Rick Nielsen talks about not going Hollywood, new album

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-114909951915273.jpg’, ‘Photo by Brian Mason courtesy ofwww.cheaptrick.com‘, ‘Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen performs at an April concert in Anaheim, Calif.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-114909964715273.jpg’, ”, ‘Cheap Trick's latest album, FRockford, is set for release June 6. Rick Nielsen said about the name of the album: "I didn't do it to win any personal favors or anything. None of us did. It's synonymous with us."’);

Editor’s note: The following is part one of a two-part interview with Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen. Cheap Trick’s new album, Rockford, hits record stores June 6.

There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence. Rick Nielsen plays guitar and is perhaps the most recognizable face of Cheap Trick—a band that is all at once Rockford’s best loved and most disliked.

Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, it is a simple fact that the quintet has introduced more people to our city than anyone or anything since the screw.

That is a result of confidence: confidence in your craft, confidence to keep doing what you love and confidence to all at once try new things and remember your roots.

Music, like screw manufacturing, can be lucrative when things are going well, but can also be cutthroat and messy when they’re not. With less than a week before the world meets Rockford the album, it seemed like the perfect time to catch up with Nielsen, one of the city’s most visible and justifiably confident ambassadors.

Jonathan Hicks, The Rock River Times (TRRT): Rockford has gotten a real buzz going in this town that I don’t know that I’ve ever seen before. I grew up here, and I’m 25 now, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone talk about an album this much before—at least not a Cheap Trick album.

Rick Nielsen (RN): I’m sure you’re going to hear both sides…“Oh, that’s cool that they did that,” and “Why in the heck did they do that?”

TRRT: Well, why did you do it?

RN: The name of our city is Rockford. Thank God, it wasn’t Truth or Consequences, N.M. If you think about it, when you mention Budokan, they think of Cheap Trick. If you say Rockford, people think of Cheap Trick. For the last 20 years, I’ve heard that all the time. Robin [Zander] brought it up. When he said it, Bun E. [Carlos] and Tom [Petersson] and myself said “Hey, that’s good, let’s do it.” From that point on, we just pursued it. I didn’t do it to win any personal favors or anything. None of us did. It’s synonymous with us. We never went Hollywood. We never did that rock junk that you hear most bands doing. We kind of kept it basic. Although I’m the only one who still lives here, we all have roots here. All of us have family here. So if we call a place home, this is it.

TRRT: You had the reins for a lot of the creation process. What were some of the most challenging parts in the writing, recording and production of the album?

RN: We didn’t set up to block off X amount of time…“Let’s take four weeks or six weeks, and we’ll record a record.” We went out and did two days here and three over there. We just did songs. If you look at the credits, we (recorded at) the Noise Chamber—you’ve got Chicago and L.A., Florida, Nashville, Boston—we were all over the place. That was the challenging part, but it was also kind of cool. Normally, when you make a record you do everything in one spot. We experiment with the studios and really let the songs do the work for us.

TRRT: That’s kind of a cool concept.

RN: Yeah. We’ve never done it before. It’s kind of cool because if you get stuck on a song, whether it’s a good one or a bad one, if you’re in the studio for only a certain amount of time, you’ll tend to spend more time on a bad song trying to make it better than just doing it and being done with it. With “Perfect Stranger” and a few others, we did parts and thought we had it pretty good, then (thought), “Well, maybe we should do this part over.” You didn’t have to change it tomorrow at 8 o’clock in the morning. It gave the song room to breathe.

TRRT: You’ve talked in the past that most of the time when you’ve recorded, you’ve had such a good feel for the songs going in that you record them in one or two takes.

RN: We still do that.

TRRT: Does that strategy pay off for you when it comes to playing live shows?

RN: Yeah. We’ve played together so long that some of the stuff that seems obvious to us (makes people say), “Man, you must have really rehearsed that.” And it’s like, “um, no.” By playing together so long, I know when Bun E.’s going to do this, and he knows when I’m going to rush something, so he’ll try to hold the thing back. I know when he’s going to do a roll so I’ll do a lick. We know some of that stuff just by instinct. Most of it’s not planned. We just try to play songs by the feel.

Pick up next week’s issue of The Rock River Times for the second half of our chat with Rick Nielsen. Meantime, remember Rockford hits record stores June 6. Several local retailers are offering consumers pre-sale opportunities to ensure there will be enough copies in stock the day of the release. For more information, visit www.cheaptrick.com.

From the May 31-June 6, 2006, issue

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