Tim Pierce (2006)



Tim Pierce: The wise words of a studio legend....

The legendary guitarist Tim Pierce talks in detail about life as a session musician for hire and his time with the Rick Springfield band in the 80s and some of the quirks and issues surrounding the music industry then and now. Definitely an interesting guy to chat to, I think that will come through in the intevriew and some of what he has to say about the industry is definitely enlightening.

G'Day Tim, great to finally have this opportunity to talk to you after following your career for many years. How are you?
Good! I work a lot as a recording musician and I have a beautiful home studio that I work in and a lot of nice people… so life's pretty good.

I can imagine so. You're set up in your own studio, obviously a smart thing to do these days.
Well yeah, it has become… I didn't mean for it to happen but it just turned out to be a great thing for me. A good adaptation to the new music business.

The bands I talk to that are doing the best these days are the ones that invested their money in the '80s into their own gear.

The ones that aren't are the ones that can't afford to hire a decent studio.
That makes sense, yeah.

I was reading something last weekend just making sure I had a handle on everything you were doing currently - because I've been a fan for a long, long time but you were described as a guitar deity, how do you like that?
Well I suppose I've hung around long enough that certain people might exaggerate what I do. I just kind of work behind the scenes here, do a lot of work on a lot of songs for people and a lot of different records. And then a whole lot of stuff with people that you really might never hear of and so, it's not an accurate thing.
I mean it's just…I do make a good living and I do work with a lot of great people and that is pretty rare. Very few people get to do this particular job that I get to do, which is record guitar every day for people.

Yeah! You are a session musician only now obviously.
At this point.

That's not the way it started out, is it?
Well when I moved here, I just wanted to get involved in anything I possibly could and I hooked up with Rick Springfield and then I did some work with Bon Jovi and some work with John Waite in the early '80s. And after all that died down, I just kind of planted my feet and started doing the recording thing. And pretty much felt like that was my calling.

You are in huge demand. Who was the first person that sort of gave you a call?
A guy named Keith Olsen actually gave me a big break in the early '80s, he was one of the bigger producers in the '80s: Benatar and Foreigner and Fleetwood Mac.

Yeah, I've interviewed Kieth. He's wonderful.
[See my interview with Keith Olsen – here]
Of course! Yeah, and he helped me a lot in the very beginning. And then Patrick Leonard: Madonna's producer / co-writer. He helped me about a decade after that. There's just been different people along the way. There are a few particular recording engineers.

Your body of work is, I'm being honest here, is amazing.
Well, thank you.

Few other artists could have a list of albums they contributed to like yourself, but do you mind being the man behind the scenes?
I never really have minded it. There was a time in the '90s when I kind of got irritated a little bit and I did my own solo record and I kind of got that out of my system. I guess one of the reasons that I adapt so well to it is because I really do think for me, it's the ultimate experience.

Touring, if I was in a band that was doing well on the road, I would enjoy touring probably. But that never happens for me because I'm very careful about staying here and being available for all the people that use me on a regular basis and not jeopardizing that. At this point I think it's pretty much a done deal.
But no, I don't…to me the ultimate experience…like today I did something for Jason Scheff from Chicago for a solo record he's doing. Just made me feel incredible: beautiful guitar sound on a beautiful song to me it's the ultimate.

What a great singer he is.
He is great, yeah.

Did you play on Chicago XXX at all?
No I didn't. They did that in Nashville. I'm very aware of how it went down because I know them really well. They did it in Nashville. That's the brand new one, right?

Yeah, good record.
It is good.

Very good record. I first heard of you, and probably the majority of my readers did with your work with Rick Springfield. I'm a longtime fan of Rick's. I've been in contact with him over the years and stuff, did a couple of interviews. But I'm from a different perspective here. Keith Olsen brought you in, right?
[See my interview with Rick Springfield – here]

Yeah, he introduced me to Rick, and then I kind of knew exactly what to sound like, when I auditioned because I had met him and worked with him on the record a few weeks earlier. He put together a new band. It was about 6 months after he became a star off of Jessie's Girl. I knew exactly kind of how to approach the audition which was to have a pair of 100 watt Marshals turned up very loud and play. His dream on stage is The Who basically. If you can provide him with Pete Townsend or something, you know, then you've done it.

He gets painted as a pop artist, probably by the mainstream media but he can seriously rock can't he?
He is, yeah, live especially. He just wants it to be a big rock experience.

Did you feel like you were turned down on the records a little bit?
Well, record making never really supplies you the kind of glory that you imagine you're going to have when you're a teenager or whatever. If you're making your own records, that's one thing, but when you're working with a singer and a songwriter, the day you do the actual session, your guitars are loud and glorious and it never, ever ends up quite… there's just not enough space for you to be loud and glorious at the end.
So, in his case, Living in Oz, I got to be really loud. Usually in his case, I was loud enough. It was just in the later records when he kind of took a different direction. Guitar wasn't the priority.




I remember…
Yeah. Then it became a little… it bruised my ego a little bit but that was just being young and kind of…

Let me come to that, because his material is years ahead of it's time. The records still sonically sound amazing today even though each one of them sounds totally different from the other. But Living in Oz was…, you know, he was a teen idol at the time. Living in Oz was not a teen idol record was it?
Not at all.

That was amazing that a label would sort of…, they must have, you know, sweated a little bit when they heard that record.
Well I think they probably felt like they had gotten… this is going to sound really, really ruthless, but I know the record business. They probably felt like they had gotten enough out of him at that point (laughing). He was going to go platinum anyway and he wanted to do his own thing, and it was a different time. You could actually, kind of; you could take those kind of risks a little more in the record business at that time.

Wow, that's interesting insight. It's definitely changed hasn't it?

So Living in Oz is an amazing record. What are your recollections of making and touring on that record?
Well it was probably the first time I actually got to… that I knew I had gotten to do what I was capable of doing as a soloist and that it was going to be without compromise. Something I was going to be very proud of. The tours were all kind of…, kind of beside the point in a way. I mean once we did the first couple of tours, it was kind of the same drill every time. That part of it, even then, was not what I was that interested in.

OK. Fair enough. He had a pretty good band though didn't he? You and Mike Beard was it?
Yeah, yeah.

You stayed together. I mean that… Rick's had different band members over the years, but those 2 or 3 tours in the early '80s it was that core band with you and Mike.
Yeah, he had that group of people, and then when he stopped for a while, he stopped. And then another group of people and now he's got a wonderful guy. I still see Rick all the time. The guys in his band are all buddies of mine. They're the greatest group of people. He's always kind of done that. He's always created kind of a family.

I was going to… actually family was the word in the back of my mine I was going to use. You're right.
Yeah. Yeah.

Must be cool for you.
It's great. When he plays locally I usually get up and sit in for a song or two and its fun. The drummer, Roger has tried to get me, a couple of years he tried to get me to join. I explained to him I wouldn't. Rick would have to pay me so much just for a travel day that I'd come off like a … that's one of the things… I don't even want to get into that.

No, basically it's a situation I think a few other guys are in that they can't afford you anymore.

I'm a big fan of Dan Huff from Giant – same deal.
He's too busy with what he's got going. A producer, songwriter. When that happens, for me as being a player, you can't really jeopardize that.

No, definitely not. I mean the fans, 5,000-10,000 fans that would sell their grandmothers for a Giant record, but you'd have to pay $500 a piece to be able to afford him to make it. You know, the session.
Right, exactly.

To jump to the Tao record, it was something out of the box, wasn't it? Do you have any memories of Rick's vision for that? It was a pretty amazing record as far as the time.
He was listening to a lot of British people, particularly Peter Gabriel and he just wanted to… He kind of wanted to do a band that's a guitar-based sound, have it be more programmed. That was hard for me because I didn't get as much room to play. But it was an important thing for him. And the tour that followed it was really strong. I understand why he did it. He needed change.





Absolutely! Which sort of led straight directly to the Sahara Snow record a few years later.
Yeah, exactly.

That was kind of interesting. Why didn't that get released at the time?
Well the problem was, that the climate here on the West Coast. It was the kind of thing where if we played that record for people and didn't say who it was, they were very interested in it but the minute they found out it was Rick Springfield they were not. Because he, like many pop stars, there is always a sort of backlash that follows success. That's gone now. Now he's actually quite hip again. At that point, there was actually a backlash and so they weren't interested in signing a Rick Springfield… something he was involved with.

Was that shopped as a Rick Springfield album at the time, Sahara Snow?
Not at all. In fact we tried to conceal the fact. But the minute they found out he was in it, they were… the door shut.

Right, I was just wondering whether the Sahara Snow name sort of doubled the original name for the project.
You know, I don't know. I can't remember who came up with that. We all wrote the songs together and that's why it was a band. I mean it was a three way writing collaboration. That's why it got called a band.





Yeah, and Bob Marlette's a talented individual himself isn't he?
Very. Very, very.

You've worked with him a bit haven't you? What's Bob like to work with?
He's very enthusiastic. He has a photographic memory for music so when he's writing or producing he can draw from everything he's heard on the radio. It's in his head and he can just kind of borrow and draw influences from his photographic memory. And he's also very, very positive. From the beginning of the day to the end of the day and that's one of the reason's he's so good at producing.

You spoke of your solo album there. Why wasn't there ever a second one Tim? Because that was a great record.
I spent a lot of my spare time over a two year period doing that record and I just never had the time again.

Yeah, Ok.
But one of the reasons that I have kind of excelled at this thing I do is because I sacrifice everything for it. And a couple of things I've sacrificed is any kind of a solo career and I kind of gave up song writing. Now for me it's about being really, really on every day when I show up and play for people and actually find ever mushrooming massive amount of gear and keeping it going. So it was just a choice based on time basically.

Yeah, I understand that.
If I had time, and I didn't have the obligation to win every day as a recording musician I would do it again.

Obviously it's a positive thing that you haven't got any time.
Well not really, I mean, but it is a fact of life. I'm sure if you are married, you understand what I'm saying.

Yes (laughs).
My wife and my session career and getting exercise, that's it, you know, so.

Might happen again though. Never know.





Yeah, well you don't rule it out. I'm sure people would love to hear that.
You've worked with some pretty amazing names but I like the fact that you actually mention that you'd worked with some names that you'll probably never hear of. Some of those actually I cover on the side like Taylor Mesple and Tim Karr back in the '80s and things like that. Why devote some time to people like that?

I don't really distinguish quality wise between one person and another. So if you have a song demoed and you come over my house and you pay me to play guitar, you basically get the same experience and I feel the same experience for you as if I was in the studio with Rod Stewart. Of course if I'm in the studio with someone like that, I kind of have to pinch myself when I hear them sing and that is a little different. But really, quality wise, and experience wise, it's all the same to me. So I think I understand what you meant when you said that.

I meant that in the most positive, possible light.
Yeah, to me everybody's equal. I think that's probably why I'm not burned out on this. It's because I really just try to create a certain kind of quality and if it's somebody who's paying for their own record that you've never heard of or some up and coming person or somebody who is really famous, it's all the same, kind of the same experience.

Yeah, that's actually that's the answer I kind of hoped and expected for.
And on the purely practical side, if I had to depend on really, really high profile projects, I wouldn't be able to pay my bills. Nobody, especially in the record business the way it is now. It's just that part of the business is not as reliable. You know, because you are… really more… they're more fickle and they're more apt to choose one of five or six other players and all the above. It's not as safe, as comfortable as the middle. The very top of the music business is quite competitive and quite flavor of the month, you know, whatever.

I know you haven't got a crystal ball but do you have any idea where the industry is going? It's certainly in a period of, you know, uncertainty.
Well the record business as we all know collapsed about four years ago and lost about sixty to seventy percent of it's infrastructure. So you know, buildings that had 1000 people working all the sudden had 300 people. And all the way down the line. Now there's still more consolidation. They're finding new ways to earn money and to sell records and things will… I think things have bottomed out. I think things will get better and true artistry will always be present along with the pro-wrestling type of phony, kind of music too.

Yes (laughs).
Oddly enough, I think that independent music companies will be justifiable as the record companies that we've known all our lives. That's the great thing. And I think that bands who sell their own records, it's a much more level playing field in some ways. In other ways, because there is so much less money being spent, it has weeded out a lot of the people who are in it for the wrong reasons. So people who are in music these days are in it because they really love music. Or, they're the other side of the record business is where they just get an actor. Apparently Disney was this way in the '50s where you sold records by recording people who were already famous.

And there's going to be a lot of that because that's really the only way they can make money is by taking Paris Hilton who is already famous and already in the magazines to make a record for them. So that's the other side. But I don't think… I'm optimistic about it and I think what happens is, you have to work harder to find the good and the music that you love in the glut of, the huge glut of …

Crap! (laughs) Yeah I understand. Do you get frustrated?
Driving along listening to the radio wondering how some of these people are actually on the radio?

No, because I'm in the music business, there's no… It's as bad as you think it is and far worse. So there's no… I don't have any illusions about. I mean unfortunately your phone call is so expensive that I can't get into some of my historical and cultural, sociological opinions about pop music.

I'd love to hear them.
I'm 47, I don't know how old you are.

35, Tim.
I don't know that pop music was meant to last this long. I don't know that it was meant to be good in 2006. I don't know how many times you can redo something that was absolutely amazing in 1969.

Yes, interesting.
So you have to be a little bit forgiving about the actual domain. It's an amazing thing but who says it's supposed to be good in 2006? That being said, what you have to do, I believe, is you have to work hard to listen to a hundred things to find one thing that you love. And maybe it was easier 30 years ago.

Yeah, Ok. There is a lot of stuff out there isn't there?
Exactly, but, you know, it's show business. Particularly on the R&B side, things are not… the quality is gone in a lot of areas. It's all just kind of a cheap trick.

Do you have a preference for a style of music? Obviously you're hired to play on pop, rock, hard rock, R&B, country.
Oddly enough I don't. I really love electronica. I really love well-crafted pop. I really love, really honest hard rock. I mean I was wild about A Perfect Circle's two records.

Ah yeah, okay.
Wild about Zero 7 and Frou Frou and Imogen Heap and Sigur Ros. All of the kind of, the ambient, electronic bands, you know. I love Jet's record. I loved a few of the Kelly Clarkson singles. I loved the first Avril Lavigne stuff. Right now, Death Cab For Cutie is pretty amazing, Snow Patrol.

Yes, my wife loves Snow Patrol.
Yeah, I love Coldplay. So it's, you know, it's pretty diverse. And then as I get older I really, really am rediscovering a lot of the beautiful '60s music. Things that I loved growing up. It's pretty all over the place.

Fantastic! You… just jumping off the subject a little… you've worked with some amazing people like I've said but also some very headstrong people like Rick Springfield obviously, has a strong artistic identity and knows what he wants. John Waite is just as… I'm not sure if I'm picking the right word, but is demanding to work for.
Sure, yeah.

How did you go with John?
Well John is, you know, let's see, I have to be diplomatic. He's his own man. I mean he's not the most polite guy and when I worked with him I was absolutely sure that I couldn't trust him. So that's when I actually joined Rick's band. It was a cross roads where I could have stayed on with John or joined Rick's band. Just because I know… Ricky Phillips was my roommate.

Was he? Ricky and I are great friends.
Yeah, there you go.
I knew all about the politics in those bands and you know, John… when you run into John, at the music store or a restaurant or something, he's wonderful but any kind of business partnership, it's just not going to go your way. You're not going to get… it's pretty much going to be all about him...

Did you know that Ignition has just been reissued, re-mastered and reissued?
Oh that's fantastic!

Amazing record. Twenty four years old and just sounds electric still today.
Yeah it was a great record.

I work with the label, I'll try and get you a copy.
I'd love that. That'd be awesome.

I'll get you details at the end of the chat. Good people in the UK. Ah, it's an amazing record. Any thoughts on Ignition?
You know, once again, just kind of, I was really young and I knew that I was really getting to show off and work with some amazing people. My first trip to New York and working with Neil Geraldo. Kind of a dream come true, you know.

Yeah, and you later worked with John a bit further on Temple Bar as well?
I don't think so.
[Tim is credited on the album…]

Okay, that's fine. Back to Ignition - amazing record and hard to believe it's 24 years old.
I mean, I can say more about it but that kind of experience has become so common place for me. You know, it's just at the time it was awesome to be that young and working with… I met Jon Bon Jovi when I was working with John Waite and that was when I did some work with Jon that ended up on his first record. So that was all in New York and it all happened kind of at the same time, which was pretty amazing.





Okay. The first Bon Jovi record you mean?

Yeah, now probably a lot of people aren't or are… or probably are not aware of that.
Yeah, his first single was a song called 'Runaway' and I did all the guitars on that. That ended up on his first record and it was a batch of kind of demos we had done trying to get him a record deal.

Yeah, sure enough! Do you hear from or seen Jon in the last few years at all?
I saw him about a decade later. He had me play on a Christmas record that I actually, still hear on the radio at Christmas. He was very efficient with his time.

You sound diplomatic again. I've heard Jon's a very good businessman.
Well yeah, I mean, he was… when I met him he was 19 years old and he had razor, laser ambition.
I mean at age 19 he had a kind of focused ambition that was just completely laser, razor sharp.

And I don't think that ever really changed. It's just something…it's just who he is.

Yeah, interesting. I heard something similar said about Jon today of all times! (laughs) But more of his recent… what he wants to do next sort of thing. So you know, I don't think that's died off any.
Yeah, It's probably just who he is at this point. That means he doesn't really take any extra time because he's moving forward. But that's something you encounter with, you know, people who are really, really successful. You can't really blame them for it, at a certain point that's who they are. That's what they want.

Very wise words. Talking of famous people, I wanted to just sort of run a few names past you to get a sense or two of your experiences with them because you really have worked with some amazing people. Just jumping into something… you have played a number of sessions that you haven't been credited for, which some people are aware of, and again, some aren't, but ghost… the use of ghost players in the industry.

Obviously that happens a lot. What are your thoughts on that? I mean to explain it to the people that might be reading this.
Well unfortunately that has gotten… it's almost a moot point at this point in time because what happens now is that the actual people that make the music are much more concealed than they were 5 or 10 years ago. Because the image is so important and the marketing is so important that if you work with them for a pop star, the actual credits are so small usually you can't even read them or they're not even listed at all.

So that's almost kind of par of the course at this point. The industry has become about using a bunch of very old, experienced people to make the music and then having some teenage girl and some 20 year-old musicians go out and pretend that they did it. And you know, you can't be … you know I'm not bitter about that at all, its part of how I make my living. I mean the reason Ashlee Simpson had a great record is John Shanks wrote all the songs and played all the guitars and then she goes out to promote the record with her band and most of the public thinks it's her. Same with Avril Lavigne.

There's some Disney stars I work with, Aly and AJ and I do all those guitars on Aly and AJ's. And another Disney guy named Jesse McCartney. And they are like pre-teen kind of stars for Disney and Hollywood records.
All of that music is done by people, you know, people behind the scenes and the actual image that's presented is of them and whatever little kids they carry around pretending to be their band. So it's far worse than just ghosting. The era of the studio musician getting credit in pop music is kind of gone for the moment. Now once again, if you have your own band, it's different. But if you're backing up an artist or a singer or a songwriter, you're hidden.

Yeah, one of my best friends in this business is Steve Lukather. He knows all that. He's in a similar position as yourself.
Yeah, it doesn't bother me at this point because I'm, you know, my life is about the people I work with and the quality of what I do and the life I lead. So a lot of that external stuff …

Yeah, can you sort of talk about any of the more famous ghosting or the sessions you played on?
I don't know that there really are any. I mean, it's not… the credit is always there somewhere. You know it really is. It's just in the very, very fine print usually.

I was told that you provided most of the guitars for the Goo Goo Dolls.
Oh yeah, that's true but there is… I am credited, yeah. But that's a perfect, sort of a perfect example of… and it's not most of the guitars. What it is, is Johnny plays all of the acoustics and quite a few electrics and then I come in to try to fill in what's missing.





And on the record that's just got released, I shared that job with two other guitar players.

And our names are always listed but because of the way music is marketed these days, nobody really pays attention to that. I'll tell you that probably… I do have a good story about that. Because I played on Michael Jackson's 'Black or White'.

And they wanted to promote Slash as the guitar player on that song. So what they did is, they had him do an intro to the song that appears before the song on the record and it is in the video before the song actually starts so they could actually tie his name to the song.
So that's probably the best story I have, and a good one, where, because Eddie Van Halen had been the rock star guitar player on the previous record, they needed a new rock star guitar player and that was Slash because he was the biggest name around at that time. And he was not on the song, so they actually created a little intro piece of music that allowed them to market him as the kind of guitar player on the song.

(laughing) You got to love it!
And even that didn't really bother me at the time because I've always been a kind of working musician.

Yeah, I understand.
I mean, if you're in a band. It's like winning the lottery. You get together with a bunch of guys and you do this great music and you become millionaires. It's like winning the lottery, you know. You can't really make that happen. It just happens. So you know…

Excellent! You've got such a great attitude.
Well I'm kind of an adult and I'm very successful at what I do and I get to buy a lot of guitars and amps, and it's really nothing. It's very, very, you know, I'm challenged and rewarded and appreciate it beyond what most people get.

Yeah, look, you're absolutely right, again. I'll just run some names past you for people that may not know or may know of some but not others. You've played on almost every Mark Spiro record.

Now he's just gone through a hard time hasn't he but he's obviously better now.
I think he is, yeah. I don't see him much anymore because he moved down to San Diego, but he did say he passed through his cancer and was doing okay and I love Mark.

He's made some wonderful records hasn't he?
Yeah, he's one of those guys who should have been Lou Gramm in Foreigner, he had the voice and everything, you know?

Yeah…one of those, he'd win the lottery.

Another one of my favorites, and somebody I'm also friends with, Eric Martin.
Yeah, he's great. What a soulful voice.

Another favorite of mine but I don't know him, Tim Karr.
Yeah, he's great. Really irreverent rock, you know, singer.

I did Bat Out of Hell 2 and then the record that followed it and that's kind of a flavor of the thing. I have two friends who are playing on Meatloaf's new record, one is Corky James and the other is Rusty Anderson. Corky is allied with Desmond Child and then Rusty was actually in doing something with Meatloaf last week. And you know, as an artist, you want new people when you come back to do a record. You're not going to look for the guys you did it with a few years ago you're going to look for new people.

Okay so you accept that and understand that.
Well you know it never… you do feel… you never completely are free of the feeling of rejection but the thing is… the higher up you get in the music business, the harder the knocks get. And that's one of those things that happens so often. You do great work with somebody and they choose somebody else the next time. You can't really think about it.

Yeah, you'd go insane I'm sure.
And then the thing that happens is, for you it's, all the sudden you're brand new to somebody else you know. It's like it all… it's your turn all of the sudden. And that's happened to me a lot where it's been my turn to be the new guy. Happened to me a lot. So you can't really… you can't really have one without the other.

Gotcha! Ozzy Ozbourne: that must be an interesting experience.
Well to tell you the truth, I don't think I met him when I worked on his stuff. It was probably with Bob Marlette.

And in fact I just finished a record with Rod Stewart. It's my third Rod Stewart record and the first time I met him.

Oh really!?
Yeah. I just finished and John Shanks produced it. It's a classic rock kind of record and will be out sometime soon. The third one I've done and the first time I've met him.

Wow! That must have been fun at least to finally meet.
It was. It was great.

Stan Bush?
Oh yeah, Stan's wonderful. A really nice record, I remember doing that.

Celine Dion?
Well she was actually a really sweet person. She actually has a humility about her that most famous people don't have. And she's definitely criticized a lot but she's right on the spot, right there and been there live, she sings so well. When you're tracking and she's singing along with you it's very powerful.

Amazing. The press does tend to give her a bit of a hard rap don't they?

I think they just pick on people that they think, well this one you know. This one's a good guy, this one's a bad guy. What about Fergie Frederickson? Was that one on one session?
Oh yeah, yeah. He's a great singer and yeah I love… haven't seen him in a long time.

He's had some health problems.
Ah… that's too bad.

Roger Waters?
Yeah, that was really fun. You know Roger's one of those guys…, wealthy. The British kind of wealth with the butler and the maid and that kind of thing. You know, rock royalty, that kind of thing. But the other guy for that for me was Phil Collins. I've done a ton of work for Phil Collins. He's that kind of, people are like royalty. They're amazingly wealthy and amazingly focused on what they do and they kind of are above, kind of above it all as far as…

Phil Collins seems like a pretty natural guy.
He is. He is.

Who else do I got here? That's getting close to it. There are a couple of females from a little while back. Robin Beck.
Oh Yeah. I mean I don't really have anecdotes to talk about these people.

I understand.
Mostly because it's such a civilized thing. I mean you show up and you do this great work together. Not a lot usually to… because I'm not on the road with these people. My exposure to them really is just a few hours or a few days.
And then everybody's just working real hard at making music together. There's not a lot outside of… So I wish I had more.

No I understand that completely. Actually that makes a lot of sense. Anything that I've missed, that you think should be mentioned?
Well, I mean, no not really. I mean I work with a lot of new artists, a lot of up and coming artists and these are people that you might end up hearing or you might not because their records might surface you know. They might not sell more than a few thousand copies so that's still a big part of what I do. All kinds of great, new young artists.

Have you got a tip for a new rock artist?
Yeah, it's all the same stuff…be yourself, do it because you love it, and… I don't know. The music business at this point….you're free to, you know, basically create your own business.

Good advice. I appreciate your time Tim.
You got it.
Okay, take care. Thanks for spending the money on this call.

Ah, my pleasure Tim. Thank you for some great music.
You got it.


c. 2006 MelodicRock.com / Interview By Andrew McNeice. Transcribed by Don Higgins.





James Christian (2006)





House Of Lords frontman James Christian talks in detail about making the new HOL record, working with a new line-up and other such topics as working with Gene Simmons, the upcoming live album and how he nearly fronted Manic Eden!

Thanks to Don Higgins for again transcribing the interview for me!

Ok James…well we should talk about your latest child, that's the World Upside Down record.
Yes, absolutely. I'm glad to be talking to you about it after the beating you gave me on Power & the Myth (laughs). But that's all right, it's all right, you have a job to do.

Yeah, well I'm very glad to be talking to you also and I'm very much looking forward to getting this review on line so I can be forgiven. Because it is a great album and it will be a great review, so you obviously must be very pleased.
I'm totally pleased. I'm relieved and pleased you know. As we were doing the record, I said, 'I know I've got something!' You just kind of feel it as every track comes together and everything you do and at the same time it was exhilarating but it was stressful. Wondering am I really on it or do I think I have it.

Oh look absolutely on it. I gave you a bit of stick for you vocals on the last album but man, you sound like you've got the energy of a 20-year-old on this record.
It felt like I was doing, you know, I picked up from Demons Down. Its one thing I never really got to just say in an interview in quite a while is that I haven't really written anything since Demons Down. You know I put out a solo record and I did Power & the Myth but I really… there was nothing there that I'd written recently. So after Power & the Myth, which I just…you know, look there are elements of that album that are very good. They were a side of House of Lords in Lanny and Ken that really wasn't my side and it was like a baseball player trying to get a hold of a grip on a bat. I just couldn't get a grip on what that was, you know. So it was a difficult task to put my vocal style onto something that was more alternative sounding. It was difficult. I really believed that what House of Lords was, is what Demons Down, Sahara and the first album were.

So that's basically when I sat down and thought about it. I said this is what I need to do. I need to say it's a year after Demons Down, what would you have done? That's how I approached the record.

Would it have been possible to make the World Upside Down record with the Power & the Myth line up?
No. For the simple reason… it's possible, they could play it, there's no doubt about it. Those guys are the best musicians around. It's just that they really, … they've moved on to different… I won't say style of music but they didn't want to be locked into a melodic rock genre. You know, Chuck and especially Lanny. Lanny is into a lot of different exotic music, different instruments and it's a wonderful thing because he's talented at all of those different facets. And melodic rock seems to be one of those things that he's really just…probably the last thing he'd like to do. So really, if your heart is not in it, I don't think the record would have had any of the fire.

Yeah, I did talk to Chuck a bit and I agree. He just didn't want to do this style of music did he?
No and again, capable of course. More than anything. But I wanted to do a House of Lords record. This is where my voice is the most comfortable. It's where I can actually expand. I wanted to write. I didn't want to get material sent to me and say here, sing it. It's a lot better when you're part of the writing team.

Yeah, so two ways you could have gone, and that was just record a new solo album and made it an epic or gone under the House of Lords banner and you chose the House of Lords name…it certainly does the name of the band proud.
You know, here's the way I went into it. Had it been a solo record, first of all, it would have never been a solo record because it's not just me as a writer, there are four writers on that CD. And it took a while to find the members that kind of gelled the same way and understood my vision for what it had to be. So I take only a quarter of the credit because there are just four other guys that were involved in the writing that really made the sound of the band. That's why to me, it sounds like a band.

It does sound like a band. It sounds like a well versed band even though it's only your first record.
And it's because every one of the members is also a House of Lords fan. They really enjoy the other records so doing this for the first time for them; they really had the fire also. And I explained to them what was going on. I mean, you know, Andrew, fourteen years is a long time and a lot of things have changed in fourteen years. But I didn't take things as seriously as I did on World Upside Down. I did because I really noticed that there really is an audience out there who are still listening to melodic music.

I didn't realize how much so. So when Power & the Myth came along and they gave me the tracks to do it, I didn't know how important it was, you know. I didn't know if it was, you know, a hundred people listening to it, a thousand people. I didn't really realize how important it was until I was actually finished with it. And then I realized that this is probably not going to be my strongest effort.

Yep, I understand. It's amazing for me…Power & the Myth took three or four years to come together and this seems to have taken nine months to get together.
Probably, yeah, maybe nine, maybe less than nine months. The recording part of it was pretty effortless. The writing period, you know we wrote more songs than we actually used. Matter of fact, I don't even know which version you've got. Did you get any of the Japanese stuff?

No, no, no. I'd like that though.
Yeah, there's another song on there called 'Gone' which is really like a 'Hot for Teacher' type of song. I mean it's just so… there was a lot of material that was written, it was written with so much passion. I have to use that word because everybody was so into it that we had a lot of music to choose from.

Yeah, I need to hear that song. That sounds great.
Yeah, you'll love it. I'll see if I can get an MP3 for you.

I'd very much appreciate that James. I've got everything from you guys so yeah (laughs). Sounds great.
No problem.

Tough question, tough question for you: Gregg Giuffria…obviously that's going to come up. Did he actually play a note on the album?
Yes, he actually played a note.
But here, let me explain the Gregg Giuffria, the whole Gregg Giuffria story. It's important. Before I started this record. Before I actually went into anything my first call was to Gregg. And I said, 'Gregg, this is what I'm going to do.' Gregg kind of bowed out of the Power & the Myth record and, you know, he had his reasons. But I knew that going back and telling him what my intentions were, that this was something that he was going to be agreeable to. So before I proceeded to even do one note, to do anything, he said yes, count me in. So once I had his blessing and I got his blessing because of one song and that song happened to be 'World Upside Down'.

And he heard it, and he went, 'I love that song'. So he knew the direction that everything was going to go in. Now the problems…, I already knew from the beginning he was not going to be a 100% member. He just couldn't be, not with everything that's going on in his life right now, with the casino... everything else. So he said to me, as much fun as he would have being there 100% of the time, he couldn't do it. So we had to settle for bits and pieces. A little bit here, a little bit there. And that was it. And rather than say, Gregg played a hundred percent of the keyboards we had to put, keyboard productions by Gregg Giuffria. Because really without his input, and his input was valuable, I'm going to say, you know, he knew the direction of every song and he knew the sounds we were going to go for. I wish he could have played more but he played enough. He played an important part.

Oh that's good. That sounds good. I understand that he's a busy guy and I don't think anyone could expect him to make a full time return to being a musician.
You know, he even went so far as to do his own photo shoots in Las Vegas. Now I had the photo, I mean you've got to realize we don't work under half a million dollar budgets like we used to. So when we do a record, he lives in Las Vegas. To fly him here for photo shoots… Gregg took a photo shoot of his own and sent me the photos. Now it's up to Frontiers whether they'll actually use that on the, in the cover or not. I don't know if they're going to, I haven't even seen it yet.

Yeah, me either.
The only problem is, and I know that Serafino mentioned that it might look funny just to see a picture of Gregg and then a photo of all four of us. So it's kind of a real difficult… I hope I answered the question correctly. Is he in the band? He was part of that project, sure. Will he tour with us? Probably not.

No, no, I understand that. That sounds pretty reasonable to me.
Yeah, I mean, it's the most Gregg has done in fourteen years also. Considering everything he's gone through and I think that you can tell by what's going on here that there is an input, just because the sound of the record, the direction of the songs. We always run things by everyone to make sure we're in the same place.

