album saw Taylor and band really hammer the originals to within an inch of their life.
“Yeah, sometimes I think I did go too far with those…”
Strangely, it seemed the project fell into Andy's lap, “It sort of one of those happy accidents. Somebody…a very well known band had this idea to do that and they wanted me to produce the album for them, doing this selection of their favourite covers.
At the very last minute they pulled out. And I said to the label – A&M – I could do that.
The guys that managed me at the time went into overdrive – 'you can do fucking do that as well, because you know how much money they are going to pay you to do it?!'
I thought, great, this is something everyone wants to do – an album of their favourite covers.
The reason things are so raw, was that within 3 days we were in the studio recording this thing and it was done in that sort of 'ok, let's rehearse them and beat the shit out of them and play them and move on and just play them as you would do if you were in high school playing a bunch of covers!'
It was done in that very short space of time and raw, upfront way. We had a blast doing it!”

When questioned about the development of his voice and vocal chords on the “Dangerous” album, the always humble Andy again plays it down.
“I think I just drank a little more when I sung them! Some of those songs, you really have to bite them. It's going another place where people didn't think you could go.
You challenge yourself, you challenge the audience, you do something different. People weren't expecting it.
That's the thing about music. The thing that gets taken away from you when you get pigeon holed doing a certain thing is one of the things that destroys people's souls in this business. Right from doing Power Station, it was like, it's the same guys, but it doesn't sound like them. When we were in Duran, al the labels and management wanted off us was more Duran stuff, so they could sell it. Put you in a corner and pigeonhole you. I like to do a lot of different music.
Rock n roll is what I would die for, but I love music and I love exploring, doing different things and taking the challenge of playing, writing or singing on it…or producing it.
You are trying to achieve something.
It's no different from being a chef. You have to invent new dishes. You can't keep on serving the same old fucking crap up.
We were very young in Duran and to get pushed in a corner can be very difficult to get out of and all those things were a way of breaking away from a mold and the preconception of what people think you are.”

 

 

 

 

xx


Further production work followed. There was two albums with Then Jerico and singer Mark Shaw, an album for US hard rock outfit Skin & Bones and another for UK metal group The Almighty, which Taylor described as, “…going to work with the Hell's Angels!”
His biggest production credit was with UK melodic rockers Thunder. The band had just been signed to a huge contract and Taylor was given the task of recording and producing their debut album “Backstreet Symphony”, which again met with great critical acclaim. He worked with the band on the follow up album “Laughing On Judgment Day” and continues a working friendship with guitarist/songwriter Luke Morley to this day.
An album of unreleased material the pair recorded exists, as well as an independently released 4 track Taylor/Morley EP titled The Spanish Sessions. But Taylor isn't upset the material hasn't yet been released.
“I don't think you need a record deal to write songs. You don't need any other reason than you want to do it and that's what we did.
There was a load of stuff we wrote, the reason we did it was because we wanted to create music. It's a far cry from why some people do music today – they make it to order, which is pretty horrible.
I've got about 2 more albums of material [unreleased]…I have an absolute ton. My old friend Dave Ambrose – who signed us to EMI in the beginning – said don't worry Andy, everyone always has their wilderness years!
So out in the Wilderness somewhere there are a couple of albums.”

One can only hope these songs don't remain in the wilderness for too long and that the successful return of Duran Duran on stage and on record with help open the vaults for eagerly waiting fans.
Andy Taylor remains a down to earth English bloke that never takes himself too seriously, but takes his craft very seriously. Not the fame, the money, nor the acclaim have affected his thinking. He's very much just one of the lads, but it's clear from talking to him he is happiest as one of 5 lads that make up Duran Duran.

Duran Duran Hits DVD is out now, their concert CDs are available via TheMusic.com and the new studio album will be released early to mid 2004.

 

 

 
Wed
08
Feb

Pride Of Lions (2003)

Categories: 
Interviews
>
Pride Of Lions: Classic AOR, classic influences, classic music.


Jim Peterik and new vocalist Toby Hitchcock talk about the debut Pride Of Lions album and what fans of classic AOR and Survivor can look forward to on the debut album.

 

Andrew:          Hello, Jim!

Jim:                  Good morning.  Top of the morning to ya!

 

Andrew:          Top of the morning... bloody hell <laughing>

Jim:                  Toby, say hello to Andrew McNeice

Toby:               How ya doin', mate?

 

Andrew:          Toby.  How are you doing, mate?

Toby:               I'm great.  Crickey! [Nice use of Aussie lingo…]

 

Andrew:          Very good <laughs>

Jim:                  He asked me, "Do you really think I could do that with Andrew?", and I said, "Andrew is crazy; you've got to do it".

 

Andrew:          You gotta do it.  Absolutely.  I'll do my really bad Southern accent now.

Jim:                  There he goes.  I was telling Toby that you're my evil twin or evil son, I don't know which.

 

Andrew:          Absolutely, evil twin I think I like.

Jim:                  We had a ball in England at The Gods festival about two and a half years ago.

 

Andrew:          That was fun wasn't it?

Jim:                  We had a few pints here and there. Went to Liverpool together and saw The Cavern, you know.  It was great.

 

Andrew:          That was a good trip, wasn't it?

Jim:                  A great trip.

 

Andrew:          Sitting next to Gary Moon on the way back.

Jim:                  What about Gary?!!

 

Andrew:          That was just... take you life in your own hands don’t you?

Jim:                  Oh, God yeah. 

 

Andrew:          You must be pretty excited?

Jim:                  We are.  We are.  We just spent... upstairs we were just doing background vocals.  We're closing in on this thing.  Of course, you know, we're trying to deliver it as close to the contract... the contract says June 30.

 

 

Andrew:          Oh, really?  Okay.

Jim:                  Yeah, we might not quite make that but October 20 is definitely the release date.

 

Andrew:          Yeah, great.

Jim:                  I don't know if you know the story, we went to visit a mastering studio yesterday.  So, yeah.  We're very excited.  Toby... well, I'll let him speak for himself. 

 

Andrew:          You look fairly young, Toby, how old are you?

Toby:               I'm twenty-five years old.

 

Andrew:          Is that right?

Toby:               Yep.  But not too young.

 

Andrew:          Yeah <laughs>.  So how did you get into melodic rock or why is your heart and vibe there?

Toby:               It's kind of a funny story.  I actually met... I've been singing all of my life and I met Jim's niece and she sang... we sang in a band together, just a gigging band, just going around to parties and things like that, and people would hire us.  And she told me that her uncle was Jim Peterik of Survivor and Ides of March.  And I was pretty much like "No kidding?".

 

Andrew:          Yeah, like your average uncle isn't really that famous.

Toby:               Right, not your average uncle.

 

Andrew:          Or that handsome [Jim doesn’t hear this, so the compliment goes uncollected]

Toby:               So he brought me in one day to the studio, and I was all excited.  I remember when I first met Jim, I put in these fake buck teeth... all nasty fake teeth.  They call them Bubba Teeth here.

 

Andrew:          Right.

Toby:               I'm kind of a jokester and I was hoping that Jim would think that I really looked like that but I started laughing and I had to take them out.  But anyway, he heard me sing and I guess he really loved my voice and approached me with the idea of doing this album and, of course, I was all for it.  It was a great opportunity to be able to work with somebody like him.

 

Jim:                  It's interesting though that I think maybe what your question was alluding to also was that Toby really wasn't singing melodic '80s rock prior to this.

 

Andrew:          I wondered what other sort of material you have been singing...

Jim:                  And maybe you could talk a little about your influences and your experiences with the '80s genre prior to this, Toby.

 

Toby:               Well, one of the... of course, I was born in '77 and my Dad, he's a minister, a preacher, and so I wasn't really able to listen to a lot of the stuff; it's wasn't like a normal part of everyday life, but there were some songs that my Dad loved, and one of those songs was "Roseanna" by Toto.  He loved Toto and just, I don't know... REO Speedwagon, and all the big '80s bands, big rocker bands.

 

Jim:                  Foreigner.

Toby:               Yeah, Foreigner was a big one.  All those songs... and I still love all those songs.  I have CD's specifically created for listening purposes of those songs, I just love it to death... the big ballads like that.  As far as my influences go, I would have to say...well, I've got so many, it's hard to define one person... I love... I think what helps a lot in big power notes and stuff like that... I love Brian McNight and Mariah Carey...

 

Andrew:          Really?

Jim:                  He looks a little like Mariah

Toby:               Yeah.

 

Andrew:          <laughs>

Toby:               I only wish.  I'd never leave the house.

Jim:                  You'd never leave your... you couldn't keep your hands off yourself.

 

Andrew:          <laughs>

Toby:               When I was growing up, those were some of my favorite artists, and I tried to mimic them.  Boys to Men was another one.  A lot more R&B groups.

 

Andrew:          Wow.

Toby:               My Dad, however, as I got older I realized I had a bigger voice and was able to do things with my voice that wasn't normal for a white boy from Indiana.

 

Andrew:          Yes.

Toby:               I don't know, I just started singing and singing and singing and sang in the shower and the car and everywhere I was and, I don't know, I kinda got good at it, I guess.

 

Andrew:          Yeah, wonderful.

Jim:                  The first time I heard him, I knew that this was really special and personally, I've been blessed to sing, to actually work with some of the greatest singers in rock, mainly, Dave Bickler, Jimi Jamison, and of course, Don Barnes and Sammy Hagar.

 
 

 

Andrew:          Yeah.

Jim:                  So I've worked with some great guys and with World Stage I got to work with many, many great singers but this is my chance to really go back to my '80s influences, my '80s roots and I really was looking for the right singer.  There's a lot of singers, but not a lot with the range and the tone that you're really looking for, and I heard Toby and I'm going, "Hmm".

 

Andrew:          Yeah, yeah.

Jim:                  Very interesting.  The first time I heard him it was like the tip of the iceberg.  I had no idea the range, I mean, he's hitting like E's and even F's above High C.

 

Andrew:          Really?

Jim:                  Full voice.  The high note of "Eye of the Tiger" for instance is the High C, he goes above that a fifth, okay?

 

Andrew:          Right.

Jim:                  That's pretty scary.  And what's great about it is that as a songwriter... I've always considered myself... that's my passion; I love to perform but I think songwriting is my real, real passion.

 

Andrew:          Yeah.

Jim:                  As a songwriter, if you have a singer that can sing any note, then you have free reign with your range and the melodies.  When I was working with Jimi Jamison as a member of Survivor, I remember when Frankie and I wrote "The Search is Over" I knew that Jimi could sing that song.  If we had a lesser singer, then I knew that I would've had to change that melody.

 

Andrew:          Right.

Jim:                  And it wouldn't have been the song it was, so the gloves are off.  Since I started working with Toby, my writing has actually improved, I feel.

 

Andrew:          Wow.

Jim:                  Because I know this guy can take it and just rip into it and do it.

 

Andrew:          That's a scary prospect.

Jim:                  Yeah.  It's been a lot of fun for me and everyday that we work on this album... we've been working on it now off and on for about 6 months, has been nothing but really fun.  I don't know if you feel the same way, Toby?

Toby:               Absolutely.  I've never been able to... the thing for me is, a lot of singers go and they try to get into record companies and they try to get in with somebody who is an accomplished writer or arranger or producer or whatever.  They try to get in and they just keep on getting turned down, turned down, turned down.  Well my first shot, you know, which wasn't really, I wasn't really thinking about doing an album... I mean I always wanted to do my own album, but I always thought it was going to be a small thing, you know what I'm saying.  But it's really cool because my first shot, I got offered an album without even asking.  I didn't have to go, "I really want to do an album", you know.  I mean, it was just like, "Hey, do you want to do an album with me?" and I'm like, "Holy crap!" you know.

 

Andrew:          <laughs>

Toby:               I can't believe this guy is asking me, you know, somebody like Jim who... now I'll be honest, I didn't know the name Jim Peterik, but I knew the songs.  That's how people know Jim is through songs.

And I don't know, I've been really blessed to meet him and his entire family.  They're so... I didn't know there were people like this left in the world that are so giving and honest and sincere, and that's how I was raised so I think Jim and I have a lot of chemistry when it comes to just our personalities.

 

Andrew:          Yeah.

Jim:                  We can talk about things that are bothering each other or that we're happy about or upset about and trust that we're going to shoot straight without getting offended, and whatever.  He can say anything to me and I know he's not going to disrespect me in what he’s saying, he's saying it to help or encourage, that's what makes working with Jim so great.

 

Andrew:          I've got to say that Jim is one of my highlights.  If everyone was as accommodating and as caring as Jim, my job would be a lot easier.

Toby:               Right.

