Classic Rock Revisited presents an exclusive interview with... Brad Delp of Boston

Special thanks for this interview goes out to Artemis Records & Gail Parenteau

Brad Delp has one of the best rock n roll voices of all time. A self described Beatles nut, Brad along with Tom Scholz, sold more copies of their debut record than even the Fab 4 did their first time out. In speaking to Brad, I found him to be very humble and egoless. In fact, he gives way to much credit to Tom and acts as if he were just the vocalist. One listen to "Long Time" or "Hitch A Ride" and it becomes clear that the best of Boston has to do with the relationship between the singer and the guitar player. Sure, Scholz writes the music, produces it, engineers it and arranges it but there is no way in hell he could sing it with the same passion and intensity as Brad Delp. It should also be noted that Boston is giving away one dollar of each ticket sold to charity while on tour this summer. Whether or not you agree with their politics it is refreshing to see a band give something back. After talking with Delp it does not surprise me that he and his band mates willingly do this.

Read on as we discuss the bands controversial new album Corporate America as well as how Delp joined the Boston family in the first place. And yes, for you inquiring minds, the band really did record the demos to the first album in Tom's basement. And according to Delp, they really did become the record virtually unchanged.

-Jeb Wright, July 2003
 
Jeb: I heard that Boston is actually giving away a buck a ticket this year to charity.

Brad: Credit Tom Scholz for that. He has been involved with a number of environmental organizations over the years. This happens to be for the Sierra Club as well as some animal rights and human rights organizations such as PETA and Coalition against domestic violence. The best thing for people who want to find out about that end of the band is to go to www.boston.org . We are giving one dollar for every ticket sold to the Sierra Club.


Jeb: You are really leading by example. There are many artists who would not do this sort of thing. There are others who might but either have not thought of it or have not been approached to do it. It is just a great thing.

Brad: I credit Tom for that. He has been with these organizations for a number of years without the publicity. As it turns out, happily, the rest of the band is in tune with these organizations as well. I have been a vegetarian for over 30 years and I am involved with animal rights organizations. They are all things that resonate with all of us but I want to give Tom the lions share of the credit for taking the initiative and being more forceful with it.


Jeb: It has been awhile since you have been on a Boston album.

Brad: I was not on the Walk On record. There was a Greatest Hits record that contained a couple of new tracks but the last full record I was on was Third Stage.



Jeb: How did you come back?

Brad: The question is really how did I leave in the first place! The truth of the matter is that I never really left. I defacto removed myself. I worked on a project with Barry Goudreau, who was on the first couple of Boston records. We always have gotten together socially but before we knew it we had an albums worth of material and we did a project called RTZ. We got a record deal very quickly and they lined up a tour for us. Just as I was about to go out on tour I got a call from Tom and he told me that he was ready for me to record the vocals on the album Walk On. That is how Tom and I work. We really only see each other when it is time to work. Apparently, we have different social agendas or something. I might get a call from him to come in and then not see him for another month or so. He will go off and work on guitar parts or various other things. I had to tell him that I had another record coming out and that I could not come in right then. He had to decide whether to wait and let me finish the tour or to press on without me. He pressed on and got Fran Cosmo involved and Fran did all the vocals on the record. When I got off the tour with Barry, Boston was just starting to go on tour so Tom, quite graciously actually, invited me to go on the tour. While I was not on the record I was on the tour and got to sing some of those songs. Fran and I wound up splitting some of the vocals on some of the older songs like “Don’t Look Back,” “Cool Your Engines” and “Rock N Roll Band.” It ended up being very fun to do that. Ever since that tour in ‘95 we have had two lead singers in the band. It is great for me. I don’t mind. In all of those songs, Tom seems to like my voice right on the top end of my range. I don’t mind having a respite now and then. It works out good for both Fran and I.


Jeb: You have to know that your vocal chops are amazing.

