By Lorraine Kay
Believe it or not, most of the rock and roll bands of the 60s and 70 are now senior citizens. One of those bands that bragged about coming ot our town to help us prty down was Grand Funk Railroad. Those gorgeous bare chested guys that all of us ladies swooned over in the late 60s and early 70s, are now normal family guys. We won’t spill their actual ages but Don Brewer’s wild dark curls are now definitely silver. But like, who cares, the guys still totally rock.
Fortunately for residents of the Antelope Valley, we will get to find out just how much on Saturay, August, 27, at the Antelope Valley Fair. Known as “The American Band” the high-energy now five-piece band Grand Funk Railroad will be sharing the stage with another bunch of 70s rockers, The Doobie Brothers.
Recently, drummer Don brewer, gave AVMSM an exclusive interview with editor Lorraine Kay. The following is part of that interview.
Q. What can you tell me about the new line-up?
A. We’ve got some great guys playing in the band. First, we’ve got Max Carl, formerly of 38 Special. Max is the guy that sang and wrote their biggest hit “Second Chance”. We actually do it in the show but we do a different version of it than the 38 Special version. We do it as a tribute to Max to let everyone know who he is. He’s probably the last of that whole stream of blue-eyed soul singers. They aren’t making them like that anymore. Nobody seems to sing like that anymore- really focusing on trying to put soul into a song and I miss that.
Max grew up in the same school (of music) that we did and so he’s got that naturally. He just captures the spirit of all our songs and he’s got that rock and roll energy. He just looks great and he’s an incredible front man and incredible talent. We’re really lucky to have him in the band. So we love having the guy in the band and he’s a great songwriter too.
On guitar we’ve got Bruce Kulick from KISS. I first met Bruce back in the early 80s. I was on the road with Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band and Bruce was with Michael Bolton. This was when Michael was a rock act and Michael was opening for Bob Seger at the time. Everybody in the Seger organization was going ‘who’s that guitar player? Who’s that guitar player?’ He was just a kid at that time. He has the capability of doing the rock and the R&B and whatever you want. He can cover all the bases. So he’s perfect. He can pick up all the 70s stuff and he takes it to a new level when he plays it so he’s a great addition to the band.
Tim Cashion has a masters degree in music from the University of Miami. So we call Tim Dr. Cashion. He’s not really a doctor but he’s the educated guy in the group with the music degree. He’s a great back up singer, and a great lead singer on his own actually, not to mention a great keyboard player.
Just working with these guys is great. Mel and I just keep pinching ourselves going “Wow. This band, this is incredible.” So we’re adding new songs as well as playing the bigger old hits. But I think we’re injecting new energy into the band by doing new stuff. We’re doing four new songs in the show now.
Q. If anything – what is different? Do you think there is an improvement over the original band? And how so?
A. We really try to capture that original energy with what we do. When I get up on stage I still feel like a kid. I still feel like I’m playing my first show and I’ve got butterflies in my stomach.
The way that we do the music. I can’t think of approaching it any other way and I think that comes across still to our audiences now. We’ve had people tell us “I saw you in 1970. I saw you in 69 at the Atlanta Pop Festival and you guys are just as great as ever.” So the energy is still there. Personally, I think we sound better because the sound systems are better, the equipment is better. It’s so much easier to get that rock sound now. Back in the 70s we had to struggle to get that rock sound out of amps and guitars and drums, because nobody was making stuff that was like that. You had to come up with your own thing and go to an amp manufacturer like we would go to West Amps and say ‘we want to sound big, we want to sound huge.’ And so they would have to mess around with the electronics and stuff. But now it’s just incorporated into everything that’s out there. So now it’s easier, so yeah, I think it just sounds better.
Q. What about technology? The original band was pretty raw rock and roll with a simple combination of instruments? Have you incorporated any of the new technology into the band’s recordings? What about live stage performances?
A. Yeah, especially with the keyboards. Back then if we wanted a Hammond B3 organ sound we had to carry a B3 organ. [Which weighs close to 500 pounds.] That was always a drag to carry something like that, now you can just carry a Korg or an Alesis or whatever with the B3 sounds built in. So it’s a lot easier to get those sounds and more. Yeah, I like it.
Q. Grand Funk Railroad was without a doubt a major phenomenon and innovator in rock music during the late 60s and early 70s. What was it about Grand Funk Railroad – in your opinion – that made that happen?
