Not Quite Quiet Wright
Bassist Chuck Wright speaks out about Quiet Riot and his future as part of Heaven & Earth
Being an old school sucker for liner notes, there were just some names that seemed to pop up on everything. Seeing names like George Marino and Sterling Sound was almost automatic. John Kalodner or Michael Wagener were other names that seemed to make their way onto everything I touched. Another name that I seemed to come across often was Chuck Wright. Wright is mostly known for his tenure with legendary metal band Quiet Riot, which he is still a member, but his performances run through the music business like the marbling on a scrumptious ribeye. Besides appearing on numerous progressive and experimental independent releases, Wright has appeared with the likes of Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick, Gregg Allman, Ted Nugent, and many others. Yes, Chuck Wright is one of the most sought after players in rock and roll, and I had the honor of talking to him.
The first half of the interview centers around Heaven & Earth and their latest album, Dig, while the second half of the interview is dedicated to the rest of Wright's storied career.
Dr. Music: Hi Chuck! How's things?
Chuck Wright: A lot’s going on now that the record’s about to come out and the video is finished. It’s a normal situation. (laughs)
DM: Yeah, you’ve been doing it for a number of years, haven’t you?
CW: Yeah, I would say. My first album release that I ever had was in ’83, and that was the Metal Health record. We just celebrated its 30th Anniversary. Now, I’m somewhere nearing ninety albums that I’m on being released. I’ve been doing this quite a while. I’m blessed that I’m able to make a living doing something that I love and being creative, which Heaven & Earth has afforded me to be. This is more of a band thing, where you’re all in a room together. Stuart would bring in a riff idea and we would create songs together as a band, just based on the one riff. Joe Retta, the vocalist, would take that and create vocal ideas, and then we’d work around his vocal ideas. It came together like it’s supposed to; not being contrived in a computer with one person that really can’t play. Our mission statement is to bring back rock the way it was meant to be; to get it back to being real. There’s something that’s magical and serendipitous with a band in the room together knocking out ideas. Chemistry too, has a lot to do with it, which this band has a lot of. I’ve known Stuart for twenty years now, and Richie Onori, the drummer, and I had a band together for six years between the late seventies until about 1982. The gem and the find of all time, as far as I’m concerned, is our vocalist, Joe Retta. He’s on the same level as Paul Rodgers or Glenn Hughes or any of the top rock singers out there. There’s also a lot of camaraderie with this band. We all purposely wanted to go back to our roots and do something that was real, and do a 70’s-type sounding record along the lines of Rainbow, Bad Company, Deep Purple - that kind of thing. Just get back to the real music.
DM: Tell me about the stunning cover art for Dig.
CW: We got my close friend Glen Wexler on board, who’s known for his work with Van Halen, Kiss, Michael Jackson and so many others, as our creative director; doing the album artwork, as well as directing our videos. He can make anything happen. He had a great vision for our album. The album cover speaks about what the music is about, and that’s unearthing rock. It’s a metaphor for the unearthing of real rock. We are also putting out vinyl, and we’ll have signed lithographs of the album artwork for sale on the website eventually. We kind of stretched it a little bit on the band photos, too. We went a little bit over the top with that, with Joe levitating out of the room. You’ll see those fantastical elements in our first video for “No Money No Love” as well.
DM: I know you shot two more videos for the album. Is it definite that we will eventually see those as well?
CW: Yeah. We’ve actually hired a company that specializes in video promotion. So, we’re gonna get it out there. And with the videos, like the music, we’re trying to bring things back to the MTV years when people actually cared about music videos.
DM: Did you play any fretless bass on Dig?
CW: I did! There’s a few spots on the album that my Godin fretless is featured. We have a ballad called “I Don’t Know What Love Is” that has the fretless with effects like Pink Floyd. Also, on a couple songs…. If I’m doing a driving 1/8 note type of pattern on the bass, I’d reinforce it with an 8-string bass.
DM: I noticed that, on a regular basis, you usually play a 4-string, right?
CW: Oh yeah, I’m not a 5-string guy. All my favorite bass players that really influenced me are all 4-stringers. Yeah, I have a 5-string, and yeah I can play it, but do I like playing it? Not really.
DM: How much of the material on Dig did you write?
CW: About half of the songs we all wrote together. A couple of them were mainly Stuart and Joe’s; where a song was pretty much together and then we just finished it out. But, like the opening track, “Victorious,” I wrote most of the parts on that, and Joe came up with the vocal melodies on it. The main riff that the song opens with is this Mid-Eastern feel, in a harmonic minor mode that Stuart had. He goes, ‘I don’t know what else to do with this.’ That was when we first worked on it. I said, this is what I’m feeling, and that’s where it went. The band dug it, and that’s what we ended up doing with that one.
