The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
INTERVIEW JOHN WAITE 2013

 

HARD ROCK INTERVIEWS 2013 - JOHN WAITE

 

JOHN WAITE TALKS TO THE ROCKPIT

ABOUT THE NEW BAND, THE NEW LIVE ALBUM, GETTING BACK ON TOUR, GETTING READY TO GET BACK IN THE STUDIO, WHY REUNIONS DON'T WORK AND A MUTUAL ADMIRATION OF FREE AND STEVE MARRIOTT...

"Missing you was a marvelous thing, but it almost stopped my clock..." John Waite 2013

CHECK OUT OUR CD REVIEW OF 'LIVE ALL ACCESS' HERE

John Waite is one of those musicians that so many people have their own memories of. Whether it’s the times he was fronting ‘The Babys’ in the late seventies, his solo work in the eighties to date, or his time with the supergroup ‘Bad English’ in the late eighties. You might even have first heard of him from his latest studio album from 2011 the wonderful ‘Rough and Tumble’. The great news from fans of Waite from any era is that he is in the form of his life with new Live album ‘Access All Areas’ show-casing John’s fine vocals in front of a band that sounds so grounded and  so soulful.


So it’s 12.30am on Saturday morning and I’ve just got in from a local show and I’m dialling John in California, he picks up and…. he can’t hear me. I hang up, I dial again and thankfully we’re connected properly this time. Waite, it turns out, has a wonderful dry wit and it’s always a good sign when you’re both laughing within minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

John: Hello

 


Mark: Hi John

 


John: Did you just call?

 


Mark: Yes, I thought it was all going to go horribly wrong for a minute!

 


John: Yeah so did I;  I kept saying ‘Hello’ then hearing myself saying ‘Hello’ again it was kind of like the Twilight Zone. But we made it hey, what the fuck! How you doing?

 


Mark: Good thanks mate, how are you?

 


John: I’m very well thank you, it’s early here, what time is it there?

 


Mark: 12.30am – we’re right the other side of the world. You’re on Pacific time, you in California? 

 


John: I’m in Santa Monica

 


Mark: I love Barney’s Beanery.

 


John: Oh down on the promenade, I get down to the Kings Head quite a bit.

 


Mark: I love that pub, I love LA I could certainly live there, if only I could find a decent job over there.

 


John: Yeah, me too!
(We both laugh)

 


John: It’s a bit slow for me, It’s very nice but a bit slow.

 


Mark: A bit slow!

 


John: Yeah I prefer New York, but what you gonna do?

 


Mark: You should try here then if you find LA a bit slow! Western Australia was once described as a bit like California without the inconvenience of people.

 


John: That’s quite a thing to say, quite a thought.

 

 

 


Mark: I can just tell this is going to be fun.  Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to The Rockpit.

 


John: My pleasure.

 


Mark: Born in the UK but a long time resident of the US, I know you went back ‘home’ recently is there anything you miss?

 


John: Well I miss my local pub, the Boot and Shoe, and I miss my mum, I like to see her, talk about stuff, and make sure she’s OK. It’s different out there, the seasons are different, the trees and the fields, everything’s green. And people have a very dry sense of humour. There’s a lot to miss about Britain but you can get Radio 4 on the internet. So I wake up in the morning and put Radio 4 on and it helps! I fill in the dots and the blanks with Radio 4!

 


Mark: That sounds remarkably familiar, I grew up there, lived half my life here now and I tune into the BBC when I can.

 


John: Yeah, It’s just better news, the BBC’s just great, always very accurate and done dryly, they just say the occasional thing off the cuff that makes you laugh out loud and you really don’t get that anywhere else.

 


Mark: The new live ‘Access All Areas’ is amazing!

 


John: Thank you.

 


Mark: It really sounds like the four of you have hit it off musically, it sounds great. The really intriguing thing for me though is the track-listing, some great tracks including some lesser known ones and some great tracks from your last studio album.

 


John: Yeah, it was an attempt to put out some product, I look around me and everything is getting so show business and so much about money that it was almost a knee-jerk reaction against that.  A lot of the songs are kind of obscure, some of them are off my last album ‘Rough and Tumble’, but ‘Change’ is on there: that was a big hit. I just chose the songs that the band played the daylights out of. As I didn’t have to deal with a record company and I own a lot of my own catalogue, I thought well with this one I am going to take a shot at putting this one out, I didn’t want anyone else’s input so I put it out on my own label, put it out on i-tunes worldwide or you can send off to johnwaite.com in Holland and they will send you a signed copy for ten dollars. You can buy it at the shows, but you can’t find it in the stores because there aren’t really any CD stores anymore. So if I was ever going to try it why not try it with this album, it was purely instinctual to pick those songs, there were a lot more to pick from but I didn’t want to be hiding behind hits. This band has a lot more to it than the hits, with the band we’ve had an amazing eight months and they’ve just gotten hotter and hotter and I just wanted to roll tape on it and capture what we had. I mean it’s one of the few records I’ve made where I can listen to it and go ‘Yeah!’ I don’t think I made a mistake anywhere: it’s completely live and no overdubs.

