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 dennisdeyoung.com 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 MelodicRock.com / 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 www.cageheavymetal.com and www.myspace.com/cageheavymetal . If you want to talk about innovative ideas I'm thinking about putting a song on the next album that's called cageheavymetal.com.

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 MelodicRock.com / 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 MelodicRock.com / 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 MelodicRock.com / 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 MelodicRock.com / 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 MelodicRock.com / Interview By Andrew McNeice / Transcribed By Sherrie







Jack Blades (2007)


Night Ranger Part 1: Jack Blades.

Jack Blades talks about Hole In The Sun - the new Night Ranger record, plus the new Shaw Blades record, Damn Yankees as always....anything else that comes to mind!

So Jack, why is there a buzz for the new Shaw Blades record, besides the fact that it's bloody good?
Well, I think that it's just one of those records that everybody likes. Everybody enjoys that music. Everyone's just excited about good songs and good music and hearing them from Tommy and I, and having Tommy and I work together again.

Is it nice to feel missed?
You know, it's very wonderful and very reassuring. We put the shows on tour, on sale and I think one or two of them are already sold out. And VH1 Classic hasn't even started the full court press on the promotion of the album.

Yes, I just got the press release today actually.
Yeah that's right and there's already such a great buzz out there. I think it's just the fact that the songs are the stars and that's what makes this such a fun record to have.

Covers albums are very hit and miss and I'd put more miss in my column. Why does this one work?
I think this one works because Tommy and I really approached each song in a reverent way. We grabbed acoustic guitars and we played it, then if it felt like we should go somewhere else with the song we went somewhere else. If it felt like it needed to be true to the way the song originally was like then we kind of went with that and just sang it with our vocals. Like for instance The Sound of Silence. But then you have I Am A Rock that we took a serious left turn on that sounds so great. Then other songs, we sat down with our acoustic guitars on Summer Breeze and we started playing. I started singing the verses and Tommy sang the chorus and then all of a sudden on the second verse he came in with one of those classic Tommy Shaw harmonies that are so different. So we went where the spirit lead us on the songs and I think people can feel that. I think the audience, the fans and people in general can really feel that and that what makes this a really good covers record. That and the fact that I think the songs we picked are just outstanding.

You did pick some really nice songs. A few classics, as few left of center that just came together very nicely.
Yeah, it just did, I mean that's the thing. When it's not so hard, I mean that's what we're finding right now, with the whole tour, everything that we're doing, setting everything up. It's happening so easy that you know it's the right thing. You know its right when everything just falls in line like ducks in a row.

So why did you wait so long?
That's a good question you know. It's just all in the right timing. It wasn't right when we originally started doing these songs. We were doing it with another label then that didn't turn out. Then this guy fell out, then that person. Originally with Sanctuary and then it was with a new label that Irving Azoff was going to start, then that didn't happen. It was just all these things. So we just waited and waited. It's just the right time now.

Absolutely, and the buzz is huge, the dates are going well.
Oh yeah, and we're just excited about it. We added a young man by the name of Will Evancovich. He's playing guitar with us. He's out of a band called American Drag which is out of San Francisco. They're sort of like a really cool indie rock band. He's a great acoustic player, a great guitar player and singer. So we're taking him out with us as a third guy to sort of like fill up the vocals and play some guitar with us.

And how did he come to light?
I found him through his band. It's very popular in this part of northern California so I sort of like sought him out and went and talked to him and grabbed him. Actually I brought him up here and started just playing songs with him and I started throwing songs at him. He didn't realize he was auditioning. We just had two acoustic guitars in my studio and I just said play Summer Breeze, sing this part, play Your Move, sing this part. Here, play this song, play that, try High Enough and just started doing it. I said OK, cool.

Very nice. The record sounds pretty 'live to air' almost. Were you and Tommy both up at the studio at the same time?
Oh yeah, we did all the record at the same time. We played all of the instruments except for the fact that Michael Lardie played some keyboards and of course engineered the whole thing. I think Michael also mixed four or five of the songs. Then we had the drummer. Brian Tichy played drums. Kelly Keagy played drums on Dirty Work.

I saw that.
So anyway, we were there, we were definitely in the room with each other all the time on this one.




There is a habit these days to record everything in your own individual studios and not even interact isn't there?
Yeah, yeah but I think that leaves a bit of something to be desired.

I couldn't agree more. I think it kills the spirit of the record which probably why this one sounds so electric.
I think so, you know what I mean, you can just tell Tommy and I were having such a great time singing these songs. I think you can hear us smiling on the vocal tracks (laughing).

(laughing) You can. I think it's a really nice mix too.
Dude, how can I not be excited about doing an Emerson, Lake and Palmer tune, Lucky Man. I mean then you put a couple of prog bands on there like Yes and ELP. I mean, that's what I loved about it.

It's not something you can normally put alongside California Dreamin' by the Mamas and the Papas!
Yeah, and The Sound of Silence, no you wouldn't put Keith Emerson right next to Paul Simon. No, you're right.

But again, the record works, it's great.
We're very excited about it.

I love Dirty Work.
Dirty Work is one of my favorites. It's the only song of Steely Dan that Donald Fagan didn't sing. They had another singer in there and I think once they heard that guy sing they fired him. (laughs) Not that he did a bad job, probably that he did too good of a job. (laughs) I just love that song.
That's one of my favorites about forbidden love and all that kinda stuff. It's just a killer song and I think it's overlooked a bit, so on this record now people are hearing it and going 'oh I love that song' so it's pretty fun.

You know, there are three or four tracks in particular that sound as if they could have come off the first Shaw/Blades album.
You know what, you're right about that and on tour we're playing three or four of the Shaw/Blades album, the Hallucination album. That's the fun thing about this tour. We're not only going to be doing songs off the Influence CD, were going to be doing some off the Hallucination record. We'll be doing some Damn Yankees songs, some Styx songs, Night Ranger songs. I mean we're going to be doing all these things and people are going to be hearing song after song after song. It's almost going to be like hearing the soundtrack to their lives when they come see us.

I can imagine it now, which begs the question, are going to be recording any of these shows? It sounds like you should be.
I think that's in the works. Yeah, that baby's in the works.

I hope so because there are going to be a lot of people who can't see the shows. Between the two of you, Tommy and yourself, did you ever set back and say 'man we've had a lot of hit songs between us'?
No, we don't want to jinx it. (laughs) We do feel that way though. When we get up there and start singing. Like today I was up here rehearsing with Will, the guitarist, and it was like song after song after song. He gets excited because he's getting to play songs like Blue Collar Man, High Enough, and Too Much Time on My Hands. Then at the same time he's playing like California Dreamin' and Your Move. He was pretty blown away. I was looking at the list, and I guess I don't even think about it, but it's like we grouped them in groups. Here's three of four songs from Damn Yankees, four or five songs from Styx, four of five songs from Night Ranger, then four or five from Shaw/Blades. Then here are some of our other favorites that aren't even on any of those records that we just like to play. It turns out that there's about a 40 song list that we have to figure out carve down to about 15 or 20 songs for the show. That's gonna be the hard part, figuring out which ones not to play.

I'm looking forward to hearing that. I love to hear it live. I have to ask you this. Why the two different album covers for the US and Europe.
That's a good question. We had the American album cover and Serafino at Frontiers wanted to do the European one I guess. Maybe he wanted to sell more records.

I like the American cover.
The road…

I do too. I've got enough covers with my face on it. (laughs) I don't care it's the music in between that counts.


Of course it is. Absolutely. Well, with that taken care of, let's talk Night Ranger. That's a hell of a record you've got there.
Thank you Andrew, we're very proud of it.

As well you should be. Again, you took a fair while to record it. Are you at liberty to discuss the difficulties behind it?
There was definitely a lot of crap going on when this record was being made. It started and stopped and you know it was very difficult. We're just happy that it's finally seen the light of day.

It's a great product in the end. Regardless of challenges you spent a long time working on this record didn't you? Was the reason that you just wanted to make the best thing possible?
If you listen to it you can tell that we just didn't make a record just because we had an obligation to do so. I mean everything was very though out and we were very excited about the songs. It's just that there were so many interpersonal band problems going on. It just maddening for Kelly and I.
I mean this record was three quarters cut, and all the songs were done back in the end of 2005. That was the frustrating part of it. We just had to put our heads down and just plow through everything and just make it happen. The lion's share of this thing was all etched out in 2005.

I hope fans consider it worth the wait. I think you'll get a good response.
I think we're gonna get a great response.

I think you're gonna turn some heads with the direction of a few songs, and perhaps the overall style. What are your thoughts in regards to that?
My thoughts are that it's one of the hardest rocking albums Night Ranger has ever put out. I think it rivals Dawn Patrol for just sheer hard rocking. I'm not talking about bad '80s reverb production rock. I'm talking about just straight ahead rock and roll. American rockin', you know what I mean, and that's what it sounds like to me. And I think it's the hardest rocking album that we've had out in years.

I agree completely, in fact the first four tracks and I was knocked almost off my feet, you know.
And I think that's the exciting part of it.

It's like a sonic onslaught.
It's like move over baby, Night Ranger's playing tonight. (laughs)

Now these songs, they're heavy, they're in you face, but they have a modern twist that I've talked to you about when it was just you and me chatting.
You don't want to revisit the past right?

Well yeah, I think really Night Ranger is basically duel lead guitars, dual singers, anthemic choruses, big ballads and hooky choruses. I think that's what this record is. I'm not sure I could turn around and write another record that sounded like a record I wrote 25 years ago.
Along the same lines that I'm sure people were saying to the Beatles. Where's She Loves You? What's this Happiness is a Warm Gun? What's this Come Together, where's She Loves You? It's like asking Lennon and McCartney why aren't you writing another I Want to Hold Your Hand? No this is our new album Sergeant Pepper.
No were want to hear Please Please Me. In that same respect I once saw a picture and it showed every stage of John Lennon. It showed the Beatles in 1960, 1963, 1964, then '65 and '66 during Revolver and Rubber Soul. '67 with Sergeant Pepper, '68 with the White Album. And it showed him with the different looks that he looked like. He changed, the times changed. You can't ask someone to stand still.
I'm telling you, if I stood still and played the same stuff I would die. I can't do that. What I can do though is write a song with a chorus, I can write a song with a melody and with every bit of my heart and soul and with every bit of integrity that I have. As long as I'm real to myself and write it with soulfulness and integrity I think the fans are gonna hear that soulfulness, integrity and spirit inside that song. I don't think you can ask anyone to do anything else.

And I think those attributes you talked about, you nailed because there is melody, there are hooks, there are choruses…
There are twin lead guitars, blazing solos, twin vocals. This is Night Ranger. That was Night Ranger in 1984; this is Night Ranger in 2007. We've got twin lead guitars, dual vocals, anthemic choruses, and big ballads. We've got our hooky verses and hooky choruses. Describe Night Ranger and then describe this album.

It's just updated. In fact there are a couple tunes that I've spoken to you one on one about that to me are commercial top 40 hits.
Yeah but, you know, all we can do is just write songs that we feel are right. If it becomes a commercial hit then so be it. We're not trying to kid ourselves and think that Night Ranger's going to have a 10 million selling record in the United States or Europe or Japan or anywhere like that, but who knows? All I've got to say is, once you release a record you're in the game, you know what I mean. Wherever it goes is where it goes, but you're not in the game until you release that record. When you release that record you're in the game and then it's up to the Universe man. If the Universe green lights it then the Universe green lights it. And that's how it works.

What a great outlook. Does it frustrate you that there are a small portion of people who don't want any band to move forward?
No, no it doesn't.

You just go with it?
Everyone loves the music they love. I think a true fan would never want someone to stay in one position. I think true love is, I'll tell you, a great Zen quote is “the way to control you cow or sheep is to give it a large spacious meadow”. That's what I mean and I think any true fan that loves it is going to feel that this who we are, this is how we do it, this is how we play and I hope the absolutely love it. If someone thinks it's a bit too modern for them I don't know what to say. I'll just keep making music as long as I live man. I'll keep being true to my spirit. I don't think anyone would ever fault us for being who we are.

I love who you are and what you've brought here. I mean there are guitars everywhere on this record.
I know man, isn't that great? I love that.

I mean Drama Queen, it's like there are riffs everywhere.
(laughs) I know isn't it awesome?