DM: What’s your favorite track on the album?
CW: Vocally, every time I listen to the track “House Of Blues” it just slays me. Joe is just an incredible singer. He’s just unbelievable. Musically ….I would say “Victorious.” Not because I came up with a lot of the parts, but it’s pretty progressive, and I tend to like music like that. There’s also nothing else as heavy, either. It’s the heavy handed track on the album. Joe actually sounds a little bit different on it than the rest of the album; a little bit less bluesy, more rock. It’s a pretty intense song. In the middle, it really picks up tempo and just starts smokin’. There’s a riff in it that Stuart plays, coming out of that smokin’ part, that’s pretty incredible.
DM: One more question, and this is a big one for me. Would you like to tour on this record, and are you going to tour?
CW: Well, of course, I would love to get this music out there live. For me it’s just a matter of scheduling, because I still do shows with Quiet Riot and have for a very long time. But yeah, Heaven & Earth is looking at different options. First thing we’re going to do is go into rehearsals and we’re going to showcase for agents. When they see how incredible the band is live, they’ll know the kind of bands we need to be out with. Then, I’m sure that’ll fall into place. I can’t wait! The album has a live feel to it already, so when you hear it you can imagine it live. It’s gonna be a killer live show!
DM: Tell me about some of the guys you’ve worked with in your career. What was Kevin DuBrow like to work with?
CW: I always say they broke the mold when they made Kevin DuBrow. God rest his soul. I’ve never known anybody like Kevin – a bigger than life personality, vocally, his humor. He was the funniest guy on the planet, but he was also super opinionated and didn’t mind letting you know about it. He didn’t care what people thought of him. He was what he was, and you either love him or hate him. He didn’t care - one way or the other.
DM: How about Gregg Giuffria?
CW: Gregg was kind of like a monarch from the 1500’s or something, like the King of England or something (laughs); a super strong personality as far as things revolving around him. He also is a very funny guy.
DM: Alice Cooper?
CW: He’s unbelievably sweet and mellow, but when he gets on the stage he turns into Alice Cooper. I mean, I witnessed it come across his face. When he’s about to go on stage, all of a sudden you see this change, and he’s this other person. He’s awesome. That was a big highlight of my life, doing that Alice Cooper “Dragontown” Tour. We did 75 cities and 17 countries, first class treatment, five star hotels, we had our own catering, the band was also killer. I loved it.
DM: Out of all the things you’ve done, what are you most proud of?
CW: Well, obviously, “Bang Your Head,” I’m very proud of that. Because, not only is it a super powerful song with the bass being so featured, but it’s also such an iconic piece in rock music history. But my personal favorite records I’ve done, most people don’t even know about them. In the 90’s I got involved in the Christian music market with Lanny Cordola, and we did an album called Chaos Is The Poetry, which is one of my favorite albums. We also did a project called Magdalen, which is exceptional musically, I love it to death. I’m really proud of that. Speaking of Heaven & Earth as far as my favorite songs, there’s a track called “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” that I did on the first Heaven & Earth record. That track has Glenn Hughes, Richie Sambora and Carmine Appice on it. I did a project with Pat Torpey from Mr. Big called Odd Man Out that is musically unbelievable. We wrote all the songs together. There’s a lot of music that I’ve been fortunate to be a part of that I’m proud of.
DM: What’s on your iPod? What do you listen to in your time off?
CW: For me, I like to escape from Rock. When I’m listening to music, I listen to artists like Kate Bush, Sarah McLachlan, Loreena McKennitt, Seal…. Sting is one of my favorite artists of all time. Or, I’ll put on an old Jeff Beck record. I really love the older stuff that he did with Rod Stewart and that he did with Bob Tench. He’s my favorite guitar player, hands down. He’s the most creative, most unique guitar player that there ever was, as far as I’m concerned. I love him. Or, I’ll put on an old Zeppelin album. I love to hear Zeppelin at any time. Mainly, I listen to music that has a lot of depth to it, a lot of production, and that’s a little bit mellower, in general.
DM: What’s your favorite album? What is your desert island disc? For me, it’s the first Montrose record.
CW: For rock, the first Montrose album, hands down, kills. I was so happy I got to play all of that music with Ronnie for about a year. It was such an awesome experience to be able to play songs that I loved growing up, and I was doing in my cover band (laughs). Yeah, if I’m going to pick a rock record, that Montrose album would be right up there. And the first Zeppelin album is an unbelievable piece of work and really influenced me a lot. And if I have to pick one song, it would have to be “Comfortably Numb,”. I think David Gilmour’s guitar solo on that is one of the best solo’s ever done.
DM: Well, thank you so much Chuck. This has really been great. I hope to see you on the road real soon.
CW: You're very welcome. I'm happy to do it. It was nice talking to you.