HIT CHANNEL INTERVIEW: March 2014. We had the tremendous honour to talk again with a legendary musician: Frank Marino. With Mahogany Rush and as a solo artist, he has created some really amazing and timeless music. We should mention that he has influenced guitarists like Zakk Wylde, Paul Gilbert, Joe Bonamassa, Scott “Wino” Weinrich and many others. To read our December 2012 conversation click here . Read below the very interesting things he told us:
Well, fortunately at least, the news aren’t much different than the last time, except that I’m much close to be finished. I’m still doing the same thing, but I think the way I look at it now, maybe I only have a month or two left to be finished. But it’s almost three years today. I might be ready in about a month, maybe two months, God willing. I hope so. Then, we just have to decide how to put it outside: As one DVD -it’s a 12-hour show- or to put out more DVDs or put it all at once… I just don’t have a plan right now on how to put it outside.
So, we talk about a 2014 release, right?
You know, I don’t want to say that because I’m superstitious and every time I say something like that, something happens. I really thought that I certainly would be ready in 2012. So, it’s another year and I don’t want to tell you that it will be released in 2014. Yes, I hope so! I don’t want to do this forever. It’s the same work I’m doing like I went to jail for 3 years. I’m in the same room and I’m doing the same thing every day for 40 months now.
How did you get in touch with Bruce Springsteen’s video crew?
It’s a really weird story, I guess. Two years before my last tour, I was doing a gig in San Antonio and we used a projector. We have a light show with liquid, you know, and at the last show of the tour -it was an outside gig- and the wind blew over the projector and it blew up. My lightning guy came to me after the gig and said: “The projector broke and the wind blew it over, what can we do?” and I said: “I don’t know, it’s very expensive, but you know what? The tour is finished today, so we just worry about it when we will go out next year. We will find out what we are going to do”. And then I forgot about it and the next year when I was going to go out on tour, the tour was cancelled. So, I never really thought about the projector. I didn’t go out on tour and I didn’t do a full show. And then the next year, which is the second year after it happened, my father died. I was going on tour and my father died. So, I had to cancel that tour. When I finally went out later, I said: “Look, I don’t want to keep cancelling shows, I want to book the shows I supposed to do a year ago”. When I was ready to book those shows, I totally forgot about the projector. I just didn’t remember that it was broken. So, when we were going out to do these shows, on the day we were leaving, I suddenly remembered the projector. I didn’t know what to do. So, I called a friend of mine, I said: “I have this problem”. I went to a city where my friend was. I went to that city, Annapolis, Maryland. I remembered that he told that he had a friend who has a lightning company or something, I didn’t know what that guy was. I said: “Can you call him and ask him to rent me a projector?” He called me back and he said that the guy would bring it to the show. When I went to that show, there was this guy fixing a projector, making it get ready. I told him: “Thank you, very much and blah-blah-blah” and I told him what I was doing. He was the guy who is the producer for all Bruce Springsteen shows. He is the guy that owns the video company that does all these DVDs. He told me what he did and I said: “Oh, that’s great, that’s wonderful” and then offered to come and do more. And I said “No” at first because you know it’s very expensive. Then, he said: “You know, we all are fans of yours and we all said that you never had a break. You always had a bad deal with a lot of the business and we all like you. We want to come and do this thing”. I still said: “No, thank you very much. I appreciate it. No, thanks”. But then he wouldn’t stop. So, two days later when I was getting ready to go, my friend called me and told me that he was bringing the whole crew and everybody needed to do the DVD. And I said: “How, I ‘m gonna do that? I just don’t understand”. So, when I went to Cleveland, there he was! With the entire crew and director and everybody… They were ready to do the 12-hour show with me. It was like a miracle, really! They did it! And I said: “This is unbelievable”. So, when I got home after all these, I was thanking God for what happened. Then I found the problem with the audio. So, here I have this beautiful-beautiful DVD, but the audio was damaged. So, I had to decide: do I just throw it away or do I fix it? Everybody told me that it was impossible to fix. With the kind of damage it had, it was very impossible. And you can’t just have a drummer play it again because it’s on screen, you can see the difference. But the other way to fix it, was to take each piece of broken audio and clean it one by one and put it back. So, I decided how I was going to do it. I sat down on 14th December 2010 and I started with the first beat and I am doing it ever since. Now, 40 months and I do it 10-15 hours a day. But now, I’m almost finished and it sounds great.
Are there plans for touring this year?
Look, I had an offer just a couple of months ago. Someone European promoter called me or wrote me an email and a Japanese promoter wrote me an email. Both of them, they wanted to do some tour. I said: “Ok, I can’t do it right now, but maybe like in the summer or some time”. They had to put some things together but time is going by and it never really turned into something. They showed some interest but it never came back with the proper date and the proper offer. So, I suppose I’m waiting to hear. You know, I don’t know. I don’t use an agent or a manager or any of that I used to do in the ‘70s and ‘80s. For me now, it’s: “If you want me to play, just call me” (laughs). I don’t like the whole business. I don’t like the business of music. I really don’t.
Except the DVD, are you involved in any other projects?
Well, I want to record a new Mahogany Rush album and I want to finish a blues album I have finished a long time ago. I only have to finish it. I want to do that. As far as other things, no. That’s what I want to do, right now.
Oh, yeah! Absolutely true, yeah! There are two reasons why I wrote “The World Anthem”. The first reason that I wrote “The World Anthem” was that just the day I wrote it, I had a dream and in the dream, I got a message and the message was: Try to be more positive (laughs). I’m just a real man, you know, so up until ’75 maybe I was a bit negative. When you write songs you put out your negative side: “This is sad, this is sad..”. So, I had this dream and someone spoke to me and said: “You need to be more positive”. They didn’t say exactly like that, but that was the message I got. So, the dream affected me very much and I decided to write more positive material, that’s why I wrote “The World Anthem” and all the songs of “The World Anthem” album like “Look at Me” and “Try for Freedom”. I changed direction that day. So, while I wrote that, it was just before the 1976 Olympics. I said: “Oh, wow, it’s just a great opportunity to fix this tune, as it was the official song of the 1976 Olympics. But nobody was interested. So, I just wrote the song and I had written its lyrics in every language of the world. But the record company wouldn’t put every language of the world inside the book of my record. They refused. They had a song in 20 languages and I had a fixed price about this. That was the beginning of my fighting with them. They had to put 20 languages and they wouldn’t put Russian. I said: “What’s the matter about you, people, for Christ’s sake?” So, the album wouldn’t have more than 20 languages and they only put the languages in some of the albums, you didn’t get it in everyone. They put out the whole bunch, with no jacket. When you work with the devil, what do you expect? Anyway, that was the story of what “The World Anthem” really was. It’s really interesting because I just got a letter about a month ago from a company that said that they needed permission to use “The World Anthem” for a video they were doing. There is apparently a Japanese band uses “The World Anthem” to open all their shows, a big band called X Japan. I said: “Ok, you can use it” but then I looked on the Youtube and I saw the videos of X Japan band and their gigantic cover of my “World Anthem”, played as the opening song in their shows. They re-played it, they didn’t do it exactly like my record. And I think people think it’s their anthem or something. They didn’t know it is “The World Anthem”, they think it is a song X Japan wrote. Because they were pretty famous 10 years ago or something. When you type: “X Japan World Anthem” you ‘ll see my song played by X Japan all the time. Which I think it’s great, I think it’s fantastic.
But nobody knows it’s a Frank Marino song.
Yeah, the way the audience is reacting is like they listen to their song. It’s the opening material, the announcement material. At least the song there is with them too, but I liked that they revised the whole lyrical content to it. I think the lyrics are more important than the music. I think the record company or some of its people objected in some way because some of the lyrics reference God. They don’t like that.
Maybe they didn’t like the Russian language.
That’s true. At the time, it was the ‘70s. They had their own political reasons. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not their business. There is the artist and all the rest is a corporation selling plastic. It’s up to me to decide what I do on my art. That’s why I can’t stand these people. These people are scumbags, really.
Is “Tales of the Unexpected” song, one of the most challenging songs you have ever written? It’s absolutely brilliant!