A. Well, there were a couple of things going on back then. We were one of the power trios that were happening at the time. We followed after other power trios like Hendrix and Cream and even Johnny Winter had a trio, but they were all more blues based. They would just take the blues and do it in a very white way and turn up the amps and get that loud hippy thing going on.
We grew up in Flint, MI, which is just outside of Detroit. So, we were heavily influenced by R&B not so much blues. We were into Motown and Muscle Shoals and Memphis and all that kind of stuff. We’d listen to Howard Tate and that was our influence, so when we were working on songs whether Mark was writing them or we took somebody else’s songs, (which we always did, we were very big on doing covers,) but we would do them our own way. And our own way was to use this R&B influence, crank it up and really do it in a high-energy rock and roll fashion. I think that’s really what made us unique. If it was a slow groove it was a heavy slow groove. If it was a faster groove it was almost danceable but nobody was dancing then. Dancing came along later with Disco. But I think that was what was so unique about us, we were very much R&B influenced and not blues influenced.
Q. Were you satisfied with the music or did you have another vision?
A. I think it wasn’t really a vision it was just who we were. It’s just the way we approached music. When we took “Inside Looking Out” which we heard on an Eric Burton and the Animals album, (which was a blues thing and the way they did it was more of a 60s kind of a version,) we did it our way. (I hate to use the term Heavy Metal, they want to throw the early Grand Fund Railroad songs in with that genre even though Heavy Metal didn’t come along until the 80s. But, again, we were a power trio and we actually played what was called at that time “Hard Rock.”
So, its just the way we approached it. We really didn’t sit down and go “this is what we are, why don’t we do things this way” – its just the way we did them. We’d practice in the union hall in Flint, MI and everything that we did whether it was for a show or working on album material or whatever, it all came from jams. We would just go in and endlessly jam. And then we’d go, “God, that part works great or that’s a great bridge, let’s use that bridge for this thing” and we’d construct the songs and the arrangements out of jams. It all came from jamming.
Q. If you could have changed anything back then what would it have been?
A. Nothing. When I look back at it now, there was a time period, I’d say in the 80s when all the 80s bands got very slick and their records sounded good. And then I go back and listen to our earlier recordings, especially the first three albums ‘On Time’, ‘Grand Funk’ and ‘Closer to Home’ – they were so under produced I think it really made them even better. So it’s a perspective kind of a thing. At the time I remember we’d go in and record an album in a few days. We’d rehearse it for a couple of weeks and work all the bugs out that we could. Then we’d go in and we’d cut the album in a few days, leaving mistakes and all. Then I’d hear those mistakes when they’d play them on the radio and I’d go ‘Oh, Oh, OH, OH God I wish we’d done something about it but nobody else heard them. It was very honest, I think it’s great. At this point, I wouldn’t I go back and change a thing.
I think that has been a lot of the appeal to the audience for Grand Funk Railroad, the fact that it wasn’t over produced. It was a very honest presentation of what we did. Even when we got with Todd Rundgren, and we started working with more industry type producers, we still really focused on being a rock and roll band. And we didn’t spend a huge amount of time going back and fixing things. If something worked we just left it alone.
Q. Probably there were musicians out there in garage bands going, “Darn, how did they do that?” And they were trying to reproduce your mistakes.
A. Reproduce our mistakes? Sure.
Q. Besides the mistakes, the unique sound of GRAND FUNK RAILROAD has yet to be duplicated by another band, why is that?
A. We really were a garage band. We weren’t from New York or Los Angeles or Chicago – the big city thing. We weren’t well-respected huge studio guys. Back then, the super group thing was happening but we were just guys from Flint, MI that made our way through the local scene. Even then we were more of a Michigan based band not even really a Detroit band. We kind of stayed out of Detroit. So a lot of the bands that were down there like MC5, Nugent and all these other bands that were Detroit based – we weren’t even part of that scene. We were really just the garage band down the street that made it. And I think that’s why a lot of people really related to us. ‘God they’re just regular guys’, they were saying. That’s what really came across in our music and in our recording.
Q. A lot of the old bands and performers that are back on the tour circuit again say they have a totally new perspective of what it is they are doing and the music they have played over the years, what about you? Are the reasons the same to go on tour and to continue to make music as they were in the 70s or do you find that you are doing it for different reasons and your values have changed?
