PAUL RODGERS IS A FORCE OF NATURE. His ageless onstage stamina and timeless vocal cords continue to thrill Bad Company fans the world over. Paul’s flawless delivery of countless classics from the golden era of rock music provides all of the insurance concertgoers need when deciding whether to catch a performance by this man. As Bad Company was preparing to go out and co-headline the One Hell Of A Night Tour with none other than James Gang and Eagles legend, Joe Walsh, Paul found the time to fit in a headlining appearance with his solo band at South Florida’s inaugural RockFest 80’s. (Punctuation misplaced, most likely as a finger in the air to nonbelievers.)
Red Hot Rock Magazine had the opportunity, honor and thrill to catch up with Paul Rodgers for a couple of discussions before and after travelling to see him perform at the festival. As always, Paul proved himself to be none other than the most perfect of gentlemen. We begin with our conversation from February.
RED HOT ROCK MAGAZINE: Hello, sir. Great to be speaking to you again.
PAUL RODGERS: Hey, Ritchie. You, too. How are you doing, man?
RHRM: Very good, thank you. We’re looking forward to seeing you perform both at RockFest 80’s and at the Bad Company show in South Florida. It’s always nice seeing you perform with your own band and playing stuff from throughout your career. You know the personal obsession I have with all of your music and everything you do.
PR: Oh, man! That’s so nice of you to say. You know what? I really do enjoy playing with the solo guys now because I’ve introduced a couple of Firm songs. I was doing “Satisfaction Guaranteed”, but I just rediscovered “Radioactive”. So, that’s part of the set. And what I did recently, I went down to Seattle and the Experience Music Project. Paul Allen was giving Jimmy Page an award, the Founders Award, for being such a musical visionary. And a lot of people turned up for the public show. Richie Robinson from The Black Crowes. Jerry Cantrell from Alice In Chains. Duff McKagan on bass. There was Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick. There was a lot of people there. And they all did a tribute to Led Zeppelin in some way, shape or form. Jimmy was sitting in front of the stage and I was sitting with him. I got up and I did “Radioactive” and “Satisfaction Guaranteed” in tribute to what we did as The Firm, you know. And it was a really lovely night out. At the end of it, Jimmy got up and had a jam. So, there was, like, a million great musicians onstage. And it was fantastic. Paul Allen actually got up, too. Yeah. It was a great night.
RHRM: You just touched on about half a dozen things that I’m definitely going to get into with you. You mentioned Rich Robinson. We are going to be speaking to him very soon. Great guitarist and a nice guy.
PR: Yeah. He played in my band when we played. He is a great guitar player. I would love to do something with him down the road, some work if we have the chance to.
RHRM: You spoke about Jimmy Page and The Firm. I understand that Jimmy is planning on recording his first solo album in quite a few years. Have you spoken at all to Jimmy about maybe singing on any of his new material?
PR: Not as yet. No. No, we haven’t. I mean, we get along really, really well. And he comes to a lot of the shows I do. He was at the Albert Hall. He was at Wembley. And, of course, they invited me down to pay tribute to him. But no, we haven’t discussed doing anything together, although I’m definitely up for it.
RHRM: I saw quite a few of the dates when you guys were playing together in The Firm. I loved it. It was an absolute thrill to see two of my absolute favorite musicians playing together onstage. And the rest of the band wasn’t bad, either. Ha ha.
PR: Ha ha. Yeah. Chris Slade and Tony Franklin. Jimmy’s a lovely guy. He’s great. It was a really fantastic night. Paul Allen invited us to his house and showed us some of the guitars he had, as well. It was kind of amazing just seeing Muddy Waters’ guitar, you know, Bo Diddley’s guitar, Howlin’ Wolf. I mean, man, I was in the company of the awesome spirit of these guys, you know what I mean, through their guitars. It was quite incredible.
RHRM: Another one of my obsessions that I harass you about every time we speak is your first solo album, Cut Loose. It has always been a favorite of mine since the day it was released.
PR: Ah. Cheers.
RHRM: You’re welcome. I’m always pushing you to resurrect some of those tracks for your solo set. Any chance that you are thinking of including any of those songs?
