Paul Ludenia (2014)

Posted June, 2014

paulludenia2014Photo by DE AngleAs I write for Boomerocity, it’s not an unusual occurrence to receive unsolicited CDs in the mail for me to review. Since I only write positive reviews, if I don’t like what I hear in those CDs, I just won’t write about them. I figure there’s enough negativity in the world that I don’t need to add to it.

Since that time, we’ve become good friends. He’s even been a tremendous help in the new look of the Boomerocity website through his business, Imagine Images. I also take every chance I get to plug his appearances in the Phoenix area, hopefully making friends and readers aware of the amazing talent he possess.Paul lives, eats and breathes music. He started his music career in Minnesota because, by his own admission, to attract girls. When I called him up for this interview, I asked him how that worked out for him.

As Ludenia’s musical skills improved, he and his bands opened for ever more popular artists and performing before ever larger crowds.“We had a bunch of great shows as far as out of town things go. For about eight years of my first twelve years in music I was pretty much on the road 200 to 250 days a year doing week long stays all over the upper Midwest – maybe to as far as Montana and as far down as Nebraska. That’s what we would do. We’d hit every town in a van and our production truck would follow us. We’d get there on a Sunday or Monday and then play Tuesday through Saturday.

“So, I remember little things like that but, of course, looking out at a sea of people was always a pretty amazing thing to be able to touch that many people at once. Always amazing!”

Paul paid his dues by playing in lots of different bands and in lots of different kinds of venues.  He ultimately took a detour in order to provide for his lovely bride and pursued entrepreneurship.  I asked Paul if he thought he was out of music for good when he made that decision.

“So, yes, I did stop music, planning not to play anymore. That was it. I was going to go down this graphics design path which I had already done for the band for years – all my bands. I made the logos and did all the things that graphic design was and I’m, like, ‘Oh! That’s a career! Okay!’ So I fell into that and it came so easy and financially fruitful that it was just an easy choice. I’m, like, ‘Okay. I’m done with that (music). We’re going to move on and do this (graphic design).

“I remember going to Best Buy every week to buy the latest CDs – as much as I could afford, I would buy.  I always dreamed of having a job like yours, Randy, where people would send me music and I would get to peruse it and enjoy it. I just want everything. I want to hear everything.

No that the small venue scene can be very inconsistent, I have observed that Paul is always booked on prime nights in very good venues in the Phoenix area and enjoys a loyal following. I asked him how that was working out for him.“I think that I can harken back to my quitting music and doing my business for ten years. I got to learn business – true business. Music can be a real hot mess as far as business goes. It can get kinda lawless out there. People sayin’ just whatever. Being in business, you’ve gotta put up or get out of the way. Just like with you and everyone else, people want their stuff done. It’s going to cost a certain amount. You’ve got to keep a good reputation. If you don’t, it’s going to spiral down and you’re not going to have a business and then what do you have?

“So, I started there and I thought, ‘Well, at least they can’t fire me because I’m being late or anything like that.’ Then, I just kept doing my thing. What I would do is listen to the people. When they told me this is the cover they want me to play or, ‘this is the original song I want you to play’, they go on my list of songs and that would be my song list for guests to choose from – like a human jukebox. I didn’t pick my list of now over two hundred songs – everything from rap to country to metal to rock – anything - they picked them. I think that’s a big thing.

“So, I’m kind of different that way, in that, I like all of the different genres. I like to play them all. I like to shock people when I play Michael Jackson right after playing Stone Temple Pilots. You’d be surprised how many people like that variety – that sort of, ‘Let’s celebrate music’ instead of, ‘Let’s celebrate seventies hard rock’ or something like that. It’s too small of an audience. That’s what I do. I let it all out there, let them decide the songs. I play for them and I tend to get a following because of it and I hope one of the reasons people come out to my shows, whether solo, duo, trios or full rock band, that we’re so positive, trying to be nice to each other and create an environment of no stress. We’re just entertaining, getting your mind off of the craziness out there. We don’t want to add to that. We want to take that away.”I asked Paul if he found that, when he goes from Phoenix area venues like Murphy’s Law or Sages, that he does have a following that he sees at all of the places he plays.

When I asked Paul just how well does music and his business, Imagine Images Design " width="240" height="120" allowtransparency="no">Studios, coexists for him, personally, he said, “I’m not sure there are many other avenues I could take to have that sort of double business. I’ve heard some guys do real estate sales because of the flex hours and that kind of thing.  But the one thing that I get that helps so much is everything I do in my business transposes over to my band and my music.

“That was the goal. I got those songs recorded and all it did was fuel me to want to do the next thing and keep writing. One thing led to another to where I am today. I still take lessons and try to get better. I’m never happy with the final output. I want better. How can I make it my best? I don’t even know if I’m going at it for people’s approval or just my own, to be honest, because I feel that I’m definitely my own worst critic.  But, then, this album has been interesting in that I’ve been able to – with “Karma Come”.

“So, with “Karma Come”, it’s been eye-opening as to how powerful music is and what you can actually do to get people behind a good cause. In this case, making folks aware, in hopes of reducing, Intimate Partner Violence.

“So, just to go from a guy who’s out of music – doesn’t play anymore and is just doing graphic design and to think how that has morphed to become what it is today. I just could’ve never imagined it. I really couldn’t. Even talking about it right now I’m like, ‘Wow!’ It blows me away!”

“It reminded of the first one in the sense that it is just me, for the most part. By now, I kinda ‘got it’. I’m less worried about how I manipulate the tools and more about the focus on the song and writing itself. It felt easier, this time, to be able to accomplish what I’m thinking. I think it has a lot to do with doing it myself. The second album, “Twenty Ten Again”, I spent three months with a guy – he was doing all the tracking. He had the computer and the software and knew how to use it. I gave him a bunch of money and we got about three months in and he stopped. I didn’t get any of the files. I didn’t get my money back. I had to start all over. I ended up doing that one by myself but it was the third time I had recorded that album. It was the worst experience but it’s led me to do things on my own. I don’t need that kind of help anymore and that’s pretty powerful!

In response to my question as to how long BOOM! took for him to record, he said, “I’m going to say about six months. You can listen to, ‘Life Got In The Way’, for an explanation about that because I could’ve definitely done it sooner but life gets in the way and I physically don’t have time to go into my studio and write/record sometimes. Again, it was easy. I had a bunch of songs to pull from and it was just a matter of picking which ones I wanted to finish up. But six months was about it.”

“Maggie is the lady’s name. She is a fifty year old, super kind-hearted lady and successful in business but she always struggled – as many do – with love. From what Maggie tells me, she just hasn’t had it true love before. When you’re out in the bars as much as I am, you see a lot of that and how people are so desperate for love. I’m very lucky that I’ve had that my whole life but I can imagine how tough it could be.