A. I fall back constantly on what I feel like before I go on stage. I get chills and I get butterflies in my stomach. But when I get on stage and I start singing the opening lines to “Some kind of wonderful” (“I don’t need a whole lots of money” (singing),) and pretty soon after I’ve done a few lines the audience is singing the song just as loud as I am – I can’t get that kind of a feeling anyplace else. It’s like “wow this is really great that I’m up here doing this and these people know these songs and I get a chance to come up and entertain and crank it up and get them going and see them smile and see them dance.” I’m not going get that anyplace. So that’s why I do it. I can’t get that anyplace. I love being an entertainer. I think that’s what I’ve always loved about being in this business.
Q. When you started in this business what did you want? Did you want stardom, or did you just want to play?
A. I always wanted to be a rock star – even when I was little. I watched Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan show doing Blue Suede Shoes. I used to do an imitation of him and my dad would take me to the bar and put a nickle in the jukebox and play Blue Suede Shoes and put me up on the table and say, “Come on, do your imitation of Elvis Presley” and I’d do this thing. I started my first band when I was probably 9 years old or something and entered the talent contest at school. I just wanted it. I was very impressed by a rock band of older guys at our school. I can’t even remember their name. But they were doing all Jerry Lee Lewis stuff and Chuck Berry stuff and I was going “Wow, that’s really cool. Listen to what they can do.” So that’s what I always wanted to do. When I got the chance to do it and do it professionally and make money at it that was even cooler. I was 15 years old, I couldn’t even drive and I was playing in a band at sock hops and that kind of stuff and I’d come home with money. And I said “Wow, this is great!”
Q. A lot of later artists have claimed that Grand Funk Railroad was a big influence on their music, what bands have you heard that you find influencing you as a writer and musician?
A. Cream and Hendrix were always big influences on us. And all of the Motown stuff was a major influence on us. The Young Rascals – that was a major influence because they had that R&B thing going. A New York thing. That always intrigued me that they didn’t have a bass player. Everything was done with a Hammond B3 and bass keys and that was very cool. And Felix Cavaleri had that R&B thing going in his voice – the blue eyed soul thing. Dino Danali was always one of my favorite drummers. I was always enamored by him. I saw him on the Ed Sullivan show and he came on and he threw his drum stick up in the air higher than the top of the stage and it came back down and he caught it and I went “wow that’s cool.”
Q. What about the new stuff you are doing? Do you feel you still have that signature sound even though you’ve added new musicians and new songs? Can fans expect the same great sound from this new group of musicians?
A. I think because we really do want to keep that kind of energy – that rock and roll soul spirit in the band. It’s just there again naturally especially with Max. That’s what he grew up on as well. So that vibe is still there even in the new songs. We open with a brand new song called ‘Bottle Rocket’. It’s got that thing to it. It’s got an R&B flavor, an R&B groove but it rocks. So it really is a kind of continuation I think of what we’ve always been.
Q. In the beginning Mark Farner wrote all the band’s songs. Later you wrote probably the band’s biggest hit “We’re an American Band”, how much do you contribute to new tunes being recorded by the band now?
A. Mark wrote most of the songs because he was the lead singer. I was the secondary singer. I’d sing backup or I’d sing an occasional lead here and there. But it’s a lot easier and a lot more natural for someone to write for their own voice. And that’s really kind of where I came into writing more on ‘We’re An American Band’ and on that album because I was singing more, so it was easier for me to write for the way I sing. I still contribute, but Max is writing most of our new material because he is the lead singer.
Q. The fact that some of the most popular songs that the band recorded were written by you ever cause any friction between you and Mark?
A. Well I think there was some of that at one time. But it was different, when I started contributing we were going after FM radio. FM radio was changing from being an underground thing to being the new top 40 commercial deal. And prior to my starting to contributing as much as I did – we were doing basically album things and stage type stuff. Then we could get seven-minute songs played on the radio. Then toward the end of 1972 you couldn’t do that anymore. You had to stick with three minutes or three and a half minutes and the songs had to be commercial and they had to have a hook and a chorus. It had to be that kind of stuff. That’s when I started jumping in and maybe I had a little bit of knowledge and talent going in that direction. But maybe it was just the stuff I was coming up with was more commercial.
