Doing something once is not always enough. It may take a while to get back to it but when you do it’s often better (or in some cases, worse) than the first time around. Fortunately for Brad Whitford and Derek St Holmes, another parlay into the Whitford/St Holmes party turned out to be good to the last riff.
With some extra time on their hands last year, the two longtime friends decided to lay down some new music together, following up a self-titled album they released back in 1981. Appropriately titled Reunion, the album features the two guitarists rocking out on such songs as “Hell Is On Fire,” “Shake It” and “Gotta Keep On Movin.” The first single, “Shapes,” was released a few weeks ago and the guys are preparing to tour in June opening for Whitesnake.
“Brad is truly a perfect gentleman,” Tesla drummer Troy Luccketta recently told us about playing on the Reunion record with Whitford. “A true pleasure to be around, very sincere and genuine, heartfelt and it’s all about the music, all about doing things for the right reasons.” Whitford has been doing the right things with his guitar for quite some time now. A member of Aerosmith since 1971, his powerful rhythm guitar has given Joe Perry the perfect foundation to let loose on. But if you listen even closer, you can hear Whitford take the lead more times than not. His brilliance lies in his subtle, non-ego-filled chords building up the song rather than the solo.
In Derek St Holmes, Whitford has another perfect sidekick: Outgoing, funny, positive attitude, a 100% rock & roller. They play off each other with enthusiasm and you know the rhythm guitar parts are off the charts, that being their respective fortes. Also featuring bass player Chopper Anderson and keyboardist Buck Johnson, Whitford/St Holmes has again found it’s magic. And they are very excited about it.
Glide spoke with Whitford last week, right before he took off in his souped-up Mustang with St Holmes by his side, off to a meeting or some Nashville shenanigans. With these two, you just never know.
What are some of the differences making this record versus the first one you guys made together?
Well, the first record we had Tom Allom producing and this record we produced ourselves. We did it exactly in the same kind of time frame, had it all recorded in about two weeks, and we did the same thing on the first record. And I think the songwriting process has matured for us. I think we’ve gotten a little better at it. But we had a lot of fun doing it. I think it was one of my most fun albums I’ve ever recorded.
I talked to Troy Luccketta [Tesla] a couple of weeks ago and he said he had a great time making the record with you guys and playing some shows.
Yeah, it’s kind of a pull off the side of the mainstream highway and going to the fun rest area (laughs). This is all like a playground for us, getting away from our respective bands and just kind of having a rock & roll party. I love all these guys, we have a great time together. They’re hard workers, fast workers – everything that Aerosmith isn’t (laughs). Aerosmith is laborious, it’s like going to the dentist sometimes working in the studio with Aerosmith. This is all about having fun and getting it done.
There are a lot of fast songs on here, a lot of rock & roll songs, you don’t slow down much. Was it the intention to make it that way or were these just the songs that came about when you guys started writing?
Just the songs that we wrote. Everybody in this band is a die-hard rocker at heart, although we’ve all done all sorts of different things. But we’re rock & rollers so we want to stay true to the art form. I suppose we could do a blues kind of record or something but we’re all really rockers so that’s what we know and we still have a great passion for it.
What was the first song that came together for this record?
You know what, I can’t even remember what that was. We recorded this last year. We produced it and funded it ourselves and just figured, well, we’ll make it and then we’ll sell it at our shows and maybe somebody will want to do a record deal or do a distribution deal. We’ll just wait and see. But we just had to get it out of us so we could kind of move on to the next stage. Fortunately, now it’s going to come out [June 3rd] and it’s getting out there.
Who had the most input with the lyrics?
I wrote a lot of lyrics for this record, which I’ve never written too many lyrics. I’ve given Steven [Tyler] a few like phrases and things over the years but this I actually wrote quite a bit of the lyrics for the record. But between Derek and I, it was about 50/50.
What were some of your songs?
“Keep On Movin,” I wrote the lyrics to that. “Flood Of Lies,” “Hell Is On Fire.” That’s a song that I wrote and then we put it together and the first thing that happened, Derek was singing “Hell is on fire” in the chorus and that was all we had. So that was my template and then I wrote the lyrics just based on that one line.
How many songs did you have going into the Reunion record?
You know, we didn’t have any leftovers, although we’ve been back in the studio so we do have new stuff. When we went in to cut the basics we did the first two days in the studio, which happened to be a Monday and Tuesday, and we went in with seven songs and wrote two more on Monday, the first day, right in the studio. One of them is “Shake It” and the other one is “Flood Of Lies.” They just happened on that Monday and then we cut them the next day. So we had the nine songs and we felt we didn’t want to have fourteen or fifteen like a lot of these records do. We just feel like it’s too much.
Were you all together in the studio at that time?
Yeah, Buck was not on those sessions, we recorded the keyboards afterwards, so it was just bass, guitars and drums and that really captured the live performances. We didn’t do more than two takes of any song. It’s really good players and it was a very creative little place that we made for ourselves. Like I said, we worked very fast. We’d get an idea and cultivate it in pretty short order.
