A Conversation with Bowling For Soup's Jaret Reddick
Mike Ragogna: Jaret!
Jaret Reddick: Hey, how's it going? You're the first radio DJ I've ever heard say "S-S-S-Saturday."
MR: What do the rest say?
JR: Well, we really have only started getting it out there, so I've only seen it spelled.
MR: (laughs) Well, I'm happy to be the guinea pig.
JR: Our managers refer to it as a number of different things, sometimes it's "Saturday Night," sometimes it's "Saturday." Anyway, I appreciate the properness of your introduction of the song because it IS "S-S-S-Saturday."
MR: Thank you. There will be a lot of formality during this interview.
JR: It's good to keep it right between the lines.
MR: Let's start right from the beginning. The band's name was derived from a comedy act by Steve Martin?
JR: Indeed. We were big fans of comedy in general, and stand-up comedy with Steve Martin being one of our favorites. As our original drummer and I started the band, he jokingly said, "We should call the band Bowling For Soup." So, that sort of became the title of our little group that we put together. We always had every intention of changing it, but we played our first show a month after we started the band and never really stopped. It's kind of too late now, seventeen years later, you know?
MR: Yeah, and this is what, your eleventh album or something?
JR: Yeah, it's our eleventh studio album, which is crazy. In June, we celebrate our seventeenth birthday, so we've been at it awhile.
MR: You're almost legal.
JR: We can officially drive a car as a band, we'll be voting next year, and we can stop drinking illegally just a few years after that, so that's good stuff.
MR: Speaking of your name, how appropriate it is that you kicked off your new single by playing to a worldwide audience at The Professional Bowling Association's Tournament of Champions on ABC.
JR: Yeah, it was pretty cool. We've done a few events with those guys, and the whole pro-bowling thing is growing again. This was their first time back on national television--I think that event has been showing on ESPN for the last several years--so, they were excited about it, and it was cool for us to get to be a part of it. That was the debut of the song, and like you said, it's very fitting with the whole "bowling" thing.
MR: And, of course, Kingpin is one of the group's favorite movies.
JR: It is. It's funny because we're terrible bowlers. For me, you never really run away from anything. I think one of the big mistakes people make is when people go see a band that has one hit and they're kind of sad about playing that one song. For me, I'll play only the hits, if that's what everybody wants to hear. The bowling thing is the one thing where, after you've gotten sick of coming into town, and the programming director of the radio station says, "I have this incredible idea. Here's what we're going to do--we're going to take you guys to a bowling alley, and we're going to have a food drive! See? Bowling For Soup? What do you think?" After the two-hundredth or three-hundredth time, it was kind of hard to act excited about it. Anyway, we got to bowl a lot for free, back in the day, so that was fun.
MR: (laughs) You said "hits" before, so let's remind everybody of your them: "High School Never Ends," "Girl All The Bad Guys Want," and my personal favorite because the lyrics are awesome, "1985." Could you tell me the story behind "1985"?
JR: "1985" is actually one of the only songs by us that wasn't originally ours. We had finished recording the album, A Hangover You Don't Deserve, and a friend of mine from the band SR-71 literally called me on the studio phone and said, "I was just talking to my manager, and it's you guys. I don't think it makes sense for our band, I just don't think we can really pull it off." So, I said, "Dude, we're done. Our album is finished, and I don't want to waste your time." He was like, "Just take a listen to it." So, he sent me his version of it, and I took a couple of days with it. I finally thought, "You know, I think we could make this great," but I wanted to make it more of a Bowling For Soup song. Lyrically, it didn't really fit exactly the things that I would want to say, and musically it just didn't flow like a Bowling For Soup song. He said, "Yeah, make it your own." So, I did, and I locked myself in a room and made our version of that song, and obviously I'm very glad that we did because it remains our greatest hit to date.
MR: Another thing that you hear all the time is your theme song to a certain Disney show.
JR: The number one Disney show, Phineas & Ferb, probably one of the best cartoons that has come out in a long time. That's an amazing experience in and of itself. The show was in development, and they had a theme song--the theme song that you hear, they actually already had--and they wanted someone to take that theme song and turn it into a three and a half minute song that could be played on the radio, during promos, and stuff like that. The two creators of the show, Dan Povenmire and Swampy Marsh, were big Bowling For Soup fans, so they sought me out directly to ask if I would do it, and I said, "Sure, I'll do it." I wrote the song "Today Is Going To Be A Great Day," which is the full-length version you can sometimes hear on the show, and it's on the soundtrack and stuff. During all of that, they asked me if I wanted to read for a part on the show, so I'm also the lead singer of the band Love Handle on the show, and that's something that is really fun for me because it's reoccurring. I'm even being cast in the movie that is being made right now, so it's been a lot of fun. It's definitely one of those deals where my grandparents started thinking I was really cool once I got nominated for a Grammy, and my kids think I'm cool now because of Phineas & Ferb. It takes those little milestones to get the people that don't really understand what you do excited.
