The Ultimate Eagles are in Australia for their first ever tour Downunder. Already an international phenomenon, they have become a brand name in their own right, performing to over 500,000 fans worldwide and clocking up 5 million YouTube hits along the way in just the past four years. We caught up with Danny Vaughn from Rockpit favourites Tyketto who sings and plays guitar in the band to talk all about his first ever trip to Australia.
Mark: Hi Danny!
Danny: Mark! Hey what’s up brother how you doing?
Mark: Very good thanks mate how are you?
Danny: I’m great! I’m in Australia for god’s sake!
Mark: You finally made it!
Danny: Yeah, I can’t believe it, I finally made it! I’m still processing it, but it’s amazing that we’re going to be able to travel to as many places as we are on this run.
Mark: Well welcome to our Country, and it was great to see you getting in early with the obligatory photo of a koala yesterday!
Danny: Oh man, I couldn’t believe it! One of my best friends is also our main tech, and he’s this blustery weight-lifting lad from the Welsh lowlands and he said to me “I have one dream, I need to be near a Koala” and I said man, you’re it, we’re going (both laughing)
Mark: And they even lit up the Sydney Opera House for your arrival I see?
Danny: Yeah the whole vivid festival, it doesn’t matter where you go, the second night we were in Darling Harbour and they had this huge dancing light show and a combination of electronic and aboriginal music, and there was fire going off. It’s a good time to have visited Sydney.
Mark: And the first show was the last night, how did that go?
Danny: Really well, and I can tell you this, though I haven’t really mentioned it in any of our other interviews, but we’ve been really uncertain what to expect because some of the online resistance to us has been really ugly. Australians seem to troll differently to everyone else and it’s kind of bizarre that there are a ton of people who think that we are breaking some kind of religious law by doing this, to the point where we are literally being called sacrilegious. There was this one conversation stream that said something like “Tribute bands suck, and no one should play the Eagles, everyone should stay away”; and then below the post someone says well I don’t know I saw “something, something Zeppelin” and they were quite good and the same guy comes back and comments that he’d seen them too and they were great! (Both laugh) Wait a minute?! How does this work?
Mark: It’s a tough one, I think people just get passionate about the bands they love, and it’s odd in a way because Australia really is the birthplace of Tribute bands, as back in the day even the bigger bands rarely came to see us. Plenty of ‘tribute’ bands started here and you’ve still got bands like ‘The Australian Pink Floyd Show’; hundreds of Zeppelin tributes, a million AC/DC shows, INXS, The Doors, but even acts like Katy Perry, Pink and Bon Jovi. So it’s not even about bands not being around anymore and being the only way to see them. I suspect it might be as much that you’re not an Australian Eagles tribute band!
Danny: Of course.
Mark: I missed all that fun and these days of course it’s not only your right to be offended it’s your duty to tell the world! Saying that though if a Tyketto tribute band started up I’d be a little upset I think!
Danny: Well, yeah, but I’d probably be fronting it! (Both laugh)
Mark: So the first show went down well?
Danny: Yeah, we had near capacity the first night, and we have more in tonight at the same venue, and I don’t know if you’ve ever been but it’s one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been – The State Theatre (in Sydney).
Mark: It’s a wonderful old building and so nice that it’s been kept so well over the years. So fill us in a little about The Ultimate Eagles, it’s a project that’s been playing to great crowds in the UK and Europe over the years.
Danny: Well we’ve been performing as The Ultimate Eagles for about seven years now. As you know some of us played with another Eagles Tribute band, who shall remain nameless, but that kind of got the idea in our heads. We were a little frustrated with how things were run with that band and we knew things could have been done better with the limitations on what was being placed on what was possible on stage. And as you know the guys (in The Ultimate Eagles) are all seasoned veterans even if they aren’t well-known names. We’ve one guitar player who has performed on all the major West End shows as a pit musician, he’s been in productions like ‘We Will Rock You’ and done all the touring shows. Then when Chris Childs is with us we’ve got the bass player from Thunder, me, and a bunch of guys with real world experience. And that’s the difference I think for the show that we’re putting on compared to other tribute shows which tend to start locally. We went straight to national and international theatres.
Mark: How on earth do you start to put together a setlist for a band like The Eagles? Do you do it chronologically, feature certain albums? It must be interesting deciding?
Danny: Well that’s pretty much a friendly fight every year! I can only imagine that The Eagles themselves go through this – the problem of course with setlists is that there are always a core of songs you simply have to play – there’s no way you could leave out songs like ‘Take It Easy’ or ‘Hotel California’ or ‘Desperado’ and actually the core list is half the show, so you don’t have too much leeway to go into the ‘deep’ tracks. But obviously if certain events happen – like last year which was the 40th Anniversary of ‘Hotel California’ so we performed the entire album. For the Australian Tour what we thought would be best would be to go with a ‘Greatest Hits’ but we also researched the songs that were most popular in Australia so we added some things that we never did before – like Glenn Frey’s ‘The Heat Is On’ which was a really big song here. So that made the setlist. This show is really the ‘History of the Eagles’ set, and we’re just trying to hit as many songs that everybody knows as possible.
