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| 22 June 2022 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “Chuck Wright is proud and excited to release his debut solo album, Sheltering Sky, on Los Angeles-based Cleopatra Records, on May 20. The album features guest appearances by 40 of Wright’s musical peers including keyboardist Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater/Billy Idol), guitarist Lanny Cordola (House of Lords), vocalist Jeff Scott Soto (Yngwie Malmsteen), Troy Luccketta (Tesla) and the late Mr. Big drummer, Pat Torpey. The album’s 11 tracks also illustrate Wright’s impressive songwriting ability as he either wrote or co-wrote all nine original songs on the album.  Also included is an edgy, intense version of Bjork’s “Army of Me” along with a soulful, Celtic-rock take on the The Youngbloods classic, “Darkness, Darkness.”  Chuck also produced and engineered most of the album. Sheltering Sky exhibits a diversity and breadth of musical styles that embraces facets of Wright’s hard rock legacy while also delving into a more varied side of Chuck’s musical vision with well-written songs that feature ethereal guitar work, tasteful, soulful 70s era influences, Prog, Jazz Fusion and even a bit of heavy funk.  Besides his usual outstanding bass work as performed on a variety of different bass instruments, Wright also contributes on keys and acoustic guitar on several tracks.” We get Chuck on the phone to discuss new music, his long list of friends and projects, getting things in writing, and much more…

Toddstar: Chuck, I appreciate you taking out time. I’ve been a fan for a long time. Sometimes I’ve been a fan and didn’t even realize I was a fan because of the different projects you’ve been involved in that rise to the top in my listing rotation. So, I appreciate the time. Let’s start with the obvious and the good stuff going on in Chuck Wright’s world right now. About three weeks ago tomorrow, you dropped a new album.

Chuck: I did. Yeah.

Toddstar: What can you tell us about Sheltering Sky that fans of you and your music might not grab when they listen to this thing the first or second time through?

Chuck: First of all, I never planned to do a solo album. It’s just that when the pandemic hit us, it was a really difficult time for most people, but I didn’t want to be a victim of the lockdown. Instead, I embraced the time as an opportunity to be creative. I sat down and wrote my first piece of music, which is called “Weight of Silence.” That just basically was inspired by the way I felt looking around at the post-apocalyptic feel of the way the world was at that time. The empty cities everywhere, and I filmed myself, and then I edited together a video with footage of the different empty cities. I had one character in the video that was like the last man on earth in a hazmat suit and an empty subway train going from the beginning to the end. Anyway, I put that out, and then the drummer from Tesla, Troy Luccketta, reached out and said he really loved the song, and it would sound great with drums on it. I actually never considered that. So, he did that and at the same time, a guitar player here in town named Helen Heinz, who’s a top jazz fusion guitarist, threw some guitar soloing over it that I edited together, and we started turning it into something different. I had them film themselves, and at that time Derek Sherinian who you might know from Dream Theater, his solo albums, and Sons of Apollo, also added some Mellotron, synthesizers, and theremin on the song. And I put another video out with those guys on it. To my surprise, three days before my record came out, it won Best Instrumental and Best Video in the Rock Music Alliance Awards. I didn’t know I was nominated, and I was up against Joe Satriani and John 5, who I hold in high regard. During this time, I just was writing songs I wanted to hear. Just the kind of music I like. When people go to listen to the record, they’re going to hear some hard rock, some industrial-strength hard rock, some funk, prog, they have fusion, there’s folk gospel tune on there. And even a Celtic song that could actually be in Braveheart if there was a new Braveheart. It’s very diverse. It’s cinematic in feel. When you listen from top to bottom, I’ve been told it kind of feels like a concept album. If you know me just from Quiet Riot, you’re going to be very surprised, but I still think you’ll really dig it.

Toddstar: I would agree with that. If that is your sole Chuck Wright reference point, you will definitely be surprised. The latest single “Throwing Stones,” what made that an obvious choice to you to be a single to represent this as the face of the project?

