WHITFORD ST. HOLMES – Derek, Brad And Their Night In The Ruts
June 3, 2016, 2 years ago
Ted Nugent vocalist Derek St. Holmes and Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford are soul brothers from different mothers, having come up in two big bands from the ‘70s, but then crashing to earth at about the same time, not sure which way to go. The year was 1980, with Derek on the outs with Nuge for a couple years now, and Brad removing himself from a blown-up Aerosmith, right about the time Joe Perry was on his way to The Joe Perry Project.
Together the two second banana axemen formed an alliance, putting out the Whitford St. Holmes album in August of 1981, pretty much to vacant stares, and now launching Reunion 35 years later.
“Right, well, that was right after Joe had left the band,” explains Brad, on how he and Ted’s crooner wound up making a record for CBS. “I was still working with Aerosmith, although we weren’t really working. We had the period where we ended up getting Jimmy Crespo and we did some live shows, and we were supposed to start working on the next record, and we were having a terrible time getting anything to happen at that period. We actually recorded the first Whitford St. Holmes record, recorded and finished in about four weeks, in the spring time, and that’s when I was still in Aerosmith. Nothing was happening, so I was working on that. We had that album completed and went back to work with Aerosmith, and we were just trying to come up with some ideas for the new record and we came up with zilch (laughs). And then that summer I decided to walk away from Aerosmith for a couple years. It was just not happening.”
As for his assessment of Night In The Ruts, Whitford says, “I don’t consider it much of a record myself. There’s some cool stuff on it, but it doesn’t hold a candle for me, to like Rocks and Toys In The Attic, when the band was in its most creative period. We started to lose some of the cohesiveness of the songwriting, I think. We had a lot of things going on that led to a drifting away from the music. That was a bad period with the drug abuse, the alcohol, people starting to think they were too big for Aerosmith or whatever. It was everything going slowly out of control, and of course, the music suffered. I worked on some of Rock In A Hard Place, a little bit of it, but the little bit that we recorded, I don’t even know if they kept it (laughs).”
But Whitford St. Holmes, a sort of bluesy, Bad Co., poppy, kind of warm and organic hard rock record, well, it fizzled as well. “You know, we didn’t come up with much of a plan,” sighs Whitford. “Nothing really happened. We did tour a little bit with Blue Öyster Cult, but we had no support, really, at the record company, and it just kind of faded away and became a cult classic (laughs).”
Flash forward 35 years, and Reunion proves that everything you thought you knew about Derek and Brad and their musical tastes is comfy and confirmed. Reunion is a straight-line follow-up to Whitford St. Holmes but with all the accumulated knowledge of those ensuing years, conveniently past any influence of ‘80s production or ‘90s alternative might have had, straight to the heart of the original ‘70s rock of... “Fool For The City” and “Night Shift”.
“Wow, that’s really... that’s a great compliment. So yes, thank you,” chuckles Brad, on the idea that Reunion is as hearty, starry and robust as a golden sun-dappled Foghat outdoor show, as depicted in those iconic concert shots all over Foghat Live.
“We have a real appreciation for just real straight-ahead rock. We’re both huge fans of Bad Company, Humble Pie, straight-up two-guitar rock, and we try to be song-orientated. It’s not about guitar virtuosity—it’s more about the tunes. And a simple recording technique, really, basically recording live and not layering a pile of rhythm guitar parts. They’re just one track, and that way you can get it right up and in-your-face in the mix. Things tend to get bigger and thicker with layering, but you lose some of the personality, I think, of the performance. And we’re really keen on capturing the moment.”
With those bands name-checked between the two of us, it’s hard also not to notice a little southern hard rock in there as well, which also comes through by way of Derek’s hugely soulful vocals, the man singing like a house on fire up in these advanced years, joining the precisely one-quarter of heritage warblers able to do so.
“Oh yeah, of course huge fans of Skynyrd, Allman Brothers—again, straight-ahead guitar rock is what we feel we are,” reiterates Brad. “So yeah, throw in some music from the South; it’s what floats our boat (laughs). It’s almost like paying tribute to all the stuff that we loved over the years, although that’s the way we write. It was a case of, let’s just do what we like. We went in the studio, we funded this record ourselves, we wrote it, produced it, and we didn’t have anybody standing in the studio telling us to go this way or that way. It’s just Derek and myself, steering the ship. And the result is this record. It was beyond our expectations, actually.”
As for who does what on the album, Brad’s answer really does confirm how similar these two legends think and what they bring to any band, other than Derek’s huge vocal contribution.
“Yes, well, Derek, being a singer and doing so many lead vocals, I think he has a great way of approaching a guitar solo, because of his singing. And I don’t approach it the same way. But I’ve been learning a lot from him about his approach, and probably getting a little more structured in my approach, based on what I’ve learned from him. But we both play rhythm and we both do solos on the record. It’s pretty much, whoever has a better feel for a certain part takes it. So we each get to do quite a bit of either rhythm or soloing. It’s cool, Derek and I did a lot of touring together in the ‘70s and that’s how we got to know each other. We just happened to be a great package, Aerosmith and Ted Nugent on the same bill. That’s really how it was presented it, a great package. And that’s how Derek and I met. I wouldn’t say there was any competition, but it was kind of two different approaches to the same thing.”
“I’m really pleased with the whole thing,” continues Brad, asked about a highlight song on the record,” but I quite like the last track, ‘Flood Of Lies.’ I wrote the music and the lyrics for that one and really pleased with how it came out. That song just came out of nowhere, and actually the first day of when we were tracking this record. Wrote it like that on the Monday as we were tracking, and then Tuesday, we tracked it and it turned into that song. So pretty proud of that one. But no, this is all stuff that, in the last couple of years Derek and I put together; there’s nothing left over from any other period, really.”
“I wouldn’t say any moment, but it could be,” answers Brad, in closing on whether this can all get shelved if he’s called back to work. “I mean, maybe, if, we were talking about going into the studio to do just about anything, maybe to try to write a song. But Steven has been real busy on his record, and I think he’s doing some dates during the summer. So I’ve pretty much got free reign for a little while. Aerosmith will be going on tour this fall, October, in South America, and then doing some touring kind of around the world next year, including the US. But right now I’ve got a lot of free time to devote to Whitford St. Holmes, and so we’ve got dates with Whitesnake coming up.”
“We’re going to play anywhere. This is really an old school garage band. So yeah, we’ll play small clubs, theatres, whatever we can do—we don’t really care. It’s cool; in terms of the old stuff, if we have time we do a little medley, a little bit of like ‘Last Child,’ ‘Train Kept a-Rollin’,’ and we do ‘Stranglehold,’ just to give a nod to our respective pasts. We just want to play. This is probably the best band I’ve ever been in, really—the musicianship is just incredible. And we just have a lot of laughs, so it’s fun.”