September 2004 - THE LIZARDS
Well, I could say so much about THE LIZARDS that I don't really know where to start. Maybe, that I done my first interview with vocalist John Garner (ex-Sir Lord Baltimore) last year via phone, but due to technical problems I wasn't able to record it! I guess, you can imagine how much that dragged me down. Especially, because at the end of our long phone call I had the chance to talk with bassist Randy Pratt who had given me the hottest informations about the 'New Classic Rock Project'. Behind this titel, stands the idea from Randy and Patrick Klein (guitarist of THE LIZARDS) to work together with the re-formed Vanilla Fudge, Blue Cheer or Cactus f.e....well, to speak exactely, both are responsible for this reunions and will release new material of this legendary bands on their own label Hyperspace Records. Or that no other than ex-Black Sabbath, B.Ã–.C. and Rainbow drummer Bobby Rondinelli is the drummer of this group?
Anyway, that was back in 2003, but gladly I had the chance to repeat the interview via e-mail, this time with Patrick Klein and Randy Pratt. The greatest change in opposite to last year is that John Garner has left the band, but they have found a proper replacement. Another exciting fact is that THE LIZARDS will release their third studio album "Cold Blooded Kings" this year, and will visit Europe for the third time etc. As you see, there is a lot talk about including all stunning facts about the "New Classic Rock Project", the current music scene and the bloodless major record companies etc. I will shut up, and give you the strong recommendation to continue reading, because if you dig a high quality mixture of 70's influenced Hardrock, Blues Rock, Metal , and a bit of Funk than you should have THE LIZARDS on your list!
I was shocked when I noticed that John Garner left the LIZARDS.Is it true and what's the reason? How do you feel about the whole situation? Have you found an equal new vocalist?
Patrick: Yes, it is true. John didn't like the rigors of touring. So, we had to either stop touring or find a new vocalist. I feel we did a lot of great stuff with John but we have to keep moving forward. Mike Dimeo, our new singer, is fantastic and has taken our music to a new level. He's got more of an edge and you'll be able to hear him on our new studio CD!
Randy: John decided that he was not physically able to do the kind of gruelling tours that we are doing(25 cities in 30 days, 20 hr bus rides, etc.) within 24 hours we had a replacement in Mike DiMeo(Riot) The 3rd cd, with Mike, is being mastered Sept.7...it's our best.
Your latest release has been a live CD, entitled "They Rule" and "Live At B.B.King - NYC" a live DVD, both available on Hyperspace Records. I haven't had the chance in listening to the CD, but William had sent me a copy of the DVD which I really dig. But what really surprised me about the show at the B.B. King is the fact that the audience are sitting while the LIZARDS are playing a hard drivin' set. What is the B.B. King for a club and wasn't it a bit strange for you? I mean, you don't play lounge jazz :-)!
Patrick: It wasn't strange, really. BB King's is, like you mentioned, a kind of lounge where people are at tables, etc. What you don't see on the video is the huge bar at the other end of the club where many people were standing and getting into it. I really like playing there. It's got a fine stage and nice layout where you can see the whole room from the stage and the sound system is great. Besides, when you play in a rock band you do all kinds of venues so nothing really seems too odd or strange as far as gigs go!
Randy: Well, the audience sits down at Madison Square Garden! They were into it... they're screamin'!
A few months ago you've played here in Europe together with Vanilla Fudge. I guess, it has been the first time for you here in Germany!?
Patrick: No, it was our second trip to Deutschland. We were also there with the Fudge last fall. My lineage is 100% German so I was psyched to play and visit there. I was able to speak to the audience in German a bit!
Randy: It was our second time in Germany...WE LOVE IT!
On one show in the UK Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant entered the stage. It must be a pretty exciting experience for you. What song have you performed together and was it a spontaneous happening?
Patrick: Well, it was pretty unreal. I felt like I was dreaming. We were backstage getting ready to go on and our tour manager comes in and says "Someone wants to say hello" and right behind him is Robert Plant. I thought it was a joke at first! The whole jam was spontaneous with him. We usually do "Parchment Farm" with the Fudge at the end of the night as a jam, but this time Carmine (Appice) asked Robert if he wanted to sing it. And Robert said,"Uh, yeah, why not?" and we were off! I think it's any rock and roller's dream to jam with anyone from Zeppelin. What's more exciting than standing next to Robert Plant on stage? Not to mention with the Appice brothers playing drums!
