JOE LYNN TURNER
Rock & Roll psychologist or notary talker?
When we received a call from Polydor a few months ago whether we wanted to do an interview with Joe Lynn Turner or Yngwie Maimsteen, the choice was not that difficult. It seemed to us that Joe Lynn Turner had such an interesting past that he could certainly tell something nice about it. Besides, the man was not short of words. I must say that Turner certainly did not mince words during the conversation, but at the same time I wonder whether everything Turner said below should not be taken serious. In any case, Turner has his own opinion and he came up with that without hesitation. Joe Lynn Turner, a notary talker or a rock & roll psychologist and miracle doctor? Judge for yourself.
If you talk to Joe Lynn Turner you can of course not escape talking about Rainbow. Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore was the man who gave singer Joe Lynn Turner the chance of a lifetime in 1981. Turner made three studio albums with Rainbow and of course he can also be heard on 'Final Vinyl'.
How does Turner look back on his Rainbow period?
I look back on that period with love. You know that time heal all the wounds and all the problems we had then don't seem to be as big now as we were then. I still have an excellent relationship with Ritchie.
Rainbow broke up after the LP 'Bent Out Of Shape'. Did you know the band would fall apart?
The rumors that Deep Purple would get back together were already there. And I had plans to make a solo LP. That was all when we were recording 'Bent Out Of Shape'. After the last show in Japan, we decided on the plane on the way home that Rainbow would take a temporary vacation, so Ritchie could go to Deep Purple and I could make my LP. But I'm sure Rainbow will get back together.
At the time of 'Bent Out Of Shape' Rainbow had actually passed its peak and the popularity was waning. Wasn't it the case that Ritchie noticed that and therefore disbanded the band. I don't think Blackmore was at all waiting for a Deep Purple reunion, but at least now he had an excuse to disband Rainbow and step into Deep Purple through the front door...
You could see it that way. In fact, I think it's an accurate description. Rainbow had a difficult time and the come-back of Deep Purple involved a lot of prestige and money. Likewise, there comes a point where Rainbow gets back together with me, Ritchie and three new guys, a new sound, and so on. Really a band to enter the nineties with.
After Rainbow you made your solo album 'Rescue You' with keyboardist Al Greenwood, guitarist Bobby Messano and drummer Chuck Burgi. Not exactly a successful record. I found the input of guitarist Messano in particular minimal.
That record is indeed much too focused on keyboards. But there were also reasons for this. For myself I came into a new situation, a situation where I was not in total control. The record company had too much influence on the whole as well as producer Roy Thomas Baker. I just let myself be cornered, especially by Roy. I had songs that were a lot spicier. He ended up mixing the guitars too far back, just grabbing the pop songs, and this dick just took all of that. However, I still think it is a good album. Unfortunately, however, the record was screwed up by society because they were not promoted. I spoke with James Rivera from Helstar today. He told me he's been looking for that record for ages.
Elektra pressed 100,000, they sold them and that was it. I didn't see it in that firm anymore and didn't want to make a new album for them. I had and have plenty of material. Some of those songs have been used by others such as "Sweet Obsession" which is on the second Bonfire album 'Fire Works'. Lee Aaron has used some of my songs as well as Jimmy Barnes. Initially the 'Rescue You' project was a band project, but Elektra thought that my head and my name should be on the cover. But because of Al Greenwood and Bobby Messano's too big egos, things went wrong. They thought it was their band, tried to tell me what to do. Yes, check it out. A bond can only function if there is mutual respect. But in this case, there was mutiny in the ranks and they wanted to use me to achieve something. Well, anyone can use me as long as it's done in a friendly way. Ritchie launched my career, but everything was based on mutual respect and there was little to notice now.
In the period 1985-1987 we did not hear more from you than that you wrote songs with and for others. Were you ready for a holiday?
Indeed. I had lost connection with everything that was important to me. I had to find myself again. The music bizz is such a cold, backstabbing and hypocritical world. I was disappointed and that was at the expense of my creativity. My ideals and dreams were disrupted. I needed time to recover, reflect on the future and recharge the batteries. And the moment the record company of Yngwie Maimsteen approached me, I thought it was time to come out of my shell again. I was healthy again, I was looking forward to it and here I am!
You worked with Ritchie Blackmore, now you work with Malmsteen. They say those two may be the hardest people to work with. They both love classical music and....
(Turner just interrupts :) They have similarities, yet they are very different. Both can be moody, stubborn and opinionated. This is not a criticism. These are just facts. But partly because of my nature I can still work with them. But beware, huh! I am certainly not a butt kisser. But when I say "fuck off, then I will tell someone right to the face." But apparently I also have a 'nice guy' quality and the record company has apparently seen that. So whenever there is some guitarist with grace, societies know that they can rely on me because I have self-respect and won't let me get ripped off. So I am sent to them. Think of me as a lion tamer who stepped into the cage fearlessly. ôSend Joe Lynn over there. He makes something of it '. I am a true rock & roll psychologist, ha ha! Who knows, maybe I can become a psychologist later - if I stop singing!