Yep. And a tough decision obviously to move out on your own with a new line up.
It was incredibly stressful. I caught a lot of slack and I take responsibility for it also. I made the decision to do this but there was one thing that I wanted to do and that was a reunion with Chuck, Lanny and Ken. We were offered to do the Firefest and they wanted that House of Lords lineup. Obviously they wanted Gregg there too but that wasn't going to happen. So the four of us together, it was a dream come true to be able to do that again after fourteen years. But I already knew during that time that I was going to do this other project but I didn't say anything about it, probably for selfish reasons. I wanted that show to happen and had I said something that show would not have happened. So Lanny, Chuck and Ken were a little… to say the least, they were a little surprised that I was going to go ahead and do a record like this. But then once… it was an initial knee-jerk reaction on all their parts. Because afterwards, you know, Ken even said, you know James I wouldn't want to do it anyway. I don't know why I was mad. I guess I was mad because you said so. But I wouldn't have done it anyway. So we're cool now. We're OK. We're OK now. But there was a period there that I felt extremely guilty and I guess for selfish reasons, I wanted to do that tour, I wanted to play Firefest, I wanted to play Greece, and I wanted to do it with them. And I wanted to do all the old songs, and relive it, you know. Now I've got a new band, were still going to go out and do the old stuff.

That's cool. Is the live album any further along?
The live album just got sealed. Matter of fact, we're going in to do the mixes in about 2 weeks. We have 3 weeks and the mixes will be done. And I have to tell you, from what I heard of the rough, it's just killer! I'm so happy that it came out as good as it did because we never had a live record and the songs that are on the live CD are all the best ones, 'Pleasure Palace', 'Sahara', 'Can't Find My Way Home', 'Love Don't Lie', 'Edge of Your Life'. You know, to me, it's all my favorite songs. You know, so it's going to be a great little live record.

It sounds pretty hot.
It sounds great! Now mind you, Ken Mary is going to have a mixing session at his FSL which is going to even sound even better than what I heard.

And you said you're going to play some songs with the new band. Obviously you'd like to get out there and play…support the new record.
Yeah, we're playing… we just got confirmed for a festival called Lorca. Are you familiar with that?

Oh yeah I am, yes.
Whitesnake, Twisted Sister, we're going to be there. That's June 17. And then, we also confirmed United Forces of Rock which is something in Germany.

Yes, Frontiers, great.
Ludwigsburg Germany.

And in between there, we're going to do quite a few dates and also do some dates here in the states.

Not too many people do that so that's great.
Yeah, not too many people do what?

The live US dates.
Well the thing is, we got asked to do a bunch of dates, now I don't know if the … is perfect yet but they're working on it with Vixen. The management from Vixen called us up and thought that…

Yeah, now I don't know how that's going to work out but he's got like 30 dates. And because House of Lords does have drawing power still here in the states he thought Vixen and us would make a good package.

Wow, that's cool!
What do you think of that?

That's cool.
Does Vixen do a lot of work in Europe?

They started to, they started to. Yes, I think the reawaken to the potential as well.
OK, but they're doing a lot of dates here in the states.

Yeah, OK, that's good.
So we'll see how that works out. But there's been a lot of offers for us for Europe. Really amazed. We offered 3 days in Spain besides Lorca festival and another promoter from, I can't remember the name of his promotion company but he's from Germany and wanted to do some more dates there. So whatever is out there we're going to take. And the band is so eager to go out there and do it so… I'm up for it myself.

Fantastic! And the rest of the guys are all local with you aren't they? They're all Florida guys?
No, they're all Connecticut and New York.

Oh, OK.
Jimi and B.J. are from Connecticut. Which is my… they're from my neck of the woods and they played the same club circuit as I did when I was in Eyes and Jimi was always considered the premier guitar god, you know. He was in a band called Joint Forces. Just one of those bands that they came to see the guitar player. And Jeff Kent who is the keyboard player is from a group, now I'm not sure if you're familiar with, you know so much music that you've probably heard the Brecker Brothers, they're horn players.



I don't know… oh yeah, sure.
Yeah, the Brecker Brothers played on Steely Dan's record. Well Jeff was in a band with them called Dreams.
And they were awesome. If you ever get the chance to pick up a Dreams record... Billy Cobham was the drummer. They had…, it was the most incredible, incredible horn band I'd ever heard. And Jeff was a part of that group. Jeff is an incredible lyricist and songwriter. A lot of the lyrics that came from this record, they came from his lips and his ideas. Great Lyricist. So that's one of the things I loved about this new record also is that the content of the lyric was important, I thought, you know. I wasn't just the same old, same old.

It very much sounds like House of Lords. Very naturally.
Well again, yeah.

Every bit about it. They're not quite as close to you, they're not in your backyard as such but you worked around that with recording.
Absolutely, I went up there. I spent a lot of time in New York. Jeff has a studio in New York City. There's a studio in Connecticut, we did some work there. And back here at home I did my vocals, and thank goodness for my wife who really chipped in, you know. Because I said listen, Robin, on this record I'm going to be doing a lot of background vocals. I had ideas that I wanted to do and I called my buddy Terry Brock and we said look, come down here, because he was in Atlanta and once in a while he comes down to Florida. But for this occasion I said I need you down here for 2 or 3 days. Let's bang out a whole bunch of vocals. So between Robin, Terry and myself we went crazy on the vocals.

I was actually going to compliment you on the backing vocals because they are extreme.
Well you know, I thought so too. And I was wondering if we were pushing the limits but I said, I don't care, it works. It's what it needs. Everything had its place.

You can never have too much backing vocals (laughs).
As long as they're good and they actually do compliment the actual song, I agree with you a hundred percent.

Terry Brock, what a machine he is.
Oh, he's incredible. He is incredible.

I love that guy.
Between him and Robin, together they created a background vocal, you know, it's just amazing. I was sitting there going, woah!

Actually I can hear Robin shining through on a few of spots.
Yeah, she cuts through like a razor.

Yeah, it was a nice accompaniment to have that female vocal there wasn't it?
It was wonderful to have that available to me, you know. Terry, he really helped out quite a bit.

That's fantastic! And look, I love some of the songs on there.
Do you have a favorite?

It varies between the mood. There's a couple of moods. You've got the rock and you've got the sort-of the more melodic. 'Million Miles', 'Ghost of Time' and 'S.O.S.' consistently you know?
Yeah, I hear you.

I love those tracks.
They're great songs. You know, it's a funny thing, you know, depending on… a lot of the people I played it for in the states, their favorite is 'I'm Free'.

In the states… there's a radio station in Colorado. A classic rock radio station, they're like, drooling over that song and then you go to the other end, the more European market, they love 'S.O.S', they love 'All the Way to Heaven'. Everyone seems to like 'These are the Times'. So, and Robin's favorite is 'World Upside Down'. But yet she's a woman.

That's a nice way to end the album actually. A reflective kind of …
I thought so to, it's just, you know, it kind of fit the whole… what was going on. Everything did turn upside down in our world, even though the lyric in the song really has a sort of different meaning. It's a more of an emotional love song. The title has a little bit more meaning for all of us.

Yeah, yeah, absolutely! Just back to your lead vocals again, like I said they're just so passionate. You used the work passion so I'll use that. Very passionate on this album, compared to the last, is it purely the material, was it just easier to sort of be inspired by?
It's the material number one. You know, I made this comparison once and I don't know if anybody ever really got it but for me as a singer if I don't really feel anything it's just kind of hard to kind of make it happen if it's not there in the song. I had that problem with a project called Manic Eden many years ago. I just could not get my teeth into it, and it's because I didn't believe that much into what I was doing. But I had the good sense to just say, this is not happening. And I didn't get involved in that project.

Wow, I never knew you were even up for that, because I've got that album right here.
When that project came together, it was for a Randy Rhoads tribute. And the guys in Whitesnake, at that time David Coverdale was doing Coverdale-Page so Adrian, Tommy Aldridge and Rudy decided they wanted to do something for the Randy Rhoads tribute so I went up there and did vocals for them. They did a couple of Black Sabbath songs, I did a Whitesnake song, and a Vandenburg song called something Hearts, I can't remember.

'Burning Heart'.
'Burning Heart', that's the song.

Sorry, I have to butt in, what Whitesnake song did you do?
I don't even remember.

Man, I'd love to hear that. I'd love to hear you do…
It was a long time ago. It was a long time ago so we did this at the Palace Theater and from there someone had heard the lineup and they said 'this makes a great band'. We should do a band with this lineup. Hence JVC came in and, I think it was JVC.

Yeah, it was Victor, yeah.
Yeah, that actually did offer them a deal so here we are. And I didn't really know what the material was going to be but I said listen, if this is Whitesnake then the lineup and the songs have got to be great. The songs were already written. Adrian said he had all of the material so the deal was finalized before we even played a note and then I got the material. And I was a little shocked by it. This is not what I expected. I expected, you know, 'Still of the Night', 'Is This Love?'. That's what I expected. I didn't get that. I got these other songs. So that's when things started to go a little rocky because it really was Adrian Vandenburg's baby. These were all his songs and I wanted to bring Mark Baker in and myself to write some songs for it and really contribute that way. And no one really wanted that. Well, I shouldn't say no one, but Adrian certainly didn't want it. And I started losing interest like you would not believe because I could not get into the lyric. It's a Dutchman writing an American lyric and the translation was just so straight. So you know, it doesn't work, it doesn't work.

Did you ever hear the end result, their album?
I never heard the finished product. I never even knew what got onto it. All I knew was, I wasn't into it.

I must send you a copy.
What do you think of it?

You know what, I absolutely love the sound of it but it just doesn't quite work.
Oh, OK. Well maybe, you were on the same page there. Yeah, the guy who was producing it, is actually a very good producer.

Yeah, exactly, it was a great team but the songs were just a little bit too much in one direction - bluesy.
Something just didn't connect. But back then I had… I knew that it didn't work, I should have used my good sense with Power & the Myth to realize that maybe we should hold off until it was a little stronger, material wise. But Lanny and Chuck really felt very strongly about the material. They stand by it. And probably rightly so because they played their asses off on the record.

Oh yeah.
It was a better showcase for them than it was for me.

Oh, there are some amazing moments on there. Some amazing playing, just a couple of elements missing.
If the songs were in my key, you know.

With the House of Lords name on it you kind of, … there were expectations but… You know, that album has it's fans and like I said, I still think there are some great moments on it.
Yeah, it just wasn't the best moments for me. But again, look, we can't all do things that are right on target.

How about the early days with the band and working with Gene Simmons? That must have been interesting.
That was great. The early days were for me my best memories because really I was coming off a time when I really had nothing but playing in a night club band, or playing in a band called LA Rocks. We had a few local moments in Los Angeles but nothing to write home about. And then all of the sudden I go from that to being in a studio with Gene Simmons in the booth while I'm singing. It was just an amazing transition. It stays with me forever. Knowing someone as big and influential as Gene was and to know that he was a part and a reason for me having any kind of success. You appreciate those times.

A lot of people sort of in hindsight step back and say, Gene was kind of a pain or whatever but you sound like you had a good experience with him.
I never found Gene to be a pain. Gene was a man who always knew exactly what he was looking for. Whether it was right or wrong is a whole different story. He always followed a path and said, this is the way it should be and he took responsibility if it didn't work. He also took responsibility if it did work. I never had a problem. I only had good moments with him.

That's cool. That's very cool.
And you, at the time back in L.A. you were sort of the go to man for a lot of songwriting demos weren't you? You and Mark Free. You and Mark Free seemed to have the market cornered.

What happened, actually Mark Free had it cornered. He was doing all of it. And then I guess maybe he got too busy and I got to do a few. And then after I got to do a few, my name got around. And so I got to do more. There was a time I was doing more session work than I knew what to do with. There are songs that pop out now that I go, oh my God, I didn't even know I did that song. It's just amazing how many things I did.

Yeah, there's so many different demos and different quality versions of those demos floating around that have leaked from different sources.
The demos that are hanging around, there are people that have asked me, we'd like to do a record of those demos. And if you'd have asked me three years ago, four years ago I'd say sure. Now I'd say no. Because if I'm going to do anything for myself, or for the band, it's going to have to be new material that I'm happy putting my stamp on.

Yes. Yes.
I learned my lesson with the last record. I want it all to be great.

Yes, ok. That leads me to my next question. You're also contracted for a solo album.



How do you go and make that record and make it sound different to World Upside Down? What do you do?
To me that's easy. Because the distinction between House of Lords, the band. It will never sound like a band. That stuff you hear on World Upside Down are three people in a room actually playing at the same time. And that's a good thing. I think it's a good thing because, if you notice, I mean I notice it, there are a couple of spots where there's actual tempo fluctuations. And you know and I could have, we could have redid it and I said, no, don't redo it. That's real. You guys, you did that, whatever it is, I loved it. And it's also a harder edge CD. On the James Christian solo record there's always a lighter side to me that I get to capture on the solo records. A duet with Robin. There's a song, 'When the Last Teardrop Falls', it was written by Amy Sky and her husband and they did a duet with it but only released in Canada. It is an incredible duet and it's the first one that, you know, a ballad type song that me and Robin are going to do. And then there's a whole bunch of other material that just would not be right for House of Lords.

Yeah OK, good.
So it's really more of a … I guess I would say it's more of a commercial side.

Yep, well that's good. When do you hope to have that out?
I haven't even broke tape on that yet.

Gotcha, early next year or something?
Yeah, I would imagine early next year because, I mean I've got maybe 6 songs written. But I haven't laid it down yet.

Cool, no that's good.
Robin is the next project.

Yeah, Robin's in… another solo album for Robin?
We're working on that right now. She's got a DVD out. You were kind enough to mention it a few times. It is so terrific, you know, we're still having, not problems but the distributions, there's a couple of things that have to be tied up with universal who owns the licensing.

And we're trying to work that out right now but she's able to offer a few on her website before we do major distribution but it really is a terrific DVD.

Excellent! I'll look forward to seeing that.
I'm going to get you a copy so that you can, even if you want to review it. I think you'd find it really interesting. A lot of parts of her career are on there.

Thanks James, I'd like that. Some of her records came out down here and I've sourced the others but I don't think any music videos or any footage like that ever sort of made the shores. So that would be great. And what are you going to do with that solo record? Any direction? Just follow on what's naturally…
For Robin?

I want to produce the record for her. And I've always told her there's one record that she has called Trouble or Nothing and I told her to this day there are some moments on there that actually gave me chills and made my hair stand up. And it's because of her vocal. And I said, Robin, Desmond Child did those productions and he got it out of her. He really did so I said, we've got to do a Trouble or Nothing record the same way I did Demons Down and … just said, where would I be a year later after that album. You have to do the same thing with Trouble or Nothing.

So that's where she's going to go. So I'm really excited to do that project.

Great! And who's going to work with you on that as far as musicians?
There's a couple of people in New York City that I want to use. There's a drummer here in Florida who is just an excellent drummer. We're going to try out a few things to see what works best. We're not going to commit to any musicians until we find the right, you know, the right combination.

Certainly no disrespect to Fabrizio Grossi but I'm glad you're going in a different direction.
Yeah, look, Fabrizio has too much on his plate. Doing so many records and you know, I've got to tell you Andrew, after as many years as I've been doing records I know what I want to sound like. It's just, you know, I really do. The guy that mixed our record, Dennis Ward…

Yes, Amazing!
We sent him one track. And I said, let's try it out and see what it sounds like. He brings me the track, he sends the track back and I'm like, perfect! He nailed it! The guy is really, in my opinion one of the best mixers I've ever heard.

Yeah, he's got an amazing touch… he just keeps getting better and better.
It's unreal. He's extremely talented when it comes to knowing the sonics of a record, placement. Where everything has it's place and you hear everything that was recorded. I find that to be amazing. And also a very easy guy to work with. Where he has no ego. If I said, well I'd like a little bit more this or a little bit more that, we went back and forth for a good month and a half while we were doing the mixing. He never once, you know, just whatever he needed to be done, he did.

Yep, he did a great job and you did a find job getting the production and you know…
Thank you.

He can only mix something that sounds pretty good to start with so I think credit to you.
I gave him the pieces, yeah, you know, I don't know if you notice, there's not a lot, I mean if you really broke down the pieces to the songs. There's not a lot of parts.

No, no, it's very simple but it sounds huge.
Right. And that's… the reason is because less is more in a lot of instances. The more you put down on a piece of tape, your ears can only grasp so many things. And Dennis was so good at saying, OK, those guitars right in your face and they sounded so beautiful. I was so happy with him mixing.

Yeah, great stuff. Look, everything sounds great James. Anything you'd like to add?
Well, I just, I'm very happy that we're actually talking about this record because I don't remember us really talking about the last record or getting an interview like this. Did we get one? Did we do an interview?

We didn't, no. Frontiers and I didn't talk for about 3 months after I reviewed that (laughs).
Oh really!

They were not happy. But you know what? I still feel the same way about that record and the new one is back to the old sound for a reason right?
You know, look, and I remember saying it to you, if I do something and you like it you praise me. And if I do something you don't like, kind of let me know that too. I'm happy when it's right. I know when it's wrong too.

I hate doing negative reviews and to your credit and Chuck as well, you know, I find out who my real friends are after I do a review like that (laughs).
Yeah, well if you reviewed everything highly then how can anyone really know what to buy and what not to buy?

Well that's my point. Some folks don't like to say anything negative but you know what? Not everything's a classic.
Yes, right.

This record is however!
Listen, in my eyes, in my heart, and I've said this to Robin after I listened World Upside Down, I said Robin, if I don't another record for the rest of my life, I can walk away and go, this was one of my best. I feel it's a classic. Whether anyone else feels it's a classic will be up to them. But when I listen to it, I go, I can listen to that again and again and again.

I have no doubt you're going to make a lot of people happy with this record.
I hope so. And I guess that's what my message would be, pick up the record and let me know if you, you know, shoot me an email at jameschristianmusic.com which is my website and that's what, I'm actually, it's the home for House of Lords also. Jameschristianmusic.com and I've got everything that's going on with House of Lords also on that website.

Yep, terrific, OK. I'll give that a plug along with the interview James.
Well I can't wait to see what you have to say. I'll be one of the people that goes, takes a hit there every day to see what you have to say.

Fantastic! I'd appreciate that and I'm sure you'll like what you read in this case.
Oh great , that makes me feel good.

Great stuff! Let's talk again and keep in touch.

Thanks for your time mate.
Thank you Andrew.




Richie Zito (2006)


Richie Zito: The man behind some true melodic rock classics.

Starting out as a session guitarist, to being part of Elton's John band, to a partnership with Giorgio Moroder, to award winning production work for the likes of Cheap Trick, Bad English, Tyketto, Eddie Money, Heart and now his own solo record and record label. Richie Zito has seen it all. Read about some of that right here.



How's yourself Richie?
I'm very well, thank you.

Look, great pleasure to talk with you. I've been a fan of your work since Cheap Trick's Lap of Luxury.
You're going to make me feel old, be careful.

Haha. That's probably the oldest record I've got of you producing.
I was just thinking about that the other day. It was December of '86. We had everything recorded and mixed. The only thing that wasn't recorded and mixed was “The Flame” and a couple of others.

And then we came back from holiday and mixed the last 2 or 3 songs very early in 1987. That brings back a lot of memories and that was quite some time ago.

It was indeed. You've got an amazing catalog. I've even bought CDs on the strength of it saying “produced by Richie Zito”.
Great, I had a wonderful, wonderful period of time where I was very fortunate. Once you've had some success you're in a position where you're offered things that are very, very good. The odds for success then increases and then the odds for a better record increases because the artists are a little better and a little more savvy at what they do. All in all, it's better for everybody.

Is it a slow climb up the ladder?
I don't know. Not really. For some. And for others it seems like it rockets. I totally got serious so, so early in my life, at every plateau, at every stage of my career, first as a guitar player, then as a producer, obviously I always wanted to succeed, I always wanted to succeed more, I always wanted more, so yeah. The younger you are the more in a hurry you are for it. It didn't come overnight but it seemed to come at a fair pace, frankly. It seemed to work fine for me. Once I figured out how to do it successfully, correctly, it seemed a little easier. I was a little lucky, obviously and I think like everyone else there's a time when you hit your stride.

Can you identify a time when your career started?
I came to L.A. in 1972. I was signed to Atlantic records at 15 years old in like 1967.

Wow! I was actually going to ask you about that. I knew you were a session guitarist to start with.
I started as a band and we kinda didn't really deserve a record deal <laughs> but we were so grateful to get it. It was myself and Joey Carbone, I don't know if you know who that is…

Joe Williams' studio partner, right?
Exactly. Joey and I grew up together. We were in a band together, got signed by Atlantic when we were 15 and that was our education. We went there everyday, whether it was the studios of Atlantic… and this was the days when they signed the first Led Zeppelin album, the Bee Gees, lots of the R&B stuff, Otis Reading, Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke, Sam and Dave, all came under that. The Cream. It was a wonderful time in music and in particular at Atlantic. We were young and not really ready. It was kind of the equivalent of a Development Deal today.

We released a few singles. For us it was just a wonderful opportunity to get close… you know what I mean?

To the real business. You know, walking in and seeing The Rascals, a blue-eyed soul pop R&B band of the day and then seeing Aretha Franklin. It was a wonderful education so I sort of started there. Then I moved to Los Angeles in 1973. and at that point, it was sort of the time of the singer/songwriter was in vogue and that led to sort of the hired gun session musicians was in vogue at that period, at least in L.A., at least in the circle that I traveled. It gave me the opportunity to work with many, many artists and producers and learn just so many things. Particularly later on after spending so much time with such talented producers. Learning the trade of record production. I don't think I could've learned it a better way from better people.

I haven't got a bio for you but I've done a little research…
By the end of this conversation you'll have more than you need to know.

Yeah <laughs> Neil Sedaka, Eric Carmen, Art Garfunkel, Leo Sayer, there's some amazing names for starters…
Again, very fortunate, very lucky. Stepped off the plan in '73 here and within the first year I did a tour with Bobby Hatfield, may he rest in peace, of the Righteous Brothers, within 6 months of being here. And when I got off that tour, again, formed a band with Joey Carbone and Rick James. And that was all in 1973, the first year I was here and by 1974 I started to do, not real sessions in terms of playing on people's records that were real successful, but starting to find my way into the studios in Los Angeles and in 1974 found my way into Neil Sedaka's world at a time when he had connected with Elton John on a song called “Laughter in the Rain” which was an international big hit. Then wrote “Love Will Keep Us Together” for Captain and Tenille which in America was a Grammy winning Record of the Year, so at 22 years old I was in that environment. I played with Neil, toured with him for a couple of years, started to record with him, sort of became friendly with Elton and that camp and then I wound up in Elton's band in 1980 and 1981, made 3 albums with him and toured the world with him. So I was very fortunate to keep very good company.

That was an amazing experience, I'm sure!
Wonderful. If I had known how great it was… I was too young to know how great it was. It was a wonderful time; wonderful experience. It opened a lot of doors. Playing with Elton John still opens a lot of doors. When I start to meet young bands today and tell them that I played guitar on Top Gun and Danger Zone it gives me more credibility than anything I've ever produced. Some of the moments in my life, in my past, in my career were wonderful experiences and I still enjoy them.

Absolutely. What was the first record where you were at the helm and had the producer's chair for?
I always tried to produce. I always loved playing guitar but because of the way I came up and how I came up, for whatever reason, shortly after arriving in L.A. I was a session guy playing other people's music and songs. It's different when you're on the road playing in your own band with your own music, not to underplay how much fun it was to play with Elton John believe me it was incredible but playing your own songs and doing your own thing is a little different so I always had my eye on how to be a little bit more creatively involved in the process of making a record. I was always really influenced by records. I always wanted to make records. That was always my passion. I was always trying. Always. After Joey and I got signed to Atlantic we were always pounding the pavement of New York trying to let people, get them to let us write and produce artists for them, and they did a couple of times but nothing terribly successful. But I always had an eye for it, always.

And then doing the session world in LA, the turning point came when I became one of Giorgio Moroder's crew. I met Giorgio in the late 70s. Some of this interview isn't going to make sense to your audience because it's about rock but some of it is.

I've got a pretty diverse reader base.
Great. My first record with Giorgio as a musician was with Donna Summer and Barbara Streisand's duet “Enough is Enough, No More Tears”, which was a single platinum 12-inch that was on two different platinum albums. So that was a nice day. I then worked on American Gigolo which featured “Call Me” by Blondie. So I got into that world and that was a wonderful experience. I loved Giorgio, he was European so he did things a little differently than some of the people I worked for. And then I didn't see him for a couple of years when I was touring with Elton and I was touring with him almost exclusively. Then I came back into Giorgio's world around '83 or so and that was a wonderfully fortuitous time for all of us at the time and the first thing I did when we reconnected was Flashdance. In a short period of time we did Flashdance and then Top Gun and then Harold Faltermeyer did Beverly Hills Cop and I played guitar on “The Heat is On” and I played guitar on a lot of that stuff.
So there was a lot of traffic.





Giorgio Moroder

There's some great songs on those soundtracks.
It was a lot of traffic. And for the soundtracks there were 14 artists, not just one. There were many different opportunities. There was a band called Berlin. Then Giorgio was magnanimous enough to allow me to co-produce a couple of songs on Berlin's record. And that sort of brought me to the attention of a lot of people. Again, being around that camp at that time gave me many, many opportunities. Keith Forsey was part of that crew.

A great producer as well.
A great talent. My neighbor actually.

Really? He's cool. I love his work with Billy Idol.
One of the greatest. That helped get him into that environment and then, of course, Harold Faltermeyer a lot of us owe our beginnings and record productions to the association with that particular, that moment in time was a very hot moment in time. That was my entrée. From there, I made some records. People started to trust me a little bit. My first real hit which I think put me in play was a song with Eddie Money. It was bigger in America than it was outside. Some of those records back then did better in American than they did outside of America.

I must tell you, I'm an absolute devoted Eddie Money fan.
Oh, wow. Wonderful.

I think he's a marvelous…
At the time, as you know, there was more kind of corporate American stuff that was not so well loved outside of America.

Yeah, that Can't Hold Back album did pretty well here in Australia.
Australia's always been a little bit more connected to us in that respect I believe. That record was my first real big record. It was a number 1 rock track here, Top 5 hit in Billboard, it was a platinum plus record. It made people say, “Wow, he can produce records.” So that was a turning point in my career. And then doing Cheap Trick's Lap of Luxury and doing “The Flame”. Nothing like a second hit. One, they always think maybe you got lucky, but two sort of sets it in stone. The combination of those 2 records was the real beginning of the wonderful time I had.

Absolutely. To speak of those briefly, the first interview I did when I started this website was Eddie Money.
This is your website, Melodicrock.com?

Yeah, that's me.
I know it's you, but I didn't… okay, you're the person. You and Serafino, the two of you, are carrying the torch for melodic rock.

Trying to.
Not all by yourselves but you're certainly at the front of the charge.

Thank you! It's great to talk to someone who has greatly influenced my record buying. The first interview I did was Eddie Money and I think I'm still recovering. He's such a colorful character.
He's a wonderful guy.

I remember one thing he said about the album was he knew he needed to make the best record of his career to have a continuing career after that point and I think he did. Everyone kind of holds that up as a landmark record…
I think Eddie Money is one of those guys, first of all, he's very talented. You can't hit a homerun every time up to bat, but he has a knack a lot of times in his career he's come up with those important records when he needed them and I think that was one of those times and I'm proud to have been part of it, particularly proud that I was part of the duet with him and Ronnie Spector because she's such a legendary, iconic part of American musical history. It was just the cherry on the cake, you know.

Whose idea was that to bring her in?
It happened very organically, the song didn't come from us. It was a time where, Eddie was so used to writing his own songs even the idea of recording other people's songs made no sense to him, and understandably. We happened upon this song and I really liked it so I brought it to him and we went and did a demo of it and I think the original demo just had the original singer sing “just like Ronnie sang, be my little baby.” Eddie didn't want to sing it because he felt silly singing it, so there was a girl hanging around the studio so we had her sing what became Ronnie's part and it just became screamingly obvious at that point that she should sing it. We made the offer and thankfully she said yes.

I've talked with another producer who has worked with Eddie and I know he's a colorful character, keeps people on their toes.
He's colorful, no question.





Eddie Money

Do you have any stories that you could share?
The funny thing about Eddie, it's so easy to talk about people's antics but the world should know that he's one of the greatest guys you'd ever want to know. Aside from his colorfulness, and he is colorful, when I called him for this Avalon project he was very quick to say, “Sure I'd love to do it and I've got a song for you.” He was there in spades. It was a labor of love. It wasn't an opportunity to make money, nothing like that. He showed a real sense of friendship that warmed my heart, I must say. That's my favorite thing to say about him right now. I love Eddie. I think he's got one of the best voices I've ever heard, he's one of the most believable signers I ever worked with. Sometimes he's say things I didn't understand and I'd still believe him. He's got that way of making you feel that he's really telling you the truth. I think the best singers have a way of… believability is a common theme in my favorite singers.

Yeah, exactly. You connect with him emotionally, don't you?
You absolutely do. He transcends music and all kinds of stuff. He's absolutely emotional.

I think the track that “I Put My Life in Your Hands” is classic Eddie Money.
Absolutely. He's had that title for a long time and then when I finally heard it written it brought a smile to my face that the timing was so great for me. A big fan of Eddie Money. I can't tell you how happy I am that he said yes.

We should talk about the record. I'm going to talk about some of the other projects you've worked on.
Yeah, I'll talk your ear off and you can cut out whatever you like.

We'll talk Avalon first. It's been a while in the making hasn't it? I remember Frontiers announcing that you'd make an album for them a couple of years back.
You know what it was, I'll tell you the absolute truth always, I was working with Philip Bardowell and you know him obviously…

Yep, a great singer.
I was happy enough that he came to sing 2 songs that we wrote for the record. I'm sorry that I missed him last night because he just played nearby and I couldn't get there.

Oh that would've been a good show.
Yeah I just live around the corner. Philip and I were working together doing a cover band for fun because over the years I kind of stopped playing and I missed playing so him and I and Joey Carbone made a cover band to play up at B. B. King's, just a sort of local venue here in Universal City.

At the time he was making a record for Serafino so I think he's got a lot to do with mentioning my name to Serafino. We never really worked together but certainly he knew who I was and vice versa because we had so many things and artists in common. It was through Phillip that Serafino reached out to me and said, “Hey, what do you think about making a record?” and I said, “Sure, I'd love to. I never did it before and I'm not getting any younger so it might be a good time.” I don't know how long it took. It seems like we finished it earlier in 2006. But it was in the planning stage fore a while it took a while to get the songs right. We did the bulk of the recordings last fall. I think I did the bulk of the recordings in Oct/Nov/Dec. and finished in January 2006. Some of the songs were older songs, about 4 of them, the rest were all new songs and that process probably started in the spring of '05. It didn't take a super long time but we definitely put the energy into it and the thinking about it and the preparation.

The album's got a classic vibe to it.
That's great news.

I kind of pondered the question of whether the songs were demos from way back.
Some of them quite frankly were and I'll tell you which ones. The one Joseph Williams sang (“Oh Samantha”) which I wrote for my daughter. It's something I wrote for her about 15 years ago but the only demo that ever existed was her sitting in my lap and me singing into a ghetto blaster, a little cassette recorder. I had a version of that and I had that and that was it. I never thought about recording it, I just wrote it for her so that was one of the songs. In fact it was Joey Carbone that reminded me that I had written it. I sat with him and we went through my entire collection of CDs and cassettes and compiled everything to come up with 20-30 songs. If I had just done some good bookkeeping of what I had done it would be appropriate. And then there were a few other songs like “Blue Collar” came “Is He Better Than Me” came, “Oh Samantha”, I think there's only 1 other. Oh, yeah, Eric Martin “I Don't Want To Want You”. Those 4 songs came from a collaboration between me and someone named Davitt Sigerson and someone named Henry Small and the 3 of us had written those songs for a band called Prism.





(l to r) Joseph Williams & Eric Martin

Exactly what I was going to ask you about. Why are the Prism songs on there?
Those songs came from Prism from an album that I was very proud of. A group of songs that were written at a time that I thought was one of the most creative things I've ever been involved with. Henry and I and Davitt got together for oh I don't know how long, got together and wrote those songs then went into the studio and made that record and it was never really successful. It just sort of went away and that always bothered me a little bit. When I was going to make a record that was going to be based in… it seemed logical to look there. Those songs made sense to Serafino, they made sense to me. I was really happy to get the opportunity to re-do them. I've always wanted to be involved with those songs again. They were a lot of fun and Davitt's a bright guy, he was a Rhode's Scholar, he went to Oxford. He was the CEO of Polydor Records, a very clever gentleman. Henry Small was in Prism and A Small Wonder before that. I met him in the '70s so those were the only songs that existed prior to this record.

And then I went to Eddie Money and… “Nightmare” is the other song that came from Prism… and I said, “Eddie, would you like to sing this song?” and he said, “Sure, I'd love to and I've got a song for you,” and he gave me “I Put My Life in Your Hands” and then I wanted Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey involved. I went to Giorgio and Keith was the bonus because he had happened to write the lyrics to that song so I knew that song and I went to Giorgio and asked him if he had any songs that would be appropriate for my record and he gave me that song “Blue Monday” so I was very happy to have him involved. He'd give me the track and then I'd take it and put some guitars on it. Those are the songs that existed prior to the record. Everything else, brand new.

I wrote them with the singers. I would create a track at home with sequencing software and then I'd email the MP3 to a singer and then Danny Vaughn would say yay or nay and Eric Martin would say yay or nay and that was the process.

