Catching Up With Ex-Rainbow Vocalist Joe Lynn Turner
David Lee Wilson,
Tuesday, April 9, 2002 @ 10:00 AM
||From His Early Days In Fandang|
Joe Lynn Turner has pinch hit for some of the best vocalists in the business, (Ian Gillan, Ronnie James Dio, David Coverdale, etc.), but it is his own works that carry him to the head of his Rock and Roll class. Rainbow’s “Street of Dreams,” “Stone Cold” and “I Surrender” along with Deep Purple’s “King of Dreams” are but a few of the choice cuts that bear Turner’s indelible vocal stamp. The other two and a half decades worth of Turner’s music though, perhaps, less familiar are perfectly on par with any of those classics and he is adding weight to his “other” work constantly.
These days Turner is plenty busy at the mic with his solo records, work in television and radio commercials and as a touring vocalist in an entity known as “The Voices Of Classic Rock.” VCR is a rock music fans wettest dream and features, in addition to Turner, some of the biggest names of hard-rock history singing their best-known works. In a single evening, Turner and friends stack enough gold and platinum to run Fort Knox dry with every song a hit and every singer a star. Beyond that Turner and fellow Deep Purple alum, Glenn Hughes, have a record out under the moniker, “The Hughes/Turner Project” which in and of itself exemplifies how these old Rock dogs can not only learn new tricks but can shake up a few of the old ones as well.
A few Saturday’s back Joe was at home enjoying some domestic bliss with the Mrs. when I phoned to “ask a few questions.” As we got on we realized that the better part of the afternoon had slipped by and had yielded several tapes worth of Q&A. A select portion of that conversation has been converted to text and awaits your reading below but – do be prepared for a long ride and maybe a wee bit of controversy.
KNAC.COM: So where in the world is Joe Lynn Turner these days? Married? Kids?
JOE: Yeah, well I have the ex-wife and a kid and a new wife and other things happening. It is like I just keep giving away houses around here! (laughs)
KNAC.COM: You are in the volunteer real estate business then? (laughs)
JOE: Yeah! Just marry me and get everything! (laughs) Oh, God but that is a horse of another color.
KNAC.COM: Right, well we are really here to talk about the music, and of course I will want to ask you a bit about Rainbow and Deep Purple which you are probably tired of talking about by this point but what I am really interested in is what you have going on now, so…
JOE: Well, it does get a little old because it is usually the same shit but you will get the stock answer unless you come up with something magical. (laughs) I know that the readers, they can’t get enough of that crap, so you do have to supply it, but at the same time it is kind of like watching an old movie again and again and again. But, hey, we can always try to put an interesting twist on it.
KNAC.COM: With all consideration to what you have just said, I guess the latest thing to talk about has to do with Deep Purple in a way because you have done a record with Glenn Hughes, could you tell me a bit about that?
JOE: Sure. Well, I needed a bass player who could sing, basically, Caucasian as opposed to a Japanese because after The Holy Man -- are you familiar with that project?
KNAC.COM: Only having heard about it.
JOE: Well, it is like a return to Rainbow, which I think the fans really dug because it was like “Rainbow 2000” but it has still got a couple of cuts that are real bluesy, although that was Ritchie as well but if you listen to it, it is me, it is Rainbow, it is Akira. I use Akira on guitar a lot because he co-wrote a lot of tracks with me but I needed somebody to play bass. I usually get Greg Smith from Alice Cooper’s band and Blue Oyster Cult, I mean he has played with everybody…
KNAC.COM: Rainbow for instance! (laughs)
JOE: Yeah! Rainbow, I forgot! (laughs) All of these guys jumped from me into Rainbow. Ritchie was like, “Well, Joe you have got a great band” so he just kind of took my band. In fact, John O’Reilly, the drummer, still plays with him in his medieval project. Anyway, so Greg was on tour with Alice and I was in Tokyo doing promo for The Holy Man and I was having dinner with the record company, Pony Canyon, and I said, “What if I get Glenn Hughes?” And they just looked at me and dropped their chopsticks and went, “You have got to be kidding?” And I was like, “No, I really think that I could get Glenn Hughes” and they went on laughing, but said, “Okay.” And I said, “Great, but we have to come up with the money and all of these business things have to be done because this is Glenn Hughes.” So, they told me that if I could get Glenn Hughes that they would match whatever I needed and I came home and put in a call to Glenn. Glenn went, (interpreting Hughes’ accent) “Joseph, for you I would do anything.” He was so nice and I said, “But Glenn you have to learn all of my songs too, you know?” And he said, “I will learn anything that you want” and he did! He is a brilliant bass player, not only an incredible singer and my hero, but he is just a brilliant bass player and he learned everything so good and he pushed the band so hard.
We used three guys from all the best bands in Japan. We used the drummer from Earthshaker, we used the keyboard player from this band Girrard(sic) and of course Akira Kagiama on guitar who is sort of like a Blackmore/Malmsteen freak. I mean, this kid can play all of that plus his own style, and if you close your eyes you would go, “Is that Blackmore? Is that Malmsteen?” He will go into a run like Blackmore, and then go into a Malmsteen… it is wild.
