Sorry about the delay of this post. Work and private commitments have taken up too much of my time lately, but I hope things will be in regular order soon. So here`s one with Paul Rodgers at the time when Bad Company ruled the world. Hope you like it!
Bad Company: work`s a four letter word
Billy Walker talks to Paul Rodgers, a few short weeks before the band`s second British tour and finds his old acquaintance more full of get up and go than he`s been for a long, long time.
It`s fitting that Paul Rodgers, PR to his friends, should be so called. Why? Because Bad Company couldn`t ask for a better public relations man than Rodgers, a guy that sells his band and its wares with every sentence he utters.
Things are of course very bouyant for Bad Co. at the moment what with all the fuss that`s been made of them both here and in the States and Rodgers reflects this with a new found ease and confidence.
Paul`s always been a lively if somewhat meandering interviewee (or is it my deadly dull questions?), slowly but surely warming to the task. His answers grow more thoughtful and expansive as time wears on and on this occasion this new found assurance keeps the rugged Rodgers` features regularly creased with smiles and croaking laughs.
Little quips like: “Yeah, but I`d better not say `ad I in case somebody else pinches it”, when dutifully asked the working title for Bad Company`s new album that`s nearing completion. Canny dudes these Northerners.
But Paul is ready to divulge that the album is in fact well under way and that, God willing, will be through by the weekend. There`ll be eight or nine tracks on this one and final details should be available when the final mixes and a few overdubs are completed.
“Si`s got a couple of tracks on this one which have turned out really nice.” Rodgers reports, but what about the deeper aspects of it, same writing team, a move forward hopefully?
“It`s pretty much as it was before, Mick and I write a few and we have our own… I think its er, I hate to say it, but I think it`s a natural development. (First knowing smile of the day.) Well, the American tour`s done us a lot of good because a couple of the numbers we`ve got on it we`ve been doing on stage so they`re nicely broken in, y`know.
“I think it`s, it`s fantastic,” Paul adds with a wild guffaw.
He does seriously feel though that this album comes a little closer to the band`s real potential and is eager to confirm that the creative juices are flowing at the oddest times. Songs were coming together from nothing in the studios and Rodgers feels that Bad Company is still only in its initial stages of development.
Some critics, myself included, felt that while their debut album was good it tended to play it safe a bit, would it be difficult to fight against the same tendency? “We probably will do what we were doing before because we know it`s right but not completely, not to the extent of doing exactly what we`ve already done.
“We didn`t fall into anything like that in the States because we were still supporting so there wasn`t really a chance to rest on our laurels and there`s also too much happening in the band to wanna do that. There`s too much we want to do, there`s not the time to sit around thinking `that`s it`, we`re too involved with the progress of the thing, the way it`s rolling on.”
The band used Jimmy Horowitz to do the strings for one of Simon Kirke`s numbers on the album, but wasn`t this a slight departure from what Bad Co. fans might expect? “Yeah, yeah I don`t think we`re attempting to do what people expect from us exactly.
“I think to a certain extent it`s what you`d expect and to a certain extent it moves away from that sharply, especially the strings, I think they`re going to surprise a few people actually.”
The driving enthusiasm that Rodgers shows nowadays is underlined by the number of times `work` comes into the conversation. There`s no looking for time off, no wanting wuick two month breaks in the Bahamas, it`s all work, talk, thought and expression. So the American tour seemed like a fruitful avenue to explore.
“Well, it was a very hard tour because we were working all the time, but it was good for us, we needed to do that to get to know each other and the playing improved from gig to gig, got more and more exciting. It`s the best tour I`ve ever done.
“It`s hard to know what to attribute it to, I think the music`s straightforward and simple and there`s not a lotta bands doing that, but I do think we have a certain kind of chemistry, you know the spirit of the band and it comes over to the audience.”
