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Kasim Sulton Talks About "3"

May, 2015

Sulton Kasim 001If you’re a hard core Todd Rundgren fan, then you’re familiar with Kasim Sulton. He was part of Todd’s band, Utopia, and is still an essential member of his current band.

If you’re a current Blue Oyster Cult fan, you’ll know him as the bassist for the band since 2012.  Maybe you’re a Meat Loaf fan. If so, you’ll know Kasim’s work on the “Bat Out of Hell” album.  The multi-talented musician has also worked with Cheap Trick, Ricky Byrd, Celine Dion, Patty Smyth, Indigo Girls, Rick Derringer, Joan Jett and several others.

Oh, and he’s cut a couple of solo albums of his own, the latest being “3” (reviewed by Boomerocity, here).

I called Kasim at his home to discuss the making of “3.” But, before chatting about it, I asked what he had been up to lately. He and I passed each other backstage at Ringo’s Greenville, NC, concert back in February so I led in with asking what it was like playing with the former Beatle that night.

“Well, I had played with Ringo before. It was a very, very long time ago. When I was in Utopia, we did a Jerry Lewis muscular dystrophy telethon one year. They had this huge jam session set up when they were doing it out of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. I forget the theme of it, but there were probably twenty musicians at any given point. Utopia was kinda the house band for that. Ringo was there as was Bill Wyman, Kiki Dee, Dave Spencer, Dave Mason, Doug Kershaw on violin, Rick Derringer, and a few others I can’t bring to mind right now. During the course of the evening, Utopia did some performances by ourselves. Then we did a big jam session, and Ringo was in on the jam session. So I met and played with Ringo before, albeit thirty years ago. 

“This time was the second time I got to play with him, and it was a little more intimate than ten minutes on stage playing ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’.

Continuing , he added:

“Yea, well, that’s a dream gig. Todd’s been doing it for three years, and so has Luke. When a Beatle calls, you answer. You say ‘yes’ no matter what. I had some Blue Ȫyster Cult shows that were coming up that week, and I was a little concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to make the Blue Ӧyster Cult shows. I do about forty or fifty shows with Blue Ӧyster Cult in the course of a year, but they tend to get a little pissy when you miss a show. But if there is anything I was going to miss a show for, it would be because Ringo called and asked me to come in.”

As for the other things occupying Sulton’s schedule, he said:

“I have some solo shows coming up this week actually. I leave tomorrow. I have a show in Atlanta on Wednesday; Nashville on Thursday; Charlotte, North Carolina, on Friday; and Greenville, South Carolina, on Saturday. I’ve just been prepping for these shows, and getting ready to pile in my car and take a little road trip. 

“It’s a real fun show. I make you feel like you’re sitting in your own living room. It’s good. It’s a nice sixty to ninety minutes of some stories and my songs. I do a lot of the new record, probably two-thirds of it, and some Utopia songs. I do some songs from other artists that I’m particularly enamored of.”

Kasim said this about the reception to his CD, “3”:

“I did an initial round of press the first couple months. I gotta tell you I didn’t get a lukewarm review in the bunch. It’s really great to see press people, journalists, people like you that are really drawn to it, appreciate it, and aren’t afraid to say this is a really great record. I worked really, really hard. It took me a lot longer than I had expected it to take, because I had some personal issues that happened during the recording of it. With each successive song that I finished, I was like, ‘Oh, this isn’t bad. This is gonna be good.’ Then I’d finish another song, and I’d say, ‘Wow, another good song. Ok, great.’ It kinda gave me the courage, the stamina, and the fortitude to push on and make it as good as I possibly could. Even down to the very last steps of mastering and the final mixes, I paid a lot more attention to detail than I ever have on any project I have worked on over the past forty years.”

He then shared his perspective of the album.Sulton Kasim 002

“I started the record in 2009, I think. I take an inordinate amount of time in between solo projects. I do solo shows pretty regularly and have been doing them since 2000. But records take so much time, so much energy, so much effort and money. I can’t always block out the proper amount of time that it takes to put one together. I released a record in 2002, and I toured behind it. When I say tour, I did like a couple dozen shows a year along with my other work. At that time, I was heavily involved with Meatloaf, and I was working with Meatloaf probably eight months out of the year. The other four I spend with my family and at home writing. 

“Come 2009, I was in England, and I had some time off. I had a writing partner in London who’s a very good friend of mine- a guy by the name of Phil Thornalley. I went over to his studio on a day off and said, ‘I’m thinking about putting another record together. Do you think you want to write something?’ 

“We came up with the first song for the record, and that was actually the first track, ‘Fell In Love For The Last Time’. It just kinda grew from there. I didn’t know where it was going to go. I didn’t know what direction it would take. I didn’t know how many songs would or wouldn’t be on the record. I just continued to write, and with each successive song, I was like, ‘This is going to be okay. This is going to be good’. Most of my material, as witnessed on this record, is very introspective. I don’t necessarily write songs about stuff that I haven’t had experience with. For instance, a song like ‘Clocks All Stopped’ which is the second track from the first single of the record, was my vain attempt at trying to write a song that Utopia might still be recording if we were still together. I co-wrote that one with Phil as well. 

“The next song, I think, is ‘Watching The World Go By’. It’s my take on my life. ‘The Traveler’ is another one. If I’m in a conversation with someone who doesn’t know me, my history, or what line of work I’m in, and they ask me what I do for a living, invariably I say, ‘I travel’. More than anything else, I’ll travel fourteen hours to work for an hour and a half. So really, most of my life is about traveling, ergo, ‘The Traveler’.

“Most of the songs, if not all of the songs on the record, are very much about me and my life and how I look at the world. That’s how I put a record together.”

Sulton then answered a question that he’s had to have been asked a bijillion times: why the title, “3?”

“It’s my third proper solo record. There’s a couple others floating around the world. There’s a record that I released in 2008 called ‘All Sides’, but that’s a compilation with two or three new songs on it. Most of the songs on that record are songs that had already been released or recorded prior by other people. I had a bunch of demos that I thought might be nice for people to hear, so I put together that record. That’s why it’s a two CD record.

“The one prior to that was called, ‘The Basement Tapes’, again demos with one or two new songs. So when you come right down to it, my first solo record was in ’80 or ’81 on EMI. My next one was ‘Quid Pro Quo’Then, this one which is my third proper solo record. Also, three is a pretty cool number. It shows up a lot in the universe. It’s body, mind, and spirit; thought, word, and deed; the holy trinity; earth, wind, and fire (not the band, the elements). Three is a good number for me. It just made sense, rather than try to come up with some title like, ‘The Secret Life of Robins and Other Miscellaneous Bullsh*t’, I’d just stamp it with that ‘3’.”

When I asked if he had ran into any surprises in the making of the album, Kasim opened up a little about the personal side of his life during the recording process.

“I lost my wife about a year and a half into recording it. We had been married about thirty-one years. I stopped recording for a year while I took care of her. She got sick first. The following six months after she passed away was just me trying to get my life back on track- with my children, being at home, being a single parent- so that threw a monkey wrench in finishing the record. 

“I quit Meatloaf in 2010. I stopped working with him. That was kinda weird, because prior to that, we had been on the road for a good eight months out of any given year. Six to eight months were with Meatloaf, plus work with other people. I’d go out for a couple months with Todd. My year was really busy up until 2010. Everything rained down at once- my wife being sick, leaving Meatloaf, her passing away, trying to get back to finishing up the record. 

“I got this brilliant idea that it’d be great to put everybody’s picture on the cover of the record. I solicited the fans and said, ‘For sixty bucks, I’ll put your picture on the cover of the record. I’ll send you a CD and a poster as well as enter you into a contest for me to come play at your house’. I got about three hundred submissions, and the server I was storing all the pictures on crashed. I had to beg people to please re-send their pictures. It was a nightmare.

“Prior to this record, most of my solo work I’ve done by myself. I do all the programming, all the engineering, all the production. I play most of the guitars, bass, drums, keyboards. I thought it would be really nice to have other musicians on this particular record. That presented a little problem, because I was making phone calls to people like Greg Hawkes, Andy Timmons, Todd Rundgren, Roger Powell, Willy Wilcox, and Mark Rivera. I was farming tracks out for people to put their particular expertise on- that was pretty interesting. For instance, when I sent Todd the track for him to play on, I sent it to him in July of 2012. He didn’t send in back until January 2013. You don’t want to be a pest and say, ‘Hey Todd, where’s that track I sent you? Are you EVER going to finish it?’ It’s a favor, so I have to be patient and wait for him to have a free moment to work on my record. 

“With Roger, I had to actually fly to San Francisco and go into a buddy studio to have him come in and play on it. He didn’t want to do it. I said, ‘Look, please. I’ll fly to San Francisco. I’ll bring the tapes with me. We can sit down, do it in the afternoon, and I’ll take you dinner that night.’ That worked with him. 

“This is the first record since 1992 that all four Utopia members are on. I really wanted to have that little feather in my cap. People like Andy Timmons who is probably one of the best guitar players in the country… he is just the sweetest guy in the whole world. He is a big fan of mine, and I said, ‘Andy, would you like to play on the song?’ He said, ‘Yeah, absolutely!’, so I sent him the track. He recorded two passes at a solo and sent it back to me. It just wasn’t what I was hearing, so I then I go back and say, ‘Can you do it just a little bit more like this?’ 

“This is what separates this record from my prior solo records. In the past, I might have said, ‘That’s great! Thanks!’ and moved on. I didn’t. I needed to feel like it was right. That was a big thing for me. Even when it came to the mixing process, I thought, ‘You know what? I need outside input on this record, so I’m going to send it out’. I had a couple other people mix the record for me.”