It is, I even like the verse.
It's unnatural. (laughing)

What else do you like on this record? Tell me about Whatever Happened. That sounds like a really modern, radio friendly track.
I'll tell you. Whatever Happened was inspired because I was on Portobello Goat road in London a couple of years ago going to the big antique market on Portobello Rd. I'm walking along the street before you get to the antique market and there's a great shop that has all stuff from India. I bought several postcards one of which is this blue Hindu God. I came home that fall and put it right on the console in my studio and it's been there ever since. I stare at it and whenever I get really crazy I just focus into that blue Hindu God. I focus into that spirit within and it somehow really calms me. So I was just working on this song and I had this idea and came up with this lyric 'I can hardly wait for another day' because you know me I'm excited about life. That's my theory on life; I can hardly wait for another day. So I turned it into that so I can tell you how I'm really feeling. It's OK if you think I have my head in the clouds. So then it's like, whatever happened to the girl, whatever happened to that little girl, whatever happened to that blue Hindu God that was you? Because here's the blue Hindu God postcard that I'm staring at. (laughs)
Then I thought wouldn't it be great if we were all just like this pure spiritual being? And you're having this big fight with this girl and you thinking whatever happened to this pure spiritual little think that you used to be or whatever that's inside of you. And its kind came out of 'whatever happened to that blue Hindu God that was you'? That's kinda what inspired that whole song Whatever Happened.

I love it. And There is Life, that's probably the most classic Night Ranger tune on the record.
Oh I love that. I sat down to my piano in my living room and I'm like man, we need a song like this. And I start playing it on piano. Then I showed the chorus to Michael and Kelly and then Kelly's like 'everything happens for a reason'.
We were like in our spiritual, whatever will be, will be vibe you know. We thought, you know what, it can get crazy and it can get crazy, be at long as there's love man, there's life. That's kind of where we fell. As nuts as it can be, as long as there's love, there's life. Love is like life, it's like the air you breathe. Everyone needs love. When you don't have love you perish. You shrivel up. You become something that's a soulful human being. That just sort of came out and we came up with that idea that as long as there's love there's life. We just pounded that song out 'we don't always know, will the searching never end'. You know you're always searching for something and that song just came out and it sounded so great and we felt so good about it.

Yeah, you should. I love Rock Star too obviously and we've talked about that.
Oh I love Rock Star.

Big attitude filled rocker.
Oh I love Rock Star man. I love it because it was like when I was with TNT and we went to that club Rock Rock all the time and there were these little Polaroid pictures of all the rock stars all over the walls drunk on their asses. Of course we were in there some night just getting plowed and Yoko, the girl that was the manager of the place was always dragging us out of there getting us back to our cars and to our apartments. Always helping and it was like that and I just love that song Rock Star.

It sounds like you guys all over. The opening track is obviously one of the heaviest things I've ever heard from the band. Tell Your Vision
Yeah man, I was in a different space when I wrote that song. I was just gone man. One time I was just sitting down and I was just playing this riff on my guitar and I'm just like, oh man I dig this. Then I thought about my wife Molly, she's always got such a positive outlook, she's got such a good vision of how things should be and I'm like 'tell your vision to change my mind'. (laughs) Of course it's one of those songs that she always jokes about. I always like write these wonderful little songs on acoustic guitar and they sound like such nice little love songs but they come out as the Night Ranger songs like Don't Tell Me You Love Me, Rockin' America, Call Your Name, or this that and the other and she's like what happened to that little song you had? So that's where that came about, it was like, tell your vision. In other words, like come and give me an attitude adjustment. I always try to think of different ways to say things. So much has already been said, so I was like, tell your vision because everyone's got a vision. You've got a vision of that wife and daughter or wife and son of yours. Isn't it fun?

Yeah, I've got two sons.
And you've got a vision of what your life should be like and how you want them to be. Everybody's got a vision, you know what I mean? So it was like, tell your vision to come change my mind, that's what I was talking about.






It's funny you should say you always look at an alternative way of saying things because I get that from your lyrics. It's never quite straight forward, especially the Neverland record. There are some songs on there…
Yeah, sometimes I get a little quirky. (laughs) But I like that about me. I just saw in Rolling Stone there's this new band called Fall Out Boy, have you ever heard of them?

Yeah, yeah.
If you look up the Rolling Stones review they mention that the lead singer sounds like Night Ranger's Jack Blades.

I think I'd better get that record and have a listen.
It said his kinda vocals sound like; I forgot how he said it, something like, “the strip mall soul of '80s car radio rockers John Waite and Night Ranger's Jack Blades. I thought well damn, that's some good company to be in because I think John Waite's one of the best damned singers of all times.

Oh he is, absolutely.
And I was like, I love this fact, here you have this quirky like, punky band, which is what it is. It's very popular, it's a big band around here, and they reference me in the Rolling Stone review. I think it's only like the second time that Rolling Stone has ever mentioned my name. I think the only other time is when the slagged Aerosmith on the Get a Grip album for writing songs with Tommy Shaw and Me. Of course that album sold like 15 million records.

Exactly and that's like my favorite Aerosmith album.
Yeah, it's mine too because I had two songs on it. (laughs)

In fact, Hole in the Sun's got that same kind of vibe.
Yeah, that's a great record.

Yeah, just a great rockin' record. So are you gonna get out on tour and play some of these songs live?
I think we have to don't you?

I think it would be a crime if we didn't.

It would be a crime.
There ya go.

So, so you think you'll do some solo or like some Night Ranger dates or team up with a package or something?
I'd like to do both. I'd like to do solo Night Ranger dates and I like to team up with somebody. Maybe we should team up with the reformed Ratt.

Ratt's good but Night Ranger's at another level.
I don't know man, I think yeah maybe you're right, but you know what, I'd like to team up with somebody. I think it'd be great to go out with like Nugent and Styx. Night Ranger, Nugent and Styx. Then do a little Damn Yankees in the middle of Ted's set.

That is what you need to do.
Give old Teddy a rest. Tommy and I'll sing for a while.

That's what you need to do. I reckon every time we've done an interview that's sort of come up. Can it ever happen? Can you ever do it?
I think so. In fact I'm gonna go to LA this week and try to make it happen. I don't care what those managers say. (laughs)

It's a popular discussion and the board. What would you like to see as a package and it's always Styx, Night Ranger, and Damn Yankees.
I mean, why not?

Yeah, why not?
That's what I say man.

Do it.
And then we'll have this acoustic act, Shaw/Blades open.

Absolutely, there ya go, and then you could play four hours in one night.
Yeah, I was talking to my friend Mickey Hart, you know, with the Grateful Dead.

He said when they go out on tour they rent valleys, rent complete like mountains and stuff. Then they go out and throw like a three day show and the individual band members have their own bands. He said those are the openers then the Grateful Dead plays at the end. It's like Bob Weir's band Rap Dog opens, then Mickey does Planet Drum….then the Dead plays at the end.

That's great. Why not, that's what you need to do. Anymore stage shows coming up in the near future?
You know, I had so much fun doing that Rock of Ages thing.

You got some good publicity from that.
I had so much fun doing it. That was so great, I'd love to do that again. I think they're taking it to New York but I haven't heard anything this month so I'll have to find out what's going on with that. I'm a little busy these days though.

Yeah, you've got a few things on.
I've got a few irons in the fire if you know what I mean Andrew.

(laughs) That's great. Do you still have a desire to have Damn Yankees continue on where they left off?
I think it would be great. Every time Ted and I talk it's like really a great thing, and I'm supposed to be producing his second record but so far that keeps getting postponed. I don't know what the deal is with that. That'll probably sound like a Damn Yankees record.

Exactly, get Tommy and you on backing vocals. (laughs) Well anything else that we haven't mentioned interview wise Jack with Shaw/Blades, with Night Ranger?
You know we've got that Night Ranger live from Japan in 2003 coming out on Sony BMG that I think is coming out soon.

So much good stuff how can you not play three hours a night live with all these songs?
I know, it's kinda crazy isn't it? That's the funny part about it. Like I said before, which songs don't we play? I'm excited about this new record and I want to play all these songs.

At this point Jack and I break off into a non-interview related chat, which draws things to a close.
I hope you enjoyed the always vivacious and charismatic Jack Blades in conversation – my fifth formal feature interview with him and always a pleasure.



c. 2007 MelodicRock.com / Interview By Andrew McNeice





Kelly Keagy (2007)


Night Ranger Part 2: Kelly Keagy.

Night Ranger drummer Kelly Keagy talks about the new Night Ranger album and also his new solo album I'm Alive, plus working with Jim Peterik and his new project Scrap Metal.

Hey Kelly, good to talk to you again.
Hey Andrew.

What did I catch you in the middle of?
I'm working on the Scrap Metal band because we've got our first gig up Connecticut in a casino and we're gonna film it so we've got all these details we've got to take care of. Just, you know, learning everybody's songs and it's quite an undertaking. Then I'm doing interviews for this album of course and trying to get ready for touring and stuff like that. Both for myself and Night Ranger included.

I can't believe it's only your first Scrap Metal gig. You seem to have been doing that for a while now.
Well we started out like a year ago last March. We thought we were gonna have more gigs than that buy we were all so busy. We couldn't really pull it together. Plus we didn't have anything to promote; no records or anything like that. We still don't, but at least now, after we get this gig done and the film shot we can edit the DVD and get into proper form to send out to agents and stuff like that.

Gotcha, Ok, so it's a promo thing for you. Will you sell it?
No, I don't think we're gonna sell it, but who knows? It may end up being a pitch for TV, you know, so we're just gonna have two different spins on it. We'll have one for promos and maybe one to sell for a possible TV show or something.

Oh, I like it. Interesting. Is this the show with Eric Martin coming up to quest as well?
Exactly, it's Eric Martin and Mark Slaughter, Gunnar Nelson, me and also Matthew Nelson is gonna be part of this because he knew the songs. He's playing bass so he's kind of filling in for our normal bass player.

Ok, that's a pretty cool line up you've got there.
Its fun man, but right now we have about six songs going but we haven't finished the recording of it and we haven't finished anything yet. We've kind of got it in the process but we've got it on hold because we've been working on the live thing.

Will you do a record this year?
You know, I think we're trying to do a record, but we don't have any labels interested. Basically it's demos. Just demos to maybe pitch to a record company.

Well it's a great lineup that's for sure. I love the Nelson brothers.
Oh it's fun man and it's such a rockin' lineup too. I'm telling you it just really smokes. We did a free show for the Tin Pan South series here in Nashville last year in March. That's like a four or five day symposium and we played at this rock club. It was just great. It was kind of like everybody playing each other's songs and playing their rendition of how they thought it should be played. It was cool man. Everybody stepped up to the plate and learned the stuff. That was fun doing that and we had Chad Sanford, I don't know if you know him.

Yes I do.
He's a songwriter here. He wrote Missing You and some for John Waite back in the day. We had a lot of guests so it was really fun.

Wow, that's very cool. You are a busy, busy man. I've got so much to ask you, but before I jump into it Kelly, I just want to ask you about something. I don't know if you've been on line today Kelly, but I reviewed the album yesterday and put it up there.
You know what, I've been gone most of the day and I haven't checked it. I'll check it though; I'd love to see what you think. What do you think?

I love it.
You like the record?

I love the record. I absolutely adored the first album and I really think this is a very nice companion piece to it.
I kind of wanted to take a stop forward growth wise, you know. That was the thing I wanted to do. I kind of feel like I'm not the same person as I was, not only when I made my first solo album but also with Night Ranger back in '82 through '88. Then when we got into the '90s we tried to show as much growth as possible too so I'm kind of continuing that vibe. I just want to see if I can have a nice blend of a little bit more modern sounding guitars but also still melodic melodies and great lyrics.

There are some absolutely great songs on there and you've definitely got the modern vibe on a few which is cool but like you said it's kept melodic. I've given it a really good review and I hope people read that.
I really appreciate that. Thank you. Thank you so much.

That's alright mate.
You know, I always make records for people that I think might appreciate it but I try not to think of terms of “I'm gonna write a hit song”. I just write songs, and you know some of them get thrown out. There were three or four that didn't make it; they just weren't there. I just think there's nothing like a good melody and a good story line to make it great.