So, we put that all together and we got along so well that Pony Canyon came up to us and said, “You guys should do a record together,” and we went, “That is a great idea, that sounds really good!” So we worked out the logistics and that is the story of how it happened on the “Holy Man” tour in Japan. Glenn and I have known each other for years, I mean, we have been through the worst of times together and the best of times so it was an old friendship rekindled, really. I spoke to Glenn yesterday, as a matter of fact, and he is very excited. He is just amazing because he writes these great songs and sings them like, BAM, one take on the mic. Man, he is my hero!
KNAC.COM: Both you and Glenn have managed to get a lot of work done lately; your names are on everything. (laughs)
JOE: Well, that is kind of how I am, too, because I only do like two or three takes and that is it. Very rarely do we ever composite them, which makes it all very raw and real. Nowadays with these small budgets for albums, you have to get in and get out and really capture a sound quickly. Holy Man, I think, is probably the definitive piece only because it is real raw rock and at the same time it has got plenty of polish. It is kind of hard to describe, but I think that we captured the moment and I think that is what I wrote on the liner notes, something like, “Rock and roll is really about just capturing a moment in time,” and we really did on that. We did that whole record in twenty-one days, me and these guys from New York and Akira. He (Akira) just flew in from Tokyo and we just nailed this thing. We have lots of other “special guest” guitar players on it like Andy Timmons and Smokin’ Joe Bonamassa, Jeff Golive is playing on a cut or two and there is just a whole bunch of fun stuff on there. This thing just showed me that if you really concentrate really hard and try really hard, twenty-one days later you will give birth to this exciting sounding record.
KNAC.COM: Will that ever be released domestically?
JOE: We are working on a domestic release, but right now you can definitely get it over at CDNow or Amazon.com, that type of thing, and it is still pretty much import prices but, you know, that is where the markets are. It is a shame that there is not enough of a rock market in the United States.
KNAC.COM: Yeah, it is so sad really, especially when you have a ton of these boardroom constructed bands like Linkin Park who are huge but just completely soulless -- heavy metal’s Backstreet Boys, I like to refer to them as. (laughs)
JOE: Yeah, I know, but if you just looked at the “Scammy” Awards, I call them the “Scammies” because, I mean, what the fuck is going on? They all suck. You know, N’Sync actually sang, not bad, I mean those guys actually had their voices together and I give a certain amount of credit for that, even though it is a prefabricated type of situation, but nothing else there was any good. It is really not the People’s Choice Awards, and to be honest with you, it is the corporate powers that have been feeding this drivel to the masses for years now. I have an eleven-year-old daughter and she is beyond Britany Spears, but it keeps you right there in that loop and man, there is some crap out there and it is all the big companies just feeding us this shit. And we can’t even get arrested, I mean, classic rock is bigger than ever only because there is such a need for it.
For example I am working in a project called VCR, which is “The Voices Of Classic Rock.” You can find that at rockforever.com. It is Mike Reno from Loverboy, it is Bobby Kimball from Toto, it is Jimmy Jamison from Survivor, its Mickey Thomas from Starship, it is me, and Leslie West from Mountain is involved, and Glenn is involved now, Pat Travers is involved, Edgar Winter, and we are talking with Lou Gramm and Steve Perry. What we do is we will have six singers go up on stage and take three songs each and rotate. We have a core band that knows all of the material, and then at the end we all come back out for the encore, and it is a great show because you are hearing nothing but hits. You are hearing all of the hits from “Eye of the Tiger” to “Rosanna” to “The Kid Is Hot Tonight” and whatever.
KNAC.COM: What do you do?
JOE: I am doing stuff by Purple and Rainbow, so I am doing combinations of everything form “Woman From Tokyo” to “Stone Cold,” of course, “Smoke on the Water” to all of this other stuff. Having toured and lived with these guys and having gone through their “red badge of courage,” as I call it, I have been through the mill with these guys, I have every right in the world to do this. I mean, I am an ex lead singer for Rainbow and Deep Purple, and in fact it was Glenn who said to me, “You know, I was not the lead singer in Deep Purple and that means I don’t have a band.” “What do you mean, Glenn?” “Well, I can’t say that I sang lead for Deep Purple, I was the bass player and sort of second singer for the band,” and I said, “Well, that kind of sucks!” (laughs) Because that is absolutely true, but how could you deny his role in Deep Purple?
KNAC.COM: Actually I think he does things like “Smoke on the Water” in his live show too.
JOE: I don’t see why he shouldn’t, I mean, we did it live in Japan. We did “Burn” and “Might Just Take Your Life” and “You Keep On Moving” and a lot of stuff like that too -- we had fun.
KNAC.COM: The VCR thing kind of sounds like the old “Dick Clark Rock and Roll Caravan” tours back in the sixties.
JOE: Yeah, cool right?
KNAC.COM: Yeah, it would be cooler if we could have it come up here! (laughs)
JOE: Yeah. We just got back from Ecuador and Columbia and Brazil, playing in five to ten thousand seaters and it was just amazing. These people were just flipping the fuck out because it was just like all of these hits with all of these guys all on one stage, so now we are trying to take it across America as well.. We have a real booking agency in Manhattan called “The Agency” and they all came from out of the different booking agencies like William Morris and Premier and all of these places, and what they are doing is they are trying to book us into sheds and things like that, as well as casinos because the casinos are where the baby boomers are at. You know, you go in there with the little wife or it is the boy’s night out and you are playing the slots and the tables and you want to go see a show and there we are. We are a pretty big bang for your buck so you are getting your monies worth when you see this act. I mean, I stand on the side of the stage and watch all of these guys perform like a little kid until it is my turn to perform, and then I run out and do my thing. It is hilarious and yet uplifting because it is so cool when you start singing along with all of these songs. rockforever.com -- check it out.
