Show Review | Paul Crook
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"I can die happy right now" - Paul Crook
Paul Crook Interview
Debbie Seagle (for Rocknworld):
Paul, with Anthrax, I thought I recognized you. I interviewed John
Bush a few years back and I think I saw you then. Also with Sebastian
Bach and Meatloaf and did I read on your website you did something in Australia
Paul Crook: Close, really
close. What happened in Australia is we recorded a DVD with the symphony
and ironically, Meatloaf’s management also manages YES. So what you
saw was Meatloaf and YES together in the theatre. We didn’t play
with them, but they actually put the two bands together for a theatre thing
– all Regal Cinemas across the country. That’s the only association.
DS: So, it’s safe to say that
you aren’t someone that they just pulled in off the street; you’ve been
around the block a few times?
PC: But you know, ironically, it didn’t even matter. Because
there were guys that auditioned that were just Vegas guys. Actually
the other guitar player in the band, Dave Hornbeck, he has no real track
record as far as touring. He’s just a Vegas guy but he came in and
he slammed. So my track record didn’t, I don’t think helped Brian’s
decision at all. Because if I sucked, I wouldn’t have gotten the
gig, ya know?
DS: Okay, so first I want to talk
to you a little bit about what you are doing here in the show and what
it’s been like working with Brian and getting into their (Queen’s) catalog.
And we’ll end up with some of your experiences here with the show and what’s
going to happen later on in the run. So what do you do? Are
you first guitar, and what does that mean?
PC: Actually I’m second guitar.
I was first guitar.
DS: Oh my. Did I break a
PC: No, no. Not at all.
First guitar and second guitar, both chairs are just as difficult and just
as challenging. It’s just a way to divide the guitar parts.
One doesn’t have precedence over the other. I got moved to guitar
two because guitar two has the "Bo Rap" (Bohemian Rhapsody) solo, it has
the "We Will Rock You" solo and the "Killer Queen "solo and Brian wanted
me to play those. That’s the only reason. Um, I’m sorry, did
I answer the question?
DS: What do you do as second guitar?
What’s your job?
PC: Yeah, I just, hm, Brian’s
parts are really crazy you know? I mean he stacks and layers guitars
everywhere so two guitar players are needed. Myself and Dave, we
just go back and forth answering each other. My day, I guess I start,
I wake up and I’m usually playing guitar all day anyway, at home in my
own studio. I get here about half hour or 45 minutes prior to playing
and I always stop in at the merchandise store and I watch the videos.
It puts me in the mood, it puts me in the frame of mind because you know,
I really respect Brian so much, and when I get up there and I plug in,
first its all about Brian for me. I want to make sure that I’m respecting
the chair and the position he gave me and I want to play my ass off for
him, you know? So I plug in, I think about Brian and I play the best
DS: Well, that’s all anyone can
DS: What does it feel like to
audition for a guitar legend? That must have been wild.
PC: That was . . . terrifying.
DS: (laughs) I can only imagine.
PC: I auditioned for Meatloaf
and Anthrax. It was nothing like auditioning for this. I don’t
know why – it was terrifying.
DS: Did Brian do anything to put
you at ease?
PC: Oh yeah, he’s such a great,
beautiful, gracious guy. Have you met him yet?
DS: I’ve not met him yet, but
I understand he’s a fairly benevolent person.
PC: He’s so wonderful.
He rocks! But there were 57 guitar players.
DS: 57 guys all wanting the same
PC: Yeah, and I remember we
were in New Zealand with Meatloaf, finishing up a tour, an 18 month tour,
and Patti Russo, who’s Killer Queen, she’s been friends with Brian for
a long time. She heard that they were opening this – they were auditioning.
So John Miceli the drummer and I, we were like, holy cow. We emailed
Spike, who’s the MD (music director) in London, and he got us in touch
with Michael Gill who’s general manager here. Okay, so we get here
on a Thursday night, audition is Friday. I go in and I play for about
five minutes. They just stop me and they say can you come back Monday.
