© Maria Younghans
Interviewed by Robert Cavuoto (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
John Waite: Live: All Access is About Being True and Real!
Live: All Access is the new live album from John Waite featuring live recordings of songs from the Rough & Tumble, Ignition, and No Brakes. Released in June, it has John’s trademark vocals which are crystal clear and every bit as powerful as the original studio recordings. The No Brakes band consists of Keri Kelli on guitars, Tim Hogan on bass, and Rhondo on drums.
I had the pleasure of sitting with John to talk about his new CD and the importance of keeping things simple.
My Global Mind: What spurred the new live CD, Live: All Access?
John Waite: I was going for a totally live performance with no overdubs. It’s the real thing. It’s really my taste in music. The CD doesn’t have a lot of the hits but there are a couple of songs that you might know. A lot of it was taken from the last CD, Rough & Tumble. It’s one of those things that we wanted to get to the fans and do it very quickly. I’m really pleased with how well it’s doing.
Keri Kelli joined the band a few months ago and really got what we were trying to do accomplish as a band. I ‘m singing better than ever so it just seemed like the right time to do it. It was done on the spur of the moment.
My Global Mind: Where was the CD recorded?
John Waite: We did two nights in Philly Sound, it’s an old Church converted in a recording studio. Jacky Bam Bam, a DJ in Philly, announced it on the radio show. We got three kegs of beer for each night and got people down there. The audience was crammed in there. After about four songs it started to get really hot and sweaty and things started to get out of tune, so we really only got three great songs.
I stopped for about a month to mix the record. The tuning so off I just couldn’t fight it. So I figured we would go out and record a few other shows. We ended up in Manchester, New Hampshire in the deep winter, it was colder out there than you could believe. The sound check was incredibly bad, I thought, “Here we go also, I’m not going to get it.” It’s not going to work. We played two nights before and we had tuning problems again. Then we had the best show I think I played in 10 years. You never know. Its funny how things go, you just have to hang tough and staying focused on the vibe. You can hear the precision on “If You Ever Get Lonely”. It’s a delicate song, a big song, a blues song. You then get “Saturday Night” and “Evil” that one is like a steam hammer. I didn’t put the obvious big hits on the record because these songs are more fun to play. With iTunes you can download what you like, if you want the whole CD, you can order a signed CD from my website.
A lot people have responded to it and I think there is a huge gap in rock where it’s about being true and real. That’s what’s its all about for me.
My Global Mind: Keri is a great guitarist, I have seen him a dozen times with Alice Cooper and even interviewed him in the past, how did you connect with him and what do you look for in a guitarist?
John Waite: A sense of humor! [laughing]
He came through a friend of ours, Jacky Bam Bam. Keri met up with us at Tim Hogan’s [bass] house and just plugged into an amp. We gave him a list of 15 songs and said we are playing in Detroit in three week, be there. We didn’t rehearse really. He did great. We all enjoyed it on different levels, his playing got really mean and edgy. It’s where I wanted to go.
My Global Mind: Does keeping things simple – just guitar, bass and drums – steer you down a certain creative path?
John Waite: It’s a lot like the last CD Rough & Tumble; it’s a very raw record. It was a live three piece band in the studio with me singing. We had a #1 hit single on Classic Rock Radio with that so I knew people were digging. All the bands I really loved in 70’s were three piece bands with a singer. As you get older you look back on the things that influences you like the blues and soul music. It was all done very simple with people playing into each other. I really don’t like that arena rock thing of big synths. I’ve had a pretty long career as people still like me and I have made some unusual records. I’ve been on this path for 20 years.
My Global Mind: I really think that people have forgotten the importance and simplicity of great riffs. You don’t need a lot of musicians and synths when you have a great riff.
John Waite: A lot of it is very derivative and generic. I think everything after a while becomes a business where only 10% of the musicians are who against it, and take it back to where it began and start over. You always have the tour acts that will take it to Vegas.
My Global Mind: You had such massive success in the 80 as a solo act, has it been difficult to compete with that?
John Waite: No, I lived in New York for two years and I didn’t have a pot to pee in. I lived in a crash pad on a mattress in a place across from where John Lennon was shot on 72nd street. I didn’t have any money, I had just left the The Babys to try and start something new in New York. I made a record for Chrysalis Records that blew it. I then made the Missing You record for EMI. Overnight all the people in New York who would be walking their dog or people in a dinner would say it so great that I’m doing what I’m doing. I really felt like I was on top of the world. Being a home town boy in NYC. I’m so proud of being one of them. They are my kind of people.
But nothing can prepare you for being number #1 that big. I then took a massive step back and made a record I had always wanted to make. I didn’t put any pressure on myself and knew it would be compared to Missing You. It was called Mask of Smiles. Some people said that it’s their favorite John Waite record and I don’t still understand why [laughing]. I don’t know if it’s really that good, but it’s one of those records where I said I don’t give a fuck. I was always trying to make it interesting and go my own way.
My Global Mind: I remember hearing you wrote the song “Missing You” in the back of cab; was that a rumor?
John Waite: Yeah, I wrote it in about 10 minutes in a demo studio over somebody else’s track. I was looking for a piece of music on a DAT machine and the guy I was working with stopped the tape after playing two notes of this on this eight bar groove thing. I said, “What’s that?” He said, “It’s nothing, just something I’m working on”. I told him to turn it up and let’s see if I can see sing over the top of it. I used “Every Time I Think of You” from The Baby to get me going. I sang the entire 1st verse, bridge and 1st chorus, choked for about 10 seconds then jumped back into the song and got most of the 2nd verse and 2nd chorus. It was like being a conduit. It just came out of nowhere. I’m good like that; a lot of the songs I come up lyrically have had that. I don’t know how it works. If you start to rely on it, it goes away. If you start to disrespect it won’t speak to you.
My Global Mind: Do you ever get writers block?
John Waite: No, if I have a deadline I can make a record in a week. I try to avoid it because it’s so emotional and draining. Once you get yourself into it, you have to finish it. Being the producer, arranger, the guy who gets the coffee, the guys who manages the budget and makes everything run in the studio, and tells people what to do, is a big thing. That’s why I wanted to do a live CD for the sheer joy of playing. The only headache was having to mix it.
My Global Mind: Was there ever a point where you wanted to put together another band like The Baby’s or Bad English vs. being a solo act?
John Waite: Every band that I’m in is a band. It’s not like I fly first class and they fly coach. We all fly together. They are my friends; I usually play with people I’m fond of.
It can be a pain in the ass being in a band because everybody’s got a big ego. After a year people really know how to push your buttons. You really have to be brothers in some sense and be intelligent. When you’re in a solo band and you can pick the band members. The guys in the band right now are pretty sharp guys. In a band, it’s an assortment, its really Spinal Tap. It’s more Spinal Tap than you ever believe. If you could be a fly on the wall in a band meeting you would be amazed at how silly it is.
As soon as wife’s come out on the road you might as well start wearing a crash helmet. No matter how sweet you are to everyone there going to be someone winding up the husband or some other crap.
Now we try and do short bursts of 2 to 5 shows and then come home. You have to know what you are there for and really be consistent as well as completely loose at the same time. I can’t remember that last time I did a bus tour.
My Global Mind: This CD was a great tease, your 10th studio CD was in 2011, when can expect a new one?
John Waite: I’m going to make another live one before November with the some obscure tracks [Laughing]. There are some songs off Temple Bar that I would like to do with the band live. There are enough songs to make a second really great live CD. Then I would like to go into the studio.