By Kendall Rotar and Sarina Sutton
The Trinity Voice
Mainly known for the record breaking hit, "More Than A Feeling," Boston has made mark on music for decades. Their first album Boston is known as one of the best selling albums in recording history today. Specifically, Gary Pihl has made a name for himself alongside his good friend Tom Scholz. Pihl jumped around from the Grateful Dead to the Sammy Hagar Band and found his place in Boston in 1985. The Bite had the chance to chat with Pihl about his journey with Boston.
Could you updates us on the tour? What are you looking to achieve on this one?
We had such a great time last year on the road that we said, "Gee, let's do that again this year." It is unusual for us because we usually don't tour years consecutively like this but things went very well last year and there's no better feeling than standing up on stage and looking out at the audience and see people smiling and singing along with the music. We want to do that some more.
Since the tours are so close together, did that affect the building process?
Well one of the things that we always are concerned with are the crew people. We'd like to keep the same crew, like all of the technicians that help us put this together. You know, for instance last year our tour was three months in the US so that is only three months out of the year. People tend to go off and work with other bands during other parts of the year, so the main concern is trying to get our people back for the next year or the next tour. We've got such great people that you always want to try and keep the same people back.
Looking at your tour dates, you are going all over the place. Is there anywhere you are looking forward to most?
You know, everywhere has been terrific. People sometimes ask "What's the best town to play in?" but everywhere is great. We have such terrific fans and like you said we've been all over. I'm sure all fifty states at one point or another.
You all have been such a classic band for such a long time, have you ever found it hard to keep up with the ever-changing music scene?
Well, on one hand we just do what we do. Certainly it is great to hear new bands come along and new artists as well, and of course, I don't know all of the names of people. People ask "What's your current band?" and I always say "Oh, I don't know, I like a lot of people." When I am driving my car I am definitely a button pusher, I will change channels all of the time on the radio. One time I saw a bumper sticker on a truck that said, "There are only two kinds of music, country and western." I like all kinds of music, I will listen to country and classical, metal and everything else. There's a lot of new stuff coming up. Sometimes I'll have to ask my kids and they will say "Dad that's so and so." I don't always know the names of them but I certainly like all of the new stuff that is coming out.
Do you have any bands or artists that you listen to that have really impacted your sound?
I would just say everybody. From Alabama to ZZ Top, from A to Z for me. Other people are always doing great stuff. I always am like "Wow, what a great chord change." It may seem mundane to you but I always say things like, "What an interesting arrangement that was" or "what a cool beat." You would think, "How many beats could you have? Like how much different could they be?" But, there always are. Everything has a new unique twist on things.
When you are on tour, what is your favorite song to perform?
For me, it is "Walk On." It is a long song. There are a lot of parts to it and we all get a chance to do some improvisation. It's long and it's kind of hard but it is very rewarding. Especially at the end when we feel like we really nailed it, it's like "Yeah, we got it." It is a lot of fun to do.
Looking back on your past and all of your achievements, is there any advice that you would give to young kids trying to get into the music scene?
Yes, absolutely. After high school, my father said that I had to go to college. I said "Gee Dad, I really just want to be a rock musician." And he said, "That's fine, do whatever you want to do, but go to school to learn how to do it." I thought they didn't teach rock in college, and he said "They teach music." He drove me over and made me enroll in the local college and I loved it. It wasn't because the teachers were hip. It was because what they were talking about was so interesting to me, like basic theory and counterpoint. I just had a great time doing it. In one of my classes I ended up sitting next to Johnny Colla who went on to be the saxophone player in Huey Lewis and The News. You never know who you are going to be sitting next to in school and where they are going to go.
How did you initially start making music?
For whatever reason, I always enjoyed music. I had an older sister and she was listening to Elvis, so she was enthusiastic about it. Both of my parents were a bit musical too, and some of my cousins played together. It kind of ran in the family. It was sort of normal that I would pick it up to some degree. We had a piano and of course we had piano lessons when we were kids. It was part of my life. I am certainly grateful to my parents for exposing me to music, and what they listened to was Frank Sinatra or show tunes. Luckily, they didn't say things like "Well you don't really call that music, do you" in regards to what I was listening to.
Looking back, is there anything that you would've done differently?
Worked harder. Isn't that easy to say now? I think it was Andy Summers from the police who was talking to young artists. He said, "Don't just stay in your bedroom and practice your guitar twenty four hours a day. Get out and live life and experience life so you can bring something of the world back into your music." It is one thing to be able to play scales at a million miles per hour, but what does that mean in life? Guys like B.B. king can't play real fast, but the notes he plays are terrific. It is not quantity, it's quality.
Do you have any moment that sticks out in your mind as one of the most memorable moments of your career?
Gosh, Farm Aid was my last show with the Sammy Hagar Band before I joined Boston. It was a big show, every musician you could think of was there. It was a very little back stage, and there were buses that would take everybody back to the hotels and we rode on the same bus as Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed, Van Halen, Foreigner, and it just went on and on and on. Everybody in the rock business seemed to be there at that show, it was amazing.