BASSIST BILLY SHEEHAN ON THE WINERY DOGS: “WE HAVE REALLY GOOD CHEMISTRY TOGETHER”
SRO Ferg: [The Winery Dogs] has a very classic, raw sound, but it’s very modern in its appeal and some of it seems like those classic icons of, you know, that Deep Purple, (Led) Zepplin inspired modern rock. Is that kind of the vibe you were going for?
Billy Sheehan: No, but it did happen that way. Again, we really, people often think, and I find this when I do interviews, that we know what we’re doing. But, in fact, we just kind of get in a room, and ooh, look what happened. Often when you’re writing a song and when you’re recording a song, what you end up with is much different than how it even started out. So, we see situations like that. But we didn’t necessarily go for a particular sound or pick a particular vibe, and we certainly didn’t talk it out or plan it. But, I think that’s why it’s working, because we didn’t really do a lot of scheming, planning and figuring, you know, marketing talk. We just did our thing without, you know: Mike you play drums, Richie plays guitar and sings and I play bass and we all sing and let’s just do some playin’ and it turned out to sound, I think, a little classic rock-ish. I think, primarily, because we’re all in the same room together and that’s how great, great albums were made. Some of the greatest records that I ever listened to when I was young and coming up were made by guys just sittin’ in a room. That’s just how you had to do it. You had no choice. There was the recording and the mics and you didn’t have studios with separate booths and, uh, digital, uh, editing and overdubbing. You just sat in a room and you played and that’s how classic, a lot of classical records were made. Not all, but certainly a lot. So I think that’s why it came out that way. We sat in a room and played and that’s what we got.
SRO Ferg : Now, you’ve been in the studio and you’ve recorded 30+ albums with different people in your solo work and with bands. What process do you like better? Do you like just gettin’ in there and just hashing it out or does it just depend on what you’re trying to accomplish?
Billy Sheehan: Well, I generally like improvisational music. I like it when we have a song and we know the song, but now it’s time to lay it down, so let’s just fly. Once we know the chord changes, we know what we’re supposed to be doing in a given point, so let’s play it. Let’s see what happens, also. You know, where we don’t necessarily, we have a template, we have an idea of where we’re supposed to go in every particular part of the song, but we’re not so much held to that template. The foundations, yes, but let’s make room to move, make way to improvise. For me, that’s my favorite thing when it’s time to, okay, let’s lay one down and hit the record button and go. And, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know as a player, I never plan out what I’m playing if I go up to do some bass solo thingy, I have no idea what I’m going to do. I start playing, the crowd responds, I turn left, they turn right, I follow them, they follow me. It could be anything, it’s truly improvisational. And, that’s what I really love. So, for me and with the band in the studio when it’s time to hit that recording button and lay down a track and I know I’ll make some moves, I’ll move around on bass in ways that I had not planned and just let the moment take me. And, listening back it’s interesting to hear how those surprises worked or sometimes they don’t work and you gotta go back and do it again. But, generally, if you’re lucky, you’ll get a couple of good ones in.
SRO Ferg: Well, you guys are touring and selling out shows across the nation and I’m lucky enough I get to come see you when you guys swing around here locally. Of the new stuff, what song gets the crowd going, what gets the best crowd reaction?
Billy Sheehan: We open the show with Elevate and the place goes really crazy. We’re very, very thankful that people have taken to that song. Later on, you just hear a surge when they recognize what song it is because people have listened to the whole record. But, I’m No Angel really, really takes things off with the crowd. They, uh, everybody sings along with that. It’s probably one of my first favorite songs that we had put together. Even when it was in those beginning stages, I just loved the way that song went. And, one part of the show, with the song Regret, and that’s another crowd favorite because it’s just so soulful. But, We Are One, Desire, is another one that gets the crowd crazy. They, everybody, jumps and sings along with that. It’s really great. It’s hard to pick one, but I’m No Angel is a big one, the opener, Elevate is a big one as well, so we’re so thankful that people are responding at all, and that they are responding so positively. We couldn’t be more pleased.
SRO Ferg: You guys have always been known as really strong, really good live musicians. You put on great shows individually in the projects you’ve been in. How is it coming in having a previous relationship with both Richie and Mike to put together the live show and put together the new band? I mean, looking across to each other and getting those knowing glances, knowing you’re gonna be there and knowing where they’re gonna be. How much easier does that make it?
Billy Sheehan: Yeah, we have kind of an ESP thing going on. Bass and drums, of course, the relationship is supremely important, and I don’t know how it works or why it works, but I can look over at Mike and he looks at me and for some reason we do the same thing. It’s hilarious because we didn’t plan it, we don’t know how it happened, but suddenly he’ll do one lick that he’s never done before and I’ll do something exactly like it and it’s just kind of happens. It’s kind of spooky in a way that we managed to do that Vulcan mind meld together somehow. It works well with Richie as well. We, Richie and I, we have a really good chemistry together and we play together a lot, so we communicate really well on stage. That’s why a three piece band is really cool for that because it’s just easier to connect up to two other people than it is to three other people. And, a three piece band has always been one of my favorite formats. So, we keep an eye on each other really closely on stage. With a three piece band, when you turn to look at the band, you can see the two other guys real easy. When it’s four or five or six people, somebody is out of your line of vision at some point or another. Which they have their advantages as well, but more guys like that in a band. Three piece is really cool. It’s really urgent and fast and real good communications between everyone, so it’s exciting to play live like that because we do get that improvisational feedback. I know right away where Richie’s gonna go. A couple of times when we’ve been playing, the band just suddenly breaks down and goes into a quiet jam out of nowhere. We didn’t plan it, we didn’t talk about it backstage or anything, it just happened. And then, people comment on it later, “Wow, you broke down on that part, we never heard that before.” We didn’t either, we didn’t know it was gonna happen. It’s just, I love that things happen automatically like that because I’m not a planning guy, I was never a school guy. I quit high school my senior year. I like to let things happen on their own, to let nature take its course, to use that cliché again and with this band, it certainly does.
Read more with Billy Sheehan at SBO Magazine Inc..