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Non-Prog Interviews

Martin Gerschwitz

Interviewed by Sonya Kukcinovich Hill
Interview with Martin Gerschwitz from 2007
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

First of all, thanks ever so much for granting an interview with me. You may be one of the best musicians here in America that no one's ever heard of.  Yet you have some amazing projects going on currently as well as sharing the stage with some of the most popular contemporary musicians of all time. So tell us, who is Martin Gerschwitz?
Martin Gerschwitz: Great question, but first of all - thanks for the compliment (I think I'm blushing now). Anyway, I don't think you can say, that nobody has ever heard of me, simply because of my association with famous acts like Lita Ford, Meat Loaf, Vanilla Fudge, Walter Trout, Eric Burdon and The Animals, or currently Iron Butterfly - but you're right, a lot of people wouldn't know who I am, because I was always the man in the background, usually just playing keyboards and singing harmonies!

But finally - after all these years - things are starting to change. Not only am I now the keyboard player/lead singer for "Iron Butterfly" (a position which puts you certainly not in the background), but now - with the release of my own band's new CD (Martin Gerschwitz & Friends - "Bridge to Eternity") - I actually do have a chance to make a name for myself too, play my own music, and hopefully reach a lot of people with my songs. Of course, you never know what will happen, but I feel that I'm on the right track to finally become the real thing, the real Martin Gerschwitz - and that's all I ever wanted!
MSJ: Now, you're classically trained as a pianist, violinist, and vocalist. You played for Eric Burdon for many years. Can you tell us about those years with Eric from a musical perspective, and how did you become involved with Iron Butterfly since then?
Yes, I'm classically trained as a pianist and up to a certain degree, even as a violin player. But, I never really sang lead vocals until maybe four years ago or so (basically when I started my own band), though I learned the techniques and how to breathe right and all that when I attended the University of Cologne in Germany back in the 70's. I actually studied there for five years, and I became a certified music teacher for High School, how about that? I bet you didn't expect that, or did you? I was supposed to just be a teacher, but then Rock 'n Roll took me down another path, and the rest is - as they say - history! Anyway, but I really like singing these days, and I feel very confident to sing my own music, too!

About my time with Eric Burdon, well - where do you want me to start? How much time do you have? Let's put it this way, the "Animals" were an extremely influential band back in the days, they had several huge hits, and it definitely was an honor to share the stage with legends like Eric Burdon and sometimes even Hilton Valentine, Dave Rowberry and John Steel (original guitar player, second keyboard player, and original drummer respectively) for about eight years or so. But, if it hadn't been for the guys in the band (as in Dave Meros on bass, Dean Restum on guitar, and Bernie Pershey on drums), I don't think that musically it would've been the best thing I've ever done. But, the songs were cool, and luckily we had a lot of free room to kind of orchestrate them any way we wanted to, and I think that was the best thing about the whole gig ... and the fans appreciated that very much, and they really loved us, too!

After an extremely strange break-up of the Animals back in late 2005 (Eric Burdon's very young wife pretty much kicked the whole band out ... and Eric let her do it, too), I got involved with Iron Butterfly right away. I mean, I already knew Lee Dorman (the original bass player), he actually lives in my neighborhood, and we had become good friends over the years, so it was kind of a match made in heaven - especially since they were in need of a new keyboard player/lead singer anyway. But, what a strange world, all of a sudden I was the lead singer for one of my all-time favorite groups! I still can't really believe it!

MSJ: Who are some of your strongest musical influences, both past and present?
Martin Gerschwitz: That's an easy one - Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, pretty much all of the Russian composers, Keith Emerson (The Nice, later on ELP), Jon Lord (Deep Purple), Rick Wakeman (Yes), Rick van der Linden (from the Dutch group Ekseption), and - weirdly enough - Eddie van Halen!
 

 Music Street Journal: Tell me about "The Kings Of Classic Rock" (KOCR), and how is that project moving forward?
 
Martin Gerschwitz: I strongly believe, KOCR is a timebomb waiting to explode, and I mean that in a very positive way! Here you have a band (which incidently used to be the same band, who backed up Eric Burdon for eight years, just with the addition of another lead singer, Nick D'Virgilio of Spock's Beard), who has been around the block a million times. Everybody is a fantastic musician and human being as well, everybody gets along great with another. We just need to get discovered. (that's all)! Anybody out there? I just know, that 2008 will be a great year for us!

