Thursday, February 10, 2011

Moody Blues, Paul McCartney, and Japanese Tears: The Denny Laine Interview

In 1965 Denny Laine was one of the most recognizable faces of the British Invasion. He sang lead on Go Now, the Moody Blues first big international hit back when they were a rockin’ R&B outfit. Laine was the de facto leader and when he left the band in 1967, it was widely hailed as the beginning of the end for the Moodies and those in the know predicted Laine would continue to ascend to even greater heights of musical Nirvana. Depending on your world perspective the cognoscenti were right and wrong on both counts. The Moody Blues became orchestral Zen philosophers who did indeed reach the pinnacle of superstardom. In the meantime, Denny Laine formed the Incredible String Band (inspiring the creation of ELO) played a legendary gig at Brian Epstein’s Saville Theater in 1967 with the Jimi Hendrix Experience - and almost stole the show. He formed Balls, another great Black Country band and went on to play an integral role in Ginger Baker’s Air Force in 1970 before joining Paul McCartney and wings in 1971. All this before he was 28 years old.

Denny, when did start playing professionally? What was it like performing with your first professional band Denny & the Diplomats? How did you get top billing in the group?
First of all, because I was the singer: Denny Laine and the Diplomats. It’s a made-up name, but that’s the way it was done in the old days, like Johnny and the Hurricanes, you know. But the fact is, I turned professional after school. I was encouraged to go into the music business one way or another, obviously because at school I used to play my guitar and get everybody singing, and I wrote a few things that were read out in the assembly. So I went and got a job at a huge store owned by Harrods of London, called Rackhams. I was in the music department as a trainee buyer, so I learned all about pianos and hi-fi equipment. I introduced guitars to that store, because it was a very high-class place, and they didn’t have guitars. They had a record section, and people started coming in, like Ella Fitzgerald, Lonnie Donegan, and a lot of people I liked. And I would meet a lot of people from the music business – I would get to talking about records, and playing records, and that kind of thing. But when I started being late for work, because I was gigging in the evenings with my band, I decided to knock it on the head. I then decided to go professional, because I was making money at it and I didn’t want to work in a shop. I got bored being in one place all the time. I left on good terms with everybody, and went off to do my thing with the band. My band was getting very popular around the Birmingham area, and so I decided I wanted to be a pro.

As a Black Country chap did you get close with the musicians from that area Roy Wood, Noddy Holder, Plant and Jones etc?
Funnily enough, I was just reading an article, and I saw that Robert Plant and John Bonham were in a band called Band of Joy. They were supporting me at a gig that I did in Birmingham. They were just a little bit younger than me. I got very friendly with John Bonham over the years. I found out that he used to come and watch us at one of our regular gigs at the Wednesbury Youth Centre r. I remember that Bevan used to put a lightbulb inside his drum, so it flashed on and off. That was the first light show! And John Bonham used to stand at the front, taking notes. And one day, during the Wings era, he was staying at my house, and I heard him singing in my studio a song that I remembered…but couldn’t remember really. I went down and said, “What’s that song?” He said, “You wrote that song, and you used to do it at the Wednesbury Youth Centre.” And I couldn’t believe that he remembered it. Anyway, he’s gone to his grave with it, because I can’t remember it now either!
Roy Wood was in another band called the Strangers. I didn’t know Noddy Holder because they were younger. But the Spencer Davis Group, and all the bands of my era really, we were all friends, we all gigged together. I don’t think any band ever did a gig just on their own, they always had support as part of the package. And we used to meet in the cafes on the motorways. And that’s what happened when we moved to London, we met everybody at the clubs and just became friends that way.

Who inspired you as a musician?
First of all, I was inspired by Alan O’Dale, who used to sing in the Robin Hood series. He was a court jester, a wandering minstrel with his guitar, and he used to sing the theme tune to Robin Hood. I come from a folk-type background, an Irish/Gypsy background, and I was always into folk music and jazz. A friend of mine at school who was a jazz guitar player, his brother was a really good guitar player, he taught me how to tune my guitar properly. And then I started getting into jazz and Django Reinhardt, and Stephane Grappelli, and all that stuff, which I love still to this day. I was talking to Ted Nugent about this the other night, that like Detroit, where he comes from, Birmingham was a factory town – they used to make all the electrical parts for cars and airplanes, and there was a lot of music there because of that, from all over the world. Reggae, Irish show bands, folk bands, jazz bands, all sorts of stuff. So there was a lot to choose from. Consequently, a lot of Birmingham musicians became very good at all styles; you had to be, to get a gig. So that’s what we were known for, good copiers and good styles. I don’t like to copy these days, I do my own thing, but I learned that way.

