Thursday, July 10, 2014

An EXCLUSIVE interview with LOVERBOY's Paul Dean!

Still Hot Tonite:

An EXCLUSIVE interview 
Paul Dean

By Stephen SPAZ Schnee

     Loverboy is one of Canada’s most successful Rock bands.  Yes, I said ‘is!’ For those who have not been paying attention, Loverboy is still around bringing audiences to their feet every time they take their show on the road.  Whether you preferred to call them AOR or Classic Rock, Loverboy was one of the biggest hard rockin’ outfits of the ‘80s.  They were all over the radio and MTV and deservedly so.  Today, the name Loverboy may instantly remind you of red leather pants and headbands, but once the music kicks in you’ll be transformed back to a time when good-time, fist-pumping Rock was the soundtrack to every party you attended.  The band not only knew how to rock, they also wrote loads of memorable chart hits and FM radio staples - “Turn Me Loose,” “Working For The Weekend,” “The Kid Is Hot Tonite,” “Lovin’ Every Minute Of It,” “This Could Be The Night,” and many others.   Loverboy was – and remain - ROCK AWESOMENESS and they deserve your love, respect, and loyalty.
     What will surprise many is that 30+ years on the band still features four of the five original members – vocalist Mike Reno, guitarist Paul Dean, keyboardist Doug Johnson, and drummer Matt Frenette.  Sadly, original bassist Scott Smith lost his life in a boating accident in 2000 after being swept overboard.  With blessings from Scott’s family, the remaining members of Loverboy brought in bassist Ken ‘Spider’ Sinnaeve, who had played with Dean and Frenette in their pre-Loverboy outfit Streetheart.  Since then, the band has continued to tour and work on new material. Though they are not as prolific as they once were, a new Loverboy full-length is always a cause for celebration.   They released an album of new material in 2007 (Just Getting Started) and five years later they recorded the album Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival, which contained three new songs plus solid re-recordings of some of their biggest hits.  When the band began thinking of their next project, instead of focusing on a new set of songs they decided to go back into their archives and revisit some of the material that they had worked on in the past but had never released.  What they found was a treasure trove of tracks from the peak of their popularity in the early ‘80s. The songs they discovered were in varying stages of completion – some were just riffs and ideas while others were laid down in the studio and abandoned for one reason or another.  The band took those previously unreleased tracks, re-recorded many parts, expanded on others and came up with the captivating Unfinished Business, a triumphant recording that will excite their fans and hopefully attract a bunch of new ones.  Yes, it’s classic Loverboy in full flight – Reno still sounds amazing after all of these years and the rest of the band rocks harder (and better) than most bands half their age.  There are even some tracks that feature Smith’s bass work, bringing the band full-circle for the first time in 14 years.  Unfinished Business contains some of the band’s greatest tracks since their sophomore album Get Lucky.  Songs like “Countin’ The Nights,” “Come Undone,” “What Makes You So Special,” and “Crack Of The Whip” are Loverboy at their best.  The album is heavier than what old fans may expect, but they’ve kept that classic Loverboy sound intact. Nearly 35 years after the release of their debut album, Loverboy is still just as vital as ever.  
     Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to catch up with guitarist Paul Dean to discuss the new album and all things Loverboy…

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE:  Unfinished Business is just about to be released.  How are you feeling about this project and the reaction you’ve had so far?
PAUL DEAN:  We’ve had some really great reaction.  The best reaction we got was from the guys at Redeye.  They flipped out.   And of course, when someone else flips out, that makes me flip out!

SPAZ:  Were the songs on the album completed but never released or were they little riffs and ideas that you had dancing around?
PAUL:  Some of them were really close to being done and just needed that finishing touch.  Some of them needed to be completely re-written. I wrote “Come Undone” on the piano in 1974.  The first and only tune I’ve written on a piano, I think.  I’m kind of from the guitar world.  It got completely re-written and re-arranged over the past year.  I flew to Raleigh, North Carolina, where Matt lives, with a laptop, and we went into a friend’s basement and we cut the drums.  I’d taken the tune and re-arranged it.  Then we brought it home and Mike and I listened to it and said, “You know, it’s actually a little bit down.  Why don’t we just turn it completely around and make it positive.  Kind of make it more Loverboy as opposed to ‘Oh, poor me’ - make it to ‘This is a celebration!’” And so, Mike says, “I love that idea.  Let’s do that.”  So we re-wrote the lyrics to it.  That was the second to last tune that got finished.