I'm gonna ask you about a couple of the songs. There just a couple of my favorites. I love I'm Alive, and Jack Blades said to me 'I wish I had written that song.'
That's so nice of him. You know, I brought it in for Night Ranger. You know the whole idea Andrew, is that Jim had this idea. He had written Eye of the Tiger for Rocky back in the '80s. He had run into Sylvester Stallone when he went to a TV show in Chicago said Sylvester said 'I'm doing another Rocky movie'. Jim came back after that interview and picked me up at the airport when I was going up there to write with him for I'm Alive. He said, look I just ran into Sylvester, he's doing another Rocky movie, and I have this idea so let's set down and write it. First of all Jim said “I have this idea for a song for you”. It wasn't written so we had to write it. It was this whole thing of like, 'I'm still here after 25 years'. I thought wow, I sort of like that idea but then when we got into the middle of the writing session we though this was gonna be perfect for the new Rocky movie. It can be sort of like the Kelly Keagy coming of age song as well but it could be for the movie too. So we actually wrote it thinking in terms of a movie soundtrack. So I think we captured it pretty well.

Oh, it's got a big sound.
It's got a huge sound and Jim tuned his guitar down and we were like that's it, you know. Then there was like a one string little riff in the front and I thought man, that is it. The whole idea of like rising through the ashes and trying to make sense of you life after trouble, hey, it sounds like me. (laughs)

Sounds like me too mate.
Anybody can relate to it I think.

Absolutely, very much so. I like the thumping drum beat.
I really had a good time recording those tracks.

Huge drum sound. Jumping straight to World Before and After. That's another absolute smoking track.
That song, you know, was kind of difficult to cut because we don't normally play certain beats like that. So it was kind of tough but at the same time we were thinking in terms of that song as just broken relationship stuff.

What about the end there? Was that live in the studio? Was that Jim on guitar because he's smoking?
Yeah, man that was Jim and I. We cut everything with just guitar and drums to get the basic track. Then we built the tracks from there. So that was just Jim in his studio, you've been to his house haven't you?

No, I've never been to Chicago…yet!
Well he has a control room where he's got the gear and then he's got where he cuts the drums and stuff. Then he's got this window and he just stands in front of that window and plays guitar with headphones on and watches the drummer play while you're cutting. So there's that whole live like on stage vibe that we have when we play these tracks.

It sounds live, it really does.
Yeah, it's exciting because you've got the guy standing there in front of you like when you're on stage you really get that vibe. You're looking at each other and you're just like cranking away at these tracks. You know what Andrew that was my idea on this album. I wanted to get a live feel. I didn't want it to be too 'studioized'. I wanted to go in there and play that track and get it in one take or two takes and keep it. If you make a mistake just continue on. Keep it going instead of doing so many overdubs and it starts to sound really studioized. There are some tracks on the album where we did want to produce like Everything I Need in a Woman, the big ballad. We wanted that to be like a symphony you know.

I love the live feel of the album. It really does come through.
You're getting me all worked up talking about it. (laughs)

It's an exciting record to listen to. You get to the end of it and you feel like you need a rest.
Yeah man, that's what I want to hear.

My favorite records are the one where you can't play again. Some things you just go, well I'll play that again, but when you get to the end of this one you think, I need a rest.
You need a rest from it. (laughs) One thing that's happened with me is that I keep rediscovering the songs that I'd kind let go for a while. You always listen to the first four or five tracks you know, but then you find that there are different kinds of textures and moods when you get to the end of the album.

I like that you've got thirteen tracks. It's a nice long record without fillers there.
That's nice. I love hearing that.

I must talk about When Nobody's Looking. I think that's one of the more commercial songs I've heard you sing.
I think you're right. Jim and I wrote that way before we actually started to finish this album. It was on one of the first tracks we ever wrote and we were performing it with the World Stage band, one of Jimmy's gigs like a year before we cut the album. We just had it in the World Stage set before we even had a concept for this album. It was just such a rockin' track man and what we were trying to think was like 'what would Keith Moon do' on the verses with all the riffing with the drum fills. Of course you know no one can even touch Keith Moon but it was like looking in terms of playing more drumwise on the riffs in between the verses. That was fun, really fun. I didn't really get the chance to open up as a drummer and that's why this album's really fun for me because I did get to play a lot more.

I thought your first album was like that but I think this is even more so. I think there's even more drums on here.
I thinks there's more drums, exactly, it's like, 'what, you think this guy's a drummer?'. Nah. (laughs)

You know, not too many drummers make solo records.
I know, I know. Tommy Lee made a pretty good one didn't he?

Yeah, he's a pretty diverse musician himself.
Exactly, and he plays guitar like I do. Man I wish I played guitar like that guy in the Foo Fighters though.

Oh yeah, he's good isn't he?
Yeah, I like him. Have you seen them? Have they played down there?

They have actually played down here. I haven't seen them but they have played in this country.
Man I'd sure like to play down there.





Talking about influences and things like that, Stolen and Blink of an Eye are sort of like a one two hit of modern rock.
You know I did want to take a little stab at my idea of modern. One thing I like about what's modern today is the guitar sounds. The tuning's different, you know, and there's such an edge to it; such urgency to it. The urgency is in the guitar and in the vocal and I've always liked the kind of angst sound in the vocals. Early '90s had a lot of that and I was really attracted to that. You know, I can't write music like that, but I can be influenced by it. That's what I was trying to do.

I think that makes a nice mix because I think some of those bands can forget what the melody is, but in Stolen there's a lot of melody and emotion in there.
Yeah, that's really cool man.

Any other favorites from the album Kelly?
You know, I liked the little tip of the hat to John Lennon on Reimagine. We wrote that song from an idea that Michael Lardie gave me. He played me this idea when we were first writing for Night Ranger and I immediately started singing the melody that Michael had in the keyboard in the verse. I showed it to Jim and said this is a really cool thing and I played it to him and Jim immediately just jumped on it. So we sat down with just an acoustic guitar and wrote the song. Basically all the songs are written that way. Then we started to embellish it with electrics and keyboards. Yeah that little tip of the hat with Reimagine was one of my favorites and then that last song called One or Half a World Away.

Half a World Away, I like that a lot.
It was when all these bad things were happening like the tsunami, tornados in the south and hurricanes, earthquakes in Afghanistan and Iran, and we were just like what is going on with the world? You know when the earthquakes happened in San Francisco I went there and tried to help as much as I could. It was in the late '80s, I think 1989 and I just remember how people that had a lot of money, had made a lot of money in their lives, they were out on the street. They were sleeping on the floors of the elementary schools there in San Francisco. And I thought to myself, God man, this could happen to anybody. So that's what that whole idea was. Even though we live 5,000 miles away we still should be able to relate in some way to help each other make it through hard times. That's what we were thinking with that song.

Great sentiment. Great sentiment. Are you going to get to play any of these songs live Kelly? Obviously you might do a couple in Scrap Metal.
Yeah, I really hope so but I think that I'm gonna have to do some solo appearances. I did do one on Dec. 28 here in Nashville. I did a show at what is called the 12th Importer. It's a showcase club here. I played a show and I did I'm Alive and Blink of an Eye. Those two songs totally rocked live. We had a great crowd and they were just so responsive to those two songs. Lynn Hoffman, from VH1, I gave her a copy of the record and she immediately snapped back and said Blink of an Eye, I love that song, it rocks. I love it because you're talking about a girl who's growing up and needs guidance by her parents but at the same time he parents aren't trying to tell her what to do but just tell like in that song Wild World. (sings 'Oooh baby baby it's a wild world)
We were trying to say kind of the same thing, like things change quickly. Just be ready to make that right turn and adjust, swerve and get out of the way, you know what I mean. That's what happens in life. Things come at you and you just have to be ready for them and you can make it.

I hope you do some solo shows.
I would love to. I have a booking agent looking into me do some dates in Europe right now.

Good, Ok.
So I'm really hoping I can get over there. I'm not sure if they'll be electric or acoustic though Andrew because I'll just have to see what the offers are and if they'll be good enough for me to have a band. Here's my idea. Tommy Denander could help me put a band together there. He says he has a bunch of smokin' players that would love to play. Then of course I'd love to do some of Tommy's songs. He's got some really good songs. He's gonna be here pretty soon, this month actually.

Yeah, that's right.
I'm gonna hook up with him and we're going to have some conversations about this. Then I might fly over there, rehearse with his band for like maybe three or four days and work up a set.

Great idea.
You know we'll do some old Night Ranger songs too. And maybe some songs from Time Passes and I'm Alive, you know two or three songs from each. We'll have us a rockin' set man. That's my plan and Tommy says 'I'm up for it' so that was what I was thinking I might do to promote the record. You know, hell, I've got two records out over there and people are wanting to see what it would be like live. Of course I love to go with Jim. He's got a new record coming out. So maybe we'll do a combo show with Tommy and Me and Jimmy and Jimmy's new record.

You could do the Kelly Keagy all stars!
Oh man, wouldn't that be great. Like the last one we did.

That's still one of the best gigs I've ever seen.
Oh man, that would be great. I remember Kevin [Chalfant] was sick though so we couldn't rehearse with him. Who was on that? We had Brian Bart, Gary Moon, the guitar player from the Storm.

Yeah, Josh.
Yeah, Josh Ramos, Jim Peterik…oh my gosh, what a show.

Yeah that was just killer. I've got a video bootleg of it. Somebody filmed it from the crowd.
Well put it up on YouTube. (laughs)

The quality's ok, but wow that was just such a…
Sounds like hell though, right?

It's ok, it's bootleg, you know.
I'd love to see that.

What a great show that was. You should think about trying to do something like that.
Well, you know what, maybe that's the way to go. Then we could all do each other's songs and just have a blast with it.

That was just so great. And the band that came in, like you were second to last and the band that came in to headline just had no hope in hell. (laughs)
(laughs) Well, you know what, I'm sure they were really good. I think it was Ten wasn't it?

Yeah, it was Ten.
Well, you can't compete with 20 years of hit songs, I mean come on. If I was those guys I would have said listen, can we play tomorrow. I'm not feeling too well and I've got to go back to the hotel.

Half the crowd left, you know. I was talking to people afterwards back at the hotel. They were like, nothing could top that.
I mean Ten was great. They're an amazing band.

Yeah, of course they were. That was just such an electric set you guys had.
There were so many hit songs in there. It was like and hour and a half of every song that you remember from the '80s and early '90s.

It was great, it was amazing.
We need to hang out again. That trip to Liverpool was too much.

Wasn't it great? We had a ball didn't we? We should do that again man. We should go up there. There's a possibility I might be going over there to do the Fantasy Camp in May.

Oh, you're doing one in the UK this time.
They're doing one in England. Then they're gonna fly up to Liverpool and have the last leg Battle of The Bands at the Cavern club.

Oh no, great stuff.
Isn't that amazing? So they're gonna do everything at Apple Studios. They have like 12 bands together with amateur musicians. You rehearse them and they learn two or three songs pretty well, there just cover tunes. Well some of them are original too. Then they have a battle of the bands after about four or five days.

Great stuff. I hope they do that.
Wouldn't that be fun? I'd love to be at the Apple Studios. I want to sit back there in the corner where they had Ringo's drums and feel the vibe.





I reckon you could too. (laughs) Listen, I'd like to talk Night Ranger too if I can.

Jack sent me the record. Well, Frontiers actually sent me the record yesterday so I Hell, I don't know what to say. This wasn't the Night Ranger album I was expecting.
The Japanese love it.

They're a little more open minded. I really like most of it. There's a couple of things I don't but most of it's amazing.
What are some of the things you don't like?

Well, the first five or six tracks just knock my socks off. At the moment I'm just struggling with the last four. White Knuckle, Revelation, Being… Revelation's still pretty good and so is White Knuckle Ride, even Wrap It Up.
Some of the stuff, Whatever Happened is amazing, but I never would have imagined Night Ranger singing it.

Exactly, we wanted to kind of push some boundaries with the pop stuff. That song really feels like it could be on the radio.

Well, it's an Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson kind of thing.
Exactly. That was exactly what we were trying to achieve with that Andrew.

Well you did it and I can imagine it on the radio.
We wanted to see if we could get anybody to actually turn their heads and go yeah, that sounds like now.

Yeah, absolutely it does. Even Drama Queen as well.
Dream Queen, yeah, no kidding. Brad brought that tune in and he actually sent it to me and I worked on some of the drum parts here at home. And I thought wow man this sounds like Alice in Chains or something. He's like really into the kind of harder stuff. We let him rum with it man because we really loved where it was going.