To compose it? I composed it in 5 minutes (laughs)! First of all, people have to understand something: In almost every single song I ever wrote -except of one or two-, almost single one, was written in the studio the day I recorded it. We never did a song and rehearse it like: “Here is the song, here is another song” and we do it and then we record it. In every album I did: “Full Circle”, “World Anthem”, “Tales of the Unexpected”, “Child of the Novelty”, “What’s Next”, everything, I would go in the studio with no idea and I would say: “Ok, the tapes rolling” and I would write a song. And I would say: “Ok guys, here’s how the song goes” and until the end of that night, we would have done the song. That’s how we have recorded everything, from the beginning.
Because there is a lot of guitar, most people use the “Live” album. They like the “Live” album because of the guitar. There is a lot of guitar and powerful solos, but I don’t agree with that. First of all, the ’77 “Live” album that everybody seems to love, it’s a certain side of me, it’s the blues/rock ‘n’ roll side of me. The great majority of my work, is not “Johnny B. Goode”, “I’m a King Bee” and that kind of things. The great majority of my work is more thinking, it’s “Thinking Man’s rock, not Drinking Man’s rock”. People have to understand that I have some different phases in my music. The first four albums are a certain type of music and then the next three albums are another type of music. There is some changing to next phase of my music. Until the late ‘70s I played blues, hard rock, rock ’n’ roll. Then in the early ‘80s, in albums “Full Circle” I had more keyboards and more musical-oriented pieces. And in “Eye of the Storm” and “Real Live!”, those two records really encompass sort of everything. When you have “Eye of the Storm” (2000) and “Real Live!” (2004), you have almost all the live blues and rock stuff and you also you have the psychedelic stuff from the beginning, but better produced. So, I really don’t know how to answer that question. One of the biggest problems that the record company had with me, they said to me: “You do too many different styles. Our artists don’t do that. AC/DC gets you one style, Aerosmith gets you one style, big bands get you one style, so the people know what they are getting. But with you, you do rock and jazz and blues and psychedelic and everything”. I said “Yeah”, because that’s what I do. “I know it’s harder to sell that, but if people want one style, they can get it. But I don’t give a dime about it, whether it’s hard to sell it or not, I’m doing art here”. That’s what I think. I never thought to make any kind of money and sell records. That’s not why I started to play and that’s not why I make music today. I make music because it’s an expression to communicate something. If some day I want to communicate with blues, I do. If some day I want to communicate with psychedelic or even jazz, that’s what I do. That’s the way I communicate. When we have a conversation we don’t have to talk about the same thing. One day we can talk about jazz, and another day with can talk about cars. Another day we can talk about girls. Another day we can talk about family. There are so many different conversations you can have with people and music for me is a conversation with people. Not a monologue, it’s a dialogue.
You signed your first contract with a label when you were 17 years old. Tony Williams (Miles Davis, Tony Williams Lifetime) came out from Boston and joined Miles Davis when he was 17, too. Are there those kinds of opportunities today?
No. I mean, in America? No. The only young people who can get those kinds of opportunities, are not gonna have a guitar. There is gonna be a singer, probably a female and probably willing to take her clothes off. That happens today in North America. All those corporate money selling strippers. They make sure that they have all those out-of-tune voices and songs written by someone else. That’s kind of people work in North America. I don’t know about Europe. I don’t know if I can answer that question. From what I understand, I’ve been in Europe a lot, they still have bands and still have guitarists and loud music and not only hip-hop and cheap things.
The independent European labels only. The major labels follow the same path.
Probably. I’m a very anti-corporate kind of person. Very much, though. I believe that a corporation is a psychopath. The corporations have won the war, they own everything and they sell you what they want to sell you. And when they sell you the music, it’s generally shit. I don’t blame the artists. I don’t think the artists are shit. They are just young kids like every young kid they say: “Wow, that’s my ticket! This is cool”. They are just young people. They are innocent people. I don’t blame the actual singers but the way they sell them and package them, whether is Justin Bieber or someone else. Then you grow up and you think that you traded everything for a couple of dollars. In our land, there is no more art left for music. Now, it’s all just selling. It looks like a fake guy in a car commercial. I don’t know if you saw the Super Bowl recently, but they had a band (ed: Bruno Mars) out there where the guitarists were pretending to play. They were dancing up and down and twisting and turning, and the guitars weren’t plugged in! They were just pretending. And everyone looked happy. And I said: “What’s going on here? Why are people clapping for people who are pretending? Why they didn’t give the guitars to the football players to play?” That’s stupid. And I want to say this to young people: If you want to do something in music, do it for the reason that’s music. Don’t do it for the reason that you might get famous. Because when you start to do it for the reason of might get famous, the only thing you can get is that the exact same people would screw up what are you doing, like they have screwed up everything else. Do it just for the music and the fans will find you. And you will have real fans who appreciate what you do and you will deliver real honest art to people. You live in Greece, man. That is like the center of art and philosophy and culture. That is the center of the world art and philosophy and culture! You must understand how important that is. Because the thinkers and the artists and the culture were in Greece. We wouldn’t have mathematics. And it’s important to continue that. Just because we found a certain kind of art or a certain kind of culture or a certain kind of mathematics, doesn’t mean that we aren’t gonna find a new one. It’s not over. You can keep discovering new things. But if we stop thinking about it and only think about shopping, we won’t find anything. And the only people who are gonna be happy, are the corporations which are selling what we are buying. That’s just the way I think. That’s probably why I never got rich.
