Paul Warren is a very busy man these days. As Rod’s guitarist for the last 11 years, he is just about to kick off a three month tour of the UK and Europe, and has a new album from his own band, the Paul Warren Group due to be released later this year.
Despite this hectic schedule, Paul took the time to talk to The RSC’s Ali Graham...
Hi Paul, how did the rehearsals go and what can we expect from these shows?
Rehearsals went great and what you can expect would be some of the Soul Book Album, and as you know Rod has added two more Horn players which add more of an
R&B flavor to the tunes that they are playing on. Also there is a new stage and video that are quite impressive. The band is wearing new outfits and they're the best ones yet. Also, Rod brings out some songs in Europe that he
does not perform in the US which always keeps things interesting.
Rods current band have been together for some time, has it been easy for newcomers to fit in.... are there any initiation rites etc???
Jimmy Roberts was in the band when I joined eleven or twelve years ago and at the time he had been around for several years, so for him it is just like coming home. I might add that it is a pleasure hearing him play. He has been missed. Anne the trumpet player is very nice but has been somewhat quiet and observant. Anyone would be as a newcomer, but once she is comfortable she's going to feel like she belongs. Initiation rites are every time we go on stage and play a song because you are only as good as your last performance. The band members always try to make newcomers feel comfortable.
How did you come to get the job with Rod?
I knew many of the people already involved with Rod such as Boiler, Lars, and some of the band members. They were all pushing for me to get the job and putting a good word about me with Rod. Although I did require a few auditions
and I hadn't auditioned for a job at that point for almost twenty years. I usually got hired on my reputation, but as you know, Rod likes to find out for himself.
You have worked with Ian McLagan on his EP ‘Last Chance to Dance’, can you tell us a little about that?
Mac and his manager contacted me about producing the EP, after agreeing it only made sense that I played guitar on it. We originally used Phil Chen, Rods old Bass player ie: Do you think I am sexy, Hot legs etc, but one of the recording dates he couldn't make so Mac asked me to lay down some temporary Bass until Phil was available. He liked what I played so much that he had me do all of
Phil’s parts over again. That didn't go over well with Phil. Macs wife Kim, may she rest in peace, made large portions of pasta with enormous amounts of garlic (Macs a garlic addict) for us to eat at the sessions every night. I must have smelt like garlic for at least a month after the album was finished.
Working with Mac was a pleasure as he is a very funny and talented man. The only problem is, I still haven't gotten paid.
Were you a Faces fan?
After seeing the Jeff Beck group Live I became a huge Rod Stewart fan, buying all of his solo albums, and then when the Faces album came out they became my favorite band. As fate would have it when they first came to my hometown of Detroit my band at the time Justice was hired to open the four shows they did in town. It gave me the opportunity to not only see them from the on-stage
perspective but I also met Rod, Ronnie and Mac at an aftershow party. Mac and I had several drinks and ended up at a piano at a house the party was thrown at, and Mac played while I sang for several hours. It probably annoyed a number of the partygoers, but it was fun. As for my first encounter with Rod, he was speaking to a pretty blond girl (what a surprise), and had a bottle of what I
think was Jack Daniels. Me being only fifteen and from a small farming community I didn't know protocol with celebrities, so I walked up behind him and poked him in the back to get his attention, when he turned around with a look like "What the Hell do you want?", I said "Hi, my name is Paul, and I was in the band that opened for you tonight and we will be opening for you for the next three shows as well", he looked at me like I was crazy then he
poked me in the chest with one finger (rather hard) and said "Well, there you go", turned his back on me and continued his conversation. I felt quite the fool. When I joined Rods band in ‘99 I told him this story, he laughed really hard and said, "See, I haven't changed a bit!" For the following month he must have made me tell that story to other people 10-15 times he was so proud.
You spend such long periods of time touring with Rod, what’s the best bits of that...... and the worst....?
The best bits are the shows, the worst bits are the long travels, loss of sleep, and being away from my wife.
I see that when you are not touring with Rod, you are based in Michigan. (recently moved??) What’s the focus there?
I was born and raised in Michigan and after having lived in LA 35+ years I was sick to death of it and I felt like it was time to go home.
With reference to your last CD ‘A Dogs Life’, were you happy with it and how it was received?
Who are Mr Johnson and Dr Brown?
Dr Brown is one of the only cover songs on the album. I learned it from a really old Fleetwood Mac album and at the time Peter Green was the leader. As far as Mr. Johnson goes, this is an American term that men use for their most important, proudest, and in my case largest part of my anatomy. As far as a Dogs Life are concerned I was happy with some of the material but because of
having virtually no budget the process consisted of writing a song in the morning, teaching it to the band in the studio that afternoon, recording it and moving on. As a result the sound quality and the mixes are not as good as I would like them to be. That said, most of the people who have heard it have seemed to enjoy it.
Apart from touring with Rod, what have you been doing in the 8 years in between this CD and now?
The band I recorded Dogs Life with did shows around LA, and the band I'm recording my new album 'Round Trip' with perform live around the Detroit area.
also do recording sessions for local artists, producers and recording studios. Other than that I'm working on my pilot license, have been taking boxing lessons and I've been in training for
a swimming competition in the next
So now you have a new CD about to be released, can you tell us a little about this?