What influenced your style of composing?
Well, composing comes from our folk background, the fact that we’re telling stories and painting pictures with words, if you like. It’s pre-videos, you know. Videos now tell the story just by looking at a song being sung. But we had to get it in the words, and get the words across without the visuals. Especially at some places that didn’t want to hear original music, they wanted all the hits of the day. I tried to avoid that as much as possible, I used to do a lot of obscure blues and R&B stuff. That’s how “Go Now” came about, basically, we always used to do weird stuff. Songwriting became something I used to do as a hobby, and I would throw a song in a Denny Laine and the Diplomats set just to see what the audience reaction was going to be like. And they loved it all, so I did a little bit more of that. But really, right up until the Moodies had to put an album out, I’d never really gotten into songwriting seriously. I had to get Mike Pinder to come along and help my put a lot of my ideas together, because I just wasn’t experienced in doing it, as much as I should have been. So he kind of helped me with the arrangements and stuff. I basically wrote the songs, but he helped me piece them together and turn them into proper songs, like he did with a lot of Justin Hayward’s stuff, I believe. So that’s how that came about.
Then of course with Paul encouraging me to write, to take some of the focus off of him so much, he encouraged me to write a lot more. A lot of my writing did emulate a lot of the old folk and skiffle style, or country-style almost. Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Elvis, Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, Fats Domino, you name it. I was watching clips on You Tube last night, of Paul and me sitting with a couple of acoustic guitars. There’s a load of stuff on You Tube with me and him just jamming through a few of these old songs. It’s quite fun, you know, some good feels there.
Also, the fact was we weren’t making any money from anything on the road in those days, because all our money supposedly went into promoting the band, and we all walked away broke. Nobody made any money in the Moody Blues – if you ever see their documentary, you’ll laugh your ass off at the way it all came about. They went on to bigger and better things, and so did I, so that’s good. But basically the money was in publishing, and you can ask Paul McCartney about that, you know – he knew that’s where the money was going to be, so you get into it because of that. Same as the Stones did. Generally speaking, it was our way of making money. But again, in order to get record deals in the early days, if we wrote songs, they went and gave us a publisher, and the publisher would automatically take 60% off you, which was totally unfair, because they hardly did anything for it, especially in the case of the Beatles, they made their own fame. And people recorded their stuff because they liked it, they heard it on records. The publishers didn’t go out there and sell their songs. So right up to this day, Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono only get half of what they should have gotten. Publishers have been living off of that for years, and basically doing nothing with it. Michael Jackson is the only one who ever did anything with those songs, turning them into TV ads and stuff.
But anyway, I like to write my own stuff, because therefore I’m expressing myself. I don’t like to copy too much, I like to take other influences and turn them into my thing, like a lot of people do. It’s like any kind of art form, you’re inspired by people you admire the most, and then you turn it into your own thing. That way it’s easier to sing, easier to remember, and easier to put the emotion and the truth behind it, you know?

What is your creative process? Do you start with a piano or guitar riff? Do you dream the melody and lyrics or intentionally work on a particular theme and fit the music or the lyric to it?
All of the above, basically, because – in the case of writing with Paul, he might come up with a line, like in Mull of Kintyre, he came up with the chorus, and to me, that was the song, it didn’t need anything else. But obviously for it to be a song, we had to write lyrics. I contributed quite a lot to those lyrics. Then I wrote No Words, and then he ended up helping me put it together, put some words in the last verse, joined two songs together, and it became that song.
When I’m writing for a specific thing – if somebody says to me, I want you to write a song for this ad, like a Coca-Cola ad, I would be inspired by whatever to write that song. In the case of Arctic Song, which is the musical I’ve had for years that I’m trying to put on now, I was inspired by a friend of mine who went to the Arctic, and he came back with a load of pictures and storylines, song titles, because he wanted me to help him put a musical together. Well, I ended up writing a lot of it myself, because he didn’t get down to the writing part of it, so I ended up kind of taking over the project. We’re still co-writers, of course, but I kind of wrote it according to the way I wanted it to be a lot more. But I used all his influences and ideas; I couldn’t have done it without him, that’s for sure. But I turned it into my stories and my thing. So it depends really, on what the circumstances are leading up to the writing.
Now, on this new album I’ve been doing over the last two years – because I went to England for a year, I never got to finish it, I wrote all the songs basically on piano, or 90 percent of them anyway. And then when I did the demos, I wrote the guitar parts around the piano parts. Same with the bass and the drum parts. And I put them all down as a song and then sang over the top. The songs that I wrote with Paul, I wrote on guitar. So it just depends on what instrument is at hand. Somebody loaned me a mandolin one day; I wrote a song on that. Somebody gave me an idea for a French-style song, that came out of living at the Boulevard de la Madeleine, which is where the Hotel de Paris was, where we all used to stay. And I used an accordion to write that song. Because I thought, well, France – they play accordions in France, so I’ll write a song based around that. Even though I didn’t play on the original single, which was quite a big hit in France.

