TORA TORA SINGER ANTHONY CORDER DISCUSSES MEMPHIS’ MUSICAL INFLUENCE ON THE BAND
Tyson Briden of Sleaze Roxx spoke with Tora Tora frontman Anthony Corder. Excerpts from Part One, appear below.
Sleaze Roxx: When we spoke yesterday as we were discussing this interview, I just assumed you were still living in Memphis. When did you move to Nashville?
Anthony Corder: I’ve been here since 2005, so almost 14 years. I kind of switched gears around 2000. I switched over from doing the singing stuff to actually working for the record labels. I worked for RCA and Sony. I also worked in music publishing. I had some really great mentors. Guys that sort of introduced me into the music industry. As I was getting a little bit older, I wanted to be that dude for somebody else. I wanted to pass on a little bit of my experience to people that are trying to come into the industry. We [Tora Tora] signed a production deal with Ardent Studios when I was a teenager. John Fry, that ran Ardent Studios, is like a father figure to our band. Man, we were a garage band, some rowdy little punks that had our amps cranked on and everything. He actually took us in a room in the studio, sat us down at a little conference table and drew a circle on the wall. It was like a little white board. He drew one little tiny line on it and said, “This is you and this is everybody else that’s going to be wanting to dig into your pockets.” We were like, “Oh, okay.” He was just trying to get us prepared for it. He said, “It’s a crazy industry.” I guess he was kind of going to be our middle man. Kind of the buffer for people to make sure we were getting involved with the right team members. Every decision I have ever made in my life in regards to the music industry, I went to him about it. He passed away about four years ago. He was 69. His claim to fame besides Ardent Studios, which was a 50 year institution in Memphis was he had produced the Big Star Records. He was the engineer. He instilled the stuff just being around him.
Like I said before, we were a kind of rowdy bunch of kids. He was all about technology and educating yourself. When he started the studio out he was only 14 years old. It was in his grandmother’s sewing room. When they needed something, he would have to build it. So he would have to go find some equipment, solder stuff together and create a piece of equipment to get that end result that he wanted. So he carried that with him. He had two locations for Ardent. One that he started out that was away from mid-town. Then, he landed in the middle of Memphis at 2000 Madison. That is where the building is now. He always kept the door open for people like us that were kids. We would sneak in, in the middle of the night, and do demo sessions at the studio. When we were there in the daytime, if there was equipment sitting around or some keyboards, even some kind of technology that he had brought in, we’d go in and tinker around on it. We’d find a room and go off by ourselves. He didn’t mind you experimenting with stuff and plugging things in. It was just fun man.
We were so lucky for about six years, if we weren’t on the road, we were there driving him crazy. We were walking around with sombreros on, busting in on meetings, drinking and partying. It was college like everybody else except we were on wheels cause we kept waking up somewhere different every night. So when we went home, we’d just go there. That was kind of like our college. It was pretty wild. It was the best memories. While we were there, the Allman Brothers were there, Lynyrd Skynryd was there. They were working with Tom Dowd who was a world renowned producer. He had done everything from Aretha Franklin to the Muscles Shores stuff. At the time we met him, he had Lynryd Skynryd and the Allman Brothers back to back in the studio. Back then, you would have the studio blocked out for eight weeks at a time. You’d spend forever getting drum sounds and amp sounds. It was a different world then it is now. It was just awesome you know. Stevie Ray Vaughan was there when I was there. I freaked out. You go to the coffee maker, you’re about to pour a cup of coffee, you look up and its freakin’ Stevie Ray Vaughan standing there. It was crazy man! They always had somebody coming in. All the ZZ Top records were done there. ‘Afterburner’ and all that stuff. Billy Gibbons would be walking around. Our eyes were big as saucers. We were walking around looking in there and we couldn’t believe it…
Sleaze Roxx: ...You can’t go wrong with Zeppelin. Zeppelin II’is probably my favorite album by them…There’s just something about it. It flows so good.
Anthony Corder: Yeah man, and it influenced a lot of people. I know it’s kind of generic to say Zeppelin, but when I was young, getting turned onto them it was, “Wow!” I knew the songs that were on the radio, but when you started digging around into the records. All the different dynamics and instrumentation that they brought in. That just turned you onto to other people like The Beatles. Then you started thinking, “I heard those songs on the radio, now let me go through these records and see what’s going on.” I guess it’s just a thread in a tapestry. You kind of start following that around, then you get in a rabbit hole and start following another dude. I think that was one of the funnest things about growing up in Memphis is that we ran into all these different people that were influenced out of Memphis. Everything from Elvis [Presley] to Stax. We weren’t even that aware of Stax. We knew the big artists that had had hits, but we got to work with the Memphis Horns on our Wild America record and man, when we met them, I’m not kidding, I felt like I had known them my whole life. Then, I was probably about 22.
