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INTERVIEW: TOD HOWARTH of Four By Fate – June 2016

| 10 June 2016 | Reply

From the first time I heard him on Breakout and Calling To You on Frehley’s Comet’s debut disc, I was hooked on Tod Howarth’s voice and writing style.  Following him through his days in Frehley’s Comet prompted me to reach back into his catalog and experience 707 as well.  Once he left The Comet, he released some great solo material (a personal favorite is Silhouette).  Fast forward a few years and he is back with a new project – Four By Fate – with fellow Comet member John Regan, as well as Skid Row drummer Rob Affuso and guitarist Pat Gasperini.  I was able to steal some of Tod’s time on a Thursday to discuss the bands recently released debut Relentless and so much more…

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Tod: All right. I’ve never had so many Todd’s on the phone at one time.

Toddstar: I’m glad to be one of them.

Tod: How are things?

Toddstar: Great, thanks. I really appreciate you taking time out of your schedule for us. Big fan of you and everything you’ve done through the years including the latest project.

Tod: Thank you so much. It’s been one hell of a trip of efforts, a work of love. My God. It’s unbelievable how much love we’re trying to put into this.

Toddstar: Based on everything I’ve been able to wrap my hands around on this latest project, which is Four By Fate, this isn’t something you guys threw together in 3 months and put down a bunch of songs. This has actually been something you’ve kind of been putting together for a little while now. Can you give us the reader’s digest origin of Four By Fate for those who don’t know?

Tod: Yeah. What happened is that John Regan was actually approached by Mitch Lafon in Canada, he’s a very good friend of the band’s now, but he’s kind of like a rock God. He knows all the stuff about all kinds of bands and he’s a great writer and reviewer. He was putting together an album to benefit a Canadian hospice. They would have all these bands do Kiss songs, some of the guys were related to Kiss by the Kiss family tree, just so they could donate their time to benefit this hospice. It was called the A World With Heroes, I believe was the title of it. He had asked John if he could contribute some tracks or do some recording with a couple different artists and John said, “Sure.” Then John said, “Maybe we should get Tod involved,” and John contacted me. I’d talked to Mitch before as well on other things. I said, “Yeah, sure. Let’s do this.” We ended up cutting Breakout with, what’s his name, Valentine on drums. I forget what his first name is. [ed. Kevin] He’s part of the Kiss family tree as well. He recorded “Breakout” by himself and then sent it to John. John put the bass on then they sent it to me. It was a different arrangement, but it worked. It had a lot of energy. We slammed it together. I finished the rest of the guitars and the leads and the vocals. We put it out. After we got that done we thought, “We should maybe do some playing.” John and I thought about maybe trying to put something together and do a couple shows based around Frehley’s Comet and maybe throw in a couple Kiss tunes just for fun. Mitch Lafon helped us with that. He recommended, actually, Sean Kelly who was first guitar player and he’s out of Canada as well. He had played with Helix and Crash Kelly and a few other bands that had some popularity in Canada. We managed to get him on board and also Stet Howland from W.A.S.P. That was the first incarnation of Four By Fate. We started playing and had a good time with and then we decided, “Maybe we should start recording some records, some songs, and put out a CD, see how that goes.” That’s how we started the band.

Toddstar: I love the album. I’ve been listening to it since I received download. From the opening track, “These Times Are Hard For Lovers,” on through the finale, which I’d like to get to in a little bit, it’s just a solid record that showcases each of you individually but also how tight you are as a band.

Tod: Thank you so much. I appreciate that.

Toddstar: When it came to these songs, again, there are a couple covers here, how did you guys go about deciding exactly what material? When it came to pulling a cover, especially just kick an album off with a cover is kind of different. What inside you guys told you this was the right decision?

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Tod: “These Times Are Hard For Lovers” is a song that John played with John Waite many years ago. The song is written by John Waite and Desmond Child. It’s a real good tune sung by one of my favorite singers, John Waite. The guy’s got an unbelievable voice and I’ve got a blues background but I don’t always use it on most of the rock stuff as much as John Waite uses it. Anyhow, John Regan had suggested that we re-cut the song. When I first heard it I loved the song but I was like, “I’m not really sure it fits with the rest of what we’re doing.” John Regan said, “Well, I think we can make this work. We’ll heavy it up,” and so I said, “Okay. Let me heavy it up.” I listened to it and I learned it and I changed some chords around and made it a little heavier, ballsier sounding, I thought. Then we play it and record it and it came out pretty good. For lack of better words, I was kind of surprised, but pleasantly surprised like, “Man, this actually does work. Okay. We’ll thread it in there.” It ended up as an opener based on the rest of the songs and the rhythm of the rest of the songs within the CD. We had a couple different arrangements. For some reason, this song always started the record off. That was also suggested by JC who is our co-producer, engineer, and owner of Raw Recording Studios where we did the CD.