Jim:                  Well, thanks.  I think the thing I love about Pride of Lions is... it's the young cub, Toby, coming up and learning the ropes... I mean, the first time he ever sang in front of a microphone was in my studio, I mean professionally, and first of all he's improved... I knew he was great in the beginning, but the more he sang the stronger he got and then you've got me, you know, 52 years old, I've been in this business since I was 15.  That's why we call it Pride of Lions, it's because in the jungle there's this whole order of family, the father lion and the cub and it's just everybody has their own role.  I could never sing the notes that Toby sings, but luckily I have the experience to guide it all and hopefully that's a great combination.

Toby:               I can't sing the notes that I sing.

 

Andrew:          <laughs>

Toby:               I honestly... I'm surprised when I hear myself back, I'm surprised that I can hit those notes, I'll be honest with you.

 

Andrew:          I cannot believe the "Sound of Home".

Jim:                  Oh, "Sound of Home", you like that?

 

Andrew:          Oh, my God.  I just keep playing it and playing it and playing it.

Toby:               Keep on playing it, man!

Jim:                  The time is right.  The sound of the '80s, and of course, we've updated it...

 

Andrew:          It sounded fantastic.  It really did sound like classic sort of except with a new edge.

Jim:                  It's not like it's a cliché like, "Oh my God", it actually sounds pretty fresh to me.

Toby:               Well they have the equipment they didn't have back in the '80s... a lot of effects and cool things you can do nowadays, you couldn't do back then and I think that's what kind of updates it.

 

Andrew:          Yeah.

Toby:               But the sound, the feeling of the '80s is still there, which I love.

 

Andrew:          Exactly.

Toby:               That's when music was so emotional. 

Jim:                  What I go for, and I don't have to tell you, is music that really touches your heart in one way or another.  Either it uplifts you... we have a song on there called "Unbreakable" it's really an ode to the human spirit, you know.  I am unbreakable; no matter what hits me; I will survive.  That's been a message in my songs for a long time.  But there's also songs about... bittersweet songs about potential breakups like "Love Is On The Rocks" where two people are struggling to find that thing they had in the beginning.  There's another song called "First Time Around the Sun" which is about making everyday a fresh start.  I just think a lot of people need to hear that, you know?

 

Andrew:          Yeah.

Jim:                  But every song has meaning.  Toby... oh, by the way, I want to tell him about that song we wrote, Toby.

Toby:               Yeah.

Jim:                  Toby just started to sit down at the piano one day at the studio and started to play this incredible piano riff.  I said, "What's that?" and he said, "I wrote it."  I said, "Really!  When?" and he said, "Oh, man, I've had this thing around for a while."  And I said, "Play that again," and I let the tape recorder roll and I started to sing this scant melody and before you know it we had a song called "Stand By You".  It's really powerful.  By the way, Toby, I don't know if you know it but we put the strings on it today.  Oh, you were there at the end, right?

Toby:               Yeah.

 

Andrew:          Strings... fantastic.

Jim:                  It's incredible.

Toby:               That's a wedding song

 

Andrew:          You know how much I love Mecca, and I think this is going to be even better.

Jim:                  Well, I don't want to say, because I love Mecca, but of course, I feel very strongly about this project.

 

Andrew:          That's great.  I just wanted to touch base and I'm really glad Toby was there.  Toby, I really want to get this on-line and let people get to know you.

                        Thanks Jim and Toby for the chat. Jim, I’ve got a couple of things to run past you, so I’m going to hit the stop button now….

 

STOP :)

 

 

 

 

 
Wed
08
Feb

Harem Scarem (2003)

Artist: 
Categories: 
Interviews
Harem Scarem: Classic Harem keeps taking melodic rock higher.
The voice of Harem Scarem, Harry Hess, talks about the new album Higher, all things to do with the band and other stuff like producing and screaming on new tracks for Jack Frost.


Hi Harry, good to talk to you as usual. Thanks for sending me a preview of the Jack Frost track.
He was in a band called Sabotage or Savatage, I guess, for a while. He was the guitar player. He's done a bunch of different projects. I think one is called Seven Witches or something like that.

That's right…
He's from New Jersey. He's a guitar player and he called me up and asked me if I'd do two songs on his solo record with him, so I'm doing that.
It's kind of funny. It's metal, and I'm yelling. It's hilarious. I thought, "Well that would be funny; I haven't done anything like that in like 20 fuckin' years." So I thought that would be entertaining and it sure is.

Not since Blind Vengeance!
That's right, exactly. I haven't yelled like this in a long time.

I love your comment on the track rundown you did for me for Higher.
Oh, right.

You said you were about to explode or something like that if you went any higher.
Yeah. It's getting higher and higher every day.

Fantastic. Speaking of…did Blind Vengeance ever come out on CD?
Yeah, it did. Some guy bought the rights to it here in Canada. I don't know what he did with it, to tell you the truth. I just heard that he did.

I've never heard it...
It's awful.

Is it? <laughs>
It's really bad. It really is.

Even more reason for me to track it down!
That's right. Track it down.

You've had a little bit of time to live with the new album now. What do you think?
You know what? I haven't listened to it in a while. I heard it after we mastered it. I thought the mastering job was okay. I didn't love it.

Really?
Yeah. It's a little bit bright in the high end, a little bit harsh sounding compared to the masters we had, but for the most part I'm pretty pleased with it. We were loving it when we were mixing it, you know. I can't remember making a record where we liked so many songs on it, especially while we were working on it. So I don't know. If that's any indication, I mean, we really enjoyed working on it from beginning to end. Usually by the end of it we're pretty sick of it and don't have a whole lot of perspective, but this one, we never really got sick of the songs. I don't know.

I think it's a bit of... you always do something a little different and there's a few tracks on here that are a little different again….but there's a little bit of everything of you on there isn't it?
Yeah. Oh, for sure.

A little bit of Mood Swings. A little bit of the debut, a lot of the debut. A little bit of Voice of Reason. A little bit of Weight of the World.
Yeah, I think this record is actually pretty simple, but very melodic and I guess if you could go back and compare it to anything, the closest I can... I found the first record like that, you know? There wasn't really a whole lot of outrageous guitar playing or anything like that. They were just straight ahead rock songs and treated a certain way and I at least kinda felt this way with this, but when things do go off on a tangent, like things like "Reach" and some other songs, that's just because of where we've come from all these years and influences, and our influences like Mood Swings and Voice of Reason and stuff. Those types of elements, they always crop up in songs or parts of songs at least.

Yeah. Stuff like "Lies" and "Lost" and "Waited" are very much like the debut aren't they?
Yep. Very true.

I really like what you did with "Waited".
Oh, yeah?

I think that's my favorite track on the album.
Yeah, I really like it too, I mean, a lot of people that have heard it think it's actually quite modern in the sense that it could be on American radio right now too. And same with "Torn Right Out". For me that's a good accomplishment because, you never want to just be, you know, doing... rehashing what we did 10, 12 years ago and stuff.
It's nice to stay current and stay fresh and not have it sound like a total '80s rock production, with still having all the elements that our fans like about what we do and enjoying it ourselves and at least feeling we're always moving forward and doing the types of productions that are contemporary and I guess worthy of what's going on today.

Yeah. In fact my favorite albums in the last--my tastes have sort of changed a little bit--my favorite albums in the last 12 months have been albums that have updated their sound... but stayed true to what the band were, or are, what they do best.
Yeah.

And there's definitely some modern production and songwriting on Higher. Is there any hope in hell of you finally getting a U.S. deal and this stuff getting on the radio? It's so wrong that it isn't.
We just don't have a real outlet for it. We're kind of in a position now where everybody knows us as that hard rock, heavy metal band from 10 years ago and it's really, really tough to get anybody to pay attention to what we're doing and most of the A&R guys out there, they're just looking to sign something fresh and new and get it out, you know.
You see what happens with Nickelback when someone takes a chance on it, you know?

Exactly.
I know. And again, we might be a little bit guilty of not pursuing it to the fullest extent either. We just kind of go, well that's our situation and there you go. Because we tried so many times in the past and it's just one of those weird things with us now and we really haven't bothered in the last few years to tell you the truth. We've got a little Canadian Indie deal here in Canada for Weight of the World and he's just about to put it out now; it's taken him so long to get to it.

Is that not out already?
Yeah. There's a little bit of debauchery there with all that stuff, but…

How many other bands are out there have 8 or 9 studio albums behind them?!
I know. That's like this Jack Frost guy. He's... I guess that Savatage band were signed to Atlantic for a while and now he's doing records for Sanctuary, and he says the same thing. He says, "Look, everybody that... here's this stuff and I can't believe it never came out in America." And I say, "Well, you've got to remember, we were trying at a time when hard rock was just, I mean, you couldn't even tell anyone that you were in a hard rock band, like when we first started because it was all grunge and that's what we were dealing with.” And major labels, as you know, all they're interested in is what's happening right now. Not what happened two years ago, so fuck, it's really no surprise to me looking back that we never got a U.S. release, but at the same time, with our whole catalogue now and a bit of a resurgence in hard rock again, and when bands like Nickelback and Creed can go out and sell millions and millions of records, I think there's a place for us somewhere in the middle, you know?

Yeah, there's got to be. Not everybody... I sort of started off liking pop/rock and then started looking for something that was a little bit more of a harder edge, something with a little bit more impact, that'll blow you right through. There's got to be a lot of other people out there that want something between Avril Lavigne and Creed, you know?
Yeah, for sure.

Any dates or promotions you'll be doing in Japan or just phone interviews?
There's nothing solidified yet. We're talking to some promoters about an actual tour and that's just kind of ongoing right now. So we'll see what happens with that. And the European release is almost a month later.

Did you go to Japan for Weight of the World?
Oh, yeah. We've toured on every record there except for the first two.

Right. Okay. It's a good little market, isn't it?
Yeah, it's been great for us.

Yeah, great for a lot of people. The European release... any dates in Europe?
Yeah. It's always been really, really tough and, you know, it's just a financial thing, it's not for the lack of not wanting to go, we'd love to go.
We'd love to go everywhere and play, but it's just the reality of how much it costs to fly 4 or 5 people around and deal with hotels and cars and all that crap while we're there and it's just so expensive that unless you're selling records, and a promoter is willing to take a chance and give you some money to come over and do it, it's really next to impossible, so we just pick and choose the opportunities that come up and make the most sense and try to get everybody on board to help us out and get down there.
So that's kind of the situation. It's very tough.

Absolutely. I get a lot of questions... a lot of people asking about Canadian dates. Do you ever play live in Canada any more?
Very rarely. The last time we played was when the Rubber albums came out and it was actually received very well and we did a lot of dates and it went great, but we literally haven't put anything out since the first Rubber album in Canada because there's been no reason to. Even this last one, Weight of the World, it hasn't come out yet, so if it does, who knows, we might do some warm-up shows here in Canada, like before a Japanese tour or a European thing.

Yeah, I do get some emails from guys who say, “Look, I live 15 minutes from these guys and I can't get their records here.” It's complicated isn't it?
Yeah. It's very, very odd.

How do you move on from here, where do you go from here? You've been busy - with Weight of the World, you've had the live album, the archive release. Any idea where you'd like to go from here?
Well, I don't know. I think, you know, even what I'm doing here tonight, like doing something a little bit different, you know, and as far as side projects go I'd like to do things that take me in a little bit of a different direction because I don't want to do the same thing over and over again.

xx

Sure.
But the Harem Scarem records, they're actually a lot of fun to make now because there's really... it's not like there's a lot of pressure on us when we're making them. It's just pretty much Pete and I doing what we do and then the guys come in and do their stuff and we've kind of got it down as far as what we want to do and what we're going to do when we make a Harem Scarem record. It is just a matter of sitting down and writing the songs and actually taking the time to do it. It's just become 2nd nature and a real pleasure to do, so as long as people want us to do them, we'll do them because it's actually quite fun and easy these days.

So you pretty much see yourself sitting down once a year to do that?
Yeah. I think so, yeah.

That's awesome.
Unless people say stop.

Haha…I don't think you'll get that just yet. What about solo records?
I wouldn't do what I did again in the sense that... trying to do something on my own. Like I said, like doing what I'm doing tonight just maybe collaborating with more musicians. It's a lot more fun and to get more feedback working with other people. I just would like to broaden my horizons rather than just repeat doing what I do and just kind of staying in my own little bubble and only going with what I know, so I kind of would be interested in kind of expanding my horizons a little bit more and working on different material.

xx

That's cool. You did that with the Once and Future King track, didn't you?
Yeah. I actually just sang background on an Eric Martin track for his next record too.

Did you really?
Yeah, which is awesome. Really, really cool.

