Exclusive Interview With Whitford St. Holmes (Brad Whitford of Aerosmith and Derek St. Holmes of Ted Nugent)

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(PCM) We recently had the opportunity to sit down with rockers Whitford St.Holmes (Brad Whitford of Aerosmith and Derek St. Holmes of Ted Nugent) to discuss their new album “Reunion”, changes in the music industry, touring and more!

Whitford/St.Holmes self titled debut (released in 1983) received strong radio play and as well as critical reviews followed by a very successful run of US dates. However, shortly after its release their respective camps reunited and those schedules simply did not allow for a follow up…until now! The newly reunited line up also features drummer Troy Luccketta from Tesla and Nashville A-lister, bassist Chopper Anderson. The bands second release is slated for early 2016 with a new single that arrived this Fall.  Look for Whitford/St.Holmes tour dates to be announced in June!

We caught the band’s final performance on for their short run of tour dates this year at Havana in New Hope, PA and the camaraderie between these two shone bright from the stage. It was completely evident that Whitford St.Holmes was having an absolutely fantastic and fun-loving time throughout their entire performance. Despite the small size of the venue, the band’s energy made it feel like an arena and we absolutely can’t wait to catch these guys again in the coming year!

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On the fan feedback from their recent tour

BRAD WHITFORD: We are very pleased. We just came out here to let people know what we are doing and let them see it and we are just thrilled with the response. It’s been really fun.

DEREK ST.HOLMES: People have been reacting amazingly. They are reacting the same way I did when I saw Led Zeppelin for the first time. They are digging it and just think it’s fabulous. If I wasn’t in this band, I’d want to be in this band! (laughs)

On the recording process for “Reunion”

BW: It’s quite a story because we were auditioning people for the band, we basically had our core of me and Derek and Chopper on bass, so we knew that was the building block. We were working with some different drummers and keyboard players and it wasn’t quite fitting, so our manager Kevin Lee suggested we try Troy Luccketta because they had a relationship. Troy came in and he just understood what we were doing right away and he loved it. We literally had maybe two or three rehearsals and then when straight into the studio. We had seven songs when we went in and wrote two more.

I’m talking, we went in on a Monday and Tuesday, this is the very beginning of the album, we recorded all of our basics in two days, two of them we wrote Monday night and recorded on Tuesday for a total of nine tracks. The creative juices were just flowing. Fourteen days later it was all recorded and we started mixing right after that!

On anything that didn’t make the cut or was leftover from the recording sessions 

BW: No, not at all. Since then we have been writing a lot more tunes that we want to start recording, but no it wasn’t hard at all to choose what made the album cut. We felt very good about them and some of them needed a lot of massaging because one song was basically a jam and we turned it into a terrific song. The creative process was just really fun, it was a lot of hard work with some fourteen hour days, but we had a great time the whole time. I think it reflected in the music.

DS: When you asked about the creative process for one of the songs, the last song on the album is called “Flood Of Lies” and that kind of was written in between takes when we were all sitting in the same room and we have our headphones on and we are waiting for the guys in the control room to get ready. We were fiddling around and I played this lick and kept playing it and playing it and as more parts came and we said what about this right here and then it just all came together.  Brad went in there and just started writing lyrics like he was possessed. It was wild the way that song came together.

On recording in Nashville and if the city has any influence in regards to the music and/or sound

BW: Absolutely!  Our engineer just turned out to be the perfect engineer. He also understood what we were doing and really enjoyed it. Things just lined up right for this. Got all the right players … the right people just somehow came into this and it’s a very special project.

DS: The studio we recorded in is called The Castle, so we have always loved that whole idea where the man goes into the castle and they take it over and they live in it, etc and we saw this place up on the hill and we would drive by it all the time and someone finally said, ‘well, that’s a studio’ and we decided to check it out. We went up there and it had big rooms like we had hoped and it was an old castle feel from the outside standing on the grounds and doing all that stuff. Our engineer O’ Maxwell, he’s from Connecticut, but he’s been working down in Nashville, so we had a little bit of the southern flair, but this guy, being from up north, knew our background and knew what we were looking for and he went a little bit more rock n’ roll/harder edge on it. It was all just a big recipe and with a couple of the songs we added elements.