Sulton Kasim 003bI never ask an artist what their favorite song is on an album because it’s like picking heir favorite child. However, I did ask Sulton which song he would using a “calling card,” so to speak, to introduce it to people who might not be familiar with his work.

“It’s very strange. There are songs on that record that I think are really strong, and there are songs on the record that I think are just good songs. One of the songs that I thought was one of the strongest tends to be a song that people gloss over. They’re not drawn to it, and I was a little surprised. 

“I think at the end of the day, probably the first two tracks are indicative of what the rest of the record is like. I think ‘Fell In Love For The Last Time’ and ‘Clocks All Stopped’ really are the songs that, to me, best represent the entire record. They’re strong songs, good songs. They’re likeable and hummable. People seem to enjoy them.”

Being very impressed with who all Kasim pulled in to work on the album with him – some whom I’ve had the privilege of interviewing (Mark Rivera as well as knowing and interviewing Andy Timmons) I asked how was it to work with such an arsenal of diverse and amazing talent like those guys and the others.

“Just the simple fact that all of those fifteen other musicians that are on the record, when I asked if they’d be interested, they said, ‘Are you kidding me? Of course! Just send me the track’ or ‘I’ll be over on Tuesday’. 

“It’s one thing to have the acceptance, the accolades, the great reviews from fans and people in the music/journalism/radio business saying, ‘Oh, this is a really great record. Thank you very much for it’. It’s another thing to be accepted and get those same accolades from your peers. To me, it is the ultimate compliment to have other people I grew up listening to and people I think are the top in their field say, ‘This is a good record, Kasim. I’m really proud to be on it. Thank you so much’. 

“I’m very proud to have the career that I’ve had and to have that caliber of people playing on the record. I wish I would have gotten Luke to play on it. That would have been great.”

In comparing work on “3” to all of the other albums he’s worked on over his long career, Sulton said: 

“The difference between this record and any record I’ve worked on in the past was my attention to detail. I pained over every lyric, every note, every part, and every mix. I mastered the record once with one guy and hated it. I had it re-mastered by Greg Calby here in New York. I just did not want to leave anything on the table. 

“Even with a record like ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ which we did in 1977, we rehearsed for about two weeks. Then we went into the studio and cut the tracks within a week. You didn’t look back. There was no, ‘Should we try it again? Should we try it this way? Should we slow it down or speed it up? Should we take this section out?’ It was just like, ‘Ok, next!’ Most records are done like that. You don’t want to make it seem like it’s the last time you’re ever going to record. If you don’t get something right on this record, well, you’ll get it right on the next one.

“Again, on this record, I just would not leave anything to chance. I just wanted to make sure there were no stones unturned, nothing I wish I did that I didn’t do. The only way to explain it is I worked really hard, and I don’t like to work.”

Sulton has seen a ton of changes in the music industry in his long career. I asked him what are the most positive and negative changes he’s seen in the industry over the years.

“I think there are a lot of reasons the music industry is in the shape it’s in. A lot of it is the caliber of music that’s available today. My son is nineteen, and my daughter is twenty-four. My nineteen-year-old has never bought a record. When I was nineteen, I must have had five hundred records at home that I’d bought over the years. He’s never bought any music, and I scream at him all the time about downloading or using YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, whatever. I say, ‘You’re taking money off your own plate, dude. Don’t do that. I gotta pay the mortgage!’ A guy named Jimmy Bralower produced Mark’s record ‘Common Bond’ which I love and am on, actually. He says, ‘You know, it used to be that water was free, and you paid for music. Now, music is free, and you have a water bill every month!’

“I don’t want to complain, because at the end of the day, it is what it is. It’s not going to change. It’s the Wild West. There are no rules. Anything goes. By the same token, any kid with a laptop can sit down and make a record. It didn’t used to be like that. It used to be that you had to go in the studio, come up with at least a $50,000 budget, then hopefully come up with something the record company likes. It doesn’t matter anymore. Now, you almost don’t even want a record company. It’s the surest way not to make any money, but there are some advantages of having a machine behind you. I don’t have that machine. Everything is on my shoulders. Everything I do has to come from me, from the album design to calling musicians to turning on my studio here at home and recording. It’s a lot easier to reach a vast amount of people, but it’s a lot harder to get them to pony up ten or fifteen bucks for a CD. 

“These days it’s all about live performances. It’s all about going out, playing live, and getting fans one at a time. That’s not so Sulton Kasim 004different than it used to be. Radio is still really important. You get a song on the radio. If it gets picked up, and people gravitate to it, there is still nothing better for you promotion-wise. But it costs a ridiculous amount of money to get a record on radio. If you have a small budget like I did for this record, I hired a publicist, and I got a bunch of great reviews and interviews. It’s still about trying to get people excited and jazzed and talking about it. It’s a monumental task. That’s why I’m going out and doing shows in Atlanta, Charlotte, Greenville, and Nashville. I’ll probably do some more later on in the summer. There’s good, and there’s bad. Like I said, at the end of the day, you can’t complain. It just is what it is.

“Sirius has been great to me. A guy by the name of Mike Marrone, the program director at The Loft, is a fan of mine. He heard the record and said, ‘Kasim, I love the record, and we’re going to play it’. I did a live show at the Sirius XM studios. They broadcast out about a half dozen times over the course of a month. That kind of stuff is invaluable. But, unless you have anywhere between $50,000-$100,000 to get your record on the radio, terrestrial radio isn’t going to play it. They have forty records they play over and over again. Classic rock doesn’t want to touch it, because they’re busy playing ‘Stairway To Heaven’. You’re really between a rock and a hard place.”

I choked at the dollar amounts that it takes to get a song on the radio and asked if they didn’t used to call that payola.

“They still do! In my book, it still is. You hire a radio promo guy. He services three hundred stations around the country. A good radio promo guy is $10,000 a month.

“These days, what you want is a song and a television show. You want to be on Grey’s Anatomy. You want to be on Shameless or The Big Bang Theory. You get a song on one of those TV shows, and that opens a huge amount of doors to go from there. That’s the kind of validation you want these days.”

I asked Kasim what he would do to fix the music industry if he were named music czar – or if he thought it even needed fixing. 

“I read an article not too long ago that said Jon Bon Jovi is responsible for ruining the music industry. The article went on to blame, using Jon Bon Jovi as an example, corporate rock, lackluster dreck. I disagree with that. I don’t think Jon ruined the music industry. I think Steve Jobs did. I think iTunes and YouTube ruined the music industry by making it free. I’m not saying that fifteen dollar CDs are the way to go or that music should be expensive. By all means, it shouldn’t be. But if you don’t have to buy something, why bother buying it? Pharrell did an interview where he said his song was streamed 45 million times from Spotify or Pandora, one of those services. He got a check for $2,500 from that. What we’re talking about is the bottom line of money. And it really isn’t about money. It’s not. 

“I wouldn’t have the faintest idea of where to start to fix the music industry. I just think it’s about good music. Maybe there should be some kind of forum or something where Jimmy Iovine says, ‘These are the records everybody is listening to these days. Let’s support these artists’.  When something new comes out, there would be a panel of people just like you, other writers… even though David Fricke refused to review my album. He said it didn’t wow him. You know who Bob Lefsetz is, right? Well, a good friend of mine, Glen Burtnik, did a record about ten years ago called ‘Palookaville’. It’s a great record. Somehow, Bob got a hold of it and wrote one of his entire newsletters on how amazing this record was. I called Glen and said, ‘Hey Glen, after Bob did the newsletter on your record, did it reflect in sales at all?’ He wrote back two words: ‘No way.’ The Lefsetz Letter goes out to probably 20-30,000 people, I would imagine, but it’s all industry people. What you want to do is get to people like my daughter, the 24-year-olds. But she’s not listening to me- I’m 59 years old! The last thing she’s going to do is pick up a record from 59 year old.”

I would pay some nominal amount to access YouTube. I don’t listen to Spotify or Pandora, but if I were to, I would pay $20 a year to listen to those if it was important to me. I posited to Sulton if the solution is simple math- taking a percentage of that income (a recognized percentage, say 35% across the top) then prorate the income from that to those who are getting the most activity. 

“It sounds like an accounting nightmare, but maybe what the solution would be is to take it a step further with a YouTube music channel. For access to the music channel, you pay a premium of twenty bucks a year or whatever. Any music videos on that channel, in order to access it, you have to pay a yearly fee. Then again, what’s to stop somebody from taking that video, copying it, and putting it out on a free site? It becomes this vicious circle. It’s never going to change. The thing to try to do is how to survive and make a living doing what you do with the landscape the way it is currently. That is merchandise: CDs, t-shirts, what have you, and live shows.”

Kasim then shared what is on his career radar for the next year to five years.

“Right now, it’s the shows I have coming up and doing as good a show as I possibly can do for the people who come to see me. I’m putting in some more shows after that. I don’t know where. Usually, I go to Chicago, Cleveland, stuff like that. I love playing those places. I have a pretty decent following in those places. I have some more Blue Ӧyster Cult shows coming up later this month and in May/June. I’ll be busy doing that on the weekends. They’re weekend warriors. For the rest of the year, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking maybe I need to do another record right away. I will probably, at some point over the next six months, sit down and try to put together the beginnings of my next record, even thought I just cringe at the thought. It just takes so much work. 