“I can’t even tell you now the pain that I felt immediately. I texted my wife, ‘Can you go on Facebook and make sure that I’m reading this right? Is this what really happened?’ Sure enough, it did! She (Maggie) came back with some broken bones and a bruised face and body but was thankful to be alive. She didn’t think that she was going to make it. He ran off and she came back to town with the kids right away and they were trying to find him. While that was going on, I wrote a song to him. That’s what the song is about. It was my feelings of ‘How could you do this? How could you be in love and do this?’ But also, ‘How could you shake my hand and then use that hand to beat her?’ I just wanted to take back all that love I had given him because he didn’t deserve it. Anyone who would do that is not worthy. This song is really about my feelings and about how I feel towards him. I think “Who cares about what I feel towards him?” because that’s not the point at all but that was my emotion coming out and is why I wrote the song. She tells me that she looks to this song for guidance and strength. I could’ve never imagined that that song would’ve affected anyone that way, much less my friend, Maggie.”

“I’m going to keep pressing and doing what I do. I like the old days when the bands would pump out an album about every year, if they can do it. I want to be that guy. I would also like to get a little more into helping others write. I’ve helped some others and it’s really gratifying. But I’m just going to keep pressing, doing what I do. I would like to make enough waves that maybe someday a label would come calling but, at the same time, be strong enough to say, ‘You know, I don’t know if I need you guys’. That might be the best route. It might not be the most fruitful but it might be. I don’t know.”

Steve Lukather (2014)

Posted June, 2014

SteveLukather DarekKawka 1216.2 Photo by Darek KawkaThe sign of a great, vibrant classic rock band is when they continue to draw loyal crowds and crank out albums and DVDs.  One such band is Toto.  Still alive and well, the boys in the band recently released a live CD and concert DVD entitled, “Toto 35th Anniversary Tour: Live In Poland”. With a reported 35 million albums already sold, this double-barreled offering is sure to substantially add to those numbers.

When word went out that the anniversary set was going to come out, Boomerocity had the opportunity to interview the band’s guitarist and founding member, Steve Lukather. I last interviewed Luke in January of last year. Since that chat, he has toured heavily to support his solo album, “Transition”, toured with Ringo Starr and, of course, was neck deep in Toto’s 35th anniversary tour.

What does he do with all that spare time?

Anyway, I caught up with Luke by phone at his California home one recent morning. After chatting about his frenetic schedule over the past sixteen months, I asked him what he’s up to these days.

“Well, I’m pretty much doing exactly all of that – just more of the same. I begin with Ringo June 1st and I’m back in the studio finishing a new Toto album that will be out in March of next year.  Toto and Michael McDonald are going on the road in August and September.”

I asked Steve what the response to the set has been so far.

“It’s number one around the world – number two in the UK. We haven’t charted in the UK in thirty years!  Number one all over Europe and it’s just come out in the U.S. We’re getting the best reviews of our career and there was no hype to it. We’re all, like, shaking heads and going, ‘What the . . .?’ in a very positive way.

“We’re getting these numbers from our new manager and it’s like all of a sudden out of nowhere – a gift from God! For real! The thing is waling! When you see that we’re knocking Metallica, Bob Dylan and Springsteen off the charts – even that little Justin Beiber – we’re, like, ‘Where did this come from, man?’, because we didn’t do any pre-hype. As a matter of fact, we rather underplayed it. We were just going to see how it goes. 

“Everybody – Eagle Rock, our DVD company – everybody’s going, ‘You can’t buy this kind of response!”. The reviews are five star reviews – for us, collectively, the most hated band in rock music? We’re kind of all laughing. Henley was right. He told me in 1980, ‘If you hang in there long enough, they’ll change their minds.’ Eagles and Led Zeppelin, they survived – not to compare us to them or anything. I only mean in terms of longevity. We’re looking at almost 40 years”.

I commented to Luke that I was struck by how tight the band is during their jams on the DVD.  He said, “We wanted to leave some of the jam bits in. We showed the other side of what we really are. Obviously, the hits are in there for obvious reasons but we wanted to show a little bit more of what we’re really all about – at least the 2014 version, anyway, andTOTODarekKawka Photo by Darek Kawkawe were able to do that and to show that we have a large audience around the world. A lot of people in the U.S. think that we died in 1985 because we had a record company who didn’t release our record for ten years. We had management get us out of that deal but, to the fans, it’s almost like we’re starting over again and here we are in our thirty-eighth year since the first album was recorded and now all of a sudden we’re number one around the world. It’s crazy! I’m on my knees, looking up at the sky and going, ‘Thank you, Lord, for this blessing!’ And because we’re not a band who is on that summer circuit as the same eight bands who put themselves together and go on the road, we’re kind of fresh meat, you know?”

Lukather then adds, “We’re really aiming at the U.S.A. market again. With our new management and our new agents, our new DVD and the band being where it’s at right now, mentally and physically, I think we can do it. Now there’s this real, organic buzz! It couldn’t be better!”

Of all the places around the globe that Toto could choose to record a concert, I asked Steve what drove the decision to record live in Poland.

“Well, we were going to do it in France but we had already done it in France. Then we were going to do it in Amsterdam but we’d already done it in Amsterdam. So we said, ‘Let’s do it some place where the crowds are going to be wild but we haven’t recorded there yet’ We felt recording live in Poland was a fresh thing – Eastern European, you know? Also, the venues are friendly from a technical aspect. It all organically fell into place.”

When I asked Steve how the crowds in Poland are today compared to when Toto first toured there, he replied, “They keep getting bigger!  That’s the thing: now we’re getting second and third generation people and families coming to the shows. Now we sell four tickets instead of one.  We’re a classic rock band. I embrace that title. There’s not that many of us left. I know that’s a broad stroke – a broad term. We are what we are. We’re just in that era, you know what I mean? And we’re a lot more rock than people think we are. I think the DVD shows that side and certainly when you come see us live we show that side.

“But, we can play ballads. We can play funk. We can play fusion and world music. We can play it. We’re good musicians. People don’t show up to see what outfit I’m wearing. They want to hear good playing.”

When I asked Luke how is touring, in general, different for him now than in the beginning, he replied with a laugh, “Yeah, man, we travel well. We’re not twenty years old anymore. We spend our money on comfort rather than partying, you know what I mean?  And I’ve been spoiled when I go on the Ringo tours – it’s a whole ‘nother level. Private jets and all that stuff. I love that!”

Then, becoming humorously more reflective, he adds, “Our personalities are what they are and we accept each other for our personality flaws and we all have them, including me – especially me. I’m the loud mouth mother and it gets me in trouble all the time. I speak my mind. Now I’m an old guy. I’ve got the experience and if you ask my opinion, I’m going to give it whether they like it or not. There it is. I just laid it out for you.”

“I rest. I rest a lot. And I practice. I have hobbies and stuff I’m interested in reading about. I’m fascinated with antiquity. I love all that alien stuff. I’m like, “Hmmm, what’s out there?’ I just have fun with it all, you know? I like to exercise. Some nights I like to sit out by the pool and chill. I read voraciously and by the time you think about it, you’re off to the gig!”

The band has undergone some personnel changes that have been kind of hard to stay on top of so I asked Steve what the band line-up is looking like at the moment.

“The line-up for the band at this point is myself, David Paich, Steve Porcaro and Joseph Williams. Then we have Keith Carlock who has joined the band on drums. He played with Steely Dan, Clapton, John Mayer and Sting. He’s one of the baddest guys out there. When we asked him to join the band, he was already committed to do this last Steely Dan tour which coincides with our U.S. tour in August and September of this  year. He’s played on the whole album and he’s going to be back with us next year.

“And, then, we have Shannon Forrest playing drums, who is like the number one Nashville guy who was very close to getting the gig, himself. He’s an old friend, as well.  So, that’s going to work out for the summer. Next year? Keith comes back and we’ll see about everybody else – we’ll see who’s going to be playing bass. That’s pretty much where we’re at right now.”

“The sad news is that there’s no happy ending to this for anyone – whoever gets it. I think the awareness is how you get this and how you treat it and maybe slow it down. In time, maybe you don’t want it to slow down, you know? It’s really the worst prison confinement you can know – to be trapped in your own body. That’s really, truthfully, an awful way to go.

“I didn’t know people with ALS when I was a kid. It’s kinda prevalent (now), you know? Autism. My youngest son is autistic. But, you know what? He’s not that bad. There’s a lot of spectrums. He’s easy on the spectrum but there’s a few ticks, you know?

After discussing such a heavy subject, I shifted gears in my questioning by asking Steve some questions submitted by some of your readers.  The first question centered on a guitar Luke is seen playing on the Toto’s new concert DVD, “Toto 35th Anniversary: Live In Poland”. At a glance, the guitar looks like it has caricatures of the famous “Rat Pack” painted on it and one of you readers wanted to know what the story was on it. Before I could even finish my question, Luke started laughing that laugh of his.

Another question from Boomerocity readers asked what the wrist-band he wears onstage represents.

Another reader asked Luke: With the great catalog of Toto music, is there a favorite song or period in time when he felt like, "Yeah. This how I want it to be..."?

“You know, I think each era – it’s like looking at a scrapbook of your life. I mean, some of the stuff has held up well and some of it is like, ‘Ooo, that lyric is really bad’ or that production is really dated. But all of it warms my heart. It’s like looking at old pictures. ‘Oh, look at that silly outfit I was wearing. What was I thinking?’

“I think the music’s good. I think the band played well. I think there was some weirder stuff that we experimented with. But like any band with a long history, there’s always a few interesting ‘WTF’ moments. But, overall, I think I’m pretty proud of the work that we put out.”

TotoEndDarekKawka Photo by Darek KawkaUp and coming artist, Ned Evett, asked, "Through a time rift you bump into yourself at 17, demoing a Strat at Guitar Center. What advice do you give yourself?"

“Oh! Don’t ever do drugs! Not that I was ever a junkie or anything like that but there was a lot of wasted time and effort during that whole late seventies/early eighties period where everybody thought that they had to bury themselves into a pile of powder to get things done. That was a big lie.

“Also, it would be, like, ‘Don’t trust your accountant!’ I got burned really bad as a kid. You get new money. They see you coming – a teenager with all this bread and you’re just stupidly spending it. So, I would’ve said, ‘Watch the bread! Stay away from the powder!’ would have been my advice. Stay healthy!

“In the eighties, everybody got high on blow and did stupid things. As a teenager in the studios you’re going, ‘What’s that? I’m really tired. I need to get some coffee.’ And they said, ‘Go ahead, kid, it’s better than coffee and not addictive’ so I naively bought that for a while . . . we all did! I never got that deep in. Booze was my poison and I stopped many years ago along with smoking and any toxic shit.”

Bringing the subject even closer to home, Luke said, “My older children, they managed to avoid all the pitfalls of all that, thankfully. And my other kids, the jury’s out. God know what they’re going to have to deal with. There’s really awful stuff out there now. It’s really pretty scary. Because I don’t smoke or drink or take anything at all anymore, I will be able to say to my children, ‘Look, you really don’t need to do that, do you? Look around. It never ends well unless you get out of it.’”

As our time drew to a close, I asked Steve about the new Toto studio album he mentioned in passing earlier in our chat.

“That will be out in March, 2015 with a world tour to follow. We’re really excited about the record. It’s really good. We’re really diggin’ it! We’re not trying to be trendy. We’re trying to be the best us that we can be and it’s coming out really good, if I may say so myself. We haven’t made an album in ten years so we wanted to make it a good one.”

And a good one it will be, no doubt.

Simon Wright

Posted October, 2012

simonwrightOn May 16, 2010, the heavy metal world lost one of the most respected – if not iconic – vocalists/songwriters of its genre: Ronnie James Dio.  Since losing his valiant fight with stomach cancer, Dio have been honored and revered not only because of the tremendous musical legacy that has survived him but also due in large part to the tenacity with which his loving wife, Wendy, has guarded and promoted her late husband’s memory.

One such effort currently being managed by Mrs. Dio-Gimenez (Wendy re-married on September 9th of this year) is Dio Disciples – a tribute band formed to honor and perpetuate the memory and talents of the late metal icon.  The band is made of former Dio band mates,  Oni Logan and Tim "Ripper" Owens on vocals, Scott Warren on keyboards, Craig Goldy on guitar, bassist Bjorn Anglund, and Simon Wright on drums.

I had the distinct pleasure of chatting with Simon Wright by phone during the band’s Portland, Oregon, stop of their current tour.  As we settled into the interview, I asked Wright how the tour was going so far.

“So far, so good! The fans are seeming to enjoy it. We just started off. We played the Anaheim House of Blues two days ago. Last night we were in Seattle and San Luis Obispo before that. It’s going good. People seem to like it!”

Naturally, I was curious how this round of touring is different from the previous round of Dio Disciple touring so I asked Simon for his perspective on it.

“Yeah, we took a little bit of time off in the middle there because certain members had previous commitments to do other things. Sometimes it’s difficult to get everybody together but we managed to pull everybody together for this leg of the tour.

“But, yeah, this leg is a little bit different because of the fact  that there’s a been a Dio release called The Very Beast Of Dio, Volume 2 and we’ve taken a couple of songs off of that release. It’s like a retrospect of the years from ’96 thru 2000 and takes in the albums Angry Machines, Master of the Moon, Magica, and Killing the Dragon. So, on this tour we decided to take some cuts off of that album and we’ve added those to the set as well as playing the classic songs of Ronnie’s like Heaven and Hell¸ We Rock¸ and Holy Diver. So that’s one difference.

“Also, we have a new singer – Oni Logan from Lynch Mob because our other singer had production commitments in England. I think he produced the last Saxon album. He told us earlier in the year that he was going to be doing that so we managed to pull everybody together. So, yeah, it’s going well so far. It seems to be going down quite well, really. Oni’s doing a really great job. So is Tim. Both knew Ronnie at one point or another. Again, it seems to be going well so far. The fans seem to like what they’re doing.”

All of this begs the question: How are the crowds reacting to Dio Disciples as compared to when you toured with Ronnie?

“Well, it’s kind of like a release for them. It’s kind of a release for us, as well. But we do see tears and stuff. Some people will get upset and then they’ll be rocking out to the next song. So, yeah, it’s kind of a release for them. It works great all the way around. We’re here to celebrate Ronnie. Obviously, we’re not here to replace him.”

