Well, well…Billy Sheehan! Glad to have you on the site man. These interviews are always a lot of fun, and I'm sure this one with you will be no different. So lets get started shall we? Lets start off with some easy questions (later I'll be asking at what point two trains cross. One leaving Chicago traveling east at 5pm traveling 70 mph and the other leaving New York City at 6:15pm traveling west traveling 65mph).
AF: Currently, what is your favorite piece of gear?
BS: A Baritone Fender Strat--tuned B E A D F# B. It's so heavy! But it's still a REAL Strat.
AF: When you go out on tour, what are some of your “touring essentials?” i.e. ipod, books, etc.
BS: My 250 gig drive of iTunes! (It's almost full, so I'll be moving to a 500 gig)--I have my entire music collection in there. Lots of socks! A set of strings for each show (plus extras).
AF: When you're on the road, how do you like to spend your free time?
BS: There is very little, which is fine by me. I get into a routine: I get to the venue, set up a spot & start warming up & playing. I have my coffee there & some water and spend hours at it! If it's a singing tour, I'll have my iTunes going & will be singing along to a zillion songs after while.
2 hours before show I start to really heat up my playing, then one hour before, I get dressed and fine tune my bass. I don't eat before a show, so if there's no food after, I'm out of luck! On a day off, I try to find a great restaurant CLOSE BY the hotel, then hang & have a few drinks w/ the crew or whoever is around. It's a blast!
AF: I actually don't like to eat much before a show either. Something small at most. And if there's no food after, not only am I out of luck, but so is anyone within 30 feet of me. I tend to get a little grouchy when I'm hungry.
AF: In the spirit of the season, do you remember your favorite Halloween costume as a kid?
BS: We always improvised. Some oddball mask & weird clothes to match. Halloween was even more important than Christmas for us! We'd start planning early September! We'd map out our route for candy, remembering who had good stuff from the year before. We'd go out the night before on "Beggars Night" with different costumes, so we wouldn't blow it for the big night. Eventually, I invented "leftover's night" where we'd see if anyone had anything left the night after---it worked too! People would dump the whole candy dish into our bags just to get rid of it. The streets where lined with zillions of kids. Nobody got hurt & nothing weird happened. It's sad that it isn't like that any more.
AF: Oh my God. You are seriously the candy king. Why…why did I never think of such things?!?!?!?! “Left overs night” is complete genius. Wow! I'm blown away here. Good thinkin' man! You're right though, its unfortunate that things aren't the way they used to be.
AF: I'm hungry right now and I can't help but think of food. Its my weakness! The talk about candy is not helping either. So let me ask…what is your favorite meal?
BS: Indian or Thai. I'm an excellent cook, if I do say so my self, but I don't cook Indian or Thai.
AF: Have you seen any good movies lately?
BS: Not really. I'm WAY behind on my movies. No time. Darn.
AF: Now you've done some unbelievable tours and shared the stage with some amazing players. But is there one moment in your career that stands out as being most memorable on tour?
BS: I remember rehearsals for the Eat'em & Smile tour. We'd been together many months and finished the record. We'd hung out a zillion times & partied extensively and effectively, so I was pretty used to being around Dave Roth. But, at one moment, while I was singing the high harmonies to "I'm On Fire", Dave came over & sang with me---and then it hit me. I"M IN A BAND WITH DAVID LEE ROTH!! (Who, at the time '85/'86, was THE BIGGEST ROCK STAR EVER). It blew my mind.
In Mr. Big, we played in front of about 100,000 people in Brazil ---that was unreal. The ARMY had to be called in to stop the show & control the crowd. Amazing.
AF: Wow. What a rush both of those must have been. And by the way, I like the phrase “…partied extensively and effectively”. Hilarious!
AF: What do you like better…touring or being in the studio?
BS: Touring of course. The studio exists to set things up to tour!
AF: Hmm…well said.
AF: If you could have any other job, besides being a musician, what would you be?