“As far as my five year plan goes, I turn sixty this year. I was with my family yesterday for Easter. My brother-in-law who is married to my sister will be sixty two months later. We’re going to go to Jerusalem. I’ve never been. I’ve been to the Middle East, but only Dubai. We were talking about going to Cuba: ‘Cuba will be great! We’ll just lay on the beach for three or four days.’ Who doesn’t want to go to Cuba? Then I thought about Jerusalem. He’s like, ‘That’s it! That’s where we’re going.’ So we’re talking about going this year for our sixtieth birthdays.

“Five years? I don’t know. Hopefully, I’ll still be able to do live shows and doing this. I can’t imagine I’d be doing anything else, because it’s a little late in life to become a plumber. I always threaten myself, ‘You know what? I’m going to just give it all up, sell everything, and I’m going back to DeVry to become an air conditioning technician.’ But that doesn’t seem to be in the cards for me.”

I like to ask this question of people who have been in the business a long time – and I never intend it to be a macabre one but I wanted to know: once Kasim’s stepped off the tour bus of life for the final time and is at the great gig in the sky (to borrow a line from Pink Floyd), how does he want to be remembered and what do he hope his legacy will be?

“That’s a good question. The greatest thing for me is that I have a body of work that will live on well after I’m gone. I’ve been on some great records that will always be available for people to hear. I have worked with some of the best people in the music industry- past, present, and hopefully in the future. I’m not a Beatle. I’m not a Rolling Stone. I wasn’t in Led Zeppelin. I’m not Leonard Bernstein. I haven’t yet written a song that millions of people can sing the lyrics to. The pleasure and the honor is in the journey. My journey has been long, and it’s not over. There’s still a lot to do. I’d love to write a song that everybody knows, so I’m going to keep trying.”

Richie Furay Discusses Hand In Hand

April, 2015

RichieFuray 7 Reduced Credit Ed ZiehmPhoto by Ed ZiehmIf you’re a baby boomer and listened to the radio, you’re likely more than a little familiar with the iconic groups, Buffalo Springfield and Poco.  Buffalo Springfield was made up of Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Dewey Martin, Bruce Palmer, and Richie Furay. Poco consisted of Jim Messina, Rusty Young, George Grantham, Randy Meisner, and, again, Richie Furay.

After his stint with these two legendary bands, Furay went on to form his own namesake band that blazed new trails in contemporary Christian music, establishing his mark as one of its influential pioneers. In fact, it was in that genre that I became aware of his work. His former work earned him the distinction of becoming an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The latter provided him his ultimate calling as minister to a flock of Christians in Colorado. Both roles have given him the ability to influence people well beyond the end of his life.

For this interview, I chatted with Greg Harris (CEO of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is a friend of Boomerocity) about Richie.  He said, “He, obviously, contributed greatly as a member of Buffalo Springfield but also went on to greater public recognition with Poco. Buffalo Springfield is the cornerstone of the folk and country that followed. It’s fascinating how much has grown out of the collaboration of the original band members and, then, the many shoots and branches that grew from their trunk to create an incredible music legacy of its founders. They’re even influencing the Americana genre to this day. 

“They’re sound – and Richie still sounds the same as he did in the late sixties – is still as fresh and vibrant today as it was then. Have you heard Richie’s new album? Amazing and it proves the point I was just making.”

Greg is referring to Furay’s recently released eighth solo studio album. It’s entitled “Hand In Hand,” and is likely bound to go down as his best work yet.

I called Richie at his Colorado home to chat about “Hand In Hand” and other things going on in his life. I started off by asking him what would he tell Richie Furay/Buffalo Springfield/Poco fans about this album.

“This album is very current from my perspective. I’ve really been thought of as a love song writer, and these songs are EverythingKnoxvilleLogoEditeddefinitely love songs. They’re about my love for life, my love for my wife, my love for my country, my love for what the Lord has blessed me with. It’s really all-encompassing. The music is as current and as fresh today as anything anybody could hear on the radio. I do have a certain style of music that I write, but it’s very current today. I just couldn’t be any happier with it. It’s really getting a lot of traction today.”

As for the feedback on the album, so far, Richie said, “It has been wonderful. Everyone, to a person, that’s heard the music has responded in such a positive way. It’s really blowing my mind. When I wrote the songs, I really felt that I had something special. I think the people that are now hearing this and responding to it are showing me, ‘Yeah, there is something real special about this project’.”

I have two favorites from the album, “We Were The Dreamers” and “Let It Slide.” Artists can’t really pick a favorite song from their albums because it’s too much like picking a favorite child so I didn’t ask Furay to pick on. However, I did ask which song would he use as a “calling card,” if you will, to draw people to buy the album.

“It’s really hard to separate one song from the other, because every song is special. ‘We Were The Dreamers’ is obviously the first song on the album, because I think that has to have a hook on it. People are going to listen to it and go to song 2 (“Hand In Hand”), song 3 (“Don’t Lose Heart”), on down the road until you get to ‘Let It Slide’. I think they gotta hear something that’s going to appeal to them. If anyone’s like me, it’s the music first of all. Is there a melody that I can relate to and embrace? Then I want to hear what the song is all about.”

Richie then gets on a roll about the rest of the album, excitedly telling me about each song. 

“‘We Were The Dreamers’ is about starting Poco and what we wanted to do with that band. We wanted to make a bridge between country and rock, and I think that proved to be an honest goal as we’ve seen that happen. We see music coming out of Nashville today that took a very strong leap when, back in 1969, Poco was trying to cross that gap. 

“Then, leading on, I think people are going to find that there’s a lot of interesting music that they built from one song to the next. On ‘Hand In Hand’, they’re going to hear about my relationship with my wife looking back who I’ve been married to for forty-eight years now. We aren’t standing on the Whisky A Go Go stage anymore looking forward. We’re on the stage of life- still going hand in hand, still in love with each other- but we’re looking from a different perspective now. 

“You get Dan Fogelberg’s ‘Don’t Lose Heart’. I think the question Dan was asking in that song is, ‘Was everything I ended up going through worth it in the end?’ I saw the hope in the Lord, you know: ‘No matter what’s going on, you can trust that I’m still there with you. Don’t lose heart. I’m going with you.’ 

“‘Don’t Tread On Me’ is a different kind of love song. It’s a song about my love for this country. I think this country is the greatest country in the world. I know we have problems. I know we have things we can improve upon, but it really hurts me when I hear people cutting down and talking about this country in a negative way. We have very positive things that we can be proud of, but we are being divided right now. We’re polarized. We’ve got to start talking and thinking about the blessings that God has given us in this great nation of ours. 

“‘Wind Of Change’ follows that same line. On the surface, it just sound like it’s about a guy taking a road trip going east. If you look deeper into the song, I think people will understand that I have some problems with what I see going on out east. Hopefully, there will be a change. 

“‘Someday’ (that features Keb Mo) … Again, I’m just so thankful that during these troubled times I’ve got eleven grandkids. Number twelve is on the way May 1. I’m concerned about the way things are going and what my kids and grandkids are going to have to go through. But I’m very thankful, and I sum it up in that song, that I didn’t have to go alone. My wife has been there with me. I couldn’t make it without her. 

“Each song, they’re all very important. They all have a special message and meaning. It’s a very universal CD for people to embrace.”

I asked the Hall of Famer if he considered “Hand In Hand” a CCM disc, secular/Americana or another genre?

“I think it’s definitely a secular/Americana CD. There’s no doubt about it. I say that because if you go back to ‘64/’65 when Buffalo Springfield was together, there was nothing we called or considered ‘Americana’. Americana became a genre of music later on, and quite frankly, we pioneered that along with country rock ‘n’ roll. I would say this is definitely a mainstream secular project. It has Americana roots all the way.”

I asked Richie what he hoped people get or take away from “Hand In Hand.”

“I hope that they’ll take away hope. With my life, I’ve gone through different changes, different struggles, different places where I’ve come to a crossroads in my life and asked ‘Which direction do I go?’ But I’ve always found that there was direction. I will say I didn’t know what that direction was at times, but I did come to find out it was the leading of the Lord. Regardless if this is a secular project, He is still guiding my life as the Good Shepherd. He is watching over me, and I know now who has been guiding me. 

“In years past, I didn’t have a clue when I would take a step and go in this direction or that direction. Even before I became a believer, in Souther Hillman Furay I didn’t want the guy who was a Christian to be in the band. He had a Jesus sticker on his guitar, and I said, ‘I don’t want this guy in the band. He’s going to stop me from becoming a rock ‘n’ roll star.’ But it was there that God reached out to me. 

“The Lord is so gracious. At one time, I thought maybe he was taking the musical aspect of my life away. God never takes away something that he doesn’t have something far greater for us. He’s shown me that by allowing me to come back and play music in this day and age, but also be part of a great church family in Broomfield, Colorado. 

“What I hope the people will take away from this is hope. When they’re not sure where things are going in their life, there’s hope. They can read that in the music and the songs that I’ve been sharing.”

Some of you might be surprised by my comment at the beginning of this interview that Richie Furay is now a minister. I asked him to tell Boomerocity readers about his ministry.

“We have a small little church in Broomfield, Colorado, called Calvary Chapel. We are a part of the Calvary Chapel network of churches. When Al Perkins led me to the Lord back in 1974, my wife and I had been married for seven years and separated for seven months. It was a disastrous time in my life, and I had no idea what was going to be taking place in my life. 

“Things started to change, and I really thought that music was pretty much going to be the end of the road for me. It didn’tRichieFuray 1 Reduced Credit EdZiehmPhoto by Ed Ziehm turn out to be that way. In the meantime, there was a little bit of diversion there, and I said, ‘Lord, what would you have me to do?’ He opened up the doors, and I started a little home Bible study. Next thing I know, people are coming around saying, ‘When are we going to have church?’ I said, ‘You know, we’re kinda having it right now.’ They wanted something else, and as it turned out, we started a little church in Boulder, Colorado. Then we moved down to Broomfield, and it’s been so great. 