Chuck: Actually that song, “Throwing Stones,” was something that musically was recorded before my late friend, Pat Torpey, passed away. We used to go up to his studio and just throw down song ideas, and I came across some files. There are three songs on the album from those days, which basically just had drums, guitars, and bass, and I finished them out. With that song, I sent it to Joe Retta, a vocalist I worked with in a band called Heaven and Earth, and he was in The Sweet and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. We’re really good friends and I knew that he would dig it because “Throwing Stones” is very funky and the guy is great. The song has been reviewed as a cross between Primus and Stevie Wonder. It’s interesting. They’re right on target with that. Anyway, when it came time for the second single when the album was coming out, because the song has an anti-war message, which was written before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I thought it appropriate because it was topical. That’s reflected in the video that I did for the song. Also, the song kind of shows off my bass playing a bit. So, that’s a selfish move on my part.

Toddstar: I wouldn’t say it’s selfish when the whole album is yours, so to speak.

Chuck: Yeah, I know, but I mean, I have 41 amazing guests on my album and that’s why it’s not “just” Sheltering Sky, it’s Chuck Wright’s Sheltering Sky. It’s an overreaching thing of all these great musicians that are participating in my record. I was able to reach out to different guys because of their strengths and what I thought was right for each song that I was hoping that they would want to play on. They all did. I sent them the music and said, “Hey, what do you think? Do you want to play on this?” And they all jumped right in, which is very rewarding in that, just in that.

Toddstar: Well, it’s crazy because again, if anybody checks Wikipedia or Google and look you up, they will find a long list of projects. Like I said, I’ve been a fan of you not knowing you were involved in certain projects in addition to the ones you are known for. There is obviously Quiet Riot, but I go back to the days of Giuffria and House of Lords. Those were the first two big projects of yours that I knew you were involved in it, and I loved both of those.

Chuck: Both those bands, I think, could have been much, much bigger, but they had certain things, mostly business-wise, that kind of kept it from becoming a huge thing. With House of Lords, killer band, great songs. I was a songwriter on that with the House of Lords band. I was involved in most of the songwriting, and great band, but we were on a label through Gene Simmons. He did a custom label deal with RCA, and RCA was a country label, really. They really didn’t have the infrastructure for breaking rock bands. They didn’t have a bunch of other huge rock bands, so they could use that as a calling card to walk into somebody, or someplace, or radio station, or whatever the politics are getting your stuff placed. They didn’t have any of that, so that band never, unfortunately, took off. It’s a great live band. With Giuffria, which came before House of Lords, I think a big problem was the name. We had to explain everywhere, even in record stores, how to say the name of the band and you’re up against the wall with them when you do that. That was a problem. I left the band and Craig Goldy left the band to join Dio for the same reason… that Gregg Giuffria and Dave Eisley, the singer, said that they’re the only songwriters, so we couldn’t participate and basically being relegated as side guys, and we said, “No way.” At that time, I got the call from Kevin Dubrow to see if I wanted to rejoin Quiet Riot, and of course, “Yeah.” “Welcome to the band, you can write all the songs with us. I go, “Great, I’m in.”

Toddstar: That throws a weird twist in there for me where you mentioned the reason for leaving Giuffria, yet later on, you’ve worked extensively with David Glen Eisley.

