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Part 2 of an interview with Waddy Wachtel which is a compilation of conversations both in-person and through phone calls by Blackcat.
Blackcat: Waddy, Bonnie Raitt once said the highlight of her day, "aside from performing, is heading out on a bike path or exploring a botanical garden or museum" and mentions she still feels like she ran away and joined the circus. Do you feel like that? Do you feel like your life is really different, and how do you live your life apart from performing?
Waddy: Well, I don't have a bike. (Laughing)
Blackcat: (Also laughing) I know, and you're not running every day.
Waddy: I walk a lot, actually. Well, you know - this is a different kind of job. It can have the illusion of not being a job, and that can really play with your confidence and state of mind, and state of being. But it is easy to forget that it is just a job. When I am not working I watch TV, I play with my dogs, we rent movies. I do human things. I do lots of normal things. Well, I don't know about lots of normal things . . . I was never a really big "hobby" person, you know.
My hobby, luckily for me, was the same as my vocation. So, they are all tied in together. And it's different, because sometimes that plays on your head. Because you want to look at music as "music." But sometimes - like in times of unemployment, for example - it becomes very difficult to be free musically. You sit down to write and all you can think is: "I've got to get some money for this. I need to make some bread. I've got to write something that's really going to score." And by the time you've said those three things, you're not going to write anything, because you're not creating. To create, one has to just "be." And that's a hard thing to do sometimes. The best thing is when, well, for example: if I am producing somebody, my goal when I am working with singers is to throw them off. Not be mean, or anything - but distract them from the thought processes. So all of a sudden they are going, "What the hell?" And when it's time to sing, instead of being able to think about what they are going to do, they just sing. And when you just "do" - that's real.
When you are really just giving, that's what it's all about, and that's when you sit in the studio and go, "Man, I don't care how many notes in that vocal are out of tune, I believed every word of it." And that's what you're looking for. And that comes from just giving and being and doing.
A good example of this is when I did a lot of extensive touring with Linda Ronstadt and James (Taylor). We would wind up at these county fairs. State fair gigs, you know? And after a night of playing at some arena, you'd ride on a bus all night and get completely twisted. Everybody would be. And you'd have to show up and be at some light-sunlight afternoon gig, where they've just swept up the hog shit, you know, where they'd picked the "prize hog," and then we guys would come in and do our show, and everybody either was just hung over, or completely exhausted. And you think it's going to be horrible, but actually - because everyone is in such a physically spent state - nobody is "thinking", so they are just "doing" - and those shows are always musically wonderful because there is no pretense involved. Everyone is just so weak, all they can do is just do what they do. So James would sing gorgeous, I would play effortlessly - everybody, all the musicians would just give. And it would be funny, because you'd just think, "Man, that show was like great" because no one was hung up on "we gotta do this, and we gotta do that," which is where it bogs down.
Now I don't know what the hell you asked me in the beginning.
Blackcat: (Laughing!) It's okay. You've more than answered. You mentioned Linda Ronstadt. Do you think she'll be out on the road again - I mean apart from the Nelson Riddle music? I was there (PNC, North Jersey) . . . she was unbelievable.
Waddy: She is unbelievable.
Blackcat: Her voice is still as powerful as can be.
Waddy: Her voice is incredible. I don't know. We haven't spoken that much lately. We're good friends. I mean we don't stay "in touch" unfortunately, but there's never been much time between us. Last time I saw her . . . well, we did those two songs on her album, We Ran, two songs of mine. Then we did a concert for our friend Nicolette Larson, who had passed. And Linda . . . you should have seen it. She came to that show-and there were all these people at that show - and out comes Linda Ronstadt, and she hits "Blue Bayou" and the whole audience just completely melted. And it was - the sound of her voice is just remarkable. I don't know if she will go out like that again. Like I said, I haven't spoken to her. She loves her Howard Hughes kind of lifestyle, and she has her kids. She's earned it. I just hope she can maintain it.
Blackcat: Are Linda and Stevie [Nicks] friends?
Waddy: They're not "not friends." I don't know that they really know each other really.
Blackcat: You mean all musicians don't know each other? (Laughing) Those two ladies just have so many similarities.
Waddy: I would love to get my two Arizona girls together.
Blackcat: Absolutely! Hey!
Waddy: I've got one in Phoenix and one in Tucson. I don't know that they've ever really come together.
Blackcat: I know that they have met because they were at a show together.
Waddy: What show was that?
Blackcat: I read this in a magazine article a while ago. It was at a show for Louise Goffin. Stevie and Linda were sitting next to each other, both being blown away by Louise's voice, and Stevie kind of leaned over to Linda and said something like, "Well, do you think we can still get a job singing back up for Joe Cocker?
Blackcat: It is pretty funny.
Waddy: Yeah. She has been out - that's right, it was the orchestral thing, and she's got the glass whistles and stuff. She likes that stuff. She's amazing, and a very, very unique person. She's very funny. Very unique. There's no one like Linda.
Blackcat: Both Linda and Stevie - they both seem like they have a pretty good sense of humor. They should be together some day.
Waddy: Oh yes. They would love each other. It's like when Dolly (Parton) met us all. We were just in love. We were just in stitches, and in love. Dolly just has this incredible energy.
Blackcat: I'm just going to jump about on your discography a bit, Waddy.
Melissa Etheridge. You were on quite a few of her albums when she started. How do you see her as a guitarist?
