HIT CHANNEL EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: March 2016. We had the great honour to talk with a legendary guitarist and singer: Pat Travers. He is the leader of the Pat Travers Band for about 40 years. His latest album is called “Retro Rocket” (2015). He just released a video for the new song “Never Gonna Give You Up” with Carmine Appice. Read below the very interesting things he told us:
Are you satisfied with the feedback you received from fans and press for your latest album “Retro Rocket”?
Well, you know the thing with the “Retro Rocket” album is that my die-hard fans really liked it. It was a different kind of recording process for me, because most of the songs were backing tracks that had already been recorded by some musicians. They sent me the backing tracks and I had to put the lyrics and the vocals in the songs. So, it was an unusual situation because I couldn’t change anything. I could only work with what I had already been sent by the musicians that recorded it much earlier. I was sent the backing tracks with drums, bass and some keyboards and then on top of what they played, I had to figure out something to sing and some guitar to play. But there was a kind of bond and I think it was pretty much like all the musicians were in the same room at the same time, which is kind of fascinating. We do a lot of recordings like that right now. For example, I will record a backing track and I will send that to another drummer or somebody else and make the best part on and we will play it at a different time and we live in different cities. But sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I think in the case of “Retro Rocket” it worked really-really well. Of course, I have written some original songs on my own to flush it out. It got great response but I don’t actually perform any of those tunes live but I am sure there are a couple of those that I could play. I am having a rehearsal with my band on Saturday and I hope we can try one of those songs.
What are your plans for the near future?
I am starting a new production company and I don’t really want to record albums: they take too much time, too much effort and finally you release them 12 months after you finish them. Nobody even listens to them or buy them. We are going to do one song at a time now, and not just for myself, but I am going to have other artists as well: some younger artists, some country artists, some reggae artists and work and produce the music and then produce the video. Tomorrow (ed: 9 March), I will release the video that I did with Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, Rod Stewart –drums) two weeks ago. It’s a bonus track (ed: “Never Gonna Give You Up”) for a re-release by Cleopatra Records. That will give people an indication of what I am doing now. Obviously, we will do a lot of live performing as well along the way. For the near future, I am really concentrating on producing one-off singles with a great video and then promoting it on social media and having it just available for download on all the digital stores like Amazon, iTunes etc. We will see how that goes. I think it’s a much simpler way to work. You don’t have to do a whole album and promote 10 or 12 songs in a short period of time. That is gonna be a little difficult and it costs a lot of money because you have a lot of studio time. So, I am thinking if you have a good song, you know it, you just work on that and then you can do a great shooting for a wonderful video and promote the hell out of it on social media. I think that’s the way of the future.
When the album with Carmine Appice will be out?
Tomorrow. It is called “The Balls Album”. It is actually a re-release but we have a new song and a video that we shot two weeks ago. It’s a new song called “Never Gonna Give You Up” that we recorded not too long ago. My son, Elijah, is the director and the editor of the video. I am very pleased and proud of what we have done and everybody who has seen it agrees that he has a real talent. We did a good work. In the next month, we are going to release another audio track and another video. It will be a different artist every month, including myself but, you know, I want to produce other people. That’s my plan.
The Pat Travers Band still remain an amazing live act. What is the secret?
I think I enjoy what I do. It’s something that I am good at. So, I enjoy performing live and I also enjoy creating, writing, performing and recording new songs, as well. All those things are very important to me. I can’t just go on playing stuff that I recorded years ago and performing that live. Creating new music. That’s what I am good at.
Are you proud of the classic album status that “Live! Go for What You Know” (1979) has?
Yeah. Sure I am. You know, we worked really hard on everything we did and we tried to come up with classic songs, performances, great productions and good artwork on the albums. I think that’s important. I am proud of those records and I think we have much more stuff that is as memorable and classic, coming up in the very near future.
Did you expect the commercial success of the song “Snortin’ Whiskey” (1980)?
(Laughs) No. But you know it’s a funny song and it has a great rock ‘n’ roll guitar with. So, I still perform that every night I play live and the people like it and I like playing it. I wasn’t that surprised, I guess.
How did you start playing slide?
Oh, interesting. Thank you for bringing that up. I got my fingers slammed in a kitchen door on a windy day here in Florida. All of my fingers on my left hand except of my little finger were badly bruised and I was unable to play normal and I decided at that point: “You know what? I am gonna learn how to become a slide player”. So, I worked really hard on that and I think it’s like 10 years later now and people ask me if I can record more slide guitar in songs and I am able to do that and I am pleased with that.
Can you tell us a few words about “Stevie” (from “Makin’ Magic” -1977)? It’s one of my favourite Pat Travers songs!
If you heard the original studio version on “Makin’ Magic” album, there is quite a bit of production on that. I did many guitar overdubs and there is different tape speed and experimentation and I spent so much time on doing that, that I neglected to write the lyrics for the song. So, the day before I had to go and sing the vocals on this backing track, I still didn’t have the lyrics in my flat in London and I panicked at 2 o’clock in the morning and I said: “Oh, my God”. Then, I just started thinking about my younger brother, Stevie, and I had seven verses and I wrote them on a piece of paper and I did very few corrections and then I went back to sleep. It was a panic mode and I got it done. Sometimes, you just have to find the right inspiration and that’s the hardest part when you are writing a song. Once you know what the song is about, then it becomes easy. It’s all about finding what the song is about.
