Don Brewer, founding drummer and singer from Grand Funk Railroad, did not simply work within the studio with Todd Rundgren and Frank Zappa within the ’70s. They really lived collectively, as Grand Funk accomplished a collection of studio initiatives between 1973-76. He discusses their signature collaborations, and the opportunity of a brand new album from the group, in a brand new interview with UCR.
Former Grand Funk producer Todd Rundgren is being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this yr. What are your ideas?
It’s nice and great. I really like Todd. I liked working with Todd, and I liked his materials that he did again then. I’ve all main respect for Todd. He’s an incredible expertise.
Some of us aren’t essentially conscious that he had such an in depth second profession producing some actually unimaginable albums, together with the data he did with Grand Funk. What did he deliver to the method?
It was sort of like freedom. The recordings that we did with [early producer Terry Knight and engineer Ken Hamann] in Cleveland, it was nonetheless very old-school. As we received to the Todd Rundgren time [beginning with 1973’s We’re an American Band], radio was altering, and rock was altering from being FM underground to being successful format. The entire songs needed to be three minutes or 4 minutes lengthy they usually needed to have verse / refrain / verse / refrain, that sort of construction. We introduced Todd in and he completely understood that, and that that was what we had been going for as effectively. We had gone by a major breakup with Terry. Terry had taken all of our cash, and we had been broke. FM radio was altering from FM underground to the hit format, and we needed to make the transition. Todd was completely on board with that. It actually labored; the entire thing labored. After we received into the studio with Todd, he didn’t file stuff flat, the place there was no EQ, no echo, no nothing. That’s the outdated approach of doing it. We’d put all of that stuff on once we blended. Properly, Todd threw all of that stuff out the window. When he’s recording, he’s making it sound to you within the headphones precisely what it’s going to sound like later: full-on EQ, full-on compression and full-on echo.
Right here we’re within the studio for the very first time, enjoying and listening to ourselves with headphones in a complete completely different world! For me, as a drummer, it was freedom! It was like, Oh, my God, my drums sound wonderful within the headphones – as a substitute of sounding like, Oh, gee, I’ve to think about what it’s going to sound like later, as a result of it sounds that approach now. You begin enjoying in a different way whenever you’re listening to that again, and I believed the band simply responded and we performed accordingly. It was nice.
Take heed to Grand Funk’s ‘We’re an American Band’
Did Rundgren have a imaginative and prescient, so far as how you may make that transition?
No, it was simply built-in Todd. He simply does his factor. We’d be within the studio and we’d be rehearsing a tune and he’d be sitting within the management room together with his toes up on the board, studying a e-book. We’d go, “Okay, Todd, we’re prepared.” He’d put the e-book down and hit file! That was recording with him. [Laughs]
What was your first impression when Rundgren confirmed up? I believe within the ‘70s, subsequent to David Bowie, Rundgren was the opposite actually fascinating and unpredictable-looking man fashion-wise.
Tricolor hair, blue, strawberry purple and blonde, if I recall. When he first got here out to Michigan to file with us, Flint, Mich., was not prepared for Todd – nor me, with a giant big afro. He stayed with me at my condominium in Flint, and we’d drive forwards and backwards to the studio collectively. After we stopped at a 7-Eleven or no matter to select up some meals, the appears we received had been fairly wonderful. It was cool; I liked it. He was unnoticed, sort of, in New York, however in Flint, Mich., it was, “What’s that?”
What was Rundgren like as a brief roommate?
We received alongside effectively. I didn’t have any issues. I met him [again] later once we had been doing the band Flint. I known as Todd and stated, “Hey, would you be occupied with doing a little guitar on these things?” I flew out to Woodstock and went to his studio, and he performed some guitar on these tracks. We went out to dinner. I received alongside nice with Todd, I actually did.
Have been there any debates because the band labored on these data with him?
No, we simply liked the route that he went in. A minimum of I did. I liked the route that he was taking the band, and I liked the way in which it sounded. We had much more hassle doing [1974’s] Shinin’ On, as a result of there have been inside issues within the band. However on the time we did We’re an American Band, we had been all collectively and all gung ho. All of us had a standard aim, and that was to get away from Terry and to get the band profitable once more on our personal.
Take heed to Grand Funk’s ‘Shinin’ On’
Grand Funk labored with Frank Zappa on 1976’s Good Singin’, Good Playin’ album. That looks as if a collaboration that might have gone both approach.
I received alongside nice with Frank. Once more, he stayed at my home. After we went to L.A., I went over and visited him at his home. I’d go to among the mixes, after which we’d hang around collectively afterwards. He invited me over as a result of he was engaged on a few of his personal stuff. He known as me on the lodge and invited me over that evening to come back to the studio to work on one of many songs he was doing. I performed bongos on “Let Me Take You to the Beach.”
Do you’ve a very good Zappa story?
Throughout [Good Singin’, Good Playin’], Grand Funk was within the technique of breaking apart. After all, Frank knew. He may choose up on the strain and all of that sort of stuff. There was a degree that I had had it. I used to be going to depart the session and [frontman Mark] Farner had had it. Frank, sadly was within the place of getting us each collectively and making an attempt to salvage it and get us by the album – and he did. I give him full credit score for that. He received us by that file.
It looks as if it could have been intimidating to point out Frank Zappa or Todd Rundgren songs.
No, I believed they had been completely into the stuff. I keep in mind Frank got here out to undergo a rehearsal with us at our studio out in Michigan. We had determined we had been going to work collectively. After he attended the session, we had been throwing round, “What are we going to name this file? I can’t give you it. We’ve received to have an idea.” Frank stated, “Name it what it’s, ‘Good Singin’, Good Playin.’” We had been blown away. Right here’s Frank Zappa. Oh, my God, Frank Zappa, the musician’s-musician sort of factor – and he thinks Grand Funk Railroad is sweet singin’, good playin’. It was an excessive praise.
Take heed to Grand Funk Railroad’s ‘Out to Get You’
Have you ever checked out perhaps doing a brand new album with the present lineup?
We’ve explored that a number of instances. We enjoy the live thing and we do the stay factor effectively, and that’s loads for us, actually. We do new materials within the present. We didn’t do it on [earlier shared dates on the Bob] Seger tour, as a result of we had been simply a gap act, however we do new materials. Over the previous 20 years, we’ve had a variety of completely different songs which have come and gone within the present. My imaginative and prescient was all the time to do a stay file that included all of these songs that had come and gone – together with the hits that we do. I believe that may be a pleasant mixture.
What else is on faucet for the remainder of the yr?
We’re simply making an attempt to get again into the groove of doing what we had been doing. We’ve received reveals that we’re going to play out until December that principally got here from 2020. They had been all postponed and rebooked and rescheduled. We’ve received 30 reveals to do within the six months left within the yr, and that’s going to be a feat. We’re going to attempt to get by that. I believe as soon as we get again into the groove, it can occur fairly effectively. We’ll begin reserving 2022. We’ve already received some dates and we’re trying ahead to that, too.