Songlines Across New Zealand
  Tom Cochrane Interview (via email) 10-12-2012
 
SANZ: How did the band Red Rider get its name:  
TOM:  to be honest they had it before I joined and I spent the better part of a year trying to convince everybody we had to change it the record company ended up paying 10,000 dollars to the woman (wife of) the creator of the Red Ryder comic after the art work was done for the first album for the right to use the name and we agreed to change the Y to an I in the name as well

SANZ: When you went from Red Rider to going solo was that an odd experience going solo:    
TOM:  not really I had been a solo artist prior to Red Rider and really always kind of struggled with the band democracy thing in our case, everybody pulling in different directions, being a songwriter first and fore most I had a vision and I wanted to control the direction of the songs as much as I could

SANZ:  Out of the albums you have released which would be your favorite one
Do you have a least favorite and why:                                    
TOM:  2 favorites, the Tom Cochrane and Red Rider album and No Stranger and definitely Breaking Curfew was the least. Breaking Curfew was artistically like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole ... we had come off a record "Neruda"  which garnered a lot of critical praise but fell a little short of what everyone expected commercially.... Breaking Curfew was a very "forced" effort.... then on the road everything came unravelled. We had a few unsuccessful months touring the States then came home and toured across Canada to sold out houses, but management was grinding us, paying us minimum wage so to speak putting us in flea bag hotels, cutting every corner.. it was awful, it was indentured slavery...we got to Sydney NS at the end of the tour, had a huge fight in the dressing room and that was it, Red Rider as we knew it broke up,.... Bruce Allen took all of our equipment back to Vancouver for what he perceived was money owed to him, sold it or some of it ended up with Rock and Hyde (we saw the stuff in their next video)
The only piece of equipment I was left with was my Laskin acoustic I flew home with....As life always seems to throw us curve balls in retrospect it was the best thing that could have happened 
Kenny and I got together a month or so later and started working on what would become The Tom Cochrane and Red Rider record (I guess Kenny was the Red Rider part at that point)
We rose from the dust and that record became our "Phoenix" album ..... it did very well in Canada and thanks to some people who stood by us like Deane Cameron and Tim Tremblay at Capitol records and Vinni Cinquamani as well as CPI's Michael Cole, Arthur Fogel and Riley O'Connor... we successfully toured and things looked up from there.

SANZ: What would you prefer to do work and record in a studio or perform live:
TOM: I enjoy the performing, that's where the music starts and it ends... it is the final litmus test for relevance
I have a big body of work and love sharing it , love the vibe, the energy , hearing Kenny Greer live in full flight on guitar is so cool...
30 years ago the answer would have been different. At that point I was still composing the songs that would be the cornerstones of my life and career.

SANZ: what would you say is the best thing about performing live
TOM: the only thing I would add to the previous answer is that I love that hour before the show 
bonding with my band, the building of tension and anticipation before going on

SANZ: If you had to pick a song of yours to be your signature which would it be 
TOM: "Big League"  .... because it's a true culturally specific story that touches many people on many levels in and from many cultures.... a boy, a Dad, hopes and dreams for the boy .. tragedy that makes us redefine life and those dreams
and that is what I strive for and think is relevant for any artist whether he/she is a novelist, painter or songwriter.

SANZ: If one of your songs come on the radio do you sing along or switch stations:
TOM: I listen very uncomfortably for the most part because there are always things that you think you could have done better or differently.

SANZ: What are your thoughts on you tube seeing as there are a lot of music videos of red rider and your solo career as well as live performances on there:
TOM: It is not a great vehicle for fairly representing a live performance. That makes it a frustrating medium. 
It's like taking a picture of a beautiful vista while travelling and showing it to your friends and it looks nothing like what you saw or experienced, it's 2 dimensional .... people get turned off going to see artists because they see stuff on Utube and say "that doesn't sound or look very good, I'm not going to that"....
It completely destroys the mystique

SANZ: Out of your music videos you have done which would be your favourite
Q pt2 Do you have a least favourite and why
TOM: No Regrets , we did it in and around New Orleans and the Bayou 
and a town called Napoleonville, great energy, I was in good shape and it was fun to shoot
TOM A pt2:I Wonder, because I look shitty in a goatee .... it also, like Breaking Curfew, denotes a time of change 
I got dropped by Capitol/EMI right after that record. What hurt most was that my best friend was the President of the company and he was the one that dropped me. Again as much as it hurt it was the best thing that could happen and I went on to  have the best decade of my career in the 2000's.