“The Bible says the Lord will give you the desires of your heart if you just focus on Him. I love the opportunity he’s given me to encourage people’s lives with the teaching of the Word of God. I love the way Chuck Smith taught us to really teach the Bible book by book, verse by verse. It’s been real precious. Also, what has been really neat is the support I’ve gotten from a lot of my pastor friends in Calvary Chapel to continue to pursue and do the music I’m doing. Regardless if it has a Christian influence like ‘In My Father’s House’ and ‘I Am Sure’ or my music as it comes out today like this new project which is a mainstream secular/Americana project, the church supports me. The church is right there with me. 

“Early on, neither I nor the church congregation that I had at the time understood, and I think there was some question about, ‘Can you do both?’ Sometimes, people want to say, ‘How can you go out, do this music, and still be a pastor of a church?’ It all flows. I’ve got a very unique position in life right now. I’ve got a very unique position in having a church but still going on the road, traveling, doing concerts. Quite frankly, when I go into a place to play, we have done worship services with my band. My band is the worship band at our church. They learned all of my music, and we go out. 

“I’m not out there to proselytize when I go into secular venues. I’m out there to share my life, and the biggest part of my life is the fact that Jesus Christ has saved me and loves me. He has given me the desires of my heart. He gave me the gift of music, so we always get to share with the people regardless. If they hear ‘A Good Feelin’ To Know’ and ‘Pickin’ Up The Pieces’, they still hear. We’re there and we’re sharing this, because we know where the gift has come from. It’s come from Jesus.”

I always ask experienced artists this question at the end of interviews: Once you’ve stepped off of the tour bus for the final time and are at that great gig in the sky, how do you want to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy is? Richie was asked this, as well.

“Truly, I want to hear the Lord say ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’ He didn’t tell me just to preach within the four walls of a church building. He told me to go into all the world and to proclaim his goodness, glory, and salvation. That’s what I want to do. I sincerely believe in my heart that is being accomplished by the response I get from all kinds of people. People who are believers, people who are nonbelievers, people who are Jewish, people who have no real understanding of faith at all. 

“They come to me and say, ‘There’s something about you, and on that stage, there’s something that shines. Something that glows.’ At seventy years old, it’s really special to be able to stand up there and get that kind of feedback. I was just answering a person who I don’t even know from Montana who said, ‘I accepted the Lord a long time ago, but I walked away from the Lord. I don’t know why, but I feel the need to reach out to you to help me along and get back on this path’. If I can lead anybody to the foot of the Cross where Jesus’ forgiveness is, that’s what it’s about for me.”

You can keep up with Richie and order his music at RichieFuray.com or check out his message and his church at CalvaryBroomfield.org.

Read the Boomerocity review of "Hand In Hand," here.

 

 


Walter Trout Discusses His Health And New CD

April, 2015

trout walter croppedPhoto by Jeff KatzIf you’ve been into the blues for very long at all, no doubt your attention has been directed to the tremendous work of blues great, Walter Trout. Whether you heard him during his days with Canned Heat or during his tenure with John Mayall and the Blues Breakers or during his lengthy solo career that continues today, you would be left being blown away by this man’s monster talent.

I first interviewed Trout three years ago this month (here).  Having watched him perform and then later interviewing him, I developed a hard core fondness for the man and his music. 

Like the rest of his fans around the world, I was saddened to hear last year that he was in need of a very expensive liver transplant. Those legions of fans contributed the badly need funds for that transplant. Trout’s lovely and devoted wife, Marie, kept fans apprised of his progress and kept him informed of the continuous outpouring of love and support from family, friends and fans.

Walter had this to say about his bride:

“We’re coming up on twenty-five years (being married). When I met my wife, I talked to her for probably forty minutes. I said to her, ‘You’re going to move to America. We’re going to get married. We’re going to have children and get old together’. I’d only known her for forty minutes. She, of course, told me I was crazy, but here we are twenty-five years later, madly in love, with three beautiful kids. She really kept me alive. She’s the one who convinced me to fight when I was packing it in. It was very difficult and incredibly painful. She kept me going and fought like lioness for me. The doctors performed miracles on me, but the one who really kept me alive and saved my life was my wife.”

As Walter began to heal and gain strength, he started to make plans to hit the road again. As the plans were solidified, the opportunity to chat with Trout again presented itself and I grabbed it.

Our chat began with Walter sharing how he feels after such a harrowing health experience.

“I’m glad to be here. It’s been a hell of a year and a half. I’m feeling great. I feel reborn. I have plenty of energy, and I’m putting weight back on. 

“The last couple tours I’d been getting these incredible cramps in my hands, especially my left hand and forearm. I tried everything- physical therapy, acupuncture, and magnesium. I was going out on stage not knowing if I’d make it through a song. And I got to the point I couldn’t bend strings. If I tried to bend the string, my whole hand cramped. I did the last tour without bending a string. How do you play blues without bending the string? I managed to pull it off by playing a bunch of fast stuff. I had to totally re-think how I play. It turned out it was from my liver, which I didn’t know at the time. Now I’m playing again and don’t get any cramps. I’m strong. The band has been rehearsing, and we’re kicking ass. I feel great and very, very excited about the future.

“I’m going to make another album at the end of May. It’s going really good. I’m a wonder of modern medicine.”

As for what has been his biggest realization or lesson through this whole ordeal, Trout said, “My whole perspective on life has completely changed. I see beauty where I didn’t see it before. I don’t take anything for granted. I wake up in the morning, open my eyes, and just start laughing. I go, ‘Wow, I have another day here.’ It’s amazing. Little things that used to bug me just don’t bother me anymore. I don’t care. 

“I see things very differently, and I’m very happy and blessed to have some more time. I see the majesty of being alive, and I didn’t really see that before. A lot of things I took for granted, and I don’t anymore. It’s a whole different way of viewing a lot of things. My wife, my kids, and my music mean more to me than they ever have. I didn’t think that was possible, but it’s a whole new perspective.”

I asked the blues great if there has been any change in his playing style as a result of his transplant.

“I think I can actually put more meaning into every note. I rehearsed with the band last week out in my garage. I played a long solo, and I just closed my eyes. Even though it was rehearsal, I just got really into it. At the end, I had a breakdown. I was weeping halfway through the song. I put more into it, and I feel it more. I realize how lucky I am to get to do that, because I really didn’t think I’d get to again. 

“I went for at least a year where I was getting the cramps, and I thought it was over. When I was in the hospital and was so Walter Trout 01 by Jeff KatzeditedPhoto by Jeff Katzsick, I had lost 120 pounds. My oldest son came to the hospital in Nebraska, and he brought me a Stratocaster. I couldn’t play it. I couldn’t get a note to come out- I was too weak. I could not press the string to the fret. I didn’t have the strength. I thought, ‘That’s it. I’m done. Even if I live through this, I’ll never be able to do that again.’ 

“I’d lay there in the hospital, and on my phone, I’d watch YouTube videos of myself. I couldn’t relate to it: ‘Did I do that? Who is that guy? Is that me? Did I actually do that?’ So I thought it was over. I’m actually playing better now than I have in a long, long time. It’s joyous to get to do that.”

When “The Blues Came Calling” was released, I reviewed it, and we all thought Walter would be hitting the road but he didn’t. I asked him if his need for a transplant was known while he was working on the album and what was his frame of mind at the time.

“I was really sick when I did that album. I got sick when I started putting it together. That April before I’d gotten really sick, we’d gone in the studio and done a couple basic tracks. I had a couple licks in my head, and I just got some guys together and said, ‘Let’s go in the studio, play some stuff, and see what happens’. 

“We did a few basic tracks, and then right after that, in May, I got incredibly sick. I swelled up, and my body filled up with fluid. I looked like I was in my ninth month of pregnancy. It was insane. I’d go in the hospital, and they’d put a drain in my abdomen. At one point, they drained out twenty-five pounds of liquid. I would have that done every once in awhile. Twenty-five pounds of fluid I was carrying around- in my legs, in my feet. It was called ascites, a result of having liver disease. Some people get it, some people don’t. Ascites means you swell up with this fluid, and I had it really bad. But that’s when I wrote and recorded the album.

“I couldn’t walk. I would drive up to L.A. and stumble into the studio. I had a cane, and at one point, I even had a walker. I would go in, play and sing for maybe an hour and a half or two hours. Then I’d have to come home. If you listen to the lyrics, there’s a lot on there that’s pretty dark. ‘Blues came calling/All night long it told me/You’ll never be the man you used to be.’ And that was the frame of mind I was in. ‘Bottom of the River’… same thing. That’s a metaphor for what I was going through. It was pretty tough. I didn’t know if it would kinda be my last will and testament. I had a feeling it would. 

“If you listen to the opening track, ‘Wasting away/Looking in the mirror/I don’t know who I see/I take another look/It don’t look like me’, I wrote that after I’d lost 120 pounds. One day I got up and stumbled into the bathroom with my cane or my walker. I looked in the mirror, and I was a skeleton. I came out and wrote those lyrics. It was pretty tough, you know? Plus, I did all the leads on there with the incredible cramps in my hands. I just went in and would play until I couldn’t play anymore. I was good to play a couple solos, and then it was like, ‘I gotta go home’. My hands just closed up. I can’t move, can’t straighten my fingers out. My forearm feels like somebody stabbing it with a knife. It was hard album to make.”

