Showing posts with label Entertainment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Entertainment. Show all posts

Friday, May 25, 2012

Exclusive: Frank Marino legendary guitarist “I can’t play guitar without severe pain”

 By Ray Shasho

Frank Marino is an invigorating virtuoso and champion guitar slinger who is also considered to be among the greatest players of all-time. The Montreal native and his assiduous band Mahogany Rush were one of the elite monster rock acts throughout the 70s.
The band performed on several prestigious television music shows including Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and Burt Sugarman’s The Midnight Special hosted by the notorious Wolfman Jack. Marino jokingly stated in this interview that Mahogany Rush was mysteriously omitted from the Midnight Special DVD collector video library released to the public.
Mahogany Rush also played for more than 300,000 people at California Jam II in 1978. The televised concert featured Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, Santana, Dave Mason, Foreigner, Heart, Bob Welch (with Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood), Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush and Rubicon.
Mahogany Rush was managed by Steve Leber and David Krebs, who also handled Aerosmith and Ted Nugent. Some of the bands most significant releases include, Maxoom, Child of the Novelty, Strange Universe, Mahogany Rush IV, World Anthem, Live, Tales of the Unexpected, What’s Next, From the Hip, Dragonfly(The best of  Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush), Eye of the Storm, and Real Live!(double live album).
The Sicilian -Syrian Marino captured the essence of Jimi Hendrix early on in his career. Rock and roll urban legend suggests that when Marino was a teen he was visited by an apparition of Jimi Hendrix after a bad LSD trip, which led to the spirit of Hendrix entering Marino’s body and bestowing his ability to play the guitar. Marino renounces the fabrication and says Hendrix was still alive while he was in the hospital recuperating from the LSD trip. But he did learn to play the guitar while recovering.
Frank Marino was widely recognized throughout his career as a master for performing Hendrix cover tunes. Marino’s cover versions were impeccable and audiences globally would ultimately embrace them. His cover tunes were commercially successful (“Roadhouse Blues” The Doors, “All Along the Watchtower,” “Purple Haze” Jimi Hendrix) but Marino was never pleased about his original material receiving virtually no airplay on FM radio.
Marino retired from the music business but returned in 2001, largely galvanized by his fan base. Most recently Frank Marino has been suffering from adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder) and gradually recuperating. The condition usually resolves itself within one or two years but restricts mobility and can generate intense pain. Marino is receiving extensive physiotherapy. The condition began after Marino spent tedious immeasurable hours in his studio editing a meticulous task.
I had the great privilege of chatting with Frank Marino recently from his home in Montreal Canada about his current physical condition, the future of Mahogany Rush, and since it’s the NHL playoffs … a little hockey.
I found Marino to be fascinating, sociable, sympathetic, righteous and profound. He’s also just a genuine, down to earth, nice guy.
Here’s my interview with legendary guitar wizard/ singer/ songwriter/hockey aficionado/theology writer /Frank Marino.
Ray Shasho: Frank thank you for being on the call today. The tape is rolling … (Laughing)
Frank Marino: “I’m glad you’re doing this on tape because I can’t stand emails.”
Ray Shasho: Being from Montreal are you a big hockey fan?
Frank Marino: “I’m an extremely big hockey fan! I’ve been a fan since 1955. I was a Montreal Habs fan until 1989, then stopped being a Habs fan and started becoming an everything hockey fan. I just love the game and it doesn’t really matter who’s playing as long as they’re playing it right. You can play hockey right and you can play hockey wrong and I don’t like teams who do it the wrong way.”
Ray Shasho: Frank, what do you consider playing hockey the wrong way?
Frank Marino: “The wrong way would be not paying attention to the details of the game. Not having passion for playing the game. I’m not a big fan of east-west style hockey, when you’re not going directly north and south to the net. Growing up in Montreal … the way to play hockey was to drive the net and you check … basically football on ice.”
Ray Shasho: You’re half Syrian? My father’s family was Syrian Jews. And of course they had to get the heck out of Syria and finally came to America in the early 1900’s via Ellis Island.
Frank Marino: “My mother is Christian Syrian and my father was Sicilian. Believe it or not my grandmother had to get the heck out of Syria because she was a Syrian Christian. It wasn’t just the Syrian Jews who had the problem. But we’re Orthodox Christian from Antioch. My mother actually speaks Ancient Aramaic … we’re a very biblical family. Our original church is in Antioch Syria, the first church established outside of Jerusalem over a thousand years ago.”
Ray Shasho: A lot of rock bands have incorporated Arabic rhythms into many of their songs; Led Zeppelin was a good example.
Frank Marino: “I do a lot of music like that myself. I use to play Arabic music for my grandmother when she was alive. When I was very young I was a drummer … from the time I was five years old into my teens, and then picked it up again later on after my 30’s. But being a drummer you can’t help being attracted to that type of music, it was all beat related. And there are nuances to that kind of drumming. Often times in a pop tune we go very clearly from a verse to a chorus with a big change. In Arabic music they also go through changes but they’re very subtle changes in the tempo and timing and as a drummer I find that very interesting.”
Ray Shasho: I heard that you write Theology?
Frank Marino: “I’m a Religious guy; into Theology and study it quite a bit including Hebrew and Judaism.”
Ray Shasho: What led you towards that direction … was there a calling at some point in your life?
Frank Marino: “It was a long time ago, don’t forget we grew up as hippies in the 60s and after that culture we have to find ourselves. And a lot of people from the 60s will tell you, I spent a lot of time to try and find myself … well that’s what I found… I found that. It’s been forty years now that I’ve been doing this. But I live it and not just write about it. I live it on a very daily basis and have done so for decades. But the stuff I write is somewhat philosophical and mostly related to my understanding of ancient scripture including Hebrew scripture.”
Ray Shasho: How do you find the time to write and study Theology and then play rock and roll?
Frank Marino: “I’m a bit under pressure right now because I damaged my shoulder and really badly actually. It’s called adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder. Mahogany Rush did a show in Cleveland on December 12th and 13th at the Agora, and I’d never done a DVD, I waited ten years to finally do a DVD. The reason I waited was because I didn’t like or believe in them, and just don’t like the way they’re done. It’s too much selling and not enough art. I always wanted to do a different kind of DVD and finally found my chance to do it. The video crew for Bruce Springsteen just happened to be fans of mine and they offered their services to come and shoot this thing for me. We shot a twelve hour concert and basically we booked the place for two nights. One night was the Soundcheck, the next day from noon to midnight was the show… and we played everything. We didn’t stop, only had two breaks, but pretty much played all day. We filmed it all on seven cameras and very professionally on a really good looking DVD, which I had to assemble on some form of condensed show.”
“When I got home on the fourteenth of December … that was in 2010, and when I checked on the multitrack audio… the drums was damaged, the audio was damaged, because of a problem in the recording that no one had noticed. So I was left with a magnificent video shoot and no audio. So the only answer was to go into and find each beat that was damaged and replace them one by one. So that’s what I started doing on the fourteenth of December… and it’s like changing every blade of grass on your lawn one by one with a fork. So I started on the fourteenth of December and was so determined to do it that I sat for almost fifteen hours a day, seven days a week, until the next August. And what happened was I froze up my shoulder on the right side and didn’t realize what I was doing. I thought well… my shoulder is hurting me because I had a hard day but it got worse and worse.”
“It’s called frozen shoulder and what happens is the whole shoulder freezes up and you lose all your motion and the pain becomes unbearable. Then the rest of your muscles in your neck and back try to compensate and they become unbearable. Really the only way around it is to stop doing what you were doing and go to physiotherapy and restretch it out until it goes back to normal, but it can take one to three years to come back. I’m a year removed from it now, I stopped working on the video in September and I’ve only got five songs left. (Laughing) I’m hoping to get back to it by this summer. Only five tunes left and there’s like sixty.”
“Now I’ve restored motion to my arm and at least I can move it. I’ve got 50% movement in the arm. I can’t play guitar …I can’t put my arm around the body of the guitar. To play the guitar your elbow has to extend out from your body and that’s one of the motions I can’t do without serious pain. I get physiotherapy four days a week. The doctors say it will take one to three years to fully recoup the shoulder …it’s been a year now. Although I have movement … I haven’t lost the pain. I’m in constant pain 24/7.”
“Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to work soon, and once I finish the DVD… somehow package it, get out on the road again and do a few gigs.”
Ray Shasho: Frank, is there a way to hire a producer to finish the editing?
Frank Marino: “To tell you the truth Ray, there’s not a human being in the world that can do the kind of editing that I do. And I mean that sincerely and not giving myself credit. The system that I practically invented to do this kind of replacement  … there is nobody that can do it, in fact I did speak with a bunch of people who are professionals at doing these things and every one of them said, forget it throw it away you’re not going to be able to do this. But I did, and probably because I’m an editor and a drummer and I really understand what I’m hearing. But you have to understand the drum tracks that we’re dealing with here …it’s not as if we simply have a drum track that sounds bad, we have a drum track that in some places it has completely disappeared. And when it hasn’t disappeared it sounds like an iPhone. So I have to basically discern exactly what the drummer is playing on every single strike and then I have to discern how hard he hit it, which drum he hit, and with which nuance, and I have to redo that and fix each piece one by one. I’m not improving anything just resurrecting it, kind of like restoring a painting. If it was just an album, I could just get the drummer to come back and play it again, but we can’t because he’s on video.”
Ray Shasho: When do you think the release date of the DVD might be?    
Frank Marino: “I had hoped to have it done by last December and that’s why I was working like a maniac. Now it could take till next December or longer. But I can tell you this …the video looks magnificent. And I hope people like it because it’s the only DVD I’m ever going to do. (All Laughing)”
Ray Shasho: I loved those late night music shows in the 70’s that spotlighted the greatest artists of the decade … ABC’s In Concert, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. And I remember a particular episode of The Midnight Special that featured Dickey Betts, Elvin Bishop and Charlie Daniels Band. Then this hard rock band appeared and completely blew away the audience. I’ll never forget the look on their faces when Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush took the stage.
Frank Marino: “I remember that very well and I’ll tell you why… they had this host called Wolfman Jack and we did our version of Johnny B Goode, and my version of Johnny B. Goode  is anything but the 50s rock and roll style, and it’s really unpolished, fuzzy, and distorted, and it’s got guitar solos in it. And after we did that he wanted to sing a verse of Johnny B. Goode while they went to commercial, and we had to go back to the tune and play Go Johnny Go, Go, Go  while he stood there and sang Go Johnny Go, Go, Go and I thought it was really hokey. It was really weird…. I thought I was in some strange dream; normally I wouldn’t do something like that.  Did you ever notice something Ray… they came out with this Midnight Special DVD package set and I’m the only guy not on it? I’m not on it man …everybody else is but me. (Laughing)”
“Well … I guess I never joined the party and sort of marched to my own drum. I don’t care about money, don’t have any, and don’t want any. And I certainly don’t care about fame… I really don’t like it. It goes against my religion to be famous. I’m just a guy who plays music and I got lucky, and people happened to see me, and people happened to like what I do. I certainly don’t take it seriously as if I’m saving the world with my music. I mean for crying out loud we’re not curing cancer here we’re just playing guitar. The only difference that I make by making a record, a video, or playing live, is that some people for the duration of that song or live show … have a good time. And that’s really the best way to make a difference. I think we’re all in this to have fun.”
Ray Shasho:I watched an interview you did that talked about commercial radio not playing any of your music unless it was one of your cover tunes.
Frank Marino: “As far as radio was concerned …it never really liked me. I had one #1 hit on the radio and it was called “Strange Dreams.” Then on the very year that I had the #1 hit, and after twelve years of the record company telling me… if you’d only get one hit everything will work … I left the record company and quit the business. Then I decided not to work with a major again and never did. My old band members got mad at me and they all ended up quitting because I wasn’t going to pursue it. So that’s just the way I am. I’m very happy that way, no regrets and I’m not bitter. And I thank God every day that he didn’t make me rich.”
“In 1989, I bought myself a studio. I went to the old studio that had all my old 24 track masters of all the records that I had done since Maxoom, all the way through Juggernaut. I went to get all my tapes over 600 of them and I found out that day some girl at the studio had been selling those tapes at night to bands to record on. My entire catalog of everything that I ever recorded was wiped out and does not exist. After I’m long gone there will be no history of my work except whatever was on the vinyl. That has never happened to a musician in the history of music. There isn’t a single musician in the history of rock music that hasn’t got their masters. My whole life was wiped out.”
Ray Shasho: I grew up in the Washington DC area and rock stations would religiously play your version of “Roadhouse Blues.”
Frank Marino: “See what I mean … another cover. “I’m A King Bee,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Roadhouse Blues,” “Purple Haze,”  “All Along The Watchtower” and that’s what was on the radio…it’s unbelievable and I think we had a lot of other stuff that could have done really well …even on that radio format.”
Ray Shasho: How was your relationship with Columbia Records?
Frank Marino: “The business people who found me and said oh boy we can make money with this kid …they would have liked me to be more proactive in terms of selling and caring about marketing. I was always at odds with them, always at war with them, because they wanted me to act like I wasn’t me and I wouldn’t do it …and I’m stubborn so it created problems. I got out of there as soon as the contract was over; it was just not for me. I once said to one of the big honcho’s at Columbia, you’re always boasting that you have 162 artists, because that’s how many they had, but all of our industry is based on the Top10. So if you’re happy with your artists being in the Top 10, that means there are 152 guys you don’t care about. Why are you signing with them just let them go. The thing that was wrong with our industry was Top 10 …Top 10 ...Top 10 to the exclusion of all else. Just because something is the Top 10 seller it’s not the Top 10 best. So a lot of guys with a lot of dreams got short shrifted by these people who basically paid all the attention to the Top 10 and in fact took the money from the lower 52 to boost the Top 10.”
Ray Shasho: Do you have children Frank?
Frank Marino: “I have three daughters … 18, 16 and 13. They’ve been on the road with me and involved in music with me since the day they were born… all three of them. They all became musicians and just on their own. My oldest daughter does classical voice, piano, clarinet, and writes symphonies. The middle one is the guitarist and the youngest one is going to be another guitarist. I was a cool dad. I was the type of dad that would say don’t go to school today. I’d take them on the road, take them all over the world, and they still got 90s and are honor students. This was the rule in my house Ray … when the kids came home from school I’d say no homework till you had fun. I’ve always had a kind of loose outlook about it and they turned out really good. I always joked that God brought up my kids and I didn’t because I would have failed miserably.” 
Ray Shasho: Are you friends with fellow Canadian rock musicians?
Frank Marino: “I’m friends with everybody … but the only one I speak with on a call up basis is Myles Goodwyn of April Wine because I go back with him since 1971, and also the guys who were the original musicians in that band. Anybody else …Rush or other Canadian bands, certainly if I bump onto them it’s “Hey Frank how are you, are you working?” and that kind of thing. But I wouldn’t say that we’re on the telephone or anything.”
“But I’m kind of recluse, not because I’m paranoid or anything, I’m just not interested in going anywhere. (All laughing) I’ve got three daughters that love me and I love them, a wife that loves me and I love her, my mother lives next door… why do I want to go anywhere. I’m surrounded by females that cater to me and there’s nothing better in the world then that. Ask any guy that question.”
Ray Shasho: You were one of the first guitarists to start playing Hendrix style music after his passing.
Frank Marino: “I was the first guy in history literally to take public what Jimi Hendrix was doing other than Jimi Hendrix. There was no other guy before me… and I was only 16 years old… and I was Canadian …and I was white …and I played an SG. So it was like no, no, no, no. Then they invented these stories about reincarnation.”
Ray Shasho: Frank, talk about how Jimi Hendrix visited you as an apparition and entered your body … urban legend?
Frank Marino: “This stuff was invented by Circus Magazine and Creem Magazine. I went to the hospital in 1968 and Jimi Hendrix didn’t die till 1970. I told them where are you getting this reincarnation thing, where was he if he was supposed to be in my body for two years. So this story filtered when we started to get known and every single show I went to …I’m telling you Ray… with the exception of two or three bands …I was completely shunned. No one would talk to me. I had the same management as Aerosmith and Nugent for seven years and those guys didn’t start talking to me for three years. In 1971, one year after the death of Hendrix, I played on a float, a parade to commemorate his death. I played for three hours on a float across the city doing nothing but his tunes. And it was almost like … how dare you? You can’t do that. I use to say this …I even got the old article… "You’re condemning me for doing this now, but one day this style of guitar will be the way that everyone will be judged by." And it is. It became true.”
Ray Shasho: What did you think about playing at California Jam II?
Frank Marino: “I hated Cal Jam. It was the complete microcosm of everything I thought was wrong with the rock and roll concert. All the bands there had a great time, I know they did I watched it, but I was backstage just feeling like I want to go home. Because from my point of view it was Entertainment Tonight, I hated it. I didn’t hate the gig …I hated leading up to the gig. I played at one o’clock in the morning and had to play after Aerosmith. At the end of Cal Jam when I did my encore (I played for ninety minutes) … what do you think was shown when they finally put it on TV?  …“Purple Haze!”  I played for ninety minutes and they showed “Purple Haze” which was my second encore. At the end of “Purple Haze” I played the Mickey Mouse theme. And that’s what I thought of the show. It was anything but the highlight in my life.”
Ray Shasho: I realize you’ve been more or less sidelined and in serious pain … but what’s next Frank?
Frank Marino: “I did a song for this local singer, she’s actually American but she’s become very famous here in Quebec, her name is Nanette Workman. She asked me to play guitar on one of her tunes in which she did a cover of “Wild Horses” by The Stones. So she asked me to play in Quebec City at a big show and come play the song. So I told her yea even though I’m not in shape to do it. So I’m hoping by July 15th I’ll be okay to just play one song. I think I can probably play one song. So there’s no plan right now until (A) I get better (B) I finish the DVD and then will see what’s going to transpire.”
Ray Shasho: Thank you Frank for being on the call today and for all the great music you gave us over the years. We wish you well and a speedy recovery! We’re also looking forward to the DVD and future concert dates from Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush.
Frank Marino: “Thanks Ray … please stay in touch.”

Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush official website
Purchase Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush music at  or

Coming up nextHappy Together Tour 2012 including recent interviews with Micky Dolenz of the Monkees and Gary Puckett of The Union Gap.

Contact Ray Shasho at
Order author/columnist Ray Shasho’s amazing memoir ‘Check the Gs’ The True Story of an Eclectic American Family and Their Wacky Family Business at or Download on Kindle or Nook for Only .99 cents!Normalcy is a myth and anyone who tells you differently isn't very normal. "Check the Gs" is a memoir from Ray Shasho who tells of his own offbeat upbringing working in the family business art gallery, from a young age. Of Cuban and Syrian descent, he tells a very American story of coming from everything, seeing everything, walking the line of the law and much more. A fun and fast paced memoir, "Check the Gs" is a worthwhile addition to many a memoir collection. ~~ MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

INTERVIEW: Billy Sherwood discusses the Progressive Rock of CIRCA… ‘And So On’

 By Ray Shasho

Remarkably this article fits the criteria for both Classic Rock and Classic TV.

CIRCA’s latest release is a powerful musical deliberation constructed by four gifted artists. CIRCA’s YES affiliations have not restricted their creativity and willingness to develop their own sound. And So On is the band’s third release and greatest innovative achievement to date.

The band was formed by Tony Kaye and Billy Sherwood in 2007. Kaye was the original Yes keyboardist from (1968-1971) and Sherwood was asked to replace lead vocalist Jon Anderson when he and Trevor Rabin left the band but was uncomfortable with the idea. After Engineering/Producing the Keys to Ascension albums, Sherwood was asked to be an official YES member and played on three albums. The multi-instrumentalist Sherwood played guitar and keyboards on stage with YES on tour.

CIRCA features the alluring lead vocals and Squire-like bass playing of Billy Sherwood, Tony Kaye’s masterful execution on organ and keyboards, Johnny Bruhns licks of complexity on guitar and Scott Connor’s barrage of reason on drums. CIRCA’s debut album originally featured Alan White of YES on drums.
Their latest collaboration is how I describe, “The more you listen to it -The more you want to listen to it.” There are delightful YES similarities on the title track “And So On” and "'Til We Get There” with astonishing parallel to Chris Squire and Steve Howe.
But for most of the tracks it’s pure CIRCA magic. “Cast Away” is a bewitching masterpiece capturing lyrics of life’s mysteries and the bands artistry performing in progressive conformity.

“Halfway Home” is a tune that should definitely find its way on the playlists of contemporary radio.
The haunting “In My Sky” is a beautiful heartfelt composition. Sherwood’s voice is breathtaking with delightful connotations to Peter Gabriel and Steve Winwood’s John Barleycorn.

“True Progress” is an incredible compilation showcasing the ingenuity of what defines CIRCA and their track “Each To His Own” will soothe the psyche with inspirational messages dealing with the puzzle of life.
And So On by CIRCA is a breath of fresh PROG. An incredible composition performed by gifted instrumentalists.

Billy Sherwood was born in Las Vegas Nevada and into a showbiz family of talented musicians. His father was big band leader/musician/actor Bobby Sherwood -his mother Phyllis was a singer and a drummer and his brother Michael a singer and keyboardist. Now if that hadn’t convinced anyone that they were indeed a showbiz family how about the fact that his Godfather was legendary comedian Milton Berle.

I had the opportunity to chat with Billy last week.
Here’s my interview with record producer/engineer/songwriter/vocalist/muti-instrumentalist/musician Billy Sherwood.

Billy, thank you so much for being on the call today.

“Right on Bro and I appreciate the time.”

It’s ironic and I really didn’t plan it this way but I just published an article regarding the collaboration of Tony Levin, David Torn and your ex YES and CIRCA bandmate Alan White. And several weeks ago I interviewed Jon Anderson, so it’s been EVERYTHING YES. 

“You’re on the YES Roundabout.”
(All laughing)

I’ve noticed a lot more collaborations like that between seasoned musicians as of late. Are they trying to mesh and see if they’ll produce a hit album or just doing it for fun?   

“Musicians all want to play and the kind of musicians that we’re talking about here are always looking to push the envelope and to do something different and unique and not get into a rut and play the same stuff every night so I think that always sparks the interest to do something different and explore other areas and obviously when you get guys that who we’re talking about something unique and great is going to happen.
I think it’s just the act of being a musician wanting to push forward in your music you’re always trying to look for the next thing and keep going. That’s how I feel about it and I’m sure others do as well because it’s happening as you said.”

What bands influenced you into becoming a musician?

“Well my first real memory of getting into bands or following music was kind of R&B rooted stuff like Earth Wind & Fire, The Ohio Players and kind of what was grooving on the radio in Vegas at that point when I was a kid and I fell in love with the rhythms and the styles and got way into it. Earth Wind and Fire was the first concert that I saw and then my musical horizons expanded and I started exploring YES music and fell in love with that and obviously out of all the music I loved growing up that was the most influential and the most closest to my heart as a fan long before I joined the band.

Then through friends and the like minded musical friends discovered Genesis and Peter Gabriel, UK, Return to Forever and Mahavishnu and you know the list is ginormous. And that’s what my roots are founded in that kind of stuff and for me now and at present I draw on those emotions and those musical memories to pull things now and use right now and present and I’m glad that I have that Well to draw from because music today is not designed nearly at all like the music was designed in the past some of that stuff is just remarkably musical and great.

And it’s funny playing this kind of music Prog as we do -we just got back from Mexico where we did some shows had some fun playing our new album and in the crowd were some kids from the university there. They had no idea really who we were and what this was about and they were way too young to even know. But by the time it was over they were just devout and into it and we’re with you we’re telling all of our friends and it just illustrates the point that music is timeless and ageless and you know if you can get the music in front of a generation that normally you would be told they’ll never like that well they actually ended up liking it and it changes their whole world. It’s cool to know that it still can happen that way and it can happen that way and it is happening that way.”

Musicians nowadays have to basically promote themselves over the internet and become entrepreneurs to have any chance of being noticed, any words of wisdom for musicians trying to make it?

“I get asked all the time by younger musicians and this guy in Mexico asked me after the show turned on to CIRCA and you know was really freaking out over it he said “What would be your best advice to me growing up and trying to be a musician?” I said don’t listen to what anyone tells you about the kind of music you make. Just make it! Be yourself, make your own music and be totally true to your art because it’s kind of a selfish thing to be an artist I mean you lock yourself in a room you want to make your music and you don’t want to be bothered and it’s a selfish act and then you release it to the world which is the most unselfish act but when you do that you have to be prepared for the good the bad and the ugly and you have to let your music be true and then people who want to adopt it as that they take it on and they love it and it changes their world and then of course you get people who aren’t buying in but at the end of the day if your true to yourself you can move forward you can succeed you can start gaining your own ground and the internet has totally allowed people to do that.”

I know you’re a multi-instrumentalist but what was the first instrument you first learned to play when you were a kid?

“I started playing drums at a pretty early age because my parents were musicians. My dad was an amazing multi-instrumentalist and I can play a lot of instruments but my dad actually played all the instruments I could play and then added another twenty five or thirty five different categories on there he was incredible. He got an act actually in Vegas my parents Bobby and Phyllis Sherwood.”

Yea, your dad was a famous guy didn’t he work on the film Pal Joey with Frank Sinatra?

“He was bandleader on Pal Joey and he’s had many-many albums out and you know I’ve got this amazing set of 78 wax records battle of the bands with my dad’s band and Dizzy Gillespie and Artie Shaw so it’s very cool to see all that stuff and that’s a whole other thing and a whole other kind of music that is amazing. My mother by proxy of working with my dad she was an entertainer, she was a singer, dancer and an amazing drummer and she played drums with my dad’s act and by virtue of watching her as a little kid I started sitting behind the kit and she sat behind me and explained that the foot goes on one and three and the snare on two and four and off we went. So I learned to play from her and drums have been my first instrument and are a passion of mine and have been ever since.
But it was an interesting way to grow up seeing that lifestyle and it kind of became my lifestyle by virtue of continuing on the same path.”

I read somewhere that your Godfather was the legendary Milton Berle?

“Yea my Godfather was Milton and he was a really good friend of my dad’s and my dad actually has a star on Hollywood and Vine here in Hollywood from whatever year it was when television was first born and the Milton Berle show was one of the first shows on TV and my dad was one of the costars on the show and they became friends and Milton became my Godfather by virtue of that relationship.”

Did you get to see Uncle Miltie very much?

“That’s Godfather Miltie to you.”
  (All laughing)

“At the time of my growing up a lot of my youth growing up was in Vegas because my parents were working there during that heyday I don’t know if you ever saw the movie Casino but that was the era that my dad and mom were kind of there it was a crazy time. Anyway I would see Milton when he came into town and of course my parents would see him and I’d be coming along but I hadn’t seen him in a long-long time and so I think it was 1984 or something like that I was rehearsing at a studio working on trying to get a record deal and we were working on some demos at a studio called The Complex here in LA so we had amazing recording facilities and then had a huge video film shoot production sound stage.

Someone came in and said, “Dude your Godfather is down the hall he’s making a TV Special.” So me and my brother went down the hallway and we see his dressing room and we knock on the door and he says, “Come on in!” and we open the door he turns around and goes, “Guys how are you?” and he’s in full drag with red lipstick, the hair, the eyeliner, the shoes and he was just such a wonderful dude and just gave us a big hug and just extremely warm obviously he and my father were extremely close. But I’ll never forget that image and that was the last time that I saw him.”

I’ve followed Progressive Rock bands since I was 13 years old, I’m 52 now. CIRCA’s latest rendition And So On has all the components of a classic Prog Rock album. You knew there would be YES connotations but CIRCA definitely reinvented itself on And So On.  I thoroughly enjoyed the CD and to be perfectly honest can’t stop listening to it. 

“When we started this thing CIRCA many years ago now the obvious comparisons were going to come no matter what we did because we had me Tony(Tony Kaye) and Alan(Alan White) in the same band. At the time we may have outnumbered the real YES members in their band. (Laughing)

So the obvious comparisons are really common and I understood that and it’s cool it is what it is and I explained then the idea is not hey here we are let’s write YES music –no, the idea is let’s write music that flows. And the result of being who we are and doing what we do it kind of comes out in that vibe.
The second album with Jay Schellen adding a different twist and everything like that it sort of evolved into a different level of CIRCA and now with this new third record it kind of found its own and I kind of feel the same way about it that others do including yourself and other people I’ve spoken to where its really clicked into its own sound as a CIRCA sound now and I’m quite happy about that and very proud of the record.
I’ve been trying to make records you know I describe it almost like a movie for your ears where it’s a little unconventional in its shape and form but there’s something that’s intriguing in keeping you wanting to wait and see the next frame of film except in here what’s coming around the corner for your ears.”

Talk about the origins of the song “Castaway.”

“I lost a very-very close dear friend of mine who I’ve known for 30 years and it hit me quite hard. Usually I’m not getting into that in my music I kind of keep it in a different place but it started seeping into some of these lyrics and concepts and I just started thinking about life and we all do as we get older but when something like that happens it really makes you stop and take the count. And the song is just a reflection it’s a metaphor for life is like a rollercoaster you know and at the start it’s a fun adventure and it looks like it’s going to be really exciting you get to the top where you’re peaking and you’re doing your thing and then there’s the back half of life that comes at you. And so I started thinking about all those things in a way where it really seeped into all of the lyrical content. At the end of the day that whole experience I just described for me personally it’s a beautiful thing because that’s what life is about it’s the whole thing.

So the song reflects the idea that eventually we come in alone we take the journey and we go out alone and it’s kind of its own serene sort of beautiful thing and along the way the other metaphor the castaway is always someone who is alone on an island somewhere and that is the metaphor for the song that even though we are all interrelated closely we actually come and go alone and that’s the idea.”

And positivity is definitely the only way we can make it through the journey.

“That’s the whole theme of the album really the title itself basically means just keep going as I said don’t pay attention to what anyone is telling you about your personal journey just keep going because that’s what it’s all about. It is a positive message in that regard.

I’ve got to say the song “In My Sky” from the new album was my personal favorite, it really blew me away.

“It’s funny you mention that because “In My Sky” was the precursor to writing “Castaway” I mean when I spoke to this friend of mine he knew he was going and he kept telling me, “I’m going” and I kept being in the denial thing you’re not and finally as it got near its end I started realizing no he is and it freaked me out. It’s hard to even talk about now. That song is a result of that easing stone call and it’s very heavy.”

It’s a very special song and I definitely felt the vibes. I can’t help but hear a hint of Steve Winwood and John Barleycorn in the song.
I definitely hear Chris Squire when you’re playing the bass on other songs on the album.

“Well that’s going to be in there, I had the luxury of looking over his left shoulder if memory serves for several years and picking up a few tricks.”

I understand you and Chris Squire had a great relationship?

“Yea, we were friends and very tight for a long-long time. We had a lot of great laughs and great times and serious times and taking care of business times and all those things that go with a relationship that I never imagined that I’d have quite frankly because Chris was one of my heroes growing up. And then life is life and you know you go through things and your business ties into what you’re trying to do and things happen. He found himself moving back to England and reforming a different band and I found myself staying here and reforming CIRCA and one thing leads to another but we definitely had some great times that I’ll never forget.”

You mentioned CIRCA played some dates in Mexico is CIRCA officially on tour?