PR: I don’t know. Which ones do you have in mind? ‘Cause I’m kind of open. There are so many songs that a lot of people want to hear. Right now, the solo set covers a lot of ground. I play some material that I wrote with Free, some Firm is in there, the Bad Company, the solo album now and some solo things. I haven’t really played anything from Cut Loose. Although there are a couple of tracks that might work well onstage. I might have to think about that.
RHRM: The title track is great. And “Talking Guitar Blues” also would be a great live one.
PR: Oh, yeah.
RHRM: I mean, “Boogie Mama” would be great live. There are so many good cuts on there.
PR: Ha ha ha ha. Wow. You mention those titles. It sort of brings back a lot of memories. I haven’t really played them since those days. So, every song has its own kind of little story to it and its own evolution in time.
RHRM: That would also give you an excuse and an opportunity to play guitar more. If I remember correctly, you played all of the instruments on Cut Loose. I’ve always loved your guitar tone. I don’t understand why you don’t play more onstage. You have such a nice feel for the instrument.
PR: Oh well, thanks. I do appreciate that. But, I’m a very simple kind of guitar player. I look for the simplicity of, like… When I listen to those guys, you know, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters and those guys. They played very simply, but so effective. I love… They sort of play like they sing, in many respects. Funny enough, they’re releasing a couple of live Bad Company shows from the seventies that we recorded. (Live In Concert 1977 & 1979) One’s in Houston and one’s at Wembley. And I am playing quite a bit of guitar. I even surprised myself. I was thinking, “Who’s that? Oh, that’s me!” Ha ha ha. On, like, “Heartbeat” or something. (sings) Do do do da da da. I’m, like, “Wow! I did used to pay quite a bit more guitar.” But I’ve drifted away from it ‘cause I really… I play piano in “Run With The Pack” and “Bad Company”. And I play acoustic, say, on “Seagull”. But I’ve drifted away from the electric guitar, somehow, because I kind of leave it to the… I don’t know. I guess I leave it to the experts a little bit.
RHRM: I did notice, watching old clips of Bad Company, that you were playing guitar more back then. But as to the simplicity of your playing, feel has always been more important to me than technical ability. A combination of the two is always nice. Ha ha.
PR: Yeah. I think I know what you mean. When I play guitar for my own pleasure, it’s an acoustic guitar that I play. And it doesn’t always work with every song that we do. So, very often when I write a song, I will transfer it to electric guitar, take that and run with it. But I do like to get a feel going between what I’m singing and what I’m playing acoustically. But I don’t necessarily put that in the track sometimes. Maybe I should do that more often. Maybe you’re right.
RHRM: I am very excited that Bad Company is touring in 2016. Another thing that I have bothered you about over the years is how much I love the song “Electricland” from the Rough Diamonds album. I hope that I have had something to do with your bringing this great track back to life and reintroducing it to your fans over the last several years. And I am hoping that you will be including “Electricland” in your set on this tour. I have always thought that it is an underappreciated classic and a fantastic number in the same vein as the song “Bad Company”, but possibly with even more pent up electricity, dynamics and edge that gets released during the tune. Great stuff!
PL: You know, I’m looking at the setlist now. When we get together, the guys and I will decide what we’re gonna do. I don’t know if “Electricland” is currently in my, sort of, sight. But it was an interesting experience we had back in the day when we came through Vegas that I wrote about. It was kind of a dark… It was kind of the other side of the neon lights kind of look at things. Uhm… maybe. Maybe. I’m still working on the setlist. Another thing. There’s a couple of songs that we rediscovered when the record company… which they’re doing an amazing job, I have to say… They’ve pulled out all the old tracks and, you know, the little jam sessions that we did in between the songs and stuff and they rereleased that. We discovered there’s a couple of other songs. “All Night Long” and “See The Sunlight”. And when I heard them, I thought, “What is this?” I hardly remember doing them because they’re buried in the past, in those archives of tapes. And I think we may touch on those. What we’ll probably do is try them out and give them an airing and see how it feels and maybe include them in the set. But it depends how everybody feels about it.
