Posted September 18, 2010

Power Pop master
Paul collins:
The Beat goes on

Paul Collins, King of Power Pop

Share Cult power pop legend favourite Paul Collins is a name writ large in the history of timeless music. In 1974, this New Yorker started his career with distinction as a member of The Nerves, who recorded a song called “Hanging On The Telephone.” It would later become a hit for Blondie on the "Parallel Lines" album.

Paul Collins formed The Beat in 1977, a high energy rock group in the style of The Ramones, Blondie and The Dictators. Collins signed to CBS, thanks to his friend Eddie Money and Bill Graham Management. The Beat played with many bands, including The Jam, Pere Ubu, The Police, Eddie Money, The Plimsouls and Huey Lewis, becoming Paul Collins’ Beat when a ska band from UK began using The Beat as their moniker.

Paul Collins’ Beat continued to tour and record albums throughout the ’80s, with "The Kids Are The Same", "Beat Or Not To Beat", "Long Time Gone", "Live At Universal" and their final album "One Night", released in 1989. Their songs would permeate their way around the world, turning up in Australia on the set list of the Screaming Tribesmen.

Paul Collins set out on a solo career, recording the self-titled "Paul Collins" album in 1992, with special guests like Greg Kihn, Cyril Jordan (Flamin Groovies), Jeff Trott (Sheryl Crow), Chuck Prophet, Dave Immergluck (Counting Crows) and members of Chris Isaak’s band. 1993 brought the sophomore release by The Paul Collins Band, entitled "From Town To Town:, featuring a country rock sound similar to The Byrds.

After more than a decade in musical retirement, a new version of the band Paul Collins’ Beat has surfaced. Their latest album "King of Power Pop" on Alive Records is a classic and they're in the roes of touring it worldwide.

Expat Canadian and good mate of the I-94 Bar DAVE CHAMPION caught up with Paul at a show in Ottawa and was blown away. (A link to his review is at the end of the interview, where you'll find a link to his album critique as well.) In this interview Paul Collins talks about the resurgence of rock and roll in hot spots around the globe as well as his forthcoming Australian tour with homegrown pop hero Dom Mariani.

DC: Paul, congratulations on the release of the new album. As the liner notes say it really does connect the dots from the Nerves all the way to today. Until seeing you in Ottawa a couple weeks back I had last seen you play in Stockholm and you were at the time, I believe, still living in Madrid. Can you tell our readers how you came to record the LP in Detroit ? And to follow up: What led to you leaving Spain and returning to the US ?

PC: We were on tour in the West Coast last year and Patrick from Alive Records came to the show, he told me afterwards that he thought I should make a live record with Jim
Diamond, a producer he worked with often. I had never heard of Jim until then. I called Jim and we started talking and before you know it we decided to do a record together and as it was Patrick who brought us together I suggested that he put it out and he agreed! I am so happy to be working with Alive on this disc as I am an old friend of Suzy Shaw’s from when I was 17 and she runs Bomp which is the sister label to Alive.

I had been living in Madrid for some eight years when the apartment that I was on the wait list for 12 years in NYC became available so I came back to take it….I live in the oldest and largest government subsidized residence in the world, its called Westbeth and I love it!

DC: For those who don't already know Spain is a hotbed for rock n' roll action and seems to have really welcomed you and your music. Can you give the readers a couple of anecdotes about your time there and the vibrant scene? I know from personal experience the fans there are outstanding.

PC: Spain has been very good to me! I have been playing to Spanish audiences
since 1980. The first time I played Madrid was a surprise gig at a small club, we were in town to just do radio and TV but since the whole band and our road crew and all was there I said, "Lets do a gig". Well, it turned out to become one of the most legendary gigs of the new scene in Madrid, all the important press people where there, in the front row with tears streaming down their faces…it was amazing! I thought nothing of it until I returned in 1984 to find that we were rock stars in Spain because of that one little

From then on we have done thousands of shows in Spain , from one end of the country to the other and it has been wonderful, in fact both my ex-wives are Spanish! It is a great place for this kind of music because the people really support the bands who make this music…THEY COME TO THE SHOWS!!!

That’s what makes it all happen, that is what the BEAT ARMY is all about to try to get people to get out and support this music at the clubs, where rock n' roll lives and breathes…if you say you love this kind of music you have to get off your butts and come to the shows and buy the records or else it will cease to be…those are the facts of life…no one is getting rich here, we just want to survive!

Back to Spain , most bands will tell you that a gig in Spain is by far better then in most other countries. You usually get a hotel and you always get an amazing dinner with great wine! The sound is hit or miss but I find that’s the case in most places you never know what gonna happen…that rock n' roll! And of course the girls in Spain are cute as all get out!

