Randy Pratt - The Lizards

January 13, 2005

Photo Credit: www.thelizardswebsite.com

We did an interview a while back with your previous release. You were telling me about writing a book with a guy for the last 10 years. Did you guys complete that book?

He's flying to England tomorrow to interview some guys. The Lizards are about to do a six week tour with Glenn Hughes and coincidentally that's the last band that we have to do for our book is Trapeze. Let's see, Mel Galley was in Whitesnake. He's hurt his hand. He's kind of hard to pin down. He's coming to our first gig over there but my partner in the book is flying over there this next week to interview a guy named Tony Terry who was Trapeze's manager and Mel Galley and hopefully he's going to interview Dave Holland in his prison cell somewhere in England. I think that will be the last band that we have to interview. Generally we like to go and interview their road crew and their accountants and lawyers and all that kind of stuff. The Trapeze thing might continue along a little bit after that but that's the last band that we have to do. What we've been doing along the way is, my friend Elliot is like a detective now looking for old photographers and stuff like that for the magazines and record credits and stuff like that. It's amazing these guys that he digs up who have been retired for 30 years and have the stuff in their mothers' attics somewhere. We dig them up and we've collected reams and reams of photographs from all these obscure bands. A lot of them never were developed. We might continue doing that a little bit longer. Can I predict to you exactly when the book will come out? No. Are we getting closer all the time? Absolutely. Yes, we're always working on it. It's going to be an absurdly opulent testimony to my personal influences from my youth. Basically that's what it is. I realized when I went on the second to last tour with Pat Travers that we met a guy over there who is friends with our new singer. He's a French promoter and he put out a book of the same type of stuff basically. It was a little bit wider expanded through the years. He went up to 1980 I guess. Where am I going up to? '72. There were a lot of bands in there that I didn't even know about from the same kind of genre that I'm looking at here. When I told him the bands that I'm doing in my book, he told me I'm just talking about American bands. I said no, there's some English bands in there. I realized just the last few days, that's pretty much my favorite bands from my youth that I'm doing this giant book about. Talk about extravagance of vanity. Anyway, I think the bands are great. When I read about them in the press now, I think I had good bad taste. All my hippie friends thought, this is the pre-metal era like 1969 and 1970's, that I was an early metalhead so that stuff was scorned back then basically. Blue Cheer and Vanilla Fudge and bands, they were pretty much laughed at five minutes after they came up. As they said in this new classic rock interview that came out on Cactus recently, it said the wheels of justice have turned and all those bands that were supposed to be so much more clever and sophisticated, they've been forgotten basically and these bands have been considered the groundbreaking guys that they were. So, whatever. It's going to be a great book but it's going to be over the top.

Is this just going to be contained in one book or we just going to have the first volume of many?

It's going to be one gorgeous coffee table book with lots of photographs and lots of in their own words. Beautiful covers and printing and everything. It's going to be almost a comedy thing in that you have Sir Lord Baltimore and Blue Cheer in this tooled leather cover with some color photographs. We're going to make it ourselves and sell them. No printer would ever do it the way we want to do it.

It would be a printer's nightmare probably.

They'd love to do it because it would be expensive.

It's interesting because I did an interview with George Lynch when he came out with his solo album Furious George where he was covering bands like...

Oh yeah, I want to hear that. That sounds like fun. We're doing one of those too actually.

It came out really, really good.

He did "Stormbringer" too which is probably my favorite Deep Purple album.

I was telling him that you were working with some of the bands that he covered.

Which bands did he cover?

It was some of the bands that you were working with?

Like Cactus or Blue Cheer?

Something like that. I've got to get that. I've got to find out which ones. I saw "Stormbringer" and I smiled. I don't consider him a classic rock guitar player if he's doing that Van Halen stuff all over those songs. He's going to ruin it.

You need to check the CD out. It's cool.

He's one of the good ones from that genre but you go see Deep Purple with that guy Steve Morrison and it makes my skin crawl to hear him playing solos over that stuff. I toured with him for six weeks with my other band, Star People, and he's like a bar band Eddie Van Halen in my opinion and that guy gets more credit than he deserves. They should have Yngwie Malmsteen in the band although I guess they didn't want to go through the same kind of human relations that they had with Richie Blackmore all over again. Ensemble wise, they were tight but the solos...the guy that's in Glenn Hughes' band, I kind of tell him he's doing a funk album with Richie Kotzen on guitar. These guys don't know how to play that music. Once you've been to college to learn how to play fast and all these scales and stuff, you can't not do it. You spend too much time memorizing the stuff. I don't really like too many guitar players after '77.