Waddy: She is a rhythm guitarist, and she's a good rhythm player. She supported herself only that way for years. She's a very strong rhythm player. She is a hell of a singer. My friend Niko (Bolas) and my friend Craig Krampf produced that first record, and brought me in on that. The last record that I did with Melissa was on Yes I Am on "Come To My Window." When we were doing that record, I come in and I overdub, usually. And that's what I was doing. I did one song, and did another. I met Hugh Padgham, who is a great, great producer and a good friend. They put up "Come To My Window," and I just went, "Well, hello." And she went, "What?" And I said, "Well, here it is, Melissa." And she says, "What do you mean?" And I said, This is the hit." And I said, "Let me get special on this one. Let me do some extra shit on this one. This is your hit, right here." And she went, "Do you think so?" And I said, "I know so. This is the one."
Blackcat: It's amazing that you can just see that.
Waddy: It just happens sometimes. I wish I could do that on my own material! (Laughing)
It's sort of like, "Oh, I see, this is the hit!" It's like when we did "Betty Davis Eyes" (with Kim Carnes). I just walked into the booth and I just looked at Val Garay, who produced it, and said, "You know that this is a number one smash, right?" And I said, "I bet you a hundred dollars . . ." and I never bet, and he knows that. I said, "I don't bet anybody anything, but I bet you a hundred dollars this is number one." It was just so mind blowing! It happens now and then. Sometimes I'm wrong.
Blackcat: Speaking of other hits, I want to talk a bit about Stevie Nicks' work. Imagine that! Did you think "Edge Of Seventeen" was going to be a hit when you heard it? To me it's Stevie's solo signature song.
Waddy: It is her signature song, but I didn't know what the hell we were doing with that one. I dug it. I really liked it. I didn't know what was coming out on that record. She and I had just gotten back together at that point - after a long time of being apart.
Blackcat: You mean just apart because you were busy on the road?
Waddy: Well, they went into Fleetwood Mac, and I was on the road.
Blackcat: There's something I've wanted to ask you about, Waddy. Way back in April, 1999 you did an interview with Musician Magazine, with a writer named David Simon. You familiar with that?
Blackcat: Okay . . . it was a great interview. He said something to you like…. "One of your more famous 'guitar statements' is that staccato opening riff to Stevie Nicks' ‘Edge Of Seventeen.’ Were you aware of the similarities between that song and the Police's ‘Bring On The Night’?" And you said, "I had never heard ‘Bring On The Night’, and at that session they told me they were going to do a song based on this feel. I had heard something about the Police, but I didn't know what they were talking about. Then about two years ago, I had the radio on, and on comes what sounds like ‘Edge of Seventeen’ ."
Blackcat: Okay. My question is . . . I know of something called "sampling." Was this a case of "sampling" or what was this? I know Stevie doesn't write guitar riffs. Somebody did, but obviously it wasn't Stevie.
Waddy: No, no . . . it was The Police. It was whatever that song is . . . "Bring On The Night."
Blackcat: Okay, in the interview you said, "We completely ripped them off."
Waddy: Yes, well, basicially, that's what we wanted to do. But let me say in my own defense, being a respectable thief anyway - if you listen to the Police's song, Andy Summers performs it with some sort of echo unit. There is some sort of artificial "repeating" mechanism going on. And when I heard that, I just said, "I'm not going to do it like that. I don't like that kind of crap. I'll just play the thing." So I just did it the way I still do it, with the hand, as opposed to falsifying it with an echo machine. So it's all dig-a-dig-a-digga. The chords, and everything totally start to move differently. And that drum feel is that same thing. It's that off-off bass drum, against the guitar. So that is what I said. "What? We're doing what? Well, I ain't gonna do that. I'm doing it my own way." And that's how we did it.
Blackcat: "Edge of Seventeen" is absolutely amazing, Waddy. I think you already know many, many Stevie fans see that particular song as an anthem.
Waddy: Well, I'll tell you, it makes for quite a strong right hand, after a few shows. You can break walnuts open with your right hand after that one.
Blackcat: (Laughing) We have all seen you playing diligently while waiting-and waiting - for Stevie to come back to the stage! And heard the roar of the crowd with just the opening riff of that song. By the way, how did Stevie get all of you, the Bella Donna band together?
Waddy: I just got a call. At that particular time, Russ Kunkel, myself, and Bob Glaub, and like, Lee Sklar and Danny Kortchmar - we were all working non-stop, constantly doing sessions. Two or three a day, almost. And we got a call one day. "Russ, you and Bob…" They wanted us over at studio 55 to play on Stevie Nicks' solo album. And I went, "WHAT?! Wow, how cool! I haven't seen my girl in so long." And that was it. We went over there. I don't even remember what the first song was.
Blackcat: "Bella Donna?"
Waddy: Yeah, could have been. That's a wild tune, "Bella Donna." I tried to get Stevie to do that one, but there is a lot of stuff to remember in that one. I mean on the last tour (Trouble In Shangri-la tour) I kept saying, "we need something unique, something that you don't do often, like 'Bella Donna’." Then we listened to it, and went, "Too much work! (Laughing) Too hard." Then I was like, "Did we actually used to perform this?"
Blackcat: What is your favorite song to play with Stevie on tour?
Waddy: Hmmm. It's hard to say. I enjoy them all. Some of them I get to blow a bit on . . . like on "Enchanted," I like when I play on "Enchanted" - it's fun. But I like playing the pretty stuff. I like them all. "Edge of Seventeen" is fun to do, but, like I've said, it takes two and a half to three weeks to get my arm in shape for that one. As you know it goes very long on stage - the length of the record is over before she even sings. But I like that. And I like playing "Stand Back" because I like playing slide, and she and I get to prance around on the stage, and do our little thing.
Blackcat: I love watching you both interact on stage. You are both very funny with your interactions on "Stand Back." It's a joy to watch.
Waddy: Yeah. We like that.
