Kevin Chalfant (2008)




Kevin Chalfant: Flying To AOR Freedom.

Kevin Chalfant is another artist who should be listened to - as he has been there and done that and he isn't afraid to do it by himself if need be. This interview was done late last year - just prior to the MRF show in October, so forgive me for getting online late. But it is still very relevant and Kevin's new album is still very much a current release - so listen up!

Hey Kevin. I can't even recall the last time we did a formal interview.
It's been too long.

It's been probably since Running With The Wind.
Yeah, it could have been. I don't know if we did anything with any of the Two Fires stuff.

Maybe…yeah. But here we are now again!
Here we are. I was just looking through photos of when we were in Manchester and if it's all right with you I think I'm gonna post some on my website.

Oh yes please do. I don't think there's anything too incriminating there is there? (laughter) Not at all.

That was a pretty fun weekend wasn't it? [Gods Festival, UK 2002]
Oh my gosh, we could have just kept on going. I was talking to Jim not too long ago. We did a show together and we were just recalling how when we got to Liverpool it was like there was music in the air. We were just writing songs like crazy.

Yeah, I quite often bring the whole Liverpool trip up with Jim and also with Kelly Keagy because Gary Moon's a handful isn't he?
(laughter) Just a bit. I haven't talked to him, gosh, since then.

It's been a while for me too but hopefully we can have a bit more fun in October right?
That will definitely be the case.

I really appreciate your contribution in coming onboard Kevin. I think it's going to be a great weekend.
Well, it'll be some new memories and hopefully it'll be something that brings some support to the down under effort and keeps this music going.

I hope so. It's pretty tough out there isn't it? I mean for everyone.
It's brutal, very brutal.

What's your take on that?
Well, I see how it's affecting the people from the top to the bottom. From the way people just write songs, make records, everything down the line. How records are even being promoted and everybody's so conservative right now and it never used to be that way.
It used to be like full steam ahead with guns ablazin' and it's just not like that anymore.

Yeah, people are very worried and they're not taking the risks because they know there's not the chance of the sales.
I think, at least I can speak for myself on this, just making this record. Having a choice of releasing new, previously unreleased songs, it was just so overwhelming at that moment when I was trying to decide what I wanted to do and what was exciting me, you know. And we've been through this before as far as getting down to the production time and how many people you can involve in it that you really want to and it just made sense to make this record now. Because at one time it started out, well you know, if somebody wants to hear me sing a Journey song or two or something, maybe I'll put them as bonus tracks. Then it got to be, OK, well what tracks would it be?
I posed that question to people like; Let's say I'm entertaining the idea of adding a song or two from the Journey catalog on one of my records as bonus tracks, what would be your picks? Well it was just like a wildfire. All of a sudden the word got out that I was making a Journey record and all this stuff and I never really intended to do that.
But so many people came back like, 'Oh that would be awesome.' And 'I hope you do, here's what songs I would pick.' Then of course the band would get together and we said realistically what do we think we could do? Is this something that we would even want to do? And the band, we all looked at one another and said, you know it's not gonna hurt my feelings.
Then the next question was, what are the legalities of it? So once we had that all straightened out we just kinda said, well let's go, fine and you know what? It took the monkey completely off my back. Because trying to come up with new stuff and how do you top this guy and that guy and yourself to be able to do great songs that are proven hits and some songs that weren't necessarily hits by the radio standard but definitely in the deep cut of the fans we just pulled out as many of those, and you know we just could have kept on going. The list was like 25 songs deep and I said there's no way. I can't do a double album. I couldn't afford to pay them.

Exactly, well one of the questions I had for you is obviously the Journey catalog is about as deep as any band could get, so how did you pick the songs that you wanted to do verses the ones that really had to be done?
Well if you, I don't know, I guess Andrew it's not really fair for me to assume that you knew what we did as The Storm. I mean when we went out as The Storm and toured with Brian Adams and Peter Frampton and some of the people that we toured around with we fully exploited the fact that Greg was in Santana, and the guys that came from Journey and then the new stuff.
So it didn't make sense for me to cover anything from Santana because I kind of covered Steve Perry's parts with Greg. But so many people when we would go out and play, I mean I obviously didn't start out by going out and covering Journey songs live, but the thing that I do that maybe a lot of other bands that may have super huge egos or whatever, I listen to what people want to hear me sing. I mean, if you talk to fans. I have a lot of fans that email me personally like you and I do back and forth.
They feed me what I hope and believe is the truth. They don't really have a reason to lie. If they have the opportunity to email somebody that they look to as somebody that they like in music, if I were doing it I would say here's exactly what I would love to hear you do. That's what I took. I took those, you know, I mean, believe me there were other songs that were maybe from the newer catalog of Journey, the later stuff, that we tossed about but because we wanted to keep a little more drive in the sound I think some of the later on Journey stuff got a little softer. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I just saying in order to keep some fire underneath the sound with the guitars and the vocals and the harmonies and stuff, we wanted the more powerful stuff of their catalog.
So that kind of was the first basis that we picked. Then as we went along we went OK now what ballads do we do. Well, at the end I was starting to bring people in to listen to the rough mixes.
Family, friends, close people that I could trust that weren't even gonna leak that we did it and they actually keep it under their hats which was really amazing.

In this day and age that is amazing!
I brought in my youngest sister, the baby of the family. I closed the door and said I want to play you some stuff off my new record and I want to get your impression. So I'm playing it and she's like jaw on the floor going holy moly this is great but why are you doing Journey songs?
I mean they've already recorded them. And I said well that's true but again I have to go back to square two which is what do the fans who support Kevin Chalfant want to hear? And these, I don't know, maybe part of it was because there was so much unrest kind of in the Journey scene. Whatever that reasoning is, I just said, you know I'm not gonna allow, I'm a little bit different I guess maybe than just the other singers out there because I have had a long term friendship, kinship with these guys. And they have been very kind to me. I'm not sure if it's maybe because they say keep your friends close and your enemies closer. (laughter) I don't know if I'm friend or foe, OK.
I'm kept pretty close as far as they seem to genuinely care about me by the way that they treat me, embrace me, talk to me, call me. I'm a friend so I was looking at it and saying, well when I look back 15 years ago and I'm touring, and it was all the Journey fans that were supporting us out there then. Nobody knew who the Storm was. They thought this was the closest they were gonna get to Journey. Journey was off the road. So those fans embraced me then and those fans are still embracing me. So I really did make this record to 1) say thank you to everybody, and 2) dedicate it to Herbie who I think, without Herbie's help, none if it would ever have come about.

Yeah, he was instrumental wasn't he?
Great guy, I still stay in touch with Herbie, I love him. He's, I don't know if I really want to call him retired because I think he's more active from his home in the business than he ever was, and probably making more money than he ever was because he's just a brilliant man. When he's been kind enough to invite me to his home on the Pacific Ocean, and I've been out there a couple times and just spent time, days with him and his wife just to relax and to sort through things. And you know, I told Herbie that I was gonna do this, and he didn't really say I should or shouldn't.
He just said, you know Kevin, there's no doubt about it, you can deliver the songs but if it's not right don't embarrass yourself. Don't do it. But you know, I think he wanted to hear it too. So anyway, when I brought me sister in to listen to the stuff, at first she was sort of scratching her head and didn't understand it. But by the time we got through like the fourth of fifth song she totally got it and she goes, there gonna love it. Then she says, OK, play Faithfully for me, and I said, well I didn't cut Faithfully. She said, “You're gonna release a record of Journey songs and you haven't cut Faithfully?” So I had to cut Faithfully. And Send Her My Love, those were the last two songs we cut.

Good choices.
Well, you know, I didn't want to be tunnel visioned and my sister, well, let me tell you this, she's not afraid to say anything to me, and though she paid compliments to me, she didn't understand why I had cut some of the songs that I did, and not cut others. So I had to get into that debate with her and she made complete, total sense. I said you're right. I probably avoided that song just because of the vocal challenge but it was in the end, it was bizarre dude. I thought how am I gonna mix this song and still be able to hold water with Andrew McNeice? (laughter) And out of nowhere I get a call from Beau Hill.

Ah, there ya go.
God sent me Beau Hill (laughter) to mix the ballads, you know?

You can't go wrong there.
It was just a beautiful Godsend and a reconnection of brothers and it was just beautiful. So we've been staying in touch too. So that was a great shot in the arm for me when I was the most tired at the end of the project.

He obviously knows exactly what to do with you and your voice from past experience.
He knows exactly. In fact, he knows so much that I already assured him that the next record would be with him. Well, there's no sense running from what I know is just a dead ringer.

What works, works.
That's right.

And you haven't read my review yet. It's not up on line yet but compliments to you. The mix and the production is the best since the Storm.
Thank you so much.

You know you and I have gone backwards and forwards about production.
Well, you know money can't buy Andrew McNeice, but it takes money to get it to a level where Andrew McNeice responds. That record, you know, I've got a lot invested in it. So anybody who says something positive about it I just about want to mail them something very exciting. I might have to send you something but I'm waiting to see what color that review comes in.

Thanks Kevin! I've always been a fan of your voice and the music. I think this is a really confident record.
Well, you know, listening back you were always right on the money with the records and the reviews, even though I didn't want to face that. As time went on and I got away from things and would go to work on other things, you were absolutely right. I mean just because I wanted to get on an airplane and come down there and pulverize you doesn't mean that I didn't agree with you after I had a chance to get away from it.

Well you wouldn't be the first, but (laughter) I hate that part of the job. I really do. Everybody anticipates the reviews and it's the hardest thing I do out of anything. Well, you know, something else has happened to me since those days. I get a lot of calls because I started a thing for kids here called the Pop Star Boot Camp.
And since I've been doing that I get a lot of calls from all kinds of different organizations around where I live to just come and be a judge, and judge talent, which is a hard thing to do. You meet strangers and they're just putting all their hope into that you'll love what they do and the hardest part for me is when somebody's pouring their heart out and somebody else gets up and pours their heart out, and you've got ten people pouring their heart out and they're all great somebody's got to walk away.
Some people are gonna be broken hearted, hate you, get ugly, you know it's all those things. So it's made me appreciate what you do more. You probably went into it with the best of intentions and then once you're into it you're so overwhelmed with the good, the bad and the ugly that I don't know how you stay focused.

It's hard to be honest. It's the same thing for you guys. It's hard work isn't it?
It is.

It's not what everybody sees on the surface. That's only 5% of it isn't it?
That's true, and that's why I think with the internet I have to say, I have had the time of my life. Managers have kind of always kept the artist at a distance from the public. And I was never one that OK, I'd get a ton of fan mail. If there was fan mail my managers would always kind of sift through that and give you all the 'attaboys- and all the 'I want to kill you' stuff went in the trash barrel. So when I actually, I've been on the internet since maybe '95 before a lot of people were even on there and it just really opened my eyes to how immediately you can have response worldwide.

It's insane now isn't it?
Totally insane.

And getting worse all the time, better or worse, I'm not sure which. Getting bigger, it's getting bigger all the time.
Well now you're turning into a record label. Melodicrock Records is probably the next big launch for you right since you're already kind of releasing records?

Yeah, I've done my own compilations but that's something I've always wanted to do. The hesitation is that I don't really try anything unless I think I can do it properly. I suppose, like yourself, I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I like things to be perfect and I haven't decided that I can do things perfectly yet or will have the money to do it. That would be good.
Well, that's something that one person walking into your life can change. I know that. That's happened to me a couple times in my life. The first time with 707, Neil Bogart who had just come from Casablanca and he started Boardwalk. This guy just walked into my life and all of a sudden I was touring all over the world with songs playing everywhere. Then the second time that happened to me was with Ted Field with Interscope Records. And you know, I'm a strong believer in three times a charm so I haven't hung it up yet because things in life for me do come in threes.
So something is gonna happen for a lot of people again and I don't know if it's gonna be so much a resurgence but maybe just a new technology that's gonna change the level of the playing field a bit. There always has to be somebody in control. Have you noticed that? It all levels and that's the part of the business that's always made me feel like the people should have the choice of what the pecking order is, not the person who's doling out the cash or whatever. I just believe the people should have control of the pecking order.





I think the internet has definitely cut a few people's control for lack of a better term, hasn't it? (laughter) Also it allows you to release records independently doesn't it?
Yes it does and I've found it to be in some ways, I mean I'm sitting here in this studio and I'm thankful that I have the tools to work with, but you know everything that I purchased a year ago is already obsolete.
It's a constant battle and that what I think is maybe why I was like, I watched this battle going on with the free downloads and everything and I was trying to not be a part of it, not get involved because I didn't know where I even stood in it. But when, I believe it was the Ignition CD, I was just doing whatever I could to pull together the funds to finish that CD because the budgets are so lean for those kind of records that while I was still working on the songs, I hadn't even mixed the record yet, and somehow, I mean I don't know who released this to the hounds but free download sites already had the record.
I wasn't even done cutting the record and they were giving it away for free. And I'd taken a second mortgage on my house so you see, if people really do want to see you hang around it's sort of a, what you put in is what you get out. If you buy that artist's records he'll probably be back next year. If you try to get everything for free and feel like you're gaining something you're gonna end up with an MP3 player full of crap the following year. Maybe one or two decent CDs.

I totally agree. You've got to buy the artist to support the artist otherwise it's gonna dry up.
Totally and the other think I was gonna say is, you have hardly asked me any questions and I'm just spouting off.

I've got a couple of questions for you but keep going…
I wanna say that when we started first talking about the possibility of you doing a concert in the Chicago area, I got very excited and I'm very excited still about this because these are the kinds of things that I would love to be a part of with you in other locations of the world. OK, and the reason is, because there are areas, like in Japan, there're areas of the European community that I haven't been in where people would love to see my band and you're a help to me and I'm a help to you and that's kind of why this whole thing is happening.
We're lending our support to one another to keep it going and give people a closer view of the artists and the music.

Well I'm never closed off to any ideas. I can tell you that. I'm always looking for new ideas and new things to do.
I think at this point in time we have to. One thing I teach the kids when I'm working with these young artists, and when they first walk into the room you can see it, they're in groups, this group over here and that group over there. By the end of it there're all mixed and matched together because the whole time everybody that came in the room that I saw for the three days were all taught about the same thing and that's teamwork. You might be in this band this week, but next week you might be with the other guys and you're gonna find out who are gonna stay, who are gonna leave and who are gonna work together. That's kinda what I see here. I'm sure everybody's gonna go out wanting to blow each other off the map thinking it's all in good spirit and good fun but bottom line is that I've learned through working with Jim Peterik and the World Stage and some of those kinds of projects that man the energy in the room surpasses any kind of competition that's on the stage. It becomes a feast for the listeners. You rise above it and it becomes a team effort. It's really awesome.

Ok, so…a couple of questions for you. With the Journey record obviously you talk of Journey. Your association is long and varied with the guys. Is there a reason to put you in the hot seat? Has your name been in the mix to take over for them? You know they've gone through a couple of vocalists and here they are again!
Well as you know there's only one person or maybe two or three or four that could answer that question but I'm not one of them. (laughter)
I've always had an open relationship with them and I've been there to help them whenever I could. You know, sometimes my help was just to be at a show to give them energy when they were beat from the road. I would be there for them, no strings attached. I love them, I love their music, I feel fortunate that they let me drink from their cappuccino machine backstage (laughter) and hang out and have a great time.
You know, come on, if I ever got that phone call, and though I haven't I've been told on the internet that I have, so maybe they know something that I don't.
I'm just, I'm layin' low and doing my own thing and hey, who knows? It's not gonna be because I didn't want it or something. I would love to do it even if it was for a season.
I think the problem with, and you know I feel bad, I feel bad for Steve Augeri and Jeff because to have that and to lose it is like I tell people sometimes it hard for me to go to their shows because it's like going to see an old girlfriend.
You know, you fall in love again, and wait a minute, this is my wife sitting next to me (laughter) and she's enjoying watching my old girlfriend or something. (laughter)
I worked with them and now it's almost as if it's a conflict of interest or something. If I tried to so work with them it's almost like I would create trouble in both of our camps, so I really just keep my friendship open and I don't really ask anything of them other than 'Hey can you give me some tickets' once in a while and I just don't pressure anybody. It's just not worth it. And if they were in a situation, and honestly before Jeff got the role I thought, 'well maybe I'll get a call to do a fill-in spot, kind of like what he ended up doing to sing for a season. And do you know what? I would take it and cherish it, love it and when it was over I would still love them because I can't have anger for people I love. Even though I don't work with people, you know there are a few people that I can say that I wouldn't work with again, but that wasn't because I created that situation. They've never slammed the door in my face. They've never given me a reason to hate them. I can only be thankful that they've given me worldwide exposure. I've got nothing to complain about. I'm a blessed man.

Is Journey a band that could continue to rotate singers just because the songs have a life of their own?
Well so far they're doing pretty good at it. I can't see why they just don't take two or three guys out with them and then when one guy gets a sore throat they could work seven days a week. (laughter) I'd get on that team.
I've got no problem doing two, three nights a week. (laughter) I think it's like this man, it's what the fan wants, the fan loves, you know I love it. I wasn't able to see the band while Jeff was with them I had prior commitments the couple of times that I really could have. But whenever I would go to the shows I was in a position where, knowing I could pull off the job it's like I had to beat that monster in me down.
I got to know Steve Augeri and he's a great man and just a beautiful individual. You couldn't hate him. You can't hate him. I've had what happened to him happen to me where I'd be sick for an entire season. People would go oh he's washed up, and all this and that, and then you know once you've had a season of rest you come back and your stronger than you were. So I wish him the best. I hope he comes back.
I know Jeff's got a huge following worldwide and hopefully he'll land on his feet and move on. I have no preconceived notions of what's gonna happen. Nobody's called me to say 'Hey you wanna come join the band?' They're on vacation man. They have worked so hard that they just deserve to not even think about music for a while and have backyard cookouts. Let 'em breath for a while.

So the rumor that you were called in May to do that one show in Virginia was just a rumor.

Aside from Journey, the Storm, there's always been a call for you to reform the Storm as because there was always a sense of unfinished business there wasn't there?
Well not by our choice.

Oh no, absolutely not.
We really had a long term plan, and again, having Herbie Herbert be kind of at the helm of that. Things started happening that were beyond our control if you look back at the timing. We had grunge music in America starting to kick in and then cop killer rap music kicked in and when you're at the end of an era of music, which is kinda where we were, but it could have kept going if this new introduction of sounds hadn't been put in place right at that crucial moment. I think, you know, a band like U2 could have still forged ahead and done that but our label kind of hesitated.
Like, 'I think we're gonna wait on releasing your second record,' If they would have kept it I think we probably would have survived it and got through it and we'd still be making records today. But because you had a label that was new and couldn't afford, well they probably could have afforded to take and have a few hits because they had a billionaire backer behind them but I think that the staff was in the process of regrouping and wanting to take more control of the company away from the owner and say we can do this on our own.
In doing that, I think because Beau Hill left the company and Jimmy Iovine sort of took the helm, I don't think that Jimmy Iovine wanted anything that Beau Hill had his hands on to succeed. I mean, that's the simplest shortcut verbally I can make on it is that why would this man want somebody else's work to succeed instead of saying 'Why don't I produce the next record?'. So, that's where it was. I have a loyalty to Beau. He's a great man. He helped me at a time in my life when I really needed that break. He heard it. He got it. He heard what Gregg and I were doing. The first two songs Gregg and I wrote were I've Got a Lot to Learn About Love and Show Me the Way.

Great songs.
You know, and starting there I think it could have gone to the stratosphere, but without having the backing and the support of a company to be your legs it's really hard to do that. I think originally your question was something to do with reforming.

Yeah, obviously it wouldn't be an easy or cheap thing to do, but could it happen?
I believe it could. I believe it's gonna take another Ted Field or Neil Bogart to make it happen because, well I don't know exactly what the numbers were but they were in the millions to break the Storm. And you know, just to make a record at half a million dollars and have the production sound of that record, I mean I think with this last Fly 2 Freedom CD we did a pretty good job of a sort of facsimile by doing some sound replacements and some things like that that brought it to a nice level. But if, let's say George Tektro and Beau Hill and Kevin Chalfant started that same record in the same room in a place like George Lucas's studio where the Storm started, it could even be better. I mean I don't want you to adjust my numbers down from that (laughter)
No, no, (laughter) but from the get go you know I would love to have the level of backing of a major music lover like, I mean Ted Field was a musician himself, Neil Bogart the same thing. These are guys who had enough clout to just get behind the guys that they knew had the juice to pull it off. I think Gregg Rollie, when he got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Santana, I think he took that as 'Hey you know what? This is what I'm most famous for. I'm in the Hall of Fame. I'm gonna go back to my roots'.
That's the record roots or those records that followed and it's the more Latin oriented music that he's back into. Not to say that he couldn't follow the same history path given the right financial backer to say well look following that same natural curve you went more into a Journey, split off into a little bit more contemporary rock. I don't know. Gregg's a businessman. He's a music genius guy, I had a great time working with him. Our relationship is still kind of an open book. We're not hanging out because he lives on one coast and I live on another, but I don't think he hates me and I certainly don't hate him. I think it's all workable so God only knows.

I know Josh Ramos would be there in a heartbeat.
Are you kidding me? He'd be delivering the pizza to that session. On the way in he's grab the pizza guy, take the pizzas and carry them in with his guitar. (laughter)

Oh, you've gotta love Josh. I'm really pleased he's coming along for the October show.
I am as well. He's a, he's contacted me several times to talk about songs and how we want to go about doing it and I'm like, you know Josh just practice the tunes and when you walk in there won't be anybody in your way. Don't worry. Just step back into your own shoes and go for it. It'll be great.

It will be great. I'll ask you a couple things about the show towards the end of our conversation. But back on the questions, I enjoyed the Shooting Star record. Is that just gonna be a one off by the looks of it?
Well you know, when I was approached to help them finish this record, Circles, the intentions were, like you know if there're some tour dates and I'm available then that would be great. So without getting into all kinds of business discussions, we made a deal and then when the time came to do the shows that had slightly changed and for me to be expected to do some things that weren't agreed upon, and I'm not saying it in a spiteful way, it's just sometimes that's just the way the chips fall you know.
It's all budgetary stuff and for me to be away from my business here it has to financially make sense. They weren't at that level to, you know we all had hopes that everything would be at a certain level, and because they're not a full time touring act, I think that caused promoters to look at it as a part time thing, or whatever, I don't know. The bottom line was that I loved all the guys.
We hung out together and had a great time. We even shot a video together and all that stuff. But you know, economically it has to make sense and I just can't afford to invest in a bunch of different bands. I can only afford to invest in myself.

Well, that's where you should be investing.
I do help other people you know. I'm trying to stay open to young people and help them develop the right skills when their going in because I figure 15 – 20 years down the road I still what people to say Kevin Chalfant once in a while. Even if it's in an interview saying the guy helped me learn how to sing right, or whatever. Fifteen or twenty years from now if they're still saying my name and it's not attached to a cuss word I'll be so happy. (laughter)






I think you're safe. You've been getting a good bit of praise in the last few weeks for helping out Mr. Dennis DeYoung.
Well, I got another one of those calls like Shooting Star, because as people say 'If the shoe fits'. I heard from Tim his manager and I'd never spoken to Tim before, but Tim called and it was kinda funny because he said 'Is this Kevin Chalfant?' and I said yeah. 'The singer Kevin Chalfant?' I said yeah, 'Are you a singer that does studio singing?' (laughter) and I'm like 'What's the nature of this call?' (laughter) I thought it was a prank call at first, then he said Dennis DeYoung is gonna call you right back and I said, 'oh splendid'. I waited and about two minutes later Dennis called and we sat and told jokes to one another.

Oh I love that guy's sense of humor.
I had never met him, and this was really funny. This is a funny story. I went up to his home. He's got his studio in his home, and I got there and the first thing he did was throw the highest, most challenging song at me and I just nailed it. And he went OK, you've got the job. There's nothing higher on the record so it's all down hill from here. (laughter) I said, God I'm glad you caught me when I was fresh. So that kind of really inspired m because you know, when you look at a guy like Dennis who's now 60 and I've been listening to Dennis since I was in high school. I mean, he's a few years older than me.
I've always looked up to him and I've sung some of his songs when I was in the cover bands and whatnot, and I always thought it would be great to meet him. This was the funniest thing. When I got through singing the first couple, two, three songs, he said, 'I still don't know who in the hell you are. Who are you Kevin Chalfant'? (laughter)
So I had to talk about myself and this and that, and he goes 'I'm drawing a complete blank. Why don't I know who you are?' and I said, that's the problem. That's the problem. Kevin Chalfant has always been a part of a band. So it's time for Kevin to just be Kevin and my band's fine with that. They actually encouraged me. They said you know what dude, forget the band stuff man. It's been you. Why don't you just be you and we'll back you up. How many times do you actually hear a band say something like that?

Not too often.
Not too often, so I said if you guys are serious that would be great because they don't have anything to write on my epitaph at this point. (laughter)

I remember when I brought the show up with you, you said you'd love a chance to give my band a chance to show everybody what we've got, which I think was a fantastic idea.
You know, they're very patient guys. And I do a lot of stuff with Jim and I'm guesting with people and this and that, and every time I take my band out they just, if you took any one of us and put us in a room individually everybody would be yawning. But for some reason when you put us together, we've known each other all of our lives, we're just old friends that grew up together, that kind of thing, and we all played in different bands, but now we just kind of come together and it all fits. There are two guys in the band who actually sing as high as I do.
There are six mates altogether and everyone sings and two other singers in the band are actually lead singers, actually three. So there are four lead singers in the band and six singers total and it's a freight train. So we just love going out and we walk in like this junior league team playing against the major league. We just love coming in as the underdogs and playing and having a good time. And if we're having a good time, most likely the crowd is gonna love it. If we're having a rough night the crowd will have a rough night, so we don't take it seriously. We just have a good time and try to play at the level we know we can play, and relax.

You've got some big harmonies, I guess, in there.
Well, what you hear on the record is real. There were a couple of songs where one of the guys had to leave town for a family function and I had to bring in a couple of other guys just to get through a couple of the tunes, I don't remember, maybe Lights and something else, but other than that it's basically what you hear live.

