Rock Servatorio Interviews Paul Bonrud in Spain (Entrevistas en Español)
Mariano Crespo of Rock Servatorio interviewed Paul Bonrud regarding the new bonrud CD. The site no longer exists. An English translation is available here.
You have been a musician for a long time, though it is now when you make your solo debut. First of all we would like you to tell us about your career: when did you start in music, records you recorded for others, collaborations, compositions you have made for others, etc…..
I started playing music as a child. I sang, played piano, violin, and baritone horn. I began playing guitar as a teen and I was hooked immediately! I began playing in bands and eventually ended up doing session work. I’ve played on CD’s for Jennifer Hunter, Side Show, and Jim Evans among others. I co-wrote three songs on one of the last Jim Evans CD’s. I’ve collaborated on quite a few other songs for other artists that haven’t been released yet.
Not only you play guitar, we could say you are a multi-instrumentalist. How did you learn how to play all the instruments?
I’m primarily self taught on the guitar, bass, and drums. I’m actually a pretty bad drummer but I love getting behind the kit to bash out an AC/DC beat! I took piano, violin, and baritone horn lessons when I was younger. I got some great pointers on the guitar from my good friend Tim Compton. I was already playing in bands when I met Tim but he really took me under his wing and taught me how to rock. Tim is a gifted guitarist who played in Lynn Allen and Mariah. If there was any justice in the world, he would be a household name. Tim cowrote a song with Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora along with Jimmy Dilella back when Jimmy and Tim were in Mariah. Incidentally, Jimmy played in Waysted and was a founding member of Tyketto and wrote their hit song “Forever Young”. Johnny Dee ended up playing drums for Mariah once he split with Britny Fox.
What instrument do you feel more comfortable with?
Guitar without question! I consider myself primarily a guitarist but play all of the other instruments when necessary.
You are also a producer. Tell us about it.
It’s actually a lot of fun playing the other instruments and I feel my familiarity with them is a real asset when it comes to writing, arranging, and producing songs. The more skills you have, the more valuable you become. I’ve always been the musical leader in every band I’ve been in since I tend to see the big picture more than anyone else. I’m the guy that suggests changes, fills, how things should be played, etc…So, it was only natural that I became a producer. I also hear music three dimensionally. I feel like I’m in the middle of the songs and hear all of the parts around me and how they all interact. It’s all of these skills (combined with my engineering background) that really allow me to produce.
Do you also sing? If so, why didn’t you record the vocals?
I sang the background vocals and lead vocals on some of the demos but my voice isn’t outstanding enough for lead vocals. That’s why I found myself a great vocalist like Dave Hendricks. Part of being a good producer is knowing when someone isn’t cutting the mustard. In this case, I realized my lead vocals weren’t going to be good enough. It’s always harder to tell someone else that they aren’t doing something good enough. Some people take constructive criticism well while others do not. Occasionally you run into problems where someone thinks they are the greatest thing since sliced bread and they don’t see their own weaknesses. That’s when problems arise.
For a long time you have worked for others, when did you decide it was time to release your songs under your own name?
This has always been my goal. I’ve just been so busy with other bands and recording projects that my goal of recording my own CD was put on the back burner. It feels so good to have finally accomplished this goal. I’m really proud of it!
For the album you have counted with David Henricks on vocals. He sang with bands like Showdown, Emotion, Project one…..what else can you tell us about him? Why did you decide for him to record the album?
Dave answered an ad I had placed searching for a lead vocalist who could sing like Steve Perry, Lou Gramm, or Brad Delp. I received exactly one demo in my PO Box and that was Dave’s. It was a demo he recorded back in the 80’s but I was very impressed with his vocal range. He’s quite a bit older than I am. He’s in his mid 40’s, has a wife, and is the father of two boys in their late teens. This is the only project I’ve worked on with Dave.
David has helped you compose part of the album. How was this process? Who had the first ideas, etc?
I always wrote all of the music by myself first. Occasionally I’ll get the title or part of the chorus lyrics popping into my head at the same time the song first develops. That’s what happened for “Leap Of Faith”. I wrote all of the music for that song very quickly and immediately came up with the title and chorus lyrics. I gave the completed musical demo to Dave who wrote the lyrics for both verses. I then wrote the bridge lyrics and the outro lyrics. So, that’s how that one came together. As time went on I began writing more and more of the songs by myself or mostly by myself. However, in the beginning Dave Hendricks contributed more lyrically like in the case of “Hollywood Movie Star”. I wrote all of the music for “Hollywood” very quickly and gave Dave a completed musical demo and he came up with the title and lyrics for that one. Ultimately it’s very satisfying when you write a great song by yourself. I’m very proud in particular of “Desperate Heart” and “I’ve Changed” which were written entirely by myself.
