Published In C&K Magazin
E: Vol. #3 – Issue #3 – Date: 2008
Edgar Winter grew up a child prodigy who was technically proficient in every aspect of music. Achieving international success early on, Edgar has found an audience in every major entertainment medium–music, film and television.
In late 1972 Edgar brought together Dan Hartman, Ronnie Montrose and Chuck Ruff to form The Edgar Winter Group, the legendary band that created such hits as the number one “Frankenstein” and the ever popular “Free Ride”. Released in 1973, They Only Come Out at Night peaked at the number 3 position on the Billboard Hot 200 and stayed on the charts for an impressive 80 weeks. It was certified gold in April 1973 and double platinum in November 1986.
Edgar invented the keyboard body strap early in his career, an innovation that allows him the freedom to move around on stage during his multiinstrument high-energy performances. He was also the first artist to feature a synthesizer as the main instrument in a song. “Frankenstein” revolutionized rock and roll and opened up a whole new world of possibilities with experimentation and sound.
Additional albums includ
E: Shock Treatment, Jasmine Nightdreams, The Edgar Winter Group with Rick Derringer, a live album, Together Live with Johnny Winter, Recycled, a reunion with White Trash, Standing On Rock, Mission Earth, Live In Japan, Not A Kid Anymore, The Real Deal, and Winter Blues.
With over 20 albums and numerous collaborative efforts to his credit, Edgar Winter has not been satisfied to ride the wave of popular music stardom. Major national television and radio campaigns have relied on Edgar’s music to advertise their products. Edgar has also made frequent television appearances, both to promote his music, and to give his opinions on everything from Politically Incorrect to a commercial with George Hamilton for Miller Lite beer. His music can be heard in many film and television projects, including My Cousin Vinny, Son In Law, Wayne’s World 2, Wag the Dog, Duets, The Simpsons, Tupac Resurrection and many more.
His music is always evolving and he is a master at stretching his skill and imagination to produce amazing results. He continues to thrill audiences with his live performances, always remaining on the cutting edge of music and style. Edgar is now at the very top of his game, and his future looks even brighter than his past.
Edgar was kind enough to provide C&K Magazine with a glimpse into his legendary career…
JC: As we speak, you are working on a new CD entitled, “Keep on Rocking”. How close to completion are you and do you have a release date?
E: It started out as “Keep on Rocking”, but I think
it might end up being “Rocking the Blues”. It’s more than half complete; it has a lot of interesting guests appearing on it. Slash is on a song called Rebel Road. I have a couple of Country songs that Clint Black is singing and playing Harp on. My brother Johnnie is on the title song, “Rocking the Blues”. It’s still undecided. We might end up calling it “Rebel Road”.
JC: When you put an album together, is it something that just sort of comes to you? Do you try to kee within a time frame?
E: I am very thankful to be in a position, unlike the old days, where artists had to put out a couple of albums a year, where I can take my time and let it evolve more organically. In the case of the guest artists that I was mentioning, when you start that process it does take on a life of its own. Back when I used to make records, it was more of a band effort and a lot of the time, we would actually write songs in the studio and that hardly ever happens these days.
JC: When you have a guest artist like Slash, do you lay down tracks, and then he goes into a separate studio to lay down riffs? Do you meet with him and work on the song? How does that work?
E: It happens all kinds of different ways. Slash and I met back in 2000 when President Clinton had the Millennium Celebration that had just about everybody from Muhammad Ali to Sophia Loren. There was a band that was one of those all star bands with John Fogerty, that was for the rock part of it, and Slash and I were both in that group when I met him. I knew him well enough to just call him up, which I did, and he said he’d love to. He came in, we did it all in one evening, and you know, rock and roll sounds aren’t really rocket science. It’s not that hard. It’s so easy now; you can just email an MP3 of the song if somebody wants to hear it before hand. You can even figure out what to do when you aren’t even face to face, remotely, from one location to the other. Technology is amazing these days.
JC: Will this project be all new material?
E: Yes. I am co-writing with other artists.
JC: You had mentioned technology. With the advent of the internet, how difficult is it to protect your music?
E: I don’t think that there is any way of protecting intellectual property of any kind these days. I think of recording much in the same was as people use videos, as a promotional tool. Once anything gets on the net, everybody is going to have it. It’s just a sign of the times. That is the way it is, and all of the young people that grow up with computers, to them free access is just second nature. They don’t think anything of exchanging stuff. They don’t have any feelings of it being unethical in any way. Of course, from the artist’s point of view, it makes it impossible to as you said “protect the music”. But I have always really felt like music, it must have started out in a very primitive way with people dancing around a fire, sounds from nature, it’s a free kind of thing. It seems natural to me that it would go in that direction. I think you just have to change with the times.
