Glen Burtnik (1996)


If there is one thing we all know about Glen Burtnik is that he is a great songwriter.
He has crafted some of the finest undiscovered pop/aor tunes that have ever been, and still today remains one of the biggest cult AOR stars.
This interview was taken a few months back, when I talked to Glen at home, inbetween making arrangements for the release of his latest CD Palookaville.
It has turned out to be a great year for Burtnik fans, (note: no longer a ‘c’ in Burtnik!) with the new studio album, and also from MTM in Sweden, an archives compilation of his unreleased tunes, some of which he discusses in the interview.
You can read reviews for Palookaville and Retrospectacle after you have read Glen's teachings!

So Glen , Where have you been hiding?
Well what happened to me, was I put out two records, and there was a change of A&R staff at A&M Records and I kinda got caught in one of those things, so you know, I had a short little moment there at A&M and then it was over.
But then I started getting into songwriting after a while, and that has been somewhat lucrative, you know, I actually did better as a songwriter than I did as an artist! It just so happens that I have just finished a record though!

That should impress your fans...
Perhaps! Hopefully!

So what of this new record?
Yeah, I just finished it and am just going to put it out myself.
You know, there was a difference in the 80’s, when I worked on my records, then I was more concerned with um, what the label had to say, or having a label. Now there is the difference in that I couldn’t care less about the label. What that has lead to though, is I have no label!!

But probably a better sounding record....
Well I hope so. I mean, I like it and I’m sure we’ll find something.

I have a five track demo of yours that I’d like your feedback on.
It features the songs ‘Wanted Man’ (One of the most classic AOR tunes you could hear!), ‘Tail Of A Comet”, ‘Another Mile To Go’, ‘Every Day Of My Life’ and ‘Nobody But You’. Where did those songs come from?

Well, those songs were demo’s for my third album, in the late 80’s,
when I finished Heroes And Zeros, um, I was writing songs for a third album, and like I was saying, there was a new guy as A&R director at A&M Records and he just didn’t understand my music and he, I guess he just didn’t like it, you know, but those were the songs I was working on.

They sound remarkably fresh to this day....
Thanks, those would have been among the songs I was hoping to release but never did.

Okay, so you are onto all new material now?
Yeah, I am completely onto new stuff, it’s a different bag, it’s very much me, and it’s the same kind of melodic approach and stuff like that, but now it’s me a few years later.

Still the trademark choruses?
I’d Like to think so!
Yeah, I’m very much a pop songwriter really. Aan you know, I can try really hard to be anything but, but ultimately it’s all from a very pop place.

Well there’s no argument there from me on that one....
What do you think of bands like Bon Jovi, that writes ten songs in five minutes, of very average quality, and have hits, but a great singer/songwriter can’t get a break?

Yeah, yeah, I don’t know. It’s hard to say. There is a lot to the music business. I think it has a lot to do with things that aren’t really music related. Whenever I meet really powerful people in record companies and stuff like that, I often feel like they are just business people and they are good at promoting themselves. And that is cool, but it’s not about music.

Not at all...
See, I don’t know, it’s not really about the music all the time, and it’s not really fair, but I’m not going to get hung up on it not being fair, cause I got over that.

You end up going nowhere then....
Yeah, I’m not bitter or anything, bitter doesn’t help you. I came to a point where I realised, and that’s why I made this record. I came to a point where I said, you know, just because you don’t have a label knocking at your door asking for a Glen Burtnik album, I shouldn’t wait for anyone to give me the license to put out a record. I should just make a record.

There are afew others like you, that are doing just that....
Yeah, sure.

You recently worked with John Waite, on the song Downtown,
from John’s solo album Temple Bar.

Yeah, John is one of my favourites....

Same here. I heard you guys did a solo acoustic tour together....
We played a number of shows, it’s been a few months now.

How did they go?
Great, Really great! You know, it was a real thrill for me to first meet him and then start writing together, and when he asked me out on the road, it was really great, cause I admire him and we get along great.
It was a lot of fun, It’s a little frightening to walk out on stage with just an acoustic guitar, but he’s so special, he’s an incredible singer it’s always great.

Tell me about the Slaves Of New Brunswick project and album....
That was an album that came out a while ago, that I wrote and recorded. It was a band we put together, but we ended up asking people tp make appearances on it. It was from my small hometown in New Jersey.

I don’t know that as many people have heard of that album...
It’s pretty crazy, pretty odd!!

What about Freddy Curci covering one of your tunes ‘Perfect World’? Do you know him personally, or was it one of those record company deals?
No, I never met the guy! He’s a good singer though. There are a lot of versions of that song. There is a Tonio K version, also there is a version by a band called What If. It has been in some movies as well, but it’s never been a hit though, but there is always somebody who is a believer in it. I’m just happy people like it.

And you had a track on the Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure Soundtrack....
That’s right.

How did you know the Tom Cochrane song, ‘Not So Far Away’?
Somebody got me to do that actually. They wanted the song for the movie, and wanted to know if I wanted to do it.

Did you like the way it was used?
I wasn’t that impressed with the movie, but it was fun to do the song.

Soon after that you were with Styx. What was that experiance like?
Well, it was okay, it actually came at a good time, because I had label problems, so when they called it was good timing for me, it helped. You know, it was a job that paid well and got me out of my legal problems.

When I bought the album, I was dissapointed you were only on four tracks as a singer....
It’s a very odd group, you know, it’s, the way Dennis De Young works, some songs sound like one group, and my songs, I just brought them in.

They sound like classic Glen Burtnick!
Yeah, well ‘Love Is The Ritual’ was actually written long before and the songs were going to be on my next solo album, but they said lets do them, and I said okay!.....funny!!

Looking back on ‘Talking In Code’ and ‘Heroes And Zeroes’...still great albums?
Yeah! I’m particularily proud of Heroes And Zeros, it was more of what I wanted to say, but I’m not ashamed of Talking In Code at all either!

They are hard to find on CD, they fetch a good price you know......
Hey! I’m valuable!

Have you got some favourite tunes?
Not that I can think of. There is one new one called ‘Spirit Of A Boy, Wisdom Of A Man’, that’s great, I usually like the newest thing I’ve written.

Who else have you written for?
Well you know about Patty Smyth. I had a big hit with her and Don Henley, ‘Sometimes Love Just Aint Enough’ (Glen also wrote three others for the album), and also Open Skyz, they did ‘Every Day Of My Life’ and ‘Open Skyz’, I co-wrote with them.

And plans for the future, Glen?
Well I’m kinda getting back into songwriting, I’m working with a guy called Charlton Teddis, who is a producer, he’s pretty cool. I’m just doing the songwriting thing.

Pay the rent, eh?
Yeah! You gotta do that!

You didn’t record the acoustic shows with John Waite then?
No, but you should ask him about that, maybe he did. I’m trying to pitch the idea of doing a live recording of some of his past music, because he’s got so many great songs. A double album or something, he’s so talented.

Surely you are selling yourself too short Glen! You should do the same!
Well thank you so much for saying so.

No worries there Glen! Thank you for talking to me today....
It was nice talking to you, take care, thanks.......