Chuck Wright has spent a large part of his career playing bass in classic rock bands so he is understandably excited about the April 23rd release of “DIG”, the new album from Heaven and Earth. Heaven and Earth is a little Foreigner, a little Deep Purple and a hint of TOTO; in other words, it’s classic rock in the truest sense of the term with big Hammond organ mixing with arena rock guitars and powerhouse vocals. Chuck Wright has an insane amount of studio credits on his resume as do most of the members of Heaven and Earth which is why it’s especially cool to see how excited they all are about “DIG”. We recently had the chance to talk to Chuck about the album, his days in Guiffria and House of Lords and much more, read on…..
Legendary Rock Interviews: Hi Chuck thanks for talking to us. It is fitting that you are now in Heaven and Earth because you have such a storied discography of classic rock work over the years. One of your earliest appearances is on the #1 album Metal Health and you have been holding down the rhythm section with Frankie for many years now so I must ask…How are things with Quiet Riot at this point are you just taking a bit of a break to work on Heaven & Earth promotion?
Chuck Wright: Yes, Frankie and I have been playing together since 1981, and we just celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Metal Health release. Things with QUIET RIOT are going great, we just announced a bunch of 2013 tour dates including this years Sturgis Bike Week and a big festival in Las Vegas next weekend with Vince Neil and Night Ranger along with many others. Heaven & Earth has been a recording project I’ve been working on for the past 15 months off and on and I’m just now doing a promo for it, but Quiet Riot still remains my main priority and has been since we started up again in 2010.
Frankie Banali, Carlos Cavazo, the late, great Kevin Dubrow and Chuck Wright on the underrated 1986 QRIII LP back cover
LRI: The new album “Dig” certainly benefits from your ear and presence. The band has gone through a few lineup changes but Stuart Smith remains an integral part of Heaven & Earth. How did you come to be involved with this project and how are you enjoying your role?
Chuck: Yes, Stuart had couple of albums out previously in the 1990s as Heaven and Earth where he had a lot of special big name guests. I also played on a number of tracks on the first album. He called me up out of the blue and asked if I’d like to write and record with him. This new album “Dig” is very different from Stuarts other projects, it’s basically a new band but we’re using the old name. This is a band in the true sense of the word. It’s five guys working together creating music as an ensemble. Stuart Smith, Joe Retta doing lead vocals, Arlan Shierbaum on keyboards, and my close friend of over 30 years, Richie Onori on drums.
Cover art for “Dig” by Glen Wexler…..dang!
LRI: As mentioned you definitely fit the classic rock pedigree of an act like this and have worked with so many classic acts including Giuffria on their debut hit album. You famously toured with Foreigner during that time and experienced a serious hit as well. Were those years challenging, memorable or a little bit of both?
Chuck: I actually feel very blessed to have had my first tour ever be in sold out arenas opening for Deep Purple on their reunion tour, “Perfect Strangers”, then the Foreigner tour. It was just amazing all around. Some wild times and some of my fondest memories are from that tour. The best touring experience I’ve had was with Alice Cooper in 2001. We did 75 cities in 17 countries, it was a world class band, a huge Broadway type production, 5 star hotels, I had my own tech and Alice is the nicest man in the business to work for and hang with. He and I would go out and see the different cities together shopping. The man loves a good deal and is genuinely excited about it then he gives whatever he bought to someone in the band or crew.
House of Lords and that familiar Moneybag logo from Uncle Gene’s Simmons Records logo!
LRI: Following your time with Giuffria you again recorded numerous albums with House Of Lords, again featuring Gregg Giuffria whose work I love so much going back to one of my all time favorites, Angel. House Of Lords was, in my opinion, easily the best signing ever by Simmons Records and those first two albums are very solid. Do you think the band’s promotion and touring was pushed as much as it should have been by RCA?
Chuck: I truly believe that if House Of Lords would have been on a Rock label like Geffen or Epic we would’ve been multi-platinum.
Unfortunately, Gene Simmons custom label deal was with R.C.A., which was basically a country music label. They didn’t have a clue about how to break a Rock band. They had a couple good people but that was it. Our single “Can’t Find My Way Home” was the most requested record on Rock radio in 91’ and they still didn’t know what to do. The head of publicity there didn’t even know we were about to leave on a sold out tour. Sad really, it was a great band that fell through the cracks. We did get the original line up back together in 2005 to head line the Firefest festivals in Europe but Gregg hadn’t played keyboards in 10 years so he passed on the reunion. We have a live album out from our Nottingham show called “Live In The U.K” on Frontiers Records. It’s wicked tight!