Q. So what can you say about the new material?
A. Max is kind of spearheading the writing thing. He is contributing more to the writing because he is the lead singer. Max and I co-wrote the new song ‘Sky High’ which is in the set. But Max wrote the song ‘Bottle Rocket’ which is now our opening song. He also co-wrote with Bruce a rock ballad called ‘Who Took Down The Stars’ which we do toward the end of the show. So its kind of the same thing, we either collaborate on stuff or Max spearheads the operation going that way.
Q. So, now the Uncle Sam costume – is that a permanent fixture in your stage show? What does it actually mean to you?
A. You mean my bit of cheese? Not just the Uncle Sam costume, but my fur coat and hat – it’s all Schtick. That’s my schtick – everybody needs a little schtick.
Q. Does it have anything with being patriotic or the political atmosphere right now and that you are proud to be an American?
A. No, I just think it works. It just kind of represents what the song is. It represents what our logo is. We fell into that Uncle Sam with the pointing finger back in 1973. ‘Uncle Sam wants you – well, we want you.’ We are an American band and we are proud of it and we are proud of all things America. It’s not just because of September 11. We always have been. That was kind of our distinguishing thing with all the English bands. ‘Hey we’re an American band.’
Q. A lot of our readers and possibly those that will be sitting in the audience on the 11th are military personnel since we are just a few miles from a couple of military bases, how do you feel knowing that many of them take your song “We’re An American Band” onto foreign soil with them? How does it feel to know that a song you wrote has become a kind of anthem?
A. I don’t know. I feel very fortunate because I didn’t write the song to be that way. There was always rumors that we came up with this idea in this song and that it was kind of against all of the English bands and the ‘English Invasion’. But it really wasn’t. It was very innocent.
I don’t know a lot of guitar but I was fooling around with the chords and we were out on the road for the Phoenix tour and we had to come up with another single for the next album. And our backs were up against the wall because Terry Knight was suing us and we were being sued all over the place and we didn’t know if we were going to have a future. And the thought that came to my mind was ‘we’re out on the road and we’re coming to your town and we’ll help you party it down.’ That’s kind of the way I felt -that we were coming into these towns and saying – ‘Come on. Come on to the party. Here it is.’ And ‘We’re An American Band’ just kind of rolled off my head and it sounded great with the chords I was playing. After that I took little snippets of what was going on – on the road.
Freddie King was touring with us. He’s a great blues act and we really wanted to have Freddie on the show with us. But one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in my life was how he would insist that his band had to play poker with him every night. And that was just so that he could win back the money he paid them. They were always broke. So you couldn’t be in Freddie’s band unless you played poker with him and then he’d pay you and then he’d win the money back. So that’s where the line came from ‘Up all night with Freddie King and I gotta tell you Poker’s his thing.’ ‘These four young chiquita’s in Omaha’ was another little thing. Four girls were in the lobby in the hotel and of course I just sort of blew up the lyrics and made it sound kind of exotic and fun. It’s what it was all about and what was going on at the time and I really didn’t intend to make it like an anthem, but I think that it’s great that it is. It’s incredible.
I really feel that we are a representation of that facet of American culture. We are just a garage band. I came from Schwartz Creek, MI, which is a little town outside of Flint, MI. I always had a band. I was always practicing with the band in my basement and all those people and the neighbors knew what I was doing. And they heard the band and they put up with all the noise and stuff. It was a piece of Americana and I think Grand Funk railroad was a part of that. So I think the song is a real representation of what we are.
Q. There are lots of bands out there. How does it feel to be not just another band but something of a rock and roll ICON? Did you ever think it would come to this?
A. I don’t really look at it that way. I really don’t. I look at myself more like just a guy from Michigan and I’ve got a great wife and I’ve got a great kid and I take the trash out. I feel very fortunate. It’s the same way I feel about ‘We’re An American Band’. I was the guy that wrote the song and I was the guy that sang it and I feel very fortunate that it’s around 30 some years later. But to me it’s like ‘Wow – that’s pretty amazing’. Especially when we got slammed on by all the critics back in the 70s. In Rolling Stone Magazine we were the band that they hated. So for this music to still be around and for us to still be able to draw audiences and people know our songs and they sing the lyrics to our songs right off the top of their heads, I think is pretty incredible. We’re pretty fortunate.
