INTERVIEW AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA
Robin Beck is an American singer, best known for her 1988 single “First Time,” which topped the UK and German charts. The song had come to widespread public attention via its use in a Coca-Cola commercial. But Robin has done a lot more than just that. Her first album, SWEET TALK, came out in 1979, and altogether she has released 9 studio albums, the latest one UNDERNEATH in 2013, and several successful singles, including “Save Up All Your Tears,” “Tears In the Rain,” and “Wrecking Ball.” In early June, I was fortunate enough to meet Robin at the Sweden Rock Festival, and we then discussed many various topics, including the past, the present, and the future of Robin Beck. Read on!
BACK IN THE SWEDEN GROOVE
Metal-Rules.com: So, here we are in Sweden, in Sweden Rock, and you just finished your first show in Scandinavia. It was a good crowd there, and it seemed that you had a great time on stage. So, what kind of feelings you have from the show and how you overall like this festival?
Robin Beck: I am so elated. This was so much fun. I tried so hard for so many years to reach the Sweden Rock level. To be invited here, and this is my Maiden voyage. Naturally, the crowd was so receptive, and I was a little bit nervous when I got on stage. But then when I saw everybody, and it seems like I knew every single face. Everybody just looks so familiar to me; it’s that face of acceptance. That face of just embracing my music, and I just had the best time ever. I can’t wait to come back and do it again.
Metal-Rules.com: In fact, in recent years, you have been working a lot with many Swedish people like Tommy Denander. There must be something special in this country, in your opinion, right?
Robin Beck: Well, Swedish people happen to be nicer than any other people in the world. And Tommy Denander is a very good friend of mine; he was very instrumental and getting me to go back on stage and performing live. We all know I can sing in the studio. I can sing in the studio. I have no problem with that. Having the confidence to get up on stage and try to emulate that after 25 years of not being on stage was a bit daunting to me. I was a little scared, and the first tour out a couple of years ago starting with Fire Fest. I just was falling apart going, “I don’t know why I’m doing this. I must be crazy; get me out of here. Change my plane ticket. I want to go home.” And the second I get on stage, all the butterflies went away, and I didn’t want to get off the stage. I had a great time. So, yeah. That’s the answer.
Metal-Rules.com: So, now you have the “good old feeling” back when you’re on stage.
Robin Beck: I have a feeling that I love performing. What I don’t love is long, long drives and very grueling schedules. And what hurts me more than anything is if the trip is so long and I don’t have time to stop and take as much time as I want with the fans. And sometimes the fans don’t understand, and they should never think this about me ever. They should never think that I don’t have time for them; it’s just that sometimes I can be late for a show, or even as a human being, I can be sick. So, I just want to let everybody know that that’s not who I am. So, if I ever did that to you, I’m really sorry.
Metal-Rules.com: But there will always be some fans complaining no matter what you do, right?
Robin Beck: Just a couple, just as they missed me in Norway and they drove from somewhere, and they know who they are. They drove from Sweden, and they… Actually, to Copenhagen and not Norway and didn’t get a chance to meet me because we were in a scuffle, as you know. But they knew my whole schedule. “But you were here, and you get off the plane there, and you weren’t here and everything. So, why you didn’t have time for me?” And I said, “Don’t ask me.” It always feels bad, but it makes it wonderful to be able to. I’ll make up for the next time, come to a concert, remind me, tell me. Because in the norm, I love seeing the fans. The fans are the best part. Being on stage is exceptionally fun, but meeting the fans afterward and seeing that look on their faces and in their eyes. Because of them, I’m able to do what I love to do.
Metal-Rules.com: Meeting the fans will certainly give something to you, so that is of mutual benefit?
Robin Beck: Yeah, it’s a total connection.
UNDERNEATH ALBUM AND MORE
Metal-Rules.com: The latest Robin Beck album UNDERNEATH was released last year.
Robin Beck: Right.
Metal-Rules.com: What do you think of that album now, a year after it was released?
Robin Beck: I think I could have done a better job promoting it, but everybody who got the record just embraced it wholeheartedly. It was a good twist of heading more towards a modern rock sound, but it’s still kept all the ’80s intensity. It had some beautiful melodies, great concepts, and great ideas in terms of sending a message. And it was very real for me, and I enjoyed it. It gave me a good kick in the pants.
Metal-Rules.com: The album cover art of UNDERNEATH is also very successful. It looks really cool, in my opinion. How do you like that by yourself?
Robin Beck: Yeah. A little bit and yet not. I mean, it was sort of trying to find a mood that fit the title was not easy because I didn’t want it to be too arty and… Maybe one day I’ll get into that real arty thing that people in my genre do, but I’m all for just the straightforward picture that has any kind of feeling going forth. I’m not trying to win the best album of the year. I’m not as a cover anyway.
Metal-Rules.com: Anyway, it looks great, and you should have put it out as vinyl as well.
Robin Beck: On vinyl, yeah. Talk to the manufacturers.
