(PCM) Michael Des Barres has always been a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry. A true Renaissance man, Des Barres has done it all from acting alongside actors such as Sidney Poitier and Clint Eastwood, starring on the hit TV series “MacGyver” to fronting the rock bands Detective and Power Station throughout his illustrious career.
Currently, De Barres’s focus has been on creating music and he has unleashed an absolutely amazing new album “The Key To The Universe”. In 2015, Des Barres is showing no signs of slowing down. While many in his position could sit back and rest on their laurels, Des Barres is kicking things into high gear behind the new album release and subsequent touring around the world.
I recently had a chance to catch up with Des Barres to chat about the creative process behind “The Key To The Universe”, touring plans, his fan base, the music industry and more!
On the early praise of “The Key To The Universe” and many calling it his best album yet
Michael Des Barres: I’m so emotional about it all. It is hard for me to put it into words, but there was something going on when we were putting it together. I was so excited to be playing with those guys and Bob Rose as the producer as well was overly spectacular. If you don’t think about something than you are present for it and I think that I think that the reason the record has so much pop and it is addictive, and I know about addiction as you probably know, so I’m just very happy.
On why listeners are hungry for an album that speaks to them and makes people think
Michael Des Barres: I think people are sometimes doubting the authenticity of rock n’ roll, but I’m not here to discourage anyone. As far as I’m concerned I’m telling the truth and somebody once said three quarters of the truth is rock and roll, and I guess I’m on that side of things. And the thing is it’s been amazing because I’ve been reinvigorated really by the traditional music of the past and also wonderful new bands. It’s not lost, it’s just ignored by corporate America, that is they don’t the opportunity that I got with this to get it across.
On the recording process for “The Key To The Universe”
Michael Des Barres: Well, it was almost like being in a trance. Every song was the same because it was so fast but the thing is I think that all of us, the musicians Nigel Harrison on bass, Clive Deamer on drums and Dani Robinson on guitar, and the producer, having all these wonderful musicians and doing this in analog. One song doesn’t stand out as much as all of them stand out, it’s like your favorite child. We had a roomful of people in the control room and it was just a really exciting and electric moment when everything came together. Even though we had heard that music before, it sounded new!
On recording in Rome and how much the place where you record an album becomes a character or key influence on the sound
Michael Des Barres: That’s a great question, brilliant question. I’m so glad you asked it because it is absolutely spot-on. I run a lot, so I would run from the hotel to the studio everyday and the studio we were in was massive and it had that sort of elegance that I love. I love sophistication and I love elegance and leather clothing (laughs), so running through the streets of Rome while statues turn around and sneered at me in an aristocratic way and waved their swords at me, I thought man I’m going to f**king kick ass, otherwise I will be attacked by Athena. (laughs)
So, I had a great sense of history. I don’t call it “Nevermind the Bullocks” I called it “Nevermind Castor and Pollocks” (laughs). It just felt very timeless and heightened in such an amazing city, so running into the control room and up to the mic I got to take all that imagery with me. I felt like Electra in high heel boots. But it would be hard to sing in a toga!
On whether he has ever tried to sing in a toga
Michael Des Barres: Darling, you know in the 70’s I wore just about anything. Maybe I should buy a toga to wear for the tour. A leather toga … that will damn well be good, so we can rock out.
We like this idea!
Michael Des Barres: Of course you do! You’re a woman! (laughs)
Michael Des Barres: There was an amazing group of people present, with a lot of wonderful ideas, that we could have made five albums. I arrived here with 36 lyrics and I had 30 more in my cache. There was so much talent there that we wanted to lay down a real obsessive and aggressive feel, but lay on top stuff that was maybe all colors of the palette of rock n’ roll and not keep ourselves to that 4:4 condition.
On changes in the music industry and their effect
Michael Des Barres: I don’t believe in the music business. I like the blues, I like rock, I like dancing, I like making rock and the rest I don’t really think about too much. I’ve gone through changes with old bands and new bands and I am pretty true to the music that I was influence by when I was fourteen and it really hasn’t changed that much. People have had a great effect in my life. Pamela had a great effect on my life. Jimmy Page had a great effect on my life. Sidney Poitier had a great effect on my life. But as far as global change, I live at a very eccentric level and I’m quite happy bouncing around whether it’s killing people on television or making music at shows.
On the ridiculous way that artist’s are boxed into one particular genre
Michael Des Barres: I’m going to form an acoustic band with Bruce Jenner! (laughs) I don’t really think about genres. I just do what I do, and you know, and I surprise myself that way because boxes have never been my thing, I don’t even think I’ve wrapped a gift in a box. I’ll just get the paper, get the gift, put in the paper and tie a ribbon around it. That pretty much sums up my musical adventures.
