DANNY VAUGHN (TYKETTO) INTERVIEW:
November 4, 2011
Despite claiming that Tyketto was going to sail off into the sunset in 2007, the band is back and recording their first studio album with original vocalist Danny Vaughn since 1994’s ‘Strength In Numbers’. Vaughn got his first taste of success with UFO bassist Pete Way’s Waysted in the mid ’80s, and took the knowledge he learned to new heights with the melodic Tyketto. While Tyketto never had the success of other bands from the infamous hard rock era, they have continued to enjoy a strong following that resulted in a new recording contract with Frontiers Records. Sleaze Roxx caught up with an excited Danny Vaughn on the first day of pre-production for their upcoming album and talked about the challenges of making a new Tyketto album, their upcoming November 26th live webcast and much more.
Sleaze Roxx: In 2007 you released ‘The Last Sunset’ which was supposed to be the end of Tyketto. What led to the decision to keep the band alive?
Danny Vaughn: We’re going to have to kick the ‘end of Tyketto’ thing in the head because that was Michael Clayton’s idea to be perfectly honest. He was saying, ‘want to do one last thing and that will be it? I’ve got a family it’s not fair to them’. Funny enough, it was his family who said, ‘what do you mean you’re quitting Tyketto?’ ‘The Last Sunset’ was something for hardcore fans. People are always asking if we have any stuff in the can that we didn’t record… and yes, because it wasn’t good enough! (laughs) I’m glad we did it the way we did because the last thing I want to do is put an album out like that and pretend it’s Tyketto in full force and have people get it home and go ‘wait a minute, this is demos’. We didn’t lie about it, or try to package it as anything other than what it was, which was a bit of ear candy for the fans. It never stopped — the idea of doing a new album. It just didn’t seem very likely, particularly with everybody’s work and family situations.
Of the four of us I’m still the only gypsy. Everybody else has settled in and become responsible. We started talking and the one thing we said is if we are going to do a new album it has to be with the original guys. That is what would interest the fans the most. So we dropped in on Brooke St. James — it’s going on two years ago now — and went out to him where he was living, in Vegas. We tabled the idea and said, ‘first things first, let’s see if we can remember how to write’. We sat in a hotel room for several hours each day, for four or five days, and we sketched through some good ideas that we liked. The next phase of that was to take one idea and develop it and that’s a song called “Love To Love” — not a lot of people heard it. We retrieved the rights to ‘Strength In Numbers’ so we own that now, and we re-released it in limited quantities with the new song on it. We had that at Download which we played last year and that was the first time anybody heard it. It was played on rock radio all over the country when we played Download. The reaction to it was so good and so strong — that cemented it. We can still do this and the people that know us like it. So it’s been in the wind ever since.
Sleaze Roxx: Now that you’re working on your first studio album since ‘Strength In Numbers’, how is it coming along?
Danny Vaughn: You are catching me on the first night of us doing our solid pre-production work. It’s bizarre because Tyketto did everything together back in the day. We lived in the same house — if you had a song idea it was just a matter of going across the hall and knocking on someone’s door. Now we all don’t live in the same country, much less the same area. Writing via Skype has been a very strange experience but it seems to be working. Everybody has their little home studio to one effect or another, so if I get an idea I can sketch it out and send it out to them and they can work on it and send it back. Someone goes, ‘I heard this’ or ‘I heard that’ — that was really what Tyketto was about. If you take Brooke out of Tyketto you get what my solo albums sound like. I love my solo albums, but it is a different sound. Brooke brings in a different influence once we start working together and it’s already happening. The last couple of days have been really encouraging. It’s where we start to stitch together the different bits and pieces and everyone throws their ideas into the pot. That is what I enjoy most because other musicians will approach an idea from a completely different point of view than you do and sometimes you step back in horror and go ‘no no no’, but quite often not. Someone goes, ‘I never would have put that riff in there, what a great idea’. That is where we are at now, it’s a very exciting stage. We are going to be getting all the songs together in the next 10 days. The album will have 13 songs on it — 12 plus one for Japan. We have more songs than that so we are going to have to pick and chose as we go. That is pretty normal, that’s part of the process.
Sleaze Roxx: With members living in different areas and having lives outside the band what are the biggest challenges with making this album?
Danny Vaughn: I think it’s time and logistics. You are working around people’s work schedules, family schedules, and things like that. In a sense this is the easy bit. Now we will all be focused on one thing for the next month. We will start recording around the 28th of October and go for about three weeks. From here on in everything else gets put aside and we get to eat, live and sleep Tyketto which I think is going to be a load of fun — very intense, but fun. The hardest part is what we have already done, all this back and forth by email. Emails can be dangerous, somebody writes something perfectly normal but somebody else reads it incorrectly, somebody gets the hump about something. When we are all in a room together all that shit goes away.
Sleaze Roxx: You stated that there will be plenty of classic ‘Don’t Come Easy’ sounds on this record. Do you think it will be difficult to recreate that old sound?
Danny Vaughn: Yes, but I don’t think we are going for that. You have to remember, for better or worse, ‘Don’t Come Easy’ was made in the most expensive studio in the world and the album cost about 200 grand. We don’t have that kind of money (laughs). Luckily you don’t need it to make a great sounding record and we are going to the same studio where I did my first two solo albums at. I’m very confident with what Paul Orofino can do. It’s a double edged sword, the ‘Don’t Come Easy’ thing, because there will always be some people who, if you try to remake that exact feel, exact vibe and write songs just like those songs, will say ‘they’re just trying to do what they did and make it sell, they’ve got nothing new and it’s the same stuff regurgitated’. If you go out and do something totally different then some people will complain that ‘it’s nothing like ‘Don’t Come Easy’, what do these guys think they are doing?’ So I guarantee there is going to be somebody unhappy.
The thing with us is I think we walk both lines, because obviously it’s many years later, so our musicianship is different and the music we’ve been exposed to has changed. But we are not going to try and make Tyketto sound like … I can’t think who … but I think it will sound like us. It will have some more maturity to it. I think there are going to be some differences, but I’m not going to change the way I sing. My harmony structures will be similar and my belief in what makes a big chorus is still there. What I do know is that this album is going to be pretty damn aggressive — not in a thrash metal sense. Some of the songs are making me think of Def Leppard. There is a ballad, but I don’t know if there will be more than one. I think it’s going to be a very fast-paced and aggressive record. Now we are starting to throw in the elements that will make it more like what people know of Tyketto — the acoustic guitar will blend in at certain points. I think it will be exactly what it is, people will hear it and go ‘yes, that is Tyketto’ and ‘yes, that is not old Tyketto, that is Tyketto 2011’.
Sleaze Roxx: In the past you said that a reunion didn’t really appeal to you because you felt reunions were almost always disappointing and just an attempt to cash in on the name. What made you change your mind?
Danny Vaughn: The first time we did it, it was 2004 and one of the big changes was simply that it was the original four members. So that wouldn’t be disappointing as far as I was concerned. When it’s one member of the band that you loved with a bunch of different guys, that can be disappointing. Some people don’t mind, it depends how you look at it. The other thing about Tyketto is that we were never a money band. It’s lovely that we get mentioned in the same sentence as many of our peers at the time like Poison, Danger Danger, Ratt and bands like that, but those bands all sold tons more records than we did. We just had a very good word of mouth reputation. People that saw us live never forgot what sort of a live show we put on. So we have a faithful group of fans because we always delivered. As long as we feel we are going to be delivering then there is no worry about it because there is no big money in it for us. We do it because we love it and as long as we don’t feel like we are cheating anybody, including ourselves, then I have no fear of putting it out there at all.
Sleaze Roxx: How do you expect the new album to be received considering how much the music industry has changed since your first albums came out?
Danny Vaughn: I wish I could answer that. Nobody really knows what is going on out there. Somewhere it has to settle, but I couldn’t possibly tell you where. You have a whole generation of people, now reaching their 20s, that probably have never paid for music. As they get older, and the next generation behind them haven’t paid either, how can anybody afford to make music in the first place? That’s the answer I don’t know.
Sleaze Roxx: How frustrating is that for a musician such as yourself?