You really have picked some gems because alongside Eddie Money who is a longtime favorite since the '80s, Danny Vaughn and Eric Martin are 2 others that I just buy everything from regardless.
Yeah, love it. And I didn't just pick singers that were great but again I've had the good fortune to work with some great singers and every one of these are the best, but usually there's another component to the relationship. Like in the case with Eddie Money, it's the first time that I'd ever made a hit record, you know what I mean? That's like your first… I was a virgin before that in terms of making a hit record. And Eric Martin, I produced that last incarnation of Mr. Big with Richie Kotzen. I produced Eric Martin as a solo artist and I produced tracks for Eric for movies like Iron Eagle. Me, Eric, and Neal Schon played together in what used to be the Bay Area Music Awards in '86 so that's a longtime relationship. Joe Lynn Turner I met on the road in the late '70s before either one of us were well known so that always had that… you know, old relationships. The Prism songs came from a real special place in my life and the relationship with Giorgio and Keith were integral to my higher career as a musician and a record producer, so it was all those types of things. Danny Vaughn was… first I'll go with Hugo, Hugo did Open Skyz and then Valentine first which became Open Skyz and I had a label through RCA and that was the one band signed to that label that I released so that was a milestone in my career.





(l to r) Hugo & Danny Vaughn

I have that record here too.
And Danny Vaughn I just always had a connection to. We made a record together in the later days of that kind of music and it didn't fare as well but Tyketto was one of those bands that really sort of undaunted by any type of taste or style in music, they just transcended all of that and just kept the faith and made lots of great music for a long time. I always had a lot of respect for him.

Amazing songwriter; I love his stuff.
And Joseph Williams who about 2 years ago him and I and Joey Carbone, I keep mentioning Joey because we go back so long, the 3 of us went to New York to the Tribeca Film Festival, the thing that Robert De Niro is in charge of and another friend of ours did a movie that debuted their and Carbone and Joseph Williams had been involved with the music for it so the 3 of us formed a band and played there at the Tribeca Film Festival. It was another one of those things. And Philip Bardowell was part of my reconnection with playing guitar as an adult lately and he was integral to me making this record in the first place. So there were lots of those kinds of threads between myself and the relationship between myself and the singers on the record, you know what I mean?

Yeah. It's great getting such a detailed background behind the album.
That's really what it was meant…that's all true.

It brings it together.
It wasn't like, let's see who I can get to sing <laughs>. If they had said no it would've become that but thankfully we didn't have to go there. Everybody said yes, everybody made time. Joe Lynn Tuner was very busy. He definitely made time for me and he put in a lot of sessions. A lot of people went to a lot of extra work to make themselves available really made it kind of special.

Fantastic. I want to ask you about some of these albums, but I'm going to ask first, will you make another album then?
I don't know. I'm very proud of this. If you ask anyone about anything to do with any kind of sequel they're never going to tell you. And I genuinely don't know. I don't have an answer that would be honest or accurate. The real honest answer is I really don't know. If it makes sense to make it again, to make another version of it, then yeah, of course I would. And if it doesn't make sense, of course I wouldn't.

You'll just wait and see.
Yep, I'll just wait and see. If the demand is there and there's more motivation to do it or if there's another way or another part of the story that has to be told, you know what I mean?

For the right reasons, I'd love to.

Absolutely. Well you've just mentioned a couple of albums so I'm going to ask you about them.

The Tyketto record, is -- amongst stuff I cover on this site -- is universally regarded as an absolute classic.
People love that band, which is great because that's a great record. A lot of the records I made at that time a lot of the artists had a leg up because they had already been successful at one time in their careers and some don't always get all of the love and attention for all of the reasons and for whatever reason I think that's a better record… I don't think it got the due that it was entitled, frankly.

It should've sold 5 million.
I don't remember what year it came out, there's a time when it started to get to the end of the genre's first life.

In '91 it came out.
If it came out in '91 it's a lot clearer as to why. Nirvana had probably already come out and the record company was already wearing their flannel shirts.

<laughs> Curse that band.
There were a couple of records I made at that point and whether they were any good or not, it didn't quite work out. <laughs>

I curse the day Nirvana came onto the scene.
I can listen to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” now, but I couldn't for 5 years.

I bet.
I'm okay now.

That record put a lot of people out of business.
Then again it put a lot of people into business. As you get older you just got to move with it.

Tyketto is an amazing record, it still sounds great today.
Yeah, yeah, it's a good record, we worked hard, John Kalodner was the… the very famous John Kalodner who also probably… the thread through melodic rock has his handprint and footprint is all over it. He had a lot to do with that record, him and Mary Gormley both. That was a fun record to make, actually.





Great stuff. Probably my 2nd favorite Mr. Big album of all time is one most people have never heard, Actual Size.
I know. That's okay. We did about 150,000 units in Japan. That's okay. It's harder and harder. There's a time when Mr. Big could do 800,000 units in Japan. This is nothing to do with them, Paul Gilbert or Richie Kotzen or any of them; it's just the climate these days. We did okay. And we made a good record. I co-wrote a couple of the songs. “Shine” was one of the songs I like the most. I co-wrote it with Richie Kotzen.

I'm a huge fan of “Wake Up”. I love…
Yeah I think I co-wrote that one too. They're both predominantly Richie Kotzen songs but I just kind of stuck my 2 cents in a bit.

That was the 2nd record with Kotzen but it had less of a Kotzen feel and more of a Mr. Big feel.
I think that was because I was involved and I wasn't involved on the one prior. I was in a real lucky position because Richie Kotzen is one of my better friends and he's my neighbor also.





Richie Kotzen

I live on a pretty musical street.

He's another great artist. I'm going to have to visit that street <laughs>
Yeah, it's great. And we've got more, we've got 30 Seconds to Mars… believe me; it's incredible who we have on this street. Richie and I go back quite a way to his first record with Poison.

And then a couple of solo records. I've been really involved in his career and then I knew Eric Martin as well. I had an equal understanding of both components that were very important components in that record. Perhaps maybe I got it.

I think you did because the record before, the sound just didn't quite suit the band but this one sounded like a million bucks.
I don't know that record terribly well. Maybe a lot of it was Richie trying to find his way in the band.

I'm not sure. I don't know it as well.

Actual Size sounded like a sequel to Lean Into It, it was just wonderful.
We had a good time. We made it over at Richie's house. It was fun.

Did the Billy Sheehan/Eric Martin tensions come into play?
No, I don't think it impacted on the record, at least it didn't… it certainly didn't impact negatively. You know, sometimes tension…

Oh, yeah, absolutely. Sometimes it's good.
As long as you can keep it going, some of the best records are made that way. No I think everybody was very professional on that record. Everybody was very creative. Sometimes I think that my bedside manner can help in tense situations. It wouldn't be the first record I made under tense situations.

That's a question I've got here for you, I'll come back to that one.
It wasn't a terribly uncomfortable record by any means. It was quite creative.

Again, when I listen to that record I just think there's so much left in that band. I wish they'd give it another shot.
I have prior to and since then a pretty good relationship with all of those guys. So a lot of it was my relationship with Pat Torpey and my relationship with Billy Sheehan and Richie Kotzen. That served me well, I think.

Such amazing players. All of them.
Oh, God. Kotzen blows my mind sometimes.

He's amazing.
And he did when he was 22.

The Cheap Trick record put them on a new plateau didn't it?
For the moment <laughs>. Yes, absolutely. I like to think that, not every time I step into the studio with someone, but a lot of times I step into the studio with someone and as a result of our collaboration something very positive happens to their career, whether for the first time or the second time. That was one of those cases for sure. They didn't embrace that album too much, but I did.

Yeah, I don't know why.
Because they didn't write… it was sort of a double-edged sword for them. Their biggest hit… I think most people would still look at “I Want You To Want Me” as the definitive Cheap Trick song and Live at Budokan is the definitive Cheap Trick album and that's wonderful, and it is perhaps, but we made a record at a moment in both of our careers where we made a record that we needed to make and get some national market appeal to the band but I think they always had a problem with the fact that that wasn't their song.

Fair enough.
To me a C chord is a C chord no matter who wrote it.

Yeah. Fair enough.
But I'm not the artist. Sometimes that's a very difficult position to be in. And I respect that perspective of the artist but sometimes you have to look at the greater good and in that case I think the greater good was making a record that… Cheap Trick is one of the greatest American bands of all time.

Oh, I love 'em.
Too often they kind of go under the radar and where they need to be. Sometimes you need to do some extraordinary thing to make that unfair thing work itself out.

Talking of precious, the Bad English album is another all-time classic as far as people are concerned.
That's a good record, I think.

That is an amazing record.
We worked hard on that one.

It sounds like it. You put a lot of time into that one didn't you?
Yes, and it was hard work. When you produce a band, and to some extent it was the same with Mr. Big's Actual Size record and maybe a little bit with Poison with Richie Kotzen, but never as much as this… usually when you produce a band… every band to me has always been a sort of society… it's a little five-some and usually the internal politics have been worked out – this person is the spokesman, this one does this – and they have a way of coming to decisions. It's a functional unit, you know what I mean?

So when you produce them, you become part of this functional unit and become part of the club as it were for that period of time. With Bad English, there was no unit. None of that was worked out. It was on the job training. The Bad English record started with me agreeing to produce a John Waite solo record.

Or maybe not, but early on, John Waite was the only one there. And me. And that's when we said we were going to make a record. Then it was like, “You know what would be cool is if it was a band,” and then it was like, “okay, cool.” And then the going assumption was John would find some musicians that he was passionate about working with or whatever. That never happened. Shortly thereafter he connected with Jonathan Cain, I believe came on first and then perhaps Ricky Phillips came on shortly thereafter. And then Neal Schon said he'd be part of it but he wasn't sure if he really wanted to join yet. We hadn't started recording by any means. But just to show you how early in the project I was involved. I got in early so as we made that record I went through the growing pains and the band went through growing pains of becoming a band. It's sort of like growing up on TV as it were. So they were becoming that band. Even though some of them had those previous relationships, 3 of them having been in The Babys, and Jon and Neal being in Journey together. It was very difficult working out the sociological aspects of that relationship because they're all very strong guys, very talented, came from… it's almost like they were all in situations where they had a degree of autonomy and now they were… having to sort of compromise, not compromise artistically by any means, compromise wasn't the best word, a better word is, finding a way to work together in that particular environment. It was a challenging record. Everyone was on their toes the entire time.

Straight up. There's was no kicking back. There wasn't a lot of feet up. It was heads up ball, as we like to say.

I think that really came through on the 2nd record, wich I know you didn't produce..but some of the tension came through in the music. Even apart from the debut…
I think the record we made, I mean, I sometimes felt like, and this is no insult to anybody because I love all of those guys, I felt sometimes like I was sort of serving as an ambassador. Sometimes I was doing a lot of diplomacy. A diplomat is a better word. I was doing a lot of diplomacy a lot of the time.





But that's okay too because there's so much talent in the room. Neal Schon would play those solos on the track. He'd say, “I don't want to think about the solos later, I want to do them now,” and then boom there would be the solo and then he'd do the rhythm guitar after. So there was some moments in that world there that was pretty great. These guys were good. <laughs>

There's a real energy in that record.
It was good. There were fights, but not like mean spirited fights, just good healthy debates most of the time. Everybody had a different perspective or point of view. It never really got out of control or out of hand. They're all pretty intelligent guys. It wasn't like a crazy record where guys were nuts on drugs or anything. It wasn't like that kind of record. It was a lot of guys that really wanted it to be right, really wanted it to be great. At times there may have been a difference of opinion, but that's the worst that it got to my recollection. I think we got a good record. I think we got one of the better records I worked on.

Yeah, I think it was good.

Have there been any records where it's been just a complete, to be blunt, a real cluster-fuck, you know what I mean?
I like to think a lot of that is the responsibility of the producer, quite frankly. So I like to think that not too many come to mind frankly. Some are harder than others, some are easier. Very often the harder ones are the most successful. Frankly. So it's hard to get mad at that. Sometimes the easier ones are…

What do you think were some of the hardest ones for you to make?
I think the Bad English record was a challenging record to make, that first Eddie Money was a challenging record to make, Lap of Luxury was a challenging record to make, Heart's Brigade was a challenging record to make and I think they were the biggest records in my career.

Right. I was going to ask you about Brigade
It wasn't difficult and hard like, “Oh my God I can't stand the studio,” I don't mean that my any means. Each one for different reasons.

Heart. Why was that a challenging record?
Because they were on a path that they sort of created with Ron Nevison and they made 2 very, very successful records, so it was challenging for me to make one to live up to that, you know what I mean? They had so much success, and sometimes success can get in the way. If you take away the hunger… one of the challenges of making that record is it took a long time. We worked on it off and on for about 8 months if memory serves.

Yeah, that's a long time.
There were some breaks, but there was lots of pre-production. A lot of that was because of the time it took to make that record.

That's a long time.
For the first time in my career I started to understand what movie guys go through, trying to keep their perspective for years. By the end of that album I was like, “Wow,” after 8 months, it was a little tougher to keep my… the perspective was something that I was fighting to keep. But then, something you have to know, is that making that record, Ann Wilson would come to the studio at 5:00, open her mouth and there was nothing quite like it. <laughs> Like maybe, once a week, maybe not sing a word right. Flawless performances to the point where trying to figure out which vocal to pick was a very difficult thing to do because they were all so good.

That's a nice position to be in.
I know but sometimes it's even more challenging <laughs>

Sometimes it's like, okay, now what? She was a pretty impressive human being.

Wow. She's an amazing singer.
She would just open her mouth and I'm like, “Oh my God, listen to that.” It would take you aback sometimes. I think a lot of the singers I've worked with do that to me. John Waite. For different reasons at different times, each one of them made me stand up and say oh my goodness.

He's one of my top 5 vocalists as well.
He could sell you the phone book.

I love his voice.
Very believable.

I think the best album that White Lion ever released was the one you produced for them.
Again, that was when the flannel shirts were already out.

Exactly. Criminally undersold, that album.
And you can't get mad at anything post 1990. The tide had already changed. Even the Poison record I made, there were times where we felt that we were going to be the ones that showed that bands that came out in the '80s were still viable in the public's eyes. That was one of the biggest disappointments. There were a couple of songs on there that I could have probably maybe showed a more mature Poison and a growth with Richie Kotzen involved. So again, some of those records like Poison's Native Tongue, good, bad, or indifferent, or Tyketto or White Lion's record that I made, again, the dye was already cast.

Well I think Native Tongue is actually my favorite Poison album too.
It's a good record. There were moments on that record that were like, yeah, I think are pretty great.

It wasn't bubble gum was it? It was a real mature record.
Well they had grown up and gotten a couple of years older. C. C. Deville is one of my favorite pop songwriters but he wasn't in the band and, you know, C.C. has that fantastic personality, an incredible sense of humor. Richie is a way more introspective type of human being so all of a sudden the style of writing was more serious. That chair was occupied by a serious, not in a better sense, but you know what I mean – a more somber personality, so it showed that and yeah there were some moments there, like I thought “Stand” might transcend the fact that it's no longer fashionable to like bands that you liked last year. But again, it was a Gold record in America so I'm very proud of that.

And “Stand” has been on a lot of platinum and multi-platinum collections since then too. I've definitely done worse.

Here's a thought for you. Something I wanted to ask you. Out of all of those bands, Poison is still on the road, Eric Martin is still playing, Danny Vaughn is still playing, Cheap Trick is still on the road.
Everybody's playing.

Eddie Money, John Waite, they're all working but how many of these grunge bands are still going? Why are people, the media, not giving this music the credit that it deserves for the longevity that it's had.
I don't know. I know that the Grunge shelf-life was kinda short, I thought. It sort of gave away to alternative music which has had a longer life. I don't know the answer. Gen X… every generation thinks that the one that preceded them were a bunch of old-fashioned people when they come along. Every generation has their own things that define them. Gen X was a very unhappy time. Although this wouldn't be the first time, there were a lot of deaths in that genre. It was a very anti movement. It wasn't based on something it was more against Ticketmasters and against this and that. It was anti-flash pop, anti-larger than life. It was more of an antichrist than a Christ. I think sometimes when you stamp out that which you set out to stamp out, you're done, your mission is accomplished. And I think there's a lot of that in that kind of music. More than there was… you know what I mean? Is that weird to you? I think before that it was a purer time. I don't know. I think that's one of the reasons why… I don't know. I think every generation, especially the kids now, they have so many things to compete with. The new musicians have so much to compete with the young kids because they have the cell phones and their Play Stations and their internet. I think the people that grew up on the music of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, that music occupied more of the center stage of their childhood, so maybe it's more precious to them.

Well it did for me completely so I relate to that.
Maybe the kids that you would think would ordinarily be at a grunge show, maybe Michael Jordan meant more to them. Or maybe we think that grunge meant a lot to them but maybe they were going to see Run DMC instead. I don't think we've lost a lot of potential… what a lot of people don't realize is that we've lost a lot of potential rock fans not to grunge, we lost it to hip-hop, frankly. That's when rock started to less occupy center stage of the culture.

And like you said, there's so many cross platforms for entertainment.
There really is.

DVDs, PlayStation.
Hip-hop really. Everything has a shelf-life and a cyclical life span but hip-hop really filled a lot of the needs that rock used to for the young guys. You can't discount that impact.

One positive, I get a lot of feedback from the bands and they're saying that there's a lot of young people coming to the shows.
Oh, God yes.

Just to witness what a real, true entertainment show is. Some of these newer bands don't know how to perform or entertain or whatever.
A lot of the newer bands, I don't like to insult anything because I think there's a lot of wonderfully talented musicians out there today that are very talented, future musicians coming every day, and I generally mean it, I'm not just saying it to say it, but I think nowadays video sort of gets you to the world quick. Everything's quicker and easier. Back in the day, before you got a record deal, well it's happening again, but there's a lot or road work that went on. A lot of time of wood-shedding and growing the band before it came to the attention of the media and mainstream labels. And I think that over time that was a shorter period of time.

So they didn't get a chance to do that night after night after night on the stage to learn what worked and what didn't work so by the time they got out on the national or international stage they weren't quite as seasoned. So that might have been part of it. But I think that's changing now too because the new rock bands in America especially are existing before labels, they're existing with independent labels so they are very much doing that again, getting out there and getting their chops up and getting out there to the people and hopefully sell some records.

Does any band in this genre stand out to you as having the potential to be a top 10, top 40, top 20 force again?
It's a funny world we live in. Bob Dylan, I think, has the #2 record in America.

Yeah. <Laughs>
I'm 54. I bought “Like a Rolling Stone” when I was like 15 so absolutely. Some of the people sure, absolutely. Bob Seger I think is the top 5 also.

Yeah, that's great to see.
If you make the right record on the right day anything's possible.

I really genuinely believe that. I don't think mediocrity is going to take you very far – ever. But I think sure. I think some bands may have a harder time reconnecting with their fan base. Poison did that, I worked with Poison and they're touring rather successfully every summer.

And I was there. I did some songs with them for a greatest hits record early in that new reinvigorated Poison with C.C. back in the band, selling lots and lots of tickets and they've definitely reconnected with their fans.

They're bringing them out in quite large numbers.

Yep. And I personally think that Journey have as good a shot as anyone.
Bon Jovi still sells lots of records.

Exactly. So why couldn't Journey or someone else like that do the same?
You know, if the right record or the right day and then somehow convincing the right gatekeeper that this is a record worth wrapping his company around…

But it almost doesn't matter anymore. Because it's almost like, you know, whether you're number 1, 2, 3 or 4, that's not really as relevant as making great music and finding a way to survive as a group and to continue to play those songs on the road and in Journey's case especially, going on the road and playing old songs and making new songs. I think that is success.

You know what I mean? We tend sometimes to… it's not sports. It's not like at then end of the day there has to be one winner and one loser. That's not the way it is. If you find a way to stay viable and make your music and get people to come see it and hear it and buy it, download it, whatever. That's success.

So you're basically saying that if they're out on the road, touring, playing to people, then more power to them.
Absolutely. Listen, any pitcher is going to throw harder when he's 19 than when he's 50 but what's the difference? A career is a body of work, not just a moment. Unfortunately that's the sad truth of what can be prevalent in the music industry these days is lots of artists, and sometimes I use the work artist loosely, whose careers really are just a moment. That's what you really want to avoid, that's, to me, not success.

Creating a body of work, yeah. It's a rare thing, a wonderful thing. I'm proud of anybody that does that. I'm proud to have been associated with a lot of people like that.

Yeah, record labels these days seem to be less on championing careers and more for the instant, aren't they?
Well particularly in America, I don't know what it's like outside of America, cause I just got involved with a brand new independent record company called Your Music America, YMA, and I have some partners and some investors and we're starting up a new label and that's about to get rolling.

The thing is that the bigger companies have stockholders involved, the way they operate and they sort of have to go for those big splashes. And to get those big slashes they have to go after and nurture certain types of recording artists. I think because of that a lot of different types of artists tend to get ignored. The next crop of bands and songwriters and so therefore the great news is that a lot of independent record companies are mushrooming up in America and a lot of great music is starting at that level.
And that's where a lot of music is coming from. It's good. It's kind of sorting itself out where the big labels are able to focus on the kinds of records that they need to make with TV components and big stars and big stories but then because you have a band with a guitar player-singer a keyboard player-singer that is growing and developing there's quite a few new independent record companies that are creating a nurturing environment for that and I'm proud to say that I'm involved with one.

Well that is a very positive synopsis; I'm pleased to hear that.
Yeah, I'm proud to say that. It's where I see the present and the future sort of… rock is a funny word, but rock. Rock music in America.

Fantastic. Well anything I can do to help along the way as far as getting the word out to the masses.
Well yeah I'm sure if you could just mention that I'm very proud of the fact that we're starting this new company Your Music America, YMA, and again it's going to be primarily young developing artists but those are the ones that need a place to be creative.

Absolutely. They need somebody to help them develop.
Someone to help them because the bigger companies more or less say, “Look guys, we'd love to help you,” it's not that they don't want to help, it's not economically feasible until they get to a certain level. So we're there to pick up the slack. And it's happening. A lot of the new rock bands that are selling a million records, either got their start or quite frankly more than their start are more than happy being with independent record companies. I think that could be a very and already positive thing for rock.

Yep. Sounds great. Anything you'd like to add, Richie?
Did we say enough about Avalon? I bent your ear about my entire career and life because I know, you know, melodic rock and the style of music and I had a web site and a legion of fans I want to make sure that I cover a lot of base but a lot of stuff, you know, not the primary reason, but the primary reason for the timing of this interview is the Avalon project.

Absolutely. And I think we covered everything quite nicely.
Yeah, it's something that's very special to me, very close to my heart. Most of the stuff that I've done that people would know about through your web site and Serafino's company and lots of other things out there, pretty much is me producing other artists and at the time I produced a lot of those records, those bands contained very talented musicians so I was pretty much, my role was my role. This record, I got a chance to play guitar, I played bass on everything, the keyboards, so it was a very good time for me as a musician.

There's some fantastic guitar work on there.
Well, thank you. I think I played every note.

On the guitar. I played a lot. I didn't play drums on anything, thank God for the listeners. And I didn't sing much either. But I played a lot of everything else, I played all of the guitars on it. And again, I am a musician, I started as a musician, a lot of my success and notoriety came from having been a producer but this album is kind of special to me because at my core Richie Zito is a musician, good, bad, or indifferent, and it's at the center of my soul. And I'm kind of proud of that. There's the producer part of me that's also very exhibited here by me getting up and… the good news is, I get the best of both worlds, but thankfully I didn't sing on the record. I got to produce the performances where applicable whether or not I get credit, but I got to produce and I got to be a musician too. So it really satisfied me very, very much.

I'm cool. If you're happy, if you've got enough, I'm good.

I'm more than happy, Richie. I really appreciate your time and everything you've told me.
My pleasure. And if I've said anything insulting, please don't print it. <laughs>

No, I don't think you did. I think you well and truly played a diplomatic role…
Well, I'm a fan of everybody that worked on my record. Don't forget, every time somebody asked me to produce them, I always had the opportunity to say no. Every time you saw my name on a record, I said yes. And I said yes because 99% of the time, and the other 1% of the time the other people weren't really yet well known, I was already a fan of them. So if you called and said, “Hey do you want to do Joe Cocker?” it's like, “I'll be there in less than 5 minutes.” I was very, very fortunate and I'm a fan of everybody I've had the opportunity to work with. It's not all diplomatic, it's true.

That's great. It shows through in your enthusiasm for the record and everything you've had to say.
It's been a fun life so far, you know.

And those of us who've been in it, they'll say the same.

All right, my friend. I look forward to reading it.

I appreciate your time.
Yeah I appreciate your time. I appreciate what you've done for melodic rock.

Thank you, Richie. And likewise. And thank you for some great records.
All right, my friend.

Keep in touch.
All the best.




John Waite (2006)

John Waite: A complex journey...




This is my fourth John Waite feature interview in the course of running this site. This is my least favourite of all. The first three interviews featured a more enthusiastic JW - and were I think more enlighenting and insightful.
This time around I just felt like there was no passion in John's demeanor. He gives a little insight here and perhaps I just caught him on a bad day, but the JW I remember is the more animated character I talked to in the past.

Previous John Waite Interviews: 1 - 1997 / 2 - 1999 / 3 - 2001





Great to finally talk to you again. It's been a long time.
Yeah, it's been a while.

It has been a long while. You're back in the States after Europe?
Yeah, I got back last week. We already played some gigs so we're just working a lot now. Just banging out the work as much as we can.

Yeah you're concentrating on live work at the moment. You are an in demand performer aren't you?
Yeah. It's something I'm really comfortable with. I just prefer to play live than be home and it gets me out of the house.

<Laughs> That's great. Look, it's been a long time since we've talked. I don't know if you recall but the last time I sort of had any interaction with you, was via a tird party…I had a Jesse Harms track lined up for a site compilation CD, but with your vocal on it. I was told not to use the track or under any circumstances.
Well, I don't think it's a good song, right.

No, look, I think it's a great song. Just about any song with your voice on it is going to be a good song, isn't it?
Umm, yeah, all that period of stuff either got released or it's just not that good, you know?

That's interesting that you should say that because there's a lot of stuff that hasn't been released, isn't there? There was a deal in place at one time with MTM Music for an album of unreleased material. That fell through, so is it now, basically your desire to leave it all unreleased?
Well, I usually put out what I write, but back in that period of Bad English there's a gigantic amount of demos because we couldn't decide on anything so we just kept writing. There's a big backlog of songs from that era because of that. There's not been other periods of my working on songs that… lots of stuff that I don't use.

Are you still aware of the fan demand for more material even though it may not happen?
I don't know really. When we play live it's generally packed and I'm trying my best to take it seriously. I've spent some time here with records that have been on smaller labels or… I've been in the wrong place at the right time and vise versa. It kind of puts you into a place where maybe you don't see things as other people see them.

You get beaten over the head with a baseball bat a couple of times you become wary of throwing down but I'm very keenly aware that the gigs we play is packed and it's been very good for me to see that. I'm very keen to get in the studio and make a record.

Ok. Let's talk about what you're just about to release, the Downtown - Journey of A Heart release… What do I call it, a compilation… an album?
It's not a greatest hits and it's not a new album, it's like something in the middle.

You know how much I love your stuff, mate. I need to hear your perspective on this album because I'm not really sure I get it.
Well we tried to put something in the stores so fans could pick up on things that are on Temple Bar and The Hard Way and we have a duet with Alison (Krauss) which was like, knock me out, I was so in love with her, it was just great. It's a great song. It was like an abstract view of the last few years out there for people that might not be aware of the other stuff and a few greatest hits thrown in there to liven it up.
It's like trying to connect a lot of different dots on one record. It's a dangerous place to be but it was either that or not put something out and just go on the road and I really wanted to make sure that there was something for the fans this summer.

In the meantime I'm working on new material that has a whole different attitude. This is a one-off. This is like a very strange place to be.

Yeah, okay. I actually said to the Frontiers guys, “I think I know what your game is here. I think you've signed John to get him on board and you're going to hit him over the head with what you want him to record next.”
Do you have something in mind, obviously?

Well I do what I want really. I really like their idea of selling my music and I try to keep my finger on the pulse of what's happening between me and the audience. I'm not really into the past. The past is beautiful and it's mine but I always try to move forward.

Interesting comment from you there. It's exactly what I was thinking, you pretty much do… out of all the artists I cover, and I do so with a passion… You really do just do what you want, don't you?
I don't know any other way of doing it. It's like singing off-key. It's wrong. There's only one way of doing it. You can see all different sorts of bands doing it for different reasons and they're all valid. I just work through my own life the way I do. I enjoy the hell out of my life and I try to describe it in music.




Do you have a lot of people pulling you into different directions?

Then I'd better not… <laughs>
Yeah, I don't think I'm a pushover. I don't think people can really tell me what to do. I really mean it. That's the bottom line. It's important to me. There's nothing more important in my life. It's either my way and I'm happy with it or I'm totally miserable.

I've obviously got everything you've ever recorded and then a little bit more. So this album to me is, I've got pretty much everything on it, so I was looking for the 2 new tracks here and sure enough my favorite track on the album is “St. Patrick's Day” … easily.
Oddly enough, that was written with Glen.

I knew it! I haven't got the writing credits, John, but I just knew it.
Glen Burtnik, yeah.

You know how much I love Glen…
Everybody loves Glen.

He's an absolute bloody legend but you know what, I said to you in our last interview, the best two songs you've ever written, or at least for me, in the past few years are with Glen, and sure enough, there's another one.
Well all three of them are on one record so you can't really beat that. I was flying to New Jersey to meet him to spend a couple of days working on stuff and there was a picture on the front of the New York Times of the St. Patrick's Day Parade and I just arrived on his doorstep saying, “St. Patrick's Day”. And about 8 hours later we had the rough draft of it. It's the only song that I've ever cut twice. There's 2 versions of it.

Oh, is that right? Where's the other version tucked away?
Underneath the other one. It's a bit of a “Strawberry Fields”, there's both versions actually get mixed together towards the end so it's kind of a strange song.

That's interesting. It's got a great vibe. It reminds me of… it's got a Temple Bar kind of vibe.
Yeah, well it was in New York. I wrote that in New York and I recorded it in New York City -- that was completely at home at the time. I did record some of Temple Bar at Right Tracks so. It was an odd sort of feeling of déjà vu, really.

Yeah. Any other songs with Glen tucked away?
No. We wrote four songs, three of them are brilliant and one is just a pile. We always joke about the one that we never recorded because it is so bad.

It couldn't possibly be.
No, believe me. It was bad. But the other three are so great. That's just the way it is.

They're three of my favorite songs from you and as you said, they're all on this record which is great for those that don't know the others are “Downtown” and “New York City Girl”.
John, there's a lot of players – I haven't got the writing credits – but I've got the musician credits, there's a lot of people on this record.

Well, there's a lot of tracks on it. There's a lot of different bands. I'm playing bass on it. I play bass on “Missing You”, “Isn't it Time”, and “St. Patrick's Day”. Anybody that stood around and could play joined it. It was kind of like a free for all, really.

Did you record the album in one string of sessions?
No, this went on for 6 months. It's in Nashville, New York City and everywhere else. It's been a very complex record really.

I'll get to the “Missing You” duet in a minute, but aside from that track with the obvious country influence there, there is a lot of slide guitar. There's a lot of country influence on some other tracks here.
There's been country all over my stuff since the “Missing You” album No Brakes. “Restless Heart” was a country song and I've always loved country. I wrote “Restless Heart” for The Babys.

Did you really?
Yeah, I decided to wait for the No Brakes album to record it. It didn't fit on Ignition but it fit on No Brakes. Left to my own devices I would probably play a lot more of that kind of music. I mean “Masterpiece of Loneliness” is probably the vantage of that kind of music. It's what I'd prefer to be. I'm not really wild about synthesizers.

And you shouldn't be. You've got a great organic sound which is… “St. Patrick's Day” is a testament to that. I was just wondering whether you're still… if in the last few records Figure in a Landscape and The Hard Way this have been a more pronounced country sound, I was just wondering if that's the direction you're going to head in?
Well it's probably a bit more of acoustic guitar. It all started with Temple Bar being in New York City and being written in my apartment. I couldn't use an amplifier so I used the acoustic. But I prefer the acoustic sound. I've spent my whole life rocking kind of thing and I think there's a whole bunch of other stuff going on. It isn't that my heart isn't in rock and roll; I'm a rock and roll singer with acoustic roots, but then so again is Robert Plant.
People want to compartmentalize you so badly that they won't let you do anything that's un-self-conscious but I mean I don't really look at music as being one thing or the other. It's either good or it's bad. There's plenty of country music that's absolutely terrible.

Absolutely <laughs> There's plenty of rock and roll that is too.





So you've got the 12 tracks; why these 12 tracks?
I've never stopped to really work it out. I have no idea. It was hard to record The Baby's stuff because the originals were kind of strong. But they did have that big echoey kind of sound and it was great to pull them back into a tighter thing. Just the songs that we play live that people would know. We play all of these songs live so that was the basic reason for putting these on the same record.

Okay. And “Highway 61” your second tribute to sort of Bob Dylan?
Well, I just always liked Dylan's stuff. I mean when you are just looking to jam a song in the studio, everything you've done is like a jewel. It's just an approach. It's an experiment. The original is just an amazing thing and we would just get ourselves around a bit in New York.

