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Reo Speedwagon - Blast From The Past (Feb 2014)


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REO Speedwagon
 
We wanted to show people that haven’t seen us for a few years that we’re still young at heart. I’m sixty-two years old but I feel like I’m twenty-two!
 

Formed in the late sixties, REO Speedwagon would become one of the U.S.A.’s best-loved bands with a string of hit singles and 40 million albums sold worldwide, the pinnacle of which is ‘Hi-Infidelity.’ Frontiers Records are now releasing the ‘Live At Moondance Jam’ CD and DVD package, so Ant Heeks called vocalist Kevin Cronin to find out more about it.


The ‘Moondance Jam’ performance was recorded in 2011, why has it taken so long to be released on DVD? 


Well when we recorded it we had no idea how it was going to turn out. It was just recorded for a one-time showing and I think there were some contracts that said that we had to wait for a certain amount of time before we could release it anywhere else; so it was an exclusive deal. In advance we recorded and filmed a number of live shows; it’s just part of what we do every year, but this one, for some reason that night was just a night where the stars lined up right for us. Sometimes when you have all the pressure of a big video shoot you tighten up a little, everyone wants to play the best show they can but it doesn’t always work out that way. I don’t think we’ve ever really captured the essence of the band live, but for some reason, I don’t know what it was, there were 30,000 people there to see us and we went on at midnight, it was a beautiful night, the energy was there, the band was just rocking that night, all the technical things worked, the cameras worked, the sound mix was good... so when we started working at it in the studio and listening to the sound mixes, we realised it was something kinda special, but we knew we had to wait before we could release it because of the contractual obligations. As soon as we could, we put it together and added some songs that weren’t in the original airing so we had the whole concert in there. We’re really proud of it because it showed us just rocking out, big crowd, the whole production. Finally after all these years we had a live performance we could release and feel like it represented us well. Obviously the band’s peak of popularity was in the late seventies and early eighties, but we’re still doing great today! It’s pretty amazing, a lot of people haven’t followed us since those days, and we wanted to show people that haven’t seen us for a few years that we’re still young at heart. I’m sixty-two years old but I feel like I’m twenty-two! We’re very lucky that we’re all healthy and have that hunger to grow and continue to raise the bar and get better every night, so this was a good way to show the world that REO Speedwagon is alive and well. 

 
Neither of us were going to raise the white flag to each other, but at the same time we realised that to keep playing a tug-of-war within the band wasn’t the way to do it ...
 

This particular show was celebrating 30 years of the ‘Hi-Infidelity’ album, the album that broke the band worldwide. What do you think was so special about that album? 


We had been working and touring for ten years all around the States before that album hit and we had a couple of songs that had a little airplay, like ‘Ridin’ The Storm Out’ and ‘Roll With The Changes’, but they weren’t really hits. There was an underground buzz going on, we always put on a good live show and there was a lot of love for us around the country, but people were waiting for us to pop. Then ‘Keep On Loving You’ came out and went to number one, so it took everyone by surprise. But what made the album so special... everyone in the band was going through the same type of problems at home, so to speak. We were touring so much and it’s hard to keep a relationship together when you’re constantly touring, a lot of the band’s wives and girlfriends had had enough and everything was crumbling around us, the record company was ready to drop us, and all we had was each other. There was a bond between all the band members, and that and the fact that our guitar player Gary Richrath and I, who had been brothers in arms for years, had finally come to an understanding of how we could, instead of fighting each other musically, keep the sparks flying. Neither of us were going to raise the white flag to each other, but at the same time we realised that to keep playing a tug-of-war within the band wasn’t the way to do it, the way to do it was to co-operate and take the best of what Gary had to offer and what I had to offer and do it in a spirit of working together as opposed to being at odds with each other. The ‘Hi- Infidelity’ record was a combination of those two factors. 


Are you still in contact with Gary Richrath and Alan Gratzer? 


Yeah, Alan lives in Northern California, and whenever we play up there he comes down and comes up on stage and sings backing vocals and maybe plays some percussion. Alan just retired, he wanted to spend more time with his family so he just left the band on those terms. Gary and I hadn’t seen each other for a while, and it was the 30th anniversary of ‘Hi-Infidelity’ that reminded me of those days and what we experienced with a ten-million seller. It was quite a phenomenon, and Gary and I were the centre of that. What we experienced together was really something special, and it never would have happened without both of us. It got me thinking that I missed him, and he lives not far from me so I gave him a call and we ended up having a meal together about a year ago. I wanted to give Gary the opportunity to tell me whatever he wanted to tell me, because Gary and I just split and it was up to the rest of the band to decide what they wanted to do, and they ended up sticking with me. So I’m sure that didn’t sit well with Gary and I knew he probably had some feelings about it. Whether he wanted to tell me to fuck off, or whatever he wanted to say to me, I wanted to give him the opportunity to look me in the eye and tell me how he felt, and hopefully I would just become close to him again as a person. And who knows, I’ve no aversion to making music with him again someday - in fact he said he had some songs he wanted to see if I wanted to work with him on. Gary was able to get some things off his chest that he’d been carrying around for a long time, and I encouraged him to tell me what he was feeling, so it ended up being a really good, honest conversation. I have nothing but respect for Gary, he was the first person to believe in me back when I was a kid, he was a couple of years older than me, REO had a record deal, and he found me and saw a spark in me that no-one else had seen, and I have nothing but gratitude for him. Who knows what might happen in the future? 


