Dan Baird and Stan Lynch Team Up for New LP: Interview
Don't let the name of the new project by ex-Georgia Satellites frontman Dan Baird and former Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers drummer Stan Lynch fool you. The Chefs have never spent any time in culinary school.
Their album, Heated & Treated, came together spontaneously over a year, even though it's been simmering long before that. The pair first crossed paths on 1987's Rock ‘n’ Roll Caravan tour that featured Petty, the Satellites and the Del Fuegos. And as Lynch recalls, he and Baird became fast friends.
“I looked forward to seeing Dan every day,” he tells UCR. “On a tour, you kind of get a dude tour wife. You go, ‘Who is going to be my guy until I burn him out and wear him out?’ You wear out everybody on the road. Everybody gets sick of your jokes after a while. You’re funny for about a month. Dan was immediately irreverent.”
They became running buddies, hitting the trails each day and jogging for miles. Lynch admits the visual is a strange one, considering they smoked Marlboro Reds along the way. “We both loved to laugh! Dan was loud as shit! I remember that you could hear Dan laughing from a quarter of a mile off,” Lynch says. “I think somehow he made a joke about a lawn chef or something one day, and that just made my head explode. I just thought, ‘Well, we’ve got a new tour concept.’ If you’re at the top of your game, you’re now a chef. So, all I’d have to say to Dan is ‘Is the guy any good?’ And he’d go, ‘Yeah, yeah, the motherfucker is a chef.’”
Listen to the Chefs' 'My Babe's on Weed'
Some of the best moments on that summer 1987 tour weren’t even caught on tape, Baird recalls. "I was hanging with [keyboardist] Benmont [Tench], and he said, 'Hey, do you want to go goof around some?' He sat down behind the kit and I picked up a guitar. We started playing the [Rolling Stones] song 'Let It Bleed.'
“I think Mike [Campbell] came over and started playing bass. Stan came over and started playing second guitar. And then Tom and [bassist] Howie [Epstein] came up, Howie grabbed something and then Tom started singing harmony. I’m going, ‘This is unbelievable. I am backstage and I’ve got the entirety of the Heartbreakers as my backup band for four minutes. It’s not going to get a lot better than this in your life, you do understand this, right?’"
They remained friends once the tour ended, with Lynch even dropping by the sessions for Baird's first post-Satellites solo album, 1992's Love Songs for the Hearing Impaired. He also lured the drummer and several Heartbreakers into the studio to tackle the Grateful Dead's “U.S. Blues” for 1991’s all-star Deadicated tribute LP.
Listen to the Harshed Mellows' 'U.S. Blues'
Released as the Harshed Mellows, the song lost the original's shuffle when the new group "square[d] out the beat and [made] it aggressive to where it feels right,” says Baird. But they were faithful in another respect. "We were the only band on the Deadicated record that had two drummers, two guitars, bass, keys and female vocals. We had the right lineup - the ‘76 lineup.”
A few decades later, when Baird was putting together some songs in his basement, he liked the tracks best without vocals. That's when the idea of doing an instrumental record started to take shape.
Lynch knew Baird had battled chronic lymphocytic leukemia and called to check in with his friend. They spent a couple of hours catching up before Baird asked the drummer if he was interested in playing on some of the new music that he was working on.
"I felt like the geek guy asking the pretty girl out on a date when he’s 17," Baird says. "He was like, ‘Sure, send it on over,’ and he’s going, ‘Man, this is a fantastic melody, are you sure you don’t want to write words?’ I went, ‘Stan, I can’t sing it. I can’t do that. ... I can’t jump a fifth and land in tune. I need notes next to the other note so that I can judge.”
Lynch immediately recognized a challenge. “I said, ‘Dan, if I put a beat to this, it’s not going to do what the drum machine does,’ which means, basically, the house of cards could just fall apart musically," he recalls. "I’m altering the actual DNA of that [foundation] now. It’s this drummer and not a machine. But he was like, “Yeah, I’m in.”
Listen to the Chefs' 'Hippy Surf Party'
When Lynch sent back what he had done in “Hippy Surf Party,” Baird knew instantly Lynch was a kindred spirit for the project. “He hears it, hears everything,” he says, noting that some adjustments had to be made. “We got together, and I had to square up my bass a little bit to his kick drum. I’m a little bit of a free-range chicken sometimes, especially with time on bass. I’m a guitar player. I know what bass is supposed to do - if I were a good bassist. ”
Either way, he says, Baird "always takes feel over perfection.” It was Lynch's responsibility to make sure things were perfectly dialed in. "As the drummer, it’s kind of your job to make it honest. You’ve got to be honest down there.”
It helps that the old friends have similar tastes in music. “We basically grew up almost in the same room,” Lynch explains. “We had so much in common without even talking about it. Dan referenced a song by the T-Bones ... called ‘No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In).’ It was a commercial. I went, ‘Are you fuckin’ kidding me, man? That’s the first single I ever bought!’ It was literally the first 45. I worshiped that beat, and it turns out that it was the incomparable Hal Blaine. So, of course it’s going to sound great. When he referenced stuff like that, it was like, ‘Shit, I want to be at the party.’"
It's not hard to trace Lynch's affection for the songs on Heated & Treated. The instrumental material crackles with a spirited energy that occasionally brings to mind period soundtrack work. "You can look at it as almost music for a cop show from ‘67 that didn’t make it - they did the pilot and everybody turned it down,” Baird says. “This would have been some of the theme music for it. Hence ‘Obligatory Chase Scene.’ If you take a look at it as music for little vignettes inside a bad cop show from ‘67, that’s what it’s all about.”
Listen to the Chefs' 'Obligatory Chase Scene'
Baird and Lynch both think Heated & Treated is just the first of more collaborations to come.
"It’s really funny that he didn’t sing [on this album], because one of the best things I loved about him is the way that he sings harmony," Baird notes. Lynch is hoping his partner steps up to the mic next time too. “I’m not going to let him off the hook. I’ve got to hear Dan sing. I’ve got to hear the auctioneer at the vocal mic. Dan’s a cracker poet."