One of the hardest-working American bands for decades, Cheap Trick seems to be on the road more often than not. Following last year’s popular summer amphitheater tour with Foreigner and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, Cheap Trick just announced an upcoming summer tour alongside Poison and Pop Evil. Between those tours, a Christmas album — cleverly-named Christmas Christmas — was released, yet the Rockford band had also issued 2016’s Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello and 2017’s We’re All Alright!. Simply put, the recent Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inductees are definitely not living in the past.
While on the road in support of We’re All Alright!, I had the pleasure of chatting with Cheap Trick’s lead guitarist and principal songwriter Rick Nielsen by phone. Simultaneously full of insight and one-liners, after talking with Nielsen for a few minutes, it is clear why he is one of rock’s most influential guitarists; Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready had Cheap Trick play at his 50th birthday party. More on the past, present and future of Cheap Trick can be found at www.cheaptrick.com.
Hear the guys’ song “Long Time Coming” (Static Version) here.
I think We’re All Alright is great. It’s probably the most Cheap Trick-sounding album in a while. Do you have a favorite song on there?
Rick Nielsen: Yeah, the 13 that are on there. I don’t know, whatever you like is my favorite. Everybody I talk to, everybody says something different. I pick one and they, “yeah, Rick what does he know?”
I personally love “Long Time Coming,” which has a real AC/DC influence to it. Have you heard that before?
Nielsen: Have I heard it before?
Has anyone told you it has an AC/DC influence to it?
Nielsen: Oh yeah, guess what, they are good, aren’t they?
Nielsen: I don’t think it was, it has one more chord than every AC/DC song, so you can’t just go by that. But yeah, I love AC/DC and we, actually we used to tour with those guys. We toured for three years in a row, neither of us were getting anywhere but we did a lot of stuff with them. So I have loved them ever since way back when…
Rumor is that you took Bon Scott to the first Mexican restaurant he ever went to.
Nielsen: That is right. He got a taco and a glass of scotch.
Well, back to new album, around how many songs did you write for it?
Nielsen: Probably had the start and finish of 20 or 30 songs, so we always had a lot of ideas with. You know, luckily, ideas aren’t longer than three minutes.
“Gonna Raise Hell” is over eight minutes, so your songs have gotten a little shorter over the years.
Nielsen: Yeah, why not? It wasn’t long enough that they played it like “Stairway To Heaven.” Everything we do, it depends on the song. The song is more important than we are, I think so…
But something very interesting to me is that you guys are pretty much on-track for an album a year, which isn’t something that many bands are doing anymore. Does that mean that you’re writing a lot more? Or you’re just getting more into the studio more?
Nielsen: Yes, I don’t know. The fact that we can do it because nobody’s ever clamoring for a Cheap Trick record. We make them because we have songs we want to do and we keep touring and it is like, it is nice to have new material. We’ve got a lot of stuff we can choose from.
Sure, there is a rumor that you’re working on a Christmas album. Is that true?
Nielsen: That is not true, we have already finished it.
Are they new compositions? Can you tell me a little more about that?
Nielsen: I don’t know. It is like, some of it is new and some of it is traditional, done Cheap Trick-ish.
Is it going to come out on 8-track?
Nielsen: I’ve already given you enough answers.
Check out Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson in Studio Q:
A couple more questions because I know you are a busy guy, so I was wondering…
Nielsen: I have to go finish the Christmas record.
Is there anyone you haven’t toured with that you’re still hoping to?
Nielsen: No, the only one that we didn’t tour with was The Rolling Stones. The only time you get any applause is when you leave the stage… People go see the Stones, they don’t want to see anybody else.
Do you remember the first time that you ever played here on Long Island?
Nielsen: The first time I ever played there…I don’t know if I know the answer to that one.
I know you’ve played at Jones Beach, Mulcahy’s, Nassau Coliseum, Brookhaven Amphitheater… Did you ever get to go there on vacation or aside from touring?
Nielsen: We’ve played clubs there and we played all kinds of stuff. I’m not sure when the first time I was there. I think I went to Brooklyn. I am sure I remember going to Carla’s [Dragotti] house. She cooked for us, we never went there again.
But you never went to the Hamptons or never went on vacation that kind of thing?
Nielsen: No, I don’t vacation… I’m a lousy tourist.
So, Rick, in closing, any last words for the kids?
Nielsen: Yeah, stay in school. Practice, do what you, you know…I don’t know, practice. That is the only thing I can tell you, and no autotune.
Drummer Daxx Nielsen does a 96.7 The Eagle interview with a special guest: