Gary James' Interview With Wally Stocker Of
In the late 1970s The Babys had not one, but two records place on the Billboard charts. Those records were "Isn't It Time" and "Every Time I Think Of You". Original members Tony Brock and Wally Stocker have reformed The Babys and are currently working on a recording project with their plans to tour in 2014. Wally Stocker does the honors.
Q - Wally, you obviously feel the time is right for a Babys reunion. What would make you feel that?
A - Well, Tony and I have been discussing it through the years. We've always sort of tried to get John Waite involved in it and he's always sort of declined, telling us he is very flattered, but he's got his own thing to do and he's quite happy doing that. So, we've sort of passed on the idea. Tony's been doing his thing and I've been busy doing my thing with the band so as the years have gone on we've sort of kicked the idea around a few times. I guess 18 months ago Tony called me up and said, "How would you feel about giving it another shot? We'd have to look for another singer because John just really doesn't want to do it." We kicked the idea around and said as long as we can find a suitable replacement for John on vocals maybe we should try and put it all back together again if only to bring back the music from all those years ago. That kind of got the ball rolling. We started to audition singers, many of which were really great singers, but just didn't fit the mold for what we were looking for as far as the tone in their voice, somebody who could really pull off The Babys' songs and that's when we discovered John Bisaha and brought him back a few times, and clinched a deal with him. So, there we were. It was Tony and myself and John and we sort of took it from there.
Q - These days you're back to recording with plans to tour?
A - Yes. Well, right now, we've got the single out ("Not Ready To Say Goodbye") and we're in sort of pre-production for the album. Everybody's a songwriter in the band, so there's no shortage of material. It's just a question of sifting through it and seeing what's suitable and what isn't. That's what we are in the process of doing right now. It's more of a pre-production then just throwing demos and ideas around. I don't think we'll be doing anymore 'live' shows this year (2013). It's all focused on making this new record. Right now we want to concentrate on some new material and hopefully in the New Year (2014) we can get out on a decent tour with something new to promote as well.
Q - John Waite once said, "We were better than people thought we were." Who were the people he was talking about? Would that have been the fans or the industry people? Any idea?
A - I think probably a bit of both. I think some of the fans or people who knew of us, maybe they'd only heard sort of the lighter side of us, like "Isn't It Time" or "Every Time I Think Of You". Maybe, just maybe, they thought that all of our material was like that and didn't sort of know the harder edge to the band. I think the industry, well, you can never tell with the industry. As far as every day fans or curious people, let's put it that way, maybe they didn't realize we had a harder edge to the band until they came to the shows. All bets were off at that point. They would go away going, "Wow! I didn't know you guys actually sounded like this. I was expecting more of a lighter sound from the band." But I think we were much better than people thought we were.
Q - The blame has to be put on the record company. They didn't do enough to get the word out about The Babys. Either you or Tony said, "It was hard to break through in the late 1970s." If it was hard back then, today it's nearly impossible.
A - Oh, yeah. It's changed dramatically. Back then, bands would crawl on hands and knees to get a record deal and be with a record company. Just the whole process was so different, even the recording process where the band would all go in and record at the same time. Of course now it's all digital and computerized and you can just add parts one at a time. It's taken away that sort of band concept as far as making a record. It is almost impossible now. All they want now is for you to bring the finished product to them and then they will distribute it for you and promote it. A lot of bands just don't have the capital to go in and record an entire album. They need the support from a record company.
Q - Nowadays bands can record an album in their home studio. That's why recording studios are disappearing. I don't even know, do you really need a record producer today?
A - Well, it's always nice to have an outside opinion. We used to use producers. Sometimes you need that outside spokesman if you like just to steer the ship in the right way. Sometimes you get so involved as a musician with your songs that you maybe get tunnel vision. It's always nice to have a producer that sort of sets you straight on that, as far as arrangements and different ideas that work and things that don't work. Through the years you sort of observe all this as a musician in the studio. So, we're really at the point right now where I would say we can comfortably produce ourselves. In fact, Tony Brock, our drummer, we're probably going to use his studio, Silver Dreams Studio, to cut this new record because we've got everything here now. It's like you were saying, once you go out and get all the equipment, you can record it at your own house. That's what we have in our studio.
Q - "Back On My Feet Again" was on the charts, but not for very long. Why would that be?
A - You know, I couldn't tell you. It was such a great song too. I felt that was really going to open up and kick down a lot of doors for us. It seemed to just get lost in the crowd. We could blame the record company for that. We could blame ourselves. It was unfortunate because it was such a great song.
Q - How could you blame yourself? You did your part.
A - Yeah.
Q - You toured behind it, didn't you?
A - Yeah. That was part of the Union Jacks tour. We were out quite a few months touring with that. Sometimes it's so unpredictable. It's a shame because it was such a great song.
Q - In 1980 you were out on the road with Journey. What do you remember about that tour?
A - That was a good tour for us. We had the new members in The Babys at that point. We had Jonathan Cain and Ricky Phillips and we were out promoting, I believe, the "On The Edge" album. We were out with Journey for four months and we were playing basketball arenas. We were their only opening act and it was a good tour for us to be on, playing to 18,000 people a night in basketball arenas. It was really helping us out a lot. So, that was a good tour to be on. We were on a number of tours, big tours. We were out with Alice Cooper and REO Speed Wagon and Styx. We did some shows with Rush, Cheap Trick.
Q - When you're in a group like The Babys and it ends and you find yourself as a backing musician for Rod Stewart or Elton John, is that a big adjustment on your part?
A - Yeah, I guess so in many ways. For a start, you're playing somebody else's music as opposed to writing and playing your own music. You suddenly become like a hired gun and so the whole mentality and approach is very different than playing with your own band, but it's a role that I enjoyed. I wouldn't change a thing about any of that. It's just more experience and different circumstances, not so much a different style of playing. You want to sort of maintain your style of playing and your sound, but be able to fit it into like a different project. So, it was kind of a challenge, but at the same time I was up for the challenge and it made it all sort of worthwhile and enjoyable.
Q - Instead of calling the group The Babys, would you have been better off calling the group "Baby". You know how it is in the music business, everybody calls each other Baby.
A - (Laughs). I don't know. In fact I think the name came from that when we were in London and we were first putting the whole thing together. People would call each other Baby. Now bands are always throwing names around. That happened to be one of them. It kind of stuck as a working title at first and once people got used to it, it stuck with people and it was like "Maybe we shouldn't change it now. If we change the name, it's going to be formally known as The Babys". We didn't think about it too much. We were more involved with making the music good and trying to develop a sound and a style, so the name just kind of stuck. We just moved on and decided to keep it. There's no telling whether it turned some people off in it was just a Pop band, sort of a one night wonder kind of thing. There is nothing we can really change about that right now. So, it made its mark in the music history and that's how it's going to have to stay.