What got me into the music business? From the time I was really young, as far back as I can remember, I was singing songs along with the radio. When I was four years old, I used to sing along to this song, Three Dog Nightís "One Is The Loneliest Number", and my aunt used to make me sing that for a friend because I used to just sing along with that song so it goes way back. I think even that young I knew that music was something that I wanted to do. I think my musical influences by the time I started playing guitar which was at the age of 14, I was into AC/DC, KISS, Def Leppard, The Scorpions, Led Zeppelin, and I think those were my main influences. A lot of like UFO and those kind of bands.
All the good shit.
You were the front man for some bands like French Lick and Fuzz Box.
That's right. Fuzz Box and French Lick, yes I was the lead singer for those bands. I also played a little bit of guitar but mostly lead singer.
I wasn't sure if they were saying that you played with Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, and Blue Cheer or if you actually played in those bands.
At one point, I think it was last year or about a year and a half ago, the original Vanilla Fudge guitarist left the band and they had several shows that they had to do so I learned the Vanilla Fudge set and did about six shows with them.
That must have been cool.
Yeah, that was great. Cactus, I didn't play with them but I recorded them at our studio here for Hyperspace Records. Blue Cheer, I also recorded Randy Holden in the studio. I didn't play with them though.
When did you become a studio engineer and a producer?
That came about around I guess 1985 when I moved to New York. I came out here with the band French Lick. I was the singer and we were taken in by this producer, Tony Bongiovi, and he had a studio called Power Station. We basically lived there for four years and at that point having access to the studio, I learned to engineer and we ended up doing a lot of our own recording and producing records. That's where that started.
When did you and Randy form Hyperspace Records?
That was around 1996 I believe when I started working in the studio with Randy. Actually a friend of mine who was in French Lick built Randy's studio and he told me Randy was looking for somebody that could basically run the studio with him and work as an engineer. That's when I hooked up with Randy. For a few years I was just working as an engineer. I don't think Randy was really aware that I was a musician. He knew I had done other things but we never played together or anything. I was just strictly working with him on the studio projects.
That included a record by someone named Kevin K that you produced and played on.
I started working with Kevin K before that. Before I actually got into Randy's. Actually I still work with him. I still do records with him and we started working together in probably '95 and he came to the studio where I was engineering at that time. I just started doing records with him and we continue our relationship to this day. He actually does a lot of touring in Europe too.
Is his music like the stuff you play?
In a way it is but it's a little more punk influenced. He's a little more into the New York Dolls and The Ramones and Iggy Pop. It's alike in a way but it's kind of raw, heavy guitars. I really like doing records with him.
Sounds like some good stuff. Basically Hyperspace Records just has these classic '70s rock acts on it?
Pretty much, yeah. Thinking off the top of my head, a lot of the acts you mentioned are the ones we work with there. The Vanilla Fudge, Blue Cheer, Cactus, and of course The Lizards. There's a bunch of local bands that we've toured around with out here. Whenever we come across somebody we feel is worthier or interesting, we'll put them in the studio.
Are those bands that follow the same type of music that you guys are interested in?
Not always. It's really just anything we find interesting. We'll try to help them out. It's almost a philanthropic venture.
How did you and Randy come up with the idea of The Lizards?
That happened like I mentioned. I was working in the studio with him and he had another band called the Star People. He and the drummer from Star People were jamming around. I guess Randy was looking at that point, Star People was kind of laying down and he was looking for something else to fill it up. I mentioned that I wouldn't mind jamming with them and he thought that was a good idea. We got together and originally it just started as a little jamming around. Nothing serious. Messing around in the studio and we discovered we had a great chemistry and at that point it took off.
I guess you produce all of the records that you guys record. Tell me a little about Cold Blooded Kings.
I guess a lot of Cold Blooded Kings, if not all of it, most of it came from a period when our original singer John Garner was sick for a while. There was a couple of months where he couldn't rehearse with us so we were just going in every day and rehearsing without him and jamming. We just came up with tons of these cassette tapes of our jams and we went through those tapes and picked out the song ideas. That's pretty much how we write anyway. Me, Bobby, and Randy usually get together and just jam on musical ideas and record them onto a cassette or something. At that point, we had all these song ideas and we combed through them and picked out the best ones and really developed them into full blown songs. There was no singer there really at that time because John was sick. That's how we wrote the songs. Then we went on tour. I guess we had recorded a few of those songs with John actually singing them. We went on tour and we went over to Europe and at that point we came back and John wasn't touring anymore and decided he wanted to leave the band. The next day after he had left the band, we're thinking now we don't have a singer. The day after that Bobby says he's knows a singer and Mike DiMeo came into the picture. He came over and tried out and he was just perfect. First guy straight off the bat. So we started working with him on the album and some of the songs which we had already written, we told him basically to come in and just sing the songs. There were actually a couple of songs where he thought he had some better ideas and we're pretty open as far as song writing goes. Nobody is like "it has to be this way. We wrote it." Or "I wrote it and that's the way it stays." He said he had some good ideas for songs that were already written and we agreed. So in some of the ones that were already written, he put his ideas and totally changed them around. We ended up doing them that way.
Sometimes other people have a better perspective on some things.