There are guitars everywhere on that song.
It's amazing man, those guys played great on the record. They play their asses off.

It's a big guitar record, isn't it?
It sure is. We had a lot of time to live with it too. We took our time. We used to do that when we would go to do records. We would cut the first basic tracks then those two guys would be wood shedding for a month on the guitar parts. Well we gave them many more months than that. We gave them like six months to work on the stuff and hone those parts and keep coming up with stuff. It was great. It was nice to have that much time.

Rock Star a great tune as well. That's another modern rocker.
Isn't that great.

Good attitude. I think I like the bridge better than the chorus even.
Oh, no kidding. I love that. You know what, that bridge does have a really good melody in it.

It's a knockout melody. I love it. Tell Your Vision is obviously a rocker from hell.
The first one right off the top, yeah,

Yeah, that's heavy.
The first one, yeah. You know we were thinking in terms of like Audio Slave and stuff like that.

(laughs) I'll bet you the label wasn't though.
The way I was singing was kind of like the way Chris Cornell would sing. You know, his throat popping out and his veins on is head, just delivering that message man.
I can't help it man. I have to grow or die.

Absolutely, what a thumping drum beat in Gonna Hear From Me.
Oh man, Gonna Hear From Me, wasn't that great? You know what I did? I went in there and I put in extra toms on there for that intro. Just to make it like a marching band. I wanted it to be like when I was in high school and march with a hundred people and the drum section alone would be like 25. We would all be playing the same cadence together and I wanted it to be like that.

And it sounds like it.
It's like kong-ka-ka-kong, kong-ka-ka-kong, like a big marching band coming down the street.

A lot of vocals on that track. It may be the heaviest song Night Ranger's ever recorded.
Rock Star or Tell Your Vision?

Actually those three, even Gonna Hear From Me. Very heavy.
Yeah, Gonna Hear From Me. We always try to put a shuffle kind of tune on there. Our roots are really, when you think about it, in the '60s and '70s and like that. So we always try to put a feel like that on the record.

Frontiers wanted me to kind of do a track by track commentary to sort of introduce the record to people. I think they want me to soften the blow a bit. I think people are really gonna dig this.
They're gonna hate it. No, I'm just kidding.





No it's, like there are people that define Night Ranger by only your first three records. Yet, this is your eighth and the last four haven't been anything like the first three. What do you think of that?
I think the reason why we like to change like that is just because we're just not the same people as we were in 1982. There's just no way that any of us is going to stay the same. So when we come together musically we reflect all that growth and maturity. And it's the things we hear on the radio, in the records stores and on line. We take in all that stuff. We're like sponges. We like to soak it up and then we regurgitate it back out as some form of music that we love. And relating to each other like that.

Jack said he didn't think you could make a Seven Wishes again if you wanted to.
Exactly, that's the thing. Some of those records, I listen to them, and I can't listen to them anymore. I listen to them with appreciation, but some of the songs on there, other than the hits, I can't even go there. I mean, on the second record there's a song called Why Does Love Have to Change and I love that record. That was a total kick-ass record. Now I think Why Does Love Have to Change is like Tell Your Vision now, only 20 years later. It's just the instrumentation sounds a little bit different.

Well it's very contemporary. The first listen to the Night Ranger album I went 'hell, that's not Night Ranger'. Then the second or third time it was like, hang on, there's a little bit of Night Ranger there. Then a little bit more and a little bit more.
You know, one of my favorite songs that I really enjoyed was Fool In Me, that kind of acoustic and we added bongos and it's got that kind of tribal thing to it. We just sort of built that track out of an acoustic guitar and that was it.

You're singing a lot on this record.
That's what we wanted to do. We wanted to split the vocals up and stuff. We started out doing that early on, but the record company always wanted to have a focal point, which was like Jack or me singing that song, but never the two of us. We thought, you know what, we both sing so well, let's really try and see if we can interpret each song and have a different point of view vocally.

You swap back and forth a lot of the time don't you?
Yeah, we wanted to do that and see if we could pull it off and still make the message be clear.

Oh yeah, it's great and big harmonies in the chorus.
And then big harmonies with Jeff and Brad coming in and singing with us.

Not a lot of keyboards on the record though.
Not a whole lot, no. Michael, you know, he engineered everything and as we built the tracks we kind of put the keyboard in where needed and he was fine with that. There were certain songs where there were keyboards, like a couple of intros that definitely had keyboards. But if you listen into the choruses, the choruses get really big and it hard to find room for both, but there all in there playing. It's just that the sound gets so big in the choruses that you can't really hear the keyboards, but they're in there.

Well they add to the texture don't they? If you took them out you might miss them but they're not obvious, of course, except on There is Life, which is a great ballad.
There is Life was such a great song to write because we were just thinking we kind of wanted to write another piano ballad like Sister Christian or like Sentimental Street. Then still reflect a relationship song, but then just open the chorus up and have it he like look, this is how things go in life.

Yeah, wonderful song. What else about the album? I don't know. What do you think? You say the Japanese love it. They're a little more open to change.
They said they really liked it because it was a great hard rock record.

It is a hard rock record.
They're pretty happy with it so far. I haven't done any interviews with them. I know Jack might have already. And I haven't talked to anybody from the record company yet, but I think that was the consensus, that they were really happy with it. I'm looking forward to going over there and playing. That would be a pretty easy trip for you wouldn't it Andrew? You could come over there and tour with us.

Hey, I'd be there tomorrow mate.
Wouldn't it be fun?

I would love to go on tour and see a few shows. I've never seen Night Ranger live. How sad!
Well, you know, we're gonna have to do something about that.

I know. But you know what? It's only about 8 hours north of here, but the air fares are ridiculous.
Wow, unbelievable. Why is it so expensive?

I don't know. Leaving Australia anywhere is expensive. Because we're like 8 hours to the first stop, you know.
I heard you were having some terrible wild fires down there.

Yeah, in Tasmania here also, but it's mainly in Victoria. A million hectares, which a hectare's obviously a couple of square miles, but a million of them of them have burnt out so far. But we had 50 millimeters of rain two days back so we're looking pretty good now.
Well good, great.

So, back to seeing Night Ranger live. I would love to see that.
Well hopefully we'll be able to run into you that way Andrew. It really a fun show, we still have a great time playing. We have a ton of energy just like we did back in the '80s. We're not aging, you know, we seem to still keep our youth when we get on stage. We get so excited. That would be really fun if we could somehow arrange that. We've never played Australia.

I know.
I wish that was something we could have done in the past.

Yeah, nobody's will to put their money where there mouth is, and of course I haven't got any money, so….(laughs)
Ah man, too bad that some of the promoters wouldn't bring us over but you have to make a lot of money over there for it to make sense because it takes so much to get there.

Exactly. It's so far to come and that's why I have to sort of rely on being in the right place elsewhere to see other shows.
Yeah, have you gone to Europe to see any shows?

I normally go for the Firefest show once a year but that's about it at the moment.
I'm gonna be in Europe with Jim in August.

Oh yeah, Ok.
I'm doing that Belgium festival.

I was just talking to Jim just before Christmas and he said you were going to be doing the World Stage show there.
Yeah, I'm gonna do that with them and we're gonna do some songs from the new album we think. I'm not sure we haven't talked about it. He's due to come down here in a couple weeks. We're gonna have to start talking about that because we both have albums out over there and I'd love to be able to do a couple songs from each record.

Well we'll try and run into each other somehow, somewhere.
I hope so Andrew. Keep in touch and if you need anything from me, you know I appreciate your support by the way.

Oh absolutely. Anytime, you know, it's only too easy when you love the music so much. When you're not into it it's a little bit harder. But I've been a Night Ranger fan since Seven Wishes, so it's a great pleasure to be able to help out.
Well, you know we always appreciate it and if there's anything we can do for you just give one of us a call and we'll be happy to oblige.

Thank you mate, I appreciate that, but hanging out in Tokyo would be nice, but….(laughs)
(laughs) Yeah man, do want me to send you over some chicken wings or something from here in Nashville?

Either that or a very sturdy canoe.
Oh there ya go. Oh man, well take care and wear your life jacket.

Yeah, will do.
Good talking to you buddy.

Yeah, you too Kelly.
Ok, we'll see you, bye.



c. 2007 MelodicRock.com / Interview By Andrew McNeice





Steelheart (2007)


Steelheart: Miljenko Matijevic speaks with Ron & Don Higgins.



Miljenko Matijevic of Steelheart Interview
Conducted by Don & Ron Higgins
After the Steelheart Show at Top Cat's in Cincinnati, Ohio on 11/16/06


Don: You know what was cool? I was talking to T-bone, and I said, “The bad part is, you were out there sweating and jamming and we could tell that you were really nailing it, but we couldn't hear a note.
Mili: That was so fuckin' irritating

Don: But the rest of the band sounded great, so we said, “Well, he's got a good band behind him.” Obviously we knew you'd get it worked out once you found the right mic, 3
rd song in, it was, “Damn, the guy can still sing”.
Mili: Yeah, that sucks though. I'm screaming my ass off the first 2 songs…

Don: You even had 2 mics.
Mili: Yeah, I had 3 mics, actually, it was 4 mics.

Ron: That's right, you had the two, then you went to the other one and then you finally got Chris' mic and it worked. Could you tell, because you weren't getting any…
Mili: It was just nonsense. It is what it is.

Ron: What's cool though is, a lot of singers would've gotten very pissed off about that, obviously I'm sure you were pissed
Mili: Nah, I wasn't pissed. I ain't got time for it.

Ron: That's cool. All of that stuff that was happening, you were just rolling with it.
Mili: Dude, you don't understand. This whole tour was hilarious. We played some great places, but the monitors, everywhere we played the monitors were awful. It's just clubs, you know? We're just out here getting our feet wet. It's not the big rock star tour. Nice and easy, we're just kind of floating in. Let me get my feet wet. Let me sing a little bit. True diehard fans, they'll love to come and just hang out. I really enjoy it when I get people to come up and sing with me. I fuckin love that.

Ron: That's cool. I was thinking, “This guy is really classy. He's got reasons to be upset with the sound and everything, it's a small club, he's been in front of the big arenas and everything and here he is having the time of his life. I've seen hundreds of rock shows and I don't think I've ever seen anyone having as much fun up there as you were.
Mili: Oh, yeah.

Ron: And it comes through…

<interrupted by sound guy looking for the mic Mili threw across the stage when it didn't work>

Sound Guy: What general direction did you throw it? We're still trying to find it.
Mili: On the side.

Sound Guy: I hope nobody picked it up.
Mili: I think somebody stole it. It'll be fuckin hanging on someone's wall and I'll come to a party one day and it'll be like hanging on the wall with my number on it, and I'll be like <motions like punching guy in face>, “Give me my fuckin mic back!” <laughs>

Ron: They'll probably ask you to sign it.
Tony: Somebody will put it on eBay because it's got your saliva and shit
Don: Well they tried to sell Paul McCartney's germs so…
Ron: Like I was saying, this guy's got class. For you to pull up strangers, on your stage for your biggest hit, that's awesome.
Mili: That's fucking killer, are you kidding me. It's so incredible. I've been doing it every show. Tuesday night in Hartford, at Webster Hall, it's a pretty big place, they had the big barriers in the front and they've got this big stage and I said, fuck it, and I jumped out to them. It was fuckin incredible to have hundreds of people singing along to me.

Don: Oh, yeah.
Ron: They're singing your songs back to you, that's got to be pretty cool.
Mili: But to have them sing it and to have it coming through them, there's an emotion coming through.

Ron: Sure.
Mili: Are you fucking kidding me? It's amazing. Amazing. I always say, I'll do the hard parts, you just do the easy parts.

Don: Right.
Mili: If you look at them

Ron: Yeah, they're so excited.

<break in tape>

Ron: And do you know any kids that don't sing? All kids sing for just the joy of it. Well, I've got to say, Welcome Back!
Mili: Thank you, thank you.

