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Robert Berry

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Robert Berry from 2006
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at

It's been awhile since we chatted and knowing you, you've been up to a lot. Would you mind catching up the readers on what you've been doing for the last couple of years?
Yes, my life has been very busy. As you know I have quite a few different facets to my musician's life and to keep the ball rolling forward in all directions is sometimes a challenge. My production schedule at Soundtek has been busier than ever. As of late producing a singer from Russia Gelena (pop) a young female pop/rock artist Sheida, and right before the end of the year one of my favorites, Magna Carta artists Tempest. Along with making sure my young family does their homework and practices their piano lessons. I joined the band Ambrosia and toured the last two summers on lead vocals and guitar. And I have also been getting a Prime Cuts album ready with some new versions and new tracks to be released by Magna Carta. Oh yeah, and I found a few hours in the last few years to sleep also.
MSJ: From looking around at your web site- which appears to need some serious updating, by the way, there seems to be a decent number of recordings on which you've worked that haven't been released. Have you thought about fixing that situation?
It's funny that a few of those projects are so important to me that I have been waiting for the right time to release them. That said, I always tell my clients that they shouldn't keep their albums in a dresser drawer. Get them out there however you can. And I haven't even taken that advice myself. So this year is the year where all that becomes available. Schleptones is a rockin, polka, ska mixture. Take Cheap Trick, Mighty Bosstones, and Talking Heads and you have Schleptones - accordion, trombone, heavy on the beat and Polka. Do I sound confused? Also the song and video "Wait" is going to be put up in its full version on my site. This is one of my proudest moments and I've been saving that for the right moment. And to tie this all together, this all happens the same time my new web site is launched. Pat Moore, my studio assistant and right hand man, has a great site just about ready to go. It is more complete and in depth on all aspects of my career. And there is more of my guitar collection on there also, which is the only real important part.
MSJ: Are there musicians out there that whom you would like to work with in the future?
I get asked this question all the time and it is always a hard one for me. As a studio rat I like to work on all kinds of music. Just the past year I have written and produced for people in all kinds of different styles. Music is a complex mixture of the right beat, sound and lyric to me. In other words it's like a puzzle. I like everything and have favorites in all different categories. It's the challenge of how it's put together and the sounds used that excites me the most. But to go back to my roots I would have to say to do something with Jeff Beck would be amazing.
MSJ: Do you think that downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? It's been said by the major labels that it's essentially the heart of all the problems they are having in terms of lower sales - would you agree?
I hate to say it because it has become such a great tool but - - - I do agree that it has been the downfall of the music business. Now business sometimes doesn't mix with art well but, without those really successful mega stars and mega bucks being generated I think we are going to find an even greater dwindling of music for the masses. Which trickles down to the little guy eventually. When you think about how many people are in the world and that the record companies use to get excited about selling 2 million copies. I don't know how the percentage breaks down but that could be around 3 percent of the population buying records to make a major hit? And now that small number is cut back even more. And there are so many artists with less than worthy product clogging the Internet that it's impossible to keep your career earning enough to perpetuate itself financially. Wow. I even depressed myself there. That said, it has affected my career on an artist level as far as releasing product but it has helped my career on a producer/studio level because more people want to create product that is good enough to release. I think all this will be remedied some day by the right copy protect being developed and the artists and the record companies being able to keep the rights to the product they have invested in and own.
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans taping and trading live shows?
On one hand I think this is the greatest promotional tool there ever was. Not only did they take the time to go and record the show like a military spy mission, but they talk to their friends about it and promote the band's name every time they give out a copy of the show. But then the other day I got an email from a fan that showed me a web site in England that was selling a certain live show from 3, my band with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer. I think it was going for $30.00. I couldn't help but feel ripped off. Shouldn't Carl, Keith and I get a part of that? But most importantly, it was good advertisement and it was a good show. So whoever gets it will like what they hear. And my band 3, which had a hit back in the late 80's, is alive and kicking and still being circulated and talked about.
MSJ: What's on the road map for the future for you?
Well me and my big mouth have probably answered that question already. Prime Cuts release from Magna Carta soon, new web site, video release. And I am currently recording live shows and going to put an album together that I call The Deepest Cuts. It is acoustic versions of songs I wrote and performed in my career performed at small clubs in my home area.
MSJ: What was the latest CD you bought, or what have you been listening to lately?
Crazy as it seems I really only listen to the style of music that applies to the artist I am producing at the time. At the beginning of 06 I was listening to the latest Mariah Carey and Kelly Clarkson CD's. Rockin', Pop, R&B is what my client wanted. Then I was involved in a series I produce called Mother Goose Rocks. It is the top hits of the year rewritten in the style of well-known kids songs. Then done musically as soundalikes to the style of the original hit song. I listen extensively to the top 15 hits of the year to write and produce this album. My latest favorite though is the last album from Jeff Beck release in the middle of 05.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
The most recent concert I took my kids to see Black Eyed Peas and Gwen Stefani. Really enjoyed the cheerleader energy of the stage show for Black Eyed Peas. The last concert for my enjoyment was Paul McCartney. Still can't believe a guy in his 60's can sing 2 1/2 hours and sound that good.
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
The latest one was on tour with Ambrosia the summer of 2004. We were playing down in the Hamptons and this guy came up to the stage and yelled out "play Freebird" over and over again. Those of you that have played live for some years know that "Freebird" is a request usually shouted out at a bar band. I went ballistic on this guy and the band had to shut me up. But my biggest moment is when the 3 tour bus left me at the Canadian border and didn't realize I was missing for an hour. Keith Emerson still has a videotape somewhere of himself and the guys on the bus coming back for me and the expression on my face. (laugh it up Keith)
MSJ: And finally, are there any closing thoughts you'd like to get out there
With the state of the music business these days it is really hard for musicians and record companies to stay solvent. I just wanted to thank you for helping to spread the word and keep good music coming into the hands of the true music fan. When you do what you love it isn't always easy to get out and promote your own product. So the service you provide is an invaluable one. Thanks again for taking the time and putting forth the effort.
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