BillySheehan Ruben Mosqueda of Sleaze Roxx spoke with bass virtuoso Billy Sheehan about the Winery Dog’s new album, Hot Streak and other topics. Excerpts from the interview appear below.

Sleaze Roxx: When you guys set out to write for the debut album, you had a massive writing session. When you set out to write for Hot Streak — was it done in similar fashion or did you each come in with ideas?

Billy Sheehan: Oh, it was similar to what we did the first time. As you go along; as a player, musician and writer — you always get new ideas. I can’t say that I documented any of the ideas but I did have them in my head. We played over 100 shows together on the last tour. We developed this instinct towards one another and how we play. So, while we approached the writing for this record the same as the last time around, it was different because we had a lot of experience playing together. We experimented more. We took a lot of left turns here and there… We could have done the “smart business thing” and done the first record all over again. I think a lot of bands often do [that] but I think fans see right through that. I think we took some chances and pushed ourselves as musicians and writers.

Sleaze Roxx: It’s an eclectic record no question. When you guys are in writing mode, do you guys have the live performance in mind?

Billy Sheehan: Well, for us if we can’t pull it off live between the three of us in a writing session, we certainly couldn’t do it live in front of an audience. We don’t rely on tracks and things like that. I think the studio has become the “5th Beatle” to a lot of bands. They have all these programs and capabilities that they get caught up in building this “beast” they can’t really control anymore. Then they can’t perform live without the use of tracks that play along with the band as you perform live. We don’t use tracks. We’ve never used tracks. I’ve been in bands that have used tracks — it’s not my thing. So to answer your question, the way we write it is the way we play it and we think of it “live” because we’re going to have to perform it.

Sleaze Roxx: I don’t have the liners since I have an advance copy of your new album. Are the songs written by all three of you exclusively or did you bring in outside writers to help on Hot Streak?

Billy Sheehan: No outside writers. It’s the three of us hammering things out in the studio. We haven’t said no to it though. I would prefer that we do it ourselves. If you bring outside writers, it becomes this “thing” with publishing and you’re open to possible lawsuits and things of that nature. I went through that with Mr. Big when we wrote To Be With You. We had a guy that co-wrote the song with us. He got his money but somehow he felt entitled to join us on stage to perform the song! You have to keep in mind this is a guy whom I’ve never met in my life (laughs)! He went to the press and told them how awful we were and how terrible we were — it really complicates things.

Sleaze Roxx: Since you brought up To Be With You — as a Mr. Big fan, I was a bit upset that people came on board based on that song when it wasn’t really an accurate representation of the band. I saw it similar to what happened with Extreme. What’s your take on that song now?

Billy Sheehan: Yeah, I hear what you’re saying but I love To Be With You. I love singing it and I love playing it. I think people think of Paul Gilbert and I and they think “shred, shred, shred.” It’s like “shred this, shred that, shred the other thing!” I remember Tommy Lee was at a rehearsal studio where we were rehearsing at the time and he saw us and started shouting “shred, shred, shred!” He was really fucking annoying. I remember I said “Hey, Tommy how are you doing?” And he responded by yelling “shred, shred, shred!” I was like “f–k you!” I didn’t say that to him but I was thinking “f–k you dude!” So that’s why I was so glad for To Be With You. Here’s your “shred, shred, shred!”’ It’s number one bro — for three weeks (laughs)!

Sleaze Roxx: You have this [Michael] Schenker/UFO connection which I find fascinating. You demoed songs which would later go on to be part of the first MSG album, right?

Billy Sheehan: That’s correct. They flew me to London to be their bass player and the drummer at the time was Denny Carmassi who you know played with Montrose. So we spent two weeks there working on the songs. We demoed them and were ready to go into the studio and the whole thing fell to pieces. Michael is a great guy and all but at that time it was a case of too much intoxication, a lot of pressure coming at him from a lot of different people. I honestly feel that at that time, he wasn’t able to cope with that kind of pressure. So Denny and I packed up and left and we never went back. There were bootlegs of the original sessions that we did later on that were on CD. Michael later released the record with the tracks that we recorded! Which I would have liked to been asked permission, which at the time I didn’t think was cool. Later on, I didn’t care so much. Michael is a really cool player. I love his work with UFO and it just kind of fell apart. UFO called me after that when they were having problems with Pete Way. They knew of me because Talas had opened up for UFO in Buffalo [New York] once. They were on tour and they were heading down to the border as Buffalo is on the border there. I recall that there were a couple of support acts and one of the bands got held up at the border so they needed another band and they had Talas open for them.