Well, that's something to look forward to then.
It's a lot of fun. We have a great time. I love 'em, they're just good old boys man, and we laugh a lot. You know, when we started the Storm Gregg Rollie had one rule and I carried that same rule into this band, which is; If we ever have to have a band meeting we're breaking up. So everybody knows that if you do anything that would require a band meeting that means the band is going to break up. It works like a charm.(laughter)

I like it.
He's a genius, I told you.

The important question I guess is once the dust settles from this, where to from here?
I do have one thing that I probably will do before I get to the holidays. I'm gonna remix a lot of tracks that I've already previously release. But I'm gonna have Beau and some of the other guys, maybe George, I'm gonna have some of the songs that I feel like maybe got lost in the mixes remixed and I'm gonna do a kind of 'Best Of' and maybe put some new tracks to it. I don't have time to start a completely new project but I'm about 4 or 5 songs deep into a new record already and I'm going to maybe feature two or three of those in a compilation disk. So that'll give some new stuff and then some of the favorites too. And I'm even considering some of the songs that we play live. Storm tracks that I've changed the feel of to fit the band that I'm in now. So I might do some of that as well just to fit into the 'Best Of'.

That's all I pretty much had to ask you actually.
Well, um, we'll just say that I'm continuing to stay busy. I'm helping to produce some other artists, which I probably will still send you to look at and listen to.

Please do.
Some blues stuff and I know you're not a real country fan and you don't even have to put it on the website or anything but I'll send you some of the other product that I'm helping to just try to get a toe hold. I've got a power pop band that I'm working with right now. It's a cross between, I don't know if you're familiar with the All American Rejects and like Green Day, they're right in that vein and the singer is just fantastic.

That sounds kinda cool.
Very memorable song,

That sounds interesting.
They're really good and they're young. I think the youngest member is 17 and the oldest is 22 and they just blow my mind. They just woodshed and then when they come in they're like, they're going in and playing their parts one at a time and when it all comes together it fits just like a puzzle. It blows my mind.

And where do those guys come from?
The band is called Fickle's Lot. They've just got a huge following in this area. They will play for pizza parties. They will play anything. They're just doing it for the love and the excitement and to build up their fan base and it's working.

Well that's how it used to be isn't it? That's how Survivor did it.
Yes it is.

I think that's about it. I just wanted to basically promote the record. I suppose the one thing I didn't ask you is about the title, Fly 2 Freedom.
Where it came from?

Well it started out when I finally just connected with Dave he said, well you know I have a Journey cover that they never accepted and I don't know why they ever passed on it but it's pretty cool. And I said just send it over so he sent it over to me and it had the scarab on the bottom and I said well obviously I can't use that, but if we were to change, because it is like a tribute record, maybe we could change it to a different insect. Then I thought, OK, what is kind of translucent? Well I can't use a Japanese beetle because that's what the scarab basically is.
I said 'Oh, hey, how about a shit fly?' (laughter) A green shit fly and how fitting for me to use something like that. And he laughed and while I'm taking to him he's already on the internet looking for these green flies and it was just like an iridescent fly was the idea. We laughed so hard. So the record was actually just gonna be called Fly and then after I sent a preliminary drawing to my son in Nashville he writes back and says, 'You know pop, Herbie had planned on naming Raised on Radio, Freedom and they never used that title.' And I thought wow, Fly to Freedom.
So once we said, OK that sounds even better, Fly to Freedom, it's kind of funny because one night I was looking at it and I said wait a minute, I've got those “e's” there and I remember on Escape the flipped it over and turned the E into a 3 and the A was a 4 and all this and that? So I said to Wavid, just put the Escape kind of look to it. Because as long as it's a tribute record we can do that can't we, and he said absolutely. All of it in good fun, you know, just to be kind of fun and interesting and the fly is so ugly compared to the streamlined looking rock and roll scarab that they used that we laughed so hard.

Well…great record, and long overdue.
Well, I'm happy with it. I can honestly say that I can listen to it over and over and my blood pressure stays pretty level. And I can't say that for everything that I've recorded and you'll attest to that. (laughter)

No comment, no comment here.






c. 2008 / Interview by Andrew McNeice / Transcribed By Sherrie!





Rik Emmett (2008)


Rik Emmett: No More Pink Elephants.

Canadian rock legend Rik Emmett talks over his vast musical career - Triumph to his collected solo works and the new Airtime project.

Andrew from Rik.
Hello Andrew.

A great pleasure to talk to you.
Well it's nice to talk to you too.

It's been too long. We did an email interview about many years ago or several years ago at least, but never a phone interview and I'm really pleased to touch base with you.
That's great, it's nice to talk to you too.

How are things? Where have I reached you, at home in Canada?
Yeah, I'm sitting in my studio and all is right with the world. The Toronto Maple Leaves hockey team has had a lovely victory this evening. Between interviews I was watching them play hockey and it takes me back to my childhood. When they win I feel good, when they lose I feel like something's not right.

Where about it Toronto or in the area do you live?
I live in Mississauga which is sort of a western bedroom community. It's a city in its own right.

Yes, I lived on Queen St. West in Toronto for about a year in '93.
Oh yeah?

Loved the place.
Yeah, Toronto is a fantastic city. I mean I've seen a lot of places and I'm always happy to come home. I do like my hometown. I'm a bit of a homebody kind of guy.

It's a great city. It's a big city without that big city presence or without the sort of intimidation isn't it?
Yeah, it's not bad that way. It's starting to get bad in terms of traffic. We're starting to have the same kinds of problems that every major metropolitan city faces in terms of traffic but it has a nice vibe to it. You sound like you're calling from Australia.

I've never had the opportunity to travel there and I've heard some fantastic wonderful things about that, so one day I hope to come and visit there.

Yeah, absolutely. I thought we had you down to do some guitar clinics at one stage or a couple of proposed solo tours.
You know the thing that happened about, I guess maybe three years ago now or something, and Rick Wharton had set something up, and a guy had even sent a deposit to start booking the air fares, and then he just kind of disappeared. I don't know what happened. It was gonna be a solo thing and come down and do some guitar clinics, play some festivals and then the guy just literally sort of disappeared off the face of the earth.

Yeah, it happens. It's the industry for it isn't it?
Yeah, I guess. (laughter)

Well, you've got Airtime out, which is great. You've always been making music all the while but I suppose this goes back to your core audience doesn't it?
I guess if there's still a core audience around that acts like a core audience.(laughing) I don't know if that's necessary true after all these years. Certainly I know from the reaction to the record over the last little while that there were a lot of fans that were anxious that I would return to hard rock at some point and make a record that touched on a lot of the things that Triumph had done in its day and traveled around in that kind of ballpark and did those kinds of things.
So it's been fun and it certainly seems as if there's a lot more interest in this record than say in some of the smooth jazz or classical guitar things that I've done. I guess it's a much bigger audience again and so I realized oh yeah, Ok, there is something to be said for strapping your guitar on and turning your amp up to 11. It makes people notice it a little more.

What a position to be in to be able to have such a lengthy career and just make records whenever you feel like it basically.
It is a privilege. In some ways it's liberating and in other ways it's weird to have expectations placed upon you. I mean, I'm not complaining but it kind of strange that the way our world is in terms of stylistic kind of demographic shoeboxing, you know. You have to live in this pigeonhole. How dare you come out of that pigeonhole, you're not supposed to do that? When rock and roll sort of started to spread its wings and really take off during the 60s and 70s it did seem to have more of an eclectic kind of nature to it and a more embracing kind of progressive nature. Then slowly but surely the world became subdivided up into different camps. I mean it's not like the different camps didn't already exist but we live in an age now of a kind of niched demographic kind of marketing and it makes it a little hard to be an eclectic kind of person or artist or musician. But as you say, I am kind of lucky that I am the guy that used to be the guy so you'll indulge me a little bit and that's OK so now I'll indulge you back, so hear's some of the old stuff and here's some stuff that's in the vein of the old stuff. Maybe I'm twisting a little bit to my own ends, but don't worry I'm not gonna make it too uncomfortable for you. So there is a relationship that exists with your audience and with your past and with expectations place upon you so you cope with those and deal with them. It's part of the ongoing chemistry in the whole affair.

Airtime definitely touches on some of the old Triumph sound but you're also pushing the envelope forward a little bit which is interesting to hear.
I felt that we broke ground without making it too uncomfortable for fans that would be melodic rock and hard rock kinds of fans, and maybe even heavy metalish kinds of fans. But by the same token I think we sort of set ourselves up so that maybe we can move a little bit further afield next time. There's a tiny bit of progressive nature in what was going on on the Liberty Manifesto record so I'm thinking next time Airtime will be able to take a few more chances and have some adventures and then maybe people will kind of be a little bit more open minded about it.

I'm very happy that you're talking about next time. This one took a little while to get together. Was it the length of time recording the album or actually shopping a deal, because you didn't rush it did you?
No there were a whole bunch of things that played into it. I mean when we first started, when Mike and I first got together he was just after me to play some guitar on some things he was doing, different sort of recording projects that he had going in his studio where he was sort of functioning as a producer.
Then it was, well maybe we should write a few things together, and then I think Shotten had an agenda all along but he was very kind of subtle and moved at a slow pace pushing me along. I was a little reluctant and I'll admit it and I didn't necessarily feel any giant need to be making a rock record but he kept insisting that this would be a great thing, and it would be lots of fun and I should embrace this, and we'll start writing and it'll turn into something and then it was 'hey Rik you should sing these things' and I'm like 'oh no, you should sing them' then 'oh, no, no Rik you should sing it, people have been waiting to hear you sing rock for a long time'. So then I sort of got into the spirit of it and said 'I think I'll play bass guitar' so I tried a couple and I said 'Gee this is kinda fun do you mind if I try and play everything?'.
Of course it takes a lot more time to do that. You could get a much more competent player to play it in a shorter period of time, but you know I was now kinda getting into this whole homegrown two of us against the world kind of approach. But we went through a lot of stuff. Mike went through a divorce and the song Moving Day is about that. I wrote the lyrics about the fact that he was going through this very heavy time period where he's got two boys and it was rough.
He was having to adjust to becoming a single dad and dealing with that and the kids are away with their mom 3 or 4 days a week and he's coping with that. Then his brother committed suicide and that was a heavy duty thing that knocked a whole bunch of time out of the middle. Then my brother was diagnosed with liver cancer and he passed away back in September. So there was a lot of stuff that came up that was personal stuff and then there were the regular kinds of things that you mentioned like shopping the record. He started down the road a couple of times with a few different labels as we chatted and negotiated sending emails back and forth.
It's a different world now. My expectations of what constitutes a deal and even Mike's from his Von Groove days. You know people are not necessarily as willing to bank on the future and make as much of an advance as they used to and all of those kinds of things. So there was an education process that we had to go through, or I guess a re-education process about the state of the business.

Yeah, it's not real good is it?
No, no it's not healthy. And so, those things all took their time and the other thing was of course that the biggest concern for Mike and I at the bottom of everything was simply that the record be really good. We wanted to make it sound good and we wanted it to be mixed good so we had Ricky Anderson help us a lot. He's a guy, because Mike and I had done so much over-dubbing, lots of overdubs and lots of guitar harmony parts so the record ended up being very thick and we had lots of production stuff going on. So we needed somebody who had a lot of expertise in handling upwards of 60 or 65 tracks for a song.

Yeah, so Anderson was very good at that and he helped us through that stage. Then I was going through this stuff where I was sort of having all of this reunion stuff happen with the Triumph guys. So that was knocking a hole in things. Then Gil was saying you've gotta come into the Metalworks and you gotta master here and you gotta use Nick Blagona so that added a little chunk of time onto the back end of it. That was something that just helped get the quality of what we were after to naturally I took advantage of that.

Oh you've got a great sound, absolutely.
Well thanks. Anyway, so that's the long answer. It was a kind of convoluted story and it did take a long time to get it done.

But now you've got the structure in place you can hopefully do it quicker next time.
Yeah and in fact, that's exactly, we've been kind of talking around it and I've been doing all these interviews and stuff and it's the logical question that everybody asks. Yeah, I do think we should be able to and hopefully we won't have all the sorrow and grief and horrible, terrible stuff that happened. I hope my wife won't divorce me. (laughter)

You've been together a long time.
Yeah, she's put up with a lot.

You remind me of, you know this gentleman very well, a very good friend of mine, Jim Peterik. Who is an absolute, I mean I love the man, he's just fabulous, but you know he's in the same boat. He's in this crazy industry but he's managed to keep a sane sort of family life on the side.
Yeah I think it's a question of, and like you say I know Jim very well, in fact's he's the guy who gave me the song title idea for the song Rise so he's got a little piece of that on the album.

Oh good, I forgot the writing credits.
Oh yeah, Rise was like, I'd sent him a couple of the tracks and he'd sent back some ideas and stuff, and I wasn't knocked out with the direction he was going. But he had a line in the lyrics for the song that became Rise about a phoenix rising from the ashes and it tied so beautifully to some of the subtext that existed in the record. Like Liberty is a song about post 9/11 and what do you do when you're trying to rebuild your whole concept of freedom and liberty and those kinds of things.
Of course there was also the subtext of me being the guy that used to be in Triumph and here I am returning to rock, so what am I trying to do rebuilding the whole phoenix from the ashes kind of thing. So that really hit home with me, that that was a really nice idea for a lyric. So I sort of stole that line and it became part of the chorus of the song called Rise and I thought it would be unconscionable of me if I didn't at least give Jim a piece of the tune because he'd kind of been the inspiration.
Anyway, I've gone and played in Chicago and played on some of his shows and things and yeah, he's a great guy. I think that Jim lives for the music. I doesn't live for anything else but how great the song can be and how great the music can be. And because he's a guy like that he's got a lot of integrity and personal humility because he know the music is this sort of infinite challenge and he's in love with that.
So I think when he found a girl and build a life with and have kids with and stuff that he knew he had something good and meaningful and true and right because he's a guy who understands that stuff. There're lots of guys in rock and roll who don't really have a grip on that. Their grip is more on the idea of wanting to be a star and wanting to have fame and fortune and all of that stuff. There's nothing wrong with that either. I'm not putting it down but it ends of being kind of a shallower kind of existence and those people tend to crash into one thing and burn, then crash into something else and burn, and crash into something else and burn……(laughter)

I see it, absolutely. You've got the European deal for this record with Escape, how is it coming out in Canada or the US?
We did that on our own. It's not like we didn't have some offers but we also made a deal in Japan with Marquee so it's out in Asia as well. And we did talk, again this goes back to your question about the length of time, there was a certain period of time when we had people saying, 'no wait don't got yet, we've got an offer, we want to make an offer, we really like you' so we say OK we'll wait, we'll wait and we waited.
Then when the offers came when I measured them against what I knew I could do off my own site in the first few months because I'd been putting out my own little records and I knew this one would do at least as well as one of my own little records. So then I realized, well the state of the business is so awful and so terrible that these guys can't do any better than I can do. They can't help me so I might as well just do it myself.
So that's what we've done. I put it on for sale through Maple Music and we've done great the first few weeks. We're moving some product and we're doing fine and the big thing of course is that I'm not indebted to anybody else. I own my own masters and we own our own publishing so it's ours free and clear. I mean, we've already made a license deal to have one of the songs in a movie, a feature film.

That's great. In Triumph you sort of came up or evolved through the whole traditional label set-up dealing with the same label for years but as a solo artist you soon diversified. You were one of the first people out there really using the internet to its full advantage.
I know there's been some stuff written about me and media things that have said that and it's nice to read that people sort of want to give me that credit but I don't necessarily see myself as to much of a pioneer because it wasn't like I couldn't see other people and get ideas from them and started saying 'ooh that looks like a good idea, why don't I try that?' I do think that for a guy in my position I might have been one of the first guys to say I don't think the old system works and I'm willing to jump ship right away and try something new because I don't want to be hanging around on what looks to me like a sinking ship. In a sense that goes right back into 1988 with Triumph.
I really did get a feeling that if it stayed the way it was, it was doomed. It was unhappy from the inside out, and it seemed to be getting unhappy from the outside in. The world was changing and grunge was starting to happen and the face of radio was changing and so much was going through a huge evolution.
Then of course the internet came along and that really started to change things. It's not like I couldn't look and see, say like the idea of doing network shows coming off my own website. That came from Patrick Moraz, the guy who'd been the keyboard player in Yes. I'd seen him essentially booking them so his brother was actually running a business off of Patrick's site. So I went 'well that's a clever idea why wouldn't I do that?' I could look at Ani DiFranco who had done an incredible job of setting up her own label and appealing to a certain small demographic and building her own independence. Loreena McKennitt had done it. She was a Canadian who was a Celtic harpist. A very small kind of humble beginnings almost like a busker in a way in playing small festivals and things. She built it into a huge kind of international thing pretty much on her own as an independent. So it's not like I couldn't look around and go hey there're other people doing this.
It's just a question I think of having the courage of your own convictions. You have to say 'look, I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is, I'll pay to make a record, I'll pay to manufacture it, I'll pay to try and market it and little bit and have my own website to do this'. Part of the giant deceit and conceit of the record business was that all of the pre-production, production, manufacturing, and marketing of a record, record companies could turn around and say 'well geez, I'm sorry artist, I know we sold a million records and we made 10 million bucks, but we don't owe you any royalties because it was just way too expensive to try and do this'.
Well in truth, over time it became clear there was a lot of monkey business going on with the way they did their accounting. They got to be the manufacturer, the banker, the accountant, you know, they got to be everything. When the scales started to fall from people's eyes they realized, hey, wait a sec. At the same time the digital revolution was occurring and it was getting cheaper and cheaper to make records all the time and now anybody with a laptop and a microphone can be a recording artist. It hasn't necessarily made things better in the sense that we've got so much better quality music out there. (laughter) There's just so much more music out there and a lot of it is pretty awful. Now it's hard to get heard through just the fact that there's so much competition and so much noise. It becomes more a question of marketing than a question of talent and ability. So who's gonna be a patron of this? Who's gonna help artists go through the learning phase of becoming a good artist, becoming a good writer, becoming a great recording artist by being able to spend a lot of time in the recording studio learning? These things are expensive propositions and there aren't any record companies anymore to do it. We've got a lot of people teaching themselves. I don't know if it's necessarily gonna result in a lot of great recording artists that the world gets to find and recognize, but let's hope it happens.

Yeah, I hope so too, but for an artist to have the longevity of Triumph or Led Zeppelin or any other band like that it seems a fair long shot doesn't it?

Again I think it's probably a numbers game. If you look back in the past and try and count how many bands actually got the opportunity to make their second album you would probably find that there weren't that many. There were a lot of acts that would make a record and they'd be dropped. You know, one hit wonders that came and went. The business constantly fed itself on that part of the paradigm too. It's not like it didn't exist. There were less bands in the 60s and 70s. There was less radio, there was less play listing, it was a narrower, smaller kind of a world.
Now it's widened out and there are so many demographic slices but now it's just as hard to break through to the maid stream of any one of those demographic slices and it's ultra-uber-competitive. Certainly the whole kind of paradigm has changed and yet the odds probably aren't much different. I'd venture to say that there are probably 10,000 bands that started today and another 10,000 that broke up. You know, because they make records and they tried to do it independently and spent all of their own money and all of their Uncle Louie's money and all of their Aunt Maybelle's money. Now that's it. Their patronage has run out and their own bank account is empty and they go yeah, we'll break up this band and we'll go see if we can't get something else off the ground.

Yeah, absolutely, I mentioned Led Zeppelin a moment ago and thinking of that, they say never say never on things. Does the induction of Triumph into the Hall of Fame last year help freeze hell over for you guys?
I think it's safe to say that hell has sort of frozen over in the sense that I never thought I'd ever talk to them again in my lifetime. It was eighteen years that I hadn't.

Was it that long really? Well, I suppose it is, yeah, wow.
Yeah, like it had ended very unhappy. So it had been a long time. Actually my brother getting sick and me going through the process of sitting with him and talking with him, I phone him every night and we'd have conversations on the phone. I mean, he was in a life and death kind of circumstance, so when you have those kinds of conversations with people they tend to get right down to the important stuff in a hurry. He would say to me when the invitation came, and it's not like those hadn't come along from time to time over the course of the years, but I'd always rejected them.
But when this one came along I said, 'well what do you think?' and my brother said 'well look, opportunity comes and knocks every now ant then, and life is short'. That was never a more poignant statement than when it came from him under those circumstances. And he said 'you've been carrying around a lot of negative baggage for a long time and this is an opportunity for you to put it behind you and move on and try and find something better. Move on to a better circumstance. You should try and take advantage of those opportunities because they don't come along all the time'.
So on my brother's insistence that was really why I decided to try and reconcile with Gil and Mike.
It was awkward. It was not easy at first. As I've said in many interviews since, there was more than one pink elephant in that room where we were sitting around having coffee. I think we were all determined to try and ignore them as much as we possibly could, and I even said to them 'Guys this will never work of we revisit any of the negative stuff, if we try to talk about it again, if we try to rationalize or justify positions that we took that'll never work. The only way this is gonna work is if we just move ahead from here and then if we do revisit the past we only do it to wax nostalgic about good things and talk about how much fun this was or how crazy this was'.
Then it didn't take us that long to get to the point where we could share stories where we were laughing about things that happened and anecdotes.
Because it had been a long history and it had been a good one. It had a lot of success and it had good things to be able to be positive and proud about. So once we got there, that made it easy to go to the actual award ceremony itself and then nothing but good vibes from that. Geez when you actually get into talking to media again and then we were in a room with old radio dogs and record company guys and you would have figured if we could put all of the heard and soul of all these people together we might be able to build one good one.(laughter)
These are music business guys after all. They're cynical and these guys are 'Integrity, what, I've never even heard of that word.' (laughter) But it was quite, it was something, really something to see all of them kind of giving a heartfelt standing ovation and some tears in some eyes and stuff. And I felt, geez, I never even realized that at this level with guys like this there was that much kind of respect and affection. Then of course you start doing media and you realize wow, even the media and then of course fans. They go, oh God, when are you gonna do it again and then the flood gates are open and here it comes. So we have sat down and talked about the possibility and the potential of what might happen in the future and there are some more of these kinds of industry event things that will arise in the future. It looks like, but I'm not at liberty to talk about them right now but I think some other things are gonna happen.
And then there are offers that are coming, and do we maybe want to play a one off here, do we want to do a couple over here, do we want to do a giant tour? Then of course because of Led Zeppelin and the Police and Van Halen and all these others who have had such huge interest, it seems like sort of a natural spin-off and people get interested in the possibility of a Triumph thing.
But Mike and Gil haven't played in such a long time and when we sat down to talk that was kind of a central issue. There's no point in us doing it unless when we do it, it resonates with energy and quality that existed when we first started and tried it as young guys. And we're not young guys anymore. So for Gil, at this age and stage of his life, he's got a young family that he's just, you know, second marriage, second wife and the kids are still young. You're not gonna want to go off on the road for a long time.
Plus he started this huge sound and light business that's a multi-million dollar thing and he's devoting all of his time and energy to it. Then he's got the studio still running and he's got a school in conjunction with that that requires a lot of time and energy. So he said look, I know these offers are coming in an people are talking about Memorial Day of this year, 2008, and I couldn't really even look at this until maybe Memorial Day of 2009 to give myself time to get back in drumming shape again. He hasn't played drums for almost a decade and a half or something like that. So that's the way that got left. We said ok, fine, we'll revisit it again on a time schedule where we might work up to May of 2009. (laughter)

That's cool.
Yeah, it was cool, and it was very, no pressure you know? No body was pressuring anybody else it was all just kinda like we don't have to do this, there's no need to do it. We would never want to do it just for the money but of course there'd be no point in doing it of there was none. And Triumph was a band that was always known for sort of large scale productions and very high quality kind of productions. That also became part of the conversation about geez, we're not just gonna try to throw together a few roadies and pack it all in the back of a van and show up and be the opening act for somebody. That's not gonna happen. So anyhow, that's the way it all got left.

Well, I'll look forward to the next part of that. Were you aware that the entire catalog's about to be re-released in Japan again?
I just did an interview with someone else that mentioned it. I was talking to Khalil who's the Escape Music guy and he was telling me, and he said that he knows who's doing there in Japan and he's a huge collector and it's coming out and he asked of I'd like to get it? And I went, yeah sure, but the truth of the situation, and I don't mean this in any negative way at all, but Triumph is like literally, none of my business.
I don't have anything to do with it. I got bought out of it and I don't participate in it, so when those things happen they're decisions that are made by Mike and Gil and they don't have anything to do with me. So here I am doing a round of promotion for the new Airtime thing and naturally people want to talk about Triumph but I'm not really out here in the market place again trying to promote Triumph. That'll be their job when these things happen if in fact they take much interest in it, but they seem to be able to come up with a new DVD or something every now and then. I know that when I'm signing autographs after gigs and things I get new stuff put in front of me and I go 'What the heck is this?'

That must be a funny feeling.
It is kind of strange. But I mean, I'm in show business. If I'm gonna let strange things throw me…

…you are in the wrong business.
(laughter) Yeah because something strange comes along about every five minutes.

Absolutely, look, well I just said the word myself, Absolutely, probably one of my top 20 of records of all time.

Nice, great.

A wonderful, wonderful record that I've spent many years listening to inside and out.
Well, I was proud of that record. It was the first big step after leaving Triumph and there were so things that I was trying to do to break out of the mold of being perceived just as a rock guy. There were some ballads and it was more of a singer/songwriter type record in some ways than your average rock band kind of record. It's funny, I remember when it came out how there were, because I was the guy who had left Triumph, there were some people in the rock community who didn't want that record to succeed. There was some jealousy and things here in the Canadian market that I had to put up with that I was the guy who betrayed the whole Triumph thing so, you know, screw me.
So there was some of that, and then there were changes that were happening at the time where rock radio wasn't really like it had been. There was the advent of the whole Seattle grunge thing starting to happen in a big way. That transition was occurring so anything that had that melodic kind of quality to it or classic rock kind of quality was losing it preeminence in the rock market. There was that big conversion occurring. So you know, whatever, I still think like, whenever I do acoustic shows there are a lot of songs off that album that I can just sit with an acoustic guitar and those tunes work fine.

