Right. I started in the band before it became Elf and it was called Ronnie Dio And The Prophets actually before we became The Elves and then eventually Elf. We had written some songs and tried to get a record deal at the time. We got an audition with Columbia which at the time Clive Davis was president of and we did this audition for Columbia. Two of the guys from Deep Purple, Roger Glover and Ian Paice, were at the audition because I guess at the time they were looking to produce a band. Get into production. We did the audition for them as well as the record company and the record company ended up liking the band. We got signed and then Roger and Ian liked the band too so they ended up producing I know the first Elf album and that was the one I was on. We did the album. We recorded it in Atlanta, Georgia and the rest of that part of the story is history now but we had a very close association with Deep Purple and we did quite a bit of touring with them back in those days. That's about it for the Elf band. It was a great band. It was a real band where nowadays I think a lot of groups are put together by record companies with the idea of making sales. Especially the pop-oriented groups. Back in those days, it was the real thing. Guys getting together and playing because they wanted to play rather than with the idea of marketing ideas. It was a great band. I really enjoyed it. It was some of the best times in my life.
Music is big business now. A corporate thing.
It's funny because the Elf music, especially that first album, there are still a lot of people that talk about it. It's been reissued on CD. It holds up over all the years that have gone by. Back then it was rock but if you look at it now, it's not anything like what the heavy metal or hard rock is today. It still holds up. It's got a certain commerciality to it.
That band eventually became Rainbow.
Well, in a way it did. I left the band after the first album and then the band broke up for a while. Then it was reformed with a slightly different lineup. Well, just a different guitar player. When I was in the band, Ronnie was playing bass as well as singing. When they reformed the band, Ronnie just became a lead singer and then they got a bass player and then a different guitar player. The band went on to do two other albums after that. Like I said, we had this close association with Deep Purple and then I guess at that time Ritchie Blackmore was looking to break away from that situation and form his own band which became Rainbow. I think he pretty much took the whole Elf band for his band. I think the original lineup did at least one album as Rainbow and then one by one, things happened and people left the band and that whole thing changed.
Then you formed another band called The Rods.
When I left Elf, I really didn't do much playing in music. I felt as though I just needed to get away from music for a while. It's like anything you do whether it's music or whatever your line of work is. Even though you love it, sometimes it gets to be a little bit trying and you need to get away from it. That's the way I felt about music. So for a few years I didn't even listen to the radio, I don't think. When I had the urge to play the guitar again, I figured I was going to get together with some guys. I originally put that band together with the idea of just having some fun and getting together with some friends and playing some clubs and doing that kind of thing. The Rods were put together with that in mind and one thing led to another. I wrote some songs and all of a sudden we got a record deal and all of a sudden we're getting the U.K. on tour with Iron Maiden. One thing led to another but that band was also a great band that I had some really good times with and we went on to do, I think The Rods did six or seven albums. It was a very well received band. It came out at the time with the new wave of heavy metal back in the '80s. It really made a pretty big noise at the time. Unfortunately we had some managerial problems. Some problems with the record company that kind of forced the breakup of the band. It was unfortunate because I think that band could have had a lot more success than it did have. It's amazing how people remember that band. I've done many, many interviews in the last couple of months with the release of my new solo record and most of the interviews have been from other countries because the record came out sooner in Europe. Ninety-nine percent of all the interviews that I've done, the interviewers have asked me about The Rods. The band was pretty big in Europe even though we did a fair amount of touring here in the States also. Everybody in that band eventually went their own way and that was the end of it.
What did you do in between The Rods and now?
After The Rods split up, that was another situation where okay, let's get out of this and refresh ourselves a little bit because the music business is kind of a stressful situation. I just needed to get away from it for a while again. I lived in the country and didn't have much to do with music. Being a musician is something that you never really give up but once in a while it lays dormant for a while but it always rises to the top again. Like a lot of groups, you don't hear from them in a long time and all of a sudden they're back. What happened to those people? Anyway, I really didn't do much. I got into the restaurant business during that time. Been operating a restaurant. In the last couple of years I've had that urge to play guitar and write songs again and that's what developed into this new solo album that I have.
How did you assemble the band for this record?