Sleaze Roxx: With UFO, Pete Way had some issues when you stepped in. Was there any talk of you joining UFO full-time?

Billy Sheehan: Yeah, that was the plan. It was to do the tour and then remain with the band. I like to have a glass of wine once in awhile [but] other than that I haven’t even had an aspirin since like 1974 and I don’t use drugs. It’s just not my thing. I don’t get so drunk to the point that I just don’t know where I am. I like to drink, I like the feeling but never to the degree where I don’t know where I am or what my name is. I just can’t be around stuff like that and there’s a work ethic involved too. I learned the whole UFO setlist front and back and I’m ready to rehearse with the band and at 4:00 pm, everyone shows up, we play for about 45 minutes and we take a “break.” They head to the pub and don’t return until about 8:00 pm. They’re too drunk to do anything but they manage to fumble their way the rest of the rehearsal. So we had two days of rehearsal and we hadn’t gone through a single song! It was incredible! Finally, I urged them to get it together because we had a set to rehearse. It’s sad because I really love those guys. Phil Mogg is a great singer and fantastic guy but sometimes the stuff that happens behind the scenes can be really sad. I was so prepared to be a part of that band but I just couldn’t do it.

Sleaze Roxx: We know the story of Talas opening up for Van Halen which is how you popped up on [David Lee] Roth’s radar when it came time for him to form the band that would record Eat ‘Em & Smile. It was in fact a band was it not?

Billy Sheehan: We were a band. Our pictures were on the album liners. We were in the interviews. We were in the videos. He was very generous. We were like “The Dave Gang” — we hung out together, we went out to clubs. I still keep in touch with Steve [Vai] and Gregg [Bissonette]. In fact Steve, Gregg and I had dinner a couple weeks ago just to reminisce about our time together. I jammed with Steve recently. People heard that we were going to jam at this club and all these people crammed into this club to watch us. It was a blast! I love the time with David Lee Roth.

Sleaze Roxx: Was there or has there ever been discussion of you, Steve and Gregg working together on something?

Billy Sheehan: Not really — not that there’s been no discussion. I haven’t really thought about it — maybe some day, we’ll be able to play together.

Sleaze Roxx: When did things begin to unravel with the Roth situation. I know you played a part in the follow-up Skyscraper — that was a really slick album. It was departure from we had heard on Eat ‘Em. I think shortly thereafter the completion of the album, you left.

Billy Sheehan: I felt that the tone of the relationship within the band changed. It was no longer a band. There was a dividing line between band and management. I think stylistically, it was a different record. I give Dave credit for giving it a try to mesh dance music with rock music. Unfortunately, the wall between dance music and rock music makes The Berlin Wall look like a picket fence. I’ll give you an example. We play Europe and we finish playing the gig at a club and they flip the room and turn it into a dance club. There are times that our fans are hanging around after the show because they’ve had too much to drink or maybe they want to catch the band — one sure fire way to clear a room is to play dance music (laughs)! You should see how quickly all the rock people run out of the venue (laughs)! Again, I have to give Dave credit. He tried — had he succeeded, he would have been called a genius. That bass line pulse type stuff just isn’t my thing. Dave predicted that dance music would be huge and damn is it ever (laughs)!

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  • T on

    He was definitely one of the most ass kicking musical guests ever to grace the bleachers at TMS, and he did it with only 4 strings! I saw him with DLR @ MSG back in the day (Cinderella opened the show).

    • Doug R. on

      I was there T! 10/4/86! I remember DLR opening with “SHYBOY,” closing with “GOIN’ CRAZY,” and the encores “JUMP,” & “CALIFORNIA GIRLS,” everything else in between is kind of a blur. Ah the good ol’ days! 🙂

  • Michael B on

    I think Billy underestimates the interest in a Sheehan/Vai/Bissonette collaboration. Roth really made a huge mistake when he took Skyscraper in that direction.