There's a raw sense of authenticity on your vocal in there.
Well, thank you.

You truly believe the song, don't you?
Well, I always believe what I'm singing.

That's what I love about you, John. There's always that air of passion in your vocals and I think that's what your fans like about you in general.
I give it my best shot.

Stepping back a little bit from Downtown. Just on the Journey of a Heart subtitle. These songs are a very personal set of songs aren't they?
Well, yeah. It was trying to be a retrospective. It's almost like the song “Downtown”. It's like walking downtown in New York and thinking about the past. The songs themselves are just elements of the walk. On a lot of levels it works because of it.

Is it easier to re-record the newer songs or the ones you haven't touched in 15-20 years?
Good question. No, the older ones I was more adamant about doing because I've lived with them a long time and you keep hearing the mistakes. It was amazing how ragged some of the earlier songs sounded and how the edits on the originals were rough. Some out of tune stuff and how it was just a wall of sound sometimes. And yet some of the songs were cut as a 3 piece band and we just went straight to tape. It's pretty hard but it was interesting to go back and look at it with fresh eyes and see how insane some of the earlier stuff was.

Obviously it had an impact on you listening to these songs.
Well, I play them every night so I think they just have a life of their own. It was just interesting to go back and recreate them. It was kind of weird. It was a pretty strange thing to re-sing something you sang 30 years ago.

Yes. You're a little bit older and wiser.

The new record label Frontiers. They've been chasing you for a while I gather?
I've been looking the other way. I've been very aware of them being a force in Europe. I haven't really got a reason to look for a label in Europe so we've been concentrating so much on America. But I'm very happy to be with them, they seem like they're very sincere and hard working and they have a high standard. I mean they're pretty good guys.

Yep. Definitely. Agreed on all points. Is there a U.S. label for this album?

Just Europe?

No release on your No Brakes label?
No I want to do something bigger. The greatest thing about No Brakes was that it was mine and I could just run around America. It was great. But if I'm going to put something out I want to move a lot of records into the stores so it's always there. It's hard to keep things stocked when you've got a small label.

Let's talk about that. You've got the Figure in a Landscape record out. The Gold Circle label went under which was incredibly bad luck timing or whatever. What was your thinking about trying to get the Hard Way record out?
I really wanted to tour. I possess those tapes and I remixed and remastered and I did some new songs and I did it over. I mean, Figure in a Landscape was a raw record. Some of it was really good and some of it I think missed the target. It's the first record I've made in a long time that I thought was patchy. So I was able to take it back and rework it and add the songs that were missing on the first version.

Interesting. I have a similar comment in my review for that album. I think I told you that. That's the last time that we did an interview, I think, the Figure in a Landscape record.
Yeah. I added a couple of acoustic songs which is something that I really wanted to get out there too. And, uh, just completely do it my way.

I love Temple Bar and I love When You Were Mine, and Figure wasn't as strong standing next to them was it?
No, it was kind of a weird one.

So what do you do next, John?
Hit the road. I've got 6 days off and I go back on the road again. We just got back from Holland. We did a gig the night before last in America. We're just really playing, playing hard and hopefully we're coming to a town near you. We're trying to play a world tour this year and get to Japan. We're going back to Europe. I play Rotterdam in about two months. We'll turn it into a European tour attached to that.

Everything's going at once. I hope the Alison duet is a hit because I've got such a high opinion of her.

Sorry, I missed that. Let's jump to that quickly. Why Alison? She does have a phenomenal voice obviously.
Well, she's my favorite country singer. I was laying on my back about 3 months ago listening to her new album and wondering how she does that. A month later I got a chance to talk to her and we went into the studio and cut “Missing You”. It was like a lot of things aligned for that to happen. She's a tremendous person; I really like her. She's just so what she seems to be and she's so gifted. There's only a few people that I could really go up to the mic and sing with. I just think so much of her. She's great.

Was that her choice of cut or yours?
We asked her if she'd like to do “Missing You” and we got a phone call back within the hour and it was like, “Yes.”

Great. It's nice to have that vote of confidence.
I feel the same way about her stuff. It's just one of those great moments that you can't manufacture; it just happened and it's there and it's beautiful.

Any plans to do anything with that song in America?
Well hopefully. When we get a release date. Get an album deal or something for it. I mean that would obviously be the choice single but we'll see. We're playing it all by ear at the moment.

Okay. Talking about all things being redone, etc, it's very nice to see Ignition remastered in the UK. Do you have finished copies of that in your hands yet?
Yeah, they sent me it. I did it with Howard Johnson. He's an old friend of mine. He wanted to do the interview so I just did it. It's one of those things you don't make any money on it or publishing or anything. If anyone asks for it, it's around.

It's a great, great record still today. A wonderful record. Do you have good memories of that time?
Yes, it was my first year in New York. It's very nostalgic for me. It really reminds me of that period of getting to know the city.

There's a great energy on that album.
Yeah. It was at Power Station and Bob Clearmountain and Frankie La Rocka and all those great guys that played on the record.

Fantastic. Last year you said you were writing obviously so the plan is at some point to do an all new studio album?

It's been a while hasn't it? Figure in a Landscape, what was that?
Well, yeah, but I mean if I could get Columbia Records to say, “Let's make a record,” I could just step into that world but I'm just trying to play as many dates as I can and get out the material that I can to people but without a major label it's a bit of a struggle.

Do you think that Frontiers might be a driving force behind helping you? I know they'd love a new studio album, I'm sure. Is the deal with Frontiers a one-off?
Yeah, it's just for the record but I'm sure everyone's very happy about it.

Yep. So they might offer you a deal for a solo album at some point?
Oh, that's how it's done in Europe, is it? I don't know how people do that sort of thing.

I think they'd …or anyone would love to see another album from you in due course. What style do you see yourself…
I don't know. I don't have a blueprint. You see so many bands that sound like they sounded 30 years ago playing the same songs they played 30 years ago desperately trying to make money out of it selling T-shirts and stuff. I find that kind of disgusting. Whatever that is, I want to do the opposite of it.
I kind of know what not to do by looking at that.

Yep. That's fair enough. I'm just wondering if “St. Patrick's Day” is sort of an indication of where you're going?
Oh, I see. That's just me and Frank Filipetti sat down and we had the New York band there and it sort of became that. And it was very difficult to add new songs to this record because some of them have a certain sound whether they produced it or not. It was very difficult, very delicate. And “St. Patrick's Day” sort of fit somewhere between like “Head First” and “Downtown”. It had some sort of sonic relation. So it was kind of… it was hard to get, but it was worth the struggle.

Yeah, I understand. I think it fits in beautifully with the record. I'd have to say, it's my favorite track on there because it's obviously one I haven't heard before and it's great to hear new stuff from you.
Yeah, thank you.

So we'll hope to here more soon!
Well, it will be more. It's just the case of the summer is just on us and we're playing everywhere we can and this thing is going to come out, so we're looking forward to playing and that's really it. I want to just get out there and make a live record maybe and capture some of this.

I heard that might be the plan – a live album next. And there was one other record I saw at least mentioned probably last year, and that's Greatest Hits Plus Two. Maybe that was Capital that was going to put that out?
Oh, I don't know. I really don't know.

It was a best of with maybe two new tracks.
There's no new tracks.

That's pretty much what you've done here anyway, isn't it?
Well I guess. I don't know. Those people never cease to amaze me.

<Laughs> Always somebody clamoring for more, John.

So next up is a live album and then some time later on a new studio album to look for at least.

And right now we've got Downtown to play and enjoy.
Well God bless you and thank you very much.

Thanks, John. Anything you'd like to add, mate?
No. Buy the record. It's good. I'll see you on the road, you know?

God Bless and nice talking to you again.

Thank you for your time.
Thank you, bye-bye.








c. 2006 MelodicRock.com / Interview By Andrew McNeice







Sammy Hagar (2006)

Sammy Hagar: The Evergreen Rocker Lives Life Up.



Sammy Hagar talks passionately about his new album Livin' It Up, touring, his lifestyle and bar, everything Van Halen, plus more on Journey, Planet US, Montrose, Michael Anthony and then some more Van Halen. Enjoy!

Sammy Hagar is one of a handful of artists that heavily influenced my desire to start this website. My desire was to speak to like minded people about music that inspired me and through Sammy's work with Van Halen and as a solo artist; some of these tunes are among my most treasured.
For whatever reason, it has taken me nearly 10 years to connect with Sammy for an interview. But I got my interview! With personal thanks to Tom Consolo at Azoff Management and Sammy's publicist and indeed Sammy himself, my long awaited interview is below.
Sammy was in top form, passionate as always and was happy enough to shoot overtime to continue chatting with me. This is definitely one of my favourite interviews while running this site and I hope it is the first of more to come.
While I didn't quite have time to run through 10 years worth of questions, I think we did manage to cover a lot of ground for interview number 1. Looking forward to the next.
Over to Sammy….



[Sammy's publicist connects me through to Sammy...]

Andrew, Sammy here.
Hey Sammy, how are you doing?
I'm doing pretty good.
What can I do for you Andrew?

Well, it's a great honor to speak to you finally Sammy. I have been running the site 10 years nearly and you are 1 of only 3 interviews that I have never been able to do yet. Until today in this case.
Well, here we go!

I'm rapt to get you on the phone finally…how ya doing?
I'm pretty beat I gotta tell you. I must admit. I just finished a tour and it was the most grueling tour and the most rewarding tour I have ever done in my life.
I had Michael Anthony and The Other Half out there with me…so I did two shows per night basically. I played an hour twenty with my band, about an hour ten or twenty with Mikey and sometimes we'd screw around and do an encore.
I started out with two hours and fifty eight minutes, then the next show I went down to 2.52 and then to 2.48 and it stayed right around between 2.35 and 2.45. And it wore me the fuck out…hahaha…If I may be straight out honest!

Haha. I actually have one of the set lists in front of me and it's amazing.
Yeah, we did so many different sets too. I don't know…which list do you have?

New Jersey, Homdel I'm looking at.
Pretty close to what we did…hahaha. But every time we'd get bored with a song we'd change 3 or 4 songs a night and towards the end we started getting a little more radical with it.
Cause. Like I said…the Wabo's – we have a set list – but we don't go by it. Haha. So everyone says 'well, they don't have a set list'. No no, we have a set list – we just don't use the fucking thing. We use it as a reference.

Well, that's rock n roll isn't it?
Well, it keeps me alive out there. You know, if I had to do the same show every night, um…jumping around. That was the hard thing about the Van Halen tour. We were not able as a band to ad-lib and change it up too much because in order to play a Van Halen thing you have to rehearse for a month per song. So we had to do the same show every night, you know. I'm telling you, after 40 shows I wanted to commit suicide and we did 80! I was just going man…I started looking at it as an exercise. Ok, I'm going to go out and get a 2 hour aerobic workout.

I'll come back to that, because there's a couple of questions regarding that…
I'm sure.

Haha… “I'm sure” haha…do you go through any interview without those questions?
It's hard at my age for as long as I have been doing this to go out and just do a show. Like most people would say the opposite. Like anyone who has been doing this as long as I have most of the time would say 'it's much easier to put a show together and you just go do it.'
But then it's like a job…well I don't like to work to start with. I hate work. So 'a job' is a bad word. I like to play music and have fun – every night. I like to throw a party and in order to do that you have to go with how you feel and how it feels between you and the audience.
You can't do a sterile show otherwise…I hate it…I wouldn't do it. I'd rather go mop the same floor every night; you know…it would be the same thing to me.
I gotta have fun and throw a party so my way around that is by changing it up every night and it works.

And your shows seem to becoming more of a party each and every year.
Yeah they do. It's the reason…it gives me a reason to do it. Otherwise I would be saying this isn't fun anymore.
For it to be fun you gotta make it fun and I make it fun…for the people and for myself. I honestly have a blast out there. I go out – I get fired up before the show. My band and I, we all do a couple of shots of tequila before the show…Mikey does a lot more than that…but…hahaha….we try and keep it to one bottle per show. And we go out and just honestly start having fun...goofing off, changing it up. I love to keep the band on their toes. They love it when I change it – it keeps them on their toes.
The way my drummer says it – by the third song, if I haven't changed the song yet, it gets harder and harder to get off the hook. As soon as I change the song up and throw him a curve, he gets off the hook and the show goes…and we all have our little quirky things that make the show work for us.
For me it's half the amount of tities I see by the first…if I haven't seen a nice pair of tits by the first four songs, I go 'this ain't working, I gotta kick it up a bit.'
You can't go out and beg for that stuff, it just has to happen naturally, so you have to create a good enough party for that to happen.

It sounds like you are! I hope you can bring it down under sometime soon.
Well, we just finished the tour and I'm whipped. So we are not going to do anything for a little while, but I want to so bad.
I got good news – the tequila – the only country I am launching it in outside of the USA and Mexico is in Australia by the end of the year.

A company called Infusions Solutions – they have infusions.com.au. They are going to distribute my tequila. I can't make much more than we make as the demand is too heavy for America. It's like, hand made…I can't make a million cases. We are only sending about 6000 cases over for the whole of Australia. I assume that'll be gone in the first day…hahaha.

Haha….you know we like to drink down here.
Yes we do!

You had a great time here in 96 or so…I flew over to see that show. Awesome.
Well, I gotta tell you. The band has changed. We are the same band, but we have changed so much since then that it's not even – those were great shows – but I had just left Van Halen and I was really more keyed in and focused on the artist side of things. 'I want to be an artist; I don't want to be a heavy metal artist'.
I wanted to shed the Van Halen thing and I was kinda of like a person who was trying to rebel against his parents at the time.
Now, where we have come…all that has gone and the band has developed into who and what we are.
The reason I bring up the tequila thing – it gives me a double reason to come over. The distributor is going to want me to come over and promote the tequila and I'm going to want to come over and promote what I do. It all works the same.

It goes hand in hand doesn't it? Even more so with the new album lyrically. Let me ask this question – is Sammy Hagar now a lifestyle?
Completely! With this band or without this band I would be the same now. I really have found the type of life that keeps me energized and happy and puts a smile on my face and keeps me from being pissed off. It's pretty much beach all day and dance all night.
I like the whole Cabo lifestyle. I like the weather, the beaches, the sand, I love my house I have there and I love my bar. Haha…I may as well have wrote that song…haha…I really do love my bar.
Having that down the street is just one of the greatest things in the world. Sitting around the house at night – 9 o'clock, 10 o'clock – you are sitting there thinking 'fuck, I don't feel like going to bed…I can't have any more sex…I have watched all the TV I want to. I'm going down to my bar!'
And you go down there and jump on stage and play, throw down some tacos, do a couple of shots of tequila. To me it doesn't get any better than that and it is an awesome luxury.

It doesn't sound much better!
If you find it, please let me know! I'm open minded, I haven't closed my mind, it's just that this pretty much gets me off at this time in my life.

That's awesome. You have a fantastic fanbase who are largely supportive. But not everyone is going to come along for the ride. Do you find that some people just don't get it?
Oh yeah…especially with this record. Ever since I have kinda been doing this lifestyle thing – bringing the beach on tour basically. I have always said that not everyone is going to get it. And I'm ok with that. As long as I don't lose my fans and even some of those fans don't like this record because of the country element – I've got two or three country songs on there.
But it's ok. But what they have to realize is that I am not a one record artist. I am not a one haircut artist. I am none of that stuff. I am always going to change and I'm going to bring it to you. I'm going to bring you something that I think is cool and something that really interests and thrills me and that is the type of artist I am.
If you expect me to come out in the same clothes I wore the last time – it ain't going to happen. Other than my little goatee and my hair a little bit longer – I'm kinda liking my hair long…getting a hair cut is like a pain in the ass. Getting hair down your back on a hot day…oh, get outta here!
Other than a few little quirky things like that, I am pretty much…I am really a changeling…I'm always looking for something new to turn my fans on to. And not all of them always get it.
Like some fans say 'I like it when you turned me onto tequila, but I'm not buying the country trip'. Fine…I'll find something else for you.
But I'll guarantee you – I will keep find something things to throw at you. I'm not going to be pigeon holed. I want to keep my fans happy but even the ones that might be pissed off about this record because maybe it isn't heavy enough for them, they're going, 'well, we'll wait…we'll go see Sammy live', cause they have to have that!
I've made it an addiction for my fans – they have to have that...a little taste of it. They'll fly down to Cabo if it's the only place they can get it.

Sure. Is this album a bridge to where you are going?
I'm not sure. I'm not sure where I'm going with my music. I really don't. I tend to keep getting more and more rootsy I think and my roots are blues, country, soul and rock. Rock is forth believe it or not. I did not start out playing rock; I started out playing blues and R&B.
When I was going back – my first musical experience with my father was listening to Hank Williams. And then Elvis Presley came along and my big sisters went with that, so that's really country/rockabilly/blues. So those are my roots and they are really starting to come out even deeper on this record.
You know, something could happen in my life – like I could go see a band – a wild example could be some extreme far-out free jazz form band and that would blow my mind and completely set me on a new track.
I'm open like that…I'm one of those people that loves music and loves style and all that stuff. So anything could happen, but right now I'm just kickin' around the beach…haha.

Yeah, well…you have just got this record out. So we shouldn't pressure you about the next one yet!
Oh no no…you can do what ever you like. Haha…I'll just go take a walk on the beach and forget about it all.

No this record I think is my best song-for-song songwriting I think. Some of my most honest.

I was going to say something along the same lines. It is a very passionate record isn't it?
It really is. I built the studio… When I went on tour with Van Halen I rebuilt my studio – I had it at my house and I took it out and put it in a warehouse and really built a studio inside a studio. It is like an air studio – it is completely suspended and my band, while I was gone for that year with Van Halen, The Wabos - they went in that studio every day with producer Bob Daspit, the engineer and just worked on sound.
Vic went through all my old amps and my old guitars and his collection and he just tried everything. And when I came back those guys just had that place sounding so freeking good I was so motivated to just go in there and just be myself and just let it all go and nuts – not even think about who I was supposed to be and I really go wound up in it man, I really got wound up in it.
I love this record!!!

It really sounds like you do and I must say that I haven't heard vocals from you so strong and clear since I don't know when.
Yeah, and it wasn't laborious whatsoever….I walked in and I'd just sing these lyrics as they were so close to what I was really feeling and doing with my life and…even the silliest song on this record - The Way We Live.

It is strictly written about my fans sleeping out on the sidewalk at Cabo Wabo and they asked me to write a song about it – so I did.
But, no one else is going to get that just like you said and if anyone is going to dog me about this they are going to say 'now what's he singing about? Sleeping on the sidewalk… Is he homeless or something?'
It's so personal and so inside, but most of the songs are like that, so they were so easy to sing with complete passion and conviction.

Song style aside, that comes through loud and clear and it does sound like you live and breathe the record. Personally I'm digging it and I can't put it on and not be happy.
Yeah, that's what it's for. If you wake up in a bad mood – put this record on, it will change that. If you wake up unmotivated saying 'I really want to work out but can't get motivated' – put this CD on and crank it, you'll be in the gym in 5 minutes.
You'll be headphones on, walking up the mountain or on your bike fucking blasting down the road.
It really has that all in there because it's pure outdoor, night life fun. You're either going dance and put a smile on your face or start making plans – 'You know what, I'm gonna call up so and so and see if they want to go to the beach today.'
It is the manual to a good time and to a lifestyle. And I'm in love with the record.



Sammy, I have 10 years worth of questions here so I don't know how many I'm going to get to ask you!
No, go ahead.
<coughs> Sorry, I'm coughing like crazy here.

No worries at all, I'm much the same…its 7 in the morning here. Too early!
Oh, Lord...I'm sorry, I feel bad for you.

No no no…I'll do it at any time. Happy to have you on the phone!
Ok, well shoot man, you can ask me anything you like.

Ok, so jumping to Van Halen then. Do you get tired of being asked about the band in I guess every interview, being that everything is kinda on hold?
No I don't get tired of it. The truth of the matter is, Van Halen – one of the greatest rock n roll bands in history –

No question about it. My era…Dave era….all of it together it fucking….you can't get much more rock n roll history than that.
It's a shame that it is not functional anymore. The last tour was really….I spearheaded that; I really wanted that to happen. I said this has to happen.
I heard Eddie had been sick with cancer and I said, you know…if this guy dies and we never do this, it's gonna be a shame for everybody. For the fans, for the band, just for rock n roll and history.
So I pushed for it to happen and it really wasn't a good time.
I wish I would have waited or tried to do it sooner. I don't know which would have been worse or which would have been better.
But if it had of gone great, then Van Halen could have been together again and I could have had my band on the side.
But as it turned out, my band is my band now and Van Halen is my side project.
And unless something really changes, it's going to stay that way.

And not because that's exactly what I want, it's just not user friendly. It's not any fun to be around Eddie, he's not a fun guy to be around. He's just really angry and I don't know why.
Cause, it's like 'Hey dude, what's your problem? You've got everything anyone could want...', but he wants more. He doesn't want to share the spotlight…he doesn't want to share the creativity anymore. He doesn't want to be a band; he wants to be a solo artist. And he used to say that about me and here I am a fucking solo artist!
But I keep saying he is the one that wants to be a solo artist. He wishes that he and his brother could just go out by themselves and not have to deal with other people so that he can just do what ever he wants.

Well, that's where I get confused. Why doesn't he do that then…why don't both of the brothers just get out there and do that?
Well…first of all – in the band Van Halen, Eddie always did whatever he wanted, I did what I wanted, Alex did what he wanted and Mikey did what he wanted.
But then Eddie started saying, no no, I want Alex to do what I want him to do.
You know, on that Gary Cherone trip, he played drums on a few songs.
C'mon! Fucking do a solo album! Not this when you have a drummer like Alex Van Halen.
And he sang lead on a song. My God! Am I gonna let this guy sing? That'd be like me saying 'Eddie, I'm going to play lead guitar on that song instead of you.'
It's not going to be as good, you know, but he just wants to do everything and tell everyone what to do and he's fucking crazy. So it's not very easy to say 'oh, that's a good idea'.
If it was a good idea that'd be easy, but if it's just some harebrained cockamamie thing that he doesn't even remember what he said 5 minutes later…I'm not going to sit in the studio all night trying to do Eddie's solo trip with my voice.
It was tough.
Those last three songs we recorded – I could have recorded three albums in that amount of time.

Yeah, I was going to say that while they are ok songs….they sounded labored. They didn't flow or have that spontaneous Van Halen vibe.
Man, it was hoarse brother. I went in and Eddie had spent 3 weeks on a guitar part and I'd come in and do my vocal in 2 hours. And it would be done.
Now, you can make fun of me all you want and say 'Yeah, you should have spent more time on your vocals…they could have been better – fuck you!'

It was as good as it could be though. Especially under those circumstances, I just tried not to be around the guy.
He was miserable.
Thank God for the producer, he really made things bearable. He kept it together.
That tour would never have happened if it wasn't for Glen Ballard. He got me in and out before Eddie and me would get in a fight. And then the tour – same thing.
Two airplanes and all that. If someone could really see what went on behind the scenes, not what happened on stage….and sometimes that wasn't so hot either.
But you would go – 'Oh, I understand why Sammy doesn't want to do it.'
Plus, if they want to do it – if Ed wants to do it or Alex wants to do it. If Ed wants to do it, all he has to do is call us up and say 'Hey, I'm sorry about what happened before, let's try this again.'
I'd give it a try, but it would have to be a little bit different.

There were a lot of reports of Eddie drinking heavily on tour.
He was pretty out of it the whole tour. There were nights when I didn't even know what song he was playing. Nobody else did either. We just stayed on the same song while he stumbled around the neck of the guitar.
And he is the most brilliant guitar player in rock history. Certainly one of them…right up there with Jimmy [Page], I don't care what anyone says.
I think Eddie is as innovative as Jimmy or anyone else and together we wrote some of the greatest songs in rock history and with Dave they wrote some of the greatest songs in rock history.
So it's all been done. I don't want to go out there and bury the goose. I would sooner leave it alone and say let this thing go down as one of the greatest thing.
I don't want to keep going out there and butchering it.
But I wish we had of hit Australia.

Same here!
We obviously didn't leave the country…haha.

Probably a good thing, right?
Yeah! It's a long flight to deal with someone on an aircraft.

It sucks!
We had our own airplanes… Ed and Al had a plane and me and Mike had a plane, because the times we tried to fly together it would almost be a smack the windows out of the plane kinda vibe.
They couldn't put us on a commercial airliner all together…not for 8, 10 or 12 hours!

That's the worst thing about living down here.
It's a ways!

Jumping to the 5150 album – the 20th Anniversary of the album being released this year.
Oh that's right.

What an amazing record!
Yeah, that's a great record. That was Van Halen! I think For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge is the best record, that's my personal favourite. But 5150 was the most high energy rock n roll record that we made with me in the band. It was just magic.
We made that album in 4 weeks! It was done, thank you, goodbye, thank you – written, record and mixed. That's a good example of what the band could be when everyone is just letting each other just do their thing and everyone comes to the table with their thing and you just get in a room and pow!! It's just instant…those were the good days.

And you went from 4 weeks on that record to nearly a year on Carnal Knowledge.
Yeah. That was kind of intentional. That was our agreement with Andy Johns, the producer…that we wanted to make the definitive Van Halen record and we were getting along pretty good then.
But I'll straight up say it – the only problem with that record was that we were a little bit lazy - we had so much success and we were having such a good time.
Fucking Eddie and I were out buying new cars everyday and racing them down Pacific Coast Highway, you know, having a good time and not wanting to go into the studio and work as much.
So the reason that record took so long was mainly because of that, but it was a great record in the end.

I love it. I kinda move between that and 5150 as my favourites, depending on the day of the week. Amazing records.
Is there any chance of your records with Van Halen getting the remaster treatment like they did with the Dave era albums?

I would think so. I would think that it is not as necessary though as the Dave records were as they were from a different era.
They were records…vinyl and all that and they were mastered on vinyl, so they had already been mastered for CD, but I don't think the technology was up to par.

To where we started – 5150 could probably use it, but Balance man…shit, that was hot…about as good a technology as you could get. That record sounds phenomenal.
So I don't think that it is as necessary and that's probably why they haven't done that.
But that stuff doesn't mean anything to me…I'm kinda a vintage guy. I like things to be what they are and what they were and just leave them alone and move on.
To keep fucking around with that old stuff and trying to re-sell it to the fans, that takes a little bit of a cheap shot.
But that's what broke the band up in the first place – the first Greatest Hits record. It wasn't all that did it, but it was the icing on the cake.
To me I'm not into going in and recording two new songs…and that last venture with the Best of Both Worlds package – I was all for trying to do a whole record, but three months later I'm going 'Man, we haven't even finished three songs dude…you want to tour, let's go tour. You want to make a record, go call someone else.'
I wasn't going to spend all that time in there.

I can understand that. And now Eddie's off doing his adult movie soundtrack work now.
I think that is just his way of, like I said…trying to be a solo artist and trying to do it undercover.
But he needs to get out and do it. I'm all for him doing anything. I think he should go out and tour – find a little band and go out and play…just jam and be crazy and save Van Halen for Van Halen. Van Halen - that's gotta be four of us…or rather me or Dave, I don't give a shit. It's just gotta be four people getting along and playing music together and making the music together. Not about the way Eddie is trying to do it now.
It will never work – he should just go out and be a solo artist. Go jam, go play, go make a record…shit I'm all for it. That's what I'm going to do. That's the way I do it – 'ok, that ain't working, I'll go put my band together again you know.'





What's with Eddie and Alex Van Halen jamming with Kenny Chesney?? That's your gig!
Well, Kenny's my good buddy and they know it. When I took Michael Anthony out on tour I think it made them feel insecure, you know, 'we've gotta make a statement.'
So Kenny Chesney comes to town, they call up management and said we want to come and jam…just to show that they are not sitting at home doing nothing I guess.
It was the strangest thing…Kenny called me after that and said, he goes 'Oh my God dude, how did you do it?' Hahaha.

Oh no!
It was just the craziest wackiest thing for them to do that! Why wouldn't they have gone and jammed with some rock people or something? It just didn't make any sense whatsoever, but Ed and Al don't always make sense.

Ok, so any chance we might one day see Van Halen touring with both Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth?
Oh no! So there you would throw another monkey wrench into the fucking brew! I don't ever see that happening.
That was my dream – to try and make that happen from the last Sam & Dave…when I took Dave on tour with me – the Sam & Dave tour.
That was my whole reason for doing that – 'perhaps Dave and I will become friends, we can buddy up and then we'll go hit on the brothers…and we'll have a great time.'
The fans deserved that. But oh no…but I'll tell you …right now, David is more user friendly than Eddie.

Oh dear. People within the industry often have colorful descriptions when talking about Dave.
He's wacky man…he's as wacky as a motherfucker…but at least you know what you get. With Eddie, he has become wacky. He used to be this sweet, great guy. He was my best friend, my next door neighbour, but he's turned into this monster.
But Dave's always been crazy. So at least you know what you are getting with Dave.
Dave cracks me up. He can't let the Van Halen thing go. His newest CD is a remake of the old Van Halen songs. I don't get it…'C'mon Dave, come up with some new shit, go freshen yourself up…'

His live set list is mainly Van Halen.
Yeah, it's 25 year old material…20 year old stuff whatever it is. C'mon man, he needs to get over the fact he's not in Van Halen anymore. Or maybe he should be…maybe that's the ticket.
It's just a shame that Australia – the only Van Halen tour you got was the Cherone tour.

I saw it and it wasn't pretty.
Yeah, Gary's a great guy, but that was so far removed from what Van Halen is all about. It was too bad we never got over there. But it's not over…
Andrew – it's not over until it's over.
I'm ready. I'm fucking ready. My chops are up – I'm out there singing and playing better than I ever have in my life and I can do it – anything that comes along I can do it.
And I'm open minded to doing it if it could be fun. Take the fun out of it and you lose me. I go with the fun.

Again, I don't know when you are going to pick up that phone that keeps ringing and end the interview, so I'll jump to some other questions quickly!
Well, I think times ran out…these last three phone calls have been my publicist trying to hook me up with the next interview…haha.
I'll give you one more Andrew – take your pick!

Thanks Sammy. Thank you mate…I appreciate the extra time. I just wanted to talk about another guitarist – a friend of mine and a friend of yours – Neal Schon.
Oh, he's awesome.

I'm sorry Planet Us didn't work out as I dug the two tunes that I heard.
Yeah, that could have been a great band, but as you well knew, I couldn't come out and say it at the time, but the Van Halen reunion was coming up and I couldn't have three bands!
I didn't want to take these guys down that road and then leave them high and dry.
So I had to pull the plug on that early – especially with a guy like Neal who the second you tell him something, you may as well have told you!

But Neal's a great player…probably one of the most underrated guitar players around because he is as good as anyone, but he never gets the credit for inventing anything or you know.
But Neal goes back to Santana for God's sake! And here you are with a guy like Carlos Santana who is a legend himself – you are not going to get much credibility there.
And so you know, Neal since then it's just been such a commercial ride with Journey – but Journey is a great commercial band.

Oh absolutely.
They got big because they were so fucking good. They made such great songs. It wasn't because they were hit makers…they created those hits through just great musicianship and great songwriting.
Neal has never gotten his due and probably never will, but he's an awesome guitar player.

What do you think of their decision to go with Jeff Scott Soto as vocalist, standing in for Steve Augeri.
I think it's really too bad for Steve as he is a great guy and he meant well. But he got so hung up on trying to be Steve Perry that I think it took him down. Jeff's a great singer…Jeff's the real deal. Jeff's himself…he sings like Jeff Scott Soto. He doesn't sing like somebody else and that's what they needed all along because the rest of the guys in the band are that talented – that good.
So I think it will turn out to be a good move, just too bad it happened so late…and too bad for Steve, cause Steve did a great job filling in for Steve Perry for so many years, because that's what he was doing.
Now maybe Journey can reinvent themselves.

Jeff's a friend and an amazing singer.

Montrose Sammy?
I think like Van Halen, Montrose for me is too retro…I can't go back and do an album. Every year I try to do something with Ronnie and Bill and Denny…you know, we've done it for a few years in a row, and it's great…but it's best to keep it like that.
But to say I'm going to put Montrose back together and go out and do a major album and major tour – I can't do that.
It was a great band…really really a great band. But I'm just so different from that now.

You have recorded one lead vocal for his [Ronnie Montrose] new album haven't you?
That's right – and it's a cool song – Colorblind. We co-wrote it just like the old days. Thank God it wasn't like the old days though…haha
Ronnie and I put all that shit to rest and we've grown up and it's awesome to go out on stage and play with those guys. Denny Carmassi is one of the greatest drummers on the planet.

Wonderful drummer…
I love that guy – one of my best friends, three of four times a week we speak on the phone or see each other. So it's all good. But I don't see that band getting back together and being valid in the world today other than just being some old band just trying to do it again. I'd rather just be this old guy that's doing it some other way.
4 old guys…there's nothing worse than 4 old guys! One's ok, but 4!!!

Haha. You are doing well Sammy.
Just quickly if I can – Michael Anthony – his interview with Burrn Magazine was one of the best and most open and honest interviews I have ever read.
I wanted to get your take on that – gutsy of him to come out and just tell it like it is.

