An Interview with Rick Nielsen
  by Ken Greenwell (and ably assisted by Andrew Irvine)
Perth, Western Australia, 18th December 1996.
(An edited version of this interview appeared in issue 25 of the fanzine 'FTM')
Face The Music (FTM) recently caught up with Rick Nielsen, the wildly colourful guitarist/songwriter from Cheap Trick during their December tour of Australia. It was one of those hot, sweltering Aussie afternoons but luckily we were in the lobby of the Travelodge Hotel in air conditioned comfort awaiting the arrival of Mr Nielsen. I had pulled out all the PR stops and was dressed in a Roy Wood T-shirt made especially for the day.


Who Are Cheap Trick?

CT '97 Album & Sub Pop Review

Gig Review
(The Metropolis Nightclub,
Perth,Western Australia,
18th Dec '96)

Rick Nielsen Interview
(Perth, Western Australia,
18th Dec '96)

Back To Roy Wood

Back To The Main Index

Wanna learn more
about this great band?

Follow this link to
Roy Wood's official web
to check out the
Cheap Trick section.

There you'll discover a
couple of gig reviews in
which Trick were joined
on stage by the 'airy one'
during their '98 tour of
the UK.

You'll also find a few
photos (Including one of a
suave Mr. Zander attired in a
spiffing Woody T-Shirt!)
and a
link to Annie Haslam's
(Renaissance) web site.

Here you can read about the 'Lilly's In The Field'
concert where Cheap
Trick and Roy performed
several Roy Wood tunes.

Some Cheap Trick

Special thanks...

Rick Nielsen
Mike Herl
Andrew Irvine
Roco Anzelotti

The lift doors parted and out stepped the man himself. There was no mistake this was the genuine article, casually attired in a zebra-patterned jacket, skull encrusted boots, plaited goatee, shades and the trademark baseball cap (has anyone seen him uncapped?)!

He must have known who to approach in the busy foyer. Spying the 'Woody' T-shirt he made his way towards us.

Rick: "Hey, Roy Wood!" (pointing at the T-shirt)

After welcoming Rick to Perth we talk about FTM and what we're all about. During the discussion he flicks through past issues and upon discovering the Idle Race, begins singing
"Climb aboard my roundabout, climb aboard my roundabout" - "Skellington and the.... hey I've never seen these magazines before. So this is out now? Is this current?"

After explaining that the magazines and the Woody '95 Xmas CD single we had just handed him are his to keep Rick exclaims "Really, wow you guys are great! Maybe we'll talk and go to the computer store together!" So the interview began...

Rick: "You know we played with him (Roy) last year. We played with him right before Christmas last year at the Irving Plaza in New York"(21/11/95). " We were Roy Wood's band" he says triumphantly as the foyer of the hotel slowly fills with people (probably trying to get out of the 38C heat outside!).

FTM: "We've just heard that you've.."

Rick: "Yes, we just did the Brontosaurus".

FTM: "When will it be released and who produced it?"

Rick: "Its gonna come out in Feb. on the Sub Pop label. We did two songs with Steve Albini (Pixies, Nirvana, & Bush producer).The other song is called 'Baby Talk'. Its also gonna be on the Japanese album (JVC label) which will be out in March."

Rick then throws a question our way...

Rick: "Do you know all the words to Brontosaurus? 'Cause when we got the lyric sheet, we didn't know some of the words were what they were".

FTM not expecting to be asked to sing the aforementioned song say "yeah, sure we know the words...What lyrics didn't you know?"

Rick: "Err, well Robin sang them (pauses)...Start singing it." Stage fright set in, erm...Cue Rick singing "Her sister used to hate it, so I never thought she'd make it der dum dum dum dum...Like a firecracker."

By this time FTM has recovered their senses and joins in.

Rick: "You've heard 'Money Is The Route Of All Fun' on this?" (pointing to the 'Sex America' box set and wailing the chorus.)

FTM: "Yes, it's a great track. Did you do any others with Roy during 'The Doctor' sessions?"

Rick: "No we didn't, but Robin wrote some songs with him though, for Robin's solo record which never came out, so Robin's got them."

FTM: "We heard at the time of Robin's solo LP that Roy was going to be on it."

Rick: "Well, Robin wrote two songs with him I think."

At this stage we're running out of room as the foyer swells to breaking point.

Rick: "I'll give you guys a treat, something I have over here. You gotta go to the store and carry this 'til we get back (pointing to the FTMs).You see we're having a convention in the background which is kinda interesting "

Just as Rick finishes his sentence we are told to be quiet by the leader of the convention. What follows must rate as one of the most bizarre FTM interviews ever. The remainder of the interview was carried out whilst walking the streets of Perth, browsing and shopping!

Picture one quietly dressed rock star with dogged FTM interviewers in tow firing questions and acting as tour guides at the same time. We had heads turning! Our questions returned to Cheap Trick's new album...

FTM: "Now that you're no longer with Epic, do you feel you have a lot more freedom to do what you want to do?"