Like others who worked with Ronnie, Simon has his own perspective of the late rocker so I asked him what do he thinks is behind the mystique and appeal behind the memory of Dio.

“Well, first and foremost, I think it’s his songs. They’re just timeless songs! Some of his songs recreated the whole outlook of the heavy metal scene. There were albums that he was on and went into bands and totally changed the outlook on heavy metal songs and how other people approached songs because they were so groundbreaking.

“But besides his voice and his great songwriting I think people who got to know him and got to meet him will attest that he was just a remarkable person. If you met him he really brought you in and made you feel special on any occasion. He had this way of doing that. I think that he’ll be remembered for that, too. Such a gentleman. He really loved his fans. I think that is one thing that will always be remembered about him is he was such a great guy.”

With such warm memories of Ronnie, I asked Simon what was the most misunderstood thing about Dio – if anything.

“I’m not sure. I’m not sure. I understand the question. I just don’t think there was anything, really, that could be misunderstood about him. He was the genuine article. Like I say, I’m sure everybody will attest to it. If you got to meet him he would be the same person. He was a pretty consistent kind of guy. He could be a tough boss but there always have to be a boss in charge of something, whether it is in construction or whatever. He really kept control of things. He had a really great vision of the road ahead. But he was the genuine article. He didn’t really veer from who he actually was. He was just a great guy.”

I asked Wright if he had a favorite story about Ronnie James Dio. The story he shared caught me completely off guard and animal lovers around the world will love what Simon shares about the metal man.

“Oh, I have lots!  There’s one that comes to mind and it’s a little weird. It’s not really music related. We were on tour in Russia. It was amazing because we were the first band there – well, we weren’t but they made us feel like that with the fan’s reactions and stuff. People were going crazy. We were flying and landed at an airport – I forget exactly where in Russia – but we were out there for about a month. We were surrounded – we all were – by press, TV and fans. We’re walking out of the airport and he (Dio) stopped and he went back to the bar and got these glasses of milk. We’re going, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ And he came back out and he’s giving the milk to these cats that were just disheveled. That’s just another side to him. He loved animals. It was just a great thing that he did. It didn’t seem like a really ‘cool’ thing to do at that time but he did it anyway. He was like, ‘Somebody feed these frickin’ cats!’ and he went out there and brought them milk! It was a beautiful thing.”

One can’t adequately talk of Ronnie James Dio without mentioning the deeply intense love that was shared between him and his lovely and devoted wife, Wendy.  I asked Simon if he has much interaction with her.

“I think we’ve become a lot closer because of what we all went through with Ronnie. She’s our manager, too, so we’re still a family. We all love Wendy. She does a fantastic job – especially with Ronnie’s cancer fund. We have a show coming up in Hollywood – not to sound like I’m plugging the hell out of anything but it’s quite an important show – at the Avalon on Halloween, which is a gala event. All of the proceeds go to Ronnie’s Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund. So, yeah, we’re constantly in touch.”

Shifting the focus of our discussion more specifically to Wright and his career, I mentioned to him that I know that he’s played with some of the greatest metal talent on the planet.  I was curious if there anyone in any genre of music that he wants to work with whom he hasn’t already played.

“Oh, wow, there are so many. Jimmy Page comes to mind. Eddie Van Halen. Those guys are just unbelievable! If I ever got so lucky, yeah, that would be a nice thing to do! And I’m sure that I’m not the only one who wants to work with them! Ha! Ha! Those two come to mind but there are lots of brilliant musicians out there who I would love to work with.”

Aside from your work with Dio Disciples, what else is on your radar, work wise, in the next 12 months? Five years?

“Oh, I couldn’t look as far ahead as five years. I just couldn’t do that. Before we started this tour I recorded an album with this Italian band – friends of mine – which is pretty cool. It’s kind of back to three chord rock. That’s coming out next year. I may do a couple of shows with them over in Italy. But, at this moment, no, I’m really concentrating on Dio Disciples at the moment. But you never know. I keep my eyes and ears open for something going on.”

Simon has seen how people remember Ronnie and what his legacy is. I asked him how has that affected him as to how he hopes to be remembered and what his legacy will be.

“That’s a good question. You know what? I don’t even think about it. I just do this because I know I’ve got to do it. We all feel the same way in this band. It’s like we were all family with Ronnie. But I just hope that that some people will remember me. I learned a lot from Ronnie. I try to apply that to a lot of things that I do because it was a lot of good stuff. As far as being remembered, yeah, I hope I get remembered but I don’t really think about that very much. I just keep doing what I’m doing. It’s important to keep doing this, I think.”

Keep Up With The Latest on Dio Disciples at RonnieJamesDio.Com

Mike Zito

Posted July, 2011

mikezito2Last summer, my daughter and I had a father/daughter date, going to see one of rock and blues icons from my youth, Johnny Winter.  As I wrote in my review of the show (here), the opening act blew my daughter and I away.  It was a three piece band that was fronted by its namesake, Mike Zito.

While seeing Johnny Winter perform will go down in my mind as one of the all time personal thrills of mine, I was struck and impressed by the power, presence and performance of Zito.  How would one describe it?  Hmmm.  I think that I would call it a fun, non-conceited swagger that can only come when one has a healthy assessment of their abilities and having a ton of fun demonstrating those abilities to the enjoyment of others.

As my daughter and I left the show, I swung by the product table that displayed Zito’s CD’s and such and picked up a business card shaped magnet that read, “Peace Love Zito” and his website, MikeZito.com.

That magnet lay on my little jewelry and phone collector thingy in my closet for since that time, serving as a reminder that I really must try to score an interview with this remarkable talent. In fact, it did so for dang near a year until this year, as I was studying the line-up of talent that was going to appear the Dallas International Guitar Festival back in April, I saw that blues’ Italian stallion was going to play there.

After the beam of light from Heaven went away and the angels finished singing from on high, signifying that it was time for me to pursue the interview, that’s exactly what I did. The result was a great visit after his performance that included sharing the stage with Ryan McGarvey and Anders Osborne.

I knew that Zito had an album that was lined up to be released so I asked him about it.

“It’s called Greyhound and I recorded it in Lafayette, Louisiana, at Dock Side Studio. Anders Osborne produced it. The guys that played today, Carl DuFrene (bass) and Bernie Blade (drums, and played with Dave Matthews and Friends) are also on it and it comes out on July 19th on Eclecto Groove Records.”

When I asked if the album was along the same vein as his previous CD, Pearl River, his eyes lit up as he excitedly described it to me.

“It’s a little more rock and roll. My first album was more what I like to do. The second album – I like to play blues, too, and it had other songs on it but we did a little more blues. So, I’ve been writing songs. I didn’t want to worry about making it a type of genre. I just wanted to record the songs. So, we did it when we went into the studio.  These guys (DuFrene and Blade) never played with me, never rehearsed with me. We just started jamming on something and then we pressed “record”.  That’s how we did it – the whole thing in two or three days. It’s got a real good, like, ‘hold on – don’t hold your breath’ feel. It’s got a ‘I hope it all works out’ kind of sound.”

