Interview – Randy Bachman

Interview By: Amanda Hather
Photo Credit: Callianne Bachman

Whether you’re Canadian or not, no matter your age, you have probably heard of the name Randy Bachman. Bachman, most known for his part in The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, or B.T.O., has been an integral part of the Canadian music industry since the 1960s. Having been inducted with not one, but two bands in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, he has left his mark on the music world. Known for hits “American Woman”, “These Eyes”, and “Takin’ Care of Business” plus many more there’s a large chance you know his work. After releasing his live Vinyl Tap Tour album and DVD, ‘Every Song Tells A Story’ in March of 2014 he’s back at it again and releasing a new album ‘Heavy Blues’ on April 14th. The album with guest appearances from Neil Young, Peter Frampton and more, will be released with his new band Bachman.

Bachman is a trio consisting of Randy Bachman, Anna Ruddick (bass) and Dale Anne Brendon (drums). They are hitting the roads and touring extensively throughout 2015 with several dates throughout April confirmed with more to be announced later.

I had the absolute pleasure of talking to Bachman on the phone for a quick interview earlier this month and got to ask him questions on the new album, how he came up with the idea, what his fans can expect from the tour and his thoughts on the music industry today. Be sure to read on to learn all you need to know about ‘Heavy Blues’ with a very heartfelt message for his fans and keep an eye on his social media sites for any upcoming news on the release.

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How did you come up with the idea for ‘Heavy Blues’?

Well Geoff Kulawick offered me an album deal, I told Neil Young last January that I was inducted into the national musicians hall of fame (January 2014), with Stevie Ray Vaughn, Peter Frampton, Duane Eddy and a whole bunch of other great musicians. Neil Young was there because his fellow steel player Keith was inducted as well and Neil was speaking on his behalf because he passed away. I told Neil that I had a record deal and he said “wow, don’t do the same old thing and call it new, do something new and surprise yourself and your fans”. I asked him what do I do and he said “just think about it, do something that’s uncomfortable but you’re familiar with but you haven’t done it for a long time, challenge yourself and challenge your fans like I do every three or four years, do something totally new, get out of the box”. So I thought that going forward I don’t know where it’s going to go, it’s all computerized, it’s all digital, it’s all X Factor and The Voice and I’m none of that stuff and I’d just go back to my comfort zone, the early roots of rock and roll, which basically was Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley and Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters, and that was okay but I liked what the British guys did to that in the late ‘60s with Hendrix and Cream and The Who and Led Zeppelin, how they took the American blues that became rock and roll and they electrified it and cranked up the amps, so I thought “gee I can go there, I lived through that”, I was in England in ’67 when that was going on and saw Cream’s first shows and met The Who at that time and saw them play at the Marquee Club. I’m into that energy, and luckily I found these two ladies who played drums like Keith Moon and bass like John Entwistle and I go “holy cow, this couldn’t get any better”, I can go out there and be The Who and be Cream, and so every time we were going to do a song, I’d say to them let’s play this like “The Immigrant Song” or let’s play this like “Whole Lotta Love” or let’s play this like “Crossroads” , let’s play this like Manic Depression, and I’d name a classic rock and roll trio, blues trio, British trio, and they would walk in go “yeah, yeah let’s do that!” And we would basically nail a song in one or two takes and go yeah there’s a few mistakes but I got what I wanted, which was the power and the exploration and three people pushing each other around this little room, bumping the walls which is kind of what we did and I told the girls I didn’t want them to play their instruments, I wanted them to attack their instruments. If you look at early pictures or videos, which are all on YouTube, of early Zeppelin and early Cream and early Who, the drummers did not play the drums, they literally attacked them and pounded them. Keith Moon, John Bonham, and Ginger Baker literally smashed the drums like they were chopping wood, and there’s something about tapping a drum and pounding a drum, there’s a real difference. It’s like with guitar, you can play it lightly which is okay in its own place, when you really hammer at it and hammer at it, it’s like you’re waking up the instrument, you’re waking up the room, you’re waking up the people. Every one of these tracks when you listen to  the album, the rhythm tracks with the girls are kicking out are pushing, pushing, kicking, shoving, screaming, yelling, pushing, it’s driving over you, if you’re in the way we’re driving over you, get out of the way or jump on board ‘cause we’re coming. It’s really powerful and I feel it every time I play it and I’ve had other guys say to me they love putting on the songs because the album gets faster and faster, by the time they get to “Wild Texas Ride” they’re 30 miles over the speed limit, they’re driving down the highway, they haven’t done that in years because the music gets you excited.