MR: Yeah, it takes you from the category of, "Oh, that's nice" to "Did you know that my son...?"
JR: It's really true. My grandparents are the best because they want to be excited about something, but it was kind of hard for my grandmother for the first several years of the band to hear, "How are your grandkids?" "Oh, my college educated grandson has two degrees, and he just lives in a van and drives around the country playing songs for people." Then, a flash in the sky happens, and all of the sudden we're in People Magazine or something and it's like, "Hey, this is what my grandson does for a living." I think that kind of stuff helps.
MR: In '05, they could have seen you in the movie Cursed, right?
JR: Yeah, we've had two movie appearances, actually. We were in Crossroads, the Britney Spears movie, as the prom band, and we're in the opening scene of the Wes Craven movie, Cursed, which is really cool because we recorded a cover of "Little Red Riding Hood" in L.A., and Wes Craven actually came out to the studio to listen to us do that. The list goes on and on--it's just amazing all the experiences we've had. We're very lucky guys.
MR: You are. I remember my first exposure to you guys was a cover of A Flock Of Seagulls' song, "I Ran." That cover was played everywhere.
JR: Yeah, it was. That worked out really well, though it definitely wasn't our choice. We had released Drunk Enough To Dance, which did really well, and it had been out for like a year before the Grammy nomination happened. So, the label wanted to sort of repackage it, as they would do back in the day--this was like '03--and we had this song, "Punk Rock 101," and they were like, "We want to put 'Punk Rock 101' on here, but we need a cover." Grand Theft Auto was out, and they were playing that Flock Of Seagulls stuff on there, and the label insisted that we cover that song. In hindsight, that's one of the only things we've done that the label demanded. It was basically a matter of doing that song, or getting the plug pulled, and it was just like, "Well, I don't really want the plug pulled right now," and I'm glad we did it because you hear that thing all over the place. There are definitely cover songs that we've chosen to do, for instance, we did the Britney Spears song, "Hit Me Baby One More Time" for the Freaky Friday movie. With that one, we got to make it our own, and that one is still a fan favorite.
MR: You also had, "I'm Gay," which was the second UK single for you, right?
JR: Yeah, that was the second single off of The Great Burrito Extortion Case. That song is about being happy, it's a happy song.
MR: We could go on and on about the past...
JR: Well, the other big ones were "Almost In Ohio" or "Come Back To Texas" and "When We Die."
MR: And, of course, Playlist: The Very Best Of Bowling For Soup is coming out soon, on Sony. So, there's that release, but let's get to Fishin' For Woos.
JR: Yes, let's talk about Fishin' For Woos.
MR: Yes. Fishin' For Woos. So?
JR: Well, Fishin' For Woos is basically a term that I use for when we're playing live. For anyone who hasn't seen us, our show is very loose, and we don't use a set list or anything, we just walk out on stage, and whatever happens, happens. So, there's a lot of banter and interaction with the audience, and sometimes, I'll say something, and the audience will react with a "Woo," and I'll say, "I wasn't fishing for that, but I appreciate them." That's where the title Fishin' For Woos comes from. It's an album that I wrote last May, and we recorded it last June, and we're excited because it's our first indie album in this decade. We were on Jive for ten years, and as the industry changes, their philosophy is changing on what they want to do, so they basically dropped all of their mid-level bands, which is what we would be considered, I guess. At first it was like, "Aw man, that's a bummer," but at the same time, it frees us up to do so many things that we've always wanted to do, and one of those was to make a new record, and get it out as soon as possible, so that's what we did.
MR: I imagine you will hear a lot of "woos" when you play a song like, "Let's Pretend We're Not In Love."
JR: That's the first song on the album, definitely one of my favorites, and I sort of argued for that. I sort of have line item veto power and can get whatever I want, but with that one, I was kind of discouraged by Linus Of Hollywood, who produced the album with me, and our management because I don't think they understood what I was trying to do. Once it was recorded, they both kind of came back and were like, "Oh, we get it. You were right." It's the lead song on the album.
