An Interview with
Legendary Frontman of 'Raiding the Rock Vault' and 'McAuley Schenker Group'
that took place on Thursday 30th March, 2017.
Interviewed by Glenn Milligan.
Glenn: Hi Robin, it’s Glenn from Metalliville, how are you doing?
Robin: How are you Sir? Good to talk to you.
Glenn: You too, man!
Robin: Where exactly are you?
Glenn: I’m about 13 or 14 miles outside Sheffield in the UK.
Robin: Oh we’re coming into Sheffield in November.
Glenn: I know you are. I’m looking forward to that. How’s your day going?
Robin: Excellent. I’m doing the Vegas thing, so, I’m actually home for a couple of days. I arrived home at around 3AM this morning, so I’m making a cup of coffee and I’m doing great. (We laugh)
Glenn: Yeah it’s your only bad habit and pastry in the morning isn’t it?
Robin: Oh dude, you’ve got to have a cup of coffee. I probably drink about seven or eight cups a day.
Glenn: Last time I saw you, you were on stage at The Yost Theater, Santa Ana..
Robin: Oh with the Montrose thing?
Glenn: Yeah! Great show buddy! Great show! I enjoyed that.
Robin: We put that together for fun. Howard Leese said, “Back in the Heart days, I had a little side project with Jason Boylestone called ‘Brigade’. Why don’t we just call it ‘Brigade'.
Keith St. John had called us and said, “Hey do you guys want to participate – do a Montrose song and then throw whatever you want”. At first, we weren’t sure. We were so busy and then decided, “Why Not? Let’s do it!”
We called James Kottack and before you know it, we were up doing a short set at ‘Ronnie Montrose Remembered’. It’s funny you should mention that because the next day or so we had calls from a couple of labels saying, “Oh my God, how many songs do you have? Let’s start recording some”. I said, “Wait!”.
Now of course, Howard and I are back in Vegas with the ‘Rock Vault’. We are tied up with it but we do plan to get back to it and put some tunes together. We’ll see what happens. We just have to get to it Glenn. We will get to it. We enjoyed it so much and did a bunch of rehearsals after that. We said, “Wow! This could be a lot of fun.” It’s raw. There’s no pressure on it. I think that’s why we have so much fun doing it.
Glenn: You are Irish, do you get over there quite a bit or just when you are touring?
Robin: No. My wife Gina is Austrian – she’s from Vienna. We have twin boys so we took them to Ireland for their 18th Birthday in February. Their birthday is on Valentine’s Day. My son Jamie said, “When I have my first legal taste of alcohol I want it to be at the Guinness Brewery”. What was really funny was that he tasted his first pint of Guinness and ended up drinking four pints of Guinness. Then he had dhiarrhea for about three days (We laugh) That is true.
Glenn: The only other side effect of it, is that it makes your sh*t black!
Robin: Glenn, I pre-warned him. I wanted to give him the heads-up. I said, “Once you drink this stuff, be prepared for the consequences”. He had his pint of Guinness and said, “This is some pretty good stuff Dad.” Four pints later and I'm saying, “Dude, this is a big mistake. Why don’t you sit down and eat a gallon of ice cream that you’ve never eaten before and see how you feel”. He had four pints of Guinness and suffered the consequences for about three days. (We laugh) I will tell you that he has not mentioned it since.
Glenn: What is crazy is that over there in America he can’t drink legally for another three years.
Robin: Yeah. I think he’s done. I think he’s had his quota. He’s done.
Glenn: Brilliant. You’re going to get on well with Graham (Bonnet) on the MSG up and coming tour.
Robin: He’s awesome.
Glenn: He is. He’s a lovely guy. He’s great.
Robin: It’s one of the best ideas Michael ever had to put the three singers together. When I was first introduced to the idea for Sweden Rock last June, I jumped at the chance. I thought it would be great because for years in my period – the McAuley-Schenker period- I would cover so many of those songs in the set. Now that we have a chance to have all three singers get up and do their own ten minutes of fame – it was the greatest… It’s so much fun. It really is.
It’s a huge catalogue of material. I will miss them in Madrid because I am the only one doing the Madrid show. Madrid is on May 27th but I think the rest is all three of us. I’m really looking forward to it. Japan was phenomenal. The DVD came out really good. More to the point, we had practically no rehearsals for that.
Glenn: Wow! That’s professionalism right there.
Robin: Yeah. We got together for Sweden Rock. We rehearsed for that a few hours the day before and then Japan. Really all we had was soundchecks. We did our homework, we showed up saying, “You’re singing this and you’re singing this and here we go”.
Glenn: I met Michael once and it was the last time he played Sheffield. Dougie was on vocals, who is a great guy. Michael is a really nice guy as well. He said it was good to meet me and signed my albums.
Robin: He’s singing, he’s smiling and most importantly he always plays well. He went through some periods. I think he’s playing unbelievable well.
Glenn: We were impressed. He just walked up for the Soundcheck wearing a big black jacket and he was constantly playing away. Amazing!
Robin: Yeah. He is. He’s great. It’s long overdue that he got the kudos for just how good he is. Regarding Michael, I’ve worked with a lot of different guitar players, and his name always comes up. He is a huge influence on so many. I’ve always said that he will get the full.. and I mean that in the best sense.. that he gets the full recognition that I truly believe he deserves. I hear other guitar players that have come and gone that people keep talking about but let’s not forget Michael Schenker. He’s a serious force to be reckoned with.
Glenn: Without sounding over pretentious or anything, he’s a God – a Guitar Icon. He’s never been fully recognised.
Robin: Yeah. His techniques and his depth of melody. There’s always great melody. Always! That’s what I’ve always liked about his playing. It’s not just up and down the fretboard at lightning speed. He has a great sense of melody. A great feel, a great vibrato and you instantly know it’s him. It’s all good. I’m really looking forward to it.