Great - yeah, so I stayed here the whole weekend in Vegas with my girlfriend.
DS: In Vegas with nothing to do?
PC: Yeah, nothing to do.
Boring, right? And then Monday came around and we’re all put in this
big room and there are probably 30 guitar players now, at this point.
Brian May came walking in – HOLY COW, you know? Roger Taylor – HOLY
COW! They just started lining bands up. They just assembled
bands. Okay, drums, you on drums, you on bass, you on guitar one,
that kind of thing. And they just went through and they made six
or seven bands and they just kept narrowing it down. So I performed
Monday, we did "One Vision", and "Who Wants to Live Forever", those two
songs. We did that and it was very professional. Brian had
no emotion. He’s like, "thank you very much for coming". That’s
all it was. I’m like, okay, I didn’t think I got the gig. I
was really excited just to meet him. Like wow, I got to play for
Brian, you know? Okay, so I did my gig and I went right to the tequila
bar and did a couple of shots to take the edge off.
DS: I think I would have needed
a shot or two about then!
PC: Right. And about
15 minutes later my phone rang, my cell phone. "Hey Paul, can you
stay another day?" I’m like, yeah!
DS: Right on!
PC: And then the next day
comes around and now there’s only like four guitar players. So we
get in the same routine. They took the other guys first, and then
I go up. "One Vision" has a 5 second intro and Mike Dixon, the conductor,
he starts it off and as the song starts, Brian stands up from across the
room and walks over to me. And he stands right in front of me as
I’m about to start the song. I’m thinking shit, why is he doing this
to me? I’m sweating bullets here. So I start the song and he’s
walking around and he’s right here (motions to the neck of a guitar) and
he’s right here.
DS: Oh my God!
PC: Yeah, I’m freaking out
and then the solo comes, I’ve got to do a solo and he bends down and looks
right at my neck (of the guitar) as I’m playing the solo.
DS: No pressure here.
PC: I’m like, why are you
doing this to me man?
DS: If you can survive that, you
can survive just about anything man. Kudos.
PC: So then the song ended
and he says, really politely, “You know, I couldn’t hear you as well as
I did last night.” I said, “Oh I’m sorry, I’ll turn up for the next
song. He goes, “Nah, sit down. I know what you can do.”
So I’m thinking I’m doomed. So you know, then I go home and five
days later I get a phone call – want to come to Vegas? I’m like,
right on! At that point I was guitar one, so you were right.
Brian thought that those solos were the guitar one book and then he realized,
oh, I made a mistake, I want Paul to play these solos, so I was moved to
DS: So you got the gig!
How do you prepare? How do you dive into Queen’s catalog? How
do you prepare for all of this?
PC: I’ll tell you, as soon
as I got the phone call, I started wood shedding. I played eight
hours a day for three months.
DS: So you had three months to
PC: Yeah, March was the auditions
and I wasn’t due out here until July. I played constantly.
In my truck it was Queen, it was Queen everything and I worked my ass off.
But by the time I got to rehearsals, I could have played the whole London
show, no problem.
DS: I saw the London show, it
PC: Yeah I did too.
DS: What’s it like going from
being in front, being in a rock band in the center of the action, to being
more behind the scenes? Its got to be different for you, cause you’re
not getting that energy feeding back to you.
PC: You know, its completely
different. Its really, really, weird, but at the same time I enjoy
it because I can really just . . .
DS: Concentrate on your music?
PC: No, I can fuck off.
I can really just fuck off. You know, I’m looking, I’m sitting there
and we’re just having a great time with the band.
DS: Having a sip of your beer
. . .
PC: Yeah, you know, whatever
it is. No alcohol allowed in the theatre. But we can talk amongst
the band and I’m not worrying about how I’m looking, I’m not worrying about
how I’m performing, so like you said, I can sit there and I can really
zone in on playing as tight as possible and I get off on that. I
get off on that.
DS: That’s what I would have thought
would be the best part about being in the band area.
