Paul Rodgers

“Feels Like Makin’ Love” and Music in the Northwest

Paul RodgersAdd a new jewel to the crown of our region’s rock royalty. Buko Magazine welcomes British music legend, Paul Rodgers to the Northwest. A member of rock’s elite, and acclaimed by many to be one of the best singers of rock music, his voice is not often associated with his own name, but with the bands with whom he’s performed. He is now waving his own flag. Making music with his Seattle based band, he’s currently touring to support his new solo debut CD-DVD “Live in Glasgow” which was released May 29th, 2007. As in his popular hit, Rodgers “feels like making love” here too, recently tying the knot with his long time sweetheart, (former Miss Canada) Cynthia Kereuk, at their home in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.

My interest in Paul Rodgers started while on a trip to LA in October of 2005. The purpose of that trip was to celebrate the success of my friend, Danny Miranda, former bassist of Blue Öyster Cult, who had landed a gig on the prestigious Queen+Paul Rodgers tour. Like many people, I came with no preconceived idea of how Queen would sound minus the signature vocals of the late Freddie Mercury. From the first note, his voice was familiar.

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Brian May - Queen
“Paul particularly was a big influence on us and a big influence on Freddie.” “The reason that Queen is touring again is because of Paul Rodgers.”
– Brian May

“Paul had always been one of our favorite singers and he was certainly one of Freddie’s idols, because he (Freddie) used to base his early style on Paul Rodgers.” “Paul gives us a bluesier edge. His range is phenomenal, I wouldn’t have thought he could hit those high notes, but he can.” “I would like to see us finish a (studio) album in this coming year,” said Taylor, who admits he has not been this excited about playing music in many, many years. “I’d say it will be forthcoming. It’s a crime to waste an instrument as incredible as Paul’s voice when it’s available to you.”
– Rodger Taylor

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A white spot light followed his trim figure clad in a red jacket, white t-shirt and black leather pants. Singing acappella, he strolled down the catwalk of the Hollywood Bowl. He reached out to touch a lucky few in the sea of out-stretched hands. He smiled, beaming from ear to ear as he sang the lyric…
“Lately I’ve been hard to reach, I’ve been too long on my own. Everybody has a private world, Where they can be alone. Are you call in’ me? Are you tryin’ to get through? Are you reachin’ out for me? Like I’m reachin’ out for you.”

Already on their feet, the crowd came to a deafening roar as Brian May stepped through an opening in the curtain onto a spotlit stage, guitar in hand. With a nod, he launched into the opening song. Behind him a wall of fabric dropped to the floor revealing Roger Taylor, perched on his massive drum kit, flanked by fellow musicians Spike Edney on keyboard, Jamie Moses on guitar and Miranda on bass. They ripped into “Tie Your Mother Down.” Rodgers’ bluesy vocal soared, delivering each line from his heart.

A few songs into the set, Rodgers spoke to the crowd: “I have a song that dates back to the Free days. It was alright then, and It’s All Right Now!” With the sass of Aretha Franklin singing “Respect,” he sang the signature line…

“There she stood in the street, smilin’ from her head to her feet. I said, hey what is this? Maybe she’s in need of a kiss.”

At that moment it dawned on me who he was. His voice had beamed me back, Star Trek style, to the late 60’s to a time before I was old enough to pay attention to the names of bands and songwriters when I was a teeny bopper, singing with the AM radio. I then connected the sound with the name, Paul Rodgers, and his creative influence on rock music; a staple to the top 40 airwaves for decades. I left the show energized, with a new respect for the song writing and vocal virtuosity of Rodgers. Upon returning home to Oregon, I promptly logged into the iTunes Music Store to relive my youth, and download the music of “the voice,” that led three famous British bands, Free, Bad Company and The Firm to Grammy nominations and the sale of 90 million records.

Paul Rodgers and Queen at the Hollywood Bowl.
Paul Rogers and Queen at the Hollywood Bowl.

Discovering Rodgers’ Northwest connection

A month or so later, while at a friend’s gig in Seattle, I recounted my trip to see the Queen+Paul Rodgers show at the Hollywood Bowl. My friend said his bassist, Lynn Sorensen, had been the runner-up for the gig Miranda had landed, and also played in Paul’s solo band. They were on a break from touring while Paul fulfilled his commitment to Queen. Sixty concert dates later, the “Return of the Champions Tour” ended, highly acclaimed as the top grossing act of 2005-2006.