Toddstar: I think you’re right in that it helps set the pace because then it jumps right into “Moonshine” which is just another phenomenal track that I think showcases your vocals, which has always been something I’ve been a big fan of from your days back in Frehley’s Comet.

Tod: Thank you.

Toddstar: Something about your voice just always screams rocker to me.

Tod: I appreciate that. It’s funny because I write these heavy songs, I think they’re heavy, and then I start singing them and to me it’s no longer heavy. It’s kind of a little lightened up, I guess. Thank God they are people out there that enjoy listening to our songs and my singing. “Moonshine” was written by our new guitar player Pat Gasperini. He’s a great songwriter. He wrote quite a few songs on the CD. He’s got a whole bunch. He’s a prolific writer. He’s got a whole bunch ready to go for the next CD. I think he’s got even more than I do. I’ve got to get on the track here because he’s got a lot of things going. He’s a great songwriter and a great sense of construction and we’re going to have a good time writing together.

Toddstar: I don’t know about writing together, but based on the music on the CD you’re definitely going to have fun playing it together as I’m sure the fans are going to have a great time watching you guys.

Tod: When we record it, we have the energy and excitement of recording it, and we even get to play it enough I think before recording it and luckily it came out pretty good. Now we play it live, and we’ve only done a handful of shows, actually I think only maybe 2 or 3 with the latest band, and we’ve got to play it more. It’s so much fun but it’s kind of hard with everybody. I’m here in San Diego and the guys are in New York and the schedule is such lately that everybody’s kind of busy, but now with the record out, the CD out, we’ll be getting back together and start shaping up to do some shows hopefully.

Toddstar: Cool. What was it like for you Tod, this is a debut CD for you yet you’ve done stuff with Frehley’s Comet, you’ve done stuff with 707, you had your own career as a solo artist – you have had all these debuts in your career. What’s it like at this point in the game to have another debut CD?

Tod: I was asked this before and I’m very excited about it. I really am. I think I get more excited about it the more I hear and read and see people react the way they’re reacting with it when I think they’re reacting from the heart. They’re very enthused by it which makes me very enthusiastic about it. I’ve got five solo records out and I do have a track record, not as big as John Regan’s of course, but I’ve got a track record of a lot of stuff that I’ve done. I’m optimistic, I’m excited, but I’m not over the moon about it because I think, “Well, I’ve tried it again.” I’ve got that, “Here we go again. I’m going to try again and see what happens with this,” even though I feel so much more confident about the ability that this will be successful. At least it gets to a point where we’re playing shows and people are enjoying the material. That would warrant us to do a second CD. I’m very optimistic about it. I’m increasingly excited about it. Of course I was excited when we first got it done, and then for sitting around for a while while we were getting ready to press it, and we ended up talking to some record labels and that kind of was a period where it’s like postpartum depression, like we’ve got to get this thing out there. I guess if I was younger, if I was 20 years old, 30, I’d be like, “Yeah! This is going to be great!” I remember doing that with my first record, my first recording. Weeks or months later I was like, “Yeah, it’s not so great.”

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Toddstar: Fair enough. With this material, are there songs that are on the disc that you can’t wait to just tear into live? There are songs that you think, “This is going to go over so well and the energy on stage is just going to be over the top.”

Tod: Yes, there are. I think with “Moonshine,” I think that is always a big favorite. It’s pretty much a very athletic song where I’ve got to be in top shape to sing that because it’s just balls out, ready to go. It’s so much fun to do. I also like doing “Levee Breach”, is fun. Then Follow Me, Pat Gasperini wrote that song, that’s a fun tune to do. We haven’t even been able to play the songs enough live to really enjoy them. I guess it’s yet to be seen or felt.

Toddstar: Cool. There’s a closing track, and actually there’s 2 versions of it, there’s the regular version and the acoustic version, “Amber Waves.” You’ve been known to do charity events for veterans and things like that. OThis song just takes things to a new level in my mind as a songwriter and as a performer. You can hear it in your voice. What kind of prompted you or put you in a place to where you said, “I want to do this type of track,” and you put this together?

