Cheap Trick: Rick Nielsen, interview
With an amaranthine array of records and an endless, eternity of concerts and tours, Cheap Trick continue their deathless and perpetual relevance with their new release We’re All Alright, a powerful and enthusiastic album, the title making reference to the band’s classic hit, Surrender.
Having originated in 1973, with their very first album released in 1977, Cheap Trick continues to be one of the most celebrated and covered bands in history. Best known for hits including: “Surrender”, “I Want You to Want Me”, “Dream Police”, and “The Flame”, the faction was inducted into “The Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame” in 2016. Band members include: Robin Zander, singing lead vocals, playing rhythm guitar, and keys, Rick Nielsen, playing lead guitar, singing back-up, and playing keyboards, Tom Petersson on the bass and backing vocals, and Rick’s son Daxx on the drums, singing back-up as well.
I was honored to have had a conversation with iconic guitarist Rick Nielsen, who was hysterically comedic, and exceedingly handsome, ( I promised him that I would say that ). Mesmerized by his humor, and effervescence, we spoke about rock n’ roll, inspirations, future intentions…
Louder Than War: Thank you for speaking with me first of all and if there is any question that you’re tired of answering, just tell me you can’t deal with it,
I can’t deal with anything.
In a time where it’s difficult for artists today to stay relevant for 40 seconds, how is it that Cheap Trick still remains musically pertinent and significant after 49 years?
We are? We’re relevant? I think we just do what we do and we don’t try to be somebody else. When you try to be somebody else or try to be something or try to figure out what’s going on in the world….we just do what we do. I tell people, I don’t think we’ve ever progressed.
When you originally recorded your very first album, “Cheap Trick”, is there anything that you would have done differently if you had today’s technology at your disposal?
Maybe something we did in our live show…We thought we were going to have this great mechanical eye, like “Spinal Tap”, and we never used it after.
You’ve seen music go from vinyl to digital, do you have any thoughts on how the state of the music industry has changed?
Oh, there is a music industry? Oh wow! Cheap Trick is still working and we’ll keep making records like we’ve done for the last 20 years. We’re too dumb to quit doing what we do.
Do you have a favorite question that you’ve been asked?
Yeah, is this the last question?
I ask a lot of artists this question, do you have an ultimate stage fantasy?
I think we’d have an audio/visual thing going on about Cheap Trick while we’re on stage, and the camera would make me look handsome.
You mean you haven’t done that yet?
I don’t think I’m handsome yet so, we’re working on that.
I think you’re handsome.
That’s all I need to know.
I’ve read that you’re one of the most coveted bands in the world, who do you most like to cover?
We do a lot of Roy Wood.
You’re constantly touring, what is it that you like best about leading the rock star life?
Not much. We like to play, and we’ve been able to do this for a long time. Wonderful news.
Let’s talk about your new release, it’s kind of different.
That’s what we like. That’s what we like to hear.
What inspired the record?
The fact that we were asked to do it. We were asked, “you guys wanna do another record”? Hell yeah! So that’s what we did. It’s all good news.
I understand you’re also doing a Christmas album, what going to be on that one?
Christmas songs. Some old, some new, it’s all fun stuff.
Is there a song that never fails to evoke emotion when you hear it?
I like “Salty Dog” by Procol Harum. Look that one up.
Do you have an idol?
Billy Idol, I don’t know. I like him. He’s funny. We toured with him last year in Australia and New Zealand.
I saw you when you toured with Rick Springfield.
I don’t know if that was a tour. We did some shows with him.
Do you recall your proudest moment as an artist?
I got to work with John Lennon. That was pretty cool.
Wow! That so cool.
Yeah, not bad huh? He was very cool, it was an honor.
Were you nervous?
No, I think he was. We had a good time together,
You were recently inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame”, what was that like?
That was quite an honor, I think. If my parents were alive I could say, “Hey look, I made it”.
What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you live?
Playing with The Who. That might have been it. I’ve done a few things with them. Once again it’s an honor to do it. How do you explain something that you do, that you love, and you’re lucky enough that you get to do it? It’s hard to explain but it’s like pretty darn cool. I think I made Pete Townsend nervous too.
I noticed that you will be playing at The Greek Theatre in California, that’s a big deal.
We’ve played there a bunch of times. Do you know what the best thing about playing at The Greek Theatre is?
Well after the show you could go eat at ‘In and Out Burger”. That’s the only thing you didn’t laugh about, you must like the burgers.
Never tried one, but in thinking about it because of you.
Then you better get out of Brooklyn, they don’t deliver.
Is there any advice that you would give to “Baby Rick”, knowing what you do now?
Practice. Practice more. Keep practising. Don’t stop.
Do you write most of the songs for the band?
Sometimes. We all write. Like the album, ” We All All Right”
Is there a favorite song that you’ve written?
I haven’t written it yet.
There are a million new artists out there hoping to become rich and famous, is there any advice that you could give them?
Yeah, I think that they should all do at least one Cheap Trick record on everyone of their records. That would really help them. They can pick anyone they want.
What do you want to be remembered for most?
You probably won’t.
Then I have nothing to worry about.
So you’re never going to die and you’re very handsome.
Wow, so you did listen to me.
This is the funniest interview ever,
Then we better stop now, I don’t wanna ruin it…..
All words by Eileen Shapiro. More of Eileen’s writing can be found in her author’s archive.