Interview – Mike Reno of Loverboy


Sometimes determination is an inspiration within itself to achieve one’s dreams. For Canadian Rock-n-Roll band Loverboy, early success was not easy as they stood strong to prove their worth to an American record company who did not see a future for the band. Finally, the band’s popularity swayed the pendulum justifiably in their direction, and as they say, the rest if history. Going on to attain four consecutive multi-platinum records between 1980 and 1985, Loverboy became one of the hottest bands in the USA with hit single after hit single. Now over three decades later, the band continues to plug on, touring, writing and recording, including their 2014 record, Unfinished Business. Judging from their past, this band takes nothing for grated and aim to give fans the same great energy they always have. Recently we sat down with Lead Vocalist Mike Reno for a personal look at the past of Loverboy, his passion to keep the music alive, recording new music, and much more. – Loverboy has built quite an amazing resume over the past three plus decades, beginning with the massively successful 1980 debut record. What were those early years like for the band?

Mike Reno – You know, the early years were pretty exciting. We never really had time to bask in the glory, we were working too hard. We did over 250 shows every where, plus we were writing new albums, doing interviews, and trying to get people to notice us. We were lucky enough to get on tour immediately with Kansas right out of the box. We were actually playing cities that never even had access to our record, which was totally infuriating to us. We would split up everyday and go to different radio stations, we would get on the phone, meet people, and we would do interviews for newspapers. We did everything we could as a group surrounding every city we played in.

Then we learned shortly thereafter that CBS at the time did not really consider us a viable player and never even stocked the shelves in the stores with our record. So all the record stations said, “We love this band, but we cannot get the record.” We kind of then went on a pilgrimage to put records in these cities that we were touring in. Therefore, the early success of the band was kind of marred with a frustration that the record company did not take us seriously, to be honest with you. – As you said, it is quite interesting that the record company did not take you seriously right away. Columbia Records at first had no interest in that debut record right?

Mike Reno – Correct, they did not show any interest in it even though they sold a million copies in Canada already. They finally opened their eyes when I did a Rolling Stones interview. After a three hour interview, I said, “I will tell you something off the record to this recorder” to the reporter. He said, “ok, I’ll guarantee it’s off the record.” I said, “Loverboy basically caught CBS with their pants down.”  He wrote it in red letters across two pages in the middle of the Rolling Stone Magazine, “Loverboy catches CBS with their pants down.” It was an all time embarrassing moment on one hand, and on the other hand it was a triumphant kick in the balls to CBS, because they had really just had not done their part. We were out touring, we did a record that was a hit, and they decided not to pay attention to it until that came out.

Then I had a phone call from the president of CBS Records, and ever since, we became best of friends, and I mean that quite literally.  We went out to dinner every time I went to New York after that. Me and Al Teller from CBS became really good buddies. He said, “Do me a favor, let’s play on the same team.” I said, “Do me a favor, let’s play on the same team. I’m out here working Al, you can do your part and I will do my part.” I did learn a big lesson here, that nothing is ever off the record. I admitted that and I apologized, but I also said,”You have to think about where we’re coming from. We’re out here doing the tour, we did the record. You are supposed to be doing the stocking of the shelves, the promotions, and you just didn’t do it.” He said, “I agree, lessons learned, both ways.”  I said, “Agreed,” and we shook hands and became best friends. It was just one of those things. I am glad I did what I did. It was a bit embarrassing, but it got its job done.

Columbia Records
Columbia Records
Columbia Records
Columbia Records – It is an interesting story to tell all of these years, for sure. You then followed up in 1981 with Get Lucky, which was even more massive of a success. Was it at that point when you realize, okay this is real and Loverboy is really doing big things?

Mike Reno – Loverboy really did some amazing things. I say that as humbly as possible. In an interview, you have to speak up and really have to say how you feel, and so that is what I am going to say, how I feel. This Get Lucky went over the top, like number 3. We toured at the same time as Journey’s biggest record, Escape. It was the tour of the season, not a seat in the house, two nights in most cities. It was an amazing experience and I will never forget it. – It sounds like an amazing experience. It kept the band going for a very long time. The band did however take a break from recording new material for almost a decade before you returned with 2007’s Just Getting Started and since released two more albums, including last year’s Unfinished Business. What was it like going back into the studio and recording new Loverboy songs after that lengthy absence?

Mike Reno – It was totally fun. The Just Getting Started album was something I was pushing through. I really wanted the band to record something new so I tried to arrange it with people that made it easy for us to do. The only drag about that record was we did it separately. We did not run in the studio as a band to do it. The drums were recorded last; we had all of the other stuff done and the drums came in last. Normally, Loverboy would woodshed, work on songs, and record live. That has always been the way. It was a bit sad that we could not do the record that way. That was Just Getting Started. I thought we had some phenomenal songs on that record and it really sounded good, it was high energy, and it was spot on.

