Rock Vault — Steve Stevens – Guitarist Extraordinaire with Billy Idol




Interview By Robert Cavuoto

Vault Date: March 18th, 2011


Rock Vault



Steve Stevens is most notably recognized as the guitarist for Billy Idol, a partnership of 30 years that has produced countless top 10 singles and platinum LPs. He is by far one of the most gifted guitarists to emerge from the ’80s music scene with his background being forged with the greats of the early ’70s like Hendrix, Beck, and Page. Unknown to most Steve also became an avid prog rock fan, especially the likes of King Crimson and Yes.

Combining his hard rock background with Billy’s punk and dance influences, Idol became one of MTV’s early video stars, as such albums as 1982’s Billy Idol and 1983’s Rebel Yell became blockbuster hits — spurred on by Stevens’ inventive guitar work and outrageous glam rock image. I caught up to Steve to talk to him about Idol, his solo career, and his outrageous new reality show with his wife, Married to Rock.


Rob: You mentioned in your emails that you were in the studio with Billy Idol, can you tell us what’s going on?

Steve: Yeah, Billy and I are back in the studio with our original producer Keith Forcey with the three of going through ideas. As of right now, we plan to release groups of four new songs at a time, throughout the year. We are exploring more blue’s rock and more vintage stuff. I have a bunch of old Silvertone amps that I’m using in the studio. Billy and I have been working together for 30 years, so where do you go? We want to explore other areas and try to move in a little different direction. Everybody would love to have Rebel Yell part 2, but for us, we have already done it and play all the songs live. Also, a bit of news, Billy is also working on an autobiography.

Rob: Things have really changed regarding how people listen to music since the ’80s. Gone are many of the hard rock and top 40 radios station, gone are the 24-hour music video channels, now people are file sharing and stealing music.  How do these things affect the way guys approach writing, recording, and getting your music heard?

Steve: Right now we have some unique ideas on how we can approach that – of course, this could change tomorrow.  The group of 4 songs would be put out throughout the year and when there are 12-13 songs we package it and put it out as an LP. This works well for us because we are pretty meticulous about what we do and it takes a while to do a Billy Idol record. Instead of locking ourselves away for a year where fans won’t hear from us, now we stay in contact with them throughout the process.

Rob: Tell me a little about Devil’s Playground, outstanding comeback rock CD with a great variety of song types but never really get the attention it deserved?

Steve: One of the key things to Billy Idol’s success is that there have always been strong singles. Most people don’t realize that the breakthrough song for Rebel Yell was “Eyes without a Face”. The LP was hanging in there until “Eyes without a Face” broke and that’s the song that put the LP on its course. With Devil’s Playground as you mentioned, it’s a rock LP, and it was a decidedly different direction for us. I don’t know if there was that one song to get the mainstream airplay and get the attention. That’s my take on it. I don’t know if we were thinking in terms of singles on that record. I only co-wrote 4 songs. Our drummer at the time Brian Tichy was writing with Billy and they went more in the more punk and hard rock vein. It was a fun record to do. As you said, it didn’t get the attention that it should have.

Rob: What do you attribute to the longevity of Billy Idol?

Steve: We have been together 30 years and sometimes we look at each other and say “fuck, can you believe it?” We are very different musically and we both bring different things to the table. Had Billy when arriving in the states after Generation X got a punk guitar player it would have been like so what? I think sometimes diverse people and diverse influences make the music more interesting. That’s said there are conflicts. I think we both have mutual respect for each other and I think he is the greatest frontman I have ever worked with, and I’ve worked with some monumental people. I hope he thinks the same about me. The other thing to the equation is that we work well with Keith Forcey, he is the third guy in the room. He is able to pull the best bits out of both of us and cook it. The three of us in a room have a good time. Both Billy and I have shared crazy experiences, its kind of funny looking back on those things and can’t believe we are still working together. Why fuck it up now, it lasted 30 years, what are we going to say, “I’m sick of you” then alright “fuck you” (laughing). We have made it work this long, it’s almost like family.

Rob: You and Billy have known each other for 30 years, what’s one thing you know about him that most people don’t?

Steve: I would have to say its how much Billy knows about music, not just Rock n Roll. It was a really eye-opening when we went back to his parent’s house in England. Billy was in London at the time and I was there two days before him so I was able to see how he grew up. I remember looking through his record collection and seeing all his classical and jazz records. I can talk to him about Miles Davis or Coltrane. He is a real music history buff. He is a rock star and all, but he’s also really smart and bright.

Rob: Billy Morrison joined the line-up this past tour, can you tell us how that came about?

Steve: Billy is one of my good friends and we met while I was playing guitar as a guest spot in Camp Freddy when Dave Navarro isn’t available. He and I had been working on a project last year where we had written all these songs together and the project never took off because the other musicians went off to do other things. There we are with 16 songs and no band when I get the call from Billy Idol’s management that we are going to gear up for a new tour. They tell me that they want to bring in some new elements to it and ask me what would I like to do? I hit them up with the idea of adding a second guitar player and I know that Idol and Morrison would get along. They both grew up in the same town in England and are into the same rock stuff. Morrison probably knows more about the Generation X stuff than I do.  So I brought him in for a couple of days to see how he would do. It worked out great. He also freed me up somewhat and allows me to play a little looser. He was primarily a rhythm guitarist but I told him to take the solos for the Generation X stuff since he lives and breathes it. I like having another guitar player.

Rob: When did you come to realize that you’re playing style was truly unique?

Steve: I always felt it was unique when I was in my first band, The Fine Malibu’s. We spent a lot of time writing and rehearsing and we had our own rehearsing studio. It was the 1st real band I was in as far as originals were concerned. I took that style into Billy Idol. I think it came from liking music outside of guitar players. I have always loved Hendrix, Page, Beff – but also keyboard music like Keith Emerson and weird prog bands. So I took those influences and put them into the guitar. It developed over the course of time but didn’t crystallize until doing the Rebel Yell LP.

Rob: How do you compare yourself to the neoclassical players like Malmsteen, Lynch, Randy Rhodes? Do you identify with these guys or were you trying to do something different?

Steve: To be honest I don’t concern myself with what I’m doing on the instrument. With Billy Idol, I’m more interested in writing a decent song. If there is a solo, great, but it has to reflect the song and not just me going off into noodle land for 30 seconds (laughing). I can appreciate the technical expertise of those guys, but I can’t listen to a whole record of shredding. I recently say Yngwie and thought he was fantastic, he also has an incredible sound as well. Most of the guitar players who shred, they have this super distorted thing with no tone happening. You have to know when to play fast and when not to play fast. Shredding is great as long as it’s tasteful.

Rob: When did you get into Spanish and Flamenco style of playing guitar?

Steve: One of my first guitar teachers, when I was 12, was a Flamenco guitarist. Up until that time, my parents would get me these disgruntled old teachers that were pissed off that they had to teach me. I wasn’t able to connect with these guys, they were trying to teach me songs that I wasn’t interested in learning. I wanted to learn Hendrix.  One summer I went away to a music camp and this teacher was a Flamenco guitarist from Romania. He escaped the Nazi in the Second World War and was a gypsy. This guy had so much passion for playing and great stories of Flamenco being the music of a nomadic people. I just identified with it and started to listen to other Flamenco players from that early age. After I did the Vince Neil tour opening for Van Halen I said where do I go from here and wanted to break things down so I did the Flamenco-A Go Go CD.

Rob: Tell me a little about your follow-up solo CD,  Memory Crash?

Steve: I was approached to do an instrumental solo record. I’m a groove guy and the CD has a lot of solos and atmosphere. It kind of touches on my prog influences. When I do a record I always want to make sure that someone who doesn’t play guitar will want to listen to. That’s the litmus test.

Rob: You talked about working with monumental frontmen, how was it to work with Michael Jackson?

Steve: For me, it was that Quincy Jones was in the studio with Michael. It was a loose atmosphere. They already had the track so I set up my gear and Quincy said to just do my thing. I remember that I would come into the room and Michael would hum a melody and ask if I can put it in. It was just the three of us in the studio. I was among the best of the best that day trying to do the job. I did what they needed and brought my best.

Rob: How many guitars do you own?

Steve: Good question, probably close to 100. I’m not a collector and I don’t have a 59 Les Paul or a mid 60s Strat. Most of my guitars are new; I sold the collectible guitars over the years because they were just collecting dust in storage. I’m pretty hands-on with my guitar and get really get in there. I can go down to Guitar Center and pick up a Les Paul and make it into the guitar I like with parts that I have.

Rob: In an emergency and you had to run out of your house and could only grab one guitar what would it be?

Steve: That actually did happen to me! I had a fire about 10 years ago in my home. My studio was literally at the end of the house where the fire was. It was a Saturday night at like 2:00 am when I was woken up by the fire dept saying to get out. I thought, what do I do, and what am I going to take. I have a late 70’s Flamenco Rivera which is the most expensive guitar that I own and the first thing I took was my photo albums. It’s strange what goes through your mind when something like that happens. I wasn’t even thinking of gear. I figured I have insurance and if it goes, it goes. What guitar do you take at that point? I looked at the studio and with all the gear and guitars and thought I can’t just take one thing.

Rob: Speaking of guitars, what became of the Les Paul you tossed in the reality show, Married to Rock, during an argument with your wife as well as the Hello Kitty guitar?

Steve: (Laughing) The Hello Kitty guitar is in storage. At first, it was for the joke and then I actually liked the way it sounds and used it on tour for Mony Mony. Its kind of a silly thing. Also when my wife isn’t on the road with me, it kind of reminds me of her.

Les Paul was trashed.

Rob: Did the neck break?

Steve: Yeah, I’ll say this; you can’t always believe everything you see on TV (Laughing)

Rob: If you could work with any other artist who would it be?

Steve: I would love “try” and do something with Peter Gabriel. I’m a huge fan of his. He is just such a creative guy and not sure if my style would work in any way. I would just like to be a fly on the wall when that guy is in the studio.

Rob: What do you want to be remembered for as a guitar player?

Steve: Good question, hopefully allowing my personality to shine through the instrument. Allowing the real emotion to show. The guitar is the tool that I use; there is a lot that I hoped and emotionally bring to the music.

Rob: As a kid growing up in the Brooklyn, did you ever think you’d end up where you are today?

Steve: Yeah I did (laughing). I always wanted to be a musician or rock star or whatever. That’s what I wanted to do. There was a point where other kids in my neighborhood were playing and their parents made them have back-up plans like going to college. I refused to have a backup plan and drove my parents crazy. I’m going to put everything I got into making it. I remember I went to a concert, at MSG, it was ELP playing, and I remember sitting there looking at the stage before the band went on saying, “that’s what I want to do”. I was praying to God, let me do that! And literally two seconds later someone threw a bottle and it hit me in the head. I was rushed to the hospital and missed the concert. I took that as a sign that I’m going to do this! (laughing). I’m going to have to fight for it, but I’m going to do it.

Rob: Are you sure it wasn’t one of your parents trying to bring you to your senses?

Steve: Right (laughing)

Rob: What do you do when you are not performing or recording?

Steve: I try to do whatever my wife wants (laughing). We go to museums and crazy parties as well as travel. We have been going to Vegas and if we can get away we like to go to Hawaii and Palm Springs to unwind. We are pretty inseparable as a couple so we like to do everything together. She is my partner and I like to include her as much as possible in my life.

Rob: You were on the reality show with your wife Josie, Married to Rock, how did it come about?

Steve: Josie would start to come to the shows and people would notice her and one night Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne were there and Sharon pulled her aside and said I want to do something with you. It all happened within a month and she got a call from E Entertainment and they wanted her to be on this how as a rock star’s wife. She told me about the opportunity and I said I’m getting ready to go out on the road for 7 months and I’m not going to be around to do it. She said they don’t want you (laughing). I said great. By the time she got home from that initial meeting, they sent her the contact. My part was easy; I just needed to be around for a couple of days doing things. They also were kind enough to give us this lavished wedding. Our parents had never met before so at the very least we got a great wedding out of it.

