May 2011 (live broadcast, Roman Midnight Music Podcast Episode #19)
British metal vocalist Graham Bonnet is most famous for replacing Ronnie James Dio in Rainbow, featuring guitar icon Richie Blackmore, followed by fronting Alcatrazz that helped propel the careers of guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai. While Bonnet is also famous for cutting his hair short & looking more like a James Dean inspired 1950's rocker than a long hair metal singer. But, outside of these two famous gigs he's also had an extensive solo career, guesting on numerous albums, & singing & touring with an array of musicians & one off groups, including the Michael Schenker Group, Impellitteri, Blackthorne with Bruce Kulick, Japan's Anthem, the Taz Taylor Band, the Rainbow tribute band Catch The Rainbow. At the time of this interview he was discussing a new album by Alcatrazz, which would be their first since 1983, but instead he'd find himself playing with the new Graham Bonnet Band experimenting with a softer rock side. In 2016 his official biography is set to be released.
As a 34th birthday gift to myself I invited Graham to be a guest for an hour on my podcast. As I tell in the interview I'd discovered his voice not so long earlier & was an instant fan, slowly listening my way through his extensive catalog. I was looking forward to this interview for months & he was the first high profile guest I'd had on my show, stepping up from more regionally known musicians. It ended up being a wonderful hour as we discussed everything that doesn't get typically mentioned in an interview. I had already decided I would not bore him with the same questions about singing with Malmsteen or Blackmore, even though the later is one of my personal guitar gods, as not just had he been asked those questions too often but they focused on the other guys not Graham. I didn't know my modest questions would lead into a discussion of his R&B background, singing with the Bee Gees, his musical heroes & even bike riding, let alone some very honest statements about his career. His openness & joy when talking made me feel instantly at ease, versus pacing the floor nervous which I really was. It also helped that earlier in the day he'd sent me a personal e-mail, we'd communicated only through his assistant, & asked me to call him because of a question he had. It was a mix-up as I was one of 3 interviews scheduled, but talking to him before him really broke the ice for our interview later that night. I later ordered a personalized Alcatrazz DVD from him & have been awaiting the release of his biography. After the fact I received a nice comment from a listener in Canada whose the bassist & singer of the rock trio Guys With Wives. He said he'd grown up listening to the Marbles & patterned his vocals on their stuff. He didn't know until hearing my show that Graham Bonnet's first band was the Marbles, as Graham had moved into rock & metal & my friend had thus lost track of him. Hearing Guys With Wives the influence is obvious. I opened my show with a list of his many accomplishments, to which this transcription opens immediately after that.
AJ: ... An absolute honor to have as my guest tonight, Mr. Graham Bonnet. Graham, I absolutely welcome you to my humble show & if I could roll out a red carpet from Manhattan to L.A. I absolutely would right now.
GRAHAM: That was such a great intro. Thank you very much. How can I follow ? You made me sound so ... are you talking about me?
AJ: Yes, I am!
GRAHAM: As you said, to replace Ronnie James Dio in RAINBOW was probably one of the hardest things I ever did because it was complete switch for me music-wise.
AJ: I have to confess, Richie Blackmore is my Hendrix. For me, one of the greatest guitar players in the world, so you were stepping into some humongous shoes, maybe even bigger than you even realized.
GRAHAM: Yeah, as you were saying, my background was more into the pop R&B kinda thing in the 60's, as that was what I was doing all my life, as I was telling you earlier today. I started basically when I was 19 years old. I was doing a completely different field to where I am now. What has happened to my career has taken a totally different direction than I ever thought would happen.
AJ: Do you ever get nostalgic? Like, 'Things aren't working out with my career right now, I wish RAINBOW still existed?' Or, 'I wish I was an unknown soul singer in the middle of England again.'
GRAHAM: All the time. Everyday. I was telling a friend of mine yesterday ... there's a guy writing a book about how I started in my music career. He's sending me photographs which were taken back when I was like 16/17 years old. I'm looking back & I think to myself I wish I could do that again. To do that again, to go back & do all these R&B songs that I used to do way back when. Play all those Chuck Berry songs, etc. I miss those times when I look back now. Now, somebody is writing a book about me, which is very flattering. It's incredible. I've known this guy for years & one day he says, 'Would you mind if I wrote a book about you?' Nobody else will, so why not you? Anyway, it's nice to look back. I do miss those times, because those were times when I was creatively hungry. I wanted to do something, I came from a small town. I was the only ... there was about 3 guitar players in town where I lived & nobody played drums, nobody played bass. But, if you had a drum kit you were in the band. If you had a bass you were suddenly playing bass. It was very difficult to find musicians to play with. But, I was in a couple of bands in my home town. We did okay. We played local bars, like everybody did back then & listened to all the BEATLES & ROLLING STONES records & things like that, Chuck Berry & did a lot of that kind of music. A lot of Otis Redding & Steve Wonder things. Whatever we could do, because back then you had to play everything, because you play probably like 3-4 hours or something.
AJ: Not like today.
GRAHAM: Yeah, yeah. 20 minutes, you know, or an hour & a half or something like that. But, you had to play that long & you'd take a break. Of course, the people in the audience that we'd play to, you know we'd play in bars & pubs in England, they wanted to hear all the hits. So we had to ... that was my upbringing, from playing everything from jazz things to pop, you know, everything. You had to be able to play every kind of music to please the audience & keep them listening or have them dancing or whatever. This is what I did & a lot of my friends did. The BEATLES did the same thing.
AJ: & the ROLLING STONES & all those bands. That was the way it was done. So different from today.
GRAHAM: You basically had to play everything, from waltzes to cha-cha-chas. All these horrible dance songs ... that were like, 'What am I doing here?' & getting paid like 2 or 3 bucks a night for doing it, playing like 4 hours. But, what a great learning experience it was for all of us. It later became very helpful to me, you know, finding jazz chords & things like that on my guitar that I never would have known unless I played that kind of music. That's what I brought to songs later on. & a lot of other guys did too who were in bands, that ilk, you know, back in the 60's. It was good schooling.
AJ: You've basically made your reputation for most people as a heavy metal or hard rock singer, but have you ever considered doing an album of the old stuff, going back to the soul or the Chuck Berry? Has that ever crossed your mind?
GRAHAM: Well, I've thought about it, but I think that would be like a luxury at the moment. It's something I would love to do one day, but at the moment I'm sort of in a bag of whatever it is right now. I'm stuck in this drawer of being this so called heavy rock singer, whatever you want to call me now. For me to suddenly change & do something totally R&B will be very strange for people, I think. Where's all that high singing & whatever else? It is something I'd love to do. But, at the moment, we really have to get a new album out for my band ALCATRAZZ, which is a new line-up now. I'd love to do that. To have the time to do that, but really I have to get something new band-wise. That is like the main thing, because I do a lot of sessions. I'm doing a few sessions now that I haven't finished yet & to do a new album with ALCATRAZZ or to do a new album with R&B type songs on it or whatever, for me, means time out & not actually working. That means being off the road. When you're in a studio you're not making money. It's not like it was. Back in the '60's people were throwing money at you to go into the studio for months on end. That's how I started & you're in there for however long it took to make the album. If it took 6 months, then it took 6 months. But, it's not like that anymore. Everybody ... or, I do, or most people, record at home now on ProTools. Everything is done by e-mail. Everybody e-mails their parts to each other. 'I've got this idea for a song. Can you put some words to this?' That's the way it goes. What we're trying to do now is to get more shows on the road for us to keep alive, basically, because the past 3-4 years have been very very bad for bands of the 1980's, let's say, that style of music. It's no longer the flavor of the month, or whatever. There is an audience out there, but they're being neglected. It's very hard to convince promoters to actually put some money into a band that may not be AEROSMITH or whatever or may not be very very well known by everyone. As you said, you found out about my stuff a year ago. You know what I mean? So, it's just the way it is. The economy is crap. A lot of my friends, as I was saying to you earlier, they're just saying 'What do we do? We can't get any work.' A lot of people are doing sessions or getting themselves a regular job like a real person, you know, instead of playing at being a rock'n'roll star. That's the way it is.
AJ: I absolutely understand. The other night I saw in concert WHITESNAKE & here's David Coverdale, been around as long as you, played with the same guitar player even, & he's doing a show at a 1000 person venue. It's not an arena. He's not at Madison Square Garden where he might have been 20 years ago. I know you have said it in past interviews, you're honest enough with yourself to know you won't be playing in arenas again.
GRAHAM: Oh yeah, yeah.