    • Dana on

      There are some who may argue that Dave’s lineup was better than Van Halen. I posed this very question at one Eddie’s Sirius/XM shows that I was fortunate enough to sit in on. Most said Van Halen, one person said it came down to the drummer as the deciding factor (Alex versus Greg), and Mike Piazza said Roth’s band.

      This would make for a great debate a among the posters here, who is the better all around band? Van Halen or David Lee Roth’s Eat’Em Smile era solo band?

      Dana 🙂

    • DR Is Live on

      If you base it purely on musical ability then it has to be Roth’s band, and I’ll base that on the rhythm section (and I’ll admit I had to google the correct spelling of ‘rhythm’). Eddie is pure, but Vai can match him as he was a student. Bissonette can do anything Alex can do if not more. So it comes down to the bass players and Sheehan has that battle won easy. I don’t think Mikey can even finger tap. So as much as I love original VH, the parameters of your question lie with the Eat’em and Smile line up.

    • Dana on

      Yes, DR, the question was based simply on who the better musicians are, not the songs. You understood me correctly. 🙂

      D 🙂

    • James K. on

      Wow! That’s a tough one! Great debate subject Dana! My decision is based on who made the better music. But first, I’ll quickly break the musicianship down:

      Guitar: Eddie was nuts. He had NO clue as far as being taught the “correct” way of guitar playing musical knowledge. That’s why he created so many revolutionary techniques and had such a wild, adventurous nature about his playing. And his tone, especially his rhythm tone and attack is WAY better than Vai’s, even though Vai’s technical abilities might have been a little more “developed”.

      Bass: The same thing I said about Eddie could be said about Billy. Billy is self taught and just does what he does. But Mike seems to fit better in a band situation. He’s there, he’s holding down the bottom end and letting the true rock and roll lead instrument, the guitar, be the lead and fly off the rails and be exciting.

      Drums: This one is tough because Greg and Alex are both great, have great styles and sounds. I just think Alex is one of the most underrated and underappreciated drummers of all time and it’s simply because of the fact that Eddie got the lion’s share of the attention.

      So, as I stated above, my overall choice will be based on the music that was created and matching the Roth band’s songs and album against any of the first four Van Halen albums, Roth’s band comes up short. The argument could be made that Roth’s band didn’t get to develop, but that’s something we’ll never know. Hell, Van Hagar, in my opinion, never did anything that was better than the first four Van Halen albums. So my pick, after weighing in all the points I made, is VAN HALEN.

    • Dana on


      The question was based on who are the more skilled and adept players, not based on the songs. But, thank you for your assessment.

      D 🙂

    • RTunes68 on

      Based solely on technical abilities of the players, it’s the Roth band, hands-down.

      First off, Billy Sheehan can play circles around Mike Anthony. While Mike is highly underrated, he’s also made a career of playing for the song and not particularly showing off. Gregg Bissonette is a far more versatile and knowledgeable player than Alex Van Halen because his background is more varied. The guy’s played with everyone from Maynard Ferguson to ELO to Carlos Santana to Ringo. As for guitar, Steve Vai is technically FAR more advanced than Ed Van Halen. There’s no comparison. Think about it: There are far more guitar players who are able to duplicate Ed’s playing note-for-note than there are those who can play Vai’s lines. Also, if you’ve ever seen Ed “jam” with others, you realize just how limited he is (see: Ed jam with Sheryl Crow on a cover of “Honky Tonk Women” – squeals, harmonics, and two-handed tapping through a Stones song sounds ridiculous and terrible). No one is better at doing what Ed does than Ed. He’s brilliant. However, he’s limited.

      On the other hand, if you’re talking about phenomenal songwriting and songs with massive appeal, Ed Van Halen is the king. People tend to get so distracted by his guitar playing that they forget that the guy has written some of the most classic and enduring songs in rock.