SANZ: What are your thoughts on doing music videos for your songs
TOM: I don't really. It was a very useful vehicle over the years and I see how important they were but I was never really comfortable doing them

SANZ: Can they be good visual representations for your songs
TOM: sometimes, but rarely .... Of Monsters and Men "Little Talks"  that is a great relatively current video, Godley and Cream's "Cry" it was brilliant, groundbreaking and classic.....they are both works of art that are as good or perhaps better than the songs, and that is rare.
Goyte feat: Kimbra, that video is great but I can't remember the name of the song.

SANZ: If you had a chance to go back in time and repeat your musical career over again would you take that chance
would you do anything differently if you did
TOM: I'd try to be more involved and do some better more groundbreaking videos
 2nd answer is that I would have insisted we tour in New Zealand and Australia, hope to still.
We had some good opportunities and offers around the Mad Mad World years 91 - 93 but management had lost money touring, other acts in Australia and New Zealand and wanted us to stay in the U.S. making money. Manager's are like Doctors, they sometimes are distracted, they always think they are right, and they are very often cynical .... so a second opinion in the form of your own instincts and intuition should always be in order.

SANZ: What would be your most memorable moment be in your music career
 is there a least memorable moment you'd like to forget about and can you tell us about it
TOM: I'm going to use a cliche which I think I might have invented because I've been saying it for 25 years or so way before it was fashionable for rock artists/singer songwriters to say it and that is that I have been incredibly blessed and lucky to do what I do and make a very good living at it and luckily survive the pitfalls only to emerge and have something good happen, that includes fortuitous events like Rascal Flatts covering "Life Is A Highway" for the "Cars" movie (thanks John Lasseter)

SANZ: I must say also great to see this on you tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1GePVA7FF0&feature=youtu.be
TOM: Great to be on stage with those guys! (Rascal Flatts) I've had the honour a few times. Gary has one of the most magnificent voices you will ever hear from a male tenor, in country music and/or otherwise.

SANZ: Are there any other cover versions of your songs you are fond of:
TOM: Shawn Pander did a wonderful version of Northern Star from my last CD, No Stranger for his release, Notes from Hoover Street. Jaydee Bixby, a Canadian country artist covered  "Boy Inside The Man" I like it a lot.
Dala ,love those girls, did an incredibly haunting version of "Human Race", it sends chills up my spine, it's not released yet

SANZ:When you started writing songs did you ever think that years later that people would cover them (and even make it into tv/movies) I point out such case with Rascall flatts covering life is a highway
TOM: "Cars" is one of the great kid's animation films of all time 
it is a classic. It's a charming film, I suppose the only reason to dislike it is if your 4 or 5 year old wants you to play it over and over again.

an aside: my friend Sam Feldman who also owns the agency I am with and manages Diana Krall and Elvis Costello, who are married. He showed me a video Diana sent him last year of their little boy in a high chair playing with a toy truck from the "Cars" movie, banging it up and down on the tray singing "Life Is A Highway", I'm a big fan of both of them so I got a big kick out of that, thinking that "Life Is A Highway" probably doesn't have a prominent place on either of their Ipods.

SANZ: What are your thoughts on American idol and all the other music talent shows being aired
TOM:   Hey I'm not going to bite the hand that feeds me. I think there has been some wonderful talent that has been exposed to the light of day on those shows Kelly Clarkson is just one example, Carrie Underwood is another (she performed LIAH with Rascall Flatts on the show) , LIAH was on Dancing With The Stars recently
                               .... It's been on a bunch of those shows

SANZ: Do you ever check eBay or  to see if anyone is selling any rare records of your work
TOM: No I have a good friend, Howard Shapiro, he's also a fan, who always keeps me informed on that stuff.
He is a writer of graphic books (sophisticated comic books) his latest, "Stereotypical Freaks" is getting great reviews.