Rodgers is quick to admit that he has learnt a lot musically from fellow Bad Company Boz and Mick Ralphs, saying:
“I don`t know that much about music myself, I just guess most of the time.” and continues this blaze of modesty by saying that they knew that they had to go out for this tour of the States without any headlining dates in order to get the ball rolling. But US audiences do vary.
“The thing I like is that the general attitude to music in the States is looser, more tolerant to what you do, but basically I think it`s down to the fact that they`re bigger, the audiences are that much bigger therefore you have to do that much more to get it over.” Change your act maybe?
“You adjust to it yeah, you don`t compare, don`t say `we do this in Britain so we`ll do…`but we just lose a slow number, put in a fast one or whatever`s necessary. I think you have to be a little more raucous over there, you don`t have to be anything but to get it over you have to be a bit… say, louder, bit more forceful.
“I think American audiences like to be slightly dominated and some groups really wipe `em out, but I don`t mean that, I mean to involve them at the same time.
Tour No. 2 for Britain comes in a few weeks and there won`t be any drastic changes in the material Bad Co. offer the fans, it`ll be a combination of stuff from the old album and some fresh toons too. The likelihood of a longer set than we saw last time is on the cards too, with the new material and this closer working relationship nothing, if Rodgers` mood is read correctly, will halt Bad Co`s progress.
Still on the subject of work, Paul feels certain that the prospects of any solo venture are fast retreating, if not already disappeared since the band`s take off, “it`s all going into this band, I just don`t think it`s necessary”, he says and with the future plans including tours of Europe and Australia/Japan in the offing, looks like he could be right.
One of the main factors to the continual disharmony and final split of Paul`s former band Free was that the egos involved tended to stifle talents and encourage side-taking in the various warring factions. He`s obviously a lot happier now. Are there less ego problems within the ranks of Bad Company?
“I think we`ve all gained a lot of experience in the past four or five years and all of that`s going into the band now. When you have four people together you always have, slight ego problems because that`s a lot of the drive of a musician anyway. But there`s no problems that way.”
But Rodgers can understand `one man` band set-ups for all the hassles of the past:
“I can see that working but not in a band that I`m in because I never know exactly what I want anyway. I think to do that, you have to know what you want note for note and be prepared to enforce that, but I don`t think you get a real group feel that way.
“You all have to be part of the music, feel that you`ve contributed an equal part to it and that`s the way you get a really good band feel. When I write a song it`s really basic, the only thing I have together is the tune and the words and perhaps the beat, what everyone actually plays is down to the individual themselves, there`s no sense of `you gotta do it this way`.”
So Paul needs the strength of a band behind him, a kick up the arse? “I need to have a lot of balls and drive behind me to get me going because I`m a bit of a miserable sod really”, a slight smile showing the ever present broken front tooth, “and I get that a lot, especially from Mick who`s really dynamite on guitar, he`s developing all the time.”
And the compliments flow on, Bad Company and its existence filling Rodgers` every thought like how it feels to have `finally` made it – “being there for me means being in the band making music that is satisfying, the fact that it is also successful is a boost, so that is great. It`s a confident feeling within the band as well and I really like it.”
Does he think of success in terms of pound notes? No, no. Obviously it`s nice to earn money for what you do but that isn`t the motive behind what we`re doing at all. We don`t weigh it up in terms of X amount of dollars, we just make the album and do the best we can.”
But what of Rodgers himself, has he managed to retain his creative spark over the turbulent years of Free and into Bad Company, is the drive still very much alive within him?
“Well, I`ve always been like that for as long as I can remember. I`ve always wanted to make it and I`ve always wanted to take a look at things, try and understand them and try and put them into a song, I haven`t really thought about trying to maintain it, I just do it.
“I go around thinking about things and they pop out of my head in the form of a song. I`m quite an intense person anyway, I do too much thinking actually, I have to work things out all the time because I`m a little bit thick,” time for another foxy, bearded grin, “If I feel something quite strongly I like to put it into music.