I think it's about time.
Mike has always been the guy that Ed and Al kept their thumb on. And Eddie really was not good to him on the last tour. And I fought for him and if it wasn't for me fighting for him, they would have done the tour without him.
I said 'I will not do the tour without Michael Anthony. It is either going to be the four members or I'm out.'

So I forced Mike into the band and by doing that, they were really really not cool to Mike. And Mike is the greatest fucking guy on the planet...he's one of the greatest bass players on the planet… one of the greatest background vocalists on the planet and he's valuable.
And to treat him like shit I don't get it. I don't fucking get it.
So I'm so happy for Mike that he stood up and went out and said 'Look man, I'm just going to tell it like it is and here's what's going on.' And that's the way it is going to be from now on.
Now that could be another part of the reason why there will never be a Van Halen re-union, cause I'm certainly not going to do it without Mike and they may not want to talk to Mike after that.

I thought it was an amazing interview…I had so much respect for him already, but after I read that, I was like – wow, you rule Mike.
You know Andrew….the bottom line is that everyone can sit here and say 'Oh he's the problem, that guy's the problem', point your finger at everybody…the bottom line really is that the Van Halen machine doesn't work well anymore.
If it did, I would be the first guy there saying 'Hey, this is a great band, I want to be part of this.' And I do want to be part of this, but not when you can't. I don't know what happened to Ed, but he's a changed dude.
If you ever do an interview with him, more power to you brother.

I'd actually love to do an interview with Ed.
I really hope you do get to interview this guy. When we did the reunion and we did the new record, as much press as we could have got – if you noticed, you never saw…very little interviews… never saw us on TV, never heard Eddie on the radio unless someone called him at 4 o'clock in the morning and hope that he answers the phone.

Ok, that is because Al is the smart brother and the good brother and he keeps that fucker out of the press. Because man, anyone that gets hold of that guy is going to get an earful.

I understand. I'm up for it!
Haha….ok man, this is my other call I gotta take it.

Ok thanks Sammy for the extra time, I really enjoyed talking with you. I appreciate it.
Ok, adios Andrew, bye.







c. 2006 MelodicRock.com / Interview By Andrew McNeice






Queensryche (2006)

FRIDAY 14th July 2006,
The Palace St Kilda, Melbourne Australia


It's no secret about the melodicrock boards that I am a huge fan of Queensryche. Now being a friend of Andrews for the last sixteen years has had its perks, but nothing quite like the opportunity he created for me on the day of Queensryche's first Australian show in St Kilda / Melbourne on the 14th of July 2006. Andrew asked if I would be interested in interviewing Geoff Tate after their sound check for their first show, like he had to ask twice!

I was fortunate enough to watch the band sound check and get an earful of The Lady Wore Black and Take Hold of the Flame (Wow!), before being sat down in a back room to conduct this interview. A huge thankyou to Geoff for the interview and to the band (including Pamela Moore) for coming to Australia and putting on these great shows. Thanks to Adam (Queensryche's tour manager) for helping arrange this and for allowing my young brother Phillip to join me for the interview, throw in some questions and join the after show meet and greets.

Last but not least thanks to Andrew for pulling out all the stops and putting this all together for us. Bearing in mind it was my first time seeing the band live, it turned out to be one hell of a night to remember! Great work Andrew, I owe you mate!!!!! [Thaks for the report Mick...]






  • Interview by Mick (WardyS3) for melodicrock.com, Melbourne Aus 14 July 2006

    Q.        (Introductions)… Thanks Geoff, we've come a fair way and a little unprepared, it was only a couple of days ago Andrew of melodicrock.com organised all this for us. He's not a fan of Queensryche [Thanks for dropping me in it Mick!!] but as you can see from our excitement, fortunately for my brother and I we are long time fans of the band (all laughing), and this is just an incredible opportunity for us and we thank you for your time.

    A.        All right, sure.

    Q.        You arrived yesterday?

    A.        I think so, yeah.

    Q.        Have you seen much of Melbourne?

    A.        No, no not enough, it's a very cool city, I'd like to spend more time here.

    Q.        Are you planning to see anything before you leave…

    A.        Well this tour is kind of like a very hectic, boom boom boom, kind of thing. It's our first time here so we're trying to do as many cities as we can, there's three cities, and you've gotta leave something for next time.

    Q.        Sure. You had an interview recently with KNAC.com, I don't know what it is about those guys but they always seem to get the latest from you. There you mentioned that you'd now be doing condensed versions of Mindcrime I and II for the Australian shows, and perhaps a few extras, we were expecting the full albums back to back and obviously now there's going to be some surprises?

    A.        Well actually the plan was back to back full albums in the States and in Europe, and in Australia we were doing a condensed version of both records.

    Q.        You're coming to Australia, first time here, and you thought it would be a good idea to give us something from the bands history as well?

    A.        Yeah we're going to be playing some songs off the old albums, other albums as well.

    Q.        Excellent. Okay, onto Mindcrime II it's been out for a little while now, looking back at it, and having lived with it for so long now through the recording process the release and the touring, is there anything about it at all that you'd want to change about the album or are you happy how it's turned out?

    A.        Oh yeah, I'm very happy with it.

    Q.        What was the most challenging song on Mindcrime II as far as vocals went for you to sing?

    A.        Um, well writing it was really the challenge, it's one of the most challenging records I think we've done. Some things kind of came easy and other parts of it were a real struggle, it took months and months to develop. There's a song called Murderer which took a long time to come together, it started out as primarily just a riff, and then through chopping it up and putting the chords in different places and adding stuff and subtracting we came up with sort of an outline of a song. But then the time signature of the song changes throughout the verse and so it required building a verse melody that was in different rhythms, which I've never had to do before, so that was a real challenge doing something like that. I think it took something like two weeks of work on it to get it to feel right and sit right. But when you write something it's like building a boat or building a house, it's a puzzle. You know, it takes craftsmanship, a little bit of inspiration but mostly craftsmanship to make things work, and to fit together, and so you kind of have to piece it together and piece it together until you get something like a framework and after that of course you can embellish it with the more artistic flair, once you get the basic framework worked out. But that's what I love about making music, it's so challenging, because you start with nothing, just an idea in your head and you build on it and build on it until you have this, finished thing that hopefully will convey the message you're trying to talk about and hopefully effect somebody that's listening to it in a positive way.

    Q.        So Murderer started off from a riff and took a long time to complete. Is it because a riff is so good you feel the song has to be forced to work, or is it that you just let it come naturally? I mean, how do you decide with those initial riffs that it's going to be such a song?

    A.        Well, usually for me it's just do I fall in love with the riff or not, and I loved the energy of the riff and just the way it felt and I figured that that was a needed component in the story, and it was such a strong riff that it had to be used at some point, so the challenge was letting it develop, not trying to force it as you said, but let it happen at it's own pace and then once the framework was built then, letting it take off from there.

    Q.        You've often commented that you've never been a true fan of metal.

    A.        Um hmm.

    Q.        Do you find then because of that it's harder for you to be as creative with the heavier riffs as opposed to something else that you're given, or does it just seem to come naturally for you?

    A.        Well, I guess I should probably specify, you know metal – I've never been part of a scene, in fact I hate it, I hate scenes where people feel like they have to conform and be part of something, I'm not a party person, I don't belong to any political party, religious group, a music scene, nothing like that. I consider myself a rogue. I don't drive with the traffic, I'm the guy that's out ahead or behind the pack, I just refuse to be involved with that, so it's not that I disrespect metal or the people that play it, it's in the contrary to that, I think they're some of the best players in the world. It's just that I don't like to categorise myself or my band as being one thing, it's too limiting for me to think of myself in that, in those terms, in other people's terms I guess is what I am saying. I want to define myself, I don't want to have others define who I am or what I do, you know. So, trying to encapsulate that statement in a short sound byte oftentimes gets taken the wrong way by people.

    Q.        I think it has, yeah.

    A.        And people have been going “Oh, who's he think he is, he doesn't like metal”.

    Q.        They have.

    A.        Well, so the fuck what? Big deal what I like and I don't like. If you don't believe what I believe, cool!

    Q.        You've more than answered that then! (laughing). Very cool thanks!

    A.        (laughing) But really, I mean we play and know, with a lot of so-called metal musicians and I count many of them my friends and my peers, I mean they're great players and great artists and it's not that I'm trying to belittle them, it's just that I don't want to be part of somebody else's idea of who I should be.

    Q.        Just on a side note then, before we continue on with Mindcrime, the idea that you're not just metal and not wanting to categorise yourself showed through with your first solo album which, by the way, I thought was a gem…

    A.        Thanks.

    Q.        So what can we expect with your next solo album, I know you've commented it's done, it's finished?

    A.        Um, not quite, almost.

    Q.        Okay, is it much the same thing or have you branched out yet again.

    A.        No that's, it's a different thing. It's other sort of experimentation, I've been in a laboratory mixing chemicals and this is what you get, you know.

    Q.        I was and know of others who were impressed with your vocals on Mindcrime II, and in particular the high note you sing on Re-arrange You. Over the years you seem very comfortable in the mid to higher ranges, but is it becoming more difficult for you to sing those higher notes?

    A.        No, it's a matter of, I don't know how to explain it. Again, I think it's just a matter of trying new things and different things and trying to let the song develop in a way and not have to force it into sounding a certain way because that's what I do. I like to be more chameleon-like with what a song is about, I try to give each song it's own identity and it's own feel, and if I'm constantly doing vocal gymnastics over things it kind of loses the emotion I think, and it becomes, like, difficult to listen to.

    Q.        You've certainly made your point over the years and would it be a fair comment to say you're now content to just let the song sell the song?

    A.        Yeah, I think so. I think that, for me, melody and the words are the most important things in a song, and so I pretty much concentrate on that. I'm trying to get the message across, and try to do it in a way, in a melodic way, that people will be able to relate to and sing to, I think that's important too, and not too many people can sing in really high registers comfortably, and so if you make it in a place where that's uncomfortable for them I think they kind of turn off to the song in a sense, and then if they turn off the song they're not hearing what you have to say.

    Q.        I'm American to me, is a stab at the U.S. Government and there's certainly other references throughout the album on tracks such as Hostage. There were comments about the internet when it was announced Queensryche were going to tackle Mindcrime II, that some people were concerned that you would have too much to say on this record, and to be honest I would have liked you to have said more. Was there a conscious effort on your behalf to restrain yourself in this regard or are you happy with what you have said with Mindcrime II?

    A.        Well, you know the story is a conclusion to Mindcrime I, and in this conclusion to me the character doesn't give a shit about politics, he doesn't give a shit about anything other than revenge, and so he doesn't really have too much commentary about it. I mean he's been isolated in prison, he doesn't vote, he doesn't watch the news, what does he care? So to me the thrust of the lyrics and the thrust of the story is about his revenge and his feelings about that and then ultimately what that does to him, where those feelings of revenge and that need to exact revenge takes him, and the political aspect, it was more important when he was younger, it seemed to matter more, and that might reflect just my own age, I am less and less interested in politics, it is all to me just, almost a waste of time, because in my short life I see it all happening all the time, things aren't any different today than they were twenty years ago. You know, the rich are still rich, they're still calling the shots, the middle class is paying for everything and the lower classes are still in the predicament they're in. And those are like major things that don't really change that quickly, and I don't think they ever will, I think that's just the way things are. The people that are at the top of the food chain are going to stay there no matter what, cause that's what's important to them, and they're not going to let anybody else knock them off their perch if they can help it. They're going to do whatever it takes to stay there, whether it be, creating chaos and unrest in the Middle East to keep the gas prices high so their companies can make more money, it makes sense to me maybe if I was in their position I'd do the same thing, but I don't know, it all seems sort of worthless in a way to me, the whole political thing. Like so much, so many talking heads debating points that can go on forever. You know if you bring up a point there's always other people who can counter your point with information, confuse the issue, put a spin on it and discredit you no matter, no matter how smart you are or how good your intentions are, everybody, anybody can be knocked down. So, I dunno, it's just the age I'm at, I sort of see it as a futile exercise.

    Q.        Mike Stone, a lot of contribution to Mindcrime II.

    A.        Yeah.

    Q.        Is he here to stay?

    A.        I hope so. I enjoy working with Mike. He's a very creative guy, we share a lot of interests, we both ride motorcycles, we both like to sail. He's a family man, me too. He's got a great sense of humour, he keeps the band kind of centred somewhat. We've all kind of got volatile personalities and he's the kind of guy that cools everybody off and makes everybody laugh rather than fight. So that's, that's good.

    Q.        Jason Slater, how important was he to Mindcrime II?

    A.        Oh, very important. Slater is a bizarre character, very extreme and unique personality, very creative and talented. He grew up listening to Mindcrime and really wanted to do this record and it was sort of by chance that we got working with him. He, his band opened up for us in a short tour through the south west of the United States, and we just started talking music and he mentioned Mindcrime, one of his favourite records, and he actually asked me the question, he said “when are you gonna do a sequel to it?”, and I said “well, it's funny you mention that because I'm working on it right now”, and he says “really”? So we talked more and that started the ball rolling.

    Q.        He was about as excited as what we are talking to you here right now I'd imagine?

    A.        Yeah!

    Q.        You've also commented on KNAC.com that you've begun work on the next album. Can we, and this is me being greedy, can we expect a theme orientated album or any concept for the next one?

    A.        For the next Queensryche album? Oh yeah.

    Q.        Many feel as do I that Queensryche are at their strongest when creating with themes or concepts and I think Mindcrime II has proven that yet again.

    A.        Yeah, that's kind of the direction we're going in.

    Q.        Great. How far have you gotten so far?

    A.        Just beginning really, the beginning stages.

    Q. You've said that all your albums sort of reflect a stage in your life, and Mindcrime II is sort of a little bit angry, but also very resigned …

    A.        Umm.

    Q.        … to the political situation. Considering you just said that you have already said all you had to say in regard to the political climate, what direction, what kind of theme will the next album take? Is it more of a Tribe type of feel?

    A.        Oh it's definitely not a Tribe feel. It's a story and it involves characters, and um, all I can really say about it at the moment, I don't want to give too much of it away, it's definitely a story, definitely a theme, concept record and it's very intense, I think it's going to be very intense in the way that it's in-depth, there's a lot of it, we're shooting for something quite a bit more in-depth than Mindcrime II, something more, um, longer songs, that kind of thing.

    Q.        An emotional kind of push behind it?

    A.        Yeah very emotional. We're shooting for that.
            You never know what you're gonna get.

    Q.        Okay, and will the whole band be involved in the writing, alongside Jason Slater if he comes back again.

    A.        Um, yeah I'm sure, you know…

    Q.         All doors are open?

    A.        Yeah sure. You know, we have, in our band we have a sort of a, well, different people get involved to certain extents depending on the album and the song, the point in their life that they're at, sometimes people are really unable to lock or commit themselves to an idea or a theme or even time spent working on a record and we've managed to stay a band because we give everybody in the band room to do what they need to do and I think that works for us, you know.

    Q.        Um hmm.

    A.        Like, like Michael for example, he was really influential on the last album but this record, he didn't have a lot to add to it, he just hit a creative block and was interested in working on some stuff with his family, so we gave him the space to do it. He came in with some riffs that were incredibly important to the record, um, but that's kind of what works for us, you know. Not everybody is involved in the same …

    Q.        Capacity?

    A.        Capacity, yeah.

    Q.        I do want to ask one Degamo related question, there's been some comments that you would be happy to work with him again in some other project, outside of Queensryche even. Bearing in mind Mindcrime II has turned out so well is it likely that you would still be interested, is that something that does interest you or …

    A.        Oh yeah, yeah. Chris is fantastic musician.

    Q.        You still get along well with him obviously?

    A.        Oh yeah, yeah, I talked to him a couple of weeks ago. It's not that he's not welcome to work with us, it's just that again it kinda goes back to my earlier statement, sometimes people need to get away for a while, they need to have a break and, sometimes they're not up for it. Like he wasn't up for work on this record, he just couldn't commit himself to it and we needed to have somebody that was really full throttle and in on it. And so it turned out the way it did, I have no regrets about that, but in the future, I'd definitely like to work with him on something.

    Q.        After near twenty years of being a fan and now having three kids and a mortgage for myself, I've never had the opportunity to travel and see you, so why the fuck has it taken you so long to get to Australia?

    A.        (laughing) Yeah, well I asked myself that too. Well, as a rock band people I think have a misconception that you just go wherever you want and play, but the business doesn't work that way. You need a promoter, to promote the show, sell tickets and that kind of thing. Because unfortunately it's an economic gamble, and we've just never had a promoter that we've been able to convince that we can do business here. I don't know why, but we've never had the ability to come here before, so this is a real treat for us, we've been waiting and hoping to come to Australia for many years, and after so many years of being in a band and touring around the world it's a great feeling to go to a place you've never been before. A new city to explore, new people to meet, you know, I ate kangaroo last night at dinner and I've never done that before.

    Q.        Really? Even we don't eat too much kangaroo (laughing).

    A.        (laughing) Oh really? It was good!

    Q.        You're not staying for very long after completing the three shows?

    A.        No, no I think we're here for, like, four days and then we're off.

    Q.        Well, it's been an absolute pleasure. We will hopefully get to see you later after the show, and you'd do well to avoid us because we'll likely be quite pissed!

    A.        Great! Me too (laughing).

    Q.        It's been an absolute pleasure speaking with you Geoff and you've been very generous with your time. Thanks for being so informative and I'm sure the shows will be fantastic. Thanks mate!

    A.        You're welcome.

Survivor - Part 1 - Frankie Sullivan (2006)



Part 1 - Frankie Sullivan


G'Day Frankie.
So I finally get to talk to you….we've never spoken have we?

I don't recall speaking on the phone to you Frankie. I know we've swapped e-mails back and forth and were doing so regularly there several years back.
I'm not sure that we were on the best of terms though when we stopped communicating.

Well you and I never talked did we.

That's the problem then.
I don't know if it's a problem, but it's always nice to talk to friends…sure.

Much better than e-mailing.
Absolutely, so it's cool.

Good stuff. You must be pleased to have a record to release.
Yeah…..I am….I think all of us are. But you know. I don't know if it's just about having a record, you gotta be happy. It's gotta be something…it's gotta be authentic.
I think that's more important than just releasing the music. What goes on nowadays – and it's great – we have such access to just unbelievable music these days. Think about it….it's just phenomenal.
I think that in our case….I know this is not just me talking. I tried to do the best we could do.

Ok, you've come close a couple of times in the last few years – getting a record finished. Why now…why did this come together now?
As fate would have it, it just came together, the higher powers, as God would have it…turned out to be great timing.
We had the time, we had some of the material, we had time go through the material, which was really cool, so we just went for it.

Speaking of the material….there are several tracks from the last few years that have been sitting around and a few new ones as well right?
Oh sure…Um…you know…when I went in to describe…and it's easy for me, people that know me creatively – and there's only one or two…. I had to look at this and I didn't have a choice.
It was an easy choice and its fun. I don't put up any fences up; I don't put up any rules when it comes to choosing the material. I think you throw down everything you got and I have a catalogue of about 400 songs, so obviously you have to go through that.
I threw down most of the stuff I converted to CDs and said there are no boundaries here.
It is about creatively and it's about the better song and the best song…it's not about politics, who or why or when.
It's about how do you feel about the song.
Its easy for people to say Andrew….those are words that may come out easily but I think following them – there are artists that might struggle with them.
But I had no boundaries; I just listened to everything behind me here in my home studio. I have a wall that is filled with CDs and DATs and a bunch of 2-Inch tapes.
I just started listening. I haven't listened to this stuff for 2 or 3 years.

It must be nice to have such a range of material to draw from.
Well, I think it is…it is a blessing. Like I told you – no fences, no boundaries, no rules. Let's take a look at the material and pick the best songs and go for it.

I'll get to the material on therein a moment, but to side-step quickly…it is surprising the time frame between the last Survivor album and this one. Life goes by very quickly…
Isn't that the case…you know what, when your children are in college you will look back and wonder where in heck has all this time has gone. I won't waste my words and say Andrew, enjoy it, although Andrew – enjoy it! It goes by so fast it is unbelievable.
I think that as we age, grow older…you get a better perspective. We get older and wiser and time goes even faster. All over the world, we can't do anything fast enough anymore.
We are all chasing the hands of time. What is this really all about? I'm a pretty simple guy, but mortality is part of life.

How was the bands input on this? How long have you been back with Jimi now? 5 years?
Since 2000 I think. Yeah, he's…you know, we love each other. It may have started to have something to do with business, but I just think it has to do with…we get on and no matter what happens, Jimi and I love each other, we are like brothers.

You have put the difficulties of the past behind you then?
Oh, you know…I don't even think that it crosses our minds. Jim is totally into it, he is beyond me with that, so I doubt he even thinks about it.
I am more into about being in the moment and he's more 'what can we do today?'
So when we combine them…it's a good combination.

You sound like you are in a very settled head-space.
Oh absolutely…sure. Part of being in the now is you think it, then you start to live it. I like it and Jim is more concerned with what we can do today, and I think the combination is very cool. So you don't question it.

You think Survivor can get on a bit of a roll now and perhaps go back in the studio and do another album next year?
Um…absolutely. I try not to look that far down the road, but sure we can. I think it has to do with taking it one day at a time and I think the realities of 2006 are a lot different that '82, or '85 or 2000 even.

They are indeed.
But, we all know that…you know that with the job you do. I think that the band has been on a roll. We have evolved…just finding a bass player….along came Barry. As I always tell him when I see him, it's always a pleasure. He has one of the best attitudes for being in a band.

And Marc has been with you for a long time now.
Oh, I have personally known Marc since 1975.

Oh yeah. I knew Marc a good 6 years before he joined the band. I was in that band Mariah…you may not be aware of them. We made a record in between my Junior and Senior year when I was in high school, for this label United Artists, which at one time were huge, but of course are now long since defunct. The president at the time would go on to head CBS Records for about 30 years.
It's kinda funny how things went. We made that record and we'd go out and play bars and all over Southern California, such a happening scene.
There was a band that opened for us, called The Toots…I used to watch them and their drummer was amazing.
The first night I got to jam with them was after hours….about 3am…I got to stand on stage with him and go a good look at him…the power and the vibe that emanates from him is amazing.
This was '75. This band started in '77, by the time we needed another drummer it was '80-'81. I found out that he worked for a marketing company, on the phones.
I was like, how am I going to find this guy?
I had this 800 number….you know how these companies work, hundreds of employees. I thought I'd call and see if anyone knew him.
When I called there….he answered the phone! I said I was looking for a Marc Droubay and would you be able to help me at all? He said yeah, 'you are talking to him!'

Get outta here…
Yeah, it's the absolute truth and Marc will tell you the same thing. Jim Peterik will tell you the same too.
I think a day or two later we were in rehearsals and Jim and I were writing songs like Poor Man's Son and Take You On A Saturday and Marc was just ripping on drums.
True story.

I like that a lot.
Yeah, then what was lacking was a bass player. Jim and I decided – back there in 1981 I think – roller skating was huge at the time and in the middle of the people skating was a band playing. Jim and I were hanging out and we have always had great mind-sync.
I said that's the kind of bass player we need. Jim says I've talked to him, he's open…he's going to come down and play with us tomorrow.
That was Steph (Stephan Ellis). Looking back on it, it was quite an evolution at the time…over two or three days. It was meant to be and also it was really Jim Peterik – Jim and I were so appreciative of these two musicians – Marc and Steph – that it sparked a writing spree that lead to what I still love – which was the Premonition record.

That's a real cult favourite amongst Survivor fans isn't it?
It's a great record – if I dare say so.

Absolutely you are allowed to say so. I think Survivor doesn't at times get enough credit. If you look at the first 3 or 4 records at the start of the 80s, there is barely a filler among 40 or 50 tracks you recorded.
Well that's am awfully huge compliment.

Not at all, the catalogue of material is just so strong.
Well, they way I just described to you that it came about was so inspiring to Jim and I as writers and the next couple of weeks we wrote songs like Poor Man's Son and it was rocking.
Maybe you are right – I know the point you are making. I think we've had a rich history of players playing and of materials…songs. In the end, that's what we always went back to.
It was always about the songs, but we also knew we were in a rock n roll band and the guys we are playing with have to have the vibe to deliver these songs or we are writing them in vain.

You and Jim Peterik had an amazing chemistry.
Oh, I agree with you. Let me put this on the table right away. I agree with you and that has nothing to do with ego. It has to do with our chemistry and how I and Jim and how we felt writing together.
We had a great vibe and a work ethic. The way we work – we had this work ethic back then. We worked hard – half of the business is about that – every musician works hard to gain a yard, but Jim and I had this special connection. We had this great work ethic and when we sat down to write songs we were able to close the door to the outside world and when we came out of the room we had a song that people seemed to always like.
Did we know they'd like it? Hell no, but we worked really hard.

There is a Survivor Greatest its album that I feel is about half as sort as it should be.
Ha! You're like me.

I don't think it does the band justice.
Well, that's another compliment, thank you Andrew.




I was pleased last year when BMG finally corrected that and put out the Ultimate Survivor.
Yeah, they did that didn't they?

Jeremy, who was responsible for that, is a buddy of mine.
Jeremy? He's a great young cat. I always used to tease him – I said 'what's left of the business is in your hands!'

He put together a great compilation.
As an artist he was just wonderful to work with. Terrific to work with.

And you and Jim both contributed to the liner notes – it was a great package.
I agree with you – I was very proud. I always tip my hat to people like Jeremy; it was great dealing with him. He's committed to telling a story as factual of possible. He put a lot of his gut into that project and I love him for it.

It pays a better tribute to the legacy that is Survivor.
Thank you Andrew. I agree with you. From my perspective, you wouldn't believe it. You know, I was excited, it was something great to do. He was dedicated to that and he said 'I'm a fan and I want to make it the best it can be'. He stayed on it and he delivered.

I'm not sure of the precise history of where it went wrong between you and Jim, and the writing partnership….I held out some hope that a project like that might see you guys consider working together again. Or at least, I got you talking again.
Oh yeah…sure….what is it you are asking me Andrew? You can be pretty blunt with me.

I have a couple of tough questions. Ok, so I'd like to see it happen, but I am not sure you and Jim will work together again.
Are you asking me if I'd work with Jim again?

Absolutely. Under what circumstances do you think it could happen?
I don't really think about this that much. I had to call Jim…I wanted to let him know what songs we were going to use [for Reach], get his new publishing info.

I got to tell you. It was fun. For those few days there was e-mails and phone calls and it was like we had never parted. I mean, if you are saying 'is there a possibility'….I don't know…why wouldn't there be?

If you are asking me has somebody closed the door? No, I don't think either one of us has closed the door.
Just last Thursday I got a letter from a couple of fans in Canada. They had sent me a couple of CDs from the second or third gig we played. The one thing that stood out from in this letter – he said 'the fans all know about the differences between you and Jim'.
Well…why don't they let me in on it, because I don't.

You're not sure what those differences were?
At that point in time, I had a 3 page letter and was just able to see those words and I wanted to respond to him. I was writing him back…I said to myself, how do I respond to that?

Ok, so what's your take on this? Where did it go wrong, were did the communication break down?
I don't think it ever did…my opinion. I just think there comes a point in time in any band where you know, it can be viable.
If you throw in a couple of spits of gasoline, you are going to start a fire.
We had at that point in time made a record without Marc and Steph…um…Jimmy, our singer was making a solo record, which we had no idea about.
There really is a lot I reflect on, but a lot of things that contributed to it at that time…

…that had nothing to do with Peterik and Sullivan or Sullivan and Peterik. It just simply had to do with what happens to bands.

The politics of it?
Yes, absolutely.

I understand. You have to work together again though…
You know…we were laughing about it. If you are asking me if I have bad feelings or bitterness in my heart or something like that towards Jim…

Yes, well I guess so.
Well, I absolutely do not.

I think Jim feels the same way. I've spent some time with Jim and I believe that.
In fact, I played a show about 2 months ago and Jim played the same show. We came down to a lobby call and him and I were like boom – we'd never left. Same jokes, same lines…it was fun.

You need to do that again then.
If you're asking me if I have bitterness in my heart, or hard feelings or whether I have said I'll never work with this f-ing guy again…absolutely no.

Great to hear that Frankie. Really good. I should quickly jump back to the Reach album before we get any further away from it!

So, the album – the thing that struck me about it – it's a mellower Survivor. It is a more mature, reflective, mellower Survivor this time around.
Interesting. Now, when you say mellower, what is it you mean?

Well, there are 4 or 5 ballads through the middle of the album. That struck me as an interesting move. Not as uptempo as past records.
Of course Reach is classic Survivor and Seconds Away and One More Time are tremendous ballads.

Thanks so much Andrew.

I was blown away by those, but there are 3 or 4 more tracks that follow in a similar tempo. Perhaps Survivor has mellowed in their age – sorry, not wanting to prematurely age you here.
That's ok. Um…I don't know. I don't think so. Somewhere along the line between Seconds Away and Rhythm Of Your Heart we came up with something like Gimmie The Word you know…things like that.
We still like to rock. We still like to rock.





Well, you definitely do on Reach. And Fire Makes Steel is great.
Love that song, I always have.

Was that the first pick for the album?
You know we didn't.

I think some of the demos of that era has leaked and has been dubbed as the Fire Makes Steel album.
I listened to all that stuff. What material do we want to do? There are songs obviously you can't turn your back on. Fire Makes Steel would be an obvious example. Then there are songs that I wrote with Jim like Rhythm Of Your Heart that shows off the voice of Jim Jamison, that have a good lyric and you know, it's one of those songs that only Jim Jamison can do.
You throw it down on the table and say, this is a ballad and I say we cut it. I'm very pleased with that as well.

Ok. I'm also very curious about the debut of this new vocalist in the band.
Oh God. Oh boy….oh….

What lead that to be?
Oh…well, it goes back to the fact I always sing a bridge here or there. I always did tons of singing or sang the demos that Jim and I would write.
We were like kids, you have to understand this – we never grew up. We want to hear it, so I'd say 'let me throw a rough vocal down here'.
That was part of the element and we had written this song Nevertheless. That song was written, unknowingly, for me to sing. At the time we didn't know it, but when we did the demo and subsequently, we tried or attempted to put a different vocal on it, we decided it didn't sound as good. So it was like 'ok, you're going to have to sing this one'.

So you actually tried it with Jimi on vocals.
Um…no, because Jim loved it with me singing it.

Jim's got a great instinct. He always said, 'you did a great job with this'. He loved the demo. Back in the days with Jim, Jim Peterik and I…I always have these different ideas. It ended up where I was singing the song and people liked it.
When we recorded it, I said 'ok, I'll sing it'. And it was one I had a good time with and I think it's a rock n roller.

You know, one of my favourite songs on the album is Talkin' Bout Love.
Are you kidding me? That's a huge compliment.

Well, it sounds a little different than the rest of the material – your voice takes it somewhere different, but it's classic Survivor in style.
Thank you so much. It is a song I wrote a lot of on my own. The lyric and melody I wrote on my own and again, I sang the demo - it is a song that is in my range and when it came down to the studio, Jim Jamison was the reason why I actually sang it.
He said 'Frankie, you have to sing this song, I can't sing this song'.
I said, 'you can sing the Yellow Pages, don't give me BS. What is it?' He said 'I just think you sang this song great – just sing the song.'
You know Andrew, I sing all the backgrounds on the Survivor records – its part of the sound.

Of course.
He just said, 'at the end of the day, I'd just really love to hear you sign this song.'
I said but I sing Nevertheless. He says, 'yeah, but you have all these harmonies and things that you are hiding behind. Sing this one – let it be raw.'
I just said 'does that mean you won't sing it Jim?' He said, 'I don't want to sing it. You are stuck with it.'
I just did the best I can do. For me it is a matter of capturing the vibe. I don't have the throat, the larynx or the vibe that Jim Jamison does.
And then you think about do I want to be sandwiched between two songs that Jim Jamsion sings? Not really!
You have to see that from my perspective. I call him old golden throat. Inside joke. He just has a golden throat. But at the end of the day – isn't it more about the spirit and the vibe?
I had a really good time, we did a couple of takes and we were done. There you have it.
Thanks for your compliment though.





I noticed with Jimi singing – he sounds sweet and soulful on a few tracks, but them quite raspy and raw in other places.
Um, with me, and especially when Jim's on the other side of the glass, I think he can trust me with this…it is a lot about capturing the performance rather than perfection.
Rather than 'can I understand every single syllable or word', it is more about the performance and the vibe of it.
Some of the stuff….well, it sounds a little bit….like you just said. You go, 'let's try that again', then you realize that how he sings this song. Then it is all about 'well, let me just get a great performance'. It's pretty easy to do that.
And maybe if he comes out and listens to it and maybe he wants to re-cut a couple of things then it's done.
It's really that quick. What you are speaking off – that rawness – it's capturing him in the moment. I think it's without him thinking about singing or sounding like he's singing Can't Hold Back or Search Is Over.
I think it is about the other side of Jim. It is more about his vibe.
You don't have much time. When you are producing someone that can sing that well you have to capture that performance, that's your job and that's what we did and that's what you hear.
I think there is something beautiful and I think that rawness and what he's doing in the moment and how he sounds and not being directed and not being told to sing this way….just how he feels it. I love that out of him.
He delivers it well doesn't he?