AJ: I said at the beginning of this show, & I wasn't being mean but just making an observation, that I feel that you're under-appreciated or what people know you for is 30 years ago. That kinda ties into what you were saying, as you still have to make a living & tour & do stuff. You know, continue to get out there. When I say that you're under-appreciated, what's your thoughts on this & where things have gone & struggling as a musician now versus when you were whoever?
GRAHAM: I think a lot of it is my fault. I didn't stay with one project long enough. You know, the stint with RAINBOW. I was with RAINBOW for one album. I should have stayed for at least another 2 or something, but I got on this ego thing ... actually, it came to a disagreement between me & the band. Nothing was being productive. I sang on that first album [Down To Earth] & second album began & nothing was happening in rehearsal. So, I thought I could do something on my own. I wish that I'd stayed with RAINBOW longer & that's why I kinda disappeared into the great unknown. I was just becoming known by a brand new audience of real cool people that I'd never met before & meeting all these great musicians that I was blown away by. I'd always met people more in the pop side of the business, so to speak. It was an opportunity I blew. I should have stayed with them. ALCATRAZZ should have lasted longer when I put that band together. The Michael Schenker thing [Attack Assault] was a one-off again. One album in the studio. I never stuck with anything & people were kinda like, I guess, wondering where I'd gone to. I wondered where I'd gone to as well. I didn't know what to do. I was never satisfied. I think the thing that kinda made me uncomfortable & dissatisfied with the whole business was quiting RAINBOW when I did. Then maybe my name would be in people's minds & they would know me better than they do now. Whereas, what's happen is, with ALCATRAZZ, it's bred 2 guitar players that everybody knows about. That's Steve Vai & Yngwie Malmsteen. Instead of it being a band that kept my career going I kinda helped those guys. I was a stepping stone. ALCATRAZZ was a stepping stone for better careers for Steve & Yngwie, you know. I should have just hung in with other people longer than I did, but I was never quite sure what to do. I was always wanting to do something ... you know, something else & I wasn't sure what it was.
AJ: You're actually kinda answering a question I had or you're hinting at maybe an answer. As I was looking over your catalog, you've performed a lot with bands & you've done very few solo albums, versus someone like your successor in RAINBOW Joe Lynn Turner whose done lots of solo albums, or versus someone like David Coverdale whose basically been in one band, even though it has rotating members. You have pursued many directions & I was kinda wondering why you hadn't chosen a path of just Graham Bonnet solo albums or just ALCATRAZZ albums. I think you kinda hinted at dissatisfaction being there & wanting to explore new territories as the reason behind that, also just making a living.
GRAHAM: You have it so much safer being in a band. Then you don't have to take the blame if nobody likes the album. It's a scary thing to step out there on your own. Like The Day I Went Mad, that was all my own deal there in 1999. I got great players to come play on that album, but it was all my own songs, except for one, that's the Paul McCartney tune "Oh! Darling." That was it. That was the only cover on there, I think ... Oh no, there's 2 covers. Sorry. There's another one, "Don't Look Down" [by guitarist Mick Ronson]. Yet, there's safety in numbers, as they say. At the moment, as I said, it would be a luxury to do a solo album & do exactly what I wanted to do. But, I wonder if people would actually want to listen. I'm not sure anymore. Wondering if I have to stay with this kind of music, which I think I have to, which is like ALCATRAZZ, the ALCATRAZZ kind of sound, if there was one, if there is one. That kind of thing. Which is how I'm writing tunes now, which is very much in the style of ALCATRAZZ, but with a little twist here & there, bringing it into 2012 eventually. 2012 will be about the time we get the album done, I think. It's gonna take awhile. I mean, as I said, we have this stuff together for about 4 or 5 years now, ready to go. But, it's got to have ... to do an album for people to go 'Show me what else you can do, you know.' It would nice to have the elements of the old, so called old ALCATRAZZ sound, but with some new influences. You know something that suddenly takes a left turn when you think it's going to go straight on. Which I think happened with ALCATRAZZ when Steve joined the band. That was, in fact, my favorite album of ALCATRAZZ [Disturbing The Peace], was when he joined. It was just a little bit different. It wasn't your regular heavy metal, as it was called then, album. ... I think I've lost the thread of the question.
AJ: No, no, I'm enjoying listening to you. I have to be honest with you, I appreciate your candor. I really appreciate your honesty. There's a lot of musicians out there that go 'Well, yeah, you know, everything is great.' But, you're opening up & just saying what you feel & I know you do this in other interviews, too. You are telling your insecurities & as a fan that really means a lot to me to be able to share in that. It's not just about the music.
GRAHAM: As I said, I'm not going to be playing arenas anymore, even though I did 4 years ago when I went on a tour of Australia with a whole bunch of people that were on a TV show called Countdown, which I happened to host 10,000 years ago, twice, when I lived in Australia for a short time. Like all my early stuff, my solo albums, were like number one albums there, for some odd reason. Don't ask me why. We did actually play arenas. It was Rick Springfield, Doug Fieger of the KNACK. Poor Doug has died. I think it was 2 years ago now. Katrina of KATRINA & THE WAVES, Samantha Fox, the Australian band the ANGELS & a bunch of other Australian bands nobody would know about. But, we were playing every night to, I don't know, 30,000 people. Something like that. It was one of those magic moments when I ... it suddenly felt like I was back where I was before. It very much felt like American Idol. It was like an audition. 'Here I am.' Every night was like a huge stage, we had the same stage, tons of trucks & shit, you know, taken almost to every city in Australia. But, it was like being on American Idol, because it was almost like a talent show.
AJ: An audition 30 years after you got the gig.
GRAHAM: It's been a while since I've played such big places, you know. It just felt weird. But, I was at home, but at the same time it felt like I was auditioning all over again, you know.
AJ: Graham, the song that converted me to your voice was "Killer" from The Day I Went Mad. It's a new song for me, yet working on a couple decades ago in your career. When you listen to your own music, whether you chose to do it or are forced to do it like during interviews like this, whether it's early stuff or more contemporary stuff, what goes through your head?
GRAHAM: Well, that particular song reminds me of how many beers I drank that day! That was when I was drinking. I have been sober now for 8 years. I quit doing all that stuff. But, I remember doing "Killer" & Kevin Valentine was the drummer on the album & engineering. He was touring with CINDERELLA at one point. He's played with Lou Gramm & in the studio with KISS, as well. He's played with a lot of people. He was engineering & he did the whole album with me. He just said, 'You okay?', because at one point I suddenly stopped & I blacked out. I actually fell on the floor.
AJ: That's a good nostalgic memory!
GRAHAM: It was a wonderful day, what can I say! I ran out of air. I was like not taking a breath, because we're doing this damn song & there's high bits & low bits & whatever else. Suddenly he says, 'Are you still there?'. I had my headphones on & asked what happened. I fainted while I was doing that song. It's a very hard one to sing, but of course, that's me & my melodies. It's my own fault for making up that melody. I mean, what can I say? But, the song is about one of my heroes, Jerry Lee Lewis. He was called the Killer, you know.
AJ: I'll tell you, Graham, when I was listening to this album I was planning on writing a review of it for a blog I do, but I didn't want to go beyond this track. I'd heard 3 great songs & I knew that once I finished listening to the album the review would go up & I'd go on to the next album, of course. I didn't want the initial experience to end. I literally postponed writing the review for a month, until I could no longer keep the album a secret & had to share it with the world, just so I could stay in that listening place. If that's not a glowing review right there! I've listened to your other solo albums since then, but I think this is an absolute highlight for you in your solo work.
GRAHAM: I haven't heard it since I recorded it, to be honest with you. I never listen to my stuff.
AJ: You should listen to it again. I highly recommend it!
GRAHAM: You mentioned it again & I realized I'd forgotten how it went, the tune, the guitar solo. I just never listen to anything again, because you do the song over & over & over, as everybody knows. By the time you've got to the 20th take you've had enough & then you have to pick it to pieces & put it all together. That's the part that drives me nuts. So, I usually leave that somebody else. But, with this album I actually sat there with Kevin & I went through every vocal just to make sure it was how I wanted it to sound, because it was kinda my baby. But, it brings back many painful memories.
GRAHAM: But, I like it. They're nice painful memories. Nothing bad about it. We had fun doing it. It takes a lot of energy to do some of these songs. By the time you've sung it 20 times you just want to put your head down the toilet or something. But, with this, we left it for a week or whatever & then he came back & asked if I wanted to piece the vocals together. So, giving it a little bit of time off. Otherwise, you just get a headache & you don't want to hear the song ever again. So, once the thing was done & we put it together I never listened to it again.
AJ: When you're writing what motives you? How do you keep your music fresh?
