ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Eight studio albums. More than 20 million albums sold worldwide. And a string of hits that exemplify the sound of the 1980s — and they’re still going strong.
Canadian rock band Loverboy on tour in support of its current album “Rock ‘n’ Roll Survival” — the band’s first studio album in five years.
Guitarist Paul Dean answers some questions (and gets candid) while on a break from tour and reflects on the new album and a career that has spanned more than 30 years.
Q. How is the tour going so far. I know that it’s kind of been full circle for you guys with this tour. (Loverboy’s first tour was with Journey nearly 30 years ago.)
A. The tour? We’re on tour? I thought this was a vacation from our looong Canadian winter. I haven’t seen so many 100 degree days in a row EVER! Gotta love it. Seriously, it’s an amazing tour. We’re covering a lot of miles, that’s for sure, but everyone’s in it for the long haul. Really long. The best part is, no matter what, we still bring it when we hit the stage. We played Sturgis (S.D.) a couple of days ago, and that rocked beyond belief. They had a guy down front on his Harley with a couple of microphones on his pipes (as if they needed that!), and the deal, as it was explained to us just before the show, was that if the rider liked the tune, he revved his motor, and the longer the better. I swear after “Turn Me Loose” he ran it wide open for two minutes straight. “Shut up already, you’re cutting into our stage time, we only got an hour.”
Q. How much of the tour is the same and what are the differences?
A. Well, that was pretty different. Never had that happen. What IS the same is, the crowds are massive, just like 1982 all over again. Thirty years ago, (you don’t happen to have any white-out to cover that 30 part, do you?) we had just released our album “Get Lucky,” and “Working For The Weekend” was starting to get radio play. It was a very exciting time, and this time is no different, we’re jazzed to be back on such a huge tour. Which brings me to your next question.
Q. You all have a new album — “Rock’n’ Roll Survival” — coming out? How long did it take you guys to put it together? How has your writing and production process evolved over the course of your career?
A. It took us seven years to make it, only because some of the tracks were recorded live in ’05. Actually that makes a pretty good album title, too. I like that, “Alive in ’05.” We started off with two new songs that we recorded with our good friend and original engineer (on our debut album in 1980) Bob Rock. He called Mike and me up out of the blue one night in late 2010, and said he had a song he’d like our opinion on, and if we liked where it was going, maybe we’d like to finish it. “Absolutely, email it over.” The song was “Heartbreaker,” the kind of song that takes about two seconds to crawl up your spine, and it made a definite impression. The first thought I had was, I can hear Mike all over this. Mike felt the same, so I got to work on some guitar melodies for the intro, and soon enough we took Bob’s 1:50 minute demo, and turned it into a full song. We emailed it back to him, and he was blown away. Enough that he sent us a second song, No Tomorrow, in pretty much the same incomplete state as Heartbreaker. We added our Loverboy touch, a few hooks here and there, and we were at two songs. Then we were lucky enough to capture a night live in March of this year, a night where Matt our drummer was on fire, didn’t miss a lick or a beat, the kind of night I live for. We rose to the occasion, we rocked the house for 90 minutes, and we had it on tape! So I mixed a bunch of those tunes, and played them for the band, and they agreed, this was a great night. Doug had played some coool new keyboard parts, stuff I had never heard before, very different from our original recordings, and Spider and Matt rocked out a truly inspired jam on the bass and drums. So we thought, we should share this with our fans, and maybe we can write another song to go with these ones. That turned out to be the title song.
The second part of the question – Can you say laptop? It’s all done on my MacBook Pro. That’s a far cry from the old days of 24 track analog tape machines and very expensive SSL consoles in the upstairs bedroom. I love the portability and reliability of it all. Not to get too technical, (too late?), but the best part is now you can keep as many songs as you want on the go, in any state of completion, and pick up where you left off. It’s 100 times more flexible, and way faster. Just too clarify that a bit, the drums were recorded at Bryan Adams studio in Vancouver, and MaxiMedia Studios in Dallas, but everything was mixed and sweetened on my laptop. Except for Heartbreaker, I think Bob mixed that in his home studio on Maui.
Q. After nearly 30 years of making music, what still drives you to get on stage night after night?
A. Well, above all, my number one priority is playing guitar and singing. And I have the privilege of playing with some of the best players and singers on the planet. So it doesn’t take that much persuasion to get me up on that stage. As I said earlier, I live for those magic nights where the band and crowd are on the same page for 90 minutes, stuck in this bubble together, and nobody gets out untouched.
Q. With all the singles that you have, do you have a favorite to perform?
A. We approach the set as just that, it’s like we’re playing one long song, not individual ones. We step on stage, and try to create this ebb and flow — fast songs, slow songs, pop songs, funk, ballads, power, all that stuff mixed into a hopefully seamless experience for everyone, including the band. It’s like a road race, with hills and valleys, twists and turns, and if you don’t pay attention, well… just try and keep it between the ditches. Like the lyric to “Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival” goes, sometimes you “put the pedal to the metal” and sometimes you have to lay back on the throttle a bit.
Q. When you play the hits, does it take you back to the time when each song was written?
A. You know, I glanced at these questions just before we hit the stage last night in Indy. And this particular one stuck with me. We’re in the middle of “When It’s Over,” and I’m thinking about being on the bus, 5:30 a.m., sometime around April 1981 — there I am, changing some ifs ands and buts to the lyrics so there’s a story line that makes sense. We had the song done, but just needed a few words changed, and then, finally, there you go. It’s a breakup song, and when you leave him, while there’s always me as backup. Or something like that.
Q. After accomplishing so much in your career (being inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, playing the Vancouver Olympics) what else would you like to accomplish with the career?
A. I remember being asked the same question in high school. Am I gonna say the year? OK, 1962. Ouch. I’d been playing guitar for two years, and someone said the very same thing. My answer at the time was, play Madison Square Garden, and tour Japan. So we’re halfway there, one out of two. Japan in ’82, maybe The Gardens in ’13? We have a new manager, Jonathan Wolfson, and new label, Frontiers, so anything’s possible.
Q. What do you to keep yourself challenged when it comes to music?
A. I don’t really need a challenge. I’m hooked, I’m a lifer, this is what I do. If I’m not playing live, I’m always doing something involving entertainment. Facebook photos, videos, producing other singers, whatever. You might think I’m a workaholic, but the trick is, it’s not work. I love my job.