KNAC.COM: The last thing that I actually had sent to me for review was a while back -- it was a “covers” album.
KNAC.COM: Yeah, Undercover 2, in fact.
JOE: Yeah, I was having a lot of fun doing those records, because it was all of these songs that I always wanted to do but I never had the chance, and then somebody gives you the money to do them and you go, “Well, this is a good job!” (laughs) So, I had a lot of fun making those two Undercover records and hopefully I will make some more in the future, but right now I have been doing at least a track here and there. I did the Aerosmith tribute and Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” and Van Halen’s “Dance The Night Away,” and it has really just been a lot of fun. I did those for Triage Records. In fact I did an interview for a Van Halen web site and they said, “You should have been the singer for Van Halen” and I said, “Well, I tried!” (laughs)
KNAC.COM: You did? When was this?
JOE: I’ll tell you the story. I got a call from the road manager when it all broke up before anybody knew about it. He (the tour manager) was an old friend of mine and he lives out on Long Island and he said to me, “Man, you know you would be perfect for these guys because you have the rocks, you have the ballads, you can do all of this stuff.” So, I called up the new management at the time and I never heard back so I called again and eventually said to myself, “Well, I called them twice and if they don’t call back, fuck ‘em.” And it turns out that Ray Danials (then VH’s manager) also managed Extreme, so you figure out the politics and do the math there. (laughs) What he did was he had Eddie’s ear and he said, “Hey, Gary Cherone is the guy,” and we all know that Gary Cherone was not the fuckin’ guy! (laughs) In fact that was the worst Van Halen so…
KNAC.COM: Yeah, I had someone at their label tell me that they sold less than 40,000 copies of that record which is incredible to think that just the name wouldn’t bring in more than that, but maybe people really are smarter than we think, eh? (laughs)
JOE: Man, I think I heard a half a song and I went, “Oh, are you kidding? His voice does not even fit that band.” No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t get into that band. Anyway, that is where that all went, I just couldn’t get past all the politics and now Ray Danials is gone as well as Gary Cherone, so to make a long story short, that is just some of rock and roll history, but yeah, I tried to go for it. I mean, I tried like a gentleman, I didn’t embarrass myself, I didn’t sleep on the front door or anything, but they know me, and as a matter of fact there is a kid who demonstrates the Roland products for Eddie and he goes out there and does all the pedals and things, anyway, he tells Eddie, “Oh, I just wrote a couple of songs with Joe Lynn Turner for my thing,” and the kid told me that both Eddie and Alex’s mouths dropped open and went, “Man, he would be a good singer for us.” So, c’est la vie, that is rock and roll.
KNAC.COM: This seems like a good point to throw in a Rainbow question: Was it true that you were offered the vocalist gig by Ritchie when he regrouped the band for Stranger In Us All but you decided against it? If so, why?
JOE: No, that is not true. No, I did not have an opportunity -- meaning that I was not asked. I was probably not even considered because, you see, Ritchie goes for the new blood. I understand it completely and I am not offended in any way. In fact those guys were playing on my Nothings Changed solo record and they came up to me and said, “Well, uh, would it be alright if we played with Ritchie?”(laughs) They asked my permission and I said, “Look, first of all, you are all big boys and you can certainly do what you want to do but sit down and here is my warning…” And I told them exactly what to expect from Ritchie. About six months later they all called me and said, “You weren’t fucking kidding! It is worse than you said!” “Well, I did warn you about these things…” And all of what I said would happen did, right down to the point where Ritchie fired them or they quit, and now there is a lawsuit with the merchandising money and all of this crap but hey, there you go and welcome to rock and roll. I knew all about it so, no Ritchie, his whole theory is not to get somebody who has stature because then he is going to challenge Ritchie. Although, you know, we are cited by the more recent fans as the best team and, I mean, I love what Dio did, and Bonnet was in there for a short time, but I think that the Rainbow that people really locked in to hear was “Straight Between The Eyes” and all of that stuff, and that was the Turner/Blackmore team, I mean, we wrote great songs. I think that if we would have come out with one more album, we would have been like the heavy Journey or heavy Foreigner, because we were commercial but we were still on the other side of heavy whereas those guys were more pop-commercial. So, no, he doesn’t do that, he is an emotional vampire and what he does is he goes after the new blood and he tries to mold and shape them into what he needs. I just spoke to Doogie (White) the other day, in fact, and he is getting ready to do a solo record. He always e-mails me, but he called me out of the blue and asked me for some legal advice on this project, so it was good to hear from him. Over there in England with all of that Mad-Cow disease still going on! (laughs)
KNAC.COM: Yeah! I think that we have some here now, in sheep too I believe, so that stuff is everywhere.
JOE: Yeah, Well, it is supposedly here now, thank the English for that! (laughs) Well, it is getting dangerous, man, so, don’t eat any beef.
KNAC.COM: Yeah, I am thinking that the vegetarian way may actually be the safer option, though I can’t imagine living without a good steak now and again. (laughs)
JOE: It is, believe me. Just keep it down to white meat, chicken and turkey. I did veggie for about ten years and it works.
