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SoulMonster

2015.10.02 - Interview with Richard in 100 % Rock

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2015.10.02 - Interview with Richard in 100 % Rock

Post by Soulmonster on Thu Oct 08, 2015 5:59 pm

INTERVIEW: RICHARD FORTUS (Dead Daisies/Guns n’ Roses) – September 2015
By Shane Pinnegar

With THE DEAD DAISIES about to hit Australia in support of the massive KISS tour, we got Richard Fortus on the line from Los Angeles to discuss the band, the tour, and the music.

Sadly Fortus pranged his motorbike on the eve of leaving for the tour, so his place in the Daisies will be taken by Baby Animals guitarist Dave Leslie, but seeing as it was such a great and far-reaching interview, here it is pretty much verbatim.

Despite being told not to bring up his main band, Fortus was happy to talk about them (he mentioned them first, just saying!), the stickier subjects relating to the Dead Daisies recent history, and get into Fatherhood, learning about Oz Rock from Angry Anderson & Jimmy Barnes, partying on the road and even have a few words with this writer’s daughter, who was off school with an earache at the time.

Richard Fortus, we salute you.

100% ROCK: Hey Richard, it’s Shane Pinnegar from 100% Rock Magazine in Perth, Western Australia. How you doing today?

Richard: I’m very well, thank you. How are you?

100% ROCK: I’m very well indeed, and I appreciate your time today. I know you’re a very busy dude.

Richard: My pleasure.

100% ROCK: It’s not very long at all now until you’re touring Australia with KISS. How’s the vibe in the Daisies camp ahead of the tour?

Richard: We all look forward to our time with KISS. Those guys have been really, really good to us. It’s always a real pleasure to tour with them. Actually, we tend to go down really well with their audience which was a surprise to us, but a very pleasant one.

100% ROCK: Their stage show, of course, is massive, huge, larger than life. How do you guys go countering that when you’re supporting them just coming out and playing good old rock n’ roll?

Richard: You know, we just do what we do, and it seems to be resonating with their fan base.

100% ROCK: Which is awesome for you.

Richard: It is, very much so. It’s a very different type of band, but for whatever reason, they like us. I know a lot of the artists that have toured with Kiss in the past don’t have that same experience, but I guess we’re just fortunate. We’re resonating with them, you know?

100% ROCK: I wonder if that’s partly down to the fact that The Dead Daisies is just a plain and simple, honest rock n’ roll band.

Richard: I think so. I think that is why.

100% ROCK: Is the line-up the same as on the latest record this time around, or have you made a few more shuffles?

Richard: The only change would be… no, it’s the same. You know, Jackie Barnes played on some of the record that we recorded in Australia, but besides that it’ll be Brian Tichy, Dizzy Reed, Marco Mendoza, David Lowy, and I don’t know, what’s his name? John Corabi – I’m being impolite by the way, he’s a wonderful guy and it’s been such a pleasure to work with him.

100% ROCK: Well, I watched the Cuba documentary [available to watch for free on the Dead Daisies website] this morning and it just seems like you guys have a lot of fun and you’re really united with that passion for rock n’ roll.

Richard: It really is – I don’t want to sound cliché, but it really is a dream band. I get to play with some of my closest friends and some of the greatest musicians I know. It is a lot of fun. We’ve all come from different situations with a very serious business band, or there’s politics and the industry to contend with. This just seems to be about music and trying to make the best music that we can. It’s just a lot of fun. There’s no drama. It’s great to play with these guys and it’s wonderful that we’ve been received as well as we have.

100% ROCK: Excellent. You’ve had the opportunity over the last few years with the Daisies to spend a fair bit more time in Australia than you might otherwise have. How has that changed your view of Australian culture and the Australian people?

Richard: I don’t think my view of Australia had changed. I’ve always had so many great friends there. It’s always seemed, since the very first time I toured there which I think was with The Psychedelic Furs, probably. As long as I’ve been going to Australia it always seemed the closest to the US, so it seems very familiar in a way, you know?