Paul Rodgers with Queen at the Key Arena, Seattle. November 2006, I ran into Lynn again after a Clever Bastards’ gig. As we walked down the sidewalks of Seattle that night, he told of the recent two week tour of the UK with Rodgers. He said that Paul’s voice was stronger than ever, and that a live CD-DVD of the shows was in production. Lynn was jazzed about the 13 camera video shoot they had at the Royal Albert Hall in London. As a new fan of Rodgers’ music legacy, I was excited at the news and watched for the chance to hear his solo band play.
Six months later, I got my wish and attended a performance at the Emerald Queen Casino showroom in Tacoma, Washington. This time Paul and Company: Howard Leese on lead guitar, Kurtis Dengler on guitar, Jeff Kathan on drums, and Lynn Sorensen on bass, would appear larger than ants, as the venue was smaller and more personal. The sold-out crowd was treated to a night of solid hits from Paul’s entire catalog. A new song “War Boys” featured a blistering guitar solo from the newest band member Kurtis, just 18 years old. The two hour performance ended with the crowd screaming and on their feet as Rodgers led the crowd singing in call and response fashion with the fervor of a gospel preacher. We were treated to five encores, the final one a solo acoustic version of the ballad “Seagull.”

In the wee hours of that Sunday morning I met a tired, but gracious Paul, who had signed autographs and greeted well wishers for more than two hours after the show. I felt welcome from “hello”, and was able to express my gratitude for the great show that night as well as for the one at the Hollywood Bowl. Invited to an after-hours gathering of some of the band and crew members, I was able to hang out and hear their stories from the road. Through a lively conversation with tour manager, Brad Gregory, I learned that “Live in Glasgow” would be released at the end of the month. I really wanted to see that DVD and left for home inspired. I had made new friends as we talked and shared our common interests of music and concert photography.

Another road trip

The solid performance of the band left me wanting more. Paul’s “Seagull” melody had haunted me for weeks, so I checked the tour schedule on line at Paul’s web site at www.paulrodgers.com to see where they were playing next. Much to my surprise, Paul and Company were playing a benefit show for the LAPD Memorial fund at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood the next month. As luck would have it, I had been planning a trip to LA during that time to visit family.
On my flight back to Portland I wondered how this world class musician came to relocate in British Columbia and take his solo tour and band of NW musicians on the road. I thought “wouldn’t it be great to ask Paul, directly, about this Northwest connection!”
A chat with Paul Rodgers
My phone conversation with Paul Rodgers from his home in British Columbia, Monday, September 3rd, 2007…

JG: We happen to think the Northwest is a great place to live. Since you are from England, we wondered why you ended up moving to this area?
Paul: Well, you know I’ve always had an affinity with the Northwest. I remember being back in the old Bad Company days, when I used to play in Seattle, and down the coast. It’s always been terrific. The country side is so beautiful, and the people are so nice.

JG: Oh, that’s cool. I’m glad you like it, and the rain probably doesn’t bother you too much?
Paul: Yeah, it’s a strange thing. Everybody tells me, that it’s always raining in Seattle. In some strange way, every time I go there, its always beautiful. (Laughs)

JG: Don’t tell everybody.
Paul: You know it’s funny, it’s like a well kept secret, isn’t it? For me as well, I met a lady from British Columbia in ’97, and I began to spend more and more time on the West Coast, with… together you know. My move here and becoming a resident was kind of a natural evolution in my life. Ten years from that date, the date that we met, I made that lady my wife. That was just last week on August 28th.

JG: Fantastic. Well, congratulations!
Paul: Yeah, thank you. Yeah, and it was a beautiful evening. We had a full moon and we had shooting stars, a garden party, and it was beautiful.

JG: That’s fabulous.
Paul: And, it was a surprise for all our guests. We didn’t tell everybody that we were getting married… because they kind of got used to us being together. And so we just invited everybody to a garden party and we said, “Well the entertainment tonight is actually going to be, Cynthia and I are getting married.” There were some very surprised faces. It was a wonderful evening.

