The Steve Goss Interview
On February 8, 1997 Steve Goss, Program Director of Peach 94.9 WPCH in Atlanta, Georgia and life-long fan of the Moody Blues interviewed Justin Hayward following Justin's Border's Bookstore appearance there. Steve is going to use this interview as part of a "Words and Music Special with Justin Hayward" which will air on Peach 94.9 sometime in the near future. Steve has kindly allowed this interview to be posted to our web site and we're incredibly thankful to him and to his station. But he asked that we post the following qualifier :
The following interview is the property of WPCH/Atlanta. Any reproduction or re-broadcast without the expressed written permission of Steve Goss at WPCH is prohibited by law.
Of course we're only doing the transcript but please don't copy this and post it elsewhere. We'll inform you as to when you can expect to hear the special when that info is available. Steve also informs us that WPCH has added "Broken Dream" to their rotation (the 4:00 edited version) and that the response from listeners (and Moodies fans) has been good. Way to go, Steve!
The Steve Goss Interview
Steve Goss : First of all, I want to thank you for taking the time...
Justin Hayward : Pleasure...
SG : And coming down here. I've got a couple of things I'd like to ask you. First of all, this new album The View From the Hill is by my count, the 5th solo album you've been involved with...
JH : Yes. That's right.
SG : And it's the first really that you've been involved with... with material that you sing and write in maybe 10 or 11 years. So, explain that long gap in time for the fans.
JH : What happened was, I suppose -- really I got very involved in the Moodies' records, particularly after '86 where Tony Visconti [came] in. And he really gave us a new kind of sound and new approach and way of recording.
But then, since '91 which was the release of The Keys Of the Kingdom album, I started writing after that for a new Moodies' album that really is still yet to get underway. And I've found that towards the end of '94 I just had so many songs and things that I wanted to say -- I'd moved, to live in the South of France and was living in a little flat down there and for some reason I was just very, very productive with the material I was writing. So, towards the beginning of '95 I thought -- well, the end of '94 -- that I really must do something with this. And it was just a case of having so many songs that were in my heart that I had to do something about it.
SG : So if you had that many, why not a double album? (laughs)
JH : Well, I recorded -- actually, we recorded -- 18...
SG : 18 songs? So...
JH : But you try to get somebody to pay for a double album -- [it's] difficult. But there are other things that we've finished, in the can, that maybe we'll use down the line somewhere, and some other things that I did in New York just after the album was finished that I still haven't done anything with yet.
SG : You recorded most of the album in Italy at a small studio outside of Genoa...
JH : That's right. Yeah.
SG : What was that like?
JH : Oh, it was wonderful and I -- a couple of my pals live close to me in the South of France. One is a guitar player named Phil Palmer who's on all of the George Michael records and works with Dire Straits and people like that. And then another bass player who works with Van Morrison called Mickey Feat. And anyway, we would just sort of play at people's parties and people's homes and the more we sort of did that, Phil the guitar player said "Listen, I'm working with this guy, Eros Ramazotti, in Italy and these musicians that I'm working with are just the greatest." He says, "Come and have a look." So we went across the border one night watched them play and they were so great.
And then a couple of days later he said, "And where these boys work there's a fantastic little studio, digital and it was a guy actually who'd won the lottery -- would you believe this? He won the Italian lottery and his dream was to build this -- and he knew everything about studios -- he was a complete electronics studio freak -- he bought the best digital gear, up-to-date, you could possibly imagine -- a complete enthusiast -- put it in the wine cellar -- the old wine cellar of this house which was a beautiful house where he lived with his family, right on the Ligurian coast -- a place called Recco.
So that was it. He set the whole studio up. And Phil took me there and it was just like heaven. You'd go there and the family would look after you and it was just a dream way to record. The four weeks that I was there making the album with the other guys that were on the record with me was just blissful.
SG : Well, let's talk about the album and a little bit ... correct me if I'm wrong but the process now, there's a lot of computer sampling when you're recording... but I had read that with TVFTH you utilized the old-fashioned way, much more. Live musicians. Is that right?
JH : Yes. Phil and Mickey particularly. So there was 5 of us on it. Me on guitar, Phil on guitar and Phil producing. Paul Bliss, [the] Moodies' keyboard player, Mickey Feat, Ellio the Italian...drummer. Also a guy called Steve Tayler, the engineer and we all knew the material up front. I'd given the material to Paul and he'd done a sort of map of the material and then I'd made a lot of quite elaborate demos myself and it was a question of rehearsing up those songs before we went into the studio, and then recording them -- really getting, grabbing a performance on record live.
