Full Throttle Rock recently conducted an interview with legendary bassist Billy Sheehan (THE WINERY DOGS, SONS OF APOLLO, TALAS, DAVID LEE ROTH, MR. BIG). An excerpt from the chat follows below.
Full Throttle Rock: Over the course of your career, you would have witnessed a number of changes to the music industry. For example, the introduction of MTV, then came the Compact Disc and few decades later the Internet, downloading, iTunes and so on. So out of these kind of technological advancements, which do you think has had the biggest impact?
Sheehan: “Yeah, I’ve been around a long time. I was there for the invention of the wheel and the discovery of fire and all those things. [Laughs] But when I began in the late ’60s, you played in clubs and at dances and you didn’t think about making a record yet. Finally, when we did, soon after that the Compact Disc was around and digital music and the digital recording revolution happened, where everyone could do a whole record in their house. But I think it would be difficult to pick one as the most impact, but I do believe that when the digital world began to play with music and audio at that point things began to change quickly. Because we now had a way to record, to deliver, to archive, to manipulate music and sound in a way we never had before. I think the digital recording revolution really was a huge innovation, and it includes the Compact Disc and nonlinear editing; in other words, the type of editing you can do anywhere, anytime, anyhow, perfectly! But there are two sides and the sword cuts both ways; it is also easier to fake just about everything, so you can make somebody who has no voice at all sound pretty good. So I think the digital recording revolution changed everything.”
Full Throttle Rock: When you look at the music industry we have today, are you concerned for the future or do you think the music business is in good shape?
Sheehan: “I think the future looks bright. Anybody who has a laptop has in their hands the equivalent, more than the equivalent, of the finest studios there was in 1979-80, and it will also do some things that the studio could never have done with any amount of money. So it is easy for someone to make a great record, and great records are made all the time now basically on laptops. All the records I do now are all done digitally and can all be done on a decent laptop. So this opens up the world and levels the playing field for all musicians, but interestingly enough, there aren’t any more amount of greater records being made than there were when this wasn’t the case. I think, in fact, there is still the same amount of talent out there, but now your means to record it and document it and your means to get it to other people is open to everyone. You go on the Internet and you’re a couple of clicks away from a billion people. So unlimited publicity and promotional possibilities exist. Also, as a result of all of that, the one thing that is really the strongest thing in music right now which can’t be downloaded, which can’t be faked, is a live performance. There is some fakery with some of the larger acts, of course, but if you’re in a regular band playing in a club you’ve got to be real, you’ve got to be able to sing and play. You can fake it digitally but people want to see the real thing live; so bands that are live and can play and sing for real are going to have the greatest advantage.”
Full Throttle Rock: There is a lot of debate amongst bands as to whether full length albums are still valid, given the lack of music industry support. What are your thoughts on that?
Sheehan: “Well, you don’t need industry support because you don’t really need any money to do it. You can do a record super-cheap these days. Again, the cost of a laptop and the software is relatively cheap and you can do your own marketing campaign. The good thing about that is it’s going to combat a record deal. Everybody is, like, ‘Record deal! record deal!’ There aren’t really any record deals any more to speak of. Maybe huge giant acts like Christina Aguilera or Beyoncé have some sort of record deal going on, but for regular bands, forget about the record companies and do it yourself because then you own it all. In the past, so many great bands got signed to contracts that were terrible and they never made any money and they got ripped off and ignored and abused and lied to and these were common practices in the music industry. If they were done in any other industry, people would’ve done time, they would’ve been in jail, but in the music industry, due to the legalities of it, somehow they made all that stuff okay. It’s an amazing amount of income those musicians never got.”
Read the entire interview at Full Throttle Rock.
MR. BIG‘s ninth studio album, “Defying Gravity”, was released on July 7 via Frontiers Music Srl.