Jim Price and Bobby Keys that had done work with the Stones, they came in and did a horn arrangement on one of our songs, Dead Man’s Hand. We got to listening to it and we loved it. It was an amazing track of horns and everything, but then we started thinking, “If we do this, we’re going to have to take horns on the road because it’s just so prominent” We couldn’t do the song without it. They had turned it into something totally different. So initially while we were thinking about it, the producer suggested — the guy’s name was John Hampton, which he’s passed away too, about four years ago, but man he was a freakin’ genius. This guy was amazing. Anyway, he said, “The Memphis Horns are down the road. Ya all wanna get them to come by and try a pass or two?” So we did and we talked to them. We said, “Let’s get with them.” Man, they came to do a rehearsal with us and oh my God, it was the most amazing thing. From the second we met Wayne [Jackson], he was the trumpet guy. He was a little short white guy and Andrew [Love] was a big tall saxophone player, a black guy.
They had been together for the Otis Redding stuff. Wilson Pickett. They had played on everything from the early ’60s. I think when we met them, they were on tour with Sting and Robert Cray. They had probably played on 300 number one records. They had done the stints with Elvis when he was at the residency in Las Vegas…
Sleaze Roxx: You touched on Revolution Day. I’ve always been curious about that album. Obviously the whole music scene changed. A&M probably financed the album, then it got shelved?
Anthony Corder: Yeah, the masters of the record got shelved. There was nothing we could do about that. We had access to some of the demo material. Some of the things we had done that weren’t things that we turned into the label. I guess there was a rumor that had started that there was a version of Revolution Daythat was floating around out on the internet. Once technology kicked in — that was ten years later or something. Somebody said, “Hey there’s a Revolution Day copy around out there.” We went and found it. Somebody had run it off of a cassette. The reason we knew it was that the tempos were different. It was kind of sped up a little bit. We said, “Man, that doesn’t sound right. Let’s see if there’s a way we can figure out a way to get access to some of the demos that we could get out to the public.” So that’s what we did. If you listen to the record closely, you can hear something that is inconsistent to what would have been a master. Maybe a rhythm guitar might fall out of one of the speakers by accident. We would track live. As live as we could. We would try and get the drums, guitar and bass. Then Keith [Douglas] would go back in and redo his guitar parts later. We were really trying to get the basic tracks just drums and bass on those passes. Sometimes they would be adjusting a chord or changing a thing on the board, but for the most part, it was the best representation that we could find to what it would have sounded like if it had come out and been mastered.
Sleaze Roxx: So this is speaking of the actual release on FnA Records of Revolution Day? Not the demos?
Anthony Corder: Well, the Revolution Day masters went to A&M. We don’t have control over those, but we had access to some recordings that we had done for the record.
Sleaze Roxx: Ahh! Okay! So that’s what became the album that isRevolution Day on FnA.
Anthony Corder: Yeah, yeah. What happened was we bumped into the guy that runs FnA Records. He lives here in Nashville. He had asked me if I had any outtakes. Things that weren’t any part of the A&M deal. Things that we didn’t turn in as masters. To be honest with you, we had stuff on mini-cassette, DAT, cassette tapes even. Stuff that I was afraid we were going to lose and we said, “Hey man, everybody just look around in your stuff and let’s just see if we can come up with some things that we could use!” To us, more than anything it was about sustaining those recordings. I still have cassettes that are in my attic, but I’m scared if I turn them on, they’re gonna deteriorate or fall apart. For us, it was more about trying to document those little pictures of time. For people that — I’m not saying, for people that might have been interested in listening to us a long time ago, but it’s really fun to go back and listen to those things that were outtakes that didn’t make the project. We laugh at some of them and just go, “Oh my God, this is hilarious.” There was some stuff in there, some old jams that we had forgotten about. We listened back to those tracks and went, “Wow man! This was actually really good material that we had.” Just for us to have it. For prosperity or whatever it is! Just so we have it and we can pass it on to somebody if they ever want to listen to it. It was nice.
Read more at Sleaze Roxx
Tora Tora released their new album, Bastards Of Beale, on February 22nd. To read more about this release and the hear the song, Rose of Jericho, please click here. To stream to the tune, Silence the Sirens, go here.