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Going Hardcore with Paul Dean of Loverboy

Going Hardcore with Paul Dean of Loverboy

Going Hardcore with Paul Dean of Loverboy

In 1989, Paul Dean, lead guitarist of Loverboy, would release his first solo endeavor entitled Hard Core.  Consisting of songs that would not necessarily work with his main band, Dean and producer Brian “Too Loud” MacCloud unleashed a hard rockin’ collection of tunes that set the imagination in flight.  With Hard Core recently reissued digitally and new music well on the way, Paul Dean also remains a compelling force within the long running Loverboy.  Highwire Daze Online recently caught up with the much revered guitarist to find out more about his three solo recordings, a few of the songs featuring within Hard Core, his ongoing passion performing with Loverboy, and a whole lot more!  Read on…

First, in 1989 what made you decide that it was now time to record a solo album?
You know, before I met Mike Reno, I’d have been in 13 bands and the first couple of bands there was no singer, but every band after that there was a singer, and for some reason, it just fell apart, you know. It would be a musical taste, or personal things, or management things, or whatever and I had just got to the point just before I met Reno I said to myself, you know I’m kind of fed up with that, supporting the singer and putting my whole life behind the singer only to have it blow up in my face. I just said, you know what, good or bad, for better for worse, I’m going to just do a solo career, and of course that thought was very short-lived because right after I made that decision, about a month or two after, I heard Mike sing and I thought, oh maybe I’ll just put this on hold for a little while, so let me just give it one more go. So, you know, Mike and I got together. We wrote a couple of songs the first night. We hit it off great. We became great friends. We still are, and then time went along. We recorded a bunch of albums together and I had a bunch of tunes that came my way. Sword and Stone, for instance, came my way through a writing session with some Bon Jovi guys and I presented it to Mike, and he said, no it’s not really my style.

It’s a little too metal for him and I went, OK great and I pitched him a couple of other tunes that I had. Bryan Adams gave me “Draw the Line.” I don’t know if it was before Nugent had did it or not, but I played that for him and he went, it’s not really my thing and a couple more tunes that I had kicked around and he basically said he would pass so, I went, “Well you know what, I think maybe I will do this. You know this is a good time between albums, between tours. I’m just gonna put this record together.” So, I did. I got a little studio in Vancouver and I got together with one of my best friends at the time Brian MacCloud (from Chilliwack and Headpins). Unfortunately, Brian passed away quite a while ago, not long after we recorded this album together actually and Brian played drums and co-produced it with me – and so that was kind of it. It wasn’t like I’m going to be a rebel or anything. I just went, you know, I’ve got all these tunes, I’ve always wanted to do a solo album, have a solo career on the side, so let’s go, and I got some great musicians and a drummer.

Brian McCloud played drums on most of the tracks and it was interesting that Brian and I got back together as musicians because Brian was in Loverboy. He was playing drums in Loverboy just before Matt joined and Brian decided that he didn’t want to do it, play drums, he wanted to be a guitar player and to me, his instrument truly was drums, not taking anything away from his guitar playing, but his drumming was incredible.

Is there any overall story or concept behind the Hardcore title?
You know, I just envisioned this album to be harder-edged than Loverboy – especially in the vocals. Whereas Mike is an incredible singer, like he’s one of the top five singers alive or not alive, I mean he’s an amazing singer still night by night he’s just fantastic. So, that’s really the big difference and there are not as many keyboards on the album. There are very, very few keyboards. It’s basically guitar C, same kind of funky grooves with the bass and the drums, but the vocals are the big difference I was really giving at the time. I sing quite different now but at the time I was really going for it singing really high and really hard and kind of inspired by that school more. So, it was just by definition of the songs and the fact that it was more hard-edged crunch guitar and hard vocals.

