Mayhem Music Magazine Aug 2013
Interview and Photography
Mayhem Music Magazine: You just released your Album entitled "Live All Access.” What made you decide to release a live album?
John: The band got a new guitar player Keri Kelli; he played with Slash and Alice Cooper. So after 2 months things got really interesting. The same commitment I felt the band had prior to Keri's arrival, Keri certainly brought big time to the live show. It took him awhile to get into it, because it is very different than being in a three piece band. It is a very British thing. Most bands have 2 guitar players and a keyboard player. But a three piece band is an early 1970's British style, styles like Led Zeppelin or Free, bands that can play without having a lot of other musicians involved. You have to sing the joy in that situation. You have to throw down the drums some and, they have to be completely locked, And for one guitar player to take its big time. We've done it on the last album "Rough and Tumble" as much as we could do it. Rough and Tumble itself, was Number 1 on classic rock, the track.
That was just three guys playing and me singing live, in the studio. It's my favorite thing. With the band it came to a point where something was happening that was indescribable to me. I could not put my finger on it but we kept taking off. We just kept going and it elevated to a point where I was thinking Jesus Christ, I have to get this down on tape. Even if it is Virtual Tech, I want there to always be a record of it. And you know, I organized some shows, and we were able to get the whole record from 2 separate shows. We recorded four, but there was some tuning problem with two of the shows, and two of the shows were off the hook. So it was pretty easy to do, really.
Mayhem Music Magazine: Well you just mentioned you brought in guitarist, Keri Kelli, and Keri has played with several people as you said from Slash to Alice Cooper, Bullet Boy, L.A. Guns to Warrant. He is synonymous in the rock world. How did you end up with him?
John: I do not know. It was a knock at the door, I opened the door, and there was a big basket, there he was. We have a friend in Philadelphia called Jackie Bam Bam, who is a notorious DJ on one of the big radio stations there. He actually emceed the live shows in Philly. I think Jackie had something to do with our introduction.
I just remember going to see him, we have a mutual friend who’s a drummer, me and the bass player, Tim Hogan. And this friend of ours, Mikey, just sat right there on the kit, and Tim played bass. Keri plugged me in, and it took about an hour. We just had a few things that we thought were great, and the next thing you knew, he was in the band.
He is his own man. He sent me an email from Finland, two days ago. He travels just as I travel. I am in Santa Monica one minute and the next minute I’m in London. It is just the way my life is, but he seems to have a lifestyle similar to mines.
Mayhem Music Magazine: Well I am glad it is working, putting you two together and what you are releasing is pretty incredible.
John: Well thank you, I am hoping to go into the studio in September, with some original songs. I am hoping Keri and I will put together some good stuff. I have a couple of things up my sleeve. I have been waiting for this signal, sort of like an electric shock, to just push me forward and I’ve got it. It happened just a couple of weeks ago. I have been working on this one song for two years. It is a very complex song with a very complex story line. It’s really straightforward. It is a funny time signature, but it’s rock. We have played it in rehearsal and Keri played some great stuff against it. I have some other thing that came to me last week. And you cannot start a record with one song. You really start with two, I don't know why, but you have the whole variation of the album in two songs. It is what you chose to put with the first song, which makes it a theme. These two pieces of music are complete opposite, which makes it wonderful. They have the same highly unusual style that I have been working to achieve. You can write rock n roll standing on your head if it is good. A lot of it is generic sounding and I am really trying to not follow the obvious arena rock path or perhaps I have no choice. I could not give you the same and keep a straight face.
Mayhem Music Magazine: When you write songs, do you start with the lyrics or do you start with the melody?
John: No, it just comes together. It is just like twins. One is as important as the other. I hit a G chord and start singing and I get lost completely, and its end of story. I avoid song writing as much as I can. I really do because once I go there it is really intensely serious to me. I have to commit to it and see that it is well balanced and get things lined up so that one performance is going to grab it, and it is a hell of a job. Then again, it is not a job but a labor of love. But it’s almost like, if you’re really going through it, it’s a superhuman thing. If you’re just make your product, then you are a fucking idiot, basically. There are people out there that will love that and buy it, but I am not one of those people who would make that kind of music. I was thinking back to the day when I was trying to fall asleep, and I was thinking of what style I’ve worked in all my life. The B-side of the first Babys single was a song called "Head above the Waves." It was a song I wrote about my best friend when I was about 17. He chose to stay in Lancaster, and I chose to go to London, and I wrote a song about that. And it hit me that I’ve always been writing story songs, and I’ve made some of them simplistic, because that’s what rock is. I write short stories, really. And there’s more to them than just simple images. I was quite impressed with the fact that as far back as The Babys, I was doing that. I had not realized it because I was so unconscious of what I was doing that I do not have a formula. I wait for an instinctual reaction that I have while writing my music, and everything’s just like, all hell breaks loose, and I get things done right real quick.
Mayhem Music Magazine: As far as the new CD, since it is a live album, you’re capturing a raw energy. Most artists are reluctant to put out any music, which has not been severely overdubbed to correct any imperfections. What made you decide to re-master without overdubs?
