Randy Bachman Interview: Hall of Famer on Tone, Hits, and History
Once in a great while, the actual tone of the guitar on a particular recording becomes almost as legendary as the notes being played. As a case in point, the deep, singing tone of the guitar solo in The Guess Who’s “American Woman” has entranced and mystified many a guitar player for decades.
Randy Bachman, the progenitor of that tone, that classic solo, and the song itself, is fully aware of the impact that recording made. In fact, the guitar on which he played that solo is now hanging in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and he gives away as gifts the obscure and out-of-production effects unit that generated that tone to friends such as Lenny Kravitz and Steve Cropper.
Bachman nurtured the hitmaking machine The Guess Who in the early-’60s in the backroom of an elementary school in Winnipeg, Canada. When that legendary group ran its course, he put together the iconic ‘70s hard rock band, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and scored even more hits. Many of the songs he wrote -- “American Woman,” “She’s Come Undone,” “No Time,” “Takin’ Care of Business” -- are still standards of rock radio, having graced the airwaves of North America and beyond millions of times each.
Today Bachman is as energized a guitarist and performer as any we’ve spoken to in many a long year. His weekly radio show, “Vinyl Tap,” in which he spins favorite songs and tells stories about his encounters with those artists and songwriters through the years, is heard across Canada on the CBC radio network, and around the world on SiriusXM satellite radio channel 169.
In this in-depth, exclusive interview, the future Hall of Famer digs deep into his famous “American Woman” tone, and shares his excitement about new guitars and vintage amps. Bachman tells us about his great new live DVD, “Every Songs Tells A Story,” in which he emcees a career-spanning, multi-media journey through all his hits.
He gets really excited talking about his upcoming new blues album, Heavy Blues, produced by Kevin Shirley and packed with major guest stars, such as Robert Randolph, Peter Frampton, Joe Bonamassa, Neil Young, and more. And, in his unbridled, passionate, hundred-miles-an-hour banter, he seemingly explains all of rock history in a single interview.
Randy Bachman: Hi, Randy here.
Guitar.com: Hi Randy, this is Adam St. James with Guitar.com
Bachman: Great, I’m ready to talk to you.
Guitar.com: How are you?
Bachman: I’m good, I had a real busy day but I’m doing great. I got a new guitar yesterday. I’m really happy.
Guitar.com: Awesome. What did you get?
Bachman: I got a D’Angelico that’s f’in amazing -- single-cut like a big Les Paul, but it's a hollow-body. It plays like a dream, it sounds incredible. It’s gorgeous looking. It’s got the D’Angelico tailpiece and headstock, and it’s very beautiful. I plugged it in and played it for a couple of hours and then I brought it back to my room and played it for a couple more hours. I can’t wait to get it home and incorporate it into my arsenal.
Guitar.com: Is this a new guitar or a vintage guitar?
Bachman: No, it’s a new one. It’s a new D’Angelico and they’re made incredibly. They are just
Guitar.com: Did you get it in New York City somewhere?
Bachman: Yes, yeah, I’m in New York.
Guitar.com: Where? What store?
Bachman: Well I got it, there's the D’Angelico -- it's not even a showroom, it’s a loft. And so it’s really secret to get in. It's like a guarded door. You go up to the fourth floor of this building. There's no sign. It’s not like a storefront.
You go in and there's like -- oh my God -- 250 antique D’Angelico guitars and old Gibsons and Fenders. And there's the new D’Angelicos that they now make. This family had bought the name D’Angelico and are making the guitars. They are staggering. Beautiful. And there's a stage and a bar and a lounge that can hold about 175 people. If you want to do a little showcase in the evening, or release an album or something, or have a party -- it’s really amazing.
Guitar.com: Wow, that sounds really cool. What is the name of this place?
Bachman: That’s D’Angelico Guitars.
Guitar.com: Oh, okay.
Bachman: Just Google DAngelicoguitars.com. The guy actually owns Arizona Tea. He’s a very wealthy guy. He owns a beverage company and his hobby is guitars. So when you get a guy where guitars aren’t his business -- they are his hobby and his love -- it’s a totally different outlook on life and on guitars. It’s amazing.
