- Interviews
Ricky Phillips

Ricky Phillips has been more then just the bass player in some of hard rocks' best bands, spanning from the late seventies to the late nineties, when Ricky continues to write and record some of the more classic recent releases. It all started in the seventies with a little know act called the Baby's, featuring the fresh talent of Ricky, vocalist John Waite and keyboard player Jonathan Cain. The band became huge and went on to sell millions of records.
In the eighties Rick took to television and film writing, until the chance to team with Waite and Cain came again in Bad English, who bought us two albums of tunes pure AOR is made of.
After Bad English fell apart badly, Ricky continued to write, produce and record as a session player, in high demand.
Most recently he has played bass on the Coverdale/Page album, and recorded a great album with ex-Toto vocalist Fergie Frederikson. On that album, Ricky produced, wrote most of the material, sang lead on one track and backing on the rest, and of course played his bass.
In tune with always keeping busy, Ricky talks about another Frederikson/Phillips record, possible liaison with Bruce Gowdy and Kelly Hansen in 'Heaven And Earth', and working with rocks' hardest working vocalist Jeff Scott Soto on a 'pet project'.
And thrown in for good measure, some more stories of Lead Singer Disease, so elegantly highlighted by Eddie Van Halen recently!

How's things going?
Things are going good, man, things are going good. You know, there's always something going on.

I hear you have a new project together.
Well, I 'm doing a few things. I have just been asked to do another Frederikson/Phillips album, which is a thing I did, I don't know if you are aware of that.

I was going to get to that, it was one of my favourite albums of last year!
Oh, thank you very much.

I think that is superb!
Oh, thankyou. Well Fergie and I had a great time doing it, it was really quick and fast the way we had to do it, but we may be doing another one here. Magnus, who actually signed us to the Swedish label that started that with, has now ended up at another label MTM.

Yeah, I know Magnus.
Okay. And he wants Fergie and I to do another one where he can, er - he left the label before we really were finished, and it never really got the push or anything once it was released. So anyway he wants us to do another one.
So it looks like we probably will at some point, I kinda have been putting material together for that. It will probably be a bit of a direction change, Fergie and I talked about trying to do something that's a little more, er I don't know - we haven't really figured out what, but we want to make this one a little different than the first one.

But anyway, that's going on, and I 've been working with Jeff Scott Soto, and a guy by the name of Marcus Nand, who is a young guitar player from Spain.

That I didn't know about.
Yeah it's actually a project that I have had in the works for a few years, but it's just kinda one of those things that I have really been taking my time on it, and trying to....I want it to be exactly what I want to do. So it's not really following any trend, it's kind of it's own thing. It doesn't sound like anyone else. And I think um, the whole point of it is to try and get an American deal. So we'll see.
What project were you talking about?

The thing I heard about was with Bruce Gowdy and Kelly Hansen.
Well you know, Bruce and I work all the time.

Yeah, like on Frederikson/Phillips.
Yeah, yeah, Bruce and I wrote a song together on that and I played on when he was with interscope, I played on the Unruly Child album, and I have done a lot of the projects he's produced, I've played on. I just did a session for him a couple of days ago. But um, Bruce and I have been threatening to do something, whether it's going to be with Kelly, um I don't know. I mean, to be honest with you we haven't really put that thing in full motion, we've hung out, we've talked it around and I know there has been a lot of stuff discussed and talked about, but I haven't really committed to anything yet.

So we're jumping the gun a little bit with that one?
Yeah, I think so. As far as my involvement goes, they may be into something, but I don't' know, it just depends. If there is something real substantial, something I really like then I would be all for it, but I haven't really committed to anything with those guys.

Yeah, I've been doing sessions. I've been playing on a few records here and there. I did a couple of guest spots on a couple of those tribute records. You know, just writing and producing a few things, and trying to stay busy.

Sounds like it! So is there anything else in the works at the moment? What will be the next record that Ricky Phillips plays on, that comes out?
It's really hard to say because right now there is a whole lot of stuff going on. I got a call from Keith Olsen who produced stuff with the Babys a few years back. He just called me this morning, and he's got some stuff he's working on, he said he couldn't talk too much about it yet, he was just wondering about my availability, so if that's something that is going to start soon, there's something there.
There's also a few things in the works, people who have been calling me asking me if I am available to play on stuff, but as far as any real major deal - the stuff I'm working on with Jeff Scott Soto and Marcus Nand, which is nameless at this point, is probably the main thing I'm kinda excited about.

He's a great singer.
Oh yeah, Jeff's great. And I have been writing this stuff, this style of music, I'm not sure how to describe it, but the're songs, it's really a singers type of thing, you know. And I have always thought Jeff is a great singer who always ends up in these kind of faceless projects that don't really, you know.