MR: It's great. Are you able to talk about what went on behind the scenes during the recording of this album, or were you sworn to secrecy?
JR: (laughs) Only the illegal stuff, but we usually try to keep that under wraps, anyway.
MR: (laughs) Fine. What can you say?
JR: It was an interesting album for us because Sorry For Partyin', which was our album before this one, had come out, and four weeks later, we parted with Jive. It was actually kind of a sad time for me because I had worked really hard on that album, and I thought that Sorry For Partyin' was, to date, our best work. I really thought it was going to be something great, and I think the fans thought the same way, and then when it wasn't on the radio, people were really confused, so it was kind of tough. We were touring a lot, and touring on an album that wasn't really being pushed and stuff. At the end of the day though, it was like I could either bask in the darkness of all of this or we could be proactive, like we've always been, and go out there and kick some ass, and that's what we did. I wrote the record in about three weeks. A couple of the songs were songs that I didn't finish for the record before, but for the most part I locked myself in a room and did it. We recorded this album in Dallas, at home, which we hadn't done since like '97 or '98. So, that was really cool, to work on an album in the studio where we do a lot of the movie and TV songs that we do. We went in and recorded 18 songs, and I'm very, very proud of how it came out.
MR: Nice. Now, not being with Jive anymore, you're now in the same boat as a lot of indie artists, as far as self-marketing, self-promoting. But you also have self-control, so to speak...or let's call it total control.
JR: I definitely don't have any self-control. (laughs)
MR: (laughs) Yeah, I had to rephrase that. I usually ask this question towards the end of an interview, but it makes sense to ask it now--what is your advice for new artists jumping into music now?
JR: The thing is, things are changing so fast now. For many, many years, there was a formula--it was so simple--songs for the radio fit a certain model and bands went out and did the same things--you bought a van, and just went out and toured. Things are different now, obviously, with the decline of the live music scene, and with people more focused on what's happening on the computer. So, social networking almost takes the place of touring for a lot of young bands, in my opinion. You're just being able to go out there and market yourself and push yourself online, and then tour regionally and build it that way, which is super important. It's funny because every day is different. You used to have to learn to do six or seven social networks, and now, we're back down to two or three, and who knows what's going to be next? It's an exciting time for us because we're putting this new record out, we're re-releasing our first three albums, which haven't been available for years and years. And we just released a Christmas album this past year that we had been kind of sitting on, so the cool thing is, once you're free of the label only allowing you to do certain things, the audience gets more content, and I think that's pretty important with as much access as the audience has these days.
MR: In your case, your years of hard work have paid off, and now you find yourself in the same boat as a lot of other artists, the difference being that you guys have already had seventeen years to mold your career. When it comes to your act, isn't just a little scary not having the major label to take care of things?
JR: Definitely not. We've been self-sufficient forever. We weren't a band that got money from the label to tour--we've always been self-sufficient on the road--and we do our own artwork and things like that, so we didn't depend on the label for that. Obviously, to not have their money to go make a video and things like that is where it hurts a little bit more--to actually have to figure out how you're going to get a video made--but that is, again, where technology comes in. You just have to get out there and figure out what those resources are going to be. We just made the "S-S-S-Saturday" video, and we're actually asking fans to submit footage of themselves, and be part of the video--you just have to get creative. I'm definitely not scared because, like I said before, I do not ever deny or run from how absolutely blessed we are, and how amazing and loyal our fan base is, but it's crazy. I know that as long as we keep putting out great songs and playing great shows, they are going to support us. So, I don't sit around and worry about that stuff, I just try to stay up on everything, remain as creative as I can be and challenge myself to do things better.
MR: Is there anything we should be looking for, I mean as far as new projects that you are a part of?
JR: There is tons of stuff happening--it's just crazy. When I start to list it, it makes me a little anxious. I have a new band called People On Vacation, which is a side thing. Obviously, Bowling For Soup remains my number one thing, but you can check it out at wearepeopleonvacation.com. That group is me and another guy from Dallas named Ryan Hamilton, who is in an indie band called Smile Smile. Essentially it's two friends --I'm in a funny, joke band, he's in the saddest, most indie band in town--and we got together to see what would happen. When you merge the two styles, it's just great. I was just in L.A. with Erik, who is working on his first solo album, so we're excited about that. You can check his stuff out if you go to Facebook/Erik Chandler, and click on his fan page. Like I said, we've got the re-releases of all the Bowling For Soup stuff, we're touring constantly--the US tour starts in May--and if you're not listening to my pod cast, you should, it's on iTunes or Podbean, so check that out as well.