I love Eric…
He's a great, great singer.

Isn't he just. I've been a fan of his since like his debut solo album in the early '80s.
Yeah, he's such a nice guy too. Real down to earth and he's just really, really cool; I like him a lot.

Fantastic. I look forward to hearing that. Anything else sort of in the pipeline?
I've been doing a lot of mixing for bands around here. What else? That's really it. It's been pretty crazy since we came off the Weight of the World album. We did a little bit of a tour and then I came back and did the solo record, and right after the solo record started the Higher record and here we are now. So really, like the last 2 years it's been every day going non-stop, and lots of mixing projects in the middle and recording stuff here at the studio. There's lots of records being done in my place too when I'm not in here that have done really well. There's a band from Canada called Three Days Grace; it's a young band and they're doing real well. They've got a U.S. deal, and then there's another band called Billy Talent that was done here, which got a deal with Atlantic in America. So lots of great things have been happening. It's all been good. No complaints.

I looked up your site and saw the resume on there. It's quite an impressive resume there now, isn't it? Especially yourself. You've produced a lot of stuff, haven't you?
Yeah.

I really enjoyed the Crush album.
Oh, yeah. Me too. I think it's very cool. I've got to remember to send that out to some people because I don't think they ever got that record released beyond Canada.
They did a new record now, which is great as well. I'm a big fan of those guys. They're great.

Again, stuff that just should be all over the radio.
Yep. Yep.

You've still got a lot of unreleased stuff. Do you think you might do an Archive Vol. 2?
Yeah, you know what. It's possible. We do have a lot of stuff. I don't know specifically how many tracks and the quality of it. That would be something I'd have to sit down and check out and see if it's worth putting together.


How about a boxed set?
Yeah. I never thought of that, actually.

Just get a FedEx package, stick all the tracks into it, send it to me and I'll put it together for you!!!
That'd be awesome.

I'll save you the time <laughs>.
Yeah, yeah.

I'll start bootlegging it, start sending them over the net without you even knowing about it.
Yeah <laughs>. Sure. Why not.

$995 for the Harem Scarem CD.
Yeah, I tell that story in every interview.

It's great stuff, isn't it?
Yep.

If only I had a box full of that.
Fuck. I know. Crazy.

Good stuff. The Early Years turned out well.
Yeah, it did turn out pretty good. It's a funny little package. I love the pictures and stuff. It's hilarious. It's funny to see.

I actually got a copy of the Japanese… of the video you put out. It's out in Japan on DVD now.
Oh, yeah.

Yeah, your first 6 or 7 videos.
They put it out on DVD, eh? Was it Warner that did that?

Yeah. Absolutely.
Wow.

There were about 8 clips on there, after the Believe or something like that.
They didn't even tell us.

Didn't they? <laughs>
No. I didn't know that.

I'll e-mail you the cover sleeve.
Yeah, maybe they'll send me a copy one day.

Yeah, that would be nice wouldn't it?
Yeah, very nice of them.

There's some big hair on there isn't there?
Oh, yeah. I had the real rock hairdo.

Pete was guilty too. Actually, Pete just sent me... he's producing a band called, One Short. Do you keep up with what he's doing?
Who? Pete?

Yeah.
Oh, One Short. Who sent you that?

The guys in the band.
Oh, cool.

Yeah, they did a couple of Harem... a couple of your songs, didn't they?
They did. They did. A crazy version or two.

What do you think of that?
You know. I thought it was pretty cool. They're a good little band. Real nice guys. They're really young. I think they're like 17 or 18 years old.

Is that right?
Yeah. Real young guys and they're good, you know? I don't know how much luck they're having with it, getting it out there, but they're a good little band.

I'm going to feature them on the site and do whatever I can.
Oh, cool.

Give them a bit of PR. I enjoy them. You can't substitute the originals though.
<laughs>

Anything you'd like to add, Harry? I think we've covered it all…
Yeah. No, that's cool. That's great. Great talking. Thanks and take care.

Cheers Harry!
 
Wed
08
Feb

Gregg Fulkerson (2003)

Categories: 
Interviews
Gregg Fulkerson: A new name, a new band, same classy attitude.

 

Gregg Fulkerson talks to me about Attraction 65, his passion for music, life after Blue Tears and the long road inbetween. I think you will agree that Gregg's one of the nice guys of rock n roll. Read on...

 

 

 


So Gregg, most folks will know you (and Mike) from Blue Tears. Starting at that point, how did you enjoy the ride that was Blue Tears?
We enjoyed it immensely, that was a long ride as well. Starting when I was in high school and to tell you the truth, we've just gotten back on with ATTRACTION 65 for all practical purposes, we are literally picking up where we left off even down to using the last song I wrote during that era, "Strong", on the new album but I'll get to all that somewhere in this interview I'm sure.

Let's go straight to the new record - the debut Attraction 65 album. When did you start work on this album?
About a year ago as far as the recording as far as the writing of the new songs which is the majority of the record it was written over the last couple of years

And where does the band name come from?
Ah that's a big secret you know. Ok…actually it's from a sign on the interstate.
Attraction 65 is the Franklin, Tennessee exit on the interstate. There are different "attractions" around our state and they are numbered so it' could have been attraction anything, but that is actually the one that we take nearly every day and what a great "attraction" it is…the coolest city around here, that's for sure.

The album has a far more contemporary sound than Blue Tears did – at least you haven't stepped backwards. Are you aiming at the same audience, a new fan base, or neither - just pleasing yourself? Was there ever a thought to make a new Blue Tears record?
The only thing that is different about the Blue Tears record and this one is the name and the drummer. The songs come from the same place, same singer, same core band.
I quite honestly just didn't want people to hear Blue Tears and think oh, that "80's" band (even though we came out in '90).
Actually, Blue Tears was about as "contemporary" as you could get when it came out, but is obviously very dated now. This could have been called Blue Tears and been the official "follow-up" record.
Believe me, I was torn but in the end we decided that with the new guys on board we would become a new band…sort of rising from the ashes of what once was Blue Tears (that sounded dramatic, didn't it?).
Much, much better than we were before in my opinion it's not even in the same league as far as a "fanbase".
I'll tell you who I think this record might be aimed at. This record has a thread of hope that you can hear in each song even in "Rise Above", "Believe", "Stand".
I went through some very dark years and I know there are people out there that are lost, broken-hearted, that need something to believe in…hopefully this music can bring someone hope or drive someone on.
There were records that did that for me throughout my life and I am by no means comparing our record to these people because these are my hero's.
And I don't pretend to be in the same league as them but for example, The Joshua Tree, The River (Springsteen) and the Mellencamp records…Bon Jovi records...these people gave us something to think about - a way out - a way to look at certain things and I pray that we can do that for people as well.
I know we'll never be able to live up to those guys…any of them...but why not try???

I think you have done a fine job Gregg. There's a lot of positive messages in these songs.
You have just spoke of them, but I wanted to ask about the varied style of delivery within the album. I heard Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, U2 and even Nickelback within the record. Are you a fan of those artists, or any others that inspired the sound of the album?

Yeah I'm a huge fan of Bruce, Bono and U2 Bon Jovi. I love Creed...great lyrics and every musician in that band is just unbelievable. It kills me when I read someone who is just too cool for Creed.
I don't get that…maybe they sell too many records? Especially all of you melodic rock fans, this is where your Bon Jovi/Aerosmith/U2 of today is – Creed, Fuel...ok, so I know Carl from Fuel pretty well but I'm still a huge fan of the band!! These guys write songs they don't just jam they write serious songs.

What inspired the use of a choir on Stand? Wonderful effect?
I think just the overall gospel feel of the song. My part came way before the choir parts. Strong has it as well and Prisoner at this point, not sure where Prisoner is going to fall on the record I think it's going to be a mystery track or a hidden track? Not sure have to ask Magnus about that.

Jumping in on that point - how did you come to work with Magnus and Atenzia and why did you pick them above any other candidates?
To tell you the truth...because of the way this thing came together, there weren't any other candidates. Magnus and I had been talking for several years...literally.....he had been interested in another Blue Tears record for a long time, but I did not want to come back out as Blue Tears....wasn't even interested in recording at first...this was
several years ago that this started.
Finally...a couple of years ago, he had the Atenzia thing come together...he told me he would like to sign me to do a modern record...to do what I am doing now...not a
throwback to the 80's. I'm not interested in that stuff at all...so we signed a deal...and Magnus and I have become good friends....so really....Magnus was a big factor in my coming back to the music business. His faith in me was very inspiring...I will always be
indebted to him for that...so guys...if you ever get a call from Magnus...or find out Magnus is interested in your music...go for it...he's a pleasure to work with.

Awesome…back to the album - I think tracks like Eden, In Another Life and Train, even Swept Away and Roll On could all hold their own on classic or modern rock radio - is there any chance of this happening at all?
Well, I can only hope and pray that this could happen! I feel pretty confident about the songs on this record. In Another Life or Train can pretty much hold their own with any of these guys I think.

Any US release plans at this stage?
We are talking to various managers already. We have our booking agent lined up and everything has been centralized out of Europe at this point, only because or the chain of events leading up to this. We haven't pursued anything in the States at all yet as crazy as that sounds but it's coming.

Can you tell us more about the guys you chose to involve in Attraction 65?
Absolutely....the band is....myself...on lead vocals and guitars, some keyboards....Michael Spears on bass (from Blue Tears)....Paul Zegelien on guitar....Ludo Baccherini on drums....and Robert Streets on acoustic guitars and backup vocals.
I'll tell you a little about each guy....pretty interesting I think. When I decided to do
this again....I wanted to have a band...not a touring band...or a put together band...but a band of brothers...if you will.
My favorite groups were the real bands...like Bruce and the E Street Band...U2......Bon Jovi...you know every guy in the band...each one is important in their way and it would pretty drastically change the group if even one guy changed.

I think I have the best band I could have....all best friends...we all go back several years...some back to child hood even....for example...Michael Spears. Mike and I met at camp when we were kids...literally used to play acoustic guitars together at camp...Mike
and I started what would later become Blue Tears when he was a freshman
in college and I was a senior in high school. So we have all those years wrapped up in our music. When I first decided I wanted to make a new record...and hit this hard...I called Michael first.....when he decided to come back…I knew we would have a killer band no matter what. Mike is an artist himself...a brilliant writer...singer...and
producer...on top of his bass playing. Mike has recently produced tracks for Billy Falcon...and also for Billy's daughter Rose Falcon...I have to be honest here...eventually Mike is going to be a big star all on his own...it's inevitable...he already has people
looking at him for that...labels....and a lot of his material he and Billy Falcon wrote together.
I support Mike in whatever he does...he will always be like a brother to me regardless of what happens...I pray that he stays with us forever...but someday it will become
impossible...until that day we'll have the most fun we can and make the best music we can. If we can work it out for him to stay on...then hallelujah...if not.....then I'm happy for him...no jealousy here...I want him to succeed...and he will.

Ludo Baccherini plays drums....is a lead singer in his own rite as well. He plays exactly what I hear in my head...when I think or hear drums...I'm hearing him in my head....he's just great....finds that back beat...plays just behind the beat...which gives everything a really big sound....also like a brother to me....I'll stop saying that..because
all four of these guys are that to me.....family.
Ludo was really the next guy on board for the band....after Mike....it's hard to say
which came first in this group because Mike and I had been talking about
it for so long...but Ludo is a huge part of the sound of the band...on this record.......he played things that most people would use loops for...like on Roll On....or Believe.....no loops...just Ludo....I can see him going down in history like a Max Weinberg or Tico
Torres....Kenny Aronoff....he feels it...doesn't just play it. Not sure how to get that point across...but a lot of this stuff on the record Ludo recorded to an acoustic guitar...that's it....then the band would fill in around him.....so his feel became the overall feel of the song...big, big part of our sound.

Paul Zegelien plays electric guitar....on the record he played a lot of rhythyms...but live he'll probably handle some of the lead parts as well....Paul and I got together because of our similar love for music. We like a lot of the same bands...used to have these long
conversations about songs…bands...guitars...etc...long before he joined
up with the band. Paul is also a great singer...he actually taught high school chorus at one point...a music teacher...very cool.......he's just an all around great person who puts on no airs...just what you see is what you get...very genuine. Also one of my very best friends in the world...we will sound huge out on the road with me and Paul on electric
guitars...Robert on the acoustic guitar....5 strong vocals (no fake sampled vocals for us, I hate that )....Paul is also my fishing buddy....so that goes a long way…ha ha.

