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Bill Sheehan of Talas | Interview
Cris Cohen interviews bassist Billy Sheehan. They discuss:
The new Talas album, "1985"
With live performing, "If you think, you stink."
"Chaos on a leash"
The two songs that made him pull his car to the side of road so he could listen more intently
You can also watch the video of the interview.
Billy Sheehan's website: http://www.billysheehan.com/
(This transcript has been slightly edited for clarity.)
Talas - “1985”
Cris Cohen: First off, the new Talas album, "1985," it's kind of a fascinating idea. Because as you've alluded to in other interviews, it was kind of this time capsule, but it wasn't fully fleshed out. When you went back to the songs that were, for the most part, created in 1985, what state were they in and what else needed to be done to them?
Billy Sheehan: Well, they were trapped in time because they had been pretty much untouched up until now. We played some live shows, and we did most everything that's on the record in the live shows. So, we did perform them, but we didn't change anything about them, really. Our two options were to make them slick and modernized and bring them all up to date, bring (them) right up to the year 2022 or 2023, or go back and “Let's do them the way we did them.” We chose to do it that way because there's a real thing about that year and that time in music, 1985. So, we thought, "Let's do it as close to that time period in music and writing and vibe and all those other things."
I dare say I think we pulled it off pretty well. We went in and recorded for real. That's an important aspect of that part of the equation.
We included one new song, “Black and Blue.” We were doing that live and it's one of Phil's songs. He's a wonderful writer and it (gave us) the opportunity to have his son, James, join us on some vocal harmonies. (He) did a great job on that.
(With the others) we kind of left them the way they were. (We) went back, dug them up, dusted them off, and played them.
Cris Cohen: Was there any kind of internal struggle as you were laying down your parts, thinking, "Well, if I was doing this nowadays, I would probably play this, but back then I would probably play that"? Was it difficult to bounce back and forth mentally with that idea?
Billy Sheehan: I don't believe so.
There's not a lot of thought that goes into it, as funny as that sounds. A lot of journalists often question that, like what the plan was, or "How did you figure this out?" But it's just kind of “let nature take its course.” I rarely, if ever, think things through or plan ahead for me, personally, as a musician. And most of the musicians I work with… We're there. Here's the song. Let's do this. There's not a lot of pre-planning.
And like I said, we had played them live recently. So that (is something) I'm really glad about, because we had a real chance to get our sea legs back, get our footing back on those particular songs. And they were a blast to play back in the day. There's some chaotic, hilarious stuff in there, so we did enjoy that.
Yeah, I'm not a thinker. As a matter of fact, as far as playing live, there's a famous saying that I've spread around. I forgot who originated it. It was not me. But as far as musicians – "If you think, you stink." So, if you're thinking while you're playing… It's like with speaking. If you're stopping before every sentence and trying to plan out what you're going to say next, it's not from the heart. I'm sure you've spoken to people that are thinking about what they're saying prior. While you're talking, they're not listening. They're thinking about what they're going to say next. It's just not a real heart to heart. Or when somebody's reading off a teleprompter or reading from a sheet of paper… if you'd just do it, just speak directly. And if you know what you're talking about well enough, it'll come out great and people will understand it. And music being a language I think is a parallel there.
Cris Cohen: That is an interesting parallel. Because that is a pet peeve of mine. Luckily, I haven't had this too much, but there have been some occasions, where I've been interviewing someone and the person obviously has a rote answer that they give to things. And so they're not really listening to what the question is. They're just like firing in.
Billy Sheehan: I'm glad you've experienced that, so you know what I'm talking about.
Cris Cohen: Yeah. I've never looked at it that way, but that is a great comparison.
When you say that you recorded these live, just to clarify, I assume you mean everyone playing in the same room at the same time. You recorded at Mark Miller's house even. And again, in the days of all this technology, where everyone can just piece things together in their own individual homes and recording studios, what is it about getting together and actually seeing one another as you play that creates a better sound?
