Greg Prato of Songfacts recently conducted an interview with legendary rock singer Graham Bonnet (RAINBOW, MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP, ALCATRAZZ). A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Songfacts: What are you currently doing musically?
Graham Bonnet: Well, at the moment, Mandy Wheatcroft, who's looking after my business in England, we're putting together an album that's like a special edition of tracks that have never been released. She's putting that together right now. And what we're going to do is put it on my site, GrahamBonnet.com, folks. [laughs] How's that for a commercial? There are some songs that I've had, they've been put away on a shelf and have never been released. It's a mixture of different kinds of music, different kinds of styles, and it's really more where I'm at with my music, because I started off as doing R&B and more pop stuff and I was suddenly put into this bracket of being called a heavy rock singer, which is not what I wanted to do at first. So this shows different sides of my singing and songwriting. It's kind of like Paul McCartney's albums when he went solo after he left THE BEATLES: a bit of reggae, jazz, a bit of everything. So that's what's happening right now. We're putting that together and getting the booklet together with some photos and all that kind of stuff inside. It will be interesting to people who like what I've done in RAINBOW or in ALCATRAZZ or other bands I've been in. It'll be another side for them to listen to.
Songfacts: How would you compare playing in the current ALCATRAZZ lineup to the '80s version of ALCATRAZZ?
Graham: Well, it's completely different. We have no keyboard player, so it's a smaller band of musicians. What we've done — a secret — is we've pre-recorded keyboards. We play to a click track when we go on stage, because a lot of the music I made in the past has been very heavily keyboard-oriented. So we've had to do that, unfortunately. Our keyboard player actually left — he went to get a real job, like big men do. He decided the music business wasn't for him anymore. He was our keyboard player and second guitar player. His name's John Thomas, and he's a really great guitar player and worked very well with our current guitar player, Howie Simon. He left, so it's completely different. I often think about the original band, the first band we put together with Yngwie Malmsteen playing and then the second band with Steve Vai, and it was a completely different world then. It was very exciting, it was all new, and everybody's going, "Who are these guitar players?" But now there are so many guitar players that have that same kind of style, as well as singers who sing high, it's becoming done to death. But I do miss that feeling of the first band. The first lineup we had was great, with Yngwie playing, and the second with Steve. Then the third one was with Danny Johnson, who eventually went to play with STEPPENWOLF. Danny's a very bluesy player, so he found it hard to fit. He said: "I can't play all this heavy whittley whittley stuff." But he did. And he could. But a better job come along, so he went with STEPPENWOLF for about 13 years after he left ALCATRAZZ. But the first lineup was a great lineup with Yngwie, because it was all new and fresh with this new guitar player, this young kid who everybody loved to death. I kind of miss that. It'd be nice to do it again, but I don't think that will happen. I don't think there'll be a reunion.
Songfacts: How did you originally cross paths with Ritchie Blackmore?
Graham: That was through Roger Glover. One of my friends, Mickey Moody, was playing for WHITESNAKE at that time, and I think Roger was producing their album. This is 1970-something. Mickey told Roger that I was doing some solo stuff, which was successful in places like Australia and New Zealand. Weird places — everywhere but England. Roger wanted to know what I was doing, so they invited me over to this chateau on the border of Switzerland and France, and they gave me a song to learn. I had to learn a song called "Mistreated", which I didn't know anything about. I didn't know anything about RAINBOW at all, to be honest with you. So I had to buy the albums and learn one song as an audition. Roger phoned me up and said, "Will you come over and do a song with us?" And so I went over there and sang at them and they gave me the job. That was it, really. Then I went home, thought about it, and I said to my manger, "I'm not right for this. I'm not like these other guys, long hair and all the rest of it. I don't fit." But I did in the end.
Songfacts: Would you want to set the record straight once and for all regarding if Yngwie is hard to work with or not?
Graham: He wasn't at first. [laughs] But he became... he suddenly was engulfed by people telling him how wonderful he was. And when a kid is 19 years old and everybody's telling you how marvelous you are and you could be better than this, how you could be the next Jimi Hendrix, it was very tempting for him, and his ego suddenly inflated. He became not a band member anymore — he wanted to go off on his own. And eventually, he did. It just wasn't working. I could see it happening.
Read the entire interview at Songfacts.