I do! I agree. I don’t have millions of fans, but I have some very close ones. And you know, a lot of fans have my phone number. I don’t have this situation where I pretend that I’m bigger than everybody else. I’m just a guy who happens to play music and play guitar and someone who likes my music, is just as important as me. He’s not lower than me. For the people that like what I do, I’m here to play for. And I think too many bands forget that. They think it’s not very important. But listen, when I say that is important, I don’t say that it’s like we are curing leprosy (laughs). We are not curing terrible diseases here and saving the world, we play music and art and demonstrate it for people to enjoy for 5 or 10 minutes or half an hour. I’m not that important as musician, the art is important. The motivation is important. The music is important. It doesn’t matter whether I’m doing it or someone else is doing it. That doesn’t matter.
When you wanted to buy a guitar a hundred years ago, you only needed a good instrument. As soon the corporations get involved, they started to make shit. They make shit, they make it look good and they tell people that it’s the greatest thing and they sell it. We had a famous circus in America a long time ago, called The Barnum & Bailey Circus. P.T Barnum is famous for having said: “There is a sucker born every minute”. And if you remember this motto when you are going to see the circus called “The Greatest Show on Earth”. Someone shouted: “The Greatest Show on Earth! Come and see the bearded lady! Come and see the midgets!” It was selling shit to people and it was telling them that it was fantastic. They often put their money down because they thought it would be good, because they believed them. That’s the music business. That’s sad. Have you noticed that all the music stars are young people? Have you ever noticed that? There’s a reason for that. That’s not coincidence. It’s not that you can’t find old people who play music. They purposely find young people. They want young artists because they can fool them. They can promise them the moon and then they will give them a short ladder. But you can’t fool a 50 or 60-year-old. They can’t fool me.
Because you may say “No”. The younger people can’t say “No”.
They will not say “No”. And that’s why they go and find young singers and young players. They promise them a bunch of bullshit, they give them a limousine, they get them some sex, maybe some drugs and they say: “You are gonna be a big-big star”. For a few years, they will do that but when a person grows up begins to say: “I won’t do this anymore”, they would flush ‘em down in the toilet and they go find somebody else. They are evil. Pure evil.
What’s your reaction when you read that you are one of the most underrated guitarists of all time?
Well, I don’t think I’m a guitarist. I think I’m a musician. I never called myself a guitarist, I don’t think as I am a guitarist. I think I’m a musician, I happen to play a guitar, I also play drums and few other instruments. I’m known as a guitarist. For me a guitarist is an expert on the guitar, like Andres Segovia. This is a guitarist. I’m not a guitarist, I play guitar. Yes, I’m a guitarist in that sense. I’m a musician first, I’m a guitarist second. When they say I’m one of the most underrated guitarists, it’s a very nice compliment. They not only say that I’m underrated, which it means that they like me, but they also say that I’m a guitarist (laughs). I don’t think of myself as a guitarist. They could say that I’m an underrated singer, because I sing too. But I’m not a singer. I have to sing when I’m in my band, because I don’t have a singer. For me, it’s all about being a musician. Even if I would play the bouzouki, I would still be a musician.