Yeah, He's been in a few hasn't he?!
Yeah, you know what I'm saying. I said Jeff, you are going to be the guy who nobody really knows who he is because the kind of projects you get involved in are all projects that don't have personality to them, and so I said, you should check some of this stuff out and tell me if you are interested. I played him the material, this was like, over a year ago, he's as busy as I am doing stuff. So this has become each of our pet project and we're in no rush about it, we want to make it right. It's a lot of fun when we get together we are excited about it. The problem is it's not a project, it's more like a band, something we want to be involved in. So we don't have a time limit on it, we're not trying to beat the clock. It's different than just being in a project.

You were talking about your songwriting, how it hasn't particularly had a vein to it, or a direction. The stuff you wrote on Frederikson/Phillips is pretty diverse also.
Yeah, you know I don't know if that's good or bad. I'm always like that.

I thing it worked great on the album.
Well thanks, I hoped it would. I hate to do whole record that sounds like one song continues from the next, I like to do a little bit of everything. The one song I did with Alan White for example, I wanted to create that early seventies sound.

That's got a huge seventies epic feel to it.
Yeah, I just kinda wanted to have some fun with that, and then it goes into that sort of Pink Floyd middle section. But you know, I had a couple of the guys that work in and out of the Tower Of Power horns over the years, come in and blow horns on a couple of the songs. And a couple of the songs had the female backing vocals kinda thing, and I just want to try a little of everything.
This project with Jeff is really based around two guitars, cause I'm playing one of the guitars. I am playing bass so far on all of the recordings, but I really would like to find at some point a bass player to take over, because I'm playing guitar. Marcus and I have developed a sort of two guitar style with a lot of finger picking and some flamenco and a little bit of be bop and some blues, but not really rock at all!

And Marcus played with you on the Frederikson/Phillips.
Yeah, Marcus and I wrote a song on there called Queen Bee.

And you sang on that track!

It sounded great!
Yeah, thanks man! It's funny, a lot of people er, Fergie kinda dumped that in my lap. I really wanted Fergie to sing that song, but when I sent him the demo which I sang on, he said, You know what - all this other stuff's great, it's me, but there's no way I can sing that song like you do, and I said you don't have to sing like me, sing it the way you do. He goes - you don't understand what I'm saying, it won't be as good, you should sing that song. And I said, I'm flattered, but there's no way, I'm not a singer! You're the singer! He said, you know what? This is the perfect time for you to do this. In the end I only had him out here for ten days, and he kinda set it up so he didn't have time to do that song, and said there, see now you gotta do it!
See he's not living here, he's living in Minneapolis. So he came out to L.A., I only had him here for 10 days to do that record. Anyway, at any rate I am happy that way it turned out. I was scared to death at first, I really kind of freaked out having to sing it.

I think I read somewhere that you said you were intimidated singing after Fergie.
Oh, absolutely. Extremely intimidated! I have worked with Sammy Hagar, David Coverdale, John Waite, even John Parr who was an English singer, these guys are amazing singers. I have even worked with Roger Daltry on a project. He came over here when he had a solo record, and Pat Torpey from Mr Big, he and I did some stuff for him. And I have worked with some amazing singers. So I don't put myself in that category, it was fun to do. It was a great one-off situation, to be able to sing, I enjoyed it.

It did sound good!
Well I did another singing thing as a matter of fact, this summer. I starred in a short film that was shot in Los Angeles. It was just for these festivals, it was a twenty five minute short. I played the part of this other song writer, this guys name is H.T, and the name of the movie was H.T's Song. And at the end of the movie, I wrote the music for the movie, and the very last song is H.T's song, and I had Jeff come in and sing it and I sent it in, and the producer calls me up and says there's only one problem. She says who's singing this? I said well, Jeff Scott Soto. She goes, well he's got an incredible voice, but it's nothing like you would sing it, it has to be you, the guy in this movie, singing this song. You gotta be able to tell its you. That's part of the charm, the whole movie leads up to this song, and I went ohh shit!!
So anyway, I got stuck with having to sing it, and everybody seems to like it too, it's just makes me nervous!

For a guy with a pretty good voice, you seem reluctant to use it!
Well, thank you, but I think it's best when I'm singing behind another person, a lead singer. I could never front the band. I would hide behind someone else on stage, I could never do it! I can jump around and do what ever comes naturally to me when I'm playing, but singing I would be far too intimidated!

