Joe Lynn Turner interview – April 2015

I spoke to former Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner a few days ago to talk about his tour and about him having been announced for this year’s Rewind Festivals in Scotland and Henley-on-Thames.

You’ve just finished the UK leg of your latest solo tour and are now on the European leg. It’s an acoustic tour isn’t it?

Not all of it, no. It was just the UK leg of it, so now we start up with the band tomorrow again

How different is it for you as a performer doing an acoustic show rather than a full rock and roll set?

To be honest with you I cut my teeth on acoustic stuff with the band Fandango – we used to play electric and acoustic shows. When we would play a pub or something that was too small for the amps and all the equipment to be in then we’d break it all down and grab some acoustic guitars perhaps a small bass amp or something like that, but other than that I was pretty used to doing it. Doing this type of stuff would be the difference. You know it’s strange, a lot of people want to hear “I surrender” acoustic, and that’s difficult to do acoustically as you’ve got those riffs that just don’t lend themselves to acoustic guitar, so that always surprises me – that people want to hear the rock songs, but acoustic. Some of them will translate but a lot of them don’t do must justice acoustically. What I do intend to do though is work out some kind of a way to circumvent that and see if I can do some of the hits acoustically. Acoustic feels natural to me but what I wanted to do on this last tour was mix it up with a lot of the inspirations I had when I was younger, like The Doors, Van Morrisson, The Beatles, stuff like that.

How has the tour gone so far?

I had to cancel the last two shows in the UK because I was dreadfully ill, and finally got some antibiotics and I’ve been laid up for a few days now, so I’ll be singing again tomorrow. I won’t be fully recovered but….my teacher taught me to sing above a cold. I actually did the first Rainbow record with a cold. We just did the Frontiers fest here in Milan and I was really ill but I got above it somehow. It wasn’t what I wanted – a singer always gets disgusted when he knows he can do a certain thing and he’s not able to do it because of a cold or something – it’s very frustrating for us. So, the show must go on either way, and it came out pretty good, so I’m proud of myself about that.

As a member of Rated X you released an album in November. For people unfamiliar with the band, can you tell us a bit about the band?

Tony Franklin from The Firm and Kenny Wayne Shepherd band, he’s played with everybody and been on millions of records; Carmine Appice is a legend, incredible – everything from Vanilla Fudge, Rod Stewart, Cactus, Blue Murder; Alessandro del Vecchio on keyboards who was an in-house producer but also a very good writer, singer and guitar player actually, so he was a great utility guy and in fact we’ll be playing with him when we do some Rated X dates. We’re hoping to do something in mid-July but I don’t think Tony will be available so we’ll have to get a substitute. You know it’s really difficult these days because everyone’s got to do what they’ve got to do to make money and feed the family and it’s not like in the old days where there was extra cash and promoters were paying big money for certain things. The economic crunch is on, CDs don’t sell because of the internet – they sell a certain amount, but you’re not going to retire on it, so it’s pretty tough and guys have to take gigs wherever they can.

I’ve noticed a lot of musicians these days being in several bands for that reason.

The two or three different bands thing is crazy. I’m lucky that I don’t have to do that, I can always just rely on solo gigs, but that must be insane to do two or three different bands. I know I was talking to Doug Aldrich and he’s got three projects – Steamroller, Burning rain and Revolution saints, and he’s doing the rock vault in Vegas, and he said he’s got to feed the family.

And keep buying more guitars for his collection.

Like we don’t have enough? I’ve got sixty plus in mine. We talked about guitars too. Originally being a guitar player, I have mostly vintage guitars too. They’re worth a fortune but I’m never going to sell them – it would be like selling your children.

And of course if you ever feel that your collection is too big you can always say “well I have less than Joe Bonamassa so it’s not that bad”

That’s right, and in fact his dad has a guitar shop in New York and that’s how I met Joe. Speaking of Joe, not many people know that he’s on two or three of the Joe Lynn Turner solo albums, writing and playing lead. It amazes me how many people don’t know that.

You’ve been announced to play this year’s Rewind festivals in Scotland and Henley. What can fans expect from your set?

It’s a full electric show. I don’t know the band yet but they look and sound pretty damn good – they sent me a link. I think we’re doing four songs, so I think we’ll have one rehearsal the day before and then hit the stage. When you’ve got guys of that calibre you don’t need tons of rehearsals.