Billy Sheehan: It's an intangible. I'm not sure exactly what it is. And I believe you can carry on without that. And I've done a lot of records where I'm in another city. But I've played for a long, long time and played a lot of different styles of music, so I'm listening to the drummer anyway. And if I was recording, I would probably be in the control room listening to the playback monitors and playing along like that. Because it's difficult for me to be out in a room with headphones. I really can't hear what I'm doing. So I've done a lot of records like that. Which are, in effect, us not being in the same room technically, but because we're all there, there's a group dynamic that happens with any bunch of creative people. They work off each other and I do believe that you get a better product. Audio-wise, sonically, I'm not sure if it's better or worse, but I do believe that vibe that goes in them, the thinking and the ideas…
Because right up until you record, in general – it's not true for everybody but in general – things are still in flux. They're still malleable. They're still plastic. They can be moved around, and that's a very important factor. Because many times… I remember doing the “Sink Your Teeth Into That” record (Talas). As the vocalist was at the mic, I would have to say, "Hold on a second." And one song was just particularly too wordy. I just crossed out every other line.
Cris Cohen: [Laughter]
Billy Sheehan: And it made for a much better song. The vocals sat in the track better. He wasn't trying to rush and get all these mouthfuls of words out. So, everything changed throughout that.
When you have a whole bunch of people in a room together working on a piece of music, many factors are at play. And the one I believe that is probably the most noticeable is that interaction and creativity in last-minute changes.
A Sense of Urgency
Cris Cohen: With this album, “1985”, what really struck me is… there's this – and I mean this in a positive way – sense of urgency about almost every song. And not like a panicky sense of urgency but more like, "We have this energy bottled up and if we don't express it, we're just going to explode." And I'm wondering, for you, where does that sense of urgency come from when you play?
Billy Sheehan: Well, I believe it's a little bit of a holdover of what our state of mind was back in that time period, because there was an urgency. We did get signed at the end. Gold Mountain Records signed the band. Danny Goldberg was the head of that. He went on later to manage Nirvana, so quite a big guy in the music biz. So, there was a little bit of relief there. But even then, we knew, even if we (have) a record, there's no guarantee it's going to be any success. I've seen amazing bands release great records and nothing happened.
I forgot what story it is about a captain that takes his men on a ship to an island, and they burn the ship. So, you either win or die in trying, because there's no choice to go back. In a way, life was kind of like that a little bit for us. Not in a panic way, as you mentioned, but there certainly was an urgency. So, I think psychologically going back and playing those records, a little bit of that may have come out again and raised its head in the room there while we were recording.
I remember a lot of recording that occurred back in those days was quick, real quick. I think it was in the fall of '85, I did Tony MacAlpine's record while I was with David Lee Roth. Tony asked me to come up to San Francisco to record. We had two or three days, and it was a complicated record. I would be in the studio, tracking to the drums. I'd get done and then go to another little building at the studio to learn the next song. I'd pass Tony in the parking lot, who would be going in to do guitar. And somehow, we did it all in like two or three days. We got the whole album recorded.
I like that sense of urgency. Not necessarily panic, but just that thing looming over your head, "You better get it done and it better be right because the clock is running here."
Cris Cohen: And there's something to be said for (those occasions) where you really plan out an epic album over time.
Billy Sheehan: Oh, yeah.
Cris Cohen: But there's some interesting aspects that come from just that, "Let's try and capture this moment as quickly as possible."
Years ago I spoke to a friend of yours, Mike Portnoy, about one of his side projects, Liquid Tension Experiment, where they would just go in and say, "All right. One week, we're cranking out an album," and just let it fly. Now that I think about it, there's that same sense of urgency and energy to the new Talas album.
Billy Sheehan: Excellent. I'm glad you feel that way. Yeah, I had the great, great fortune of meeting and hanging out with Robert Fripp in Japan one time.
Cris Cohen: Oh, wow.
Billy Sheehan: He came to the Mr. Big show and we had him sitting on the side of the stage, a wonderful guy. Afterwards, we went to a bar and had a couple of drinks. He was telling me amazing stories, because I was a huge King Crimson fan. He basically – I hope I got this right or it's nearly correct, the details – they did “In the Court of the Crimson King” in a week in somebody's living room. That was how it was recorded.
Cris Cohen: Wow.