What was it like in the early days with the Moody Blues, and what was your most memorable gig during the early days of your career?
The most memorable gig prior to the Moody Blues was when the Diplomats played with the Beatles. Because we opened for the Beatles at the place in Birmingham that has a revolving stage. When we came off, the Beatles came on, and all the leads got pulled out of the speakers because somebody forgot to take them out before the stage moved around. So the Beatles came on to no microphones. The girls are all screaming, but John is pointing at his microphone, saying “Where’s the f---ing microphone!?” So anyway, that was funny, and I got to meet them all then. When I was working at the shop, when I first heard “Love Me Do”, I knew it was gonna be a hit. So I said “The minute I heard ‘Love Me Do’ I knew you guys were gonna be a problem!” and we all laughed.
When we moved to London, we became friends with the Beatles, at the Ad-Lib club, and they used to come to our parties. We used to have big parties with the Moodies. When we weren’t working on weekends we used to have three-day events, crazy parties, and everyone in the music business used to come there. But we were on their first British tour, so that was one of the biggest memorable things about playing live.
Prior to that, the most memorable thing was “Go Now” going to Number One while we were on the Chuck Berry tour. Because we had it out, it was our first tour with the Robert Stigwood Organization, and Robert told us all to turn down in the sound check at rehearsals, and I said “this is how loud we play, like it or lump it.” And of course, when the crowd was in, it was fine, you know. But they all try to tell you what to do, that’s life you know. But me and Robert Stigwood became firm friends after that, so…. So we were on the Chuck Berry tour, and Chuck was borrowing my amp, because it was a great new amp that was out, and he didn’t bring an amplifier with him, just his guitar. So he was using my amp, and that was quite a thing. And then suddenly while we were on that tour – and we were going down really well, by the way, ‘cause we were closing the first half. When we were on that tour, “Go Now” went to Number One, so we had a big celebration, you know. I mean, how can you forget that? There were other gigs where people would storm the stage and fights would break out in the audiences, but those kinds of gigs you try to forget!

How long did you work with Ginger Baker? How would you characterize time with Ginger Baker’s Airforce?
Ginger and Jack Bruce were in a band called Graham Bond Organization on that same Chuck Berry tour, that’s how I met them. Ginger and Jack were great jazz players from the London Blues Clubs. So when the Moodies were doing the blues circuit, because we were basically a blues band in those days, we met a lot of people like that. I kept in touch with those people. Ginger came up to me at a party at Steve Winwood’s house one day, it was his birthday, and Eric had bought him a piano, and Ginger bought him a kit of drums. Me and Trevor Burton from The Move were visiting friends, because of course we were all from Birmingham, we knew Stevie. And I’m jamming away with Ginger and Eric, and we had a great time all jamming. One day at the house up in Kensington, we had a little bit of a get together, and Ginger asked me to join a band, and that was it. We were just standing around the piano singing, and he says “Do you want to get a band together?” and I said “Fantastic!” I was in the band until it broke up, but that was really because of Ginger’s situation, you know, with – I hate to say it, but... his addiction situation.
So Stigwood said to me, we want you to stay around for when we get it up and running again. I said “Don’t worry, I’ll be there”, but it never did get up and running again. A lot of great players, but the direction was a little bit wild. But we had a great gig at the Royal Albert Hall, and we recorded “Man Of Constant Sorrow”, which me and Ginger took the writing credits for because it was an open publishing situation on that song. And I think we had a bit of a minor hit with that in England. But I love Ginger, and I was supposedly going to the launch of his book three months ago, but I couldn’t go because of my work visa situation; I haven’t got a new visa, I’ve got to re-do it, so I couldn’t go out of the country yet. I was going to be playing with Ginger, Eric and Steve Winwood for this get-together, they invited me over, so that was a real disappointment. But if they ever come to launch that book here in America, obviously, I’ll join them for that.

