A Conversation with Jay Jay French
Mike Ragogna: Who's on the phone?
Jay Jay French: Is that my cue?
MR: That's your cue, Twisted Sistrer's Jay Jay French. Dude, what are you up to?
JJF: You know, I have to tell you, I met Keith Richard's gastroenterologist at a party. The words "Keith Richards" and "gastroenterologist" were never designed to go together in a sentence.
MR: Gastroenterologist. What?
JJF: I was introduced to his gastroenterologist by a surgeon friend of mine, who told me that the guy couldn't tell me he was Keith Richard's gastroenterologist because of doctor/patient confidentiality. So, he brings me over to the guy, and he says, "Jay Jay, this is Keith Richard's gastroenterologist," and I started laughing. Of course, everybody laughs when they're introduced to this guy. It's like an automatic laugh response. I said to him, "Wow, doctor/patient confidentiality precludes you from telling me anything." He goes, "Pretty much." I said, "I bet you I could get you to answer two questions, and they are yes or no questions." He says, "Okay, try me." I say, "Number one, are even you amazed?" He went, "Yes." The second one was, "As long as Keith is breathing, is there hope for mankind?" He said, "Yes." So, I walked away very happy that I got my two questions. (laughs) There's my Christmas anecdote with Keith.
MR: What about a Christmas anecdote or two with Twisted Sister?
JJF: Can I tell them?
MR: Go for it.
JJF: Actually, the Christmas record was out a couple of years ago, but these are timeless songs, really. That's why the record was a hit, we just took famous Christmas songs and did them heavy metal style, and they worked really well. The record has gone on to sell a quarter of a million copies, and I'm thrilled about that. There's got to be an alternative to the Justin Beiber, Kenny G, nauseating Christmases out there. Of course, we were kind of derided a little bit in the beginning, then every metal band in the world started releasing a Christmas song, so we were on to something. It's a great holiday, it's a great time, it's the only time of the year that we actually get along as a band. We did the Christmas show, we did one last week, and we're doing one show December 17th in New York City at the Best Buy Theatre. We have a box set DVD out and on the DVD, we have a Twisted Sister Live In Vegas Christmas Show, which we did a couple of years ago. It's got a huge stage set and dancing girls and blah blah blah. We love this time of year and it's a really special time of the year, and for a band like ours, it's going to be our 40th anniversary. Any time you can find a time to celebrate, you take it my friend.
MR: Take us back to 1972 when a sensitive singer-songwriter from Long Island, Jay Jay French, began to rock the world.
JJF: In December of '72, I auditioned for a band called Silver Star, that band morphed into Twisted Sister. I'm from New York City, I'm from Manhattan, Dee was in a band called This, but he was also in a bunch of other bands on Long Island. The original line up of Twisted Sister...there were a lot of different versions of the band. The one that made it, the one that everybody knows, was the eleventh version. There were four lead singers, I was one of them and I fired myself. God created Dylan so I could do cover material...I was terrible. We had seven drummers like Spinal Tap and three guitar players. My agent said in '75 if you don't get a better singer, you're not going anywhere. Dee (Snider) was in a band called Peacock at the time but he came down and auditioned for us in '76 and that's how he got the job. He was in This, and he was in Peacock, and I asked him how you spelled that and he said P as in P and C as in cock. So, he eventually joined, Eddie Ojeda joined before that. So, I hired Eddie Halloween in '75 and we hired Dee in '76, (Mark) Mendoza, we hired in Christmas time of '78, and A. J. (Pero) came in '82. There's a whole long story, and there's going to be books about it because Dee is coming out with one and I'm coming out with one. Everyone will know all of the dirt and stupid stories to tell, because most bands that have been together for 40 years, if they don't hate each other's guts, they aren't worth a damn. Look at Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, these bands have been around forever, it's like a marriage. You go through severe ups and downs, Aerosmith went through it, they don't talk to each other without their lawyers in the room, yet they continue to make music, which is an extraordinary. Back 40 years ago, bands weren't together for more then five or six years, even the Beatles disbanded 8 years after the world heard of them. Here we have bands traveling the world who are 60 years old, in The Rolling Stones case, 70 or 75, playing on big Marshall amplifiers. Whoever thought that would happen.
MR: Now, bands need Marshall amplifiers just to hear the music. (laughs)
JJF: Yeah you know, back in the day there was LCD, mescaline, heroin, and cocaine. Now there's Lipitor, Metoproporal...it's like Sex prescription drugs, and rock 'n' roll.
