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Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band - Interview

  by Lisa Torem

published: 30 / 8 / 2023

Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band - Interview

Ringo Starr, born Richard Starkey in Liverpool, England, was merely a teenager when he joined the Eddie Clayton Skiffle Band as a fast and furious drummer, but his stellar reputation on the riser with Rory Storm and The Hurricanes launched his life-changing career with The Beatles. In the 1970s, Starr’s solo debut, ‘Sentimental Journey’ was released to critical acclaim. Later in the decade, he spun gold with Top 10 gems, ‘Only You (And You Alone)’ and ‘The No No Song,’ plus four studio albums. Needless to say, since that time Starr’s career has been studded with appearances in TV, film, and evergreen studio hits. He’s also stretched himself as a visual artist, who donates greatly to humanitarian causes, and is a mentor to the younger generation. In 1989, the 9-time Grammy Award winner developed a whole new concept in entertainment, an inclusive, musical concept that ultimately branched into a veritable brotherhood: the All-Starr Band. Starr is a marvel; a trim-and-slim entertainer whose wit lights up the room, and whose zest for life, even on a Zoom screen, is contagious. The band is currently promoting the 2023 All-Starr Tour, which will begin on 19 May in California and finish on 13 October in Oklahoma, hitting major cultural centers. The unique set-up allows fans to hear classic hits from musicians that came to fame with one-off bands and then cultivated solo careers. During a virtual behind-the-scenes peek at the All-Starr Band during a rare rehearsal break on 17 May, Starr and band members: jazz/rock drummer Gregg Bissonette (Spinal Tap, Joe Satriani, Electric Light Orchestra), vocalist and saxophonist Warren Ham (Toto, Kansas), singer-songwriter Colin Hay (Men at Work), singer-songwriter and guitarist Steve Lukather (Toto), singer, guitarist and bassist Hamish Stuart (Average White Band) and singer and multi-instrumentalist Edgar Winter (Edgar Winter Group) fielded questions consolidated from the global press. The “peace and love” maestro, himself, quickly chimed in when asked how the preparation for the tour was generally going: ”Yesterday we ran through the whole show and I’m ready to rock,” Starr grinned. Hay added: “We seemed to have hit our stride just a few months ago. I’m very much looking forward to it.” A South American writer inquired about possible tour dates on the continent. “There’s always a chance we’ll come back. I love South America,” Starr replied. A few of us inquired, “For some musicians, touring is tiring. Yet with your ambitious schedule, you continue to add dates and record.” More to the point, will the All-Starrs require a surge of renewed energy? Starr didn’t stand on ceremony. “We have great confidence we’re going to do all the gigs.” Are there songs that mean more now, than at the time they were first created? Hay noted, “I have a fondness for ‘Overkill.’ Reflecting back to the time of the song’s inception, he remembered thinking, “Maybe, I could make a living as a songwriter.” Then, in real time, the Scottish musician mused, “I love playing that song every night.” For Ringo, that special song is the nostalgic ‘Photograph,’ the lead single from his 1973 self-titled album. Stuart’s choice was the romantic ballad, ‘Queen of my Soul’. I suspected Lukather would cite the crowd-mesmerizing ‘Africa’ from the early 1980s release, ’Toto IV,’ but he proved me wrong: “It’s impossible. Every day is a new adventure.” What has it been like, playing for a living for decades? Living out of a suitcase? Chasing planes? “Playing has never been gruelling. We are the best band,” Starr said confidently, and then, with a laugh, added, “in the room.” Then, he elaborated: “When we first started, we’d change the band completely. I only changed two people last year. This band’s good for me.” And what is it like for songwriters to play a stream of original songs written by their bandmates, and not just by themselves? Lukather said, “I was born and raised to be a studio musician, so I love the challenge of playing other people’s music. And they’re such great friends. This is a vacation.” Winter nodded. “I always love the feel of a band and I know Ringo feels the same way. The chemistry of a band is a very unique and personal thing. We do a lot of these songs in a unique way, that you’ve never heard before. We may change it a little; it’s not actually what’s on the record.” Bissonette concurred that many of the All-Starr versions have come into their own and have been granted signature status. “It’s our band’s version of all these songs. The more you play, the more nuanced, to be honest,” Hay added. But what about the set-list? Given the number of musicians onstage at every turn, does that decision ever cause controversy? What stays and what goes? Starr took the lead. “I consider everything. There’re no