Yes, I have met him actually. I met him before he was Zakk Wylde. I was playing in New York, at The Ritz, and this young kid with long blonde hair, very skinny, very small, came for an autograph. I think his real name is Jeff Wielandt. Anyway, he was a kid fan and we sat and I gave him an autograph and we took pictures. And that’s the kid that became Zakk Wylde.
And he admits your influence!
Yeah! He is one of the few he will (laughs). Look, I quit the music business in 1993. Between 1993 and ’97, I quit. I was gone. I wasn’t coming back. When I did that, in ’94 it was the first time I heard other musicians mention me in a favourable way. All the next years, ’94, ’95, ’96, I started to get favourable comments I never got before that, when I was playing. As soon as I was gone, they started to mention me. When I came back in ’98 and started play again, I hear less and less. I know mechanically dates: when I started, what I was playing, where I was playing, the kind of music I was playing in 1971, just one year after Hendrix died. And we didn’t have the guitar players playing my style of guitar for the next 5 to 10 years.
And Robin Trower was playing before me. He was playing a different kind of music, he was playing with Procol Harum, which is not at all like “Bridge of Sighs”. So, Robin changed his way. With “Bridge of Sighs” I think he started it. I was alone, man! There was nobody I could talk to about that. For years the press killed me. They killed me. Every day, every day, every day. It was unbelievable. I couldn’t understand why they were doing it, I was just a kid. Image it doing that to a kid. I went through all those years until other guitar players started to play the kind of style I do. I was alone until the late ‘70s and then it became a little easier because that started to look normal. But after a while, because I never got that famous like some of them, it started to look like I was copying them. The only thing I think had improved in the music business honestly, I have to tell you, is journalists.
No, no, I don’t believe this!
It’s improved. Do you know why? Because the rock journalists of my day, they were unbelievable. Those guys were so critical.
But there were people like Dick Cavett, Tony Wilson and John Peel then. There aren’t these kinds of people nowadays.
Now, today at least you have on the Internet the independent journalists. They are not working for a company like Guitar Player or Guitar World or Hit Parader or Rolling Stone. They are free, they write what they think. The people who worked for those magazines, they had to sell paper magazines. They have to take glossy pictures and write stories that would make people buy paper magazines. They couldn’t just give an opinion. And they realized that the thing that sells more magazines, was to give a bad opinion. Everybody likes bad news. And that’s what they sell: bad news. That’s why the newspapers always have war pictures on the front page and murder. And that’s what the journalists were doing. They were totally critical. Today journalists on the Internet, are actually very thoughtful people.
They are still doing that. I don’t know, because I don’t really read them all that much. But when I do go on the Web and read independent sites, I often read very thought provoking articles that are reasonable. But when I read some of the bigger name journalists, I think their writing sometimes to be very much like when you go on the Youtube and read the comments after the video. You read the comments of people that have nothing good to say. They are always choosing the bad, the bad, the bad. They love bad. It seems to be part of human nature to do that. They love the devil.
That’s what they were taught by the media. In Greece, nobody before me talked to George Martin, Bob Ezrin, Nils Lofgren and Alan White. Nobody. So, their decision was NOT to speak with those people. They prefer things like Iced Earth, Blind Guardian and Nightwish. They don’t want Frank Marino. They don’t want Stanley Clarke. They prefer the easy things.
Of course. They do just what they are told. They don’t do a thing, if they aren’t told to do it. That’s a ridiculous thing. It’s stupid.
Do you think social networks like Youtube and Facebook, can really help an independent musician?
They can certainly help them to get known. That’s true. Is this a good thing? That’s another question. No doubt, it can help. When you put your songs up or your photos and millions of people like what they are seeing, at least they are getting known. The danger is that you are out to get known, in a giant ocean of a lot of very bad chat. You know what I think of Facebook and Twitter? I think it’s like when you use to go into a public washroom; that’s writing on the wall, graffiti. Everybody writes their graffiti on their wall. And they forget that they write their important philosophy on the wall of a bathroom. It’s fine to use social network to really give information to people because information and communication is the most important thing in any society. But if you keep posting: “Yeah, I just made breakfast today” or “Oh, I’m baking a cake!”, that’s a bunch of noise. And they love noise. It’s like when you have a conversation in a crowded club and you have to scream over the noise. If you are in a crowded club and there is noise and you have a conversation with somebody, the only thing you can talk about it, is nonsense. You can’t have a serious conversation over that noise. Talk about somebody’s serious problems or the wishes or the dreams. You have to talk about “Oh, the weather is great today! Do you like the New York Yankees?” That’s what it is like. It’s a bunch of noise. When you post on Youtube or on Facebook, it’s all just a “mmmm”. A conversation requires me and you: dialogue.
They just want to make noise about their name. They don’t want a serious discussion.
I know. That’s the problem with the world. Look, the economic situation now in Greece and in Europe. We are now seeing the result of people having bad communication for 50 years. This is the result: chaos. Nobody trusts anybody. Everybody hates everybody. It’s ridiculous. John Lennon who everyone says: “Wow! He was great, he was great”, said: “All You Need is Love”, which is really something Jesus said. Even though, what Lennon said is true, even though was Jesus said is true, nobody seems to do it. It’s a great thing that some people said but they don’t do it. But everybody is still busy being loud and doing “mmmm”. They result of 50 to 100 years of non-communication with our neighbours and with our enemies. This is result of the economic chaos and downturn that we have in the world today in your country and my country, in US and almost every country. Complete and utter definite chaos. That’s where we live in.
(Laughs) First of all, you couldn’t hear me on the radio in the ‘70s. I was probably one of the few artists who would never get on the radio. I had to play live concerts. We had one hit, that was it! In 12 years. It was called “Strange Dreams”. Early on, we had “Dragonfly” but that was it. My other stuff never got on the radio and when they played my stuff on the radio, they only played my covers. This is ridiculous. I did 50 tunes and they played “Purple Haze” or “I’m a King Bee” or “Johnny B. Goode”. I have only done like 9 or 10 covers in my whole life, those were the ones they used to play. Anyway, that’s another story but, yes radio it’s not really about music, it is about selling you advertisements in between the music. That’s all about. That was always about.
Yes, but it was much better then!
Yes, because you had artists that they were making much better music. Because then they had to choose. They had to choose Steely Dan or Elton John. They had to choose all that. That’s why they were making music. But today no one gives a shit. Who cares? “Yeah, I ‘ll get the guitar, I’ll plug it in, I’ll do a video, I’ll get a girl that looks good, she’s gonna take the close up, she’s gonna scream and yell”. They care about the video now. That’s what they do. There is no art to it anymore. I don’t want to sound like an old guy saying: “Jeez, the good ol’ days were better”. Sound like an old man. That’s true. I want to talk about my opinion whether it’s wrong. And here is my opinion. You get a bunch of young people who are just starting and take a pledge to each other that they are not gonna do junk and shit. They are gonna do good stuff and they are gonna deliver it to the right people. If everybody does that, that is the only thing that there will be. There won’t be any more that. There is gonna be a revival. I go back again to the roots of your own country: When Socrates and Aristotle and these people were saying the things they said as philosophy that changed the world. Now imagine taking those guys, the actual guys and bring them into today and having them sell cars. That’s what happened. You know, we use to like certain actors in movies; Al Pacino, Robert De Niro. These are actors, right? And we love these actors because we like the people they were in their movies. Now, all of a sudden, we see these actors doing car commercial or doing commercial for some soup. Because they are not getting so much work and they started to do that. When we see these actors doing that, we feel that there is something wrong here. “It’s weird. What’s going on?” When we see the Rolling Stones continuously going out and milking the public. So, yes take the great philosophers, put them in the time machine, bring them here and have them sell soup to people. That’s how ridiculous it is. It looks so stupid. And you know what happens as soon as Socrates starts selling soup to people, all of a sudden, nobody would give a shit about the things he said when he was a philosopher. They would think he’s just another idiot. Do you know what I mean? Culture is the most important thing in a society. It is what makes people, people and not just numbers.
Would you like to play on one Hendrix Experience Tour? Many great guitar players have been part of this tour.
Well, I was asked to do it, two months ago. I declined.
Look, first of all, I couldn’t do it because I’m too busy. I’m not too sure if I want to do that. I have had enough of being associated specifically with Jimi Hendrix. But selling it for money? No. I just don’t want to do it.
But if one person deserves to be there, is Frank Marino!!! There are people who don’t have any idea about Jimi Hendrix’s spirituality. You do.