Chuck: David and I have always remained really good friends. We actually had him involved with the new House of Lords record. I went back to work with Greg again. When he asked me, he said, “Hey, listen. I’ve got a record deal with Gene Simmons’s new label if I put a killer band together.” And I said, “Great, but do I get to write songs?” Of course, if he’d said, “Oh no. I’m still doing it,” I would’ve said, “No, thank you.” Anyway, we put the band together. Actually, Eisley was working with us, Dave Eisley, in the beginning, which he helped pen a couple of the songs, but Gene just didn’t want another Giuffria band. He wanted it to be fresh, and I happened to be working with a band called Eyes and a singer named James Christian was singing at the time who had just replaced Jeff Scott Soto, who actually is on my album too. And so, James, I brought him up and I said, “Hey, listen. This singer’s really great. Check him out.” They really loved his voice, so he became the singer and we saw Ken Mary, the drummer playing with Alice Cooper and watching Alice like he’s getting his head cut off, but I’m more interested in seeing the drummer. I’m going, “Wow, this guy’s amazing.” So we got a hold of him and convinced him that he needs to be in a band and not a side guy. So he joined the band. Lanny Cordola was on the second Giuffria record, so Greg brought him on board and he’s still one of my best friends. I’ve collaborated with Lanny Cordola on so many albums, and I’ve worked on several film scores with him. Some of my favorite work through my career has been with him.

Toddstar: That’s something I was going to point out is that you’re not typically a one-and-done with a lot of artists. You go back to the well, so to speak. Does it speak more to the way you write, the way you perform, or like you said, you are just good friends? What’s more important when you’re going to collaborate?

Chuck: I think it’s a connection. If you really connect with somebody and your friends and there’s a certain magic when you’re together. Whenever I get together with Lanny, we’re going to sit down and come up with music, we always walk away with some great stuff. It never failed, every single time. There are certain people that you just have that magic and that connection with. I have been very fortunate through my career to remain friends with most of the people that I’ve worked with. I’ve made so many new friends and great musicians through running Ultimate Jam Night, which is down at the Whisky a Go Go. It’s every other Tuesday now, but it was every week. And I started that in 2015 and we’ve had well over 2,000 musicians. So, I’ve made a lot of friends that way too. A lot of them, they’ll repeat. They’ll come back, I’ll say, “Hey, do you want to play again?” and they’ll jump in and want to do something. So that’s another way that this has come about why I have 41 guests on my record too.

Toddstar: You’ve got a great version of “Army of Me” from Björk. Are there tracks laying out there, especially covers – because your sound is so different the way you twist, like you said, you can do a gospel, you can do funk, you can do hard rock, you can do progressive – is there anything sitting in the back shelf that we haven’t heard yet that would just blow our minds as far as a cover or maybe a cover-influenced track?

Chuck: Not at all. Again, completely different from this album and from anything I’ve done. I do have a kind of flamenco’ish version of Eurhythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.” If people really want to hear something different, I did a version of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” with Lanny and it’s a cross between Sting, Sade, and Marvin Gaye. It’s really different. It’s on a Magdalen Record. You could just put in Magdalen “War Pigs,” and it’ll come up and you’ll be really surprised. It’s all real instruments too. There’s a duduk on there, there’s cello, light percussion… it’s really cool. I really like a lot of depth in music styles, and I know people. I’ve been kind of pigeonholed as the “rock guy”, but I was in a flamenco band for two years. I’ve co-produced two reggae records. I did an ambient trance record. I did a rap record with Sen Dog from Cypress Hill. If it’s good, I’m into it, you know what I mean? Although people look at it that way, I think there’ll be a lot of discovery if you sit and listen to this album. That’s what I’m about musically, and that’s what I’m hoping will be my legacy, this record and not something I did in 1983.

Toddstar: That’s a good point. While it’s a great thing and it’s one hell of an album and project to be associated with, has it also been an albatross at times as well that you’re the “Quiet Riot guy”?

Chuck: Well, it has in two incidences that I can tell you right now. I was working with Matt Sorum on his solo record. Do you know Matt Sorum from Guns N’ Roses?

Toddstar: The Hollywood Zen album?