SPAZ:  So, these songs were all demoed at some point? 
PAUL:  Most of them were demos that we recorded as a band in ’79, ’80. Some of the tunes were written after we had finished our time with Sony/Columbia.  Some of them were very close to being completed.  Like “Doing It The Hard Way,” for instance, it just needed a couple of touches.  It needed a better mix because the slide guitar wasn’t working properly so I rearranged that, but it was really the closest one I would say to being finished.  That’s a funny song.  I had an offer to work with BTO 15 years ago or so… it was the original BTO minus Randy (Bachman) because Randy had gone off, and I think he might have been doing the Guess Who reunion at the time.  So, my job was supposed to be filling Randy’s shoes, which is a pretty big pair of shoes.  So, my whole idea was this could be great.  I could go into BTO because Loverboy was taking a break. For all I knew, maybe we were done. You know, we hadn’t worked together for quite a long time.  So I wrote “Doing it the Hard Way” for Fred Turner to sing.  I was thinking he could sing the heck out of it.  So I went to rehearsal with them and we played a bunch of my new songs and it just didn’t happen for musical reasons.  Nothing personal. Fred and I are great friends.  I love the guy.  A beautiful cat.  So anyway, it just didn’t work out musically so I got a song out of it, you know? 

SPAZ:  Well, in hindsight, when you went through these songs, did you ever ask yourself “How come we didn’t use this before?”
PAUL:  Yeah.  There’s one tune we had and I listened to it and I’m going,
“When did we write this Reno?”  And he goes, “You know, I have no idea when we wrote it.”    So anyway, we put this demo together and we played it for a few friends and somebody said, “I believe it’s a Bryan Adams tune.”  And I’m going, “What?”  I went through the Bryan Adams catalog going “There’s no way…” and there it was, but a completely different version of it. I talked to Jim Vallance, who co-wrote the tune with Adams, and I said, “How much of this is your song?”  And he said “This is an amazing arrangement.  I think this is great.”  He said, “You can put this out and call it the same song if you like and I will authorize you to change the lyrics on it.”  I went, “Hell, I didn’t know this is a friggin’ cover.”  So, we took the first lyrics, and we had another song that we demoed way, way back in the late ‘70s or something and I took the lyrics from the verses and put it into that and then there’s two other songs that had little bits and pieces and took a chunk out of the bridge from that song and we put them in this one song and ended up calling it “Countin’ the Nights.”

SPAZ: That’s definitely a standout track. That could have been a huge single back in the day.
PAUL:  Well, that’s funny you should say that because that’s the first single from the album.

SPAZ:  I think you guys actually sound stronger now than you did back then. Did reviving these songs put you back in sort of a certain frame of mind?
PAUL:  I was listening to the tracks and Scott Smith is on some of them, so that was really cool… just hearing Scott play again.  What a great player. I’ll tell you something about Scott.  When we first met him, he was playing with another band and Mike and I heard about this amazing bass player.  We were living in Calgary at the time, and he was playing with Lisa Dalbello (Canadian singer/songwriter). Mike and I went up to see him and we were blown away.  But, we didn’t get a chance to meet him or anything.  So I somehow got his number - he was living in Winnipeg, and he came out to Calgary and I picked him up at the airport. And the first time I met Scott, it was like he was a long lost brother.  We just had that connection, you know.  You meet some people and it’s like weird right from the start, but with Scott it was like “Hey, man...”  That continued for the 20 years we were together.  He was an incredible guy, a really cool guy.

SPAZ:  So, some of these are actually recordings you didn’t finish?
PAUL:   Some of them are. They were all recordings in different stages. Most of them were sitting on my hard drive and I went back and listened to them and “Aint Such A Bad Thing”… the biggest problem with that song was it was completely written and Mike sang it and I had a kind of a pseudo drum track and it just didn’t feel right.  I don’t know why, but it was missing something.  It was either a concept lyrically or the solos weren’t right or the verses were too long or something just didn’t work. I made a new demo and took it on my laptop to the sessions with Matt. I went, “Okay, here it is… let’s try this - simple, Loverboy, four on the floor, let’s see if that works.”  It was like glue.  All of a sudden the song made so much sense, and then I suggested to Matt, “You know those killer fills that you would play on the first and second album.  Let’s just try that in a few places.” And he did and it was like.
“Oh, there it is man!”  Then I just had to mix it, which is my favorite part. Things really change when you mix a tune. 