Randy: It was surreal! I dreamed about it for awhile. He was so generous. I love the man. We did Cactus' version of "Parchment Farm" We got it on video.
Although Bobby Rondinelli is now a constant member of the group, Vinni Appice (ex-Dio/Black Sabbath) replaced him on this European tour. How did you get together with him?
Patrick: With Bobby? He was playing drums on a Mark Stein (ex-Vanilla Fudge) session we were doing for Hyperspace Records. Our drummer at the time was leaving the Lizards and we asked Bobby to jam with us. It was Instant Karma!
Randy: I'd have to say Vinny would be choice #2. He was a great guy and a great drummer. We did a live dvd with him in Stockholm that will be available soon. It came out great . We do "Kingdom Come" . Vinny is a BRUTAL drummer. He scared me sometimes!
I think, there are still a few people who have not much informations about the group. Please, can you provide a brief bio of the band? Have you played in previous bands and when did you discover your love for classic heavy rock?
Patrick: Brief bio: We met. We jammed. We rocked! I was working as a producer and engineer for Hyperspace Records and Randy and I just decided to jam one day. This was after I had been there for about 2 years. It was funny because we had worked together on all these other projects and didn't even think to start our own. Once we started writing songs and playing together is was pretty obvious we had creative synchronicity. We then started looking for a singer and since we were doing a record with Sir Lord Baltimore we had a rock legend with a great voice (John Garner) right on our doorstep. I've played in a few other bands, of course. In the 80's I was in a group called "French Lick" which was released in Europe under the name "Stone Soup" on MTM records in the 90's. I was the singer and played some guitar in that band. I was in another band called "Fuzz Box" in the 90's that I also sang and played guitar in. I have been into classic heavy rock from the time I picked up a guitar.
Are you a trained musician or have you learned to play by yourself?
Patrick: I have had some training but mostly just learned from listening to records and practicing. And jamming with other musicians.
Randy: I'm self taught. If Sid Vicious had lived and kept practicing, that would be me (just kidding).
Your last album "Rule" has been released a few years ago, and I'm not the only one who's waiting for the follow-up. When I talked to John Garner last years, he told me that the upcoming album will be much harder than "Rule". What are the latest news about it and when have you planned to release it?
Patrick: As a matter of fact we just finished the record and it will be available in about 3 weeks. It is called "Cold Blooded Kings" and we plan to have it ready for this upcoming tour. I also engineered and mixed the CD so I have been going nuts for the past month! It is definitely a heavier record and full of catchy riffs and melodies. I am very pleased with the outcome and excited to play the new songs on our upcoming tour!
Randy: The 3rd cd, "Cold Blooded Kings" will be available on our Oct. tour with Pat Travers & Carmine Appice. Come see us, I'll give you one for free!!
"Rule" is still a fantastic album that'll appeal to fans of classic 70's hard rock and hopefully to the younger generation who have started to discover this important period of rock. What do you think about the album and what's the difference between "Rule" and the debut?
Patrick: Well, the debut was us finding our first way to say "Here we are!" and also we had written many of the first songs before we even had a singer! "Rule" was our first CD written with John and it has Bobby's drum signature on it. Also, we spent a little more time on the production and experimented with string sections and acoustic guitars, etc. for "Rule". I think it is a fine place marker for where we were when we made the record. I am proud of both CDs.
Randy: Bobby is the biggest difference. He's one of the greatest loving rock drummers. I like the first one too, but those songs are better with Bobby live.
Together with Randy,you've started your own label Hyperspace Records that is focused on classic 70's heavy rock. Please, explain the Cosmiclava readers what this project is standing for!?
Patrick: This project is an answer to the question that you probably hear all the time and one we asked ourselves: "Why isn't anyone doing records with the guys who invented the music we all love to hear?" If you listen to rock music on the radio, it's really just a product of the big labels trying to force a lot of generic re-hash down our throats. They spend unbelievable time and effort trying to recapture a sound and a vibe that can only be found in the real thing! But they won't spend one penny on a rock band whose members don't fit a certain image or demographic. I'm not saying there aren't good bands, but for the most part it's pretty bleak. So, we thought, "Why not get the guys who were around at the birth of heavy, classic rock and put them back in the saddle?" We're talking about the people who many younger musicians list as influences. If they are good enough to be heroes, they certainly deserve to be heard again! And I can say we are rarely disappointed. This kind of music, or any art for that matter, comes from an intangible place. You can sit around all day trying to copy it, but unless you lived during a certain period and experienced that era, it will come out sounding like a Japanese karaoke record. And I think that's why people see something in the Lizards. We are the real deal, not just imitations of something else.
