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March 2011 (e-mail)
Starting out as a keyboard/guitar tech for Blue Oyster Cult & Anthrax, Paul Crook eventually found himself stepping into the shoes of Dan Spitz as the newest guitarist of Anthrax in 1989. After a decade & 2 albums with the thrash legends Paul joined the solo band of former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach for many years. In 2003 he was asked to join Meat Loaf's Neverland Express band, eventually leading to a long-term relationship with Meat Loaf & co. including numerous albums, videos & even sitting in the production chair for the 2011 release Hell In A Handbasket. But, one of the biggest challenges came in 2006 when Paul auditioned for legendary guitarist Brian May for the musical We Will Rock You, featuring the beloved music of Queen. Not just did Paul get the position but he moved to Las Vegas, deciding to stay there beyond the 16 month run of the show, & personally got on-hands training with May to learn how to exactly play the well-known classic riffs. Paul has also worked with Glenn Hughes, Mayra Roxx, Derek Sherinian, Adam Lambert & Steve Vai amongst others.
As a fan/collector of all things related to guitarist Al Pitrelli (Megadeth, Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra) I contacted Paul to inquire about Al's brief tenure in Sebastian Bach's solo band for a few weeks in 2002 during the Forever Wild Tour & about Anthrax's short-term involvement on 2000's Maximum Rock Tour also featuring Megadeth & Motley Crue, Al's touring debut with Megadeth.
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PAUL: I became a fan of [Al's] playing while he was with the Long Island band HOT ROX. My band CROOK opened for them at a gig in New York City. Hmmmm, probably 1988. Anyway, I remember Al beating/playing the crap out of a black Kramer.
AJ: You'd known Al before MEGADETH & now you were all touring together (however briefly) on his first tour (outside of the tour he finished when Marty Friedman prematurely left Megadeth) with one of the major thrash bands. Any thoughts or backstage view you can share on this experience?
PAUL: What comes to mind is Al hanging on our bus whenever he could sneak away. Hahaha!!! ANTHRAX is a New York band. Pitrelli is a New Yorker. I don't really know how to explain it. I guess, maybe it's an east coast thing? We simply understood each other. Usually, Al would wander over to us while MOTLEY CRUE was just coming off stage. We (Frank Bello, Al & myself) would sit in the front lounge of the bus & talk about everything/anything. Great hang, good times...
AJ: As ANTHRAX & MEGADETH are two of the biggest names in the thrash world, in your experience did you ever feel that being labeled as a thrash guitarist affect either negatively or positively how others perceived you as a musician, such as, "oh, I know what music you play but can you do this?", considering what you've done since with Meat Loaf & We Will Rock You is anything but thrash.
PAUL: There was nothing remotely negative & to be quite honest, I never thought about those types of things. I hope I don't come off like an egomaniac here ... players like myself were raised on Hendrix, Page, Beck, May, Van Halen, Rhoads, Iommi, Young(s), Rossington/Collins, Schenker ... Enough names for ya? Hahaha!! Anyway, please ... we can play rock & roll.
AJ: ANTHRAX left the tour early due to having your pay cut (leading to MEGADETH promised more stage time that didn't happen, while they also got a pay cut, as you may (or try not to) remember). Dave Mustaine said at the time: "It was about the money, the tour was a losing venture & should have been shut down sooner. The only reason we even considered playing on that fucking disaster was because our friends in ANTHRAX were on it. I would rather have my testicles eaten by Hannibal Lecter than tour with them again." Can you/would you share any any thoughts on the tour, whether in regards to the bit of performing ANTHRAX did do, the relationship with MEGADETH &/or the split from the tour?
PAUL: I enjoyed the tour (while it lasted). I'm a big fan of both MOTLEY CRUE & Megadeth. I really enjoyed listening to Mick Mars. Got tone????!!! He is so underrated ... Nikki Sixx is a great performer. Cool. I loved the way David Ellefson & Jimmy Degrasso played together. Awesome, to say the least. I was very impressed with Pitrelli ... Marty Friedman is extremely poetic. You better eat your Wheaties before you try to tackle anyone of his solos ... Shoosh! There are a lot of notes there & not one of them is wasted. The vibrato/passion that Marty squeezes out of each one is off the charts. Big shoes ... Thankfully, Al has big feet!!! Sad note ... Let me start by saying that Dave Mustaine is a phenomenal player & deserves my respect. Saying that, he was ... um... different ... He brutally embarrassed me in front of my wife (then girlfriend) as we were walking to the ANTHRAX dressing room (through the catering area). The entire MEGADETH band was there eating dinner/talking. Dave's comments were so rude that I approached the table looking to grab his plate & smash it into his face. I then remembered that he was kind enough to carry our back-line gear on his truck. I took a breath, told him what I thought of his ignorance then walked away. I got to the dressing room & told [roadie] Charlie what went down. He appreciated that I didn't reach for the plate. Our gear would've probably been stuck on the curb if I lost my cool. Here's the kicker ... Dave came into our dressing at the next gig & handed me a "sorry" card. I was blown away ... He embarrassed me more than I've ever felt before in my entire life but then had the heart to say "sorry"? I still get a little sad when I think about that experience. I guess it's because I'm such a big fan of Dave's playing. He really is amazing at what he does. What else ... Well, I felt good about ANTHRAX at that time. We were playing well & having a lot of fun even though there wasn't any money. I love those guys ... On the funny side ... I remember Nikki Sixx (I love Nikki) walking into our dressing room one night after our performance & saying "you guys are crappy ..." That made us laugh.
AJ: Do you remember how long was the mini-tour with Sebastian & Al? Al has said it was "half a dozen" dates.
PAUL: I don't remember. If I had to guess, I'd say 2 weeks.
AJ: You two have very different playing styles (or in that tour anyways you demonstrated distinct differences in your solo/playing styles - I've seen a recording of one of the shows), what was it like playing with Al?
PAUL: Al can play anything. He's a walking jukebox. I always said: When in trouble call Pitrelli. Saying that ... It was fun. He kept me on my toes. I remember being somewhere in upstate New York. I was warming up in the dressing room. Al walked in. I asked "wanna warmup?" & offered him my guitar. He smiled, took it, hit an E chord, gave it back & said "I'm warm". I laughed my ass off.
AJ: This particular tour with Sebastian came in the shadow of 9/11, other than inspiring Sebastian's anti-Osama Bin Laden rants on stage did this have any obvious affect on the tour, music, audience, etc.?
PAUL: No, it didn't affect touring. If anything it was an annoyance for Bas regarding his Broadway gig.
AJ: Was there ever any hesitancy to include the Jekyll & Hyde songs, considering they're neither metal nor in Sebastian's normal singing/performance style?
PAUL: No, those were beautiful compositions. Bas sang the crap out of them & was always looking for ways to add non-SKID ROW tunes into the set.
AJ: You were with Sebastian for a few years, any thoughts on the general experience of playing with him?
PAUL: Sebastian Bach is incredible. I was in awe with him, still am really. Hmm, we once did a 15 week North American run. Six shows a week for 15 weeks!!! Bas never lost his voice. I swear, by the end of the tour he was actually singing better. Freak!!!
AJ: Again, anything you have to share is most most appreciative & welcomed.
PAUL: Nothing else really. Great questions Aaron.