TOD HOWARTH talks shop

Tod_Howarth_Cold_Beach_1

How did you originally catch the rock & roll bug?   Well if The Beatles were the definition of Rock and Roll in 1964 then there it was! But I think that the real heavy rock for me was Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Humble Pie.  I learned a lot about melodies, harmonies and song construction from the Beatles and kept within those guidelines right into my ‘heavier’ introductions.

Who are your favorite 5 rock singers of all time?   Good one, as it depends on one’s definition again, of a ‘rock’ singer!  I was influenced by singers over the years but perhaps didn’t realize what would become my favorites until later – realizing how they in fact shaped my own style (even though I don’t sound like many of them) ….John Lennon, Steve Marriott, John Waite, Steve Walsh, Layne Staley.

Can you describe your first time meeting Ace Frehley?   It took place in New York on my first audition. I was flying out to do another leg of a tour with Cheap Trick then and I combined the trip to meet up with the future Comet band.  I walked in, saw John Regan of course, Eddie Trunk was there (however I had no idea who he was) and then there was Ace.  I truly would not have known him sans makeup because I had never ‘looked’ him up through the pages of countless rock magazine articles – I seldom read those and never gravitated to KISS photos and articles because my personal musical interests were elsewhere.

Ace shook my hand as we were introduced and he was very pleasant, enthusiastic about the project and I imagine thrilled to be completing the group to really get out there and tour. I do remember that the impression that I got was, ‘Wow, cool guy, he’s happy to be here and play and very positive about what he’s doing and where’s he’s going’

This in itself was very refreshing as I had been through a few projects with tons of negativity and that was a drain on me over time. Ace looked good and he had a tremendous presence about him at that time.

He let you play a number of leads or record and live, was that something you had to fight for?  Not one bit. In fact I had told him that I wasn’t a jammin’ lead player nor a spontaneous one as I’ve always considered myself to be a singer/songwriter that played solid rhythm guitar/keys.  I believe that he was disappointed to a degree that I wasn’t asking to play more leads so as to bounce things off each other. I can play lead (obviously) but my compositions are melodies and notes that I hear in my head and then have to learn them.

I did want to play the lead on “It’s Over Now” after I tracked it because, well I thought that it suited the song. He had no problem with that at all. That’s when I gained HUGE respect for him as he was very confident in his guitar talent (had every right to be) and let me have that one.

Of your Frehley’s Comet song contributions, which track are happiest with today? (mine may be “Calling To You”)   Ha!  Cool that you like the old ‘MEGAFORCE‘ title “Calling To You”!  Mine would be a toss up, somewhere between “Time Ain’t Runnin’ Out”’ and “It’s Over Now”. 

How was it working with legendary producer Eddie Kramer?    Eddie at that time was a great guy, big resume and I learned more about him as we worked together, again, I really didn’t know that much about him either! He was very diplomatic about his ideas and brought great humor and results in the studio all at the same time. I don’t have any recollections that stand out about the times in the studio…besides the personal banter and jokes that we had between all of us.

Guitarists often say no two drummers are alike: how would you describe the feel difference between playing with legends Anton Fig and Jamie Oldaker behind the kit?   Well that saying is so very true.  I think that perhaps in the past I may have eluded to the opinion that Anton was better suited for the Comet initially, but then Jamie was so very instrumental in the feel in at (the very) least the track “It’s Over Now” …. he became the stellar standard. So it really becomes the definition of the ear listening.  Anton was flat out powerful, rocking, pounding and wild and the proverbial mosh pit for the ears – full of raw energy.  Jamie was moreover rock solid with the depth of a feel the escapes many drummers from track interpretation. The way he laid the snare down…..monumental.

