When Boston's "Third Stage" album finally surfaced toward the end of 1986, it rocketed to No. 1 on the Top Pop Albums chart. Now the group is gearing up for its first live dates since the 1979-80 tour to promote its second album, "Don't Look Back. "During a recent interview with Billboard talent editor Steve Gett, bandleader Tom Scholz spoke at length about a variety of topics, including Boston's new deal with MCA and its ongoing legal battles with CBS. For its part, CBS had no comment on the issue.
Q: How on earth does anyone spend six years making an album?
A: Well, the first one took me seven years to get together, and this one only took six. So I see it like I cut a year off. What do people expect? I actually had to do this one in the face of a lawsuit. I had to make money on the side to make the record, so this one was actually tougher.
Q: Did a lot of the recording funds end up coming from your Rockman amplifier company?
A: Yes. There was a point in 1982 when CBS -- Walter Yetnikoff, I guess -- pulled the rug out from under me and withheld all the royalties. I was using that to make a record. I didn't have an advance or anything. It costs plenty of money to record an album, not to mention staying alive for all those years. When he pulled the plug on the royalty money, I ran out of finances. So I had to go into this company, SRD [Scholz Research & Development], that makes the Rockman, on a full-time basis. I did that in 1982, right after I got wind of what was going on. I knew these guys weren't going to play fair and square with me, and I knew I was gonna need a source of cash, just to do the record. It turns out I also needed a lot of cash to continue to fight their lawsuit.
Q: How much of the album was recorded at that stage?
A: One-half was in existence. The first side was complete, right through. And there wasn't anything that would stop me from completing that record. Nothing was going to make me compromise and do a half-baked job.
Q: But you were forced to throw yourself into SRD for a while?
A: Yes. At first there was a major, major push, where for three to four months I spent most of my time working on the company trying to get it set up. It wasn't something I had a lot of experience at. My expertise was in the design, the engineering part of it, not the business end. So that was very difficult. I still recorded, but I had to do it on a greatly reduced time budget for several months. Then I was able to get back into the recording more heavily.
Q: For the record, what is the status of your legal battle with CBS?
A: It looks to me like we're in very good shape. CBS has, of course, failed at everything they tried to do. They filed this big lawsuit, but I was still able to finish the record. They failed to keep the other record companies away from it. Even though I guess some letters were sent out, they failed to stop it from being released by somebody. They failed at so many different motions in court, it's been a very one-sided battle, and I'm extremely confident that in the end we're going to win this thing. I think they don't want this to go to court. If they could hold it off to 1988, when people will have sort of forgotten about "Third Stage" a little, then I think they wouldn't mind too much. Because I don't think they want to lose. They've already lost so big. They lost an album that's going to sell maybe 5-6 million copies, and that's the big loss. They let that go. It would have been in their hands, and it wasn't costing a dime. I was doing the thing out of my pocket, primarily. I should say they actually paid a couple of little bills for a thousand or two, or something like that.
Q: What did it end up costing?
A: Roughly $1 million. It took about 10,000 hours, and it couldn't have been done, of course, in a normal, commercial studio because there's nobody that would sell you six years of lock-out for a million dollars, not even a year for a million dollars. So the only solution was to have somebody who knew how to build and put together a studio, which fortunately, was me.
Q: Once you signed with MCA, did you still retain artistic freedom?
A: Yes, there was no question about it. Irving Azoff, despite the fact that he's known as a hard-nosed businessman, when it comes to his artists his word is as good as gold. I guarantee that when he says something to an artist, he means it. And he stuck to it in the most impossible circumstances. MCA had advanced some money to pay for legal fees and to pay primarily for the production of the rest of the record. Azoff could have gotten that back; he could have done anything he wanted, but he never, ever, so much as asked how it was going. He never said a word -- and he was dying to know. MCA didn't try to stop anything or change anything. We had total control.
Q: According to Larry Solters [MCA senior vice president of artist development and creative services] the no-video policy came down to retaining Boston's mystique. Is that true?
A: Yes, there was a lot of concern, and I felt the same way. I haven't heard a lot of good things said of the videos that appear on MTV regularly, and we heard of lots of people who didn't like some of the videos, or who didn't like the band because of what they saw, or had a different impression of the music because of something they saw. There are some videos that I would like to get together. But they're difficult, and, because of the time-consuming part of it, they won't be promotional tools for singles. That's unfortunate. I wish I could give that to MCA because I feel they deserve to get everything they can in terms of my help in promoting the thing after what they did. We will have something, though. I'd really like to do a video documentary. This six-year story is a real interesting one.
Q: What's the latest on your planned tour?
A: We are in the preliminary stages of putting the show together; there aren't any firm plans. As you might imagine, there are an awful lot of offers, and we are considering the possibility of going out in June.