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Joe Lynn Turner

Interviewed by Greg Olma
Interview with Joe Lynn Turner from 2007

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 4 at

Your new album Second Hand Life leans more towards your melodic side than past releases. Was this on purpose or just the mood of the recording sessions?
It was my intention to do a melodic rock album and keep it that way. Even more so than Usual Suspects which was harder edged. This one I just tried to go out full melodic rock. There are some rockers in there but overall, I think there’s a wide variety on this record that many, many different people will like. My fans seem to be extremely versatile and they don’t like just one type of thing. They’re not just metal nerds, they like a lot of different stuff and this record satisfies that for them. At least that is what I’ve been told.
MSJ: Some of the songs were written in the 90’s. Were the tracks done but not recorded or did they need completing?
Some of them, for example “Stroke Of Midnight,” [Deep] Purple recorded it. It was recorded; I had a vocal on it. Then the proverbial s**t hit the fan. Ritchie [Blackmore] used to use it, as he was leaving the band, to incur Gillan’s anger by playing it through the PA before they went on. You know how Ritchie can be.
MSJ: Did you record demos for Deep Purple’s The Battle Rages On?
That’s where “Second Hand Life” came out of as well but it was not necessarily a song that was slated for Purple; “Stroke Of Midnight” was.
MSJ: What tells you when a song is complete or when you are ready to record it?
A song is never a song until there’s a melody and lyrics and it’s sung. A lot of people think you write songs by writing music tracks but they’re just exactly that; music tracks. There’s no song there. So a song is never really a song until a melody and lyric is put on it. Once the melody and lyric is on it, you may not like what you hear, you may not like every lyric, you may think it’s not strong enough, or what have you, that is when you go around massaging everything; sort of being a “fix doctor.” And there is a process to all of that as well. There were a couple of songs on this record that really had me wanting more perfection out of them. I wanted them to sound right and say the right things. I incurred some of my friend’s help; Jaime Kyle from Nashville on “In Your Eyes” and Deanna Johnston from INXS: Rockstar. They brought something else that I couldn’t.
MSJ: A lot of lyrics are personal and often introspective. Do you find lyric writing therapeutic in any way?
Absolutely. It’s cathartic. To me, if you want to know what my life is, just listen to the albums or CDs. Every period of my life had something going on like this. It’s usually pretty representative of what period I’m going through. Right now I’m just in an incredible space. I think you’ll find all positive songs here; or at least trying to be positive. “Love Is On Our Side” was written during the Gulf War and when I was recording it this year, I just said “My God, they haven’t learned anything from history.” I felt it applied this year as well to the Iraq War. I just seems that we’re really going backwards.
MSJ: You are on tour right now with the charity Classic Rock Cares. How did you get involved?
We did a lot of shows down in Florida for [Hurricane] Katrina, cancer, autism, and what have you. A great bunch of guys, Robin Zander, Eddie Money, Buck Dharma from Blue Oyster Cult, and of course, Brian [Johnson] and Cliff [Williams] from AC/DC, you know, Mark Farner, all these guys, they’re all friends; it’s a great hang. We were doing all this charity work down there and I said to Steve Luongo, who is the drummer for the John Entwistle Band, and he’s already got a foundation [John Entwistle Foundation] so I just said “Why don’t we go out and do some charity gigs for John?” and he said “You’re right!” because we’re doing charity gigs for everybody else. So we talked to the guys and for example, the line-up in Florida last week was Zander, Money, and myself, Brian and Cliff. Then we had one with Mark Farner and Buck Dharma. So on and so forth. It’s a rotating roster. I guess me, Brian, and Cliff are the only 3 main stays because we kind of decided to do this together. Then we sort of enlisted everybody else. But we had done all these charity shows with all these guys and we sort of decided to make it official. We make money for under privileged children. We buy musical instruments to put in schools and libraries. We also help pay for their musical education because every child has been left behind. I guess you can tell I don’t like the present administration.
MSJ: When was the last time you were in Chicago performing?
1992. There was a guy outside our hotel that had all these pictures and albums. I was just like “Wow! What is this?” He said “you have not been here since ’92.” Milwaukee Music Fest or something like that.
MSJ: What was the last CD you purchased?