JG: Well, that’s fantastic. Yeah, I understand she does a lot of the embroidery on your clothes?
Paul: Well, Cynthia runs the office, really. She does the design for merchandise, and she does public relations, and many, many things to do with my career.

JG: That’s great that you can work together.
Paul: Yeah, yeah, I think we make a good team. She’s a former Miss Canada, and a TV Host.

JG: Oh really! Well, that is fantastic.
Paul: Yeah.

JG: Well, congratulations on tying the knot, as they say.
Paul: Yeah, thank you. (Laughs again)

JG: You could play with anybody, and you have NW musicians in your solo act. I was wondering how you go about picking people for your band?
Paul: Well again, it’s an evolutionary thing, really. I meet certain people and I get along with them and we discuss, we talk music. And there’s just something that clicks between us. Currently, I mean, the band does change. I’ve had Howard Leese in the band for some nine years now. And… so we’ve done a lot of shows together. Let’s see, Jeff Kathan is on drums. Kurtis Dengler is a new addition to the band. He’s from Lopez Island. He’s a young guy that was introduced to me. Somebody said, “You have to listen to this guitar player.” And a lot of people have said that to me in the past. You know, oh, this guy’s good, that guy’s good. But, I thought I’d try him out. He came along for rehearsal before we were going to the UK for the tour. He was so good. He knew all of the material and he’s very knowledgeable about blues music as well. So I decided to try him out on a new song, which was “War Boys” and gave him the solo on that. He was just fantastic on it. So I asked him if he would like to come to England, and tour with us? He said, “Well you know, I’d love to come, but I’m still at school and I’d need to get a note from my parents for the teacher. (Laughs again) If I can get that, I can come.”

And he did. He came to the tour. His second show with us was at the Albert Hall in London. And there were many celebrities there, you know, Jimmy Page was there, and Brian May, Roger Taylor, lots of different people. He just breezed through it. It was great, very confident, very comfortable. He’s seventeen years old.

JG: Just turned eighteen. (May 4, 2007)
Paul: Just turned eighteen, that’s right. Seventeen at that time.

JG: Which was much like you, when you started your career?
Paul: Actually yeah, yeah, yeah. I actually started when I was thirteen, doing clubs and pubs and weddings, and whatever around my hometown in Middlesbrough, and at seventeen. Yeah, its a pretty similar situation. I should mention my bass player too, Lynn Sorensen. He’s been with me for some six years now.

JG: And how did you meet Lynn?
Paul: Mutual friends, really. People recommend, and you go from there.

JG: He’s terrific. I know him from the CLEVER BASTARDS, and some of his other groups.
Paul: (Chuckles) That’s a funny name, that really is.

JG: Yeah it is. I was preparing for the interview today, I looked up some of the previous interviews that you had done, and one of the things that struck me was that when you came up with the name BAD COMPANY, at first the record company didn’t want to go with that? But then you convinced them that it was a good thing. Do you have any remarks on what’s in a name for a band?
Paul: Well you know, I’ve often had that problem. I had the same problem with Free. When Island Records said… this is going back before Bad Company, we had the band Free, with “All Right Now,” I’m sure you know?

JG: Yeah, I know. FREE.
Paul: And they hemmed, and they hawed, and they came to rehearsals, and they came to shows, and they listened to demos… blah, blah, blah, and then they finally said, “We’d like to sign you, but we don’t like the name. We want to call you the “Heavy Metal Kids.” I just completely laughed at them. But again, the band was like… “It is a record deal.” You know what it’s like, when you’re seventeen and it’s a record deal. You know, and I just said, “Oh, just no way! There’s just no way they’re gonna have us change our name. It’s Free or they just don’t sign us.” And it was a similar situation with Bad Company. They didn’t think it was… I think they thought it might have been an offensive name, you know. My take on the name was that it was kind of tongue and cheek, that it was… I watched these western movies when I was a kid, and you’d see the farm-steaders, and they’d look out and would see dust coming… and would be… you know, “Oh, we’ve got company. Is it bad company?” I don’t know, it was just that feeling of those early settlers the restless wildness of that, I wanted to picture, you know, that I wanted to paint a picture of, hence the song. Actually the song sort of paints that picture.

JG: I would say so. Would you, if you were to going to give advice to Lynn and his group the CLEVER BASTARDS, would you stick with the name?
Paul: I have to wonder. And that’s just my personal take on it. You know things have changed so much nowadays. Ya know, names are so strange aren’t they? Names have fashions in many respects. I remember when it use to be, way back… JERRY AND THE PACEMAKERS, doodle loodle loo, or whatever. Then it was suddenly, you know… CREAM, FREE, you know, da da, da. So names do have fashions, a name definitely then, becomes a trademark, THE WHO, think of THE ROLLING STONES, etc. I think a name is very important though, because there is a great deal of identity attached to that. It’s your trade, it’s your trade name. I know when I went solo, when I started to go out solo, it was never for me an ego trip. I wanted to step away from being locked into a band, and having to have every decision I made be double checked by a lot of other people, you know. I had passed that point, I had grown up to the point that I wanted to be my own boss, basically. But it came with a number of problems, that I was more identified with the names of the bands, than I was with my own name. So it took a little while to register, you know, one’s own name as a trademark if you like. Because in those bands, I pretty much kept low visibly (profile).

JG: I would have to agree with that, because I was a fan of your music without knowing it was you.
Paul: Yes, so many people have said that, yeah.

JG: What was stunning to me, was going to the Hollywood Bowl to hear you sing with Queen, and then song after song, (realizing that you) did that one too, and that one, and that one, and that’s the same guy. That was the thing that really blew me away. Was having loved the music, you know, from when it came out, but not tracking that it was the same person all along.
Paul: Yeah, you know, well it is hard to keep track because we’re all so busy personally. You need to put a label on something to identify it. That’s the way it is. But for me, the playing solo does give me the opportunity to pull all of the songs that I’ve written, with all of these bands together under one umbrella, under the umbrella of my own name. So I can go out and play songs that I wrote with FREE; like “Fire and Water,” or “All Right Now,” or “Mr. Big” or the songs that I wrote with BAD COMPANY; like the song “Bad Company,” “Run with the Pack,” you know “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” “Shooting Star,” “Rock N’ Roll Fantasy,” and I can also do songs that I wrote with Jimmy in THE FIRM; things like “Satisfaction Guaranteed,” and “Radioactive” and whatever, plus new solo material all the time, always moving forward. And that’s the fascinating thing with me. With each of the bands I had, I kept visible (the songs written)… with FREE, with stayed with FREE. And then with BAD COMPANY, I re-wrote an entire new catalog along with Mick. And the same with THE FIRM. We re-wrote with Jimmy a whole new set of songs. Didn’t really mix and match between bands, but this gives me the opportunity to do that really.

JG: Terrific! Wow, I hope you do more. Which leads me to (ask) what you’re currently doing now? I guess you have (released) a new DVD?
Paul: Oh, thank you. Yes, I’ve just released my debut solo DVD, “Live in Glasgow” and it’s doing quite well. I’m very pleased it’s number one in Canada, and let’s see I’ve got some notes here. I don’t actually remember all of it.

JG: Number five in England?
Paul: Actually, it went to number four in the UK.

JG: Oh, really!
Paul: (Chuckles) It’s number one in Norway, and it’s climbing the charts in the US, which is very nice.

JG: Longevity of career, forty years, how do you stay inspired?
Paul: Well, music is a constant inspiration, you know. You talk about living on the West Coast as well, when you’re surrounded by… I love observing nature. I meditate a lot. I always have done that since way back in the old days, its something that kept me sane. And I do lots of yoga and stretching as part of that. I love to watch the sunrise, the full moon, and nature itself. And there’s so much beauty on the West Coast, that’s an inspiration. Music itself, I find that I love singing, the communication that a song gives. You can walk on stage and begin something like “Shooting Star” and there’s an immediate identity, people know what’s coming, and they will get ready to join in and that’s a beautiful feeling energy. The same way when I play a brand new song. There’s an air of OK, so what’s this all about. I love to tell a story, singing is story telling, yeah.