PC: Yeah, I get off on kind
of messing around with John the drummer, playing ahead or behind the pocket
because you’re so focused you can do that. You’re not worried about
running over to that point to make a statement, or banging your head over
here, you know? The other part is, being that there is a curtain;
we don’t see the audience, so you end up really playing for each other
– the eight of us. I love this band.
DS: So it’s kind of like an intimate
jam session really.
PC: Yeah, and all we’re doing, we’re just trying to play the
best we can for each other when we’re up there. I’m always thinking
about Brian, don’t get me wrong. This is Brian May and I respect
his chair so much. I’m going to play my ass off every night, but
it’s for the guys too. You want to make sure that you’re hitting
it, because you don’t want to embarrass the guys. You just want to
be the best you can because the guys up there are incredible musicians.
DS: Not only that, but you’ve
got Queen fans, like old buzzards like me from back in the day, who actually
saw Queen live . . .
PC: Right on!
DS: We’ve just kind of been starving
out here to hear that music live again. This isn’t a cover band.
These are people chosen, selected personally by Brian, by Roger.
PC: What an honor.
DS: For sure. I mean, you’ve
got these Queen fans out there and they’re like hey, Freddie’s dead, the
band is done, but I’m still going to hear live Queen music tonight.
What a thrill.
PC: It’s great. Yeah,
I wish I could hear it out front but I haven’t been able to. So I
don’t know what it sounds like out there.
DS: Well I was here in September,
when the show first got started in Las Vegas, and I had just come from
London and I had been at the London show and you know, people are wild
at the London show. Everybody’s up, everybody’s rocking. They’ve
got their lighters . . . they’re doing the Radio GaGa clap and stuff.
PC: Yeah, I enjoyed that.
DS: But when I was here, it had
just gotten started and people were just sitting in their seats.
I’m like, hello! Come on, let’s party.
PC: How weird is that?
DS: I know. It freaked me
PC: It was great when the
Queen fan club showed up. Oh, that was the best. The crowd
was so crazy!
DS: When did they come?
PC: Opening week. And
then the Meatloaf fan club showed up and that was great too.
DS: What’s the most difficult
song in the catalog to play?
PC: "No One But You".
It’s a ballad and technically, it’s a piece of cake but dynamically it
is unbelievable. It was so hard just to get the whole band on the
same page. There’s such dynamic parts coming up and down and as a
unit, that was the hardest song. On a technical end, probably "The
Seven Seas of Rye" is really difficult on guitar.
DS: Yeah, I would have picked
that one I think.
PC: That’s a tough one.
DS: Are you copying Brian’s style?
Are you trying to copy it exactly or are you putting your own twist on
PC: It depends on the song.
Things like "Bo Rap" or "We Will Rock You" I try to play as exact as I
can. Exact to my ability. The think about Brian is his vibrato,
the way shakes his string is so unbelievable passionate. I could
never . . . I’m no where near his passion. And I don’t know how he
gets there. It’s amazing.
DS: Do you ever wonder as a band,
are we in the same place as they were? How do we get ourselves in
PC: Yeah, that’s what I was
talking about with "No One But You". It took so long for all of us
to get in that same area. But on a guitar standpoint, its completely
different because he (Brian) is such an incredible player that I’m maybe
there once a year, where every time he plugs that thing in, he’s there.
I don’t know how he does it. It freaks me out. He’ll plug in
and hit one note and he’ll make me cry, you know?
DS: There is only one Brian May.
PC: Yeah, he’s incredible.
Definitely he’s what? Top ten in the world ever.
DS: I remember being in the audience
though, in September, hearing you play and thinking wow, he nailed that
PC: Oh right on, thanks.
DS: Yeah, you nail those parts.
I’d have to say that you shred and you do Brian proud.
PC: Well you know, that’s
me and Dave, depending on the solo. Like Dave plays "Crazy Little
Thing Called Love". Dave plays that song.
DS: I was thinking particularly
of "Bo Rap".
PC: Yeah, that’s mine.