Billy Sheehan: And you see something that’s that epic, an earth-shattering importance. It's amazing to see something like that can come about quickly and speaks volumes about the talent of the people involved, of course. In another example, similarly, I've got the demos for “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”, which is just an epic piece, a double album set by Genesis with Peter Gabriel.
The final song is called “It,” and it is the punchline of the whole record. Unbelievable how this song came about and the lyrics of it and what they mean. It's just a glorious, incredible piece of music. And in the demo, Peter Gabriel is just doing blah-blah lyrics. In other words, he made the lyrics up later. I thought for sure he had this whole thing penned out and figured, because it was really constructed brilliantly. But he's just, "Blah-blah-blah," through the thing, and then later went out and figured out what the lyrics would be.
And they fit together. Pure genius. So, it's interesting. Even some of the more grandiose records that seem to have taken a long time, there's a spontaneity to those that makes them quite magical.
Cris Cohen: Yes. Although, it's interesting how the same people involved can be both spontaneous and, for lack of a better term, calculating.
Billy Sheehan: Yeah, that's true.
Cris Cohen: Going back to the King Crimson reference, I don't know if you ever heard, in the 90s Adrian Belew released a solo album called “Here,” which I thought was fantastic. But it's only him. He plays every single instrument, does every single vocal, he did everything except plug in the cords on all this.
Billy Sheehan: And he may have done some of that.
Cris Cohen: Well, I think he said, "I have no engineering skills. That's the only thing I can't do." And so, it's fascinating to me that there are guys with that much talent that they can do the spontaneous route or they can do something much more structured, and it's still fascinating either way.
Billy Sheehan: Yeah, it's quite a palette of colors. Quite an array of brushes that we have and quite a selection of media to paint it on. From canvas to cement to steel to who knows what. I often cite parallels between a lot of the different forms of art that we have in humanity and in the world, as I think there are many.
80s Hard Rock
Cris Cohen: One thing you said about this album, you were talking about bringing 80s hard rock into 2022. From your perspective, what elements of 80s hard rock are maybe harder to find in 2022?
Billy Sheehan: Well, a lot of it, of what we've just been speaking of – that chaos, that spontaneity, that little bit of pressure to get it done because we don't know what's going to happen the next day. So, things of that nature I think are important factors in the music of then. And now, there is a little bit of relaxation, possibly, not with everyone. Generalities are never true and there's a generality that's always true.
Because you can sit down and get an engineer and piece through things and kind of play a part at a time and go back and check it and change it and fix it if you need to and continue on. It's quite a different thing. We were slaves to the tape back in the day, just before digital recordings. First digital recording I think I did was the first Mr. Big record. But you had to get it on tape, and it had to be right, especially the drum track. That had to be righteous, because you couldn't edit the drums. You could, but it was always precarious to edit the drums on too much tape.
Cris Cohen: That's a lot of splicing involved.
Billy Sheehan: It was tough to do. We always had to leave the control rooms for it, so it was absolute silence while they did it. "Okay, come on back, we got it."
But now you can do anything. If you can imagine it, you can do it, and probably can do it backwards as well. Which is a great thing, and it's an amazing artistic tool. I'm not against it at all. I was an early adopter of all things digital, for sure. But there was an urgency back then that did, I think, show up in the grooves of the vinyl, which are pretty much no longer with us as well.
It's mostly digital files we're downloading. Again, I love that too. When I first got my iTunes, I ripped every CD that I had. It was a significant collection. Managed to get it all into my iTunes collection. And since then, I've got over 2 terabytes of iTunes finely curated with the album cover art, song titles are all correct. It's quite a thing. And I love that, because I can go at any time, just click on something and there it is. And I don't have to pull out the vinyl. There's an argument about quality and sound. That's fair enough. There could certainly be some things that people prefer older ways, tape and vinyl, that's fair enough. But I generally just like to be able to hear the songs I love in a pretty good tonality.
Cris Cohen: Yeah, and the technology is getting better at that.