The passion he exhibited about the project welled up even more when I asked if the vibe on the album was similar to the incredible performance that I had just witnessed just a few minutes prior.

“Yeah, the song I did today is called Hello Midnight and it’s on there. It’s definitely a little more rock and roll. It’s guitar, bass and drums – two guitars, bass and drums. It’s definitely bluesy – maybe some elements of Texas country in there with the songs. I like Texas country a lot! So, it’s got a little bit of that in it. And there’s definitely lead guitar and jammin’.”

The Dallas International Guitar Festival is a magnet for musicians of all levels. They come from all over the globe to attend the show, looking for their idea of the Holy Grail of guitars.  I asked Mike what his idea of a six stringed Holy Grail was and did he already own it.

“You know, that’s a good question. I don’t have any holy grails at this point. I used to. I used to always have in my mind, ‘Oh! There’s one out there that I gotta have!’ And I guarantee you, there are plenty of guitars here that I gotta have! But at some point you have to learn to be happy with what you’ve got. And I’ve had so many guitars over the years.  I’ve just sold them and traded them. I just thought that I had to have this one and had to have that one. And, really, you just need to play and practice a little more, you know? I’ve got, maybe, six or seven electric guitars. I’ve got more than enough. I play the same one all the time.”

As he points to his nearby guitar that he played on stage earlier, he adds, “That one there is made by Delaney Guitars in Atlanta.  It’s a handmade one. He (Mike Delaney) custom made it so I could tell him what I specifically wanted rather than getting my Fenders and having to soup them up or whatever. It just feels good. It’s easy. It’s great. I haven’t stopped playing it since I got it. It’s a gorgeous guitar! Every serious guitar player should try a Delaney guitar.  If they do, they’ll wind up ordering one, they’re that great.”

As we chatted, we both shared our admiration of Anders Osborne and Ryan McGarvey.  I asked Zito how long he knew these incredibly talented musicians.

“Anders I’ve know of and known who he was for long time. I met Anders maybe three or four years ago. We have the same manager. He used to manage them and then they got back together. Anders and I went on an acoustic tour called The Southern Troubadours. That’s when we got to be real close – got to be friends. Then he wrote a song for me that’s on the Pearl River CD called One Step At A Time – we recorded it together. And then we played shows together.  He’s really been getting into the electric guitar in the past year or two – really getting into it. So we talked about guitars and amps.  I got him with Category Five. Then he produced my new record. It was really fun because he’s really into electric guitars. He’s an amazing guitar player. Always has been. But he’s been focused on other things. Now he’s really enjoying the guitar. So, we recorded this album and, with him there, it has really big guitar sounds.

“Ryan? I met Ryan a couple of years ago at the Mile High Blues Festival. He went out and played and I was really blown away. He’s an amazing guitar player!”

I shared my story with Mike as to how I came to be aware of him and asked him what it was like playing with such a huge blues legend like Johnny Winter.

“He’s one of my all time favorite. Period. We’re with the same agency so we started playing shows, opening for him. That was awesome. But, that night at the Granada was the first time he brought me out and let me play with him. That was a dream come true. Absolutely!  The last show we did together in December - astounding! He blew me away! He played stuff that I never heard him play live - since I’ve seen him.  He was wailing! He’s doing great!  He’s got a new album coming out. The guy from Gov’t. Mule, Warren Haynes, is producing it. It’s going to be a big record.”

I asked who else he has played with that he admires a lot.

“Well, I’ve played with Buddy Guy. I used to play at Buddy Guy’s club. That was really great. I’ve played with Joe Bonamassa. Of course, the guys in my camp, Tab Benoit, Anders Osborne. There’s been quite a few that I’ve been real excited to get to play with.”

And who’s on his “bucket list” to jam with?

“Well, I’d love to play with B.B. King or Eric Clapton. I’d love to play with those guys. Jeff Beck.”

Our conversation made its way around Zito’s near term and long term plans.  Again, he speaks with passion and determination.

“I’m really planning on touring to support the album. I’m really trying to cross over. I love the blues. I like to write songs. I really like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty – more American kind of rock and roll. It’s bluesy. I would love to get a song on the radio and go on tour with some of those guys. I love playing guitar. There’s so many guys who play guitar better than me. They’re all fantastic. I just know how to do what I do. But I like to sing and do my songs. I think that’s when I can step up is when I can do my own thing. So, I’m really pushing that. We’re doing all of the blues festivals and all of that. Today was really fun. After a while, I run out of ideas to play on the guitar. I’m better doing my songs. So, I hope that we can cross it over. I’m calling everybody I know to try and get them to help me – get on a tour and open for somebody. That’s what I’m putting all of my energy into because I think that it’s the best record I’ve ever made.”

“The five year plan is to make this record work!” He says with a laugh. “I really want to make it work. I mean, I love the blues world. We’ve been going to Europe and doing all of the blues fests and they love it. I would be more than happy to get to play blues, travel and take care of my family. So, if this album doesn’t quite do what I want it to do, I’ll just continue doing what I’m doing and have fun.”

As has often been the case over the years at the Dallas International Guitar Festival, you will often rub shoulders with artists from all genres.  For instance, last year, among the artists that I met wondering the aisles of booths looking at guitar gear were Journey’s Neal Schon and Bruce Kulick (formerly of Kiss).

This year is no exception as the “who’s who” of music wondering the aisles.  As Mike and I were talking, he stops immediately and hollers at Greg Martin from the Kentucky Headhunters.  He asks me if I can pardon him for a moment and he quickly walks over to Martin.  When he gets back returns, Mike said, “That’s Greg Martin from the Kentucky Headhunters!” I’ve found that, in those circles of greatness, egos are left at the door (if they’re even carried around) and an artist’s love of music, their craft and the appreciation of other talent is front and center.  Zito’s almost fanlike exuberance when seeing Martin was as real and sincere as any other Headhunter fan.

It is always refreshing to watch as one great talent is humble enough to recognize and honor other great talent and Mike repeatedly demonstrated that to me as we chatted with the encounter with Martin as a prime example.  Zito is a class act on many levels.

My pre-interview research on Mike revealed that, as a consequence of a continuous touring schedule that covered the nation, he ultimately found himself tangled in the hopeless web of alcohol and drugs.  It took none other than blues great, Walter Trout, having the love and compassion to care enough to have a chat with Zito about where his life was heading.  Trout had been down the same road and knew all too well what the outcome would be if Mike did make a change of heart and life.  He reminded Zito that, because of the musical gift he had been blessed with, he had a responsibility to perform his music honestly and to demonstrate and perfect his craft.

This loving intervention set Mike on the path of sobriety.  He met a lovely woman who became his wife. He credits her love and support in helping turn his life around for over seven years now.  I asked Zito about that experience and how it affects him today as far as how he approaches his career.

“You mean recovery wise? Sobriety?  Oh, man!  I mean, night and day because I don’t even think that I even approached it (the music and his career) before. I just had all of these aspirations or dreams that I thought would just magically appear because I was supposed to be so great – but I’m not!  I never tried. I just ran around in circles. And then I thought that I’d never get to play music again. I thought I’d never be able to do it. But, after about a year sober, I started playing again and I started realizing that, if I was in a good frame of mind and spiritually fit, I could do whatever I want!