Things like "Troubadour" were live. Well, 'Troubadour" was live. And I overdubbed some acoustic guitar later, but the whole thing was live. "Shame" was live as well. And obviously "Children of Paradise," that was live. But it was very much like the albums that we used to make in -- first few -- early years. We'd practice everything. And to save studio time we'd know it already. They didn't want to waste my money by doing this.
SG : And there is a similarity I've noticed. ...On TVFTH you've utilized that cross fade between songs so that a good half of CD you're cross-fading one into the other which is great. So that's deliberate obviously.
JH : Yes it was. We found that there [were] little pieces of music that at the beginning and ends of songs -- because we were doing so many things actually in the studio together and looking at each other -- instead of doing a finish or a fad, you'd just do little kind of segue things and they turned out to be just nice pieces really, that would work and flow. So we used them and kept those kinds of things in. And we knew which tracks work with the next one. And there's even a couple of times where we changed tempo deliberately because we knew that we were going into a song that we'd recorded like, the day before.
SG : Eleven cuts on the CD -- and I'm sure you get asked this all the time -- people always make note -- some of the songs that are either lyrically or topically a departure for you, that are more topical if you will... The song "Billy" comes to mind. What was the inspiration for that? Is that just a reaction to the current sad state of society or --
JH : Strangely enough, it was something that I witnessed. It wasn't a particularly serious situation. It was about a sniper or an attempted sniper who, I suppose -- it's a sort of public suicide in a way. It was almost like a sort of cleansing thing. Anyway, I was witness to this in France and to what nearly could have been a tragedy. But it wasn't. Really, it was just one person who took their own life. And it was -- it started me thinking.
It was the last thing I'd have ever written a song about, really. I wasn't involved in it or in the middle of it but I was close to it and I was in the same place and it just shows you how -- what a fine line you're walking every day in life, really. And how a split second can change people's lives.
But it's a particularly touching song and I know me and Mickey, when we demoed it up, we got very sort of emotionally involved with the feeling around it. And I know that comes through on the record. It is a powerful recording.
SG : Very much so. Some of the other songs on the CD -- "Broken Dream" has been released as a single -- and "The Way of The World" too. Now which is -- and how did you decide which is the first release or does it matter?
JH : "The Way of the World" came out at the same time as the album, or was the 'featured track' when the album was first released. And if it's been on a single actually -- I haven't see it -- but it might have -- but it [was] just sent to radio. Now "Broken Dream" was the one they were building up because the record company, the people at BMG, always believed in "Broken Dream" as a song and as a record. And so it's been building up to this release of "Broken Dream" and our hopes are with it.
SG : Let me as y this question : As the singer and the songwriter, how much control do you have over which son released, say, to radio stations? And is there a strategy? "OK, we'll release "Broken Dream" first and then we'll follow up with "Way of the World" or we'll follow up with "Promised Land" or whatever?" How is that decided?
JH : It's decided without me. (laughs) That's usually the way it goes and, but it's usually decided by people who have a real belief that their friends in radio ... that this is what will work for us. And so as the artist it's very hard to go against that. I've found that so many times in the Moody Blues where we've gone against people's advice and released the thing and then the people in the very record company say "It wasn't my idea" and they don't support it. They don't feel it in their hearts.
SG : So there's some politics involved...
JH : There's always some politics involved. But I'm right behind this. I think "Broken Dream" is one of the best things that I have ever been involved with -- best recordings and the most emotive things I've ever done and it means an awful lot to me.
SG : When I first heard the CD, I thought... "Broken Dream" should be the first release. And then when I heard it was I thought "Well, all right!" Kinda scary. (Laughs)
JH : ... (laughs)...
SG : Well, how do the rest of the band feel about your solo venture? Do you guys keep in touch?
JH : Oh yeah. Sure. We see each other all the time and... we're working together all the time. We start a British tour... at the beginning of March; do some European dates and everything. And everybody, I think is fine about it. There's different levels of being fine.
Ray particularly is always, "Good on you, Jus. This is great!" and he loves to know that I'm doing it. And if I go to do a concert -- I was doing some gigs on my own, with my own musicians on the west coast -- and he was the one that really made a point of coming to me before hand and just holding my hand and saying "Listen, it's gonna be great and I know you're gonna really love it and I'm right behind you" kind of thing. And I think people just feel differently about it, that's all.