The fact that it's coming from you, though, is somewhat ironic, if only because… I'll stream something to check it out and just have easy access in the car. But if I really like it, then I'll buy a CD. And what I often get with the CD, that I don't get with, say, the streaming service or the digital version, is the full effect of the bass. It's funny that you, of all people, are so open-minded about the whole experience, when it's your stuff in particular (bass playing) that you really appreciate when you step away from streaming and get back to at least CDs.
Billy Sheehan: Yeah. We do have subwoofers now that we didn't have in our old home stereo systems back in the day. So that helps a bit. There's an adjustment to make. But for me, when I listen to something for sonic quality, I would want it to be a high bit rate, as good as I could get. But when I just want to hear a song because I love it and I need to hear it just to satisfy myself, I take some liberties with that, for sure. You're sitting around a room, and it's crowded and you're having a couple glasses of wine, "Hey, play that song by... Oh, here it is."
His Bass Tone
Cris Cohen: Yesterday I was texting with a mutual friend, a gentleman named Rich Redmond who...
Billy Sheehan: Yeah!
Cris Cohen: Best known as the drummer for Jason Aldean, but he also played with you on the album by The Fell, a side project you guys had a few years back. I asked him about you and what makes him enjoy playing with you so much. He said you have a very unique style. "His tone sounds like a giant church organ."
Which I thought was a fabulous description. And I'm wondering though, the evolution of your tone, of your sound, how much of it was just kind of stumbled into and how much of it was, "I have this in my head and I'm going to go find it"?
Billy Sheehan: A little of both, as you might expect the answer to be. My goal was always to hear the notes, I want to hear what the notes are because the notes make up the music and if the notes have a tone that you can hear what the note is... I've seen bands recently and I couldn't discern a single bass note from the bass player, sadly. I heard there was a rumble going on in a big room, in an auditorium, whatever, but I can't hear him playing. Bass is tough to reproduce live in the first place, because in a big room there are a lot of variables.
So, I'm starting to do a thing with splitting a signal so the high frequencies can be isolated. And you can balance them out so you can really hear what that note is. But we don't want to lose that low end, because normally the low end does muddy things up. But you can't lose the low end, because that's the essence of what you're doing. It's the basis of the instrument. So, by separating them out, I'm hearing the note, but I'm not losing that low end. My basses have two outputs. One is the super-deep low pickup, and one is a normal pickup. So that helps a lot.
I started doing that back in the very early 70s. And I got involved in a lot of pro audio stuff, as opposed to just guitar or bass amps. I eventually had racks of gear. And we even had racks before Anvil made them. They were Bud racks, which were used in radio stations. Nobody had racks live at all in the 70s. Eventually they came to be a thing for guitarists and other musicians as well to have all their gear in a rack, because it's all pro audio gear.
It was pretty finely tuned for the most part. I spent a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of energy educating myself into understanding musical instrument electronics and the reproduction of a sound from fingers, strings, pickup cord, preamps and amps, speakers. I got to be pretty good, if I do say so myself, at troubleshooting sonic situations. It eventually came to a point where it's a unique tone. I know it's not everybody's cup of tea at all.
But I do also often play just direct and straight up, just a regular bass, one output right into an Avalon or a Neve preamp in a proper pro audio compression or EQ. I've done a lot of records like that too.
But you can still kind of hear that sound. So, another important aspect is: It's your hands. Richie Kotzen was in town two nights ago and I got up and jammed with him. I just grabbed his bass player's bass, which is not the kind of bass I play at all. And people said, "There's your tone." I go, "All I had was these (hands)." So, that's good to know, I think.
Interplay with the Guitar Parts
Cris Cohen: And with the “1985” album, listening to that, there's always a special relationship with the drummer and the bass player, and the bass always locking in with the drummer. But what really struck me with this album is the amount of interplay between you and the various guitar parts. I'm wondering how you work that out with Kire.
Billy Sheehan: Well, if the guitar part is there, I'll figure out my part. If my part is there, he will usually take the lead. And some things are mapped out to some degree. I generally prefer spontaneity, but if you're going to play something in harmony or in counterpoint or unison, a little planning is required there.