MR: How many of these are your prescriptions?
JJF: Oh, I'm not going to say, but some of these back stage areas at these show sounds like my relatives in Boca. "How do you think you do that?" We didn't expect to be doing this at 60. To have the success that we've had, to headline 13 countries this year alone, play 33 countries, it's an amazing career and I'm astonished by it every day.
MR: What's the story behind "We're Not Gonna Take It?"
JJF: Well, it was one of a handful of songs that was rejected by the producer of the album, Tom Werman, who's a great producer and a nice guy, but I don't know if he knew what he was getting into with us. So, we came up with a bunch of songs, and he came up with a bunch of songs. Dee had already written a bunch of stuff like "Bad Boys Of Rock & Roll" and "I'll Never Grow Up Now." If you're a fan of the band, you know these songs. These were our club anthem songs; "We're Not Gonna Take It" was an extension of these anthemic songs. He came in and the guy didn't register with it, so he didn't want that to be on the record. In order for that song to make the record, we had to sacrifice a couple of other songs to the garbage bin. We did, there were a couple of songs that wound up on an album called Club Daze 2: Live In The Bars, called "Never Say Never" and "Blastin' Fast And Loud." Those two songs were sacrificed so we could have "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock" on the album. Eventually, when the video director heard "We're Not Gonna Take It" and said, "That's the hit, don't you know," he also told that to the record label. Did it seem obvious at the time? Usually, as these stories go, no, it really didn't look obvious. Most of the biggest things in this world are never that obvious and predictable that one would think that it was sat down in a perfect boardroom.
MR: And then there's American Idol.
JJF: Yeah, look at how long those guys last. Need I say more? That's the point. The point is contriving anything--a hit movie, TV show--thinking that you have the solution or formula in a bottle is a mistake. Most of the stuff happens by just a confluence of circumstances and coincidences. Did we know that MTV was going to happen at that point? Most people don't even know that MTV, at the time, was owned by our record label and American Express, most people don't even know that. When your record label owns MTV, basically, they can play whatever the hell they want to play. So, our record label made sure that everyone on Atlantic would get on it. We made the right video at the right time, and as they say, the rest is history. They kind of created MTV and made our success worldwide. I thank God for it everyday when people say to me, "Are you sick of playing the song?" I say, "Let me tell you pal, there's a choice in this world, play 'We're Not Gonna Take It' or flip hamburgers. Are you kidding me?" I will play "We're Not Gonna Take It" till I die. First of all, it's a great song, it's a world wide folk anthem, it's used by the Tea Party as well as Occupy Wall Street, as well as everything in-between. Major countries have used it for initiatives, for education initiatives, for government sponsored whatevers. It's been done in different languages, it's been made into hit records all around the world. So, we can play 33 countries and the minute A.J. goes into that drumbeat, stadiums of 50,000 people start singing along.
MR: Testament to that is seen across your 5 DVD box set, From The Bars To The Stars/Three Decades Live. They do show the energy that the band has.
JJF: The box set ranges a thirty year span from the end of the bar period, which essentially ended in 1982, because we spent ten years in the bars. Then it takes you through a series of milestones in the band's career. These days, box sets have 73 CDs, like with The Grateful Dead, this is everything they've done between three and four o' clock in the morning on September 14th 1964. It's not that insanely neurotic. It's five really special shows that take you through a certain time so you can understand what Twisted Sister was like back then. Most people don't realize we celebrated our 9,000th performance last year, which is more performances than Springsteen, Sabbath, and AC/DC. I think only B.B. King has done more. When people say to me, "Why is Twisted Sister so good live," I say, "Because we're like an iceberg. The tip of it is the performance level that you see on stage, underneath it is 40 years of playing." The five guys you see live are the same five guys. There are only 3 or 4 bands right now that are as old as us that are touring with the same record line up. Aerosmith is one of them, Motley Crue is one of them, ZZ Top is one of them, Poison, and we're one of them, and that's about it. So, it's a special thing, and the box set shows really amazing milestones from '82 to '09.
MR: On your New York Steel 2001 concert disc, you include interviews with the band discussing your reunion and the 911 events.