JOE: Yeah, but I don’t eat a lot of meat now anyway, I am a pasta guy.
KNAC.COM: Imagine that, an Italian that likes pasta. (laughs)
JOE: Yeah! I am Italian and I make a nice gravy, not sauce you see, I make a good gravy like my Mom taught me. I grew up, you know, “Mongatti,” so everybody ate and drank wine, it was nice. I grew up with that, but I try and limit it, like, I like a good steak every now and again, I ain’t going to lie to you. Down in South America I went to a nice Argentine beef house, me and Mikey Reno from Loverboy, and we had a nice big fat Argentine filet mignon, but that is enough you know? That is like cool for like a month or something. I just try to eat less and less of it because of all of the things that I have read, and I am a vitamin freak as well.
KNAC.COM: Do you go to the gym as well?
JOE: That is my one downfall, I should be working out more at this age and I have some equipment here which I vowed to start this month, so I will get into phases of it and I will get started on it, but then I will be pulled away and I will fall apart for three weeks, so it is like I am trying to get my discipline. I did as a youth, which certainly helps the fact that I have a little bit of a “Labonza” here. I am getting a little stubby around the middle. I was fifty in August so…
”[Before Rainbow] I could not land a real gig, because every time I went for a gig as a background guitar player or whatever, I would sort of -- and this sounds egotistical and I don’t mean to be -- but I would outshine the lead singer. I would outshine whoever was in the front…”
KNAC.COM: Oh, wow, really?
JOE: Yeah. Fifty man. I am like, I don’t feel fifty. (laughs)
KNAC.COM: My god, that just seems weird to say?
JOE: Hey, look, I did my time in the rodeo and was voted one of the “Ten best asses in Rock and Roll” and . . .
(In the background you can hear a female voice groan, “Oh my god!”)
JOE: (To the voice) Hey, hey, that’s why you married me!
(Female voice) Was that the only thing that you could vote on, who has the best ass?
JOE: Yeah, yeah, Kerrrang! magazine and all that stuff, come on you knew that. (To me) See, that is my wife, I met her on the Purple tour and we have been friends and lovers ever since, and then we decided to get married.
KNAC.COM: That is great, true rock and roll love story?
JOE: Yeah, yeah, she is a model/actress and all that crap. An insane girl, but I love her so! (To his wife) Yeah, they used to vote on all of that, “Who has the best package?” and all of that.
(Mrs. Turner) That is terrible!
JOE: What do you mean it is terrible? That is the way that it was in rock, you know that. Come on, you used to like those guys too! (laughs)
(Mrs. Turner) I did not! I did not vote on “Best Penis” and “Best Ass.”
JOE: Do you hear this? This is what I live with here, she is so full of shit. (laughs) “I have got an armadillo in my trousers…” that type of thing. (laughs)
(Mrs. Turner) No wonder why you all got laid all the time.
JOE: Well, we did okay, I am not complaining. (laughs)
KNAC.COM: I am just sitting here waiting to hear the smack. (laughs)
JOE: (Laughing) Naw, I am just winding here up. She could tell you all the shit, she was there with us on the road in Purple.
KNAC.COM: Could she tell me how many cats that Ritchie actually burned before a performance… (laughs)
JOE: Oh, well, if you could only get into the dressing room with candles and not stumble… it was a trip. You have got to understand something, these guys were all backstabbing, and to be honest I have no problem with Ritchie, I really don’t. Ritchie was always pretty much like what he said is what he did, so you kind of knew that if he said it was going to be like shit, it was like shit , so you knew whereas some of the other guys would come up from behind and knock your head off, and you would be like, “What did you just do?” It was very underhanded so I have issues with Lord, Ian and even Glover, who was my friend. They were the ones who forced the issue to get me out and get Gillan back in and Ritchie just wouldn’t hear of it, he hates Gillan. He only got Gillan back in because he was offered like a million dollars to do a solo record, which would mean Rainbow, so he said, “Huh, a million dollars to do Rainbow and I let Gillan back in. Do that record and get that money and then do this and then I will fuck off and do my own thing.” And that is what he did and they got Satriani and now Steve Morse. The truth came out if you look at the story of what really happened because he fought for me for like six months. He went, “This guy is great, we have got a great sound, it is a better Purple than it has been in a long time” and they kept calling it “Deep Rainbow” and stuff like that and they were getting really jealous and jealousy runs deep, and what happened was that they mutinied on me. As Ritchie himself once said, “They needed a sacrificial lamb and Joe was it.” They said, “Who can we chop…” and it was me but that is the ruthless world of rock and roll and that is basically the Deep Purple story in a nutshell.
KNAC.COM: You know, I will be honest, when I first heard the record I was really impressed, but I didn’t think that it would be too popular. As I remember, it did get a fair amount of airplay and it looked like it could really happen, but then the tour was canceled and that was basically it until all of a sudden here is a new Purple record with Gillan back in. Personally, I think Slaves And Masters was the best Purple record since the ‘84 reformation.
