Andy Johns (2004)

Andy Johns: The man Behind The Legends.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right, OK.
That was his excuse anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the record came out great!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great bloke though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes mate.
Yes, yes.

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

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

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

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

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

Who are they?
They're called Sloth.

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

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

Yeah, wow!
He was a good guy.

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

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

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

Oh, Ok.
Wonderful bloke.

Yes it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, my pleasure.

Interview by Andrew McNeice. c. 2004 MelodicRock.com





Gotthard (2004)

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

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

Thanks go out to Frank Süpfle to make it happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MelodicRock – And Gotthard is a team…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MelodicRock – … reminds me of the Scorpions in Germany …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MelodicRock – 'Eagle', I love that song!

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

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

Steve – Absolutely.

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

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

MelodicRock – … and the voice is great …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MelodicRock – Steve, anything else you want to share with MelodicRock.com?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dokken (2004)

Dokken: Hell To Pay in 2004!


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ron: That would be great.
Jon: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ron: I agree. Definitely.
Don: You took a chance on another song “The Last Goodbye”. I thought that was interesting. It had almost like an Eastern sounding influence.
Jon: Yeah, I like that one a lot. That's one of my favorite ones as well.

Don: Yeah, that one's very different, but different can be good. I did like that one as well, but the vocals and the guitar have that real Eastern sound to it, for lack of a better term.
Jon: Yeah, it's also got that sitar in the background.

Ron: Was that an actual sitar?
Jon: Yeah.

Don: I didn't know if it was a guitar made to sound like a sitar or if it actually was one.
Jon: Yeah, that was a sitar. Don actually played the sitar on that.

Ron: Really? That's cool.
Don: That's very cool. I didn't realize that.
Jon: Yeah.

Ron: See, it's funny, as you were going down the list and saying the ones you like, to me, it just reinforces how good this album is because I'm thinking, “Yep, that's a good one, that's a good one.” It is a solid album.
Jon: Oh, thanks. There's not really any that I don't like, you know? But those are the ones that stood out more.

Ron: Sure.
Don: That's understandable.
Ron: Now from what I understand, you were actually a fan of Dokken before you were in Dokken and that's why you were sort of shocked and surprised that you were asked to join. Is that true?
Jon: Yeah, I was always a big fan and I saw Dokken probably three or four times when I was younger, in the '80s.

Ron: In the day, as we like to say.
Jon: Yeah, I was like 21 years old or something. I always thought that Dokken were a big cut above all those other bands that were going on with the big hair and the nonsense, you know. Because they could play and they had good songs <laughs>.

Don: I loved a lot of those bands, and even some of the cheesier ones, but Dokken has always been one of my favorites from that era because I thought their songs were a little better and the musicianship was a little better. In some regards it was a shame that they didn't get as big as some of the other bands who I thought were lesser bands.
Jon: I agree.

Don: I don't know if it came down to image or luck.
Jon: It was on its way and I just think they sort of self destructed right when they were on the verge of exploding.

Ron: And they were huge, you've got to remember that by the time they did Back for the Attack and were doing the video for Dream Warriors they were at the top of their game.
Jon: Yeah.

Don: Yeah, that album and the two previous ones all went platinum, I believe.
Jon: We're hoping to bring it back, you know.

Ron: Well we're doing our part and that's why we wanted to interview you and get the word out because it's really a great album and people need to know about it.
Jon: Thanks very much. I mean, especially when two young guys like you like it, man, it means a lot.

Ron: I think we're about a year younger than you so…
Jon: Oh, yeah? You guys sound like you're real young.

Ron: Oh, great! I appreciate that because we just had our 37th birthday two weeks ago.
Jon: Well, Happy Birthday!

Ron: Thanks <laughs>. Anything to make me feel younger is outstanding <laughs>.
Jon: That's awesome.

Don: I've asked you about your own work, which is kind of unfair, but do you have some favorites from the Dokken catalog?
Jon: Songs?

Ron: Yeah, what would be some of your favorite songs or albums from when you were a Dokken fan before you joined the band?
Jon: My favorite three albums are Under Lock and Key, Back for the Attack and Tooth and Nail,

Ron: Yep. Absolutely.
Jon: And my favorite songs are… pretty much everything we've done in our set would encompass my favorites. There are a few that we didn't do; I like “Heaven Sent”, “Lost Behind The Wall”; I like “Prisoner”.

Don: I always liked “Bullets to Spare”.
Jon: Yeah, that's a cool one. That's about it, everything else we seem to be playing. I like “Unchain the Night” which we're going to be doing tonight for the first time so we'll see how that goes.

Ron: That's a great song.
Jon: Yeah, we're going to open with that one tonight.

Don: Oh, really? That'll be a crowd pleaser for sure.
Ron: I agree with you. It's nice to start off with something that people know that's full throttle and you don't let them go for the rest of the night.
Jon: Do you guys think that will be strong enough to lead off? We're still going to play “Kiss of Death”, but we're going to move it down a little.

Ron: I think it will be.
Don: I think that “Unchain the Night” is maybe… I personally like that song better than “Kiss of Death”, although I like “Kiss of Death”.
Jon: As fans, do you guys think that it will be as strong of an opener as “Kiss of Death” will be?

Ron: I think it will be. Do you, Don?
Don: I do, actually.
Ron: That was actually one of my favorite songs off of that album.
Jon: I like it a lot, but I'm just wondering if the tempo is fast enough to get it going or if it's too slow.

Ron: Hmm. “Kiss of Death” is definitely faster. “Tooth and Nail”, that might be something interesting to kick off with.
Jon: Yeah, we've tried that before. We did that once in the past.

Ron: How did that go?
Jon: It sort of works better a little later in the set. We're going to try this tonight and if we speak again I'll let you know how it goes. [Note: in a follow-up email, he noted that they decided to switch back to opening with “Kiss of Death”]

Ron: Yeah, I'd be curious because, like I said, it's one of my favorites, but you bring up a good point. It's not quite as fast as “Kiss of Death”, but it's a great song.
Jon: Yeah, it still rocks, so we'll see. It also matches with our intro tape too so…

Ron: Well, that's always important.
Jon: We'll give that a shot tonight and see what happens.

Ron: I do have another question and I'm not even sure if you would be able to answer it, but the one thing I've noticed with at least the last three albums, is there's a real spiritual aspect, at least with the album covers, and when we met Don after the show, he was talking a bit about it, saying that he felt blessed by God to be able to do this kind of stuff. He just comes across as being a real spiritual guy. Is that true?
Jon: Yeah, Don is definitely a spiritual guy. I am too actually.

Ron: That's great. Sometimes there's a misconception that people in rock and roll are all about sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Of course, that's one of the things I liked about Dokken because, lyrically, they were much more than that. It's good to know, that spiritually…
Jon: From my own perspective, when I say spiritually, I'm not religious, but I am spiritual. For me, as far as the sex, drugs, and rock and roll thing: I don't do any drugs, I'm married, so I don't fool around at all <laughs>, so all that's left for me is the rock and roll.

Don: Well, that means you get to focus all of you attention on the rock and roll, which is good for a musician.
Ron: Well, the other thing is, the guys who were into the sex, drugs, and rock and roll, where are they now? You can't live that lifestyle for long.
Jon: No, you can't.

Ron: Aerosmith found that out.
Jon: For me, it is and it always has been about the music.

Ron: That's great. I agree 100%. I think some of these guys realize that they can actually play better when they're sober.
Jon: Yeah. That's right.

Ron: So you're a lawyer, you're married and you don't do drugs. Man, you're killing the whole rock and roll image. <laughs>
Jon: I still rock out as hard as I can.

Ron: Phenomenal. I can see some kind of lawyer convention where you get onstage and kind of freak everyone out. That would be kind of cool.
Jon: <laughs> That's pretty funny, huh?

Ron: That's what's great about heavy metal, it doesn't appeal to just one type of fan, you know, the drunken bozo. Although, there were a few of those standing around to meet you guys the other night, which was interesting because either you or Don kept saying, “You're not driving home are you?”
Jon: Oh, it was probably Don.

Ron: There was one guy who was just way out of control.
Jon: Was he?

Ron: He wasn't starting trouble or anything, at least he was a happy drunk but he won't remember meeting you guys, I'll put it that way! I just thought it was interesting that Don kept rehashing, “Hey, I don't want to be on the road with you even though I'm on a tour bus.”
Jon: We're all over that at this point, you know?

Ron: Yeah. I'm married as well and so is my brother. Do you have any kids?
Jon: No. I don't have any kids.

Ron: That's what you need to do right there. That'll shake things up a bit.
Jon: Oh, really? Yeah, probably. When we're ready. My wife's very young, and I'm on tour right now so it's not the right time for me, but maybe one day.

Ron: It's great. I've got three of them and they're a blast. I've got friends that tell me they're not ready and I tell them, “Well, you're never ready.” <laughs>
Jon: I guess not. It just comes when it comes, huh?

Ron: That's right.
Don: I just have another quick music question.
Jon: Sure.

Don: I know from reading how you got together with Dokken, that really it started off because you were friends with Jeff Pilson first.
Jon: Right.

Don: I'm just wondering, now that he's not in the band and they've got Barry [Sparks], are you still close with him or know what he's been doing?
Jon: I think he actually just had a baby.

Ron: Really?
Jon: Yeah. He did. He just had a baby. Yeah, Jeff's a friend of mine. I haven't spoken to him in a while just because I've been busy.

Don: I know that he just had that album with George Lynch.
Jon: How was that? I haven't heard it. Is it any good?

Don: Yeah, I thought it was pretty good. Actually, I think Jeff does all of the lead vocals on it.
Jon: Oh, I think I did hear one song, actually, from that.

Don: It was pretty good, I thought.
Ron: It was a little slower tempo than I kind of expected, but it was a good album. With George Lynch, you always want to hear something really burning and rocking.
Jon: Yep.

Ron: Of course, his interests and styles vary all over anyway so depending on what mood he's in that day determines what he'll put down.
Don: It's great that everyone can still be friends and just try to make good music together. That's what it's all about.
Jon: Well, that's what we're trying to do

Don: I think you've done it with the new album and a lot of it just comes to exposure.
Jon: Well we appreciate you guys taking the time to get us some. Hey, by the way. If you guys need any photos or anything, I'll give you my email address and you can ask me and I'll send some to you.

Ron: That would be great.
Jon: It's <email address>. I've got to run right now, but if you have something else that you wanted to ask, feel free to holler and give me a call back.

Ron: We appreciate it. Maybe the next time you come through town, especially if you're doing the arena thing, we'll try to hook back up with you. All I can say is it was a great concert, the album is awesome, and I can't wait for it to come out on July 13. I hope you guys have great success with it.
Jon: Thank you very much, guys. Man, I really appreciate it.

Ron: It was our absolute pleasure talking with you;
Jon: Awesome

Don: Congratulations on the new album. It was a pleasure as well.
Jon: Speak to you soon.

Ron: Take care. Thanks a lot.
Don: Thanks a lot.
Jon: You're welcome. Take care.

Ron: Bye
Don: Bye
Jon: Bye.




Magnum (2004)

Magnum: A brand new sound for latest CD.


Magnum Interview with Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin by Sven Horlemann - from the Bang Your Head Festival 2004

At the Bang-Your-Head Festival in Germany (read the review here) I had the chance to talk to Bob Catley. It was fun to talk to him (as you will see in the interview). By chance Ollie from SPV got me another 15 minutes with Tony Clarkin, and I didn't had to think twice about interviewing one of my guitar idols. Thanks go out also to Mirko for making it happen.

MelodicRock – Hello Bob, thank you for taking your time to talk to MelodicRock.com
Bob – Oh oh I lost my voice I can't speak.
MelodicRock – I had the chance to talk to Lenny from Kingdom Come yesterday, though right after the concert all interviews where cancelled because he caught a cold and the voice was gone.
Bob – Lenny Kravitz?

MelodicRock – Oh no, more like Lenny Wolf from Kingdom Come.
Bob – (fumbling with some cigarettes) I am going to blow some smoke in your face. Ah, filthy habit. (begins to sing).

MelodicRock – …
Bob – Have we started yet?

MelodicRock – Yes.
Bob – Ok. What's your name again?

MelodicRock – I am Sven writing for MelodicRock.com. And I know the webmaster Andrew is very much into Magnum.
Bob – Ah that's nice. [Good of Bob to remember our last encounter at The Gods 2003….but I guess he was a few drinks into the day!! – Andrew]

MelodicRock – It was great to hear two new songs from the upcoming record 'Brand New Morning' live this afternoon.
Bob – Yeah, 'We All Run' and 'Brand New Morning'.

MelodicRock – 'We All Run' is one of those songs where you get instantly hooked on.
Bob – That is great. And it shows it works. We thought it was the right thing to do. It's a nice commercial number that everybody can listen to and enjoy. The hook is there, nothing too heavy, like a party sing along song. It is actually about the holocaust…

MelodicRock – No!
Bob – Yeah. The nuclear holocaust. The songs starts with (begins to sing)
'I dreamt I saw the cities burning, at the gates I saw the angels cry.
Now there be no turning, and still I wonder why.
I dreamt I felt the hand of reason, coming slowly down and pass me by.
It's just a killing season, yeah it's a foolish lie.
We all run, it's a pity for every one.
It's all gone, and there's nothing that can be done.'

So you got the cities burning and the gates of heaven in the first sentence. There is all this stuff going on. (Recording it) I thought what did I just sang? It was wonderful. With 'the hand of reason that passes me by' that means there is no sense, no meaning.
You know, we all get away from the bombs, get away from the nuclear shit. But we do it like in a swing-your-arms-thing, you know. 'We all gonna get killed' (waves his arms)… if they only new what we were singing about! They have to go home and put the words in front of them, because we always put the words on the album, right, always did always will. And you go 'Wait a minute, this is about people dying'. We simply put these lyrics in a light, melodic way, you know. 'We All Run' could have been written as a speed / thrash / metal song. It could have been done that way.

MelodicRock – Is there a different concept behind 'Brand New Morning', because the cover is very dark with a kind of sinister atmosphere…
Bob – Oh, everybody is saying that. It is dark, whatever. I think it is fine. I think it reflects a lot of the lyrics on the album. Ok, there is a scarecrow. I think it looks fine. Sue me (laughs). You know, the lyrics are darker on that album, much darker. Magnum have done dark lyrics before. Right from the first album. What do you think 'Kingdom Of Madness' is all about? But we don't do it in a thrash metal way. Only because the lyrics are dark, it hasn't to be (grunts into the mic), you know.
We are a heavy lyric band. We are a rock band that does lyrically heavy songs. Talk to the man who does the songs (pointing to Tony sitting at a different table across the room). Talk to him.
With the song 'Brand New Morning' it is like the first day of the rest of your life. Forget everything else. Just wake up with the sun shining and start living. I only got one life. Same as you. So stop bitchin' about it and get on with it. That is what 'Brand New Morning' is all about. 'Spread your wings and you'll take flight'. Come on, what a good line is this? Ha!
I am very proud on the lyrics of this album. Especially Magnum has to be like so good for it to exist any longer. It has to be extra special for all fans. And nothing else we are going to do.

MelodicRock – Have you written any lyrics yourself this time?
Bob – Tony Clarkin writes the words. Tony is the most superb songwriter I've ever known. I just sing 'em, you know. Tony gives me words some time I don't … it doesn't hit me until we recorded the album. And when I take it home I go 'Ok, this is the finished album, let's see what we've done'. So this is what the world is going to hear in three months time, right?
Then I sit down. Cause when you are working on it, it just gets past you, you try to get some music down. Sounds good – ok. You don't analyze it too much. When you've done it and it is there you take it home. Then you put the album on. I can't listen to it straight away afterwards. But when I put it on properly – am I saying the right things? – I think 'Well, that's brilliant!'. I hope that is what gets across the people.

MelodicRock – Being right into the creative process it is hard to keep your distance and judge on your own material.
Bob – Somebody else must tell me if it is a good song. I don't know but I think it is. Tony comes with his stuff and I say 'Tony that is wonderful'. And he asks 'Is it any good?'. And I say 'It is brilliant!'. And he goes 'You are right!'.
You know, you are trying to make something that is really great. And you got to like it. Of course everybody else is going to like it even more than us. It is difficult some times. You are too close to it. Hopefully we get it right.

MelodicRock – How do you get attracted to the songs?
Bob – The first time when Tony writes down the words for me and the music is there because the tracks are done, but of course there is no singing. Tony sings to me in the studio. He puts the words down and of course we can change them if I don't like them, right? And he plays it. I then have to write it down in my own handwriting because his writing is very calligraphic. It is wonderful, but I can't read it. I have to put it down in block capitals, big letters. Like in TV with those teleprompters. And then I try to get the melody right, and see if this works. Then I realize what the words are. I don't look at the lyrics at first. Cause when you are doing it you are just trying to get it right.

MelodicRock – As a singer it is not only the melody and the words, it is also the phrasing that makes the difference.
Bob – The phrasing is most important. It got to sound natural. The way you phrase it has to live and be part of the music. And then you get it right. Also it is easy on your ear.

MelodicRock – Tony is also producing the Magnum albums…
Bob – Oh, Tony is a very good producer. He is not an engineer, he is a producer. He tells you what he wants. We use an engineer.
He goes like 'Play me one more time.', and it's the hundredths time he said that. He is never convinced. It takes him a long time to decide whether it is right. The right balance, the right mix, is everything there? And it takes a long time. But it is worth it. You can't make an album in ten minutes. Forget it. It is not going to happen.

MelodicRock – I don't know Breath Of Life, but …
Bob – 'Breath Of Life' is a good album. But this album is better.

MelodicRock – And what about the Hard Rain interlude?
Bob – Hard Rain was an intermediate thing that we did in between Magnum breaking up all those years ago. This was something we wanted to do. We didn't have to be Magnum, we could have done anything we wanted. Anything. But then everybody is going 'Oh, it is not Magnum', and I said 'Well, it is not supposed to be Magnum!', you know. But with me and Tony they were expecting Magnum.
Magnum wasn't working then. It had gone. It was finished. But we never closed the book. It was always there. And we did Hard Rain with two albums, two tours, and it was pretty good. We had some pretty good songs on these albums. Still everybody was going 'Oh, it is not Magnum…'.
So we asked ourselves: should we do Magnum again? And we said, ok, we can manage Magnum one more time. So by public demand, we are back. It is only because of the fans wanted us back.

MelodicRock – The songs Magnum stands for are such classics, they are a value for a lot of people.
Bob – Well, yes, thank you. I do hope we have classic songs. This is what the people who buy our records have to say, not me. I need people to say that to me (laughs).

MelodicRock – You got a lot of classic songs that mean a lot to the people.
Bob – When I see people in the audience sings our songs, I can't believe it. Their reaction just chokes me up. Sometimes I think 'Don't do that, I'm trying to sing here' (laughing).

MelodicRock – I got the impression your voice got better with the years.
Bob – It got better? That is because I am really old.

MelodicRock – I really mean it. It was like with Phil Mogg from UFO, he still got that impressive voice. You still have that power …
Bob – Well, we just got better. Everybody is saying the same things. I thought it was always good. But it just got better I guess. Maybe I am better than I was. You are not saying I was crap before (grins)? All right, so I am good now. I am joking of course…

MelodicRock – I feel a difference between the role of the keyboards in the past and today.
Bob – The keyboards still play a big part on the new record. There is a lot of keyboards on the new record. It is those little keyboard touches. We've developed over the years, like every band would. It is quiet different now. Before we were a pomp band. That's what we were told. Now we don't do this stuff anymore, so… Let's have an argument!
… we are different now. We have a lot of atmospheric things going on now. The keyboards are still very important. On the stage there are still the big chords. We tend to push the little touches more for the stereo effect and the atmosphere on the record. On stage you can't do that stuff so you just do the big chords. But that's how it always used to be. So nothing has changed there life. We are the same band life. On record we try to be a little more posh than on stage. We wanted a nice, classic production. You know, that's what we wanted to do.
I think this new album sounds like a band in there playing. And with Harry on the drums, he is holding all together for us, which we hadn't had for a long time. He is really good for us and now we got the right drums for us. And now we can be that big monster rock band again, and we are all back into it. But we still wonna do these nice keyboard touches, you know. Which is easy, you know, Mark comes in and Tony says 'try this and this', and it is more like some of these new production techniques.
We don't have this on stage, because there is no backing tape, it is all live. Live we are going to the basic bump and grind. It is like two different band. There is a recording Magnum, and a live Magnum.

MelodicRock – You have two new members since the reunion…
Bob – Yes it is Al Barrow, he was also bass player on Hard Rain. He was with us on the last Magnum tour, the 'Breath Of Life' tour, and he is with us now. To a lot of people he is very new. They ask 'Where is Wally?'. I mean, he is not in Magnum since 1995. Just like 9 years ago! He is gone. Al fits perfect.
Who else would I want on my right side on stage? Nobody but Al. Who would I want behind me? Harry. And left of me? Tony, who else. It just works. It is like it should be.

MelodicRock – Are their any tours coming up?
Bob – September, October and November. The European tour is mainly Germany. This is our biggest market. Always was. Still is.

MelodicRock – Not so much in France?
Bob – No, but I don't know why. We used to play Paris, but that was it. We never did a French tour. I would have loved to. Italy is the same. We did Milan and Bologna and that was it. What happened to Rome (laughs)?
It is to others to decide what should happen, not me. I'm not into booking the band, I'm just singing the songs.

MelodicRock – You feel comfortable here, at this is a heavy metal festival?
Bob – Yeah. I am fine. There is definitely a place for us today. I'd like to be on stage a bit later, but maybe next time. You know, when it is getting dark and the lights are coming down. I would like that then.

MelodicRock – Yes but it is nine o'clock and still light.
Bob – Yeah, it is still light.

MelodicRock – You got some solo things in the works.
Bob – Solo stuff is still happening. I do it in between Magnum any way it works. So with Tony organizing Magnum and when that's finished my manager and I can organize my solo stuff. Everybody feels comfortable with that. I will be doing some festivals next year.

MelodicRock – Any new directions on your solo records?
Bob – It is pretty similar to Magnum, you know. It is a bit heavier. Vince [O'Regan] plays some more metal riffs than Tony does. Vince is a metal guitarist. The lyrics are a little more 'metal'. Whatever a metal lyric is, I don't know. It is all about war and killing people and having a drink in the pub.

MelodicRock – One could have expected you turn more melodic, more soft on your solo albums.
Bob – Oh no, I am into more heavier. I like the hard rock and metal stuff, I do. I am a big Ronnie James Dio fan. A lot of the songs on the last album I did my Ronnie James Dio impersonation. Pretty well I thought, thank you very much. I am sure Ronnie would have been very proud of me (laughs).

MelodicRock – Dio were headlining last years Bang-Your-Head festival.
Bob – We are good friends. We met a few times and had a few beers together. He is a nice chap.
I wouldn't copy anybody, but I am influenced sometimes. And Ronnie is a big hero of mine, so why not. We all need a hero. And Ronnie Dio is my hero. I think his vocal performance is absolutely wonderful. If I can approach that sometimes then I am happy. It doesn't work with Magnum, but with my own stuff, that is mine, you know. In the old days David Coverdale used to influence my voice. Or Steve Perry. I do more Steve Perry with Magnum then I do with anything. Because I am a big fan of the guy. That's respect. That is good.

MelodicRock – Can you feel that there is a classic rock revival, not in a dated way, but people seem to be more open to melodic rock these days.
Bob – Something is happening. I don't know what, but something is happening for the better.

MelodicRock – Thanks for your time Bob, hope to see you on your tour.
Bob – Thank you.

We were fortunate enough to get another 15 minutes with Tony Clarkin, so I changed places and fired my questions.

MelodicRock – Since the reunion of Magnum the albums seem to by darker. I thought that maybe this is due to a certain change within Magnum. Is this intentional?
Tony – Really, there is no plan at all. I just write my songs. And we just went to the studio after I demoed them and that is it. You know, I don't even use proper guitars on the demos. It's all drum machines and guitar processors. And then we start producing properly. It just worked out really as it is. No plan. But I mean I am very pleased with it. I have to say that. It's a bit heavier and I like that. I don't know, I really don't know.

MelodicRock – The new CD is straighter and much heavier. Maybe this is because the role of the keyboards, providing major themes within the songs, changed.
Tony – Yeah it is more guitar orientated. So I guess this gives it a heavier sound. But I don't know. It was a very easy album to record. I mean Harry (James) he comes in and plays the drums for the whole album in two days. Al (Barrows) pretty much did the same with the bass. It was really easy to record which is great when it is over, you know. Whether it makes any difference to anyone listening I don't know. But it is nice to say it wasn't and album you go 'oh oh' after you finished it.

MelodicRock – 'We All Run' from the upcoming album is such a good song to show of the new CD and generate interest. The lyrical concept behind it is quiet surprising as Bob told me.
Tony – The idea of the song is that we ignore the important things in life. And the actual verse is really poetic license. I was trying to create a picture. And when it goes 'We all run' it is like we don't care anymore. Like with the cities are burning, like people starving to death, that kind of things. So that's what it means.

MelodicRock – That's comforting to hear. After Bob's explanation I was flattered by him saying it is about nuclear holocaust.
Tony – (Laughing).

MelodicRock – Of course in Germany people usually don't understand the lyrics, especially when they hear a song for the first time in a live concert. Talking about your pre-production you mentioned demoing at home. Do you work on a computer?
Tony – Yeah. I am on a Mac.

MelodicRock – Are you running Pro-tools or Nuendo?
Tony – No, I use Logic. But I really don't do complicated things there. I get my drum rhythms down and record some pilot guitars.

MelodicRock – Tony, about things to happen in the future – what are you going to do with Magnum?
Tony – We will start touring in September in Great Britain, Germany, and in Japan.

MelodicRock – How is your reception in Japan?
Tony – Well, we've never played there ever. It may not come off, but it looks like it will come off. The rest of the tour will be Scandinavia so we will be quiet busy.

MelodicRock – Seems to my it was the right decision for you and Bob to bring Magnum back together again.
Tony – Of course there was a 7 years gap (filled with Hard Rain, also fronted by Bob Catley). But I feel fresh and good again.

MelodicRock – Last years appearance at Bang-Your-Head had to be cancelled due to health reasons. This is well behind you now?
Tony – Yeah, I seem to be ok.

MelodicRock – Tony, thank you for taking your time to talk to MelodicRock.com.
Tony – Oh, thank you.



Steve Lukather (2004)

Steve Lukather: The hardest working guitarist in the business.


Steve Lukather, the legendary Toto guitarist and phenomenally popular session man lays it all on the line in this exclusive interview conducted a couple of months back. Steve and Toto have both had illustrious careers and Toto continues to tour heavily throughout Europe and beyond. Their work schedule is at time grueling and life on the road can take its toll. Steve talks candidly about the life of a rocker on the road and the ups and downs of the loss of a stable routine.
That's here in the now - Steve also delves into the past for some more brutally honest and at times, hilarious insights into his career and life with Toto. We talk about the singers, the record labels, the current musical climate and plenty more. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did conducting it.
Special thanks to Don and Ron Higgins for their tireless work in transcribing the interview.

