A&R Guru John Kalodner.
Interviewed September 2002 by Andrew J McNeice
A&R Guru John Kalodner started out in the music business with Atlantic in 1974. He started as photographer and the writer of artist bios and the company newsletter. After moving to His first signing was a then unknown act by the name of Foreigner.
Over the years John has worked with Atlantic, Geffen and Sony Music. His job as an A&R guy became so blurred, a new title was invented by one of the artists John was working with. John Kalodner's job became being John Kalodner.
So check the jacket of any artist John has worked with - the credits will read - John Kalodner: John Kalodner
In the 80's, during his stint with Geffen Records, John is credited with bringing life and record sales back to Cher, Sammy Hagar and of course Aerosmith. He was also behind Whitesnake's big break into the US market in 1987.
In the 90's he was behind the scenes bringing Journey back to life with Steve Perry back at the helm, and resigned Aerosmtih to his new home (and their old home) at Sony.
But that's just on the surface - dig a little deeper and read through his extensive resume of artists and you will see a record unparalled by anyone. John has worked with such great melodic rock artists as: Nelson, Tyketto, Survivor, Asia, Genesis, Black & Blue, Blue Murder, Thunder, Coverdale/Page, Cinderella, Damn Yankees, Bon Jovi, Toto, Jackyl and many more.
Check out John Kalodner's Discography: www.johnkalodner.com/Discography.html and his website: www.johnkalodner.com
It was a great honor to interview John and is went like this:
Good afternoon John! How are you?
I'm very well thank you.
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, I really appreciate it. I haven't done an interview in a long time.
That's what I thought. I did some research and the last interview I could come up with was the early 90's. I stopped doing it because a lot of times I was misquoted or things weren't put in the context of what I really said so it sort of really pissed me off.
I can understand that, something I'll try not to do. So hopefully we won't have that problem. I mean if there's a comment you should put it in its entirety. A lot of times I'll say something that's a little complicated and people just edit or round out what I have to say.
It's not what you said then is it? No it's not what I said.
Exactly. The interview I did find had an introduction asking you how you felt being in the industry for 20 years but now it's 30 years. What do you put the longevity down to - obviously some very intelligent moves? It's probably what you would think, working with the right artists who have a lot of talent and who are stars. That's probably what the longevity is. I'm not the one who's talented - they are. It's probably being able to pick the people who have a lot of talent, who then become stars.
Absolutely. I think you're selling yourself a bit short though because I think you've done a lot of great things for a lot of great bands over the years. I appreciate it. I think I have too but it essentially stems from their musical ability. I guess that's what I mean.
I was reading an early bio and it sort of sounded familiar to something that I felt. Being so into the music and wanting to do something. Was there ever a time where you thought you'd play an instrument or actually be in a band yourself? No. I'm one of those people who were always an avid listener and I wanted to do that from that point of view - meaning really what my job is, still is, that I'm the fan who gets to hear their music first.
I get the same buzz from that I must admit.
I've got so many questions here and if I ask something that you can't say much about please say so and I'll move on. Ok. There's certain things I can't and won't say anything about.
I presumed so. There's some industry stuff I'd like to ask you and also some of the stuff about the bands you've worked with. I'll start with the bands I think. Looking through the resume on your web site is almost looking through my own record collection.
Looking back on everything that you've worked with is there an immense feeling of pride? I'm so proud of all the stuff I've done and I think about it from time to time.
In fact, I was visiting a couple of my friends in Dallas. It's an interesting story. Two women actually wanted to go to a strip club.
One woman who was actually a good friend of mine who's very normal and for some reason just wanted to go to a strip club. I went there - which I ordinarily don't frequent because I don't really like that - and they played 11 songs in a row that I had worked on, from the bands Whitesnake, Bon Jovi and Aerosmith.
I thought wow that's really cool. I'm really proud that kind of music has that kind of life. I'm proud all the time about all the stuff that I've done.