When I asked Walter, aside from the health issues, what made this album different for him compared to his previous albums, he said, “I have a technique for making an album. For instance, let’s go back to “Blues for the Modern Days.” I was not sick. I kinda go through a little period of writer’s block. It’s like, ‘Ok, I’m going to be in the studio in three months.’.  I’m going through this right now, as a matter of fact, because I’m going to be in the studio in May. I start saying, ‘I gotta write this thing.’ I go through some writer’s block, then I have this revelation. It’s kinda weird, but it always happens. 

“One day, I hear the voice of my dear, departed, beloved mother. She says, ‘Hey Walter, my son. You wanted to be a musician. That’s all you ever wanted to be. You are a musician, so just quit freaking out. Quit belly-achin’, and just make some music. All you gotta do is make music- that’s what you do. So do it.’ I hear that, and all of a sudden, the flood gates open. On “Blues for the Modern Days,” I wrote the whole thing in two weeks. There were times I wrote four songs in a day.

“But I have to wait for that to happen. I’m waiting for it to happen right now. I’ve got a bunch of musical ideas, but I’m just kinda floundering around… to make a fish joke.

“First, I rehearse for, say, two or three days with the band. I show them the songs, then we go in the studio. We take about four days. We do the basic tracks: bass, drums, keyboards. The rest of the time I’m in there playing and singing. We maybe put an acoustic guitar on, and I’ll sing the song. We might have some background singers come in. I’ll bring in, like, Deacon Jones, who is the keyboardist I play with in John Lee Hooker’s band. The great B3 player… I always have him play on my records, ‘cause he’s my mentor. He brought me up through the ranks and got me in John Lee Hooker’s band. I always have him come in and play on a song or two. Normally, within about ten days, the thing is done. Then it’s time to mix it.

“This last album took me a year, because I could only do an hour and a half to two hours a day. There were many, many days I couldn’t record. We would have to, maybe, do one day every two weeks. The rest of the time, I was too sick. I’d get up and call Eric, my producer, and say, ‘I feel ok today. Can we get the studio later?’ He’d call the studio, and if they said, ‘Yea, we’re open.’ I’d drive up there and spend two hours. There were a lot of days I had the studio booked, and I’d have to call Eric to say, ‘I can’t do it today.’ It was a chore. I was determined to do it, and I soldiered through it. 

“By the end, I was pretty much in a wheelchair. I didn’t have any breath, so it was hard to sing. You can hear that on there. The vocals don’t have the power I used to have, but I did my best. I was determined to do it. Maybe the vocals are not as powerful or as deep as they used to be, but there’s a lot of urgency in them. I’m pushing myself to even get a note to come out. The last vocal I did was ‘Nobody Moves Me Like You Do’, and it was really hard to just get anything to come out of my throat.”

Walter Trout 02 by Jeff KatzeditedPhoto by Jeff KatzIn sharing how has the transplant has affected Trout in being able to prepare for the tour, he said, “There’s a little bit of apprehension. I’m going to make my return to the stage on the 15th of June at the Royal Albert Hall in London. It’s a Lead Belly festival, and I’ll be on the bill along with Van Morrison and Eric Burdon. They have another big name that they haven’t announced yet. I’m going to fly over there, and that’s going to be my return to the stage. I’m going to play with a great, young British guitar player named Lawrence Jones. I’m going to come out and play with him and his band. I played on his first album, and he’s a really great friend of mine. Mike Zito produced Lawrence’s first album, and I played on it. So I’m going to go do some tunes with Lawrence and his band on this festival. 

“I’m a little apprehensive since I haven’t been on stage in so long. Am I going to be ok? I know I’m going to be ok, but there’s always that little voice in the back of your head that goes, ‘Am I going to walk out on stage and start weeping like a baby?’ I think it’s going to be really emotional for sure. I’ll get through the tunes then probably walk off the stage and have a nervous breakdown. ‘My God, I did it! I can still do it.’”

Here’s what Walter said about what fans can expect for the rest of the tour:

“We have a brand new bass player who is just awesome, and he’s taken the musical level of the band up a notch. This guy has played with everybody from Steve Winwood to Slash to Branford Marsalis. He can play anything. We’ve been rehearsing with him, and right now, we’ve gone back through my old catalog. We’ve pulled out some tunes we haven’t done in a long time, even a couple we’ve never done live. We’re going to go back and try to do a bit of a different show, and we’re also doing tunes off of “Blues Came Calling,” which we’ve never done live. I think the band is killin’ right now. I think it’s the best it’s ever been. 

“Like I said, I’m sort of a reborn musician in many ways, and one of them is that I don’t have problems with my hands and theWalter Trout 03 by Jeff KatzeditedPhoto by Jeff Katz muscles in my arms that I had. I’m working out with weights, and I’m riding a recumbent bike. I’ve put on fifty pounds since the transplant, and I feel great. I have some off days. I have days I get up and have dizzy spells, but they say it takes at least a year to get back to normal after a transplant. I’m at nine months, and I’m kickin’ ass.”

Three years ago when I interviewed Walter, I asked him this question and this was your answer:

"As we were wrapping up our chat, I asked Walter how he wished to be remembered when he goes to that great blues gig in the sky."

Your response was, “I would hope they look back and go, ‘He was a dedicated artist who tried to say something with his art. Whether he succeeded or not, that is up to interpretation. That’s a guy who devoted his life to being an artist and was serious about it and also, helped a lot of young people get going.’ I have a lot of young guitar players that I mentor and that means a lot to me. 

"Of course, I would want my wife and my kids to look back and say, ‘He was a good husband and a good father.’ That’s incredibly important and probably the most important- three kids! But as far as how the world would see me, a guy who just gave everything he could have to try to be the best artist he could be.”

I asked him if there was anything he would change about that answer.

“I couldn’t say that any better. I would also like to be remembered as a man who was devoted to his family.  One who realized that the art is ultimately important, and the family is ultimately important. Those are the two things that keep me going in my life. I have to say there was a time when I was close to death that I would tell my wife, ‘I’m ready to go. This hurts too bad.’ And she would say, ‘No, you have to stick around. You leaving is not an option. You need to be here for me and for our kids.’ At that point, I really decided to fight. There was a time I said to her, ‘If I’m never able to play guitar again, I’ll be sad, but I’ll be okay as long as I can still be your husband and be a father to our kids.’ My family is the most important.”

You can keep up with Walter, his tour and his work at www.waltertrout.com and look for his tour dates here.

Bob Gruen Discusses "See Hear Yoko"

April, 2015

BobGruen CBGB 102006 HannaToressonPhoto by © Hanna ToressonIn a world where fame and notoriety comes and goes and technology can make skilled artisans obsolete, legendary photographer, Bob Gruen, is still on the cutting edge of capturing intriguing and relevant images of people we’re all interested in.

Yet, as he still successfully crafts sought after photographic excellence in a world of Instagrams and YouTube, it’s the iconic work of his past that still excites people. 

Known for some of the most touching and historic images of the last nine years of John Lennon’s life, Gruen continues to work with Yoko Ono as her photographer and, more importantly, is still there for her as a trusted friend.

A couple of years ago, Bob and rock radio’s “Voice of Austin, Texas,” Jody Denberg, put together a book of photos Gruen had taken over the years and quotes from Jody’s work with Yoko. The tome was a gift for Yoko’s 80th birthday (yeah, way).

As is often the case with Yoko, things tied to her and her late husband tend to generate lots of buzz and demand. This book that was originally intended to be a gift of love to her friends soon lead to being published into a commercially available book entitled, “See Hear Yoko.”

It has been five years since I last interviewed Mr. Gruen (here).With the flurry of activity surrounding the release of Yoko’s book, I wasn’t sure that he would have time to sit for a phone interview with me. After graciously sending me a copy of the book to review (here), he generously made time out of his very busy schedule to talk with me about the book and what was on his plate in the near future.

Bob had this to say about the background and story behind the book.

“It was a very personal project. I’ve been friends and worked with Yoko for over forty years. She was turning eighty years old, and what do you get the woman who has everything? Jody has been interviewing Yoko for her official EPKs (Electronic Press Kits) for over twenty-five years. He came up with the idea to take quotes from her interviews and pairing them with my pictures from over the years to make a book we could give Yoko as a gift. These days, you can lay out a book in a program online, and they’ll print a nice hardcover book for you. 

“As we were making it, people asked if we were going to publish it. We said, ‘No, this is a personal gift for Yoko.’ We kept all commercial ideas out of the project. All of the photos were picked out for Yoko - pleasant memories, things that we did together, things she would like to have in a photo diary. She liked it so much, when I saw her at an event a month after I gave it to her, she said we should publish it. She came over again a half hour later and said, ‘I mean it. We should publish this.’ A month later, her lawyer called and said, ‘By the way, Yoko wants me to remind you that you should publish the book’. 

“It’s not always easy to find a publisher, but as things worked out, Jody knew somebody who knew somebody who knew JohnYoko1972Gruen72John & Yoko 1972 by Bob GruenJohnny Depp. He has his own publishing imprint called Infinitum Nihil. He’s done a couple books- a Hunter S. Thompson book and an unpublished Woody Guthrie book. He liked our book very much, so he brought it to HarperCollins. It just came out now since it takes awhile to go through the publishing process. The finished book is even nicer than the online version, which is kind of basic. 

“We didn’t really change the book at all. It’s pretty much what we gave Yoko. We changed the captions a little. There was nothing in the book that was a surprise for Yoko or me. They were all pictures we’d seen over the years, so I didn’t have to put very detailed captions for Yoko. For the public, we put the place, date, what was going on, who is in the picture, and so on. Jody and I both added a thank you note that Yoko sent as an introduction. People seem to like it a lot.