One of my favourite singers.
And one of mine.

You have touched on something there that I'm going to jump to. You have produced several other artists in recent years. You obviously enjoy that side of things?
Oh I love it.

Ok, another compliment here – you seemed to bring out the best in Eddie Money on his last studio record – Ready Eddie.
That's a huge compliment. You know what; I have to do more interviews with you Andrew. My ego…I don't like that ugly thing called ego, but it makes you feel good when some body appreciates the job you've done. That's a great compliment.
I must say that Ed is another vibe guy and it's about capturing what he does best. It's all about knowing what he doesn't do best. I have known him for a long time.
He has a great vibe and if you capture that vibe, you'll make a great Eddie Money record.
You can't turn Eddie Money into something else like a pop singer, or you'll get a lousy record.

I think Ready Eddie was universally praised by fans as one of his great records.
I didn't know that. It's so great to hear these things. I loved making that record.

It sounds like it – you and Curt Cuomo made a good team I though.
Oh yeah, we did. It was just plan old fun. And of course, I got to play the guitars and sing the backgrounds. All the same old, but I got to apply it to a different artist and it happened to be some body I happen to think, gut level, is greatly talented.

I'm a long time fan.
If you capture Ed in a performance it is one he'll sing for a lot of years to come. You know….capture him during a performance, once he's done with his jokes. If you know him, you know what I mean.

He was actually my very first ever interview when I started out. Caught me off guard, I don't think I ever have recovered and that was 8 years ago.
Oh my God, God bless you. Oh yeah….when you capture him when he's doing what Eddie does, it was a fun record to make. We had a blast.





You and Curt still in contact? As you did some other work together…
Of course we keep in contact.
We worked on the Robin McAuley record. That was to be a band at the time.
Frank Fillipetti – one of my dearest friends – an absolute genius, one of the top 3 engineers in the business. He did the Too Hot To Sleep record and he introduced me to Robin. A lively guy – we got on and started writing. Writing was fast and I found him to be committed. He would finish a song with me and [keep going] rather than let it sit until next week…
That would have been a really good band in the sense that we would have had a lot of fun and we would have had that work ethic that I was used to because he works really hard.
He is also the combination of an Eddie Money/Jim Jamison…a guy with a great voice who has this great vibe. Of course, he had been with Michael Schenker for a number of years and he said 'oh, I've finally found a guitar player'.
So great stuff…the band never came to see the light of day. I started getting phone calls about doing Survivor.

Robin released that record eventually though. I enjoyed it.
Robin and I enjoyed that. He is a great great writer. Great with lyrics and melody and he absolutely knows what he does best and won't do anything less.
Great to work with.

Jumping completely off topic to something else. The Starbucks commercial – going into that I guess you would hope that it would bring the band some publicity…did it work for you?
Yeah… You know what, it was fun…funny and anytime any one of your friends, much less your band mates can go out to their mail box and there's a cheque in it – what the heck is wrong with that?
They wanted to use the track and I told them I had a version of that Jim Jamison sings and they were 'well, we're not too sure'. I sent it to them and they couldn't tell the difference….they loved it. They said, well, now we need a band.
I sad, well, we have one!

It just evolved. I'm telling you – there's no genius behind this. There are those that want to portray themselves as such, but there isn't. These things just happen….especially in rock n roll and in music, and in commercials the same thing.
It just happened they wanted to use the song, they liked Jim singing it, the camera loves Jima n they decided lets just put the band in the video.
It was a ball. We shot hat commercial in a day and a half. All we said was 'wow, it must be really hard to be an actor'…it was fun.

And you scored an Emmy nomination for the ad! Amazing!
Yeah, I think Jamo had a great time. I think he really had a great time. These things are always in the making. We have a great thing with Starbucks.
We just played for the whole company in Vegas. This is a company that is driven by creativity. They have their own label. This is a company – that wants to see us, musicians, you and me…all do well and it's working.

The industry has to look outside the norm to sell records these days.
Yeah, they spend money and they have their Alanis Morissette acoustic record…they have some great records.

Maybe Survivor needs to do an acoustic record?
Um…..you know…..I wouldn't be against it. Put it that way…I would probably be all for it.

Ok, let's get Mr Peterik on the phone.
I would be all for it.

Don't we have a record coming out together, ironically on the same day?

I think it's May now [June actually], but close.
Life…you can go against it or you can roll with the changes…I think in our business you have to learn to roll with the changes or you are in really big trouble.
Hopefully I have learned to do that, which is no easy feat as you know.

Well, you are still touring successfully and you are still making records…
I love to play. Just this guitar. It used to be a tree. Now it has strings. It's a tree with strings on it and I just love it. I worship the sound these instruments make. I love how they sound. If you touch them right they make a sound like you have never heard.
Touch them right and they will sing to you.

Can I ask 2 tough questions Frankie?
Go right ahead.

Two lingering things….one was the change of singer from Dave Bickler to Jimi.

Was it hard to make the move away from Dave being that you had successfully regrouped and looked to be doing ok?
You know…..I think after talking to me for the last hour…I think you will know...on a people level it was hard. Creatively I think you also know it was not hard.
I don't want to speak so boldly here, but on a personal level if someone feels they way they feel about some body and they love that person – I think it is very difficult.
But if we're talking a switch in singers…does it mean that Jim is better? It doesn't mean any of that.
It just means that in my opinion, I have always…I make the choice to be in a band with Jim. My own…one guy, my humble opinion….there is a thing with Jim and I…I call him golden throat and I think I know how to work with that and capture that and he's amazing.
He also happens to have grown to be a great friend, so it was difficult as Dave was also a friend. But all the difficulties were on the personal side. Not the creative side
Dave was a great singer. I'm not here to say any different. Everyone knows Dave sung Eye Of The Tiger. He can sing his ass off. It's all about personal choice.

I remember getting the inside word that Jimi was going back to Survivor and I put the news online it was met with a stunned silence. No one thought past issues could be resolved.
Andrew, I have to find out about these past issues sometime.

I don't know about them!
No, it's cool….I just had to say that.

Ok, secondly…I recall getting an e-mail from Dave the day after I put this news online. He said to me that it was news to him. Obviously there was some communication problems?
No….he knew.

I don't know…I can't speak for Dave. Smart cookie and I'll never speak for him, but Dave knew.

I was talking to my good friend John Harrell the other day and he asked if I had talked to you yet.
My friend too….a great cat.

Indeed….he asked me to bring something up with you that he forgot to ask. Search the Internet Movie Database and your name comes up with two acting credits.
Is that the same Frankie Sullivan listed?!

Haha….it could be…..it could be.
There was a time when…I didn't aspire to acting, but I was seeing some body and I was very green at it. I did a couple of things…

Chaplin…was that one of them?

Have I uncovered a deep dark secret?
No…..it just….you know what, I'd love to elaborate on it, but I just can't at the moment.
I just gotta leave it where it is. I had a friend who was a friend of some one…got me in.
I tried it a couple of times. It was hard work at the time, but I enjoyed it. That's the extent of what I can tell you about it.

Frankie, that about leaves things where I wanted. Is there anything you would like to add?
Oh no Andrew…I think we've been candid…

I feel like…there's a vibe here….if it clears up some of the misunderstandings. If fans get a real feel through you about these myths…that helps, sure it helps.

Well, I haven't had much contact with you in a while, so I was a bit cautious going into this interview Frankie.
People like you don't dedicate your time to this for no reason. It's about carrying the torch, it's about people and relaying messages and hopefully they relay these messages truthfully and I happen to know from your reputation that you do.
For me it's pretty easy…what you see is what you get.

There is enough bullshit out there already. I don't want to add to it. I appreciate your time and your candor Frankie…very enjoyable.
Anytime Andrew…no problem. Its fun reminiscing isn't it.

Once again, thanks for your time.
My pleasure. Call me anytime you like. You hear rumors, give me a ring.

Will do.
I appreciate your time also.

No problem, you bet.
Bye for now.






c. 2006 MelodicRock.com / Interview By Andrew McNeice
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Survivor (2006)



Part 2 - Jimi Jamison

Survivor vocalist Jimi is put under the microscope. Although a positive and friendly interview, I don't think Jimi was overly chatty on the day, so the interview is fairly short.


Good to talk to you again Jimi.
Yeah, you too. It's been too long.

It has been. You have been busy in-between time…
Yeah, kinda busy. I'm busy in spurts.

You guys do what a lot of bands do these days and go out for the weekend runs don't you?
Yeah, pretty much. That's when people want us to play.
We don't have to do the two or three months at a time anymore.

Pleased there is still a lot of interesting the band?
Yeah, people still want to hear the good ol' music so I'm happy that we play a lot of fairs and casinos. People always seem to be there.

Anything lined up for the support of Reach? Some European dates planned I see… [since cancelled]
Not sure if they are still valid, but I haven't heard anything for sure.

So let's talk about the record.
Okay. I haven't got a copy of it yet.

Ok, tell me about making it. It's been a long time.
Basically Frank did most of the work.

It seems like he did get things sorted.
I think the basic tracks were pretty easily cut. Lead vocals were cut; we didn't really have a game plan going in. We did a bit of experimenting and it took a little while to get rolling in the studio. But he got it going and I'm real proud of him.

Now you have been back with the band for 6 years now. You have been promising an album for much of that time. Why so long to get it done? Frankie just said things finally aligned.
Well, they did…that's kinda what happened. We have been talking about doing it for a long time but you have to make a living, you have to eat, so you gotta keep playing and when we do that for 2 or 3 months, that is what has kept us from doing it.

I guess people should be made aware that touring is about the only way bands make any money these days – it's not from the records anymore.
It really is. We hardly make any more from the record – that's for the fans pretty much.
We make money when we play live. That's the only way to do it threes days.

It seems the people that come along to the shows are more content to do that for the nostalgia value than going out and buying the records.
Yeah. hopefully we might get to sell some at gigs.

Is there a US release planned?
No, I don't think so, I haven't heard anything about it.

Do Frontiers Records have the US rights also?
I don't think so.

I said to Frankie of the album, that it was a mellower kind of Survivor. I'm not sure he appreciated that, but what's your take?
It probably is a little bit. Maybe the edge wore of a little, but I don't know that is a bad thing. If the songs are good it doesn't matter to me if it's soft or hard.
As long as it's fun to listen to. I don't really care, but you are probably right – it is a little bit mellower.

Your vocals are also a little varied on the album. Usually you are straight ahead smooth as silk, but there is a rougher edge on a few songs.
Yeah, well, I was thinking the album was a little mellower, so I was trying to sing the songs a little harder…hahaha
I don't know if it worked or not…haha

Hah…that's great. It sounded like there was no spit and polish on your vocals. They were a little rawer.
Yeah, pretty much.

What's with leaving Frankie to take control of singing on two tracks?
Well, one song I wanted him to sing and one song I didn't want to sing.
One of the songs he always sang it and the other was so pop I couldn't bring myself to sing it…haha…so he had to sing both.

I'm not a huge fan of that first song, but the second was killer.
It was so pop.

Not quite Survivor. What about your favourite songs on there.
My favourite was one I didn't even write. Seconds Away.

Ah, ok. Great ballad.
My other favourite of course is the one me and my daughter wrote…Gimmie The Word.

Really? That must have been a cool experience.
Yeah, it was really great.

And how old is she now?

Is she in the business?
Yeah, she's a singer/songwriter. She has a regular job but she's a great songwriter and plays around town. I don't think she's taking it very seriously, but she could if she wanted to.

You must be a proud dad.
Oh yeah. Big time. My whole family could sing – aunts and uncles…but no one was in the business, now most of them are in the business but most of them can't sing….haha.

I said to Frankie I liked the 2 main ballads One More Chance and Seconds away.
One More Chance really surprised me. After we recorded it I listened to it I said wow, it was even better than I thought it was.

The title track is obviously classic Survivor…
Yes. Pretty much straight forward Survivor.

I'm curious as to whether you think Jim Peterik might ever come back to the fold?
I don't know. Nothing's impossible. I never rule anything out.

Frankie was diplomatic about that question. You coming back was a surprise!
Yeah, if I can come back, Jim sure can…without a doubt.

I was surprised to hear Rhythm Of my Heart cut for the album. Where did the song originally come from?
That was me Jim writing that when we first got back together years ago. We cut it at Jim's house. I like that song.

You had that lined up for the Empires record originally.
Yeah, at one time.

I still love that album…
Thank you, thank you.

That took a while to get done didn't it?
Yeah, we had to record that album twice. The first time it was produced by Jim from Saga and the record label didn't like it at all.

And then the guy to did do it with ended up running off!
Yeah, he ran off with the masters…

What's next for you Jimi?
I'm hoping to do another solo record. I'll give it a shot. I figure I have one more in me.

Are you serious when you say that?
Oh yeah I'm serious. Well, I know I definitely have one more in me, after that I don't know.

Hard to throw these things together quickly. Do you have a home studio?
Not anymore…I'll probably do it here somewhere in town.

Are you in Nashville?
No Memphis.

Cool place…a lot of rockers down south now.
Oh yeah, In fact I'm just about to open a club in town. I'm partners in a club down town.

That's kinda cool.
Yeah, that'll be great…do a guest appearance every once and awhile.

And who else is involved in that?
A friend of mine…we have the building but no name yet. It should be very interesting.
Morgan Freeman has a club here….BB King too…

Interesting place. Jimi – you recorded a lot of tracks over the years that haven't been released. Are you thinking of putting together a release of these such tracks?
I thought about that but I haven't really pursued it. The quality of some demos aren't that good, so they'd have to be re-recorded.

So it isn't just as easy as polishing off some old DATs?
Yeah, right…and a lot of that stuff I just played everything on there myself! I'm an okay singer, but as far as instruments go I'm not that great!

Ok, so not something you can bump together.
But there are a few tracks I can polish up and get onto CD, but a lot of songs that as far as the sound goes would have to be re-recorded.

Looking back over the years with Survivor…any fondest memories or things that stand out still?
I can't really think of anything that stands out…it's all a blur.

No time to reflect yet?
Not really…I don't think that time has come yet.

Well that's cool.
There is one thing….Joe Walsh was living town and he and I went down to this club to see this band. We walk in and Joe gets up on stage and starts playing. It was kinda loud, so I walked back into the middle of the room.
This guy comes up to me and says 'hi, I'm Joe's drummer'. I said, no way, you are full of crap, I came down here with Joe'….I thought he said he was Joe Walsh's drummer…
He finally left and a friend came up to me and said, what happened man, that was Joe Strummer from The Clash….haha

Oh no! haha
Oh man, I made a fool of myself. Haha…just a funny story you might like. Totally true.

Funny stuff.
I think he did too right?

Yeah, so he died thinking you were a buffoon!
Yeah, what a drag! It was really funny after the fact, but man…

So what's next for you now Jimi? Hit the road?
Yeah, get in shape…do some shows.

Well that's good Jimi – anything you would like to add?
That's all I think that needs to be talked about. I appreciate you calling.

Thanks for taking the call.
See you later.




c. 2006 MelodicRock.com / Interview By Andrew McNeice




The New Cars (2006)


The New Cars
Let The Good Times Roll
By Mitch Lafon

It's been nearly two decades since The Cars cruised the music scene, but the band is back albeit with a few notable changes. Lead singer, Ric Ocasek has decided to remain in park and his shoes are filled by famed producer/ musician, Todd Rundgren. The same can be said for original drummer, David Robinson with his seat being filled by The Tubes skinman, Prairie Prince. In the intervening years bassist Benjamin Orr passed away and his duties are being filled by Utopia bassist, Kasim Sulton. Fear not though, The New Cars (as they are now known) are a pleasant surprise combining both the drive of the original with the power of the new members. To prove the doubters wrong, The New Cars will release It's Alive in the US on May 9th (UK release is May 8th). This new live album features a mix of The Cars classics with a few new songs. The band will also embark on its first proper tour in 17 years with Blondie opening up. To make sense of it all, I sat down with both original members, Elliott Easton (guitar) and Greg Hawkes (keyboards).

Mitch Lafon: How did you get Todd Rundgren to join The New Cars? He's had a very successful career as a solo artist and producer.

Greg Hawkes: “Well, Elliot and Todd have worked together in the past. Elliott had played on a record that Todd had produced. So, when his name came up Elliot got in touch with Todd.”

Elliot Easton: “The way Todd was invited to be in the band was that we were trying to get this together with Ric and David and when it became apparent that they didn't wish to tour and didn't want to be involved in the plans we were making... it became obvious to Greg and I that we would have to find a new frontman. We could have found a sound alike and made it sound like the old Cars and just played the hits and made a quick buck, but what we really wanted to do was have a band with a person in it who's creative, who could write songs, sing and we could record new albums with and go from strength to strength. I was thinking about it and who would be a great person for that and Todd's name came up and if you think about it – he's the perfect guy. He's a great singer songwriter. He's a frontman, a producer, engineer... just a really talented guy. We used to play a lot of shows with Utopia and I could see similarities in the two bands. There were touchstones stylistically that both bands shared. So, I felt he'd be a good fit and I just called Todd. I proposed it and he said he was very interested.”

ML: How do you think his voice fits The Cars sound?

GH: “It's perfect! I was a Todd fan before I ever was in The Cars. He's got this quality that's in between Ric & Ben, but he has his own personality.”

EE: “When we got together in the rehearsal room in LA, we played a few Cars songs and it just sounded great. It sounded like The Cars, but it also sounded like Todd. He's not impersonating anybody. It's a great combination and a great fit. We'll do some Cars live as well as Todd stuff, but what I'm most excited about is the new stuff we've recorded and that we have the ability to move forward as a new band and do new studio albums of new material.”

ML: Are you disappointed that Ric didn't want to do this tour?

GH: “Yeah, for awhile. Had Ric come back it would be a whole other story.”

ML: Do you know why he chose not to participate?

GH: “I can't say. He's happy producing.”

EE: “Ric is very happy producing other bands and making solo albums. One time, he said to me he really loves not being so famous anymore. I don't think he liked being besieged by people and being so recognizable that he couldn't have a normal day out. I think he's enjoying his life now and to my recollection he never really enjoyed touring. He didn't like it and The Cars didn't really tour all that much and we didn't have a reputation for being a great live band and a lot of that had to do with our frontman. There wasn't any communication with the audience... that partnership that's so necessary between the performer and audience to light that spark. We were aloof onstage and barely said 'thank you'. Anyway, he just didn't have that great of a time on tour, so he chooses not to.”

ML: Why didn't David want to get onboard?

EE: “David isn't in the music business anymore. He owns a restaurant and is happy doing what he's doing and chose not to be involved. It's about comfort level – people have to do what they're comfortable doing and if they are not comfortable being in a band and touring and performing then they shouldn't do it. It's as simple as that, but at the same time it would be unfair to expect Greg and I to fold up and not do it.”

ML: The Cars have been parked for 17 years. Why do a tour and album now (in 2006)?

GH: “I don't know. It's just all timing. Five years ago the subject just didn't come up.”

EE: “Well, we tried various times throughout the years and we just couldn't get it together. It just seems like it's a good time to do it. I read a lot of the music publications and I see how many of the young bands name check us or cite us as an influence. Bands like The Strokes, or Jet, or The Vines or Fountains Of Wayne are so clearly influenced by The Cars and I think their fans might be interested to hear where some of this stuff comes from. It's just an evolutionary chain and every generation adds a little bit to what came before.”

ML: Are you surprised at the reaction you're getting? You're playing arenas this summer and not clubs. Are you surprised The Cars made such an impact?

GH: “Yeah!”

EE: “I'm really happy about that and it's the difference between if we had called it something else... On some level, it just seems to me that with all we've given to this music and as much of our lives that we've dedicated to it... it just seems fair and correct that we should be able to use a form of the name to let people know who we are. Are we really going to start all over playing bars in our fifties? It's not realistic.”

ML: When The Cars first came out disco was ending and you had the shock rock of Kiss and Alice Cooper, but you guys did something different. Did you think people would love your music 30 years later?

GH: “Probably not. With the first record, we'd always say 'hopefully, we'll be in the position to do a second record.' That's how I feel about the new line-up.”

EE: “It all comes down to songs honestly. It always has been about songs and in Ric we had a truly gifted songwriter and the rest of it was magic. None of it is calculated or formulated and it's just what the five of us sounded like playing together and the way we interpreted Ric's songs. I'm not surprised that people still want to hear these songs. I could be cynical and say that nostalgia just cycles itself, but more than that I just think the music stands up and has dated a lot better than most of the music of our contemporaries. People still listen to The Beatles and that was forty years ago – so if it's good, it's good. “

ML: Speaking of the new band – is this a one time deal or are you looking to make this last?

GH: “It sure feels like a band and that's the thing that's got me excited. Playing with 'the band' is great.”

EE: “This is my career. This is what I do. If it was just a one tour cash in thing, I don't think I'd be interested. I'd like to be doing this for a long long time and the band we have is a band of great players. Kasim is a wonderful bass player and great singer – in fact he sings 'Drive' in the show. He has that sweet voice that Benjamin could do. Prairie Prince from The Tubes is just a powerhouse drummer. It just feels great with a really rocking rhythm section. We've got deeper grooves than we could achieve before. I love the old band and I'm proud of the work we did and I'm not trying to compare or say this is a better band, but this is a really great band that's fun to play with. If you're going to come back after so long like The Cars are – you have to start somewhere and the obvious place to start... this tour is our chance to review what we've accomplished as a band thus far and remind people who we are and what we've done and use it as a stepping off point to move forward.”

ML: After the tour, will you be making an all new record?

GH: “Absolutely.”

EE: “The plan is to do this tour and the hope is that we will be received well enough to warrant a world tour through 2006 and after that the plan would be to do a studio album of new material.”

ML: Would you try to do the nostalgia thing or conquer new ground?

GH: “So far, we've done three new studio tracks and to me it's like three different visions of the band. I think there's a lot of potential to explore.”

ML: If I may, what has Greg Hawkes been doing for the last 17 years?

GH: “I was coasting for awhile. I did some recording stuff from time to time. I did video game music. I recorded with Paul McCartney.”

ML: Can you share a story about Paul?

GH: “My dad took me to see The Beatles in 1964. That was my first concert. So, it was a thrill for me to record at his studio over in England and to see all the old stuff – The Beatles bass which still had the set list from Tokyo taped to the side of it... that was pretty cool.”

ML: Let's talk about your keyboard sound. It distinguished The Cars from everybody else back then.

GH: “It's just the way I played. I was influenced a lot by the way The Beatles used keyboards on their records. I loved the way they would throw in a piano for the bridges then it would be gone for the rest of the song. I had also just gotten into DEVO – right before recording the first Cars album.”

ML: Let's talk about the MTV era videos. The band was practically known more as being a video band rather than a live band.

GH: “It was back when MTV was still a novelty. My favorite, of course, is the 'You Might Think' video which was done on the video paint box. It was done in front of the blue screen and they fill in the background. It was really the first video that had that kind of video/cartoon-y look to it. I still love the look of it!”

EE: “After a while I guess, but our first big success was with Candy-O way before the MTV era. Our videos were cutting edge as we were with our music or technology. The 'You Might Think' video, in fact, won for Best Video at the first MTV annual video awards, but I never thought about it as 'oh, we're a video band.' But to us, we were just a band doing what comes next and once the world moved into that visual image video era it was quite important. It was something you did with your new single and as long as we had to do it – we felt we might as well have fun doing it and make it great.”

ML: You're using a live album (It's Alive) to present The New Cars...

GH: “Yeah, it's kind of funny. One of the challenges of presenting the new band is 'how well do they play The Cars songs'. So, this will be the answer to that question... I guess (laughs). Use this as a starting point and hopefully move on from there.”

EE: “One of the things we wanted to accomplish by doing this live album was... people are going to be wondering about this band, so they can buy this record and hear that it's us and the new song 'Not Tonight' sounds like a classic Cars single.”

ML: The New Cars live set has included songs by The Nazz and Todd's solo stuff...

GH: “I'm hoping we'll include more. We just haven't gotten around to learning them yet. It's perfectly natural that Todd brings in his whole... he's got a legion of fans who'll come to see him and wonder 'what's he doing with these guys?' It's a perfectly natural acknowledgment of not just Elliott and I's history, but his and Kasim's as well.”

ML: A lot of “fans” or should I say people on the internet have been complaining that this is NOT The Cars. Ric's not there. David's NOT there. Ben has passed away...

GH: “I guess the 'New' part of it is to distinguish it from when David & Ric were there. You can argue that it should be a completely separate name that had nothing to do with The Cars and I wrestled with that internally myself for awhile...”

EE: “We're careful to call it The New Cars because we don't want to mislead anybody to think that it's the old band and that they should be expecting to see Ric and David when they come to the shows. It's a new band, but the hope and wish is to use our past legacy to build upon.”

ML: Any words about Benjamin Orr?

GH: “One thing I'll say – this whole project and everybody involved has nothing but the utmost respect for Ben.”

EE: “Benjamin meant so much to the original Cars and I miss him terribly. Besides being a member of the band he was my friend. He was my brother and I loved him. I miss the guy... quite apart from what he brought to the band and what he brought to the band was considerable. Not least was his incredible singing. When you change any member of a band – it becomes a different band. So changing three members, it really is a different band. The chemistry is completely different and I think perhaps if Benjamin was still with us, he'd be involved in what we're doing.”

ML: Is it hard to hear someone else sing 'Drive'?

GH: “In a sense. In the last couple of years, I've taken to performing that song on ukulele.”

EE: “We love the song... and we think about how to present it and how to interpret it. I think we found a way to play the song that we're comfortable with. That's all I can say really.”

ML: Are you happy playing The Cars music again? Did you miss playing The Cars songs?

EE: “Oh, yes. It was. It really was. Greg and I and the others spent our youths making those songs popular and establishing that band and I'm very proud of the work we did with that band. I've always felt like we stopped before we really had to. We made the Door To Door record and it didn't do that well and we should have said 'ok, we didn't knock it out of the ball park this time, so let's just take some time off and we'll get it right.' But instead, the first record we put out that wasn't a huge success (because all the others had gone platinum) we just folded and said 'that's it.' The way the band split wasn't an argument... Ric decided to leave. It was Christmas of '87 and we had just come off tour, he and I were mixing a live radio broadcast at Electric Lady studios and he just said to me 'I'm leaving the band.' It wasn't like the band is over. It was just 'I'm leaving the band.' After that we just didn't feel like continuing. It was a difficult moment and I went through a mourning period because it had been my life for so long.”

ML: Your tour brings you to Montreal on June 23


David Readman (2006)


Interview with David Readman, singer of PINK CREAM 69, III, David Readman Band

By Sven Horlemann for Melodicrock.com.
Interview was conducted April 2006.
Most of us know David Readman as the lead singer of PINK CREAM 69, some of his involvement with ADAGIO, a few might even know the “III” (THREE) record were he shares vocal duties with Paul Laine (ex-DANGER DANGER). Whatever you think of him following Andy Deris (who moved on to HELLOWEEN) within the Pinkies, it takes a lot of balls for a 21 year old UK kid to join a melodic rock band. In a foreign country! At a time were grunge ruled the world!!

PINK CREAM had opened themselves with their third record "Games People Play" to a new direction, expanding melodic rock and integrating modern rock sounds. Of course "Change", the debut PINK CREAM 69 CD for David could be considered a big step into the melodic rock meets grunge direction. You might even consider this a mistake, taking 2 steps at a time and frustrating the fans of the classic PINK CREAM 69 sound and failing to find enough new fans.

In my opinion there are some great records out there (DOKKEN, WARRANT to name just two) who tried to do just that - and failed also to get the acceptance from the fans. Like all PINK CREAM 69 records also “Change” is a damn good record. With "Food For Thought" they found a perfect symbiosis of classic and new PINK CREAM 69 style, though I think it not fortunate to hide the best tracks deep within the track listing. On the great live record "#Live#" David could win over most of the fans by his amazing performances of old and new songs. "Electrified" is the album that brought the Pinkies back to their original sound, generating classics like "Shame" and "Break The Silence". "Sonic Dynamite", "Endangered" and the 2004 rocker "Thunderdome" are the latest additions to the excellent PINK CREAM 69 discography.

PINK CREAM 69's members are busy, the most prominent being producer wizard Dennis Ward - He did produce the last 5 records of PINK CREAM 69 as well as last years melodic rock winner PLACE VENDOME, also producing and fronting (lead singer) KHYMERA to name a few.

David kept himself busy, being lead singer of the symphonic metal band ADAGIO, singing 2 records and even tour with them and adding to his fame. His friendly departure from ADAGIO found him with some time left in 2005 and so he was delighted to accept the offer to sing 5 of the 10 songs from the "III" (THREE) record (European release march 23rd), written and conceived by keyboard wiz Andre Anderson (ROYAL HUNT). He shares vocal duties with Paul Laine, another melodic rock classic. David also managed to negotiate a solo record deal with Frontiers records, so we had enough topics to talk about. I had the pleasure to meet with David at his home and get to listen to some of the preproduction demos in his studio.

SVEN: David, thanks for taking time for this interview. The III record got a huge review on MelodicRock.com.
David Readman: That's right, yeah.

SVEN: So how did it all come together?
David Readman:        Well, I could give you a really romantic story now (grins). But, like a lot of things with these projects, it is not really a complicated story. It is more a kind of a funny story. Dennis (Ward, PINK CREAM 69) was working with Frontiers anyway. He did the Michael Kiske album (the superb PLACE VENDOME record) and mixes a lot of stuff for them. And I am always getting the newsletters from Frontiers to my e-mail account. One day I got an e-mail from Mario (Frontiers), him writing something like "Oh, by the way, our e-mail is now working correctly now ...". So I wrote back saying hello. I knew of course Dennis was working for them, and a few days later I got an e-mail from Serafino (Perugino, Frontiers CEO) saying something like "Nice to meet you at the Firefest, are you interested in an album?" (laughs).

I was like, ok, cool, I mean, "send me the stuff over"! I knew Andre (Anderson) from playing the same bill on festivals. I knew the story with DC Cooper, the collaboration with Kosta (Zafiriou, PINK CREAM 69 drummer) and I expect a certain quality (of the songs) but I wanted of course to listen to make sure my voice fits into this. It didn't take long and I got a CD through the postal service. I checked it out and there was a guide vocal on it, a real basic thing, you know, to get the idea of the song. I wrote Serafino back that everything sounds really great and asked him to let me know when to begin. If would have been a full record it would have been a bit difficult to make it. It is a lot more work just because you are the main man, in a way. And for me to be just a part of it was really ok. Honestly, I am not that much a believer in these kind of projects anyway. I haven't really done so many of them. ADAGIO in the beginning was a project that did become a band. But this is probably one of the first things I tried that ended with a record.

SVEN: Did you come up with your own melodies and words?
David Readman: No, no, it was basically ... this was also an important thing to me because if you are more involved you have to get to write lyrics and spend much more time. So if you start from scratch it is a more time consuming thing. If someone sends me a plain thing to paint on, I could do that. Although it is sometimes difficult to exactly understand what the person is looking for. If they write their stuff they got something in their mind anyway.

Back to "III". I might have changed the odd lyric, where I found something not fitting. Andre send me the lyrics and obviously, with me coming from England, you know, there are small parts I would do different. So pretty much I did the things as they were planned. Of course you add your own ideas with ad-lib-screams, beginning stuff. But that of course is expected. That is just me doing my thing.

SVEN: How to proceed with III. Are there any future plans regarding that record?
David Readman: It is really difficult to say, isn't it. Could be in 4 months Andre wants me to do it live, you know. If he is going to do it live I could fancy doing some songs, and with Paul Laine being there, with the three us getting to meet, who knows? It really depends a lot on the people. If we sell a few records and there is a definite interest in it...

SVEN: What did interest you in the III project?
David Readman: For me as a singer it was cool to hook up with a different genre of people. Andre is obviously very melodic, he is from Denmark... and it is kind of nice for me as a singer to attract different fans from different kinds of genres. When I was with ADAGIO it was amazing how people discovered that I could sing.

SVEN: Sorry, I don't know the ADAGIO records
David Readman: ADAGIO is kind of a melodic, aggressive, dark thing. ADAGIO definitely opened me up as a person. Suddenly I get French e-mails and entries in my guest book. You suddenly it was that for these guys on earth there is David Readman and he can sing! (laughs) I always tried to sing my best ...

SVEN: ... that's what you do!
David Readman: I would like to think so. But it wasn't until the ADAGIO thing that a lot of people were aware of me.

SVEN: There is always the problem that even if people are into a certain kind of genre, say, listening to TOTO and STING, they don't listen to other bands in that same kind of area ...
David Readman: ... they wouldn't give it a chance ....

SVEN: ... exactly. And most people don't have more than 30-40 CD's, you would not find any new bands there. They focus on the 10 artists they know and like.
David Readman: I mean the good thing about the internet is that if you look around then there is a chance that you are going to check out a band where you are interested in buying a record – or unfortunately download it.

