Joe Lynn Turner:
Still Walking The Street Of Dreams and Making A Big Noize
Dr. Music talks with a classic rock legend
Joe Lynn Turner is a man that has fronted two of the biggest bands in rock history (Rainbow / Deep Purple) with a voice that epitomizes the genre. With lethal injections of blues and soul, he has made his extraordinary voice a staple on classic rock radio, and in the hearts of millions of fans. After more than three decades of lending his vocal touch to more than 100 records, Joe Lynn Turner continues to be a prolific force in modern music.
As I was preparing these questions I started to think about the many facets of Joe Lynn Turner. Yes, we all know about his classic days with Rainbow, but not too many realize that Turner has also worked with the likes of Cher, Billy Joel, Michael Bolton, Glenn Hughes, Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Lita Ford, and a host of other enormous names in the industry. Besides doing steady work in the field of commercial jingles, Turner has been one of the most sought after session vocalists of our time. So I asked myself, "Which direction do I go with this thing?!" That's when I decided to take my chances and wander about. The following interview, done via email, caught Turner between trips to Russia and Turkey. This is a man that is constantly moving, so when I finally had him I wasn't about to leave any one stone unturned. I decided to ask a few questions in each direction of Turner's career, with a focus upon work that may not be familiar to even the biggest fan. The result of the session, as you are about to read, is nothing short of spectacular.
Dr. Music: You played Eric Fury in the Made-for-TV movie "Blue DeVille," your first and only film role. What was that experience like, and what is the biggest difference between working in the film industry and working in the music industry?
JLT: “It was a major life changing experience. Film is a completely different medium and I wanted to explore the chance to be in a movie. It was great to go from being in several videos that were like mini-movies to acting in an actual full-length film. The experience of things being filmed out of context was interesting and demanded some discipline. It was a great highlight in my career. I do feel acting and singing are similar. You have to emote and connect with people to be effective in either 'role.' As much fun as it was, it was also scary being on film watching everything after it was filmed and edited, etc.”
Dr. Music: You've done other work in the film industry as a music supervisor on the documentary film, "Canadian Ballet: Striptease Dancers of the North." Tell me about that experience.
JLT: “Hey...I can't lie...LOL. It was fun interviewing all the girls...LOL...Talk about a perk! It was an interesting experience taking the music, vocals and matching it to the girls' dancing...the beats per minute...the grooves...it all had to be natural. They were not dancing to our music but it looked like it in the final result.”
Dr. Music: In an interview from February 1993, you're quoted as saying, "I doubt that I would do a lot of covers, not even of my earliest influences. I think that Michael Bolton has done enough of that (laughs)." In the time since then, you have done numerous covers from bands like Queen, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Van Halen, Metallica, Ozzy, etc. Why the change of heart?
JLT: “I changed my mind! It's that simple! If you notice, though, the covers I did were not just covers inside of a solo album. They were albums of ALL covers. As for the guest slots I have done, those are mostly also on all-covers albums. I was paid well to do these and had a lot of fun at the same time. You can't beat that, right? ;-)
As for the cover albums I did, the idea was to educate the Japanese market with regard to the music that influenced me. However, I want to emphasize that I have not done a cover of someone else's 'hit' inside a solo record, where as many other pop artists have.”
Dr. Music: It is because of your amazing voice that people know you, but you are also a very good guitar player. You recently did an instrumental piece called "Alma D'Alma" with Stuart Smith of Heaven & Earth and Sweet for a compilation album called "Sounds of Wood & Steel" How did it feel to let your guitar playing take center stage instead of your voice? Are instrumental pieces something you might want to do more of in the future?
JLT: “I absolutely loved it! We wanted to do another one but that plan did not come to fruition, unfortunately. I still put that track on and get goosebumps. I wish more people knew about it.”
Dr. Music: Your connection with Russia has become something of note. The Concert in Leningrad that you did with Yngwie J. Malmsteen was the largest by a Western artist, and you recently did an album called "Made In Moscow" with Michael Men Project. Tell me about the musical climate in Russia.
JLT: “The Russians are crazy-passionate for great classic rock. The deal with them is that they do not kick out the old to make way for the new, like we often do in America. They come out in thousands, are incredibly riotous and thankful. Going there is like being in the height of my career in the 80s.”
"Heaven Tonight" - Yngwie J. Malmsteen
Dr. Music: Speaking of Yngwie ....There are many horror stories that fly around about his attitude and his difficult personality. You worked on the "Odyssey" album with him at possibly one of the most difficult times in his life, just after he was involved in a car accident that left him in a coma. The album, produced by Jeff Glixman, is spectacular. What was Yngwie like to work with, and would you consider doing something else with him in the future?
JLT: “Thank you for your kind words about the album and I agree that it was one of Yngwie's best to date. He was a perfectionist and knew exactly what he wanted. He was not as collaborative as Blackmore, which may be the reason he has a reputation, but I enjoyed working with him because he is also brilliant. I would absolutely consider working with him again if the situation was right."
Dr. Music: One guy that you just finished working with, Com Koksal, is a 31-year old Turkish guitarist heavily inspired by Yngwie. What was that like, and can we expect a CD release?
JLT: “I'll be in Turkey from mid-April to mid-May and could give you a better answer once we get a chance to visit and talk. We have several dates lined up in Turkey. Cem is amazing. I am not sure about a future CD release, but collaborating with Cem is not out of the question. Thanks for the 'shot in the arm.' Hopefully the record companies will take notice and maybe we can put something together.”
Dr. Music: You have worked with legendary names like Cher, Michael Bolton, Billy Joel, Bonnie Tyler, Lita Ford, John Waite, Ritchie Blackmore, etc. etc. Is there anyone that you haven't worked with that you would really like to do something with?
