The world first heard of Pat Travers in the mid-1970s. That's when his first record was released. Since then, he's taken his act all over the world. Pat Travers spoke with us about his career in Rock music.
Q - Pat, if you turn on the award shows these days, you'll see Country artists and Rap artists.
A - Right.
Q - You don't see many Rock artists. Why do you suppose that is?
A - Because there are two businesses here. We have show business and the music business and the gulf between them has gotten so wide and unfortunately show business earns way more money than the music business. So, under the guise of music, you end up with some of the people and performers you see on these award shows who don't write songs and really can't sing, but that's because they're in show business. They're not in the music business. I think you have to realize it's two different things.
Q - It probably started with Michael Jackson, didn't it?
A - Everybody can pinpoint a spot or a moment, but it's always been rearing its ugly head. I've been around for quite some time now and I've been listening to music on the radio and seeing it on TV for a long time and there's always been a bunch of crap. Thirty years later when they look back, they don't play that music, they played the stuff that was good at the time and it sounds like it was better then, but it really wasn't. It was still equivalent to an amount of crap on the airwaves and on TV and it's the same thing now.
Q - Is the American marketplace for Rock, disappearing? Do you have to take your act overseas?
A - No. Just the categories don't really exist anymore. To say I'm Rock or whatever I am, I'm not really sure what that means anymore. We are going to the UK and Europe after that, but we do that every couple of years anyway. So we have a good following over there and a good following over here.
Q - Do you travel to Eastern Europe, Russia, the Ukraine?
A - Yes, I have. I've played in Russia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia. I played a bunch of those places. They're actually pretty cool, places like Hungary, Slovenia, Romania and even further east like Macedonia, although I haven't been that far east. I would like to go.
Q - You call Central Florida home. Is that because of the weather?
A - Yeah, partly. Mostly because I really like it here. Where I live it's all kind of lakes, oak trees, bald eagles, bears and wildlife. If I want to go to the Atlantic, it's an hour away. If I want to go to the Gulf, it's an hour and a half away. I can get anywhere I want from here. It's awesome.
Q - And you probably have your own recording studio.
A - No, I do not. I sure don't. I used to. I used to have a whole bunch of stuff. I made all those real elaborate demos and then I discovered they were just taking up too much of my time. So, I got rid of all the equipment and now all I have is a few guitars, an amplifier. I work on stuff here and when I feel it's ready to go, then I get in the car and drive up to Sean Shannon's studio, which is just up the street from my house, five minutes, and I work there.
Q - How long have you had the current lineup of musicians you perform with?
A - Well, Kirk McKim, who plays guitar with me, has been playing with me for almost nine years now and Sandy Gennaro, he's our drummer, has been with us for the last three years, but he played with me back in '81 through '83 and recorded a couple of albums and did a bunch of major tours. Then Rodney O'Quinn plays bass and he joined the band in 2008. So it's a really tight unit and we kick ass. I love those guys. We're pretty unstoppable when we're smokin'.
Q - Is it difficult to find musicians who are not only talented but you can get along with as well?
A - Yeah, well sure. That's the hard part, isn't it? The 90 minutes you are on stage is one thing. It's the other 22 1/2 hours you are together getting to that point. So, it's important that everybody like everybody else and knows how to get along. This crew does, so we are real lucky.
Q - When you were growing up, all the big acts were coming out of England. Did you see anybody around from Toronto that was starting to achieve some success in the music world?
A - Wow! I never really thought about that.
The Guess Who. They were about the only international band. That was it. I can't think of anybody else. Maybe Neil Young of course. And Joni Mitchell. And Paul Anka. I saw Rush play in 1974 at a small bar on Young Street in Toronto at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. There were five people there, the gal I was with, the waiter, the bartender and the doorman. That was it.
Q - Were they any good?
A - I didn't think so, but I met them years later. My first major tour in the US was opening for Rush and they were awesome.
Q - When you were 12 years old you saw Jimi Hendrix perform in Ottawa. Is that correct?
A - Actually I was 13. It was March 19, 1968 and I was in the 12th row, aisle seat of the Capital Theater in Ottawa, Canada. It was so overwhelming. I have very little actual recall of the event. I just couldn't believe it. He had three Marshall stacks. I had never seen one, let alone three! Noel Redding had three Sunn Coliseum base stacks and it was so loud. It was so overwhelming to a 13-year-old kid.
Q - There was probably a huge audience to see Hendrix.
A - Well, yeah. It was sold out. Sure. It was a great theater. It was an old movie theater. It was maybe about 2500 seats. It was an awesome place to see him.
Q - Did you know that in the early '60s, you could have seen Hendrix in downtown Syracuse? He was part of Joey Dee's band.
A - Oh, I know. People don't realize he made a huge metamorphosis in the nine months he was in London, England, in the way he looked, the way he talked, the way he did everything. All of a sudden everything culminated and he was able to find his own thing. He recorded two great albums while he was there. Sometimes going to a completely different environment, as happened to me when I went to London in '75, is a good thing to do. It shakes you up.
Q - Is that why you went to London?
A - Not necessarily. That wasn't why I went to England like Jimi did. My mom was English. I was born in Canada. I had a lot of Anglo friends and roots and stuff. It didn't feel that different for me to go. On the other hand I was deathly afraid of going to New York or Los Angeles. I felt more comfortable going to London.
Q - Why would you have been so afraid to go to New York or Los Angeles?
A - I think of both of those cities the same way now. I just don't see them as being conducive. It's just too much of a struggle. Too much of your time is spent on bullshit, you know, trying to survive day to day, accomplishing anything artistically.
Q - How good of a job did Polydor Records do for you, at least in the beginning anyway?
A - Oh, I think they did a wonderful job. I mean I got signed by the managing director of Polydor in London, a guy named Freddy Hein, who managed the band Golden Earring. Freddy was Dutch as well. He was a crazy rock 'n roll guy. He signed me and then he got promoted to President of Polydor Worldwide, based in New York. So, when that happened we signed to Polydor International. For the first three years I was with the label it was incredible. When the President signs you, believe me, everybody will push you. (Laughs).
Q - And then when there is a turnover, everything gets changed around.
A - It doesn't just happen in the music business. It's just the way things are. There was a turnover in the record company at the time. People would stay maybe two years max and then they would move on. So, there's a short shelf life for everything, for the music, for the people who work there. Everything turned over pretty quickly.
Q - So you're playing this club in Québec and Ronnie Hawkins saw you play. Is that how you got your first break?
A - That's true. I never considered it one of my first breaks, but I guess looking back it would have to count as one. We would play this place called the Chaubhaubiere, just across the bridge from Ottawa in Ontario, over in Québec. They had different rules over there. We could stay open later. We would play there six nights a week. It was a big place, big, L-shaped room. It held almost 1000 people. It had a low kind of ceiling. When it was full, which it was Thursday through Sunday, it was an awesome place to play for a kid who was only 16 or 17. I was playing there and Ronnie Hawkins and his entourage came in. He was watching us play. I went over to meet him later. He was going, "Kid, you're really good. You gotta come and play with me." He didn't actually have a job for me at that point, but shortly after that he did call me. And I did go and play with him for a year. So that was kind of an awesome thing to do.
Q - Did they serve alcohol at that club?
A - They served alcohol and you could buy hash from a waiter. It was a pretty wild place.
Q - How did you get around the fact that you were only 16 or 17, working in a place where alcohol was served? Did the police ever check your I.D.?
A - No. The police were all paid off. I can't remember one time when I saw the police in there and I must've been there two or three years total or at least over a period of two or three years. I never saw the police in there once.
Q - From the time you started playing clubs to the time you were signed by Polydor, how much time went by?
A - It took five years.
Q - That's pretty good, isn't it?
A - Well, yeah. I started basically when I was 15 and I got to London just after my 21st birthday and I had a record deal within three months. I'm still working at it. It wasn't like it solved all my problems because it sure hasn't. I've still got a lot more things to do.
Q - Today you're not on Polydor Records.
A - I think they're releasing another compilation thing. I got an e-mail from someone the other day.
Q - How do you get your new material heard?
A - Well, it's on Frontiers Records. It's a deal I did the beginning of last year, 2012. They're a big company. They have great worldwide distribution and they do great promo, otherwise I wouldn't even be talking to you. So, we're excited about that. We've got a long way to go with this album. It's a great record and we're just getting started with it.