JOE: Yeah, it was a good record. In different articles that I have read it is one of Ritchie’s favorites and I was like, “Wow, “Machine Head” and this?” I mean, I grew up on that stuff and that was the shit for me but he absolutely loved it and when I go back and listen to it I think that is a real quality record. It is quality writing and playing, it is just great so yeah, we were thwarted by jealousy and intimidation and just human beings. The other guys were all just fucked up over this and one of the main things always goes back to money for publishing and the songs and Ritchie told me a story where it was he who basically wrote all of the music from years past. I mean, pick a song, whether it is “Highway Star” or “Strange kind of Woman” or whatever and he would split all of the money from publishing with everybody else. Of course, Gillan and Glover did all of the lyrics that is not what we are talking about, we are talking about the musical end of it and Jon Lord, we would always encourage Jon Lord to write but he seemed to want to read books, listen to classical music and drink red wine so he would never get involved but then when it came down to “he who works, gets. . ,” he wasn’t happy. Ritchie got tired of giving away shit for free, I mean millions and millions of dollars was just given away by splitting and trying to be fare and in turn he never felt that these guys were fare to him so he pulled back and said, “That is it, I am done” and of course I said the same thing. What we did really was just make fifteen percent for the band. What we said was, “Anybody who doesn’t write we will give fifteen percent out of the top and that will go to the rest of the guys” which we thought was more than fare. We took care of them, we gave them a taste but at the same time they got all pissed off. Now, I guess that they have to write their own but they are not Purple songs, they are a different band now. I don’t know if you have listened to anything since but…
KNAC.COM: Yeah, of course.
JOE: It doesn’t sound like Deep Purple to me, it sounds like Dixie Purple or Deep Dregs or something.
KNAC.COM: It is different that is for sure but I like Morse as a player so I am less than unbiased, but I don’t think that I really need to be. (laughs)
JOE: Yeah. He is not like a riff-meister like Blackmore though, he is more of a fusion guy so it is not the same band and what sticks in my throat is with everybody that complained about me being in the band, we still sounded more like Deep Purple than this Deep Purple does! So, there you go.
KNAC.COM: OK, here is a right turn for you, I have had this Fandango record that you sang on in my collection for a while and it obviously pre-dates the Rainbow and Purple days, you know, this may have actually been my first picture disc that I ever bought…
JOE: Oh yes, the red lips. (laughs)
KNAC.COM: Exactly. What was the story with that band? I have never really heard anything about them other than what is obviously related to you.
JOE: That was the Last Kiss album. Actually, those red lips where on a tomato! We were living out in LA and all thrilled with going to places like, “Producers Workshop” where Steely Dan had recorded and all of these places, we were young, you know, and Neil Portnow who is at Zomba music now and is a real big honcho now he was our A&R guy. I had come across this greeting card that had this big tomato on it with lips and it was great because of the whole sexual connotation and all that but they just cropped it down and made the lips out of it and it was just a promotional thing really and it really got a lot of visibility but they really didn’t know how to market us and we didn’t know what kind of band that we were because we had five writers and five singers. They made me the lead singer and every body else got jealous and I can’t even tell you the bullshit there is in this business. There are guys with good voices but not what you would consider lead voices and I was playing guitar and doing vocals at the time and we were all sharing duties and we would switch, a lot like the Eagles because we were kind of fashioned after Poco and the Eagles and were doing a little more Country tinged Rock but at the same time there was some Jazz to it so people didn’t know what Fandango was, they couldn’t put their finger on it so it was very difficult to market. We did do some things though, we played with some big bands and we played Chicago-Fest and things like that. We played with everybody from The Allman Bros to Billy Joel to The Beach Boys… you name it. We had our pockets, we had our markets you know, Casper, Wyoming…
KNAC.COM: (Laughing) You remember!
JOE: Absolutely! We did well at the “kitchen sink” radio station down in Florida, Zeta-4 in Miami. We actually did really well in Florida but eventually our equipment got stolen at one of the Chicago-Fests that we were playing, along with Billy Joel’s stuff and Jethro Tull’s and it went over the Canadian border and was gone forever. In fact, I saw a Fandango road case about ten years ago that somebody had in Japan! It was unbelievable that all of this equipment, all of our clothes and guitars and custom amps and racks and foot pedals was all gone and we were just decimated by it. It was about 80 or $90,000 of equipment but the record company, RCA, tried to help us out by giving us thirty or forty grand to help get us on our feet but the wind was pretty much out of our sails by then and it just went down hill from there and it all dissolved.
KNAC.COM: What did you do between Fandango and Rainbow?
JOE: That is interesting because I was living in New York City at the time, down in the West Village, and was carrying my guitar on my back to auditions and things and the story that I tell is that I could not land a real gig because every time I went for a gig as a background guitar player or whatever I would sort of, and this sounds egotistical and I don’t mean to be but, I would outshine the lead singer. I would outshine whoever was in the front and usually whomever the guy was up front was some record company guys nephew or something and they would go, “We can’t have this guy in the back looking good, singing good, playing good and throwing shapes and poses,” so I wouldn’t get the gig! So, I said to myself, “Fuck this, I have got to be the lead guy, it is the only way that I am going to make it.” So, I was starting to form something like that and I got a call, a very strange phone call, from a guy named Barry Ambrosio who happened to be Ritchie Blackmore’s personal assistant at the time, so this guy started asking me questions like he was the IRS! I was like, “Who are you? What are you? What do you want? I don’t understand this.” And then finally he said, “I am sitting next to Ritchie Blackmore…” I said, “You are what?” “Yeah, I am sitting next to Ritchie Blackmore, and he wants to speak with you.” “Well, put him on!” Ritchie gets on and he says, “Hello, mate! I am a fan of yours and I like your voice and I would like for you to audition for Rainbow.” And I went, “Uh, yeah. Where?” I took a train out to Long Island, Kingdom Sound -- I will never forget the studio, and I had a bit of a cold! I was cursing myself saying, “Son of a bitch! What a time to get a cold” but thankfully my voice teacher had taught me to sing above a cold. There is a technique to it and everything, so I said to myself, “I will pull this off, I will do it somehow.” So, I got up to the mic and they threw up a couple of tracks and one of them was “Surrender” and they let me hear it once and gave me the lyrics and it wasn’t exactly the same as what Russ Ballard had written in the end, because we had changed some of the vocal lines, and that is when Ritchie came in and said, “Can you improvise?” So, I started improvising some Blues over tracks. And then he asks me, “Can you write lyrics?” and I just pulled out some made up lyrics to a melody on some track that they threw at me and they all raised their eyebrows as if to say, “The kid is pretty agile,” and so they took the chance. Ritchie brought in a six-pack of Heineken, gave me one, clinked the bottles and said, “You are in the band.”