GRAHAM: Well, it's just everyday experiences. As I said before, it's basically like being a country & western writer, like Chuck Berry's lyrics. There's something about Chuck Berry's words that always fascinated me. The way they sounded lyrically & the way they just rolled off your tongue.
AJ: Yeah, I know.
GRAHAM: There's something about his words. They're just magical, you know. I know John Lennon was a big fan of Chuck Berry. He said he was his idol.
AJ: I actually got to see Chuck Berry perform about 3 years ago here in NYC.
GRAHAM: You did?
AJ: I was watching him play & do all his stuff. I walked away, & I'll confess, it was almost orgasmic. It was unbelievable.
GRAHAM: Yeah, yeah!
AJ: I literally walked away & said 2 things to myself. First, he copped every Keith Richards lick out there ... you know, that's a joke.
GRAHAM: Yeah, I got it.
AJ: Second, I now understand the history of rock'n'roll.
GRAHAM: Oh yeah?
AJ: Listening to him it was like I'd heard everything since him. You know what I mean?
GRAHAM: Yeah, I do. The first song I remember playing when I was 16 or 17 was "No Particular Place To Go". The title itself I thought was intriguing. I mean, what weird title for a rock'n'roll song. The words, no particular place to go, that is so un-rock'n'roll. That it's like what the hell is this song about? Then I heard it & we, of course, played it in my little band. The words ... they're made ... I don't know what it is about the way he writes, but they just roll off your tongue & they sound so interesting. Because, they are! Because, they tell a story. Even "Johnny B. Goode", which everybody has done & everybody knows, but the words are great. You can just read the words & its poetry. I try tried to cop his style in the ALCATRAZZ years. So, he's been my idol. I always liked Ray Davies of the KINKS, as well. You know, "Lola" & all that stuff.
AJ: Whose your idols, Graham? Who do you turn to for inspiration?
GRAHAM: As I said, Chuck Berry. I love the BEACH BOYS. I love Brian Wilson. The way Brian Wilson puts together chords sequences. I saw Brian's Smile, when he had that album out. I went to see the concert in Australia. I came out of there just with goosebumps. I just said ... that's what ... I don't mean the surfing music. I mean the later Brian Wilson.
AJ: Like Pet Sounds.
GRAHAM: Yes, Pet Sounds & all that. Oh, man. I mean, those chords are so beautiful & the words are great. I saw that show. He basically redid parts of Smiley Smile, the original album. I just couldn't believe what I'd seen. The perfect singing from all the people he worked with. They all played different instruments. It was the best thing I'd ever seen in my life. I remember [late drummer] Cozy Powell & I ... when Cozy was in the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP we would be rehearsing, you know when we did the Assault Attack album, & Cozy would say 'You gonna come over to my house tonight?' So, I'd go over & he'd say 'Let's put some real music on.' Of course, he puts on the BEACH BOYS. That was his favorite band ever. Him & Jeff Beck love the BEACH BOYS. I couldn't believe that we all had the same ... you know, I was kinda shy to say I liked the BEACH BOYS. It was a bit like saying I like the PARTRIDGE FAMILY or something. It was so un-rock-n-roll, you know, but then suddenly Cozy cranks up Pet Sounds as we're driving home & we're just saying 'Listen to that ...' I mean, "God Only Knows" & all those songs. & the album Surf's Up. Have you heard that album? That's a really great album.
AJ: Remember, Graham, Paul McCartney has said it was Pet Sounds that inspired the creation of Sgt Pepper.
AJ: That album basically revolutionized music & that inspired the creation of how many bands? So, the BEACH BOYS. They are un-assuming, but it is amazing. That's one of my favorite albums.
GRAHAM: I just love the later albums. Carl & The Passions was another album. Though, all these guys are dead now, Carl [Wilson], the brothers. Those guys inspired me. The harmony side of it. I love harmonies. I like to do my own backing harmony & that kind of thing. They've always inspired me, ever since their earlier albums when they did like "Barbara Ann" or whatever. You know, those kind of songs. But, I've always been a harmony freak &, of course, later on when I met up with the BEE GEES in London. When we'd all get our acoustic guitars out we all sat around singing BEACH BOYS songs & Stevie Wonder songs. There were 2 things we used to play. Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb & Robin would sometimes be there, but usually me, Barry, Maurice & my cousin Trevor would sit around singing BEACH BOYS & Stevie Wonder. That was our thing to have fun at a party.
