Rock legend Bryan Adams needs no introduction. His hits have now become classic rock radio staples – ‘Run To You’, ‘Summer Of ‘69’ and ‘Everything I Do ….’ – to name but a few. Joe Matera recently caught up with Bryan Adams for this rare and candid interview.
Joe Matera: What are your current projects as well as plans for the next 12 months?
Bryan Adams: Mostly photography, but I hope to get into the studio sometime in late September to put down some ideas. Other than that, there will be the inevitable touring regime, so far it looks like Canada, Germany and possibly South Africa.
JM: You’ve had a very successful career, what do you think have been the most important factors to that sustaining success?
BA: After writing the right songs? Touring probably…get the music to the people, and the best way is to tour..it’s a grind though and I don’t love being in hotels all the time. I really miss my home and shuffling around in it, in my underwear all day. It’s weird ‘cause the last ten years I just worked all the frickin’ time. Now I’m riding my motorcycle around town, going out to parties and doing stuff I have never had time to do before. It’s great. Plus my photography has introduced me to lots of really creative and fun people, so half the time when I’m not thinking about music, I’m deep into snapping.
JM: How do you approach the craft of songwriting? With the songs you write, they always seem to be great ear candy with feeling and depth. Is there are formula to the craft of songwriting? One distinctive mark of your songwriting seems to be your use of modulation?
BA: Thanks for the compliments, you mean lack of use of modulation! In truth the only time I blatantly used a ‘modulation’ was in ‘Please Forgive Me’. Otherwise I like to think I’ve disguised them as chord changes that make you wonder a bit.
JM: The Reckless album made you a household name. Did you ever think it would become as big as it did and can you share any “behind the scenes” stories on the making of that album?
BA: All I can think of when I think of that record is how obsessed I was in making it. I didn’t care how many times we had to re-record it, or re-write it, I just wanted it to be a great listen from start to finish. I
remember waking up on the sofa in the control room one day in New York City and everybody had left me in the studio. We were sharing the studio with another act that was recording in the day time and the session was about to get set up..and all I could think was, it’s 8 in the morning…and I wanted to keep recording..where the hell is everybody?? They’d thought I’d lost it, I mean I made dear Bob Clearmountain re-mix stuff to the point where he’d got so angry with me and started yelling I was fucked!
JM: Waking Up The Neighbours was another major success , what was the making of that album like?
BA: Not quite as difficult as reckless was, but that was only coz I’d met my match in Mutt Lange. he could out work me by about five or six hours a day. I remember struggling with a chorus of a song all night and saying good night to Mutt in the studio, and making a point to get up early to get in there before anyone else. when I got there he was still there and hadn’t left the studio…plus he had written a brilliant chorus for the song.
JM: What was the writing process like for your chart-topping hit ‘Everything I do…..”?
BA: Well, we had received a tape from my old friend David Kershenbaum with about twenty minutes of music that had been written by film composer Michael Kamen. I remember was a little fragment which we ended up liking a lot (the intro to the song). I went into the other room and read the script and told Mutt that there was a line in the film that could be an interesting angle for a title: I do it for you… an hour later we had written the whole song including the melody and middle eight in about an hour. Once the demo was done, we were sure it was going to get a good reception, unfortunately we had to struggle with not only Kamen, who hated the song so much he made sure to bury it behind a mountain of extra score a the end of the film, but also the film company who thought everything about it was wrong from the length to the title to the production. But, nothing changed, we felt we had something good, of course we had no idea how well it would do.
JM: With your current Spirit release, does writing for movies require you to take a totally different approach to the overall process?
BA: Working on that film was songwriting by committee. every song you write gets scrutinized to-the-syllable and you go into prolonged re-writing sessions until it fits what the director or producers idea of what is needed. It’s a very different and interesting exercise in songcraftmanship. I don’t know if I could make an album that way…
JM: You’ve always played guitar, why the change to playing bass? Can you take me through your current live playing gear set-up and what’s your prized six-string guitar in your collection?
BA: The change to bass happened ‘cause Keith Scott gave me an old Hofner Beatle bass and I did all the demos for ‘On A Day Like Today’ with it. Then the way we had been recording and working in the studio was basically the three of us Keith, Mickey and I doing the tracking and I decided why not tour with the same configuration. I was loving the change too, I was as if some of the older songs were coming alive for the first time since they were recorded.
My equipment is simply a Fender P-Bass and an Ampeg SVT set up. My prized guitar is a Cherry Sunburst 1960 Fender Stratocaster. It’s been on every song I’ve recorded since ‘Reckless’…it never leaves the studio!
JM: Who were your musical influences and how did you get into the business at such a young age writing songs together with Jim Vallance?
BA: I loved 60’s and 70’s rock music. LOVED IT! As far back as I can remember, I was thinking music and drawing the kind of stage set up I wanted on my school books. I met Jimmy in a music store and I knew from the moment we met that something was gonna happen. I just had a feeling about it. It went beyond both of our expectations – I have to tell you that, because nowhere in my drawings of amp set ups on my school books did I ever see my future filling Wembley Stadium or Madison Square Gardens. Never.
JM: Looking back, is there a stand out moment that you are most proud of?
BA: Probably the fact that I was able to pay my rent making music. My landlord was a trumpet player for the CBC, and I’m forever grateful to him for giving me that little house in Vancouver to work out of. You see, he didn’t have to give it to me, he could have given it to anyone, but he gave it to me ‘cause I had done a session for the CBC the week before he put the house up and when I walked in to inquire about it, he remembered me. What a great bloke.
JM: When can we hope to see you back in Australia?
BA: I thought you were gonna ask me that! As soon as possible… I really miss touring there and have been bugging my manager relentlessly to get it going. so we’ll see…
JM: Where do you see yourself musically in 10 years time?
BA: Hard to answer that right now. I have one more record to record for Universal before the record deal is over. I expect I’ll be still doing it as long as the people keep coming to see us.
JM: One last thing, any chance of a Bryan Adams box set or re-mastered catalog in the near future?
BA: I’d like to put together a CD of my demos and early unreleased stuff, but it’s only a dream at this point.
© Joe Matera, Mixdown, 2002