Blackcat: Okay . . . Trouble In Shangri-la. Tell me about that tour.
Waddy: Hey, any tour where the world blows up is going to be tough. You know it was the most fucked up . . . .
Blackcat: And Stevie was sick.
Waddy: Stevie was sick a lot in the beginning. It was very tough in the beginning. The monitors sucked for her. She's using what they call "in ear monitors," and we weren't getting it right. And I didn't know enough about them to communicate what was wrong, and Stevie didn't either. And she didn't feel good, so every night it was either a combination of "I don't feel good," or "The monitors stink," and she wasn't having fun. She just wasn't having a good time. And it was really sad.
Blackcat: That seemed to come across in LA. I heard that Stevie practically cried, as she was so glad to be home.
Waddy: It was a tough gig. I mean we were out there when the world blew up. Our gig was we would do a show, and we would fly, she and I, and Karen and some other people - Stevie had a little plane, and we would fly, and the band would bus. And we were in Toronto. And everything seemed to be back on track, I think, by then. I'm not sure.
Blackcat: It seemed after Reading, PA, the sound got better, after Stevie returned from being sick, things were better.
Waddy: By the third sound mixer, when Lori came out. Lori Nicks is the one that saved our asses, basically, on that tour. She came out and put inner ear monitors on her head. She said, "Turn the fuck . . . turn fucking Stevie's vocal down!" It was so loud, and that was the problem - and we didn't know; we couldn't tell. And as soon as it was turned down, everything started to focus. It was like, "Ahhhhh, great." Then we started having a good time. And then we got to Toronto, and we did a show on September 10th. And I was ill. So it was decided that I wouldn't fly with her, because we had a day off. The 11th was supposed to be a day off. The 12th was supposed to be in Rochester, NY, and then another day off - and then Radio City on Friday. We were revving up, because that was a big hunk of the tour there. We were really heading for the major market.
And we did Toronto, and I said, "Stevie, I ain't well - so I'm going to stay back. I'll just sleep in Toronto tonight, and I'll meet you in Rochester on the day after tomorrow." So that was what we planned. And it was wild, because all of a sudden, at the end of the night I was saying, "Where is she, where is she? I want to say goodbye to her." This is the first time we weren't flying together. "Where is she?" And we never did see each other. And I was saying, "I don't like this." And so I went to bed kind of uncomfortable. And woke up - much more uncomfortable like we all did. Annie called me about 6 in the morning, and said, "Turn on the television. You're going to fucking die." And then I realized "My Stevie, she's in fuckin' New York. Is she all right?" And you couldn't get through to anybody in New York.
Blackcat: I know.
Waddy: So then we went down . . . it was very tough. Nonetheless there was no show. But they were like, "You've got to go to the show." And I was like, "What are you, fuckin' crazy? Just what they need is a bus full of us there." And they said, "Just in case there is going to be a show." And I said, "Hey man, I'm a New Yorker. Take it from me, there ain't gonna be a show. Friday? No way." And they said, well, we have to go anyway. And I was really glad we did, actually, even though I bitched and moaned all the way, but as soon as I got into the city I was born in, I was so proud to be there, and so emotionally moved by it. Excuse me.
(Waddy stopped, momentarily choked up with emotion over the memory.)
Blackcat: I think you were right. And I am glad that you did come to Atlantic City. Clearly, touching the audience is what Stevie felt she needed to do that night.
Waddy: Yes. But I was just going to say that was the hardest performance anyone has ever given. We were like the mud people up there. And it was so difficult to even get the notes out of her mouth. She did great. We did really well. It was the most difficult show ever. And the audience helped so much. I saw you there. We were all just about to expire. It was tough. But it was great. We did great. From then on we were having the fun we had on stage. And that's all you can hope for.
In the very beginning, I would want Lindsey to come and rock and roll with me, and leave the girls behind. But after one solo Stevie show (Bella Donna/White Winged Dove Tour), I became a Stevie fan. She impressed the hell out of me and I was in love with her - and I still am. I told her, "I am a fan now," and I still am - still to this day. When we would have trouble on the road, I'd always say something nice to make her laugh. I'd have to get the band out of their funk. Especially on this tour. But after awhile, I am about out of nice remedies. I told this to the band. And I'd talk to her the same way. "You know, Stevie, I'm just all out of nice remedies."
Blackcat: Who could have ever imagined what would happen on this tour. Trouble In Shangri-la. Sheryl Crow came along for parts of the tour. Did that help Stevie? Did that help you? Did having Sheryl along take some of the stress off?
Waddy: I don't know about taking stress off, but it helped. It was fun musically to have Sheryl there. She's a pro. She's a total pro. And I like her a lot.
Blackcat: You know, speaking of Sheryl Crow, she has a new album out, C'mon, C'mon and I also picked up one of the European. Sheryl's done a song written by Stevie Nicks. I have a copy of your single, 45. The one called "You're The One." Well, Stevie's is called "You're NOT The One." (laughing)
Waddy: Is that right? On the new album?
Blackcat: Yes! And you can hear Stevie singing back up on it, but I was just cracking up that Stevie wrote a song called "You're Not The One," and it's on Sheryl's album.
Waddy: (Laughing) I'll have to point that out to her. You know that song of mine was called "Beirut" for a million years. I don't know why really. That was always the title of it until I got to the studio. Then I didn't like the chorus. It's too sing-songy, and I just wanted it to be rock & roll. .
Blackcat: Speaking of "Unfinished Business" (Waddy's unfinished solo work) . . . and I know I keep pulling back to that . . . where are you going to go with that?
