EARL SLICK AND LISA RONSON
4th May 2016
Q: Earl, I went back through the albums and I can’t figure out where you guys first met. Care to fill us in?
ES: Backtrack a bit…I’m a huge Stones fan so I was very familiar with Bernard’s work and three years ago, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame does this thing called the Music Masters series where once a year, they honour someone who has been inducted already- you don’t have to be dead which is kind of cool - and I had done the Chuck Berry one the year before. The only way to get invited was to have some kind of association and I had played with Chuck before, Keith had played on one of my records and Mick did Dancing In The Streets with David which I was also on so the connection was there and that’s where I met Bernard. There was a whole bunch of us. Bobby Keyes was there Mac (Ian McLagan) – both of which are not with us anymore – Sarah Dash was there, Merry Clayton…it was great and they put me and Bernard on to open the show and as soon as we got on stage – whack! I could feel it. We stayed in touch and there were a couple of other events we did together and then I was approached to do this. The idea of doing Station To Station was appealing to me because of all the records I did with David, this was the one I was most involved with as far as the sound of the record and that’s why I agreed to do it but they wanted a British Bowie-esque singer and I said no. If I do it, I have to do it the way I need to do it because he’s not going to be here – and this is before he was sick. Then I was contacted again last and I welcomed it with open arms because they had the right singer and without the rioght singer it was never going to happen.
Q: Lisa, what’s your earliest memory of this man?
LR: It was in the studio. I was recording my album called Emperors Of Medieval Japan (released November 2015) and Reeves Gabrels was coming down to do some work on it. Earl on his day off happened to be visiting Reeves and said “I’m going down to do this session; do you want to come along?” and Earl said “Sure” and rocked up. He didn’t know who I was.
ES: Well I met you when you were smaller but you don’t remember. It was weird because Reeves didn’t tell me who it was and I didn’t ask but I was looking at her and thinking ‘Something is very familiar about this…’ and then I put it together. I think I said “Is your last name Ronson?’…
LR: Then we said “Do you fancy jumping on this track?” and so we got Earl on it too which was a major bonus.
Q: Earl your last release was Zig Zag in 2003; you must have a nice collection of songs you’ve written since then unreleased, any chance of a new album soon?
ES: I have two albums in the can but I don’t know what the fuck to do with them.
Q: That’s the problem these days isn’t it?
Q: The whole business has changed since you went into it and Lisa you’re the next generation down; how do you feel about the business these days?
ES: We were bitching about the business ten years ago, twenty years ago, thirty years ago, forty years ago and fifty years ago and we’re still bitching about it. Something new comes along, you go ‘What the fuck is this?’ and then if you’ve got a half a brain, you figure out how to use it. The record sales situation is one thing but the part that has changed is building a fan base because of the way they buy them. Like Lisa’s Emperors, they will buy one track and there’s your problem because there’s no more buying a body of work.
Q: How about you Lisa? You seem to do ok on the social media.
LR: Yeah and I agree with Earl that things change and are always going to continue to change. I think you have to be in it because you love it. You can’t really count on making a living out of it any more and it’s washing away all of that debris of the people who just wanted to get in it to make a lot of money. You can make stuff so quickly sitting in your bedroom now that it has created a lot of opportunities to create without having a lot of cash.
ES: You see that’s the way to look at it. Most of the old fucks like me don’t get that but I do get that. I’ve got enough background so I can still go out and play which is what I do for a living but record sales wise? That is not something I am looking at counting on to be the way they were. It’s gone, it’s changed and I’m still figuring out how to use that. I do have something up my sleeve though that will be coming out in the next twelve weeks – one track and it’s a whopper!
Q: I first saw you Leicester DeMontfort Hall June ’77, Ian Hunter’s Overnight Angels. Ian has gone on record stating that he feels the album was a mistake, not musically but in his career, what’s your take on it and the tour that baffled all of Ian’s fans there that night because it wasn’t well attended?
ES: My take on it is the same as David Bowie did and everybody else does. If you make a record or do a tour and your life is fucked-up at the time, then the record and the tour are fucked-up. That’s all. He was having major management problems at the time which started right when we started the tour and to be honest with you, I think some parts of that record could have been done better.
Q: But you rock on that record; the band rocks on that record…
ES: Yeah it wasn’t that: I think Bill Price did a better job on England Rocks than the other guy (Roy Thomas Baker) did on the rest of the album.
Q: I agree with you.
ES: It was overproduced. I don’t know if that was a mistake but that’s Ian’s take on it and I can’t argue because I know what was going on at the time – the shit was hitting the fan and whenever that happens, your memories…you know, my memories of Young Americans are shit! I hated making that record.
Q: I know you have a good guitar collection: do you still have the white Les Paul you had from that ’77 tour?
ES: It was stolen. That was the guitar that I used on Station To Station and there’s actually a picture of David with that guitar during the sessions - if you look hard enough you’ll find it – and then I used it with Ian. We were rehearsing in upstate New York and one of the roadies who was working for us, cleaned us out.
Q: I remember it because it was the first time I had ever seen a white Les Paul.
ES: Well you know what it was? It was a 20th Anniversary - which actually came out in the 22nd year – and I got one of the first ones they made. That guitar would be worth a lot of money now.
Q: Lisa, what was your first time on stage?
LR: I was in a band in New York called The Secret History but before that I can remember being about six years old and I came out onstage for Lisa Likes Rock ‘n’ Roll with Ian Hunter and yelled “here’s my daddy!” at the right moment and looked out at however many thousands of people in the audience. That was pretty scary.
Q: The adrenalin rush must have been amazing.
LR: I was terrified! Six years old and my Mom was going ‘Get out there!’
Q: A lovely story to end on. Thank you both very much.
LR: Thank you.