Rick: "Yeah, we can fail on our own. We've been around this long what else, not much else can go wrong. Everything's gone pretty right, we've been real lucky being around this long. We're starting our new label Cheap Trick Records which is distributed through, I hate the title, they're called RedAnt."

FTM: "So you hope to cut out all the BS?"

Rick: "Well that's what we think, but that doesn't happen. We'll still be just as screwed up but at least our name will be on it so we can yell at ourselves and not somebody else! We just produced a new record with Ian Taylor, the guy that was Roy Thomas Baker's guy and he's also the guy who's done Gary Moore. So he's the guy we just finished with." (Starts singing) "Still got the blues for you…"

" We quit sixteen days ago, the album we've just finished. Since then we've been in Japan for ten days and here for four. We kicked arse in Adelaide last night, great show. So I mean we just got done, we don't even know what the songs are! Fuck, we have to leave here so early tomorrow, flight's at 8 o'clock in the morning so this is my chance to see anything. So that's why your stuck with me."(Ah, the joys of touring!)

FTM: "You have a lot in common with Roy. He's been through the mill several times."

Rick: "He's been through so much crap, its not like he's probably brought a little on himself, you know being so not willing to do - he only wants to do what he wants to do and how he wants to do it, and yeah that's good if that were the case, but then why did he allow himself to be screwed so many times? So he obviously didn't do exactly what he wanted to do every time he wanted to do it.

" So when we talked to him about getting him and playing a bunch of shows in the US, he had to get back to England to do dates with his all girl band, which is kinda cool. But it was like, well - alright you know and that was a year ago and we haven't heard one thing since. In the meantime we've made two records, a soundtrack and a hundred things are going on."

Rick continues referring to the Irving Plaza gig ...

"Well, we did this thing with him. We did five songs with us backing him... 'Fire Brigade', 'Ball Park Incident', 'Blackberry Way', 'Christmas Everyday', and 'California Man'. We said, hey Roy lets do this one, hell here's what we're gonna do. Whoa! You know he didn't really want to budge on that either and even though we're willing to do it for free for him."

Rick is strangely drawn to a shop across the road from where we are. Klingons, a fridge magnet shop! He is greeted by a slightly bemused lady who hands Rick a round metal tray to collect a bountiful of magnets. Rick is after uniquely Australian magnets and swears they aren't for him but for a friend as he peruses the magnets which are littered across the walls of the shop.

FTM: "So what drew you to The Move?"

Rick: "I don't really know. You know when we were at highschool no-one knew who they were and when you got outta highschool people still didn't know. Even today nobody ever knows who The Move were."

FTM: "To our ears it appears your biggest influence was The Move."

Rick: "We love the stuff".

FTM: "Tom's chunky bass sound seems to capture The Move perfectly."

Rick: "Well you'll hear it tonight." After several minutes Rick takes his stacked tray to the counter and chooses a couple of redback spiders and a handful of blowflies. We leave the shop and hit the streets again.

FTM: "We've heard you have this habit of making producers cry…Would you make Jeff Lynne cry and would you like to work with him in the future?"

Rick: "Sure. Well we wanted to work with him and would love to work with him. When we did our last record 'Woke Up With A Monster' our demo version of 'I Didn't Know I Had It' we did was so good, he heard our version 'cause we asked him if he wanted to do it and he said no you don't need me you've already done it. Then we did our version. So no, we wouldn't make him cry, no we wouldn't want to make anyone cry….They make us cry!"

FTM: "Did you ever see The Move or ELO live?"

Rick: "I didn't see The Move but I did see ELO when they did that thing with the spaceship. They were the original Milli Vanilli"! (referring to their controversial use of backing tapes)

By now we were making our way back to the hotel. It had been a most interesting experience and we got to talking about tribute albums. You may not be aware of an album which is about to be released this year in tribute of Cheap Trick called 'Cheap Shots' featuring the talents of Joey Ramone, Everclear, The Posies and many others.

FTM wondered if Cheap Trick would be interested in recording a song for an ELO tribute album and what song they might want to tackle.

Rick: "Of course, we'd do it in a skinny minute. That means yes, of course. I don't know what song, I'd like to see just doing them as they are. No, I'd like to change them, 'cause with Brontosaurus we really just did a copy of the song, but its kinda funny, its us and me. On their version there's twenty things going on, but ours is just guitar, bass and overdubbed slide. One slide so it still sounds big. It was Albinis choice, He picked that."

Cheap Trick have always threatened to break into 'Brontosaurus' during 'California Man' and it was probably only a matter of time before they covered the song in its own right.

Rick: "Well, we sure did! With the ELO thing I was just thinking about 'Do Ya' and what to do with that. I'd probably slow it down a bit…I'd have to see a list."

Walking back to the now empty foyer we asked Rick if the guys were planning a UK tour.

Rick: "Yeah, we're planning to be in the UK next year sometime (1997)."

Our conversation returned full circle to my Roy Wood T-shirt and I reluctantly agreed to part with it.

"You gotta wash it first though and bring it back to the hotel before the show tonight and I'll wear it".

FTM: "Come on Rick, my BO wasn't that bad was it?"