Last but not least we have Robert Streets....Robert was a front man for his own band for years...an incredible singer....his voice is the perfect compliment for mine...he is doing the majority of the solo type background vocals on our record...the Bruce/Little Steven or Jon/Ritchie type vocal stuff.
He was probably in the studio with me more than anyone else making this record...so much so that I gave him an "assistant producer" credit....he'd come in after I'd been working on vocals or guitar parts for hours...I'd be totally burnt out...and he'd
basically be my listening board...tell me....that's great Gregg...you sound killer...or...that's pretty rough Gregg...you can do better than that....brutally honest....and I needed that....had a lot of great ideas about arrangements as well...thus his credit.
Robert and I go back about 13 years at this point....we've always done music
together...written together...etc....mostly for fun.
He came in to do backup vocals on a few songs on this record in the beginning... I had
about half of the record done at that point....and he kept coming back.....finally...he and I talked one night...I said…man, it would be a dream come true for me if you would join this band...stand right up there every night on stage with me and blast out these harmonies...play all these acoustic guitar parts from the record......we would be
unstoppable!! He agreed.....it was a big decision for him to join someone else's band..always had his own groups.....but the way I see it...it's OUR band....all five of us.....

That's probably more information than you really wanted about the band...but that's how we got together...I'm obviously very excited to have this group now....I'll be on the road with my 4 best friends...having the time of our lives....doing what we love to do
most...playing in a rock and roll band.

 

 

 


Let's go back a little…Blue Tears came out in 1990 - how did you find working/playing in the prime era of stadium rock?
To tell you the truth, I think when Blue Tears was actually released on MCA that era was ending we came out right before Nirvana hit.
I enjoyed the years leading up to it more than the time after it was released. A very "innocent" time.
Some of my favorite musical moments came from playing in a band called Stealin' Horses on Arista, that was right before Blue Tears was signed - we did a tour opening for the Smithereens and the Stray Cats - what a blast. Great musicians, great songwriting. Loved that band.
Blue Tears was a group whose nucleus - myself, Michael Spears and Bryan Hall had been together since I was in High School. We used to practice nearly every night, played covers mostly until after college when we started writing original material.
But the feeling was always the same. Attraction 65 is really chapter 2 of Blue Tears - just a different name. My writing has matured a lot since then those were more "innocent" times for sure.

I was watching the video for Rocking With The Radio - that's a great fun clip. What do you put the fans enduring passion for Blue Tears down to?
Well, assuming there really are fans out there with an enduring passion for the music we made then - I think it was the innocence, the honesty.
We really were from this small town, music really was our one way out and we were going for it. We had nothing to lose and the whole world laid out before us. No one wrote songs for us, we wrote them ourselves…and they were very real.
The song you mentioned Rockin' with the Radio, I actually wrote that driving around my hometown, just checking out all the old haunts and then I had an hour or so drive to Memphis where we cut the song the same day (the demo).
I don't think that was a great song by any means, but the ideas in it were very real and hopefully that comes across.

How did the ride end? Why wasn't there ever a second album?
That is a very good question and one I really don't enjoy talking about, but I'll go ahead and get this out of the way so we can get on to brighter things.
Let me just say that MCA didn't just decide to drop us one day, it wasn't like that. Blue Tears never officially went in the studio to cut the second record.
A lot of songs were written for it, some very, very good material…some of which is on the new ATTRACTION 65 record. We were all set.
BUT, I was not watching my back...and I got taken pretty badly. I'm not going into who, what where none of that and I never will.
I LEGALLY could not do anything I could not make a record. That's all I'm really going to say about it. My hands were tied.
By the time the smoke cleared I had lost every dime I had. I had lost my house, my wife, my band - everything. Had nothing. I was so burnt by what had happened to us that I took about 4-5 years and just tried to forget it had happened at all.
A lot of people that knew me during this period didn't even know I played guitar, much less knew about the band. But I came out of all that much stronger than before. Fresh with a serious story to tell.
I have lived through a lot of things that most people don't have to go through in their lives, thank God.
So when I say: "You say your life is goin' nowhere and you feel like givin' in? Take it from someone who's been there feeling lonely ain't no sin…you sit and wonder why everything passes you by maybe it's time to roll on "
Man, I know what I'm talking about .

Wow, I had no idea Gregg. Do you still see the other 2 guys? What are they doing these days?
No, actually, I don't. I'll be seeing Bryan for the first time in about 5 years tomorrow night; his daughter has a band Vista. I'm sure they are killer. Will probably be huge!
If they have any of Bryan's talent they will be...anyway. I'm excited about that.
I haven't seen Charlie in many, many years. I liked Charlie a lot, but was never close to him like I was Bryan and Michael. Just didn't click the same.
These guys were like my brothers - Mike is in Attraction 65, of course I know Bryan does a lot of music. Just an incredible all around musician singer/songwriter...a huge talent.
I wish him the best. I have no idea what Charlie is up to, but I'm sure he plays a lot of drums and I wish him the best as well.

As you know, there is a big cult following of Blue Tears and some unreleased tunes are traded like gold!
Most of the time they are passed of as the second unreleased Blue Tears album. But can you tell us the truth behind these tracks and where they came from?

That's an easy one - the only "official" Blue Tears releases were on the Blue Tears album. Everything else you may have heard or can download off the net are just 8 track demo's - some done before the record some after.
I'm going to make a lot of that available on melodicrock.com! Just to stop these guys who are actually selling it!
I don't like the way a lot of it sounds, doesn't sound like me. A lot of it was very experimental for me…some came out great like "Storm In My Heart", "Call My Name" or "Strong". Those were gems that were never recorded for a record so I pulled them out for the ATTRACTION 65 album and they kick.
There are some like "Loud Guitars, Fast Cars and Wild, Wild Women". Mike and I wrote that in about 10 minutes as a joke. Then realized it was kind of good in a corny sort of way. Our management gave it to Contraband for their record and it ended up doing very well for us. I normally would never even claim it don't like it at all but it was fun doing the Motley Crue thing.
I love Motley Crue...really love that band. Always have, but there is only one Motley Crue and we sure weren't it! ha ha!

Is there any chance you might package any of the unreleased tracks for a official or indie CD release? Some of the songs being traded are horrible quality!
NO but there is a very big chance that I will give you a big library of these songs and you can do with them what you will as long as it's free!
I wouldn't charge anyone for my demo's!!! How desperate is that? Nah if you want to hear them it's an honor for me to put them on the site.
I can't hardly listen to a lot of it because my voice has changed a lot over the years.
I actually learned how to sing! But let's just say here and now that I'll pass on a lot of that music to you Andrew and you can put what you want on the site how's that?

Couldn't ask for more Gregg, I'm sure a lot of folk will be pretty excited about that!
Three tracks you have spoken of made it to the new Attraction 65 album. Can you tell us why those tracks stood out in your mind to come to life in 2003?

We included "Storm In My Heart", "Strong" and "Call My Name" on the new record because quite simply, they were 3 of my best songs ever and no one had heard them other than on those bad demos that were being passed around.
I have always felt that those were my 3 best songs of all time to be honest with you and they weren't on the Blue Tears record. I had “Call My Name” for that record, but the producer didn't want to use it.
If I could play one song on an acoustic guitar to anyone and only had a chance to play that one song to show them what I do - it would be one of those 3 hmmm…then again maybe “Eden”…hard to say…let's say it would be one of those 4.

Would you mind making a comment on each song on the album for me?

Believe
Ahhh…the big rocker to blow your face off. Have to have a kicker right at the beginning. For those of you losing your religion, losing your grip… believe and no, it's not a contemporary Christian song...ha ha

Roll On
Very serious song. Let's just say it deals with addiction. That's my take on it anyway...could be a lot of things. We all see them - people side tracked in life, afraid to move forward, just pulled over on the road of life…medicating themselves senseless just to get through the day. This song is just a song of encouragement. Everyone reaches a crossroads and everyone's got choose.

In Another Life
Very, very cool song…kind of an alternate universe idea. Have you ever met someone and felt this huge connection to them - almost like you know them, or were meant to know them. And you have that moment when your eyes meet and the two of you just kind of know it, your life sort of flashes before your eyes. You smile and say "yeah, right…in another life”. And then head for soccer practice…

Train
This is a big one…this is major. A "companion" song to Roll On. How many of us are sitting there waiting for that train to come rolling around the bend to take us where? Love, Happiness…it's all coming right? It's going to come to me one of these days just waiting and then one day 20 years later, you realize you've been waiting your whole life and that dream has passed you by. It's too late. Don't waste your life away, waiting on that train.

Stand
Stand is one that changed drastically during the making of the record....was a full on rocker from the start at one point....just didn't have the same soul it has now....it has such a strong message of hope and encouragement...and it just wasn't coming across that way by banging everyone over the head with it.
After I cut out all the drums and loud guitars on the beginning...it let the song breathe...Ii re-sang the whole thing in a couple of takes...and was really pleased with it.


Call My Name
This is the closest I ever came to religion in my music. whose perspective is this song written from? You tell me...sometimes it's "him" sometimes it's me…sometimes it's a man/woman thing. Depends on the mood I'm in.

Eden
This is probably my favorite of the new songs…very, very difficult to write a song about perfection…heaven. A woman that puts you in heaven…in Eden?

Strong
Just the truest love song I ever wrote…meant every word.

Rise Above
Rise above the pain and the sorrow…rise above those fools that you follow. A song of empowerment!

Storm In My Heart
This song was written at the saddest time of my life about the saddest event possible. A song about dealing with a great loss.

Swept Away
Swept Away is that guy in Roll On who doesn't get his act together. It's that guy lying awake at night thinking he may not make it until the morning.

You also made a record with Michael Sweet of Stryper. That remains his best album, with strong fan support. How was that experience?
That was a wonderful experience - Michael is a great guy.
I had so much fun working on that record and that's saying a lot, because it came during that period where my career was basically being held prisoner and I was going through a very painful divorce, but still had a blast.
Michael is a great guy, super talented singer, writer and my God what a guitar player!
I learned a lot from him on that project. I'm not sure I'd call that his best solo record, though he did some really good work after that. Another person involved in that record was Doug Beiden. I don't think he got the credit he deserved on that record. He was the engineer, but had a lot of co-production on the record as well in my opinion.
Also very talented, and a genuinely great guy.
That record started off as a secular record…I don't do Christian music never have...and didn't for Michael's record. I think after it was all said and done, some of the songs were kind of altered to have a dual meaning to them. I'm not sure it was not a Christian record in the beginning - just a positive record…I think the label maybe spun it that way.
But who cares? It was a good record. Michael deserves to be a star in my opinion. If you ever have a conversation with him, you'll get that - especially if it's in person. He's very charismatic and to top that off he's genuine.

Are there any plans for Attraction 65 to get out on the road and tour as a band?
Absolutely! We are with "The Agency Group" - huge touring agency, we are so ready to go ready to meet the people head on!

Where did the other guys in A65 come from?
They are quite truly my 4 best friends in the world - every one of them.
I wanted the best I could find for each instrument. Some are there for one reason or another, but each guy is very important to the group. I've known them all for several years.

Could a record like Attraction 65 get made today if it wasn't for your home studio?
Yeah - if you had A LOT of money at your disposal.

How do you find working in the industry now in 2003? As challenging as it ever was?
I don't know ask me that next year.

You have been a pleasure to deal with - what keeps you down to earth and aware of the realities of working in the music business?
Hmmm not sure how to answer that my mama raised me right? I don't know - maybe it's a southern thing.

Who have been the best people you have dealt with over the years and the worst?
Well, the best have been all the folks from the Blue Tears band and Attraction 65 of course. Stealin' Horses - that's Kiya Heartwood, Kopana Terry and Jon Durno.
A very influential person for me was Jon Hornyak - he was my manager in the early days and a great friend.
He now works for the Grammy association out of Memphis, very down to earth intelligent all around good guy. I won't mention the bad guys…you know who you are.

You live in Nashville these days - when did you move there?
I live in Franklin, Tn, about 20 minutes out of Nashville.
I've lived in the Nashville area off and on since 1986...lived in L.A. for a short while…Jackson, Tn for a short while, but always came home to Nashville.

You speak highly of it - tell us why it's a great place to live?
Well, it sure isn't the music ha ha.
I love Franklin, Tn, it's kind of like Mayberry except it's about 25,000 people. Still looks like a small town, like 'American Grafitti', but with all the modern things you could want love it.

A little different than LA then?
Yeah just a little. I lived right outside of Hollywood just over the freeway in Burbank right next to Universal studios, so yeah it's pretty different.

And now this album is complete and about to be released - what comes next?
Tour...can't wait.

Anything you would like to say to the Blue Tears and Gregg Fulkerson fans out there?
Just thank you so much for listening. It means everything to me. This record is the best I could possibly do. I didn't cut any corners of any sort. I worked on it until I was finished and had nothing else to say and I'm very proud of it. I hope you like it.

