January 8, 2018 Interview – Denny Laine
Some people are made for Rock-n-Roll, and Denny Laine certainly fits the bill. An English singer/songwriter, Laine has built a stunning career in music well-worth examining. An original member of The Moody Blues, being the voice behind the band’s first ever hit single “Go Now” in 1964, Laine would go on to play with the likes of Ginger Baker, and then spend a decade working closely with Paul McCartney in Wings.
A respected and talented musician, with a length discography of music, including solo material, Laine still continues to look toward the future in 2018. With plenty of fresh ideas in mind, Laine continues to tour and plans to release new material soon, so it is safe to say, nothing is slowing him down. Recently we caught up with the soon to be Rock and Roll Hall of Famer to talk his amazing career in music, his time working with Paul McCartney, his new music, plus much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in Rock-n-Roll for over 5 decades now. From your time in The Moody Blues to Wings, you have be an intricate part of a lot of great music. First, tell us, what has your journey been like as a musician?
Denny Laine – It has always been the music first. You get involved in the music business and that is a whole other thing. You have to want to do music in the first place, make it your life. A lot of people do it as a hobby, and some people do, but generally speaking, you have to live music all the time. You have to try and improve yourself as much as you can because there are a lot of good players and a lot of good talent out there. It is competitive, really, to stay in the public eye. A lot people don’t because they get hung up on the fame and the lifestyle. I am always looking for something new to do musically, I think that is what really keeps me going.
CrypticRock.com – You have been very active through the years. As mentioned, you played an important role in the early success of The Moody Blues, taking on lead vocals for the hit track “Go Now.” You will now be rightfully inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the band in April. Many years removed from the band, how redeeming is it for you to receive this honor?
Denny Laine – I am certainly surprised, that was the first reaction I had. Literally, I wasn’t expecting to go in there as part of The Moody Blues. I see The Moody Blues as more current now, they are not a ’60s band anymore. I accepted my role really, but when they called me and told me I was going to be inducted, I was obviously very happy about it. A few friends of mine kind of stuck up for me – Steven Van Zandt, Peter Asher, Cousin Brucie – people like that who voted, especially for me, to be in there. That was a nice gesture from them. I feel good about it now! I didn’t think it would matter to me, but now they are going to induct me I feel like a big part of it now. I have been in touch with a couple of the older Moody Blues, Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder, so it is not like I have been an outsider really. I have always been an admirer of their success. I am also very glad about the fact that when I left, they didn’t stop, they went on to bigger and better things. I went to do my own thing anyway, then went to work with Paul. It worked out all around really.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and it is really a great honor! Beyond The Moody Blues, you went on to work with Ginger Baker’s Air Force and, of course, who can forget your time a part of Wings. You remained a part of Wings for the band’s duration. What was your time in Wings like?
Denny Laine – Being kind of a younger member, Paul was obviously the big brother image, it was his baby really. It was his way of expressing himself after The Beatles. Not me so much, I was more of like the younger brother who is being carried along in the wave of success with the band. The whole thing from the beginning to end was a fun ride. I actually knew Paul before Wings, we are all pretty good friends of The Beatles in The Moody Blues. We did their second British tour and we were all friends. I felt like I was working with someone I knew very well, and that made it easier. I think it made it easier for him too.
Again, it was about chasing a musical idea rather than living in the past. Paul wanted to change his whole image in a way from being a Beatle into being a solo artist. He had to do his own music to do that. I admired him for that. For me, it was more of a learning experience. I was able to spend a lot more time in the studio than I ever did. I had a fun time before that. Also, touring, traveling the world, meeting a lot of great people was a big part of it as well.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like it was an amazing experience. You mentioned touring the world, and also spending time in the studio. You were able to work on music closely and help co-write a lot of music. Working very closing with Paul and Linda McCartney, what was it like writing songs with them?
Denny Laine – Like I said, it was more like a family thing. It wasn’t like being any previous bands I had been in. It was more a family situation, they wanted to do something as a family, really, and I felt part of it. I was an intricate part of helping Linda with harmonies. I enjoyed the fact that she was around taking pictures, she was also a good aficionado of music in general. She loves music and she was always there for that reason. Paul and I grew up with the same music. We had a good music feel, we had a good feel for stuff we were doing. Also, when he would play drums on “Band on the Run” for example, I slotted into it very easily. We just had a good relationship and good feel. That made it pretty easy. As I say, it was a fun time, but it was a lot of work too. We worked hard! We didn’t mix business with pleasure, we knew we were there to do a job. We spent a lot of time in the studio and rehearsing through tours a lot more than people would think. We spent a lot of time rehearsing and making sure it was right, we had a lot to live up to, you know what I mean? Therefore, it was a good thing that we had that success after all the difficulty in the beginning.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and Wings certainly left their mark on the history of Rock-n-Roll. You had actually celebrated Wings fantastic 1973 album, Band on the Run, in 2017. You now have some other shows lined up in early 2018. What can fans coming out expect this time around?