Don: It was a lot of fun watching you. I didn't know if we'd get a chance to interview you before or after the show, but I'm sort of glad it was after and we got to see the show first. I was telling Angela, “You guys had some trouble at first but obviously the first thing… obviously everybody knows your stuff from the early '90s and you were doing some good stuff, but now it's 2006 and the big question is, that guy could really sing, but can he still do it? For the record I'll say, yes you can.
Ron: For anybody reading this interview, yes, he can still sing!
Don: You hit every note and it was a joy to watch
Ron: Both guitar players told me, in fact, you sing better now than you even used to.
Don: And not only did you sing well, but for the entire show. That's something that not everybody can pull off. I was very impressed by that.
Ron: And the Jack Daniels may have helped.
Mili: A little bit
Ron: you are the 1
st singer I've ever seen to pour shots to the audience! Now that was cool.
Mili: Well, why not? A fuckin' drink is a lot of money. I look at it like this, you come to the show, it costs $15-$20 to get in, God forbid you get a T-shirt, you're $45 in, you bring a date, you're $90 in, you want a beer… $9, it's like, what the fuck. So what I do, on the rider I get JD and Cuervo and a case of beer. That's it. I don't ask for much.

Don: You don't need brown M&M's
Mili: Right. A bottle of JD and a bottle of Cuervo. That was nice of those people to buy me a shot. It's nice. Why not.

Ron: Yeah, and if you get a bottle of Jack every night it's like, what are you going to do, start collecting them?
Mili: Yeah, we drink a little bit, the guys drink. You can't drink that shit every night, come on, let's be realistic.

Don: Not the whole bottle! Some people have been known to do it…
Ron: But they're no longer playing. It was a very cool show. The new songs are great. You've got 3 on the new EP and they're going to be on the actual album that's going to be out in March, right?
Mili: Absolutely.





Ron: Do you have a name for that yet?
Mili: I do but I'm going to hold that off until it's time.

Ron: Well, you didn't put it on your web site so I didn't figure that you would tell us <laughs>.
Mili: Right.

Ron: But I had to ask, right?
Mili: That's okay.

Don: I'll also say, I liked the set list. I thought it was a good mix of all your material.
Mili: Yeah.

Don: Stuff from your 1
st album, which was probably your biggest seller, and of course a lot of stuff from the Rock Star movie.
Ron: How did you get involved with that, by the way?
Mili: Tom Werman, my producer.

Don: He produced your 2
nd album, right?
Mili: Yeah, we did the 2
nd album together. So he called me up. Actually, I was in Connecticut and I was leaving for Los Angeles the next day. He calls me up Sunday night. I was at my brother's house and he calls me and says, “Hey Mili, what are you doing now. I'm doing this project, this pretty big movie, and I think you're the guy, actually. I think you could really do a good job.”

Don: Absolutely.
Mili: I said, “All right. I'll check it out.” He said, “Okay, when are you coming to L.A.?” I said, “Tomorrow.” Okay, come to the studio around 1:00. I went to the studio around 2:00 I think it was. I flew in like 11:00. At 2:00 I was in the studio and sang my ass off. They were like, “Okay, that sounds pretty good.” I said, “You know what, let me take that home for a second.” So I took it home and handed in like school work in the morning and said, here, check it out. And they're like, “You're the guy!”

Don: Now, on your web site you say that you actually sang 8 songs for the soundtrack.
Mili: Yeah.

Don: But only 3 of them made the soundtrack.
Mili: Yeah.

Don: So what happened to the other 5?
Mili: I have them.

Ron: They haven't made it to the internet, huh?
Mili: I can't do it. If someone else does it, that's fine. But I can't do it.

Don: Really?
Mili: It's just respect, you know what I mean? I'm surprised nobody's put it up there. I'm really surprised because some of the other songs are fucking great.

Don: The ones that made the soundtrack, the Steel Dragon stuff…
Mili: You know “Reckless”?

Don: Sure.
<Mili starts singing it>

Don: And I was glad to see you play “Blood Pollution”. I thought that was a good rockin tune.
Ron: That was awesome.
Mili: Killer

Don: When you were working on those songs, did you just come and do the vocals or did you have any input working with…
Mili: I had a bit of input but I kind of purposely just chilled back and let them do it.

Don: You guys sounded like a real group.
Mili: It sounded fuckin great. They were going to put the band out on tour.

Don: Really?
Mili: Yeah, but Mark couldn't sing.

Don: Right. He could rap, but. They would want you or Jeff singing.
Mili: I don't know how they would pull it off.

Ron: That would've been cool if you could've gone out there with, who was it, Jeff Pilson, Zack Wylde, Jason Bonham.

Don: That's a good lineup.
Mili: That would've worked well. The whole movie… when 9-11 happened, killed the movie.

Don: Really?
Mili: Yeah. It came out and was #2 in the box office. Friday I went to the premier, the whole big red carpet shit.

Ron: Right. How was that? Was that cool?
Mili: That was excellent.

Ron: Was it in L.A.?
Mili: Yeah. Saturday was the first day in the box office, it was #2 over the weekend and Monday, gone.

Ron: Oh, man.
Mili: “We All Die Young”, which you know is from my last album.

Ron: Right.
Mili: That was going to radio. They did a video for it and they made a single for radio. It went to radio and got cancelled off of the radio because President Bush wouldn't let anybody put anything on with the word die, kill, blood, or anything like that. So that killed that song.

Don: That was some bad luck.
Mili: I've had some interesting bad luck.

Don: You've had a little in your day. But you're still here.
Ron: Really bad luck would've been not coming back from it.
Mili: That's right.

Ron: It's funny, you come across as being very appreciative – I'm here and I'm doing what I love and I know that there's a good chance that I couldn't have been. At least that's sort of the vibe that comes across.
Mili: You know, at any moment. It can all be taken away from you. It's so fuckin crazy. I've experienced it way too many times, from members of my family passing away and just being on top of the world and, boom, you're on the fuckin street. I mean literally, when I had that accident, I mean it was like moments, it was overnight, I'm with $5 in my pocket driving down the road and I'm like, “Whoa”. Overnight. Just like that.

Don: Yeah.
Mili: And I remember sitting backstage and everyone's freakin out and everyone's losing their mind and my head is wide open and I'm sitting there, and it may sound crazy to you, but I really saw all of my steps. What I've got to do.

Ron: Really.
Mili: Unfortunately, it was a little long. I wish it was a little shorter. It was fuckin long. So now, I'm at a good space. It may take a moment to get through this little barrier but hopefully people will say, “Let's give this guy a little love.” I need a little love.

Ron: I hope so. And the music world needs a talent like you. I'm so sick of hearing these guys just kind of growl. Bands without lead guitarists. It's really a shame. Everyone blames Nirvana, of course, but why does it have to be one or the other? Why can't there be room for everybody.
Mili: I think it's slowly starting to, music is changing. Right now everyone is confused, so it's good.





Don: It's cyclical. Things come back. Harder edge rock is coming back.
Ron: Well, yeah. Motley Crue went on tour last year and had one of the most popular tours. A lot of people were shocked by that, but people like us who like that type of music, weren't surprised at all.
Mili: No. It's good energy. What I think people are missing is the energy. The energy the 80s had, was really positive.

Ron: Absolutely.
Mili: The energy now, some of it's really good, there's some deep, deep shit, but then all of a sudden twists too, it's kind of like, I'm not quite sure I want to go over there, you know what I'm saying?

Ron: Well think about what killed the whole grunge movement. It was so negative.
Don: And depressing.
Ron: How long is that going to be interesting to people.
Mili: There's no rock stars.

Ron: Right. Up on stage, you look like a lead singer – a rock star. You don't look like a guy I sat next to in geometry class. When you pay $15 to see a band you want to see.
Mili: You want to see the fuckin rock star.

Ron: I want to see David Lee Roth
Mili: I want to see the circus act <laughs>

Ron: Exactly. I don't want to see some dude in shorts who looks like he hasn't taken a shower and I sat next to in class. I want to see someone that looks different.
Don: And you want them to have the talent of course, and the catchy songs and all that but you what the image that goes along with that.
Ron: You have to have charisma. You have to know how to work an audience. And that's what you do masterfully. You know how to put on a show.
Mili: Yep.

Ron: And a lot of the younger kids that have never experienced that, they don't know what a rock star is. They go to their first real rock show and they're blown away because they've just kind of seen these guys stand there. What's great about it is it's not just the music but it's the lyrics, it's the stage presence. You have real stage presence.
Mili: Thank you.

Ron: With a lot of people, I guess it's just in you, you know what I mean?
Mili: It really is. Music. Either you got it or you don't. If you got it, it takes a lot of work to bring it into the open. You can never get over cocky with it because again, it can be taken away in a second.

Ron: It sounds like you've learned a lot. It's sort of a spiritual awakening.
Don: You've gained wisdom along with everything else.
Mili: Guys. This has been the most amazing journey I've ever experienced. I don't know if anyone has ever experienced it. I'm sure other people have in their own way.

Ron: Unfortunately, sometimes you have to go through the pain to get to something really positive and good.
Mili: Yeah.

Don: Now I know you're going to do the big rock festival in Europe.
Mili: Bang Your Head, yeah.

Don: Now that should be interesting for you guys because it will be a very big crowd and good exposure with people that either remember you or people that don't know you at all. You must be pretty excited about that.
Mili: I'm very excited. I did an interview with a magazine, I can't remember which one but it was one of the biggest magazines, and they're going to do 3 segments, like a 5 page spread. I was blown away. The guy was like, man, we're really excited that you're actually back and doing it.

Don: Absolutely.
Mili: We would love to have you if you're interested in doing a show like this. I'm like, “interested? Are you fuckin kidding me?”

Don: Yeah, we'll see if I can pencil you in.
Mili: It's good. There's good things happening.

Ron: The tide is turning.
Mili: I'm not making any money, that's for sure <laughs>.

Ron: But you're doing what you love. I love that story about how you were going to be a mechanical engineer and you threw your books out the window and said, “What am I doing?”
Mili: I swear to God, may God strike me dead right here, no bullshit. Everything that is there and everything I sing is not made up. I can't make this shit up. I'll never forget it. After I talked to Chris, I was like, “What the fuck am I doing?” Threw them out the window and said, “I'm done.”

Ron: I think they call that an epiphany!
Mili: Yeah.

Don: you can always go back to college. It's always going to be there. But being a rock singer, not everyone gets that chance.
Mili: It's not who I am.

Ron: And the music world is glad that you made that decision. It would've been sad if you hadn't. But you're right, you figured out that that is what you're all about. You may not be making a lot of money right now, but you are still doing what you love.
Mili: I look at it that I'm on my way. On my way back.

Ron: You're still a young guy.
Mili: Yeah, I feel great. I feel 28. I really do. It's weird.

Ron: But you still look good. You obviously take care of yourself.
Mili: Always.

Don: And the main thing is, you can obviously still sing, and that's the important part and you can still handle that. And I'm sure you have a worldwide fan base.
Ron: it's like, in Europe, this style of music is better appreciated than it is here in the U.S.
Mili: Yeah, you know what's really weird? I'm feeling this energy and the first time around I felt the Asian thing, it was huge. And then Europe and then the U.S. picked up. This time it feels like Europe and then slowly come back to the United States. The United States is a very fickle place.

Ron: I think they rely too heavily on someone else telling them what to listen to. Whether it's radio, or MTV, and what was great back in the 80s is MTV learned that it was popular and started showing all the videos and it exploded. But good music, you don't need someone to tell you.
Don: It's hard now because there are so many more options with the internet. And like any band can record a digital recording in their basement.
Mili: Yeah.

Don: So it's hard to weed through to find the good stuff.
Ron: What I find ironic is here we are in 2006 and we're almost reverting back to the music world of the 1950s where artists used to release singles and they'd just throw something on the B-side. It wasn't until the 60s when they started really doing albums. And now with digital downloads it's going back to, forget the album, let's just do singles.
Mili: Digital music is huge.

Don: A lot of new artists, they'll have a hit song and then you'll never hear from them again.
Mili: Yeah.

Ron: That's all labels want to do. Throw money into an act, have a huge release and if the next one bombs, they're done. There's no more building artists like the used to.
Mili: That's the Untied States. It's all about the almighty dollar. They're focusing on… it's interesting. Managers, executives, they work all their lives maybe doing small gigs and nothing major. Then they find an act and they see the magic and they see it can work. They put their claws into it, and they push it push it push it. And they make their money, and they feel… this is what I've noticed, I've went though this… and it's almost as if they feel that it's okay to take that away from them. Make them big, make all the money and say, okay you're done. Now it's your problem.