Tod: I wrote the song in 2010. I was in my studio playing the keyboards just messing around with some ideas for some songs. Usually I’ll sit down and write on different instruments, and I always come up with just the riff and the chording structures. Of course I’ll have to refine it over the couple days, but I was singing the melody because I always have a melody instantly creep into my head and I refine that as well. It was another love song and I thought, drawing off of my experiences in the past, of what touched me deeply emotionally and where I was and translate that into a love song, a woe is me love song type thing, and I can do those all day long but I was thinking, “This should be about something else. What does this really feel like? What does it sound like to me?” All of a sudden in the chorus part I just started singing randomly, kind of scatting, and I came up with, “This is for the stars and this is for the stripes.” The end line of course, “This is for the souls who lost or gave their lives.” I thought that’s what it’s going to be about. It’s just going to be a simple, patriotic song about the flag and what it’s done for this country and the people that have died to make this country as plentiful as it has been and for those who wish to pursue life, liberty, and that pursuit of happiness. It’s not a guarantee, you’ve got to work for it like I’ve done all my life for music, and I’m doing today. I’m 58 years old. I’ll be 59 in September. I still have to work for music. I still have to work for other things to make the music possible. I’m in a situation, fortunately, where I can dictate my own schedule but I still put in a full day of things that need to be done to make everything, the cogs, work. I just believe in the county. I believe in respect for the flag. I think that that’s what the song is about. That and of course the fallen.

Toddstar: Excellent. As a veteran myself, the song struck me the first time I heard it through and I had to go back through and listen to it.

Tod: Wow. I want take a moment to thank you for your service, Todd. Thank you so very much.

Toddstar: You talk about love songs and even love songs about love gone wrong and that leads me to another track that you kind of culled from your prior life, “It’s Over Now.”

Tod: Yeah.

Toddstar: “It’s Over Now” is one of those songs that everybody sees it and they think love song but if they listen to it it’s a pretty dark love song.

Tod: Yeah, it is. It was a very esoteric warning to my ex-wife, actually. It was about that situation, that time. It was a very tumultuous time, 1988. Well actually before that, ’87, ’88. John had wanted to redo the song for this album and I thought, “Let’s not,” you know? John said, “We’re really going to do it.” It seems like I get talked into these things which, with all good intentions, I would have preferred just to move on. I did the same thing with Ace Frehley when he wanted to redo “Megaforce” and change up to “Calling To You.” He said, “Oh, we got to do this.” I said, “Let’s not.” I lost that one, too. John had a good point. It was a great song that should have been, that’s how I felt back in 1988 when it came out. It should have been, it never did for various reasons. We recorded again. We had AJ Pero, the late AJ Pero, play the drums.

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Toddstar: God rest his soul. AJ I think played on 6 tracks on the release.

Tod: Yes, he did. On the very first 6 tracks.

Toddstar: Especially those first 6 tracks, we mention “Moonshine,” again one of my favorites. What a fitting end to a career if there could be such a thing as a fitting end. To be part of Four By Fate and just play these songs that are just monster tracks. What was it like going in, again, at that point you’ve got multiple guys all with long careers – are there egos, or are you guys just guys who love to jam and play music?

Tod: First off, I should point out that “Moonshine” was actually played by Rob Affuso. Getting back to AJ, there’s absolutely no ego because John and I wouldn’t put this together. We don’t put up with it because we have our egos but they’re in check. They’re only in place to get things moving forward with the band as a business and get it out to the fans so they could enjoy the music. The ego is in check, only with, “This is the way we’d like to have it done. Please let us deliver it this way.” No, I’m no prima donna. I’m a songwriter that plays guitar, keyboards, and I sing. I’m not a lead singer prima donna. That just does not happen and I just don’t really care for those type of people anyhow because they seem like they think everything needs to be handed to them which I’ve got to bust my ass every day for stuff. When AJ came in there, and this is true actually, with Sean Kelly and Stet Howland, great guys, no egos, no problems. Slight different musical background, I would say, but that’s kind of normal in most every band. When AJ came into the project, great guy, willing to learn the tunes and slam them down. I did not realize how much of a bottom background he had. Even though I’m well aware, back then I was well aware who Twisted Sister was, I never realized how solid AJ was for the band. When we played together it was like, “Holy shit, this is good stuff.” I’m really glad he got to be on those first 6 tracks. He was on “Follow Me,” he was on “I Give,” he was on “Don’t Know,” “Back in the 80s,” and “It’s Over Now.” Actually, “Levee Breach,” he did that as well. I think you’re talking about the fitting part is “I Give.” He gave his all, too. Every track he played. I had to teach it to him in the studio. He’d heard them, but I taught it to him in the studio, just AJ and me. Then John came in and reiterated once he got the pattern down, and then we tried it a few times and once we nailed it went, “That’s the one!” AJ, he did give his all.

