Ten Years After was formed in 1967 and who would have thought that they’d be making music almost 40 years later? But, that’s exactly what they’re doing. Original members Leo Lyons, Chick Churchill, Ric Lee and newcomer Joe Gooch have put together an exceptionally strong album that’s fresh and modern while, at the same time, remains true to the Ten Years After Sound. “Now” is an eleven song release that’s sure to please long time fans while introducing a whole new generation to what Ten Years After is all about.
Paul Autry: Where are you calling from today?
Leo Lyons: London.
Paul Autry: I’d like to start off by asking about your tour. I was checking your schedule and I noticed that you’re very busy for the rest of this month.
Leo Lyons: That’s right. We’ve been pretty busy for the whole year really. We’ve got a little bit of a break. We came back from Germany last week. We go back out again next week on through, well, you saw the date sheet, Austria, Switzerland, Germany.
Paul Autry: I’m sure a lot of your American fans are wondering…when are you coming over to the States?
Leo Lyons: Well, we’re working on it and it looks like we’ll be over in March. They’re just waiting for the dates to be filled up. The tour started rolling and we stuck with it. But, we would like to get over to the States. Actually, that’s where I live, in Nashville. So, it would be more convenient for me to play the States.
Paul Autry: While we’re on the subject of playing live…actually…this interview was supposed to be based on your studio release and I noticed on your website that you already have a new live album.
Leo Lyons: We do. Yes, that’s right.
Paul Autry: And I also noticed that before your studio album, you also had a live album out.
Leo Lyons: Yes, we did. That was a quick one to introduce Joe to the fans. We felt that we needed to show our fans what the new line up was like. So, we recorded one night straight to disc really. We put the record out just to sell at gigs. But, the demand for it got bigger and bigger and distributors bought it. But, once we got the new live record ready, we deleted it from our catalog. So, it’s not available anymore.
Paul Autry: So, I guess the new album is to fill the demand?
Leo Lyons: Yes, that’s right.
Paul Autry: I have two questions here that a fellow journalist had asked me to ask you. The first one’s a little off beat…he would like to know what ever became of the watermelon towards you guys at Woodstock when you were doing “I’m Going Home.”
Leo Lyons: Sadly, it rotted away many years ago.
Paul Autry: The other question was, he’d like to know how you feel about “I Love To Change The World” being included in Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
Leo Lyons: I was very pleased that it was. Take some of the quirky lyrics and they’re as revelant today as they were back then. We’re all looking for world peace, seeking it and hoping for it.
Paul Autry: Yeah…that’s always a good thing. Since I mentioned those two songs, I’ve gotta ask you, especially since this is still such a hot issue for musicians…what are your thoughts on file sharing? And, before I got on the phone with you today, I did a search online to see what came up and those two songs were at the top of the list. I mean, with those two songs alone, there was about a thousand people who had ’em.
Leo Lyons: Well, I know several million people who had bought them. So, you can’t really compare…can you?
Paul Autry: I see your point. But, you know, I also saw some of the tunes from the new album on there as well. Does that bother you? Do you think it affects your sales?
Leo Lyons: I’m sure it possibly affects our sales. But, you know, quite honestly…record companies got very greedy and the record prices were very high and, in a lot of cases, many record companies weren’t passing royalties on to the artist. So, the least of my worries is if a thousand people are downloading a song. You know, I might say, well, when am I gonna get paid royalties for the Woodstock record? That would be a more interesting question, wouldn’t it? You know…maybe if they download the song, they’ll go and buy the CD.
Paul Autry: That’s how I am. I’ll download what I want and, when I’ve got the money and I can find it, I’ll buy it.
Leo Lyons: That’s exactly what I do. I think, also, an artist has a moral obligation to not just put out a single and nine fillers. But, to come up with nine other good songs. I think it’s a good idea to pick the songs that you want to buy. We’re selling downloads. If you go to these download sites that actually sell tracks, we’ve found that people are buying them.
Paul Autry: Okay, well, I don’t wanna get into your history because pretty much anything that anybody would like to know about Ten Years After can be found online. But, I would like to ask you one “historical” question and that would be…looking back, what are your thoughts on your Woodstock performance?