JG: Is it different to walk on stage… I mean, how is it for you, to walk on with a group like QUEEN and put your heart into material that you didn’t write, but pull it off just as well as the original recording?
Paul: Well, you know, I don’t only sing my own songs. Like in the past, I did a tribute to MUDDY WATERS. There’s a very powerful blues influence in my style of singing and writing. I’ve learned so much (from the) music and I’m still learning actually. When I listen to OTIS REDDING, how to reinterpret, or any of those blues guys, how to reinterpret a song and make it your own. You know, you have to live the song. You have to be able to step into it, and make it your own and become the song. I found that relatively easy to do.

How can I put this, it was easy to get into the songs I could immediately identify with, if I felt it. Like there’s a song that they do called, many of them really, “I Want To Break Free.” They do it (Queen) in a certain way, you know, or they used to do it. I thought, “now the way I would step into that song is that everybody wants to break free in some way, shape or form, and that’s gonna be my take on this song.”

(Paul sings line… I want to break free)
You know, whether it be from a job that’s becoming a drudge, or a relationship, or a house you need to change and get into a different area, whatever, often we want at some point in our lives, we can identify with that feeling of wanting to break free. And so that was my take on it, and I could step into that. There is another song that they do called, “The Show Must Go On.” This is a song that they wrote and they never actually performed live, as far as I understand it. It was only ever done in the studio. That, I could identify with on so many levels. On the level of say QUEEN is such a beautiful band and has such great catalogue of songs. Such a great organization, it just lacked the final piece, really, a singer out front, you know, that could be the final piece in the jigsaw. So the song can be… interpreted in that way, the show must go on, i.e. this band. Or it could be any thing in your life, whatever your show happens to be. People can identify, can reach out and identify with any listener, really, your show, you gotta go on. That’s a great life message. Getting a little deep here, really (laughs) but that’s the way I see it. Some of their songs were just right up my street, as they say. “We Will Rock You,” it was something I was just born to sing. I love that.

JG: “Reaching Out” I loved that.
Paul: Yeah, a huh. Oh, you like that song?

JG: I loved that one.
Paul:: “Feel Like Making Love,” and a new song I wrote for the tour “Take Love,” we reciprocate each other in terms of interpretation.

JG: Actually, I loved the way they did your material, the vocals, the supporting vocals.
Paul: I didn’t think that “Feel Like Making Love” could be taken to a new level, but Brian suggested an idea for the end, that really did take it to a new level. Brian also initially wanted to do fifty percent of my material and fifty percent of theirs. But I felt that since they hadn’t toured in such a long time, that we would make it Queen heavy. That’s the way we approached it.

JG: Intellectual and creative pursuits; what do you like to read?
Paul: Oh, I love to read. I read all kinds of things. I read Deepak Chopra. I read the Kauri. I like to read books that inspire, books on spiritualism. I’m very interested in meditation and the Chakras. You know, the seven chakras? Kevin Trudeau has written an amazing book, Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About, which you’ve probably seen on the shelves, which uncovers a lot of things that are going into our foods. It’s a huge interest to me for sure, the poisons that are going into our food, it’s unbelievable.

JG: Do you have any special diet? You’re pretty fit and look great.
Paul: I’m currently trying to eat organic food all of the time. I’m doing a push on that now, organic eggs, organic vegetables, because there’s so much rubbish going into our food, so many poisons are being sprayed onto our vegetables. There’s so much GM “genetically modified” food, I try to avoid that. So many pesticides on everything, I try to keep as organic as I can. It’s difficult sometimes on the road. In terms of fish, “wild fish” rather than farmed fish; and “wild meat,” rather than farmed meat, and I feel better for it.

JG: And it shows, you look fantastic.
Paul: Why, thank you!

JG: Do you have any other types of art that you enjoy? Do you participate in any outdoor activities, like skiing?
Paul: Oh yeah, water skiing, snow skiing, sailing and hiking… It’s a very out-doorsy life here isn’t it! And I love that.

JG: I understand that you live on the coast in White Rock?
Paul: I do, we have a home on the coast, and we also have one in the interior in the Okanagan (Valley) on the lake there, which is a fantastic place to be as well.

