Gary James' Second Interview With Karl Green Of
Herman's Hermits and
The Karl Green Band
He was a founding member and original bassist of Herman's Hermits. The Hermits were one of the top selling groups from the British Invasion of the 1960s. They sold over 60 million records, had nineteen Top 20 hits in the U.S. and received eight Gold albums in the process. These days he's leading his own band. That band is The Karl Green Band and the man we are speaking about is Mr. Karl Green.
Q - Karl, when we last left off, you were going to tour the U.S. which I believe you did and you were in the process of recording a CD which is going to be released on March 1st, 2016, right?
A - That's right. It's going to be on i-Tunes and Amazon. And I'll be selling some copies on
my Facebook page. I'm going to be releasing a Limited Edition of 100 signed and I'll send those out if anybody wants them. The thing about not living here is it's been difficult to actually sell stuff online, but I'm fixing all that up. But I've been busy the last few days trying to get all that stuff sorted.
Q - You still live in England then?
A - I do at the moment, yeah. I want to come over here (the U.S.), but at the moment I'm having trouble getting visas. That's why I'm not touring at the moment. This time I'm over but I can't tour 'cause I haven't got a visa. It's sort of a Catch 22 situation. To get a visa I need someone to sponsor me, like an agent, and get me on a tour schedule. To get an agent to get me a tour schedule I need a visa. They don't want to sort of go out on a limb and book lots of dates without having a visa. To get the visa I need a schedule, so it's Catch 22 at the moment. I've given up at the moment. I'm going to re-think a Summer tour if possible.
Q - Your band lives in the United States?
A - Yeah. The band at the moment is just myself, Gina Knight on drums, and Mike Bruccoleri on bass. We did have Bob Abrams with the band from The Buckinghams, but he had to leave the band for prior commitments. The problem is also, Gina and Mike also have prior commitments, so I've got to give them a lot notice for a tour so the can lay their stuff aside as well. So, trying to get this all put together is quite a logistical nightmare with me coming back and forth from England, but I'm selling my house in England, hoping to come over here to live. I'll have sold that by the end of the Summer hopefully. I'm not cutting my ties with England, but I'm just selling my big house and I'm gonna get a small apartment there just to stay in when I go back home to see my daughters.
Q - When you re-locate to the U.S. you'll be living in Illinois?
A - I'm in Chicago, which is the area where the band works. Eventually I'd like to go to California because the weather here (Chicago) is brutal. (laughs) The summers are lovely, but the winters are just unbelievable. I mean, we had snowstorms here the other day and we couldn't get together to get to an interview. It was a wing and a prayer that we all got there in the end. But eventually we got there to do an Alex White interview.
Q - Your CD is called "The Long Road Back".
A - It's been a long time.
Q - Did it have to be a long road back? You left the Hermits in 1980, correct?
A - Yeah, that's right.
Q - Peter Noone never missed a beat. He's carried on. You went into tiling and plumbing. Did you have to do that? I know you wanted to start a family, but couldn't you have done both, music and family?
A - Not really. If I had wanted to carry on in the business I'd have stayed with Lek (Derek Leckenby) and Barry (Whitwam). But I always said if I had kids I wanted to be home every night to look after the kids and bring them up and give them a stable home life because I saw the other guys when they were out on the road when their kids were little and their kids suffered for it. They missed their daddy. I always swore if I became a father I would be at home every night to take 'em to school, pick 'em up from school and be involved with their lives until they were old enough to leave home. And that's what I did. I went home, started a business and luckily the business did really well. I was always busy and I saw my three daughters grow up. I was with them every day of their formative years. I don't think I was away from them more than a day ever until they were in their late teens. Now they've all moved out and got their own houses and have their own relationships. I'm now free to do what I want. If they want to come over here they can come and visit me here. As I said, I will go back home on a regular basis just to see friends and catch up with family.
Q - When you go out to tour you will be billed as The Karl Green Band, correct?
A - Yeah. I could go out as Karl Green's Herman's Hermits, but I think it's pointless because Peter's got a Herman's Hermits. Barry's got a Herman's Hermits. Both of them only have one original member and it would saturate the market for me to go out as Karl Green's Herman's Hermits. I'd rather look forward and do new stuff. I won't ever stop doing the Herman's Hermits stuff. I enjoy playing the old tunes, but I like to look forward. That's why I've written and recorded this new album. Sort of get my foot on the Rock ladder hopefully. The new stuff is quite a lot different from the old Herman's Hermits stuff. I've always been more interested in Rock than the Pop sort of culture. But I will always play the old stuff. I'll never turn my back on it because it was a major part of my life and it was all very successful. When I go do shows now, if I do Rock all night they wouldn't like it. They like to hear "Henry", "Kind Of A Hush", "Mrs. Brown", "I'm Into Something Good", "Listen People", and the list goes on and on. There's such a vast catalog of material for me to draw from.
Q - You of course realize that hundreds of years from now people will still be talking about you and the British Invasion.