SVEN: I want to be honest - 92% is more than I would have rated the III record. To me it is a good mid-eighties record. I would like to explain this. Of course I know what you, Paul Laine and Andre Anderson did in the past. So, there is a big expectation. But, listening to the record, I don't think that the three of you did come together for a few weeks, writing songs and getting into the groove of each other. Because this is what I am not hearing. A merge of superior talent, honoring the writing abilities of each of you. How big a record could have been created, bringing the three of you together.
David Readman: I would definitely love to be more involved when we would be doing another III record actually. I mean with the ADAGIO thing I was involved as far as writing, I guess, three lyrics, and the rest of the melodies and a few parts here and there.

You know, I am bit like that with my solo stuff. It is my baby, and you want to be a big part of it. You let people do a certain level of things, but you won't let them get too involved. You want to be the master mind. What you might call the “Malmsteen”-effect (grins), you know.

SVEN: I think it is fair to say that with your own solo album you have every right to take over the artistic control. With YNGWIE MALMSTEEN (who's creative output I still like) I find this taken to extremes.
David Readman: Yeah, he is a bit over the top.

SVEN: He wants to dominate everything. If you listen to the latest records that Dougie White sang on, he can't really develop his singing because the tunes seem to be higher then Dougie would like to sing them. If you listen to his other band …
David Readman: … CORNERSTONE…

SVEN: … yeah, I think there he really performs as a singer. Regarding the singer I am convinced that you have to work with the singer to make your records sound great. I believe that the songs will sound better, because they are performed better.
David Readman: There is a different attitude. On the other hand - at least it get's things going. Because if you rely too much on other people to come up with melodies and stuff and they don't deliver, you are in trouble.

SVEN: Absolutely. Of course I am talking as a guitar player myself. That's not a problem you have, being the lead singer of such great bands. In PINK CREAM 69 you are fully involved into the song writing.
David Readman: Yeah. On “Sonic Dynamite” (PINK CREAM 69) we got songs were everything was great, the music, the verse, but the refrain was not good. Then I messed around for a while, tried ideas, and with this one single idea made this song from a #3 on the level of new songs to a #1. Everything can be ok, but when the refrain is not very good, a lot of people will say “This is not a good song”. And to achieve this is harder then ever these days.

SVEN: The hook line and the groove are the most important things in a song.
David Readman: I have to say I like bands like Led Zeppelin not only because they had good choruses, but I liked the vibe of the songs. There were some cool songs! There a lot of songs that are on record that never are going to be played live. But if they have a cool vibe, I still get off of that. But people say, if there is not a refrain, “What kind of song is that?”.

SVEN: And then you have the 3 minutes attention span of the average audience…
David Readman: I spend a lot of time writing. I write a lot of different kinds of stuff. You spend all the time to shorten things up. Let's cut this down, and this, let's get to the point and stuff like that. But sometimes I want to have a 5 minute song, you know.

SVEN: If you analyze radio pop and rock songs it is amazing how fast sometimes you get to listen to the chorus. I mean, apart from starting with the chorus it usually takes you 1 minute to listen to the refrain the first time. If you miss this, the audience might not me interested in your song anymore. Arranging songs is also an important part in writing songs.
David Readman: It is possible. If you got a good song, in the first place. If you got rubbish it is difficult to make the rubbish better. You got to have a spark. You got to have something in it that makes it a really good song. If you have nothing of course you can reach something, but it hurts me as a writer. Because I could put all the energy in there and at the end of the day it is still not very good. I need to have something already well done.

SVEN: So what kind of songs are you writing?
David Readman: In a way I have been writing a lot in PINK CREAM 69 style. I mean I was writing before, although I was not so experienced. In a way I have been going through a school with PINK CREAM 69. When I write songs now it is not necessarily in an absolute PINK CREAM 69 style, but the arrangements are in a certain kind of way, because it works. Why should I experiment when everything I've done so far works?

SVEN: When I saw the playlist on the David Readman Band (his cover live band), I was wondering which course your solo record would take.
David Readman: Well, regarding my solo record I could of course start to go insane and try to make a hip hop record. I could experiment. I like a lot of 70's music, and make such a kind of record, I don't know. I am trying to bring in all my influences. I like to bring a little influence on each kind of song and bring that into the whole project. At the end of the day it is going to be melodic rock. You gotta look it in the face. I am 35 years now. If I decide now to make a gothic rock record or a Bon Jovi record …

SVEN: … (laughing)…
David Readman: .. oh no, I mean (laughs), … this is what I do, this is what I am known for, you know. I don't strictly wonna be turning into another street. This is what I wonna do, this is what I do best.

I do believe I have a few songs that go not too far into PINK CREAM 69. I mean, I am singing on it in a certain kind of way, already people wrote about the III record “David Readman” brings in PINK CREAM 69 style! You know, when I was recording it I wouldn't have said that I tried for a minute to bring in such kind of thing. I just sing the way I sing.

SVEN: You are the voice of PINK CREAM 69!
David Readman: Well, now. But a lot of people still think it is the PINK CREAM 69 with Andy Deris. There are people out there, the last record they listened to was the one with Andy Deris (“Games People Play”).

SVEN: PINK CREAM 69 come from my home town, so of course I knew the guys even before PINK CREAM 69 coming together. Naturally it was a big deal to see those guys succeed, being signed by Sony Music, and everyone wished them luck. With “Games People Play”, the third record, there was a distinct change of direction. We all know this led to the parting of Andy Deris. Of course your first record with PINK CREAM 69 (“Change”), was hard to swallow for the die hard melodic rock fans.
David Readman: In the beginning we fully believed in what we were doing. I wouldn't say these decisions were mistakes. You could say that in a way we were finding our way back to were we were supposed to be coming from (laughs).

SVEN: Interestingly enough (for me), today I don't like the “Change” record so much. When it came out, I thought I was fabulous. I was convinced you make it! But today I have to say, this is not what I like in PINK CREAM 69.
David Readman: At the time, I heard the records before, and we changed a lot of things, but nobody knew what was right or wrong. Melodic rock … it was not dead, you would be put in prison if you would have made a melodic rock record at that time (laughs). Now it is allowed! Suddenly, in the last few years, if you make melodic rock, there is still a market for PINK CREAM 69. We can still make a record. We have especially in Germany a cult status, and with SPV (German record company) we are doing good. We are doing better then we did 1994 / 1995!

SVEN: Depending on the contract and the possibilities.
David Readman: You know, we have always been very careful with the contracts and stuff.

SVEN: So now with Frontiers Records you have found a great partner for your solo album.
David Readman: Yeah, I really would like to have the people to have a listen first. They judge my kind of style. I like to think that it is going to be a good record. I've must have worked on that record now for 3 years. There are songs on that from 1990. So there are also songs on the record that were written before I joined PINK CREAM 69. So it is impossible that they could be PINK CREAM 69 songs. There are probably 1 or 2 PINK CREAM 69 songs on that record that didn't quite make it. The rest of it are really from scratch.

SVEN: Did you write on your own or did you work together with other songwriters?
David Readman: On this record I wrote about 95% myself. I got involved with a guy called Paul Logue from CRY HAVOC, a Scottish band, a really great writer. He is a machine, he is writing millions of songs and he did send a few things over for me to check out. And a couple of these songs were asking for my vocals. I changed a few things, I kept a few things, and I thought that they fitted very well to the record.

And I am also, in a way, not necessarily limited, I do play guitar myself, but I am limited a little bit in my guitar playing. So it is almost impossible for me to create some stuff because of my lack of guitar playing. Whereas Paul, who is actually a bass player, but he's got other people involved, has other possibilities. There are 2 songs would have been in a way impossible for me to create due to their style of guitar playing. It is good that I finally found time to check out these songs and that I decided to put my own thing over it and I did send it over the net to him and he thought it is great. This is definitely a positive thing.

SVEN: Different songwriters just add to the flavor. Who is producing? And will you also work with Dennis (Ward)?
David Readman: Yeah, I work with Dennis. Obviously I will be co-producing. I am doing the vocals myself, the drums I did on half the record with Dirk Bruinenberg (ADAGIO, ELEGY), also a local guy who did work on some of Dennis's projects, in the next few months we go into the studio.

We have done about 7 songs. The bass is done for 7 songs, drums, the guitars and a lot of the vocals. I have just done another writing phase and these songs are now finished. They are ready for the drummer to do his thing. The first part of drums we did in House of Music in Stuttgart. It depends a lot on Dennis' schedule, he's a very busy man. And it could be that we go there again for the next 5 songs or we got to House of Audio. I mean, I like the House of Audio, because we did a lot of the PINK CREAM 69 stuff there. I feel very comfortable there.

SVEN: And you got your own studio …
David Readman: Yeah, I did the III record on my own. Which was a kind of a weird experience because normally I record with Dennis. I am used to have somebody say …

SVEN: … “This was good, but you can do it better” …
David Readman: … (laughs). I considered to bring Dennis in on the III record but at the end of the day I could really do it by myself.

Dennis is going to mix my solo record. He is very good at that. He mixed the ADAGIO records, and they sound nothing like a PINK CREAM 69 record. I mean he could make every record he ever makes, and mix it in the same kind of way. But he didn't do that. Even with the last PINK CREAM 69 record (“Thunderdome”). He had his idea were the record should be going whereas I can't imagine that, I ain't got that kind of fantasy in this respect.

SVEN: Trust is also important in choosing those you want to be working with.
David Readman: For me the way to go is with Dennis. He is not only a band colleagues, and we did make a few records, and he is a close friend of mine. I believe he going to do a beautiful job.

SVEN: Who is also playing on the record?
David Readman: There is Paul Logue on the bass, maybe Dennis plays some bass too. I got some tracks from Alex Beyrodt (SILENT FORCE), they are really really strong. He brought into some nice aspects. Concerning my guitar playing he really brought it to the next level.

And Tommy Denander is on a few bits and pieces. I am looking into a few people, but not want to mention who will be involved or not because you don't know who will send you something. There is one thing between getting people involved and they say they are gonna do it and to actually get them to go into their studio and record. When someone says he is going to do it, cool, but unless I have the CD in my hand I am not really sure …

SVEN: You seem to be someone to chose carefully your involvement in other musical projects.
David Readman: To do a lot of stuff means to be watering down your potential. But of course it brings you more to the people, more people are aware of you and the space of time you are on the planet. If you don't do so much, just little pieces here and there … it is a fine line between not doing too much and doing enough so people are still respecting you. But whatever you gonna do, it is gonna be good!

SVEN: David, it is been great talking to you.
David Readman: My pleasure. Let's go to the studio and I play you some songs.

And songs he did play. From what I heard everyone should be satisfied who like a good melodic hard rock record. The icing is David's voice, his phrasing and some very nice and unusual ideas.

Copyright by Sven Horlemann for melodicrock.com. April 2006.




Diving For Pearls

Danny Malone
It took a while to get this transcribed, but here is my chat late last year with Diving For Pearls frontman Danny Malone discussing the controversial Texas album.
Thanks to Don Higgins for transcribing the interview for me!



Ok Danny. Great to finally hook up with you. You have a partnership of sorts with producer David Prater. How did you guys get hooked up for the debut album?
Michael Kaplan was our A & R guy; Don Grisham was the guy that signed this band. And Don Grisham was also the guy that … I wouldn't use the word insisted but he is really, really the guy that suggested very, very strongly that we use David Prater to produce the record.

Right, OK.
Because originally we had somebody else lined up. Or I shouldn't say that we had them lined up, we had met with a guy named Terry Thompson I believe.

Oh, Terry Thomas?
Thomas rather who had done Bad Company, right?

And went on to do Giant.
Terry Thomas was the guy, the first guy that we were interested in. Terry Thomas came to New York, took a meeting with us and came to a rehearsal, the studio and came and listened to our stuff, listened to us play and said, “Yeah, I'm interested.” The scheduling just wasn't right. He had just agreed to do a project that was going to take him like, 3, 4 or maybe even 6 months perhaps. He said well look, if you guys can wait, or if you're interested, I'm interested and if we can schedule this 6 months down the road that would be wonderful. Don Grisham said we can't afford to wait 6 months. The time is now and we sort of need to continue with the momentum that we have.

Yep. Yep.
And Prater had done really good sounding demos for us so Don basically stepped in and said look, this is pointless. I'm looking for somebody else. The guy he used was the guy he used for the demo. He did a wonderful job and that was how that whole thing happened.

Right. That's interesting you should say because Terry Thomas has got a similar production style I would have thought.
Yeah, well I was, at the time, you know what? I couldn't tell you a song or even an album title right now but at the time I was really sort of, very into that whole Bad Company sound. Because they were doing a more contemporary, again, like melodic rock / light metal thing.

Yeah, exactly.
But he wasn't available so we got David Prater.

He sounds like a character to work with.
Oh he…have you spoken to this guy?

A little yes…
First, he's incredibly bright and exceptionally, really exceptionally articulate but he's completely out of his mind. And he always has been and he probably always will be.

That's fine. Creative genius
Oh no, he's really…he can be very, very charming, very, very lovely…he's just manic.
He's one of these guys that doesn't do anything half way. And he gets really, really excited and he's manic. But exceptionally capable and an exceptional drummer. Despite the fact he fancies himself as a producer and he has in fact become that…the thing that he really does better than anything else as far as I'm concerned is play the drums. He's an amazing drummer. I'm not at all, even remotely familiar, I don't even know that I ever even heard that Night Ranger record that he did.

Ah, it's very good.
Is it really?

I like it. It's not a standard Night Ranger album by any stretch but it's a very good melodic rock album and has a contemporary feel and I like it a lot.
Yeah, yeah, I'll have to listen to it now then. I'll have to give it a listen.

I'm also a fan of David's work with Dream Theater. That's my favorite album of theirs as well.
I can say with a fair amount of certainty that he is…I mean he's proud of all of the things he's done but I think that he is particularly proud of that first Dream Theater record.

Yeah, it's an amazing record.
Yeah, it's an amazing record; I think he really feels as though that was really his baby. It was something that he took from sort of like an infancy, I mean I don't know that much about where that band came from, I'm familiar with where they've ended up, but not really where they came from, and he was exceptionally proud of that record. And from what I've heard, and from the things that I've read, he has every reason to feel that way.

I think it's still the band's best album.
Oh it is, absolutely. And it is pretty extraordinary. It's pretty extraordinary, he did an amazing job with them. Another band that he'll tell you effectively, they turned their back on him after they made that record. I guess they did one other record with them, didn't they? Or did he produce a live record?

He did one more studio record with them I think.
One of those bands that never really…because he's difficult to work with. I'm one of the few people that have gone back for seconds.
Did you read his…obviously you read it. [David's passionate post regarding the new DFP record]

Yeah I did, I posted it on the site.
Because you posted it on the site. I got into real deep trouble with Yul Vasquez
because of that.

Oh my, because Yul thought that I had something to do with it.

Right, OK.
And Yul and David always had a contentious relationship. They were never really the best of friends and David never really thought that Yul was a particularly good guitar player. So there was a lot of head butting and a lot of ego involved in their relationship.
David Prater, again I say this lovingly, anything I say about David Prater I say lovingly.

I can understand that.
Because he is in fact one of my closest friends, but he's got an ego the size of the state of Texas. Despite the fact he said in a letter that you posted that it had nothing to do with ego, you know. Really, on some level, everything that David does has something to do with his ego. But yeah, Yul called me like 2 days later. Because Yul's an actor. I don't know if you're aware of the fact that Yul has become a reasonably successful actor.

OK. I think I heard something…
I mean, he was just in War of the Worlds. He was just in the new Steven Speilberg…

I haven't seen that.
I haven't seen it either but…, and he doesn't have a huge part in it but he's in like the first 20 minutes of it perhaps. But he was in a … he did, I guess last summer there was a … or 2 summers ago perhaps there was a film called Bad Boys 2 with Will Smith and there's another actor, I forgot his name, a comedic actor, but Yul had a good size role in that. He was in Traffic. He was the assassin in Traffic. I don't know if you saw Traffic.

I haven't seen Traffic either, no.
Well alright, if you see Traffic, he's the assassin, in Traffic. And he's done a lot of television here. So anyway, he has a publicist that sort of does a Google search on him every day just to see what's new out there and what came up. So the publicist read that and said, look, you should probably read this and he called me and said, look, because despite what David Prater may think, and David Prater…it's become public knowledge at this point he did in fact play drums on the record. And he did in fact have to replace some bass parts because, you know, once you re-cut the drums, I mean the bass player, our bass player at the time, a guy named David Weeks, once you cut drums, you cut drums with the bass. I mean rather, you cut bass with the drums.

Yeah, gotcha.
And then once we replaced all the drumming, it really became essential to replace some of the bass parts as well. And because David Weeks, who again was the bass player at the time had already left Nashville and I believe he had gone back to Los Angeles which was where he was living at the time. It was a lot more cost effective and also timely, it saved us…to just have David play some bass. But I don't ever remember. And I can't argue with David because I wasn't there in the studio, you know, with them 16-20 hours a day. I was there but I don't ever remember David having played any guitar.

Yeah, OK.
And that is my story and what you posted on your page is his story.

Which is every bit as valid as mine because he'll tell you, well Danny you weren't there and you don't know. And I'd have to say, OK well maybe you're right because I wasn't there and maybe I don't know. Maybe I really don't. So, but yeah, Yul called me, particularly the line I think David said something about the band was there just for live performances, photos and in capital letters with exclamation points, great hair!

Way to start an argument!
At the end of the day, Yul just doesn't really care because it's 16 years after the fact and he's moved on. I will only make one other little point about that. I did in fact ask Yul to play on this record and Yul said yes. And the reason that he didn't play on the record, it had nothing to do with whether I wanted him to or didn't want him to or whether or not he was interested or not interested, it all really boiled down to scheduling.
You know, we made the record in Texas and here in Massachusetts, Yul is a New Yorker and he has one of those careers where you kind of have to be available, so it was difficult to schedule anything with him. And in the end it just became more realistic for us to use somebody else. But it had nothing to do with whether or not he was interested in participating in the whole thing, because he was in fact. So that's my story now Andrew.

I am trying to make one point really, the point being that the first Diving for Pearls record was…3 points perhaps…was 16 year ago, secondly that at the time I think, which was a huge amount of money at the time was $180,000 to make that record which was kind of standard. That's kind of what they would spend to make a record for a new act back then, $150,000 - $200,000.
And between, from the time that we started doing the demos until the time that we finished doing the new record, really it was about a year long process. And this new record we made for a think $17,000 or $18,000 (laughs), in five weeks time. I listened to some people's criticism, and look, everybody's entitled to their opinion, I didn't expect, nor do I expect every body to like it. But I thought that was an unfair reason for criticizing it. You know, the fact that it didn't sound anything like the first record. It's hard. It's hard to make a record that sounds like $200,000, I mean sonically. I'm only talking about fidelity wise, you know what I mean?

I do.
Sonically that can compete with that, it's just really. Despite the fact that digital recording equipment has completely changed the way that people make records and the way that records sound. It really is…, it's a hard act to follow sometimes when you're working on a really limited budget.

And you had the disadvantage over a lot of other bands, I mean that was, that first album was really held in very high esteem.
Yeah. I don't think anybody expected…, I really truthfully didn't expect the record to have survived for as long as it has, and for people to have thought as highly about it as they actually… I mean I'm the same way. I would never try to convince you I don't feel the same way. I mean I still like the first two U2 records better than anything that they've done subsequently. I mean sonically just in terms of the songs, I mean, you know, and I could name half a dozen other bands that I feel the same way about. But you know… It's tough sometimes. It's really, really tough to sustain a particular focus for anything more than just a couple records. Trust me.
Had Diving for Pearls made a second record in like 1991, it would have sounded an awful lot like the first record. And I've even mentioned to one or two people that I meet that Diving for Pearls did in fact get picked up by Epic. I mean we started making a second record. And we didn't do a lot of work on it but I think we had actually begun demoing like a half a dozen songs with David Prater. He was working at a studio in New York state called Bear Tracks at the time. He was getting ready to do the Firehouse record perhaps. But unfortunately it didn't work out. But a second Diving for Pearls record in 1990 or '91 would have sounded virtually identical to the first record.

I think you did a remarkably good job of … probably half the Texas album sounds, you know, very close to the original. I think you did a remarkable job there.
Well you can thank David Prater for that when you speak to him then. Because, that was really his sort of thing, I mean I left a lot of that…, I shouldn't say all of it, but I left a lot of that to him, I mean, the reason that I asked him to make the record again after…although I asked him probably about 5 years ago if he was interested in doing something like this with me. Because I knew he could deliver and I know Magnus and I knew what Magnus was looking for and I thought the person that can give Magnus that kind of record is David Prater. So yeah, I mean, you know, I think so too. I don't absolutely adore the record from start to finish Andrew. I'd be lying through my teeth if I told you that I did. I mean I feel very strongly about maybe 4or 5 of the songs; there's probably 1 or 2 perhaps or even 3 that I really don't like at all and then the rest of it…

That's probably exactly how I feel to be honest.
Yeah, there's probably 3 good songs. Three songs on that record that I just wish that we'd scratched and found something else. But again, time permitting and with the budget you kind of have to push forward a little bit.

Yeah the record's been on the table for a long while hasn't it?
It has been on the table for a long while, yeah. We actually did, we nixed a couple of things. I think originally we started with probably 14 or 15 songs and then had to make some hard decisions about 4 of them I think and they didn't make it. And a lot of that had to do with the fact that David was doing the drums while… I wasn't in Texas when he was actually doing drums. Sometimes you get there and you just think, OK, I had a vision for it and my vision doesn't really match your vision for it so…, and we don't have the time nor do we have the budget to go back and redo the drums so maybe we should just move on and concentrate…you know what I mean.

Basically you're saying this is a pretty hard record to get done.
Yeah, it was hard, only because of time and distance. If we'd had the luxury again of a big budget we could have gone away, you know, for 3 months, which is how much time we spent in Nashville making the first Diving for Pearls record. You know, you live with it every day. It's easy to change something if you feel inspired and I know David has talked about, there was a song on the first record called 'You're All I Know'.

Yeah, great song.
You know and that song went, arrangement wise, probably changed 3 or 4 times before we settled on what we actually recorded. And we probably would have done a lot more of that this time around, but again, it's difficult to do when one person's living in Texas and the other person lives in Massachusetts. But in the end, I think we got some things that were really good and unfortunately I think we got some things that weren't particularly brilliant but we had to live with them anyway.

OK, I must tell you that I absolutely adore 'The Colours Show'.
One of the songs I'm very, very happy with. Both you and I agree there.

Another one was 'The Truth Is'.
'Truth Is'. Always felt very, very good about that song and was very, very pleased. Very happy with the way that it turned out so we agree there.

And 'Heaven Only Knows' is probably my third favorite.
'Heaven Only Knows' I love! I love! I was really, really happy with that vocal. There's a couple other things about it that I was really happy with the way that…it was David Prater's idea… he modulated it at the end and I'm really, really happy with 'Heaven Only Knows'.

Yeah, cool. And 'If I Only Knew' was another favorite too.
'If I Only Knew', a song that I sadly did not write. Some good friends of mine wrote it and I was in a very short-lived band in New York for a while with these friends of mine. And on a tape of some ideas that I thought we might, or some songs that I thought we might consider for the record, I included that. And David fell in love with it so you can thank David Prater for that, because he insisted that we do that song. And so, I agree with you there. That is one of the songs that I thought came out surprisingly well.

Because I didn't really have any expectations particularly for that song. And because David felt strongly about it, I basically said to him, well look, I'm easy. If you want to do it, and you feel strongly about it, then let's do it. And I was surprised by how well it came out. So we agree so far (laughs)!

Now look, it's a good all-round record. I have some argument obviously that it should have been a Danny Malone record, or might have.
Not that it should have been but perhaps it might have been better received because it wasn't being compared to something else. I think that was my argument. It could be called whatever you like but I think it might have been better received had it been called…

You know, Andrew, I wouldn't argue with you there. I really wouldn't argue with you. The reason why I think at the end of the day it became a Diving for Pearls record was because… I could probably give you 2 reasons why. One, it was because, I mean, I own that name. I came up with that name a long time ago and I personally own it though. I mean, it's a name that I've always liked and I've always felt strongly about so I thought…and I thought in a lot of ways, and I think I may have said this in the letter that I was going to post, at the end of the day, for me, Diving for Pearls was always Jack Moran and I. The keyboard player and I. And despite the fact Jack only got song writing credit on maybe 3 or 4 of these songs, I've forgotten exactly, he really was…because he always has been… Jack and I… Despite the fact that Jack lives in southern California right now, I mean he's my daughter's godfather and I'm his son's godfather. I mean, he and I have always maintained this relationship where we always talk about songs and regardless of where he is, or where he was at the time, because he was living in Paris for a while, I mean, I always sent him stuff and he always commented, and he always had criticisms, constructive most of the time, so I just felt he was involved.

I felt like he was involved. And David Prater was almost like the 5th member of Diving for Pearls really, so I thought, well we've got really... you know there are a number of…again, as I mentioned earlier in my conversation with you, is that Yul was originally interested in working on the record as well. But also, I have no reason not to be candid with you, Atenzia wanted a Diving for Pearls record.

Of course, it's easy to market.
Yeah. Because people may not know who Danny Malone is, but they may in fact know who Diving for Pearls is. Because I was the lead singer in Diving for Pearls, I mean I think they just thought… and I can't honestly say that I resisted all that much.

Look, I don't think you should have. I mean, you've got every right to release it as you have.
The reception might have been a little bit warmer.

Yeah, exactly, just because of the unfortunate 16-year legacy of that great album!
I know (laughs).

It's not very often you'd call that unfortunate (laughs).
No I don't (laughing), I really don't. It makes me very happy. I find myself sometimes thinking about it. It certainly has been a wonderful thing. I'm very proud of that record. I'm very, very proud of that record and I just have to add, despite what David said, it really was a collaborative effort. I mean, it really was. Could he have been the 5th member of the band? Is George Martin the 5th Beatle?

I mean, Jimmy Miller. I was talking to someone about Jimmy Miller the other day and, I mean, all those Rolling Stones… could Jimmy Miller have been… would the Rolling Stones have been the same without Jimmy Miller? Would Traffic had been the same without Jimmy Miller? So he was a big, big part the sound. And a big, big part of the success of that record as well.

Yeah, absolutely!
I mean the success 16 years on. Certainly not the financial success of it, because it wasn't financially… But yeah, I mean, it's not a bad thing. I'm glad that the record is still thought of highly. It makes me happy.

There's a nice little live performance in 1990 that gets traded around the circuit too.
Yeah, I love to… David and I have talked about that because he has that whole show.

Yeah, I've got a CD-R of it or something that's from…
Oh you do? Yeah, see, good, good. I would love for anybody… I'd love to find a way to make that available to just about anybody that wanted it. In a lot of ways I like it sometimes more than I like the record itself.

I don't think my CD-R is pristine quality but it's pretty good.
I'll have to get you one then Andrew.

I'd love to. I mean if you'd like to throw it up on the site as a download we can always do that.
Yeah we could do that. Even like one or two songs would be a good idea. You know what, I'm going to talk to David about that and see if we can't do that. That would be a great thing.

Yeah, just celebrate the band a little bit more.
Absolutely, I would love to do that. I'd have to see if I could coerce him to do it, but I don't see any reason why he wouldn't want to do it.

Hopefully I better get on the phone with him as well and do an interview, and I'd love to talk about his other projects as well.
Oh yeah, you should, very definitely. He's very animated.

Sounds like it. Somebody else told me the same thing.
Oh yeah, yeah. Anybody that's ever worked with him or anybody that's ever known him, he's a larger than life character.

Well I like that. They're a good, fun interview.
Yeah, yeah, he's brilliant, I'm sure. He's just, you know, he's fearless. He'll say anything. Wonderful, I highly recommend you do an interview with him.

What's next for you Danny? Musically, I mean, is anything planned?
No, you know, I mean all I really wanted to do…because the guys… believe it or not the guys who made this record with me are really, really talented. And I'd hoped, and I wouldn't rule it out entirely at this point. My hope was that we'd, that the record would get enough interest that we could go to Europe and play some dates. And perhaps even Japan.

We will definitely keep in contact…
Oh, yeah, I'd love to do that. I'm still looking for an opportunity to do that sometime between now and the end of the year as well. I've talked to some friends from Belgium and obviously Magnus is working on a few things there. But nothing has materialized yet. But all the guys that made the record would love to do it. Depending upon, again scheduling wise and everything else, I could probably even twist Yul's arm and get Yul to come out.

Well OK. That sounds pretty awesome!
Outside of that, and I'd like to do another one. I few could make enough noise with this one and the people at Atenzia, although I don't know how they're fixed financially or anything like that. If they were interested in doing another one or if there was another label that thought perhaps that it made sense to want to do another Diving for Pearls record, I'd do another one. I would actually like to do that.

I hope so. I really hope you do.
Yeah, I hope so too. I got busy there for a while. I owned a music store, and I got married and had some children. Things have sort of normalized a little bit and I find myself with a little bit more time now that I didn't have when my children were very, very young. And I'm sort of interested in doing it, yeah. Before, as I said to a friend of mine the other day, before it becomes ridiculous and pathetic (laughs). You know what I mean? For me to even think about going out on stage and supporting something like this. I'd like to do it.

I think it should be done.
Thank you!

Thanks, I appreciate it.



Carl Palmer (2006)



By David Iozzia


Carl Palmer sat behind the drum kit in the 20th century “hammering the plastic” for bands like Atomic Rooster, ASIA, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Carl’s still pounding the skins in the 21st Century, working hard and “Working Live” with The Carl Palmer Band, and playing in a new project called B.P.S. At the same time, rumors are swirling all around about ASIA re-forming with its original lineup.


Happy New Year Carl and thanks for agreeing to let me conduct this interview. In 2005, you played a few shows in Italy where you joined ASIA onstage, sitting behind the drum kit for two songs nightly, “Only Time Will Tell” and “Heat of the Moment.” After that, life-long ASIA fans, myself included, started daydreaming about a future reunion of the original lineup.  


I did that to help them sell some tickets because they were playing to very few people. I was asked if I’d be interested in doing something like that. I said okay and I went along to see where we were and take it from there. It was fun but I didn’t enjoy that band as much as I thought I would at the time. The guitar player is pretty good, John Payne sings okay, and Geoff is always himself. Chris Slade played real well, I can’t knock him. The show had a long acoustic section in the middle which lost a lot of the show’s momentum from my perspective. I guess the real ASIA had more of a va-va-va-voom for me. There’s no immediate plans at the moment to do anything together, but who knows. I guess you can quote the ASIA song, “Only Time Will Tell.”


John Wetton was recently quoted, “It is the intention of all four original members to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the creation of ASIA.” News reports of a new CD, DVD, and world tour came out the day after his statement. What are your comments?


I’ve issued a press release on this topic. I must make it clear that the current statements about a reunion of the original members of ASIA circulating within the music and concert industries are somewhat premature. All four original members have met and discussed a reunion to celebrate the band's 25th Anniversary. However, at this time, no specific time frame for tours and recordings has been established, and no shows have been booked. At present, I am giving my complete focus to a North American tour of The Carl Palmer Band, which will run from May through early July 2006.


Tell me more about the North American tour with your new power trio, The Carl Palmer Band.


We’re all very excited about playing in the United States and Canada, where I have so many loyal fans. It’s a great band, and the fans are joining to enjoy our versions of the E.L.P. songs they’re familiar with. I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone once again. It’s been two or three years since I played in the United States, when I did a drum clinic with Danny Carey from the band Tool.


Are all of the tour dates finalized?


We’re working on that now. It looks like a full five-week tour which it needs to be to work out for me. You can list these dates that have been booked so far:


May 31            Regent Theatre                        Arlington, MA

June 1              Toad’s Place                            New Haven, CT

June 2              Inter-Media Arts Center         Huntington, NY

June 3              Ram’s Head                            Annapolis, MD

June 4              Keswick Theatre                     Glenside, PA

June 6              B.B. King’s                             New York, NY

June 7              The Birchmere             Alexandria, VA

June 8              Rex Theatre                             Pittsburgh, PA

June 9              Beachland Ballroom               Cleveland, OH

June 10            The Abbey                              Chicago, IL

June 11            Skank Hall                              Milwaukee, WI

June 12            The Warehouse                       Springfield, IL


What type of set list should the fans attending the North American concerts anticipate?


The shows are all-instrumental. The set list consists of “Peter Gunn,” “The Barbarian,” “Hoedown,” “The Enemy God,” “Trilogy,” “L.A. Nights,” a version of “The Flight of the Bumble Bee” featuring Paul Bielatowicz on guitar, “Bullfrog,” “Toccata,” “Canario,” “Fanfare for the Common Man,” “Carmina Burana,” and a section of “Tarkus.”


You’ve released two CDs, “Working Live - Volume 1” and “Working Live - Volume 2.” They were recorded from 2002 to 2004 as The Carl Palmer Band toured throughout Europe. The musicians joining you on those CDs are not members of your current lineup. Please introduce your new band mates.


The Carl Palmer Band consists of me drumming of course, Paul Bielatowicz is on guitar, Stuart Clayton is the bassist, and there are no keyboards or vocals.


Three different versions of The Carl Palmer Band have had lead guitarists instead of keyboard players. Keith Emerson’s new band has a lead guitarist you’ve played with, Dave Kilminster. What are your thoughts on classic Emerson, Lake & Palmer material being performed with lead guitar?