KNAC.COM: That must have felt great?
JOE: Yeah! They kept me in the studio working and got me a hotel room for a couple of nights while I was doing all of the background vocals over again and wiping out all of Graham Bonnet’s tracks and that is how it really came to pass that I was in Rainbow. It was all of a sudden really. I didn’t really have a chance to let it sink in because they kept me working, I mean, they kept me right on the mic from the audition right on through.
KNAC.COM: The story always was that the record was already done and you had to come in and redo everything, the vocals that is, is that true?
JOE: He (Bonnet) had some stacked background vocals on “I Surrender” and he had some leads down but they didn’t give a shit, they just wiped ‘em all off. They were just like, “He’s gone so we don’t need these anymore.” They didn’t like his personality at all. I think that Graham is a good singer and he has a great voice and all, and a sound of his own, and I certainly didn’t know him then, so I didn’t have any beef with him or anything, but it really was like, “Hurray for me, and too bad for the other guy.” I just took the job very enthusiastically and the rest is history. We did really well, actually, because there was a marriage of a Bluesy Rock track with a real Soulful Rock vocal and that was kind of new then. “Stone Cold” came out and people said, “Well, this is cool!” Actually, “I Surrender” came out first and that was a big hit in England and Europe and everywhere really, and then when we did “Stone Cold” it was just like America -- we nailed MTV so we were really doing well except for internal strife and that is, again, what screws up every band: the egos.
KNAC.COM: In the end, wasn’t it the Purple reunion that kind off killed Rainbow?
JOE: Well, yeah that was an interesting story in and of itself. Rainbow was coming back from a Japanese tour and we were on the plane and the manager came up to me and said, “Joe, Ritchie wants to put Deep Purple back together, and you have a solo deal with Elektra so...” And basically I agreed to not make any waves because it was a sizable solo deal with Elektra, and I thought that I was actually a part of helping get this legendary band reformed and that became Perfect Strangers.” Well, at the same time the manager told Ritchie “Oh, Joe wants to do his solo album and he doesn’t want to do another Rainbow album,” so Ritchie kind of went, “Fuck it, I will do Deep Purple.” So he (the manager) divided and conquered because he was getting major bucks to put Purple together, and his commissions must have been huge. It is all about money with these fucking guys, anyway, to make the story shorter, Ritchie and I didn’t find out the whole of that story until like two years ago and it was through a mutual friend who said, “Hey, this is what Bruce Payne did to you guys, he went over to Joe and told him one thing and then he went over to you…” And we didn’t really talk to each other about those kinds of intimate things, it was different then, on a different level so we just assumed that what he was telling us was true, but we found out later that the “divide and conquer” theory worked on us. And, of course, I had someplace to go and something to do, so I wasn’t so upset about it. I was going to Elektra Records with something like a half-million dollar deal with Roy Thomas Baker producing, so I was like, “I am going to be a star, this is great!” And there was a certain amount of ego in that, I admit. Ritchie went on and did Perfect Strangers and that was a success and so it was all turning out good for everyone so why complain? Anyway, that is what really happened. Ritchie had always promised, “Rainbow could always get back together,” but we never did which was a shame.
KNAC.COM: And when you left Rainbow you kept Chuck (Burgi, Rainbow’s drummer) with you?
JOE: Well, how that happened was that Bobby Rondinelli had fucked his way out of the band or something and Ritchie was like off of him and he replaced him. We were all sad to see Bobby go, because Bobby was a great player and a wonderful guy, he still is. He (Blackmore) had this asshole guy from Long Island on drums who just sucked and he was not what I was looking for, for sure, I mean, if you are going to get rid of Bobby you have got to raise the bar, you have to go up, not down, you know? This guy was just like some local drummer and Ritchie was always looking for local talent and sometimes he did find it, but in this case he was dead wrong. So, we bring this drummer to Denmark and we are recording in Freddie Hanson’s studio, and this drummer just sucks, and we have like six big reels of music and no keeper tracks, they all just suck, and the manager comes to me and says, “What are we going to do?” I say, “Look, I know a guy that can just come in here and just cut the shit out of these tracks an leave you blinded, and you just pay him, and he is gone. Maybe you will want him in the band or maybe you won’t, but at least lets get this record done.” So, sight unseen, we just flew Chuck Burgi over with his drum cases and he set up and just knocked these guys out, and that was the last incarnation of Rainbow. I thought that was a brilliant record -- BENT OUT OF SHAPE was really a good record.