What's up!
You there you old bag?

(laughs) How are you mate?
We finally, actually talk on the telephone. I hear the voice now.

Yeah, exactly. Yours too, how are you?
Good to talk to you mate. I'm fucking great. Top of the world actually.

Fantastic! I can't believe that we… I don't think we've ever done an interview have we?
No never.

How did we let that oversight happen? [Well, in fact, it turns out I did do a shorter Feature-Interview some time back. Check it out.]
You know what man, I guess the timing's right now.

I've been looking forward to it!

Yeah, me too!
I don't usually look forward to interviews. I figure you're not going to ask me where'd I get the name Toto.

I'll skip over the basics.
Yeah, please. It's boring and everybody already knows the answer to it anyway. Let's get into the nitty gritty shit that you want to get into.

Yeah, absolutely.
No subject is taboo. Just bring it on.

Ok, ok, we'll do that. Tell me though, what are you doing right this moment?
I'm walking through my home, I have a glass of good Italian Chianti, waiting for my wife to bring home dinner so I can eat after we're done. My daughter's got her mother's dog staying here at the house. My son's in rehearsal with his band. My wife's out and I'm just chillin'.

Great! How old is your son now?

Wow! What music is he playing?
I would say modern melodic rock. He just joined another heavy band so he's got a couple of things going.

Good on him.
He's going to play with me at the NAMM show Thursday night at the Guitar Player Magazine event Steve Vai is hosting.

Oh great!
I'm going to play a tune and he's going to get to play one of his tunes. Bissonette, Dave Garfield and Larry Carlton... You know that's going to be fun. And then get back into rehearsals and go back on the road again. Now that Simon and Dave are back again.

How's Simon doing?
He's doing much better. He's still recovering, a really tough year for him.

What happened to him? What exactly happened to him?
You know he has a pre-existing condition in his lower intestinal area. He got an infection in his body and other shit started to go wrong and the genetic thing his mom had he has to watch himself. He gets stressed, overworked, undersleep. Undersleep is not a word is but if he doesn't catch up with his rest he'll come down with something. And it kicked his ass. He had to stop working.

You're looking forward to NAMM. Is that a good thing to go to - is it still the #1 event?
Well you know we do it every year, it's the National Association of Musical Merchants. It's the guys they pick up from around the world and everybody shows off the new gear for 2004. And all the endorsees and different companies make their appearance. So I get paid, get royalties off like my guitar and I have a lot of other people that I support. And it's a big event, everybody shows up. People from around the world come and there are a lot of different shows, concerts at night. During the day you can't walk three feet without somebody wanting a picture or autograph or something. People come from around the world just to kind of stare at you. It's kind of unnerving really.

Yeah I'd love to go onetime….
Yeah it's going to be great. Steve Vai hosting, Satriani's on it, John Schofield, Vernon Reid. Pretty eclectic rockers. Everybody gets up and does their tunes and the house band is really killer. It's always a good hang.

Yeah, and everyone speculates whether Eddie's going to turn up or not.
Eddie was at my house last night he's not turning up at the NAMM show. The last time he did that it was a disaster.

Yeah, last year. It didn't go too well did it?
I didn't see him. I tried to go find him and he had left 'cause he got all freaked out. You've got to ask Eddie, Eddie questions. I'm privy to stuff I'm not supposed to talk about.

I understand.
All I know is, he's in great shape and I've heard the new music and it's incredible. What they're going to plug into that & who they're going to plug into that I'll let him answer.

I'm not going to ask you any stuff on the record.
That's cool. He's my bro. I'm just making a comment that it's not for me to be the one that lets it all out.

Absolutely mate, I agree.
But I know that, like I said, I've heard the music, it's incredible.

Can't wait to hear it.
You will, soon enough.

So when are we going to hear some new Toto stuff? What's the plan?
Well we worked really hard last year and we're going back out again. See the thing is, it's the world that we live in now. The world is not waiting for the next Toto record as far as a massive scale. We make our living on tour. You know the days of getting three million dollars to do a record are way behind. Nobody gets that anymore unless you're Bruce Springsteen. Even Bruce's sales are down. I mean overall compared to what he normally does …usual ten million. We live in a world where, face it, downloading and DVD copying, people don't have the money to spend. They don't have the disposable income. And now we are looking at concerts that cost fifty to one hundred bucks. In some cases, two hundred dollars a ticket. I mean people don't have that kind of money so they're very careful how they spend it. And you know the world economy is all fucked up.

Very much so.
So we're going to do a record assuming that we all get along. We had a little bit of a falling out in recent years and it looked rather dire for a minute there.

You did! Did you really?
Yeah but without getting into the gruesome details of it, you spend enough time on the road, people get sick and money's involved. We had a meeting last week and we aired all of our differences, so not do this anymore?
Get all of our shit out and talk about it. Start the year fresh or we could walk. We decided to hang in there. There were some miscommunications, and the right hand not talking to the left hand and bad feelings erupted out of lack of communication, as it often does. You know we needed to, as brothers, sit down in a room, in a neutral area and get it all out. We realized most of this shit both sides were pissed off about were misunderstandings on reality.

OK, that's good.
We all hugged and kissed and said we're going to go out, you know, I'm writing songs. I mean I got eight or nine pieces myself. I know Dave's got some stuff. We haven't really gotten into the crux of mean writing. And that requires time. We don't want to just throw out another fucking record, go out and tour again. Like we did last time. Shit, I'll never understand why everybody was so mad at us for doing that.

Which is this?
It wasn't greeted universally as a positive thing.

Is this the covers record?
Uh huh. Did that for fun.
Everybody's done a covers record. We didn't think we'd get more intense negative feedback. They said we couldn't write songs anymore, we sold out. I find it hard to read all this stuff. I don't really go onto the message boards and stuff; I don't have the time to do it. People send me snippets. Maybe I'll sneak in and have a look. See what people are saying. Sometimes I scratch my head and sometimes I say, well, I can see their point, I can did it. I can dig negative criticism.
But when it just gets mean spirited. It's not really…it's destructive more than anything.

There's a difference isn't there?
There is a total difference. You can make your point without being an asshole. Sometimes it gets like that. One over zealous fan can trash a message board. Somebody told me that they closed down our message board because some lunatic was on there. I don't know much about that, I check in to see what the news is, to see what's going on. I don't necessarily go through like a 900 page message board thing. I don't really…sometimes it pisses me off and makes me feel like shit. There's no point in me feeling like that. Everybody has a right to their opinion, good or bad but some people start slamming each other and it has nothing to do with the band. You know that's not good, that's not what it's all about. I'm sure you've had to deal with that on your website.

Sadly so, actually yeah….more than I'd like.
It only takes one asshole to keep lots of people out.
Some people love the attention. The internet is an anonymous thing. You can make up some silly name for yourself and go on there and just fuck with anybody just for the sake it. We're not supposed to universally love bands…..There's been a lot of misunderstanding about who and what we are, and what kind of people we are. We're just humans like everybody else and we have feelings. If somebody says, you're a fucking c***, you're an asshole, I hate your shit, you're the worst guitar player in the world, your band is gay, you should stop playing. You go, hey, that's one guy's opinion…you know what I'm saying…It's like, OK, fine, don't listen to the shit. There's plenty of music out there.

I was going to ask you, about Toto and the perception by…, not the fans but some of the wider public.
They hate us.

Why do you think… you guys as individual people are such accomplished musicians.
You know what it is… That's the problem. You never see any mainstream rock critics, never give anyone with a speck of proficiency any good reviews because they're all failed musicians. All of us remind them that they'll never be able to play like that, ever. That's why they like the White Stripes, the Strokes and all that.

The White Stripes (laughs).
And then they go for the lyrical angle, which is cool. Because some people are poets, they're not accomplished musicians for lack of a better term. And you know it's always been that way. But you know they can't hurt us, 27 years later, we're still going on the road doing arenas. We go where people like us. In the United States, and basically every English speaking country we do terrible. And the perception is that we're dead or we're not selling. But we had the 7th biggest grossing tour in the world last year, much to most people's chagrin. 600,000 tickets sold in 3 months. We were up there with the Stones, Springsteen, Simon & Garfunkle and people are scratching their heads going, “How the fuck did these guys sell that many tickets?” And so we were scratching our heads going, “Damn!” There's nothing wrong with being attached to something that's successful.

So some people thought, well that's kind of gay, you guys, you didn't really go out and play your set or whatever. It wasn't our audience. It was an overall audience. So we got to play in front of a lot of people that dug our shit and now will go out and buy our records. We've seen a spike in catalogue sales.

Have you really?
Yeah! And then people come back and dig the shows. Like they'll come back… We came out and we kicked ass at those shows under the face of intense subversion. With Page going down, Simon going down. I was out there with half a band, but we hung in there, never missed a show. And we made some of the greatest friends I've ever made in my life.

I mean like the INXS guys are like my soul brothers. Man I love them. I've become an honorary Australian. They did some voodoo ceremony. I love those guys. Every single one of them. And we're the most unlikely… I remember Timmy Farris like doing an interview in the UK while we were out. They go, “Why would you play with Toto?” Really great guys, we have a lot in common. Three brothers in the band, they lost one of their key guys, we lost one of ours. And we come from the same era. They've been together since they were kids, we've been together since we were kids. We have so much in common it was scary.

We don't play the same kind of music but we appreciate each other. Hold on a second, my phone's dying here, hold on.

Hello. Hello. Are you there?

OK, good, sorry. Fucking phone died instantly, I don't know why. Anyway, where was I? Talking about the INXS guys, we had so much in common. And then there are people that you think you wouldn't have…Huey [Lewis] came out, he's an old friend from like 1980. And you know it was just a love-fest out there. John Miles, I mean there was great bands, we hung every night. Everybody had a big hang after the show. It became a family it has to be. One bad apple out there can spoil the groove for everybody. There were 400 people on that tour.

I mean that was… an 80 piece orchestra and shit, it was intense. The production was over the top. I look at it as a very positive experience. Not to mention lucrative.

Yeah, you were saying…
You know we had a lot of time to sit around and shoot the shit. We were supposed to really write out there. But since Simon and Dave went down, what the fuck am I supposed to do? You can't write a record without the key guys. And our intention is to write a really…a great record. Now what that is, has yet to be determined.
Don't expect a record real soon, but we are working on it. I mean we're all writing with our old writing partners. Randy Goodrum is coming over tomorrow. He's in town.

Randy's cool.
We're going to try to write…we've already got a couple of things in the can that are really good. But you know, I think we might want to stretch out a little bit, be a little bit more musical, a little more experimental. Because top-40 radio ain't going to play our music anyway, we could write fucking Sgt. Peppers and they wouldn't play it. Just because it's Toto and we're middle-age guys.

You know if you're over 30 you can't get on the radio. If you're over 40 forget it. Andrew I wish I could tell you the kind of record we're going to make. I mean, everybody has their own idea of what we should make. People expect Toto IV or whatever. How can you go back and recreate that? If I could do that, I would have done it. It's very difficult to just magically conjure up images. We've touched upon things, there's a style that we have when we really put our minds to it but I don't know what that's…I know we want to make the big production.

The big production. All the percussion instruments, the big vocals, really cool solo sections and stuff and really go to our strongest suit. I've gone back and started listening to little bits and pieces of some of our records to try... and my son has become obsessed with Toto.

Oh, Really!?
I mean he's playing…I'm getting into his car, he's driving along all the sudden he whips Hydra on or Isolation. I'm going, I haven't heard this shit in 20 years. He's like, “No Dad, me and all my pals are really into this shit.” Come on. To the point where he calls one of his bands Hydra.

Oh Really?
Oh yeah. I go, “Dude, you don't want to associate yourself so close. “ He goes, “Dad, do you think anybody my age knows what the Hydra album is?” I had to go, “Well I guess your right there.” So but you know, I mean it's just a matter of…the record business doesn't want to promote music like that. They want disposable shit they can hail and discard and then get onto the next.
Now we're looking at the conglomerate, there's only going to be 2 record companies and they're going to fold because all the retail chains are going down. Tower Records went under for God's sake! That was like part of my life, you can't go into any place and find any old records, they don't stock them anymore. They don't stock like CD versions of my favorite '70s records. You have to go to Amazon.com or itunes is stating to get hip to a lot of it. They have a lot of our stuff on there. But we're going through a transitional period in the business where the whole scene is going to change. We're just in the middle of it. Back in the '20s when radio came out all the sheet music publishers freaked out. Well there goes our business, nobody is going to buy sheet music, they can hear it on the radio and learn it.

And then when cassettes came out, it was the same thing. You can record any song on a cassette you want to, they said people won't by records anymore, but they did. It's on a new media. We're in a transitional period and people are going to have to be patient. And we're very lucky to be free agents right now rather than hooked up with some major label. Although Sony has been courting us to come back and do a record, they made a pretty decent offer.

Is that right! Now why would…?
It's ironic that there's only 2 labels left, EMI and Sony. That's it. EMI wasn't good to us so what the fuck. Where you gonna go, it's a one off deal.

Two questions. I want to ask you about EMI but why would Sony come back to you guys?
Our back catalogue is ripping. I mean they put these 'Greatest Hits Part 9' records out we have nothing to do with. Dodgy album covers and whatever selection of songs they want to put on it. They own the masters so the can reconfigure them any way they want. They still have to pay us but we have no say in it. What they're finding is that, like, you know, they're released, they still…it goes gold here, it goes platinum here and we're just on the road. We're not even on the label anymore. And the thing about these 1 hit artists is that there's no back catalogue. Their back catalogue is 50 to 60% of their income. So us old farts as the like to refer to us are making them a lot of money.




Yeah, OK. So they've got all these new artists but basically they come and go overnight.
They come and…one song. Rap artists. One hit. One record. I mean there's a few standouts, I mean Eminem. I dig Eminem, I thought that shit's cool. You know, I have teenage kids, how can I not…, I'm more aware than most people that are 46 years old about what's happening now musically because I got teenagers and I listen to their music, they listen to mine. For that it's a positive thing. I can't sit there and go like, “Well that sucks, that sucks.” Because I'm not supposed to like that music. I'm the bad… I'm the anti-Christ, I'm the old guy. Their music is supposed to piss me off just like rock and roll pissed off my parents. It wouldn't be…so that's why I've let go of all that “fuck everybody else.” I had so much anger and so much bitterness in me at one point.
I was anesthetizing myself, I wouldn't feel anything. Started to suffer in a lot of different areas. Had a little health scare that fucking woke my ass back up.

Yeah, tell us about that.
A little bit, well you stay on the road long enough, 9 months a year for 27 years.

Can't be good for you.
It's not that. Trying to live a life like you're still 22 years old and you're 46, 45 years old and you get depressed and shit. It's very lonely. You go from 10,000 people screaming for you to an empty hotel room and you're away from home and things happen. My doctor started putting me on anti-depressants, you get Zanex, you get tweaked. I was drinking hard liquor, way too much of it and I started to suffer.
My playing. I didn't even realize it, but you never fucking know. You think everything's cool until you have to take a hard look at yourself. I had problems with my playing on the Live from Amsterdam record. I saw it for the first time at a friend's house over New Year's. Hadn't seen it in 6 months. I refused to watch it because it was painful for me to watch because I could see that I wasn't 100% there, knowing myself.



It wasn't as horrible as I beat myself up for when I first saw it but it's certainly not my best work. They caught us on a bad night, it was the end of a long tour; they made us rehearse all day long. I was burnt and I was really sick. I had like a flu. It wasn't the flu but I was just sick, puffy and weird looking. I wasn't there.
You can look at yourself and go, I'm not there. I'm not in that moment. Where there were like 100 other shows that were great. When you only record one show, you're stuck with it. You can't fix it live. You can fix a note, you can't fix it live. It wasn't a strong night for any of us, but least of all me. But, you know, sometimes you got to live with that shit. It was a wake up call.
Then I got really sick. I got hepatitis A from eating bad food somewhere in Europe. I was in Tahiti and it became full blown. My eyes were orange, my piss was orange, I was sick, I lost like 24 pounds. And I still had to work. And I became really depressed because I had to stop everything. I just cleaned my whole self out, I was fucked up. I started to lose sight of why I do this. The love for it, the fire. I came back to finding out that I really do love it and I really do care about it. I'm the luckiest mother fucker in the world and I cannot blow this like most people do.
I was just gonna…I just felt like my foot was nailed to the floor and I was running around in circles. It's real easy to lose sight. People don't understand this life. They think it's all limousines, the beautiful people life and everybody wipes their ass with hundred dollar bills. That's not the case. It's hard work. And it really stresses you out. The loneliness. You go from the highest highs to the lowest lows. You can't just go back to your room after a show, read a book, go to bed. There has to be a wind down. And with the traveling on the bus all night long, interrupted sleep.
You wake up at four in the morning, you get off the bus, you go to the hotel, the hotel rooms aren't ready, you can't get any food because the restaurant's not open. Or you miss breakfast completely and then they don't have food until like dinner. You just kind of lose yourself. Some people are better at it that others.
I was always, Mr. Party after the gig, woo-hoo, let's hang. How may shots I can do before I pass out. I'm just too old for it now. You're 20 years old, you can go out and party. When you're fucking 45 years old, that's it.
So I had to catch myself in the ugliness of what could be. Find my heart and soul and my passion for it all over again. And after a couple of months of complete cleanliness, getting together, getting healthy, man, I kept my weight off, practicing guitar again and finding my writing thing again. I'm excited about it. I'm appreciating all the people around me that matter, my family, the kids, wife, my friends.
People I know are dropping, man they're getting sick and dying. It's a myth that you can keep going and keep going. I mean nobody has the constitution of my man Keith [Richards], you know what I mean?

That's a tough one to chase after. I love to hang, you know, and I still have a couple of beers now and then. I'm not like a fucking saint. I didn't have to go to rehab or nothing like that. I just didn't realize that I was a mess. I kept anesthetizing myself and I'd feel fine, or so I thought. I'm human man.
It's a rock and roll cliché but there's a reason why people keep going down the same path. If you're lucky enough to catch yourself then you can hang in and fix it without having to go through all the big announcements. “Oh, I'm never going to have a drink again.” Just don't need to be doing tequila shots, taking pills and all this other shit.
I found myself thinking that if my doctor was giving it to me, it must be cool. But that's a big myth. I wasn't a big pill freak, I wasn't taking handfuls of the shit. I was never clean, I always had something coursing through my veins.

So at my age you have to get a grip on that, before it completely destroys you. My attitude was fucked up. I wasn't an asshole but just like, didn't have time for anybody. Wanted to be by myself.

I can understand that though…
Well, you know. I apologize to anyone if they saw me at a bad time. Like I said, it's not that uncommon for cats like me that have been on the road for as long as I had, 27 years on the road, man.
I stopped a lot of real bad shit but then I thought, well this isn't bad, my doctor gave it to me. I can still drink a lot. I'm cool. Realizing that if you take a pill in the morning makes the hang over go away so you think you're OK. So it's a big lie. But basically I'm healthy, I feel good, I got the gleam back in my eyes, I'm motivated and I want to do personal best from here out. In the studio I wasn't too bad but on the road.
At home I wasn't like that, but it was just on the road. I'd come home and be a completely different person. Because I was up early…But you get on the road, you wake up at four, you take a shower, you eat, you go to the gig and it's on again. Every day. Every day, for like a year at a time.

That's got to be hard.
You wake up in a hotel room you don't even know what city you're in, you don't even know in some cases, what country am I in? Really, you can't get a hold of anybody because of the time differences. While you're still crawling to the mini bar, it's a dangerous thing.

So this tour coming up, you're doing things a little bit differently, or…
Well dude, we're going to places we haven't been. So basically we're pulling stuff, we're adding stuff but we don't have a lot of time to rehearse because we're implementing these new technical people. So that makes it a little more difficult and plus people are dealing with some other issues that they're dealing with, not me. And we're going to do some gigs, we're going to some really out of the way places.

In the meantime we're, everybody's writing and pulling it together and I figure we're just going to be… what we want to do is like, Ok, book us a couple of weeks worth of gigs here and there so we make the pay and then we said we'd write for a couple of weeks and then we go and record for a month and then we would take a look at what we got. We are going to really scrutinize the material. We're going to write like 50 tunes and go, “Is this really the best shit we got?” And you know, stylistically we're going to pay tribute to our past but with keeping it in the present. I'd like to see us do longer, more adventurous pieces of music than just the 4-minute extravaganza.

Yeah, OK.
I mean, there will be some of that, of course. A good tune is a good tune. It'll get cut. But we're really going to scrutinize ourselves, each other. And play stuff for people and say, “What do you think?” You know. We're never going to please everybody. No matter what the fuck we do we're never going to please them. And so we have to please, we have to look at ourselves and go, “I think this is really a great record.”
You know the whole thing about, like, OK we got four months to do a great record and then we have tours booked. This is as long as we got to do it, this is the budget we have, well now everybody's got home studios and stuff like that, and we're not signed to a label per se. There's no pressure for us to do that. We can't go back and just keep going back to the same places without a new record. We're not going to do that.
We're going to take this tour to places we've never been before. Who haven't seen it yet. And in the meantime get our chops back up with like who's really in the fucking band and who's not. We're going to have those issues too. It becomes very difficult for me because I'm the only guy that's never missed a gig and been there from day 1.
See, and I got to front the band. And I'm fine with that but I need to be frosty in my head, my heart and my soul and body to do that job the best I can. And to play my ass off.
I always try to play the best I could but inspiration's inspiration. I can play good but it doesn't necessarily mean it's inspired.
I have harsh critics, people who think, ah man the catalogues faded, Luke doesn't have the shit anymore. My answer to them is fuck you man, why don't you fucking do what I do, for this long and be under the hammer, and under the gun and under the criticism.
A lot of cats are armchair guys. They sit in the room, they make records and they're very critical of everybody else. In some cases, I'm sure many people go, “I can play better than that guy. Why don't I have that gig?” But they don't understand the politics of it all. And the actual physicality of it all. And just the wear and tear, the stress.
My skin's real thick. They told me I suck from the first record to now. Other musicians that I respect, my peer group, people that are really my friends, some are the best musicians in the world, the give us a lot of props. They give us a lot of support and they come to town when they can, they come to the shows. I play records for them, “What do you think of this, what do you think of that?” They'll tell me.

You've only got to look at the list of albums you've played on over the years to look at how many people want you involved.
Well, you know, that's the thing of our band. It's so funny, they say that we suck but if you look at the discography, how come those great artists wanted us to play on their records? Because we suck? I don't think so.
I mean, we became the poster boys for 'this is a band you're supposed to hate.' If there was a critic's school, the first thing you'd learn on day 1 is, 'this is a band you have to hate.' Years and years and years ago during the Toto IV tour we had a guy come out, he was writing for Rolling Stone… Timothy Schmidt was out with us singing background after he left the Eagles. He came to check out what Timothy was doing and I ended up getting high with him…and I got it out of him… “Like what is it about you guys. I'm a nice guy, we're hanging out in my room, fucking getting drunk and doing whatever”.
The guy's now the president of a major label. Now I'm not going to say who it is because it'll get me in trouble. But he's the president of a major label, he started out as a little puke writing for Rolling Stone, he started telling me, “Look to be honest with you, I think some of your stuff's cool but we're not allowed to write good stuff about you. You're the band to hate.” Because we're really good musicians they thought that we were put together by some corporate people.
They didn't realize that we were a high school band, we just happened to be really good players that could actually, …that were schooled enough to read and be able to do stuff. To be able to create on the spot and play really well in an era when that actually mattered. And we had hit records that they were mystified by. They thought that we had no soul because our records were slick and polished. Well we actually sat there and played that. There was no computers to fix shit back then.
You had to get a performer. So if it was played well and it was in tune, we layered the vocals. We sounded so good they hated us. That was when the punk thing was just happening: The Clash, The Sex Pistols. We were at the end of the '70s. We were holding on to what we dug. People we wanted to sound like was like Steely Dan except with a harder edge. From that point 'till now…
Then we won the Grammy. That was great but we told Rolling Stone magazine to fuck off. They wanted to put us on the cover.
They had been trashing us for so long we said OK this is our chance to get even. Fuck you Juan Leonard, he's just going to trash us anyway. And the guy tweaked into the sun. No one had ever turned down the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Which by hindsight I wish we hadn't done. But at the same time, we made our statement and then we won the Grammy and they didn't even write about it.

Oh yeah. We're banned from that magazine forever. Now they put Britny Spears and the American Idols on the cover. I mean they used to be this big convert, underground magazine. Now it's like fucking teen magazine.

I haven't bought a copy in years.
They have no clout, nothing. It don't mean anything anymore.

Now I know this will get you fired up, but their top 100 guitarists of al time list was an absolute embarrassment wasn't it?
Well, you know, that was a joke. I think they just did that to piss everybody off. Because look at the people…Eddie Van Halen was #70.

I know…Hello!!
Jack White is #12. I've got nothing against the White Stripes, they are…he's got some talent. The drummer's bad, just bad. It's hard for me to criticize guys like that. They're making their statement, they're doing what they're doing now. I have no idea if the guy's a nice guy, he's an asshole, that he can actually, really play.
He plays some interesting stuff. But they need a bass player desperately. That's not for me to criticize. I'm only going to talk about myself because that I know. That's just…we made some errors along the way. But we were very misunderstood and we'll never be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you know what I mean? It's run by all those people. You'd be really surprised who actually makes the choice. You have to pay to get into that thing. It's like having a star on Hollywood Boulevard: 50 grand.

So it's not really based on merit. That's why you see so many people being overlooked, that really should be there.

Van Halen this year didn't get a …
No because they refused to play it again. They're not going to play with Roth again. I can't speak for them but I'm saying they want it all tied up into a nice, neat little package. They'll eventually get in. They deserve to get in.

Of course they do.
But, you know, it'll be when they have another hit record. And there is a Van Halen band attack. That's probably another reason, there's not another Van Halen band attack right now. Let's face it, the name of the band is Van Halen. That means Eddie and Alex. The singers have come and gone, hopefully they'll pull it back together again. It's not fair, there's a lot of bands…once…I know they're thinking, once they let a Journey or a band like that in, who deserves to be in it, they'll have to let all the rest of us in. You know what I mean?

Come on, we won album of the year, I've got 5 Grammys on my shelf, 2 are outside of the band, one was two years ago so I'm still relevant in the 2000's. But guys like us, if I live to be 80 they might say, well he's a good guitar player and give me some little dodgy, posthumous award after I kack!

Great! (laughing)
But I don't need that to pat me on the back because it's not based on any reality, it's based on a popularity contest by the same assholes that write and say shit about us and hail the other stuff.
Let's face it, the famous David Lee Roth quote about Elvis Costello, it's like the critics love him because they all look like him. He said that in the '70s, which I thought was one of the most brilliant statements I've ever heard. It's like if one of those mother fuckers come up and pick up my guitar and play better than me, then I'll take their criticism with some sort of value.
But they're not musicians, that's what's wrong with the music business, it's not run by musicians. Its run by fucking lawyers and promotion people that wouldn't know…It's like the famous quote from Amadeus. A music critic goes, “There's too many notes in this.” And Mozart goes, “Which notes don't you like?” You know? They don't have any credibility. They can have their, Kurt Loder's of the world. The guy writes about what other people do. He calls himself a rock writer. Anybody can write the Tina Turner story if you sit down with Tina and clock it all and write it down. I guarantee I could write a better book than he could make a record. But there's no point in throwing shit at anybody because it bounces off and ends up sticking to me.
I'm the asshole for calling everybody out on it. I don't think I'm the best guitar player, matter of fact, I'm very self deprecating. I don't think I'm that good at all, I think that my best shit is yet to come. That's what keeps you motivated. As a musician you never wake up one day and go, OK now I know everything, I don't have to do it anymore. Les Paul is eighty something years old, he's still out there kicking it. I hope I get to be like him.

Absolutely! Why not?
Nobody's the best at anything. They're just insane. Ask a blind person who the best looking chick in the room is, he'll tell you the one that feels the best. You know what I mean? It's not based on face value.

That's a good quote.
It's the truth. They listen on another level. They feel on a different level. People just want everything black or white. There is a gray area. And most people base their opinions on what other people think, not what they think. If so and so says this is cool, what kid doesn't want to wear the coolest clothing, be into the coolest music? They learn to like what everybody else likes.

When we were kids we were listening to everything man. How many radio stations… there's top-40 radio… there is no alternative, real alternative music. When I was a kid, FM radio was like they played Aretha, they played Miles, they played Hendrix, they played like, a Led Zeppelin album came out, they'd play the longest cut on the record. You'd sit around, you'd really get some schooling about what's happening out there. Now it's just, maybe there's some underground radio stations here and there but it's not mainstream. Because it doesn't sell units.
I mean, music is an art form, now it's just business. You don't have to be good. We can fix it. I own a recording studio, some of the biggest artists in the last 10 years have been in there. All these new young people…They just go in there and play it the best they can, they go home, and it magically sounds incredible the next day. Cat stays up all night and makes it all right. And they have an attitude about it. “Well man that's old school shit”. I still believe in sitting in a room and playing until you get the shit right. That's the way I am, that's the way we all are.

A lot of what you said is mirrored by the guys in Journey – they feel the same way.
We all came up together. I have nothing but extreme respect. Neal Schon is a brilliant guitar player. Great writer. And a really cool guy. We've been friends, we don't hang out all the time but I'm always glad to see Neal, man we've always got big hugs for each other. He's always been very cool to me, said nice things about me and, you know, I admire him as a musician. He doesn't get enough love. You know what I mean?

They're in the same position aren't they? As are a lot of other bands.
Somewhat, yeah. They kill it in the United States but they don't mean anything anywhere else. We don't sell shit in the United States but we cook and mean something in Asia and Europe. So I mean, you can't always have it all. I'm really happy to be working though. I'm a working musician, I working, I'm hooked up man, I'm happy. People out there dig it or they don't. I mean your site, look at your site. It's an alternative site for people that like the kind of music that we all like.

I mean, I have a jazz/fusion side of me that put some people out but like, you know, I love that part. And then I come back to the other side with Toto and I'm fresh, I got new ideas and I got that shit out of my system. I'll always be that way. I enjoy it. It makes me feel good. It's not going to sell a million units but I don't give a shit. It's still music from my soul. Can't, like once again, can't please everybody. Some people think that's the only shit I should be doing. Ask one person, ask anybody, you're going to get a different opinion. So I just have to follow my heart, you know why? Because it's cool. Is it the best thing I've ever done? I don't think I've ever tried anything I've done, is the best thing I've ever done.

It's all hind-site. If something's really successful people think it's great. It doesn't mean it's great it means the perception is, it must be great if millions of people are buying it. Millions of people buy shit too, doesn't mean it's great. And that shit is subjective.





What happened with the deal with EMI?
I was a one off deal.

We were looking to license the record. We wanted to do something for our 25th anniversary and we didn't have... You know I was out on the road with Larry Carlton for a year. Paich was producing Bob's record. Simon was doing fusion records with Derek Sherinian, doing his jazz stuff. Mike was doing sessions.
Bobby was out doing whatever Bobby does. Classic rock stuff. Makes appearances with other people and stuff like that. Which is Ok to me as long as he doesn't use the name Toto. We kind of got that shit straightened out.
And then there's other assholes out there. Fergie, he's out there fucking booking like he's the lead singer of Toto. Singing 'Rosanna', 'Africa', 'Hold the Line'. Like he actually had something to do with that. In the United States he's burning opportunities for us because they go, 'Well we already have Toto'. What do you mean? You didn't have Toto. 'No we had Toto, the guy, the singer was here.' It was Fergie. He's not just out there singing the songs off of Isolation. He was passing himself off as something he is not. And that fucking pisses me off.

That must be frustrating.
And when Bobby was doing it before, when he was out of the band, we had like a restraining order against the guy and shit.

I never knew that.
Joe never did that. Joseph was way cool. I'm really happy for his success. I haven't heard his new record yet but I heard it's pretty good.

Yeah, it is actually.
And you know, I have nothing but respect for Joe. He really got his life together again, he's happy, he's doing [film] scores. It's what he wants to do, he wants to be around the kids, he doesn't want to go on the road anymore. Steve Porcaro doesn't want to go on the road anymore but he's doing scores, TV scores, I had lunch with him today.

Oh did you?
Played me some great shit. He's got an album's worth of material I told him, play the shit for people man. He's got different singers on it and stuff but it's still Steve Porcaro. It's really melodic, almost Gabriel-esque with his flare to it you know. Should put this fucking shit out, people would eat it up bro.

He's a great singer.
He didn't get any of us to come in and do a solo or just doll it up a little bit, it's there. Like I said, I'm not enemies with everybody's that's not in our band anymore but I only get pissed off at guys that used us in a wrong way. I was always cool with Fergie until he started going out and being Mr. Toto. Pissed me right the fuck off. Anybody can go out and sing our songs but don't pass yourself off as Mr. Toto. Because people don't really know what we look like and they believe, you know, face value. Like he did this big TV show in America, Regis morning show, like millions of people, and they introduced him as Toto.

And then he comes out and sings 'Hold the Line'. Badly.

Oh, no.
Yeah, so you know, there's a reason. I not just like some kind of guy that flies off the handle hating people. It's not in my nature, I'm really a nice guy. Ask anybody that really knows me. There's people that don't really know me, that maybe met me and asked me a stupid question and I flew off the handle. You know, I'm sorry about that. I apologize to anybody that I was a drag to. Like, you know, I take this shit seriously. They've been my bros for 30 years. We put a lot of time and effort into this.

We still keep this shit close to home. When I go on my solo tours I don't do Toto songs. And I have every right to if I wanted to. But why would I go sing 'Hold The Line'? I didn't sing it. I played on it. I could legally and in my heart go out and sing any song that I wrote and sang. But I don't do that because that takes away from what the Toto thing is when we go on the road. Why pay for the arena when you can fucking see it in the club?
My solo tours are you know, 1000 seats a night. And now he's passing himself off, that's not right. I wish him well with his solo project, I wish him well with his stuff, you know. I don't hate him as a person. I think he's jive for pulling that one off. And you know he has no right to do that.

No, I agree. That's fair enough.
That one album he did with you is still one of my favourites though!

It was the most painful thing we've ever done in the world.

I mean we were mixing the tracks while he was still trying to gag out a vocal. It was painful, punching one word in at a time. I wish we had Pro Tools back then bro.
You know, and like he was good for like two nights in a row and then he'd get sick, he's get sores all over his face, he was so nervous and he'd get all freaked out and shit. Just doing the back flips and shit. You know, once we lost Bobby, we lost the integrity of the band and we were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. That's why we kept going through them and going through them.
Joseph was great until he got fucked up and he'll be the first one to tell you that. Love Joe, funny guy. The first tour, the Fahrenheit tour he was brilliant. Sang great every night. And then, you know, you can't be a lead singer and get high. Like freezing your vocal chords and eventually, you know, you fuck yourself up. I mean, I'm not trying to go back and dig up some old shit that he's already gone way past, 15 years ago. He's not like that at all anymore. It was a rough spot in the road and in that era everybody was doing it. I was doing it too. Not make it seem like I'm some innocent guy in all of this. We were all fucking getting high. It was the thing to do in the '80s. But you can't be the lead singer of a band, staying up all night doing that shit, destroying …It would be like me taking a sand blaster to my fingers every night and then trying to play. You can't do it.

You've gone through a few vocalists but I still don't understand what happened with that other…the dude you did 2 tracks with on the greatest hits album.
Oh that was the record company's idea. We were out a singer. We actually…check this out. This is a real story. When Joseph left, we went, what the fuck are we going to do? So we started writing some tunes. Dave came up with, Dave and Joseph actually wrote 'Going Home'. So we said, we could pop you back in. See what happens. Singing somewhere on the road. So we get him to come in and he sang but it was a struggle. It was a struggle to get going. And we got what we could out which is on the Toto XX record, that's the version you hear. And we turned it into the record company and they said 'Nah, that's shit. We need to…we got a guy for you'.
And so I'm like, Oh I can't wait. And this is what they came up with for us. Jeff Porcaro was a very strong force. Jeff really had more to do with choosing our alternative lead singers than Dave and I or Mike did, you know what I mean? Jeff was like… When Bobby left, I wanted Eric Martin.

Is that right?
Me and Paich wanted to get Eric Martin to be our singer. I thought he'd be perfect. I loved his voice. Jeff didn't dig his vibe for some reason. I think he got drunk and he was a little silly and Jeff was like, this super cool guy, didn't dig the silliness of it all.
It's not Eric's fault, the guy got a fucking buzz on, was not his fault. And there was one thing. We tried to get him to sing their song, 'Could you be love'…not you be love, 'Could this be Love?' that was on the Fahrenheit record. And that was like his audition song and there was a very specific way that Dave wanted to sing it, since he wrote the song.
And he just didn't hear it that way. So he kept trying to change it, he wouldn't sing what Dave was singing. Jeff was there and was like, nah, he isn't the right guy.
He kept pretty much backing to Fergie. So we said OK, Jeff, he was always our spiritual guru and our big brother. To all of us. So we went with that. As it turned out, he was very difficult but we made a pretty good record.
But all of our shit was done, we were trying to implement him into this, and it was very nerve-racking for him. The myth about Bobby singing the whole record and then replacing every song with Fergie, is just that, a myth. Bobby sang on about 3 or 4 things and it was really hard because he wasn't in good health, and then he wouldn't show up, he was in a bad way. Like I said, he's nothing like that anymore either or he wouldn't be in the band.
People have these crazy ideas, it's like hearsay, myths about our band. I'd love to clear some of that shit up too man you can ask me any of that. But anyway, long story short…the Byron bummer.





The record company brings this guy in. The same scenario. Actually, let me go chronologically.
After Fergie, we went on tour and the cat, we got through the tour, we were writing the next record and he started to come in and try to sing the record that would become Fahrenheit, he just couldn't sing in the studio. He just could not sing in tune to save his life. Freaking himself out because he knew he wasn't cutting it, so he'd psyche himself out that much more.
And we finally said, look, this isn't working, we can't do this anymore, we got to have somebody that's at least half way as good as we are at playing our own instruments.
My vocals didn't take that long, even Dave's vocals didn't take long. Dave was singing more than he wanted to. Now he doesn't sing, he doesn't want to. It's too much work. But so, he left and once again Eric Martin came back up again. We didn't call him but me and Dave were going, remember this cat, Eric Martin?
I think it was right before Mr. Big happened. We didn't call him, but me and Dave were going, Eric Martin, he's the right guy. Because he can sing his ass off, he didn't understand some of our phrases but that's not to say that the one time he's going to be like that every time. So me and Dave kept trying to sell Jeff on him again. He said we've got to do this guy Joseph Williams. And I had worked with Joseph. I grew up with him and his brother. Used to play in bands together with Landau and all these guys when we were kids. So I knew the William's brothers. I thought they were incredibly talented. Mark's really talented too, his brother. And obviously they come from good stock, John Williams is the father. Joe came in and Jeff goes, this is the guy.
So we said OK great. He brought in some cool tunes, he was a funny guy. He came in, skinny, looked the part, way into it. Sang his dick off on the record. Painless, it was fun. Go on tour, killer fucking tour. Just ripped it a new ass-hole, he was great every night.

And then, you know, we came back and that was really successful. The album did really well. We had a hit. And we started on The Seventh One record.
Writing was going great. Did the record. The record turned out really good. I really like that record, I'm proud of it. Did really well with it. And then we went on tour, and drug problems crept in.
The first gig we were doing was in Rotterdam for live radio broadcast in front of God knows how many millions of people all across Germany. We were going Joe, don't do that shit until after the gig's over. Sure enough, he did. Came out and sang first song, second song was 'Stop Loving Me'. He started singing it and pipes went. Couldn't even make it utter a sound. It was like…I'm looking at Jeff and I'm going, 'I can't sing that high, think of something. This is going out live.' The beginning of a fucking six month tour and the cat lost his voice. And it never really came back.

Yeah, Ok.
And then he was ostracized. It was a drag. It was a bad vibe.
I felt bad…looking back I feel bad for him now. I love the cat, he's not anything like that, you know he made some poor choices. And he got himself into some trouble with the law and stuff.
So we had to cut him loose. And then we come to the point where like, now what the fuck are we going to do?
So then we tried Bobby in the record. We didn't dig that. That wasn't really feeling right at that time anyway. Because he wasn't really all the way there. He hadn't reached his full bottom yet. As far as like, you know, you hear about somebody who just finally gets it together because he can't get any worse.
And so they go, look we got a guy. Use this guy, we'll stick a ton of money into you, we'll promise you the world. He's a little off the beaten path, maybe you guys need a change of image, blah, blah, blah. Music is changing, you guys aren't being accepted as a hard rock band because radio won't play it anymore because Sony kept putting out nothing but ballads for the radio. We were perceived as some Air Supply kind of band. Which is really a fucking drag. Nothing against those guys. You know, they're soft rock and people that saw us live knew that we were a lot more than that.

Their albums do real well. Radio just would not accept them. Maybe you should get into this dance, whatever the shit that was happening in 1989 to '90.
Well they get this guy and there was like this ridiculous image, over the top. Completely off beat what I would ever think would be right. Jeff was like, maybe we need to do this. We got nothing to lose. They're making us all these promises. We're doing a greatest hits record, we only have to do a couple of songs.
So we wrote a couple of songs.
Dave had a few, I wrote a couple and we got in the studio. We were having a great time, and then you start to find out about what people are really like. The guy never listened to Hendrix or Zeppelin or anything - pretty much the George Michael story. Wearing a little glove, let me get to that later…
Singing in the studio was really hard. I never heard anybody with louder headphones in my life. He had a real pitch problem too.
We worked with James Guthrie who worked with Pink Floyd, and we got these great tracks for what that kind of music was and stuff. Killed the tracks and did what we were supposed to do. We tried to implement this guy into our scene. We'd never seen him perform live. We go to rehearsals and we're going on this tour, the 'Greatest Hits' tour. And he wasn't belting out Bobby's stuff, very few people can. So the guy, he's sitting on his stool in rehearsals, getting through it, it was OK. Singing better in the rehearsal room, as far as pitch and all that stuff. We'd never seen him perform.
So we do all this rehearsal and we go on tour, the first fucking gig and we see the guy putting on his fucking clothes. A little sheriff's badge on, he puts one golf glove on. We're thinking, man that's fucking funny, that's great, man that's a great joke. Hey says, “What are you talking about?” I go, “You're not going to go out there with a fucking glove, that's Michael Jackson's shit.” He said, “No it's not, it's my stuff.” I'm going, you've got to be fucking kidding me. We get on stage and we start the first tune, 'Love Has the Power' and he starts dancing around like fucking Richard Simmons on acid. Some fucking fruity shit going on man. And the crowd is like looking at me and going, something's up. They're looking at him and flipping him the bird telling him to get off the stage. And I'm looking at Jeff Porcaro and he's looking at me going, what the fuck is that? I mean is was unbelievable…He thought he'd come to save the day. Like Christ had come down and blessed us. We get off the gig and we're like, what the fuck is that? We're nuts, we're psycho. You can't do that. He goes, “I'm going to make you all very famous.”
He thought he was the shit, he was hysterical. And I was single, newly single at the time after my first divorce and I was out there for the chicks and every time I got with a chick, he'd try to get with her.

Oh really?
Like cock blocking. I was like dude, you don't do that, you don't even know the rules of the road. Things you do and things you don't do. Me and him didn't get on at all. And it got to the point where it was excruciating. The whole tour was excruciating, to be around him. It was a drag. I'm not saying he's an evil guy, but his ego. He thought he was the shit. He thought he was going to be the biggest star in the world. We were lucky to have him.

Well after Toto he really went on to big things didn't he? (laughs)
Didn't he!

He's probably working in a car wash somewhere.
I don't know what he's doing but obviously it proved wrong. It was disastrous. We basically phased him…as the tour went on he was doing less and less and less to the point where he was basically…That Live in Paris video in 1990, I think he is in for like a half a tune or something like that. We threw all his shit out. It just wasn't right. And then we were like really, what the fuck do we do? I ended up singing so much of the show. Jeff and the cats were, let's fucking do this, let's go make a rock and roll record. Kingdom of Desire.

Man I love that record.
I do too. And a lot of people didn't dig that record.

Nah, it's great.
Fine you lost all the…Seventh One Toto, what does Luke thinks he's running the band. Like it was my choice. Like I was trying to take over or something like that. Like I said, lot's of misinformation. We didn't want to go through putting a 5th guy in.

Yeah, yeah.
It became ridiculous. So we did that. Very proud of that record. Especially because it was Jeffrey's last record.

It's a killer record.
'91 was our last tour, the ship was going down. Before the record even came out. Then brother Jeffery died on us. That was another, what the fuck are we going to do?
We were in a tailspin. We lost our fucking mentor, we lost our guy. The heart and soul of the band. But we had to carry on; we didn't know what to do. We had a tour booked, 40 people on the payroll, 50 people on payroll expecting their families to eat during Christmas. Had we not had the tour already booked, we probably would have broken up right then.

Yeah, really?
Something kept us together, Simon Phillips was the only guy that we called. Couldn't get somebody that tried to sound like Jeff, we needed somebody with a name, and someone Jeff dug. Would bring some integrity and something else to the gig. Simon, Jeff I knew, dug. And he was going to move to L.A. There was a lot of serendipity there. He was going to come here anyway but he never thought, you know he had just gotten divorced, he wanted to leave London and come here and join our band. Do studio shit.

Me and him already had a relationship through playing with Jeff Beck and Santana in 1986. Became friends. And then he came on the gig, we did like 5 months on the road, decided at the end of it all, did a wonder tribute concert in L.A. at the amphitheater. Henley was there, Eddie Van Halen, we got Donald Fagan out of retirement before they reformed Steely Dan. We had Boz, we had David Crosby, Michael McDonald, George Harrison came out and played with us, Sheryl Crow before she was famous, she was singing background for Henley.

We had all the cats. At the end of that, Jeff's wife was there and Jeff's family, mother and father. You guys got to keep doing this. You're not going to bring Jeffrey back by quitting. And the fans, we get all these letters saying, look, it's never going to be the same without Jeff but you've still got something there. Hang tough. And so we did. Now you can ask me whatever you want. That's pretty much up to Tambu.

That's pretty cool.
Like I said, if you want to get the real information, don't go by hearsay, go to the source.

Yeah, absolutely. You did Tambu again yourself didn't you?
Yeah, because at that point we said well, let's see what this would really be like doing it without Jeff. In the studio, Dave and I and all the guys, you know, the first time we've written with Simon. We went in the studio, Elliot Scheiner wanted to work with us. And that's somebody Jeff always wanted to work with. We all worked with Elliot outside. We thought that was the right thing to do. We went in and wrote more of an organic sounding record. But once again, I'm saying there's no point in you guys doing a hard rock record because Kingdom of Desire whereas by today's standards it sold a lot, by those standards at that time, it didn't. Rock radio wouldn't touch us. We figured, well, maybe we should go explore the mellower side and the more world music side or whatever it is, or acoustic. You know, acoustic guitars, acoustic piano, I play a lot of keyboards on that record.

And we just did that record. We had the semi hit 'I Will Remember' and the tour was very successful. We implemented a couple of background singers that would sing the Bobby parts or Joseph parts. It was more like the Toto review and those guys were great. Jenny and John were fantastic. They really came at a great time. It was something completely different. That tour was very successful. Very successful.





Was the record successful?
Considering, and we came back and at that point we were going like, you know, well what are we going to do?
What do you want to do here? And then the 20th anniversary came around and we hooked up with Bobby again and he'd gotten himself together. And me and Dave started putting the record together, digging through the archives trying to find some shit from day 1 up until that point when we made that record, of salvageable tracks that were in the can that we never released...that were done, from all the different eras. There's some interesting stuff in there. I mean it's for the most staunch Toto fans of course.

But you realize how young some of this shit was and how there are reasons why they didn't make the real big records, but there's still some music in there worth putting out and it's a way for us to find our way back to the original concepts. Which was when Bobby came back in the band we did a couple gigs with Joseph and Bobby, Joseph really wasn't up for the task and Steve Porcaro came out and we did like 5 gigs. Had we actually rehearsed and done it right, it would have been a lot better. Because it was a little rough, vocally. And we decided Bobby was singing so good we were going to keep Bobby. Let's go explore this possibility and that leads us to Mindfields.

Yeah. I really, really like some parts of Mindfields, it's an album that took a long time to grow on me.
You know, I listened to a couple of tracks the other night, I was putting, my wife was putting stuff into my I-pod, my new favorite toy.

Yeah, great.
5000 songs in a fucking little box, you don't have to carry any CDs on the road with you. You got to love that. I've got to give my wife al the props on that one. She's going, “Yeah me!” It kind of brings me back, because I don't sit around listening to old Toto records. But I sort of wanted to get back to writing this new album. People wanted me, they said go back and listen to your old records. Remember the spirit of it. We're not going to write the same record, there's no point. It's not possible. Get back in the spirit. I thought there was some really good stuff on that record.

Yeah, yeah, there was. There's still a few songs I don't dig today…
Listen, nobody loves every song of every record. Nobody. I don't.

I mean stuff like 'Caught in the Balance' is just magical.
Yeah, that was a great song.

Melanie was cool...
Yeah, I mean that was a little light for me. It was a little fluffy for me.

What a video clip though!
Oh I hated that video. I didn't want to do it. I refused to be in it.
If you look at my face, you can see I'm about as happy as getting a prostrate check.

LOL! How much money did you spend on that clip?
Nothing. A French company did it for free.

Are you serious?

Because it looks like a million dollar clip.
(laughing) It depends on what kind of glasses you're looking through. It was like a million dollars worth of shit to me. David Paich floating around, I mean who wants to see that? I love David, I don't want to mean anything like that but they wanted to tie me up and to this blue screen shit. I said no fucking way I'm doing Peter Pan with you bro. Ain't going to happen. And I pissed everybody off.

Did you?
Oh man, I was fucking going, man you don't have enough booze in this place to make me do that. I will not do it.

What was the concept behind the clip?
Just like, the computer thing had just started happening. The images were cool. Doug Brown who did our album cover, brilliant, fucking great. Really great concept. Really psychedelic, old school. But they wanted to implement us in that and …our videos suck ass, they always have. We're not actors, we're not pretty boys. They implement us and I always look like I'm wearing my Mom's clothes in the fucking videos. I mean the hair and the fucking…stupid, awful. I mean, shit man, videos. MTV ruined everything.

So there won't be a video clip DVD released.
There will never be another video unless it's liver ever again. Live, fine. That's live, that's different. Concert videos are great. Love concert videos. But a fucking bunch of middle-aged guys trying to be…their hair poofed back, wind blowing their face, about the saddest concept I could ever think of.

I always enjoyed, still to this day, the Van Halen videos are great for that reason.
Yeah but they were funny. They were fun. They were rock stars. They looked the part and you believed it. I never believed it when I saw myself trying to be like that.

They never did the sort of clips…
So if you don't believe it yourself, how can you expect anybody else to believe?

It looks uncomfortable. It's like, somebody can be outrageous and look outrageous if they really sell it, they really believe it and they live it. But when you try to put clothes and hair dressers and stuff on people that don't feel it, who aren't feeling it, it's just comes off as really fake. Really bogus. It's like bad acting. We're not a video band. We never were. Never wanted to be. We wanted to be in a band to play music. Then MTV came along, changed everything. They fucked everything up. They turned it into a fucking McDonald's commercial. Music selling Coca Cola and t-shirts and now it's the reality TV. Music was an art when we started. I may die trying to keep that concept alive.

God bless you for that. When you got the guy starring on the Batchelor making records you've got to…
Well you know what I'm saying, come on. Any, look at fucking Kelly Osbourne's record.

Oh dear.
Oh my God.

How sad. How sad that Ozzy actually wanted to do a duet with her now.
Well I don't think that was probably Ozzy's idea. I don't know. I love Ozzy. Zakk Wilde is a great friend of mine, one of the greatest guitar players in the fucking world.

I couldn't agree more.
And a sweetheart. He gives these late night phone calls where he calls up and pretends to be Jimmy Page. Fucking hysterical. Me and Zakk have a great relationship. We don't really see each other much, but we talk all the time.
And I think he's one of the most brilliant, committed. This is the last of the great rock and roll heroes. He lives and breathes it. There's nothing fake about him at all. That is the real cat. He lives and breathes the guitar. And music and his family…a committed husband, a committed father, a committed psychopath. I love him. One of my favorite fucking humans on the planet.

Oh God bless him.

I love his work with Ozzy.
I consider him, I've know him since the '80s. It was just like the first couple of Ozzy records and stuff, he was a great kid. He's like a little brother to me. He's the coolest man. And I love, we played on Derek Sherinian's record together and stuff, you know.

That's right. I've got that. It's a great album.
It's great. I love that shit.

Derek's a good guy too.
Derek's a great guy. Very, very talented. I love… he just wants to make it as out as humanly possible. I love anybody with that kind of commitment. It's like Petrucci, same thing. He was actually in John's band for a while. John's like another one of those alien creatures who lives and breathes it. Also one of the nicest guys you'll meet.

Really, that's cool.
Music Man, we're all Music Man guys. Their endorsement roster is one hand. Me, John, Albert Lee, Steve Morse, Vinnie Moore and I think that's it. They had Eddie for a while but that's a whole other thing. I don't even want to talk about that.
It has nothing to do with me. But what I'm saying is, he only endorses cats he really feels are really great players and he ends up getting us all together to play together which is really wild, because everyone comes from a different world. But I'm a huge fan of Dream Theater. Dream Theater are awesome.

They're a cool band.
A great band with a committed bunch of musicians. All of them are great virtuosos. And they have a vision and they stuck to their vision, now it's paying off. They're bringing back a whole genre of music that I thought was dead. Yet it's uniquely their own. I could sit and talk about music with them like from the '70s when we grew up. And I'm older than those guys so. We talk about records like Genesis' old Selling England by the Pound, all that stuff like, you know, John's one of most unbelievable musicians. Just scary. I just feel like, Jesus, why bother when you hear a cat like him and Morse and shit.
But these are my bros. I'm always inspired by greatness. When you hear greatness it makes you want to practice more.

Yeah! That's cool. That's very cool. Do you think in hindsight the covers record was the best thing to do?
It certainly wasn't the worst thing to do. I mean we could have gone out with no product.





It takes us a long time to make records the way we like to make them. We thought, wouldn't it be a kick if we played a bunch of songs from our childhood and redid them in our own style. And, you know, just the whole concept got bad to people. What's the matter with you guys, we don't want you to do that stuff. Paich was all up into the…. Paich is like our resident rap guy. It cracks me up. We don't have any business going into that world. That was Dave's thing. My wife chose the song… let me look into your record collection. She's 14 years younger than me. So she's listening to… when I went out with her she had everything form the Grateful Dead to like you know, what was that band, the industrial band?

Nine Inch Nails?
Then she'd have like the Carpenters. What kind of a…she's got very interesting…I dig her record collection. Bob Marley and all this really weird off the cuff stuff. I go, let's go look at your record collection because I'm sure you have a very different one than mine. And we just went…we didn't have a lot of time to think about it. We just went in and stated playing shit and if it felt good we cut it. We cut it really fast and we did it fun, it was cut live in Simon's fucking living room. Except for the vocals and a few bits and pieces here and there. We just thought we'd have something different to do and go on the road with some new product. And just to buy us time to do the tour and for our 25th anniversary officially and then we'll write a record after that. We thought it would be fun. Everybody in the world's done a covers record. We do one and we take a bunch of shit for it. Come on now, there's some really good stuff on that record.
Maybe it's not everyone's cup of tea but not the worst fucking record of the year. I mean just from a musician's stand point there's stuff on there to listen to. Song selections on there are everything '70s. Everything that we were playing in high school. 'Bodhisattva' was the first song I ever played with Steve Porcaro and Jeff Porcaro.

Yeah, Ok.
You know, there's a story behind each song. We didn't randomly pick stupid songs. There was a reason why, emotionally for some people.
Everyone got to pick their own, you know, wish list and we sat around and whittled it down and said, let's try this one, let's try that one, let's try the arrangement on this, blah, blah, blah. It was fun man. We weren't trying to save the world and go like, this is our greatest record ever. This is an interim period record. Much like a greatest hits record. People go, why don't you just put out a new album? Why don't you put out another greatest hits record? Why does anybody do anything? I think we were taken to the whipping post a little too hard on that one. Because we went on the road, we did like three songs off the record and the whole rest of it was our catalogue. And some people loved the record and some people absolutely hated it. I'm sorry. That's pretty much the same vibe with any record we put out.

It must get frustrating.
You know what? If I believed everything I read, good, bad or indifferent, I'd never play again.

Yeah, really?
Because I'd be so depressed. I'm going like, what if I do this and that guy's not going to like it or this person or these people won't like it. You've got to throw the dice, you know? You don't get a seven every time sometimes you crap out. As the years go by, in ten years time people go back and listen to that record with a different point of view, they go, well I don't love all of it but there's some good stuff on there. And I will stick to this. I don't love every thing on it but I think there's some really good stuff on there. Interesting reworking of old arrangements. I thought my fucking Elvis Costello impression was awesome.

I do admire that.
I mean that was done as a piss-take, unbelievable. I just hope the cat got to here it. Because he certainly got a royalty check.

I was going to ask you whether he ever got to hear it.
I don't know but he's with Diana Krall who's actually peripherally a friend. Elvis takes himself way too seriously.

Yeah, I agree.
But I don't really know him. Just reading what he says about himself and other people. Dude, you're not God's gift, I hate to tell you. Look at your record sales compared to mine. Kiss my ass.

(laughing) I like it.
And I'm a fan. I think he's great. I mean I think he's written some great songs. Wasn't such a c*** about it, I would by all his records.

What about your solo records Steve, you got a favorite?
Candyman is my favorite.





Really? That's the most diverse isn't it?
That's the most perfect representation of who I really am. I mean its ten years old now so obviously it's now who I am right now, but back then, I was really proud of that record. I think that one really holds up better than all the rest of them.

Is that right?
There's good stuff on the other ones but my first solo record is very dated sounding. There's like 3 or 4 things on there I think are really cool, some of my pop/metal/rock stuff sounds really forced.
But the stuff I did with Eddie and the stuff I did with Steve Stevens and things I did with Kortch and that ballad 'Turns To Stone' I wrote with Randy Goodrum, I'm really proud of that song.

I love that whole album.
There's a couple, I was trying too hard. In that era, you have to remember it was like the hair days.
I was trying to put the music into the hair music and try to jump off the Toto bandwagon. Like I actually thought I might be accepted. It wasn't. People that like my shit they thought, they can look back on it, there's some good stuff on there. Out of all my solo records that's the one that sounds like I was trying too hard, to try to be too many things to too many different people all on the same record.

Right, OK. I love it, I must admit, I'm a big fan. I paid like 38 bucks for the album. For a CD.
I wish I got my percentage of that royalty. I think I made a $1.25 on that one myself.

I had to get it on import down here, it cost like 38 bucks.
As usual. Our strong Australian presence.

Yeah, I know, I know!
I mean, we can't even get a gig down there. We can get a gig, but they don't want to pay any money.

I'm so frustrated about that.
We're not going to go down there and fucking suck. We've been trying to get in there. Keep trying. The INXS guys are trying to get us in there. I want to come to Australia. I mean, I may just have to come down there just as a solo artist. It's not over 'till the fat man sings. We're still working it, there's a little bit of interest. It's a shame because we're going down that way, coming through it would have been nice to actually have played a gig or two.

You go to Japan?
Yeah, I'm going to Japan. I'll be in Japan a couple of times.

I would love to see you down here. That's for sure.
Well hey man, tell a friend. You never know, like this next record deal if it works out that way. We're going to make some very strong points about going, well if you're going to want us, you're going to make this happen everywhere. At lease try.

So what do you do? You going to shop to the labels or you going to try and do it yourself?
Well, there's only 2 labels now. You either do it independent, which is really difficult. The distribution is so fucking hard to deal with.

We can't get in there. You can sell it on your website but you'll never... You need that big machine behind you. For promotion and all the rest of the stuff. It's a question of, who's going to give us the better shot. I would never have thought in a million years that … I hesitate to mention this kind of thing because I don't want to blow it before it happens, but there's some offers on the tables. We had a great relationship in a lot of countries and horrible ones in others.

So in order for us to get back to it, we need to say, well what about these troubled areas? We can come back to that and use that as a deal for you, rather than give you more money.

Yeah, like actually get the record released in Australia.
Well they were released but they just, nobody ever knew it and they bought like 100 pieces. In all of Australia. Because we were considered not hip. The record companies are being run by 20 year-old kids. 25/27 year-old kids. They don't want to be associated with something their mom listened to. You know what I mean. It's the hip factor. It's funny, we get sampled and stuff like that and that's cool. Ja Rule has a hit with 'Africa'. And like, you know, I had that big huge hit with Roger Sanchez for 'I Won't Hold You Back'. That thing sold fucking 15 million copies. Man I'm laughing. I'm laughing. I'm just going, thank you God for that taste.

So without getting into…
And yet the name Toto doesn't appear anywhere. Usually it's like sampled by this or featuring so and so and 85 names. Our name is never mentioned.

Yeah, why is that?
It's my voice, my song. I mean grant it, the first in line's the song. I never thought that was going to be a hit. But our music, Toto IV has been raped as far as fucking samples go. I mean six of those songs. We were doing hip-hop before they had a name for it. 'Waiting for Your Love', listen to that groove. That's a little more up-tempo hip-hop record. We used to call them funk a shunk. We didn't have a name for hip-hop. Hip-hop is a black thing man. Or I should say, it's not just a black thing but it's an urban thing.

A bunch of white kids in the valley can't, you know, talking about, kill the white man, kill the white man. It's a joke. It's like, once again, it's like videos bro. We can't fit ourselves into someplace we don't belong. But I can see the art form. When I saw the move 8-Mile, that's when I got into rap. I figured this is a really interesting concept. Even though it was fictitious, I still kind of saw where it was coming from. How difficult it is to come up with them rhymes. No melody involved. There's no melody involved at all. The saddest thing in the world is to see a rap guy try to sing. That's pathetic. It sounds like your grandpa's getting a prostrate check. (makes horrible noise) Those guys can't sing. Don't sing bro. Get somebody who sings. But rap. I give them all the props in the world for that. That's an art form all its own.

Yeah, 8-Mile was enjoyable for sure.
Yeah, it was great. I really understood the whole concept, even though it's a small version of that. I dig the old school. I see where it all comes from. It's nothing I can do myself, because I'm just not qualified to do that but I can appreciate how hard it is to write those lyrics.

Now, you made the headlines last year. You knew I was going to do this.
Best press we ever had. One of the great publicity stunts of all time.
Never thinking any of it would get past our website. That anybody would actually believe that without even calling our office and seeing if it was true. But we got more press out of that. Front page all over the world.
It was hysterical when we started getting thank you notes from the Transgender Society. Then I started to feel really bad. Now these people are hailing Dave like he's going to be their new poster boy. Dave and his family thought it was hysterical. Then we had to come back and retract it. Sorry, didn't mean to offend anybody, I never thought it was going to go this far. And we basically took this…makes you stop and think about the bullshit they put in newspapers without corroborating any of it. Not one person called our office to see if it was true.

Is that right?
They took it at face value.

And Dave really didn't mind?
Dave thought it was hysterical. He still signs his e-mail Davita.

Oh does he?
Oh yeah. His daughter thought it was absolutely brilliant. His wife was laughing her ass off. We all thought…we couldn't believe that anybody would actually take that serious. Please. I can't wait to see what my next one is going to be.

Well that was what I was going to ask you, what's next?
I don't know, I think people will be a little more gun shy next time. It'll have to be a really good one.

We'll put some thought into that then will we?
Yeah, well, you never know. They say any press is good press.

Yeah, absolutely. What else do you…, let me change tape here. What's that?
I've got to eat some dinner here in a minute. We've been going for an hour and a half.

Yeah, we've talked about enough.
You better give me more than a paragraph after an hour and a half.

(laughing) Exactly. What did you want to say? Is there something you want to say?
I've said too much already (laughs).

Yes, you've said plenty!
I'm just saying, like you know, we're going to so our thing, be patient. Hopefully you'll dig it once it comes out. It's not going to come out until we all look at each other and go, it's time to put this out. In the meantime we're going to work and do what we're going to do and take some time off and do some other projects ourselves. And take our time with making a brilliant record. Or what we think is a brilliant record. It will be up to you guys to figure out if you like it or not.

Once again, I say, you can't please everybody.

Yeah, well exactly, you can't.
You've got to please yourself. I want to make a statement as a musician myself and as a songwriter. Don't know 100% what that's going to be. I've got some ideas. I've got CDs, demos, ideas I've been dicking around with. I won't know what makes the final cut because we haven't really, really gotten into it yet.

I think I'm ahead of the game more than the other guys as far as having material. But like once we start taking it real seriously then it will become a much more serious thing. You can check in with me another time.

Yeah, definitely.
I'll let you know what the progress is.

Definitely, definitely. I just want to quickly mention, one of my favorite records of yours is Fee Waybill's Read My Lips.
That was a great record, and it didn't happen. Which really surprised me. Considering it was coming off the new hit single that me and Bobby wrote together with Fee [Waybill]. We thought we made a really great record.

It was. I love it. You know, coming out on CD?
The big machine didn't get behind it. And that's what it takes man. You can sell anybody anything if you have enough money behind it. But we live in an era now where record company people…In the old days, if somebody was passionate about something they would make it happen. They would get everybody in the company excited about it. Now it's like, the famous story, Andy Johns tells this story. He fixed the record and turns it in to the A&R people. In the club he's telling the A&R guys, Andy goes, what do you think of the record? He goes, I don't know, I'm the only one that's heard it. The guy's afraid to make any opinion he might get fired for.

Yeah, isn't that sad.
And it's even worse now. I don't need some snot-nosed, twenty year-old kid telling me he doesn't like my music. I'll kick his ass. What do you got mother fucker? It's a young man's game. For guys like us, guys our age, we just make records for people that dig what we do and we've been around so long we can still go out and people will come see us. No matter what it is. They know they're going to see a good show with really good players, that are actually up there playing, and have a sense of humor about all of this.

We're not trying to change the world, we're not capable. That's somebody else' job now. I'm just trying to live and have a good time, have a laugh and play music. I'm very lucky, very honored, very humble about it and I'm just trying to do the best I can. It doesn't always come up to what everybody's standards think I should be doing or what we should be doing.
That's a very difficult thing. Because everybody thinks, well fuck this, that record's no good, this song's no good. They lost it. They don't have their thing anymore. But other people go, that's so much better than what you used to do. So, who do you listen to? You have to listen to the little voice inside.
He goes, like, I think this is good, I hope people dig it. As far as us having a # 1 hit single again: probably not unless we're sampled again. But who knows, who knows. Tomorrow's another day. You never know. Having teenagers…MTV is not roasting in my house like it used to be. They don't even play music on MTV anymore. I think people are more interested in live DVDs and going to see live shows.
Because that's the only thing that's actually real anymore.

Yep. I agree.
Even some of the live shows aren't real. There's like 5 Pro Tools guys behind the stage and they're up there just faking the whole thing.

I know. I can imagine.
So that's why people, like we can still sell concert tickets and maybe today with the exception of some of the great bands that are out there like Coldplay and Radiohead. Making brilliant music. Melodic, soulful and played by real guys. The run of the mill pop groups…it's like eating too much candy.
You're going to barf after a while. Too sweet, too…And they still rail on us. Put that on the cover of a magazine that they still think Toto is the worst fucking band that ever happened. You just kind of shake your head, scratch your head and go well, 600,000 people just bought tickets to see us and our record sales are happening, I'm booked up this year, I'm 46 years old, I'm happy to be alive, I'm happy to be playing music, honored to have an audience. Who doesn't always love every thing we do but loves us in spite of ourselves.

That's awesome.
Be patient with us. Be gentle. We're old guys.

That's awesome. I can't imagine a better note to finish grilling you on.
I think we've said it all.

I think you've said it all.
I can't wait to see how you put this on the site.

Well, it's going to take a little while to type up obviously.
I'm sure.

But I'll talk to you before I post it.
Maybe in a couple of months I'll check it out.

Let's hope I get it done quicker than that.
If you need me to do anything for you, that I can do, promotion wise or anything like that. You've been very kind to me. I appreciate that more than you fucking know.

Oh no, thanks man, I appreciate it.
I'm not the c*** that everybody thinks I am.

And what better way to end the interview! I'd add the goodbyes, but the tape ran out. I thank Steve for an awesome and open chat and hope to do it again sometime down the track.








Eric Martin (2004)

Eric Martin: Destroying Those Monsters.


Eric Martin talks about his current solo album Destroy All Monsters, a new project with Jack Blades, that Mr. Big tribute album and life in general...

It's always good to have a chat with Eric Martin. This interview is pretty loose and laid back – more of a chat than an interrogation, but I hope everyone enjoys it nevertheless.
We'll begin with Eric mentioning the new album….

We should talk about that, eh?
Yeah, we can talk about it, because, I mean I haven't done shit for like 4 months. I haven't done shit. I've been devoting most of my time and energy to my family and friends and I'm bored out of my fuckin' mind. Recently, I've just been getting some new band personnel to play local shows.

I have a pretty good nucleus of a band right now, all new players to go there.

Okay. Mark still with you?
Mark Holley? No, he's not with me.

Oh, that's too bad. He was a good guy.
Yeah he was a really good guy. We still see each other. I just wanted to get someone who was… there's this guy, it's not all set in stone yet, it's all new players and stuff. This guitar player that I have, he sings really good.
Mark's forte was he was more of a classic rocker guitar player, classic rocker, but this guitar player I have is that and much more, plus he was like, not to be vain or anything, but he sings almost as good as me, and we have a chemistry kinda like how John Nymann and I used to have a chemistry. So he's more suited for the job.

You've still got Denise behind the kit?
No, we're still working on a family.
It's hard being in a band with your wife. She played like 4 or 5 songs on the record but mainly now she's just teaching students and stuff as a drum teacher.
And doing my accounting and… pretty much a stay at home mom vibe. A stay at home mom for the future.

Yeah, I understand that completely. I work out of the home and my wife would love nothing more than to get rid of me! haha
Yeah, let me tell you, man, my wife can't wait to get rid of me but I can't wait to get rid of myself. I'm here at the house here 24 fuckin' 7. I'm so fuckin' bored. Recently, I went to… well, this is ironic, but I was telling you the last time we talked that my old friend Jeff Watson from Night Ranger and I were getting something together, well, we're still at the talking and drinking stage of what we're going to do with our lives.

Come on, get it together!
But ironically… I can't really talk about it as much, but I'll tell you as much as I can.
I'm doing a project with Jack Blades.

Oh, really?
I think you're going to be talking to him…

I called him about an hour ago and he didn't answer so I'm going to call back after I finish with you.
Well, I called him earlier, dude, he's so funny, man; I called him up and I go, “Jack, can we talk about the project, I'm going to do an interview with Melodicrock.com and Andrew, can I talk about this project that we're doing?” and he goes, “Well, the Japanese basically told me that I can't talk about it now, so I don't know about you.”
First, he goes, it's on the answering machine and then I pick it up and like screen it and he goes, “Eric, this is Jack Blades from Night Ranger and Damn Yankees,” and I pick it up and I go, “Dude, do you hear yourself? Do you fuckin' hear yourself?” <laughs> Okay, neighbor. We're right now doing a project for a real popular band in Japan and one of the artists in the band is doing a solo album. Jack and I and a couple of other American players are going to do this solo album. I'm going to sing on it, Jack is going to play bass, and Jack and I are going to write the lyrics, this Japanese guy is going to write the music.

Yeah, it's interesting because basically we're going to get together in L.A. and see if we groove as players. We're writing 3 or 4 songs, Jack and I, and if it works out it's going to keep me busy.
It's like being in a band, it's like being in a Mr. Big situation again. This is how big this situation is.


So this Japanese cat's a really big guy then, huh?
A really big guy.

[News has now been released – it's a solo project for Tak Matsumoto of the B'z. See news update of February 24 for details.]

Awesome. Good for you, mate. I'm really pleased about it. I thought that when you said you and Jack that it might've been a Frontiers proposal to you, but they probably don't have the money to pay for both of you guys.

No. This is a whole different thing. This Japanese company picked me and Jack and 2 other American musicians to be in this side project and that's going to be interesting to write…I think Jack and I get to write a song or two for it but we're mainly just writing lyrics and melodies and stuff.

Got ya.
And I don't even know if we have to go to Japan or not to record it. It doesn't matter to me. I'd love to go over there again.

Yeah. Why the delay between the Japanese and the European release? Is that because the Japanese label had an embargo and then Frontiers…
Yeah.… it always is, if you do anything for the Japanese, you know that if for a month or two then they get it together and they want to just do their own album package and I go, “Sure, let's do it.” Then I had it on my web site and then you put it on your web site, the cover of the Japanese thing. And they kind of freaked out, they wanted that album cover and they didn't realize, I go, “You've got to pay for that,” because I basically had to pay for it.

It's hard doing business these days, isn't it?
You know, I do have something in the works that is definitely a retirement plan for me. There's this boy band out of… they're an Irish boy band, they're huge in Europe.

Westlife. That's it.

They're good…
Dude, they're pretty good. They have a little cheese to them a little bit. But they're really good singers.

They are.
They're all messed up with, I think Simon Cowell from American Idol found them. They're in bed with the devil on that one. They did “To Be With You” on their new album.

Is that right?
Yeah, and they did a really good version of it. A really good version. Kind of folky, poppy kind of thing, but you know, it's a boy band. And then they did a Greatest Hits tour.

A greatest hits tour, the oldest is like 24.

Yeah <laughs>
I just got a copy from England where I just transferred it to our region code and man, their harmonies are as good if not better than Mr. Big. I thought it was great. It's nothing compared to the vibe that Mr. Big got with the original thing, but the singers kicked the shit out of it. There's like 5 singers and they individually they each one of them takes a verse and a piece of the chorus and a little scat and they're kind of like 5 different versions of me. It's cool.

That might result in a good royalty check?
I think so. They sell like 5 million records each time they make a record.

Maybe I should get into songwriting <laughs>.
Ah man, hey look, I write songs for so many people and they always put it on hold and then they say, “Nah, we're not going to do it on this record,” so this one I'm really lucky.

Good stuff.
Yeah. You know, it's like I've had a pretty good year with covers, with this Influences and Connections having Glen Hughes, and Ann Wilson, and Mickey Thomas singing my songs, and then now Westlife, you know. It's pretty good.

Did you read my review of Influences and Connections?
I did. I did. And I read mine too.

You did? <laughs>
It's good.

Did you read the updated one that I did yesterday?
No I didn't.

Yeah, I updated it a little bit.
Hey, look. I'll look at it, but I like your candor and I like your honesty. It's just the way it is.

Not everyone does.
No, look. No matter what you do you spark me to get better and just even fit in sometimes. Sometimes I lose my way and then I realize sometimes I can't please everybody. Not just you, but…I please myself, but then I kick myself when I go, “Shit, the fans like solos, man, give them solos for God's sake.”

I really do like Destroy All Monsters. I upped the points a little bit because this one took a long time to get into.
Right. It's definitely... different. You know what; you've opened up your page a lot more. It's definitely classic melodic rock, but you have a lot of different material on there lately.

I felt really burned out after the I'm Goin' Sane record and even this Destroy All Monsters thing was fun to do but I was so unmotivated to do anything for the last 4 months and I'm bored out of my mind and I want to get back into it again but it's so hard getting back up on the horse every time, you know?

And the fans kinda go, “Dude, what do you do all day?” They go, “Come on, give us something.” And I'm like, “Okay”. It's hard to get up in the morning sometimes. I don't mean that literally, just a cliché kinda thing to say. Well, it's not a cliché, it's just a figure of speech.

Yeah, sometimes I sit here at the computer first thing in the morning and I go, “Fuck, what do I do now?”
I know, and to come up with creative things to talk about and to keep the fans interested and stuff. But your page has so much shit going on. I don't know how you run it. It costs me a couple thousand bucks even to run my web site to get it together and it's still kind of cheesy, but your thing. I don't know the ins and outs of how to keep a web site going, but that's a lot of RAM.

Edit – some chatter about this and that….and back to the interview….

Where's your head at as far as styles and stuff? I mean Destroy All Monsters is pretty modern.
Destroy all Monsters is, I look at it as, it's more modern compared to the classic melodic rock of Mr. Big and that's the only… most people know me from that.

But I like the more… I like the pop rock thing, but I've kind of done it for the last couple of albums. To me, I look at it as simple rock, simple pop music.

Yeah, it is.
It's like me doing it.

It's catchy as hell.
It's catchy. Thank you. But I don't have the luxury of having the Paul Gilberts, I mean, Paul Gilbert to write with… he writes that pop rock stuff but I would love to have a little bit more of the innovative, a little bit more chords than the 3 chords that I write to write with.
I think my next album is going to lean a little bit more towards, believe it or not, I swear to God, I'm so like into Elton John lately I can't believe it.
Yeah, well that type of classic rock, Elton John, “Take Me To The Pilot”, right? And the early Mr. Big stuff. That Mr. Big kinda style. I want to do something like that and actually stick to my guns. I did it on Destroy All Monsters. I didn't want to… I'm Goin' Sane was cool, but Destroy All Monsters was a little bit more… the production to me I thought was a little bit better.

Yeah. I'll tell you the thing I noticed about the album is that from Track 1 to Track 12 it is consistently the same style, isn't it? The same approach, the same…
Yeah, that's the first time I've ever done that to do… the only one was that “I Can Die Now”, reggae thing. I always do that for some odd reason on a record. I'll throw some monkey wrench in there, and people go, “What the hell did you do?” And I went, “I don't know, it's a song I wrote and I needed to put it on there.” But this is the 1st record since like Mr. Big days that I've actually stuck to my guns and I had a thematic thing, you know, just a straight ahead pop rock record. No different type of frills or anything. Will I go in this direction in the future? I don't think so. I think I'll… I don't know if I'm ready to be jumping into the… I don't want to be, I can't be Mr. Big without the rest of them.




People ask that all the time. When is Mr. Big going to get back together? Or, if you could be with one member, and I go, “Hey man, it's all or nothing.”

Yeah, I e-mailed Billy about 2 weeks ago saying let's do an interview for Influences and Connections and he hasn't replied yet.
Yeah, he's not good at that, really.

He's still pissed at me because he thinks I'm on your side rather than just being neutral or whatever.
Hey, look, I'm glad you're my friend, but…It's ridiculous to even… I did an interview today and she asked me, “Do you listen to Mr. Big stuff, their individual music?” And I said, “I have a couple of Paul albums and I have a couple of Richie records. I have Richie's new one, Change. There's this one song on the record, I even said, “I really like, it was called 'Don't Ask'” and I really like that a lot, and I wasn't even going to talk about the other two guys and I went, “It's politically incorrect,” I don't want people to think… I mean, I don't fuckin' hate these guys. We were in a band together and it didn't work out. I swallowed that bitter pill a long time ago, it's like kind of over. If we ever got back together, I sure would like to get back together some day and do something, because everybody is so… I'm so over the problems we had, the stupid miscommunications. It's so much water under the bridge now.

I don't think Billy's over it for some reason.
No, he's not. He's very…he's still bitter. I can't believe… I didn't fuck with his career or anything. Fuck, he's going like gangbusters. He's doing great.

Maybe he didn't like the review I did for the Influences album.
Well, how are people going to think anyway about that Influences album? First of all, you put out a record that you play on. That was your mistake. You try to recreate the old stuff and you don't even get a blessing from your singer that was a member of the band or a blessing of Paul Gilbert.
He was Mr. Big too. You're playing “Green Tinted Sixties Mind” you think he'd get like a quote from Paul, you know what I mean? So already you're putting out controversy, if anybody cares anyway. If you put it out you're alienating a couple members of the band, and you're putting it out, and some songs… some songs are really good. I think it's a good record, but in the age of so many tribute records, to put out a record with minus people on it and minus good spirits, immediately people think that you did it for the money.
I look back at it and I go, what would I do anyway on it? I wouldn't sing on my own… I would've much rather had Glenn Hughes band play.