On the drums is Paul Higgins, session drummer who has played with Battery Kate and Jim Evans. Tell us about him
Paul Higgins is a great guy and a very good friend of mine. He and I played together in both Battery Kate and in the Jim Evans band. We’ve done lots of recording sessions together so it was only natural that I would have him play drums on my CD. Paul loves hard rock. He usually shows up to recording sessions and rehearsals wearing rock concert t-shirts. It’s always fun guessing which shirt he’ll wear each day. If I’m betting with the guys, I usually guess it will be an Iron Maiden shirt! J Paul’s a single father of a ten year old boy.
Keith Olsen is also in the credits. How did you get him to get involved in the album?
Keith and I were introduced by a mutual friend while at a recording studio. I gave Keith a CD containing a few songs and he gave me a few suggestions on how to improve them. So, I went back to work on the CD and when I was nearly completed, I gave Keith a call to see if he’d be willing to mentor me a bit in the studio. He was kind enough to come out to listen to “Hollywood Movie Star” and he gave me a few suggestions for last minute changes. I implemented his suggestions and then we got together a week later to mix it. He had so much fun he wanted to mix the rest of the CD too! We became very good friends in the process and I learned an incredible amount from him. It’s really difficult to summarize everything I learned from him because I was learning constantly. He’s an excellent teacher and a brilliant individual. We both studied Electrical Engineering at the University Of Minnesota so we have similar backgrounds which made it very easy for us to get along and understand each other. Keith can go from telling a cool rock and roll story, to discussing musical theory, to discussing physics and electronics at a drop of the hat.
What’s your opinion of him as a producer?
He’s brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I grew up listening to the music he produced. Now having worked with him, I have an even greater appreciation for him as a person, engineer, and producer. There’s a reason why he has been so successful and that’s because he’s very talented and HIGHLY intelligent. I still get chills looking at the back of the CD where my name is right next to his. It’s hard to believe…he’s such a legend!
The album is on the AOR, Melodic Rock from the 80’s wave. Which bands did influence you for the album?
My greatest influence is definitely Journey but I will also add Foreigner, Night Ranger, Def Leppard, Boston, Whitesnake, Rick Springfield, Sammy Hagar, Bryan Adams, and Van Halen. There are so many more than that…it’s really hard to name them all.
Any of the songs of this album were supposed for other bands or musicians?
All of the songs on this CD were written specifically for this CD. I wrote so many songs that I ended up giving many of them away to other artists because I just couldn’t record all of them. Three of them went to Jim Evans, several went to Deanna Herold (that’s a CD project that is still in the works) and some of them went to Battery Kate which is a modern rock band I was playing in before I really kicked things into high gear on this CD.
We find influences from Journey, Survivor, Boston….do you agree?
Oh yes, definitely! Journey and Boston were especially big influences on me. I have an older sister and I grew up listening to her records which is why my musical taste runs a bit older than that of my contemporaries. She’s the reason I started listening to those “old” bands at the time.
Many bands that make music in this style have those influences from the bands we mentioned before. Why do you think it is this way?
Journey and Boston in particular wrote classic, timeless music that stands up as well today as it did 25 years ago. They were fantastic bands with incredible musicianship and great song writing. I definitely learned much of my craft by listening to those records and learning to play their songs.
Dave’s voice is alike Lou Gramm’s in some songs. How would you define Dave’s voice?
The Lou Gramm comparison is right on the money and comes from the natural sound of Dave’s aged voice. When I listen to his voice on the demo he recorded back in the 80’s, it was more pure and had less “hair” on his voice. As he aged, he lost a bit of the high end of his vocal range but somehow his voice got a bit more husky which has added a warmth and soulfulness to his voice. The end result is that he sounds very much like a younger Lou Gramm. Just listen to the vocal on “Desperate Heart” in particular. It’s amazing!
Were you looking for a singer with this style?
Yes. I was very specific in the ad that I placed searching for a lead vocalist. I specified that I needed someone who could sing like Steve Perry, Lou Gramm, and Brad Delp. Being specific helped me weed out a lot of people that didn’t have what it took.