Rob: Was it difficult to deal with the cameras?

Steve: No I really don’t care. At this point, I’m pretty secure in my life. The one thing I did tell my wife is that we are not actors and I don’t want anything scripted. What happens is what happens. You really can’t control what they get and you have to be comfortable about that.

Rob: At every wedding in America, they play “Rebel Yell” and “White Wedding” – it’s pretty standard, were those two songs played at your wedding?

Steve: (Laughing) I never even thought of it! It wasn’t played. Funny story about “White Wedding”. When we were doing the first Billy Idol record, “White Wedding” was the last song to be written. Billy pulled an all-nighter in the studio and came back to the hotel with a big ghetto blaster in the morning and played me the song that he wrote about his sister getting married. The original intention wasn’t “hey you’re getting married and I’m so happy that you’re getting married”. If you read the lyric I’m really amazed that people would want to play that at their wedding (laughing).

Rob: When you are playing “Rebel Yell” and “White Wedding” live for the billionth time, what is going through your head?

Steve: There are very few songs that I get sick of playing, I don’t know why that is. “White Wedding” is always a little different every night, there is something about it that has its own looseness and the way it can be interrupted teach night. That said, I do get a little tired of playing Mony Mony (laughing).



https://www.facebook.com/stevestevensofficial/

Bloodstock – Metal 2 The Masses Final – Dublin, May 12th 2018

Words: Alan Daly 

Photos: Olga Kuzmenko \ Olga Kuzmenko Photography

Recently Ireland tried once again to add to their impressive tally of wins at the Eurovision Song Contest. Given Johnny Logan wasn’t representing us once more, we decided not to watch and instead we attended a far more relevant music competition – The Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses Ireland final. Year on year, the organisation, support and most importantly, the calibre of bands reaching the semi- and final rounds have gone from strength to strength in this Irish chapter of the contest. Each year, festival booker Simon Hall flies over to Dublin to hand-pick an act to represent the Republic of Ireland on the New Blood stage in Catton Park in August. From the outside, this might seem like the ultimate endgame of the past six months of near-weekly gigs in Fibber Magee’s. But those “in the know” realise that a slot at Bloodstock is in fact just the start of a long hard slog for one lucky band who will be handed to opportunity to kick-start their fledgling music careers on an international platform. Simon’s task is not enviable, but he’s in jolly form as always.

The six finalists have reached this point by qualifying through heats and a semi-final thanks to judges’ decisions, crowd votes or a combination of both. Two of them are returning for a second chance; Sectileand This Place Hell (the artists formerly known as The Devil Wants Her Swagger Back). The other four are M2TM final virgins; Black Dawn RisingCreepElement X and Rouen. Instead of me telling you about them, I thought I’d let their peers do the talking:

Element X on Black Dawn Rising: The semi-final was the first time we’ve seen Black Dawn Rising. We were quite impressed with the army they had behind them, most of them even wearing their merchandise making it even more eye catching, and then, they got to the stage, full of power and a big bag of killer riffs that nearly took Fibbers apart.

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Rouen on Creep: Tight. As. Hell. Creep were the first band on stage at our semi-final and already had the front packed with fans chanting their name! They’re a refreshing amalgamation of hard rock, grunge and some classic rock vibes thrown in too. There’s definitely a tasty melting pot of influences there. Their performance was super professional too. Unluckily, they had two power cuts during their final song, but they weren’t shook in the slightest, it stands to them as a mature and as said already, tight as hell band.

Black Dawn Rising on Element X: Nice guys and good music! The semi-final was our first time hearing Element X and we enjoyed the set. We’re looking forward to sharing the stage with them again in the final.

Creep on Rouen: From the brief interactions we’ve had with the lads, we can see they’re great craic and fantastic musicians on top of it. We really look forward to seeing Rouen again at the final.

This Place Hell on Sectile: Sectile are deadly! Gabriel has probably some of the best pipes going in Ireland right now. They kind of came out of nowhere in last year’s competition and made it to the final and here we are, a year later, and they’re in the final again, so they definitely have to be doing something right!!

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Sectile on This Place Hell: These guys are amazing. We caught them at Siege of Limerick and they killed it. Their vocalist Stephen Cannon has a great voice with some super impressive screams. Really looking forward to hearing the songs they recorded with Justin Hill recently. 

We asked each of the bands to tell us about their experience(s) of the Metal 2 The Masses competition, what worked well, and what (if anything) could be improved.

Black Dawn Rising: The Metal 2 The Masses competition has been really good. The first Heat was actually our first gig in about 7 years! And it was our first gig ever in Fibbers. Being honest, we were blown away by the reaction we got. The semi-final was even better. A huge crowd turned up to watch us, mosh, and cheer for us. It was a little overwhelming actually. So many people asking us for our CD, but all we could say is we are working on it! So that’s the next step after the final, get ourselves properly recorded in a nice fancy studio… and not in our parents’ attics!

Creep: We’ve participated in the competition the last two years and we find that it’s a great platform to show yourself off and make new fans and contacts. It’s a show that always draws a crowd which is always a confidence booster! The one thing that could make it better would be if there was more outside publicity. The lads in Overdrive and Jetrocker do an amazing job of promoting everything, but it’s just a shame metal and rock music don’t get the recognition they deserve from most mainstream media in Ireland.

Element X: There are great vibes from all the bands. We’ve made many friends from different bands from various cities that hopefully we will play with in the future, making you feel you are not in a competition, but having great craic with other music lovers. Also the organization has been really professional but keeping it fun and laid back. The crowd has been awesome. We cannot think of any way to improve Bloodstock M2TM as it stands now.

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Rouen: Honestly, as first timers, we’ve experienced nothing but positives as a whole. Our first heat, we were met with such enthusiasm by both the crowd and judges alike, it helped ease the nerves we felt about not being your typical metal band and as a result we felt like we put on a great performance! Well, it seemed it was great enough to land us the wildcard semi-final slot. For real, that blew us away. We have to shout out to Oran and Kev of Overdrive and Jetrocker for choosing us. Our performance at the semi-final was easily our best performance yet. The crowd were electric and we threw our all into the performance! M2TM has really begun to bring back such a strong gathering of Irish Metal lovers, which really pleases us and says a lot about the hard work that’s put into it. At the rate it’s growing each year, we don’t think we have anything negative to say at all!

Sectile: Playing M2TM has been a wonderful opportunity for us. Last year it was our first time and we made it to the final which was quite unexpected. It helped to bring some attention to our band. Now this year, our first heat was almost stopped by the Beast from the East. Luckily the snow managed to clear just enough by the Saturday for us to play. In the end, we did well in the competition and here we are playing the final again.

This Place Hell: Our M2TM experience has always been great, win or lose. Oran and Kev always manage to put on great gigs with great bands and there’s no crowd like a M2TM crowd! If we could make anything better, it would be ourselves. We’re always striving to be the best sounding and most exciting band to see live and although we’ve progressed this far into the competition we don’t feel like we have reached our peak yet this year! So the run up to the final will see us working relentlessly to make sure we’re sounding our biggest and best.

From the 8pm kick-off there is an electric atmosphere in the venue, and a genuine sense of camaraderie and mutual support amongst band members and fans alike. Sharing MC duties with Simon is event organiser Oran O’Beirne, who regularly reminds punters to support their favourite bands and the Dublin metal scene in general by forking over a few Euro at the merch tables for CDs or T-Shirts. Another way to part with a few Euro is to purchase raffle tickets, with prizes of Bloodstock, Tremonti and Volbeat tickets up for grabs amongst others.

The following five hours are a blur of jaw-droppingly amazing performances from the six hopefuls and a special guest performance from former M2TM winners Animator. Each band has just 30 minutes to impress Mr. Hall, and with 15 minute changeovers, there’s barely time to enjoy a pint between acts. Sectile were first out of the hat, giving them the undeniably least coveted slot of the night, playing to a smaller, less inebriated audience. However, their tight performance and incredible vocals by Gabriel Gaba, get heads bobbing and knowing nods of approval from Simon. As the night progresses, some of the bands try to up their game with on- (and off-) stage antics; Rouen explode with energy, bouncing around the modest podium while vocalist Andy FItzpatrick spends much of his time in the midst of the moshing crowd, stirring up a frenzy. Black Dawn Rising bring a horde of supporters kitted out in their eye-catching T-shirts to give them the motivation and encouragement they deserve. Creep, too, have plenty of branded fans in the front rows, but more memorable is their bassist James Kearney stripping down to an elephant posing pouch (following in the footsteps of fellow bassists Nick Oliveri and Flea and their penchants to get naked onstage). This Place Hell deliver probably the best performance that I have witnessed to date, pulling out all the stops with a thundering thirty minutes, and it’s clear these guys mean business. Element X have the honour of playing the final M2TM set of 2018 (out of well over 50!), and the crowd are super enthusiastic by now, prompting plenty of moshing and even crowd-surfing. Antics aside, every band is on top form tonight in terms of performance, and while almost all six represent different genres on the metal spectrum, each deliver sets of record-label-worthy material. We asked them, of their own original songs, which is their favourite to perform live, and if there is any particular significance or meaning in the song, lyrically or otherwise?

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Black Dawn Rising: I guess we all have different answers here! Rossie [Colin Rossiter] writes the lyrics for the songs so most of the songs have a personal meaning to him, but he likes that people can find their own interpretation from them and give them their own meaning. At the moment his favourite to play is one of our newer songs since we got back playing together as a band, ‘The Beast in I’. It’s groovy, it’s bouncy, it’s heavy, it’s like the perfect pair of boobs! You’ll hear him humming it even when we’re not playing.

Creep: One of our favourite originals to play live is a song called ‘Bliss’. It’s a song that always seems to get the crowd going when we play it and it’s also just a really fun song to play live, we can have a bit of a laugh with it! Lyrically, it’s about “recreational” activities of our drummer and lead guitarist and we never fail to mention this before playing the song.

Element X: You can’t ask a mother who her favourite child is! Well, she’s going to lie and tell you she doesn’t have a favourite. We can honestly say that all our songs are our favourites… but at the moment, one of our newest songs, ‘Temptations’, is definitely a highlight in our setlist, as it has a bit of everything. Also it was the first song that Franco [Buonocore, guitar] wrote a solo for, giving it an extra meaning to us as we felt the connection immediately.

Rouen: Currently, and probably contrary to our current live sound which can be very chaotic, it’s got to be ‘Wander’. It’s our most recently released song, very anthemic sounding, but it’s simple and fun to play and we love the chorus. It brings back those big metalcore anthem vibes in our opinion. Lyrically, it deals with feelings of dependency and that conditioned feeling we all sometimes get when we’re relying on someone else for our own happiness instead of taking charge of that ourselves and fighting for our own self-worth.

Sectile: Our favourite is probably the song ‘Dissection’ which is unreleased. It has a lot of dynamic changes and moves and flows extremely well. The bridge section is a lot of fun to play. And the choruses have some amazing drums, vocals, as well as some tapping for our guitarist Michael to enjoy.

This Place Hell: I think it varies depending on the gig and the crowd reaction! We have a new song ‘Pummel’ that we have yet to release that’s an absolute headbanger! That’s really fun to play live!! But I suppose ‘End Game’ would be the one that is both fun to play live and holds the most meaning to us! Mental Health is something we all struggle with from time to time. Some days you can be flying high and the next you feel crushed under an indescribable weight! So ‘End Game’ was our lament to both the people we’ve all lost to their struggles through suicide and to the people currently going through difficult times to let them know they’re not alone. There are people out there who understand and are waiting to help.

As Animator mop up any remaining energy from the now exhausted and anxious crowd, Simon Hall takes some time to make his tough decision. With shout-outs and raffles taken care of, he first announces that he is going to add not one, but two of tonight’s bands to his “bucket” of bands from which he may revisit once he has finished judging the ~30 other M2TM finals (of which tonight is only the fourth, I believe). Those bands are Sectile and Creep. But the overall winner of the Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses competition is This Place Hell, who as Simon commented, have certainly not lost their swagger! The crowd vote of the night goes to  Black Dawn Rising (for the third consecutive time in the competition) who bag themselves an electronic press kit courtesy of Overdrive.

