GREG HAMPTON INTERVIEW
By Trace Keane
Trace: How did you first get involved with the Whips & Roses projects?
Greg: Johnnie and I first talked about it long before that material was discovered. I had been the first guy they talked to about doing The Tommy Bolin Archives with years ago when I brought Pudge Bolin out to Los Angeles in the early 1990’s. I was very busy with other projects and there were potentially some licensing issues with the material. Subsequently after many years had passed Johnnie came to me with some multi-tracks and I got involved with that at first and put almost a year and half on that. It was about 143 minutes of material between the two CDs. I spent a long, long time getting those in shape. They came out collectively in 2006.
Trace: Did they require a lot of work to restore those tapes? Weren’t they from the Teaser sessions?
Greg: They were from a lot of different sessions I guess, they weren’t marked. Some they used in the recording of Teaser, some of the stuff they didn’t. It’s hard to establish there time frame, I have some dates on some recordings. Some of the recordings were prior to Tommy joining Deep Purple, but he did record them out in Los Angeles. He was spending a lot of time back and forth between Boulder and L.A. He was on his way out of the James Gang, I think.
Trace: Which of the two CDs do you like the best?
Greg: They are both really good, the thing I’m working on now is the Tribute CD, and there are versions of songs that no one has ever heard that far surpasses the material that was originally released. They are astounding. When I first worked on the W&R I would have preferred they were released as a two CD package, that was my personal preference, but the powers that be at the record company had different ideas and I had to deal with a lot of bureaucracy. They regretted they put it out separately. They put it out as a two CD package in Europe but the label is now going out of business. There assets have been bought by another firm. That’s out of print now.
Trace: Tell me about some of the material that remains unreleased for the upcoming album?
Greg: There all kinds of different versions of songs that people know. There are all kinds of different versions of “Wild Dogs,” there is a version of “Teaser” that’s amazing. There’s a 26 minute instrumental, it’s a six movement piece that has Echoplex transitions that breathtaking. We’re planning something very, very special for that as far as some potential guest stars.
Trace: Who might we be hearing from?
Greg: We’ve got a wish list of a lot of great people, Joe Perry, Jeff Beck, Slash (Guns & Roses) and more. My friend Warren Haynes is going to be working very closely with me on it. Warren’s band The Allman Brothers has Derrick Trucks that’s astounding. There are a lot of great guitar players we talked to. I spoke with Slash several times; he’s working on a solo project now and is very busy. People that Warren and I are friends with. I just spent the weekend with Steve Lukather who is very excited to be working on it. His partner from Toto, Jeff Porcaro was on the Teaser album. Jeff was the primary drummer and Bobby Berge played on two, and Narada Michael Walden played on “Marching Powder.”
Trace: Is there a working title yet?
Greg: I haven’t even thought about a title for this one yet.
Trace: Any idea of when you’ll be releasing this album?
Greg: Within the next two years, the problem is when your looking at the caliber of star that we’re dealing with these people are extremely busy, people of that magnitude are all over the world at any given moment, so it going to be a very time consuming project, I’ve already put about 14 months into getting these songs into a workable presentable, current sounding format. I think a lot of the Whips songs sounded like they were recorded last week, I tried to treat it so it would sound fresh. I’ve been very fortunate. Tommy was a visionary in a lot of ways, he had a lot of interesting approaches to recording. He would record a signal directly to tape with no amp, like we do today with Pro Tools. He would record a direct signal to the board, and I can use those things today and re-amp them and make things sound better. You can insert other EQ’s that weren’t in existence back then.
Trace: How did you become such a fan of Tommy’s?
Greg: I was about 13 years old when I got into Tommy. I was a Hendrix guy and a neighbor friend of mine turned me on to Hendrix, The Allman Brothers. When I was 9 I saw ZZ Top for the first time. So I was into a lot of great guitar players from that time. I was playing in a band in Waco, Texas, and after the show I saw Tommy on Midnight Special in the red suit. I also remember him on Don Kirshner’s in the silver suit I think.
Trace: Any chance of that material being released?
Greg: I don’t know who’s got that stuff, I’ve actually spoken to some people about obtaining that stuff, but the problem is if your not a mainstream group with a top 40 single they aren’t interested in working on those projects. All they are concerned with is the bottom line profits, anyone who is sort of a cult hero doesn’t really warrant their attention and efforts.
Trace: How did you get into producing music?