Guitar.com: Very cool. So you’re still as thrilled with a new guitar as you’ve always
Bachman: Oh I’m a sucker for a new guitar. It’s just like when you see a new, good looking woman. It's got to thrill you to the bones or else you’re dead! You ain't a man!
Guitar.com: I agree. So what were you playing this new D’Angelico through? Do you have a little amp you're carrying around with you?
Bachman: Normally, I’m a Gibson guy. They've given me some replicas of my "American Woman" 1959 Les Paul Standard Guitar, which is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. And so they asked why I wasn't playing that, and I said, "Well, it's worth a million bucks. That’s one reason. And it weighs almost fifteen pounds. That’s another reason. And it had a factory Bigsby on it."
And they said, "If we made you a replica of a ‘59 and chambered it out so it would be less than eight pounds, would you play it?" I told them, "It depends how the neck is." And they said, “The neck will be exactly like your's, but it will be lighter.”
So they sent me one and I love it. And then they sent me two. So one has a Bigsby, and one has a standard, stud tailpiece. And I love them both. Those are my main axes on stage. They play like butter. I just love them. They're just fantastic.
Guitar.com: Gibson sent you these?
Guitar.com: So is that the guitar with the Bigsby tailpiece? Is that what we see on this new DVD?
Bachman: Yeah, on the DVD you see a Les Paul there, and I think there’s an ES-something -- 125 or 175. I've played that a lot as well.
Guitar.com: But you played a Les Paul with a Bigsby on it? The new one that they made for you?
Bachman: Yeah. That’s the '59 reissue. I wouldn't take the old one out of the house. Well, it's locked up in the Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Guitar.com: Right. So when you give something to the Hall of Fame, do you ever get it back? How does that work?
Bachman: It’s on a loan for a couple more years. I signed a deal for five years. They insured for whatever we agreed upon -- 750, 800 thousand, a million bucks -- whatever they agreed it's worth. But they insure it, and they look after it. And then I can get it back or choose to leave it
there, with ownership papers that I have. So it’s like I’m storing it there and people get to see it
as the "American Woman" iconic guitar that got the sound of that record, and my music with The Guess Who and BTO.
And so it's enshrined there, but I can get it back anytime I want. I just need a very secure house,
because when people know where you live -- and you have a million dollar guitar. I mean it's like
these guys you see in movies: They’ve got to have secret rooms in their houses and safe vaults, and that’s no fun.
Guitar.com: Right. So you are a big guitar collector, right?
Bachman: I think you can call me a guitar slut. Or a guitar junkie -- that’s more polite.
Guitar.com: How often are you picking up new guitars?
Bachman: Oh my God... One a week.
Guitar.com: Oh really? So what are some of the coolest things you’ve picked up recently? Beside the D’Angelico.
Bachman: Well I just embarked on a new project. I'm doing a new blues album that is coming out April 15th. I’ve got a new band. I’ve got a female drummer who plays like Keith Moon and a female bass player who plays like John Entwistle. So, my new album is gonna sound like 1968, '69 British, U.K. blues, where they recycled the blues and the Eric Claptons and Hendrixes brought it back to America.
Bachman: So that's kind of what it’s like. And to do that I went in and bought old Supro and
Harmony guitars on eBay, and old Silvertone amplifiers -- Piggybacks -- similar to what Jack White is doing, and Dan Auerbach. And getting that old vintage sound that’s not done with foot pedals. It’s just a guitar and an amp. And you turn it up and it’s loud and it’s wonderful distortion combinations of the pick-ups, the guitar you're playing, the tubes, and the speakers. And it's just that combination of the whole thing, that’s just kind of amazing.
So my new album is produced by Kevin Shirley. He is a really wonderful guitar guy, he does all the Joe Bonamassa stuff. So I did this album with the two girls, live off the floor. We did five songs in 12 days. Kevin took it back to his place in Malibu to mix it. And Joe Bonamassa played on a track, Robert Randolph just played on a track, Frampton's on a track, Billy Gibbons, Luke Doucet, Scott Holiday from Rival Sons. A lot of guys jumped and said, 'Yeah, we want to play on this album!" And I'm thrilled with it, its just very exciting.
