By Jeb Wright
Loverboy mixed hard rock with pop sensibility, resulting in a band that appealed to both guys and girls. The formula worked, leading Loverboy down the road of Platinum success.
The band had hit, after hit, in the early to mid 1980’s and are still out on the road playing their tunes to enthusiastic audiences around the world. Now, in 2012, the band has released a new album, courtesy of Frontier Records, that includes three new songs, as well as several of their classics, re-recorded live.
Vocalist Mike Reno, as famous for his red leather pants as he is for his voice, discussed the logic behind only releasing three new songs with us in the interview that follows. He also tells of a full moon that brought out the famous scream in “Turn Me Loose” and why the band has been reluctant to make new albums.
One thing is for sure; no matter if Loverboy is sitting atop the charts, or playing a nostalgic show to their diehard fans, they are still loving every minute of it.
Jeb: You have a new album and it is coming out on a great label, Frontiers Records.
Mike: You know what? The other day I said to Paul, “Thank God,” because none of the other record companies give a shit anymore.
They told us they would like to do an international release; gave us money to pay for our recording bill and they said that if we want to do another record then that opportunity will be there. I thought, “Finally, somebody is getting it.” I went and looked at their roster and they have a lot of great bands on there.
Jeb: They are really doing well around the world and they are making efforts to make things better in the American market for bands such as Loverboy.
Mike: I couldn’t be happier about it. So far, they have been just amazing to work with.
Jeb: When Loverboy first broke, the music business was still about music first and business second.
Mike: Why can’t the other people that used to do it keep doing it? I am glad that they handed the baton over to a company that really wants to do it and really is passionate about the music.
Jeb: The album has three new songs on it and the rest are remakes of the classic Loverboy hits. Why not do an entire new album?
Mike: Here’s what really happened: I was talking to Frontiers about doing a new record. We put out a new record in 2007 and nobody bought it. Before that, all of our records sold millions of copies. I guess it is the computer age where people don’t buy records anymore. If that is the case, why should I go spend one hundred thousand dollars to make a record and never get it back? I was really disheartened.
A couple of months ago, I talked to my friend, Bryan Adams, and he told me that all people want to hear is “Summer of 69” and that they don’t give a rats ass about new music.
I realized that is kind of true. However, we were working on some new stuff. We can’t help but work on new stuff, even if we don’t have plans to put it out because that is what we do.
With Frontiers, things were different. We had a bunch of live tracks from one night that we recorded and we were on fire. We knew we wanted to release them to allow the fans to hear how the songs have changed a little bit, here and there, over the years. They are not remakes, they are actual live versions.
We had these three new songs and Frontiers said that we should give the fans these new songs. They offered us another chance. They provided great service to us and we are glad to do this record, I just hope people will support it. People ask why we don’t do records anymore and the answer is that nobody buys them and they are still expensive to make.
Jeb: So, these songs are live tracks without the audience cheering.
Mike: That is exactly what they are. We have some different arrangements of the songs. One of the songs, “Hot Girls in Love,” has a huge jam in the middle of it. We just happened to record these songs one night when everyone was playing amazing. We thought it was an interesting concept to do it this way and we think people will dig it.
Jeb: Some bands are doing this so they can get more money from commercials and movies. Is that part of what is going on?
Mike: It never entered our minds on this record. The deal for me is that I don’t want to cut the head of the snake off. If Camry wants to use “Working for the Weekend” then we end up making a lot of money off of that. EMI has promoted that song all of these years, so we get a cut and they get a cut and everybody’s happy. I would never want to cut them off, as we have had a thirty year relationship with those people. I would never try to cut Sony or EMI out of a project because I think that is bad business. Some bands have good reason to do it, as they signed horrible deals. We never got caught up in that, as our managers negotiated really good deals for us.
Jeb: How does the audience reaction help to keep the old tunes fresh, that you’ve played night after night?
Mike: For us, it is all about the audience. When we played in Sturgis last, there were twenty some odd thousand people there and when they liked a song they would all rev up their motorcycles. We had to stop between songs because there was so much noise. All of these bikers were singing along to every word to every song. That is what Loverboy is all about. I consider Loverboy to be a live band.
We were running a little late last night and I said to Paul, “We have to drop a song as we are running late. We have to drop ‘Working for the Weekend’.” Paul said, “Are you fucking crazy?” So, we went over time but we played it.
Jeb: People change over the years. When you sat and listened to these songs, did you realize just how much the songs had changed over the years?
Mike: The song, “Always on My Mind,” is a song that we don’t play all that often. I actually changed the words to it. One night we were asked to play longer, so we decided to play that one. The crowd was eating it up. There were 7500 people in the venue and they just would not let us leave. We were playing these songs that we had not played in a while and I messed up the lyrics to that song. Since these were live versions, we left it the way it was done and we did not go fix it.
Jeb: Tell me about the three new songs. Are they classic Loverboy?
Mike: We went into Bryan Adams studio in Vancouver, which is a top of the line studio called The Warehouse. We were invited there by Bob Rock, our engineer, back in the beginning of Loverboy. Now, he is a super, super, super successful producer. It was his idea to go in the studio. He said, “Let’s go in the studio this weekend as I have some time off and cut some tracks.”
We went in and we set up and we started playing and Bob Rock was there and he was rocking. He said he gets a kick out of working with real musicians, as a lot of times, everything is recorded one track at a time and it is really clinical and really boring. Bob said that he has to do that a lot but we did three songs and we got them finished over a weekend. Everybody had a ball and we all had a great time. The new songs really sound like Loverboy, as that is what we do.
Jeb: Loverboy is great live but you never get the respect of your live show in the press.
Mike: Critics never really liked us. They made fun of us and treated us with little, to no, respect. We were selling five million records a year and we were selling out every concert. No matter what, critics always found something negative to say about us.
One guy said that I was running around like a moose on roller skates. I clipped that one out and put it up in my office. If that is the most negative thing you can say about me then go for it. They call us a pop band and pop means popular, which is okay by me.
Jeb: When you decided to call the band Loverboy did you ever wonder if you were setting yourself up for critics to make fun of you.
Mike: Good question. Paul and I were hanging out with our girlfriends – this is over thirty years ago. The girls were reading Cosmopolitan and Vogue and I said, “Look at how good these cover girls look on these magazines.” Paul shoots up and says, “Let’s call ourselves Cover Boy.” We were putting effort into coming up with a look instead of just showing up in blue jeans and a t-shirt. I thought about it and said, “That’s not half bad.” I got a call the first thing the next morning and it was Paul. He said, “We will call ourselves Loverboy. If we don’t the shit kicked out of us in the first ten days then maybe it will catch on.”
Jeb: I think you influenced a lot of bands. You had the hard rock side of the band but you also appealed to the female audience.
Mike: I didn’t want a room full of guys; I wanted some chicks there. I figured that if the chicks would show up then the guys would follow.
Jeb: Have you thought of doing a DVD?
Mike: We are going to shoot some video this year. We are doing a lot of summer shows, so we are waiting until we play some indoor shows. We are also writing songs and we will probably take Frontiers up on their offer to make another Loverboy album. You could say that we’re loving every minute of it.
Jeb: You have a powerful singing voice but when you talk, you sound like a regular guy. How do you bring that power from your voice?
Mike: I dig pretty deep to sing these songs. I can’t sing softly. People ask me to sing stuff when they see me in restaurants or something. I will break out into “Almost Paradise” and I can’t do it softly. Everyone looks at me and it is funny. I talk softly because I am trying to save my voice and it seems to be working for me.
Jeb: Last one: Tell me the story behind the creation of “Turn Me Loose.”
Mike: You’re in luck because that is one of my favorite stories. Bob Rock and the band were all recording and it was time to review some of the guitar parts. I took the day off. Now, this is back in the day where if you changed anything, you had to change the reel and you had to change the board and redo everything by hand and it took hours.
I was driving around and I just had this feeling that I wanted to go back to the studio and sing “Turn Me Loose.” I went in and they said, “No, we have moved on and it will take hours to do it.”
Bob Rock said I could do it, so the guys were kind of mad at me. Bob took the reels off and he reset the entire board. The guys started playing the song and Bob got me a really good headphone mix. They looked at me like, “Okay, brilliant man, go sing the song.” I sang the song and that time I put the scream in the song, as the scream was not in the song up to that point. After I did it, I gave them a thumb’s up and I took my headphones off and went outside. I took a deep breath of cool air and looked up and it was a full fucking moon. I went, “Wow!”