Bill Milhizer Interview
Here's a sampling of what some critics are saying about I.R.S. Recording Artists the "Fleshtones," "The best rock 'n roll to come out of New York in the past year," "This year's authentic embodiment of rock 'n roll," and the "true champions of American beat music."
Having formed in 1976, the "Fleshtones" were signed to I.R.S. in 1980 by Miles Copeland.
"Roman Gods" is their latest album and we chatted with drummer Bill Milhizer about the group.
Q. You guys are not into the usual material trappings of rock stars, the limos, money, etc. What then do you want out of rock ‘n’ roll?
A. We are vehemently, totally opposed to the rock star image that has been going down for oh, fifteen years now. Putting rock people up on pedestals and pampering them is really something that we just don't find enjoyable. From time to time, even on our level, we've had things like that offered to us and we've just generally turned it down, turned down an offer to take a limousine to a record store signing. Nobody in the group has anything against making money, with what we do. We just want to be successful without changing what we do: If we get the money, we will get it on our own terms, and that will be by playing what we consider to be a very true form of rock 'n roll and having that form get played on the
Radio, get sold in the record stores, without us putting a synthesizer in the group, or doing something really foreign that someone else might consider advantageous for radio airplay. It's something that's very important to us. It comes out in the way we talk to people, in the way we dress, and generally in the way we conduct ourselves. It's just a level of being on the up, straight forward and as honest as possible. I don't mean to portray everyone in the group as an angel, 'cause we're not, it's just important to do things the right way. We're in this for keeps.
Q. Do record people try to change in any way, the image the "Fleshtones" have?
A. No they don't. One of the good things about being on a mid-range label like I.R.S. is that that kind of persuasion and control isn't put on you the way it would be on a more major label.
Q. Writer Mick Farren says, "Probably rock's greatest strength and also its major weakness is that it takes itself very, very seriously." Could that be why the fun seems to have gone out of rock 'n roll today?
A. To me, the fun isn't out of rock 'n roll. We don't feel that way when we play. Maybe I'm speaking just in terms of live performances. There is a tendency in the making of a rock album to almost approach it as a high art form which rock 'n roll is not. It's almost treated like something very precious. There's too much time going into the making of rock albums these days. I think a lot of things can be simplified. If I was more of a technical whiz, I could be specific. It just strikes me that the things to get serious about are the things in the news, who's being elected who's dying in your family, but not the making of a rock 'n roll album. That should be actually something that's fun.
Q. With so much money riding on every album release today, maybe that's why the approach is so serious.
A. That I think also is so much of the problem. We want to make our next album for about $15,000, tops. When we did one of our favorite singles which was "The World Has Changed," over in England, that was in like a really bombed out studio, actually when we were trying to do it, the board broke down, one of the tape machines broke down. It was really a sub standard studio. I thought we got a real good sound for what
we were going for, and we sure didn't pay much for that. When we recorded "Roman Gods," we did the graveyard shift - 2 A.M. 'til noon. That's when the rates are cheaper. Here again, if you were a big, rock star, you wouldn't do that. If we ever get to that point of selling a lot of records, and being what people think of as "rock stars." we just won't turn into that kind of $200,000 an album type thing. It would hurt us so much; hurt the band musically so much, to let some producer think that we needed all that. I think the role of the producer to some extent, in rock 'n roll, is too important today. I think the producer as artist, as the one who's looking for the state of the art ideas in sound, I think that can be an impediment to a band like ours. Fortunately; we haven't encountered any bad problems with anyone like that, that's worked with us. Everyone has been down to earth. I just dread the day we get into a studio with access to a large budget, and a producer who thinks we have to spend it all and more, to get a good album.
Q. During one of your gigs, you had members of the Go Go's, the Pretenders, and Rod Stewart's band in the audience. Does that unnerve the band to know those kind of people are there?
A. No, not at all. We didn't know they were there. A couple of the Go Go's were there, 'cause we're friends, with em, we've done so many gigs with 'em. It was later I found out all those other people were there. We've played so many gigs and toured the country three times. We've just played a lot and we can just settle into what we are and what we do, nobody in the audience makes me nervous. We're fortunately past that stage.
Q. Sting, of the Police, has remarked, "I feel you can be a rock 'n roll singer for so long. After a while it becomes undignified." Do you feel that way?
A. I don't see it as being a particular position of dignity anyway. I don't see it as a position of humiliation either at any time. Maybe at one point, I haven't talked to him about it, he felt that the position of rock star was one of dignity and it's not quite the word I would apply to it in the first place. Dignity is the Queen, politicians, the Pope, the elders of China, that's dignity. I don't see how a rock star deserves that kind of thing in the first place.
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