“And, man! I started thinking, ‘OKAY!  I’m going to find a way to make this work!’ because I would play, get paid and bring the money home and I’m like, ‘Hold on. I think that I can do this!’ because I would give all the money away and not pay the band and owe money because of drugs.

“So I started working, playing gigs and making it a business – approaching it like, ‘This could be a business. I can really make this work.’ That’s what’s paid off. I mean, I might have some talent and I might be good at this or that – and I do continually try to get better and there are plenty of people who are just as good or even better. But, I show up on time. I do a good job. I’m nice enough. I do everything I can, you know?  Just like I would if I were to work at your Fortune 500 company. I’d start in the mail room. If I was in the right frame of mind and I wanted to do this, I would work my way all the way up!  They don’t always take the guy that’s the best. It’s the guy that works hard and does a good job.

“That’s what’s really been working for me. The music we play is not fancy or anything special about it. It’s just honest and straight forward. We work very hard at making sure that it sounds good. I tell you, man, that approach has got me sitting here with you, playing here today. I mean, it made things really move forward quickly.

“I learned that from a guy back home named Scott McGill. He’s a very famous guitar player. He lives in Beaumont and when I met him, I said, ‘Man, I’ve heard that you’re the best guitar player around.’ And he is! ‘He said, ‘Well, I don’t know if I am but I’m the best one that shows up.’  And I was like, ‘Huh? What?’  He said, ‘I’m the best one that shows up. There are better guys but they’re all on drugs but I’m the best one that shows up and does a good job.’ I was like, ‘Yeah! Alright!’  I think that there’s something that can be said about that. That’s why I’m drawn to the same kind of people. I love Bruce Sprinsteen and I love Stevie Ray Vaughn because when he got clean and sober, he really stuck to what he did. This is what I do! I keep doing it and try to get better at it. To me, I think that people can relate to that at whatever they do.’”

“I don’t know why – even if it isn’t your best because maybe you’re tired and didn’t sleep or you don’t feel good – I don’t know why you wouldn’t do the best you can because I think that’s what people see. They see that there may be somebody better but who cares? Better is relevant. I think that’s what moves people because you’ve given them everything you’ve got. I honestly think that people can tell the crap from real and real always wins!”

It’s that realness that Mike talks about that I came away from our interview thinking about.  His love of his music and his craft, his wife and kids, and his love for life itself exudes from the very core of his being.  He’s obviously a man who knows that he’s been given not only a God-given talent but an incredible second chance to do what he was placed on this earth to do: write and play music.

You can check out more on Mike Zito at www.mikezito.com. There you can sign up for his free e-mail updates, link to his Facebook and Twitter profiles and, most importantly, load up on his incredible body of work – especially his upcoming CD, Greyhound!

Gary Wright

Posted June, 2010

GaryWrightBlackJacketPhoto by Rob ShanahanAs a teenager growing up in Phoenix, I worked at the long gone Sun Maid Grocery in the then agricultural suburb of Peoria. One of my rituals after work was to hop in my car, role down my window, crank up my radio (no, it wasn’t even a stereo at that time – just an AM radio). The music and the wind blowing in my then-long hair as I made my way home down those then-desolate country roads helped me unwind.

On more than one occasion, after a particularly rough night at work and getting my ritual underway for my commute home, the soothing sounds of Dream Weaver by Gary Wright would crackle out of the radio.  The ethereal melodies of the song would cause me to decompress as I drove through the desert night with the stars smiling down at me as I conjured up big dreams, convinced that anything was possible.

Another of Mr. Wright’s iconic hits, Love Is Alive, was a favorite of the many dances at Moon Valley High School.  A lot of us kids viewed the song as one of the more danceable songs to be played. Of course, for me, it took a lot of dream weavin’ of my own for me to think that I could dance to anything, let alone Love Is Alive.

For many of us, great songs like these by great artists like Gary Wright are what make up the soundtrack of youth. Now that our hair is shorter, thinner and grayer (if it exists at all), we hear these tunes or see these icons and a smile effortlessly comes to our faces as memories come flooding to our minds.

So, it was with great pleasure that I was recently offered the opportunity, by way of Boomerocity friend and rock photographer extraordinaire, Rob{mprestriction ids="*"} Shanahan, to interview Gary Wright.  With his first pop album out in over twenty years coming out on June 8th, 2010, and his second tour with none other than Ringo Starr, it was with giddy excitement that I chatted with Mr. Dream Weaver himself.

My first group of questions surrounded Gary’s new album, Connected.  Because it had been over two decades since his last mainstream release, I asked him what he waited so long to come out with this disc.

“It’s because I’ve been involved with doing other kinds of music that I needed to get out of my system – World music, in particular. The last studio pop album I did was called Who I Am, which was released in ’87. I was just starting to get involved with world music at the time through my relationship with George Harrison.

“Then, I did an album in ’95 which was recorded in Brazil with some great musicians and I also used a couple of African guys. It was kind of an Afro-Brazilian world music album.  I did another album in ’99 which came out called Human Love, with some African guys, too.

“Then, I spent the last decade doing different stuff like producing.  My son, Justin, put a band together and released his first album. His group is called Intangible, on my own record label and that took up a lot of my time. And then I decided that I wanted to go back into the studio and do a full-fledged album.

“So, after I did the Ringo tour in 2008, I started writing for the new album and it finished in January of this year. So, I’ve been working on it for a little over two years.”

I’ll be the first to admit that, among the dummies I am, I am one when it comes to world music.  I’m just not that familiar with it so I asked Wright what the receptivity of his world music projects have been like.

“You know, that’s kind of like a taste-specific kind of thing.  Some people like it. Some people are alienated by it and don’t GaryWrightConnectedPhoto by Rob Shanahanunderstand it. You have to have a taste for it.  Like Peter Gabriel, same deal. He has his company, Real Music, I think that’s the name, any way, he does the same thing.  He produces artists who are really great musicians but are obscure to the mainstream of buying people.”

Briefly returning to his work while in Brazil, Gary says that the country “has always been involved in music. They live and breathe it down there. I went down there in ’79 and it was an amazing experience. Their people just LOVE music because of their roots – their Afro roots – it’s a combination of different things. But it’s great!  There are some great players there!”

In the days before the interview, I listened to Connected several times before ever reading the press release that came with my copy.  I do that in order to see if my impressions of a disc align with the expectations of the artist.  I shared with Wright my four impressions that I personally had of the album and asked him if my perceptions were accurate.

Those four impressions were:

·  The vibe of the album is very positive and uplifting theme throughout the entire disc.

Before I could go to my second impression, blurted out, “That was my goal!  You hit the nail right on the head!”

Ah!  I love it when I’m right!

Moving on, I shared the rest of my impressions.  I said that:

· The disc had a spiritual, almost “gospel” sound to it on some cuts

·   When it didn’t come across as “spiritual” then they felt like love songs of a deep, spiritual kind

·  I was amazed at the intricate musicianship on the disc supported by equally intricate production/engineering

Were the rest of my perceptions accurate?