JJF: They are really heartfelt interviews. The discussion of the reunion that brought us back from dormancy, which was the New York Steel show which was hosted by New York DJ Eddie Truck and featuring us, Anthrax, Ace Frehley, Overkill, Sebastian Bach, none of those (other) performances are on here, all we could do is get the rights to our performance on that night. The discussion of what 911 did to us as a band...we're all New Yorkers and at the time, the band really wasn't talking at all. What 911 did was it made something much more important than our petty differences come up, and the point was could we get together to raise money for the New York City Police and Fire Department, and their widows and orphans fund. I have to give credit to my guys. Bands can be stupid, bands can be stunted emotionally, my guys were like, "Whatever, if that's what's going to help New York, that's what New York needs now." So, we did raise $100,000 for that cause. We hadn't played together in 13 years, we wore t-shirts and jeans and walked out on stage. We didn't even intend to film it 'til the last minute, so the lighting wasn't all that great. But I think the starkness and the drama adds to the show.
MR: It was very touching how you all went into how it affected you personally, everybody had each other's back at that moment.
JJF: New Yorkers were never as nice to each other, as they were the days following 911. It was a horrible, catastrophic event. I don't wish that on anybody's life. You can't even trivialize the impact of the victims and their families. I talk about how it affected me, forget that, talk about what it did to the families of the victims. It changed New York forever, and it changed the world, but it really changed New York. I was in the city that day, A.J. was in Staten Island and he saw everything from the ferry pier. I saw the thing coming from uptown coming downtown, having to pick up my daughter at school, and being the first dad in the school yard to pick her up. The trauma of the city was extraordinary, it was captured very well from the interviewer's point of view how it affected us, how we related to it individually, and I think the world related around us.
MR: It's ten years later, what is your take on what's happening to this country now?
JJF: Well, we have a very divided country. I'm a political junkie, I thrive on the stuff so I find the Republican debates to be the most entertainingly, horrifically, fascinatingly, scarily, laughingly...exercise. The lack of focus in these candidates, and their inability to articulate anything? I'm not so much a Democrat to where I don't appreciate another person's point of view, but the Republicans have probably the worst field of candidates I've ever seen. The incompetence level is extraordinary, and if they think the white house is incompetent, they're offering nothing in return. So, we have a very divided nation. What's happening in the economy is terrifying. Forgetting our deficit, Europe is having its problems, and we're all going to sink or we're all going to swim. You almost have to get out of bed and feel like a member of AA and say, "I can't control things I can't control." I can't get to the Fed. I have to hope that they come up with a system to save Europe, and I have to hope that somehow, our politicians aren't going to be so myopic and so hell bent on destroying the other party that they aren't going to sit and work together.
What I don't understand is, what happened to the atmosphere of negotiation? Why is the stridency so heavy that people are not going to sit there and talk? In my life--and I am 59 years old--it was typically that it didn't matter who was in the White House or who was in the House or the Senate, you sat down and you negotiated. When you have the right sitting there saying this is an immovable object, nothing's going to get done and it's sad. I'm scared for our children, we're okay, but it's a scary time. Did you notice the Christmas sales this year? It broke records. People are ready to get away from this bad news. Everybody wants to get out of this bad news funk, I've been living in it since the Bush administration. Now Iraq is winding down, I think the American public sends crazy messages like they want us out of the war, but they want the defense department to get more money. It's a very complicated mix. I don't want to be trite about it and just use sound bites and sound like these idiots who I'm also saying are stupid. It appears to me that the vast majority of the American public is ready to make a move ahead. The signal to that holiday sales is up enormously, I think people are really looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. The truth is, during the Depression that lasted 14 years, within in that Depression, there were two Recessions which most people don't even know about. I feel that we're living some sort of a déjà vu; as soon as it's coming up, it goes back. The American people are extremely resilient, we have the best form of government in the world. I'm hoping that common sense eventually steps in and compromise steps in.
MR: Like you said earlier, it used to be called "negotiations," and there used to be folks named Tip O' Neill.
JJF: Well, among many people, even Barry Goldwater, he negotiated. You could come up with monsters on both sides of the fence. Even Reagan--he raised taxes four times, come on. He sat there and said a deal is better than no deal, so they figured it out. This thing with Obama, this hatred the right has... I think the guy is brilliant, I love him. I watch the reaction to this guy and it floors me. The hatred and the "I will do anything to get him out of office, even stop the economy of this country just to make this guy's life more miserable" just to make a point. That's Mitch McConnell's position as far as I can see. "I'll do anything to keep this guy from getting elected, including taking everything down with him."
MR: We thought it was polarized during the Bush years. It seems like it's worse if that's even possible.
