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Bill Leverty (Firehouse)

Interview with Bill Leverty from Firehouse
by Orpheus Spiliotopoulos at 03 August 2004, 6:04 PM

In the early 90s when Grunge music made its appearance, Heavy Metal and Hard Rock went through some pretty rough times. A lot of Hair Metal (or Glam Rock if you prefer) bands vanished as Grunge made its way up in the music industry (though it didn't last that long after all). As the majority of those bands seemed to fade away, there were a few which, surprisingly enough, had a huge impact upon music fans all around the world. Among these few bands was the U.S. Glam Rock band, Firehouse. This band managed to conquer all just within their first 3 years of existence, also being awarded (back in 1991) with the Best New Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Act award. They not only managed to survive through the 90s but created great records throughout their entire course. Last year marked the band's latest album release Prime Time but was also the year for a great tragedy as bassist Bruce Waibel passed away (he'd joined the band in 2000). I had the chance to interview Bill Leverty, Firehouse's guitar player, via e-mail. Read this quite interesting interview because… that was all he wrote.

Hi Bill, first of all I’d like to tell you that it’s an honor for us to be featuring an interview with you at Metal-Temple.Com Magazine. Since we’re an Online magazine, I’d like to ask you what your relationship with the internet is. Do you read online Magazines? Have you ever read Metal-Temple.Com?

The only free time I get is when I’m not on the road, not at the computer answering emails, or not in the studio, and that time I save for my family. I spend so much time answering my email that I don’t have much time to read online magazines very often, but I do think that Metal-Temple.Com is a great one; otherwise I probably wouldn’t take the time to do this interview.

What’s your point of view on Hard Rock / Heavy Metal nowadays? Do you believe there’s a sort of resurrection going on? I mean, there are bands like Poison, Kiss, Warrant, Van Halen, Twisted Sister etc who’ve reunited and are - gladly to see - on the road again.

There is, yes, but it’s not happening fast enough for me; nor is it happening on a big enough scale for me. I don’t see any of these bands with new albums on the charts or on the radio, MTV, etc. We need more melodic rock!

From Firehouse’s debut album, Firehouse (1990), to Prime Time (latest release) it’s been almost 14 years. How does it feel to be in one of the few Rock bands who made it big at a time when glam Rock (or Hair Metal if you may) bands were fading away under the short but huge impact Grunge music had upon the music world?

I’m very grateful that we’re still going. I think that ultimately it’s been our songs that have kept us going, not our image.

Even though Firehouse has great stories to talk about due to the band’s great success throughout its course, Bruce Waibel’s (bass) death was a very sad thing to hear (September 2003). I know that you always admired Waibel as a person and as a musician and I always remember you talking about him with the kindest of words. Almost a year after his death, how do you feel about this issue? When you remember Bruce, what’s the brightest image of him that comes into your mind?

I’ll never get over the loss of such a great guy. I was recently given a live recording of Bruce playing in the Gregg Allman Band and it just reminded me of what a great musician he was. Heaven got one amazing bass player that day! There are so many great memories of Bruce, but one that comes to mind is when he met the CJ and Michael for the first time at my house. It was 100 degrees outside in Florida and when we opened the door he said, Man, it’s hotter than a VCR in a crack house out there!

Who’s going to replace such a talented bass player in Firehouse?

No one will ever replace Bruce. Our band went looking for new talent and we got very lucky. Our new bassist is Allen McKenzie. He was the lead singer/bassist for the best Rush tribute band in the country. He is an amazing talent who brings our band to a whole new level.

This is sort of a funny question (to change the subject) but is it true that on the Firehouse album the woman on the cover is Bobby Blotzer’s (Ratt’s drummer) wife?

Not true. Her name is/was Briggette McClellan. I think she was married to one of the guys in a band called Spread Eagle.

Let’s talk about Firehouse’s latest album, Prime Time. First of all, who wrote all the songs on the album? Was it C.J. (vocals) and you? What’s the story between the lines for each song on the album?

We wrote as a group (Michael, CJ and me) in pairs, and as individuals. All of the songs were recorded in my studio and we think it’s our best album ever. I’m singing lead vocals on two songs and Michael is singing lead vocals on one. CJ sings all the rest. I think that this adds a deeper dimension to the band as a whole.

Who designed the cover artwork? Whose idea was it?

It was a collaboration between our graphic artist, Stephanie Beasley (who is awesome) and us.

Are you generally satisfied with the album’s outcome? How long did it take to materialize your musical thoughts and inspirations into Prime Time?

I’m extremely happy with the way it turned out. It came together pretty quickly since we had to make a dealine that our Japanese label, Pony Canyon, had requested.

Apart from the band, is there anyone else who was involved in Prime Time which you’d like to mention?

We had a great percussionist named Preston Fulcher play on Prime Time. He did an excellent job. Other than that, we did everything else in house.

Throughout the band’s history, you’ve always been like really big in Asia (Japan etc), though in the USA you were awarded with a Best New Rock Act music award back in 1991 and were always among the leading US rock acts in your country. Why do you think you’ve always had such a big impact on that part of the planet?