Waddy: It's funny you say that. "WW1. A work in progress." I just got a letter from my old friend Dan Dugmore, who I used to work with. Anyhow, I sit around here, and when I can't think of anything to write, I work with Beach Boys songs because I can sing 'em. And so I put "Surfer' Girl," and "The Ones In The Sun" and "Barbara Ann" on it. I can sound just like Brian with this device that I sing through. It's ridiculous. It's very wild. However, it's not like I can sing with it on stage that way, but it's like I sing it, and then transpose it up an octave, and this thing will transpose it and it sounds just like a human voice, instead of a chipmunk. I love him (Brian Wilson) so much, and I know his music so well that I can sing it the same way. And to hear it up the octave, in his range - it sounds exactly like him. Wait a minute . . . I'll give you an audio.
Blackcat: (Waddy is playing “Surfer Girl”!)
Waddy: That's what I do when I can't write songs - I work on songs that I love.
Blackcat: That's neat! That goes back to what your teacher told you when you were a kid.
Blackcat: We've been talking a bit about Stevie Nicks. I wanted to ask you about the role of "music director" for Stevie. What exactly does that entail? I know it means you are in charge of getting the band up and running, but what else does it mean?
Waddy: You know, years ago the title used to be called "bandleader." Now all of a sudden it's musical director. I look at it as being a bandleader. To me, that means - my version of the term - I do everything for that artist that I can. In other words, I make sure - and again, this is my concept of the term - I make sure that everything sounds, feels and looks the way it ought to. And that's why I used to bitch at Sharon and Lori and they would be over there doing these "moves". I'd go over there and say, "Girls, cut that shit out!"
Waddy: And Lori (Laughing) she'll totally respond and remember this: I went, "Keep that fuckin' arm of yours down or I'll cut it off!" She's pointing up in the air and dancing. I went, "This is not a disco." I've got this kind of Bob Fosse thing up my ass where I think I'm in charge of all of it . . . so therefore I am in charge of all of it. And I can't look over at my singers and see them like flailing around, you know? "Get a grip. Keep that arm down!" (Laughing)
Blackcat: Doing Temps moves, huh? (Laughing)
Waddy: Yeah, you know doin' them Chi-lites moves and stuff. I have to make sure . . . well, first of all, I have to work on the material, the "set list" with Stevie . . . get it the way she wants. I've got to make sure the band knows every intro, every ending, every chord, the singers know their parts . . .
Blackcat: Do you practice apart from the singers? Do you have band practices without Stevie being there, focusing on just the music?
Waddy: Yes, well for example, to put that last tour together (Trouble In Shangri-la) we did a couple of days without Stevie. Because there was a new drummer. So yes, we basically kind of run shit with Sharon for a little while - Sharon will sing the leads - and we just run them through that way. Then Stevie comes in, so the band is versed. It's always been like that. It's like my first gig . . . in LA my first gig was with the Everly Brothers. When I went to the rehearsal, the audition . . . they weren't there. And I went, "What?! Where the hell are the Everly Brothers?" And they went, "Well, they're making a record." And I went, "They're making a record, and you're their band? What kind of band are you? You must be . . . you guys must be great. They're not even using you?" (Laughing) But that's how it is. Unfortunately, with the Everly's I didn't even meet them 'till the first gig, really. It was really scary . . . so. But yes, we do a little bit of time without Stevie, if there is someone new - if you're breaking in new people.
Blackcat: Okay. As far as music selection, we touched on that a little bit earlier, where you were talking about you wanted to do something different on the Trouble In Shangri-la tour, you considered doing "Bella Donna," and that just didn't pan out.
Waddy: Yes, the song ["Bella Donna"]. Well, I was looking for tunes that would be a good surprise. I don't know that we wound up with any, actually, did we?
Blackcat: Well, yes, the songs from the new album were a big surprise - that there were so many!
Waddy: Well, as the shows went on, as you noticed, there were less and less of them, because you just don't . . . do that. You don't hit the audience with a lot of new material because, hey, like you and me, you want to hear the songs that you come to hear. You don't want to hear this new shit. But I'll tell you a very great, funny thing with Stevie, that I noticed. Because she - and she'll right away agree with me - she is of the same mind: You don't lay a bunch of new material on your audience. You just don't do that because they don't want to hear it. Unless you're Stevie I learned. Because with Stevie Nicks music - like "Rhiannon," like "Stand Back," like "Edge Of Seventeen" - all these songs, they are based on a similar chord progression. And Stevie . . . she can use that chord progression a lot. Like that fast song, what was the name of that fast song?
Blackcat: "Fall From Grace?"
Waddy: Yes, "Fall From Grace" has those chords. A lot of Stevie's material does have those chords . . . and . . . what was that one, the one with the name of a gin company . . .
Blackcat: "Bombay Sapphires."
Waddy: Yes, "Bombay Sapphires." And one other one . . . what was the name of that?
Waddy: No, not "Sorcerer." "Sorcerer" is a great Stevie tune, but that's not the one. Now wait, there was "Bombay," "Fall From Grace," and there was another one. Now normally, when you do a bunch of new songs, the audience just looks at you and goes "Eh?" Their eyebrows kind of curl up and they go, "Do I know this? Do I like this? Do I want to hear this? I want to hear ‘Stand Back.’ I don't want to hear this!"
Blackcat: Did you see that sort of response from the audience?
Waddy: No! Here's the thing: with Stevie's music and Stevie's audience, those chords, that chord progression that she - in my mind - can overuse because she uses it so much. I said to her one night on the tour, (Laughing) "You know, Stevie, once again you amaze me, because we get out there and normally if one plays new songs for people, they go, 'Get outta here, we don't want to hear that.' But your songs, because they embrace those same chords - those people as soon as they hear those chords and your voice on top of them - you're in! It doesn't matter what song it is, they are rockin', they are swingin' back and forth, they are swooning to it. And they are looking at you and they start mouthing the lyrics and I'm going - and I'm watching them going…"
Blackcat: They know them.