I love the record. I really do. Stuff like Middle Ground meant a lot to me and still does.
That was the first song I wrote after I left Triumph. I remember playing it for an A&R man, and I don't remember if it was a demo or I just played it acoustically, and the guy was just totally unimpressed. He described it as a pronoun song. He goes, that's one of those pronoun songs. You're talking about yourself, me, this I, he, she, we and you. I go 'Really, OK, thanks a lot. Then I said, 'Do you think I could get a release from your record company so I'd be free to go and find something else?' And the guy said yeah, I think I could talk the record company people into that. I said great thanks pal.

And he's probably flipping burgers at this point.

Ah who knows, but that's the whole thing about it. The music business is a very strange, itinerant one. Over time the only way I got any widespread respect was just because I'd survived. That's really what it boils down to. If you can hang around long enough then people will go well geez there must be something good about it because so many others have crashed and burned or come and gone. I've done everything I can to try and promote them or make them successful but for some reason they didn't survive so this guy must have something. I don't like it and I don't know what it is but I'll give him his dues. Then you see that and in the end it kinda makes you laugh, but it is a very strange, itinerant kind of world. You kind of just go OK, I'll just keep kinda rolling along and take the punches when I get them and ride the waves when I can catch one.

Well you kept making records through the years do you have a favorite. I mean you've got Spiral Notebook, Swing Shift, you've got blues, you've got jazz.
I think what happens, I mean this is a relatively stock question and my relatively stock answer for it is, my favorite record is always the next one. My favorite song is always the next one. I'm an artist so that's the way I think. That's the way I feel. That's the way my DNA is constructed, you know? I don't really go back and listen to my old records much at all. I move forward and into new work, which is what fascinates me. I'm not fascinated with my own history. The more I kind of navel gaze on that basis the more my stomach starts to turn.

The less momentum you get?
Well that's part of it for sure. That's not to say that I don't respect and honor the past. I know that for my fans, they're the soundtrack to their lives that they find to be incredibly compelling and they want their own lives to have a substantial kind of meaning so they want me to have continuity with those songs. I understand that and I respect that. So this is kind of what happens with past records. Inevitably you get up on stage and you try different things and different times. There's a few song that kind of stick with you and they're great live so you keep playing them. And there are some songs that get air play so they're gonna stick with you because there are certain audiences in certain markets that have to hear them.
If I go to St. Louis by God I'd better play Hold On because it was a top 5 song there on both AM and FM radio so you go geez, you can't go to St Louis and not play that song, everybody expects to hear it. So when I go back into the past there're certain parts of the Allied Forces album from Triumph that are really good. I think the band hit its stride and did a lot of good things on that particular album. But we'd done some good things on the Just a Game album too.
So there're a few songs here and a few songs there then when I move up into my own solo career I go, yeah well you know, say off the Absolutely album. I hadn't heard Stand and Deliver in a long time and somebody played it on the radio when I was doing an interview one time and I went 'man I haven't heard that in a long time' and I thought that's got some pretty good stuff on it, that was a pretty interesting track. So I know there're moments. I thought the Ipso Facto album had some good things on it, you mentioned Spiral Notebook, I felt that was a record where I made big strides as a singer/songwriter.

That was the real departure, when I heard that record. I thought yeah, there's a change in direction here.
Yeah and a lot of people went, ooh God he got really soft. What happened to the rock guy? That had already happened for Ipso Facto, but then the record company said we can't put this record out. You have to go back in the studio and make some hard rock songs. We need some hard rock on this record. Then I'd gone back in and I'd done Straight Up and Band On, Do Me Good, Rainbow Man, so there'd been about 4 or 5 rock tracks that I'd done that got pasted into that record.

Interesting, yeah it kinda sounds like two different records.
Yeah I think it was three different records actually, because there was some jazz finger style stuff too like Woke up This Morning, and Transition, Calling St Cecilia, on there where you can see Spiral Notebook coming. You can hear it. You can smell it.

Yeah, Ipso Facto was the crossroads.
It kinda was. I've almost gotta have a soft spot in my heart for the Ten Invitations CD because that was the one finger style classical that I dreamed about even when I was in Triumph. For years and years I dreamed about doing a classical guitar record with nothing but finger style guitar pieces and that was what Invitations was. And that was the one that launched my own little label, my independence.

It was the start.
Then Swing Shift had some. Live I still play two or three things from Swing Shift almost every kind of gig that I do other than a classic rock on. Even then I'll throw in, like we did a classic rock one last week and I played Libre Animado off of Handwork and we did a band version of Three Clouds which gives everybody a chance to just blow their brains out. Like a sneak that stuff into the set now and I'll even tell the audience 'Look I've indulged you with Fight the Good Fight and Magic Power now you're gonna have to give me five minutes and I'm gonna do some of my own. I have been making records all these years folks'.

Anything you'd like to close with Rik?
Not really. I appreciate the fact that we've had a lot of support from you on your website. That's been a great thing.

Thank you, it's been a pleasure. I'm a long time fan.
I know that the record company guy tells me that it's important to have support of guys like you so I appreciate it and it was nice to chat with you.

Yeah you too Rik, it's been a great pleasure. Like I said, I came in on Thunder Seven to be a Triumph fan and went backwards from there and I've always traveled forward with you. It's great to talk things over.
Well, thank you very much.
OK Andrew.

Thanks Rik.
Take care now.

Within the interview, Rik gave mention to an offer on the table - well, as we now know that was for the Sweden Rock Festival Triumph reunion show. I updated this interview by getting back to Rik and asking him about this news:

How did the proposal of Sweden Rock come to you guys and why did this in particular appeal to you to do?
The Sweden offer came through an agent. It appealed to us because it was the first substantial offer, and it obviously came from a true fan, as well as a promoter with a track record, and we'd never been to Sweden, so it satisfied a sense of adventure and experiment.

How will you prepare for this show and it sounds like there could be a few more on North American soil this year?
We'll prep with a lot of rehearsal - the other fellows will really need it, to get back into playing shape. Whether or not there will be a few more anywhere remains to be seen. As far as I know, there aren't other firm offers on the table as of this writing: at least, no one has brought them to my attention. My attitude is - let's wait and see what develops. Let's have a lot of rehearsals under our belt before we start looking to far down the road. Maybe we should do one concert, and see how it goes, before we commit to booking months & months ahead.

c. 2008 / Interview by Andrew McNeice / Transcribed By Sherrie!/div>

Steve Lukather (2008)




Steve Lukather: Here Lies Mr. Toto.

The self described road dog of melodic rock. Steve Lukather is one of my favorite people in this business and as has been the case with my previous interviews with the legendary guitarist - he once again lays it all bare, his heart on his sleeve.

Mr. Lukather! How are you?
I'm doin' OK, just one second here, I've just gotta fix one little thing.
OK. I'm feeding my dog right now.

Fair enough.
Now, here we go. Never a dull moment in family life.

I know it mate, I know it.
I've just gotta to put this up, hold on a second Drew, give me two minutes.
My whole house is being torn apart because we're remodeling. That and with the new baby it's kind of hectic around here.

How's she doing?
I wanted to save you for last so we could actually have a chat.

Thanks man, I appreciate that.
Usually it's just newspaper stuff promoting the shows.

Did you get through some good interviews?
Yeah, they got a shitload of them. More press than we've ever done in Australia. Ironically, as we're heading to the demise.
Hold on one second, I'm almost done. This dog won't eat the food unless I put a little cheddar cheese in there. She's a spoiled little beast, but we love her. (laughter)

So we were talking privately earlier about life on the road – how tough it can be…
I mean everybody's like God forbid anybody should have a hoarse throat.

When I was on the road with Jeff Scott Soto for a couple of weeks, it's a hard fucking slog.
It is man, and he's one of the best singers out there.

Yeah and I should have documented the hardness of it all but I had a tour to run because I was doing the tour manager thing, but you've been on the road for two years.
You're allowed to be bloody tired. By the time it's all done it'll be two and a half years on the Falling in Between thing.

That's amazing.
We're bringing a little bit more rock and roll set down this time, you know.

It's a lot of the same tunes, but with Sklar on bass because Mikey's still sick.

Yeah, that's too bad.
I wish I had better news there. He's still trying to recover but it's going very, very slowly.

Is he holding up mentally himself?
When I see him yeah, he puts on that, he doesn't say too much. I keep going 'how you doing man'.
It's a tough lot and you know…I'm looking around the stage and saying every single motherfucker's been replaced at least twice. (laughter)

Except you.
Except me, now you can print that.

Yeah, that's gotta be on the record.
Yeah, well c'mon, I'm the only one that's been there from day one and everybody else has been replaced two or three times.

We just can't kill you.
Well, I don't want to be killed. (laughter) It just kind of hit me all of a sudden and I started realizing, it's a fucking great band but is it Toto? I mean everybody's a motherfucker and I have nothing but love and respect, but is it Toto?

You still don't take yourself too seriously do you?
Well sure and that's another misconception that I'm all serious and don't get a sense of humor about all this shit. I get tweaked when people say things like I'm a coked out loser, yeah, and you can print that (laughter) but I mean, do these people know me? Have they ever met me or are they just making something of me having a hoarse voice and my voice isn't like it was when I was 20 years old? Hell is anybody's?

Nobody's you know, I don't think anybody's voice is the same.
Well I thought my quote in my email to you, which is usable, is that yeah my voice isn't as smooth as it was when I was 20 and neither is my ass. (laughter)





I'm getting a few wrinkles myself.
Well, you know what I'm saying, it's like c'mon, I've been doing this shit for 30 plus years. And you know when you're gonna get on the road, you get a cold, you can't help it. Both Bobby and I were kind of sick when we did the live show in Paris for the DVD that's coming out, but we fuckin' persevered. Then people come in there speculating that 'oh that's the reason see, they fixed all the vocals and made it sound all fucked up'. I didn't have time to do that, we were on the road.
McMillan's a genius man, he managed to make things sound bigger than they really were. When you've got a 5.1 mix you've got to fill in the holes. It's a big thing and when people remix this stuff in 5.1 they digitally enhance the doubles and the stuff like that. When we did the record all the background vocals were quadrupled for God's sake. We're not out there lip synching, but everybody's got an angle. Everybody's trying to bust your nuts. That sounds too good, or it sounds bad, or like 'is that real or is that fake?'
I mean c'mon, in the era that I grew up we didn't even…what does faking it mean? I learned to play before I made a record. So I think people are being a little too harsh. It's like they've got their jeweler's eye out looking for every little possibility. 'Oh yeah at 3 minutes and 42 seconds you can hear the pitch does like…blah, blah, blah.' Get a fucking life. (laughter)
Do you honestly think that we wanted to come back home after doing all those songs on a fucking tour then sit in a recording studio and listen to it and re-record it? Are you fucking nuts? I'd still be doing the overdubs if that was the case.

I'd think they would just enjoy the music and relax.
Right, I mean listen, when I have a minute I kind or peruse, you know I love the site, and I kinda check out what people are saying. I also check out what people are saying about other bands.
And there's some fuckin' harsh shit in there man.

Oh yeah, there is sometimes.
Oh man, put yourself in our shoes. I mean it's really easy to put down people and tear them all apart when you're sitting in your home, but what the fuck are you doing? (laughter) What are these people doing? Everyone's an armchair critic. Listen, you know we're not perfect.
Yeah, we're fuckin' a lot older, voices change, you don't run as fast as you used to, there's a lot of shit you just can't do that you used to be able to. I try to practice, keep my chops up to do the best I can. But what can I say?

And by the way, to clear up another misconception, David Paich and I have never been better friends than we are right now and I just got off the phone with him 5 minutes ago.

And yes we will definitely be working together down the road on something or other whether it's Toto or not.

We went through a rough spot, like brothers do. I'm a very emotional; wear my heart on my sleeve kind of guy and I can tweak sometimes. I can get upset about things. And we never really talked it through. When he didn't talk to me about it my initial reaction was 'fuck you' and then it became this 'fuck you' fest.
Then we went out to dinner, just me and him, and we looked at each other, and we like hugged each other for about two minutes and at almost at the same time said 'I'm sorry'.
It was almost like a perfect double and then we sat down and we've been in close contact ever since. I've been confiding in him about my feelings about where this band is at, where it's going and if it should even go on, and he totally concurs with where my vibe is at.

I'm really pleased to hear that mate. That's great.
But listen, you get pissed off at people but when you've been friends for 35 years it wasn't going to last forever, c'mon. Everybody's speculating and yeah, sure I spout off a lot of bullshit but the written word never really conveys how one feels. That's the danger of e-mail and internet in general. Even when somebody's taking the piss out of me, maybe they were laughing when they wrote it but the way it reads was that they were serious so it's hurtful.

Yeah, you can't see the smile can you?
That's the whole thing. Unless you actually write it in like LOL, or Ha Ha Ha a statement is a statement in the written word. Sometimes it hurts. I don't care if people don't like the music or they don't like the band. That's their right. I hate this like 'Journey or Toto', you know what I mean?
Or like this guy sucks this guy's better, who's better Neal or Luke, you know that's stupid. Neal and I are dear friends man. I can't be more supportive of him or him of me. We're friends.
Fuckin' his son Miles is down there staying at my son's house. They're buddies. I mean this is ridiculous. People who don't know it make these horrible assumptions. Why do you have to be on one person's side or the other? Why can't you just dig both bands, or dig one, you don't have to slag off the other.

No, look mate. I've got so many favorite bands it's not funny.
But you know there's no such thing as the best at anything. Music is subjective. Art is subjective. Beauty is subjective. Do you think that when two ugly people are fucking they're saying 'Ha ha you're the ugliest person I ever fucked in my life?' No, of course not, they see beauty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Music is exactly the same way. (laughter) I don't like everything either but it would be horrible if I were to go off and slag off bands I don't like. It's hurtful. I know what it feels like. When somebody you don't know says you suck, you go 'Dude, you don't even know me.' If you don't like the music there's a nicer way to say it like, 'I don't really care for this kind of music, it's not my thing. Good players, I respect them, but it's not my thing.' You don't have to go, 'You fuckin suck man, you fuckin suck. You're the worst fuckin shit ever'.

You're coming to Australia again in March.
Here's the thing. The last time we went it was a big success. Yeah. Except for my poor guy John Howard man and his partner who took it up the ass from the guy that owned the fuckin' gig. He ran off with about $80,000 dollars.

I couldn't believe that.
Here we've got sold out shows and the cats are all ecstatic and they thought, great you made money, we made money, everybody's happy and all the sudden he gets fucked and I just felt terrible because I consider John a very good friend.

Yeah, absolutely John's a great guy.
Yeah, he's gonna release my solo record down there, do the promotion, you know. Then he believed enough to fucking throw down again to bring us down even after taking a beating like that. But I think he was learning, you can't trust people, you think you can, but you can't, not in this fucking business man. (laughter) Cats will suck you dick while sticking two fingers up your ass to get the cash you just ate. (laughter)
It's a shame to see good people go down but it was such a big success that they said let's break you out into some other markets. We're even going to do New Zealand.

Are you going to New Zealand?
Yeah, we're doing Auckland.

Oh fantastic.
As a matter of fact it's our first stop. That's someplace I've always wanted to see.

Auckland's awesome.
We're doing that, then we're coming over to do five or six dates I think you've got it there, I don't have it in front of me.

Yeah, I've got it here mate.
We're very excited about that, then we're running off to do a Malaysia and then we're going to do Japan with Boz Skaggs. So that's kind of fitting, then Paich is coming over to play with us in Japan.

Really? Oh that's great.
So it seems really fitting that we started out in Boz's band, Toto came out of that. Now we're ending this chapter with Dave back with Boz. It's bookends, you know what I mean? Then we're going to put this thing away for God knows how long. Two and a half to three years is a long time man. Everybody wants to do their own projects. Simon wants to produce records. As some cats get on they don't want to be on the road for eight months.

Yeah, exactly.
They're not like me. I'm a road dog. I'll live and die on the fucking road. That's who I am and what I am and I'm built for it. I mean physically built for it. I'll probably have a massive coronary in my room one night, but hey, what a way to go?

Only when you're 95 thank you.
Well, like I said, you know. I figure I've got this solo record coming out that I'm really proud of that's getting great reviews out of the box. I did a real video, a concept video.

Yeah, what song for?
The title track, Ever Changing Times.

Great song.
Thanks. I have no idea what it's gonna be about. We did it in Japan with a lot of green screens and stuff so there's gonna be all kinds of trippy shit going on.

I really like the artwork. The e-card kind of concept. It's simple, but I really love the colors.
I'm really proud of it. Robert Knight and Mary Ann Billens did all the photos. We did it out in the desert here.

Yeah, it looks sweet.
Conceptually I can't even tell you what perfect timing it was. I just says it all about my life. It's changed so much. I've mean from the beginning to now. Toto's been so good to all of us. Thanks to everybody out there for supporting us all these years. It's been an amazing journey, and amazing run.
Not to say that it's never going to happen again, but you know it's time to put it away for a while. We worked really fucking hard. Everybody wants to do their own solo things or take a break whatever. Everybody's got projects and stuff lined up. It's a great way for us to end up. We're all still friends. There are no bad vibes or anything like that. We're gonna go out and do it with a big smile.





So there's nothing planned for next year or the 30th Anniversary?
Oh no. No, no, no…nothing. The books are clean. Instead of the 30th it'll probably be the 35th Anniversary. (laughter) At that point who knows what's gonna happen.
I cannot predict the future. All I know is that we've worked very, very hard and everybody wants to do some different things.

That's fair enough too.
If you put yourself in my position with people saying 'well you ought to do the 30th tour next year', those people haven't done what we've just done. You be away from home for 2 and a half years and then say it. A lot of these guys in the band just don't want to do that. So, no, no, no, no, no not at this point.
I'm gonna go out and concentrated on my solo stuff and do some really weird, bizarre, obscure Toto songs. I'm gonna do songs off all three of my solo albums probably culled from the first, second, and the new one, maybe a track or two off the third one. And maybe some very interesting covers that I wrote for other people and/or did versions of. It's going to be a really kick-ass band. Everybody in the band in gonna sing including the drummer.

Who is the band? Have you got that lined up yet?
It's too early to tell. There'll be a few familiar faces and a few newbies. It'll be another world tour, so I'm gonna be out there working for a long time.

Well hopefully we can get some loop dates in Australia as well.
If all goes well the answer would be yeah. After we've made this contact with the Australian people again it would be a shame to lose that momentum. Big John says the shows are selling pretty well, but I won't really know until I get there.

Yeah I was gonna ask you about that because you have bigger venues.
I asked him about and he's goes 'no it's doing really well and I'm really happy'. If he's happy that means he's not taking a bath, so. I would not want to do that to the cat again.

Who could have predicted that was going to happen?
Well, like I said, we got all our money up front so he's the one that took a bath. We felt terrible and the time and said 'we gotta go back and make this right'. He's a good mate and we stayed in touch through all of that.

John's awesome and he just had a baby boy too.
That's right. Everybody's having babies.

All us old buggers.
Well, ya know what I mean, the dick still works for something. (laughter) For now. Yeah, for now and there's always Viagra after that.

Just to clarify Toto, this leg of the tour is ending, you're coming off the road and that's it for the foreseeable future.
Yeah. Like I say, we're gonna go out and give, it's like when you know it's the last lap you run real hard, real fast and give it you're all, that kind of the attitude that we're going in with. So it's not like we're gonna walk through the shows. This is a little bit more rock and roll set. We got rid of some of the ballads and all that acoustic stuff and we're gonna go out and rock.

Oh, I can't wait. I'm gonna have to make sure I'm there mate.
I'll get you over there one way or another. (laughter)

I'll come and see you in Melbourne this time, I think. That's closer for me.
We'll make that happen. When we get closer to it we'll be in contact.

Yes mate, of course. So this solo album is, congratulations again, we've talked a little about it you and me, but it's a fantastic record.
Aw thanks man, I appreciate that.





It's my favorite Luke album since the first solo album.
Thank you man. I worked really hard on it because I wanted to see if I could make a personal best at 50 years old. A lot of people say nobody makes a good record anymore, everybody's past their prime just going out and playing the hits, taking the money and going. I've read that so much about so many people and I refuse to believe that that's all I've got. You know everybody has their personal favorites. I mean is there gonna be another Africa? Probably not it's a different era, there couldn't be. But for me as an artist I needed to make a record first off that wasn't a fusion record. (laughter)
I kinda got that shit out of my system but I needed to do that for me. It was very selfish and very self-indulgent, but hey fuck it, you know. I've been playing Hold the Line since I was 19, I'm 50, do the math. I needed to go out and freak out. But I needed to make a real record, a real artist's record and Randy Goodrum's the guy that brought the concept, my old song writing partner. He executive produced the record and brought me to the Blue label. They're really behind the record, really gonna spend money, and these guys treated me like I first signed in 1977. I was wined and dined.
They love the record. They never said no to anything. They're writing checks for tour support. They did a nonrecoupable video and big promotion budget. And Serafino's working with me in Europe and again and he did such a fantastic job there. I'm really happy to be back there.
Then I've got big John down in Australia and another company here that's releasing it in North America. So I'm gonna go out and go for it. Give it all I've got. It's like, I'm not gonna do this when I'm 60. I'm 50 and everything's winding down. Everything's changing. Everybody's happy.
I wish everybody was healthy. I mean my brother Mikey's, it's just fucking me up that he's not getting better real fast.
It's like I said before, I'm the only guy that's really gonna go out and go for it right away. I have product and I'm putting together a great band and I got dates on the books. So I'm hoping that the record does well and I'll be able to build on that and stay out there for a while and get my own thing going on. I'm sure the other guys, well I've gotten emails that say 'good luck man, we're with you all the way'. God bless and we'll see each other again soon. I'm not making any official statement or anything like that. People are gonna read into it what they want. But after 30 years and the last 2.5 years on tour I've gotta take a break.

I can't think of another band on the planet that's been on the road for the last 2 years in this day and age.
It's a big world.

Yeah, but who else is doing it?
No one does the world like we do. A lot of bands tour every year in America.

It really shits me that Bon Jovi on their last album called it a world tour and the did I think a couple of dates in Canada and the rest in the USA and called it a world tour.
Well no, they do a big business in Europe. They were there. They're doing football stadiums.

I know they're doing OK, but it's not really a world tour.
No when we go on a world tour we do a World-fucking-Tour.

I mean Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, America, Europe that's a world tour.
Well, you know there are very few spots we missed. We were considering the “Let's find Osama” Mideast tour but that fell through. (laughter)

Well you didn't get to Tasmania so….
Hey, it's never too late. That's another thing with Toto. It took a huge overhead. There are so many people involved and it's a much bigger operation. I might be able to sneak into some of these places because I have a smaller operation. I'm not gonna need all those crew guys and all that shit but Toto is its own beast.

Absolutely, it's a big beast.
But like I said, we're all family. Everybody's come to this place where we see like, Ok man this is going to a great last run let's have fun with it. And whatever happens after that, happens after that. I'm not fucking Nostradamus, you know. I can't predict the future. Every time I have I've usually predicted wrong.

It's gonna be a great set of shows and the DVD about to hit any day now…
Yeah it's gonna be a month and when you see it man, it looks really fuckin' cool.

I can't wait to see it.
It looks like we're, it's just huge, there's a lot of people in the audience. The way it was filmed, you'll see the full production. With the 5.1 that's the way to do it. You need a big screen TV and a couple of beers or whatever you're into, and check it out like that. Then you'll see if everybody's faking it or not. Do you know how long it would actually take to go in there and redo the vocals and have it perfectly lip synched? I'd be doing that for the next 50 years of my life. (laughter)
So I mean come on, COME ON fellas. I don't want to dwell to much on that shit though. I like to make one blanket statement and just be done with it. All that does is open up the internet blog from hell. I want to try avoid anything negative if at all possible. I mean let me take the piss out of myself don't leave room everyone to come at me with a fuckin' chain saw.

An old buddy of yours is doing very well out on the road at the moment isn't he? Mr, Eddie?
Eddie V, I went to Staples and saw the show it was great. I was at the rehearsals too.

Everybody says it's great. You know for everything it took for this tour to happen there's been relatively no rumors…
Well I saw it at the Staple Center and there's 18,000 people, and man, they looked great, they sounded great, Roth was singing good, and the set list is the dream set list. And Eddie was playing great. You know, you hear stories about good night, bad night, I don't know man. The guy I know is really trying to give it all he's got. There's always gonna be somebody slaggin' him. 'Oh man he's lost it', they say the same shit about me man, the same shit about everybody. If the guy never did anything else again he changed the face of guitar history. Let him alone. He should be immune to people fucking with him. We're all getting older man, c'mon.

That's why I'm glad it's happening now, because it may not have a chance to happen in the future. It's going well enough that they've added more dates.

I think that's fantastic.
You know I love them, him and Al are like fuckin' soul brothers to me.

Absolutely, I hope they get down to Australia but I don't know.
Well if they get out to that side of the world don't be surprised. But I don't know. I haven't seen them since I saw them back stage before the show standing next to a very bewildered John Mayer.

Oh really?
Hell yes, I walk into the dressing room, which by the way's in like Def Con 5 security. Ed's in his own room and I just walk in and…[off the record…sorry!]

I'd like to see some of today's band still around after 30 years.
Exactly, walk in my shoes. Where are you cats gonna be in 30 years? If all you're relying on is Protools and eyeliner you're gonna be in deep shit real soon.

Well, anything else to add mate?
Geez, that I'm happy, tired but happy. The two dad's thing is pretty cool.

Yeah, how's she doing, good?
Oh, she's a beautiful baby.
She's growing already. It's a trip. It's a trip man you know, you're gonna go through all this shit again. I haven't done this in twenty years so I'm really like wow. My wife is thriving. She's just wonderful. She's a great mom already. I'm on the A-list with the in-laws because it's their first grandchild. It's gonna be the last for me but she does have a sister. (laughter)

Long as you're the first.
Right, you know what I mean?
But everything's going good man. I really want to thank all the really wonderful people. Thank you for keeping the shit alive on the site and for having my back and promoting the music, promoting the music for all of us, not just me and Toto but for all the guys that are still out there kickin' it. We're all out there bustin' ass man.
Don't pick on the old guys because someday you're all gonna be old. This is really ironic. It's like all the old reviewers that have trashed us are all retired or dead. So there's a new young breed that says Toto's pretty good so that's gonna do OK.

What did you do wrong? Nothing!
You know, all I did was play music. But you've gotta be honest. We were the band to fuckin' beat up. We were without question the most berated band ever in rock history. I'm still taking some for the fuckin' name man. I figure that just made it too easy for them.