Glenn did the best track on there.
“Price You Gotta Pay”?

Actually, “Alive & Kicking”.
“Alive & Kicking”. Did he do that?

Yeah. It's not on the Japanese release; it's a bonus track on the Frontiers release.

I have no idea why it wasn't on the original album, because it's the best track by a long way.
I myself, you probably disagree, but I like… I don't like, I don't recognize “Take Cover” because it's got a very slick, but I did like Doug Pinnick's, what was it? It was an emotional, it was an alternative kind of vibe.

Yeah, a few people liked that track actually.
I like that.

The original is one of my all time favorites.
Yeah, mine too.

Man, I love that song. You've got a great vocal on that track.

It's so emotional. I love it.
Yeah, I look at a record, and I go, “I'm honored that all these people did it, but when it says Mr. Big's Influences and Connections, I kind of go, “Well, there's a few of my influences on there.” They're all people that I love.
It's not because it's kissing ass or anything, but I thought Billy Sheehan singing a boogie version of “Addicted To That Rush” was pretty good.
It almost sounded like ZZ Top. He even does that ZZ Top sound in there. It's good, but when people hear Mr. Big, it was more for the muso sense of it than the awesome playing. It's a sign of the times.
I would've loved to have Paul Rodgers do “To Be With You”, a bluesy version of “To Be With You”. Not Paul Rodgers to do his own song.

I must give you a special… I don't know if you've read last year, but every year I do a sort of Best Of 2003 and give out a few awards, right? And this year you're getting the Best Sexual Innuendo Lyric Award for “What's The Worst That Can Happen”.

“Mr. Toad's wild ride….” <laughs>
Yep. Hey, man. That song rocks. Lyrically, that song was… when I was first writing about it, you know, what it's about, I think I said something about social rebellion but it's kind of a song like what not to do. Definitely, when I read it to my mother she said, “It sounds like your life,” because I was that guy, you know, who was so dumb to play with matches and daddy's gun and go, “What do you mean?” I had a problem with listening. Yeah, it definitely has comic relief in it like, “…make out like Bonnie and Clyde” and “show you Mr. Toad's wild ride” and all that stuff.

I just started laughing when I heard that and thought – that deserves a special award. <laughs>
Ah, thanks. It's good to be back on top -- no matter what. Even if I'm wearing the jester hat, I'll take it.

Good stuff. There's some really good stuff on there. Some really catchy lyrics and really catchy melodies.
It's not what you'd expect. People do expect me to sing that energetic Mr. Big type songs because that's the way it is now. I made it famous doing those records. And then me doing something else, and it's not that it's uncharacteristic, because Destroy All Monsters could've been a 415 record. It was something that I had always been doing. It was like Sucker For a Pretty Face or something like that, and with the help of Mr. Big it made me write, I won't say write better, but write heavier songs and more energetic songs like that. It's because of their help. I mean, granted, if I would've had a parallel career as Mr. Big, like you know how Sammy Hagar played his poppy “I Can't Drive 55”, he made it pretty big as a solo artist and then he got in Van Halen and then became a legitimate Rock Star, and now he's back to doing palm tree shirts, and drinking tequila and doing party animal rock.

He's got to give the Hawaiian shirts up!
You know what. I'm not in a contest. I'm writing a record, I'm proud of it, it's kind of poppy and now it's over and now I'm going to tour on it or make a new one but I'm not going to make the same one again. I thought I'm Goin' Sane and Destroy All Monsters was enough of the pop rock thing and now I'm going to take another step up the ladder.

That's cool. You'll always have a really catchy melody and a good voice. I hope enough people get to hear Destroy All Monsters.
Exactly. I hope they do and maybe put away Mr. Big for a minute or 45-50 minutes, however long the record is, and go, “Ah, that's different.” Or get into it. It's so weird, you can't please everybody. I've had kids say, “Who's Mr. Big?” I've told you that before. And I go, “Okay, it was this band I was in.” The thing about Mr. Big that I really miss is that I really miss my premier mileage plus card that I could travel around the world consistently for years. I miss bragging rights. I miss that a lot. Like Jeff Watson, the fuckin' guy's so funny, everywhere he goes he's passing out a guitar pick going, “Jeff Watson from Night Ranger, and this is Eric Martin,” and then he looks at me and he goes, “What should I say?” and I go, “Just say Eric Martin. Don't worry about it, man.” <laughs>. It's okay. It used to be Eric Martin from Mr. Big and that sounded better.

Haha….Maybe, Eric Martin from Watson/Martin.
Even my mother, she'll go, she'll walk up to somebody and go, “Eric Martin from Mr. Big,” and I'll say, “Mom, I'm not with Mr. Big anymore,” and she'll say, “But you were.” Kind of like George Bush, Sr. They still call him the President even though he's not a President anymore. Anyway, I don't know. Kind of a weird analogy.
Anyway, I miss the bragging rights and I miss traveling around the world and I miss being on the big stage and headlining all over the world and opening to bands like Aerosmith and all of that, and it is… I miss that but when I talked to you a year or two years ago, I was going like, “I'm really hoping to get back on that stage as big as that,” Anymore, not really. I know I'm never, I'll have to do another 12 or 13 years of campaigning to get back up their again and sell my soul a little bit to try and be Eric Martin from Mr. Big again. I just want to… I definitely want to come out with a record… I thought I sang really good on this record, but I think I can do even better. I chose keys that were a little higher than the last record, but they could be a little more higher, and I don't mean that like back in the '80s when I'd yell, “Yeah, come on,” and the crowd would all scream, and if I sang a little higher they'd scream even louder, but just a little bit more urgency in my voice. I really need that back.

I tried to get that back with Destroy All Monsters but when you play 3 chord pop rock it lends itself to be more pop.

Maybe you can try something a little different with Jeff Watson if you finally stop drinking.
Well Jeff is such a classic rocker that you can't get around that, there's nothing you can do except play melodic rock. That's him. He is melodic rock guitar player guy. I know you have tons of them, on your page. You write about so many of these people that I don't even know, but now I know. I didn't know, I didn't really pay any attention to Marty Friedman's and stuff like that, but now I know exactly who he is and his Cacophony days and the whole bit. But even some of these European guys that you've written about and you definitely write about… they were like nobodies some of these people back then and now they're somebody.

I appreciate your support.
You appreciate me being me, right? <laughs>

You bet.
For lack of a better word.

No, it's good, mate. I appreciate it. You're a good guy.
Good talking to you, man.

Good talking. Thanks a lot for the review. I don't know if I deserve it, but I appreciate it.

Thank you, mate.
All right, Andrew. Hey, who's your next interview?

Well I'm supposed to call Jack. I might try to give him a call now.
Yeah, man. Try to get the scoop out of him with the Japanese. Just go, “Eric was telling me, he can't tell me, it's some special project that you and Jack are doing and we're doing some sort of trial run in January and if it works it could be really big, and if it doesn't work then we basically go back to our perspective corners.

I'm sure it'll work.
All right, man. I'll talk to ya.

Take care.



Jack Blades (2004)

Jack Blades: 20+ years later – a solo album!
Jack Blades is always a good interview - interesting conversationalist and of course there is always a dozen projects to talk about at any given time. This is my forth official interview with Jack and he remains as entertaining as ever - talking about his current passion, a new solo album.
Thanks as always go to Ron Higgins for transcribing the interview for me.

How are you Jack?
I'm great, Andrew. How are you

I'm good, thanks.
Wait a minute. My wife is really upset with me right now.

Oh, is she?
No, it's okay. She's not upset with me anymore.

What have you done?
It's okay. I haven't done anything. How are ya?

Working hard, mate. Working hard. And you? I've just got off the phone with Eric [Martin].
He told me you were going to call him today.

He said you were swapping stories.
Yep. We're swapping stories as it were.

He tells me you guys are working on something. That's very good to hear.
Did he tell you what it was?

Not really. He said he couldn't really yet, but he just said you two were working on something for a Japanese…
Yeah, it's a pretty big thing in Japan so it's going to be pretty fun.

I'm pretty impressed to hear that. I think you two should've worked together long ago.
Oh, yeah. He and I, we're friends and it's like, we're going to have some fun here.

It's going to be a fun time, man.

Good on you.
So I've got this new solo album out.

Yeah, let's talk about it.
Well, it's actually not coming out until next month.

It'll take me that long to get the interview done, so I thought I'd talk to you as early as I can then I can take my time getting it ready.
Beautiful. Beautiful.

It's not what I… let me be polite; it's not what I expected.
What did you expect?

I don't know what I expected, maybe something like the first Damn Yankees.
With like what?

…or a little bit more Night Ranger like…..I'm not sure.

Yeah. Some of the stuff on there is like the Shaw/Blades, I can see that, you know, straightaway, and that's great, but there's a couple of… you experimented a little bit there too, didn't you?
Like on which songs?

“We Are The Ones” and “On Top of the World”, that was a far out track.
Oh, I fuckin' love that track.

Do you really?
I love the lick.

It's a big heavy track….
It's pretty beastie, yeah. I love the fact that it's so… it's all the guys in Night Ranger, but it doesn't sound anything like Night Ranger.

Are you serious?
It's all the guys in Night Ranger. That's Jeff and Brad, and me and Kelly.

No way.

That does not sound like Night Ranger.
Well, that's what I'm saying. That's why I love it.

Wow. Okay.
I wanted us to be on this heavy, heavy track that doesn't sound anything like Night Ranger.

Yeah. It doesn't. I'm surprised.
Yeah. I really like that.

Yeah. And “Who You Wanna Be”, I thought was another different kind of track for you.
Yeah, you know what? I wanted just to… I'm such a Zeppelin fan, that I wanted to do like trippy, far out, weird, different things, and when you have a solo album, why not do something like that.

I mean I though the melody and the verses were very Jack Blades <starts singing>, you know what I mean? And then the great sort of Zeppeliny <sings guitar riff>, you know what I mean? I just love it. It was really, really fun. And then that's Brad playing the solo, that really outrageous part. That's Brad Gillis playing on that.

Is that right?
Yeah, yeah. We just had a ball doing it. You know when you have a solo album you get to stretch and do things so you're not confined to this little box or world that everybody has put you in. And I think a song like “Shine On” is so Damn Yankees like. I mean “We Are The Ones” really was written with Damn Yankees in mind and that was one of the songs that was going to be on the Damn Yankees record.

I just love that. I think it's great. It's just kick ass stuff. Then “Sea of Emotions” with Neal and me doing it.

That's a great song.
That's a blistering solo on that.

I think what really…
I'm sorry you don't like my record.

No, I didn't say I didn't like it, Jack. What I'm saying is a couple of the songs… There's some classic stuff on there, don't get me wrong. I think I was really surprised to hear such a varied record.
Well you know what, I've been writing so many songs and I have so many things, and if you're not, if you can't do what you want to do on your own solo record, then what good are you.

Yes. Okay.
Because a song like “Someday” <sings>, is so Jack Blades as well as “Shine On” is so me, and of course like “Don't Want to Be Alone Tonight” is like a big ballady Jack Blades song.

That is possibly my favorite song.
Yeah, Neal and I just love that. Neal and I wrote that together.

Did you? That's a killer song. I'll tell my other favorite…
And then there's a song like “Sometimes You Gotta Have Faith”

That is another favorite.
That is so my attitude in life. That is so me. Sometimes you've got to believe in something greater than self, sometimes you've got to believe in something bigger than yourself, you know what I mean.

Now that song I could hear on radio.
Well that's what I mean. Did you hear “Nature's Way”?

That's always, when I was growing up that was always one of my favorite songs by this group called Spirit, which was a '70s LA rock band, right.

That song was always one of my favorite songs and I think it's even more timely now because it's Nature's way of telling you something is wrong, and with Tommy and I doing it as a duet, I think we just kicked ass on it.

Yeah. I think probably my favorite song on the whole album is “To Touch the Sky”.
Oh, I love “To Touch the Sky”.

Man, that has got melodies going everywhere.
I know, isn't that great?

That is a great song, and your vocals on that are just fantastic.
Well thank you very much. I was really proud of the fact that Neal and I wrote that. I told Neal, I said “Damn Neal we should've been in a band together. I told you that.”

Yeah, let's quit fucking around. Look, I'll show you <laughs>.

There still needs to be a Schon/Blades album, you know that?
Yeah, forget Shaw/Blades it's Schon/Blades. <laughs>. But I love Shaw/Blades too, man.

Oh, I do too. I still play that record all the time.
Yeah, that's a good one.

Your album - I like some parts and there's some of it that I still need to live with because it is just so different.
Which ones do you have to… which ones do you think are so different? Like “On Top of The World”?

Oh “On Top of the World” is really… I really haven't gotten into that one yet, but hearing you talk about it helps me go back and…
And then Jeff Watson played this blistering, blistering lead in it he just fucking went for it. It was insane. That's the lead that's on there. That was the first take and it was like, fuck, that's it Jeff. That is it. We looked at each other and went, “Wow!”

I can't believe that's all the guys from Night Ranger.
That's Kelly, that's Brad, that's me.

I loved “Sea of Emotion”. I love Kelly's line in there. It's good to hear him singing.
Yeah, I wanted to put Kelly in the bridge there.

Yeah, he's a great bridge singer isn't he?
Oh, he's just wonderful at that. And then how about Warren… that's Warren DeMartini playing the solos on “Shine On” and “We Are the Ones”.

Is that right?
Yeah, that's Warren DeMartini playing those. In fact, it's Warren, he wanted to play acoustic guitar on “Who You Wanna Be” because he was always a big Zeppelin… he's a huge Jimmy Page fan and he's playing all the acoustic guitar playing along all of the verses of “Who You Wanna Be.”

And that's Warren playing all of that, and then that's Warren playing a bit of the solos on “Don't Want To Be Alone Tonight”.

Yep. I love that ballad. It's such a great ballad.
Yeah, that's a killer one. On “Who You Wanna Be”, I said, let's just do an outside sounding song that'll just be this spacey… you know, let's just stretch, let's do things we would never do like backwards drums like that break in the third verse. In fact, in “Who You Wanna Be”, you know what I did, I played a different bass melody in each verse.

Is that right?
I have never done that before. I've never had the freedom of being able to do that, and I was so excited about that. It's like when McCartney did “With a Little Help From My Friends”, each verse he plays a different bass line, you know what I mean?

The first one was <sings example>, then the next one was <sings> and then the next one was <sings>, you know what I mean? Each verse in “Who You Wanna Be”, I play a different bass line in the verse. I had so much fun with that song. And then Warren playing the acoustic guitar and then that Zeppeliny like chorus riff <sings>. I love riffs, man. I'm a riff kid from way back. I grew up listening to English riffs like Cream and Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. That's the music I grew up on.

Yeah, I can see some of that in the record for sure.
Yeah, yeah. That's the stuff I grew up on, man. And I wanted to have in “On Top of the World” the most heavy, obnoxious most raunchiest fucking straight in your face heavy, heavy track with all the guys from Night Ranger playing. Just to show… just to be able to do that so it doesn't sound like a cute little pop song.

That's not cute, that's for sure <laughs>!
You know what I mean?

Yeah. I do.
And the bridge on “On Top of the World” <starts singing>

Well you're helping me understand it a bit better which is good. That's what the interview is all about.
That's what interviews are all about.

That's what it's all about. “Someday” is another great ballad. That could be on radio, couldn't it?
Exactly. “Someday” is a great track, kind of a mid-tempo…

And Tommy Shaw is on that as well I presume?
Yeah, he sings the backup chorus there with me. Absolutely.

How about “Shine On”? Do you like “Shine On”?

“Shine On” you know, it's really funny, I didn't enjoy it at first, and then I finished the record and I was walking out of the house singing “Shine On” and I'm thinking, “that's a sign of a really good song.”
“Shine On” is… I really just love that track.

Yeah, it's infectious isn't it?
Yeah, totally infectious and it's Michael Cartellone and Tommy and me. It's just great.

Now you recorded that for Damn Yankees. Did you totally re-cut it for this?
Completely re-cut it. In fact, some of that stuff on there is from the demo that Tommy and I originally did of the song.

Is that right?
Yeah. It was so good. The demo that we did was so good that we put some of it on there.

Some of the choruses and stuff.

Okay. How many tracks did you record for this album, Jack? Did you put everything on there that you recorded or is there some stuff that didn't make it?
No, I put pretty much everything on there that I recorded.

Yeah? Okay.
Plus that bonus track for Japan. Which one did I put for a bonus track?

Yeah, I saw that the other day.
Oh, <starts singing> “I will catch you when you fall…”

I haven't heard that track. What sort of style is it?
Oh, you haven't heard that one?

Oh, that's a very bizarre track too.

Is it? <laughs>
A great chorus and the verses are really different – really strange and different. Kelly played the drums on it and we did this break in the middle of it, it was really fun. You know what, man? I had fun with this record.

It does sound like this is your record. It sounds like you've just gone, “Screw everything, this is what I want to do, and I'm doing it.”
And you know what? I think you'll find fans loving it.

I hope so, Jack. I really do because we want another one. And then we want another one after that.

So you've got to keep at it.
Keep it rolling baby.

Yeah. What about Night Ranger? Let's jump to them.
What about them?

Are we going to have a new record this year, please?
I don't know. We just came back from a nice tour of Japan.

Yeah, first time in a while.
We had a great time.

I heard good things.
We had great, great shows.

I don't know why you didn't come down to Australia afterwards with Nevermind.
Too bad. But you know, we're actually talking to record companies that want us to do an album for them in Japan.

We'll have to see what happens.

Yes, please.
Would “On Top of the World” be an example of what's to come, or just traditional Night Ranger? Ha, ha, I don't know. I think the guys might think that's too heavy.

Yeah, probably <laughs>. But it's good to do it and have some fun with it, right?
It's good to do it and have some fun. I mean it's like an Audioslave track or something.

It sounds like a Rage Against the Machine lick, I love that stuff.

It sounds like it. I just remember listening to it and… I'm going to have to listen to it as soon as I hang up because…
Now you'll understand it more.

Well I hope so, yeah. I do. I do. Night Ranger. That's good. I heard you filmed some dates. Is that right?
Yes, we filmed three dates in Tokyo so there might be a DVD coming out.

Yes, please.
My friend John Kalodner wants to release the DVD.

Oh, great.
He's with Sanctuary Records now.

Yeah, I heard that. I was just talking with him not too long ago. I did a nice interview with him. I like John.
He's a great guy. He loves this record. He wants to release it.

Good. I was going to ask if there's a U.S. release planned.
Yeah, there probably will be a U.S. release. [Update: Yes, there is…it's due in April]

And he has Tommy Shaw and I doing a record.

Yeah, a record of our favorite tunes from the '70s.

Are you serious?
Yeah, I'm dead serious.

Tommy and I are going to start doing it January and February and just knock it out.

Under the name Shaw/Blades?
Yeah, I don't know… or just Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw or whatever. It's going to be our favorite, like Seals and Crofts' “Summer Breeze”, maybe “California Dreamin'”, maybe “For What It's Worth” by Buffalo Springfield, maybe “Bus Stop” by the Hollies, maybe, you know, things like that.

Okay. In the acoustic vain?
No. In the regular just rock and roll vain.

Like “Shine On” or like Shaw/Blades kind of style?
I don't know. Whatever the song needs to have.

Really? Okay.

Shaw/Blades was a pretty unplugged album, so not necessarily like that?
No. Not necessarily like that at all. We were even thinking about doing Three Dog Night's “One” <starts singing>.

Ah, that's a great song.
I know. Think of all our favorite songs. Like Rod Stewart did all of those like '30s or '40s, or whatever it is…

We're thinking about doing all the songs that we grew up with, that all the people our age will absolutely just remember and love.

Yeah, we're really excited.

Good. So we've got Shaw/Blades coming up, we've got possibly a Night Ranger DVD and hopefully an album.
Right, and we've got a Jack Blades solo CD.

We've got Jack Blades coming up…
Very good. And then we've got this special thing that's very secret. The big Japanese group.

Yeah, you've got that going on.
That Eric and I are going to be involved with and doing.

Wow. Holy cow. What a year coming up.
And we're putting together possibly a tour right now for May through June of Night Ranger, Ted Nugent and Styx in the United States.

That needs to be done.
And in the middle of Ted's show, Tommy and I will come out and maybe play 5 or 6 Damn Yankees tunes.

Hello. I'd love to see that show.
Wouldn't that be great?

Maybe we can get that down to Australia or something.
Wouldn't that be great? That's the kind of stuff that I'm talking about.

That'll be a good show.
Yeah, so we're really excited about that.

A lot going on, man.

Fantastic. What else? Geez.
Oh, and I wrote that song that I co-wrote with my son on my CD. I love that.

Oh, absolutely.
“Breakin It Down”.

Yeah! I love Colin's album.
Colin's got a good album doesn't he?

Did you see the review I did for it?

Yeah, I gave it 92%.
No way!

Absolutely. I'll email it to you.
You've got to email it to me directly.

I will, and I'll send you the link as well. I gave it 92%. It's a killer album.
Oh, I'd love to see… please, email that to me.

I will. Connoisseur sent it to me. No, you sent me the promo a long time ago.
I think so, yeah.

But I bought a copy myself directly from Connoisseur's web site.
Beautiful. Beautiful.

It's just a great album.
He just got back… he was touring all this past week in… what's today, Monday? He was touring all last week, he came home for 3 days from Japan and then went right to the East coast and played some shows and did radio shows and did a whole bunch of stuff. He just got back Saturday night.

He's having fun?
Oh, yeah. He's loving it. He's going to have a good year next year too.

It'll be a good year for the Blades boys. <laughs>

Yeah. It sounds like it.
A lot of work for the Blades boys.
I've got one son who works for Doc McGhee – McGhee Entertainment.
Yeah, he's an assistant at the management company there.
So he's down there in Hollywood in the middle of all that stuff all the time. With Slipknot and KISS and Hootie and the Blowfish and everything else.

And you've written a couple of other things for Frontiers too haven't you?

Mickey Thomas… I'm looking forward to hearing those. In fact, I've heard one track that you and Neal wrote.
Which one?

“One World”.
Oh, you did?

Yeah. Frontiers sent me an MP3. Great song. A very Shaw/Blades kind of style. Very Journey, actually.
Very sort of John Waite, actually. It's a very cool song. I liked it.

Will Colin do another record next year?
I hope so.

Fantastic. And you produced that, didn't you?
Yeah, I co-produced it with Noel Golden.

Yeah, who's Noel worked with before?
Matchbox Twenty, Edwin McCain…

That's right.
Those kind of people.

Damn Yankees? I supposed you've got so much going on you probably don't have time for Damn Yankees.
We're kind of just doing… we're going to put this… if this tour comes down I think that'll generate a lot of interest in the Yanks.

Yeah, definitely.
It'll make it… I just want to… I just talked to Ted three days ago in fact and he's telling me how amazing… that he's written some great songs, some great licks. He's got some great shit going on.

I loved his Craveman album.
I know. Craveman is great. I think I wrote a song with him on that.

Yeah, you did. It's a great rockin' album.
“Crave”. We wrote “Crave”.

He's an insane human being. <laughs>
He's a great guy.
He'll be the Governor of Michigan before you know it.

That's something I'd like to see.
I'm not sure I would.

Gun issue laws for everyone.
Yeah, guns for everyone!

Fantastic. So what else? Anything? You shot the video for “Shine On” haven't you?
We shot the video with Tommy and I in the video and I think it's going to be actually on the CD. You put it in your computer and play it.

Yeah, I think that's a cool thing. I think more people need to make videos these days.
I think so, so they can get that and there's a reason to buy the CD and not just burn it.

Exactly. I think it's a great thing and you've done a little interview for it as well I hear?
Yeah, I did a little EPK interview on it too. So it's very cool.

Yeah, that's a good thing. What do you think about the whole industry?
I think it's an exciting time right now. I think it's changing. As soon as they figure out what's going on, and we figure out how to keep people from stealing music and all that stuff, I think it's going to be good. I think music will always be around, man. I think you'll always want to hear music. And we've just got to figure out different ways to do it. We've just got to figure it out. Once it gets figured out, it'll get figured out. Then once it gets figured out, it'll get changed again.

That's the way it is. We just have to figure out this whole thing to keep people from stealing. That's the problem.

Yeah. It's too easy for them isn't it?
Yeah, it's just too easy and people don't think anything of it. They think their music should be free. They think, you know, you spend half a million dollars making a record and they should get it for free. It's very difficult because nobody wants to… in the beginning when that became popular, it's like, they should've stopped that in the very beginning, but the record industry was so stupid that they decided to do nothing about it and now they're reaping the rewards.

But it's the same thing with movie guys. You think Spielberg is going to spend $200 million making a movie and let people just download it for nothing?

Well they're next aren't they? They're the people on the chopping block next, aren't they?
Right, right.

The internet can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing as well.
That's right.

It's a shame that some of the record labels think that anyone on the internet is a pirate. That's a shame.
Yeah, yeah. They just don't get it.

It could be like what I do. I positively promote music. I thought that would be a good thing.
You're a pirate?

I'm not a pirate!
I know!!

I'm going to upload your CD to my site and give it away.
<singing: Give it away, all, give it away, all>
There you go. All right, mate. You got it?

I absolutely got it. Thank you, sir.
Okay. And if you need anything else, call me, email me, let me know…

All right. I'll do that.
Thank you, mate. .

Thanks, Jack.

Danny Danzi (2004)

Danny Danzi: Welcomes You To Danziland.
Danny Danzi has proven to be one of the more popular personalities on the melodic rock scene and in this interview provides some interesting and honest insights into the making of his new solo album DaniLand and surviving the last 4 years.

Mr Danzi! Here we go with that interview that's long overdue!
Mr. McNeice! You know, we've never done an interview, have we? Long overdue for sure....then again, what the hell could you have possibly asked me anyway? "Danny, will it come out this year?" Hahahahaha!

Congratulations on the new album mate - long overdue (which we will get to) - but well worth the wait!
Ah thanks man, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I know you're not easy to please, and neither are the AOR fans. We did the best we could though....and I like to think it was worth the wait too. We'll see how the others feel. *prays* :)

What are your personal feelings now that it's all said and done and about to be unleashed on the world?!!
Bless me Father for I have sinned, it's been 5 years since my last album release and my fans are pissed! Hahaha, well man, I'm relieved for one. This whole thing was like a monkey off my back to be honest, and it shouldn't have felt that way. And I thought I was in bad shape with SLIT?! I'm a mess now, but recharging my batteries a little at a time now. I also think the time is now for some killer guitar music with hooks to come back, and what better way to do it than with my album? :) It's a fun album to jam along to, yet very serious in lyrical content and the songwriting speaks high volumes I think. I just hope people like it as much as we do. If they don't, I know I gave it my all and covered all the bases to the best of my ability. We'll see.