Waddy: Yeah, but wait a minute. They know them - or even if they don't know them - it doesn't stop them! They love her so much, and they love the sound of her over those chords, that she can even get by doing what no one else can do. Which is to play a lot of new material.
Blackcat: I don't know . . . I can only talk as a fan. People do like to hear Stevie bring new stuff out. But they also like to hear her grab back for some of the old stuff that she hasn't played in a while.
Waddy: Like I'm saying, with Fleetwood Mac she's got much more of a hesitation to bring out new stuff. You know what I mean? Like with the Stones and stuff, you don't want to slam bang the new material down people's throats. They've come to hear "Jumpin' Jack Flash," they want to hear all those things. You know, "Street Fighting Man," they want to hear "Midnight Rambler". They don't wanna hear something new. They want to hear what they are familiar with.
But with Stevie because of those chords . . . and it's so funny because it's always been like a criticism between her and I . . . "Stevie, you gotta get off those fucking chords!" But afterwards, I had to say to her, "Well, I'm wrong again!" (Laughing)
Blackcat: Yes, "Planets Of The Universe" . . . people went crazy for that one too.
Waddy: Yes, that's the other one! "Planets"," Bombay," "Fall From Grace." They all have those same chords.
Blackcat: Yep. That's funny, because I am not a musician . . .
Waddy: But you recognize what I'm saying.
Waddy: With Stevie, though, it's a comfort factor for her fans. It's a security blanket - like. It's the blue blanket, Linus's blue blanket. It's something they want. It's something they love and want; whereas, with most artists they reject the new material.
Blackcat: That's interesting, because I just thought it was a voice range issue as to why Stevie sort of hung with certain songs. But I've heard Stevie sing on that Don Henley/"Stormy Weather"/AT&T thing (1998, Walden Woods Project) . . . she did "At Last." She blew me away. Her voice can reach out.
Waddy: Oh yeah. This girl can sing. Believe me, this girl can sing.
Blackcat: Okay, so you do have a bit of a role in helping to pick out the music . . . but Stevie's got the final . . .
Waddy: Hey, it's her show. I do what I can. Like for a while I was saying, "Stevie, what I think would be great - you know you haven't been out for a while. I think you would fuckin' kill people if you opened with ‘Talk To Me.’ They would have gone incredibly insane." However, "Talk To Me" is a strain. It is a tough tune for her vocally. Not that she isn't in shape. And she's more in shape now than she's ever been. And actually, the funniest thing is that she could do "Talk To Me" in her sleep. But she still has this built in fear about it. So she didn't want to do it. So I was like, "Ah, shit!" So then I went, "Well, we gotta open with ‘Stop Draggin' My Heart Around’. We gotta open with something different. We can't do that same thing anymore. Forget ‘Outside the Rain’. It's gotta go!" And that was a fight. But finally we got rid of it.
Blackcat: I understand. And I appreciate your role in trying to make a change.
Waddy: So getting the Petty tune to open - that was me, that was my insistence. It had to start strong. "You gotta start with a big hit, a rock and roll song, Stevie. You've gotta start Rock&Roll." And it gave us a great way to go. Band leader, "musical director" - you work on every aspect of it with your artist, because I want her - when she walks out on that stage - I want her to be comfortable. She's got to be comfortable or we're going to be in trouble. She's got to feel like singing, feel like entertaining, feel like smiling - or no one is going to be smiling.
Blackcat: Do you believe Stevie is going out again?
Waddy: What do you mean? With Fleetwood Mac?
Blackcat: No, with herself, as a solo artist.
Waddy: Do I think she will? Yes! I think she will. Oh yeah, I think she will for sure. She'll do her time with Fleetwood Mac. This is her life, Blackcat. This is her life. Stevie is married to that microphone. She can't do without it. She loves it, she needs it, and it's her. It's an incredible reality.
Blackcat: I am so glad to hear that.
Waddy: Stevie is married to that tour, she is married to her fans, and married to the responsibility of being that girl for all those people. That is a big job. People think that artists are selfish, but they are really selfless, is what it is. Stevie Nicks is selfless. Stevie is a natural and I am very proud of her. Hey, her only vice is in wanting a fine hotel room, since she spends so much time out on the road.
Blackcat: She really is pretty incredible.
Blackcat: Okay Waddy, if you are going with her on the next tour, I'm putting a request now.
Waddy: (Laughing) Okay, let's hear it.
Blackcat: "Long Way To Go."
Waddy: "Long Way To Go?" Which album is that on?
Blackcat: The Other Side Of The Mirror.
Waddy: Oh, that's the album she made in England, right?
Blackcat: Yes. You'll probably have to re-do it some, but yes.
Waddy: Fleetwood Mac is probably going to be on the road for a couple years with this new album . . . but remind me. (Laughing)
Blackcat: I want to ask you about Lindsey Buckingham and hear your thoughts about him as a musician.
Waddy: Well, you know my feelings about Lindsey. Lindsey was my interest in the beginning. I tried to quit Stevie, and get him to go out on the road. He is one of the greatest guitar players of our time. He is probably the greatest finger picker that's alive today. He is a brilliant guitar player and a gorgeous singer. When I decided to quit them (Buckingham Nicks), when we were working together, I pulled a meeting with Lindsey and Stevie and me. And I said, "Look you guys, I gotta quit. I can't - I just can't back up these songs anymore." It was Stevie's lyrics that were driving me crazy, actually. (Laughing) And she knew it, you know. I said, "I just can't do it. I'm a dude! I'm a fuckin' Rock&Roll dude! I can't stand here and be doing ‘the fountain and the velvet’."