LRI: The new Heaven and Earth album “Dig” features some pretty intense artwork and packaging? I know this is something near and dear to you as you have worked on countless albums graphic design. What were your first impressions of the design and feel of this particular package?
Chuck: Stuart and Richie asked me if I’d be interested in creating the artwork for the new album but knowing we had a real budget, I thought it best to bring my friend Glen Wexler on board. He is the best in the business. He’s done over 300 covers for band s like Van Halen, Kiss, Rush, on and on. He’s known for creating improbable realities. The cover is fascinating and sums up our mission statement, which is, unearthing and bringing back old school Rock music to the world. What better way to illustrate that than with a gigantic alien space ship Fender Stratocaster that’s just been discovered? I suggested doing a photo of the band with Joe levitating above us, Glen made that happen. He has his own kind of magic wand.
Heaven and Earth on a little lunch break!
LRI: You also filmed a pretty elaborate and conceptual video and thank goodness also filmed a more racy R rated version of the clip which you need to email us! Bands used to do things like that all the time back in the day so it was cool when you told me you guys filmed two versions. Some of those shoots can be very tedious, how did you enjoy the overall experience this time?
Chuck: Yes, bands used to do that kind of video. Back in the House Of Lords days, we did a frontal nudity version of our first single. I loaned my copy to the Playboy Channel and never got it back. Damn, haven’t seen it since then. With these new Heaven and Earth videos, we shot all the band performance at a sound stage on green screen. It was a 16 hour day…yes, quite tedious. The narrative for the videos was shot on location at the Fuchs Mansion, which is simply stunning. We turned it into a Victorian Bordello and yes, there were topless ladies walking about. It was also a rough day..ummmm no…We then shot in Griffith Park on a foggy morning with a magnificent horse recreating the Renaissance era. These videos tell the story of two star struck lovers that find and lose each other through time.
LRI: You cover everything from Zeppelin-esque Middle Eastern tones to warm soulful 70s sounds and have numerous guest appearances on “Dig” including Richie Sambora. How much fun was it to explore so many different sounds on this album and work with all of these talented guys?
Chuck: For the most part we stayed within that 70’s Rock vibe but yes, we did experiment a bit. The song Victorious has a Middle Eastern feel and is heavier than the rest of the album. We also have a couple huge ballads and a very Beatlesque song with a Waltz feel. Having Sambora do a track using his signature “Talk Box” and slide guitar was really great. I went down and watched him do his thing in the studio and was floored. Such an awesome player, he’s a really funny guy and the Les Paul he was playing is worth 500,000 dollars. Wow! It sounded like it.
David Paich from Toto did a string arrangement on our ballad
”I Don’t Know What Love Is”. Just beautiful! Howard Lease from Heart and Bad Company has had a hand in all the Heaven And Earth records so he was there as well adding some nice acoustic guitar parts.
LRI: You have had a number of different gear setups and endorsements over the years. My hometown hero Tom Peterson plays a 12 string bass with Cheap Trick which is pretty novel to us non techy musicians and you have been known to rock the fretless bass. How does playing a fretless bass change your sound or approach to a song?
Chuck: Tom and I go way back. I got to know the Cheap Trick guys real well touring with them in 1988. I also sang on one of their albums. They are always a fun hang.
I do love my Godin fretless. It’s a completely different animal than my Rock Basses.
It’s smooth, sexy and plays like butter. It’s a totally different sound and works best on ballads though I only play fretless with my acoustic group, “Acoustic Saints” – hey and we do some Zeppelin so it can Rock as well in that kind of set up. I also play fretless with Flamenco guitarist David Maldonado. On the new Heaven & Earth record I added an 8 string Bass doubling 8th note grooves. Sounds fat!
Chuck in the studio watching Richie Sambora lay down some guitar for Heaven and Earth!
LRI: How are things going in your life outside music? Are you finding time to enjoy motorcycles, friends and life in general?
Chuck: Though, I am endorsed by a Sick Boy Motorcycles, I don’t ride. I have tons of friends that do and my feeling is there are two kinds of riders, those that have fallen and those that will fall. Most have them have fallen and have been badly injured.
Things are going great in my personal life. My girlfriend and I have been friends for 26 years and we finally got together as a couple almost four years ago. We go on bicycle rides, hikes, and a lot of social gatherings all the time. We also love to throw parties.
LRI: Thanks again for talking with us Chuck….What is on your immediate horizon for the rest of 2013 and is there anything else you’d like to say to your fans and friends??
Chuck: I will continue to Rock as hard as ever and hope to see more of the world and Rock fans everywhere this year and beyond. More song writing, recording projects, more live shows, more life to live…full steam ahead!! Live long and prosper my friends. Also, thank you John for the insightful questions.