Brad had the great idea of bringing this little girl in who was like 24 or 25 and plays violin. It was on a song called “Tender Is The Night” and she plays violin on the beginning of it and it just set the tone for the song and it was beautiful. She was so talented, as she made one violin sound like six and it was awesome.

On the work of Whitford St. Holmes being therapeutic and a departure from work with their previous bands 

BW: We had complete creative control. We wrote all this material and produced this record ourselves. It’s a far cry from working with Aerosmith, where we don’t have a musical director in Aerosmith and it’s kind of a free for all between a producer and the five guys. It becomes very tedious and kind of squashes the creative process for me because you have to be completely open to any idea. You have to approach it like actors approach an improv … anything goes, but a lot of times people are not in that frame of mind of anything goes saying ‘well, that sounds like Zeppelin’ or ‘That sounds like whatever’. Who gives a f**k what it sounds like? I don’t care!

Derek and I happen to have a real songwriting connection. It’s very strong and instead of being difficult it come very easy for the two of us to write. There is a lot of respect for each others musical abilities and we use that to our advantage. It’s a nice working relationship and it’s awesome.

On reconnecting after so many years

BW: We’ve been great friends since we met each other in the mid-seventies, so we’ve always been in touch. Then all of a sudden we were living in the same town, so the natural evolution of that is us sitting around playing, then we are writing and then we are up performing around town … it was going to happen one way or another.

On the massive changes in the music industry and the up rise of social media

BW: Right now there’s no formula anymore. There is no rule book and we kind of kept in our heads and going back and forth as to whether we were going to go the old route, like we did in the seventies, but we thought, we don’t have to do it like that, as we can do this any way we want. Sitting right here, we are selling our new album tonight at the show and it’s the only place you can get it. You can’t get it anywhere else! It’s not on iTunes yet, it’s not for sale, but you can buy it here and it’s the only place you can get it.

We are approaching it like we are sixteen year old garage band and just selling our new music at the show. I mean, why not? We can’t stand the record companies, as in the past, they are just greedy monsters who are only interested in money and not creativity  and later for them!

DS: If somebody buys this album, we made this art for ourselves and for you, and if you buy this art and you like it the money went directly to us. It didn’t go to a bunch of people who were in between us. They are telling us they are doing all this work for us, but in reality they just took all the money for themselves. It’s funny because I have two stepdaughters who are 18 and 16 and they didn’t know that when they would copy things off the internet, as songs to share with people that they were taking money out of poor artists pockets.

When I explained to them that this is how their stepdad makes his money they went ‘oh, my gosh, we didn’t know!’ and I told them that’s kind of the way it is now, but I think things are turning around and for us, when we get home, we are thinking of putting the album on iTunes and everywhere. We are going to hire social media people and go that route.

On embracing social media

DS: Kicking and screaming (laughs) We’re old! We know about it and our kids teach us everyday. My oldest is 32 and Brad’s oldest is around 32 as well!

On the shroud of mystery surrounding rock n’ roll being lifted

BW: Too much so! Before videos and all that stuff, I loved that era when you didn’t know much about the band, so there was a terrific mystery about it. The first time I saw Zeppelin, I never really saw more than a few photos maybe and it created this aura which was so nice because you didn’t know. All you knew was how that music made you feel and then when you got to see the guys do it live it was just badass. But with the internet, I’m still pissed about MTV and I think that was just the wrong way to go.  The thing that really made me angry about MTV was that we had to pay to make these videos.

So, I’m going to make a video for you and pay for it and you’re going to play it on your television station and sell Coca-Cola … I don’t get this? They would say ‘oh, you’re going to sell lots of records”, but I would say ‘maybe, I don’t want to make a commercial’ and of course the record company is the one that’s getting the lion share so why aren’t they the ones paying for it? The whole thing was just a scam as far as I’m concerned, another record company scam.

There is no mystery left about anything with YouTube! There’s security cameras everywhere and all of that is gone, but I really loved that part of rock n’ roll.

On touring plans for 2016

BW: We are fielding offers as they say! We are looking at what people are throwing our way. We created a lot of excitement on this run and we are going to have to look at what’s going to be the best tour or approach we are going to take next year. We’re just ready to go to work and get out there and have fun wherever we end up!

Photo credit: Mike Sievila 

 

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