Waddy: You know, in 1970, I just really didn't get it. I was trying to figure out the words to "Street Fighting Man", not the "velvet fountains." I didn't know anything about women at this point. So I said, "And here's the deal, you guys. I am the best singer you'll ever meet. But you guys have the best voices I have ever heard. And that's how it is. I have a shitty voice, but I am a great singer. But you guys - you have the greatest voices in the world."
And that's how it is. They have incredible voices and harmonies. Lindsey is a great talent. He is a beautiful talent. He is an incredible guitar player. In the beginning, I'd say, "Lindsey, come on man, play guitar with me. Let's go play Rock&Roll. Let's go do something. How can you back up these fucking lyrics?" (Laughing) It drove me crazy. But after just one show with Stevie - the Bella Donna first show - I told her, "Stevie, I've gotta tell you. I am a fan. A fan now." And she says, "What? No!" And I said, "You're a rocker girl. You killed me."
Blackcat: (Laughing) Hey, you played with Don Henley, and you've played with Lindsey. Calamity wants to know this. She worded it a bit differently, but, here goes: Who is the fussiest or most exacting in terms of getting music out - Don or Lindsey?
Waddy: What is the last thing he did? I guess it's been about 2 years.
Blackcat: Inside Job. And I saw him on tour, and he was great.
Waddy: Hey, he's Don Henley. (Laughing)
Blackcat: Yes, he is Don Henley. (Laughing)
Waddy: He's my friend "Ron Henman." That's what I call him. He calls me "Thing" and I call him Ron Henman. We've worked together for years. I've known Henley a long time. He shows up and he goes "Hey Thing," and I go, "Hey Ron." Henley is very particular. Well, you know . . . look at the track record and you can answer it! (Laughing) Tell Calamity that would be a good pissing contest. I don't know. But Don can be very fussy. But Lindsey is more of a producer. Hmmm, I think Don! Yeah, I think Don is. (Laughing)
Blackcat: Is it fun playing with Don Henley?
Waddy: I have fun with Don. Don Henley and I - my ear is very good - his ear is very good. When it comes to making vocals – when doing vocals in the studio there is a thing called "comp-ing," where you sing a song a bunch of times, then you sit down and pick out the best parts of all the tracks, and you put them together. I don't know if you know this process. Don and I love doing that. It drives other people out of their minds. Especially when people like Don and I do it - because our ears are so fine. We're really like, "Oh that note is a little bit off. Oh, that note is not quite right." And you can drive people insane. So Don and I have fun working together, but it can be a painstaking process.
Recording studios, even when things are going perfectly, can be very hard. Even when everything's going right, you're teetering on disaster at all times. It just is that way. You're dealing with people, you're dealing with feelings, and you're dealing with sounds and notes. One wrong word can upset the entire thing. You can look at someone wrong, and you might as well cancel the day's recording. Because if you've got a singer who's about to go sing something, and you might make one comment to them that could fuck them up so badly that they won't be able to sing all day. And it's just that way. It's a very delicate art. But back to the point, Don and I have always had a good time in the studio. Always.
Blackcat: That's neat to hear. How about Don's associate, that "Ordinary Average Guy," Joe Walsh? You have worked with him quite a bit too!
Waddy: Joe Walsh and I have a very good time in the studio together. I'll tell you a little story that went down with Joe Walsh and I one time. We did a couple of records together. And we were working on this one album, The Confessor. We were out late in Goodnight LA working on some stuff. I'd call him JW and he called me WW. I'd say, "Hey JW, I've got an idea for this." And he'd go, "Yeah, WW that's a good idea, yeah." We were talking about this one song, and all of a sudden Joe looks at me, and I said, "Well I think I should play that part. Why don't I lay that part down." And he says, "Yeah that's a really good idea. Why don't you play it, and then I'll 'double you' WW." We both just stopped dead for like 2 minutes, laughing. Joe is great!
It's funny because we just played with my band, we played a little gig on Thursday night, and went by my bass player’s house afterwards. And he says, "Waddy, you got five minutes? I gotta show you something." He found a tape of us when we…. we went to Australia - with Joe Walsh, Rick Rosas, an Australian drummer named Richard Harvey and myself – and did a tour and some recording over there. We came back and did this concert at The Forum for the Vietnam vets. It was this big, big concert, and we were drunk out of our brains back then. So he is showing me this footage. I barely even remembered it, but it's Joe Walsh, Rick and me on stage, with like men like Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and others. All these people up on the stage playing with us, and we didn't really know any of them very well - and I am cueing everybody, and we're trying to play "Rocky Mountain Way," and I'm yelling cues to people, and there we were completely out of our skulls. We definitely had a lot of fun together on the road.
And you know Joe Walsh opened for Stevie for a while. They spent time hanging out together.
Blackcat: Yep, I remember. I've heard many of her interviews talking about Joe. He was the man in her life for a while, there's no doubt about it.
Blackcat: You have been in the business as much as, and if not more than, most people. You worked with Carole King, who knocked the world out with her Tapestry album. How did you hook up with Carole King and what was it like being on the road with her?
