Glen Burtnik: Syncronicity for the former Styx man.
How are you going?
Good, very, very good.
Tell me I've got the time right.
You've got the time perfect.
Fantastic, you never quite know from the other end of the earth. How are things?
Oh, they're dramatic. There's good and there's bad. There's lots of drama in my life.
Really? That doesn't sound too good.
It could be worse. You know what? I woke up this morning and I'm walking around and I'm healthy, there's more good than bad. It's all in how you want to look at it.
I'm alright. I'm fine and it's good to talk to you. I'm trying to think when we did speak last, but it was a long time ago.
We did an interview about the time of the Palookaville, I think it was.
Ok, that sounds right.
It's good to talk to you again. We obviously email all the time.
Yeah, absolutely. You're still going strong and there's this concert you've got coming up.
Strong enough. This business is on life support I guess in some ways isn't it? Business is kind of tough.
Oh absolutely. The whole music business is kind of in a new place. Someplace it hasn't been for a long time.
Yeah, I guess nobody knows where it's going, but yeah I've got this concert coming up to celebrate 10 years for the site.
It sounds like you've got a lineup that should bring in some people.
I hope so. We should get to the point of business I guess
a new project for you.
Yeah, you know, I've been doing occasional shows with a group here in New York called the Fab Faux. They're basically a Beatle band featuring Will Lee from the David Letterman band, Jimmy Vivino from the Conan O'Brian band and a few other excellent New York session type guys. They're great and very, very serious about doing the Beatles. I occasionally either sub for one of the guys or I play auxiliary instruments whenever they need something. I've been doing gigs for them and they're doing excellent business. They're really, really doing good business. So it's basically a cover band and in their case it's a cover band of a group that I've done for years as a Beatle impersonator. This isn't like a wig band or anything like that. It's just the music but it's doing such good business.
There are a number of them. I mean you probably know about a lot of them. You've probably heard of the Music Box. Do you know about them in Canada, the Genesis tribute?
Not that one in particular but there's a whole stack of others.
Oh, Ok, I know those guys have a sort of major like international following. In any case, there are a lot of tribute bands that do well like the Led Zeppelin tribute band and so forth.
It came out of an idea I had where I every month or two, I would play an entire album that I loved live. I haven't really gotten to that point yet, but I figured the first one I would do to drum up interest would be the Beatles. Then I thought, well OK, what's the second best act that I want to do? For me it's the Police. I'm a big Police fan so my interest lies there, but it's not an easy group to do especially as a trio. It really requires a special drummer, and special guitar players. It's like I met this kid who is young enough to be my son. His name is O'Dell and he's playing the drums, O'Dell Davidson and Jimmy Leahy who I've worked with for years and he's excellent. So we're a trio, we've worked on the music. We've had a few sneak gigs and I'm having so much fun with it because they're so good and the playing has to be top notch.
You know when you're playing Beatles you can kind of hide behind a couple of guitar players and a keyboard part but with the Police it's a little more naked with just three parts. So that's my thing. For my musical head it's a treat.
Two questions, one follows the other but I'll put them to you separately.
I'll play devil's advocate here
Some people might think the timing of this is extremely beneficial shall we say?
I know, I know, well you mean concerning the Police reunion?
I know you're absolutely right. First of all, I had the idea before they reunited and we began work on it. Then they announced that they were reuniting so I said, well there goes that one and I dropped the idea. But then, a couple of agents that I know called me and said, you know Glen, that idea you had, that might really work because radio is starting to play Police a lot more now and there is a consciousness of their music spiking where maybe it hadn't been before. And you know, I don't know as a tribute band how ambitious you really can be outside of paying homage to music you love and getting a good, decent audience and good gigs. I'm certainly not competing with the Police. (laughter) You know, it's for my own enjoyment as much as anybody's.
And you're out there playing live, which is what you do.
Yeah and it's an interesting thing because I have started to realize that it's not necessarily the same audience. I have very broad musical tastes. But I sometimes have to be reminded that people that like my music don't necessarily like the things I listen to. They just like my music and whatever it is that they like. So I've come to the conclusion that it might be two different audiences. People who are Police aficionados might not be interested in Glen Burtnik who was in Styx or any of that stuff. They might not like Palookaville. It's a real niche thing.
