With a brand new album out and in the shops the king of power pop took up our invitation to have a chat about his career and the new record. He shouldn’t need an introduction but seeing as I’m here I’ll give him one for those of you not familiar with any of his work. He began his recording career with The Nerves back in the early 70’s and weaved his tapestry through the halls Of Power Pop N Roll playing with his band The Beat and as a solo artist he’s penned many a classic tune and continues to this day recording records and playing shows he’s taken the stage with the likes of The Ramones and Green Day over the years and just put out one of the years best power pop albums ‘Out Of My Head’.
Back in the early days of The Nerves How come the three of you didn’t co-write the songs together back then?
When I joined The Nerves I had not begun to write songs yet, it was only after hearing what Jack and Peter were writing that I decided I had to try too. Jack was the main writer at the time and he was adamant about keeping everything separate. Each of us were to write and sing our own songs. He was very helpful to me though. He spent a lot of time listening and critiquing my songs. He was a great mentor in that respect.
Did you ever imagine you’d be part of the band that spawned such a classic song as ‘Hanging On The Telephone’?
I knew Hanging on the Telephone was a hit the moment I heard it. It was the first day that I had met Jack Lee, he played me the acetate of the demo he had made and it blew my mind!
Did you think your original version was the best?
I am very proud of our version it stands up to the test of time.
Have you heard the Def Leppard version or L7’s?
Yes, and I like the credit Def Leppard gave it on their record.
After you settled on the west coast was it easy putting the band together?
Back then, The West Coast was a better environment for me and the kind of music I was trying to do. After The Nerves, I had the very good fortune to meet Steve Huff. He became my main songwriting partner for many years. Writing with people is a very personal thing, it has never been easy for me to do. I’m that regards I was very happy to meet Paul Stingo who I worked with on the last record, Out Of My Head.
Bomp have done a great job of reissuing all the older stuff that was pretty hard to get hold of and you managed the and sorted out the tours and stuff did that set you in good stead for later on trying to negotiate the deals?
I have been DIY now for many years, there isn’t a lot of hard negotiating really mostly verbal agreements with people who are more or less friends.
They put out the comp in the noughties with bonus unreleased previously songs is that it now the well completely dry or is there more to eventually come?
There might be a few odds and ends but most of the recorded unreleased tracks have been used.
Moving onto more recent times, were you contacted by Green Day for them to include a track on the American Idiot play?
They never contacted me, they just played the song quite frequently but they always told the audience who it was by, I really appreciated that.
Didn’t you join them on stage as well? that must have been so cool.
Yes, I played ‘Walking Out Of Love’ with them (2 times in a row!) onstage at the Bowery Electric here in New York for the end of show party they had when ‘American Idiot’ closed. Billy Joe was extremely gracious to me, I will never forget how nice he treated me!
You played with a lot of influential punk bands back in the day when it was all fresh and new, how did the audiences take to the difference in sound from say the Germs and the Weirdos compared to your more melodic power pop.
At the time it seemed to me that the audience related more to The Germs and The Weirdos. We always seemed to be on the outside.
You’ve always championed bands and artists in a business that doesn’t always reward the best; hardest working bands or the most talented, who in your opinion were the ones who fell through the cracks are there any noticeable bands you were convinced were going to be stars?
It such a relative question, nowadays my idea of success has changed. If you can somehow make your living doing what you love then you are a success. I think if you can stay in the game that’s a big part of it. That’s what I am trying to do.
From the king of power pop until this year’s release you’ve released three albums with Alive is it as enjoyable making records as it sounds?
Actually making a record is always a pretty gut–wrenching experience. I am constantly ripping it apart and building it up again in an effort to make it as good as possible.
Your records always sound like they were made with a smile on your face and you are totally happy with what your doing would that be a fair assumption?
No, but that is the trick, you have to make it sound effortless even though you drive yourself nuts trying to do it!
How do you find recording now compared to back in the 70’s is it easier with technology or not?
It has never been easy and hopefully, it never will. I think you have to make a big effort to create something worthwhile.
In fact, it seems like everyone is trying to get back to recording as we did back in the 70’s!
You’ve also recorded with some exceptional players like Chuck Prophet, Greg and Cyril from the Flaming Groovies to name a few do you get a bigger buzz now making a record or touring?
I enjoy what I am doing a lot now mainly because I think I am more in the present. It was a great experience making the Paul Collins record in SF I got to record with so many fantastic musicians, that record will always be a special one for me!
You also do your own management and play an active role with new bands trying to break through. Is that still exciting for you or is the industry still a massive ballache.
It’s a tough business that is for sure! Being DIY has its pros and cons, the pros are you pretty much get to do what you want. I have come to accept my position in the business and I’m ok with it. I do what I love to do, more or less on my own terms.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received
From Jimmy the Greek who owned The Downbeat in SF. “You gotta have tight beginnings and tight endings and everyone will think you’re great!”
What advice would you give to a hungry young band looking to someone of your skill and status for advice and guidance?
Work your ass off and never give up!
Finally, when do you begin work on the next album?
Still basking in the afterglow of this one!
and what about some shows in the UK?
Love too, it’s just a matter of working out the logistics.
so until he hits the road and someone in the UK offers him some dates I guess we’ll have to make do with the records which is no bad deal. So thanks to Paul for taking the time to chat to RPM now go check out the new album at the link.