100% ROCK: You’ve obviously picked up a bit of musical knowledge about Australia? I read a couple of interviews, one especially where you schooled the interviewer on Jimmy Barnes and Cold Chisel, and a couple other bands…

Richard: I’m a musicophile. It’s been that way for a long time. Whenever I go to a new country, or new city, I try and research the music that is indigenous to that area, the local music and history. Yeah, definitely with Australia [there are] some great Australian bands we talk to each other about. I want to learn, so when I’m hanging out with Angry Anderson, I want to learn about his view of rock history in Australia. Same with Jimmy Barnes: I want to pick his brain [and] find out what he remembers about the great bands and then go and do my research… which is now really easy. I remember when we used to have to go dig through stacks of vinyl and now you just do internet searches.

100% ROCK: On that note, I mentioned the tour video above – you guys spent a bit of time in Cuba and played with a lot of Cuban musicians. How did playing with those Latin-schooled rhythms, and that different rhythmic sort of vibe, how did that affect your own playing? Did you soak some of that up into your own repertoire?

Richard: Absolutely! I think whenever you play with musicians, especially when you play with musicians from outside your genre, you’re going to learn. You’re going to be influenced and you’re going to pick things up as you try and assimilate. Definitely, Cuban music is something that we were all very familiar with, I think. Especially living in New York, it’s such a large Cuban population that you’re exposed to – it’s all around you. I’ve played with a lot of Cuban musicians. The drummer that I’ve played with most of my career, for the last twenty-something years, Frank Ferrer, is Cuban. There’s a lot of Cuban musicians in New York. It was great though, to immerse yourself in the culture and to actually record in Cuba in their environment. It was really cool. It was very culturally rich. It was such a great experience.

100% ROCK: You can definitely tell there’s a lot of different sounds on the new album, compared to the debut album and compared to the Face I Love EP. It really sounds like a progression musically – I know it was mostly session music on the first album, but you guys really seem to have progressed as a unit since that EP.

Richard: Yeah, well it’s become a band. It’s very reliant. It’s become much more solidified. We’ve become more comfortable with each other and also, honestly I think recording in the short period that we had forced us to… when you limit yourself and you force yourself to create, once the well is primed, it becomes very cathartic. You’re getting things out. You’re definitely in that space. We really rose to the occasion as a band and came out with some great stuff. We were so immersed in it, in that space and I’m really happy with what we did.

100% ROCK: When you’re touring with KISS, how long a set will you have?

Richard: I think we only have probably forty minutes.

100% ROCK: Ah, cheated! You can pretty much run through both albums and the EP and everyone would love it, I think.

Richard: It’s pretty standard. I wish we had more time. We’ll be doing some of our own shows, I think, as well.

100% ROCK: Oh, that’d be good, that’ll be really cool. You said that – obviously the line-up has solidified a bit more now, but it’s still got that fluidity to it. I think you’re using someone different on drums on the forthcoming Whitesnake tour, for instance. Do you see a time when you’ll step aside and let someone else have a bash?

Richard: No way.

100% ROCK: Good answer.

Richard: Not if I have any choice. The whole idea of the band was based on the fact that we all have other gigs. That time might be necessary [but] I really work hard at my juggling routine. I’ve been fairly successful so far with juggling the different projects that I have. You know, this and GnR [Guns n’ Roses] are my two main focuses and that’s what I’ve been aiming to juggle so far. Hopefully I can continue. Otherwise, yeah, I’d have to let somebody fill in. My shoes might be a little bit tough.

100% ROCK: Yeah, there’s talk of your other band – who I’m not allowed to mention – releasing some [music] next year. We’ll have to see if that comes out, hey?

Richard: Yeah, yeah, to be honest with you, I have no idea what’s going on. There’s been a lot of talk about stuff. We’ve been talking. The world’s been talking. Who knows what’s going to happen. I have no idea.