Toddstar: He did. Gave it all to rock and roll, that’s for sure. If you had to go back and think about your career, and if you could correct one misstep that you feel you had, forget what the critics or the fans or anyone else think, what would be one misstep that you would like to go back and change if you could?

Tod: Good question. I think I should’ve probably paid more attention to how quickly everything would evaporate. I wasn’t naive, I guess I was to a degree when I was younger, but I thought that once you started making CDs, records, records actually for me, my first record was 707. The first official release was Megaforce. I thought when that came out, “Okay, I’m on my way. Things seem to be going good.” We did do a huge tour actually prior to that. We did a huge tour with REO Speedwagon and the Hi Infidelity tour. We did some legs with that and I thought, “All right! We’re on our way.” Little did I know that I would be damn near bankrupt 3 or 4 times through the duration of my career because of the instability of it. I think that I probably would have, personally I would have, shaped up differently in my thought process. I would have also presented myself in a different manner, maybe sell myself a little harder as far as being a lead singer and a songwriter. That’s a great question. The missteps, they were just learning curves. You’d learn what not to do. It’s kind of horrifying to think, “Okay. Now I know everything at 58.” The reality is, no you don’t. You really don’t, man. You have to keep pushing for what you’ve done, what you’ve built, and what you know. I think I probably would have concentrated harder on selling myself better.

Toddstar: That makes perfect sense. One last one because I know you’re a busy guy and you have a lot of other things to do.

Tod: I appreciate that.

Toddstar: You have shared stages with a lot of rockers in your time, you’ve written songs, you’ve recorded, and you’ve done a lot. What personally still motivates you to get out there and do this day-in and day-out? You’re potentially looking at taking this out on the road, doing a tour, and walking away from friends and family for days, weeks, months at a time. What still inspires you to get out there and do this, Tod?

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Tod: Again, that’s a very good question. By the end of my day I’m usually just exhausted and beat up because I’m a very physical guy. I do a lot of physical things. It helps me stay in shape, but I’ve also got a work ethic that I got from my father that if you want something, bust your ass, get it done. I’ve never let go of that because it served me well. I’m pretty exhausted by night time, which helps for my writing sometimes. I’ll write some very intense and very emotional songs. In the mornings, and I’m a morning guy because I’ve got no choice, I just wake up at 5:30 every freaking morning regardless of where I am, what state or what city. It’s weird. I wake up very optimistic about the day, about music. What am I going to hear, what am I going to write? What am I going to accomplish that will get me that much closer to being able to do what I want to do which is just write songs. I’m a painter, too. I paint acrylic paintings of cars and motorcycles. I was in advanced art schools when I was younger, junior high, high school. I’d like to be able to do that, get back to doing that as well. It’s just the creativity. The thing that really inspires me is being able to entertain. I love getting back on stage and just play and sing for people to want to hear. That’s the only thing I really … I live for that. I live for my off-road adventures. I’m a big sand dune, off-road guy. I’ve got a sand rail, which is a corvette powered dune buggy. It’s a very expensive dune buggy. I love that stuff, and being able to spend some free time with my family. The motivation really does come from the fact that I just want to get out there and entertain the people who still want to hear it.

Toddstar: We definitely want to hear it. I personally can’t wait until we get you over here a little closer to the East Coast, get you back in Detroit Rock City.

Tod: Yeah. We are going to try. It’s going to happen. I guess I shouldn’t be so maybe off-putting about the touring. The touring, the shows, are going to happen. The length of the shows, the jaunts, I’m not sure exactly how that’s going to happen but we will work into that as we can. We will get out there. There are a lot of people that want to see us and hear us and we’ve just got to wait for the right time to strike. We really appreciate everybody that’s following us and supporting us in every way they can. We’re all the same. Can’t wait to get out there and play and make people happy.

Toddstar: Cool. We can’t wait until the fans and everybody starts spreading the word about Four By Fate and your recent release Relentless. We wish you well with that and again, safe journey through life until we get you over here in Detroit.

Tod: Todd, I appreciate that. When we do get out there please let me know, write me, so we can get together and see how far we’ve progressed from this point on. I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me.

Toddstar: No problem. Again, thank you so much, Tod, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Tod: Take care now.

 

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Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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