Interview by Marko Syrjala
Joe Lynn Turner’s recording career, spanning three full decades, is too impressive to be described in just a few sentences. He will, however, forever be first and foremost recognized as the man responsible for leading the legendary hard rock band Rainbow into its greatest commercial heights. Taking over the reins from Graham Bonnet, who had only endured one album in the giant shoes left by Ronnie James Dio, Joe recorded three classic albums, DIFFICULT TO CURE in 1981, STRAIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES in 1982, and BENT OUT OF SHAPE in 1983. Before reuniting with Mr. Blackmore once again, this time at the helm of Deep Purple to record the SLAVES AND MASTERS album in 1989, Joe helped Yngwie Malmsteen craft his arguably best work to date, the ODYSSEY in 1988. Through the years, Joe Lynn Turner has also released numerous well-received solo albums and worked with many great bands such as Mother’s Army. In the past decade, he has, among other things, worked with Nikolo Kotzev on five albums, Brazen Abbot’s EYE OF STORM in 1996, BAD RELIGION in 1997, GUILTY AS SIN in 2003, and MY RESURRECTION in 2005 as well as Nikolo Kotzev’s double album NOSTRADAMUS in 2001. He’s also released and toured several albums with fellow Deep Purple alumni Glenn Hughes. We hope that you enjoy this look into Joe’s career, past, present, and future!
In the past year, you’ve released your solo album SECOND HAND LIFE, the SUNSTORM project, and the FIRE WITHOUT FLAME album with Akira Kajiyama, etc. You’ve kept busy, haven’t you?
Yeah, it’s been really busy, plus I’ve been touring. I just came off three weeks with Brian Johnson and Cliff Williams [of AC/DC] and those guys from Foreigner; we were raising money for the kids. So I had two days to pack and then I went to Bulgaria with Brazen Abbot to do a festival with ten thousand people there. It was great, what a night.
On SECOND HAND LIFE, there’s a track called ‘Stroke of Midnight’ originally written for Deep Purple. Can you tell us more about how that song ended up being in your solo album?
Ritchie Blackmore emailed me out of the blue. Well, first he called me to go to the Christmas party, and I was like, “Aaaah, really? I’m in the studio, sorry, I can’t go.”. But I wanted to, I hadn’t seen him in years, and I was very impressed that he [called me], I was like “Oh, okay, something’s happening here.”. He said, “Look, the world… the fans should hear the song.” It’s a great song, it’s a signature Blackmore riff, it’s a killer Blackmore riff, and I think Karl [Cochran] played it great. So Ritchie emailed me three or four times, and we went back and forth, deciding this. He also wanted me to do another song that was dropped from the Purple days, but I didn’t have any room for it on the album. I think the album flows better this way, maybe next time.
Have you already got that other track recorded?
It’s in the can, but I don’t know if we’ll use it. We may; it’s a good song, it was on the commercial side of Deep Purple. You see, what we were trying to do with Deep Purple was to make them more like Aerosmith. When Desmond Child came in, Aerosmith got very radio-friendly and was doing all the ballads and all that stuff. They were still Aerosmith but advanced into a modern world, that’s what we were trying to do with Deep Purple, and I think that the Purple Fanclub and everybody totally overreacted emotionally, like a knee-jerk reaction. They really didn’t give ‘Slaves and Masters’ a chance. It’s a brilliant album.
So that “missing track” is from those Deep Purple sessions as well?
Yeah, it is, from those sessions, just like ‘Stroke of Midnight.’ So was ‘Second Hand Life,’ but it was not meant for Purple, Jim [Peterik]. I just wrote it because Desmond Child had given me a booklet about his community, the name of which translated means “second-hand life” and the basic premise of the song and the book and his commune where he lived before he hit it big, was that most of us live a second-hand life. After all, we follow a father, and we follow the priest. We follow the leaders, the government, or whatever. We never really do what we want, and that really is what you’re supposed to do in life. That’s why everything else is “second hand.”
Can you tell us something about the SUNSTORM project?
‘Sunstorm’ came out great, and Dennis Ward is a killer producer and bass player, and I appreciate what he did with it, and Uwe [Reitenauer] all the guys on it were great players. There were some old songs that I had kicking around that were like melodic rock. I was really proud because I think that record is pretty much where my voice is, and that’s kind of where I’d like to go more because it’s rocking and it’s intelligent, and it’s well performed, it’s just a higher level of music.
Perhaps you should do a show or two with Sunstrom?
I would love to; that would-be killer. But you know, you don’t get any support from Frontiers [the record company], you just don’t get anything, you don’t even get publishing money, they’re like the mafia.
Can you tell us a little about your upcoming plans?
I’m planning a couple of different projects, one, of course, a classic rock record, but this time I want it to be more radio-friendly, even more than ‘Second Hand Life,’ like really catchy tunes because I have a radio-friendly voice and I’m not going to fight it anymore. I’m not a metal guy, I never was, I’m not a screamer, I mean, I scream, but I’m not “Spinal Tap.” I just want to make a more provocative record, something like a hit record. And I’m also gonna do an alternative album, a rock album. It’s gonna be a sort of bridge between classic rock and alternative rock.
Are you going to be using some of the same players as before, like Al Pitrelli or Karl Cochran, for example?
With Al, probably not. Al has now dropped out, and he’s got a studio up in the woods, and he doesn’t even come out of the house anymore. Karl, I’ll be going to Germany with to the ‘Rock the Nations’ and I’ll be doing Spain with Karl and Greg Smith on bass again. It’ll be nice to get Greg back. So, you know, it shifts around.
You recently reunited shortly with Yngwie Malmsteen at a gig in Russia. How was it?
It went really great. First of all, it was a great honor to be called to play for [Mikhail] Fradkov, the prime minister of Russia. As you know, we were friends with the mayor of Moscow and everyone in Putin’s cabinet and things like that. Glenn [Hughes], of course, he kind of divorced himself from all this, which I think is stupid. I was called to play for Fradkov, and they wanted me to do the Malmsteen stuff, and I said, “Well, call Malmsteen.” I didn’t think they would, but they did. So he opened for me and then I played my set and brought Yngwie on stage for the encores and then pretty soon we joined bands and the next thing you know we were playing all the ‘Odyssey’ songs. Everything’s fine between Yngwie and me. His wife’s a different story.
Yngwie keeps referring to the ODYSSEY as his least favorite album. Do you have any ideas? Why?
He’s fucked up. Okay Yngwie, you made more money from ‘Odyssey,’ you made more fans, you got more recognition, and it’s the best album you’ve ever made, and you have to say that because I was half of it and your ego does not allow you to give credit where it’s due.
Maybe it’s not so much the music but the other problems he was dealing with at that time?
Well, he almost died, and guess who saved him? Me. I was the guy that was at the hospital every day dealing with the doctors, dealing with the money, dealing with everything… dealing with him. You know, what really gets me is that… not that I want to be thanked, but I think appreciation would be nice.
Did you know that the LIVE IN LENINGRAD footage was included on a recent DVD release?
It was? I didn’t know that. So he re-released it? I think he’s a cunt for not telling me. I think it’s wrong not contacting people and letting them know, and he’ll probably say, “I don’t have to call out to anybody, I’m Yngwie Malmsteen.” and I’ll say, “You know what, I’ll sue your ass.”. Jerk.
According to Yngwie, all of the Leningrad shows were filmed?
The camera only worked for two shows. Who’s he kidding. We tried, everything was “Njet problem.” and everything was a problem, it never worked.
BRAZEN ABBOT / NIKOLO KOTZEV
You have a long history of working with Nikolo Kotzev. How did it start in the very beginning?
