n rock n roll, having a sound is important, but so is having a look. For decades, saxophonist and singer TIM CAPPELLO has carved out an image for himself as the sweaty sax man from the 1987 cult film THE LOST BOYS. With his ponytail and mighty, glistening upper body, CAPPELLO ripped into the song I STILL BELIEVE and proved how handy he was with a saxophone. Of course, I remember his handiwork in TINA TURNER's band. You can hear him issuing that iconic saxophone riff on TURNER's messiah complex-shaming hit WE DON'T NEED ANOTHER HERO and adding some fine, sultry flourishes to the apocalyptic strutter ONE OF THE LIVING. The man's pelvic thrust may have resonated with folks more than the sax playing but trust us when we say the man is no gimmick. CAPPELLO studied music at the New England Conservatory of Music. He later studied saxophone under the tutelage of LENNY TRISTANO and went on to provide backing for such artists as PETER GABRIEL and CARLY SIMON and fronted his own band THE KEN DOLLS, where according to drummer J.P. THUNDERBOLT PATTERSON, CAPELLO performed in a G-string. Thirty one years after the release of THE LOST BOYS, the film has become a cult classic and CAPPELLO, a curious pop culture icon, thanks to JON HAMM's CAPPELLO-inspired character SERGIO in the SNL DIGITAL SHORT "THE CURSE" and the long haired, shirtless, viral video star SERGIO FLORES. Now, the saxophonist and singer is not only rocking the chains and the codpiece, he's also breathing life into songs from the great rock n roll songbook on his debut solo album BLOOD ON THE REED. We can guarantee you that no one has ever heard such classics as HIGHWAY 61, TAKE ME TO THE RIVER, TEQUILA and TEDDY PENDERGRASS's ONLY YOU executed with CAPPELLO's signature reedy swagger and the sort of high-energy bombast that combines eighties metal with sultry Latin rhythms. ROCKWIRED had a chance to speak with TIM CAPPELLO regarding his new album. Here is how the interview went.
It's been over thirty years since you released the single I STILL BELIEVE from THE LOST BOYS soundtrack, and all of these years later, you have finally released your debut album BLOOD ON THE REED. Now that the album is finally out there for people to hear, how do you feel about the finished work?
I actually don't like saying this, but I really, really like it. These are the songs that I love to play live. Every time I was singing or playing something, I was thinking about my show and how a certain would fit into it my show. That, for me, was of major importance. And of course all of these songs had to sound good as a recorded piece. It's not the most humble, Catholic thing to say in the world to say, but I'm pretty proud of the album.
THE MUSiC ViDEO FOR i STiLL BELiEVE!!!
And who all helped you behind the recording console of this album. Who helped you with production?
It was pretty much me playing every single note. My sister came up and we have a nice blend on vocals, so she came up and she and I sang the background vocals together. It was about three years ago when I first started doing conventions like COMIC CON that I needed a background recording of I STILL BELIEVE, because they would always want me to come along and play the song onstage at the conventions. I was only too happy to do it and I just got some of my favorite players that I play with a lot and that feel comfortable to me, and that was how the idea for the album got rolling. I pretty much just played every note. I just knew what I wanted and I didn't want to go with anybody who would want something else. I just knew what I wanted it to sound like. I knew that I wanted it to be mostly covers, because I didn't want to bore people with too many songs that they had never heard of. I wrote two of the songs on the album. All the rest are all very well known songs. I thought I would try a different approach. I thought I would try twisting these songs around. I wanted to do these songs in a way that no one had ever done them. HIGHWAY 61 is now a heavy metal soca and ONLY YOU is a heavy metal dance hall thing. There is a lot of groove on it, but I also really wanted a lot of my playing at it's most I STILL BELIEVE vibe. I wanted my playing to be in that style, so that is what I did. Those are the songs that I came up with. Of course these songs don't come form the same era as I STILL BELIEVE but I feel that vocally and saxophonistically, that they are very similar. When I say BLOOD ON THE REED, I mean it. After a heavy session of playing saxophone for three or four hours on the record, I'd look on that reed and there would definitely be a spot or two of blood. It's not just a euphemism.
