INTERVIEW AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA
Additional questions and transcription by Jani “Ozzy” Salo
Legendary drummer Eric Singer first rose to fame playing drums on Lita Ford’s DANCIN’ ON THE EDGE tour back in 1984. Subsequently, he joined up with Tony Iommi and played on two classic Black Sabbath albums, SEVENTH STAR in 1986 and THE ETERNAL IDOL, the following year. Thereupon Eric toured the world with Gary Moore before reuniting with his old Black Sabbath colleague Ray Gillen in Badlands. In quick succession, he hooked up with Alice Cooper for some touring before stepping in to replace the ailing Eric Carr in KISS and proceeding to record the classic REVENGE album in 1992 and the follow-up CARNIVAL OF SOULS in 1997 as well as the live albums ALIVE III in 1993 and MTV UNPLUGGED in 1996. More recently, Eric has, in addition to touring with both KISS and Alice Cooper, appeared on Alice’s BRUTAL PLANET album in 2000 and THE EYES OF ALICE COOPER album in 2003. He has also toured and put out records with ESP (Eric Singer Project) and worked with Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia, Gilby Clarke, and that’s not all… read all about it in this candid interview.
You’re now once again on tour with ALICE COOPER. You first played with Alice on the “Trash” world tour back in 1990. How did that come about?
I was in Badlands, and we had a falling out, so basically, I got fired. Those guys kicked me out of the band, so I started going through my phonebook, calling every musician I knew, and said I’m looking for a gig. I called Doug Goldstein, who used to be a security guard for Black Sabbath when I played with them in 1986 on the SEVENTH STAR tour. He was now managing GUNS N’ ROSES and GREAT WHITE, the support band for ALICE COOPER. I said I was looking for a gig, and he said Alice Cooper needs a drummer, and he’d tell him about me. He did, and a week later, they came to L.A. to do the American Music Awards, and the next day I auditioned and got the gig, and that was it. So I was out of work for maybe one or one and a half weeks, ten days, or something like this. Everything happens for a reason in life, I know we don’t always want to admit this, and sometimes we don’t understand why things don’t work out, or when they go bad, we don’t understand it. We say, “Why me?” or “Why is this not happening?” In the big picture, I think everything is for a reason, so this worked out good.
Wasn’t this current tour with ALICE COOPER originally supposed to promote a new album, the release of which was delayed for some reason?
We were working on new material before the tour started and were originally planning to record a new record to tour for it. We did a bunch of demos; they wrote a bunch of songs, and the producer that Alice was thinking about using at the time was busy with Aerosmith, so he kept waiting. And before you know it, he had this book coming out called “The Golf Monster,” and he had to promote the book, and all of a sudden, we had to start rehearsals, so it just never got made. So he’s going to do a new record at the beginning of the year.
Does the new album have a title yet?
I’m not sure what he’s going to call it because he’s got a general concept or an idea that he’s talking about, what he’d like to do, but now it’s been almost another year as we all know, life changes. I’d imagine some of the same ideas he’d liked to do will still be explored, but you never know. It depends on who produces it and what kind of material comes up because now there are different people in the band.
It’s always a pleasure to hear some of the less commonly played classics live from the fan’s perspective. Unlike some bands, Alice keeps varying the setlist a bit from tour to tour, doesnâ€™t he?
Oh yeah, he does pull a lot of old, unusual, classic stuff, which is great. It like with all band that has been around a long time, you have to play certain songs that everybody expects to hear because some people are just regular, casual fans and they wanna hear “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Eighteen,” “School’s Out” and if they don’t get to hear them, they’d be shocked because they might only know those four or five songs. Whereas someone who’s a more diehard fan will be familiar with all the material, maybe the whole history, so they want to hear obscure or unusual rare songs. We try always to do that, and I think Alice is good about trying to do at least a few, like opening with “It’s Hot Tonight,” which’s not a very known song.
How about you, are there any songs in particular that you would like to see included in Alice’s set?