A - When I first came back here in 2014 I had no idea that the band (Herman's Hermits) was still so popular. It really took me by surprise that people would come and see me just because I was in a band thirty-odd years ago. It was ridiculous to me that we are still that popular. All the '60s bands are still being played on the radio. It's quite amazing. I think it's great. When I go and see Peter, all his audience are sort of up to late 60s, early 70s, but he also has a new generation which are being brought up listening to the old '60s music. Incredible. It doesn't happen in England you see. The '60s culture in England is a lot smaller than it is here. Barry still works in England as Herman's Hermits, but he can't really go out on his own as easily as he can with the '60s tours. That's where his bread and butter is. But Peter over here (U.S.) could work every night of the year if he wanted to because the following is that massive over here.
Q - I think Barry also tours Australia.
A - Yeah. He tours Australia, Germany, England, Poland, Denmark. He does all of Europe. They had a big argument about the name, Barry and Peter, and they still won't talk to each other because they both think each other should not have the name. But in my opinion we should all be able to use the name. Keith is not that interested anymore. He doesn't want to go out and play. He's got his own life. They only want to use it to earn decent money out of it.
Q - Just imagine if you, Peter and Barry went out as Herman's Hermits!
A - I've been on record many times, if anybody wanted to get together and do a reunion tour I'd be up for it. It'd be a lot of fun. It'd be nice for the fans to see the original band together, without Lek. We could even get Lek's daughter to play guitar. She's a good guitar player. She plays guitar brilliantly. We could even have a Leckenby in the band. (laughs) On my new album I've got a track with Lek on it. It wasn't recorded for the album. I was writing a demo back in the '70s, a song I wrote about Frank Renshaw who was in the band at the time. He was our rhythm guitar player. I was demoing it in the hotel room on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Lek cam past and heard me doing it. He said, "Do you want a lead guitar part on that?" I said, "Yeah. Jump in." So he got a little practice amp that we used to tune up in the dressing rooms and just played a track onto this halftrack machine. It was only sound on sound on sound. It was only a demo, but then I lost the cassette tape of it for years and found it just before I was doing the album and we digitally re-mastered it. It was a little bit broken up, losing bits of it, but we digitally re-did it. I put in on the album just in case any of the old Herman's Hermits fans wanted to hear Lek play some good old Rock.
Q - Have you ever thought about taking pen to paper and writing your autobiography?
A - Yeah, well, I've actually started, but I never get time to finish it off. I started writing a couple of years ago and I've kind of mapped out from '63 until about '65 I got to. I've got to the end of '65 when we finished the Dick Clark tour. I really should sit in front of my computer and carry on from where I left off and see if I can bring it up to date.
Q - When you put out this latest CD of yours, were you trying to come up with a hit single? I'm specifically talking about "It's Not Love" by Gina.
A - That was written for myself or the guy I write with to sing, but when we actually got to the recording studio she said, "Have a go singing it." We had to change the key for her to sing it, but she did it beautifully. Nice and seductive, sultry. I'll wait and see what the reaction is 'cause there's another track called "Ain't That Love For You Baby" that Mike sings that I think is single material as well. If there was a track on the album that people would buy as a single I suppose we'd do it. I don't even know how the single charts work these days. Is it all on downloads?
Q - I honestly don't know. I see you co-wrote some songs for Herman's Hermits. What songs would they be?
A - They're album tracks. We all sort of wrote bits on album tracks. I did a thing called "Busy Line" and "Moonshine Man" on the "Blaze" album.
Q - On at least one session, a studio musician was called in to play bass on a Hermits song. Why would that have been? You're a good bass player.
A - John Paul Jones did play bass on a couple of records, but he played double bass while I play Fender bass. John Paul Jones played double bass on "King Of A Hush". They didn't call him in. He was already there because he arranged all the string sections. He also played piano on "Kind Of A Hush" and he arranged most of our records. He did the musical arrangements for the strings, the horns. As far as bass playing, I played on all the hits. One time we were out on the road and Mickie (Most) got some sessions guys to do some album tracks. I think John Paul Jones played on "The Story Of My Life" which is Stanley Holloway. I can't remember his name. But he played the double bass, not the bass guitar. But that was a big bone of contention between all of us. We all said to Mickie, "Why are you getting these guys in when we can do it just as well or better?" He said, "You're not here." He wanted the tracks cut to get the album out and had to put some session guys together to get the album finished to get it out. Things like "Blaze", we played on everything. We played on all the hits. I think it's been blown out of proportion, the session guy thing.
Q - Your producer was probably feeling the pressure from your record company. You probably needed to put out a new single every three months, didn't you?
A - Oh, yeah, and we were out on the road. Every time we had a few days off we would fly back to England and go in the studio and cut things, cut a record, fly back out and go out on the road again. We would sell the records while he was trying to make 'em. But that happens a lot of times. The bands are out on the road and you don't get time to write anything new. That's why a lot of times a band has a year or two to make it. They will write a lot of good stuff for the first album and once the first album is a hit, they're out on the road too much to write for the second album. The second album comes out invariably because the guys had not had the time to write, produce, to rehearse because it takes a long time to get an album together. To write it and get the finer points done and then to rehearse and record, it takes a long time.