That's extraordinary. Absolutely. I hear that on the radio a lot of times where they play many songs in a row that I've done but it was interesting in such a bizarre place to hear the same thing. That's a comment that no one else would tell you, that they went to a strip club with a girl just for socializing and not to see dancers and they hear their songs in a strip club.
Pay more attention to the music than the dancers! Yes.
You are very well respected within the industry. Yes, that's a great thing; it's what I always wanted.
Would you prefer a more public recognition of the work you've done? Would you prefer a bigger legacy on that side of things? No. I always wanted to have the legacy within the music business. I appreciate it when the public knows I do things, but the public tends to be a little more unreasonable.... meaning that my web site gets a lot of negative mail that I ruined Aerosmith or I mean Miss Storm [Site web-mistress] gets a lot of negative mail because obviously they can't get to Aerosmith or Steve Perry or Journey.
They're not available to them so they take their frustrations out on me.
I'm not sure how much I'd want to be known to the public. I prefer it within the record business. I don't really enjoy a lot of the beating I take from a lot of the public who for instance take out a lot of things on me that aren't necessarily related to me.
I understand. You're only one person caught in the middle It's not the thing. I mean for instance, I get a lot of negative things about that I ruined Aerosmith. Well if people knew Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, first of all no one tells them what to do. You know they do the music that they want to do. They wanted to make commercial music, their lives have changed since they wrote 'Sweet Emotion' and 'Walk This Way' and that's just sort of how it goes.
I constantly get hate mail about that and there's nothing I can do about it. I'm supposed to make the best record that Aerosmith can at that particular time. That's all.
Let's talk about Aerosmith. You brought them back from absolute obscurity didn't you? Yes that's right.
I mean 'Permanent Vacation' was the tip of the iceberg and then 'Pump' We had made a record that wasn't very good 'Done With Mirrors' when I first signed them and I finally figured out the way to deal with them. I had to be very involved. Obviously a great producer like Bruce Fairbairn who I got them to use was significant and I got them to write with different people, which meant a lot. That's what I mean about the talent. Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and people like Desmond Child and Taylor Rhodes are where the talent is but I come up with the ideas.
John & Steven Tyler
The direction that they need. The direction yes, they're the ones that create the music.
I know a lot of bands have spent years doing nothing when they really need somebody behind them kicking them in the ass all the time. Yes, but bands don't want that and they do resent that. Even the famous bands but you just have to do your best. You're really not the artists' friend; you're their A&R person.
You had the toughest decision of all with Aerosmith didn't you. You had to tell them to start over at one point didn't you? Yes on the 'Get A Grip' record, that is correct.
How far gone were they with the record? It wasn't that far-gone. They had recorded for about three months and I just listened to it and I didn't think it was good enough following 'Pump' which was one of the greatest records ever made. I knew they could do better. I just told them they had to go work on more songs and I didn't think the environment of Los Angeles was correct to record in. They had recorded with Bruce Fairbairn in Vancouver and I felt they had to go back to Vancouver even though they didn't really want to. So yes, it was a very difficult decision and very difficult to do that with anybody let alone superstars like Aerosmith.
What kind of language did they use at you at the time?! Well it's never direct when that happens. Anxiety like that comes out over the weeks and months.
But 'Get A Grip' was another wonderful record again. Yes, it sold 15 million copies.
Yeah well they've got to be happy with that. I don't really know the answer to that you know you'd have to ask them. It was a very good record. It was very artistic and commercial.
Do you think they've done a record as good as that since? No. I think they've done some songs maybe better than that as individual songs, but as a whole album I don't think their albums have been as good as 'Get A Grip' of 'Pump'. 'Jaded' I think is one of the finest songs they've ever written ever.
Ok. It's a cool song. So that's why I mean when I say I don't do interviews. Interviewers will say I don't think they've made as good as record as 'Get A Grip' or 'Pump' but then they'll leave out the things where individual songs I happen to really like on selected albums.
I really like 'Pink'. I mean some of the songs on 'Nine Lives' and 'Just Push Play' are pretty spectacular.