He contacted me and had the first project, or the second because I think he had a project with Glenn [Hughes] on it [Brazen Abbot’s ‘Live and Learn’ in 1995], and then he decided that he might be able to do this with other [singers]. So because Glenn was on it, I took a closer look, and I thought Nikolo was brilliant. You knew I wouldn’t do it if he wasn’t really brilliant. It has been a great friendship and partnership association through the years. I think he makes great albums, but my opinion doesn’t really matter to Nikolo because he’s very single-minded like Malmsteen, and I just do and write what he wants.
Have you any current recording plans going on with Nikolo?
Well, I was there for the inspiration of ‘Draconia’ [Nikolo Kotzev’s upcoming rock opera], and I turned Nikolo on to this whole reptilian agenda.
Actually, we met Nikolo a while ago, and he let us know about your interest in conspiracies and such things…
They’re not so many conspiracies, believe me, but that’s another story. Regarding the reptilian agenda, I discussed it with him, and I told him about it. You know, Mars and actually Nordics, you guys, are very much part of this whole thing because the legend… the facts are that they were ten-foot light-haired blue-eyed people and they came to this blue planet and went to the north to get away from the reptilians who were starting this whole war. It’s a very ‘Star Wars’ thing, so I told him he was very interested, and I told him about the dragon and the Draconian. Dragons are a powerful symbol; the thirteenth constellation is actually a dragon, but they only gave us twelve, which fucks up the calendar, but I’m digressing. He got very interested in it, so I’m sure I’ll be part of the ‘Draconia’ because I have the knowledge “laughs.”
You actually travel to Nikolo’s studio whenever you work with him?
I have to go to ï¿½land [Finland], yeah. I try to do it in the summer because, man, it’s cold in the winter. You know, we got stuck in the snow once. We were in the car freezing, and the cell phone died.
In the ’90s, you were also part of Mother’s Army. Can you tell us about the rise and fall of that “supergroup“?
Mother’s Army just had no luck. It was a great band, Bob Daisley, Carmine Appice, and Jeff Watson called me, and they had a singer, but they wanted more sort of marquee value and just gave me a call because I had known Jeff and Carmine for years. And Bob too because he was supposed to be in Malmsteen’s band, you know, the original ‘Odyssey’ record. To make a long story short, I flew out to San Francisco, and they had great songs and everything, so [on] the first album I just sang. The second album, ‘Planet Earth,’ was a concept album, you know, they had written the songs already, but they had tonality, sound, and style, and environmental, social consciousness. This band was a hard rock band, and it wasn’t just some “Hey baby, come and get me.” band. This band was a thinking band, very artistic in its content and very mindful lyrically. Then by the third album, ‘Fire on the Moon,’ that’s when I started writing. I think we got a little bit more gritty and earthier, but I think the songs excelled. I think it was our best album because it’s more accessible to people.
Carmine Appice left after the second album, though, didn’t he?
Carmine left, I forgot, that’s right. Then Aunsley [Dunbar] came in and Aunsley’s fabulous, great personality. And that’s when we did ‘Fire on the Moon,’ and then it started to gel, but the problems were that the management was stealing money and typical rock n’ roll crap, just getting fucked all the time.
The times were also kind of hard for that kind of music, in the aftermath of grunge, weren’t they?
Yeah, you know, Mother’s Army was really just ahead of its time. It would probably be better off now. We were a little edgy, and we didn’t use big productions, just four guys in the studio, that’s it.
You never toured with that band, did you?
We never played one live gig. We were dying to play together, and it was a great band. You know, this business just prevents so much because the business side of things, not the art, it’s like a wall sometimes.
HUGHES TURNER PROJECT
Let’s talk a little about your various collaborations with Glenn Hughes. Is it true that you first worked together on some material way back in the early ’80s?
