Rainbow Fanclan Exclusive Interview
Late November/early December Graham Bonnet did a short tour with Alcatrazz in some European countries. There were only 6 dates; Germering (25/11) and Essen (26/11) in Germany, Kerkrade (27/11) in The Netherlands. Then there was a 4 days gap followed by the last 3 shows in Austria (Graz on 2/12 and Vienna on 3/12). The last concert of the tour was in Prague on December 4th.
There were some reports of a date in Greece but that didn't came off the ground. The same goes for some shows in Scandinavia. We met up with Graham in Parkstad RTV Studios in Kerkrade. Graham did a short interview for local radio station Parkstad Radio. He also did one with Dutch major Metal magazine Aardschok. We also got about a half hour to talk with the voice that blew us away in 1979/1980 when he was the singer in Rainbow.
We started the interview with the question how Graham felt, and right away Graham showed he was in a good and talkative mood.
You know, I don't drink anymore. I hang around last night for quite a while. Then I called my girlfriend, time difference, then I phoned her again this morning. I woke up damn early, I'm absolutely shattered. Now we've going to do a soundcheck which I don't feel up to. I rather go back to the hotel and lay down for a bit and watch CNN. Okay, I'll shut up now. Carry on kill me!
- Is it easy to fall asleep watching CNN
Yes, it bores you to death. The only way to die is watch CNN or Larry King. To be honest it's the only channel I can get that I do understand... it's the one I can get and understand because I don't speak any German. Watching The Simpsons in German is confusing, but very funny
- You could make you own story of it and maybe write a song about it
[Laughing] Yeah maybe. I usually watch the ones I know what the story kind of is, so even watching them in a different language I know what it is all about. I was hoping to bring the band here now and introduce them to you but you have to do with me alone. Anyway whatever you wanna know....
- We got questions send in by fans, but since we only got a limited time for this interview we'll skip most of them as you might have answered these kinda questions already a million times. Besides I can tell the answers myself as they are very obvious
Oh I don't mind, then I don't have to think that hard [laughs]
- How did the first shows of this short tour went the last couple of days?
Good. Last night I don't know how many people were there... perhaps like it will be tonight, I guess only about 200 people... But it was very good. The audience was great. It's a strange feeling to play in front of 200 people after I've had audiences of 200.000 or whatever. You know, it's a weird thing... it's a kick in the balls so to say. After all these years you would think things would get better and years go on. But I've got the feeling that things are going backwards now. Some of the clubs I play are like the places I played when I was 14 years old.
Last night I said I was playing in places like this when I was 12 with a dance band playing guitar and doing a couple of Frank Sinatra songs. So it can be a bit depressing when you see there's only a few people out there. I'm not the only one who's getting through this. A lot of my friends my age and from the same kind of era go through this. The 1980's, the so called heavy metal, hardrock or whatever you wanna call it going through the same thing because it's not a fashionable thing anymore.
And all the people growing up with their music are now somewhat like 390 years old, they're all in wheelchairs and they are not the CD buying public. It's the young kids who buy the CD's, not their mums and dads. And all of a sudden rock'n'roll has become hardrock and is mums and dads music which is very very odd. We were not expecting that because everybody in rock'n'roll stays young. Right?
The thing that I find interesting is we play shows for an audience that is a family audience. You find kids from 10 years old to eh... you know a 100 years old. And the young 20 years olds that come back to see you, backstage or whatever, I get on with those guys great. They are like me. There's no difference between them and me. The 20 year olds or 30 years olds whatever. It's so nice to be able to talk youthfully through music.
You know I think music keeps everybody young. Especially when you got that connection with the guys in the band. [imitating a funny voice] How do you do that?
How did you that made up? Where does that song come from? It's kinda cool and keeps you very, very young. I don't think I'm ever gonna grow old... I might look old [laughs]
I don't grow old mentally or anything else physically. Well, probably the face but I'm a very healthy person. I look after myself. Anyway it's strange to play a small audience but still you have to do the you can otherwise you go [making funny faces]... people are gonna say you don't got it anymore.
Sometimes I'm disappointed, it depends how tired I am. Hopefully my voice is tonight still in good shape. So far it has been fine.
- I heard someone say a while ago that age is only a number...
Well, I got a very young girlfriend. And the things she said to me.... You know I was very surprised... I was one of these guys who thought you know... Shit! How old am I? I can't believe it. I looked in the mirror.... I can't look in the mirror anymore. I don't see me, I see my dad.