I've recorded a lot of songs during the pandemic here in my home studio, people just sending them in. A lot of guitarists wanted me to double their licks. And I have to send it back and say, "Bro, it's got to be perfect for me to double it. If there's a couple of flubs or slips, I can't play that." I mean, I could, but you don't want that. So, a lot of times they'd have to go back and correct the thing they did to really get it super-tight. Because when I did it with Steve Vai or Paul Gilbert or with Richie or Tony or any of the guys I've played with, their guitar part is rock solid, and they know exactly every note. And so, I've got to know what I'm doing to either weave in between those notes, harmonize them, play them in unison, or do a counterpoint. So that does require a little bit of planning. And it's kind of nice, because once you get it down, the planning falls away and it just becomes playing between two people that are singing the right words.
Phil Naro Tribute
Cris Cohen: And then to kind of jump, the last track on this album, which if I'm getting it right, "7IHd h."
Billy Sheehan: Yes. Upside down, that's "4 Phil."
Cris Cohen: Oh. Okay.
Billy Sheehan: Comes from the “Sink Your Teeth Into That” record back in 81 or 82. We had "NV43345" as the name of the little bass solo. That's "Sheehan" upside down.
In that tradition, I did a little piece just to give my honor and a heartfelt farewell to our dear friend Phil, who, as you know, we lost soon after the record was finished. And he was just an amazing, wonderful guy, and a joy to be around. We were all quite devastated, as you can imagine. And the record initially was to pay honor and tribute to the crowds and the awesome audiences and the great times we had back in 85. And it's kind of morphed over a little bit into really commemorating the legacy of Phil Naro. He was just a great, truly honest, sweet man. A wonderful guy and he had a great voice. And he pulled it off on this record, blew all of our minds. Quite a moment for all of us of inspiration to see someone shouldering that kind of a burden and still go up to the mic and knock it out of the park every time. Pretty amazing.
Cris Cohen: And just for the record, he was taken way too early because of cancer, which he had been battling.
Billy Sheehan: Yes.
Cris Cohen: And what, in your opinion, made him the perfect singer for Talas?
Billy Sheehan: Well, he was a great entertainer. He was an exciting performer. He gave it everything he could. He was a wild man on stage, but his voice was under control. There's a nice parallel between the two things.
And when you're in a band, a big factor is: Can you get along? Can you be on the same tour bus or in the van? Can you be at the same hotel or at the same table for a meal and everybody gets along? That's another big factor. All the Talas guys on this record, we just had a wonderful time working on the record and hanging out together. And Phil is a joy to be around, just truly a wonderful guy. And he's funny. He was loved by everybody that knew him. He was just so great to have, to work with somebody like that.
Sometimes you'll find great players and they're really amazing and they do so great in the band. But they get off the stage and it's tough. And you have to spend all your day with them – in airports, waiting in line, going through Customs, checking into the hotel, sound check, sitting around all day waiting for the show to start. So, when you have people that are really quality, wonderful people, it makes a big, big difference. Phil in that respect was just a joy to be around. And he sang his ass off. And his writing was very creative too. I thought he was an excellent writer.
Cris Cohen: And so, with that instrumental track “4 Phil,” how do you put together a piece like that? Are there kind of words and imagery going through your mind as you go through the song, even though there aren't lyrics?
Billy Sheehan: I've done a lot of instrumental music. And it can speak volumes, if done right, of course. I just wanted to kind of put myself in the state of mind of just thinking of him, honoring his legacy, and saying a farewell to him. Then I just let it go, let it happen organically and naturally. I hope in whatever situation he is in that he perceives it. And I hope he understands how much he's missed and how much he was loved.
Cris Cohen: You just released a video of you guys performing “Farandole.” It's another amazing instrumental in the sense that… there are a lot of instrumentals out there where it's -- putting it delicately -- people just showing off. But these are actual songs. You listen to you guys performing “Farandole” and it's like, “I know it's an instrumental, but I swear there are words. I can feel words just out of reach.” What is the key to achieving that effect with an instrumental?