That leads to my second question. I don't know how you feel about it, but is it frustrating to you that to be getting a consistent amount of live shows, you have to be playing someone else's music other than your own? You sound like you're having fun, but is there a degree of frustration there?
Um, no, I think there might have been a few years ago. But you know, I've come to accept the fact that when I put out a record it doesn't sell many copies. So that being the case, I am a musician and I love playing music. I'd rather play good music than bad music and I will admit to you that from time to time in order to pay the bills I will play some music that I don't like. But for the most part there's something funny to it. There's funny irony to it. This Saturday night I'm opening for Steve Miller in Wilmington, DE probably in front of thousands of people. They're having this Independence rally thing for bikers or something. They called and asked of I had a band together and I said well, I've got a band that plays the Police and they said well, we really were hoping for your music. So I called O'Dell and Jimmy and it turns out that Jimmy is playing with John Waite that weekend. So I couldn't get the band and I called them back and said I'm sorry I can't. And they said, well how about you come yourself and do an acoustic solo? So this is the kind of thing that's funny. It's like the gigs I've been doing my music at in the past year or three have been predominantly just me with a guitar doing that very stripped down singer/songwriter thing. You know who does a great job of it is Colin Hay.
I have always loved Colin Hay.
That's the kind of thing where some people will know your songs completely differently with a big band and screaming guitars and all that and I'm doing them by myself up there and I'm gonna be doing that Saturday in front of a huge audience. Then Sunday night I go to play in front of smaller crowd but I'll be doing the Police. And a little snapshot of my life is that Friday night I'm playing Beatle music with the Fab Faux. So Friday it's Beatles, Saturday it's Burtnik, Sunday it's the Police.
That's very cool.
It's a lot of details you know, and I'm wearing different hats. But you know, I actually kind of like doing it like that.
Well, it keeps it interesting I guess.
I'll tell you honestly, there were moments when I was on the road with Styx for years when I would get so, you know
routines are boring after a while. It's hard to keep fresh if you just keep doing the same things every day, no matter what it is. And as for me, I have a very limited attention span. So I've kind of found this little moment right now anyway, in my career where I'm just kind of juggling music. And hey, I kinda like it. It's keeping me on my toes.
That's cool. That's cool, I mean do you miss the touring with Styx? Obviously in some ways not!
Well in some ways not. There were a lot of things that were great about it. It's a great band and I had a lot of fun. They were great gigs and Styx has a great following and a very professional crew. The crew I miss terribly. Now when I go out and play a gig I'm aware of every wire that I'm loaded up with. Whereas it was like magic presto with Styx it was incredible what a great crew they had and everything was so tight like a well oiled machine. And great musicians too, in Todd Sucherman, incredible, and Tommy and Lawrence they're just great musicians. So yeah, there're good memories and bad. You know I did miss quite a bit of my daughters growing up so I'm a little more on the scene now hanging out with my youngest daughter so that cool. That's important stuff.
Yeah, absolutely, me too mate. I mean, I've got two small kids myself so when I travel for the job I pretty much keep it to one or two weeks a year. The rest the time I'm on base.
The last time I toured with Styx, Darla was 12 and when I came home she was 18. I came home occasionally in between but there were a lot of Birthdays and things like that that I missed. You know there's a big change between 12 and 18.
I did see you play with the guys in Styx in 2002, I think it was. The crowd just ate up when you went into the rafters and you were up in the balcony. I think it was at the Staple Center you were a mile from the stage all wired up with your mic and singing out in the crowd.
That was fun.
Yeah, they loved that. Was it that good for you?
Oh yeah and it was good of Styx to let me take such risks. It was nuts and it didn't really make sense to a lot of Styx fans, but they gave me the rope and they wired me up. I just naturally like going out into the audience and sometimes I would take it further and further away and it was really thrilling.
Did you ever get lost out there finding your way back?
(laughter) I don't recall ever getting lost but there were some times when people would kind of pull at me though and some crazy shit but I always made it back.
Funny stuff. You said earlier that you'd like to go out and play some classic albums in their entirety. I love the sound of that. It'll probably never happen but I'd love to see you get out there with a full band and play Heroes and Zeros start to finish.
I wish I knew all of the information but I know that there is going to be a European re-release of Talking in Code.
