Let’s Go Back in Time: What instrument did you play at Julliard? What caused you to pick up the guitar and say to yourself “I can really do this” and make music your career?
PC: When I started out I was playing the drums, mainly because it was the easiest instrument to play, all you had to do was bang away! Then my mom got me lessons om the folk guitar, this was an important step because even though it would be years before I would switch to guitar it laid the foundation for the way I would play. I used to think of my life as BG (before guitar) and AG (after guitar). When The Nerves broke up Peter Case and I started The Breakaways shortly after that I sold my drums and bought the black and white stratocaster that I still lay today!
How you met Peter Case and Jack Lee to form the Nerves?
PC: I met Jack Lee 3 days after I arrived in San Francisco. I had come from New York City with only one thought in my head, “Find a rock n roll band!” And I did! On my 3rd day in SF I walked into Don Weir’s Music City music store and there on the bulletin board was the little 3×5 card that would change my life. “Wanted drummer for all original band ala The Beatles or Stones!”
Your 1979 self-titled debut The Beat is largely regarded as a classic of the power pop genre. But at the time it was overshadowed by the emergence of The Knack. Did you ever consider doing a double bill at the time or was it more of a competition between bands for the public’s attention?
PC: Funny but that never came up. By the time The Beat’s record came out The Knack were already super stars so we didnt even get chance to talk with them. Also unfortunately all that was pre-internet so there was not the kind of communication that there is today. Also that was the height of the music industry BS, we each had big time mangers, etc.and so ultimately in The Beat’s case seemed to not be the best thing for this kind of music.
Why didn’t you sue the Ska band “The Beat” for taking your name? You guys had it first right?
PC: Well you can’t just sue a band, they had to change their name here to The English Beat, which they still use to this day, in fact they are touring all the time now, I have played on the same night as them on more then several occasions. It was a big coincidence that 2 bands would come up with that name at the same time! Fortunately we didnt play the same kind of music…there was a review of the English Beat in an Australian mag and they used our pic!
On your last album “Flying High” you sound as sharp as ever. Has it gotten easier to write and perform compared to the past?
PC: No!!! I don’t think so, or I should say, I hope that it never does. The challenge for me has been the same from day one, write great songs… sometimes I come close and other times I want to jump out the window!
How has the living room shows been doing with John Wicks? You’ve been getting great reviews and I am hoping you continue. Any plans for a “Living Room” album?
PC: Working with John Wicks has been a blast! he is a wonderful person, very funny and we get a long great, it is the perfect combination! House concerts are fun and it is a very nice way to be with ones fans. Not sure when we will record together but it is one thing we both would like to see happen and some point.
What made you decide to start the Beat Army? Is this an attempt to cash in on the past success of the Kiss Army? I’ve already enlisted!
PC: Actually I hadn’t thought about The Kiss Army when I started The BEAT ARMY, I was really thinking of how people in the business (i.e. clubs and record labels) were telling me that the music I had dedicated my entire professional life to, some 35 years, was dying on the vine and that there was little to no interest in power pop and that you could only sell a handful of records and that people just didn’t come out to the clubs for this kind of music and basically what I have been hearing ever since I was 17…”THAT ROCK ‘N’ ROLL IS DEAD!” So I said to myself “Fuck that!” And without really thinking of anything I started the BEAT ARMY and boy am I glad I did!!!!
Any thoughts or experiences on Alex Chilton?
PC: I was very sad when I heard he had passed away, I have some personal thoughts about him, that I wont share, but when I brought back was starting out in The Nerves we used to do a lot of covers because we still didn’t have a lot of originals and my song was The Letter, I owned it and I loved to sing it, so that brought back a lot of old memories, I am thinking of cutting it when I go to Detroit on Saturday.