JOE LYNN TURNER
"God has made a lot of musicians but not much music."
I had the pleasure to do a phone interview with Joe Lynn Turner from his home in New York. Turner was very candid and open. He speaks openly on his past with Rainbow and Deep Purple. He talks candidly about the ups and downs of his own career. I found Joe to be genuine and real. He deeply loves music, and behind his music, he is a dedicated professional and a nice guy.
Joe Lynn Turner (JLT): Hello.
I'm looking for Joe Lynn Turner.
This is Jeb Wright from Classic Rock Revisited.
JLT: Hi Jeb! Glad you could call! This is one day that I can finally take a half a day off. I'm glad to just sit here and relax!
So I'm going to call and bug the hell out of you!
JLT: No problem! I've been running for the last two months. Where are you calling from?
We are down in Wichita, KS. Were are you?
JLT: We are actually out of Nutley, New Jersey. Where Martha Stewart is from! It's a little suburb about 10-15 miles outside of New York City. We have trees. We can pop into Oz any time we want!
I hear you have a new CD coming out.
JLT: It's kicking, man! It's a return to the Rainbow days. I hooked up with a guitar player from Japan named Akira Kajiyama. He writes stuff like Blackmore with a twist of his own style. The record company, Pony Cannon, said, "Let's put the two of you together and see if you can come up with some stuff." I wrote about seven tracks with him. The rest of it is with other great guitarists. Joe Bonamassa used to be in a band called Bloodline. It's kind of like Kenny Wayne Shepherd, hard rock blues. He's a young guy. 20 years old. I've known him since he was like, 16. He has really honed his craft. This kid is amazing. So we've got all this stuff going on, and on top of that we have this hard rock, bluesy thing. It's sort of like Rainbow meets Purple.
Is the new album out yet?
JLT: We just mastered it last week. We're doing some artwork or whatever. Then we send it back over to Japan. I think the official release is July 5th. They always need 60-90 days from the time you hand it in to get their proverbial shit together. I'm supposed to go over to Japan for promotions on July 1st, so I think they are releasing it their then. They are simultaneously releasing it in Europe on July 1st as well. We are also working on an American release. That way we can save everyone import prices. Either that, or I have the rights to this particular album, and I have the rights to my catalog back. So we may be selling them on the Net. It's so much easier to sell it on the Net. People can fly through there and get it for a fair price.
You are getting huge over in Japan.
JLT: I have kept at it. Pony Cannon basically stuck with me. I thank them for that. They just wanted to keep developing me as an artist, with or without those other bands. They felt that I had the potential. It's been growing and growing, and I think this will be the biggest record yet. It's a return to the Rainbow style of music. That is what my fans have been waiting for, I think. I have been fooling around with commercial sounds and things like that. To make a long story short, I just put it all together with a hard rock sound. This one might go through the roof.
Some of your songs have been all cover tunes.
JLT: That was a series I did called Undercover. That was an idea that my friend in Japan came up with. I was going around with the JLT band. We were doing originals, as well as covers. He suggested that I do a record of covers. What we would do is original album, cover album, original album, cover album. Now, this is the original album again. The Undercover series is still going to remain, because people seem to enjoy it. It is a blast for me, because I get to sing all the great songs I love.
A lot of song writers are not that open minded.
JLT: You know....... You gotta leave that ego at the door. Grow up! It's the same thing when I was in the band. Let's put it this way.....Dio would not sing my stuff. Ian Gillan would not sing my stuff. I would sing everything that they sang, because: A) I liked it and B) Because I could. My only contention is that they probably refused because they couldn't sing Spotlight Kid, or that kind of stuff. What else is it? What could it be? Give me a break! Drop your huge giant persona that you have of yourself and have some fun! Rock and Roll should be fun! If I like "Burn", I'll sing "Burn"! It doesn't matter to me. I like it. I grew up on it! It's weird how these guys are.
You do a lot of writing. We always see you in front of the mic. Do you play as well?
