Thursday, April 17, 2008

John Wicks Interview (Part 2)

SPB: Smashes, Crashes and Near Misses is a great compilation of the best of the three albums The Records cut with Virgin Records, and I think it's the perfect starting point for someone wanting to check out your music. Were you involved in selecting and sequencing the tracks? Whoever was did a wonderful job.

JW: Thanks. I would agree that it is a pretty darn good compilation, and certainly a good starting point for anyone wishing to get to know the essence of the band. I wasn't personally involved in assisting with song selection or sequencing. But again, I agree that it was very well put together. I especially like the original 1988 U.K. release. It featured a comprehensive and informative booklet, with a photographic history of the band, which I thought was very cool, unlike the later U.S. version, which was, I presume - for reasons of economy - scaled down to a scant two-pager. I guess that's progress for you.

SPB: Last year you released Rotate, which I understand is an anthology of tracks recorded over the past several years by your new band John Wicks and The Records. I don’t have the CD yet, but I love the tracks from it that you’ve posted on your MySpace page. Did you write the lyrics as well as the music for these songs? Did you have a hand in producing the record?

JW: Oh Yeah! Sorry you don't have a copy yet. I will take care of that when we come up to Seattle next week. In the meantime I'm pleased you were able to take a listen to some of the tunes on MySpace. Now that IS progress! LOL!! In actual fact: It's been a long, strange journey that led this former Record to Rotate. Returning to the States back in the early to mid nineties, my plan was to form a new band, play shows, record new material and get it released. However, without the necessary financial support from a major label, recording songs for the proposed new CD proved somewhat problematic to say the least! So basically I laid down tracks, wherever and whenever, with whoever was in the band at any given time! LOL! But there were just so many roadblocks along the way, and by the late nineties I had begun to think that it was an impossible task. For example, the studio back East, at which I had recorded “That Girl Is Emily”, “So Close to Home” and “Edges of a Dream” and where I planned to complete the rest of the album, was suddenly, for reasons I won't go into (suffice to say nothing to do with me or my then bandmates!) dramatically seized by the F.B.I. Then there were the L.A. sessions, which were aborted after the initial backing tracks were recorded when I ran out of money! Consequently, some of the songs originally intended for inclusion on Rotate won't see the light of day just yet. Stay tuned though... Eventually - thanks to the invaluable assistance of an extremely good friend and fan, who came to my rescue - a new concept for Rotate was born. So it was, that with a fusion of my brand new material and other recordings I'd made over a period of years - an anthology of sorts if you will - Rotate finally came to fruition. Working with many different recording engineers and musicians, I handled the overall production duties for the album, wrote and arranged all the music, vocal parts and lyrics for eleven of the twelve tracks contained on the disc, except for track 12 - "We Can Work It Out" - which for anyone who wasn't around at the time, was written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney. “Oh Yeah!”, “Desert Sky” and the title track, “Rotate” are the three newest songs and were the last tracks to be recorded. I co-produced these three tracks together with Zak Nilsson, (son of the late-great Harry) and Randy Hoffman. Not having a regular band at the time, out of necessity, except for Zak on drums and keyboards, I played all the instruments and sang all the vocals. “Different Shades of Green” was the only finished recording salvaged from the L.A. sessions, and features a blistering lead guitar solo by The Knack's Berton Averre. He's a phenomenal player to be sure. Also on these sessions: Yours truly on rhythm guitar/lead and backing vocals, Gary Schwartz on bass guitar, and Robbie Rist on drums. “That Girl Is Emily”, “So Close to Home” and “Edges of a Dream” were recorded with a terrific line up I had back on the East Coast. Namely, yours truly on rhythm guitar/lead and backing vocals, Gary Schwartz on bass guitar, Joel Titman (Yeah I know, I know! He was an ass-man too! LOL!) on drums, and a - then - 20 year old lead guitarist, Chris L.C. Abshire. Also on-board, assisting me with additional high harmony vocals - Shaun Donovan, an extremely talented singer. “Rising Stars” was also recorded back East. I'm playing rhythm guitar and singing lead and backing vocals as usual, but this time assisted with a slightly different line up. Joining me on these sessions: Gary Schwartz on bass guitar, Dave Egelhofer on lead guitar, and Joe Parsons on drums and additional high harmony vocals. “The Lost Years” is actually a basement demo recorded on the East Coast in 1994 - featuring moi on rhythm guitar/lead and harmony vocals, Gary Schwartz on bass guitar, Dave Egelhofer on lead guitar and Evan Pollack on drums. “Come on Round” is a demo I recorded back in 1994 - just prior to coming back to the States in fact. Recorded at ex-Strawbs bassist, Chas Cronk's West London studio, in addition to programming the drums, Chas played lead and bass guitars, whilst I played rhythm guitar and sang the lead and harmony vocals. “Whenever You're Near” was written and recorded in 1990. I was kindly assisted on this one by keyboard ace Duncan Mackay, (Alan Parsons, Cockney Rebel, 10cc., etc). Duncan played keys and took care of all the programming, leaving me free to concentrate on all the vocals. “We Can Work It Out” is a really basic home demo, recorded during May of 2002 at various different locations around the L.A. area, on a really, really tiny Korg machine! Originally intended to be included on a Beatles tribute CD - it features Randy Hoffman on lead vocals, Zak Nilsson on drums and keyboards and yours truly on harmony vocals and rhythm guitar.