MR: You found some extra hours in the day to do all this?
JR: That's not even all of it! I was limiting it because I didn't want to be overwhelming for the readers. The last thing that I want is to give everybody else an anxiety attack just because I'm having one. I'm also making videos for up-and-coming bands now. We've got a company called Built By Ninjas, and we're making the Bowling For Soup videos. I've got another little project with Linus Of Hollywood called, Jarinus. It's one of those things--it's so much fun to be free, and just do whatever you want.
MR: It has really been a pleasure, Jaret. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.
JR: Oh, thank you very much for having me, and for all those reading, I hope to see you on the road really soon.
1. Let's Pretend We're Not In Love
2. Girls in America
4. What About Us
5. Here's Your Freakin' Song
6. This Ain't My Day
7. Smiley Face (It's All Good)
9. I've Never Done Anything Like This
10. Friends Chicks Guitars
11. Guard My Heart (2010)
12. Graduation Trip
Transcribed by Ryan Gaffney
A Conversation with Paul Revere & The Raiders' Mark Lindsay
Mike Ragogna: Mark, what part of the world are you in right now?
Mark Lindsay: Sebring, Florida, home of The Sebring International Raceway.
MR: Very nice. Taking in some sports while you're there?
ML: No, we are full time RV-ers now and we happen to be at a State Park in Sebring. We've been doing this for about six months. In the last 20 years, we've lived in California, Oregon, and Arizona, twice--then Memphis, Nashville, Upstate New York, Maui, and Flordia. Then, about six months ago, we decided to just bite the bullet and try to gypsy around in an RV, and if we don't like it after ten years, we'll settle down. But if we do like it, we'll just keep on going.
MR: Mark, let's have a little bit of a history lesson. First of all, let's get the origin story of you Boise Boys.
ML: Well, the band started in the Boise Valley area. I was singing with a group called Clay Chapman and the Idaho Playboys, which was a country band. I was a rockabilly singer. But across the street from where we rehearsed, I could hear rock 'n' roll music coming from a little white house. Turns out, there was a rock 'n' roll band playing there and that's when I thought, "That's what I want to be in!" And, as fate would have it, they played at a gig at the Elk Lodge and I walked up and demanded to sing a song, they let me, and I ran off the stage. The next day, I was in McClure State Creek wrapping up orders and Paul Revere comes in. He was picking up his order for his drive, and he was telling me the story about this crazy, skinny kid that walked up and crashed their dance and demanded to sing a song. I asked him how the kid was and he said, "He was pretty good!" So, I whipped off my glasses and my baker's hat and showed him that it was me, and that's how I first met Paul. Shortly after, he was fired from that group so we started a group of our own, The Downbeats, then later, Paul invented The Raiders.
MR: Nice. What was the musical association like between the two of you?
ML: Well, we both liked rock 'n' roll and luckily, he had a friend with a large collection of New Orleans records and I was listening to Skip From California, so I was getting that funky sound from L.A. We basically started out as a Ventures band bound wound up evolving into a white R&B band. That's what happened in Boise. Then, Uncle Sam decided that Paul had to go away for two years, so I went out to California to try to keep the band alive. We went out on a small tour with Leon Russell as our keyboard player, billing ourselves as Paul Revere's Raiders. I remember us having a rough time in Scott City, Kansas, and we were thinking after the first half, "This just isn't working, they're just standing there." So, Leon told us to follow his lead and he'd get them on the right track. After the first half, we went back out and Leon rears back and kicks the lid off of the piano into the crowd and yells, "DO YOU ALL WANNA F**KING ROCK AND ROLL OR WHAT?!" Of course, they all cheered, and he pounded out his best Jerry Lee and we got it back on track again. So, long story short, when we got back to Portland and started up again, I told Paul that it wasn't enough for us to just play anymore, we had to be a show band. So, I took it upon myself to be the craziest guy that ever rocked or rolled, and that's pretty much what we did. When we got out of Portland and got signed on Where The Action Is--Dick Clark's show--we had to clean it up a lot because a lot of our antics wouldn't have passed the ABC sensors.
MR: What were some of the antics?