As you know, it also came at a time when the music industry completely did a turn-about. Instead of selling 500 thousand records, or a million records, or 3 millions records, you sell like 30 thousand records and everybody goes, “Wow, you sold 30 thousand records, that’s a big deal.” Well it was not a big deal compared to what we used to do in the old days. We were kind of laid back and then wondered what was going on in the music industry. We actually now consider all of the records that we do as a promotional tool. We really do not expect to make any money from it at all. We do not even make enough to pay for the project. It is just a promotional tool that we now offer to fans that they can come see us live, and I guess we just have to get used to that.

Frontier Records
Frontier Records – It really is a different world now. It is kind of disheartening that a lot of people just do not buy records anymore; it is such a shame. Hopefully bands will not stop making records because of that.

Mike Reno – I am with you. I am looking forward to the new Cheap Trick record. I love that new AC/DC record, which they recorded in Vancouver I might add, that was by my good friend Mike Fraser at Bryan Adam’s studio. I love all of the new stuff that is coming out by everybody. I buy everything. I love all of the Def Leppard records. You know, I bet you if you have an interview with them, they would say exactly the same thing. They put their heart and soul into a project and it sells 30 thousand records, and that is the whole sale. There is a feeling of “What is happening?” Mind you, people seem to get the records. They just do not pay for them, which is sad, because I do not know if they realize this, but when we go into the studio and record, there is a bunch of people we have to pay. You have to rent the room and pay for the project, and pay for the pressing, and nowadays, you never even get any of that back, which is disheartening.

I am with you, I hope people do not stop recording. I know that we are going to continue recording, because we are actually recording. We recorded a few new songs already for an upcoming album. We are going to stay with it, we are just going to keep doing it whenever we can. We have to maybe record a song at a time here and there. Not a woodshed and rent a studio for two months like we used to do, but we will get it done. We will continue putting out records as long as people keep coming to our concerts. –  That is a very positive thing. As mentioned, in 2014, you released the 10-track album Unfinished Business. What was the writing and recording process like for this album?

Mike Reno – You know, Paul Dean and I were taking all of the stuff we have done on two inch tapes and downloading it all to hard drives because that is the only way to save everything. People who may be reading this may not know, two inch tapes wear out after a few years, and you can only gingerly play them once to take everything off the tape and put it onto a hard drive. That being said, while doing that, we noticed that when we cut records, we took out 25-30 songs from an album that had about 9,10, or 11 songs on it. We had all of these great songs sitting around. We picked through, and we could do this again a few times, what we did is took some finished product that did not make the record. Back then, you could only put 42 minutes worth of music on a record, and when CDs came around, you could only put 71 minutes. We would have 200 minutes worth of music. Well, we took some of those songs and put them on the record. We just gave them a quick mix, mastered them, and put them on the record.

We also found some demos when we were playing live at night clubs at the very beginning of Loverboy, and some of the songs were very long, arduous, deep, and desp, but they were actually taken right off of the cassette. We were trying to make them sound as good as possible assuming they would not have the same sound quality we would normally put on an LP or CD.  We thought the crowd would really enjoy listening to a collection of stuff that never got released and some stuff that was from the night club era. Then we took some songs that we have written recently and added it to the package to make it fresh. Then we threw the whole thing out to our Facebook fans to name it. We put the title of the songs and explained a little bit of how the songs came to be. We left our Facebook fans throw in titles to the album as a little bit of a contest. As it turned out, it was a Loverboy fan-page that named the record “Unfinished Business.”  You should of heard some of the names that came in, I will tell you, it was funny, but Unfinished Business is the way it was. That is the story of the whole record. i get a lot of comments that people are really enjoying it. It is kind of like an anthology type deal.

Loverboy Music – It is a very strong record. As you mentioned, it has songs that have never seen the light of day, which are thankfully now seeing the light of day, as well as some new songs.  With the new songs, there are just really great Rock -n- Roll true to what Loverboy’s sound is. What is great about it is, it is not trying to mirror the current trends, which is refreshing. One can imagine that some artists can get caught up in that. Is that something that you have concerned yourself with, that you wanted to keep yourself true to the band and not worry about today’s Rock world?  

 Mike Reno – You know what it is, when we get together and do a record, that is what it sounds like. When we are out there on the stage and playing songs, that is what it sounds like. We did not want to try to change it around. We play all of these songs all the time. We are always doing concerts. We have been working for 36 years. We have basically been without a break. We get on stage, light up the instruments, started playing, and that is what it sounds like. We just said, “Let’s just do what we do.” We did not try to mess it up; try to change our sound and be something we are not. We just wanted to stay true to ourselves. – Right, that works best, honestly.  There will be artists which would try to go with this current trend, and it is just not sincere; it is not what they are. You mentioned that the band has been heavily touring thorough the years and now you are currently completing a killer tour with Rick Springfield and The Romantics. It is a really great package. How has the tour been going?