DS: Did Brian offer you any kind
of tips once you got the part? Have you gotten a chance to work with
PC: Yeah, I have discovered
a Brian May weakness.
DS: Oh-oh, do you want me to stop
PC: No, no I love this.
I figured it out. All I have to do is turn my amp on in this room
and if he’s anywhere in ear shot he gets drawn to it. He has to come
DS: Ha! Fire her up!
PC: I know. And so I
just, if I know he’s in town, I’ll just come down here and play guitar
here and I’ll turn my amp up and he has to walk in. And when he walks
in, we’ll play for three or four hours at a shot.
PC: Yeah and he’s shown me
everything. Every little nuance, everything. The way he fingers
every chord, every song, he’s shown me everything. We spent several
weeks together, just playing guitar.
DS: What an incredible experience
you are taking away from this gig.
PC: Yeah, I can die happy
DS: Are you playing with a sixpence
PC: (laughs) I tried
but I can’t do it. But to make up for it, I’m using metal picks.
Just to get the attack. I can’t do the sixpence. I can’t control
it like he does. I tried so hard!
DS: Working with Brian and with
Roger, did anything surprise you about those two? Did you think anything
about them before you met them and now you just kind of say wow, I had
PC: There is no ego.
Not even the slightest bit of ego with these guys. They have so much
respect just for lack of a better word, for the brotherhood of musicians,
God, just the sweetest guys you could ever meet.
DS: Tell me that they’re fun.
I want to know that they are fun.
PC: Incredible. We were
drinking last night until 2:00 a.m. I got ripped on tequila.
DS: Good, because you would have
shattered my world if you said they were no fun.
PC: Oh they’re a lot of fun
and Roger is a trip. He has me in hysterics.
DS: He’s got that dry wit that
I really love.
PC: Yeah, he is funny.
DS: What’s been the most memorable
moment so far doing these shows?
PC: The rehearsal for the
opening night party. We were at a rehearsal studio across town and
I walk in the room and there’s, wow, Brian May’s rig and the red special
guitar. The original guitar he owns. It really hit me at that
point. I was like, wow. And they come in, Roger Taylor comes
in, Brian comes in and Steve Lukather came in and we started playing songs.
I’ll never forget "Stone Cold Crazy", cause that’s my favorite Queen song.
Brian started the feedback on it and it actually brought tears to my eyes.
I was in the room and I’m like, oh my God, I’m actually playing this.
Roger kicked it in and that was the most incredible moment, I think, of
my whole career. Just sitting in that small room with those guys.
DS: That’s something you will
definitely never forget. What an experience. When I was watching
the show in London and then again here in Las Vegas, I was wondering to
myself, would Freddie be proud of this show? I could almost feel
Freddie smiling down on this and saying “Yeah, this is my style.”
What do you think? Do you think Freddie is proud of these productions?
PC: Totally. How could
he not? Its beautiful. I don’t know what else to say.
DS: No words huh?
PC: It’s a beautiful thing.
This totally celebrates Freddie’s life.
DS: What do you think of the upcoming
PC: Oh, I just . . . I was
talking to Brian about it last night. They better come to the States.
DS: Take me with you . . .
PC: I know, I would just love
to be his roadie for it.
DS: I would too. I’d tune
his guitars all day.
PC: Please come to the States!
DS: I hope they come to the States.
PC: Brian is really excited
about Paul Rogers. He says he does things to the songs that are just
incredible. He makes them his own without destroying the legacy of
what Freddie Mercury is.
DS: Its bound to be a little controversial.
PC: It already is. I’m
hoping that Deacon decides to come into it.
DS: I think that would be so incredible.
He’s just kind of been laying low for a long time and that’s his prerogative.
He’s worked really hard and if he wants to retire, God bless him.
But I think that with John Deacon aboard it will really feel like Queen
is back. Not with Freddie. Not the same, but Queen is back,
and as close as anyone in this generation is ever going to come.