Already, people are talking about M2TM 2019, and Bloodstock hasn’t even happened yet. If it’s not obvious by now, the competition affords unrivaled exposure for every one of the participating unsigned bands, regardless of who wins or loses, and we expect to be here again next year to witness more new talent and another top-class series of gigs brought to us by Overdrive and Jetrocker. For now, it’s time to catch our breath and to get ready for BLOODSTOCK!!

This Place Hell are:

Stephen Cannon – Vocals

Mick Hynes – Guitar

Damien Regan – Guitar

Dylan Scully – Bass

Ryan Cummins – Drums

This Place Hell

Rock Vault – – Lou Gramm of Foreigner – Mick Jones and I have no relationship

Interview By Robert Cavuoto

 

Vault Date: May 11th, 2013

rockvault_logo_mgm-316x250 Rock Vault - - Mick Jones of Foreigner – We’ve Always Been and Continue to be a Rock Band!

Rock Vault

 

Lou Gramm of Foreigner – Mick Jones and I have no relationship

Lou Gramm the lead singer of the iconic band Foreigner, is ready to tell his story in his new book, Juke Box Hero: My Five Decades in Rock n’ Roll. In this book Lou shares details about his rise from humble, working-class roots in Rochester, N.Y. to become one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most distinctive and popular voices.

He recounts how he realized his dream to be a rock star but sadly, like many stars, succumb to the trappings of wealth and fame. Foreigner’s remarkable success was due in large part to the songwriting synergy between him and the band’s founder, Mick Jones. However, creative clashes between the two would become more frequent and the tension would result in Lou departure, not once but twice, the second time for good.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Lou and to talk about his life’s story and the legacy that he and Mick Jones created together in Foreigner.

 

 

Robert Cavuoto: I really enjoyed your book Juke Box Hero: My Five Decades in Rock n’ Roll. What are some of the things you want your fans to take away from it?

Lou Gramm: More or less what life is like; that it’s not all glory and good times. That there are sacrifices and pitfalls which are easy to get caught up in. That there was accolades and satisfaction when you write a good song and it does well. But that’s not everything. I just wanted to show an accurate picture of how it was for me.

Robert: In the book, you talk about always wanting to be a rock star. It’s also evident in the hit song, “The Jukebox Hero.” Tell me a little about that drive and how you attained your goal.

Lou Gramm: The first time I remember actually wanting to be a rock star or at least make a living playing music was when I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Something clicked with me. It was fantastic. There was a guitar out of tune here and there, or harmony that was a little off, but it was television, and television is very unforgiving. They were on numerous times on Ed Sullivan and I think I saw them every single time. To me, that was the real initiative, the breakthrough that made me understand what I wanted to do for a living. It wasn’t the screen; it was the great songs and playing live. That really was the attraction for me.

Robert: Being in the music business for fifty years, I’m sure you’ve seen from drastic changes from when you were starting out.

Lou Gramm: One of the big ones is corporate radio. There used to be independent radio stations with program directors that had an idea of what they wanted to play. That type of thing is now gone, and you hear just about the same 10 or 12 songs on every button you push. And that’s sad.

The other changes that are drastic are when an artist has had numerous successful albums and singles, it is certainly inexplicable that there’s no intent to play their new music. Only their old hits are played on Classic Rock Radio. It’s like being put out to pasture. Again, it’s not that these artists have tried to put out albums but it won’t get the airplay anymore. Their time is over. Someone somewhere has drawn the line, saying, “That’s it for them.”

Robert: I recently spoke with Roger Glover of Deep Purple and he said the same thing. He goes, “Outside of our four hits, nobody has played any of our new stuff in the last 30 years. We’re invisible.”

Lou Gramm: Yeah, that’s right, and for better or worse record companies don’t have the clout they used to have 25 years ago. You really don’t need a record deal. You just do a recording; you can do an excellent recording on home equipment now because the level of that equipment is so proficient. Then put it on the internet for the whole world to hear. It’s interesting and it’s terrific for up-and-coming rockers, but it’s the death knell for the established ones.

Robert: I think there’s a level of expectation that’s required of bands like Foreigner, Aerosmith, and Deep Purple – that every album is going to have huge hits, and sometimes it’s not achievable or that music is not in fashion. I assume that makes it a little more challenging.

Lou Gramm: And if you start writing for the times, you’ll never succeed. You can’t chase the style of music that’s popular. You are what you are.

Lou Gramm

Robert: The one thing I couldn’t figure out in the book was why Mick Jones kept cutting you out of all the writing collaboration? You guys were hit makers so why would he want to jeopardize your relationship for a couple more dollars? It wouldn’t make sense in the long run.

Lou Gramm: I think he felt that if he could limit my input, but still have me sing, there’s a huge, huge financial benefit that would flow his way, making sure that I was able to buy into the song emotionally. He took that chance and at a certain point, my input was null and void.

I clearly wanted to steer away from the sappy ballads. We had “Waiting for a Girl,” that was a huge hit. It’s fine, but “I Want to Know What Love Is,” was the first single off an album after “Waiting for a Girl” and now we had two huge ballads in a row, and then the next single from the next album was “I Don’t Want to Live Without You.” So now there are three big singles from three consecutive albums. Our rock reputation and our rock audience were severely diminished.

Songs like “I Don’t Want to Live Without You,” or “I Want to Know What Love Is,” cross over from rock radio to MOR (middle-of-the-road) radio to soft rock. So you win big on all fronts. I think, at some point that became more appealing to him than keeping our rock integrity intact. That really was the source of our anxiety and anger at each other.

Robert: It seemed like he was trying to make you a hired gun rather than a partner.

Lou Gramm: That’s what I was feeling like.

Robert: The interesting thing about the ballads was that Foreigner was on the forefront of it. In the 80’s every hard rock band had to have at least two “Monster ballads” on their album in order get radio or video play.

Lou Gramm: I was particularly aware of that. It was almost like we set the trend, but it wasn’t a trend I was proud of. [laughter]

Robert: When you look back, do you think Mick was aware of that trend, or did he just stumble into it?

Lou Gramm: I’m very sure he was aware of the upside of that. It’s pretty sad because even album rock radio then would go right to those songs. And our good rock songs got zero attention versus on the earlier albums when they would focus on the melodic but hard-rocking single.

Robert: When you were getting ready to record 4, you got rid of the whole rhythm section. Did you really think that the original band would not have been able to pull off what you accomplished on 4?

Lou Gramm: Everyone in the band was very proficient at their instrument and wanted to be the best they could. But by the time 4 rolled around when we came off the road for Head Games, and we put our big equipment away so did people’s guitars and drums. Everything gets locked into the storage room. After touring, there were more than a few people who didn’t touch their instruments until months and months until we started rehearsing for the next album. So we would have to stop for clunky notes, just like you would expect for someone who didn’t touch them for three or four months.

Robert: They were rusty.

Lou Gramm: Yeah, and it was very frustrating, while you were supposed to be creating you had to wait for people to figure parts out. We felt that when it was time to start creating, everybody should be sharp as a tack on their instrument. That was something that was a lack of dedication,

It seemed that when we would exchange ideas, only certain people would contribute and those contributions were more like something we had done two albums ago. Not only were people not practicing their instruments, but now their ideas were stale as well. It got to point where we felt a clean break and just trimming the band down to a quartet. It was the only way we were going to survive, or we would be one of those bands that you can’t tell one song from the first album versus the third album. We were insistent on each album having its own personality.

Robert: Do you still speak with those three other members?

Lou Gramm: Some of them. I speak to Ian McDonald and Dennis Elliott occasionally.

Robert: How is your relationship with Mick?

Lou Gramm: There is no relationship, to tell you the truth. I did speak to him in just the past month or so and congratulated him on his songwriting Hall of Fame award we won. And he congratulated me on mine, and it was a friendly but chilly, short phone call.

Robert: What do you think about him carrying the torch for Foreigner?

Lou Gramm: He owns the name, and he has the right to do whatever he wants. He’s been very ill. He had a throat tumor and a heart bypass. So he’s been off the road for almost two years. But the band continues to play without him. I think he’s still in the band, but due to his health problems, he hasn’t been playing.

Rock Vault – – Mick Jones of Foreigner – We’ve Always Been and Continue to be a Rock Band!

Photo Credit: Bill Bernstein

Interview By Robert Cavuoto

 

Vault Date: October 5th, 2015

rockvault_logo_mgm-316x250 Rock Vault -- Bill Ward of Black Sabbath - Absence of Corners – I'm letting you see who I am!

Rock Vault

 

Mick Jones, lead guitarist for Foreigner has been rocking the world with his brand of melodic rock since the band’s self-titled album in 1977. With his writing partner at the time, Lou Gramm, the two penned some of the most amazing songs which were the soundtrack to the 70s and 80s.

With rock n’ roll’s masterpieces like “Juke Box Hero,” “Feels Like the First Time,” “Urgent,” “Head Games,” “Hot Blooded,” “Cold As Ice,” “Dirty White Boy,” “Waiting for a Girl Like You” and the worldwide #1 hit “I Want to Know What Love Is”; it’s evident that Foreigner is one of the greatest classic rock bands of our time.
A live band par excellence now injected with some new life from highly talented musicians assisting Mick Jones in keeping the band’s legacy alive are Kelly Hansen on vocals, Jeff Pilson on bass and multi-instrumentalist Tom Gimbel.

The band is set to perform at The T.J. Martell Foundation, “Music’s Promise for A Cure,” at the foundation’s 40th Anniversary gala in New York on October 15th. The theme of the highly anticipated star-studded event is “Top 40” and will be hosted by original MTV VJ’s Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, and Alan Hunter.

I was able to catch up with legendary guitarist and songwriter Mick Jones to talk about his involvement with the TJ Martial Foundation, the band’s legacy, and his time working on Van Halen’s monster album with Sammy Hagar – 5150.

 

Robert Cavuoto: Tell me about your involvement with the TJ Martial Foundation on their 40th Anniversary event in New York?

Mick Jones: It’s always exciting for us to play at their events. We have done it before over the years. I remember right back to when we started out it was always one of the big events in music. It’s a great cause helping people with leukemia, cancer, and AIDS and an honor to be involved in something like that.

Robert: Worldwide Foreigner has sold off more than 75 million records. Knowing the state of the music industry now, those numbers are virtually unachievable by most rock bands. What’s your take on that dynamic change in the music industry?

Mick Jones: It’s wild! It’s actually come full circle and gone back to become a singles market. Artists put an album out and people scan it for the songs they like and only buy the ones they want. It’s gone backward in a funny kind of way even though we have all this great technology. Scary really and I think its lost face. Music no longer has that adventurous pioneering quest to discover. The songs on the radio are so interchangeable. How many Taylor Swifts are we going to be listening to this week? All the power to her as she is doing great but unfortunately that sums up the doldrums the music business is in. They brought it on themselves as it’s a bit of a greed and amorous syndrome. Not only does the audience suffer but the bands and artists as well.

Robert: Foreigner was on the forefront of introducing power ballads in the late 70’s early 80s. Rock bands had to have at least two power ballads per album in order get airplay on the radio or MTV. Tell me about that vision you had back in the day?

Mick Jones: I had no clue it was going to be as representative as you say. When I wrote the songs it was a very personal feeling for me. Gradually I realized it was heading down that path. I think our songs are in a different category. There isn’t sweeping guitar on them, in fact, it’s quite the opposite, they are very organic with their backing track like the gospel choir which pulls them over the top. That combined with Lou’s vocal gave the ballads their power. It’s always a little weird for me when I hear it explained in that context. I never heard anything that ever sounded like “I Wanna Know What Love Is.”

Robert: In my mind Foreigner was always a rock band; do you feel the huge success of the ballads overshadowed the hard rocking nature of the band?