I’d like to do the song “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah,” and I’d always love to do anything from the BILLION DOLLAR BABIES like “Mary Ann.” I like that whole record. We’re now doing “Raped and Freezin’,” we don’t always do it. Some nights we play it, some night we take it out, we switch it around a little bit. I always wanted to do “Generation Landslide,” which we did do once a long time ago, but it didn’t stay in the set long. Sometimes the problem is, and this is the same problem that happens with KISS as well, sometimes the song that you think is really great and all the diehard fans want to hear, when they play it live there’s like five people going “Yeah, this is great.” and you look around the audience. Most people are going, “I never even heard this song. What is this?” So this is, unfortunately, the predicament that many bands find themselves in where even they like the old songs, they’d love to do these obscure songs, but they realize they want to get a reaction from the crowd. They want to appeal to the whole audience and not just a handful.
One thing one might criticize the setlist about these days is that it doesn’t contain much material from Alice’s albums from the ’80s or ’90s. Why do you think it is like that?
I honestly am surprised we don’t do more from TRASH or HEY STOOPID. On one tour, we did “Teenage Frankenstein,” and then we have done “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)” [both from the 1986 album CONSTRICTOR]. We haven’t done that one in a while because we used to play it every time we played in Sweden. After all, the only place where that song was popular was in Sweden. It was originally from the “Friday the 13th” [Part VI: Jason Lives] soundtrack.
On this tour, Alice once again has new guys in the band. Why do you think that the lineup keeps on changing so often?
It changes because… you have to remember ALICE COOPER is a solo artist; it’s not a band. When the tour ends, everybody goes their separate ways. Alice would love to keep everybody in the band all the time, but he understands that everybody has other outside interests, and sometimes they’re trying to pursue their own band, like in the case of Damon Johnson. Damon, a band, called WHISKEY FALLS, came out with their record this year, and Damon was writing and recording this record while he was in the band last year. He was kind of juggling his schedule as I do back and forth with KISS. Eventually, he realized he had to devote all his time to WHISKEY FALLS because they had a record deal, a lot of promotion, a lot of money put into this band. They’re really great; I saw them when they did their record release party in Los Angeles. So in a case like Damon, he had another outside project he was pursuing, which happens. Like Ryan Roxie, he moved to Sweden two years ago with his family, so he decided to stay home because he wanted to be with his very young children. You make a lot of sacrifices to be a musician and be in a band; you sacrifice many relationships, a lot of family, and friends. It’s very difficult, a lot of people forget about this.
In the current lineup, you’ve got Keri Kelli, with whom you appeared together on the SHAMELESS project. In your respective careers, you’ve both been involved with quite a bunch of musical ventures, haven’t you?
Keri’s a great player. Unfortunately, because I’ve been through similar circumstances before where you play in a lot of bands, people start thinking you’re just a hired gun. Well, you know, yeah, we have hired guns, but that’s how you make a living. Somebody calls you up to work, and you’re available, you’re going to go work. Kerri’s a great player. I knew who Kerri was for years, but I never really worked with him, and I would have to say he’s an excellent player. He’s very professional when he comes in; he’s very prepared with the material. He made it very easy for us when he joined the band last year, super easy.
THE STATE OF KISS?
What’s up with KISS? You really haven’t done too much lately with the band?
Yeah, well, that’s the way it’s been for the last three years since 2004. They haven’t done a tour, and now it’s been over three years like that.
Right now, however, you’ve got some gigs lined up with KISS in Australia and New Zealand?
I’d heard there was supposed to be three Australian shows and one New Zealand show. I hear all kinds of things just like you do, but you’ve got to remember I’m out on tour. I don’t handle any business to do with KISS; I don’t do any business or musical decisions. I don’t have any involvement with anything they do decision-wise, so I don’t always know what’s going on. To be honest, many times, I hear it from the fans or read it on the internet myself. That’s how I find out what’s going on because I’m here in Helsinki, Finland, on the other side of the world, and I don’t pick up the phone and go, “What’s going on?” I find out when they tell me it is better this way sometimes. I don’t always appreciate it… I mean, honestly, I would like to know so I can make plans for my life. Sometimes it’s a little difficult, but I don’t need to know everything every single day. That’s what my point is.
Do you know if there’s any chance of KISS crossing the pond for some shows in Europe anytime soon?
I don’t know; I cannot answer that. You have to ask Gene and Paul and Doc McGee. I know that Doc McGee tells me every year that he’s trying to put a tour together, and then for some reason, Gene or Paul or both of them say “no” for whatever reason. I can’t tell you.