SPB: Who are the musicians in the current line up of John Wicks and The Records? I saw that a couple of years ago you had a really hot band consisting of Jamie Rounds on lead guitar and vocals, Lynne Davis on bass and vocals, and the mighty Clem Burke (Blondie) on drums. I just saw Clem Burke at The Comet Tavern a few weeks ago with Magic Christian. They were excellent.

JW: Yes that was a pretty cool line up, albeit a temporary one, but it was an honor to have Clem on-board. Jamie was great and a girl bass player too! Rock on Lynn! Anyway after several more attempts at securing a stable line up, running up and down a whole lot of blind alleys in the process, I finally attained that lofty goal early in 2007 - shortly after playing the Purple Weekend festival in Spain in December 2006. So, my current partners in rhyme are: Mick McMains - lead & bass guitar/vocals, Dennis Taylor - bass and lead guitar/vocals and Tommy Montes - drums/percussion. These guys are all extremely talented and accomplished musicians in their own right, and they are totally dedicated to the music. Indeed, I consider myself very fortunate to have them as friends and colleagues. Thank you so much guys! And speaking of Magic Christian, we just played a show with them back in March at Safari Sam's here in Hollywood. It was very cool to meet up with Cyril Jordan. The last time I saw Cyril was when The Flaming Groovies played a London show back in the late seventies. And of course Clem, Eddie, and it was great to meet Paul, he's a great singer and a very engaging and charismatic frontman. Just thinking about it makes me wanna go "Shake Some Action!"

SPB: What can Seattle music fans expect from your upcoming show at The Comet Tavern?

JW: A set of Led Zeppelin covers! Just kidding! Seriously, we will be playing some of the old Records' classics, interspersed with some of my new songs from Rotate for good measure. I must emphasize that this is not based just on nostalgia alone, but rather a continuation of where I was interrupted all those years ago. We just hope that the audience will have as much of a blast listening and watching us as we will have playing, 'cause at the end of the day it's a two-way street. Our interaction with the audience is a vital and integral part of the whole experience.

SPB: What's on the horizon for John Wicks and The Records?

JW: Well, we have a tour of Japan slated for the Fall - a double whammy if you will - to promote a live Records CD that was released in March, and also my new CD Rotate. More live dates are in the works, and of course we have to commence recording songs for the next CD. Fortunately I'm in the enviable position of having a wealth of material already written to choose from. All I need is the time to get the damn songs recorded!

SPB: Along with this interview I'm planning on posting a video from YouTube of The Records performing "Starry Eyes" in what looks like a London shop window. You guys look so cool with your “rock 'n' roll” hair and your sharp threads. What do you remember about making that video? Is that a Les Paul Jr. you're playing?

JW: Very cool! Yes, that was shot in an empty store in London's trendy Notting Hill district, long before Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts made the area even MORE trendy courtesy of their excellent movie! It had previously been a "Co-op" store or whatever the hell they called it. Anyway, the company went out of style fast, hence the empty space that our videographer (either Julien Temple or Russell Mulcahy, one of the two!) took full advantage of. And thanks for the kind comments. When I look at that clip now, I think we looked pretty darn cool too. Anyway, I remember that towards the end of the shoot, a couple of cops came to shut down the shenanigans. You see them early on in the clip, but that, as I recall, was edited in for effect. In actual fact they arrived just prior to our finishing up, so it was all good, since we were pretty much done by then anyway! The crowd that gathered outside was totally spontaneous and not staged in any way. I think it's an extremely cool video, and pre-MTV too. And yes, it is indeed a Gibson Les Paul Junior that I am playing in the video. I used to own two in fact, a '56 and a '57. I think it was the '56 that you see in the clip, which sadly was stolen some years later, but I still have my '57.

SPB: Thanks for answering my questions John. I'm really looking forward to your show here in Seattle on Saturday (4/19/08).

JW: Thank you Andy. I'm really looking forward to playing.

Here are The Records playing "Starry Eyes" in blatant defiance of the law.


Anonymous said...

Andy that was great. Thanks for getting me caught up on The Records! See you tomorrow night!

Seattle Powerpop said...

Thanks, glad you liked it. Looking forward to your set tomorrow night. It’s been a while since I’ve seen The Small Change.

Aaron said...

Nice job on the interview - lots more info than I usually get with a few quick questions. John is entertaining as always!


Andy said...

Thanks Aaron. Yeah John is very funny and a nice guy too. BTW I think your blog is great.