KNAC.COM: I imagine that you listened to Perfect Strangers when it came out?
KNAC.COM: Did any of that sound like it might have been stuff you were meant to sing on originally? Was any of that leftover from Rainbow?
JOE: Yes, but that was more the case for The Battle Rages On. Oh yes, well, there were some Rainbow-ish ideas that Ritchie had guitar wise that became Purple songs, especially the lead track. (Singing) Da da da, da da, da da. . .you know, he was always rewriting “Kashmir” by Zeppelin, because that is one of the most fantastic pieces and Ritchie loved all of the Indian instrumentation and all of that as well. But mostly it was when I was in Purple doing the Slaves And Masters thing before it all fell apart, that all the tracks that we worked on, most of them anyway, became The Battle Rages On, with a different vocal and a different lyric on each track, and to be honest with you I have some, not all, but I have some tapes from before and there is just no comparison. I have always thought that I should somehow release these as a bootleg or something, just so the fans could get an idea, so they could get a comparison for what really happened because there is so much talk about it within that circle of fans. It is pretty enlightening. I was told that as they were breaking up, as Ritchie was leaving Purple, he would play some of these tracks through the PA board just to piss off Ian Gillan! (laughs) It is so like a thing that Ritchie would do, and I got that from an extremely good friend of his who was his assistant at the time, so I know for a fact that he was playing this one song that we had written called, “Stroke of Midnight,” and it is a real heavy, mid-tempo thing with this double vocal… Anyway he would play that just before Purple would go on just to piss Gillan off. He really was the master of that kind of thing, though. So, there was a lot of that happening when those transitions where made.
KNAC.COM: When they put out the box set a while back, there was a track or two that came from those sessions with your vocals -- I think it was from those sessions anyway.
JOE: Yeah, that was like, “Slow Down Sister” or something like that.
KNAC.COM: Yeah, yeah, it sounded a bit like “Stormbringer,” right?
JOE: Yeah, right. There were quite a few other tracks that never quite made it and some of ‘em were real good and they are in the archives somewhere and if they can make any money off of them, I reckon they will dig them up.
KNAC.COM: Yeah, that would actually be cool to hear. The thing that I thought was funny was when after years of decrying the bootleggers, they basically collected a bunch of bootlegs and put them together in a box set, which is cool by me because I like having them to hear, but it was still a bit cheesy after all of the complaining. It reminds me of the Cheech And Chong thing, “Somebody ripped off the thing that I ripped off!”(laughs)
JOE: Yeah, well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. That is a good theory, though, because somebody is going to do it, so it might as well be you. I have done that, I admit it. I have taken some things that the fans would really enjoy, I certainly haven’t made any money off of it, but I basically made the deal where I would trade for bootlegs that I wanted. I sent out some live tracks that I had done that I thought were at least worthy of listening to, and they were made into bootlegs. You see, it is all about the fans, really, because without them you are nothing, and anybody who forgets that is headed downhill, and you have to give them things that they are interested in. I mean, they read everything about you and they want to know what happened where and you become public and you have to comply and the music is the same thing, it is the most important part actually. There is so much music that was shielded from them, that should have been given to them and I am not advocating Napster now, I am not advocating something for nothing. I am not saying that this is not our living, because this is our living, and it is not right to be raped by Napster. I think that Lars Ulrich was absolutely correct in what he was trying to do and no matter how much money Metallica has, and they have too much, (laughs) it is about the principle of it. People will say, “Well why can’t we have it for free?” Well, this is how we live! What, is art a hobby for us? No, this is not a hobby for us and a hobby is not going to pay for my kids college, so I need to make money from it and I sweated and starved and paid my dues so it would be nice if I would get the nickel every time a CD is sold so, come on!(laughs)
KNAC.COM: Yeah, it is like you wouldn’t have a bricklayer come in and expect that there was no cost for the bricks?
JOE: Right! Or how ‘bout this: you call in a plumber and he fixes your toilet and then you don’t pay him and there he is looking at you like, “What the fuck?” and you say, “Shouldn’t that be free?” and you have to tell people all the time, “Because it is a business.” It is funny, because I will go to dinner with a bunch of people and someone will go, “You are a singer, sing for us.” And I will be like, “Hey, do you mind if I sit down and have a glass of water? Hey, what do you do? You are an accountant? Well, account for me would you? Go ahead, start doing some math for me right here.” I mean, what the fuck is that? (laughs) And then they force you to do it, “Oh you are a singer, why won’t you sing, come on…” “A, I do it for the money and I am a whore and all we are doing is arguing about the price. B, if I like you, I might and these are some of the variables that are involved if you want me to sing… otherwise get in line and buy a fucking ticket like everybody else!” (laughs)
KNAC.COM: My wife is an accountant, she will love this! (laughs) It is funny because it is tax season and everybody we have ever met will be like, “Could you give me some help with my taxes here?” I tell her you have to say to them, “OK, uncle Joey, how ‘bout tuning up my car in your shop? And Cousin Lisa could you give the kids some piano lessons for free?” People are crazy like that.
JOE: I know, and it is just such and imposition and people are so rude to do that, you should tell her! It reaches every level. “Sing!” they say, and so there I am standing at the dinner table and I don’t! Anyway, it helps to keep a sense of humor about all this! (laughs)
KNAC.COM: Alright, we have been here all afternoon and I am going to let you go but before I do, could you tell me about the commercial work that you have been doing?