One of the current things with KISS is the KISSOLOGY DVDs. How do you like those?
To be honest, I haven’t seen any of them entirely, but even though I have only seen small clips from those. But I think this is exactly what the fans have wanted, and I have heard about fantastic sales worldwide.
Bruce Kulick made some liner notes for the second installment of the KISSOLOGY series. With the third one coming out in December since you’re featured on that one, did you have any such input on it?
No, I’m not involved at all with any of this stuff.
Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer, Eric and Paul Stanley in 2004
Staying on the topic of visual entertainment, Gene Simmons seems to have scored a minor hit with his reality TV series “Family Jewels,” which is now in its third season. Have you watched it, and if so, how did you like it?
No, because I’m on tour, I don’t watch much regular TV. I did see parts of the first season when it was on — the one thing that I will say. Obviously, it’s silly, most of this kind of stuff. That’s not reality TV; the only reality TV is COPS because they’re pulling somebody over or arresting them with the camera on. Nobody knows the camera’s going to be on them when they get arrested or pulled over. These other shows, how can they be a reality when you know the camera’s on you? There’s no such thing as reality TV, but America loves this, I don’t know, maybe the whole world does. But from what I saw of the first season, it was funny, and I’m glad it showed another side of Gene. A lot of people don’t realize Gene’s actually a nice guy and very funny. Everybody thinks Gene is always so hard and mean and all this, but that’s not true. He’s just very rude when it comes to business and money, but he’s a really nice guy when it comes to regular guys.
How do you like Gene’s and Paul’s recent solo albums? While Paul Stanley’s solo album LIVE TO WIN fared rather well among the critics and fans alike, Gene’s solo album ASSHOLE didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Have you got any insights on this subject?
I’ve read some of the reviews that the fans were making, and I think they were pretty hard on Gene. I look at it because they made the kind of record they wanted to make. Paul obviously made his much more highly produced and used outside songwriters like Desmond Child. That’s the kind of style that Paul always wanted to write in any way. I like the 1978 solo album of his. That album could have been a great KISS record. It’s not 1978, and Paul’s not 28 years old anymore, you know. When you’re a certain age, you see life and think about music and everything in a different way, so you can’t make the same record forever. Sometimes when you make a solo record, it’s exactly that. It’s for yourself. Of course, you want people to like it, and you hope they do, but really you’re making the record because you wanted to express yourself. I loved Gene’s video for “Firestarter,” it’s so ridiculous that it’s great.
Did you have a chance to see any of Paul’s solo gigs?
No, I didn’t get a chance to because I was on tour myself. Every time he played L.A. I was out of town, and when he was in Australia, I was there but had gone home right before he arrived. I was there on a holiday because I was dating a girl in Australia for a while. I was on the west coast, and he was in Sydney, so I didn’t get a chance to see it.
Ever since his latest exit from KISS, Peter Criss hasn’t really been heard of. Now he has finally released a brand new studio album called ONE FOR ALL. Have you heard it at all?
Before it came out, I heard a couple of sound bytes from it, but I never heard the record. Honestly, I don’t really listen to much music anymore. I mostly watch sports; when I’m home, I only listen to classical music, I listen to talk radio, sports talk radio, and political talk radio. In the nighttime, when I got to sleep, I put on classical music because I love Mozart, Beethoven, and all this. I like this because it keeps me calm. Of course, I listen to that stuff when I have to learn songs for touring or something. I listen to music in the dressing room, you know, we listen to like THIN LIZZY, AC/DC, BLACK SABBATH or whatever, old classic rock stuff. DVDs, even the stuff that I’m on, I don’t even watch them. It’s very hard for me to watch myself on video or listen to myself. Some people love to listen to and see themselves. Once I do something and then a few years go by, for example, I can put on the REVENGE record and listen to it now and enjoy it with open ears and be very objective, but when it’s new, I’m too self-critical, so it’s very difficult for me.
Your former KISS bandmate Bruce Kulick is also hard at work on his upcoming new solo album called BK3. Did you play on anything on that album?
