Last week, at SIR Studios in Hollywood, Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band launched the kickoff of their Latin American tour with an awesome mini-concert for the press. They’re heading down to South America and Mexico for 14 shows (Oct. 29 – Nov. 18), that will conclude with two dates Stateside at The Palms in Las Vegas (Nov. 22-23). The All Starr Band features guitarist Steve Lukather (Toto), bassist Richard Page (Mr. Mister), keyboardist Gregg Rolie (Santana), multi-instrumentalist genius and Tame Impala remixer Todd Rundgren, saxophonist Mark Rivera (Hall & Oates, Peter Gabriel) and drummer Gregg Bissonette (David Lee Roth).
Each band member performed short versions of hits from their own career including “I Saw the Light”, “Oye Como Va”, “Rosanna”, and “Broken Wings (Until the End of Time)”. Ringo opened the set with “Boys” and concluded it with a heartfelt rendition of “With A Little Help from My Friends”. Their riveting performance was followed by an entertaining Q & A where they talked about what inspires them as a band, why they play so well together, and how they select the songs they perform from an amazing collection of music drawn from their respective careers. (For more information, go to www.ringostarr.com) Hit the jump to read the interview.
RINGO STARR: (laughs) I was talking to Peru.
STEVE LUKATHER: Well, that was the whole show! (Laughter)
It sounds great.
STARR: We do it every night.
What keeps you guys going? How do you keep up the energy? Do you rely on each other? Is it really a little help from your friends?
STARR: I speak for myself when I say I have nothing better to do. It’s a dream for me. From 13, I wanted to play drums. I wanted to play with good people and I’m still doing it. I still love it so that’s why I do it.
TODD RUNDGREN: My personal energy doesn’t kick in until much later in the day.
STARR: He lives in Hawaii.
RUNDGREN: But I’ve said it before and I will say it again, it’s the best band that Ringo has ever had, not just from the standpoint of playing together, but also I was never in one of the bands before where we all hit the last beat together and where we all spend our time on the road together. We don’t fight like some used to. We’re friends all the time. Again, that’s the thing that gets you excited to play because you’re playing with your best friends.
GREGG ROLIE: It’s a great honor for me to be here with the boss and with all the great friends that I’ve made in the last couple of years and it’s sort of like the song book of my life. I learned playing all these songs and I just thank you. What can I say? It’s truly a vacation and not work.
For all of you, the All Starrs have been in one incarnation or another since 1989, and you seem to be able to get together and play well together. Are there any egos that you have to put aside so you can jam together like this?
STARR: We jam together a lot. Todd put it in a nutshell, this band musically is all great players and all great musicians, but the spirit of this band is very close. And so, they do eat together. (Laughter)
RUNDGREN: And sometimes food.
STARR: Yeah. That’s how it is. This is just a really good band.
RUNDGREN: Every once and awhile we get a ringer. He’s got a name, and he’s got three hits or something like that, and that’s our function in terms of the band. But I think in this particular band, we all have strengths that the others are more or less in awe of in a way. Each one of the guys in the band can do something I can’t possibly frickin’ do, and that keeps you respecting everyone in the band. We don’t want people showing up and just shucking their way through the show. We’re all on top of it.
STARR: Well said.
Ringo, I’m curious if you still have the camera and if you’re still taking pictures of this group?
STARR: No. (Laughter)
RUNDREN: We’re sorry!
STARR: It’s great that you mention it. I do have this book coming out that has a lot of photographs that I’ve taken over the years, but I sort of slowed down a bit on that because I realized that I was so busy taking photos or video-ing what was going on that I wasn’t actually at the party. So now I’m more at the party and then I’ll take the pictures anyway. But no, I don’t take as many as I used to.
STARR: I think I’d like to go back to that moment and wonder, “What the hell was I thinking?!” But I know you’re talking about the other gods. Those moments are gone. I’m just lucky I captured those moments because I got a lot of stuff over the years. So, you see a photo of Elvis and it brings you back, and of course, a lot of the Beatles shots. In fact, what’s more interesting to me are the shots outside the car, because we were always in the car, all four of us, going wherever we went. But when we were in New York, there were a lot of pictures of the kids looking out their window chatting to us. First time I saw a cop at Halston on a motorcycle. That was all exciting at the time. So that gave me a lot of freedom to take because you didn’t have the chance in the Sixties really to wander around and take the chance which I have now. But anyway, Book 2 is coming out in December and you’re going to love it.