Mick Jones: There was a combination of a few things going on. We had a huge record with the single “I’ve Been Waiting for a Girl Like You” so that meant that we had two big ballads in a row even though it was a year or two between them. Plus the fact that I was experimenting in a different direction but the makeup of those albums are the same as most of our other albums had one or two ballads. There was also a bit of problem developing with Lou and me at the time which helped fuel the fact that Foreigner wasn’t a rock back. Unfortunately, that did neither of us any good. We’ve since let bygones be bygones. I think we’ve re-established we are a rock band – something we always were.

Robert: Growing up, I can recall “I’ve Been Waiting for a Girl Like You” being played quite regularly at Go-Go bars, what is it about that song that attracts strippers?

Mick Jones: [Laughing] I don’t know. I remember hearing “Feels Like the First Time” on the jukebox in one of those places. That’s a new one; I thought that song might be a little too demure. [laughing]

Robert: Tell me about the vision you had going into Foreigner’s biggest album with 4 and letting the keyboard player and rhythm guitarist go.

Mick Jones: Lou and I had developed a thing for writing together and we were gelling. At the time, other members were asking when they can have a song on the albums which I thought would almost be destructive to the band. To me that wasn’t what it was about, it was let’s get down to the essentials and the crux of what was working as Lou and I were really on a songwriting tear. Whether it was a good or bad decision to not include them I don’t know. I think one of best albums resulted from it. Those things happen growing up in the public eye. When we first started the band I didn’t have a clue it would do as well as it did so quickly. Some of those decisions you have to make as a new or young band are tricky but I think it worked.

Robert: Lou wrote a book a few years back, and didn’t paint you in the best of light, did you read it and what was your perceptive on it?

Mick Jones: I haven’t read it. I did hear there were some bits and pieces of things like that. Since then we patched things up quite a bit. Fortunately, we got through it and Lou and I are in communication.

Robert: When you look back on your career, do you want to be remembered more as a great guitarist or a great songwriter?

Mick Jones: I think I’ll settle for both [laughing]. Songwriting is deep inside me as is playing. If it wasn’t for the playing I couldn’t be writing songs. Obviously, they are tied-in. I’m what you call a subtle riff based lead guitar player. Chuck Berry was one of my favorite guitar players early on and later, Pete Townsends and Keith Richard later on; so to be included as a musician somewhere in that department.

Robert: You touched upon this earlier with generic or interchangeable music; do you find that the art writing great riffs is a thing of the past?

Mick Jones: There is not a lot of riff based music out there. Black Keys and Queens of the Stone are examples of bands that are desperately keeping rock music afloat. Unfortunately, everybody wants that instant success and is hooked only on that. The focus has changed with music based reality shows.

Robert: I have to ask about Van Halen’s CD, 5150. When you took the role as producers what were your expectations with all the changes going on in the Van Halen camp. For example, the band was leaving their long-time producer Ted Templeman, Sammy Hagar was replacing David Lee Roth, and there were further advancements in the band’s musical style going with a more commercial sound?

Mick Jones: If I thought too much about it, I probably won’t have done it [laughing]. At the time it was a pretty scary situation. It settled in really quickly, though. I think Eddie may have had an initial doubt because he was very close with Ted as he did all the records. His engineer Donn Landee had also built the studio in Eddie’s house in LA. There were a lot of new elements coming in all at once. I had a long history with Sammy so that was easy but the Van Halen’s were a bit leery. Within a few weeks, they became more comfortable and we started to gel.

Robert: Were you instrumental in changing the sound of the band to being more commercial or was that the natural chemistry of Sammy and Eddie’s writing?

Mick Jones: When I came in, most of the songs were written or well into being finished. What I did was really concentrate on Sammy’s vocals. That’s really the key. I think I pulled something out of Sammy that he didn’t think he could do like on “Dreams” where he goes through the roof on the vocals. Knowing the pressure for us to deliver, it was intense, and I was trying to keep the family to together. I didn’t touch Eddie guitar sound at all and really just clean up the drum a little bit for what I think is a superior sound. I was also helping with the melodies and arrange the songs to make them powerful which added to it commerciality. I think it still one of their top three albums as far as success went. Overall it was a great experience.

Rock Vault — Bill Ward of Black Sabbath – Absence of Corners – I’m letting you see who I am!

Interview By Robert Cavuoto

 

Vault Date: July 29th, 2013

rockvault_logo_mgm-316x250 Rock Vault – – Nikki Sixx ...Being Vulnerable!

Rock Vault

 

Legendary drummer for Black Sabbath, Bill Ward, will debut a collection of his artwork that brings rhythm to the canvas, entitled Absence of Corners on August 1st. It’s a personal look into a man’s soul where he shares his emotions, feelings, and pain with the viewers. It is an intimate look at him not only as a drummer but as a person.

Absence of Corners took nearly a year to complete. Working with Los Angeles art team SceneFour, Bill utilized a sophisticated formula to create the collection’s visuals, using an array of drumsticks and rhythmic accessories that produce light, much like a painter utilizing brushes and oils. The movements featured within the captured rhythms are then studied and developed into abstract artwork that showcases a dimension not normally seen by the human eye. Each piece in this limited-edition collection is then numbered. All are signed by Bill.

I was one of the first people to speak with Bill about his collection. Throughout our conversation, I could feel his pride and excitement about the collection yet could also sense an underlying level of pain and heartbreak which stirred the images on the canvas. During our chat, he shared with me his insight into this project and how the failed negations with Black Sabbath helped capture theses memorizing images.

 

Robert Cavuoto: Can you tell me how this project of combining rhythm and artwork came up with SceneFour?

Bill Ward: The head of SceneFour contacted a friend I worked with and she told me about the concept and idea. I said that try it and see what happened. It actually developed into something quite different from what I thought it would be. I originally thought I was going to show up and play drums while they take pictures. It was quite different.

Robert: What is the process for capturing these images?

Bill Ward: They gave me stick and brushes with all different kind of lights in them. To get everything they needed I played in the dark for exactly one and half hours straight! It was quite weird, for a second I thought I was playing a gig. They asked me to play quite hard and they needed me to slam the drums. The first thing I noticed was how many cameras were used at all different angles. They took snapshots and video.

After that shoot, I had to go back the next day and do another 45 minutes straight of playing with a different set of sticks. They wanted to make sure that they got what they wanted. This session had fewer cameras. About six weeks later they called me and said to come down and start looking at the pictures they had taken.

Robert: Art can be inspiring and provide self-realization not only to the viewer but the artist, what did you discover about yourself through this process as well as when looking at the final pieces?

Bill Ward: That I can be flexible [Laughing] I’m sorry I couldn’t resist that! One of the things I discovered was what really appeals to you. Some things hit me straight away. I then had the opportunity to name the pieces which was a bit unexpected. It took a considerable amount of thought to name them. Being removed from my daily writing and recording, I was caught up in this new project working on words and really having to find what words worked with the pictures. It took me three days to come up with that title of the collection which I really liked called, Absence of Corners. It was simplicity because there are really no corners in the pictures. For the most part, it’s all curves with the way the sticks work.

For me, emotionally this session went really, really well. It was nice to think to that think that what came out when looking at these pictures were part of my emotions or feelings. It worked psychologically for me; I felt I got some of the uncomfortable feelings that I have been having lately on to a canvas. It was quite refreshing.

Robert: The two pieces that I did see, Grief” and “We Focus. We Persevere” are phenomenal. They come across as dark and ominous, I was wondering if that was perhaps reflective of what you were feeling with the failed Black Sabbath reunion?

Bill Ward: It’s very much related to that. It has been emotionally uncomfortable. And I think a lot of it showed up and there is a connection. A lot of the time I feel that in hindsight there was a lot of reflection of what I’m playing. It’s actually been really good to get through something that is uncomfortable and push through the wall and get to the other side. It’s like I’m still alive and the engine is still working. I had a little bit of that happening to me.

Robert: What do you want your fans to take away from this art?

Bill Ward: I think I have shared something very intimate; it’s almost like meeting somebody and letting them see who I am and where I’m at. As if to have that contact with a fan, that touch per se and letting them embrace me and not just me playing drums. It’s more solid and personal. It’s something that is important to me and whoever will buy this or respond to it will be touched by it. I think the sad part of me is in the artwork. I ultimately hope that we touch each other and connect.

Robert: I’m looking at one of your pieces call “Grief”; it looks as if there is a face weaved within the rhythms. Was that face superimposed or was it all the sticks and brushes?

Bill Ward: That’s just the sticks and brushes. It’s weird aint it! When I went to look at the pictures, it was standing in the corner by itself. I said, “oh my god, what’s that?” I thought the same thing you did, that face needed to come out of there. It’s quite strange and I was surprised. It’s so bloody sad that it can only be called “Grief”.

Robert: Do you have a favorite piece?

Bill Ward: Yeah I do. I like “Indestructible Youth” a lot and “Hello, I Don’t Think We’ve Met [Yet]” which is more humorous. It just seems to fit and it’s quite obvious that something was inside there that all the cameras in the room picked up. It’s this huge blur of color.

Robert: How many pieces will be offered in the collection?

Bill Ward: I’m not sure and I could be wrong but I’m guessing 12 to 15.

Robert: There are so many stories about why you are not playing with Sabbath on the CD as well as with them on tour. Can you set record straight on why you didn’t join in with the reunion?

Bill Ward: [Laughing] I was offered a contract and I couldn’t sign it.  As for some of the stories – I would never, ever show up for a commitment that I could not do physically. So that should answer that one!

In the statement that I did last year, I was quite clear that I came to the end of the road and promised myself and my family that I would never sign a contract that was not workable. It was one of the toughest decisions that I ever had to make. Because I absolutely and without question wanted to play. I haven’t left the band. Everybody thinks I have left the band. I didn’t walk out; it wasn’t like that at all! I just didn’t sign the contract and life took its own course.

Robert: Ozzy said he still loves you, and hopes next time around you will be there, do you think there is any truth to that?

Bill Ward: I have a completely open mind to the idea. All the nicety and placations in the world will mean nothing unless I get the right contract.

Robert: I heard that they wanted you to come out to play on a few songs each night.

Bill Ward: I’m the drummer in Black Sabbath so I want to do the entire show. I play all or nothing. Playing partially would kind of be aligning to my demise in Sabbath and minimize me. I’m the drummer in Sabbath and quite capable of doing the job.

Robert: What advice would the Bill Ward of today give to the Bill Ward in the early days of Black Sabbath?

Bill Ward: Never, ever, ever, ever give away anything that you signed a contract. Never sign it off, never sell it! Whatever belongs to you, hold on to it with all your heart and soul because it could be a calamitous situation in the future. That would be the first thing because that’s the most primary thing. But I would also say that you have to stay true to your heart and make a stand and sometimes you have to make a very painful stand. I hated the fact that I’m not on the tour and I couldn’t play Birmingham and all the young fans that wanted to see me play. That was absolutely punishing to go through. Tony was sick and I wanted to be with Tony. It was a very hardcore decision to make.

Robert: What do you want to be remembering for?

Bill Ward: That I really tried hard to have integrity!

 

His collection can be viewed at www.billwarddrumart.com

Rock Vault – – Nikki Sixx …Being Vulnerable!

Interview By Robert Cavuoto

 

 

Vault Date: March 28th, 2011

rockvault_logo_mgm-316x250 Rock Vault – – Rob Halford of Judas Priest - For Epitaph we went out there and played our hearts outs!

Rock Vault

 

 

Nikki draws from his pain and sobriety for strength and inspiration in this raw and powerful new book and companion 11 track CD, This is Gonna Hurt.  It’s a chilling and heavy take on the concept in which photography inspires music and music inspires photograph then blurring the line. The book and soundtrack both incorporate the stories behind the pictures and how they come to be, including interviews with the subjects so readers can see what life is like for whom society has labeled as freaks.  Throughout the book, Nikki gives us a glimpse inside his sick and dirty mind and I had the opportunity to briefly enter it to better understand these inner workings…and leave unscathed…I think.