Only on one song, but I don’t know if it’s going to make it. I recorded one song, and he was supposed to try to get Gene to sing or play on it or something, but I don’t know what happened with that. Gene’s so busy.
Eric, Bruce Kulick, Gene Simmons, and Paul Stanley in 1992
You’re once again featured on the third installment of the AVANTASIA project, titled THE SCARECROW. How did you come to work with Tobias Sammet in the first place?
We did a festival with EDGUY, and I was playing there with Gilby Clarke. Tobias was very young then, I think about twenty or twenty-one. It was in the very early days of EDGUY. I think he was a huge KISS fan when he was younger, so he came up to me, and then I watched his band and thought he would have been the perfect replacement in IRON MAIDEN when Bruce Dickinson had left. I think he was a much better singer than the guy [Blaze Bayley] that they got. I never understood when they got him; that made no sense to me. Tobias would have been perfect because of the vocal style, maybe not personality; I don’t know. Anyways we became friends, and I always kept telling him, “You know, you’ve got a good voice, but I wish you’d start listening to like, maybe WHITESNAKE and DEEP PURPLE and David Coverdale and Paul Rodgers, more these bluesy based singers, because you’ve got a really good voice, but you’re a more metal style singer. If you’d sing more bluesy way, you could really develop this kind of style as well.”. I don’t think he understood what I meant back then because he was so young, but on some of the new record material, his style of singing is a bit more like this. It still has this German-Euro-metal style to it [as well] because that’s the style he writes and the way he sings. There’s a little more diversity in the style of music. There are some ballads, and there’s some cool stuff on it. Alice Cooper sang on one song as well. I recorded two records worth of material in Hamburg last December, and it was a good experience. The producer, Sasha Paeth, was great, a hell of a guy. Such a nice guy, but very talented too, so patient, got a really good sound, he’s a great musician himself, plays all the instruments, he’s excellent. It was just the three of us. We were in the middle of nowhere, on the outside of Hamburg, and all I did every day was get up, go to the studio, work on songs, record, eat, go back to sleep, get up and do the same. So it was very workman-like, then we flew to Serbia to do the two videos. We almost didn’t get there. We had to fly to Croatia first and take a bus because we couldn’t fly into Serbia because of the fog. It was a crazy experience. I went through a lot to get these videos done. We put a lot of work into those two weeks that I was there.
Apparently, AVANTASIA is one of the headliners at this year’s Wacken Open Air festival. Are you going to be performing with them on that occasion or perhaps at some of the other shows?
I don’t know. We talked about it, and I said I’d like to be involved, and he [Tobias] asked me about playing, but I said I couldn’t commit something so far away because I really don’t know what else is going on. Obviously, my “main” bands that I work with are ALICE COOPER and KISS, so it’s a maybe. I’m going to talk to them after the holidays. I’d love to be able to do it; maybe I could play at one show or maybe come up and play a few songs; if I’m over here, we’ll see.
WORKING WITH LITA FORD
At the beginning of your career, once you’d moved to L.A., was the DANCIN ON THE EDGE tour with LITA FORD your first gig there?
First, I was in another band called ICEBREAKER, which was the first one I joined in L.A. I saw an advertisement in one of these magazines and started playing with this band, and they were actually good musicians, but most musicians are very dysfunctional people in general. Surprisingly, some musicians have the success that they do because sometimes they’re just so messed up in their everyday life
that they can’t even balance a checkbook or pay their bills. It’s just very crazy, the mentality of a lot of musicians. I just knew I had much more hunger and desire than they did, more focus, so I didn’t stay in the band very long. Then I quit and met somebody who got me an audition with LITA FORD, a friend of mine named Ray Marzano. He had played bass in Lita’s band a few years before that, and he was good friends with her and told her. Randy Castillo was the drummer, he left to join STONE FURY with Lenny Wolf, which became KINGDOM COME, so I auditioned for Lita and got the gig. And then I met Tony Iommi because he was dating Lita, and that’s how I got my gig in BLACK SABBATH and so onâ€¦
Your first big gig was opening for RATT with LITA FORD at the San Diego Sports Arena in 1984. Do you have any recollections from that show?
Yeah, I remember driving up to the venue and seeing the marquee. The sign said, “RATT, special guest LITA FORD.” I remember it was very packed because RATT was very big then, this was just when RATT was becoming a huge band in America, and they were just going to start playing arenas, the big places, and that was their first arena show. They had just gotten a new lighting and stage show with these walks to walk on, brand new staging. So I got to do those first shows when RATT was just blowing up, and then we played on New Yearâ€™s eve at sold-out Long Beach Arena like a week later. At the end of touring for OUT OF THE CELLAR, they went out and started doing big arenas, did a little bit more touring, and then went in and did the next record [INVASION ON YOUR PRIVACY]. They were starting to play ten, fifteen thousand seat arenas.
Do you know if there any video/audio recordings from those shows in existence?
Not that I know of. I’m sure somebody has something somewhere. I did have some audio cassettes that someone had bootlegged, once from Lita, but I don’t know what happened to them. I had a lot of demos from the recordings I did because I did a lot of recording with Lita, pre-production, we were going to do a new record, and we did it with two different producers, so I had lots of demos. Still, the record never got made, and I left and started playing with BLACK SABBATH. Then Lita kind of went like on a hiatus for a while, and then she finally switched management and found a different producer and did the record [LITA] that was very big for her, the one with “Close My Eyes Forever” with Ozzy and all that.
Was that the rumored THE BRIDE WORE BLACK album that you worked on with Lita?
Yeah, that was the one and Tony Iommi was producing. The first demos that I started working on with Lita, Tony, produced the demos in the studio and played on some of it. I have some tapes somewhere of Tony playing guitar with Lita and me on drums in the demos. We did that song “The Thrill Is Gone” by B.B. King. Tony played the lead, and Lita sang, it was me on drums, and then there was Lita’s bass player Gordon Copley. That was like in 1985.
Do you think that there’s a chance that the album might someday get released?
I don’t know. Here’s the problem that people don’t understand, a lot of this kind of stuff when you record an album, you have a record contract. Your record company owns these tapes. Even if you write the songs, you own your songs, but they own those tapes, the master tapes. So the only way you can put it out is to go and re-record the songs, and you can re-record the songs because they’re your songs and release them as a new record any time you want, but you can’t use those original recordings because they paid for it. The label owns the tapes, not the songs on the tapes, but they own the tapes. That’s the problem. That’s why a lot of bands can’t use a lot of material for stuff, like when a band puts a song on a TV commercial, sometimes they re-record the song, a new version so that they can use it, that way they make money for the publishing. Otherwise, they have to give half the money to the record company. So many bands do this, re-record the songs. People hear it and go, “That sounds a little different.”. Well, there’s a reason for it; they have to. Otherwise, they won’t make their money.
How did you like the material on this shelved album?
There was some cool stuff on there; I think a lot of people would dig it. Like that song “The Bride Wore Black” was really long. I have all the demos; I can still remember some of the riffs. It was not as commercial [as “Lita”], much heavier. I didn’t care so much for the “Kiss Me Deadly” or this more pop stuff. I still prefer the stuff that Lita did on DANCIN ON THE EDGE. I know she sold a lot of records and had a lot of success with that, and I’m sure she’s grateful for this, but I thought DANCIN ON THE EDGE was better more hard rock. I love that kind of stuff. That’s a good record; I think all the songs are good; it’s a really cool record. I like it. It’s my favorite LITA FORD record.
SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH
In the mid-’80s, BLACK SABBATH wasn’t precisely the band it once was, and LITA FORD was still looking for a big success. Was it difficult to decide whether to join up with Tony Iommi or stick with Lita?
When I was asked to play with BLACK SABBATH, obviously at that point in my career, that was a good opportunity, and I think anybody else in my position would have said, “Yeah, I’m going to go play with Black Sabbath versus playing with LITA FORD, it was an obvious choice.
How was it like to be in the recording studio with Black Sabbath for the first time?
Well, it was Tony Iommi, you have to remember. It was great. Look, Tony writes great guitar riffs for that style that he does heavy D-tuned guitar stuff; there’s nobody better. A lot of people write some cool riffs, but I’m sorry, his riffs are the best. Anytime you hear any heavy band, even in the ’80s when Metallica came along and Megadeth or Pantera, it’s all still copying Black Sabbath, in my opinion. Black Sabbath, nobody sounded like that before them. I mean, I have heard bands that were heavy, but nobody sounded like them. So for me, not only was it a great experience, it was an honor. Anytime you get to play with, to work with someone who’s been an influence on you musically, that’s a great experience.
There are some demos from the SEVENTH STAR sessions in circulation featuring Jeff Fenholt on vocals. What’s the story behind those recordings?
There was some music, riffs, some of the musical ideas, not the vocals or melodies, just the musical riffs. Originally Tony was doing a solo record, and he was going to have Jeff Fenholt sing on it. He sang on some demo ideas; they were not even finished. He just jammed in the studio. I have copies of all this stuff, and he sang on some of the demos, and that was it. He was a really good singer, but it never would develop when he came up with an idea. It never got completed or made better, so Tony realized he was going to try a different approach and got Glenn Hughes in, and then once Glenn Hughes came in, he said I’m going to have him sing the whole record. Originally he was going to have David Coverdale, Robert Plant, he was going to have all these different singers sing as he did on his IOMMI solo record, he was going to do the SEVENTH STAR that way originally, but once they got Glenn Hughes, Glenn was so great he said “Let’s have him sing on the whole record” and the next thing you know the record company said, “We want to call it Black Sabbath.” There was a lot of politics and pressure from the management, the record company, and all this. But Jeff Fenholt was never the singer in Black Sabbath. I don’t know Jeff that well. I only met him back then when we were in the studio for that couple of months or whatever. I was coming in and playing drums, and I was still working with Lita. He was hanging around. I don’t know what he was ever told or what he claims he was told, but my experience and memory, and I have a very good memory because I remember many things very clearly, he was never the lead singer in Black Sabbath. And maybe they thought about that at one point because Geezer wasn’t even in the band anymore. Tony was doing a solo record, maybe he thought if I do Black Sabbath, maybe we’ll consider him, but it never got this far. He sang on some rough ideas, some demos, and that was it. It was over and done with. I don’t know why he says this all the time. He advertises himself as “former lead singer of Black Sabbath,” but he was never the lead singer of Black Sabbath as far as I’m concerned. I don’t mean this in a bad way. I have no interest or opinion about him either way; as I said, he was a nice guy and a good singer.
In the summer of ’85, the original lineup of Black Sabbath reunited for an appearance at the Live Aid concert. How did that affect the recordings, or did it?
They just took a break at that time, but I remember there were always a lot of rumors because people knew that Bill Ward was always very up and down with his health, and they always weren’t sure. There was talk about maybe them reforming, there was talk about maybe them doing Live Aid and Bill not being able to play, I remember even somebody saying, “Well, maybe you might play drums or Ozzy might wanna bring Randy Castillo in.”, They didn’t know what was going on; they weren’t sure if Bill Ward was going to play drums. I knew it was going to be Geezer, Tony, and Ozzy; they weren’t sure about Bill. Bill has always been the wildcard in Black Sabbath. He’s a great guy; he’s a great drummer. I love Bill’s drumming style. Nobody played in Black Sabbath the way that Bill Ward did. Maybe some people might be a little more technical, but Bill played some really interesting and unusual and musical stuff on all those Black Sabbath records that I don’t think anybody else would play. Because look, Black Sabbath’ had Cozy Powell, Bobby Rondinelli, Vinnie Appice, myself, a lot of drummers who have all done a lot of things and playing in Black Sabbath that adds a lot of credibilities. But for Black Sabbath, I think that Bill’s style is unique, and I really appreciate it much more now that I’m older. I didn’t appreciate it as much when I was younger because I didn’t understand it quite as much, to be honest with you. But at this time in 1985, because I was in the studio all the time, I would overhear the topics, and I remember they weren’t sure and then it turned out that of course Bill did it, and then we thought that maybe there was going to be a reunion, but it didn’t happen, I don’t know why.
The stage production for the SEVENTH STAR tour was actually pretty ambitious, wasn’t it?
Yeah, it was very big. Lasers and the whole thing, laser lights, and everything, it was very big staging.
Dave Spitz, Eric, Tony Iommi, Glenn Hughes, and Geoff Nichols
What did you perceive to be the problem with Glenn Hughes at the time?
