Rob Lind: Sonic Adventures In Sound
The Sonics interview, part two
Introduction, interview and photos by Daniel Coston
Since we posted part one of my interview with Rob Lind of the Sonics, the band has released their first new album since 1967. Entitled simply, 8, the CD features four new songs (discussed further in this feature), as well as new recordings of some of the band’s classics. It is another chapter in this band’s storied history, and one that won’t be the last, if fans around the world have their say.
We now dive into part two, in which Rob takes about the new material, traveling Europe, and Rob’s adventures after the Sonics’ breakup in 1968, which eventually led him to North Carolina.
Tangents: Tell me about the trip to Europe that you guys just did. That was your third trip to Europe now?
Lind: Actually, it was our fourth. It was a great trip! It was a great trip. We started off in Italy, northern Italy, in a really beautiful little town called Salsa Majora. And we did a show up there, a festival, an outdoor festival. And it was real hot and everybody was sweaty and there were thousands of people there. On this particular trip we played, Italy. We played Finland, we played a big show in a place called TURKU, which was a place that was on an island, off Helsinki. And it was a big festival, three or four stages, one of those kinds of deals.
We went up and played Norway. It was actually the first time I’d seen the Midnight Sun. We were up close to the Arctic Circle at a place called Tromso, and they have a big festival there every year. And such a good setting, it was just unbelievable. The stage was backed right up to a fiord! And so, you could go to the back of the stage and throw rocks into the water. It was just a gorgeous setting! Lots and lots of people. All of our shows were virtually sold out.
We played, Turkey, Norway. Then we came down and did two separate cities in Germany. We played a nice show in Spain, kind of in a mountainous resort area in Spain. And that was a big show, and that was a lot of fun. And then we finished up probably the biggest was in Brussels, the last show we did, and we flew home from Brussels the next morning.
And we had a show up in Stockholm, Sweden, on the previous tour, and we’re good friends with The Hives. And three of ‘em, Pelle and Nick Almqvist, and Mikael, the lead guitar player, showed up, so we were feeding them beers in our dressing room, and I said, “I’ve got a great idea, Nick, why don’t you guys come out and do the encore with us?!” And they look at each other and they go, “YEAH! That’d be cool!”
So, we brought The Hives out for our encore. Pelle sang the encore. So we said, hey, “You know how to do ‘Long Tall Sally’?” and he said, “No, but I’ve got it on my IPod!”
So he goes in the bathroom and he takes his Ipod in the bathroom, and I’m walking down the hall, and I hear Kelly’s voice in the bathroom, “I’m gonna tell Aunt Mary…!” And he’d taken a Sharpie, and rolled his sleeves up and he’d written the words to “Long Tall Sally” on his left forearm with a Sharpie, and he came out and just smoked it!
Tangents: It’s amazing that the band has reached an audience that was never available to you back then.
Lind: You know the thing is, the challenge that we have in the Sonics is that, in Europe we are very popular, we’re real big. And that’s because we’ve been discovered by the young people over there, by the college kids and the high school kids. They know all our songs.
We go into a place like Finland where a lot of people don’t speak English or up in Sal Majore, Italy, where NOBODY spoke English and they’re singing along to, “Strychnine” or singing along with, “Psycho,” and dancing. So they all know us. Our challenge is that the opposite of that is true in the United States.
Kids who listen to the radio, high school kids, college kids, Sonics music isn’t playing on the radio, so therefore they don’t know us like the European kids do. So, our challenge is to raise that perception. And one of the ways we are doing that is we have recorded four originals and we’re gonna go back in and do some more with the idea of doing a full-scale cd. NOW, we’ve been advised that it would probably be a smarter idea to put it out immediately as an EP..and plug it, Public Relations wise, and get it out there and get it in the trades and get, you know, mailings to all the main radio-station markets in the country. And see if we can get some airplay.
We know we’ll get a bunch of airplay up in Seattle. But that’s like shooting fish in a barrel. That’s because we are from there and they like us and they know us. So we know we’ll get airplay there. The challenge is, let’s get it in Miami, let’s get it in Washington, D.C., etc.. So, right now we’re in the process of moving forward with getting this EP out. The sides are recorded, and I think what we’re talking about doing is using those four originals, they’re all originals, and then taking two live-cuts from one of our good shows and then putting them on there as bonus tracks, for a total of six.
There is some conversation about doing four and there’s some conversation about , that’s pretty slim to put out an EP, maybe we ought to put a couple more on it. So that’s what we’re talking about right now.
Tangents: Are these songs that Jerry wrote, or are these songs that other people brought into the band?
Lind: Jerry wrote one of them. I wrote two of them and Freddy, our bass player, wrote the other one. Which I should touch on briefly. When you were out with us in Austin, our bass player was Donnie Wilhelm. He just got tired of touring, and so he plays in a little band in a little waterfront bar in Seattle and then goes home every night. So we now have Freddy Dennis, who is a real energetic guy and he sings like the lead singer in AC/DC. He’s got a high rock and roll voice. So, yeah, Freddy’s a good guy. He is what you would refer to as a “good dude.” And he’s got limitless energy, and that’s kinda cool, too. So if you go on Youtube, if you look at any of our recent stuff. if you look at Sonics in Italy or Sonics in Brussels, or look around a little bit, you’ll see Freddy and be able to listen to him. He’s a real good singer and he’s a good guy to have on stage.
So, we’ve done two tours with Freddy now. And Freddy was on these four new songs. Jerry sings two of them and Freddy sings two of them.
Tangents: How has it been to have new guys in the band? You have Freddy, and I’ve forgotten the new drummer’s name…
Lind: Ricky Lyn Johnson. Well, Ricky has been with us for several years, since we started actually, so he almost doesn’t feel like a new guy anymore. And Fred is such a pro. You know anyone who is IN a rock band, anybody that travels as part of a rock band, will absolutely tell you that there are long periods of riding in vehicles, whether airplanes or crew busses or , in our case, we’ve discovered TRAINS in Europe, which are really wonderful . And , so you gotta be able to relate to each other and get along, and Freddy just fits in like a cog. It works really well.
Tangents: Back in the ‘60s, who else did you guys open for? What are some of the more notable shows?
Lind: We opened for The Beach Boys, we opened for Jan & Dean, The Mamas and the Papas a bunch of times. The Lovin’ Spoonful. God, when “You Really Got Me” first came out, that really got us in our little Sonic hearts. When I heard it for the first time I nearly drove off the road, I mean, I’d never heard anything so cool in my whole life! So, immediately we started doing that. We started doing about four Kinks songs. And they came to America and we did a little mini-tour with them, and we opened for those guys. That was cool. Jay and the Americans, we did that.
I used to love Charlie Daniels Band and Jerry Jeff Walker and so, when Charlie Daniels would come to Los Angeles. Well this little country band would come out and open for Charlie, and I always remembered it because these guys had a good sense of humor, and they would come out and do, “Send out the Clowns to Check Out The Sound” - that was one of their songs! And essentially, that’s what we were doing for The Beach Boys: “Send out the local dudes and have them open for The Beach Boys!” (laughter) But, it’s not that way now.
Although we did get to be pretty good friends with The Beach Boys. And we knew them real well. Got to be on a real friendly basis, and actually, a couple of years ago, when I was still flying corporate jets, I flew into Cleveland and picked up The Beach Boys, who had flown in from Rome on Alitalia, and was taking them to Cedar Rapids, Iowa where they were doing a show. And there were only two of the originals, Mike Love and Bruce Johnson, and then they had all these side men.
But I walked into the lounge where they were and picked them up. And I walked out with Bruce, and I said, “You probably don’t remember me, Bruce, but I’m Rob Lynn of The Sonics and we used to open for you guys.” And his eyes got really big and he said, “HOLY SHIT! Yeah, of course I remember you guys!” And Mike was on his cell phone, so I didn’t get a chance to talk to him. Although back in the old days I knew him pretty well from having played with him so many times. And, finally, all the side men were getting off the airplane and he was sitting there and I walked back and sat back in the seat in front of him and said, same thing, “You probably don’t remember me, Mike, but uh, I’m Rob Lind, the sax player in The Sonics.” And he said, “Holy crap, look at you! You went out and got yourself a real job!” (laughter)
So, yeah, in those days we opened for just about everybody who came through.
Righteous Brothers. We opened for them. So we were rubbing shoulders with all the heavies back in those days.
Tangents: I know that for the third album you guys went on to Jerden and did a lot of recording for them and were still playing out,when everything sort of wound down, that must have been sort of frustrating for you. Did it feel like you had more to do for the band or had everything run its course? What happened?
Lind: Well, things were happening. The Vietnam War was going on, and I had to leave. And Jerry left to start a little asphalt/paving company. And so we just kind of went our own ways. But no, we were still playing all the time. We were regional headliners. We were a good regional band. We were “big fish in a little pond.” We were like a five-state area that we were real big. But nobody in Denver ever heard of us! (laughter) That’s not true, but, we still could play anytime we wanted to. It just started coming apart.
Andy [Parypa] allowed Jim Brady and his boys to call themselves, “Jim Brady & The Sonics.” And the end of the sixties was comin’ and the early seventies. so, They were a lounge act. You know, with a couple of horns, sort of like, “Murph and the Magic-Tones” in the Blues Brothers movie. (laughter!) So it really wasn’t The Sonics. So we brought the bloodthirsty Sonics back three years ago.
Tangents: I think you guys did a reunion show in like, ‘72?
Lind: Yes we did. We did three songs. I think we did “Lucille,” and maybe “The Witch” and “Psycho.”
Tangents: Yeah. What I have, and what was included on the reissue of Boom was “The Witch” and “Psycho” from the ‘72 show.
Lind: Yeah. We did “The Witch” “Psycho” and “Lucille.” Those were the three that we played. And that sounded good to us onstage. It felt good. But I was still in the Navy at the time. I was up at Woodby Island Naval Air Station flying A-6’s, and that was before I went to Vietnam. So I came down and we rehearsed and we did those three songs.
And the big Rock Jock, Pat O’Day, at the time, came backstage and said, “Holy Crap! They’re screamin’ for ya! Do you guys wanna come out and do another song?!!” And Larry and I looked at each other and said, “YEAH!”
And Jerry said, “I can’t. I can’t. My voice is gone. I can’t do it. No way. No way. No way.”
He just put his foot down and said he couldn’t do it. So, reluctantly we had to NOT do it, But, yeah, the crowd liked it.
Tangents: You said you actually worked in Hollywood for a while?
Lind: Yeah. When I came back from Vietnam, I was a Navy carrier pilot. I got out of the Navy and I went to graduate school at the University of Southern California in film and advertising. So, by nature of being there and learning the craft and being around other people, I got to where I was. I worked as an assistant director on some training films and then somebody offered me the chance to direct, myself, and so I did. And I wound up working for a production company and I did a lot of commercials and training films with them.
And then I got hired by a chain of department stores to be the head of television and video, so I did that, and I did a bunch more things there. So, yeah, I was doing all that kind of stuff then. I did that for five years.
And I was working for the production company, but in those days, I had a daughter, and in those days it was like, being in the film business like that is like being a migrant farm worker in that there are periods during the year when you work a lot and then there are periods during the year when you don’t work at all. And you are ALWAYS on the phone trying to scramble up business. And “it’s who ya know,” and I started thinking, I was in the Naval Reserve at the time, and I was in a Naval Reserve squadron with 14 airline pilots in it, and they kept saying, “Hey, Rob, what are ya doing, man?! You should come to work with us!” And they started talking about guaranteed health care, and vacations and good wages. And I was a flying pilot, I was flying A-7 Corsairs in the Naval Reserve. So I walked away from the film business and went to work for the airlines.
I worked for Continental Airlines and then wound up down here in Charlotte working for Piedmont which became U.S. Air.
Tangents: When you were out flying, did the people still recognize you occasionally? Did you run into people who knew who the Sonics were?
Lind: Well, just The Beach Boys and Bruce Springsteen. Bruce did a show in Seattle and he did one of our songs. He actually did, “Have Love, Will Travel.” He said, “I’m gonna do a song by The Sonics, and I’m NOT talkin’ about the basketball team!” And so that got back to us!
And so I flew Bruce and his wife from the Grammy’s in L.A. to West Palm Beach, Florida, where his daughter was gonna be in a horse show. And it was the middle of the night, and they were just sitting back there having a conversation, and I went back and went to the head , and on my way back, he stopped me and said, “Hey Rob, how much longer?” And I told him, and I said, “I’m glad I got a chance to talk to you, Bruce, because you did something really nice for me and some friends of mine, and I want to thank you for it.”
And he said, “Oh, really? What was that?” And I said, “ Well, I’m Rob Lind, the sax player from The Sonics.” And that was as far as I got! And he said, “HOLY SHIT! WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!” (laughter!)
I sat down to talk to him, and he wanted to talk about the first albums. He said, “How did you guys get that sound, what were you thinking about???” He said, “Give me your phone number in case I need to get in touch with you! Are you guys doing any rehearsing?” And I said, “Yeah, actually, we are.” And he said, “ Well I hope you do, because there is a lot of opportunity out there for you guys!” He was VERY, very nice. Probably the nicest celebrity that I’ve flown. Just a great guy. Nobody can ever say anything bad to me about Bruce Springsteen because he is a very cool guy!
Tangents: One last thing to ask. Looking back, the Sonics had this career then, and this career now. Do you think it means more to you now, than say, when all of that was happening the first time around?
Lind: I think it probably does, actually. Because we have a lot to be grateful for.You were around The Sonics, and you know that there was a lot of kidding around, but the one thing you DON’T SEE, we’ve done press conferences in Europe and things like that, and there’s NO ARROGANCE. We’re all grateful for the opportunity to have done something like this. We’re all grateful for the …the LUCK…that the songs that we wrote back in the 60’s still sound good today, that they are not “dated” or out-of-style, hokey songs. They still rock. They still do well. So, we’re grateful for that!