Given their upcoming tour of Australia, Japan, and yes, the United States, I finally got back in touch with Status Quo's whereabouts in this interview with Rick Parfitt. I'd like to thank the members of the Status Quo mailing list for supplying me with some of the questions.
What does it feel like being in Quo, writing and recording music, and being on the road for the last 30 years?
It's a marvelous thing, really. I consider myself extremely lucky to be doing what I'm doing. When I was a kid I wasn't very good academically. I received my first guitar when I was 10 and I immediately wanted to go into show business and form a successful group. All my dreams have come true. Life with Quo has been fantastic. The music has opened my life. I've seen the world and had a fantastic time. I can only imagine my life one way---like it has been. People often ask me about things I would change if I had to do it all over again, but I wouldn't change a thing.
I hear you plan to release a new album early next year. Can you provide some details about it?
We're currently writing for it. Most of our spare time is spent getting together doing that. We don't want to do any more covers. We've done enough and it's always fun to do new songs. It will be a complete album of new songs written by us. We plan to divert slightly and come up to date with regards to the music. I've gotten quite interest in dance-type rhythms like what U2 does. I'm not sure we'd go to the extreme they do, but we'll try to incorporate some of the rock-dance feel.
I understand current fans are not happy with the polished production on your recent albums...
Nor am I...
What is your view on this, and what are your views with regard to production of the upcoming album?
The current album is too smooth and too nice. There has been complaining within the band to get it harder and rougher, back to what it was. I think the current lineup is a much better band than the original lineup, even though the original lineup was special. We want to introduce the rough edges to this lineup. We really want the next album to be back to basics---it'll be a hard kickin' sound with melody. You know, live up to the Quo image: if the party's flagging put on some Quo.
Will it be produced by the band?
We don't think it should be produced by the band. We've tried it before but it hasn't worked since we disagree too much. Bearing in mind we're off to the States we plan to talk to people there. We have a couple of people lined up here as well. It will be a completely new producer.
I was just listening to Don't Stop which I think has a great selection of tunes which fits your style perfectly. How did you come up with the idea for it?
The idea came from our management, commemorating 30 years in the business. We used to fool around during sound checks and rehearsals covering what we liked. And so our management asked us `why don't you get together and release it as an album?' And so we went scampering off and came back with a handful of records and started to sift through 300-400 songs that we wanted to cover. We whittled it down to 12-15 tracks. I think we've got quite a nice selection of songs. It is most enjoyable to record covers of songs you like. It's a pleasure to sit and play them. But I think it's time to move on. I'm not saying we'd never cover another song, but I think the fans expect more original stuff from us.
Is your solo project, Recorded Delivery, ever going to be released?
I really don't think so. At the time I did it back in '85 or so, I was pleased with it. It kind of freaked me out to do it. It gave me a sense and feel for what I was capable of. But now it's been gathering dust and most of the tracks have come out on B-sides, which is a bit unfortunate I suppose. I would have liked them to have come to light in a much better way.
Are any more songs from it going to turn up as B-sides?
I don't think so. The pot's fairly empty. Most of them, if not all, have been released as B-sides. However, there is one song I wrote which I love, Halloween. I might have another shot at it some time in the future.
I understand you'll be touring the U.S., Japan, and Australia this year. What prompted this?
Neil Warnock, our agent, David Walker, our manager, and Simon Porter our publicist finally got together with the Americans and the Japanese and arranged this tour. We're looking forward to getting back into America. It's never too late and it's about time they got some of us. It's a good challenge for us and I'm very interested in seeing the reaction. This trip is about changing our presence in America, to put us back on the map.
Why isn't the North American portion of the tour more extended?
All we're concerned with right now is testing the waters. We just plan on doing the gigs, giving a really good hard performance, and seeing what comes of it. We plan to do a couple of shows in LA and New York City. We have a gig in Toronto---just to give the fans a taster. It's good that we're doing 2-3 gigs now, since hopefully a little bit of news will go around. Later on this year or early next year, we'll try to get there again, though the schedule for Europe is heavy and we have to find time to record the new album.
Is the set going to be the same as in the European shows?
We've changed the set from the European shows. We'll put in some more traditional type stuff in there, particularly for Australia. We'll play Japan by ear. We feel in America a good traditional Quo set will work best. It'll consist mostly of Quo classics; punchy hard-hitting stuff.
So why the extended hiatus from these countries?
Lots of things went very wrong. It's a classic example of what happens to so many bands. We were ripped off by our last management. One needs a great deal of talent and tact to negotiate with American promoters. Our former management was good enough in Europe and in places where we're guaranteed names, but they couldn't work anything in America. We went out there, I believe it was just when Rockin' All Over the World was recorded, on a shoestring budget. The shows went down extremely well, but we weren't able to negotiate far enough and couldn't get enough airplay. I put that down to bad management because I know the record and the band were good enough. Fortunately we've resolved that now. We have fantastic management and fantastic people behind us. It's now up to the band---we can't make any more excuses.
Given the popularity of Quo in Australia during most of the 70s, why did you stop releasing and promoting material there after your last tour in 1978?
It's a question I'd really like to be able to answer but can't. Something just went wrong down there and the record company dropped us. Everything went cold and the doors slammed shut. To be perfectly honest with you, I've never really understood it. Maybe by going back down there we can find out what happened. It was so great down there. We had a storming audience, and then, all of a sudden nobody was wanted us.
Is the upcoming tour of both Australia and the US part of a conscious effort to establish Quo, in the case of Australia, re-establish Quo in these regions?
Definitely, and we have no inhibitions about doing that.
Is it reasonable to expect to hear more from Quo in these countries in the future or is this tour a "one off" to repay the loyalty of the fans you know are still there?
Quo is a working band and always has been. Our fans won't have to wait four years before they can see us again. We'd like to treat it as we do in Europe and tour the world every year. It would be nice to expand to the touring circle, and I would prefer to write around the world rather than only in Europe.
How exactly do you go about writing songs for the band?
I usually am just casually playing a guitar or just messing about, and I come across a riff or chord pattern that strikes me. Then I invariably phone someone, like Francis or Andrew, and ask whether we could get together to finish it. Then we get together and try to work on it. That's when we know whether it'll work for the band or not. Some of the songs come in an hour and others take many days. We do whatever it takes---it's worth it to have the best songs. We all agree regarding the next album that it is has got to be one of the most memorable Quo albums. I think it has to be the best album yet. I think we owe that to the fans.
What're your musical influences and what music do you current listen to?
My influences were the Everly Brothers, Cliff Richards, ... yes, listening to Cliff with the old tennis racket was a definite part of my growing up.
I love listening to Tom Petty, Bonnie Raitt, Nat King Cole. Rhino [John "Rhino" Edwards] is the guy who comes up with the weird stuff. He's a a big Zappa fan. I like anything that rocks, anything that has a great feel about it and a lot of energy.
Do you prefer heavier or lighter Quo songs?
Live, I like it heavy. The faster numbers are definitely where my preference is. It's good to put some of the slow things in, since you need a break sometimes as the heavy stuff takes up a lot of energy, but I generally prefer Quo when it's rocking.
If you could play one old song again which he hasn't play in years, what would it be?
Big Fat Mama. We used to play it a lot, but we dropped it as time went on. It's great old rocker with no frills.
Going on to more technical questions, why do you use your Telecaster more than your Gibson SG?
I use the Telecaster because I found in the early days when Quo started to get heavier that the Gibson couldn't handle it anymore. The Telecaster with the heavier strings can take the pressure. I am not a lead guitarist---I'm a rhythm guitarist and I hit the guitar hard, which is my role in Quo. The Telecaster is the only guitar that can take the punishment on a good night when I really dish it out.
I adore the sound of the Gibson and I love to record with it. But on stage you have treat it with kid gloves. If I had to do Caroline or another song like that, I don't think it could take the pressure. That guitar isn't as tough as the Telecaster. I've had the Telecaster altered as well, so it is rock solid. You can't do that with a Gibson. I've taken out the bridge and the fine turning knobs. The strings go straight over the body. When people play the guitar, they can't believe the tension. I enjoy that however, and I hit it with gusto and it doesn't go out.
What guitar do you use for playing 4500 Times on stage, and how do you tune it?
I use a custom-built Gibson for that and it's a B tuning. I discovered it once when I had too many glasses of wine. I screwed the tuning pegs into weird positions and I found this tuning where I use a base G for the bottom E. It's very limited---I can only play seven or eight chords, but it has a great effect. You have to have control of the guitar, but when it works and when you get the right sound, it is fabulous.
Why did you lower the amp stacks on recent tour and replace them with a small stage?
We had horrendous problems with the stage volume when we used the large stacks. Everyone wanted to get a kick from their stacks. Marshall built me an amp that went to 11, sounding very like Spinal Tap, and it got so horrendously loud that the sound man couldn't mic the cabinets properly. We felt the audience was suffering as we were too loud on stage.
We changed to in-ear monitoring. This increased the sightlines and you can turn the volume down on stage. Since you have your own mix you can have it set to whatever you want, and hopefully the sound for the audience is more clear and more colourful. Consequently, when we started to use this system we didn't need to lug around the high stacks, which require an extra trailer. The mic lines have always been the same, about 4-5 feet from the stage. I think we have improved the sound quality for both ourselves and the audience.
To wrap this up, could you tell me what your future plans are, and where do you see Quo in the year 2000?
The immediate plans are to get packed and go to Japan, Australia, and America. Then come back, go into rehearsals, and do the European Festival tour. Come back again and do the British tour. That should take us around to Christmas. In between we will hopefully go back to America and record an album. I'd really like to record the album this year.
In the year 2000, we will still be doing what we do best: playing out on the road, touring. Hopefully we will be doing what we're doing now but on a much broader circuit.
Is there anything else you wish to add?
I'd like wish everyone a good year. I appreciate the ongoing support and I urge the fans to come along to the live shows when they can.