“Sword And Stone” was co written by KISS.  How did that wind up on the album?
I was in New Jersey writing with the Bon Jovi guys. I had made a connection with Jon (Bon Jovi) and Richie (Sambora). And so, I went out to Jon’s place and we were writing together and we wrote Notorious for the Wildside album together. And halfway through the session, I think I was there for four days, staying at Jon’s place, everything was very cool. And Desmond Child joined us halfway through. And we really didn’t get anything, but I had a lot of respect for Desmond because he has written some amazing songs. So anyway, he gave me “Sword and Stone.” He says “The KISS guys were thinking about doing it. They’re not going to do it, but here you go. Do you want to pitch it to Loverboy? To Mike and them?” I went yeah, great song. That’s where that came from. I pitched it to Mike and he couldn’t hear it for himself, he couldn’t get into that pitch base. And that’s where that came from.

Has anyone in KISS ever heard or comment on that version of your song?
I never did hear a comment. I saw a lot of comments on YouTube. They talked a lot about the KISS thing and the Bonfire did a version of it. Completely different. I don’t know if KISS did – no, I don’t think they did. I think they were commenting on the Bonfire version compared to mine, it’s quite different. I guess the Bonfire version was on a soundtrack to a horror movie way back. Some people really liked it. Some people thought it was whatever. But that’s the internet. You just sort of take it all with a grain of salt. All the good comments and all the bad comments. Somebody’s opinion, you know?

Let’s talk about “Draw the Line,” you did briefly mention the song and that it was recorded by Ted Nugent for Penetrator. What made you decide to cover that particular song?
I had no idea that it was on a Penetrator album. When Bryan gave it to me, I had a cassette of it, carried it around in my van line for a while. And I went back and reviewing all the songs that I had just kicking around from different writers and different publishers when I ran across it. Not knowing that it had already been released, but I went “This is a pretty cool song.” Once again, I pitched it to Mike and maybe he knew it had already been released, but I didn’t – I had no idea. And doesn’t really matter, it’s a cool song and I got behind it. I really felt it. To me, it was fiction, but most of my songs are, they’re fiction. Even though they’re about personal relationships, a lot of it, I call it creative writing. You make it up. And you figure, you know, I think someone could relate to this. I could relate to this. It sounds real. And draw the line sounded real to me. The lyrics sounded real. Maybe it’s what Bryan went through or maybe Jim Vallance had gone through in their lives.

But, to me, I could understand where that would be coming from. So, it wasn’t like, I don’t get this at all, but I am going to sing it anyway. Because I actually felt it. Even though I wasn’t having those personal problems, I understood where that could come from. So, to me, it was real. I really like the song.

“Politics,” what’s the overall story behind that song?
Well, some people say what they think is going to make them popular. They’re going to jump on the bandwagon and go, “yeah – me too.” This isn’t exactly about the “me too” thing that we’re going through right now, but it was a singer/songwriter, that I had seen him on a TV, stand against something. I can’t even remember what it was because it was so long ago. But, making a stand – and then nothing. Right? Nothing after that from him. It’s like, is this just jumping on the bandwagon? What is it that you’re doing here? That was just my bitchiness coming out. Don’t give me no politics unless you’re gonna follow up on it. Unless you mean it. Don’t be jumping on the bandwagon. It wasn’t a big deal to me, it wasn’t like, oh this person is a terrible person for doing this. It was just an idea for a song. It’s kind of an interesting topic. Let’s see where this goes. I would never say who it was, because as I said, it was a small thing and it wasn’t something that I was up in arms about. How dare you! Nothing like that. It was oh, this might make a cool tune. I’m not a political guy.

You have two other solo albums outside of Hardcore. When you look back on Machine and Blackstone. What do you think of them now and will either of those find a re-release soon?
I don’t know about Blackstone. I could probably get that released for streaming. The streaming thing, that’s what I’m trying to do because it’s breathing. You pay $10 a month and it’s a smorgasbord. It’s like Netflix for music, it’s fantastic in my opinion. I’ve been with Spotify for 5 years or whatever, it’s really great. Unfortunately the company that released Machine is no longer in business and I sent a letter to a company called Strawberry thinking that they might be the original company that released that. I have not heard back. I got a couple of other angles. I’m going to try to do some connections in Vancouver and find out the person that I can ask. Once again, I don’t care if I make any royalties but I think people might be interested. Put it in their collection, put it on their phone and check it out whenever they want to. That’s kind of how I’m at. I’ll download an album and listen to it, if it’s great I’ll leave it on and if I don’t like it I hike it.