Yeah but the thing that makes a great album is the Track 1 to Track 12. I'm not sure this is really a true thing and it's an important comment to this. I'm not sure that any band or single artist makes an album like that anymore. I'm not aware of any anyway.
If you think about it I can't say since 1993 when 'Get A Grip' came out that there's a record except maybe Alanis Morrissette or Hootie and The Blowfish where almost every song is good. Maybe even Matchbox 20. For instance 'Jaded' making my 2nd or 3rd Aerosmith song of all time so there are definitely moments of brilliance no matter what it is.
Absolutely and I hope they continue to do that. When I compiled the greatest hits it just came out when I was listening to all the songs. I have to say that I probably listened to 'Jaded' and 'The Other Side' the most from all the songs.
'The Other Side' from 'Pump'? Exactly.
I think Aerosmith were amazing in that they could tap into the youth, be trendy to the youth Right now they are about to embark on a sold out tour, a bigger tour than ever. That's amazing, because they tapped into an audience from 12 to 50 years old now.
I think there's only one other band that does that at the moment and I think you're working with them a little bit and that's Bon Jovi. I've always A&R'd their records. Yes that's true. This record that's coming up is spectacular.
I thought 'Crush' was just ok.
This is a way better record than 'Crush'. It's more like what we were talking about, many good songs on this record.
I thought 'Crush' was a little bit safe. I think the thing is Jon Bon Jovi was very focused on the songs for this record. Jon and Ritchie were very focused on the songs.
I'm looking forward to hearing it. I think you will really like it.
Great. Another band that you've championed through your career is of course Journey and if there's any band that generates more hate mail I'd like to see it. I've never seen such craziness as what goes on with Journey fans.
The greatest thing to me would be a tour with the original band, with Steve Perry.
God knows I've tried everything I know for the last 6 or 7 years and I don't know what else I could do. I'm sick of people writing to me about this because there's nobody who want Steve Perry to sing with Journey more than me. So I don't know what else to do.
Is Steve just not interested in touring? I think that's what it is. That's exactly my opinion. He's not interested in touring. Maybe one day he will be.
Probably one of the greatest singers in history.
So I talk to him a lot and there's no thing I've said that motivates him. I don't know what else to do about it. I'm sick of these people writing to me.
I understand. I've had a fair few emails sent to me over the years. Well Kevin Shirley had to change his AOL account because he got so much hate mail from those people.
They're a dedicated bunch aren't they? I mean that's great being dedicated to music, you know how I feel about that. That's what makes the music business great is the fans.
Journey (and Hagar) manager Irving Azoff, Kalodner and Jonathan Cain.
Is Steve working on anything for himself? I don't know, I think he is but I don't know if it'll ever get done. I know he looks great.
As much as I'm a huge Journey/Perry fan, personally I do love Steve Augeri. Was he the best man to fill Steve's shoes? I thought so, I thought he was the best man to replace Steve Perry but you know what? He's not Steve Perry.
Yes absolutely. I think I've heard that on this new EP that they're trying to get away from that a little bit. Yes maybe but I don't care what they do Journey is Journey and so that's it. That's my opinion.
Yeah I understand. I mean the thing is if Steve Perry wasn't going to sing, wasn't going to tour obviously somebody should go and sing the songs because 10,000 people come see them a night want to hear those songs. There's an obvious desire for that. Steve Augeri, I like him and he's one of the nicer guys in the music business, really cool, nice to be around with good vibes and I think the shows are pretty good but he isn't Steve Perry.
Perry was one in a million. One in a million, absolutely.
Are you sorry to see the band leave Sony? Yes.
Any chance you might draw them back? I don't really know. It'll be interesting to see what happens. I can't imagine that they would be brought back with Steve Augeri. That's just a guess.
The Steve Perry thing, that might be another story. I just don't know.
What killed 'Arrival' sales wise? Was it the leak to the Internet, file sharing or lack of promotion? It was a great record I thought. I don't know the answer to that. I can tell you that file sharing really hurts records. I can guarantee you that.
