Gary James' Interview With John Schlitt Of
From Champaign, Illinois comes the very popular group known as Head East. Recording A&M Records, lead singer John Schlitt spoke with us as the group was putting their finishing touches on their 'live' album.
Q - As we speak, you're working on an album?
A - We're putting the finishing touches on our 'live' album. We'll probably go somewhere in California to do the over-dubs, not that they'll be that many. We've done stadium dates this past summer (1978), opening for other headlining groups. After the 'live' album, we'll probably start another studio album. I shouldn't even say that because it's unofficial at this time.
Q - Who have you been opening for?
A - We did the Dallas Jam with people like Aerosmith, Eddie Money and Ted Nugent.
Q - How long have you been together?
A - This Head East has been together four years. A different Head East with different members existed five years before that.
Q - What made you go into music?
A - I don't know. That's a good question. Your guess is as good as mine. I took up a couple of instruments, lost interest in it and later dropped them. I started when I was thirteen years old and that was fifteen years ago.
Q - How was Head East discovered?
A - We released our first album, "Flat As A Pancake" ourselves on our own label. We produced it, financed it at our own expense. It got airplay on K-SHE Radio (station) in St. Louis and then made the number one album request on KY102 in Kansas City. The first album was released in 1975. It just went certified Gold two months ago. A&M Records just picked up on it later.
Q - What makes Head East's sound unique?
A - We have a Rock 'n' Roll feel, other than a two or three chord shuffle. We try to make more sophisticated harmonies. The vocals, good guitar and good keyboards make the group work.
Q - What's been the group's musical influences?
A - Probably each other. The keyboard player has a Classical background, the drummer a Country background and I've had a Zeppelin, more vocal groups background.
Q - Who's booking the group?
A - Premier Talent Agency. They've done a good job for us in the Midwest. We're starting to happen on the West coast.
Q - Did you ever have just a regular job?
A - I was a civil engineer. I went to the University Of Illinois, where I studied engineering technology. My last year of college I spent a lot of time writing.
Q - Why do you feel Rock musicians are so often treated as second class citizens in society?
A - There's a lot of misunderstanding. People hear only the most ridiculous things. Rock musicians are the fall guys for all the bad trips of the young. They forget that you're a real person just doing your job.
Q - Do you have any brothers or sisters in music?
A - I have a brother who's twenty-two and just making the big move into it.
Q - Does this group rely on any gimmicks to put the stage act across?
A - We reach out to the people, not above them. We're not gods. We have a fog machine, a drum platform and lights.
Q - Would you recommend young musicians to follow in your footsteps?
A - Yes. I'd recommend it. If they have music in their blood, they don't have a real choice anyway. They should at least try it.
Q - Do you foresee any sweeping changes in music as we approach the 1980s?
A - It's possible. I don't know what it's going to be or I'd be leaning in that direction.
Q - And finally, is there too much money in Rock 'n' Roll?
Head East reached the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975 with "Love Me Tonight", which peaked at #54 and again in 1978 with "Since You Been Gone" which reached #46. John Schlitt would later become a born-again Christian and the lead vocalist of one of Contemporary Christian Music's all-time most successful bands, Petra. Schlitt was with Petra from 1985 until the band retired in 2005.