100% ROCK: Time will tell!

Richard: I really have no idea what’s going to happen. I do know that Guns wants to do something next year, so I’m hoping that it does and I can be a part of it.

100% ROCK: Excellent. It came as a surprise to many when Jon Stevens was replaced in the Daisies. Can you give us the inside story there ’cause it certainly seemed to coincide with some dramas playing out in his personal life?

Richard: Yeah, I don’t know how much I really want to get into it… A lot of it I didn’t have much to do with. I actually… honestly, I am a huge Jon Stevens fan. I think he is one of the greatest voices in rock and roll. Without a doubt. He’s a freak of nature. The force with which he sings, it was just such a pleasure to work with him. As far as artistically, he is a force to be reckoned with, for sure. My God, man, what a voice. Unbelievable. Politically… yeah, man, there’s a lot of issues. Business-wise it just wasn’t working.
The Dead Daisies in happier times with Jon Stevens (front)

The Dead Daisies in happier times with Jon Stevens (front)

100% ROCK: Fair enough…

Richard: It became an issue, you know? It’s really too bad. It’s really too bad. I know there’s a lot of people in Australia that speak badly about Jon, but I honestly never had any issues with Jon, for sure. Like I said, as far as singers go, I can’t think of anyone better.

100% ROCK: We saw you guys in December in Perth. That was just amazing. It was really, really good.

Richard: Yeah that was in a club that we played.

100% ROCK: Yeah, yeah. The Rosemount.

Richard: Yeah, that was a cool little [place]. I love playing clubs in Australia. So much fun.

100% ROCK: It must be. Is it a very different environment for you than going out on an arena stage?

Richard: Oh, of course. Of course. Clubs are a completely different thing. I don’t prefer one to the other, they both have their ups and downs, but man it’s great to be in a small, hot, sweaty space and be face-to-face with people. I love that. There’s nothing else like that.

100% ROCK: You’ve done some big tours, both with the Daisies and your other band, of course, but the days of elegantly wasted rock stars destroying hotel rooms are long gone. Is life on the road still excessive in other ways, nowadays, or is it much more of a healthy and frugal environment for you as musicians?

Richard: Well, for those of us REMAINING in the Daisies, [he says very pointedly] I think the biggest difference is that we’re not kids anymore. You can get away with that crap when you’re a kid and it just doesn’t look very good on forty year olds. I think after you watch enough of your friends die, you sort of come to the realisation that you’re not invincible. You’re not superman and you need to grow up, you know?

100% ROCK: Absolutely. Of course, families do that to us as well – you’ve got, is it one kid you’ve got?

Richard: Two. I just put them to bed

100% ROCK: I’ve got one. It’s certainly sobering.

Richard: Absolutely. Nothing will make you an adult quicker than parenthood.

100% ROCK: And changing dirty nappies…

Richard: Right? It just changes everything. It changes the whole structure of your life. Everything that was important to you before is not important to you now, you know?

100% ROCK: Yeah, I don’t think we’re alone in thinking that!

Richard: No, but it’s such a monumental shift. As a different mindset, the world is divided into those that have children and those that don’t and neither will truly ever understand the other.

100% ROCK: Yes, that’s so true, it really is. I’ve just got two quick questions for you. One, just on another… not a difficult note exactly, but I know there are some people that have criticised David [Lowy]’s place in the band, being as he comes from money and he’s kind of the boss, I guess – he bankrolls the band to a certain extent. Would he be in the band if it wasn’t for that? Is he in the same league, as a musician, as the rest of you?

Richard: I don’t know… [pauses] I don’t know how to answer that, honestly. He has become an integral part of it, and it has nothing to do with financially, but he is creatively. In every band there is somebody that sort of grounds it. You think of The Rolling Stones, and Keith [Richards] grounds that band, if you know what I mean?

100% ROCK: Yeah absolutely.