AJ: Graham, what have been some of the influences on you as a singer in terms of how you sing technically? Has there been any influences on that which have effected or changed the way you sing over the years?
GRAHAM: Yeah. The first people I listened to were people like Paul Anka from the 50's when I was a kid. I'd stand in front of the mirror lip-syncing to Paul Anka songs when I was 7. Then later on, because I had an older brother, he was a teenager & I was a little kid, but he brought home these records by Fats Domino & Little Richard. I love Little Richard. How does he make that sound with his voice? That rough, edgy, shouty, whatever it is he's got about him. He's one of my favorite singers. I love him. I love his phrasing. Again, he's just one of those guys that it just comes naturally to him. The way he did all his ad-libs were just like throwaways to him. It was nothing, because he was into church music, obviously. Who else do I ... ? People like the RONETTES, the CRYSTALS, FRANKIE LYMON & THE TEENAGERS, which is like the original JACKSON 5, I guess. Have you heard of them? Do you remember those guys?
AJ: I know who you're talking about.
GRAHAM: & Ronnie Spector. She always said, 'I always wanted to sing like Frankie Lymon.' So, she emulated his voice. That's where she got her style from. I always like Ronnie Spector, because we used to do, when I was playing in my little band in pubs & things when I was 16, we did a lot of RONETTES stuff. I found out later, Brian Wilson's daughter said something like 'You know what my dad plays every morning? "Be My Baby" on the piano. Every day.' So, Brian Wilson was a RONETTES fan, too. You can hear that in some of their earlier songs. There's very much a Phil Spector type thing going on there. But, then, of course, he developed his own style. He's one of those guys I would just love to sing more of his songs. You know, what I mean? I respect the guy to death. The BEACH BOYS are the American BEATLES, to me anyway. Not to everybody, I know.
AJ: I understand. I understand, totally.
GRAHAM: People tend to think of the BEACH BOYS as being the surfy thing. You know what I mean.
AJ: That's their stereotype, but when you really get into the history of music they are a necessary stepping stone as you discover the major influences in the history of music.
GRAHAM: Oh yeah. There's a lot of people, but as I said, a lot of the time I was influenced by girl bands. I don't know why. Probably because they were singing in my key. That's where all the high notes came from, I think. I'm not sure about that, but there was something about it. But, Frankie Lymon was like my hero. I thought he was great as a kid.
AJ: Do you listen to a lot of the new music out there? Do you keep your thumb on what's going on in the moment?
GRAHAM: Yes I do. I hear it, but I don't hear anything that grabs me & says 'That's something new.' I'd love to hear something new & I haven't heard anything. Everything is so damned processed at the moment. Everything is ProTools to death & auto-tuned. Blah blah blah. A lot of it sounds like elevator music to me. I hear some bands are influenced by LED ZEPPELIN or RAINBOW or DEEP PURPLE or whatever. I couldn't tell you all the bands names at the moment, but I hear that. You can tell they've been influenced by 1960's/70's bands. What's happening is a lot of distortion on the guitars & everything to make it sound a bit ... to make it interesting. A lot of not really very good singing. Whereas back then ... it sounds like I'm an old guy, doesn't it? But, back then there wasn't that trickery that there is now. So, if you have a crappy day singing you just auto-tune it. You can tell. Those kind of records I can't stand them. They just sound like commercials to me or something, for butter or something. But, it's very difficult for me to ... I want to hear something new like 100 years ago when QUEEN first came out. I was a BEATLES fan & that was it. There was no other band in the world. Then suddenly I heard QUEEN & I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I'd like to hear something like that again, that surprises me.
AJ: Maybe you have to be the one to create it?
GRAHAM: Well, shit! ... Your challenge for this week is ... !
AJ: I'm giving you some homework, Graham.
GRAHAM: Yeah, yeah, shit. If I could get some new ears to listen.
AJ: Let me ask you an easier question. Is there anyone out there who you'd like to work with but you haven't?