I like the name.
It's a stupid name. (laughter) You can print that. (laughter) I hated it from day one but now I am Mr. Toto so what can I tell ya? (laughter) I can't shake it if I want to. (laughter)

That'll be on your tombstone mate.
(laughter) Yeah, exactly, here lies Mr. Toto. (laughter) And there'll be dog shit on top of it probably because that'd be the last fuck you, ya know. (laughter) A fitting end!(laughter)

That's a fitting end to an interview mate. I can't possible top that.
(laughter) OK mate I think that's very good.(laughter)

Oh good, OK.
(laughter) I like that idea, keep the funny shit, keep people laughing. They'll get a better idea of who I am because people think that we all take ourselves too seriously.

You're one of the funniest bastards I've had the pleasure of being with all these years.
Well hell man, like I said, I get the joke. There's the title of the interview.

I get the joke.
I get the joke, “Lay Off Me I Get The Joke”. See I'm hoping to get interview of the year again.

That'll have to be for next year because it's January. (laughter) We didn't do one last year.
That's right we didn't.

Well not formally anyway.
But we had a couple beers together. That's a good thing.

And that was fun wasn't it?
And we'll do that again.

Oh shit, that was the last time I was badly drunk.
Boy you are a cheap date!





c. 2008 / Interview by Andrew McNeice / Transcribed By Sherrie!



Dennis DeYoung (2007)


Dennis DeYoung: Four Decades Of Influence.

The elder statesman of rock n roll is Dennis DeYoung. This man has seen everything and when he speaks - many listen. Dennis is always a joy to speak to and once again shares his wisdom in an interview that covers his new solo album, the record industry as it stands today and as always, a little reflection on Styx. Over to Dennis...

Good morning, or good afternoon to you.
It's good night, but it's close enough.

How are you Dennis?
I'm good, and yourself?

I'm doing pretty well thank you. It's good to be talking to you again.
Now is it winter down there?

I'm sorry to say it is.
How cold is it?

It's not too bad, it'll get up to about the mid-fifties today.
Well that's spring here. (laughter)

That's our winter so that's pretty cold for us but not for you.
Not for us, no, we could lose another fifty degrees and that would be cold. But what're you gonna do? We're stupid, we don't know any better. (laughter)

Move to Florida.
Oh, I'll stay where I am. I like Chicago. All my friends and family are here, so that's what's important.

I'm looking forward to seeing the place in October, next month. I've never been to Chicago.
Are you gonna spend any time in Chicago or are you gonna be in South Bend?

I'm gonna spend a few days in Chicago before hand.
You'll love it.

I'm looking forward to it.
You'll love it. Where are you staying, do you know yet?

I don't really know yet to be honest.
OK, you want to stay, if you can, it would be nice to stay north of the river if you could. It doesn't really mean that much, but that would be best.

Ok, I'll keep that in mind.
So who's this, I don't like to call you an old guy but….

Oh you can call me an old guy. I'm officially an old fart, it's all right. (laughter)

I was going to say, as a great term of endearment of course - but who is this old guy with a #1 single?
For a minute I thought it was Roger Whittaker. (laughter)
But then I flashed and realized it was me. Here's something that'll put it in perspective for you Andrew. I was riding in my car and turned the radio on and they said if Keith Moon would have lived he would have been 60 today. So I thought, there ya go, that'll put it in perspective for you. I'm here though, so that's OK.

And you're bigger and better than ever.
Well, thank you for that. You know I'm doing what I've always done Andrew. I'm making it up as I go along. (laughter)
I have no idea, I'm clueless, but I make it up as I go along, and what I do is pretend that I know what I'm doing. Then people around me go, 'Hey he knows, he knows.' (laughter) But it's just a grand illusion Andrew, a big act. (laughter)

Looking from the outside there does seem to have been some concerted move by yourself in the Canadian market and it's obviously paying off well. Where did that first start?
I think it probably has something to do with an album called Equinox and a song called Suite Madame Blue which has somehow managed to be popular throughout Canada but in particular in the province of Quebec. Suite Madame Blue is still in the most recent survey the number three most popular rock song of all time.
So I think it has something to do with that, but more importantly, I think it has to do with my going on a TV show in Quebec called Star Academy. Then the next morning I spent two hours on Montreal's biggest classic rock station Chom. Those two things together were like a sort of perfect storm. A lot of people who are in what I would consider my audience still like music.
People like those Styx songs but they're not as active as far as paying attention to what's going on in the music scene. And I think a lot of them were watching me on TV and I did this show where I was on TV for approximately 14 minutes which is a long time on television. It's one of the highest rated shows in the whole province and I sang with these four young people, and people just really connected with me.
It was a miraculous thing because we, Ken and I, my business partner, my son always says don't say it's your partner because it sounds gay, not that there's anything wrong with that (laughter), but we had been attempting to get up into Canada for a couple years and didn't really have a great deal of success. So we took a chance up there ourselves with a first time promoter and put a show on sale hoping we'd do well.
You know, it's a 3000 seat hall and we just hoped we'd do OK. And we went on to sell five. Then we came back the next year and sold two more. We just had an incredible amount of success in Quebec and in Canada as well, but primarily Quebec.
And listen, if I knew exactly how to duplicate it I'd be down in Australia selling the shows. They'd be calling me the king of Sydney. I would be the Earl of Melbourne. I would be the Duke of the Outback. (laughter) I would be Captain Kangaroo.

I think that position's vacant.
And make sure this gets in the interview would you? (laughter)

Oh absolutely. And you were on Canadian Idol as well. I saw those episodes.
I was asked to be on Canadian Idol and that went well. I was on with Roger Hodgson of Supertramp.

That was quite an interesting pairing.
It was. We spent a couple days together and got to know each other and now because of that he owes me money for some bad gambling debts. (laughter)

Very cool! So you've obviously embraced the Canadian thing with the late single from this album.
Well because of the success of the Double Live up there going platinum and the DVD going triple platinum, Andrew, you know more than anybody how truly difficult that is anywhere in the world.

Because for a lot of the acts that you promote and have on your website you know that to have a platinum album in Albania would be wonderful. I mean it's just very difficult to do it for bands of a certain age and certainly for artists of a certain age it's very difficult to have that happen. So when I tell people that they say 'Wow that's great,' and I say no that's a miracle. Here's what great is. Do you wanna know what great is?

Having a record deal.

That's a start isn't it?
That's great. If you get airplay, that's amazing. Then to have a hit record, that really is miraculous. Because of that, my record company, DEP Universal is a French company, and I asked them if I could do a duet. I'd like to tip my hat to the good people of Quebec, the Quebecois, for all their support. I wanted to sing something that I had written in English and in French and Eric LaPointe was suggested. I thought it would be an interesting match in that we're so completely different.

Oh absolutely.
You know, both as human beings and as singers. And I said, if it works it'll really be pretty cool and if it doesn't we're really gonna smell the joint up. (laughter) But you know, it worked. And I honest to God, when I wrote A Hundred Years From Now Andrew, I never for one second thought it was gonna be, well first of all I never thought it would get a single, that's the truth. I knew they gave me $175 to make a record (just kidding)…(laughter) but I never thought there would be an actual single because, you again know Andrew, how do people my age get singles released?

Well they don't.
They don't. So I never thought about it but when I wrote A Hundred Years From Now I never thought for a minute it would ever be a single. Why we ended up singing it together is because I thought it was the song of all the songs on my album that Eric and I would sound good together on. That's why it got chosen and the fact it has become a #1 record it's a surprise to me.
Tim and my wife both encouraged me for the first time in my solo career, to go back to my roots and kind of be the guy that I was in Styx. That's something that I really avoided during my solo career. I really tried, I guess, not to go to that bag of tricks. You know what I mean?

Why is that, do you think?
I think, no I know why it is. Not to sound corny, but I thought it was sacred.
I thought it belonged to us as a collective. I thought it was something that was special and that if I was to go out on my own I had to find my own way and carve my own niche. If you listen to any one of my solo albums I defy anyone to say I was trying to be Styx on those albums. I shouldn't say trying to be Styx, but trying to sound like that. I went in another direction for myself musically trying to carve out something new.

Yeah, and that's great. That's what a solo record is all about.
I think it is. Otherwise you should be in the doggone band shouldn't you?

So does that answer your question?

Yes it does. But this time around…a little change of tact then….
Look, after 1999 it's clear to me that I'm not in Styx anymore. So I felt I could do musically whatever felt comfortable to me. So I dragged out the old OB-8. When I was in the band the songs I wrote were by and large really written for the people in the band. By which I mean, for the talents that we had in the band, I wrote my songs specifically for the people that I knew were going to sing and play them. So on my solo album I didn't do that. I didn't even think like that, I just wrote songs. Now on this record, on some of the songs I thought to myself, well what would I do if I was still writing like that? And so that's what happened on my summer vacation. (laughter)

It sounds very natural. I mean the record just sounds, it just sounds like Dennis DeYoung.
Well I tried to sound like Tiny Tim and I ordered thong underwear and they haven't come in yet. (laughter)

Over what period did you write these songs Dennis?
I would say the majority of them were written, from the time I found out that the Double Live had broken in Canada, probably within the last year and a half.

Oh Ok, so they're all very fresh.
Yeah, there's a couple of them that were written prior, Breathe Again and, let me think. I think Breathe Again might be the only one that I've had for a while. I did have another six or seven songs that were written but in the final analysis I thought that these were the group of songs that fit together the best. Because as a writer I never constrain myself, Andrew, to a particular style.
I sit at the piano and whatever song that comes out, I record it. That's always been my philosophy, even when I was in the band. My philosophy from day one has been that I don't really care about style. I don't care if you wear short hair, long hair, you wear bell bottoms or you have tattoos and a ring in your nose. I think that's all fashion of the moment. The only thing I ever really cared about is, is this a great song, does this song really move me. I don't care what style it is. I was always, first and foremost, focused on the song. So when I did my record I felt the same way. I did my songs on the record and it doesn't matter what style they are.

And what you get on the record is a little bit of a cross section of your solo work and your style. There're some songs on there that people say are more Styx than Styx are these days.
Well, um, I'm not sure what that means, but I'm gonna take it as a compliment.

It was a complement, yeah.
I didn't think you said that but when people say that I think to me Styx was so broad. I would say to people 'What do Renegade, Babe and Mr. Roboto have in common?' Nothing do they?

No not really.
No, it's just that they were done by the same band. That's my point. So when people do say that it sounds more like Styx I say well what are they talking about, the song, the arrangement, the production? Are they talking about the harmonies? I'm never sure what that means because Babe certainly doesn't sound like Mr.Roboto or The Grand Illusion to me. They're all very different and yet to me they're all part and parcel to Styx. When they say that about this album I think of it in a positive way because I think they're probably Styx fans.

Exactly, and the record appeals to them because they can hear the classic elements of what makes Styx a great band and what makes a great song.
I have this philosophy that, generally speaking because there's always an exception to the rule, but I believe that by and large the first album that introduces you to a band, that one that always has a special place in your heart. And when an artist or a band veers off from that, what you originally liked about somebody, it can come as a shock to you and initially you can be put off by it. Sometimes you grow with the artist and say 'Oh I can go in that direction with them', and sometimes you say 'I can't get over my first kiss. I want those lips that kissed me the first time and any other lips are not as good'. So that is always the dilemma of any musician. How do I, after I've established myself and gotten myself, God willing, an audience, how do I take them on my journey?




Considering the diversity of your solo material and Styx over the years, you've been pretty fortunate to get away with quite a lot.
I think there are those who believed at the time that certain styles of music would ultimately hurt us. And I think one thing that Styx proved is that we were able to record a straight ballad and come back and have another triple platinum album. We were able to do different styles of music and our audience would take that journey with us. Most of the, like I said, not all of them because as you mature and change, because good Lord knows I've been making records for over 30 years.
And if you speak to your audience who's gone on this journey with you, you have to say to them 'I dare you to be like you were when you were 25 years old'. You're not the same person and neither are the people who are making the records that you love. They're not the same person and it's very difficult to go back to a particular period of time and try to duplicate that. What you end up with is a pale imitation.
Andrew, when I was writing Come Sail Away for instance or The Grand Illusion or you name it, Lady back in 1972 when I wrote it, guess what I wasn't trying to do. I wasn't trying to write Lady. I wasn't trying to write Come Sail Away. Dammit I was just trying to write a good song. So if you are 30 years down the line and people say 'I liked you when you were like this', what are you going to do? Are you going to say 'Oh I see what they mean. They want me to be that'. But you can't because when you were inventing it you weren't trying to be it, you were just doing it.

So today you've just got to be the same.
I've just gotta do…. I'm talking about writing songs, what you can do is you can use elements of your own style in the creation of the records. But when it comes to the songwriting you've just got to sit down and hope that you can write a brand new song that people will love. You can't go back and take a snapshot of your history and expect it to be anything more than a Polaroid. It just isn't gonna be the same.

Great analogy.
Now you have artists all the time that you promote that face this dilemma.

Yeah absolutely and sometimes the fans want to come along for the ride and sometimes they don't.
You know, I only have one thing to offer people Andrew. My point of view, that's it. I don't have anything else. I got nothing else. That's what I offer them and this record to me is my point of view, how I feel at this point in my life.

Well it seems to have hit the target. I don't think I've heard anything but kind words about the record and I certainly think it's a great record.
Well I appreciate that. On this record, I recorded almost 70% of this record myself. I engineered it, something I'd never done. Mainly because I have some equipment in my house that's specific. I recorded this on Radar 48 classic. It's not Pro Tools. I'm not a big fan of the way Pro Tools sounds. There goes my endorsement. (laughter) So I recorded on Radar 48 which I really like. And I have a Euphonics 2000 board which not a lot of engineers know how to use. So I became hostage to waiting for the couple engineers in Chicago who know this gear to work with them. So many times I was just in the studio all by myself. I recorded my keyboards, I recorded my vocals and the vocals of the people who sang with me. And I actually recorded some electric guitar. It was pretty wild. At the end of the sessions I also got to clean up all the pizza boxes and coffee cups as well. (laughter) That was a pain in the ass.

Come on, don't tell me you don't have some little personal assistant to take care of all that for you.
I have no such thing, (laughter) I have no personal assistant that I know of, other than my wife.

If she's the same as my wife she wouldn't touch any of my mess.
No she told me to go down in the basement and try to earn a living. (laughter)

Just to review a couple of the songs on the album, I really enjoyed the lyrics to I Don't Believe in Anything.
I knew you would. I wrote that especially for you.

That's very kind of you.
'Cause I know you don't believe in anything either.

Not much.
Well you tell me about it.

It's a very realistic snapshot of what's going on out there isn't it?
Well it is from my point of view. One thing I didn't put on the album is that no time or pitch correction was used in the recording of this record. I really abhor……I believe that if you can't go into a recording studio with multi-track recording at the state it is today and sing it line by line right, if you can't even do that I think you'd better go get another job.

I couldn't agree more but some people are getting away with murder it seems.
Well I know people who are using this crap live.

Exactly, that's even worse. I can't even stomach the thought of that.
A live performance is a moment in time and if you can't play in time, sing in time you probably shouldn't be making records. That's just my opinion.

Something that really upsets me is that we're going to try and teach the kids of today what real performance in music is all about…and then the biggest thing in the world right now is this High School Musical from Disney.
And I'm watching their “live concert special” and there's not one note of it live.
You know what's aggravating is, any rock band, any rock band, and I mean this so let me say this again any rock band that's using prerecorded vocals, you know, even in harmony, bite me.
Let me say that again, bite me you pussies. (laughter)
You've gotta go out there and do it Andrew. That's what I believe. That's why you are what you are, because you can do it and if you can't, sit down. If you can then do it and if people still come and see you God bless you. I've heard, as Robert DeNiro said, 'I heard tings'. 'I heard tings' about people that I used to admire and I thought well….and I've played with a couple that I thought, wait a minute, those background vocals are in that guy's keyboard. I said that just ain't right. I'm sorry, I don't know how you feel about it but I think you agree.

I feel very strongly with you there Dennis. I see people put out so called “live” records and I'm thinking there is just no atmosphere on this record whatsoever.
You want me to tell you why that is?

Well it's doctored up in the studio isn't it.
Wait a minute, I'm gonna tell you why that is. In the old days, so said the old fart, (laughter) records were made in recording studios. You went to a place that had its own board, its own speakers, its own room. It had a room Andrew. You sat in a room, you put mics up and stuff, and the room was part of the way your record sounded.
Now with the advent of Pro Tools everything is recorded in the room of Pro Tools. So, when you pitch correct, when you time correct, when everybody uses the same delays, the same plug-ins, the same reverbs, Ok, there is a homogeneity that develops.
The records tend to all sound the same. That's what it is. It's more to do with people doing a lot of work in their homes like I did. I did a lot of the recording in my home, obviously you track the drums somewhere else. But when you go in there and you sample drums and everybody's got the same samples and they process them through the same processors, Ok we'll put them in this room, you tend to get records that sound samey. That's what I think most of this is about because Pro Tools really is an aphrodisiac; it will suck you in like the sirens. It's so fast, so quick, so malleable, easy to manipulate. You know what I'm saying?

So that's why records tend to sound a great deal alike now. It's because there is no real place or location that's carrying over in character. Now having said that, I'm not putting down music of today because I hear tons of things on the radio, I buy CDs, there's a lot of things I like. I still hear a lot of great songs and there are things I really enjoy. I'm not putting down the artists because there're still talented people making records everyday everywhere in the world right now.
It's just that the technology has come to a place where, not only has it made the records sound the same, but obviously it has sounded the death knell for the music business as it has been known for the last 75 to 100 years.

Yes and it's done it pretty dramatically and pretty suddenly.
Oh, I'm telling you. I said it the minute I saw it. I told everybody who would listen to me. I've seen a lot of journalists who were writing about it in the beginning saying 'oh this is the democratization of music'. This is the best thing that could happen to those record company people, those bastards, right? And I said boys, you don't know what you're talking about. You're misguided, stop saying that because what this is is the death knell of the music business as we know it. And it's not gonna be, I don't believe, unless something happens that I don't foresee, and that's entirely possible, a benefit ultimately to people who want to make music for a living.
That's what I believe and I believe it 100%. I know there's a great deal of blame to the record companies. I've never been a big fan of record companies. I've been ripped off, I've been mutilated and gouged by record companies and let down like everybody else. But they provided a filter Andrew. They provided an editorial process. Not everybody who owns some digital recorder and a keyboard or guitar should be making records. (laughter)

Probably not.
No, it's true. It's true, so what it becomes is more democratic certainly but it's more like socialism that democracy. It's run rampant and record companies, radio stations they provided a filter. They would make mistakes, but they would say 'this is crap, we don't need this crap'. There is no more of that anymore, or very little of it. And I don't care what you say about record companies, 'oh their prices were too high', 'oh CDs don't cost that much to make'. Oh OK, right, I'm not gonna argue with you but Andrew you can say this to yourself, nobody pays for things they can get for free. And I'm gonna say it again, nobody pays for things they get for free. If the record companies went from $15 a CD to $5, free is still cheaper.

That's pretty hard to argue with.
That's right and technology has allowed you to duplicate things digitally. Although really all this MP3…am I going off on a tangent here?

Oh no, please continue. It's of great interest to me.
I kill myself in the studio trying to make the best sonic recording I know how. Now whether you like what I do or I don't do that's up to you, but I really pay attention to it. I make it sound to the best of my ability the way I want it to. And then when I'm done somebody says 'put that in an MP3 and send it to me, I wanna play it for someone', and I'm like, you must be kidding me. That is the worst sounding crap. You know the way they compress stuff to get it smaller on files? Everything you spend your time and energy doing is lost. I shouldn't say everything, but a lot. I feel like I'm on a rant here. Am I Dennis DeYoung or Dennis Miller? (laughter)

You're the Dennis Miller of the music business.
Yeah I'm gonna grow a beard and start using really big words. (laughter)

You know, this stuff has to be said though.
Here's what I think. The next time somebody on the internet sells a million CDs give me a call.

It's not gonna happen is it?
Give me a call and let me know. I want to know then I'll shut up and go 'OK fine'. And the truth of the matter is, I don't care if somebody wants to download one song off my record. I think that's a good idea. They used to be called singles and they were quite popular when I was growing up. People should not have to buy the whole album to get the song. If the record companies made a mistake it was really to demean the importance of the single. If they only want the song and they want to shell out $.99 let 'em have it. I want people to like my music. They don't have to pay $15 for it, or whatever.

You're right in that a good album would have 3 or 4 singles on it and you'd go wow, if I've heard 3 or 4 good songs, there's no risk is there? People would buy the record. Now you hear one song and you've got no clue whether the rest of the album is crap or not. People aren't willing to take a risk.
Yeah, I think you're right about that. I came from the era that directly followed the Beatles. And all of us guys that grew up in that period, we wanted to make Sgt Pepper. We wanted to make Revolver. We wanted to make Rubber Soul, right? We wanted to make an album where you would be blinded by the brilliance. So we aspired to do it. We didn't get there but that's what we were trying to do. We wanted to be considered great purveyors of album making.

Well Styx, more so than most bands, really did create an album rather than a set of songs.
Well we did the best we could. We were on the road all the time so every twelve months we had to come up with eight new songs and that was our life for almost ten years. We did album, tour, album tour so the thing that I respect the most about Styx was we had consistency. We made a string of albums that were, in my humble opinion, pretty good.

Damned right, absolutely.
And that's the deal. To put a string of them together, that's the hardest part. People say the hardest thing to do is to have a hit record and I say yeah, you have the first hit record and then what. You've got to have a second act, a third act, and a fourth act. That's when it gets to be tough.

And how many bands today will be still around in twenty years?
I don't know but I think that could have as much to do with the fact that music is just not central to people's lives like it was when I started making records. I was fortunate to live in what I believe was the greatest time to be a musician in the history of mankind.

You're probably right.
Believe it. There were no video games, there was no internet, there weren't two thousand magazines. There weren't all the distractions that modern culture inundates. We are entertaining ourselves to death. Music now competes with that so the attention span of the public is less than when our audience was growing up. We were central to their life. They looked to us to provide clues to the universe. We had none, but we tried. (laughter) We were as clueless about the universe as everybody else, which was the point of the Grand Illusion album. I was saying to people, 'hey look up here this is a grand illusion, we're clueless'. You know what I'm saying? This is entertainment. Don't think we know something that you don't know. We're just like you. In those days young people really made music central to their lives. Not as much today.

You're absolutely right. You couldn't have stated it more clearly.
We made four records on Wooden Nickel. Only one of them, in my humble opinion was really good. That's my opinion. I know it pisses off Styx fans when I say this because they like things but if you're asking me my opinion there's only one. In this day and age we would never have had the chance to develop and get good. I think we were lucky. In this day and age we'd have been chewed up and spit out. There would have never been a Grand Illusion. It never would have gotten to that. We had good fortune in that we had a chance to work out the crap before people got a good look at us. Here's an analogy. You know the first time you see a pilot for a TV series, right?

You've got an actor and an actress on there and they look OK. By the time it's the third season man they look great. They look like different people. They've got the right hair, the right makeup and everything is perfected.

Absolutely, they develop it don't they?
When we started out we were doing the best we could but we could have used some Proactive. We could have used some Clearasil. You know we had some blemishes. (laughter)

I wonder how many bands today would be capable of recording a classic album but will never get the chance.
Lots, and that's what wrong with the internet. That's what's wrong, listen, music has been devalued. Here's the thing that made it so clear to me. When I did my mastering for my record, which is, for all of you people who don't know, it used to be you had a thing Andrew. It was either on magnetic tapes or a DAT player but it was a thing. Do you know how I sent some of my songs to New York to be mastered? Via the internet.

The evil internet.
It's not a thing, it's data. So the minute something stops being a thing Andrew I contend that it isn't as valuable. I know that's crazy because I don't mean that 100% but you know what I'm saying. It's not a thing. If it's on your i-Pod do you know what the thing is? The things are data, does that make sense to you?

Yeah, it makes total sense. Even though I'm a bit younger than yourself I'm still in the old school of mind where like to hold something in my hands.
I know CDs aren't as glamorous as albums because they were bigger, but CDs ultimately, you know analog sounds better than digital. That's just a fact, I don't give a shit argue all you want, it's better. Frequency response is larger. The delivery system for analog, when it was records was imperfect and crappy. It degraded very quickly so CDs are nice in that way. They sound better for a long period of time, but analog is better than digital. That's all there is to it.

I really appreciate insights and I agree. I don't know where things are gonna go but I agree completely.
They're going wherever they want to Andrew and there's not a damned thing you or I can do about it. Technology has always, always, changed the world and it will continue to do so. My son is my LD, my lighting designer and he's a drummer in a band and I said Matt, be really good at the lights. (laughter) Because people are always gonna need people to turn the lights off and on. Bands are tough. I know there're still going to be a million kids having a million dreams like I did and you can't stop them. But it's gonna be harder and harder for people to have real music careers.

Yeah, and who puts up the money to go on tour anymore if the record label isn't there to do that?
No and that's what record labels provided. They gave you a chance. If you had a success they could take you from your garage and put you on the stage someplace. Then you could start a business, by which I mean you could go on the road and tour and make money and support yourself. The real thing about the music business is this; we make records and we hope they sell not just to put money in our pockets but because we want to hear our songs on the damned radio. We want people to love our music and we want to have a chance to make another record and to have another concert. And unless somebody's shelling out money to do that you ain't gonna do it.

Very, very wise words.
I just made all that up. (laughter) I'd like to mention a few people on the record. I sang with Kevin Chalfant. You know Kevin.

In fact, that was my next question.
Good old Kevin, I love Kevin.
Go ahead ask your question.

Well, it is a simple one…how did that come about?
It's the craziest thing you've ever heard in your life. Tim got an e-mail by accident from somebody on a link. It was something about George Harrison of the Beatles. You know Tim's from Liverpool. He was born in the same hospital that Paul McCartney was born in. He loves the Beatles and I love the Beatles. A link to Kevin's band, I can't think of the name of the band right now.

The Storm?
No, it's the contemporary one. He's gonna kill me for not knowing this.