Metal-Rules.com: Because nowadays, many fans skip over CDs, but they buy MP3 and vinyl. It’s a growing trend, at least here in Europe. Have you noticed this in the US?
Robin Beck: No. I don’t know about it, but that’s good. So, it’s coming back around again. That’s good to know.
Metal-Rules.com: Yeah, and it truly seems that CDs are just fading away slowly.
Robin Beck: Yeah, they are captive. Plus, mailing those plastic things cost more than making the record. So, I’ll be happy when CDs are reduced to vinyl or to just a way of… Yeah, I can try to make it next time.
Metal-Rules.com: Then I was going to ask something about your personal life. You and James are special people because I don’t know too many couples in the music business who work and tour together. So, how do you make it work?
Robin Beck: Okay. James and I are a very special couple. He’s like the greatest male rock singer, and he thinks of me the same. I won’t say it about myself. But he thinks that of me. So, there is absolute respect that we have for each other. And so, there are times when we don’t actually have to look at each other as… It’s not so much as a couple of men and wife, and it’s like we are peers. Don’t believe that we get along all the time; believe me, we have our fights, and we have our moments where we don’t want to be in the same room together. We argue about music, which’s too loud. What’s too soft, what sounds good? What doesn’t, what they like better. What’s not? Of course, we are human, but overall we have a beautiful family. We have one child; we have Olivia, who’s going to be seventeen years old. She’s also in the arts; she’s a fabulous singer, a fabulous actress. We all have our personalities; nobody caves in my house to anyone. Everybody is a very strong personality, so it takes I’m getting used to… If you come to my house and you see the three of us together, you wonder how we are not each dead. How could we live with each other? They talk to each other so straightforward.
Metal-Rules.com: Maybe that’s the secret that keeps the whole thing together.
Robin Beck: Possibly. But we keep it straight; as long as we all tell each other what we really feel then, it worked faster. So, you don’t have time to harbor any bad feelings, although sometimes I will plan how to murder him. How to get rid of her, how to murder him. But there is no money, and it’s like, “Yeah. Forget it.” That was a joke, by the way. “Laughs.”
Metal-Rules.com: Yeah, of course, “Laughs.”
Robin Beck: In case any of them turn up dead, it wasn’t me.
Metal-Rules.com: Yeah, but now people can read from this interview that you said it. “Laughs”
Robin Beck: That’s right, damn! “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: How and where did you and James meet for the first time?
Robin Beck: I met him through a friend of mine, her name is Terry and her husband John Pena is a bass player. He used to play with Los Lobotomys with Steve Lukather. And I had a boyfriend at the time, and it was a long relationship, and it was a breakup. And I didn’t even really feel like seeing anyone, but I was living out in Melbourne, and my girlfriend Terry Anne and her husband John didn’t like me out there all by myself. So, they kept insisting, “come over, come over.” And so I came over when I… And then the next thing she pulls out James Christian’s album, and she goes, “You want to meet this guy?” And I went, “No.” And she said, “But he only lives up the street.” And I went, “I don’t care.” And he came over to her house, he didn’t want to come over either, and he didn’t want to meet me either. So, let’s get that straight right at the gate, but we both were forced into it, and the minute we saw each other, we felt in almost split seconds in love. We haven’t been apart since that minute, that second, nanosecond. Yeah, it’s sick.
Metal-Rules.com: Sounds like the real thing. “Laughs”
Robin Beck: I’m going to trade him in soon, though, a younger version. “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: When you were first married, it was time to spend some family life. Did you ever have disagreements about which one is staying home to take care of things? I mean, did he ever wanted you to stay home and give up your career?
Robin Beck: That I should stop? I wanted to stop for five years. I didn’t want to have a baby and walk away from her; it was too much work to get there. I start late in life with her, and I wanted… And it was so much fun. I could make her dress up and wear any hut I wanted to, but makeup on her, polish her nails. It was like having a best friend and a doll all simultaneously, and I never wanted her to grow up, but I didn’t want to take it away… I didn’t want my career to take that away from me. So, my daughter Olivia came with me everywhere I went as much as I could. And then, the rest of the time, James never pushed me. “You have to work, or you shouldn’t work,” it was always my decision.
Metal-Rules.com: I think that James also was out of the music business for a couple of years during that time. At least that’s what he told me in an interview some time ago.
Robin Beck: Not really, because he was really had his hands very strongly in producing. We were trying to produce new artists at the time, and we were trying to… He did have to take on the sidelines in order for us to survive it, but this boy never stops music no matter what he tells you. He’s maybe doing other things, but our house is… The scenes are coming apart from the music being so loud.
FIRST TIME, HIDE YOUR HEART AND THE FUTURE OF ROBIN BECK
Metal-Rules.com: In 1988, you released a single “First Time,” which was your first significant chart hit and partly because it was released in Coca Cola commercial then. Do people still remember that thing?
Robin Beck: All these years, 25 years and more. I am the girl who broke out the song that came from a commercial called Coca-Cola Coke Z, and it was called “First Time.” And it was the luckiest day of my life.