You were talking about how you've been working with some of these bands. Has anything come into fruition since then?

We completed a Cactus album with all new material. Fourteen songs. They've been shopping but Carmine wanted to get a bunch of famous singers and all that stuff. Even though Rhino has put out a lot of nice Cactus packages, that one has not been picked up. Maybe it's because he's asking for too much. I don't know. I've stopped paying attention to it but it's good. It sounds just like Cactus. Blue Cheer, I got the Blue Cheer trademark for Randy Holden who is one of the guitar players from Blue Cheer. One of the good guitar players from Blue Cheer. Of course everybody in the Blue Cheer camp hates me now for that. It was just sitting there for 10 years and they weren't doing anything with it. They kind of trashed it. They weren't talking to him so we just snapped it up. He's supposed to do Blue Cheer and if he does get that together, I've done a couple of albums with him. I don't know if you've heard those, Guitar God and a second one that he did. I forget what it was titled. He's an amazing guitar player. He's also famous for a psychedelic solo album he did in 1970 and then he was in some of those famous garage and surf bands before that but basically Blue Cheer. We're about to finish a Vagrants album. That was Leslie West's first band. That's nearly finished and then the drummer died halfway through that, so that set that one back a little bit. I did a solo album by Mark Stein, the original keyboard player for the Vanilla Fudge. The second Vanilla Fudge album that I've recorded is halfway finished. They're out there touring all the time. We tour with them a lot. I'm sure I'm forgetting stuff. Is there even a record industry anymore to do stuff I guess? I don't even know. I haven't been paying attention. I am the record industry as far as I know.

You better hurry up and get some stuff out of these guys. I'm sure they're all almost ready for the retirement home by now.

Nah, they came out of retirement for me. Now they're all young again.

They need to stop dying halfway through the record.

Yeah, well he wasn't the original drummer. He was in a band called the Soul Survivors. They did that song "Expressway To Your Heart". Hell of a nice guy. He died of a heart attack while playing drums. He did a drum solo, stood up, threw his arms in the air, keeled over and died. I hope I go like that.

That is true metal right there.

Rock and roll at least. This stuff that I like is heavier than metal. It's pre-metal. They didn't call it metal back then. Our original singer was in a band, Sir Lord Baltimore, which was the first band that the press ever used the term heavy metal to describe. That was in Creem in 1972 or something like that. They said this band knows all the heavy metal tricks so we have that on file somewhere. To me, Led Zeppelin is heavier than Slayer at their best moment. Heaviness to me has to include some type of adult emotional tapping. Like the blues. Like Muddy Waters. John Lee Hooker singing that song "I'm Mad" or something like that. "I'm mad like Al Capone." This kind of funky background. To me that's heavier than "brahhhhhhhhh uhhhhhhhhhahhhhhhh." I don't know. That's like girls have cooties music to me. I guess Pantera was the first band to do that and I actually like them doing it but the other bands are a fad. I like some of it but to me it's not as heavy as the stuff that I like. I don't want to sound like my father. "The old songs are the best songs."

I always get a kick out of someone saying they hate that new fangled stuff and I'm like "and your mom said that and your grandma said that."

Yes, but the difference is your mom was listening to a different genre of music. Our kids and their kids after that are listening to rock music. So you can say that. We are critiquing one form of music. Rock music. Which is the better rock music? Not like comparing big band jazz to heavy metal or something like that and saying this is better. Of course I don't expect my father to understand it. This is like three or four or five generations playing rock music. I think that parents do have a right to critique that stuff now because the kids are playing the same stuff supposedly. If you want to invent a new kind of music, okay we have rap music we can compare to Led Zeppelin or something like that. Is Puff Daddy's version of that song from Godzilla better than Led Zeppelin's version? What was that? "Kashmir"? Maybe we can compare Puff Daddy's version to that and see if we find some young kids who think that Puff Daddy's version is better maybe if there's going to be a valid comparison. Maybe it is. I'll keep up on that one.