Yeah, sure, which Tommy Hearts from Soul Doctor will do now on his solo record; he’s going to do one song called ‘Touch of Love,’ and based on the e-mails I’ve got, I’m pretty sure he’s recorded it already. We’re pretty impressed about that. In fact, we wrote ‘Touch of Love’ with Stuart, who jumped in at the last moment. We were like we already had it, and he jumps in, and we’re like,e “Alright, fine.”, you know, we were smoking a lot of hash. We had a great time writing, and Glenn and I wrote a whole bunch of songs way back and just never really redid them. Glenn’s kinda funny sometimes, he’s a brilliant artist, a brilliant singer, a brilliant bass player, and a writer, really great, I mean amazing. But he just has this strange attitude about what should be done then, like the second HTP album, which I thought should have been more like the first one, you know. I thought the first one was on target and the second one a little… you know. I said, “We’re going a little crazy here. You know, some songs are cool, but the other songs, they’re interesting, but they’re not kind of like where we should be for the audience”.
Did you use any of the old stuff from the ’80s sessions for the HUGHES TURNER PROJECT albums?
No, everything had to be new. That was the law.
Who owns the rights for the ’80s songs, and are there any plans to release them someday?
What we write, we own. I don’t know, I thought of doing one of them, but I’ve got so much new stuff too. It’s nostalgic, it’s sentimental, but it’s not exactly like something I would… I’m trying to move on.
Before HTP, you both worked on Nikolo Kotzev’s NOSTRADAMUS opus. Was that where you got the idea for the project?
Not really. What happened was I did the ‘Holy Man’ tour in Japan, and I needed a bass player that could sing, and Greg Smith wasn’t around. I think he was out on tour. So one night in Japan we were drinking sake and eating Sabu, you know, I and the Japanese label and I said: “Who am I gonna get?”. I think one of the guys from Anthem was there as well, the singer, and he said “Glenn Hughes,” and I went “Yeah!”. I got my phone and forgot all about the time difference, it’s like fourteen hours, and I woke him [Glenn] up and said, “I’m sorry Glenn, it’s Joe. I’m in Tokyo, would you play bass for me?” and he went “Well, sure.”, I went “Great, okay. Glenn’s gonna play.” and that was it. And then we played in Tokyo and recorded it, we didn’t even know, but we had a machine running, and it came out so good that the record company guys said, “Why don’t you two guys do a record together?” and we went “Yeah, we should. We always wanted to do one”.
How did you get John Sykes to play a solo on the first HTP album?
It’s like anything; you just call him up. John’s an old friend of both of us, you know. The reason that Chad [Smith] even got onboard is, truthfully, that he wanted to meet me. He wanted to have dinner with me. He told Glenn, “I’ll play on your record if I can get dinner with Joe.”.
How about the Michael Men Project, the MADE IN MOSCOW album, was it recorded after the second HTP album or somewhere in between?
I think it was just after we toured Russia with the second HTP that Michael asked us to do it.
You’ve even played something off that album live at your Russian solo gigs?
Sure, we did. Some of the songs go over great… Look what really happened was we recorded those songs to more classic ’80s rock sounding tracks, and what the Russians did was they took those vocals and wrote different tracks around them, which makes it sort of weird, and that’s why Glenn didn’t like it at all, and I have to agree with him on that. I think that was stupid. It was a stupid idea. But there are some good songs on that album, and I don’t think he should have treated the Russians that badly because that’s a big market there. He goes there once, but I go there four times a year, and it’s like crazy.
Well, what do you think? Is the “Hughes Turner Project” completely done, or is there a possibility that you might work together again someday?
I never say never. I thought HTP was a really good project and that we should have continued it, but Glenn had a different idea, and I respect his ideas.
Before joining Deep Purple, did you actually have to do an audition, or were you just the obvious choice?