I started playing the guitar again and then I started working on writing some songs. I wanted to get those songs put down on tape and I really didn't know who was going to do that. I didn't have it in mind that I was going to actually form a band. I just wanted to get the songs on tape. There's a studio here in town and I asked one of the engineers if he knew of any drummers or bass players that would be suitable for this kind of music. He said he knew this drummer who was a local young guy and turned me on to Nate Horton and I called Nate up and I listened to him play. I thought this guy was really good. He's a young guy and he's never really had any experience as far as being on a record. On a release or anything like that. This kid is really good. He agreed and said he'd love to play on it. The same type of situation with Jeff Howell, the bass player. He's a guy that has been around for a while. He lives in a town that's probably about a half hour drive from here and I called him up. He knew of me and he knew of The Rods. He said he'd be honored to play on it for me and it would be really great. I listened to him play and he's probably the best bass player that I've ever played with. The guy is phenomenal and he's a great guy. He's been around. He played in the group Foghat years ago for three years and he played in a group called The Outlaws for three years also. He's been out there, he's been on tour, and he's a seasoned musician. He's a really great player and he can play any style. He came in and played and did a great job. I knew that I wanted to put a little bit of keyboards on it so this friend of mine, Bob Twining, has been a friend of mine for quite some time. I knew he played keyboards but I never really heard him play anything and never really knew what his capabilities were and I told Bob I wanted to put a little bit of keyboards, little things here and there. Nothing great but would he like to be playing on it. He said yeah so when I heard him play, I didn't realize this guy was so good. He ended up playing on there and he did a great job. Now I had all these tracks done and I didn't really know what was going to happen vocally. John West happens to be a good friend of mine. We live in the same town. In fact he lives next door to me and we see a lot of each other. He heard I was doing this project. Getting back into music. He said he'd love to sing on the record and I said that would be great because John's got such a great voice. The material that I was working on was material that I knew that I needed to have somebody that could sing really well on it so at that point in time John and I started to collaborate on finishing up these songs because a lot of the songs didn't have titles and they didn't have melodies and so forth. John and I finished up the songs and he ended up being the singer. That's how the whole thing fell together very easily and all of a sudden there was a band. Now these are the guys that will go out and we'll play live with and tour with so they're committed to this thing.
You've been more of a guitar player than a vocalist.
Well yeah, on this particular thing I'm basically a guitar player. In The Rods, I was the lead singer but The Rods' type of music is much different than this. Not that it's a whole lot different but this music on this new album is a little bit more sophisticated than what The Rods played. It really needed to have some vocal work done on there that really I'm not capable of doing. The Rods music was hard rock but more a thrash type like AC/DC type music where the vocalist is not somebody that had to be a really trained vocalist so it was more like a style type of situation. On this record I'm basically a guitar player.
The vocals seem to be rather operatic I think.
Yeah, John's a great singer and really capable of doing a lot of different things. He's been on a number of different records. He's done a bunch of solo records and for a while he did two or three albums with a group called Royal Hunt who come from Denmark. He did I think three or four albums with a group called Artension. The type of music that both of those bands are is more intricate musically. Lots of keyboards and a lot of fast, technical playing on the keyboard player's part and extended musical segments with the vocals kind of squeezed in between there. It was a different type of thing and I think John singing on my album opened up a new thing for him because it's more of a basic structured kind of a thing, hard rock, and very much simplified compared to the things that he was doing. I think he really enjoyed it and I think he had a lot of opportunity to be creative with the vocal parts.
I guess he's more of a power metal vocalist.
Oh yeah. The thing is, he's a versatile singer. He sings that way on my record because that's what it called for. The way he sang on the other albums with Artension and Royal Hunt, he sang the vocal parts in a way that that music called for. I think that he enjoys singing the style that is on this record and of course on the others but he's a very educated singer and he's capable of pretty much singing any style.
Tell us a little about Third Wish.
The title "Third Wish" was a title that John and I had come up with along the line as far as oh, that's a great title. When I gave John the actual music, the track was not written specifically for the title track, but I gave him this long track that eventually became the title track called "Third Wish". The song is almost nine minutes long so John took that musical track and created the song "Third Wish" and that track became the title track and then the title of the album. John's lyrics are lyrics that have sometimes more than one meaning to them. The thing is, when you're recording an album you never really know what it's going to come out like until you're done. I think the album came out really good and I'm very happy with it. I think that the first person that has to be happy with anything that's done musically is the artist himself. When it's done and you're happy with it, then it comes out and other people hear it. I think it's really great to get people's comments on what they think of the music. The Third Wish album came together in a way that, with the way the musicians came together and the way the music came together, and the way John and I worked on the songs together, it was just an effortless kind of thing. It was a very enjoyable situation to record. There were no hassles, there were no problems. It just was an easygoing thing. I think the finished product of the music reflects that. There were no problems involved so it's something that we're all really proud of.