“There are a little over 200 pictures in the book. I first started working with John and Yoko in 1971. After John passed away in 1980, I continued working with Yoko for another thirty years. A lot of people aren’t aware of what Yoko’s been doing for those thirty years, but she’s been doing a lot. She’s been traveling around the world. She does art exhibits. She’s been raising Sean. The first quarter of the book or so is a lot of John and Yoko pictures, and then you see Sean as a baby with John and Yoko. Throughout the book, Sean grows up. 

“After John passes, there’s a period of mourning. You can see Yoko and Sean getting closer. He was five at the time- a very exuberant kid. By the end of the book, I think he’s older than John was at the beginning of the book. It really covers a long period of time. There are a lot of quotes in the book from Yoko’s interviews that are related to what’s going on in the pictures or related to her life at the time we took the pictures. It’s really a nice project, and I’m glad we can get it out to the public. 

“There were a lot of pictures in there that Yoko and I knew about, but they were never publicly published- Yoko at her art shows, pictures of her traveling, pictures at home with Sean. There may have been something here or there published in an article, but by and large, these have not been published. They were done for Yoko at the time. So it’s nice to sum it up, put it in a book, and make it public now.

“John Lennon said that Yoko Ono is the most famous unknown artist in the world. Everybody knows who she is, but nobody knows what she does. I hope this book gives a little bit of insight into what she does. There are all kinds of charity events. There’s Strawberry Fields in Central Park. There’s an event where she was speaking at the United Nations General Assembly when they performed ‘Imagine’ with about 135 countries around the world, a lot of her art shows, introducing the Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland. So it gives a lot of insight into what she’s been doing the last forty years.”

I mentioned to Bob that I saw a picture of Yoko a few months ago, and that she looks better at 82 than I do at 55. 

JohnYokoCentralPark1973Gruen72John & Yoko CentralPark 1973 by Bob Gruen“She pretty well. Since I’ve known her, she has a pretty healthy diet. She taught us about the macrobiotic diet early on. I don’t know if she strictly follows that, but she’s a very healthy eater. She gets good exercise. She’s just a healthy person. She’s more active, alert , and aware than a lot of people who are thirty years younger than her. She’s pretty amazing.”

I was curious if there were there any surprise emotions that he or Yoko encountered while working on this project.

“There were a lot of very fond memories. There was nothing really I forgot, but coming across them, it was really familiar… a lot of happy moments. My first trip to Japan in 1974 was with Yoko, and that’s covered in the book. There’s a beautiful picture- I think it’s on the back cover- of her coming off the plane. There’s a mass of photographers waiting for her, and she just descends like an angel to them. Remembering all these moments, it was fun. I’ve always had a lot of fun with Yoko.“

Then, being the true friend to Yoko that he is, Gruen shared this story:

“Somebody asked me the other day for something people don’t know about Yoko. I think it’s her sense of humor. Yoko’s got a great sense of humor, and it’s always fun to be with her. You couldn’t live with John Lennon without having a sense of humor. In her photos and in public, she always seems serious. She works with a lot of serious causes. A lot of her work is peace. A lot of it is to help feed children, to help hospitals, and to make the world a better place. Those are very serious things, so a lot of her photos look pretty serious. But, in person, she’s got a great sense of humor. She’s really fun to hang out with, so while going through the pictures, there were just a lot of happy memories.”

I shared that, to me, the picture she took of John’s glasses that he wore at the time of his death was one of the most moving photos I have ever seen. But the behind-the-scenes photo in the book of the staging of that photo that was also staggering in a symbolic way. I asked if she has indicated what is the most emotional photo for her from this collection?

“Well, that’s a pretty strong one. As are the pictures of the memorial – I think there was one shot outside of The Dakota or something with the crowd gathered. The day we took the picture of the glasses was a very difficult, very emotional day. Yoko is not afraid of strong emotions, so I was able to include that. It was a memory of something she did that was part of her life. She never shied away from any difficult times. Doing that picture was very difficult. We were both crying while we were doing it. When she took the glasses out, we both just started crying. It was such a real expression of what happened. To me, it’s horrifying when you see that picture. You see the blood on the glasses.

“At the time, over the winter, a number of people said, ‘How is Yoko? She must feel terrible. I can’t imagine.’ When you see that picture, you’re so horrified. You actually feel some of what she feels. Just a little bit. You don’t have to ask the question anymore. You kind of know how she feels. 

“That’s the thing about Yoko’s art. It doesn’t just make you think about things. It makes you feel things. She’s very good at Yoko Ono Performing 1986 by Bob GruenYoko Ono Performing 1986 by Bob Gruenthat. A lot of people don’t like being in touch with their feelings, particularly a strong, painful feeling like that. Yet she’s open to it, and she lives with that as we all should. 

“A lot of people don’t like to live with their feelings. When they see her art and react strongly to it, they get very angry. They don’t like reacting strongly to things like that. Rather than seeing that Yoko is a really great artist that made them feel something deeply, they say, ‘She’s terrible. She made me feel bad. I don’t like her.’ 

‘As I said before, Yoko is the most famous unknown artist in the world. Everybody knows who she is, but nobody knows what she does. I’ve never met anybody who has met Yoko who didn’t like her and wasn’t amazed and in awe of her. I have met a lot of people who haven’t met her, only heard about her, who think they don’t like her. That’s really kinda funny.

“When she first came out, and The Beatles were breaking up, they blamed that on her. There was also a lot of racism in England, and they just couldn’t understand why John was with this weird, crazy little artist instead of a beautiful blonde bombshell. When you meet Yoko, you’ll understand why. People ask me what kind of woman Yoko is, and I always say she’s the kind of woman that John Lennon could marry.”

“At one point, John was just getting too drunk, and Yoko couldn’t live with a complete drunk anymore. She sent him off to California, and during that time, he got so loaded. When they were together in the beginning, people would say, ‘Oh, what’s he doing with that horrible woman?’ After what they call the ‘lost weekend’ that lasted a year and a half, everyone was so happy and saying, ‘Thank God he’s back with Yoko! Isn’t that wonderful?’ 

“I noticed that these same people that used to say that they wished those two would break up were so happy when they were back together. It was just a symbol of togetherness, and he was obviously so much better off when he was back with her. He stopped drinking and carrying on. He cleaned up his life, Sean was born, and he stayed home to take care of Sean. It changed his life enormously.

And what does Yoko hope people take away from this book?

“She was willing to open up and share a lot of her private life- what her life is really like. There are a lot of private times with Sean, and there are times she’s working and appearing in different art openings. Some of it is very playful, and yet very thought- provoking. There’s a picture of Sean and Yoko sitting at a chess set. It’s one of her pieces called ‘Play By Trust’. It’s a chess game where all the pieces and all the squares are white, and she said that way you have to remember who’s on your side and who’s not. It’s much more like real life. It’s very difficult to play, and so is life. I think that’s the point she is making. I think it really shows a lot of who she is.

Yoko & Sean Playing Chess 1991 by Bob GruenYoko & Sean Playing Chess 1991 by Bob Gruen“Had I planned to make a book for the public, I probably would have included a lot more information. There are a lot of places we went and things we did that aren’t in the book, because it was just a random collection of good times for her. It wasn’t really thought out as an explanation of who Yoko is or what she does. In many ways, it was somewhat random. I have so many good pictures. It wasn’t difficult to edit because there was no pressure on me. It was just making a nice collection for Yoko, so I didn’t really have to tell a story as I would have had I been planning on making it for the public. It does tell a story, because there were so many pictures, so many places, so many different things that we did.

“At the beginning, there’s a lot of John and Yoko where you can see that they’re a team. But when he’s gone, you can see she’s in a period of mourning. She comes out of it with the help of Sean. You can see what an exuberant kid he is. There are a couple great pictures of him. Some of my favorite pictures in the book are actually the two pictures of Sean playing. You can see how that relationship starts developing. She kinda comes back to life, and she starts getting more active. Now days, she’s more busy than she’s ever been. At 82, she has not slowed down. If anything, she’s speeding up. She’s constantly traveling around the world, constantly appearing at places. She has new exhibits, retrospective exhibits of her John and Yoko period, and countless charities that she works for.”

Gruen said this about the audience’s reception of the book:

“We’ve been receiving a lot of compliments saying it’s beautiful. It’s insightful and really interesting to see these things that were so much behind-the-scenes, to see a collection of so many different things that people didn’t know Yoko was doing. Yoko likes it very much. At her birthday party this February, she had a small party of about thirty people. As a takeaway gift, she gave everybody a copy of the book. At a Beatles fan event last weekend, she gave them six copies of the book to auction for charities. She’s supporting it. We’re doing a book signing together next month, actually, at the Marc Jacobs bookstore on Bleecker Street in New York. She’s not doing any interviews, because she’s got her own projects going. 

In support of his dear friends projects, Bob says of them, “In May, she’s got a big retrospective of her work opening at the Museum of Modern Art here in New York. It’s a very big deal that they’ve finally come around and accepted her.  Luckily, she’s alive to appreciate it.  A lot of artists don’t get that until long after they’re gone. Like I said, she’s a powerhouse- nonstop coming up with new ideas, old ideas, and a lot of charities.”

As he alluded to earlier, Bob said that Yoko is viewed by some as a controversial figure. I asked him if he thought this book will help clear up misunderstandings about her and soften her critics view of her.

“I hope so. A lot of the critics don’t know her, and a lot either haven’t even seen her art or are afraid of it. A friend of mine was someone who really didn’t like Yoko, because she had ‘broken up The Beatles’. That was her opinion. As I got friendlier and friendlier with Yoko, my friend just couldn’t understand it. 