Glenn: Nice one. We are really looking forward to seeing you play in Sheffield. My friend, Alan Shooter sent me a message about the tour that I received on my mobile. Then the funny thing was, Graham Bonnet’s new album was delivered five minutes later.
Robin: They were meant to happen.
Glenn: What are you most looking forward to about those shows?
Robin: The first thing is that I have personally not performed in the UK since the Whitesnake Tour. We were opening up for them around ’89.
Glenn: We are talking just after the ‘Still Of The Night’ era.
Robin: Yeah, that is exactly right. That was the big comeback. There are a lot of reviews that refer to the McAuley-Schenker period as hair metal stuff. That was the period. People say that was a different image to MSG. Well of course it was. The same as when Graham was in the band, as was Gary’s earlier. So, Def Leppard or Whitesnake shouldn’t have done what they did? Is that what we’re saying? Or Warrant or..
Glenn: That was the time.
Robin: And you know what? It was great. Such a fun time. Those songs haven’t had a chance since the Whitesnake Tour. Now we can do all three periods. What’s really cool without even planning it is all three periods are very different. Gary’s to Graham’s to my time with Michael: it’s a full package. You get a whole catalogue of stuff in one night. Some people will love it, some people will go ‘ugh’. That stuff doesn’t worry me. It’s like, ‘Whatever!’
Glenn: I think the majority of people will like it because all of you guys are there with Michael for the entire show anyway.
Robin: Absolutely. We cover a good sampling of UFO also which is great.
Glenn: Yeah! I’ve seen MSG a few times and they've always throw a few favourites in.
Robin: Yeah. It’s hard for Michael to leave the stage without some UFO reference. One of the greatest bands. The record ‘Strangers In The Night’ is one of the greatest records of all time.
Glenn: It was great of Michael T. Ross for setting this Interview up for us. How did you originally meet Michael?
Robin: It was my boys 10th or 11th birthday. They wanted to take a bunch of their friends up to Universal City Walk. Ironically, at the end of the birthday session they all wanted to eat at the Hard Rock Café. We head in there with maybe 15 or their buddies – it was 10 year old boys and total mayhem. We had blocked off a section of the Hard Rock.
This guy is sitting across the table with a girl, who came over and gave me his card. He came over and said, “Hey, I’m Michael T. Ross, I play keys with Lita Ford and I know all your stuff and I love your voice. If you ever need a keyboard player give me a call.
The next time I saw him was when we were rehearsing for ‘Raiding The Rock Vault’ all those years later. Now that’s funny. He said, “Hey Dude, do you remember the time that I saw you at the Hard Rock with the boys and they were just little at the time?” I said, “Oh my God dude, it’s a small world”.
Glenn: What a cool little story – from the Hard Rock to the Hard Rock – it’s perfect!
Robin: Raiding The Rock Vault has a residency now. We play Saturday through Wednesday. That’s our new five night shownights. Of course, we’ve been in Vegas about four years. We started at the Oldales Hotel, the LVH, the Hilton Hotel and moved up to the Tropicana. We’ve clocked in over 850 in Vegas.
Robin: Yeah! We thought we’d go in for a weekend and four years later who would have thought?
Glenn: It’s amazing isn’t it? It’s almost like what 'Cats' is on Broadway. It probably will be like that.
Robin: I know dude. It’s a lot of fun and people love it. It’s Classic Rock. It’s where we come from. Yes they are all cover tunes but there’s a show attached to it and people love it. It goes down amazing and we get a chance to do what we love to do and still have time to do our own stuff.
Glenn: Plus you get to play a marvellous place as opposed to some pokey little bar in the middle of nowhere! (We laugh)
Robin: There is that advantage. I’m not much up for the pokey little bar anymore. I’m too old for those bars.
Glenn: I had to chuck that in.
Robin: I know. It’s true though, it’s true. Make no mistake – there are some great pokey little bars.
Glenn: Yeah there are.
Robin: There’s some great ones. There really are but, you know, I’ve done my apprenticeship (We laughs). The apprenticeship is long done.
Glenn: I sat on the tour bus in Sheffield with one of your old buddies recently, Tracii Guns. Their show was incredible, too – LA Guns.
Robin: Tracii was part of the Rock Vault for a good amount of time. Of course, we are not short of guitar players – Doug Aldrich is like… DAMN!
Glenn: Oh he’s wicked! I saw him in Sheffield as well with The Dead Daisies. Mindblowing.
Robin: Brian Tichy is a good buddy of mine. What a powerhouse drummer that guy is. I must have done 1000 shows with Tichy already. He’s phenomenal. He used to do a thing called ‘The Big Ballstars’ with Brent Woods who is Sebastian Bach’s Guitar player. We used to alternate between Keri Kelli on guitar to Robbie Crane on bass. Sometimes Chuck Wright on bass. Even Chris Slade was on drums for a long time. I’ve known those guys for a long time. Always be out there doing it. It’s important.
Glenn: How did you originally meet Tracii?
Robin: When we first came out here with the McAuley Schenker Group in ’88, we were headlining a show called ‘Children Of The Night’ which was part of the Ronnie James Dio Foundation, which Wendy Dio was running. It was down in Santa Monica. We headlined Santa Monica Civic and LA Guns opened up for us. I have known Phil Lewis back from the Girl days playing at The Marquee Club in London. They opened up and I met Tracii.
When ‘Rock Vault’ started in 2012, and they were putting the line-up together, John Payne at the time said to me, “I need a guitar player” and I said, “Got it! Bring in Tracii Guns”. He said, “I don’t know Tracii, do you know him?”, I said, “Yep. I know Tracii, let me give him a call”. Tracii said, “Oh dude, sounds like fun. You doing it”, I said, “Yeah, I’m doing it.” He said, “Shit! Yeah! I’ll do it!”.