Waddy: You know, Carole and I look like brother and sister, or at least we used to. I was the new boy in town, basically. I had already played with the Everly's, and was doing session work. All of a sudden I got hired by Lou Adler. He produced Tapestry. He also produced The Mamas and Papas. Lou is a great, great guy. I was scufflin' around for years, and I played some guitar for someone who heard me. The next thing I knew I wound up on a date for Lou Adler, for Tim Curry. Tim Curry was the first session I did for Lou. That's where I met Danny Kortchmar. And that completed my cycle of meeting everyone in The Section. You know, Leland Sklar, Russell Kunkle, Craig Doerge and finally Kooch - who I hated (Laughing) because Kootch was the one working on the records in town, and I couldn't get any work! I hated his guitar playing! I hated his solo sound, and everything. And I said, "I'm going to hate this guy when I meet him." And we loved each other - and we love each other to death.
So I worked for Lou for Tim Curry, and then I got called to do another session to for a guy named Peter Allen. I don't know if you remember this artist. He was a gay singer and a very talented guy that died of AIDS a while ago. And then I got called for Carole. And – BOOM – I couldn't believe it! I was like, "Holy Shit! Major Artist time! I can't fuckin' believe this!" And I went to this studio. You know how I mentioned this brother and sister thing. I walked into the session and Carole King is walking down the hallway and looks and me and goes, "Who are you?" I said, "I'm Waddy." And she goes, "Are you my brother or something?" You know at that point we had the same hair, the same little Jewish nose . . . ah, big Jew nose I should say, and we looked like brother and sister! She said, "I thought you were my brother." So I got in and we started playing, and it went great. She loved what I was doing and Lou loved what I did, anyway. So, then I was told she's going to tour, and we want you on the tour.
So at that point . . . now I'm getting' scared. Because my friends Leland and Danny and Russell - these guys, they are called The Section. They have a reputation. They make money, these guys, on the road. And I made $250 a week for the Everly Brothers. I didn't know what the fuckin' deal was. I was scared because I had to talk money with this guy, Lou Adler, about Carole's gig. So I called up Leland. We knew each other, just kind of. I didn't know him that well. I said, "Can I ask you something, man? I gotta talk business with Lou Adler. And I don't know what to ask for. So could you tell me what you get to do this gig so I can kind of gauge it?" And he said, "Yeah. We get such & such for a gig, such & such per day off, and such & such per rehearsal." "Wow! Great, man!" And then for two days I'm kind of sitting around wondering how I can ask for that much money?
Blackcat: The kid from New York.
Waddy: I can't ask for this much money. Holy shit! What am I going to do? Lou called me and he says, "Waddy." And he is the most mellow and subtle guy. He goes, "Waddy, I understand we have to 'talk business'. So let's talk." He leaves this message on my machine! So I called him back and go, "Hi Lou. It's Waddy." And he goes, "Waddy do you know what everyone else is getting?" I go, "We gotta talk money, we gotta talk, right?" And he goes, "Do you know what everyone else is getting?" And I went, "Ah, yeah." And he goes, "You get the same." He goes, "You're number one in my book, man."
Waddy: He goes, "Talk done, okay?" I said, "That's fine by me!" (Laughing) So that was that. And then we went out. It was an album called Thoroughbred.
Blackcat: I have it.
Waddy: Oh, you have it? And we toured around for a couple of weeks, maybe. It wasn't a big tour or anything. But we had a great time. I loved her. She loved me. And it was wonderful.
At one point she had this boyfriend who was a fuckin' screwball. She was this Jewish girl from New York, and she was going with this Gentile cowboy, redneck, asshole. You could tell this guy was a druggie, a fucked up guy. And like I said, I was "new boy." And we were on this tour. And we did a show, we came off and all of a sudden this guy starts yelling at Danny-Kootch. He was screaming in Kootch's face. This asshole is a BIG guy. And I don't know what is happening, or what the fuck is going on, but all of a sudden he hits Danny. He punches him! And I was sitting there on a road case. And I just did the Clark Kent thing. I just stood up on top of the road case, and dove on this guy from across the hall and took him down on the fuckin' floor, and Kunkle grabbed him, too, and we started pounding the shit out of this fuckin' guy. Thank God Russell [Kunkle] was there because he's big, too. I'm this little twerp. We pulled this guy into a bathroom and were pounding him. Hey, then as soon as Russell let go I jumped off. (Laughing) At that point Danny Kortchmar and I were just getting to know each other. Then we went back out and did our encore. (Laughing) Danny comes up to me and he goes, "Man, I just want you to know something. You and I are brothers from now on, man . . . forEVER. I don't know who you are, but you and I are brothers. You will never lose my friendship for what you just did." It was great, you know?
Blackcat: That's cool.
Waddy: So it was a great time. Carole is lovely. We see each other now and then. Oh man, and she, believe me, there is a woman who is a "bandleader." And that impressed me so heavily. I am used to going to sessions, and you work for these people, and they need "this and that." She sat down at that piano and took charge. She said, "No, this is like this," and "No, no, no! This chord is this. No, no, no Bar 16 is this chord, man, WAKE UP." And I am looking at this woman and thought, "Wow! I like this!" A real musician. It was great. I was put with her and it was a great thing.
Blackcat: Thank you, Waddy. I was so curious as to how you met. I think there's a few other folks out there that are curious too. It has been great getting to hear some of these stories!
Blackcat: I have a few questions for you, here Waddy. I'm going to give them to you "magazine style." Maybe some weird questions, maybe some hard ones. These are the kinds of questions you find in the back of a magazine. Alright?
Blackcat: Okay, now remember that Waddy kid growing up in New York. That boy. What is your greatest extravagance?
Waddy: Extravagance? Hmmm. Gee. I don't know. I don't know that I have any.
Blackcat: Your guitars maybe?
Waddy: Well, that's not an extravagance. That's my life's work.
Blackcat: You don't have a million guitars?
Waddy: No, I really don't have a million. As a matter of fact, I was looking at an interview of my friend Hutch, who is a bass player, and he listed all the basses. He has like a million basses. Wait a minute. Let me look around here for a second.