They’ll know the songs, I’ll plug in so to speak and we’ll work out the endings and we’re off to the races. We’ve picked the songs – the ones that they feel are really pertinent to the festival, and I have to agree. I’m not quite sure exactly what they are – one of them is “I surrender”, but I’ve got a list on my email. I’ve got too much on right now to think about them – I’ll look it up when the time comes. I know the songs anyway so it’s not a problem. I was just looking at organising my lyric sheets and there are hundreds of songs that I’ve memorised, so I’m ready to walk in and do it.

There have been reports recently that you’re hoping to team up with Ritchie Blackmore again for a Rainbow reunion.

Yeah, there’s been a lot of mystique about that. I can say definitely we’re talking about it, so it’s a definite maybe. I’d call it probable, but a lot of journalists like to stretch the truth to sell magazines, and start rifts between people and things like that. I was emailing Carol the other day, his manager and mother in law, and we’re working on something now, so it’s in process and she’s said she wants to work on some kind of release so the press just gets everything straight. That way there’s no confusion or anything like that. We’re not sure what it’s going to be creatively – we haven’t really decided yet. I guess we’ll have to get in a room first and see what it feels like.

I’m sure a lot of fans will be waiting and hoping that something happens.

I’m one of them as I think we had some unfinished business. There was that third record I was supposed to be on but I won’t go into that, just sometimes things don’t work out. No harm done but at the same time we do have unfinished business, he knows it and I know it, and I think we can really put out something really good.

It’s been a long time since Ritchie Blackmore has done much rock.

Ritchie has the chops – he’s Ritchie and he’s always sharpening the knife. Some people say he’s lost it, but I don’t know where it would go. The guy is super professional, plays his instrument every single day, enough said. A guy like that doesn’t lose it.

You’ve been a musician for many years – what are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the music business?

It’s the paradigm shift as they call it, a fancy way of saying that we don’t get paid for the music anymore mostly. Most music is free which I don’t understand because if you went into a restaurant and ordered a meal and got up and said it was wonderful then just walked out, I think they’d look at you and call the cops. It’s the same with music. We make music because we have to, because we’re musicians and artists but we have to eat, and that seems like the age old problem. When you read about the lives of the great composers, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Debussy, all of them had to have sponsors in order to survive. They were writing little trinkets for some rich man’s daughter’s birthday or something, and you know it’s really strange because we need to survive. In the days of selling records in volume, you could have a revenue stream and that catalogue would sell, so yes we have those back catalogues and they still sell, but you put out a new record and everyone gets it free unless they’re the real collectors who buy it because they have to have it.

Other than that I don’t think there’s the right promotion. Let’s put it another way, there are so many bands now and anyone with a garage band can make a song and release it on the internet. The good and the bad of it is that it gives somebody an opportunity, but at the same time there’s so much crap to sift through now that sometimes people don’t even bother.

I’m working with a band now from Sweden, Dynazty, they’re fabulous. They’re kind of like melodic metal, each of them is a virtuoso and they’ve got four albums out and nobody’s really heard of them, and there are a lot of bands like that. I was fortunate to be around in the 80s and to have some recognition from that which translates so far into a lasting career, knock wood. If you keep up your craft and stay healthy you can have a long career, but some of the other guys, I seem them struggling and I feel for them because the opportunity may be there but it’s crushed by the overload and the inundated amount of music out there. The days or radio are pretty much gone.

Are Dynazty acting as your backing band then on this tour?

I’ve got the guys as a band, but from tomorrow we got out as a unit, Nils is coming along to sing and they are going to open, and then I’m going to come on and we’ll all stay on the stage and I’ll share some vocals with Nils – he’s fabulous, we’ll do things like “Burn” and stuff like that, and have some fun. The whole point of music and rock and roll was always to have a great time, to be excited and exhilarated and I think there became a lot of people in the business who were too pretentious and took themselves too seriously. “I’m a rock star, I don’t do this or that”. Well if you’re a real musician all you want to do is play and jam and have a great time and make the audience feel the same way. We honestly have a good time on stage, there’s no pretention on stage. We lose ourselves on stage and have a blast. The guys grew up on the music and they’re saying they can’t believe they’re on stage playing the music with me, and I’m going “I can’t believe I’m playing with such proficient, responsible, young musicians”. It’s a sort of mutual admiration society, and it really shows on the stage. People said after the Frontiers fest that we had this magic about us whereas some of the other bands were standing looking at the ground, just not interacting with each other, and it was really a shame because some of the music could have been better but there was no communication between them. I’d rather not be in this business than do that.


Joe Lynn Turner will perform at Rewind Scotland at Scone Palace in Perthshire on Sunday 26th July,and Rewind South at Temple Island Meadows in Henley-on-Thames on Saturday August 22nd.  For tickets, please visit:

About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.