“Then Yoko had a retrospective of her art at the Japan Center here in New York. My friend went and came out saying, ‘I didn’t realize Yoko had such a sense of humor or how deep and interesting she was’. It completely changed her mind when she actually saw what Yoko did. 

“All of the Beatles have said that Yoko had nothing to do with their breaking up. It was just more convenient to blame her instead of blaming The Beatles themselves. I was with John Lennon once in Central Park, and some guy yelled out, ‘Hey, John, when are you going to get The Beatles back together?’ He yelled back, ‘When are you going to go back to high school?’ There is a time and place for everything, and they had their time and place. 

To help shed a John and Yoko’s relationship in a little bit different light and from a different perspective, Bob said, “Some people say that meeting John Lennon was one of the worst things that happened to Yoko, because she was a rising star in the avant garde art world which is very respected by many people and unknown to most people. Yoko doesn’t sing like Frank Sinatra, but Ornette Coleman doesn’t play the trumpet like Herb Alpert. Ornette Coleman is friends with Yoko, and they actually did some shows together. 

“When John met her, Yoko had her own one person exhibition. For a female artist, even now, to have a one person show is Yoko Ono 1982 by Bob GruenYoko Ono 1982 by Bob Gruenunusual. In the sixties, it was unheard of. Yet Yoko had her own exhibit, and that’s where John met her. She was doing fine on her own. In fact, she was doing very well. She was excelling- becoming quite well-known, understood, and appreciated in the avant garde world. Then she met John, and she all of the sudden was thrust onto this world stage in front of people who like pop music which had nothing to do with her life. They all started criticizing her without even knowing what she did.

“From my point of view, I’ve actually always liked Yoko and what John and Yoko did. I’m one of the few people, I think, who heard about Yoko before I heard about The Beatles. I remember, the summer before The Beatles came here, I was reading a story in a magazine about a Japanese woman who had a loft on Canal Street. You could pay five dollars to go into the loft, and it was full of large bags. You could actually get inside one of these large bags with somebody and, to use a hippie expression, do your thing which basically meant anything you wanted to do. Or you could go in the loft, not get in the bag, and wonder what the people in the bags were doing. I thought that was about the weirdest thing I had ever heard of called art. It struck me as really funny and weird, and I wished I was old enough to go to the city and go the exhibit. Actually, I think I was old enough, but I think by the time I was reading about it, it had already happened. 

“A few years later, there was this weird little Japanese woman with John Lennon, and they were sitting inside these bags. I thought, ‘Well, there can’t be two people like that’. The things they started to do- first, it was appearing in bags and saying who they are doesn’t matter. What they are saying matters, because all they were saying is they wanted peace on earth and an end to war. Then they sent an acorn to the leaders of every country in the world, and they asked them to plant the acorns so the world could grow together in peace. 

“When they were trying to plan their honeymoon, and the more they tried to think of a secret place, the more they realized the press would hound them no matter where they went. The more secret they are, the more the press would try to find them. Yoko suggested they turn it around, and they invited everybody in the world to come in and see them on their honeymoon in their marital bed, which was what the press wanted most. So they said, ‘Come on in and look’, and they put the word ‘peace’ behind them knowing that everyone who took a picture was going to print it on the front page of the newspaper. That way every newspaper in the world would say the word ‘peace’. How can you hate somebody who does that?”

I shared with Bob that I had met Ringo recently and that it was striking to me the peaceful and loving way he treated the band and how they treated each other and fans. 

“Peace and working for peace is a part of everyday life, all day every day. There were bodyguards/tour managers named Patty and JC Callaghan. JC, for many years, was the head of security for the Rolling Stones and The Who. When you’re head of security for a band like the Rolling Stones and The Who, you have to deal with a lot of very macho characters, so the Callaghans were pretty tough brothers. Yoko hired them to be the tour managers for when we went to Europe around ’84 or ’85. JC would ordinarily just take kids and toss them out the door when they tried to come in the wrong way or something. In this case, he would say, ‘Peace and love, please stay outside’. It even affected the way they were dealing with these people trying to sneak in. When I saw JC saying ‘peace and love’… that was kinda unusual.”

Are there any plans for a follow up to this book?

“There aren’t any plans, no. But now that I’m getting familiar with the book and looking at it as more than just a gift for Yoko, I realize there is a much bigger story I could have told. In the future, I might be doing more. I’ve got a lot more books in me, that’s for sure.”

With regards to what he’s working on now, Gruen shared, “I have several projects. I have an exhibit coming up in Helsinki at the end of May. I have an exhibit that will be in Liverpool at the end of August. I have two books being re-issued this year. Ten years ago, I put out a book called ‘John Lennon: The New York Years,’ which is being updated and revised with some new pages and new cover. That will be reprinted for John’s 75th birthday in the fall. 

“About fifteen years ago, I made a book with all my pictures of The Clash. It’s been out of print for a number of years, and that’s being reissued by Music Sales Omnibus

in London. It’s an edition of 1250, and it’s got a box flip case with a limited edition signed print in each book. That’s coming out in about a month when I finish signing all the prints. Those are the major projects right now. I’m also working on a proposal for a biography.”

Bob then graciously answered a couple of questions offered by Boomerocity readers. The first asked if he had ever been put in an embarrassing situation while on a shoot. 

“Not offhand. I’m not easily embarrassed, and I kinda take things as they come.”

The second question wondered if he had ever fallen or injured yourself while shooting photographs.

“I do remember one time I got hurt. It still affects me a little bit. I was onstage with the New York Dolls in Japan, and I went to jump off the side of the stage. There was

a 5’ plastic pillow in front of the stage, and there was gravel around it. I was going to jump on that and step off, but my foot got caught. Instead of stepping off, I fell right on my knee on the gravel. But I haven’t been seriously hurt, luckily. God knows why not, because I’ve certainly been in a lot of horrific situations and total chaos in front of stages. I’ve seen other people close to me get hurt falling off chairs or getting banged around in the crowd. I haven’t broken anything, and I hope I don’t. 

“I’m still in some of those chaotic situations on occasion. I don’t photograph like I used to. I don’t go to every show that I can, and I don’t photograph four shows a night. The media has changed so much that everybody is taking their own pictures. I used to take pictures at the show then go home and develop the film. You make some prints, and a couple days later you send them to magazines. A week or a month later, they would print them, and it would be news. Now everyone takes cell phone pictures and uploads them so quickly that, before the first song is over, there are pictures around the world. I don’t really try to compete with that. Luckily, I have enough old pictures that can’t be reproduced that I make a living on those.”

As we wound up our chat, Mr. Gruen updated me on the coming changes to his website, BobGruen.com.

" allowtransparency="no" width="120" height="240">“I launched the website in 2000, and by 2001, people were telling me I needed to revise and update it. We have finally revised and updated it, and in a couple weeks, we’re going to launch the new website. It’s going to have a search feature which was glaringly missing all these years. I have two major sections of the website- one relates to all the files from the past, and the other is what I call 'The Photo of the Day,' which is all the current work I still do. I still do take pictures. I go out pretty regularly. I don’t do it with the intensity I used to, but I still go our four or five nights a week to take pictures. I post them in 'Photo of the Day' which has turned out to be photo of the season since I only update it every three or four months. All those photos will be searchable now. It’s not online yet, but we’ve had what is hopefully our last meeting with our webmaster and should have the final glitches touched up in a week or two.”

Glitches or not, Bob Gruen’s work is still exciting and captivating. He’s one of the few photographers that Boomerocity is intrigued by and anxiously looks forward to seeing what’s new from. 

John would be as proud as Yoko is.

Note: Please do keep up with Bob Gruen’s work and activities at BobGruen.com where you can also purchase his work. You can also order and/or download “See Hear Yoko,” by clicking on the widget above right.

You can also read our first interview with Bob on Boomerocity (here) or on Yoko's website, ImaginePeace.com (here).

Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal Talks About "Little Brother Is Watching"

April, 2015

Bumblefoot CroppedI’ve been fortunate to have the privilege of having interviewed lots of artists from lots of different genres – from Americana to Alternative and everything in between. After I interviewed Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal from Guns N’ Roses a couple of years ago, I had come to the conclusion afterwards that he had to be one of the nicest and most genuine artists I’ve ever met from any genre.

I can honestly say that, after this interview, my opinion of the man has grown exponentially. Kind, polite, informative and considerate, one might think that he has a Jekyll and Hyde personality when one sees the mad guitarist persona during a GNR show. 

Not so.

What you see on stage is a man who is intensely driven and passionate about his craft; a man who throws two hundred percent of himself into anything he does.

When I called Ron recently at his home in the Northeast, it was to talk about his new CD, “Little Brother Is Watching.” Before we drilled into that subject, though, I asked him how his venture into the hot sauce business was coming along and what the latest was with his charity work.

“Going great! It’s spreading to all parts of the world, and I have distro from Dubai to all different places. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a whole other little subculture- the hot sauce subculture. It’s funny how similar it is to music, just a different passion. You find that when people are passionate about something, it doesn’t matter what it is. It’s people that are passionate about something. At all these food festivals, you see familiar faces, and we’re just enjoying what we enjoy.”

When I mentioned that I spotted a couple items from his hot sauce product line at a local hot sauce specialty store here in East Tennessee, he said, “I’m glad to know they were there. You know, the distributors have to want to buy it from the manufacturer. The retailers have to want to buy it from the distributor and put it on the shelves. A lot of people have to really want it before people come in and see it.”