Blackcat: Well, did you figure anything out? (Laughing)
Waddy: No! I think you got me. You stumped the band on that. Not to sound modest or anything. I'm a hobbyless person. I don't have that many guitars laying around. Well, okay, of course the living room is full of them, but . . . I don't know.
Blackcat: Okay, how about this. What is your favorite guitar?
Waddy: My Les Paul. My 1960 Les Paul.
Blackcat: Okay, that's good.
Waddy: Oh yes, that's good. That's real good. It's worth quite a bit of money, that guitar.
Blackcat: Okay, well, maybe that's an extravagance?
Waddy: It's not an extravagance! I bought it for $350.00 in 1969. You know, an extravagance would be like me having a closet full of Brooks Brothers shirts, which I certainly don't! (Laughing)
Blackcat: Or driving a really fancy car. Or expensive cars like Mercedes
Waddy: I drive a Volvo.
Blackcat: It's okay, Waddy. You're not extravagant. Okay, I've got another one. What is your greatest musical regret?
Waddy: Musical regret? My greatest musical regret is that I haven't written enough songs. And I certainly haven't written enough hit songs. I haven't written enough songs.
Blackcat: Well, you're going to work on that. Okay, how about this one: What talent would you most like to have?
Waddy: Being able to manufacture dollar bills out of nothing. I'd like to be a magician that could manufacture money.
Blackcat: What was your most challenging project?
Waddy: Oh. Stones were pretty challenging on just a stamina level. Keith's solo project was quite challenging. Producing is a challenging gig. Producing Zevon was challenging.
Blackcat: What has brought you the most professional satisfaction? "I Can't Get No"
Waddy: (Laughing) Yeah, really. Well, I'm not sure. When I met Elton John he said, "Waddy Wachtel. You produced one of my favorite albums." And I said, "You've got to be kidding! What's that?" And he said, "Bryan Ferry's The Bride Stripped Bare." I'm like "Wow." (Laughing) So that was pretty impressive. That was a professional accomplishment. I don't know. Would you give me that question again?
Blackcat: What has brought you the most professional satisfaction?
Waddy: Doing a good job brings me professional satisfaction. When I do a session for someone and they like what I did. Or if I produce someone and they are happy with it. Or, professional satisfaction was scoring "Joe Dirt" - writing the whole orchestral score, writing the whole Rock&Roll score for that movie, and seeing it come to fruition and be in the film, and seeing my name as big as Adam Sandler's on the credits - that was professionally satisfying.
Blackcat: That's cool.
Waddy: Being thought of as a great musician is very professionally satisfying. Like I am going to New York to work with Steve Jordan, Danny Kortchmar, Willie Weeks for Timothy White's benefit. That is professionally satisfying, that my peers think I am good. Someone like Steve, or Kortchmar or Leland, you know these people. When these people think I am good, that makes me feel good.
Blackcat: Who leaves you starstruck at this point? Anybody?
Waddy: It varies, and it depends. Stevie [Nicks] leaves me starstruck sometimes. Don Henley can. When these people do what it is that they do, you know. I am in the business with them, I am on the stage with them. But, Starstruck to me is like - when I did my first gig with the Everly Brothers, and like I told you, I just met them right before the gig and we went out on stage. Right before we went on this guy says to me, "Now at the end of the show, the Brothers do a song called "Kentucky." You just stand there. Nobody plays on it. We just stand there while they sing. And at the end of it I hit this one bass note at the end - that's the end of the song and we all walk off together." I said, "Okay fine, right, right, right, right, right, no problem." We got there, and I don't know if you know this song, "Kentucky," but it is one of the most gorgeous things you will ever hear in your life. And the words are incredible, the melody . . . and to hear Donald and Phil. So we had just done this whole show of these songs - all these songs that I know with them. And we stood there, and the two of them sang this song. I stood on that stage, and my eyes - I could not stop crying. In fact, my eyes are tearing up just trying to describe it to you, because it was the most awesome thing I have ever seen or heard. And at the end of it, I just stood there blubbering, and they're saying, "Let's go, let's go, let's go!" And I was, "Oh, yeah, right, right!" I'm on a stage and that's how I was. But there it was. There were the Everly Brothers doing what they do. And it was so overpoweringly magnificent.
And it's like that when I see Stevie [Nicks] do what she does. Or when I see Mick [Jagger] or Keith [Richards]. You know, these guys who fight and fight, and argue and argue. One day I got to the studio after being with them for months, you know. I walk in and both of them are standing there, together, and they went, "Waddy! Come here man, come here!" And I went, "What? Since when do you guys hang together first of all? What?" And they went, "Man, wait 'till you see our stage! You're not going to believe this stage we got for this tour! It's so fuckin' cool, man. You're gonna freak!" And I'm like, "Look at you guys. What are we, sixteen years old?" It was like, all the love for everything that we do and all the love for music and just the idea that you can get up on a stage and play guitar and make people "hot" or make people happy - and to see Mick and Keith. I felt like - the three of us – we were 16 years old, like we had never done "it" yet. And we were out to do our first gig, you know? It was the most joyful, beautiful thing I had ever seen. I said, "I can't even look at you two. You're so beautiful, you fuckin' assholes. You fuckin' hate each other? Don't tell me this hate each other bullshit anymore, okay? Look at you guys. You can't live without each other." It was wonderful. It's like when I see Don. I'll be listening to someone, and it's what he or she does will reach me. That's starstruck. So it happens at all levels. It happens in music. Sometimes an actor will hit a note and I will just lose it. Yeah, it happens.
Waddy Wachtel Interview Part 1
Source: The Penguin Biographies
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