I think that people just connected with our songs. Maybe it’s the melodies. Maybe it’s the lyrics. Maybe it’s the riffs or grooves. Whever it is, it reaches peoples hearts and that’s a beautiful thing.

How does it feel to be jamming alongside Ac/Dc’s Brian Johnson? I’ve heard that you also play Highway To Hell sometimes. If you’d like to, please tell us a few things about this matter since I’m sure there are folks out there who probably don’t know what I’m talking about.

I’ve known Brian for many years now and he’s one of the greatest people I’ve ever met. Playing with him on stage is one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever experienced. He’s 100% the same guy on stage that he is off stage. Absolutely phenomenal.

On the 8th of May (2004) Firehouse opened for Reo Speedwagon and Journey, in San Juan. As in this concert, how does it always feel to be playing in front of so many people?

It felt like the good old days when we toured, and all the arenas were sold out. We were treated so well by both bands and crews that we really felt like a great part of the event. The promoter took all three bands out for dinner the night before and we got a chance to hang out with both REO and Journey. They are all the nicest people and we sure hope that we can tour with both bands again soon.

Which Firehouse concert do you remember as the greatest of them all even if that concert is slightly greater than all the other great ones?

I’ve come to realize that each show is a true blessing. Every time I get a chance to get up on that stage and play our music, it’s like the chance to enjoy another day. I try to look at it as if there are only so many gigs in a band’s life and we are so fortunate to be able to have another one. Some of my favorites are from Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, England, Germany, Spain, Scotland, Ireland, and of course, the USA.

In America, which we’ve played more, I’ve enjoyed so many great gigs and I’m so thankful that we can still play.

Is there a Firehouse album you feel it deserved more than what it got back from the people? Personally which Firehouse album(s) or songs do you really love? I know a lot of people who’re still pretty much obsessed with All She Wrote (Firehouse album - 1990), an inch more than all the other Firehouse songs.

Thank you. I’m very fond of All She Wrote too. To be honest, there are SO many songs that I wish that the public could’ve had a chance to be more exposed to, but the fact is that the record company calls those shots. Right now, we’re focusing on our new album, PRIME TIME. I hope that people will check it out. Critics and fans are all saying that it’s our best ever, or at least our best since our first two albums.

Let’s focus now a bit on your solo activities. Wanderlust is your solo

project. You started it together with Bruce Waibel and Michael Foster. When I first heard about three Firehouse members being on the same solo project I couldn’t stop wondering what purpose something like this could serve. Is it that different from Firehouse’s playing style? What different aspects of Michael, Bruce and you did you want to express through Wanderlust? Was it Bruce’s voice (I think you always admired his singing abilities apart from his amazing bass playing)?

Actually, I didn’t think that deeply into it. I never actually said, I’m going to do a solo album. I just wrote songs over many years that fit my voice well and eventually had ten of them. Suddenly, I realized that I should put them out rather than just having them at home to play for my friends. It’s different from Firehouse in that I’m doing all the vocals, and, the style is more Southern and bluesy. I didn’t want to express any different aspects of Bruce or Michael. I only wanted them to play the songs the best way they could, from THEIR hearts, not mine. I’m very proud of the way the album turned out and many people are telling me that they want to hear more. That’s very encouraging. Please check out the sound clips here:

How are you going to promote Wanderlust? Is there going to be some touring for Wanderlust and if so, who’s going to play the bass?

I did this record as a side project. I don’t plan on touring to promote it. I didn’t ask for any time off from Firehouse to write, record, mix, or master it. That would be selfish and rude to tell the other guys that I wanted to take time off. We all need to play gigs so we can support our families. If Firehouse ever takes any time off the road, I would love to play some Wanderlust gigs, but we haven’t taken any time off in over 14 years, so I don’t see that happening any time soon.

There’ve been rumors that you are going to launch a European tour with Firehouse this year. People are also dying to know if you’re going to play in Greece (Athens or Thessaloniki) this year or next year together with George Lynch’s Lynch Mob. Could you confirm this?

The promoters would be the best people to ask that question. I only know that after we played an extremely successful European tour last year, we were very anxious to come back. Hopefully this winter, we can come back and add Greece to the list of countries that we play. I’m not sure who the support band(s) will be, but I would LOVE to tour with Lynch Mob. George is one of my all time favorite guitarists.

What’s Bill Leverty’s ambition as a musician and as an individual?

I just want to be happy. There are so many things that make me happy. I love playing guitar. I love playing ice hockey. I love my wife and I love my daughter. If I can have a good balance of all those things in my life, I’ll be a very happy man.

Finally, I’d like to thank you for spending your precious time in answering these questions. We do hope to meet you sometime in the near future for an up close interview. These last words belong to you; their eyes, your thoughts.

Thank you for the interview. Thank you, the reader, for reading this interview. I hope you’ll support us by getting our new music. Thanks for keeping rock alive!


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