Shooting Star maybe.
Yeah, Shooting Star. He e-mailed me and said this guy sounds like he can sing and I said yeah he can sing, he sounds like Steve Perry. He lives just about an hour from my house. So I had him come over. I wanted to hear what we'd sound like singing together because that's the magic. And we started singing together and I said, baby, now you've got something, now you're livin'.

I actually did an interview with him a little while ago and he said you walked him into the studio and gave him the highest song on the album to sing and when he did that you said, 'Well it's all downhill from there'.
That's right. I put him to the test I'll tell ya. It was a miserable part I gave him but I said if he can do this he can do anything. He was great, so those harmonies on the record are essentially me and Kevin and Hank, my bass player joined in on one or two songs. But it's really me and Kevin.

You did a tremendous job with the harmonies.
Yeah, I'm very pleased with them. They just sound like the kind of harmonies I like to listen to.

It's a real pleasant, organic, great sounding record.
We didn't sing one verse, then the chorus, then duplicate it. We sang every one of them. So every one of them has a real, organic, I did this feeling. Then at the end I said 'Why did we do that anyway'. (laughter)





Who else is on the record?
Well obviously Eric LaPointe who sang with me. Eric said he wanted me to listen to his guitar player, Stephan DeFour who is like the Eddie Van Halen of Quebec. So Stephan played on A Hundred Years From Now. I actually sent him the demo and he came up with some idea changes. A Hundred Years From Now was originally about six minutes long. It had a huge instrumental section that was kind of a progressive rock thing. Stephan came and edited it and simplified it and made it more like a single. When I heard that and heard his playing I said hey man you've got to be on my album with me. So he played the solo on A Hundred Years From Now, This Time Next Year, and he played acoustic and electric on Breathe Again and he played power rhythm chords on Rain. He's got that big marshal sound like, you know, I don't know how to describe it but it sounds like a guitar army.
Then Tommy Dziallo played the solo in Rain, he played on Respect Me, the played the dobro beautifully on I Don't Believe in Anything. Then Ernie Denoff, he's actually in Gary Sinise's band, Chicago guy, and he came in and played on Save Me and Turn Off CNN. Three different guitar players and then Jimmy Leahy who's now in my band played acoustic, the twelve string solo in front of Breathe Again. He just came in at the end and played acoustic and he played great. I played all the keyboards for the most part. John my keyboard player played on one song but I decided I had to play the keyboards if it was gonna sound like me.

Absolutely, that's essential. Your partner in crime Glen Burtnik wasn't on the record though.
No he had a million things going, you know he's in New Jersey, but essentially I felt that I needed in my own mind to, I guess, do this record and have it be just about me, if you know what I mean.

I do because you've got the Styx connection with Glen haven't you?
I do and you know Glen and I are working together all the time and we're going to do something together. It's just that on this particular record it was important for me to say 'This is me'. If you don't like me Ok, I get it. If you do like me thank you very much and hopefully I'll get the chance to make another record at some point. You understand what I'm saying?

I understand completely. He's a great partner to have around with you live isn't he?
Oh I think Glen Burtnik, forget live I said this from the beginning, if you go back to Edge of the Century this is what I thought of Glen Burtnik.
When we did Edge of the Century I was the producer. I was absolutely fully in charge of the band and I chose the first single to be a Glen song. That was my choice, to put him out there ahead of myself to establish him and establish the rock identity that he brought to the band. That was my decision. You know we titled the album after one of his songs. It was my decision also during Crystal Ball to call the album Crystal Ball when Tommy first joined. Because I believe Andrew when you're in a band all boats rise with the tide and that's what bands sometimes lose sight of.

Interesting, I like that.
It's the truth. When Tommy first joined the band, for instance, it would have taken an imbecile not to recognize his talent. So we got rid of all the imbeciles that were around us (laughter) when he started he was standing on the outside of the stage where he always did and I said Tommy you'd better sing these in the middle. You've got to be in the middle of the stage when you do these things. So quite frankly, the better Tommy was or the better Glen is, the better it is for everybody. Glen, to me, his greatest gift is he's just one heck of a songwriter.

I love his stuff.
That's what I say. There's a song on his new record and I was gonna say 'Glen do you mind if I record this?', but I love that song Bam. I mean, I just love it. When he wasn't in the band I did It Takes Love to Make Love because I loved that song. I just think he's a first rate songwriter.

He's an absolute genius.
I'll always believe that.

Yeah, I love his stuff, I really do, always have.
And the truth of the matter is, as soon as we figure out what hair color he's gonna have we'll be better off. (laughter)

Yeah, he's a character. So Dennis, with you talking about Styx there I'm almost hesitant to bring it up because, do you ever do an interview, ever, without being asked about the future and the possibilities?
I do a lot of interviews where people don't ask that question but there's rarely an interview where people don't reference Styx. I mean how could they not? It is my single greatest contribution to music to this date. And maybe forever, it's impossible to tell, but I think, look, the most hurtful thing, and there's still a lot of hurt.

Of Course.
The most hurtful thing to me is not even so much not being in the band anymore, which is plenty hurtful, but it's the simple fact that some miracle occurred, some bad miracle occurred, that when this all came down the fans of the band that I had given my life to, not the fans but the band, somehow the fans began choosing sides. It is to me the most obscene thing because the band was about all of us. It really was. If you look at the songs on the records, if you looked at the live performance, it was a balancing act, a difficult balancing act. Because you had a lot of people with talent and everyone's grabbing for that same golden ring, which is, it's human nature Andrew, which is 'I'm the most special'. Isn't that human nature?

Yeah, I guess so.
But you keep it together because the collective is certainly the most important thing. So I've said this over and over again, I want the fans, the true fans of Styx and I mean true fans, to know that if you liked the band you liked it because of all of us. I mean that.

Yeah, not one element over the other.
No, I liked Lennon and McCartney best of all the Beatles, but I loved the Beatles because they were special together. That's my view of Styx. Man, rejoice in the music that we created together because we did create it together.

And you created a lot of music.
So you were asking me about the future? I don't have an answer. My answer is still the same. I'm not in the band because the two fellows that decided to go forward decided that they'd just as soon not have me be a part of it. I didn't like it but I had no choice and I just had to move on and respect it for what it was. What I've been able to do Andrew and I forget, how old was I in 2000? I was 53 years old.
At 53 years old I embarked upon having a solo career. I had never had one. I'd never toured. When I was 53 I didn't even take it seriously. It wasn't until two years later that I started to embark on trying to go on the road and find an audience for myself. Because everybody knows nobody confuses Mick Jagger with the Rolling Stones. Those are two different things aren't they Andrew.

Mick Jagger plays a 3000 seat hall, Rolling Stones, they play the enormodome. So at 55 I went, with my partner, my wife, we just went out there and we said lets see if we can do something. You know, we've worked extremely hard over the last four or five years. And it has miraculously, as I said before, paid off.

Well, there ya go, hard work does pay off.
No, and here's where I disagree with that. Hard work counts, but my dad worked hard for 40 years and never amounted to anything because he worked in a factory. But he worked hard. Hard work along with talent, real talent and the intangible, which I'm happy to call dumb, stupid luck, you gotta have it Andrew. The harder you work the better chance you have of having dumb, stupid luck but I'm sure there are many people out there who have talent who've never had the dumb, stupid luck and they had to give up.

I don't know why but you've put it so crystally clear to me Dennis. I relate so much to what you're saying but I
Andrew, Lady was a hit by accident. Otherwise there would be no Styx, there would be no Grand Illusion. There would have been nothing, that I know. I lived it; I know this so we hung in there to allow the dumb, stupid luck to catch up. Once in a while things have got to go your way. Call it serendipity, call it karma, the universe, I don't know. But you can't think it's just because you have talent and you can't think it's just because you work hard. Every once in a while the universe has got to tilt in your direction.

Perfectly put, I can't possibly add to that. You're absolutely right again.
Geez, I'm glad I did this interview then because I like being right.

You're an absolute philosopher Dennis.
Am I? I'm beginning to think, like my wife says, I'm getting rockzhimers. (laughter) You can put this in your article; that's a disease where any band of the 70s, suddenly in 2007 can't remember anything. (laughter) Now quote me on that. You know how to spell rockzhimers don't you?
I made that up today in an interview and I said 'I want to invent that one'.

I like it.
The greatest proponent of rockzhimers is of course Ozzy Osbourne.

Yeah, the more he goes forwards the more he goes backwards.
Oh my goodness. That's not good is it?

But you're doing fantastically well.
By the way, I'm thinking, in keeping with Ozzy, you know those little marshmallow bunnies at Easter?

I'm thinking of biting the head off one of those. (laughter)

That's very rock 'n roll of you.
That's me. Get my pants tighter and let me bite the head off something. Just bite the head, and God knows, play really loud.

Always, always.
I used to say we play really loud in lieu of talent. (laughter)

Well, I think you got by with plenty of talent. Look Dennis, I really appreciate the time. Is there anything you'd like to close with or add?
You can just direct them to and that's about it. I appreciate it Andrew and I'm glad you like the record. There will be a US release. I just talked to the guy today. It'll probably be in the first quarter of next year, it'll be by a US company and it'll have a couple of new tracks on it.

Excellent, OK.
We're gonna do the A Hundred Years From Now and try to get somebody, you know, some young stud English singer to sing it with me. Then we'll see what the heck happens.

That's a great plan. I like the sound of that and who knows, maybe you'll have a Billboard #1 next year.
If that happens I might fly to Australia just to kiss you on the lips. (wife in backqround yells, 'Yeah, I'll finally get there') (laughter) Yeah, my wife wants to go to Australia. I say 'we can't go there honey the toilets go backwards'. (laughter)

One day Dennis!
But…when I said Styx was sacred to me I don't say that lightly. I gave everything in my life to the band. None of us is perfect, but my intentions were always 'How can we make this band bigger?'. I never wanted to be a solo artist, ever. When Tommy quit the band, the only reason I made an album was I wanted to have something to do. I knew in my heart which I believed, and which was borne out in many ways, people wanted to see Tommy in Styx. They wanted to see me and him together.

And they still do.
When the other band members, in 1983 wanted to replace Tommy I just would not do it because I thought it was the stupidest thing ever. To not know, to not understand how important Tommy and I were to what that band was you'd have to be a damned fool.

I think everybody acknowledges that.
That's the way I look at it. And I know in many ways I've been vilified, but they just don't know the story Andrew.

Well you know, there're people that, like you said, they take sides. There're people on yours and people on theirs. It is, it's distressing.
I'll be honest with you. When people tell me by and large shitty things about the other guys, it doesn't really make me happy. Because I believe that any insult to any of us is an insult to Styx.
And I never wanted that to happen. Anyway, I'm off my soapbox. (wife in background encouraging Dennis to tell the story, he won't so she does: When the band fell apart, Tommy quit, our sound guy came to us. We were in Hawaii, I'll never forget it. He'd been with us at least 9 years and he came to Dennis and he said, 'hey man is this true, is it really happening, I can't believe it, we're a family'. He said those words and it stuck in my mind because that's how I believed we all were.)

And like most families, like the Manson family, (laughter) no Andrew when people ask me what I think of being in a rock band Andrew I say this is what you've gotta do, call your brother up, your uncle, your father and your two cousins and you've gotta build a birdhouse together. And then you've gotta build ten more. That's what it's like. Your uncle's gonna say, hey that hole's too big. The birds will…you know what I'm saying? (Wife: So then after you build the house what do you do? You sit down, you have dinner, you have laughs.)
I know, but it's hard to build a birdhouse together.

It can be, yes.
That's what it's all about. How many people you how to run your website?

If you had two other people telling you everyday how that website should go, that's what it's like. So there you go.

It's hard.
I know, but still the best job in the world.

All right my friend I appreciate the time.

I appreciate your time.
We'll be looking forward to somebody giving me this interview so I can go 'did I sound like a jackoff?' (laughter)

I think it has been great and I'm really pleased we had this chat, and thank you.
All right, great.

Thank you Dennis.
Thank you my friend.

I'll talk to you again soon.
Bye bye.








c. 2007 / Interview by Andrew McNeice / Transcribed By Sherrie







Cage (2007)


Cage: Destroying Hell Once Again.

San Diego based metal band Cage don't short change fans when it comes to quality material and an all-round quality package. The new album is Hell Destroyer and frontman Sean Peck talks things over...

How are things with you mate?
I'm in beautiful San Diego, CA which you can relate to being where you're at. It's another wonderful day to be alive man, you know how it is.

I want to do the interview as a sort of introduction to the band - just for those who are on my site and might be more melodically minded and haven't been exposed to the band. You been around for several years now and you're making a good name for yourselves but where did it start?
Well basically, two bands in San Diego broke up. The bands were Nomad and Crusher. They were both kind of like heavy metal or power metal bands back in the early nineties. Members of both of those bands came together to form cage. It's funny because we just released online the old material from both of those bands on iTunes so people can go back and hear like where everything came from.

Yeah I saw that. That's cool.
Yeah, we figured since we had everything archived our American label DA Records said let's put that out and make some money on it. So we said, you know what, let's do it. It's kinda cool that that stuff didn't go to waste and we've got kind of a legacy because both bands were really good back in their day. So those two bands broke up and the band was formed based on a love for heavy metal itself. I was to the point where, being in America, it was hard to find any new heavy metal sound like we were just coming out of and the band Fight, you know Halford's one word band was kinda really the blueprint that we created this thing to sound like. That really, like I said, was a blueprint and we wrote songs really just for the self satisfaction of it. That's really kinda how we still approach songwriting is just to create stuff that you like to listen to yourself and if people liked it that's great. One of the things was we were fighting the grunge movement and a lot of our fellow people that were in local metal bands were no fully chasing the grunge movement. But we stuck to our guns. We were still wearing leather and studs and screaming and people were going 'people don't sing like that any more'. So whenever anyone came through town that was in that genre there was really no one left to open for them, so we got some really amazing opening slots and got to really hone our live show because we were playing in front of big crowds early on when we really weren't that good. (Laughter)

When you really weren't that good.
(Laughter) Yeah, we really weren't that good. We were OK, but it really the songs that weren't up to par.

You've definitely developed. In reviewing all three of your albums there's been a strong sort of a jump there. I think to describe you in one word it's authentic.
I like it.

You like that?
I love it and I have to agree with it. You listen to God knows how many albums all the time and a lot of people have attempted to capture the classic heavy metal sound of the masters and bring it forward into today. I think we're one of the very few that have been able to do it and maintain an authentic sound. It's original because it doesn't sound necessarily like anybody but it kinda sounds like everybody.

Yeah, you have that classic sound.
Yeah, and it's a sound that people can, well since that kind of music was the foundation of all heavy metal we're playing a lot of shows here in southern California with a lot of metal core bands and the young people really get into it because it's the roots from which all of that metal derived and there's still a lot in that music that they enjoy and appreciate.

So who are you are your primary influences? Some of them come through fairly clearly in the music, but personally who are you influences?
Well I'd have to say of course Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, you know, Wasp has a lot that we like, a lot of song elements that we like. I'm a real big fan of the first two Crimson Glory albums which I thought were some of the best metal for that kind of genre. King Diamond is a big influence because of the music, the story telling and the different voices that are employed. Then you know some thrashier stuff like Testament and I have to say some Slayer. Then some of the classic stuff like Black Sabbath, we have some songs that are in that vein. I like stuff like Lizzy Borden. Our songwriting, we go for songs that like have the potential to be like all time classics. You know, I work real estate, but sometimes we remodel a house and we put the classic rock station on all day long. It just makes you realize that some of these songs like from Bad Company or Foreigner or whatever are gonna be played on the radio of like the next hundred years. These songs are so great they'll be played over and over and they'll keep playing them and that's how we try to approach our songwriting. We're trying to make songs that will be memorable and will withstand the test of time no matter what musical genres come and go.

You play a lot of shows. Is there a good metal following these days in San Diego?
Metal here in America, in Southern California is probably more healthy than it's been since the heyday. We have little kids, we're playing to all ages now because the kids just come out in droves and the energy that they put into it really pumps you up. You've got like kids that are like 14 to 16 years old and they're just like fighting their way to the front and banging their heads. It really pumps you, like I remember when I was that age that's the way I was. I'd fight anything I had to fight to get the front of the Judas Priest stage. They're putting their heads down and they don't even look at you for the whole hour that you play. They're just banging and their hair's flying everywhere. Like I said I love playing with these metal core bands and these emo because with what we do we come off just amazing because it makes that style of music look so one dimensional and the kids really appreciate that. Now the kids just come packing in there and they've got Blind Guardians shirts on, they've got Judas Priest shirts on, and all that stuff like a lot of European power metal. There's quite a good scene here now in southern California and America in general is really healthy for this style right now.

Even with what I cover everything is more metal these days. I started out as an AOR sort of site but you expand with the territory and there's a lot more melodic metal out there than anything else probably.
Our label is kind of expanding into metal because of its popularity and they were very excited to get this album and to get Cage and for everything that we stand for because even though in Europe we're still an underground band the people who are into it have a lot of respect and hold us in very high regard. You can see that from the critical acclaim that we always get with every album.

Yes, absolutely there's resounding positivity out there for you. Any live shows in Europe possible? Yeah, we have a new booking agent in Europe. It's the first time we've had booking agent there and now there's a decent market for us. I'm old now and I'm not willing to go on the Winnebago and sell t-shirts and live on macaroni and cheese. I was into that for the first album, but now it's not really what we're excited about. But we have a couple festivals that are paying us pretty good next April so we're going to try to book a couple dates around that. With the agent some of the big festivals next summer are starting to really respond to us because this album has gotten so much praise. There's kind of a buzz back with Cage again in Europe. We had a four year drought out there. We hit this big home run with Darker Than Black out there and everybody thought we were the greatest thing ever. Then we disappear for the next four years until we come out with another amazing record and now everyone's, all these interviewers are like 'Where have you guys been for the last four years?'.

Is there a reason why? I know it's hard to maintain a full time presence in a band and record an album every year anyway.
There's a bunch of reasons. There was stuff that went on behind the scenes but the main think was that it took us a long time to write this record because, number 1, it's super long. It barely fits on one CD. It could have been two albums. We probably rewrote a lot of the songs four or five times because I'm really into the quality control and I can't tell you how many times I've walked into the studio and scrapped a song that people thought was great. Then one of the things we do that a lot of people don't do is we take a new songs and we play it out live a few times to test it to the audience to make sure that it's got that element to it. So between that, pre-producing it and really wanting to make this concept album something special I wanted to set the new standard for concept albums and not just have this vague story that no one gave a shit about. I wanted to take the ultimate story that ever was, the battle between good and evil, and the end of mankind and completely cover it from head to toe, fully illustrate the booklet like we have and really present a package that was, you know. Since Judas Priest and others were coming out with their concept albums I wanted to get the first shot off and let them be the ones that had to play catch up and live up to the Cage Hell Destroyer standard. So I took the time to really get something out that would be able to surpass Darker Than Black, which you know most people thought was, I think we got like ten different album of the year awards on that album. People were like 'Oh you'll never top that one, that was too great.' And we were able to do it, but it took time. We will sell no wine before it's time, you know how that goes.



Yeah, well tell me, I get what you're saying there as far as your desire to make this album bigger and better, and obviously you did pick the most legendary story of all time, do you have a few thoughts behind that?
Behind the story, the concept?

Behind the story and why that appealed to you.
I've always been into the religious conspiracy thing, you know. I'm big on the UFOs and psychics, the conspiracy stuff because it's great metal material. For the first three albums I had pretty much covered every one that there was, you know, so it was time for the next album and I was running out of ideas. I'm like going 'Jesus, what are we gonna do'. So I still hadn't done a story on Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster but Judas Priest beat me to that one so I came up with the title Hell Destroyer and it just sounded so metal that everyone just loved it. I mean, what sounds more metal than Hell Destroyer? Not much, so we dug the whole idea so I started putting together the story. I wanted to do a concept album back on our second album Astrology, but again, having Operation Mindcrime or King Diamond's Abigail being the standard for what a concept album should be in that genre, I said well OK, we can start from scratch and really go for it. Then I started putting together the story about the Hell Destroyer is God's most fearsome battle angel and I just had this vision of him going into like Hell City and him being huge. I mean he's like Godzilla and he's just smashing towers. I'm a big comic book fan. I just came back from the International Comic Convention this weekend in San Diego.

Oh yeah, I saw that.
It's like the center of pop culture right now. I mean, every movie studio, every television show, it's huge. I talked to a pretty major company about selling the rights to Hell Destroyer story to make a full graphic novel of it. So that's in the works. A lot of people were impressed with the story and impressed with the artwork of the cover and the inside. So came I up with that vision of that powerful vision of destruction and also one of goals for this album was to make God's side of things look more bad assed than all of the Satanist images that are in metal today, Dimmu Borger whatever. Every band's trying to be like, 'We're more evil than you', 'No no no we're more Satanic, can't you see', 'No we're the most Satanic band of all', so it gets a little ridiculous after a while. I tried to take the opposite approach and make this character just look so damned vicious that all these demons were absolutely terrified and they're just getting laid to waste by the thousands. So Mark who does all of Rob Halford's stuff and did some Dio covers made the cover and he really did a fantastic job. He really transferred that image of destruction and violence that I wanted onto real life. Then I just took a bunch of, you know a lot of research went into to it. It's what I've done on all my albums. I really do a lot of research. It's kind of like how Maiden entertains and educates that the same time. I'm really into that and so when we did Revelations I read that several times and took that story along with some comic book ideas that I had for this Hell Destroyer character along with some conspiracy theory stuff like the Bohemian grove which is a fascinating thing. And I kind of melded it all together and I started working with this interior artist, Forrest Butler, and the more I came up with the story the more we were brainstorming on how it could be. So I started writing it out and I presented it to the band and they absolutely loved it. We decided to go with it and the more people I told about it the more people were into it and we got it fully illustrated. Initially it was going to be an entire comic book but my artist was just too slow.

How long did he spend on it anyway? It's an immense cover, an immense bit of art work.
Initially we were working with SPV and I said I wanted to package it like as a comic book in a plastic wrap with a CD kind of placed in the middle of it. SPV said they had no way to distribute a product like that, to put it on the stands. So we had to kind of abandon that and press this 30 page booklet hoping it would fit into the plastic little tabs.

It only just does.
(laughter) Yeah we had to squeeze it in there. Some people were like 'We don't want to print a 30 page booklet' then when MTM saw it they were like completely blown away by just the beauty of it. I bill it as the first ever heavy metal graphic novel. I thought it was a really clever idea and I keep touting that when it comes to this style of music you can only innovate the music so much. I mean it's already all been done. All the notes have been hit and if you go too much innovative musically you come into a real progressive delivery and you just lose the essence of the kind of style that I try to do where you have a memorable song with powerful mean ass vocal melodies. So I try and innovate in the idea department. So I thought this was a real innovation in the idea department along with the bonus track King Diamond, I thought that was a real clever little trick that we did too. That's why I sang some songs in other languages and stuff. I try and, you know, intellectually present clever ideas and make the packaging as great as possible so that people have a reason to buy the hardcopy of the CD and not get it online all the time.

It's nice to actually get a complete package. I still love getting the hardcopies.
I just remember when I was like 16 years old and I'd go to buy a Judas Priest album and I pull it out and listen to it like 10 times in a row and I read every single word in the thanks, the credits, the lyrics, every single thing and I'd just lay there in my room and transport myself away into this metal fantasy land. I really wanted to transport someone away and to completely forget about everything except Cage and this whole apocalyptic vision of what it would really be like if Revelations is true and the end of the world's coming and stuff. Writing and
presenting all this from just being a metal fan what I would dig as a metal fan and that's what we try and put out.

Have you had any feedback, of course you've had the usual sources, but any unusual or unexpected feedback from the record so far?
We're so spoiled because all four albums have been like the greatest reviews you could really ever have. Like 'This is the greatest metal album ever' the reviews that we get are so good there just absolutely ridiculous. I mean 'Genre defining album,' 'Album of the Year,' you know, we're so spoiled. We've got like two reviewers in Italy that gave it like 4 out of 10. I was just like completely flabbergasted. Some people have said it's too long. I've gotten the comments that it's too long of a record. I could never understand. I never got an album from one of my favorites bands and said it was really great but I wish it was shorter. I just don't understand the concept of that. That would be the only strange criticism but everything else has been really amazed by the vocals. They're comparing me to the Halfords and the Rippers and that's really great. The main thing we get is that it's like Painkiller too and since that is kind of the standard for our genre that's really an honor. It makes you feel good when you put all this work and time into a record and people come out and say this is like Painkiller II or this is the album Judas Priest should have put out and it's real gratifying.

Yeah, it's hard for the old guys, in a lot of case, to recapture what the fans want, so if you can do that….
To really capture, what was that?

What they used to be about, like the Judas Priests, hard for the old guys to go back 20 years to recapture what fans may want from them.
There's certain magic to certain compositions and albums and I think we've hit it on the mark like 4 times in a row now. I think we're one of the few bands that released a first album that was considered like great and have gotten legitimately better and better each record four times in a row. A lot of my favorite bands their first album was the best and it's been like OK ever since. And that's because we've just taken the time and continued to develop even though we're a bunch of old school metal heads. We still are pushing the envelope. Vocally I'm able to do stuff now that I could never do on the last album.

And why is that so?
Well the last two albums I worked with Richard Carr who, he's the producer who worked with Roy Z on the first two Halford records and some Dickenson records and so I'm working with someone who's tracked two albums with Halford and Dickenson so it's really cool to hear stories about how they did their stuff and how Rick's really diggin' how I'm doing it. So I'm always trying to impress the guy who worked with the masters. So you've got a little of that going on, then I like to take a different voice approach to each song so that they don't all sound the same. We're like OK we're gonna use my Udo, Dirk Schneider voice on this one. Like on Rise of the Beast I've got this Udo thing goin' and then I throw this like six feet under voice underneath it and we put the two together and Rick and I would listen to it back and go 'Oh that's killer' you know I've never even heard anything like that. Then another one we'd go OK I'm gonna sing this one more operatic and that keeps it interesting for the listener and then you know, I'm just pushing the limit on the vocals. On a lot of these I was doing the falsetto stuff that I couldn't do back then and I've got this head voice kind of wail that I've really developed over the last few years. I don't know, I've just been learning more and more vocal techniques and trying to really push the limit and use different voices, not only life but on the albums so that I can, you know, make a mark on how people fifty years from now when I'm dead and buried say 'Man, you ever hear of Sean Peck, we've gotta go get that Hell Destroyer album'.

