Cheap Trick: 'Usually The Song Will Dictate What We Do With It'

artist: cheap trick date: 08/19/2009 category: interviews
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Cheap Trick: 'Usually The Song Will Dictate What We Do With It'
Cheap Trick's new album The Latest was released last month via the band's own label Cheap Trick Unlimited. The new studio outing sees the band at its most creative and energetic best. Already the album has garnered loads of positive reviews from critics and fans alike. Produced by the band with Julian Raymond & Howard Willing, it continues Cheap Trick's reign as power-pop progenitors as they now celebrate their 35th anniversary together. Originally formed in the city of Rockford, IL in 1974, Cheap Trick has gone to sell over 20 million albums. The band's numerous hits include "Surrender," "I Want You to Want Me", "The Flame" and "Dream Police." Still featuring the original line-up of, Robin Zander on vocals and guitar, Rick Nielsen on guitar and backing vocals, Bun E. Carlos on drums and backing vocals and Tom Petersson on bass and backing vocals, Cheap Trick have recently been trekking around the U.S on an extensive summer tour with Def Leppard. Joe Matera caught up with guitarist Rick Nielsen while the band was enjoying a day off from the tour to conduct the following interview for Ultimate-Guitar. UG: A lot of the songs on The Latest sound very Beatles-esque, in the way of production and arrangements. Was that a conscious decision since the band is after all, long-time Beatles fans? Rick Nielsen: Well it is usually all about the melody for us and that's how we kind of base all our songs on and our career on for such a long time now. And usually the song will dictate what we do with it as far arrangement and stuff. It has never been consciously about being Beatles-ish. But at the time of making this record, we were rehearsing for the Sgt. Pepper shows, and we'd done a few already, so we had access to a lot of the strings. So usually late at night, when everyone else had gone back to their rooms, we'd hijack the string players to come into the studio and use them on our album. The track Miracle evokes a lot of early 1970's era John Lennon. (Begins singing the melody) Oh yeah, it does sound like it, doesn't it? We actually had that recorded for the last record Rockford - but Robin felt it was missing something at the time so we left it off. And when it came to do this record, we attempted it again and so rerecorded it and this time it seemed just perfect for this album. And I agree, I think that on this track Robin's definitely stirring up the John Lennon pot.

"We've been bombarded with all kinds of stuff and offers and it is cool because those people pick us, we don't pick them."

When it came to making this album, did you approach it differently to the way you have approached previous efforts? For the past few albums we've tended not do all the things all at once. And because of that, I think it has made the records better. It is better than sitting in a room for a month, going through each song - where it tends to have the influence of too many of the other songs so it is now a much better and fresher approach to each song. Having not to do it all at once is definitely the way now. So now, the first guitar solo will not sound like the last guitar solo. We did two or three songs then would be gone on tour or whatever and then we'd come back and do two or three more and so on and so forth. We did them when we felt like doing them as opposed to having to them right there and then. You also released an 8-track version of The Latest, why did you decide to do that. Is it because you have an affiliation with older technology? Yes. Since we've always put out vinyl on every record we've brought out even when vinyl went away, we thought the 8-track format was also an appropriate thing, and also because we're all from that certain era. The thing about the 8-track is, we're number #1 in the world of 8-track sales right now. It may be a small market but you know It's really funny as they're talking just as much about the 8-track than they are about anything else that we're doing. Its technology that kids today may never even had heard of before. We are also trying to get an eight track player made with the Cheap Trick checkerboard art that is able to run on regular power and is USB powered also. When it came to guitars for the album did the '58 Sunburst Les Paul Standard that you've used on every Cheap Trick record, also appear on this one? Yes it absolutely did. I also used my 1963 Guild Merle Travis, if you listen to the song Times Of Our Lives, I used that guitar on the solo. I used a Telecaster quite a bit on the record too. For the basic rhythm tracks, I would use one guitar then when I had to come back and redo the basic track, it'd do it with another guitar. What about amps? For the most part I used my Fender Deluxes which were souped up years ago by Paul Rivera. He did six of them for me. I also have some Rivera amps that I use as well. I've also been using a Fuchs 50 watt Train model with two Celestion Vintage 30 speakers. And there is also an Orange, which is a 2 X 12 combo. It adds a lot of punch to my sound. I always tend to use a variety of stuff in the studio. And effects? I don't like having any effects on my guitars. Though on Closer, I did use a Dunlop Cry Baby Wah pedal. Hamer also recently made you a new guitar that's got a laminated drum covering? Yeah and if you go to the Hamer guitar site, you can actually see them making it. It is made from the same drum lining that Bun has on his drum kit. And Tom got a similar thing made as a cover for his bass too. So all three of us now have matching drums, bass and guitars. You had a track featured on last year's Guitar Hero. Obviously having something like this on these sorts of mediums helps bring Cheap Trick to the attention of many kids who may never have heard of the band and its music before. Yes, that's true. The feedback has been amazing. We are on a couple of Guitar Hero things and we're also in Rock Band. In fact, we're also in the upcoming Iron Man 2 movie, which follows on from our recent movie soundtrack appearance to the Transformers movie. We've been bombarded with all kinds of stuff and offers and it is cool because those people pick us, we don't pick them. Out of the band's back catalog is there any specific album you consider a personal favorite? I'm more a fan of individual songs and that goes not only with Cheap Trick but with any other artist too. There are some songs from the One On One album that I really like. That album seems to have everything, it's a different era as that was made with Roy Thomas Baker but there are some screaming, yelling, loud, high end vocals on some of the songs on there that are really, really great. The trilogy of albums you made with producer Tom Werman during Cheap Trick's now classic period, how do you look upon those albums today? The songs on all those albums pretty much hold up today though sonically, I think all that stuff could have been better.

"I'm more a fan of individual songs and that goes not only with Cheap Trick but with any other artist too."

How did you feel about having Steve Lukather play guitar on the track Voices' off Dream Police? I played on that as well as him. Werman had him come in and play while I wasn't there. I believe Lukather played the guitar solo on that track? No, we both played the solo! I didn't know Steve was even there until after it had happened. In those days we had no idea what was going on in certain songs. We would make the records, and because we were booked for the tours, we'd take off afterwards and then it was like whoa! It is like the piano part on I Want You To Want Me, I had told them what I was looking for, and yet, it really got taken away from what I was thinking and had in mind. That is the irritating part of those Werman years. I mean he did a good job and the record got released and the songs are good, but it's like he made a heavy band sound wimpy. But those records made Cheap Trick into what it became and were integral to the band finally achieving the much sought after success in the States. YeahI'm not complaining for the sake of complaining. It is just what I really think. I don't mean to get defensive about Lukather, I was happy that Lukather played on itbutI wasn't there when it was going on. It's not like Aerosmith and their first record where they brought in Steve Hunter. It was not like any lacking on my part. I think Werman saw it how he wanted it. But at the end of the day, it is not a Tom Werman record, it is a Cheap Trick record. With the re-recorded version that the band did of the In Color album, is it any closer to being released? I get asked about it all the time. We did it because we didn't like how it originally sounded and when we did it (re-recorded version), we just made it for ourselves. But if we get bugged enough about it, we'll get it released. Last question, care to comment on the claim being made by Pete Comita, who briefly was Cheap Trick bassist after Tom Petersson left in 1980, that states Robin stole the song, I Can't Take It from him, and which later, ended up on Cheap Trick's Next Position Please album. That's the first time I've heard about that. But it wasn't I Can't Take It. He did write Reach Out (And Take It) which was on the Heavy Metal movie soundtrack. But he wrote that song with a guy named Bob James. He originally told us he had written it, but we later found out, he didn't write it. Interview by Joe Matera Photo credit: Aaron Warren Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2009
More cheap trick interviews:
+ Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen: Bastard Father To All Power Pop Bands Interviews 05/12/2006
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