How were the guitar duties divided up? Is it just who came in with the riff?
It wasn’t so much about who was doing it, it was what really worked. It was pretty natural. “Well, you’ve got a feel for that.” Derek and I are both playing all the rhythm guitars and the solos are just, you know, it’s not about shredding, it’s not a shredding record, it’s about songs. So there’s not a ton of soloing on it but whoever had a better sort of feel for it we just went with it. It didn’t really matter who played it.
In terms of the guitars, which one did you use primarily?
A combination of one or two of my Les Pauls, a lot of this 1965 reissue Strat that I have, a Telecaster; pretty much straight up tools out of the guitar toolbox (laughs).
Is that how you did the first one?
I had a black custom that I used on most of that but pretty much that and the Stratocaster. I didn’t have as many guitars then (laughs). The collection has grown a little bit. You know, you’re always fine-tuning, looking for the Holy Grail Guitar and I’ve got a couple; actually, I have a bunch of what I consider Holy Grails.
This red Stratocaster that I got a few years ago from Fender. They asked me to come in and do a video for the internet with this new guitar and they let me take it and since they gave it to me, I’ve been using it. It’s one of those ones that just does everything right.
Has your son Graham [guitar player for Tyler Bryant] tried to raid your guitar stash?
(laughs) Oh yes! Tyler’s had one of my guitars now for about four years and I don’t know if I’ll ever get it back (laughs). But yeah, they’re always either raiding the guitars, pedals or the closet (laughs)
What is currently up with your other sons Zack and Harrison?
Zack’s been out photographing Steven and his band and he’s been doing a lot of stuff with Joe and the Hollywood Vampires. Taking great pictures as usual. And Harrison’s probably the star of the bunch. I swear, his music is just incredible and some of the most amazing lyrics I think I’ve ever heard. He’s on tour with some friends in Canada right now.
What guitar did you learn on?
The first guitar I ever had was a Japanese $25 Winston and from there I got a Fender Jaguar. At the time, I didn’t really know the difference between a Strat, a Jaguar or a Jazzmaster. I got the Jaguar and probably for several years I was learning on that and then right after I saw Jimmy Page I bought my first Les Paul.
What was the most difficult thing for you to get the hang of when you were first learning to play guitar?
Probably just good rhythm, which I didn’t really have. I had to work very hard at that and I became a pretty good rhythm guitarist. In Aerosmith, me and Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer, we just love laying down that bass for Steven and Joe just to have a field day. But that’s what it’s all about for us and that has benefited me very well in everything I do.
I was re-listening to the first record and the solo you do on “Sharpshooter” is still just so amazing. Do you remember how or when that came about?
Most of what I do in the studio is just roll the tape and take a shot at it. So I just improvised. I’d been living with the song and then it was like, alright, let’s try some solos and that one I just nailed it from top to bottom. I didn’t have to edit anything on it. But that’s how I like to approach the solos. I feel that’s the best and I get the best results like that. Some things have come off a melody or something but typically it’s just go for it and see what we get.
Chopper Anderson has been playing with you but he was predominately a country music guy and you’ve got him in a rock & roll band. What can you tell us about Chopper?
Chopper can play just about anything – country, Jazz, Jazz/Fusion, rock. He did just hundreds and hundreds of tracks here in Nashville. He was one of the go-to session guys for many years and played a long time and toured a lot, probably toured mostly with Reba McEntire. He’s just a very, very seasoned bass player and musician but another closet rock & roller, you know (laughs). And that’s what we have in this band is a whole bunch of guys who always wanted to be in a real cool hard rock band and now we feel like we’ve found our homes.
You’re going out on the road with Whitesnake in a few weeks. What is the setlist looking like?
Probably mainly this new album. We haven’t completely figured it out but we have a pretty good idea what it’s going to be. It’ll be primarily new songs from the new record and then we do a little medley of a nod to Aerosmith and Ted Nugent that we hope to fit in. We just feature a little bit of songs like “Stranglehold” and “Last Child” and “Hey Baby” and “Train Kept A-Rollin” and it’s just a neat way to kind of string them all together. We figured it would be cool to pay a nod to how we got there, you know.
You know, the more people I talk to the more people I find out have moved to Nashville. You must be the magnet bringing everybody to Nashville. They’re all coming to work with you.
That’s fine with me (laughs). Yeah, it’s really a fun place to be because it really is the center of the musical universe, I think. It allows you to be involved in it every day, twenty-four hours if you want, so it’s a great place. It’s almost like being on a music university campus because everybody is a player or a writer or something.
Live photographs by Dan DeSlover and Amy Harris – top photo by Marc Lacatell
Two class acts. This is a dark horse duo with their music. Can’t wait to get this! Rock and roll lives on with these guys!
Whitford/St.Holmes………………….good stuff hope they tour……