“I think your take on the album is very perceptive.  I agree with everything you just said.  Number one, I firmly believe that music is an art and, as an art, its chief function is to uplift people. There’s enough negation in the world that we’re constantly reminded of in our daily lives that we don’t need more of that.

“In India, they say, ‘everyone has a choice: You can either go smell the flowers or you can look down in the sewers.’ It’s each individual’s choice as to what he chooses to do and the more you program your mind to only allow thoughts that are positive and uplifting, and people do all of that, the world will be a better place.

“That’s why I call the album Connected because we are all connected, really, through our thoughts.  The mass thoughts of everyone influence the karma, so to speak, of the world.  The weather patterns, the calamities that happen, the wars and all of that stuff – it’s all man’s thinking.

“There is definitely a spiritual level to the album. I try to write the lyrics to my songs that one can either sing them to God or sing them to your wife or your girlfriend. That’s all in the mind of the person who’s listening.  You can do it either way. So that is true, what you just said.

“The intricacy of the music?  Well, I’ve been doing this now for almost forty years so I’ve learned a lot about production and worked with the greatest people throughout my career and have also cultivated a group of friends – musician friends – who have generously offered talents to play on my album. People like Ringo and Skunk Baxter and Joe Walsh. I’ve always, throughout the years, managed to get these kinds of people to play on my records and it’s always been a joy to work with that kind of musicianship.”

I shared with Gary the positive nature of Boomerocity, whether it was in the interviews conducted or within the product or concert reviews shared on the site.  The intention is the same: accentuate the positive.

Mr. Wright is supportive in his response. “I think that’s good.  I think it would be nice if more people were to have that kind of attitude for like, go to this website if you want to hear somebody’s positive reviews on an album – not to, necessarily, need to gloss over the flaws of it. But I’m thinking if the album is not really your cup of tea, then don’t review it.  People will then get a feel for your taste by the albums you review.  Then people will say, ‘Oh! This guy is good because all the stuff he recommended, I like! So, I’m going to go by what he says!’

“There needs to be more of that in the world because time is such a rare commodity that we have, with the world being so fast. With technology and everything, people don’t have time to look at 8 zillion releases. There’s no way you could walk through all of that. So, we need to have more ‘taste makers’ – people whose tastes you can trust.

“It’s like going into a wine store, let’s say.  You don’t really know all the wines but you know that the owner has good taste. So, the first time you buy a bottle of wine from him and it’s really good, you go, ‘You know? I really liked that.  What else would you recommend?’ And then he starts recommending many things and you go back again and again because you trust the person. You can apply that to all kinds of art.”

Returning briefly to the premise of Boomerocity, Gary says, “It’s great for people who leave their work for a few minutes to visit some place that’s positive, you know? It’s like 

taking a short vacation – it just takes the tension off of your mind.”

GaryWrightLivePhoto by Rob ShanahanMy head sufficiently swollen from the positive feedback from Mr. Wright, I brought the conversation back around to Connected.   Many artists go into a studio with songs that may have been put away years ago and were recently dusted off.  It’s also not unusual for songs to be written while in the process of recording.  I asked Gary what were the oldest and newest songs on the record.

“Okay.  You’re going to laugh but the oldest song was Satisfied. Satisfied, I wrote with a friend of mine, Bobby Hart. Bobby was in a band called Boyce and Hart. They wrote and produced most of the Monkees’ hits and he wrote Hurt So Bad and Come A Little Bit Closer – a bunch of big hits – a great song writer!

“The version that Bobby and I wrote, though, was more like a shuffle. It was a different kind of feel. So, when I was in the studio – a lot of times when I write songs, I’ll put up some kind of sound on one of my synthesizers that has a rhythm pattern going through it. And then I’ll put a bass line on and a little bit of little bit of drum and I get a feel for the direction of the song is going to be. I might even sing a little melody over it or whatever.

“So, when I did Satisfied, I had this great groove and I was thinking, ‘Boy, wouldn’t it be great if I could plug in one of my old songs.  I was thinking, thinking and then BANG! - into my mind pops up Satisfied – but done as a swing feel rather than a shuffle, which is different and it worked! It took me a little while to get used to it but when it did, it worked really well. So that was the oldest song . . .  from the early to mid nineties.

“The newest song – let me think, now, about this – the newest song I wrote probably would be – I want to say either Get Your Hands Up or No One Does It Better.”

It’s at this point that I confess that I have three favorite songs for one reason and then another favorite song for a completely different reason.  The three are Can’t Find No Mercy, Life’s Not A Battlefield and Connected.  I like them for their sound, feel and message.  You know, the reasons why most any of us like a song.

However, Kirra Layne struck me in a unique way. I listened to it over and over again, trying to figure out who Gary was singing about.  Finally, I was pretty sure that I figured it out:  The song had all the things I would say if I was a grandfather.  The song HAD to be about his granddaughter, no?

With a chuckle, Wright gives me yet another reply that causes my already swollen head to swell just a wee bit more. “You’re GaryWrightRedPhoto by Rob Shanahanright!  I was wondering what people would think who Kirra Layne was. Yeah, that’s my first granddaughter. That’s good! I wrote that song when I was in – I go to Italy every year to an island called Sardinia in the Mediterranean. I wrote about half on my album on an acoustic guitar when I went there on various vacations – one in particular. The one when I wrote Kirra Layne, she was about three months old and I missed her so much, you know, being so far away. So, I just picked up my guitar one morning and knocked that song out.

“The treatment I wanted to give it was not like one with the piano and voice and drums and all that.  I wanted to make it special and one track that always stuck out in my mind that I LOVED by the Beatles was She’s Leaving Home. It had a beautiful cello arrangement and I went in that direction with it with a harp, strings, cello’s and stuff.”

I was curious if, when Gary writes songs, does he only write them with the thought that only he would be recording and performing them or does he write any with another artist in mind.  The reason I wanted to know is that I thought Satisfied sounded as though it was written for Michael Jackson to sing and Quincy Jones to produce.

“I can see that. I can hear that for sure, definitely. Usually I don’t write for others - not unless it’s specific thing for a movie where somebody asks me to write a song. I’ve done that in the past where they say, ‘Okay, I need something romantic song and this is the kind of scene’ and then I would write it to that specific kind of thing.

“But, usually, when I write songs, they’re usually for me.  I find that, when I do it that way, more people are likely to cover it.  My stuff in the past has been covered by artist like Eminem and Joan Osborne and Joe Cocker and Anastacia, Maya – quite a few big artists. And they’ve always taken my original songs.  It’s usually the big hits like Love Is Alive.  No one’s ever done a big version of Dream Weaver.”

I posited that that particular song would be awfully hard to top – that it really can’t be improved.

Gary offers a very objective counter to my thought. “Or, at least that version of it unless somebody took the song and gave it an entirely different treatment. That’s never been done.  I mean, it has been. Erin Hamilton did a dance version, which was, actually, quite successful.