Guitar.com: It’s sounds like you’ve got some great guests.
Bachman: Peter Frampton played on the title song called "Heavy Blues." That's the name of the album. So Frampton will be playing on "Heavy Blues." I just played with him recently at the Hollywood Bowl -- with Frampton, and Buddy Guy, and David Hidalgo, and Robert Randolph. That’s where I met Robert and I asked him to play on my album. And he said, "Sure!" He just did the track yesterday. I'm in New York, and he did it yesterday in -- wherever he lives -- Brooklyn or New Jersey, or something like that.
Guitar.com: Do you have a home studio yourself?
Bachman: I used to but I recently moved to Toronto just because it's central Canada. It's easier to get to New York, Chicago, Nashville, everything else from being in the center of Canada. I used to live on this island on the west coast of Canada, called Salt Spring Island, near Victoria, and it would take an extra day on the front end and an extra day on the back end of the tour to get home and back.
And if you’re working weekends and you try to go home Monday night through Thursday morning, I would get home Tuesday instead and have Wednesday at home and have to travel again. So I moved to Toronto. So my studio got somewhat dismantled and some of it's here, there, and everywhere, and I'm just gathering it all in Toronto now to get a new facility for it and put it all together.
Guitar.com: So you keep writing right? You keep writing songs don’t you?
Bachman: I write all the time. I was encouraged to write new songs for this blues album I did,
because I was gonna do the standard -- you know -- Wolf song, and a Jimmy Reed song, and stuff like that. Then Kevin Shirley and Neil Young said, “Look, if you’re doing something new do something new. Don’t do the old stuff and say it’s new. But don’t do the same old Randy Bachman stuff and say it’s new. Reinvent yourself. Get a new band, get a new guitar, get a new amp. A new guitar will make you play different riffs because it won't be your Les Paul homemade soup, or your Stratocaster homemade soup. It will be a different thing.”
So I got these Supro guitars which are a different scale, and you tend to play different licks,
because different notes resonate differently, and they have different sustain on different parts of
the fretboard. So I got these amazing '59 and '60 archtop guitars. They don’t have any f-holes. They're black. They're called Supro Val Trol. There's one big volume control and a three-way switch. And the pickups are amazing: those old Val Trol Supro pickups that are on National guitars and Supro guitars.
And they sound like God. And this guitar album is just stunning. I use two of these amps, put it in a room with six mics, and so the guitar is panned at 8 o’clock, 10 o’clock, 12 o'clock, 2 o’clock, 4
o'clock and when I hit a chord it’s like there’s been 20 overdubs, but it’s one guitar in these
three amps in the room with about six mics, with all the different distances of the mics.
So Kevin Shirley did an amazing job to get me to sound like the early Pete Townshend stuff. And it’s amazing to hear the stuff coming out of me. Kevin had said “If you want me to produce you, you’ve got to do what Joe Bonamassa did: Let me have full control and I’ll make you sound like a new you. You won’t be the old you, because you would create the old you, and you would say that’s enough. I want to push you and pull you past the old you and make something new. So trust me.”
So I trusted him and he got stuff out of me that is old and new and forwards and backwards and it’s quite surprising but very exciting for me. I can’t wait for this album to come out. This is just the most exciting thing I’ve done in a long time.
Guitar.com: Cool, you sound excited. I want to hear it.
Bachman: Good, well if you you’re a guitar player, just with these guests, the ingredients of the
guests on here are pretty amazing. Oh and Neil Young is there too, I forgot to mention my old buddy.
Guitar.com: Cool. So what kind of amps were these that you used in the studio?
Bachman: A Silvertone Piggyback. It’s about 40 watts. It’s a Piggyback and it’s got an open-back
bottom with two ten-inch speakers, and a built-in tremolo. I did some old Bo Diddley kind of stuff
and it really sounds authentic -- to get a tremolo on your guitar that’s not clean. If you hear Bo Diddley, he was not clean: The tremolo is also on the distortion on the guitar. Its not just out on
the signal, it's on the whole amp and the speakers. And you get this wonderful sound, if you played like, an old Bo Diddley track with that chunky kind of thing.