The same was with Howard Leese. John said, “I need a guitar player”. I said, “I know Howard. I’ve done a lot of ‘Rock And Roll Fantasy Camp’ with Howard. He said, “Would you call him?”. I said, “Yeah, I’ll call him”. Howard said, “Oh yes, I love what we’ve done at the Fantasy Camp, are you doing it?”, I said, “Yeah”, he said, “If you’re doing it, I’ll do it”. So there you have it. That’s how all that happened.
Glenn: Yeah. That’s an amazing thing ‘Rock And Roll Fantasy Camp’ that David Fishof runs with Valerie Ince.
Robin: That is correct. You meet so many. Kip Winger does it, Ritchie Kotzen does it, Teddy Zigzag does it, Bruce Kulick.. I could go on and on. There’s a lot of people who do it. Of course, Phil Soussan also does Rock Vault now. He subs for Hugh McDonald who is out with Bon Jovi right now. Phil’s out here and there doing ‘Last In Line’ shows with Andrew, too. (Freeman).
Glenn: How did you get into Rock Fantasy Camp?
Robin: I got a call from Teddy Zigzag. I had done a bunch of shows with ‘The Big Ballstars’. Teddy was the keyboard player. The ‘Rock And Roll Fantasy Camp’ shows came up and Teddy said to David Fishof, “I’ve got the guy”. The first time I did it, it was with Teddy, Bruce Kulick, Chris Slade, Howard, Mark Varnan and Rudy Sarzo. I did a whole bunch of it. Then the line-ups would change.
Glenn: Tell us about being a part of that and how it was for you?
Robin: Well if you think about how it works, the whole ideas is that you go in and meet the people who are there to participate. When I was doing it, that whole participation was that they want to be ‘Rockstars for a day’. That was the whole deal. They would go in and they would pick however many of us from the band would be there. Then they would split the groups into equal amounts of people.
Basically, you would go your separate ways and write a song. At the end of the day for the actual performance of the camp, it would be like a competition. You would have all of your members and we would have all different shirts and come up with all sorts of sh*t and different names. We would all go up and play our songs. Plus the band would play.
Then we’d split off and bring up each group to perform the song that we had written. It was great interaction. You get to meet so many different people from different walks of life and find out what they’re into. They get a chance to express themselves and bring out their music demons (we laugh). They get to be a music monster for a day. Some play and some don’t but they’re all so enthused by the whole deal that they love it. It used to be great. I haven’t done it in a number of years.
With so many musicians, the line-up changes per suit. Of course, depending on the location as well. Pulford companies would book it. So you would have a Pulford even from the people within that company. David decided it was a very expensive thing to run so he found a permanent home for it in Vegas. A great idea.
Glenn: You mentioned about working alongside Chuck Wright with the Tuesday night ‘Ultimate Jam Night’ Have you played the night yourself quite a bit?
Robin: I haven’t played it a lot. The first time I did it with Chuck was with Ken Mary who was Alice Cooper’s drummer for a number of years and also House Of Lords. I've worked with Ken for 5 or six years – maybe longer. Every Christmas they have a project called ‘Northern Light Orchestra’. Basically, they write Christmas tunes that really rock out – some originals, some covers. Usually, Ken would call me and say, “Hey, you want to sing on this track?”. They would shoot me a track and I’d record it.
Then it would come out on a Northern Light Orchestra CD for Christmas. Last Christmas Ken said that Chuck had asked him to do a Northern Lights piece at the Whisky. A bunch of us who participate in making these particular CD’s, we got together and we had a blast. We did a whole Northern Lights Orchestra thing at the Whisky. Then Chuck about two months ago, he did a ‘Grammy Night’. He had me back in and I did ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ because of my time with Survivor. ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ was a Grammy song, so I came in and did ‘Tiger’ and a bunch of U2 stuff. It was a lot of fun.
Glenn: I try and watch it every week with it being streamed over by Zinna TV and Mike Zinna. I’ll sit in bed and watch it at like 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning. Anyway, I must ask you more about ‘Raiding The Rock Vault. When you do certain songs that you perform or you hear that other guys perform, do certain songs mean something to you for whatever reason such as the songs themselves or the original band that performed them?
Robin: There will be some songs that I’ll think, ‘Why the f*ck am I doing this again?’
Glenn: When I was talking to Tracii, he was saying he had to quit because he couldn’t stand playing ‘Stairway To Heaven’ countless times – it drove him mad.
Robin: Listen, I can promise you this: there are songs that I have written and there are songs from other people that I have sang so many times and yet, you walk out on stage, you’re ready to perform and you are thinking, ‘Sh*t, I can’t remember the opening line of the song!’ It’s true. Then the intro. kicks in and something kicks you right up the ass. You think, ‘Oh, there it is’. You think, ‘You dumb sh*t, you’ve been singing this thousands of times’. Sometime you go in and I think your mind goes into autopilot.
If somebody forgets to turn autopilot on, like me, you don’t put gas in the car and you are thinking, “Sh*t the engine won’t turn!” and you blank for a minute. I know several singers that the same thing happens. They say, “Damn dude – why does that happen?”. I think it’s because you’ve sang it so many times that you really do go into autopilot. Of course when the song starts and you’re in a different environment, there is a split second sometimes that it happens. You are thinking, ‘I want my Mommy!”
Glenn: You must have had a lot of scary moments and the audience doesn’t realise because there must be so much going on?
Robin: I know for me and I speak for many singers that I work with. Once you’re in the same place, you’re so set, so the fear factor of how it’s going to sound tonight is alleviated – thank God. When you’re travelling you’re fighting different elements. You’ve got hot and cold climates flying. It’s awful - awful for singers. Anybody who is going to tell you it’s not is bullsh*tt*ng because the voice is the only acoustic instrument up there.