    • Dana on


      A well thought out response. I always appreciate when one makes their points in a mature way. 🙂

      D 🙂

    • Frank T on

      I believe it simply comes down to musical taste. In my opinion there are rockers and there are musicians. I will gladly define what I mean by that. Musicians are those ultra talented people who are phenomenal players but write and record boring music to my ears. Steve Vai’s solo career is a good example. Amazing artist but let’s be honest it’s not that appealing to many people outside of guitar players around the world who are fascinated by music theory and knowing how to play any scale known to mankind in every technical way possible. Vai’s music is well beyond my willingness of trying to want to “get it” nonetheless actually getting it or feeling what he’s creating. Usually fans of Vai also are die hard fans of bands like Rush, King Crimson, Dream Theater and Yes to name a few. Not that there is anything wrong with that but depending on how you define rocking, I personally don’t feel these bands”rock” compared to bands and artists such as AC/DC, KISS, LED ZEPPELIN, ANY VAN HALEN ERA, AIRBOURNE, etc.

      DLR had a few good solo tunes after Eat Em’ & Smile, but most of his tunes were stinkers until he recorded his 1997 record with the guy now known as John 5 (can’t remember if the year is correct but the record stayed with Slam Dunk!). DLR also had an interesting album called Diamond Dave that was different but good.

      I don’t have time to elaborate further right now but I think you catch my drift. Feel free to elaborate further. I’m sure many people both agree and disagree with me and the best part about it is there is no
      right or wrong opinion about it.

  • Jason Falkinham on

    The Eat em and Smile band wiped the floor with Van Hagar.

  • Doug R. on

    Conversations like this are based on opinions, not facts.
    Fu-k who’s better, who cares? They’re all great musicians!
    Good chemistry creates the best music.

    • Dana on

      Well Doug,

      Eddie used to have these type of questions posed all the time when he had the “Metal Summit” on his radio shows, long before it became a segment on TV.

      Of course it’s opinion, but that doesn’t make the premise any less valid. It’s meant to be thought provoking, spur a healthy debate, and all opinions are welcome. Just because you don’t care, doesn’t mean that opinion applies to everyone. Sorry…


    • Doug R. on

      It’s kind of hard to have a healthy debate when some of the opinions coming in are from people who worship the “mighty” Steel Panther, LMFAO!
      It just aggravates and frustrates me sometimes the whole who’s better debate, they’re all different and unique in their own way. Different doesn’t mean better, I love DLR’s original solo band as much as anybody, they’re all great players, but IMO they weren’t better than Eddie, Alex & Michael, just different, that’s all.
      Yes of course all opinions are welcome, but a Steel Panther fan? LMFAO! Sorry…

    • Dana on

      LOL, I see your point. But, sometimes these types of discussions, can make you realize something that you never did before about said artist/musician(s).

      D 🙂

  • Jason Falkinham on

    Ah…I was waiting for Steel Panther comments to come out. That’s such a legit arguement!

    • Dana on

      “Arguement” is spelled “argument.” Sorry, if seems like I am picking on you, but I just think if you are going try and make your point, you may want make sure all your t’s are crossed and that your i’s dotted, before you do so.

      Also, I guess there are a few posters on here who are frustrated with your constant slamming of Hagar, but yet you extol the virtues of a parody band. To each their own, but it does seem counter productive.

    • Jason Falkinham on

      Wow…I guess I’ll download spellcheck on my phone next time I post. I could really care less if people like my opinion of Hagar or not. For someone to dismiss someone’s opinion because that person like’s a band that they don’t is as pathetic as it gets. It’s also kind of funny considering how simplistic and unimaginative Mr. Hagar’s lyrics and songs are…but again, to each his own. And I would be careful next time you want to talk about who I ‘worship’ pal. I may be friends with the boys in Steel Panther, but there’s only one thing I ‘worship’.

    • Dana on


      Really, Hagar has trite lyrics?? Hello?

      I should also preface this by saying I am not a Hagar super fan, but really? Simplistic lyrics or not, I respect the fact that he can still sing well at his age and has an impressive musical legacy behind him. Regardless of what you think of Van Hagar, Montrose paved the way for many bands.

      As for Steel Panther, I will never deny that they are good musicians. However, I had way more respect for them when they were a Van Halen tribute band. If they want to be taken seriously, they should ditch the cheesy gimmick, lose the witless, sophomoric lyrics, and write REAL music. Let them showcase original, raw talent and prove that they are way more than just a farcical band that is a crossbreed between Spinal Tap and Rock of Ages.

      BTW, the fact that real musicians play with them, does not legitimize their shtick in any way. It only says that said musicians get their tongue-in-cheek joke, and that is about it…

      D 🙂

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