They had a singer already, they were looking and looking, and they had a friend of mine, Terry Brock, a great guy, a great singer. At the last minute, Ritchie was like, “Are you sure?” and said, “I think you ought to give Joe a try,” and they were like, “Well… really?”, so he said, “Yeah.”. They called me up and said, “Would you come up to Vermont?” which is four or five hours to drive from New York. I was “Alright, I’ll go up. If nothing else, I can ski” because it was in the winter. So I went up, and as I walked into this rehearsal [room], they had an empty country club, freezing cold, you know, they always do that, Purple, they’re crazy. I walked in, and Ritchie started to play ‘Hey Joe,’ and I just grabbed the mike and sang. I didn’t even shake hands with Jon Lord or Ian Paice until after Jon started to play that ‘The Cut Runs Deep’ figure on a keyboard, and I just sang the exact chorus that I had, that chorus right there, five minutes. It just came out, and they stopped and went, “That was great. Let’s just get Joe,” and that was it. It was probably their worst mistake because they got very jealous on the second album, not Ritchie. He was always just by my side. But Roger, Jon, and Ian just wanted Gillan back, and Ritchie hates Gillan.
How far done was the second album when you had to leave?
We were already recording ‘Stroke of Midnight’ and songs like that, we were already recording.
Do you think that SLAVES AND MASTERS might have been better received if it had been released as a Rainbow album?
Hey, it was “Deep Rainbow.” How are you going to separate the cows from the cows, you know? There are four guys from Purple, and there are three guys from Rainbow… what’s the big deal. What gets me is if you have a football player, he plays in many teams, it’s all about the money. You’ve got Beckham, and he can play on any team he fucking wants. You know it’s the fans that get all crazy. I think they took it took emotionally and didn’t even listen to the record. It’s one of Ritchie’s favorite records, if not the favorite record of his, and he’s said it in interviews, and it’s a one of mine too.
Speaking of Ritchie, can you tell us how you ended up dueting the old Rainbow classic ‘Street of Dreams” with Candice on the latest Blackmore’s Night album, VILLAGE LANTERN?
Well, they called and just said, “We’re doing a remake of [Rainbow’s] ‘Street of Dreams, and I’m friendly with them, I’m friendly with Candice and Ritchie, so it’s not a problem. Ritchie and I never had a problem; it was always the other guys. There was never any misunderstanding, so to make a long story short, they just called up and said, “We’re gonna be out of town, and we’re sorry, but can we send Pat Regan [the producer] over to your studio and I said “Yeah, tell Pat to come to my house, and we’ll go downstairs and do it,” and that’s what he did. And I think that’s a really good arrangement [of the song]. I liked that a lot.
On the 1995 Rainbow album, Ritchie’s band comprised basically of the same guys you’d been playing with until then. How did that happen?
Look, that was my band. John O’Reilly, Paul Morris, Greg Smith, it’s my band, that was the JLT all-stars. They asked me for permission, and I said they don’t need it but to just be careful and get their money.
Did Blackmore approach you about borrowing your band at the time?
No, he just took the band. Do you think Ritchie’s going to approach and tell you? No way, he’s not gonna do it.
How did you like that album STRANGER IN US ALL?
I think it’s a good album, you know, it just didn’t get any recognition at all whatsoever. It’s a non-album because nobody even knows about it. It’s got like one or two songs on it that I REALLY like.
If the opportunity arose, would you like to take part in a Rainbow reunion?
Of course, and I think I’m the most obvious choice. First of all, I’ve talked to Ronnie [James Dio], he won’t do it… ever. If Ronnie’s not going to do it, who’re you going to get, Doogie? Who’s gonna sing ‘Street of Dreams, who’s gonna do all that stuff? That’s me. I think I should be A) the obvious choice and B) we should do a reunion. I always felt that Ritchie and I had another really good record in us, and we should have had one more record, and that would have been it.
That would be one hell of an album for sure. Here’s hoping we’ll get to hear it someday. Thanks, Joe.
Thank you, guys!
MORE PICTURES ON JOE LYNN TURNER AND GRAHAM BONNET SHOWS IN TAMPERE AND HELSINKI 2007!