Sure, you’re mic’d up and everything but it’s the only instrument that you do not plug into something. If the singer goes down, he’s the one that gets it in the neck. People say, “Stupid Singers… Primadonnas” – if the singer doesn’t walk out and do his sh*t, the whole band is going to go down the hole. They can say, “The band played great, the singer sounded shit” – so there you go, there’s the show. You’ll get it in the neck.
One of my biggest things is and always has been is you’ve got to take care of the instrument. There’s so many different factors that come into it. You can’t be up all night. You have to rest. If, and this is important Glenn, very important - if you care about what you do. If they don’t care about what they do, they sound like sh*t. I happen to care very much. I am very happy that I still have my voice. I feel now than I ever did about it because all the pressures like, “You’ve got to write a song like this”, “You’ve got to write a song like that” or “It has to be this way”, or “It has to be that way”… all of that stuff’s been gone for years.
Once you take all of that stuff away, you actually just go out and perform, do what you do and do what you love. It’s how you do it. You don’t have all of this exterior stuff attached to it. “You got to make another record”, “If single doesn’t hit, something’s going to have …” I’m so glad all of that stuff is gone. That was management and record labels all the time saying, “We need the song”, “We need the MTV”, “We need the VH1”.
Glenn: Constant pressure! No time for yourselves!
Robin: That’s very well. You write the stuff so you know how it is from band to band. You know if you don’t hit that song, you don’t get that MTV play. If you think about all the pressure that used to be put on us. Especially the McAuley-Schenker period – that 80’s period when you had to write the power ballad. It has to be radio friendly – it has to be bullsh*t stuff right?
Robin: The pressure of even trying to get on MTV. Now look what happened to MTV. You are thinking, ‘Oh my God, all the stress for something that turned out to be a load of bullsh*t’ Right?
Glenn: Yeah. I remember it started going wrong in the mid 90’s when they took the Headbangers Ball off. We had Vanessa Warwicke. She presented it here. Then she got taken off and they put this blonde bimbo on who had no f*ck*ng clue about anything. Then it turned into nothing but MTV Hip Hop, MTV Rap etc – it just turned into a Black TV Show! It was ridiculous.
Robin: It was awful. A little bit of trivia as they say, Michael-Schenker and myself were the first band to do Headbangers Ball with Riki Rachtman. It was a bit goofy but it was about the music. You got to hear the music, you got to see the bands and as you say, it just took on this whole new view. These MTV hosts that they used to have, you are thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It had nothing to do with music. Nothing! At the end of the day it turned into a joke in my opinion.
Glenn: I agree.
Robin: To the point that VH-1 would play the videos and that’s where you would go if you wanted to see something. Even that became a joke. I’m glad all that stuff is long gone. It turned into Reality TV.
Glenn: Yeah. Jersey Shore? What the hell is this?
Robin: Yeah. It has nothing to do with nothing.
Glenn: Anyway, I’m going to turn over the tape… right you are now on side two of a 90 minute tape. You can’t lose anything that way.
Robin: Wow Dude. I probably wouldn’t know how to work that. (We laugh)
Glenn: Oh I’ve got a tape collection going back to the early 80’s. Plus I have all the vinyl and CD’s. I’ve got everything.
Robin: When Michael and I first got together to write, we would shut ourselves away in a rehearsal room in Hanover, Germany. We had a Four Track Teac. That’s how we did all the writing.
Glenn: Yeah! We used to have one. An old Tascam.
Robin: Yeah. What a great machine. You could do anything. That’s where all the ideas went down. We’d keep writing. We had a goal at the time and we were trying to write a complete song a day. If we didn’t finish it, we’d move onto the next idea. We’d take a piece of this and start putting it with that. We’d go to Rudolf and have him take a listen. He’d chop them up and put together what we thought was a song. But, what a great little machine.
Glenn: Yeah. It was amazing because I’m a big Who fan. I got those ‘Scoop’ albums that Pete Townshend brought out. If you look at the actual inside sleeve some of the songs are stated as recorded on a Tascam 4 track machine. I thought, ‘Wow! We’ve got one of them’. You knew it was a good machine if guys like that were using them. Now it’s all digital.
Robin: And you know, the hard drive didn’t take a dump.
Glenn: Exactly. It’s on cassette.
Robin: It was real reliability. All you had to do was change the battery.
Glenn: I think the weird thing about it that I bet you remember yourself is that the tape was twice as fast so you couldn’t play it in a normal tape player. You had to record it in order to play it in a normal tape player. It was bizarre. But those were the times.
Robin: But it worked.
Glenn: We’ve gone from the four track Tascam to what it is now. The actual technology advancement has just gone crazy.
Robin: I can’t remember which serial number it is on the Tascam but it’s a hand-held one. I’ve seen people take them to shows and record live. The quality is phenomenal. It’s great. It’s really great. Technology is a great thing. Speaking of technology, despite how far along we have come, people will still hold up their damn phones at a concert, then post it and say, “Listen to this great sound”
Glenn: It sounds like sh*t!
Robin: Are you kidding? You know what, I’m not the only one that bitches about it. It does bands zero favours. It does you no favours whatsoever. You hold up a hand-held device and you’re recording a show that sounds ridiculous. Then start streaming it live and saying, “Wow it sounds great!” It sounds great because you are standing in the room listening to it.
Glenn: Three quarters of the quality has gone down the toilet after you have played it back.
Robin: Well of course. They think they are doing you a favour in promoting you. What do they say, ‘Any advertising is better than no advertising’.
Glenn: Even Phil Lewis of L.A. Guns posted that it makes you sound like crap.