Brad: I just think that I have a high voice. Really, the key to those albums is the production. I have done other projects and I have nothing against them as they were fun but there is only one person who can make a Boston album and that is Tom. I think it is as much what he did with the vocals as what I did with singing. They are all layered. The first couple of records, because of the way that we worked, it was all me. I did all of the background vocals as well. It was more easy with the way we were recording. It was less easy when we had to tour. The other original band members really didn’t sing. We did the best that we could. To everyone’s credit, we shunned using any vocal tapes. Everything was live, which was the only way to do it. Now, with the new incarnation of Boston, everyone is a great singer and plays multiple instruments. It really comes out in the live shows.


Jeb: Corporate America has received reviews that have been stunning and I have seen other reviews that have said, “This is not Boston.”

Brad: I have seen some positive responses. Personally, there is no mistaking that sound. I really like how Tom has been able to incorporate new writers in the band. There are three new members and they wrote four of the songs on the album. My favorite songs on the record are ones that I am not on. My current favorite is one Fran’s son Anthony wrote called “Crying.” He has three songs on the record and I like them all.


Jeb: Kimberley Dahme is a new member. She wrote a song called “With You” that really does not sound like Boston. It is a beautiful song but not what one would expect.

Brad: It is a beautiful song. It is also the most un-Boston like song on the album. There is that part right at the end of it where Tom plays some guitar. I think it is terrific. We don’t have a lot of records but it is nice to have some variety as well. We are going to do that one live. We want to do it acoustic and stay true to the record. Tom suggested that we do one of my songs from the first record called “Let Me Take You Home Tonight.” We have only played that once on one other tour. We have worked up a kind of acoustic version. It has been a lot of fun.


Jeb: As you recorded Kimberley’s song you had to know it was going to freak people out.

Brad: Here’s the thing, I really didn’t hear that song until the record was just about done. I didn’t even hear some of Anthony’s songs until the album was about done. Some of them had not heard mine. Tom is the only one who hears everything. There are no other engineers in the studio when we work.

Tom saw Kimberley playing in a club outside of Boston. We were looking for a drummer and we were considering a bass player. That is how she got the gig playing bass. She had already recorded parts of that song. I believe the basic tracks were already down and he used them on the record. I think he added a few things to it and then added his guitars to it in his studio. It did not concern me in the least that it did not have enough Boston guitar on it. I think it is nice to kind of stretch out.


Jeb: That really is my favorite song on the album.

Brad: I will pass that on to her. I am glad we are playing that one live. The record company mentality is such that the singles have to be a certain way. I am not dissing the songs that I am singing on as I like them as well. Regardless of what songs we have on an album the record company wants to know which songs Brad sings on as that will become the single. I think that is rather unfortunate.
It reminds me of when we submitted the demos the first time. The demos were not really different from the finished product. The people listening to it wanted to know who produced it. They didn’t really care about the songs. It is almost like they were not really listening.


Jeb: The album starts out with “I Had A Good Time” which has the Boston elements. That song has the Boston magic.

Brad: All you have to hear is one guitar and you know who it is. I have been very lucky over the years. I go in and there is a microphone set up. The rest of my time is my own. He sweats over every other detail. He puts literally years of work into each album. He has come up with this sound that is unique.


Jeb: There would be some backlash from Boston’s fans if there was no Brad Delp.

Brad: There was one without me. I listened to it differently than everybody else. I appreciated it a little more. When I heard Walk On on the radio I had to smile. Having worked with Tom over the years like that it just made so much sense. I knew where he was going with the sound. There were a couple of lines that I almost sang before Fran sang them because Tom and I know each other so well. When we go in the studio there is a little bit of ESP. He knows what he wants to hear from me and I know where he wants to go with it as well.

I thought Fran did a terrific job on that. Fran was had trepidations about going out. Initially, they didn’t plan on me being on the tour. When we decided to do it together he said he was glad. He told me that he could not imagine singing the songs off of the first album. I understood his point. Fran and I have similar ranges. I told him I wanted to trade off


Jeb: Are you really that humble? I consider you every bit as crucial to the Boston sound and the success of the band.

