Tony Brock On The Babys’ Return, Their New Line-Up and New Album
After three decades away from the spotlight, the Babys are back in action. Drummer Tony Brock and lead guitarist Wally Stocker have assembled a new lineup and recorded a new album, ‘I’ll Have Some Of That,’ that recalls the past glories of the band, while maintaining a fresh attack.
The project, their first since 1980’s ‘On The Edge,’ is set for release on June 24 through Sky Rocket Entertainment. The two original members are joined by lead vocalist/bassist John Bisaha and rhythm guitarist Joey Sykes. We recently spoke with Brock about the band’s past, present and future.
So, what took you so long to get things rolling again?
Well, we had to get some new, fresh oil for the wheelchairs to get us going! No, basically, when John Waite wanted to do his solo thing, and Jonathan Cain joined Journey, obviously it’s not easy to replace those guys. It has to be the right person with the right attitude. There’s been several tries to try and put the Babys back together, especially from [original rhythm guitarist/keyboardist] Michael Corby, but no one was really interested in doing it with Mike. But this time around, you know what, I feel like we’ve been robbed of doing one more album that could really put us over the top. So we started doing auditions for singers at my studio, they were lined up around the block. It was great, actually.
And out of all those in line, you finally found John Bisaha.
I think I got him back five times to make sure he was the one. I put him through torture, but I had to make sure that we’re going to keep our integrity, and have a really great soul singer.
He seems to have been a good choice. He has enough of Waite’s tone, but without being a mere copyist.
Yeah! I mean, we didn’t want to do a Journey where we have a sound-a-like. I got the opportunity to produce this album, so I wanted to make sure we got everything perfect — to get the soul roots. I think that’s why we’ve kept our longevity to this day because we always had really good songs. We’ve got a silly name, but some great songs!
I think you hit it on the head there, that you guys were a lot more soulful than so much of the generic AOR rock, or whatever you wanna call it. You guys always had more of an edge, whether you were doing a ballad or a rocker.
Yeah, exactly! We grew up around Bad Company, and before them Backstreet Crawler, and [Led] Zeppelin. We all played the same clubs and knew each other. We loved the same music and the soul influence came from America, Al Green and that sort of thing.
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So, have you been stockpiling songs over the years, or did you approach this from a fresh starting point?
Good question. I was a little worried at first, and then suddenly, Wally and I remembered that we kept writing songs. After the Babys split up, Wally and I stayed together and we wrote about 10 to 12 songs, and half of those ended up on this album. So, from 30 years ago when Wally and I put those songs together, they still held up, and that was a great relief. We still captured where we were mentally in those days, so that was fantastic. And then the boys, you know Joey Sykes on guitar and John Bisaha on vocals, Joey wrote two or three of the songs and John wrote some — and we put all our ideas together. That’s how we knew that we had the magic back.
The record sounds fresh and not like you’re consciously trying to recapture something. It sounds more natural than that.
It feels pretty natural, right? I went out of my way when I was mixing it to make sure that there was no fancy — I mean it’s so easy to put this effect and that effect on and make it sound glossy. I didn’t want that. If we’re not good enough to just have a performance, then it’s not worth doing. Anybody can overproduce a record and make it sound incredible.
Yeah, and then it’ll sound dated a week later. The production is punchy.
Exactly. Thanks, that’s what I was going for. I actually brought in a 30-year-old board, an old Sound Craft board, to do this record. I’m really pleased with it. It was recorded in my studio, Silver Dreams Studios; I started it up about 10 years ago. I started producing Keith Urban and Jimmy Barnes in Australia. Jimmy’s got an incredible voice. He was one of the first contenders to join AC/DC when Bon Scott passed. Jimmy and I had like seven No. 1 hits [in Austraila]. It was great. That’s why I left Rod [Stewart]. I was with Rod Stewart for 12 years and I left Rod just to start producing. I used to watch Ron Nevison, all the great producers we (the Babys) used to have. I’d sit there and watch, and steal all his ideas!
‘You Saved My Life’ comes off like some vintage Faces track — just brash, no frills rock and roll.
Great! That’s exactly what we were going for!
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Had you originally approached John Waite about being involved in this?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I couldn’t understand from day one when he left. Most bands can get away with the lead singer, or any one of the band members going off and doing their own solo thing and still keeping the band together. I didn’t really understand it. We stayed in touch over the years, and I asked John two or three times to reconsider, and he just said, “You know what, Tony? I’m just stuck in my way. I want to do my own thing.” I understood, and finally got the message that he wasn’t gonna do it. And it’s worked out just fine. John’s really happy for us. He’s really proud of us for keeping it honest.
Are you guys gonna hit the road with this?
We better! The album gets released on June 24. We’re mulling over the dates right now. We’ve got a couple of festivals already lined up, dates with Boston, and one of my favorite bands, Cheap Trick. We became really good friends with them when we toured together years ago. We’re trying to jump on some major tours, which would be great fun. We’ve already done a couple of shows in L.A., and just to watch the kids — I mean my kids, and their friends still listen to Zeppelin and AC/DC and all that. It’s great! So, I think we still have a shot. It’s not like the old days, where you couldn’t come back with old stuff, and not even get a shot. I think the young kids really appreciate this. To them, the Babys are gonna be fresh and new. The young kids that are buying vinyl these days. It’s a big fad now, I know, but I’m hoping it stays. It’s a cool thing. We’re gonna muck out some vinyl too. It still sounds so much better than .mp3s.
Any plans for recording some of the live shows for some sort of release?
Yeah, in fact, the last conversation I had with John Waite, he said, “Why don’t you do a live album, and throw a couple of new ones on there, and it would be a great thing to have.” We gotta get this one out first, but it’s obviously a great possibility we could record a new album live. That would be fantastic.
You’ve had quite a run, working with Rod Stewart, Roy Orbison, Jimmy Barnes and many others. Does it feel like coming home re-igniting the Babys?
Yeah! It’s fun now, trying to get the Babys to go over the edge this time. I don’t know what I’d do without music. It’s in the blood. Just to get that reaction from the crowd, and people enjoying what you’ve done. If you can cheer someone up that much, it means a lot.