You guys have a new vocalist named Mike DiMeo who was with Riot.

I'm embarrassed to say I did not know his work in Riot until we got him. Bobby dug him out of his little black book. I guess Bobby had done a Riot album with him even though he never heard him sing in the studio. They weren't in at the same time but Bobby played us the record and I heard 45 seconds. I said good enough, call him up. He came over. This is in 24 hours of losing our first singer. We had a new singer so that was like no time to mourn.

That was pretty good timing. What happened to the other guy?

I'll be perfectly honest with you. If I'm going to do these interviews, I can't lie. Our old singer was 300 pounds, smoked cigarettes, didn't exercise.

Oh, that's right. You were trying to get him back to health I remember.

Yes, well that didn't happen. That was a big joke. He had no interest. We'd go on these tours with him and he wanted to stay in these towns for a few days and relax after each gig. I was like 'yeah, right John. We're going to keep 15 people in hotels for a few days so you can rest up." We just basically wore him out on that European tour. He couldn't handle it. He had a big hissy fit and pretended it was his idea to leave after we said very calmly, "John, you know, no hard feelings." We were halfway through this new album with him when he left. Mike just came in and just plugged in. He just immediately learned the songs that had to go on the set. He didn't know any of our old songs. So we went on the tours with him with all new material which is funny. Carmine Appice said to me I'm really lucky I don't have any hits. I can play anything I want. I guess that's lucky if you don't have to make money. Artistically lucky, yes. On the last two tours we've done with Mike, we've done songs that nobody has ever heard before that we learned right before we went on tour which is great. Everybody sees a completely different set basically. The next second tour we did with Mike, we learned a lot of new stuff and wrote a couple on the road. That kind of thing. It's like a brand new band that went on tour the minute they had 10 songs learned. The album was printed in my driveway the day we were leaving here for the tour. This was the first time in my life that I felt like I was running a music business. I had to hurry up and get the product out. It was like hurry up, hurry up. That was kind of fun actually.

You guys have come out with Cold Blooded Kings.

Oh, that's old now. We're almost finished with the next one. I'm only kidding.

How do you feel it differs from the other one?

We were saying when we were recording that album with John, that it was our best album. Now I think it's our best album and with our new singer, it sounds like it's brand new. I loved John's voice. I love that he sounded like Tom Jones or something my new singer always says. He has this booming baritone. It was very unusual for rock music I thought. I never heard anything like it. It's this rich almost gospel kind of texture to his voice and he could sing old fashion styled singing. Like gospel or like the Sinatra era kind of vibe. Perfect articulation. I loved his voice. I was starting to feel he was sounding almost sleepy. Like behind the beat. Like Johnny Mathis. Kind of dragging this. With Mike in the band, it's go for the throat kind of. Much more young and athletic sounding. I think it's more rowdy. Now it's more electric. It's more hungry and useful sounding I suppose. Skinnier sounding.

Cold blooded. That one song on there, "We Are Dinosaurs", I like that. I remember you making a comment like that in our last interview.

Thank you. Yeah, we are dinosaurs.

Was "Magic Cloud" a cover by any chance?

No, why? You think heard it before? You never know. You accidentally steal stuff without even anybody having heard it.

I think it's kind of difficult not to come up with some of the same guitar riffs. I think they've all been done.

I don't think they've all been done yet but if you probably did some kind of mathematical equation on that, you could probably go on for a few more years without ever repeating one. People do rip them off, that's for sure. I like to think our stuff sounds classic. I've noticed sometimes a song that's going to be a hit sounds familiar to you when you hear it because it sounds perfect. It sounds right. I haven't heard that riff before. That little zippy little frog ham with that slide in there. I think that can be a compliment to say that you think you've heard that before. No, no. You can show it to me if you find it.

Maybe that's my little insanity there, who knows.

There are no covers on that album. What we're doing now though is every tour, we learn a new cover. Then we come home and record it. Our fifth album is going to be an album of covers. Our fourth album is well on the way to being written. We're writing feverishly with Mike, our new singer. Every tour we go out with a couple of new songs that aren't on any album. We've got a couple of things that we're doing on this next tour that are very touching on prog almost. Very fast and furious time changes and hard to play. I have to sit around and warm up in the hotel room all day before I can go on stage and play them accurately. Which is kind of a pain in the neck but we're strapped into it now. I have to tour with my hero, Glenn Hughes, on this next tour. I can't go half cocked.