That’s what I got on some of these songs. And you just can't get it with a foot pedal. It has to be the thing that’s in the amp. It’s really doing the volume of the amp, and the tubes of the amp. It’s just a really great retro sound, something I haven't had since I was a teenager and had my first Silvertone amp.
But if you try to buy a Silvertone or Supro/National amp on eBay -- and now they’re all back -- they used to be three or four hundred bucks. Now they are three or four thousand dollars. Everybody is buying these. It's a new untapped sound.
I didn't want to do a blues album and have the same old Les Paul through a Marshall, or Strat through a Marshall. Everybody has done that. Or through a Fender Twin. So I went to these old amps and these old guitars that, when we buy them they sound sour. I bought guitars from old blues guys in Chicago. Old harmony and Silvertone guitars, that the strings haven't been changed for like fifteen years, and they have that wonderful, weird sourness to them that Keith Richards has on some of his stuff, where the intonation isn't quite on.
But put it on [fix the intonation] and it’s too damned perfect. You got to sound like the old guys, who only had a single bridge on the guitar. They didn't have a saddle to adjust for every string. And so you kind of got it close. But there’s something charming in that, something primitive in that primitive rock and roll and blues. And so I kept all that stuff. There’s a lot of mistakes on this album and glitches and once I got over the fact, and Kevin kept saying "No it’s charming, we can fix it, but listen to it fixed: It's sterile. Listen to it unfixed: It’s charming."
And I go, "You know you’re right. There’s character to that." It's very Neil Young, you hit a gronk,
big deal. The gronk is there. You would have hit it live. Everybody would have heard it. So it's
there, and you're human. And so it's really a soul-baring thing for me the way this was done. There's hardly any overdubs, vocal or guitar playing.
It was just really fun to do it. It was the most fun I've had in a long time. But all I did was concentrate on singing, playing and writing songs. Kevin wanted all new songs, he'd even say "Take the Jimmy Reed song you're gonna do, change the lyrics, write a new line, speed it up and call it your own.”
So I would do that song after song. Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, Howlin' Wolf, the Yardbirds, whatever. Cream, Clapton. I would just get the stuff -- and Hendrix -- and make my
own song out of it and it taught me new stuff as a songwriter, new chops that go back to the old riffs, and how those old songs were formed -- without a bridge. The old blues songs didn't have bridges. They had two guitar solos, contrary to country music, which always had a middle eight -- a bridge. So it's like going back to the old base of late ‘50s to late ‘60s rock and roll and blues.
Guitar.com: Right. Did you have these amps cranked up in the studio or what?
Bachman: Totally full blast. I had two of them, and I had an old Roland Chorus, that's the metal
one that you put on the floor, that you plugged into a wall -- there's not a wall wart -- it's a real AC plug. And the trick is you plug into that, you turn it on and you turn the controls off. So it splits your signals but there's no weird chorus, 'cause I hated chorus. It detunes your guitar. It's just enough to be a splitter but its not a splitter. It's a splitter with a slight little micro millisecond of a delay. So when you put it through two amps you get this gigantic sound. And I've seen Pete Anderson -- Dwight Yoakam's guy -- do that with two '58 Bassmen, with his guitar.
We put it [the chorus pedal] through the amp. We call it a flying saucer 'cause it's like a big
metal thing that looks like a flying saucer that you put on the floor. But it's a great way to run
two amps together. But without any electronic gimmicks. It's a real old fashioned pedal like from the late ‘60s or something. So that basically got my amp sound. And sometimes I'd use what is called a National Big Knob. It's about like a kid's lunchbox with one big knob on it, no volume, no bass and treble. One input and a gigantic knob that you turn on and you get it louder and louder.
There's no off and on switch, it's the knob. You turn the knob all the way down and it clicks off. I
had two of those, they're amazing. They sound dirty, but you put a mic on it, put it in a glass
room or against a room with a wall, you get incredible sounds.
I didn't use any foot pedals on this album. It's all guitar and amp, overdriven, and in my hands.
In fact when you play louder, it gets louder and you get more distortion. You play softer and it
proportionally cleans up. Like the old days: You had a Fender Telecaster guitar and a Fender tweed amp. You turn down, and it was kind of clean-ish for rhythm, and you turn up for a solo and it got a little thicker and dirtier for your solo. And that's kind of what I went for.