 

Rob: Tell me why it was important for you to write this book on your photography?

Nikki: Everything for me comes from honestly, brutally honest, most people don’t understand that and it’s hard for me to understand sometimes too. David Bowe once said that he didn’t understand his own music until 5 or 10 years after he recorded and released it. It almost feels that way with photography for me. You’re doing so much photography that you get the idea of doing a book on photography, at first you start to write it for yourself.

So you start writing and then that influences the photography. The photography then bleeds over into influencing DJ Ashba and Michael James (Sixx AM) when they write songs. Then the songs and words start to influence more photography. Then the songs start to merge and they merge back with the lyrics. Then, I’m like wow, I have to get a documentary crew and they have to document what is happening here. It is something magical and I don’t know what it is but I have to capture it. We are going to record it, write it, sing about it, talk about it, take picture of it, and make films about it. In the end its like I have given birth to the baby and you can tell me what it’s all about?

Somehow everything is connected to something else. It’s really painful to figure what this means. It’s like Psych 101 and I’m still trying to figure it out. 

Rob: Most artist/photographer are never really satisfied with their work, they always think they can do better? Do think you will ever reach a point with your photography where you think you are successful or well received or just happy with the outcome?

Nikki: I don’t think I will be successful or well received.  I’ll also never be satisfied. I don’t think I’m in the zone yet.  I think I have moments and I feel as though I’m just getting started with photography. Musically I feel like I’m just getting started, creatively I’m just getting started, with Sixx A.M., I’m just getting started and with Motley Crue- I love being in the band.  I’m so grateful for that band and can’t believe we still get to go on tour playing that song and able write new music. It’s like a brothership that I will never have with anyone else. The band has outlasted everything and that allows me to do all this other great stuff. I’m a creative person who is always creating. Sometimes I feel that my work is so fragments and I haven’t been able to glue it together. I have books by photographers and can’t help but notice how cohesive their work is, I ask myself, “why is my work not that cohesive?” I feel that my work is so all over the place and I’m so just always searching for the next frame.  It’s about being vulnerable.

Rob: Vulnerable to criticism?

Nikki: Not so much that, because I really don’t care. I don’t care about the comments. I feel it’s very intrusive to opening it up. I had to really let it go. That’s what the book was about, to write about what is happening here.

Rob: What do you consider to be compliment regarding your photograph?

Nikki:  (long pause) I don’t know (laughing). Maybe they love it or I hate it. I have so many people tell me that they don’t understand and I wish they could say that they hate it or just say they love it! I don’t understand the people who say, “I don’t understand it”.  There is so much more to it, let’s go all the way to the left or to the right, I would just really hate to be vanilla.

Rob: Has there ever been a subject that was off limits to you? The reason I ask is in the book you have a shot of just a man’s legs and it is entitled (The End). Is the guy dead or alive? Are dead people off limits?

Nikki: No dead people are not off limits. What’s off limits to me is nudity of a woman from the waist down. The pictures that are a re-enactment of my sister Lisa, the models were nude and it was hard for me framing so I had to make the models turn a certain way. Not because I was worried about censorship, I just don’t like to see a woman’s pussy in the photo. I’m ok with amputations, disfigurement, nudity, transgender and death…I’m just not ok with that. I don’t think it belongs in the photograph. Funny from a guy in a band!

Rob: What do you say to the people who look at your photography and say you are exploiting handicapped people?

Nikki: Hmm, I haven’t heard one yet. I think the idea is to show people going through adversity to people who have not ever experience it. People who either A) can’t understand or B) don’t wanna understand or C) don’t think they can handle. We should be are grateful for our lives. And would we be grateful if we were confined to a wheelchair or lost our sight, would we be grateful if we were doused with battery acid or lost our arms or legs? That’s what I’m trying to show people.

Rob: Will you ever do a coffee table book of all your artwork?

Nikki: I think I have 4 or 5 coffee table books on photography that I can put out, solid books with no words.

Rob: In the book, you seem like you have a new lease on life and a positive attitude, yet the songs on the CD are a little dark and forbearing.  What was there a reason for this?

Nikki: The book is me and the CD is us (Sixx Am).  It’s an interpretation of the photography by me and then how it reflects on James and DJ in their experiences musically and lyrically. James and I wrote all the lyrics and we spent a lot of time talking about life. Things that we have both been through in life. That we both felt like outcasts at some points in our lives,  the concept of being successful and always being told that you won’t be, couldn’t be and shouldn’t be successful. Those life struggles come out in the music as well as relationships with, fathers, mothers, girlfriends, wives, family. It’s really a life experience CD as well.

Rob: In the book, you mentioned when Kat Von D and you broke up, the loss felt like a thousand daggers in the heart.  Does the artwork on the CD cover reflect how you were feeling?

Nikki: It has nothing to do with that with that relationship. It has to do with all relationships. To me, it’s what all human hearts and the spikes are all the different experiences. Each spike represents something in your life, this is when my father died or this is when a girl broke my heart or this is when I went through recovery. That’s how life is, its survival, and the heart is still beating.

Rob: In the book, you equate Motley as work and Sixx AM as fun?  Do you ever think Motley could be fun again for you?

Nikki: I love Motley Crue, they are magical. Being in the band takes my breath away.  I have only ever been in Motley and done a few side projects.  Sixx AM is the passion project set up for failure, we don’t tour, we don’t think we are accessible; we are dark and off the beaten track. Motley Crue is this living breathing monster that has trampled its way through life and really doesn’t take any prisoner. We primarily seek and destroy.  This dragon should have been slain a long time ago, how it’s still alive, I don’t know.  I want to ride it until it drops. I won’t say it’s not fun, I would say it’s like going to war!

Rob: With the current music environment of no rock radio, file sharing, and the slumping record industry how do you measure success for Sixx AM?

Nikki: It already succeeds and failed at the same time. It is what it is. You have it, and that’s all I care about, and that you listen to it. That you have my book and you get to read it. You get to reflect on your own life. I don’t need anything more.  That’s where we come from as a band.  The only level of honest that we could have done is not to sell it as if we didn’t put it out. Same with my photography, I haven’t shared it with anybody for almost half a decade.  Ifs it’s successful, I’m going to celebrate like a motherfucker. If it’s not then ok, because I don’t expect it to.

 

Rock Vault – – Rob Halford of Judas Priest – For Epitaph we went out there and played our hearts outs!

Feature Image Credit: Dhruv Kumar

Interview and Photos By Robert Cavuoto

 

Vault Date: May 13th, 2013

rockvault_logo_mgm-316x250 Rock Vault – – Alice Cooper - Alcohol and Drugs Kept Me From Making More Hit Records!

Rock Vault

 

The heavy metal legends whose influence on generations of musicians and metal heads is incalculable, celebrate their 40th year as recording artists with a live concert DVD, Epitaph – a unique live career retrospective. Filmed at the Hammersmith Apollo in London on the last day of their tour in 2012, Epitaph provides the metal fans with 140 minutes of brain surging metal – 23 tracks across 14 albums spanning a 40-year career! To promote this new DVD the concert is being screened at select theaters around the US.

On the bands stop into New York for their debut theatrical screening, I had the pleasure of sitting with Rob Halford and Richie Faulkner to share their behind the scenes look into the making of Epitaph and get the band perspective on their longevity of influencing millions of fans around the world for the last 40 years.

 

 

Robert Cavuoto: When I first saw the band with Richie Faulkner in 2011 as well as on the DVD, I couldn’t help but notice that the band seemed re-energized. Do you feel that difference also?

Rob Halford: Musicians feed off each other with their musicianship, their performance, and their energy. You can’t help but feel it on stage. Right from day one Richie connected with us. We wanted Richie to be himself and not a copycat of KK Downing. There is no point in that. We told him to just be yourself. You have the skills and the talent. Night after night you get buzzed just by watching Richie work and the seeing the fans reactions.

Robert: That’s a tremendous compliment from the Metal God. What do you think you bring to the band night after night?

Richie Faulkner: Obviously you don’t know what happened prior to joining the band but from my point of view there is nothing else that I can be but excited and energized. To be playing great songs with great people in front of great fans around the world. You hear the feedback from the band, the fans, and the crew. It’s always a great compliment.

Robert: Some of the songs performed on your new DVD, Epitaph, are 20, 30, and even 40 years old. They really stand the test of time and sound fresh and not dated like so many 80’s bands, what’s your take on that?

Rob Halford: [Laughing] You’re right, a pop song from the 60’s sounds like a pop song from the 60’s as it should. There are subtle differences like in the production of “Turbo Lover” is different than the production of “Nostradamus”. There are certain rock songs that work well today as they did 20, 30, 40 years ago when you play them live, with the modern guitar and drum sound, there is a fluid connectivity that pulls it all together and makes it work. Having said, when you strip a song down to its bare bones if it’s a good song it should last.

Robert: I think Priest is one of those rare bands that can go out and play some of the most obscure tracks and diehard fans will go crazy. Is it tough to pick a list that satisfies everyone?

Rob Halford: It’s difficult. When you have the good luck and fortune to have a long life in rock n’ roll, the longer you’re in the game the more difficult it is because your material is backing up behind you. “If you play this one then you can’t play that one”. You have to get the right balance and there are always a handful of songs that you gotta play like “Breaking the Law” and “Living after Midnight”. The fans made you famous for those songs.

Once you got those set, we look to bring in songs that offer a different texture and dynamic. That’s when you look at the little gems like “Starbreaker”, “Blood Red Skies” and “Never Satisfied”. You listen to them and play them and start to make sense of the show. Every song is given its moment, and costume changes. It lives for 3+ minutes, it’s like you’re watching an opera or a musical. You have to think all of that through. Then you go into rehearsal and try it out and you get a hole in one. You don’t have to make changes. Maybe part of it is instinct and part of is intuitive. We seem to have it right from the get-go.

Richie Faulkner: When you start with 3 ½ hours of material you have to start cutting some songs. You have to make the decision as a band which song you have to let go. That’s the tough decision.

Robert: I would image in the set list there are songs that you both look forward to performing live and others not so much. Can you share some examples of both?

Richie Faulkner: Favorites would be “Victim of Changes”, “The Sentinel”, and “Blood Red Skies”. They all have points which I enjoy playing. It may be a beautiful breakdown section or full on metal. Not so favorites, that’s a tough one. Nothing comes to mind.

Rob Halford: I think what we have always agreed on in this band if there is something we are not comfortable with then we are not going to play it. There has to be a connection and you have to wanna play the song. You need to be connected to the song emotionally so you have the credibility behind it. Every song that we ever played in Priest, to best of my recollection, we all gave them thumbs up.

With that said, some songs are more challenging than others!  [Humming “Breaking the Law”], that’s easy, but when you go into “Blood Red Skies” you go into a fucking giant monster. There are so many notes, a lot of time sequence changes, and a lot of drama. I don’t know how these guys remember all of it as I have a hard time remembering all the words! [laughter]. That is the essence of a professional musician to nail it night after night. They go “we doing Blood Red Skies tonight” and I say I don’t feel like doing it [laughing]. We have been on the road for 8 months and played 30,000 miles and now I have to go out and do “Blood Red Skies”. But when the moment comes when we get to the song in the set all of that goes away.

Richie Faulkner: It’s a commitment to the craft. You have to comment yourself to the song. To make sure the music and production are bang-on. You are giving yourself to it. When it comes together and you hear the crowd at the end of it, you know it was great

Rob Halford: Can I have a Alleluia? [Rob Halford raises the devil horns to the sky – laughter]

Robert: When you joined, was as it decided that you would take off all KK Downing’s leads and fills or did you and Glenn Tipton decided to change things up as to what parts fit the player best?

Richie Faulkner: I took all KK’s leads and harmony parts. There were something’s we adapted for the encores like on “Electric Eye” “Another Thing Coming” and “Hell Bent for Leather”. The songs landed where Glenn had the solos. Glenn actually came to me and said he wanted for us to solo together so we made a few new parts and now both sharing ending solos.

Robert: Knowing that this DVD was being filmed on the last day of the tour was there any nervousness or concerns that if you didn’t nail it, you won’t have a DVD?

Rob Halford: [laughing] It’s only been our friends like yourself that have asked us that question. I think if someone would have said: “Look I want to point this out to you, this is the last show of the tour, everyone has flights leaving at 4:00 am, the crew is going home, the film crew has other commitments and if there is a fuck up – we lost it!” I think if someone had said that to us we would have said, “Ok maybe it’s best that we shouldn’t do it we’ll wait until the next time around” [laughing].  We went out there and played our hearts outs. The amount of power and attitude on that last show after 100,000 miles we traveled around the planet several times and playing for close to a million fans, it felt as if we just started the tour. That reinforces the professional commitment, respect, and dedication to each other. To give the fans the best show.

Robert: I speak with so many bands that modeled themselves after Priest, often imitated but never duplicated. What do you attribute your success and longevity too when so many have failed?

Rob Halford: It’s obviously the players and the chemistry. I think you look at any of the acts that have lasted as long like Maiden, the Stones, and AC/DC it’s all down to the material and how these people come to each other lives. There are certain components that if they weren’t there it wouldn’t last. You can’t deny that good music will travel time and it will still connect with the fans.

Richie Faulkner: Anyone out there who has legacy was blazing the trail and pushing the envelope for everyone follow, like Maiden and Metallica they were the first of their kind and carved their own niche. Each Priest LP has a different flavor where they experimented and blazed new trails.

Rob Halford: We didn’t follow any set pattern. Some people said you took risks. Maybe we did but we didn’t consider it risks. Songs like “Parental Guidance”, “Locked In”, “Out in the Cold” and then put on “Painkiller” and you say that can’t be the same band. Well, it’s just who we are. I always said we were like the heavy metal version of Queen. They wrote songs for themselves if you like what you do that’s great. We write songs that we find interesting, entertaining, and challenging. As Richie said pushing the envelope. So that’s what makes Priest a unique heavy metal band. There isn’t another heavy metal band like Priest in the world. We didn’t set out to achieve that, it’s just the way the dice rolled as musicians, writers, and composers.

Robert: When we last spoke you said you were in the infancy of writing new songs for the next Priest CD. What is the status and do you have any working titles?

Richie Faulkner: No working titles that we can share as of yet but we are working on the CD.

Rob Halford: The overarching structure and statement of this record are full of Priest tradition and heritage. It will be as unique in its own life as all the other records we have made in the past. It’s the right record we need to make after Nostradamus. Nostradamus was a wonderful achievement but it had a different emotional texture. We need to get back into the groove of metal, heavy riffs and screaming vocals. All the classic elements of the band. We are not going retro, we know the type of music we need to play. We didn’t commit to a timetable; the label is really supportive so we have this tremendous respect for each other. They know we are doing our best to make another great metal record for them. It’s coming along great; I think we can optimistically be finished at the end of this year.

Robert: Are you writing together in the studio?

Richie Faulkner: Yes, about for two months last year, Rob, Glenn and I got together and share ideas to see what sticks. The creative is not being stifled by 3-minute songs format. There are no confinements or deadlines. We are trying to experiment with some different things.

Rob Halford: It’s fun and thrilling when the three of us get together to write. We will be in the studio listening to a take and then in the background we hear Richie noodling on the guitar. I’ll go, “what the fuck is that Richie”, what are you playing and he re-creates it. We then send him in to record it. That’s the infectious side of how music works. Whenever I hear somebody else from any of the metal bands I’m instantly inspired. I hear notes and melodies. It’s like a trigger, that’s what happens in your own world.

Rock Vault – – Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead – I will never give up!

Photo Credit: Jonathan Sippel

Interview By Robert Cavuoto

 

Vault Date: March 11th, 2011

Rock Vault

A father says to his son, it’s going to be tough in this recession, the son says tell me something I don’t know. The father says your mum’s ass can take my whole fist! – As told by Lemmy.

I know using a dirty joke is not the most conventional way to start an interview, but Motörhead is not your conventional band! They are anything but conventional. For the past 35 years, they have done things their way with no regrets, no excuses and no apologies blazing their own trail for better or worse. At the helm of Motörhead is Lemmy Kilmister, whose notorious for being a hell raiser, his music is reflective of that demeanor. At 65 he is the driving force who is committed to keeping Motörhead alive and focused. Without his musical integrity, Motörhead would be nowhere. Though Lemmy may seem like a very intimidating person he appears to be well grounded and down to earth with a great sense of humor and smart comedic wit. All of which have helped him in his career about not taking himself too serious.

High on the heels of his 20th and biggest selling CD, The World is Yours and his #1 charting DVD documentary, Lemmy and the boys, Phil Campbell (guitar) and Mikkey Dee (drums) are at the tail end the first leg of their 35th Anniversary tour with no signs of slowing down or saying farewell. I caught up with Lemmy just hours before hitting the stage at Starland Ballroom in New Jersey to chat about Motörhead what it’s really like to just be Lemmy.

 

Rob: Congratulation on the success of your DVD “Lemmy: 49% Motherfucker, 51% Son Of A Bitch.” hitting #1 on the Billboard DVD Top 100.

Lemmy: Thanks, there mustn’t been any other DVDs on that week!

Rob: I heard your new CD, The World is Yours was selling great, with 100,000 copies so far!

Lemmy: Apparently it sold more than any of our other CDs.

Rob: Your career in Motörhead spans 35 years and you have always stayed true to you musical style and its integrity. Was there ever a point you questioned the band’s direction and considered altering your style to fit the era like with commercial rock or grudge?

Lemmy: No, not at all, we have done some different stuff in our time but always framed it within Motörhead, like what we did on 1916 where we used cellos, violins, and pianos. The songs sound like Motorhead because that’s who we are. It would be stupid to say, let’s make major changes ‘cause we don’t want to, were Motörhead and we play Motörhead music and why would we want to play anything else!

Rob: After 20 LPs what’s the motivation to continue to write new music when so many other bands just go out and play their hits as a nostalgia act?

Lemmy: The only nostalgia in this band is me and there no nostalgia being made (laughing). Anything I make comes out as Motörhead music.

Rob: The new CD visits more of your rock roots with smooth chord progressions. Was this approach of creating a straight ahead rock n roll CD intentional?

Lemmy: I was influenced by the Everly Brothers and Chuck Berry, you may not be able to hear it all time but it’s in there. Influences are not always apparent. Eddie Cochran was also an influence on this CD.

Rob: I thought Cameron Webb did a fantastic job with production on The World is Yours.

Lemmy:  Man… is he good! He really did a good job. He produced our last four CDs.

Rob: With 20 LPs of material how do you pick a set list?

Lemmy: We fight! (laughing). We know what we have to play. We have to play “Overkill”, “Ace of Spades”, and “Killed by Death”.  We put “The Chase is Better than the Catch” back in the set and I chose “We are Motorhead” just for this tour. There are also two songs from the new CD; “Get Back in Line” and “I Know How to Die”.

Rob: Many bands are now playing an entire LP on the year its anniversary, any plans to do so and if so which would you choose Orgasmatron for its 25 anniversary?

Lemmy: Never even thought of it. Shit has it been that long? No plans to do that.

Rob: What do you attribute to the longevity of Motörhead?

Lemmy: Not dying, that the secret to longevity! If you believe in what you do, it’s easy to keep going. It’s not a problem. I will never consider giving up. For one thing, I’m not qualified to do anything else (laughing).

Rob: Any plans to ever reunite with Phil “Philthy” Taylor and Fast Eddie Clarke from the original line-up?

Lemmy: No, because these two guys with me now have been with me longer than the original two. Phil has been with me for 26-27 years and Mikkey over 19 years. They played “Ace of Spade” more often than “those two”. They played “Overkill” more often than “those two”. Why should I put Phil and Mikkey on hold to go off with guys who probably can’t play them as well? They’ve been out of practice, it’s ridiculous to think of it. Then I would be a nostalgia act.

 I’m all for the now and the future.

Rob: Do you still talk with Phil and Fast Eddie?

Lemmy: Now and then. I like Phil, he was my best mate. Eddie was kind of a friend except he was always complaining about something. It got kinda tedious. Last time he left, we laid low. Before, one of us would go off and bring him back. It was a shame he shouldn’t have done that, we had a lot going for us back then. He should have stuck though it. It was the Wendy O William thing and I couldn’t understand that (reference: recording Stand by Your Man, a cover version of the Tammy Wynette with Wendy O. Williams). He just gave up on it because Wendy wasn’t immediately perfect on it, she just needed to go through it a few times and he left the band over it. I couldn’t fucking believe it. I think he was expecting to be talked back in. Phil came in the room and said Eddie’s left again, I said whose turn is it to go talk to him (laughing). I said fuck it, I’m not doing it. That’s the way it went, wrong decision on his part.

Rob: What do you want to be remembered for?

Lemmy: For being a decent person, that’s about it really. I mean you got to keep your integrity ‘cause in that end that’s all you’ve got. If you sell your heart then you’re really a whore.

Rob: What do you want it to say on your tombstone?

Lemmy: “I told you I was ill” – just like Spike Milligan (laughing). There was great gravestone in Glasgow I read once. It was a dentist and it said, “Stranger approach this grave with gravity,
Thomas McSwine is filling his last cavity” (laughing). Maybe “Fuck You”, would be good!

Rob: What is the best thing about being Lemmy?

Lemmy: That I don’t have to apologize!

Rob: What is the biggest compliment someone can pay you?

Lemmy: That I’m good at what I do. That’s what you are looking for, self-satisfaction; the acceptance of your peer. It’s really nice to get any kind of compliment because we went so long without any. It’s a nice place to be where we’re at. We’re at the top of the second echelon, which is fine and we get to do what we like.

Rob: What would you have done if you never picked up the bass?

Lemmy: I would be in jail! I would be scratching off the numbers of days on my cell wall. (laughing) Most people in bands would be since there not qualified for anything. They would be doing something horrible and illegal.

Rob: You’ve never put together a fake Farewell Tour, is that because you are holding true to your integrity?

Lemmy: We’re not ready to do a farewell yet. I don’t know if we will do it eventually, ’cause we never felt like we should say farewell ‘cause we’re still going. It is pathetic for bands to be announcing a third and fourth farewell tour.

Rob: You come across on stage and in the videos as a very intimidating person yet in the documentary you also seem to have a great sense of humor, how important is it to have a sense of humor in this business?

Lemmy: It’s only because I have this face, it’s God given. It’s not like anything I created. I grew the mustache cause my hair was receding and I had to replace it somehow (pulling his hat back and laughing).

Just read the lyric to our songs, they are all tongue and cheek. I crack myself up sometime. In the studio, I nearly fell off my chair writing, “I Won’t Pay Your Price” off of Overkill “Don’t stop me dontcha even try/Gonna stick my finger in your eye.” It’s an old one now but back then it was really funny. “Killed by Death” was a great title, it cracked me up. We’re pretty good with that stuff. The British have a much more accessible sense of humor. Americans are really serious about themselves sometimes. In life, we are all gonna die, laugh while you’re here, it’s the best exercise for your face. Cheer yourself up; don’t be so deadly serious all the time worrying about your next career move, fuck it. You know what your next career move is just do it! Hopefully, they will like to too, if not, too bad. If they do like it, it’s a bonus.

Rob: Give me one more joke to end the interview.