JLT: “Sure...I would like to work with some of the younger artists that are also great songwriters and decent singers. Chad Kroeger and Chris Daughtry come to mind. I would love to work with them.”
Nickelback's Chad Kroeger Daughtry's Chris Daughtry
Dr. Music: You have done commercial jingles for everything from Cover Girl, to Rescue Heroes, to Little Caesar's Pizza. Do you enjoy this work, and do you ever find it difficult to get inspired when you are singing these? How much input do you usually have in the musical arrangement of the jingles?
JLT: “The way I see it... a good singer can emote on the phone book and make it sound great. Singing jingles and these types of things is actually a relief because your soul is not on the line the way it is when you sing something you wrote, or chose to sing on an album or in concert. The weight on your shoulders is not as heavy. I am like a 'hired gun' when I do those jingles and how many singers can actually say they can make a living off doing what they love? I love to sing. Period."
Dr. Music: Out of the many different band projects that you have become involved with over the course of your career, is there any one band in particular that holds a special place in your heart?
JLT: “All of them for different reasons and that is the truth. But, I have to say being with Rainbow at that time in my career, and at the age that I was, made the biggest impact on my life so far. It was my first real taste at international stardom and being able to connect with people all over the world.”
Dr. Music: Is there any one moment in your career that you would call the most memorable?
JLT: “There are too many to name but one that is significant is playing Madison Square Garden with Rainbow. It was like a 'homecoming' for me...like a 'local guy goes big time' thing. I had gone to shows at The Garden as a teenager and young musician, and there I was, now, playing before a packed audience there myself. Talk about life coming full circle.”
Now let's talk about your experiences with Ritchie (Blackmore).....
Dr. Music: Your first record with Rainbow was "Difficult To Cure," an album in which the band had already recorded with Graham Bonnet on vocals. Was it difficult to come into Rainbow and sing over backings that were already done?
JLT: “Apparently not, because that's how I got the job. I needed the gig so I did what I had to do. I did inject and sing some of my lyrics from what Ritchie used to call my 'magic bag' of lyrics. I also contributed some melodies and all of that. Ability to sing, write, (and) collaborate got me the job. It was my inventiveness on the spot...willingness also to be a team player and sing parts of songs off the cuff.”
Dr. Music: Is it true that the title of "Straight Between the Eyes" was derived from Jeff Beck describing Hendrix to Ritchie?
JLT: “Yes, that's true.”
Dr. Music: Is it fair to say that being fired from Deep Purple was the most difficult time in your career?
JLT: “They said they fired me...I say I quit. That's now a moot point. Yes, it was a difficult part of my career. There was a lot of jealousy and envy, and some of the guys were very territorial; but I now look back at it as a great learning experience. We're friendly now...no hard feelings.”
Dr. Music: "The Cattle Grazes On" is how you have referred to the Deep Purple album "The Battle Rages On," which was the album that Purple released just after you were asked to leave the band. Have you ever listened to the album, and if so, do you hear anything from that album that you had worked on before being fired?
JLT: “LOL. Of course I hear it! I do not think it's great, or even a good record, compared to the potential DP has always had. You may already know this but 'One Man's Meat' is 'Stroke of Midnight' on my latest album,'Second Hand Life.' Blackmore actually gave me his blessing to do this song the way it was meant to be done, and so I feel I did justice to it as 'Stroke of Midnight.' It's a GREAT definitive Blackmore riff!”
Dr. Music: Obviously your relationship with Ritchie is still on solid ground, having recently reworked "Street Of Dreams" with Candice Night for the Blackmore's Night album, "The Village Lanterne." Have you settled your differences with anyone else from the Deep Purple camp?
JLT: “We've buried the hatchet. It's smiles and hugs when we see each other. They seem happy and are where they want to be, and so am I. It's like an ex-wife that you have a healthy relationship with...LOL...you CAN be friends after the breakup ;-)”
Street Of Dreams - Rainbow
Dr. Music: What is the best work you've ever done? If I had someone who had never heard any of your work, and they had time to listen to only one song, what would you recommend I play for them?
JLT: “I don't think I can be described in one song, fortunately, or defined in one song. I consider all my albums and songs like children. I cannot pick out one that I feel is better or best.”
Dr. Music: After doing so many different styles in your career, it seems that nothing is out of your reach. If the offer to do something totally different, like a conventional Soul/R&B or Country record came up, is that something you would consider?
JLT: “Absolutely! I am working on some tracks now in that vein; it's just not something we are publicizing heavily at the moment. We will wait until the time is right. As for Country and Soul/R&B, I started singing that style growing up so it's not at all a far reach for me. I love it!”
Dr. Music: I highly doubt there is a performer that stays busier than you do. You are constantly doing voice-overs and studio work, and you are frequently involved with a number of different band projects. Your latest band venture comes by way of Big Noize; a project that includes Vinny Appice on drums, Phil Soussan on bass, and Carlos Cavazo on guitar. Tell me what your plans are for this band. Will you write original music together and tour in support of an album? Do you ever see yourself devoting your time to one single band project again, like you did with, say, Fandango or Rainbow?
JLT: “As for Big Noize, right now we want to get the name out there, get established. There has been some talk of doing a CD of songs from our past...maybe even a live disc ….and then we may explore the option of doing some originals. Big Noize is a blast; a great time; great project. As for your other question, I feel that the time has not been right, yet, but I cannot rule it out. Ya gotta fall in love first before ya get married ....that 'girl' (the right band) has not come along yet...LOL!”
I would also like to thank Joe's virtual assistant, Lisa Eichholzer-Walker, for arranging things and getting it all to happen. Her immense dedication to her work (and her ability to juggle all of it better than a circus clown) is the reason this interview took place. Thank you.