JC: The last year, you have been touring a lot in the States, but also in Europe. Are the audiences different between the States and in Europe?
E: They are definitely different. I think that the European audiences in general are maybe a little more educated, more attentive. The Americans are just like, “Party, Rock and Roll”. In Japan, they are again some what different in that there is so much discipline over there. They are not allowed to smoke and stand up and jump around. It’s a lot more orderly. But, they will sit there very politely and listen to the whole song and then there is mad applause at the end. It’s all fun to me.
JC: Now you recently started playing with the Ringo Star All Star Band. Is that correct?
E: Yes. Ringo is another person who might be involved in my new project. I wrote a song called Peace and Love that I dedicated to Ringo. He is a great inspiration and is a spokesman for that ideal. I love the fact that it is so pure and without agenda on his part.
JC: How did you become introduced to Ringo?
E: I heard about it from my friend and manager Jake, he asked would you be interested in doing that? I said “Oh Man”. It was a real thrill for me. “Wow, I am going to be on stage playing with a Beatle”. As far as I am concerned, they were in a class unto themselves. What an amazing body of work they left.
JC: Any interesting behind the scenes stories, about being apart of that?
E: We had some crazy stuff happening. Not really any particular stories. Ringo is just one of the coolest guy’s ever. He has a great sense of humor, on and off stage. He travels in style, and that is really great. To walk off stage, get in a limo; go to the Private jet and onto the next place. Unlike some of the grueling tours that I do, when we are in a mini-van driving from one place to another and having to depend on the airlines. It was just great fun, and you know, it was one of the most fun things I have ever done in my life.
JC: Now you are going to be appearing at the Super Bowl Party at Trump Golf Course on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. How did you get involved with this charity event?
E: We are really excited to be a part about it. I really think that a big part of music is giving something back so whenever that opportunity comes around, I always consider it. I did a lot of the 9/11 events, when that happened, and we are really looking forward to this. I love football, coming fromTexas.
JC: Now does that make you a Cowboys fan?
E: That would make me a Cowboy’s fan. When it is close to Super Bowl, that’s when I get interested. I am pretty much into music. Back in the 70’s, I was a real cowboy’s fan, and I sort of fazed out of it. Now I am getting back into it again.
JC: You mentioned the 70’s. Your 1973 hit “Frankenstein”. That probably changed the direction of your career. The success from that one hit, was it a positive thing for you musically, or did you find it a hindrance at all?
E: It was totally positive. I think it’s interesting in that it was a song that we were not originally going to include on the album. It was a song that I had written years earlier, when I was playing with my brother Johnny, and it was an untitled song. With the advent of the synthesizer, I was looking for something to showcase the synthesizer. We used to call it the double drum song. When I played with my brother, I played Hammond Organ and Alto sax. I did dual drums, and we had two sets of drums on stage. I thought, wow that old song would sound cool with that subsonic reinforced syth sound. We worked up a version of it to play live and also a big aspect of it was the fact that I was the first guy to come up with the idea of putting a strap on a keyboard. Because I had played Piano and organ and got really frustrated being stuck behind a big bank of keyboards. “Why do these guitar players get to have all the fun, I wanted to get out there and boogie”. I was in the music store, looking at these new synthesizers. There was a Mog, and the RP, and the R2600 had a light weight remote keyboard with a big cable. I took a look at it. It looked like you could take this thing off, put a strap on it and play it. Which is exactly what I proceeded to do. That’s when we got the idea of an instrumental to showcase it. After we started playing it live, we never thought about recording it because it was like such a long thing. “Free Ride” was the song that we thought would be the big hit. At the end of the thing, we had these versions of it which we just happened to have recorded. When we’d come in the studio, we’d usually start out with that to warm up. Back in those days, as I had mentioned before, things were actually written in the studio, so it was like one of the cardinal rules. “Tapes should always be rolling”. So we had these long 15-20 minute versions of this thing. Rick Derringer said, “Why don’t we see if we can edit that down into something we could use”. I thought it was kind of a crazy idea, but I love crazy ideas. I thought it was an excuse to get even more blasted then usual, and have a big end of the project party. So, we had the thing back in those days, in order to edit was by physically cutting the tape then putting it back together. It would be lying all over the control room table, the backs of chairs and the consuls. We were trying to put it back together, when Chuck Roth, the drummer, murmured the immortal words, “its like Frankenstein”, drawling the analogy of an arm here and a leg here, and that was it.
