Don Brewer, founding drummer and singer from Grand Funk Railroad, did not simply work within the studio with Todd Rundgren and Frank Zappa within the ’70s. They really lived collectively, as Grand Funk accomplished a sequence of studio tasks between 1973-76. He discusses their signature collaborations, and the potential for a brand new album from the group, in a brand new interview with UCR.
Former Grand Funk producer Todd Rundgren is being inducted into the Rock & Roll Corridor of Fame this 12 months. What are your ideas?
It’s nice and fantastic. I like Todd. I liked working with Todd, and I liked his materials that he did again then. I’ve all main respect for Todd. He’s an excellent expertise.
Some people aren’t essentially conscious that he had such an in depth second profession producing some actually unimaginable albums, together with the information he did with Grand Funk. What did he deliver to the method?
It was sort of like freedom. The recordings that we did with [early producer Terry Knight and engineer Ken Hamann] in Cleveland, it was nonetheless very old-school. As we received to the Todd Rundgren time [beginning with 1973’s We’re an American Band], radio was altering, and rock was altering from being FM underground to being successful format. All the songs needed to be three minutes or 4 minutes lengthy they usually needed to have verse / refrain / verse / refrain, that sort of construction. We introduced Todd in and he completely understood that, and that that was what we have been going for as properly. We had gone by a serious breakup with Terry. Terry had taken all of our cash, and we have been broke. FM radio was altering from FM underground to the hit format, and we needed to make the transition. Todd was completely on board with that. It actually labored; the entire thing labored. Once we received into the studio with Todd, he didn’t document stuff flat, the place there was no EQ, no echo, no nothing. That’s the previous means of doing it. We’d put all of that stuff on after we combined. Effectively, Todd threw all of that stuff out the window. When he’s recording, he’s making it sound to you within the headphones precisely what it’s going to sound like later: full-on EQ, full-on compression and full-on echo.
Right here we’re within the studio for the very first time, taking part in and listening to ourselves with headphones in a complete totally different world! For me, as a drummer, it was freedom! It was like, Oh, my God, my drums sound wonderful within the headphones – as an alternative of sounding like, Oh, gee, I’ve to think about what it’s going to sound like later, as a result of it sounds that means now. You begin taking part in otherwise if you’re listening to that again, and I assumed the band simply responded and we performed accordingly. It was nice.
Take heed to Grand Funk’s ‘We’re an American Band’
Did Rundgren have a imaginative and prescient, so far as how you possibly can make that transition?
No, it was simply built-in Todd. He simply does his factor. We’d be within the studio and we’d be rehearsing a track and he’d be sitting within the management room along with his toes up on the board, studying a e-book. We’d go, “Okay, Todd, we’re prepared.” He’d put the e-book down and hit document! That was recording with him. [Laughs]
What was your first impression when Rundgren confirmed up? I believe within the ‘70s, subsequent to David Bowie, Rundgren was the opposite actually fascinating and unpredictable-looking man fashion-wise.
Tricolor hair, blue, strawberry crimson and blonde, if I recall. When he first got here out to Michigan to document with us, Flint, Mich., was not prepared for Todd – nor me, with a giant big afro. He stayed with me at my condo in Flint, and we’d drive forwards and backwards to the studio collectively. Once we stopped at a 7-Eleven or no matter to choose up some meals, the appears to be like we received have been fairly wonderful. It was cool; I liked it. He was unnoticed, sort of, in New York, however in Flint, Mich., it was, “What’s that?”
What was Rundgren like as a short lived roommate?
We received alongside properly. I didn’t have any issues. I met him [again] later after we have been doing the band Flint. I referred to as Todd and stated, “Hey, would you be concerned about performing some guitar on these items?” I flew out to Woodstock and went to his studio, and he performed some guitar on these tracks. We went out to dinner. I received alongside nice with Todd, I actually did.
Had been there any debates because the band labored on these information with him?
No, we simply liked the course that he went in. At the least I did. I liked the course that he was taking the band, and I liked the way in which it sounded. We had much more bother doing [1974’s] Shinin’ On, as a result of there have been inner issues within the band. However on the time we did We’re an American Band, we have been all collectively and all gung ho. All of us had a standard objective, and that was to get away from Terry and to get the band profitable once more on our personal.
Take heed to Grand Funk’s ‘Shinin’ On’
Grand Funk labored with Frank Zappa on 1976’s Good Singin’, Good Playin’ album. That looks like a collaboration that would have gone both means.
I received alongside nice with Frank. Once more, he stayed at my home. Once we went to L.A., I went over and visited him at his home. I’d go to a number of the mixes, after which we’d hang around collectively afterwards. He invited me over as a result of he was engaged on a few of his personal stuff. He referred to as me on the resort and invited me over that evening to return to the studio to work on one of many songs he was doing. I performed bongos on “Let Me Take You to the Seaside.”
Do you will have an excellent Zappa story?
Throughout [Good Singin’, Good Playin’], Grand Funk was within the technique of breaking apart. In fact, Frank knew. He may choose up on the strain and all of that sort of stuff. There was some extent that I had had it. I used to be going to depart the session and [frontman Mark] Farner had had it. Frank, sadly was within the place of getting us each collectively and making an attempt to salvage it and get us by the album – and he did. I give him full credit score for that. He received us by that document.
It looks like it might have been intimidating to indicate Frank Zappa or Todd Rundgren songs.
No, I assumed they have been completely into the stuff. I keep in mind Frank got here out to undergo a rehearsal with us at our studio out in Michigan. We had determined we have been going to work collectively. After he attended the session, we have been throwing round, “What are we going to name this document? I can’t provide you with it. We’ve received to have an idea.” Frank stated, “Name it what it’s, ‘Good Singin’, Good Playin.’” We have been blown away. Right here’s Frank Zappa. Oh, my God, Frank Zappa, the musician’s-musician sort of factor – and he thinks Grand Funk Railroad is sweet singin’, good playin’. It was an excessive praise.
Take heed to Grand Funk Railroad’s ‘Out to Get You’
Have you ever checked out perhaps doing a brand new album with the present lineup?
We’ve explored that a number of instances. We benefit from the dwell factor and we do the dwell factor properly, and that’s loads for us, actually. We do new materials within the present. We didn’t do it on [earlier shared dates on the Bob] Seger tour, as a result of we have been simply a gap act, however we do new materials. Over the previous 20 years, we’ve had a variety of totally different songs which have come and gone within the present. My imaginative and prescient was all the time to do a dwell document that included all of these songs that had come and gone – together with the hits that we do. I believe that might be a pleasant mixture.
What else is on faucet for the remainder of the 12 months?
We’re simply making an attempt to get again into the groove of doing what we have been doing. We’ve received exhibits that we’re going to play out till December that mainly got here from 2020. They have been all postponed and rebooked and rescheduled. We’ve received 30 exhibits to do within the six months left within the 12 months, and that’s going to be a feat. We’re going to attempt to get by that. I believe as soon as we get again into the groove, it is going to occur fairly properly. We’ll begin reserving 2022. We’ve already received some dates and we’re trying ahead to that, too.
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