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INTERVIEW WITH... NELSON

Almost 10 years ago NELSON released their fantastic AOR/Melodic Rock debut 'After the rain' which became a big success in the USA. The first single "Love and affection" reached the number one position in the Billboard Charts. You can't reach more success than this, but after a few more big hitsingles it became quiet around NELSON. There were troubles with their recordcompany Geffen, who at that time were also noticing the change in musicstyle in The States.

It was around 1991 when NIRVANA was suddenly cool and NELSON and that kinda Melodic Rock was uncool. And so it took 5 years before we finally could hear a follow-up, which was titled 'Because they can'. And the past few years the band released many more albums, of which a lot of songs were probably written during the period 1990-1995.

A few months ago we were surprised by a complete new CD titled 'Life' featuring The Nelson Brothers Gunnar and Matthew. This CD saw the brothers returning to the style that made them popular, namely pure AOR/Melodic Poprock while still having an updated 90s sound. 'Life' is a fantastic CD which will be in the top 10 albums of 1999 at the end of this year for sure. And so after so many years hard working THE NELSON BROTHERS finally have found the things they want to play, because besides 'Life' they released another CD titled 'Brother harmony' which is more in the American pop/westcoast/country tradition. And so The Nelson Brothers are pleasing many people at the same time. For us this was the right time to do an interview with The Nelson Brothers. Gunnar and Matthew Nelson answer the questions we have for them and after reading this interview you will fully be informed about the things that are important in the lives of these two guys…

Please tell us about the beginning of NELSON…

Well that was actually a pretty interesting time, Matthew and I had been writing songs for about two to two and a half years with Marc Tanner who wound up being our co-producer and co-writer on much, if not all, of the After The Rain record. Basically what we needed to do was find a band that really embodied the large vision we had for that band. We wanted to be larger than life (a lot of the bands that were out at the time were doing black and white warehouse videos) be colorful, have guys that were infinitely talented and much more capable musicians than what we would demand out of them out of this record.

Funny enough, the first person we came into contact with on this (after putting out the standard advertisements in the music magazines that read that we were looking for a band) was Bobby Rock, who was at the time playing in the Vinnie Vincent Invasion. We went to a music awards show and he was sitting behind us, we met him and put him in our mental note pad. The second guy that we found was a gentleman by the name of Brett Garsed, who wound up being our guitar player. Our manager at the time was a guy named Geoffrey Schoekraft who was from Australia. And he brought us a tape of this unknown guitar player that they had just found on some farm out in the countryside in Australia. It was Brett. We saw the videotape and it was breathtaking.

We were so stunned that we actually went to the trouble of going through immigration and sending Brett from Australia to the US. To work on our album. The next person was Paul Mirkovich, who had worked on our demos. He was just a session guy, putting all of our pre-productions together. He looked like a session guy (he wasn't very hip looking) and he never really went out to tour. He had done some work with Jeffrey Osbourne, which was a different gig. But Paul was truly a gifted keyboard player, so he was actually the last official member to be hired for the band.

We made the After The Rain record with these guys, and the entire time we were making our record we were offering a position in the band to Joey Cathcart as a rhythm guitar player and third vocalist. But, Joey was playing with his family band at the time and had turned us down. He wound up recording the record with us without joining the band, but finally came to us two months after the record was done and said he'd changed his mind about joining.

Unfortunately, all the photos for the album had already been taken. Even so, that was when we added Joey to the Nelson lineup. Joey was the last member. We had our six-member band. That's basically how it all happened and how the guys in the band came together. It was actually a product of assembling the band after the album was written and the vision was really engineered. We really grew to be a very, very strong unit after doing 220 dates on the road. It was kind of the cart before the horse with that particular band. Record written first. Band assembled second.

In 1990 your debut After The Rain sold very well were you stunned by the success?

I don't know if stunned is the right word, but we had always thought that it was a possibility and were prepared for the fact that it could take album after album- three or four records to build a following. So, when our very first single went to #1 on the Billboard charts we were very pleased, to say the least. And it was a great surprise.

Was that a dream come true when the first single "Love & Affection" reached #1 on the billboard charts?

Yeah, it's a dream come true, it was especially a dream come true because it was on our 23rd birthday and it was our first release. Like I admitted… it was even more special for us, granted it's a dream for every musician the world over to have a #1 billboard hit, but for us it was even more special because it put us in the Guinness Book of world records as being the only family in history (the Nelson family) to have three successive generations of #1 hit-makers. That's a fact I am very proud of.

Did you had so much success due to the fact that your father was the famous Rick Nelson?

No- and let me explain why. Our fans at the time were very young. I mean, they were from 12-30 and really not of a generation that was really aware of our father's music or his prominence in the entertainment industry. Your questions are generating from a European country, but here in America our father had a hit TV show, his contemporaries would have been 50 years old at the time. I think our fans were younger than our dad's fans.

I definitely think that once we got the ball rolling it was of benefit because parents would come and take their kids to our shows and they would stay for our shows, instead of just dropping them off like they would unless we were the act playing. So that was also a benefit. It was actually harder getting our foot in the door initially because I don't think people in the music industry here in LA really wanted to give us a break. They felt we didn't need it, they felt that we had things easy I suppose. So it was a little harder to get started.

What did you do between the albums 'After The Rain' and 'Because They Can'?

That's kind of a loaded question. A lot as a matter of fact …things were changing dramatically from when we released the After The Rain record to Because They Can not only in our record company (Geffen records at the time) but with the industry in general. When we released the first record After The Rain, pop metal and melodic rock was really what was happening commercially at the time. Second, the world discovered Nirvana, which coincidentally was broken on our label Geffen.

Geffen was the label (DGC) that released Nirvana, so we experienced a cultural and musical paradigm shift in the world. That really did effect the outlook for Nelson as a viable commodity to our record company and radio in general. It proved to be a very difficult time for us, where before we were the golden children of our label, we became the redheaded stepchildren overnight. It was very, very hard…and not just from an ego point of view but from the fact that, even at our height, we never really felt like we were exploited as fully as we could have been.

We'd sold two and a half million copies of After The Rain with little to no record company support and we always felt that our label for some reason, maybe because of our image, was somewhat embarrassed that we were finding the success that we were finding … so, they were kind of looking for an excuse when Nirvana became cool and we became uncool to abandon ship. We kind of went head to head with the label, we made a record called Imaginator, which was a concept record. Very heavy at the time. We were pretty angry and it reflected in our music. We wanted to release that record of course Geffen did not want us to. They said we want you to go back in the studio and make another record like your first record. Make it much softer.

They basically wanted to get us out of the way and back in the studio where they didn't have to pay us, where they didn't have to release us or support us or anything like they were contractually bound to do. But, that's exactly what they succeeded in doing. That's why it took so long between the After The Rain record and Because They Can which was technically our second release but not our second record. We had made other records since. We made two complete records and went through the whole record company rigmarole and it was really sad.

Because I do think, for a lot of reasons, that Because They Can record is an excellent record, excellent California sounding, organic pop/rock record- it just draws from a different side of our musicality and Geffen just went through the motions and didn't really intend to push that record. That was a shame, I wish at some point they had just told that they were not interested really in trying very hard and we wouldn't have wasted the time. Fortunately we were able to come out with Imaginator after that. That was actually very fortunate for us that turned out to be a good exercise for us. And somewhat of a personal victory.

Please tell us about the success you had in Asia.

Asia was always one of those territories that a lot of American rock bands had success with. It just kind of kept on going. It's somewhat changing now, but they basically like their guitar music. They like their guitar heroes. They like technique. Guitar heroes made music very accessible to them because they didn't speak the language. Matthew & I did several tours of Asia- not just Japan- but Indonesia. Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, you name it… we went and we had a great time doing it. We went with just a couple acoustic guitars and played all of our music. We played to 20,000 every performance. It was really incredible. As a result we have a soft spot in our hearts for Asia in general.

Between '95 and '97 you released three new albums; please tell us about them. Also, about the change in a more west coast like on Because They Can and more hard rock approach on the following two of your melodic music.

I think I've somewhat explained where BTC came from and Imaginator being made first- as definitely a heavier record. I think a really good indicator as to where we're going is the Life record. The Life record pretty much pools all of the resources and talent from the previous records and makes into one cohesive sound. We went into the studio on that record and decided to make the best pop/rock record we could. Basically what we like listening to. And that's what we made…its just full of ear-candy and great grooves and rhythms and a great message. Making simple hooky pop music is a lot more difficult than people think. There's definitely a skill involved. Basically, after making the Brother Harmony record, which was an American pop/country sort of thing, Because They Can which was a little folkier, and After The Rain all that stuff, Life pretty much takes all those different influences and puts it all in one record.

You just released two new records, please tell us about the fantastic new Life CD.

Thank you for the compliment! I just started touching on that. We're very proud of that album, that album is a pull out all the stops and take no prisoners. Having no external record company giving us their input. Which was really great to get back in the studio without second-guessing ourselves. Be able to work off of the energy of my twin and partner Matthew and make the best record we could possibly make. I think that's what we've got. I think it's our best record so far. The feedback I'm getting from critical reviewers as well as fans tends to agree. Its been updated, its not as dated of a sound… and its contemporary no matter when you play it. So I hope everybody enjoys it!

Tell us about the other new album, which is titled 'Brother Harmony' record.

Brother Harmony was really great. The way it came to be was that we have a lot of country influence in our sound, always have. As a matter of fact, that's where the big Nelson vocal harmonies came from - American country music. Having grown up with our father's Stone Canyon Band, we always grew up listening to rock n roll tracks with country vocals. That's what we've got, that's why the Nelson sound really has that in there. And that's what we were able to do with the Brother Harmony record.

We spent a lot of time in Nashville lately, writing with a lot of great writers there. A lot of great guitar players and rock musicians from New York City and Los Angeles have all moved out there in the recent past. That's basically where that record came to be. We've got a couple of great songs on there. My favorite song on that record is a very personal song to our father. Not to exclude anybody else, I mean its dedicated to anybody that's lost somebody, the song is called Just Once More, I suggest you check it out.

Please tell us about the split between the two albums. Do you now play two kinds of music styles; melodic poprock and country?

No, we don't play two different styles. As a matter of fact, it's pretty interesting when you come to see our show, it's a seamless transition between each record. You can't tell when you see us live which song came off of which record because it is very much a very cohesive and focused sound. The only difference is how it's marketed. Don't be put off by it, if you like great pop and rock music you're gonna like both records. They both have something for you.

How has the Life CD been received?

Incredibly well, we sell between 50 and 200 copies of it each and every night that we play. People love the record. I love playing the record, which is always a good sign when an artist makes an album and doesn't get tired of it. That is absolutely the way I feel, I am not tired of this record no matter how much I play it. Actually, I am going right along with all the reviewers that seem to like this particular record the best.

Your kind of music, melodic pop/rock and AOR on Life is unfortunately not so popular in the US at the moment. Do you still have enough fans and will you continue making such melodic poprock in the future?

We're never gonna quit, we are going to play Nelson music. We don't like to categorise what we do. Basically, like I said it's just a marketing term. I think with bands like the Goo Goo Dolls and Smash Mouth and even on the pop side Six Pence None The Richer, guitar oriented pop rock music is on the upswing. It will never go away as long as it's quality and as long as it is good. So we will never stop persevering, we're not beating a dead horse. This is new, modern, fresh music, it's not trying to regurgitate some old formula, when you listen to the Life record, and you'll understand what I mean.

Who influenced you making the kind of music you do on Life? Has Rick Springfield circa Jesse's Girl influenced you? I found that I heard a lot of the songs on Life influence of the early 80s albums of Rick Springfield. Am I right?

Absolutely correct! So funny that you say that, because Rick Springfield was one of my top influences. I was just going through this the other day. Bands the influenced me were everything from the arena rock bands Queen, Boston, Foreigner, Heart, Sweet to more of the 70s-80s pop bands Rick Springfield, The Knack, The Plimsouls, The Raspberries. Basically Nelson is all of that combined with the influences of our dad's music from the Stone Canyon Band and that's exactly what you've got.

I heard about a tribute you're planning for your father Rick Nelson, is that true?

YES, as a matter of act we've already recorded a live CD of a rockabilly show that we did with our dad's music, its called Like Father Like Sons… its available on our Stone Canyon Records label. Available through the World Wide Web… http://www.thenelsonbrothers.com

What are your plans for the next coming months?

We're on tour opening for America and Air Supply and Rick Springfield (of all people), so we're going to be doing about 100 shows in the US. We're also talking to a couple of European companies who actually want to get us over there and play. So stay tuned!

That's great to hear, let's hope you can come over to Europe, maybe some shows with RICK SPRINGFIELD also here in Europe. That would be pretty cool. Do you have any touring plans?

I would love to say Europe as soon as possible, what I would require is demand, even if it's at a small club level, we would be open to doing it. We want to get out there and we want to play. Right now, there are a hundred dates on the books for this year here in America… but the world IS a big place… and we want to play it. Thank you for all of your support. Enjoy the new record… and KEEP ROCKIN' ON!

Well, thanks for doing this interview and for you readers there is only one thing to do as of right now and that is buy this 'Life' record of NELSON if you haven't done already.


 

DISCOGRAPHY NELSON

After the rain Geffen Records 1990
Because they can Geffen Records 1995
Imaginator Victor Japan 1996
The silence is broken Victor Japan 1997
Life Independent 1999
Brother harmony Independent 1999



WEBSITE ADDRESS NELSON BROTHERS: http://www.thenelsonbrothers.com


(A special thanks goes out to Sherry from the Nelson Brothers website for making this interview possible)

 


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