Brad: I don’t mean to short change myself and I know it sounds like I am. I am just totally lucky to be the guy who was there. When I saw Tom play for the first time it was just instrumental because the singer who had been in his band had just moved out of town. When I met him, the band was looking for a vocalist. I auditioned and got the gig. I think it is the guy who sings that people sing along with but he wrote most of the songs. I am having a blast singing my song, “Let Me Take You Home Tonight” which is one of the lesser known songs on that album --if there are any. It gets a great response as well. I am just so lucky. What guy gets to have this much fun at his job?


Jeb: Do you ever worry that Boston has become too political?

Brad: No, I want to say I am proud of Tom but that sounds patronizing and I don’t want to do that. A point of fact is that Tom and the band have been supportive of a number of organizations over the years with little to no fanfare. With the advent of the internet, everybody has their own website. We have a couple of them, http://www.boston.org/ has been around the longest. This gave us the opportunity to give the information out to people who are interested. There is a line you can walk where you ask yourself if you are a musician or an activist or is there a slash in there and you are both. There are certainly things that people in the band feel passionate about and we don’t mind letting people know how we feel. I think it is great.


Jeb: The only negative thing I see about the whole thing is that you will never see Boston and Ted Nugent tour together.

Brad: That would really be the Hell Freezes Over tour.


Jeb: Were the Boston demos really the Boston album?

Brad: Essentially, yes.


Jeb: I am amazed at how many record companies passed on you the first time around.

Brad: I would not want that job. It was frustrating. It was like the thing was right in front of them but it became political. They were like, “We have a great record here. Who are we going to get to produce it?” We were like, “Hello? We have a guy here who does that.”


Jeb: Where did you record the first record?

Brad: I don’t remember the exact address but it was on School Street. It was the house that Tom was renting at the time. It was in the basement. When we started the first demo tapes --nobody was doing home recording back then because the gear was not prevalent. When I first met them they had done some demos at a local studio. It was very costly to do that. Tom had an old reel-to-reel stereo tape recorder. We got a hold of another one and Tom figured out how he could bounce the tracks back and forth. I don’t recall even having a mixer. We went from one tape to another. Ultimately, Tom had been saving up some money to put a down payment on a house. He was married at the time. He took that money, which was all they had at the time, and bought an 8 track recorder. Later, we upgraded to a 12 track. Three quarters of that album was done on that equipment in Tom’s basement. We did some recording later out in California largely due to the record company. They thought we were re-recording the whole thing from scratch. My song is the only thing that we did out there, “Let Me Take You Home Tonight.” Tom was home mixing a lot of the other stuff and transferring everything from the one inch tape to two inch tape so he could mix it out there.


Jeb: What were you doing before that?

Brad: I had been in bands since I was 14-15. I met Tom in 1970. I had only played in cover bands before that. We spent five years playing together. We did play some clubs. We played a combination of cover stuff and our own. We did some Led Zeppelin and Steve Miller songs. We did “Casey Jones” and a couple of Grateful Dead songs. We played some originals like “Piece Of Mind” and “Long Time.” We weren’t making any money at it so we concentrated our efforts in the recording part of it. It was very different for the time as that is not how bands got signed then. People from the label would go see them at a club and then sign them as their act. We got signed on the basis of the demo. We had to play an audition gig. We had played out but at that point in time it was more of a recording band then a performing band.


Jeb: Did you foresee what was about to happen?

Brad: We went out on an eight week tour when the album first came out. The shows were all in clubs. They kept adding dates to the tour. We started out playing venues that were 1000 people or less. The venues started getting bigger as the eight week tour lasted ten months. The first big arena gig that we did was opening for Black Sabbath. We were headlining these smaller to midsized clubs. We went from that to arenas. We opened for Sabbath for a week or so and then we played with Foghat and some other bands. We actually headlined our own show at Madison Square Garden at the end of the first tour. I didn’t see it coming. I thought we were coming home in eight weeks. It was all good.