Leo Lyons: It was a big event for the music business because it was turned into a film. It took what was an amateur business, in a way, run by a lot of enthusiasts, into a big media business. It changed the face of the music industry, I believe. Marketing then moved in. Record companies invested in artists. Publicists came in. They spent more money in promoting everything. It changed the business all around and it certainly did us a lot of good. It opened up all the money markets. We had already been working for about nine years and we were building slowly. We were on our second or third album and then the Woodstock movie hit and then, all of a sudden, some small town that I had never heard of that had a ten thousand seat auditorium wanted to book Ten Years After. So, it was really good for us and it helped to sustain a career…and now it’s become something of a mystique for young people, of course. The number of younger people that I speak to all wish they were around when Joplin was alive, when Hendrix was alive and all those things were happening because it must have been great…and it was great.
Paul Autry: How has the fan reaction been towards the “Now” album?
Leo Lyons: Oh, it’s been great. It’s been absolutely fantastic. Obviously, new fans are turning on to us now. A lot of young people are coming to our shows. The older fans I think, in some cases, weren’t sure what it would be like and we’ve appealed to them as well. So, we’re very pleased with it…very pleased.
Paul Autry: I guess I’d consider myself a younger fan because “Now” is pretty much the first time I’ve heard your music. I’m more of an 80’s rock kind of guy. But, I’ve been listening to this album and I really like it so, of course, I’ll probably start checking out some of your previous releases. Anyway…the one song that really caught my attention was “King Of The Blues” because, in my opinion, it almost had like a ZZ Top kind of feel to it. Is that something new for you guys?
Leo Lyons: Not really. In the 1970’s, ZZ Top were our support band and I was really friendly with them. But, I didn’t think it was like ZZ Top. I hadn’t really thought of that. I wrote the song and I thought, it was just a blues shuffle to me.
Paul Autry: How about “When It All Falls Down,” that was a really good song.
Leo Lyons: It’s a rockin’ song and it’s about, well, when the shit hits the fan basically.
Paul Autry: Let’s talk a bit about your new member. How did you guys hook up with Joe Gooch?
Leo Lyons: We went out on the road with a blues guitar player from Arizona. We were asked to go out when Double Trouble fell out. It was a tour of Italy and that’s how the three of us got back together again…just to do that tour. There was an interest for Ten Years After to reform and our former guitar player, Alvin, didn’t really want to do it. So, we looked around for another guitar player, tried out one or two. My son, Tom, suggested Joe, who he’s good friends with. They’ve been friends since school days. I asked Joe to send in a tape, which he did. We went down to see him play and he was fantastic. We were lucky…very lucky. It’s a great pleasure to be able to introduce another great guitar player to the rest of the world.
Paul Autry: Why didn’t Alvin Lee want to reform the band?
Leo Lyons: Ten Years After really finished in 1975…apart from a couple of times where we got back together and did a few gigs and one record. He’s not really one to work at the same intensity that we’re working. So, he didn’t do it and, from what I hear, he’s more or less retired. Although he does do a few gigs now and again.
Paul Autry: How has the reaction been…from your hardcore fanbase…towards Joe?
Leo Lyons: There’s maybe half a dozen people on Alvin’s website that said, no…you can’t do it, you can’t do it. But, none of them have been to see us. The people who have been to see us have said, well, I think it’s fantastic. A lot of people were skeptical. But, it’s been mostly positive. We had a little bit of negativity when we went out. Other than that, no problem.
Paul Autry: Seeing as how Joe is a younger guy, does he bring a different influence into the band?
Leo Lyons: That’s correct. He brings more enthusiasm. You know, if you go to a new country with someone who has never been there before, you’re gonna see it fresh through someone else’s eyes and I think we’ve got that enthusiasm. It’s like there’s a fire under us. I mean, it’s actually better, from my point of view, from my thoughts and from talking with a lot of people who have been coming out to see us. They’ve said it’s better this way, it’s more interesting because you’re bringing in something new. If you went out with all the original members, it may very will be the same old thing.