JOE: Oh, I do a lot of commercial work.
KNAC.COM: How did you get into that?
JOE: Michael Bolton. He is an old friend of mine from the City here and I sang on two of his records when they came out. To make a long story short he was on his way with Louis Levin Management to becoming this big White Soul singer which I thought was great because he has got great pipes, so he was the “Budweiser Guy” and all of these things, and he and I were at the China club one night drinking and we went on stage and jammed with Bruce Willis and all this -- it was a big night -- and he introduces me to this lady named Susan Hamilton, who is this big jingle queen and she looks at me and says, “I am going to make you a star.” And I got the Metal vest with the three day beard and a Harley outside, and I say, “Fuck you, I am a fucking star!” I am this young, arrogant, asshole and everything! (laughs) And she say, “No, no, I am going to do this for you…” and I tell here, “I ain’t singin’ no fucking jingles, what are you talking about?” And Michael pulls me aside and says, “Look, you won’t believe this but she will make you rich…” Two days later I got in the studio for Miller beer and I was one of three male leads that was up for it, and I got in there and I sang my bit, and I got the spot and it ran on TV and the checks were unbelievable! I said, “Holy shit, this is not a game here.” It was so financially rewarding, and yet you are still singing, so for the last ten years I have been doing some big TV spots, I have done all kinds of stuff, stuff that you would recognize if I went through them.
KNAC.COM: Gimme a couple?
JOE: Some of the bigger things, well, the NFL ran a big Dominoes campaign a couple of years ago, (singing) “It’s gotta be, gotta be Dominoes,” and that was me. I did the Gatorade, “Love Hurts” tune. I have done everything for Gillette, Mennen, Budweiser, and Finesse, where I did a Sinatra kind of thing. I mean, I use my voice in all different kinds of colors, I sing R&B, I sing Country… I did “That’s today’s Chevy Trucks” and I did a sort of a Tim McGraw kind of thing. It is like, anything that you can do, it is character and it is really exciting because you get to meet some of the greatest singers over the mic. I mean I was meeting all of these singers from the past who I loved, like, Darlene Love and Vicki Sue Robinson, and all of these great singers and you learn more control and more about pitch and tone in a group and it is just an incredible experience and it is very profitable. So, Michael Bolton got me into it and it was a way to pay the bills in the lean times. You can hear John Waite doing Microsoft, (sings) “I’ve got to admit it is getting better.” Yeah, that is John Waite and everybody is doing it.
KNAC.COM: Please tell me you didn’t do the “Smoke on the Burger” thing? (laughs)
JOE: No! (laughs) No, “Smoke on the Burger” was one where they got paid to take their original track. But there you go, they have got Hendrix doing “Freedom” and “Voodoo Chile” and it is, like, I am sitting here knowing that you can definitely tell that the people in advertising are in my age group now. I would never in my Fathers time see any of that, so it is really astounding, Jingles have become a really high paid way of making a living, look at Bowie with “Heroes” and all of that stuff. I mean, Bowie gets millions for that stuff but there are some jingle singers who are completely unknown who have made millions in a year just from TV. Here is the deal here, David, I still do what I love, I am still singing. There was a couple of articles, one in Rolling Stone, that mentioned my name and Flea and Robbie Robertson’s and a couple of other guys that were doing these jingles and they were kind of taking a crack at us, and I save these articles and I was going to write back, and my wife says to me, “Don’t even dignify it, they are assholes.” And I really got angry about it, I mean, what the hell do they expect us to do? We are trying to make a living and do what we do, and they want to come down and attack us, criticize us for doing it. It sounded like sour grapes really, and I had just done this big AT&T spot and they were like, “They are selling out.” Selling out? You fucking, stupid Rolling Stone writer. I have to quote Frank Zappa here, “Rock journalism is people who can’t write writing for people who can’t read.” I mean, come on asshole. Thankfully there was a letter in the next issue saying, “I can’t believe you guys are cutting up Joe Lynn Turner and these guys who are doing Jingles. After all, these guys are only trying to make a living doing what they want to do, which is sing and they are a sight better off than you lot!” So, God bless that guy. You get stoned any which way you go, you know? I am just trying to make an honest living doing what I love and I still get screwed! People, what are you going to do? (laughs)
KNAC.COM: If there is one guy who has seemed to have it in for you, it is the leader of the Deep Purple Appreciation Society. This guy has never had a good word to say about you, or Doogie White for that matter, and it is just so strange because he is like the professional Deep Purple cheerleader you know? What is up with that? Did you piss in this guy’s tea or something?
JOE: “Simon-Fucking-Robinson” – yeah, he was the guy who gave me a lot of trouble in the beginning when I joined Purple, and he was always in my face but, I hear that he is pretty good to my fan club girls in London. I hear that he has treated them kindly at these event, and he better because I will send some guys over there to break his fucking leg.(laughs) Actually, that is very cool of him, so I am not going to smack him around or anything, but I will just dismiss him because I don’t really appreciate how he was trying to cut me up.
KNAC.COM: Yeah, I don’t get that. Anyway, thank you for the time and information, quite a bit to work with! (laughs)
JOE: My pleasure, and thank you for being interested. (laughs)
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