The new CD I have been working on, 'Round Trip' I'm very excited about. I found some great musicians in Detroit. My keyboard player and Drummer are two of the best I've ever heard. When I decided to do the album I began
writing pretty much day and night, as ALL the material is brand new. That process took around a month and at the end I had Twelve songs I was happy with. Rehearsing the band also took around a month. I've put approximately six weeks in the studio. It should take approximately ten more days to finish it up. We have been mixing but I still have one vocal yet to record and seven songs to mix. Unlike 'A Dogs Life' I didn't rush this project and I plan to continue to work on it until I feel it's of a world class competitive standard, not just a Vanity demo album. I've been fortunate enough to find a financial backer who
believes in my talent enough to give me the time, freedom and money to make the album I've always wanted to make. I believe without a doubt these are by far the best songs I have ever written. I've gotten great performances out of the musicians. I've worked very hard on the vocals and I feel the singing is very strong on this record as well. Everyone I have played this for in the Detroit area, many of them Musicians and Music industry people, have gotten very excited about it. The largest rock station in Detroit WRIF have told me I will have guaranteed airplay once the record is done. Any support I can get would be much appreciated.
I saw a website that mentioned The Paul Warren Group - summer dates, details coming soon. What’s that about, tell us more?
In regards to the website, we have been too busy to gather content and summer dates will actually be more like Autumn and Winter dates. There will certainly be some in the US, but I also have connections in Germany and Italy with promoters, and I'm pretty sure I could
book some dates in those countries as well.
Are there times when your personal ambitions and projects clash with commitments to Rod? How do you manage that?
The gig with Rod is my priority. Sometimes a tour takes up the better part of the year, in which case I put everything else on the backburner, but generally I have time in between various legs of the tours to do my personal projects. The thing I often do wish I had time for is to spend more time with my family - but that is show business.
Are there any songs from Rods catalogue that you wish he would play live but doesn't?
Some of the Faces stuff such as ‘Had Me Real Good Time’, Miss Judy’s Farm’, some of the Mercury solo album stuff we have done but only a few times, such as ‘Gasoline Alley’ and ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’. I also wouldn't mind tackling ‘Mandolin Wind’ and his cover version of Etta James ‘I Would Rather Go Blind’. Without getting specific just about anything from the Jeff Beck Guys. Oh, and I just remembered, ‘I've Been Drinking Again.’
Does Rod give you
much creative freedom on stage? It certainly seems like you put your heart and soul into it.
Are you aware that we have competitions to see which fans can pull the best Paul Warren guitar solo face?
As far as creative freedom is concerned when I do a
solo, unless it is a written solo which is specific to the song, Rod gives me freedom to play whatever solo I want. As a matter of fact Lars, the production manager, just mentioned to me yesterday that he admired the fact that I never play a solo the same way twice. On the other hand certain things I play that are part of the song and that service the song the best ie Maggie May guitar solo etc. As far as the guitar face is concerned my wife Melanie asked me why I did that when we first got together with the assumption I was doing it on purpose. I explained to her that if I could play and NOT do the faces I would
be far happier. I see photos of myself when I am soloing and I can't say I consider them at all flattering. You are right though, they are a result of me putting my heart and soul into them.
Do you ever tire of the repetition? For instance Maggie May every night?
No one can feel like doing a show every time that there is a show. Sometimes you are ill or you may be having personal problems, for instance I had to go on stage within two hours of finding out that my father had died some years back. As hard as that was there was also a healing quality to it as well. As far as your example Maggie May goes, when the band is all playing well all at the same time and Rod is on his game I can't think of a more fun thing to do. A great song, a great band and a great singer. These are the things that any musicians dream of.
Which of Rods songs do you enjoy playing the most and why? And the least?
The songs I enjoy playing the most are generally the rockers ie Hot legs, Stay with me, and some of his rock covers such as Sweet little Rock N Roller. I also enjoy Pop music so songs such as Forever Young, Rhythm of my Heart, Every Beat of my Heart and of course the anthem Sailing. In regards to my least favorite songs to play, as challenging as they are I have to say it would be the standards.
So what’s in your future plans? After the summer gigs and aside from future work with Rod, what's coming next for you?
Finishing up my Album and doing all it takes and all that’s available to me to promote it.
Favourite venue to play?
Madison Square Gardens, although my most memorable
show with Rod was Glastonbury.
What’s the last track you downloaded?
I don't download.
What’s playing in your car right now?
The mixes from my album because I am trying to get it right, and I'm a bit anal..
Who is the best guitarist in the world?
I have to say overall the best living Guitarist would be Jeff Beck, although he wouldn't be my favourite as I like the Blues first and foremost. Clapton is still pretty spectacular when he is not being lazy. As far as the best guitarist I have ever heard I would say hands down
Jimi Hendrix. Nobody before, or since, has been that good.
Who did you last see play live?
I don't go to concerts as a rule but when I was in
New Zealand which is where my wife is from, I went to an Elton John concert. His Bass player is a friend of mine who is originally from Detroit, so he got us good seats and I went because my wife wanted to see him. I've turned down tickets to see the Stones in a VIP catered box and an Oasis release party.
That’s how little I
enjoy going to concerts, but certainly people should come and see me play live.
Best crowd ever?
For Rod, Scotland, England and Ireland and in the
States for any artist hands down every time it's Detroit.
Marmite, love it or hate it?
I hate it so bad that I even hate the people that eat it. That excludes my wife and that’s a little harsh so let me rephrase that by saying that I hate the people that make it.
Well thank you so much Paul, Good luck with both the tour and the album. We will be happy to feature it on the RSC when it’s released.
You’re welcome. I hope this was interesting and maybe a little amusing at times. I really appreciate your interest and support.
Once I have more info and details of the album release I'll keep you informed.
I'll make sure that
I send a few copies your way.
10th May 2010.
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