In Japan, on the Japanese tour about a month ago, I purchased Enya; 2 albums by Enya because I like to relax and go to sleep sometimes. I also purchased a very killer pop commercial band called Rooster. I was in a club in Osaka, Japan with Sebastian Bach and we’re hanging out; also [with] Graham Bonnet. The 3 of us were there and I heard this incredible, kind of, pop rock sound coming out of the speakers and they were loud as s**t. It was really good so I ran up to the DJ and I was like “who is this?” and he goes “it’s a band that never made it and it’s killer, isn’t it?” They’re very commercial yet very musical and proficient; singer’s great, the songs are killer. So I would say Rooster. Just another casualty of the record industry.
MSJ: What are your thoughts of the music industry today as compared to when you started out with Fandango?
It’s completely different, upside down and basakwards. I mean, CDs are going to be a thing of the past in another 5 years. I’m finally on iTunes so at least I have my downloadable stuff on there. I’ve got ringtones and everything else. Right now, I think I’ve only got about 2 albums, the new one and Usual Suspects. I think we’re going for the whole catalogue. Then we’re going to start compilations and all kinds of stuff. Welcome to the digital age. It just seems like less and less CDs are being bought and more and more digital downloads are happening. I think the industry did it to itself in a way because by signing artists that only put out 2 good songs. Nobody wants to buy a whole album when there are only 2 good songs. This is the way it’s been presented to me by the young people I meet. My daughter’s crowd, who are 17, they’ve got Queen, Hendrix, and [Led] Zeppelin in their iPods. I’m like “why?” and they’re “the new stuff is so soulless that we can only pick a couple of songs off this or that. We don’t really feel that there’s any artist out there that have the kind of power and soul that your generation had.” So I was like “I have to agree with you.”
MSJ: You recently were with Yngwie Malmsteen in Russia. Is there anything that will come out of this in the future?
Well, I rather say Yngwie was in Russia with me because I was hired for that first. I played for the Prime Minister. He was a last minute add because they realized I was not going to play any Malmsteen songs. I was gonna play Purple, Rainbow, and solo and that was it. They absolutely love that album with Malmsteen and so do I. I think it’s one of the strongest albums I’ve ever done and I know it’s the best album that he’s ever done. When we sat down together, everything was really cool. There were no arguments; there was no need to bury the hatchet of any kind. I said “you’re going to play first” which his manager/wife had a hissy fit, “and after I finish my set, rather than doing encores, you’ll just come up for the encores and we’ll just stay on stage and satisfy the Prime Minister’s and his guest’s wants with the Malmsteen/Turner connection.” So we got up there and did everything from “Voodoo Chile” to “Dreaming” to “Déjà Vu;” “Riot In The Dungeons,” I could go on and on. Ultimately, is there anything that’s going to come out of it? I don’t know. I said “give me a ring sometime, maybe we can get together.” He said “yeah, that sounds good” but his wife was sitting there with like the devious eyes and I’m just like “he’s never gonna call me. She not going to allow that.”
MSJ: Who haven’t you collaborated with that you would like to?
Well, you know, Paul Rogers had taken 2 of my songs a while ago and demoed them up. I think they’re perfect for him because I wrote them exactly for him; kind of bluesy rock. Our friendship has just been growing so I would really like to sit down and write a couple of songs with Paul one day.
MSJ: What was the last concert you attended as a fan?
I guess it must have been Queen with Paul Rogers. It was at the Continental Arena in New Jersey. I brought my wife and daughter and had a great time; went backstage and saw everybody and it was just great. I thought they did a great job.
MSJ: You sell signed CDs on your website which I see a lot more people doing. Who’s idea was that?
Not mine. Actually, it’s my wife’s business. She operates, runs, buys product, and works with the webmaster to get the adverts up there. All I really do is comply by signing CDs and personalizing CDs because sometimes people just buy the CD, sometimes they buy it with an autograph, and sometimes they buy it with a personalized autograph. She deals with all of it. She’s had so much success with it.
MSJ: What is your favorite Spinal Tap moment from your career?
I suppose, I told this story before. When I first started with Rainbow, we were doing some warm-up gigs and we happen to be in Colmar, France. It’s an outdoor shed and 15-20,000 people [are] there. I was doing the bit in the middle of “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll” where it kind of breaks down. I got the people singing and I’m kind of parading on the stage, getting people singing; getting people on the left, getting people on the right. All of sudden I start getting hit with food. I got hit with like bologna, cheese, pretzels, and tomatoes. I was getting pissed off so I’m thinking “these son of a bitches, what the hell is this?” I got pelted with a bunch of stuff and that was it. I throw the mike down and I was really pissed off and as I’m walking off the stage, I look to my left and in the pit, there is Ritchie, Bobby Rondinelli, and Roger [Glover]. They went back and got the deli trays from hospitality and started chucking it at me. I was so new to the band. They were laughing their asses of.
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