How did you come to get involved with Paul McCartney?
Well, me and Paul used to go to all the clubs, and we’d be sitting there, and he’d be talking to me, and I’d be talking to him all night long about music and stuff. Even then it was always selling songs, you know “I’ve got this great song you should do, called ‘Those Were The Days’.” He gave it to Mary Hopkins in the end, it wasn’t his song, but he was always pushing good songs, you know, and talking about music. So I used to go out with him a lot in the clubs, in fact, we went together to see Jimi Hendrix for the first time, doing his debut at the Bag O’Nails club. Also, I went to visit them when they were doing Sgt. Pepper. And me and Paul went upstairs by the invite of Norman Smith, who then became Hurricane Smith the singer, who had a few hits. Norman Smith was a producer at EMI, and he was record-testing Pink Floyd. So we went upstairs to give it the thumbs-up, which we did, and that was that. We used to go gambling at the Playboy Club in Mayfair, we used to do all sorts of things, bump into each other at the clubs, and through our parties, as I said, there would always be parties. The Stones, Rod Stewart Band, we used to work with the Jeff Beck Group, we used to work with everyone. Tom Jones was always around, and Engelbert Humperdinck, and a lot of the British bands and acts were all basically friends of ours.
Paul would come to see me do the Electric String Band thing at the Seville Theatre, that was Brian Epstein’s place. Jimi Hendrix was doing two weekends there, and I was on the first one. I had to pull the first gig because my bass player was sick, and I wasn’t gonna go up and risk it with a new guy, because they are very intricate parts. So I pulled out of that first gig, and I know that John Lennon was in the audience and was a bit pissed off, because although they’d come to see Jimi, they’d come to see what I was doing as well. And they were friends. So the next week I went and did it, and it went down a storm. And I know that Paul was in the audience. So was my friend Marianne Faithfull, and a lot of other friends. So they all gave me the thumbs up on that. Jimi Hendrix even said to me “Oh great man, I like your guitar player!” And I said “I’m the guitar player, you twat!” He was out of his head though, this was at the Speakeasy. So I’ve got that quote, and I’ve even got a nice link to his site because of that quote. I didn’t put it there, but somebody else did. I was very friendly with Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell anyway, that’s how I met Jimi in those days, and was quite close to him in a way.
The Stones, The Animals, Yes, all those people, we knew them all from gigging with them, clubbing with them, or partying with them. So I’m at our offices, living in the back room in Mayfair, in these posh offices we used to have, and Marc Bolan was getting a deal set up with the Moodies’ ex-manager Tony Secunda, whom I had not fallen out with even though we never made any money, but he was still a good manager, it wasn’t all his fault. I was still hanging out with him, and he was helping me with this Electric String Band. He helped me put “Say You Don’t Mind” together, which was a hit for Colin Blunstone, but I wrote it for the String Band.
I couldn’t afford to put the Electric String Band on the road all the time, apart from which, the musicians are always busy doing concerts around the world, you know, classical concerts. So anyway, Marc Bolan gives me this guitar, and we became really good friends.
And then Paul gets on the phone and says “Hey, do you want to put a band together?” So I was on the plane the next day to Scotland, and that was that. Because I was looking for something to do, I wasn’t actually looking to get into a band with somebody, I wanted to do my own thing. But because I knew Paul so well, and I knew that we got on well, I thought it would be good.
But ten years later, I got a little bit tired of it. I wanted to get out there and do my own thing again, but that’s just natural, you know. I really enjoyed it for the time I was there, most of the time. I had a lot of personal problems because of being away from home; there’s a lot of other things like family problems that you have by being in a big band like that – you just don’t get to see your friends and family that much. It tends to be a bit of a lonely life. I had a great time with Paul and Linda and that side of it, but it was like a 24-hour job, you know?

I saw your Wings Over America Show at the Olympia in Detroit. It was a fabulous show. What was it like for you on that tour playing massive arenas? Did it feel like you were cut off from the audience?
We’ve spent our lives being very close-up to audiences – in other words, playing small places, bars, clubs, etc. We went on to doing theatres – that’s as big as we ever got with the Beatles, and on the Chuck Berry tours. But we never did a big arena gig. I think the only arena gig I ever did was the Wembley Arena because it was the New Musical Express Pollwinners Concert. But even the Beatles hadn’t done that until they went to America. So we went on to those big stages – we set up our own, it took five hours to set up our stage and lights and all that stuff. And everywhere we went was the same set, same crew, same show, and it gets to become really smooth and easy. But the audience reaction in all the different cities around the world was the same. Because the show took them there, you know, took them on the journey. It was a great feeling. Of course, we didn’t even know what the lights looked like from the audience’s point of view, until we saw the Wings Over America footage. And then it was like “Wow, that’s great, I would have liked to be in the audience for this one!” But you do have a close relationship with your audience because they’re all as one, if you know what I mean. You can’t see them all, but the vibe that’s coming off the audience, you feel like you’re part of it. You’re not up there trying to get people to clap, or at some of these silly gigs where the audience is miles away from you. We just had such a great fan base that was dying to see the show, and enjoying it, that you feel very close to the audience.

Wings was a great band and you wrote some great songs with them like Time to Hide and Mull of Kintyre. What do you view as your greatest achievement with Wings?
Songwriting-wise, obviously Mull of Kintyre, because you know, it was written in Scotland. Paul and I were having breakfast, he played me the tune and I said “That’s a hit!” We hadn’t gotten the words for it yet, it was just a line. And the thought of doing it with the Campbeltown Pipe Band was great, we knew it would be a fantastic experience. We wrote the song in one key, the next day we went up on the side of the hill and sat and wrote the words and the verses, and the tune, and put it all together. But when we got the pipe band in, we had to transpose into another key to accommodate the drone of the bagpipes. That’s what gave it the lift, where the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, you know? So that was the biggest hit in England, ever, until Live Aid came along. We did all the Christmas shows, and it was just the three of us. So that was a huge thing for me, to be involved with that. A lot of people think I sold all my rights on that – I didn’t sell all of my right on that, I sold some of them, but that’s because I kind of figured that it was more Paul’s song. I did a deal where I kept some of my stuff and gave him some of his stuff back. It was one of those kind of parting things that we did. But I really like that song, I love the way it came out, and it used to go down so well, especially in Scotland, can you believe it? Billy Connelly came backstage at the Green’s Playhouse in Scotland and said “That’s a great song, laddie, but I don’t like the words!” So I looked at him and said “Thanks a lot, Billy!” He thought they were a bit schmaltzy, I suppose. But it was a real compliment for him to say he liked the song, because he’s a real Scotsman, and real down to earth. To have a Scottish hit written by two guys who weren’t Scottish is quite an achievement, believe me. You know what the Scots are like!
“Time to Hide” I kind of wrote on my own. A lot of the other songs, I would go to Paul with an idea, and he would add to it, or he would come to me with an idea and I would add to that. I can’t really remember a lot of who did what on a lot of those songs. Some of them are vivid memories and some of it is a complete drunken haze. But we had such an understanding of the work process, it just came easy. He was full of ideas, sometimes too many bloody ideas. A lot the stuff I would say “I think we’ve done enough on this song”. And then we’d be halfway through a song, and the next day he’d come in with another song because he’d gotten bored of that one. He was a really prolific writer. You had to be on your toes all the time with him, but I learned a lot from it. It was very easy to work with him on songwriting. Easier than anybody – I mean, I’ve never really written with anybody else except Mike Pinder, and that was pretty easy too - we were all experiencing life at the same time, we just shared the same views on music. We were very influenced by all styles from reggae and Paul went to see UB40 a couple of years ago, the last time I saw him in England, because we loved reggae. We were into soul and into all sorts of music. We had exactly the same musical tastes and influences.

