Talks New Album, Quiet Riot And
Chuck Wright has been involved with Rock and Roll for well over forty years. Recording with Quiet Riot on the breakthrough Metal Health record and officially becoming a member of the band a few years later on QRIII. He also was a member of Giuffria and House of Lords. He has gone on to play and record with a who's who of rock including Ted Nugent, Doro Pesch, Carmine Appice, Michael Schenker and Stephen Pearcy to name a few.
Chuck recently released his first solo album titled Sheltering Sky. It has a wide range of musical styles on it and it features over forty of his friends as musical guests.
We recently did a Zoom call with Chuck to talk about the new album and his career in rock.
GD: Chuck, congratulations on your new solo album, Sheltering Sky. Why did you think it was the right time to put out a solo album?
Chuck Wright: Well, it was something that I’ve never done. I’ve always been a song writer. Because of the pandemic, I actually had the time to sit down and just start composing. I wasn’t actually considering doing a solo album per say. I was just writing what I was feeling. In this record you are going to hear a lot of different styles. Progressive rock, jazz fusion, intense funk, industrial rock, Led Zeppelin type of material. I had a huge palet and I had no restrictions. I just recorded a bunch of music and luckily I have a full pallet of friends, like a painter that I can go to and ask if they wanted to play on it. They all wanted to and I ended up with forty-one guests on it.
GD: That’s awesome. The new single, “Throwing Stones” is a real rocker. Who is singing lead on that one?
CW: That’s Joe Retta. I worked with him on Heaven and Earth. He also sang with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Dio’s Disciples and also with Sweet. We’re real good friends. I have these tracks, and it was real funky and that guy can sing anything. He wrote the lyric, which is actually an anti-war message. It was written at the end of last year which was well before the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. So when I needed a second single, I chose that one and created a video that kinda is reflective of what’s going on now.
GD: It’s very fitting for the times for sure.
CW: The message is how much longer is this going to go? The idea there in the verse is that we started as humans throwing stones at each other, now we’re launching missiles at each other, thousands of years later. When are we going to learn? It’s a positive message, but it’s an anti-war message. I grew up around the Vietnam era and the Civil Rights movement. I don’t have any problem with that kinda thing. Especially anti-war.
GD: Right. Who’s actually for war besides the people that are starting it?
CW: Yeah, the one guy who started it who wants a land grab. He wants all that wheat. It’s unfortunate. It’s kinda serendipitous that I have this song at this time.
GD: I’m glad it’s out there, I really like that song. Another song that’s on the record is a cover Bjork’s “Army Of Me.”. That is an interesting choice, how was that song selected?
CW: That is interesting. It is an unexpected choice for people that know me for the rock stuff. Some years ago, I did some writing sessions with my late friend Pat Torpey from Mr. Big in his studio and Lanny Cordola, who I was in with House of Lords, we would get together and write songs. I was going through some song files on my computer and I found “Army of Me.” We just did it on a lark. Pat just loved that Bjork took Bonham’s track from “When The Levee Breaks” drum and used that. I found the song and said it needs finished. The challenge was finding the right voice. Doing Ultimate Jam Night, I found Whitney Tie who ended up working with us and was all about it. She ended up being on three songs. She’s phenomenal. I have a lot of different singers on the album, the right voice for the right song.
GD: Absolutely! Do you have a favorite song on the album?
CW: For my bass playing, it would have say “Throwing Stones.” It was compared to Primus meets Stevie Wonder. Personal song, “See You On the Other Side.” I wrote that when I got the phone call that Frankie Banali had past. That brought up all the feelings that I had losing my mom and I’ve lost seven of my best friends. People that you really felt that they were brothers and it felt like family. So I grabbed my 12-string and sat down and just started writing that song top to bottom. It actually has five guitarists on it and it has one of my favorite guitar solos from Jude Gold who’s in Jefferson Starship. I asked him if he could do it in a Jeff Beck style, that’s my favorite guitar player, and he said yeah, for sure. It was brilliant.
GD: Like you said, you have quite a wide range of artists on your album. Did you get the chance to record with them in the studio, or did some of them have to do it remotely?
CW: No, the only time I was in the studio was to go through a couple of mixes. The way the album was done, I would send the track with my guitar and maybe drums. Having my friends involved is really special for me. I’ve met a lot of them from doing Ultimate Jam night. We’ve been doing that since 2015. We just did a charity event for Ukraine.
GD: Do you have any plans to support this album on the road this summer?
