Interview by Robert Cavuoto
The dynamic duo of Whitford/St. Holmes have reunited for a new CD entitled, Reunion, and a tour with Whitesnake staring in June to kick it all off in style! Together they are recapturing the magic they had on their 1981 debut album release. Brad Whitford who is most famously known being the guitarist in Aerosmith and Derek St. Holmes for being the vocalist / guitarist for Uncle Ted Nugent have team up yet again after a long 30 year wait.
Though the years the two have remained friends, soul mates, and proving yet again they have what it takes to write and record a melodic blues inspired rock CD! With song titles like “Hells on Fire,” “Catch my Fall,” and “Hot for You” how can they not be smoking the blues!
When the two friends found themselves living in the same town on the outskirts of Nashville and working on catching up; they decided to revamp their collaboration. They recruited bassist Chopper Anderson, keyboardist Buck Johnson and on drums, Tesla’s Troy Luccketta to record the album. The rest is history and in this interview!
I caught up with Derek St. Holmes to discuss the new CD, the collaborative approach he and Brad take to writing, as well as the importance of loving what you do and who you do it with!
Robert: Did you and Brad write all the songs for Reunion together in the studio?
Derek St. Holmes: We wrote all the music in the studio. “Hot for You” and “Catch My Fall” were the only two songs I had written prior to entering the studio. Brad then added his flair to them.
Robert Cavuoto: How does writing with Brad compare to writing with Ted Nugent?
Derek St. Holmes: Working with Ted is difficult because he doesn’t play well with others. He wants to be in charge of everything and can’t let go. When creating music you have to share. He is not willing to share his vision so he ends up with a one sided view of a song.
With Brad, it’s easy because we share everything 50/50. I respect his input where Ted doesn’t. That doesn’t make Ted a bad person. Again that’s Ted’s way of writing and his stuff sounds like it. We were supposed to do a CD together in 2014 and he said we would do it the way we have done in the past. I called him up two weeks after he had surgery to see how it going? He said, “I was sitting around after surgery so I recorded the whole album and I got a couple of songs I want you to sing on.” I said that’s not at all what we talked about? [laughing]. That’s Ted and its fine. Ted will bring me a couple of his songs and what he sometimes fails to realize is that he has to give me at least of 25%-50% of the writing credit because I have to come up with the melody. They have a vague melody, but it’s not the one that ends up on the recording.
Brad and I totally share everything, it’s such a pleasure. It’s not that I don’t like to hear Ted Nugent play guitar more than Brad but I would just rather hear Brad play [laughing] I’m kidding, you know what I mean! For Brad I’m sure he would rather hear me sing than Steven Tyler [laughing] I’m not saying that Steven is not a fabulous singing. We are the bosses and we make the calls. We have fun doing it and look out for our band mates. We try to get the best out of them. We don’t try to curb or stifle them. When we go into a studio everybody feels that they are part of the process and that is why we get good recordings.
Robert: You are both primarily known as rhythm guitarists, how did that work when it came to leads and the guitar nuance throughout the songs?
Derek St. Holmes: It was clearly a though out decision. After a while I went to Brad and said. “Don’t you want to burn out a lead on this song?” People want to hear you play. He turned to me and said, “It’s what I want to hear on the song.” I said that’s good enough for me [laughing]. After I listened to it, I realized he was dead on the money! Each song only needed exactly what he played, otherwise it would have come out sounding like musical masturbation which Brad was trying to stay clear of. We both can play anything with anybody but some guys like to play every note possible but we are not two of those cats.
Robert: The CD is rich in guitar tones; tell me about that decision to mix the tones up on each song?
Derek St. Holmes: We concisely decided we were going to put down a tone that was exciting and what the mood of the song called for. “Shake It” started as a slow song. I was listening to the song in a room in the studio and was thinking it should be quicker. I worked up a version on my iphone married it to a click track and played it to the faster tempo. I made the guys listen to it through their headphones. That lick came about in the studio while Brad was tuning his guitar. I asked him what it was and he said, “It’s something I’m fooling with” That’s what we always say to each other! [laughing] We all told him to keep going and it turned out great. I love that song.
Robert: Which song would you say has your biggest imprint on it?
Derek St. Holmes: Probably “Catch My Fall,” I had a co-writer on that on. My girlfriend came up with one letter of one word in that song [bursts out laughing as his girlfriend was with him during the interview] She came up with a great line. She was just walking through the room and she said why don’t you try this line? She said the line and I was like “damn it works perfect,” so I have to give her credit.
Derek’s Girlfriend: …And now he has to marry me! [laughing]
Derek St. Holmes: So be careful who you write with! [laughing] “Hot for You” was another one of mine that has a Keith Richards / Stones vibe. I showed it to Brad and he liked it. My favorite song on the CD is “Hell is on Fire.” Both Brad and I have gone through some trials and tribulations with relationships in the last few years; his are more recent than mine, but I think we wrote it from that position. Every time he would come up with a couple of lines I also felt the words and what he was feeling.
Robert: Does your playing techniques change from this band to playing with Ted Nugent?
Derek St. Holmes: Oh yeah, I don’t get a chance to write much with Ted. He said he wants too but it usually end up 92% of Ted and anything I come up with he usually says “That’s sounds great, save it for your band.” [laughing] When I deliberately bring a song to Ted it will be hard edged, fast, and with a simple chord progression. When I bring something to Brad it will have soul, feeling, and personality. I know Brad gets it’s because we are soul mates. We come from the same place. Ted and I are not. I bring the R&B to Ted and he brings more of the hard rock prog vibe from his end.
Robert: How do you feel about being the frontman for the entire show vs trading off on vocals with Ted?
Derek St. Holmes: I like doing it all myself. If Brad wanted to sing two of the songs on the CD I would be so happy that I didn’t have to do it that night. Don’t get me wrong, it’s out of necessity that I’m the “Singa” and it’s a challenge to sing all night long but I’ve been studying for it all my life.
Robert: I’m excited about seeing you on tour with Whitesnake this summer, what can we expect?
Derek St. Holmes: It will be just as much of a mystery for me as it will be for you. [laughing] I only know Joel Hoekstra and Reb Beach, one of the funniest guitar players on the planet. I know Tommy Aldridge because he and I played a little bit together. I don’t know David Coverdale and I’m looking forward to meeting him and hearing him signing every night. I’m a huge fan of Deep Purple in the beginning and huger fan when he was in the band along with Glenn Hughes. When we get to New Jersey we are going to be going 100 miles an hour on that day. You gotta be good in New Jersey!
We only have about 30 minutes so we will probably play the CD in the same order on the CD. We might do “Sharp Shooter” from the first album and a medley of two Aerosmith songs and two Nugent songs.