It’s been six years since we had any new music from REO Speedwagon, are there any plans for any new material? 


I’m always writing songs, and we’ve been experimenting with some ideas. A few months ago we had three days off from the road so we loaded into a beautiful studio in Nashville and hired a video crew to film the whole process of finishing a song, it was a song I had started with Jonathan Cain and a producer named Chris Lindsey. It was an accidental thing that I ended up at Jonathan’s house and started messing about with this song idea, the song wasn’t even finished but there was something about it I really liked. We just started going at it, and the idea was to create a multi-media thing, with a single, a video and a making of the song all at the same time. There are just so many ways to release music, and I’m a fan of the LP, I love when you get a batch of songs that come from a certain period of time and there’s a connection between the songs because you record them together and they evolve together and you put on the LP and listen to them in a certain order, it’s a whole experience that I love so much. When I was a kid I’d get ‘Who’s Next’ or ‘Rubber Soul’ or whatever the album was and I’d devour them and love every second. But the thing is, REO Speedwagon is a touring organisation and there are a lot of mouths to feed, not just the band but we’ve got the crew who’ve been with us for years and we love them. There are a lot of people involved with keeping REO Speedwagon up and running, so I feel a big responsibility to keep the band on the road. We tour for seven months out of the year, so it’s kinda difficult to really find the time to get in the studio and do a proper LP. But we’ll see what happens, I’m still writing, but keeping the band going is my priority, REO Speedwagon is the most important thing other than my family, the band and I are connected on a spiritual level, and it’s bigger than any of us. 


On the subject of touring, are there any plans to come back over to the U.K. anytime soon? 


Actually, because of the ‘Moondance Jam’ DVD and the fact that it’s being released by Frontiers which is a European company, we’re really finding out that there’s a lot of interest in REO Speedwagon touring in Europe again, and that’s exciting for me. I’d love to come over there, it’s always such a thrill to see new places and play for people that don’t know what to expect from us. Then when we play we exceed their expectations; that’s always fun for me. But there’s no set plan, I wish I could tell you that there was, but hopefully this ‘Moondance Jam’ project will stimulate some interest over there in the U.K. and Europe, and we’ll get over there soon. 


How relevant do you feel REO Speedwagon are in today’s music scene? 


Well I think that we have stood the test of time, a lot of bands broke up in the early nineties, but we kept playing. I think that we’ve always stood for hard work and belief, and not given up easily, I think at this point, at least I hope, that when people come and see us play we can be an inspiration. Hey, there are bands who’ve got singers who can sing better than me, and there are bands that are technically and musically better than us, but REO Speedwagon has a spirit and an honesty. We work hard and I would hope that when people see us now they see a youthful energy that inspires them to think that you don’t have to get old, if you have the right attitude you can stay young forever and continue to operate on a high level. I got the Rolling Stones to inspire me, when I see Mick Jagger, he’s 70 years old and he’s as good now as he always was, if not better, that’s my role model! I’m not comparing myself to him in any way, but I’m saying as far as youthful energy at 70 years old, Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney are still doing it and that inspires me, so maybe I can inspire somebody else. I’m a music addict and it’s the greatest gift for me to be able to write songs in different shades.

 
Hey, there are bands who’ve got singers who can sing better than me, and there are bands that are technically and musically better than us, but REO Speedwagon has a spirit and an honesty.
 

Interview by Ant Heeks

 

BLAST FROM THE PAST

REO SPEEDWAGON

 

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Rock & Metal
Rock & Metal
10 de jun.
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I will Have to get Reo Speedwagon an Greatest Hits or a Very best of CD. I have "Hi Fidelity" album on cassette, that the album reach number 1 (1981) in USA Album Billboard Chart spending 15 weeks at number 1, six singles from the album charted on billboard charts. Hi Fidelity reach number 6 (1981) in UK Album Charts.

On October 25, 2004, the band recorded the songs of this album live from beginning to end for XM Radio "Then Again Live" special.

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