 


 

 

Mark: It’s one of those albums that you find yourself listening to and wanting to go back to the originals to hear them again. Off the ‘Rough and Tumble’ album you have a few tracks: ‘Better off Gone’, ‘Evil’, and  ‘If You ever Get Lonely’ one of my favourites off what is a great album though was ‘Love’s Going Out of Style’ do you play that one live?

 


John: You know what? We haven’t got to that one yet. Our new guitar player Keri Kelli came straight from Alice Cooper’s band and before that he was in Slash’s Snakepit, and he’s always had a second guitar player to play against. So when he came down to see us to see if we all got one we just dumped the whole thing on him! This was always about getting back to that three piece band with a singer like Free or Bad Company or any of those great bands like Zeppelin. It’s a very British thing, very ‘Seventies’ and it’s a lot to carry. And we just gave him a list of songs and said we’ll see you in three weeks in Detroit – it’s a big gig, there will be about 3000 people by the river, all very upscale all very nice down there, but you’re on your own. Learn the songs and we’ll see you in the lights! And there it was, we didn’t rehearse, we obviously ran through the songs in the dressing room and went through the details but we just threw him in the deep end! We played about 15 songs. ‘Love’s Going Out of Style’ is a great song but there were other songs that needed to be played before that got its five minutes. I mean we had to play some from the Babys like ‘Head First’ and ‘Every Time I Think of You’ and then there’s hits like ‘Missing You’ and other big songs.  But at that point songs like that and ‘If You Ever Get Lonely’ were still pretty new and we didn’t want to give Keli too much to think about. We did a gig the other week in Michigan and I think it was the best gig I’ve played in about ten years; the band is really on fire now! So, we’re hoping to do a second live album in six months, and that is one of the songs that will make it. It’s like; I prefer to do those kinds of songs that go back thirty years, just because it’s part of my history, but we’ve already done that on another live album, this is just gigs, and having fun playing.

 


Mark: It’s great, and I actually think, “Rough and Tumble” it’s certainly my favourite album, the best you’ve put out in years, there’s some fantastic stuff on there. “Better off Gone” is great!

 


John: Thanks. That one gave me a nervous breakdown!! I did it in two stages, I did two months in Nashville recording with Kyle Cook, from Matchbox twenty, and we got five songs, I then went home for two weeks to see my mum, came back and the management said we need more songs! As they always do, so, I went in to the studio and in three days, cut seven songs! I wrote “Rough and Tumble” the night before, it was like I had to do it, because I’d booked a plane ticket!! I gave myself pneumonia, as I slept for like three hours in three days!! The whole rest of the record was done in a panic, a controlled panic though!!

 


Mark: I did read something about that, that you leave everything till the last possible moment! That’s how you like to write.

 


John: Yes, I find it intriguing, but it’s like dancing with the devil, a bit, you have to really ask yourself what you’re trying to say, and that demands a certain quality of what you can do with words, and if it’s been done before, and how to re-say it. Something that’s got a twist on it, you know, everything has to have a slight twist, or it’s just nonsense really! So, I do try and keep it away from me, as far as I can, but, I can look at a guitar now, and look at the neck, and I look at the chords – I can see a ‘G’ and a ‘D’ and a ‘C minor’ and a ‘F major’, and my brain never stops thinking about lyrics and stuff, but I am due another record now. I’ve got to the point where I’ve got two things finished and I know that when I get in the studio I’ll just blast out a record again – I kind of just save it up. I mean I’d like to try to get a second live album out before I try to do another studio record, this year. But the plan is to get both done before Christmas.

 


Mark: Is it a bit of a godsend to not always have to worry about a label these days?

 


John: Well I’ve had a label, I mean ‘Rough and Tumble’ came out on Universal and they put it in all the shops and really promoted it, and we had a number one single with ‘Rough and Tumble’ (the title track) on Classic Rock Radio by touring it really hard for a year, touring to the point you wouldn’t believe it – getting up in the morning and doing radio and TV then playing a small club somewhere or an amphitheatre. We really earned that number one! But then I bought the album back off them, I offered them some money and they gave it back to me! And that sort of happens every four years – I get my music back, in fact today ‘Down Town’ came back to me everywhere in the World except America, that was the record that had the Alison Krauss duet on ‘Missing You’. Now that’s number three on my I-tunes in Australia so look out for that, it’s a beautiful version.

