|Rick Nielsen - Cheap Trick|
|Written by Dom Daley|
|Friday, 13 November 2009 19:31|
Rick Nielsen and Cheap Trick should really need no introduction.....but I have to try. Rick may claim that they are everyone's fifth favourite band but, in reality, they are the godfathers of power pop and one of the most highly influential bands in rock history. Über Röck loves Cheap Trick and so should you! Kudos to Rick for handling Dom Daley's thick Welsh accent so well, and kudos to Mrs Daley for handling the cost of the transatlantic phone calls so well.....what, she doesn't know yet........
Hi Rick. First things first; when can the people of the UK expect to see Cheap Trick come over and do a headline tour?
You tell me and we'll both know. I'm ready to go right now if truth be told, but there is nothing concrete planned. We are however looking at coming over maybe in the new year, around the end of February, something like that.
You've just been touring the states with Def Leppard and Poison. What was the idea behind going out as support rather than headline?
Well that tour was put together by Poison and their management who happen to be the same guys who look after Def Leppard and they asked us and to go out with them. We've done a few tours with Leppard like Australia, Hong Kong and over to Europe.
When you're supporting do you find it easy to pick a set list?
Sometimes it is. We were asking the guys from Def Leppard what they liked to hear and they were out in sound check and they would ask if we'd play this or that but you do have to have a certain couple of songs that get played and, besides, we're an easy touring partner - we don't give anyone any bother, we're on time and everyone knows we do a good job.
The first time I saw Cheap Trick live was on the 'Theatre Of Pain' tour with Motley Crue.
That was a lot of fun - ha ha. You read the books? Those guys certainly have no inhibitions, ha!
You've also been out with some huge bands like Kiss; any that stick out in your mind as being landmark tours?
Yeah, well Kiss was in '77. Well take for example the Motley tour; those guys were supposed to be off the rails but they didn't seem that off the rails to me. I guess they were always up to something.....mischievous, shall we say. The Japan tours and Budokan recordings were a bit of a landmark for Cheap Trick definitely.
Did they mind who they were mischievous in front of then, the Motley Crue boys?
Oh God no - they didn't care. I remember one of the shows we did, this guy went up to Nikki and was being a real pain and Nikki's management had put a bodyguard on him to keep him out of trouble, and this guy wouldn't leave Nikki alone, so the bodyguard asked him which window he wanted to leave via and then shall we say they guy left. That kind of stuff seemed to follow those guys 'round on that tour, people would try and push them too far and they weren't exactly shy about taking all that stuff on...in fact I'd say those boys liked it, but it was definitely fun to be around such controversy.
You've influenced a lot of bands - some we've already mentioned like The Crue and Def Leppard, but some that people wouldn't necessarily associate you guys with, like Green Day, Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Have you ever thought about releasing a record with some of these people as special guests? Like you could write a song with Dave Grohl or Billy Joe or Nikki Sixx and then get it released?
Yeah, that sounds like fun but I'd just hate to get turned down. I've never really asked so I think it wouldn't be up to me to initiate it, um, I think maybe we should. Sound like a plan.
Well if it does ever happen I won't want any money just the executive producer credits - that would be excellent.
Ha ha yeah sure! I've never really thought about something like that but it might sound like "C'mon guys help us out, help us out!" Maybe that's why bands ask us to go out on tour with them so who knows, maybe I should ask um?!
A lot of those bands have covered your songs - 'Surrender' must be one of the most covered songs ever. I think it would be interesting to hear what might come of you guys playing with Billy Joe or Slash.
I just played with Slash in Las Vegas and Courtney Love as well - we did 'He's A Whore' and 'Surrender' which was quite a hoot. I love it when those guys cover one of our songs, it's a great honour and hearing how they break it down. I know Green Day just did 'Surrender' during some of their shows. I'd love to write with someone like Billy Joe - he's such a talent, it would be a lot of fun.
Well, when all members of the band are listed and equals it sort of stops a whole bunch of conflict and nobody is saying I need one on here or why isn't this track being considered. It's a case of picking the best songs. It has always been a very democratic band in that we all get a vote on the bunch of songs; say we have twenty songs we all pick ten then put the numbers together and it gets whittled down like that. We find that's the best way to do it then it's not all about me me me and my wife needs some new surgery so I'll put a song on here or whatever - it's a lot less hassle.
Yeah, I do and I don't think there's more pressure. Like I said, we're trying to be more democratic and that's best for us - to share it all. Billy Corgan asked me one time, "Hey Rick, how do you keep all the boys in the band happy, you write all the songs?" So I said "Well, we share the publishing so if you play on the record you get the same as me and have always done that, not the writing but the publishing." And Billy said "Oh I can't do that" but I asked him why not? These guys are as much equals in the band and the record won't be the same without them, so we're all equals. I asked him "Why d'ya ask me?" and he still said he couldn't do that so I said don't ask me if you don't like what I thought - you know that's how we do it and it works for Cheap Trick.
Ok, so you don't mind that someone else is playing on your record, that's cool. You started out playing the drums - what made you switch? Was it seeing how much stuff there was to pack down after gigs and rehearsals?