restrictions. The first year, we put in ‘Octopus’s Garden’ (Starr’s song from 1969’s ‘Abbey Road’). I didn’t think of it. I was just doing it. I love to play great songs.” It was now clear that friendships had developed outside of their professional commitments, as Lukather said: “I consider these guys lifelong friends. As far as Ringo, he’s the real thing. What I imagined him to be? He’s even better than what I dreamed of.” Does Ringo often reflect back on the early days? Did he ever wonder if he would continue to be successful moving forward? “We had no sense of time. I’ve lived to play ever since I played in the greatest band in the world with my brothers. I love being in a band. I may have a name, but I’m in this band,” he emphasised. When asked about their favourite venues, the band had trouble reaching a consensus, except for Starr: “I love the Greek, which is in L.A., because I get to go home at night.” Edgar Winter replied to a specific question about last year’s award-winning album, ‘Brother Johnny’, which was dedicated to his late brother, lightning-fast guitarist Johnny Winter. Would the band perform songs from that album? “We will be doing ‘Johnny B. Goode’,” Winter confirmed. “To this day, when I think of rock ‘n’ roll, I think of Chuck Berry (songwriter) and ‘Johnny B. Goode’.” The rock ‘n’ roll stateman recalled that the siblings won their first talent contest with the iconic song, and ran home with an acetate. “That’s the reason Johnny put it on his first album (‘The Progressive Blues Experiment’).” How do the men keep in shape and retain their physical and mental stamina? Starr: “I go to the gym most mornings and get ready.” His next aside cracked up the band. “Our tour manager gave us too many days off, so I complained. If I’m on a tour, I want to play. With this band, everything takes the weight. We could play every night,” he chided, “but Edgar needs a day off.” Hay came back with, “We play the hits in this band, happily. I make sure I warm up as much as I can.” Remarkably, Starr has continued being prolific, despite the fear and isolation of the recent years brought about by Covid-19. Given his output, what is his preferred format? EP or album? “It started with the pandemic. We could send files to each other. With an EP, you could look at it in a serious way. The last (‘EP3’) was out of the blue.” Starr enjoys collaborating. “I get to work with people that I’ve never worked with before. A lot of my life has been changed by the moment that comes into it,” he explained. This serendipity eventually led to the recording of a country EP. Amid a flurry of questions, and with a limited time to respond, the band still kept up a positive front. When asked about their legacies, Lukather concluded, “I don’t know how to do anything else. This is the greatest job a human being could have, especially with these guys.” Hay advised, “You have to pace yourself. You learn that what’s really important is playing the show. You put the energy out and the energy comes back.” But the topic typically swung back to Ringo, and how much the musicians appreciated his work ethic and friendly nature. As such, Bissonette chimed in, “The first time I saw Ringo, I was buzzing for a week. You get so much back.” “To me, music is timeless, an ever-expanding world,” Winter intercepted philosophically, “although I can’t do everything I could when I was younger.” Starr has become well-known for celebrating his July birthdays, and spreading his message of peace and love to his fans year after year. Will he continue the ritual this summer? “We’ll be in L.A. There’s a hand of mine in Santa Monica,” he said, referring to the life-size, bronze statue that replicates his peace sign gesture. “it’s the usual thing at twelve noon; wherever you are, it’s peace and love.” Bissonette’s statement regarding his personal, performance legacy was eloquently stated, “I’ve never once not loved doing it.” This pre-tour peek was not unlike a 1960s love-in, albeit with dedicated musicians brought together by the singular passion of making music and connecting deeply with their audience; much more than a station break for the curious press. If the 2023 All-Starr Tour mirrors the obvious synergy in the room, fans are in for a genuine treat.. Ringo will convey his annual "peace and love" message at noon on July 7, 2023 from California, along with special guests. The celebratory message will also be beamed through NASA. The main photograph was taken by Mike Colucci and the lower one by Scott Robert Ritchie..

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Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band - Interview

Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band - Interview

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Lisa Torem finds that a press event held during a rehearsal break reveals the true spirit of the All-Starr Band, helmed by iconic drummer/singer-songwriter Ringo Starr, prior to their 2023 US tour.

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