Mark: Over the years The Eagles didn’t really visit us too much. We got to see them for the final ‘History of the Eagles’ tour in 2015, and the ‘Long Road’ Tour in 2010 but before that it was 1995 and only Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne got a visit, and before that I think it was 1976 for the ‘Hotel California Tour’ so with four visits in 4 decades it makes the reaction you mentioned a little surprising. All I know is that the only things I’ve heard from Melbourne and Perth where we’re based are overwhelmingly positive and the crowds in those cities will be big, loud and welcoming!
Danny: I hope so, I spoke to radio over there a while ago and the interviewer Tim said a similar thing. I told him that as we didn’t know what to expect and we were quite humbled and amazed to get a standing ovation at the end of the night in Sydney and he said “mate, in Perth they’ll be standing all the way through the show!”
Mark: And it is a seated venue too!
Danny: (laughs) That’s encouraging!
Mark: We had ‘The Music of Cream’ 50th Anniversary concert through Australia over the last few weeks with Glenn Hughes singing, and our reviewer there mentioned that a lot of the crowd were talking about The Ultimate Eagles show so I think you’ll pull a great crowd. For me I never saw The Eagles play live, I loved them for years but was always in the wrong place at the wrong time to catch them, did you ever see the band in the flesh?
Danny: Sadly not, a bit like you I never got the chance.
Mark: I see they are playing again a couple of shows this year the other side of the world.
Danny: Yeah they are doing this monstrous concert in the US. It’s pretty much my ultimate dream 70’s concert. It’s Journey, Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and the Doobie Brothers! But tickets are starting at crazy prices!
Mark: I know! But what a line up as you say if you love 70’s rock. As far as the music of The Eagles goes, they put out those six iconic albums in the 70’s but did you have a favourite album or period, was it the ‘folkier’ beginnings or the later hard rock that drew you to the band?
Danny: I kind of took it song by song but when you do what we do it really grows on you. I wasn’t necessarily as big a fan as the Country stuff growing up, I mean ‘New Kid in Town’ wasn’t my cup of tea growing up like it is now. I always liked ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ and ’Victim of Love’ and the rockier stuff.
Mark: You’ve a lot of other cool stuff happening musically at the moment if we can touch on that – one of the cool new projects is the Queen Symphonic Rhapsody show you are doing with a group of other singers in Malaga later in the year on July 8th. And here I have to point out to our Western Australian readers that it’s Malaga in Spain not in Perth!
Danny: Yeah I’m doing three shows with them. It’s a company that puts on these massive theatre shows in Spain, they do another one called ‘Legends of Rock’ and they contacted me to join in and do that and previously my schedule had never allowed me to do that as the Legends of Rock show runs for two and a half month and four or five days a week which would be fun but I never have that much time. So they floated the Queen thing and as there are just three shows it’s a nice way to get my feet wet and see what it’s all about. As I go on in my life and career it’s all about challenges and when someone throws down the gauntlet and says “can you sing Freddy Mercury” you find yourself asking “well can I?” and you’ve got to really stretch and see how it goes. And they’ve given me a really good selection of songs that I’m going to sing lead on four. There’s some really good people involved and they just got Nick Workman from Vega on board, Tommy Heart’s there and so many other great singers and that’s what attracted me. And of course standing in front of an orchestra. I’m going to get to sing ‘Radio Ga Ga’ and that’s a really challenging vocal song because of the way it keeps moving up and they also asked me to do ‘Love of My Life’ and it’s the acoustic version so it’s just me and a guitar – so I have to play like Freddy and play like Brian (both laugh). So that could be an embarrassment! Let’s see what happens.
Mark: (laughing) Yes not much of a challenge there assuming the role of those two! Moving on to Tyketto it’s been a couple of years since we last met n since the things seem to have gone from strength to strength with the band. The latest album ‘Reach’ in my opinion was probably as close as it’s possible to get to that amazing debut which also had its 25th anniversary last year.
Danny: Yes we’re into year 26 now! I wish it would stop there (laughing)
Mark: How’s things with the band, I know you’ve got a huge tour of the UK and Europe looming when you get back from Australia.
Danny: Yeah, well I’m really happy to say that an awful lot of people seem to agree with you about ‘Reach’ and where it stands in our little pantheon of albums and I’m really happy about that because out of everything we’ve done in quite a long time, it’s the one that we’ve been able to put the most time and effort into. Circumstantially ‘Dig in Deep’ just didn’t allow for a year of writing and rewriting and changing and demoing like we did for ‘Reach’. I mean I like ‘Dig in Deep’ a lot but it doesn’t have the wallop that ‘Reach’ does, it doesn’t have the sound that ‘Reach’ does. And that was just a happy accident that we were able to get a world class producer like Bruce Buchannan to come in on a budget and make that album. So I can say that it’s only been out since October and it’s already well outsold ‘Dig in Deep’ and that’s just a huge thing. And a lot of that is due to the fact that vinyl is back, you know they’ve found something to actually help music sell again and that’s really cool!