“I had another one of my songs from an album I did call The Wright Place which had that hit on it called I Really Want To Know You. One of the songs on it that I wrote with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil – big, big writers who wrote You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling and Under The Boardwalk – the big, classic hits. They wrote one of the songs on that album called Coming Apart. Nothing ever happened to the song and then 25 years later, a DJ named Armand Van Helden, who is quite well known in the techno world, he took the song and just added a drum loop to it, sped it up and it was a HUGE hit throughout the world excluding the United States. It sold something like ten million copies.

Clearly humbled, Wright concludes this line of thinking by saying, “So, I’ve been fortunate in my career to have had my stuff continually recorded by other artists or be in soundtracks, movies, or whatever.”

Being the prolific writer, arranger and recording artist who has worked on many excellent recordings with some of the biggest names in the business, how was Connected different than all of the other projects he worked on?

Gary methodically, and without hesitation, answers the question. “One, I think the caliber of the songs that are on the album, I think they’re all strong as individual units themselves. Two, I think I took advantage of a lot of modern technology in the production and in the sound of things. And, the musicianship of the people that actually played on it – really top caliber.

“Most of the album I did by myself. Of course, the drums were done by – Ringo played on one track and Will Kennedy, who is a great drummer from the Yellowjackets, played on the rest of the album. But, they weren’t real drums. They weren’t acoustic kits. They were samples because I wanted it to have that electronic feel to it. That’s the direction I went, sonically, with it.”

With such a great album and a tremendous fan base, surely there’ll be a tour to promote Connected?

 “There will be. I’m in the process of getting that together now. Right now, I’m just jamming to get ready for the Ringo tour. There’s a lot of stuff to learn. The tour is finished on the 7th of August. I’ll want to take some time to just relax for a little bit. But I’m thinking in the fall of doing some work, touring with my own band. I just got back from the east coast. I did five shows on the east coast and they all went down really well. The new material was really well received and we sold out of all the CD’s. That was good to see that from people.”

Because Mr. Wright had mentioned George Harrison and, earlier in our conversation, India, I was instantly reminded of Donovan’s autobiography and some of the other books I’ve read relative to George Harrison’s spiritual journey.  In those books, I read where “the Quiet One” was instrumental in introducing his band mates and Donovan to Eastern Philosophy.  I asked Gary if George had introduced him to the philosophy, as well.

“Yeah, I mean, George was my mentor, spiritually, when I first met him.  He was very much into Eastern Philosophy and he gave me a lot of books. I definitely became interested and have been practicing Yoga Meditation now for 35 years.  It’s dramatically changed my life. I try to live my life in a spiritual way, as best I can. That’s what’s great about it.

“In India they say, ‘Don’t accept the concept of God until you have actually had the experience of that.’ You get the experience through deep meditation. That’s what I’ve been doing for these last 35 years and it’s true.  It works like mathematics if you practice it.  It’s just a different level – it’s a different commitment thing that you have that manifests in all parts of your life.”

While discussion faith, I mention that I’m reminded of the great quote by Blaise Pascal in which he states something to the effect that we all have a God-shaped void in our being.

Wright responds enthusiastically.

“Absolutely! Especially with young kids now, because growing up without a concept of God is so hard with the world as it is now. With all the violence and all the negation, the drugs and all that’s around, kids are lost unless they have a fundamental concept of God or religion.  All the religions I see are all the many different rivers flowing into the same ocean. It’s which one you choose to take.”

In discussing the “lack of center” in kids today with regards to faith or even music that inspires action like there was when we were kids growing up, I comment that kids today seem aimless.

“You’re absolutely right. I think a lot of it is that there are not a lot of heroes like there were then - like Crosby, Stills and Nash and Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne, and the Beatles, of course – people who had lyrical messages and people who stood behind them.

“Now you find that the business is dominated by entertainers rather than songwriter/artist.  A lot of the artists don’t even write their own songs. It becomes trivialized. They’re great singers and they’re great dancers but they’re not artists in the true sense of the word in so much that they’re not writing a lot of their own material.  You’ll find some people who are. That makes it more difficult.

“We live in a world with so much competition for the entertainment dollar with cell phones and video things, there’s very little attention span.  ADD is almost rampant as an epidemic amongst young kids. They’re over stimulated and they don’t concentrate.  They don’t sit down – well, you remember! You used to sit down and listen to an album and turn the lights down and totally get into it.  Now, you play one song and then on to the next thing, on to my widget, blah, blah, blah! It’s just so fast!”

Are there any artists today who command Gary’s attention?

“I will turn on, sometimes, some public radio stations. We have one here in L.A. called KCRW and they have some cool, interesting, young artists who are making some very interesting music but you never hear it.  This is very eclectic.

“So, it’s there but, unfortunately, the way the business has turned into this huge marketing machine based on the American Idol generation, you’re not going to hear a lot of that kind of stuff unless you dig for it and really know how to do it.

“The good news is that, as kids become more and more aware of the choices out there and start getting into older artists.  I see little kids that have heard Led Zeppelin or the Stones for the first time that think they’re new artists and don’t know the difference.  You don’t know when you hear something on the radio.  They don’t say, ‘This was recorded in 19-whatever’, you know? That’s the good news and I think, ultimately, people are going to use the internet as a giant jukebox and be able to choose the stuff that they want to hear.

“And, like I mentioned before about the taste-maker aspect, the degree that those websites are around that you trust what they have on their site and the content, I think that’s going to be a real big – that’s the new record company model.”

In responding to my question about what he sees as positive changes in the music business, Gary Wright provides intuitive insight into the machinery.

“Well, I think one thing is that artist are taking control of their careers and are not being ripped off by major labels like they used to be so much. Now artists are just saying, ‘I’m not going to release anything on a major label. I’m going to do it myself.

“It’s a bolder step.  You don’t have the machinery of the big labels but the labels can’t offer that anymore like they used to be able to. So, now, every artist’s is a self-contained entity, which is good, in a way, because you’re your own record company. It becomes a lot more work and time consuming because you’ve got to go out and market, promote and do all of that. So, that, I think, is ultimately a good thing because there were a lot of artists who were just so badly mistreated by labels, getting ridiculously low royalties and don’t have anything to say  for the success or fame they had.”

With our time already having expired by at least twenty minutes, I ask one final question of the iconic, musical genius: Are we going to have to wait another 20 years before we see another album from him?

GaryWrightSunsetPhoto by Rob ShanahanWith his ever-present, pleasant chuckle he responds, “No. No, I would say it will be more like another 4 or 5 (years) or even less. I do have a project that I want to do and that’s to write a book because I think I have a lot of stories and experiences that I would like to share with my fans. I will do that, probably, next and then I’ll do a new album.”

Now THAT’S a book I look forward to reading!

After our chat, I clasped my hands behind my head, leaned back in my chair and digested the incredible conversation I had with Gary Wright.  What an incredible talent with an intriguing story to tell!

And, as I reflected on what had just transpired, Dream Weaver was playing on iTunes and I closed my eyes as, in my mind’s eye, I was once again driving down dark, country roads in the Arizona night, conjuring up big dreams and remembering once again that anything is possible.{/mprestriction}