ML: Well, I had made pants made extra tight so that I could split them multiple times during the night. I had a 100 ft cord made for my guitar so that I could wander through the crowd. Also, if I had to go to the bathroom, I could just wander in there because the cord was so long. Great acoustics. (laughs) Everything you could think of...hanging from the rafters, screaming my lungs out. Whatever I felt like doing.
MR: Now, in the past, there was a little controversy on whether it was The Raiders or a group called The Kingsmen who put out a certain little record called "Louie, Louie." What is the story really?
ML: "Louie, Louie" was a song that, if you played in the Northwest, you had to play it three times a night. It was a great dancing song. I think we both got the idea to record it at about the same time. So, we decided to record it though, unbeknownst to us, we didn't know The Kingsmen had recorded it. The way that I remember it, we were packing up our things and the engineer said to us, "Look, if I were you guys, I would get this track out right away because The Kingsmen were in here two days ago and they cut a demo of the same song." So, if my memory serves me correctly, and he wasn't lying, The Kingsmen recorded that song two days before we did. It all happened in the same studio, with the same engineer, and the same everything.
MR: And the arrangements are pretty close as well.
ML: Yeah, the arrangements are close. Their arrangement is a little grungier and one of the reasons the lyrics were so garbled is that their lead singer, Jack Ely, had braces and the engineer had one really good microphone that he hung way up high so that it wouldn't get any rock 'n' roll spit on it. He had to look up to sing and he kind of garbled the words, and they came out muddled enough to sound like they might have been suggestive.
MR: Let's talk about some of the good folks you've been associated with. For instance, you were produced by Roger Hart in the beginning, right?
ML: Yeah. He was a DJ at KISN in Portland and he became our first manager. As a matter of fact, a stack of the "Louie, Louie" records were sitting on his desk when one of the CBS promo men came through. Apparently, an edict from on high had come down through the ranks that CBS had to sign more rock 'n' rollers because Capital and all the indie labels were doing so well with those groups. CBS only had Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, and the unforgettable Mitch Miller.
MR: Wasn't Mitch Miller also the CBS honcho who refused to have anything to do with Rock 'n' Roll?
ML: He hated it, but he was head of A&R. We were the first rock 'n' roll group to be signed to the CBS label, but Mitch hated rock 'n' roll so much that after the album hit and started doing well all over, he told them to squash it and they did. The Kingsmen's album sold 600 copies in Portland, and ours sold 6,000, and everywhere we played in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Utah, we were a big hit. Then about six months later, a radio DJ at WMEX in Boston named Arnie "Woo-Woo" Ginsburg said, "I've found the worst record in the world, kiddies! Stay tuned for this!" He played "Louie, Louie" and the phone lit up like a Christmas Tree, and the rest, as they say, is history. They got the hit record, we got signed to CBS, and we got Dick Clark's Where The Action Is and everybody lived happily ever after.
MR: Another person worth mentioning in your history is Terry Melcher. Do you remember your initial meeting with him? I'm a fan of his, that's why I'm asking.
ML: I'm a fan of his as well. One of the suits at CBS took us into the studio for the first time, Studio A, and said "Here's your producer, Terry Melcher." He was with Bruce Johnston of Beach Boys fame, was out in the studio with his head in the wastebasket singing "Shut 'em down, shut 'em down." They were cutting part of the song "Hey, Little Cobra," and he asked we what I thought and I told him I thought it was great. That was my first introduction to Terry Melcher, he and I hit it off right away. Shortly thereafter, we moved to California to do Where The Action Is and he found out that I was a fairly prolific writer. He asked me to come and share a house with him in Benedict Canyon and write some songs and we did. He was an incredible producer and he was actually the sixth Raider--he and I sang background on everything. Some of the songs, it's just me and him singing background, and you can hear his wonderful tenor voice just floating through the song, like in "Humor Me," he's the second voice that sings, "I think of you." I can't say enough about him, and I'm sorry that he's gone. He passed away a couple of years ago.
MR: Yeah, that was a sad day. Then, you moved on to television, specifically Dick Clark's Where The Action Is.
ML: We were one of the 20 opening acts that opened for The Rolling Stones when they played The Santa Monica Civic Center the first time we were in L.A. One of Dick Clark's secretaries was in the audience and saw our three numbers, and of course, during "Louie, Louie," I got up on the piano and danced around in my three cornered hat and full Raider regalia. She went back and told her boss she saw us and thought that we'd be a great house band for the show, and that she thought we'd work for cheap because we were just some band from Idaho. So, (Dick) gave us a call, and wound up contracting us for 13 weeks thinking that if the show took off, he would hire a real band at the end of that time. Well, the country saw us and decided they liked us so we became that "real" band.