Greg: When I moved out to L.A. when I was 18, and in the 80’s there was so much money flying around and it was really embarrassing how much money I was given to work with, I wish I had that money now. We were given these huge budgets and we could be in the studio for months and months at a time. It was indulgent and I learned a lot from then in the studio. I was around a lot of great producers and asked a lot of questions. They liked me as a song writer and I got to work with a lot of great producers for songs. One thing lead to another and the The Grunge thing hit in the early 90’s.
Trace: How did you first get connected with the Bolins?
Greg: I was working on a version of “Teaser” myself, and I couldn’t figure out the lyrics and the line about the “tea cup” I couldn’t figure out, so I called them about the lyrics originally. That was back in 1988-89. We just stayed friends and I flew Pudge out here, we discussed The Archives, it never ended up happening and he soon passed away. I was writing for so many different artists and working on many projects, there was just too many licensing problems for me to work on it back then.
Trace: Is there still problems with the licensing of some of Tommy’s material?
Greg: No, we’ve sorted that all out from our end, it took a while but we had to be sure it was done correctly.
Trace: As you look back over your career, what do you see as some of your biggest accomplishments?
Greg: Living through it, getting sober and still being able to write music sober. Realizing that being all messed up is not part of the process, I’ve been sober 11 years, it’s not easy sometimes, but it is a lot easier than it used to be. I’ve been really fortunate, I working and producing for guys that were my heroes. It’s weird because I did Alice Coopers biggest record in 20 some years and sitting next to him elbow to elbow writing songs for five months. I used to freak out my mom on the Billion Dollar Baby’s thing and the next thing I know he’s giving my daughter the Uncle Alice thing about how he won’t let her go out with any boys or else he’s going to go get them and chop their heads off.
Trace: What was Alice like to work with?
Greg: He’s great, he’s very smart and quick, never heard him say a bad word, he’s a Christian and a very funny guy and a legend and still on top of his game. Got an exceptional manager for the last 40 years named Shep Gordon, really exceptional people to work with.
Trace: Tell me about your album that your working on that your going to have Johnnie Bolin play on.
Greg: The record I’m working on now is called The New Czars, it’s a project I’ve been working on for some time. I had Adrian Belew come in and play some guitar with me, Johnnie Bolin will be playing some drums, another guy named Dave Moreno play some drums. The bass player is a guy called Paul Ill who is amazing, he did all the Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera, one of the biggest session cats in L.A. but he’s also a great rock bass player. Bernard Fowler from The Rolling Stones will be singing on some of this, he’s the Marvin Gaye of the new millennium, one of my favorite singers, a very soulful cat. His day job with the Stones has kept him very busy. Jim Gillette will also be singing and he is exceptional, a famous metal singer with Nitro in the late 1980’s.
Trace: you worked on Lita Ford’s new record also didn’t you?
Greg: It’s called Wicked Wonder Land and it’s out October 6th, I play all the bass and rhythm guitars and keyboard on that.
Trace: When will The New Czars be out?
Greg: Most likely March on 2010, that’s a target date as it stands.
Trace: Which label will that be on?
Greg: Probably on my new imprint with Warner Brothers, I have a new imprint with them, which were working out some name issues, we’re going through my GHP right now, it’s Warner in America and Universal in Canada and sorting out Europe.
Trace: Years ago as a fan what did you think when Tommy joined Deep Purple?
Greg: I had seen the lineup before, I really liked the lineup on Burn and Stormbringer. I was really a big Glenn Hughes fan, in Texas Trapeze was really big. I really dug that cat so much. This girl I went to school with in junior high turned me on to Teaser and Come Taste The Band. Those two records changed my life, I just lived and breathed those two records for a good two years.
Trace: Are those still your favorite Tommy recordings?
Greg: It was a life changing experience for me, Come Taste The Band is my favorite Purple record, some of the stuff we did from the last Whips record is really great, some of the stuff they didn’t use on Teaser really stands out as being some of Tommy’s best playing, the instrumentals especially. In my 20’s I found out about Spectrum with Billy Cobham, and the Mind Transplant stuff he did with Alphonse Mouzon is really great also. It just goes on and on, Tommy Bolin really changed my life and I just love his music.
Greg is the producer of Whips & Roses I & II and the upcoming Tribute CD. He has worked with stars such Alice Cooper, Lita Ford and Science Faxtion with Bootsy Collins. His current band is The New Czars.