Denny Laine – This is going to be with a different band. I have worked with these people for quite a few years, they are called The Cryers and are from New Jersey. They are music teachers who I have known over the years. They know a lot of material, so it is going to be a mixture of old, new, and some stuff people are not too familiar with, a lot of my solo stuff. Whereas the other band, called The Denny Laine Band from the west coast, they are more for doing Band on the Run, The Moody Blues album, and that kind of show. This is another show. I have actually toured this quite a lot in the midwest over the last couple of years. I like New York because of the great clubs and great theater scene. I like the energy of New York, and to be able to play there a lot more than I had in the past, I am enjoying it very much! I have done B.B. King Blues Club in the past with the other show, I have done City Winery. I love New York audiences, they are very good, they have seen it all before, so if you go down well in New York, you can go down well anywhere.
I am enjoying this, I am looking forward to 2018. I also have gone back to my roots because I am taking care of the business a little more like I used to in the early days where I had been in charge a bit more. I am a lot more in control of what is going on business wise. I am making sure I get what I want. It is just like being a band leader in a way, although I am not totally in control of that. I do have people who take care of rehearsals, but generally, I am a lot more in charge now. Whereas in Wings I was the second in command really… or the third (laughs). I am running my own ship now.
CrypticRock.com – Sounds exciting. It will be fun to see this new show. Beyond your collaborations with others, you also have a large collection of solo material. Your latest material comes in the form of a vinyl single. Can we expect more new music coming soon, perhaps an album?
Denny Laine – Yes, I have have this album sitting on the shelf for a few years that I haven’t released yet. I am going to put that out soon. I also have a musical laying around too called Arctic Song. I am hoping to tour those two things as well, depending on the release date. I like to be doing new material, I don’t want to live in the past all the time. I am not going out there as a tribute band, I am going out there with more modern versions of those songs obviously. I am doing a lot of past material, but there are a lot of people out there who are also fans of me, they know my solo material. That is a good thing for me to do. I like to go out there and play the solo material for those people. It mixes the show up a little bit too. I don’t like to be called an oldies act. Whatever I am doing now, I want to be writing. I want to go back into the studio a little bit more often than I have been in the last couple of years. That is generally my plan, to spend a little more time in the studio and come up with new material. It is good fun. I like being ahead of the game as much as possible.
CrypticRock.com – Well, these tracks sounds great and it would be exciting to hear some more new material.
Denny Laine – Thank you. I will say this is the first time I have co-written anything. These two songs were co-written with a friend of mine called Ron Pullman. He is actually my very close friend I have known for many years. I haven’t written anything with anyone over the years at all. We just got together one day, sat down, we decided to do these two songs and put them out. It is a good experience to do that as well I think, to work with other people. I got used to it with Paul, and I would like to do that a little bit more in the future.
CrypticRock.com – Collaborations are a lot fun. When you work with other musicians you can learn from one another and that helps you grow as a musician .
Denny Laine – The other thing is when you are out there doing new material, you encourage other musicians to want to be involved too. It is not just the writing, it is the playing, and there are some great musicians out there I would still like to collaborate with. I don’t know who exactly off the top of my head, but it always good to play with great musicians, because they always bring a lot more to it as well. Especially with younger musicians, they want to be involved in collaborations too, I think that is a good thing.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and 2018 sounds like it is a very busy year for you. The last question is pertaining to movies. If you are a fan of Horror and Sci-Fi related films, do you have any favorites?
Denny Laine – I was hoping to meet Hans Zimmer, who is a huge, well-known music movie composer. A friend of mine, Peter Asher, was going to introduce me to him. I want to get into film music and I have been involved in it in the past in a small way. I want to get into it more, especially because my musical, which is called Arctic Song, is very much a Space/Sci-Fi thing. It involves space travel, it is almost Star Wars meet the people of the north, the eskimos. It is a mixture of the down to earth and unknown. If it was ever a movie, that is exactly what it would be.
I have been friends with Mark Hamill of Star Wars for many years. In fact, when we were first rehearsing in the early days, they were making Star Wars (1977) in the sound stage next to us, that is how I met everybody. I have always been a big fan of Sci-Fi such as The War of the Worlds (1953) anyway. Since I was a kid, I was always intrigued by time travel and space travel. I have done a lot of videos as well, videos are like making small movies.
I am very much into the whole film world and theater. As a kid, my sisters and brothers were actually involved a lot in stage productions. I am going back to that and that is exactly what is going on with me right now.
CrypticRock.com – That sound very compelling. Hans Zimmer has composed a lot of wonderful soundtrack music.
Denny Laine – I know. I am just beginning to meet those kinds of people to do it. As I said, this is not something that is new to me, I have always been involved in one way or another. I just haven’t been involved as much as I want to be. I am a great admirer of film music. I always remember a film with Johnny Depp called Dead Man (1995), the backing track was just Neil Young on guitar, it was a really interesting soundtrack. I am looking at it from the point of view of it just being classical style music to much more across the broad progressive stuff. I am going to try and collaborate with writers and screenplay people to do that. It is something I have been wanting to do for a long time. A big chuck of the next year is going to be taken up doing that.