SANZ: when you are in a music store do you get the urge to check if they have any of your cds in stock
TOM: No

SANZ: If you could do a duet with another singer songwriter of your choice who would it be
TOM: Adele .... I'm being honest

SANZ:    Also on the topic of performing with other musicians what was it like to perform with Bruce Springsteen 
What topics do you mainly find easy to write about
TOM:  It was surreal performing with Springsteen, he was a big influence when I was starting out, when I joined Red Rider.
This was a guy who changed the face of music. Merging great songwriting with monumental performing, leaving every bit of himself on stage.
Prior to Bruce, songwriters, at least folksingers, which Springsteen partly is, were navel gazers... Bruce put the sweat in the genre.
Bruce Springsteen is on the Mount Rushmore of rock, right there with John Lennon, Neil Young, and Dylan
I told him when we got off stage that " If I had performed "Twist and Shout " with John Lennon himself it wouldn't have meant more, except that John would still be alive." and he said to me "He is still alive" Metaphorically speaking of course...
  I believe, and this comes from being inspired by both John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen, that it doesn't matter how much talent you have or how good your chops are it doesn't mean a thing if you are an asshole and you don't walk the walk and respect people. Both those guys walked the walk.
   That is what excites me as an artist, songs that touch on that part of the human experience, standing up for what you believe. Freedom.
Dignity in the face of adversity.

SANZ: Can I ask you the stories/inspirations behind these songs
Lunatic Fringe

Life is a highway

No Regrets

Everything comes around

TOM:  "Lunatic Fringe"? It's a lot of things. It is an anti racist song, and a song that endorses tolerance and freedom
     It talks about vigilance against those that would use violence to get there own way whether it's rape or terrorism, or God help us genocide. 
It was important to touch on that, to clarify that.
It was inspired after I read about Raoul Wallenburg and his bravery (Google him)
.
I finished LIAH after my first trip to Africa in 1989 with WV. The people inspired me in that no matter how tough things were, if they had the energy, if they had food, and weren't sick they would show so much joy. They would smile and sing.  Dignity in the face of adversity. 
We saw much pain and suffering especially in war zones like Mozambique.
You have to avoid the guilt though and the idea that you can change things all by yourself, all at once, you can't.
and there in lies the metaphor as follows:
You can't get caught up looking side to side while driving,
you have to watch the road ahead or you'll crash. Do what ever good you can along the way, stay positive on the journey, then keep moving forward.
The good deeds you do spread out from there like ripples on a pond... that's LIAH in a nutshell.
  It kind of diminishes the songs to talk about them too much and not let the listener take ownership of them and their meanings
in his or own way so I'll just say that the others in one way or another touch on the theme of dignity in the face of adversity, and moving forward.

SANZ:  What was it like to get inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame
Also what was it like to receive the highest honour for a Canadian citizen order of Canada 

TOM: Both were exceptional honours. In the  case of the CMHOF there was a lot of hoopla and pressure. Giving a speech on national TV and performing, all of that.
I hadn't even been to the Junos for at least 7 years and what was most humbling was how much respect I got, you know the old pat on the back from younger artists like Sam Roberts,
Nickelback, Alanis Morrisette, to name a few. It's very nice to be acknowledged and respected by your piers.
  The highest honour of my life was receiving  Officer of the  Order Of Canada. It is the highest honour a Canadian can receive. It's like being Knighted in Britain.
Before the investiture or the appointment I thought "How tough can this be? I don't have to say anything, I just have to stand there and listen"
I'll tell you I was shaking all over when Governor General Michaelle Jean put that medal around my neck.
I was overwhelmed by that and never expected it, never saw it coming really.
  I have to remind myself every once and a while, like I said earlier, just how lucky and blessed I've been, it's humbling.
It's been a hell of a great ride.

SANZ: What are your plans for the remainder of 2012/2013
TOM:  I just got back from my 6th trip to Africa with World Vision, 
I've done 9 trips with them counting parts of Asia since 1990.
I love and support the work they do. 
I'm writing right now and working towards getting a recording out in 2013.
I've been saying that for a couple of years now so we'll see if I get it done. 
I feel the need and urgency to create more right now than I have for a long while, it's like a rustling in the trees,
and a ripple on the pond ... maybe soon some wind in the sails?

SANZ: (minor side question Any plans to come and perform in New Zealand in the future)
TOM: I hope to at least do some shows in New Zealand and Australia before I'm done.
maybe that would be one of those fortuitous events I talked about.
To deal with a gnawing career regret and play down there...
where I've received a lot of support over the years ... but never been.
It would be poetic, wouldn't it?


 
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