The Walsh Gang
There are quite a few Americans lurking about who took their basic roots from British Rock. Do you consider yourself among them?
Yes I do, but that's a secret; I stole licks from Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Peter Green. In terms of song structure, I like to copy the Beatles - "Midnight Man" is fairly Beatley.
Do you rate any American guitarists?
Not really. Duane Allman knew what he was doing... Albert King... James Burton. Jackie Browne's guitar player scares me.
How do you feel towards other contemporary performers who come from the same musical roots as you — Todd Rundgren and the Raspberries for instance?
They get into side trips which distort their music. I'm probably into some sidetrips too, but I don't let it visibly interfere with my music. I'm not into the school of thought where you get dressed up like a flash-board, or wear glitter - that all distracts from the music. I'm not interested in theatrics at all. I'm just into my music. Part of that belief is also not to brag about it, so I'm not saying I'm right and they're wrong.
Let me put this another way. You're producing other artists at this point such as Dan Fogelberg. Do you feel that your personal contributions to music extend beyond singing, songwriting, and playing guitar?
Yes, I like to add in a producer's kind of way. That's not songwriting, it's just like "Try this, try that... a long time ago I tried this with the microphone, let's try this. I can't produce people if I'm going to interfere with their songwriting. I don't even want to get into that I just want to get the other artist on tape with minimal frustration, whatever that takes, that's what a producer is. I wouldn't produce somebody unless I could relate to them like that, and they could relate to me. I haven't tried to produce anyone other than Danny, and I don't intend to.
What producers do you like? George Martin?
George Martin's excellent. Bill Szymczyk's excellent. Jimmy Miller's excellent, so is Willie Mitchell.
As a producer do you cop most of your licks from Bill Szymczyk?
Yeah, I learned all that from Bill Szymzcyk. He produced the James Gang for a long time, and he produced me after the James Gang, I learned a whole bunch from him. Most of what I know I learned from him.
How do you feel about your band. They're a new band that don't have anything to do with your most recent album, So What?
I don't define it as a road band. I'm constantly tying together a band, period. This is the closest thing I've got to a band yet.
It's been a while since you've played in a four-piece.
It's humbling because you miss that extra man, you miss the security. It makes you play better because there are only four of you up there. Every night you get heard, really heard.
Why do you put your guitar through so many effects — you didn't play once tonight without the benefit of a phase shifter?
I get bored playing it straight, there's only so much you can do. You can freak out all night, but I get into effects because I love the studio, and that's just a bunch of effects. And I get bored with one sound. Let me ask you a few questions.
How did you like the show tonight?
I dug it.
What didn't you like about it?
I thought "Rocky Mountain Way''and "Turn To Stone" were a little long.
It's just that we're between theatrics — freakin' effects and all that — and just plain jammin'. And that's why they might have seemed long to you, but it just didn't seem finished without that last bit that gets you off.
Are you more comfortable playing the Strat or the Les Paul?
The Stratocaster makes me work. I gotta clean it up, I gotta play tight. You rely on distortion and power less. It's good for this group because it's cleaner and it makes me play better and I really gotta watch it. You hear every little thing I play and you really have to pay attention.
Hear any bands lately that you were significantly impressed by?
Yeah, the Average White Band. I'm really interested in Danny Fogelberg, but I'm too close to let it be objective. I don't like Wings or Deep Purple or anything English anymore, except I do like Bad Company — at least Paul, everybody else in that band is expendable. I like Traffic a lot, I like John Entwistle's group a lot.
How'd you get this band together?
There's bassist Brian Garofalo, I'm stuck with him and he's Mark Volman's cousin. Ricky Fataar, he used to drum with the Beach Boys. And on keyboard we have Dave Mason, not the Dave Mason but the Dave Mason who used to be a member of Todd Rundgren's group Utopia for a little while and co-wrote their theme song.
(Ricky Fataar, ex-Beach Boys and Flame drummer, joined Walsh for his recent American tour. At this point in the interview, Walsh left, and the remainder of the dialogue is between Fataar and Tiven).
Were you involved with any other bands between the time you left the Beach Boys and the present?
Nothing else was worthwhile. Tommy Bolin and I had some jams, and we did some recording but he still hasn't found a singer yet. He tried some stuff with Alphonse Mouzon, who's a great drummer who can never find 4/4, he's stuck in 7 and 13. I'm afraid to say it, but that's the truth.
You were in a group before the Beach Boys, the Flame, who I always enjoyed — why did they break up?
We went off our rockers, everybody went mad. Three of us were brothers, and it got to the point where we were sick and tired of each other. Steve's back in South Africa, and Brother's in England playing with a bunch of different people.
How do you get along with the Beach Boys?
We're good buddies, I just couldn't play with them anymore, there were too many things I just plain disagreed with.
Were you pleased with the Flame album, and did you record anything other than that one album?
Yeah, I like it, and we recorded another album that the Beach Boys have shelved, it'd be pointless to release it. Record companies always want a band to support an album with a tour, and if there is no band and you put out an album it dies. So died the Flame.
Joe Walsh & Rasperries
Interview by Jon Tiven
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