Do you have happy memories of Bill Graham’s Day on the Green concerts you played?
Oh, absolutely yes. The first one we did was in 1978 and it was a beautiful day (ed: 23 July 1978). I will never forget this, it was wonderful. AC/DC opened the show with Bon Scott and then Van Halen who were new –they were just about to release their first album- and then my band and after me it was Foreigner and then Aerosmith closed the show. There were 65.000 people there and we just did a wonderful show and it was a fantastic day. I really felt like a rock star that day.
Did you have a good time during the “Drive ‘til you Die” tour with Rush?
Yeah, it was wonderful. It was 1978. It was the first major tour of the United States that I had ever done and we got to know those guys really well. I got some big, big fun with those men. That really helped us out a lot. A new band coming from the U.K and nobody knew who we were. We had a straight audience every night. It was a good tour.
Do you miss the chemistry you had on stage with Pat Thrall (guitarist and member of the Pat Travers Band 1978-80)?
Pat was and still is an amazing individual. He is so talented in so many areas. As a guitar player, he’s probably one of my very favourite guitar players. He’s also a studio engineer and a producer and then he’s one of the funniest guys I have ever met.
Did you feel a bit nervous when you performed with Todd Rundgren on Saturday Night Live in 1981?
Not, really. I actually felt quite comfortable and I had a lot to do with rehearsing in that band. So, I felt very comfortable. I wasn’t nervous at all. Todd is one of my most favourite artists and also a good friend and a funny guy. I was proud to be able to do that. Of course, I was a little nervous, but a good nervous.
Who are your influences as a guitarist?
When I first started playing was in the late ‘60s and at that time we had all the wonderful guitar heroes like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, B.B. King. Just so many, unique guitar players and those were my influences. All those guys.
I’ve seen a rare photo of yours with Thin Lizzy in the studio during the mix for their “Bad Reputation” album (1977). How did it happen?
Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson were the two guitar players of Thin Lizzy at the time. We were pretty good friends and I had Brian playing on a song on my “Makin’ Magic” album and then we were in Toronto, Canada recording “Putting it Straight” album (1977) and they recorded “Bad Reputation” in Toronto, as well. So, I asked Scott to come and play a song (ed: “Speakeasy”) on my album. But we lived in London and we always hung out together and we had a great time. We all were young men in London, skinny with long hair. We just had fun (laughs).
Was it an interesting experience to play with Alice Cooper on the Rock Legends Cruise 2015?
That was so awesome. I had only met Alice a couple of times. I met him previously for a few minutes in Arizona. We did an outdoor concert together and he was so gracious and so nice. Then we were on that cruise, and my wife and I, decided to go to the dinner and Alice was sitting over there. Someone else I know was sitting next to us, and I went to say “hello” to that person and Alice said: “Hey Pat, it’s so great to see you. I would really like to come up and play during our encore” and I said: “Yes, sir. That would be great”. That was wonderful, I was very flattered. We played “School’s Out”.
Is it flattering that you have influenced guitarists like Kirk Hammett of Metallica?
Yeah, absolutely. There are some other great guitarists who like what I do, like Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme) and Paul Gilbert from Mr. Big. He has always been very supportive. I am very proud about that. That’s great. That’s all I can say but, yeah, I’m very flattered.
Do you think social media like Youtube and Facebook have helped younger listeners to learn about your music?
Oh, absolutely. I remember when the first iPod was launched years ago, and my kids bought it. They were much younger. They were listening to music and all of a sudden, I hear a track from the first Jimi Hendrix album. They were listening to this. There were exposed to everything to see if they like it, without knowing anything about the artist. It was just the music. Actually, today it’s a better time for new musicians and even for more experienced musicians like myself because we are able to use the social media to reach our fans. Our fans are all over the world. You can’t reach people only in your neighborhood and in your backyard. You are able to reach people all around the world and that’s very interesting.
Are you happy with the comeback of the vinyl records?
I don’t know about the sound that much. I don’t know about the system and the cartridge. In fact, every time we play the record in record players, the sound quality goes down at the time we play it, because it rips off the vinyl every time the needle goes through the groove. But what I did enjoy was the album cover and we were able to do some great artwork on those whereas on a CD cover you need a magnifying glass, to read or see anything.
Had you ever met Stevie Ray Vaughan?
Stevie Ray Vaughan was totally amazing. I got to see him once a long time ago, but one of my favourite things was the session he did with Albert King at a television studio. They were both so good. It’s a wonderful video to watch.
Thank you very much. Hope to meet you in Greece someday.
Me too. I have never been to Greece and I would love to go to Greece. I read about Greece all the time, both about history and architecture. It would be wonderful to go there. There is so much history. I want to play there with the band. I don’t know when that would be, but hopefully not too long.
A huge “THANK YOU” to Mr Pat Travers for his time and to Billy James for his valuable help.
Official Pat Travers website: http://www.pattravers.com
Official Pat Travers Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pattraversband
Watch the video for “Never Gonna Give You Up”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfiJTD8lFy4&feature=youtu.be