What's it like working with singers like Sammy Hagar and David Coverdale?
Um, it's great, you know, theres something about each singer. Singers have a thing about them, they are the kind of people that don't seem to mind being the center of attention, as a matter of fact they prefer it that way.
And I'm not like that, it's very interesting working with people like that. Sammy is like the coach of a football team or something, he gets everybody pumped up and charged - lets go out there, you know, take no prisoners attitude, he's really fun. The only time I've worked with Sam is on a couple of occasions, we did the Bammy's with him - me Denny Carmassi and Neal Schon and Sammy did this thing. He was nominated for Best singer, I think it was the last Van Halen album that he sang on.
I've known Sam over the years, matter of fact I have been up to his house and recorded in his home studio a couple of times. It was a chance to really do something, have some fun, and he's just the greatest guy.
David Coverdale, hanging out with him, when we were doing the Coverdale/Page thing, we rehearsed a lot up at Lake Taho, at David's house. David is like just a real good guy, a real gentleman and he's a hard worker who likes to have his fun too, but he's a pretty serious guy really.

Another great album!
It was a fun record. I think it could have been a lot tougher and rougher and had a lot more jagged edges to it.
When we first did it, it was real pure and honest. But they started re-recording it, and I think they took too long to make it, so what happens when you start hearing things over and over, you start hearing imperfections as imperfections, rather then the beauty of them. And so as they started to hear these imperfections they started to correct them and fix them note and time perfect, and all of a sudden they squeezed a lot of the life out of it.
But nevertheless it was a fun project, and Jimmy and David were both great to work with.

That would have been a buzz.
Yeah, but with singers in general, I think they have gotta have it.

And sometimes that attention thing can be their downfall.
Well, it's whether or not you can keep a leash on the animal, you know! Some people are too reckless, and the very thing that could them a huge success, is also the thing that could lead to their demise.
All musicians talk about it, they all know about it. It's no secret that singers are really the most egocentric guys in the band, it's just the was it goes. The reason musician jokes are so funny is because there is an element of truth to them, but I couldn't do it! Not me.

How about John Waite. You have worked with him on a few occasions over the years.
Oh yeah, John and I were best mates for a number of years, all through the Baby's and even after the Baby's. Initially, I remember when he first moved to New York, he asked me - Lets go to New York, let's get out of here, that's where it's happening. I thought you know what, I don't want to go to New York, I want to do something new. He ended up going, and we didn't really keep in close touch, every once in a while we would check in and say what's going on.
I remember when he was doing the Missing You record, he came back to L.A. and we were hanging out a bit during the making of that. But it wasn't until Bad English that we started hanging out again, and you know, I had changed incredibly in that time.
John and I were reckless maniacs with different women every night, you know, just raging partying, rocking and rolling. And um, when John went to N.Y, I changed dramatically, I started getting into film and writing for television and producing a few things, I even did a little acting back then, I just changed my whole thing.
When we got back together in Bad English, it was a real different kinda reunion. We were like the two crazy compadres at one time and I wasn't there anymore, I was a lot more serious. I love to go out and get crazy, but not as a lifestyle.

Bad English kinda fell apart didn't it?
Too many cooks. Nobody was willing to bend anymore. Everyone forget what the beauty of being in a band was all about, and at some point there has to be some degree of a democracy, or all the parties have to agree that one person is the dictator. It can't be both, and er, when you've got four great writers in one band, somebody's got to give. The first record we all kind of pitched in and did our job. First off I was really involved in the songwriting, then Neal came into the situation, and I pushed him forward. He would come over to my house and I would record his ideas one after another, cause they were so brilliant. But after awhile everyone forgot what the chemistry was, everyone was fighting for their ideas, instead of finding where the most natural flow was.
And people started keeping score, and that's where the dissatisfaction started cropping up. Quite frankly Jonathan Cain and John Waite tried to take over during the second record, and run it, and that's when Neal Schon and I basically said at one point - Lets finish this record, but this is not really what I'm here for.
And slowly but surely I didn't change, it got worse and we really fell apart and split up during the making of that second record.
It was at that point he record company kinda lost interest in putting anything behind it. Which is a shame, because there are some really classy pieces of music on that record. You could feel that tension, which in a way is kinda cool, I mean I can really feel the tension in the recording of those songs, and I like that.

But you can't live like that.
No you can't live like that, but it's a shame because it was a good record.

I remember hearing John say he would like to release a live album from the band.
Well, you know, Tony Phillips - who is producing the new John Waite record - I know that is what they are trying to do.
But John always tries to do that, he always says - I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do it - I want it to be rough, I want it to be raw - Then in the end it sounds like a glossy record.