Robin: It really does and there’s no control on that. It can turn people off because the recordings can sound like sh*t. ‘I’m not going to see that – I’m not going now’. So there’s the big favour. Sometimes if it’s an acoustic or an unplugged set it might be different. I’d prefer if people didn’t do it period.
Glenn: What are your thoughts when we’ve gone from analog to digital when you can record an album and not be in the same room anymore?
Robin: I still like the idea of analog for the rhythm section – bass and drums. Keep it organic, keep it real sound and do your overdubs the other way. I know some of the guys that I work with are just absolutely phenomenal on pro-tools. I think if you can manage to set up your drum kit and get a real true organic drum sound, then layer the other on top, it’s a better feel. It’s a better feel to combine the analog with the digital. Bands for a long time now have reverted back to that as opposed to going all digital.
The real answer to that is whatever you envisage the finished sound for what you are looking for. That’s where it is going to matter. Do you want this organic sound or do you want that. I think it depends on the artist and what they want. If this is what they’re going for then that’s what you need to do. There’s so much available that the choices are endless these days. You can go all the way the other way or you can do a combination.
Glenn: These days you can do it digital and then you can covert it so it automatically sounds analog which is a good thing.
Robin: Yeah. I love analog.
Glenn: You’ve got your warmth. You can’t beat chucking on a crackly vinyl and hearing the difference.
Robin: Yeah. Of course.
Glenn: It’s what we’ve grown up on.
Robin: There’s a reason for why we call it Classic Rock. There’s a reason why we still like it. It’s because of how it sounds. There’s a reason for that. That’s how good it is, was and always will be. Everybody always wants to recapture that moment – back to their favourite record. Why? Because of how it sounds. Technology is great and you have to move forward and it gets things done. It’s faster but there has to be a quality to it. Too many people lose the quality control. They just get swept away because so much is available to them. Don’t lose the sound – that’s important. There is so much processed. All of the current music is so processed.
Glenn: I know I hate it. Auto-tune – forget it.
Robin: It gets back to our earlier conversation. This is what we need, this is how we are going to do it, now it’s processed… next… It’s conveyor belt music.
Glenn: It is. A can of beans. Or a can of Guinness.
Robin: You can have several of those or go from analog to digital but it’s not a good idea to combine the beans with the Guinness.
Glenn: I’ll put that on the bucket list – Beans and Guinness.
Robin: What a concept (we laugh). On a serious note, when you put your vinyl on, it should be good, hearty meal. Something you want to get into.
Glenn: I agree. It’s got to have all the elements there.
Robin: And if we’ve got beans and Guinness, I am up for it dude. I’m all there!
Glenn: Exactly. You’ve got to chuck the gravy on and have a nice sound to it. A nice smoothness to it.
Robin: I could go on and on and on about it but it’s your favourite meal. There you have it.
Glenn: What is funny is that they said, “That’s the end of vinyl, no more vinyl – we’re done!”. Then what happens in the last two or three years – they bring vinyl back. Hello?
Robin: We go full circle.
Glenn: What gets me is the price. It was £6 an album back in the day and now it’s £25 to buy an album for the same thing. It’s twice as much as a CD or more – it’s ridiculous. It’s become an art-form but it’s also become like a fashion statement and a commercial thing.
Robin: I look back and one of my very good friends – she’s a bass player. She’s totally into vinyl and she’s a huge Billy Joel fan. She wanted ‘The Piano Man’ on vinyl. I went searching for it, found a vinyl store in Vegas. It cost me $35 for that piece of vinyl. Yes, of course it’s great. “Oh bring back vinyl”, “Yep”. They take this reel. They see you coming and say, “Here he comes - whack up the price”.
My Son, Casey is a budding guitar player. He loves it and he’s a huge Steel Panther fan. He took a drive off down to Hollywood last Sunday morning, bright and early so he can go to Amoeba Records and buy their newest release. He buys the CD and what he didn’t realise was in the background, I had set him up with the Drummer who is another friend of mine. He was so gracious. He took him in and gave him the vinyl. The vinyl is a sort of slimy green vinyl – it was killer. Just awesome. My son on the strength of that vinyl is just overblown. It’s the first vinyl he’s ever had in his hands. He was saying, “Dad, check this out!” There was something really special about vinyl.
Can you remember the first vinyl you ever bought?
Glenn: Yes. The first LP I ever bought was ‘Gosh It’s Bad Manners’ in 1981. I remember the first two singles I ever bought were ‘Passion’ – Rod Stewart with ‘Better Off Dead’ on the B-side and ‘The Third Man’ by The Shadows’ with ‘The Fourth Man’ on the B-side. What about you?
Robin: The first vinyl I actually ever bought which was all shrink-wrapped was ‘The Cosmos Factory’ from Creedence Clearwater Revival. I actually bought it because ‘Up Around The Bend’ was a single at the time. I had a girlfriend at the time. It was her birthday so I bought her ‘Cosmo’s Factory’ – the first LP I had ever bought. I took it home and I was about to wrap it for her birthday. I said, “Shit”. I took the shrink-wrap off, I stuck it on the turntable and said, “Well that’s the end of that story, she ain’t getting this” (We laugh). That is the Gods truth and she never did get it. I can’t remember if she actually got a birthday gift but she didn’t get that record. That was the end of that and that was my first vinyl. It wasn’t for me initially but it ended up being mine.
Glenn: You are going to be doing the shows with Michael alongside Graham and Gary but can you ever see a Grand Prix reunion at any point? Even just as a one-off if it wasn’t financially viable to tour?