Billy Sheehan: Well, this was a classical piece by Bizet. And that helps, because he's a composer, put his heart and soul and mind into it. It's a variation on it. It's not nearly an identical representation of it. I don't know if he would appreciate it or not. The original idea came from Love Sculpture, which was Dave Edmunds' band… I believe Dave Edmunds… and he did a version of that and “Sabre Dance.” And I remember hearing it back in the early 70s and, "Man, I'd like to do this." That was a kind of a standard Talas piece. And it morphed and got faster and got parts changed, so we drifted away from the original year by year.
So going back to it now, we did add a few things to it. Kire did this melodic intro prior to the solo section. I harmonized that part with him, so that's a new thing. But it was just something that was a blast to play because it was high speed, high energy, chaos under control. Chaos on a leash, if you will. And it was a blast to play live. We'd always make a joke of, "Anybody want to dance? Here we go." So, it was always fun to play. And Mark Miller, just mind-blowing. What a spectacular drummer. I love working with him. So, without Phil, we managed to put this together. Again, a little bit in his honor, because it was during this song that he was able to go backstage and have a drink and towel off.
Cris Cohen: And meanwhile, I really think "Chaos on a Leash" should be a title of something in the future – an album, a single, something.
Besides the 80s vibe that you guys bring to the music on this album – I'm sure I'm not the first person to bring this up – the song “Crystal Clear” kicks off and my head immediately goes to The Police's “Roxanne.” Is that tune kind of an homage to them? Was it an influence or was it just happenstance?
Billy Sheehan: Well, Mitch Perry wrote that song, and I don't think he was necessarily thinking of that. Though I don't know anybody who isn't a Police fan. I love that band. And I actually never thought of that until this record was done. I'm playing it for some friends and one guy (sang), "Roxanne!"
I go, "Oh, yeah."
I never even thought about that until somebody said something.
And the song is from back in 84, 85. I saw The Police on their very first tour. I love that band. I love Sting. I love the guitarist and drummer as well. So, if it is, I'm glad it's reminding you. Because there are two songs I pulled my car over when I heard them on the radio. One was Blondie’s “Hanging on the Telephone,” and the other one was “Roxanne” by The Police. I heard that and I just had to pull over and listen. I just love that band so much. I was a huge fan. So, if it reminds anybody of that, I'm very happy.
Cris Cohen: Well, now I have to ask, as an experienced professional musician, what elevates a song to that status, that you have to pull off to the side of the road to give it all of your attention?
Billy Sheehan: Well, it's different for everybody. For me, it was just a burst of all the things I love. The drum parts were great, the bass was cool, the vocals were amazing, there was a great chorus. And the recording is kind of odd when they're singing "Roxanne" and harmonizing it. The bass drums are triggering the compressor and it's actually going "Roxanne." And so, a flaw that made it great for me. It just sounded urgent and real.
The Blondie song, that was during a time when a lot of New Wave stuff was hitting the air waves and it's just prior to a big surge in heavy metal. So late 70s – Joe Jackson, The Police, U2, bands like that – in that time period. I was very much a fan of a lot of that stuff when it came out. And then things started getting a lot more heavy metal, Judas Priest and Accept and AC/DC. And I walked down that path because I love that too. But I love a broad spectrum of music. And hearing a really well-done power pop by great players is exciting.
The Album Cover
Cris Cohen: To change directions slightly, it's a really interesting, unique cover you guys have for this album. I think I read it was created by Hugh Syme, who famously did a lot of work for Rush. What input did you guys have as to what it would look like and why the discarded DeLorean as the focal point?
Billy Sheehan: Hugh Syme, a wonderful, wonderful guy. We were very, very grateful that he was so kind to do this for us. It's his idea. He came up with it completely. We had a conversation on the phone. We had some laughs and talked about things back then, and the DeLorean and “Back to the Future.” That movie was 1985, so we landed right on the right time spot. The time machine landed on the right year. Again, it paralleled perfectly with our idea, "Let's get in a time machine and go back to 1985 instead of making the songs all modern and perfect." So, he nailed that one too. He's just (got) a great instinct for picking up what's going on, which has been obvious in some of his other endeavors as well. He's done covers for bands that just kind of epitomize what's inside that package. In this case, he really did a great job, and everyone that sees the cover is tickled by it. It's pretty cool.