His last album was about as polished as they come!
Oh my God, I know! I'm hoping.....You know Tony Phillips is a great choice for this record, cause Tony knows how to get glossy and funky and over produced, but the beauty with him is that he can do both, and he knows when not to. And I think maybe this is the first time John gets a shot at doing a rough and raw record.

I don't think I have ever heard a rough and raw John Waite record!
You know what, I am producing this girl right now, and I was trying to get a point across to her, and I finally realised, and I said come in the house for a minute, and I put on an old Babys record. I said this is what I am getting at. I haven't heard this record for years, so it may sound dated, but I think the energy I am looking for is something like this. I put on Head First. I hadn't heard it for a long long time, and it sounded great! John sounded energised, and rough, and raw, and going for notes and hitting them. There was some magic I hadn't heard John do in fifteen years. He can do it, he's got it, he'll do it, but then when it comes to recording he's thinks he's got the image of the guy who sang Missing You. He's got to take the dress off and do some rocking and rolling.

There are some very dark lyrics on that last album.
Oh, man!

He doesn't sound too happy with himself.
John's never been happy with himself. Oh my God! Yeah I know.

It's a cool record to listen to for morbid moods!
I know, there's actually one song on there about the guy.....

You mean Downtown?
Yeah, that's a great track.
Definitely, I mean John is a brilliant writer, he really is good. But we'll see what happens, I wish him the best, this is the one he has been talking about, I hope he does it, just let it go, let the beast within him go.

I actually had an interview with him, I was all set and called him up, and his manager came back to the phone and said he doesn't want to do it. He feels like he hasn't got anything to talk about.
Was that Ron Stone?

Yeah. Not good?
No, he's not one of my favourite people. Years ago I did some stuff with Belinda Carslile, so I have worked with him. I lost all respect for him, when me and Torpey and, do you know Brett Tuggle?

Yeah, me and Pat and Brett were doing this thing with Belinda. He er, well he is not my favourite guy.

I think Brett is with Whitesnake now.
Well I think so, I think he is going to do that. I think they are doing some European and Japanese dates.

I'm still waiting for the new album.
Yeah, Denny Carmassi told me there is one song on there I'm really going to like. I was up in Taho over New Years, and was trying to call him, but we had this thing called the hundred year flood hit right in the middle of it, so all the phone lines were down. So I never got the chance to see him. I wanted to pop over to his place and hear the new stuff, I haven't talked to David in almost a year now.
I haven't talked to Denny now for a couple of months.
I'm a real blues fan, so he says there is one track I'm really gonna like, that will remind me of some stuff we did.

The Frederikson/Phillips has some blues leanings.
Yeah, Fergie isn't really a blues singer, but if he was man, I would have taken that thing real bluesy.

He's a killer singer!
Yeah, absolutely.

There was one other question for you. The track Loaded Gun from the Bangladore Choir album, was that your song?
Yeah, that's me. That is actually a song I wrote for Bad English.

It's the best song on the entire album!
Oh thanks man! Yeah basically I wrote the song, I thought it would be a killer single for Bad English. John would have done a fantastic job on that. The demo I did, I think was a little bit better than what Bangladore Choir ended up doing. I think it was a little bit much of a song for them to handle, but the demo of that is really killer.
And John just didn't want to sing er, it would have been the single from the second record, I think it would have done really well, but he didn't want to sing anything I wrote. He wanted to write the lyrics himself. That was a big problem with working with John, and I love his lyrics, I haven't got a problem with that.
I just don't sit down and write music, as a lot of times I'll think of a catch phrase or a title or something, and it'll start happening. With John he doesn't want to know any of that, he er, it's just bullshit, because he'll go sing a Dianne Warren song, you know what I mean? If it comes from within the band he has trouble with it.

He should definitely leave those Dianne Warren songs alone!
Oh, jeez, I know.

It's been done.
That was never my idea. I am even on film someplace saying - I don't think we should do this song, it may be a hit, but it will kill the band. And that is pretty much what happened.

Everybody's done her songs.
Yeah, I know. You know, good for her, but I'll never be doing them again.

I appreciate your time Rick.
No problem, call anytime.

Sure will!
You know what I just did, this AC/DC tribute record, with Simon Wright, and an Australian guitarist, I wish I could remember his name. Brilliant player.
It was the best session I have ever done! I walked in, met Simon, plugged in and tuned up, we didn't even rehearse the song. We played it once, and the guy was rolling the tape, and says good job we're done! I said you're kidding! No it was a good first take. We did the song 'It's A Long Way To The Top'.

It could have been Brett Garsed. He plays down here with the singer John Farnham, and they did that track live every night!
Could have been, he had a really weird guitar.

Good talking with you man!

See ya Rick!

c.Andrew J McNeice 1997 Back To