JJF: It makes you kind of pine for those years. I felt history would look at it as the worst presidency in the history of the United States. I'm thinking the atmosphere was at least negotiable; now it doesn't seem to exist. The Tea Party seems to think they have a mandate, which they don't have. What's going to prove that is going to be the marginalization of their candidates these days. If you look even at Newt Gingrich, looking at his views on immigration, Newt Gingrich being the ultimate inside Washington Beltway guy, you wouldn't think he would pick up Tea Party guys. But the Tea Party is so convenient, they will pick up anybody who's going to win, which is another issue that shows you how fake that whole thing is. Herman Cain--who's supposedly the Tea Party darling and that shows you the intellect of the Tea Party--to have a guy who's just doing a book tour, he has no intention to be president. He was just getting publicity for a book. Idiots like Donald Trump--he's like the Vince McMahon of politics. I get that you have a TV show, I get that you're a cartoon character in the media, but that's not where our political future lies. I'm not a Rick Santorum fan by any stretch of the imagination, because I'm not a conservative Republican, I'm a liberal Democrat. I happen to think though, from an articulate standpoint, he's the most articulate, him and John Huntsman. Ron Paul has some great ideas and some are completely off the wall, but at least he's genuine. That's me taking the Republican side, but Newt Gingrich? I don't think it's a joke how badly the Republicans are going to lose.
MR: I don't know about that. I think there has to be some good reason for people to go to a voting booth for Obama.
JJF: Well there is, and part of that is that they're not that. There is a decency in the American people. This is why Democrats win. People understand decency and empathy of a human being. The Tea Party is removed of all empathy. That, to me, is the giant divide. That's just it. You have people that are empathetic to man and circumstances and there are people that just say "me" and "I" and screw everything else. That's what I interpret as the Tea Party's situation. You know what? They're welcome to it because it's a free country. If you believe that you shouldn't have any social programs, build up the defense department, and bomb countries at will, then fine, but there's got to be rules of law. It's scary. I think what's going to happen is when we get closer and closer to crunch time, the passion will build back up again. We do have the White House though.
MR: And then there's Supreme Court that might to trash the health reform next year.
JJF: This is another issue that people don't understand. If people don't understand politics, then they need to understand this one bit of advice I'm going to give them: Vote for the Supreme Court. You vote for the candidate that would put a person in the Supreme Court that would reflect your ideology in this world. If you follow that advice, you can't make a wrong choice for presidential politics. That has ruled me going back to my mom. My mother was a political operative. She used to tell me, "All the estimates are a red herring, and vote for the Supreme Court. Vote for the guy that would put the justice on that would support you." So, you've got the Scalias and you've got the Thomas, you've got these scary horrible justices there. You need to have a president who, when he has an opportunity to replace the wrong people on the court, then he has the position to. I'm very happy with who Obama chose to put on the Supreme Court. If you're looking for a guy at the end of the day, that's how you should do it. The people that they nominate in the court will make the rules that will truly affect your life more than anything else. Also, by the way, I've read enough analysis of the health law to conclude that they can never roll it back. So, there you go. You call me about a stupid Christmas record and you get a political rant. (laughs)
MR: It was in the spirit of giving.
JJF: Listen, I've given that knowledge to everybody, so I'm an equal opportunity educator. Again, the Supreme Court rules, so if you support a woman's right to choose, you know who you're going to have to have as a president, it's pretty clear.
MR: I'm with you, bro.
JJF: Do you spend time listening to Rush and Sean, I do. I always spend time listening to the other side. It helps me to keep in mind how crazy they are.
MR: It's very scary and to be perfectly honest, to keep myself sane these days, I've removed myself from listening to too much political rhetoric. I have to remove myself from that or else I constantly would be living in state of fear
JJF: Let me clarify something for your readers. I speak for me, not for my band. It's important to say that, because my band has varied views. They don't all see it this way under any circumstances. I'm maybe the most extreme on the left, and we have guys who cover the entire political spectrum. So, what I'm saying in this interview is just purely and only my opinion.
MR: Jay Jay, getting back to the spirit of giving and Christmas, when people are coming to a Twisted Sister Christmas concert, what are they going to experience? Are there dancing elves? Reindeer?