On what is the most misunderstood thing about him
Michael Des Barres: I would rather answer the question ‘What do they get right’, is that okay. They get right that I’m a thoughtful man, that I’m a vulnerable man, I’m a passionate man and that I love them.
On love being a key theme through “The Key To The Universe”
Michael Des Barres: It is the question that in a haiku world, love is the key to the universe. There are many others, one of which is, the biggest lie you ever tell is the lie you tell yourself, and by that I mean we’ve got to know who the self is that’s doing the expressing. When they say, you are going to express yourself, who is that? Therefore, it becomes that identity doesn’t it? I’m talking about identity in that album it’s finding out who you are and getting rid of the artiface and sticking with the art. It is staying authentic.
I think the most commercial thing in the world is the truth, the truth. The key to the universe is it’s a question. I’m not making any statements. I’m not serving anything or preaching anything. I’m just trying to open up a conversation about what do you feel is the key universe. What does it mean? I’ve noticed that a lot of artists us sort of obscure or sentimental titles like “Meadow Creek” or “Summer Leaves” or “Home” (laughs) They are kind of like Hallmark greeting cards. The hip-hop community is so brash and so arrogant and I like that! The music I don’t really get into, unless at a party or something, but it’s the idea of big, big characters that’s what I like. We all want the answer to the universe, but I just want to pose the question one more time.
On why truth is the hardest thing for people to face
Michael Des Barres: You know it’s a bit too much. It’s the same with making music, even you as a writer if you over-think something it doesn’t sound as real. My favorite writers are all very adjective-free. It’s pretty much precise. I like discipline in literature. The new book on Napoleon was one of the one’s I was reading over there. It’s incredible story that a man who’s been … he’s legacy is that he was this arrogant, egoist and yeah he was, but he also had a huge compassion for the world, and of course he was sideways.
I think the difference is, I’m not going to end up on an island with a teenage girl. Much to my regret! (laughs)
On a musician’s ability to weave intricate stories and any artist’s whose stories spoke to him
Michael Des Barres: I am more effected by emotionality, revenge, lust, love, romance and all of those things that most men and women were involved in. Speaking of music, Mozart is as important to me as Keith Richards, because I feel without Mozart you wouldn’t have Keith Richards. I often feel that I’m about intellect. Bob Dylan tells stories they are so rooted in obscurity that it’s interpreted. When I look at the Mona Lisa when I was 14, that’s one thing, but when I look at the Mona Lisa today and I’m 67, it’s completely different. The story changes. We reinterpret all these stories as we get older.
I love storytelling, the big narrative but rock and roll music … Chuck Berry was the true Charles Dickens of rock n’ roll. Because writing about what was happening was what Dickens did and that is what Berry did with America at the time, you know, under the safety belt and up the skirt and the likes. That is why “Little Steven’s Underground Garage” is so interesting to me, but times have changed and people are glued to their screens and looking at pictures of women with photoshopped asses. It is a different world and there are different stories being told. I tried to keep my album more of a feeling rather than description.
On music being the universal language and having the ability to invoke emotion in the listener
Michael Des Barres: You have answered the question. Music is the key to the universe because it is the universal principle … that and tight black clothing! (laughs)
On upcoming touring plans
Michael Des Barres: Big plans! We are going to have seventy male and female dancers naked, three of them will be dressed like Lady Gaga and two of them will be dressed like John Mayer and one of them will be dressed like Ryan Seacrest and then I will burn them all at the stake at the end.
I fully intend on touring and getting some dates set up. One of our rehearsals was like the greatest hour I’ve ever spent, it was so powerful. We absolutely can’t wait to get out on the road. We are off to Germany and the U.K. first and then we hope to be in the States. I took off a year to plan for touring behind this album. There are still offers for TV and film, but I don’t want to do that, I want to do this right now. I want to go out on the road with it, it’s my favorite thing.
On his cult icon status from various film and TV roles and his interaction with fans
Michael Des Barres: It varies. Yeah, the writings, the reasons why people like me, and I fully understand the cult status. I think that this album is going to change that to a degree because I think it is a very accessible album “The Key To The Universe”. The listeners have songs like “Burning In Water” is on rock stations and “It’s Just A Dream” is more geared toward classic rock n’ roll stations and of course mainstream rock could take a variety of songs on the album. There is something for everybody.
On working with Linda Perry on “Can’t Get You Off My Mind”
Michael Des Barres: She is an incredible woman. I just love her. I’ve known about her for awhile and I had this song and it was just the ideal connection. It was a wonderful thing.
Watch video for “Can’t Get You Off My Mind,” which premiered on YAHOO!, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnqpGzfvNBc