Did have to set up your own studio in order to record your album? When did you actually write material for “Compression”?
“Yes. I put a studio together. I spent a lot of time and a lot of money to make it right. It was an amazing adventure! I wrote all the material for “Compression” starting abou4 to 6 months prior to recording. I wrote everything specifically for this record–no “reject Mr Big songs”! Ha!”
How is the G-3 tour going? And how does it feel to be on the same stage with Steve Vai again? And how did it happen that you participate in it?
“The G3 tour ended last summer. It went great! Playing with Steve was a blast and I’ll be joining him for his European headline tour. Steve called me, and I had nothing planned for the summer–so we toured! It was one of the besat things I’ve ever been involved in.”
Every concert on G-3 tour ends jam of all musicians. What do you play then?
“Voodoo Child (Hendrix), Little Wing (Hendrix again), LaGrange (ZZ Top), and Goin’ Down (Jeff Beck).”
Steve Vai set up his own record company which released your album “Compression”. Have you ever thought of doing the same? Isn’t your own recording studio the first step for you towards becoming musician-businessman?
“No, I never thought of doing the same. And no again: My studio is not a first or any step toward becoming any type of businessman on my part. My home studio is my private instrument for me only. It’s not intended to record anyone but me.”
You decided to play bass guitar for the sake of a guy called Joe, who lived in your neighbourhood. You was reportedly jealous because he had best girls, best cars, besr hair. I suppose that you reached the same point many years ago? 🙂 Does this guy know now who you are?
“Wow! Did that ever get misinterpreted! Joe was my HERO! I was NEVER JEALOUS of Joe. I wanted to be like him. He was much older than I was. Joe is still one of my very best friends in the world and he’s very happy for me.”
I know that you plan to record album with Terry Bozzio who contributed to “Compression”. Could you please tell something more about this project?
“It’s an experimental Bass & Drum record. It’s not finished yet. Coming soon!”
What about Talas DVD? When it’s going to be released nad what do you intend to include on it?
“No plans for a Talas DVD as yet.”
Have you ever thought of recording album with famous bass players? Which could do it for example with Stu Hamm, Randy Coven, Jeff Pilson, Barry Sparks…
I know that you play many clinics and seminars. What do you try to say to younger players?
“I tell them what I wish I would have known when I started. I give away all my playing techniques and try to encourage everyone to have a great success as a musician.”
In every biography of yours we can read that ‘Billy Sheehan changed the way of playing bass guitar’. How do you perceive it? Do you see something extraordinary in your playing? I sure that you realize that for bass players around the world you are as if Eddie Van Halen for guitarists.
“I see nothing! I’m still learning. What people think of me and my playing is up to them, not me. I try to do my absolute best for the people who come see me play. I’m very honored and thankful if someone says something nice about my playing, but in general I’m very critical of what I do.”
Your signature and handprints are on Hollywood Rockwalk in Los Angeles. What do you feel when you are in LA and see it? What do you tell to yourself ‘I deserved it’ or ‘I doesn’t matter anything to me, fans are on the top’ or something else?
“I’m too shy to go and look at it! I’ve never actually seen it. I’m very honored that someone would do that for me. It makes me work even harder at being a better musician.”
What actually happened with Mr. Big that they fired you?
“Good question! I think they wanted the band to be more ‘Pop’ and less rock–so I was the ‘rock guy’ in the band. It was coming for a while. They removed some of my bass from an album before (the ballad greatest hits) and mixed the latest record without me there. After they fired me, the Japanese promoter cancelled their tour. They thought they would hire a Japanese bass player and no one would care. But the promoter said no way. Then they called me to rejoin. (they wanted that tour). I agreed to do the tour and then have the band break up. I don’t think it’s fair that they go on as Mr Big without me—I started the band. They can call themselves something else if they like. Also, I wanted to TOUR! We couldn’t tour anywhere but Japan for 2 or 3 weeks every album. Promoters were calling my house to get us to play. They said the bands “management” kept telling them we weren’t interested in touring–I was! I get email from all over the world BEGGING us to play. The other guys just won’t do it.”
Is that true that Niacin was established by accident, because you and guys from Mr. Big had a vocal lessons that gave you wife of John Novello and furthermore you got in touch with him?
“Where are you getting this from? No, it’s not true at all.”
Let me notice that you are lucky to be in supergroups – first David Lee Roth Band, then Mr. Big and now Niacin with John and Dennis Chambers, who is considered one of the best jazz drummers in the world…
I’d read that Niacin records new albums very fast and the whole process reminds one big jamm session? Do you prefer such a way of working to sitting in the studio for weeks or months?
“It is neither. We work out songs and complicated arrangements and record them relatively quickly. There is very little ‘jamming’ on the records. Live we stretch out quite a bit. It’s really amazing live!”
Could you please tell me something more about book “Ultimate Billy Sheehan? Unfortunately it’s not available in Poland. Is it your biography, autobiography or instructional manual for bass players?
“It was just a book done by a Japanese company. I’m not really sure what it says–it’s not in English! It’s a collection of photo’s & interviews.”
Do you realize that you have become immortal not only because your excellent musical skills but also for the reason that one of Talas concert opened U2. Do you remember that concert in 1980 if I’m not wrong?
“Yes I do. It was a small club. Last year on their world tour U2 played in Buffalo again and they mentioned Talas from the stage! We were very honored.”
On the other hand Talas opened once for UFO. Did they decide then that they want you as a replacement for Pete Way or a little later?
“When Pete quit they called me. Again, it was a great honor to play with that band. I loved UFO and I also got to play in Poland!”
You played in Poland with UFO in 1983. Can you remember that concert? I wasn’t there (unfortunately; I was too young 🙁 ) but people who were experienced jaw-dropped-off when you played bass solo which lasted several minutes? No one, I mean rock musician, did this before in this country. Did you know that?
“I didn’t know what kind of impact it had. Things in Poland were difficult at that time politically. I felt very bad for all the young people at the shows. The police were very rough on them. It upset me very much. I’m so happy for Poland now. I know things aren’t perfect (they aren’t anywhere!) but I’m sure it’s much better. I loved being there very much. The people I met were so wonderful!”
Is something embedded in your memory from this short trip to Poland?
“The spirit of the Polish people! You were the first to have the guts to move away from Soviet domination. All America is very proud of you. You are very brave and I think the future will be bright for Poland.”
You always dreamed of playing in Van Halen and when DLRoth called and asked you to join him you said to yourself Well, “close enough”. Was that really that way?
“Absolutely! Playing with Dave was a riot! It was a dream come true!”
Niacin is described, and in real is, a supergroup. Frankly speaking, it brings to my mind other big names like Beck, Boggert & Appice or Cream…
“Really? We just love to play! We never thought of it as a “supergroup”—just musicians stretching out!”
Your career looks unbelievably wonderful – millions records sold, awards, respect among musicians. Were there any tough moments for you?
“Many many many tough moments! It is never easy for anyone to have success in music. I gave up a lot of things in exchange for my success. I’m glad I did. It’s really what I wanted. If I had to do it over, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
I know that you design equipment for Ampeg and Yamaha. What do you actually do? You invent everything or just suggest solutions?
“I design what I’d like to have and if they think it’s a good thing, they manufacture it. I’ve been an amateur inventor for a long time.”
I really tried to find out what Billy Sheehan does when he is not playing or recording? I’m consciously didn’t mention women because they are connected with music :-)) In your case at least…
“Well, I love living in Los Angeles–the weather is great and I love my home here. I rarely do anything outside of music though.”
With whom and why would to like to work with?
“Paco DeLucia (flamenco guitarist). He’s one of the greatest, most passionate musicians alive. I’m sure I’d learn a lot!”
I’d like to know your opinion about rock music in USA. Is rock really resurrected or it’s only temporary, season trend let’s say. Do you think that thanks to bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Staind we have a chance that guitar music we’ll be back for good? Groups I mentioned achieve very big commercial success…
“Music is always changing and the changes are unpredictable. I like a lot of those bands and I think the future of music is very bright!”
I’d like to get back to Mr. Big for a while. First tour was with Rush supporting their ‘Presto’ album. I know that you had big respect for Geddy Lee as bass player. How do you recall that tour and meeting with Geddy? Did you know he’s got Polish-Jewish roots?
“Yes! Geddy is a wonderful person and an amazing bass player. We enjoyed touring with them very much.”
I still cannot believe it, but I found information about concert you played in LA and producer who was in audience. And allegedly this guy had come to you after the show and asked what samplers you used. Is it a real story? He really couldn’t believe that you play and sing live?
“It was at the Roxy on Sunset Boulevard. Actually several people thought we were sampling the vocals! We really sing everything.”
What was your first impression when you met Paul Gilbert? You were much older than him?
“Not that much. Paul’s a good guy, but hard to get to know. He was very distant from me for all the years we worked together. I like Paul and I wish we were better friends.”
Whose idea was – your or Paul Gilbert’s – to use drills in solo of ‘Daddy, Brother, Lover & Little Boy’?
“A guy named Jeff originally started the idea.”
‘Mr. Big’ – the first album, was very hard, uncompromised. The begginning of “Addicted To That Rush’ is simply masterpiece. But ‘Lean Into It’ was much more softer, why? Your choice or pressure from bosses of Atlantic Records?
“Not at all. I thought ‘Lean into it’ was heavy too.”
The name ‘Mr. Big’ associates in a second with Free. Did you invent it? Were you a fan of Andy Fraser or only the song? You even recorded your rendition of ‘Mr. Big’.
“I loved Free and Andy Fraser! Andy was an amazing player. We named Mr Big after the Free song. We’ve said that many many times.”
In your personal opinion, is Mr. Big reunion in original lineup possible? In which circumstances?
“Probably not. I know Paul will never play with me again. I know he doesn’t want to.”
Do you still have tears in your eyes listening to “Greatest Love Of All” by Whitney Houston? What do you think about the mess around her – drug problems and so on?
“Tears in my eyes? Not exactly. I think it’s a great song and an awesome performance. I hope she’s doing well. A super talent.”
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden described you that way – ‘ Billy Sheehan? Beyond question – he’e unbelievably perfect’. Does such opinions mean something to you?
“Steve Harris is so awesome. For a bass player like that to say something nice about my playing is overwhelming! I love Steve’s playing. I love Iron Maiden too! Thanks Steve! You rule!”
Another Steve – this time Vai – told years ago that in time he was in DLR band he learned three things that are important – money, girls and good work. What did you learned if anything?
“All that and more! It was like getting a college degree in Rock!”
Any chance that we’ll see you in Poland after 18 years?
“I’d absolutely LOVE to come to Poland to play. If I ever get the slightest chance–I’ll be there! It has many good memories for me.”
OK! There it is!
“I hope this is OK.
Stay in touch–write if you need anything from me.