What are your views of the Music/Recording Industry as it exists today?
It’s a lot like it used to be in the early days; everybody’s trying to be an independent. When we were with Decca, they really didn’t do anything except distribute. We did all the work, we took all the people to them. We even took our own PR people, and managers, everything. So it’s kind of an indie thing again, and I like it. What I find lacking in a lot of modern music, especially with the younger people, although they are very influenced by the old music, which is a compliment to us, they cut their teeth on drum machines and stuff, and all that music in the 80s seemed to be a little bit too – “anyone can be a musician if you have a drum machine” syndrome, you know? Although some of them were really good at it, a lot of them, including the engineers, didn’t know enough how to program a drum machine to make it sound like a drum kit, and it became another form of music , a more sort of disco style thing. And then of course it went back to everybody emulating the 60s and 70s, getting into bands again, Led Zeppelin kind of led the way, and we led the way, for bands to go out and play live. And so now everybody’s got a mixture of everything out there, so this is really one of the best times there has been for a while for music, because everybody’s playing live again, which is fantastic. There are so many good musicians out there, which lends itself to too many tribute bands, which is a bit of a problem for me, because I’m kind of tired of tribute bands, but I have seen a lot of them who are really good. Some of them don’t get the chords quite right, but it’s a tribute to the music, so I allow that. But I like to go out and see an original band or original artist, doing their own thing. That’s what turns me on. There are a lot of talented people who go out there and do tributes or whatever because they want to work, but again, at the same time I think deep down, everybody wants to do their own thing. And that’s what I’m seeing, there’s a lot of new songwriters around, and I love that.
I’m actually a judge on the Song Wars competition - that’s being put together by Mike Pinder from the Moody Blues and Ed Ulibarri from Roland Music Corps. I’m a part of that, so we’re encouraging songwriters because we like that art, it is an art as far as I’m concerned, and performing is another art. I think there’s a very across-the-board bunch of music out there that appeals to all kinds, and I’m glad about that, because music shouldn’t have boundaries. I love rap. We were doing “rap” in the old days, you know, the old blues ad scat stuff. You might get eras where rap and hip-hop became the thing, but it’s all based on everything that’s come before, it just turns into another version of what came before. Music is a very, very strong power, and the more people that are in it, the merrier.

Joe Boyd, an iconic English producer (Nick Drake, Fairport Convention) wrote a book entitled White Bicycles. Boyd writes that you were one of the great voices of the era (immortalized by your vocal on Go Now) and that you never got the recognition you deserved. I agree. What’s your view about this?
What is “deserved”? As far as I’m concerned, it was my own fault – I didn’t really do anything solo-wise after that. Apart from the Moodies album, which wasn’t a hit in those days – it’s become a cult album now, but it wasn’t a hit until they went on to do Nights In White Satin and all that. So I didn’t really have a direction as far as a soloist, I went with Paul. So I didn’t follow a solo career. If that’s what he’s talking about with recognition, that’s fine. But then again, that’s my own choice, I should have made the choice to do more, but I didn’t. But it’s always a compliment when people say you have the voice. Because I don’t work as much – the voice is an instrument, you have to use it a lot, you have to practice a lot. I’ve had a lot of throat problems over the years because of that, because I don’t work it a lot – you have to keep working at it. Every now and then I’ll go through a period, like right now for example, where I just spend hours and hours practicing vocals, practicing guitars, practicing keyboards, and re-learning a lot of my old songs. And it’s a great feeling when you get better and better every day. Andrea Bocelli will tell you. He practices every day, voice exercises, because if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be as good as he is. But Joe Boyd, I always rated him anyway, he was a great guy, he knew so much about the business in those days, he was one of our crowd. To this day I still get his members letters from his website. A lot of people did think that I would go on -and I did, with the Electric String Band, I did start to put together my own identity as a singer, and wrote all the songs. But it only lasted a year, like I say, I just couldn’t afford it and wasn’t getting enough success as it, because I wasn’t doing it in enough places, and couldn’t get these guys – I mean, they were all from the music academy, so how could I have them on call all the time? So… it kind of fell through because I didn’t have the cash to do it. And that was the problem with the Moody Blues all getting ripped off. I didn’t have the finances to really put something together and keep it together like you need to do. So when the thing with Paul came along, I thought, not only am I looking forward to working with Paul, I need to make some money as well. So that’s what I did.