Why did you decide to bring other artists such as Neil Young and Peter Frampton?

Well we had done the album as a trio and Kevin Shirley, my producer, lived next door at the time to Joe Bonamassa, he called me up and said hey I got Joe on and I’m a fan of Joe’s and a friend of his and he got him to play on the album send me the tracks, well that gives me a great idea, I’ve got a couple of other songs where I don’t think my solos are that great and even if they are maybe we can make them longer and I could trade solos, let me ask Cristie Healey because I had done a live album with Jeff Healey, and if I could put that on because then I would have Jeff Healey and Joe Bonamassa, so I called Cristie and she said yeah that would be great, Jeff would love to be on this album. So I take his track, he’s playing on “Confessin’ To The Devil”, then I emailed Neil Young about the album and he said let’s go for it, and I get to do Frampton’s Guitar Circus last August at the Hollywood Boulevard with Peter Frampton and Buddy Guy and Robert Reynolds so I asked them and they said yes, send us the track and we’ll play. It just evolved out of nothing; it wasn’t a big master plan. I’m friends with Scott Holiday and Luke Doucet, who I’d met at the song writing thing for SoCan in Toronto and said hey you’re a great guitar player, do you want to play on this album? I didn’t care if they were famous or not, they were just really great guitar players and friends of mine. They all did it, they all brought something real special to the album. I think it gives the album a real depth, and if you’re a guitar player this is a great album to get because you’re just getting a great rhythm section and those seven songs, seven solos, are now available to download or they will be when the album’s out as a free download so now you can get those songs free without the solos and play your own solos. Send them into me and if you win a guest solo you win a Les Paul Epiphone guitar and you come and play with me on my next gig whenever I’m playing in your town. The radio station is going to present this contest that you can download these songs and play your own solo and send them in and YouTube it and you can be a guitar hero for ten minutes. It’s going to be like The Voice, we’re going to be getting in solos, we’re not going to know if the person is seven or seventeen or seventy, just that this is a good solo, let’s call them up let’s get them down to the MOD Club when we’re doing this in Toronto on April 16th, let’s get them down there and let them play their solo, give them the guitars as the winner and let them play “Takin’ Care Of Business” as the encore, and then we go to Montreal and do the same thing, we’re doing that everywhere we go with the radio stations so it’s a fun thing for people. I’ve already got emails from kids saying we’ve downloaded the songs we’ve done our solos where can we send the solos? You’re way ahead of the game. When I’m coming to your town, the radio station will announce be it Vancouver or Victoria or Chicago or Cleveland, they’ll announce I’m coming in two weeks then they’ll announce a website that you send your solos or your YouTube videos to, they’ll be judged by the radio station panel and me and we’ll pick two or three winners or soloists to come down and we’ll have a little playoff kind of things so people are really getting into it, and if you’re a guitar player it’s a really great thing. You can put it on YouTube and say here I am playing with Peter Frampton and Randy Bachman and Neil Young, it’s like guitareoke, you have these songs without the solo and you can do whatever you want.

Do you have a favourite song off of the album?

No, it changes every day. Every time I get into my car I play it and drive. I’m very unfamiliar with the album. I did it in five days, Kevin Shirley mixed it in three days and sent out the solos, so when I got it back it was a total surprise. So I put it in my car and drive around and kind of go “I can’t believe that’s me, I can’t believe the solos these guys sent in.” Every day I like a different song differently or someone will say to me “I really love the Neil Young song, Little Girl Lost” and I’ll listen to that and go “wow that’s fantastic”. His playing on that is so emotional, and so Jimi Hendrix-y, it’s not really playing it’s more guitar emotions and groans and noises and squeals and it really makes you feel like a little girl was lost. He’s playing these lost guitar notes and noises and it’s incredible. Then I hear “Heavy Blues” with Peter Frampton playing the greatest blues that he’s played in a long, long time, and I go “this is just amazing”. I’m amazed by the other guitar players. I’m not a bad guitar player myself, but what they gave to it, gave to each song of the album, each guy gave such a chunk of his own identity, he’s really there with me on the song and I’m just thrilled with the whole thing. I think most guitar players are going to love it, love the album and they can make their own CD and download this CD and the other seven songs and play their own solos and play it in the car or wherever they go. Their own solos with me and the band.