Yeah, on CD and it's funny because I'm working on re-recording that album.
I'm about halfway done and I've got new versions of those songs and now the originals are gonna be available. So there's talk about some of those records. I would actually love to play Heroes and Zeros. Talking in Code would probably be harder. That's why I like the way I'm recording it now. I've got a sort of different take on it.
It sounds interesting.
Yeah, I do know that, of the people who know who I am, a lot of them were introduced to me through Talking in Code. I always felt that there was more in the vision at the time in the things I wanted to say and do. But the further away I get from those two albums the more I like them.
They're wonderful, wonderful records and considering how old they are they really have aged well. I mean especially Heroes and Zeros. It's just a great record.
Well thank you. It's nice to hear that.
It's a sentiment that's share by a lot of people out there.
Well, they all know your website I'm sure. (laughter)
What about your time with Dennis DeYoung? Isn't it interesting that you two should find your way back to each other?
Unbelievable, unbelievable, it's a soap opera, that band, I'll tell you that. (laughter)
And, I'm a big player in it evidently. I never would have dreamed that Dennis and I would be reunited, or whatever you want to call it. I still say that he needs me like he needs a hole in the head, but he is a very supportive guy of my music.
He has always had his vision, his way of looking at things and I think he enjoys playing in a band where there are two guitar players. That's the sound, I think, that he worked so hard on, that's part of that sound. I think that has a lot to do with it, and then we have this connection. Having done an album that did pretty good, had a few hits. So, you know, I'm probably more surprised than anybody, but it's been good. It's fun and it's good to get together with good musicians and play and sing. And I will say that Dennis, his voice is strong as ever. He really is singing as good, probably better, than the Edge of the Century tour. He really, really sings his butt off and it blows me away. The guy's kind of a born singer. So it's been interesting. It's high quality. The band is really good. What's funny from my perspective is that some of these songs I've played with three different bands now. All three of those groups are fairly authentic, but it's three different groups of people. (laughter)
Like I say, there're a lot of players in the Styx story aren't there?
Yes there is. Now there really is, but hat's off because that music really speaks to a lot of people. Every time I play it with Dennis and every time I play it with Styx I can see the audience reaction every night and I think wow, this really means a lot to people.
Are you on the new record with Dennis?
Ok, I wasn't sure about that.
No, I've been busy. I'm up here and he's out there in Chicago. It's a little bit of a trek and I've always said when I did Edge of the Century I was taking Tommy's place. There was a missing element in Styx so they needed a guy that was kind of like Tommy. I guess I fall into that category somewhat. Other than that I always tell Dennis's management that Dennis doesn't need me. I tell Dennis that, but he always disagrees. He always says he wants me to add my element to his live show.
I remember being very caught up in the battle between the two different sides when I was a member of Tommy Shaw's Styx. And I shot my mouth off. I said some things that I later regretted because it wasn't my battle or my war. Those guys had a business and now they have a divorce and divorces are ugly and painful. It was silly for me to shoot my mouth off and get over emotional.
You're a musician. You're allowed to. (laughter)
Alright, I'll take it. (laughter) So what's next? You're gonna play the Police show, the Synchronicity which sounds great. You ought to have a lot of fun with that. Are you doing any recording? You've got the Talking in Code, that's basically it?
Yeah, that's what I'm working on now. I'm doing the new version of Talking in Code and I'm doing the Police and I also do these Beatles festivals you know. It's funny, I'm kind of plugged into all this different music. And like I said earlier the audiences are all very niche, very different. When I play with Dennis DeYoung I'm playing Styx music and that audience is completely different than when I play a Beatles festival or when I do a solo Glen Burtnik gig or now adding the Police thing. I'm a little schizophrenic I guess. (laughter) Like I said earlier, at least I'm having a good time.
That is absolutely the main aim of the game. You're having fun and keeping busy which is more than a lot of people can say.
Well yeah, you only live once and I've been fortunate enough to make a living of some sort out of music. I'm not gonna complain.
That's fantastic Glen. Is there anything you'd like to add mate?
No, just congratulations to you and everybody that goes to your site. I certainly go often and read up on what's happening. You've got a great site and a great fanbase.
Thanks mate, I really appreciate that.