Do you have any current projects?
I do – and one of them is twenty years old – Arctic Song. It’s an ecological piece that nobody wanted to know about twenty years ago. Except I did stage it once at a place called Stonyhurst College with 12 year olds, and it went down a storm for two weeks with them and their parents. But I’ve had that around and now I’m rehashing it, I’ve got it all finished and done. Sixteen songs, all about different areas of the world that need help with ecological problems, saving the animals and all that stuff. I’ve always been a kind of ecologist, if you know what I mean, although I’m not a fanatic, I’m a realist. For example, I know that vegetarians can’t make it living in the Arctic, because nothing grows there. The word “Eskimos” means meat-eaters, and they have to be meat-eaters. So it’s one of those things, it just generally covers all the world’s problems of surviving, and what’s happening to the ecology. And we were talking about global warming, and the tilting of the earth’s axis, and ozone layers years ago. In fact, we wrote this in 1988. And before us there was a Gaia Foundation that was trying to get it out there to everybody and nobody would touch it with a barge pole. But now I’m going to be putting it on at the University of Las Vegas in the summer, I’ve got the Monmouth Music Academy with the band The Cryers, they’re going to be doing it. Lincoln Park Center, and the Carnegie Mellon College in Pittsburgh, so I’m really buzzing on that, I’ve got all that going. And then I’ve got this album to finish, which I’m about halfway through. But apart from that, I just want to do more gigs, because I know that the more gigs I do, the better I get, and then the more I can perform when I’m writing and putting things together. You can’t just go into the studio, unless you’ve just come off the road, you have to be at your best before you go into the studio, otherwise you don’t get the performance. There’s an old story that you could never record Little Richard because he was great on stage but crap in the studio, so they took the studio to the stage, and that’s how they got him. But that’s basically all I’m doing at the moment. There are other things – I work with about 4-5 different bands who know my material. I’ve got a band in Boston that does every song I’ve ever done, and I’ve only ever done one little short tour with them, years ago. I like to do different things, I don’t like to be tied down to one thing anymore. Ten years in one band was enough, and it was great, but now I tend to work with a lot of different people and a lot of different lineups. That’s why I like to do solo stuff, trio, four piece, five piece, and big occasions where there’s a lot of people on stage doing special nights or albums, or Bangladesh concerts, raising money for different charities, you know, that kind of thing.

Any special plans for this solo performance?
I like to sit down with a guitar and an amp, plug a proper electric guitar – I’ve got my Ed Roman guitar which he built for me, he’s a friend of mine in Vegas, and he’s one of the biggest, best guitar builders in the world, his company. And I love his guitar, and that’s why I’m endorsing it. I also use Carvin Guitars, which I endorse because they have a guitar which is acoustic electric and I can use that for all my acoustic stuff, so two guitars basically, electric guitar and acoustic, and then I might even bring my Spanish guitar along, or get hold of one, because I like to do some stuff on Spanish guitar. And keyboards, do some songs on keyboards, and like I say, just cover the whole…you know, a few Moodies ideas, a few Wings things, and a lot of my own original material and just, kind of, not talk too much, but give a few stories out there of how songs came together. It depends on the audience, you know – if they’re all falling in their beers, then I stick to the fast stuff, and if they’re listening, then I get the chance to do something a little bit more serious. I do like to do a couple of the Arctic Song songs, and I like to do things like a song I’ve got called “Food For All”. It was a song I wrote for the Philadelphia homeless people years ago, before Bruce Springsteen did his version. I like to be a little bit of a preacher in the pulpit when it comes to some songs, but at the same time I like people to have a good time, communicate with the audience, and that’s it. And if they start making too much noise, I tell them to shut up! It’s all about the feedback that you get from the audience, as to how you enjoy the gig, I believe, or how it all comes together.

How would you like to be remembered?
I’ve always kind of been a bit of a recluse in some ways, because I like to spend a lot of time with music, writing, and that’s what I do. I’m a little mad professor in some ways. But I want all my stuff now to be out there, that’s why I’ve just put this new website together, that’s what we’re doing as we speak today, we’ve put a new website up at I’m going to get all my music out there to everybody. I just want to be remembered as a songwriter, who said things to help people. I’m a very helpful person, I have a lot of faith and hope. I’ve been a rock n roller like everybody else, I’ve made a lot of bad choices, been involved with booze – not drugs, so much, you know – we’ve all been party animals, gone off the rails once in a while. But basically I’m just really a musician, a writer and a performer. That’s all I want to be known for. I’m spending a lot of my energy now promoting and marketing myself, more than I ever did. So I just want to get those lyrics out there. I really want to be remembered for my lyrics now. Not just for being in certain bands, but also for the things I’m trying to say.

1 comment:

  1. Really love Denny's music. Great artist.