CW: To do this record, the way I envision it, we would need Roger Waters or Paul McCartney’s budget to take it on the road. I may be able to take some songs, strip them down a little bit and do some songs from my past. We shall see. If the album is well received and there is a demand for me to play live, maybe. I just want people to hear it and experience it. I want this album to be my legacy instead of something that I recorded in 1982. I have over one hundred albums out but to finally do my own thing is very special.
GD: That is very cool. Looking back on your career, when did you know that you wanted to be a bassist?
CW: The choice was made for me. When I was fourteen, I took some guitar lessons so I could kinda play guitar, and the kids in my neighborhood were older than me and they knew I played guitar. They asked me if I wanted to join their band playing bass. I was like, bass just has four strings and that’s all I knew. I told my mom what was going on so she went out and bought me a bass. I really learned a lot from Jack Bruce and Cream because they did a lot of improv. We would just jam and that’s how I learned. My first gig was at a UCLA fraternity party. I drank beer, got paid seventy-five bucks and the girls thought I was cute. I was in a military academy for nine years and that’s what I thought I wanted to do. But once I discovered rock and roll, phew I was outta there! That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
GD: Do you remember the first band you saw in concert, and how did that impact you?
CW: This is a good question because my very first concert had three bands and I ended up having a relationship with somebody from each band. I think I was thirteen and I went to see Steppenwolf, and the guitar player, Michael Monarch became a friend of mine. Frankie Banalli was playing in his band back in the day. Three Dog Night was the middle band, I ended up doing a short tour with Chuck Negron. The opening band was The Grass Roots and their guitar player, Warren Entner was Quiet Riot’s manager. Pretty odd, right? I was just a kid going to a concert.
GD: How did you end up meeting the guys in Quiet Riot and end up playing on Metal Health?
CW: At that time, I had my band and my guitar player joined DuBrow. Kevin started DuBrow after Randy Rhodes left to join Ozzy. Rudy Sarzo had been playing with DuBrow and then he got the call to play with Ozzy too. My guitar player suggested me, even though they thought I was a prog guy. So I got the gig and we started playing all the clubs. The guitar player in my band was leaving and he suggested Carlos Cavazo, and Frankie did too. He was in the band Snow. They were a pretty popular band and they had a song called “No More Booze.” The significance of that is “No More Booze” is “Bang Your Head.”
Kevin got a phone call from Randy (Rhodes) in England. Randy told him that all the kids in England were doing this thing in concert called banging their head. Kevin thought that was a great term, so he re-wrote all of the lyrics for the song “No More Booze.” That’s how that song came to be. I did all the demos which came to be the Metal Health record. Randy was tragically killed in that plane crash so Rudy came back to the band. But they kept my tracks for “Bang Your Head” and “Don’t Wanna Let You Go” and I sing on everything. They brought me in again for vocals on the Critical record, then when Rudy left, they asked me to join the band. I was in Giuffria at the time and we had a hit song with “Call To Your Heart.” The thing is Greg Giuffria and the singer Dave Eisley, wouldn’t let anyone else write songs. They were basically telling us that we were just side guys. Kevin called me and I got to write every song on the QR III album.
GD: When you were recording Metal Health, did you know that it was going to be a success?
CW: Actually, I remember that night clearly because I was asleep on the couch. They came in and said, “hey, you’ve got to cut the bass.” I went in and said “turn it up!” and I did it in one take. At that time, I said “Who knew?” This type of music was not in at all. It was all new wave, band like The Knack and The Motels. I never dreamed, I just knew it was a rock record. I remember arguing with Kevin because the producer brought in “Cum On Feel The Noise” and Kevin was resistant to it. He didn’t want any outside songs but we were able to convince him and he went along with it. That song really changed the fabric of the whole music scene. It became so big, that every label signed every band from the Sunset Strip that had big hair and played hard rock. I’m glad I was a part of the history of that even though I wasn’t a part of the initial touring. I am a part of it because that’s my playing on it and I helped get the band signed. It’s twenty-six years of my life in Quiet Riot. I’ve done nine records with me on it.
GD: I love background stories like that. I was just a kid, like twelve or thirteen when that came out and I remember seeing the video with that mask thinking, “oh my god, what is this?” I was hooked.
CW: Good choice! (Chuck stands up and grabs the Metal Health mask from his shelf) It’s iconic, right? I don’t know who came up with that. The band actually wasn’t going to be called Quiet Riot. The label either wanted to call the band Wild Oscar or Standing Hampton, which both mean the same thing. Kevin said, “no way.” There’s really two different Quiet Riot’s out there. There’s the Randy Rhodes era and there’s the Metal Health era. When people say, “there’s no original members left.” Well, that depends on which band you’re talking about.