Mark: And not only that I see that cassette tapes are also here again.
Danny: I know isn’t that unbelievable! I could be wrong but I think that might just be a passing nostalgia phase! I think everybody who remembers how to wind those things with a pencil is probably dead by now! (laughing)
Mark: Even worse when the little bit of felt falls off and you have to try to stick it back on!
Danny: Oh God yes! And what do you play it on! Those players don’t age well! I had a really expensive Sony double deck and I pulled it out of mothballs after fifteen years and every cassette I put in it sounds like <<makes noise like curious cat mimicking a struggling cassette>> . It’s junk!
Mark: So give us the big scoop! Any new music on the way for Tyketto? What are you setting your sights on?
Danny: Well again, we just played the Frontiers Rock Festival in Milan, and that was a major coup for us, there was a big crowd. It was great to see the packed in and when we came on they were wildly enthusiastic. This gave us a chance to get some face to face time with our record company and they again emphasised that there’s something going on out there. Something’s happening and you guys are right in it so don’t take four years to write the next album. So I kind of took that as my mantra, as I am notoriously slow. So this summer in July and August I don’t have too much on so hopefully that will inspire me to get my lazy ass into the studio and start kicking stuff around so that in a years’ time we might just about be ready. And you know always thinking about a solo album as well ‘cause I’ve got a lot of songs backed up. And it’s always a question of finances really, it’s unfortunate but that’s always what it comes down to. It’s whether or not you can get enough investment money to get what you need, at the end of the day you don’t want a crap sounding album, and it’s tough to get the budget to do something that’s up to standard?
Mark: Have you considered the crowd funding route?
Danny: Yes, working with Dan Reed as much as I do, he’s a strong advocate of that, and that’s another potential project – he and I have talked many times about doing an album together.
Mark: That Snake Oil and Harmony show is a wonderful night out.
Danny: You know, we’ve got a little chemistry going. And I don’t always say that about everybody, you know I’ve sung with Eric Martin and we sound really good together and he’s one of my singing heroes and it was good and it worked. Dan and I have a real honest friendship going and we keep in touch all years round. He’s just one of those guys that brings out the best in other people, so yea a lot of people have said that the sound of our voices together is great and that’s not always the case, even when you have two great voices they don’t always blend well. But Dan and I do, so the biggest question is we don’t know what sort of music to do? With all the harmony possibilities I’m leaning way over to the Crosby Stills and Nash area, because that’s one of my favourite things. Anyway we keep talking about it, and he lives in Prague so I think at some point o another I think I’m gonna end up there working in his studio and we can see if you can make a little magic or not!
Mark: I know when I spoke to Dan last year he was very keen on seeing what would happen, so let’s hope you can both make it work!
Danny: I think it’s just a matter of committing to a time and just doing it. We just have to say that’s what we’re doing and shut ourselves away, and it’s tough because he never stops working. And lately that’s true of me too!
Mark: It must keep it interesting but also be incredibly frustrating sometimes if you get the opportunity to do something you really want to do and the scheduling just won’t allow it to happen?
Danny: Yeah between that and the inevitability of advancing years you have to choose wisely because time runs out.
Mark: You’ve a pretty full schedule while you’re over here, are you getting the chance to see much of our beautiful country in the down time you have?
Danny: I’m so impressed by the promotional company that’s brought us over, they’re really doing everything they can to look after us. We’ve an amazing crew that has toured with everyone, including Don Henley when he was here recently. And they were kind enough to bring us in days ahead of the first show to get us acclimatised. So I’m still waking up at six in the morning but its actually kind of pleasant to have the whole day ahead of you, but we’ve had days off, so you get yourself an opal card, hop on a bus or take a ferry somewhere. I did the Taronga Zoo in my playtime! Then I have time in Melbourne and in Auckland where all of us committed movie freaks will be heading right off to Hobbiton! I’ve gotta go!
Mark: Are you doing the meet and greets after the shows like you do in Europe?
Danny: We haven’t been because we’re not travelling with any merch for this tour, but we may try and hang around after the show as for me personally a few Tyketto fans have been coming out to see us. I would like to meet people if at all possible, so it’s a probable yes.
Mark: That sounds good to me. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to The Rockpit today Danny.
Danny: Oh man, anytime you know that.
Mark: Here’s hoping the show is sold out at each stop and you get those standing ovations every night.
Danny: Catch you soon mate.
Catch The Ultimate Eagles on tour now:
1st & 2nd June – Sydney, State Theatre
4th June – Melbourne, Hamer Hall
7th June – Perth, Crown Theatre
9th June – Adelaide, Entertainment Centre
10th June – Brisbane, QPAC Lyric Theatre
13 June – Christchurch, Isaac Theatre Royal
16 June – Wellington, St James Theatre
17 June – Auckland, Auckland Town Hall
Tyketto’s new video from ‘Reach’ – ‘The Run’ is available now on their new look website.