And I go "holy crap". You know my dad was 92 [laughs] and that's kinda worry me. I went to this dating service and looked for women of my age. And you know what... I find them too old. They might be 10 years younger than me but I find them too old for me. One woman called me up one day and she said to me one day "I like you Graham, you're so interesting, you're so funny, blah-blah-blah you know. And all this kinda ego booting stuff. You know I feel really great about that.
She said "You're too young for me [laughs]. You're behaving like you are 41, you're just too young for me. I can't keep up with you." Okay so I tried that but then I ended this dating service and I went away on tour a while back. And I wasn't lookin' anymore and thought well this is it. I'm going to be the lonely guy forever.
You know, one fork, one knife, one plate, one saucepan. Oh well, who needs the plate [huge laughter]. I thought that was going to be it. Me, my dog, my apartment. You know since my divorce I live in a condominium and I have 3 children but now my marriage came to an end almost like two years ago. So I had been living on my own for a about year and as I was saying I went down on tour. And this women who was really attractive. I wasn't lookin' for anybody and suddenly... there she was.... she was coming to see me....
- It's good to hear you're happy. You said when you look in the mirror I see my dad. Was your dad also a singer?
No, my mum was a little bit. My dad couldn't carry a tune at all. He had no idea.... But he loved music. His favorite bands were Whitesnake and Cream. He loved Cream. And this was when my dad was in his eighties. But he also loved Rainbow ofcourse....
- I bet he was proud of his son?
Yeah yeah! He didn't realized how much work went into the show. He wasn't a big heavy rock fan but when he came to the final show that I did in Castle Donington when it was Cozy Powell's last show. He was blowing away. He was crying, my mum was crying, my brother was there. Everybody was there. He just said it was amazing what energy goes into making a rock show. Cause he was used to see people like Cliff Richard or something, you know what I mean.
He heard that kinda music on the radio. And he was like me, I never listened to heavy rock music. I listened to R&B stuff, you know Al Green, Otis Redding and all those kinda people. That's the real music I like to get into... that heavy rock thing came later. Anyway my mum did some singing and my brother a little bit.
- But nothing like you did...
My brother has a very soft voice. My mum was a bit like Patsy Cline, the country singer. What's her movie called? I think it's Sweet dreams. Willie Nelson wrote the tune for that. She was very much like her, that kind of sobby voice. The real kinda country voice. She was a good singer, my brother was a very quiet singer. I was the one who was too damn noisy and people use to tell me to shut up.
- Your first concerts with Rainbow were in the States. All of a sudden you played with a major band in big halls supporting Blue Oyster Cult. How did you experienced those first shows? It must have been something very new for you.
Yeah, I didn't know what the hell was going on. It was surreal. You know I remember the first day in the dressingroom. Just sitting there, Cozy was there somewhere and I was saying "I'm fuckin' scared. What am I going to do. They are not going to like me... you know, the short hair, I'm not the... [making funny metal poses]... I don't do all that shit." The devil signs or snails or whatever they are. Cozy said "Don't worry, it's gonna be fine".
Anyway I went out there, ofcourse I was scared and I thought I was going to be booed off. And I remember some kids in front of the stage were kinda going boohoo, we want Ronnie. They thought who's this guy with the short hair. And then I sung the first song and I suddenly saw their faces change. Suddenly there was a smile. I went "Oh, am I okay with you now". I looked down and said "Okay?" and they shouted "Yeah!". They were kinda amazed because I didn't looked right.
- They must have been overwhelmed. It was like that when I saw you back in 1980 in Rotterdam.
I haven't changed. Still the short hairs. It is a bit blonder now. I get more Marilyn Monroe by the minute. It was very nice then. I remember one night there was one guy he wouldn't quit. He was saying gooooowwww awwwwwayyy, he was very very drunk. Can't remember where it was... somewhere... in the world obviously [laughs]. But he was just giving me the finger and all that. And he was really really really pissing Ritchie off as well as me. Ritchie was lookin' at me going... well I won't say what he said... Ritchie made some gestures you know. The kid was about 20 I guess, something like that. So Ritchie suddenly start playing this D chord and it was a song called "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow". You know that one ofcourse.