You know, I don’t really know what the problem was. Glenn is a great singer, but he just, at that time, was having a lot of personal problems and physical problems. He just wasn’t singing well, but I don’t think Glenn really wanted to be… to be honest, I think Glenn was trying to figure what he wanted to do with his musical career at this point. I don’t think he really wanted to be in Black Sabbath as just the lead singer.
Perhaps he would have been more comfortable playing the bass as well?
Yeah, because that’s what he is. I remember very clearly when Glenn first came down to rehearsals; he didn’t even know he wouldn’t be playing bass. He thought he was and didn’t know that he was going to be a singer only. I remember when he met Dave Spitz, he was like, “Oh… OK.,” and I remember him being kind of surprised. That was the first time that Glenn had been just a singer and not playing bass, so I think it was kind of awkward, and I think maybe that had a lot to do with him not feeling secure, confident.
Where did you find Ray Gillen to step in for Glenn in the middle of the tour?
Dave Spitz found him, and he didn’t even know him. He just saw him singing in a club with Bobby Rondinelli’s band. Bobby Rondinelli had a band called Rondinelli with his brother on guitar and his sister on keyboards, it was the three Rondinelli’s and Ray was the singer, this was 1984, early 1985. Dave Spitz, who was playing bass [for Sabbath] at the time, saw Ray singing. He didn’t know him personally, but he had seen him sing and he said “This guy is a great singer. We should get this guy. He looks good, he sings amazingly.” and he was right, he came down and sang at a soundcheck, we knew right away. I remember Tony Iommi turning around looking at me. We just knew by looking at each other, and we didn’t even have to audition anybody else. We didn’t even need to look anywhere else. We’re not going to find anybody else that sings like this guy and looks like this. He looked great. He was a very tall, handsome guy, almost looked liked Tommy Bolin, like a cross between Tommy Bolin and Robert Plant. Very tall, dark, handsome, almost looked like a male model, long wavy hair. People always thought he looked like Tommy Bolin. When Glenn Hughes met him, he said: “You look like Tommy Bolin.” And he sang, and it was great. He was very inexperienced, but once he got confident and learned the words to the songs and everything, he sounded great by the time we got to England. Anybody that saw the band in England on that tour will tell you that, even though nobody knew who we were in the band, they didn’t know who I was or Dave Spitz or Ray Gillen, but that band played really well and sang well, no doubt about it.
Ray Gillen, Eric, Tony Iommi, Dave Spitz, and Geoff Nichols
Eventually, the band did run into serious problems. Was it anything to do with Ray?
Nobody had problems with Ray. The thing is, Tony Iommi switched to a different manager, and everybody had problems with the manager. The manager was not good, he was not honest, and everybody just felt very uncomfortable. There were a lot of bad business decisions this manager was making. He wasn’t treating people right, so everybody left. At the time that I was in the band, the last version was going to be Bob Daisley on bass, Ray Gillen on vocals, me on drums, and Tony Iommi. And Bob was the first one said “I’m just going to go back to Gary Moore because this manager is not getting it together with the business.” and then he called me and said, “Gary Moore needs a drummer, would you wanna audition?” and I did. And then Ray left to play with John Sykes and Cozy Powell at this time. That was it. Everybody left.
How much of THE ETERNAL IDOL album did you actually play on in the end?
I played the whole album. The entire record is me on drums.
With Black Sabbath, you only toured in England and the USA, right?
Yes. They did some other shows after I had left the band, they went and played places like in Greece and, I think, maybe an Eastern block and South Africa, but I wasn’t in the band anymore. I left and went to play with Gary Moore. In 1987 they did some stuff later that year.
OZZY OSBOURNE AUDITION
Did you really, at one point, do an audition for OZZY OSBOURNE?
I did go down to an audition in… 1985?
That must have been before Randy Castillo joined Ozzy’s band?