But the truth is, we -- everybody -- feels good about it in the way that they know I am a songwriter and these songs -- the Moodies record so infrequently -- and they know that I've got a lot of songs that must be said. And I've got to get these off my chest and they're very sympathetic to me as a person that I would do that.
They're also very encouraged and, this is Graeme's theory, or so he tells me, is that "Hey listen, Jus, every time you go out and do an album we love it because all they ask you about is the Moody Blues." And I say, "Well, that's true" you know? So there's that aspect of it.
SG : Is there another -- we've mentioned that you've got some tracks and stuff in the can if you will, for another Moody Blues album? What's the time-table on that?
JH : Well, a Moody Blues album -- we've started doing some demos for it. We've got a couple of cuts already. We can't seem to quite get a foothold on an album yet. Only because everybody enjoys touring with the band so much and it takes up so much of our time that we just haven't been forced to put our minds to it.
I don't quite know how we are going to do it because the Moodies recording over the last few years has become a sort of solitary experience with either just me or a producer or one of the other guys if they've written a song and a producer, and the other guys sort of just coming and going, you know? Just popping their heads in kind of thing. And I think I would love to see Ray and Graeme get a lot more involved in the recording and I hope that really happens.
But I think that all going -- I mean, I said this time last year. I was a bit optimistic then -- but all going well, I think we should have an album this time next year.
SG : OK. Should we write that down?
JH : Yeah. No need to remind me. I can remember. I've been saying it for about 4 years!
SG : Well the Moody Blues, the version that we all know and love, has been in business...for 30 years --
JH : Yes. Four of us have been together for 30 -- 31 years.
SG : How did you get involved with them to begin with? I head that you had answered an ad. Is that --
JH : That's right, yes.... What happened was at the time, I suppose, I'd [been] working with a guy called Marty Wilde -- and that's how I started, when I was 16. I was his guitar player in the backing group. I was writing songs all of this time and then I was just doing sort of folk clubs in England -- a bit like what I was doing today here in Atlanta. You know, just sitting there with one guitar... Then I used to record a lot of these things and do demos and I had quite an active publisher and we'd fire off songs to people. And I'd answered an ad that was in the paper for musicians and material that were wanted for Eric Burden. And I sent my songs and a little letter saying "Hey! I'm here!" you know, and "These are my songs" kind of thing... and like a lot of us do -- like a lot of people just do to me. And I wrote to Eric actually, because I knew somebody in his office. Unbeknownst to me, Eric passed my tracks, the tape and a couple of records I had done -- vinyl -- to Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues. And I had a call, completely out of the blue. I was in a music store on a Saturday morning and the guy said "Hey, Justin -- Mike Pinder for you." And it was like "What? The Searchers?" or whatever. There was a guy called Mike Pinder in The Searchers.
And anyway, so Mike came on the phone and said "We heard couple of your songs and wondered if you'd like to come up and meet Graeme and Ray. As it was, there was just the 3 of them. And I said, "Yeah. Sounds great." So he said, "Well, come on up to town and I'll pick you up." And I came up to the station and Mike picked me up in his car and I met Mike first. A few times. And I really got on very well with him. He was great fun to be around and a great musician. And then I met Ray and Graeme and the next thing I know they were saying, "We're thinking of" -- ([because] the band had kind of disintegrated) -- "we're thinking of getting the band together" and "Denny's leaving" -- he was in the process of leaving. Clint, the original bass player had already left. And they said, "So there's the 3 of us and Ray has got this pal, John" they were thinking of having, asking to come on bass. So that was it. That was how -- we all just got together like that.
SG : So that was in -- '66?
JH : Yes. This was in the summer of 1966. Then we went on playing rhythm and blues. I sang "Go Now" for ages after Denny'd left -- and I was rubbish at it. And we went on playing rhythm and blues, which we were terrible doing. Denny sang it -- used to sing it great. And he had that R&B voice that was just -- and his guitar playing style that was just great. But when it was just down to me, it wasn't my forte and it showed. And our price dropped about 20 pounds per night -- something -- $30. Not even enough to pay for the payments on the guitar or the rent. I had to go live back home. And there was a turning point. I was already writing songs and Mike was writing songs and a turning point was when we just decided to do just them on stage -- our own songs. And then it just (makes a whooshing sound) took off.
SG : Right. Mike Pinder. Keep in contact with him?
JH : Well, funny enough, he came to see us last year. We were on the west coast somewhere near Sacramento and he came to see us. And you know, you don't -- I don't really keep in contact. I missed him very much when he left in the late '70s because he was kind of my hero and the one that I looked up to -- and he was such a wonderful musician. And, but in the end, I had to respect him for... You can't make people do what you want them to do. Or you can't make people be what you want them to be and he just didn't want to do it anymore.
SG : And that's basically it. He got tired of the touring ---
JH : Yeah. He got married again and it seemed to me like his girlfriend or his new wife, she was always calling up, "When you coming home?" and that kind of thing. And he found it very difficult to be with the boys or that kind of thing. So yeah, he just really didn't want to do it anymore.
But then we went through... a ridiculous court case where some lawyer convinced him : "Hey, Mike. You're the Moody Blues. They can't go on like this." So we had to do this dreadful court case. And... Mike lost as a matter of fact. And then the rest of us -- this was just before the album, Long Distance Voyager which, strangely enough was a number one album for us. Biggest album we've ever had. And so they tried to put an injunction on it -- Mike and Tony Clarke, the old producer -- tried to put an injunction on it to stop it coming out. Thank goodness that they didn't -- that they weren't able to, in the courts, because it was just a wonderful album and of course, it really deserved to be heard.
But...things change. And when you leave a group it's very difficult to step back in -- for any member who leaves a group, because it's like walking out of a club or something. You can't just come back in and be a member.
SG : You're anticipating my next question.... I think Moody Blues fans want to know, is it possible for Mike to ever come back into the band?
JH : I don't think so.
SG : And he might not want to anyway --
JH : No, I don't know that he wants to. But on the other hand, I think that we've moved along since then and we're all kind of different people. I think it would just be -- I promise you, if it happened, you'd know that it was happening just for money and that's about the only reason. And if it happened, you could look at it and say "This is great" but there'd be another reason to do it.
SG : The Moody Blues have had a reputation -- every band has an image and the Moody Blues' image has always been more so than not, a band that's very ethereal, otherworldly. The album covers, the music, the lyrics, the whole flow, and of course at the time of your ascendancy back in the late '60s and early '70s -- I'm wondering, as a member of the band -- you know there are people who are presupposing upon you and the others in the band, things that you have no knowledge of. I think people thought, "Well, the Moody Blues ,I mean listen -- they have the answer to the universe. They know what's going on. They're like some sort of messengers here."
JH : Uh huh...
SG : And it wasn't just a few isolated cases. There were a lot of people who -- maybe it was the drug culture at the time, I don't know -- sort of got into that, and I'm wondering -- how did that impact you guys? Obviously you were aware of it...
JH : Yes, it was a big part of us and I suppose it was a reflection of our lyrics. And we were -- the only way I can look at it was this : ...we were five very different, intelligent people...who were all independently and together, searching and seeking for some kind of truth and enlightenment -- this is as young men that we were doing this. And we certainly had a lot of different kinds of religious experiences, psychedelic experiences and meditation and a whole number of different things that we were attracted to. And our lyrics were a reflection of those. They were also to do with, I suppose, some kind of spirituality and some believing there was more to this. So, but it was written in a really kind of naive way. It was written as seekers and searchers, not as oracles or, if you know what I mean. So it was written as people who were looking and not the people who had the answers.
But it's a very difficult thing to be able to express to someone who really wants to bestow that on you, that you really haven't got that. But of course, we coincided, particularly here in America, with a generation who was also seeking, searching and looking for leaders and some kind of real leadership to -- they wanted people that understood what was in their hearts. And the young people of America were very, very misunderstood at that particular time. It was such a powerful sort of youth movement that we became involved in it, almost a voice for it.
The thing that it brought to us that was a feeling of kind of inadequacy, really, because we really wanted to help but we didn't really have the answers because we were still trying to find ourselves. We got to a stage where it became very difficult for us as people, because we just didn't have the experience as people. We were just really guys in a band. But at the same time, I always was aware that the music that I was writing and making did have an element -- or still has to this day. It's probably greater now. For me it's almost like going into another room that a wonderful, magical world of sort of enlightenment, if you like. And that is the world of song and song writing and the area around that. If I'm rambling, shut me up --
SG : No, it's fascinating. These are questions that --
JH : [Because] it's a private world. I find it very difficult to share that. I respect my wife Marie so much for having put up with me for 30 years without ever being able to walk into that room.
SG : You've been married 30 years --
JH : Yes.
SG : Congratulations.
JH : I've been married 28 years.
SG : Twenty eight years -- Christmas music. "What Child Is This" by the Moody Blues -- we've added here 2 years ago --
JH : Oh yeah.