Did you ever sort out that Gregg Fulkerson imposter that got us talking in the first place??
Trying to forget all about that…in denial about it!!!

Have I missed anything Gregg?
Thanks Andrew you are the best. I appreciate you more than you know. You helped influence me to try to break back into this and I think we are seriously on the right track.
Take care my friend…talk to you soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Wed
08
Feb

Gary Hughes (2003)

Artist: 
Categories: 
Interviews
Gary Hughes: 3 years of work comes to fruition.

 

Gary Hughes talks in detail about the origins behind Once And Future King, and the research and planning needed to bring such a big project to completion.


Hi Gary, Congratulations on the new album/project. When did you decide that you just had to write an epic tale based around the legend of King Arthur?
It's something that I've always wanted to do and it's something that I began years and years ago. With regard to the subject matter it's something that I was into as a child.
It was very much a part of British history in school.
What I liked about it is that so much of it is grey area. As a Legend, so much is down to interpretation and I liked the idea of something that I could add a little bit of myself into. The flexibility of interpretation.
Obviously there are certain historical facts and timescales that you have to deal with but there is so much grey area that leaves scope for your own version. I researched it for at least three to four years. I was reading nothing else in my spare time.
I honed as much as I could from various sources such as the Mallory Poem and the Geoffrey of Monmouth version of the Arthurian legends which is probably the earliest. Various other documentation from various authors, things like the Bernard Cornwell novels Excalibur, Winter King, Enemy of God and various things like that which I thought were probably as close to my interpretation as I could get.
I tried to avoid the Hollywood-isms and tried to concentrate on Arthur the battle lord trying to unite the tribes which is what it was all about. I'm pretty pleased with the way it came out. One thing that was really worrying me was that I didn't want to do this one thing and look back on it and think that I could have done it better.
If you do this type of subject matter you never return to it again, so if you're going to do it, lets do it as best as we can and the most concise. You can't ignore how Arthur was born and the legend was conceived, you can't ignore the preceding information so I had to do that in the booklet really which is something that the listener can read before the first track kicks in. Musically the concept starts at Arthur's Kingmaking after excepting Excalibur at Dragon Island, the Druids haven. I had to really narrow it down because it could have been eight albums long.

Why does this story lend itself so well to being portrayed in a rock opera?
Because it is universal and understandable around the world. It has been said that the Arthurian Myth is "a quintessentially English myth." I don't fully agree with this statement. The myths themselves are not "English" at all but are British in origin with many later additions. Certainly the tales may have become quintessentially English (i.e. slightly eccentric, tea on the lawn, cricket on the green etc). Every culture has it s own hero tales that seem to have sprung from a spark of truth, and Arthur's story, like a Christmas tree, seems to have had various baubles hung upon it over time until it has become the whimsical Hollywood favourite it is today.
The Once & Future King title was chosen for a number of reasons it is a familiar part of the legend, it is used in a great number of the tellings and retellings of the story, and at least one source tells us that it is quoted on Arthur's tomb Hic Iacet Arturus Rex Quondam Rexque Futuris (Here lies Arthur The Once & Future King).
Overall though, its grandeur makes it perfect foil for rock opera. The version of my telling does not show Arthur as the Christian hero in shining plate armour with wistful damsels and horses in coloured decoration.
Arthur in my tale is the Arthur that the majority of experts now agree he was a post Roman pagan war band leader, in the Dark Ages, pledged to save his beloved country from invasion and injustice. The shining plat is stiffened leather, canvas and wood; the knights in shining armour are well disciplined, but rough professional warriors of a British war band the gleaming spires of Camelot are the ramparts of hill forts and the crumbling remains of a Britain slowly descending into the Dark Ages after the exodus of the Roman legions. I am not positioning against the other versions, indeed, a number of the more magical / mythical elements have been retained from a story telling position (it's entertainment after all!) just that I have gone with the latest factual information available and embroidered it a little. You will find most of your favourite characters remain in the tale, though perhaps not in the traditional way irrelevant lists of many knights and various players in sub plots have been omitted to tell Arthur s story. Had I included everyone, we'd have needed a very large boxed set and a lot more time!

When planning such a big project - where do you start?
With a blank notepad and a large bottle of whiskey!
I sat with a friend of mine Lee Brimilow, who is somewhat of an authority on Arthuriana,
and patched together what we felt were the truths behind the legend.
The historical timeframes etc… Characters and where they were pivotal to the plot.
Then it was the songs and for me the music comes first always.

And that's how it develops?
Melody on chord… After that each lyric had to tell a small part of the story.
Several bottles of whiskey and three years later you have yourself a rock opera.
I read specific books any and all specific books/films/places/music that have stood out amongst the Arthurian texts available. These helped to inspire my perception of the myth.
Books: Morte D Arthur, TH White - "Once & Future King"; Alastair Moffat "Arthur & The Lost Kingdoms"; Bernard Cornwell Warlord Trilogy; Stephen Lawhead Pendragon Cycle; Marion Zimmer Bradley "Mists Of Avalon"; Paul White "King Arthur, Man Or Myth?"; Adrian Gilbert "The Holy Kingdom" an as yet unfinished work by my friend Lee Brimilow and many more.
Films: "Excalibur", "Mists Of Avalon", Arthur Of The Britains documentary.
Places: too many to quote them all, but Tintagel, Pendragon Castle (Cumbria), Glastonbury Tor, various stone circles, Cadbury Hill fort, ancient Bath.

 

 

xx


You have a lot of great vocalists on the two albums - some obvious choices, some not. How did you decide who you wanted to involve and did anyone help this process?
I tried wherever possible, to go for different sounding textural voices for the different characters. I tried to make it so that no two characters sounded alike, basically because with so much information circulating round, the last thing I wanted was for people to have to have the booklet in front of them to know when a different character was entering & so it was important that they were all different as well.
When you do something like that with ten different singers, the scheduling is a nightmare. Some people could come and sing, some couldn't; some could sing but they had to do it now, and they had to do it in their own country because they couldn't afford the time to fly over. So I was mailing tapes to some people, slotting some people in, I was doing some stuff here in Arena (my own studio), trying to be as omnipresent as possible, but when you re only one person, you can't be in two places at the same time.
As far as the choice of singers goes, I have a lot to thank Mark and Bruce for at Now And Then in that department.
I got them both over really early on to hear the roughs for the project and we chewed it over between us who would be good for each part. Occasionally when a singer didn't work out they were always helpful with new suggestions.
My friend Arjen Lucassen was also invaluable to me in that department. He introduced me to Irene, Lana and Damien.

Just how difficult is shaping lyrics around a pre-existing story?
It's actually much easier than when your creating the story from scratch.
You know what each character has to say and the point in the story where they have to say it.
I believe that the Arthurian tales have held their places in peoples hearts because they are, after all else, tales of the great achievements of ordinary men they are tales of a man and his vision of a fine place to live, of bravery, glory and defeat, of high achievement and betrayal, of love, honour, grief and loss.
All these things are contemporary, and the hero tales of Arthur show us that, though we may not live in his times, or have his goals, enemies and trials, we all undergo the same trials in our daily lives to a degree. These trials and emotions will be relevant until the end of time. From that point of view, what the lyrics had to say was pretty much mapped out.

 


I really love the way the album flows, but found that it was easy to listen to any given song on its own. Was this a conscious decision on your behalf?
I'm very pleased you picked up on that.
It was a very conscious effort to make each song `stand alone' in its own right.
From a radio or performance standpoint where you might only play selected tracks it is imperative that the songs make sense when extracted from the albums.

I think it's actually a very commercial slice of melodic hard rock - not the sometimes difficult to access kind of concept album. Again, was this a conscious decision and are you happy with the results?
Yes it was a very conscious decision.
I had to try to make it as universally acceptable as possible.
In effect, you alienate a large percentage of the listening public if you make it inaccessible to them whether it be because you make it too extreme or just simply build too much of a pre conception about what they think it might be like, even before they've listened to a note of it.

Do you have a favourite track or vocal performance by one of the guests?
I would have to say that one of the most outstanding things about the whole album is the performance of newcomer Irene Jansen. Her performance on the song "Shapeshifter" from the first CD is nothing short of breathtaking. However, all the vocalists performed fantastically and did incredible justice to the songs.

I have to say that I think your duet with Lana Lane is great and I think the Danny Vaughn sung Avalon is a melodic masterpiece!
Thank you very much. I am particularly proud of our duet. It is a beautiful melody and Lana has an incredible warmth to her voice.
Danny sang the backside off Avalon and is the nicest guy you could wish to meet.
His performance takes me back to his Tyketto days. Pure commercial rock.
He has one of the strongest voices in the business and harmonizes really well over himself on the song.
I am very pleased with the way the songs worked out.

Do you have a list of favourite rock opera's/concept albums that you used as a measuring stick to how you would like to do this?
Not really. My only pre-conception was that I wanted the singers to be tonally and texturally different.
I wanted it to be obvious that we were listening to another character even without the booklet or sleeve notes in front of us.
I really liked `Operation Mindcrime', `The Wall', `War of The Worlds' but I think in latter years some concept type rock operas have been guilty of including too many similar sounding voices to my taste.
It can all become a blur. Almost like fifty minutes of the same song.
It's just my humble opinion but I think that some potentially good ideas have been spoilt through this.

You obvious decided it would be better to release the albums as individual releases, in two parts - what prompted that decision?
I felt that a high priced double album would be too expensive for the fans in one installment. Some fans struggle to raise the money for one album at a time, let alone two or a double.
I felt it was fairer to spread the releases out a little to give people breathing space. Also it is a complex subject matter to digest. Two single albums also allows them to fully understand Part One before being presented with Part Two.

I must also add that the artwork and overall packaging is wonderful. Tell us about how that came to be...
I have known [artist] Chris Achilleos for about five years now, since Ten approached him for a potential cover for Spellbound. We have, over the years, become great friends and he is a great historian himself who loves this subject matter. I was amazed when he offered to do the artworks. He had a bad experience after his Lovehunter cover and for years he has had a policy of not working with bands anymore.
He did it as a friend. The man after all is an illustrative God. He has surpassed even my greatest expectations with these two covers.
He is a true gentleman and surely one of the world's greatest exponents of fantasy artwork. All Chris's originals are large scale.
It is amazing to know that although we are looking at small CD sleeves, the original artworks are close to eight feet wide and five feet tall! The detail and colour are truly something to behold.

Sean Harris is also sounding fabulous. As with the debut (and now classic) Hugo album, why are you able to bring out such vocal performances in people? Are you a fussy bugger in the studio?
Extremely fussy.
But it has to be said that in Sean's case, he really did his own thing.
He came in to the studio and sang all day until it was done.
He lived with some rough mixes with my guide vocals on there for a few weeks.
I can only guess, but I would say by the way he sang in the studio, he probably put more preparation into his performances than anyone else.
He is a true professional and a thoroughly nice guy.

I have heard whispers of a desire to play the rock opera live - do you think that could be a possibility and how would that work? Any great desires for the story to be performed?
I think that Once And Future King is made for the stage, however, the practicalities of putting on a full blown show is another matter entirely.
I'd like to think it might be possible, but the only thing that could prevent it being put on would be the cost & another question mark is whether we'd get the original cast all together schedule wise at the same time.
If somebody was prepared to film it and make a DVD, then there's a good chance that the actual money would be accrued, but it would have to be thought out very carefully I think.
I'm certainly not ruling it out though, I would quite like to see it performed on stage, but in the current climate it's quite hard to even contemplate something like that when it would be so costly to put on.

There always seems to be something going on with Gary Hughes, so what's currently underway? A new Ten album?
Yes indeed. Next up is the new Ten studio album. We are in the middle of recording pre-production for it as we speak. We built up a great camaraderie in the band touring last year and everyone is looking forward to making this new album. If the material is anything to go by I recon that the next Ten album could be the strongest to date.
It will also be the first Ten album to feature Chris (Francis).
He is a mind-blowing player as is evident on the Once and Future King albums and the musical potential for the band is now limitless.
He has integrated exceptionally well into his role, creating his own space and in turn giving John Halliwell more freedom and a more integral role in the bands sound, live and in the studio.
After that it will be editing our live DVD/CD. Containing footage from the Gods appearance last year and our open air Summer rocks performance in Budapest.
There will hopefully be bonus footage from our shows with Asia and our last tour of Japan. Lots of backstage and interview footage edited in as well.
After that it will be a Japanese and European tour in support of the new studio album.