SPAZ:  The thing that I’ve always noticed about Loverboy is the fact that it never really sounds like Mike Reno backed by four guys or Paul Dean with a singer and three other guys. It always seems there’s an equal musical interplay between all the band members. I’ve always thought that you guys worked really well that way - is that how you make the Loverboy sound work?
PAUL:   That’s Loverboy period!  That’s one of the reasons we’re still together after 35 some years.  It’s because we’re all really good politicians, but I think I might be the best politician.  I fight to keep this a band.   There’s no one star… we’re all the stars.  I don’t know what it is, but it’s equal and especially in making this album, I made sure that everybody was top of their form and they had something to say and what they were saying was valid and you could actually hear it and it added and complimented the song, which compliments the band. Because to me, it’s always about the band.  Everybody in the band is a huge part of the band, an equal part of the band.  And I’m glad you picked that up.  That’s very cool.

SPAZ:  People don’t realize that it’s four of the five original members and it would still have been five of the five if tragedy hadn’t struck.
PAUL:   I have no doubt.  No doubt that Scott would be here today if he were still alive.  He would be in the band and we would be doing what we’re doing.  Absolutely.

SPAZ:  You guys have survived through all these musical trends.  But in the last four or five years there has been this big resurgence in the type of music that you guys make. Some call it AOR….some call it Stadium Rock…. some call it Classic Rock. How do you classify Loverboy?
PAUL:  I like Stadium Rock.  I like the sound of that! (laughs)  It sounds a lot better than Casino Rock, don’t you think? (laughs)

SPAZ:  Have you been able to play any of the new songs live?
PAUL:  We are. Personally, I would like to play every song on the album.  Physically we have an hour to play.  If we’re lucky, we have 90 minutes, but most of the time it’s somewhere around an hour and I really want to play at least one new song and the one that I go to would be “Countin’ the Nights.”  To me it’s a natural.  And Matt is playing the shit, pardon my French, outta that tune, and he kills it on that song.  It’s great.  What a great drum track and the keyboards. It’s the antithesis of a victim song lyrically, which I really like too.  Kind of the ultimate ‘kiss off.’  It’s like “Turn Me Loose,” ya know?  It’s got that same kind of attitude, and I think that’s a cool thing.  That’s a cool stance to take when you’re playing live – and so is the “I love you and I miss you and I need you in my life...”, that has its place as well. But I really like the “Don’t give me any shit” stance… once again, pardon my French.
SPAZ:    Well, sometimes in Rock & Roll you have to kick ass, right?
PAUL:   Well, that’s right!

SPAZ:  I know that playing live in front of people is pretty rewarding, but do you still love the whole creative process of recording? 
PAUL:   I do.  I like to play live.  That’s what my life is - playing live.  That’s what I do.  Even though we might be playing the same 15 songs for the last 20 years. It’s fun for me every night, and I make sure of that.  I love being in the studio.  I really like recording live (in the studio).  We did a couple of tracks like that on Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival a couple of years ago. 
SPAZ: And new songs like “Heartbreaker.”
PAUL:   Yeah, we recorded “Heartbreaker” and “No Tomorrow” and I was like, “What?  It’s over already?”  It was a really great, great… I love working with Bob Rock (producer).  He’s the master.  He’s just a really fun guy to hang with and he’s brilliant, great ideas.  Pure energy.  Knows when to lay back and when to ‘okay… clamp down,’ you know?  Bruce Fairbairn was like that.  Great, great producers to work with. 

SPAZ:  You’ve been working with Mike Reno for over 35 years now?
PAUL: Being in the studio with Mike is really exciting.  I mean, I’ve been accused of having a bromance with the guy or whatever, but what a thing to be sitting in the same room as Mike singing our songs.  It’s pretty cool, as you could imagine.  He is one of the best singers ever.  Still is.  Always has been.  And I’m still his biggest fan, so that’s really cool to sit there beside him.  He’s sitting three feet away from me just singing as loud as he always does, and my wife’s upstairs just digging the hell out of it as well. That’s a real, real honor to do that with Reno for sure.

SPAZ:  What’s next for Loverboy? 
PAUL:  Tour and tour and tour.  We are playing Mexico for the first time ever after 35 years of touring. We’re really excited about that.  And that’s what we’re doing.  That’s what I do.  I play guitar and I play guitar live with people.  I play for Matt and Spider and Doug and Mike, as well.  But, of course, for myself, but that’s what we do.  We play for people.  We entertain them and hopefully we give them a really good time for 90 minutes or however long we get to play.

SPAZ:  How does it make you feel to know that you influenced or inspired people over the years?
PAUL:  It’s amazing. It’s great that 35 some odd years later, we can play “Turn Me Loose” and everybody stands up.  We play a ballad or whatever, and everybody stands up… and they rock their faces off during “Working For The Weekend.”  They do that for every song, pretty much, but especially “Turn Me Loose.”

Thanks to Paul Dean

Special thanks to Steve Dixon, Anthony Gutierrez, Jonathan Wolfson and Dana House



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