JOE LYNN TURNER - "It's To The Tub, Not The Club"
November 10, 2016, a year ago
He’s crooned classic tunes with Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen and even Deep Purple, but New York’s finest, Joe Lynn Turner, is also a deep and consummate music fan, built in part from his pre-fame life cutting his teeth on covers.
That skill is graphically on display on an album called The Sessions (out now on Cleopatra), a record that compiles many of the tribute songs Joe has been part of over the years.
“The idea for this album was a bit of a surprise to me,” laughs Turner. “I can’t vouch for the fact that it’s the same point that they were making last time, but I remember all these guys who are named, I think there was a 10% charity they were contributing to or something. At least that was what it was about way back. I can’t vouch for that now. But I can say that through the years, they would contact to me and say, hey, can you do this cover or that cover, and they’d give me an option or two. I grew up on covers for a living. And to be honest with you, it’s kind of challenging. It always gives you a different perspective using whatever instrument you’re playing, whether it’s guitar, voice, drums, whatever, it’s interesting to imitate. So I did it and I like doing it, and not for the money, because the money was not big. It was for charity in the beginning; it just became what it became.”
“But one or two would come by and it was great,” continues Joe, on the scope of this album, one that that includes songs by Queen, Supertramp, The Doors, Iron Maiden, even Joe’s own band Rainbow. “I would love to do ‘The Seeker’ for Leslie West on guitar or something like that—who wouldn’t? And so when the concept of The Sessions came up, it was like, it’s their rights, they own these recordings and they can do whatever they want with them. And I don’t even know if they’re doing one of these with anybody else. But after they put out the live Joe Lynn Turner at the Paradise in Boston, I got a letter, an email, saying, ‘Would you be interested in releasing this at such and such a percentage?’ I looked at the contract and I said sure, like, why not? No harm done. And I’ve got two of them sitting on my desk right now, and I’m fondly remembering the studios and all the times we did these things.”
And I’m sure you were alone in those studios. I mean, the standard course is that these things are done remotely.
“Sure, I don’t think most of these musicians were ever in the same room. West Coast, East Coast, overseas... they could be anywhere, given the technology. But we all knew each other, obviously. And we were all excited about who was on a particular track, and I thought it was a great idea for everybody to join in.”
One song that really stands out is “Lunatic Fringe,” by obscure Canadian act Red Rider—what gives?
“I can’t believe that you just said that! Because that was right in my mind. I loved Red Rider. They only had one song or something, sort of a one-hit wonder, but it was the best song ever. And when I got the opportunity to redo it, I was so excited. I tried to be true to the original as much as I could, because I thought that was just such a poignant lyric—and I think it still applies today, socio-politically, and everything else. Those guys were right on it. I’m amazed you said that, because it was at the top my head—Red Rider.”
Asked how much Joe Lynn Turner is in these performances versus the original singer, Joe figures, “You learn from everybody. I learned from Hughes and Coverdale and everybody, Jim Morrison, even Jimi Hendrix, who wasn’t much of a singer, but what a delivery he had. You learn to imitate from everybody. And one of the greatest compliments I ever had was from Roger Glover, in an interview way back in the Rainbow days, where he said, ‘Joe Lynn Turner’s found his own voice.’ And that was a compliment. So all of these sessions, really, relate to the fact that I copied singers growing up in order to find that voice. And then later on, maybe I was sort of an icon, and people would say, ‘Copy him—sing like Joe Lynn Turner.’ And I was always complimented by the fact that Joey Tempest from Europe related that way to me and my style; I was very flattered by that. So yeah, this is how we learn to do anything. If you’re a singer or a guitar player, whatever, piano player, and you’ve never heard Bach or Beethoven, how would you know where to start? What would you do? We all have to have a ladder, or building blocks, that we learn from. And doing these sessions was fun, more than anything, because of the past of me building myself up through these old iconic singers.”
Joe covers “Back In Black” on The Sessions as well, and as it turns out, Brian Johnson is an old friend. “Yes, and Brian has a very unique voice. Funny story, I’ll never forget, when he was doing Black Ice, he’d call me from Vancouver, and one time he says, ‘Joe, I’ll tell you something. Now they’ve got me on the mic at 11, and when I’m finished, it’s to the tub, not the club’ (laughs). Meaning that at our age, you have to be disciplined about the drink. And we used to have conversations about that. How do you turn 60, 65, 70, and keep going? You certainly can’t continue to kill yourself as we used to in the ‘80s.”
“What I’m doing right now is kind of finishing up this year with the tours,” says Joe in closing, looking at the road ahead. “I had great critical acclaim on the last Sunstorm album, which has done really well. But I’ve got a secret project that I’m doing, a cross between classical and industrial metal. So it’s kind of like melodic metal. And I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people. I’m working with a very famous artist and producer out of Sweden, who’s... I don’t really want to mention names, but I’m doing something different. And of course I still keep the classic rock thing going for Frontiers and what have you. I mean, that’s my sort of bread and butter there. But at the same time, I want to change things up. It’s time for me to evolve into other areas. We’ve written three song so far, and they are frickin’ dynamite. They’re great. And it’s really a different sound. So I think people will be very surprised at what I can do. In essence, it’s very much like me going into these sessions, and changing the voice up, to seek different tonalities and attitudes.”