Do you find it hard to create new music and new lyrics after doing this for so long?

No, I kind of do it every day. I get up and write songs. Like in between these phoners (he had other interviews before and after this one was conducted) I have a guitar in my lap and I’m writing a song. I’m always writing songs. “What do I do with this song?” I mean I’ve got one for Celine Dion, I’ve got one for Shania Twain, and I’ve got one for Bruno Mars, I’ve got one for Joe Bonamassa, I’ve got new ones for ZZ Top who I saw last night in Hamilton. I just write all the time, that’s my main thing. I’m a songwriter, it’s just coming out of me. If I can’t get them out to someone I’ve got to do my own album and release it. Whether it’s successful or not it doesn’t matter, I’ve just gotta get it out or else I’m going to explode.

What can the fans expect from the upcoming tour?

They can expect a great mix because with the band we’re going to be doing all of my old hits. “American Woman”, “No Time”, and “No Sugar Tonight” and “Let it Ride” and “Takin’ Care of Business”  and stuck in there will be three or four of the new bluesy songs – stuck in properly, like I don’t want to come out and do a whole evening of all new stuff and bore everybody because they don’t know the stuff. They’re going to be getting, as my fans and I’m their fan because they’re my fans, I’m going to play what they want to hear which is basically my 15 hit songs with a few of the new blues ones thrown in between. There will be the winning person who plays the guitar solo that wins and they’ll come on stage and we’ll play the song with them and they’ll get the guitar, then we do the encore of “Takin’ Care of Business” and we’re all done.

What do you like most about going on the road?

I like playing for groups of people – ZZ Top last night I was dying to get on stage and play because they’re doing all these riffs and they’re doing “Cheap Sunglasses” or one of their hits and I kind of want to get up there with them and you kind of can’t so I’m looking forward to doing my own. Just playing the songs for people and getting their reactions.

How have you seen the music industry change in Canada since you entered it?

It’s changed in Canada, it’s changed in the States, it’s changed around the world – it’s become more instant. What I think is very, very unfortunate is that people like me when I was younger and had a dream about playing guitar and writing songs in a band was very tough to make a living. It’s like walking into a store and saying “I like that sweater” and taking it and not paying for it. But when you do that with music, nobody does anything about it. Everything is free, and I think that’s wrong. There’s nothing wrong with really liking a song and paying the person who wrote it and recorded it and spent all their time and practiced their instrument to get to that and get so much joy out of that for the rest of your life. The music and the dream is the same that I had and is the same that all the young kids have – that hunger to make music. What’s changed is that everyone hates that guy that invented Napster which was sharing all of the music for free and then iTunes who then took all that music and then harnessed it in and pays everybody slave labour wages on it and makes most of the money themselves, but at least you’re getting some money. And then the government not doing proper legislation for the downloads and the ringtones and stuff to pay people like myself or Bryan Adams or you or your brother or whoever has written the song. You should get something – you wrote the riff. That’s what needs to be addressed and changed.

Do you think there’s a key to being successful in the music industry?

I think that whatever industry you choose – being sports or music or acting, whatever, you’ve gotta do it because you like it, not because you want to be successful. You hope to be successful but there’s never a guarantee, there’s never a moment when you know until you’re on stage somewhere and everyone’s clapping and you’re looking down going “wow, I’m up on stage”, “I got an award” or “I’m getting an encore”  or something and then that’s kind of your reward. There’s nothing that’s guaranteed, there’s no given. It’s kind of an ambiguous thing, you just plunge into it, not for the money but for the love and then you keep doing it.

And finally, do you have anything you’d like to say to your fans?

I would have a couple of messages. One is thanks for being my fans for so many years. Please be open minded and listen to my new project ‘Heavy Blues’ because it’s one of the most fun and creative and eventful thing’s I’ve done in a long time and I think you’ll enjoy it. Another one is to look out for the next Randy Bachman because he’s right there waiting for you to notice and discover him. Whatever his name might be. Be open to new music. Go to concerts and if you’re of age and you have children, don’t buy your kids concert tickets and send them off alone – buy the tickets and go with them. Enjoy the new music with them and see what your kids are into and you’ll have an incredible bond with your children, because you’ll be liking the same music. You will tear down the generation wall.

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