Richard: There’s a certain basic element. As Malcolm [Young] did to AC/DC. Every band sort of has that element to it that grounds it and that’s David’s place in this, and it really is effective. I don’t want to say something that people sort of dismiss as he’s just kissing ass because what I’m saying, I’m very genuine about. I feel very strongly about this, but people are going to believe what they want to believe.

100% ROCK: It’s a good answer and I think he’d have every reason to feel flattered by that. There are people out there who just write him off instantly because of what he comes from, what his family is.

Richard: Yeah, absolutely. You get the same thing with all the offspring of rock stars. There’s some incredibly talented people and some of these kids that have famous rock star parents that are really fantastic musicians and they have a really difficult road ahead of them because of that. People dismiss them because they think ah well they’re [cashing in]… But I love playing with David and he’s one of my favourite people as well. Bottom line is, is that he has a passion for music and a love of music that we all have in common. I mean everyone in the band does. That is the most essential element I think, than anything else.

100% ROCK: Excellent. Good answer that!

Richard: I mean look, anybody that would do what [he does]… He works while we’re on tour and he’ll be up for ages. He works, it’s just unbelievable, as well as doing the band. It’s just staggering what that guy does. It’s just passion. The music is his release and I have a tremendous respect for that. He puts in the hours as far as practicing and shredding and writing and he’s dedicated. It’s great. It’s an honour to be around him and I’ve learned a lot from him.

100% ROCK: Okay, one quick question because we’re just about out of time. I believe it was The Clash who got you into punk then alternative rock and set you pretty much on the path your careers gone. What was it about their music specifically which spoke to you so loudly?

Richard: The thing about The Clash is that it was so mature and so evolved in its rawness, but there was an element of sophistication that I found incredibly attractive. It wasn’t just a group of yobbos out bashing their head against the wall. It was so deep. You could hear it instantly. When you listen to, especially when you hear London Calling or Sandinista, it’s just so deep. There’s so much going on there and there’s a level of sophistication that I found very attractive because there was no pretension to it, whereas the things that I was into up until that point were bands like … I was not into the contemporary rock bands when I was a kid. After Aerosmith and Queen, I wasn’t into stuff like Ozzy Osbourne. I wasn’t into Def Leppard or Motley Crue or bands like that, that were popular when I was a kid.

Then I heard bands like The Clash, and Echo and the Bunnymen, and The Psychedelic Furs and I was listening to older bands. Bands like art rock bands like King Crimson, and Yes, and the early Genesis stuff, and T-Rex, and Bowie, and Iggy Pop and when I heard The Clash it wasn’t just… now I love the Sex Pistols. It was raw, it was anger and it was rebellion. With The Clash it was so much more, it was so much deeper and it was so much richer musically. There was so much depth to it. That’s really what spun me around and made me really re-evaluate things and go, ‘wait a second, this is what I want to do.’ Music isn’t masturbatory. It shouldn’t be like that. It shouldn’t be so pretentious. This is honest and you can feel their passion for music beyond the fashion. That’s really what drew me to it.

100% ROCK: They were so exploratory even when they couldn’t really play.

Richard: Absolutely. Absolutely. There was, like I said, sophistication. It was very sophisticated. Not in the technical sense maybe, but the level of understanding. They got it, they understood. It was so obvious, when you listen to those records.

100% ROCK: Excellent. I appreciate your time. Maybe we can talk about your other band next year if something’s happening on that front?

Richard: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. You know, I’m not opposed to talking about [Guns n’ Roses]. There’s so much speculation going on right now that I don’t want to get myself into trouble and I really don’t know anything at this point.

100% ROCK: That’s all good mate. All right, hope you have a great night and we’ll see you in Perth in two weeks, something like that?

Richard: Wow, it’s so weird to think about that, just because I’m in a different world. I’m up at 5:30 am making my kids breakfast and stuff like that and wow, in two weeks I’m going to be in Perth!
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