Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen on the band’s 20th album, lacking his son’s delivery to play with John Lennon


Cheap Trick is liable for a lot of your favourite karaoke staples: “The Flame.” “Ghost Town.” “Dream Police.” “I Want You to Want Me.”

But Rick Nielsen – the band’s co-founder, guitarist and chief songwriter – is almost overly modest when requested concerning the group’s longevity.

“I just like what I do. We’re not the greatest but we’re not bad,” Nielsen tells USA TODAY. “We’re not superstars. We’re lots of people’s fifth favourite band. They say, ‘I’ve obtained Led Zeppelin, Ozzy Osbourne, the Beatles.’ But I do not thoughts being fifth.”

The Illinois-based rockers put out their self-titled debut in 1977. On Friday, they launch their 20th album, a sprightly 13-track effort titled “In Another World.” The album options longtime vocalist Robin Zander and bassist Tom Petersson, in addition to Nielsen’s son, Daxx, on drums. It additionally features a cowl of John Lennon’s 1971 protest music “Gimme Some Truth,” which Nielsen believes is as related now because it was then.

Between “the pandemic and the politics of the last five years, it was not exactly an inspiring time, which is one of the reasons we added ‘Gimme Some Truth,’ ” he says. “We let John Lennon get the credit and the blame because we’re not a political band.”

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USA TODAY talked to Nielsen, 72, concerning the new music, his recollections of Lennon and Kiss’ Gene Simmons, and ideas on ex-Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos:

Question: What kinds of concepts or themes had been you drawing from for “In Another World?”

Rick Nielsen: We launched “The Summer Looks Good on You” as a single a number of years in the past earlier than we began engaged on the album. The refrain, “Here comes the summer,” (suggests) one thing good and constructive that is coming. The summer season could possibly be a metaphor for change, a brand new concept, one thing recent, trying ahead. So a few of these phrases had been in our thoughts and type of flowed out (as we wrote the brand new music). We attempt to be a bit darkish however then on the similar time uplifting. Uplifting is a greater factor than doom and gloom.

Q: You and Bun E. Carlos initially performed on John Lennon’s “I’m Losing You” and “I’m Moving On” in 1980. Your son, Daxx, was born when you had been within the studio, proper?

Nielsen: My spouse knew that John Lennon was my favourite, so I obtained a corridor move. If it was Paul McCartney, I’d’ve been again on the hospital. (Laughs.) And by then, it was her third child, so she knew what was occurring. I’m most likely no consolation anyhow.

Q: Did you ever float any concepts by John about different collaborations?

Nielsen: While we had been doing “I’m Losing You,” he stated, “Man, I want we might had Rick on ‘Cold Turkey.’ (Eric) Clapton froze up.” I did not hear that instantly from him, however I heard it from Jack (Douglas, Lennon’s producer). And really after that, we had talked about Cheap Trick being the band for John Lennon. We had been large followers of Plastic Ono Band and all the opposite spinoff bands he had, and we thought we might be good at it. We’re not session guys, however we knew that stuff. It was type of second nature to us. Not the large preparations that the Beatles had (later), however the Cavern Club mentality (from once they began out) as a result of we had performed so many exhibits in golf equipment.

Robin and I had been going to do concord on the document, which turned out to be “Double Fantasy.” But by the point we obtained again from Japan and went to New York, they’d completed the document and we did not get to do this.

Q: Cheap Trick opened for Kiss on tour in 1977. Did you ever get to social gathering with them?

Nielsen: I hung round fairly a bit with Gene (Simmons). He was a very distinctive man. Paul (Stanley) was type of on his personal on a regular basis. Gene was probably the most level-headed whereas nonetheless completely eccentric, which did not trouble me. So we obtained alongside pretty properly.

Q: Eccentric how?

Nielsen: What I believed was most fascinating was once we’d keep at a resort. Instead of getting bothered by folks, we had aliases (that we would examine in beneath). First I used to be Les Paul, then I used to be Neil Richards. Gene would at all times go beneath Gene Simmons as a result of he wished ladies to go up and see him. “Is Gene Simmons there?” “Yeah, we’ll put him right through.” “Whoa!”

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Q: You additionally launched “I Want You to Want Me” in ’77. How does it really feel to see that music stay on all these years later?

Nielsen: I at all times joke that I want I used to be that silly extra typically, to put in writing one thing that is gone on to place my children by way of college. I most likely wrote it in about 5 minutes and now it has been round for ages. Everybody type of is aware of it and it makes folks comfortable, even robust guys with leather-based and spikes. They all have tender moments with their family members, too. For three minutes, they arrive collectively.

Q: Do you’ve gotten a favourite cowl of it?

Nielsen: Niko Flynn and The Holmes Brothers each do cool variations of it. And this band Propagandhi, a punk band, did it actual quick. Taylor Swift really did it, too. She performed it stay in Chicago, like, “Hey guys, here’s a song I like from some guys that live right around here.” And so there’s 18,000 (mothers) within the viewers and their children singing “I Want You to Want Me.”

Q: Do you get pleasure from Taylor’s music?

Nielsen: Oh, she’s so proficient, yeah.

Q: What did Cheap Trick’s 2016 induction into the Rock Hall imply to you?

Nielsen: That simply validated us being in a band as a result of once we began, there was no Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We had been eligible fairly some time again, however I felt all of the exhibits we had finished, these had been the (true) Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We continued to play it doesn’t matter what occurred. We’ve had success, we have had failures and it is cool that it wasn’t all success as a result of then our egos can be larger than they’re.

Q: How did it really feel to reunite with Bun on the ceremony? (Carlos fell out with the band and was changed by Daxx Nielsen as drummer.)

Nielsen: We’re execs so we do what now we have to do. He’s a terrific participant and it is too dangerous that, at this level in our profession, we did not find yourself with all the identical guys however issues simply did not work out that method. He was of a distinct mindset and he thought we’d by no means make one other document. We would by no means change the setlist as a result of he was like, “You can’t play that, you can’t play that.” And we did not argue, we simply agreed with him. He was by no means comfy taking part in greater than the wanted hour and 55 minutes. So it was simply time.

Q: Have you been in contact with him since then?

Nielsen: Yeah, by way of lawsuits, clearly. But once we had been collectively, we by no means actually chatted or frolicked.

This article initially appeared on USA TODAY: Cheap Trick guitarist talks ‘eccentric’ Gene Simmons, Bun E. Carlos