PC: Totally. There’s
no reason why they shouldn’t do it. They are Queen. I don’t
care about these people writing in with negative comments.
DS: For the record, that was Paul’s
PC: Let them play. Freddie
is unfortunately gone.
DS: And you know what? There’s
never going to be another Freddie.
PC: Yeah, and they’re not
trying to replace him.
DS: There’s no one on Earth like
him anymore, so why bother?
PC: So let them play.
DS: I can’t imagine it dying with
three musicians with all of that still in them. You would be surprised
at the demographic, the age range of Queen fans. There’s a whole
uprising in high school age kids that are Queen fans that are just so hungry
to hear the roots, the real stuff from back in the 70s and 80s.
PC: You know even the kids,
the guitar players, they hear "Bo Rap" or "Brighten Rock" and they want
to play it. Brian has touched every guitar player alive and every
guitar player who’s about to play he’s touched. All these young kids.
DS: Speaking of every guitar player,
I think you were probably a good friend of Dimebag’s.
PC: Yeah, he was one of my
really good friends. I was at the funeral on Tuesday. I flew
up to Dallas for it.
DS: What a tragic story.
PC: Its horrific. Its
DS: It occurred to me that there
is kind of a parallel of tragedy. Freddie’s death, and then in a
completely different way, Dimebag’s death. And its kind of scary.
What do you think this is going to do to musicians who are still going
out there on stage every night?
PC: I tell you, at this ceremony,
the memorial ceremony at the convention center in Arlington, I was in the
VIP room and every metal band that you could think of was there.
We were all there, just sharing our Dimebag stories because he touched
all of us. Everybody is buckling down on security. There’s
no more stage diving now, which is such a big part of metal, you know?
Kids come on stage and they’ll bang their heads and they’ll jump off and
its great. Its fun. Not any more. I was just hanging
out with Slayer on Wednesday night at the House of Blues and they have
security stacked on both sides now. Nobody is allowed on stage.
Anybody comes close to the stage and they’re knocked out. Its changed
DS: Its pretty bad that you’ve
got to worry about stuff like that. That’s what the world is coming
to, but I hope it doesn’t put a damper on people’s creative spirit and
their need to go out and play and feel the energy of the crowd. I
hope it doesn’t overshadow that because that is what being a musician is
PC: Oh Dimebag. What
an incredible person he was. There’s a real funny story, we were
on tour in North America and we were hanging out at a hotel. We were
in the hallway of the hotel sitting on the floor, on the rug. I don’t
know why, we were just sitting on the rug. Had a bottle of Crown
Royal, which was Dimebag’s favorite thing – whiskey. And there were
three of us. It was me, Dime and his buddy Bobby. And we started
talking about the music biz and money and stuff and he says to me, he called
me Kavorkian, Dr. Kavorkian. He said “you know Kavorkian, I just
hope that I have enough money to get a new liver when this is all over.”
And that’s Dimebag. That was him.
DS: You know, if you’ve got the
money, go for it! Yeah, he’ll be missed. I think we should
put his name in the “Only The Good Die Young” sequence in the show.
PC: You know, I was talking
to Brian about it, there’s that sequence in the show for" No One But You"
when they show Randy Rhodes and Stevie Ray Vaughn and he’s going to do
the best he can to get Dimebag in that sequence.
DS: Yeah, well, he belongs there.
That’s a fitting tribute.
PC: That song is completely
different for me now when I play it.
DS: I’m sure it is.
PC: On Friday of last week,
it’s the first time I played it after I heard about the shooting and I
broke down up on stage up there. I just lost it as I was playing
DS: Well, I’m sorry to end our
interview on such a down note.
PC: That’s okay. We’re
celebrating. Celebrating Dimebag’s life. And Freddie.
DS: And with Freddie, as long
as you guys are up there doing your thing and paying tribute, Freddie lives
and Queen’s music lives and as a big Queen fan, I thank you.
PC: Thank you and thank Brian,
Roger and Ben (Elton). Learn
more about Paul at Metalloaf.com
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