Robin: Let me just say that three weeks ago, actually March 11th to be exact when the Rock Vault re-opened at the Hard Rock, it also coincidentally happens to be the bass player from Grand Prix, Ralph Hood’s birthday. Phil Lanzon, the keyboard player who is also with Uriah Heep and has been for years, Phil said, “Do you think you’ll be albe to find time to do a facetime or a skype. It’s Ralph’s birthday and we’ll have sort of a mini Grand Prix reunion”. I said, “Dude, Absolutely”.
We were actually all chatting on March 11th for Ralph’s birthday. Me from Vegas and there was Phil, Mick O’Donaghue and Ralph. We all had a chat and that’s exactly what we discussed. Phil actually said, “Come on Rob, make it happen”. I said, “Sh*t if it was that easy”. I’d love to do it. Absolutely love to do it. The logistics of that are fairly obvious. Somebody, be it a label, management company or somebody with a lot of money would have to go, “Dude, here’s X amount of money, can you do a show?”
You can’t just do one show because it’s just not cost effective. You’d have to rehearse. People would have to be at the same place at the same time. You’d have to do that. That’s very costly. Then you put all of that work and periphery together – you’d have to do more than one show because it just would not be cost effective. If you put all of those parameters together and make it happen I think everybody would absolutely do it. It’s just how do you make something like that happen? The idea is wonderful. You’d have to have a scenario – a venue i.e. a show, a gig that would substantiate the amount of cost and effort that had gone in. Then the big question is..
Glenn: How many will turn up to see the show?
Robin: Yes. It has to do with the marketing behind it. Does anybody want to hear it? People said, “Who? Is that like where they race cars?” Unless you can have a direct reference to what that is it would be very, very difficult. By contrast, I know that Lionheart with Steve Man has just resurrected itself and is recording right now and has shows lined up for Japan. So not impossible.
Glenn: Yeah you could piggyback onto that somehow?
Robin: Yeah it’s not impossible. Oddly enough, I think Praying Mantis doing an opening show for them. Coincidentally again, Bernie Shaw who I replaced in Grand Prix used to be the singer for Praying Mantis.
Glenn: Wow! There you go. I didn’t know that.
Robin: After the end of Grand Prix, Phil and Bernie joined Uriah Heep and have been there for what.. 15, 16, maybe 20 years.
Glenn: I remember seeing Praying Mantis in 2001/2002. They did an album for Z Records They were one of the first bands that were playing and Dennis Stratton who was in Iron Maiden was in the band.
Robin: Wow. I’d love to do it. I think it would be great but again all the i’s have got to be dotted. Somebody greater than me would have to have know how and the finance together and of course to make it worth it. Nobody spends money without saying, “How am I going to get it back?” There is all of that. We could sit here over a pint and say, “Let’s put a band together”. Yes, of course, it’s a great idea but is it a great idea?
Glenn: There’s a lot of great ideas in that box and they all just stop as great ideas.
Robin: I know. It’s a shame because it’s the chequebook that stops these things from materialising if it comes down to it. Plus the fact I am here and they’re there. That again, just geographically it’s a difficult process. Maybe when I come into the UK, I’ll arrange a meeting and see if we can put our heads together and figure out something. That’ll start the juices flowing and we can really go after it. Recording-wise, it’s a no-brainer because going back to the digital thing – you can send hi-res tracks over the internet. That’s easy. To me, that’s easy. We can do that all the time.
Physically putting the bodies together in the same room may be not be as easy. It’s worth a conversation that’s for sure. Let’s fast-forward, here we are in 2017 and Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley are going to be on the same stage in the same place at the same time after 30 something years. We’re all former members and it’s going to happen. Nothing’s impossible if you set your mind to it. I am looking forward to it and I think it’s terrific. I think it’s an awesome thing.
Glenn: What would you are say you are most looking forward to in the future? I guess that tour and doing ‘Raiding The Rock Vault’?
Robin: I guess to answer you honestly, we all need to work, so we work. That’s what we do. That said, on 28th April, I had a show in Niagara Falls with Lou Gramm, Mickey Thomas from Starship and Terry Nut from Berlin. We actually performed with a full Philharmonic. That’s going to be an interesting thing. Those are the kinds of things that I like to get my teeth into. Again, it’s something different.
Glenn: It makes you work more?
Robin: It keeps you active. I’m really looking forward to that. There may be more than that. ‘Rock Vault’ is awesome. We started ‘Rock Vault’ in 2013 thinking we might get a few weekends out of it or somewhere in Vegas. Then four years later – 850 shows later it’s still going and people love. Three years running it’s been voted the Number 1 best musical in Vegas.
Glenn: I guess as well that all you guys get along so well?
Robin: Yeah. Where else are you going to meet a revolving door of some of the greatest players. You are saying, “What Doug Aldrich is up there? Are you kidding me?” Right? Howard Leese and now of course, Jay Schellen. He’s a pretty solid member of ‘Yes’ being there and helping out Alan White. All of these things materialise. They all start coming together because you stay in the loop. Your profile is always out there. People see that you are working and they come to hear you. They say “Good – they sound great”. That’s a fortunate thing.
Going back to what we were talking about earlier, it’s really important to take care of your instrument if you want to keep working, ff you want people to say, “Yeah we need this guy, we need that guy”. It’s very important.
Sure it’s good to go and have fun and all the Rock ‘N’ Roll stories and everything but at the end of the day times have changed. Things have changed. It’s a much more serious issue because now people are putting out money and saying, “Dude, I need you to deliver”. I think it’s the right thing for the fans. I think the fans don’t want to see a bunch of tripe. The fans want to see something decent. They deserve it because the fans have been so loyal for so long. They’ve never gone away.
If you come out to give them a show, it’s your job to give them the best that you can do. I really believe that. It’s fair and it’s right. If I’m buying a ticket to a show… I don’t always get the tickets free (we laugh) If I’m buying a ticket to a show, I want to leave that show saying, “Dude that was just awesome” and I'm sure you’re the same.