Right and he came in with a different perspective. We really like his style anyway. He's got that kind of bluesy '70s kind of Paul Rodgers and Robert Plant style that we like.
Yeah, he has a great voice.
Absolutely. We really didn't have a problem with him. He's got great song writing ideas so it worked out great. Cold Blooded Kings is an amalgamation of songs that were written before Mike joined and then after. A few of them were written after so that's what that album is. It's where we were and where we're headed now.
Speaking of Robert Plant, you guys got to jam with him.
We did to get to jam with Robert Plant. That was obviously a very exhilarating moment and the story is kind of funny. We were playing at this club in England in this little town called Stourbridge. We were opening for Vanilla Fudge. We walk into this club. In fact all the clubs we played in England, there are full posters of bands that are tribute bands. Like KISS tribute bands, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd. Itís just all tribute bands. Itís kind of weird. When our tour manager came to the door, because we were in the dressing room ready to go on, and said that somebody here wanted to say hello to us. He said itís Robert Plant. We thought this was a joke. This is one of these tribute band guys that looks like Robert Plant. He comes in but it was Robert Plant. Of course with no warning he comes up and says Robert Plant. He came in and he was very cordial and nice. You think of Led Zeppelin and Plant as rock gods and Iíve met rock stars that have that attitude. He doesnít have that attitude at all. He was like an English gentleman. Very nice and very easy to talk to. Of course I didnít say much because I was stunned. He was very cool. He came in and we talked to him for a while and he watched our entire show and stayed for the Fudge show. Apparently he was there because Led Zeppelin opened up for Vanilla Fudge on their first tour of the U.S. Robert Plant had seen the Vanilla Fudge posters around town because he lives near that area and just decided to stop by unannounced and say hello to them. He stayed and watched our show and stayed for the Fudge show. At the end of the show we normally jam with us and Vanilla Fudge. We do this song by Cactus called ďParchment FarmĒ which is an old blues song. Carmine said to Robert if he wanted to sing it and Robert sat for a second and he goes ďyeah, why not?Ē He came out and did it and it was just amazing. Jamming on stage with Robert Plant.
That must have been a trip.
A once in a lifetime thing.
Absolutely. You guys are hitting the road on February 11 with Glenn Hughes.
Thatís right. Not on this last tour but when we were there in spring of 2004, Randy and I went and saw Glenn play in Copenhagen and he was really great. Iím really excited. I think itís going to be a good match for us to tour with him.
Itís kind of the same style of music.
Yeah, it really is. Just very similar and I think his crowd is going to like what we have to offer.
You guys are going to be out with him until March.
Yes, I received a list of the tour dates as it stands so far and actually it looks like it goes into April. I donít know how much of that is set in stone but itíll be a long tour.
You guys are playing all over Europe.
Right, which weíve done a couple of times. In fact on the last tour we got to go to Russia even. To St. Petersburg which was really an incredible experience. Being in Russia was really cool. Itís like another world. The only bad thing is that when you travel back out of the country, going through the check points and the border crossings, itís very tedious. Also when youíre traveling in a bus in the middle of the night through the Russian countryside, itís pretty bleak. There are no lighted roads. Theyíre just small country roads and you feel like anything could happen.
Vampires could come out of the woods.
Really. Thatís what you feel like.
Isnít it amazing after all the wild stuff you hear about Russia, you go over there and find out those folks are actually flesh and blood human beings too?
That was the other thing. Theyíre really intelligent and nice. Like you said, theyíre human beings and they have a lot of pride in themselves and their country. It made me think back on the whole Cold War era when we were told that Russians are evil Communists. It just all seems so ridiculous.
I think itís really horrible to say things like that about a group of people that you donít even know.
Then we could go on a whole other political conversation about that but it is. When you travel like that and see those kind of things, people all over the world are human beings. All the things that are put up to make you prejudiced against other people just seems ridiculous. Obviously there are good and bad people. Youíre not going to like everybody you meet but for the most part, you find that people are just people.
I was brought up not to judge folks by their race or national origin. I look at their personalities and their characteristics. Some folks have good personalities and some folks have bad ones.
Exactly. I always thought that way anyway. If I had a cousin who was a stupid idiot, Iíd still think heís stupid even though heís my cousin. That kind of thing. Donít judge people because of their nationality. Judge them on their performance.
Their performance as human beings. Are you guys doing a U.S. tour?
Yeah, actually we were just talking about that yesterday. When we get back from Europe. We talked about how we have to get some things happening in the U.S. tour wise and play around here. Which we really want to do. Itís hard though. We keep getting offered these European tours. Weíre doing well over there. Theyíre very receptive to us and itís a lot of fun so itís hard to turn them down. We are definitely looking into doing something in the U.S. this year.
What about the Asian market?
We havenít really talked about that. I donít think right now thatís a priority. I think right now, unless somebody comes and says thereís a demand. Thereís a promoter in Asia that wants us to do these shows, we might consider it then. I think right now we have so much going on with the European end and like I said, we want to get the U.S. going. I think going to Asia would be time and cost prohibitive for us a little bit. Although my wife is Japanese so we would have an interpreter.
Any other thoughts or comments?
Weíre ready to conquer the world in 2005.