Cris Cohen: The coincidence in all this is one of my clients that I've been working with for years is Huey Lewis & The News. I haven't heard back yet, but last night I sent the band the picture of the cover, and I said, "I think you guys are really going to like this cover and get a kick out of it."
Billy Sheehan: Oh, great. Ironically and coincidentally, I think they just came out with a new DeLorean.
Cris Cohen: Really?
Billy Sheehan: I think I saw it on the news. There's a new DeLorean.
Cris Cohen: Oh, my God. Wow.
Billy Sheehan: They got a new car; we got a new record.
Cris Cohen: Hopefully this time the CEO doesn't have a new coke habit. We'll see what happens.
David Lee Roth
Cris Cohen: And then, you talked about Phil and what a dynamic lead singer he was. Which said something, because Lord knows you have backed up some amazing lead singers. When I was going through past interviews of yours, a recurring theme was that you said, "David Lee Roth is my hero." Obviously, you've worked with a number of impressive people. You've named some of them here today. What makes Diamond Dave a hero in your opinion?
Billy Sheehan: That's a pretty thick book. In fact, there's so much about him that was inspiring to me, and (that) I learned from.
I remember the first time I went to see Van Halen. We were all going to see Eddie, but then we were transfixed by the lead singer. He was just so entertaining. I often say… and I don't mean it in any negative (way). Please, no one take it that way at all. It's just an observation. Maybe incorrect too. But I said, "Without Dave, Ed would have been Gary Moore." Great player. Everybody loves him. But not everybody knew about him. And without Ed, Dave would have been Jim Dandy Mangrum, just Jack Daniels swigging, blonde hair, girls all over the place. So, the two of them together was a fortuitous event for all music fans.
I just got finished reading Ted Templeman's book, his biography. It was great info there about the early days of Van Halen. And he also speaks about the “Eat 'Em and Smile” record, which he produced as well.
Yeah, with Dave it goes deep. He's a storyteller. He's a songwriter. His lyrics, I think, are just brilliant too. He's not just the "Baby I Love You" or "You Broke My Heart" lyrics. There's some depth there, and it's pretty cool. Just the way he carried himself was very inspirational. After working with him, I consider I have a PhD in Show Biz 101.
Cris Cohen: [Laughter] And I can't remember which one this was. I was watching some podcast interview with you. I think you were talking about how bands that actually stayed away from using "Baby," "Love," and those...
Billy Sheehan: "Hurt. Love. Baby."
Cris Cohen: Yes, those particular words. Because past Otis Redding, it's tough to give it any more feeling.
All right. Well, that takes care of all the questions I had. Is there anything we did not cover that you want to talk about?
Billy Sheehan: Just that the record comes out September 23rd. There's a new Winery Dogs record that's done, mixed, mastered. And we even chose the cover for it. That'll be out relatively soon. I don't have the release date on it yet. They're booking shows for the Winery Dogs next year. There might be some Mr. Big next year. Nothing confirmed yet, but there's a couple of rumors floating around. And we may try to do some Talas shows. We're checking into some singers that would like to pay a little tribute to Phil, so that might be a possibility, I hope. It would be nice to play that stuff. It's going to be a busy year next year.
Let’s See What Happens
Cris Cohen: If you don't mind, just one more question. It does make me think, because you are amazingly prolific, I'm wondering how much of it is planned with your career and how much of it is just, "Let's see what happens"?
Billy Sheehan: It's almost all, "Let's see what happens." It's been kind of an ongoing theme throughout, certainly my music and probably my life too. You roll with the changes. You recover from the punches, and you keep going forward. I'm still learning. Every morning I'm down here for hours on this thing [holds up bass] just working on ideas. I've got my little cellphone here. I make a selfie video explaining, "Okay. Now, when the chorus comes..." or "Here's a different way of playing that lick. Now let's do it backwards." And recording all that so I can have it for reference later.
That has been a great thing too is I've had a long time to sit at home and just work on my playing. And I'm always working on it and will continue to work on it for my whole life. That adventure never ends, I believe. There's always more to learn, there's always more to understand. Doesn't mean necessarily playing faster or crazier. It's different ways of treating time and different melodic sentiments and things like that. It's quite an unending journey.
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