The wealth of music that you guys have is so amazing. How do you pick the songs?
STARR: Well, you have to have hits to be in this band, obviously. That’s what it’s all about. We’re all-the-best 1-800 band in the land. We start with that, and I need musicians as well, so I get lucky when I get great musicians who have a lot of great songs. So that’s how I do it. And thank God they all agreed to do it with me.
You’re ending the tour in Las Vegas and we’re looking forward to seeing you there. I was just wondering if there’s the possibility of an extended engagement for you and the band somewhere down the road in Las Vegas?
STARR: (joking) You mean like The Golden Drums? Or is it The Red Piano? (shouting) “The Golden Drums. Fourteen years later.” It’s been talked about, but nothing has been finalized. It will be a couple years before that happens, I think. So what is the answer? Not yet.
You have been in South America before.
STARR: I loved it.
What do you expect from the South American audience?
STARR: Well, I haven’t been or played in South America until two years ago. I played there and it blew me away. The energy of the audiences was so great and so loving. For every gig, the energy from the audience was so fantastic. That’s what I brought back from there last time. We’re going back and let’s hope it’s the same. We’re taking Gregg Rolie who has a Spanish number. (laughs) So tell them about it, Gregg.
ROLIE: Oye Como Va? The one thing I remember about Oye Como Va is Carlos (Santana) brought it into the band in I guess it was 1970. My first inclination was, “What the hell do I do with this?” It was a Tito Puente song and I was writing things like Hope You’re Feeling Better and rock. They brought this in and it turned out to be one of my favorites. And so, we’re going to take it down to South America. We were doing everybody’s everything, and I said, “Ringo, you’re the boss, but if we went to South America and played Oye Como Va, I think they might go nuts.” And he said, “Done!” That’s how this happened.
STARR: Anyway, to answer your question, the energy down there was an incredible memory for me from last time. We go. We’re a working band. We’re a touring band. So we go to the gig and we do our best. The reaction was great last time.
STARR: I did. (Laughter)
Also, you did a promotional spot promoting Mexico at an earlier point in your life. So I wanted to know what your overall impression of Mexico has been over the years?
STARR: I’ve always had a good time there. I spent a lot of time in Las Brisas, of course, or as we like to say, Lost Brisas. Those were the days when I used to be a big fan. I’ve always had a good time down there. And it is interesting to me because that’s where Barbara (Bach) and I really met doing Caveman which is a well-known classic movie from 33 years ago. (Laughter) And we’re still together. So that’s great. (Applause) Also, it’s a great movie. (Laughs)
Don’t forget the other movie that you did in a Spanish language country: Blindman.
STARR: Oh yeah. I’m not forgetting it. (Laughs)
Do you think because you’re sitting back there and you’re so observant of everything that that’s why you’ve enjoyed doing the stories and the pictures and all of that over the years?
STARR: You mean sitting on the drums? Well, looking at some of the documentaries out there like The Eagles one (History of the Eagles Part One directed by Alison Ellwood) and the Police film (Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out) that Stewart Copeland did, he must have been filming them as they were playing. I wish we’d had done some of that. It really is exciting. I sit back there because I’m a drummer. That’s where we live. I’ve seen some drummers doing it up close and it seemed crazy. We’re going to have great fun in South America.
It’s been five years since you pledged no more autographs. When you did the Genesis book, after signing all those autographs, did your hand go into autograph shock? How did you feel about doing all of that?
STARR: You have to watch when you do a lot because it turns into doggy doo. But it’s for a good cause. It’s for the Lotus Foundation so that’s why I sign. I just don’t sign on the street anymore. I don’t sign outside of that anymore. So, through the years, by computer, what I’ll sell on the tour is signed and that all goes to Lotus. Mainly, I sign for the good cause that we can contribute whatever we get back. (Applause) In all honesty, and even The Simpsons have noted this, I’ve signed enough.
If Paul McCartney asked you to join his band, what would you say to him?
STARR: Well yeah, that would be good. But he’d have to call it Ringo’s. (Laughs)