How do you see the evolution of Hard Rock in the last years?
Grunge really shook up the hard rock scene in the early 90’s. I hated it at the time but eventually grew to like Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam. I suppose popular music needed to change and that’s what happened. Grunge eventually died and we were inundated by boy bands and young, blonde pop singers. Most of these pop artists have been manufactured and contrived and could never exist without using studio tricks like Auto Tune. The record companies are just thankful that Auto Tune is cheaper than plastic surgery so they sign the cute kids and fix it all in the mix. Rock is starting to come back because everyone has become sick and tired of the fabricated pop stars. Nickelback, The Darkness, Velvet Revolver, and many others are starting to lead the way. I don’t think we’re going to ever get back entirely to the 80’s rock style but there is no denying that those elements are starting to present themselves in more and more records. I think it’s great! I’m a rocker and am open to hearing more great rock music.
Maybe releasing the album now is because Melodic Rock has gone through hard times in the last years and now seems to have a little bit more presence?
Melodic rock is definitely making somewhat of a resurgence. I released the CD now because this is when I finished it. J I made this CD in spite of the popular music trends. In other words, I made the type of CD I wanted to make. I have been true to myself as an artist.
You live in USA but the album is released through an Italian label like Frontiers. How did you show them the product? Was there any other company interested? Why did you decide Frontiers?
Andrew McNeice sent me the addresses of ten melodic rock labels. I sent a thirteen song demo CD to those ten labels and immediately was offered a record deal by several of them. In the end I decided on Frontiers after discussing it with several other artists. Also, Serafino Perugino really convinced me with his passion for the music.
Do you think that a product like yours, a Melodic Rock album, has to be released from Europe?
No. However, the melodic rock scene is strongest in Europe. The internet has really changed how CD’s can be promoted though. It’s much easier for music fans in Spain to hear about a band from Seattle now than it would have been ten years ago…unless it was a grunge band on a major label!
What kind of recognition do you have in USA?
I definitely have more recognition in Europe and Japan right now. My song “Date With Destiny” spent five weeks on the charts in Japan and went as high as #11! That was amazing and more than exceeded my expectations. That alone was a dream fulfilled!
Do you intend to play live in your country?
Definitely! Right now I’ve been so busy promoting the current CD that I just haven’t had the time to book shows let alone rehearse. I’m also in demand for other recording sessions which is cutting into my time.
Which musicians will be with you?
Dave Hendricks, Paul Higgins, and Mark Parris (bass).
Having in mind that playing abroad is complicated, have you planned the release of the album as a studio project and if you get to play live then perfect, and if not, it’s alright?
Touring is very expensive so it does depend on how well it sells. Keith has encouraged us to do a small tour in Japan and Europe but it costs a lot of money to do this. So if the CD sells well, we might be coming to a stage near you very soon! 🙂
What are the plans for Bonrud in the next months?
For now I’m busy promoting the current release and am pleased to have people excited about the first CD. I’m planning to get together in a couple weeks with Paul Higgins and Mark Parris and will start going over four new songs I’m writing for the next Bonrud CD. I hope to be able to record the basic tracks for these four songs early next year.
What is your agenda as a musician, composer, producer….for the next months?
I’ve also been hired to play guitar on two CD’s for other artists. I’ll be busy doing that session work over the next couple of months in addition to my Bonrud music activities.
What would you say to the readers of Force about your debut?
This CD was a labor of love and I put my whole heart and all of my passion into this project. I’m grateful for everyone who has purchased a copy of the CD and I sincerely appreciate the support. For those of you who haven’t purchased the CD yet, we have MP3 samples up on our web site for you to listen to. In addition, you can keep up to date with all of the latest Bonrud news on our site.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me Mariano! It has been my pleasure. Muchas gracias amigo!
To end, we are going to make you a small test
First album you bought
Last album you bought
First concert you saw
Night Ranger – Midnight Madness Tour in Bloomington, Minnesota
Last concert you saw
Van Halen just last Friday night in Seattle at Key Arena (saw it with Paul Higgins)
A new band that you like
Band that has dissappointed you with their last album
The last couple Bon Jovi albums haven’t been good. I bought “Bounce” and loved three rockers on there but the rest didn’t have the fire. I didn’t even bother with their acoustic CD.
Last book you read
Ken Follett – Hornet Flight
Thank you for the interview. Greetings from Spain