GRAHAM: Brian Wilson would be great, as I said. I'd love to work with him. Let me think. Jennifer Batten. Do you know her? She played guitar with Michael Jackson for years. She had to cop the Van Halen lick. She was very worried about that. She said she slowed it down & everything. I've been in touch with Jennifer for a few years now, but we've never worked together. I saw her 10 years ago. She did a little guitar clinic thing here in my area & I took my daughter down to see her. I said she had to meet this girl. She plays like Steve Vai, but it's a girl. So, we went along, got her autograph & photograph & all that. I've been speaking to Jennifer over the past year or so about doing something & she sent me stuff. But, because of the way things are ... she's having to work. She's gone back to Japan. She was over there when the tsunami hit, then she flew back here & then she went over for a benefit or something. But, now she has a manager who is a guiding her career & so she said to me 'I don't think this thing between you & I doing an album together is going to happen.' Obviously her manager has given her a new path to follow like managers do. 'You'll make more money on your own, baby. This is what you should do. Do this on your own. You'll be a star by yourself. Don't worry about it.' But, she's one person I've admired for a long time & she knows it. As I said, talked on the phone, e-mailed, over the years.
AJ: When you're not stressing out over having to make money & doing a new album, how does the non-performing Graham Bonnet do to relax or distract himself? Can you reveal the real person off the stage a bit?
GRAHAM: I'm just like everybody else. I mean, my dog died last year, but I used to take him for a walk everyday. I'm now divorced, unfortunately. I was married for 30 years. So I have my 11 year old daughter with me now. She stays with me on weekends & she'll come here after school during the week. But, during the week when she's at school I ride. I do a 2 hour bike ride every day. That is my sport. I've got a nice Trek bike & it weighs like nothing. It's my Lance Armstrong thing. I'm a rider. I've been riding for years. I used to ride in Australia. A guy made me a bike in Australia. I was in a junior cycling team there. So, that's what I do. I ride for about 2 hours every day & there's some tough hills out here. You know what California is like.
AJ: Do you write? Do you work on your music every day, & things like that?
GRAHAM: In my head on the bike.
AJ: I mean, do you sit down at a desk at some point & go 'Okay, it's 2 o'clock, time to work on some lyrics now.'
GRAHAM: Sometimes. But, I usually make up words when I'm on my bike. For instance, The Day I Went Mad album. All those words came to me while I was cycling. You're out there seeing the world & you're passing things & you see things & get inspired. Things come at your mind when you're exercising. I don't know why.
AJ: It's a physical thing with your head, I've read. When you're moving it actually settles the thoughts a little bit. It focuses you in. I've heard that many times.
GRAHAM: Yeah, yeah. Something sparks up in there. Suddenly an idea will come to me & I remember it & then I write it down when I get back. I don't actually sit down & actually write a tune in front of a tape machine or whatever ... but sometimes I do, especially if its somebody else's arrangement. Then, at night I will sit & play my guitar & think of how an arrangement should go or something. I play the guitar every day. With the other guys in the band I have to sit down with a recording device of some kind, headphones on, & think about words.
AJ: Speaking of which, we're nearly the end of our time together, Graham, & I want to make sure you talk or mention at least what you're currently working on. What projects are in the works that people can look forward?
GRAHAM: Okay. ALCATRAZZ is playing the House Of Blues in Hollywood with HURRICANE. We're also playing in San Diego. Those are 2 gigs that are coming up & we're trying to fill-up our daybook. Our dance card isn't very full at the moment. But, those are 2 gigs that are kind of exciting.
AJ: Is there an album in the future for ALCATRAZZ?
GRAHAM: There will be. But, at the moment I'm recording for some friends of mine & the album is sort of a rock opera. It's called Lyraka [i.e. Lyraka Volume 1 & also on Volume 2]. That is something I'm starting on now. There's 6 tracks I have to sing on. Then eventually get around to doing the ALCATRAZZ thing, one day. The songs are there. It's just a matter of standing in front of a microphone & doing it.
AJ: & not passing out.
GRAHAM: I maybe will, but that's the way life is with me, you know.
AJ: Graham, is there anything more you'd like to share?
GRAHAM: Is the rapture coming? I think it's going to be a rupture?
AJ: If it's coming then I guess this is your last interview.
GRAHAM: Do you have your ticket? I've got an all access backstage pass.
AJ: Graham, I have to tell you how pleased I am to have spent an hour with you. You have my absolute thanks.
GRAHAM: You're welcome, Aaron. My son's called Aaron, by the way.
AJ: I think you've done some great work over the past 40 years or more.
GRAHAM: 40 years.
AJ: I'm sorry, making you sound old again.
GRAHAM: I don't think I'm ever going to get old. I've made my mind up. Something that other people do.