MSJ: Your new solo CD, Bridge to Eternity, is very interesting. It has classic rock overtones, strong balance melodically and harmonically, and shows strong theory background in the writing.  Not to mention, you have a fantastic voice! I can also hear progressive influences in there. How do your ideas evolve as you write?
Martin Gerschwitz: Again - good question. Let me try to answer it as simply as I can. I look at this CD as the mother of all my creations so far, as a mixture of all styles of music I like or was ever exposed to - just another way of expressing myself how I feel about things and life in general. A couple of people have said, that they're missing a common denominator on this CD, they're missing a concept, but the way I look at it, I had a concept, it's my concept, I am the common denominator, it's just the way Martin Gerschwitz is - love it or hate it ... and that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!
MSJ: You left one thing out: You have one hell of a sense of humor! Now, there is a timeless quality to that type of writing and performance.  I'm curious, is Steely Dan an influence of yours? I do hear some similarities on certain cuts from the new album, and both Walter Becker and Donald Fagen have always been committed to that level of quality.
Martin Gerschwitz: Thank you so much for comparing me to Steely Dan, who also happens to be one of my favorite bands of all time. And, you're right - it's timeless - just the way they wrote their songs; very musically, yet somewhat commercial, jazzy chords (some I never even knew they existed, though I understand them theoretically), unexpected orchestrations, etc.  I'm sure that, in a way, I got influenced by them (I mean - who isn't?) and, I'm certainly committed to a high level of quality as well. But, other than that, I just write my songs the way I feel them, imagine them, and hopefully they come out good. I like them anyway, and I'd be happy if people like them, too! So, let's go, everybody! Makes a great Christmas present, by the way!
MSJ: Incidentally, what was it like working with the legendary Walter Trout?
Martin Gerschwitz: Walter Trout is a legend, you're so right - and I had a great time playing with him (1993 - 1998). I learned so much from him, especially how to play the blues, how to feel what you play and let the music do the talking! He definitely was very instrumental in who I am these days, who I became - and I thank him for that ... and, his old bass player Jimmy Trapp, too (RIP)!
MSJ: So, Martin, where do you see your own musical direction heading as we move forward in this century?
Martin Gerschwitz: Ask me an easier question, please! OK, I strongly believe (as I mentioned before) that this new CD of mine pretty much says it all. I don't have just one musical direction, I tend to throw everything, all my influences and all my feelings, into a big pot, stir it up, and voila! There you have it, and there it is - my musical direction, whatever it is, what ever you'd like to call it ... I just call it "feel good music," and I don't think, that I should (or even could, for that matter) label it any other way!

By the way, do you know, that I have several other CD's out as well, where I just recorded my own original orchestrated instrumental piano stuff, including a Symphony in three movements - and my two only cover songs, "Fur Elise" by Beethoven, and "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin? And one of my biggest dreams is, to some day perform this symphony with a big orchestra here in the US.  Maybe even not only the symphony, but all the other songs on those CD's, too. I actually had a chance and did that in Germany back in 2002 and 2003 with a 45 piece orchestra, and let me tell you, it was absolutely amazing! What a tremendous experience and what a blast! I'd do that again any time ...anywhere...no doubt!

MSJ: Quite honestly, I thought the same exact thing about your CD ~ "feel good music!" That being said, what kind of musical legacy do you wish Martin Gerschwitz to leave for future listeners?
Martin Gerschwitz: As I mentioned before, I just hope that present and future listeners will understand and like, or even love, my music. That alone is good enough for me - whether I'd call that a legacy, I don't know, but I'm certainly putting my heart and soul into it, and that's all I can do! The rest is up to life, to luck, to whatever or whomever is responsible for your future!

Just for the record (or, maybe rather off the record), Of course, I'd like to leave a legacy. Who in his right frame of mind wouldn't want that to happen? OK, here it is, in that case, just call me "Ludwig Amadeus von Gerschwitz"... (it actually does have a nice ring to it, doesn't it)?

MSJ: So, why should discerning listeners buy Bridge to Eternity?
Martin Gerschwitz: Because I need the money, what do you think? ... (just kidding, of course)! No, seriously, I believe that it is a cool CD, it'll make you feel good, happy, content, ready to take on and face life and all its problems! And, I know, that the lyrics come from the heart as well. And, that's what matters to me the most - and hopefully to the listeners, too!
MSJ: What is the last gig you attended for your own pleasure?
Martin Gerschwitz: Very interesting question ... let me think. I believe, that it was Styx at the Grove in Anaheim, CA, about five years ago or so. And, it was a wonderful concert - I really love these guys! And I got to meet them all, too ... what a bunch of cool people, very down to earth ... just like Bon Jovi, who I toured with for three months during my Lita Ford days, back in 1988!
MSJ: What is the last CD you bought for your own enjoyment?
Martin Gerschwitz: I actually didn't buy this one, but I really liked the last Spock's Beard CD! That's the kind of stuff I can really get into! As far as buying a CD is concerned, it was probably back in the 80's (as far as I remember anyway). I think, that I bought the Whitesnake CD - their big one! Ever since then, I got so many CD's at gigs or from friends of mine, there was literally no reason to even buy another one. Just to clarify, that I'm not cheap (at least not as cheap as you might think).
MSJ: Well, you certainly get no argument at all from me on the SB. I even have that Whitesnake album, too! And, finally, I've just gotta know ~ what is your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Martin Gerschwitz: "But it goes to 11" - or "Hello Cleveland" - or "Big Bottom" - or...actually I simply love the whole movie, because these are all situations, every musician has experienced one way or another before - and most likely will over and over again in the future, too! In a nutshell, that's what you call "Life!" Who knew?
 
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