Yes, New England and Alcatrazz bassist Gary Shea enjoys his isles. The much sought after bassist has always surrounded himself with water. Currently he enjoys living on Amelia Island as his sanctuary, and has continuously surrounded himself with a sea of talent, having worked with industry giants such as Herman Rarebell (Scorpions), Steve Vai, (David Lee Roth, Whitesnake), Yngwie Malmsteen, Vinnie Vincent (Kiss), Graham Bonnet, Jimmy Waldo, Steppenwolfs Michael Monarch and dozens and dozens more.
We spoke for almost an hour and we touched on many subjects. Jimmy Kale from The Guess Who was his answer to my question of his who was his favorite Canadian bass player/band.
” I used to listen to These Eyes and loved the song ; I’d listen to it and learn the key, chord changes and structure ; my favorite Canadian band has to be Helix. I remember doing about twenty shows with them with Alcatrazz and they were great guys…it was good time”
Keeping it Canadian, Gary offered up a funny story about two Canadian bands.
” Well I remember one time, we were in Kansas City and we were opening up for April Wine, and Loverboy was on before us. Well, Loverboy played and were great, and when we played,…. …well April Wine kind of screwed us and cut our set short and wouldn’t let us play our last song even though we had enough time …….well I stormed off the stage and downstairs in this old theater and just kicked this door in ! (laughter), Well I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a room that Loverboy was using…. and I literally kicked the door right into the bass players arm ( laughter)….I thought for sure I broke his it, but he was OK and I apologized and it was all good, but yeah I was really furious with April Wine. Anyway, a few years later when I was touring with Alcatrazz we got to meet up with Loverboy again and opened for them in Puerto Rico….yeah they are great guys.”
I then asked Gary about how he got to be in Alcatrazz. I confess I didn’t do enough homework and embarrassed myself, but Gary is a true gent and he politely corrected me by telling me that he is a founding member and he actually came up with the name. Yea, I had egg on my face for sure. He then touched on a few things about the early days and one of them really struck me as I am a guitar player and have been a huge fan of not only the music by Alcatrazz, but the guitar players Gary and company have hired to play in the band.
The first gunslinger to accept a position alongside Gary was Yngwie J Malmsteen who was hired to play and write on the bands debut hit album, No Parole From Rock N Roll. After touring to support the album they had to replace him as “we had a hard time working with Yngwie for different reasons”. It was at that time that they hired Steve Vai who played on their second album, Disturbing the Peace, “but he got an offer to play with David Lee Roth and he couldn’t refuse, and then we hired Danny Johnson and after that we broke up after about a five year run”
Alcatrazz still tours and Gary does some spot gigs with the band, but currently co-founding member Graham Bonnets gf is the full time bassist as Shea is busy with other projects such as New England.
I asked Gary to elaborate on working with Yngwie as per his previous comment and then to follow up about working with Steve.
“both Yngwie and Steve are great guitar players, and Yngwie is actually a very funny guy, he’s got a great sense of humour. I wish we could have done a second album with him, but one of our managers kind of caused some problems and to make a long story short, a couple other things were involved and Yngwie, because of some divide and conquer episodes from this particular manager, we had to replace Yngwie unfortunately we then hired Steve, who had done like seven albums with Frank Zappa…..right there it shows you his potential, and he was a great guitar player and really laid back. That was kind of the difference between him and Yngwie…….Steve would just lay back and play perfectly with these great guitar solos and Yngwie was equally as talented but more up front and in your face. He would be bumping into Graham on the stage (laughter) and on one occassion they both almost went down.Other and throwing guitars at the roadies if they were out of tune or whatever because he (Yngwie) tweaked them sometimes before the shows….(laughter), and we were like…….where is the guitar?………you’ve got like ten of them, can’t you get one to work for just an hour ? “
But to sum things up, basically Gary has nothing but respect for both guys as players and people and admitted he learned alot from working with both.
The discussion then turned to Gary and his band New England who has scored many hits over the years including my favourite Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya. Gary told me a super funny story how they were doing so promo stuff in Toronto for some gigs they were about to do as the opening act for Kiss on the Dynasty tour. Well to sum in up, New England stole the Kiss Thunder….and here is how.
Gary says the ticket sales at the time (for the Canadian shows) were going well but were not sold out in Montreal and when it was announced that New England was the other band, the show sold out . Anyway, Gary told me
” we were about the play the first show at the Forum in Montreal and we were about to go onstage and usually the place is half full for the opener, but it was packed. As soon as they announced …..please welcome New England !, the place erupted like the Canadians scored a hockey goal (laughter), and down below the stage Gene Simmons was there taking notes or something. Anyway, the next day we were notified we were kicked off the tour” (laughter).
What does Gary do for leisure and that does not include music ?
” Well, I love to travel, I just got back from Europe and spent some time in Italy and and about 20 days in Switzerland. I also love to read history ; if I hadn’t made it in music I would have liked to study history and ply my career as a college professor. Currently I am reading Woodrow Wilson’s biography, I’m reading a book by Georges Simenon, a Belgian writer called The Snow Was Dirty, and I’m reading Will and Ariel Durants’, The Lessons of History.“
David (D.h.) Cooper is one of the most underrated musicians he has ever worked with according to Shea.
“I did a CD with him about four years ago. You can look it up, Cooper-Shea on Amazon etc. Anyway, he’s done a lot of session work and worked on Herman Rarebells solo albums and stuff but he doesn’t get the credit he deserves…he’s a real talent and a great guy”
What did New England and Alcatrazz bassist Gary Shea do last night ?
(laughter),” umm last night, my wife and I went to see the Downton Abbey movie.”
Even though, as a writer and terrible guitar player, I found myself directing a good part of this interview with Gary towards his guitar band mates, there is no doubt in my mind, that the success of the above would not have happened if not for the talent and steady rhythm that Gary put into his bands.
People, especially six string people, sometimes forget that without a thunderous and vibrating structure underneath the song to hold it in place, the guitar and singing would be like just eating the meringue off a paper plate ; you need the foundation and that is why the drummer and bass player are so important in the success of a good song.
As Gary says about his decision to play bass ;
” I was about fifteen and a friend of mine and I went into a music store in Southington Connecticut and were looking at tubes for our amps and at that time I had a Fender Strat guitar and had just started to play and take a few lessons. Well, on the wall were these used guitars…..and I saw this monster bass…it was a Fender Precision and it was like an aircraft carrier (laughter). I mean I’m a big guy at 6 ft 1 and I picked it up and it fit me perfectly and I was like ….Wow !! this thing is a weapon that can move mountains………and I haven’t looked back since”
I hope you enjoyed this piece and please like and share and get Garys’ message everywhere.
** In the upcoming weeks I will be busy with an interview with Dexter Holland for from The Offspring 4 U, and negotiations are currently underway with the Ted Nugent and Steve Vai camps. **
Thanks for reading and keep Rocking !
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