Yeah, I understand completely, and you're obviously learning and taking in what others can offer you and what advice you can get from wherever you can get it.
Well yeah, I mean I did a lot of um, you know, I threw the black metal voice and the power voice, just trying to keep it creative too, not a lot of people can do that but, not only do it but do it tastefully is one thing. I had a tough time at the beginning of the record because I'd go into practice and I was just wailing and I'd get in the studio and I could do it but it was hard and I was like 'What is the deal?' So during the recording of the album I really made a mental breakthrough. I eventually got where I could just go in the studio and just blast it like I was in rehearsal. But for a while there I was just knocking my head against the wall.

Sonically the album sounds fantastic so how do you do that on a limited budget?
One thing we've always done is really spared no expense on the ve a real organic sound. We got criticized by some of the early would be suitors to the labels, like you need to remix this whole record. We were like 'You're out of your mind, we're not remixing anything'. Really? Oh yeah it was ridiculous. That and we used some vintage compressors like from 1970 that we found online and Rick bought them and that really helped. Then we had some LA2As and all the vintage outboard gear, no plug-ins and all from Pro Tools, so everything went to analog tape and then into the Pro Tools and all the outboard gear was used. There were no computer programs that are in Pro Tools. All the vocals you hear are all unaltered, not tuned down or played with at all. So we're really proud of the analog kind of classic production sound that came out.Absolutely, it sounds a million bucks. With all that work done and the record out, you've done your bit, you can leave it up to fate now. What could you possibly do next? You know I've got a really killer idea that I've been working on…it had to do with the comic book thing. But yeah, we say that every album, like how are we gonna top this album? That's where my mind is churning right now saying how in the hell are we gonna top that record? You know it's gonna be asked but we're gonna give it our damnedest shot. Again it's in the innovation of the idea department that I'm always looking for something clever and then of course the songs have to be great. It's not gonna be easy man that's for sure.

Its early days, your still working on this record so there's plenty of time…
Yes, but we're hoping to get something by the end of 2008 because we've got a good buzz going on and we're gonna try to ride this wave and not wait another four years. Like I said, I have a fantastic idea but it's a proprietary product and I'd have to license it from somebody and I don't know that I want to do that, so I might have to obscurely make reference to these characters that I'm talking about. It's kind of close to the whole comic book thing. Keep everything under you hat because I'm still kicking it around, but it's definitely gonna be a unique idea that no one's done before.

Very Cool, sounds excellent. Anything you'd like to add Sean?
Well, I appreciate all the help that you're doing for us and I just want to put out there, like I always do, that people who read this or listen to it I say that any little note or email that we get, or message on MySpace , or message on the forum or guestbook on the website keeps that little fuel on the fire that keeps the metal fire burning. Every time we get a message from some kid saying, 'Hey I just got your album and it kicks ass', you know that just keeps us pushing the metal pedal so I encourage everyone to drop us a line because we always answer everybody personally and that's at and . If you want to talk about innovative ideas I'm thinking about putting a song on the next album that's called

Oh really?
How do you like that?

I like it, the ultimate tie-in.
When they sing along it would imbed right into their brain.

That would definitely work.
But don't give anybody that idea man. Remember you heard it here first.

Well look I think that's great man, I think that's plenty to get typed up and into a nice little interview feature for you.
I really appreciate that and I know you're talking to Ben and anything you can do to help spread the word. People that love this genre of music who are just discovering us for the first time are just blown away. I mean I'm getting emails like 'Where have you guys been all my life, oh my God, I can't believe this,' kinda like when I got into King Diamond on the Abigail album. Then I got to go back and hear two Mercyful Fate albums, the first one. You get to go back and discover all this old stuff that's killer. People who are just discovering us it's like a big Christmas present for them.

All right, good stuff mate.
Thank you so much.

Good talking to you mate.
Hey one I do want to put out that you can put on there is that we do have all these new releases on iTunes from all of our old stuff. I'm just trying to kind of push that for the fall when we're gonna talk about that a little later. It's all up there now but just put a mention in that in the fall we're gonna be releasing all kinds of old material including a completely unreleased album.

Ok, well that's cool. I'll definitely mention it, Thanks Sean.




Michele Luppi (2007)


Michele Luppi: The Los Angeles Project.

Italian metal/rock vocalist Michele Luppi goes melodic for an AOR project with Tommy Denander and Fabrizio Grossi. Some interesting tracks are covered and in this e-mail-turned-feature interview, Michele discusses everything behind the project.

Well Michele, the Los Angeles CD has been in stores for a little while now - how have the sales been?
Frontiers Records seems to be very happy about it! I know some countries are doing better than others but honestly sales aren't my main concern; no matter how many copies we'll sell, we want to be sure the people will enjoy our work “deeply and completely”. Fist of all Music should be perceived as a form of Art and we have to be sure our efforts will pay back the loyalty of every melodic fan who decided to buy “Los Angeles”. I'm pretty sure that if an Album is good it will continue to sell over the years, it takes time to realize the full value of any record… And I have faith…

Where did the idea for the project first come from? Did Frontiers approach you with a plan?
Yes. A couple of years ago Mario DeRiso came to see me live in Naples and since then we kept saying that when times allowed we would have worked together. We've been known each other since '98 but at that time they were starting out and I didn't have the balls to strike!
Actually, “Strive” (my first solo Album) could have been released by them but our schedule didn't match so we couldn't find an agreement. About a year ago Fabrizio Grossi (who's also produced and played bass on “Los Angeles”) called me asking me if I wanted to sing on a Melodic Rock Album with Tommy Denander and Frankie De Grasso. I knew some of these guys by name but I wanted to “check” the original versions first… Right after I've listened to “I Must Be Blind” (the very first song I've recorded on the Album) I said yes! I'm glad I took this chance and finally worked with one of the biggest AOR labels of all times…

Were you aware of the team behind the CD at the time, or did you get to know them as the process of the album recording took place?
When I joined this project Fabrizio, Tommy and Frankie were already in. I eventually realized I've been very lucky to get to work with these people; they're all amazingly talented, well known and down-to-earth in spite of their experience; they really made me feel part of a great team and free to do “my stuff” without any limits; Especially Fabrizio gave me a lot of freedom and trust and I'd like to thank him so much for that.

How did you find dealing with the recording of an album over long-distance, or did you fly to LA to record in person with Fabrizio?
It takes a lot of trust and respect to work like this… The strange thing about this record is that it's been recorded all over the world: Los Angeles, Stockholm, New York and Fabbrico. As always, I've recorded all the vocals on my own in my home studio like I did for all my previous Albums. I like to work alone on my vocals… Actually I have to do it this way because my Vocal Sessions are way too long for any sound engineer to stand! Too many tracks! It would cost me a fortune to record my works somewhere else… Anyway, I'm glad the result seems more like a product of a band instead of a “Featuring Album”, even though that's what it is. Internet can be a very cool thing…
We all recorded and produced our own instrument and sent the files ready to mix to Fabrizio. When “Los Angeles” was almost done I hadn't even met the other guys! We finally did at the NAMM show last January, and since I was there Frontiers Records booked a photo session with the best Rock-Photographer of all, Mr. Alex Solca. Somehow things got better and better along “the making of process”, I'm sure that's because we all worked to give the best performance also respecting the nature of the songs and the new “vibe” we all wanted to achieve.

This I think is the most melodic of a record you have made to date. How did you enjoy the chance to sing in this style over a  heavier approach you normally would use?
Is it really? Thank you, I appreciate that. You know what? I didn't change anything on my style, really. Over the years my vocal approach got heavier and heavier, that has nothing to do with the songs I'm singing. If you listen to “Stream Of Consciousness” you'll realize how “light” I was 4 years ago. My attitude on “Los Angeles” is much more “powerful” than the one I used in that Vision Divine Album even if this one is pure AOR…
I really love Melodic Rock as well as heavier stuff. Maybe following stereotypes is much less risky than “make yourself at home” and be yourself all the time but I don't care... Also, I've always tried to be a little different… I like to be “The Rocker” among the people and “The Person” among the rockers, you know what I mean? Life, heart, love is all a matter of balance and in someway I take the responsibility to make things stand still on the wire and not hung by a thread! You've got to push your music to the next level if you can, respecting the past, looking at the future but focused on the present, the way I perceive my vocals. Am I revealing myself too much?!? Hahaha!

I have read a lot of reviews of the album - most are high in their praise for your lead vocals. It seems you really hit the mark on this factor!
Thank you for saying that! I'd lie if I say I wouldn't care. I take my job very seriously and when I read good reviews about my performance, well, I'm very happy about it. I'm so glad people liked my singing, I take my vocal sessions very seriously and when a new record is out I try to read as many reviews as I can. I feel very lucky to be able to sing with such fantastic players and have full support by Frontiers Records. My main concern while recording was to be ME all the time and give the songs more pathos, not only pushing my voice as loud and clear as I can but also adding huge walls of Background Vocals; they should not drown myself but actually sustain my Lead Vocals. You have to be very precise every time you add a new track, just like when you build a castle with cards and you lay a new one on the top of it…




If there has been any negative in regards to the album - it has been to do with the production sound of the album - Fabrizio has a distinct style and sound. How do you respond to that?
As I always do… I've read the review on your website. What can I say? Everybody has their own vision on how a song should be… You can dress up with broken jeans and be cool because it is cool for most of the people… But you'd still wander in broken jeans! All I can say is that as long as you take your ship wherever you want you're a winner… Whenever you compromise for any reason you lose.
If I was the producer of “Los Angeles” I would have made some different choices… But who wouldn't? Maybe the future is to give separate tracks to the fans so they can mix the whole thing on their own! I'd love that! Some producers treat each song the same and all the tracks are pretty much like chapters of the same book… There are others who like to create a “New World” for each song… Who's right? Nobody… Remember that projects like this are not a result of a single mind… The chemistry created may work better for some songs than others.
Honestly I'm quite happy about the master. There may be a couple of songs where guitars are too edgy but you can't call that a mistake… I've learnt not to argue with producers because basically I'm one of them. If they go too far from my prospective I'd fight like it happened before… This is not the case. Making a record is like giving birth to a baby; it may hurt but in the end everybody should be happy!

I'm hoping there will be a Los Angeles 2 at some point - has this been discussed?
And if so - might you use Fabrizio again, or chose a different team?

I guess it all depends on sales. So far people love the Album (I can see it by all the mails I get every day!) and, again, sales are pretty good… I'd say yes but I don't know when! I surely hope there will be a follow up! For what concerns the other matter… Well, I have no idea! I'm not “the leader” of LA, I'm just the singer. It's up to Frontiers… I think Fab is a fantastic bass player and has his own-and-recognizable style as a producer, whether you like it or not. It would be nice to add some people this time instead of changing the producer! I like him, really. We'll see…

Let's talk about some of the songs from the album. Did you pick any of them yourself, or did Frontiers send you a list of songs they felt would suit the concept of the album?
We've been given those 12 songs. Some of them sounded great and some others needed “a special treatment” in order to make the Album sound as “a whole”. I find very challenging “improving” a song (from my point of view of course) and give it some “extra life”. Honestly, I really have no idea why they pick those songs instead of others. All I know is that once you decide you should go all the way with no regrets, and so far I have none. I think the “how” is what made this Album so special comparing to the “what”. We're talking about songs written by masters like Richard Marx… To me it's like painting a beautiful girl; if she's really good, you can either boost her beauty or ruin her with your touch… I hope we didn't exaggerate with lipstick and silicon!!!!

What was the prerequisite within your own mind that each song should have? Why did this set of songs appeal most of all?
I think a good song should be sung and played everywhere from your room to a big Arena. I didn't listen to Guns 'N Roses 20 years ago but over the years, playing their songs I realized how good some of their songs are. Some AOR tunes don't sound good enough live and to me that's always been the lack for this kind of Music: When you rely your performance on too many things like “Big Choruses”, many layers of sounds, “Pomp Arrangements” and stuff like that you have to deal with the fact that the bigger the picture is, the easier you'll find mistakes and recognize “pixels”!
Sound is a “bad beast” to deal with and I've leant how to get rid of “accessories” and focus on the essential. I always try to imagine the song “stripped” (just acoustic guitar and Vocals) and see if the song, the melody and the lyrics are worthy. Probably the reasons we like and/or appreciate a particular song are quite personal, regarding our backgrounds and the emotions related. Well, I thought the songs in “Los Angeles” were great even though the original arrangements and the whole attitude were too “light” and “sweet” comparing to the ones we wanted to use…

To a couple of the songs specifically - I Will Carry You was a terrific choice for you! Why this song?
Because… It was on the list they gave me! Maybe when they selected the songs I was already on their mind, who knows?!? I'll tell you a secret about this one… I had no idea this would be the opening track for “Los Angeles” until I've listened to Gregg's Intro. Here's the thing. The main Chorus was too alike an Italian Pop Song sung by an Artist I really can't stand… I had to add big walls of Vocals to hide and I ended up changing the part so anybody wouldn't relate “When You Think Of Me” to that other song I hated! That thing pushed me further and to my big surprise this song became one of the best on the Album! In Italy we say “not all the bad things come to hurt you…”…

I'm also a huge fan of the Night Ranger song Last Chance. That moody vocal fits your mold perfectly. Yes?
You're too kind! Thanks! Actually this is one of those songs where you try as hard as you can to do a decent job and after that you end up hoping you didn't screw up the whole thing! I had to raise the key a bit 'cause I couldn't reach those low notes in the right way… I'm a violin, not a cello! Hahaha! Just kidding… Seriously, I'm satisfied on how the songs ended up. There wasn't much to change on this one… The “West-Coast-American-Yeah-Sunset” attitude in my DNA helped a lot!

Measure Of A Man is a perfect way to close out an album - one of my favourites. What are your thoughts behind this tune?
I totally agree. I liked this one since the very beginning! The Chorus got stock inside my head for the whole recording session!!!! The chords changes and the melody give this song some magic you can't quite buy at the market, for cheap at least! Tommy's Guitar solo is just great, it can really dig you deep inside… I thought most of the people would rather pick up as the favorite one some more direct songs like “I Must Be Blind” which I also love very much… The fact that you like “Measure…” means there's still people out there that go beyond the first listening and try to find new emotions every time… Thank you.

Do you have any other favourites I haven't mentioned?
Sure, today I'd say “When You Think Of Me”, “Run” and “Caroline”.

Any songs not recorded on this occasion that were left off...but you would still like to sing?
Oh man, too many! Maybe I would rearrange a pop song and make it AOR or pick up some albums people seems to have forgotten… Maybe songs like “Reason To Live” (Kiss), “When The Love Is Over” (Shy), “Under One Condition” (Winger) would have been great on “Los Angeles”, don't you think?

Of course we must mention the cameo appearance of keyboard legend Gregg Giuffria! I've seen from your own words already that this was a huge honor for you?
Yes. It's unbelievable. Before I became a singer, I've been a “full-time” keyboard player for quite a while. Keys have been my first love. There weren't many keyboardists to admire back then… I wasn't into Hammond Organs so Lord has never been an influence for me. Only Gregg Giuffria, Geoff Downes and Mic Michaeli got my heart while I was growing up! I used to have a picture of Gregg hanging on the wall playing with House Of Lords, my favorite band from '88 to '93… I also recorded a version of “Love Don't Lie” on my first demo tape called “The First Seal” back in 1990! I've learnt and played all his songs from Giuffria and HOL Albums, “copied” all his presets and sounds… He was the one and only for me. Frontiers made me an incredible present by asking him to join this project! When Fab told me he chose “Los Angeles” to make an appearance and that he actually listened to it and enjoyed my voice, well, I was blown away! Even in my dreams I wouldn't believe there would be a record with both of us on, no kidding! I hope to meet him in person some day and thank him for the amazing Music he wrote… His style is one of a kind, everybody knows that.

I (and many others) have stated that Gregg only appears on 1 song - the brilliant intro. But apparently he is on 3 tracks? What are the other parts he plays?
He also plays on “Caroline” and on “The Other Side”… If you go back and listen I bet you'll find him!!! I'm pretty sure these are the songs he played on even though nobody told me exactly… I've just figure it out!

I must also ask you about your days in LA at VIT. What is the most vivid memory for you there?
I remember me talking with Kenny Kerner about Kiss for hours... I was also asking him questions/advices all the time and he made me laugh a lot while I was there! Awesome guy! He told me so many funny stories about the making of “Kiss” and “Hotter Than Hell”… He was the one who received the demo from the band back in '73, can you believe it?

You also worked there with Robin Randall?
And the sad and untimely passing of Robin's mother and songwriting partner Judith Randall was a terrible day.

Robin was my basic-keyboard teacher… Since I could already play keyboards well enough, our lessons ended up talking about her “friends” and the songs I knew she had something to do with! It was amazing, I wasn't aware she knew personally all the singers and players that I've always admired! On one of the test @VIT I sang and played James Christian's “Love Should Have Brought You Home” without knowing her mother wrote lyrics for that Album… She probably thought I was kidding but I really had no idea of who she was until then!
Whenever someone passes away it's a tragedy. Life can hurt you too bad sometimes but I believe that our spirit never dies away. It may sound naïve but that's what I think. I'm sure there's something after we're gone and that thought keeps me sane, otherwise why bothering trying to sing in tune if someday we won't be here anymore to enjoy it? I've never met Judith in person, only sent a couple of faxes 10 years ago… All I can say that she wrote some songs that will be stuck in my heart forever.

To Vision Divine - what is happening there Michele? Time I think would be right for a new album, being that progressive metal is getting far better exposure and sales than AOR!
You're right! The fact is that our latest Album, “The 25th Hour” has just come out! We're about to tour Asia and South America; we're so excited about it! It seems our last 3 records went very well over there. By the way I didn't join them just for a bigger exposure; I was sure I could melt my Melodic Style to those powerful guitar riffs… It worked, proving that Melodic Rock fits in every kind of Music… As I always say, AOR is “A Certain Way to play/sing Music”, not just a brand…

Just on the subject of sales and flagging fortunes of record labels...where do you see the industry heading currently? Is making such albums as Los Angeles a dying art?
No way! The value of any kind of Art is priceless. If you follow the mainstream you ain't going to succeed! I strongly believe if you really love something, you're willing to give your heart for and try to improve it day by day, many will follow YOU.
What you sell or do has to be good, real, true and perfect. Good sales are all a matter of time and just one way to judge success… There are millions of brands of cheese but they make the best one in the whole world called “Parmiggiano” 20 miles form where I live. You know why? It's not a matter of luck, believe me; There's a tradition, a research going on and there's no other brand that can compete with it!
You wanna know where the industry is heading? Probably all the standards are going to rise a lot, everybody is more and more exposed to Music comparing to 20 years ago and that's a good thing. CDs are going to be more or less a souvenir to go and see bands, and, unless you add some extras like a DVD and stuff like that they will be given away just like flyers…
I only hope that making records won't become only a matter of promotion just like printing personal cards and that there will always be people like Kip Winger, an Artist who's able to create wonderful pieces of Music in the best possible way no matter what. That's the people we should admire most. He's the one I admire most. By the way, regarding “sales, success and the price of Art”, can you tell me why all CDs have the same price? That's strange if you think about it… Some of them should cost 5$ and others 50$! Wouldn't you pay big bucks for a brand new record you already know it's great? The Artist should decide the prices of his/her works, not only calculating expenses! What about all the sweat and tears he/she shed to make it sound the best?!?

Who are your vocals heroes?
There are so many for many reasons… Kip Winger, Richie Sambora, Glenn Hughes, David Coverdale, Robert Plant, Seal, Paul Stanley, Eric Martin, Joey Tempest, James Christian, John Payne, Gino Vannelli, Gene Simmons, Mark Slaughter, Richard Marx, Todd Howarth… I'm sure I forgot lots of them…

And what is next for you?
Right now I'm recording the first Mr. Pig Album. I'll produce the whole thing and I can say it will sound heavier than “Strive” and/or “Los Angeles”; it will be a mix between Whitesnake, Europe, Kiss and Dream Theater! There will be 12 original songs and a very special version of Bee Gee's classic “Staying Alive”… I'm sure this Album will be a nice surprise for many Hard Rock fans…

Anything you would like to mention or add to the interview?
I only want to say thank you to all the fans I've met on the web and on the road. You've made my dream come true and I will always respect that! Remember, all you say and do, no matter how important you think it is, it affects people, yourself and me. Let's be honest and support the best Music of all… AOR!!!!

Thanks for your time!
You're welcome! Thanks for your support!




c. 2007 / Interview by Andrew McNeice







Tommy Shaw (2007)

Tommy Shaw: A Lifetime Of Performing.

Tommy talks in depth about the recent Shaw/Blades record, life on the road with Styx, the ever popular Damn Yankees question...and more.

Yes sir.

Andrew from Melodicrock.
Hello Andrew.

How are you?
Hey, thanks for calling.

That's all right. This is a pleasant surprise. I didn't expect an unscheduled interview to fall into my lap.
Well yeah, it just came to me today and I said the same thing, let's do it.

You'll pardon me winging an interview rather than having any prepared questions.
Well, I don't have any prepared answers either. (laughter)

I'm glad to hear it.
So where do I catch you today? You've got a day off and you thought you'd like nothing better to do than sit down and do more interviews?
Well, we're getting ready to do a big construction project here at our house. We started out with a big Bobcat…digging up the yard and digging up trees and making a complete muddy mess out of the front yard and the back yard. So I'm just getting ready to hose off and take a bath and get that all off of me. So you're talking to a dirty yard guy right now. (laughter)

Great stuff…the other side of rock 'n roll obviously, the escape.
Yeah, this is the dirty job. That's the good job, the one they call playing. I play for a living.

Well you haven't done a bad job of it have you?
(laughs) No, still foolin' 'em after all these years. (laughter)

How many years is it now in the business, 25?
I started getting paid when I was, and I guess you're a professional when you start accepting pay for what you do, so I was eleven when I started and that would make it 42 – almost 43 years.

Wow, few people could boast such a career.
I've really had a good one. Who knew? Nothing was planned. I was doing what I loved to do. I did commit myself to going out there and standing at the corner of opportunity and hard work and a lot of good things came along.

I'm just about through reading Chuck Panozzo's book which was homage perhaps later on but something I picked out of it was in reference to you. It was that everyone was so attracted to you looks and that in the early days you fit a certain niche that the fanbase was looking for. You were very marketable I'm trying to say I guess.
Yeah, it's funny, the reasons that I wound up getting that gig. Honestly, I didn't even take my guitar out of the case at the audition. Really? (laughter) No, one thing that cinched it for me is I guess I looked the part that they were looking for but also I could hit that high note in Lady. And I've been singing it ever since.(laughter) But hey, it got me the gig and so far I've managed to do it without it killing me.

Well that's no easy task. Looks will obviously only get you so far in any game, especially this game.
They do fade. (laughter)

Not talking of yourself of course.
I'm not saying any more.

When do you think your musical credibility really took hold and people started respecting you for that?
Well as soon as I joined the band, I mean I would have been Ok just as the guy singing the high note in Lady and with blond hair and looking the part, but I immediately went into being a songwriter in the band. By the time we got through with touring with the Equinox album which had just been released when I joined the band we were already writing songs together and I brought a lot of bits and pieces from my life and the music I'd written up to that point into the Crystal Ball album. Then I got the title track on the first album that I did with them, so it was a testimony to how open minded they were and how open they were to having me really become a vital member of the band right away.

Absolutely, and few bands in history, not only rock bands but any form of musical history, can boast the success that you guys kind of rolled through in the next ten years.
Yeah, there was this moment in time when people were into listening to the entire albums by a band and radio was a part of the equation. They would keep the lights open for your new record to come out and when they'd get it they'd play the entire thing front and back. So there was this relationship you had with the fans everywhere.
They knew your entire record and before video so the only way for them to experience you was to come see you live. We played live and we just dedicated ourselves to going out and building a fanbase one night at a time. And that's really what sustains us today, the fact that we did that. People still come who came way back then and now their kids come and some of their kids are coming.

It's seems that the only people making a decent living or money off this gig at the moment are that bands that are really back into the hard work of touring.
Right, and for us it's just what we've always done. So we didn't have to reinvent ourselves for that and there's something to be said for the experience that a band like us has.

Yeah, like Steve Perry joining Journey and the chemistry sort of blossoming there. That's exactly what happened with Styx wasn't it?
It really was and you just never know about chemistry. You could put a bunch of wonderful, talented, experience people together in a room and have them all come out scratching there heads and not come out with anything. But then you can put people from different parts of the country or the world together sometimes and magic happens.

From the time you first started and now the industry's been turned on its head. It's a subject I've raised in the last few interviews I've done just because nobody really knows where it's going I guess. Do you despair at the fact that the art of making an album seems, as far as youth at least, to have been forgotten?
Well, what are you gonna do, you know? The only constant is change. If you're not prepared to roll with the changes, as a good friend of mine once wrote, (laughter) then you're dead because things do change. The weather changes, people's tastes change. Your own tastes change and if you get stuck in one thing then that's exactly where you are. You're stuck and everybody moves on. I will say I was encouraged yesterday when I was at the gym and I heard this local station playing the new Maroon 5. They played the whole record, every single song back to back. My trainer was saying that they also did that with somebody else's record that just came out and this seemed like a brave new invention. If you think about it, to get to hear one song after another like that, it's like, I like that record. I might buy that record.

So often, probably out of the last decade, an album has a continual lifespan because the label will release a new single and people hear three, four then five tracks then different people discover it at a different point don't they?
Yeah and then when you bring the album home you kind of know it already. You know that you like it rather than buying an album because you heard one track and you've got to sit there and decide for yourself, 'do I like this record, is this record cool. Is it produced well but not good or is it good songs that aren't produced well.'
In listening to music, there shouldn't be work involved. That's the nice part about having radio as part of the equation, they help introduce new music so by the time you get the record it's like, 'yeah I know this song', then they're open to the rest of it. So there's always hope. Things do come around again. Just like I hear there's not so many people sounding like, you know, like Matchbox 20's lead vocalist anymore. There're guys with high vocals and guys playing guitar solos in songs.

Amazing concept.
(laughter) Yeah, the wheel continues to turn.