JJF: We do have elves, our road crew dresses as elves. The stage is set up as Santa's Workshop in Hell. If you get the DVDs, one of the discs has the Twisted Sister live show on it. We play most of the hits from the Christmas album. "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" is a direct influence on "We're Not Gonna Take It"--it's the same melody, which is why the song was a hit. We almost took the backing track and sang "Oh Come All Ye Faithful." That's how the idea gestated and began. The songs were designed to sound like what it would be like if our favorite metal bands recorded them. For examples, "Silver Bells" sounds like AC/DC's style of playing, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," sounds like Judas Priest's "White Christmas," sounds like Iron Maiden "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," sounds like The Ramones. These were bands that we really like and that we paid homage to in the course of making this record.
MR: Of course, there's "Satan Clause."
JJF: That's the dyslexic Christmas, "Satan Clause."
MR: Also, throw in your hits "I Wanna Rock" and "We're Not Gonna Take It."
JJF: Yeah, because we have to and because people want it. You mesh it all in the show and it works out perfectly. The whole thing is a great time, and we're only going to do it one more time this year, December 17th at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square. A Times Square Christmas. Maybe, by that time, it will actually be cold, maybe it will actually get down to thirty degrees by that night.
MR: Maybe we could ship some snow to you.
JJF: It's 62 degrees right now! My Christmas tree is wilting. (laughs)
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
JJF: Stay in school, and get a law degree. Get out of the music business as fast as you can, it's a sinking ship and it's a mess. When I started out I was twenty years old, gasoline was 39 cents a gallon, hotel rooms were $19.99 a night, truck rentals were $25 a week, you got paid a $150 a night to work in a club, you could work 6 nights a week, you could drink at 18, and there was a record industry where you could dream to become a rock star in. Now, gas is $4 a gallon, hotel rooms are $300 a night, truck rental is $500 dollars a week. Not only can you not get paid to play a club, you have to pay to play the club, the drinking age is 21, the clubs are about 30% what they used to be back in the day, and there's no record industry. Knowing that, if you do want to continue, knock yourself out. It's a very screwed up situation right now. I would say that if I was twenty and I looked at the facts that I just gave you and I could make a decision, I'm going to still chance it, that I'm going to get something on YouTube. And it happens because there's never been more music created than there is today. However, the opportunity to be come the rockstar or the millionaire or to tour and make a lot of money is almost non-existent with new bands. That's really the scary part of it. I don't know if I would venture forth at the age of twenty knowing that the system has crumbled. Sometimes though, ignorance is bliss, so if you don't care, and "I'm going to make it anyway," and if you're going to succeed, you're going to need that attitude. Then I say knock yourself out. You really have to have a vision and you have to be very entrepreneurial. It's not for the weak-minded or weak-stomached person. A band is a tough thing enough, especially as an entrepreneurial business. If you don't have that entrepreneurial ability, don't start. You're going to have to confront tons of problems and make your own way. Music has that allure, you get addicted to it. That's what I had. That's what all my friends had, so best of luck to you. Just look at the playing field and make good choices.
MR: What's the immediate future for Twisted Sister besides the Christmas show looking like?
JJF: Well, we got back together eight years ago to play one summer's worth of reunion shows thinking that was it. Here we are eight years in, and now we just did thirteen countries this year. So, I have no idea what the future holds. I guess we'll continue to play whenever opportunities come up, and we don't know when those opportunities will come up until around March or April when the big festivals start calling. We have no intention of making a record; there's no new music, and it's pointless to do it because there's no market to sell it in. We don't tour because of our schedules. We can only play fifteen shows a year and we only play one show a country, so there's no tour to support a record. So, we go out and play the seventeen songs our fans want to hear, the way they want to hear them, which is what a smart band does. A stupid band makes a new record and thinks fans really want to hear it when they don't. The minute they go, "Here's a new song," they go to the bathroom. Those are the classic bands. We did a new song that was called "The Bathroom Song." We gave people warning to go to the toilet for that one song that you don't really want to hear, especially after you paid a lot of money for a ticket and that means that I'm not playing one of the classic songs. We adhere to a formula, which is called entertaining our fans, and giving them exactly what they want. What I'll say to our fans is this: Twisted Sister has no time frame anymore. I didn't expect us to last five years, and hear we are at nearly forty. Every show we book could be our last because we have no long term plan. Right now, the last show we're going to play is December 17th. Will there be more? Maybe and maybe not, there's no way of knowing. It's not a threat, we just don't plan any longer. We play when there is a reason to play. When we do it, we put on a great show and we love seeing our fans and we love playing our music. I want to wish our fans a Happy Holiday. The box set is a great gift, go out, buy it, and help get our kids through college.