JC: Is that how it got titled?
E: The monster was born. That’s how it got the name. People would assume that it had something to do with the movie or the book, or identification with the Frankenstein monster, but it was actually from the whole thing being cut up and pieced back together. I thought of myself as the mad scientist of the synthesizer and the song “Frankenstein” as a monster creation. It also made sense to me on that level of technology running amok with the introduction of the synthesizer, I was variously acclaimed and accused of ushering in a whole era of the synthesizer that a lot of people thought was de-humanizing music and I had a whole different approach to the synthesizer, a lot of other people were using it to imitate the sounds of already existing instruments like the Grand piano or string section or whatever. I loved all the old Sci-fi movies like “Forbidden Planet”. I said we have got a brand new instrument. Let’s create never before heard sounds. That was the whole idea behind “Frankenstein”. And, as you were saying, the way in which it changed or re-directed my career, I think that from that point on, It was a very sort of dramatic and dynamic sort of image, being with the keyboard, being the first person to do that and I really think of, well, my favorite instrument is the saxophone. Most people don’t know that I even play that, they think of me as a keyboard player. I played keyboards first. Also, I think that “Frankenstein” is sort of almost a pre-cursor of heavy metal fusion. I like that aspect of it in that it has a sort of a jazz influence, and it was one of those songs that was sort of experimental. I like being on the new frontier, on the cutting edge of the new frontier.
JC: Because it was an instrumental, did you run into any problems with it being released as a single or getting it played?
E: It was released as a B-side of another song that was supposed to be a single. We never liked it when we put it on the album; there was never any thought about releasing it as a single. The whole thing happened as a result of a college underground radio picking up that sound as the B side of the single. It was like totally a spontaneous grass roots kind of a thing. Where it started getting play, and more play, then all of a sudden, the regular stations were asking for it. We re-released it as a single and then we rereleased “Free Ride” after that which became a big hit as well. So, really, it was “Frankenstein” that enabled “Free Ride” to become a hit. We released “Free Ride” previously, and it didn’t even get on the chart. It just demonstrates the power of people listening; there are literally thousands of great songs that never become hits simply because they are never discovered, they are never heard and it was very fortuitist, a convergence of events there that allowed that to happen. It really did launch my career so I am forever grateful for that having happened and that I really think that it, it also demonstrates the principle to me that just a lot of times, when you try to predetermineand calculate and figure out what is commercial and what people are going to want to hear. A lot of times, the songs that you just do for fun, you know, which is exactly what “Frankenstein” was, is the song that really will resonate with people. That’s entirely what that song was all about. None of us really took it seriously, and it ended up being the thing that opened the door.
JC: Much of your work has been featured in soundtracks in feature films. “My cousin Vinny”, “Wayne’s world 2”
E: “Wag the Dog”… “My cousin Vinny”, I wrote songs specifically for those movies. I really like writing for the movies.
JC: I would imagine that is a gratifying experience.
E: It’s great to walk into the theatre and hear it. “My Cousin Vinny” was the first one. I had no idea how the song was going to be featured on that one. I did on “Wag the Dog”.
JC: So each feature film varies?
E: Yes. You always know something about what the film
is about, but you don’t always have an opportunity to look at it. Yeah, it’s always different.
JC: Future projects? Anything you are working on other then the new album that you are looking forward to?
E: I am working on a Broadway version of “Frankenstein”, a musical comedy. That I have been doing for years actually. That’s coming along. I will probably be doing more with my brother Johnny; he is working on his next release as well. I am sure that he and I will probably write some songs together. There is talk about a UK tour next year, in the spring; I will be looking forward to doing that.
JC: Well, it sounds pretty exciting. Edgar, we really appreciate you taking the time.
E: Great, will you be at the show?
JC: Sure will.
E: Will Leon Russell be part of this? I love Leon, we are really good friends. I played with Leon for almost three years back in the 80’s. As a matter of fact, we went to Russia for a thing called the Music Summit. This is when Gorbachev was in power. Seeing all the American Bands… Pink Floyd had just gone over there. American Bands were going there for the first time. I am looking forward to seeing Leon again.
JC: You think there’s a chance you two might jam together.
E: Of course. There is always a chance. I love jamming. That’s what it’s all about. I am definitely going to ask, and if he asks me I will be there in a second.