I can’t speak for what Keith chose to do, but The Carl Palmer Band has replaced the keyboards with unique and innovative guitar interpretations of classic E.L.P. material. I wanted a fresh, new approach to the material and that’s the musical direction I’ve chosen. I hope music fans will pick up the CDs or come out for a show to hear it for themselves.


How difficult was it re-arranging the songs with lead guitar and no keyboards?


It was extremely difficult. Some of the stuff sounded a lot better on guitar than it did on keyboards. It sounded more modern, sort of spacey, and a little more rocky. Some bits didn’t sound quite as good so we had to change things radically. But at the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding.  After you give us a listen, tell me what you think. I’d be interested.

How have hardcore E.L.P. fans reacted to it when they attend Carl Palmer Band shows?

Actually, there was no reason for me to play with another keyboard player so I think they all understand what I was trying to do. There’s an acceptance of it. They’d rather see that than nothing at all. They understand that some of music really lives with guitar and some of them prefer certain things on keyboards. Every man has his choice. I know I’m enjoying it. It’s great! I love playing with keyboards, but playing with guitar is very exciting. I think  Keith Emerson realizes that also and that’s why he has a guitar in his band. You’ve seen the Keith Emerson Band play so I’m sure you’d agree that guitar brings a new freshness to it.


Unlike some of your musical peers, you’ve really embraced the Internet as a tool to market yourself, and as a way to sell merchandise and self-produced CDs. Please share your thoughts on the Internet, and its role as a tool for today’s musician.


To be honest with you, it’s a complete nightmare today, it really is. It’s very difficult. People go into chat rooms and lots of rumors and gossip gets started. Lots of artists are active with their website, chatting with fans and writing diaries of what they are doing but I don’t have the time for that small stuff. I appreciate the fans, but I just want to tell them what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, and when I’m doing it by putting up the information at my website. That’s what the Internet for me is all about. The Internet can also be a big problem. People have gone on to my website and corrupted the guestbook. I had to add all new filters to prevent that. Who needs all of that? In general, I find it a bit of a bummer. It’s not the most interesting thing for me. I try to do it as professionally as possible. It takes up a lot of time, and you have to do it yourself to keep on top of it. The minute you do that, you’re taking time away from writing, practicing, or rehearsing. I do it, but I’m not happy doing it.


I’m sure you’d agree that there’s a positive side to the Internet where artists can record CDs without a label, as well as sell and market their records?


That’s very positive. The Internet is good for the artist to put out information on what you’re doing and to market new releases. All that stuff is wonderful. The technology these days lets you get off the ground very easily and simply. But I don’t know about making big money that way or getting distribution worldwide.  It’s easy to record a CD, and younger bands coming up can get their ideas across. But I’m not too sure how easy it’s going to be to push out the big record companies. You still need to get your record in the shops and on the shelves, I think. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I think there’s nothing better than walking into a shop and buying a copy of a record. It’s great that the technology allows us to record our stuff, but there are drawbacks to promoting yourself only through the Internet.


Does The Carl Palmer Band have any plans to record new studio material?


I haven’t planned for a new album yet. I do have a DVD, which we are looking into marketing at the moment. It’s an hour and a half of live material, recorded in Bucharest, Hungary, in 2005. That could definitely be released later this in 2006. All being well, that could be the first new thing. I’ve recorded more live material with my band so I could release another live CD, or even a compilation of what we recorded live on the two live CDs so far. It’s hard to plan, write, and record a new progressive rock album because I don’t imagine it will be played on the radio at all. Recording live E.L.P. material and classical adaptations might be my best route for carrying on down the road.  That’s the direction I have planned, so we’ll just have to see how well it works out.


B.P.S. is another musical project for you, and joining you are Italian guitarist Andrea Braido and American bass guitarist T.M. Stevens. I have no idea what to expect musically from a progressive rock drummer, a heavy metal funk bass guitarist, and a “Hendrixian” guitarist from Italy. Please describe B.P.S.’ musical direction.


I’m going out with them again in February for some shows in Italy, but my main concern is The Carl Palmer Band. I’m just doing B.P.S. for some fun and to investigate. I’ve only played a handful of dates with these guys. I cannot give you any concrete ideas of what’s happening in the future, or what we’ll even play the next time we meet in February. It’s literally just a little bit of fun. It’s not playing a vital role or important role in what I’m doing.


B.P.S. did play a few shows in 2005. Please describe the project’s musical direction and the type of material you played?


There’s no original material as you can well understand since it’s just a fun project. We’re playing some stuff from E.L.P., some stuff from Andrea, and some stuff of T.M.’s. Andrea, as you quoted, does sound like Jimi Hendrix so we are having fun. There’s no formal plans at all to record a CD or DVD. We try to monitor what the fans are bringing into the rooms, but who knows, there may be a bootleg being pressed somewhere.


Does B.P.S. have any plans to tour in the United States?


No, there are no plans.


Keith Emerson told the audience a funny story on his 2005 tour about first meeting his new guitarist Dave Kilminster. Apparently, Keith surprised you at a Qango gig. He snuck up on stage unannounced for the encore, “Fanfare for the Common Man,” and he destroyed your Qango band mate John Young’s keyboard. An old expression is that there are two sides to every story, with the truth somewhere in between. John Young tells me that Keith never apologized and never paid the bill for the repair. You were there, what happened that night, and what’s happened since?


Keith did come up and play but it wasn’t a surprise. He made sure that I guest-listed him. Keith enjoys telling a good story. It was an old keyboard, and I don’t think it was too big a deal for John Young. Everybody likes to hear the rock and roll war stories, but I don’t get too involved in them myself. To be honest with  you, Keith came up and played, the keyboard fell over, and they stood it back up. That’s how I kind of treat it. By the time you hear about it two or three years later, it’s something really epic.


Emerson, Lake & Palmer started playing together 35 years ago. Your hardcore fans, myself included, are hoping and praying that the three of you will eventually record and/or tour together again. Please be both optimistic and realistic, and comment on the chances of an E.L.P. reunion.


I can’t say in my lifetime to be honest but not for any particular reason. There’s no big grudges or fighting or anything of that sort. It had its go and it did what it did. I believe, in my opinion and please don’t read more into this, if we had been asked to play at Live Aid we would have done it. A show of that magnitude would have to be considered. Maybe with the perfect circumstances at the perfect point in time we could do something. That’s off the top of my head without talking to any of the other guys. We weren’t approached and people don’t think of us as approachable. They think it’s easier to get Pink Floyd to play than E.L.P.


E.L.P. fans finally got their wish when video footage of the legendary California Jam performance was released on DVD. They were also treated to unreleased and new studio material on “The Return of the Manticore” boxed set, and a live CD of E.L.P.’s 1970 appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival. Is there any video or audio left in the vaults that E.L.P. fans should anticipate being released?


We have video footage, about 45 minutes worth, from the Isle of Wight and that should come out on DVD later this year. I don’t know if we have permission to use it, but I just received video footage on DVD of our concert in Japan at Osaka Stadium. That’s what we have in the video archives. I think as far as unreleased audio, the well is as dry as a bone.


In 1977, I was lucky to attend the opening night and closing night of E.L.P.’s three-night stand in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Those shows were with a full orchestra. E.L.P. fans have all heard the off-stage stories about the enormity of transporting the performers and equipment and the financial nightmare the tour turned into. Please share one of your on-stage observations from that legendary U.S. tour?


Orchestras change music radically because even if you write down the right notes and the right rhythmic values, violins don’t play in time because of the nature of the instrument. If you hit a drum, it’s on the beat or off the beat. Once you  start moving a bow on strings, for it to be perfectly in time or spot on, is very difficult. You can have a section of 16 people all bowing in time together, but whether or not it’s in time with the music they’re meant to be playing with is another thing. When you have an orchestra, you have all these various permutations of instruments, which do vary in time structure. The music changes once that happens. Music such as the Emerson, Lake & Palmer repertoire that was played with the orchestra was held together because the band was a very solid unit. We could play exactly what we wanted to play, and the orchestra could accompany us. We tried to make the parts easy enough for them to play so that it would work, and not be so weird and wonderful that it would take away from anything. That being said, I’d rather play as a three-piece band than a three-piece band plus an orchestra. I wasn’t moved enough emotionally by the orchestra. The E.L.P. experience was good enough, I’m glad we did it, but I wouldn’t want to repeat it. The Carl Palmer Band is going to be playing with the Cyprus State Orchestra. It’s something that I do, and it’s something that I’m interested in. It just doesn’t have the musical gratification you would think it has. It’s exciting in almost a melancholy way, and it does take away the rock edge. It’s not what I’m all about, but it sounds good with the music we play.


Can you pick a record, a song, or a live performance from E.L.P.’s career (so far) that you would classify as the band’s defining moment?


I would narrow it to a particular recording, and the pinnacle of success for us was the record “Brain Salad Surgery.” We never topped that, collectively or individually, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer went downhill from there. “Pirates” was a great piece of music, and it suited the orchestra. It didn’t have the imagination and creativity of “Brain Salad Surgery.”


When E.L.P. reformed in the 1990’s and toured North America and Europe, how was the band received by music fans?


Returning to London to play three nights at Royal Albert Hall was extremely gratifying. Keith was nervous and Greg was apprehensive, but the fans coming out after all that time proved they love what we do. I need to see moments like that. In America and the rest of the world, it wasn’t that great for us. There was a few really good shows, but in general it was rather somber. I think the product, the music  on albums like “Black Moon” and “In the Hot Seat,” wasn’t that good. They were not good albums by our standards.


How did the advancements in music technology affect and complement E.L.P.’s on-stage performance during the tours of the 1990’s?


M.I.D.I. technology let us sound even bigger. Keith could play one keyboard and sound like four or five at the same time. We embraced technology and used it toward the betterment of the band. Keyboards are the ideal instrument to focus in on that type of technology, more so than guitars. I went back to playing an acoustic drum set. They are made so much better, the cymbals sound sharper, and the microphones are better.  I tried to stay away from all the electronic stuff but I did trigger three or four pads. I used a couple of samplers running in tandem with each other.  They were just to enhance the music, they didn’t control what I did. If they broke down, I really didn’t care. It was there for added color, and if it did, that was fine. If it became too much of a problem I’d leave it out. I find that in general, drum technology is always more primitive than keyboard technology.    


On the box set “The Return of the Manticore” E.L.P. covered King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man.On the album “In the Hot Seat” E.L.P. covered Bob Dylan’s “Man in the Long Black Coat.” Hypothetically speaking, let’s pick two E.L.P. songs that King Crimson and Bob Dylan could do justice to with their own cover versions. I’ll pick the current King Crimson lineup doing “Toccata” and Bob Dylan strumming “From The Beginning.”


I’d like to hear Bob Dylan singing “Are You Ready, Eddy?” [Carl laughs] and “Pictures at an Exhibition” would suit King Crimson, making them more melodic. 


There is an E.L.P. tribute CD called “Encores, Legends & Paradox.” Your parts were interpreted by drummers like Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater, Simon Phillips from Toto, and Pat Mastelotto from King Crimson. Other performers on that disc included a few ex-band mates of yours, Geoff Downes, John Wetton, and Robert Berry. On the CD’s liner notes, Keith Emerson was quoted “thanks to a little ‘ELP from my friends, the music lives on. They’ve done an incredible job.” What are your thoughts on that tribute CD?


The playing was very good on that CD. It was a nice thing and a respectful thing to do. I was impressed that people wanted to do that. Their interpretations were good, I had no problem with it. Anytime somebody wants to copies you, it’s the highest form of flattery. I was more than happy with that CD. 


The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recently announced its inductees for 2006, and they include Black Sabbath and Lynyrd Skynyrd. In previous years, this organization has inducted punk rock bands like The Ramones, Talking Heads, and The Clash, and in 2006 it inducts more punk rockers, namely Blondie and the Sex Pistols. In my opinion, they have over-looked and snubbed progressive rock bands like E.L.P., Yes, King Crimson, and Genesis. Please comment on the fact that there are no prog-rock bands, other than Pink Floyd, in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.           


Progressive rock has always taken a back shelf. It never was as big as heavy metal or the corporate rock bands. It never got the respect from radio stations. I imagine that people running polls or museums don’t visualize prog-rock as important. I think it embraced technology a lot more than other forms of music. It pushed the barriers a lot more. Prog-rock has been ignored since day one so no, I’m not surprised.  You don’t hear much prog-rock on the radio unless it’s 4 o’clock in the morning somewhere in the middle of Arizona. It doesn’t appeal to that many people anymore. It appeals to people who are more intellectual and they want more. It just isn’t mainstream, and it doesn’t sell a lot of tickets. Advertisers don’t tie up with prog bands very much. It you’re in that type of band, you’re in it for art’s sake and because you like it and believe in it. If you make money at it, that’s great.  On the other hand, you can’t expect people to hand you accolades, trophies, medals, and plaques to hang on the wall. It happened for a short time in the 70’s for E.L.P., but we were dead and buried as far as the press goes by 1976. 

Carl, you’ve been the drummer in two rock supergroups, Emerson, Lake & Palmer as well as ASIA. For the sake of this interview, I’d like you to daydream and form a third supergroup, with musicians dead or alive, that you’ve never played with. This supergroup will be a six-piece band with a different configuration than you’re accustomed to.


Who would be your choices for: A lead singer? Lead guitarist? Bass guitarist? keyboard player? Lastly, either a horn player, violinist, or even a second drummer if you’ve ever fancied playing onstage with another percussionist?


Elvis Presley singing, Jimi Hendrix on guitar, Mark King from Level 42 on bass, Dave Brubeck on keyboards, and Jerry Goodman on violin.


The Carl Palmer Band and B.P.S. are playing in clubs when you tour and your band 3 played a U.S. club tour. With  E.L.P. and ASIA, you played in theaters, arenas, and stadiums. How does your equipment and frame of mind differ when playing different-sized venues?        


The venue doesn’t make a big difference to me at all although obviously I’d rather play an arena. When I play in a club, I play with the same amount of gusto and spirit. I have the same equipment, except I don’t bring both gongs to a lot of smaller clubs in England. I carry one of them but everything else is basically the same. My attitude, whether in a club, theater, or arena is exactly the same. I can only play the way I play, the way I feel comfortable. I enjoy playing clubs. On my upcoming North American tour, were going to be playing in quite a few “art centers” rather than rock clubs. I like it when people are sitting down and listening. I like a controlled concert environment. It’s inspiring to me because it puts you right on the edge. You have got to be good because people are watching. When people are standing and drinking in a club, it’s slightly looser, and musicians tend to be less focused unless they don’t watch out. When people are sitting down and looking, that concert environment is really motivating and not intimidating at all. I find it most encouraging.

Is there “one question” you’ve always hoped an interviewer would ask you that has never been asked? If so, what’s the question and how would you answer it?         

People never ask me why I do what I do or why I carry on doing it after so long. Maybe the answer is taken for granted, but I think it’s an important question. Some people do it for money, some people do it for fame, and some people do it because they need to. That’s my reason, I can’t go a day without playing drums. I still practice five days a week. I take weekends, off but I only started doing that last year. I left school to be a professional drummer and people say it’s in the blood. It’s more than that for me, it’s like eating or breathing. It’s just there and I have to do it; whether it’s in a club, with a successful group, in a recording studio, or at home in room. If I never played with another band again, God forbid, I would still play because I do it for me. I never played for anyone else. It’s a completely selfish approach that I’ve got, I do it purely for me because I really enjoy it. It’s the one thing I’ve never grown out of.

With all of that being said, you must be your own biggest critic. How would you self-critique your playing these days?

I’m actually a lot more exciting these days. I’m not as stiff  or as rigid like I used to be with E.L.P. I’ve definitely gotten louder, which is not the norm. Drummers as they get older tend to hit them softer, but not me. I don’t know why that is. I am a health fanatic, I run four or five days a week, and I do lots of floor exercises. I’m into looking after myself and it’s snowballed over the years, and the results have gone back into my instrument. Drums are very physical so it’s important to look after yourself. I’m getting the full payback now at age 55. I feel stronger than the next man, I’m happy, and my playing has advanced. There are some incredible drummers around at the moment who are actually frightening. I’m always buying DVDs to check out the competition and the new people.

It sounds like you’re still having fun.

It’s still very exciting, but I have to do a lot of office work. I manage everything myself working about 5 and a ½ months out of the year. My friend Bruce Pilato takes care of things in the United States for me. I’m very content, but I’m a hands-on type of guy so I have to program my day to get everything in. I do what I do and I love it!


Thanks again Carl for the interview. Do you care to add a few closing comments for music fans worldwide?


I’m looking forward to bringing my band to North America and to the reaction we get. I hope the fans enjoy it as much as they have in Europe.





Toto (2006)



Toto - The 2006 Interviews




Bobby Kimball (Lead Vocals)

"Sorry, but I had to get a baseball bat and kill Joseph Williams. YIKES!!!!! Not really, OK? I loved having all the guys share the vocals, as it's been a Toto trademark from the beginning to have vocal trade-offs. Our signature songs are done with multiple vocalists, case in point: Africa, Rosanna etc. I really like to mix it up and show the different sides of the band vocally. If ya got it, flaunt it."

Online Now - Read Interview.
David Paich (Keyboards / Lead Vocals)

"Not many requests for runway modeling lately. Actually, I want to take this opportunity to thank all the support from various organizations that were associated with this type of thing. Unfortunately Mr. Lukather's attempt at humor was taken to heart by many who actually have to deal with these kind of personal burden..."

Online Now - Read Interview.
Greg Phillinganes

"I've known most of the guys for at least 25 years and I've worked on several different projects over those years with Dave, Luke, Simon and Jeff. When I started touring with them, our relationship intensified as we were able to spend more time together but there was no big adjustment. It was an instant fit."

Online Now - Read Interview.
Steve Lukather (Guitars / Lead Vocals)

"I mean, here we go with this small indie label that is making fools out of Sony and EMI. I don't know what they are doing, but they are working very hard and they have put a lot of time and money and effort into it and we're doing great. We did the biggest TV show in Germany; we are doing TV even in America!
It's just weird man; we're just taking this trip. We tried as hard as we could and now all these things are happening. For a bunch of old guys, we are just tripping…in a really positive way."

Online Now - Read Interview.








Street Talk (2006)

Street Talk: Back to deliver their best record to date.

Frederik Bergh talks about the new Street Talk album and why he decided to give this classic AOR act another chance, plus news on the new Bloodbound album.

Fredrik - let's start by talking Street Talk. First of all - fantastic to have you and the band back. Could “V” be the best Street Talk album yet? I think it was the most consistent for sure...
Very nice to talk to you! Yeah, it's good to be back with the new album! I'm very pleased with the result, lots of work was put into the making of this album to make sure that we really did a killer album this time around! I think this is our best album to date for sure!

I for one was pleased to stuck with Goran for all vocals - he has always been the main player, but why on this occasion did you chose not to use another vocalist also?
I'm also very pleased to have Edman onboard for all the vocals on the new album! I think Goran will be the only singer in Street Talk from now on! There's no need to involve someone else when we have what we have already! Of course I love to work with other musicians and singers for other albums/projects but for Street Talk I would say that Edman is the man.

I know you have felt some frustration with the constraints of the melodic music scene - frustrations a number if not all of the artists out there feel!
Is that what led you to declare at one stage that there would likely not be another Street Talk album?

Yeah, I felt that I put so much work into something that didn't give too much money in return. But as you can see I couldn't stay away from the studio too long because of my love for melodic rock music.

What convinced you to take another look at that?
I guess it was because I received lots of fan mails from fans from around the world who wanted the band to continue, and also because I felt that we had some very good music in us after recording the new two songs for the compilation album (Astray and Made For Paradise) which turned out to be some of the best tracks we've ever done.

The album V is the result - so I dare say you made the right decision! Are you happy with the sales to date and the reaction from fans and critics?
Yeah, I'm very proud of this collection of songs and I'm glad we did one more studio album! I'm happy with the reactions from the fans and the media! Almost everybody says that this is the best Street Talk album to date and that feels good after all the work with the album. Regarding the sales, I have no concrete idea of how many copies we've sold so far.

There are some glorious AOR tracks on this album - Responsible and If I Could for starters...Favourites for you?
Thanks for saying so! I really like most of the tracks on the album. But if I had to pick my top five I would probably chose the following tracks as my absolute fave songs: At The End Of The Day, Don't Believe, Groundhog Day, If I Could And Something's Gotta Give. Something cool about Something's is that one of my all time song writing heroes Mark Spiro told me that he dug that song a lot after hearing it! So if Spiro likes it I guess I have to have it on my list as well!

A couple of more intense tracks I'd like to quiz you on also - tell us about the lyrics behind the very emotional At The End Of The Day?
I guess you have to ask Goran about this track as he's the one responsible for the lyrics on that tune!

How about Oh Maddy? There's a definite story there. Musically is reminded me of Journey's Raised On Radio record...
Same here, Goran wrote the lyrics, I wrote the music, so he's the one who could tell you the story behind this tune. Yeah, I agree with you that it's got some Raised On Radio vibes. I guess it s because of Sven's Neal Schon-esque guitar playing and my keyboard harmonies that remind you of that particular Journey album. ROR is my all time fave Journey record. It still sounds very fresh even today 20 years after its release!

What are your music influences as far as the AOR side of things?
I have to say that my main music influences come from the following artists. I don't know if you can label all those artists AOR, but the following has meant a lot to me over the years: Journey, John Waite, Phil Lynott, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Def Leppard, Jackson Browne, Rick Springfield and many many more.

What about the future for Street Talk Fredrik? Does the response to V shore up the future for the band?
Well, I think there will definitely be more Street Talk albums in the future. I have already the music for half an album written for another album, so I guess it would be stupid not to do another one!
Of course the response to V feels very nice and there are a bunch of people out there who want Street Talk to go on, so yes, the future looks pretty good for Street Talk. As a matter of fact, we've sold more and more albums for every album we've done even though the over all sales of CDs have gone down! That is a pretty good sign that more and more people discover the music of the band.

V is immaculately produced - just how do you present such a fine sounding album on the recording budgets of today? What is your method of working?
I just try to do my best. It's all about hard work and to try to bring the best out of myself and the musicians around me. I'm very picky in the studio and I try to push everyone involved to the limit of their capacity.

I think most will be aware that there is another side to your musical personality that we should definitely speak of - Bloodbound. Certainly a band at the other end of the melodic music spectrum to that of Street Talk, yes?
Yeah, bloodbound is pretty different compared to Street Talk. But bloodbound is still very melodic and structured even though it's hard and more aggressive music.

What was the thinking behind getting this band off the ground and did you get a lot of comments from surprised fans that thought perhaps you were not capable of such power?
Well, myself and the bloodbound guitarist Tomas Olsson had been talking about doing something musical together for years as we are good friends and I am a big fan of Tomas' guitar playing and writing. So that was pretty much how the band got started! Some Street Talk fans have reacted to bloodbound thinking what the hell was going on with me…lol…but it's not strange at all for me to play harder music as I started my musical path playing in hard rock bands as a teenager and I grew up on bands like Maiden, Priest, Accept, Helloween and so on, so it isn't so strange that I play this kind of music now.

Why the make-up, the look of the band? What was the thought process behind that and has that decision worked in favour of the band?
The make up started as a funny thing. We thought we'd try to do something crazy and wild during the photo shoots for the album…maybe we got too crazy…haha.
Yeah, I think it has worked because people talk about us and our image, some think it's cool, some think the make up sucks...haha....I guess all publicity is good publicity so all this talk about the make up have been good for us I guess. We'll see what we'll look like on the next album ;)

You are best known for AOR - but do you have a preference for style of music, or are you equally happy doing both styles?
I think it s very interesting and creative for me as a songwriter and musician to do different kinds of music, so I can t say that I prefer one style over the other! It would be boring if I only created music in the same style all the time.

You are just wrapping up the band's second album - what can we expect from this new album? Any surprises?
Yes, that's right we are currently working very hard on the recordings and writing of the forthcoming second bloodbound album. The disc will be released early next year. Probably around March/April. It will be a killer disc for sure! We have some amazing new metal tunes in the making and the biggest surprises is that we have a few new members in bloodbound since the last album. But these changes have only made the band stronger and better.
The album will be in the same style as Nosferatu more or less, but we have some small surprises for you for the second album. For example we have a big epic ballad that will be very cool! I can reveal some of the song titles: The Tempter, Book Of The Dead, Vampires, Turn To Stone, The Silent Call, Lord Of Battle and Into Eternity.

Are you up to anything else mate? What else has been going on in the world of Fredrik Bergh and what can we expect from you in 2007?
I work on new music all the time and besides bloodbound and Street Talk I will also be involved in the forthcoming albums from Bruno Rock and Northern Light. I have also talked to the great singer Rob Moratti from Final Frontier about doing some writing together. Oh, I almost forgot, myself and Goran Edman also did the backing vocals together on an album by a new Swedish country singer which was produced by Asa Jinder.

Cool. Anything that you would like to add?
I would like to say hi and thanks to all the people out there who buys our albums!

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview and look forward to what comes next!
Thanks a million Andrew and keep up the great work on your website!


Slamer (2006)



Slamer: Anywhere but nowhere for this melodic rock legend.

Mike Slamer talks about the killer new Slamer album, working with Terry Brock and his other work with Steelhouse Lane and Seventh Key.

G'Day Mike, Nice to talk to you again, this time to cover a new project from you – the debut Slamer release.
Nice to talk to you too.

First of all - the critical response to this album is among the finest reviews of your career to date. That's obviously going to give you a great deal of satisfaction, but what else do you draw from such reviews?
When you put as much time and energy as I did into this album it's brilliant when you get some great reviews. I wasn't sure how this album was going to be received because there are quite a few songs that don't fall into the typical melodic rock format.
This sort of response is an endorsement that it's ok to be a little creative and unpredictable, and I think rock music needs to be more of both.

The last few years have been spent working with Billy Greer, which has obviously been rewarding for you - as Billy is along for the ride here again...
My relationship with Billy is very special. After I had written the music for Come To me and Strength To Carry On, I new Billy was the person I needed to complete these songs.

As I recall, you originally envisaged a solo Mike Slamer album that was to feature multiple vocalists. Why swap to the band bane Slamer and what sealed it for you to work only with Terry Brock?
To use multiple vocalists I would have had to send tracks off all over the place and I wouldn't have had any control or input during the actual recording. I decided there was no way I was going to put myself in that situation. So then I looked around and tried out a few singers but that didn't work out. It finally became obvious that I should ask Terry if he would be interested.

To the legend that is Mr. Brock - he's an amazing talent is he not? Tell me about working with him on this material. What did Terry bring to this album?
It's hard to explain really. Terry came out to work on the album and the initial plan was for him to spend 3 weeks. After the first week he began to understand the more cinematic type of approach I was taking and he also started to pick up on the 70's and 80's influences.
That's when the chemistry began and Terry started suggesting melodies and phrases and became a true partner in the album. He stayed for over 5 weeks and his contribution was critical to this album being what it is.



Terry Brock

Nowhere Land is a very slick record – highly polished slice of melodic rock. I like the fact that you only release an album when you are ready...not a minute earlier!
Just how much time went into the recording process for this album?

Oh, way too much. The album was done over a 24 month period but with lots of interruptions. I had to work on other projects during this period. There was never
a real deadline for the album and that was the only way I would do it. I delivered it when I thought it was ready.

And before that commenced - how about the songwriting process? Some of the songs on Nowhere land are extremely intricate and multi-layered. Is that a pre-written plan, or does that evolve in the studio?
I didn't wait until I had 11 or 12 songs before I started cutting tracks. I started recording as soon as I thought the arrangement was strong. Because the songs had no vocals as such (just me singing key phrases or melody ideas) when Terry and I started working on them things changed and evolved, yes.
But when I was writing I wanted the music to be interesting, and when the ideas where strong enough, let them develop without the limitations of a typical AOR Melodic Rock album.

So you start with a blue print only before hitting the studio?
Yes, blue print only.

Two things in particular strike me about this album - firstly the bigger emphasis on some progressive passages of music. Tell us about that and is that something we might here more from you in the future?
Other people have said that but I don't really think it is progressive. I know I have, at times, agreed that it is a little progressive in other interviews but I am taking it back. This is why. In the 70's and early 80's, when Rock was at it's best, it was creative, melodic and interesting. I never thought of City Boy, Jethro Tull, Queen etc as progressive bands. Today everyone likes music to fall into specific categories, that was never what rock was about and so I decided I wanted my album to be a little more creative and interesting. I hope to do another Slamer album with Terry and if so, my approach will be along the same lines.

The second thing was the overall tempo of the album - compared to Seventh Key and Steelhouse Lane and in spite of the progressive parts, the album is mellower than I think anyone has heard from you thus far. More reflective even. What are your thoughts on this?
It's just the way it turned out. I didn't go for a mellow or hard album, I just wrote what I was feeling. I wanted the music and lyrics to be in sync. In the same way a good score supports a film. I do think it could have had one more up tempo rocker in retrospect.

Mike Slamer

Having said that - then you have Superstar which is perhaps the heaviest track I have heard from you! That's some contrast from the soulful balladry of Come To Me and Beyond The Pale! How do you make such night and day contracts work within the confines of one album?
That's a good question....I don't know. If you take Superstar for example, the hard guitars in the verse and chorus release into a more City Boy / Yes type of pre-chorus and the release after the solo drops down to a cello and vocal.
But to me it is in sync with the dynamic of the story. I don't like to analyze my songs too much I just go with my gut feeling. I either think, "this is working" or” time to re-write". The opening track Nowhere Land helps to set the stage because it contains so many elements, hard guitars, softer guitars, keyboards, orchestra and interesting vocal arrangements.

Any live shows planned for Slamer? Something like the Seventh Key live event?
I'm ready if anyone wants to book us?

It wasn't one of my favorite musical tracks, but I loved the lyrical sentiment of Audio Illusion. As an artist and producer, you obviously share the frustration us out here in the general public feel with prefabricated music and manufactured pop/reality?
Yes I do.

Is there anything we or you even, can do about the state of the business?
Will listeners wise up?

In America, radio and the major labels have destroyed music. Rock radio over here is listening to Stairway To Heaven or Sweet Home Alabama for the ten thousandth time. If your a rock band looking for a deal and your not blatantly aggressive ....forget it. So who knows? But I don't think anything is going to change in the near future.

Taking a look back over your career to date – there are some amazing records you have been involved in. To take a quick look at those in hindsight -

City Boy - Did your early career with City Boy set you up to be able to do what you wanted to in later years?
If by "set you up" you mean financially, absolutely not. City Boy had a pretty good reputation within the industry and I was surprised, when I came to the states, how many people still really liked the band. So that helped a little bit.

You had three charting singles over the span of 6 albums - with the utmost respect to that awesome achievement, a major label would likely not be patient enough with any band achieving that in this day and age, would they?
Are you kidding.....patience.....developing a band....absolutely not!

Streets - Your first liaison with Billy Greer. How did you wind up in the
States after City Boy?

After City Boy split up my wife and I happened to be in New York, I asked a friend if she new of any situations that might be interesting and she happened to ask Jeff Glixman (Kansas producer). Jeff was a City Boy fan and mentioned it to Steve Walsh who then called me about a solo project he was trying to put together.
We talked about it for a while and I said I was very interested. Nearly five months went by before I heard from him again and this time he said "can you be in Atlanta tomorrow". I was back in England so I asked him if I could have a couple of days to make arrangements and that was that.

Like all your projects, these seemed to become cult classics! Why do you think that was so?
I think when you do something that people think is really good, but it doesn't become popular in the main stream you tend to get a cult following.

Steelhouse Lane - An amazing pair of records, but I want to ask about the all-original material of the Slaves album. That stands today as still a simply amazing record.
Thanks Andrew !

Did you feel the magic of that album while creating it, or is some of that magic borne out of the challenge of getting that record done?
I don't want to sound boring but I just wanted to make a good rock album. I managed to find Keith Slack and it worked out great.





Obviously Slamer is close, but fans of the Slaves record and what it delivered still hold out for a third Steelhouse record...do you ever see that happening?
I don't think so, Keith isn't really into that sort of music and it wouldn't be Stealhouse Lane without him.

I was disappointed the record with Chris Thompson didn't turn out as planned. Can you pinpoint where the process veered off-course? I loved his contribution to Slaves....
Well the album was originally going to be Thompson/Slamer but then things changed politically so I just took Chris's lead for the most part.

Seventh Key - I have already covered these with Billy, but what are your highlights of the time spent on these albums? Is the next step to get ready for a third studio album?
Doing 7th Key albums with Billy is a highlight. Billy is such a great guy that I always look forward to working together.
We also like the same food and wine. We have already started working on a couple of ideas for the next album.

Speaking of next - what is next for you Mike? What can we expect from you in the next 18 months or so and thereon after?
I am going to do Terry's solo album as soon as he has time to do it. Then Billy and I will start the next 7th Key album and I will also be working on a new music library for

Anything you would like to add Mike?
Yes, thanks for wanting to do the interview Andrew, and sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I'd also like to say a big thank you to everyone who ever bought a City Boy, Streets, Steelhouse Lane or 7th Key album and I really hope they like Slamer.
Thanks again.....

Cheers for taking the time to do this interview - much appreciated!
My pleasure!








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