That's one thing I've really got frustrated in the last ten years and that's the lack of really good vocalists.
A lot of that is record labels' fault. I would hear young bands or I would go play on a record that somebody's doing, just in the early stages of it, and it would sound really good and raw. Then by the time producers got through with it there's that same (imitates the sound of latter day vocalists) and I'm like what happened?
Well it's just that they wanted it to sound more commercial and everything become derivative. You're taking a risk by not going with the flow.

Hopefully the more derivative things sound, the more people will fight for a change.
Yeah, and when things do become derivative that usually precipitates change.

I want to talk about Shaw/Blades obviously because that's fantastic, but in the greater picture of where things are at the moment, where does Styx stand as far as new material and what to do next, so to speak?
Well because of the state of the music industry there's no hurry for a new Styx album, but we're already talking about how and where. We're into discussions like that but really there's no time between now and the end of the year. We're booked so heavily this year, it's been such a great year of live performing that we won't be able to really look at it until next year sometime. With Shaw/Blades now on the map and it's something that I want to continue doing….I'm a busy man.

Absolutely, well let's talk Shaw/Blades. Your partnership with Jack is really one of the more unique partnerships in rock 'n roll. It has to be.
Well you know, he's one of my best friends and we've only become better friends over the years. We've gone through a lot of things together and we're like brothers. So we kind of know what the other one's thinking and when it comes to writing and recording music and getting things done we really have such an easy relationship.
There's just no struggle. That's such a relief at this stage of my life to have something like that in my life that I can do. It's 99% and some just pure fun and enjoyment. It's not a huge act so there's not the kind of budget that we had with Styx and Night Ranger so we're just kind of roughing it a bit out there.
But you know, it doesn't matter because at the end of the day we get to do a Shaw/Blades show. And we're all hanging out together on the same bus and it's really worth fighting for.

I was talking to Jack yesterday and he's just got so much enthusiasm for everything generally, but especially Shaw/Blades.
Well we finally found a little niche because it's just about impossible to have things line up the way they did when we did Damn Yankees. All of us just happened to be at a point where we didn't have anything on the calendar. There was nothing to cancel, nothing to work around, we had opened up on our own a piece of open space in front of us.



I was going to say you're sort of involved in two bands that both have unfinished business. I say that about Styx because there's always the possibility of Dennis DeYoung returned I suppose. Just to touch on that quickly, of course I want to talk about Damn Yankees, but do you feel a sense that there's unfinished business as long as Dennis is out there still breathing?
Well, you know, you never say never to anything, but it seems so unlikely. For one thing Lawrence Gowan is such a vital member of the band.

I love Lawrence. I've been a fan of his since the '80s actually.
So for us to go back and become the band we were in 1996, the thing that would cause that to happen hasn't happened yet and I don't know what that is because that was not the happy band that this is. It was happier than it had been, but it was tough and it was hard to do. This is so much fun and so good and so easy. You see that it's easy because we can play a hundred and some shows a year without breaking up. In the old days it was just such a struggle to get the think to work that by the end of 40 shows we were thinking we'd better take a break. It's a shame because, well you know what it sounded like. That was the glory days of Styx and that's where it all came together but sometimes people just grow apart and there just ain't no growing them back together.

I understand. You have picked out a good man in Lawrence haven't you?
Man I'll tell you. The guy's got such positive energy and so much talent and he's such a great bandmate. It's a new Styx and we've played more gigs since we've been together than the other version of Styx had played in the previous 20 years.
Quite a few because we've played so much, because it's easy to just assume we're going out again next year instead of wondering if it's ever gonna happen again. At some point before we're all dead maybe we'll figure out a way to do something but, you know, not at the peril of this Styx.

So Damn Yankees is unfinished business as well for other reasons.
Yeah, just because we've all been blessed with success and work and continued fan support in our day jobs. (laughter) We kiddingly call Night Ranger, Styx and Being Ted Nugent our day jobs. Not to mention Michael Cartellone and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Since then everybody's been successful and our wishes came true that we were busy and successful. So it just makes it hard for us all to put everything that we're now doing on hold for two or three years. I think we could probably do a Damn Yankees project as a three month project with a really condensed tour and a DVD and maybe a new studio album. I think we could do that, but we have to just keep looking ahead to figure out when the right time to do that is.

You're all busy. It's a shame the Damn Yankees 3 album didn't work out so I'm glad you think there should be another.
The other Damn Yankees records, we were all there and it was all a Damn Yankees project from the beginning.
We tried to do that one long distance phoning the parts in and it was a great sounding record. I'm just not sure who it sounded like.

Yeah, I have heard a few songs and it certainly didn't sound like Damn Yankees. No, uh uh, well, the producer, he and I didn't hit it off from the very first hour. That's a good sign. There was this one song we did called Yes I Can that Jack and I had written. It was a very personal song and I went in to sing my part and got to the chorus and there were different words in the chorus. And this producer said 'I didn't like that, I changed it' and I was like 'Who are you, what's your name?'. Who are you, you rewrote the chorus to my song?
That's how it started and that's pretty much how it went. It was just not good. He would stay in there and have whoever happened to be in the room producing the record for him while he was off doing something else. He had done successful records before so John Kalodner had confidence in him, but for some reason he just wasn't showing up for work on the Damn Yankees record. Even if he had been there I think it was just not meant to be anyway. John and the record company were magnanimous and smart enough to keep it under wraps.

I hope you do record another album and I know Jack would love to do a Night Ranger/Styx sort of Damn Yankees tour.
That's been talked about too.

Yeah every time I do a formal interview with him and raise the subject he goes 'yeah, we're gonna do it, we're gonna do it”.
(laughter) That would be a hell of a day of music.

Wouldn't it just. Great stuff. Something I wanted to ask you about Tommy in relation to Shaw/Blades. I listened to the Rockline radio interview you did and I've seen some other TV spots you did and whatever. You and Jack just play off of each other. You've talked about being brothers and long time friends but you two just take the absolute piss out of each other at every opportunity.
(laughter) I know it. If people didn't know us they would think these guys hate each other. (laughter)

It's just insane to listen to. I mean even on stage you're constantly at each other aren't you?
Yeah, it's more of he's in my shit than anything.

I was watching some old Damn Yankees interview clips and they were at you in that as well.
Yep, it never stops.

Why are you the fall guy?
Well we like to laugh and we get a lot of laughs out of behaving like that.
I look forward to the live DVD. How is that coming along?

I don't know. I can't remember that gig. It was a key club. We video taped that. I think somebody's got it and somebody's starting to work on it a little bit. We'll have to get in there and organize it and clean it up, edit it and see what we think.

I hope that comes out in this year at least.
Yeah eventually, if it's not that then we'll do it again, but maybe November or December.

There seems to be a real interest out there for you guys.
Maybe a lot of people have gotten to the point in their busy lives where they may not want to go fight their way through a parking lot and find their seat and be beat up by a live rock show like what we do with the rest of our bands. There's a small percentage, but enough of them, that can keep us busy with the kind of places Shaw/Blades plays. It's a lot more intimate, interactive and personal. It's easier on the ears, easier on the body, and easy to come to these places. You just step right out and there's the car in the parking lot and you've been singing your ass off all night and you got to hear music from Shaw/Blades, from Night Ranger, from Styx and Damn Yankees, from Jack Blades solo album, from my solo album and from all the people that we covered. So it's quite a night of music.

I was talking to Jack and he's was saying it hard to whittle it down from a four hour show.
It is. It's like if we do two hours then it's like well we need to let these people go home. We look at it and we try to come up with a song list. A two hours we've still got five or six songs left. We're like, we've gotta find a way to do this in less time.

It's a luxury not too many latter day artists can share.
Absolutely, this is something we just stumbled on and there's a fanbase out there for this. When we first started booking these dates ticket sales were a little slow in places. Then we got out and promoted it a little bit. We got on Howard Stern then the next thing you know places are selling out and owners are saying 'Can you stay and play tomorrow night too?'.
So it just took off. Then I got sick. We all got what I call kennel cough. Everybody on the bus got this same cold and I got it worse. So I lost my voice and we had to cancel a few shows. Actually were going back and playing two of them this week. I hated walking away from it.

I bet. It must have been very frustrating. But everything's back to normal?
Oh yeah.

On the covers album, I'm not a big fan of covers albums, but this one just works so wonderfully well.
It really does and that's how it came to be. Because when we did that song Nature's Way on Jack's solo album that sounded so good and it was so easy. It was a song that we loved. Then I did a demo when I got home of For What it's Worth and I
Am a Rock and played it for Jack and I sang the harmonies like Jack and I would sing them and he was like, so, we gotta do those. Then he called me up and he was playing Your Move on the radio and he said we've gotta try this, and I said you're out of you're mind. Then I hung up the phone and picked up my guitar and I was like, yeah, I can sing it. Then I came up with the little acoustic intro and outro.
The same with Lucky Man, I thought Jack was just out of his mind to even attempt that. But we just went at it straight ahead and I always figured we'd get maybe Gowan or somebody to play the solo on it but the day came and there was nobody there but me. So I dug out this old pedal and that's how that came to be. (laughter)

It seems that you've left some songs alone and you've tweaked and sort of updated a few others where needed. It just seems to be like you guys really knew what was needed where it was needed.
That's the thing that Jack and I have working together. We just seem to let the next right thing happen. There's no struggle with it because it's just obvious that this is the right thing to do. He's got a good way of telling me 'don't do that'. Every artist that I've ever worked with has things they're really good at but every once in a while they'll do something that just ain't right and somebody needs to tell 'em. You'll hear of some artists that no one's tellin' em'. The lucky ones have someone around to say don't, don't do that. Do that other thing. You sound great at that.

Not too many people are breaking new ground with a covers album but this seems to be doing that as well.
It's unbelievable. We were fully prepared to have to just right checks for the whole thing. We just did it because we loved it. Then it started selling records and it charted in it's third week and the thing made money. I mean it's still selling.

And so it should. Does that put pressure on you to do the same thing next time or will you do and original Shaw/Blades record?
We haven't decided. It might be fun to do a volume II just because it's so easy and it's a lot of fun. And I love hearing us sing these kind of songs.

I must admit that it did impress me. I think Jack showed you the review.
Yeah, you guys have been incredible.

My pleasure Tommy. It's easy when you're presented with great music.
That meant a lot. I meant to tell you that. Jack's constantly showing me these things. I'm just in such a habit of not reading reviews because I'm in Styx dammit and we don't get good reviews. (laughter) So to read all of that, that's been really sweet.

I've enjoyed covering it and I'd like to say Jack's a sweetheart too so it's great to hear great music coming from good people.
He's a good guy.

Tommy, I'll close on one other thing, that's Chuck's book. What has been the reaction in the Styx world to that? It's an amazing read.
I got to read one of the galleys months ago. He let me read it before anybody else. Well, my wife read it first and she was just so blown away by it that I was like 'well hurry up, I want to read it'. We had no idea what it was going to be like. I've known Chuck since 1975. But there was stuff in there that I'd never really considered. I'd never thought about what his life was like when I went away from the Damn Yankees. And that's in there. But his, the only word I can think of is magnanimous, attitude towards life and everyone around him, he didn't really seem vindictive or blame anybody for anything. He just told the story and he wasn't hard on anybody other than himself.

I know. The man has just an amazing courage, I think.
We call him the iron man. If anybody thinks this gay guy's a sissy, I got news for ya. He should have been gone a couple of times but he just keeps coming back stronger than ever. To see him in this band now, especially with this book, even before the book too, but now with the book he has something that's totally his own. He's not just the guy playing the songs written by somebody else being in a support position. He's really stepped up and he's his own man. He realizes that his mission has been helping people and he deserves to feel good about it. And he does.

Good, good, and will he play many dates with you this tour?
He's played them all so far. He'll probably miss a few because the book is starting to get some momentum and he's booked a lot of book signings and personal appearances and stuff like that. We're encouraging him to go for it. As soon as I read that book my wife and I both told him this is a mainstream book and you need to go mainstream with it. It's not just a gay community thing.

Absolutely not, I'd recommend anybody to read it.
Yeah, it's a very uplifting story. I'm very proud of him. The other night in South Bend we had this great show at the performing arts center there. And now I'm introducing him, saying we have a guy in the band who's written his memoirs. When I introduced him as that the people were holding up his book in the audience. It's so beautiful because we came so close to losing that guy.

One of my longest buddies in this business I suppose, I've known him since I started the website, he's right beside you in Ricky Phillips.
He's another good guy. I've known Ricky since he was in the Babys and we played together and I was the one who really pushed to get him into the band. He's just such a great guy and a great player, and we still have to just laugh that we're finally in a band together. (laughter)

Yeah, because we would always run into each other and go see Marco Mendoza and his band. Have you ever seen Marco do his three piece thing?

No, I haven't really. I've only seen him with Soul Sirkus and Neal Schon.
Aw shoot, it you ever get the opportunity to see Marco doing Marco Mendoza forget everything else that he's done.

He's pretty amazing isn't he?
When you see him doing his thing you will have seen something otherworldly. I mean it. I've never seen anything like it and that's how I think of Marco. Whenever I see him doing something else, no matter how big of a band he's in, I'm like, well that's nice, but……..(laughter)

He's an individual isn't he?
He's a sweetheart and just so talented. When he's playing in his band it's like three guys up there playing there asses off and singing.

That's great Tommy. Anything you'd like to add or throw in there?
Well, Jack and I and our manager and agent are starting to look at November or December for another Shaw/Blades tour. So were looking forward to that. I'm going to be busy with Styx playing shows with Def Leppard and Foreigner this summer. We haven't started that yet and there's 70 or maybe 80 shows.

Where do you start in the bill there? Have you got that worked out yet?
With Foreigner we're gonna flip flop. Then at some point Foreigner's gonna go off and do other things then it'll be just Def Leppard and Styx. And I think there's a couple of shows with Def Leppard, Styx and REO. I think there'll be about 15 shows where it's just the two of us.

It sounds like a fun summer.
It's gonna be a lot of fun, especially getting to work with other great guitarists. You always wind up checking each other out and you see somebody doing something you like you say now how'd they do that. (laughter)

I saw Foreigner last year here in Australia and they're on fire.
Man, they are on a mission aren't they? Absolutely with Jeff Pilson and Jason Bonham they've got a great lineup. And Kelly of course is an old friend and a great singer. I know, and Ricky I think helped hook him up with those guys. I mean talk about taking some of the hardest songs to sing ever and just ripping on them.

Oh, amazing, yeah I wouldn't want to be doing that.
I'll see him back stage and he'll be smoking a cigarette and I'm like, how are you doing that and not having a stroke up there on stage. (laughter)

He's a small guy isn't he?
He's a little guy but with a huge voice. It's just great to hear all those songs. That's one of the best song lists in rock.

It's right up there with Styx isn't it?
It's just one song after another and they're just playing the shit out of 'em. It's beautiful and that's what I'm looking for is night after night hearing all that music in one night.

Well that's why these bills are working isn't it, because fans really get bang for their buck?
Look at it if you're a young fan and you've just heard this music from your parents or you're just discovering it on you own, and it's still out there that you can go see live. And by three bands that are really playing at their peaks again.

They're showing some of the modern bands how it's done really.
Well there's a lot to be said for experience. We made our mistakes in front of smaller audiences and by the time we got to the big audiences we really had it down. These days a band is really lucky if they get to do that. A lot of times they're just thrown out in front of a big audience while they're still green and you don't get too many chances for a second impression.

I've seen a couple of the newer bands and there's just no stage presence.
Well you know now you make records with protocols and you can really make a perfect record out of an imperfect performance. Then you've got to go live and there you are on television and they're thinking why doesn't this sound good. (laughter)

You can't hide it out there can you?
What happened? The record sounds great and that's me, why don't I sound good now. There's a lot to be said for starting out and playing small clubs and falling on your face in front of 50 people.

Alright, great talking to you anyway.
Well same here Andrew. Congratulations on your site man. You've really jumped to the front with that.

Thanks Tommy.
It shows and thanks again for you support. It's really meant a lot.

Alright then, thanks for calling.

c. 2007 / Interview by Andrew McNeice / Transcribed By Sherrie






Glen Burtnik (2007)


Glen Burtnik: Syncronicity for the former Styx man.



Glen… 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?

Yeah, exactly.
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.

Finally, really?
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?
Actually no.

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.



c. 2007 / Interview By Andrew McNeice / Transcribed By Sherrie





REO Speedwagon - Kevin Cronin (2007)


Kevin Cronin: Finding His Own Way.

REO Speedwagon frontman Kevin Cronin talks everything behind and about the band's long awaited new studio album. Kevin is an extremely passionate guy - especially in regards to the new album - and I hope that shines through in this interview.

G'Day Kevin. First I must apologize for taking ten years to get you on the phone for an interview!
Well I apologize for our band being together since 1971 and having yet to play a gig in your entire country. That makes absolutely no sense to me.

Well you're in good company. There are some fine, fine bands that have never made it down here, unfortunately.
Yeah, well that doesn't make any sense. Our guitar player, Dave Amato spends a lot of time in Australia. He played guitar with Jimmy Barnes in it must have been the late '80s he spent a good deal of time in Australia. He's sort of hipped up to what to expect when we make it down there and it sounds like a lot of fun to me.

Well, one day I hope. You're actually doing a media storm over there in the States aren't you?
Yeah, we're kinda doing it the old fashioned was Andrew. We're kinda getting back to our roots. We've got a wretched Chevy station wagon and we're just driving from city to city around the Midwest, showing up in radio stations with our acoustic guitars and singing some songs.
You know, just hanging out on the radio having some fun with the DJs and just trying to spread the word that we've got a new CD out. It's been a while for us, so we're just doing it from the grass roots. I'll tell you what though it's a lot of fun. We're having a great time and we're finding that there's an awful lot of support for us out here in the heartland so it's really a good feeling.

OK, now you're driving from station to station which is good, but we all know how complicated the radio setup is over there. Can you actually break in with them to play new material for you?
Well, that's what we're doing here. It's pretty amazing. I wasn't really sure what kind of reception that we were gonna get with a brand new record. Part of what we're up against is that we have so many records that we've made over the years and so many of the radio stations still play our classics. And that's great. There's nothing wrong with that.
It's a wonderful thing but, to try to get them to play new music, like I said, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.
The good news is that the songs and the performances on this new REO Speedwagon record are just kicking the door in for us. We're just sort of walking in behind it and the music is really speaking for itself. That's been extremely heartening.
We had an experience the other day that pretty much sums it up. We went to a classic rock station in Cleveland, Ohio which is right in the heartland of America here. We did our thing at the classic rock station. Of course they're predisposed to playing our music on their recurrent list so of course we were welcomed there with open arms.
In the studio right next door, in the same building was an alternative station called K-Rock which is aimed at 20 year olds and they're playing really cool music. The kind of music I really like listen to myself but you wouldn't expect to hear an REO Speedwagon record on K-Rock.
So one of the girls who was a producer of the show was a fan of ours and she saw us in the hallway. She came back in and told a couple of the radio personalities that REO Speedwagon was out in the hall. So he was like, 'Who's REO Speedwagon I don't really know much about them? I've kind of heard of them but I don't know much about their music.'
Well, he invited us into the studio, so we came in. There was a little sparring that went on at first but we kinda gained their respect and held our own and we became kinda friends with these guys. I had our single Smiling in the End in my hand and I said, 'I'll tell you what. Put this record on and let it play for a minute. If after a minute Dieter gives it the thumbs down, we'll take off the air and we're outta here, but if Dieter likes it, let it play.
So after a minute Dieter's like, dude this rocks, so he let it the whole song play and when it was over the phones lit up with like 20, 21, 23 year old kids from all these different cities that this station plays to and that to me was the ultimate complement. On the classic rock station, the people who had been with us since the beginning were calling in saying that they loved the track, then 10 minutes later the same song is on an alternative station and young people are calling in and responding to it. You know, that was pretty cool.

That reflects a definite frustration I voice on the site all the time, that people would buy this music if they had the chance to actually hear it!
Yeah, exactly, you know, we've been around a long time, but you know, personally, I've got three young kids at home but I feel pretty vibrant, pretty young at heart and actually I feel like I have more in common with some of the kids who are working at the alternative stations than I do with some of the guys at the classic stations.
Some of the guys at the classic stations act a little too old for me even though they're my age. I kind of relate more to the younger kids and it was really cool to see that the music is being accepted by a lot of people.
A friend of ours who also runs our website, her name is Ruth McCartney, you might recognize the last name, she's Paul's little sister. She grew up with some pretty good music around her, so she was one of the first people to come into the studio to hear the new record and her first comment right of the cuff was 'This new record is fresh and old school at the same time.' That was music to my ears Andrew because that was all we could expect. You know, that's where it's at out here in America.

I've got a few comments to run past you about the album, but first I'll jump to the fact that you're plugging Smiling in the End as a single. This is a really commercial album and my favorite song is that, but I would've almost expected you to go with something safer…the ballad for example.
Well you know, actually we've got two singles out at the same time because we couldn't really choose ourselves. Smiling in the End is a strong song and it rocks, then we have a song called I Needed to Fall which is kind of more along the lines of what people might expect from us. It's got the power ballad thing, but hopefully we've raised the bar a little bit on the power ballad as well.
So we've got both these songs out there and we're just depending on the radio station. Most the stations that we're going to are playing both of them, but there are some stations that can't really play Smiling it the End just because of their format they want something a little softer. We just want people to hear this music. I like all the songs on this record so I don't really care what songs get played so we're walking into these radio stations with both of them and they're both actually going over really well, believe it or not.

Well I believe it completely because I Needed to Fall is a wonderful ballad.
Well great, I'm glad to hear that you've heard the record Andrew. That makes me feel better that I don't have to explain it to you. That's good.

I was actually playing it when the phone rang.
Oh good.

I think it's a great record. Really, really sharp production, I think it's very fresh. Couple of songs I'm not so in to…a little country slant on a couple of tunes there Kevin?
Yeah, I've got a little country in me somewhere. (laughing)

But for the most part it's a wonderful, wonderful record, and very fresh, very fresh. Well I appreciate that Andrew. Thank you very much. We put a lot of work into it, I'll tell you that.

The first four tracks in particular I think are four classic REO Speedwagon songs. Well again man thank you very much. I appreciate the support.

I love Find Your Own Way Home and I Needed to Fall is just, like I said a classic ballad. There hasn't been a really good power ballad for a while and that hits the spot like that song does.
These songs, especially those first four songs you're talking about, and there are other ones on the record. You know the years between 2003, 2004 and 2005, I'll be straight with you. I was going through a dark period.
There were some things going on and really this music was born from that darkness and I think a lot of times that's where some of the strongest songs come from. I guess I kind of hit an icy patch in the road type of thing and the car kind of spun out and ended up in a ditch. I used the metaphor earlier today because it seems to apply. I kinda looked around the ditch and there were Bruce and Dave and Neal laying there next to me.
You know, we all kinda hit the same rough patch at the same time but in different ways. I started writing because it was almost like my kind of therapy.
The other guys were going through some crazy stuff too, I don't know, mid-life or whatever, but there was a camaraderie that came for all of us winding up in a ditch at the same time and trying to claw our way out and find our own way home you might say. We all kind of had this passion in us and so we kind of really bonded, not only as a band and musicians but also as friends as well. I think that's where some of the magic on this record comes from is because we were all kind of in that place and you know misery loves company.
We kind of all had each other to bounce off of. It was a tough time to go through but the fact that we all had each other allowed us to help each other through it and help each other out of it. It's been quite an experience and like I said we didn't really expect to make another record. This record kind of made us. It kinda just happened without us really trying and I guess there's something to be said for that as well. These songs just needed to be written and the just came, I wouldn't say effortlessly but they came almost like an emergency vehicle.



I must say that in all my years of listening I've always had a soft spot for albums with emotional depth.
Well yeah you know that's just about it. Too many people, when it comes to album, they've kind of lost the concept of an album. You know in this day and age of downloading tunes from the internet. The fact is, too many artists have released records where there's one or maybe two songs with any substance and a lot of songs that don't really connect with anyone so you end up with people getting disillusioned with the whole idea of an album.
Part of the reason why we spent so much time on this album is because we didn't want to put any filler songs on there. We sequenced the songs in a way that sort of made sense to us, so the story get told this way. So we're really kind of promoting the idea that an album is a worthwhile art form. That songs are meant to be heard in a certain sequence that the guys who made the record wanted them to be heard. So we're hoping that we can get people back to listening to songs as an album, in sequence and kind of get the vibe from the whole thing. That's kind of one of our underlying missions here.

Amen to that because there's nothing finer than an album that flows start to finish like a story and you've definitely described this album perfectly because it does just that. You really have got a good sequence I think.
Are you ready for this? We actually mixed this album in sequence. I've never done that before. Usually when you get into the mixing you're thinking about songs more sonically and all kinds of things come into play when you're deciding what order to mix the songs in.
In this one, we'd had this sequence for a long time ever since we had the rough mixes. So when it came time to mix it we all just went 'We've got to keep it in sequence, these songs just belong in this order.' It was pretty cool in that way.
I was kind of surprised that it happened that way but in a way kind of not surprised because these songs were really meant to be heard in the order we put them in so that was pretty cool.

The music business changes obviously all the time. The changes between your last studio album and this one couldn't possible be more great could they?
Well yeah that's true. The music business has been turned on its ear certainly in America. I'm not sure what's happening down there in Australia.

It's the same.
And maybe it needed it. That's kinda what I feel like. It's almost like our song I Needed to Fall. It's like sometimes you do. You need to fall sometimes and I think maybe the music industry needed to fall a little bit because it was getting bloated and there were just too many people putting out CDs with one or two good songs on them and eventually that's gonna backfire.
People work hard man, and you're putting out $15 - $16 dollars for something it had better be more than one or two good songs. I think the music industry just kind of got full of itself and record companies got full of themselves.
Record companies were and have been notorious for ripping off artists ever since the days of Little Richard and Chuck Berry in the very beginning. Then I think artists kind of got the feeling that they got back in the game, but really when you look at it, ever since we stopped recording for a major label we kind of paid a little more attention.
We never really paid attention to our recording contracts or anything and it's amazing the things that artists are charged for by record companies. Things that are insane.
You know were good friend with the guys in Cheap Trick and those guys have got a law suit against the record company because they're still getting charged breakage. Breakage is something that was from old days when records were made of plastic and some of the records would end up getting to the store broken and the artist would have to absorb that expense. We're still getting charged for breakage when people download things from itunes. It's like, wait a second, you can't break a download. This is crazy, so the record companies, I feel kind of sorry for them because we were part of that system, but you know, they kinda dug their own grave by being greedy. This was just bound to happen eventually. So now there's an upheaval going on and everybody kind of like the wild, wild west out here and every different artist has a different idea of how to do it. It's pretty refreshing because now the playing field's a little bit more leveled and we've kind of found our way. Everyone gotta find their own way and I kind of dig it. It's kind of fun. Everything's new, everything's exciting. You can't just fall back into old habits. You've got to reinvent yourself in a number of ways. I'm into that, into things changing, growing and not being stale.