There are probably other factors but I don't know them. File sharing is deadly to those kinds of records. Those kinds of records that are right on the edge that sell 250,000 or whatever. This is the one with Augeri right?
Yes. It was right on the edge of doing well and then that 40% or 50% of music that gets stolen by file sharing is a significantly damaging amount. That definitely hurt that record.
That was out in advance in Japan, which didn't help matters with people getting files. What about the Bon Jovi record, which has a 1-month lead in Japan, isn't that going to hurt or are they that big? If that is the truth and I don't know that to be the truth - but if it is the truth that's very damaging. I don't even know what to say about that. If that's the truth that it's coming out, the whole album 1-month before hand it's going to be severely pirated.
That's what I thought. I even said something to the same effect on my web site on the news. The Jovi web site has September 11th for Japan and 9th October for the USA. [Accurate release dates] I don't really know what to say about that.
It really flies in the face of everything doesn't it? Yes. We're having severe problems with that.
I actually said on my site that I think the date will change. [It hasn't] I hope so.
Another band that I know you've been a long time fan of this guy and I just love him to death and that's Sammy Hagar. Love Sammy Hagar.
He's one of the most charismatic front men. He's one of the greatest ever. He's great in his show, that whole tour I've seen it, it's great. Hopefully, I know that he and Dave want to run with Van Halen again with some summer tour so I hope that happens.
Do you think it's realistic for both of them to do a show? I know that it is. I don't think that - it is. They will definitely do it. It's really funny you have an exclusive on that. I spoke to Sammy and Irving Azoff the manager and I think under the right conditions they would definitely do it.
It's just convincing one Eddie Van Halen? Oh I think its convincing Alex Van Halen.
Oh really? I think to some extent. I hope it happens, it would be awesome. Those brothers are awesome. I love them. They are one of the greatest music bands ever. Sammy and Dave would do it.
What about all this press between Sam & Dave, is it just bullshit to hype up the competition angle? Well there is severe competition between the two of them absolutely.
Kalodner & Sammy Hagar, August 2002.
Sometimes that kind of atmosphere breeds greatness. I think so; I think it breeds greatness. There was one leg and now they're doing a second leg right so how bad could it be.
Exactly! It can't be that bad. That would be awesome if they did a tour next summer or the one after.
I'd fly to the States to see that. Yes you would definitely want to for that.
I saw them with Sammy in '93 and I saw them with Gary in '98.
It's funny Sammy Hagar has told me for many years that he always wanted to do a tour with David Lee Roth. Yes he really did, I have to give him credit. He told me that for 6 or 7 years. Yes that's true he's always wanted to do one tour with Dave.
What a greatest hit set that would be. Yep. I think so. This is what he's always told me but I can't account for how it would happen.
I think nothing would bring the fans together more than that. He's all for it.
In your opinion do you think they would record an album that way? I don't know the answer to that.
I think a lot of the bands, if the touring is good or if there is an MTV unplugged for VH1. I guess if they enjoy the experience they might do it. The live business is so much more important than the recorded business. I think the tour would be the focus.
A lot of money to be made there. A lot of money.
Were you involved at all with the band and the pseudo reunion with David a couple of years back that never got off the ground? No I wasn't actually and I'm sort of glad I wasn't at the time.
That was bizarre. No I was not. I mean I love David Lee Roth and I really like the brothers, it's just one of those things I hope it happens. I mean I've only had good experiences with all of them.
Fantastic. I'm really pleased to hear that. Yeah anything I could do I would try to do it.
The Planet Us project is an interesting angle. Yeah I think so, but it's a whole different thing than having David in Van Halen. The Planet Us is a real cool thing. That's a whole different story that's an artistic thing. I'd like to do it, I'm interested in the music but it's just not like having Van Halen.
It'll just be a project? Yes.
Will they record an album or do a tour? I don't know yet. I guess I'll talk to him [Sammy] when he gets off the tour. I hope so.