So what I did was go to the front of the stage and sat down right in front of this kid. I looked him right in the face and sang "Tonight you're mine completely" and sang it right at him. His mouth went open, a broad grin and he laughed. He just grabbed me and hugged me. And then I gave it the rock shit, all the screaming, yelling stuff you know. It was fun, it was kind of saying, look you silly boy let's make this into a joke, it's no fun if you kinda do that. We're all here for a very short time and we need to have fun. Let's not kill each other with anger.
- You recorded "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" before you were in Rainbow, so I assume it was your idea to do it live.
No, not at all [laughs]
- Did Ritchie hear you sang it before. I know Ritchie has a sense for songs like that.
Yeah, that was Ritchie's favorite song from my solo albums. He used to play it all the time. The first time I went to his house, in Long Island New York, his bar is downstairs in the cellar and I was with Roger Glover I think upstairs. Ritchie had a cello and we were just lookin' at this thing and try to mess around with it. And we hear this music. Roger said "That's you, isn't it?". And I said "Oh yeah, who's playing it". "It's Ritchie" Roger said. And I ask "He's playing my album?"
And Roger softly said "He loves it! He loves this song and he wants to do this one". I asked if he was sure. Anyway it ended up we did it a couple of times. "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" was Ritchie's thing, he liked it [laughs]
- During that tour in the US there were some shows cancelled. There are stories about people in the band were ill, a possible car accident. Can you remember that?
When was that?..... shows cancelled....
- At the end of the leg with Blue Oyster Cult some shows seems to got cancelled.
I don't know. I can't remember. It might be a made up story that we were just not wanna do it. That's more what it sounds to me. Cause we never cancelled for any accidents or people getting killed or anything like that [laughs]. I think what happened was we did.... Blue Oyster Cult and Ritchie didn't get on very well. I remember that. He didn't wanna play with them anymore. He thought they were too wimpy and it might have something to do with that. But I might be wrong about that. I don't know.
- It's always easy to come up with a cop-out like that to say someone is ill
Yeah the management might made up some kinda story but I don't nothing about it. We might have time off and I probably never even heard the story.
- With Rainbow you played on that tour 2 shows in The Netherlands, one in Rotterdam, the other one here in Kerkrade. You played again in Rotterdam about two and a half year ago. What can you remember of that show?
Which one was that?
- The Classics in Rock thing with Glenn Hughes, Jon Anderson and John Waite
Oh yeah, that was only one song or so I think.
- Actually it were three songs.
Oh yeah, the jetlag then.... actually I only wanted to go home then. I remember thinking then how am I ever going to sing... That was eh.... everybody was tired on that thing. Everybody was like "Oh my God, how are we going to do this". We were all flown in from all over the place. Everybody was so tired.
It was like "Are we gettin' through with this?" But we struggled through. I remember the next morning everyone went "I'm glad that's over". How are you? (sleepy voice) Oh, I'm alright.... not great... but it was alright [laughs]. It was a funny one. They brought us in the day before and everyone was worn out. Absolutely tired.
It was only the one show and you had to fly over from the States.
- Yeah yeah. It was ridiculous
I wish I hadn't done it now to be honest with you. I didn't feel good at all.
- I was glad to see you finally after all those year play live again.
It was... let me go please. Anyway it was what it was.
- You also played with Rainbow overhere in Kerkrade in 1980. Now you're back also here again. Do you believe in coincidence?
It's a..... I mean why not... I mean go play where you can go... play. I play everywhere. I don't mind.... I mean I play anywhere as long as there's somebody there to listen. You know it's nice to be back here again and it has been a while except two or three years ago with that thing. But that was a non-event. It was like in and out. It was very vague for all of us who did that show. The guys in the band said the singers should have come overhere like a week ahead cause if physically... if your body isn't working you just can't sing.
But it's always good to be here. I came overhere in the sixties, I think in 1968. I came overhere with my cousin Trevor. That was with The Marbles. It was always a place we came to. It wasn't so far away then cause we lived in England. We just came over for the weekend or whatever.
- You only did TV shows then I guess?
Yeah, a lot of lip sync stuff. I don't think we did any live shows.
- At the show overhere in Kerkrade in 1980 there was no encore. And the next show, two days later we heard a story that Roger collapsed on stage.
[silence, Graham is thinking his head off]
- That show was in Germany two days after the gig in Kerkrade. The show after that one was also cancelled because obviously Roger was ill. I see on your face that you can't remember that....