MR: How did the band choose its material?
ML: Well, I was writing a lot of stuff, but we needed some commercial singles after "Stepping Out" and "Just Like Me," which came from within the band. By this time, Paul Revere and the Raiders were sort of known on the charts, so Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil submitted "Kicks" to Terry and they asked what we thought and I thought it was great. I didn't know at the time that Barry and Cynthia had written it as a caveat to Gerry Goffin of The Goffinated Kings not to dabble in some of the hard (drugs) that he was getting into. I just thought it was a song about not being able to have as much fun as you used to. (laughs) I didn't know it was an anti-drug song until Newsweek contacted me and asked me how it felt to have produced the first anti-drug song. I said, "Is it?" (laughs) But Barry was always one of my favorite writers, I've loved him ever since I heard "Who Put The Bomp?" Actually, Barry, who has written hundreds of songs, is getting together with writers of some ilk, Paul Williams and Jimmy Webb are getting together and doing a concert or a small tour sometime soon.
MR: Barry and Ellie Greenwich are my favorite Brill Building writers. And Paul Williams is another great songwriter, with songs like "Rainy Days And Mondays," "Old-Fashioned Love Song," "We've Only Just Begun"...
ML: You know, "We've Only Just Begun" was almost a Mark Lindsay single. I heard it on a bank commercial and Jerry Fuller, who was my producer at the time, and myself really liked it and decided to record it. About a day before we released our version of the song, The Carpenters came out with theirs. So, it was like "Okay, we got aced on that one." It also happened with a song called "Tobacco Road." We had just finished recording a great version of the song and I called Clive Davis and said that we had the song ready to go, and he told us that Johnny Winters was just about to release a version of the song. (laughs) Sometimes, good ideas are just swimming around in the same stream.
MR: That's the Dobie Gray story too, he kept getting beaten to the punch as he was about to release singles. You guys wrote some very strong material as well, songs such as "Good Thing."
ML: After the success of the songs "Kicks" and "Hungry," which were written by Barry and Cynthia, Terry said "You know, we have a lots of great tunes, but I bet if we put our minds to it, we could write a really great single" That's when we wrote "Good Thing" and it worked pretty well.
MR: Now, Mark Lindsay also was doing movie themes as well, right?
ML: Well in the '70s, I had an agent who said, "You know, you write all of those records. Do you think you could write something for movies or commercials?" I said that I didn't know but we should give it a try. So, he teamed me up with a guy name Perry Botkin Jr., does that name ring a bell? He was the composer of "Nadia's Theme" and "Bless The Beasts And Children."
MR: Yeah, I remember when "Nadia's Theme" first appeared years earlier as "Cotton's Theme," a song originally written as the theme music throughout the movie for my pal Bill Mumy's character in the movie Bless The Beasts And Children. Perry worked on so many things in that era.
ML: He and I did a lot of commercials and a couple of movies, then I did some stuff on my own for Artie Butler. I also did some stuff for For Pete's Sake, a Barbara Streisand movie and "Amanda's Theme" for The Valley Of The Dolls, and we had a bunch of fun. The movie themes were easier because you were actually writing a song, but the jingles were more difficult because you had to try to write a hit song in 30 seconds. (laughs) It was challenging, but fun.
MR: Okay, let's talk about "Indian Reservation (The Lament Of The Cherokee Reservation Indian)" What's the story behind that classic?
ML: If you go down to the L.A. Musicians Union and look in the archives, you'll find that that song was a Mark Lindsay single with studio musicians, and it was going to be a Mark Lindsay record. It was presented to me and I cut it. However, I knew that The Raiders needed a hit single, and I had already cut "Birds Of A Feather" with them and I knew that song would make it to about the '30s or '40s on the charts. But I was so close to "Indian Reservation..." because I produced it for myself, so after I finished my album, I loved it and I thought it sounded great, but I was really paranoid about putting it out. One of the guys I was working with told me that if I was so paranoid about putting it out as a solo thing, I should try putting it out with The Raiders, so I did. Of course, it turned out to be the highest selling single of CBS Records to that time.
MR: Did that song make you more aware of the plight of Native Americans at the time?