Jeb: Did you know “More Than A Feeling” was going to be the big hit single?

Brad: I am going to date myself here… I had a test pressing of the record. I had some friends that I went to school with over at the house to listen to it before the record came out. I was playing songs for them. I was telling them, “The singing is not quite right on this one” or “I am a little off here.” I didn’t think the music sounded like what was on the radio at the time.

I can see how the A&R guys passed on the demo because I really didn’t hear it myself; fitting in with what was on the radio. We knew we liked it and that is what we were focused on. We recorded it trying to get something that we were happy with. Everyone was happy with it but me. I can still listen to the first record and hear where I was flat on this note or that note.

We started playing the smaller clubs out in the Midwest where we had never been before. We would come onstage and start playing “Rock N Roll Band” and all these people were singing it. We played “Piece Of Mind” and they were singing that one as well. It was clear to us that it was all over the radio. It made it so great for us. The toughest thing for a new band going out is to have nobody know your material. People generally want to hear what they are used to hearing. We never had that problem as radio was great to us.


Jeb: There are eight tracks on that album and all eight are still played today on rock radio.

Brad: I credit Tom for that.


Jeb: What was the pressure like to follow that album up? People now say the miracle was that Boston released two albums within a couple of years of each other.

Brad: Tom, to this day, will tell you that he would never do that again. He thinks the second record suffered because there was record company pressure to get it out there. There was not really following up pressure. It didn’t occur to us that we had to write a hit because that is not what we had done with the first album. We were not trying to make radio friendly music. When the first one came out we hoped people would like it. We went in with that attitude on subsequent records. The logical thing for someone trying to have a career would be to not be away so long and not take too much time off. Many would try to write about what is going on now and not what was in their heart. I respect Tom because he is so focused on the music and not what everybody else is doing. I think we have all been rewarded for that.

Tom started writing the song “Corporate America” when we got off the 1997 tour. That was well before Enron and the corruption of corporate America being on the news. He was concerned long before that and his subject matter shows


Jeb: Is it more difficult now?

Brad: You tour to expose your music to more people. It is tough to get the music out now. In talking to people and doing radio interviews, I get the DJ’s off the air and they are all bemoaning the fact that there is one company who owns everything.


Jeb: It is a corporate America problem.

Brad: Yeah.


Jeb: What town of any size does not have a classic rock station? On all of them you can hear the entire first album, half of the second and all the hits from the third. But you won’t hear anything from the new one. It seems odd to me that it is a coincidence that you can‘t get the new songs on the radio.

Brad: It is interesting. People are making use of the internet. “Corporate America” was released on MP3.com under the band name of Downers Revenge. We wanted people to give it an unbiased opinion. It got a great response and we were very heartened. Now we are taking the music to the people. We have a very loyal fan base as well. We want to be mindful of that and do the older songs but I want to expose more people to our new record.


Jeb: I like that Boston has not had any copycat bands.

Brad: You can hear, once and a while, some things. It is nice to hear us mentioned as an influence. Tom has carved a niche for himself.


Jeb: You were judged as a bar band by how well your lead singer could hit the notes in “More Than A Feeling.”

Brad: I am sorry to have put anybody through that.


Jeb: At this stage of the game I hope for you that it is more about the music than it is the money and the fame.

Brad: It really is. I have been playing in a band that plays Beatle songs when Boston is not touring. I play almost every weekend. I tell people that it is the only thing that I can do that makes me feel 15 again; it really does. The Boston thing is the only thing I can do that makes me feel 25 again. At 52, 25 is not that bad an age to be. How many people get the opportunity to have their songs get played enough to have people come out and see you in those numbers? I am grateful that I do the club thing because I enjoy it and not because I need it for groceries.
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