“Yes, I suppose it is an escape, the realities are a bit of a drag I find. It`s nice if you take an audience out of itself while you`re on stage, they can forget the oil crisis or whatever… and you can yourself.”
With Bad Company obviously looking to join their stable companions Led Zeppelin in the elite rock and roll ratings the likelihood of higher ticket prices, through rising prices, cost of transportation etc, could Paul see a time when the fans will have to shell out around £5-7 (£57.50 – 80.50 in 2018 – Blog Ed.) to get into a gig?
`I think when you get that big you`re into different realms, it`s a different level to the one I think on. I`m not that conscious of how much people have paid to see the band I don`t go out and think `they`ve paid a couple of quid to see us` because I would do my best whether they`d paid three bob or three quid.
“When you get to the point of charging 6 or 7 quid I don`t know what to say about that, it`s really big business as far as I`m concerned. I suppose some people have the attitude. `If you can get that much, go get it`, I don`t exactly think it`s very moral.”
Onto the ever present question of glitter and as, by their own admission, the band`s first debut album was a put down of the glittery side of the biz, Paul`s general feeling that the more basic, soulful forms of music are fast returning, the days of the funky bands could be returning, not necessarily at the expense of other forms of music but as well as.
“I find that most stuff in the charts for me doesn`t have any bottom to it, it just misses me, it doesn`t get me off. I think there`s a lack of groups around like Joe Cocker, Cream and Jimi Hendrix – it was creative but it was also commercial, but at the same time very soulful. There`s a slight lack of soulful feeling at the moment.
“I think there`s both ends (glitter and the `Tubular Bells` brigade) but there`s no middle, no substantial, solid music… very little anyway.” But perhaps glitter and the showmanship angles were a natural reaction after the straight, `go out and play-nothing else matters` approach?
“Well, that`s the other end of the extreme, I don`t think you should purposely go out looking like you`re skint, like shitty jeans… although I like shitty jeans, I feel more relaxed – but on stage I think the audience like to think you`ve made an effort and if I go and see a group I want them to look good as well as sound good.”
Not surprisingly the theme of work returns to its ever important position, it`s so natural for Paul to be thinking about it now that it seems a shame to curtail the flow. Honouring both sides of the Atlantic`s expectations seems a daunting task, but not if you`re in BC.
“We will do a lotta work because we want to. I love Britain, we all love Britain that`s why we did our first tour here and Britain gave us a lot of confidence. Whether or not we made it bigger in the States doesn`t matter too much, without the confidence we got here we wouldn`t have gone to the States in a conquering mood, so it works both ways.
“Coming back to Britain from America we feel ready to really play here again, the two balance each other out. It`s important to make it in our own country, not from a financial point of view, it`s just a nice feeling, like your home town sort of thing.
`At the moment how it works is we have a steady output, like a working capacity, we have lots of energy and just keep moving all the time and doing things. We would hate to have any kind of layoff at the moment because we go from one thing to another album, British tour, American tour, album, British tour – it just rolls, we`re not getting bogged down by working too much.”
But how about the delicate balance of over kill or under kill, isn`t it a real danger for the band? “You need a bit of both, you can over expose yourself and you can do the opposite too, just slip from the public`s eye and people forget you or you get less exciting. It`s just a matter of timing, we just keep a steady output of work, which is what we love to do and try and keep people happy.”
Finally Rodgers freely admits to living from day to day, taking things as they come and not looking beyond the bounds of his current, almost idyllic situation with the band. Things, he feels, start to go wrong when those thoughts start to rumble a bit but doesn`t he ever wonder what his next band will be like?
“I have done up to this point, yeah, this is the band that I`ve been wondering about…
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Ken Boothe, Van Morrison, Pete Brown, Roger Glover, Pink Floyd, David Puttnam, Mott The Hoople, George Harrison, Phil Spector, Thin Lizzy, Janis Ian, Elton John.
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