Interview: Will Lee of The Fab Faux

Scott Bernstein: How much rehearsal goes into a typical Fab Faux show?

Will Lee: It’s kinda endless. You never really learn the music. All it does is kinda allow you to hear the next layer of great stuff that’s on the records.

SB: For these shows, will you go through every track you’ll play?

WL: Oh yes, absolutely. We have to do that. Not only as a band, but also on our own whenever we can squeeze time in. I was in Japan last week working on this music.

SB: How do you guys come up with the theme for each concert?

WL: We have to see  what we’re hungry to do and what we think the public is hungry to hear. The most delicate part of the whole thing is trying to figure out geographically where to not overexpose ourselves and not over do a certain area. For instance, the New York area. We’re trying to branch out and we are branching out all over the country and doing a pretty nice job of it because I look at my schedule next year and each weekend we’re at some town across America.

The hard thing to do is to delicately say no to some of the offers that come in for New York City, because we have a lot of venues that we already regularly play. When somebody gets the idea that we want to get the Fab Faux, often we’ve just played across the street recently. It’s a great learning experience. If we’re partners in this band and we all pitch in ideas and all vote on things then it’s very much a democracy.

SB: So, you don’t decide on the themes until an offer is in front of you?

WL: Yes and sometimes theaters or promoters will suggest what they think will be nice for their theater. If somebody says “we think Sgt. Peppers will do really well during this season,” we’ll do the whole Sgt. Peppers for that audience.

SB: For the shows coming up at Terminal 5, will you play material other than the final three albums?

WL: Most definitely. We’ll definitely have enough material to fill up a whole evening of music but we’ll also want to encore with some unexpected stuff. My favorite shows that we do are not based on albums. It’s an unpredictable roller coaster ride that goes back and forth between the ten years of material The Beatles recorded.

We want people on the edge of their seat not knowing what’s coming next. Plus, it’s emotionally such a great ride because if you go from You’re Gonna Lose That Girl to Lovely Rita to Here, There and Everywhere to Yellow Submarine and back to Can’t Buy Me Love a lot of people won’t allow themselves to go to the bathroom. You never know what’s next.

SB: For Let It Be, which version do you prefer? Yhe original Spector version or the Let It Be – Naked version?

WL: It’s funny because this band was very raw and had a certain intent with that record. I’m sure they were very surprised when the so-called “treatment” got done to it and it came back syrupy with strings and they probably didn’t play with that kinda production value in mind. When Let It Be – Naked came out it seemed so much more soulful overall. It’s a real rhythm section record. For me – and almost all of the public – the original version is the one everybody knows so well. That would be the Phil Spector strings and choir record.

SB: Which version will the Faux play?

WL: Well actually, research wise it was invaluable to have a copy of Let It Be – Naked to refer to because that way we can dig even more into the details of what the rhythm section plays. But we will be playing the version most people know, the Phil Spector version. We’re gonna throw in another tune that’s not on the Spector record but should’ve been and ended up on the Let It Be – Naked record.

SB: I’ve heard that your home studio is quite the Beatles Museum…

WL: The name of my home studio is “The Beatles Museum.” It’s got all kinds of great stuff. I used to be an avid collector but I haven’t gotten anything recently. I love all of those fan items. Of course, The Beatles were totally robbed because of a bad deal Brian Epstein put together way back. I don’t think they understood what they should have had coming so they made a terrible deal and only got 10%. It should have been the other way around. They should have gotten 90%.

SB: Do you have a Beatles wig?

WL: I have a wig in the original package! I have some weird stuff: a Canadian coin purse, actual Beatles’ cigar bands from Holland. Things like the Milton-Bradley Flip Your Wig board game are in there. The Beatles’ talcum powder, in Italy they put out a pair of Women’s nylon stockings with a repeating pattern of the Hofner bass and the Beatles haircut down the legs. German cake decorations and a promotional band aid from the movie Help. I find it so fascinating.

At that time (mid ’60s) if you put the Beatles’ name on anything, it sold. I even have a store display card with all of the packages intact stapled to a Beatles’ Moth Ball from The Philippines.

SB: When The Beatles went in to record Let It Be, Paul McCartney wanted the band to return to the road. In your opinion, if McCartney was able to convince them to tour what material do you think they would’ve performed?

WL: Well, y’know you have to realize where the technology was. It really wasn’t up to much of anything in terms of trying to replicate the effects they produced in the studio. I guess they would’ve stuck to the basics and tried to rock it out. How fancy can you get with the production that you had back then to replicate the horns, strings and synthesizer stuff? It would’ve been very interesting.

These guys unfortunately never got a chance –  by choice, I guess – to go out and tour behind those great later albums. Once they got off the road they made music that was sort of too complex to really do live. That’s where we come in. We have the unfair advantage of all the great technology. We don’t play the tracks by any means, we play all the music ourselves, but we do have the advantage of having great sound modules and things such a live horn section and live strings that makes for a really great bunch of music that’s thrilling to play live.

SB: Back in 1992 you played with a supergroup called Hari and the Hijack Band with George Harrison, Andy Fairweather Low, Steve Ferrone, Chuck Leavell, Ray Cooper, Joe Walsh and Garry Moore at Royal Albert Hall. Can you tell us about your experience with those shows?

WL: It was like a dream. When George Harrison called me on my answer machine I thought my brother was screwing with me. He does a great George Harrison, so when I got the message I called my brother the next day and I said “great job doing George on the phone, it was so convincing.” He said “what are you talking about?” I said “uh oh, let me call you right back.” I went back and sure enough the number was legitimate. The next thing I knew I was over there doing his shows. It was so incredible.

A lot of the tunes I did with George we do with the Fab Faux like Piggies, While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Something. Every time we do those songs it takes me right back and George is right there with me spiritually on stage. I can still remember everything about going in and rehearsing and performing with him. The vibe was amazing. He’s such a great musical guy. So easy going that he never really even said one word to me about anything I was playing whether it was good or bad. He was just grooving on the whole thing except for one little part of While My Guitar Gently Weeps. It was the only little bit of instruction, he said “Andy (Fairweather-Low) can you teach Will that line?”

SB: Were those the last shows that he played?

WL: They were. It’s unreal. He was such a great cat. When you meet your idols and they turn out to be wonderful people, there’s nothing better than that.

SB: Was it a similar situation playing with Paul McCartney?

WL: Absolutely. Paul couldn’t have been more welcoming. I actually admitted to him I had a Beatles band halfway knowing that he has a disdain for Beatles Bands. I dared to tell him. I said “look, I know you don’t dig Beatles bands, but I have this band we really do our best to play the music that you and John created and we focus on the later Beatles stuff the supposedly ‘impossible to perform live’ material.” He said “do you do Tomorrow Never Knows?” And I said “Of course! Absolutely.”

SB: That’s the one he picked out as hard to play?

WL: I think maybe he went there because that song was in a big way his baby with all the sound effects and stuff. If he only knew how much trouble I went through to reproduce those sounds. I think he’d really appreciate. I have no idea how he got some of those sounds.

We’d like to thank Will for taking the time to speak with us. You can catch Will every night on CBS’ The Late Show with David Letterman and this weekend at Terminal 5 with The Fab Faux. Be sure to head to the Faux’s Official Site for more on the band and additional upcoming tour dates.

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