Ron: I've gotten everything out of you. Thanks.
Mili: And then the artist feels so raped feels so deeply hurt. To overcome that pain is next to impossible. I've watched it with myself. And its like, “you motherfuckers… so that's how you're doing it?” But that's life. I feel so bad about some of these bands because they drop so low, they go to drugs, and their talent just drops out the window.

Ron: And most people get into music, not to make money, not to be rich, but for the love of the music. And that can be a by-product if you have talent.
Don: Money and drugs can be a distraction. The managers are probably more into it for the money as opposed to the artist who is creating something.
Ron: Well that's it. It's part of you. You've created a song or an album. It's a creative process. It's like your child. But to a business guy, it's just money. It's not personal or emotional.
Mili: But on the other side I respect that as well because you are who you are and I'm the artist. And they're like, you're the artist, you're going to get all the fame and all that energy. We're also feeding on energy. You're feeling all this amazing energy and stuff. And the manager is going, “Fuck, I've got to make a living.” So I can't that away from them, but at the same time, what gets me is they see all the angles where artists are like, when I started out, I didn't know the game. I told those managers, “Hey dude, it's okay you took all my cash, I didn't know the game, that's why I'm okay with it. If I know the game and I got fucked, well it's shame on me.

Ron: But it won't happen again.
Mili: It ain't gonna happen again. That's the only bummer side of it. You see so many incredible artists, it takes them years for them to get over it and sometimes it's too late. Everyone's like, “Dude, turn left. You're still great but we're not feeling the energy.”

Don: How would you describe the energy for your new stuff?
Mili: Full power.

Don: Yeah.
Mili: When you listen to it, you tell me.

Ron: Well I'll say the show tonight was “full energy”. That would be how I would describe the show tonight, from beginning to end, “high energy”, it was awesome.
Mili: I fuckin love it.

Ron: I expected a good show, but I have to admit, it was better than I expected. If you came and you were feeling bad and you still felt bad when you left, you weren't paying attention.
Mili: Every show counts. Every show counts. Again, it took me a long time to get to this point so I'm going to enjoy what's going on. The happiest I am is when I'm onstage.

Ron: And it shows.
Mili: The happiest I am. It really is.

Ron: I've seen concerts back in the day and, we both go to a lot of concerts, and I've seen some of the guy who were really big 20 years ago and they're going through the motions. They're just there for the paycheck. They're not having any fun. Definitely not the case tonight.
Mili: That's not what it's about.

Ron: I guess there's an honesty there. You're legitimately having fun, it's not pretend. Everyone here can tell and that just feeds into the crowd. People know when a performer is just going through the motions. As a fan. I very much appreciate it that you're up there and just having a blast.
Mili: Yep. That's what I do.

Don: And I'm sure it'll translate to the new stuff. I haven't heard all of it, but what I've heard, “Laugh out Loud” and “Twisted Future”, those are both good.
Ron: What's good is it contains the classic sound but it doesn't sound old. It's got the new vibe.
Mili: The whole idea for this album. I just want to give you a quick history. I did all of the guitars on it. I didn't do the guitar solos. I did all the 12 strings, 6 strings, electrics, heavy guitars, everything, I engineered all of it except the bed tracks.

Ron: This is your baby.
Mili: And I produced it. When I say go solo. It was a fuckin lot of work. It was like wow.

Ron: It probably means a lot to you, maybe even more than some of the other ones.
Mili: It is. The song “Twisted Future” we recorded the orchestra at Skywalker Sounds, you know Star Wars, George Lucas.

Ron: Absolutely.
Mili: Which, it is a magical place. We did the orchestra there and I'm sitting there and they go, “Well Mili, what do you think?” I'm like, “You're doing fine.” I don't even have to say a word. Just awesome. The idea was, I wanted to make a record that was the past, present and future.

Ron: Okay.
Mili: I didn't want to go completely into the future and totally alienate everyone from my past.

Ron: That's smart.
Mili: But I didn't want to go all the way into the past because I already did that.

Ron: Right.
Mili: If I go back there, then they'll be like, “He's just that guy from the 80s,” and I'll be monotone. I want to move into the future even though I have that part of me behind me. That's why the set has a little bit of everything. When people know the movie they can sing along and they can sing along to my old stuff and all the new stuff comes in like, “Whoa, what the fuck is this?” But it still rocks, it's still got the power.

Ron: Absolutely
Mili: That's what I wanted to do with this record. Some of the tunes on this record are really, really heavy but there's one song called “Underground” is a really bizarre tune. It's like rock meets jazz fusion but a futuristic side. You would never think that it would work, but when you hear it, it works.

Ron: It's funny, when I hear your drummer I get that sort of jazz fusion feel. His solo was awesome.
Mili: The guy is good.

Ron: The band you've got backing you is top notch.
Mili: Well Myron, the bass player, played with Santana for 10 years. You know what's really good, you know Chris, he's really great, what's really nice is, they're all really nice. They're gentlemen. I made a vow to myself, when I go back into this and put this together and as you know what it takes to put something like this together, it's a lot of work, I said, I refuse to work with anybody that's not a gentleman.

Ron: It'll make your life easier, that's for sure.
Mili: I refuse. There's not one argument, not one bad word, nothing, this whole tour. Everyone's like, “How are you doing?” Onstage, you see me and Myron cracking up when a chord doesn't work <laughs>

Don: That's what's great. You guys have good rapport and that makes a difference in the overall sound.
Ron: And every time something would happen, you guys just rolled with it. Awesome.
Mili: Fuck it.

Ron: Like you said, life's too short, right?
Don: But with all of that said, even though there were some small problems at the beginning, overall, it was good. It sounded good.
Ron: It sounded great.
Don: The band was good, you sounded tight, you had everyone singing along, and the overall sound was, it was a good show.
Mili: Thanks.

Ron: Now you're supposed to do something with Bret Michaels in December, is that still happening?
Mili: No, we played, it was supposed to be at Goodfellas.

Ron: He's actually going to be in town in about a week.
Mili: We played Goodfellas Saturday night and the owner really wanted us on that bill, but after we played that night they said, “No.”

Ron: Really?
Mili: Yeah, but I don't blame them. They don't need me jumping around like an animal out there when they're trying to do a video shoot. I wouldn't do it either. There's too much confusion I think. Maybe we can do some shows with Poison, that would be cool.

Ron: I would love that. Poison got really smart about 5 years ago. Instead of trying to do it themselves, for $20, to see 4 or 5 bands, and all of a sudden they've got 20,000 people there. These other bands may get a couple hundred. They just realized very quickly, they come through every summer, there's some bill whether it's 4 or 5 bands and people love it because they feel like they're getting their money's worth.
Mili: I'm all about that. We're trying to get on some tour, trying to figure out our next step. That would be great. Personally, I think I need to jump on a real tour.

Ron: Did you consider pursuing, moving forward as a solo artist? You know, billing yourself as… or was it always just Steelheart.
Mili: You know, it was the weirdest thing. I tried so many times to get rid of Steelheart.

Ron: Really? It just keeps sticking with you, huh?
Mili: It's a part of me, it's imbedded in my soul. It's become me. It's really weird. Steelheart has become an individual. I tried, I really did. No I don't want to do it. I said, you know what, it keeps coming back. So one day I just gave up. I accept. You can say all you can say about the 80s, whatever, dude. It'll be all right.

Ron: With some artists, you can tell that they're trying to walk that line. A lot of it depends on who owns the name, of course. It's funny, someone like Bret Michaels, he's walking both lines. He still does Poison but then he's doing his solo stuff. He's been able to that.
Mili: That's okay. That's great for him.

Ron: It's nice that he can do things on his solo album that his Poison fans wouldn't be cool with. It's an outlet for his creativity and his fans let him even though it's not what they would expect from Poison. That's kind of a cool thing too.
Mili: I am truly searching for my team. I don't want to keep changing people. I'm not interested in that. I'm not. I am interested in finding my brothers. My bros. When I go to war, I want to know that I'm going to enjoy myself and they've got my back.

Ron: Absolutely.
Mili: That's what I'm looking for. That's why, with Chris. I thought about it, thought about it. I did this whole record. I actually asked him to come play on it and it didn't work out. He was going through some issues, personal stuff, you know and then finally I said, “Listen, I'm going on tour. I'm doing it. I'm going either with you or without you. I'm doing this.” I said, “I think you need to be with me. For some crazy reason, I feel you need to be with me.” And he's like, “I'm there.”

Ron: Cool.
Mili: Even on stage, we're giving each other hugs. He's come a long way.

Ron: You've been through a lot together.
Mili: And I feel that Chris hasn't quite gotten the recognition he deserves. But it's coming.

Ron: Well, he's a great guitar player.
Mili: All of them.

Don: They're fantastic.
Mili: And they're cool. They're cool dudes. Somebody you want to hang out with, have a beer with. You can have a nice conversation. Gentlemen.

Ron: That's who you want to work with, that's for sure.
Don: And I suspect that in the rock world that's not always easy to find.
Mili: No… all the alcohol and drugs.

Don: Unfortunately, it kind of comes with the job to some extent.
Ron: it's an occupational hazard.
Don: It's funny because your appearance, your voice, it's clear that you didn't get sucked into that world. It's a shame for the people that did because some people are still struggling. Just pray for him and hope for the best.
Mili: Give him some love.

Ron: So one question is, we're talking about Bret Michaels and on his solo he kind of went country… I saw on your web site that you started out as country, of course you were like 7 or 8.
Mili: Yeah, yeah.

Ron: Are we ever going to see Mili the country artist? <laughs>
Mili: Nah, I don't think so. <laughs> Maybe I'll write a couple of songs for country artists. I wrote a couple of songs a long time ago. I think they're good too. One song I wrote with Ramsey McLean. I don't know if you know him. He wrote Sleepless in Seattle. We wrote one song together and it was fuckin killer. The lyrics are hilarious. You know, country songs, it's all about the lyrics. You know what, I drive through the country and I'm like…

Ron: Yeah, when you drive through Tennessee you've got to listen to country music.
Mili: Yeah, it's okay. There's nothing wrong with it. It's got a huge history.

Don: The line between country and pop isn't so well defined any more.
Mili: What I will do, I'll tell you this. I will do techno-electronic.

Ron: Really?
Mili: I already did five songs. After I did the movie, Angela and I went to Germany, Spain, and Amsterdam. We went through all of Germany. This was in 1999 or 2000. I was looking for producers. I didn't want to make the music too. I could. I could make that music. But I didn't want to, it's too much for me. To make the music and then the lyrics. It's too much. So I was like, let me find some producers that are cool because there are songs in that music, there's a soul. People don't know that. Some people are like, “Oh, that sucks.” Certain songs have a magic. It makes me soar. As if it was written for me, know what I mean?

Ron: Sure.
Mili: So we went there and we did all of that and everyone just ran from it when they heard the demo. I thought they'd be thrilled to work with me because this stuff was good. Finally, there was one guy who told me, “You know what, if I let you come into my world singing over my stuff as a DJ, where the fuck does that leave me?” I was like, “Oh, duh!” That's why it never really came together. But I think it will at some point because there's some magic to it.

Don: So you've got some stuff recorded out there?
Mili: Oh yeah. I just have to figure out the right tunes.

Ron: I could see that as a solo thing.
Mili: Yeah, totally solo. There's hard edge to it, hard dance. There's still energy, you know, and me singing like an animal through it and then soar and chill back and, and sing really angelic. That's fucking killer.

Ron: I'd love to hear that. That sounds really interesting.
Mili: I could see it in a coliseum where just one guy comes up and sings like an animal.

Ron: That sounds cool.
Mili: You know?

Don: And that's something that you could definitely either possibly release as a solo or a different name entirely. Then people would say, “Did you hear that song by whomever, and hey, do you know who is singing on that?” Especially in European markets where they would be more receptive to that. So, yeah, I wish you luck with that. Anything as an artist where you can be creative. Nothing says you have to be confined to late 80s hair metal.
Mili: No.

Don: You're a good singer and your voice should be used however you want to use it.
Mili: I've got a whole piano album.

Don: Really?
Mili: I'm not a good piano player but I can write.

Don: You can either be a great musician or you can be a great creative songwriter and not everybody can do both. Some people can be great at one but not the other and a few people can do both. The creative part is still there.
Mili: Time is, to me, everything is about time. Life is time.