You've definitely chosen your own path, so leading into that, what brought you to Walmart as an option?
Well that was just total luck. You know when we started making this record it was really strictly a labor or love. We've been touring every year since we started. We've been doing fine. There're plenty of gigs for us, we've been playing great places and our fans are totally loyal. Like I say, the classic rock radio stations keep our music in people's ears to the point that there was no real need to make a new record.
When I started writing these songs and everyone started getting into playing new songs we went into the studio more or less just to do it with no expectations, no record label, nothing. Then, as the process started going along, people started reacting positively to the music. Every once in a while we do a corporate show. It's a private show where no one sells tickets like a company will have a convention or some kind of get together. They hire you and you come in and play a show.
It's a nice thing because there's no pressure, you just come in and play the gig. So we did a show out in Arkansas for the Walmart people. It was outside on a farm and one of the guys who's in charge of music there, his name is Troy was a bass player in a band when he was in high school and he used to play our music. He was telling us that story and I was talking to him about the new record we were making and he was like, 'oh man I'd love to hear it'. So we took a walk, got on the tour bus, had a couple beers and threw on the rough mixes of what was going to become the Find You Own Way Home album. He really got into them, really liked them and we just through some ideas around and that was it. Nothing really came of it, but about 6 or 8 months later he called back and asked how it was going so we sent him the finished record. He really got off on it and the next think we knew we were working with Walmart and who'd a thunk, they'd be really cool?
They have this reputation for being this awful empire when really the guys there are totally cool. They're just like you and me, they love music and they're doing their best to get music out to the people. I don't know what's happening in Australia, but here a lot of the record stores, like Tower Records, are out of business. Most of the record stores are gone, so the only place you can go is to a big chain store. What are you gonna do? You can fight the powers that be or you can find a way to get your music out to the people. Most REO Speedwagon fans are not the hoity toity LA, New York people.
They're people that live in the heartland and work hard for a living and they go to Walmart to go shopping and our music is there. It was kind of a stroke of luck for us that we met these guys and they're really helping us out. They're gonna get our music out to the people that want it so we're going with it. So far, so good.

Fantastic. I was under the impression that it was a Walmart exclusive but nobody got a one month window. Is that right?
Walmart asked us for a three week exclusive on it which seemed fair enough to me and it's great because they had this idea to put more than just Find Your Own Way Home CD in there. There's actually three disks that are coming out. In fact 5 minutes before you called I just got the deluxe box set. Our tour manager just delivered it.





I love the look of that so we have to talk about that.
Yeah, there's three disks in there. There's a DVD of an unplugged performance that we did. We played at the Superbowl about a month and a half ago, then we went up to Washington DC and did an unplugged performance. So there's a DVD of that with a bunch of interview footage. There's another CD of us playing the entire High Infidelity record with the current band lineup right in sequence and some enhanced footage on there as well, plus the new CD. So it's pretty exciting.
They're really making it into a special event for the release of the record. It's pretty awesome at this point in the game to be doing what people are calling our best record ever. Andrew I think there's a misconception that artists hit their peak in their late twenties and from then on it's down hill. I just feel like I'm just kind of hitting my stride right now and our band is just kind of finding it's potential with this record.
So we're out to shatter those misconceptions and show that you can be a creative person well into your life. There's no reason to think that just because you've hit a certain age that it's time to give up. It's time to stay young, healthy and vital. Keep your energy level positive and live life to the fullest.

Fantastic words because of all the artists I cover a lot of them are getting older but there's no reason to stop working at all.
There's no reason to just start resting on what you've done in the past because you never know what you might come up with. Hey the Rolling Stones are still out there and they're a few years ahead of us and they're still doing great. You see the Stones and Mick Jagger's singing, I think better than he ever has, and he's still all over the stage. They've still got the same attitude, they look great, they're in shape. I mean, come on, let's keep this rock 'n roll train a going in the right direction.

Absolutely. Well speaking of live performances you've obviously received a blow with the unfortunate death of Brad Delp.
I'm just still not right with that man, I gotta tell you. You know, Boston played their first live gig opening for us in St Louis so I've know them from the very beginning. Both bands were on Epic records so we used to cross paths with them all the time over the years. Brad was just, well I related to Brad because kind of had the same attitude about being in a band and about playing music as we do. None of us really have that ego, you know, any of that Rock Star stuff going on. We just like to play music and Brad was the same way. Just a good guy, down to earth and just a likeable person and man I was as shocked as anyone when I heard what happened.
It just doesn't make sense to me and it's definitely kind of made take another look at things because I would have never guessed in my wildest dreams that that would ever have happened with Brad. It just kinda goes to show that you've really got to pay attention to the people around you.
If you see anybody's behavior change, and I'm not saying that Brad did. I hadn't seen him in a couple years but you just never know what's going on inside of a person and it really pays to pay close attention to the people that are closest to you. Like I say, you would have never known from the outside that that would have happened to Brad and sure enough, look what happened.

So, with that in mind, and the package with Boston playing, have you come up with an alternative yet?
Well yeah, it definitely threw us for a loop there obviously. I mean Brad's death was a shock and then once you get over the initial shock of that you go wow we were probably gonna play 80 concerts with them all over the US and who knows where else. Fortunately for us we've got a lot of friends in a lot of band and we've got a couple of things that we're looking at now. It looks like we're probably going to be going out with ZZ Top.
I think that'll be a lot of fun and a big festival kind of thing that's going to being going around the states. We'll probably do that in the summer then with any luck we'll be working with Cheap Trick toward the late summer, early fall. There was actually talk last winter of coming down to Australia with Cheap Trick. Were they down there like last winter? Well I guess it would be summer for you guys.

No it got cancelled. They haven't been down here since 1990. I actually saw that show when the came down. They were going to come down here with sort of a current day line up of theme music, but it got cancelled.
We were offered those shows and that would have been our first time to play in Australia, but we just weren't ready. We were still in the studio mixing but we're hoping to be able to pull something together with Cheap Trick later in the year. I'll tell you it's really the whole bunch of us now. We're all in this together.

It is more of a brotherhood now isn't it?
It sure is.

I mean how many bands from the '90s are still out there verses the real bands from the '80s and look how many of them are kicking.
Yeah, we're still doing it and still going strong. That's why it's a shame that we haven't played in Australia. The people in Australia, perhaps they've heard our records on the radio but if you haven't seen us live, it's such a big part of what we do. We been really fortunate that our records have been very successful, but I don't think they do our live shows justice. I think our new record does.
I think it pretty much captures what we do, and when we play those songs live it's pretty much what we did on the record, what you see is what you get. As far as the classics, I would just love to be able to come down and show the Australian rock fans what we can do.

Well we'd love to have you and I must say that I did see one of your shows. I was in LA in 2002 and saw the Journey/Styx/REO show.
Oh, you did, at the Staples Center?

Yeah, in fact, I was back stage with the band afterward and you came running past and I thought 'oh I've gotta get your attention and say Hi' but you didn't come back.
I think that was the night that the guy who owns the Staples Center, who is actually from St Louis, one of the big REO Speedwagon towns in America, came in and asked me if there was anything he could do for me. I'm like a big basketball fan so I said yeah, I want to see the Lakers' locker room. No one else could get me in there except him, so he walked me over to the Lakers' locker room, brought me right into the players' room. He had like this magic laser machine that could open any door anywhere so he opened up Shaq's locker. He took a pair of shoes out that he'd left there and gave them to me to bring home. So that night I was just running around backstage with this gigantic shoe just on cloud nine. I live in LA now so at this point in the game to play to a sell out crowd in the Staple Center felt awfully good. I was feeling pretty high that night.

That was a huge crowd. It was pretty remarkable. I said to Neal if only every one of them would finally get off their ass and buy a new record.
Well yeah, but we didn't have a new record then, so we're hoping that some of those people that saw us will hear this new record on the radio and who knows? Maybe we'll turn some people on who saw us back in that 2002.

Absolutely, great stuff, anything else that you'd like to add in?
I think you've covered it Andrew. You've pretty much got it down. Like I say, were rearing to get down there to Australia. Like I said, Dave Amato played guitar for Jimmy Barnes down there and he said 'You haven't really experienced it, I can't describe to you what it's like to play rock 'n roll music in Australia, you've gotta just go down there and do it.' That got my appetite whet man and I'm really looking forward to getting down there. I hope we do, and if we do we'll have to hang out back stage and have a beer together.

Well that sounds good and if there's anything I can do to help make that happen then give me a shout.
Alright Andrew, that sounds good buddy.


c. 2007 / Interview by Andrew McNeice / Transcribed By Sherrie







Jim Peterik (2007)


Jim Peterik: The Roar Of A Lion.

MelodicRock legend Jim Peterik is one of the true nice guys in the business. It's always great to catch up with him and on this occasion it is to discuss the new Pride Of Lions album as well as Jim's work with Kelly Keagy and Joe Lynn Turner among other things.

Great to talk to you once again Jim. Looking forward to talking about the new Pride Of Lions album. To start though – and this may not be politically correct to ask of you - but what do you think of Robin McAuley now fronting Survivor?
I've never had the courage to listen. I have not yet heard it. I thought it would upset me. I appreciated people sending it to me, but I just never listened. I love Robin……

Me too…
He's great, so I have to plead ignorance. I haven't heard it.

It sounds ok but it does risk not being Survivor anymore.
Right, right I think we were fortunate when we made the transition from Bickler to Jimi because it went so smooth but not every singer can step in and create that sound.

Let's talk about happier things Jim.
(laughing) Sounds good.

Alright mate. I suppose the most important thing is Pride of Lions.
Album number three now, I think the band has very much developed its own little sound…

I think so. We've definitely gelled as a band. There is a Pride of Lions sound. I think there always was but the first album we were just kind of trying out our legs. That first album, still, how did we do that? I don't know. I'm very proud of that record.
The second album I think we strayed a little bit. I love Destiny Stone but it sort of forayed more into the theatrical and epic kind of thing. I think at the time I was very influenced by the stuff my son was listening to which was like Rush, Kansas, Styx. I love all that but it started seeping into my music. This album, like I've said in a few interviews, we're trying to get back to a little more simple hooks and a little more direct melodies. There's still a little bit of theatrics, obviously. I always say I write for the singers I'm producing.
Dave Bickler, he was very street, very rock 'n roll, very raw. When I wrote for Jimi Jamison it was very pop. When I write for Toby, its pop but it's also a little bit of theatricalness because he's got a very dramatic voice that I write for.

In fact, I've raised this with you on a couple of occasions. When is Toby going to Broadway?
(laughing) I know, you said that one time. I think that would be a great move. I love his voice to work with. I think on this record you'd say our sound is solidified. I think part of the reason is Toby's a better singer than ever. I was very, very pleased with his vocals on this record. There are some of his best, most emotional lyrics on these vocals.
Such as, the best vocals on the album, for me are Love's Eternal Flame. It absolutely kills me and I hear a lot of Jamison in his vocals.

Yeah, that's probably the most Survivor-ish song of the whole album.
I agree. That and probably Language of the Heart tap into the Vital Signs sound some as well. It's not like I was consciously trying to clone 1984, but I was listening to Vital Signs around this time trying to tap into what was special about the album and that era.
And of course, Too Hot to Sleep also, I love that record. Love's Eternal Flame was definitely influenced by Desperate Dreams. I feel like there's a kind of a lineage between those two songs. I felt I hit a roll on this album, in terms of writing where I struck a balance between the Vital Signs era, what was good about that, and what's unique about Pride of Lions. You're never going to mistake Pride of Lions for Survivor. There are similarities and differences as well.

Absolutely. You were talking about Toby's vocals there, like the last note on Heaven on Earth. The note itself goes for about a minute!
laughing) I know, I mean the guy's got unbelievable chops. He could sing the phone book and he'd sound great. And you know, he doesn't need any coaching really. He hit that last note and he just blew everybody in the studio away because nobody was expecting it. He does that to us all the time. There's another song on the record. Oh, the end of Tall Ships, he does this stuff, (singing “we are the tall ships”) you know, none of this stuff was planned. That's part of the fun of recording Toby is that he'll always be just surprising us with stuff.

Yep, he's a bit theatrical I think on the Roaring of Dreams. I likened that to something that could have come off the Lion King soundtrack.
There you go, there you go, like I said I like the epic music. I have to really watch myself or else I get too theatrical. I don't mean to, (laughing) but I do get carried away.
I think Pride of Lions will find the audience that it needs and it is important for it to be different than Survivor. If all I wanted to do was clone Survivor I might as well have stayed back in 1985. I love that era but I like to add a unique sound to Pride of Lions and part of that is a little more theatrics. Roaring of Dreams is…I love the message of the song.

I love Roaring of Dreams for, like you said, the message that it brings. Astonish You was another little bit of a sidestep wasn't it?
Well, I love that song and I always try to figure out what was my inspiration on that song and obviously it was Karen [Jim's wife]. I'm always trying to impress her. (laughing)
I'm eternally trying to impress her as much as she impresses me.
But musically, to me, Foreigner's Waiting For a Girl Like You is like probably my all time favorite rock ballad.

It's an absolute classic of course.
And amazing vocal by Lou Gramm.

Oh yes
I had that melody for the chorus and it just stuck in my head. Then I was sitting in the back of a limousine waiting for a show and the rest of the song came. I just couldn't wait to record it two days later. It just has such a mood.

It has, absolutely it's a very, very romantic song.
What do you think of Faithful Heart off the record? Do you remember that? It's a ballad (sings a bit of it).

I love that song. That's a really great song….one of the best on the album.
Thank you. I totally love that song and the story behind that song. With the exception of that song, all these songs were written for Roaring of Dreams in a period of about 3 months, or 4 months, whatever. But that song goes all the way back to 1984.
Whenever the hell we were recording When Seconds Count, anyway '85-'86, and I played that song for [producer] Ron Nevison. It wasn't finished. He flipped. He loved it and we cut a demo of it with Jamison singing. I wish I had it and I can't find it.
But it was not as good as it is now. I wasn't finished. The words were weaker, the bridge was terrible, but I never forgot that song.
Anyway, it never made the record. But it's almost better because in the passage of time I was able to finish the song to my satisfaction and of course Toby did an amazing job on it.

Yeah, I was gonna say, the vocal on that is just extraordinary. Very, very powerful and another one of my favorites on the album Jim, Tall Ships is obviously a great track, a lot of fun and a very pomp sort of style for you guys wasn't it?
But I must ask, what was with the horn in the chorus there?

(laughing) Well, I have to say, whether you like it or you don't like it, and obviously I know how you feel, it's a French horn.
I just felt that that said “the sea”, “the stormy sea” and I know it's not rock and roll, but if the Who can put a French horn on so can I...(laughing)

The first time I listened to it I laughed. Well, that kinda sounds disrespectful, but it surprised me. It really caught me off guard, but I've come to really, really like it.
You know, it's got a mood to it. And again, this is a very spiritual album for me.
Karen's brother Andy died on August 5 of liver cancer, and there were so many things that happened that Andy, after he died really, influenced me. He came to me in a dream and really gave me the song Heaven on Earth. He said “Jimmy, you don't have to wait until you're six feet under, you can have Heaven on Earth.” I heard the melody in my head, I saw his face, I ran downstairs and taped the idea of the melody, I still have the tape, and two days later we recorded it in the studio.
That is really Andy's song. He just was such a great guy and yet he wasted a lot of his life with just, you know, bad habits and things like that. But he's trying to tell me and everyone, do not waste a day. Live every day like it's your last and that's really what that song is all about. Same thing with Tall Ships, he gave me the inspiration for that. He really loved the ships and we used to go down to the harbor and watch the ships come in and out on Lake Michigan and so that's his song too.



The little story you said there about jumping out of bed and running down to record reminds me of when we were in the UK and you've got a tape recorder in your pocket constantly. You were always jotting down notes and singing into this recorder.
Someone else mailed me a neat story a little while back….a Chicago resident who knows you…said they were in a car park and there was a car parked awkwardly in the entrance. They were nearly ran into it and they were going to tell the driver off until they realized it was you (laughing) and you were sitting there jotting down notes to a song.

I would not doubt that for a second.

They stopped to say hello and you had a chat. They couldn't wait to get home and tell me the story.
That is great. Well, for me the best songs come at the most unexpected times. Never at convenient times and never when I sitting at the piano. It's always when I'm driving, or you know, doing just about anything but writing.

When you're free of thought, when you're not under pressure.
Right, because that's when your subconscious mind takes over and you can do amazing things.

I really liked that story and I wanted to tell you because I knew you'd get a laugh out of that. Are there some Pride of Lions shows coming up Jim?
Well we're doing a World Stage on May 18 here in Chicago. Pride of Lions is a part of that of course, along with Kelly Keagy, Rik Emmett, Kevin Chalfant, Kip Winger and people from my immediate world like Jeff Boyle, Lisa McClowry, and of course my son's band.
He's seventeen now and he has a band called Lobster Newburg that are just terrific. His band's on the bill. We're gonna do a jam with the Ides of March and Lobster Newburg. So Pride of Lions is part of that, then we're doing a Belgium festival on August 6 with World Stage also and that's gonna be a very similar bill to the one I just mentioned with the addition of Jimi Jamison.
He's gonna be part of the World Stage in Belgium. So that's gonna be very, very fun. Jimi and I were on stage together about three weeks ago at a cystic fibrosis benefit that Fergie Fredrickson organized. It was just wonderful on stage, to see him. Some magic moments; we did I Can't Hold Back, we did The Search is Over with just an acoustic piano and he and I would trade off vocals, and then we did Eye of the Tiger and just brought the place down.
We started talking and I asked if he'd be interested in being a part of World Stage in Belgium and he said “I'm there”. So that's going to be a lot of fun.

Awesome. That will be a great show!
You commented that the Roaring of Dreams was like a crucial album for you. A few people read into that that 'oh my goodness this might be your last album'. Was that the case?

No, that's not what that meant. This was, I thought, the record to separate the men from the boys. A lot of guys can come out and make a great first record. To follow it up with a third album, that's what separates the good from the great.
It's like with Survivor, Eye of the Tiger was our third record. We proved that we could break through, of course the movie didn't hurt anybody at all, and make a, I don't want to say a better album than one and two but at least keep the quality consistently up from one and two.

You certainly have done that.
That's the challenge. I also saw it as a possible breakthrough record. That's the point I was trying to make, that we all have dreams of a record like this breaking out of the melodic rock niche and some single, whether it's Heaven on Earth, or Love's Eternal Flame or Faithful Heart, that breaks out of the pack and starts getting noticed by the overall radio and buying public. Boy, I'd sure like to see that happen.





I think people are screaming out for something but the media are so closed ranks, you know the mainstream. How in hell are people supposed to hear great new music?
I'm looking for avenues and I'm thinking of doing a video for Heaven on Earth and trying to get that exposed. And I'm looking for movie opportunities for some of these Pride of Lion songs. There are alternate marketing schemes that you can break through with.

I think Faithful Heart lends itself to a movie roll.
That would work.

You've also, I mean you're always writing obviously, but you've been writing quite a bit with Joe Lynn Turner haven't you?
Joe is great, and to be truthful with you, most of the songs on the Joe Lynn Turner album are songs I wrote either on my own or with other writing partners.
We're doing some writing now for a future record. The stuff on the Sunstorm album is stuff that I selected from my catalog that was never recorded basically or were recorded obscurely. Like Arms of Love was on a David Carl record, but most the stuff was written in the early to mid '90s, things like Another You, This is my Heart, Strength Over Time. By the way he just, sometimes I think oh boy, how's this gonna be?
I wasn't involved in the production. I got this record and it blew me away it was so good. I love it. It's one of my favorites of last year. Strength Over Time in particular. I love that song. I'm glad you like it. I think Strength Over Time and Making up For Lost Time is very strong I think too. Maybe my favorite is Strength Over Time but my second favorite would have to be Another You. It's just an amazing voice. I don't think he's sung that well in 10 years.

He's very, very smooth.
It made me realize how good he really is.

I've got his new record Second Hand Life in front of me which is out next month. Oh yeah, that song is a collaboration.

Yeah, what interested me out of that is, it's one of my favorite records of Joe Lynn Turner, is the Deep Purple Slaves and Masters record which you were brought in to write for, but none of the songs written ever made it.
Yeah, they changed titles and kind of wrote me out of some of the stuff that I had written. It was a very confusing time.





That's kind of a shame because as great a record as it was I can hear a couple of these songs being very much at home on there as well. I mean there are only nine songs on the album I think. There's plenty of room.
Yeah, there ya go. I suggested a few to Joe but I don't think he took my advice on that.

But he's smart enough to take the advice now.
Yeah…maybe. (laughter)

Jim, I was talking yesterday on the phone to your old friend, and I know this is another one of those complex situations, but Joe Vana. You know the Mecca album is still a classic. I absolutely love it. It's a shame how things sort if panned out there in the end, with you and Joe going in different directions…
Well he did you know, he was young and inexperienced and he has his own style of doing things and treating people. I think he's very talented and he's a very good singer.

I think he's mellowed somewhat. I think he's got a new found respect for the process that went into making the first record.
I wish him all the tremendous luck in the world…I just hope he does great.

You've got another hand in writing with Kelly Keagy. On his new album I'm Alive - I love that album. I really wanted to talk to you about that.
I really love that record.

It's a great record.
Thank you.

Jim Peterik the guitar hero, who knew? Who knew?
(laughter) I did it because I didn't feel like hiring anybody. (laughing)

I say that who knew, but I know you've always been respected for playing guitar and whatever but you really shred on that record.
Well, obviously all the leads are not mine. I do all the rhythm parts and the leads that are more simple and soulful and of course Reb Beach does the shredding.

Yeah, but there's a really solid rhythm behind the album.
Well thank you. I'll take credit or blame for that and I do all the bass guitar work as well.

Did you really?
There might be the rare exception but it's pretty much Kelly and me. We made the record and then we embellished it with Reb Beach and this other guitar player from Minneapolis. I can't think of his name right now. When I write with Kelly we have such a good time. Obviously I know that I write different for different artists and with different writers. When I get with Kelly he has a positive spirit but he also has a vein of darkness that runs through him.

Yeah I love that bit.
I do too and when I write on my own I'm a different writer. When I'm in the room with him it's like I'm channeling my emotions through him. I'll come up with lyrics that I never would have come up with on my own. Of course he'll come up with a lot on his own as well. There are some really, really strong moments on that record. I'm Alive of course I had the seed of that song. In fact it was gonna be a Pride of Lions song, but when I showed it to Kelly he just went crazy.





That's my favorite.
Thank you and me too. I love Stolen, and from a ballad side I love A Life Worth Remembering. It's a wonderful song.

Then there's Nobody's Looking.
That was the first song we wrote for the record. I was very influenced by, believe it or not, I don't know if you can hear it, but the Who's I Can See For Miles. We were kinda coming from that angle and what I like about that song are the melody and the message. It really is what you do when there's nobody looking. It's what you give when the cameras aren't rolling and you're not getting credit for it. To me that's the measure of a man.

World Before and After is great.
Yeah, that's killer.

Great high energy track, I'd like to see that performed at these shows.
Alright, well that would be a good suggestion. That would be really kickin' ass.

Yeah, that and I'm Alive.
I'm Alive we've gotta do that one.

Those are great live tracks there. But that's a different vibe, a different sound than Pride of Lions, a different sound than Mecca.
It's because of Kelly. He's a very strong personality and he won't take no shit you know. (laughter) He's a sweetheart, but musically he's a tough guy.
He'll speak his mind and we make a great team and we really have a lot of fun.

And you obviously have a lot of respect for each other too.
Oh tremendously, I would say he's one of my favorite people in this business in general and as a person too.

Funny you should say that because I would include you and Kelly as two of my favorite people.
Well, that's very nice. (laughter)

I mean it, I'm serious.
(laughter) I believe you. I'm not fakin' it, but as soon as I met him, I didn't meet him early on, Survivor played with Night Ranger in Puerto Rico when The Search is Over was number one, but I don't remember meeting Kelly, or maybe just a little bit. It wasn't until much later with some incarnation of Night Ranger with that other guy, not Jack Blades..

Gary Moon…
I went this little club to see them and I met him and I said, “Dude, man you sing your ass off.” I had just never realized what an amazing singer he is. He just smiled and said “man, thanks”. I introduced myself and we've been just really good friends ever since.

The camaraderie showed through again when you did the show in the UK, The Gods Festival. Gary Moon, you and Brian and that all singing in the van….I'll take that to my grave.
That was quite the fun show.

It was indeed.
Anything else you want to plug Jim?
I'm just gonna really, really promote this record. I'm gonna get a video going for, probably Heaven on Earth. That song, for me, is a mission statement. I don't care if people think it's a single, I don't care what they think at all, I've got to do that song. I've got to do it for Andy. Miracles might happen and we might break through and have a hit record and then we could write our ticket. We could go on tour and do the whole bit. The response to the record's been just tremendous and I don't have sales figures but I think it's doing pretty well. I'm really pleased but onward and upward.

Yep, and another album next year or something like that?
Well, I'll tell ya, I'll do it when I have enough great songs to make another record. One a year for me is a little bit of a push, but one every year and a half is doable. I'm always writing; you know me.

Yeah, be it in a car lot or in the middle of the night.
Yeah, I write everywhere and in the middle of the night. It's just what I do. I've got a really good life with a great wife and a great son. I'm very blessed, I never forget that.

Absolutely, that's right, important, well alright mate.
Alright, well enjoyed talking to you.

Thanks as always Jim!




c. 2007 / Interview By Andrew McNeice / Transcribed By Sherrie










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