ML: Sure, I related to it quite closely being part Cherokee myself. When Jack Gold brought me the record, he said he knew that he thought I could make it happen, but I knew Don Fardon had put out the song before and it fell off the charts. But Don thought that since I was part Native American that I could pull it off well. At that time, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee was a New York Times Best Seller, so everyone was kind of behind the movement. It was the right time for that record, and I did feel very emotionally about it. As a matter of fact, whenever we play these days, people still come up to me and call me "My Brother." (laughs) It was written, of course, by John D. Loudermilk who also wrote "Tobacco Road" and "The Shadow Of Your Smile," so he had a very diverse career. I think he was also part Native American, and he wrote the song from the heart and it really worked well. And if we helped raise consciousness even one iota from that song, then I'm happy with it.
MR: Beautiful. As far as Mark Lindsay singles, there's the amazingly catchy "Arizona." When you started your solo career, was it simultaneous with being in Paul Revere & The Raiders?
ML: Well, actually is was. There's a rumor about me that I left The Raiders to pursue a solo career, but actually, it was because of some pressure we were getting from CBS. All of the airplay that we were getting was from some of the slower tracks and ballads, so CBS suggested that I do a record of my own of some mellower songs, and that's how all of that began. My first record on CBS was never released, it was called "If I Were A Carpenter" and Tim Hardin sang it, then after that, there was a Jimmy Webb song called "First Hymn From Grand Terrace," which was released but kind of confused DJs because that wasn't the kind of music they were used to hearing Mark Lindsay sing. So, when "Arizona" came along, my producer Jerry Fuller and I were listening to it, and when it got to the hook we looked at each other and said, "Yeah! This is it!" Luckily, a lot of other people thought that was it too, because it was my first gold single.
MR: Let's circle back and talk about the release of the new Paul Revere & The Raiders' Essential set.
ML: Well, rock 'n' roll is one of the first types of music that had refused to die. Most things like ragtime or swing lasted 10 or 15 years, maybe. But rock 'n' roll has been roaring since the early '60s, and it refuses to die. So, I think that most of the people who grew up with this music are never going to let it go, and every generation that comes along can relate to that music as well. For example, I (did) a concert where there (were) three generations just out there in the crowd. So, I'm very fortunate that people still like the music, and this collection encompasses a slice of Paul Revere & The Raiders from the beginning of the group to its end. It pulls together over a decade and a half of the many hit records, and I think it's a great direction. Bob Irwin did a great job. I hope people play it and smile just as much as I do.
MR: Very nice. And Bob Irwin, of course, is the man who oversees your album reissues at Sony's Legacy label, right?
ML: Oh yeah. And he probably knows The Raiders' catalog better than I do. He's always finding weird versions of songs that we recorded that never saw the light of day. (laughs) He's a great guy, and he has a great ear.
MR: Yeah, I'm with you. Having had this kind of career, and contributing to our culture as much as you have, what advice do you have for new artists?
ML: Before you record a single bar of music, get a good attorney! (laughs) I think that it's very important that people who want to be a part of the music business realize that there are two parts to this job--music and business. If you're not business minded, find someone that you really trust to keep that part of your life together for you. Otherwise, you're going to lose a lot of bucks.
MR: Very good advice. Unfortunately, a lot of people learn the hard way about that one.
ML: Well, looking back on my career with The Raiders, you would see that at the beginning, I handled all the music and Paul handled all the business, so it can come back and bite you. (laughs)
MR: Yeah. Now, I mentioned earlier how I personally feel your music has contributed to culture. But how would you describe how Paul Revere & The Raiders influenced rock 'n' roll?
ML: I think that we were a great kick ass rock band and we were right in there slugging it out with some of the heavies. And I think that we contributed, hopefully, a great deal to rock 'n' roll. Maybe someday, if people forget about some of those outfits, we will make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I am just so grateful for the fans who liked it then, like it now, and keep it going!
1. Louie, Louie
2. Over You
3. My Wife Can't Cook
4. Steppin' Out
5. Just Like Me
6. Ride Your Pony
8. Shake It Up
9. Louie, Go Home
11. The Great Airplane Strike
13. Good Thing
14. Ups And Downs
15. Him Or Me - What's It Gonna Be?
17. I Had A Dream
18. Goin' To Memphis
1. Do Unto Others
2. Peace Of Mind
3. Too Much Talk
4. Happening '68
5. Don't Take It So Hard
6. Cinderella Sunshine
7. Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon
8. Let Me!
9. Freeborn Man
10. Judge GTO Breakaway
11. We Gotta All Get Together
12. Just Seventeen
13. Gone Movin' On
14. Indian Reservation (The Lament Of The Cherokee Reservation Indian)
15. Birds Of A Feather
16. Country Wine
17. Powder Blue Mercedes Queen
18. Song Seller
Transcribed by Evan Tyrone Martin
A Conversation with Jim Bianco
Mike Ragogna: Creatively speaking, how do you think your new album Loudmouth differs from your previous albums?