 


Mark: It must be great that every so often songs get picked up, like ‘Missing You’ on the 'Warm Bodies' soundtrack?

 


John: Well ‘Missing You’ has been a marvellous thing but it almost stopped my clock, it was so big. I think after that everyone expected ‘Missing You’ on every album that ever happened after that or a song that was like ‘Missing You’ (we both laugh) I mean come on! I did it once; it was great, let’s keep it like it is! I always like to change things up a little bit to keep things interesting.

 


John: There’s a band in Nashville called Love and Theft who had a number one single last year have covered "If You Ever Get Lonely”  from ‘Rough and Tumble’ so it is possible to have a number one hit.

 


Mark: It must be great to have that cross-over potential.

 


John: Well I’ve always loved Country: I grew up listening to Western music: all these songs about riding into the sunset and meeting somebody at high noon. It was the perfect segue into Rock and Roll, they were both American. The Beatles may have been the British kings of Rock and Roll but either side of them it’s always really been American. The Beatles were influenced by African American music: it’s all American really.

 


Mark: I think we’ve lost a lot along the way too. I think we lost a lot of feel and soul with the synthesiser rock of the eighties.

 


John: Yeah it’s gone down the tubes: synthesisers have a lot to answer for! I mean the reason we’re back to this three piece band is to get the keyboards out! I mean rock and Roll is essentially an argument between the guitar player and the singer.

 


Mark: That’s what I love about the live album, there’s an honesty and a simplicity that proves you don’t need to have all those trappings and enhancements and its all the more powerful for that.

 


John: No you don’t that’s exactly what I would say. If I could put something on the front page of a newspaper it would have been that. If you can play something and move somebody on the acoustic guitar it’s all you need.

 


Mark: Someone once told me more or less exactly that – if you can move someone with a voice and an acoustic guitar that’s all you need. It was Steve Marriott that had told them that.

 


John: (laughs) That’s right! I mean Steve was just an amazingly talented wonderful human being and a great song-writer and if he said that then that says it all. I had the honour to play with him one night then have dinner with him the next and it was one of the major moments of my life. A great guy but what a singer!

 


Mark: We’ve almost got something else in common then! I once went to see him a couple of years before he sadly passed away and between sets he stood at the bar next to me with his pint and his cigarette and smiled and for the only time in my life I froze up – man this was the man! This was Steve Marriott! I can picture it so clearly like it was yesterday.

 


John: He was a nice guy, a real nice guy. He had some bad luck Steve. I’ve been a fan all my life. There are only three great rhythm guitar players ever- one is Pete Townsend, the other one is Keith Richards and the third one is Steve Marriott. They were all tremendous rhythm guitar players, and Steve could really play lead too people overlook the fact that that he had a terrific sense of rhythm. He’s one of those people who is adored, he just got the sharp end of the stick in the music business.

 


Mark: Well he’s always been my personal musical hero.

 


John: Yeah mine too, mine too.


 

 

 

Mark: Now the bit you’ve been dreading those questions people have been messaging us about on our Social media. I’m pretty sure we all know the answers! The Babys have obviously reformed and you’ve wished them good luck but there never will be a John Waite Babys reunion will there?

 


John: Um, no. I told them when we split up that was it. 35 years ago or whatever it was I said that it was done, I had a knee injury and was in hospital, I fell a long way and Jonathan Cain our keyboard player joined Journey right in the middle of it all which kind of put the final nail in the coffin. But I did say I’d given it my best shot – I was in the band for seven years and everyone else was in there for six years, or four, or two, but I’d given it the longest time and I just couldn’t give it any more. And we had a time when we were really on… when we were ahead of everybody, we were cocky as well, we were really good live. But I don’t want to go back; I’d rather start a new band than do that. I do throw a few Babys songs into the set but I don’t want to make my living off being a greatest hits machine.

 


Mark: I think that’s the thing with nostalgia people are always overwhelmed by the feelings they had the first time round which always exceeds what you get second time, it’s never the same.   

 

 
John: I know, every time I hear ‘All Right Now’ by Free) I still feel like I’m seventeen! It just hits me right in the chest. Or If I hear ‘All or Nothing’ (by Steve Marriott’s sixties band The Small Faces) I still feel that thing like I did when I was fifteen and you never want to let it go because it’s part of the wonder of your life. It might be when you first saw The Who, or when you first saw Led Zeppelin, some of these great bands, but that was then and it’s such a precious thing, so you keep it in your heart and you just refer to it. You don’t want to make a living out of going back; you can’t live in the past you know. 