Chuck: Yeah. I actually did the CD package on that too. I was working with him on that album, and he said, “Hey, The Cult needs a new bass player. Are you into it?” I go, “Are you kidding me? I love The Cult.” So, he went to those guys, to Billy, and said, “Hey, listen. I’m working with Chuck Wright right now, and they go, “Oh, we don’t want some hair guy from some metal band in their band. It kills our credibility.” I’m going, “Great.” Because of my success with Quiet Riot, I didn’t get that gig. And it’s happened a couple of other times where the same thing came up where an artist… the manager told me, she goes, “Well, yeah. You’d be great for the band, but the singer,” I don’t want to even say her name, “but she just doesn’t want to have anybody in the band that might take any kind of attention away from her.” So, in that regard, it has happened. I’m sure those gigs that I don’t come to people’s minds because they think, “Oh, well, he’s just a rock guy,” when I could easily go out with a jazz-fusion thing, or a prog thing or whatever.

Toddstar: You mentioned Sons of Apollo earlier with Derek. That’s just one of those bands I think has yet to get it, to do it as well.

Chuck: They’re just phenomenal. I think it’s also the time we’re in right now, there’s 60,000 songs that come out a day on Spotify, and it’s really tough to rise above and get people’s attention. Even with a band as talented as those guys, it’s really hard to, as a new artist even with a lot of cred, as individual players to get people’s attention.

Toddstar: Well, that said, and I mean, the world has changed crazy over the last two years, but the music industry has just been ever evolving from inception to now, but it’s just seemed to accelerate. I’ll call it ever since American Idol and all that stuff. When it comes to stuff like that, Chuck, if you can go back to yourself in 1981, 1982, when you said, “Okay, this is what I’m going to do,” and you jumped in both feet, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Chuck: Get it in writing. Because the Mental Health record, for instance, I did all the club dates, did the demos, got the deal, was told I’d get X, blah, blah, blah. But I never got it in writing. So, that album sold over 10 million copies and I made a thousand dollars. That’s why if you ask that question, I would go back and whisper in my ear, “Whatever you do, don’t listen to the words, get it on paper, get it on something you can enforce.” But yeah. I mean, who knew that the first album you would ever do would go on to be a number one album and sell 10 million copies? I didn’t know that. It was just in the weird circumstances with Randy being killed in that horrible plane crash and Rudy deciding to come back to the band, and that kind of music not even being in vogue. So, at the time I’m going, “Whatever,” because I had my own band that was very successful in LA, and then the thing goes on to sell like it did. And it changed the whole fabric of the music scene at the time from new wave and guys like The Knack to… ‘if you had a lot of hair and you could rock, you would get signed.’

Toddstar: Another album of yours that most people don’t associate you with on because of the press and the live shows, and I think even the photos on the album and it’s another one that I go to is the Saints Of The Underground album.

Chuck: That one I remember working with Keri and Jani down at Keri’s house in Laguna a lot putting those songs together. Then we flew to Houston to record over at Bobby Blotzer’s studio when he was living in Houston, he had a studio there. And we did the whole album. And then when it came time to take photos, I was told by the Quiet Riot guys that I’m not allowed to. So, they didn’t want to have any convolution with me being in two bands. It really upset the guys because I didn’t know that that was going to happen. I would’ve told them up front, “Hey listen, I can do the album, but I can’t be in any kind of press stuff with you guys.” They probably would’ve passed on having me do it then at that point. They were trying to create a band. I’ve been in six bands at one time before, but this particular time it was important to Quiet Riot that the focus be ‘this is the lineup.’ That’s why when you see the CD package, I’m mentioned on there. It’s interesting you pointed that out now because just today I saw a post from Keri Kelli with pictures from that photo session. It’s just odd that you brought that up and within 20 minutes ago or whatever it was, a half-hour ago, I saw that post.

Toddstar: It is crazy. I haven’t seen anything from Keri in a while, so I didn’t notice that. That’s just one of those albums. I’m old school, so I read liner notes. I knew who played on it, so when I had the opportunity to talk to you, I wanted to bring that one up because that is one of those ones that’s just a solid rock album, especially for the time it came out.

Chuck: There are some good songs on there. Doing “American Girl” the Tom Petty song, was interesting. I remember doing that. That was fun.