Metal-Rules.com: How did you actually end up doing the song?
Robin Beck: Well, I was a jingle singer. First, I was a recording artist, and you should know it’s tough to become successful. Some people think when you are successful that it happened overnight, but it didn’t happen overnight. It was years and years, and during that time, I had to work. So, I was very friendly with some of the players on the David Letterman show. And even before that, before they were even picked for that show, we were in the jingle business. Who recommended me to the top people in the business, and I never looked back. I worked every day, and I could afford not to care about anything. And I still made the music; in fact, one of the guitar players who is playing tonight with Jake…
Metal-Rules.com: Jake E Lee?
Robin Beck: Jack E Lee, right. His name is Ronnie Mancuso. He was in my first band. So, he’s here tonight. It’s a really small world, but I started with the jingle business, and then the jingle business invited me, and they said, “We have this song.” It was not really a full song yet, and they had to experiment we played with it. We did this and that. I recorded it, and I said, “See you tomorrow for work.” Whatever. I forgot about it; a few months later, it was a number one hit. And I never even knew what I put down.
Metal-Rules.com: So, it really happened overnight?
Robin Beck: In this sense, it happened overnight, but my career did not happen overnight. But then again, it was only one song. How about if it would have been a whole album? That’s what we tried to do with TROUBLE OR NOTHIN’. The TROUBLE OR NOTHIN’ album came very close to it, it’s a classic album of female rock, but it only had one number one hit. It had a couple of top ten hits.
Metal-Rules.com: Tell something about the song “Hide Your Heart” on the album. How you ended up recording that tune which KISS frontman Paul Stanley writes and Desmond Child?
Robin Beck: How did I get wind up with that song? They presented it to me, and I loved it. Desmond presented it to me in a demo. And I said, “My God! What a fun song. I’ll do it.” I picked the songs very fast; they were so clearly great songs.
Metal-Rules.com: That one is funny because the song is also released by KISS but a few other artists.
Robin Beck: Not before, after. Molly Hatchet and Ace Frehley.
Metal-Rules.com: And Bonnie Tyler.
Robin Beck: Right, Bonnie Tyler did it before me, but I didn’t know that. Years later, I found out.
Metal-Rules.com: So, when you have heard the different versions, which do you prefer best yourself?
Robin Beck: Mine. Mine is the best, too bad. It’s better than KISS. I have to say. I love Paul Stanley. I love KISS; I love every member of the band. They can do no wrong; they can stand on their heads and work and make a hit song. But they don’t do that song… at least they don’t vocally do it better than I do.
Metal-Rules.com: The reason they recorded it once they put out the album HOT IN THE SHADE, they’re probably suffering from lack of material, and they just added that song on the album at the last minute?
Robin Beck: Yeah. But then they put it out as a single simultaneously as me, and I had no chance, and neither did they, to be honest with you. So, we both lost out. But my fans seem to know. If Paul sings “Hide Your Heart” at a concert, the people are going to love it because they love him. If I do it, they will love me, and if Bonnie does it, they will love her. If Ace does it, they are going to love him. Just all of them. Not Michael Monroe. What was the other one who did it? Molly Hatchet. If they do it, it’s going to be… Their fans love everything they do, and rightfully so, great song. But mine is the one.
Metal-Rules.com: I almost agree, but I’m a huge KISS fan, so I have to disagree. “Laughs”
Robin Beck: Well, you can look at it this way. That’s the best male version, and mine is the best female version.
Metal-Rules.com: I agree with that.
Robin Beck: There you go.
Metal-Rules.com: Now it’s the time for the last question about the future of Robin Beck. What’s going to happen next in your career?
Robin Beck: I’m making another album now. We are collecting, we are writing. It may not come out this year, but we started writing it. James and I finished writing it sometime over the summer; we hope to get it by October. Whenever we say that we never make it so, maybe it will come out again in February, who knows, or sooner. I’m working with my agent for yet another tour and will see how that goes, but everything is in stages now. Because now that I have been out here more often, the people are asking, instead of us begging now, people are asking. And doing Sweden Rock had to be the icing on the cake. If people don’t get it from me doing Sweden Rock, they’ll never get it. So, I’m looking forward to doing a lot more.
Metal-Rules.com: Yeah, and this is the best possible promo you can do.
Robin Beck: I had a great time. This is the best sound, best people; the audience is so great wherever they go. And they come in to see you, and they are there for you, they are the best audience as you beat them, no matter if there are 50 people or 50,000 people. If they love you, the love comes through, and I want to do a lot more of it, and I want to add more songs from the past. Because many people are asking for songs on HUMAN INSTINCT and CAN’T GET OFF, just little jams that are hidden in every album, and it’s hard to do that without doing a two-hour show, but I can do into two hours show.
Metal-Rules.com: Okay. Our time is up now. Thank you, Robin!
Robin Beck: Yeah. Thank you.