JLT: Yeah. I was originally a guitar player. When I first started out, I was a guitar player/background singer. I've kind of switched positions here! Fandango was on RCA Records. We had four records out. We were an eclectic band. We had everything from county rock to hard rock to Steely Dan like rock. At one point, we had two keyboard players! We used to play with Weather Report. I was sharing lead guitar duties with Rick Blakemore. Somehow I became the lead singer and lead guitar player. Ritchie Blackmore heard me. He said, "What are you gonna do with the guitar?" I said, "Well, you're playing the guitar!" I had to put it down, and I found a new career as a lead singer. It was pretty much just a perfect mistake. It really was. That's what happens in life if you just let it go, and stop trying to control everything. Control is just an insecurity by somebody. I just get in the river and let the thing take me down! I have a blast doing it. I have found that, Yeah, I'm a lead singer. Yeah, I'm a lead guitar player. People ask me why I don't play on my albums. I tell them, "Because I have world class guitar players that always want to play on my albums!" For example, on the last Undercover, we had Vernon Reid, Leslie West and Rick Derringer. Where are you going to get these kind of players? This album has them too. We got Akira. He is undiscovered, but he won't be for long! We got Andy Timmons and Paul Cochran from Ace Freely Band. We have all these incredible guitar players. So, I just take a backseat, write songs and sing them! Meanwhile, I have a collection of 25 or so vintage guitars and amps. I still tool around! Maybe one day I will put out, Joe Lynn Turner Plays The Blues!
What is your favorite guitar in your collection?
JLT: They are all like children! I have a '57 Peavey Model. My Les Paul. One of my favorites is a Les Paul Jr. It has the SG shape with a fat pickup. I showed it to Leslie West and he said, "Man, this is the fuckin' shit!" It's like one he used to play. They only issued them one year. Les Paul went crazy and said that he never sanctioned Gibson to sell them in that shape. It's got the original decal. I got an old Tele that knocks me out. I got some old Strats. I've got some weird guitars that were prototypes. Some really weird stuff.
What else do you want to say about the new record?
JLT: We did this record in 23 days, start to finish. I was doing 2 vocals a day. We didn't spend a million dollars on it, but we did spend our budget. A lot of guys will take the money and go to ADAT. Me? I took it right to 24 track. My whole theory is that this has to stand the test of time and last forever. One thing that I pride myself on is, that when you put on my record, and you put on somebody else's, you will hear mine pop right out of your speakers! As much as you think the other one is sounding good before you put mine in, you will here a world of difference.
We reviewed an album you were on by Stuart Smith.
JLT: Heaven & Earth. That's a good sounding CD. I was talking with him the other day. I told him he was going to have a hard time duplicating that sound with the new budget he is on. The last budget he had was about 4 times as large. He was living in a dream world. I told him, "You got lucky. All these guys came on your record. The record company gave you a decent budget, but now they have cut you down to an average 30-40 thousand dollars." That's tough. He's doing hard disk type stuff. That makes it sound too brittle. Guitars should be analog. They should never be digital. They need the warmth and break up. Anyway, our new record is real. It's raw. It's fast. I'm more excited about this record than I have been about anything that I have done since I have come back in this circle. There was a period of 4-5 years, where I just quit everything after I left Purple. I let the wounds heal up. That was a whole big mess. The only thing I was not disgusted in was music. I was disgusted with the business, and the people in it. Then, of course, the fans are out there to support me. That is my inspiration. I knew I could not let them down. This is the fifth or sixth album I have done since Purple. I'm just thinking that it is the best one yet.
Are there any tracks you want to talk about?
JLT: I'll give it away. We are going to call it Holy Man. We are taking pot shots at the Jerry Falwells and the Jim Bakkers. I was clicking around the TV about 3-4 in the morning and here comes this guy. He's telling me that I have to give him money if I want to get to heaven. I went, that's a song. I penned off some lyrics and Akira wrote a great track. You will see the point to this one. There are quite a few other points of interest. I got a tune called "No Salvation." It is about a serial killer. You got a couple of lost love ballads too. They say art is a reflection of society. This is just the kind of society that I have been living in. Violence. Sex. Drugs. It's what I see. I don't know what it is like where you are living!
It's pretty much the same anywhere anymore. New York is just a bigger scale.
JLT: That's it. It's everywhere. It's tough when you put 10 million people together on a rock, in close proximity. You will have some bullshit. People were not meant to live that way. It is completely unnatural. Rubbing elbows like that, you are going to get some crime. Although, Mayor Julliane has cleaned the city up and turned it into Disneyland! We don't have anymore hookers on 42nd street! The porn shops are going down. They are closing up the strip clubs. Mickey is everywhere! Disney came in and poured millions into the city. It's like kiddy world! Tourists are coming in looking for the strip clubs! Where's the women? You know, boys will be boys! It is safer. Percentage wise, it is safer than it has ever been. I've got to live near New York because I do a lot of TV and Radio stuff. I'll drop names, Michael Bolton got me into it.