That guy is absolutely amazing.

Yeah, he's my favorite. He's always been my favorite since I first heard "You Are The Music" by Trapeze. Tim Bogert, Glenn Hughes, and Andy Frasier are my three favorite bass players I would say, but Glenn Hughes is also my favorite singer.

He has this really amazing voice. Soulful and funky.

I used to call John Garner my Brooklyn Glenn Hughes but he didn't have everything Glenn has.

I've interviewed Glenn a couple of times. He's a really neat person.

Yeah, I love him. I'm glad to call him a friend now over the past 10 years or so. I met him on the tour that we did with Vinny Appice over there. I met him and that's when we came up with the idea of touring together.

Robert Plant jammed with you guys.

That was...did that really happen? Can you confirm for me that I was really there for that? I know there's photographs and a video and everything but I still don't believe it. I dreamed about that for a long time after that. That I was walking along with him and talking. He was so nice. It was such an unbelievably pleasant experience. We were sitting in a dressing room. The Vanilla Fudge took Led Zeppelin on their first tour of America so I guess we were playing his home town there and he just got all excited and came down to see the show. My tour manager comes bursting into the dressing room saying somebody was here who wanted to see me and Robert Plant's there. I had that feeling where all of a sudden there's like cotton in your ears and everything slows down. You kind of smile like this isn't happening but I'm going to pretend that I think it's happening. I sat down to talk to him and I wasn't even nervous because it just didn't seem real. We talked for a while like we'd known each other forever and then Carmine came and we all sat there talking. It was just so easy. He was so unassuming. We went on and did our set and we came off stage and he put his arm around me and said "excellent." I guess over there in England, my impression was that the club scene is ruled by tribute bands. It's horrible.

Someone over there told me a lot of kids have never been to a club show.

Robert Plant's disgusted by that basically. We played in one of these tribute band bars and Tim got sick while the Fudge were playing and Robert Plant told the keyboard player of the Fudge that he was crying when the Fudge were playing. He said there were tears going down his face, he was so nostalgic. He came up to me and the guitarist in my band and really gave us the arm around and told us we were great and everything. We're sitting backstage and I'm trying to pull a poster off the wall outside and my guitarist comes in and says Tim's sick and we have to do something. I ran inside and we're all sitting there huddled around wondering what we were going to do. We do this jam on a Cactus song after the Fudge play when we tour with them. We've toured with them five times. We look over and there's Robert Plant next to me really serious looking going "yeah, what are we going to do?" I go oh my God, he's going to jam with us. He knew the Cactus version of "Parchment Farm" which was bizarre. We listened to each other back then I guess. He gets up on stage and does it. I have a picture of me playing harmonica and I'm looking up at Robert Plant and he's looking at me going "yeah a harp" and I'm going no. Why didn't I practice a hundred hours more for that. He gave a little speech at the end and he goes "this is a shithole. This country we have here with these tribute bands. These are real musicians playing their own music." He and Carmine told some cute jokes back and forth which I have on video. It was over in five minutes. It seemed like time stood still the whole time now and he was just so nice. I could have died right then I guess. I'm glad I didn't. He was very easy to get along with.

You guys have pretty much finished your next record after Cold Blooded Kings then.

Nah, that's an exaggeration. We're doing lots of songs that will be on that record already. There are enough songs hovering around either recorded or about to be recorded that you could say that the album is half done but probably some of those won't make it on the album. We're letting ourselves go in a whole bunch of interesting new directions with the new singer who is also a great keyboard player. On this next tour we're doing, he's got two keyboards and there are lots of keyboards.

That's where the progressive rock thing is coming in.

Not just that. He's really a blues guy. We were writing even before we met him some stuff that was just pushing ourselves. Basically, Zeppelin and Sabbath didn't sit still and keep doing the first album over and over again. We just do what comes naturally. I'm sitting here practicing everyday and getting faster, what can I tell you? But then we're also doing some funky stuff and some very progressive stuff. I think it'll be more variety basically and the keyboards just opens that up a bit. He's not playing keyboards on every song. A lot of stuff, we want him standing up there with those David Coverdale poses.