Mike Reno – The tour has gone amazing. Every night has been a blast so far. The Romantics are fabulous, we grew up with them, they are good friends of ours. They just have some great hit songs. Imagine starting the night off with forty minutes of The Romantics hits, then Loverboy walks on stage and plays 10 of their top 40, 14 smash hits, if I may be so bold, and then Rick Springfield comes on and entertains everybody, with not only his amazing package of songs, but he is also a good-looking guy. A lot of girls come up just to have a look at him. He is a wonderful guy, an actor, his movie is doing great. The thing is selling out, it is amazing. We are really having fun out here.

Loverboy Live 9-16-15 at NYCB Theatre Westbury, NY – It really is a fun tour, it is a very well put together package, and everyone fits very well together. You seem like someone who really loves music. With that said, what are some of your personal musical influences?

Mike Reno – Well, you know, the real story here is that all of the people that have influenced me in the beginning somehow became my friends, which is insane. Everybody from Bob Seger to ZZ Top. It is crazy, I love it. I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin of course, Deep Purple, and then Cheap Trick came in, Doobie Brothers, and these are great friends of ours, and AC/DC. They are all people we know now, it is such an amazing ride to have the people that you grew up analyzing become your friends. It is the big ticket. That to me is like winning the lottery. I loved singers, I love Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, I love Robert Zander belting out his stuff. I am really into singers. Paul Rogers was a big influence on me, and as it turns out, he is also a friend and he lives in the Vancouver area too. It is like wow, how cool is that. I am a very fortunate guy not only to have played with the best and become friends with these guys, but I have idolized from the very beginning. – That is very cool. That is something you would never foresee when you were younger right?

Mike Reno –  I would never think that would happen, absolutely, you got that right. – Totally understandable, but very redeeming. Seeing you love music, do buy music in an actual physical format?

Mike Reno –  I try to buy all the time. I also buy from iTunes because it is easy and my credit card is on file.  People are making it easy, it’s like $7 or $8 for a whole record, I could deal with that.  I’m not the kind of guy that rips stuff off of the internet.  I’m the one who either buys it hard or buys it off of iTunes.

Epic Records
Epic Records
Capitol Records
Capitol Records – That is really great. Hopes are that people start to realize the importance of that, and not only that, the special quality of actually owning the physical format.  Yes, you have the albums, which are a grand presentation, but even a CD, reading the liner notes, that is all part of the music.

Mike Reno – I agree with you. I finding too, that CDs are great for the car and everything, but the way that I am traveling right now, if I had to bring my CD collection it would be impossible now.  It is all in my phone and I love it.  I have it jammed pack with all of my favorites that I paid for. I am just proud of the fact that I paid for them because I too want to pass the word to people that these bands cannot keep on recording records over and over again where people are not buying them. It has to be a reciprocal deal here, we will make them if you buy them. We will just continue doing that, so I will like people to know as well. – Absolutely, it is a pretty fair exchange right there. It sounds like an atrocity nowadays, the way people think, but it seems very fair; it should be logic. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. covers music and Horror films.  If you are a fan of Horror, what are some of your favorite Horror films?

Mike Reno – I am a bit of a candy-ass to be honest. I kind of cringe and turn the other way and look for a Drama. I do not like to be frightened. I am just going to say it outright, call me a baby if you want. My wife laughs at me too and she goes, “Oh honey, don’t be so scared, it’s just a movie.” I go, “I don’t want to watch this movie.” I know there are thousands of people out there that just adore getting the S-H-I-T scared out of them.  I’m just not one of them, sadly. – That is ok, Horror films are not for everyone. Has there been any that particularly stood out for you over the years? I know many turn to The Shining (1980) and The Exorcist (1973), those are two classics right there.

Mike Reno – I will tell you something, The Shining, I have watched one-hundred times. I guess I am a sucker for Jack Nicholson. Here is another thing, every time I go and play Westbury, NY I go to the Amityville Horror house. Amityville’s got that house and that movie that was so scary. I actually get the driver to drive me over there, I pull up right in front of the house, I tell my wife, and she goes, “Did you just go to the house?” I go, “Yeah (laughs).”  So, I guess maybe I do watch a few, but maybe it is that I try to put it out of my mind. The Exorcist, I have seen it a million times, love it. Could not think of a more scarier movie, being a Catholic especially. It is just something that scared the life right out of me. I tend to go to the Dramas, the cop movies, and stuff.  I love Jason Statham; the stuff that he does. I am just one of those kind of guys; I like Mob movies. I like Johnny Depp. I do remember the ones that you mentioned, and then Halloween (1978) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). I guess I have seen them all. We have been on tour buses for years and must have watched them on tour buses. I guess I forgot I watched all of those, thanks for reminding me. I will not be able to sleep tonight now (laughs).

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
American International Pictures
American International Pictures

Tour Dates:
* w/ Rick Springfield & The Romantics

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