It's been quite a journey - let's go back and try and cover everything that has happened!
Aww man, do we have to? Just what I wanna do, re-live this mess again. Hahahaha...just kiddin'! I know it goes with the territory. :)

Now, your debut album comes out and it's gets a great reception from fans and the media. It's time to start on a follow up.
What was the first move you made and when did work on DanziLand start?
Well, I had a few song ideas Andy and I had messed with when we finished SLIT. He and I sat down and talked about doing the album just us two at one point, but then we felt it would be best if we hired some other players that could do a better job than both of us. Once I got a band together that could write with me, I knew it would sound more band oriented than just me adding most of the input. I do pretty good on my own, but pretty good wasn't going to cut it this time. I owed the fans that much for making them wait so long, and I do apologize for that once again. So the first move was to really get a solid line-up, and after a year and a half (maybe longer) we had that part etched in stone.

Now, I believe it might be a little hard for me to chronicle the difficulties you faced in question form - maybe Danny you could take us through some of the issues to do with writing and recording the original demos?
I wrote most of the music and the melodies, and the other guys would either help tweak what I did, or take the tunes in different directions. Andy and I wrote the words for the first 6 songs I believe, and we were out of juice. So much was going on at that time, inspiration lyrically wasn't quite there. We had quite a few issues. We didn't know that Z wanted us after a few rumors we heard, we had Marquee threatening to drop us (or so we were told) I had to let a few band members go, one quit on me that was an asset to the line-up, and a keyboard player was nowhere to be found.

When we got Phil in the band playing keys, (Phil on keys baby) he also was an awesome lyricist and helped to write the rest of the album. Just in time too because Andy and I were at a stand still. Once the band was in place, we started recording here in DanziLand. The demo we finished was so good, Z was seriously thinking of releasing it as it was. We only managed to record about 5 songs though, because we were constantly being pressured to deliver the album. So we went into the REAL studio and started tracking. We hated it, so we started again and hated it some more. Hahahaha!

I then went back over all the songs as thorough as I could, and the guys went over them with me. At rehearsals we'd just record the music to see if that was at least ok. I'd sing over them later and make sure I was digging the vibe. This went on until Z told us we HAD to give them something or Marquee was for sure going to drop us in Japan. I always wondered why Marquee was so desperate for this album (or so we were told) since they didn't pay me a dime to start....strange isn't it? ;)

We got quoted a killer price from the studio we were going to record in. So killer, there was no way it could be done for that amount after the studio got sold and another owner took over. His first words to me were "are you nuts?" From there we just kept tracking until I had to start paying for things out of my own pocket because the budget I was originally promised, never showed up. Must have gotten lost in the mail. Some of it did of course show up, which was the original quoted price, but I signed a document that promised me quite a lot more, so this definitely became a problem. Once I was out of bread, the studio put me on credit and that too started to get way out of hand. We finally just had to put the project on hold.

Ok, so things are starting to turn sour….at what stage did you come to the conclusion that you would have to move record labels?
When I heard rumors that I was on my way out, that planted a bad seed with me and the guys. We understood that we were at fault for not delivering the goods in a timely fashion, but this was all discussed within Z and myself numerous times. Mark was very patient, and really should have let us go. He's not fully at fault here, we were too. BUT, I can't help it if I don't have a working unit and I have a family business that takes higher priority that prohibits me from doing the whole thing myself. Sure, I could have probably used the UK band to bail me out here, but that still would have put everything on me and I didn't have the time nor the desire to go that route.

When things got real hot, and Mark couldn't buy us anymore time, and demands were put on us, I asked a few questions regarding the demands, as well as issues with SLIT that were still unanswered. How could I embark on another endeavor if there were things that needed to be answered regarding SLIT? Hell, my parents had an ugly son, not a dumbass. ;)
As things progressed with the recording of the album (to which I was now paying for out of my own pocket) I ran into a few important people that were willing to really do something for me. Of course when they heard "under contract" they wouldn't touch me unless a release form was presented.

I spoke with Mark, and told him about this, and he agreed to let me go. He told me he would issue a release form, and I'd be on my way. Well, the form never showed up when promised. The deal was toast, and those guys were no longer interested for as you know, in this business, it's the right place, at the right time. Finally this form shows up and has all this shit in it that pretty much makes the label look like God, and me a piece of shit violating my freedom of speech rights. It also threatened some bogus denomination of money if I discussed any label activities, as well as me owing them money.
Needless to say, I didn't sign the thing, and I don't owe anyone shit. Easy for them to say I owe money when I fronted that fucking label from day one and didn't get reimbursed for years....not to mention finance charges on my credit cards, flights, and other goodies that either were forgotten, or taken care of at a later date....much later.

Yeah, Z was good to me. I admit it. They gave me my start, allowed me to tour, promoted the hell out of me, and Mark was a great friend. I just don't know what happened to them. Hell, Mark even loaned me money for some personal issues I had going on. All well and good, I thanked the guy, he bailed me out, but the rest of my promised budget never showed up. Sales from SLIT were still taking place somewhere, but he wasn't getting the money he said, and neither was I. Yet I was signing CD jackets from all over the world.

Someone was making the money, yet I hadn't seen a dime in a long time. I was with that label for a long time, I have 3 statements from them total. That's no way to do business, and I wasn't going to do another album in that type of situation. What the hell was I supposed to do, join the "fight Z records artists"? That ain't my bag man, and I mean no disrespect to the other guys. They have their fight, and I'll keep to myself and speak about it when the question gets asked knowing Z is out of my life for good. Besides, they can't sue me for shit, and I can't sue them for shit.....the price of shit doesn't get much these days, so we're all screwed ain't we? Chalk it up as experience I say.

Ok, so moving on…what was the next step you took?
I needed a label, as I couldn't do this on my own anymore. As I sat with my band pondering the next move, and really scared about losing the Japan deal, (you know how hard it is to get a deal there if you don't have a decent name) I thought about mailing them and asking if we could work something out. But who to talk to? I never had any contact with them, Mark set that deal up, not me. Well, we broke our meeting, and went home. When I got home, low and behold, I had an email from someone that was someone from the Japanese scene telling me to contact them to discuss a deal. I was astonished, since this was the topic of conversation that night. "How to approach Japan to see if we could save this deal."

Talks went well, and they signed me a week later. They immediately fronted me money, and DanziLand was up and running once again. We also needed a Euro label to help us out a bit. I mailed N&T, Frontiers and Lion, neither of which ever replied to me. Maybe they weren't interested, or maybe they think I suck...who knows. The only reason I even wanted to release this album was to give the fans what they wanted. I didn't want to release with an AOR label because, at this time, you couldn't blame me for having cold feet after what I went through. Marquee spoke highly of MTM, but I remembered I didn't have a very pleasant time with them when I was shopping my last deal.

Magnus was there at the time of my first album shopping, and the dude just never got back to me for some reason, yet showed interest in SLIT. So I figured "here we go again", but I found out he was gone. I dealt with Mario, and the guy was killer in the way he handled me. He then passed me on to Sebastian (who is my new hero now by the way) and I ran poor Sebastian ragged with so many questions, it must have seemed like a never ending interview to him. The guy not only responded quickly and informatively, he typed books back to me explaining everything in detail. That meant a lot to me, and definitely gained credibility.

We signed a deal, they paid as promised on time and proper, and bailed me out some more. I gave MTM a date to when they would have the album, it was shipped 2 days before the due date. Marquee paid for the entire recording on time, and as promised. The end result, they received the album on time 2 days ahead of schedule.

At what stage did you get close to completing work on the tracks and can you detail that stage in the process?
You know Andrew, there was really never a time to where I got close to completion. You're never done this stuff until your deadline is up. There is always something to do better, there is always a change you can make, a new sound to introduce, a new melody....it just never ends man. I wasn't done until the due date came up to where I HAD to be. But the process was....I played guitar to a click track. I'd do this on every song. Timmaay would lay the drums down after I was done, or sometimes right along with me and we both used the click as timing. Wayne would add the bass in when the drums were tight since he needed to feed off of Tim. Once the core of the music was done, I'd go in and sing the lead vocals, and work on the lead guitars at my studio in DanziLand. I'd export the tracks as wave files, and bring them to DSR (Davis Sound Recording) to have them brought into the mix and synced up.

While I was doing my thing, Wayne and I were also creating keyboard parts for the stuff our new keyboard player Phil didn't get a chance to do on our own time. Wayne was also adding in bass as we finished another rhythm backing for each tune. Once all that was done, I went in and sang all the backing vocal tracks and found out I had to re-write just about all of them. Hahahaha! After that, we mixed them, listened, made changes, and sent the stuff to Digital Domain in Florida to be mastered by guru Bob Katz.

You are you're own one man band at times - how did you come to learn and play so many instruments?
Ah man, God was good to me. That's the only thing I can really say. He gave me the tools, I learned how to use them. In most bands, there is always a member missing. Yet, the instrument YOU play, can have 300 others that can do it. When I played drums, we always needed a guitarist. When I played guitar, we always needed a singer. So I just tried everything I could to see how I'd fair. In all actuality, I'm not very proficient at anything, but I can pull things off and fake quite well. Don't get me wrong, if I sat with something for long enough, I'd master it....there just isn't that kind of time...and you know me with "time"....hahaha!

You may have already touched on this - but you have a band involved on this album rather than doing everything yourself. How did you team up with these guys and how about the frustrations of coming to finalize the line-up?
I actually wound up doing quite a few things by myself anyway. Not by choice of course, but they had to be done. The band had rehearsed this stuff for quite a long time. They wrote just about every song with me, so though I may have had to wear a few more hats than I wanted to, they wrote the stuff, I just played it. When the recording of the album stopped, and band rehearsals stopped, the guys focused more on their own lives and careers that didn't involve music. When they got too busy to hook up with us, I had to take up the slack and do the parts.

Back up vocals was something I wasn't ready for. I thought the band would be singing them, but our schedules conflicted and I wound up doing them. Andy had some guitar issues, got busy at work, and was swamped...so I played all the rhythm parts because we were running out of time. Phil wrote a few board parts and played a few, but for the songs that didn't yet have keys, we had to create something and he didn't have the time for it. So Wayne and I created the ones we needed. We got our buddy Luke to play the piano on Time Passes by because none of us could make love to a piano like he could, and Phil was pretty busy. So though we all took part in the writing and arranging of EVERY song and some of the performing, Wayne, Tim and myself did most of the work.

I've known these guys for quite a long time. Andy has been with me for years as a writing partner, and he and I worked in 2 versions of Passion. Phil is one of my best friends from my old neighborhood, and was always a solid player. He and I lost touch for a few years, and one day hooked up again. I asked him to join the band, and he was in. Wayne and I met when SLIT was mastered, and I really dug his bass playing, so I asked him to play in the band one day. Tim I knew from my cover band days, and he contacted us after he read an ad we were looking for a drummer....thanks to Karen! (our very own Rogue on the boards)

And will this band stay with you for the future?
I'd like to hope so, but it seems as though a few of them have incredible careers moving at full force right now, so I don't know for sure. They know that if they take some time off, they will always have a place to come back to. Great guys they are.....so we'll see. No matter what, this project will still keep moving.

Let's talk about the songs included on DanziLand. Where did you draw on inspiration to write them?
It just comes to us. Like the song "Just a Matter of Time", I hear stuff in my head and that's what that song is about. I hear full orchestrations, vocal harmonies, guitar riffs, drum grooves....it all just comes out of nowhere. The other guys have this happen to them too. Or, we'll use real life situations. DanziLand is completely real life. Nothing fiction on here at all. So it's a bit serious for us, as we've lived it.

I noticed several co-writers involved - do you work or feel better teaming with someone, or do you prefer to write alone?
I hate writing music alone unless I'm working on instrumentals. My strong point is definitely working with others, as I am first and foremost, a team player. Writing alone makes things a bit one-dimensional I think. Sure, sometimes it's cool to go that route, but I think I did enough of that on SLIT. As you can hear, this blows that out of the water...so I think it's proof team work has it's advantages. :)

Tell us about co-producer Wayne Davis? What did he bring to the party and how did he help you put the album together?
Man, Wayne was my rock in times of crisis. Words can't express what he's done for this project, and I mean that with every ounce of my being when I say it. Let's just put it this way, and I shit you not...if the guy would have charged me a normal rate and been an ass about it, this album would have EASILY went over the 60k mark. Yeah, that's how much time we have invested into it...and I may be a little low there. Wayne was my mentor through all of this. He's not only a brilliant musician, but he's an awesome engineer and producer. He's the one that listens beyond what even I would listen for. He's the one that would say I'm doing something wrong to where I would fight him about it only to realize...he was right. He was the one that said "less is more" or "don't do that". :)

The guy put his life on hold, and turned paying customers away for me. He edited his heart out, and spent countless hours helping to create the Danzi sound with me. Imagine being in a studio with an engineer, and not having a worry. Imagine throwing a weird idea at the guy, to where we both say "no, that ain't gonna work" and he says..."wait" and in under 5 mins says "you mean like this?" Imagine complete security, devotion and tender loving care going into every element of every song you play. He also took the burden off of me in not having to engineer this monster on my own. That helped immensely to not be looking at it from his side of the fence! Not only that, but he is a much better engineer than I am, and this album needed that. I did learn quite a bit from him though, so you never know when or if I may strike solo. :) And lastly, go into all this knowing that this friggin' album will not leave his studio until HE is as happy with it as you are. Now....THAT, is dedication. Not to mention he helped to create the keyboard parts Phil and I couldn't get to, and Wayne played some incredible bass all over this album. You rock Wayno, thanks dude!

Any tracks written/recorded that didn't make the album? I think I know the answer to this - NO!
Actually, written...yes...recorded, semi. Hahaha! There was one track that was semi completed that was promised to you Sir. But we simply ran out of time, and Wayne needed to do some editing for a few major acts...and they pay big bucks for that. The tune that didn't make the album probably wouldn't have fit on there anyway. It's a very different approach for us, yet one of the best tunes we've ever written. It will surface eventually, I promise you that. But Wayne gave us all the time he could spare, and like I said before, the other guys got pretty busy in their lives. I was dead and pretty beat up from this entire endeavor, so there was no way I could do it and keep the same album quality as DanziLand.

You've been tucked away in a studio for far too long - when are some folks going to get to see you live again?!!
That depends on sales to be honest. I'm sure I can book a few gigs around here, but for the most part original music is tough to sell to the clubs here unless you can guarantee a decent crowd. It's also no longer fun to play for free, or next to free. Sure we love to play and will play anywhere, anytime, any place, but it would be nice to have our expenses covered and a few $$$ in our pockets. It's not like we're just starting out, ya know? We don't ask for much, just enough to pay the light and sound guys, expenses if we have to travel far and a few $$$ for the band. We hope sales go well in Europe so we can get back there. It would be nice to even support a decent act so we can show what we're made of and blow the roof off the place. We shall see. ;)

Danny, you make yourself freely available to fans online - via chatroom's, message boards, mailing lists and your own website.
What are the advantages of this - what do you enjoy the most out of the interaction.
I love it man! I can't get enough! When I was up and coming, there wasn't anyone I could turn to and ask advice. I'm quite knowledgeable in a few areas, and I love spending time with my friends and fans. Besides, you can never have too many friends. As long as time permits, I'll continue to stay this way. Some people think I'm this real famous person because I have an album out. Or they'll type my name in a search engine, and see that they'll be reading about me for the next 3 weeks. Hahahaha!!! It's somewhat intimidating to them, but they find out in under 10 seconds of a personal mail with me....that I'm just like they are and not so high and mighty at all. That's what I'm about man. Just being human. Without the fans, I'm nobody. Hell, even with the fans, there are still millions that don't know who I am. So you treat the ones you have as the only ones you have. Show them some love, they did buy your album.

I've always hated that whole "mystique" thing rockstars use. They're too good to reply to an email or too good to get involved with net chats or other things. Why? Too good for us? You worked a shit job too at one time, and it's because of the fans you can have that big house and drive that nice car, remember that. I'm not a social person outdoors. I work too much in my family business and in my studio to give a rats ass about what goes on in the world of death, drugs, disease and politicians. So I'll write about it and stay out of the element in the privacy of my own home while I hang out on the net and thank my fans.

Sue me for being a kiss ass....err...wait, a very thankful kiss ass. When I get done doing the things I do in life, the net is part of my social life and I'm content with that. It takes a few seconds to tell someone that has mailed you praising your work "hello and thank you". This usually ends up turning into a second mail, and you talk some more. You then make a friend from another part of the world. How can you beat that? This is such a small click. We're all lucky if we sell 5,000-10,000 albums. These select few people that support us definitely deserve a thank you, and they'll always get one from me even if it takes a bit of time....I always respond.

Are there any disadvantages?
None that I can see other than a few jealous people you meet from time to time. But this happens beyond the net as well.

What about your brother - sorry, your evil twin - Johnny Lima. You two always have a lot to say to each other - have you swapped CDs yet?
Brother? I hate that mutha....hahahaha! Yeah, Johnny and me traded quite some time ago. He's got an incredible CD out this time that is STILL in my car in the rotation. He sent me an awesome mail praising mine, so I think he liked it. Johnny is a straight up guy....he tells it like it is, and doesn't bullshit you.
If it passed his test, I'm feeling good about it. He and I may even work on a project together. We've discussed it numerous times, I think it's on me now. I just need to re-charge the batteries a bit...as I'm still pretty whooped from DanziLand. I'll most likely write something with Johnny before I do another album. We've been talking about it for a long time, it's about time it materializes.

Now, tell us about the bloody marvellous CD artwork and cover....one of the best pictorial packages I have seen in a long time!
DanziLand is my home. Everything you can think of is here man. Full recording studio, guitars hanging off the wall, basses, drums, keyboards, mixing consoles, outboard gear, every video game and game system known to man, pool table, wet bar, wine from all over the world, basketball court, swimming pool, dirtbike, killer car...a lil something for everyone. :) My bud Tommy would come here and look around at all my stuff and say "welcome to DanziLand". So the name stuck.

I then got the notion to create a concept of a recording studio theme park. Kinda like Disneyland. I worked it out with 3 different artists. Two of which had to bow out for personal reasons, so Marquee Avalon brought in Eric. He and I tossed ideas around, and he came up with exactly what I had envisioned on his first sketch. The guy is brilliant! We tweaked a few things, and it turned into one of the best CD covers I've ever seen. The cost was well worth it, as I wanted to make the cover art as great as the music inside. I was hoping someone would see it and buy it just because it looked so incredible....not caring if I was any good or not. Hell, how can you walk away from a cover like that and not be curious? ;)

I know this is the last question you want to answer - but what next mate? How long will you make us wait for another album and do you have the energy to do it?!!
Hehehe, (that's a nervous laugh by the way) I really can't say man. As of now, I have enough material for about 5 albums or more. I just don't know when or if I'll get to it. This business is tough, and we make very little money for the time that gets invested into it. There comes a time when an artist has to evaluate his situation. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's all about money, but realistically speaking, the time invested into this, wisely invested into something else, would truly make me a millionaire. When you see and hear what you've done, and look back on what you've made or gotten out of it, it falls way below what you're really worth. It actually hurts because you as an artist feel you've almost done it all in vane. For what? To luckily see $10,000 and have a bunch of pricks listing you on Kazaa?

I just wanna survive man, that's all. Nothing more, nothing less. I'm not in this to be a rockstar, or be rich and famous, I'd just like to make a good honest living from it, and unfortunately, I don't think that's possible for me without major promotion and support. That's not downing either label I am signed to, it's just the facts. No little no name guy like myself is making any AOR label rich, nor is that label doing the same for the artist. You have to be a name people know from the past, or have some famous member in your line-up to sell more albums than you normally would. OR, you need a label to throw all caution to the wind, believe in you and try to get you into the right public eye. I just don't see that happening, though I sure would love to.

Now is the time. We need some good rock n roll with killer guitars. Shit, there's an entire generation of people that aren't buying a damn thing because there is nowhere for them to turn to. And the industry wonders why it's losing money? Sounds like a no brainer to me. Older folks have money because they have jobs. They won't buy the crap that gets rammed down their throats because they come from a time when music was music and there was talent behind the music. It's beyond me how all the radio stations constantly play classic rock, yet you can't shop it to a label if you've been inspired by it. Don't the labels get it....not everyone wants to hear a manufactured trendy band, and most of the kids don't have money....so they steal the stuff from the net? Sickening I tell ya. But people will fight me to the death on that issue. They'll fight me alright, but no one will take a chance on what I'm saying. Just blow it off as "been done before" then be a good lil boy and go listen to your Wimp Trizcuit CD Mr. Record label man. Go figure.

How frustrating is it working within the framework of the AOR/Melodic scene?
See above. Hahahahaha! Very frustrating man. I wasn't out in the 80's, had nothing to do with it, and can't help that it had an impact on me. Yet, "I'm dated". I could easily say in a scenario (just a scenario here, I'm not stuck on myself) "Why, because I can play guitar better than the bands of today and when I solo, I solo because I'm decent at it? I can sing better than most of the singers in bands of today and my band can sing in harmony? Did I also mention that I could probably out-perform individual band members of today all by myself?" Does this sound like I have an ego? (sure it does, it's supposed to) Not really, just facts, or are they? Or, am I labeling and stereo-typing as I am stereo-typed for taking my skills a bit more seriously?

A good song is a good song and should be appreciated as such no matter what it sounds like. See my point now? Everything I just said above in my "ego rant" (said for argument purposes only) IS credible, yet it's all absolute bullshit and a matter of personal preference on both my side, and the person that could push me to the side as "dated". I'm not better than anyone else, I'm just as good and shouldn't be labeled as anything but good or bad. I'd rather hear my stuff is not to someone's liking over hearing "dated" or "done before". Tough scene, but the fans you DO gain, will stick around until you put out a crap album or you disappear.

Ok, should we continue to do our thing, or should we all pack it in and get real jobs?
I don't think it needs to be packed in, but I'd say never quit your day job as most will need it to survive. I'll let you know more about this after we see how DanziLand sells this time around.

Does online piracy and CDR trading have a personal impact on yourself as an artist or music fan?
God yes! It annoys the shit out of me! People just don't understand that little guys like us don't sell albums by seeing their names on a file sharing program. What happens when you fall short with sales because people can get it for free? That's right, you lose your deal. Fall short a few numbers on your artist licensing quota and see if you release another album. The bigger acts can absorb it a little better, (though it's still wrong, stealing IS stealing!) but little guys like myself can get dropped. Do you know what most projected sales are in this scene to keep your label happy? 3,000. Yeah, that's right, a measly 3,000. 50 file sharing monsters grab your entire disc, you didn't make the grade...later kid. My whole problem with this situation is, it violates my rights as an artist. What gives anyone the right to give my material away? When you bought my CD, you didn't buy the music, you bought a license.

All I wish for is control. Let me say which of my tunes can be available. I deserve that right since I sat here writing the tune and incorporated my real life into it. These songs are my children. I'd do a "file sharing only" EP dude. One just for the file sharing maniacs so they'd wanna hear the real disc. I got no problems with it as long as it's controlled. Audio Galaxy had the right idea, but it was implemented too late. I was reading something on their site about "if you are the artist and wish to have tunes removed, click here" and how you could get in touch with them. They got back to me in one day, and I made sure that only the songs I wanted would come up in their search engine. All others would be blocked. Sure all someone would have to do is change the name, but then no one would find the tune, would they? It needs control. Just like owning a gun. You know it's made for shooting, you know it's made for killing. Use it illegally, you're going to jail or paying a fine. You shouldn't be able to use these programs to do illegal things either.

What are your favorite artists and why?
Eddie Van Halen: He's the reason most of us wanted to play guitar. He's also the biggest innovator of all time, and has brought guitar to where it is today through his innovation. Sure several can out play him, but they'll never out-create him. Eddie is the true God of guitar to me.

Dann Huff: Dann has a fantastic voice, and plays like a maniac. His style and feel is unsurpassed. Very underrated, yet extremely deadly in all areas.

Steve Perry, Richard Marx, Peter Cetera, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandrose: Yeah I know, I'm gonna get bashed for putting these names in the same sentence. Hahaha! These singers are masters of vocal timbre, and controlled vibrato. They not only let you hear incredible singing, you can easily feel where they are coming from. They throw out quite a lot of emotion, and the vocal techniques they use, along with heart and soul, can't be topped by many.

The Beatles: What can I say? They're like Scotch. You either love them or hate them. To me, they were the beginning of rock music. The harmonies, the weirdness, the song writing, the orchestration, the arrangements, the lack of rules, the song content, the lyrics, the lack of musicianship...yeah, lack of. Could you picture fantastic players playing their stuff? I can't...the raw and rough edges made them so awesome! Take them out of the band, mediocre at best....bring them together with George Martin calling the shots...pure bliss!

Van Halen: Best live show/rock band of all time. Anyone ever seeing VH with Dave can attest....nothing topped a VH show with Dave in their prime. They were my reason to want to be an artist and play live.

Johnny Lima: Johnny is a lot like me. Very passionate, and lives his music as I do. The guy writes from the heart, and is one of the best live performers I've ever seen. Anyone seeing him at the Gods can attest. The man was a true rockstar and played like he was playing for 20,000 people. He's got a great voice, and is an awesome song writer. AND, he sounds as good live as he does on his albums. That says a lot. He gives his all in everything he does, and I'll forever admire the man as an artist and a great friend.

Dokken: I always thought this band should have been more popular. If I ever did an album as good as "Under Lock and Key" and didn't see huge success, I'd of thrown in the towel. They had a great look, great singer, excellent songs, tight back-ups and Lynch plays with more conviction than any player I know.

Led Zep: Gods of rock! Who could top them for what they did? I would have loved to see them play a bit better live, but their studio stuff will forever be appreciated and they will always be respected as "the full package" to me.

Lynyrd Skynyrd: I sooo loved these guys! Great guitar playing, killer hooks, southern rock at its best!

Boston: Killer tunes, great guitar playing, awesome production, harmonies, the list goes on and on.

Whitesnake: That "Still of the Night" album had a major impact on me. Great vocals, songs, guitar playing....Sykes and that vibrato...man oh man!!! Killer line-up...incredible live!

Chicago: One of my all time favorites! Moving jazzy tunes with killer vocals, arrangements and horns. My reason for playing trumpet and sax. I jammed to their stuff quite a bit on drums.

Billy Joel: Great song writer, singer, piano player. His best work was the earlier stuff for me. Anything after "52nd St" lost my interest unfortunately.

Elton John: Absolute brilliance...nuff said.

Simon and Garfunkel: Wound up grabbing some of their stuff off of my parents. Awesome harmonies and songwriting. They taught me how to harmonize.

The Carpenters: Karen had incredible melodies. Very memorable and tasty. A bit boring at times and one-dimensional, but melody was the key.