And it sounds really like Cream live, Wheels of Fire. It sounds like the Who, the first album. It sounds like Hendrix's first album. And this girl band is just amazing. They love the late ‘60s British Blues. I went through that already when I was much younger and for me to say to them, "Play this like Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. Play this one like John Bonham and John Paul Jones. Play this one like a Pete Townshend kind of thing and let's make this sound like the Who. And then let's make this sound like Clapton and Jack Bruce in the middle.”
And they would go right for it, and we would nail it the first time, and look at each other and have
such big smiles. When I played it the for the head of my record label he came in and he said, “It sounds like 1969 in here! I haven't heard this stuff on the radio for so long. It’s so incredible! You sound like new Hendrix, and new Cream, and new Zeppelin stuff." And I’m going “Thank you very much! As a songwriter that’s what I was trying to do, so thank you very much!”
And then we got the icing on the cake when these other guest soloists came in. Joe Bonamassa's soloing is just amazing. Everybody’s. I mean I got surprised by everybody. We sent them the raw tracks and said “Do whatever you want to do.”
So Scott Holiday from Rival Sons sent in his track. Neil Young sent in a track. Frampton sent his when his tour was over. Robert Randolph did his track and he sent it to Kevin Shirley, who is in Malibu now assembling these solos that are being phoned in -- 'cause everyone has been on tour and to get into studios together these days is quite impossible. The way to get together is to send in an mp3 or an email, plug it in your own studio, do it, and meet each other later and have lunch or something.
Guitar.com: Yeah, that's cool. I've always loved the sustain of your solos and wondered how you got that. So at this point you're doing it all with amps, but what effect pedals did you use in the past?
Bachman: In “American Woman” I used this thing called the Herzog. It's two 12AX7 tubes built into a preamp by Gar Gillies in Winnipeg. I did that in 1966, and it got me a long sustain that was the sound of “American Woman.” I grew up as a kid playing violin and viola and all you play on violin or viola is lead lines. So when I would play a guitar line I wanted it to sound like my violin. I played classical violin from the age of five to 14, until I saw Elvis on TV, and then I switched to guitar. But when I played a solo I wanted that long, beautiful sustain.
And so when you hear the song, like the solo in "No Time" or "American Woman" by The Guess Who, and a couple of BTO songs, there's that long, cool sustain. Also my '59 Les Paul had a Bigsby, and that helps a lot with the sustain, because it wavers the note a little bit.
Guitar.com: Are these Herzog effects still available?
Bachman: No, Gar called me about 10 years ago, he was about 90, [Editor’s note: Gar Gillies passed away in 2007.] and said “Randy, I'm scaling down. I'm closing my shop and I just found a box with a bunch of parts from about the time that I made the Herzog, and I can make a bunch.” I said "Make as many as you can and send them to me. Whatever the cost is it doesn't matter." So he made me about 10 or 11. I've since given one to Scott Holiday, one to Neil Young, one to Bob Rock, one to Lenny Kravitz, one to Steve Cropper -- guitar players who asked about the sound who couldn't get it or can't buy it anywhere.
I’ve got three of them at home. But there's something great about those old Herzogs. It would be nice if somebody got them -- or maybe I'm ready to do it -- or get somebody to copy them and make some again, ‘cause there's nothing like them. They're not really a pedal. They're all tubes, you just plug in -- it's a hand-wired, amp-top box, with one 12AX7 tube that drives the next 12AX7 tube. The output on it is about 1 amp or 1/2 of an amp, you can plug it into the front end of any amp you want. It doesn't particularly work good with Marshalls. They work good with Fenders or other really good tube amps. It doesn't work great with solid state.
But the sound is like nothing else. I was talking to Lenny Kravitz, when he did “American Woman,” and I asked "Why didn't you do my solo, trying to get closer?" And he said "I couldn't get the sound. There's no point in playing it without getting the sound." So I sent him a Herzog.
Guitar.com: Wow, cool. Randy, when I was a kid my dad took me to a BTO concert in Buffalo, New York. It was my first major concert.