JB: It's meaner. It's sexier. It's funnier. IT'S BETTER! I worked very hard at being precise in what I was writing about, whether it was anger or sex or elevator operators. I worked very hard to lyrically execute the exact feelings I was feeling. Also, I was less drunk.
MR: Is the title of the album your wiseguy way of referring to yourself?
JB: Not wiseguy. Loudmouth is an attitude. It's a way to live. It's a bit too fearless, a bit too unconstrained, and a bit too honest.
MR: At what point do you feel it's time to record another album, when you have enough songs, when you come up with a concept, just when you feel like it or...?
JB: In my experience, records represent a time period. They are a collection of songs written about experiences that define a certain section of my life. My record Handsome Devil was written at a time when I was maniacally chasing girls around Hollywood, blindly fumbling with intoxicants, and obsessed with my own folly. My record Sing was written after two years of haphazardly touring the world, which left me scattered and exhausted, but somehow still dreaming of both love and the devil. This new record, Loudmouth, cuts deeper. It's more direct. The characters on this record know more than the characters in my earlier songs--and they're acting on their hunches.
MR: What's your process for writing?
JB: I wake up every morning at 6am, light 5 white gardenia candles in my writing temple and sit naked in the lotus position while listening to Carl Jung books-on-tape. Kidding. There really isn't a process. I know some guys write every single day, but that doesn't really work for me. "Elevator Operator," a song from the new record, was written simply because I became obsessed with the rhyme."Sinners"is an anthem for the wild-at-heart that started with a chorus that fell from the sky. When a good idea hits me in the head, I write. When a good melody lands in my lap, I write. When someone says something stupid or truthful or both, a little switch turns and I'm inclined to put it down. But only when I'm naked. In the lotus position.
MR: Were you consciously trying to balance your humor with the darker concepts when you wrote and recorded Loudmouth?
JB: Most of my life is spent trying to balance humor with darkness. In my head, there's a cruel, angry misfit who points out the worst, judges everyone harshly and tears down everything I try to build. Then, next to him, is a comedian who pokes fun. All day, everyday, there is an arm wrestling match between judgment and humor in my head. It's the only way I know how to reasonably accept the unreasonable things life throws at us.
MR: Although it includes are strongly expressed songs full of emotion,
there don't seem to be any love songs on Loudmouth. Was that intentional?
JB: I'm not sick of love, by any means. I'm not sick of the battles we find within love, or the crusades we venture into to find love, or the pain we feel when we lose love. But I am sick of love songs. I think songwriters tend to lean too much on them.
MR: How did you fund the album, what's the story behind that aspect of the project, and what do you promise the fans who donate in return?
JB: I am quite proud to say that this album was completely funded by my fabulous fans. I raised over $30,000 from people all over the world who, in exchange for their hard-earned money, received things like a phone call on their birthday, an animated cameo in my next video, a house concert, a song written for them, and more. It was such a success that CNN wrote an article about it.
MR: Is there any song on Loudmouth that you feel encapsulates the overall vibe of the album?
JB: If the songs "Sinners" and "Home" made ravenous love to each other while cranking "Talented," that would seem right.
MR: How do you feel about being compared to icons such as Tom Waits?
JB: Yeah, I get compared a lot to Tom Waits and Randy Newman and Elvis Costello, too. Thankfully, that sounds like pretty good company to me.
MR: Exactly. What's the immediate future hold for Jim Bianco, like touring or personally?
JB: Let me keep this simple. Maryland, Charlotte, Charleston, Asheville, Germany, Norway, Scotland, England, Australia, Canada, California and Mexico. In that order.
MR: Having already recorded three albums, what is your advice for new artists?
JB: My father lent me this advice all through my life: "Do the best that you can do, and when you run out of ammunition, start kicking."
3. Elevator Operator
4. But I Still Want You
5. OK, I Suppose
6. Take You Home
7. Shut Up and Kiss Me