Lemmy: An inspector at a hospital for the criminally insane goes out to the garden for a smoke. While out there he can’t help to notice the two-acre garden full of gazebos, streams, flower beds, and beautifully manicured lawn. In the garden he sees a man working. He says pardon me, my good man, is this all your work? These gardens are beautiful. The man replies I’ve done it all myself from scratch. He says to the man are you from town, he says no, I’m an inmate here. The inspector says this is beautiful and fantastic. I can’t believe that an inmate for the criminally insane could do such amazing work. This is a true commune of nature. The inmate says, I have been cured for a long time but they won’t let me go. The inspector says, tell you what my good man, I’m going to see that you get out of here this very day! Any person that could put his soul into this wonderful creation should be able to walk the streets without causing harm to his fellow man. The inmate says would you really do that? Of course, says the inspector! As the inspector turns and walks away, this large brick comes flying out of nowhere and hits him right in the back of the head. The inmate calls out and says “You won’t forget now will you?”

 

RIP Lemmy You we’re one of a kind, your legacy and badassery will always live on!!!

1945 – 2015

 

Rock Vault – – Sammy Hagar – I will do Sammy Hagar and Friends for the next decade!

Interview and Live Photos By Robert Cavuoto

 

Vault Date: October 7th, 2013

rockvault_logo_mgm-316x250 Rock Vault – – Alice Cooper - Alcohol and Drugs Kept Me From Making More Hit Records!

Rock Vault

 

The Red Rocker, Sammy Hagar scored the 11th Billboard Top 25 album of his career this week when his new album Sammy Hagar & Friends debuted at #23 on the US Billboard 200. The album marks the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s highest charting solo album in 18 years, since Marching to Mars.

Sammy Hagar & Friends is Hagar’s first ever collaborations album, featuring many of his legendary friends and band mates past and present including Kid Rock, Toby Keith, Ronnie Dunn, Joe Satriani, Nancy Wilson, Neal Schon, Mickey Hart, Michael Anthony, and Chad Smith just to name a few.

Only Sammy would record an album that ranges from the convincing rootsy blues of the opening “Winding Down” to a hard rock gospel cover of “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode to the radiant beauty of “Father Sun,” arguably one of Hagar’s most moving songs ever.  The result is perhaps Sammy’s roomiest and most heartfelt album ever.   

I had the honor to speak with the Hall of Famer about his new release, the importance of chemistry and why he will never rejoin Van Halen!

 

Robert Cavuoto: I thought your new CD had a real southern rock/country vibe. What inspired you to go down that creative path?

Sammy Hagar: I think it’s the lifestyle that I’m in right now and my head space of the kind of music I listen to. I didn’t start off with this in mind, on making a record that sounded like this. I didn’t start off to make a Sammy Hagar and Friends record. I wrote a couple of songs and started recording. Little by little, I started asking people to come in and play. The reason I think its sounds like it does is because I didn’t preconceive what I was going to do. So it’s really kind of more natural, more organic, more who I really am. And I guess this is really who I am. I listened to the whole record for the first time with the real mixes during a long drive in my car. I went, “Wow, this is really cool. This is really different” It shocked me probably the same way it shocked you a little bit, going “Gee, this is really different.” But I like it a lot. I really do. I’m excited about it.

Robert: Do you think there’s any appeal to crossing over into country?

Sammy Hagar: I don’t think this is quite a crossover. If I was going to do a real country record, I would get with real country guys. I’d go to Nashville, and I’d do it right. But it’s not really what I want to do. I don’t want to make any changes in my life. I want to always continue to be exactly who I am and now more so than ever. I’m getting closer and closer to who I really am whether I’m doing an art project, or building a restaurant. I’m finding myself in my 60’s. Isn’t that smart? [laughing] But it really is fulfilling, to say, “You know I can do this now. I don’t feel uncomfortable.” In 1984 when I did VOA, had I had this idea I would have been scared to death. It’s wonderful not to feel scared right now. I feel, actually, very content about it.

Robert: You basically re-invented Van Halen, by merging your musical style with theirs. Is it difficult not to sound like a Van Halen album from that era whether it is on a solo project or with Chickenfoot?

Sammy Hagar: I don’t have any concerns about any project I do. I’m really kind of a sponge. I’m very influenced and inspired by the people I work with, and that’s why I chose to do a Sammy Hagar and Friends record. I found that in Chickenfoot, it really was enlightening, and it elevated my talents. I really dig being around Joe Satriani, Chad Smith and Michael Anthony. I put myself in situations where I’m with great players, and I find a way to fit in. I find a way to elevate myself, within it. I think I write better lyrics, melodies and sing better when I’m around great musicians. And if I’m just sitting around the acoustic guitar by myself, I’m not as inspired. I don’t have someone to bounce ideas off. So I’m really a good team player, and that’s why I really like working with friends. I’ll make all my solo records like this for the rest of my life. I’ll do another Chickenfoot record which is planned, but I like playing with new people. It makes me different; it changes me; it keeps me inspired. So in Van Halen, all it was the chemistry. By myself, I couldn’t sound like that if I wanted to. My voice sounds like that; I can sing like that; I can write those kinds of lyrics, but without Eddie’s music to marry it together, it won’t sound like that.

‘Cause Joe is every bit as accomplished a guitarist as anyone on this planet. When he and I get together, it doesn’t really sound like Van Halen. It sounds like Chickenfoot. So I’m really proud of being that spongy kind of versatile and easily inspired [laughter]. That’s all it is. It’s not really trying to be anything. It is what it is.       

My band is Chickenfoot and if I had a choice to be in one band for the rest of my life, if it could be Chad, Mike, and Joe, I’d be happy. That’s my dream band right there, right now, in my life today. And we get along so well. We have so much fun together. There’s no fucking head clashing or ego trips. There’s no bickering. The only thing we do bicker about is, “What are we gonna do when we’re finished working?” “Well, I want to go to a bar.” “Well, I want to go to a restaurant.” [laughter] That’s about it.  

Robert: I recently interviewed Joe and he said Chickenfoot has only one or two albums left. I’m hoping it’s going to be longer than that.

Sammy Hagar: I think we do too, but our schedule dictates when we can get together to do it. We don’t force anyone. No one has to quit their band to be in Chickenfoot. No one has to leave their solo career to be in Chickenfoot. Most bands are like, “Well, you can’t do this and you can’t do that.” We don’t have any of that. It might be stretched out a little longer between projects, but it looks like January we’ll all try and get together and do it. And if we can’t, it will be February, or March or whenever it is. But as far as my solo work goes, I will do Sammy Hagar and Friends for the next decade, if I’m going to work that much or if I feel inspired to go in the studio as a solo artist, I will definitely do another record, this way with different people. You know the Wabos are always a part of my band, but I would like to bring in other people that I didn’t get a chance to play with on this record. Now that I have seen what I can do with other people, it’s kind of inspiring. I’m ready to do it again.

Robert: As a multi-platinum artist, how do you measure success in 2013 with no rock stations playing band’s current material, no video stations, and file sharing?

Sammy Hagar: [laughter] We’ll see. My record came out yesterday, and I guess we’ll see how to measure success because I have no idea. I feel successful that I made a record like this. So that’s one form of success. I got together with people, and we made some really cool music. The next album will be, “OK, how’s it going to sell?” I don’t expect it to go double platinum. I don’t think there’s such a thing anymore. It happens once every couple of years. But I’d like to see it come in the top ten. It’s a very competitive arena right now; there are about 30 new albums out this week. It’s like the biggest release week of the year and boy, I’m right in the middle of it. [laughter] I feel strong that I can hold  my own in any arena.   

I had really a great experience with my book. I was asked to write a book. I said, “I don’t really want to write a book.” The book company said, “We’d really like to help you do this and make you feel comfortable.” They got me to do it and then they started telling me, “Well, don’t expect to sell many books. I know you’ve been successful in everything you do. But books are different. Rock stars’ books only sell six or seven thousand books.” I said, “Are you kidding me? If I only sold 6,000 books, I’ll never write a book again and never talk to you people again”.  I started thinking about them being so negative and said, I’m going to show these people they’re crazy. They just don’t know how to do it.” I went to work and decided I was going to do a book tour and made them push more books out to the locations. In three days the book sold 37,000 copies and went #1. They freaked out. No one’s ever had a #1 book on rock except for you and Keith Richards”. So I don’t take failure too easily, so I’ll go out and roll up my sleeves like I’m doing right now trying to have a big rock hit. I’ve done interviews for the last two weeks all day. And it’s like I don’t care. I want my album to be successful. I’m a classic rock artist. With classic rock, if that they play your song once a week, you have a hit. That ain’t gonna cut it. I’m going to work. That’s all. Let’s see what happens. I’m excited.

Robert: Was there ever a song in your career that you were confident would be a hit and wasn’t or vice versa?

Sammy Hagar: Both ways actually. The first song, “I’ve Done Everything for You,” back in 1977ish. I thought I had a #1 hit single. It was so pop when punk was fashionable. It was such a fun song, my record company said, “Oh, boy, Sammy’s written us a hit.” They released it on Capitol Records, and it got about five radio station ads. It was the biggest flop I’ve ever had. And I said, “This is crazy; this fucking song’s a hit.” But for some reason, the radio rejected it at that time. Five years later, Rick Springfield has the #1 Top-Five record with it. It sold five million records worldwide. I’m going, “I told you it was a hit.” That’s one that I was surprised wasn’t a hit.

Then there is “Eagles Fly,” which was never a single or written to be a single. It’s a very personal song about being born. You know, a deep subject on a Sammy Hagar solo record after I joined Van Halen. It didn’t get any radio play ever. When I play that song at concerts, it’s probably one of the biggest hits I’ve ever written besides “I Can’t Drive 55.” So that was a big surprise for me too because I never thought that one was a hit. I thought it was just a hidden album track, my little self-indulgent track about how I felt about being born. There’s a lot of that in music, and I think I got one on this record – two or three, actually. [laughter]   

Robert:  I love your version of, “Ramblin’, Gamblin’ Man.”

Sammy Hagar: It’s such a great song – Bob Seger is such a great artist. The reason I did that was because it’s my wife’s favorite Seger song. She’s always trying to get me to sing it in Cabo when I’m jamming with people. I’m always going, “Look, it’s got too damn many lyrics. I can’t jam to this song. I don’t even know it.” Seger to me is the man; it’s a tribute to him like “Margaritaville” is my tribute to another great American rock singer, Jimmy Buffett. I look up to them.

Robert: I was never a fan of “Personal Jesus,” until I heard you’re rocked out version.   

Sammy Hagar: Yeah, that was kind of a chancy thing, and it wasn’t premeditated. I was driving to the studio, and I heard it on the radio and remembered that I really liked it. Nothing to do with Depeche Mode or anybody. But that riff is really heavy, even on a synthesizer. Whenever I think about doing cover songs, I think about what would be a cool song to “rock up”. You usually take a folk song like Jimi Hendrix did with “All Along the Watch Tower”. That’s an easy one, but to take an electronic, art-rock band like that, I thought it was pretty risky. At the same time, the  band was into it, Neal Schon, Chad, and Michael. They said, “Yeah, let’s try it and started rocking. I said, Yeah, this is great; this is different. You can’t compare the two versions. You can say I like that one better than the other, but you can’t compare them. It’s apples and oranges.” Well, this is apples and taxicabs. [laughter]. But it’s a great lyric and it’s a great riff. I’m a sucker for a good riff and good lyrics. 

Robert: Neal joined you on that song along with the other members of Chickenfoot; do you ever see yourself going out with different members in Chickenfoot like you did with Kenny Aronoff?

Sammy Hagar: Probably not. As much as I love Neal and playing with him, Journey works so damn much. They do more shows a year than all of us put together. It would be hard to have him be committed for a long enough period, to be able to really do it. But he’s a wonderful guy to play with. Neal is so prolific on the guitar; I’m always accusing him of having sex with the guitar around his neck. He never takes it off. He’s driving down the street in his car playing guitar. I love playing with guys like that because he’s so liberal and loose with his playing. His hands are frigging butter, man. Like who greased those hands for you, man? [Laughter] Chickenfoot is Chickenfoot. We went out with Kenny last tour because Chad couldn’t do it and we wanted to tour so bad, that we did it. I wouldn’t do that again, not that Kenny wasn’t great. Kenny is the greatest, but Chickenfoot is about the chemistry. The band’s all about the chemistry. Like I said earlier about Van Halen. It’s really about those four guys. If you change one of them, it changes.