Toddstar: Chuck, there’s so much going on with you. What’s next? You’ve got this legacy of music running the gamut of genres. Some that will surprise and some that won’t. You’ve worked with artists up and down. Who’s still on your get-list? Who do you still want to do something with that you haven’t yet?

Chuck: Well, a dream of mine would be to play with Jeff Beck and me and his band. But I don’t want to step on Rhonda’s [bassist Rhonda Smith] high heels. Jeff Beck is my favorite. I love all of his records and that would be a dream come true for me to even do one song with him. But as far as what’s up for me next is, right now my focus is on trying to get the word out on this record and I’m doing Ultimate Jam Night. We just had a show Tuesday celebrating Prince’s birthday and after, they have the NAMM Convention here, so it’s an after-NAMM party. I’m going to be doing a record with Ken Mary from House of Lords, and Jimi Bell from the newer version of House of Lords. We’re going to be doing an album together this summer. I’m also working with a thing called the Legends of Classic Rock with Greg D’Angelo from White Lion and Terry Ilous from Great White and Kevin Jones who played with Ozzy Osbourne with Randy during those years. We’ve already done a bunch of dates and we’re going to be going out to Barcelona in early July. I’m doing that too and I’m open to whatever, pretty much. I do have more music that I recorded. I had to stop. I got five songs done and that video for “Army of Me,” and then that’s when I started talking to different labels and Brian Perera at Cleopatra Records is the kind of person that would get it. He did and signed it. I could do whatever I want on that label, which is great. You don’t have a label on your head. There’s more music. If this album resonates with people and enough people dig it, maybe I’ll be able to do another one. We’ll see.

Toddstar: That’d be great. With all your projects and everything else you had going on, is there any thought to putting together a tour around this album and maybe not being able to get all those guests, but being able to put together a solid band?

Chuck: To do this record justice really truly in a live immersive situation, experience, whatever you want to call it, I would really need Roger Waters or Paul McCartney’s budget. I guess I could have a four or five-piece band and use some tracks, but I have different singers and I’d need a male vocal and a female vocal. It would be quite the undertaking. And it would take a lot of dollars, I think, to really pull it off properly. I could streamline and do a couple of songs off of this and do some songs off my past. But I don’t know if there’d be a demand for that kind of thing live or not. This is my first time ever doing anything on my own like this. I’m learning as I go right now.

Toddstar: It’s a sentiment that I get across the board when you get certain bands or projects and they can say, “Well, it’d be great, but it’s just not feasible,” especially in the music world, in the financial market, the way they collide and don’t work together at times, so.

Chuck: It really takes a lot to put a band on the road. I know a lot of people don’t realize it. You’re in Poughkeepsie, what it took to get the band there, three flights or whatever, and bands and hotels, and then paying everybody in the airfares and you know, all that.

Toddstar: I have talked about that with other artists and it’s just the dollars and cents don’t make sense, even though it’s Detroit, maybe Detroit just isn’t the right market for a certain band, and everybody thinks, “Well, it’s Detroit,” but sometimes it just doesn’t work.

Chuck: There are certain markets that you’ll do really good in. Quiet Riot never did good in Atlanta, for instance, and that’s a huge city and you go, “Why?” But you just don’t know. It’s one of those things.

Toddstar: Chuck, I appreciate the time. This has been a pleasure for me to be able to talk to you, pick your brain a little bit, and get some insight, not only on Sheltering Sky, but your career in general. Hopefully, one of your projects will wind up in the Michigan area at some point and I can actually witness Chuck Wright live. That’s one thing I have yet to see.

Chuck: Oh, you haven’t? I love playing live. It’s a different animal. I’m pretty calm normally, but when I’m on stage, it’s a different thing. Just like Alice. Alice is super calm when I play with him and you’re hanging out with him, but when he gets on stage, he becomes Alice Cooper. I look forward to that. I hope it happens, and really nice meeting you, Todd.

Toddstar: Same here Chuck. We’ll talk soon when you put some more stuff out.

Chuck: Thanks a lot, man. Take care.






Category: Interviews

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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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