Guitar.com: And I started playing guitar right around that time. You really influenced me to get
Bachman: Well thank you, that's cool.
Guitar.com: It was very cool and those sounds, at that time I bought myself an Electo-Harmonix Big Muff fuzz pedal. Do you remember those things?
Bachman: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Guitar.com: Did you ever use one of those?
Bachman: Yeah, I literally try every pedal there is. What gives me the “American Woman” sound now is the Roland Blues pedal. And I found a guy on the internet that buys them and he puts better germanium -- or something -- transistors in them. Two of those together get me every Herzog sound I ever wanted, without having to worry about the tubes blowing out.
And that's the Roland Blues pedal, which actually a nice blue color. I use two of those on stage
and one gives me a raunchy rhythm and when both of them are on I get that [sings melody: do do do], the “American Woman” sound real easy.
Guitar.com: Yeah, so you just plug from one right into the next.
Bachman: Yes. When I want a really biting Jimmy Page kind of solo and I just have one of them on. Or when I want an AC/DC rhythm, I have one of them on. Normally I just have the amp ‘cause I use a lot of clean stuff, because I play a lot of jazz chords in "She's Come Undone" and "Lookin' Out For Number One."
I play jazz licks once in a while. So I want those to be pretty clean. And then I've got an OCD that overdrives and cleans just a little bit. And I’ve got the two Roland Blues Drivers that I
absolutely love. And a wah pedal, and that's it.
Guitar.com: On the DVD for your “Vinyl Tap” that I just watched, I see and hear you playing a lot of -- as you said -- jazz chord voicings, or four string voicings. That's been pretty standard throughout your career hasn't it?
Bachman: I think so. My first guitar teacher, when I switched from violin to guitar, was a guy named Lenny Breau. He had just moved to Winnipeg. He was sixteen; I was fifteen. He had been playing at that point for 10 years. He played in his family band and at 16 he had mastered all of Chet Atkins, all of Merle Travis, all of Les Paul, Howard Roberts, Barney Kessel, Tal Farlow -- everybody. And he taught me absolutely everything, and he said it's really important to play the inside four strings and do these chords.
And so I wrote "She's Come Undone" and "Lookin' Out For Number One." and I always kind of go to those things. They're the most mellow thing on a guitar as compared to the two Es [the low and high E strings]. I love the inside four strings. And so I do a lot of stuff and I kind of claw that with my right hand, just playing. So each string has it's own articulation, right? Which you can do when you're playing claw [fingerpicking style], with your right hand and four strings.
And it just kind of makes a difference. Rather than playing with a pick where everything is strummed, and kind of a blur, you can articulate each string the way you want to have it played. I play a lot of harmonics like Lenny Breau as well.
I have a website called Guitarchives, where I’ve got six Lenny Breau CDs out, and True North, my new label, is gonna reissue all the Lenny Breau CDs, so you go to TrueNorthRecords.com and you see the whole Lenny Breau catalog is out. And I have 2,000 hours of Lenny Breau live that I'm gonna release about every nine or ten months, and all the money will go to his children who are his survivors, 'cause he was murdered about 20 years ago.
Guitar.com: Yes, I know. That was very tragic. I see you also have some Howard Roberts albums on Guitarchives too.
Bachman: I do. Those are my two favorite albums. Those were Lenny Breau's favorite albums: HR is a Dirty Guitar Player and Dirty 'n' Funky. I learned "Dirty Old Bossa Nova" from Lenny many years ago and "Color Him Funky," those are my two favorites. So I leased those and put them out and got a nice thank you note from Howard's son, and his widow, who live in Seattle.
I'm being beeped that my next phone call is coming in, so I'm sorry we got to wrap it up, is that
Guitar.com: Yeah, can I tell you one thing real quick?
Guitar.com: When I was a kid I was listening one day to "Ain’t Seen Nothin' Yet." I had headphones on, I was home alone, and I was singing along to it. And I'm in the chorus of the song and going "Ba-ba-ba-baby," and my dad comes home and he's yelling to me "Hey, hey!" and I don't hear him because I've got the headphones on, you know?