Ron: I sense that you're one of those guys that has so much going on in your head and it's just how do I get it out? Like you feel a need to get it out.
Mili: Yeah, do I have enough time in this lifetime.

Ron: Exactly.
Mili: You're absolutely right. And while I'm thinking about it, do I have enough time in this lifetime to do everything that I want to do?

Ron: I've got more stuff to do, buddy.
Don: I'm with you. But it seems like you're on the right path. Your band is sounding good, your new songs are sounding good, you sound good, you're looking healthy, you're in shape, you've got a beautiful fiancé, it seems like things are going well for you.
Mili: Thank you.

Don: Full speed ahead.
Mili: I feel good.

Ron: And the coolest mic stand I've ever seen.
Mili: <laughs>
Ron: I've gotta say.
Don: Whether the mic on top of it is working or not, the stand is cool.
Mili: Fuck.

Don: So it's off to Cleveland tomorrow and then back down to Columbus.
Mili: I didn't….

Don: I know.
Mili: You know how it works.

Ron: Yeah, whenever you've got an opening.
Don: Well we probably won't annotate this entire thing word for word <actually, we did> because that will take too long to type.
Ron: I've transcribed longer ones.
Mili: You need to get the word….

Ron: You know, I tried that once.
Mili: Did it work?

Ron: Not at all. Because you have to practice so it recognizes… you have to read something and then it understands how you pronounce certain words. So when 2 different people are having a conversation it screws all up. I even got so bold as to run a wire between my tape player and my computer, converted it to an electronic file and thought I could use voice recognition software without having to do anything manually. Well, that was wishful thinking.
Mili: You know what would be better, imagine this, futuristic. This is a cool interview, right?

Ron: I'm certainly having a good time.
Mili: If somebody else could listen in on this, it would be a lot more enjoyable, because when you re-write it, things change.

Ron: It's funny, when we transcribe these interviews, we do pretty much do them word-for-word as opposed to summarizing. That's one of the things that differentiates melodicrock.com from other sites. Sure it might take you longer to read it but you're really getting insight as opposed to answers to the 10 questions.
Mili: Exactly. I can't do that. A lot of people email me and say, “Can you please answer these questions, it's a really big magazine.” I'm like, “Listen, bro, if I have to read these 25 questions and then type it out, it'll never come out right.”

Ron: Yeah, “Who's your favorite artist...
Mili: I can't do that. One time, during the WAIT album, I was in Japan and we were doing a speech press and one of the girls asked me, “So, how did your band get together?” I'm like, “Sweetie, you've got to read like 1500 issues before this. Let's move forward here, you know.”<laughs>. We're in a different time zone.

At this point, it's well after 3:00 in the morning, the entire bar is packed up and waiting for us to finish up so we wrap up, shake hands and wish him well on all of his future endeavors. He and his fiancé Angela or truly two of the nicest people you'll ever meet in the music industry. Thanks for everything, guys, and thanks as always to Andrew for giving us the opportunity. You rule, mate!






Jon Fiore (2007)


Jon Fiore: The Updating Of A Classic.

Preview frontman Jon Fiore talks about the band's one and only album and his views on why success alluded the band, despite seemingly having all their cards lined up. He also talks about the Fiore albums recorded with the Harem Scarem guys and life as a session singer.

Ok Jon, so it's great to talk to you again. It's been a long while. I was looking back through the site and it was 1998 when we last did an interview.
Yeah, it was a long time ago when we were doing all that stuff with Harry and whatnot.

I'll go over all that again but I thought I'd start back at the beginning.

Well, you're back on the CD shelves with Preview again.
I know, that's kinda nice. It's nice that it was out. I remember when those guys called me from Rock Candy and they said that they were gonna do the re-release. That was nice, you know, you don't expect much of any of this stuff to happen.

Well it's great for the collectors.
Yeah it's nice that it can get out there again and who knows? I don't know how it did, so.

I don't think it's been out there too long so I'm not sure either. It hasn't been on CD before has it?
No and that's a good thing. They said they were gonna send me one. They sent me early CDs of what they did to give me a sample of what they did. They sent Judas Priest and a whole bunch of Riot and stuff like that. I looked nice and I said great when it comes out send it to me.

So it was 1983, twenty four years ago!
Yeah, long time.

What first springs to mind now, when you think of Preview?
For me it was exciting because it was the beginning. It was the beginning of getting a record deal, I was young and we had that opportunity and we got there. We had the record deal.
It was an interesting time. It was fun. It was hard work but it was a lot of fun. Getting up into the record deal, you know how it is…it was a lot of work it's not just luck. Its years and years of traveling to and from Long Island where the Gold brothers lived and I would work with them. We'd just work on these songs and record and just do it. It was a lot of work, a lot of money, a lot of my own money just getting to and from. But we all wanted the same end result and we got there. Unfortunately we just didn't have the success we thought we'd have.

I was reading through the liner notes from the re-issue which guitarist Danny Gold wrote.
I didn't know that he got to write the linear notes.

Yeah, it's a really nice and fairly detailed little story.
Well don't forget, it's their interpretation of what they want it to sound like… (laughing)

The thing that struck me about reading the notes was, I mean you had a major label, you had major management, and you had Keith Olson producing the album. We had everything.

Yes, you had everything. So why didn't it work out?
Did you happen to see the Keith Olson story on this?

Oh, you should check that out. If you Google my name you'll get a whole bunch of things and eventually you'll pull up Keith Olson's interview for Preview. Or maybe if you just Google Keith Olson and punch in Preview and see what happens.

I actually interviewed Keith but I can't remember if we talked about Preview.
Well Keith did a whole article or an interview on Preview and what he thought about the group. It's interesting. His thoughts were like the group should have never been signed and I'm surprised because he was there. He was the one that came and saw us.

He actually said you shouldn't have been signed?
Yeah, you know I guess someone asked him about his success as a producer. I don't know who was giving the interview or how our names came up. Maybe it was how many groups that you wish would have happened that never did or something like that. He said Preview, but his story was interesting.

Interview Link: www.angelfire.com/zine2/strutterzine/KEITHOLSENINTERVIEW.htm

In a nutshell, what did he think you were missing?
Well we had problems in the studio. Again, the fault of the record really not coming out was really because, you mean you don't know the story? Did these guys ever explain it to you?

No mate!
Oh, what happened was, we had four labels vying to sign us. So we were hot. We were rockin'. Someone saw something in us. They liked us. We had great songs…another group, another look you know, whatever. We could have been anyone of those other groups that sustained.
We could have been the Bon Jovi. I think what happed was when we went with Geffen we were all like a little bit, “yeah let's go with Geffen. He's coming back, starting a new label he had John Lennon, Elton John you know, the superstars on there”. We're saying “how do you miss with a guy like this?”
Epic was offering us a deal. Chrysalis was offering us a deal. We went with the Geffen thing. They flew Keith Olson to New York to see us and Keith obviously liked what he saw. I'm not trying to boast, but from what I understand he loved my voice and he loved the songs. That's what got him and he even says that in the interview. Great singer, great voice you know.
When we got into the studio he felt a lot of the guys couldn't cut the tracks. So there was that issue going on. He wanted his studio guys to come in. Whether or not it was easier for him to cut a record like that rather than work with the group, work with the tedium of doing all that. Whatever it was, we were young, we were naïve. I remember the guys were upset. You can't blame them. They felt like this was their chance and Keith doesn't want to use them on the record. He wants his studio guys. He has this core of guys that he used like on the Rick Springfield and Pat Benatar records and that was his core.
So he felt like that's what he wanted to do. The guys were upset so were went to David and he said let Keith do what he wants to do. He's gonna make you stars. That's what his words were. I remember plain as day being in his office and him saying let him do what they want to do. “He's gonna make you stars”.
And me, as far as I'm concerned, I'm saying I wanna do whatever it takes to get to the next step. Get the power, get the next record out. It was a tough time, it was a tough task.
It wasn't an easy time. It's a funny, funny thing. I mean I've got some stories. I mean I got that song on the record It's Over that I wrote because Keith Olson heard it and said where'd this come from? It was a tough time.

That was your only writing credit on the album, right?
Well that was the reason. I wanted to write more songs, but those guys wanted to do writing and I was the singer, the frontman. I mean, no offence, it was a tough time but it pissed them off that I was on the front of the album.
I did everything I could do to just hang in there. That's how it was. I'm a firm believer that people get what they deserve. Unfortunately we didn't get the success out of that but luckily I went on and did very well in other areas. I don't know how well they did. I know Ernie went on and wrote on or two songs that became hits…he had a hit song with Taylor Dane but I don't know after that. I was lucky enough to be a studio guy for twenty years so I did pretty well. I ended up writing for a lot of artists after a while too.

I've talked to a lot of bands and songwriters over the years. The whole control issue and who has it – the label or the artist – is a similar problem isn't it?
Yeah, it's a similar problem. You work it out eventually. You usually let things like that go in the beginning and sort of wait until you get the success under your belt and then things change. I realized that. I thought, you know what, fine let's get a hit record then we'll come back and we're all gonna be more valuable to each other. Especially if they want me to sing the songs, you know what I'm saying?

It seems that guys that perhaps didn't find success on albums like this, even though they're cult favorites….the guys that ended up better off are the ones that did turn to songwriting.
Right, exactly, songwriting is the best. That's where you're gonna make your money.

I don't know if you can talk specifically but what is the value of having a hit song as a songwriter?
It's hard to say what a value is but luckily over the years working with a lot of R&B guys I've had pieces of songs. It's hard to say what the value is but you can't think in terms of one or two or three you just have to do a lot because it all adds up. And it's all different for everyone.
Some people do publishing deals so they'll get some money up front and they're betting that the songs are gonna do well. You can go either way. The good thing is you have the money in your hands whether it could be several hundred thousand dollars, a million or a half a million, whatever.
Then if nothing happens you have that money at least. But if something happens you win also, but you're giving up a little bit because they're loaning you the money. It's a totally different thing. You gamble when you don't get.
I other words, we in Preview, we were in a position where we, and back in those days you could get a chunk of money in advance - so if you've got a label that's so hot on you that, they were talking about Preview being a big, big, big group, Keith Olson, this and that - you strike while the iron's hot.
We're talking to Geffen records. We're talking to this label and that money and they're offering us a nice chunk of money back then. And since I was a writer on one of the songs I was part of it. So I remember going into these meetings. It was like the Gold's don't want to do it. They don't want to give it up. They want to hold it and it's their right to do it, but it turns off certain people. I think it turned off Geffen records in a way.
I just think that they felt that they were going to be a problem later on down the road. I don't know what it was exactly but to be honest with you…it's not their fault that the record didn't do well.
The problem really lied between when it took so long to get the record finished because of the problems. Keith was doing a lot of drugs, a lot of cocaine back then. I'm not saying he didn't do it on everybody else's records. We weren't the only ones, but our luck and our timing just didn't work out.
I also, maybe more so I blame John Kalodner the guy who signed us. He's the guy. He loved us. It was up to him to be in that studio listening to the record, finding out what wasn't right and what we needed to do to change it. But instead he said well let Keith do it. Keith's gonna do it. Then in the end when he gets the record and the record is maybe not what he expected it to be who do you blame? You can't blame us because we're being told what to do by Keith and Keith has no direction from Kalodner because Kalodner hasn't been listening to it. So it's really a tough situation. Kalodner gets the record and maybe by then, a year or year and a half later, they're not as excited. Things are changing. Music changes like anything else. So they try and remix it.
They got a guy to change it, make it heavier. I think they wanted it more like Def Leppard. Maybe Def Leppard started to happen then. Who knows? Don't forget they put the record out and we had no video. That was the time of MTV. We were an MTV band but there was no video involved.
In fact I remember that they didn't even want to put this record out. The label, as far as they were concerned, they weren't excited over it whatever the reason. Our manager and with our pressure they put it out and they were hoping maybe with the little airplay it would get something would happen with it. Unless you promote something it doesn't happen. It happened to be a good record. I mean there was a hit song on there.




Oh it's a great record. You can tell the era it came from but it's still a very fresh record.
Yeah it's a great record. Everybody who hears it loves it. I love the record. I still listen to it to this day.
So that's pretty much the Preview thing. Then when we were ready to talk about doing the second record again we did demos and we had some good songs. I just think maybe they saw the problems and that was pretty much it. The drummer playing on the record, Ed Bettinelli…nice guy and he played some songs but the bass player wasn't there.