Danny Vaughn: It is frustrating, but so far we are very lucky to have found this little niche that Frontier Records has found, and in a sense their business is going up every year strangely enough. Some big bands are on their label that sadly the major labels aren’t interested in anymore. I was shocked when Frontier Records announced they had Yes, Whitesnake, Mr. Big, and Journey… it’s quite a line-up. But — bad paraphrasing — there is strength in numbers there. People who love these bands know where to find them. I think that works out very well for us. The plan is to see who is out there and try and get a real tour going on next year. The album will be released roughly in April 2012 so we are looking to put the band out in the summertime.
Sleaze Roxx: Talking of a tour, do you think the other guys would be interested in going out in a van and hitting the road or will you just do festivals?
Danny Vaughn: We are doing four shows at the end of this year — four in England and a couple in the States. As soon as we are done with the album we will go straight out — seems like a good way to do it. That will also be with us four original members plus our keyboard player Bobby Lynch, who is settling in as a secret weapon fifth member. I think everybody is going to be pretty excited about doing it. We will figure out a way to tour, especially if the interest is there, which so far it is. People are starting to hear that we are working on a new album and so far the vibe is good, so I’m happy.
Sleaze Roxx: You will be broadcasting a live show on the internet on November 26th. What can fans expect to see with that?
Danny Vaughn: The most important thing about it is its going to be a full 90 minute show. We will definitely perform one or two new songs and it will be with the original band. We are doing it in a studio in New Jersey, a rehearsal studio. The audience in the studio will probably be 20 to 25 people, that is all we can fit. It will be a 6 camera shoot and I think it will look good. It will also be interactive, people can write in requests and ask questions. The way it works is, if you go to our website tyketto.de there is a banner on the opening page that takes you to a set up. Its pay-for-view using PayPal and it walks you through it. You pay the fee, then PayPal comes to us, and within four or five days you get your own code. On the day of the show you can go to the site where we are broadcasting and you get your own personal code to put in and watch the whole thing.
What we are really trying to do is reach out to all those places we don’t get to tour. We’re not Mr. Big unfortunately, who has a much bigger fan base and can get out and play all over the world. I’d love for it to happen, but if it does it will be on the strength of something new. Tyketto has never played Canada, it’s always a matter of logistics. In England going from city to city is easy because they are all within three or four hours of each other if you plan it right. Canada is another story (laughs). Like America… both are very spread out. Tyketto could play in Chicago and Dallas but what the hell do you do in between? So we are trying to put this out to people that might never get a chance to see the band live because that is our strongest feature, it was always our live performance.
Sleaze Roxx: You said you never toured Canada with Tyketto, but you did with Waysted correct?
Danny Vaughn: Yes we did. We opened for Iron Maiden and we played in pretty much every hockey rink in Canada. I made it a ritual that every show I would go and sit in the penalty box of every team (laughs). That was a fun tour — it wasn’t quite winter so that was good. Touring with Maiden… you really can’t beat that.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you think you will make this upcoming internet show available as a download or a DVD?
Danny Vaughn: I don’t know. At the moment we aren’t thinking much beyond that but it’s entirely possible if all the footage is there that it could get used. Frontiers are getting more in the habit with their new albums of putting a bit of DVD content with the album to make it worth buying the physical product. I know we are going to have a camera or two rolling when we record, which is only going to produce embarrassment for all of us, but that’s what you want to see (laughs). It is possible.
The other thing is that there have been a lot of people asking for a live Tyketto DVD. Maybe if we get a nice string of dates in the summertime — we are going to try some festivals, but I’d like to do a full on tour… particularly of Europe, but you never know where else we can get to. Maybe we’ll get a couple of weeks of shows under our belt then bring in a proper camera crew and make a full on live DVD. That is something people have asked me about for years and years.
Sleaze Roxx: When you left Tyketto for personal reasons the band released the album ‘Shine’. Have you ever thought to yourself, ‘damn, some of those songs are good, I wouldn’t mind performing a couple of them myself’?
Danny Vaughn: Absolutely. I have done “Jamie” with them but its difficult because Steve Augeri sings higher than I do so it’s hard work. But there are a few of them — “Jamie” and “Ruby” — there is some good stuff on that album. I think in the course of doing a full on tour, or maybe for the webcast, it’s not a bad idea — we’ll talk about it. There should definitely be a song or two off that album, it’s part of the band’s history.
Sleaze Roxx: You are still with the Ultimate Eagles tribute band, why do you think cover bands are so prevalent these days?
Danny Vaughn: It’s a monetary thing, particularly in Europe. In our particular case, with doing the Eagles, the Eagles fans are an older fan base. They are of course one of the biggest bands in the history of music so you are always getting new fans coming to them. But overall it’s people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s that grew up with the music like I did and they have the money to come out and see a production like that.
Same with a Queen band and an AC/DC band — certain bands have it minted. The Pink Floyd shows, the really good ones, are a great idea because you are never going to see Pink Floyd. So this is as close as you are going to get. When you get a band like the Australian Pink Floyd it is well worth going — its right up there with the original. My experience with the Eagles is that there is such an insane love of the songs that that band did, that even if you are just sort of good at it people just love you. So when you put together a band like we have… I don’t think anyone can touch the Ultimate Eagles and what we are doing. People come out and have the best night because they get to hear all these classic songs and they didn’t have to mortgage their house to do it (laughs). I’ve never seen the Eagles because I could never afford it.
Sleaze Roxx: What do you think of all these bands from Tyketto’s era that are out on the road with one or two original members or with two different versions under the same name?
Danny Vaughn: It gets a bit confusing but it would be wrong for me to pass judgment on it. I just went and saw Mr. Big and that is all four original members and as a fan there is very little that matches that. As far as going to see the band you love and it’s still the same band, that’s a great feeling. I also think with some of the bands that are out there that might be just two members… but very sadly you can’t see Warrant with Jani Lane anymore. So if you’re a Warrant fan does that mean you should never have the band play live? I don’t think so. I think they should be out there playing the songs that their fans love.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you think the casual fan even cares as long as they get to relive their youth and hear a few songs from their past?
Danny Vaughn: You are probably right, particularly in some of these things like Rocklahoma. People are out there to relive these songs that they love and grew up with, so probably in the end to most people it doesn’t matter that much. There will always be what my English friends call the anoraks, who demand everything be exactly perfect and as it was, as if time had never moved.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s been a long time since you were in Waysted but what are your thoughts about Pete Way’s health problems and his battles with alcohol?
Danny Vaughn: Pete is such a lovely guy. It was 1985 when I first hooked up with them and he looked me square in the eye, with no reservation, and said, ‘I’m an alcoholic Dan. That’s what I do’. He said, ‘when I get up in the morning I need a tumbler of scotch to get up and feel right, and that’s that’. The sad part of course is that it’s going to take its toll eventually. I think he is very fortunate it hasn’t taken its toll before this. It’s hard to say because he’s lived his life exactly how he’s chosen to live it and for me, or anyone, to stand there and shake a finger saying, ‘see he shouldn’t have’, that’s not right. I pray that he can get past whatever it is health wise that is coming at him now. But you know he is getting shit from his liver, there is no way around that and I hope he can fight it.
People are supposed to admire us for what we do. I know guys that are minted, like major players in stocks and investment bankers. They tell me they admire me yet I’m lucky if I can pay my rent every two months — it comes and goes. You have good and bad months and good and bad years. But there is always that thing you pursue, what you love, and that is what Pete Way has always done. He’s been a rock star since he was 16 and he’s going to go down that road. Who’s to say he’s wrong? It his choice.
Sleaze Roxx: When you look at people like Pete Way and Jani Lane, and the genre of music you play adhering to sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, do you ever feel you’re lucky that you haven’t fallen down a path like that?
Danny Vaughn: A bit, because I know a lot of friends that have — it’s not necessarily the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll though. I feel for the guys like myself, the old guys I call from my graduating class, the Wingers and that era. There were so many of those and we all got the boot at the same time and some of those guys never recovered from that. One minute you are pretty damn famous and the next minute no one takes your phone calls. It was a very fast thing when it happened. Some of the guys never emotionally recovered from that. It really dealt a blow of reality to all of us. So hopefully what you are left with are the guys who really just want to make music. That’s what I’m re-discovering with these guys, that we all still have that — it sounds corny but it’s true. We are looking at each other going, ‘this is fun’! This is why we did this, because we really got off on it. I’m probably more excited than anybody else to see what we come out of this with.
Sleaze Roxx: It will be interesting to hear the new album.
Danny Vaughn: Yeah, I’m excited as anyone else because I’m starting to see it — it’s coming into focus and I’m ‘ooo I like this’ (laughs).