John Waite's new live album, "Live All Access," was not a planned release. But after the "Missing You" singer and former Babys and Bad English frontman discovered that he and his band's performances were so enhanced by the addition of new, hard-edge guitar player, Keri Kelli (Alice Cooper, Skid Row, and Slash), he wanted to capture it. Once Waite heard their explosive onstage synergy in the recordings, however, he knew they had to be shared with the world.
In an era of auto-tune and overdubs, "Live All Access" harkens back to a purer time when nothing came between you and your favorite music. Expect eight tracks -- a mix of classics like "Change" and recent favorite "If You Ever Get Lonely -- that are guaranteed to rock your socks off.
When Download.com caught up with Waite, he was in the process of doing a system restore on his iPod. After taking care of that, we chatted about the new album, listening to his own music, instigating debates over social media, and the app he'd miss most, if his iPhone went missing.
So you're having iPod problems?
I'm beginning to clear out my iPod and reload it and, as usual, it's turning into a bit of a morning. I keep thinking that I'm going to clear out the podcasts and have a fresh start, but it always goes wrong.
Oh wait, there it goes, there it goes, my world is complete. For somebody who's a musician, I'm extremely untechnical, but that's neither here nor there. So what can we do for you aside from fixing my iPod?
How involved were you in your production process of "Live: All Access"?
I just describe what I want to hear and twittle as many knobs until I hear what I want to hear. But fundamentally, it's about setting the mics up and knowing where to put them in front of a Marshall Cabinet or inside a bass drum or over the drums; and all of that I understand and the board is a 24-track board, all you have to do is learn one channel. What you would call a producer to me is the antithesis of the way it should be done, though. Think of someone producing Frank Sinatra live with an orchestra. I know there are few people left with that kind of talent, but I'm shooting for that. Give me a good engineer and I'll give you a great record.
Do you ever play around with the software?
If we get a direct sound coming off the amp and you have the correct amp and the correct mic on the amp and it's just the right space away, from the speaker and there's another mic 20 feet away to get the ambient sound of the mic...you think you've got the right sound, but then you realize that you don't. There is software that can give it the amp sound to mix in with that stuff, to give you an edgier sound or a more tube sound. When you're making a record, you can't not use technology. Digital recording is very easy and anyone can do it. Look at GarageBand. It's a wonderful thing. You could make those great blues records now with digital recording. If you want to get the analog sound, you just run the whole thing through a two-inch recording tape. There isn't that much to it.
How many songs do you have on your iTunes?
Right now about three [laughs]. About three weeks worth it says, occasionally, and I keep adding to it.
Do you create playlists?
I'm not one of those guys that likes to shift moods unless someone's making playlists in the van when we're driving five hours through Massachusetts. But I go from Bill Evans to Jimi Hendrix to modern rock to folk.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
Yeah, I do to check. But I don't go back just to listen. I hadn't heard "Missing You" till I did Rockline. And I thought, "Wow, that's not bad." But I don't generally listen to my old stuff, but I have with this live album, because it's what I want to hear. When I listen to things, all I hear is the fault, because when you finish a piece of work, you always think you can do better if you had more time to finish, but nothing's ever finished. Art can always be approached from a different angle. But I'm very pleased with how it turned out. Some of the performances -- it just sounds like we're having the greatest time in the world. But beyond that, it's just three pieces blazing and I'm singing my ass off. So it's pleased me to listen to it. I listened to it last night and I had to smile. I think it's the best thing I've ever done!
Check out John Waite's No. 1 "Missing You" video:
Talk to me about the role of social media in your life.
I don't really use Twitter yet, but I like Facebook because if people have questions that they'd like to ask you and I answer them, it makes their day. I've met people that I've admired: Pete Townshend and Steve Marriott, I've jammed with both of them and it always meant so much to me and it's such a small thing to communicate.
So when someone writes to me, "I have a question about this band you were in" or "How are you doing? I heard that this happened," it's a pleasurable thing for me, or "I got some bad news and listening to your music made me feel better," to know that someone out there in the ether feels better because you hit those keys...and I think that world peace and the possible utopia of the human race is going to be that much more possible because of the Internet. As the world seems to be getting more violent, we seem to be communicating more. And people will be communicating more as we go along.
I checked your Twitter account and noticed that you haven't tweeted since 2011!