What do you think of those two albums in retrospect?
Well, the Blackstone album, that was a different thing. I don’t know – somehow it got in a press release that it was a solo album. It was a solo in that Mike wasn’t that involved. He helped write it – I think on a few songs and he might have even sung backup on it, not sure. Can’t remember. But it wasn’t really a solo LP. It was sung by one of my best friends Marc LaFrance, who is currently the drummer with Randy Bachman. Currently singing backup but he’s a really good lead singer too. I was just hanging out with Marc and I had a bunch of tunes. I don’t know why I didn’t sing on it, I really don’t, so I just went let’s just do something different. It was a blast! It was really fun working with him. I got a record deal in England and a release, so that was the impetus behind that. That’s why we did that.

Then, about Machine, what do you think about that one when you look back on it?
Hardcore was kind of a really hard, really kind of just hard vocals and more guitar whereas Machine was more of a blues album. Especially with Create a Monster, it was very bluesy. That’s kind of where I was at. I didn’t need to do in your face yelling, not yelling, but hard singing. I wasn’t aiming to do that at the time. I just felt like, “I think I’ll do a bluesy album.” And my new album is different again, completely different. A lot of different styles, very different vocal approach. Different styles, different guitars, sounds and a couple of ballads for the first time. That’s to be released, I don’t know, it’s gonna be a while, still working on it. No rush.

Good to hear a bit about a fourth solo album.  And finally, what keeps you so passionate about Loverboy after all this time?
I really like the songs. The songs, to me, stand the test of time. I don’t ever get tired of playing these tunes. Mike is an amazing singer. I get to sing backup to him. So we have a two part thing, kind of like the Everly Brothers/Beatles thing – that two-part harmony. That, I get a real charge out of, singing with Mike. Playing with Matt, who is an incredible drummer. We have a great groove together, Matt and me. We really understand that and we get in the pocket every night. Every song, we’re in the pocket. Once in a while we’ll go – what the hell is he on tonight? [laughs] Not that we’re ever on anything, but once in a while we’ll mess up and we won’t quite catch the same train. But for the most part, that’s incredible playing with Matt. So Matt on the bottom and Spider holding down the bottom and Mike on the top and I get to sing to him, and then Doug who is the most incredible musician I have ever known. You should hear the Jazz stuff he plays at soundcheck. It’s so far over my head but I tinkle along behind him and try and keep up. He’s an incredible sax player. His sax playing has come a long way too. He’s very good at sax. He’s got this guitar sound on his keyboard where I want to go burn his rig down one night when he’s not looking. “Man, that’s getting a little steppin’ on my toes there buddy.”  [laughs] Especially the acoustic guitar, the things he’s got, he plays acoustic and I swear and it sounds exactly like a perfect acoustic player. He’s got all the sounds and he’s got incredible ideas, you know? Especially on the early stuff. We were doing a very very basic thing on the first two albums. It was maybe two keyboard parts and a lot of the times there’d be no keyboards. Then he could come in and fill it out. Every song had killer counterpoint parts. Still, even on the newer stuff, he comes up with great parts but back in the day when it was real basic we had one keyboard. We started off with one synthesizer. That’s what keeps me passionate, playing with these guys who are incredible musicians. I am really lucky to have these guys to play with and to sing with. Wow. And people still want to hear the songs, which is even more incredible. 40 years later they still want to hear Turn Me Loose and Working for the Weekend. All the hits, all the videos that we made. They still want to hear them. And I still want to play them so how can you go wrong?

(Interview by Ken Morton – Paul Dean live photos by Joe Schaeffer)

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