Yanni: Quite a few people hate this dude, and I can't see why. He takes me on a journey and really paints an inspirational picture. It's not stuff I can listen to day in and day out, but when you're in the mood to possibly create something new or need some inspiration, he's da man.

Gary Moore: Gotta love this blues man! Awesome voice, great tunes, emotional playing.

Eric Gales: My favorite blues cat of all time. Great songwriter, excellent blues phrasing and tone.

How do those artists influence what you deliver?
I'm one of those guys that takes what he wants from music. There's something to learn from all styles of music, and at times, it can be just one, or a few elements here and there. Was it a sound? A technique either vocally or instrumentally? Was it a writing formula? A melody? They all have given me those types of influences.

I think we have covered it all Danny!
Hahaha! But could you really deal with this interview being any longer? :-Þ

And if there's anything you want to add, please do so!
I think I typed me lil brains out as I believe I've been working on this for about 4 hours now. Hahahahaha!

So is there anything you would like to add in conclusion dude?
Support the scene and the artists you love, everyone. The way things are right now in the music biz, all support is needed and appreciated. Try to go to the live shows if possible, and please buy the CD of an artist you might have heard using a file sharing program. He'll thank you, I'll thank you, and the scene will remain alive. :) I appreciate all the support you all have give me past and present, and I really hope you enjoy the new album. Turn a few friends on to it and help spread the word if you dig it. This way I can come and play a live show near you and thank you in person.

Thanks again Danny for taking the time to type endlessly at me :)
You're quite welcome man, and type endlessly I did! How did you know I would? You're scaring me now man...you're too far away from me to know me that well. ;-) It was my pleasure Andrew, thanks so much for this opportunity....one of the best interviews I've ever done man! I can tell you really thought out these questions.....not too bad for a rookie eh? LOL!! Just kiddin mate!

Lastly - can you do a track by track comment for the songs on the DanziLand album?
Yeah, if I can remember what the hell they're all about. I shelved this thing on November 20th LOL!!!!

Welcome (Intro to DanziLand)
Andy Slostad at his best here. We wanted to leave the past, and enter the future which is...DanziLand. Andy and I came up with the concept, and his creative use of sound effects and editing made this incredible and an awesome opener. We got Brian "B. C." Christopher to do the voice of God, and he is a famous radio dude in the business. He does work all over the country, and quite a few of you will recognize his voice...as there is only one "B. C.".

This one is a bit about the band, the album, the songs, playing live.....everything we're about in one tune. Super fun to play!

I wrote this one some time ago about an ex I was positive I'd marry. Umm...boy was I wrong! Hahahahaha! I loved this song when I wrote it, and the enhanced band version really brought it over the top for me. A bit different than the version offered on all the samplers it has ever appeared on. Nice and melodic...and I get to show off a lil Steve Perry type vocals here.

Just A Matter Of Time
A song about how a song comes to me. I hear the voices in my head, and then it's up to me to extract them out. Each part of the song has to be picked apart. Instrument and vocal at a time. I hear them completed in full, and sometimes it's difficult to separate the parts. But it's just a matter of time before I get it all out and put it together....pun intended. :) Total rippin tune I think. Strange beginning, but then look out. I love this solo section and the riff in the chorus. The ending power jam rocks hard too!

Let It Go
Andy and I at our best here. 2 subject matters mixed together that land back on the right track lyrically. I re-did the beginning in this as the original was a bit less emotional. We picked up the tempo a bit to make it run a bit more smooth and not be so ballad slow. Great hook, killer back ups, and one of the most melodic solo's I've ever done. The ending acoustic guitar part was the icing on the cake. Very Extreme sounding vocals there, but oh soo sweet!

Only The Strong Will Survive
This one also appeared on a few samplers, but not the version on DanziLand. Changed the chorus parts and made it rock a little harder. Straight ahead rocker that speaks about the band and all we went through to put this line-up together.

Wild & Dangerous
I dig this riff big time. Originally, Ken Tamplin and I were going to try and use it together, but we both got busy and never pursued it. The song is basically about life and how "Wild and Dangerous" it can be. Nice acoustic verse into a flesh ripping pre-chorus, this one gets you moving. Another solo I absolutely love!

Time Passes By
This is all Andy Slostad here. He wrote it after a trip to NYC, I messed with the vocal melody to make it more "me", tweaked a few things with the guitars and we let it fly. Great tune....extremely emotional and one of the best ballads we've ever done. Another melodic solo here...one that can bring a tear to your eyes if you're a guitarist. :) Our buddy Luke plays piano on this...mmmm...such a great track!

Ever wonder about your destiny? That's what this one is about. Very "Save Us" like, and for a reason. People loved it, and I wanted them to feel that vibe once again. This is one of my personal favorites on the album. The hook rules, the instrumentation kills, and the low tuned guitars take no prisoners. The solo in this one took over a month to do. I wanted something special, yet scary....it scares me whenever I listen to it, so I guess I achieved what I was looking for. Nice lil tasty Wayne Davis bass solo on the fade-out.

Possibly my favorite on the album. Wayne and I put quite a lot of work into this tune. The beginning vocal parts alone took over 14 hours to create. The tune is basically about people that have done us wrong. I won't mention names...as it's pretty obvious. :) Definitely one of the best chorus's I've ever came up with. Everything about this tune is slick to my ears, and I even experimented with a slight "fusion" style in the solo section.

All Or Nothing
Andy came up with this riff on keyboards quite a while ago and it became the chorus. I messed with it and added in a verse and a pre-chorus. Tim and Wayne decided to bring the solo section down to make it scary and forced me to play something eerie and melodic. It's catchy, moves very well, is easy on the ears and has the scariest guitar playing on it that I've ever done. Tim used this tune as his entrance to his wedding reception....what a rush to hear this come on as I had no clue of this surprise. :)

What About Us
Most of the guys in the band aren't too down with this tune because it somewhat takes a political stand. It's really not meant to, but it's easy for people to read between the lines. I posted something about this tune a few months back, and people took me the wrong way. So I'll try again. I got the idea to do this song when the world trade center went down. I didn't want to release it because every artist was releasing tunes at that time, and I'm not down with that sort of thing. I wanted to let time pass a little before I gave up my version. No other motives, like a few others of course had.

The tune basically asks other countries that have been helped by the U.S. and have never lent a hand in return....to give us a hand. Now those of you in countries that have been pals with the US, don't get upset, this isn't directed at you. The song DOESN'T single anyone out, nor does it bash anyone. The tune basically says "we the people" shouldn't have to suffer for mistakes made by others and "give us a hand". Is it fair for us to pay for the debts of another man? I think not. Hate our president, take it up with him, don't bomb us for it. Some Americans are shit the same as we can say for every race, creed, religion and nationality. Bad seeds are everywhere, and we all know this. I don't hate entire races of people because of what a few bad seeds did, you shouldn't either. That's pretty much the subject matter.

Now back to the song. This is a very different tune for us. Timmaay our drummer plays acoustic throughout, since he came up with the original riff on guitar one night after rehearsal. He played it so well I said "you play it man, I'll join in for the pre-chorus's and fingerpicking section". It sounded so cool nice and airy like that, I decided an electric guitar solo would have killed it. So I played an acoustic solo.....my first ever in a tune. :) I really dig this song a lot, and could hear it being played anywhere on any radio station. Definitely one of the "hits" on the album for me.

That should do it Andrew. Thanks for everything man, awesome interview!

Anytime Danny…anytime!

Keith Olsen (2004)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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 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.

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.

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?

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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?

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.

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.

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




Bret Michaels (2004)

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.


Heartland (2005)

Heartland: Moving On To Better Things

Heartland's Steve Morris and Chris Ousey discuss the band's cracking new studio album Move On. Steve is highlighted in green and Chris in blue.

G'Day Chris and Steve,
Great to take this opportunity to talk to you about the smashing new Heartland album - one which I have a lot of enthusiasm for.

Chris - to you first - not too many people are still in the business closing in on 20 years since their debut album. We all know this business doesn't work on talent alone - how have you managed to stay in it for so long?

Has it been that long? That's truly scary, but I don't think a passion for music can ever be discarded. I also class myself as very lucky that there's always been people interested enough in what I do, to want to help and encourage me to continue.

I know I certainly hold this opinion, but do you consider yourself unlucky not to have broken into a wider audience and acclaim? You have a great standing within the melodic rock community, but with a voice such as yours, I think you are unlucky not to be a household name.
It's nice of you to put it like that, and it can be a little frustrating at times not to reach a wider audience. However it's impossible to be in control of that side of things, so you soldier on and hope the ripples will continue to spread outwards.

Steve - you have had an equally colourful career working with major labels and also major names such as Ian Gillan. You have also tasted success - do you prefer life as you have it now - busy always on different projects, but somewhat less intense than life under the pressure of a major label or artist?
I really enjoy working with Ian Gillan. I have written 3 albums with him, and a fourth is ongoing. Recently I played some guitar on a project with him, that looks back on his 40 years on the road. ['Gillan's Inn'] He's re-recording his old classics with such people as Joe Satriani, Jeff Healy, Ian Paice, Jon Lord, Don Airey and a host of other names, so it was an honour to be asked.
I re-recorded 'Loving on Borrowed Time', a number I co-wrote with him on the
'Naked Thunder' record. And also played 'Smoke', as did all the guitarists.
It's gonna be a killer record.

Or do I have it wrong - is it equally as pressurized no matter who you are creating for?
There is no pressure at all doing things like that, as all the people are so cool to work with. With 'Heartland' it's a different thing as not so many people will hear it.
Which is a shame as it's such a good record. So any positive vibes from it is a bonus.

Chris, you started out with Virginia Wolf on Atlantic and then Heartland on A&M Records in 1991, do you think your career and perhaps even your sanity were saved by the advent of the Independent label?
When Heartland parted company with A&M I did consider going to college to study psychology. At that time Khalil from Escape Music approached me and it seems I didn't need much persuading to get back in the saddle again.

What do you think might have been an alternative path for you after Heartland were dropped from A&M?
There's no way I'd still be writing and recording this style of music, if I'd had to continually rely on the support of a major record company. It's made it more possible for writers to have a greater say in their direction.

You have been with Khalil since Wide Open on Long Island Records and with Escape Music since Heartland 3. It's obviously a very strong relationship. I love sparring with Khalil, he is one of the most passionate music lovers in this business - what about you - do you creatively spar and argue over the direction of the band?
Steve and I have worked with Escape for a long time now, and though there are always going to be differences of opinions, I'm always right!....only kidding. The main thing is we always put the interests of the band first.

How about you Steve? You work with Khalil on several projects for Escape - you also seem to have a good understanding of what is required and/or desired by the label.
I have to say I prefer working at the very top, because of that fact. But playing guitar and recording music is no problem at all. Whoever it is with.
I enjoy working with Khalil, because he is so enthusiastic about our music. Sometimes we have to rope him in a bit as his passion obscures things particularly if he doesn't like the sound of some of the demos. But on the whole he sees the broad picture, a lot more than a regular A&R guy at a major.

Chris, you have been working with Steve for some time now - how would you describe what he brings to the band?
Steve is a truly accomplished musician and is the more organized side of the writing duo. When he sends me a backing track there's rarely any need to juggle the thing around. It's usually all there musically. I hope I then bring emotion to the proceedings and I like to think I've a good ear for a lyrical and melodic hook. After working together for this length of time, we have a good idea from the start where a song is heading.

What is the song writing process for you guys - separately or collaborative?
Steve sends me a few musical ideas and I work at my place to try and flesh out the tunes lyrically. Then I'll travel up to the studio and we'll rough out a demo. If it's working at that stage Steve will refine things and then it's into the main studio for drums, bass, vocals and guitar overdubs.

I always come up with the initial musical idea, which Chris will then add a rough lyric to We will then record a demo, to see how it is shaping up. If it looks promising we will then arrange it and polish it before re-recording a master.

To jump forward, I think each album has shown slight improvements each time, with Communication Down a highlight - but Move On seems to be a major jump forward again.
As regards 'Move On', we didn't set out to record anything in a different way, but the sound of the record changed when Tommy Hansen mixed it. He brought a freshness to the sound. But I also think the songs are stronger.

When formulating a plan for this album - what did you guys discuss?
We wanted some strong band sounds and heavier grooves on this record. I wanted to sing out a little more and we where looking for some gritty, ampy guitar sounds. Other than that I think an album kind of has a life of its own.

I must give huge props for the energy of the record. It seems the band gets a little heavier each release, but this one seems tight as hell. Credit to whom for that?
I'd say a lot of the credit for this being a tight album has to go to Steve for setting up some very strong guitar grooves from the outset. Also Mathias really holds down the bottom end on bass.

And best of all I think - some of the best songs ever on this album. And choruses!! Great choruses, which is something I have previously mentioned you guys could improve on. But this album has some killer choruses. What's your secret? :)
I tried to keep verses and bridges simpler on this record, leaving the strongest melodies for the main chorus lines. I think the contrast between the two make the songs work.

Something that stands out for me is the delivery of the choruses - the vocal arrangements and the extra pomp and harmonies surrounding all the vocals on the album. I'm told the guys from Grand Illusion helped out in this regard. Can you walk us through that?
Had a lot of fun recording the backing vocals in Sweden with Peter and Per (Grand Illusion boys). I'd finished all my lead tracks which always brings a sense of relief, so the sessions were very relaxed. In the past I've tended to do most of my own harmonies, and maybe not always given them the attention they've maybe deserved.
Anders did a great job directing and arranging.

I mentioned that the band has got increasingly heavier - or at least tighter on recent albums. Do you envisage yourselves getting any heavier?
There may be a limit to how far you can go and still pack a lot of melody into a song. Don't think I'd want to compromise on melody just to heavy things up. Having said that, if the two things can walk hand in hand then there would be no problem.

This is a myth. I have this argument with Khalil all the time. I don't care about getting heavier, but I do care about writing good songs, and if the song requires a bit of beef, all well and good. But not for the sake of making a 'heavy' record.

Chris, your vocals on the new album are some of your best and most powerful ever. Especially the extended high notes towards the end of several tracks. How did you warm up for this album?
I recorded all my lead vocals in just over four days, so I had to be careful to warm up well before heading off to the studio. I use a warm up tape which takes me around half an hour and usually freaks out the maids cleaning the adjoining rooms.

Have you Chris ever thought of returning to the style of the Heartland debut, which remains the only album you have recorded in that lush keyboard drenched AOR style?
I'm pretty happy with where the band are right now musically and don't really see the point in trying to recreate the first record.

Now...Heartland HAVE to perform live...this album is too good not to at least give it an airing via a few shows...is there any possibility of this happening? Perhaps a live CD/DVD at some stage?
I miss live work a lot and I for one would love to get out and gig. I'm going to be pushing hard for some live dates to promote this album.

Chris, what do you work on in the down time between Heartland albums? Do you have anything coming up in 2005 or even next year?
I'm working at the moment on what may end up going out as a solo record towards the autumn. It's early days with it but I'm enjoying getting the material together.

What are the chances of a new Distance album? Kenny has been locked away for far too long...time for him to get out again.
Well I'm going to be busy getting songs together for my record for a little while…I hope to be able to confirm some live work in the not too distant future also.

Steve - you are always busy...tell us about your current work on the new Change Of Heart album. I'm told it's going to be a good one!
I am in the middle of writing the new Shadowman record with Steve Overland. It's sounding really good. Strong songs with a different approach than the last one. A bit more rockier. I am also finishing off the 'Change of Heart' production of their new album which is sounding very good indeed.

What are the immediate plans for Heartland and the long term plans?
Heartland is always my major project so Steve and I will continue to write together, and look towards our next release.

Does it frustrate you both at all to see such great music ignored by mainstream media? There are so many great albums in this genre that you just know so many people would dig - but never get the chance to hear.
Do you just accept that and do what you can, or does it still bug you? (It bugs me!! haha)

I think I've probably accepted that there's always going to be a lot of great music out there that won't always get the airing it may well deserve.
On the other hand it's gratifying to get feed back from fans. It's what makes the effort involved in writing and recording worth while.

I don't get frustrated at all about mainstream media neglecting melodic rock. Why should they. People who buy CD's (10-18 yr olds) aren't interested in a form of music that has had it's heyday. So I accept that if we can reach anybody under the age of 20, we're doing bloody well.
But what bugs me is England. Its so fashion oriented. I was talking to Birgitt from 'Rock it' [German rock mag], and she says the German charts are much more objective. Now that really annoyed me.

It's been great catching up again and I appreciate your time to do the interview. Look forward to doing this again!
Thanks for your interest


Pride Of Lions (2004)

Pride Of Lions: Fulfilling Their Destiny.

Jim Peterik talks about the spirit behind the music and the making of the new Pride Of Lions album, not to mention what else he has in store for 2005.

Ok, Jim - first of all, well done on creating another great slice of classic melodic rock. Thanks Andrew - coming from a man that has "heard it all" in classic rock that is a great compliment!

Going right back to the time following the release of the debut - that album also gained some amazing reviews and personal feedback for yourself. Did you feel any pressure building in the time following that to start work on a follow-up that would have to top the work done on the debut?
I happen to work well under pressure. When Frankie and I were asked to write the theme for Rocky 3, we had one week to write it, record it and mix it! Not to mention rewrite it a few times. If there seems to be more urgency and a fresher sound on this record it is because we didn't have time to over-think it and process it to death. In some cases I would write a song in the morning and be cutting it by 10 o'clock. The band would pick up on the spontaneity and translate it through their playing. The Courage To Love Somebody and Born To Believe In You were both created in that fashion.

When did you start compiling ideas and writing songs for The Destiny Stone?
The first song I wrote for the record was "Second Hand Life" - on Jan 1st 04 at my cottage in Saugatuck Michigan. I know I had a good one and it gave me the confidence to keep going. The next one may have been The Destiny Stone. At this point the concept of the album started taking shape.

You have previously spoke of a phone call from your record label Frontiers asking if a new album could be ready for release some time earlier than anticipated - that being now. What point were you up to when that call arrived and how did that change the way you had been working?
When I got the call from Serafino, the CEO of Frontiers, I had probably written one of two songs. I thought id kick back leisurely all year and maybe put out a Pride Of Lions album in the Spring of 05. After he gave me the challenge I went to work like a banshee and started jamming at the piano and guitar, searching through my idea tapes and going through rafts of notebooks for the best ideas I had.

Can you run us through the recording process for you?
All or most of it at least was done in your own studio with producer and buddy Larry Millas right?

My engineer and co-producer Larry Millas has been my right hand for many years now. We've known each other since 3rd grade and formed the Ides Of March together when we were 14 year olds. I have an all pro-tools HD state of the art system in my home with amazing Neve mic pre-amps and all the plug inns and outboard gear known to man.
But none of that matters without great chemistry between the musicians. The Pride Of Lions band is truly amazing and makes it a pleasure to record. We try and record as much as we can "live" as the song is going down. Usually Toby and I will be singing the guide tracks although these are usually re-done later.
But getting the spontaneity on the tracks is key - the way the musicians play off one another. The little "mistakes" that end up sounding great. Part of the reason the Pride albums sound so good is the quality of the chemistry between us all. I don't go for the theory that friction creates great music - that's never been my experience. The best Survivor albums were where the group was getting along. The weakest ones in my opinion suffered from lack of communication and negative vibes.

At what point did Toby come into action, or was he there from the start?
Toby was there from the start. It isn't long after I've written a song - and sometimes when the song is in progress - that I will play the song for Toby to hear him sing it - to see if it suits his voice and to see if he can get behind the song enough to give it his usual "from the heart" performance.
If he doesn't feel comfortable with the song we scrap it - at least for now.

How has your working relationship with Toby grown from those initial first days?
We are more intuitive with each other now. We have a secret code of jokes, expressions and vocabulary that we draw on to lighten things up. that's what comes from being on the road together and sharing so many hours in the studio. Now we just look at each other and we crack up. In the studio - I can just say - Sammy Hagar - and he'll know I want it grittier - stuff like that.

What does Toby bring to the recording process that no-one else can?
He brings his amazing voice. Also his sense of the absurd. You can't get too serious about it all around Toby. And he's a super hard worker. He can go all day until a song is just right - sometimes he'll do like 3 or 4 songs in one day! His voice never gives out.

Toby has an awesome voice - that goes without saying. But as an experienced campaigner, what do you do to bring the best out in him and in turn, what does he do to encourage you?
I just say - ok that was amazing - now let's beat it. I'll know when he has given his best to a song. With my songs - he'll sometimes question a lyric - like he did on "Light From A Distant Shore" - his instincts are very good. The original lyric was "I'm a ship foundering lost on the ocean" - he said could I change that to "I'm a ship, and I'm lost on the ocean" - he said no one's gonna understand what "foundering" is all about -- and he was right!

You gave me a sensational track by track commentary, but I'd like to touch on a couple of additional things. There are a couple of tracks on the album that have a distinct feel to them - as if they were written for a movie score, or at least, would be perfect in that role (Back To Camelot & Man Behind The Mask).
What drives you to write with that style?

I enjoy making the "big statement". I think cinematically when I write and that comes across in the songs. My biggest success has been in film with rocky 3 and 4 - and I don't think that was pure chance. I love to visualize a story and set it to music.

And from reading your analysis of The Gift Of Song and then listening to the track for the first time - "When Toby did the final take there wasn't a dry eye in the control room - he made it his own. To me the defining line of the song - and one of the recent additions is, 'just let me leave you with one melody the world can sing when I am gone'..." - I absolutely concur! Is this Toby's finest moment to date?
It blows me away every time I hear that line with Toby's delivery - I keep hitting repeat - and its our own album! You can imagine how it sounded as it was going down! There wasn't a dry eye in the studio. Toby comes in at the end and says "how was it?" and we're like all messed up!

And as far as the songwriting goes for this track - wow Jim, where does such a sweeping, passionate epic style come from?
I guess it comes for a passion for life. I have a lot to say before it's all over and I've got no time to waste. There is so much that needs to be said about appreciating each moment and helping each other in life. I feel it's our responsibility to absolutely make the most of whatever gifts we were given in life.

Now there are two albums, I guess we can state that Pride Of Lions has it's own sound - away from Survivor and other projects you have worked on. How would you describe the area in which you work/write?
Really I am not doing anything different than I ever did. I'm the same guy who wrote or co-wrote all those Survivor songs. I feel the same as I did and I look at life in much the same way. I hope I have gained a little wisdom since then. I also don't have Frankie to push me and to keep my instincts on track so I have to work a little harder doing it myself. I use Toby and Larry Millas as my arbiter these days when I have a question of what's cool and what ain't. Also people like Serafino at the label and friends that I trust for an honest musical opinion. I feel that POL is developing a sound of its own - incorporating some of the vibe of Survivor and 38 Special but with a unique identity.

I know there is a certain expectation of the sound and style when Jim Peterik is involved in anything. Pride of Lions sounds as if you are trying to break out of the traditional expected mold, while remaining true to your own history and natural instincts. Can you explain your approach to this?
I think there are parameters in melodic rock. I think you can push those parameters but you must push in the right direction. I would not try to foist country or blues, for instance into the form. I can see stretching things as we have done into more challenging song forms and conceptual concepts. I will always include the radio ready stuff - that is a big part of my background. I love a good 3 or 4 minute commercial-to-down on the car rocker. But I also like to stretch thematically into somewhat deeper realms. I don't think the 2 forms are mutually exclusive - they can coexist on one album in my opinion. Its like we don't stay in one mood through out a typical day. We are alternately carefree, serious, joking and crazy and thoughtful. I like a record that reflects it all.

You are signed to a label which also has to live up to expectations from its followers. And you have previously said that they push you to create your very best work in line with what those expectations I previously spoke of are. The quality of the two albums to date would suggest this works well for you both - do you agree?
We push each other to do our best. Frontiers was a label that came to me and re-confirmed what was the best about my writing. They expect every record to be Vital Signs or better. So I better deliver! I have never worked harder than on these 2 records- but I've never had more fun. Toby is so easy to work with yet he will never sing anything he doesn't believe in. If he can't wrap his heart around it - it's gone.

Jim, I know you have wide and varied tastes and influences in music and have demonstrated the ability to adapt to just about any style. Outside the constraints of label or fan expectations - do you think you would find yourself writing and recording a different album than what you did?
Not for pride of lions. I get to flex my soul and R&B chops with the Ides Of March and with World Stage its pretty much anything goes. When I write with Skynyrd its southern rock - with 38 it's southern pop. So when I come to POL I can stay purely in my favorite and most comfortable genre - melodic rock.

Creatively speaking, do you feel the need to go out and create something that would be "outside the box" from you as an artist - just to express yourself? And if so, how would you go about that now that POL is gaining a really strong following?
I would actually push POL a bit farther next time around. I am considering going in a very dramatic almost conceptually themed album next time around where there would be a real common thread running though every cut. Even more tied together than the Destiny Stone. It would be more progressive with greater echoes of some of the touring greats of the 70's - namely The Who. I have a few exciting concepts now and am trying to decide if this idea would be best suited to POL or World Stage. If it comes out as World Stage it will include Toby as a running player.
With POL I hope to continue to focus the sound and make musical statements that ring true with the audience. As humans we share very common experiences – love - lost love - strong emotions – politics - concerns and worries over the world situation and the pure joy of forgetting all about the world and getting immersed in the music. There is nothing like music to rejuvenate. That's what I want to do. It's about hope.

Just on that growing following - it must make you very proud to be once again in a position of being described as one of the best in the genre?
At age 54 I feel very blessed to be on life number 4! I guess I have 5 lives left to go. of course the good response only wants me to do even better- I love a good challenge!

Few artists obtain the success you did in Survivor - but not only are you finding a new life with Pride Of Lions, you also did it pre-Survivor with Ides Of March. Now once may be getting lucky, so what do you put your ability for success down to?
It's a combination of hard work, a seed of talent, plenty of great people around me - and damn good luck!

You have written music with some of the very best people in the business - Sammy Hagar, Don Barnes, Kelly Keagy, Kevin Chalfant - just to name a few. From those and the other greats you have written with - who do you think has been the most challenging to work with, who has pushed you furthest?
I think Steven Tyler pushed me perhaps the hardest. Even though the 2 songs we wrote have not come out yet - he pushed me to the limits and we wound up with the best. Kelly Keagy also pushes me. All my best collaborators won't let me up till we have the best!

And which partnership has been the most productive and rewarding for you?
Frankie Sullivan and I obviously had a great writing relationship from '78 to around '95. No matter how we got along in everyday life - when we wrote together it was an island away from the storm. He seemed like a different person at these times and perhaps - so was I.

Is there anyone you would dearly love to write with at some stage still to come?
I think there are many - but more than looking for a person - I am looking for challenging situations to hang my writing on. Movies - rock operas – plays - you name it. Obviously the more talented the partner - the better. Todd Rungren would be on my short list!