I decided to get on that this week and I have a PR person that we brought in and he wants me to tweet my deepest thoughts. He's going to come over on Saturday and will show me how it works and I'll be tweeting along quite happily by Sunday.
Is social media something you're excited about or obligated to do?
I feel almost obligated to ignite something. When the incident went down when there was a kid shot with a pocket full of Skittles and a can of iced tea, I just put his name up out of respect. I was kind of floored by the decision the courts made and thought someone should say something. And I'm pretty militant, so I put his name up in capital letters just out of respect and it got 250 comments in 15 minutes. In the end there was a raging debate and people were just going off. Only two people thought it was right and the other 248 were going off about the need for gun laws. But I will instigate a debate, because if I can get people to talk about stuff, then it's very valuable. I've done it before, where I've put up something just to see who's who; and if there's a Unabomber type that just wants to kill everybody, I just unfriend them. I just don't want to be involved with those people. But I was touched by the outpouring of grief, because to kill an unarmed kid, who's fighting for his life, and then a gun goes off, is disgusting. I'll probably get hate mail for saying this, but fuck it, it's the truth.
What are your favorite apps?
On my iPad, I've got, first of all, is Find My iPhone app, because at $600 a pop, you don't want to lose your iPhone too many times, and even just in the apartment to find where my iPhone's hiding. I have CNN, BBC News to keep up to date with all the British news from a British standpoint. Soundhound works great for me, TCM to see if anything amazing's happening in black & white movies, Google Earth, MyRadar, Pocket Pond, which is this beautiful, virtual Japanese garden pond full of fish -- and if you're really having a meltdown it actually works. With the band, we play a lot of Words With Friends. And iTunes, obviously. For productivity, I have Notebook that's like a legal pad. I do a lot of lyric writing in the middle of the street. That's when you have ideas and you can actually type it in. I'm looking now and there are 10 notes.
At one point, when we were drinking a lot of GUINNESS, we had a GUINNESS Pub Finder app. But it was becoming a bit much. We're all fans of GUINNESS and every night after a show we would be like where's the next bar? So we finally had to take it off. Oh, and PBS, as well. It's great for flying. I fly the Atlantic quite a lot and I think without the apps I'd be in a different world.
If your iPhone was missing, which app would you miss more than any other?
Probably texting, because you can speak to people very personally. Recently I spoke to someone that I was engaged to, a couple years ago over text, and we managed to stay in each other's lives. And there's something so tender about it, something so tender for something so technical. Some people have better relationships over the telephone, and this way, you can say, "I love you, I was thinking about you, and I hope you're feeling better." And if your friend has died, you can offer your condolences without interrupting their emotional state, and they appreciate it. That's a very good question because the most humane thing about the iPhone is texting. It's a tender thing, where you can say what you need to people without intruding.
I thought the text thing is really inspired, because we're speaking to each other without interrupting each others' lives. That touched me as I said it.
Would you ever reunite with The Babys?
No. Let me expand on that -- absolutely not [laughs]. The Babys got back together and had a gig two weeks ago and Tony Brock and Wally Stocker found two guitar players, two backup singers, they've got a manager, they're playing the old hits, they're looking for a serious record deal, they're going to tour. I sent them my best wishes. They should have done it a lot sooner. I won't be in it, though, because I don't want to give up being solo.
Check out The Babys Top 13 single, "Isn't It Time":
You've been covered a lot. If you could cherry-pick an artist to cover one of your "still uncovered" songs, which song and who would it be?
The song is "Bluebird Café" and it's me on an acoustic guitar and it's about a tiny club in Nashville where people come and play; it's an open mic night there every night and I would give my hind teeth to see Willie Nelson cover it. If Willie Nelson did it, I'd kiss his feet. I'm a big fan of Willie's. And if you print this, please print it in bold type, so he can read it.
Do you have any final words about your new album?
I've put this album out on iTunes through my own label, because it wasn't something I was interested in doing A&R for. If you send away to JohnWaite.com, you'll get an autographed copy or if you come to the show, you'll get a hard copy. Just the other day I got out of bed and downloaded The Rolling Stones - "Hyde Park Live." Five minutes later I was cleaning my teeth to "Brown Sugar" and it was great. I'm hoping people have the same instincts with my album. On iTunes everyone's in control over their destiny and as a musician it gives me carte blanche, complete autonomy over what I release. And it'll make me a better artist.
Check out John Waite's most recent "If You Ever Get Lonely" video: