They want you to (still) want them A brief conversation with Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen
Cheap Trick is a Midwest music institution. Formed in Rockford, Illinois in 1974, the band has released 17 studio albums and several live albums, including the much-beloved, “At Budokan.” The band will be performing at the Iowa State Fair as part of the “Rock Hall Three For All Tour” with Heart and Joan Jett on Aug. 16. Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen spoke with Cityview’s Mark Skaar recently.
CV: Congratulations on Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame induction.
Rick Nielsen: That was a while ago now. All good stuff.
CV: What was that experience like for you?
Rick Nielsen: Something we never expected, but boy, it sure was fun, and it still is.
CV: Right before your induction you released a new record, “Bang, Zoom, Crazy, Hello.” Your timing was impeccable!
Rick Nielsen: That’s the way we’ve always been. Haha. It worked out well.
CV: You got to do some “out of the box” opportunities to work with some other people recently like Jennifer Nettles and Darryl Hall…
Rick Nielsen: Working with other pros is great. The fact that we know Darryl, and the fact that we now know Jennifer, it was, as you said, outside the box, but it’s all good stuff.
CV: How did you get signed with Big Machine Records?
Rick Nielsen: Scott Borchetta happened to be a big Cheap Trick fan. He kind of wondered why we weren’t doing better — even though we were doing fine — and why we didn’t have as much presence as he thought we should have, so he said, “Hey, I wanna work with you guys.” It wasn’t about money or anything like that. He liked Cheap Trick. He liked our art. He liked our music. He said, “Let’s work together,” and we’re still working together.
CV: Is Taylor Swift a fan of Cheap Trick?
Rick Nielsen: I heard she is. I know in Chicago she was doing “I Want You To Want Me” with 18,000 fans singing along. That’s an honor, too. She’s so talented and so beautiful and she likes Cheap Trick. There’s a good combination!
CV: I’ve read that there’s another record ready to go. Is that true?
Rick Nielsen: Well, it’s not exactly ready, but we have the songs ready to make another album, yes.
CV: You’re coming to the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 16 with Heart and Joan Jett on the “Rock Hall Three For All” tour. I’m assuming you have a long-standing rapport with both bands.
Rick Nielsen: Yeah, we sure do. They all have great songs and they’re real professionals. It’s a good combination. We’re all kind of friends. We don’t live together or hang out together all the time, but when we see each other it’s like we’re all part of a family.
CV: Next year will be the 40th Anniversary of the first Cheap Trick record. What are your recollections of that time?
Rick Nielsen: It was a treat to be in New York City working at The Record Plant. I was staying with (producer) Jack Douglas in Montclair, New Jersey, and he lived next door to Yogi Berra. That’s what I remember.
CV: That is such a raw record and a true studio representation of what you guys have always been about.
Rick Nielsen: Yeah, I think that first album and our live album, “Live at Budokan,” that’s kind of like what we sound like. We haven’t progressed much. We still sound about the same.
CV: I know it’s difficult with so many records, but one that I wish were represented more live is the second self-titled album (also known as the “Red Ant” album).
Rick Nielsen: Yeah, that was a good record. I remember “You Let A Lot Of People Down.” I just recall that with all the warring factions around the world. That song just popped up in my head here.
CV: Around that same time (1997-98) you re-recorded your second album, “In Color,” with Steve Albini…
Rick Nielsen: Yeah we did. We recorded it but we never released it. It’s a good one too. It’s got some interesting variations of the “In Color” album.
CV: Any chance that will ever get a wide release?
Rick Nielsen: Well, if you get on your soapbox and start to say more good stuff about Cheap Trick, maybe it will happen.
CV: I always say great things about Cheap Trick.
Rick Nielsen: Alright! Well…I guess it will happen.
CV: I know you guys are road dogs and you’re touring constantly. Obviously, you love what you do.
Rick Nielsen: We’re very lucky to do what we do and have other people like what we’re doing. It’s one of the best jobs in
world, and it’s also probably one of the worst jobs in the world, but it’s more of the best job. cv