Another band that you've had numerous dealings with on and off - and I'm wondering if it's back on is the awesome David Coverdale? Well David and I have been really close all these years. I really haven't had that much of a working relationship with him lately.
Any time he needed me I would work with him. I love the guy, I loved his music and it was great working with him. When you think about it, it was 11 or 12 years already.
If he ever wants to do anything, I would.
He is Whitesnake but I believe there should be a band Whitesnake. I also believe he should work with John Sykes. I've told him this for years.
I interviewed him and asked him the same thing but he thankfully didn't hang up on me. He's so great.
Yeah once again I think he's one of the greatest vocalists ever. Right. He's one of those Top 10 greatest vocalists, along with Robert Plant, Steven Tyler, Roger Daltrey and Steve Perry.
For me Whitesnake '1987' is in my Top 5 favorite albums. Yeah that's right, for me too. I'd always work with him.
Another person who I think is a great singer, an even better songwriter and an all-round good guy is Jack Blades. Yes. He's actually a good friend of mine. A great songwriter and a really great singer,
he really needs to be in a band or should really think about a new band for next year. He should have a brand new band.
Again I'll talk to him about it.
I talk to him now and again and he's always saying, What should he do next? He should have a brand new band with another singer just like Damn Yankees was.
Just not Damn Yankees? No not them but like Damn Yankees was.
I didn't get into 'Don't Tread' as much but I think the first Damn Yankees record is another in my Top 10 of all time. Yeah that's a great record. I don't think 'Don't Tread' was as good.
You are working with Toto a little bit? I don't work with them very much I mostly really pay attention and oversee their catalogue reissues and re-mastering of various formats of their classic records. I don't work with them day to day.
I just love their music.
So do I. I must admit I just got an advance copy of their covers album and I wasn't that impressed. I didn't do that.
I heard that Steve Lukather had been producing an album with Jeff Beck? He was years ago. I haven't actually stayed in touch with that. Jeff Beck was very frustrating for me to work with so I sort of forgot about it. I would always do anything with Steve Lukather. He's another guy who is supremely talented. He 'd probably know more about that than I do.
Is there any band that you've worked with before that you'd really like to work with again at the moment? That's a really good question.
I'd still want to work with Cinderella. It just hasn't seemed to work out. I think they're amazing. I'd love to work with the Goo Goo Dolls actually. I'd really like to A&R a Genesis reunion. You get all the exclusives. I love Genesis; I'd love to work with Peter Gabriel, Phil, Mike and Tony. It's on my wish list.
Is it possible? I don't know. I could tell you more when I research it in the next few months.
There's another artist that I'd really like to make a record with and that's Billy Joel. I love Billy Joel.
I was really disappointed when he said he wasn't going to write new pop music anymore. That may not be true, we'll see. Maybe that's not going to stick.
There are a lot of records for a hundred different reasons that have never been released. The public knows of some of it but how much stuff is sitting in record company vaults around the world? I don't really know the answer to that. Some records don't get released for various reasons.
The last Damn Yankees album didn't get released. I didn't think it was quite good enough and at the time with 80's style rock you'd have to come up with something pretty spectacular. I was disappointed in the record mostly because of Tommy Shaw's non-participation. I say that was probably the greatest problem. Tommy was totally an integral part of it. He was busy with Styx and it was sort of my mistake because I just couldn't control him. It's one of those projects that I failed on.
It's interesting to hear you say that. I mean the buck stops here. It lacked the input of Tommy Shaw.
Would you consider any other of the projects you've worked on as a failure?
I mean you've had so many hits it's just incredible. So many hits. Let's see. I can't think off hand but that's one of them, a real good example. I was focused on that record and I love the band and it shows you that an A&R person can't do everything. The lack of one of the stars of the band was the undoing of that record. That's a prefect example. No one has ever asked me that before. You can fail. Sometimes you just can't get it right.
Well that's perfectly reasonable if you look at your catalogue of records and releases. That's true. I couldn't substitute Tommy Shaw.
Any other records that you've worked on that haven't been released? Not really, very unusual for me. I don't hide many of them. I didn't get a chance to make a Cinderella album. I think there are a few in the 80's when I was at Geffen. I think there were a few mis-starts that I had. I'd really have to search my memory for what they are.
Do you consider your Geffen years a highlight, the best part? Absolutely, without question.
That was a big era for rock 'n roll wasn't it? Also the way the time was in the 80s working for David Geffen who let me do exactly what I wanted. Yes that was the highlight of my career.
You may not be able to go here but what's happening with Portrait in the future? Really nothing's happening with Portrait. I mean they'll be some bands on it like Union Underground and I'll be making a record with them. It's totally owned by the Sony Corporation and its part of Columbia Records. I don't really have to worry what's happening with Portrait. Iron Maiden will be on Portrait.
It's sort of a simple but true answer. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to do as many 80's records as possible because most of the major companies, including Sony didn't really want to be in that business. It's just that simple. I don't think there's anything more complicated than that. I don't think they wanted to be in that business of selling 50,000 or 100,000 records.
It's a shame because I think some of the smaller labels if you told them a record would sell 100,000 records they would be spectacularly happy. I agree. On the other hand they [Sony] are very interested in Iron Maiden and Union Underground.
That's positive. I'll ask you a couple of industry type questions now.
First off - on the label thing have you ever considered your own label? No never, I never would. Not interested.
Too much grief? Too much everything. I make records I don't run companies.
So we talked about file sharing being a problem on the Internet but are their good things on the Internet? Do record companies understand the promotional capabilities? I have no idea. In my opinion there's no good thing about the Internet.
Really? Just a bunch of pirates? I don't know. You notice I have a web site. I don't rely on that for my income. If I did I would be poor.
I'm sorry the Internet ever came along. It's important for you to say that I have a web site and it's important to me, I pay attention to it and I spend a lot of time with Miss Storm on it but if I could turn back time I wouldn't want the Internet.
I don't think it's a positive thing for creative people especially musicians and possibly movies. I don't think it's going to have a positive effect on music.
Well at least it has certainly complicated things hasn't it? Yes it's certainly complicated and it's going to be very negative for the record companies and the artists.
What about bigger issues such as Payola and Pay for Play on radio? Luckily I know nothing about that, thank God.
Do you think labels abandon bands too early these days and they don't let them grow over 2 or 3 records and hope that say their 4th is a hit record? Sometimes. I'm not really going to get into that, it's open too much for interpretation and dangerous to comment on.
What young bands out there at the moment do you think are going to be around in 10 years? Nickelback with that guy Chad Kroeger. Creed probably. They'd be the two off the top of my head.
I think the Goo Goo Dolls. I think they'll be around. I think they're super talented.
I think the bass player Robbie has to stop singing. Yes. Well I'll tell them when I see them next.
I think Johnny's got such a great voice. Yes. I think he's the one who should sing all the time.
Do you ever get sent some of these records made by some of the smaller European melodic labels? Sometimes I listen to those things. It's just that a lot of times the music is very orientated towards the 80's and there's really nothing I can do. If I couldn't do anything about Cinderella, what could I do with some of these other things? I listen to a lot of the European stuff only because it tends to be better than so much other stuff I listen to. In terms of signing new bands I have to tell you that younger bands really have the edge over anybody else now. I'm sorry to say but it's true.
A couple of these labels have released stuff by artists that have been wise enough to have their own home studios and it's major label quality, some of the CDs.
I'm wondering if you've heard of a band called 'Harem Scarem'? I'll try to check it out. Definitely the way to go. For younger bands especially if they want to play melodic rock is to do it in their home studio. The more control the better for the band. I would encourage that really.
I hope that music is being made that was similar to music being made in the 80's but by bands that are 19.
I think bands like SR-71 have that sort of edge. I think so too. I saw them open for Bon Jovi. Really on the other hand it's all about the songs. If you listen to 'Hero' by Chad Kroeger, Jon Bon Jovi could have sung that song.
The talent of the songwriter with a good voice is still the thing that's most important.