JG: You did an interview with “Rockline” during the Q+PR tour and one caller asked, “What was the funniest thing that happened to you on tour?” I wondered if you had any stories?
Paul: You know things are always happening, and very often you have to be there. I find there’s always… (a story). We had a piano lift on the last tour with us. The piano comes up through the stage and our stage manager is very strict about, “Keep away from the gap,” the big hole in the stage that it leaves when it’s there. I play the piano, and then the piano goes down and I jump off it, and I meant to stay well away from that hole. In the heat and the excitement of one night, I completely forgot that (laughs again). I heard Spike, the keyboard player, yell “No,” and I stepped straight down and I fell about 15 foot into darkness.

JG: Oh my god!
Paul: It was absolutely magic that I didn’t break anything. Actually I did injure my toe, but I didn’t realize that until afterwards. I still had the mic in my hand, and I was still counting in the next song because they broke into… (asked his wife what song it was again?) a perfect song, they broke into “Another One Bites the Dust.” Of course the singer had bit the dust.

JG: (Laughs again)
Paul: I ran-crashed-into the tour manager who came to see what had happened, and I barreled past him to get to stage and walked on. I didn’t miss a beat and started singing straight away, much to the relief of the band, ‘cause they’re playing away wondering, “Oh my god, where has he gone?” It was interesting afterwards because people asked me, “It was amazing the way you disappeared and it was magical that you came back from a different point of the stage, do you do that every night?” Well, I try to avoid this. (Chuckles )

JG: Where was that? Do you remember?
Paul: Oh God, I think it was in Arizona. We thought, “That’s it.” Actually a couple of days before, Brian… it was the second time it had happened. ( The tour manger) Having been so strict, “Be careful of the big hole in the stage. It’s gonna be there for a minute and a half ‘til we get the piano off and then put the lid on.” The same thing happened to Brian. He came waltzing back with his guitar and the piano is coming up at this point, and I’m playing it with smoke and steam on it (Paul laughs). Brian goes crashing down on it and we come rising up with a guitar player there on the end of the piano. (Laughs) Fortunately he wasn’t hurt, thank God.

JG: I wonder if there are any pictures of that ?
Paul: I don’t know, there may be some out there somewhere? It’s one of those things that is funny afterward, but at the time it’s a bit desperate. (Laughs) You don’t know if people have been hurt.

JG: I can imagine that you could only laugh in hindsight. I read that you have new songs coming out with Roger Taylor and Brian May?
Paul: Well, we’ve been in the studio. We went in after my solo tour in the UK, when we did the DVD. We’ve been in the studio twice, and we’ve laid down about nine tracks. I’m not sure quite where we’re at, but we’re going back in again in October and doing some more recording, and then we’ll see what we’ve got, really. I am very excited about some of the things we’ve done, it’s very unique. And it’s very much a combination of my style and of the Queen style. Brian has this brilliant ability, really, to hear harmonies in his head. If Brian says, “I’ve got a little idea for a harmony on that line,” everybody’s got to listen because, you know, he really talks sense. So, we’ll go into the studio and he works the first line out, and it be will like… (he sings, da, da, da, da, da) and we’ll all do that. Then he does the next line, (he sings again, da, da, da, da, da) and we’ll do all these things. Roger and I are going, “OK, whatever!’”and we go back into the control room and put it all up and it’s this amazing choir. So it’s a very fascinating process. Of course Roger’s a brilliant musician, too.

JG: I was impressed with that part of the show when he (Roger Taylor) came down the cat walk with Danny Miranda and Jamie Moses on acoustic guitars to sing solo a song they wrote for Nelson Mandela, “Say It’s Not True.”
Paul: Yeah, there was a lot of… a great deal of variety in the show.

JG: Do you think you’ll play Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday show with Queen?
Paul: Well, I was invited for that, but I’m not gonna be able to make it schedule wise this time.

JG: Paul, if you could go back and talk to yourself at age seventeen, to give yourself advice for career and life, what would it be?
Paul: Let me think for a moment… Yeah, I think trust your inner voice and listen to your heart.

JG: Thank you Paul. We really appreciate your time, and we look forward to seeing you play out here again. Congratulations on your wedding.
Paul: Oh, thanks very much Jeanne. People might want to check the web site for tour dates at www.paulrodgers.com.

© 2011 Buko Magazine

 

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