“We’re on tour as gigs are coming out; we are in a live mode. We just did two shows one in Mexicali September 3rd and the next night in Ensenada on September 4th and we now have a little string of shows here for the Southern California area on October 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th. There’s some other gigs coming in November Tony Kaye and I have this two man show that we’ve kind of created that’s accidentally you know been asked to come back for a second round in Japan we went there not too long ago and the promoter called us and asked do you want to come back in November. So we’re going to take that back to Japan in November and when we come back I think CIRCA’s got some stuff brewing on the east coast in December. So I can’t say it’s the world tour but it’s more like yea we’re getting gigs which are a good thing. I’m cautiously optimistic that it looks like we’re gaining the momentum that I’ve been trying to get going here for awhile. So with the support of the fans it will start building more momentum.”

Don’t forget about Florida when you guys are touring.

“One of the interesting things that came about this year was working with John Wetton who is amazing and making the Raised in Captivity record here with him and you know he’s getting ready I believe to do some shows with his band playing that stuff. And so I’m hoping in a perfect world perhaps we could join forces and maybe have CIRCA and his band play some shows back east. It’s nothing official but I’m definitely putting it in people’s ears as an idea.

About John Wetton’s record (Raised in Captivity) there’s a lot of cool lyrics on there that are very deep that are written by him and very personal and everything and there are also a lot of amazing guest artists Eddie Jobson, Steve Morse, Tony Kaye is on there, Geoff Downes, bunch of cool guys.”

You and Tony Kaye seem to also have a great relationship.

“Tony is my Bro we’ve been buddies for a long time I mean literally since I met him and we’ve never had a cross word or a conversation that hasn’t been like I hear you I know what you mean. So very much kindred souls I guess. And I’ve always respected his playing immensely and when we toured with YES I got to tour with them the first time on the Talk tour I gained an even deeper respect for him and we just became friends. And I dragged him as he will tell you out of retirement to play on a few tribute records and he said, “I don’t know man” and I said I’m coming over I don’t really care. And he did it and smoked it. And then one thing led to another and I said are you inspired to do anything and he said, “I’d love to.” So the inspiration took over and we started CIRCA.

Tony Kaye was so important to the foundation of YES.

“We do this medley man in the CIRCA set as a homage to his early YES moment where we play this chronological instrumental thing that starts with 1968 and goes all the way to 1972 and it’s got some great T. Kaye Hammond moments in it and people dig it, it’s really cool so when we do get back to Florida you’ll see that and it’s a very cool piece of the show.

Billy you’ve got a new solo album coming out as well?

“My new solo album will be out really soon it’s called What Was The Question? and that will be my fifth solo album. It’s basically a totally surreal musical kind of adventure and it plays around with the themes of constantly asking the question of things. All the songs relate to that theme in a matter of speaking. There’s a song called, “Counting The Cables” and it’s about the WikiLeaks situation and it kind of plays with the question of is it a good thing that we actually do know everything or is it maybe a better thing in order for something to become stable and peaceful we leave that closed door and negotiation to happen that don’t intrudes but it can happen where are the balances between the two and what is the right course it plays with that concept.

I know you’re a workaholic so what else is going on beside’s new CIRCA (And So On) and your new solo album (What Was The Question?). 

“There’s so much going on, I’m working with the Sonic Reality/Sonic Elements Company and doing all sorts of recordings over famous drummers stuff. I just recently played bass over Neil Peart’s drums from RUSH and doing demonstration stuff with them which is really fun to do.

 I’m working on a new band called Breed right now not the Breed of old but a new band called Breed. And that record is really Progressive and really adventurous it reminds me somewhere between a modern take of an old Genesis Wind & Wuthering or something it’s very cool I like it a lot.

And I’m always open to working with other people I recently sort of opened my studio if you will –I’m on Facebook with thousands of friends and I’ve said to all of them look if you’re out there and you need assistance with overdubs, mixing, production, don’t be shy in other words everyone I work with doesn’t have to be a rock star. If you need a guitar overdub I’m a work for hire musician call me. And I’ve actually ended up on six or seven records this year by virtue of doing that and they’ve all been fun projects to work with.

And I would say the same thing if everyone out there in the audience needs anything from bass, drums, guitar to mixing you can find me on Facebook because I really do enjoy working with people and I find interesting relationships from there that go to unique places.”

Billy the new CIRCA album And So On is awesome and I’m looking forward to listening to your solo effort as well. Thank you so much for being with me today it was a lot of fun.

“Thank you and take care Ray.”

Special thanks to Billy James of Glass Onyon PR for this interview.

CIRCA official website
Billy Sherwood official website
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