Echoing the Bun E. Man, or: “The Drums Are Really Really Good”
On Saturday, April 10, I went down to Orlando with a coworker to see Cheap Trick and interview Bun E. Carlos. My coworker, Pat Lanips, was a drum tech for Bun E. (pronounced “bunny,” I’d never realized that) back in the day, and has kept up a correspondence and visits with the band to the present. Cheap Trick played the House of Blues in the dreaded Disney complex.
We got there early, and talked our way backstage, while the Trick techs were doing sound check. Neilsen showed up first, and Pat showed him an old Gibson acoustic he’d bought, hoping to resell it to Rick. Neilsen said Pat’d got a good deal, but that he should keep the guitar. Bun E. and Tom Petersson got there awhile later. Bun E. did a couple drum hits behind the kit just to make sure everything was situated right (the drum tech had already got the sound for the soundman), Pat jumped behind the kit for half a tick to relive his glory days, instantly knocking a stick quiver out of place in the process. “Hey, I’m gonna have to FIX that!” one of the road crew chided him good-naturedly. Then we went up to the green room for a brief interview.
Pat fished us some Heinekens out of the band tub, and Rick opened them with a churchkey he had on a cord round his neck, along with his laminates and such. “Jeez, watch those beers, wilya, you’re gettin’ water all over me!” Neilsen protested in mock horror. “I rode over with my son in the car. Heard a lot of lies. Then I let him talk.”
I was nervous as hell and hadn’t much planned out the interview, since if you knew Pat, you’d know that the odds of anything he predicts or promises will happen are seldom better than 50-50. Pat suggested my opening question, about a drummer who played on one of the Trick member’s solo albums. Since the guy’s first name was Carlos, Pat figured it was Bun E. playing under an assumed name. In fact, it was a whole other person. Who was a fairly well-known drummer. And who’d later committed suicide…
Nothing like getting an interview off with a bang! The fact that we got beyond the opener shows how gracious Bun E. was being. Here’s what went down thereafter:
I was wondering how the Venezuelan oil stocks were going?
Bun E. Carlos : Union Carbide is down this week. Look in the market, you’ll see, Union Carbide…
They’re the big ones down there?
They’re the people Teddy dug the ditch for, ya know? Which we’re giving back to ’em, in a year or two.
Didn’t Carter give it…
Yeah, he signed it back, it happens at the end of this year.
The new live release is gonna go to amazon.com first?
Exclusively available on amazon.com …
For 60 days?
Carla [road Manager, hovering in the background] : June 15 it’s in regular stores…
It’s 14 songs, 13 1/2 songs, one song’s a piece. From the Chicago Metro.
And that was something where one of those Pumpkin people showed up?
Yeah, Billy Corgan’s on a track, on “Mandocello,” D’Arcy’s on “If You Want My Love,” she sings on it. Billy plays lead on “Mandocello.”
Which I had to tell Pat wasn’t “Monticello,” by the way… (laughter)
[To Pat] : You wouldn’t be the first guy to not pronounce it correctly!
Pat : I thought it was a town in Florida, outside Tallahassee…
It’s on the back of the nickel… We mixed it at CRC, recorded it at the Metro, it sounds real good. My quote on Amazon is “the drums are really really good!” [laughter] They have quotes by the artists about the release…
Why not? I mean, sell it! That would be the point of the whole amazon.com thing….
The Amazon thing is good. They wanna get into selling product, their dream of course is to chart something without retail, or basically distributors. They made us a great offer, and we accepted it. QVC, we been talking to them about doing a package for them, haven’t done it yet… We have video footage we’re putting together, we’ve already put it together, we’re mixing to DVD also, which is five and one, five speakers, stereo, not stereo, “quintio” or whatever ya wanna call it, and one woofer, so that’s what that is.
And I hear there’s also writing for a new album…
In fact, we’re in Tampa tomorrow and Monday, and we’re doing demos. Whatever part of the country the gear is in, that’s where we demo. That’ll be neat, we’ll probably shop that this summer, when we get enough songs on a tape that we like, we been talking to some people.
But the live thing is basically direct from the band to amazon.com?
Yes, Cheap Trick label. For some reason we decided to try this shit, we’ll see if it’s a good idea or not. We’re kinda like pioneers…
The cutting edge, yet again!
Putting your dick in the wind and seeing which way the wind’s blowing type thing.
And your experience with John Lennon…
Me and Rick were on a John Lennon box last year. Track one on a single CD, “Once Upon A Time,” did a track with him in 1980 for the Double Fantasy album. It was too good for that record, really nice and heavy sounding, it really wouldn’t have fit in. Yoko saw fit to release it, sounds real cool, Rick did good on it. The drums are really really good on that, too…
That may be the title for this, “The drums are really really good.”
I didn’t screw it up by doing drum licks, I just played the drums, you know? No drum solos with Mr. Lennon, sir, you know? I didn’t call him “Mr. Lennon,” either, although when I did worked with Chuck Berry, I did call him “Mr. Berry.”
After a little more small talk (about the coincidence that I was sharing a bill later in the week with a local band called “Commie Hilfiger” while Tommy Hilfiger “dresses” Cheap Trick ) and my profuse thanks to Bun E we wrapped the interview and just hung out.
Pat played Tom a silly song he’d written about Rick and the band (a takeoff on the St. Nick poem, Pat basically altered a poem in Spin called “A Visit from Saint Sid” that somebody wrote a few years back).
We hung out backstage for a few hours, getting some great “road” stories from the Trick crew about some other artists some of them had worked for (and about which, unfortunately, we were sworn to secrecy), running up to the green room to get more beers when we ran out.
Nutrajet, the opening band, played a decent enough set. It was just a duo, with the guitarist running through both a guitar rig and a bass rig, plus a woman drummer who did backing vocals. We watched from backstage while the band got dressed upstairs. Then Trick went on and played a pared-down set, 75 minutes instead of the usual 90. Rick threw picks like they were going out of style, I got about a dozen of them from where we watched sidestage next to his guitar tech’s station. He played the Hamer 5-neck, of course; when he handed it to Sven the tech, his laminate clip got caught in the strings and I tried to help him get it undone. That was fun and tense at the same time, since Neilsen changes guitars about every two or three songs (in fact, he changed guitars in the middle of one song, when one of the guitars acted up). They altered their setlist to play a song that a friend of Pat’s reportedly wrote (Trick recorded it on one of their more recent albums; it’s called “Shelter” I think), Rick threw a Kiss record cover out to the crowd during “Surrender,” and the show was over.
Me happy. The end.