What is your 2013 solo release Opposite Gods about? (its pretty fucking heavy dude … and I heard you sing like Bowie!?)   This solo effort has a plethora of inspirations that are all real life with exception to “Dancing Through The Pain” which was a dream. I have songs on here about my adult children, and their trials in life, a song about one of my very best friend’s Harley accident, which paralyzed him from the waist down, a tune about the shallowness of today’s ‘talents’ One about my dog! And just one political tune – of which I don’t do normally but could not help to sing about what I see here in America.

Cool that you can hear ‘Bowie’ in my voice!  I can imitate him dead on!

Yes. it’s very heavy, but I’ve always been heavy – until I start to sing! Ha!  I love deep dark material but I also write in an adult contemporary style like my Winter CD  When I record my heavy stuff it’s just that to me, heavy… but my voice really isn’t a ‘heavy’ type timbre so it becomes a little less threatening!

You highlight your adrenaline junkie hobbies nicely on your website: is that what drew you to rock & roll originally, the rush of it all?   No, the draw was – reflecting and understanding what I went through back then in the ‘60s now – acceptance and acknowledgement. My early life was a little rough, nothing too traumatizing but enough for me to search out some attention – and then of course a lot of that would evolve to women! The Beatles had that, well …. Hell, I wanted that too!

How did your recent appearance on the TV show Wipe-Out come about and was it fun?   I got my ass kicked!  I ‘trained’ for about three weeks swimming (which I ended up using a lot of) and general biking, weights, but no where near as much as I would need.

I had been watching the show for a while and being that ‘adrenaline junkie’ that you saw on my website I thought, ‘Man, I wanna do this!’  So at 53 years of age then, I decide to drive up to Los Angeles and audition. I wrote to them first of course and was immediately accepted to do as such and they loved me.

Upon arrival to the set in the mountain area of the northern Hollywood area I noticed that they had just recently cut all the weeds around the course – deadly for me as I’ve huge allergies which affect my breathing.  This was not the entire reason for me getting my ass kicked but it surely didn’t help.  I qualified I believe the 8th fastest time out of the final 22 or so but there was no chance that I could compete after the first real round (the one filmed for TV)  because they were to film the second round only a few hours after my initial ass kicking.  I had no second wind to give.

I had fun though, but realized that I was in fact, 53 years old then. I’m now 56!

FxF-cover-FBWhat’s the new project Four By Fate about?  Four By Fate is a brand new project / band that is the result of a few key industry players.  John Regan and I have kept in touch over the years, more so in the last few trying to get Ace back into the fold to do a 25 year re-union show/tour/concert for the 2012 (or around this time) year.

While having trouble getting through to him on a direct questions, it was posed to him by third parties where he expressed no interest.  He had his solo band and was happy rightfully so, doing that and other events.  In the mean time John and I were asked to collaborate with a Canadian KISS aficionado named Mitch Lafon on contributing tracks, re-recordings to his project; KISS 40 year anniversary tribute A World Without Heroes CD that would benefit a cancer hospice.  A great cause.  We did so and while doing this we were hooked up with some fantastic musicians via the internet style of recording.

Meanwhile, John had struck up a great business relationship with Danny Stanton of Coallier Entertainment and through a quickly morphed idea of getting John and I plus perhaps some musicians from the KISS project together to do a few quick shows, it whittled down to an actual band that would power on as a heavy melodic rock band using a few songs from Frehley’s Comet as a jump off point.

The line up is as follows: John Regan, bass guitar, backing vocals, Sean Kelly, lead guitar and lead/backing vocals, Stet Howland, drums, lead and backing vocals and me on lead vocals, guitar and keys.

With John’s and my extensive resume, Sean Kelly’s and Stet Howlands credits (Nelly Furtado & W.A.S.P respectively) we felt that we could initially pull from the big bands we’ve played with material wise while quickly developing our own which would be ‘Heavy Melodic’.

The new band was announced this last Tuesday and has it’s now website already, www.fourbyfate.com We are all doing homework at this very moment in preparation for the up and coming events that will unfold soon!  – TOD HOWARTH

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