It is a shame it didn't work out.
Getting back to you…what was your first job as a session guy?

Well after that when they didn't pick up the second record I just got lucky. I came back to NYC and our manager at that time knew somebody who was writing commercial jingles and doing session stuff in NYC. Big time, they were very successful. They were writing all the major car commercials and stuff like that. They needed a rock guy to so a song and I came in and here I am singing with these guys and they don't look like me. I have long hair and an earring in my ear and stuff like that ya know. But that's the voice they wanted and I got lucky. From there on I just kept doing them one by one. It took a little while. It didn't happen over night. Maybe it took about half a year. I did a lot of demos and stuff like that. Then when I got my first commercial on the air, I think it was Soft 'n Dry deodorant or something like that, then it just took off and I was doing everything. I was hot for a long time. I was singing everything. I'd work with all the top session guys. The next thing I knew that's what I was doing every day.

Wow, and that's been very lucrative for you?
Oh, it was ten hours a day working in the studio. But the interesting thing was that you got paid for it instantly. It was all union. I don't know if you know anything about this but it was all union work. You're an actor in SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and then you get residuals on top of that. So coming from the Preview thing, you know we did the touring for about a year or so and had the fun of the big tours with the Pat Benatar's and the Asia's and opening up for all those groups. It was exciting but it wasn't fun being an opening act. You just wait for that time and you can see that it could happen. And you say wow if we could only have that hit record it would make a big difference. Just that one hit could start it off. I wasn't meant to be but anyway.
So the commercial thing ended up and that was a long, long, long run. Then Michael
Bolton came back into making commercials. He couldn't get locked up in records then all of a sudden I met him in commercials. You know his rock thing didn't really do that well. (laughter)
So all of a sudden he's doing commercials with me because his manager had another guy who had been doing commercials for a long time. Another guy like me who'd had a couple of records. There are a lot of guys like that. We all had that similar thing. They all had records but it didn't happen for them. Some of the writers for the jingle companies did too. Some of them had some success.
It was a lucrative business because some of them had hit records on the outside that they wrote for people but they knew that they could do so well in commercials that they were writing commercials. If you're a writer you write, if you're a singer you sing. That's what you're supposed to do. If you can't find a place to do it then you shouldn't be doing it. You can't just sit by the phone and wait. It's just like an actor. Are you just gonna sit and wait for your next role? If you love it you don't do it for the money you do it for the art and you go out and find a place to act. Whether it's in a play, a musical or this or that you've gotta find a vehicle for your creativity.

Are you still doing that yourself today?
I'm still doing some writing. My last success was some songs I wrote with another friend for George Benson. We had three songs on his record which came out last year. The name of the record was Irreplaceable. It did fairly well. It was out in Europe and I still see the residuals that come out through my ASCAP. I wrote the title song called Irreplaceable and another song called Strings of Love. I co-wrote that with a couple of guys that were very successful songwriters. And another song called Six Play. So we wrote six songs and we had a Grammy nomination. Not for one of our songs but George always get Grammy nominations. So there was an instrumental on there that got nominated. George won Grammies this year for a record he has out with Al Jarreau. In fact he's coming here on the 11th of April and we're gonna see him. So that was a highlight when that happened last year. That was fun. Still do some writing and feel like I still have some good songs left. I still do some singing here and there. I haven't done any recording in a while.







The last recordings I have from you are the last Fiore albums. Themselves very highly regarded records.
Yeah, they were pretty good, right?

Absolutely I mean you can't go wrong with Harry and Pete [Harem Scarem were the backing band for both records].
It was a lot of fun. You talk about the musician and the way they played. They were great. Harry is great and nice to work with. Had a lot of fun.

And you wrote the songs with Harry.
Yeah, which was nice. That was a nice thing. Harry found me through someone. I forget who it was but he said he said he wanted to do a record. He'd heard my voice and loved it and I said great. We wanted to do it quickly so he had a bunch of songs for the first one Today 'til Tomorrow. So I said fine, that'll be great. I mean if we can do some writing we'll do it but he had a bunch of songs so again, that's the way I looked at it.
Then we got to do another one and we co-wrote. So then it was fun and that's how I looked at it.

You said you still had some songs left in you?
Yeah I still feel like I have some songs left in me to write. My voice is still as strong as ever. I do a bunch of charity things here. This is a very, very philanthropic island here. We do a lot of charity work. There are all kinds of charity organizations here. My wife and I chaired and event here called the Drifer School of the Arts which is a magnet school here. It's a school for the creative arts, dance and all that stuff. These kids go on to become professionals in music, film, media. They can become anything they want. People that tend to go to this school, they have to audition to get in, usually go into the arts. So we chaired an event for them to collect money and we raised probably about a million dollars for them. We put on a big gala and sell tickets. We did that at Mar-A-Lago one year. We had a big banquet hall and used the kids to perform. We had the school band so you get a 40 piece orchestra and have the theater department do something. Then you'd have the dance department do something. So it's quite an entertaining evening then I would get up and sing like a theme song with them. With the orchestra and then have the choir join me in the end. With all my experience at doing conventions, after the commercials when I went back into performing, I used to do conventions all over the world. I did Vegas. I mean I was all over as a performer again. You know I got another deal in '93. I don't know if you knew that, with Atlantic.

I didn't know that.
Oh, I got another deal in '93, a solo deal. There were a lot of things that happened.

What style of music did they sign you for?
Well, it's a fluke how it happened. You know, through sessions and working with all those guys. Here's what happened.
Like I said I was doing commercials with Michael Bolton and Michael was going to do another record. I guess his timing had come. You know, he found what he wanted to do and maybe he didn't know if it would work or not. I guess he met a couple of great song writers because he was always writing songs. So we met doing commercials and he loved my voice so he said would you come sing on some of my demos. So I went and on the Soul Provider record, which was a big record for him, I sang on How Could We Be Lovers, You Wouldn't Know Love, and there was a couple more.
He worked with a big writer, I can't think of his name right now but he gave Bon Jovi his biggest hits.

Desmond Child…
Yeah, Desmond Child. So Desmond wrote How Can We Be Lovers and a bunch of songs with Michael and I remember being in the studio with Michael and saying man that stuff sounds really good. The next thing you know it was a success. The timing was great, he's found his niche. So that sort of haunted for years because I'd always wanted to have a hit record. It was always my dream. So I started working on some songs, writing again. I was working with different people and I actually met a guy who introduced me to a different songwriter. We did some demos and just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I was coming back from a place in NYC where they were putting a stereo in my car or a telephone, something like that. It happened to be one of those high end places in NYC that only dealt with high end stuff. So he'd get presidents of record companies and stuff in there and he was a friend of mine.
So he says you know who's coming in here today? I said who and he said Jason Flom. This was in '93 or '92 somewhere. I said oh Jason Flom I've heard of Jason. Back then he was with Atlantic Records and he was a big A&R guy but he did a lot of the rock stuff. But anyway, long story short, I happened to come there and I was playing my friend the demo that I had on me and in walks Jason. He goes, what's this, and my friend says this is John. He hears it and he goes wow this is great. You know, again, timing.
He goes this is great, you could be my Michael Bolton or my Garth Brooks. I'm looking for someone. It was a hit song, a great song that I wrote with a guy named Jed Leiber. I don't know if you know who Jed is but he's a California guy, friend of mine. It was Jerry Leiber who wrote a lot of the big, big hits of yesteryear. You know '50s, '60s, '70s. Leiber and Stoller they had a big show on called Smokin' Joe's Café.
You know, they wrote Stand By Me and all those old '50s/'60s songs like Yakkety Yak.. They wrote so many songs. Anyway Jed and I got to be good friends.
I think I was doing something off Broadway called Leader of the Pack which was another sort of theme show where they did songs from Ellie Greenwich. Anyway, so I met this guy. We wrote this song over the phone. He was in California and I was in New York. I had the music in my head and I said “Jed, what do you think of this”? He said well why don't you try this, change this change that chord and we wrote the song. I demoed it and that's the song this guy heard.
We got the deal, eventually. It took a little while but we got it. The only problem was that we only had two or three songs. So we had to go and write more. Where with Preview we had the record, but this time we had to write the songs. I would go back and forth to LA and work with this writer or that writer than come back here. It was just a long arduous task but it was a fun journey. It was a great time but again, it was the same typical thing with the record companies. The president of that label was Doug Morris at that time. He was leaving. Danny Goldberg was coming in. Being around the Preview thing I was going oh God here we go again. But it was different then. Then it was like they were only gonna get one or two groups to go.
They were only gonna put so much money in somewhere. They didn't know where, which one, they'd find out.
But we did what we had to do. Then I was close with the guy in California and David Foster's wife, Linda Thompson. Andy Goldmark, who was a writer on the Michael Bolton record. Like it all came back into circles, you know. Andy Goldmark heard of me and he wanted to get involved. You know they all, these songwriters, all want to get a song on someone's record that they think will be a hit. The come out of the woodwork. (laughing) That's what I like about songwriters. They're really smart in that way. I mean the ones that really were successful at songwriting because they know how hard it is and they want to get their records here and there. I used to get boxes and boxes of tapes from people that I'd never even heard of. The record label would get them for Jon Fiore. Once they smell some sort of success it comes out of the woodwork. You listen and you listen and you hope you find one, but most of the stuff is eh, you know, not great. So you hope you get the “A” song from like the Dianne Warren, people like that. You're only gonna get an “A” from her if she knows the label's gonna get behind you.
I think at that point the same thing was happening. David Foster was not quite sure he was gonna come aboard because David doesn't want to lose. If knows the label's gonna get behind it then he'll jump on board. We almost had a commitment from him. He says alright I'll do a song then the next thing you know I heard that Doug Morris was leaving and Danny Goldberg was coming in, again that name Danny Goldberg. It's haunted me my whole life. Then he comes in and it just doesn't work out so they just never released the record.

What style was it? Sort of an Adult Contemporary or Pop Rock?
It would be more adult contemporary/pop rock, yeah. Shooting ahead, that's why in '98 when Harry then came along and we had a chance to do a record I jumped at the opportunity. I said this will be great, let's just get a record out. Let's get people to hear it. That's the main thing. It wasn't about money or anything like that because I was very successful in commercials for probably close to twenty years. I started in like '84 or '85 and then '98, yeah it was a good 14 or 15 years.

I would have loved to have heard that record.
Well I have all of this music. The good thing is that I still listen to all this music. I still love the songs. I love the Preview songs, I love Fiore record. I mean I listen to this stuff.

But I'm still a fan of the voice. I'd love to hear it.
I can always give you a sample. It's funny, when the Atlantic deal didn't work out I tried to salvage it. I went to some other people, managers, a lawyer. If all people I found Clive Davis's daughter is a lawyer. Somebody recommended her to me and when she heard it she wanted to try and get me a deal in Europe. She said “Oh this stuff will go over great”. We were close. We had a deal in one country but the same old thing. It just never worked out.

There's a lot of luck in this business isn't there?
Oh yeah, talent is one thing but there's a lot of luck. I was fortunate enough that I was at least able to do what I did. To do what I've loved to do for a long, long time. It was only up until a few years back that I was still touring. I had a band, I was booked and I worked all over. I'd fly to Vegas and do stuff, but I would do cover stuff. But I was lucky enough that I could sing anything. I still could move people and that was the fun of it. But a part of me in life missed being married and having children. I was really sort of yearning for that other side of life. So for me, when I met my wife, her husband had passed away and she had a six year old daughter. These were all the things that I was yearning for so things just all worked out. I have a wonderful life, just absolutely wonderful.

I'm pleased to hear that. That's great.
In fact we just sang something tonight here. She loves my songs. She wanted to do some of my songs so we were doing a duet of Butterfly Kisses that was out years ago.

I know the song.
It was kinda cute. There are people who like to hear the stuff. So that's it. I could ramble on but I don't want to go on and on and on here.

Jon even though you've done a lot of other stuff, is there any chance of you doing another record in any form for the melodic rock crowd?
You know, there's always a chance. People say I have a gift and to waste it is not the right thing to do. I still feel young and I am young. I'm in great shape. I'm still passionate about music and I still feel like I can move people.
(laughing) Hey you never know. I would do it.

Edit: Needless chatter and discussion of this and that removed!


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




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