MR: Jay Jay, thanks man.
JJF: Thank you.
Transcribed By Theo Shier
A Conversation with Raul Malo
Mike Ragogna: Hello, Mr. Malo.
Raul Malo: Hey, how are you?
MR: I'm pretty good, how have you been doing?
RM: Great man, thank you. I'm just out on a little holiday tour right now.
MR: Where are you going to be playing?
RM: Well, we're just basically going up and down the East Coast. We'll hit a little bit of the Midwest as well. We'll be in time to be home on Christmas.
MR: I also want to bring in at this point that you have not only your latest "I'll Be Home For Christmas" video but also an album called Marshmallow World & Other Holiday Favorites. You're certainly no stranger to Christmas, sir.
RM: (laughs) No, no stranger to Christmas at all. We recorded that a couple of years ago. I think we only skipped one year and I think we had been out pretty substantially that year. I try to do a holiday tour every year, just because it's fun and we don't really get to play the Christmas songs that often. We figure, why not? Once a year we can do it.
MR: Maybe you could do it all year round.
RM: (laughs) Yeah, I think that would be a bit much. But we enjoy it and it's been fun. We've still got a lot left of this tour. and look at the rest of that.
MR: Let's get to "I'll Be Home For Christmas," which is a special video because of its origin. Can you go into why?
RM: A lot of people may not know this, but "I'll Be Home For Christmas" was originally written for the troops during World War II. It was a wartime song, so it's always had that special meaning and this year with the troops finally coming home, it's taking on a special meaning again. The story behind the video and how that came about...I was at the San Antonio airport about a month ago, and San Antonio has a large military population there. So, a lot of troops are coming and going, and a lot of them are coming home and as you can imagine, they were all pretty psyched-up about making it home after God knows how many tours of duty. At the airport, on the TV monitors up and down the terminal, was a press conference. It was from our GOP nominee, Michelle Bachman. It was so amazing because the TVs were on mute, so everything was closed caption, so there was no denying what she was saying. There was no hiding around it or misinterpretation. It was incredibly stark and real, you know, how closed caption is. It doesn't capture on any emotion and nuance, it's like a tweet, basically, of what you're saying. Basically, her words were--and it was at this particular moment with this airport crowded with troops--how the troops coming home represented a major failure and embarrassment for this administration, or words to that affect. I was standing there and I'm surrounded by these kids who are kids in uniforms, basically, looking up at the screen, and I was in shock and embarrassed. I was beside myself completely and I didn't know what to do. I was so ashamed and angry, I called a friend of mine and told him the story. He got even angrier and he made a couple of calls to some friends, he set up this video shoot at the beautiful Franklin Theater in Franklin, Tennessee. It's basically just me on the guitar singing "I'll Be Home For Christmas" to an empty theater. This video is not intended to raise any money, there's no purpose other than me just saying thank you. I didn't know what else to do, I felt like we had to do something to let the troops know that not everybody in this country is an idiot. That was really the whole point of doing the video, and we did it and put it together. It's not even a gift. It's a thank you card from us to the troops, that's all it is.
MR: Why would someone say something like that?
RM: That's exactly it, and first of all, it's just a ridiculous statement. It's completely wrong, and if she knew anything about anything, that that was written into law by the president who she supported and stood by as they signed the War Powers Act before they invaded Iraq. So, it's completely ignorant and insensitive and just completely wrong on so many levels. To me, I cannot understand for the life of me how this person is even running for Commander In Chief. There's just no way that a person like that should even qualify for Commander In Chief, there have to be standards. We can argue about how to tax and how to spend and how to not spend and all of that stuff. But when you say that stuff, it should immediately disqualify you for running for Commander In Chief.
MR: I love that finally we're getting the troops home.
RM: It's a time to rejoice and reflect and give thanks that they are coming home.
MR: Rumor has it, by the way, that a certain group--let's call them The Mavericks--will be getting together next year. Is that a rumor?
RM: Well, I think it's a little bit more of a rumor. It started out as a rumor and it's now become as much of a fact as it can be. We're going to get together next year and make some music--not only go out and tour, but we're also going to get to make a record. I'm looking forward to 2012. It's going to be an interesting year.
MR: An interesting year in terms of the election as well.
RM: There is that too. This is certainly gearing up to be--and pundits love to say this all of the time because it draws ratings--but it is going to be a crucial and important election.