DC: What did you think of the Canadian bands like Mothers Children, Sonic Avenues and Walnut Kids who opened for you on the Canadian leg of the tour? I was blown away with how vibrant the power pop scene has become in Canada and can't help thinking that you, among many other late '70s artists have played a huge part in this resurgence. Ever get the feeling that these youngsters have been listening all along and the kids aren't necessarily the same?

PC: We had such a blast with Mothers Children & Walnut Kids, they embody to me what rock n' roll is all about, young, loud and snotty! All the bands on the Canadian tour were really good! Then we went down the coast with Mothers Children and they were blowing people away in Boston, NY and Washington DC, it was so cool to see people standing there with their mouths open going “holy shit, these guys are great!”

Paul Collins with his Star

DC: I'm very curious to know how you hooked up with John Wicks of the Records
for the House Concerts
series of shows. This seems like a unique way to see two of
the finest song writers in an intimate setting. How did all this come about and
will there be any more tours like this?

PC: Yes, in fact we have three shows coming up at the end of the BEAT ARMY US West Coast
tour! It all came about when I met up with Rich Rossi in New York City a few years ago. Rich is a mutual friend of both John and I and he is a real fan of both our work. We were having a beer at a local bar in my neighborhood and Rich was saying how it would be great if John and I could do some shows together. I had just moved back to NY from Madrid and the thought of trying to do a band thing in America with the way things were at the time just seemed like too much work for not enough of a return.

Then a light just went off in my head and I remembered all the things I had been hearing about House Concerts and how Pat DiNizio had been blazing trails all over the country doing house concerts and it just seemed like a natural for John and myself! Rich was enthusiastic and before you knew it we had shows booked and we were on our way! Since then things have improved on the live circuit and with The BEAT ARMY I have been able to get back on the road with a full band, so now I do both and I love it!

DC: What always gets me when I listen to both your songs and the lyrics is a feeling that it is about 1975 and I am listening to the radio under the covers when I should be sleeping. There's a sense of innocence in the material that when played live disappears. Not really sure there's a question there but more an observation. Do you specifically set out to write songs that capture that innocence of youth ie. getting dumped by that first girl etc?

PC: I was deeply impressed by radio when I was a kid, I used to fall asleep every night with the radio glued to my ear, so I think that whole charm of rock n roll was ingrained
in me from the very start, there is something so special about writing a simple pop song with good melodies and simple words that has always been an allure for me, the fact that I even can come close sometimes still blows my mind because at the end of the day I am a fan first and foremost!

With The Beat in Los Angeles in the '70s.

DC: Can we expect any more gems like "The Nerves - Live at the Pirates Cove 1977" to surface? What else is stashed in the closets of Messrs. Collins, Lee and Case?

PC: I think we have pretty much released all the worthwhile material that The Nerves have to offer and I am happy to see the work of that band finally get its due, it was an extremely important part of my life so I am thrilled to be able to see tall these records in print, my heart felt thanks to Patrick and Alive Records!

DC: I've read in several other interviews with you where, following the success of bands like Nirvana etc, you almost gave up on music altogether. What inspired you to keep on going?

PC: After not having released a record for over 12 years and thinking that my career was over and that I really didn’t have anything more to offer or say as a musician and having put down my guitar for over two years and pretty much resigned myself to a fate worse then death, I picked my guitar up one day and the flood gates opened and the rock n roll gods from above gave me a new lease on life which I thank my lucky stars for every single day!

DC. If it's no secret I guess we can tell the folks reading that Paul Collins will be playing Australia in February of 2011 with Dom Mariani. Will you have the same guys backing you that you had in Canada? That fellow playing lead had, for what was advertised as his third show with you, every nuance down pat. Very impressive indeed.

PC: We are so happy to finally be able to come to Australia it has been a dream of mine for many years and I have come close on several occasions but something always prevented it. This trip is only possible because we can play with Dom and his drummer, so sadly it will just be myself and my trusty bass player Juancho. After our shows in Australia we will all go to Japan as well! I am hoping that things will improve financially to the point where I can do all the shows with my main band but for now we do what we must do to get the music out!

DC: Paul, thanks for your time. Good luck with the rest of the tour and the other PC projects which keep you busy. Seeing as we're in a bar, what's your favorite drink?

PC: Right now I am laying off the booze! But it used to be beer, good red wine, vodka tonics and Jameson Whisky!

AUSTRALIAN TOUR UPDATE: Paul Collins plays the Sandriongham Hotel, Newtown, on March 25, the Tote Hotel in Melbourne on March 26 and Pure Pop at St Kilda on Sunday, March 27.