iNTERViEWS THE HOOTERS
AND THEY DANCED
ERiC BAZiLiAN OF THE HOOTERS
TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT THEiR LiVE ALBUM BOTH SiDES LiVE
STEPPiNG BACK iNTO THE LiGHT
AND ELECTRiFYiNG AUDiENCES
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
The band of brotherhood that exists amongst the members of THE HOOTERS is something of an anomaly in popular music. This sort of ‘all-for-one-and-one-for-all’ mentality wasn’t likely to make the band a subject for VH-1’s defunct BEHIND THE MUSIC series, but it does ensure one thing – great music. Founded by guitarist ERIC BAZILIAN and keyboardist ROB HYMAN, THE HOOTERS developed a strong following in their hometown of Philadelphia due to their engaging live sets and spirited power pop. It was this notoriety that caught the attention of producer RICK CHERTOFF who needed writers and a backing band for the debut album of his client CYNDI LAUPER. On the coattails of the success of LAUPER’s ‘SHE’S SO UNUSUAL’, THE HOOTERS struck out on their own with their debut album ‘AMORE’ and on to greater fame with their COLUMBIA RECORDS debut ‘NERVOUS NIGHT’, which boasted platinum sales and the top-forty hits ‘AND WE DANCED’ and ‘DAY BY DAY’. A momentous appearance at LIVE AID (They were the band that opened the show in Philadelphia) truly rocketed the band into the pop stratosphere but as the eighties morphed into the nineties the bands profile declined in the U.S. yet grew internationally before that band took a break. “We blinked.” says guitarist ERIC BAZILIAN “We had been continuously playing as THE HOOTERS for fifteen years at that point. I had something I wanted to do and ROB (HYMAN) had something he wanted to do and everybody had something that they wanted to do so we figured that we’d do it. All of a sudden, six years had gone by and PIERRE ROBERT (DJ for WMMR in Philadelphia) asked us to do his twentieth anniversary show and we got together onstage and we were completely overwhelmed.”
Following the 2007 studio album ‘TIME STAND STILL’, THE HOOTERS have released their first live album in fifteen years ‘BOTH SIDES LIVE’ – a two-disc CD which captures their electrifying, celebratory live set on one disc and showcases a softer, but no-less-engaging side with acoustic re-workings of their now classic catalog on disc two. ‘BOTH SIDES LIVE’ is a spirited live album that only adds fuel to the common argument that music these days is indeed missing something.
ROCKWIRED spoke with ERIC BAZILIAN of THE HOOTERS. Here is how it went.
What was it like getting everyone back on the same page to do THE HOOTERS again?
It was kind of like riding a bike.
Not hard at all then.
No. Actually it was quite the opposite. It just felt very natural. That was why we did it. We had taken that break which was way longer than we had expected it to be. Time had sort of snuck up on us and it had been eight years since we had played together so we went out and started touring together. We started trying to make this record in 2004 and it just took a while for all of the planets to align and get everything together. So, it was very natural. This is my family.
Just being an observer and listener, there does seem to be this ease that comes with you guys.
I hope so. It certainly feels that way most of the time but not all of the time. There are definitely hair-pulling days, months and even years. But like childbirth and the rearing of small children, the pain is forgotten.
In recent years the band has toured Europe rather extensively. What is the difference to how European audiences react to the band as opposed to U.S. audiences?
Well, there are a lot more of them in Europe these days. When we get in front of people here in the U.S., the reaction is the same as there. They know the songs and they love the songs. We have a great time. The challenge is to get these people and us into a room here.
Is the release of BOTH SIDES LIVE a hint of a future studio LP?
Oh yeah definitely. We are working on that as we speak quite literally.
Talk about the beginning of this band.
In the beginning, there was something about the heavens and the earth – Actually we go way back. ROB HYMAN and I met at the University of Pennsylvania and I joined his band and that band broke up. A few years later we started another band and that one broke up. Then we decided to do one more band and that became THE HOOTERS.
What was it about ROB HYMAN that made you want to write music with him?
It was the first time I had ever met my match. I could play guitar ‘…just like a ringing a bell /Go! Go!’ and I’ve played in bands with guys that were great but I never found somebody that I could sit down and have a conversation without talking. He would sit at the piano and I would pick up the guitar. We had a language of our own. We would just go and create. It felt amazing. He was really the first person that I met that ever challenged me musically. He really showed me how to do things that I had never taken the time to do before like really write songs and make things less complicated.
Before THE HOOTERS what was your musical background?
I grew up around music. My mother was concert pianist and I would sit next to her when she played CHOPIN and BEETHOVEN. I had an aunt and uncle who were both folk musicians and I started playing guitar when I was about nine and then THE BEATLES played on the ED SULLIVAN SHOW and that’s all she wrote.
Earlier in your career you and ROB helped provide the backing for CYNDI LAUPER’s debut album ‘SHE’S SO UNUSUAL’. Describe what it was like working with her.
It was unusual. It was challenging. She is a great artist. She’s very demanding and very changeable. You think that you’re going down a great path with her and ten minutes later its all wrong and you’re back at square one but at the end of the day it would always come out better. She’s a very good motivator.
And the band’s debut CD happened right after the association with CYNDI.
Yeah. ‘AMORE’ was after. It was somewhere on the heels of the success of that record. We figured that the major labels weren’t beating on our door so we figured that we’d make the record ourselves. We had a great following in Philadelphia and a great studio up the street. We figured ‘what the hell! Let’s just do it ourselves!’
Twenty-five years after that album’s release, what kind of place does that album hold in your heart?
It holds a sentimental place. I get kind of embarrassed when I listen to some of it just because there are things that I would do differently now on the lyrical front. Sometimes you just sing words because they sound good and because you’ve got to sing something and I think there is a lot of that on that record and it’s cool. It’s a great document of the time and there is a great energy to it, which I will stand by. It’s funny now because I have friends who have kids who are just now discovering that record and they love it. It’s their favorite album so I’ll say it’s my favorite album too.
Explain - if it’s explainable - the creative process. How does a song get written in this band?
It happens painfully. Actually, it happens all kinds of ways. Back then – in the beginning – ROB and I would sit in a room and we would stare each other down and he’d play something and I’d go ‘that’s cool!’ or I would play something and he’d go ‘that’s cool!’ then we’d start singing and writing some words. Sometimes, we would listen back the next day and we’d say ‘What were we thinking?’ and sometimes it was ‘ALL YOU ZOMBIES’. It still works that way. You kind of have to trick yourself into writing songs and doing something you like. We bring each other ideas and other times we bring each other completed songs. Sometimes I’ll bring him a song that I think is the greatest thing since ‘HEY JUDE’ and I’ll stand and listen to it with him and I’ll have a sinking feeling about halfway through but we’ll glean a good chorus out of it or a good guitar riff and start from zero and build it up again and make it something good.
Describe what it was like being the opening band at LIVE AID in Philadelphia back in 1985.
That was just lightning. It was over before it started. We played for ten minutes but it was a sound that rocked the nation and rocked the world for us. It was truly the start of our career both nationally and internationally.
Since the band’s inception up until now, what has been the biggest surprise for you as a member of this band? What didn’t you expect?
To still enjoy it as much as we do. I didn’t expect to be doing this for thirty years and to still be playing in this band and being at least as pumped and excited about making this record as we were the first one.
Talk about the making of BOTH SIDES LIVE. What was it like laying down both an electric show and an acoustic set?
Well they are both live recordings which is very different from the other thing that we do which is very meticulous yet spontaneous at the same time. It’s funny how making records is this meeting of both chaos and order. The live shows were recorded live. The electric shows were spent going back and forth between performances and editing them and getting it to sound good. The shows themselves were wonderful. The acoustic show was done in two nights in the studio. One was with an audience and one was recorded during one or two days of rehearsal. Some of those performances came from the rehearsals.
What moments from BOTH SIDES LIVE stand out for you the most and why?
The beginning of ‘I’M ALIVE’ on the electric session stands out for me because I was sort of having an out of body experience there on stage with our intro music going and PIERRE ROBERT introducing us and feeling the love in the room and when we started the song with the intro riff and singing the first verse – I was really moved. There might’ve even been a tear. As far as the acoustic recordings go, they were all fun for us because we re-arranged the songs very significantly. I remember landing on the arrangement for ‘ALL YOU ZOMBIES’ when I started playing that mandolin riff and then DAVID and FRAN landed on that drum and bass feel and JOHN started playing the dobro which he had never really done before, so it was a whole new sound for him.
Any new members of this band?
The band is the band. It’s the five of us but on the SECRET SESSIONS we had ANN MARIE CALHOUN play the violin, which was wonderful. She is a phenomenal musician and a really sweet person. I would expect that we will have her back or someone like her. We write these records with all of these sounds and we do the best that we can with five people to recreate it onstage, but it’s just really hard for me to play the guitar, the mandolin and the recorder all at the same time. ROB and I were talking about that recently. In the future, we might recruit not one but maybe two auxiliary musicians.
Any hints about the new album that you are working on? How is it coming along?
It’s coming along great. Every record has a life of it’s own. It’s kind of like having a kid. You put in the raw material and it’s going to be what it’s going to be. You can say that this baby is going to be a boy and he’s going to go to law school and he’s going to become a senator. But you know what? She could be a girl and she could end up being a mother of five. You just don’t know.
You’ve done some solo work yourself and you’ve written with other people (JOAN OSBORNE’s 1995 hit ‘ONE OF US’). You’ve always been active despite the absence of THE HOOTERS. Describe what it’s like working solo as opposed to being in this band.
It’s pretty much the same process. It’s just that for songwriting, ROB is my favorite collaborator. I feel like I’m at the top of my game with him although there are other people that I love collaborating with. Writing with a band – in a way – is kind of more solo than solo. Some one once asked EDDIE VAN HALEN if he would ever do a solo record and he said ‘These are my solo records’. The solo thing is very different for me. I do solo shows and I love doing solo shows. It brings out a different side of my personality that I enjoy bringing out and I think the audience enjoys seeing it. It’s something that I try to bring back to the band as well.
What was the reason for the band going away for a little bit?
We blinked. We had been continuously playing as THE HOOTERS for fifteen years at that point. I had something I wanted to do and ROB had something he wanted to do and everybody had something that they wanted to do so we figured that we’d do it. All of a sudden, six years had gone by and PIERRE ROBERT asked us to do his twentieth anniversary show and we got together onstage and we were completely overwhelmed.
What would you like someone to come away with after they’ve seen THE HOOTERS play live?
A couple of HOOTERS records and a couple of T-shirts.
Good enough for me.