Interview: Fabrizio Tasso
Trascriction: Daniela Patanè
The presence of an authoritative personality like Billy Sheehan in Genoa has been a truly special event, which we wouldn't have missed for anything in the world! The blond “boy” from the States (born in 1953) is rightly considered one of the best (if not the best) bass players in the world. What impressed us most though was his great availability and his huge friendliness. Enough preambles, enjoy this wonderful chat!
RRM: Let’s start from tonight’s clinic. How are you going to handle it, will it be only focused on playing or will it also include some anecdotes and episodes of your career and your personal experience?
B.S. It will include everything: playing, music, stories, equipment, strings, guitars, drums, singing..everything!
RRM: Is it true that you learned to play just listening to music and reproducing it, without ever taking classes?
B.S. Yes! Just use your ear! (starts playing) Just keep listening until you find the notes! I don't really have any natural talent, I just work hard. It never automatically came to me, I always had to work and work, but I love music so much that to me it's not working, it's very enjoyable, I love sitting there and figure things out...I'm still learning! Every time I pick up my bass there's something new I learn or discover.
RRM: Going back to the beginning of your career, can you tell us something about your experience with Talas?
B.S. Talas was my band in Buffalo, NY. We started right at high school. We started playing in clubs, every night of the week, we played 21 nights in a row one time! Once we did three complete shows in one day! In three different locations. We played a lot! So those days were really my training. We played on stages much smaller than this, in much smaller places, and we just kept playing and playing. I'm over four thousand lifetime gigs! So those early days with Talas were a great learning experience for me, most of the things I know now started there. It grew and evolved to where it is now, but it started there.
RRM: Then it was David Lee Roth’s turn, can you tell us something about the period you spent with him and his band?
B.S: Sure! He called me in 1985, saying he wanted to start a band, so I said okay. He was looking for a guitar player and I recommended a good friend of mine, Steve Vai, on guitar. Steve came and got the gig! Then Dave told me and Steve “go find a drummer” and we found Gregg Bissonette. We put an album together, quickly and we had a lot of fun, into the basement of David's home. And we hung out a lot, had a lot of fun, we were all in Hollywood together at the peak of Dave's career, he was the biggest rock star in the world at that time, we had a great time. The tour was amazing, but after the tour it was different, something changed, not everyone was just as happy, so I left and I started Mr Big.
RRM: And eventually you reached worldwide fame with Mr. Big. The first time we saw you was in 1993 as opening act for Aerosmith, do you remember that tour?
B.S. Sure! I remember our first gig was in Spain and our equipment didn't arrive! We were ready to play with no gear! So the Aerosmith guys were nice, they said we could play with their gear if we wanted, so we said okay and went up on stage, no soundcheck! We had a great time with them they were really nice people, very generous to us. We've been lucky with all the big bands we played on tour, like Rush, Aerosmith, Bryan Adams, Scorpions, they were all great to us.
RRM: I heard you were saying that you have a new project with Niacin?
B.S. Yes, we have a new album out, it's called “Krush” and its' charted on the billboard charts! We're very excited about it!
RRM: With Mr. Big’s reunion you regained a huge global success, what’s the secret formula of the band?
B.S. Well, we care a lot about our audience and we do a show with that in mind. We're not thinking about us when we're up there, we're thinking about them having a great time. We play the songs they want to sing along to, the stuff they want to see. We're lucky to have an incredoible following, in Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, all over south America, all over Europe, Russia, all over the USA and Canada, so, we're very lucky!
RRM: And now you have a new project called “The Winery Dogs” with Ritchie Kotzen and Mike Portnoy, can you anticipate something about this new project?
B.S. Well, the record kills! It's awesome, I'm so pleased with it! It's one of the favourite records I've ever been involved within. Ritchie sings so great, and plays so awesomely. Mike of course is awesome. We really came together with a unique chemistry. Its' Ritchie, Mike and Me, that special chemistry that is a band. Rather than three individuals it's one unit. It's not just a side project of three guys from three different bands, we really got together in a room and wrote down songs, together as a group, recorded them, discussed them, all of our personalities and musical abilities were meshed together and working together to make it a real band experience rather than making some side project.
RRM: Last question: you played G3 with Satriani and Petrucci, do you think there will be another B3 in the future, like the one you did with Stuart Hamm and Jeff Berlin?
B.S. Actually we called it BX3. It would have been called B3, but I think that people that own G3 probably would have wanted to sue us! We made a big tour in America, then Thailand and Hong Kong, we may be doing it again some day!
RRM: Thank you for your availability Billy! See you soon!
B.S. My pleasure, ciao to all Rock Rebel Magazine readers!