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And so far, have there been any reactions to the album that have surprised you or that you didn't see coming?
Only the really good reactions. I was surprised at how on the money I was in terms of what I thought that people would like. Something to make their body move. Something that they already knew, done in a way that they had never heard before. Who has ever heard TAKE ME TO THE RIVER done in a heavy metal style yet still maintain the funk. That was my goal. There are two things that I love. I really love the force and action and the way that the volume can make people dance when it's combined with groove. There is something kind of funny about the saxophone in this day and age. It's sort of gone out of style but when you really think about combining the heaviness of music with funk and groove, it's an essential instrument.
In listening to the album I can hear where you've put all of these well known rock standards on the same page sonically with I STILL BELIEVE.
The song TEQUILA is really heavy. Same with the TEDDY PENDERGRASS song ONLY YOU. It's really heavy and really sort of loud and it also has a soca beat. ONLY YOU is a GAMBLE AND HUFF song. Those guys were geniuses. If you listen to the original, it leaves you wanting a little bit. Of course TEDDY had the voice of life. If you really listen to the track, the snare drum had this little pop to it and it's light and it's a little too disco-y. I just felt it was a little too tin-y. Yet, I've been playing that song live with LA BAMBA and the boys from the CONAN O'BRIEN SHOW. It's a song that I just love to play with them. Of course they are great horn players, but they are also great singers. It's just fun to get into a song like this and rip out some of the fat and just make it sort of groove better, like we did with HIGHWAY 61. I also felt really intimidated by redo-ing TAKE ME TO THE RIVER because of AL GREENE's version, but I thought that I would give it a shot and do it so differently that it wasn't going to matter. So that was my thought.
And why now? Why release your first album in 2018 instead of on the heels of I STILL BELIEVE back in 1987? Were you too busy touring with TINA TURNER and other session work?
I gotta tell you man. Nobody asked. Just, nobody asked. Nobody seemed to want to have anything to do with me until I was everybody's grandparent's age. It's true! Maybe I'm making too much of certain things but when I do a gig and I see people smiling, it's a smile that just lights up their whole face. These are young people in their twenties and thirties and they are in awe of the fact that there is this guy in his sixties on stage playing a saxophone and he hasn't broken his damn hip yet. The timing of it is just the timing of it. All of this only started happening about three years ago.
And you think that this resurgence has to do largely with THE LOST BOYS?
Yes. Yes I do. I think you're exactly right on the money. I get people coming to my table at a convention and they'll say "I first saw this when I was fifteen and I would like to introduce you to my daughter and introduce you to her son." You find out that a movie like THE LOST BOYS is something that this family can all sit down and watch together. That is absolutely incredible. I've had people come up to me and give me a big hug and say "I've gotta tell you something brother! You pretty much saved my life." I am so glad that JOEL SCHUMACHER gave me that song to cover.
Did you ever think that THE LOST BOYS was ever going to go on to become the classic cult film that is now?
Of course not. Of course not. I was only on that stage while filming for two hours. You've probably been on a lot of movie sets. The one thing you're gonna know is that shooting a scene is going to take about five or six hours. It's as long as they say it's going to take. It's just the truth. That scene took half the time that they said it was going to take. We did one take and then maybe we did two takes and we did all of these shots and literally, in two hours, we were all having a party in COREY HAIM's room.
You were lucky. Some shoot can go on for ten hours.
No kidding everybody was really happy about that. It was a very frenetic night. Have you ever been to Santa Cruz?
Yes I have.
There is something really "out there" about Santa Cruz. It's a beautiful town. I consider myself a hippie and probably today, it's still a hippie town. That is just what I felt about it. It was sort of like a HAIGHT ASHBURY that never died. I'm sure its exactly the same way now. You take a town like that and you add vampires and that's it. JOE ESZTERHAS was just a really talented guy who just saw it. As soon as I set foot in that town, I saw it but I never could've written it.
Well let me be one who remembers you for something else other than THE LOST BOYS. I remember you as part of TINA TURNER's band post-PRIVATE DANCER. More specifically, I remember you from her music video ONE OF THE LIVING, which I thought was one of her finest songs from that era.
THE MUSIC VIDEO FOR ONE OF THE LiViNG!!!
How did you join and become part of the juggernaut that made TINA TURNER a record breaking live act?
Absolutely. Right before I started working with TINA, she was playing MCDONALDS conventions. I'm not lying about that. She played in front of a hundred or maybe a hundred-fifty people and people. Before she would go on stage, people would dressed up like milkshakes and quarter pounders with cheese and they would do these little skits and then the regional manager at this HYATT would announce "And now won't you welcome TINY SOMETHING OR OTHER!!!" Nobody knew who she was at that time. It was dumb luck that I had a friend who is a very successful rock session drummer and he went to her manager and said "Well you're looking for a keyboard player and you're looking for a saxophone player and I know a guy that does both. Why don't you save yourself the money and hire this guy." It was incredible. And then when I did the audition, I played from offstage. Do you remember TINA's version of HELP?
I do. It's on the album PRIVATE DANCER.
I thought it was genius. She just said to me, 'you're going to play from offstage. I just want ot hear how you sound in front people. You're going to play the solo'. After I was done she said "This is the guy! Let's keep him around." And she did for fifteen years.
And in all of those years, what did you learn from working with TINA - a woman who has been in the business for half a century?
I learned something very specific. I learned that music is humanity and emotion. It's not what chord you're playing. It's not if you're playing sixteenth notes or quarter note triplets or any of that stuff. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with humanity and emotion. In the very beginning, she would say stuff like "Oh that's too much like running water!" or "That's too blue!" or "That's too green!" and I would get upset and say "Jesus Christ! I spent all of this time in school and I've got someone telling me that something sounds too much like running water?" I didn't like it and I was too snotty to try and learn. It took me a while and once I learned what her language was, then I realized that she was always, ALWAYS right. I just had to learn the human way of describing music.
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Now, aside from your playing, you're knows for your physique, your pelvic thrust and your long hair. How did that look begin for you?
In my early twenties, I had bad drug problem and I was very skinny. I was one hundred-thirty five pounds and I was six-feet-tall. That was way too skinny. That's not right. It was because of drugs. I went up one day to a gym above a plumbing supply shop and there were all of these crazy muscle heads and when I saw this was like "I could use this!" I needed to be in tune with my body because everything in life was throwing me around. When I got in, I made really good friends with the guys there. It was all guys. This was before co-ed gyms. It was at a time bodybuilding was thought to be some sort of a sexual perversion possibly. It was all buff guys in shorts. There was a guy who used to bring a cassette tape of himself when he was bench pressing and he'd turn it on full blast and the tape would say things like "Come one man you can do it! Don't be a pussy! TRY HARDER!!! TRY HARDER!!!" It was just nuts. Everyone was crazy. There was guy that used to dress up in these colors. Like a million colors and then he would tie himself to the machines with multi-colored yarn and we'd have to untie him. It really was a little nuts. this was the late seventies. There were people like that. Really sweet people but it was like you'd be looking for your training partner and then you'd find out that he was doing time on Riker's Island because he got into a fight with a cop. It was a crazy scene, but they were everything I liked about life. It was nuts but they were strong and they listened to themselves. That was what I loved and that was what I needed.
What would you like for people come away with after they hear BLOOD ON THE REED?
That I had a great time making it, because I did. If somebody comes away going "This guy sounds like he was smiling ear to ear the whole time he was making this album" - which is true - then that is all I want. I don't need then to think that it's great art. I don't need them to think that I'm the best saxophonist or singer that ever lived. I couldn't wait until 2 o'clock rolled around. I would do my practicing and go to the gym and get food for my wife and I run my errands and bring my t-shirts to the post office and then come back and from 2pm to 5pm I would be able to work on my record and that would be the highlight of my day. Also, my wife getting home from work is also the highlight of my day, when I can make her nice dinner and we can just relax after her hard day. Because for me, I don't have a hard day. I have a day that I love and making this record was the best part of the day that I loved.
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