Q - These days the marketing increasingly takes center stage and the music can suffer.
A - Funnily enough, before speaking to you I was actually writing. I was sort of layin' some acoustic tracks down on some demos. It's a constant thing. I carry my Mac with me everywhere. I'm always listening to stuff and re-recording stuff and editing stuff. It's a constant thing to try and come up with a product. Luckily I've got quite a big back catalog, enough for the next two albums written already. So if this album is successful and the people want more, I've actually got all the tracks to go in and do them straight away. There's no problem there. I constantly write. I could quite easily just write day and night and never stop. I like listening to music and I like playing music. It's always a constant morphing thing all the time, listening, playing. It's my life. I write all sorts of stuff. I wrote a song I would like to get to one of these vocal groups that just do vocals. Il Divo is the group that just sings. They sing Classical type stuff. I wrote one of those. And I also write Hard Rock. Anything. A tune's a tune, whatever it is. You can do anything with a melody. You can use a melody to put forward a Classical type song or a Hard Rock song.
Q - Do you have a publishing deal as we speak?
A - No. We publish ourselves.
Q - In the '60s, when you would get off the road and went back home, did you ever go for a drink in of those private clubs and run into guys from The Beatles and The Stones?
A - Oh, yeah. We used to go down to a place called The Speakeasy in London. I used to go down there and meet up with Keith Moon as well at the Cromwellian. We used to go down there quite a lot. There was The Bag O'Nails, The Scotch Club, Tramps, Marquee. The Marquee was a place to go watch bands, but was a Rock club. I saw Led Zeppelin there a couple of times before they actually made it big. They did some shows there and really blew everyone away.
Q - You were in the audience watching them?
A - Oh, yeah. Places like The Speakeasy you'd go and have dinner. You could eat and watch a band.
Q - If you were eating dinner in The Speakeasy would you be bothered by fans for autographs?
A - No. Most of the people that went there were all bands. Nearly the whole of the club would be filled with band members from different bands and people who were in the business. You wouldn't get sort of autograph hunters going down there. If they did, they'd get thrown out. And the same with the Cromwellian. There weren't many people there who weren't in the business.
Q - If you entered one of these clubs and say John Lennon was at the bar, would he have said, "The Hermits are here!"?
A - No. Everyone just sat at their own tables, minding their own business. There was a place called Tramps we used to go down to a lot and The Bee Gees used to frequent that place as well, but you'd be able to sit at a table and no one would bother you. No one would come near you really.
Q - See, I was told if you were a famous British musician in the 1960s and you tried going out to a restaurant or movie theatre it was impossible. Fans would just swarm you.
A - If you went to just a normal restaurant on High Street, yeah. At one point we couldn't even walk down the road in London. People would realize who you were and you'd end up with a crowd of people chasing you. I think a lot of the bands tried to manufacture that, to make the most of it to get publicity. Especially if you were walking down Carnaby Street, you'd have all the people looking for bands. They would know that's where we used to shop for clothes and they'd follow us all down King's Road. We used to go down to all the shops on King's Road. They used to be full of people looking for bands. But we used to go to clubs that were most frequented by bands and there were member clubs as well. So you could only go with a member or join yourself. Joe Public didn't want to do that really.
Q - I imagine the price of membership would be quite high.
A - No, being in a band would be the price of your membership. (laughs) Places like the Cromwellian I can't ever remember paying a membership fee. They just used to say, "Yeah, you can come in. You can come in. You can't." If you were famous enough you'd get in there.
Q - I was also told if you were in London in 1967, on a Sunday morning you could see Paul McCartney or Mick Jagger walk down the street. I don't believe those guys could have done that on any street in any major city in the U.S. in 1967.
A - Oh, yeah. The fame business is a lot bigger in the States I think. In England, people didn't bother you too much unless they saw you going towards like Top Of The Pops studio. They'd all hang around there, or if you were down on Carnaby Street. Just the places where people knew where bands were gonna be. You could walk down Oxford Street and no one would follow you. It was just the fans would congregate around certain places. They'd go around Manchester Square where the E.M.I. offices were. Or they'd stand outside Abbey Road or they'd stand outside Carnably Street, Kensington Market. The places where they knew the bands would be walking around.
Q - When you're getting that kind of attention and one day you aren't, what does that do to you?
A - I personally, when I left the band I started tiling. I was glad to just be Joe Public. It was lovely. It was really nice to just be me. If had a friend, they wanted to be a friend just because it was me, not because I was in a popular band. I met a lot of real people, people I'd never mixed with that much. I found them very enchanting really.
Q - And now that you're getting back on the road, people will want to hang out with you, slap you on your back, ask for your autograph, hear all the stories.
A - (laughs) I don't think the fame game is as much as it was in the '60s, definitely. Now and then they will say they were big fans and generally they're all really nice people. They'll say, "I watched you in the day and I still like your records," and they're very good. They'll say, "I'll leave you alone now." They're very polite. You get the odd few people that get overboard and you just get rid of them. You just say, "Okay, I've got to go." But most people are pretty nice and don't bother you too much.