Paul Autry: What kind of musical influences does Joe bring into the band?
Leo Lyons: Well, the musical influences that someone who grew up on…I mean…Joe goes back. He’s a musician who has listened to a lot of roots stuff, probably even more so since he’s been working with us. But, he brings in the Vai influence and, you know, a lot of the newer guitar players, the guitar players from the 80’s. He brings that kind of influence in.
Paul Autry: What are your musical influences and have they changed from when you first started until now?
Leo Lyons: Yeah…I listen to a lot of current stuff. Also, I worked as a country music writer. So, the country music influence came in as well. I like good, energetic music. I like Coldplay. I like Maroon 5. My tastes are pretty varied, really.
Paul Autry: Having a new guy in the band, does that affect the songwriting in any way?
Leo Lyons: Yes, it’s different…when Alvin was in the band, he really didn’t want to give anyone else any songwriting credit. So, it was very difficult. You had to get your ideas in the back door, really. Now, it’s fairly open. If someone has something they want to suggest, we’ll take a look at it and if it’s good, we’ll use it.
Paul Autry: If someone comes to see you live, what kind of musical experience are they gonna get?
Leo Lyons: Well, they’re gonna get a long show because we’re gonna try to fit it all in and we’re trying to change the material around a bit. We’re trying to react to someone who’s four rows back shouting out a song that we hadn’t intended on playing that night. There are certain songs…”I’m Going Home,” we’re always gonna play because people want to hear that. “I’d Love To Change The World” is very popular.
Paul Autry: I noticed that you included those two songs on your new album. What made you decide to put them on there?
Leo Lyons The record label asked for a couple of songs that people might know for America. We had some live material recorded and I’m not quite sure where those two versions are from. But, we could have put plenty of tracks on there, really.
Paul Autry: You’ve been in the studio probably more times than you could count. Has it gotten easier over the years?
Leo Lyons: It depends on who you’re working with, really. I mean, if the material is together and the music is good, it goes like a dream. If there are problems, then it’s like a nightmare that you really wish would end. I’ve experienced both because I’ve produced other bands and I’ve been a recording engineer and have been for years.
Paul Autry: So, was “Now” a dream or a nightmare?
Leo Lyons: I think it was a difficult one because it was our first real album since the last Ten Years After album, which was in 1989 I believe. This is a whole new line up, a whole new thing and I really wanted to make sure it didn’t come out as predicted…three guys got back together, they get another player in and they churrned out a tired, old blues record. I really wanted it to be something more.
Paul Autry: Well, it does sound modern.
Leo Lyons: Thank you. It took a lot of thinking about and it took a lot of hard work from everybody.
Paul Autry: You followed “Now” up with a live album.
Leo Lyons: That’s right.
Paul Autry: Now that people know the line up, do you feel any pressure to record your next studio album?
Leo Lyons: I think there’s always pressure. Joe and I are getting together tomorrow to start writing for the new record. But, I think the important thing is the DVD, which is something we’re working on now, which may come out before another studio record. Hopefully, we’ll have some new material on that.
Paul Autry: Yeah…since you mentioned a DVD…I was gonna ask you about that. In this day and age, it’s not enough to have a good album since we live in a digital age and, being so, people usually want more…with more being a video and/or a DVD. So, what kind of DVD are we lookin’ at for Ten Years After?
Leo Lyons: The most expensive one that we can possibly be allowed to do. (laughs). It’s got to be good…yes. We’re looking at the best and then we’ll probably have to compromise. A lot of DVD’s that I’ve looked at…although the bands are very good…they’re very boring because the lighting’s not write or the editing’s not correct. If it’s a live gig you want to have the flavor of the gig. You want to see the audience, you want some good, quick shots, some extra backstage shots, interviews, that kind of thing…not just the music.
Paul Autry: Are you going to concentrate on the new line up or are you gonna go into the full history of the band?
Leo Lyons: I think that would be another DVD, really.
Paul Autry: Yeah, I’d like that because, for me, I kind of know the band. But, I’m no expert on your history and I think a DVD would be a great way to gain that historic knowledge so to speak.