Robert: You teased Kenny pretty bad when you played in New York City a few years back.

Sammy Hagar: I’ve never seen a guy play so well. His conditioning is phenomenal. He tried so hard every night; he beat those drums to death. They practically had to rebuild the drum set after every show. He was so determined to fill that seat. And he did; it just wasn’t the chemistry  between Chad and me. Chad and I are just goofballs. We have more fun than frickin’ any two people on the planet.   

Robert: Kenny was more of a straight man for your teasing.

Sammy Hagar: Exactly. He became the straight man. With Chad, I’m the straight man and Chad’s comic. So you nailed it right there. That was the difference in chemistry. I had to play a different role with Kenny.  

Robert: I asked Joe Satriani who’s funnier, you or Chad. He said, “Chad borderlines crazy. You go to that edge but always pull back right before the “Oh my God” moment. 

Sammy Hagar: Oh, Chad, definitely, man! Joe nailed it exactly. Chad will go and do something crazy when I’ll say, “Nah, that’s crossing the border.”

Unprovoked, Chad will walk in the room, and he’ll turn a table over, that I was just about to say, “if I turn this table over, that would really be funny.” Chad walks in and does it. Chad walks in and grabs the coat hanger rod, hanging in the dressing room. He grabs it and tries to do fricking pull-ups on it, rips the whole fucking side of the wall out and goes, “Whoa,” lands on his back, flips on his side, gets up, brushes himself off and goes into the next room. He’s completely whacko. I love the guy.

Robert: Your book was really a “tell all book” particularly about the inner workings of Eddie Van Halen. Were there ever any ramifications from him or his people regarding what you wrote?

Sammy Hagar: I only said what I saw and what happened. I didn’t make stuff up, and I didn’t put my two cents in about what I think he did, or what I think he was doing. And that’s the only thing that will get you in trouble with people is when you start speculating on what he was doing. All I did was tell what I saw day after day, and what went down. Everyone else around me saw the same thing. So it wasn’t like, “Well, Sammy’s the only guy that saw that. I never saw it.” Nah, that wasn’t the case. We were always surrounded by security guys, management, band members, and roadies. Everyone saw the same thing. No one complained about that whole thing, because it was horrible, man. That reunion was just a disaster. The stuff we did prior to that, we were having a good time and doing crazy shit, all that was fun and games. But what happened on the reunion tour was not fun and games. It was seriously fucked-up stuff.      

Robert: As a fan in the audience, you could definitely tell something was up.

Sammy Hagar: Man, it was definitely up. I’m really happy I wrote that book. One of the reasons I wrote about Van Halen was because of everyone – me and every fan out there, and we sold 48 million records, was asking, why would I quit? I get letters from the fans, “Why can’t you guys get it together? We miss that band. My life isn’t the same without you.” And I’m just going “These people don’t understand.” I have to stop answering that question. And journalists, would say, “Oh, why can’t you guys make a record? Why aren’t you still in the band? What do you think of this? What do you think of that?” I’m going, “I got to write the story and puts it to bed because I’m over it. Eddie and I, under those circumstances, cannot be friends. We cannot play in the same band together. We cannot make records. We cannot go out on tour because I can’t tolerate that kind of behavior and that kind of relationship.”   

Robert: You’ve got to do what’s best for yourself.

Sammy Hagar: I had to put that out there, and it’s all good. Everyone said, “Boy did you burn that bridge.” That’s fine; [laughter] I don’t have to look back on anything. I’m very happy moving forward at all times, and as long as I can keep moving forward, I’m a happy man.  

Robert: It’s not like you’re a starving artist where you have to go back to relive your success.

Sammy Hagar: Even if I was starving, I don’t think I could do it. [laughter]

Robert: I’m going to see you in Pennsylvania at the Sands Casino in a couple of weeks.

Sammy Hagar: Oh, out of sight, man. That’s going to be great. We’re doing a four-decades thing there. I’ll tell you; it’s a set list from heaven. And you’re gonna go, “Wow, I didn’t realize that there could be that many great songs in one night.” I’m loving this show.

Robert: Is Michael Anthony going to be playing with you there?

Sammy Hagar: I’m not sure. He comes out with me almost anytime he can. We haven’t even discussed that yet. I take Mike for granted. I just book my shows, I have my band, and we rehearse our set. If Mikey shows up, we know what to do.” [laughter]

 

Rock Vault – – Alice Cooper – Alcohol and Drugs Kept Me From Making More Hit Records!

 

Interview and Photos By Robert Cavuoto

 

Vault Date: May 26th, 2014

rockvault_logo_mgm-316x250 Rock Vault - - Joe Perry of Aerosmith – Rockin' the Carols with a new Christmas EP!

Rock Vault

 

Super Duper Alice Cooper is a story of a young man named Vincent Furnier, who had a longing for rock n roll stardom and wanting to push the limits of excess onstage as well as off. Determined to strike fear in the hearts of people everywhere as the ultimate rock villain, Alice set out on a journey to take over the world with his macabre show and menacing look. This documentary goes beyond the make-up and music with a deeper story of a teenage Dr. Jekyll whose rock ‘n’ roll Mr. Hyde almost kills him. The focal point being how the band got started and how an underdog who never was to amount to anything proved the world wrong.

Debuting at the Tribeca Film Festival this past April, Super Duper Alice Cooper is the first ever documentary on Alice where we see the logic of this mad genius along with old photos, archive film footage, and animation.

I had the immense pleasure of sitting down with Rock n Roll Hall of Famer, Alice Cooper, about his new documentary and get the inside scoop on his new cover CD due out this summer.

 

 

Robert Cavuoto: I enjoyed the movie, Super Duper Alice Cooper. I learned a few things about you that I didn’t know. Was it difficult to encapsulate your entire career in an hour and a half?

Alice Cooper: There were so many stories left out like the ones with Elvis, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones. It was basically about how the career took off. What happened and what wasn’t supposed to happen.  We were the band least likely to make it commercially. We had records and a notorious stage show which people had to digest.

Robert: Was it difficult to see yourself so messed up and emaciated?

Alice Cooper:  Like the interview with Tom Snyder, that was a little uncomfortable to watch. I have never ever talked about the drug abuse up until this point in 1000’s of interviews. Everyone knew me as a happy alcoholic. Unlike Sherlock Holmes who always refers to himself as the functional psychopathic. I was the functional alcoholic. I never missed a show nor slurred a word. I would do talk shows like Johnny Carson and you would never know that I was a half a bottle of whiskey into it. But when it came to drugs, I always thought it was very uncool for Alice to fall into that trap. Being an addictive personality, I didn’t have a chance. When the cocaine blizzard happened in California I was in the middle of it. I never talked about until this documentary.

Robert: As up mentioned about the addictive personality, do you consider golf a healthy addiction to replace the drugs and alcohol?

Alice Cooper: For a person that tours six months out of the year, golf is perfect thing in the world. We didn’t get into it on the documentary because it happened later. The deal was that when you go on stage at 10:00 pm on Tuesday in Wichita and you wake up at 8:00 am, what are you going to do, go to the mall again? Most rock’ n rollers were athletes at a time in their life. The ones I introduced to golf got addicted to it. You can go play golf five times a week at five different golf courses and hang out with your buddies. Doesn’t matter if you’re any good, just that you go out and play.

Golf wasn’t a cure for me as I was already healed from the alcoholism. It was more of a spiritual thing that God took away for me. Golf helped kill the time that I didn’t know what to do with. I shot 74, by the way, this morning! [Laughing]

Robert: You’ve had so many ups and downs in your career, is there any one period of time where things seemed the most hopeless?

Alice Cooper: There is that moment in anybody’s life especially a rock’ n roll guy where you are living minute to minute and album to album. Even though you get really big this year, next year it doesn’t mean anything. You’re only as good as your last album. I got to a point where we made three or four albums in a row that didn’t do anything. My real fans loved those albums but they were so experimental and different from Billion Dollar Babies and School’s Out which were both #1 and Welcome to My Nightmare which was in the Top 5.Those were the albums that were huge. Then I had four albums and they were cool but non-existent. I think in that period of time from a career point of view, I said I’m never going to make another hit album again. Trash came after that and it sold 5 million copies. As soon as I got sober all of the sudden things got ok again. It took me going into a hospital and getting sober before I made another hit album.

Robert: Was there ever a concern that if you sobered up that you would lose your creativity, writing abilities, and your edge?

Alice Cooper: That’s a very good question as it came up when I was playing golf with John Daly. I got down to a two handy cap and it was so unusual that Alice Cooper was the most dastardly character in rock n roll and now he is able to play golf with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

I used that exact school of logic that you are talking about with John Daly. John told me he’s not going to drink again and probably not going to win again because when he won two Majors while he was drinking. So much that was part of his formula for success.

I told him when I made my two #1 albums and all these platinum albums I was drinking. I would have made more platinum albums if I hadn’t been drinking. Don’t give alcohol the credit, you won two Majors when you were stoned out of your mind, you probably would have won five! I got to the point that the alcohol was only holding me back. I would have done a lot better without it. Alcoholics and drug addicts will always give credit to the drug which is the opposite way of looking at it! I could have done a lot better on those albums had I been sober. I just took it the other way. It’s part of your formula that you take a drink, hit the ball, and win the tournament. What about the fact there were five other tournaments that you did make the cut. That’s five other tournaments where you would have won two of them. Don’t give the alcohol the credit because you won twice.

Robert: One of the things that always been curious about was how you went from being this outlaw rock n roller in the 70’s to having mainstream success in the 80’s onward, to the point of being highly respected and regarded.

Alice Cooper: It was a definite thing that we sat and talked about. When we were the notorious band we wanted to be the most notorious band. We wanted to make the Stones look like choir boys. The more notorious we got the bigger we got! We did get to the point where Shep Gordon and Bob Ezrin said this can only go so far even though we have hit records. We have to give Alice some breathing room on another level. What else can Alice do? Turns out I was funny. I can do the Johnny Carson show or any comedy show for that matter and hold my own. We had to let the audience in on the fact that Alice had a sense of humor. That’s when I would show up on Hollywood Square with Paul Lynn, highly commercial things that you would never expect Alice to be in on. Johnny wanted me back all the time and I was almost a regular. When that happened, mid-America when “Oh, he is still pretty dastardly and he still rock’s villain but also funny.” That’s when the turning point was.

Robert: You have a cover CD coming out this summer where the information has been kept under tight wraps. Lately, I’ve been hearing a title thrown around and the possibility of 4-5 new songs, what can you share?

Alice Cooper: The idea behind it was that my drinking club back in the day was called the Hollywood Vampires. It was John Lennon, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Keith Moon.  So if I was going to do a cover album, which I have never done before, I wanted to salute all my dead drunk friends! I’m going to put together some new vampires on it as well as some of the old ones. I can’t tell you who is on the album I can just tell you its jaw dropping! There are some original songs on there too.

Robert: I heard the title of the CD was going to be All My Dead Drunk Friends?

Alice Cooper: [Laughing] Well to me it is, but I’m sure it’s going to change. I’m sure the powers that be will look at that and go “no way”. It might be just a great tagline. I think it is a great title. It also might be Hollywood Vampires.

Robert: If you could pick a favorite album in your career, which would it be?

Alice Cooper: Oh boy, that’s a tough one, but I would have to say the first album that I call a real Alice Cooper album. I would have to say Love It To Death, which was the most representative of Alice Cooper. It has “Ballad of Dwight Fry” and “I’m Eighteen”. That one along with Killers were real Alice Cooper albums. I don’t think Pretties for You and Easy Action were Alice Cooper albums because we wrote most of the songs when we were The Nazz.

Robert: For what it’s worth, my two favorite albums are Hey Stupid and Eyes of Alice Cooper.

Alice Cooper: Hey Stupid has the best songs on it. “Dangerous Tonight” and “Might as Well Be on Mars” are two of the best songs I ever wrote.