GD: Like you said, you joined Giuffria and did two huge tours with them. What was it like playing and touring with those guys in the ‘80s?
CW: Everything you’ve heard about the wildness of the ‘80s, just multiply that by one hundred. It was crazy, it was fun. I was a wild man, I admit it. We had a great time, unless you were there and experienced it, when you were playing an arena for the first time, and you are standing off in the wings and the lights go off, you hear the crowd and that energy! I’ll never forget that night.
GD: Do you have any memories of playing in Cleveland?
CW: Yeah, I’ve played there several times. I don’t understand the North Coast thing. I don’t remember there being a coast up there.
GD: It’s a little play on words. Lake Erie is our coast.
CW: Yeah, ok, ok. Yeah, I’ve been there and it’s damn cold! I was there on a New Year’s Eve on year and woo, it was cold. We played the Richfield Coliseum for two nights. The reason that stands out, because Richie Blackmore was angry because the front row was all press people. They were taking notes for most of the show so he stood at the back and he refused to do “Smoke On The Water.” The crowd picked up their chairs and started throwing them at the stage. People were so mad that he wouldn’t come out and do “Smoke On The Water.” It was crazy, but he’s out of his mind, that guy. I’ve got stories, but I don’t want to get into it. He definitely did not treat us nice.
GD: After Giuffria, you rejoined Quiet Riot. Was that around 1987?
CW: Exactly, it was ‘87 and I think the tour was called Alive and Well. Then the label started putting a lot of pressure on us to let Kevin go. It’s crazy because he’s the guy. He stirred a lot of thing up with his larger than life personality. After he was let go, I saw the writing on the wall, it wasn’t the same so I left. At that time, Greg Giuffria reached out to me, which was strange because he wouldn’t let me write songs, and asked me to join his band. We did some demo’s but Gene Simmons didn’t want another Giuffria so we brought another singer in. We got to go out on the road with Cheap Trick. We became friends and they are the funnest guys to tour with. They are consistently great, every single night.
GD: And they still look and sound great!
CW: Robin sings like a bird. We did a show with them, pre-pandemic and he said, “Can you believe we’re still doing this?” I said, “yeah it’s crazy.” He looked at me and said, “Well, what else are we going to do?” (laughs) Their career has been up and down. He told me when their career was on the downslide, Rick Nielson was driving the Winnebago. Then they had a hit with “The Flame.” I’m in the studio and I’m mixing the House of Lords record and Cheap Trick was in the next studio recording “The Flame.” I told Robin, do you realize that song is “Nature’s Way” by Spirit? He said, “Wow, you’re right. We didn’t write the song so sue him!” It’s a great song, as much as they begrudge it, it relaunched their career.
GD: It’s funny you mention that. I saw Cheap Trick in a bar in Canton, Ohio. I couldn’t believe I was seeing Cheap Trick in a bar. Then Lap Of Luxury comes out and bam, they are playing bigger theaters that fall.
CW: I have another cool story. We were doing Ultimate Jam night and Daxx Nielson, the drummer of Cheap Trick was coming down to play with us. He brought Robin down, and Robin and I were talking backstage. He gets a phone call and I overhear the conversation. He hangs up and ask, “What was that?” He said, “We just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” What’s weird about that was when we started Ultimate Jam night, we started in a bowling alley. It had a really nice stage and a high class place, but it was a bowling alley. He said, “We got signed in a bowling alley and now I’m in a bowling alley getting told that we are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” Ricky Rachman was the host and he heard the whole thing and we were going to have Robin come out and do “Dream Police.” Ricky goes, “can I tell them what happened before I introduce Robin.” So the whole thing is on YouTube. It’s a cool story.
GD: You also started the Ultimate Jam Night at the Whisky that featured different band members every night. Is this something you still do?
CW: We started back up, I think we are on our seventh show this year. We do it every other week. It was just getting too much to handle. Trying to organize forty different musicians each week is kinda like herding cats. Then coming up with a different theme each week. Our last show was bands from Britain. When I started researching it, I thought that this is just part one because there are so many bands from Britain.
GD: Chuck, I wish you the best of luck on your new record. I really like what I’ve heard so far. We will get the word out and let people know that you put out a killer record.
CW: Thanks man, I appreciate that!
GD: If you decide to take it on the road, make sure you stop in Cleveland!
CW: Cleveland rocks!
Make sure you check out Chuck Wright's debut solo record Sheltering Sky. You can listen to his latest single, "Throwing Stones" below.