Leo Lyons: It would and I think that’s a good point. I think it’s something that has been suggested to us and we will be working on it.
Paul Autry: I found an article online that said you were writing a book called “Reluctant Psychic.” The website where this interview will be posted has a section called Haunted Happenings, where we feature people who have had experiences of that nature. What kind of paranormal experiences have you had?
Leo Lyons: There are many…I’ve always had experiences, like seeing ghosts, since I was really, really young…something that made me afraid of the dark until I was about 27 years old.
Paul Autry: I’m still afraid of the dark.
Leo Lyons: You’re still afraid of the dark? I learned how to come to terms with it and how to control it. That’s what the book is about. It’s about somebody that’s a psychic that doesn’t want to be one, doesn’t want their own television show, doesn’t want to talk to dead people.
Paul Autry: Have you had any experiences that you could explain away and have you had ones that you couldn’t explain away?
Leo Lyons: Well, you always have to look for a non-paranormal explanation for something and I always exhaust that. You’ve gotta be open minded. But, skeptical. The only experiences that I’ve had, I’ve been able to confirm either with other people or myself. There are many things that I’ve seen and I’ve tried to pursuade myself that I hadn’t. But, I don’t have a vivid imagination. I don’t hear a creaking door and right away think it’s a ghost. You have to keep a level head about it.
Paul Autry: So, when can we expect to see this book?
Leo Lyons: When I’ve written the songs for the next record and we’re done with the DVD. It’s difficult…my wife has been pestering me to finish it. I did have a publisher. But, I went back on the road three years ago and I haven’t finished the book. I’m determined to finish it. I’m writing a music book at the moment and, hopefully, I’ll finish that one off by January and then I’ll finish off the other one. These days, you can sell it online if you want to.
Paul Autry: What kind of music book are you writing?
Leo Lyons: People keep writing to me asking me for the bass tabs for this song or that song…or how do you play this, how do you play that. I thought, well, I’d better write it all out.
Paul Autry: That should be interesting.
Leo Lyons: Well, I hope it will be. At least it will be a bit of a test for me.
Paul Autry: Now, you guys have been making music longer than I’ve been alive. So, what is left to accomplish? I mean, I’m sure you still have goals and you’re still looking to the future.
Leo Lyons: Oh, absolutely. To share our music with more and more people, to go to places where we haven’t been before and to carry on and enjoy what we’re doing. We’re pleased to be back, we’re glad to be back and I’m enjoying it more this time than I did in the 70’s because we were so stressed out.
Paul Autry: Have you ever looked beyond the band…like…one day…you are gonna lay it to rest and then what are you gonna do?
Leo Lyons: Really…it was 1975…I thought, well, I’m too old to be doing this, so, I’ll quit…and I did. But, I missed it and that’s why I’m back. I don’t know. I can’t answer that right now. If I looked at it realistically, I’d think, how many more years can we do this? But, I don’t think about it.
Paul Autry: Yeah, well, some people, like…Mick Jagger…he’s still going…and I think he’s gonna die on a stage somewhere.
Leo Lyons: Yes. That’s what Ron White said about me. I said, oh, maybe I’ll quit in a few years. He said, no you won’t, you’ll die onstage. That’s a strange thing.
Paul Autry: Well, when you think about it, it’s not a bad way to go. At least you go doing something you love to do.
Leo Lyons: That’s correct. That’s luck…you’re lucky to be doing that. I’ve always worked in the music business, since I was sixteen. But, my first choice has always been playing live. It’s quite ridiculous when you think about it, the amount of time we spend at airports and in buses, waiting…it’s been the greater part of my life.
Paul Autry: Yeah…well…I seem to be running out of tape here and I don’t want to keep you too long. So, I’d like to ask you for your final comments for the people who will be reading this?
Leo Lyons: Well, I’d like to thank the older fans who have supported us over the years with Alvin and have enjoyed it…and I hope they come to see the new line up and I hope they enjoy that as well. Time moves on, doesn’t it?
Paul Autry: Yes, it does.