John: Because that is the truth of it. The things that I love the most about bands like Free, and maybe Zeppelin, and Bad Company. It’s live. There is nobody going back in re-singing stuff or replaying stuff, they go for the whole take. Someone once told me that Bonnie Raitt sings the whole vocal live in the studio, and if she makes a mistake she goes back to the top, and these are the kind of people I love. Because it’s the imperfection of something, that makes it beautiful. I spent an awful amount of mixing it, and re-mastering it, and then remixing it and then re-mastering it. At one point, I woke up in the middle of the night and changed the vocals around, and I pushed the vocals back into the track, and it brought up the ambiance around the drums and made the room bigger. And that was the problem solved. You live for these things, and you look at it. And it tells you kind of what it needs. If you’ve got the ears to hear it, it will sort itself out, you know. But there’s been an awful lot of care put into the mixing of it. There’s not a single overdub on the record.
Mayhem Music Magazine: Those imperfections that you were talking about can truly make it what it’s supposed to be.
John: I think that’s what makes music beautiful, is the humanity of it. Van Morrison once said that it he doesn’t trust anything at all about the music business anymore but the performance of the song. And you know, you could write that on my tombstone, really. I have seen everything and the best thing is...Live, you know. The last album "Rough and Tumble." A great deal of that was cut live. I did some touch ups here and there.
I took five songs in Nashville with Kyle Cook from Matchbox 20. There was going to be an EP of five songs, so when I came back to Europe, visiting my mom, the management said, "No, we need more.” So I put it off and I put it off until I happened to go see my mom again in September, and the beginning of August, I went in the studio and I took seven songs in three days, and I wrote one of them the night before we went in, which was Rough and Tumble. The title track just came to me and it works like that. I'd try to reduce it as long as I could because the longer you wait, the more force it all comes out with it. It’s like filling a bucket or something, and at one point it just overflows and you just have to get the music out of you or you start walking into walls.
Mayhem Music Magazine: What would you like people to know about your new record, Live All Access?
John: That it’s the truth and something I am really proud of, and I think the band is playing great, and I think it’s the best I’ve sung. I’m not trying to just sell you something, really. It’s not a product. It isn’t greatest hits-laden. There’s a couple of songs you will know on it. A lot of it’s from Rough and Tumble. It’s a truthful rock record, and that’s all I’m interested in. I’ve never been one for arena rock, and I’ve never really been one for show business that much. I’m a musician, whether I like it or not. I’ve learned to love what I do, but I can’t, I try to avoid it like the plague. The biggest thing about this record is that there’s a band down in Nashville called ‘Love and Theft’, who have cut "If you ever get lonely.” It came out like a month ago and the video came out like last week. They had a number 1 single last year with a song called "Angel Eyes" and now they’ve come with "If you ever get lonely." There is a strong possibility of a country hit at the same time the live album is coming out. It would be kind of an interesting way to spend the summer.
Mayhem Music Magazine: You’ve had a career that has spanned over four decades, form The Babys in ‘76 until your solo career, as well as your time with Bad English. Looking back, are there any parts of your career you wish you would’ve done differently?
John: Alot, a man that says "He has no regrets,” is an idiot. But the fact that we are still talking about The Babys thirty years on, how can you argue with that? I mean,I looked like that. Nobody dressed me. I was wearing vests, suit jackets, I had an earring. And then my boots were made in Kensington, even when I hadn’t got enough money to eat. I mean, that's what I looked like. Nobody said "Look like this.” That’s what I wanted. I think a lot of people construed that as being some sort of record company front, but nobody spoke with me from the record company. I just did believe that I was right. I wrote a song once called "World in a Bottle” and the end, it had a very weird time signature, orchestral thing. I had to go in to meet the conductor, and from the full orchestra, on the Soundstage, to explain the time signature to him, because he couldn’t get it. And I stood there in a leather skin jacket and purple boots, the whole routine. And nobody was like, smirking or saying "Oh yeah.” They were taking me completely seriously. The head of the record company took me completely seriously. It was me that had the plan, really. So The Babys, whatever happened or went wrong, the implosion or the bad things that people do, that you just have to put up with, it was my entrance into being taken seriously as a musician. And so, I don’t have a lot of regrets I don’t think maybe I should have done the second Bad English record. It wasn’t working out. We had a great time for a year and then it was not working, and we should have just shook hands and walked away. But the record company wanted a second record. I would have liked to seen us do really well on the second record and then call it a day, but we couldn’t make a second one. So if there’s anything in my past that I would say, "You knew, should have went and left.” All my instincts told me not to do it, and I got kind of talked into doing it.
Mayhem Music Magazine: What do you want the people to know about John Waite - The Singer?
John: If I knew what to tell you I would be a different man. There’s a lot going on inside of me. I mean yesterday, I was reading Walt Whitman, and it just turned my world upside down. And now we’re talking about rock and creativity. The older I get, I want to make work that’s running alongside the knowledge that I’ve got. I don’t want it to be some sort of anachronistic thing, where I’m singing about being 18. That’s what I’m trying to do here, really, is write songs that’s true and real. There’s a lot of it in Bluegrass music. The great writers in music have all really been country or bluegrass, or blues. I mean, you’ve got some Son House and you mix in some Hank Williams, and you put a dash of Johnny Cash in there, and Brenda Lee, also Etta James, and then you’ve got something that’s so huge and so unstoppable and so right, and it explains people, you know, it’s the sound of our humanity. And that’s the serious stuff.