Guitar.com: And he comes running up the stairs, tears the headphones off of me, and scares the crap out of me, going "Are you okay, are you okay?" And I'm like "Yeah, I'm singing along with "Ain’t Seen Nothin' Yet!” And he's like "Oh! I thought you were having a seizure or something!" It was a pretty funny moment.
Bachman: (laughs) That's a good story!
Guitar.com: And I just told my dad I was gonna talk to you, I told him I was gonna tell you that
story, he still remembers that day, and we had a good laugh about it.
Bachman: Cool. Well, if you have any more questions, if you want to call me back at 6:30, I'm off at 6:30, but if not I'm going to see the Eagles play at Madison Square Garden.
Guitar.com: Awesome, would you mind if I call you back just for a few more minutes?
Bachman: Call me back about 6:30, my next one is at 6 and it’s on for 25 minutes so try...
Guitar.com: OK. You know Randy, you're so excited about all the new music and the guitars and all that. I’m really enjoying this conversation. I'd like to talk a little more.
Bachman: Okay great so I'll talk to you in an hour.
Guitar.com: Okay sounds good.
Our interview continues...
Bachman: Hi, Randy here.
Guitar.com: Hey Randy, it's Adam from Guitar.com
Bachman: Hi, kid, let's roll.
Guitar.com: OK, so we were talking a little bit about the new DVD and CD and I know you're really excited about the blues album coming up in April, but you haven't told me a whole lot about this one that just came out, Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap.
Bachman: Good, I'm glad you asked!
Guitar.com: It’s a very cool DVD.
Bachman: Thank you. Well it's an “Evening With” and a historic timeline of my life from the mid 60's on to the late 70's, writing the hits, and the stories behind the songs. It was prompted by me seeing Ray Davies doing this timeline on the Kinks, called "Storyteller," and mine is titled "Every Song Tells a Story." In it I explain where the hits came from that I wrote for the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, with a visual background behind me, kind of showing the time, and the haircuts, and the guitars, and the fashion, and things like that.
And it's just a fun evening. If you're a fan of the music, and most people are, 'cause they're all over classic rock radio, this is really an insight into where we were, and how the songs were
written, and what prompted the songs.
And I have been asked now to take this on the road ‘cause it’s getting such great reviews. People are liking it so much, they're saying "Why won’t you do a theater tour?" And I'd love to do this because it's quite an easy thing for me to just sit there and tell the stories and play the songs, it's a lot of fun. So if there's enough demand and it makes a lot of logistic sense, we'll take this “Every Song Tells A Story” thing on the road.
Guitar.com: I think it would be incredible, the multimedia behind you that I see on the stage is
really cool, and the stories are just amazing. Really fun.
Bachman: Thank you, great.
Guitar.com: Some of these -- the way some of these songs came about… You know actually it was interesting to hear your story about "American Woman" because I never pictured it the way you explain it, lyrically, meaning-wise. I really always thought of it as a song that was literally about kind of a gold-digging American Woman, to be honest, and I'm sure a lot of people did.
Bachman: Yeah a lot of people thought that. They thought it was the woman on the street, but it's
Guitar.com: So a lot of this stems from your weekly radio show, right? I mean in a sense.
Bachman: Well in my radio show I have a different theme every week so I play songs. The theme might be boy's names, girl's names, biker's songs, here, there, devil or angel and the songs with that in the title. And then I tell my story how I met those artists, or the songwriter, and things like that. And so that's what my radio show is like every week on CBC and on Sirius satellite here.
And this is just my radio show with my own songs. So it’s part of me but it's like -- I don't know -- it's a mish-mash. Everything that I'm doing is coming to a head now, and all coming together. So it's kind of nice that people are aware that I have this blues album coming out, and I've got “Every Song Tells a Story.” And now I'm doing the same songs with symphonic arrangers and that's gonna be a DVD recorded in December and January in my hometown of Winnipeg.
And that will probably come out. And it's another whole look at the songs I wrote, and reinterpreting each song in a different style, different tempo, different genre. Same lyrics and melody line and everything, but different chords and things like that, to kind of twist it around to show that a good song is a good song no matter who does it or how it's done.
Guitar.com: Right. So is this with the Winnipeg Symphony?