MR: Everyone get your passports ready if the words "President" and "Gingrich" wind up next to each other.
RM: I don't know about that one, but it sure is interesting watching it. It really is incredible how he got to where he is right now, but I understand it. Look who he's competing with. As far as his intelligence level, it's way above any of those guys, except for maybe Huntsman, but Huntsman doesn't have a shot. He's too good, he's probably to honorable. (laughs)
MR: I guess this is officially our political Christmas interview.
RM: You brought it up. (laughs)
MR: (laughs) Your Sinners & Saints album was released last year, right?
MR: You're going to still be recording your solo albums as well as that new Mavericks project?
RM: Yes, for sure. This is going to be a little intermission on my solo stuff. For me, The Mavericks were such a part of my life that to me, it's just a natural thing to fall back into. We'll be playing bigger stages and festivals, but all in all, it's still going to be an extension of what I do anyway. It's just going to be a little different, that's all. I'm looking forward to it though. I'm looking forward to getting back with the guys and getting back in the saddle again, so to speak. It's been a long time since we've made music together, and there's nothing like a little time to give you perspective on what you did, what it meant to you, and what it did to other people. That's been nice and it's been nice to think about that kind of stuff. When we were in it, we were burnt out and couldn't take it. We would say, "Please, not one more trip!" We were starting families and everybody was really pretty burned out at the time. When you feel that collectively, it's a hard thing to fight, and you just have to walk away from it and it's hard for people to understand that sometimes. But I think it was the right thing to do. Now, we can come back and really enjoy it and have complete control and autonomy over what we do and not have it be run by a bunch of accountants and have you out there working. We can do this as long as we want and as short as we want, and I like that a lot.
MR: The name of the group The Mavericks was so appropriate, because you pushed the boundaries of country. You also had many hits and you accomplished a lo.
RM: Like I said, when you're doing it, you don't think about it because you're in it. You have no life besides the work. You don't really have perspective on it, and through the years and your own time, you're able to piece things together and go, "That was kind of cool and we did do that." It gives you a different attitude towards it. That doesn't mean we are going to rest on our laurels by any means. We're going to go out and make music, and hopefully make music that matters to a lot of people.
MR: You can also see the lives of other people and it's always exciting to have a new album by the group that you like a lot. A lot of fans live with their favorite groups from album to album.
RM: Right, we used to do that a lot.
MR: As far as the band's creativity, you guys get together and collectively come up with your body of work. I imagine that's not changing this next time out.
RM: Absolutely, and we're supposed to go into the studio in January.
MR: Is the writing and co-writing happening beforehand?
RM: Yeah, it's happening before then, it's already been happening. There will just be more of it from here or there.
MR: So, this is genuinely happening?
RM: Yeah, this is really happening. (laughs)
MR: What is your favorite Mavericks song that you've ever recorded?
RM: Oh wow, I'll just say the one that comes to mind right now. It was on Music For All Occasions, it's a song called "Missing You."
MR: I also wanted to mention that you co-wrote Rick Trevino's single "In My Dreams."
RM: Rick is one of my favorites, and I love that song. He's a great singer and doesn't always get the breaks that he should get. Any chance to mention him and give him any props, that's a nice opportunity and thank you for that.
MR: What is Raul Malo's creative process as a writer, like when you worked on your last album, Sinners & Saints?
RM: There's really no method to it, at least not with me. It happens all of the time. I could be on the back of the bus with a guitar and a cup of coffee, I could be in a hotel room or in a car. When I start getting in the writing mode, I at least try to have a notebook or notepad to jot down some ideas. Sometimes, it's just as methodical as trying to sit down and write, but you never know how inspiration is going to come or how it's going to come. Sometimes, it's at the strangest hour, and sometimes, the strangest messengers deliver the creative process. Sometimes, all it takes is somebody walking in the room and saying something. You never know if a little title will make something good for the song. When I'm in the writing mode, I get into this whole other space and you start to not necessarily look for inspiration because I don't think you can go looking for it. You have to be open to it. That's what is important. You need to be open to it and recognize it when it's around. So, what I'm saying is that it can happen at anytime. I don't have a set method of saying, "I'm going to write today at 9:00 am." I don't do it like that.
MR: Do you find yourself singing into your cell phone's recording device?