Glenn: Oh yeah. I remember that the last show I bought a ticket was when I went to see David Gilmour at the Hollywood Bowl. One of the best gigs I have ever seen in my entire life. I was in the Gods a bit but you got the full light show. It was just phenomenal. The sound was incredible.
Robin: Yeah and you’re talking to me like you were totally excited about it. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. That’s what you need to walk away with. There’s something to be told about something that has left its mark on you. That’s what I'm talking about. I think that’s really important. I hate reading stuff. People have gone… musicians and journalists have gone to see a show and they have nothing good to say about the artist. I hate reading that stuff.
I’d rather not read it because I am thinking, “Maybe he was having a bad night?” But there’s a pressure. There’s definitely a pressure but there’s a sense of something that’s just right when it comes to an artist. It’s your job. It’s why you do it and it’s up to you, as they say, “Give the fans what they want”. That’s not to put the fans into some sort of mediochre stance – it’s a concert. We’re all supposed to be in it together, have fun and enjoy the evening. I personally like to walk off the stage and feel good about what happened.
Glenn: You’ve done a good delivery and they’ve enjoyed it?
Robin: Yes. I don’t want to walk off the stage and say, “That was a real sh*t performance”, because if I feel it, the chances are everyone else feels it. That doesn’t put me in a good place. Then you go home and you sit down and start writing stuff. You are saying, “That was the worst piece of sh*t I’ve ever seen”. (We laugh). No but it’s true. I think it’s really important. It’s important that if we want to keep doing what we do then do it right and do it well. I’m happy. I’m in a good place. I’m really enjoying what I do. I’m so happy to be able to keep doing it because nothing lasts forever but damn it, I’m going to make it last forever (We laugh).
Glenn: Exactly. You look after your voice. You can tell because it’s not faulted at all. Some people think, ‘God that guy must be miming because it sounds too good to be real’, but it’s real. Dare I say it, but you are like one of the old school. You are one of the old boys that had to be able to sing live – no bullsh*t, no backing tapes and crap. You had to deliver and you are still delivering. That’s absolute credit to you.
Robin: Thank You.
Glenn: No problem. You’ve not gone down the vice road and you’ve only got a third of the voice that you used to have like some we could mention but we won’t.
Robin: I will tell you this Glenn. I’m not only Irish but I’m really stubborn and I’m very proud. I would not walk out there. My wife would have said this. I couldn’t live with myself. It’s really important to me because I hate reading bad sh*t. I don’t like reading about anybody else and it would certainly put me in a bad place if I was to read it about me in big bold letters ‘McAuley sounds like a piece of sh*t’ I would hate it. That would be the end of it. I’m being honest. That would be it. It would be over and done forever. Over and out. I think it’s your job to care about what you do. Deliver. Get out there deliver and be proud of it. If you’re not, then don’t do it. That’s all. You won’t see much of me when that happens.
Glenn: Can you ever see yourself writing an autobiography?
Robin: I have nothing interesting to say. I can tell you stories but I’m not sure I have that interest. I can sit down and have a great conversation with you. I don’t know if I could write a biography. I’m sure I’ve got plenty of stories in the closet about somebody. (We laugh) I’m sure there’s the odd story that people might want to hear but do I want to write it? I don’t know.
Glenn: I find when you are writing things, it’s not the same as telling someone something.
Robin: It’s probably already been done but I don’t think you can get enough of it. I think you should create a musicians living room. Every so often you invite people in and you have an hour of stories. You don’t let them go off track too much. It’s entertaining. You hear the voice, you see the expression and you hear the laughter. You tell the story just like it is. Once you get into story telling, as you know, something else crops up before you know it. It’s entertainment. That to me is so much more real than reading a book because you hear the expression in the voice. What a concept.
Glenn: A lot of people do do it sometimes, but not too many.
Robin: The problem with that is you don’t have an eraser. Once you open your mouth it’s all out.
Glenn: Yep. Someone records it and it gets all over the internet and you are thinking, ‘I shouldn’t have said that.’
Robin: I shouldn’t have said that. There it is.
Glenn: It’s fatal isn’t it. Is there anything else you’d like to mention that we’ve not covered or important things overall?
Robin: Well what is important is that I’m genuinely excited about hitting the UK because it has really been a very, very long time. I’m curious, I’m interested and equally excited to see the reaction and see if they are as excited as all three singers being together on the same stage, as it will be a hell of a time. I can honesty say we are having a blast. We haven’t done much so far but I know that the enthusiasm is there of the possibility of doing more is on a high level. Given that scenario, I think I speak for everybody when I say we are really looking forward to it – especially the UK because that’s the beginnings of it more than anywhere else. I think it’s especially exciting because there’s a lot of history.
It’s great that Michael’s in top form and it’s going to relate in the show that I’m very happy to have been asked to do this and be part of that new DVD thirty odd years later. It’s pretty awesome. I’m dying to say hello to the UK fans. I hope they have as much fun as what we’re going to have. I hope they enjoy it and that everybody takes it for what it is and comes in with an open mind. It’s easy. It’s rock and roll at the end of the day. We’re going to do as well as we can. I can’t wait and I want to say thank you for taking the time out to even bother chatting with me.
Glenn: It’s a pleasure.
Robin: Thank you so much for that.
Glenn: I’ve enjoyed it. No problem. It’s been absolutely great. Here’s a question for you: What happened to the woman who used to come to your show that used to wear the t-shirt that read, ‘I love Rod Stewart’s double’?
Robin: Oh my God. Where did you hear that?
Glenn: I read it on your website.