Bachman: Well I'm doing some in London, Ontario, and Kitchener/Waterloo, with their symphonies, and then in Winnipeg it will be with the Winnipeg Symphony, with the new conductor-concert master they just hired from Germany or France or something like that. He'll be conducting. And I'm really looking forward to it, it's gonna be a blast.
Guitar.com: Will you be playing guitar at these events?
Bachman: Yeah I'm playing guitar and my “Every Song Tells a Story” band is backing me. They're my standard backup band. They'll be the rhythm section there with the symphony. And we’ve got the symphony doing weird stuff. I mean I'll be getting all of them to wear black jeans, and black “Bachman Symphonic Overdrive” T-shirts, with headbands and hats and all kinds of -- I don't want them wearing tails and all that shit that symphony guys wear. I want this to be a fun rock and roll event. And for the encore we're doing "Tomorrow Never Knows," the Beatles song, where all the backward tape loops will all be played by the symphony.
If you know that song: "Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream," and then comes in all the [sings melody], all the backward tapes. Well we're getting piccolos and violins to play all those tape parts backwards and it's quite incredible. I'm getting the audience to stand up and shake their keys, and I’m throwing out tambourines and maracas, so everybody can stand up. This is the last song of the night right? The big encore. So it's gonna be quite a big, rockin, groovy thing. I don't know, it's just, I thought we had fun.
It's not serious, it's not serious. All for fun and all the joy of the music and celebrating the songs I've written again in another context, rather than telling the stories over and just coming up and playing the songs. We’re reinterpreting them and having everybody go "Wow! We didn't know you can do “American Woman” as a bossanova! We didn't you could do "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" as a slow ballad like Michael Buble. We didn't know you could do "She's Come Undone" as a heavy symphonic song like "My Guitar Gently Weeps."
And we've taken "No Time" -- which the guy stole the lick from for [TV show] "Law and Order." So we're starting "No Time" with [sings theme from “Law and Order]. If you've seen "Law and Order," then you know that theme. Then I'm gonna go "Wait a minute: I wrote that!" And we're gonna go into "No Time," [sings guitar melody of “No Time”], and then we sing "No Time." So it's gonna be a fun, schmaltzy kind of kitsch kind of night, if you know what I mean. Like, real fun.
Guitar.com: And any chance you might bust out a violin yourself on one of these gigs?
Bachman: Not a chance (laughs). No that's gone.
Guitar.com: You haven't played the violin in a little while, huh?
Bachman: No I haven't.
Guitar.com: But you know when you talk about, your tone and that it came from your early training on violin, I can completely relate to that because a lot of times when I'm trying to figure out how to get the real kind of guitar tone that I'm looking for I often say I want it to sound like a violin -- with that bow-like sustain, you know.
Bachman: Yeah, well that's hard to get unless you're very loud, or unless you have one of these Herzogs or the Roland Blues pedals that will get you that sustain at a lower volume. And a Bigsby helps, you know you can do a lot with your left hand but a Bigsby is going up and down and your with left hand, you kind of get everything going there.
Guitar.com: Well you definitely ought to think about re-creating those Herzogs, and marketing those.
Bachman: Yeah I think I will. I think you've talked me into it.
Guitar.com: Yeah, cool.
Bachman: And I'll send you one.
Guitar.com: That would be awesome. Well, we'll write it up, we'll do a nice review on it.
Bachman: Cool, so I got to wind it up, my phone is beeping again so...
Guitar.com: I understand, I understand. Alright, so that DVD will come out in the Spring, right? The symphony DVD?
Bachman: Yeah, I believe so. We might even hold it back, I don't know because the blues thing is coming out and I don't want all these things coming out at once. But it's almost like an actor: You do a couple of movies over three years and suddenly in six months they all come out and people think you're working your ass off for a year. But you've been doing it all for three years. But they just happen to come out at the same time. We'll see what happens. I'm sure you'll know it, and I'll be talking to you about it. Right now let me push the “Every Song Tells a Story” DVD.
Guitar.com: Yes we'll do that, and we'll talk again when the new album comes out.
Bachman: Great thank you.
Guitar.com: Thank you Randy.
Guitar.com: Take care.
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