(Editor’s note: The first two Bad Company albums, Bad Company and Straight Shooter, have been reissued in deluxe two-CD versions which include the above-mentioned tracks. And Bad Company is, indeed, playing “Electricland” on their current tour.)
RHRM: You mentioned that there is a darkness to the song “Electricland”. The Rough Diamonds album overall has always been an interesting one to me. It had a little bit of a different feel to it than the other Bad Company albums. The audio had kind of a shiny, contemporary vibe to it. But there was a darkness underneath that. I guess that had something to do with everything that was swirling around the band at that time. I know that the relationships within the band were strained. John Bonham had just passed away and you guys were close to the Led Zeppelin camp. It feels as if, now, even the band itself dismisses the Rough Diamonds record. Is that because of the things that I just mentioned?
PR: Well, it was amazing with Rough Diamonds. I’ll tell you how I came up with the title for that. I wanted to do some shows… ‘Cause we always did these great, big arenas and everything at that point in our lives. And I wanted to do some local, you know, playing the church down the road. And I actually set up a show. I hired the hall and we did a rehearsal and all this kind of stuff. And I felt, well, I don’t want to say it’s Bad Company playing here tonight because it’ll get crazy. It only holds about three hundred people, this village hall, what it was. So, I said, well, “We’ll call it Rough Diamonds, right? And then we’ll spread the word that it might be Bad Company.” So, we got an amazing turnout. We got every kind of… We got hippies, we got Hell’s Angels, we got mods, rockers. Every kind of person came. And it was an amazing night. So, I used the… I thought it was just a nice title for an album. However, we came a little bit unstuck with it because people expected it to be rough cuts, I guess, from the idea of the title. And it’s quite a smooth album, actually. It’s a smooth production that we did. So, it was that little bit of a thing because people expected more roughness from it. But it was different from what people maybe expected. But, you know what, it was what happened at the time. It’s a reflection of where we were at.
RHRM: But recently, I was watching Bad Company’s fortieth anniversary documentary and, watching that, it feels as if the band as a whole almost dismisses Rough Diamonds. Do you think that the bad feelings that were surrounding the band at the time of the recording of that album have caused the band nowadays to not look at that record as much as at the other ones?
PR: Yeah. I think so. I think there was quite a bit of internal struggling going on throughout that album. And I think that’s probably why. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know how honest I want to be, I’ll tell you the truth. But I’ll tell you what. Here it was. I felt during the Rough Diamonds album, that the guys were not taking it seriously enough and they were wasting a lot of studio time. That was my issue. That was my problem with it. I mean, they would possibly say otherwise. But I just felt that we were kind of not taking it seriously enough. And that’s actually one of the reasons I quit the band. And when John Bonham died, I was just, like, you know what? I’m gonna step out of this and take some time at home because I need to regroup my own… where I’m at and where I want to go from here. And that was all sort of bubbling under throughout that album. I think we still managed… I think we still have… we still have then and we still do now, a certain… a chemistry between us. And that’s kind of… I don’t know what that is. It’s kind of a natural thing. It’s G-d-given, in a way. A bunch of guys come together and something happens. We do have that quality. That hasn’t gone away. We did have it then and I think we still managed to produce a pretty interesting album. But we were struggling internally with our… again, this is an old story… but the sense of direction and where everybody wants to go. I always find with a band that when they’re pulling together, like a team of horses pulling a wagon, when they’re all pulling together and going in the same direction, it’s a very powerful thing. But when they start to wander off and do other things and attention is wandering from the main point, it starts to pull itself to pieces. That’s where we were at then. In my humble opinion.
RHRM: Rough Diamonds was also the last complete studio album of new material that you recorded with the guys under the Bad Company banner. Is there any chance, with all of the touring that has been going on during the last several years, that you and the band would consider recording a new album together? Are there any plans for that? Both Simon (Kirke) and Mick (Ralphs) went on record during that documentary as being up for that at some point in the future.
PR: I am writing all of the time. Right now, I have well over an album of songs. Whether they will be recorded and released solo or with Bad Company, or at all, is undecided. As it stands, I have no plans to record with Bad Company, to put the rumor to rest.
To read the rest of this feature, please order a copy of Red Hot Rock #74 at our online shop.