Might there be another rock ballad style Gary Hughes solo album sometime?
I hope so.
I would like to take the time to do another one and I am accumulating material of that type all the time.
I was looking round recently, thinking of possibly getting involved with another project in the same way I did with the Bob Catley solo albums, but maybe I'll just put more time into another Precious Ones type of album. I'm not entirely sure yet. One thing is for sure, whatever I decide to do I'll give it my 100%.

What CDs are currently on your playlist?
Evanescence, Metalica, Busted & Invertigo!

Anything you would like to add Gary?
I have enjoyed making these two albums. I sincerely hope that everyone enjoys them and enjoys them for what they are.
We are living in the PS2 computer age. To my mind if someone is going to buy a CD rather than the new Tomb Raider game, the CD has to be more thought provoking and inspiring than just twelve songs on a silver disc. Something, somewhere has to stir the embers of the imagination.
In any event I hope that I have gone some way to achieving this.
I can promise that a new Ten studio album will be completed this year for release early next year, and a live DVD/CD, complete with a more extensive promotional tour in Europe should see the light of day at some point in the foreseeable future. New albums. More cities. More shows. See you there.

And will there be a future concept album from the pen of Gary Hughes?
I should think there will have to be at some point.
I enjoyed this one immensely and although there were times when I could have gladly burned the master tapes, I am very proud of the finished product.

Thanks for taking the time to chat Gary!
Totally my pleasure as always Andrew. Take care…

 

 

 

 

 

 
Wed
08
Feb

Brian McDonald (2003)

Categories: 
Interviews
Brian McDonald: Completing an epic Voyage.

 

Brian Mc talks about his new solo album Voyage and the efforts that go into creating such an epic pomp rock release. Also check out Brain's excellent Track By Track interview.


Wind It Up was the last album - were you happy with the way that turned out and how about the sales?
Looking back now three years later at that release, I accomplished what I set out to do. The main point at that time was to release some of the rock tunes I'd written on the side while focusing on classical music in the '90's and also to write a few new tunes as well. There are a couple of strong songs on Wind It Up, but they are nowhere near the quality of the writing on Voyage. On the question of sales in 2000, we didn't sell as many as we wanted to, but I think we did alright.

Voyage sees a change of direction there - a more adventurous sound for sure. What were your set goals before setting out on the writing process and then the recording process?
A couple of conscious decisions were made before I started writing the songs for this one. The first was to head back in time to listen again to some earlier influences and take note of the writers, producers, and artists that created so much great music in the 1960's and '70's. So, while these things may or may not seem evident upon first listen, the parallels exist in the music. For example, the first song written for this release was “Out Of Time” - along with the lyrics that look at the subject of someone who wakes up after being out of it for many years, musically the song has 60's melodic themes running through it and a Wurlitzer piano sound that was typical on 70's rock albums. “Where You Are, Where I Am” is another example of this leaning toward reflection, bringing in melodic concepts from Motown writers, The Beatles, Beach Boys, and others. The second conscious decision I made before writing was based on a similar stream of thought that had to do with the subject of time as an integral part of all the song subjects on the album; a theme that runs through almost every song. As I kept this thread going, the songwriting process began to lean toward storytelling, which I think brought in a new perspective and new set of choices to make in the music.
As for some of the other processes, I set out from the start to adapt the music to the vocals at all costs. Because several of the songs tell stories, some of which are very detailed, the form and structure of the music became somewhat more complex to provide the right setting for the lyric content. The production and recording processes, particularly in the instrumentation choices and ways they were recorded had to mirror this form and structure. For example, the track “Legend” has two distinct bridge sections and an extended outro; and “Normandy” has an introductory section over a minute long before it kicks into the main body of the song. In the treatment of these, it became important not just during the writing of the music and parts but also in the recording process as well, to make sure the music set up the lyrics in a way that would draw the listener into and through the song. So, these are some of the things I was thinking about before moving into the recording stage for many of the tracks.

What did you hope to achieve for yourself with this album?
It always centers around making the best of each of the songs. I don't think I've ever had a target or measure for success more important than satisfaction with the results of the tracks themselves and that they each achieve the meaning and purpose of the original ideas. Also, along the way, like every songwriter I've ever worked with or met, I hope that listeners get something back from the music as well – that makes the experience of creating and getting the music out there more rewarding.

I certainly think it's a monster of a record - I compared the sound to Kansas, Styx, Chicago and even ELO and Def Leppard. Do these bands inspire you and are there any others that inspire?
These bands and others have made an impact on me, there's no doubt. When you're fortunate enough to come across music that really moves you, it becomes part of your language whether you admit to it or not. For the Beatles, it was 1950's rock and roll; you know, you can hear that throughout almost all of their writing. In the classical world, in Beethoven's first two symphonies, there were the melodies and structures of Hadyn coursing through the music, no mistake; for Stravinsky it was Rimsky Korsakov, and so on . . . and this is the same in any genre. So, this leads to the thought that for every writer, the influences that shape or affect their musical language become embedded in almost all of their choices and approaches to making music. For me, Led Zeppelin was a mover to me as Jimmy Page would bring exotic orchestral-like parts into their music with his guitar work and the band did this in a more obvious way with their instrumentation choices in songs like "Kashmir." And the progressive rock of Yes and the bands that followed them resonated in a big way with my Classical background. While ELO wasn't a big influence for me, there were songs and orchestral treatments that were very cool and struck me as unique for their time. And the work of Mutt Lange and his work with Def Leppard in the 1980's and also David Foster's work with the band Chicago represented different and unique types of producing, arranging, and writing that to me had roots in both classical and rock genres. Other major influences I would add are some of the Motown artists and writers from the 1960's, the Beatles, Beach Boys, the list goes on and on . . .

You are more or less a one man band! How do you organize yourself to record the album's individual parts and what comes first?
In contrast to the previous albums, making Voyage seemed to require more work along the lines of process – it was more than just coming up with song ideas and then making a decision to record them. On the other albums, for example, I would lay down many rough ideas to tape or disc, then use these ideas as the basis for new songs or construct songs directly from these ideas. But for Voyage, the process was more like writing an orchestral piece. I carried the ideas around and edited sounds and forms in my head for the most part. This incubation period lasted days, sometimes a week or longer, whatever it took to make the song whole and get to the place it needed to be for to give off the "feel” that it was ready.
Some of the songs you hear on Voyage took weeks to get to this place, and only a few came very quickly, like the tracks “Where You Are, Where I Am”, “Out Of Time”, and the title track, “Voyage” which seems to have written itself in less than half an hour. After a song would get to this stage, and I started to think about the best way to go about recording it, here would be the next set of decision points. In some cases I started with a scratch guitar or piano and guide vocal. For the more demanding uptempo tracks, I played the drums to create a guide track or used a click track, usually with modified tempi throughout the song, paying particular attention to transition sections and breaks/bridges until things felt as they did when playing the song through with just a piano or guitar. On the songs where a guitar or piano track were used as a guide and I either played drums or programmed them using samples I recorded previously, I could move quickly to the next steps which were relatively simple because the instrumentation had already been worked out in my head. Bass and keyboards would come next, then rhythm guitars, then backing vocals. When the track was feeling good and about 80% there, I'd record the lead vocals. If the track wasn't there as it should have been, I'd put it aside and move to working on another song.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the vocal performances for each song and it was a quick process to get either the vocal performance I wanted or make a decision to file the song away and come at it another day with a new approach. With the lead vocal track down, more often than not additional instrumentation and solos would be added, depending on the nature of the song. And all of this would be much more difficult without the luxury of having the means to record and not being worried about studio rates and session fees; and the technology gives you a hand here as well - the advent of non-linear editing and mix automation provides the freedom to change things even right up through the late stages of mixing as well as allowing control over the fine points of a mix and arrangement in ways that provide great flexibility in the later recording stages.

You do take your time recording albums - how long did the various parts of this record take to complete?
I recorded over twenty songs this time out, and narrowed those to thirteen for the European release, and fifteen tracks for the release in Japan. I also wrote many other songs and some instrumental pieces during this time period. In addition, there are other things I've done to make a living so far; making music doesn't seem to pay all the bills, no matter how much work I put into it! If I were just to concentrate on making rock albums alone, I might be able to release one every seven or eight months, but as things stand, I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to write and release the albums I've done so far, and I'll continue to write and record as much as I can, as time allows.
To answer the question directly, I'd give a rough estimate of a few days on average to cut the basic tracks for each song, one day per song to cut the lead vocals, a day for each background vocal session. Each additional instrument could take anywhere from a few hours to a day depending on the complexity. And additive instrumentation or additional harmonies might take a day. In between the actual creation of the songs and the recording sessions themselves, I was involved in other projects as well, so I was in and out of working on about twenty or so songs constantly. So, considering the number of tracks recording in a single song on Voyage and the time put into making the song right before getting down to the recording process, you could definitely say I take my time going at it!

You have a few different moods on the album. Was that intentional?
Not intentional, but I like that aspect of this release. After finishing “Wind It Up” in 2000, I had this feeling that had been catching up to me during the recording of that album; a feeling that I was locking myself into constraints that held back the development of lyrics and freer flowing musical ideas. So, letting go of all of that and just writing led to the different moods and experiments with forms and melodies.

I see high-tech pop/rock then a more adventurous progressive element in the last few tracks?
The music is definitely touching that space in some of the songs and the next release will be more along those lines throughout I'm thinking. I was very satisfied with the sound of the instrumental break sections and outros of songs like “Shadows Of Angels” and “Legend” and the instrumentation choices in those and some of the others. That's the ground I'll start to build upon for the follow-up to Voyage – you know, to bring these elements out more than just in the breaks and instrumental sections and incorporate a few more surprises.

How about the addition of strings, brass and bagpipes! How do those instruments get into the plan of the album and are there any logistical problems getting those recorded?
Those instrumentation ideas came along with the first concepts of the songs for almost every track on Voyage. So there was no getting around the fact that I had to go out and get the players to do it. Recording strings is always a challenge, but easier when you have great players willing to experiment with you, on this the Mozart Force ensemble was great. Brass was easier as you can be very flexible; for example, recording many passes of a couple of instruments at a time to get the sound and feel you need for each part, then mixing these later. Recording of the bagpipes for the song "Unfinished Bridges" started with giving Liam McKenzie the parts, then recording them in several passes. As you probably realize, this instrument is a challenge to play, and this degree of difficulty can be compounded when you have someone like me who knows so little about the instrument demanding that certain lines and phrases be played a certain way. So to compensate for my lack of knowledge of the instrument, I rewrote many of the original melodic lines of the bagpipe solo so they could be played, and where I wouldn't compromise, I grabbed a bit of phrase here and there and edited it into the track where I wanted it to go.

Is everything recorded at your home studio?
Everything was done at my place, with the exception of Reb Beach's guitars and a few of the more exotic instruments (harpsichord and bagpipes, for example) Reb has his own studio and his tracks were recorded there.

How much do you think the album would have cost in a hired pro-studio?!
I can't imagine what it would cost, but I know that there no way a record company would pay for that many hours in a major studio! At that point, you might as well build your own place anyway. How's that for a circular argument?

I love the two big ballads - Night You Said Goodbye and between Heaven And Heart. Have you always been a fan of big ballads and where do you draw musical inspiration for these two tracks?
Thanks for that. Influences for writing ballads come from so many places. If I lined them up, I'd say inspiration comes from songs like Paul McCartney's “Yesterday”, which is probably the perfect ballad, to those classic pop ballads of Chicago in the 1970's and '80's. After I wrote “Heaven and Heart”, I thought it might be somewhat of a departure from the usual form, but as for “The Night You Said Goodbye” I had written that tune in the '90's and would consider it typical rock ballad form and changes. It was Magnus Söderkvist (A&R, Atenzia Records) who suggested I re-record that one for this release. It seems to get along with the other songs on the album.

I still think those tracks could be eaten alive at radio - have you thought of trying to get the songs placed in soundtracks? Or is the process of placement and radio play just too complicated/hard these days?
Several years ago, artists would depend on the record label or managers to plug in to these types of opportunities. These days, it takes more to get you there. Without a strong push for radio play in the U.S., it comes down to who you know and the luck of timing. There are a couple of tracks on Voyage that I'm sending out to producers in the chance that one might be the right fit for a particular movie or film project, but as always, being there in the right place at the right time rules the ability to make it happen. As far as Europe and Japan, I'm completely depending on Atenzia and King Records to make it happen as best they can. If the songs are able to make it on to radio playlists, I think there's a good chance for success with this one.

