Prior to his October 28 solo acoustic performance in Pontypridd, Wales, MR. BIG vocalist Eric Martin spoke with Midlands Metalheads Radio. The complete conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET):
On guitarist Paul Gilbert's departure from the group in 1999:
Eric: "It was weird circumstances. Paul just left us. I'm sure he probably got sick of me and Billy [Sheehan] arguing, and stuff like that. He's never admitted it. He's always called it as he wanted to do solo records. Paul's always on his evolution. There's always something going on with Paul. When he left, we kicked around for a little while, and Billy and Pat [Torpey] played on a Richie Kotzen solo album, and they got along great. They actually played together — they opened for THE ROLLING STONES in Japan, and they had really good chemistry. I would say in close to a year, we got Richie and we called it MR. BIG and did a couple more albums. They were great. I loved Richie in the band. Paul was great, but Richie was kind of like a... I'm not saying it raised the bar, but it was good for me, because Richie could sing, and it was great, like a lead singer. It was my idea to put us together. I wanted to utilize his voice. I loved the shtick of it, the novelty of it — having these two [voices], almost like [THE] RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS."
On his recent comments about not wanting MR. BIG to continue after the death of drummer Pat Torpey:
Eric: "I'm pretty sure that this is going to be our last tour ever. We're touring in June and July, and then we're going to take a couple weeks off, and then we're going to [tour from] July all the way until 2020, around January maybe, and call it a day. My big dream is, I'd love Richie to open for us so we can kind of play together. I'd like to go out with a big bang."
On singing with AVANTASIA:
Eric: "MR. BIG was touring in Budapest, and I was super-sick that day. I was on the tour bus, and the band went out to the club and said, 'Look, you can have your money back. Eric's sick. We just want to have something to do, knock back a couple of beers and play a couple of songs.' They ended up playing some tunes, and Tobias Sammet came down... He found out I was on the bus, knocked on the door and he gave me his box set. I had never heard of AVANTASIA before. I wasn't in the metal world. MR. BIG, we played metal festivals and stuff, but I didn't rub shoulders with SLAYER and MEGADETH. Tobi gave me the box set and said, 'I want you to sing on my album'... I went to this place in Germany where they rehearse, and there was Michael Kiske from HELLOWEEN, Ronnie Atkins from PRETTY MAIDS, Amanda Somerville, Sascha Paeth, Oliver Hartmann, Bob Catley... I love being in AVANTASIA, and I love singing on this new album. It just feels like a really great rock band. We're like seven singers who can actually share their toys together."
On his solo acoustic tour:
Eric: "I've been playing all kinds of stuff lately — songs that MR. BIG, we haven't done in years. Some of my solo material that I haven't played in decades. I actually played 'Sucker For A Pretty Face' last night... I don't have an agenda. I'm not hocking any product. I've got no merch. I'm on the endless 'Mama Needs A New Pair Of Shoes' acoustic tour. My wife hates when I say that, but it's true."
Following Gilbert's departure from the group, Kotzen played with MR. BIG from 1999 until the group went on hiatus in 2002. He performed on two albums with the band, 1999's "Get Over It" and 2001's "Actual Size". The latter record included the song "Shine", which featured Kotzen on lead vocals and reached No. 4 on the Japanese singles chart. Kotzen and Sheehan would later cover the song during their first touring cycle with THE WINERY DOGS, their band with drummer Mike Portnoy.
Martin will appear on AVANTASIA's new album, "Moonglow", which will be released via Nuclear Blast on February 1, 2019.