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Grand Funk Railroad

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview With Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad from 2002
MSJ: How is the tour going?
It's really not like a "tour" tour. We're just kind of weekend warriors. We're gonna do 50 shows this year. We did 35 last year. We're up to 50 this year, and we're looking at doing 50 next year. Most of it is from May/June up until October. Then there's other sporadic dates. It's mostly outside - state fairs and festivals, and that's mostly the time for that stuff. In the winter we do casinos here and there.
MSJ: The casino gig is something a lot of bands are doing these days.
Yeah! It's a little weird.
MSJ: Kind of Elvis?
It depends on how they're set up. The ones that have the long tables like the old Las Vegas style - feels like you ought to come out and do Shecky Greene.
MSJ: With the whole reissue campaign under way, might that be leading up to a new studio album?
Well, we're working on stuff. We did a couple new songs tonight.
MSJ: You did a 38 Special song, too, right?
Max is from 38 Special. He wrote and sang that song for 38 Special, so we do a little different version of it. That's Max' song. That's why we do it.
MSJ: So when do you expect to release something new?
Well, we're kind of working on doing like a DVD/CD combination thing which is like maybe 4 things that we'll put together from stuff this year. We'll get some footage while we're out on the road, and we'll put something like that together. As far as like a whole album - I don't know because radio's so screwed up. Classic rock stations won't play new stuff, by anybody, Bob Seger, or anybody. It's just old stuff that they play. Then you go to adult contemporary, and they don't play Grand Funk Railroad. They just literally won't play Grand Funk Railroad. "Oh, we can't play that name. That's Grand Funk Railroad. That's a classic rock band. That's not adult contemporary." It's all that compartmentalized stuff. I mean, we could put out a CD, but we'd have to distribute it Capital might do it, but they aren't going to do a great job on it because they can't get radio play. They could put it out there, but if you can't get radio behind it, nobody knows it's out there. The record industry's really in the tanker. All the companies are really in the tank, and they've got to figure out a way to come through it. Sooner or later, they'll figure it out. When that happens, we'll still be around. We'll be right there to figure it out with them.
MSJ: You guys used to get kicked around a lot by the media. You seem to be treated with more respect now. Why do you think that is?
It's because we're old, and you get respect when you're old (laughs). "Look at those guys, they're in their '50's, they must be OK."
MSJ: Didn't Rolling Stone Magazine call you the worst band of all time?
There are a lot worse bands! (laughs) That whole Rolling Stone thing, and to this day we still don't get along with Rolling Stone, it kind of started with Terry Knight, our first manager. He really started rubbing them the wrong way because, in his eyes, any publicity was good publicity. So, if he couldn't get them to say "oh gee, your band is a great new band", then I'll get them to say my band is terrible, and they'll write about them. So he'd give them the finger, and when reporters would want to interview the band he'd say, "no, f*** you". So, he basically started a war with them that lasts to this day. They basically control the Hall of Fame. The board of directors of Rolling Stone controls the Hall of Fame. If you look at all the acts that are in there, all the people that are in there are all Rolling Stone Magazine favorites.
MSJ: How long do you see keeping the band going?
As long as we want - as long as we can. This band is just great. It's got a new energy and new life. Everybody's having a ball with it, and we're being creative. We're coming up with new ideas. We can't think of anything better to do. I mean, what are we going to do, work at Home Depot?
MSJ: How did you hook up with the new guys?
First I looked for a singer when Mark decided he wasn't going to go out with the band anymore. Mel and I were kind of like, "if we find a guy that is really good, maybe we'll try it". And, when I found Max Carl, and I knew he was available and he was interested in doing it. He's the best blue eyed soul singer on the planet, as far as I'm concerned, and there's not a lot those guys left. He's a unique combination of R & B and rock, and that's what Grand Funk is. It's a combination of R & B, which is our roots growing up in Flint, Michigan, Motown, and we just turned that up and rocked it hard. When we got Max on board, then we needed a guitar player. When I was playing with Bob Seger in the early '80's (I was on tour as a tour drummer with Bob Seger), Bruce was playing lead guitar for Michael Bolton. Michael Bolton was opening up for Bob Seger, and everybody in the Bob Seger organization was going, "who's that guitar player? God, he's great. He can play R & B. He can play jazz. He can play rock." When this came around he was the first guy that came to mind. I looked him up on the internet, found; I got to the website. "Oh, there's an email." So, I sent him an email and said, "Mel and I and Max Carl are working on a project. Would you be interested? I haven't talked to you in years." He sent me an email back and said, "Well, if you really are Don Brewer, I'd love to talk to you about it." He was working on a project called "Union" with John Corabi. They weren't going any place with it. So, he was kind of in limbo. He was in between projects when I called him. He grew up with all of the '70's music so it just flows out of him. It's not like "Gee, I've got to learn how to do that". That's what he does.
MSJ: What have been some of the highlights of the new run of the band?
We just get out, and we play these shows. To me, the highlight is the audience knowing the songs. We get all ages - little kids, teenagers, parents and grand parents, and they all sing the lyrics to "Some Kind of Wonderful" and "Closer To Home", and it gives me a chill, it really does. That this band that was started in 1969 and that Rolling Stone Magazine hated, and we went through all of that stuff. We still are here, 30 some years later, and it's kind of like a staple. They know the songs. They know the name. They know me. They know Mel. That's the highlight to me - that we're part of a generation. I think that's really cool.
MSJ: In terms of your creativity, do you like your career more now that it's less pressure?
I like the fact that getting a little older and living through a lot of stuff, that there's a lot of stuff that you can easily dismiss now that would have bothered you then - like when a critic gives you a bad review, and it's obvious that he wasn't even there. He sent someone over to take notes and writes up a review, and he wasn't even there. It doesn't bother me. You know, what really matters is going out on stage and knowing that the audiences like you. That's all that matters. That's what our job is. We're there to entertain. If they're entertained and they're smiling - we did a good job.
MSJ: What was the last concert you saw?
Actually, the last concert I went to see was in West Palm Beach. I saw Yes - great band. It's a good show. It was the one where they didn't do any hits except that they did an encore of "Owner of a Lonely Heart". That was the only hit they did. It was all the lengthy album cuts.
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 3 at
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