What about Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, Blue Cheer or Captain Beyond? Have you recorded new albums with this groups?
Patrick: We have done new albums with all of the above except Captain Beyond.
Randy: I've got Vinny Appice in Randy Holden's "Blue Cheer". They're working on a cd now (that's a scoop for you) The "Vagrants" are also finishing a cd.. The Fudge are 1/2 way through cd#2...
Randy, you've played together with Randy Holden on his albums. What other bands/musicians have you supported?
Randy: Local friends who are cool...check out my Harp band (www.nycbluesdevils.com )
THE LIZARDS have played several shows together with legendary Vanilla Fudge. Are they playing in the old line-up with Stein/Martell/Bogert and who's replacing drummer Carmine Appice, who sadly died a few years ago?
Patrick: Carmine is alive and well!! I just spoke to him yesterday! The remaining originals are Carmine and Tim Bogert.
Randy: WOW, Carmine will be shocked to learn that he died!!! He's not only alive,he's a POWERHOUSE! Come see us with Travers and Appice in Oct. We've played maybe 50 gigs with them Bogert, Appice Teddy Rondinelli on guitar (Bobby's brother) Bill Pascali on Organ. They're great! Mark Stein And Vinny Martell have recorded solo cds at my studio.
What are your favourite bands/musicians from the 60's/early 70's?
Patrick: My favorite bands come a bit later in the 70's AC/DC (Bon Scott era), Kiss (up to Rock and Roll Over), UFO. Late 60s early 70s: Led Zeppelin, Free, Bad Company.
Randy: I'm working with them!!! Also the Doors, Trapeze, Mountain, Humble Pie, Spooky Tooth, Stones, Beatles, King Crimson, Purple... God, those were the days!!
You have an own studio and a record label. It must be a good situation to work on an independant level with complete control over the whole process from the recordings to the release. What do you think in general about the huge major record companies?
Patrick: I think I answered that in the previous question. However, it is a great situation to have. We can produce records as good as anything out there at our own pace with no pressure from anyone! We always have top notch engineers and state of the art studio gear. We have all of our CDs mastered at Sterling Sound in New York by Greg Calbi. As more people realize the power of newer technology and the internet, the majors will choke on their own vomit.
Randy: It's great to have the freedom to make art all day the way that you want to. The huge record companies SUCK. It will be fun watching them collapse!
When I check out music magazines and webzines I noticed that there's again an interest in 60's/70's music. It's good to see, that there are people in every generation who are interested in the roots of a musical genre, no matter if it's Hardrock, Jazz, Blues, Punk, Metal, Soul etc. Can you share my impressions and are this circumstances helpful for your band?
Patrick: Yes. I think the lack of anything resembling music has created a demand for the real deal. I think many people, like myself, have heard what's out there and have wanted to like it but just can't hold onto it. The music that we hear today is an evolution of that time period (60s, 70s) so it's natural for people to go back to it.
Randy: There's an audience for what we do...we're determined to find it!
What was the last CD you've bought and are you interested in the current music scene?
Patrick: Randy (from the Lizards) is always buying CDs so I really don¹t buy that many! I'm sort of the mad scientist down in the studio and Randy comes in with all these CDs and says "Here, check this out". The one I like lately is Velvet Revolver. I am always interested in the music scene. I listen to the radio in my car quite a bit. Often I hear songs I like but don't know the name of the band because they tend to play several songs then go to a commercial. I do a lot of channel switching, though because most songs are blatant rehashes of either classic rock or copies of the latest style du-jour.
Randy: Velvet Revolver was the last band to kick my ass. I'm always interested in anything good.
When can we expect the next LIZARDS tour here in Germany?
Patrick: We will see you in about a month or less, I expect. Nicht wahr?
Randy: October!! Check our website(www.thelizardswebsite.com) soon for dates
Thanks a lot for your answers and informations! All the best to you!!! Is there anything you like to add?
Patrick: Buy more Lizards records and support new classic rock!! See you next month!
Randy: I'm so excited that Bobby's all ours now, and that our new singer is so AWESOME!! I'm about to jump out of my skin!!! Come see us!!!