SG : Boy, it's hard to find. We took a feed off of ABC one day and I said, "Boy, this is incredible."
JH : Do you know I've never heard that? From the day I've walked out of the studio I've never heard h And I've said to a couple the guys in the band..."Have you got a copy" and they said, "I think somebody sent me one but I can't find it."
SG : We have it on our computer here. Yeah. I can play it for you if you like. But --
JH : Yeah, OK.
SG : Any plans to do a -- there's some big money in Christmas music, Justin.
JH : Money, money, money. Yeah... We'd run a mile. That's the trouble. If anybody says (fake authoritative voice) "Now this is big money to do this" that's the problem with the Moody Blues. We'd go completely the other direction. And, (thoughtful voice), I don't know really -- I don't really -- The thing that know for certain is that I just have to do what's in my h and what feels right at that particular moment. Often, when people have sort of suggested things : "Hey. Why don't you do this?" and "Why don't you do that?" I've regretted it afterwards. I think that if it happens then that'll be great. I haven't felt it yet, no. Because I think there are so few good Christmas records. The ones that I really love are the ones with the -- the John Lennon things -- an the --
SG : "Happy Christmas, War is Over"
JH : Yes. And what was that other -- the Irish boy who did it with um -- I don't recall (sighs). "A New York Christmas" I think it was called. A great record.
SG : Well, coincidentally, and there's a method to my question, your new record label for your solo album, CMC, has also signed Yes -- the band Yes.
JH : Yes, I believe so, yes.
SG : Jon Anderson, the lead singer has done a marvelous version of "The Holly and the Ivy"
JH : Oh, has he?
SG : And were I their --
JH : Oh, he's got such a beautiful voice --
SG : record company president, I'd think "well, we've got Justin Hayward. We've got Jon Anderson and they've done these wonderful Christmas songs... I see a great holiday album, OK?
JH : Yeah. OK. Well, if somebody wants to make some -- or help me or point me in the direction of some beautiful music, then that'll make it feel right for me, yeah.
SG : Well, what do you listen to -- I mean, what do you prefer -- do you have specific tastes in other bands or other music?
JH : I do. I mean, I've been listening to some Italian music, just because that's where I've lived, or just songs that I've forgotten how well some musicians can play. In England you can forget that because at the moment it's all about image and sort of posh and photographs and sound bites and things. So there's a lot of great Italian stuff and there's a French guy called **Lawren/Lauren Voulzie*** that he's a chap in his 30s, I suppose, but really making quality pop music. Apart from that, I just really like records. I like a lot of the Brit pop stuff. There's a group called Pulp that I really like. And the girls for me are just dominating. It's almost like the boys in America have been discredited or so, as pop singers in some weird way.
SG : Absolutely. Yes.
JH : And then the girls are sort of all-powerful at the moment.
SG : And when you're not writing songs -- the millions and millions of songs that you write -- when you put the guitar down, what do you do? What? Sleep? (laughs) What are your hobbies?
JH : No I really, my ideal, if I could clone myself I suppose -- music is always #1, but if I really had -- if somebody said, "Right. You're not going to make any music for a year" I would go and just get incredibly fit. I think -- have a sort of fitness-mania. And I'm one of those terrible people who hangs around in gyms and things like that. But that's something I've always done because I've always been able to run. It's something that just comes naturally to me and a solitary kind of thing.
Apart from that, I think -- I enjoy beautiful things like antiques. And the problem with antiques as a hobby as I've found out this pretty quick, is that I can't afford it. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and once you know what you should be buying, well, you can't afford it. (laughs) It's like great art --
SG : Another tour for the Moody Blues this summer?
JH : Yes.
SG : A US tour?
JH : Yes. We're doing a US tour right across one side to the other through May and June. We are looking forward to it very much. We always have so much fun and make and meet so many friends along the way.
SG : Make a lot of people happy and with the right answer to this next question, you can make a lot of people happy. Do you -- the guys -- do you ever sit down and say, "Well, we're going to keep doing this forever and ever, so long as it's fun, as long as it's : yeah, we can have our solo things", but as a band, the Moody Blues -- will they continue on, or do you even think about that? Do you have any long-range plans?
JH : Um, no. We don't have any long-range plans. We never really thought more than a few months ahead. It's something the would never sit down and say but it's unspoken, yes. I can't see any reason why we should not do it. But on the other hand, it would only take one of us -- one of the four of us now, to say "Well, I don't think it's for me anymore" and I think that would be the end of it.
SG : Great. Thanks. I really appreciate your taking the time --
JH : My pleasure.