I remember him breaking his bassguitar but I don't remember Roger collapsing. He broke his guitar on Don Airey's keyboard. On his Hammond. He was playing his bass and he was slipping on something... and the neck broke and he made it into an act.... but I don't remember him collapsing on stage...
- We heard this story from other fans. And actually the question was as Rainbow didn't do an encore in Kerkrade maybe it has to do something with the fact that Roger was already kinda ill.
I don't know. It doesn't sound familiar to me... I know I was drunk in those days [laughs] but I don't remember anything like that at all. I don't drink at all now. It has been like that for seven and a half years now... a long time. I feel much better now. But I don't remember that happening ever. Nobody has being sick in the band. If you were sick I think we still would go on. I remember Cozy was very sick once. He was throwing up and all that. He had a bucket down here next to his drums. That was funny to see [laughs].
If we were ill we would go on anyway. I did, I had colds and whatever. But we still did it because there are guys who rely on you. You just have to do it!
- It was a very extensive tour and you played almost every day for months.
Yeah, we were on the road for five months or six or whatever. A long time, not like now... how the times have changed.
- Are the changes something of the music business in general?
Well, I mean there are not such things as record companies anymore. Ofcourse there are but everything has changed with the internet and downloads of whatever you like and people being ripped off... Every musician is being ripped off, like I am, like Ronnie Dio was. Well, everybody that I know. There's no business. The business side of it goes to some guy that happens to have a computer and can say I am a manager or I am an agent blah blah blah. I'm gonna put your albums out. What artwork would you like? It's living room business men you know. It's crap, we're all being ripped off. We're not making a living out of this anymore. The musicians are having a hard time. I'm re-releasing things. I'm doing it under my terms. That's what I'm doing right now.
- About your new album with Alcatrazz. When can we expect it?
Somewhere about 2032 or something [laughs]. We started writing the damn thing about three years ago and to keep alive, you know the band recession. When you're making an album you don't make money obviously. You're off the road and you're playing in a room to yourself. So we've had to do gigs where ever we can. I've been doing sessions for other people over the past couple of years. We all have different jobs. The bassplayer does film mixing and things like that. My guitarplayer, he's a guitar tutor. Because the gigs are very few apart from between for people like us unless you got a new product... which we don't have but that's what we are getting round to.
All these other things, life's get in the way of music. Music isn't that important, life is. Nothing like your family and having money, you've got to make money. Music is a nice sideline. It's a nice hobby. But it's not reality unless you're 20 years old and you're in a band for a couple of years. Make a lot of money. And if they are wise keep it... but they won't. They will spend it all like I did or my manager did or my agent did or whoever else did. But it's very different now and it's nothing like it used to be. It's not like the sixties anymore.
It's a time I miss. The 1960's was part of the best time for music ever. When I lived in London it was so exciting. There was always something new happening. But now it's just like conveyor belt music. Every soul record you hear, every black artist you hear, girl singers especially all sound like the same person. You have the same videos. It's so soulless, it has no feeling whatsoever. I don't care how high they can sing and how many syllables they can put in one word. Like the word AAAA-NNNNN-DDD or something. That's great chops, that's great technique but it has no soul. It has no real feel. All they say is look how good I can sing.
- When you're doing studio work you're doing it at your place or in the town you live. The artists maybe live on the other side of the world and you never meet them. Isn't that strange.
Yes, it's strange but it is kinda good because you can do it on your own time. You got your kids out, I got my 10 year old daughter and she comes in and say "Dad, can I have an egg sandwich" or "Can I have some orange juice". Or the dog wants to go out for a walk. That's the only problem when I do things at home but it's reality. It's kinda cool that you can say how about doing it tomorrow.
You don't have to look at the clock. It's not anymore "We only have four hours left. It's costing us blah blah blah." Now it's free. That is kinda cool. But even it's a good idea life gets in the way cause you're at home. Everybody does it these days. You just e-mail your part in. Here's my bit, I see you later. [laughs]
- You have done some live shows like in Finland and Japan and you used a backingband.
- Isn't it strange to have a couple of strangers behind you that you only saw a day before or so for the first time in your life.
I always hope they are going to be okay. Usually they are pretty good and they know everything I've done. They have done the research and everything. That's the way it goes. People can't afford to bring my band over, the so-called agents, promoters. That's just the way it is.
Special Thanks to: Graham Bonnet and Ludy of Eternal Rock & The Rock Temple.
© Rainbow Fanclan Legacy 2009