 


Mark: And when you are producing music as good as on albums like ‘Access’ and ‘Rough and Tumble’ why would you!
John: Well you know, it’s hard to go back to a band after you’ve been solo, but even harder to go back to a band and reform it. The politics come up again! (laughs)

 


Mark: And now the inevitable ‘Bad English’ question for you! Is it true that the name for the band came from a rather bad pool shot you played or was it your spelling of The Babys?

 


John: Well I don’t know if that’s one of those things people make up, I don’t know whether it was meant to be ‘Bad’ like Bad Company and I’m English, I don’t know whether it’s ‘slang’, which is a great word. But Jonathan Cain came up with the name and I came up with the idea of the band, so it was really like six of one, half a dozen of the other. I really can’t remember.   

 


John: I should come to Australia and start a band of Australians and call it Bad Australians (John laughs while I try to get the next question out).

 


Mark: You should do we’d look after you down here! It was a shame actually that you didn’t make it last year when we were going to see you.

 

 

 

 

John: We’re really sorry about that. It was a time when we didn’t have management and just before ‘Rough and Tumble’ came out the management company collapsed so we did all that by ourselves. Then we got the offer to come to Australia and it was all booked and we got the deposit at this end, we cancelled our work for two months, I think this was November, and the guy put us into these gigs and then a month into it he put us into bigger gigs and we didn’t know what he was doing, we kind of lost what his thinking was. Anyway a friend of mine emigrated back (to Australia) that worked round the corner at Barnes and Noble to look after his Dad  and he didn’t seem to think too much promotion was going on. Now I don’t know if it was a complete flop, or if he was reaching too high, I have no idea what went on. In the end we just got a phone call one day and he said ‘I can’t afford it, you keep the deposit’ but I had no way of getting in touch with the Australian fans and apologising apart from by Facebook. It was mishandled I’m afraid. And a big disappointment to us.

 


Mark: It was an odd one we tried to get n touch to see if we could help but didn’t hear back. We’d love to see you here one day.

 


John: I hope we get there, we’ve had management now for eight months now and things are going well. The new album is getting great reviews, perhaps the best I’ve ever had, especially for a live album.

 


Mark:  Now the question I’ve been hanging out to ask you all night. If you could have been a fly on the wall for the recording of any album to just see how it came about and how the musicians interacted what would it be for you and why?

 


John: Interesting question. ‘Highway’ by Free is a beautiful record. And there was a lot of tension in that band between Andy Fraser and Paul Rodgers and I’d love to have seen how they worked it out together as they are complete opposites and yet the album itself is so beautiful. It just touches me whenever I listen to that record. When Andy came out, and with Paul being the most macho man in Rock and Roll it’s fascinating to think they could share the same room and create something like that and have that chemistry work.  It makes you wonder how did they get to that point. All the songs are such beautiful songs I’d love to see how they made it work.

 


Mark: I’ve been asking that question for years John and you’re the person who has given the same answer I would have given. One of my favourite albums ever.

 


John: Really? Well they are both extremely gifted people and the work they did together was outstanding.

 


Mark: Can music change the world?

 


John: Well Plato the philosopher said yes, he said music can change politics. And John Lennon wrote ‘Give Peace a Chance’ and American anti-war activists in their thousands stood outside the Whitehouse. But if you can write a piece of music that really isn’t much more than a chorus and ‘gobbledygook’ well. I think in fact that ‘Give Peace a Chance’ did end the war in Vietnam, apart from the fact it was a no win situation, Not that any war is a win situation – both sides lose. I think it’s profound that Rock and Roll, and that song, written on acoustic guitar, can have that impact on politics.

 


Mark: It’s a shame they don’t write them like that anymore.

 


John: It’s a shame there’ no more John Lennon.

 


Mark: And the easy closer for you: what is the meaning of life.

 


John: Meaning of life…. Something I ask myself every day when I get out of bed. I get out of bed every day, I pack off to the kitchen and I make myself some black coffee and I say to myself “I Love my life” I say it out loud… Every day, I don’t plan to, I think I’m just looking forward to the coffee, but I’ve no idea what the meaning of life is, other than just to live it. And if you can do the right thing, then do the right thing ‘cos that counts. So if you can lend somebody a hand, if you can help , if you can do anything at all to help somebody else that is the meaning of life.

 


Mark: Thank you so much for taking the time John, it’s been an absolute pleasure.

 


John: Hey no problem you’re from Australia and like I said I haven’t had much of a chance to explain what happened, so I appreciate the chance to explain, give my side of it and let everyone know we were devastated.  I heard that people were booking tickets to get to shows. It was just we were coming then we weren’t coming, it just blew us out of the water. But that’s not to say we won’t make it. If ‘All Access’ does even reasonably well that’s all the more reason to come, so thanks to everyone down there for the support, God bless you, God bless Australia and hope to see you all soon.       

 

 

 

John spoke to Mark Diggins 10 August 2013

 

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