Yeah, it was. At the time, they didn’t have a drummer. They were looking for someone to replace Tommy Aldridge. Somebody called me up and said, “Hey Eric, Ozzy’s auditioning drummers at this studio.”, but I didn’t have the music prepared. I didn’t know the songs. If I’m going to audition, I’m going to practice by myself and really learn. So I went down to the studio and talked to Sharon Osbourne and said, “Can I audition? I’d like to come, but I wanna come back tomorrow.” but she goes “No, we’ve heard too many guys, we’re not going to audition anymore. If you wanna go…” and I said “Well, I don’t know the songs. I wanna prepare them so I can come back tomorrow.”, then she says “Nah, Ozzy’s tired of auditioning people. If you wanna go, just go in and jam with them; if not, that’s it?” So I went into the room, and I didn’t know the songs properly and ended up just jamming with, it was Jake E. Lee and Bob Daisley at the time. I remember when I was playing, Ozzy came in, and he was like, “Oh, this guy hits really hard.”, he made some comments. And I found out later that Jake E. Lee had wanted me to come back for a proper audition, but Bob Daisley didn’t. Years later, when I met Bob, he said to me, “If you had auditioned for Ozzy, you would have gotten the gig.” and I said, “Bob, I did come down to jam with you, but Jake told me that you wouldn’t give me another chance.” He didn’t remember me. The same guy who says, “You should have gotten the gig.” is the one that didn’t want to have me in. This was when we were playing with GARY MOORE, two years later, in 1987.
ERIC SINGER PROJECT
What’s up with ESP? You have one show booked for the late year. Do you have any other plans at the moment?
Yes, we have a show in Mexico City on December 14th. We’re looking at going to Japan in February, and we were going to try to go to Australia as well from there, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, maybe later, maybe in April or May, maybe we’ll wait. We were going to go to Europe, maybe in March, that’s when they wanted us to come over here and do maybe ten or twelve shows, but have to wait and see the schedule with all these other bands. KISS is doing stuff now; Alice’s going to work on a record and will probably tour next year, but probably not until later in the year.
Have you any plans to release more albums with ESP?
I’m not sure; I’ve been talking to somebody, I’m thinking about it. It depends on the schedule. If Alice doesn’t tour until later next year, and I know KISS doesn’t have that many plans right now, it looks like I’ll have a good window of opportunity. So I think I’m going to try to work on this, maybe work on a new record.
How about writing some original material with ESP?
Bruce and I have talked about it, but I might actually do two different types of things, maybe an ESP record where I do it myself with a bunch of different musicians, not Bruce, Chuck, and John, but it’ll still be ESP, maybe they’ll be on some of it, but I will use a bunch of other people because I would like to do that. I always wanted to do one project with a bunch of different musicians and then maybe do another EPS with Bruce, John, Chuck, and I, maybe three or four originals tunes and then the typical cover tunes like that, but I’d like to do a separate one with a bunch of different musicians.
You’re going to be turning fifty next year, aren’t you?
Yeah, in May, pretty soon, in six months.
Could you have imagined being here now, let’s say twenty, twenty-five years ago?
I would never have imagined that at almost fifty old, I’d be sitting here talking to you. All things in life have good and bad, up and down. For the most part, I’ve had a really good life. I’ve met a lot of great people. I’ve had some bad things happening and misfortune, but no different than anybody else. We all suffer breakups, loss and death, good and bad times. It’s all a part of life. I think, for the most part, I’ve been very blessed. There was a part of me when I was very young. I always felt that if I was given the opportunity, I had what it took to be a professional drummer or a musician making a living doing this. I always thought that I was meant to do this; I felt like I was destined to do this. I just remember always feeling this way from a very young age when I first started going to concerts. When I would go to a concert, I wouldn’t get high, all my friends would be smoking pot and taking drugs, and I would just go there and just absurd it like a sponge. I can still remember always going in very early to look at the equipment; I would be so serious the way I was studying at the concert.
What do you see yourself doing ten years from now?
Oh, I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll be doing this in ten years. I think I’ll always play drums, even if it’s for fun in the pub with friends or something. I definitely have a feeling I’m going to be changing directions and doing something different. Because I want to do something different, to be honest with you. I don’t want to keep doing this forever. I love playing drums, I like performing, but you just get tired from traveling so much, you know?
Thanks, Eric, for this enlightening interview.
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SPECIAL THANX FOR TOMI LINDBLOM FROM EASTWAY FOR PHOTO PASS AND PER ONINK AND ERIC HIMSELF FOR SETTING THIS INTERVIEW UP!
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