BS: I'd own a bikini shop.
AF: Are you hiring?
AF: What was the last concert you got to attend as a spectator?
BS: Bryan Adams in Milan , Italy . He sang his ass off! I toured opening for Bryan in Mr. Big & became acquainted with him. Great guy & amazing songwriter.
AF: What were some of your favorite TV shows as a kid growing up?
BS: Twilight Zone, The Munsters , Addams Family, Original Sat. Night Live w/ Belushi. I'm old, so I saw the original Tonight Show before Johnny! Then when Jay Leno took over, I got to sit in chair #1 when Mr. Big was on---it had been my dream since I was a kid. Pretty cool.
AF: Time for a variation of my standard question! I'm taking a bit of a poll. What is your favorit: IHOP/Wafflehouse?
BS: IHOP, because of the Butter Pecan Syrup, but I'm WAY low carb now, so I almost never eat that stuff.
AF: I don't know about anyone else, but I'm always up for finding new music. Any albums you're listening to right now that you'd recommend?
BS: I'm always tracking down old records on CD. I have a zillion bootlegs of some of my faves: Bowie, Hendrix, Rory Gallagher. Some new stuff. I liked an "As I Lay Dying" I got. I'll get more suggestions soon.
AF: When you get'em, send them over my way will ya? =)
AF: Do you remember the first record you ever bought was? There's no way in hell I'll admit mine.
BS: As I said---I'm old, so my first record was a 45. It was "Eight Miles High" by the Byrds, flip side "Why". Both had AMAZING 12 string guitar that inspired me heavily (I play a lot of 12 string Baritone these days). My first LP was "Having a Rave-Up with “The Yardbirds". I was, and still very much am a music fan. My collection is all over the map stylistically.
AF: Where is your favorite vacation spot?
BS: Anyplace with palm trees, sun, & sand! And beer (or red wine)
AF: My suggestion: Siesta Key in Sarasota , FL. Private beach . Soft white sand and small. Its perfect! I can give you the name of a great condo to stay in if you're intested. I've gone there for 20 years now and it just keeps getting better.
AF: What is your favorite season of the year?
BS: The Fall. It smells so incredible. The air is cool & dry.
AF: Walk us through a day of Billy Sheehan (on tour).
BS: I kind of did earlier. I don't do much other than concentrate on making the 2 hours or so on stage the absolute focus of everything I do. It's the most important thing in my life.
AF: Walk us through a day of Billy Sheehan (off tour).
BS: I answer a billion emails! I try to respond to them all---I'm happy to hear from so many wonderful people who are kind enough to write. I wish I had more time for it.
AF: That is very cool of you man. What a virtue to have.
AF: If you could play with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be? Granted, you've already played with some of the world's greatest but besides them.
BS: Paco DeLucia is one for sure---he's a living legend. My first concert ever was Jimi Hendrix---of course I'd love that. He changed my life.
AF: And finally…What's coming up in your near future?
BS: I just finished tracking drums for my newest solo CD! I'll go on tour in a few weeks with Tony MacAlpine & Virgil Donati--"The Devil's Slingshot". It's an instrumental thing thats an absolute blast. I'll return home end of November & finish my CD. I hope to have it out early next year. It is as yet unnamed.
AF: Tony MacAlpine & Virgil Donati?! Okay. If you come to Ohio or any place close to Cincinnati , I'll be there. That's an amazing line-up. That's great man, good luck with the tour and album. I'm sure both will be unbelievable.
AF: Billy, thanks so much for doing this interview. It was a true pleasure. Hopefully you enjoyed it! Any last words or plugs for the readers?
BS: My pleasure! As I said, I'm always happy to hear from anyone by email. My website: www.billysheehan.com has a "click here to email me" button. It does actually go to me & I read it personally. I'll try to answer if I can. Also MySpace of course--I think its MySpace.com/billysheehan Thanks for having me here! See you around.
All images used with permission of Billy Sheehan.