You as a singer of course need your space. It seems to me that Ritchie is a lot more lenient than Yngwie in that regard...
And do you know why Ritchie gives a singer more space? Because he is much more mature and more mature than Yngwie. This is also not a criticism, you know! I even think that Yngwie gives me more space than he ever gave anyone has given. Yet Yngwie approaches a song the wrong way. He initially thinks of himself, while Ritchie starts from the song and does not focus on himself.
What do the Johansson brothers actually think of this approach?
They say nothing, but they also disagree. They just don't have the credibility and success to open their mouths. They are being kept under wraps by Yngwie. Compare it to Europe and Joey Tempest. Yngwie is the 'king of the jesters', while I am the cheerful freebooter! Do you now understand why I took a few years of rest?
It is known that Yngwie likes to revert to old material of his own. How many songs from 'Odyssesy' were actually finished when you joined Rising Force? What kind of work situation did you find?
Yngwie 'rips himself off'! He's always screaming, "I wrote this when I was sixteen." 'Wow, great. When will you write something new again, 'I say. Let me put it this way. He had some titles and some songs he had the basis.
He already had "Krakatoa" and "Crystal Ball", but those songs were unfinished. He already had the title "Deja Vu", but the song hadn't even been written yet. "Rising Force" was originally entitled "Lucifer's Friend", but the record company did not want that. I took that song home, re-edited it and came up with a song about the band. Yes, we are a "Rising Force", aren't we? But Yngwie tells everything in a different way. To be honest, there were no songs when I arrived. There were a lot of riffs and the arrangements were completely shit. There was no room whatsoever for vocal lines and melodies. It was just one solo after another.
You can't really blame him for that. Yngwie has always done his own thing and I think he told previous singers Jeff Scott Solo and Mark Boals what and how to sing...
Hence, the record company wanted someone with credibility and self-esteem. He now had to back down and give me space.
In my LP review I wrote that his record deal would be under threat if 'Odyssey' was not commercially successful. So I was not wrong.
Exactly. The company told me that if he didn't let go of his stubbornness, he could make records on a two-track recorder in Hoboken, New Jersey!
The 'Odyssey' LP was mixed by the duo Thompson and Barbiero. What do you think is so special about those two?
In our case there was way too much on the LP. I don't mean the songs or anything, but riffs and all kinds of this and that. We just needed someone who could bring everything back to the right proportions. Someone who could add a bit of finesse to it without screwing up the band sound. And Barbiero and Thompson have those capabilities. In ten days they did the whole record. I still don't get it. Ten days! They are specialists and they are paid accordingly. They received $ 50,000 for our LP.
Actually you should have toured Europe as support act for Kiss in September. That was canceled because according to Yngwie things were financially poorly arranged. Was that the case or was there more to it?
At that time we could also tour as a headliner in Japan and we preferred that, partly because it was more financially attractive. It was just one or the other. But actually we were also a bit in our teeth because we had promised to come to Europe. I also read that interview where Yngwie said his previous manager Larry Masor had handled things badly. But at the time of that interview, those two had just broken up and I think Yngwie was a bit disappointed. That does not alter the fact that he should never have said that, certainly not to the press because I am not even sure whether the Kiss tour was organized as badly as Yngwie says financially. That manager has also done his best, but Yngwie is a difficult man.
In that same interview, Yngwie denies the rumor that there are problems between you and him and that you will leave after this tour ends. Now I am asking you directly. Will you be retiring soon?
Perhaps. I have other options. Firstly my solo career, secondly Rainbow and thirdly there is an opportunity to start something with Jason Bonham.
Let me put it another way. You have enough material and...
Ha, I have tons of material, but not for Yngwie! I do have some ideas for him, but it looks like he's going to rewrite old shit again. Everything has yet to be discussed. Am I going to make another record with him? If so, under what circumstances? Will I get enough space from him? Does he want to listen to someone with experience or does he continue to write down some loose chords? I don't want to take his own style away from him, I have too much respect for him for that. But I think he can do much better. 'Odyssey' can be improved.
But don't you understand that he's a legend in his own mind and it's hard for him not to play first fiddle?
With all due respect to Yngwie, but a man has to do what he has to do. I have invested time and money in this project. I love him, but if he can't return love, then I have to go somewhere else. I have plenty of options.
May I say that you will be touring with Ritchie Blackmore again in a year or so?
What do you think of the Purple LP 'Nobody's Perfect'? According to Roger Glover, it's an honest record...
If that's fair, they can keep that record away from me. That Purple LP 'Scandinavian Nights' is only fair. Ah, Ritchie is fed up with it. He doesn't get along well with some of the figures there. He wants to go!
Michel van de Moosdijk, Metal Hammer/Aardschok - February 1989
Photos: Tom Farrington, Mark Weiss