I must commend you and Frankie and Jimi also for contributing to the excellent Ultimate Survivor compilation released a few months back. You must be very proud of such a hit-drenched package!
It's something we actually collaborated on albeit long-distance. We were pretty much in agreement as to the tunes that had to be on the record. I was disappointed that we couldn't fit Ever Since The World Began on the record - but Man Againt The World won out. It was a hard call.

I know you still hold Jimi Jamison in high regard, but there remained tension with Frankie Sullivan. Do you ever see a time in which Survivor might reform for one particular show, or for any other reason?
If the rock and roll hall of fame ever inducted Survivor - I would certainly be there to acknowledge what we achieved together. I don't know if that will ever happen though.

There is a series of unreleased Survivor songs circulating, being presented under the banner of the Fire Makes Steel title. It's a collection of 15 tracks from the mid-90's period (I think) when the band was recording new material with Dave Bickler. Have you heard of these tracks (Someone Else's Sleepless Nights, One Step Ahead Of The Flame, No Boundaries...etc...) and do you think they might ever see the light of day in a decent quality?
That is up to Frankie really. I heard that he and Survivor re-recorded Fire Makes Steel for a proposed new album. There is some great stuff there that we did with Dave between 93 and 96 - there must be 20 songs that were recorded mostly at my home studio. I particularly like "One Step Ahead Of The Flames."

You are always a man with a lot on his plate - what is on Jim Peterik's calendar for 2005?
We want to get to Europe and Japan and play live with Pride Of Lions. We have a powerful show. Toby is killer onstage and I get to do my thing. Also - there will be a new Ides Of March studio album, also I am going to release probably on Frontiers - "Songs From The Vaults" - master quality versions of the bad bootleg out there now of all the demo work I did between 83 and 2000 (excepting the Survivor demos) - prototypes of Mecca songs - 38 Special - John Wetton - Sammy Hagar- on and on rarities - it will be a 2 disk set. Also - I am doing a big World Stage show on Feb 5th at College of Dupage. I have added some new faces like Rik Emmet of Triumph and Tom Keifer of Cinderella. There will be may regulars there as well - Kevin Chalfant - Toby Hitchcock - The Ides Of March - Jeff Boyle - Cathy Richardson - Anthony Gomes - Kini Hayes - Lisa McClowery (the girl in the Sound Of Home video - I'm just finishing a record with her). And more to be announced. We are also doing a live DVD with Frontiers for Pride Of Lions. There will of course be Ides Of March dates in America as well. We just put out our 40th year anniversary concert DVD and it's selling well. Other than that nothing is happening!

Looking back over an amazing career - what periods in time are the highlights?
I think that this very minute is the highlight!

I know you are a very passionate guy who seems to always look towards the positive in people and in life. With that in mind, looking back again, would you even contemplate any periods where you struggled to enjoy the situation?
I've been through down periods just like anyone else. I usually do some hard searching and some heavy praying to pull me out. I ask for answers and they inevitably come - not always as quick as we'd like. It's funny - but it is the very times when we feel that we can't face God - that we need him the most.

Ok Jim, to wrap up - what's next for Pride Of Lions? Could we see a full band tour?
Yes absolutely. We are looking at 3 major festivals right now.

Anything you would like to add?
Thanks you to you and your readers to keeping this flame alive. I don't do it for the money - I do it for the love of music and getting the message across.

Many thanks again for always making the time to be interrogated!
I never mind being under the hot lights when it comes to music.
I'll sweat it out with the best of 'em. Rock always - rock often - rock steady and above all -- KEEP ROCKING!!!

Thanks Jim!
Check out Jim at: www.jimpeterik.com



Jeff Northrup (2004)

Jeff Northrup: Producer, engineer and musician!

Jeff Northrup talks over his recent work on the MR.com CD, plus Shortino/Northrup, working with Johnny Edwards and much more...

So Jeff, you have just finished mastering my own CD Compilation - after doing a great job on Volume 1. Thanks again. Can you walk us through the mastering process?
First of all, thanks for letting me be a part of such a great collection of songs and artists!!
Mastering is definitely the icing on the cake so to speak, of making a good mix sound even better. After a song has been mixed, there are usually some frequencies that are fighting each other for their space in a song. i.e, the bass guitar may be in the same frequency as the kick drum, or there might be too much low end from the guitars fighting with the bass. What this causes is the song to sound a bit muffled in the low end of sound.
By isolating these unwanted frequencies, you can sort of weed out the ones that are less desirable which makes that part of the mix sound clearer. The same goes for the high frequencies. There may too much high end or not enough.
It is also possible to make in instrument such a guitar that was mixed to low to stand out more by boosting only a narrow bandwidth that enhances it and therefore makes it perceived to be louder. Then there comes the compression. By compressing the entire mix and or certain frequencies, everything becomes not only louder, but makes the mix sound more even. The kick drum and bass will get punchier, the guitars get crunchier and everything finds its place in the mix. However, it is just as easy to make a good mix sound bad if there is too much re-equing or too much compression/limiting. It is truly an art to make a good mix sound great and compete with the CDs that we all purchase in stores, or online.

What are the most challenging aspects of this aspect of recording and why is it so important to get it right?
The most challenging part is not to add or take away too many frequencies because the mix will become either too bottom heavy and blow out your speakers, or too thin and make the mix weak. Same with the high end. Too much and it rips out your ear drums, too little and the mix won't shine. It's very important to get it right because this is the final product going to the masses. Or if it's a demo you want to get the best sound before it hits the ears of the Record Labels.

To those that may not be as familiar with this process, when a label talks of having the original music re-mastered, what does that mean and how can it improve the quality of the recording?
Labels that want something re-mastered usually do it because it was mastered a while ago and today's mastering is a bit more advanced. Generally, you want to get the original mixes (pre-mastered) and work with those. Because most older mastering sounds a little duller than today's and that they mastered records at lower levels than today, by re-mastering you get a punchier, clearer and superior sound.

You are also an accomplished producer - do you find it hard to "produce" yourself, or wouldn't you have it any other way?
Actually, producing myself is too easy. I wouldn't mind having a co-producer or a great producer step in and take over. A lot of magic happens that way and others will often times have ideas that enhance a song that I might not have thought about.

You also have a song included on my new Compilation release, another cracking rocker featuring vocalist Johnny Edwards. You were working with Johnny on an album - what happened to that and is there any chance some tracks will be released? Or maybe the album will be finished one day?
Johnny is one of the greatest and relatively unknown singers. A few years back he moved back to Kentucky with his wife and kids to really start over and get away from the music biz.
I talked to him about doing a record and he was excited. After recording some songs (one of which is the song on MR.com V2), we had a deal and contract on the table. Johnny decided shortly after this that he just didn't have the time or desire to continue. It is a shame, but I have to respect where he is coming from. There a few songs from these recordings that are on the Shortino/Northrup "Afterlife" CD. And no, there probably will not be any future CD with Johnny.

Was the from the archives release of the original Northrup album with Johnny a success? It was certainly met with favorable reviews.
It was a success in that it got a lot of attention and brought me back into the minds of those who knew of me and into the CD players of those who hadn't. I gained a lot of new fans from it.

Let's talk about the new Shortino/Northrup release. It's second time around for you and Paul. How did you get started on this release? And why was it 10 long years since the last album together?
Well, Paul and I had been in touch for quite a while and we always talked about another record. I had just finished recording the XYZ "Letter To God" CD with Terry Ilous. We recorded drums at Paul's studio. Again we talked some more. After Johnny Edwards bowed out of doing the record.....whalah! It was the perfect situation and the timing was right. I started writing a lot of new songs and we incorporated the songs I wrote with Johnny and it wasn't long before we had the songs for the album. It did take ten years due to timing and the fact we both were doing other projects.

The original Shortino/Northrup was also recently re-released. That's a very nice little package, with the bonus tracks etc...Afterlife is a very moody and lyrically dark and descriptive album. Where did the songwriting influence come from for this album?
Well, except for the songs that were lyrically written by Johnny, I wrote everything else. Unfortunately I was going through a divorce after 18 years and was very depressed. Therefore a few of the songs are specifically about that. Kind of a healing process. The song "Like A Stone" was written as a goodbye song to my ex.
I try not make my lyrics generic, so I put things more metaphorically and poetically. However, there are a few songs that have nothing to do with that subject. Until the album was finished, I didn't really realize that it was as dark as it turned out. But I have to admit that the final result is something we are all proud of!!! There are some kick ass jams on too.

Do you plan on starting work on the next album any time soon? What do you have in mind for the next album, when it comes?
Oh yeah!! I have already begun the writing process. The next record is gonna be a mother F*&^%r. I am going to let it all hang out with some killer rock. I haven't decided who to work yet. Hey, if there are any singers, bassists etc. that are interested in being a part of it and collaborating, I would love to hear from you!!! Any suggestions anyone???

You also hooked up with Terry Ilous several years back. How did you originally get started?
I was originally being set up to replace Marc Diglio back in 1993 when he first left the group XYZ, but they had just found someone else. When they finished the tour, Terry contacted me and we still together today on various things.

The Cage album is rather underrated I think. Any chance that could be re-issued?
Yes. Terry and I have discussed re-mastering and re-releasing Cage with some bonus songs.

As XYZ, you managed to record a great hard rock record that was also quite contemporary. Were you happy with the results from that album and the fan response?
I am very happy with the record "Letter To God". There are some fantastic tracks on it. Everyone played and sang their asses off. Terry wanted it to be a little more modern than the previous XYZ and it is. As far as fan response, it was about what I thought it would be. Very mixed. Some loved it, some thought it was a bit too different.

Might you do another XYZ album soon - and if so, what have you discussed with Terry as far as style for this album?
We have discussed doing another album soon. I'm not sure he wants it to another XYZ record though. We'll have to see. What do you fans out there think????

You are right in the middle of this melodic rock scene as it stands today - complete with the challenges of corporate changes and file sharing etc....where do you see things going?
I really believe that the Melodic Rock scene will always be around. I do see a slight shift in music here in the states with bands that actually incorporating some of that sound! A lot of people just prefer to hear great music, vocals and guitar playing. As far as where it's going, boy even the record companies are still trying to figure this out. Perhaps a lot more bands will be trying release there stuff from there web sites and get independent distribution!

Is it important for the artist to remain in ownership of their own music?
Definitely. Especially if an occasion such as getting one or more songs placed movies, television etc. Without retaining your rights you are screwing yourself. We artists get screwed enough as it is.
XYZ for example did their own release of the album for the USA.

What about the other project you are working on - the 11:11 project. Can you describe that to us?
The 11:11 Project is a little bit different than what people are used to hearing from me. It's balls out music, but it's definitely more modern. Sort of Nine Inch Nails meets the Beatles. A bit psychedelic even. It's the only recording I have done where I am singing and playing all of the instruments. I am very proud of it. It was signed and ready to be released here in the states, but the label went bankrupt just before.

Outside of music you have some interesting hobbies...tell us about the dinosaur bone hunts!
I have been infatuated by dinosaurs since I was 5. I studied them and learned about paleontology and digging bones. I did my first dig about a year ago and am going on my third dig this month!! I have quite a collection now.

Anything else in the back of your mind you would like to tell us about Jeff?
As long as there people all over the world that appreciates and is buying killer music, I will continue putting out great product. I don't see an end to it in the near future!!

And is there anything you would care to add?
Yes. Thanks to everyone who supports Rock music!! Without you, you wouldn't be reading this now. Also, thank you Andrew for having this great web site for people to come to and be able to not only find great bands and read the latest on Melodic Rock and other styles of music, but also be able to discuss it (and have interesting posts) amongst each other. It is also a huge benefit to us artists!!

Plug your web site Jeff - where do we find you?
Please visit my web site at www.jknorthrup.com. Drop me an e-mail, sign the guestbook and find out a little more about me. I also have a page where you can reach me about Mastering, mixing and recording. To all the musicians out there, if you would like to contact me about collaborating (writing/recording/mastering etc.) on a record, I would to hear from you too!!!!

Thanks again for taking the time out to "chat"!


James Christian (2004)

James Christian: Meeting the man again....

James Christian talks about his new solo album, a follow-up to the highly regarded Rude Awakening CD.

James, Meet The Man comes several years since your last solo album. Earlier in the year the House Of Lords album was released - what else have you been up to in the time since Rude Awakening was released?
I have been very busy during that time. I have gotten married and I am now a father of a beautiful little girl. I have also been producing music for other artists. So 10 years goes by rather quickly.

Meet The Man features songs from your vast catalogue of music - a choice was obviously made to record tracks demoed in the past - where any newly written tracks included, or are they all from the catalogue?
All are from the past catalogue. There is so much great material that was never recorded and really deserves it place on a CD.

Why look back in the first place? What was the criteria for a song making the final cut for this release?
The reason why we look by is to take a glimpse into one of the greatest eras of music ever. Why listen to old Led Zeppelin, or Beatles. We see bands re-recording old songs all the time. That really shows an appreciation for the music I grew up with.

Were there any songs that didn't make the cut you were hopeful of including?
No I will leave that for another CD. There is much more material that I have done in my career that I would like to see on CD.
Does this mean I will never write anything new? No. I have plenty of ideas for new material, but I still have a desire to get the material from my past out there. It's so important to me.

What time frame do these songs come from?
A span of 12 -15 years. That seems like a lifetime but it also feels like yesterday.

Can you offer a comment on each of the songs:
After The Love Has Gone - This was done a Bruce Gowdy's studio with Chuck Wright and myself. We did this song so fast that I was not sure if was even a good song. I realized after I heard it years later that it was actually very good.

Know You In The Dark - I did this song for Judith Randall as a demo at Curt Cuomo's studio. I hated the demo as I thought the recording was very poor. I thought the song was good and that is why I recorded it.

Surrender Your Love - This was the last song I chose. Someone gave me a CD about three years ago when I was producing a Shanghai CD. I did not listen to it till just this year. There were about five very good songs on the CD. I felt this was the best of all of them. The writer was Rick De Paoli.

Meet The Man - One of my favorite songs. This is a track that my wife Robin Beck found for me. I glad she found it.

End Of Time - I recorded this song originally for an artist named "Pata". He is very famous in Japan. I wanted to re-record it for my CD as I really loved the song.

Love Looked Into My Life - Very nice song by both Judithe & Robin Randall. A thoughtful ballad.

Leave Well Enough Alone - Another one of my favorites. This song was written is a females key and although I could have brought it down a few keys, I wanted to keep the energy of the song so I left it up there.

Strong Enough - Written by Stan Bush. Great songwriter. One of my favorite songs I did with HOL was "Love Don't Lie"

You Should Be Blue (All I Could Feel Was Blue) - I thought this was an interesting track when I did the demo. I always thought that with a heavier band track it would pop out.

Circle of Tears - Another Judithe & Robin Randall song. Those girls could really write. I am fortunate to have had their input.

Hold Back The Night - This song should have made it onto an HOL CD but never did. It was written by Lanny Cordola, Chuck Wright and myself. I think it was one of our better songs. What a mood it has.

The House Of Lords album was recorded in LA, while your vocals were recorded in your studio in Florida. The same again with Meet The Man. This time with producer Fabrizio V.Zee Grossi involved. What did you think of the idea for Fabrizio to handle the music, leaving you only to worry about the vocals?
I never worry about vocals. I know I will be able to accomplish what I set out to do. There is no difference by me being in their studio or mine. I don't punch-in a lot so once the record button is pressed, I sing the song through. Then after I have three or four tracks, I put together the best performance. I can do that myself.

How do change your thinking and the way you work to create an atmosphere that will reflect the energy of the songs when only working on half the project yourself?
Well even if I was with the whole band in the same place, I would still be in the vocal booth by myself. I have a great imagination. Getting inspiration is so easy to do when I am singing.

Do you put some degree of faith in the team at the other end to do justice to your performance?
I have faith in talented people. I listen to their work first and then let them do their job. When I am asked to do a session for someone. I appreciate the same courtesy.

Dare I say it - could one afford to do such a thing based on your life outside music and the costs of gathering everyone in one place?
The costs are insignificant when you realize that most musicians have their own studios. We have a luxury that was not available 15 years ago.
Then we were ripped off royally at 100 dollars per hour in most studios. Now with technology the way it is, we have do our tracks in the comfort of our homes. You still have to have some talent mind you.

What is the difference in the scene now, compared to when House Of Lords broke through and also when your first solo album came out?
When House Of Lords broke it was a wonderful time for music. Fans were coming out to concerts in record numbers. Great music was being recorded and most musicians generally had some real talent. Things today have gotten much better but there was a period from 1990 to maybe 1999 where some of the garage bands should have never made it out of the garage. Now we are seeing much more quality in the musicianship, vocals and songwriting.

I know you have a wealth of unreleased tracks still sitting in the vaults - is there any chance more might see the light of day - even as possible Internet released tracks for willing fans to purchase?
Yes I have many unreleased tracks that go all the way back to Jasper Wrath.

What's next on the James Christian calendar? Another solo album in time?
Right now I am working with Robin Beck for her new Frontiers CD. It will be a great one.

Yeah, I had heard Robin may record a rock album next! I do like her Wonderland release!
I happen to love the Wonderland CD. Again, I am a believer in strong songs. Every song on her CD is quality songwriting. My only regret is that the record company was actually living in "Wonderland" I can hear them now. I "Wonder" how we should promote this record? They never did.

Any possibility of working with House Of Lords again?
I love the HOL boys and would work with them anytime.

You work long and hard in the studio - do you miss performing live at all? Is there any chance that might still happen again one day?
I love performing fist and foremost. If the opportunity arises, i will be there.

Anything you would like to add?
Yes Andrew, I would like to say that although you were very hard on my performance on the last HOL CD, I still think that people like yourself are responsible for keeping MelodicRock music alive and kicking. I do appreciate it.

Thanks for not kicking my ass James!



From The Inside (2004)

From The Inside: Danny Vaughn and his return to a more melodic sound.

Danny talks about this new project and his upcoming tour with the classic Tyketto.

Hey Danny, great to see you back in action with the new From The Inside
After two well received Vaughn albums, what drew you towards this project?

I'm always looking for challenges. Things that I haven't tried before. I feel that a musician gets stagnant if he or she only works along the same set lines all the time. I have never attempted to interpret other people's songs on a recording before. It isn't as easy as you might think and I really enjoyed trying our best to make these songs our own. Also, I was very unhappy with my previous record label and this opportunity from Frontiers seemed like the perfect way to test new waters. So far I'm very happy with this arrangement.

There was obviously a certain willingness to record some other people's
songs and also return to a more AOR sound, what was the thought process
going into this record?

It was something like, "Here goes nothing!" You have to be willing to fall on your face sometimes. I talked to several friends and was advised that if I did an album that returned to my melodic rock roots, my fans would probably be okay with that!

How closely did you work with Fabrizio and the team of musicians involved?
You want to know the truth? I never met any of the players. This was the most "hands off" project I've ever done. Normally I'm involved down to the last detail but this time I simply had to place my trust in Fabrizio, a man I had never met, and let him put all the tracks together once we had discussed how we wanted them to come out. I felt that, no matter what, Frontiers would allow me to back up and not do something if I felt it was bad, stupid, or a compromise. That became evident when we sifted through quite a few songs to come up with the track list that we now have.

Did this feel different to working alongside your brothers in Vaughn and
Tyketto - which have always been kept close by previously?

Completely and utterly different. Again, which was a great reason to do it! Change keeps you young!

Did you personally pick the songs you wished to record?
Yes. I was given a master CD of about 25 songs and waded through all of them. Some were weeded out right away. Some were put into the "maybe" file and a couple, like "Beautiful Goodbye" were instantly desirable. We went back to the well several times. Frontiers were supplying the songs from their stock of writers and publishers and I was going through them all with Fabrizio.

At what stage did you think of bringing in a couple of new tracks of your own?
It was understood from the beginning that I would contribute at least 2 songs. As it worked out, I wrote 3 (one of which is only on the Japanese version) and co-wrote 2 others.

I must admit to liking those tracks the most of all the songs featured.
There always seems to be a rich tapestry of storytelling and honest emotion with your songs. What do you attribute that to?

That's very kind of you to say. I guess one of the things that I do when I write lyrics is I try to never take the easy way out. If something is bothering me, even if it fits just fine, I'll end up changing it so I don't cringe later on. I obsess a little too much I suppose, but I just can't write a song with "dance" and "romance" as the tag rhymes. It's been done too many times. I'm not saying that I'm incredibly original, because I'm not. But my inspirations are guys like Don Henley, Bernie Taupin, or John Hiatt, who always find a way of expressing themselves that is unique to themselves. I'll never be as good as them, but it's something to strive for.

I seriously love Is Anybody Watching and Blessing In Disguise. Tell us
about those tracks - when were they written?

"Is Anybody Watching Me" was written for Tyketto several years ago. Being a ballad it kept getting squeezed out by other ballads that we had written. So it's sat in the vault for many years waiting to be revamped and revitalized.
"Blessing In Disguise" was written about when I first moved to Nashville. It's all about trying to roll with what you are given rather than railing against it.

And Nothing At All - another highlight from the Vaughn catalogue! Tell us
about that song...

That one was my headache for the album! It was the last one that I finished. I had recorded the vocals to everything else and had only one more day to finish before I had to leave town. Fabrizio needed all tracks done before I left, so there I was on the last day with his music, which I knew that I loved and could write to, and a blank sheet of paper. Every time I had tried to write something I just came up blank. Finally there was no time left and I forced the issue, which is something I never usually do. I sat down and over the course of a couple of hours, sketched out what I felt was a working draft of the lyrics. While I had been doing so, I started humming a melody in my head. For fear of losing the whole thing, I quickly recorded the vocals and left it for a few hours, hoping that, when I came back, I'd be able to sort out which bits to keep and which to change. When I came back, however, I found myself liking the way it came out. So I took a chance and sent it to Fabrizio. It's a single take, all the way through.

Two Martin Stenmarck tracks are featured on From The Inside - are you a fan
of the album, or just felt something for those tracks?

When I first got the songs they were on a blank CD so I had no idea who wrote what. I just picked the ones that appealed to me.

There are two other interesting choices I'd like to hear your comments on.
Suddenly - already a hit for Leanne Rimes and Beautiful Goodbye - a
haunting cover of the Amanda Marshall track. How did you approach recording
these, as it seems to me that you have now made them your own.

Suddenly was already a rocker. That was an easy choice. In fact, I talked with one of Leanne Rime's guitar players who said that they had to stop playing that one live because they were rocking it a little too hard and it was upsetting all the grannies that had come to hear her sing "Blue". The Amanda Marshall track was the one that first convinced me to do this project in the first place. I knew there would be no improving it, but it is such a singer's song. I knew that I would be given the opportunity to give it my all. By the end I am just tearing my heart and my throat out and you can hear it. I recorded this at home and I often wonder that the neighbors didn't call the police!

Your song writing has always been unique and I'm a big fan. Starting way back with Tyketto. But the delivery of the tracks has varied over the years - melodic hard rock with Tyketto, to a more earthy stripped back feel with Vaughn and even raw acoustic with your solo tours and recordings.
Do you now have a preference - a favourite style to present your songs?

Not really. I like it all. Sometimes I hear myself doing some really hard stuff. Sometimes it's acoustic stuff. As long as I can present it honestly I'm open to any style.

You seem to be following a path that is heading back towards where you
started - and seemingly where fans want you to be. Is that an accurate assessment?

I guess it is. It's not a conscious plan, but, judging from the excitement that this release is already generating, I'm beginning to think that I should have listened to Frontiers a long time go.

The upcoming Tyketto tour is something that has a lot of excitement and
hype attached to it. Looking forward to it?!

Definitely. The closer it gets, the more nervous I am. We have a lot to live up to as we were a very strong live band and I'm really looking forward to playing for those fans that never got to see us live. Rehearsals begin in mid September and we're all pleasantly panicked.

Fill us in with just how that got started and organized?
Not much to tell. We had discussed it many times in the past and there were always personal issues getting in the way. Old wounds that hadn't healed. Plus, it would come down to doing it for money and, as tempting as that was initially, one of us would always come to our senses and decide against it. Money is the wrong reason. This time it was simple. "You wanna?" , "Yeah sure!"

Do you see this European tour leading into something else - you know there
are a lot of folks that would dearly love to see a new Tyketto album!

Hey! Don't get pushy! :-)
Just kidding. We are not putting that kind of pressure on ourselves. If things go well and we all love it, then it's something we'll talk about. But it may not happen. All the guys have other jobs, businesses, lives, etc. so there's no way to ever make it a full time concern again.

What else lies in your future Danny? It's been a quiet period between the
last Vaughn and the From The Inside release - what (if anything) do you see
happening next? What you personally really like to achieve?

The great thing is that more and more people seem to be becoming aware that I'm out there and I'm getting the chance to look at more and more projects, and getting more offers, like playing with The Sign in Belgium last week. I certainly would like to do another Vaughn record in 2005, but I'm also considering a lot of other options. What I would most love to achieve would be to be back to being a full time musician again. Paying the bills with music only. That would be success to me. I'd like to be as busy as Jeff Scott Soto. It's getting to the point where I'm convinced there must be 2 of him!

Shall we see another From The Inside release down the track sometime?
My feeling is that this is a one time thing. But you never know, I suppose.

You are one of a handful of individuals like Jeff Scott Soto that seem to
have an honest grasp on reality and are aware of the limitations of the
current melodic rock scene - and don't mind getting off your butt to tour,
play live and build on your name.
What do you think brings you to this position where others still behave or
long after the life as it was in 1990?

See? There's Jeff again! Will I never be free of him??? I'm kidding. Jeff will be co headlining a couple of the Tyketto shows with us and I couldn't be happier about it. I don't really know the answer to your question. I think people that have a decent sense of themselves and who they are, will have that regardless of what their status is in life. Most of the guys that I know in this business that are arrogant or live in another world, were like that before they were famous or made money! For me, the most important and grounding thing is that I am still a music fan. My wonderful girlfriend was kind enough to remind me and teach me that lesson. If you love the music, get down front, cheer, yell, sing along, bang your head. When did we all become this pent up, over the hill group of casual spectators?

Do you have any advice for other musicians out there - newcomers and
veterans alike?

When traveling in England avoid the Little Chefs! Even if they are the only thing open!

What are we likely to hear being played on the upcoming tour - and are
there any plans to capture any dates for either CD or DVD perhaps?

I won't tell you everything, but the game plan is to play "Don't Come Easy" in its entirety along with some other selections. No one has approached us about recording the shows, but it could be an interesting idea.

Anything you would care to add Danny?
Whew! There can't be anything left to cover, can there? I would like to say thanks for all the positive reviews and opinions on From The Inside that I have already received. It has given me a lot of hope for the future.

Thanks for talking to me mate - always appreciated!
Never a pain, always a pleasure Andrew! Thanks for keeping so many of us so well informed about what's going on in music all over the world. It makes me wonder how we ever got by without you before?

[Thanks Danny!….too kind…]



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