Nah, I always tell people it's easy to find somebody who can count to four. I was playing drums and I always had a keen ear, we were doing covers of stuff like the Stones or something and I was like, I'd hear these wrong notes and I'd be up correcting the players. Besides, my father was an opera singer and when I was five years old I'd go up after the show and tell the keyboard player stuff like "Hey Jim, in the fourth song, second verse you hit a bum note" and he'd blush as a five year old kid gave him a ticking off. So as I started to play I'd be like getting up and telling the players the difference between an A note and a C note and stuff so it was just easier to pick up the guitar. I just got tired of teaching people something and it was tiring playing the drums and getting up and down so I taught myself to play guitar and keyboards.
Do you still play the guitar everyday?
Well, over the last couple of years and when we started to do the 'Sgt Pepper' stuff, even though I knew the music in my head, I'd never played it. I knew all the Beatles songs which is all well and good but, put it this way, the first two shows were the Hollywood Bowl in front of thirty eight thousand people - when it comes time for the solo, we're not jamming, right. It isn't a cover band up there so I needed the right feel. So I actually had to learn it. The Beatles said after 'Sgt Pepper' it was one of the reasons they decided to call it a day as they could never reproduce this stuff because there were three or four guitars on some of the stuff; to play it all was really difficult. It wasn't hard hard if you know what I mean, but to not look like an idiot and look like you know what you're doing, I had to go somewhere and play that stuff in our own style and to do that I really had to practice. It was fun- I found three or four positions on the neck to play the songs and I don't want to be stood there playing and looking at the neck I want to be moving round and enjoying myself so in order to do that I had to go back and work it all out which was satisfying and fun and I invented a few new chords whilst doing that as well. I'm still learning new ways to play stuff and that's kinda fun as well.
I'd say, not being a big Beatles fan, that I was suprised at how you made it sound like a Cheap Trick record - it certainly doesn't sound like a cover band - and you made those songs your own.....if you know what I mean?
Thanks. The engineer gave us a big compliment in that he was really excited doing Pepper with us as the Beatles recordings were like doing a demo in comparison with what we were doing with the live show, which was a real thrill for us.
Have there been any offers to bring that show over to the UK and, say, perform it in Liverpool?
Again we've spoken about it, maybe. When you think about it, any band can play it - you know a band like Van Halen could play it but not like that and Robin can sing all that stuff, he has the right voice. We didn't have to change anything for him, it was incredible. It was a pleasure to play great songs every night - OK some of them are a bit fluffy but you have fun with those. We did 'When I'm Sixty Four' and people booed it - they hated it. It's a bit okey pokey but it was great fun.
Yeah, the anticipation was strange. Later it seemed, looking back, it was definitely one the highlights of my career but when we got down to it and started work between me and John it was like two guitar guys sitting in a room. I never called him Yes Mr Lennon or No Mr Lennon. He let me play just what I wanted to play which was great and he told Bun E that he wished he had me to play on 'Cold Turkey' because Clapton choked up, which is a high compliment from John. I didn't think Clapton played too bad but hey, you know. There was a nice interview with Yoko where she said we brought out the creativity in him. I'd never heard her say anything that nice about anybody except John, so high praise indeed ha ha!
Where do you go from here? Is there anything left for you to achieve? You've played with the biggest stars, had hit records all over the world - what motivates you?
I don't measure success with the gold records or hits or who I worked with. Success to me is the fact that we've had ups and downs and we're all still here and we continue to work and get people to buy our music and come see our shows. That's what we strove for and the fact we do something we like is important. We all hope we can do this better or that better but that's what we go for. We're not afraid to play a club or a party, or convention, state fair or a stadium or reading festival - we'll play any place. I like to think were a working man's band and we've made mistakes but, hey, we're still learning. You know, I still wake up some mornings and think "God I'm in Cheap Trick, everybody's fifth favourite band."
How far ahead have you planned? You mentioned about a possible UK tour in early 2010 but nothing that far is written in stone yet. What about the next album? How soon do you begin working once the last one hits the shelves of the record stores?
Well, personally I'm fixing my studio right now. With Cheap Trick we rehearse so when we get to the studio it's usually done in one, maybe two takes, that's what we do. We don't ever have like take 400 so, if you like, we do our homework and we get prepared way in advance so we don't have to do it all in the studio.
I particularly liked the boxed set 'Sex America'. Do you keep everything you write and record?
Well Bun E has recorded every single show we've ever done. He'll listen to them and come up to me and say "Hey Rick, you did this cool change back in '78 in Milwaukee" and we'll have a listen and maybe rework a piece here and there - it's good fun. But yeah, we also have loads of stuff like 'Sex America' that has some great stuff on it, doesn't it?!
Yeah, we're the only reason KISS got back together for the 35th anniversary tour.
Do you get a discount from Gene for all the KISS covers or do you have to pay him royalties for using the KISS brand?!
Yeah, Gene charges us double - nah Gene's a good guy but his sleeves are hard to come by these days, so we use some Cheap Trick flats as well......but if we can find a good KISS record we'll definitely toss that into the audience.
OK Rick, I've gotta let you go now! Thanks very much for taking the time out to have a chat with me.
Hey, I know of a great stadium nearby that would fit the bill - we'd have enough room for about 20 thousand if you want to have a word with your people - next summer you could share the stage set up cost with P!nk if you're quick.
OK, sounds great.
And off he went back to building his studio. I just hope there's enough room in there for his 2500 guitars as well as all the rest of the band's equipment. I really hope they do get to come over to these shores sometime next year because it's been far too long for a band as great as Cheap Trick not to have toured the UK properly - who knows, maybe 2010 will be the year.