We were in the China Club and I was drunk as a skunk. This was before his rise to fame and fortune. He took me aside and he said, "Man, you gotta do this!" I was like, "I ain't never gonna do no jingle in my life!" I was just coming off of Rainbow. He said, "You gotta try it!" So, I did a Budweiser commercial. Then I saw the check in the mail the next month and I said, "This will work!" I like the pay scale. You sing 15 minutes and get paid forever! I gotta be close to New York to do all the TV stuff. I have other projects that I'm working on. I'm working with (unpronounceable Japanese name). She is like the Madonna of Japan! She sells out the Tokyo Dome, 2-3 nights in a row. You would not have heard of her here but she sells a couple million units in Japan, and that's ridiculous. There is only a couple of million people in the county!
50,000 is gold and 100,000 is platinum. She is doing like 12 times platinum! Anyway, she wants to do an English record. She sings real good and she speaks English real good, but she can't rhyme. She does not have a command of English where she can do that. So, I sat around and helped her do about 8-10 songs like that. It was a real experience. It was really out of the genre that I am used to working in. I've been doing another rock opera. It's like the Brazen Abbot stuff that I have done. There is a rock opera called Nostradamus. You can go to my site and link to it from there. I've been doing another project here in New York, along the same lines. It seems to be a hot topic again.
It seem like you are busier now than you were 20 years ago.
JLT: You're right. I am. 20 years ago, I was in a band that was working full time and selling records. You were doing one thing. Everytime you had time off, it was time off. I'll tell you about another project that I'm doing that is real interesting. It's called VCR. The Voices of Classic Rock. It's Mickey Thomas from Starship. Mike Reno from Loverboy. Bobby Kimball from Toto. Ben Orr from the Cars. Ben Cafferty from Beaver Brown Band. Spencer Davis and Leslie West are involved in it. We do a lot of industrial shows. It was put together by this guy named Charlie Schmidt. We have a web site called rockforever.com If you go there you can get more information on VCR. They have been doing this for about a year but my first gig was this spring. For my first gig, they flew us out to Paris. We had spring time in Paris for 4-5 days. All the guys dropped their egos. It's cool to be singing "Roseanna" with Bobby Kimball and "The Kid Is Hot Tonight" with Mike Reno.
You guys perform these songs together?
JLT: What happens is, that everyone comes up and performs a song or two. It loosens up a bit. I was standing there watching Bobby singing "Africa", and I was thinking, "This is one of my favorite songs." I asked if I could go out and sing, and they said to get my butt out there! So, I grabbed a mic and started singing background! Plus, we had a hot blonde singing background next to me! Then, Ben Orr came out and started singing. Next thing, Mike Reno came up and we are all standing there. Bobby was laughing his ass off! We had a great time.
How do explain the synchronicity between you and Ritchie Blackmore or his style of player for over 25 years?
JLT: It's tough to explain synchronicity, since it is some sort of magical element in the lay lines of the earth. It's kind of magnetic. It's very strange. My life has been very synchronistic, I guess. Let's put it this way. When I was a kid, there were 3 big bands. They were Led Zep, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. I always liked Purple more than everybody. Purple was my thing. I would learn Blackmore licks. I was showing him licks! It was really funny! The next thing you know, I get the call for Rainbow.
Then a few years later, I get the call for Purple. It's like, pinch me...I'm dreaming. Also, a friend of mine, he is deceased, was Ricky Blakemore. Then I played with Ritchie Blackmore. Everybody thought he changed his name to be cute and sly. But it was none of that. It was all kind of like, a weird development. A very strange synchronicity. A thread running through the whole thing. I just go with it. If you just live life, it will happen. It's people who get in the way of their own lives. I think they are screwed up. That's the philosophy of the day. Don't screw it up! Follow what is in your heart and do what you feel.
We did an interview with Steve Lukathur. He said that if your over 30 in America, then the music industry says "fuck you."
JLT: There is no interest in the music. The ones who come out today are flash in the pans. They will have a hit, and if they don't have another, then the record company will drop you. There is no nurturing or development of artists as there was in the past. They are only interested in the commerciality of it. I don't know one name anymore. They are dull and faceless. All the singers sound the same. All that rrrrr rrrrrr thing with the throat.
This is like a time to strive for identity. It is a great big melting pot. They are crossing all the lines of definition and blurring the whole thing. I blame the record companies and the business for the whole thing. They are scum. They are only in it for money. They are bringing up stuff that is a standard of shit, as far as musicianship is concerned. We had to lean how to play our instruments. We practiced. We dedicated ourselves. They can only play 3 chords, drop their pants real low and tattoo themselves without knowing why! Then they make heroes out of them. I like some of the pop.
My daughter is into Britney Spears. I can see the point of a Britney Spears or even a Back Street Boys for a pop band. We had the Temptations and all those cats in our day. This is nothing new, four guys up front doing dance steps. Which really kills me! I read in Rolling Stone, which is a rag. It's now a fashion magazine. The Back Street Boys were bitching about In Synch. They told them to get an identity. GET AN IDENTITY?
They think they invented this shit! I thought, "What about the Temptations? You get a fucking identity! You are right on. It's the comerciality of it all. The record companies are just shooting themselves in the foot by doing this. They are not bringing a higher standard to the people. What happened to the artist? The standards are so low. You don't even need to have any talent. It was bad before, but it is terrible now.
The ones that are getting fucked are the kids themselves. Unfortunately, I think the young kids think that there is actually some substance to the music.
JLT: That's it. Substance is a great word. It is not going to stand the test of time. I don't think this will stand up like classic rock. I don't see it lasting. The songs are not memorable. Give me back Nirvana. Give me disco. I hate saying that, but at least the songs were memorable. For Christ's sake, at least they were well produced and sang. I could take that in the back ground.
I told my wife the other day, that I hear more distorted guitars in country music than new so called rock.
JLT: That's wild! The state of music and the internet has got to break off an make it happen.
Let me ask this. If this is the state that it is in, and it is. Then why continue on?
JLT: I never did it for the money. I just love music. Of course, I'd be a liar if I did not say I did not enjoy the attention when I was younger. I'd be a liar if I said that I did not enjoy that limo's, the magazines and the chicks! Sex, drugs and rock and roll! This is Spinal Tap!! But I did not do it just for that. It is in me. If I don't do music then I am dead. That's what I do. That's what God gave me. There is a quote that says, "God has made a lot of musicians but not much music." There are a lot of people who claim they play from the heart, but as soon as the money is gone, they are out of it. Like Ricky Martin? Give me a freaking, fucking break! This guy is gay on top of it! These girls are going to find out a rude awakening! All those wet panties are going to come up dry because this guy is a prefab, manufactured.....
It's his second time around too! He's been recycled!
JLT: It's the businessmen. "If it don't work once, let's shove it up their ass a second time! We will make it work." They hire the Desmond Childs to write the songs. He was there with Bon Jovi. He was there with Cher. I have worked with Desmond a lot. I know all the insides very well of what's going on here, far too well. It's unbelievable to see the lack of talent and the image only. The world is very superficial, and is becoming even more so. It is becoming a very dangerous place to be.
Classic Rock is in a period of time that jazz was in. Jazz was the music of the day, then it became an art form.
JLT: That's a good analogy. Exactly. It is more avant guard. Strange days is what it is. I have seen a slight turn around. There is a lot more rock web sites and ezines. There is more interest than there ever was on line. I don't think it is ever going to come back the way it was. Ever. That history will never be repeated.
Joe, I think you see it in the live shows.
JLT: Everyone is out there. All the old acts are out there and they are doing well at the door because people want to see this shit! The record industry has turned it's back on millions of hard rock fans. All of the sudden, like a dinosaur, it came over and covered us. I'll never forget that. I was living in New York at the time. Downtown, by the Hell's Angels club. 3rd Street. It was a hectic time. I was going though a divorce. They were my guiding light.
Those guys were wonderful. I will never forget the sinking feeling when I finally had the realization that rock and roll was dead. There was no more rock and roll. They shut down the stations. The quit signing bands. I felt like, "What do I do?" "Where do I go?" I'm not going to turn into a grunge act. I know a lot of guys tried. They cut their hair and they tried to get the look of the day. It was pathetic! I was absolutely stunned and shocked. I never thought I would see the light of day. It was pretty depressing for a while. Now, it's like, there are markets overseas. There are places that still buy these records. I can still make a lively hood. So that's what ya do!
We are growing everyday. The comments we are getting are great.
JLT: I wish you the best of luck with this. Your a pioneer! Your giving it a shot.
It's for the love of the music.
JLT: I understand completely. At least you are stepping up to the batters box. You are taking a swing, and the response you are getting is great! "From the bottom of my bottom", as the English saying goes.... I really do appreciate it. I think all the guys who were out there on the mountain when the mountain crumbled, really appreciate it. When we were out in Paris watching Bobby Kimball sing, we all saw the same thing happening. You never realized what you had until it was gone. At the same time, you now cherish the people who are there to support you. There is a goodness and a wholeness that has come out of it. We do this because we love it. We love what we do and we do what we love. And we are lucky. We are very lucky. We are in that 10 % that do that. Most people have jobs they hate. I don't know how you can do what you hate.
Well, thank you for meeting with you. We hope to stay in touch with you.
JLT: Do that. Email me. Give me a holler. Use the phone. If you need anything, then call and I will get back to ya. It's an open connection here, Jeb. Don't worry about it. You name it, you got it!
Well, thank you Joe.
Jeb Wright, Classic Rock Revisited 2000