Do you have plans to market the record in the USA?
The last two records have been targeted for the most part at Europe and Japan, and marketing in the U.S. has been secondary. It would be great to get that chance, but as you know, strong sales and radio play in a non-U.S. geography doesn't necessarily mean you'll get the knock on the door to release on a major in the States. The market here is a strange beast right now, and I think a lot of folks are trying to understand the logic behind what's going on. I think for the most part it's become almost completely a reactive industry in the U.S. and as has moved about as far away from developing artists as it can go at this point. But despite the music business side of things, to my ears anyway, along with all of the things I don't like, some great music is being released here. And it would be something to hear Voyage get radio attention in the States, because I think these songs would stand out as something completely different from the current field playing today on rock radio. Until then, for people in the U.S., Voyage will only be available online or as an import in the major music retail shops.

We did a great Track By Track for the album, but aside from those comments, do you have personal favourite tracks from the album?
My favorite songs are “Where You Are, Where I Am” and “In The Shadows Of Angels”. Lyrically these two have some personal meaning, and also, no matter how you sing them or which instruments they are played on, they feel like songs that are easy to understand and relate to as a listener. Also, the ballad “It's Only You I Need”, which is only on the Japan release of Voyage, is one of my favorites as well.

Did you get a buzz to see the debut B.McD LP re-issues on CD last year?
Yeah, that was something. It seems a lot more people than I had originally thought were really into that album when it came out. I got this huge dose of email for many months after the re-release of that album on CD which really surprised me. I know we saw some sales in the U.S. for the original release, but I had no idea of the number of people in Europe that were into it and that still had the LP or tape in their collection years later!

Where do you go from here then Brian? What's first up on your to do list and what else lies in the future?
I'll get back to some instrumental pieces that I've been wanting to get to for awhile, and next month I'll start the new course into writing for the next album. As you mentioned earlier, it takes me a long time to do one of these so I might as well get started. And if the opportunities arise, it will be great to get the band together and play the music from Voyage live.

Would you like the opportunity to play live more, or do you prefer studio work?
I like both recording and playing out; any time you get a chance to play your music for people who want to listen – that means a lot. Whether it's to a single listener, a small group of people, or a concert hall, it's the same feeling. The studio work is also another extension of writing – it's something you do to reach as many people as you can with music, so I'll always be in there recording something. In the balance of things, I'm looking forward to more opportunities to get out there and play having just spent so much time recently in the studio.

What else musically do you get up to between making these great albums?
I write instrumental pieces, play a lot of piano, do some session work, vocals and keyboards primarily, and work on other projects to pay the bills. And this summer, I'm thinking of learning to play the violin. I've always wanted to do that.

And what do you do to relax?
I write and listen to music, believe it or not. Another thing is to spend summer days anywhere near the water, sailing or windsurfing.

What is Brian McDonald listening to in his CD player currently?
I've got a rotation going this week in the multichanger: The Beatles “Abbey Road”, Matchbox 20 “More Than You Think You Are”, Joni Mitchell's “Court And Spark”, and Gabriel Faure's Fantasie for Piano and Orchestra in G major – the Faure CD has been in there now for several months, I can't seem to put it back on the shelf.

Anything else you would like to add Brian?
Just a bit about melodicrock.com – As a listener, I really appreciate your efforts in providing a view into music that would otherwise not be made available or brought forward in the press. It's been a great resource to many people, so thanks.

Too kind Brian, I'm just doing what I love. Thanks for taking the time out to do this interview!!
www.brianmcdonald.com

 

 
Wed
08
Feb

Glenn Hughes (2003)

Artist: 
Categories: 
Interviews
Glenn Hughes: The voice of rock is finally comfortable with his with his role in the rock music world and is delivering some of the best work of his career.
Hi Glenn, now's okay to talk for a few minutes?
Oh, yeah. I just got home in time.

Fantastic mate, thank you for that. How is HTP II coming then?
Well, I'm really excited by it because I wanted to make another record that was similar to the first one. It's probably more melodic than the first one and I wanted to keep it in the box of what the first one was, but this one has probably more music in it.

Right.
When I say more music, it's got more harmonic thread. Obviously you'll have to hear it, you'll hear it soon. It's a good follow up, Andrew. It's a strong follow-up.

I love the first one.
Yeah, the first one is the blueprint and I didn't want to go too far out of the box on this one, so it's got moments from the first one and it's got the big musical harmonies and its got the classic sound. We're really, really happy with it.

You've got your own solo album, which I've been listening to - I can't tell you how much I love it. It's just fantastic.
Andrew, I've got to tell ya… we know each other pretty well and the thing is for me over the last 10 years of making solo albums again, I'm trying to find... You know the curse, should I do this, can I do all these things, and I finally realized, like a told you a couple of years ago, I come from Deep Purple, and I finally realized that I've been around the world a couple of times since we spoke and everywhere I go, every single… whether it's the Far East or South America or Europe, I've got this big name from Deep Purple and the long hair and the California Jam and I finally realized, I'm not going to fight it anymore, I finally realized… If I'm going to have Glenn Hughes on an album, the name Glenn Hughes, it's going to have to be a rock formula that people will identify.

Great.
I've been listening to a lot of my older work from the '70s and I've been going, okay, if I'm going to make music in this era, I've got to make music, let's just say, I left Deep Purple and I'm going to make music I should've made when I left. It's actually carrying on from there.
In a way, but you see, the trouble is with me Andrew, I've go so many musical things going on in my head…

Absolutely…
That's it's like I don't want to do inappropriate things in music that might confuse people, because the average listener is probably not going to hear where I'm going because I've probably advanced a lot as a songwriter. What I've been doing with HTP, and especially with Songs in the Key of Rock, is really making focused records, you know, for the listener who enjoys classic and melodic rock.

Well, you are an enormously talented singer as far as variation.
Thank you, bro.

I've always appreciated the fact that you can and do change style and are always quick to follow-up with something different again.
I've got to tell you something, I have been lately, the last 2 years, the most prolific as far as creativity goes with writing, I have a tap running in my musical vein that will not stop.

What do you attribute that to?
Opening myself to music in a way that I stopped… I've always been a fan of music, and all kinds of music, but I realized that I wanted to tap into something that was more melodic… I really wanted to go back into more harmony. It's all about the singing voice and what can I do with the voice and what can I produce with the voice. I've been trying since HTP, the first one, and with Songs in the Key of Rock to make a statement with the voice that I don't think many singers are doing anymore. I'm not saying good or bad, I'm just trying to use my voice in a way, and I've been trying to write songs in a way, that will enhance my voice rather than making the average rock track. I think I've been really pursuing songwriting more than ever. I've actually realized that that's what I do for a living and I really enjoy that process.

Now I don't have the credits for Songs in the Key, but you've obviously written all the tracks, but…
I wrote about like 80% of all of it. And that probably goes with HTP and HTP II. I'd say 70-80% and that's attributed to Joe, that he really entrusted me with the content. Like I say, all of a sudden I've started to write more. Because, I think, every artist goes through a period in their life of low self esteem, 'Am I good, am I this, am I that' and I finally broke through a barrier a couple of years ago and said, “I'm going to go for it, I'm going to write more songs.” I've always thought that I was a good singer, but I was always on the shelf, “Can I write songs, can I write great songs,” and I finally realized, you know something Glenn, you're a good songwriter, you should write more songs.

You're a damn good songwriter, and I must say…
I'm just saying… I can't really say, you can tell me that… I think what we're doing from Songs in the Key of Rock to HTP is not afraid of going into some harmonic things that we're doing that other people aren't doing in rock anymore. Remember in the late '70s we had the Queen thing going on, with all the big voices, and then Yes before that, and then of course, The Beatles before that. What I'm trying to do now is use the voices of me and Joe, or just me alone, that will bring listeners in and say, “This is good melody. We can actually listen to this.”

Fantastic. I've just been writing a review for the album actually and that is something that I've commented on, that your voice is… I mean, you've got hooks as far as songwriting, but your voice is an additional hook on every verse and every chorus, because you flow the melody through your voice.
I told Jeff Kollman, my co-producer, before we started on Songs in the Key of Rock, I said, “This album” … we've already written the songs and we're in pre-production, I said, “Listen, I'm really geared up to sing on this record,” and I said, “I really know what I want to do, so just let me go with it.” And just like I always do, it took a couple of days to sing it, that's all, it was really done quickly, he said, “How do you do that?” and I said, “I pretty much, I just let it go, it's all pretty much first take.”

Wow.
Most artists that I know, Paul Rodgers and people, these guys are all pretty much straight in there and doing it. And Joe's the same way. Andrew, I've got to tell you. These are good, exciting times.

Excellent. I'm really pleased to hear that because quite often I get, more so these days, I get artists that are not as excited.
I'm excited by… here's the deal with me, I'm excited about what the future holds for me as a songwriter. As you know, we live in a society where in classic rock and melodic rock it's all old artists or what have you, or even some of the younger artists, we're not like the Flavor of the Month, but what I'm trying to do in this genre, I want to stay true to it, I want to bring some, HOPEFULLY, bring some quality into what we're doing. It's not just your 4 or 5 piece band with a lead singer out there. It's basically trying to get the right arrangements, the right instrumentation, and it's all vintage by the way, vintage sounds, not so much digital, it's also sort of analog instruments from the past, and trying to go for something… it's almost like, gosh, I hate to say this, but I think I might've said this to you last year, I think, with HTP especially, I think we're making the record that Deep Purple aren't making.

Yeah, well Deep Purple are under a bit of pressure to come up with a record aren't they?
Right.

Songs in the Key of Rock sounds like it could've been recorded in 1978 or something.
Yeah, you know, Andrew, I'm glad… well, I've said that to people and I was very clear on what I wanted as far as tones, vintage tones, with the drums and the guitar.

Yeah, with the Hammond organ going…
There's some vocals… there's probably a little more vocals on the record than the one before and I wanted to add another voice, Alex Ligertwood is an incredible singer.

Yeah, I noticed it had some good harmony to it.
He's great; he was with Santana for a long time. He's one of my best friends. I was very excited about the song content of Songs in the Key of Rock. I think there seems to be a bit of an upward thing going right now. You never know what's going around the corner in this industry, you just never know. All I can say to you as a friend, I feel like I'm going through a creative surge right now, and I'm actually flowing with it.

No connection to Deep Purple, but there's a saying about falling into good form – a Purple Patch - I think you're right in the middle of your own Purple Patch, which is obviously a very relevant saying when referring to yourself!
Andrew, I've been sober for quite some time now and I've been working sort of crazy for the last 10 years, but for the last 6 months since Songs in the Key of Rock, I haven't stopped. I haven't stopped writing/producing for other people. It just seems to be for me right now my period where I'm going through this vacuum of moving really fast. I'm pretty focused and I'm prepared for the next step, whatever it is. I think we've all got a twist of fate in our lives where God deals you certain cards, whatever they are. All I know, is I've gone through some periods in my life where there were some dark times, you know that, and now I'm coming through this period where I've been doing a lot of good for myself in the last 10 or 11 years and I think I'm going through a period where I'm living through a few promises where I feel in a spiritual place, in a pretty good place actually.

Good.
So, I think that's probably what's coming through the music.

Yeah, it's a very positive album. It's a feel-good album, I think.
I think it's a great start to probably a turning point in my writing and producing of records.

Wow, okay.
Like I said to you before, if I'm going to have the name Glenn Hughes on the front cover of a record, it's got to be from this point Songs in the Key of Rock and even Building the Machine, it's got to be classic rock, melodic rock, it's got to be defined for the listener that they know what they're going to get.

Great stuff.
Don't get me wrong because I love the funky Glenn, I love the R&B Glenn. It cannot be confusing to the listener anymore. It's got to be… and this is kind of in a business way as well, I have to be very careful.

Yeah, someone actually posted on my message board today about 2 hours ago and said they were looking forward to the album, they always love buying a Glenn Hughes album because they never quite know what they're going to get.
You never know. And that's partly because I didn't quite understand why I wasn't allowed to participate in the writing of all these genres, but people have rammed it down my throat around the globe, you're Glenn Hughes from Deep Purple we love you for that, we idolize you for that, and I'm going, “You know something, it's very artistic of me to try and rebel against that, but I can't do that right now.” I'm in a point in my life where people really look up to me to deliver that classic rock element.
So I decided they want me to rock, they want me to look rock. When I was going through that period where I had short hair, I was wearing the loafers and stuff, they were going “You can't do that,” and I said, “Yes, I can,” but now I understand. It's almost like you've got to suit up and look and be that. You know what I'm saying?

Even the gear you've got on the front cover… good to see the hair back…
It's long, man. It's getting really long.

You look like it could've come off the back of Stormbringer or something.
Isn't it wild?!

It's great!
And you know, like I say, I'm in a good place spiritually, we're half way through HTP II, which is just going to be a monumental piece of work.

