posted on November 07, 2012 08:15
Rock critics were no friend to Grand Funk Railroad, but that did nothing to derail the band’s career. Spanning more than 40 years, Grand Funk Railroad has captivated audiences from their first big gig where nobody who they were to now, when fans of all ages sing along to the hits such as “I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home” and “Some Kind of Wonderful.”
For drummer Don Brewer, being showered with accolades from critics wouldn’t have made a difference — as far as he’s concerned, all the critics are trying to do is sell magazines.
Brewer and the most recent lineup (original bassist Mel Schacher, Max Carl of 38 Special, lead guitarist Bruce Kulick, formerly of KISS, and keyboardist Tim Cashion, who played with Bob Seger and Robert Palmer) will grace the stage at Lumiere Place Nov. 10.
Brewer talked to InsideSTL about band member changes, music critics and more.
InsideSTL: What makes you want to keep performing?
Don Brewer: It's what we do, and we have a good time doing it. We never thought that this would last 43 years now... and it's just wonderful to be able to get out and be in front of audience... sometimes there's three generations people who know words to your songs... and they're all singing along to “Some Kind of Wonderful”... It's a charge,so that's why you do it bec it's fun to do. We only do maybe 35-40 shows a year so we don't over do it.
InsideSTL: What do the non-original band members bring to Grand Funk Railroad from their previous bands?
DB: ...We've got great people with us... What [the new members] bring, we all have this love of R&B and rock ‘n’ roll and that’s really what Grand Funk is... [We’re] heavily influenced by Motown... Everyone in the band now is all basically in that same kind of vein. We all have a love of R&B and translate that into hard rock performance and that's what makes it work.
InsideSTL: At what point in your career with Grand Funk Railroad did you feel like, as a group, you made it?
DB: There were a few times. Obviously, there have been some major ups and some major downs. It wasn't long after we formed... [we got to play the] first Atlanta Pop Festival... We were put on as the opening act on opening day of the festival and nobody knew who Grand Funk Railroad was and we went out in front of 80,0000 people, and they gave us standing ovation and asked us to come back... It was like, 'This worked'.... [We had] just taken material we'd been doing with another band... [and made it fit] with a power trio kind of format... and just tore it up... [We also] played Shea Stadium and sold it out faster than the Beatles... Playing Shea Stadium wow, come on. That was like the epitomy of success... playing japan, baseball stadiums...
InsideSTL: Are there any songs you wish would have turned out different after the recording process?
DB: There were a lot of times, back in our day, we used to record album in a matter of days, and basically go in, rehearse for a month, get everything down as tight as we can get it... spend a day mixing... So we ended up leaving a lot of things on those recordings that you would have liked to make better. And as the industry improved, further in the ’70s, by the ’80s everything is about perfection... People takes months and months... to record records.
… I would [like to make changes] except that when I hear those original recordings of ours... and I hear mistakes and I hear recordings that could’ve been better, but I still really appreciate the fact that they sound good on their own... All of this perfection has kind of taken away the feel... [On our old albums you’re] listening to raw feel, not perfection... I would rather hear that and hear mistakes... the feel was there.
InsideSTL: Of all the changes in the music industry since you first started out, what’s the one thing that hasn’t changed at all?
DB: How ignorant the critics are. [Laughs]
InsideSTL: How much of an influence would you say rock critics had on your career?
DB: Actually, not a lot because we were one of those bands that was not loved by Rolling Stone and did just fine without it. I don't think that the critics really make that big of a difference. I think it's up to the people, what people’s tastes are. I think a lot of times the critics miss the point.
InsideSTL: How do you think your career would have turned out if critics embraced Grand Funk Railroad?
DB: I don't think it would have made any difference at all. I think it was good fodder at the time. We had our manager Terry Knight. He loved bad publicity because it was publicity... So I don't think it makes that big of a difference. I think most of the stuff written, especially in rock is to sell magazines. I don’t think influences that much one way or another.
InsideSTL: Knowing how the band has turned out, what is one thing you wish you would have known back when Grand Funk Railroad first started?
DB: I wish we wouldn't have been so trusting. We got raked over the coals … we were kind of in the early days of rock making a lot of money, and we were young kids and we trusted people and trusted them and signed contracts that gave them the lion’s share of everything and we got screwed... It was a great lesson, but it certainly was a tough situation to go through. It still happens today, but nowhere near to the frequency it happened back then....