Robin: Oh my God. A little short story. When I first moved to London – I lived in London for about 15 or 16 years. I used to sing in a pub in Thedbury Hill in West London. Every Friday night, every Sunday Morning – there was a Sunday morning session and then Sunday night. We used to do the Faces stuff – a lot of Faces. I think she was a Jewish lady. She appeared to be extremely wealthy and extremely well-endowed – a good combination. I guess she loved me.
She used to come every single weekend. She had all her gold jewellery on and these huge boobs. Then she made a shirt. ‘I Love Rod’s Double’. Of course, you can imagine the guys in the band saying, “Go on dude, give her some of that”. Of course none of that ever happened. I’ve not seen here since. I hope she’s alive and well and still wearing the shirt. (Laughter ensues from us both) Oh dear.
Glenn: You could put a facebook post up stating ‘Are you the girl with the huge boobs and the shirt? Send me a picture. How are your boobs these days?
Robin: I know. They were quite sizeable. It was quite the t-shirt. It’s funny, I never thought about this until you brought it up. Now you brought it up, perhaps there was something in there being Rods double. Maybe she was really trying to tell me something.
Glenn: Yeah! Madness.
Robin: I was a young lad. Some things never change. Anyway, do what you do and stay well Glenn.
Glenn: You too, brother. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. I’ve enjoyed it.
Robin: Likewise, we’ve covered some good stuff.
Glenn: How would you describe the vocal style of Robin McAuley?
Robin: Let me answer it this way. People tell me that when they hear me singing, they know it’s me. People tell me that I have a distinctive style and they can pick my voice out anywhere. I grew up listening to daytime radio. Daytime radio didn’t have regular rock music on it. You had to listen to late-night radio to hear rock music. I’m sure you remember that.
Glenn: Oh yeah.
Robin: I spent a lot of my time in my younger years listening to Motown. It was very widespread. I loved the melodies and the lyrics. I always used to say to myself, “I’d love to be able to sing like that”. Then I heard Free with Paul Rodgers. I thought, ‘Wow, I didn’t know you could be white and sing with soul and have melody. Then remember the melody’. I was totally hooked. Then I started getting into the Faces and thinking, “Oh my God”. People for a very long time including the lady with the Rod’s double shirt used to say that I had a Rod Stewart kind of gruff. Was that something I worked on? No. I never wanted to be a singer, just so you know. I actually started playing drums. I used to do some backing vocals.
I played drums for years and I stopped. I used to love sitting behind the kit. I used to love background vocals and I never wanted to be the singer. I kind of got pushed out towards the front to sing a couple of songs. Then they’d say, “Sing a couple more”. Before you know it, I am singing and I didn’t want to sing. I really, honestly didn’t want to sing. There’s a big portion of me still wishing I was a drummer or a guitar player. They seem to have a lot more fun than the singers do. There’s less pressure because you can have a cold and not feeling well but you can still go and do the show. If a singer is not well and feels like sh*t, he sucks. Right?
Robin: So I wish I didn’t have to put up with all of that because there would be less pressure. Stylistically, I don’t know if I have a style other than I pick a song or write a melody. I know my limitations as a singer. I know what my range is. I have a pretty decent range but I know my boundaries. I stay within an area that works for me and out of that comes the sound that some people like and some people don’t. You can’t please everybody. I think that’s why there are so many of us.
We’re all different and I would hate to listen to the same sound all the time. I think variety is the spice of life. I’m glad there’s a bunch of us that all sound different because that’s what makes it really interesting. I hope I sound like me and that I don’t emulate somebody else.
I’m sure there’s influences. I’m a huge Lou Gramm fan. I’m a huge Rod Stewart fan. I’m a huge Paul Rodgers fan. I’m a huge Four Tops fan and I’m a huge lover of melody. I love melody. I love memorable good lyrics and a story. Actually, believe it or not, my Son Casey just bought me when he was down at Amoeba Records and bought the Steel Panther Record, he just bought me ‘Alive And Dangerous’ from Thin Lizzy. There you have it. I was actually at that concert in Wembley Arena. A band called ‘Horselits’ opened up for Thin Lizzy.
Years later, who would have known I would have the honour of being in a band with both Brian Robertson and Scot Gorham. Never say never Glenn. You think, ‘Oh my God, what would have to happen for that to happen’. Then before you know it you’re in the same room as these people. I’m blessed. Really honest to God, blessed. Every single day I am thinking, “I’m still singing, I can’t believe that. I do not take it for granted. I do not take it lightly.
It could easy have gone the other way. Very easily. I’m really grateful to love what I do and I’ll continue to do it for as long as I can, then hopefully I’ll have the grace to say, “Enough already!” Then that’ll be it. (We laugh) Tony Bennett never gives up and he’s awesome.
Glenn: I know. 85/90 year old. Incredible.
Robin: I know. He isn’t about to quit.
Glenn: Not at all. He’ll be there until he drops. Literally.
Glenn: I think a lot are the same. It starts as a hobby, then it become a profession and then it becomes both. Then you think, ‘What would you do without it?’ It become one and the same. It’s who you are and what you enjoy doing at the end of the day. If it pays well, it’s good.
Robin: It really is. When I’m not working my wife always says, “Oh my God, I hope you work soon because you are miserable when you’re not”. She does. She’s always said that.
Glenn: Wow. There you go. That’s a good answer.
Robin: Anyway, have a great rest of the evening.
Glenn: Thanks Brother. You too. Have a great day and look forward to seeing you in Vegas, and talk more about diarrhea and beans!
Robin: I’ll buy the Guinness, you bring the beans. (We laugh)
Glenn: That’s an awesome way to finish it off. Brilliant. Well you take care Brother.
Robin: Thanks Glenn.
Glenn: Thanks Robin.
Robin: Thank you.
Glenn: See you later, bye.
A big thank you to Michael T. Ross for setting it all up
and Robin McAuley himself for a fantastic in-depth Interview.