I can't wait to hear it.
We're half way through the vocals, and we'll be done on Saturday.

Really? Wow.
Yeah, that's going to come out the end of September, you probably know that.
Andrew, while I've got you on the blower…

Yes?
You're reviewing the one with “Secret Life” on aren't you?

No. I'll do the European review so…
Well “Secret Life” is on the digipack, it's the extra bonus track. It's got the song “Change”, like I wrote to you, “Change”. That's the Japanese bonus track.

So “Secret Life” will be on the European…
Have you heard that one yet?

Yes, I'm a big fan of that.
I love it. It's kind of funky and it's definitely got that blues… you know, I wrote “Lost in the Zone” for Paul to sing with me.
We were going to do a duet on this particular record but he went off to Mexico and split for a while.

As big a fan as I am of Paul Rodgers, I'm really glad it's only you on that song because I think that's my favorite track off the album.
Personally, I'm in love with that track.

I think it defines you as a singer. If I wanted to play someone a Glenn Hughes track, I think I'd be getting out “Lost in the Zone”.
You know something Andrew, for me, and coming from you, because I respect you…

Thank you Sir!
This means a lot to me because this personally is one of my favorites.

Great. Pleased to hear that. I can just tell… I like “Gasoline”, I like “In My Blood”, I like “Standing On The Rock”; it's just completely over the top.
You know, it could be that as the artist, I'm so close to these records I'm making, but when I was making Songs in the Key of Rock and working on the cover and the title, somebody said to me last week, “It's a great album title for this record”.

It is.
I could've told you a year ago what the album title was going to be because I always know the album title a good year before I make a record.
So I said, I want to make this record a statement and I better be on the money at least.

Yes. You nailed it, I think.
Let's look back; let's take, for instance, Ronnie Dio, another good friend of mine. When you look at Dio, like he's never really gone off course has he?

No.
He's always been never the Flavor of the Month, but he's always been that hardcore, down the middle, sort of metal thing, and for Glenn Hughes, I've always loved making the different styles of music in the early '90s.

Well I love Feel as an album…
I do too, but I said to you earlier in the interview, I now realize, years later, that I've got now a focus and I really do, of where I am now and where I was last year, and I'm going to continue in this style because if I stay in one format and don't try and go out of the box, and it really is important now, I think there's going to be more success, or whatever you want to call it, I think I'll probably get more people coming to see me.

Yeah, I think so, yeah.
And on the other side of it, the artist, rebellious, crazy guy always wants to stretch out and go a little out of the box, and I can do that in other things like I can have a side project or I can guest with somebody.

Yes.
But if I'm going to have Glenn Hughes or the Hughes Turner Project, it's got to be in a window where you and all the people that love me from the old period will dig it, you know?
And it's not saying that you don't dig Free, or you don't dig this or… it's all kind of cool.

Yeah. And From Now On… is still my favorite record. I think I tell you that every time I talk to you <laughs>!
For a while, I wasn't agreeing with you, but I started going back and listening to it 2 years ago, and my God, it's a good piece of work.

It's a great album. I still love it. I still play it regularly. I think Songs From the Key of Rock might slip in just behind that.
Well, for me I'm excited, I think every artist is excited with a new album; they're not going to tell you it sucks. I think you and like people that are in Burrn! magazine are going to give it a big, big review and all those at Frontiers are really freakin' out. I think a lot of people are expecting good things from this, Andrew.

Yes. I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the press on it and stuff.
Oh, me too.
Man, I've got to tell you, I was speaking to Neal Schon about you last year.
You've been important for me… hey, man, there's a lot of people on the site, so when you're telling me that you dig my record, it's beautiful, and you'd tell me if you didn't dig it.

Thanks Glenn….very cool!
I think Andrew in this piece of work you can hear that I've gone to an extra length to get a focus and to get a songwriting and to produce it in a way… I went a little bit longer than I normally make a record. I was in the songwriting process a little longer and you can tell that I took more time on this.
And I think it's important for me now to… it's not really about a budget any more, although it is, I think it's important to get it better every time.
So the good news is, the songwriting hasn't stopped.

Fantastic.
There are some moments on HTP II that are just going to blow your mind.

I can't wait to hear it.
There are moments like “On The Ledge” last time, there are moments on the record this time that are just going to blow your mind.
You know what we've got to do bro? Once again, we tried this 5 years ago. I've got to get over there man.

That's something I wanted to talk about. I've got a couple of people that might actually be a bit more advanced than just all hot air and talk about doing some shows.
Andrew, what most artists do nowadays, you've probably heard about some people, most artists, like a singer like myself or some other person, would probably go to Australia and play with a great band that was already there. And they would rehearse my songs appropriately.
I understand how the cost of getting 10 guys over from the U.S. is just astronomical, especially with no record company support. I think for me to get an underground swell going in your country, would mean me coming over 2 or 3 times.
And in that format of getting shit up and over there, and just working it in a way that we can work it.

Let me work on that because I'm determined to make an effort.
In Trapeze, when I was very young, the only way I got to join Deep Purple and the only way we were playing 5000 seaters, was word-of-mouth. And even to this day, people keep coming back because they've heard it from a friend.
Because we don't get the best press. We don't get a lot of promotion, so when I play it's always a friend brings a friend from before. It's always been like that. Once again, I'm very happy where I'm at.

You should be. You should be. How's Shape 68 coming along?
You know, Shape 68 is on hold. We haven't heard anything about that, there's no music going out to people. What it is Andrew, I'm trying to… what am I trying to say? Shape 68 is a project where I can be really loose and free with, where it's not really featuring me, although it is vocally. I'm not using my name out front and I've written some songs that aren't, let's just say, classic rock. I'd say they're more modern American rock.
Big on vocal, big on melody. Not big on heavy guitars, no solos. It's all pretty much the format of more popular music, without me saying it's pop; it's not. When I say radio, I don't want to freak you out, I'm not trying to get on the radio by making 3-minute songs. I'm just trying to make some kind of music that isn't something that I need to do. It's something that I put out for more artistically. It's on hold right now because I decided that the first 5 or 6 songs that I wrote probably wouldn't get a deal because they're too… if you know anything about American radio right now, it's so not right.
You've either got the Sum 41, these college bands that all sound like Green Day and then you've got the… it's like there's no room for the music I'm making.

It's much the same down here. There doesn't appear to be room for much. There's no variety on the radio is there?
No, because the music… it's more male Sheryl Crow-ish than… it's not Glenn doing Stevie Wonder, it's more American songwriter stuff. If you can strip it down to acoustic guitar and voice, it's not really anything other than just the songs. And my God, there's nothing on the radio like that.

No. It seems to be really hard for a male to cut a song anywhere on the radio.
It's very difficult.
I've written a song for Aretha Franklin in the last month, and over here we have this show American Idol, you probably have it in Australia.

We don't, but I know of it.
So it's probably coming, but I'm writing for one of the gals, one of the winners last year.

Right!
So I'm actually writing for like 20 year old kids and I'm writing for Aretha Franklin, so…

There's got to be some money in that.
It could be worse!

It could be worse couldn't it? I got some news yesterday and I'm glad I got it in time because I would've been mad if I couldn't have covered it with you. I'm a huge Mr. Big fan, and I'm completely flipped that you're singing 2 songs on that album.
Well, I've done “Alive and Kickin'”.

I just love that. It's one of my favorite Mr. Big songs.
And they made me do “Price You Gotta Pay” because they thought it would be good for me to do that. And I don't know if you know, but Paul has requested for me to sing a Mr. Big duet with him.
I got a call from his manager like 2 months ago to say that Paul only wants to do it with me and I said I'd love to sing it, but I haven't done it yet. I don't know if that's actually going to happen or not. It might, but they wanted… Paul has requested me to sing that song with him.

I heard he was doing that song, so I hope…
I thought he was going to sing the whole thing, but he wants to do a duet with me. I think it's very cool. I'd love to sing with him anyway, but we'll see. For sure those 2 tracks are done.

You've used the same band a few times in a row now; you've got a pretty tight outfit.
You know, I want to give JJ Marsh a mention. He's been with me since Addiction, so he's been with me for like 7 years and it's like the guy… look if I've used the guy for 7 years, then obviously I've got a thing going with him. He's really, really, really understands my writing and singing and we have a great connection together.

Does he play the majority of the guitar on this album? I know you've got Jeff on there as well.
We can talk about that. “Stoned” featuring Chad Smith, that's Jeff, “Standing on the Rock” is Jeff, and… there's one more bloody song… “Higher Places”, that's Jeff. All the rest is JJ.

Wow. Please give my very big compliments to JJ because he sounds like he's really on fire.
It could've been Free. It's like he really went back… I made him listen to Free. I made him listen to more of my influences because he's a huge Blackmore fan, as you know, and I made him go back and listen to more Free stuff and Traffic and stuff I liked. So we've got this guy that really understands the Blackmore, MKIII vibe and when we play live we do “Seventh Star” the Sabbath song and he nails that as well. He's really good at copying that shit.

Yeah. I love the riff on “Lost in the Zone”.
Oh, he's amazing.

It's just some really nice melodic playing isn't it?
What about that solo on “Written All Over Your Face”?

Fantastic.
Isn't it great?

Yeah. The whole album is real quality and the playing…
When I think about that particular song; that's one helluva song.

It's a big song. What are we looking at, 8 minutes or something?
Yeah, 7 or 8 minutes. It's really hard for me to tell you this, but when I sang that song, the end of the song when I do that thing, I got so caught in the moment I was like almost bawling, I was like whoo. Sometimes when I'm singing I just totally lose control of my feelings, I get really lost in it and you can tell in that song, it was just a moment.

It comes through in that song, you can really….
Andrew, the best high in the world – is singing. I gotta tell ya.

I wish I could.
<Laughs!>
It's unbelievable, man.

That's great, Glenn. Anything else going on, if that's not enough?
I'm asked to do various projects from time to time and I'm having to pass on a few things because I'm just too busy and I'm trying to keep the reigns on my career. I'll do something sometime if it's appropriate. I've been told… it's really difficult for me because I love the… for the longest period I wasn't working much in the '80s, and all of the sudden I get all these calls to work and I'd like to play, you know. I like to play. It's like Neal Schon. We're the same. He's the same guy. We just love to play.

He's busy too isn't he?
I saw Paul about 9 months ago, and Neal got up and played with Paul and I'll tell you… Neal Schon, and you can tell him I told you this, he… it's like God walked Neal on stage and said play. I've heard every guitar player under the sun and I've known Neal for 20 years. He played one song with Paul, and he just freaked me out. When Neal Schon is on his game, there's nobody better.

What about you two guys doing an album then?
Well, I told him, “Hey, we should do something,” and he said, “You mean it”? And I said, “Yeah, just remind me about it,” and he said, “I will.”

I know he's trying to get something together with Sammy Hagar, which would be good.
Send him a copy of the record, because I can't do that, because I would just never do that, but send him a copy of the record.

Songs in the Key?
Yeah, I think he'd love it. You know, Steve Vai is playing on HTP tomorrow.

Oh, I was going to ask you if there were any guests on it.
He's playing… Chad played on a song I wrote called “Losing My Head”, which is another like Zeppelin meets The Beatles thing and Chad played drums and Steve plays guitar on the track. So I can have a promotional sticker saying “Featuring Chad Smith and Steve Vai on the track 'Losing My Head'”. The Japanese will love that.

Yeah, absolutely. Any other guests?
No. I'm going to keep it to those two.

The last time you had John Sykes on there, which was great.
I'm trying… the manager disagrees, but I'm trying to now make it more of a band than having all these guests.

I think the band idea is a good idea, actually.
Yeah, JJ's just totally blowing everybody away on this new record and I just asked Steve to come play one track for me.

It's a pleasure, Glenn. I've been a fan since the Blues album. I was actually a late comer, I wasn't around in the '70s, but I've gone backwards since and I've got every record you've done since and I think I've got every tribute album you've sung on.
You know what's important for me though? You really got on board with HTP. You really loved that record.

Yes I did.
And I think that Songs in the Key of Rock it probably gave me a lot of confidence with HTP to come out of the box a bit with a great record like Songs, and for you to get behind this record like you did with HTP is really good for us, you know?

Well, I don't say nice things about records that aren't good. I'm not just saying it. I really do think it's a great record and it's always a great pleasure to talk to you.
And you, Andrew.

So we'll hear another solo album early next year?
I'm going to do another one next year, sure.
You know me. I'm crazy!

Thanks for the chat and your time.
God bless you, mate. Say hey to your wife.

I will. I'll do that.
Okay, brother.

Thanks Glenn
Bye, Andrew
 

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