You're hitting the road with Glenn Hughes on February 11. Where all are you guys going?

I wish I had it in front of me to tell you right now. It starts off with a few weeks in the U.K., Scotland and Ireland and England. That stuff is all up on his website. I think our whole tour schedule will be on the website today or tomorrow. We're doing Scandinavia, Germany, Italy, Austria, and then we're doing Cyprus and Greece. It ends up down there on the 30th of March which is good because we did hit Greece on the first European tour we did and it went really well. We've been played on the radio down there and interviewed in magazines a lot. Since then, we haven't been back so we're doing a whole bunch of gigs there and that should be great. Greece is really cool. They're a very good audience down there.

I hope it works out because there have been some bands that were supposed to play Greece and they had some problems with some promoter or other.

I think Glenn is far enough up their food chain. Each tour that we've done has been inches better in that department. The last band we toured with was Mother's Finest and they're very well established over there in Europe and that was the best tour we had done up until then. Now Glenn is 1,000 seat places, theaters instead of bars and stuff like that. He's been pretty busy over there. Nothing in America so you couldn't tell and the same thing with Mother's Finest. The European market for this classic rock is different. We are going to focus on America. Being now Bobby has left Blue Oyster Cult and it's easier for us to be busy now. I met a good agent over in Europe and I wanted to really keep some pressure on over there because my goal is to try to do a short headline tour next fall over there I hope. I think we're going to take a deep breath and maybe try that next fall if everything goes as well as we hope through the summer. We're supposed to play the Swedish rock festival and get some other stuff with Ian Hunter coming up. Stuff like that. Every tour we do, a couple of places go "you could headline here next time" so if it's only a 1,000 dates I'm going to try to get that together sometime next year or the end of this year or the beginning of the following year. I'm going to take a chance on that I think. Also we're going to start focusing on America. Especially here, there are a couple of big clubs here in New York. One in Long Island and one in Manhattan that we're going to try get a continuing showcase thing happening with them. B.B. King's in New York. I haven't been to Texas yet with this band. I want to get around the country too so hopefully we won't just become a European act. A lot of bands do. We did see audiences that are different over there. They don't treat you like an oldies act. Classic rock is considered a viable art form over there. Not just an oldies act like it is over here pretty much. At least the bands we tour with. Not to say the audiences aren't cool or just really good but you don't get as many young people coming to the American shows to see the classic rock bands as you do over there.

I think over there they're a little bit more open-minded too.

It's not so trendy. It's not so strictly youth oriented. Over here, if somebody my age was going to go to a show, a kid wouldn't want to go to it just because I was there almost. When I was growing up a hippie in the '60s, when the hippies found out that Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck loved Muddy Waters and B.B. King, those guys had the best career resurgences of their entire careers. That was their best period. It never escaped my imagination that that should be something that could happen again.

In this country's culture, people focus so much on age.

Why don't we just decide that old is cool? I remember I read an article where they asked John Mayer what he would tell the music industry. He said stop signing 17 year olds. He said he could have made an album when he was 17 and it would have sucked. You can't get it together at that age. Like that Joss Stone. It's like I'm listening to a 16 year old girl tell me about love and I'm 51 years old on my second marriage. That's cute kid but I wouldn't buy your record. You listen to Free and those guys wrote songs when they were 18 and 20 years old that sounded completely mature. More mature than what they've done since. It's not impossible but in general, I'm not anti-youth. Show me something good, I'll listen to it. Just to cut off anybody over 29 years old, just think of what you're missing.

On our last interview you said you guys were on a holy mission from God to spread the gospel of good music. Has that been pretty successful?

We've been doing it. We've been touring. Yes. With us losing a singer. Our original singer was in the hospital for six months with a brain aneurysm. During that period, Bobby, Pat, and I got together every day and we jammed and wrote songs. That was the Cold Blooded Kings album and some of the album that we're doing now too. Then John came out. We never looked at another singer and John came out and did a couple of tours and decided he couldn't tour anymore so then we started all over again basically. I didn't spread as much gospel as I would have but now we're set up. Now Bobby's out of Blue Oyster Cult and we got an athletic in-shape new singer with a great attitude. These next couple of years are going to be busy definitely. Of course on the last tour, two of us got pneumonia. You never know what stones are going to be floating in your path but you persevere.

The Lizards