As for the latest in his charity work, Ron shared, “I just came back from Pattaya, Thailand. I headlined the big bike festival- it’s like Sturgis. It was three days of doing gigs, and the guys that run the whole event have been doing it for eighteen years. They have a children’s charity, Jesters Care for Kids, that provides care for disabled kids, orphans, any kid in need. They help with their education, getting food in their stomachs, and clothes on their backs. 

“We did all these events there, which raised $163,000. In Thailand, the dollar is worth a good chunk of change, so this is really going to make a huge difference in a lot of lives. I want to come back next year, and see if I can bring some more international artists into it. I was the first international artist they ever had, and it doubled the attendance of the event. I want to see if I can help them step it up even more and keep trying to make a difference.

“After that, I came home, released the album, and ran out for the UK. I just got back from that two days ago. Out there, I worked with an organization called 7Cs based out of the town of Witney in Oxford. It supports kids in music, and it gives them a creative world to work in.”

Segueing to the subject of the new CD, I asked if I was correct that this was his tenth solo project and to tell me a little bit about the album. 

“Yea, it is, not including all the collaborations and producing and everything else. With all of that, I’ve done probably a hundred albums. In 2004, I was working on twelve albums at once. That was a tough one, but I tend to do that. I work until I practically collapse, then I pull back just a hair. It’s not healthy, and I shouldn’t do that. But honestly, I love what I do so much to the point that if it’s going to kill me, what better way to go?”

I asked how has this album been different for him from the others, to which he said, “For this one, I forced myself to write Bumblefoot001while I was touring. For me, I always had to choose between touring and writing, because they’re just two different mindsets. You exist for two different reasons, and I always found it hard to flip the switch. When you’re on tour, you are there for everybody else. Your time belongs to the fans, and I would always try to give every minute I could. That’s not something you can just quickly shut off. I couldn’t just shut it off, go into the hotel room, and start writing a song. I always need a minute, sort of, to decompress and reboot. I’d get that going and build momentum. I would never get a chance to do that on tour. I’d been doing so much touring over the last year that I’ve just not been writing.

“Finally, I just forced myself. It felt like driving with your foot slammed on the gas and your foot slammed on the brake at the same time. But it needed to be done, and I think good stuff came out of it. I was really able to tap into everything I wanted to say and do. Compared to other albums, it really seemed that there was a more direct line - the connection, the root, the little line from your insides to your outsides - was very uninterrupted. Exactly what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it freely flowed. It worked out well.

“I’m happy with the album. I’m happy with the way I sang what I wanted to sing, the way I wanted to tell whatever story I wanted to tell. I had more room, and I left myself more space for melody and production. I just let the song come through, so it didn’t get overshadowed with a fancy guitar riff. With the technical guitar stuff, it’s almost like a very strong spice. A little goes a long way. Even if you don’t do it that often, it just jumps out. It can overshadow all the other flavors. I pulled back a little bit. Those moments are there, but I found a better balance between the melody and any technical stuff. I think it helps the song come through more. “

I mentioned that I thought this project seems to be a very complex, intricate album with an almost rock opera feel to it. Was that his intent?

“I think it does sound like that. You can hear plenty of influences that are easy to point out from Queen to George Harrison to David Bowie. You’ll always hear classic rock and a little bit of old punk, a little bit of old metal. That’s just what’s in my blood, and it ain’t coming out. 

“It’s not that I had the intent of, ‘I want the album to sound like this’. I just wrote the songs and thought, ‘I’m going to sing them the way I feel comfortable singing, and play the way I feel comfortable playing’. Most of the melodies and most of the ideas were from the one take scratch track that I made just to demo the songs when we were laying the drum tracks. Afterwards, I said, ‘You know what? These are very honest ideas that aren’t over thought. I’m just going to go with a lot of these and not change something that feels right.’

“A lot of the melodies that were going on, like at the end of the song ‘Argentina’ where they are sort of dancing around the vocal lines, was all spontaneous stuff. I think it was the right thing for the song. I didn’t over think it or preplan very much. I wrote the song, recorded it, and just let it come out the way it was going to come out.”

Ron’s answer to my question of if there was a song from the album that he would point to as the calling card for the entire album, he offered, “I would go with ‘Don’t Know Who To Pray To Anymore’. It shows the guitar playing, song writing, and singing. I don’t know if it’s the definitive song that someone could listen to and get an idea of what everything sounds like on the album. But, to me, that’s the one that something about it resonates. It’s about something we’ve all felt when we’ve all felt challenged and tested to the point that you really question, ‘what is good? Is it a real thing?’ When you’re left angry, and you know you need to get past that anger, but you’re just not over it yet. You tell yourself, ‘I know that things are okay, but I’m just not healed yet. I’ll probably get there someday, but I won’t let myself. I feel like I need to punish God by denying the faith I had, because I feel betrayed myself.’ I think we’ve all been in that place at one point.”

In sharing what the response to “Little Brother Is Watching,” Thal said, “So far, I think the people who would like it are liking it. The haters are gonna hate; the lovers are gonna love. I hope that people like it. All you can do is just put it out there, and the world will decide.”

I knew that fans would want to know if Bumblefoot would be touring in support of the album, so I asked him.

“I’m not doing a tour yet. I want to let people know it exists and let them get to know the music a little more. Put out some videos, do some things to just let people get familiar with the music. Then I’ll book a tour and see where people want me (and where they don’t). I want to book the right kind of tour. I don’t want to rush into it and go out there without a plan, playing everywhere and torturing my band. ‘Alright, we’re doing a 100 dates where people don’t even know who we are!’ I want to have a good plan so that the people who would want to see me get to see me.”

I’d heard some rumblings about another project that Ron was reportedly working on called, “The Art of Anarchy,” so I asked him about it. 

Bumblefoot003“That’s an interesting one. We started in 2011 with Jon and Vince, the guitarist and drummer, who are twin brothers. They started the whole idea of it. They were musicians in bands I’d been producing for the last eighteen years, and they wanted to make a very special album. They wanted to make a super group. Really, they wanted to start a music company, and the first thing they were going to put out is this super group album. They came into the studio and laid their parts. I laid my parts. [John] Moyer came in and spent three days hanging out playing his stuff. Then Scott joined. He recorded at his own place; at his own pace, just did his thing. He came up with some very interesting stuff… things I never would have thought of for these songs. 

“That’s what’s great about it. When you’re collaborating and creating something with different people, they’re all going to bring something you never would have thought of. It makes it very special. He added fantastic vocal melodies to a lot of the songs. Moyer had great bass lines. Everything he does is great. It’s an interesting rock record. Century Media is releasing it June 2nd in the US, June 8th non-US. I hope people like it. I think people who have not heard Scott doing heavier stuff for a while will enjoy hearing him in this. A lot of the music sounds like old Metallica or Disturbed with a lot of dynamic changes musically. It goes from heavy, double bass metal riffs to nylon string acoustic solos.”

Just as with “Little Brother,” I asked Thal if there are any touring plans for that album or will he approach it the same way he is for his solo album.

“That’s pretty much the plan. Just letting people know the music exists, and let them share the music we made together. If there is a demand for touring, we’re going to cross that bridge and figure out what we need to do.”

Bumblefoot also revealed what is on his radar for the next year.

“I have a whole bunch of things coming up and a lot of blanks getting filled in between. Besides the eventual Little Brother Is Watching tour, I’m going to be doing a two-month guitar festival tour throughout France. All the big Le Zenith arenas, a couple thousand people. That’s going to be a nice one. It’s called ‘Autour De La Guitare.’ That’s going to be October/November.”

 (Note: visit http://www.autourdelaguitare.com/ as well as http://www.facebook.com/adlg2015 for more information)

“I’m going to continue working with all the U.S. embassies on cultural events. I’m going to do a couple days at SXSW. At the end of the month, I have Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp in Vegas. We’ll be doing it with Glenn Hughes, Michael Schenker, Bill Ward, Rudy Sarzo, and Brian Tichy. That’s going to be a fun one. Then I’m going to be acting in a horror movie called Clean Cut which we’ll be shooting in early April.

“I’ve got to finish up the video of ‘Little Brother Is Watching’ and start thinking about the next video. Then I head out to Asia to do some stuff. It’s looking like, tentatively, we’re doing Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, and Brunei. I have to run back in time to do a USO benefit in New York on May 1st. I think that’s it- at least, all that my brain can remember. Oh, littlebrotheriswatchingcoverand all the producing. We shot two great videos for the Art of Anarchy stuff, so we’ll roll those out with singles and then the album. 

“Right now, I’m finishing up two more songs with DMC and Generation Kill. They’re all going to a metal show today to film, but I have to stay behind to take care of mixes and get everything on schedule. We’ll get the first song on iTunes by Saturday, hopefully. Darryl McDaniels from Run-D.M.C. is on vocals with the band Generation Kill which is great stuff. You’ve got Rob Moschetti from Pro-Pain and Rob Dukes from Exodus, a real cool metal band. They have this rap/metal collaboration that they’re doing. I’m producing, mixing, and adding some guitar to it. I’m sort of like the sixth member. We have one song called ‘Lot Lizard’ that we’re going to be putting out on Saturday to coincide with D.M.C. airing ‘That Metal Show’ episode. We’re working on another song called ‘Fired Up’ which will be on DMC’s solo record. It’s going to a very musical year.”

With all that’s going on in Bumblefoot’s world, there’s a very good chance that you’ll be able to see him in person somewhere on this beautiful planet of ours. To make sure that you have his latest news and itinerary or to purchase merchandise like “Little Brother Is Watching” or some of Ron’s scorching hot sauce, visit www.bumblefoot.com