It definitely sounds like a lot of work and creativity were put into it.
Yeah, as the producer I worked with this kid that was an engineer. He's a young guy named Matt Barnes. It was really great working with him because first of all he's a musician himself. He was very receptive to trying. Let's try that, let's try this. He was very receptive and he also came up with a lot of things that were his own ideas that added. How about this, how about that. It was really a great thing too. We worked together so well on the album that it made it really enjoyable. We did put a lot of time into it and a lot of creativity. The fact that I wasn't under any kind of timeframe, like I've got to get this done at a certain time, it's got to be done to be released. I worked at it at my leisure at the time that it was recorded. I didn't have a record deal. I was doing it myself. If I wanted to work for two hours that afternoon, I worked. If I didn't, I didn't. Everything was done in a way so that there was no pressure involved. I think that made it really easier and the fact that I had such a great engineer to work with.
You were also working with Joey DeMaio of Manowar fame.
Joey and I have been friends for many, many years even before the days of Manowar and before the days of The Rods. Joey and I knew each other. We've always respected each other's musical aspirations and so forth. Joey lives only maybe a half hour drive from where I live so we're from the same area and we've stayed in touch through the years. When Joey found out I was doing this project he said he'd like to hear it when I'm done. I said he'd probably be the first person that I would play it for only because I would really respect his opinion and so on. I had been out of the music business for a while as far as recording goes. When I finished the album I took it over to his place and he listened to it and he fell in love with it. He thought it was the greatest thing. He really got behind it and made it possible for us to get the record deal with SPV and everything. Joey has a lot to do with the success that the album is having right now because he's pretty much responsible for getting the record deal for us.
The CD came out June 8 here in the United States and a bit earlier overseas. It seems to be getting a really good reception. What kind of touring schedule are you looking forward to?
Right now we're going to Germany in August to do the Wacken Festival which is one festival. We're just going over there to do it and come back but it's the biggest one of the year there and they've had it for I think 15 years now. I remember even after The Rods broke up, that we were asked to play that festival and we were never able to do it. Now with this new band, we've been invited to play that and we're going to go over and play that festival which there will be between 40,000 and 50,000 people there so it's going to be a very big deal. It's going to be a lot of coverage and there's going to press from many, many countries that will come to that show. We're going to be doing that and we possibly will do a tour in Europe that may begin sometime in September but nothing's been definitely confirmed yet on that but the band is ready to go out on the road. I would really like to do some kind of touring in the United States and we're hoping also to be able to do that.
You're reuniting The Rods for the Wacken Festival.
Yeah, Carl Canedy and Gary Bordonaro will be coming over and they'll be coming up during our set and we'll probably do three songs. Three of The Rods songs during our set. It'll be great.
With all these reunions going on with other bands, why not?
Everybody's having a reunion. It's good because there was so much good music out there and a lot of times bands break up for odd reasons. I know The Rods broke up but it wasn't because we hated each other and we argued. It was for other reasons. We were always on good terms but there's a lot of music out there by groups that dissolved and it's really good to see some of these groups now coming back out and doing new albums and having reunions and all that.
I can see bands breaking up because everyone hates each other but I think it's sad when things fall apart over bad business deals.
Yeah, it is. It's terrible. If a musician could strictly be an artist and create music and write music and do whatever they do, and not have to have to worry about the incidentals of business, that makes things a lot easier. On the other hand, you really have to have somebody that you trust handling your business affairs. I'm sure you've heard of many horror stories of huge artists like Billy Joel who are multimillion dollar artists that have gotten screwed through the years by managers, record companies, or whoever because their management situations weren't handled properly and their money wasn't handled properly. What it does is it makes the musicians and the artists really gun shy and really leery and afraid to put their trust into anybody because they don't know. There have been so many stories of the artists being taken. The artist is the guy on the bottom of the totem pole. He's the one that gets paid less. It makes people gun shy. Of course with the Internet, the Internet has changed a lot of things in the past 10 years because it's opened up the world.
It's made it possible to cut out the middle man a bit. Any other thoughts or comments?
I just appreciate the fact that you're calling me to do the interview and I hope that the record is received well in the States and I think so far it has been. I'm hoping that we can get out and play some dates around the U.S. so that any of the fans will be able to see the band live.