RM: Whatever recording device I happen to have. Luckily, the iPhone is always around and I can use that in a worst case scenario.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
RM: It's a cliché, but I think it's about as solid advice you can give to anybody that is going to do this, that is to just be yourself. Be as honest as you can with your art, whatever your art is, whether it's music, painting or photography, be as honest as you can with it and it will always take care of you. I believe that to this day and I've seen it come true for me many times. I think that's probably the best advice I could give them.
MR: Thank you so much for talking with me, Raul.
RM: Beautiful man, thank you for having me and Happy Holidays.
Transcribed By Theo Shier
STOCKING STUFFER ALERT!
And lo, the press was told...
"Last-minute holiday shoppers have a reason to be happy for holding out. Beginning December 16th, POPMARKET, the first online daily deals site exclusively for music fans, will offer three days of deals on this year's best boxed sets.
"Beginning at 12pm EST on December 16th, POPMARKET will offer one new deal every six hours for three days on special collector's sets from some of music's most iconic artists. Deals include a mix of premium music and rare, collectible albums and boxed sets, all at a deeply-discounted member's-only price."
Noon - 6PM
AC/DC - Backtracks Collector's Box
The Ultimate AC/DC rarities box set includes five CDs and an LP Deluxe Collector's Edition with studio live rarities, along with Family Jewels Disc Three and Live At The Circus Krone DVDs. 12"x12" super deluxe packaging includes a 164 page coffee table book and original memorabilia reproductions, all packaged in a working guitar amp.
6PM - Midnight
Elvis - Complete Masters
The definitive collection of Elvis Presley's complete master recordings includes all of Elvis' originally released master recordings plus rarities. Display case houses the collection.
Midnight - 6AM
Yo-Yo Ma - 30 Years Outside The Box
A deluxe box set of Yo-Yo Ma's recorded legacy which includes 88 discs of original album releases and an additional two discs of bonus material. Plus, a large hard-bound book with archival photos, essays, full track lists, original liner notes, and credits.
6AM - Noon
Bruce Springsteen - The Promise Deluxe Box
Containing a wealth of previously unreleased material, The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story offers an unprecedented look into Springsteen's creative process during a defining moment in his career and includes 3 CDs, 3 DVDs and an 80 Page spiral-bound reproduction of Bruce's original notebooks documenting the recording sessions for the album.
Noon - 6PM
Aerosmith - Box Of Fire
Gold Certified box set of Aerosmith's first 12 albums, plus bonus disc of rarities remastered from the original source tapes. Each CD booklet also features classic photos and memorabilia.
6PM - Midnight
Miles Davis - Genius Box
Individually numbered, exact replica of Miles Davis Trumpet Case houses the collection of 43 CDs, custom designed Trunk Ltd. t-shirt, previously unpublished fine art lithograph of one of Miles's most striking paintings, and an exact replica of the "Gustat" Heim 2 mouthpiece used by Miles during his career.
Midnight - 6AM
Aretha Franklin - Complete On Columbia
The most complete package to date of Aretha Franklin's Columbia Albums includes 11 CDs of her electrifying output from 1960 - 1965, bonus DVD and a numbered certificate.
6am - Noon
Hall & Oates - Do What You Want, Be What You Want
The four-disc retrospective box set includes 16 previously unreleased tracks in deluxe packaging with 60-page book, unseen photos, lyrics and more.
Noon - 6PM
Beatles - Box Of Vision
Collection includes linen-covered showcase box with complete LP artwork book, US/UK discographies, patented Box of Vision® CD storage system, front covers, back covers and gatefold artwork for all of the original UK studio albums, all of the unique US studio album artwork , the complete LP booklets from Magical Mystery Tour, the complete Anthology Series artwork and booklets in LP size and rarely seen LP booklets from Let It Be... Naked, and Love. CDs not included.
6PM - Midnight
Bob Dylan - Mono Box (vinyl)
Limited edition vinyl box set includes eight original Bob Dylan albums on newly mastered 180-gram vinyl with deluxe booklet and LP jackets replicating original artwork.
Midnight - 6AM
John Denver - Complete RCA Albums
The most complete package to date of John Denver's RCA Albums. Includes s 24 original RCA albums released between 1969 and 1986, each packaged in a replica mini-LP sleeve reproducing that album's original cover art and 4 postcards of photographs taken by John Denver.
6AM - Noon
Robert Johnson - The Complete
Celebrating the 100th birthday of one of the true geniuses of American music - this is the ultimate collector's vinyl piece for any Robert Johnson fan! Includes twelve 10" vinyl singles and a deluxe book.
Follow Mike Ragogna on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ragz2008