Q. Don’t you think some of that negative press just drove teenagers to buy your music even more?
A. I think it did. I think what it did it really hardened the resolve of the people that did like our music even more. Cause they would see that stuff that was unjust and they took it personally. “What do you mean you don’t like GRAND FUNK RAILROAD? I love GRAND FUNK RAILROAD – and you’re telling me that’s garbage – well (raspberries).
Q. Why do you think Grand Funk Railroad succeeded where thousands of other – perhaps equally talented bands failed? And I’m not talking American Idol wannabes.
A. It’s simply being at the right place at the right time. It’s the right little combination of ingredients going on at the right time. And it’s making the right decisions along the way. There was one important decision we made as Grand Funk was coming out of being ‘The Fabulous Pack’ which was the band that Mark and I had before Grand Funk. We had become a cover band. To make money we were playing all these cover songs and going into clubs and that kind of stuff. And we were making money. But when we decided to get with Mel and start Grand Funk Railroad one thing we said was that we’re not going to be a cover band. The hippy places were coming along – the Grandee Ballroom and the Fillmore and all these places. And we’d go to the Grandee in Detroit and watch the bands that came in there and watch as this whole underground movement was going on. All these bands were playing original material. And the audiences were totally receptive to that. So we made the decision that we were not going to be a cover band anymore – even if we starved. And that was really what we did. We ended up going through a really bad period because we wouldn’t be a cover band. You kind of have to make decisions and take chances. And that was one of the biggest ones we took. And that really kind of paid off. It forced us to become our own thing.
Q. Would you recommend that to other struggling musicians out there?
A. No – because it’s a whole different time period. That’s what was going on at the time and we were able to capitalize on it. Records and artists broke at that time by being different. If you could come up with something that was different then maybe you could get air-play that way. You can’t get air-play like that now. Nobody’s going to play it. It’s just a whole different time period. So I wouldn’t recommend necessarily doing that at all right now. I don’t know how bands come up at all anymore. I don’t know how the system works. Radio has shut every thing down. I talk to guys that have their own bands, and of course they all have a web site. And they all try to build a small local following of people and they’ll play here at this club or there at that club and they sell their CDs off their web site. But to get national exposure? I don’t know.
Q. Do you regret the years that GRAND FUNK RAILROAD was not playing together? Were you glad for the time away from the band?
A. Yeah, I was glad to have it. I think we were kind of fortunate that we were able to make that decision when we did. Actually, Disco came along and kind of decided our fate for us. We simply said, ‘We aren’t going there. Let’s just drop it. If something comes along in the future we’ll do it again.’ and we did. I think that was the best thing to do. We tried to get back together in the early 80s but it was just too early. It was just the wrong time period – everyone had gone away from what I call real rock and gone into corporate rock. So that was the wrong time for us. So I was lucky when I got to do the Bob Seger thing and I got to be a part of the corporate thing from the outside. So, I think we did the right thing. After all we never dreamed that there would be such a thing as classic rock radio for classic rock artists or that there would be CDs. Nobody ever thought about that back then. Nobody could have predicted it and by the time it all came back together we’d all grown up and we’d all had a chance to raise our families and then here we are ‘Hey, we can go out now and have a career.’ It was great.
Q. What are your favorite Grand Funk Railroad tunes?
A. I’ve got a lot of favorite songs – “I’m Your Captain-Closer To Home”, is one of my favorites. On Epluribus Funk “I Come Tumblin” is one of my favorites. “Hooked On Love” on the Closer To Home album is one of my favorites. “I Can Feel Him In The Morning” off the Survival album that’s a favorite of mine. “Pass It Around” off Good Singin, Good Playin is another favorite of mine.
I look back at a lot of the albums but I have a different perspective than most people do. I don’t necessarily look into the songs and the music as much as I have a direct reflection of what it was like in the studio when we were recording and that’s kind of what influences the way I feel. You know, things like – was it hard to get that on tape or did it flow? Did we spend 30 takes yelling and screaming and all that kind of stuff or did we just kind of go ‘Wow that was great and that was easy!’ That’s my take on it.
Q. What are your least favorites? Is there one that if you have to play it one more time you will puke?
A. NO. I still like all of them.
Q. On your sets you do now, do you try to incorporate the ones that you like to do the best or the ones the fans like the best?
A. Well, in doing what we’re doing we try to stay away from the album cuts. Most of the audience that we’re playing for are more casual classic rock fans. They’re not necessarily Grand Funk Railroad fans. We do get those but they’re not a majority of the audience so if we start playing a lot of these cuts that are the third cut on the fourth album the audience are going to say ‘What are they playing – I don’t know that song.’ So we focus on the classic stuff they might be more familiar with. Of course the biggest four songs are ‘We’re An American Band’, ‘Loco-Motion’, ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ and ‘I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home’. We still do ‘Inside Looking Out’ in the show because it’s a great lead guitar piece and Bruce just scorches making it a feature for him. When we designed the song in the first place it was supposed to be a show tune and that’s what we used to close the show with. We really focus on if they don’t know the song let’s make sure it’s a show-piece, that’s what we do. They pretty much like the energy songs. And they like the ones that they’re familiar with. Even the songs like ‘Footstompin’ Music’ and ‘Rock and Roll Soul’ – a lot of the people that come to see us, they don’t really know those songs necessarily until they hear it. Then they go ‘Oh, yeah, you guys did that.’ That’s really what we focus on. It works. Our job is to entertain and not go up and be self-indulgent and go ‘Gee I want to do this, because creatively I can.’ That’s not our job. Our job is to go out and entertain the audience, so that’s what we do.
Q. What are the fans like? Are they primarily fans from the old days or do you see a new group of kids appreciating your music?
A. It’s a broad-spectrum audience. It’s all over the place. I like to say they’re really more casual classic rock fans that’s what they are. We do get the Grand Funk Railroad fans but it’s more of a classic rock audience. Like at fairs – it’s kids and teenagers and college-age kids. And then there are parents who are from our generation and even grandparents – the whole gamut. But they all know classic rock songs. They’ve been exposed to them one way or another. So the rock festivals are real classic rock fans but they’re not there just to see Grand Funk Railroad but to see all the other bands too.
Q. Things were pretty wild in the 60s and 70s, especially for touring bands. How does touring differ for you now? Is it better, boring, harder, more civilized?
A. More civilized. We’re not the new kids on the block. Nobody is out there trying to rip our clothes off. We still get the audiences cranked up, so, after the show you get a little bit of that. People coming back stage, they want a piece of ya – they want this and they want that – they can be really demanding. But that’s fun, because the next day you can go to the airport and a few people may know who you are but it’s not like it used to be.
Q. You were all pretty young in your most popular days, single and relatively carefree? I assume you have families now – does that make a difference on your ability or willingness to tour?
A. Not the way we tour now. And that is really one of things we look at before we do these tours, is how do we want to do it. Everybody’s got families, so we kind of pick to go out and do the weekends. We’ll go out Friday and Saturday night and go home. So it keeps everyone’s relationships happy and if we go out for 10 days or something it’s just a 10 day run. I take my wife with me sometimes, Mel takes his wife with him. It’s really a nice way to do it. You just kind of keep the limit down to that rather than getting on a bus and saying goodbye for 6 months. I think that’s very stressful on relationships. I’ve seen a lot of bands try to carry their families with them and they’re all on the buses and then they get more buses – to me it just causes a lot more friction and hardship and I don’t know why they do it. You get all these personalities together and you throw them together in tight quarters and everybody – you know it can get very messy. I don’t know why, maybe they’re greedy or something. They just want to collect all that money and stuff. We just don’t want to do it – we’d rather go out and play Friday and Saturday night. The way the thing works now is in the summer all these fairs and festivals are happening, so we’re busy in the summer. Then coming to the fall and winter we may do a few showrooms, you know casino showrooms and stuff but it’s a lot less so we’re home.
Q. How does it feel to be back on the road as GRAND FUNK RAILROAD – even with a new line-up?
A. The way we do it now I love it. Because it’s not stressful. It can be stressful but not like it was. And the pressure’s really not on. God, we can’t get anything new played on the radio anyway. So the pressure’s not on to come up with a new hit single. They’re not going to play it anyway, even if we do have something we think ought to be a hit. It’s great – I love doing what we do.
Q. Do you find the chemistry between you and these new musicians similar to the old GRAND FUNK RAILROAD? Is it better? If so do you attribute that to maturity or something else? Like what?