I agree. I totally agree. As a matter of fact, when the guy called me to ask me to do it, the agent, said to me: “You should have been on this, since the beginning”. He said to me: “You are doing this for Jimi Hendrix for 10 years before anyone even heard of it”. Like “You really did it when it wasn’t popular”.
Yes. But I said: “Look, the reason I did the music that I did, was because I believe it from the music perspective”. As soon as we say: “Let’s go sell it! Let’s package it and sell it”. That becomes mean. I don’t want to be part of that. God bless them. I hope they make a lot of money, I hope they make a lot of fans.
But you are the first one. All the others came much later.
Yeah, I’m the first. There is no doubt that I’m the first. They can say a lot of things, they can say that I’m a bad guitarist, but they can’t say that I’m not the first (laughs). History proves it.
Have you ever got an offer to become a session musician? I guess that you would be very busy.
Yeah, if I wanted to be a session musician. The only reason I didn’t do sessions, quite honestly is because I have bad time remembering songs. I’m not a trained musician. I don’t have a methodology when I practice or play piano. I’m not good at that. I want to improvise all the time. When you play on a friend’s record, they say: “Here’s the song, play whatever you want”. That’s different. But when they tell you: “Here’s the sheet music. This is what you need to play”. I’m not really that interested in doing that, even if they pay me.
Are you happy with the triumphant return of the vinyl?
Yeah, I love vinyl (laughs). I wish they never stop. Vinyl is great. First of all, one reason vinyl is great is because it’s large and you get a big-big cover. And it’s short enough, it’s not long. You don’t have many fillers. You have only the good stuff. And I love that. I will probably do vinyl again.
Oh, how did you find that?! That’s funny. I remember that gig. I do remember, for sure because I thought at the time: “What promoter put this together?” (laughs).
You played three times with them that July and the fourth show, the show of the poster at Ottava Civic Center was cancelled.
Wow, man! You ‘ve done a good research.
In 2002, during the Legends of Rock tour you jammed with Uli Jon Roth. Did you have fun playing Hendrix songs with Uli Jon Roth?
Uli is a friend of mine and he invited me to do that tour. Really, I had been invited because Michael Schenker at the last minute couldn’t go. So, Uli called me and said: “Do you want to fill in for Michael Schenker (MSG, UFO, Scorpions) and do your things with me”. I said: “Sure”. I was so happy to be called and I knew Jack Bruce (Cream) was on it and Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Country Communion) and some other guys and I was very happy to go with my kids like a kind of vacations doing the “Legends of Rock” tour. But, at first it was really-really fun. There were some problems on that tour with some of the people on it. Uli was great and it was wonderful to be with him, he really defended me. There were some other people on that tour who didn’t want me there. It’s funny because they didn’t mind to begin that on the first day. The first day I played halfway to the show and the second day they had me to open the show. You know, what really bothered me? That they gave the same reasons that I heard when I was 16 years old. They used that same reason all the time: Jimi Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix. It’s like I sometimes wish I never heard the name Jimi Hendrix. So, was it fun? Yes. Was it fun playing with Uli? Yes, I love Uli. He’s not just a great musician, he’s a great person, he’s a very good man and he’s a great guitar player. He’s a guitarist. And he has a great musician: he plays piano, he plays violin, he’s a really great musician. And his wife, Liz Vandall, is an amazing singer. She’s a great musician too.
Do you have any t-shirt from your ‘70s tours?
T-shirt? I don’t have it but I bet my wife has. Or my mother (laughs).
Because on the Internet they sell t-shirts from “Tales of the Unexpected Tour 1979” and all are sold out!!
Somebody is selling “Tales of the Unexpected” t-shirts?
Yes. For females!! I’ll send you the link.
Please do. The only thing I kept is the tour jacket that we had on “Juggernaut”. The baseball jacket on the “Juggernaut” cover. I kept that. But I never kept pictures of me. I never kept articles. I never kept t-shirts or memorabilia. I like to move on. I don’t have those things on my wall. Musicians have on their wall, platinum records or gold records. I wouldn’t put that on my wall looking them and feel that I have a great career. I’m just a normal guy, man.
A huge “THANK YOU” to Mr Frank Marino for his time.
First image of the article: Tony Kunkel – photo from The Variety Playhouse Atlanta, GA – 10/29/2006