A. I think we’re all mature we all have a good outlook on it. We all really do like each other – that’s important. It’s terrible when you have a couple of people in the band that you can’t stand. Or that you despise. Everyone’s gone through that. No, everybody really does get along and everybody respects each other’s place and we’re all professionals and we all have similar likes and dislikes as far as music is concerned. We all respect each other’s musical position too so that’s important. Right now this is what I want and I just really love doing it. It’s great it’s not too much at this time in our lives. It’s not causing us to sacrifice too much and I love it!
Q. Are all the band members married? Do you all have families?
A. Bruce and Tim are both single.
Q. Do any of you have children old enough to be playing and if you do – do they? Anybody we should recognize?
A. My daughter has never really been into music – she went into dancing after my sister. She has been into dance and the theatre and all that kind of stuff for awhile. My nephew is into the theatre and Broadway and that stuff. Mel’s son has messed around with a band for awhile but I don’t think he got that serious about it. Max’s kids are not into the music thing. He’s constantly telling me how good his daughter can sing but he really didn’t want her to go into that because he’s seen what it can do. He didn’t dissuade her from doing it but he didn’t really encourage it because it can be very tough.
Q. What do you think of the new genre of rock that is Garage Bands? There are even radio stations just dedicated to garage band music.
A. Cool. I think it’s great. The record companies are in dire straits with this MP3 stuff and they know it. They’ve lost their distribution channels as far as being able to hold on to their copyrighted material. And radio has gotten to the point it doesn’t depend on sales anymore to play records. There is a whole other payola system going on there to get records played. And it goes into the coffers of Infinity and Clear Channel and those kind of things and so they have kind of shut off this thing of bringing in new talent or playing new songs. You hardly ever hear anything new on the radio ever. So until the public says I’m sick of this and stops listening to the radio and stops supporting the advertising of the radio stations it’s not going to change. They’ll just continue. I always equate it to the malls all across America. They’re all the same. And until people get sick of the same – nothing’s gonna change.
Q. Don’t you think that is why bands like GRAND FUNK RAILROAD and many of the older bands are able to draw such large groups into arenas again? People know that music was special and the music now is really lacking something. They are drawn to hear really good rock and roll again.
A. I agree. I hope so. I hope that’s the reason they want to hear it. I would love to see a movement like that but I’m not so sure that’s what it is. People have gotten to where they take music for granted. It’s not special like when we grew up. It was part of our culture. One of the most special things out there was music and the kind of music we liked. That was so important. It was a definition of who we are. I don’t get that now. I don’t get that from the older people, I don’t get it from the young people. I think it’s just a piece of candy. It’s a consumable thing. A song – an artist – it’s just another moment in their life and either it gave them joy or it didn’t.
Q. What is next for GRAND FUNK RAILROAD?
A. We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. We’re working on new material and we’re trying to come up with an angle to get something on the air somehow, somewhere. We’re working on maybe getting a song in a movie. There’s been a lot of things come up with a DVD or live thing but everybody does that. So I don’t know if we really want to do that. We just kind of focus on the show. This is what we have right now is the show. And so we continually try to make that better or not let it be stale. We always just kind of count our blessings that we have this to fall back on and have this outlet for creativity to try a new song or try something new in the show and it’s great.
Q. Are you hoping to repeat some of the success you’ve had with your recordings in the future?
A. Oh we’d love to. It’s just such a dilemma for all the bands that have had hits in the past. To find a place or an avenue to come up with new stuff and get a plate. Everybody would love it. But that’s not out there. We see people like Styx all the time and they’re coming up with new stuff. Basically, you can make stuff for your fan base but you can’t get it exposed to the mass public and it’s very frustrating. But right now this is what I want and I just really love doing it. It’s great. It’s not too much at this time in our lives. It’s not causing us to sacrifice too much and I love it.
Q. Above all else, what do you hope fans will come away from Saturday night’s concert with?
A. A smile, that’s what we generally get from people after the show. They say things like, ‘Gosh, that was a great show, I haven’t been rocked like that in years.’ It’s just that. We want them to forget about George Bush and forget about Iraq and all that stuff and just have a great time for an hour and a half and that’s all we’re after.
Q. How much longer do you want to be playing GRAND FUNK RAILROAD?
A. Until I can’t.